Archive for the ‘thailand’ Category

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, is located along the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Many say the nickname came from ancient times when traders would sail down the river and approach Bangkok. The first thing they saw was the morning light reflecting off the temple, so they knew they were heading towards their destination.

The temple itself is quite exquisite and grandeur in stature. Porcelain ceramics cover the entire temple, creating a colorful and enchanting feel to it. You can climb the stairs to the top of the temple for 50 baht, but beware, it is quite steep! It is not an easy climb.

There are a number of ways to get to Wat Arun: bus (number 19, 57 or 83), water taxi, or by car. My friends and I took the water taxi up the river to Tha Tien Pier. Ferries come every 10-15 minutes from the pier to take you to the other side, which is where Wat Arun is located. Since it’s a Buddhist temple, women must cover their shoulders when entering the premise out of respect.  Most temples in Thailand are like this – you must have your shoulders covered at all times. For those who forget about this, or are simply unaware, you can pay money to rent a sarong.

At Tha Tien Pier, ready to board the ferry to cross the river to Wat Arun

About to board the ferry to cross the river. You can see Wat Arun in the background.

View of Wat Arun from across the river

While climbing up, we decided to sit for a photo-op.

Exquisite detail. Porcelain mosaics cover the temple

We made it to the top!

It's very steep. Make sure to hold on to the sides!

It's very steep. Make sure to hold on to the sides!

View from the top


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Maeklong Market
Samut Songkhram, Thailand
[Located approximately 1 hour outside of Bangkok]

A commuter train runs right through Maeklong Marketplace - 8 times per day!

There’s one big difference between Maeklong Market and any other outdoor marketplace in the world: a train literally (yes, literally) runs through it 8 times a day! In order to wrap your head around this, let me explain. Maeklong Market, located 1 hour outside of Bangkok, looks like any other open-air marketplace in Asia: people sell locally grown fruits such as lychee, durian, and mango, freshly caught seafood, dried spices and peppers, and other local foods. Locals weave their way in between vendors, picking up whatever they need that day, while tourists curiously marvel at the more unique foods at the market such as fried frog on a stick. The only (big) difference? Train tracks run right through Maeklong Market.

One moment, it’s a normal marketplace. The next moment, you hear a piercing siren on the loudspeakers, signaling to vendors that the train is approaching. They hurriedly pull their goods to the side, pull up their canopies and get ready for the commuter train to come through. Within minutes, the train is literally passing straight through the market. It is such a tight squeeze that the train is touching the fruits, vegetables and everything else at the marketplace.

Once the train passes, everything goes back to normal. It is surely a sight to see! It’s a jaw-dropping experience, leaving you with the question: “did that really just happen?” You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Just your average marketplace..right?

You’ll notice that train tracks run right through the market:

Dried spices and peppers:

A popular snack: fried frogs:

Move out! The train is coming…

It’s coming through…Stay to the sides!

Move out for the train!

The train literally touches the fruits and vegetables at the market…

Too close for comfort?

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Thailand is Hong Kong’s backyard paradise. Primarily because of its close proximity and relatively inexpensive airfare, many people from Hong Kong enjoy visiting for a short getaway. Thus, almost every tour agency in Hong Kong offers trips to Thailand.  My friends and I booked a trip a few weeks ago for $300 USD through Hong Thai tour group. This included: airfare, hotel accommodations, bus transportation, and most activities for 4 nights/5 days. It’s been years since I’ve taken a tour group vacation, so I was expecting a tour similar to one that I took in Japan around 6 years ago; a very typical tour that you’re probably imagining…

However, there is something very interesting about Hong Kong tours in Thailand that was literal culture shock. Not in a negative way, but in a very surprising and innovative way! Since so many Hong Kong people visit Thailand, tour agencies work together to cater to the Cantonese-speaking tourists. Essentially, all of the Hong Kong-Thailand tours are similar and visit the same destinations. At these places,everyone – including the Thai workers – speak Cantonese. The tour groups visit the same places: monkey shows, elephant trekking areas, parasailing docks, boat trips to certain islands, restaurants etc. During the entire tour, you never have to speak any other language except Cantonese.

For example, we went on a full day boat trip to Coral Island in Pattaya, and it was filled with 95 percent Hong Kong tourists. The only boats docking at this particular island were Hong Kong tour groups. It almost felt like the island was “owned” by one parent company. The same goes with the monkey show and elephant trekking village, all owned and operated in Cantonese.  It almost feels like you’re in Thailand, but in a bubble owned by a company in Hong Kong. Who would have known that you could visit Thailand and be surrounded by Thai people speaking Cantonese? It was quite interesting – and business savvy – for the tour agencies to work together to cater to the Hong Kong people. I never knew such things existed, which is why I was so shocked.

Nevertheless, with that interesting fact put aside, I must say that my trip was extremely enjoyable. Traveling with 8 other friends was unforgettable – filled with laughter, bonding, and lifelong memories. Simply being with these people is something that I will never forget. I am so fortunate and lucky to have such great friends who are always willing to have a good time. With that said, here is a photo montage of my trip. Most photo credits go to Mike Chang, the fearless photographer of our group!

