Thursday, April 26, 2007

Seeking Buddah in Ayutthaya

- -
First, visit the King's Grand Summer Palace.

cross the bridge (back in the day, men had to walk on the other side of the bridge, slipping letters and notes to women through the jalousy slits.)


Check out his gifts from other nations


Now relax, recline and head on to Buddah's enlightenment stages



Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol




Make sure to visit Wat Phra Si Sanphet


Two Buddahs + 3 spires

- best site


Visit Mr. Wat Phra Mahathat and marvel at the vast well preserved architecture around Him.


Finally, seek blessings over at Wat Panan Choeng

Ayutthaya Buddha sends down

and allow Buddah to descend enlightenment.

*Ayutthaya is the best place to visit near Bangkok and only an hour's ride outside the city. We opted to rent a van for 3,000 Baht and pay an addition 1,000 Baht for a tour guide. Budget in numbers makes this the sweetest deal amongst all the options I had in my previous post. More information on the city can be found here and here.

*more photos here and here.
triptayo post

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Balderdash-ing in Bangkok

It's what lies beneath when entering the city of Bangkok.

Just like any emerging Asian city, the so-called "Venice of Asia" is one huge concrete jungle.

Traffic is a headache, pollution plagues the lungs and heat is a b*tch.

For a country whose second biggest economic resource is tourism, I was surprised to experience that most people lacked basic English communication skills. We stayed in Baiyoke Sky hotel, a hotel equates to tourists, but here all then can give you is one big jaw drop. "You are supposed to reply. Do you un-der-ssstand the wordssss co-ming ooo-ut of myyyy mou-th?" It's rude to stare, what more than to open your mouth. Am I supposed to deposit something inside?

We flew via Thai Airways. Marketing is one huge lie, what hospitality and service are they talking about? To and from Manila, not once did I see a fight attendant genuinely smile. In the city, restaurant service is not impressive, besides an obvious language barrier, servers fail to smile but make it a point to open their mouths once more and stare.

The Tuk Tuk is an icon associated with Thailand. Dude, wake up and smell your chili. Hotels put up signs warning tourists to stay away from Tuk Tuks and travel books publish against this form of transportation. Best way to get around the city is via taxi. Make sure the meter will be in use and if desperate haggle and agree on a fixed amount.

But for what it's worth, Bangkok is a great place to get lost in transportalation!

Bangkok is cheap and frolicking is the way to go.

Let the pictures be a testament to the sparkling finds in this city's amazon.

nice shot!

Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew faces

Asia has the best religious and cultural art. Head on to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, one entrance, two great sites worth your 250 Baht. The details on the art can be over whelming with its intricate wonders of expression.


Temple Guards

E-6 (3)

E-6 (5)

The standing Buddah temple

E-6 (2)

The seated Buddah of Traimit

More works of art
E-6 (8) E-6 (1)

Boutique dining
Head on to Th Khao San after you've had your temple Wat fill.

Soi is a small narrow street or what is also called a sub-street. Th Khao San is arguably the liveliest street in Bangkok, the so-called backpackers area. Lined with restaurants, bars, vendors and what have you, exploring away to its small streets and alleys will not fail. One Soi had this quaint resto and boutique shop owned by a local fashion designer. It's Happened to be a Closet. Superb interior, thumbs-up on the food, but consider this a bit pricey with dishes starting at 250Baht to 750Baht after you have been spoiled from scrumptious 100 - 150 Baht authentic Thai cuisine.

squid ink pandesal
squid ink bread - pasta & scallops

in Khao San boutique dining
Right beside the closet, there is an Internet Cafe with 60's, 70's interior that creates a lounge feel for its guests. A perfect place for low or high tea, which ever time you prefer. There are two other eclectic designed hole-in-the-wall restos that grab attention, which I have failed to try out.

I can spend the entire day in this location alone. It's hard to miss. Just look for the sub-street leading to a court yard looking area.

