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Archive for December, 2013

Bangkok – Part 3

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Previously on November Getaway 2013: Pre-departure, Bangkok day 1 and day 2

11 Nov

This day was the last day in Bangkok and also the day that I was very grateful that I brought my sneakers. I used to think that sandals were my choice of footwear when it came to travelling but after the long walk today I converted to pro-sneakers.

The travel mate and I visited Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho. We went by feet and boat to reach those places and got back to Happy House to get some rest before watching the Siam Niramit show.

Grand Palace

Grand Palace was the reason I packed my sneakers. Visitors had to dress properly and that meant no bare feet (we had to wear socks if we’re wearing sandals/flip flop).

To The Grand Palace

Let’s walk walk walk to the Grand Palace!

Grand Palace Gate

.. and we’re there!

There was this one famous scam, one in which the swindler would say that the Grand Palace was closed and then lure tourist to other places (like gem stores) but that morning the Grand Palace gate was swamped by groups of tourist (with their buses parked nearby) so there’s no chance to see this scam live in action (not that I hoped to see or worse, fall into one).

Golden Palace

No wonder why I sometimes searched for ‘Golden Palace’ instead of ‘Grand Palace’

My Fave Area at Grand Palace

My fave area in Grand Palace

The Palace Guards

Guards on duty

The 500 THB Grand Palace ticket included several entries to other places. One of them was Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile which was also located in the Grand Palace.

At first I just wanted to cool myself down but this museum turned out to be offering much more than air conditioning. They put multimedia to a good use  and had amazing display cases to show off the royal collection.

They used special glass that surrounded several clothes and when the visitor moved around the glass, the glass will focus visitor’s eyes to one specific clothe only. Awesome! We couldn’t take picture inside the museum though.

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile

To The Temples

Graffiti On The Way To Wat Pho/Wat Arun

Demo related graffiti found on the way to Wat Pho/Wat Arun

Snack and Lunch

Snack and lunch (chicken with basil)

We had lunch in front of the N9 Tha Chang pier (see map). At that point I didn’t have how-to-get-to-next-destination recorded in my brain. I only had this: Wat Pho and Wat Arun were near Grand Palace and somehow there had to be boat involved. That’s it.

So there we were, looking around Tha Chang pier, trying to locate where to buy boat ticket for a moment, we had no clue at all. So when we found a line of people started to form on one of the waiting points at the pier, we just followed the crowd.

Soon a boat came and we mentioned ‘Wat Pho’ to the boat guy and he directed us to the other waiting point on that pier. Apparently the queue was for the boat that travelled the other direction.

We then successfully boarded the right boat without tickets in our hands and knowing where to alight. The boat was full of people and we just stood at the stairs near the deck. A bit later a woman came and collected money.  Ah, so you pay onboard…

I mentioned ‘Wat Arun’ to the boat conductor and she mentioned the cost (15 THB). One stop later, catching the word ‘Wat Arun’ and ‘crossing’, we hurriedly alighted at N8 Tha Tien pier. This time it was clear to us that we had to purchase the ticket at the pier (3 THB) for boat ride crossing the river.

Crossing Chao Praya

Crossing Chao Praya – Wat Arun in the background

The boat was smaller and less crowded. It was a short trip, so short that the boat guy didn’t have a chance to finish his bowl of noodle.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun and its freakin’ stairs (love that guy who was all smile at the stairs!)

Pigeons at Wat Arun

Wat Pho

Back crossing the river and then few minute walking from N8 Tha Tien Pier we found Wat Pho.

The Reclining Budha

The Reclining Budha

Wat Pho

So quiet, so peaceful here

There were several parts in Grand Palace and Wat Pho where we had to take off our footwears, i.e the praying area like picture above. We sat for a while in that place along with other foreigners, enjoying the silence and resting for a bit. I felt so peaceful there…

But not for long, stepping outside that praying area there should be an exit entrance nearby, just few meters from it really and I still don’t understand how my travel mate and I could circle around back to the entrance (Wat Pho is a 20 acres complex) and no we didn’t exit at the entrance, that would not be proper. We went back to find the exit gate. Disoriented travellers…

From Wat Pho we walked back to Happy House.

Thai Food

Recharging: Green Curry, Pad Thai, Vegetable Stir-Fry, and Mango Sticky Rice (no pic)

To Siam Niramit Show!

