A Travellerspoint blog

Sam Phan Bok (3000 Holes) & Osmach

The Grand Canyon of Thailand & Border Crossing

sunny 36 °C

Apart from celebrating the Songkran Festival in Ubon Ratchathani, I also visited one of the most interesting sites in the Isaan region in Thailand in Ubon, dubbed the Grand Canyon of Thailand, Sam Phan Bok or 3000 Holes in english. I had previously visited other great sites within Ubon including the Pha Taem National Park. To recap, Pha Taem National Park is a area overlooking the marvelous and scenic Mekong river, which borders the Lao PDR. Over at Pha Taem, visitors will get to view Mekong river from the cliffs where trekking under the cliffs, one would able to witnessed multiple drawings of pictures resembled several animals along the wall of the cliffs. It was believed that these paintings were dated about 4000 years ago during pre-historic age. Apart from the great cliffs, other interesting spots include the Sao Chaliang (Stone Towers). What is interesting over at Sao Chaliang is that visitors will be able to witness the strange formations of rocks where some of them resting firmly horizontally on vertical shape rocks, resembling a stone tower. Other interesting sightings over at Sao Chaliang include the surface and texture of the land, sands and shell fossils which led geologists to believe that the area was once a sea. Other interesting sites in Ubon that I previously visited the bicolour river (Mae Nam Song Si) over at Kong Chiam. What resulted the 2 different colours in the river water was due to the Mun River in Kong Chiam that join into the Mekong River, bordering Thailand and Lao PDR.

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Sam Phan Bok is yet another amazing sites in Ubon Rachathani as well one of the many wonders of Thailand. Just as great as the Pha Taem National Park, Sam Phan Bok's uniqueness which have been distinctive by itself is the formations of over thousands, possibly up to over 3000 holes on the on the surface of its rocky & rough land base, where large number of these holes are covered in water from the river below the cliffs. Due to dry season, some of the water have dry up. The size of these holes vary in sizes with some as huge as a pool and some even look like a lake formations. The cliffs heights is up to 19 metres in height at one point and the river water would filled up over 19 metres during the rainy season, which would cover the holes which formed on the surface of the land of the cliffs.

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To get to the cliff area, only certain vehicles such as pick-up trucks and SUVs would be able to drive through the extreme soft land surface filled with powdery sands. Converted pick-up trucks into "songtheaw" (long bench taxi), are available to transport visitors from the main entrance of Sam Phan Bok. One can either take a tour of Sam Phan Bok once reached the main area of the cliffs, which have uneven land base heights. The area which the cliffs covered with the holes are quite massive in size and taking a tour on the cliffs to view the different shapes and sizes of the holes as well as the great river view may take a toll due to the hot weather. However, for those who are adventurous, this is one of the rewarding experience as the views weird natural transformation taking place along the cliffs of the river are simply amazing.

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Taking a tour on the boat would be best to see by oneself's eyes on the textures of the cliffs, which are being formed by several layers of horizontal shape rocks in different shapes, sizes and thickness. As I toured the river I could also witnessed on the different level of heights of the cliffs with the highest marked at 19 metres. There were also formations of beach look alike area on the river due to low laying areas with soft and powdery sands surfaced due to low river water level as well as the cliffs' heights being on the low levels. The river water seen flowing calmly at most part of the river but could also face strong currents at some other parts of it. Sam Phan Bok is also dubbed the Grand Canyon of the East due to views from the highest point of cliffs area which provide overall landscape outlook which resembled a grand canyon. Apart from the thousands of holes formed on the surface of the land base of the cliffs, other amazing landscapes at Sam Phan Bok include massive open areas within the cliffs which are being filled with scattered rocks in various shapes and sizes. Some of the rocks appear with weird transformation of various objects.

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I also took the opportunity to cross over from Thailand via Surin province in Chong Jom to Cambodia via Osmach. Basically, I did not venture further from Osmach town in Cambodia, which can get one to Siem Reap. But it was an experience to get to see what is there available to do and see in this border towns between Thailand and Cambodia. There are a huge market or bazaar near this border area of both countries. On the Thai side, the market is larger than the one in Osmach and there are many used folded bicycles shops available in Chong Jom market. Other products include the household items, shoes, hand phones, and textiles items. Over in Osmach, what draws people here is basically the 2 casinos cum hotel resorts which cater mainly to Thai customers. The 2 resort casinos in Osmach are Royal Hill Resort & Osmach Resort. There are also duty free shops availabe in these 2 resorts which have liquor, beers, cigarettes and chocolates sold at dicounted price due to tax exemptions.There is a Osmach market to cater for visitors from Thailand as well as the casinos customers stopping by to do some shopping. Foreigners travel to Chang Jom/Osmach are basically to travel to/from Siem Reap.

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Posted by kidd27 00:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

It's Time To Ask For Forgiveness, Feast, Get Wet & Travel

Celebrating Songkran Festival in a Thai traditional way

sunny 36 °C

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Celebrating a festival in a foreign country is always special because you don't just get to indulge in the festive mood, but you also have the very opportunity to join the locals to have fun and experience the culture of such celebrations which will enrich one's understanding of the culture of the locals of that particular country. I have had such good experience in the past to have myself involve in experiencing celebrating Thai New Year, The Songkran Festival or better known as Water Festival. This unique thai new year needs no extensive introduction as it is well known worldwide due to the massive world communities that travel to Thailand each year for travel or business purpose. Lets have some orientation of Songkran Festival. It is celebrated from 13 to 15 April every year and it is the time of the year where Thais seek forgiveness from the elderly and seniors by pouring water with flowers soaked in it on the formers' hands as well as visiting temples to seek and pray for what they wish for throughout the year and also to seek for redemption on the past misdeeds. Nevertheless, this festival celebration has evolved over the many years, with Songkran Festival today being commercialised and leveraged on by Thai government through the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to promote this annual festival as a the largest toursim products to draw visitors from all over the world to visit Thailand during the Songkran period. The number of tourists and travellers visiting Thailand is increasing each year with Chinese visitors being the largest group of tourists that travel to Thailand over the last 3 years or so. More Russians tourists are reported to be travelling to Thailand over the past year to escape from the extreme winter season and Russians are particularly enjoying the sun and the beaches in the Land of Smiles. With such a huge number of people from around the globe arriving in Thailand and to promote Songkran Festival to the tourists and travellers, TAT has been organising many programmes to cater to the needs of tourists, foreigners as well as the locals. The major draw to get tourists and locals to join together to indulge in the Songkran is the designated streets for water "fights" among locals, foreign and domestic tourists in certain parts of cities or towns in main provinces that received large number of foreign tourists such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Ayutthaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

