Archive for July 2010


phuketAfter traveling to Bangkok, I went down to Phuket. Phuket is the big beach resort area in Thailand. It is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Asia and is filled with big hotels, resorts, beaches, bars, restaurants. and much more. There is some great diving here and they even filmed a James Bond movie here.

After being in Bangkok for awhile, I needed a break for the beach. I’d heard a lot about this area so I figured I would test it out. Normally, I prefer more off the beaten path destinations but everyone was raving about Phuket. You can’t hate a place you’ve never been so I thought I would try it out. I looked for some good Phuket hotels and finally settled on a place just south of Patong beach. Patong beach is where all the action is and I didn’t want to be surrounded by drunks and sexpats for my whole time there so I decided to get a place just south and then travel there. Better to only visit the craziness than live in it.

I spent my time in Phuket doing what I wanted- sitting on the beach. I thought the beaches and water were very nice. But they were very crowded with people and it was hard to get some “peace and quiet.” One thing I really hated were all the hawkers trying to sell me something every five minutes. If you go to some of the beaches on the southern part of the island, it’s a bit nicer, quieter, and with less hawkers. I ended up going down there for a few days to avoid the crowds.

One of the big activities to do here is to go diving. There seems to be a dive shop on every corner here- it’s like Starbucks! It was hard picking which one was good or bad but I just used the hotel’s advice. I ended up going to a dive shop on Patong and learning how to dive. I’d never dove before so I was a bit nervous. But after my first dive, I can see why everyone loves it. I’m hooked. I didn’t have time this trip but next time I am going to get my PADI. I’ve heard that many of the Phuket accommodation booking sites do a combo where you can do a dive/hotel package so I am going to look into that. But then again, I also heard it was better to do that in Ko Tao. Thoughts?

Overall, I liked Phuket but I’m not 100% sure I’d go back. With nicer and quieter beaches elsewhere in country, Thailand has a lot more to offer.

Bangkok, the City of Angels

bangkokOne aspect of Bangkok that never ceases to fascinate and intrigue me is the kaleidoscope of contrasts ever-present throughout the city. Indeed, the Thai capital is hardly alone in this regard. Extensive travel throughout Southeast Asia has brought me in close touch with simple, humble Buddhism on the one hand and raw, furious capitalism on the other. I have seen elegant reverence for ancient traditions one minute and total, all-in embraces of Western excess the next.

This is not to suggest that as a city, Bangkok has a patent on this kind of cultural dichotomy. Far from it. I can certainly name others that offer displays of venerable, quiet dignity by day and colourful flourishes of libertine, carnal gluttony by night. With Bangkok however, the flagrant contrasts are much, much more extreme. I think this is a key factor in the city’s vast allure.

One enclave of Bangkok where a lot of this comes together is Silom. Part corporate and financial district, the area is also the most notorious nightlife hub in Asia and arguably, the world. Silom after all, is home to Patpong.

The diminutive but infamous red light, entertainment and go-go bar district spans two parallel side streets between Surawong Road and Silom Road. Thought a fair number of locals frequent Patpong, the chaotic area is expat, backpacker and farang tourist central. Some come for the ridiculous spectacle that is Patpong, some for sheer curiosity’s sake and some for more nefarious reasons. The backdrop of Miss Saigon and The Deer Hunter is worth a look however, no matter how narrow.

High above the seamy veneer of Patpong’s go-go bars is Silom’s extraordinary skyline. You want to talk about contrasts, just stroll down this de facto “Wall Street of Thailand” which runs into the adjacent riverside district of Bang Rak. Luxury hotels, Fortune 500s, banks, shiny malls and upmarket shops all crowd for space in this Bangkok economic nerve centre. Though cultural points of interest are few and far between in Silom, visitors can always explore the oasis-like environs of Lumphini Park. The heritage home of former Thai Prime Minister M.R. Kukrit is a welcome respite from the skyscraper-red light contrast as well. Last but not least, I always recommend visitors in Silom district catch a Muay Thai event at Lumphini Stadium and check out Assumption Cathedral.

Nightlife, beyond the dense confines of Patpong, assumes other forms as well. Thanks to a plethora of phenomenal hotels in Silom district, the Bangkok ‘hood is chock full of superb bars, restaurants and even the occasional upscale rooftop lounge. If you want to get posh in the Thai capital, Silom is the place to do it. A number of reliable mid-range restaurants and bars in the district help keep the budget in line but many of Silom’s nobler digs are well worth a look-see. Splurge one night in Silom and slum it up the next – this is what makes Bangkok so spectacular.

