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Friday, September 14, 2012

Aranyaprathet: Thailand's Gateway to Cambodia

9/14/2012 10:46:00 AM 0 Comments

We left Thailand earlier than originally planned. We couldn't go to the North anymore because it was more flooded than Bangkok. So on our fourth day, we transited to Cambodia. We decided to take the train instead of the bus. We knew it's slower than the bus, travel time difference is about 2 hours (or more). Why then? It is way cheaper! Taking the bus costs a whopping THB 200 while the train is just THB 48. We were not in a hurry anyway. Our goal that day was just to successfully cross the border and arrive in Cambodia.

Hua Lamphong Train Station

We wanted to take the first train so we'll make it in Siem Reap before dusk. We left Khao San at around 4:30 AM. It just took us 30 minutes to get to the train station and we were lucky to get an honest taxi driver. We just asked him to keep the change. Maybe we became skeptics about taxi drivers because of those terrible ones that we have here in Manila.

our train tickets :)

We secured our tickets first then went to that eatery across the street (the one that we found the day before) to have breakfast.

my chicken noodle soup

I love something hot in the morning, may it be coffee or soup. So I just ordered their chicken noodle soup.

khao man kai

Beau wanted something heavy so he ordered a rice meal. This is the Thai version of Hainanese Chicken Rice.

my last photo in BKK ;)

We went back to the train station 10 minutes before the departure time. We didn't want to miss the train! When the train departs, I started to observe how it was in the outskirts of Bangkok.

typical home along the riles community

It is also similar to what we have here. There are people inhabiting near the railways, selling their products, people crossing the rails, getting by their day to day living.

bored... hahaha!

The train itself was okay. It was clean, it has fans and it has toilet. For THB 48, don't expect a very comfortable travel. The only thing I really didn't like was the black smoke it was emitting and the boredom you have to contend with on this 6-hour train ride. The dust was not as bad as what others described.

green guava?

We were glad there were vendors in one of the stops. We bought green mangoes to munch on (at least there was something we can do besides numbing our butt). Instead of the shrimp paste (alamang) that we're so used to, their dip for the mango is a mixture of salt, sugar and chili. It is a nice combo! But then their mango didn't taste like our mango. It tasted more like a guava! I'm not kidding. I will never forget eating a mango that tasted like guava. Our mangoes are still the best. :)

cute-colored train :)

The rest of the time I killed by sleeping. I also can't remember how many times Jason Mraz and Natasha Bedingfield played in my ipod haha.

endless ricefields...

I'm not complaining because the countryside view was picturesque. I guess it was better than the views we'll see if we took the bus which passes through the highways.

and lovely trees

It can be tiring for a long time though so better be sleeping. :)

woot! we're here!

After 6 hours, we disembarked in our destination - Aranyaprathet. We took a tuktuk that will bring us to the Cambodian border. They normally say it's THB 50, it's up to you to haggle. We got it for THB 40. More okay than the THB 80 they offered to the Japanese girls.

We were aware of the ongoing scams in this border. In fact, we've read that they have the most notorious border scammers in South East Asia (not sure if it's accurate). We've been very careful in dealing with things and people there. The tuktuk driver suddenly stopped into an office like structure where there are men in white long sleeves who tried to talk us out to go to there office for visa assistance.We told them right off that we don't need visa because we're from the Philippines. We insisted for the driver to just take us to the border directly after brushing them off. But that annoying guy in long sleeves scolded us to just walk ourselves to the border! Maybe he was so disappointed he couldn't get a single cent from us. We just walked then even if it was too hot.

It was a 10-15 minute walk under the midday sun. When our passports were stamped for departing Thailand, we couldn't wait to tread to the Cambodian side. And so our adventure continued... :)

1st Overland Border-Crossing

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thai Food Trip and Khao San By Night

9/09/2012 07:50:00 AM 0 Comments
Many people say one of the things you'll love when go to Thailand is their food. Heck, they're right! Beau and I are certified foodies. Everywhere we go, we want to try authentic local dishes. One of my self-imposed travel rules is not to eat something we also have or we can also find in Manila when traveling locally or in the Philippines when traveling internationally. We try to stay away from the fast food chains and fancy restaurants to get a feel of the locals having a meal on an ordinary day.

an eatery near the train station

On our second day in Thailand, we came across this small eatery near the Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok. The name was written in Thai so we don't know what it was hehe. The food display outside looks intriguing and I was famished since I only ate a Spinach Pie from McDonald's the night before.

looks interesting

Beau first talked to the lady who was doing the chopping outside and asked her what do they have. When we figured that they are already serving full meals in the morning, we decided to eat. She said they are actually open 24 hours to serve passengers coming in and out of the train station. Great! We can also eat here the next day before we board the train to the Cambodian border.

