Day 05: Bangkok – Pak Khlong Talat, Colours and Smells

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We took the Express Boat back towards the city and got off at Memorial Bridge Pier to visit… the Pak Khlong Talat, also known as, the flower market!

Once you leave the pier, take the first left and then right at the 7-11. After that, follow the colours and the smell of flowers! πŸ˜€

Unfortunately, the best time to check out Pak Khlong Talat is pre-dawn from around 3-4am. Needless to say, the market was a little sleepy and empty when we walked around. Still plenty of sights to take in though!

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Such reasonably priced (compared to Canada and Australia) flowers… a little something for everyone!

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We saw many phuang malai garlands being made will skilled hands and sold on the spot. These are used as offerings to images of Buddha inside temples or shrines at home, ancestor shrines, etc.

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Mike… enjoying a nice cold Singha (bought at a nearby 7-11 and opened for by the cashier) on the streets of Bangkok.

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On the way back to the pier, I saw these two sorting out a huge stock of chili peppers and asked if I could take some pictures. They happily waved me to go ahead. Notice the cell phone in the plastic bag – I guess I wouldn’t want chili juice all over my cell either!

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Memorial Bridge and its respective pier with someone fishing.

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Thanks to Mark Weins and his YouTube video about kuay tiew rua (boat noodles) at Victory Monument, we had to try!

Once you get off the BTS at Victory Monument station, stay within the overhead walkway and head towards the canal (keeping Victory Monument on your left).

The canals are now very dirty and polluted.

This is not the side you want to be on…

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You want to be on this side! Which is why it’s important to keep Victory Monument on your left hand side as you are walking through the pedestrian overpass. We didn’t know that and did an unnecessary full circle around Victory Monument.

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When you reach the canal and get down onto the road, there will be a number of boat noodle restaurants to choose from. We decided to follow the one Mark Weins visited in his video and were quite happy!

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So… what are boat noodles? They are called so because they were traditionally served from boats. Nowadays, you can sit in a restaurant and enjoy them instead. They are also sold in small portions that sit shallow in the bowl, to limit spillage due to rocking by the boat.

The noodles are first blanched in hot soup before being tossed into a bowl with a little bit of water spinach (Morning Glory), a pork meatball and a few slivers of either pork or beef. The most important ingredient in a bowl of boat noodles is fresh pig’s blood which cooks immediately once hot soup is poured in, thickening the broth and giving the dish its characteristic wholesome pork flavour.

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The restaurant staff did not speak much English but it wasn’t hard to get our requests across with English on the menu. All dishes cost 10 baht each and we proceeded to eat!

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We both started with one each of the “Noodles thicken soup with beef” and “Noodles thicken soup with pork” The staff also brought over a plate of “Fried dumplings” (fried wonton skins) and “Streaky pork with crispy crackling” (fried pork rinds), which we readily agreed to take.

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Thick chewy noodles in a little bit of really flavoursome porky broth. There was also sugar, fish sauce, chili flakes and vinegar chili sauce at the table so you can flavour the noodles to your liking.

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So tasty! And because the portions are so tiny, we definitely got in a few more orders before leaving satisfied πŸ™‚ I think the final bill came to 100-150 baht ($3-5). Would definitely come again if we ever visit Bangkok!

By now, it was late afternoon and so we headed back to the hotel to hang with Laura one last time. With a bit of relaxation and chatting by the pool, it wasn’t long before it was time for us to head to the airport!

Sooner than we realized, we were getting off the train and checking into our flight back to Singapore at 8pm.

Our short trip to Bangkok was finally (felt much longer) coming to an end.

A few shots inside the Suvarnabhumi Airport.

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End of our Bangkok trip! … And I guess by default, end of Day 05!

FULL ALBUM OF LAST PORTION IN BANGKOK HERE

Day 05: Bangkok – Starting our last day at the Grand Palace

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our last day in Bangkok! How quick time flies!

We had to check out of Abloom before heading out today but that left a dilemma. We had Magnum ice cream bars (which we “only” bought at 7-11 for around $1 as opposed to $4-5 in Australia) which needed to be eaten… and it was only 8am.

Problem easily solved! As you can see, happily and satisfyingly solved too. Chocolate brownie! I’ve never even seen that flavour in Brisbane.

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We then headed out to Sathorn Pier to make our way to the Grand Palace, home of the famous Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

In a previous post, I said you should take the Express Boat over the Tourist Boat because of cost – but when the next express boat isn’t coming for another 20 minutes… the difference in cost becomes negligible, especially on your last day πŸ˜›

We were soon our way! Relaxing on the boat and enjoying the scenery as a guide provided commentary on every interesting sight we passed.

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Almost there, just passing Wat Arun!

