Thailand

Ko Lanta Thailand

Ko Lanta Thailand

Ko Lanta consists of several islands, the two largest of which are Ko Lanta Noi (เกาะลันตาน้อย, “Small Lanta Island”) and Ko Lanta Yai (เกาะลันตาใหญ่, “Big Lanta Island”). Ko Lanta is a little less well-known than Ko Phi Phi, which has become more commercialised and corporate, there is less party and drinking and more peace.Khlong Jak Bay Ko Lanta was once known by its Malay name, Pulao Satak, which means Long Beach Island. Later, many Thais, both Buddhist and Muslim, moved to the island making the island known as the island of “a million eyes” (“Lanta” in Thai). The name may also be derived from the Javanese “lan-tas”, or fish grill (built of wood with a square grill on top where the fish are set in a circle).

And so we arrived on our paradise island. We checked into a fancy hotel with a swimming pool and headed to the beach which was… dirty, with a lot of stones, cold and with stuff floating in the water. Massacre!

The following day we decided to explore the island to find a better place. What would be more appropriate to do it with than moppets???At the time it seemed as a good idea to rent them and just drive around the island. In a short time we could have a glimpse of most of the beaches. M and A did not drive with us in the end so it was down to us to to choose a place to stay.

koh-lanta-map As you can see on the map the road on the west side of the island seems to run just next to the beach. This is almost true, as there are many resorts next to the beach which cover up the view. The main roads on the island are well paved. However the road just north of Mu Ko National Park is still unpaved dirt. That road ends at the park and so it isn’t possible to drive from that point up the eastern side of the island.

It was the first time I ever drove a moppet. Soooo scary! Everything was ok until I had to turn. I think I never learned how to do it in the end. Anyway we were driving South when we came to this steep hill and I was too afraid to drive my moppet back downhill. It was worth getting there though. We found there the place were we spent the rest of our stay: Klong Jark Bungalow. It had two features we were looking for: wooden cottages and location next to the beach. The prices were still low because the tourist season was not supposed to start until the last night of our stay. The beach was lovely and quite secluded. Next to ours there was one more resort with a beautiful restaurant and splendid food. It was so good and fresh that since I woke up I was already waiting on our evening meal.job2do-thai-reggae

All the attractions and things to do are well described in Wikitravel so if you are interested follow this link. I will write about my private memories and what happened to us.

1. One morning everyone we met asked us if we are going to the Job2do concert. “Job to do? Where is it?” And so we decided to go. The concert took place on a beach and we really had a lot of fun being reagge fans since Chiang mai. Job 2 Do (Job Bunjob) is the number one Thai Reggae Band. Their most famous song is called, well it’s called “doo doo doo”. I’m listening to it right now writing this post.

It felt good when the next morning we felt we are more than “just tourist”. We Job 2 Docould ask anyone if they went to Job 2 Do concert and when they heard we did too, we received this smile making us believe we were not strangers anymore there was something we had in common. i remember being surprised by the plastic tables and chairs, I was expecting we all will have to stand and dance. I also didn’t expect we will be able to swim in the water hahahaa I suppose this is typical for somebody who never lived next to warm sea. I never went to Ibiza or places like that where the beach parties are a regularity. I really want to take part in full moon party next time I go over.Ko Lanta Job 2 Do

2. Mu Ko Lanta National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติหมู่เกาะลันตา). The Park is really beautiful with amazing white sand beach, lighthouse and a trek up the mountain and then through the jungle. You can meet a lot of monkeys up close, see tall jungle trees and many of jungle inhabitants. There weren’t many people there at the time so it was peaceful and quiet. I would advise to make a picnic there. If I remember correctly there is a place where Mu Ko Lanta National Parkyou can buy some food but because we were out of tourist season it was closed. Hahahhaha one of us (no names) went the in panties hahaha and he survived so it’s not that dangerous.

3. Bar/restaurant at the top of our famous hill. Why is it fameous? Because no tuk-tuks go up the hill. To get to our resort we had to hitch-hike or walk. The restaurant is called Noon Sunset View Point Restaurant. Don’t miss it! I found it’s web site and it’s truly a different place than I remember. On the front page they show bottles of wine and I had a memory of it being a typical low budget place, but well things change. We were sitting on a wooden terrace under the roof, on the floor next to low tables overlooking sea and the beach. Marvelous.Sun Set View Restaurant Ko Lanta

4. The moment of happiness. You remember the first picture in this post of a sunset in our beach? This is a record of a sunset witnessing a moment of pure happiness that was acknowledged. We were sitting in hammock chairs drinking exotic coctails with umbrellas looking at the setting sun. The light of the bar was warm and pleasant the slight breeze played with shell decorations and the music was smooth. We just finished delicious dinner. I guess shrimps for me. We dined in this place almost every evening trying different dishes. You could choose from selection of Thai dishes but also freshly made fish on bbq. The grill was on the beach and you could choose the sea food or fish and watch the cook prepare it for you. Pictures of the food and the restaurant in the slide show.

5. Our last evening in Ko Lanta. We walked to the end of the beach where a beach bar was to be opened the next evening. The owner was bringing all the bottles, glasses and other equipment in preparation for the season. We sat down and ordered some drinks. They were all colours of the rainbow and the smile of the barman was the most beautiful and cheerful smile I have ever seem. I remember it as one of the most joyful evenings. I wished we could stay longer. We were joking, singing and ordering more and more drinks. I have a recording of our barman shaking the drinks for us. Some of them we got for free for a good start. We also took a picture of ingriediens of the best one but I never made it in Europe. I know M. wanted to make Pad Thai in Ireland but I’m not sure if he finally did it or not. We had so much fun!