This show was number one in my Bangkok bucket list and it lived up to my expectation. If I ever get a chance to visit Bangkok again, I’d love to see this again, perhaps in Phuket.

We took bus no 53 to get us to Hua Lamphong station. Halfway the passengers needed to change bus with other bus no 53 (don’t know why). There was this one westerner expat on the bus assured us that sometimes it happened and he hadn’t found out the reason yet.

At Hua Lamphong station we wanted to get next day train ticket to Aranyaprathet (for land trip to Siem Reap) but the information center staff said that it should be same day purchase and we could buy the ticket tomorrow.

Besides train station, Hua Lamphong also had MRT station and we took train from there to Thai Cultural Center station. The travel agent from which we purchased the show ticket had advised us to go to Exit 1 and there we found the free shuttle van that would take us to Siam Niramit show.

Thailand’s Must See Show

Siam Niramit Pre-show

Performance and Thai Village to see before the show

We exchanged the receipt from the travel agent and got our seat number printed on a sticker that we should stick to our clothes. Cameras and video recording devices should be deposited right before entering the theater.

The theater was just like a cinema theater, a huge cinema theater that could accomodate 2000 seats. We got G48 and G49, that was in the middle of the fourth line from the bottom of upper seating area. I know, I’m not good at describing things but it was good seat and one hell of a show.

yours truly at Siam Niramit

yours truly

Siam Niramit show had an amazing set  and special effect. The decoration was sometimes gigantic yet the transitions between each stage were so smooth and fast. They also had ‘river’ on stage.

There were hundred of casts in costume. They even had goats and elephants walking on the stage and on the space between the bottom and upper seating area. Elephants. And goats.

The show lasted for 1.5 hours and I enjoyed every second of it.

Siam Niramit

They provided bus that took us to Thailand Cultural Center MRT station. We walked around the area for about half an hour and then got a taxi to Khao San road.

The taxi driver agreed to use meter but kept trying to make us pay 200 THB. No way, Mr. Taxi Driver! He took the taxi to the expressway and we paid 50 THB for the toll. Going on Bangkok expressway: checked!

Pork Noodle and Choco-banana Pancake

Midnight snack: pork noodle and choco-banana pancake

So that was it for Bangkok, a wonderful reminder of the excitement of seeing new places. I said goodnight and could not wait what the next city would bring me.

Plan: Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Cloud47 Reality: Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Siam Niramit Show

Written by Elfira Y S

December 22nd, 2013 at 6:31 pm

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Bangkok – Part 2

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Previously on NG2013: Pre-departure, Bangkok 9 Nov

10 Nov

10 Nov was the first full day on November Getaway 2013 and it was also a shopping day, window shopping mostly. Today agenda was to visit Chathuchak Weekend Market, malls in Siam district, and to watch the Siam Niramit show.

Sunday Morning Bus Trip

Happy House Breakfast CouponsWhen the travel mate did the booking on booking.com, there was no breakfast included for our rooms. But when we checked in, we received free sandwhich and coffee/tea coupons for 3 days. So we started the day around 8.30-ish in the morning, munching the sandwhich, slurping coffee, reuniting with internet (internet connection was only available at the receptionist and dining area).

The receptionist told us to take bus number 3 if we wanted to go to Chatuchak Weekend Market. When we asked about the fare, they said that some buses are free, wah! Unfortunately I didn’t run into such bus during my stay in Bangkok (that’s because you only took the bus twice, Ra!). Well, maybe next time.

Ride Like a Local

ride like a local!

Bus no 3 only had one seats on each side and that Sunday morning everyone got a seat and no one was standing. The bus conductor was a woman wearing mask, she would got up and collected the money when there was new passenger aboard. I guess it was a flat fare because with exception of the foreigners, all local passenger didn’t mention where they would alight.

This ride cost 13 THB and though the receptionist warned us about the traffic, I think the 45 minute trip to Chatuchak Market was rather due to the distance.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

This. Place. Is. HUGE! If one really intends to do serious shopping here then one should have the market map in their hands (available on their website and provided at certain entry point)  otherwise one will waste their time. And if one also likes something they see then one should immediately open their wallet and haggle if possible otherwise one will forget where the stall is and regret not buying the first time.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

 

Coconut Ice Cream

coconut ice cream – perfect for your sunny  Sunday!

Boat Noodle

boat noodle – use tongs to get as many bean sprouts as you want from the blue bucket

Crocodile

crocodile head, sir, mam?