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In Bangkok, the infamous designated areas are Silom and Khao San road and these activities during Songkran Festival is being very well received by tourists both foreign and domestic and also the locals. Of course, there are always some setbacks to the celebrations in particular when it is being promoted in such a gigantic way. Not everyone would like to have themselves being sprinkled, splashed or shot with water while walking or riding the bikes to the malls, doing errands or simply to travel from one place to the other. This is the time when people would get offended and may resulted into some kind of displeasures. However, I have not heard of such unfortunate incidents reported in the news or in any Thai dailies until today and hopefully, people would be more tolerant when it comes to this and everyone should restrain from offending any party. Another setbacks of Songkran Festival is that, in most towns within the provinces in Thailand, there would be massive traffic congestions problem due to many of the pick-up trucks travelling on the road carrying loads of people at the rear of the trucks with large water tanks ready to have "water war" with whoever they bumped into on the other many trucks with such "festive party goers" and those on the roadsides and in front of shops, homes and village. These pick-up trucks would stop along the way while splashing with water bucket, shooting with water guns and rubbing the faces of opponents with wet powder. Due to the large number of such pick-ups that travelled on the road during this period of Thai new year, these caused grave traffic concerns as these vehicles blocked the other motorists moving smoothly as a result of multiple stops by the pick-ups. Well, I am not against such way of festive celebrations by Thais but perhaps special lanes can be set up by the local authorities for such pick-ups to move on the road during Songkran Festival, so that these vehicles would not obstruct the traffic, which may caused dissatisfaction among the other motorists. While it may be fun and interesting to witnessed the people indulge in playing with waters, drinking, singing and dancing to the loud tunes and blasts of musics with big speakers, the traffic congestions all over towns may seemed to have caused one to be retiring to boredom and waste of time. There were even times, when such celebrations would also caused accidents when those party revellers were too drunk, being hit by moving vehicles as they move out to the roads while trying to stop other party revellers in other pick-ups, while some may fallen from the rear of the pick-ups due to recklessness, carelessness or being drunk. I have shared these concerns in my previous blog on Songkran but it seemed that measures were not being seriously taken by Thai authorities to resolve the problems.

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What I actually wanted to share here while travelling to Thailand for Songkran Festival is how actually the Thai new year is celebrated within a Thai family which is still very much sticking to the culture and tradition of Thai new year celebration. Travelling is not just about going from places to places, experiencing and exploring those places while you travel but travelling is also about tasting the local foods and beverage, experiencing the local cultures and try to speak some local words as well as mixing and socialising with the locals. All these combined would enrich one's travel experience. This Songkran, I travelled by road from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani and this allow me to see some of the interesting spots within the provinces passed by as I travelled. From Bangkok to Ubon by road, the provinces which would passed through would be Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Surin & Si Saket before reaching Ubon Ratchathani. Nakhon Ratchasima is known for the Khao Yai National Park which means big mountains in english & the Chock Chai Farm where you can get some fresh milk and other related products and not forgetting the great steaks and pork chops. This province is also well covered with nature blessings such as trees and mountains which are being much preserved. Over in Nakhon Ratchasima, there are some interesting establishments of eateries that served the Isaan food as well as western food ie the steaks and chops, which are quite good and worth the money spent. Such establishments can be seen set up within the boundary of the nice nature landscape surrounded by large trees, flowers and hills. While I travelled, I get to stop at one of the interesting food outlet set amidst the extensive landscapes of trees. What caught the most attention was the gigantic tree branch which is actually restrooms. The branch appeared to be so authentic that one would taught that it was really if not having it witnessed closely. Over here, you can sit down and relax while having food and drinks such as coffees or beers before proceeding to the next destination. Those who have such opportunity ie renting private car and travel to Isaan region should try to stop and spend some time to experience relaxing in such a close encounter with nature. The next stop in Buriram province was also another great experience where I get to try the Issan food which I longed for. In Isaan, one should not missed the sticky rice with grilled chicken (gai yaang), somtam (thai salad) and pad mi (fried noodles) similar to the pad thai. Here in Buriram, at one of the food outlet along the main road I get to taste all that at once. How lucky! Perhaps not everyone has the same taste but I would say, try the local food as you travel, whether you like it or otherwise, judge it after you had tasted it. As for me, any food would be fine. If I like it, I would eat more of it, else maybe a try or 2 would be enough. Over in Si Saket province, some exotic food that you can get to try are some eerie insects including worms and bees as well as baby snakes. I tried the worms and it tasted like egg yolk, not quite to my liking. Those who are not fear of indulging in such food, this is a heaven to get to sample some of the exotic servings. Another tasty and delicious food to my liking is the "nem neung", a kind of pork skewers served with a large portions of greens which include the lettuce & mint leaves, rice paper which is soaked into water to softened it (the pork skewers to be wrapped in it), chopped chillies, mix of small slices of fruits dipped in sweet sour sauce. So, how do you really eat this? First, place a piece of pork skewers on the softened rice paper, add in cut chillies & the mix of sliced fruits and wrapped them all together. Then placed all these on the lettuce, add in the mint leaves and have the lettuce wrapped the earlier wrapped rice paper . Dipped into the sweet and sour sauce and you are ready to enjoy the "nem neung", which is originated from Vietnam. As I had shared before, due to close proximity of Ubon to Vietnam via central of Laos through Savannakhet, there are wide communities of Vietnamese over this region of Thailand. Other Vietnamese influenced food available widely in Ubon include the deep fry spring rolls dip in sweet sauce and the bun cuon, minced pork wrapped in steam fermented rice batter.

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On the 1st day of Songkran, it was time to gather with an extended Thai families to usher in the new year, the Songkran. Monks are being invited to perform the Songkran rituals. There is a special area being designated for the monks to sit and perform the rituals while family members would sit or kneel down with both their hands pulled together and chant and pray as the head of monks perform the rituals. The monks would sit in a line facing the chief monk, who sits next to a golden Buddha statue altar. Those who wanted to seek blessings from the chief monk would sit or kneel in front of the chief monk while he chants mantra as part of the rituals. After the rituals ended, the monks would leave while all family members would gather in group in front of the senior who is the grandmother or "Yaai". Family members from each group of the siblings would then take turns to pour water soaked with flowers from a traditional thai water bucket on the hands of "yaai", which are clasped together while water being poured slowly all over the clasped hand of "yaai". Each of the family members within the group would then individually seek forgiveness from "yaai". This will go on until the whole group finished performed their turns. Food and drinks would also be served for lunch including steamed rice, sticky rice, massaman curry, larb moo (spicy & sour minced pork) and vegetable soup. After that, family members would mingle and share their stories after being away from each other for some time. Photography sessions and also singing songs were the favourites among them. Surely, not forgetting the most important part of Songkran festival is to get involve in playing and have fun with water indulgence. I have myself soaked wet in ice cold water, involve in water gun fights and water splashing with children and other people joining in the fun.

I found that such tourism package of homestay to celebrate traditional Songkran culture is still not being promoted by TAT, which I strongly believe would be beneficial to Thai families in particular those from the rural areas in provinces which received huge foreign tourists. Apart from bringing in the business and income to food vendors (food and drinks served for lunch or dinner during the celebration as explained above) in that areas, which included in the costs of the homestay package, this would also promote the understanding of the true and authentic celebration of Songkran.

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Posted by kidd27 10:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Kanchanaburi

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Kanchanaburi province in Thailand is a province not only rich in history but it is also a province blessed with great nature. Mentioned about Kanchanaburi, The Bridge of the River Kwai would comes into mind for those who already know or read about the history of this province which is about 2 hours drive from Bangkok. But Kanchanaburi has more than just the historic bridge to offer. The natural landscape here is also something that visitors or travellers could capitalised on when travelling to this province. Also, this province is famous for its jewellery products made mostly from rubies with varieties of earrings, bracelets, rings and necklace. Apart from that, many choices of souvenir items are also available at a one stop centre which is located near to the site of the Bridge of the River Kwai.

