Land of a Thousand Smiles
16.05.2015 - 01.06.2015 33 °C
Saturday (16/5/2015) My flight to Bangkok departed from Brunei airport at 6.15pm and the flight was not full so I managed to enjoy having the whole row to myself. The flight took 2 hours 30 minutes to land in Bangkok airport which was big and busy as passengers from different flights arrived at the same time. Fortunately, it didn't take long to clear the immigration and get my luggage so I headed out to the arrival hall. It took quite a while to find Thee as there were three different exits but eventually we found each other. We took a taxi to Prom Ratchada Residence and Spa so that I can check in and put my luggage. Then we head out by foot to the Train Night Market Ratchada where we tried some sweet dessert and fruit juice before going around to see what they were seling. I bought a hat for 200 baht because we will be outside most of the time and I do not want to get tan again like when I was in Bali. After that, we took a subway to Pha Ram 9 where we had some food (supper for me and dinner for Thee) where we had som tam, fried rice and honey glazed chicken with sticky rice. Since we were going to get our rented car early tomorrow morning, we took a taxi where Thee dropped me off first to my hotel before going back home.
Sunday (17/5/2015) After sleeping for less than 4 hours, I woke up at 6am to get ready for breakfast and packed all my stuff since we will be heading to Samut Prakan Province to see Muang Boran, The Ancient City. Thee came and pick me up before 8am and we headed to Ezyrentacar to get our Honda Jazz. By 8.30am, we were ready to start our trip and drove for 1 hour before arriving to Muang Boran. The entrance ticket was not cheap for foreigners but fortunately it's worth the price as there were altogether 210 temples, stupas, palace, pavilion, garden and statues which were either removed from the real site, replicated from the original or created by Khun Lek on a vast area of land. We were fortunate that we decided to drive the car inside rather than walking by foot as it would take almost a day just to see all the buildings. We stopped to take photos of important structures while driving by the not so interesting ones and it took us 4 hours to cover the whole park. Then we drove 1 hour to Nong Mon market to have our late lunch and check out the snacks they were selling. Most of the things sold were sweet snacks, dried shrimps, cuttlefish and glutinous rice in bamboo. I only bought durian crackers (which have the strong durian smell and I should have bought more as it wasn't sold anywhere else) as well as peanut and durian toffees which was not expensive to give away to my friends.
I hour later, we reached to Pattaya and checked into Basaya hotel first before going to the top of Pratumnak Hill to see the view of the curved bay of Pattaya. There were also a lot of people praying to the statue of Prince Jumborn, the father of the Royal Thai Navy as a lot of prayers have been answered through him. After coming down from the hill, we checked out the Walking street which is just 2 rows of pubs, eateries, some small shops and massage palours. We had Turkish ice cream and I chose mango flavor. It's different from the mango ice creams I had before as it wasn't too sweet but it's pretty sticky. Then we had steamed chicken rice for dinner which is not bad though the rice is just plain rice and they do not have soy sauce so I had to eat it with fish sauce. After dinner, we walked to the main street to find some souvenirs and we came across a souvenir shop selling wines made from fruits which is locally produced. I bought a bottle of Thai mulberry wine for only 99 baht and managed to find a few magnet souvenirs though it was not enough yet. After walking quite a distance we decided it's enough for the night and headed back to the hotel.
Monday (18/5/2015) Today we checked out of the hotel at 8am and then had breakfast at a local restaurant before heading to the Sanctuary of Truth which is 15 minutes drive from Pattaya. When we reached there, we could see the wooden carved roof and I didn't realize that it was just next to the seashore of Rachvate cape. The carvings were magnificent and very detailed. We went for the elephant ride first around the building which was interesting but I wouldn't go riding on one in the jungle. Then we had a tour guide who told us how each piece of the teakwood were carved and joined together without nails to form the 100m high and 100m long wooden structure of the Santuary of Truth as well as the story behind the 4 halls. It was a 45 minute informative tour and the design of the carvings incorporate Chinese, Cambodian, Thai and Indian elements. By the time we finished taking photos of this building, it was already 12.30pm and It was hot under the sun so we stopped by to have lunch first before heading to Nong Nooch tropical botanical garden. However, instead of going straight there, we decided to stop by a vineyard called Silverlake. We went to the shop to see if they sell wine which they did with other grape products. The wines were expensive but the other grape products were reasonably priced. I ended buying 12 packets of cookies with grape filling which is unique but I should have bought more to give away as the butter cookies smelt so delicious when you just open the packet.