Although my Lonely Planet yellow bible was very helpful, experience taught me not to depend on the book when it comes to food establishments. Went to the exact address listed but there was no such eatery, the name was probably changed to Cafe Primo. The other had a contact number but to no avail and locals have never heard of the Pickle Factory. The vicinity map of Khao San helped me plot out some restos. But at 10PM, if your cab has a typical Bangkok-taxi- driver-ass who decides to drop you at the avenue next to Th Khao San, what seemed to be a plausible 500-800meter walk (according to the Asia in a Shoestring guide) to Hemlock, is a busted myth.

Luckily, just like finding an oasis on a dessert of ghetto mayhem, Mayompuri was the perfect find.


When you hit Th Khao San's dead end, make a left, walk for a minute or two, it's there! Now eat, dine, drink and relax. Dishes were between 100Baht - 250Baht. Yummy!


When done with comfortable dining and seating, head on to Khao San's artery for some street food such as insects, worms, Pat Thai and Ya Ki So BA. Some art works pop out as well but do not mind shopping for clothes and wait until the weekend for the mother father of Bangkok's shopping destination.

In the Chatuchak Weekend Market if you bring around 5,000Baht for clothes, you will have a large problem finishing it off. An open-air market, reeking of teen spirit and trash, packed with a frenzy of mindless pedestrians along with the sweltering scorch that creates a natural sauna will not stop one from a 6-hour shopping spree. I barely shop, but shirts that cost 100-250Baht maximum is just too hard to pass. You'll see. Be sure to have this map handy.

Ping Pong in Patpong is another tourist destination. Surprisingly, people and couples regardless of age, race or religion gather around some dimly lit room, Asian brothel style. Our tour guide brought us there to prove that the legend is true. For 500Baht, it turned into a bottle opener, shot darts, blew candles, puff puffed on more than 3 cigarettes at a time, drew on paper, strings and blades were pulled out from it and finally, drank clear water and then out came coke.

Bangkok is a city that can boast many spectacular finds. Spending 4 - 5 days following the itinerary I made, posted here, is more than enough. It can be a vacation but not really for the R & R type.

Walk, explore and GET LOST! Bangkok is a city where discoveries become a euphoric reward!

*more photos here, here and here.
April 5 - 9, 2007
triptayo post

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

5 day itinerary for Bangkok, Thailand

Day 1 (Thursday)



Banglamphu Area: central ghetto backpacker's area

Hemlock (dishes: 80 – 200 Bhat)

- eclectic menu: dishes not easily found elsewhere

- miang kham: tea leaves wrapped with ginger, shalots, peanuts, lime and coconut flakes

- phrik khaa: spicy dipping sauce served with vegetables and herbs


Baghdad Café

- Sheesha bar

Night out

Sunset street

- This is where the Thai crowd comes to party


Th Khao San (street): main travelers' center

Day 2 (Friday)

Day trip to:


- ruined ancient city

- Unesco World Heritage site

- Former Thai capital

- River surrounding the entire city creating a moat-like natural barrier


- take tour package (approx. 1700 Bhat)

- take bus (approx. 64 Bhat, 2 hours)

- take mini bus (approx. 45 Bhat, 2 hours)

- take train (3rd class approx. 15 Bhat, 1 and ½ hours)

- rent a van ($150 for 8 hours)

Tour package

- pick up from hotel 0730hrs – 0800hrs

- bus ride to Ayuthaya

- visit 2 ruined cities

- lunch included

- boat cruise back to Bangkok

Own DIY tour

- option for time of departure to and from the ancient city

- cheaper

- more sites to see

- guest houses in Ayuthaya offer boat tours

- choice of restaurant

- train ride maybe more scenic than bus ride

- can probably also opt for river cruise back to Bangkok

Ayuthaya sites:

- Wat Phra Si Sanphet (admission 30 Bhat): Claimed to be the most distinctive Ayuthaya architecture. This site served as the royal palace from the city's founding in 1350 until the mid-15th century and then converted into a temple.

