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5 days 4 nights trip to Bangkok & Hua Hin, Thailand for the Raya 2017 holiday

Posted in Wonders and Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2017 by vincentloy

I’m back. I have just returned to Malaysia last night from Thailand with my parents. Good time passed very quickly. My 5 days 4 nights vacation to Bangkok and Hua Hin in Thailand ended, and the Raya holiday as well (except for school children that gets to enjoy one-week long break and adults who took annual leave). It was a great experience and fun in this trip, especially in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. It was also very tiring at the same time as we need to walk a lot and the extremely scorching sun made it worst. We followed guided tour (in a tour group) and the tight schedule (like approximately only an hour for every destinations, up to 6 or 7 destinations a day) really made us (especially the elders) very exhausting.

24th June 2017 (Saturday)

We took a 2-hours morning flight to Don Mueung Airport, the old airport in Bangkok. Once there, we wasted a lot of time in the airport to complete the immigration and waiting for the others in our group to get ready. Also wasted a lot of time on the road to the hotel for checking in due to the unusual traffic congestion (well, Bangkok is famous for traffic jams). Hence, we don’t have much time to walk around on our own in the afternoon. We just walked to the streets near the hotel (Eastin Makkasan Hotel, 4-stars). We had a nice dinner in Chocolate Ville (don’t be confused by the name, there isn’t any chocolate here), a huge themed restaurant built to imitate the romantic Western streets and environment with Western-styled traditional buildings, bridges, lake, gazebo, lighthouse, etc. The atmosphere is beautiful with the lighting at night.

At night, we went to the Erawan Shrine, a Hindu shrine of Lord Brahma. The place becomes famous after the bombing incident in 2015 near the shrine that killed 20 people.

25th June 2017 (Sunday)

We went to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) in the morning. It is a Budhhist temple with its spires as distinctive feature (and colorful porcelain of its main spire/tower). It is one of the most famous landmarks in Bangkok and it is situated on the side of Chao Phraya River. The on-going renovation works to the main tower prevented us to take nice clean pictures of the temple.

Next, we went to Maeklong Railways Market. Not long ago, I have seen a video getting viral on social sites showing a market with stalls lining up along a railway and has to retract their stalls when the train passes. That is the place. Now, I’m there to witness it in my own eyes and it was unique and amazing. A lot of tourists crowded the place not to shop at the market but to check out this quick event.

Then, we leave Bangkok and go to Hua Hin. Our first destination there is Santorini Park, a themed attraction with an open mall concept that resembles the famous Santorini Island in Greece with its white buildings and brightly one-coloured windows (mostly blue). There are retail shops, and some activities or rides inside such as Haunted House, Ferris Wheel, Water Slide, Merry-Go-Round, etc.

After that, we went to Swiss Sheep Farm. I noticed that Hua Hin likes to create tourist destinations with foreign places as their themes. The town lacks its own identity in terms of its tourist destinations. This Swiss Sheep Farm is a farm (of course) for us to have the opportunity to feed the sheep (I skipped that) and to take pictures of the many decorations in that place such as a huge old windmill, some 3D painting, several miniatures of popular characters such as Transformers and the Avengers, etc.

In the evening, we head to the Hua Hin Night Market. Stalls selling local delicacies, souvenirs, bags, accessories, clothing, food, and offering Thai massage lined up the street. Then, we depart to Novotel for a two-nights stay in Hua Hin. It is a seaside resort with of course the amazing sea view.

26th June 2017 (Monday)

Hua Hin Royal Palace is the first destination of the day. It is a royal residence that serves as a seaside retreat for the past kings of Thailand. It is quite a modest complex with elevated timber structures. The lushness of its surrounding almost overwhelms the palace. Major parts of the complex is also currently under renovation and we are barred from entering those parts. Hence, we only stayed a short while here.

Then, we went to Hua Hin Railway Station, not to take any train but to view the beautiful train station (iconic for the structures with red and cream colours’ assembly) and an old steam locomotive for a short while.