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To get to Grand Palace, you could get off at the same pier (Tha Tien) as Wat Pho, but it is a longer walk. I suggest getting off at the next pier – Tha Chang instead.

We both found the admission fee of 500 baht a little expensive, especially compared to the costs of visiting other temples.

Don’t forget to wear appropriate/respectable attire! Closed shoes (or sandals with socks) long pants/skirts and no bare shoulders. If needed, there is a place for you to rent clothing by the entrance gate.

It was a beautiful (read: scorching hot) day with slight breezes and a clear blue sky. And it was a VERY busy day. People everywhere! Tour buses carrying hoards of Asians, all the females armed with umbrellas – I wish I could snap every single one of those umbrellas so they wouldn’t be poking innocent people in the face, or worse, in the eye!

The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch currently resides at Chitralada Palace with the Grand Palace still used for official events.

It is divided into 4 main courts: The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Outer Court, the Middle Court, and the Inner Court.

First up, was the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) court. This was the central ubosoth that houses the statue of the Emerald Buddha. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the temple so we’ll have to be satisfied with this instead!

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Surrounding buildings

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Phra Si Rattana Chedi, the main stupa. Covered in beautiful golden mosaic tiles imported from Italy, the stupa was a beautiful contrast against the blue skies.

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Beside the stupa was Phra Mondop, Repository of the Royal Golden Addition of the Buddhist Cannon. “The four pairs of demons that stand guard on top of the stairways, a pair at each entrance, are the work of the King Rama I period and regarded as the most perfectly proportioned of all existing classical sculptures of Rattanakosin craftsmanship.” Although we couldn’t enter, the the floor of the Phra Mondop is apparently lined by a woven mat made from strips of pure silver.

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One of the 2 Phra Chedi Thong, the Twin Golden Stupas. The stupas were built by King Rama I, one dedicated to his father and the other to his mother. They are made of brick and covered in copper foil and gilt.Each of the stupas are supported by a row of twenty demons and monkeys whose distinctive features, colours and crowns mark them as individual characters from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. The fact that they all wear crowns indicate that they are demons and monkeys of noble rank.”

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I loved the monkeys and demons…. πŸ™‚

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“Yaksa Tavarnbal (Gate-keeping Giants): Six pairs of mythical ogres stand at each gate of the Balcony. These are the main Giants of the Ramayana.”

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Prasat Phra Thep Bidon, the Royal Pantheon contains life size statues of King Rama I to VIII and is only open to the public on April 6th each year (anniversary of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty), so they can pay homage to their past sovereigns.

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We left the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and walked through the Middle Court.

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Have you noticed by now how amazing our selfies have become? We don’t even need someone to help with photographs anymore!

Here’s one of us with the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat in the background.

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And one last shot in the Grand Palace: Phra Thinang Dusit Maha Prasat.

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We had been walking in the sun for too long. Time to recharge… with food of course!

Sticky rice topped with coconut milk and crunchy deep fried mung bean served with a sweet ripe mango! We both love sticky rice and mango – the combination was fantastic!

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We also got some glutinous dumplings with a sweet peanut filling – very tasty!

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Lots of food being sold in the market by the river.

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We decided at this point to catch a boat across the river (again, only 3 baht) to visit the Forensic Medicine Museum at Siriraj Hospital. What can I say, we’re medical students. But, surprised we were to find out that the entrance fee had jumped from 40 baht a few months ago to 200 baht. Thought that was a little ridiculous and decided that as attractive as the air conditioning and gory specimens may be, our last few hours in Bangkok would be better spent seeing more of the actual city.

So off we went!

And soon we were on a boat heading back into the city…

FULL ALBUM (so far) HERE!

Day 04: Bangkok – Chinatown and Snacks

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This was the view as we headed back over to Tha Tien Pier from Wat Arun.

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The driver of our little ferry boat!

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Since we had plans to meet Laura and 2 of her work friends in Chinatown for dinner later, we decided to head down there early and check it out during the day time.

We took the Express Boat back towards the city and got off at Ratchawong Pier (N5). From there it’s just a short walk up to Sampeng Lane and Yaowarat Rd.

Some tuk tuks just beside the pier.

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As we were walking, it started to rain! Luckily there was a closed shop where we use it’s front steps as refuge πŸ˜‰ As we waited out the rain, an elderly lady walked by pushing her cart full of tasty looking dumplings. I had to run after her to get her to stop in order to purchase a few! I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures, but the dumpling cakes were delicious. A doughy exterior with fillings of bamboo, turnip, or cabbage. Yummy! We also bought some fried coconut banana from another stand – amazing! Balls of banana coated with a layer of coconut sticky rice and deep fried to a crisp – such a delicious treat. Thinking back now, I’m a little disappointed we only ate that once!

