Bangkok Day 4 (9 Nov 14) – Last Day Shopping in Downtown Bangkok

Today is the last of our 4-day stay in Bangkok. After a night of packing, we all slept at around 3am. One of our friends took the second flight out of Bangkok back home. After she had left, we lazed around till around noon. As our flight is late in the evening, we still have some time to kill before heading for the airport. We decided to hang around the area, not too far from our hotel so that we would have sufficient time to make it for checking in at the airport. Our first stop today is to the 4-faced Buddha at Erawan Shrine. One of my friends want to pay his respects before heading back home. The shrine is crowded by the time we arrived at the shrine. Little did we realised that today is the birthday of the 4-faced Buddha. Other than well-wishers, there is also a group of locals performing local dance and human totem for devotees to express there gratitude for the Buddha. One can hire lion dancers or the staffs for some acrobatic stunt (limited to 4 humans stacking on top of each other’s shoulders). There was a long queue for people who wished to hire dancers to dance for the Buddha. Despite the heat, these dancers, cladded in traditional Thai costumes, went on dancing for hours.  We spent around 2 hours here (mainly due to the waiting for the dance) before heading towards Siam Square.
Grabbing a Starbucks on our way to Erawan Shrine
Crowded at Erawan Shrine
Cheeky post
The 4-faced Buddha
A very crowded Erawan Shrine
Human totem at Erawan Shrine
Devotees praying the 4-face Buddha at Erawan Shrine
Taking a wefie at the shrine
Downtown Bangkok Skyline from Erawan Shrine
The crowd just keeps coming
BTS railway
Waiting for our turn to offer our prayers
Human Totem at Erawan Shrine
Lion Dancing at the Shrine
Lion Dancing at the Shrine
Lion Dancing at the Shrine
My friend with the Dancers at Erawan Shrine
My friend offering his prayers at the shrine
While at Siam Square, we decided to dine at the Hello Kitty restaurant to see what the hype is all about. We read that dinning at this restaurant entails one to queue up for hours on weekends. We did not wait for long for our turn in the restaurant. I would say the food there is so-so. They are not that fantastic and all the hype soon turned into another let down in the food. We ordered some cakes and Phad Thai here. I would say the Phad Thai is actually very nice. Wrapped in rice skin (like those of Vietnamese Spring rolls), the bite-size Phad Thai is ideal for sharing amongst a group of friends. We also ordered some pastries, which turns out to be very sweet. After food, we walked around Siam Square. There is a weekend bazaar at Siam Square (on top of the regular shops), where one can find some really good bargains.
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Ordering food inside the cafe
Hello Kitty house is packed
Chatting while eating
We cleaned up one plate of Phad Thai
Wefie inside Hello Kitty House
Phad Thai
Our drinks
Pastries
Hello Kitty House Cafe
Shopping around Siam Square
Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Bazaar at Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Time passes so quickly when one is enjoying, we have missed our time to get to the airport. We hurried ourselves back to the hotel and collected our luggage and headed to the airport. As a rule, one would have to cater at least 1.5 hours for the trip to the airport, catering sufficient time for the traffic jam. As we were cutting a little too fine for our checking in, I decided to check in online whist on our way to the airport, which would give us sufficient time for boarding. We made it to the airport and line queue for online check in (luggage drop off) is significantly shorter than the usual queues. We were glad that we did the online check in. As there are some time to kill before our flight. My friends and I roamed around the airport terminal before heading to the gate for boarding.
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
Reflecting on this trip, though Bangkok is not an unfamiliar place and I have actually blogged about it before, this trip is unique as I have experienced some things for the first time. It was my first time celebrating Loy Krathong in Bangkok, my first time squeezing into the BTS like packed sardines, my first time shopping in Chatuchak market and my first time visiting Erawan Shrine during the birthday of the 4-faced Buddha. This goes to show that although one may have been to a place umpteen times, every trip can be different if planned properly. We have enjoyed our trip this time round as there are several firsts even for some of my friends who have been to Bangkok before.
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Bangkok Day 3 (8 Nov 14) – Chatuchuk: The Weekend Market Shopping