Then we drove about 1 hour to Nong Nooch tropical botanical garden where there were a lot of buses with Chinese tourists. This botanical garden is split into 9 divisions; French, European, Stonehenge, cactus and succulent, variegated plants, Ant Tower, Butterfly Hill, Orchid and Bromeliad Display Garden and the Flower valley. There is also a car garden were they have various types of luxury car on display. By the time we were done with Nong Nooch, it was already after 5pm and because of traffic jam, we arrived at Chantaburi at 8.30pm even though it is only supposed to be a 2 hour drive. Ratchan hotel is fairly new and the room is not bad. We were supposed to check out JJ night market which is just next to the hotel but they were closing at 9.30pm so we didn't bother to check it out. I don't think we miss anything not seeing it because it looks like a typical Singaporean food court and stalls selling clothes like pasar malam in Brunei. Since it was late and Thee didn't want to drive far, we had dinner at the end of the hotel block. I had green curry chicken with salted egg which was not bad and not spicy.
Tuesday (19/5/2015) Today we went to see the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Chantaburi which was only 15 minutes drive from our hotel at 6.15am since Thee said that the church is only open to visitors from 6-7am and 7-8pm only. When we arrived there, a church service was going on and rather than just sitting down and waiting for the service to be over, we checked out the market across the road where they sell cooked food, snacks and meat. After going around the market, we went back to the church and fortunately, the service had just ended. According to Thee, this church is in the form of Gothic style like the Notre Dame in France but when I looked inside, it is not really like Gothic style. There was only the statue of Saint Mary and Jesus and the ceiling is made of wood. The important feature of this church is the statue of Virgin Mary covered with gold, gemstones and enamel which is a gift from the Chanthaburi Christian gems dealers and goldsmiths community. Her blue cloak is composed of several thousand blue sapphires originating from Thailand (Chanthaburi and Kanchanaburi), her white dress is made of hundreds of white sapphires from Sri Lanka and her clothes are also decorated with several rubies from Thailand, gold and green enamels. The statue is standing on a green globe where the oceans are made of mosaic of blue sapphires from Thailand while the land masses are made of hundreds of yellow and orange sapphires from Songea (Tanzania) and few yellow and orange sapphires from Chanthaburi.
After that, we head back to the hotel just in time for breakfast where I had continental style breakfast and tried the fish porridge which is not bad. After checking out, we headed to Suan Lamai orchard farm where there is a fruit buffet. We first got on the tram car to go to the first stop where they had rambutan, salak and mangosteen for us to eat. Then we walked towards the fruit trees and tried to see if there were any ripe fruits to be plucked before heading to the second pit stop where there is a big hut with tables and chairs like in a restaurant . The only difference is that instead of serving food, it was a buffet of fruits. Most of the fruits are available in Brunei except their salak looks different. After trying all the fruits and also the sticky mango rice, we decided to move on as the drive to Ayutthaya takes more than 3 hours to reach. On arriving to Ayutthaya, we went to see Wat Na Phra Men which occupied a prominent place in front of the Royal Palace during the Suphannaphum/Suphanburi dynasty. The most important Buddha image in the ordination hall was named Phra Buddha Nimitr Vichit Maramoli Sisanpeth Boromtrailokanat which sits in a Subduing Mara posture. What's unique about this statue is that its attire is the royal dress complete with crown, earrings, necklace, chest and arm ornament. Next, we went to see the largest golden Buddha statue in Asia which is found inside Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit before walking to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which is just next to it. Then we went to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, a Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya historical park located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple's name literally means the Temple of long reign and glorious era and it was designed in Khmer style. A lot the Buddha statues were headless as people have stolen them to be sold off. Then we checked into the hotel I have booked and rested for a while before going to Hua Raw night market. Haw raw market is smaller than I expected with food stalls and we decided to have dinner in the open air which was cool and windy but unfortunately halfway through our dinner, it started to rain so Thee decided that we leave (our food not even half eaten yet as the rain got heavier) and went to a proper restaurant just in case it rain again. Thee ordered again and after eating, we talked until it was close to midnight before heading back to the hotel.