Let’s Go To The Mall.. Today! (*song by Robin Sparkles)

The (windows) shopping tour continued. Next on the list was Siam district area. The malls there are connected by sky bridge. To get to Siam district from Chatuchak was easy. Mo Chit BTS Skytrain station was nearby and the train could take us to Siam Station (22 THB). The first mall that I saw right when exiting the station was Siam Paragon.

Around Chatuchak and Mo Chit Station

top: park next to Chatuchak Weekend Market
bottom left: Bangkok traffic, what a colorful line of cars
bottom right: one of my regret, did not investigate what rabbit and carrot service center was

Siam Paragon, Siam Center, MBK Center

 

Siam Paragon

Siam Paragon: this mall has luxury car showrooms and Kinokuniya

Toilet - Siam Center Style

Siam Center Toilet: Must Visit

 

Bridge to MBK

Bridge to MBK Center: perfect spot for photoshoot session

Plan B

After buying book, postcards and car charger adapter in those malls, the travel mate and I went back to the Skytrain station with hope to find travel agents that sold Siam Niramit ticket for that day. It was Sunday and it’s either there was no travel agent at Siam station or it’s closed. We then searched the area with no luck and decided to switch the schedule and end this day with sky bar experience.

I did my homework on Bangkok sky bars and proposed Cloud47 because this sky bar was new, not crowded yet, and it received excellent reviews for points that I cared about including say-yes-to-flip-flop rule (the famous Lebua sky bar/Hangover sky bar has strict dress-code and more expensive beverages/food, not to mention the place is certainly packed). If I am to visit Bangkok again, I’d like to have dinner at my second choice of Bangkok skybars, Vertigo.

Flying Going to Cloud47

We followed guide from Tasty Thailand and went back to Siam station and got into the Silom Line and alighted at Sala Daeng station. Ten minute walk, we stepped inside Union Center office tower, gladly arrived at 5 PM sharp (Cloud47 opens at 5!) and found before us an announcement that Cloud47 was closed until 8 PM due to a private party. Ok.

3 hours to kill.. at Moz in Union Center tower, snacking and writing postcards.

At Moz Union Center

2 hours to kill.. Patpong Red District Night Market. We walked through the market which was not alive yet (it was merely 6PM) and then entered one of the bar a supermarket where we saw the sexy dance one of the staff, the deposit counter staff (is this the right term for ‘penitipan barang’?), greeted and talked to us in Indonesian (and amazingly the travel mate didn’t realize that at all).

Foodland Supermarket

‘dua tas?’ ‘iya, makasi’

 

45 minutes to kill.. Leaving the Patpong night market area and heading back to Union Center tower, there was this street concert for charity. This was my first encounter with Thai pop that night.

Street Concert

Cloud47

Up Up to Cloud47

Finally

Cloud47 Party

wait.. what?! the party is still on! crashing party abroad: checked! Second encounter to Thai pop that night.

Cloud47

40 minutes later… I was definitely on cloud nine on Cloud47

Back To Khao San Road

The magical night didn’t end there. That night the travel mate and I managed to get a taxi that used meter! Ha! It was night, we were going to Khao San road and the mob was still going on, so I would count that as a miracle. Thank you, Mr. Taxi Driver!

Back on Khao San Road, our first priority was to find travel agent. Several of them were still open and our Siam Niramit tickets for tomorrow show were secured. The official ticket costs 1500 THB each but we got it for 1000 THB. It was the first price that the travel agent mentioned and we quickly nodded in agreement.

Happy. Happy House. Sleep. Ready for tomorrow.

Plan: Chatuchak Weekend Market, malls in Siam district, Siam Niramit show Reality: Chatuchak Weekend Market, malls in Siam district (Siam Paragon – Siam Center – MBK Center), Patpong Night Market, Cloud47

Written by Elfira Y S

December 15th, 2013 at 11:10 pm

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Bangkok – Part 1

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Previously on NG2013: Pre-departure

Rika Potter has waved her wand and I am spell-bound to finish the November Getaway 2013 series (or at least write this post).

9 Nov

 

CGK-BKK

On my birthday I hopped on a 4.35 PM plane to Bangkok. The flight from Jakarta took about 3.5 hours and there was no time difference between the two cities (GMT+7). This time the pilot did not make birthday announcement on the plane. Phew!

