An Introduction to Bangkok

An Introduction to Bangkok

Of all the cities in the world that I had yet to visit, I’d probably heard the most about Bangkok. Friends, family, and bloggers a plenty had told stories, shared photos, and broken down all the do’s and don’ts of visiting the Big Mango. Although I’d never set foot in Thailand before, I felt prepared.

  • I was ready for the suffocating humidity thanks to a previous trip to Vietnam.
  • I was armed with a pocketful of Thai currency.
  • Our accommodations were meticulously researched.

But, no amount of research or pre-trip planning can ever truly replace first-hand experience. Especially, since we were visiting during a very unique and tragic time. Just a few weeks prior, the highly beloved King Bhumibol passed away leaving the people of Thailand in a state of mourning. Grieving their king like a family member, the locals were clothed entirely in black, many even traveling far distances to pay their respects.

Upon arrival in Bangkok, my sister-in-law Faith and I queued for a taxi and soon afterwards arrived at our River District digs for the next two nights.

We loved our vantage point on the river because it meant we got to take longboats and ferries on our full day of temple touring. Similarly dressed in black, we set off to visit the newly re-opened Grand Palace.

img_3203

img_0002_2

We showed up at the palace in a bit of confusion. Everyone was gathering on the sides of the street as if a parade was about to happen. We weren’t sure if we should wait around or not but ultimately we decided to just get our tickets because nobody seemed to know what was going on. And it was at that moment that the skies opened and we experienced a classic Southeast Asian downpour. The rain was so heavy that it bounced off the pavement. We opted to hide and wait, hoping that this would be a short storm. But, after about 45 minutes we gave in and joined the few brave souls slopping around in the puddles.

img_3212

We wandered the grounds in eerie solitude, getting a unique opportunity to experience the grandeur and cultural significance of the Grand Palace without the masses. And then as we rounded the corner, we saw hundreds of people huddled under cover in silence, paying their respects. We did our best to enjoy our time but after about an hour of trudging around like a couple of drowned rats, we gave up and high-tailed it into one of the only open buildings we could find – The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. It was actually really cool to see the queen’s wardrobe, which seemed like something you’d picture the British royals wearing. On our way out we almost missed the Activity Room, which would have been a tragedy because they let us play dress up!!

img_7293

That was definitely the turning point for the day because from there it just got better. We sought refuge in a restaurant serving up beautifully plated dishes. And I finally got to check eating Pad Thai in Thailand off my bucket list.

We relaxed by the riverfront for a little while longer so that I could enjoy a dessert popsicle inspired by the Thai flag – delicious and very instagrammable :)

img_7299_2

After refilling our tanks we set out for temple #2 and the one that I was most looking forward to seeing – Wat Arun.

We arrived just in time for magic hour and the dreamy light that travel photography dreams are made from. I was absolutely blown away by the immaculate grounds.

img_7317

We ended the day back at our hotel with free welcome cocktails by the pool while watching the sunset over the river… oh and an authentic thai massage. I could sure get used to this whole vacation thing. The affordable luxury is one of my favourite things about Bangkok.

Bangkok is a big, noisy, chaotic, exciting city, which is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But after one full day of barely scratching the surface, I knew that I wanted more. I could easily envision myself coming back again and again with all of the diverse experiences awaiting me.

And with that, we were off to Koh Chang for some much needed R&R but we’d be back again in a few days to take in a totally different neighbourhood, Sukhumvit. There’s nothing like a roof top pool to make you never want to go back to work.

img_7433_2

Our time in Bangkok was brief, but it was enough for me to know that this is my kind of city. I’ll be back… I couldn’t leave if I didn’t believe that.

Have you been to Bangkok? What cities have you visited where you needed more time?

 

 

Advertisements
Sweet Simplicity on Koh Chang

Sweet Simplicity on Koh Chang

When I chose Thailand for a weeklong vacation, my only goal was relaxation. I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to see everything on my wish list so I didn’t even try. Someday when I have more time, I will return to the Land of Smiles to explore all the jungles, beaches, and temples that my heart desires.