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The view of the natural hills from Monsane River Kwai Resort & Spa, Kanchanaburi

A day trip to Kanchanaburi province would never be sufficient to explore this place and it would be good to stay here for at least a night to catch more of what you could experience. The Monsane River Kwai Resort & Spa is located adjacent to the River Kwai that overlook the hills, which provide guests the privilege to enjoy the natural landscapes surrounding this resort. Over at this resort, there are some beach chairs provided courtesy of the resort's management over at the beach area created along the riverbank of River Kwai. The distinctive advantage of Monsane Resort would be the exclusivity of this holiday property which is not sandwiched between other guest houses, hotels or resorts. You could just rest and relax over at the beach area at the riverbank, enjoying drinks, sunbathing and take a good breath while experiencing the great surrounding natural landscapes around the resort.

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The view of River Kwai and the hills around the river from Monsane Resort

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River Kwai view from Monsane Resort

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The River Kwai @ Monsane Resort, Kanchanaburi

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Great natural landscapes at The River Kwai in Kanchanaburi

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The River Kwai @ Monsane Resort & Spa

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The beach area at The River Kwai @ Monsane Resort

Monsane River Kwai Resort also has spa facility for guests to indulge in. The spa facility is located at the adjoining building behind the resort that overlooks the River Kwai and the karst hills.

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The spa that overlooks River Kwai and hills @ Monsane Resort

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The spa facility at Monsane River Kwai Resort & Spa

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The reception of the spa @ Monsane River Kwai Resort & Spa

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The massage area at the spa facility @ Monsane River Kwai Resort

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One of the highlights when travelling to Kanchanaburi province is the Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland (JEATH) Museum which displayed on the many historic old photos of the life the prisoners of wars (pows) during the construction of the Bridge of the River Kwai, the equipments that were used during the construction of the bridge, old and inactive world war bombs and replica of old train.

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This way to JEATH War Museum

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Passing through Kanchanaburi city on the way to JEATH Museum

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The national flags of the countries which were involved in the construction of the Bridge of River Kwai in Kanchanaburi at the JEATH WAR MUSEUM

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War items displayed at JEATH War Museum

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Old and inactive world war bombs displayed at the JEATH War Museum

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Photos of the POWs involve in construction of the Bridge of River Kwai on display at the JEATH War Museum

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Replica of the old train during the era of world war displayed at the JEATH War Museum

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Items used during the world war on display at JEATH War Museum

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Old photo of the Bridge of River Kwai at the JEATH Museum

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Old photo on Japanese armies on display at JEATH War Museum

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Old photo on the POWs during the construction of The Bridge of River Kwai

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Photo of the classic train during world war at the JEATH War Museum

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Photo showing a train crossing the Bridge of the River Kwai displayed at JEATH War Museum

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A photo of the living condition of the POWs during the construction of the Bridge of River Kwai

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The rear of JEATH War Museum overlook the River Kwai

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This old large tree was found at the rear of the JEATH War Museum

The War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi province is also worth to take a brief visit. This cemetery was constructed in 1993 in memorial of those Dutch armies who lost their lives while fighting to protect their country during the world war.

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The War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi province

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The main entrance of the War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi

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War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi

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War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi

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War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi

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The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, which is sort of museum cum information and resource centre located adjacent to the War Cemetery. However, there is a fee that visitors need to pay to enter this centre. No pictures allowed inside.

The One Stop Centre which located at the Bridge of River Kwai vicinity offers visitors and travellers alike jewellery items made from varieties of rubies as well as souvenirs items also can be found over at this centre. Most visitors would include a tour to this centre since you would nee to passed through the centre because all the tour buses would park their vehicles at the centre's parking facility before dropping off their passengers.

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Jewellery items on display at the one stop centre @ The Bridge of River Kwai

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Jewellery items on display at the one stop centre @ The Bridge of River Kwai

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Jewellery items on display at the one stop centre @ The Bridge of River Kwai

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The railway track near the Bridge of River Kwai

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A large and spacious open area near the Bridge of River Kwai

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The railway track that runs through the Bridge of River Kwai

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A close view on the railway track that runs through the Bridge of River Kwai

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The Bridge of The River Kwai

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A boat cruising through the River Kwai. A view taken from the Bridge of River Kwai

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Restaurant along the River Kwai seen from the Bridge of River Kwai

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The Bridge of River Kwai

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A memorial plaque found at the the Bridge of River Kwai

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The Bridge of River Kwai

When in Kanchanaburi, you should also try out some of the local food in particular the fresh fish available at restaurant establishments in front of the pier where visitors board the ferry or boat for a River Kwai cruise.

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Fresh deeply fried garoupa fish at a restaurant in Kanchanaburi

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Fried anchovies and stir fry vegetables in Kanchanaburi

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View on the River Kwai from Bridge of River Kwai

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The lobby area of Monsane River Kwai Resort & Spa

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The beach area overlooking River Kwai and karst hills at Monsane Resort

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The beach area overlooking River Kwai and karst hills at Monsane Resort

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You can also play beach football here at Monsane Resort

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Natural landscape at Monsane Resort

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Even the bird get to you as close as it could. It is as natural at that over at the River Kwai

Posted by kidd27 07.10.2012 01:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Trang

rain 27 °C

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The next morning, I left Ang yee Guesthouse early in the early morning at 7.00am local time. The main door was still closed but unlocked, so I had to push the door open slowly so that it would not create loud noise which may disturbed the sleep of the other guests. As I walked away, I wondered would there be any motorbike taxi available at this early hour of the morning. I didn't noticed any of them as I walked, not even those who passed through the road nor those whom were waiting for thier customers by the stalls or makeshift tents, which can be found easily in most places in Thailand as a base for motorbike taxis. So, I went on to asked one of the restaurant owner over a row of shops on where should I board those motorbike taxi as I need to reach the Satun bus terminal as soon as possible to board the early bus at 8.15am. Just as I was asking him, a motorbike taxi just passed through on the opposite direction and he managed to stop the taximan on my behalf. I thanked him for his kindness and ran slowly acrossed the road to reach the motorbike taximan. I then asked if he would be able to send me to the bus terminal and he said yes with a fee of THB30. So, off we go from there. When I reached the terminal, it was still quiet with only handful of passengers waiting for their buses to depart. I have yet to get my ticket beforehand, so I need to get a bus ticket. When asked those at the ticket counters, I was told that the the ticket officer for the trip to Trang has yet to arrived. Those who were already start selling tickets were for the Satun-Bangkok trip. After about 20 minutes of waiting, the ticket officer arrived and there were only 3 customers right before me. The ticket to Trang from Satun is THB137, one way. I thought this was reasonable considering the trip that should take about 3 hours journey. Later, I found out that the bus final destination for this bus is Phuket instead of Trang.