Top Things to Do While Traveling in Asia

angkor watAsia provides a huge array of things to see and do over a vast amount of land and nations. Although it may take several trips to see all of it, Asia contains some awe-inspiring sites and major historical monuments. Its temples, unmistakable cuisine, and beautiful scenery will make you never want to leave. I’ve assembled some of the top things to do while traveling in this fabulous continent.

  • Japan’s Mount Fuji makes the top of everyone’s list and it’s not hard to see why. You could easily spend a weekend exploring the vast dormant volcano and its surrounding Lake Ashi, and Hakone National Park. The views are incredible, and with the proper preparation you can even accent Mount Fuji’s 12,388 feet to the summit to watch the sunset/sunrise. What a memorable experience that would be.
  • The giant Temple kingdom of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a once in a lifetime sight to behold. It is quite possibly the most impressive thing you will ever see in a jungle. This UN World Heritage Site sees thousands of visitors each year. The massive size of it is truly compelling when you think of how old it is and that it is surrounded by water and jungle. Angkor Wat is a true testament to human achievement and is a fascinating place to visit.
  • Ha Long Bay in Northwest Vietnam is simply outstanding as it is flooded with limestone rocks jutting out of the sea. You can take a boat tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that will take you around some of the 2000 islands which protrude out of the water in the Gulf of Tonkin. The area is absolutely breathtaking, and deserves to be experienced.
  • Take a tour of the Singapore Zoo either in the morning or at night depending on the types of animals you wish to see. Singapore Zoo is massive and provides the animals an opportunity to live in the wildest environment possible. During the morning tour, you can breakfast in the wild while exploring the zoo, and then get a closer look at the orangutans in their natural habitat. In the night tour, you weave through the Himalayan foothills at night on a safari tour to spot nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. It’s one of the best things to do in Singapore.
  • What better way to discover a forest than by elephant? At Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, you can enjoy the outdoors, wildlife, and lush forests as well as explore Pakchong Creek by elephant. It provides a truly majestic experience and one that is definitely one of a kind.
  • Stay in a Buddhist Monk temple in Korea. There’s no better way to understand the lives of these modern day monks than by participating in a temple stay program. During the weekend stay, you get to rise before sunrise to serve breakfast, do chores and meditate, all while experiencing firsthand the everyday lifestyle of the Buddhist Monks. You even get to dress up in traditional monk clothes for the duration of your stay.

What to do in Vietnam, Dalat.

dalat vietnamIn the next few paragraphs we are going to see what the main attractions are to do in Vietnam. This will hopefully give you a nice feel of the place so that you if you are going there then you will know what to visit and what not to miss out on while you are over there.

Easy Riders – If you do not have a lot of time in Dalat then you are best to book a tour with easy riders. The reason for this is because within 2 days you will get to see the whole Island. 2 days may seem a long time but you will see all you need to see within the country. You get an English speaking guide whose English is really good to hear and puts a bit of comedy in the tour. The price may sound dear at $70 per day however you do get quite a lot for your money but you do get the tour guide for 2 days and they put you up in a hotel for the night which you cannot grumble at. This is probably going to make you feel like you had an awesome holiday if you are going to book with easy riders.

Dalat Palace Golf Club – When you are in Dalat and you have had a couple of days looking at some tourist attractions you may want to relax for one day playing golf, if that is your type of thing. If you have brought your golf clubs with you or you are looking to rent some while you are over there then you best of coming to the Palace Golf Club. The Palace Golf Club used to only be a nine hole but with more people coming to play on this course they have decided to upgrade it to a 18th course. This means that you are able to stay out longer and enjoy playing in the sun and seeing some of Dalats amazing views.

Dalat Market – If you are looking to try out some new foods or looking for some cheap items to take back with you to your family then the market is defiantly the place to visit. It is a chance for you tee see what the locals eat and what type of products they sell. This market is open in the morning and closes late afternoon. This is a market not to be missed if you are going to visit Dalat.

