A Travellerspoint blog

Yaowarat

The Chinatown of Bangkok

sunny 32 °C

Yaowarat is the Chinatown of Bangkok and its very unique because this is the district within Bangkok that has different characteristics from other Bangkok's districts. The Chinese in Thailand has blended into the Thai society for as long as 200 years ago. Though the Thai Chinese is still regarded as minority in the Thai population demographic, it has played major role in shaping Thailand's economic growth over the years. Today, Thailand is rapidly growing and transformed into a developed country, leading its other counterparts in the Indochina region. There are some few interesting things to do and take note while walking through Yaowarat. The main activities in Yaowarat focused along the Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road, which are parallel against each other. If you come to Yaowarat from the Chao Phraya river, the pier to get down would be the Ratchawong pier and exiting from the pier, you would come to the Ratchawong Road, which would come to intersect with Yaowarat Road and then Charoen Krung Road. When you see the goldsmith shops which were crowded with customers, you know you have arrived at Yaowarat Road. Yaowarat is the place for Thais to purchase gold accessories from rings, bracelets, ear rings to necklace.

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A gold shop in Yaowarat

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Yaowarat Road is always busy and congested

Many Thais like to buy gold as form of investments as well as for speculations. There are dozens of goldsmith shops along Yaowarat and Charoen Krung Road and mostly are crowded with customers though not all enjoy the same rate of popularity. Some shops still maintained its olden days structure without any renovations done and still without air-conditioned. For Thais, gold is not only an investment tool but represents some kind of status within its society and level of wealth among the Thai society. There are many gold shops within Thailand not just in Bangkok or Yaowarat but Chinatown is the best place among all or well preferred by Thais when purchasing gold items and accessories. Therefore, gold shops are very special to Yaowarat, which means if there isn't a gold shop, it isn't Yaowarat. Traffic in Yaowarat is as chaotic, busy and noisy as ever. During the day, the big and oversize signboards mostly red and yellow coloured along Yaowarat Road are one of the iconic item to be well-noticed in Chinatown of Bangkok.

SHOPS ALONG CHAROEN KRUNG ROAD, YAOWARAT
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During the night, these signboards turned into bright neon lighted boards so bright that you would feel like being in probably another city due not only to the bright lights but the many Chinese characters reflected from the signboards. Other than gold shops, there are many Chinese medical shops which operate within next to each other or 2 or 3 shops away. These shops have many other items available other than Chinese medicines including herbs and ointments , snacks, candies, dry food and many other provisional items.

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Some of the best thing to do while on walking tour during night time in Yaowarat is to savour some best Chinese speciality such as kway chap (thick flat noodles in peppery soup mix with roast pork, pork meat and other pork intestines). I did mentioned before previously that the Isaan kway chap is a different version from Bangkok's version. The Isaan's kway chap has flavour and similarity with the Vietnamese "bun" which either mixed with deep-fry fish cakes, snails or the pork sausages, meatballs and pork ribs. The noodles used in Isaan kway chap is a tiny long noodle (rice vermicelli) and mixed with pork ribs. The soup of Isaan kway chap is not peppery thus not spicy. The Bangkok version of kway chap is spicy due to the peppery flavour broth. But what makes this Bangkok kway chap special is the tasty roast pork. Though soaked under the broth, the flavour of the roast pork remained despite overcome by the watery broth. Remember also that I wrote about the roast pork available at Or Tor Gor Market? Thailand has one of the best roast pork available within the South East Asia region from what I had observed and tasted. You can never missed kway chap stalls when touring Yaowarat as the best kway chap vendors located along the main Yaowarat Road with set-up of chairs and tables on the shops' five foot walkways. I had a try of kway chap on 2 different vendors. The one along the main Yaowarat Road was said to be famous and well-known among locals and tourists but not quite sure about that. That was the second I try out. The first one I got a taste from was a push cart kway chap vendor which located on the left side of Soi Yaowarat 11 where I found out were much tastier than the one at Yaowarat Road. Firstly, the broth was much more flavourful with lots of pepper, secondly, it was more generous in its add-on dish, more roast pork and pork meat (I avoided the intestines). Anyhow, its up to individual's taste buds. Overall, both shops still served good kway chap and worth the money spent for a dish distinctive to Yaowarat and Bangkok.