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There were not many passengers who board the bus from Satun bus terminal, only about 5 passengers. But as the journey continues through to its destination, more passengers were picked up along the small towns in Satun Province. In fact, by the time towards the end of Satun province prior to reaching Trang province, the bus were already full with passengers. Such was the situation with the long journey bus in Thailand now that I learnt of it. When I travelled from Mukdahan to Bangkok, the bus too was not full at the Mukdahan bus terminal. But along the journey, it would stop very frequently to pick up passengers and would turned up full by the peak point. The journey to Satun to Trang was pleasantly smooth with good road condition, though there were some road construction works on-going at some parts of Satun. The bus reached Trang new bus terminal slightly less than 3 hours at about 10.50am local time. When I arrived, I could see that the Trang new bus terminal was much busier if compared to the Satun bus terminal. Due to its close proximity to Hatyai, a bustling commercial city in Songkhla province, this town received more travellers, both local and foreign alike, to travel out to some of the islands offshore Trang province as well as those island archipelago of Satun. Most would have bypassed Satun if their departing point is from Hatyai, as they will head straight to Trang to get to the island getaway. Due to this reason, 2 other piers in Satun, the Chebilang Pier and Thammalang Pier had been rather turned "ghostly" so to say though they are the nearer ports to islands such as Ko Khai, Ko Tarutao, Ko Buloan, Ko Lipe, Ko Adang and Ko Rawi. The other pier in Satun is the Pak Bara Pier, which is the most busy pier among the 3 piers in Satun to get to the island mentioned earlier.

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No problem to get to Trang city from this new bus terminal as there would be many options for travellers including the motorbike taxis. In fact, this mode of transport is the easiest way to travel for short distance journey if you are in Satun and Trang province. The fare should cost less than THB50. Arriving at Trang city, I checked into Sri Trang Hotel, which is one of the best guesthouse for backpackers due to its cleanliness, close proximity to the fresh market, night market as well as the train station. There were also many travel agents around the corner, while food is easily available within close distance. This hotel is unique as it is a 3 storey semi-wooden structure and has been around since 1952. It is an old building which makes this guesthouse unique and distinctive from other accomodation properties around town. The room rates are also fixed for specific rooms with or without aircond for all year round and all season, high and low. But of course when its high season, you would have issue with room bookings if you did not booked in advance. I was lucky when it comes to this issue as it is a low season during this time of the year. But, lucky as I may be, it could also be unlucky in other matters because the low season in Trang happens during the raining season. Let me share this little more a little later. I checked in straight after a brief chat with the receptionist who appear to be friendly and soft spoken. The room rate for a double bed with aircond is THB550 per night which is inexpensive for a backpacker where it comes with a spacious room size as well and attached bathroom. A little bit description of this property as a brief orientation. Sri Trang hotel has a spacious lobby with the reception counter right at the left hand of the main front door within the lobby section. Walk little bit further after the reception and the lobby, there is a staircase to the 1st floor on the right hand. At the back of the reception and lobby, there are 2 computers with internet service as well as a koi fish pond. Guests could access to internet for free or just relax around in the cosy atmosphere around this backyard area. The 1st floor consists primarily of guest rooms while the 2nd floor has a small book corner for guests to read some of the reading materials made available over the shelf. This floor also consists of guest rooms. The hotel is located 2 shops before the end of a row of 3 storey shophouses which sits on the edge of a T-junction. Just across the road towards the end of the T-junction is where the Trang Railway Station is located.

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After settling down, I went straight to check out on the Trang tours. Prior to this trip, I have checked on some of the available travel agents in Trang town and it appears that Trang Happy Trip & Tour was the only travel agent that has a simple website though not much of tour informations available apart from the 4 island tour. Basically, for those who travel to Trang, there are several tour options available which include the 4 island tour to Ko Hai a.k.a Ko Ngai, Ko Chuak, Ko Ma and Ko Mook. Ko Kradan which is infamous for the diving marriage vows would replaced Ko Ngai during the high season, which is the furthest island among the group of islands mentioned. Apart from the 4 island tours, the other options include to get to Ko Lanta or to experience the adventure through the Tham Le Khao Khob or Le Khao Khob Cave by cruising on a sampan manoeuvred by 2 man. Trang Happy Trip & Tour is located just next to Sri Trang Hotel and is owned by 2 Thai young ladies. I was interested with 2 tours, the Tham Le Khao Khob adventure as well as the 4 island tours. The costs for the Tham Le Khao Khob for private transport to the cave is between THB800-THB1,000 depending on negotiations while to rent the small sampan would be another THB300. The adventure was intense, interesting, terryfying, adventurous and dangerous. Such tour is really not advisable for those faint-hearted travellers. Before starting my journey to Tham Le Khao Khob, I try to explore the town and to look for Trang's speciality food of roast port. Quite lucky as with the advise from Jip, one of the owner of Trang Happy Trip & Tour, I was able to locate a coffeeshop that specialised in roast pork rice. Of course there are also other choices available including the barbeque pork, steam chicken as well as roast duck. But, roast port is a food you should not missed while in Trang. This southern province city also has its very own yearly Roast Pork Festival. It was raining heavily on the way to Tham Le Khao Khob from Trang town during the afternoon. As I reached the cave area, it was still raining heavily and could not get onto the sampan just as yet until and unless the rain stop. So, while waiting for the rain the stop, me and the Mr.Driver had some tea first at the nearby shop. Mr.Driver used to work as a taxi driver who waits for customers at hotels to ferry them to their intended destinations but business has been slow and he did not seemed to earn an ideal income, so he decided to work for travel agent as income would be much stable and much higher. He ended up working for Happy Trip & Tour after leaving his job as a taxi driver. Just as we finished our coffee, the rain has subsided and I was ready to get into the small sampan pier to board the sampan and get into the cave for an adventurous tour.

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After paying THB300 to the lady boss, 2 of her workers, whom will maneuovre the sampan will come along and you will get into the sampan as directed. One of them will be maneuovering the front part while the other the back part. Directions would be given by the one who maneuovre the back of the sampan as he is the person who could see what was ahead of the passengers. Take notice that entering and explore the cave is quite a danger and you need to be very alert to ensure that you would not get injured on any parts of your body while the sampan went through the cave. Most parts of the cave were very narrow and you will need to sleep straight, like a dead body on top of the sampan's flat seats. Before entering the cave, we would have to first cruise through a canal that leads to the cave. Once entering the cave mouth, you could still seat normally without have to lying down. As the sampan cruised through, you would see how amazingly different shapes and sizes of stalactites inside the cave. The sampan would stop at one point for you to get down and tour the cave area, which were light up in most parts of the accessible area. Over here, you would see several stalactites and stalagmites formations in which some have been turned or formed into praying areas complete with decorations of colourful garlands. For those whom are superstitious and believed in such practice, you could offer prayers on the stalagmites formations which had been designated for such "devotees". The man who maneuovre the back part of the sampan also doubled up as a guide while touring the cave and he would explain on what to pray or wish for at each locations of the stalagmite formations. As you tour the cave, you would be able to see on how amazingly the stalactites were formed, in different shapes and sizes including that which resemble fish and elephant. After the tour, the coming up adveture would be one that can be described as terrfying, dangerous, thrilling and scarry but interesting that one would have experience for a caving tour. As the sampan move on, the cave roofs became lower and the walls in between were narrower, making it difficult for the sampan to go through at some points. You would need to be very careful and lie down straight together with both arms and legs staying flat, lest you would easily get hurt by the stalactites which were just above your face. The man who maneuovre behind the sampan would help to give you warning on the dangers ahead as he could see what is ahead of passengers being the last man. At one point, the sampan was stucked in between the narrow walls and could not go through. Both men were struggling to push the sampan through to no avail. The man in front could be seen using his feet which was stepped hard on an opening of the cave roof and accumulating his energy in full to push the sampan through. The man at the rear of the sampan can be heard too accumulating his energy in full to push the sampan through. Now, I could feel for them on how hard the job could be for them and presumably they do not earn much from such kind of job. I wondered this was only for 1 single trip, how about few more trips ahead? As the sampan cruise through the cave, I felt relieved once I saw the light at the other end of the cave as it means we had safely reached the end of the cave tour. I thought it would not be too much to ask for to provide some tips to those 2 boatmen for the effort that they had put in to get the job done in such a pain manner.