This is the day I finally get to visit Chatuchak Market. The plan to include a visit to this market was hatched as this is the first time one of my friends visited Bangkok. As for me, despite having been to Bangkok for around 10 times, all along I have never been to Chatuchak Market. The outdoor market, spanning 27 acres, is only opened on weekends. As such, weekend visits to the Chatuchak Market becomes one of the past time of visitors and locals alike. To get to the Market, we took the MRT to Kamphaeng Phet station. The naming of the MRT station can be confusing for first time visitors to Chatuchak Market. There is another station by the name of Chatuchak Park which is one station before Kamphaeng Phet station and that is not the station to alight for Chatuchak Market. Once at Kamphaeng Phet market, there are no lack of signs to point visitors to the weekend market. The station exit, where we came out from, is right smack next to the entrance of Chatuchak Market.

Having Breakfast at the hotel before we head for Chatuchuk Market
Taking the MRT to Chatuchuk Market
Discussing what to shop at Chatuchuk Market
Taking the MRT to Chatuchuk Market
The MRT station that is right smack at Chatuchuk Market

When we emerged from the station, my friends, like kids in a candy store, were immediately excited by the numerous shopping to quench their thirst for shopping. There are approximately 15000 booths selling goods from all over Thailand at a near cost price. Despite that, one should never give up on bargaining when shopping, especially here in Chatuchak. We walked along the main streets, stopping by at the booth that sells what we wanted throughout our stay here. One tip when shopping at Chatuchak market – one would rarely need to compare prices around as the price quoted by the vendors are usually around the same. When one sees the stuff that one likes, one can approach the vendor to reach a price that is win-win for both the buyer and the seller. There are indeed something for everyone here in Chatuchak market. The market offers things from clothing to pots and pans to massages services to footwear to essential oils. There are even banks in the market that offers forex services for foreigners who did not bring sufficient cash with them while shopping here. There is also a section where one can find pet food and pet clothing. As I speak Thai, my friends relied on me to bargain for them. One can be expected to spend at least one full day here at Chatuchak Market mainly shopping. Shopping in Chatuchak Market will also mean shoppers will never go hungry as there are stalls popped up all over the market selling food. Shoppers also shouldn’t miss out on some of the booths in the sheltered area of the market. Despite the price variation being minimal amongst the shops here, these shops in more isolated areas of the market is where one will be able to drive the price lower by bargaining. There is this shop in one of the isolated area, where my friend wanted to buy a couple of shorts for her causal wear. We drove such a hard bargain that the shopkeeper was able to match our price. At the end of the bargaining session, the shopkeeper naughtily joked that we made his life difficult. He even gave us a hug before we left his premises. Smokers beware!! There has been a smoking ban in the market in place since 2008, which carries a 2000 baht fine if caught.

Along the streets of Chatuchuk Market
One of the sections in Chatuchuk Market
Chatuchuk Market
The crowd is starting to gather at Chatuchuk Market
Taking wefie in Chatuchuk Market
Taking photo with one of the mascots in the market 
Taking photo with one of the mascots in the market
Wefie in Chatuchuk Market
My friend spotting a pair of shades in Chatuchuk Market
My friend with her new shades in Chatuchuk Market
Street food in Chatuchuk Market
More street food in Chatuchuk Market
Time for a drink
Counting change for drink in Chatuchuk Market
Street food in Chatuchuk Market
Thai style fried carrot cake in Chatuchuk Market
Shopping in Chatuchuk Market
Chatuchuk Market
Chatuchuk Market
Shopping in Chatuchuk Market
Taking wefie in Chatuchuk Market
My friends wandering where to go in Chatuchuk Market
Shopping for shorts in Chatuchuk Market

