2011 Highlights: Travels

I think 2011 was the year where I did a lot of travelling. I never get tired of going to new places and experiencing their culture. Some of them were already blogged but a number is still in progress. So here it is, the travels I did in the year 2011.

February 2011: Clark Field, Pampanga, Philippines
This was when we had a great time food tripping as well as watching the colorful hot air balloons! (photo credits: Alexis Naing)

April 2011: Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines
This was my second time in PP, Palawan. The first time was when Andrew won the first price of our employer’s raffle during their company anniversary. This year was a family reunion/honey moon after the Golden Wedding anniversary of “my grand parents”.

June 2011: Beijing-Shanghai, China
A personal treat for me after years of working hard. Naks! hahaha!

September 2011: Bangkok, Thailand
This was the place where I really wanted to go last year. I said to myself at the start of 2011 that I’ll be going to Bangkok that year. Goal achieved! (photo credits: Regina Roque)

November 2011: Ilocos, Philippines (detailed blog post to follow)
It’s been 9 years since I last visited the place. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since the windmills were up as well as the rock formation. So the moment my aunt asked me where to go during her sem break,  I suggested Ilocos and in just one week, we made all the reservations!

December 2011: Davao, Philippines (blog post to follow)
It was Andrew’s family who wanted to have their long wanted “family outing” out of town. Luckily, all special someones are also included with their plan. Haha!

 

 

And how about this year 2012? I really don’t know. The only planned trip for this year is in Singapore. I’m in a “savings” mode this year since last year’s travel expense was a bit steep. No regrets though. I may ran out of cash but I definitely gained a LOT of memories! Hahaha!

It was really a blessing for me to be able to travel. Not all has the time as well as the means to wander in different places. I hope that through my travelling, I would be able to learn more about myself and life in general.

So, where do you plan to go this 2012? ^_^

2011 September Travel: Bangkok Day 2 – Siam Niramit

After a long day in Ancient Siam, we watched the best cultural show in Thailand: Siam Niramit. We only got the Show tickets without the buffet since we don’t want to stuff ourselves again. We bought it thru Nim for just Bht 1100 and that includes the transfers. This is cheaper compared to the published rates displayed infront of the entrance gate.

Siam Niramit Published Rates

Siam Niramit Published Rates

Siam Niramit Grounds

Siam Niramit Tourist Info

Inside Siam Niramit grounds, you’ll also see Elephants that you can ride for Bht 100/person and the Thai village where you can see Thai people making their traditional food on their small houses. It was again a field trip for us.

thai-village

Thai Village

A group of Thai were also dancing their cultural dance while waiting for the theatre to open.

Cultural Dance

Thai's Cultural Dance

Around 7:45pm, the theatre hall was open to the viewers. Photography is also prohibited so they require you to deposit your cameras in the package area.

Siam Niramit

Siam Niramit

Siam Niramit: Journey to the Enchanted Kingdom of Siam

A cultural theme park, this enchanted kingdom transports visitors to a Disneyfied version of ancient Siam with a technicoloured stage show depicting the Lanna Kingdom, the Buddhist heaven and Thai festivals. Elaborate costumes and sets are guaranteed to be spectacular both in their grandness and their indigenous interpretation. – by the Lonely Planet

The stage of Siam Niramit is certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the highest in the world.  And yes, it really is high! You can see the actors fly and swing in the stage! The show was indeed spectacular.

Siam Niramit Gate

Siam Niramit Gate

In the first part of the act, it talks about Thai’s history and festivities. In all honesty, it was good but since we’re really tired, we dozed off for some minutes. Hahaha! We woke up because of the rain effects and the river and water scenes! Amazing how they turned their stage into a river!

During the intermission, they asked the participation of one of the audience to be part of the musical show they are conducting. They had this bamboo instrument that when you shake it, it will produce a sound. I think it is called Angklung if I’m not mistaken. I know how to play one since we have those in our Music class during my High School years.

The second act was more colorful and lively than the first act. This time, we were wide awake because we already had our power nap. This part of the show reveals how Thai people illustrate their heaven and hell as well as how life is when they reach Nirvana.

As Nim mentioned on our first day tour, Thai people don’t steal in temples because they believe that they will become a monster creature on their second life. No wonder their temples are well maintained and still in good condition after all these years.

Towards the end of the show, during the Nirvana stage, the elephants we saw outside were also part of the show. They again asked a number of audiences to be part of the last act. They just have to let the floating object with candle flow in the river on the stage. Pretty awesome really!

The show ended with confetti effects and with a standing ovation. It’s one way to appreciate and learn about their culture in just a matter of hours. If you happen to visit Bangkok, Thailand, you must include this to your must-see attractions.