Soekarno Hatta and Suvarnabhumi International Airport

After obtaining visa on arrival and meeting with the travel mate whose flight from Singapore was one hour earlier than mine, we took  the City Line train to Phaya Thai station (45 THB). There were 2 train lines heading to the city and the other one, the Express Line, was the expensive one.

To The City!

Exiting from Phaya Thai station and out into Bangkok street at night I was feeling.. that particular mix.. excited and scared at the same time. Not that I didn’t feel it from the time the travel plan started but up until Phaya Thai station it was kinda bit dreamy and also everything seemed to be no different than my daily routine when I knew exactly where to go and how to. But when I was outside the station, trying to get a taxi to the Happy House, it seemed reality pinched me in the cheek and said: let the journey begin!

City Line token

So the journey began with waiting for the right taxi, that is the taxi that was willing to take us to our stay using meter. My guide book said that most taxis would use meter.. not! Within minutes I could see how it was done in that spot: flagging down taxi, asking to use meter, getting a no answer, giving the destination place, haggling for the fare, if deal – getting in, if no deal – back to step 1.

It was not like there was shortage of taxi there, the travel mate and I had been flagging several taxis in just few minutes before we decided to get in the next taxi that would agree on 150 THB (the guide book said going places in the city usually costs 60-100 THB).

To Happy House Hou!

Mr. Taxi Driver that agreed to take us did not speak that much of English and kept asking to see the map and address on the hostel booking print out. The hostel was supposed to be near the famous backpacker street, Khao San Road, but it seemed Mr. Taxi Driver didn’t recognize it.

He asked fellow local for direction, ‘Happy hou, happy hou’! while I whispered the ‘s’ ending inside my head. (Note: it seemed in the three countries that I visited, the local tends to omit the ‘s’ at the end of an English word).

Somewhere along the way Mr. Taxi Driver pointed to a group of people in the street and said ‘Mob! Mob!’ Then I saw what would be the reason why most taxi drivers were a bit reluctant to drive to our area. I knew that there was a demo going on in Bangkok before I left but my searches told me that it was on other side of city so I assumed they were not in my route and certainly I didn’t expect them to still have activities past the sunset!

Anyway, the mob/demo seemed to be a peaceful one that night and we safely checked in into Happy Hou. This is the end of day 1… not!

To Khao San Road!

Happy Hou was within 5 minutes walking distance of Khao San Road and that’s good because I found several accommodations on Khao San Road and I wondered how the guest could sleep at night (well, they probably didn’t). This crowded street is a line of restaurants and bars with loud music, travel agents, massage spots, clothes/souvenir sellers and food sellers.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road

Some street food sellers, snack and heavy meal sellers alike, didn’t have sitting area so people would buy and eat it while walking. I finally got to taste Pad Thai in its original place and leisurely enjoyed it sitting down on the floor in front of one closed store. A beer seller girl who had just set up her stall in front of us chatted us a bit, telling that she was from outside Bangkok. She offered drinks to which we politely declined and then we continued strolling down the busy street.

People of all ages were having fun along this street. Yes, I spotted families with kids at approaching midnight hour. I saw man dancing solo to the song played in one bar and people around him laughing and clapping his performance.

I saw lines of beach chairs full of foreigners enjoying massage outdoor (I was tempted to snap a picture but didn’t want to make them feel like they were some kind of tourist attraction. Well, they were kinda to me haha).

I saw people staring at exotic food, like scorpion, and apparently I was not that adventurous enough to try it. Taking picture cost 10 THB. I was kinda hoping to see people who bought and tasted the food, to see their reaction but I found none that night. And I saw KFC and Burger King (the latter was recently open).

Khao San Road

First Supper!

The street next to Khao San Road was still alive at midnight as well. This street whose name is still unknown to me had restaurants and bars as well but the music was not as loud as those in the neighbor street. We picked a random restaurant and had Thai Papaya Salad (Som Tam) and Tom Yum for supper. I didn’t know that unripe papaya could be that delicious and refreshing! You shouldn’t go into that ripe state, Papaya, just die young (in my stomach) and stay yummy in my memory.

First Supper

Tummy’s full and the battery’s low. Time to head to bed in Happy Hou. Good night, Bangkok, see you later.

Plan: arrive in Bangkok Reality: arrive in Bangkok, Khao San Road 

Written by Elfira Y S

December 14th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

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November Getaway 2013

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Welcome to my second post in 2013! Mwahaha.

So. This post is going to be the first of a series of me babbling about my latest getaway, the November 2013 getaway! Tadaaa..

