Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bangkok Layover: The Quest For Wat Arun

So we met some new friends in Chiang Mai! Yay! We bonded with these Indonesian ladies over drinks during the CS meet up in one of them bars, up until the Yi Peng festivities and we happened to have the same bus going back to BKK on the same night. We instantly had people to hang out with in Bangkok! Fantastic, isn't it?


Bangkok on a fine day


We made it to the city center at around 8:00 AM. Our flight to KL that day was still at 9:00 PM so we had a lot of time to kill in the city. Fina's flight to Dhaka was at 3:00 PM. Rifa would be staying in BKK for couple more days and was checking in at a hostel that time. It was so nice of her to offer us to keep our things in her hostel before we set out on exploring the city together.

Me-Rifa-Bunny-Fina

But of course, the first thing we did was eat! We haven't had a full meal for 9 hours or so. Rifa's hostel was somewhere near the area of Lumphini Park and there were a lot of good eating options around. Well, Thailand has good food anywhere. There were no dining in options though so we found ourselves eating in the street haha.

We all came out with a plan was to see the Wat Arun. It was the only temple we weren't able to visit the last time because it was heavily flooded back in 2011. 

Democracy Monument


We just took a bus going to the historical city center. We were dropped off sooner than we expected because of the ongoing protest which is blocking some major roads in Bangkok. It was walking galore!



Majority of the protesters are scattered along this road with the Democracy Monument being the main stage of their speakers. It only makes sense as it commemorates the 1932 Siamese coup d' etat which was a major turning point in Thai history.





For me, Bangkok has never changed. It's still the same old city I visited a few years back. Whenever we ask for directions, we were being pointed to many different directions that we didn't know if we're really heading somewhere. They probably don't understand English enough and just told us to go straight even if we needed to turn somewhere haha.




It was fun walking around the city again except that it was really hot! So it was a very sweaty, skin-burning, dehydrating day for all of us.

finally!

You can imagine how happy we were when we finally found that ferry that will take us to Wat Arun!


crossing the Chao Phraya river


It just takes 5 minutes to cross over to the other side. The short boat trip costs THB 5 per way.


Wat Arun

As soon as we stepped in, we began to explore. We started from the Ordination Hall entrance. This hall has a central spire on its roof and has demon-guardians in front which is known as Yaksha.


Ordination Hall


Some parts, like the photo below were similar to those of the other temples within the Grand Palace compound.





Just like any Thai temples, there are a lot of beautifully detailed structures inside the complex.







The main attraction of Wat Arun is its porcelain sheathed central "prang". As beautiful as it may seem from a far, I did not find it stunning up close. Entrance Fee to access this temple is THB 50.




I don't exactly remember why we decided not to enter. Maybe we were so exhausted from too much walking to find the ferry terminal to get here, that we don't think we can still climb up there anymore. It is fenced so I don't have a decent photo of the central prang up close.

some piggy banks being sold outside Wat Arun
We went back to Rifa's hostel at around 3:30 PM to rest for a bit and get our stuff back. It was a tiring day! Then we looked for a place to eat afterwards. After an hour, we headed to the airport.


Don Mueang International Airport

This airport is AirAsia's hub in Bangkok and that's where our KUL flight was with. It was our first time to depart from DMK, so there will be a lot of photos to follow hehe.




We arrived just exactly as we wanted, 3 hours before our flight. I wanted to freshen up and change my clothes during the first hour.






I was happy that it was not a crowded airport. There are plenty of seats available. You can easily find a place to sleep here when you need to.



It is also very well maintained. You will see people cleaning every part of it from time to time. There's also free drinking water available.





Well-upgraded amenities are present too. The comfy seats are also a joy to rest (sleep) in.




One of the things I really liked were the comfort rooms. They were very clean and I was able to do my thing (namely cleaning up myself) without rushing.




There are several cafes and restaurants spread out in the entire airport. You can find both expensive and affordable ones.




Things are very organized and easy to find as well. All in all, I found this airport pretty awesome!





The check-in was quick, no long queues in the immigration, it is more quiet compared to other airports, very spacious, has good restaurant choices, the facilities and amenities are great and it is easily accessible from the city.


a pint of DQ ice cream is so cheap in Thailand haha! ;)

That waiting area was just for ourselves! There's even a playpen for the kids. See that behind? I secretly wished Manila airports are like this. Oops! It's no longer a secret. ;)

*****
That was how we spent our spare time in Bangkok. How about you? How do you spend your layovers?


This is concludes my Chiang Mai travel series.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Other Things To Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

So, you've already visited the must-see temples, spent time with the elephants, went trekking in the mountains and checked-out the zoo. You might have already went as far as Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle too. What else can you do in the city?

For a restless traveler like me, there's always something left to do and you don't have to go too far all the time to have some fun on your travels.

Here are some of the things that we did on our spare time in Chiang Mai:


1) Go on a Food Trip

I know, I know. I shouldn't be suggesting this anymore because just seeing and smelling them in the streets will surely make you try them!


If you are a little adventurous, go for the exotic ones. If you aren't, try something else. There are a lot to choose from. Whatever it is that you'll like, it will surely be absolutely tasty.

Foodies and non-foodies will definitely find Thai food delectable. I would travel to Thailand at any given time just for the food!


2) Shop Til You Drop

For girls, shopping ranks high on our list. There are several night markets in Chiang Mai and it is always a delight to shop there.