In the meantime, I set my sights on Lonely Beach. After a couple of nights in bustling Bangkok, my sister-in-law Faith and I journeyed to the most Eastern edge of Thailand to its second biggest island, Koh Chang.

img_3332

Koh Chang is one of the lesser known tourist destinations in Thailand, which was exactly what appealed to me. Quiet. Beautiful. Secluded. The perfect spot for our “sistermoon” and perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Southeast Asia.

Upon arrival at the 3 star Warapura Resort we quickly fell into a blissfully relaxing daily routine. Each morning we woke at our leisure in our private waterfront villa and enjoyed breakfast by the ocean. After sipping on Americanos and lazying around in hammocks, we walked down to the white sand beach.

Once we got to the beach, we rented beach chairs and an umbrella and set up camp for the day. The aptly named Lonely beach was sparsely populated with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise water as warm as a bath. It was pure heaven and I never wanted to leave. We spent most of our time in the water, taking breaks to quench our thirst with the local Chang beer. It’s a tough life.

 

img_3273

img_7385

img_3276

After we had our daily fill of Vitamin D we walked back to our home away from home to shower off the salt water and catch up on wifi time. Our location on the western side of the island was ideal for coupling happy hour cocktails with sunset watching each evening. I’ll never tire of fiery skies.

img_7397

One of the best things about Thailand is the affordable luxury. Each evening we ordered authentic Thai dishes like pad thai, papaya salad and mango sticky rice for just a few dollars and pampered ourselves with pedicures and massages that would cost 5 times more at home.

I can’t say enough good things about this little slice of paradise and the opportunity to get a week of quality time with my sis. It was short and sweet and simply the best! I’m so glad that I opted for an untraditional vacation destination. It was definitely worth the long flight.

img_3322

 What’s the most relaxing vacation you’ve taken? Where should I go next?

Photo Essay: Visiting Taiwan for Free!

Photo Essay: Visiting Taiwan for Free!

I’ll be honest – Taiwan wasn’t on the top of my travel bucket list but when the cheapest flight to Thailand involved a 15 hour layover in Taipei, we decided to make the most of it.

Lucky for us, the Taoyuan International Airport offers FREE half day tours. That’s right – 100% free. After disembarking and breezing through customs we signed up for the daily morning tour. The itinerary included a stop at the Shou Sin Fang Creativity Wagashi and Cultural Centre, which is essentially a pastry factory (yes please!). We got to make our own pastries (which we quickly devoured) and then roamed the factory sampling as many local cakes and pastries as possible.

Our second stop was at the Zushi Temple in the bustling town of Sanxia, just 22km southwest of Taipei. There we learned about the Taoist religion and participated in some of the religious practices like lighting incense and learning our fortunes (my future looks pretty excellent!). We also got to wander around the beautiful  surroundings, soaking up the sunshine and striking up friendships with the locals.

Although, it was just a taste of what Taiwan has to offer, it was enough to entice me to return some day for a longer visit. Thanks for the memories TPE.

img_7437

img_3176img_3194img_7287img_3183img_3197img_3190

Cycling in the Vietnamese Countryside

After city hopping for several days I felt ready to experience something different. For a refreshing change of pace… I decided to take a bicycle tour of the countryside surrounding Hoi An. The scenery was beautiful and it was so nice to feel the breeze on such a hot morning. It definitely motivated me to keep pedaling because as soon as I stopped the sweat began to pour again. This is definitely the hottest spot on the trip so far!

After navigating some busy streets on my way out of town I was able to see local rural life in Vietnam. This included a stop at a farm to water the crops with traditional tools and a stop to ride a water buffalo. That’s right, you heard me… a water buffalo! I never even thought to put that one on my bucket list but very cool nevertheless.

 

20140701-183548-66948436.jpg

20140701-183550-66950355.jpg

Charming and Picturesque Hoi An

The only place in Vietnam that I knew about before deciding to come here was the lovely UNESCO heritage city of Hoi An. I had heard of it from friends and travellers and knew it was famous for its European feel and small town charm. Well… Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I can confidently say that it’s my favourite spot in Vietnam (even with the skyrocketing temperatures).