Ahh Thailand the brightest memories and the most adventures, at least I know what makes my World go round :) Enjoy the slideshow:

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Bangkok to Ko Lanta Thailand

streets of Bangkok

We had to drop off the car in the new district of Bangkok full of wide streets and skyscrapers – Avis in Thanon Witthayu just opposite to the streets of BangkokEmbassy of Switzerland. I only remember the impossible mission of changing four lanes from one end to another before we had to turn to get to the nearest gas station. I checked on google maps it’s 140 meters. If we missed it there was no turing for a while and as you can imagine we were short on time. But this was just a beginning. We had to turn into expressway where the outer lanes are opposite direction than they should be so it seems upstream. Confusing. We bought bus tickets in a Travel Agency located in the main hall of Bangkok railway station at the passenger galleries. The bus Bangkok Railway Stationwas to take us South to Ko Lanta. In the meantime we decided to get something to eat somwhere close. Our choice was ลาภปาก Laappaak dining room I returned there next time I was in Bangkok. Afterwards we spent quite some time waiting in the station. It got dark outside and our bus was late. But we were not alone which was comforting. Other tourists with luggage were waiting as well although some of them going in different directions. Finally a man came and asked us to follow him. Bangkok by nightWe went outside to a mini bus. MINI BUS! With our huge backpacks we thought we wouldn’t fit in. But of course we did. So did as many people as there were seats and no backpack was left behind. My first thought was “How on Earth will we travel over 800 km like this!!??” But well… we only got as far as some plaza in Bangkok. We were told to get out and wait. Then we got marked by some girl with different colour stickers depending on where we were headed. I know we were stressed cos there was plenty of people in the square and the long distance buses were leaving us behind. There was a rumor that if we don’t get in we will have to wait for the next bus until morning. All this came as a complete surprise. night busNow I know there is no need to panic but then it was my first trip to a different culture and no one of us knew what to expect. The bus was comfortable, at least for me. I remember that we stopped on the way to collect other passangers. Some of the people arrived at the back of pick-ups to join us. At some point we had to get off the bus. We stopped by a restaurant where we could buy a hot drink and something to eat while waiting on another bus to come. Next stop – the harbour. We got on the boat. I insisted on sitting on the deck without sunblock. You can imagine how it ended. on the way to KrabiI was red as a pig. Well but it was worth it! The views were amazing and I think my skin permanently chnged its colour in the end. To be honest I’m back all white now. The lessons are: the travel might seem crazy, you might think you were cheated and be stressed about being left behind but I have this conviction anything can happen in Thailand and everything can be dealt with (well I don’t mean drug traffic) so don’t panic and be trusting. Second: Thai do not differenciate us the same way as some people do not distinguish Asians. We just all look the same to them. Third: I miss Asia.

This is it for today. It’s not a lot. I remember I should have some pictures from the boat but I can’t find them. This post is mainly a bridge between North and South. The next one will be all about tropical paradise! See you soon.

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Kanchanaburi กาญจนบุรี

This is the ending of a popular film called “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) based on a book by French writer Pierre Boulle. The bridge in the film was located near Kitulgala (Sri Lanka). The bridge on the river Kwai is located in Thailand in Kanchanaburi.
River Kwai BridgeThe black iron bridge was brought from Java under the Japanese supervision by Allied prisoner-of-war labour (mostly Australians, Dutch and British) as part of the Death Railway linking Thailand with Burma. Still in use today, the bridge was the target of frequent Allied bombing raids during World War II and was rebuild after war ended. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections. A daily train is still following the historical route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok Railway Station.Train River Kwai Bridge
I was able to take some picures before my battery went dead. So not many pictures but hopefully interesting information.
This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British. Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephant as earth moving equipment was not available. River Kwai Bridge Train stationThe railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. However after the war the entire railway was removed and sold. The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. The men worked from dawn until after dark and often had to walk many kilometres through the jungle to return to the camp. Due to the difficult terrain, thousands of laborers lost their lives. It is believed that one life was lost for each sleeper laid in the track. You can find more information here.

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?um=1&hl=pl&sa=N&biw=1252&bih=570&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnso&tbnid=4C1IuK93NqEwQM:&imgrefurl=http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297924-d1731178-Reviews-Khao_Pun_Cave-Kanchanaburi_Kanchanaburi_Province.html&imgurl=http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/81/98/4a/cave-at-kanchanaburi.jpg&w=337&h=450&ei=INw_UJToLszhtQbH6oCQBA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=251&vpy=107&dur=2025&hovh=260&hovw=194&tx=90&ty=177&sig=110664274289417481456&page=1&tbnh=115&tbnw=86&start=0&ndsp=22&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0,i:76

Tripadvisor photo

There is a War Museum at the bridge. Open from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM, admission fee 30 Baht. We didn’t go inside. Instead we decided to walk over the bridge and the see caves located nearby. Also we had some time to browse souvenirs in a nearby shops. I don’t think I got anything but it’s one of a few places where I remember looking for things to bring back home.

The Kao Pun Wat and the caves are located about 5 km from the town and you can (as we did) take a boat to get there (or drive). You need to pay the admission fee of 20 Baht. The Wat Tham Khao Pun is located within a well-lit limestone cave with an many Buddha images. It is one of the more interesting and extensive temple-caves to visit in the region.

Wat Tham Khao Pun became notorious in 1995 as the site where a drug-addicted monk that lived at the wat buried a British Tourist and disposed of her corpse in a nearby sinkhole. The caves were also used during WWII by the Japanese to store weapons and equipment.

River KwaiWhen we got there we were welcomed by a group of young kids, some boys and a girl. They wanted to show us around what ended in them running from one thing to another not giving us much time to look around. I think it was a matter of competition who will get the tip. It was so funny to look at them not being able to say a word in English and still trying to draw our attention with facial expressions to show us what is worth looking at.Wooden cottage River Kwai

I remember we really wanted to live in a wooden house on the river but couldn’t find a place we liked in a good price. Finally we decided to spoil ourselves with a nice hotel with beautiful pool overlooking the river. One of more expensive accommodations on our way. The water was lovely and in the evening we sat at the pool drinking and swinging on a wooden swing.