Our next destination of the day is Pleanwarn Eco Vintage Village. It is Thailand’s first eco vintage village and is built to recapture the old classic charm of Hua Hin. It is an open lawn area with two-storeys buildings of retails and restaurants around. They are constructed of recycled or used items including its wonderful entrance of a void surrounded with huge cladding of reused wood and profiled metal sheets.

We then went to Wat Huay Mongkol. It is a Buddhist temple unique for a large statue of a legendary Thai monk on top of a huge podium.

Then, we went to theHua Hin Safari and Adventure Park. This is a place not recommended for anyone. The staff there are annoying and keep pushing us to purchase their packages (tiger show, cobra show, elephant ride, photos, etc). The prices are extremely high and it is just a small ordinary safari. We went there just to see their elephant show. The show is not bad (elephants performing like painting, playing some sports, etc) but I sympathized the suffering that those elephants have to endure to entertain us.

The last destination of the day before taking a dinner on a seaside restaurant is FN Outlet. It is a modern elevated mall with a forest containing pond, bridges and Dinosaurs sculptures on the ground level.

 

27th June 2017 (Tuesday)

Today, we went back to Bangkok (the original name for the city and still called by the Thais is Krung Thep). We visited the famous Damnersaduak Floating Market. The name is self-explanatory. There is a small river crowded with boats carrying tourists and boats with people selling stuff. We took a boat ride and view the lifestyle of the traditional floating houses on our way to the Floating Market. Once there, we just walked on the side of the market where there is also a huge place crowded with stalls selling the same things again. To buy from there or from any markets in Bangkok, you have to bargain up to 70% of the original price the sellers show to you.

Then, we were back to the city region and proceed to the Art in Paradise (3D Art Museum) in Esplanade Mall. There are a lot of cool arts inside that allow visitors to interact and take pictures with to get the realistic 3D feel. Even the elders in our tour group joined in the fun including my father. That was very unusual.

Next, we went to the Honey World, a place that promotes and sells honey products to the tourists. When you are going for a trip in a guided travel group, visiting these places is a norm. We are fortunate that we only get to visit one in this trip. The honey products on sale are being promoted with all the healthy benefits they offered, but in the end, my family end up buying nothing. We usually don’t get interested.

Our last destination of the day is Asiatique Riverfront. It is a new complex by the side of the Chao Phraya River. It’s a huge open-air mall with retails, restaurants, waterfront walk and rides. It is a very happening and vibrant area. Amazing atmosphere with clean environment. Thailand is exceptional in creating this kind of tourist attractions. It’s a huge success.

28th June 2017 (Wednesday)

There is no programme offered by our tour agency today and so we have free time in the morning before our flight back to Kuala Lumpur in late afternoon. We then go to the Grand Palace. It is considered to be the No.1 attraction in Bangkok and I couldn’t believe our tour agency didn’t cover it in their itinerary. Hence, we have to visit it on our own in the remaining time before flying back. It is a huge complex of palace that serves as the main official residence of the King of Thailand.

 

The former King. King Bhumibol who reigned for about 69 years and is very beloved by all Thais had passed away last year’s October. The country then observes one year of mourning for the late king and he will be cremated in this coming October. Many roads around the palace is blocked and heavy security is observed. Until now, there are still a lot of Thais dressed in full black visiting the palace to mourn for him. Their loyalty and love to the late king is unquestionable. Some areas in the palace are also blocked off from visitors due to the same reason but that doesn’t lower my excitement of seeing the palace. It was breathtaking with its towering structures and intricate details on the columns, walls, railings, ceilings and roofs. This place is certainly a must-see in Bangkok eventhough the entrance ticket is quite costly (500 Baht for a person). You also have to dress very decently to visit the palace (also applies to all temples and other palaces in Thailand).

Then, we walked to the nearby Wat Pho. It is a Budhhist temple known for a huge reclining Buddha’s sculpture and houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. The temple is quite huge with many areas within. If not for the hot weather, I would have spend a much longer time in both the Grand Palace and in Wat Pho.