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The next morning, my itinerary was the 4 island tour. The highlight of this tour is actually at Tham Marakot or Marakot Cave in Ko Mook, where you get to experience swimming through the sea water under a mountain, which look like a cave opening. Once you had swim through the underwater cave, you would reach the other end with the top of the mountain opening looking through the sky with the surrounding being a large circle of beach area. The other 3 islands are Ko Chuak, Ko Ma and Ko Ngai, which were for the usual snorkelling trips. To get to this 4 islands, we would first reached Pak Meng pier. Here, we would be gathered up to have our name recorded and which tour agent that we booked our tour with. There was a pantry area where the tour company provide free coffee, tea and cold plain water while waiting to depart by a 2 storey ferry. Pak Meng beach is surrounded by some karst mountains on its background and the beach was basically calm and quiet without much activities taking place. As the ferry cruised out from Pak Meng Pier, the weather seemed to be good but slightly cloudy at certain parts of the sea. As we reach Tham Marakot, the weather was still good but slightly cloudy. Nevertheless, the sea water condition was not permissable for us to enter the cave due to strong current. Though some of us were already down the water lining up in a straight line by catching on each others life jacket, we were so dissapointed that we did not make it to the other end of the cave as the water was too choppy to swim through. This was only the highlight of the 4 island tour but unfortunately, I did not get to experience the 2nd amazing adventure after Tham Le Khao Khob. As the tour come to and end at Ko Ngai for lunch, the ferry headed back to Pak Meng pier but just as it cruised home, the strom strucked with heavy rain. It was another dangerous and terrying experience though unexpectedly but the most disspointed part of this tour would be missing the Tham Marakot cave adventure. Hopefully, there would be another opportunity to experience this in coming future.

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Travelling in Trang, other than the above adventures, one should experience the food here which other than the roast pork include the "dim sum" as well as cakes and sweet puffs. To get some great taste, you can head to the Trang fresh market and look out for the roast pork sellers by their pushcarts. Here, you can get some fresh roast pork with quite reasonable price at THB400 per kg. Of course if you want smaller portions, you can get it as per how much you wanted to buy. The market is located not far from the train station, which is about 800 metres away by walking up from Sri Trang Hotel, passing through Khao Tom Pui Restaurant and turn left and you could see the market right in front. As for "dim sum" there were several good restaurants around town. I went to sample one at "raan kopee" simply means coffeeshop in thai whic serves dim sim at night. You can also order some seafood here as well as beer. The deep fried squid was good and the meat of the squid taste fresh while dim sum were also recommendable. This shop is situated near one of the contemporary mall of Seriban. Another good dim sum restaurant was Reun Thai, which is quite a large restaurant without aircond. The best part of this dim sum restaurant is that you need to placed your order at the dim sum counter at one section of the restaurant, tell the staff the number of your table, which was printed on the paper for you to clean the dining utensils and then wait for them to heat them up for you. I have not actually experience such practice before and here in Trang, this seemed to be the first.

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A city tour of about 9 places would cost about THB400. And if you have the time to kill, well its really worth to give it a go. In fact, there areactually some interesting places around the town to explore including the King Rama V Monument, the Trang City Hall Building, the clock tower, which is one of Trang landmarks, the other being the dugongs monument over at Tabtien Park, the Ratsadanuphradit Mahison Phakdi statue, which include a small park, Keu Ong Ya or 9 Emperor Temple, Wat Tantayapirom which has an amazing and a round multilevel chedi on its upper roof wall. Phra Photisat Kuanyim or Kuanyim Godess Temple, which has a large standing statue of the Kuanyin Godess at the compound of the temple. Also not to missed is the Ev Church which is one of the oldest church in Trang. However, the old church has a new building built just next to the old chapel. One of the largest park available in Trang is the SomdetPhrasrinakarin 95 Park which also include a large pond and a landmark walking bridge.

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Posted by kidd27 08.09.2012 21:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai & Lamphun

Beautiful temples and lots of shopping options

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My previous trip to Northern Thailand province was during Christmas holiday in 2010 and that was Chiang Rai. Looking back at that trip now, it was really one of the great year end holiday in particular because the weather was cool just right for Christmas atmosphere and Chiang Raihas many to offer to visitors and travellers be it nature, culture experience, sampling of northern thai food and some inexpensive shopping across the border town at Tachileik. You can sample tea at some of the good quality teas at various tea farms in Doi Mae Salong and of course purchase them for your own consumption or for family and friends, head to Mae FahLuang in Doi Tung to witness yourself the beautiful and colourful flowers blooming marvellously over the winter and cross over to Tachileik for a shopping trip or visit the hilltribes village. Well, this was how good it was during my previous trip to this northern most of Thailand province. Last year, I was at Chiang Mai, another northern province city of Thailand. However, sadly it did not rekindled the great memories that I had enjoyed during the last trip to Chiang Rai. The train journey from HuaLumphong Bangkok to Chiang Mai took about 14 hours on a 2nd class sleeper coach which cost slightly less than THB900 for a single journey. Overall, the train was comfortable and the sleeping area was clean and air condition was functioning well. Nevertheless, the toilet and clean up area as well as the services from train staff particularly the cleaner and cafeteria staff can be much improved. The train stewards were indeed much friendlier and helpful.

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The weather in Chiang Mai during the year end was not as cold as Chiang Rai, the city was jam packed with vehicles and infrastructures need much improvement and attention from the local authorities. One of the highlights of this trip was the annual floral festival known as the Royal Flora Festival of Ratchaphuek. After checking into the guesthouse of White Chalet located at Arak Road Soi 2, head to one of the oldest shopping mall in Chiang Mai city at Central KadSuanKeaw. This mall offers locals, visitors and travellers some contemporary shopping experience with various multinational food outlets such as Sizzlers, Starbucks, KFC and The Pizza Company. On the lower ground floor of this mall, there were some very inexpensive food corner offering local northern food of which one of the distinctive one is “khaosoi” similar to the curry noodles available in Singapore and Malaysia. But I would think that the thai version is much healthier as it adds in lots of other variety such as coriander, mint leaves, pickles, bean sprouts and chillies. The main items of khaosoi is the curly yellow noodles and 2 piece of small chicken drumsticks filled with milky curry. Depending on the cook who prepared the curry, some were much spicier while some milkier. I thought the best version of khaosoi would be the one at KadSuanKeaw food corner. Another noteworthy northern fare is the barbecue sausage which has blend of spicy, salty and sour taste which will really set your appetite tantalised. Apart from shopping and food, this is also where you can take a ride to the Floral Festival with a “rod deang” or red car which is a converted pick-up truck with 2 long benches at the rear of the truck which seats around 10 persons. Tickets can also be purchased from here which located at the open parking area of KadSuanKeaw known as 11C.