Check out the summary of our September 2011 Travel: Bangkok, Thailand.

2011 September Travel: Bangkok Day 2 – Ancient Siam

On our second day, we are set for an adventure in Bangkok. It’s our cultural field trip! It’s the day we will learn and explore the culture of the Kingdom.

To start, we went to the Ancient City. Actually, it’s not in Bangkok, the place is located outside of Bangkok, Samut Prakan province.

How to get to Ancient City

Note: This depends on your location in Bangkok.

We walked from our hotel going to the nearest BTS station, Ratchathewi. The station is similar to MRT less the number of passengers (but during rush hour, the train can be jam packed like we usually experience locally where we feel that when we get off the bus our faces will be interchanged).

ratchathewi

We have to ride the train up until On Nut station (based on the information we found in the internet). So we bought a ticket in the counter and instead of giving us the pass, she gave us coins for us to use in the machines very similar to LRT2 (purple station) system.

ticket booth

ticket booth

bts

similar to LRT2 one day pass

Our first fare for the day is Bht 40 for the train ride. Later we realized, we should’ve ridden the train up until Bearing station. They have 5 new stations after On Nut station with the same fare (Bht 40) and our bus ride fare should’ve been less than expected.

trainf fare info

Anyway, we got off On Nut station. Upon exiting, you must remember to keep Right. Exit to the right always and then wait for a bus with number 511. Bus 511 will take you all the way to Samut Prakan. You have to pay Bht 17.

As for the landmarks, it’s really hard to say since the marks we thought were accurate were really not actually. So to be sure, just ask the driver to drop you off to Samut Prakan and you’re going to Ancient City. They are really very friendly and you’ll feel that you are truly in the Land of Smiles.

multicab

When we got off the bus, face to the right and walk through that direction. As you walk, be mindful of the white multi cab that you’ll see on your left side. Make sure that the number is 36. Again, inform the driver that you’re going to Ancient City. Multi cab 36 fare is Bht 8.

inside the cab

inside the multi cab

From there, you’re safe. The park is a bit far from the station and it will take you roughly about 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic. No need to look for landmarks, the multi cab drops you off inside the Ancient City. You have to go down first and go to the passenger’s seat to pay for the fare (left side because they are right hand drivers).

In summary, you have to take a train to Bearing (Bht 40), a bus 511 (Bht 17) and a multi cab (Bht 8 ) to get to the place. Going back, you have to do the same thing but in reverse. However, you have 2 options after taking the multi cab: 1) Take the Bus 511 until Pratunam (our place), 2) Take the Bus 511 and then take the Train again.

Option 2 is faster if you’re in a hurry but if you want to take your time, Option 1 is okay. Another thing, we noticed 2 kinds of Bus 511. If you’re going to take Option 1, look for the Yellow signage as it will take the Express way. If you’re going to Option 2, look for the Blue signage as it will take you to the train stations.

bus

Bus 511

Yes, this is really tiring but fun. You can always hire a taxi from your place, tour the Ancient City and back (est. Bht 1000/day). However, since we’re on a budget we’re looking at the cheapest alternative as possible.

 

Ancient City (Muang Boran)

Ancient City, covering about 320 acres, is the world’s largest outdoor museum, and presents about 100 scaled-down replicas of Thailand’s historic monuments and works of art. The structures are sited orderly in accordance with their geographical locations from the northern to the southern parts.- by Thaiways Magazine

ancient siam

Ancient Siam Gate

It was formerly called Ancient Siam. As far as I can remember in my history class, Siam is the previous name of Thailand but they are officially known as Kingdom of Thailand. The park was also created in the shape of Thailand. If you see the map, it shows the different sites you can see around the area. Each spot you see in the park is situated geographically as if you’re touring the whole of Thailand.

map-2

Map comparison of Thailand and Ancient Siam

We rented a golf cart because we don’t have our umbrellas with us. It’s too hot and we can’t imagine touring the place just by walking or biking. Though bikes are free as you enter and a tram is also available, we wanted to try the golf cart. Hahaha! Entrance fee cost Bht 400.

guide info

Tourist Info

Note: Be sure to bring your driver’s license when you opt to use the golf cart.

golf

Golf Cart rental

You can also bring your own transportation inside the park for a fee of Bht 200 in addition to your entrance fees.

First part, we went to the West first and took pictures of Thailand’s Creative Designs.

west side of the Kingdom

west side of the Kingdom

Next stop would be Lunch in their mini Floating Market. We never visited the actual floating market but the site is almost the same less the bad smell so it was okay for us. We ate in a restaurant called Rim Nam since that’s the only place where we found foreigners eating.

floating-market

Our lunch for the day, Pad Thai (Bht 50) for me and Fried Rice (Bht 50) and Milk Tea (Bht 20) for Reg.

lunch

After lunch we headed to the sites where the replica of the country’s original monuments were mounted. It’s now my turn to drive the golf cart too.