After spending the whole day at the market (we stayed till most of the shops are closing), my friends still couldn’t get their shopping bugs fixed. We headed towards MahBoonKrong centre (or affectionately known as MBK for locals and visitors alike) to get some souvenirs and more shopping!! There is a shop in MBK, that is known by most Singaporeans, where one can get relatively cheaper local snacks at Level 4. MBK is a place that I would not visit these days (if not for the local snacks that I wanted to bring home for my friends and colleagues). Generally the goods are a little pricer that what one can find compared to Chatuchak market or Patpong night market. Nonetheless, MBK remains a “must go” mall for visitors as it offers a one-stop shopping. The crowd at MBK did not seem to thin throughout the years. MBK seemed not to have reduced its popularity even when the new malls sprung up in downtown Bangkok. We had our dinner at Sumo restaurant, that serves Thai and Japanese food. The food is a let down and is rather pricey as compared to other restaurants with the quality of the food. The food is rather blend and lacks the spiciness and sourness which made Thai food famous (despite us ordering thai food). After dinner, we walked around Siam Square a little, which is right opposite of MBK centre. One of my friend saw a nail art saloon and went to get her nails painted. While the rest of us roamed around Siam Square, stopping by for an A&W root beer float. Originally we had a massage appointment at 10pm, however by the time my friend got her nails done, it was already past 11pm. As this is our last night here, my friends wanted to get a good Thai massage before heading back. The only place that has Thai massage near midnight would be Patpong. The massages parlours in Patpong usually closes at around midnight to 1am. Hence should one still wants to enjoy Thai massage late at night, one can try one’s luck at Patpong area. After massage, we headed back to the hotel to pack and rest for the night, getting ready to depart Bangkok the next day.

Dinner at Sumo restaurant in MBK Centre 
Tom Yam Chicken soup
Thai Fish cakes
Pandan Chicken
Phad Thai
Pineapple fried rice
Root beer and Root beer float!!

Bangkok Day 2 (7 Nov 14) – A Wet Wet Day in the Land of Smiles

No visits to Bangkok is complete without visiting some of their temples. Thailand is largely a Buddhist country and the Thai temples are vibrantly decorated with bright red, yellow and gold themes. Mirrors are also used to brighten the facade of the temples There are a few iconic temples that we should not miss while in Bangkok. Wat Arun (the Temple of the Dawn), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Phrakaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) situated in the grounds of the Grand Palace are such icons that visitors should not give them a miss. We planned to visit two of such temples – Wat Pho and Wat Phrakaew as well as less famous Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount). Our route for the day includes traveling by the BTS, by water and by land.

I love traveling on the BTS in Bangkok. Not only it is inexpensive, it is also the fastest way to move around the city, given its reputation for its all-day traffic jams. One is also able to avoid being ripped off by the cab drivers (well to be fair not all of them does that). Our first stop of the day is to visit Wat Pho. Getting to Wat Pho on the public transport include a trip on the BTS and transfer to the ferry on Chao Phraya River. A trip to Wat Pho would cost 20 Baht on the public ferry, the one that we mistakenly took costs 4 times that price. Little did I realise we were actually on the ferry meant for the tourists. The ticketing counter at the ferry stop is a tad misleading. They only sell tickets for the tourist ferry. A point to note, to get onboard the commuter ferry, one would have to purchase the tickets onboard and not at the counter. So skip the counter totally and ask the locals where to get a ferry towards Wat Pho. The journey upstream towards Wat Pho took around 20 mins, along the way, one is able to see how the locals used Chao Phraya River as a means for their daily livelihood. Several big chain hotels popped up along the river as on the higher floors, the hotel do offer a fantastic and almost zen like feel over the river. It is not hard for one to realise that one had arrived at the stop for Wat Pho. The iconic Wat Arun, a temple with a single building structure surrounded by 4 towers, is right across the river.

Wefie before boarding the BTS
Riding on the BTS 
Taking the river ferry towards Wat Pho
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Leaving the pier
My friends on the river cruise
Posing on Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Ferry drop off points
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Wat Arun on opposite bank
Wat Arun
The pier we alighted the ferry