Hoi An

One of my favourite things to do in any new city is wander around without an agenda and that’s exactly how I started my first day in Hoi An. It wasn’t long before I came across the tailor recommended to me by a friend back home and promptly ordered a custom dress and skirt (not pictured). Hoi An has over 400 tailors and they can have clothes custom made the same day! I am obsessed with my two items and keep wondering why didn’t I order more?!! I have this overwhelming urge to make this an annual pilgrimage!

IMG_0999

The heat was almost unbearable at times but I still managed to enjoy walking along the Thu Ban river and sneaking a free photo in the Japanese covered bridge (I think I was supposed to pay…oops). It was fun to explore but it was more fun to sit in a cafe by the river sipping on mango smoothies and eating pho under the fan. Have I mentioned how hot it is here? Let me tell you that 35 degrees plus 100% humidity makes it hard to do much of anything other than lie in the pool… Which I happily did later as well!

20140628-152008-55208191.jpgpho

The must-do event of the trip so far was catching the sunset over the river. At around 6pm when the sun is going down, the town totally transforms. The light from the sky mixed with all the hanging lanterns and floating candles was absolutely magical. I can see why people fall in love with this place.

IMG_1007 20140628-152007-55207287.jpg

 

Beach Paradise in Nha Trang

My two days in Nha Trang were not nearly long enough to soak up all of the fabulous activities available. But, I did manage to squeeze in a lovely boat trip to snorkel in the South China Sea, an all day beach party with new friends, and some delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

This city had a completely different vibe than Ho Chi Minh City. I still feared for my life when crossing the street (crazy mopeds) but the atmosphere was way more laid back. I was fortunate to be able to enjoy the sunrise at the main beach one morning and it was there that I witnessed a jam packed beach at 6am. Apparently, the locals like to rise early to swim before the sun and the heat come out. That left a mostly quiet beach for us tourists to enjoy. Private cabanas could be rented for about $3 for the whole day and miles of white sand beaches were left for the taking. It’s no wonder the Russians have made Nha Trang their new go to vacation spot. I was certainly sad to leave but my skin needed a break from all that hot hot heat.

20140627-153340-56020568.jpg

20140627-153341-56021412.jpg

20140627-153840-56320163.jpg

20140627-153841-56321010.jpg

20140627-153841-56321244.jpg

Departure Lounge: Vietnam Itinerary

Departure Lounge: Vietnam Itinerary

It’s time to get back in the saddle again! Or perhaps more appropriately, the back pack straps! I am a mere 3 days away from my inaugural trip to Southeast Asia (aka backpacker paradise!) and my first solo trip. I am both excited and nervous about spending two weeks in my own company, but I’m trusting Adventurous Kate’s promise that solo travellers are never alone!

Some of you may be curious about my travel itinerary for this trip so I thought I would include a brief synopsis of my plans.

vietnam

Itinerary

June 21-22:Vancouver, Canada to Guangzhou, China (next day arrival and overnight)

June 23: Guangzhou, China to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

June 24: Ho Chi Minh City

June 25-26: Nha Trang

June 27-28: Hoi An

June 29-30: Hue

July 1: Halong Bay / Bai Chay

July 2-3: Hanoi

July 4: Hanoi, Vietnam to Vancouver, BC (via Guangzhou, China)

I have some idea of what I want to do in these cities but I’m mostly looking forward to seeing what each day brings. That being said, these are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • The infamous Nha Trang Boat Trip (aka booze cruise). Apparently, it’s the most fun you’ll have in Southeast Asia!
  • Getting custom-made clothing in Hoi An.
  • Touring the caves and waters of Halong Bay.
  • Eating as much PHO (pronounced fa) as possible… and learning the basics of Vietnamese cuisine.

I am hoping to post updates as I travel but that will mostly depend on my Internet access. Get ready for more fun updates to come!