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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Ayutthaya, the Ancient City of Siam

Ayutthaya, or “Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya” is an ancient city of Thailand, located in the north of Bangkok. Ayutthaya is very famous with its cultural heritages, mostly the ruins of the temple after Burmese invasion about three centuries ago. Moreover, its proximity with Bangkok (only 2 hours driving), makes Ayutthaya is a perfect places to visit.

Ayutthaya was formerly founded around 1350, and became the second capital of the Siam Kingdom, after Sukhothai, and before moved to Bangkok. Around 1700, Ayutthaya was a very famous in the international trade, as many international merchants set sail to Ayutthaya for trade. Ayutthaya was also recognized as the finest city in the world, by the merchants, as its temples and cultures were very captivating. However, the glorious days of Ayutthaya was ended by Burmese invasion at 1767, and Ayutthaya was almost completely burned and flatted in to the ground after the invasion.
ayutthaya world heritage

However, the result of this destruction by Burmese armies, now becoming the major attraction for international tourists. Many international tourists came to Ayutthaya to see the ruins of the temple, and also the remaining of the palaces, which could make Ayutthaya trip becoming a trip to the lost ancient city. Moreover, this city was also acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage site.

buddha head wat mahathat
The famous Buddha head in the tree in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya

In the city of Ayutthaya, you can getting around the ruins in Ayutthaya by bicycle, as the locations of ruins were not far separated. The costs for bicycle rent is very cheap too, only 40 baht per day, including free map gift. You can rent the bike in front of the train station, or at Soi 2, where the hotels and restaurants complex is in). Besides bicycle, the more convenient way is by hiring a tuk-tuk, which could accommodate 6 people. The price is around 300 baht/ hours, or you can bargain for 1000 baht for 4 hours.

There are a lot of notable temples, ruins and palaces to visit here. You can do the temple trip to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Viharn Phra Mongkon Bophit, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Thammikarat, Wat Suwan Dararam, Phet Fortress, Wat Phra Ram, Phra Chedi Suriyothai, and Wat Borom Phuttharam. Some people even consider to do the night trip for temple sightseeing, as the illumination during night time makes the temples look so incredible!

temple ayutthaya
Ayutthaya at Night

Or you could visit museums, such as Ayutthaya historical Study Center, Baan Hollanda, Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, or Chantharakasem National Museum. Moreover, you can also visit Ayutthaya Floating Market here, and of course, elephant trekking!

ayutthaya elephant
Elephant Trekking at Ayutthaya

Then, at last, of course your visit would not be very good, before you enjoy the authentic food there. You have to taste the infamous Roti Sai Mai, a very popular local dessert in Ayutthaya

How to Get There From Bangkok?
1.       By car. Actually, there are several option of routes that you can take, one of the available option is that to drive via Highway no 1 (Phahon Yothin), then turn to Highway No.32, and lastly turn left to Highway No. 309.
2.       By Train. This is the cheapest way and considered the best way to reach Ayutthaya, as the scenery during the trip is quite amazing. Moreover, the price is also incredibly cheap (20 baht for third class train). The train departs from Hua Lamphong Train Station and the trip will take approx. 2 - 2,5 hours. After you arrived at Ayutthaya Train Station, you  have to take a boat to cross the river, which costs 4 baht only.
3.       By Bus. The bus operate every 20 minutes from Mo Chit Terminal (Northern Bus Terminal), near BTS Mo Chit station, to Ayutthaya. It will costs 50 baht, and operates between 4.30 AM to 7.15 PM
4.       Minivan from Victory Monument (near BTS Victory Monument station). It will take about one hour and costs 100 baht.  
5.       By Boat, this is the most luxurious and expensive ways, as you have to book in advance, and the cost is quite pricy.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Coral Island (Koh Larn), Only Miles Away From Pattaya

Are you sick or bored with the beaches in Pattaya? You want to look for the better beach? 

Maybe you would think about the other wonderful beaches, such as Hua Hin, Patong in Phuket, or Ao Nang in Krabi, instead of the beach in Pattaya. However, the problem is that those places was quite far from Bangkok, and may spend a lot of time, and money either, while Pattaya is just 2 hours away from the capital city.

If you got this problem, then you’re already on the right track by reading this post!

