Seap Reap Day 2 (20 Oct 10) – Ang Kor Wat: Jewel Of Cambodia

The Magnificent Ang Kor Wat

Today is marks the first of my 3 day visit to the Ang Kor archeology sites. My first stop after purchasing my personalised 3-day pass into the Ang Kor archeology park, is the infamous Ang Kor Wat. This site doesn’t look as magnificent as one would imagine from the outside especially from the causeway leading into the monument. As explained by my guide, the Ang Kor Wat is built around 1133AD and till date it is the biggest religious monument built by mankind. The temple is built using 3 different type of materials, sandstone, brick and laterite. All the materials used to built this monument is transported down the Siem Reap river via rafts. The 65m tall temple as 3 layers and 5 main pillars at the centre. Each of these pillars represent the peaks surrounding Mt Meru, a holy mountain where the gods is believed to reside. The temple was originally built to honor Vishnu, however throughout the years the temple was “taken over” by the Buddhist believers and was transformed to honor Buddhism. Hence the Vishnu idol was shifted from the centre pagoda in the temple to the front most left gate, as one would enter into the temple. As my guide has explained, the 3 gates or pagodas that greeted millions of visitors who flocked to this monument, represented 3 gods: Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, each representing protector, destroyer and creator. As I walked into the temple site from the gate, what impresses me is the amount of carvings representing the religious beliefs of people of that time. The walls are full of carvings, Khmer scripts detailing their religious aspects. My guide explained there are numerous Apsaras or female dancers carved throughout the temple walls, the last calculation done number them to be 1850! The statue of Vishnu is still seen at the entrance greeting visitors into the temples.

Ang Kor Wat at the Entrance
Couple of stone lion guardians
Causeway leading into Ang Kor Wat
Ang Kor Wat from the causeway
View of Ang Kor Wat from the Causeway
View of Ang Kor Wat from the Causeway
View of Ang Kor Wat from the Causeway
Walking into Ang Kor Wat

As we walked further in, there are 2 buildings that came into our sight. My guide explained that these are 2 of the numerous libraries within the temple. As we were walking into the temple, we side-tracked to this area which is usually missed out by visitors. There is a functional temple at the side of Ang Kor Wat, I could see monks, children and some buildings namely the dinning hall, the prayer hall and the living quarters for the residents.  As we walk towards the main Ang Kor Wat, I saw some pagoda looking structures. My guide explained that these are the tombs of the monks who once resided in the temple grounds. Not long after we reached the first level of Ang Kor Wat temple itself. Basically the temple has 3 levels. What greeted me at this level was the numerous carvings in the walls. These are not just carvings of apsaras, these detailed the mythological encounters of Vishnu. There is this stretch of panel representing the life of Vishnu in one of his reincarnations as Ramayana. There is also carvings telling tales of The battle of Lanka, and another telling about Gods battling demons. As my guide was explaining the mythological tales, it all made sense when I saw the carvings. The amount of work went into the building the temple and decorating it with carvings is the other factor that made this ancient site magnificent. As we were walking through the halls of carvings, what crossed our sight next was 4 pools. I was told that the significance of these 4 pools is for the apsaras, whom would perform for the kings, to cleanse themselves from their impurities before entering further into the temples.

Entering Ang Kor Wat
5 headed nagas are a common feature in Ang Kor Temples
Main Entrance into Ang Kor Wat
A 5 headed naga in front of Ang Kor Wat
Corridor on the ground floor of Ang Kor Wat
Ang Kor Wat was originally dedicated to this God
Dedicate carvings that survived for centuries
Close up of the god that Ang Kor Wat was originally meant for
Carvings of Apsaras is common in this temple
Ang Kor Wat Building up close
Carving of Apsara
Carvings on the walls of Ang Kor Wat
It seemed that there are more buildings around this temple
Carvings that survived centuries
Carvings that survived centuries
Close up of the Ang Kor architecture
One of the libraries in Ang Kor Wat compound
One of the libraries in Ang Kor Wat compound
Ang Kor Wat
Ang Kor Wat
A functional temple inside Ang Kor Wat grounds
Buried here are the remains of monks who served in the temple
Temple inside Ang Kor Wat compound
View of Ang Kor Wat from the functional temple
Ang Kor Wat up close, there are some restoration work being done
Carvings that survived centuries
Carvings that survived centuries
Carvings that survived centuries
Carvings that survived centuries
Carvings that survived centuries
Carvings that survived centuries
One of the 4 water reservoirs in Ang Kor Wat
One of the 4 water reservoirs in Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Magnificent building that stood for centuries

At the second level of the temple, more carvings of apsaras were seen on the walls. However, there was this particular side of the temple where the carvings were incomplete as I could see the outlines of what seem to be the face with no facial features on them. The second level is where one would find a court yard for other people of that time to stay put, awaiting the king and high priests to complete their prayer. The steps leading to the third level was steep! As I climbed the metallic stairs made for tourists, I could see the original stairs beneath it. Those steps were smaller and steeper. I can’t help but wonder how these people climbed up in those days. As if climbing up did not pose enough problems, the descend on those tiny looking stairs really made me think for awhile, how the hell did they do it back then? Well the third level is considered the highest point where visitors can visit (not the highest point in the temple). On this level one can see the surroundings and the whole of the temple grounds from the 4 lookout towers, which represented the mountain ranges surrounding Mt Meru. The sight is refreshing and the breeze gently caressing your face seem to take all the heat that the merciless sun shone upon away. I spent some time enjoying the breeze and looking at the restoration at the front of the temple. Certain parts of the temple is out of bounds due to restoration works. After walking down from the third level, my guide brought me to the northern side of the temple to take some picture with no restoration constructions. Man he is good! As we were walking back towards the car getting ready to hit our next destination, what greeted me was a bunch of ladies…. good one might think, but these are the ladies trying to tout their products to visitors. I wanted to get a really good book talking about the temples in Siem Reap, and gotten one for mere USD5 (she initially quoted me USD10, but I told her the boy outside is selling for 5 and she brought down the price to USD5).

Interior of Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
One of the god statues that survived the test of time
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
View of the top of Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
View from the top of Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
View from the top of Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
This is the flight of stairs one would have to take to ascent to the top of the temple
The original steps
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Inside Ang Kor Wat
Carvings that stood the test of time
Carvings that stood the test of time
Carvings that stood the test of time
Ang Kor Wat from a different angle
Last glance of Ang Kor Wat

I was driven to the place where I would have my lunch. This Khmer restaurant is just next to what was a reservoir in the olden days. Again along the shore not only did I find kids fishing along the reservoir, I also find kids touting to passing tourists to buy their stuff… hhmm… is that the way of life here? After the lunch we headed for Ta Prohm.

Khmer food for lunch
Reservoir beside the restaurant
Reservoir beside the restaurant

The Temple in Ruins – Ta Prohm

This temple is perhaps made famous in the Tomb Raider movie, where one would see the forces of nature. This temple is one of the smallest temple around, it din take us long before we complete a walk around the temple. My first impression of Ta Prohm is it is a very ruined temple, very fitting of the title a temple lost in time. The state of ruins of this temple is as if the locals or even tourists has forgotten this temple and trees were allowed to grow their roots into the temple. Some of the temple collapsed as the roots tore into the structure of the temple. However at the entrance one can see restoration works were being done to the entrance gate as well as the inner gate. How I wish they would leave the temple to the works of the forces of nature, it kinda looked sexier that way. The carvings in the temple was not as grand as that in Ang Kor Wat, perhaps due to the size of the temple as well as the purpose of the temple. I was told that this temple was built as a Buddhist temple, as such the carvings are rather limited to apsaras and life then the story of Vishnu. As we were passing by one of the undestroyed part of the temple, my guide pointed out what I thought to be unusual carving. There was actually a carving of a dinosaur among others! I am not too sure if this dinosaur was carved in as a prank at the time it was built. As we walked around the temple, I saw this huge tree on top of one of the temple structures. My guide told me that it is actually 2 trees, that over the time grew to merged into 1. Around the temple, it is not tough to see tree roots growing over the temple structure. At one of the part of the temple, the tree laterally destroyed the temple as it was evident that part of the corridor gave way to the forces of nature.