DAY 1 – Pattaya


Riding horses in Pattaya

Elephant Trekking – “Posing” with the elephant!

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Elephant Trekking

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Riding a Tuk Tuk in Pattaya

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Hanging out in Pattaya. We found an interesting photo-op!

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DAY 2 – Coral Island Tour, Pattaya
Pattaya City

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Ready to go parasailing!

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Up, up…and away!

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Lunch on Coral Island

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Wandering around Coral Island

Coral Island – Jumping for Joy!


At the “tranny show” – These are all males who have transformed into females!


It was an interesting show. Similar to Vegas shows, but they were all male.


DAY 3 – Leaving Pattaya, Siracha Tiger Zoo, Off to Bangkok

tiger zoo

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DAY 4 – Exploring Bangkok

Heading towards Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

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At the top of Wat Arun!

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Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) – Bangkok, Thailand

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The Grand Palace – Girls must cover their legs and shoulders out of respect. Wearing
traditional Thai clothing

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The Grand Palace

Inside the Grand Palace

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A few weeks ago, I traveled back to Thailand with a group of friends and spent time in Pattaya (beach resort) and Bangkok. It was so nice to visit a new, unfamiliar area of Thailand, and it was equally as nice to return to Bangkok. I’ll be writing all about my trip shortly, but here is a video preview of our adventures. Enjoy!

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Bangkok should be dubbed “the city where two worlds collide.” I say this because I mean it in every way, and for lack of a better term, Bangkok is two-faced.  On the one hand, you’ll encounter the ritzy shopping malls with posh stores parading each and every corner. Fendi, Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, you name it and it’s there. You’ll also ride the Sky Train – an MTR type transportation above the sky – but it’s only for the wealthy Thais and tourists since it is too expensive for locals to ride.

And of course, on the other side of the coin, you have the poverty-ridden Bangkok. Once outside these shopping malls and on the streets, you’ll find street beggars with missing limbs, blind people singing with a microphone, young children whose parents make them beg for money all day. That’s the “other” side to Bangkok.  No sparkly shopping mall floors; filthy streets instead.

It’s a reality that cannot be avoided while in Bangkok. And although you may wish you could help them or do something about it…it is what it is.  It is still a developing country, and there is hope for the future.

However, I assure you that the Thai people are friendly, beautiful people. Though the poverty and street beggars may scare some, Bangkok is an amazing place to visit because there is so much beauty to the people, places, and things in this city.


1. Weekend Market
It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am – 6 pm, but I suggest you get there as early as possible because you literally need the entire day to cover all bases. I shopped for 7 hours, but by the end of the day, I was itching to stay there longer but it was closing time! The Weekend Market is a huge flea-market type venue with everything: clothing, furniture, jewelry, food, and more. But here’s the best part: if you’re a teenager/young adult, you will find many boutique stores with one-of-a-kind clothing for inexpensive prices! I’m talking about $5 for a cute, trendy dress! For these, you MUST go to TENTS 4 – 6!

2. Rajawongse Clothier – Custom Suits for Men

President Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, and Jesse & Victor

President Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, and Jesse & Victor

President Bush and his entire family, along with many US government officials come here to get custom suits and dress shirts. It is quite famous, and the owners – Jesse and Victor are extremely friendly Thai – Indian. Mostly American and European businessmen come here, and it gets packed during the evenings! For two custom-made suits, three dress shirts and three ties, it costs around $800 USD. What a deal! Just remember it takes around 5 days to make, and it requires multiple fittings.

2. Always Drive in Metered Taxis

Don’t get ripped off. Some taxi drivers try to give you a set price from location to location, and it may seem cheap, but if you tell them you want it METERED, it will be even cheaper! The starting flat rate is 35 Baht – so make sure this is the start price.

3. Ayutthaya Ancient Ruins



It will be best to hire a driver and English tour guide for this because it is an all-day trip. Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Siam (the former name of Thailand), but today it is known for its ruins and ancient temples. You’ll drive from place to place and visit many sites such as Wat Chai Mongko (giant bronze reclining Buddah), and more.

This is part of the Ayutthaya area, and it is a beautiful, picturesque summer palace of the ancient King Rama IV. It’s filled with luxurious guest houses, greenery, lakes and shrines. Still today, the Royal Family comes here to relax.

5. Wear the Appropriate Clothing When Visiting Temples/Palaces

Wearing a traditional Thai sarong at the Summer Palace

Wearing a traditional Thai sarong at the Summer Palace

For most temples in Thailand, your shoulders must be covered out of respect. There are guards before you enter, and they will not let you in if you don’t do this. For the Grand Palace in Bangkok, your shoulders and legs must be covered – but they give you free sarong and pant rentals.

6. Baan Khanitha – Thai Restaurant
This an upscale Thai restaurant that specializes in seafood, so be prepared to fork out $40 or more per person. Try the scallions – the most delicious I’ve ever tasted in my entire life!

