A Travellerspoint blog

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 01.12.2012 11:17 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Nakhon Pathom

The Great Chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

sunny 36 °C

On my trip to Kanchanaburi province in Thailand, I had the opportunity to revisit the great chedi at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn in Nakhon Phatom province. During my last visit to this Wat, the chedi was undergoing a major facelift where scaffoldings were seen being constructed over the roof of the chedi. My recent visit painted a different look on this massive chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn. The great chedi stood over the high grounds proudly and beautifully much to the admirations of the residents of Nakhon Phatom as well as the visitors who flocked over this wat to offer prayers and to take a close look at the gigantic chedi. At the main entrance to this wat, visitors would need to walked up through the staircase and would reached the base where a huge standing Buddha structure was being located. This would be the most crowded area because most of the visitors would converged here to offers prayers to the Lord Buddha. Behind this massive Buddha structure would be the ubosot of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn. Within the ground of this base area would be row of vendors that specialised in the amulets and other related religious accessories.

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The chedi at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The view from outside the compound of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The view of chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn from far

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The staircase to Wat Phra Phatom Chedi and the huge standing Buddha structure

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Walking up to the ground of the base area where the massive Buddha structure is located to offer payers at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The massive golden Buddha structure at Wat Phra Phatom Ratchavoraviharn

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The sacred monks sculptures placed along the circled white walls that covered the boundary to the massive chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Rachavoraviharn

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The side view on the circled walls to the great chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi which were surrounded by sacred monks and Buddha sculptures

From here, visitors would then be able to get into the great chedi boundary through a circled white walls with other smaller Buddha sculptures as well as the sacred monk sculptures surrounded the rounded walls that cover the boundary of the chedi. Stepping inside visitors would approached a circled walkways area between the circled wall and the chedi, where the people could walk along the walkways as they offer prayers or simply to admire the chedi from a close view. Getting up to this chedi, there would be another layer of circled walkways which were much narrower in width. From here, visitors could also walked around this second and last layer of walkways that circled the massive chedi. Also, the view inside the ubosot of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi can be seen from the higher ground of this second layer walkways of the chedi

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Within the boundary of the great chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn where there are walkways for visitors to walk around to offer prayers or simply to admire the chedi

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The staircase seen on the far right that leads visitors up to the second layer as well as the final walkways of the chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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View of the ubosot of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn from its massive chedi's upper base

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A close view of the great chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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A view inside the ubosot of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi from its massive chedi area

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The massive chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The 2nd layer walkways of the chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The Great Chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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The view on the surrounding area within the boundary of the chedi of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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A rakarng or bell at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi

There are also vendors within the premise of Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn that sell variety of items including fruits, food and drinks. One of the best Nakhon Phatom product is the pomelo which is really fresh and sweet. Others including the passion fruit drinks sold in medium size bottle.

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Loads of pomelo fruits in the basket in Nakhon Phatom

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Pomelo fruits vendor at Nakhon Phatom's Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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Sweet bread vendors at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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Passion fruit drinks available at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi in Nakon Phatom

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Fruit drinks vendor at Nakhon Phatom's Wat Phra Phatom Chedi

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Snacks sold at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

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Passion fruits seen at passion fruit drinks vendor at Wat Phra Phatom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn

Posted by kidd27 22.09.2012 22:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok & Ayutthaya

The City of Angels and Sacred Ruins

sunny 36 °C

21/6/2008-29/6/2008

My last trip to The Land Of Smiles, Thailand, was Phuket. That was exactly a year ago. And as what I had wrote in my previous Phuket blog, I had a great time and a good break from the stressful work life in the capital city of my country. So after a long year without travelling abroad, the thoughts of packing up was up and coming again. Here am I on a backpacking trip again to somewhere I could really enjoy and have an ultimate relaxation. City holiday was not exactly in my list of top places to venture out, but somehow, Thailand was yet again in my mind. Perhaps, its still one of the inexpensive and affordable holiday destinations which capture my grave attentions. My initial options would either be Chiang Mai, Krabi or Koh Samui. After some good deliberations on where I should head to, Bangkok has taken over the priority over the others as this is the city where I believe that everyone who has been to Thailand would have been to Bangkok which means, a trip to Bangkok wouldn't be complete without Bangkok being in the itinerary.