Actually, from Pattaya, you can easily across to Koh Larn (Coral Island), which is 7,5 km away from the Pattaya Harbor, and may take for just 45 minutes by riding a ferry, and even less time (if you take a speed boat). Koh Larn’s beaches are completely much better than the ones in Pattaya  shore, as there are sandy beaches with crystal clear water, and also beautiful coral reefs.

coral island pattaya

Once you arrived at Koh Larn, you’ll dropped at Naban Port, then you can choose the beach that suits you the most. There are several beaches available:

1. Like Patong in Phuket, and also Ao Nang in Krabi, Koh Larn also have its most popular beach, which is Tawaen Beach. Tawan Beach is the most crowded and touristy beach in Koh Larn, and there are lot of facilities, such as shops and restaurants here

Crystal Clear Water

2. Samae Beach is very good spot to take a photo, as the view from here is fascinating

3. Ta Yai Beach, small and quiet beach, perfect for you who seek for a less touristy and crowded beach.

4. Thong Lang Beach, located in the north area of the island and next to Tawaen Beach. You can do the coral reefs here and also take a look to Koh Sak

5. Tien Beach, near Samae Beach, and offers a stunning sea view too

6. Nual Beach, not recommended for swimming, as the coral here is quite dangerous. However, Nual beach is quiet and could be a perfect spot to relax yourself

coral island beaches

At Koh Larn, besides of beaches and coral reefs, there are several attractions too, such as Windwheel View Point, Guan Yin View Point,

How to Get There?

To go to Koh Larn, you can choose ferries which depart every 45 minutes at Bali Hai in South Pattaya, from 7.00-18.00, and costs 30 baht, while if you took the faster way via speedboat, it would cost 1500-2000 baht/ boat

Romance of Three Kingdoms in Pattaya, Thailand

While traveling to Pattaya, you should not miss the Three Kingdoms Theme Park, where you can experience the ancient kingdom of China, especially during the Three Kingdoms Era (220-280 AD). Here, you can see three pagodas (Chinese building style), ancient statues, intriguing paintings, and also many ancient Chinese objects in the theme park. 

Moreover, you can also see the longest wall picture story in the world, which will tell you about the story of Three Kingdoms era. The decoration and construction of this theme park was mostly inspired by the infamous Chinese tale, “Romance of Three Kingdoms”.

Then, in the pagoda located in the middle, you will meet the largest building which presents the history of the place itself, and also the history of Three Kingdoms. In the ground floor, you will meet the statue and the biography of the Khun Kiarti Srifuengfung, the background of the construction of Three Kingdoms Theme park, and also a brief introduction about the Romance of Three Kingdoms, including the figures of the main character and their personal record. 

Second and third floor consists of 16 episodes of Kong Beng/ Zhuge Liang/ Kong Ming’s life, through superb oil painted silk panels. (Kong Beng is the most famous strategist in Chinese history and one of the most admired character in the romance). Then, in the fourth floor, there is the shrine of Buddha image, named “Phra buddha Kitti Sirirojana Sopak”

Then, after visiting the middle building, you can continue to visit the east pagoda/ Kuan Yin Pagoda, which is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy in Mahayana Buddhism belief. The statue was made from pure white marble of 405 cm tall. On the right of the east pagoda building, there is the shrine of Guan Yu, who is worshipped by many Thai and also Chinese, as the “God of Honesty”. And in the west pagoda, you can meet the figures of 18 Chinese Saints, or usually called as “Shi Ba Lou Han”/ 18 Arahat, together with other Chinese gods. Besides of the three pagodas and statues, you will meet the authentic Chinese architecture at the park in front of the pagodas, which reflected the high aesthetic values.

park in pattaya

Then, now it’s my time to tell you about the history of this theme park. Actually, the reason behind the construction of this theme park is because of the will of the late Mr. Kiarti Srifuengfung, the ex-owner of Asahi Company. Mr. Srifuengfung ‘s children were then built the park which represent the blend of Thai-Chinese culture, which is inspired from the Mr. Srifuengfung’s favourite Chinese tale, Romance of the Three Kingdoms”

night at three kingdom

The Three Kingdoms Theme Park is located at 100, Moo 9, Tambon Pong, Banglamung, Chonburi, about 12 km from main street of Central Pattaya. This place opens daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. You can reach this theme park by hire a taxi or songthaew, as there is no public transportation run to this place. Then, the admission fee for the park itself is 60 baht for Thais, and 150 baht for foreign visitors (Kid pays half the price).