They are selling a lot of stuff - clothes, bags, scarves, cute souvenirs and a lot more. You will surely find something you'll like just by walking around the shops. Don't forget to haggle. :)





You can go shopping in the mall too. We checked out Central Festival Mall when we were there and we were surprised that a lot of great brands are on super sale (50% off). If we were on the final part of our backpacking trip that time, I would have shopped as much as I want.

Central Festival Mall
99/3 M.4 T.Fah Ham, A.Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50000 


Night Bazaars can be found in the city center (inside the walled-city).


3) Try Their Local Milk Tea

Whenever we get tired from roaming around, we always find the nearest milk tea shop. Yup, they have great milk teas!



Packaging comes a little different if you'll buy from the cycle vendors or those who don't have an actual shop. See the big plastic and brown paper bag above? Cool, isn't it? :)

It's not the same as the Taiwan-style milk teas that we have here in Manila but they are good and a lot cheaper! For THB 30-35 (PHP 40-47), you can already have a large milk tea!


4) Visit the Minor Tourist Attractions

If you're done visiting the major ones, why not go around the city and see for yourself what else are you missing?

Three Kings Monument Square

On our last day, we decided to just cycle around and check out other places that might be of interest.


The nice thing about it is not being with a lot of other tourists. :)


5) Go Where The Locals Go

Still part of our last day when we cycled around, we just follow where the locals go. It was the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng season, so a lot of festivities were going on.


We could pass as Thais, so they really didn't mind us there. We joined in their hot air balloon flying activity, admired the beautiful lantern decorations in the streets and posed for pictures like them. :)


6) Try Buffet the Chiang Mai Way

Thai street foods are awesome, yes. But you can also try eating-all-you-can Chiang Mai style. Along with our fellow Couchsurfers, we tried the Sukontha Buffet.


There are griller with hot pots (moo kata) in the table and you can cook anything you desire to eat, all you can eat baby! It can be a nice way to bond with your travel buds. Conversations while cooking your food? Of course it's gonna be awesome.

Sukontha Buffet
Huai Kaeo Rd., Chiang Mai, Thailand 50300
Buffet Price: THB 210 (PHP 285) per person


7) Go Partying All Night

Chiang Mai has cool bars too. We also had a Couchsurfers' night out in Zoe in Yellow. Those who didn't make it at the buffet went with us in this bar.


We drank and we danced the night away! Still, the best part of this were the conversations we had with our fellow travelers and the new friends we earned.

Zoe in Yellow Bar
Boonyoo Market on Ratchavitti Road
Tel No. 0842229388


8) Watch Street Performances

When you're already drunk, who knows what else you can do? It's either you'll be the one strutting your stuff or you'll be the one watching what other drunk people do haha.


In my case, I was the one watching them. But who cares if you dance silly? If you are a tourist, nobody knows you there anyway. You can have fun and look like crazy for all they care.

By the way, that girl in the photo was really good. She totally nailed it. ;)


*****

Those were the other fun stuff that we did in Chiang Mai. If you have anything to add, feel free to share it in the comments section below. :)



This is Part 9 of my Chiang Mai travel series.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Chiang Mai to Bangkok by Bus: A Journey On a Government Bus


After that super fun time in Chiang Mai, we have to go back to Bangkok to catch our flight to our next destination. There's actually a direct flight from CNX to where we were going but any flights at that time coming out of CNX were all very expensive. Tourists were expected to leave Chiang Mai after the Loy Krathong and the Yi Peng, so understandably the airlines were selling it on a high price.


#16 at the Chiang Mai Bus Terminal


We even had a hard time booking a return bus ticket to Bangkok. The private transport companies were already fully booked, so we ended up with what the locals call the "government" bus.


our Bangkok-bound bus


When we asked the lady in the counter about the difference between this and the other buses, we were informed that this is not very good. As if we have a choice! Of course, we booked it. It doesn't matter anymore as long as we can go back to BKK on time.


find me! ;)


Unlike our 28-seater NCA Gold Class Bus, this was a double decker (28 x 2, I suppose). There's also a toilet at the lower level but I didn't use it because Beau said it wasn't clean.


the seats were fine


The seats were comfortable though you can just recline it at a certain level. There's not much of a leg room. The blankets were not individually wrapped, they were just hanging on the seats. If you're a little bit OC about cleanliness (like a friend I know haha) you may not like it because you never knew if it was freshly laundried or if it has been used many times by previous passengers.


our bus chasing the sun


Tip: Do NOT book the 1st seats on the left side (Seats A1 and B1) on the 2nd level! Do NOT, I repeat! It has the worst leg room of all seats! I normally don't put my feet up in front of the seats but my legs would've cramped for 9 hours if I didn't. I almost killed Beau for choosing those seats for us. Geez...


Good morning, Bangkok!


By the way, they don't serve food. It's basically just a bus with a toilet, nothing extra. It also has a short stop-over. If you don't want to do your #1 in the bus (for cleanliness issue), you can just use their toilet. We also bought something to munch on from there since there's no complimentary snacks from the bus.


watching the sunrise from the bus

All in all, the Government Bus experience was okay for me. It wasn't that bad. It was just a little uncomfortable for a long journey, but that's it. It was safe and on time. I wouldn't mind using them again if I need to. :)

Notes:
*The "Government Bus" is being run by The Transport Co., Ltd. which is owned by the state.
**Our round trip Chiang Mai-Bangkok tickets were purchased from the Mo Chit Nothern Bus Terminal in Bangkok.


Chiang Mai-BKK Government Bus Ticket: THB 219.00


This is Part 8 of my Chiang Mai travel series.