Pool at KanchanaburiFrom Kanchanaburi we travelled to Bangkok to give back the car and then head south to have tropical paradise holidays.

Summary: If you loved the movie there is a point in going to Kanchanaburi otherwise it’s nice but you could do better ;)

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Ayutthaya, Thailand part 2

Three Buddhas

In the last travel post I started to describe what we saw in Ayutthaya concentrating mainly on the city Island. I would like to continue doing so and at the end describe Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Phra Mongkonbophit.

Wat Ratchaburana (วัดราชบุรณะ) is also called the Monastery of the Royal Repairs or the Monastery of the Royal Restoration.

In 786, a year of the dragon, King Intharacha I became ill and passed away. At that time Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya, young sons of the King, fought each other on elephants at Than Forest Bridge and both of them died there. So a young son of the King, Prince Sam Phraya, ascended the royal throne of the Capital City of Ayutthaya and took the royal title of King Bòromracha II. And he then had two holy monuments built to cover that spot in the Municipality of Than Forest where Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya fought each other to the death on elephants. In that year Ratchabun Monastery was founded.

Wat Racha BuranaNot much is known on the history of this temple in the period between its establishment in 1424 and its destruction in 1767. The most significant feature is the nearly 600 year old chedi said to enshrine relics of the Buddha. However, there is no access to the chedi’s spire. On ayutthaya-history.com you can see some pictures from inside the temple. I love the one showing the ceiling and this is why I enclose it here. I did not go in to the temple of any of the surrounding buildings in which a showroom displaying old coins, bank notes, musical instruments and glass objects is available.Wat Racha Burana There is a fee of 50 Baht (1.63 USD) to enter the grounds of Wat Ratchaburana. The temple is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm every day.

In september of 1957 A.D. looters dug into a two-level crypt inside the main prang (Khmer-type tower) and stole a great quantity of valuable material. Police arrested some of these looters. The Fine Arts Department proceeded to excavate the site and found Buddha images and many artifacts made of gold. Among these  were a large number of votive tablets made of gold and lead. Wat Racha BuranaStaff of the Thai Fine Arts Department conducted a further excavation and discovered that there were the vault had three stories. Confiscated artifacts amounted to 2,000 items. Among them were more than 100,000 votive tablets and more than 100 kilograms of gold jewelry. Since the Buddha images were very numerous the ministers approved giving some of them to people who had contributed to the building of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.Chedi Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Rachabutana has three porticos facing east, north and south. The ruins of various satellite chedi and the walls of viharns surround it. There is a two-level crypt inside the main prang, and visitors are able to go down the steps to view the fine 15th century mural paintings that are preserved there. The lower level murals are of Chinese influence, while the upper level depict stories of Buddhism and Buddha’s lives. Flanking the base of the Chedi are stucco images of Yaksha demons and animals of the Himavana mythical forest.

Ayutthaya Elephant CampThree more sights I think are worth visiting (even though I haven’t seen them) are Wat Yai Chai – mongkol, Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Naphrameru.

There is also an elephant camp just opposite Khum Khun Phaen offering elephant rides as well as daily shows and feeding from 9:00 to 17:00. You are seated comfortably high up on a cushioned howdah and travel in royal style.  Just to warn you the ride is far more expensive than the one in Chiang Mai. Also in Chiang Mai the elephants will track through the jungle while the ones here just walk along the street.Ayutthaya Market

Next to all the monuments is a wonderful market full of colorful wares and food. Enjoy the pictures in the slideshow at the bottom of the post.

Phra Mongkonbophit (Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence) is a sanctuary housing the large bronze Phra Mongkhon Bophit Budha image. It was previously damaged by lightening and then restored in the Rama V period.

Phra MongkonbophitAnd the last but not least Wat Chaiwatthanaram (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม). It is one of the most beautiful ancient Buddhist monasteries. It is believed that it was located on the site of King Prasatthong former home. The reason for building it was to make merit for his mother.

What does it mean to make merit you may ask. One of the most common religious practices among Thai Buddhists is merit making.  Whether it is giving food to the monks on their daily alms round, bringing offerings to the temple, or chanting in the ancient language. Wat chaiwatthanaramThe majority of Buddhists who make merit are hoping to gain happiness in the present life but it is also believed that this merit will have good effects on your next life. Another reason to make merit is to help you see the truth about life, namely that life is always changing and never certain, that there is birth and death, there is meeting and parting, and material objects are impermanent. It helps to reduce desires and cease attachment to worldly things.

Main prang at Wat ChaiwatthanaramThis Wat consists of main prang (Khmer – type tower) and four lesser prangs, all built on the same baseand surrounded by eight lesser prangs and a gallery. Along the gallery were placed 120 gilt lacquered buddha images in the attitude of maravijaya or Victory over Mara, the Evil One. Within the eight lesser prangs there are twelve crowned Buddha images. The ceiling of each alcove was made of wood and was decorated with gilded star-like patterns on black lacquer. Walls inside have mural paintings while the outside walls were adorned with twelve stucco relief decipting stories from the life of Buddha.climbing prang at Wat Chaiwatthanaram

The main prang is 35 meters high and was built in early Ayutthaya style. The four lesser prangs on the other hand are in the style of King Prasattong. They have seven levels. We climbed one of them. The stairs are very steep, the higher the worse.