Wednesday (20/5/2015) Today, we left Ayutthaya at 9am since it's going to be a 9 hour drive to Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped by twice to rest and bought some snacks before continuing our journey to Chiang Mai. We finally reached Chiang Mai around 4.30pm and checked into Royal Peninsula hotel which is not bad. In the evening, we went to see the night bazaar which sells a lot of Thai souvenirs and trinklets. I managed to buy a few wooden magnets and key hanger souvenirs which was pretty cute. Thee wanted to look for the specialty dish and we took a tuk tuk to go to that particular stall but the stall owner told Thee that they only start selling that dish at 10pm since it's called the midnight chicken. So we went back to the night bazaar area again and look for a local Thai restaurant to eat. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel as it was getting late already.
Thursday (21/5/2015) Today was a fine day so we decided to go to Doi Suthep, one of the mountain in west Chiang Mai to check out the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, located at a height of 1,060m. There were a lot of stalls selling food, fruits and local products around the car park and there are 2 ways of reaching to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep; climb up 309 steps from the temple's base or take a tram if you're a lazy person. Thee opt for the tram since he's a lazy person to walk so we took the tram which we couldn't see anything outside since the tram is inside an enclosed area. When we reached to the top, there were a lot of tourists, praying and wanted to be blessed by the monk. The highlight of this temple is the golden mount which reflects brightly under the hot sun. We also took a look at the view of the whole of Chiang Mai city which is nice. We then drove further up the mountain a few minutes to Bhubing Palace which is the Royal residence of the Thai Royal family. The climate is such a drastic change from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep as it was very cool at the palace area. Due to the cold weather, roses and cold climate flowers could be grown there. I would love to stay in a cool climate place like this area.
After visiting the Bhubing palace, we drove up the mountain again to go to Doi Pui Hmong hill tribe village which was more modern than I expected. We went and checked out the village, stalls and museum and I bought some some nice shawls, bags and postcards. Since it started to rain heavily, we managed to reach to a simple cafe called Hmong Doi Pui Family Coffee where they were selling Hmong grown Arabica coffee and homemade biscuits. I tried the peaberry coffee since it has no caffeine at all and is labelled as the best of the best coffee as well as toast with butter, sugar and condense milk (not something I would normally eat often but it taste good with bitter coffee) while we waited for the rain stop. When the rain had stopped, we went to see the strawberry farm which had a lot of ripe strawberries but unfortunately, they had started to rot. When we reached to the car, it started to drizzle again, so instead of checking out another Hmong village, we headed back down to Chiang Mai city and since we couldn't do anything, we ate cake in a coffee shop since my tummy was feeling acidic from the strong coffeee. For dinner, we went to a restaurant recommended by Thee's friend which was out of location and there wasn't any other customers except for us. We sat on the floor like in Japanese restaurant and there was a cultural show which we weren't so interested in watching since we were hungry. After dinner, we just went back to the hotel.
Friday (22/5/2015) Today was a cloudy day and we visited Silver Temple first. It was a good thing that we visited Doi Suthep yesterday or else we couldn't do or see anything. By the time we got to Silver Temple (Wat Srisuphan), it had rained but only for a short while. The main ordination hall (ubosot) which is made of alloy and zinc with precious silver being reserved for the holy images was designed by the local silversmiths. We did not spend a long time at the Silver Temple as they do not allow women to go into the ordination hall. Then we went to the Royal Park Rajapruek which Is very nice garden park. The landscapes were beautifully designed with flowers and they have an Orchid Pavilion which shows various types of orchids found in Thailand. However, it started to rain heavily halfway before we reached to the Royal Pavilion (Ho Kham Luang) which is built according to the traditional Lanna architecture. Since I didn't want to spend 600 baht on renting a golf cart whereas Thee doesn't want to use the open sided bus which only cost 20 baht per person, in the end, I said that's enough of the park and we better head to a shopping mall instead since we can't do anything outdoors. So we ended watching a funny Thai movie after lunch and then I did some shopping for contact lens, clothes and Chiang Mai's version of vodka. We had dinner in a restaurant before going back to hotel.
