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Thailand Get Away

Finally, after exploring Phuket and the islands surroundings, it’s the time for Songkran!

The festival was actually started on the 12th. After the relaxing sea-canoeing in the afternoon (read more about the canoeing tour here), we went back to our hotel, had ourselves cleaned up and head to Patong area to check on the water party.

The trip to Patong by TukTuk was THB400. As we were getting nearer to the destination, the roads gradually changed from dry to wet and more people were seen wearing their raincoats and bringing water guns. We knew, we would not be going back with dry clothes tonight..

Bangla Road, Patong

Bangla Road, Patong

We went to Bangla Road, the hippiest road in Patong or perhaps in Phuket. It was already full of crowds, mostly were foreigners. The celebration there was all about partying, loud music and crazily fun! As we entered the road, anyone just threw water at you and rubbed some minty powder to your face. Yeap, we were fully soaked from head to toe! Sadly, we did not bring our water guns that night.

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On the next day, we were ready for the real water fight 🙂 Fully equipped with our water guns, sunglasses and slippers, we decided to go to Phuket Town instead to join the locals. I love the place. The area features an exciting mix of old and new, the colourful blend of Sino and Portuguese cultures. It is not as crowded as Patong, less night clubs, simpler but yet sophisticated.

Phuket Town

Phuket Town

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The celebration of Songkran in Phuket Town was more warming. The neighbourhood came together, giving blessings to the passerby, including us who are not locals. They would happily approach you, rub the minty powder or coloured washable paint on your face, another will pour another bucket of water on you and lastly said “Sawatdee-pimai!” (Happy New Year). I had so much fun, behaving like a small kid again, hiding and shooting water at the others as if I’m at a counterstrike field and getting free beers!

I believe this is how the real Songkran all about ; the friendly water fight where people throw water to each other which they believe is a way to wash away all the bad luck from the previous year and substitute it with the good luck instead. And on the other hand it is a festivity of water guns, water cannons and buckets while the intense heat of summer is on.

 

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john9Many may have done canoeing. But how about sea-canoeing and exploring the sea caves? On my second day in Phuket, we booked another one-day tour for sea-canoeing. The most famous and popular tour is by John Gray’s Seacanoe. They offer varieties of tour packages that we can pick. As for us, we went for the Hong by Starlight. The tour brought us to explore the nature of Phang Nga Bay.

We were fetched at our hotel at about 11.30AM. Yeap, the tour started not too early. We were taken to the pier where the boat had been waiting for us.

As the boat took us further away from the shore, the scenery started to be different too. A series of breathtaking stones in different shapes were to be seen. As we were enjoying the view, lunch was served. Then, one of the crews gave the whole tour participators the instructions for what to do and not. Some of the rules were not to touch the cave stones to avoid injuries (some of the stones can be sharp) and not to litter to preserve the nature.

Lunch on the boat

Lunch on the boat

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Not too long after lunch, it was the time for the adventure. Don’t forget to wear a lot of sunblock and be prepared to get some tan. One canoe could hold for 2-3 people including your professional guide. So just sit down, relax and enjoy the view. One of the unique experiences was when we had to lie down and squeezed in beneath the rocks and the caves. You’ll be surprised what you will get to see behind the caves and the rocks ; hidden lagoons and mangroves!

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Hidden lagoon behind the rocks

Hidden lagoon behind the rocks

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The whole tour was about enjoying the great nature and wildlife, so relaxing and serene. There were a few stops and each stop offered different scenery. Before the sunset, the crews taught us how to make “Kratong“,a flower basket to be floated. The real “Kratong” festival takes place on the evening of the full moon, sometime in November. And before the tour ended, at our last stop, we were taken to the bat cave where we got to see the little bats (they are not dangerous) and the bioluminescent plankton (dinoflagellates)!

