Thailand Diaries Part One

Since it is possible to travel by land to Thailand from Siem Reap, we decided to rent a taxi and cross the boarder.  You can also ride the bus or the train. We had to transfer to another taxi when we crossed the border since the one we rented does not have access. The people at the immigration aren’t big on smiling but despite this, you should still be nice since they have the power to deny access. There are a lot of porters and drivers who will insist that you go with them (especially since they know that you are not from their country and you do not understand their language) so stand your ground, put them in their place and keep calm. There’s a tourism office near the border and it’s best that you seek assistance from them.

Bangkok was a good two hours from the border. On the way, the driver pointed at the structures and shared  stories about them. The driver dropped us off at Bangkok Condotel since, according to him, it was near BTS and Jatujak (one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Thailand). After resting for a bit, we went to Khaosan Road aka Backpacker’s Road.

Khaosan Road

Blurred lines.
Blurred lines.

Khaosan Road is located in the Banglamphu Area of Phra Nakhom district. The road got its name from the word “khaosan” which means “milled rice” since the road used to be a rice market. Kho San Road is known as the backpacker ghetto since it offers almost everything a backpacker needs: good food, great music, funky finds, and cheap accommodations.

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Khao San Road at night
Listened to him play the guitar and the harmonica during dinner.
Listened to him play the guitar and the harmonica during dinner.
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I didn’t want to leave this store!

Khaosan has several pubs and bars. It’s shops sell local fruits, shirts, paintings, pirated CDs, second-hand books, plus many items a backpacker will definitely enjoy. The street vendors sell exotic food like barbecued insects and if you pay them 10 Baht, they’ll let you take a picture. At night, the road becomes a venue for a street party. People from all over the world gather to sing, dance, and enjoy the night. It’s like being in a dream and praying that no one will ever wake you up.

Ayutthaya

We went to Ayutthaya to visit the temples on our second day.  Ayutthaya is about an hour and a half from Bangkok, traffic permitting. A foreigner needs to pay 100 Baht for entrance to the temples. We didn’t have to deal with large tourist groups since we arrived early. We didn’t have to wait for a long time just to have our picture taken plus, we had the luxury of really enjoying the view and basking in the Ayutthaya ambience that had so much history.

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Black bird... fly.
Reminds me of a song from the Beatles

Ayutthaya, located in the valley of Chao Phraya River, was founded in 1350 by King U Thong who went there to escape the smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri. He proclaimed Ayutthaya as the capital of his kingdom, which later on became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai.

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Woody Woodpecker
Woody Woodpecker

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According to history, the Burmese attacked the city and chopped the heads of the Buddha statues in 1767. The remains used to be gigantic reliquary towers and monasteries. The Buddha tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya is very famous because of the Buddha’s head that sits firmly in it’s tangled roots. To show respect, one must kneel or sit down when taking a picture with the Buddha.

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How the Buddha head got tangled in the tree is a mystery. Did the thief who stole it hide it there for safety? Did it fall from one of the statues? No one knows.
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Attempts to restore the Buddha statues.

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There are outfit restrictions. Some temples do not give access to people who are wearing caps, sleeveless tops and skirts that drop above the knee. It is also important to apply sunblock and bring an umbrella to keep the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, especially when doing the tour in broad daylight.

After touring the temples, we went to Wat Lokayasutharam to see the reclining Buddha. It is 37 meters long and 8 meters high. It is one of the largest in Thailand.

The reclining position portrays that the Buddha passed away peacefully.
The reclining position portrays that the Buddha passed away peacefully.

We then made our way to Wat Phanan Choeng to visit the Golden Buddha. This Buddha is 19 meters high and is called Luang Pho Tho. To the Thai people. the statue is a guardian for the mariners since “tears flowed from the sacred eyes to the sacred navel” prior to the destruction of Ayutthaya. This statue has undergone restoration several times.

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Grand Palace

If you’re on a budget and you have to choose between Ayutthaya and the Grand Palace, I say go for the latter. Yes, Ayutthaya is overflowing with history and it is indeed a wonderful experience, but the Grand Palace has so much more to offer.