Saturday (23/5/2015) Today, we left for Chiang Rai at 9am. We arrived at Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) at 10.30am and even at that time, there were a lot of tourists already. This temple is owned by a Thai artist from Chiang Rai, Chalermchai Kositpipat and his intention of building this temple is so that it will be a center of learning and meditation for the Buddhist teaching and consider it to be an offering to Lord Buddha as he believes that this project will give him immortal life. I have to say that I am impressed by the white structure of the ubosot with all the fine details. The restrooms building is also pretty impressive as it is the only golden building in the compound. There were a lot of souvenir shops also and I tried the coconut ice cream which is alright since I'm not a big fan of coconut. At 1pm the gate to go into the ubosot was open to the public so I followed the crowd to see what is inside the ubosot where photography is prohibited. There is a Buddha statue whereas the murals are painted with swirling orange flames, demon faces, Hello Kitty, western idols such as Michael Jackson, Harry Potter and Freddy Kruger as well as nuclear warfare and terrorist attacks. We left Wat Rong Khun at 1.30pm and stopped by Singha park because Thee said there's a barley field but unfortunately they don't plant barley anymore. Since I have seen numerous tea plantations in China, we headed onwards to find the Kahurkae resort we were going to stay before going for late lunch cum dinner. Since Thee did not even sleep the night before after staying up all night with his friend, he slept the whole night until the next day while I watched tv.
Sunday (24/5/2015) After having a simple breakfast, we checked out of the resort and drove 15 minutes to the Black House (Baan Dam) which was also created by a Chiang Rai artist, Thawan Duchanee who is a friend of Chalermchai Kositpipat. The buildings are all Lanna-style vihara of charcoal black wood with a steeply pitched, multi-tiered roof. I am not impressed with the Black House as I am with Wat Rong Khun and I do find it a bit eeire as the artist makes a long dark wooden table with chairs made of buffalo horns, animal skins hanging from beams and there are many animal skulls and bones. We didn't spend a long time there so we continued our journey to the Golden Triangle area which is an hour drive. When we arrived at the Golden Triangle area, Thee took me to the small Hall of opium which was targeted for tourists as they were hoping that the tourists would also buy souvenirs on the way out whereas I prefer the real Hall of Opium which shows videos of the history of opium in Thailand. Then we just saw the golden triangle sign but couldn't see the islands clearly. After lunch, we took a boat to see the point at which Myanmar, Laos and Thailand all meet together at Ruak river before heading to Done Sao, a special economic zone of Laos which sells a lot of fake bags, souvenirs and snake whiskey. I bought the smallest bottle of snake wine just to taste, some Laos souvenir, Golden Triangle map t-shirts and Laos whiskey. We spent a whole half hour at Done Sao before heading back to Thailand border and headed to Ban Naam resort which is near to the mountains and has 2 artificial lakes in front of each row of chalets which makes the scenery very nice. Then we went to the Mae Sai (Thailand) / Tachileik (Shan State of Myanmar) border and had our early dinner while watching people crossing to Myanmar by foot. We then checked out the markets and roadside stalls along the road and this time, I bought the Mae Sai/Myanmar border t-shirts. Then we headed back to the resort to rest as we will be travelling up to the mountain tomorrow.
