#50 – Eat, Sleep, Sight-see – Around Bangkok (Part 3)

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Wat Arun aka. “Temple of Dawn”, one of the best views across the Chao Phraya River especially at sunset when the temple is illuminated, and the sky features a gradient of colours from the setting sun.  This time there was enough time and the weather let us have a grand view of the sun setting.  I can never get enough of this view!  Wat Arun is best known for its image during the sunrise (thus the name?) where the reflection of the temple is seen on the water (reminds me of Angkor Wat).  However, I’ve always been more of a sunset fan and I wholeheartedly recommending watching it from across the river at at restaurant/rooftop bar called Amorosa.

Here’s a recap of what Carol and I were able to run around to in the few days she was in Bangkok.

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#49 – Ayutthaya, Thailand

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Op..op..op..op.

Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam from 1351-1767.  The first being Sukothai and third being Krung Thep (also known to the western world as Bangkok, also having the name Siam changed to Thailand).

It was said that during its most prosperous times, Ayutthaya was the most populated, wealthy, and dominant city in the entire South East Asia region with ties to Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese, Persians, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French traders and forces.  Having successfully defended against several attacks from various nations attempting to control Ayutthaya, the final blow came from a Burmese attack that brought the city to ruin.  Everything from buildings to pieces of literature were destroyed in the undertaking.

What is left of the city isn’t very much and since December of 1991 been under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Although the palace grounds consisted of the Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace (the Front Palace) and Wang Lang (the Rear Palace), what remains are only a few of the ruins of some significant temples.  Despite of this, the historical is very beautiful and the ruins a clear reminder of what a great city Ayutthaya once was and the drastic reality of what it is today.

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#48 – Elephants – Koh Chang, Thailand (Part 2)

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What would a trip to Ko Chang (Elephant Island) be without visiting one of the elephant camps on the island?!  After some research, there were 4 possible elephant camps to choose from but the one that offered the best care of elephants in the most beautiful natural surroundings was ‘Ban Kwan Chang’ located in north of the island about 2km inland towards the middle of the island.  Several reviews and some asking around with locals confirmed that this one would yield the best experience, so Carol and I were down for it.  The other camps are situated on the side of the main road and wasn’t close to being as immersive as Ban Kwan Chang.

We got up early one morning and got shuttled from our resort to the other side of the island to the elephant sanctuary.  It’s not everyday you see an elephant and you always expect something large but when you see one up close, it’s quite a wonderful emotion.  A little intimidating, yet a little tranquil would be a good description of this sacred animal.  In fact, imagery of the elephant can be seen all around Thailand as they are worshipped as a sign of well-being and prosperity.  They also have a long history as a war animal in several of Thailand’s South East Asian disputes.  I for one was excited to see them in their natural habitat rather than mistreated in a heavily touristy elephant show.

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#47 – Beach Mode – Ko Chang, Thailand (Part 1)

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Ko Chang, meaning Elephant Island in Thai has been slowly developing from a backpacker’s hotspot into a vacation paradise.  Only about 6 hours from Bangkok, Ko Chang is the 2nd biggest island in Thailand.  White sandy beaches line the island and while a relatively quiet and unknown spot compared to places like Ko Samui (clickity-clack) or Phuket, there are still many things to do and see such as snorkeling, diving, hiking, rock climbing, waterfalling (? hah), visiting elephant sanctuaries, and other wildlife sightings.  Due to the island’s landscape, about 70% of it is still uninhabited and thus left with a raw, untouched piece of the earth to explore and discover if you choose to do so.

After some well needed rest from Laos and Myanmar trips, I was able to chill and relax in Bangkok (my vacation city) and expect the arrival of my good friend Carol from Taiwan.  I haven’t seen her since June when I visited Taiwan but this would be the 3rd country that we’ve had the chance to meet up, Singapore being the first  (how lucky we are!).  We had done some planning prior to her landing and we had lots to do and see.  Ko Chang was one of the things off the list and since I haven’t been there before, I was about to be ready for some travelling again.  Beach-bumming was something I really looked forward to again.  Wooo.

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#46 – Yangon, Myanmar (Part 2)

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There is a circular train in Yangon that takes you from the city central to the outskirts of the city and is in my opinion the best way to get a glimpse and photo ops of what life is like for the Burmese.  You will witness a transformation from the city and its buildings to the farmland countryside of the outskirts.  You can take the train at the main station for $1 USD on platforms 4 or 7, for the clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.  The circular track stretches for 46 kilometers and 39 stops.

The train was non-airconditioned for about 3-4 hours and it was certainly not the most comfortable.  By the end of the train ride, you get quite agitated and wished for it to end, well, that was me.

My adventure in Yangon continues!
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#45 – Yangon, Myanmar (Part 1)

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 Sorry for it to seem like we’re in Myanmar forever, but here I am with the next update finally!!!

Up above is the Shwedagon Pagoda, the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar.  At over 100 meters high, the gilded pagoda and stupa is one of the largest Buddhist pagodas in the world.  According to legend, the pagoda has existed over 2600 years ago, but archaeologists believe it to be built during the 6th century instead.  Regardless, the pagoda claims to keep Buddha’s hairs and several other important relics inside.  The outside has been damaged, regilded, and rebuilt several times so one could never tell exactly how long a monument of this magnitude has really been standing here.

Yangon (or formerly, and still referred to many as Rangoon) was the capital of Myanmar until it was superseded  by Naypyidaw in March of 2006.  With a population of approximately 5 million people, Yangon remained the most populous city in Myanmar and the central economic hub of the entire country.   The city was originally said to be founded in the 11th century, that’s the year 1000 as ‘Dagon’ by the people from the Mon village (some records say even as early as the 6th century).   Dagon remained relatively static until it was conquered by King Alaungpaya and renamed the city to Yangon and eventually added significant settlements around Yangon.  However, it wasn’t until the British gained controlled of Burma after the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824-26 that the importance of Yangon skyrocketed.  Yangon became the capital city of British Burma following the Second Burmese War in 1852, as well as the hub of the country’s trading economy.

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#44 – Inle Lake, Myanmar (Part 2)

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The view from the Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda grounds offered a great overlooking view of Inle Lake and the Nuang Shwe township.

My group continued with the sights in search of a hill with a good view of the surrounding villages and Inle Lake.  One guy from France did little research (but turned out to be the most out of everyone, as we all were clueless and went for a joyride basically) and found that the Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda had a walkable distance and small hike to get a good view.  We all agreed and headed out.

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