Restoration works being done on Ta Prohm
The route towards Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Forces of nature in Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Trees growing all over Ta Prohm is a common site here
Ta Prohm
Ruins of Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Inside Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm standing against the forces of nature
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Carvings on Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Forces of nature in Ta Prohm
Forces of nature onTa Prohm
Forces of nature onTa Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Carvings in Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Apsara carvings in Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm
Forces of nature on Ta Prohm

The City of AngKor Thom

Leaving Ta Prohm, our next destination is AngKor Thom. My guide explained this is actually not a temple but a city. It was known as the largest Khmer cities until 17th century and was the capital of Cambodia once upon a time. As we were driving through the gates, we were greeted by 2 rolls of 54 statue each side. On the left side depicted a roll of gods and on the right side depicted a roll of demons, and according to the Khmer mythology, this scene is where the gods and demons worked together to churn out a sea of milk, with Vishnu reincarnated as a turtle. As we were approaching AngKor Thom, a statue head of 4 faces can be seen on the gate entrance. according to my guide, the 4 faces symbolises the 4 human emotions. Beyond the gate was a row of buildings, my guide had told me originally there were 12 of those buildings, worshiping the 12 gods. I did not do a count of how many were left, but I am certain that less then 12 remain standing. We climbed up what was the royal parade viewing platform, with the highest ranking officer stationing near to the king, who would sit on the centre and the tallest platform. The lowest ranking officer however got the first row of seats, doesn’t seem too bad at all. As we walked closer to the viewing platform, it was apparent that there are engravings of Garudas (half human, half bird creature), and lions at the base of the platform. 3 headed elephant and elephant carvings were also visible throughout the view platform, this is what the locals called the elephant terrace. This 300m terrace runs from the viewing platform to what the locals called the Leper King’s Terrace. More of that later. Beyond the platform is where the Phimeanakas used to be. The Phimeanakas is a temple within the royal palace, but the lack of surviving carvings means it isn’t worth climbing, plus the fact that I was rather tired so I decided to be lazy and not scale this pyramid.

Beyond the Phimeanakas is where the royal palace used to be, as I did not go beyond the Phimeanakas, I am not too sure if there are remains of the royal palace still exists, but the 2 pools that was within the palace can still be seen. My guide mentioned that those were the swimming pools of the time then. As we walked past the pools, we came to the Leper King’s Terrace. I was told that the Leper King’s Terrace got its name due to the corrosion on the Statue of Lord Yama (who was the keeper of the underworld). The corrosion on the statue created several white spots on it which looked like someone with Leprosy, hence the name Leper King’s Terrace. On the base of the Leper King’s Terrace, there were significant amount of demon carvings on it and beneath these demons were nagas and marine life. It seemed to depict some kind of ranking system in the underworld. After leaving the royal grounds, we headed for The Bayon, another temple within Angkor Thom.

A temple we spotted on our way to AngKor Thom
A temple we spotted on our way to AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
Carvings on AngKor Thom
Carvings on AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
Carvings on AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
Carvings that stood the test of time
Carvings that stood the test of time
Carvings that stood the test of time
Carvings that stood the test of time
Carvings that stood the test of time
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
AngKor Thom
Carvings of the Apsaras that survived time
More ancient carvings
More ancient carvings
More ancient carvings
Ancient AngKor Thom

Bayon – The Temple of Buddha Faces

The Bayon served as the state temple at that time. It was recorded to having 49 Towers in the Bayon, however only 37 remained standing to this date. All the towers has the 4 faces of Buddha, in total there were 196 faces of Buddha in the Bayon in its glory days. The Bayon was constructed to consist of 3 levels. The first level is where one would find the carvings of daily lives of people at that time. There were war scenes, daily market scenes, as well as apsaras dancing scenes. On the second level is where the mythology of churning of the sea of milk can be seen, while on the third level is where one would find the faces of Buddha. People usually to this temple as they can see the faces of Buddha at a close distance, as these faces usually appear on the top of the gates or the temples. The faces of the Buddha at such a close proximity indeed looked better then a far distance. At this distance, I can see the age of these towers, and this is the only place in Cambodia where one can get so close to so many Buddha faces. As this is the last stop of the day, we head back to town for a well deserved rest. I grabbed dinner in a restaurant in town called the Red Piano, and they were having Asian buffet. The food was so-so but i enjoyed the view from my table more as the streets of Siem Reap can be seen there. Nice place to chill out though. After dinner I got a foot massage for my tired out legs and prepare them better for a long journey tomorrow.

Faces of The Bayon
Faces of The Bayon
Faces of The Bayon
The Bayon
Faces of The Bayon
Faces of The Bayon
Faces of The Bayon up close
Faces of The Bayon up close
The Bayon
Pub Street at night
Dinner Time

 

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Siem Reap Day 1 (19 Oct 10) – Gateway to an Ancient Empire

Arrival at Siem Reap

Siem Reap, the gateway to the famous Ang Kor Wat, is a mere 2 hours flight away from Singapore. My main purpose of visiting Siem Reap is for the infamous Ang Kor Wat, and the various temples built during the ancient Angkorian period. Travelers from the west spend disgusting amount of money coming to visit this magnificent site, which is laterally at our doorstep. It would be rather silly for me not to visit this jewel of Southeast Asia. Besides sometime ago I read from somewhere that Ang Kor Wat is about to close due to the numerous hordes of visitors coming to visit these temple ruins, which inevitably has caused the structure to give way. I figured better visit this sites before what they did to the Pisa Towers happen to Ang Kor Wat. It would be meaningless to visit Ang Kor Wat at its parameters. Siem Reap basically existed for the visitors to Ang Kor Wat. Before the massive influx of tourists visiting the temple ruins, Siem Reap was a small sleepy town until a French explorer rediscovered the Ancient ruins of Angkorian Empire for the world to visit. Siem Reap simply means the defeat of Siam, and refers to a century-old bloodbath, commemorated in stone in the celebrated bas belief carvings of the monuments.

As the aircraft landed into Siem Reap, what greets me was a quiet sleepy airport, a 180 degree difference from Changi Airport, which was always bustling with life. Despite its “sleepy” appearance, Siem Reap airport is by no ways slack. Everything worked like clock work once an aircraft landed. One would see vehicles with aircraft stairways making their way swiftly to bridge with the aircraft. Not before long we were allowed to disembark. As my seat was the last 2nd row of the aircraft, I was one of the first few to depart from the rear of the aircraft. Well not many airports allow passengers to disembark from the rear. After exiting the aircraft, this is when I realised that I was actually very close to the aircraft, I can even see the “number plate” of the aircraft on its wings. Entering the airport premises, things worked like clockwork once again. The once sleepy airport operations are awaken by the inflow of passengers awaiting to explore the grounds of the Angkorian Ruins. Airport staff sprung into action with order and clearing the passengers quickly. The interior decor as well as the exterior fully displayed the Angkorian architecture. As I walked out of the airport, the hotel staff picking me up is already there waiting for me.

Deplaning in Siem Reap Airport
Walking under the wing of the bird which brought me here to Siem Reap
Heading towards the Airport Terminal
Inside the airport terminal
Waiting to clear immigration
Around the airport
Facade of Siem Reap Airport
On the streets of Siem Reap
On the streets of Siem Reap
On the streets of Siem Reap
On the streets of Siem Reap

Getting My Bearings in the Town of Siem Reap

After settling into my room, it is time for me to visit the Siem Reap Museum and explore around Siem Reap town. Visiting the national museum of Siem Reap was to give an insight into the Angkorian history before visiting the temples. However, before visiting the museum, I need to energise my stomach with lunch. I went to the old market area to hunt for lunch. There are lots of Khmer restaurants for me to choose at pub street area. After walking up and down the same street for 5 mins, I finally settled for this restaurant called “Traditional Khmer Food Restaurant”, and ordered myself some curry looking claypot of food. While waiting for my lunch, I saw some locals walking up and down the street, young and old, all victims of the war, selling souvenirs to dinning tourists. There was this ang moh guy watch you tube in the restaurant. A bunch of local boys was selling stuff to tourists around the area stopped and watched him watching you tube. The ang moh guy was generous enough to share with them what he was watching. I was surprised at how knowledgable these kids are on European geography. After finishing eating, I strolled to the museum. As the museum was a far walk away from my dinning area, I took a slow stroll around, trying to absorb and appreciate the town.