Soon the rain died down and we continued to stroll through Chinatown, taking in the sights, smells and sounds.

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This lady’s stand soon caught our eye. A variety of deep fried, vegetarian snacks. You take a bowl and pick out the items that you want. She then chops them up into bite sized pieces, throws them in a bag and pours sauce and chili on top for you to snack on-the-go using skewers. It was also kind of her to throw in a few extra treats we didn’t pick out for us to try – yay! The food was tasty but not something you can have every day! πŸ˜‰

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Dinner plans with Laura and her friends eventually became too complicated due to weather and location and was cancelled. Disappointed, but it was still suggested that we meet up with Laura later in the evening for drinks instead.

Due to the change in plans, we decided to head back to the hotel instead of staying in Chinatown.

We chose to take the Metro followed by the BTS back to the hotel rather than take the boat back into the city. It’s a pain in the ass using public transportation to Chinatown and back!

We passed through Odeon Circle where the ceremonial Chinese gate marked the entrance to Chinatown.

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Did I mention Mike found what he had been craving for since forever? Rambutans! And for only $1-something a kilo!

Back at the hotel… only to continue eating!

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Mike’s one kilo of rambutans! Look how fresh they are πŸ™‚

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I bought some fresh lotus seed pods! The whole lot was around 30 cents? Couldn’t finish them all but it was definitely worth it! Something I’ve never seen available in Australia and that Mike’s never tried before. You may have seen dried lotus seeds sold in packs before but these are fresh – you pop out the seeds and remove the green peel for a crisp, crunchy, fresh, slightly sweet, and nutty snack!

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One of the treats we bought from a vendor outside our train station – BBQ’d meat sausage with some cabbage and green mango.

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Another snack we bought from a nearby vendor – Banana Roti – crispy sweet crepe with fresh banana filling and drizzled with condensed milk. So delicious! Best eaten right away πŸ˜‰

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Fresh taro bread we picked up at a bakery in Chinatown. It was sweet, flavourful and delicious, with a cute cake cube within!

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We also bought fresh quail eggs to boil and have with salt and pepper! It has always been one of my favourite snacks and when Mike was back in Ottawa, my mum introduced it to him and now he loves it too!

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Unfortunately, again, our plans with Laura were canceled because she was too exhausted to go out.

That was too bad. So Mike and I decided to head back down to Chinatown again, just to see the liveliness at night. By the time we got back down there though, it was pretty late and most places were already closing up. We were able to grab a light (boring, not too tasty) dinner because heading back and calling it a night.

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End of Day 04… finally! πŸ˜€

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When we got back to Tha Tien Pier from Wat Saket, we realized, “It’s still so early! Plenty of time to see more temple-ness!” And decided to visit Wat Arun just across the river, which we were saving to visit tomorrow.

Getting to the other side of the river could not be easier… or cheaper! There is a separate, smaller boat that make rounds from Tha Tien to Wat Arun, for only 3 baht and comes every couple of minutes.

FYI: Entrance fee is 50 baht for us foreigners.

“Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Sitting majestically on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand.”

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“The entrance to the temple building is guarded by a pair of impressive mythical giants, similar to the 12 giants in the Wat Phra Kaew or Grand Palace.”

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“The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.”

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“The 79 meter high tower is decorated with ceramic tiles and fragments of multi colored porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China .The porcelain mosaic fills every conceivable nook, cranny, and wall, creating a brilliantly imaginative and visually stunning monument.”

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Wat Arun was spectacular, easily the most impressive temple we’d seen that day. The intricate detail, the steep steps to the top, and the view below!

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Our only regret with Wat Arun? Not being able to come back in the evening to capture that wonderful picture of Wat Arun silhouetted against beautiful sunset colours! Perhaps next time…

In unrelated news: We found a cat napping on site… πŸ˜€

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FULL ALBUM HERE!

What did we do after this? Stay tuned to find out! Don’t worry… the day was still young and we were all temple-d out by this point! πŸ˜‰

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Saket, The Golden Mount

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

After our visit to Wat Pho, we continued on, walking towards Grand Palace as our next destination.

During the walk, there were many vendors selling historical (war/religious) artifacts like pendants and statues. We assumed the artifacts were real because there were a number of locals using eye magnifiers to inspect the pieces they wanted to buy. I wish we could’ve been able to ask a vendor to tell us more about what was going on.

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And of course, there was food! We stopped for some rice as well as a Cha Yen (Thai iced tea).

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Unfortunately, as we got to the window to buy tickets at the Grand Palace, there was a sign that Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) would be closed shortly for maintenance.