East side of the Kingdom

East side of the Kingdom

This park reminds us of Nayong Pilipino where we used to go in elementary as our field trips since there were students on an educational tour that time. I wonder what happened to Nayong Pilipino, is it still open to the public? Last I heard they are under renovation and was thinking of relocating the place to Subic.

I’m sure that actual temples and monuments are way nicer than these replicas, it’s one good way to see the totality of the Kingdom. There are so many sites to visit and we didn’t take pictures in all the monuments and statues since we’re running out of time. Not to mention the weather was humid and it’s literally hot. All in all, it was quite an educational experience.

We went back to our hotel very exhausted because of the commuting but we have no choice but to take a shower and be ready for our next activity for the night, the best cultural show in Thailand. See? It’s really a cultural day for us! ^_^

You can check out Ancient Siam in Wikipedia for more information.
*photo credits: Regireg Roque

Next post: Siam Niramit: Journey to the Enchanted Kingdom of Siam

Check out the summary of our September 2011 Travel: Bangkok, Thailand.

2011 September Travel: Bangkok Day 1 – City Tour and River Cruise

We arrived in Bangkok Airport at 11pm. We exited at Gate A and our hotel service was in Gate C! It was a huge airport but big signs are all over the place so you won’t get lost.

airport guide

airport guide

After an hour and so, we arrived in Four Seasons Plaza. At first we were hesitant to go down since the look of the place is not the one we were expecting. In the website, you’ll see a sign that says “Four Seasons International House”. However, that night what we saw is way different from the picture displayed in the internet. Luckily, the guests who were riding with us on the same van were Filipinos and confirmed that the place was really the one we’re looking for. Well, it was confirmed once we checked in. Later we found out that the place is under renovation. They will be adding a Plaza beside the guest house’s lobby.

1 hotel-pic

Four Seasons International House

The hotel room was neat and tidy but there was a bad smell inside the restroom. We were guessing that the sewage was leaking or something. And since they were changing the whole house, their internet connection was not stable. I need to go down the lobby just to check my emails. They also have 2 complimentary drinks everyday.

2 breakfast

Free Buffet Breakfast in Four Seasons House

Anyway, we had our needed rest that dawn and off we start our adventure in the morning. Our call time was 8.30am and the girl in the reception was kind enough to offer us a wakeup call. We ate our breakfast at 8.00am and then we rode our van for the tour.

The half day City Tour was free when you book with Four Seasons House. By the way, remember that there is also a Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok and be careful when riding the taxi. So it’s better if you get a copy of the Guest House’s calling card.

First Stop: Hua Lum Phong

3 hua lum phong

First Temple: Hua Lum Phong

That was our first picture of the day taken by our guide Nim. We look so fresh there but as we finished all the temples, you would notice our haggard look. Anyway, I’m really not sure what to look for in this temple. Hahaha! But it was a good place to start.

3 hua-lum-phong

Inside the Temple

Second Stop: Wat Indarawihan (Temple of the Standing Buddha)

The gigantic golden Buddha called Luang Pho To is standing at the back! It is said to have a height of 32 meters tall and 11 meters wide. The yellowish covering the Buddha is a 24k gold.

4 standing buddha

Standing Buddha

We asked Nim why the gold is still intact and she told us that the Buddhist people don’t steal from the temples. It means bad luck for them. She insisted that we would know more about it when we watch Siam Niramit. Well, good thing it was in our schedule to watch that famous Thai cultural show.

3 guide

with Nim, our tour guide

You’ll see other small worship places around the area. And that day I knew that Lotus flowers are also called as Buddha’s flowers.

5 standing buddha

other sites around the area

5 lotus flower

Buddha Flowers = Lotus Flowers

Third Stop: The Gem’s Gallery

Photography is not allowed inside the gallery so no pictures were taken while we were inside. A wide range of gems as well as sterling silvers are available to everyone.

6 gems gallery

Gem

One of the perks being in the Gem’s gallery is the free drink they give to the customers and a free gas voucher for the taxi drivers that brings a guest to the gallery. Finally, I think the customers are entitled for a free ride from the gallery to any place of destination in Bangkok. It was a blessing for us since we’re continuing our adventure to other must-see Temple attractions.

This ends our half day city tour. The next stops would be places we went to on our own.

Fourth Stop: The Grand Palace

The entrance fee was Bht 400. This includes the Temple entrance as well as the museums. However we weren’t able to visit the museums because we were already exhausted.