We were handed the menu and chose what we thought we would like based on its ingredients hehe. I suck at remembering food names and I think I already lost the notes I took during the trip (or it was prolly buried somewhere in my travel treasure chest). So in the photo captions, I just described what the dishes were like and hope it will suffice.

sweet pig trotter

This was what I had for brunch. It tasted like our Pata Tim. A mixture of sweet and spicy. The only difference was, it has morning glory as a side dish and it was spicy. Thai food are known to be spicy. :)

sweet and sour pork with sausage

This was what he ordered. It was cooked sweet and sour Chinese style just more spicy. But this was also yummy! :)

and pad thai, of course! :)

Anyone who goes to Thailand SHOULD try their famous pad thai! You are a sore loser if you don't haha. Just kidding. But really, you should! So delish! :)

Thai condiments :)

I just had to take a photo of this. We are just used to seeing fish sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce and pepper in a regular Filipino dining table. I noticed that every eating place we go, these are their basic condiments. It has dried chili, sugar, diced lime and peanut oil. Then there were separate containers for the fish sauce and the vinegar with chili. Therefore, harmonizing the flavors is what Thai food is all about. :)

The next time we ate was after visiting The Grand Palace. We saw a line of food hawkers outside and we checked the prices before choosing where to eat. Prices are relatively higher compared to those that are not located in a tourist spot. But we were hungry and the grilled food looked so good, so yes we gave in. :)

street food outside the Grand Palace

We tried three types of the grilled eats. You guessed it right, I don't remember what they were. Geez. That's why I initially thought blogging does not suit me. ;)

yum! but a little costly

As we walk towards the direction of The Giant Swing, we smelled something appetizing. In front of a 7 Eleven store was a couple who sells this yummy Thai Mini-Pancakes called Kanoom Krock. I'm so glad I found it's name with the help of Google hehe.

with the kanoom krock vendors :)

We were happy they let us took a photo with them. This mini-cakes were so good! I'm salivating while writing this because I remember just how it tastes hehe.

kanoom krock

It is made of two halves of sweet sticky rice with spring onions and some salt as the filling. Incredibly yummy!

After the walking tour, we decided to go Khao San Road that night where all the action happens. We were supposedly meeting some guys from CS at a bar somewhere but unfortunate we got lost! Damn haha! The bar is located at Soi Rambuttri (side street off a major street) and we kept looking at Thanon Rambuttri (main street). We never thought there's such a thing, my goodness! So we were talking about two completely different streets that's why we never found each other. Tired and frustrated of not finding our mates, we just gave up and eat at the first diner we saw at the street.

dinner somewhere near KS

It's like the regular "turo-turo" in the street where tables and chairs are just set up in the roadside. I chose the chicken curry and beau chose something like braised pork innards. Completing our meal was the stir-fried morning glory side dish and the soup with radish and cilantro. Again, all about the fusion of flavors. :)

soi rambuttri KSR

Beau was on a quest of tasting the local beers of the countries we're visiting. We passed by this quaint restaurant with a few tourists having drinks while watching football. There we tried the Chang Beer hehe.

Chang Beer :)

The drinks here are cheap. It was a nice place to hang out in. A little quiet than the main vein KSR. More of a chill vibe here.

having a drink

We were not on a drinking spree so we left after a couple of beers. We walked down to the end of the street and voila! We found Bar Lamphu where our mates were. I checked the street sign confirming it was Soi Rambuttri! Yaiiks. Too bad they're no longer there. The bar was so packed. It is a cool place, with a live band you can sing along with. There was this foreign girl nailing Adele's Rolling in the Deep when we passed by. :)

We went back to Khao San to see more of it as the night unfolds. There were more street shops, food hawkers and the bars were already full when we got back.

grilled longganisa with rice :)

Beau found this treat on the other end of KS. He said it was so filling and flavorful. We continued walking, checking out the things they are selling. There are exotic food (insects etc.), clothes, accessories, flag badges, souvenirs, fake ids, used books, pirated CDs and DVDs and a lot of backpacker stuff.

the very busy KSR at night

We bumped-in to another Filipino while checking out souvenir shirts. Seems like this is really a traveler's hot spot hehe. We did not buy anything from there. When there's something we like, it ends up with no sizes for us. It's either smaller or larger. So we just continued our food trip.