It was 9.30 am local time on the day I arrived at the Suvarnabhumi (pronounced Suvarnaphoom) Airport. From the airport, my next destination is Pattaya. The informations that I had about this resort city are its notoriety for bargirls and stripshows over in the abundant of beer bars, discos and massage parlours which can be found in almost all corners of the city. Not of any difference from Phuket perhaps I thought. The impression on Pattaya changed immediately once I arrived there as when I see things around, I seriously think that it deserved some form of respectable rating from holiday seekers eyeing for a decent holiday or retreat. Not because the beach was top class (the seawater is rather less impressive), but it affords one the access to the opportunity for true relaxation at the beach with the calm beach water and clean beach sands as well as the availability of the best and affordable seafood for snacking while you enjoy your sunbathing or just under the comfort of the big umbrellas over the beach relaxing chair which are available at very inexpensive rates for as long as you like. Take a sip at a can of cold Singha beer coupled with a plate of grilled cuttlefish and fresh oyster to fill your stomach for lunch or late afternoon snacks, and you will know what I mean over my statement ".........that it deserves some form of respectable rating......". It has more to offer rather than just stripshows and girls and that is for real. That was exactly what I did and was a really enjoyable experience for me. For budget travellers or backpackers, get your Singha beers from the Family Mart, the 7-Eleven version made in Thailand available as this will help you to save extra dollars to spend more on beers or seafood later for dinner. Jomtien Beach offers several seafood joints where you could enjoy your food along concrete stretch on the edge of the beach with the refershing cool night breeze of wind from the sea. Seafood is distinctively cheap here and you can be well assured of good value for your money spent here at Jomtien beach. I spent as low as THB450 for a good seafood meal consist of a whole grouper fish (deepfry), deep fry ommelette with oyster, tomyum and large tiger prawns. Unbelievably cheap!

The next day, its time to head back to Bangkok after breakfast at the hotel. Prior to leaving Pattaya, my next stop was Mini Siam, a place where you can experience the many historical sites and buildings within Thailand and Indochina including Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos as well as famous structures from around the world. Just outside Pattaya, at Ko Loy in Sri Racha, the pier to Ko Si Chang, I visited one of the nice spot with a wat on top of the hill overlooking the spectacular view of the sea. At below the hill, there's a Chinese temple located close to the sea with a large "Kuan Yin Goddess" within the open temple structures overlooking the sea . Enjoy the very tasty coconut drinks before you go up the hill and after that go for the seafood at the stalls that sell variety of mouth-watering choices of grilled-seafood that will kick-up your tastebud. Here, just at the rear of the stalls, tables and mattress being laid over concrete laid bund of the sea where after your orders are ready, you could enjoy your food with large bottle of coca-cola with ice with the relaxing view over the scenic sea . Over at Chonburi city centre before Laem Chabang port from Chonburi's direction, this is another place which is famous for seafood produce such as dried shrimps, salted fish, cuttlefish and many more including the colourfully-wrapped coconut candy. You can find all these at the main road of the city where shops are being established along the road for a stretch of about 500m.

Arrived at Bangkok city in the late evening from Pattaya and the next morning, I was at the Erawan Shrine to offer prayers. At erawan Shrine, a statue of Four-Faced Buddha structure being placed on the shrine within the open spaces of the shrine's gated compound. You can purchase praying items from the available counter inside the compound from THB20 onwards to offer prayers to the Buddha as well as making donations at the donation box at the right side of the entrance. There are perfomance of Thai traditional dance at certain time within the shrine area. Bangkok city is larger than what I would have thought and being a metropolitan city, it has abundant of shopping malls both for both upper class and budget shoppers. These include the Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, Siam Square, Emporium, CentralWorld and Gaysorn for upper and middle class, MBK, Pratunam Centre and Baiyoke for budget shoppers. There are also the bazaars shopping options which offer loads of good souveniers and in expensive but nice casual wears such as the Chatuchak Weekend market and also the Suan Lum Nigh Bazaar.

The most important itinerary while in Bangkok that one shouldn't missed would be Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew situated side by side to each other within the shared compound at the Nha Phra Lan Road near Sanam Luang. The Grand Palace is surrounded by high white walls and occupies an area of approximately 1 square mile. Wat Phra Kaew houses the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand and this is the must visit when you are in Bangkok being the most important tourist spot in this City of Angel. Wat Pho located just next to Grand Palace is one of the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. The Ubosot houses a huge gold-plated Reclining Buddha with inlaid mother-of -pearl souls depicting 108 auspicious signs of the Buddha. From Wat Pho, headed to the Ha Tien Pier of the Chao Phraya River to take the boat to Wat Arun, Temple of The Dawn. It has a 79 metre high pagoda and is most attractive when viewed during sunset while cruising along the Chao Phraya river from Sathon Pier.