Monday (25/5/2015) Today after breakfast, we headed to Choui Fong tea farm which is a tea plantation found at an altitude of 500m to 1,200m above sea level. This tea farm is famous as it has won the Oolong Tea gold prize from the World Green Tea Association in Japan in 2009. They have a cafe which sells cakes and drinks made of tea. I tried green tea frappuccino, green tea cream cake and the Thai tea cake. To drink cold green tea frappuccino on a hot day is so refreshing. We enjoyed the scenery of the tea plantation for a while before I went to check their souvenir shop and bought 2 packets of green tea powder which I can use for my baking. Then we continued our journey to Doi Mae Salong, located on the northern part of Chiang Rai and this mountain is part of the Daen Lao Range. Although the mountain is high, it is not as cool as in Doi Suthep. We drove more than 1 before we reached to Santikhiri village which is the settlement of Yunnan Chinese who came with the 93rd Infantry of Kuomintang led by General Tuan Si Woen in 1961 until we saw the temple, Phra Borommathat Chedi Si Nakharin. From this temple, one can see the Santikhiri village slightly below where they are built on ridge of the highest peak of the Doi Mae Salong range of mountains, at an elevation of 1,800m above sea level. I would love to check out the other parts of this mountain but since Thee was not happy about driving so far just to look at mountains and since he wanted to check out the second Friendship bridge, we went with his idea but found that there weren't any cars using this border and it doesn't look anywhere like going near to Myanmar at all. What a waste of time so, we had lunch and then head back to Kahurkae resort where we stayed before when we came to Chiang Rai on the first day. I used the rest of the evening to pack up all the stuffs that I've bought along the way since we will be heading back to Bangkok tomorrow.
Tuesday (26/5/2015) Today after breakfast, we headed back to Bangkok at 9am. Since it was a long drive back, we just stopped for coffee at 11.30am and then had lunch at one of the shopping centre before driving for another 3 hours. After having another toilet break, we drove another 3 hours before stopping for dinner in Ayutthaya and then drove more than 1 hour before arriving in Bangkok. By the time we reached back to Prom Ratchada Residence and Spa, it was already almost 10pm and both of us were already tired, so we said goodbye since I will be going around Bangkok on my own as Thee does not have any patience at all and can't stand the hot weather.
Wednesday (27/5/2015) My first plan today was to check out the cool Terminal 21. It wasn't difficult to find this shopping mall as all you need is the mrt and BTS skytrain map to go around. Terminal 21 has a pretty cool concept of the airport. When you enter the shopping mall, there is a security check scanner like at the airport with a man dressed in uniform to make you feel like as if you're in an airport for security check. It has 6 levels with different concepts. I checked out each floor and the things they were selling. After having lunch there, I decided to move to another shopping mall and by then, it was about 3pm. I went to Central World Plaza first just to check out a few stores before deciding to go to Platinum Fashion Mall. Since I didn't check out the location of Platinum Fashion Mall at first, I headed towards Siam Paragon instead. Rather than going straight towards MBK, I decided to leave it for tomorrow and turned back to go to Platinum Fashion Mall. There were a lot of people in this mall as there are so many small stalls selling clothes, shoes, bags as well as cosmetics and the place is huge that you can go around the same place on each floor more than 2 times. I did not managed to check out all the stalls since there are 2 blocks so I will continue again tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. However, I bought 2 pairs of winter boots, 2 dresses, 1 blazer and 1 blouse. There are some nice pants but since there is no testing allowed, it is risky to buy them and then find out that you can't fit into them properly at all. For dinner, I went to Big C and checked out the eateries in that mall. I also managed to buy a blouse and a cheongsam which suits me pretty well while I was there before going back to the hotel.
Thursday (28/5/2015) Today, I went to check out MBK which is also a big shopping mall. However, the clothes sold there were mostly t-shirts and pants which didn't catch my attention but I did managed to buy some more souvenirs and a box of chopsticks made of rosewood. It is so easy to get lost in MBK as I found out that I went to the same place twice on each floor and also it is linked to another building which is also full of small stalls which sells clothes, bags, cosmetics, electronics, mobiles, shoes, etc. After checking each level and walking around for a few hours, I was glad that I could sit down at Pizza Hut to have lunch for quite a while before I decided to go back to the hotel, to drop the stuff and then head back out again to Central Plaza Rama 9. By the time I got there, it was dinner time so I decided to try the Korean cuisine where the price is not much different from Brunei but Korean restaurants in Brunei provided more banchan than Thai Korean restaurants but the bimbibap was still nice. Since it was getting late, I decided to head back to the hotel and start to pack bit by bit to see if my luggage will exceed the weight limit given by the airline.