And then, our trip ends. We went back to Don Mueung Airport to catch our flight back to Kuala Lumpur. It’s almost midnight by the time we arrived home. I bought a pair of shoes, some shirts and a short and a fridge magnet. We must buy a fridge magnet every time we visit a new place. It has becomes our family tradition. We had tom yam in almost every meals during the tour. I find that the food are very heavy in taste in Thailand (either too sweet, too spicy, or too sour). Generally, the trip is awesome and I had great time during the vacation. I particularly enjoy the days in Bangkok. Hua Hin is rather boring to me eventhough that place is more relaxing and has lesser tourists. On the other hand, I felt that the newer tourist attractions in Bangkok and Hua Hin (maybe applies to whole Thailand too) are too ‘artificial’. Most of them are constructed just to imitate foreign elements. I would rather visit the real places rather than see the imitations.

Bangkok’s city skyline pictures below. The tallest on the first picture below is Baiyoke Tower which is formerly the tallest building in Bangkok. The title is now taken by the new Mahanakhon Tower shown in the second picture.

(Copyrights reserved to all images in this post. Kindly request permission if you desire to use one or more images in this post.)

 

 

 

CNY 2015 trip to Jogjakarta, Indonesia

Posted in Wonders and Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2015 by vincentloy

There goes the end of my four days three nights family trip to Jogjakarta, Indonesia. Landed safely at KLIA2 and got back home late last night with many photos, sunburn, heavier luggage, and tiring body. It has been four exhaustive days of walking and climbing a lot of steps. Nevertheless, the trip is a smooth one; we got to visit all the destinations covered in our itineraries in clear sunny weather and I enjoyed Jogjakarta, particularly from its beautiful historical temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.

First day of our trip was nothing but having half of the day spent in the airports from KLIA2 to the very much smaller Jogjakarta airport. The airport over there at Jogja is so small that once you passed through the immigration counter, the place for baggage claim is besides you and the space is as small as my bedroom. On the later part of the day, we stroll through the villages and visited some handicraft centres (ceramic and silverworks), chocolate store, an old mosque with a royal cemetery. Nothing interesting to observe on the first day. So, back to hotel (Crystal Lotus Hotel), a four-star hotel; quite nice but the room is too small.

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Now, the second day is when we truly visits Jogja with all the amazing places planned for the day. First, we went to the Malioboro street, a street with many stalls and shops selling local merchandise like batik, souvenirs, etc. But we are not interested into all that.

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Next, we went to the Mount Merapi, a still active volcanic mountain. When we were there, we can still see white gases (smoke) emitted from the tip of the mountain. To further enjoy the most from the area, we took a ride around the mountain by a jeep and observed a damaged settlement (caused by the volcanic eruption few years ago), a huge rock called Alien Rock (spewed out from the volcano), an underground protection chamber, and viewed the magnificent Mount Merapi from different angles and levels. Simply beautiful, but very dusty over there from the many jeeps and sandy roads.

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Next, is the main highlight of the tour and the main reason I came to Jogja; Borobudur. It is a huge historical Buddhist temple (monument to be exact) built over a thousand years ago. It contains several square platforms topped with three circular platforms and giant stupas with many Buddha statues. Along the walls of the platforms were carvings depicting mostly life of Siddharta Gautama Buddha. The monument is already massive and impressive when looked from the far. When you go in and look closer, there are much more to offer. Simply beautiful and astonishing!

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After spending most of the time at Borobudur, we also stopped by for a while at smaller candi (temples); Candi Pawon and Candi Mendut. We also managed to drop by at a traditional house (village home) and learn the locals’ daily lifestyle. We also tried on Salak fruit (snake-skin fruit), a very popular fruit over there at Jogja.

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On the third day of the trip, we went for a city tour in the morning. First, we visited Fort Vredeburg, a fortress built over two hundred years ago by the Dutch. Now, it is a museum that informed to visitors their history through preserved historical items, 3D visualization of historical events (many scaled-down models and human figures with different backdrops) and heritage-style buildings.

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Next, we went to Keraton, the palace where the Sultan of Jogja and his family live. It looks ordinary and nothing spectacular. A humble-looking castle with nothing much to impress visitors. Nearby, we also visited Taman Sari, which is known as water castle. The place was once a splendid park of pools and gardens for Sultan to enjoy. Now, it is nothing more than a complex of dilapidated buildings.