The Royal Flora Festival Ratchaphuek was actually not exactly an exhibition on flowers but to showcase the various display of creativity, art works, innovations, food and beverage sales and thai massage services. Various Thailand’s major private corporations, government agencies and also from various countries including ASEAN (Association of South East Asia) countries. Visitors are greeted with some colourful structures and beautiful and colourful flowers from the road leading to the entrance to the flora exhibition. Flowers were being utilised to create gigantic features such as a small boy, a robotic figure and butterfly at the concourse of the entrance to the exhibition. At the large concourse area also display multinational flags on a large and long brick pole with multi levelsmall stairs and a small structure similar to a thai traditional house on the side of the flag pole. The entrance fee cost THB200 per person which has increased from the previous THB100. As the exhibition area is large, visitors have the option to take a ride on the tram with small fee which has 2 cars and you can drop off on preferred locations and then ride again from the selected pick up points but remember to keep the tram tickets as proof of purchase of ride. There is also personal buggy for rent which costs THB600 per buggy and this is good as you get to stop wherever and whenever you want. The 1st stop was the Thai Danish Dairy Farm PCL which created a dairy farm like experience with display of some cows around its display centre that comes with the “mooing” sound effect. Also on display is a large milk box and a red roof top arch with stalls selling of course its range of milk products which was very eye catching. The next was the Rice Department, a government agency’s pavilion. This one displays the real rice field on its display centre, a small garden, exhibition hall on new theory of agriculture farming which is similar to a farm house and ornamental garden. After that was PTT, an oil and gas company which exhibit a nice, clean garden with beautiful display of flowers, a small rice field and a 3D exhibition centre which educate visitors on the benefit of recycling from various sources and how to be self-sustain.Another pavilion display that worth mention was the Land Development Department, yet another government agency. There was an abundance of several flower species on display which were very colourful, fresh, marvellous and exhibit the true objective of this flora festival though it lacks the creativity to create a better and exciting experience.

Laos exhibit its heritage, the Wat built from the wood with it beautifully crafted design on its roof to wall as well as its doors with 2 apsara crafted on each of the openings. There was a small Buddha sculpture on display as well as a TV set and buntings which read Visit Laos 2012. India display a Boddhi Tree at its pavilion and some structures resembling the World Heritage treasure, the TajMahal. Canada display some flowers, several pillars resembling the aboriginal figures as well as a water fall like fountain on the roof top. Nepal has an entrance arch which resembles its ancient temple located in UNESCO Heritage site such as Durbar Square. Thai Beverage PCL, the producer of Beer Chang was one of the grandest pavilion owner over at this Royal Flora Festival and was also a sponsor for this festival. All the beverage stalls at this festival were those from the Thai Beverage range of drink products. It charges fees for entrance to its pavilion which has a gigantic broken like tree main branch and “smoke” billowing from the broken branch which was created from sprinkle of water. Bhutan one of the most isolated country display structures that look like its Royal Family palace with garden, lake and bridge within its pavilion. Other pavilions include the Ground Water Department’s exhibiting on how underground water from hills were extracted. Its exhibition centre include a large replica of hills with houses and buildings scattered in the foot hills with streams and spring falls where water were being extracted for drinking purpose. While visitors walk along the steps of this hill replica, it leads to the lower ground of the centre where there was a real-like display on how the underground water was being extracted and treated to be channelled for household consumptions. Traditional houses from north and south of Thailand were also part of the exhibition in this Royal Flora Festival and which showcase on the real wooden houses which were beautiful with the blend of old time living atmosphere.You can also try out some northern thai food over here including the northern thai sausage known “saioua” which is slightly spicy, sour and salty. Its quite tasty and best eaten with stick rice. The grandest of allpavilion is of course the Grand Pavilion which is a replica of Thailand’s Grand Palace. This pavilion was built from the wood with walls and windows crafted beautifully in various thai designs and with fine finishing painted in gold colours. Inside the palace was a large royal symbol topped by a royal crown. The palace overlooks the boulevard which stretched to the main square of this flora festival at the entrance gate. Over at the square, it was brightly lit with colourful lights which blink to the tunes of musics played during the light and sound show atnight time.

After shower, it was time to explore the night bazaars. There were 3 main night bazaars namely the Warorot Night Bazaar, The Walking Street Night Bazaar which runs only on every Sunday night and the permanent night bazaar which runs throughout the year. First visit of night bazaar shopping was the Warorot Night Bazaar. This night market was indeed the Chinatown of Chiang Mai, similar to the one in Yaowarat in Bangkok but smaller in size. In the morning, this is one of the busiest area in Chiang Mai with locals and visitors/travellers seen moving around the market area to shop for fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, cooked food, daily necessities and shopping for all kinds of items for personal use as well as groceries. At night, Warorot was turned into a walking street bazaar where you can get things for your own use or for your loved ones and friends at budget price. Most of the visitors to this night market are locals. Chains of stalls were set up by the roadside in front of shop buidings over at night and you can walk and check out items which may suit your interests, mostly consumer items like dress, tshirts and souveniers. The fruit stalls which sell mostly oranges, apples, bananas, mandarin oranges and strawberry (its season in December) were also available during the night time and these are permanent stalls where there are also open during the daytime for wet market shoppers. Fruits sold here were in expensive. For 3 big oranges which weigh 1 kg, it costs only THB50 and there are fresh as well. There is a multi level building at Warorot market which closed during night time but stalls were set up at the five foots at the main entrance walkways of this indoor market. Over at daytime, you can get everything from this multi level indoor market from newspaper, fresh or cooked food, praying items, candies, toys, gold jewellery to varieties of packed teas, textiles and grocery items. This market is located very close to the nakhon ping river one of the landmark of Chiang Mai which also house some of the best pub and restaurant outlets such as The Riverside and Best View. Over at the Night Bazaar, this market actually caters to the taste and interests of “farang” or foreigner tourists and travellers. There were some posh accommodation establishments, wetern fast food chain including McDonalds and Starbucks as well as food bazaars which serve range of thai and international food. There were 2 sections of night bazaar stalls one located at the five foot walkways of shops and guesthouses while the other at the food bazaar area. Surprisingly, the crowd were rather less in quantity though it was during the year end holiday season. Many of the crowds were however seen over at the food bazaar instead. I don’t know whether this night bazaar has lost its lustre but if you want to enjoy some relaxation over some food and drinks after a tired day out of exploration, this can be one of the many places to chill out. The Sunday Walking Street is a very large nigh bazaars and you maybe at a lost on where to start and where to end your walking. A good point to start is in front of the WatPhra Singh main gate, one of the must visit temple in Chiang Mai. The market stretches from one end of Ratchadamnoen Road to the other end and from one end of Pinklao Road to other end. Ratchadamnoen and Pinklao Road crossed with each other making it a T junction. There were also several foot and body massage shops within the night market and it’s a good business because shoppers can get so tired walking through the big market and I observed the business were doing very well with most massage seats at all shops were mostly fully occupied. Its inexpensive where some charge THB120 for foot massage. The normal rate at a decent massage establishment would charge between THB180 to THB200.