Since Wat Phra Kaew is one of the major sites to visit in the Grand Palace, we decided to come back tomorrow. In the meantime, we would go ahead and visit Wat Saket (The Golden Mount).

This leads to another tip:

  • Taxi drivers will try to rip you off – don’t let them! If a driver doesn’t agree to use the meter and tries to negotiate a fixed price, get out of there!

Since it was a far walk, we decided to grab a taxi from Grand Palace to Wat Saket. The first taxi we found refused to use the meter and insisted on a 200 baht fixed fare. We laughed and left, and finally found a taxi that would use the meter. Total cost? 45 baht. Although the difference between 45 and 200 baht is only around $5, it was the principle that mattered to us. A couple dollars saved with honest taxi drivers meant there was more money towards something else, like tipping those drivers and trying more local cuisine!

The entrance fee to Wat Saket is 20 baht, very little!

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“Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount or β€˜Phu Khao Thong’, is a low hill crowned with a gleaming gold chedi. Within, the 58-metre chedi houses a Buddha relic and welcomes worshippers all year round.

It is unfortunate, but we weren’t able to get a good shot from the bottom to show you the full view. Here’s a picture from Google to show you what it looks like:

“The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was known as Wat Sakae. When Bangkok became the capital, King Rama I renovated the temple and gave it its present name.”

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“Built on an artificial man-made hill, the Golden Mount is the temple’s most well-known landmark and is a sacred pilgrimage site during the weeklong worshipping period in November. To get to the top requires a climb up some 300 steps, which encircle the chedi like a loosely coiled snake.”

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The steps are tiny tiny tiny. I think they’re equivalent to 100 normal sized steps πŸ˜‰ But the walk up is super easy, even though it’s terribly hot and you will sweat!

“Approaching the top of the hill, you will be welcomed by a wall of bells and panoramas of historic Bangkok.”

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Mike posing silly but I did see other people ringing the bells as they were praying while ascending.

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Shrine at the top

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Panoramic view of Bangkok from the top!

Bangkok Panorama

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We thought we head reached the top, but wait! You can go up a small set of steep steps to the actual top – right up to the golden stupa. We spent some quiet time here observing others and just taking in the city views and refreshing breeze.

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“Before beginning the climb (or if you are us, after the climb), you will find an unusual cemetery built into the base of the Golden Mount. Covered in vines and overgrown trees, it emits a rather spooky out-of-era vibe. Perhaps this is because in the late 18th century, Wat Saket served as the capital’s crematorium and the dumping ground for some 60,000 plague victims.”

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And that marks the end of our visit to Wat Saket!

During the taxi ride back to Tha Tien Pier, we passed by the Democracy Monument. I was able to grab a quick shot from inside the taxi.

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More to come! πŸ™‚

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As it often happens on vacation, our plans to start the day super early were spoiled by the laziness to sleep in. No worries! By late morning we were on the BTS heading to Saphan Taksin station, which connects to the Chao Praya Express Boat (and Tourist Boat) at Sathorn Pier.

We were headed off to our first destination of the day: Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

“Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats (temples) in Bangkok and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddha images of 43m length: the Reclining Buddha. It is also thought to be the origin of the original Thai massage.”

Tips:

  1. Sathorn Pier is where you want to be if you will be visiting the Grand Palace and other famous temples… very easy to get to there by boat!
  2. If you want, take the tourist boat once (buy tickets at the kiosk), specifically for the narration while traveling down the river if you aren’t familiar with the area or haven’t done any reading.
  3. After that, take the express boat (it flies orange flags, buy tickets on board), not the tourist boat! It’s 15 baht as opposed to 40 baht and stops at more stations along the river!
  4. Unless you want to wear public attire worn by many other sweaty individuals, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the temples. Covered shoulders and pants below the knees!
  5. Get there early, the later you go, the more people will be all up in your personal space πŸ˜‰
  6. If anyone tries to stop you BEFORE you’ve reached the entrance, saying that the temple is closed – do not believe them. You are being scammed.

The express boat can fit quite a few people!

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To get to Wat Pho, take the boat to Tha Tien Pier. As you approach Tha Tien Pier, you will see Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the other side of the river. We’ll be visiting Wat Arun later!

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From the pier, walk through the market and just follow the crowd! It’s just across the street, you won’t be able to miss it πŸ™‚

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Tickets are 100 baht which includes a small bottle of cold water – redeem it! It will be nice and refreshing πŸ™‚

“The temple has sixteen gates around the complex guarded by Chinese giants carved out of rocks. Only 2 are open for public entrance.”

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Once you enter the complex, if you want to visit the temple, you will be given a bag to put your shoes in and carry with you inside. If you aren’t dressed appropriately, you will be loaned a robe to wear.