Pattaya Floating Market, A cultural blend of Thailand

If we are traveling to Pattaya, one of the destination which should not be missed is Pattaya Floating Market.  Just like the other famous floating markets in Thailand, this place could attract a lot of tourists to visit. Furthermore, this is also the largest floating market in the Eastern of Thailand, and this largest floating market was actually built on the man-made artificial lake. The total cost of the construction itself was estimated at 350 million baht (US$ 10 Million).

floating market in pattaya
Entrance of Pattaya Floating Market

What’s so special from this floating market is its concept. The concept of this floating market is the presentation of cultures and traditions from 4 major regions of Thailand, which are Northern, Southern, Central, and Northeastern. Each of the major region represents the main activities, cultures, and also products from the respective region. However, the most distinguished product sold in this floating market is food, as there are plenty of Thai authentic dishes and deserts to indulge your tongue.
floating market thailand

Along the foods sold here, I recommend you to taste the crocodile satay (Yes, it is made from real crocodile meat!), and also Turkish ice cream. I bet you will know it, if you’re already watched an episode of Running Man (Korean variety show) which took place in this floating market.

Then, to feel the real sheer experience of floating market,  you can hire a boat to travel around the khlong (canal) and take a sightseeing of the market form the boat. Then, if you are quite adventurous, you can try the flying fox and other adventurous game, just in the next of the floating market.
nightview pattaya
Pattaya Floating Market at Night

How to Get There?

Pattaya Floating Market is located at 451/304 Moo 12, Sukhumvit Road Pattaya, and open daily from 10,00 to 23.00. Transportation to this place is very easy, as there are bus service which runs 5 times daily for every 2 hours. This is actually much cheaper rather than taking a taxi or songthaew to the floating market, as the cost of bus is just 20 baht per person.

location floating market pattaya
Pattaya Floating Market Location

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Songkran Day, Enjoy Traditional New Year Festival in Bangkok, Thailand

The term of “Songkran” was originally adjusted form Sanskrit word, Sankranta”, which means “a move or change”, a move of the sun into Aries zodiac. Songkran is the most famous festival in Thailand. When Songkran days come up, people, no matter who they are, man or woman, adult, child, or teenager, getting out the the street and shoot water each other.

For local Thais themselves, Songkran days are indicating the traditional Thai new year for them, which usually take place around mid of April. The starting day and also the length of the festival itself may vary among the cities in Thailand. However, the center of the celebration is still held in the northern area of Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai, where the festival is celebrated for 6 days, and even longer. Then, in Bangkok, the festival is usually celebrated on 13-15 April every year.

songkran festival
Visitor enjoying the festival

If you’re heading to Thailand during Songkran festival, there are several greeting that you can try, which is สวัสดีปีใหม่" (sawatdi pi mai), which mean “Happy New Year”, or you can try to greet the other people by using "สุขสันต์วันปีใหม่" (suk san wan pi mai). Suk san means “happy”, so that the meaning of the sentence is the same with “sawatdi pi mai”, which is “Happy new Year”. However, nowadays most people use สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์" (suk san wan songkran), which means “Happy Songkran Day”, as the pi mai (New Year) is usually associated to 1st of January.

The most common thing of Songkran festival is the throwing of water each other. People getting out the street which several “water war” equipments, such as water gun, and also mentholated talc, and try to make everyone get wet.

singkran in thailand
Water, water, and water again

Besides of throwing water, local Thais usualy also go to wat/ temple to pray, give foods to monk, and and also cleanse the Buddha image in their household by gently pouring the water added with Thai fragrance.

festival songkran thailand
Water War at Songkran Night in Democracy Monument

Actually, the history of Songkran festival was the time to pay respect and visit the elders, and the throwing water ritual was intended to respect the other people, as the water thrown was the water used to cleanse the Buddha images and believed to be the “blessed water”. The water throwing itself was meant to be the symbol of the washing of bad things, and a symbol of a brand new start.

However, nowadays, as the celebration of Songkran is during the start of the summer days (mid April), the water war is also intended to relieve the heat, as those days are the hottest days along the year.

Then, if you were in Bangkok during the days (13-15 April), you can join the celebration all around the city. However, the main mass celebration will be held in Silom Road, and also Khao San Road. Enjoy the quality time to blend with local Thais to celebrate the festival!

Enjoy the Amazing Festivals While Traveling to Thailand

Visiting Thailand, the country which is very rich in its culture, will be much more engaging, if you do that in the specific time, especially whenever the major festival is being held. Cause this is simply would bring another color towards your trip. However, most of good things will be accompanied by a cost too, like what economist called “opportunity cost”.

The reason is simply because during festival time, many Thais local was having their national holidays, and enthusiastically joining the festival. It may cause several attraction or destination that you’ll want to visit would not operates maximally. Furthermore, these festivals time could be considered as “peak season” too, which cause price hikes.

