A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kidd27

Luang Prabang in A Day

sunny

Travelling to Luang Prabang in northern Laos on the road from Ubon Ratchathani in north east of Thailand was quite an experience and I felt everything was moving very quickly in this journey. Though it took me 2 days to reached my intended destination-Luang Prabang, it never felt exhausted as the journey was rather smooth though at times, motion sickness set in due to the many sharp curves road condition as a result of the thick mountain valleys that the roads being built upon. At times the bumpy and bad road condition worsened the situation but in fact the road journey from Ubon Ratchathani to Luang Prabang can be rated overall as "not difficult" and comfort level was above average. The journey to Luang Prabang started with 9 am bus from Ubon and arriving at Khon Kaen at 2 pm. The journey then continued from Khon Kaen to Loei at 2 pm and arriving at Loei at about 7 pm. After a one night stay in Loei, the next morning, the journey then continued onwards to Luang Prabang through the Thai-Lao International Bus departing at 9 am passing through the Thai-Laos border of Ban Nakrasang Immigration Border Gate which was near Thali and Chiang Khan within Loei province while on Laos side, it was Namheung International Border Checkpoint in Sayabouly province. Crossing this Thai-Laos border was of less hassle and things was processed quickly and the queues were manageable. The journey took about 10 hours, reaching Luang Prabang at about 7 pm. From Naluang Bus Station, the tuk-tuk costs 30,000 kips for a shared ride to downtown of Luang Prabang. Since the sun has set down and I did not book a place, it took sometime to settled down. I was lucky as not too long after searching and through recommendation from the locals, I managed to get a room within a Lao traditional guest house settings. So everything was settled on the day I arrived at Luang Prabang and time to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

AN OLD SCHOOL BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN LUANG PRABANG
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CHECK OUT AND SHOP AT THE NIGHT MARKET
The night market at Luang Prabang offers a huge selection of goods and items suitable for all group of ages and you definitely will not want to miss a visit to this market. Other than items for personal use, souvenirs, accessories, kitchenwares, general items for daily use, clothings, decorative items and many more items on sale, there was also a designated food street within the night market and some other food vendors where a range of food selections available to choose from. When in Laos,my favourite food is always the french baguette with variety of fillings. It has a very close food culture with Vietnam's version of Banh Mi. The other favourite Lao food of mine include the sticky rice with "larb moo" which consist of minced pork with combination of sour, salty and spicy. It has a very strong and distinctive taste that will leave you wanted for more each time it was eaten with the sticky rice and can also include other meat variety. The night market is the best place to find inexpensive Lao food. Because the night market was located at Sisavangvong road which has many french colonial style architecture shop houses, there were also dozens of restaurants set-up within the shop houses dotted Sisavangvong road and within the night market area. Buying items from the night market especially those of handmade may do some help to those who produced it as these items were not easy to produced and most likely those who produced them came from poor background.

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EXPLORE THE TOWN AND ADMIRE THE FRENCH COLONIAL STYLE BUILDINGS & TRADITIONAL LAO HOUSES
The fact that Luang Prabang was awarded the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE was all about how well the building owners or investors, whatever you may called them, in their effort preserving these historic structures. There were massively huge number of old colonial style shop houses, homes,buildings and schools as well as traditional Lao homes dotted the road and streets within Luang Prabang town. Almost all these structures were intact and very well maintained. Some were being rebuilt, others were renovated, while there were also being refurbished and repainted as well as structures being enhanced and extended. All these efforts by the group of these invaluable historically old buildings' owners had paid handsomely not only to the owners but also to Luang Prabang town. Many of these building were turned into restaurants, cafes, guest house,hotels, convenience stores and antique shops making them one of the most interesting sights and great place for dining as well as good & comfortable place to stay. One of the classic example of interesting hospitality in a traditional Lao style of stay was the place I stayed which was a simple 2 storey semi wooden Lao style traditional house which has a lovely living hall with settings of wooden chairs and tables for relaxation over coffee and watch people pass by on a quiet street.

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VISIT SOME BEAUTIFUL WATS IN TOWN
Within the centre of Luang Prabang town there were quite a number of temples worth to spend some time to visit while strolling down the road and streets. One of the most publicised temple in Luang Prabang which appeared in many travel promotional items about Luang Prabang as well as travel magazines and books was Wat Xieng Thong. Wat Xieng Thong was built more than 450 years ago by King Say Setthathirath was located very close to the Mekong river. The main ubosot of Wat Xieng Thong was the most outstanding structure within the temple buildings with 2 level of multi-tiered roof, heavily decorated exterior and interior on the ubosot's wall structure with Lao influenced traditional design. Inside the ubosot, there was a main Golden Buddha statue in yellow robe on sitting position positioned on the middle of the ubosot's far end as well as a sacred monk statue on the edge of the ubosot. The rear wall of the ubosot structure has a unique bodhi tree drawings on the middle of the wall, with the background of the wall also crafted with remarkable traditional Lao style design. Another temple nearby Wat Xieng Thong was Wat Pak Khan Khammungkhun, which was a very small temple with the distinctive white paintings on its wall and a wooden structure roof. Opposite Wat Pak Khan was another distinctive colonial structure in dark yellow paint which was the Ministry of Information & Culture office Yet another temple adjacent to Wat Xieng Thong was Wat Sensoukharam. What captured my attention on Wat Sensoukharam was its similar architecture and design with that of Wat Xieng Thong. One of the significant feature of Wat Sensoukharam was the tall standing Golden Buddha structure placed in a sheltered structure similar to the Lao temple design with also significant traditional Lao decor.