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The last stop for the day is the Prambanan Temple, a huge Hindu temple (or monument) which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site like Borobudur. Another impressive and visually striking monument! This is like another Angkor Wat but with no single base platform. Very beautiful and intricate stone works. Before we left, we also had a short time for a great shopping nearby there for some clothes and souvenirs.

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Time flies. As there isn’t any programmes planned on the last day (fourth day) of the trip, we went out to Jogja City Mall which is located not far from our Crystal Lotus Hotel. I purchased some clothes at a very low price if compared to KL. There was a heavy thunderstorm in the afternoon (luckily there wasn’t any rain on the past few days) and that caused massive flood in the city. Observed that before we proceed to that small airport again for flight back home to KL.

That’s it. It’s a quick trip that took only four days and costs a bit over RM 2k per pax including things I bought from the vacation. It’s a tiring trip but worthy, as I really enjoyed visiting some places over there particularly the temples.

(Copyrights reserved for all the images in this post)

Places I’m going to visit at India next week

Posted in Wonders and Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2012 by vincentloy

It’s always good to have a bit of knowledge or information regarding the places that I am going to visit throughout my India trip next week so that as soon as I reach there, I know a bit more about those places like their history or significance to the nation. I will always do a bit of research before every of my oversea trip so that  I would be ‘carried in’ further once I really stepped into those places.

It is not awesome for a trip to just enter and visit a place without you knowing the story behind the place. Yeah, the tour guide would explained briefly on the history of those tourist attractions, but not in detail which I love to explore more. Hence, internet is a very good option now for me to do a bit more research on the places I am going to visit next week in three different cities in India; Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. I would be following a big tour group for this trip, which is under Golden Travel Tourworld (GTT) company.

Delhi is the capital of the nation, and in the city itself, I would have sightseeing over India Gate or known as War Memorial (a prominent arch-like landmark commemorating the 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives while fighting for their empire), Red Fort (palace served as the residence of Mughal emperors), President House, Parliament House, Government Administration Building and a visit to Laxminarayan Temple and Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Do you know who he is? If you have learnt history before, you must have known him. He is a very famous political figure in Indian independence movement back many decades ago. Back to New Delhi, the city is described as one of the ultimate cities of a lifetime to visit and explore based on National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine. So, I would fullfill that very soon…Since the city is a huge urban area, there are many structures from historical to modern to look at, especially the government buildings concentrated in the city alone. Ahha…I’m going to have opportunity to visit the famous Lotus Temple in the city too.

Next city to visit based on the itinerary is Agra. Agra is famous for? Can anyone answer? Of course, Agra is famous for Taj Mahal! One of the seven wonders of the world, and also being widely recognized as ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage’. Agra is a historical city, and there are three UNESCO listed heritage sites in the city; Agra Fort (a walled city with many historical structures inside), Fatehpur Sikri (first planned city of Mughals but is now a dead city) and of course the wonderful Taj Mahal (a huge white marble mausoleum built in memorial to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal). And good news is I would be going to all that three places! Time to explore the priceless heritage structures of India, all in one city; Agra…and that would be a priceless experience for me.

The last city to visit is Jaipur, famously known as the pink city. It is a major business centre of the nation, and is famous for the urban planning of the city. It is remarkable among pre-modern Indian cities for the width and regularity of its streets which are laid out into six sectors separated by broad streets 111 ft (34 m) wide and the urban quarters are further divided by networks of gridded street. The places I am going to visit in the city is Amber Fort, Jag Mandir (a lake garden palace), Jai Mahal (a palace hotel), City Palace, Jantarmantar (architectural astronomical observatory),  and sightseeing of Hawa Mahal (a palace with a unique five-storey exterior akin to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework). There would be an elephant ride to the fort up on a hill. Cool…

So, basically the trip is going to grant me opportunities to visit a lot of forts, a lot of palaces, a lot of temples! This trip is gonna be a trip to heritage places in India, and I’m quite interested as I do like to explore heritage structures, looking at the architecture and how culture influences it. Looking forward for the trip that is going to begin this Sunday, on the day of Chinese New Year Eve itself.