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The Grand Palace is one of the popular tourist attractions in Thailand. It is located at the heart of Bangkok, and it is a complex of buildings. It was the official residence of the Kings of Siam until 1925. It is used for several royal ceremonies and state functions which happens every year.

There are also outfit restrictions at the Grand Palace. No shorts, skirts should drop just above the ankle, no sleeveless or see-through tops allowed. There are clothes that you can borrow in case you still want to enter (that is, if you’re willing to wear something that’s been worn by people from different parts of the world already). The entrance is 600 Baht (we cringed and backed out) and if you’re willing to pay extra, you will be given a tour guide who speaks your language.

We may not have entered the Palace, but overall, I still had fun. It’s not everyday that you get exposed to another country’s history and culture. There’s so much to see and do in Thailand. The structures are all so beautiful I couldn’t stop shooting! If I keep writing, I might bore you so I’m ending part one here. More of our Thailand adventures in Part Two! 🙂

Sunrise, Temples, and Jaromanoy

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Shirt , Jaromanoy | Skirt , Jatujak | Shoes , Converse | Baller , Roxy | Bangle , Vietnam

All of us have must-haves when it comes to preparing for a trip. For children, it’s their favorite toy, for the resident fashionista it’s the humongous makeup kit that contains brushes of different shapes and sizes and palettes of different colors, and for the businessman it’s gadgets that will help him process business transactions. Since I bought the Jaromanoy shirt last December, it has become one of my travel must-haves. It’s one of the first things I pack when I’m preparing for a trip. I have a certain attachment to the shirt because I believe in the people behind it and I want to share their story to the world. More than liking how the shirt fits me, it also makes me feel like they are with me wherever I go. It sounds cheesy and they’ll probably laugh at me but that’s the truth.

When my mom told me that we’ll be going to Angkor Wat to take a picture of the sunrise, I immediately thought of wearing my Jaromanoy shirt. It’s corny but I was thinking, “ah, they’ll see the sunrise with me”. Anyway, I paired it with a skirt that I bought in Thailand since they compliment each other. The ground was still muddy from the previous night’s rain so I decided to wear my trusty chucks.

If you want to order a shirt/skim board/hoodie or you just want them to know how awesome they are, you can visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/jaromanoyskimboards.

Siem Reap 2013: Temples

We had our first family trip outside the country last month thanks to Cebu Pacific’s seat sale. It was last May when we learned about the promo and since we’ve been wanting to go on a family vacation abroad, we booked tickets immediately. We were very happy to have James, my brother from another mother, on board.

We wanted to see the Angkor Wat sunrise on our first day but since it was raining cats and dogs, it wasn’t possible. We left the hotel at 9 in the morning and made our way to the temples, a must-see when you’re in Siem Reap. We went to Bayon Temple (the temple with many faces) first.

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Guardians at the Bayon Temple
Drizzle
Drizzle
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Angkor Wat South Gate

IMG_0276After the Bayon Temple, we walked to the Baphuon Temple to see the reclining Buddha. It was a good thing that we were wearing comfortable footwear because this temple is popular for its height. Visitors have to climb up a very steep ladder to reach the top. It’s scary, but fulfilling once you reach the peak.

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Baphuon Temple
Restoration in progress
Restoration in progress
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Reclining Buddha
Reminds me of The Secret Garden
Reminds me of The Secret Garden

Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider Temple, is breathtaking. I like how there are trees that wrapped its roots around some sections in the temple, and how they managed to stand tall and strong while resting on top of blocks of concrete that were just stacked without cement. Unfortunately, a huge part of Ta Prohm was undergoing restoration so we were given limited access. Nonetheless, we still had a great time.

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We then made our way to Angkor Wat. We wanted to shoot the sunset, but since it was too cloudy, we decided to walk around and take pictures inside the temple. I remember crying during my first visit because I was in awe of the beauty that was in front of me. One year later and I’m still amazed.

