Asia, a land of wonders - these are my thoughts, experiences and travel tips from SE Asia

Friday, June 24, 2011

Singapore China Town

Singapore a city-country in South Asia quite close to Ecuator brings various surprises to a traveler. The first thing that you would be impressed with is the fact that Singapore is a very clean place; there are no papers, no cigarette buds or trash on the streets with only a few exceptions unnoticeable. In my multiple trips to Singapore there is one place that I always go back to see almost every time, this is the Singapore China Town.

All through the year you can enjoy great Chinese food and snacks as well as Singapore souvenirs on the streets of China Town. I would recommend a couple of restaurants which are totally great places to eat Chinese food and enjoy a beer. One of the best times in the year to visit China Town is during the Chinese New Year, sometimes in February. We've been there in February 2011 when they celebrate the Year of the Rabbit and we had a great time here.

Some of the photos we took are right here below. There is a full festivity and celebration during this time of the year and the streets of China Town are packed with people from all over the world.

How to get in Chinatown? That is easy; just take the Exit A (on Pagoda Street) of North-East MRT line's Chinatown station and it will bring you right in the middle of the action. Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and the Singapore River to the north are also close to Chinatown and are worth visiting. I will cover it in a different post.

Singapore Chinatown - New Year decorations
Singapore Chinatown snacks and souvenirs
Chinatown in Singapore - beautifully decorated for the New Year
Temple in Singapore Chinatown

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cape PhromThep in Phuket Thailand

Last year for the Christmas and New Year holidays we decided to take a trip to Phuket which is a beautiful island in the South of Thailand. This is not a place to enjoy in 1 or 2 days so we decided to go there for 5 nights. After checking on which way would be better to get there we decided on taking the car as we can stop anywhere on the way - in case there is anything interesting. Train would take to long and the bus won't stop in any places and takes long as well.

From Bangkok to Phuket there are about 850 KM and the road is quite nice. On the first day I drove from Bangkok till Chumphon which is a town about 460 KM away from Bangkok on the way to Phuket. A quiet place to spend the night and enjoy great seafood on the seaside.

We continued our journey next morning towards Krabi and Phuket. Starting from Chumphon the road becomes really beautiful in a not-so-tall mountain region with many up and downs and curves that made me enjoy driving.

Here is the place to turn left and enjoy the great rest of the road to Phuket.

Once arrived in Phuket there are so many things to see and we had quite a list. Since I don't like to be tied on tours and operators we did our homeworks and knew what we would like to see.

One of the places that are a must to see in Phuket is the Cape Phromthep which is the most South part of the island. One should come here and enjoy the sunset with an open view to the sea. I heard that the cape is named after the Hindu god of creation, Brahma. The Golden Jubilee lighthouse contains a nautical museum and you can climb up there for a better view.

Quite a breathtaking view from this point: South towards the Andaman sea and on the North side you can see mountains and the big Buddha white statue in Phuket.
At the top there are also available a set of souvenir shops and a few restaurants, just in case. It is better to go there around 4:30 to 5:00 PM and stay until 6:30 or 7:00 PM and there is no fee attached to the entry. 

Cape Phromthep in Phuket island
You can take a walk down the hill on Cape Phromthep
Storm in the sea - Andaman sea

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thailand - Pattaya Koh Larn

Koh Larn ( เกาะล้าน ) is a beautifull little island not far from Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Larn is located about 7km off the coast of Pattaya of which is about two hours drive south of Bangkok. The Island is about 4km long and about 2km wide and has about 1,000 residents, most of whom are living in the main village called Naban.

Any of the everyday necessities are here including a police force and a small medical facility. There are about 5-6 beaches on the island that boast white sand and clear blue water. The terrain is mostly mountainous which is covered in most part with heavy vegetation like a jungle but there are roads available and a few types of transportation as well. Most common mean of transportation is the moto-taxi.

Arriving here on a Saturday morning the first thing to do was to "taste" the clear blue water and enjoy the strong sun for a few seconds before grabbing the brunch. Next step sit on the beach chairs and enjoy the breeze although was a bit hot and luckily no rain at all. Sand all white and smooth and the sea so blue.

The real storm came a few hours later when we were on the way back to Pattaya in the boat.

There are quite a few things to do in this area of the globe which is Thailand and more precisely Pattaya and the islands around it. Probably the best things in Pattaya would be to eat great seafood at reasonable prices, enjoy a walk on the beach at the sunset, have a beer in the bars of the Walking Street and enjoy your holiday like we did.

