A Travellerspoint blog

Spicy Bangkok to Chilled Chiang Mai

A tale of two cities- you'll want to visit

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The first thing we found out was that the name ‘Thailand’ depicts it’s history. Having never been colonised- unlike all the other surrounding countries, Thailand was originally a part of Siam with many tribal groups. After WW2 a border was put in place that “wrapped” these tribes up under one name - Thai= free (not been taken over) so “freeland”.
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Bangkok

Our first stop was The Raweekanlaya hotel in Samsen Road near Ramma V111 bridge- a little boutique oasis of calm in the chaos of Bangkok. Located out of the hub of the old city, this area really depicted typical day to day life in Bangkok. A watch repair man worked out of a tiny metal stand, ladies with their sewing machines did repairs on the street and of course many many street food sellers with all kinds of things that we had no idea what they were. Things were a little tainted though as my belly had contracted a reaction to something and I didn’t really want to be too far from a toilet!
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Thewet market is a fantastic local’s market close to the local ferry terminal. It sells much live produce, from fish, terrapins and frogs to other meats, as well as vegetables and herbs. It was certainly an attack on the senses with all kinds of fish and insects writhing around in bowls.
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It took a while to find, but we managed to locate and get a table at Steve’s Cafe right on the rivers edge - pretty popular and a wonderful river breeze in the early evening. By our budget, it was a little on the top end but not outrageous. But the best thing was the walk there and back down tiny side streets opening up onto an unexpected temple - Wat Devaraj. People selling their food from their garages, wares or sitting with a beer in each others houses - a real taste of everyday life.

Wat Aran

Being immersed in so many temples in Cambodia gave us slight “temple fever”. On arrival we were welcomed by the sheer volume of mosaic tiles, bells and steep steps glistening in the sunlight- a contrast to what we had seen before. There was obviously a bit of a thing for all things symmetrical here- reflective, rotational and transformative- a primary maths teacher’s dream.
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This was easy to roam around as we had arrived before 9.00am and it was still quite quiet. We enjoyed peering into the temples and around the grounds- just as beautiful as the actual temple. Lines and corridors creating new angles. Using door frames as picture frames is just as important here as in Cambodia.

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Royal Palace

We loved it here, make sure you are early- the crowds were large and snaked all around the grounds within and the heat was pretty intense. It is breathtakingly beautiful though. Golden statues, glittering buildings, pillars, influences of Europe; a fusion of east meeting west in many architectural structures. We were lucky to see the changing of the guard.

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Wat Pho Reclining Buddha

The grounds are very peaceful. It is easy to enjoy the grounds, and little hideaways and alley ways to explore. It is a little busy going into see the Reclining Buddha at around 50m long and wrapped in gold leaf- pretty impressive.
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Our “Tuk Tuk evening Bangkok and food tour”

was great fun. From our hotel it was a heck of an adventure to get to the meeting point - a ferry ride and then walk across Chaya Praya River, through the local park with all the locals boxing, running and working out! Our itinerary was:

Local market and tried some pork balls
See into houses of locals
Wat Prayoon - new to being on the world heritage list
Thipsamai - Pad Thai. This is the birth place of pad thai- endorsed by the king- it was amazing watching the chefs with their skills of wrapping the noodles in a delicate basket of egg on an open fire sending sparks everywhere.
Reclining Budha (enjoyed even more at night time- as it was lovely and quiet in the grounds)
Flower market
Desert of mango sticky rice
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We had breakfast at a local (one dish) place- noodle soup- yummy. The lady was so smiley which really made our day start in a happy way - and for $2 a head this was the best food we had yet. Packed with flavour.

We travelled to Pak Kret (market) by ferry to stop 30. Bicycle tuk-tuks are the main form of transport and the area is certainly back to basics! We ventured through the market- they’re so big here in Thailand. The market had most things- from clothing to frogs, gutted and skinned. It was not for the squeamish.

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The ferry jetty had endless boil ups of fish destined for dinner table. That evening we had a bbq fish backed in salt crust from a local street food vendor- absolutely yum!

Chiang Mai

We arrived at the POR hotel - a great spot- very quiet road just outside city walls (water moat) which meant an easy walk, tuk-tuk or taxi in to town.
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After we had chilled a for bit we went for Korean BBQ where we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. Great fun and really tasty. Not sure what we were eating but all good!

The “cultural Lanna region people and heritage centre” was quite interesting, giving us a bit of a back ground into the local people and culture.
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Saturday night market was massive! 1 km long with side streets. Fhi and I had an amazing massage too.