The Wat Chaiwatthanaram structure reflects the Buddhist world view, as it is described already in the Traiphum Phra Ruang, the “three worlds of the King Ruang”, of the 14th century: The big “Prang Prathan” that stands in the centre symbolizes the mountain Meru (Thai: เขาพระสุเมรุ – Khao Phra Sumen), which consists the central axis of the traditional world (Kamaphum – กามภูมิ). Around it lie the four continents (the four small Prangs) that swim in the four directions in the world sea (นทีสีทันดร). On one of the continents, the Chomphutawip (ชมพูทวีป), the humans live. The rectangular passage is the outer border of the world, the “Iron Mountains” (กำแพงจักรวาล).

Wat ChaiwatthanaramAt the entrance to the monastery we had our pictures taken and then were able to purchase a plate with it. Mine is right now at my grandparents place so I can’t show you the picture. let me just say I never regretted buying it. A nice souvenir. I really wish we had more time to sightsee Ayutthaya. Don’t go on a one day tour offered in Bangkok it will not be ebough as you spend only 3-4 hours at the sight. It’s worth 2 days. Other attractions include cycling, boat cruises along the river and kayaking in the canals. you won’t be bored.

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Ayutthaya (Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya) พระนครศรีอยุธยา

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai and remainded capital for 417 years. It has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

The Legend of Ayutthaya, tells of Prince U Thong – who later assumed the royal name Ramathibodi (1350 – 69) – discovering an exquisite conch shell buried in the earth. In a moment of revelation he elected that very ground as the site for his future capital. First he placed the shell upon a pedestal tray and had a pavilion constructed around it.  He gave his capital the name Ayutthaya – after Ayodhya in Northern India – the city of hero Rama of Hindu epic Ramayana fame.

We arrived at Ayutthaya late and began with searching somwhere to stay and somewhere to eat. I remember this was the first time I tried Pad Thai (ผัดไทย) which became one of my favourite dishes. There are all sorts of Pad Thai the base being stir-fried rice noodles with eggs. We slept in a lovely place and I have photo with the owners.Baan Eve It was called Baan Eve (tel. 081-2943293) address: 11/19 Baan Eve, Soi Pridi-Panomyong 3, Pridi-Panomyong Rd., Ayutthaya 13000 on the opposite side of the river from train station.

We didn’t sightsee the main temple complex all together. I decided to wander on my own. Afterwards we met where we started and drove to a separate temple called Wat Chaiwatthanaram on the other side of the river. I guess we didn’t stay in Ayutthaya long enough but to be honest everywhere we worked on a tight schedule. If you have more time than one day it is worth it. I will list some of the places I’ve seen and then in the slide show you will find some pictures that are not necessary monument centered or I had no space to include them in the text.

Ayutthaya Tourist Map

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (วัดพระศรีสรรเพชญ์) is situated on the city island in Ayutthaya. Wat Phra Si SanphetThis monastery was the most important
temple of Ayutthaya and situated within the Royal Palace grounds. It served as a model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. In 1350 Prince U-Thong ordered a palace built in an area called Nong Sano, actual the
area in the vicinity of Bung Phra Ram. The palace contained three wooden buildings named “Phaithun Maha Prasat”, “Phaichayon Maha Prasat”, and “Aisawan Maha Prasat”. Upon finalization of the palace in 1351, he established Ayutthaya as his capital and was bestowed the title of King Ramathibodi I. The original size of the old palace compound is believed to be the same as the area of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet today.Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, being part of the royal palace, was exclusively used by the Ayutthayan Kings. No clergy was allowed to reside on the grounds, with exception of an occasionally invitation to pray and to perform ceremonies such as the taking of an oath of allegiance for royal officers and for preaching and merit-making by the King. It was used for royal ceremonies and rituals including giving alms to the monks from other temples and performing the Wian Tian (Candlelight Procession) ceremony on the Buddhist holy days.

The temple enshrined also the Phra Buddha Lokanat (Protector of the World) and the Phra Buddha Palelai. Ashes of the members of the royal family were placed in small chedi constructed at the site.

Wat Phra RamWat Phra Ram is a restored ruin located to the east of Grand Palace and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet in a swampy area called Bung Phra Ram. The monastery was constructed on the cremation site of the first Ayutthayan monarch, King Ramathibodi I (r. 1351-1369).

And on the cremation site for King Ramathibodi I, he who had founded the Capital, the King had a holy monastery established, consisting of a great holy reliquary and a holy preaching hall, and he named it the Phra Ram Monastery.

At the front of the temple is a large swamp, swampwhich seems to have been in existance before the founding of the city. It was probably smaller than it is at present. During the founding of the city earth must have been dug out of it for levelling the sites of the Royal palace. Now this whole swamp is planted with lotus and must appear beautiful during the flowering season of this plant.

WatWat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ) or the “Monastery of the Great Relic” stood on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, an important canal, which has been filled up somewhere in the early XX century. In ancient times the temple was likely fully surrounded by canals and moats.

Then the King went out to observe the precepts at Mangkhalaphisek Hall. At ten thum he looked toward the east and saw a Great Holy Relic of the Lord Buddha performing a miracle. Calling the palace deputies to bring his royal palanquin, he rode forth. He had stakes brought and pounded into the ground to mark the spot. The great holy reliquary which he built there was nineteen meters high, with a nine-branched finial three wa high, and named the Maha That Monastery. Then the King had the Royal Rite of Entering the Capital performed and festivities were held in the royal residence

Wat Mahathat was a royal monastery and served as the seat of the Sangaraja, the head of the Buddhist monks of the Kamavasi Sect. Wat Maha ThatIt also enshrined relics of the Buddha and used to house an unusual Buddha image made of green stone in the form of Buddha seated on a throne which was then moved to Wat Naphrameru.