Good thing about this island is that is very accessible, close to Bangkok, 30-40 minutes from the Pattaya shore by normal boat. Further on you can enjoy a ride with the jet ski at a reasonable price. I think I paid 800 for 30 minutes and the experience is great on the sea as there are waves as well.

Below here I put together a few photos from Pattaya and Koh Larn.
On the way to Koh Larn
Koh Larn pier
Quite a storm waiting for us back in Pattaya city

Thailand Pattaya Jom-tien beach

Trip starts from Bangkok on a Saturday morning when we decided to take a trip to Pattaya. We took the bus from Ekamai station and paid about 120 BHT per person for the whole ride to Pattaya which is about 140 KM or a bit less than 2 hours by bus.
Pattaya beach from car

There was no hotel that we booked and it was the first time I went there. A couple of my friends arrived one day before and they were waiting for me. Still sunny, around 5PM the bus dropped us in the Pattaya bus station from where we needed to find a way to the beach. A set of song-tew(s) are aligned and ready for taking us there. Passing along the Pattaya beach everything looks beautiful, on the left side there is the street, shopping malls, bars and restaurants and on the right side there is the short beach and the sea. Sun was setting and nomatter how nice was all the view, we still didn't have any place to sleep.
Pattaya beach road

Quick decision: Pattaya beach looks crowded, let's go further to Jom-tien beach. From what we heard is more quiet and relaxing. Another 30 minutes and we were there. Dark already, standing on the sidewalk having the sea on a side and a set of hotels on the other, we decided to explore each one of them until we find the place to stay over night. After going from one hotel to another we realized most of them were fully booked and would have been such a great idea to make a hotel booking in advance.

One more try, 50 meters inside this small street there is a hotel, or looks like a hotel. Surprisingly they were not fully booked so we rent a room for a night and paid 1,000 BHT - breakfast included. Hotel featured clean rooms with air-con, free water, TV and a nice swimming pool and friendly staff. As I remember the name was Mermaid's Beach Resort and it is located on Soi 7, a few meters away from the Jom Tien beach.

Pattaya, Jom-tien beach - hotel view to the swimming pool

Well, all being said and done we head-up for a cold glass of beer and some seafood at Pattaya beach and looking forward for the Koh Lan trip which was planned for the next day and will be covered in the next article.

Pattaya city - view from the pier
I can not close this post without adding a few more pictures from Jomtien beach in Pattaya.

Beach view in July - Pattaya Jomtien
Dead fish on the beach.
Walking on the beach in Pattaya

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thailand Ayothaya Floating Market


Entrance to Ayohtaya floating market - a walk along the wall

The new attraction, Ayodhya floating market has an area of about 60 rai and it is located near by Elephant Ayodhya temple Maheyong, known as the biggest market with Ayutthaya province. A vintage antique market, surrounded by nature and water. Ayodhya floating market has about 249 stores from which food shops around 50, Tai Lam Community Market Way more than 40 stores and another 159 shops along the river walk. Shopping district contains products from the villagers or OTOP products in a lot of variety.

The market is open everyday from 10AM to about 9PM.
Inside the floating market - Thai name is displayed on the wooden board

The name of the market sound almost same like the name of Ayuthaia province so it is easy to remember for this reason. As for the directions to Ayothaya floating market just look north of bankok about 70 KM - you can take a taxi or drive your car there. Parking available near the market for about 20 BHT per day.

A lot of souvenirs can be found while walking among the shops and restaurants of the floating market.

They sell nice t-shirts with the name of the floating market Ayothaya and there are available a few hand-painted items which include clothing and accessories. For about 60 Bht to 100 Bht you can get your name on a t-shirt or a phone bag.

Food stalls in Ayothaia Floating Market: shell, squid, prawn, crab fish and many more
A place for ecotourism, Ayohtaya floating market is a place for those who enjoy a nice Saturday or Sundat afternoon with friends or family in a relaxing place. A lot of food shops are scattered around the river walk. From fish and shrimp to squid and crab and from chicken to pork and thai sweets including ice-cream you can find just about any types of food here. I would recommend pha-thai noodles and papaya salad or "som-tam" - don't forget to order some fried chicken and the special noodle soup (coi-tiew).

Thai style restaurant- Ayothaya
Thai style restaurants are a pleasure to sit and eat in this floating market - Thai iced tea is a great option for a hot summer day.... but what am I saying, if you going to Thailand, everyday is a summer day. (You can get it online too - see the image on the right)

Another interesting attraction of the Ayothaya floating market is the boat trip as you can sit on a (approx) 20 people boat and enjoy a trip around and through the market. Here below there are some images we took during this trip.