We alighted the ferry and made our way to Wat Pho. The walk from the ferry stop to the temple is just mere minutes. In the event that one is not too sure where to head towards after alighting the ferry, just follow the crowd of visitors as most of them are generally heading towards the same place. The entrance to Wat Pho is nothing grand nor it is glamourous. Behind the plain looking structure and temple walls, the temple ground opens up to a vastness of space and tranquility. While the scene outside the wall is one of bustling and full of life, the scene within the wall is one of peacefulness. We headed for the main temple, which houses the gigantic Reclining Buddha. The Buddha measuring a good 15m in height and 46m in length reclines in a “Lion Sleep”position. Female visitors in shorts and sleeves are required to don on a robe (available at the entrance to the Reclining Buddha building) as a mark of respect. The hordes of visitors did not seem to thin at the time of our visit. It is hard to get a shot of the Buddha without the other tourists in the background. Visitors come to this temple to marvel at the grandness of the largest Reclining Buddha statue, and in fact the largest Buddha statue in the whole of Thailand. The Buddha Statue is covered in gold plating and decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay on his eyes and the soles of his feet. There are a total of 108 auspicious symbols carved on the soles of the buddha statue. These 108 symbols are believed to have its origins from the ancient sculpture of Sri Lanka, spotted by the Brahmins on the soles of Prince Siddhartha (the man whom became buddha) 5 days he was born according to legend.

Entrance of Wat Pho
Inside the temple
The reclining Buddha
Peaceful and solemn Buddha
Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho
Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho
108 auspicious symbols laden with Mother of Pearl on the Buddha’s soles
Me in Wat Pho

One of the must-dos in this temple is the dropping of coins into the 108 bronze bowls. It is believed that it will bring good fortune for those who does that. There is a small counter for one to exchange their bills into small coins to be dropped along the length inside the temple. The dropping of coins is, after all voluntarily. I urged my friends to do so as it not only brings good karma, the sound created by dropping coins into these bronze bowls are rather therapeutic. My friends had a great time doing so anyways. After touring the Reclining Buddha, I brought my friends around the temple grounds to see the other parts of the temple, where most of the visitors would give it a miss. There is a place where one will spot about 400 Buddha statues, mostly in seated positions. Some of the statues are decked out in shiny gold paint, while others are more bronze looking. There is also another side temple where one can offer one’s prayers to the Buddha further into the temple grounds.

Surroundings of Wat Pho
Very colour and vivid architecture in the Thai Temples
300 Buddha Statues
300 Buddha Statues
Chinese elements in Wat Pho
My friends posing under the pagodas in Wat Pho
Shiny gold plated Buddha Statue
My friend posing with the statues
My friend posing with the statues
This is where we offered our prayers to the Buddha in Wat Pho
Getting our offerings for prayers
Offering our prayers to the Buddha in Wat Pho
Offering our prayers to the Buddha in Wat Pho
Serenity in Wat Pho
Around Wat Pho

Our next stop is the Grand Palace and Wat Phrakaew. One can make way there on foot from Wat Pho, which takes about 15 mins. The Grand Palace closes at 3pm, hence one would have to get there by 3pm to get the tickets into the Palace. When we reached the Palace grounds, we were rather put off by the crowds at the Palace entrance. The swarms of crowd, plus the humid weather are the deciding factor for us to give the Grand Palace a miss and headed for our next stop, Wat Saket.

Wat Saket is not far from the Grand Palace. The cab ride took us 10 mins to reach the temple. Half way through the cab ride, it started to pour cats and dogs. We were hoping that the rain would cease by the time we reach the base of the temple. However no such luck. The sky did not seem to be giving way to sunny weather. The cab dropped us at the front gate of Wat Saket. Wat Saket or Golden Mount Temple is situated on tope of a small hill. There was a small scale bazaar at the base of the temple, selling mostly food stuffs and clothing. My friends and I browsed through the bazaar (as there are canvas that offered us shelter from the rain) and headed towards the stairways that would lead us up to the temple. We climbed the 300 steps that led us to the temple for shelter from the rain. When we reached the temple, we saw numerous visitors hiding inside the temple for shelter. Most of us were waiting for the rain to stop before continuing our itinerary. As we were waiting, I brought my friends around the temple. My main focus of bringing them here is for the view. From the temple, one can look out into parts of Bangkok. As there are no high-rise buildings around the temple, we can look as far as downtown Bangkok and Thakksin Bridge from the temple. It is rather therapeutic to look out and enjoy the breeze on a sunny day at the temple. As we were walking around, we spotted a small staircase that seemed to lead upwards. As it was still raining, one other visitor told us the door up there was closed. We must have waiting for another hour or so, the rain finally gave into the sunny skies. As we were heading towards the staircase that would bring us down to the base of the temple, we walked past that inconspicuous staircase again. This time we saw people heading up the staircase and we followed suit. Little did we realise that narrow wooden staircase brought us to the roof top of the temple. I have been to Wat Saket a few times and this is the first time I came up here. From the roof top, the views into downtown Bangkok is event more stunting!! There are a few Buddha statues up at the roof top, surrounding the golden dome that distinct Wat Saket from most other temples in Bangkok. We stayed up at the roof for another 10 mins or so before heading down towards our next destination.

