Feb 7, 2017 – Day Trip to Angthong National Marine Park

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A Spectacled or Dusky Leaf Langur in Angthong National Marine Park

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUGjkYL

Barb and I woke up early again! This time for a tour of Angthong National Marine Park, a collection of 42 tropical islands. The park protects 102 km², yet only 18 km² are land. We were picked up in a van from our hotel and drove about 50 minutes to the port. After signing in, we boarded our vessel along with 50 other passengers.

This was by far the most professional and organized tour I have been on in South East Asia and for only 1,500 baht! I thought it was reasonably priced considering Ko Samui is one of the most expensive islands in Thailand. Our boat was the first one to leave for the islands.

Once we got close to our first stop, we all got into two-person kayaks and started paddling towards Mae Koh Island. Along the way, we kayaked under some overhanging rock which was very cool (literally and figuratively). Upon reaching Mae Koh Island, we hiked up to a scenic viewpoint to “Talay Nai” (a turquoise/green coloured lagoon).

On Wua Ta Lap Island, we hiked for about 35 minutes to the top to view the spectacular island landscape. On the way down, we spotted some adorable spectacled or dusky leaf langurs. Thankfully, we also had time to snorkel and sunbath. My mom and I found some pretty parrot fish. Overall, the tour was great and it was one of my most memorable days in Thailand.

 

Feb 6, 2017 – Flight from Bangkok to Ko Samui

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Chaweng Noi Beach

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUQZUcB

My mom and I woke up around 6:00am to catch our flight from Bangkok to Ko Samui. We took a taxi to the metro station. I had a fit at the taxi driver because he didn’t take us to the correct station and he wanted to overcharge us after say that he was using a meter. In the end, I got us a very good deal.

Our flight arrived on time beautiful Ko Samui. It is much more touristy in Bangkok. Even the hotel staff greeted continually me in English. My mom and I stayed at First Bungalow Beach Resort which was supposedly the first beach resort established on Chaweng Noi Beach. We checked in and after setting our stuff down we stepped, onto the beach a couple minutes’ walk away. It was gorgeous!

We went to Mama Restaurant for dinner. It was busy and our food took a long time to arrive. The waitress was very kind and gave us free tequila shots and watermelon for our patience. The green curry there was well worth the wait and the cocktails are great!

Feb 5, 2017 – Kaoh Yao National Park

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Barb and I at Kaoh Yao National Park

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPoLLDw

Barb and I decided to hire a taxi for the day for 3,400 baht to drive to Kaoh Yao National Park. This was cheaper per person than doing a tour and we could do whatever we wanted when we arrived. We also didn’t have to succumb to the awful scheduled elephant riding, oxen riding, etc that the one day tour offered from Bangkok.

We got into the taxi around 6:30am after taking some tidbits from the buffet. Our van driver was okay, he got us to the park in under two hours. When we arrived at the visitor centre, we saw some people petting a deer… not cool.

Anyways, we headed inside and grabbed a map. We wanted to do some hiking trails to see elephants. However, after getting lost on the first one, we turned back and tried another trail. The second trail we tried started at a lookout over a savanna, however we didn’t see any animals. We continued along the trail and stopped, we felt we weren’t going in the right direction. Luckily, two park rangers happen to walk along the same path and told us how to get back. Just then, we heard a rustling in the bushes and a giant gibbon ran out in front of us and stopped two meters away. It looked at us and then disappeared into the jungle. I was so shocked I didn’t even take a photo.

After failing at following two trails due to lack of signage, we decided to get a guide for Trail #5 (a 3 hour hike). Our guide had over 20 years of experience and was very knowledgeable. He picked certain leaves off trees and let us eat them. One tasted like sour mango. He also carved a whistle out of bamboo for my mom. With the help of our guide, we saw much more wildlife including: a barking deer, hornbill, elephant footprints, a beautiful bird that looked like a colourful chicken, monkeys, and about five gibbons (my goodness they are noisy).

After the tour, my mom and I tried to visit a waterfall but unfortunately it had already closed, so we headed back to Bangkok. It took about four hours with the traffic. I believe this was longer than normal because two lanes were blocked off to transport the late king’s daughter. Her entourage included about twenty police vehicles.