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STROLL ALONG MEKONG RIVER & NAM KHAN RIVER
Luang Prabang was strategically located within the Mekong river enclave and this provide an interesting atmosphere walking along the river banks of Mekong river while exploring Luang Prabang town. There were remarkable numbers of colonial style buildings dotted along the Mekong river and a walking tour of Luang Prabang town in embracing and celebrating the significance of UNESCO award on World Heritage Site added yet another excitement to the entire exploration. You can in fact crossed over the Mekong river to the village on the opposite known as Ban Chomphet where you can explore the village natural environment, temples, biking through the nook and corner of the village and enjoy some great views. Boats could also be chartered to cruise along Mekong river enjoying the views and natural surroundings. While Mekong river was on one side of Luang Prabang town centre, Nam Khan river was located on the other side of the town, One of the things to do over at Nam Khan river is to crossed the unique bamboo bridge and explore the few villages and temples located across the river.

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HIKE UP MOUNT PHOUSI TO VISIT WAT PHOUSI & ENJOY THE VIEW OF LUANG PRABANG TOWN/A GLIMPSE ON NATIONAL MUSEUM
Mount Phousi was possibly the best spot to get the best bird eye view of the Luang Prabang town at the peak of the hill. To hike up Mount Phousi could also be a challenge due to the intensity of the heights of the hill and because it provides one the opportunity to have a stunning view of Luang Prabang, there indeed required some physical obstacles to reach the point of view. The highest point always provide the unrivalled view of any landscapes below it. The peak of Mount Phousi other than offers marvellous view of Luang Prabang town also housed the Wat Phousi. Wat Phousi consisted a small ubosot just below the outstanding golden stupa which formed the ultimate height of the Mount Phousi. At the base of Mount Phousi was a huge Boddhi Tree donated by Govenment of India in 1957.

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The Luang Prabang National Museum was formerly the Royal Palace during the reign of King Sisavang Vong. The palace was taken over by the Lao government in 1975 after the royal hierarchy no longer in place and was turned into a museum in 1995. The national museum was located just opposite from Mount Phousi with a temple, Wat Mai built within the national museum boundary. No photos were allowed inside the main museum building including the interior of Wat Mai.

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STAY AT ONE OF THE LAO TRADITIONAL HOUSE OR COLONIAL STYLE GUEST HOUSE
Because this was to get connected with Luang Prabang as this northern Laos town reason being in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site was all because of the well preservation of such historically invaluable structures. The guest house of which I enjoyed the Luang Prabang & Lao hospitality has strong Lao traditional home influence and the stay there added much to the olden days feel & atmosphere amidst a quiet neighbourhood. You can even hear the monks hitting the gong at the temple signalling the start of the morning alms round and the sounds of roosters crowing. There were also dozens of colonial style buildings turned into restaurants and cafes where enjoying early morning breakfast and coffee within these European designed shop houses or buildings can be very fascinating and captivating.

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BOOK A DAY TOUR TO KUANG SI WATERFALLS
A day tour to Kuang Si Waterfalls can be arranged with any tour agents around Luang Prabang town costing 40,000 kips on s shared minibus. The entrance fee to the waterfall costs another 20,ooo kip. Kuang Si Waterfall located less than an hour drive from Luang Prabang town and shall never be a missed itinerary when visiting Luang Prabang. The clear water with combination of perhaps 3D like colour of blue and emerald emitting from the pool of water within the waterfall enclave creating such an amazing and extremely beautiful water landscape like never seen anywhere else before. The lush, clean and cool air within the background of the waterfall park yet brought in more serenity and tranquillity to the whole experience. You can bring along the swimming gears to swim where the drivers allowed for 2 and a half hours time limit to spent at the waterfall park. Once entering Kuang Si Waterfall, there was a section which bears saved from the jungle from illegal wildlife hunters being kept in an enclosure.There was even a cage where you can try to get in and feel yourself on the sufferings of being captured or confined in such a structure of which bears hunted by illegal acts suffered such treatments. Apart from swimming and enjoying the marvellous waterfall view and its natural settings,you can also hike up the mountains of which it formed the Kuang Si Waterfall. There was a mineral water cave at the peak of the mountain at Kuang Si Waterfall. A handful of curious visitors eager to checkout the existence of the cave including myself decided to hike up to the peak which too at least an hour to reached but many were seen abandoning the plan because the cave could not be sighted even deep into the jungles at the peak of the mountain.I continued my journey even when there were no longer any people seen dare to go beyond. But disappointment set in because the cave couldn't be located and the day has started to get dark. So I was left with no choice but to turned back and descended the mountain and luckily I was able to reach the base of the mountain before the minibus left for Luang Prabang.

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Posted by kidd27 20:45 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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

rain 32 °C

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 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 21:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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