Start of the 300 steps ascent to Wat Saket
My friends waiting to get up to Wat Saket
My friend in Wat Saket
View from Wat Saket
We were all drenched
View from Wat Saket
Dome of Wat Saket on the roof level
Panoramic view from Wat Saket
Buddha statues on the roof of the temple
View from Wat Saket from the roof
Flooded bazaar at the base of Wat Saket
Having fun walking in the water

I am rather excited to bring my friends on the canal ferry, that most Bangkokers utilises to beat the horrid traffic jams in Bangkok. The fare onboard the ferry to central Bangkok did not cost much. The ferry ply through the canal at the back of Bangkok dwellers. For those who pay a lot of attention to hygiene, this mode of transport is perhaps not suitable for you. The foul smell (well it is still bearable to us) will probably turn one off. Nonetheless, my friends had a great time taking this form of transport, as this is the first time they ply through the canals of Bangkok on a ferry. We alighted at the Pratunam pier, which happens to be the interchange pier for this mode of transport. As we were walking out towards the main road, my friends immediately recognise Pratunam Mall, and this marks the beginning of our shopping trip in this area.

Taking the ferry towards Pratunam
The pier where we boarded the ferry
Onboard the ferry towards Pratunam
Onboard the ferry towards Pratunam
And we are leaving
Scenes along the canal
Someone’s backyard
Scenes along the canal

 

We were dry by the time we reached Pratunam

Pratunam Mall is the largest clothing mall in Bangkok. There are over 1000 stores here selling clothes here. There is bound to be something for everyone here. As the time we arrived was near closing time. My shopaholic friends had no choice but to browse through the shops and be very targeted at what they want to buy. For shopaholics, one can spend up to 1 full day here by just walking around once. My friends, who have been here previously, was commenting that the trick to shop at Pratunam is to buy the clothing when you see the one you like. It is like a maze inside here and don’t even hope that you will remember where the shop you last see the stuff you want. Moreover, the price seemed to be standardised from shop to shop, no point comparing prices. True enough, the mall (selling mostly clothes for ladies, out of the 7 storey building, only half of one storey is for guys!) is like a maze. I saw people practically dragging their luggage around the mall seemed like they are here for retail therapy. We stayed here till the malls are closed before heading back to our hotel to rest for the night. This is my first time to Pratunam area, and little did I realise it is actually located within walking distance from our hotel.

Shopping mall opposite the ferry pier in Pratunam

Bangkok Day 1 (6 Nov 14) – Soaking in the festive mood of Loy Krathong in the Land of Smiles

We planned this trip some months ago as a birthday trip for one of my friends. Coincidentally, his birthday falls on the same day as the Loy Krathong festival in Thailand. Loy Krathong festival is known as the “Festival of Lights” to the Thais and is celebrated on the 12th Lunar Month on the Thai calendar.  Loy Krathong literally translates to mean floating basket.
The bird that took us to the Land of Smiles
Arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport
We took the first flight out of Singapore to Bangkok, cleared custom in relatively fast timing. Soon we found ourselves heading towards the hotel that we called home for the next 3 nights. The hotel we put up during our trip here is centrally located. We opted this hotel mainly for its centralised location and we were not surprised at the convenience of the location of the hotel when we arrived. As our rooms are yet to be ready (we were way earlier for the staff to check us in), hence we left our luggage at the concierge and headed for the nearest supermarket to stock up on drinks for the next 4 days. Before heading for Siam Square, we stopped by the famous 4-faced Buddha shrine – Erawan Shrine to offer our prayers to the Buddha and seek his blessings for a safe trip. This Shrine, located just in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, has continued to attract hordes of locals and tourists alike for its ability to grant wishes. It was 11am when we arrived at the shrine and already it was jam packed with people seeking blessings from the Buddha. After offering our prayers, we continued to head for Siam Square.
Taking a wefie at the hotel lounge
The famous Erawan Shrine at downtown Bangkok
Praying at Erawan Shrine is believed to bring good luck
Wefie at the shrine