The design, architecture and decoration of a Khmer temple were modeled according to a series of magical and religious beliefs. Devotees moved from the mundane world to a spiritual one by walking along one of the four axes, each of which has a different astrological value. Wat Maha That consisted basically of a Wat Mahathatlarge central prang surrounded by four subsidiary prangs at the four inter-cardinal points, standing on a raised square platform. The quincunx was surrounded by a courtyard and a roofed gallery, lined with a row of Buddha images. Typically for the Ayutthaya period is that often the gallery was penetrated by a monastic structure, being an ordination or an assembly hall, or even sometimes both.

Ok this is it for today. I will devote one more post to Ayutthaya as there are some more things I would like to share. In the meantime enjoy the slide show:

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Khao No – Khao Kaeo

Khao No - Khao Kaeo panorama

Khao No – Khao Kaeo, Amphoe Banphot Phisai: Khao No , the limestone mountain 282 meters in height, occupies a plains area surrounded by large paddy field. The mountain is carpeted with various species of green trees. Its numerous caves and niches are home to groups of monkeys and flocks of bats.

Monkey statue Khao No - Khao KaeoThere is a temple at the foot of the mountain called Wat Khao Lo and a stairway leading to the cave at the peak where you can see a large image of Sitting Buddha. We didn’t go up there as we were passing by too late for it. We had to be satisfied with a meal at the foot of a mountain split with dogs of all breeds and ointments, as well as monkeys watching us from afar.

Tittle-tattle: some people place stuffed aligators on the top of their cars to keep the monkeys away. See: Darlyne Murawski picture.

Slide show:

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Sukhothai World Cultural Heritage

Wat Mahathat

Sukhothai was founded in XIII century by Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom (the town’s first ruler) and was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam.

Wat Si Sawai

Wat Si Sawai

After his death it was besieged by a Khmer warrior named Sabat Khlon Lamphong and not long after recaptured by the Si Nao’s son together with Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao who later became Pho Khun Si Inthrathit – a ruler of Sukhothai and the founder of Sukhothai dynasty. More on the history of Sukhothai you can find on UNESCO web-site as in December 1991 it was declared the 358th World Heritage.

Buddha Wat Mahathat Sukhothai

Buddha at Wat Mahathat Sukhothai

The cultural foundation of Sukhotai is Buddhism and this is where the first Thai alphabet was created.The site – Sukhothai Historical Park is truly impressive. It has a number of fine monuments, illustrating the beginnings of Thai architecture. The ‘must see’ are: Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Sawai, Palace, Saritphong, Wat Saphan Hin, Wat Si Chum, Wat Chetuphon, Wat Trapang Ngoen. I’m sure if you are interested you will find detailed information on all of them. The thing I wanted to highlight is the way the bricks were laid. have a look at the picture. It looks like there was no mortar used. Another picture taken in Historical Park shows workers hammering wooden pegs with hammer which seems to be almost as big as they are. In the heat and stuffy air it was really admirable.

bricksWe arrived in Sukhothai after dark. It looked somehow deserted and maybe a bit dangerous because of the neighbourhood we were in. Although I have to say it might have been only mistaken feelings. We saw some children jumping rope, something we all used to do in childhood. I have to say I’m eager to try it again.

We ended up sleeping in Garden House, Pravetnakorn Rd., Sukhothai 64000, Thailand.

Workers at Sukhothai Historical Park

Workers at Sukhothai Historical Park

I really liked the wooden cottages surrounded by greenery. We had some problems with dripping air condition but we just moved our bed a bit and it was all right. The picture of durian later on was taken in the guesthouse garden. As a curiosity have a look at the pipes in the apartment block behind the fence wall. Amazing modern art, don’t you agree?

Near our place we went to a pub/restaurant called Chopper Bar (69/1 Jarod Withee Thong Road | Thani, Sukhothai) I want to recommend it. Very nice atmosphere, cold beer. Just so you know I have no idea where M. got those horns from <wink>. We were sitting at the back of the restaurant on a terrace and the wooden tables felt very familiar. You can expect: live music and performances as well as definite biker bar theme and a gathering of the folks in the area who own Harleys and other large cc bikes. So both locals and travellers.

Garden House Sukhothai

Wooden bungalow in Garden House Sukhothai

As I really like to read legends and stories I tried to find some connected to Sukhothai. I hope you will find them amusing.

So let’s start from Loy (or Loi) Krathong, one of the oldest festivals celebrated annually throughout Thailand. According to a legened it was started by one of the pricesses at king Loethai court. Princess Nang Nopphamat (นาง นพมาศ) let go on the river garland decorated with small bouquets of banana leaves and flowers to pay homage to the goddess of water and to apologize for wrong actions. The king liked this ceremony so much that he decided to tell his subjects about it. And so from that moment, Thais during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (the Thai calendar) go to the water to release the Krathong (which can be translated literally as “little raft”), pipesto worship the goddess of water, ask her to take all the worries and problems away and to apologize for wrong actions. We haven’t seen it unfortunatley. It was taking place one or two days after our departure from Thailand. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. A krathong contains food, betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, candle and coins. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate in a few a days and be eaten by fish and other animals while the styrofoam is polluting the waters. Regardless of the composition, a krathong will be decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. A low value coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits.

The Legend of the First King of Sukhothai

In Ban Kho sub-district, there was a handsome and strong man walking in a forest. Suddenly, a fairy saw him and fell in love. So, she came down to Earth and talked to the man. They fell in love and eventually had a child. The baby was a boy. He was as strong and handsome as his father. The people saw the boy and they crowned him as the king of Sukhothai named Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, the first king of the Phra Ruang Monarch. There is a stone inscription stating that his name was “Si Intratit Ban Kho”. Some called him “Phra Ruang”. Therefore, there are various names of this king such as Bang Klang Hao, Si Intratit, Arun Raj, Sairakaraj, Phra Ruang, and Roja Raj.

flowers

The Legend of Sukhothai

Siamese tradition attributes the founding of the kingdom of Sukhothai to Phra Ruang, a mythological hero. Prior to his time, according to historical legend, the Tai people were forced to pay tribute to the Khmer rulers of Angkor. This tribute was exacted in the form of scared water from a lake outside Lopburi; the Khmer god-king needed holy water from all corners of the empire for his ceremonial rites, a practice later adopted by Thai kings.