A 5 headed Naga – common in the folklore of Ang Kor
Cambodian Temple
At the town centre
Lunch Time
A foreigner sharing his video clips with local kids
Pub Street in Siem Reap
Pub Street
Streets in Siem Reap
Siem Reap Botanic Gardens
Siem Reap Botanic Gardens
Siem Reap Botanic Gardens
Siem Reap Botanic Gardens
Siem Reap Botanic Gardens

Siem Reap Museum

The museum was rather empty, the number of visitors was less then 10 at the time of my visit. At the entrance, one of the staff asked where I was from. He asked what was the average wages in Singapore, and I told him around USD 2-3k. He then asked how much the factory workers earned. I told him around USD 1k, he then told me he is a university graduate with bachelor in english literature, and his pay per month is only USD 150!! And he actually wanted to come to singapore and worked as a factory worker! After talking for another 10 mins, he left me to my tour around the museum. The museum was displaying mainly the cultural beliefs of Cambodians and the history of Angkor Wat. Most of the artifacts were actually from the temple ruins, some dated as far back back as 5th century! Photography was not permitted in most areas.

Entrance to the Ang Kor Museum
Entrance to the Ang Kor Museum
This is displayed in front of the entrance of one of the galleries in the museum
2 Ang Kor style stone lions at the entrance of one of the galleries
Ang Kor styled buddhist statue with 5-headed nagas
Some of the relics on display
Some of the relics on display
This well craved beam is taken from one of the temples
This well craved beam is taken from one of the temples
This well craved beam is taken from one of the temples
These are some of the original pillars taken from one of the temples
This is a replica of multi-headed buddha
Some of the relics on display
Some of the relics on display
Some of the relics on display
Some of the relics on display

After the museum tour, I decided to visit the some of the temples (or pagodas as the locals described it) nearby the museum before heading back to the hotel. On the map it looked like they are right next to the museum, so I walked towards my destination. After crossing Siem Reap river, I ended up on this small riverside road. As I walked along the road, it reminds me of singapore in the 60s, housing built next to the river. Most of the houses just had a room with a TV, very simple set up. Along the river one can see the locals fishing by the river, it seemed that fishing is a popular pass time for the locals. As i was walking and looking for temples, I saw more of local lifestyle. People here lived very humbly and simple. Kids were allowed to remain as kids with their carefree lifestyle (at least this part of the town). I passed by what looked like a school and it happened to be the time they just finished school, and the area looked very lively. I came across what looked like a “volleyball park” with teens playing volleyball, and there are at least 5 courts inside the compound. I stopped and watched them play for 10 mins before heading for Swensen’s for ice-cream. I returned to the hotel after a satisfying Sundae at Swensen’s.

Walking along the streets of Siem Reap
This is a quiet street in Siem Reap… it felt perfectly safe
Shops selling daily products for the locals
Usual entertainment for the local kids – fishing by the river
Ice-cream time!

Dinner in Siem Reap

Soon it is time for dinner, as I head towards the reception, the owner of the restaurant is already there waiting to drive me for dinner. The restaurant is located in a secluded corner, no street lighting, very inconspicuous. Despite that, there are still people coming to dine at the restaurant. The restaurant only have 5 tables, but it was nearly full!! I came to know about this restaurant from tripadvisor.com. It is rated as #1 restaurant in Siem Reap, all i rad on tripadvisor was that the food is wonderful. I decided to see for myself how wonderful can their food be. The ambience in the restaurant is very relaxing, the smooth lighting matching the relaxing music that was being played, the dinning experience in the restaurant is truly unique. I read that this restaurant is very good for their grills, and the owner also recommended grill, so I ordered steak. The wait for the food is reasonable, as they prepare only when you order it. After the wait, i was shocked at the steak. It is VERY thick!!! for a mere price of USD 6, this is definitely worth it. The same piece of steak in Singapore would cost more then SGD 20. The meat is grilled till tender, and the flavour is in. It is juicy and tasty, on its own the steak already taste good! After managing to stuff the whole piece into my stomach, I called for the bill. The staff gave me a bowl of lime water and a cold tower to wash hand and freshen up! I find the service is very sincere, no wonder people keep going back to the restaurant despite its secluded location. The restaurant owner drove me to night market, as I wanted to get some souvenirs. We chatted on the way to my destination. From the chat, I got to know that the restaurant is wholly family run, and the staffs are actually his siblings. The owner understood the concept of service and instill them into his family helping out in the restaurant. After getting what I was there for, I headed back to the hotel for rest and charge up for the next 3 days of temple ruin visits.

Pre dinner drink
Restaurant Signage
The steak that I had
Was driven to Siem Reap Night Market
Local cultural performance at the night market

Phuket Day 6 (27 Mar 10) – Last Day in Phuket

This is my last day in Phuket. After spending almost 1 week here, I begin to appreciate and understand the way of life here. People exists here due to tourism, and it is the same tourism which spoil the scenery, affected the local’s way of life. The double-edged sword is what brings the cash into the pockets of the locals here in Phuket. Perhaps without the work of tourism, this island will still be a backward town as what I had seen in some non-touristy places on the island. After all, Thais are still friendly, Jai yen no matter which part of the country you will be traveling in. I did not really travel anywhere today.

After the usual breakfast, I walked along the streets of Patong area. This is the first time I walked beyond Bangla St, usually I would make a turn into Bangla St and head towards the hotel, however this time I figured I should visit this area which I had never thought of visiting (partially is to look for cheaper Taxi service to the airport in the evening). Walking along this part of Patong area is no different from the Patong area closer where my hotel is. Except that there are lesser people, lesser shops. Well managed to find a cheaper taxi service then what the others would quote me nearer to Jungceylon or Mercure hotel. Without a thought, I went ahead to book for the service. The lady serving me was friendly, despite giving a cheaper rate. Happy as I am now it is time to head back towards the hotel. At this point of time, I still have not packed my luggage (it was a headache to think about it in the first place). Did not take long for me to reach my hotel. Sat at the balcony mostly enjoying the breeze and have one last look at this island. Originally I was still thinking of taking a dip in the pool before I start packing, traded that idea for a breezy laze in the balcony of the room. The peacefulness and tranquility is what attracted me. Did not take long for me to finish packing up. Soon I found myself lazing on the balcony again (as my balcony was overlooking the Otop night market and some quite nice views of the hills beyond), was quite a relaxing afternoon. Received a call from the reception saying my transport to the airport has arrived. I quickly headed to the lobby for checking out. I asked for the manager who assisted me during my stay here (did I mentioned I made several complains to him?). Well I guess it is time to thank him for his assistance and bid him farewell. We chatted for some 15 mins.

Not long after I was on my way to the airport. Checking in took quite awhile as some tourists seem to have problem with their visa/passport/air-tickets (whatever it is). I was directed to the business class counter and since then checking in was smooth and fast.  Here I am, sitting by the gate, waiting to board the aircraft heading home. Phuket is not all about Patong beach, the off-shore islands (though they are really a must go should anyone visit here), Phuket is more than that. It is about how tourism brought up the living standard here, how the locals vie with each other to ensure they got the biggest catch. Well the vying wasn’t as bloody as it is. After all Thais are still a bunch of peace loving people. Oh yeah it is raining heavily now, first time since I arrived about a week ago. Despite the hot weather, the locals did not complain, they just go about doing their own stuff, carrying out their way of life and ensuring they are able to bring back more cash from the tourists to their family.

Phuket Day 5 (26 Mar 10) – Southern Glory

This is my second last day in Phuket, still wondering if I should watch the Phuket Fantasea show. Well I guess I’ll decide that later… still got plenty of time. As with every morning I went downstairs for breakfast. Think I got marked for complaining to the 2 managers in the hotel, everyone was trying to be nice to me when I told them my room number. After breakfast, I went to the reception to ask about the show. The manager told me it is different from the one I had seen in Krung Thep, and he recommended me to consider. I asked about going to southern part of the island (this is something I kept putting off, it is either today or never). I was advised to hire a tuk-tuk for a time period, and not by destination, as the drivers will charge you through the roof if you had told them where you wanted to go. Soon I found myself sitting in a Starbucks café by Patong beach continuing my blog entry. The place was quiet at first, but as every visitors woke up from their tours or partying the night before, soon the café was full! Glad I came here first. After Starbucks, I headed for Bangla Road (again) and then to Jungceylon to find a tuk-tuk to take me to the southern part of the island. After some bargaining, managed to get one for 800 Baht.