Chinatown in Yaowarat will be very interesting place for those seeking for some good seafood, chinese food,sharkfin and birdnest soup and dried pork snacks as well as cheap shoppings at designated area for stall operators selling all kinds of items catering budget shoppers including shirts, electrical gadgets, CDs and etc. There are street food stalls along shops' five foot ways being setup at night which among others I found to be attractive to my tastebud - the charcoal grilled bread with choice of fillings including chocolate and kaya (coconut paste). Add on a cold iced milk tea or iced white coffee to finish off your after dinner snacks. Before that tuck into scrumptuous seafood dinner along the 2 main streetside seafood stalls that serve some of the tasty seafood in Bangkok. For THB700, I had one full steam fish - Teochew style, a plate of Tiger prawns that comes with 5 pieces, 4 big clamps and a plate of shells. Also, try out the birdnest soup for as as low as THB 100 a bowl.

Next was Wat Benchamabhopit located near the Chitralada Palace and Dusit Zoo, the interior of the main building is decorated with cross beams of laquer and gold. A large collection of bronze Buddha images lines the Walls of spacious inner courtyard. From here, I head to Vinmanmek Teakwood Mansion, the world's largest building made entirely of golden teak. This 3 storey wooden palace has 81 rooms, halls and anterooms. Various items and art objects are being displayed in other buildings in the same compound which include potraits, old clocks and royal carriages. The Golden Mount (Wat Saket/Phu Khao Thong) is one of wat that shouldn't be missed out while in Bangkok. Situated on top of a hill with 318 steps to reach, it offers stunning views of the Rattanakosin Island. in Chinatown, Wat Traimitr (temple of Golden Buddha) is worth a visit. This temple houses a 3 metre high weighing 5 and a half tonnes Buddha structure which welcomes hordes of tourist at most times. Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temple in Bangkok with a Giant Swing (sao Ching Cha) located at its front entrance. This swing was used in the olden days to celebrate thanks giving day for the good rice harvest but has not been in function since 1932 due to many injuries and death resulted from the stunt performed by men. The temple houses the Phra Buddha Sakyamuni brought from Sukhothai during the reign of King Rama 1.

Trip to Bangkok wouldn't be complete without a river cruise. Go for cruise from Sathon Pier by taking the skytrain to Saphan Taksin station and then board the boat with Orange flag to Nonthaburi province where you would be able to revisit Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (get down at Tha Chang Pier if this is your 1st trip through the boat) and Wat Pho and Wat Arun (get down at Tha Tien Pier and hop to a short boat trip service over the opposite side if this is your 1st trip) and some of Bangkok's best sights including the King Rama VIII's bridge while cruising on the boat. From Nonthaburi town centre, take the minivan taxi back to the city for around THB 20. You can also have short excursion to Ko Kret from Nonthaburi. Ko Kret is a pottery village which you can get around either by walking or hire a bike. Several merchandise including handmade perfumes, souveniers as well as pottery items are sold at shops around the tiny island surrounded by coconut trees. The land mark here is Wat Poramai Yikawat located at the entrance to the island from the boat landing area. Try the Mon food Khao Cher, rice that served in chilled iced water couple with some side dishes. And have a cold iced tea, cha yen after a long exhausted walk which was served in a red clay cup in Doraemon caricature which you can keep as your own. If you would like to have a great night view of Bangkok city do try the dinner cruise available offered by various cruise agencies, which include a dinner on board. The night view of the city was rather stunning comparable to Hong Kong if not equal to Sydney harbour cruise.

Ayutthaya, being one of the most important tourist attractions in Thailand was next on my list. This historical city offers various magnificent ruins where the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historial Park has been listed in UNESCOS's World Heritage since 1991. Expect to spend at least 1 full day here to complete your trip to some of the most important ruins including Wat Chaiwathanaram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat and Wat Yai Chaimongkhon. Try out famous local snack, the colourful candyfloss wrapped with flat bread which tastes very sweet but delicious. There are several stalls and shops located along the road leading to the Ayutthaya Historical Park that sell such snacks and stop by to buy some of them fresh to eat while travel back to Bangkok. The fresh water food at some of the available restaurants around town as they serve some of the very best Thai dishes that will satisfy your lunch of the day out here. This is possible because Ayutthaya is located very close to the river and is accessible from Bangkok through river cruise if you opt to do so.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is yet another great itinerary that was part of my Bangkok trip. This market located in Ratchaburi province near the Samut Songkhram town operates from early morning till noon. You can rent a boat for as low as THB200 depending on your negotiation skills, which will bring you around the canal for some good time to do your shopping. You can get items including local tropical fruits, spices, Thai food, souveniers such as T-shirts, miniatures, decorative items and fresh produce. Enjoy the fresh coconut drinks while you take your time crusing on the boat while doing rounds of river cruise shopping. This is a very interesting experience indeed. A detour to Don Hoi Lod, infamous for the shell fish called "hoi lot" where both locals and tourists are craving for where these shell fish are bountiful along the coast of Mae Klong estuary. Many restaurants are being established along the estuary attracting people to try their seafood dishes.