Every three years, the water tribute was sent by bullock carts in large earthenware jars. The jars inevitably cracked en route, compelling the tribute payers to make second and third journeys to fill the required quota. When Phra Ruang came of age, he devised a new system of transporting water in sealed woven bamboo containers, which arrived in Angkor intact. This success aroused the suspicion of the Khmer king. His chief astrologer said the ingenious Thai inventor was a person with supernatural powers who constituted a threat to the empire. The king at once resolved to eliminate the Thai menace, and sent an army westwards.

Phra Ruang perceived the danger and went to Sukhothai, where he concealed himself at Wat Mahathat as a Buddhist monk. The Khmers were defeated, and Phra Ruang’s fame spread. He left the monkhood, married the daughter of Sukhothai’s ruler, and when that monarch died, he was invited to the throne by popular mandate. Fact and fiction are inseparable in this popular account.

Now let’s watch the slideshow:

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Sightseeing Chiang Mai, Thailand

rain in Chian MaiChiang Mai (Thai: เชียงใหม่) sometimes written as “Chiengmai” or “Chiangmai” is located 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok, among the highest mountains in the country and along the Ping River.

It’s over 700 years old and has over 300 temples. The old city is still surrounded by remains of an old city wall and a moat. King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai, which means “new city”, to be the capital of Kingdom of Lanna. The city was very carefully designed to obey all the correct astrological laws. Within the city walls the King built his palace, several temples and accommodation for his followers. None of the original buildings remain, although Wat Chiang Man is said to be where King Mengrai stayed while he was building his city.Chiang Mai delights

The main attraction of the old walled city is the atmosphere. As you stroll through the narrow streets you feel the heart of the people. Looking into the little dark shops you can see girls sewing, men repairing bicycles or watches, some playing cards, others watching TV, old people smoking and children playing. Night market Chiang MaiThere are also plenty of food stalls where you can taste the noodles, cool fruit juice or some beetles, maggots or other delights. Goods offered are not limited to food you can find here everything you might need from clothes through house equipment to flowers and souvenirs.

I would like to introduce you to one of the legends I found regarding Chiang Mai:

The story has been told for countless generations that the kings of Chiang Mai and Lamphun one day discussed the sensitive question of the uncertain boundary between the two kingdoms. One of them suggested a clever way to define the appropriate borderline that would result in both cities have equal amounts of land. Since there were neither maps nor measuring instruments of any description, they agreed the best way to reach this equality of size was for the kings to travel from their capitals and accept that the point at which they met would be midway between them, and should therefore be the border. Having made the agreement, they then set a date on which this joint venture should be conducted.

On the morning in question, the King of Lamphun awoke early, was arrayed as splendidly as possible for the occasion, and having mounted his royal elephant, awaited the auspicious moment when the train of ruler, troops, pages and entertaining musicians should set out.

On the same morning, the King of Chiang Mai also woke early. Having dispensed with meals and all ceremony, his horse was brought out and – with a handful of trusted soldiers – off he and his party galloped just as fast as they could go.

Of course, having ridden until noon, it was the Chiang Mai royal party that had covered the greater amount of ground, surprising the Lamphun laggards with the inroads that had been made into what they had previously regarded as their territory. But an agreement is an agreement. Accepting that he’d been outsmarted in this battle without weapons, the Lamphun King dismounted from his elephant, put his seal to the border document that then became law, and turned back to the kingdom that had so suddenly been diminished.

Source

Wat Saen FangI will bring to your attention some of the temples we visited. First of them is Wat Saen Fang. Along Tha Phae Road, you’ll notice a pair of nagas (dragon-like serpents) lining a narrow lane. Following the lane away from the busy street will take you to the quiet compound of Wat Saen Fang. It was built in XIV century (the architecture is late XIX century) and was used as the ho kham (palace residence) of the local ruler, Chao Kawilorot in the 1860s. The Wat has a fairly typical layout, with the east-facing viharn flanking a large chedi to the west. It displays many Burmese details,Wat Saen Fang Chiang Mai such as in the shape of the highly decorated chedi with its rainbow of mirroed tiles, or the guardians on the roof of the ordination hall (ubosot). The prayer hall (wiharn) sports an intricately carved front painted in bright red and gold. Behind the wiharn is a large rambling building where the monks are quartered.

Wat Bupparam (วัดบุพพาราม) was founded by King Muang Kaew in 1497. The Burmese-style chedi was rebuilt in 1958, Wat Buppharamand there is a well nearby which supplies holy water for anointing the King. The site of Wat Buppharam has a historical importance, as it is from here that in 1797 Chao Kawila took back the city of Chiang Mai after 200 years of Burmese rule. At the entrance you are welcomed by the Moms – guardian beasts, and a small Lanna contains a large brick and stucco Buddha over 300 years old. In the surroundings of the temple we found plenty of animal statues as well as live roosters. The detailed carvings and paintings are truly amazing.

The other temples I recommend seeing are: Wat Pa Pao,  Chinese Pung Tao Gong Ancestral Temple and Wat Phuak Hong.

I’ll let you enjoy the slideshow.

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Chiang Mai elephants, white water sealed with reggae rooftop bar

Well it looks like it’s going to be my 100 post. special number, special place: Chiang Mai.

I think I liked Chiang Mai the most from the places visited in Thailand. No beach which for some people disqualifies it straight away. Not for me.