As we were walking towards the supermarket, since there are some time for us to kill, I proposed to my friends that we head over to Siam Square, where the Hello Kitty House is located. One of my friends is an ardent Hello Kitty fan, hence the trip to the “pink house”. As Siam Square is not far from our hotel, we went there by foot. To reach Siam Square, there are a series of shopping malls that we had to cut through. The first mall that we walked past and into is the Central World Shopping Mall.  As we were through the mall, we bumped into a foreigner distributing samples of the cakes that the cafe is selling. Maxim’s Bistro is a French cafe, mainly sells cakes and is famous for their chocolate cake. I jokingly informed the staff that it was my friend’s birthday, the staff immediately invited us into the cafe and offered my friend a slice of their signature cake on the house for his birthday with no obligations from us. That is great service there. We chatted with the manager of the store whom invited us back the next day for complementary drinks.

 

Pastries at the cafe
Picture with the birthday boy
The cafe is rather contemporary and is a great place to chill
We continued our journey towards Siam Square, passing by Siam Paragon and finally reached Siam Square opposite Siam Paragon. We did not quite know where the Hello Kitty House is located. All we know is that it is in Siam Square. We searched abit around and finally found it. As it is a Friday afternoon, there is no crowd here (I was told that this place is packed during weekends). At first I thought we are going into some Hello Kitty Museum, but we were soon disappointed. This place is actually a shop with cafe selling Hello Kitty item, ranging from notepads to body lotions to cakes and coffee. The constant “Hello Kitty…. Hello Hello Hello Hello….. Hello Kitty” playing over and over again like a broken record soon started to annoy us. We hurried our ardent Hello Kitty Fan friend and got out as soon as we can. My verdict, this place is not worth visiting at all. After getting out of the cafe, we headed to the supermarket to get some food stuffs and drinks, in case we are thirsty or hungry at nights. By the time we were done, it is nearly 4pm, we headed back to the hotel for checking in and settle down. After checking in, we rest in our rooms for a bit before heading back out to Asiatique for Loy Krathong. (The staff at the hotel recommended for us to head out at around 6pm before the place gets crowded.)
My friend at Hello Kitty House
My friends at Hello Kitty House

We must have overslept. By the time we woke up, it is already nearly 8pm. We quickly readied ourselves and headed out for Asiatique, which is along Chao Praya River. To get there we took the BTS and then transfer onto the ferry for Asiatique. I love to travel via BTS in Bangkok as it is the fastest way to travel in relatively comfortable environment (Bangkok is infamous known for its horrendous traffic situation). We had to transfer to another BTS at Siam Square Station, as we were heading down to the next platform where another BTS will take us to Chao Praya River, we were shocked at what was in front of us. The platform was crowded! Despite the crowd, the Thais are still patiently and orderly standing in their queue awaiting to board the BTS (and so did we). As the BTS pulled into the station, we were being pushed into the train. Instead of finally it disturbing, my friends and I actually found it fun! This is something that we had not experienced before. The BTS was so jam packed that one will not fall from the jerking motion of the train, as there will be another person around you cushioning the fall. Despite the crowded BTS, people still manage to alight the train as the locals will alight for those further in to alight before boarding again. This is what I love about the Thais, patient and considerate.

Queuing up to board the crowded BTS
Boarding the BTS
The crowd onto the BTS is just amazing

We arrived at the BTS near Chao Praya River (Saphan Taksin). It is really crowded here, with most people going up the river towards Wat Arun for Loy Krathong or down towards Asiatique. As we alighted the BTS station, we saw numerous stalls selling mainly food and the floating lantern (or Krathong) for the festival. I told my friends to buy our Krathongs here instead of Asiatique, which is likely to be more expensive. And so we shopped for our Krathongs. There are basically 2 types on sale, on with the base made up of Styrofoam, the type made with banana tree trunk. I read that the one made of the banana tree trunk is more traditional and urged my friends to find one that is made of that material. To choose a Krathong, opt for the ones that are made out of banana tree trunk as it is more traditional, the top of the Krathong is based on individual’s liking on the type of flowers and the design the local vendor has on their Krathongs for sale. There are several design of the Krathongs with lots of stalls selling Krathong, other then the base (which to me is more important), the rest is really up to one’s preference on what flower they want on their Krathong. A Krathong usually has a base and is wrapped by a banana leaves, flowers, a candle and and incense. The Thais believe that floating a Krathong on this day symbolises letting go of anger and bad luck. A strand of hair, a clipping of finger nail, or a coin is usually being placed in the Krathong before floating it down the river.