Friday (29/5/2015) Today, I headed to Central World Plaza to watch San Andrea. I took the 1.30pm show and it was very interesting from the start until the end of the movie. After checking out all the levels of this mall, I headed over to Platinum Fashion Mall again. This time, I bought another blazer (white this time) and 2 blouses. For dinner, I tried the Japanese salmon bento as well as California maki at Yayoi in Big C which was nice but I shouldn't have ordered the California maki since the salmon bento was very filling.
Saturday (30/5/2015) Today's the day I've been waiting for to go to Chatuchak Weekend Market (also known as JJ Market), the world's largest weekend market, consisting of 15,000 stalls selling everything from antiques, crafts, flowers, souvenirs, animals, food, drinks and decorations. Even though there were a lot of people but still it wasn't too crowded and the weather wasn't too hot to be out in the open though there wasn't much wind. I checked out each zone as well as looking out for the animal section as my friend was asking me to take photos of all the macaws which was interesting though I couldn't buy much since my luggage is almost to the weight limit already. However, I found a stall selling magnets of different place of attractions in Thailand and another stall selling jasmine and rose flower garlands made of soap which was very nice. I also tried the strawberry yoghurt drink which was very refreshing and not too sweet. After going through all the different zones and not being able to find the animal zone, I decided to take a break and have lunch at one of the restaurant and asked the waitress where exactly is the animal zone. Apparently, there is another zone slightly out of the Chatuchak main zone which I haven't explored and that was where I headed to after lunch. True enough, there were animal sections where there were a lot of cute big eyed puppies, huge husky dogs, rabbits, kittens fish, macaws and sugar gliders which a lot of shop owners do not allow people to take photos of the animals they sell. They're so cute especially the sugar gliders. After being at the market for 6 hours, I headed to check out JJ Shopping Mall which is just next to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. There were small shops selling some clothes and bags but a lot of them mainly concentrate on foot massage which I do not want to go for anymore after my last painful experience in Shanghai unless I really have no choice at all and my feet are aching so much that I can't walk without any pain. However, I took the opportunity to relax at Cafe Kaldi and ordered their signature mango kanten parfait but unfortunately, they ran out of stock so I had mixed parfait instead which was yummy. Since there wasn't anything much to see at JJ Mall, I then headed to the Union Mall which is only 2 stops from the Chatuchak station which is also another huge shopping mall that is 8 storey high. There was a lots of stalls selling clothes, mobiles, accessories, bags, shoes and decorations which are not too expensive. After buying some stuffs, I headed back to the hotel to rest as it has been a long walking day so it was just nice to relax in bed.
Sunday (31/5/2015) Today is my last day in Bangkok and since I've already checked out the popular shopping malls in Bangkok, I went out to Chit Lom area and went to Central World Plaza to have lunch first. After checking out if there was anymore interesting movies being released which there wasn't, I headed towards MBK direction and stopped by the shopping malls around it first before going to MBK. Since it was a really hot day today compared to those days I've been so far, I came across an interesting stall in MBK selling shaved ice so I ordered mango kori with mango syrup and mango as the topping because I just love mangoes especially those sweet ones which are hard to find in Brunei. It was really nice and refreshing with that sweet taste when you feel so hot! After checking out all the stalls again in MBK just in case I missed them the first time I was there, i headed towards Palladium World Shopping Mall which is near to the Platinum Fashion mall. The stalls also sell clothes, bags, shoes, accessories, decorations which are slightly cheaper than Platinum Fashion mall but there weren't a lot of people there shopping which is probably because they do not know that this mall also sell clothes at a cheaper price. After having an early dinner, I went back to the hotel to do my packing since I have to fly back to Brunei tomorrow.
Monday (1/6/2015) After having breakfast today, I checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to go to the airport. It took more than 30 minutes to reach to the airport but there was still plenty of time to explore the airport. After checking in my luggage and clearing the immigration, I went to check out the shops inside the departure hall and managed to buy few more souvenirs before boarding. Our flight departed from Bangkok at 1.30pm and landed in Brunei at 5pm which was slightly earlier than the scheduled time. It was a nice experience travelling on the road by car in Thailand as you get to see a lot of things and if I have an opportunity to go back to Chiang Rai again, I would love to cross the border to Myanmar and Laos just to have a look on how the local people live.