Waiting for the washing, Fhi used the time productively to wax my back!
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Thai cooking class: Thai and Akha Cooking Class in Chiang Mai
We were picked up in the Songtaew (Red Pick Up Truck Taxi)
https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g293917-d11485481-Thai_and_Akha_Cooking_Class_in_Chiang_Mai-Chiang_Mai.html

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Eating ants and their eggs and pig's balls!
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This course was amazing; great cook, Nita, who was also our guide through the village before hand. She led us through a local market and guided us into eating what we would not normally buy. Pork scratchings with beetle dip, pigs balls (very tender I have to say), Century eggs, ants (live) and their eggs. We tried all the chillies and after getting the ingredients travelled to the kitchens for our cooking course.
She was so talented, as there was a hotpot of nationalities all cooking different things. The people also made this tour awesome as we all connected quickly.
We made, pad thai, tom yum, massaman chicken, chicken with basil, spring rolls, mango salad and sticky rice with mango. Absolutely yum!

The tears from an elephant is not because it is crying but that’s its sweat gland. Kanta elephant section is a place where the elephants who have had hard lives come to get treated well. There is no riding allowed. We fed them snacks and washed and bathed them in the local stream. What an opportunity to get close with these magical and highly intelligent creatures.

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Of course the cooking course and elephant experience was amazing, but we both probably enjoyed the opportunity of sitting and eating, and people watching from the local eateries. Typically serving only one dish, the food left your mouth buzzing with flavours and memories of some lovely people.
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And we also found a great local gym….. to make sure that we’re not piling on the pounds too much with all this eating! Thailand over… next stop Sri Lanka

Posted by PhilFhi travels 05:38 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Return to Sing

Views from a different angle

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What a great way to see Singapore. Anyone would love the chance to get on a scooter and just....go...
Singapore is so well set up for this and venturing out with great friends was even more special.
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And you can't have a day like this without a Singapore Sling at the end!

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Posted by PhilFhi travels 02:05 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Off to Singapore

Staying with the locals

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The first evening we walked to the local Patong Pasir Hawker Centre: We selected Masala Dosa and a whole mixture of different foods. Roti was yum as!
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We explored the MRT the next day along the purple route to the Harbourside and stopped off at Little India.
We walked around; veg markets everywhere, men in small hawker trucks making flower garlands as offerings. Vibrant colours and pictures of cows crafted the walls. A temple in Little India was on it’s 6th Day festival - celebration, prayers and offerings in a cacophony of smells and noises echoed around the temple. A band played on traditional instruments.

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Pigs (2019 Year of the Pig) were strategically placed everywhere. Some, in very interesting positions based on the angle you walked down the road. Street corners seemed to be the movie set for The Three Little Pigs.

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The shop fronts in Little China were fantastically preserved in pastels and vibrant colours with wooded veneers clamping over windows. I hear these are the original Chinese buildings. We met up with our mate from NZ here and chilled with an ice cold beer in the middle. Touristy as anything, but a wonderful vantage point for seeing, smelling and hearing. When the wind wafted our direction, the magical durian fruit let our senses conjure unsavoury images. The ammonia nappy smell is impregnated into my memory DNA bank for future references. We also walked around the Budha’s finger temple which was fascinating.

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We travelled to Sentosa Island the next day.
Alarm set for 6.00am, we speedily got ready and ambled to register for the Aquathon event. Never even thought of doing anything like this before. Swimming is not my thing. Soon we were kitted out with fancy swim caps, numbers down our arms and were positioned on the starting line on the beach.

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And then it was beer o’clock. Well deserved.

Posted by PhilFhi travels 02:56 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Siem Reap

Temples, Stilts and Gorgeous People

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat is worth it if you like unwrapping presents. You’re not sure what to expect, or even if you are in the right place until you start to see the three pronged silhouette appear juxtaposed against the darkness. For a first temple though it is mighty impressive, but duck off before the crowds and start to venture around the complex. You still get the impressive low lights on the far side of the temple for great angles and halos through the corridors of pillars and frames.
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Bayon late 12 to mid 13th century was one of my favourites as I could have sat for hours just imagining. We were there in the busy time and I would have loved to have gone and just sat and absorbed- the business kind of prevented this. The carved faces are everywhere and impose majestically in every direction you look. It’s memorable and breath taking. It is quite narrow at the top so it does get congested. I really appreciated the scale of it all from beneath.
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Taprghm temple 12 to mid 13th century just leaves you overawed. How a forest can take over a temple and bully it into submission is both staggering and beautiful. Heavy pillars and roofs and walls have been invaded. Living tree trunks intertwine with ancient engineering in an amazing contrast.

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The longer drive to Banteay Srei Temple (mid to late 10 century) is worth it for many reasons. Firstly the drive there is fascinating. You see more of the lives of the Cambodian people; watching from your tuk tuk as stilted houses peer through trees, children leave school on bikes way to large for them, corridors of hawker vehicles selling so many things… Small “scarecrows” warn off bad spirits, dogs sleep on the sides of roads, piles of wood stored ready for carving or for burning on the strange circular white clay ovens.

Banteay Srei Temple is simply stunning. Not the largest, but the most intricate. Carvings are absolutely beautiful. Depicting stories of Indian gods in all their might. The quality of the stone used has apparently left time still. Many carvings are nearly new. Some monkeys guard the temple. This is a must see temple. Sanskrit walls speak of a time past.