As you walk along the night market you will also get to see some great wats such as WatChediLuang, WatPhantao and WatPhra Singh. Some of the massage services also operate within the wats’ premises. There were so many items you can buy here from cooked food, snacks, tshirts, souveniers, clothes, bags, decorative items and many more. You can shop here till you drop and prices are within one’s budget.
The next day itinerary was the DoiSuthep where the magnificent WatPhrathat is located. The journey to DoiSuthep can be a little unpleasant when you get up to the foot of the hill with the rod deang . So be prepared for any discomfort feelings if you did not pre-consume any medicine for dizziness. Depending on individuals, some feel alright while others may not. The fee is THB40 for one way for a ride on the rod deang and can be taken from the base of the road just before the journey up to DoiSuthep. Reaching the point where visitors would need to take a ride on a cable car, there were many roadside stalls selling food and drinks. The fees for the cable car up for 2 ways is THB20 and THB30 for entrance to WatPhrathat. At the premise of WatPhrathat, there was a concourse area in front of the entrance to the wat with 2 side entrance. In the middle of the entrance, sculptures of a head monk and fellow monks were placed inside a large altar. The 2 side entrance and the sole altar in the middle each have thai styled roofs with nice wall carvingsover at the top. As one enters inside the pagoda area, the large, tall and beautiful WatPhrathat is located in the middle of the premise surrounded by squared steel grill fence which block visitors from entering into the wat. Worshippers will walk around the squared fence with joss sticks, lotus flower and candle and praying quietly as they walk. Once completed, then the candle and joss sticks would be lighted up and placed on designated place. You can have photo taken by the professionals with a fee depending on the size preferred. WatPhrathatDoiSuthep in my opinion is the most grandwat found in Chiang Mai and can be sum up as one of the most marvellous wat found within Thailand. The gold coated pagoda was so shining that when taken against the sunlight, it can still be seen in the photo though the sky looked in pale dark blue in the photo taken on a very bright sunny day. Over at the rear of the WatPhrathat, visitors can walk around the open space which overlook nice and beautiful view of the hills and mountains around Chiang Mai. There were also lines of bells placed at this area. Descending from DoiSuthep, next stop was WatPhra Singh which is located right at the start of Ratchadamnoen Road, where the Walking Street night market is located. At the concourse of the wat, is a mid-size rounded square where a standing statue of a woman holding athai traditional umbrella and a water pot all in gold colour where worshippers would pray before proceeded to the main temple building. Inside the wat sits a large golden Buddha statue in the middle of the foremost end of the wat with several other smaller statues placed in front of it with small tables in various heights also seen placed there. There was also an altar on the lower level. All were in golden colours. Unlit yellow candles were place on candleholders which were place on the multiple tables. On the right side of the big Buddha statue was a huge glass decorative panel with mid-size Buddha statue sits inside. In the middle of the open area near to the altar in front of the Buddha statues, another set of Buddha statues were found placed facing the opposite direction with lines of other smaller Buddha statue were placed on a long 2 tiered table covered with white cloth. Hanging from strings tied to the ceilings are the many “tung” a kind of long and thin bunting like white cloth with gold colour side frames and the Chinese calendar’s 12 animals carvings from top to bottom, similar to the one found in Doi Tung in my Chiang Rai blog. The shorter tung consists of THB20 notes from worshippers and each tung from top to bottom can fill up to 5 notes.

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Within the wat premise is a white chedi where for those who wanted to further enhanced their wishes could donate small amount of notes to have a small size bottle like water container to be pulled up to the higher level of the chedi and to be spill over the chedi. From WatPhra Singh, walk further down along the Ratchadamnoen Road and noticed that there were quite a few massage and spa shops along this road, which was also turned into a walking street night bazaar every Sunday as mentioned previously. At the intersection of Ratchadamnoen Road is the Pinklao Road where another 2 notable wats, WatPhantao and WatChediLuang are located. WatPhantao was rather distinctive as all the wat’sstructure is made from wood and you can see there is no paintings on the wall of the wat as it is all in its natural wood form. The top of the main door and the top of the 2 windows in front of the wat have special extended carvings each. The top of the main door carvings looked like the thai royal symbol while the windows carvings looked like a combination of thai temple, thai silk and the orchid flower which is Thailand national flower. Inside the wat, there were many black colour pots where normally these are used by the monks when they are out to seek for food in their early morning walkabout. Inside the pot contains small coins like metal. At the end of the wat is the Buddha sculpture which is yellow in colour with 5 other smaller sculpture place in front of it. On the eve of new year, this temple was brightly lit up at its rear with candles and trees hung with lanterns while group of student monks chanting prayers. Those who wanted to make wishes could also hung their wishes here where a chedi like structure was set up for such purpose. On the side of the wat, there were many colourful tung hung out making the compound look bright and interesting. Moving on from WatPhantao is the WatChediLuang, another important temple in Chiang Mai and having one of the oldest chedi within Chiang Mai. The design of the wat is rather similar to WatPhra Singh, where the top of the entrance door of the wat with heavy carvings of flower like designs in gold colour. Inside the ubosot there was a long thick wooden bench located on the left side near the windows with notes in tungs hanging from the strings hung on the upper level just above the head. There were several large poles on the left side of the ubosot with flowery paintings on the poles in gold colour. Few lamps in yellow lights can be seen fixed to the ceiling of the ubosot. The main door was carved with a picture of an apsara and while one enters the ubosot, one will be greeted with a Buddha sculpture right at the front door of the ubosot. At the end of the ubosot, in the middle section, instead of the usual position, the Buddha sculpture was in standing position instead of seating position. There were several other smaller Buddha sculptures placed in front of the huge standing Buddha sculpture. At the rear of WatChediLuang is where the partly damaged old chedi was located. This chedi has a rectangle base which were built very high from the ground surrounded by 4 staircases on each side of the rectangle to get to the chedi main area. The summit of the chedi has been damaged by an earthquake in B.E. 2088.

The next morning, before checking out from White Chalet, visited WatChaimongkol which located on the river bank of Nakhon Ping river. Actually, there’s nothing much distinctive about this wat other than its location where there’s a pier at the front of the wat (the rear entrance is meant for non-water vehicles) where boat ride to the Chiang Mai city is possible from here. As one enters the wat, the 1stencounter will be the chedi instead of the ubosot or viharn. This chedi was smaller if compared with the few others in the old city area. The lower level of the chedi was white in colour while the upper level is gold in colour with carvings. The lower level was covered with yellow cloth while the middle level with pink cloth. There were 2 Buddha sculptures inside the ubosot on a back to back position. On the left and right side of the main Buddha sculpture were 2 royal umbrella placed on.

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Moving on from WatChaimongkol, next was yet another must visit WatJedyod. This wat is different from all other wats found in Thailand and from the structure of the wat, it can be observed that this was one of the oldest wat seen in Thailand. The viharn was not the usualwat building structure with triangle roof with carvings. It was in a rectangular shape with a flat top. It was built with piles of bricks that had looked centuries old withsubstantial number of Buddha carvings on the brick walls seen on them. Right at the front of the viharn is a very large tree resembling the Boddhi tree and for those who would want to extend their donations, they can write their names on white colour sticks made available for such purpose and to be placed on the branch of the big tree. At the front of the viharn is the altar of Buddha sculpture place on the inner part of the viharn. Worshippers can pray here by lighting up and placing candle sticks and also the lotus flower. On the flat top of the viharn were 7 peaks, in which how the wat got its name because 7 mean Jed in thai. The wat surroundings were covered with trees and 2 chedis were observed within the premise of the wat, one smaller and the other larger in size. At the rear of the viharn, there was an opening entrance where a golden Buddha statue was placed here. It looked very much like a cave inside here and distinctive from the other wats in Thailand. It was quite a small area but the height was quite tall. The Buddha statue was placed on an inner part of the wall inside this small hall and wrapped with a gold and yellowish clothe over the body.