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Kratong

Kratong

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After the release of the “Kratong“, that’s the end of the tour. We were sent back to the pier before 8PM. It was a fun and exciting experience, I learned so much from the tour. The whole tour was definitely worth the price.

John Gray’s Seacanoe Tour :  http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com

Price : THB3,950 per person

Things to bring : Sunblock, dry towel, change of clothes, sunglasses, waterproof pouch, camera

 

 

 

 

This month I had my short get-away to Thailand to experience the celebration of Songkran Festival 2015. This year, the Songkran fell on April 13th-15th. There are a few hot spots for Songkran Festival and I picked Phuket.

We flew to Phuket on April 10th, 3 days before the festival started. As Songkran was still a few days away, we decided to do what is a must-do in Phuket : ISLAND HOPPING TOUR! I’m very excited about this activity, to explore the stunning rock formations, to jump into the turquoise waters and snorkel.

We had the tour booked through online. The tour fetched us at about 9AM at the hotel. Then we hopped onto the speedboat, together with the rest of the tour members. Our first stop was Mosquito Island. The journey to Mosquito Island was about 1 hour. It was not a smooth sail, so it’s good to prepare a motion-sickness medicines.  At the Mosquito Island, we could snorkel over the view of the stunning rock formations. The water is tranquil turquoise, clear.. Perfect!

Mosquito Island

Mosquito Island

Mosquito Island

Mosquito Island

After our stop at Mosquito Island, we head to the Bamboo Island and one of the beach side restaurant to have our lunch. The beach at the Bamboo Island was similar with Boracay beach, soft white sands with clear water. There were not many tourists there yet too, a good place for relaxing.

It was a quick lunch (Lunch was provided) and we did not have time to explore much of the island as we had a few more islands to explore. Monkey Beach and Viking Cave were next. But we did not stop to snorkel at those 2 islands. Our guide explained that the monkey at the Monkey Beach are long-tailed species, crab-eating monkeys. So they can swim and survive in the water.

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Market at Phi Phi Island

Market at Phi Phi Island

Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach

The highlight of the tour was the famous Maya Bay and the Pileh Lagoon. I love Pileh Lagoon the most. The entire scenery took my breaths away. It was probably one the most fascinating places on the Earth. We can swim in its warm, turquoise calm water. The water is 20-metre depth. To take a jump from the boat into the emerald green waters was definitely one of my best moments during this trip.

Maya Bay, the main tourist attraction of Phi Phi since The Beach was filmed here in 1999. It has been always very popular even before the film but now people around the world who haven’t even heard of Phi Phi have certainly heard of Maya Bay. The view was expectedly stunning, but the beach get overcrowded especially during holiday season.

Pileh Lagoon - my most favorite place of the trip

Pileh Lagoon – my most favorite place of the trip

Pileh Lagoon

The famous Maya Bay

The famous Maya Bay

Maya Bay

Writing this blog post remind me of the whole island hopping trip. How warm the water was, how soft the sands was, the ocean breeze, emerald turquoise water, the magnificent rock formations, everything about the place… Oh, Phi Phi you had me now!

Phi Phi Island Tour: http://www.phukettoursdirect.com

Tips:
1. Prepare the sea-sickness pills before hopping onto the boat.
2. Things to bring: sunscreen, swimming suit, dry towel, dry clothes for changing, waterproof bag/pouch, slippers, sunglasses

 

 

 

The Temple of Dawn, or the locals called it Wat Arun, is a Khmer-style Buddhist temple sitting at the Thonburi  of Chao Phraya River. The temple is also one of Thailand’s landmarks.

To reach the temple, we boarded the ferry and travel across the Chao Phraya River. The ferry runs every few minutes from Tha Tian (Tian Pier). Don’t expect the water of Chao Phraya River to be clear 😦  But sailing over this Bangkok major river was another very exciting experience.

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Wat Arun sits gracefully next to Chao Praya River

The temple opens daily from 08.30 AM to 5.30 PM. The admission fee is 50 Baths. We don’t have to worry about the dress code here unless if you want to visit the Ordinary Hall.