Traveling China

xian city wallYou will get some everlasting memories, while making a trip to China. It is a perfect place for enjoying romantic getaways, relaxation, adventure and thrill. You can also enjoy comfortable accommodation, tasty dining, excellent shopping and delightful nightlife here. It is worth to shop around online to find the best deals to travel to China.
Guilin is a fabulous place to visit in China. The strangely shaped hills and green foliage ranging from bamboo to conifers make it a great attraction for tourists. Elephant trunk hill, Reed Flute Cave, Li River and Seven Star Park featuring a stone museum are the must see places in this city. You can reach the city by flight, bus or train.

Xian is situated in the central northwest China. Terracotta warriors are the most significant attractions of this place. They are the important archeological excavations of the 20th century. More than 7,000 ceramic soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons have been found out and most of them have been refurbished to their former magnificence.

Xian city wall is another important attraction. The wall has 18 gates that are open for all tourists. Big Wild Goose Pagoda is located 4 kilometers away from the downtown. It is a holy place for Buddhists. Its simple, yet in spring construction attract thousands of tourists every year. The surrounding scenery is very charming with water fountains and gardens.

Huashan Mountain is located 120 kilometers away from Xian. It is one of the five holy mountains in China. The narrow paths, high mountain ranges and steep cliffs offer a thrilling experience. It houses several Taoist temples. It is regarded as the sacred land of Taoism.

Shanghai is a famous international metropolis. It is becoming the most important economic, cultural, international and technical center of East China. It attracts more and more tourists every year. Shanghai Museum is an important place to visit. It is located in People’s Square. It is divided into eleven galleries and three exhibition halls. The galleries cover almost all the important kinds of Chinese art like Ancient ceramics, bronze, paintings, sculpture, Qing furniture and coins. You can find more than 400 pieces of wonderful bronze wares in this museum.

Jade Buddha temple houses two precious jade Buddhist statues. They are renowned for their rare cultural relics and porcelain artworks. The statues were carved with white jade that gives the beauty of sacredness to Lord Buddha.

My Thai Adventure

chiangmaiI took a two week group tour of Thailand which took us all over the mainland as well as to beaches and a couple of islands. As it was my first trip to Asia, I thought traveling by tour was a great way to be introduced to the continent. I wasn’t quite brave enough to travel completely solo, so I decided to travel via group and have the added bonus of leaving all the planning to the tour company.

I flew into Bangkok solo, and arrived in the early afternoon Thai time. The tour didn’t officially start until later that night so I had a few hours to experience the city on my own after checking into the hotel. After wandering the streets for a bit, I had to meet up with the tour group and get acquainted with my fellow travelers. We all went out to eat together to get to know each other better. I had my first traditional Thai meal of Pad Thai which became my staple during the rest of my travels. After dinner, we headed out to see what Bangkok’s nightlife had to offer. We discovered a sidewalk beer garden which I had never even heard of before, and then went out to a proper night club. A night out proved to be the easiest and best way to bond with my new friends.

One of the first stops on my trip was to Bangkok’s incredible Royal Palace of Chiang Mai. It’s set on 61 acres and is full of beautiful buildings and multi-colored murals. I found the information on the Royal family and the Thai beliefs incredibly interesting. Next, we visited the Emerald Buddha Temple. It also had fantastic architecture and murals, and interesting history.

I enjoyed the klongs of Bangkok. The city has a series of canals that it is built around and we were able to take a tour of them on a typical Thai boat. It gave us a great view of the city from the water. The backwater canals also allowed me to see everyday Thai life as we went past many houses and buildings, and viewed locals going about their days. Also while in Bangkok, I was able to spend some quality time shopping for unique souvenirs. Siam Square was also great for shopping for higher-end clothing and other items. I ended up buying quite a lot of stuff.

My favorite part of the Thailand trip was Chiang-Mai. Chiang-Mai’s old quarter is surrounded by a moat and ancient walls and is so pretty and old-world. I loved just wandering around the city. We also got to experience the night bazaar which was huge and incredibly busy. The Wat Phra That temple was my favorite part of Chiang-Mai. The temple itself is situated atop the tallest mountain overlooking the city. As part of the tour, we got to listen to the pilgrims ringing the bells, and even got to take part in Buddhist rituals. It was a very unique experience.

The beaches of Thailand provided a completely different aspect to the trip as I was able to relax and lie on the gorgeous beaches and soak in the beautiful surroundings. My Thailand experience was incredible and I can’t wait to go back.