KWAY CHAP EXCURSIONS AT YAOWARAT, BANGKOK

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After dinner, its best to have some Chinese "kung fu" tea and savour some desserts which also located along the Yaowarat Road. There was a new Chinese "kung-fu" tea shop I guess has just opened quite recently in Yaowarat and this is yet another new things to do when in Yaowarat as it is very rare to have such tea shops in Bangkok. Even in Chinatown like Yaowarat, it was never before such establishments available though tea drinking is very much a Chinese culture. So, I found such rare opportunity something to cherish about. There are several tea drinking package available and for as low as < THB 200, you get a basic tea package which include, a traditional Chinese pot of tea with the selection of tea leaves chosen, hot water pot and plate of snacks. It was one of the unique tea drinking experience in Bangkok which is quite common in country like Taiwan.

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After tea, I head back to walk along Yaowarat Road and this time, its for the popular toast bun which is unique to Yaowarat. This Yaowarat toast bun is being served with selections of sweet pastes including chocolates and peanuts. I had tried this out when in Yaowarat about 8 years ago but did not actually wrote about this distinctive dessert experience. The push cart stall was located just in front of a local government bank and basically, people would queue in front of the stall to have their orders taken. On a usual day, the queue was said to be quite long as the night gets late as most customers were here to have late night snacks. There are also selection of bread available. Most people would purchase the toast buns for take away but you still can have it fresh from the grill as there were some tables and chairs available for dining along the small five foot walkways in front of the bank. The bread with the fillings were sweet, flavourful, tasty, fresh and the bread well grilled. There were many coffee shops within the South East Asia region such as Singapore and Malaysia serving such toast bread but my opinion is that they still cannot beat this one in Yaowarat. To add up some further great experience to this toast bread snacks, order the Thai milk tea or coffee from the stall next door. The tea and coffee beverage has equal quality as that of the bread stall. Its aromatic and delicious with strong tea flavour for the milk tea and perfect to topped it with the toast bread.

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Posted by kidd27 11:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Yaowarat Part 2

sunny 32 °C

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One of the many Chinese medical halls in Charoen Krung Road in Yaowarat

Yaowarat, the Bangkok's Chinatown is not only well known for its gold shops, Chinese medical halls, Chinese food dining and for inexpensive shopping at Sampeng Market, it is also noted for religious activity which include paying homage at the famous and well known Chinese temple known as Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (Dragon Flower Temple) formerly named as Leng Noi Yee temple. This temple is one of the landmark in Yaowarat, located along the Charoen Krung Road. Over the years, this temple has undergone some renovations and its exterior temple building has been much improved. Entering from the main gate of the temple building, visitors are being greeted with the statue of the golden Happy Buddha. On the left and right of the entrance are 2 guardian deity statues on each side respectively. The main altar hall has 3 Golden Buddha statues. Walking further inside the temple building on the right would be the Monkey God statue and several Taoism God statues. There were also a Taoism God statue and the Goddess of Kuan Yin statue right at the end of the temple building on far left and right side respectively. Some multiple Buddha statues were also located within the small courtyard inside the temple building. Just outside the Wat Mangkon Kamalawat , on the left side of the buidling coming from the outer main entrance is a statue of a monk sitting on a tortoise as well as an altar and very old chedi. Wat Mangkon is one of the most sacred temple in Yaowarat and also one of the very important religious identity to the Chinese community in Bangkok as well as to Yaowarat community. Another temple along Charoen Krung Road is the Canton Shrine which was closed during my visit. Along the Thanon Mangkon (Mangkon Road), on the side of Charoen Krung Road is yet another Chinese temple known as Wat Kanmatuyaram which currently undergoing reconstruction. Nevertheless, devotees can still pay homage to the Goddess of Kuan Yin on the mid-size altar located on the main Mangkon Road (the main temple building has been demolished to make way for reconstruction I think). Along Mangkon Road near Wat Kanmatuyaram, there were some old colonial style buildings similar to those found in Phuket old town seen lining the left and right shoulder of the road.