 

Feb 4, 2017 – Chatuchak Market

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The View from our Hotel Room at the Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUqJ2q1

My mom and I spent the majority of our day at Chatuchak Market which is conveniently located beside the Chatuchak Park metro station. The market is vast and sells everything you could need including food, clothing (lots of elephant pants), electronics, gifts, houseware, and more. My mother and I also had Thai massages while we were there!

Feb 3, 2017 – Wat Arun, China Town, and the Sky Bar at Lebua Hotel

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Barb and I at Wat Arun

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/MS934V

In the late afternoon, we crossed the river to visit Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. It is a stunning temple and uses a lot of colourful designs. It was also used pieces of broken pottery to create mosaics on the temple walls which was very unique!

Next, Barb and I took a tuk tuk to Chinatown. We instantly, tried some grilled octopus on a stick being sold by a food cart on the side of the road. Yum! We meandered in and out of gold shops, Chinese temples, and a market that extended for what seemed like forever.  It’s exciting, bustling, and full of life.

My mom and I later stumbled upon the Lebua Hotel which is famous for its Sky Bar. 64 floors up and you can see the view of the entire city. It’s absolutely beautiful and not a sight to be missed (especially at sunset).

Feb 2, 2017 – The Grand Palace and Wat Pho

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Wat Pho

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskRMwDgg

Barb (my mom) and I arrived at the Grand Palace around 10:30am. The entrance fee was outrageously priced at 400 Bhat and the place was packed. It felt like being in a sardine can and it was so crowded that it negatively impacted my experience. It was also difficult to take photos without any people in the background. Overall the palace itself was beautiful.

The next temple we went to was Wat Pho. Thankfully, the entrance fee was only 100 baht. It houses a famous reclining Buddha inside which is well worth a visit. Additionally, there is also a massage school within the temple walls. So, we got our first Thai massages there! It felt great… I think… I’m never quite sure what to make of Thai massages because they kind of pinch and knead your skin. But the masseuses do a good job of getting your knots out. Overall, I enjoyed this temple much more than the Grand Palace because it was virtually empty. Additionally, it used lots of great colour and had charming small statues around the grounds. It was also nice to enter a room, sit, and stay a while. The vibes were much more peaceful.

 

Feb 1, 2017 – Barb in Bangkok

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A Tuk Tuk at Sunset

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskP62y5S

We slept in a little bit before heading down to the spectacular buffet breakfast! Lots of international cuisine was served and it was the first time I had eaten maple syrup since being away from home. The buffet consisted of different types of food including: station Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Western. In addition an omelette station, fruit, yogurt, cereal, cheese with cold cuts, and more was available!

The two of us spent the day completing a few errands and taking it easy, because my mom was still quite jetlagged. We went to the Indian Embassy in Bangkok to see if I could get an Indian Visa for more than one month. Unfortunately, the answer was “No”. Afterwards, we went to the Thai Travel Clinic at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases to get my first of three rabies shots (for South East Asia) and my yellow fever shot (for future travels). As a result, my mom and I became well versed in Bangkok’s transportation station. We took the metro, tuk tuks, and a speed boat through the canal. Tuk Tuks are a lot of fun and because they are narrower than taxis, they can fit through small spaces and can get you to your destination faster.

After getting my affairs in order (or at least as much as possible), Barb and I took a tuk tuk to the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson constructed 6 teak buildings on his property to represent the best of traditional Thai architecture. The structures are beautiful and well preserved. According to their brochure, Jim Thompson was an American born in born in Greenville, Delaware, in 1906 and as a military officer he fell in love with Bangkok. One of the most interesting facts about Jim Thompson is that on March 26th, 1967, he disappeared while on a visit to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and was never seen again.

Next, we took a tuk tuk to the Golden Mountain Temple or (Srakesa Temple). We walked to the top to watch the sun set over the city.  Nearby was Siam Road – one of the party and bar districts of Bangkok. Barb had her first taste of street food and got a pad thai and coconut ice cream. Delicious! We walked along and also we tried Chang beer for the first time. All the beer in Asia tastes very similar to me. After walking down the road and looking at all the inexpensive merchandise, we returned back to our hotel.