Somewhere in the middle was a couple selling roti. We were piqued because there were so many people queuing up. We got interested and bought ourselves one. We tried the Banana Roti and yes, it was luscious! If I wasn't full from the dinner I would have more!

banana roti :)

We kept walking back and forth to really see what's going on in this famous backpacker road at night. So there was this guy performing crazy tricks and asking for donations for him to be able to go to school (see the photo below).

crazy Khao San

It was the end of October then so it was the Halloween season. Every bars had like a Halloween costume party going on. The tourists gets wilder and wilder as they get alcohol intoxicated. I was so shocked when while walking a very drunk Caucasian guy hugged me! He was half naked with some red stuff on his tummy. Maybe he was "dressing up" like a stabbed man or something and was giving free hugs haha. Good thing he let go immediately. Weird.

We just walked away very fast and found our next food trip. At the other end of the road, we found a man selling these skewered pork

pok yu = pork cue (pork barbecue)

OMG, it was heavenly. It is a pork barbecue with melted cheese! Not just that, his marinade was sooo good.

it was addictive i'm telling you :)

I can't remember anymore how many sticks did I finish. All I knew was it was so yummy I kept getting one as I finish one.

see i had taken pokyu to go? :)

The only way to stop eating it was to walk away haha. If you'll stay there, I bet you'll keep getting more and more.

We walked around once more but there was really nothing we can buy. So around 1AM, we decided to just rest and retire for the day. We still have to pack our stuff for the next day's departure.

Thai Food is really exquisite. What I miss the most about Thailand really is their yummy food! Just thinking about it makes me want to go back there. :)

Khao San Road for me, is also must-try. Some tourists discourage others to go here because they say it is a trap, it is sick and ugly. But as a real traveler, I don't think you just want to see all the good in the places you visit, right? In my case, I want to experience everything and drink it all in. And c'mon, Khao San is dirt cheap. It's a backpackers' haven. Where's the adventure if you'll just stick to what's good? :)

This is Part 3 of my Bangkok travel series.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bangkok Historical Walking Tour

9/06/2012 09:33:00 AM 0 Comments
So Siam area was done. Time to move to Bangkok's historic center, Rattanakosin Island. We also want to check out the night scene at the very busy and "touristy" Khao San Road (KSR). From BTS Chitlom (Yellow Line), we went off at Asok Station for the Blue Line interchange in Sukhumvit. Then from there, we got off to Hua Lamphong station and took a bus going to the Khao San area.

i wish our trains are uncrowded like this

When we reached Hua Lamphong, we saw a mini-restaurant (read: carinderia) in the side street. The food display outside was interesting and we haven't eaten anything yet, so we decided to have our brunch there. I have a separate entry for all the Thai food that we tried. :)

a restaurant near Hua Lamphong

That was an unforgettable bus ride! The bus conductor was a sulky lady boy. We initially thought she was a female because she really looked like one. Oh well, we were in Thailand hehe. We just figured it out later on. So we sat together in one double seat and the bus got full almost immediately. Then there was a monk who rode and there was no more vacant seat for him. It was just our second day in Thailand, so we were completely unaware of their customs. It was also our first public bus ride there. The conductor suddenly shouted and pointed at us saying "you! you stand up!". Terrified of his scary tone, we obliged right away. It was insane. We never knew if just because we were foreigners, we should give up our seats to the monk. I just didn't get it. Being Thai's, shouldn't they be more courteous enough to give their seats? They were the ones who knew what should be done if you see a monk, right? Well, whatever. We just followed. After he was seated, the monk motioned for my partner to seat beside him. My beau, being polite was refusing to do so and wants to leave the seat to the monk all by himself. Then the lady boy shouted again "you sit!". So he sat. We were like, okay fine but I was cringing. I read somewhere that they can't be touched by a woman, so I understood why he was chosen instead of me. Good thing, many passengers got off on the next stop so I also got seated afterwards. I actually disliked how the conductor treated us. I don't like being shouted at in general (regardless where I am or who's doing the shouting). I just kept my temper in check because we were in another country but deep inside me I was swearing. So I noted, courtesy is not much of a virtue in Thailand.

Chinatown was one of the most flood affected area in BKK

Aside from that uncanny experience, we were also caught in a traffic because some areas we had to pass through were flooded. Yeah, there was no train connection going to Khao San so you really need to travel by bus or taxi. The boat operation in Chao Phraya River was also on halt because of the flooding. After almost two hours, we were dropped off in Phra Arthit Road which was quite a walk to KSR. No public transport passes through near that area, only taxis.