WAT MANGKON KAMALAWAT EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR
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WAT KANMATUYARAM AND ITS SURROUNDINGS COLONIAL BUILDINGS
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It is also note to worth that there are quite a dozens of fruit vendors located within the Charoen Krung Road and they looked so fresh, juicy and tasty. Along Charoen Krung Road, it is also famous for its cendol, a sweet iced desserts, consist of shaved iced topped with sweetened coconut milk and brown sugar as well as sago and pandan jelly (lod chong nam grati in Thai). There is one famous cendol shop along Charoen Krung Road and well known among locals and tourists alike. These desserts not only found in Singapore and Malaysia but also here in Yaowarat. A few shops ahead from this cendol shop, would be yet another famous Chinese herbal drink shop and this medicinal drink has ingredients made with healing properties and to curb thirstiness. As it is hot and humid in Bangkok, its good to have a cup of this refreshingly bitter herbal drink.

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Dim sum is also a must try when touring Yaowarat and in Charoen Krung and Yaowarat Road there are 2 well known dim sum restaurants famous among locals and travellers. If you think that Bangkok's dim sum quality and taste were in no comparison to that of its other Chinese counterparts, think again. Today, the quality of dim sum in Bangkok has improved tremendously and on par with those in other Chinese cities if not better in my opinion. Another not to be missed food in Yaowarat is the fish and prawn ball soup and noodles and some of the best shop serving this dish located on the Song Sawat Road, to the left side opposite 7-Eleven located on the intersection between Yaowarat Road and Song Sawat Road. On one of the alley of Charoen Krung there was a wanton noodle shop that serves generous bowl of noodle and selection of pork add-on, which not only tasty and delicious but also inexpensive. This stall can easily be missed, so try to ask people around if you happened to be at Charoen Krung Road to visit Wat Mangkon Kamalawat.

ENJOY DIM SUM AT RESTAURANTS ALONG CHAROEN KRUNG ROAD, YAOWARAT
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SOME BEST WANTON NOODLE STALL ALSO LOCATED @ CHAROEN KRUNG ROAD
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Fish ball and prawn ball soup

One of the sacred and well known temple near Yaowarat is the Wat Traimit. This temple housed the Golden Buddha statue, which was from pure gold consisting 83% of it. The original statue was being covered with plaster and lacquer to hide it from looters during the Sukhothai period or later Ayuthaya period. The statue was then moved to Bangkok during King Rama III era and later abandoned. The sacred Golden Buddha was then rediscovered in 1955 when it was being moved to its present location after which the ropes carrying the statue broke and the statue fell. The plaster and lacquer covering the statue chipped and revealed the gold hidden under the statue. Wat Traimit has undergone major renovations and now looks very much different from when I first visited about 8 years back. The ubosot of Wat Traimit resembles that of the Loha Prasat Temple also known as Wat Ratchanatdaram. To sum it up, Wat Traimit is beautiful and standing proudly just outside of Yaowarat, near the Chinatown Gate and Hua Lamphong train station.

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Hua Lamphong train station

Posted by kidd27 08:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Nong Nooch Botanical Garden

overcast 34 °C

Pattaya is a beach retreat city full of activities which need no extensive introduction. I had mentioned previously that this capital city of Chon Buri province of Thailand, not far away from Bangkok deserved very much attention from travellers as a place for a decent, fun, interesting, adventurous and exciting holiday destination. Pattaya has long been tagged as a city of sins like its southern counterpart in Phuket but in recent years, the situations had seen to changed for something good and fresh with the support for such image transformation from the interim army government in Thailand. The current government was said to be working up to get Pattaya being cleaned up from its range of legacy problems including but not limited to flesh trade and mafia activities. When I first came to Pattaya, its iconic and largest shopping mall in Chon Buri province, Central Festival was way under construction. Today, it has become one of the most contemporary entertainment and shopping experience outlet within the Pattaya tourists centre providing not only locals but also holidaymakers as a one-stop hub for amazing fun and dining as well as great entertainment. I had been to Pattaya several times since I first visited about 7 years ago. Each of the visits were filled with different kind of activities including attending the infamous ladyboy cabaret show of Alcazar and Tiffany, visiting the awesome Thai wooden temple of Sanctuary of Truth, had island retreat at Koh Larn, touring the Mini Siam, a miniature park with wide numbers of exhibits of mini-size famous and important buildings, architectures and landmarks within Thailand as well as other countries, chilling out at Pattaya Floating Market for food and souvenirs shopping and had meals of mouth watering seafood dining. All these fun-filled and adventurous activities seemed not enough to cover each time when I visited Pattaya and surely a repeated visits would able to fulfil the desire to discover this beach city famous also for its football club, Chon Buri FC which fared quite well in the Thai Premier League. My recent visit to Pattaya, I had the opportunity to visit Mimosa, The City of Love - an establishment for visitors to admire European style traditional buildings, to chill out, shop and eat as well as for cabaret show entertainment and whole lots of fun and nice photography. The other tourists outlet with its theme centred on nature, which include a huge display of flowers, plants and trees as well as gardens named Nong Nooch Botanical Garden was also included in the itinerary. Though Nong Nooch was named as a botanical garden which was located about 18 kms away from Centre Pattaya with vicinity within South Pattaya, visitors were also feed with other great entertainments including a Thai cultural show in a wooden structure hall (according to announcement, the hall was going through a facelift & renovations) and the thrilling and sometimes funny elephant show.