Jungceylon has became my hangout place in Phuket
Jungceylon in the day
Part of Jungceylon

Karon View Point

Not long after we were on the road! The ride towards my first destination was hilly, sloppy but scenic. This is the first time I have been to the quieter and more tranquil part of Phuket. This route is definitely not as noisy and lively as Patong or the nearby beaches, but it is free of traffic and peaceful. The ride to Karon View Point din take long. The view there was magnificent. I can see the whole of Kata beach, the bays Kata Noi, Kata, Karon, and also Koh Poo Island. It is boasted as one of the island’s best views. After spending around 5 mins there, I got on my tuk-tuk and headed for my next destination – Promthep Cape.

On my way to the Viewpoint
On my way to the Viewpoint
On my way to the Viewpoint
Saw some beaches along the way
A quieter side of Phuket
We passed by some towns
Nearing the Viewpoint
Arrival at the Viewpoint
The view here is just stunting
The view here is just stunting
At the Viewpoint
At the Viewpoint
At the Viewpoint

Promthep Cape

I really enjoy the ride on this part of the island, peaceful, free of traffic and the views are nice! The drive to Promthep Cape took around 30 mins, it is not far from Viewpoint, after the driver parked the tuk-tuk, and I walked up some steps which (hopefully) lead to some good views since this place was boasted as the best views in the whole of Phuket, especially during sunset. The cape is a headland stretching is to the sea and forming the extreme south-end of Phuket. As I ascended the stairs, the first thing that greeted me was a small shrine of the 4 face Buddha. Well I felt the need to pay respect to it and paid 20 baht for some offerings. After paying respect to the Buddha, I spotted a structure, so I decided to head over to see what the hell it was. It is actually a lighthouse!!! And it is open for people to visit (and free too), went inside for the air-con (the weather was damn hot) and ascended to the 2nd level of the lighthouse. The view from this level was awesome!!! I can see from Hai Harn beach (the south-western part of the island), to the southern part of the bay where Kaew Yai island is to Rawai Beach area (the south eastern part of the stretch of the island. The view is best on this lighthouse!! After taking some pictures, I exited the lighthouse I went to the cape. Tried to trek to the end of the cape, but I was not wearing my walking shoes and the slippers proved to be too inappropriate to walk along the cliffs. Just snapped some pictures and went back to the tuk-tuk and head for the next destination – Wat Chalong.

On our way to Promthep Cape
On our way to Promthep Cape
On our way to Promthep Cape
One of the beaches in Southern Phuket
Nearing Promthep Cape
Nearing Promthep Cape
Nearing Promthep Cape
Nearing Promthep Cape
Nearing Promthep Cape
Nearing Promthep Cape
Arrival at the Cape
Statue at the lighthouse
The lighthouse overlooking Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Inside the lighthouse
The Lighthouse at Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape
Views from Promthep Cape

Wat Chalong

On the way we passed by Rawai Beach. The beach is peaceful and free of tourists. I had asked the driver to stop for a moment for me to snap some pictures of this beach, it is too beautiful not to stop and snap pictures. After that we continued our journey towards Wat Chalong. The temple is the oldest and biggest on the island. The temple is indeed grand and has its own characteristic. It has a wax museum of 3 monks, supposedly to be the “best monks” in Thailand. There are pictures of the royalties coming all the way to Phuket to pay respects to them. After which I headed to the next building. It is the biggest building in the Wat compound. It has 3 levels. First 2 consist of a hall with a number of Buddha statues. The 3rd level is an interesting one, it holds relics of the Buddha! There are locals whom came to offer their prayers to the relic. What I liked about this level is the views and of course the breeze (which is a blessings in the hot day). From this level, I can see as far as the Big Buddha, which is another temple with a hug statue of the Buddha on top the hills. After enjoying some breeze and views, I reluctantly descend and went to one of the other wat building. What it appears to be was a shrine for the 3 monks. The locals, tourists paid their respect to these monks. Man they are really some big shots in this country. Well the visit to the temple was over, time to hit the road.

Rawai Beach
Rawai Beach
Rawai Beach
Wat Chalong
Entrance to Wat Chalong
Part of the temple
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
Inside Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
Inside Wat Chalong
Inside Wat Chalong
Inside Wat Chalong
View of the temple grounds
View of the temple grounds
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong
At Wat Chalong

Initially I asked to the driver to drive me around Phuket town, think he might had understood as passing by Phuket town and headed back to Patong area. As he was driving, it confirmed my suspicion, so I told him to drive me to Jungceylon instead. It was way past lunch time, so I figured go Jungceylon find some food and decide how to spend the rest of the day. As I reached Jungceylon, I had a sudden urge to catch a movie, went to the cinema to see what’s on. Hey “How to train your dragon” was on. So I got a ticket and went for some food.

After food, I went back to the theater entrance to wait for the time to enter the cinema. Then I saw a trailer for a Thai movie which looked awesome. Went to the ticketing counter and bought tickets for that movie, which was immediately after my first movie. Soon it as time for my first movie, went inside and there wasn’t many people watching this movie. The interesting thing about watching movie in Thailand is before any show, there would be a short clip about their King and everyone must stand for the song. After my first movie ended, I went for my second movie. Well the same thing happened, the song for the King. Then the show started. This is when I realised I bought tickets for the wrong movie, but decided to stay on for the show anyways. This Thai movie was funny and good! Quite liked this show. After the 2 movies, I walked back to my hotel, along the way, it started to drizzle very briefly. Pasted by a Thai restaurant and realized that I have not really eaten in a Thai restaurant. So I decided to go in and eat something. The serving was fast and huge. But their Tom Yum Gai was good!! After dinner time to head back to the hotel for the night……

Phuket Day 4 (25 Mar 10) – Island Hopping

Well the day started out not as good as I wanted. Maybe it is the residual back luck from yesterday, when everything went wrong. Today suppose to go for my island hoping tour, but the card to my safe just wouldn’t work and my camera is inside the safe. What’s the point of visiting the islands when I don’t even bring a camera along? Called the hotel staff a few times, they kept telling me they’ve sent someone to my room. After waiting for 20 mins, I went to lobby and start asking the receptionist again. Again I was told that they will send someone up, at the same time the tour van is already here. My guess is they have been waiting for around 10 mins and the driver might not make it in time to the harbor. I urged the driver to give me 5 mins, after bargaining, he agreed to wait for another 2 mins. At this point I was thinking well at most I head back to the tour booth and make another booking for the tour. Well I went back up to my room, the hotel staff came running towards my room and quickly helped me open up my safe. There it is my camera. I quickly rushed to the lobby and was happy to find that the driver was still there waiting for me (think it took around 5 mins). And we are on our way! The journey to the marina took around 1 hour. Upon arrival at the marina, we were made to sign some insurance form. Waited for another 30 mins, we were then brought to the speed boat for our island hoping trip. Well the coxswain of the boat consistently drove the boat at 50 kts, it was fun, especially when he made the turns.

The Marina where the speedboat is berthed at
Preparing to cast off
and we are on our way
nice weather for island hopping
I enjoyed the wind
One of the islands along the way

Maya Bay

Our first stop is Maya bay. We were told that this bay was made famous by the movie “The beach”. When we reached there, well I can imagine how beautiful it was when the hordes of tourists were not there. Din really enjoy the beach coz of the tourists. Took some picture and headed back to the boat. We were given 20 mins to swim around, take some pictures at this bay. After weighing anchor, we headed to our next destination.