You may never like the notorious Bangkok's heavy traffic, but once you have stepped your foot here you will enjoy the many varieties of this city has to offer as well as the affordable and inexpensive merchandises, nice and good food as well as its countless tourist spots all around.

Posted by kidd27 20.07.2008 14:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Phuket

The island paradise

rain 31 °C
View Phnom Penh on kidd27's travel map.

June 2007

Phuket was never exactly in my travel plans, at least for this round of holiday. A spontaneous question posted to a work colleague, Boon on whether he has any immediate or future breakaway plans in mind has landed me in this island-part of the Land o Smiles. Not that I dislike beach vacation but rather some reservations on the horror aftermath of tsunami that affected Phuket which had indeed kept this paradise island away from my plan. When the suggestion was raised by Boon, I thought, "Well, since I need a vacation and am looking for travel partner, this idea is somewhat okay". So that was it. We were off here in Phuket.

Travelling low season (its wet season in June) nevertheless has its advantage. Everything is cheap in particular the accomodations which went as low as 50% lower in rates compared to during the high season. If you think that the wet season will ever deprive you of a great beach/island retreat....think again. It wasn't that bad actually, to the extent that you wouldn't be able to bask into the sun and beach for a reasonable level of fun and relaxation. There was sunny days coupled with torrential rains. But on most days during our stay, we had a fair share of good weather. We had our fun, no doubt on that.

It pays to avoid engaging the services of tour agents at the stretch along the way from the airport to your next destination in Phuket. Most of the minivan operators work closely with such agents in return for commissions. Accomodations and tours would be much less expensive if they are being booked at the places you chose to put up at, say Patong. Due to the fact that may have more options to choose from, this affords you to make wise decision in terms of financial savings. Some agents will likely mis-sell the accomodation package in order to get higher commissions.The best and easiet way to get out from this is to mentioned that you've arranged all the necessary details, ie accomodation and the tours. I must admit though that not all agents tend to be dishonest and want to rip you off your finances. Some really offer affordable and fair rates. We booked our accomodation with one of such agents (through the work of minivan driver that we engaged to take us to Patong from the airport). Upon our investigation at the end of our stay, the rates were much higher by over 40% if we booked direct with the hotel itself. So, there are some pro and cons here and there.

There are many island tours available for travellers to choose from. You're apparently spoilt with choices. The most popular one would be Ko Phi Phi where many agents offer daily as well as overnight trip to this beautiful masterpiece. Ko Phi Phi is divided into 2 parts, Ko Phi Phi Don (the larger island) and Ko Phi Phi Leh (the smaller island). We booked our Ko Phi Phi tour for THB1,700, which we found out later that it was slightly costlier. In Patong, the tour agents quoted THB1,500 for the day trip after some negotiations. Anyway, the difference of THB200 was rather acceptable, but a word of caution: Avoid booking any trips from tour operators outside from where you decided to stay particularly where the agents are being arranged by minivan services. Most if not all will tend to sell you packages which costs higher. However, should you feel comfortable doing so, do initiate on negotiations to the price level which you think is reasonable. So, some homework done at home is advantageous so that you can gauge on the prices of any tours available. The day trip to Ko Phi Phi include swimming, snorkeling and lunch which lasted approximately 7 hours. There are several options for you to choose, depending on the size of travellers and speedboats. If you want to have travel with lesser people on board, then the price is higher. Nevertheless, the operators may promise you that the boats will cater for only 22 people but end up with over 40 people. Another scam is that beware of the gimmick prior to your departure point at the pier. They will charge you THB100 to hire a pair of flips for use during the snorkeling. This is somehow ridiculous as this people will not inform you during the booking. However, the other snorkeling gear such as mask is given free. Other trips include to Phang Nga, Krabi, Coral Island (Ko Hae), Ko Mai Thon, Ko Raya, Ko Similan and many more. Check out at the available operators.