- Wihaan Phra Mongkhon Bophit (admission 30 Bhat): Largest seated Buddah in Thailand.

- Wat Phra Mahathat (admission 30 Bhat): houses the iconic image of Buddah's head being swallowed by tentacle-like tree roots

- There are 29 other sites in the area listed in Lonely Planet's yellow bible 'South East Asia on a Shoestring'


- Baan Kun Phra: Also a guesthouse is a riverside terrace restaurant

- Phae Krung Kao: Floating restaurant

Head back to Bangkok



Bangrak Area: Home to Muslim and Indian community

Naaz (dishes: 50 – 70 Bhat)

- dubbed to have the richest khao mok kai (chicken biryani)

- dessert: firni (Middle Eastern pudding spiced with coconut, almonds, cardamom and saffron)


Royal Bangkok Sports Club & Lumphini Park Area:

Le Lys (dishes: 80 – 200 Bhat)

- classic Thai dishes

- breezy colonial-style house

- kaeng phet muu yaan bai cha-om (roast pork curry with acacia leaves)

Night out

Victory Monument Area: Near hotel and Skytrain station

Saxophone Pub & Restaurant

- reggae, rock, blues and jazz

- German beer-cellar


Patpong Area:

- a go-go

- ping pong show

Day 3 (Saturday)

City tour

Bangkok sites:

- Wat Phra Kaew (admission 200 Bhat 8:30am – 3:30pm): Temple of the Emerald Buddah which is actually made from jasper. Orange and green roof tiles, mosaic-encrusted pillars and marble pediments.

- Wat Pho (admission 20 Bhat 8am – 5pm): Oldest and largest temple in Bangkok.

- Wat Arun (admission 20 Bhat 9am – 4pm): Temple of Dawn named after the Indian god of dawn.

- Vimanmek Teak Mansion (admission 100 Bhat 9:30am – 4pm): World's largest golden teak building


Phahurat Area: Near popular Wat sites

China town

- go figure

ATM Food Center

- Indian food-court

Royal India Restaurant (dishes: under 80 Bhat)

- considered one of the best Northern Indian cuisine


Th Chakraphet (street): lined with Indian shops and restaurants

Sampeng Lane (street): jam-packed with useful and useless



Getting lost

More tours



Victory Monument Area: Near hotel and Skytrain station

Pickle Factory (dishes: 150 – 200 Bhat)

- prefect place to chill out for an evening

- has creatively topped pizzas

- dinner-party mood

- indoor sofa seating

- outdoor tables around a swimming pool

Night out

Th Sukhumvit Area:

Little Arabia

- Soi 3 (street)

- Lively cafés and sheesha bars

Q Bar

- clubbing

- has absinthe and 40 varieties of vodka

Day 4 (Sunday)

Ancient City tour

Samut Prakan's Ancient City (admission 300 Bhat,

- world's largest outdoor museum park

- home to 109 scaled-down replicas

- bikes for rent (50 Bhat)

- rarely crowded



Chatuchak (8am – 6pm Sat & Sun)

- mother of all shopping markets

- take Skytrain to Mo Chit station, which looks over the market


River cruise

Mae Nam Chao Phraya:

- Bangkok was called 'Venice of the East'

- Take Chao Phraya River Express


Cultural show



Th Sukhumvit Area:

Maha Naga (dishes 300 – 700 Bhat)

- deep-fried prawn rolls served with plum sauce and crispy vermicelli

- scallops in Thai-style gravy

- pork chops topped with papaya salad


Tamarind Café (dishes 100 – 250 Bhat)

- Tamarind for divine desserts

- Home to F-Stop Gallery of photographs

- Artistic space

- Innovate fruit shakes

Night out

Back to:

Th Sukhumvit Area:

Little Arabia

- Soi 3 (street)

- Lively cafés and sheesha bars


Banglamphu Area: central ghetto backpacker's area

- Th Khao San (street): main travelers' center


Patpong Area:

- a go-go

- ping pong show

Day 5 (Monday)



* So my family decided to jump on the pinoy family bandwagon and head to Bangkok for Holy Week. Hoping to discover something beyond the typical package, I made this itinerary based on my yellow bible Lonely Planet's: "Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and used some information from the Internet. F*ck that travel agency and do things on your own. No more useless factory tours and the ever popular half-day city tour. Pack your bag tara let's triptayo to Thailand!