Various Krathongs on sale
Shopping for Krathongs
Wefie with our Krathongs
My friends choosing their Krathongs
Shopping for Krathongs

It took us quite awhile to find a Krathong each to our liking. After picking our Krathong, it is another waiting game. As the crowd going to Asiatique is huge, we had to wait for the ferry that would send us there. We must have waited for around 1 hour before managing to board on towards Asiatique. Initially, I was a little puzzled at how we are going to release our Krathong, as there is quite a bit of height from at the harbourside in Asiatique, I have only read of people releasing Krathongs and not throwing them over.  Are we going to throw our Krathongs over the edge of the river or what???!! Soon the mystery was solved. Upon alighting from the ferry, we followed the crowd to the edge of the river. There is a long pole with a basket at the end for people to lower their Krathongs onto Chao Praya River. Despite the crowd, there were absolutely no pushing or chaos or anyone jumping queue. This is one thing I like about the Thais, people were generally patiently waiting for their turn to use the pole, and there is no need for any form of crowd or queue. Soon it was our turn to use the pole, before lowering the Krathong, I reminded my friend to put a coin into our Krathongs, symbolising good luck.  Using the pole to lower our Krathong into the river is harder than it looked. The pole was rather heavy and one would have to stretch, while balancing the Krathong on the pole and hoping that the flame on the candle do not extinguish. It is a mixture of strength, balance and more importantly luck lowering the Krathong into the river. Of the four of us, my Krathong is the only one where the flame on the candle did not extinguish. It must have been a tough job for one of my friends, whose Krathong toppled when she was lowering hers.

Boarding the ferry to Asiatique
My friend with her Krathong
Nearing Asiatique
The huge crowd at Asiatique
Asiatique at night
Krathongs that were lowered into the river
Me at Asiatique
Getting ready to lower our Krathongs
First have to light up the incense and then the candle
My Krathong ready to be lowered onto the river
Lowering Krathong
It takes strength and balance to lower the Krathong into the river
My friend trying her best to lower her Krathong
Posing for the camera while lowering her Krathong
My turn lowering my Krathong

After releasing our Krathong, we walked around Asiatique looking for some street food. I visited Asiatique last December and remembered there were street food. However not this time round. I generally find Asiatique to be boring. The food is expensive (comparable to restaurant in an upscale hotel in Bangkok) and the merchandise for sale are a tad more than what one will be able to find elsewhere. There are, however, several local designer clothing up for sale. As we planned to head to Chaktuchak Market in 2 days time, we thought it is not worth the time to do any shopping here. As Asiatique was very crowded, we left Asiatique and headed for Patpong for the night market. We managed to get a Tuk-tuk at a reasonable price. It was the first time experience on a Tuk-tuk for some of my friends, they were certainly excited over this popular mode of transport in Bangkok.

Walking around Asiatique
Asiatique at night
On a Tuk-tuk to Patpong
On a Tuk-tuk to Patpong 
On a Tuk-tuk to Patpong
We bumped our friend onto the floor of the Tuk-tuk

It did not take us very long to reach Patpong night market. This is one of the few night markets in Bangkok. Generally the prices of the goods here is rather reasonable. I thought it is a good thing that I can speak Thai, we managed to obtained some good bargains here. After walking for a good hour or two, it is time for us to settle down for dinner (or is it supper, as it was already nearly midnight). We headed for one of the road side stalls for dinner. The food was great and inexpensive. After dinner, we hailed a cab and headed back to the hotel to rest for the night.

Dinner at the roadside stall
The Tomyam chicken is very flavourful
Simple season of salt and pepper can bring so much taste to this sea bass

 

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