Boat trip in the floating market

Floating market girl show - traditional costumes

Boat trip and walking bridge

View from the Ayothaya Floating Market entry bridge

Country: Thailand
Province name: Ayutthaya
Place name: Ayothaya Floating Market (ตลาดน้ําอโยธยา)

Don't forget to post a comment or use the contact form if you have any questions.

There is another market named Ayutthaya Floating Market and it features a theatre and here it is the address:

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Singapore - Marina Bay Sands casino hotel and swimming pool

January 2011 - we have decided to take a couple of weeks off for a trip to Singapore. Of course all the new and old attractions were on the list and that includes China town, Marina Bay Sands the new casino hotel, Singapore flyer, a few shopping malls, Orchard road and a few more attractions that I don't really remember now.
Singapore flyer - view from the bridge

This is the Singapore Flyer, picture taken at night on the way back from the Marina Bay Sands. Nice thingy, the lights along the wheel are changing color every few seconds giving a nice effect.
Hotel and casino Marina Bay Sands, view from ground floor

One of the most impressive attractions was the casino and hotel Marina Bay which was quite newly opened and for foreigners the entrance is free. Singapore citizens must pay a SG$100 for entering the casino. Since they won't allow us to take pictures in the casino, I have nothing to post about it, however the view is superb from upper floor near the swimming pool.

They say Marina Bay Sands is an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore. Developed by Las-Vegas Sands, it is billed as the world's most expensive standalone casino property at S$8 billion, including cost of the prime land.

It was originally set to be open in 2009 but there were various delays and finally it was open in 2010 mid-year.

Check out below a few images from the Marina Bay taken from above - from the 57th floor, from the swimming pool and from below.
Singapore Flyer from the Sands observation deck - 57th floor.

Esplanade and city from the Sands observation deck - 57th floor
 Esplanade and city from the Sands observation deck - 57th floor. 

Singapore office buildings
Office buildings in Singapore

Famous swimming pool on the 57th (or so) floor at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

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Drop me a line if you have any questions - use the contact page please.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hong Kong - Po Lin Monastery

They say that no trip to Hong Kong is complete without a visit to the Giant Buddha which stays serenely at the Ngong Ping plateau in Lantau Island. The eyes, lips, incline of the head and even the right hand (raised to deliver a blessing to all), combine to lend great depth of character and dignity to this extraordinary statue. 

The majestic figure of the seated Buddha was cast in China and took 12 years to complete. It was unveiled in December 1993 amid deeply religious ceremonies.

You can climb a bit more than 200 steps to reach the platform where the Buddha is seated - for a entrance fee of course.  

Well, here I am visiting this nice monastery and the surroundings. I arrived around 6PM so I had only about 1 hour to enjoy the scenery and take some pictures. Last bus, number 23 is leaving around 7PM and I wouldn't want to miss it. 

Price for one way trip to the Po Lin monastery is 27 HK$, so a total of 54 HK$ I had to pay and I am not sorry since the ride is nice and scenery is great on Lantau.

As an alternative the cable car is available too - except the times when it is not available or "under maintenance" and this was one of those times. Funny as I didn't see any mention on the website but taking the bus instead is alright.

A couple of hundred of meters away is the cultural and themed village of Ngong Ping, where you can enjoy a variety of attractions as well as indulge in a bit of shopping and dining. Quite empty in this June afternoon :) giving me the opportunity to take some photos. 
Most of the shops were already closed but you can find souvenirs, gems, food, beverages as there is Starbucks, Subway and a few other restaurants.

How to go there from Hong Kong?

Giant Buddha / Po Lin Monastery
1.Ferry from Central Pier 6 (MTR Hong Kong Station Exit E1 through IFC mall) to Mui Wo, then take bus 2.
2.MTR Tung Chung Station Exit B, then take bus 23 from Tung Chung Town Centre.
3.MTR Tung Chung Station Exit B, then take Ngong Ping Cable Car.

Wisdom Path
MTR Tung Chung Station Exit B, take bus no.23 to Po Lin Monastery, follow the directional sign to Tea Garden, walk through the hiking trail from the entrance of Tea Garden for 15 mins.

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A few more pics from this nice monastery

On the way to monastery - in the bus on Lantau island

Po Lin monastery gate

Relaxing quiet place, walk towards the giant Buddha statue

Another gate of Po Lin monastery

Directions on Lantau island - Hong Kong

Po Lin Village showing a few cabins and stores