However, traveling during festival is really worth a try and highly recommended, cause it would be something special that not anyone could experience. Evenmore, with a proper strategy, we can still keep the trip to be still on budget, and also experience the travel itinerary to the max. So, nothing to loose. Plus, the priceless experience during the festivals.
festival in thailand
Thai festival

How did we do that? Of course by planning the trip carefully. To keep the price is still reachable and can fit the budget, we can book the reservation much earlier, so that we can get a good price (especially for plane and hotel, as these two would be the major expenses during trip). By doing so, the risk of hiking prices could be minimized.

Then, to make sure that the trip will be good and you would be able to visit the places that you’d like to visit. You can either extend the traveling period, or plan your departure and arrival time well. In example, if the festival is held on 13 April to 15 April, and you have 4 days itinerary, you can plan to visit from 11 April to 15 April, so you’ll have 2 days of festival days, and also 2 days of normal days. Then, you can experience both.

Then, for the festival in Thailand itself, there are a lot of festivals along the year that you could experience, and some of Buddhist festival to celebrate the important days in Buddhist religion. However, the most notable festivals in Thailand are Songkran and Loy Krathong.

Songkran is considered as “Thai New Year”, and people were out to the main street to shoot water and flour each other enthusiastically.
songkran festival
Songkran Day!

While Loy Krathong is, in my opinion, the most beautiful festival in Thailand, as people were put the “krathong”, a lotus shaped receptacle, and float them in the water. As the “krathong” is also equipped with candle, it makes the festival of floating light on the water, which is very beautiful.

festival of light thailand

For me itself, to be able to experience these festivals during my trip to Thailand was really a blessing. I highly recommend you to do so!

World Cultural Heritage at Mini Siam Pattaya

Besides of Ancient Siam located in Bang Phli, Samut Prakan, the southeastern part of Bangkok, which offers miniatures form many popular destinations in Thailand, now Pattaya have the same thing, called Mini Siam. But, the difference is that the Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan is offering the authentic and many traditional building and destinations which are the cultural heritage from Ancient Kingdom of Siam, while Mini Siam in Pattaya is offering the miniatures of many splendid destinations not only from Thailand, but also popular destinations all around the world.

mini siam pattaya

From the data that I read from its official website, it’s said that Mini Siam project was started at 1985, and then constructed in 1986, with The Democracy Monument in Bangkok as the first model to build. The miniature was constructed in 1:25 scale.

In my opinion, this is a good place to go with your family, as you can see many popular Thai cultural  destination which is actually scattered over the country in the real world, and also many popular destinations in the world, which is separated by thousand miles away. Then, here you can see all of them in only two hours.

entrance gate of mini siam
The exterior of the complex

The miniatures zone was divided into several parts, which are Mini Europe and Mini Siam zone. For Mini Siam, there are the miniatures from Thai cultural building, such as Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun, Anantasmakom Hall (The Marble Throne Hall) inside Dusit Palace, Victory Monument, Democracy Monument, Rama IX Cable-Stayed Bridge, and many more in Bangkok. There are also the miniatures of the intriguing places outside Bangkok, such as Phanom Rung Historical Park in Burirum, Phra Thinang Aisawan Thiphy A-A R T, Historical Park of Ayutthaya, and Wat Phra Srisunpetch in Ayutthaya, Wat Mahathart in Sukhothai,  The Bridge over River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, and many more.

eiffel tower miniature

Then, for Mini Europe zone, I think that the name is not 100% correct, as it also provide the miniatures from several building from Asian and also American continent. In this place, you can meet the miniatures of Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, Pisa Tower and Colloseum in Italy, Tower Bridge in England, Abusimbel in Egypt, Liberty Statue in USA, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap (Cambodia), Tien T’an in Beijing (China), and also Opera House in Sydney (Australia), and still many more.

mini europe zone
A Glimpse of Mini Europe

Then, you can also find the miniature of the ancient city of Perse Polis city in Iran, in Mini Europe zone, which is scaled down from its initial area for the scale of 10.This is the brand newest attraction inside the place, which is opened in the recent year of 2007.

In my opinion, the best time to visit this place is during evening time, as the weather won’t be too hot, and also there are illumination for the building miniatures, which makes me even more captivating. And also, there is Thai dance started at 7 PM to 8 PM. So, make sure that you come here around 6 PM-8 PM. This is the best time in my opinion.

This place opens daily at 9 AM until late night. Actually, the admission fee for the last time I visit there is 300 baht for foreigner, and 120 baht for Thai. For child, they can get half the price. It’s not quite pricy, so don’t expect something too much. If you don’t like to visit the miniature which is not too expertly constructed, reconsider your decision to visit this place. And, I suggest that you can put 2 hours in your itinerary if you’re really interested in it.

Then, enjoy your two hours travelling to Pattaya Mini Siam!