Visitors can climb up the tower to see the view of Bangkok. I did not join my parents and my brother climbed up. Not because I’m a acrophobia or fear of heights, but because the stairs are very steep and the shoes I was wearing was slippery.

The special features of the temple is its 67m-tall grand pagoda or in Thai, called ‘prang’, decorated with broken multihued Chinese porcelains. It is surrounded by four smaller pagodas.

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How to go there:

By BTS Skytrain & Ferry:

– Take BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin (Silom Line), take exit #2 and go to Chao Phraya River Express Boat Pier. Then board a ferry heading to Tien Pier (#8). Ticket price for cross-river ferries is 3.50THB.

– Or, by public Bus No: 19 or 57 or 83, then take a cross-river ferry from Tha Tien on Thai Wang Road,

Opening Hours: 08.30-17.30 daily

Admission fee: 20THB

Website: www.watarun.org

After the Temple of Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho, our local tour brought us to the Temple of Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. If Wat Pho is the oldest and the largest temple in the city, Wat Phra Kaew is the most sacred temple. The temple was located inside the Grand Palace in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok, also known as the Old City. They are must-go tourist destinations in Bangkok.

The place opens from 8.30AM – 3.30PM. If you are not together with a tour, it’s good to reach here early. Since it is a top tourist destination, it always crowded. The entrance fee is THB350 (this was in 2011). Personal audio guides in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Mandarin, are also available for rent at THB100.

The crowd that visit the Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha are increasing every hour

The crowds that visit the Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha are increasing every hour

If you who were to visit temples and the Grand Palace, it’s better to wear a proper attire (no shorts, mini skirts, tights or sleeveless shirts). Visitors were not to expose any skin, including arms, lower legs and toes. Visitors who dressed inappropriately required to rent suitable clothing. My brother wore a shorts and had to rent a long pants before entering the palace.

Despite its function as a sacred place for people to pray, the number of tourists who payed a visit here is bigger. All I could hear here were the sounds of the microphone of the tour guides buzzing everywhere.

The architecture inside the compound was what amazed me. You could see Thailand everywhere. We saw the gold plated stupa roof which is also the trademark features of Thai building. Because of the crowd, it took sometime to move. Because of the distinct colourful stupas and building, people were busy taking pictures. I was not surprised that we had to take turns to take photos in some favourite spots.

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Inside the temple compound

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The main chamber where the Emerald Buddha was placed, was guarded. Visitors were to keep noise down to respect the people who came to pray. Unfortunately, no photo-taking were allowed here (if you are curious about how the Emerald Buddha looks like, I’m sure you can find it online)

Just like its name, Emerald Buddha was made of jade. It was believed to be originated from Sri Lanka and this Buddha image was so important that only the King himself is allowed to touch it. The King changed the image’s robes in three times a year in the hope for good fortune.

After our visit to the Temple of Emerald Buddha, we headed to the main part of the Grand Palace. It is the area where the most important residential and state buildings are located. The most recognisable building in the Grand Palace was, Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall. The architectural style is a blend of Thai and European style.

grand palace

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Notice my brother’s style-mylo rental pants?

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After touring the Grand Palace, we went out from the main entrance, the Wisetchaisri Gate. There, you can post with the stoic soldiers who guard the palace and stand rigidly with bayonets fixed, just as with the famous London Beefeaters!

How to go there:

– By public bus: No 8, No 12
– By boat: Chao Phraya River Express (disembark at Tha Chang)

Open: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm

Admission fee: 200THB for foreigners; Free admission for locals

This whole Bangkok trip was done in 2011. I know it’s 2014 and in 3 years times, the city would have done changes here and there. But sharing it here is always a better option than just keeping it as a storage in my drive.

It was my first time visiting the capital of Thailand and I did the trip with my close ones, my  parents and brother. It was a 4D3N trip… Considering we were strangers to the city, taking a one-day local tour was a good decision.