PETTING ZOO @ NONG NOOCH BOTANICAL GARDEN
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The cultural performance showcase the multi talents of the Thais such as traditional dances which also include those from the Muslims in the south of Thailand, Muay Thai kick boxing which modified as a show match that include some comedy act from the performers, Thai traditional fightings (similar to Chinese kung fu), art of war which include the ride on the elephants while advancing towards the opponents. This culture show performance was educating, entertaining and useful in getting tourists to understand the Thai culture of the past which built the Thais of today in a quick and in a summary version.

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The elephant show was another not to be missed activity while visiting Nong Nooch Botanical Garden. Though such show which was said to be exploiting the animals in general and the elephant in specific as for this category, its really a matter or issue to be debated on. As for me, it depends on how these elephants were being procured from their original natural sanctuary, whether this was by force or by way of protection due to the destructions of the forests by the culprits. Why just blamed solely on those who were involved in using the animal for the purpose of decent entertainment business made available to tourists, who in turn spent their money for the betterment of those in the travel industry? What about if such elephants were obtained from a very noble way which was to save them from extinctions due to the extensive damage to the natural forests? What about those who had or involved in the clearing of the forests for the sake of profiting on only selective people such as property developers, politicians, businessmen, tycoons and other rich yet tricky communities? Can we condone to their acts but yet not for those who are doing proper business such as the elephant show and to help people to secure jobs in this show industry? Its not something which can easily be identified on who is who in how this elephants being exploited. Whether forests being destructed legally or illegally, the authorities' responsibilities are to ensure strict and discipline enforcement being adhered to so that such issues would be under full control. The elephant show at Nong Nooch Botanical Garden was somehow spectacular and amazing showcasing how well they had been trained by their coaches. The skills paraded by the elephants include dancing to the tunes of musics played, football match on penalty shoots, basketball game include slam dunk using the trunks and also penalty shoots, lawn bowl game, darting, cycling and art draw. Items such as t-shirts and shopping bags with drawings done by the elephants were also made available for visitors to purchase at the end of the show. Visitors can have photography sessions with these elephants and their respective trainers before, during and after the show. During the show, visitors were also invited to participate in the show which include being "massage" by the elephants as well as some funny acts performed by the elephants on the participants. As a treat for good show, visitors could purchase bananas from mobile vendors to feed the elephants as a show of appreciations for a good show. This is one of the most awesome show I experience in Thailand and thought it should not be missed when touring Nong Nooch Botanical Garden.

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The highlight of the Nong Nooch Botanical Garden is no other than the botanical garden itself. This colourful garden was set under range of themes such as the French Garden, Bonsai Garden, Butterfly Hill, Pottery Garden, Heart Shape Garden, Mammoth Garden, Flamingo Paradise, a mini zoo, a small sports car exhibition hall and several other gardens including Palms, Orchid, Italian and Orchid Gardens. The grandest among all the flower gardens in Nong Nooch was the French Garden and it was also one that was the most splendour and colourful of all. Nong Nooch Botanical Garden can be summed up as a huge garden combining a variety of natural flowers, trees and other specific plants combined these with related links such as the flower pots which were creatively being used to built many kinds of characters and items, variety of life size animal sculptures within an exclusive theme garden zones such as the flamingo paradise, man-made lakes, heart shape gardens where its about love when it comes to flowers and a mini zoo because wildlife were naturally close to the forests which have plenty of trees, plants and flowers. It should take a few hours to fully cover the Nong Nooch gardens and to admire the beauty of the available numbers of natural wonders, not forgetting getting snapped with these wonderful species plants and flowers. For a good view of each of the gardens and for comfort of visitors from the hot weather or during downpour, there were covered walkway bridge where visitors could easily disembark from whenever they wanted to have a close tour of each garden at the available disembarking points. There was also elephant ride tour available for those interested to have a try on such ride. Also available was a photography session with the uncaged tiger supervised by employee of the garden management. Just be very careful with the treatment on the tiger when engaging the photography act so as not to provoked any negative reactions and listen to instructions from the staff on what to do and what not to do. The tiger though being uncaged was being chained. The most surprising encounter over at Nong Nooch Garden would be the car exhibition hall which display some of the most exciting and beautiful sports cars and also vintage racing cars. Overall, a tour over at Nong Nooch Tropical Garden can be summed up as fascinating and interesting with such a creative flowers, trees and animal sculptures being themed together to create a great natural wonder and masterpiece.