7 grandpalace-1

This place served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand. However, their present King is not residing there but in a place called Chitralada Palace.

8 grand-palace-2

Grand Palace grounds

10 angkor wat

model of Angkor Wat

Inside the Grand Palace are different temples and sites that you can’t finish in 2 hours. We just went to the major sites like the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew and the Chakri Mahaprasad Hall whose style was influenced by the Italian Renaissance.

9 grand-palace-3

Temple of Emerald Buddha (at the back of the jump shot photo)

11 grand palace

Chakri Mahaprasad Hall

Also, during that day there was a funeral ceremony that’s why we were not able to see what’s inside that area.

12 grand palace

Temple at the Back (no entry!)

no entry

notice to public

Fifth Stop: Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Entrance fee costs Bht 50.

12 reclining buddha

I thought that the place was small but I was wrong! We were going in circles and every corner seems like the other. Good thing Reg found our way to the Reclining Buddha.

17 buddha1

18 buddha2

Finding our way to the Reclining Buddha, there was lots of Buddha inside the area. We noticed that one Buddha is different from the other and it intrigues us why such position differs. I did some research and each Buddha represents different states of their life moving on to Nirvana. I found this good link Thai Buddha Statues that discuss a number of Buddha positions.

13 reclining buddha face

close up face of the Reclining Buddha

This humongous golden Buddha known as the Reclining Buddha measures 46 meters and has feet inlaid with mother-of pearl. Now, that’s the reason behind the signage. We thought that they were cursing us!

14 reclining

The Reclining Buddha

Beside the Buddha, you’ll see antique bowls outlining the area. There were people placing coins as the exit the area. I’m not sure why they do this but I think this brings good luck.

15 coins

antique bowls

Outside, there was a lady selling a piece of brick/clay and then one would write his or her intentions. I think this served as a donation to the temple as they are continually enhancing the look of the place. (Maybe these are placed when they are making their roofs.)

16 donation

roof pieces?

This was the last stop for our temple tours. We were so tired because of long walks that day. We then hired a taxi for Bht 150 from the Temple back to our place. We need to get ready for our evening adventure.

 

Night Life in Bangkok

At last, our much awaited dinner, the River Cruise. We were lucky that night because originally, we paid for a cruise that cost Bht 1200. However, the operator informed Nim that the cruise ship had some problems so we were upgraded to The Grand Chaophraya Cruise that cost Bht 1700. Indeed, the experience was really grand!

19 cruise

The Grand Chaophraya Cruise

Reg and I were so amazed with what’s happening. The lights, the sounds, the food, the crowd, everything! We just enjoyed our stay and our dinner.

20 dinner

Reg and Kath

21 dinner1

Thai dance and complimentary snacks

First they had a traditional Thai dance and then dinner buffet was opened. They served a wide range of Thai and international food. And also, if you happen to see the dessert bar, you’ll be tempted to eat them first before the main meal. Since we started eating our appetizers and main course, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of those yummy cakes and pastries.

22 food1

23 food-2

After eating, we went to the dance floor to get in the groove! Hahaha! They had their own version of LA walk that’s why we kept on looking at their steps. We were laughing hard when we joined the crowd in dancing.

24 dance mates

Filipinos on the house! (with a crew)

25 in action dance

Dancing in action

band

The Cruise

The cruise started at 8.00pm and ended around 10.00pm. We arrived at the hotel 30minutes after. It was a night filled with smiles. We all had a great time. Even though we were tired during the day, we still enjoyed our time in the cruise.

*photo credits: Regireg Roque

Check out the summary of our September 2011 Travel: Bangkok, Thailand.

2011 September Travel: Bangkok, Thailand

True to my goal this year, I wanted to visit Bangkok! Luckily, my friend Reg booked a low fare flight in Cebu Pacific that made our trip possible. Again, as usual our trip was a DIY plan so we were able to experience the joy and difficulty of commuting in Bangkok.

bangkok trip 2011

Bangkok Itinerary
4D/3N

September 18: Evening flight to Bangkok

September 19: Half day City Tour (free), Gem/Jewelry Shop, Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha; The Grand Chao Phraya River Cruise at night

September 20: Whole day adventure to Muang Boran: Ancient Siam; Cultural Show: Siam Niramit at night

September 21: Whole day shopping adventure and Swensen’s Bangkok

September 22: Dawn flight to Manila

Guest House: Four Seasons International House (will eventually be called “Four Seasons Plaza)
Tour Guide: Nittaya Paneechart (NIM) of Acer 88 Travel
Taxi (can be hired to tour around Thailand): Mr. Suwit – Mobile: 089-2213435