The tour started early in the morning. We were picked up from our hotel, Novotel at Siam Square, at around 7AM. Our tour guide was a local who is fluent in Indonesian language. Please be considerate  for me not being able to recall his name… It was 3 years ago and I’m not good in memorising names.

The famous site we visited was the Temple of Reclining Buddha, or Wat Pho, Wat Phra Chetuphon. It  is also the oldest and the largest temple in Bangkok. The statue is not the only Buddha image, in fact there are thousands of Buddha images in the temple. Walking into the compound of the temple, visitors will see stupas or chedis.

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Finally, we reached the Reclining Buddha. It was huge!  The statue is 150 ft long and 49 ft high. It is indeed the largest Buddha in Thailand. After struggling to find the best angle to fit into my camera screen, this is how it looks like.

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After struggling to get the best photo…

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The close-up of the Buddha’s head

Along the corridor, bronze bowls are placed. There are 108 bowls in total indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People usually drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune and also to help the monks maintain the temple.

Though there will be a lot visitors, but inside the Buddha statue hall is serene. It’s expected visitors to respect the people who come here to pray.

How to go there:

– Public Bus: 1, 3, 12, 25,44, 47, 53, 60, 82, 91, 501, 508

– Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 6:00 pm daily

Admission: 50THB for foreigners; Free admission for locals

– Websitewww.watpho.com

My friends and I were dying to go for a short get away in July. So after discussing between a few places, Bangkok was chosen. This post will full of food pictures as our mission to go to Bangkok is to eat, eat, and eat :p

We took the last flight from Singapore and reached Bangkok quite late. It was only in the last-minute that we decided to go clubbing that night, since we did not want to waste one of our nights there. So after checking in our hotel at Siam Square, we went to Route 66 Club (RCA) at Rama 9 Road.

Be careful of those taxis who wait in front of the hotel. They purposely did not want to bring us to our destination and tried to bring us to a club named “Disco” (if I wasn’t wrong). The name sounded suspicious so we rejected them and decided to wave at the taxis on the main road. I’ve heard that it is better to wave at taxis on the main road than taking those who purposely wait/park their taxis. These drivers are those who always cheat tourists.

We had so much fun at the club. Route 66 Club (RCA) play the latest top hip-hop/dance songs, together with laser shows. The crowd was on 20’s-30’s, mix locals and foreigners.

The next morning, we woke up quite early to go Chatucak Market. Since we stayed awake for the night, we were starving, so we tried to fill our stomach first. It was quite confusing since the market is very big.

Food choices at Chatucak

Some snacks that we tried there:

Muping

A nice and refreshing coconut ice cream, served on the coconut shell.

After finished shopping at Chatucak, we head on to Khao San Road
. The road is full of Caucasians since it is a backpackers area.

Khao San Road

Spring Roll that we had at Khao San

At night we decided to walk around our hotel at Siam Square area and we had our dinner in one of the restaurant there too. We had Tom Yam, Papaya Salad, Thai Red Duck Curry and Sweet Tapioca with Coconut Milk.

Our dinner

At night we went to Asiatique the Riverfront, a new outdoor entertainment and shopping complex at the side of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river. The place is amazingly beautiful. You won’t feel like you are in Asia countries. The place is still relatively new therefore not much tourists come here.

Asiatique the Riverfront

On the next day, before we went off to airport, we still had sometime to explore Bangkok. So we went to Platinum shopping mall. We had our breakfast at the food stall nearby hotel. We had Noodle with Tom Yam soup and Thai Beef Noodle.

Last but not least, our closing food for this Bangkok trip is: Sweet and delicious Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice

It was only a short get away, but we felt satisfied because of the good food and shopping time. Mission accomplished!

How to go to Chatucak:
Take the train to Chatuchak Park station (exit #1), then walk across the park until you arrive at the entrance.

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