After WatJedyod, it was then time to returned and checked out from White Chalet and head to Tanita House. Tanita House is a unique family-run guesthouse and consists of cluster of Lanna styled traditional wooden houses within the boundary of the guesthouse. The owner of this guesthouse stays within the cluster of these Lanna styled wooden house as well and they were several of them including the mother and her 2 daughters including one of them named KhunAor, who has been helpful and friendly. She is assisted by her elder sister and group of guesthouse workers. Tanita House is located on the Charoen Raj Road just behind Nakhon Ping River and within walking distance to Warorot Market. The family stay on the upper level of the largest wooden house among the guesthouse while on the ground level was separated into 2 areas, one as a pantry for guests to have breakfast with a fridge which keeps the milk, juices and drinking water and cabinet that keeps the glasses, cups, fork, spoons, knives, sugar, tea and a coffee blender as well as bread and butter. So breakfast basically is DIY while the KhunAor and her workers would prepare the bacon and scramble egg once you placed the order. There is a section for internet usage within the pantry. The other ground floor section is utilised as gallery for some woodwork furniture and accessories. Just right in front of the pantry is a small garden where guests can have a sit to chat or just to relax or read books.The room itself has been very interesting and spacious enough for 2 person on a queen size bed. All the structures of the house are made from wood. The cupboard for wardrobe is also made from wood. Outside the house is a small verandah with 2 chairs and a table where you can relax, chatting and have coffee, tea or beer. Inside, other than a comfortable wooden structure bed and the cupboard, there is also a long chair for one to lie on to read books or just to relax. The bathroom is spacious and without the standard long bath tub and has an open concept with a shower at one corner of the bathroom. On the side of the bed,there’s a wooden slide window which has a large glass panel covering the whole window’s area. You can slid the window open to let natural lights in and slid it close when you go to sleep. At the back of the bed are 2 wooden window openings with glass window frame attached to ensure that air will not get out from the house when air-condition is switched on. Nearby Tanita House is WatKetKaram, which is very beautiful as the viharn building is fully and massively crafted with various figures and designs. It has a huge chedi with yellow cloth wrapped around it on the lower level and a Lanna styled traditional house within its compound.Celebrating the new year in Chiang Mai turned out to be one of the most memorable and exciting experience. Over here, the new year revellers were huge as people from all over be it the locals, thais from other provinces, tourists, farangs and other travellers converged into the various countdown spot including the one at ThaPhae Gate to usher the brand new year and to bid farewell to the current year as it came to an end. One of the best spot to spend some good time prior to the countdown is the John’s Place located within the intersection of ThaPhae and LoiKhro Road. This is a 2 storey (only 1st& 3rd storey) bar & restaurant with the upper floor being the most exciting and great place to have some beers and light food while waiting the time to come. On the 3rd floor, this area is partially roofed where those who seated on the tables on the side of the floor will get to enjoy to watch the crowds as well as night scenes and some of Chiang Mai city’s skyscrapers. Guests can also watch football here played over a sizeable TV good enough to get a close watch of a game while enjoying food and drinks. The best during the new year eve celebration will be, patrons can get to see many of the flying lanterns moving in huge numbers up into the sky as time running up to midnight. Some revellers also light up fireworks to create even much more excitement to the celebration. The flying lanterns, depending on the sizes were sold at between THB30 to THB40 and you should never miss the opportunity to buy one, light it up and make a new year wish before releasing it up to the air hoping that your wish may come true in the new year.

Before the new year’s eve celebration, visited another unique wat named WatUmong. This wat is distinctive because of the the cave like viharn with the chedi located on the upper level of the flat top of the viharn. There were several entrances to get into the viharn, which also has tunnel passageways to get to each of the few altars located at several corners of the viharn. Each altar has a Buddha statue placed on it. Prior to entering the viharn, visitors will be greeted with a pillar by the name of Asoke, which was built in remembrance of King Asoke of India, whom was one of the greatest Buddhist believer whom has help to spread the faith across the world. The viharn itself has been amazing and look very much likesecret war tunnels. At some points, the ground is higher and there were steps to get to the higher level. At some points, visitors would need to bend their body as the ceiling of the viharn can be quite low in particular the altar area where the Buddha statue is placed. Moving on to the upper level of the viharn where the chedi is located, along the way, there were many small Buddha figurines and other character figures scattered on the floor. The chedi was in its original condition and not repainted. It is not too huge and the height not too tall. WatUmong is surrounded by trees and lush greeneries within its territory with a lake where visitors can buy some white bread at the entrance to the wat to feed the fishes. However, there were more pigeons seen around while fishes hardly surfaced.

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A short detour to Lamphun to take a brief look at the small town about 30km away from Chiang Mai city was next after a late night new year countdown. To get to Lamphun, you can take the mini bus service at the Warorot Market, where the bus stop is just near the Nakhon Ping riverbanks. It departs every 20 minutes. Lamphun is indeed a very small town with lesser vehicles while crowds is nowhere near Chiang Mai. The main attraction over here is WatHaripunchai. This wat is very similar to WatPhratat at DoiSuthep. The structure of the Chedi is large and with shiny bright gold colour painted over its wall. It is guarded with a square shape metal grills to prevent access to the Chedi. Worshippers are required to walk around the rectangular shape grills that guarded the chedi for 3 times while quietly whispered their wishes that hope to be fulfilled over the year. There were four altars around the chedi’s guard grills and worshippers should place the candles, joss sticks and the chrysanthemum flower on the altar where they 1st started joining the walk around of the wat. The viharn is of medium size and unlike the others, there was no large size Buddha statue inside the viharn but with 5 same size small Buddha structure placed inside the viharn with a sculpture of what could be that of King Athithayarat, one of the king that rule northern thai during the 17th or 18th centuries B.E. In front of the viharn is another smaller chedi, a thin and tall triangular shape structure with multiple level on the wall of the chedi, each level has 4 sides with 3 door like structure found on each side. There was a large bell covered by a large red colour arch located on the open space near the ubosot. On the entrance to the wat, a reclining Buddha can be seen inside the viharn. One particular interesting findings over at Lamphun is the special drinks where the cup is filled with black jelly, topped with broken ice, then filled with evaporated milk and finished up with topping of caramel. This made the drinks creamy, sweet and tasty.

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Well, after a good few days exploring Chiang Mai, its time to pack up and get home. The travelling over the couple of days had been tiring but the experience, adventures and excitement will last forever. The train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on a 1st class sleeper took yet another 14 hours journey but not complaints at all. The train was comfortable, with a comfy, spacious private room to oneself. The bed was good for 2 mid-size couple and can doubled up as a large seat near the aisle. There was also a small tv but not in function and a foldable sink for cleaning up and brushing teeth. It also has a very small rubbish bin located below the small tv area. There were 3 lights available for your convenience during night travel. For THB 1,980, you get what you pay for in which a low cost airline cannot afford you.

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Posted by kidd27 16.01.2012 01:58 Archived in Thailand Tagged buildings Comments (0)

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