Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

Weekend in Bangkok

Posted by Monica Johansen on January 25, 2009

I arrived in Bangkok on Friday evening, and I have spent the first two days of the new Chinese year in the Thai capital. Saturday I spent most of the day on my own walking around in the city and visiting some of the main tourist attractions in the city, including the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of The Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha) and Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple).

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace, or Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang, is one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen, and I spent quite some time walking around and taking photographs. Luckily I was wearing long pants and sleeved t-shirt that day, because people are not allowed into the temple area without proper clothing. The building of the palace was started in 1782 when king Rama I decided to build a magnificent new palace as a place of residence as well as a centre of government when the capital of Siam was moved from Thonburi on the west to Bangkok on the east of the Chao Phraya River. The palace and the temple containing the Emerald Buddha were completed in 1785, so it the buildings are well over 200 years old.

I have previously seen beautiful pictures of the Marble Temple, but unfortunately when I was there the temple was under renovation so large parts of it were covered in scaffolding. Nevertheless, I it is a fantastic building and definitely worth visiting when in Bangkok.

Temple of Dawn

Temple of Dawn

On Saturday night I met my friend Marius at the airport, who flew in from New Zealand via Sydney. Today Marius and I have been looking around in the city, and we started off visiting the official Thai Travel Authority to find out how we can easily get over to Cambodia, which is our primary destination for the coming week. After having a chat with the travel agent and gathering some information we walked around in the shopping area for a little while before we headed towards Wat Saket and The Golden Mountain. We walked up the stairs to the top of the mountain and from there we had a great view of historic Bangkok.

After visiting the Golden Mountain we took a cab out to the river bank and jumped on the public boat which runs a shuttle service between the upper and lower parts of the river. From the boat we had a great view of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) as the sun was about to set, and although the boat was quite packed with tourist it was certainly an enjoyable ride. We ended up at the central station south of the city, and at that time we were ready to head back to the hotel and have a quick shower before dinner. After walking around in the city all day we didn’t have much energy left, so we decided to eat in the hotel, and we were positively surprised by the food.

Tomorrow morning we are planning to leave Bangkok and travel across the border to Cambodia. I have always wanted to visit the famous Angkor Wat, and I am very excited about our next destination.

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Memories of Thailand

Posted by Monica Johansen on January 16, 2009

Seven days from now I will be traveling to Thailand for the Chinese New Year holiday. Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Singapore, and pretty much everything will be closed during the holiday. Hence, being stuck alone in Singapore is going to be very boring, so I decided to get out of town and catch up with a Swiss friend of mine who I met in Kakadu in Australia in August. We are planning to meet in Bangkok and spend a day or two to explore the areas outside the city before get out of Thailand and over to Cambodia.

Floating marked

Floating marked

The upcoming holiday brings back fond memories of my previous trip to Thailand in July last year, when I had the opportunity to visit the famous Tiger Temple. The trip to the temple was actually a spontaneous idea that came to my mind right before a business trip to Bangkok. We were going to a 5-days APAC training session in the Thai capital, and two of my colleagues and I wanted to use the opportunity to see some of the areas outside of the city, so we changed our flights from Sunday night to Friday night to have the whole weekend to explore.

So Friday night I went straight to the airport from the office with my two sales engineer colleagues. Luckily, they are both unmarried young boys, so they didn’t mind spending the weekend with an odd Norwegian chick. One of them, Ssu-han, is Malaysian, and the other one, Muthu, is from India, and they are almost as curious and adventurous as me. Almost… 🙂

During the weekend we stayed at one of the many budget hotels in the city. The budget hotels are of course not as fancy and comfortable as the business hotels, but it is quite amazing how many affordable and reasonably nice hotels you can find in Bangkok. A few days before we left Singapore we had organized a private guided tour to some of the sights outside of Bangkok, and the Tiger Temple was one of the destinations. So Saturday morning we were picked up at the hotel by our driver for the day, and the first stop was the floating marked outside the city. We jumped on a small boat that was just large enough for the three of us plus the captain, and we did a tour around the marked along the canal. The boys bought some fresh coconut drinks, but apart from that we didn’t buy anything on the marked. But it was fun to see a typical Thai marked, and I took a lot of photos.

Me petting a huge tiger

Me petting a huge tiger

Back at the meeting point our driver was waiting for us and we jumped back in the car to drive to the next destination and meet our tour guide for the day. Our guide appeared to be a smiling, English speaking Thai lady, and she told us that the next destination was the Tiger Temple. She was also exited to tell us that there were 2-3 months old tiger cubs at the temple that we could hold if we wanted to, and once I heard about the baby tigers I couldn’t wait to get going.

The Tiger Temple (or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua) is a Buddhist temple located in the Saiyok district of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province, not far from the border with Myanmar. It was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for numerous wild animals, and today the most famous attraction in the temple are the tigers that are raised by the monks and trained to not be aggressive towards humans. The temple is housing tigers in different age groups, from small cubs to older huge males, and it was amazing to interact with them. I think the most memorable experience for me was when I held a baby tiger in my arms and he was about to fall asleep. They are gorgeous animals!

Elephant trekking

Elephant trekking

After the visit to the temple we went elephant trekking in the forest. Ssu-han and I were riding on a huge elephant, while Muthu was riding a smaller one. The elephants had seats that we were sitting in, but in the middle of the forest the trainer asked us if we wanted to sit on the animal’s neck, and of course I did not let that opportunity get away. The trainer jumped off the elephant and I slid down from the seat and onto the animal’s neck. And for most of the remaining of the trip I was steering the elephant while the training walked in front. I have always wanted to ride an elephant, and it was a truly memorable experience. Sitting on the elephant neck is definitely a different experience from sitting in a seat on the elephant back, and I was happy that I got the chance to actually ride on one of them.

On the way back to Bangkok we stopped at the famous bridge on the River Kwai to take some photos before we headed straight back to the city. The boys were exhausted after a long day, and they dozed off in the car, but I couldn’t sleep for a second. I sat in the back of the car with my eyes wide open and a huge smile on my face. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the fantastic experience of playing with tiger cubs and riding elephants through the jungle. It is not exactly something you experience every day!

So, in just a week from now I will be back in Thailand, and new adventures are waiting… 😀

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