We successfully navigated the streets just by following the map that I printed. We immediately looked for our guesthouse because walking with our heavy backpack was so tiring. It was a little hard to find as it is tucked in a small alley somewhere in the middle of Khao San. We stayed in New Joe Guesthouse because it was one of those cheapest inn that we could get (THB 350 per night). As expected with the low rate, it was a little dingy and it has those doorknobs that you won't feel safe leaving something valuable inside the room (if you know what I mean). Unfortunately, I was unable to take photos of our room.

When we were all set at the guesthouse, off we went to tour The Grand Palace. It was just a short bus ride from KSR. We were there in 10 minutes. We can actually just walk but we're pressed for time. We paid the THB 350 entrance fee and beau changed into a long pants before we explore the palace grounds.

Wat Phra Kaew from the Outer Court

We started from the Outer Court entrance. The other gates were closed because they were flooded. What can I say? The entire structure is very grandiose. Well, it used to be the residence of the Kings of Siam (Thailand's former name) that's why. 

me and the golden stupa

So what is this giant bell behind me? I too was wondering what is this huge bell-like construction. According to my friend Wiki, stupa is the oldest religious monument of Buddhists symbolizing important relics like the remains of Buddha. To be specific, this one is a Stupa of Nirvana. I want to see more of her kind in Myanmar! Just thinking out loud. :)

It was hard to take photos with no other people in the background hehe. Never thought BKK would still be crowded with tourists despite the flood warnings in the travel advisories. 

Phra Thinang Charki Maha Prasat

The royal family no longer lives in the palace at the present, but they still use it for royal ceremonies. They also said some royal offices are still operating here up to now. The throne hall is the largest among the building structures if I remember it right. It is said to be where they entertain very important foreign visitors in their country.

some parts have on going renovations

We took a lot of photos inside the palace. Everywhere you look is incredibly photo-worthy. I can't imagine how did they manage to do such magnificent architecture and flamboyant structure.

When we got out the palace, there are street food vendors outside the gates so we sampled a few of those. It was actually pricey. Maybe because they're located in a tourist spot where unsuspecting foreigners will buy just anything when they're hungry. We moved on to Wat Pho after having some street snack.

The Reclining Buddha

Adjacent to the Grand Palace is Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It houses a massive golden buddha which is lying in the side, hence the name. This is also the place where the traditional Thai massage started as they say.

Golden Buddhas

It also houses numerous Buddha statues like these. According to my research, this one is an Enlightenment Buddha which signifies insight, purity of character and self mastery.

a lovely spot inside  Wat Pho temple complex

I also enjoyed checking out Wat Pho. It was equally delightful. The reclining Buddha was the largest Buddha I've ever seen.

Our next stop should be Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. It is in Thonburi which was on the other side of the river. The only way to reach it from the Bangkok side is through a ferry which was not working that time because of the flood. :( Check out the photo below, Chao Phraya almost overflowed if the raining did not stop. The jetty railings were almost if not completely submerged.

Wat Arun from a distance :(

We just looked at it from the riverside. Aww... another place we hadn't explored because of the flood. They say this one is different from the rest of the temples there because you can actually climb up and see a fantastic view of Bangkok from the top. Maybe next time.

We continued our tour after passing by the river and catching a glimpse of the Wat Arun. The sun was already setting so we have to make the most of our time to see some more attractions. We were leaving for Cambodia the next day. We passed by a couple more Wats but they were flooded. We went on until we reached the Democracy Monument. It is a commemoration of the Siamese Revolution in 1932.

Democracy Monument

This is actually located in the middle of a highway. So be careful when crossing to get there haha. The vehicles can be very fast.

We passed by some street food vendors again and sampled their local delicacies. Another yummy experience. Then we walked again until we found that giant red swing.

The Giant Swing

The Giant Swing is located just in front of another temple Wat Suthat. Since it's already late, we could no longer explore the temple so we just took photos with the swing. Can you imagine getting a bag of coins from there? They said there was a ceremony like that being done in the past. I imagine doing it like reverse bungee than climbing it up like palo sebo. Haha!

It got darker every minute so we decided to walk back "home". We freshened up and got ready for a night-out in the wild Khao San Road. It was our last day in Thailand anyway.

The whole flooding situation has affected our original itinerary. Aside from those flooded temples in Bangkok, we were unable to shop in Chatuchak Market and temple-hop in Ayutthaya. Both were heavily flooded and closed to tourists. We decided to just spend another day in Cambodia.

This is Part 2 of my Bangkok travel series.