Hordes of Tourists at Maya Bay
Really looks like some deserted island
Hordes of Tourists at Maya Bay
Hordes of Tourists at Maya Bay
Hordes of Tourists at Maya Bay
Hordes of Tourists at Maya Bay
Took some pictures around the beach
Took some pictures around the beach
This is the main landing spot for tourists
Took some pictures around the beach

On our way to Loh Samah Bay

Loh Samah Bay

Did not take long before we reached our next destination, Loh Samah Bay. The ship was moored here and we were given time to do snorkeling. Well this is the first time I do snorkeling, din really know how it works, all I knew was to put some mask on and go swim in the water. That is what I did! It was really fun!!! The bay was beautiful, and I saw schools of colorful fishes swimming near the surface of the water, they were swimming together with us!! Snorkeling around, I saw starfish, sea urchins and the most magnificent of all, are the colorful corals and the fishes that interacted with the corals! It felt as if I was swimming in the aquarium, with the fishes swimming together with me. It is absolutely fun! Well we were given 40 mins to snorkel around; the timing was just nice, not too long and not too rush. It is a pity that I dun have a waterproof camera or an underwater housing for my camera, if not I would have taken pictures of the fishes.

 

This is the spot where we did snorkelling
If only I bought underwater camera
We were anchored here for snorkeling
Fantastic waters for snorkeling

Viking Cave

After we left Loh Samah Bay, we headed towards Pi Ley bay, or the locals call it James Bond Bay, where the area was featured in some James Bond movie some 20 years ago. However due to low tide, we can only see the bay from outside. We were then taken to the next area, Viking cave. The guide told us the cave used to be hide out for Vikings a long time ago, however now it is bought over by some private company to harvest bird’s nest. We were prohibited to enter the caves, and only able to see from outside. I rather like the limestone formations of this cave, look liked one of the hideouts you would find in some Batman movies. After leaving Viking cave, we headed for Monkey beach. Now this beach was given this name due to numerous wild monkeys coming to the beach. As the crew tried to anchor the boat, they were unable to do so as they tide was low and the seabed was covered with rocks. In their effort to try anchoring the boat, I think they had damaged one of the 3 engines. So the coxswain told the guide (in Thai) that we will weigh anchor and head towards our lunch first before coming back here again.

Approaching Viking Cave
Viking Cave
Taking a peep into Viking Cave
Leaving Viking Cave
Leaving Viking Cave

Pi Ley Bay

Took us around 5 mins to get to the bay where the ship was anchored for our lunch. Now this is when I had a feeling we are some castaways from survivor show. As the boat was anchored offshore, we all had to swim to the shore where the restaurant is. It is a refreshing experience, just 1 word to describe it – fun!! Well the short walk to the restaurant was, lack of a better word, hellish (I mean laterally hellish). The ground was heated up by the merciless sun and it was really a bad idea to walk bare footed. I guess it is a bad decision for not bringing any belongings from the boat, so here I was, left with walking bare footed on the heated ground. The ground was hot from the beach all the way to the pavement leading to the restaurant. I admired the local gals (who were with us for the trip, seemed like some family outings), they walked all the way bare footed without complaining. Really took my hat off them. The lunch was so-so, we had fried rice, onion rings (which was the best and crunchy of all) and some soup that looked like Tom yum soup (not really that spicy). After lunch, we headed back to the boat, damn….. the walking and swimming was really tiring, but the experience was refreshing.

This is where we swam for our lunch
This is where we swam for our lunch

Monkey Island

It did not take the crew long for them to prepare the boat and get underway. Soon we found ourselves at the monkey beach (the ride took only about 5 mins). After the coxswain beached the boat, we were on the beach! Well really wonder why they called this place Monkey beach in the first place. The only “monkeys” insight were the humans! Perhaps the tourists had scared the monkeys back into their forest habitat. Some of the stuff that tourism brings….signz……. no monkeys, but the beach was enjoyable. Nice view of the bay, cool water, and not much crowd (maybe is the time we were there, most of the tour group would probably had left!). After spending some 30 mins there, we headed for Khai island.

At Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach

Khai Island

This very small island is a place purely for the tourists, we were told to rent a beach chair and relax by the beach. Snorkeling was an option that we can take (which I did), or we can choose to sleep by the beach. I went snorkeling (not far from the beach), well the view was boring. The fishes are not that many compared to Pi Ley Bay, not as colourful and almost all the corals are dead. I saw some fishes feeding off the algae on the (half-dead) corals. Oh yeah there are lots and lots of sea urchins, other then that there is really nothing fantastic in snorkeling here. What boring sights!!! After snorkeling for about 15 mins (really din take long for me to realize it is boring here), I headed back to the beach to relax, enjoy the sea breeze and had an ice-cream. I derived at a conclusion that this island was made purely to make money off the tourists. As I was relaxing, I heard someone singing and there were crowds cheering the singer. I was drawn to see what’s going on and who was singing. Well it was a ladyboy singing, “she” had a female voice and was really good at singing. “Her” voice had stirred up much cheer and the mood of the tourists at the area. Everyone was cheering “her” on and asked for encore whenever “she” finished a song, of course she obliged and continued to entertain us with “her” performance. I guess “she” must had been singing for awhile, eventually “she” gave into “her” tiredness. Someone else took over the mike and so the crowd laterally dispersed. This is the time I went back to my chair and continued relaxing…… soon after our time is up, it is time for us to head back to Phuket island. The ride took only 20 mins and we soon find ourselves on the van heading back to our respective hotels.

At Khai Island
Walking around the small Island
Huts that sells food and drinks to tourists
At Khai Island
Not exactly scenic

The day’s trip was tiring, but due to the fun we had (thanks to our guide who stirred up the mood so much in us) no one was complaining. Everyone returned to their hotel smiling and immersing in the fun experience we just had from the island hopping trip. Well time for me to relax in my hotel (well the night is really young), did not bothered to go elsewhere, just merely spent my time in the hotel writing blogs, surfing net. Was a well earned evening to relax.

Phuket Day 3 (24 Mar 10) – The Greens in Phuket

Around Patong Beach

After breakfast I went to walk around at Patong beach, never really been on that beach in the day so I figured it might be a good time to see the beach, at the same time digest the heavy breakfast that I had. As I was walking along the beach front, the once beautiful beach was littered with hundreds and thousands of beach chairs. Totally spoil the beauty of the beach. As I was walking along the beach, saw a few touts try to get their first catch of the day. Usually the Caucasians are the ones being targeted, as an Asian i felt relieved that I was not being disturb with “sir you want beach chair” chatters. I managed to snap a few pictures before more tourists appear to disturb the tranquillity of the beach. After taking a few pictures, I crossed the road to walk around the road side stalls. They looked sleepy as the stall owners took their time to display their merchandise. Guess the real shopping timings are not that early and the locals really couldn’t be bothered to entertain anyone who walked past at this time (include the farangs). As I was walking towards the famous Bangla st, I came across an interesting sign. Couldn’t help it but to take picture of it, very interesting sign. The shops kept repeating itself and the goods they sell are really targeted at the tourists. I saw alot of imitation goods and T-shirts, but nothing unique to Phuket itself.

Around Patong area
Around Patong Area
Patong Beach
Patong Beach
Patong Beaach
Around Patong area
Patong Beach
Patong Beach
Rows and rows of tanning chairs on Patong Beach
Patong Beach
Patong Beach
Patong Beach
Sign on the road
Some of the eateries on Patong Beach
I find this sign interesting
One of the pubs along Bangla Street

Soon I reached Bangla st, it looked totally different from the night time when i passed it last night. The whole street looked dead, as if it has not woken up from the partying of the foreigners last night. The pubs are opened (well this whole street is full of pubs) but the staffs in the shop are busy cleaning and wiping their glasses in preparation for the night. I passed by this tour booth as I was trying to find tours to Bang Pae waterfall. Found out from the booth owner that there is only 1 company doing tour to the waterfall, and that if I were to take a taxi there and back would cost more (I agreed with her, the night before I had inquired from the tuk-tuk drivers along the street). So i went ahead to book the tour to the waterfall for the afternoon. Since i was there, I also booked a trip to islands around Phi Phi island. The lady gave me an excellent price for the 2 packages i booked. And so i hurried back to the hotel to prepare for the Bang Pae trip.

Buffalo Cart Ride

The tour agency guy popped by to pick me up for the tour, I was impressed by the efficiency of the tour arrangements. It only took them a few hours to get things organised and commenced the tour. We were drove towards our first itinerary, the buffalo cart ride. The journey took around 2 hrs to arrive at the place. As we arrived the farmer pulled the buffalo towards the cart and we were told to board the cart. Man the bull was strong at the same time i thought was quite cruel of them to “torture” the animal like that, although the ride only took around 10 mins. But then again, i was thinking this is probably good for the farmer, i mean how much can you earn from selling vegetables? At least the tourism provided the farmer some extra income to feed his family and of course the buffalo.