BONSAI GARDEN @ NONG NOOCH TROPICAL GARDEN
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Mammoth Garden

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Elephant ride @ Nong Nooch Tropical Garden

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Covered walkway @ Nong Nooch Garden

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Visitors to Nong Nooch Garden enjoying elephant ride

BUTTERFLY GARDEN @ NONG NOOCH TROPICAL GARDEN
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SOME OF THE WILDLIFE REPLICAS @ NONG NOOCH GARDEN
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FRENCH GARDEN @ NONG NOOCH GARDEN
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SPORTS CARS GARDEN HALL @ NONG NOOCH GARDEN
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POTTERY GARDEN @ NONG NOOCH GARDEN
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HEART SHAPED GARDEN
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Posted by kidd27 06:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Chang Part 2

rain 27 °C

Koh Chang remained very much undeveloped in terms of commercial establishments unlike its other counterparts over in Andaman Sea. On this part of Gulf of Siam, bulk of Koh Chang still maintained its natural surroundings without condominiums or holiday homes or villas developments. As such, Koh Chang offers much quieter island vacation suitable for those who are looking for calmness, tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. To pamper oneself in Koh Chang there are several accommodations that meet the above criteria, which include the Chang Buri Resort & Spa located at the White Sand Beach. Staying at this resort during my trip to Koh Chang was a wonderful experience and truly brought a nice and unforgettable short holiday retreat. Chang Buri Resort & Spa is divided into 2 parts along the main road of White Sand Beach. One part of the resort, which is on the hillside, consists of a 3 storey building complete with multiple rooms on each of the floor, a spa and a massage facility, frontage shops, including convenient store and cafe, a small pool and a restaurant. There is also a garden area fitted with Thai cottages (sala) for guests who seek to relax with family or friends while staying at Chang Buri Resort & Spa. Over at the opposite of the main road on the White Sand Beach,Chang Buri Resort's sea view unit consists of private villas and a large swimming pool which overlooks the great White Sand Beach and the ocean. This is in fact the most interesting and unique feature of Chang Buri Resort. Swimming at the pool also allow one to enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean, which is just amazing and provide one with the most relaxing experience badly needed after a busy day. There is a canal like pool along the private villas which connects to the main pool. Other than swimming, you can also rest on the beach seat provided which also allows guests to enjoy the view of the ocean.

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Entrance of Chang Buri Resort

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The lobby of Chang Buri Resort, Koh Chang

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The decoration of elephant replicas at the lobby Chang Buri Resort, Chang Buri, which match its name

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The room at Chang Buri Resort that overlooks the lush greenery of the hill

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The pool at the Chang Buri Resort on the hillside view of the resort

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Another view at the lobby of Chang Buri Resort

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An elephant replica at the Chang Buri Resort's hill view side that matched the resort's theme

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The view of the pool that overlooked the White Sand Beach (Hat Sai Khao) and the ocean at Chang Buri Resort

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Overview of the Chang Buri Resort's sea view side from the main pool area

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View on the private villas at Chang Buri Resort

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A view of the pool that overlooks the white sand beach and the ocean at Chang Buri Resort

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A view of the white sand beach from Chang Buri Resort

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A soothing view of the ocean at white sand beach from the pool of Chang Buri Resort

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The lush trees at Chang Buri Resort

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Guests could relax at the beach seat at Chang Buri Resort while enjoying the nice ocean view

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A view of the white sand beach from Chang Buri Resort

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Swimming at the pool of Chang Buri Resort

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A view of the white sand beach while swimming at the pool of Chang Buri Resort

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The ocean view from Chang Buri Resort