7. Khao San Road (Backpacking District)
This area is filled with, well, backpackers galore. Restaurants, hostels, shopping, internet cafes – you name it and it’s here. It’s fun to lounge around the coffee shops or try out the street foods because it definitely has the “backpacker vibe” – chill, laid-back and friendly. Spend an afternoon here and lounge around the area!

8. Grand Palace in Bangkok
The Royal Family lives here, and it’s like visiting Buckingham Palace. It’s massively large, exquisite architecture, and tourists galore! It will take half a day to walk around the area because there are several temples and sights to see – but if you speed walk through the area, it can be done in two hours.

The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace

9. Pick the Right Time to Visit
Bangkok is extremely hot and humid during the summertime. It is so hot that I almost fainted in Ayutthaya, despite the fact that I was drinking water all day! All of the locals say the best time to visit is in November, so you might want to keep that in mind. But if you’re a student traveler like me, the summertime is your only chance! It’s still worth the visit.

10. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

You can take the taxi boat here, and it is nestled along the banks of the Chao Praya River. It’s called the Temple of Dawn because it’s near the beginning of the river, and when travelers or foreigners would enter the river, it was the first thing they saw!

11. Take the Taxi Boat on the Chao Praya River
The taxi boat is an interesting form of transportation in Thailand, and it’s beautiful during sunset (great for photography). Just jump on the boat, and take it to Wat Arun – or anywhere else you’d like to see along the river.

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If you ever visit Thailand, you must go to Phuket and Bangkok. Why? Well, even though they’re in the same small country, they couldn’t be more different. Phuket is a beautiful beach paradise aimed at pleasing tourists while Bangkok is a bustling city of non-stop traffic and on-the-go people. Think of visiting America and making two stops: New York City and Newport Beach, California. Two very different experiences. They couldn’t be more different, which is why you should visit both places while vacationing in Thailand. I stayed in Phuket for three nights, four days; Bangkok for five nights, six days. And instead of making this long and tedious for the eye, I’ll be quick and have the pictures do the talking!


1. Always Hire a Driver Prior to Arrival
maiIt is often cheaper to hire a driver and tour guide rather than booking through a tour company or figuring things out when you arrive. Drivers will pick you up from the airport, take you around on all-day trips,and anything else you wish to do. We found our driver through internet suggestions, and it was excellent. It was also the company with the biggest bang for your buck (aka cheapest). Our driver’s name was Mai. Typically, airport transfer is around $35 USD, and a full day tour of the island is around $100 USD. Here is the website to the company we used:  http://www.cathyandgarystravelpages.com/hiring_a_driver.htm

2. J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa
We stayed at the J.W. Marriott Resort, tucked away in a remote part of the island 45 minutes away from most of the tourist areas. The resort’s vast expanse of property was filled with tropical greenery and architecture, three pools with a remarkable view, and what seemed like an endless beach property. Rooms are quite expensive (around $300 USD/night and up), but depending on high or low season, you may be able to find good deals on travel websites.

3. Visit the Phi Phi Islands
IMG_5415You MUST visit the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced: Pi Pi Islands) — it is too beautiful to ignore while you are visiting Phuket. It’s actually a clump of small islands (all equal in beauty) and it’s located 45 minutes by speedboat from Phuket. Many tour companies have full day, two day, and three day tours of the islands.I would recommend a two day tour because there is too much to see in one day.

Anda Varee (they do not have a website). I would not recommend booking through them because they pack their speed boats like sardines – we were in a medium size speed boat with around 40 people. There are many companies that have smaller boats with far less people.

Boat worker with Anda Varee

Koh Phi Phi Island

4. Cheraim Spa Village
For around $80 USD, we got a two hour aroma massage and foot massage. This spa is extremely beautiful with Thai styled massage rooms and pavilions. What a deal! You cannot find this anywhere in the US – especially for nice spas.

5. Elephant Trekking
IMG_5390Yes, it’s very touristy, but an elephant ride is something that you’ll have to do once while in Thailand. For around $35 USD, you can ride an elephant for one hour at one of the many elephant trekking companies. Just ask your driver or concierge, and you’ll be able to find it in no time. However, it’s something that you’ll only need to do once in a lifetime. It’s fun, but you basically sit on an elephant and that’s about it.

6. Don’t buy souvenirs in Phuket (wait until Bangkok)
Bangkok is much cheaper than Phuket in terms of handmade Thai goods and souvenirs. And above all – everything you see in Phuket can be found in Bangkok for a fraction of the price. So if you want to save money, buy things in Bangkok.

7. Patong Beach, Karon Beach, and Kata Beach
These three beaches are equal in beauty – and many tourists lounge around these beaches. If you’re staying at a hotel without beachfront property, head over to these three beaches. You can always ask your tour guide/driver to take you there!

8. Massages along the beach
Many beaches will have wooden huts/villas with women giving Thai massages (full-body massage). The prices vary from $5 USD to $15 USD per hour. I highly recommend getting one – what’s more relaxing than getting a massage while listening to the waves crashing? You can easily find these places – they’re everywhere! However, don’t expect to get a massage of “spa quality.” It’s good, but not great.

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