This is where we had our buffalo cart ride
This is where we had our buffalo cart ride

Khao Phra Thaeo National Park

After the buffalo ride, we went towards Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. On the internet, the park was boasted as the last virgin rainforest in Phuket. This is on my itinerary list when i was planning for the trip. I figured many people come here for the beach, but do they know the green behind the sands? The first thing that we were showed was the rubber tapping and rubber producing. I am quite surprised to know that there are certain timing in the night to tap and collect the latex from the rubber tree and for latex to be harvested from the tree, the tree must be at least 13 years old and they will stop tapping the tree when it is 30 years old. After which the tree will be cut down to make into furniture and new tree will be planted to replace the old tree

Khao Phra Thaeo National Park
Locals enjoying the cool water
Forest trek in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park

After the rubber tree explanation, we were driven to the waterfall. The trek from the entrance of the park to the waterfall was not far. Took around 20 min of walking to the waterfall. The trek was nice as the trees was sheltering us from the hot rays emitted by the merciless sun. Along the way we saw a few water holes and locals went there to escape the heat. After some walking, we were shocked when we arrived at the waterfall, only at this time we then understand what the tour guide (well she dun speak alot of English, she merely brought us from point A to point B) when she said no water no water. At first i thought water is not allowed to be brought into the park (a weird restrictions though). After seeing the fall then we understand what she meant. The water flowing from the falls is really pathetic, only small steams of water flowing down. Previous i was told by some of the locals that it hasn’t been raining in Phuket for the past few months (and here we are complaining in Singapore when it hasn’t rained for 1 week). No wonder the water from the falls failed to impress us. After we saw the falls, we were brought to the Gibbons Project place. Well this centre again failed to impress us. It was merely a compound with a few cages locking up the gibbons. Kinda felt like this project is either the efforts of a few individuals or it has not been given the blessings by the Thai government (or even both). What a disappointing trip so far.

Waterfall in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park
The trek to the waterfall
Locals playing in the water holes
Very disappointing waterfall
Not too much water at this time of the year

Elephant Trekking

As we were headed back towards the main road, we were at our next item on the list – elephant trekking. At first i was rather against the idea of riding on the back of the elephant, however it is kinda fun and the trainers treated the elephants well. It was a 20 mins ride on the elephant around the area. The elephants walked into a small stream, and then up a small slope towards a pathway.

Riding on an elephant
The elephant even went into a small stream
and back on the roads
The elephant I was riding can’t resist some food along the way
Me on the elephant
Me on the elephant
Me on the elephant
Me on the elephant
Me on the elephant
Me on the elephant

Canoeing in Mangrove Swamps

After some 20 mins, we got off the elephant and headed over to the next destination. Canoeing in mangrove swamps. The last time i saw mangrove swamp was when i was trekking in Pulau Ubin with a friend, then even though we were walking on the planks on top of the swamps, it was as close as this canoeing trip. It was fun, relaxing and refreshing! After the canoeing trip, we were served dinner. The food was so-so, but the fish is really fresh! After eating the tour had ended and we were driven back to our respective hotels.

Mangrove Swamp that we will be Canoeing in
This is the waterway where we did our canoeing
Took this picture on the Canoe
Scene of the waterway where we canoed
Peaceful time canoeing
Just love the tranquility
Approaching the mangrove swamp
The waterway where we canoed
Our guide showed us to the mangrove swamp
Mangrove swamp close up
Mangrove swamp where we canoed in
A peaceful canoeing time
I find this session rather therapeutic

As the night was still young, i decided to see the Simon cabaret show, it was boasted as a must-watch show when you visit Phuket. The van came to pick me up as stipulated. Well this show is about a bunch of lady-boys mimicking sounds and dance of famous songs. Well kinda boring to me! Maybe my expectations were set abit higher for this show after reading the reviews on the net. However i gotta say their costumes, the stage props was impressive and elaborate. The show lasted for 1½ hrs and we were driven back to the hotel.

Lady-boys posing for picture for a fee
Lady-boys posing for picture for a fee

 

Phuket Day 2 (23 Mar 10) – Lazing around

This Day started with some official business. Included in the visit was a lunch at this place called Cape Panwa. The restaurant was facing the sea with horizon stretching to what seemed like the end of the world. The clear sky, good weather (Was told it hasn’t been raining here for the past few months) and hotels that was built on the cliff in the area. nice view, great lunch… indeed was very relaxing. On the way back I decided to stop by the Otop market just 3 mins walk from the hotel. This big night market that seemed dead in the day. You dun hear the usual touting by the shop keepers. They are either resting, storing up their energy for the night; or busy stocking up of their goods. Now my months of learning Thai language was out into use this moment when I decided to get a pair of slippers, and a Chang beer singlet (the weather is just too hot to wear even T-shirts). The shop keepers are very willing to cut their prices without much bargaining effort (not too sure if it is my Thai language or simply their do not have the energy in the day to even bargain with me). Got my stuff and headed back to the hotel to laze in the afternoon.

Sunrise from my balcony
Sunrise from my balcony
View from the balcony in my room

After lunch headed back to the hotel. The weather is just too hot to even leave the room. Since the sun is so generous in gracing us with its warmth, I decided to try out the swimming pool. Spent the whole afternoon lazing around in the pool, like the many guests in the hotel. After spending some 2 hours lazing around, time to head back to the room relax relax abit.

The fantastic pool in the hotel
Buildings around the hotel

Phuket Day 1 (22 Mar 10) – First Impression After 10 years

The moment I left the aircraft to immigration, well the impression I got from the first Thai I met, the immigration officer, was less then welcoming as compared to Bangkok. Left me wondering if there is too much tourists to Phuket so much so that the locals find tourists a nuisances. Well I am just here for a few hours, too early to even pass that “judgment”. As we were driven towards our hotel, there seemed to be alot of areas on the island that the locals couldn’t really be bothered to develop. After all those are not the “golden” areas. Along the road saw an ambulance, seemed like some traffic accidents. There is this local, who seemed to be performing some kind of ritual to ward off the evil. He seemed to be performing this dance that one would see prior to the commencement of their very own Muay Thai. Despite the held up on traffic, no one was whacking their horns. Everyone was patiently waiting for the opportunity to continue their journey.

As we arrive at Patong beach area, the scenery changes from the vast lands to one that is cramped up. Every inch of land was being utilized on this part of the island, everywhere was establishments of either trade to make tourist money, or restaurants, or massage palours, or hotels. This place indeed was made for the tourists!! Arrival at the hotel took no longer then 40 mins after leaving the airport. Checking in was fast, Service was good (so far). The hotel room was simple, 1 toilet, 1 bed, a balcony that overlooks Otop market. Not too bad I thought, at least quieter then those rooms facing the swimming pool, where you only get peace in the evening when they shut down the pool for the day.

My room in Mercure Phuket
My room in Mercure Phuket
View of Otop Market from the Balcony of my room
View of Otop Market from the Balcony of my room
Pool in the hotel at night

I made my way to Jungcelyon for dinner. Walking along the streets of Phuket was certainly different from that of Bangkok. You will see stores and stores of souvenir shops, massage palours and of course restaurants of all kinds, from western food to Thai food (which was in lesser amount that those of western food), to Indian restaurants. I came across this restaurant called “Hells Kitchen”, wonder if it is inspired by the TV series… gonna try that one of these days. Along the streets you see locals paddling for business, masseuses waiting shouting “massage massage” as they spot foreigners passing by their shop. Indeed this place exists solely for the purpose of tourism. It is the same tourism that seemed to spoil the area. feels too touristy for me. anyway my objective is to catch dinner at Jungceylon, and that is all i did.