Entrance to the temple

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“The image of reclining Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long with his right arm supporting the head with tight curls on two box-pillows of blue, richly encrusted with glass mosaics.”

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“The 3 m high and 4.5 m long foot of Buddha displays are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories.”

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“There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat.”

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Walls are completely covered in intricate, hand painted murals.

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“Outside the temple, the grounds contain 91 chedis (stupas or mounds), four viharas (halls) and a bot (central shrine).”

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“The main temple/chapel is Phra Ubosatha with Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn, the principal Buddha it is situated a top a three tiered pedestal under which some ashes of King Rama I are kept. The interior of the Hall is covered with fine murals and the inside of the panels for the windows are covered in lacquer work. This is the most impressive building at Wat Pho.”

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Day 04: Bangkok – Abloom!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Can’t believe it was already the fourth morning of our trip! Let me show you where we were staying in Bangkok!

Buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. Small selection, but adequate to get you going until you find some real food out on the streets! πŸ˜‰

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Pool! Always nice to have a pool!

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Hotel had a really nice and quirky lobby.

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And we’ll end the post with a selfie!

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On to fun touristy-yet-beautiful stuff in the next post!

Day 03: Bangkok – Dinner at Gaggan!

Monday, July 15, 2013

After our little shopping adventure, we met up with Laura in the evening close to Lumpini Park for some drinks – buy one cocktail get one free! πŸ˜€

It was nice to spend more time together but it wasn’t long before we said our good-byes and parted ways because Mike and I had reservations for a very special dinner… at Gaggan, known for its progressive Indian cuisine. I know what many of you, including Laura, are thinking, “Who goes to Thailand to eat Indian food?”

Well, when it’s listed as #10 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013, (#3 in 2014!) you know it’s worth it. We made our reservation back while studying for exams and were looking forward to this meal the entire trip. We had even already decided that we would be going for one of the tasting menus.

Unfortunately, it was raining and we had left our umbrella back at the hotel… and because our cab driver (which we needed for only a couple hundred of metres) was inefficient, we still showed up to the restaurant wet. It is also why we don’t have any pictures of what the restaurant looks like from the outside. But to give you an idea, it was a large white colonial-styled house with many large windows, each with warm light shining through. πŸ™‚

We were greeted by friendly staff and shown upstairs to our table for 2. There was a sense of intimacy as we were seated in the corner but could still look out to the dining room and see the other diners. I only wished the lighting was a little bit brighter for better quality of photos πŸ˜‰

The ambiance was really nice and felt like we were dining in someone’s house rather than a restaurant. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures to show you… sorry!

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Along with our menus, we received a ‘welcome drink,’ a passionfruit and strawberry sorbet, frozen with liquid nitrogen. We didn’t get the “flair” presentation with the liquid nitrogen being poured at the table like other diners have shared, but it was still tart and tasty.

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We soon decided on our drinks: An Asahi beer for Mike and a frozen lychee and rosewater mocktail for me.

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And it also didn’t take much effort to confirm that we would be going for the 10 course tasting menu. Most courses are listed on the menu, but the unlisted ones were a nice surprise!

The meal was exceptional… and I have photos to share with you!

The first item was something we had read online from previous diners and were quite looking forward to – the Yoghurt Explosion. Rich yoghurt with black pepper submersed in an alginate bath to give the form of an egg yolk and served on a ceramic spoon. We were instructed to slide the whole thing into our mouth and just experience the explosion. Explosion indeed! An awesome burst of flavour that left us with silly smiles on our faces and looking forward to what the rest of the evening had to offer.

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Next was a trio served on an interestingly shaped metal plate. We were instructed to eat from left to right. The first was a white chocolate shell filled with a spiced liquid concoction that included chili. Sweet and spicy, a nice kick to start off the plate.

The next item was an edible bag made of rice paper and filled with wasabi flavoured beans and dried fruit. Interesting textures from the melting rice paper, crunchiness of the beans and chewiness of the fruit – the combination of flavours was nice as well.

Lastly was a deconstructed samosa with potato mousse on the top. Nicely flavoured, but I wish it was served fresh and hot rather than cold/room temperature.

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My date! ❀

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Our third dish was called Viagra – French Oysters freshly shucked served with kokam nectar and Indian mustard ice cream. On top of the oyster was an oyster leaf with foam. We were told to eat the leaf first on its own and that it tastes like an oyster… wow, true! Did some reading afterward to find out that oyster leaves have a slightly salty/ocean taste that highly resembles oysters – even referred to as vegetarian oysters. The oysters were fresh (actually the first one I’ve tried and enjoyed) with the coldness of the mustard ice cream immediately melting in your mouth. Yum! With slight brain freeze πŸ˜‰

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The next dish, Egyptian Secret was spiced foiegras with spiced red onion chutney and cold raspberry foie powder. My first time having foiegras, and it didn’t disappoint. It was smooth and creamy with a slight bitterness that was balanced by the sweetness of the other components.