We flew from Bangkok and on arrival were welcomed by rain. rain in Chiang MaiNaturally we didn’t have place to stay so asked our tuk-tuk driver to recommend us a cheap place to stay. I can’t remember the place too well, I know we moved on the next day to a different accommodation in the same street which business card I have in front of me. VIPA HOUSE Mrs. Rabiab Pantkul, 14 – 14/1 Loikroh Lane 1 Rd, T.Changklan, A. Muang, Chiangmai 50100.

SinghaI’ll be honest with you I don’t even know where to start to give the true account of the city and our adventures.

This is my 100 post so it will be more funny than informational, I will write another bit about monuments later on. Now let me share our first meal with you. soupHave a look, yummy… funny thing: before our meal we saw a dog in the courtyard of the restaurant, barking and running around… while we ate there was silence and the dog didn’t show up until we left ;) Yes… you are right this is a useless example of European sense of humor…

Each one of us ordered something else so we could try more dishes and see which one we liked. I think we didn’t have any proper Thai meal before because all we ate was street food. noodlesGod, Thai food especially in Thailand is the best in the World. Spicy and not spicy, rice, sea food, soups, noodles… I’m getting hungry while thinking of it. When I lived in London we used to have a very nice Thai restaurant just around the corner oh I wish I could afford to go there more often than I did. Anyway back to Chiang Mai.

Rooftop barFirst night we found our favourite spot to hang out: THC Rooftop bartop roof reggae bar. I wasn’t a big fan of reggae but this place was simply awsome. It’s called THC Rooftop Bar, 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road | On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai. One of us of course did not want to go… no names… but now he is the biggest fan of the place! Give it a try when you are around! You sit on the bamboo mats (and some carpets) next to low tables and you can see the city from the top of a roof. Amazing. Everything is colorful and even fluorescent.Making notes Quite out of space. The funniest is the toilet. Oh did I mention that you need to leave your shoes and then climb the ladder to get in? And what I just realised I lost pictures from Thailand, some of them anyway. I think the ones I have will have to do. Ah by the way this is before I started to take any interest in photography so composition among others is not the best.

As you can see on the picture I had a note book thatNasi tu byli I filled in with notes almost every day. I can’t find it! The thing is I was moving so much from the time I was in Thailand it can be everywhere. I can’t believe I lost it. It needs to be somewhere. I will keep on looking.

somehow didn’t have much time, we could not decide on one tour. Meaning we were given a choice: One day safari and long neck tribe/bamboo rafting tour or trekking and white-water rafting tour. Hard choice. thanks to A1 Travel Info (398 Tha Phae Rd, Chiang Mai, 50300) tour agency we were able to organise it differently. Tuk Tuk Chiang MaiWe were to go to see the elephants in the morning and then on white water rafting in the afternoon. Tight on time but as everything do-able in Thailand.

We met our tuk-tuk driver in the morning as arranged. You can see his picture on the left. You may not remember or not know that in 2008 thousands of anti-government protesters in Thailand have gone to streets. They blocked airports and some of the goverment buildings, radio and TV stations. On 30 October a grenade attack was conducted,Tickets elephant trekking Chiang Mai targeting guards for the anti-government camp. Read more on BBC. Back to our story. So there we were heading for elephant ride and suddenly found ourselves in anti-goverment camp. If you are not familiar with the army it looked quite dangerous. I think our driver was just checking on news from his friends or famili living in tents. Anyway it gave as an opportunity to be in the center of action.

Guiness World Record Chiang MaiThai elephants are playful and loveable. We fed them with bannanas and then went on a ride which ended with bathing in the river. You should see how happy they are to get into the water! A. lost his whole bench of bannanas when an elephant decided he was bored of waiting for him to tear one off. We also saw how they pat people on the head, and take their hat off and put them back on. Elephants Chiang MaiThere is a football field in Maesa Elephant Camp where games on elephants are played. A. made me feel bad he said it’s animal cruelty and we shouldn’t do it. I’ll be honest I don’t know what to think about it. In the end we gave up our freedom and live in states. this means we are not running free, we have to work, earn money and be part of this big machine for the sake of feeling secure and be provided for in terms that we no longer have to hunt, make our own clothes, homes etc Elephants are not Elephant & mefree and have to earn their living but they have shelter and food and are safe from natural enemies (like humans e.g.). So in a sense elephants don’t have a choice but do we human have it? I don’t think the animals are treated badly in this camp.

When we finished we had to hurry to catch our bus into the mountains to join white-water rafting group. But when we found our tuk tuk driver he said:Elephant trekking

“Tuk tuk broken. Don’t start” and he turned the ignition on a couple of times but nothing happened. It wouldn’t start.

“How come it’s broken?”

Shrug

“How are we gonna get to Chiang Mai. We don’t have much time!”

Shrug

“What do we do now?!”Tuk tuk negotiations

Shrug

(M. trying to start the engine…)

(We discussing what to do and trying to talk to the driver again)

and so on…

“We paid you! you have to get us back!”Waiting on tuk tuk replacement

“I call my friend”

“Yes do that”

Calling… speaking… waiting… waiting… waiting…

Finally there he was. He came to speak to our driver, then tried to start the engine… and again… and the time was running… He thought about something went to his tuk tuk and came back with a rubber tube. he connected it to both gas tanks. We were all bending over the tube to see if it’s working hahahha and then suddenly we felt the smell of the gas and looked up on our driver who was smoking cigarette while bending over with us. In a split second we all jumped away like the was some kind of a bomb there. Must have looked really funny.

Bamboo rafting Chiang MaiWell this didn’t help and so we insisted on the other driver taking us to Chiang Mai. First problem: too many of us, second problem, payment, third problem… our tuk tuk driver was drunk and the only thing that helped to get us out of there was to threaten to call the Tourist Police. It always worked when we were in trouble BTW. So the we were 6 people in a tuk-tuk on our way to Chiang Mai in this crazy world of Thai traffic.White water Chiang Mai

But we made it! We got back on time to catch our bus. When we arrived on the river bank where the start point was we saw other people doing the bamboo rafting. It looked wet, maybe not entirely safe but well they looked more happy than scared. We had a brief trianing, got divided into two teams for each raft and wearing a helmet and life vest carried the raft to the river.