Jungceylon Shopping Mall

Bangkok Day 5 (22 Dec 09) – One Last Glance

Today’s my last day here for this trip, though my flight is at 9.15pm, that means I still have the whole day , but I am out of energy to do anything else. Woke up rather late (around 10am), and started to pack, as I have not pack yet (my hotel room was kinda in a mess). Since I have to check out latest by 1 pm, I din really have much time to relax at all. Packing din take me too long, done packing at around 11.30 am. Today din really do much. After I checked out of the hotel, I was walking around Siam Square (thank goodness I stayed at Siam Square, at least something to do for me to kill time), making sure that I covered everything on Siam Square. Siam Square was rather empty at the time I woke up when I looked out from my room, however at around noon time, one can see influx of people, the locals (mostly students and yuppies), tourists. It seemed that the place has gotten a breath of life as the time dwells into the lateness. Now shopping here was a breeze, since I can speak a little Thai, prices quoted to me was much much lower than the others. And the locals are more willing to give me a good price (compared to Caucasians who was trying to buy stuff from them). Felt pretty much like a zombie, walking around aimlessly to kill time. Dunno how many times I walked around Siam Square today already. Guess I am so familiar after today that there is nothing in Siam Square that I did not cover. Walked around the nearby malls such as MBK, Siam Discovery, Siam Centre and Siam Paragon, was kinda torture since I dun really like shopping. Anyways, managed to killed time and waited for 6pm and returned back to the hotel. When I checked in, the hotel staff told me I could asked for a shower room. Had the impression probably they have shower facilities like those in swimming pools or gyms. I went to the business centre and asked about the shower room, little did I expected that they actually gave me a hotel room just for showering purposes on the 5th floor. After I entered the room, I found that the room that I was assigned was really a good one and is pretty big, compared to this room. After taking a nice shower, time for me to head to the airport.

Can never get sick of this view of Siam Square from the deck of my room
A&W Waffle Burger
Last look around Siam Square

The journey to the airport was a nightmare, even the cabby was complaining about the traffic in the city. Despite his grumble and the traffic which stood still for around 15 mins (as in not moving at all, the light at the junction was red throughout the 15 mins), no one was honking or swearing. People were just waiting patiently for the light to turn green. After we survived the traffic jam (thanks to the knowledgeable cabby who knew how to avoid the jam), we arrived in the airport rather fast (took around 1½ hour with the jam). There3 was a delay in checking in, as the airline system was down, around 30 mins later we were able to check in once more. Dun really have the time to walk around the airport, after checking in, went to grab a bite and then headed towards the aircraft (did I mentioned the airport was HUGE?). The aircraft arrived late and as a result we took off 30 mins later, well can’t really complain coz I am travelling by budget airlines; as long as I got my flight home I am happy).

Bangkok Day 4 (21 Dec 09) – The Ancient Capital of Ayutthaya

When I started planning for this trip to Bangkok, I accidentally browsed through this webpage that was introducing Ayutthaya. My first knowledge for Ayutthaya was it was a city of ruins and rich history contents. Immediately I marked Ayutthaya as one of the places that I wanted to visit when I come to Bangkok. Now a little bit about Ayutthaya, it is a city located about 76km north of Bangkok. It was the first Capital of Thailand before the capital was shifted to the current location at Bangkok. it was founded in 1351 and rose rapidly by exploiting the expanding trade routes between India and China. The prosperity of the city lasted for around 400 years when the Burmese attacked this city, taking tens of thousands of people and thus the city was abandoned to the jungles. As I researched more about Ayutthaya, the more I wanted to visit this place. There are 2 methods of coming to Ayutthaya (other than driving a car), namely via bus and train. For the fun of it, I decided to go by train. It is a good thing that Hua Lumpong Train station is right next to the MRT station, getting there is a breeze. I missed the 2nd train again, so had to take the next train at 9.25am. This train has only 3rd class seats, meaning no aircon, and free seating. Well it was an experience anyways, and the fare only cost 15 baht (around 60 cents, how cheap was that). Along the way, the train stopped at a few stations, then this local couple boarded the train and sat opposite me. As the conductor was checking tickets, he told the couple to remind me when to alight the train. When the train pulled on the station, the couple did what they were told despite I know this was the station I needed to alight). However the couple did more then they asked for. They asked what I wanted to see, and I told them I needed to get a bike and cycle around to see the ruins, they guided me to the pier, across the river and even paid for my boat fare cross the river!! How nice! They then told me to get a bike from any of the shops along the street (which I found out at the end of the day, this was a better option then what was recommended in the guidebook). I rented a bike and start riding it out into the town. First I had to orientate myself. Din managed to see any ruins as I was riding, I had expected to see lots of ruins by the pier, near the train stations, etc etc. However as I was cycling towards what the map pointed me to a ruin, I bumped into a deserted, yet unmarked ruin. This was the first ruin I came across in Ayutthaya, this ruin looks like a small shrine or temple. Totally unmarked and out of sight, it seemed that this forgotten ruin was only seen by few tourists. As I was riding along the street, I saw 2 ruins, side by side. My aim was to look for the entrance, which was not exactly visible on the street I was cycling. As I cycled, I saw this door left ajar, which was apparently the back door of one of the ruins. I realized this is Wat Mahathat. There are a number of pagodas and some ruin structure, looks like throughout the years, and nature has taken over the temple grounds. The structure was magnificent, I can imagine how big the temple was when it was at its peak by merely walking through the ruins. I did what most tourists did at the ruins, took some pictures and started to head to the next ruin.

Inside Hua Lumpong Train Station
On my way to Ayutthaya
Arrival at Ayutthaya Train Station
A different type of Tuk Tuk
This is the boat that ferry us across to the island
Unmarked temple
Looks like someone managed to assemble the Buddha head
Entrance of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That
Ruins of Wat Maha That

Din take long for me to get to the next ruin. It was situated just next to Wat Mahathat. This time round I cycled and enter by the front. As I parked my bike and was heading into Wat Ratchaburana, this Thai guy stopped me and spoke in Thai. Well my Thai was not that good enough to understand what exactly he was talking about, so I gave him that blank look. He immediately spoke in broken English (just like how my Thai is broken) and told me to pay for entrance. Now the ticket booth for these ruins are not exactly what you would find in Singapore, it is just a small pavilion structure with some locals sitting inside awaiting for tourists to pay up. There isn’t any signs pointing to the ticketing booth. Then I realized that I NEED to pay for each ruin I visited, including Wat Mahathat, opps….. I din pay for that when I barged in via the back gate (phew saved 50 baht). So I paid up and entered into the ruins. It was as magnificent as Wat Mahathat, given the 2 ruins are about the same size, with similar structure. This Wat however has a main pagoda right in the centre, which added to its grandeur and differentiates it from Wat Mahathat. History has it that this wat was built by one of the Thai kings to cremate his 2 brothers who were killed while engaging in a elephant back combat, he later added a Wihan and converted it into a monastery. The pagoda wasn’t really that high, say about 3 storeys high, but it is high enough to enjoy the breeze that blew through the area. Not too bad, it also has some damaged Buddha images throughout the temple, makes me wonder why the Burmese has to wreck their temples……. Took some photos as well and planned for my next destination.

Wat Ratchanurana Entrance
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Ratchanurana
Ruins of Wat Thammikkarat

Well the journey to my next few destinations are interesting ones. I needed to cycle outside of the main Ayutthaya city to get there. As I was trying to orientate myself (which I got lost), I came by this rather small wat which was not marked on the map I was traveling with. This Wat Chao Ya (which laterally means grandmother’s temple) was split into 2 sections, cutting through by the main road. The interesting thing about this temple was that there were no records when it was being built, however the Thais believed that this was one of the first temples to be built in the early Ayutthaya period (before AD 1350). This temple has a small pagoda up at the front and a 2 floor building.

Ruins of Wat Chao Ya
Ruins of Wat Chao Ya

After taking some photos of Wat Chao Ya, I headed back towards Ayutthaya and made a right turn before the road towards Ayutthaya. As I was cycling, another Wat popped up, Wat Cheong Tha. This Wat has a rather unusual purpose, it was believed that this Wat was built by a millionaire, whose daughter eloped with another guy. The millionaire loved his daughter so much that he built a bridal house for her and was prepared to forgave and gave them his blessings should they return to him. As the years went by his daughter never came back, so the millionaire built a temple and dedicated the bridal house.