*now let's see how things will turn out based on this...

*post also available in triptayo

Monday, March 26, 2007

Stranded in Siargao

Hu-Waw Philippines

Riding the no-frills travel tide is probably the best way to experience Siargao.

First, I suggest you take the cheapest available flight to anywhere in Mindanao. Promo rates from PAL or Cebu Pac or SEAir or Asian Spirit or Air Philippines are ALWAYS available, if you book on the right time or hit the right season.


Once in Mindanao, take any bus that brings you to the Surigao pier. As long as you are in Mindanao, I believe there will be a bus in any town that would pass by and take or connect you to the Surigao pier. Ask around town, I'm pretty sure the locals would know and be more than happy to help you get there. Your bus ride alone is a eye candy in itself. The scenic view is simply amazing. From little barrios to to rural areas to fishing villages to rice paddies to bustling towns to emerging cities.

en route

Take the local 3-hour boat ride from the Surigao pier and you will pass mangroves and islands. There are probably other ports but the one I took was probably one of the "fastest" ways to get there. The boat was not anything like the quintessential tourist ride, instead it was a life line connecting commerce with locals transporting goods.


white road

Upon arrival, take the route to where the cement road ends and see the island present itself with one of its most blinding characteristics, sun-drenched powder white roads. I have been to places that have such prestigious claims of white sand, but only a few have the right. Siargao and its little towns uniquely have the best white roads I have ever seen.


got milk?


Let the roads be a testament to life in the island. At time of travel, which was back in August 2005, I saw nothing but white sand roads. No asphalt, but instead nature created its natural road which was probably caused by the tropical climate of intense sunshine after a short rain shower. In the course of time, wet to dry to wet to dry, it turned itself to one huge ass white brick. There were probably only a handful of cars in the town, I just saw two in my entire four-day escape. No I am not stupid enough to make such a judgment without backing it up. I was located in one of Siargao's main towns. 'Nicer' houses were starting to be built but still the most dominant and easiest mode of transportation was the motorcycle/scooter/bicycle. It was a two-wheel barrio.


Although the island of Siargao may have its share of luxury resorts such as this and this. It is still best experienced as a Philippine backpacker's sanctuary.

J Spot

I stayed in J-spot. A simple abode that has a bar on the ground floor and a sleeping area above. Nothing fancy but the host was great! Just like most of the locals.


You really can't expect much from the town to have fancy places to eat when you see omelets having some 'unions'. Nonetheless do not get me wrong, just head on to the wet market and grab the freshest catch of the day. Continue the no-frills vacation by grilling your own meal. Then prepare a pitcher and pour the San Miguel Pale Pilsen, gather around and let two half-full/half-empty glasses circle the shots of beer so that everyones gets the same amount at the same drinking pace. Remember this is the Philippines' surfing capital, everyone here is a surfer who enjoys singing, strumming their guitars and pounding the local Kahon to Jack Johnson. This is what I have come to experience as the so-called surfer's lifestyle. Simple and down with nature.

pirate Pete
Head on to Pirate Pete's bar and find out why it has such a name. A local resident of the island who everyone probably knows.


Cloud 9



tropical shower


Wet or Dry



afternoon chill

A meets B
point A to point B

Siargao maybe best known for its surfing spots, but let it be known that it has more to offer. a bounty of pristine islands a few minutes away while steady bathing waters on the other side of the tide. I was not able to go, but Siargao also offers a jellyfish lake, similar to the one in Palau.

I suggest you experience the island by stripping yourself from vacation luxury.

KISSS! Keep Siargo Simple Stooooopid!

*post also available in triptayo