Cultural Notes and Observations: Singapore

  • Fast paced
  • Metropolitan
  • Extremely clean and safe
  • The transit system is efficient and not overly expensive
  • Expensive for backpackers
  • Lots of rules. For example: no eating or drinking on public transit – $500 fine
  • The city is filled with nature (parks, trees, and gardens)
  • Chewing gum is outlawed
  • Hawker food is extremely cheap compared to restaurants
  • Wifi is hard to come by
  • Outlets are a little tricky to find to charge your electronic devices
  • AMAZINGLY fast internet
  • You can drink water from the tap!!! – The first time I had been able to do that in 3 months!
  • Great luxury shopping
  • Multicultural: Chinese, Indian, Malay, Euroasian, etc

Food I Tried:

  • Chicken rice
  • Traditional Singapore Laksa
  • “Refreshing White Fungus” drink – a sweet tea with white fungus. The tea was good but I wasn’t too fond of the fungus.
  • Beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce
  • Fried Kway Teow
  • Fried Hokkien Noodle

Jan 31, 2017 – Gardens by the Bay and Meeting my Mom in Bangkok

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Gardens by the Bay

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskNYbn4C

I met Melissa for lunch on my last day in Singapore. We ended up walking to a hawker centre on the other side of Gardens by the Bay which is a beautiful park in the city with several man-made “Super Trees”. They are 25 to 50 meters tall and sparkly with hundreds of lights at night. The shape of them reminds me a little bit of the photos of trees I’ve seen in Madagascar.

At the hawker centre, the two of us sampled fried kway teow, fried hokkien noodle, and beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce. They were all delicious! I also got a traditional Singapore Laksa (I had been aching to try) to-go for dinner later. The laksa tasted like one I had tried to make at home once that had ended up a disaster. This one was one hundred times better.

After lunch, I caught my flight to Bangkok to meet Barb, my mom. I haven’t see her in about four months. Barb has never been outside of North America before (with the exception of Mexico) so I was excited to see her and explore Thailand together. After exiting the airport, I took the metro to the city and then hailed a motorbike to take me the rest of the way to the Ramada. I checked in and at reception and was provided with a refreshing glass of juice. Yum!

I opened the door to our room on the 14th floor with an amazing view and waited. Less than an hour later my mom popped her head in the door. We had a warm reunion and chatted for a couple hours before heading to sleep at 2:30am.

 

Jan 30, 2017 – The Cable Car and Botanical Gardens of Singapore

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The Singapore Cable Car

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/33dp3i

The Cable Car is a great way to see a different perspective of Singapore. According to the company, it is “the only Cable Car in the world that goes over a forest and highway, through an office building, over a cruise bay and into a resort island in 15 minutes”. Quite impressive if I do say so myself. I boarded the cable car on Sentosa Island and rode every different lines they had to offer. My last stop was Faber Peak, a popular scenic spot with a nice view. Beside the restaurant atop Faber Peak is a railing filled with hundreds of bells and one large bell that you can strike to receive good luck. It rained while I was at the top so I didn’t spend too much time there.

Once the rain stopped, I took the metro to the other side of the city to meander through the Botanical Gardens.  It was one of the largest parks/botanical gardens I have ever visited and it reminded me a little bit of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I walked until I found the National Orchid Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I had never known that orchids are one of the most plentiful flowers in the world. Additionally, I also learned the difference between a bromeliad and epiphyte. According to one of the signs posted in the National Orchid Garden, “Bromeliads may be terrestrial (living on the ground), epiphytic (growing on the branches and trunks of other plants, or lithophytic (growing on bare rocks). Therefore, an epiphyte is a type of bromeliad. An example of a bromeliad is a pineapple plant.

It started raining again and I was incredibly grateful for the umbrella Melissa had lent me. Many people cleared out because of the rain but I was not deterred. It was a great chance to photograph some flowers with raindrops on them. I also viewed the “VIP Orchard Garden” which displays orchids named after famous people who had visited the orchard garden such as Nelson Mandela and Prince William.

As I was walking back to the metro I encountered a group of photographers with telephoto lenses. They were attempting to photograph a rare hornbill when it returned to its nest and hidden beside the nest sat  an adorable owl!