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A chang replica at the pool of Chang Buri Resort

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The sala (small huts) at Chang Buri Resort's hill view portion

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The canal shape pool that links to the main pool at Chang Buri Resort

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The canal shape pool that links to the main pool at Chang Buri Resort

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Canoe for rent Klong Prao beach, Koh Chang

One of the iconic f & b outlet in Koh Chang would be the Paddy's Palms in my point of view which adds the foreign touch to this still is a quiet island retreat. This is the place to be to catch up with sports program in particular the English Premier League games over the weekend. Paddy's Palm's is of course an irish bar & restaurant and when you are here, its definitely not to missed its range of the creamy beers such as the Guiness Stout draft. There are also selection of snacks that would be best to go together with the beers including the chips and mini chicken drumsticks.

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The exterior of Paddy's Palms at Koh Chang

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The entrance of Paddy's Palms, Koh Chang

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The window panel at Paddy's Palms, Koh Chang

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The creamy Guiness Stout at Paddy's Palms

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The creamy Guiness Stout at Paddy's Palms

Posted by kidd27 09:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Pleiku to Pakse

Overland crossover from Vietnam to Laos

sunny 37 °C

Pleiku city and Kontum had left many unforgettable travel experience in me. These part of Vietnam in the central highland region are some of the most beautiful places that Vietnam has to offer to travellers. The people who live in here are blessed with awesomely stunning and marvelous landscapes of mountains, green valleys, lake, rice fields, coffee and sugar cane plantations. It is also this part of the central highland of Vietnam that the largest coffee plantations are located that offer some of the best coffee in the world. Being in Pleiku to take a closer look at how the city goes by the day itself is something worth trying to experience. Surely, you should not missed trying a sip or two of the traditional coffee by the roadside while enjoying the scenes of the city life of Pleiku city and also never forget to also sample some of the local food including the pho, Bun Bo Hue (spicy and sour soup noodle from Hue with beef briskets) and also the Bun Mi (french loaf stuffed with salads, butter and meat fillings). Kontum is a province north of Pleiku city but Kontum city is a much smaller city in comparison to Pleiku which is the capital of Gia Lai province. This city is such a peaceful city and should be what I believed the city with most number of churches within Vietnam. Arriving at Kontum from Pleiku city, I was caught in a shock that the city is so much quieter than its other counterparts in Vietnam that I had been to including Ho Chi Minh city, Hue, Danang and Hanoi. The wooden church, the Seminary Museum and the Rong House are three of the most significant highlights of Kontum. The wooden church is such a wonderful chapel with great architecture design. It stands so magnificently beautiful in a very quiet section of a street in Kontum city. The interior of the chapel is also worth the admiration while the surrounding of the church is so peaceful with a sizeable garden within the boundary of the church. The Rong House in the hilltribes community villages is yet another not to be missed sights when stepping foot in Kontum. This is a unique traditional hilltribes home of the central highland rural communities. The structure of the house is made fully from natural resources consist of screw-pine leaves for the walls of the house, dry paddy leaves for the roof, sticks and woods for the structure of the roof and huge log woods to support the base of the house as well as for the staircases to get to the house which is a few metres high from the ground. The Seminary Museum should also not to be missed when one is in Kontum. This Seminary Museum building itself is something that draws attention due to its traditional architecture where parts of this building is built from wood. It has a chapel in the middle of the long building with several number of rooms that are being used as classroom to provide education to the children in Kontum. The building also housed a museum on the 1st floor which displays on some history facts on the spread of christianity in Kontum, historical items such as the gongs, wooden casket, replicas of Rong House and city of Kontum, map of Kontum, collection of bibles and the past and present fathers of the chapel of the Seminary as well as old photographs of the communities of the Seminary. Another highlight in Kontum is also the distinctive coffee house of Eva Cafe, which display the creative works of the owner by using the wood as his theme to come up with the interior and exterior of the cafe including the furnitures. The tour to Kontum over a day has been so worthwhile and would provide a truly unforgettable memories. I thank my guide for making the tour of Kontum possible. He has been a great guide throughout the tour and even invited me over for dinner at his restaurant under joint ownership with his partner in downtown of Pleiku city. The restaurant serves some of the delicious Vietnamese food in particular rice with dishes. The name of the restaurant is Quan Dua Tre or Kitchen of Chopsticks. Later, I was invited to a nice coffee outlet overlooking a small lake. Most youngsters patronised this modern coffee joint with couples on motorbikes seen intimately cuddling each other at the edge of the lake leading to the coffee house. The name of this coffee house is Cafe Thuy Ta. After some casual and relaxing chat over cup of traditionally prepared vietnamese aromatic coffee, its time to say goodbye.