Chiang Mai white water raftingIt looked so much fun! We got into the raft, the river was quite calm, some lady took a picture of us, all in smiles and then the hell began… it started raining and the rain was coming from the upper reaches of the river so suddenly there was twice as much water and it was going faster and faster. For the three of us in our raft it was first time on white water, we did not really know what to do with the paddles, we were obeying orders as well as we could. Have to say our lider was reassuring but the other one in the second boat was crazy! Actually both of them! Suddenly the other boat filped upside down and all of them ended in water. We couldn’t catch the other boat when it was floating away, neither paddles, even though M. tried really hard. We were lucky because nobody was hurt, well A. was battered but well enough to curse. When we all got back to the boats the other team was attacked by huge red ants coming down on them from the tree. So they ended back in the water. At some point our guides decided to rid the boats so we had to walk bare feet in the jungle. We got back to the boats and struggle some more with the water. For me it was just pure fun. I guess if I ended in the water not being able to make head or tail where the surface and where the bottom is I might not be saying that, but I didn’t. This is not all. You see when we reached calm waters just before waterfall the other team lider decided it will be funny to filp the raft again! we were laughing but the other people cursed. I remember Canadian girl telling us she went to all different kinds of white water but never it was so dangerous.

So we reached the safe shore… and had to climb on top of two wet rafts stocked on the pickup. Did not expect that! No seat belts, everything wet and slippy and the driver thought he is taking part in some kind of race. The mountain roads were narrow and winding. Crazy nation!

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Introduction to my trip to Thailand

Ko Lanta

I went to Thailand in 2008 with three friends. I was just going to write that it was my first trip to a different continent but it wasn’t.road-map-of-thailand It wasn’t a first trip outside Europe without parents as well, but it was first self organised trip to different continent (although we organised it together) and first time in Asia. Big thing, is what I mean to say.

We were flying from Dublin through Amsterdam to Bangkok. And had an outline of what we wanted to see. Now, who are we? A group of four people: a couple (J. and M.) my friends from Uni at that time living in Dublin (not anymore), A. (J’s friend from work) and me.

The outline (plan) when we were leaving Ireland was:

  • Sightsee Bangkok
  • Flight to Chiang Mai
  • Renting a car to get back to Bangkok
  • Night bus/train/flight south to Phuket or Ko Samui or Ko Phi Phi
  • Back to Bangkok to catch the flight back home

and it worked out almost like this. Thailand tourWe did not hop the islands we stayed at Ko Lanta and took a night bus there. On the right you can see our first week of sightseeing: Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Hot – Li – Mae Ping National Park – Tak – Sukhothai – Ayutthaya – Kanchanaburi – Bangkok

I will start this time with a little information on Thailand.

Thailand in Thai means the country of free men. Thais still remain proud of the fact that their country was never occupied by foreign powers. It was once called the Kingdom of Siam. What is special about Thailand? Beaches? The temples? I guess both but morely the hospitality of people and delicious food. There is even more than this. Each part of the country is different, jungle and mountains in the north, beaches and islands in the south. Everywhere plenty of beautiful, historic buildings and adventures. You will hear of some of mine!China Airlines

Facts & numbers (selected):

  • the narrowest part of Thailand is near Prachuap Khiri Khan, where the Gulf of Thailand and the border of Myanmar (Burma) are only 13 km apart,
  • Bangkok has been the capital of Thailand since 1782 since King Rama I, it occupies around 6500 sq km,
  • Topographically the country can be divided into 5 regions: Central dominated by Maenam basin (you can see the houses on piles here), Northern with limestone mountain ranges (this means caves), South-Eastern a gradual transition with evergreen tropical forests and granite mountains (good fishing on the coast line), North-Eastern a red sandstone plateau (Thailand’s poor house), Western with mountain peaks exceeding 2000 m (Khao Sam Roi Yot – mountains with 300 peaks), Southern (the trunk of an elephant, as Thailand outline resembles the head of one).Festive celebrations Bangkok
  • Three seasons of differing rainfall: the summer monsoon – rain (May – October), winter monsoon – dry except eastern coast of Malay Peninsula (November to February) and the rest of the year – high temperatures and thunderstorms; take into consideration El Nino years as well
  • Goverment recognises 6 hill tribes: Hmong (Meo) 58 000, Lahu 40 000, Yao 30 000, Akha 24 000, Lisu 18 000, Karen 246 000 they have common believes (animism) and ancestor worship
  • Akha, Lisu & Lahu live north from Chiang Mai up to “Golden Triangle” and produce opium
  • The king is the head of the state, has a personal veto and right of “royal decree”,King he has a tremendous reputation among Thais so be aware you are not to ofend him or say anything bad or insulting, no criticism of king is ever utter even behind closed doors
  • Pictures of the king are displayed even in the tiniest huts, he is everywhere
  • A significant proportion of visitora to Thailand are “sex tourists”, while prostitution is practised openly throughout the country ( tolerated and partly regulated), sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is strictly prohibited,
  • It is common to see children and adults with a thread of wool tied around their wrists, this is to bind the khwan (spirit) to the body and keeping health and happiness within the body, you should wait until the thread falls off on its own, never tear it off yourself
  • Once in a lifetime every free Siamese must spend three months in a monastery
  • good spirits are adopted into families whereas the bad find a home in spirit houses (saan phra phum) where they are appeased with daily offerings
  • the first Siamese twins known to western medicine were born in 1811 in Mae Klong (about 60km from Bangkok)

There are not many pictures this time but I will make it up to you in posts to come :)