November Getaway 2013

The text in the travel book cover is NG2013 in summary: Bandung – Jakarta – Bangkok – Siem Reap – Saigon – Singapore – Bandung, 9 – 18 November 2013. This post will note the predeparture stories. Without further ado..

First: Tickets

This year I got long service leave (a whole month off yay) and I chose to take it in my special month, November.

I’ve always been that person who likes to plan something for own birthday. In high school I saved up my allowance to buy the complete series of Shoot manga. But when I bought Tigerair’ JKT-BKK ticket for Nov 9, it was not a special birthday plan, it was because the fare was the cheapest that day.

I actually wanted to avoid flying on my birthday because last time, the first time I ever travelled on the day, the airline pilot announced it and the crew congratulated me and gave me a birthday card signed by them. This happened up in the air so I couldn’t run away or pretend that I wasn’t the birthday girl.

Lucky last time I was with this guy so the awkward level could be toned down a bit I think. This time I will fly solo and if they don’t have any gift card to please me, please please don’t call my name I pray.

Anyway, on one July night I dreamt of going solo travelling that involves road trip abroad and before I knew it, I was browsing through budget airline websites and feeling this urge to get these 3 tickets:

  1. Tigerair Jakarta – Bangkok 9 Nov
  2. Tigerair Ho Chi Minh City – Singapore 17 Nov
  3. Airasia Singapore – Bandung 18 Nov

Tickets I bought and a happy girl I was. Then I’d just have to figure out how to get to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from Bangkok. Oh the excitement!

Second: The Planning

I put Siem Reap as a stop between Bangkok and Saigon. I wanted to see the famous Angkor Wat. So my early searches was on how to do land trip Bangkok-Siem Reap and then Siem Reap-Saigon.

Siem Reap – Saigon was resolved almost immediately thanks to the lost wanderer who had taken bus trip Saigon – Siem Reap. For Bangkok – Siem Reap I meant to follow this guide.

Third: Changes to Plan

Before the trip even started there were already changes. First, I got a travel mate so it wouldn’t be a solo travelling anymore. This change was very much welcome. I was a bit scared going on a road trip alone.

The second change gave a dent to my budget plan. When my friend and I were going through the travel plan, I found out that the bus service that’s supposed to take us from Siem Reap to Saigon had announced on their web that they would not be operating on our travel dates due to the Bon Om Touk, one of the biggest national celebrations in Cambodia.

After considering several options (one of them was to take boat trip from Siem Reap to Pnom Penh to see the festival but how to get to Saigon?), we purchased flight tickets from Cambodian Angkor Air. You know what, the price of this one ticket one hour trip equals to about 80% of the sum of my other 3 tickets! Lalalala..

Fourth: All Set, sort of

On Nov 7 skype call with the travel mate, I believe we had covered about 60-70%-ish of our trip plan. I tried to create an hourly schedule but soon I got bored. At that time I might have felt there were still holes, like several how to get there etc, but I didn’t really want to do one more travel related googling. Just get me on the plane already!!

Money

I had in me 6500 THB, 500 USD, and 60 SGD (the travel mate had my 170 USD since I used my credit card for the Siem Reap – Saigon ticket). They didn’t sell VND here in Bandung.

Luggage

Oh the hell with travelling light haha.. Easy to say, difficult to execute. Next time I MUST bring fewer clothes. Just buy on destination or use the laundry service. I brought Eiger Lavost 5.1.2 50 L backpack, one shoulder bag, and one folded bag. I should really have to go on another trip if it’s only just to improve my packing and shopping skill alalalala..

The original schedule
9 Nov night – arrive in Bangkok 10 Nov – Chatuchak Weekend Market, malls at Siam Square, Siam Niramit show 11 Nov – Grand Palace, Wat Arum, Wat Pho, Cloud 47 12 Nov – land trip to Siem Reap 13 Nov – Angkor National MuseumPhare Circus 14 Nov – Angkor Complex 15 Nov – flight to Saigon, Golden Dragon Water Puppet 16 Nov – Chu Chi Tunnel half day tour, XO Night Tour 17 Nov – flight to Singapore, Bras Basah, Red Dot Design Museum, Orchard 18 Nov – flight to Bandung
Several things took different turns of course but let’s leave it for another posts~~ *hope I can finish this series, fingers crossed lalala~

Written by Elfira Y S

December 1st, 2013 at 3:01 pm

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