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The next morning, I left Vinh Hoi Hotel for Duc Long Bus Station to board the bus from Pleiku city to Pakse. It was still very early when I reached the station and the station was rather quite without much movements of buses noted. My Linh Express has its own platforms at one section of Duc Long Bus Station and the passengers waiting area is a small room within its office building. After about 45 minutes of wait, a lady from the My Linh office came calling for me to go over a still Mai Linh green minibus. There was no any announcement at all to passengers to board their bus but I thought even if there is one, it would be as good as without as surely, the language used would be no other than vietnamese. So, I was a little surprised that it was a small minivan rather than a big bus that would be heading to Pakse. Nevertheless, I believed Mai Linh Express do have buses (minibus that is) for the Pleiku-Pakse route as I witnessed this while the minibus travelled on the opposite direction from Pakse-Pleiku. Such vehicle size being used probably due to small number of passengers on this route which made it more feasible to use a minivan and minibus rather than big buses. The journey from Pleiku to the border of Vietnam and Lao PDR has been rather smooth and pleasant with most of the road conditions within satisfactory level. The international border checkpoint in Vietnam is Bo Y (pronounced Boey) while the one over at Lao PDR is Phoukeua. Crossing the Vietnamese and Lao border was without much hassle with the Lao PDR immigration officers being friendly, attentive and courteous. However, the road right after Phoukeua was never been thought being one of the most challenging border crossing I had ever encountered. As this area within Lao PDR is a heavily surrounded by large mountains and hills, the roads that cut through this section of Laos are very much steeped, difficult with many sharp bends ahead. But thanks to good driving skills and behaviour of Mai Linh drivers, the overall journey travelling through this difficult route had been safe. Even this is a small minivan, they do have 2 drivers on board which I believed is to ensure the safety of the passengers, where a rotation of drivers would ensure the alertness of this key person who manouvre the vehicle would never be compromised. Travelling within the Attapeu province, the minivan stops at various locations to drop off passengers and goods as well as picking up incoming passengers. There is one lengthy stop at Duc Loc Restaurant cum Guesthouse which is a Viet-Lao eatery outlet which also provide accomodation services as well as money exchange facility. In fact many shops, restaurants and guesthouses within Attapeu or any other provinces bordering Vietnam would have such establishments owned by Vietnamese which proven on how well vietnamese are when it comes to enterpreneurship. The journey within Attapeu province is one of the most beautiful journey encountered with great landscapes of mountains, rice fields, local villages and agricultural lands as well as rivers. Reaching Pakse, I took the tuk-tuk to look for a place to stay and ended up at Thaluang Hotel which is located at a secluded and quiet street at the edge of Pakse town. This hotel looked very much like an old mansion converted into a hotel facility with the structure of the building, rooms and interior of the hotel being in a very rundown condition. Room with air-cond charged at 80,000 kip. Other than Thaluang Hotel, I also checked into Sala Champa Hotel which is being featured in the Thai-Lao movie, Sabaidee 2. What makes this hotel unique is that it has open concept lobby which also served as a place for travellers to gather up for chatting as well as for breakfast apart from being a waiting area for guests prior to pick-up arrangement to the bus stations or anywhere else. The furniture at this lobby consists of those used during the olden days where the structure of the furniture being made from rattan. There are multiple rooms on several blocks of white buildings within the hotel compound. The buildings have designed that look very much like french architecture design.

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I had been to Pakse for few times and visited some of the wats downtown and also experienced the hospitality at the historical Champasak Palace Hotel, which formerly being a palace of the Lao royal family before the collapsed of the royal monarchy in the 70s. Pakse town itself is a charming town which has many historical buildings which occupy the heart of the town. Taking a walk around the town would be rewarding as one would be able to experience the great old traditional building architectures as well as the easy going traffic condition, which still not being congested with high vehicles volume though this is fast changing with increasing number of tourists as well as the developments that are taking place within the town and surrounding areas. Surely, travelling is also always associated with food and I think one of the best eating experience would be that of sipping some good Lao coffee from Bolaven Plateau while enjoying a plate of french bread stuffed with hot omelette and fresh tomato for breakfast or some Beer Lao with hot french bread stuffed with chicken cube meat for dinner.