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The fifth dish, In Season was an airlight soup of summer truffles and organic waynaud peppers. With slivers of truffle on top of this delicious foamy creaminess, In Season has ruined one of my favourite comfort foods – Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup from a can. The soup was literally airy but packed full of flavour. So rich and tasty! I only wish I could eat it again…

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Next on our tasting adventure was Smoke It Up – river king prawns tandoor grilled and finished with fennel Kachumber, coriander foam and charcoal oil. The green garnish on the prawn was called salty finger, and we were told to eat it first. It was a surprising taste of watery saltiness, and interesting addition to seafood dishes! Mike’s prawn came out with a head and mine didn’t, one of the only inconsistencies we noticed that night. The dish tasted nice, although the salad was a little too salty. At the end of the night, this was our least favourite dish.

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A happy girl!

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What Mike had been looking forward to, Game On – Wild French quail sous-vide 6 hours with chettinaud spices tandoor roasted with pineapple chutney. Without inquiry, we were assured, “Using fingers is fine!” which gave us a little laugh. The quail was super tender and flavourful and the pineapple chutney added a combination of spicy sweetness we’d never had before. We both agreed that the chutney was a little too thick, too dark and too sweet.

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The last savoury dish for the night, British National Dish – chicken Tikka masala deconstructed and reconstructed curry makhani foam with traditional chicken tikka. Yes, a pretty full on dish description but it can be simplified to fewer words: Best Tikka masala ever. Really. For us at least, we’ve only eaten Indian food in Brisbane. The naan was delicious as well, we completely devoured that dish!

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Our pre-dessert: Black sesame ice cream topped with a sponge cake. Being honest here, the ice cream was great but sponge cake was kind of weird… I think this dessert would’ve been much better as a take on fried ice cream. With crisp, fried cake on top instead πŸ˜‰

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And the finale to our night: Cinanana – banana meringue with Ceylon sweet cinnamon burnt ice cream. So tasty! The banana meringue, in terms of texture, light sweetness and flavour, really made the dish for us. There was also passion fruit gelee tubes which had a nice flavour but we weren’t a fan of the texture and thought the flavours would’ve been just as great without. πŸ™‚

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After such an enjoyable meal, our only wish was that we could’ve had 2 or 3 times the portions! But alas! It was still be a great adventure!

I was adamant with Mike that I wanted to meet Chef Gaggan and shake his hand. Mike was skeptical. Chefs, after all, are busy people where their kitchen is a secret where magical things happen and not the place for customers. So I tried to prove him wrong. When I asked if it was possible to meet the chef and give him our thanks, our waitress said she would ask. She came back and said, “Yes, and he would like to give you a tour of the kitchen! Would you like to go? But he’s a very busy man, so he’s waiting for you to come right now.”

Without a second of thought I blurted, “Of course, thank you! Let’s go!” And off we scurried downstairs. Chef Gaggan met us at the kitchen entrance and welcomed us into his kitchen, asking how we enjoyed our dinner. Then he gave us a tour of his little kitchen, which although small, was highly functional with around 30 staff members coming and going. We even got to see his lab, where some of the magical creations take place.

Unbelievable to Mike, I asked Chef Gaggan for a picture with him, to which he happily agreed!

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Knowing he was quite busy, I still jumped at the opportunity to ask if I could snap a few pictures of the kitchen… He responded with telling his staff to put on their faces for the camera!

[Chef Gaggan has an interesting history and extensive experience, read more about him here on their website!]

I’m sorry for disrupting for your work environment! I wish I had been able to get everyone’s names and titles but I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. ^_^

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Excuse the pan, my fault for barging in and snapping away! But look at the colours! πŸ™‚

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Mike and I had a great experience here and I wanted to share that with all of you! If you are ever in Bangkok, make a booking at Gaggan for a night of surprises. We were taken on a whirlwind of wonderful tastes, and the other great thing? That 10 course tasting menu cost a fraction of what it would in Brisbane – 1600 baht per person (+10% service charge and 7% VAT) ~$55 CAD + fees.

Day 03: Bangkok – AFRIMS & Shopping

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our first morning in Bangkok!

After breakfast at the hotel, Laura met us around 9am in order to take us into work with her – say what? There’s a reason and don’t worry, it wasn’t because of free labour. Laura works at Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) and we all thought it would be interesting to visit her workplace and meet some of her colleagues. Additionally, Mike’s old PhD supervisor had spent many years doing Dengue Virus research at this facility and a lot of the tools Mike used during his PhD came from AFRIMS.