Angkor Wat at 4:30 PM
Angkor Wat at 4:30 PM
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The Ramhayana
Little furry friend joined us in appreciating the scenery.
Little furry friend joined us in appreciating the scenery.

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Little furry friend’s friend was busy doing something else.

I guess my mom really wanted to see how beautiful the sunrise is in Angkor Wat that she requested that we go back on our last day in Siem Reap. I decided to accompany her because I wanted her to experience what I experienced. My mom and I went to Angkor Wat at 4:30 in the morning and patiently waited for the gates to open. We were allowed to buy tickets at 5 in the morning. My mom and I were surprised when we arrived at the lake because there were a lot of people already. We managed to find a good spot. We went trigger happy when we saw the sky change color from black, to dark blue with hints of pink and yellow.

I watch in wonder.

Gone fishing.
Gone fishing.

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We ran into another Filipino who happened to be a photojournalist. He told us about the laughing Apsara dancer in one of the walls just before the temple exit. Since my mom and I were up for the challenge, we looked for her and we found her proudly showing her teeth. According to the photojournalist, she’s the only laughing dancer among the thousands carved in the temple’s walls.

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Some tips:

1) There are three ways for you to get to Angkor Wat. You can rent a bike, Tuk-tuk, or a taxi. A Tuk-tuk costs $20 whole day while a taxi costs $30. If there are four of you, the taxi is cheaper.

2) Wear comfortable footwear because trust me, you will be doing a lot of walking.

3) Some temples don’t allow hats, sleeveless/tube tops, and shorts/skirts that are above the knee.

4) Bring an umbrella.

5) Wear sunblock.

6) It’s good to go early because you get to see the sunrise plus, you don’t have to worry about running into huge tourist groups.

7) If a local offers you an incense stick and asks for $10, say NO.

8) Bring water.

9) Make sure that your camera is fully charged and you have an extra SD card.

10) Have fun!

 

Visiting Temples

Anyone who has been to Siem Reap and Thailand will recommend that you visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is a sight to see especially when you go there at dawn and wait for the sunrise. It’s breathtaking to see the sky change its color from black to different shades of blue with hints of yellow, orange, pink, and purple. I cried the first time I saw Angkor Wat because I was so amazed at how it was constructed (think manual labor) and how something so beautiful was preserved through the years. The Ayutthaya temples in Thailand are just as beautiful. Legend has it that it was in 1767 when the Burmese attacked the city and chopped the  heads of the Buddha statues. The Buddha tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya is very famous because of the Buddha’s head that sits firmly in it’s tangled roots. To show respect, one must kneel or sit down when taking a picture with the Buddha.

Since the temples are sacred, there are outfit restrictions. People who wear caps, sleeveless tops and skirts that drop above the knee are not given access in some of temples. I was aware of this since I did some research before going so I had time to plan my outfit.

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Shades, Ray Ban | Top, Bettina | Skirt, Thailand | Bangle, Vietnam | Baller, Roxy | Flip flops, Billabong

I went with a white blouse with butterfly sleeves since I knew that it will be very hot. The butterfly sleeves and the blouse’s cotton fabric allowed air to pass through so I wasn’t sweating that much. The wrap-around skirt dropped down to my ankles so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to enter some of the temples. The Roxy baller never left my left arm since a surfer friend gave it to me last Christmas – it makes me feel that the ocean is with me wherever I go. I bought the bangle during my trip to Vietnam last year. I decided to use it since it matches the color accents on my blouse.

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It’s important to bring a bag with you when you’re visiting temples. You will need to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration, a face towel, and extra clothes. For this visit, I used the bag my mom gave me since it can hold a lot of items and it has a secret pocket. I managed to fit the essentials plus my DSLR without it being too bulky.

What I enjoyed the most about my visit to the temples was mentally revisiting all my history notes dates since elementary. The stories and articles that I only saw in text books, articles, and journals were finally standing before me- I didn’t have to imagine what they looked like anymore. It is true that travelling is the best form of education because you don’t just read about it; you experience it, real time.