Patong is the major entertainment playground for everyone, both the holidaymakers as well as the locals. Bangla Road has the most entertainment joints for your to enjoy good number of beers and as many as you an afford. Beer bars, a go go bars, pubs and discos are all here fro you to choose. Beers go as cheap as THB50 a bottle. For the guys, be prepared to be approached by the bar girls where they'll ask for you to buy them drinks, otherwise known as the ladydrinks. It costs anything between THB120 to THB150. The extra charges work as tips for these girls. (normal price for drinks cost between THB60 to THB80). If you want to avoid those unwanted attentions, ask for some games available over the counter. You can play for as long as you wanted to fill up the rest of the night. Games available include bingo, blocks, dice as well as hammering nails on a large piece of wood. Check this out at the Soi Sea Dragon. Along the main Bangla Road, there are many "freelancers" including the ladyboys looking for potential business deals. Loud musics can be heard from every nooks and corners of these entertainment outlets along Bangla Road. Seafood are aplenty here. Many restaurants, serving fantastic seafood as well as decent, authentic Thai food are located along Thaweewong Road, fronting the Patong beach area, also known as Patong Beach Road. We had a try at the Royal Palm Resortel at Thaweewong Road. A sizeable portion of hot and spicy tuna and tom yum koong together with steam rice fit in just well into our hunger and crave for authentic Thai food. The tuna was marvelous with extensive spiciness while the tom yum taste equally great with a well blend combination of sweet, sour and spice that comes along with reasonable amount of fresh prawns.

Street food are also worth trying. Along the Rat-Uthit 200 Pee Road near 7-Eleven, there are several stalls selling mixed pork porridge, chicken rice and hot noodles. At nearby Sainamyem Road, there is a budget restaurant operating round the clock specialised in chicken and pork soup/dry noodle and chicken rice too. The noodle dish comes with apart from the noodle, dried shrimp, fried wanton, bean sprout, fried beancurd and meatballs. Try mix with the red chilli pepper. The level of spiciness is just so great, which made it more exciting to eat. Pushcarts selling varieties of pancake flavours including that of banana and honey, peanut butter and banana, nutella paste with banana and many more are available to vet your appetite. You can find this along the Patong Beach Road. If you crave for some local tropical food, try the "rambutan", a tiny hairy red oval shape fruit that is sweet and juicy. We came across a 4 wheel drive with loads of such fruits at its rear long compartment that goes around doing its usual daily night business particularly late nights to early mornings.

Motorbike rental costs as little as THB200 per day without mileage limitations. Fuel of THB100 lasted us for a round trip from Patong, Karon, Kata, Nai Harn, Rawai, Chalong, Phuket town and back to Patong. Apart from Patong beach, we had swimming at Kata beach, which also attracts a fair number of beach goers whom stay around Kata. Big waves are common at the stretch of beach facing the Andaman Sea and at times do pose threat to swimmers who are careless. This is especially so in Patong beach. Be cautious not to swim too far off into the sea as the currents risk pull one away and that will follow by difficulty to swim back to the beach. We had a close call but quick action from the beachguards saved us. Several swimmers were also caught off guard and had to be assisted by the beach boys to pull them to safety with the jetski. The red pole is always there to be safety yardstick.
The beach benches are available for rent at THB100 the whole day. This affords you relaxation, sunbathing, and to enjoy your food and drinks in between your swims.

Other attraction which should not be missed is Wat Chalong. It would be easily be voted as the best attraction in Phuket with its unique and beautiful wat structures. Comprising of several number of wats located within its compound, many tourists flocked to Wat Chalong to offer prayers and to ask for good fortunes. There are 2 other wats in the central part of the island. the Wat Phra Nang Sang and Wat Phra Tong. Inside the Wat Chalong, there are some makeshift stalls where souveniers are on sale as well as the very tasty green coconut to quench your thirst for THB20. The Promthep Cape, situated between Nai Harn and Rawai is worth a visit. This cape is situated on the edge of the south of the island which affords visitors the view of the beautiful sunset from the top of the hill.

After all, this round of backpacking trip to Phuket was well above my expectations. It was indeed a very interesting, relaxing and wonderful holiday for Boon and me. The island lives up to the tagline "The Land of Smiles" for you see many happy faces around. Great beaches, marvelous food, cheap beers, pretty and friendly girls everywhere. Wouldn't this be paradise, dream holiday?

Posted by kidd27 09.07.2007 17:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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