AFRIMS was only a short tuk tuk ride away, where we had the opportunity to meet with many of Laura’s colleagues and even got a tour of the facilities… complete with multiple mini presentations on the methods of research they used! Didn’t think I would be hearing about ELISA and Haemagglutination Inhibition Assays on vacation!

The visit ended with a wonderful lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant where we were introduced to our first bowl of Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut soup). Thank you again, Laura and all the staff we met at AFRIMS who gave us their time to not only welcome us but also to share with us the projects they’re working on!

After lunch (and a quick detour through the surrounding hospitals to exchange money courtesy of Laura), we headed to the Victory Monument sky train station. An opportunity to see Bangkok life and grab some pictures!

Victory Monument, one of the busiest transportation hubs in Bangkok.

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There are no pedestrian crossings in the traffic circle, instead people use overhead walkways.

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We decided today would be the day to check out the city and the shopping. But before that, we stopped quickly at our hotel to BATHE IN AIR CONDITIONING… and plan our shopping trip, of course.

Back alley to Abloom – remind you of Vietnam? There were many aspects of Bangkok that reminded us of Vietnam actually. From the construction of older parts of the city, to the food, to the people.

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I believe this was Sanam Pao sky train station, the one right by our hotel.

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Our first shopping stop was MBK Center, a massive 7-8 storey mall with absolutely everything you could possibly need.

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Unfortunately, what I haven’t told you is that Mike and I are terrible shoppers. We last for a few hours tops and get disheartened when our dreams of “really cheap bargains” don’t live up to expectations πŸ˜› Mike got a pair of pretty shoes though!

We then quickly walked through Siam Center… where I saw some cool sights.

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And of course, had to check out the swanky Siam Paragon.

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We finally got to settle our long-time craving for quality donuts! Yum!

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And then continued on foot down to Central World Plaza. Loved the huge open space, people passing by, art gallery, city backdrop, etc.

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More city views!

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We were going to check out Palladium World Shopping Mall, but got distracted by… SUPER C.

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We thought of all the wonderful foods we could buy and decided to go grocery shopping instead. It was a jackpot. We found Seaweed Pringles we couldn’t find last time in Vietnam, we stocked up on our favourite Kewpie salad dressings, found LARGE containers of Koh-Kae wasabi peanuts, Ice Cream flavoured Oreos, and we even got Strawberry, Vanilla, and Cappuccino TimTams (that’s right, they’re not even for legal sale in Australia). If you’re over at the right time, maybe we’ll share! πŸ˜‰

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With that, we called our shopping day a success and headed back to the hotel to drop off our loot and freshen up before meeting Laura for drinks followed by our most anticipated meal this trip – dinner at Gaggan.

More to come! πŸ™‚

Day 02: Bangkok – We made it, hi Laura!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Arrived safely in Bangkok around 7pm. The airport is huge… almost too big! Luckily, despite the vastness of the airport, we eventually found Laura! For those who don’t know, Laura is a friend of Mike’s from Halifax. She’s an infectious diseases doctor currently working in Bangkok doing research. Very kind of her to not only offer to come meet us but arrange our accommodation as well!

We took the Airport Link train for ΰΈΏ45 ($1 CAD = 30 thai baht) to Phaya Thai station where we transferred to the BTS Skytrain and took it to our stop: Sanam Pao.

Our accommodation, Abloom Exclusive Serviced Apartments, was just a couple minutes walk from the station. We were taken on a quick tour of the facilities (restaurant, gym, pool) before being shown to our apartment.

The apartment was enormous, with a living room, dining area, kitchen, bedroom, etc. Way more space than we could use, especially when we would be out most of the day!

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Mike sitting and watching TV… I mean watching nothing.

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It was already getting late and we were all hungry πŸ™‚ Laura took us to a Thai restaurant close to her place (one train stop away) for some tasty food. We had some spicy curry, stir fried Morning Glory (water spinach/rau muong), chicken with cashews, and a popular tasty Thai drink – Cha Yen.

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Cha Yen is also known as Thai Iced Tea. It is supposed to be made from strongly-brewed ceylon tea. However, due to price, black tea is often with food colouring added to give the distinctive rusty-orange colour. The tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and topped with evaporated milk for creaminess. It is delicious and something we enjoyed often in Bangkok… it is not very healthy though… good thing we can’t get it back in Australia!

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By the time we finished dinner, it was time to call it a night.

Excited to wake up in Bangkok!

End of Day 02 πŸ™‚

Post-Surgery… Vacation!

Surgery is officially over, woo hoo!

Our final written exam (worth 70%) was yesterday… 2.5 hours of looong testing-of-knowledge. The exam was certainly challenging, as many of my friends have agreed, but now we just have to sit and wait for our results!