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Our trip back was more eventful, with our tuk tuk getting a puncture. We stopped at a store- come garage- come jewellery shop. The husband ushered our driver to the side where his tools were and squatted next to the rear wheel. “Half an hour” our driver told us. We just watched the world go by and blend in. His children entertained us with giggles and laughter. The primary school opposite, a French speaking school, echoed out with song and older girls got ready for a football match. They left in the trailer on an ancient tractor for their match.

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The "local"petrol station

Day 4
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https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297390-d12050088-Reviews-Community_First_Kompong_Khleang_Floating_Village_Tours-Siem_Reap_Siem_Reap_Provi.html
Sreyneang was our guide. We travelled south on the busiest road we had seen. Along the way we made a couple of stops to taste some snacks. The first one was a sticky rice stop. Cane tubes stuffed with rice and black beans sat in rows on a charcoal bbq. You peel back the strips like a banana to reveal the sticky rice. Nice rice! We then stopped a shop that sold treats. Dried banana cooked in condensed milk before being dried, grub grub snacks which reminded me of the texture of Italian biscotti. These are named because of the sounds they make when being eaten. We also tried dried Jack Fruit and crispy mini doughnuts - commonly used for wedding celebrations.
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Sreyneang took us around the rear of the building which is the production house. We sneaked through the owner’s house to a rear lean to area; Open fires, flour grinders and plenty of chickens, some laying eggs. At the back was a lady continually tossing a large bowl of frying grub grub, one of the open fires as the source. The heat- already atlas 34 degrees and a fire to cook off. Hot!
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Arriving at Kompong Khleang Village after another 45 minutes on roads was absolutely fantastic. We travelled through a neighbouring village first that snaked along either side of the road, and the dammed up sections of river. This village was quirt energetic. Smaller than Kampong Khleang. Glimpses behind the stilts showed fish traps and Sreyneang explained about where the monsoon floods would rise to later in the year. Peering into houses you could see men sleeping on wooded floors, children playing. Fish were smoking in ramshackle rooms.
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Kampong Khleang Village was remarkably different. 14,000 people on stilts. Benefitting from the non for profit tour group, which ploughs money back into this community, there was a different feel. Buddhist monks had a school in the village teaching the next generation. This school wasn't to a primary school. Peering in to both was fascinating. The sheer noise coming from the ordinary school was very loud indeed. The buddhist school, all adorned in orange robes, including the teaching monk, off set with a green chalk board and rows of benches.

On the far side of the river we were deposited from the mini van and walked up the street. This was truly a memorable experience. Many children playing in the street, some with a makeshift kite they had made- running in hysterics. Some children, as young as four, helping with chores- chopping up fish, or sitting with mum. The dusty road led us along with some stilted houses decorated in fresh flowers, some with plastics all around and some with well organised recycling hanging from the rafters. The houses reached high, which showed the extent of when the floods came, what it would be like. Stains on poles showed this point. we were standing well below.

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In between houses all sorts happened. Mainly basing around fishing. Nets were being fixed, fish laid out on mats to be dried and then smoked to make pastes. Working groups of women sat and organised fish into perfect lines before smoking. Hammocks hung in the shade and breeze, some filled and some vacant.

We arrived at the local pre school. On stilts, large and over looking the river. 70 children in here with one teacher. They only came after breakfast and went home at lunch. What a view from here. It looked down the river.
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Noisy boats screamed, as if in Star Wars, down the brown river. Motorised by over grown weed eaters as engines, they could seriously move. A wedding bounced on the opposite side of valley. Men were emptying boats of fish into bags and off into trucks. A hive of activity.

In the valley it seemed as though there were two layers of class. Those on the top with large stilts and those around the base next to the river, in the weeds, in the fish nets, on smaller floating houses. Men were wading into the river to collect unknown things.

We boarded a boat and motored down the river to the lake for sunset. Seeing a different perspective on the village showed the true giraffe legs of the stilted houses. How they stay up is questionable but amazing at the same time. As we trundled closer to the lake the scenery changed to a lower, flat level plain which would easily be flooded. Farmers lived in houses that they have to move and build up to five times a year. No electricity. Water pumped directly from the murky river for their uses. As it was cooler, they were all working around their fields, weeding and fixing.
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Right on the edge of the lake was another village. This was a floating village. Large barrels surrounded the houses so they could float on the rise. On the bank next to the village, children were playing football. Life on the floating houses looked harder than the stilts, working, washing, cleaning themselves out of bowls.
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Looking into the sunset, you could see the Vietnamese floating village in the middle of the lake. Certainly a hard life by our standards. An amazing tour. Truly amazing.
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Some of our favourite food
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Grilled Spare ribs with an amazing crushed pepper, salt, sugar, chicken powder and lime juice dressing
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Kebab snake or scorpions
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Chicken soup, chicken and cashew, Satay chicken
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Posted by PhilFhi travels 05:33 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

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