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The highlight of my travel to Lao PDR this time around is to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phu. This is one of the most crucial itinerary in Laos for travellers and should not be missed while in Pakse. The structures of Wat Phu has been so magnificently, stunningly and awesomely heart capturing within the setting of a massively huge open flat lands with the background of a beautiful big mountains at its backdrop. I booked my tour to Wat Phu with Pakse Travel & Air Service Co Ltd with a private minivan. The journey to Wat Phu took less than an hour from Pakse town with great natural landscape of mountains and open lands. Entrance fee to Wat Phu inclusive of a visit to the museum costs 30,000 kip. One can choose to either take a walk of about few kilometres to reach the Wat Phu area or could pay additional ticket fee for a return trip with transport service provided. Well, I prefer to walk to the wat though the distance may be far as its not metres away but few km away couple with the scorching hot sun, this may be a discouraging choice but would provide rewarding experience as it opens opportunity to take a good look at the stunning natural landscapes of mountains, lakes and trees. The pathways leading to Wat Phu consists of natural laterite soil surrounded by trees on the left and right of the long straight road with a large lake located on the right side of the road. As I walked through the pathways, I could feel the calmness and how close the nature is to my mind and soul. The area from the ticket office to Wat Phu is a massive open land with a background view of large mountains. At the edge of the lake nearing the entrance to Wat Phu, there is a long structure which appear to be a wall to signify the start of the boundary of Wat Phu. From here, there are multiple pillars lined the left and right of the long walkways that lead to the main area of Wat Phu. At the end of this walkways, there are 2 building structures on the left and right known as South and North Palace. Both the building structures are undergoing major conservations reconstructions due to parts of the walls and the side door entrance had been damaged and collapsed. From the rear of the South and North Palace, as I entered to have a closer view of how it looks inside these buildings, it can be seen that the rectangular shape building is a wide open space without any particular structures or pillars with the ground filled with grass. There is another narrow and lengthy area next to this open space which is separated by a wall and also have side door entrance from this open space area to this lengthy narrow area. There is also a large door from the outside to enter to this lengthy narrow area. The walls of these 2 palace have multiple windows with pillars and these walls are also carved in various ancient Khmer arts. Walking further up from these 2 palace, there is a small structure on the left behind one of the 2 palace which should be a temple but signboard stated that it is being constructed as a training for workers of the conservation reconstruction on the 2 palace. From here, as I progressed further, there is an uneven walkways where the ancient concrete bricks filled the walkways have been what seemed to be uprooted possibly due to change in soil condition and weather in the area. At the end of this walkways are steep staircases to get up to the main Wat Phu area where a temple or wat is located. Arriving at the top of the hill where the wat building is located, the view from here is amazingly awesome and stunning and no words could describe how beautiful and scenic the whole view of the 2 palace and the surrounding landscapes could be. Only snapshots of photos would be fairest of all to describe and tell the truth of such great gift of nature by God. The structure of this main wat building of Wat Phu is still overall kept intact apart from the roof top which had collapsed. The frontage of the wat has 3 doors with the middle one being the main and larger in size while the other 2 on left and right are same in size. There are also 2 side door entrance on each left and right of this wat building and the walls of the wat have multiple windows as well, which very much similar to the earlier 2 palace structure on the basement area. Also noticed on this wat are the great Khmer arts crafted on the walls and the structure of the doors. Inside the wat, there is a huge Buddha sculpture in sitting position with 3 other small sculptures with an altar for praying purpose. Walking a level up from this wat, there is a big rock with a image of an elephant seen clearly on the surface of this rock. My summary on Wat Phu is that, the trip is a very worthwhile one though the heat and the distance within the wat boundary coupled with the hilly geographical landscape may take a toll while touring the great wat. The structure of the buildings with Khmer styles design and architecture deserved much admiration from visitors and can never be denied to be placed under the UNESCO World Heritage recognition. The mountain at the backdrop of Wat Phu also known as Phu Khao is yet another great natural landscape experience while the stunning view from the peak of Wat Phu would capture the heart of those who appreciate nature and even those who don't would still find it too hard not to appreciate the greatest gift by God.

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Posted by kidd27 11:17 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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