More importantly – on to a one week vacation!

Mike and I were able to score really cheap plane tickets, so we are going overseas for the holiday!

Today, we are going down to Gold Coast.

Tomorrow morning, we are flying out to… Singapore!

Yep, again.

Our super basic itinerary:

  • July 12 – Gold Coast
  • July 13 – Singapore
  • July 14-17 – Bangkok
  • July 17-20 – Singapore

All our flights added up to less than $500, which we thought was a steal! We have already booked all our accommodation but haven’t really finalized our plans of where we want to go and what we want to do yet.

Like usual, I will try to blog whenever I can! If not, there will be tons of photos and posts after we come back πŸ™‚

Have a great weekend everyone! And for those on a holiday like me, have a lovely vacation!

Halifax Day 3: Lunch @ Talay Thai

December 06, 2012

It was late afternoon by the time we got into Halifax and we still hadn’t lunch. Needless to say, we were starving! We decided to eat at one of Michael’s favourite restaurants, Talay Thai. Because some restaurants close in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, our only thought while walking towards the restaurant was, “Please don’t be closed, please don’t be closed!”

And it wasn’t!

There were 3 other groups dining when we arrived and were immediately shown to our seats. Beautifully decorated restaurant. The servers were also dressed in traditional Thai clothing, which was really nice to see.

We were immediately offered water and after a chance to ask a few questions regarding the menu items, it didn’t take us long to make up our mind. You can check out their full menu with prices HERE

I believe these are portraits of the younger King Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit. I apologize if I’m wrong!

Our food came out quite quickly – steaming hot deliciousness! Presentation was beautiful, we couldn’t wait to dig in!

Duck Curry (Red curry paste w/ duck meat, coconut milk, pineapple, grape, lime leaves, basil & tomato) $13.95

This dish was rich, spicy and super yummy. I was also pleasantly surprised that they used only duck breast cuts!

Garlic Squid – Pla Muek Tod Katem (Deep fried squid w/ garlic & pepper)
$13.50

Also delicious, although the squid was slightly chewy. The pieces were large and it was difficult to take bites. I noticed the squid was lightly scored before being battered and fried, perhaps scoring it a little deeper might help? Still tasted great!

Our tummies were very happy by the time we were done. So filling as well, we didn’t even have room to try their desserts.

Talay Thai has earned numerous awards and recognitions, some of which are posted HERE

Beautiful restaurant, very reasonable prices, delicious food, prompt and wonderful service. I will definitely make Talay Thai a must-stop whenever I’m in Halifax!

Talay Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hello, long time no see!

I’ve been hiding this past week focused on studying, believe it or not! Wrote my midterm Friday afternoon (1-3pm) which went quite well except for a few questions that I answered stupidly. Grr! Don’t you just hate it when you answer a question wrong not because you didn’t know it, but you had the knowledge to and didn’t answer it correctly? Anyway, time to move on and focus on the final exams coming up in October!

In celebration, I finally used a Scoopon for fish and chips at Cosmos Cafe in South Bank. Huge piece of battered fish, chips, salad and a pop can for $6! Not bad, I have one more coupon to use so I will probably be back soon in the future.

In Brisbane, we have ibises… pretty much the seagull equivalent. Massive and everywhere, at least they’re not as loud and as annoying πŸ™‚

Always love seeing the walkway down in South Bank

Washed that down with an amazingly delicious dessert at Max Brenner’s nearby. Delicious waffles drizzled with toffee, sprinkled with sugared pecans and served with melted chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It’s not on the menu (so ask for it) and really does taste like a piece of heaven. Best dessert ever!


I have a huge forehead! And in great need of a haircut! πŸ˜›

Ended the night watching my first ever live sports event – Australia vs Thailand – first World Cup 2014 qualifier match! Game was held at Suncorp Stadium with over 24 000 people in attendance. So much fun!

I was really excited to finally have an opportunity to use my telephoto lens after letting it collect dust on my shelf for months. Unfortunately, I was stopped at the gate after a bag check and was told that my lens wasn’t allowed. 😦 Apparently, the max zoom allowed was 200mm and my lens was 250mm. “Aww no! I didn’t know, or I wouldn’t have brought it!” Luckily, after speaking to a manager, he approved my camera and called in my seat number so security wouldn’t hassle me when they saw me taking pictures. Because of that, I was able to get a few decent shots!

Thailand (red and blue) and Australia’s Socceroos (yellow and green) warming up

Thailand fans congregated in one section

Some action going on

Thailand faked quite a bit, eliciting boos from the entire stadium each time

Pretty decent crowd!

Australia won (of course) 2-1!

CLICK HERE FOR FULL AUSTRALIA VS THAILAND ALBUM