Ruins of Wat Cheong Tha
Ruins of Wat Cheong Tha
Ruins of Wat Cheong Tha

After Wat Cheong Tha, I began my wild cycling trip towards Wat Tum. Now this Wat Tum was located rather far outside Ayutthaya, about 10 kms. It came as a challenge to me as I read while researching on the internet that this temple is rather unique, and when I was asking the guy at the bike renting shop about this temple, he told me it is very far and would not be possible to cycle there. Then I thought to myself “oh yeah? Or are you trying to con me into engaging your tuk-tuk services?”. So I made the trip partially to proof that this guy was wrong. As I was cycling towards Wat Tum, I passed by the monument of King Narusuan, one of the greatest king in Thai history. At first I wanted to turn in and take a look, then as I was cycling near the turn into the monument, I thought “might as well go to Wat Tum first, I am gonna head down this way later on when I return to Ayutthaya anyways”. So I headed straight towards Wat Tum. The cycling trip there, to me, was a crazy one. Not only the distance was far, I was actually cycling along the highway. Luckily the traffic density on this part of the highway was not heavy, plus the fact that the Thais are rather considerate drivers, who would try to avoid (not mentioning their great patience) towards cyclists (even when I was cycling opposing the traffic). Another factor that made cycling along the highway (and in fact along the roads of Ayutthaya as well) was that there seem to be a dividing road shoulder lane used only by cyclists and motorcycles, cycling within this zone was actually quite safe and the cars will not drive into this lane anyhow. So getting back, after about 45 mins of cycling, I reached Wat Tum. This is not a ruin, but a proper temple by itself. The colorfulness of the temple kinda differentiates it from the other temples. It also has a white pagoda in front of the main monastery. After taking some photos, I was ready to head back towards Ayutthaya.

The white coloured Wat Tum
Wat Tum
Wat Tum
Wat Tum

My next stop was Monument of King Narusuan. This was essentially a statue of the king on his horse which portrayed his victory from war. Beneath this statue, the locals made a small altar for the purpose of worshiping him. What was really really strange about this place was the fact that there are a lot of chicken statues throughout and around the main monument. Not too sure why the chicken and what is there relationship between him and the chicken. There wasn’t anything around that explains this point. Anyhoo, there was a Wat just behind this statue, Wat Phu Kao Thong. This wat was built in 1387 AD, and then later a king added some Burmese flavor to it in 1569 AD. The wat was surrounded by a small waterway and has a really high pagoda, and that was the only structure of this wat. Much of it remains intact and untouched by the Burmese during their invasion into Ayutthaya. This is so probably due to its link with the Burmese. As I climbed onto the wat, at the main deck, I saw this monk sitting up on the wat reading some sutras, the view up there was nice and breezy. What a place to do studying!! So it is time for me to head back to Ayutthaya again. My next stop was the grand palace.

Statue of King Narusuan
Statue of King Narusuan
Ruins of Wat Phu Khao Theong
Ruins of Wat Phu Khao Theong
Ruins of Wat Phu Khao Theong
View from Wat Phu Khao Theong

Next journey to the grand palace was a frustrating one, not that the cycling part was far (oh well after I have done the trip to Wat Tum, the rest seem chicken feet). The fact that the map I was using did point out a cycling route after entering Ayutthaya, I spent like 30 mins trying to figure out where this path is, and at the end of the day, never got it figured out. After cycling back and forth for 30 mins, I decided to ask a vendor at Wat Thammikkarat. She pointed out for me to make a left turn and follow the path. As I was cycling I came across this sign that says market, according to the map, this market place was next to the grand palace, so I headed in. To my disappointment, there was nothing but stalls and stalls of vendors trying to sell things. So I headed out into the main road and took the long way. As I was cycling, I came past this wat, Wat Phra Ram. Hey this was really near the Grand palace and was one of my destinations. So I figured just go in and take a look so I dun have to come by this way again later. Paid the entrance and went into the ruins.

Wat Phra Ram was built in 1912 BE by one of the kings over the cremation site of his father. Due to the change in dynasty (the king only ruled for 1 year), he din have time to complete the wat. It was subsequently completed by another king. Due to its close proximity to the Grand Palace, this wat was restored several times as it decayed. This wat has a main pagoda and surrounding it several small pagodas, as well as several corridors with Buddha statues.

Ruins of Wat Phra Ram
Ruins of Wat Phra Ram
Ruins of Wat Phra Ram
Ruins of Wat Phra Ram
Ruins of Wat Phra Ram
Ruins of Wat Phra Ram
Ruins of Wat Phra Ram

After this wat, I headed towards Grand palace and the wat just next to it. Wat Phra Si Sanohet, was the grandest temple within Ayutthaya, it featured 3 main huge pagodas right smack in the centre of the ruin. Initially the temple was within the royal palace grounds, subsequently one of the kings decided to dedicate this piece of land solely for the use of the wat. The 3 huge pagodas contained the ashes of 3 of the kings in the past. This was a royal temple, and was used for important royal ceremonies and was used as a private temple for the royalties. No monks resided in this temple throughout the period. The size of this temple was huge, not only it has the signature 3 pagodas, it also has quite a number of smaller chapels, seemed like each of the royalty has their own private praying halls. Just behind the Wat Phra Si Sanohet was the Grand Palace…… hmm…. Dun seem very grand to me… all I see was a bunch of bridges, some remaining of the walls and maybe a pavilion or 2 (could very well been built subsequently as this place was dedicated as a tourism place). The thing came to my mind when I saw this disappointing scene: the Burmese did a great job while attacking Ayutthaya that they practically demolished the whole palace. Was quite disappointed in this Grand Palace, so I headed for my next destination, which was again outside of the Ayutthaya island.

Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet
Ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanohet

As I was cycling towards my next destination, I came by this Thai-muslim restaurant. It might be interesting in trying out some Thai-muslim food. Then I realized, hey I haven had lunch for the day and it is already 4pm, so I went in to grab a bite. Maybe I was really accustomed to speak abit of Malay when I see Muslim back home, I actually spoke Malay to them. However they din seem to understand a word I said, so I spoke Thai to them. The lady recommended her tom yam noodles, so I ordered one. It was really weird seeing Muslims speaking Thai instead of Malay, oh well maybe it is just me. After finishing the food I continued my journey towards Wat Chaiwatthanaram.

Tom Yum Noodles Soup
Cycling around Ayutthaya
Cycling around Ayutthaya
Cycling around Ayutthaya
Cycling around Ayutthaya

Man this Wat was really huge!! Perhaps the biggest wat in Ayutthaya itself! Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built in 1630 by the king then to commemorate his mother’s home town, as well as to celebrate his coronation as a king. It has a mina pagoda, which was surrounded by minor prangat in 8 directions. In front of the temple were 3 Buddha statues facing the Chao Phraya River. This is the only wat that has a complete model of how the temple looked like in its heydays. It was magnificent and this time I was able to see the grandeur of the temple by comparing with the model.

Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Buddha statue in the ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram

After this wat, I headed for the destination that I did not manage to go to due to time. As I was cycling towards Wat Putthai Sawan, I came across this market place where the locals come and gather to buy food. Looks pretty much like our Pasar Malam. After another 15 mins of cycling, I decided to head back to Ayutthaya as the bike renting shop was about to close (in 45 mins). This last lap felt like the last lap of our 2.4km run, where practically you are chasing after the time. The only difference here is I get to cheat by means of choosing the shortest route back to the bike renting shop. As time was really lean, I did not have the luxury of taking a wrong turn or stop for a drink. Phew… managed to get back to the shop at 6 pm, on the dot when it was about to close. After returning the bike, went to 7-11 to grab a drink. At this time I realize I am covered with salt! After all the cycling and sweating, my sweat actually dried up and became salt!!!

Head back to the train station, wanting to get a first class train ticket back to Bangkok to reward 1 day of cycling, the guy at the train station told me only 3rd class available, and the next train with 1st class seats is 1 hour late. Got the 3rd class tickets anyways as I was worn out for the day. At the end of the day, Ayutthaya was a great place, however after awhile all you see are the repeating patterns of ruins with pagodas and some prangats surrounding it. Then I thought to myself, the full day trip boils down to 3 words: MY ASS HURTS!! Time to get a massage anyways…….

Onboard a train heading back to Bangkok