The Grand Palace – Bangkok, Thailand

As mentioned in my previous post, this attraction is a bit overrated. Since, this can be seen in almost all travel blogs about Bangkok and the number 1 place suggested by travel guides, most tourists convene in this place.

This according to the internet was the official residence of the Kings of Thailand until 1925. The present king no longer resides there but some official events are still held in there. The Grand Palace is a complex of different buildings, one of which is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew.

Scams

Before visiting this spectacular place; be wary of the scams though, the oldest and the most well-known is the “The Palace is closed today Scam”. It is when a tourist roams near the Palace complex, a friendly English speaking local would approach the tourist and casually drop statements like this “Oh, you want to see the Grand Palace? Too bad it is closed today due to some events.” Then would offer to take you to other temples at 20-40baht Tuktuk ride but would actually bring the victim to shops where they could get a kick back from the owner from every purchase of the poor traveller.

How to get there?

The fastest route is to take the BTS or Sky Train; take the Silom line and get off at Saphan Taksin Station and look for the Chao Phraya Express Boat dock, and then get off at Tha Tiang Pier. The Grand Palace is just a few minutes walk from there. For boat routes, time table and fares, check the Chao Phraya Express Boat webpage.

Another option is to take a Tuktuk or a motorcycle taxi, this is another fun option but is not advisable for the faint-hearted because the drivers are often weave through the traffic swiftly.

A more comfortable option is to take a taxi but it would take you an eternity to reach the destination if you’d be trapped in a gridlock.

Notes:

  1. The Grand Palace is open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM but the ticket office closes at 3:30 PM.
  2. A strict dress code is being implemented at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Long pants, shirts with sleeves must be worn. See-through or revealing clothing are not be allowed.
  3. Entrance is free for Thais but costs 500 Baht for foreigners. This includes a travel guide on what to see inside the complex.
  4. Tourists are EVERYWHERE! Patience is really a virtue.
  5. The heat can be very exhausting. Drink lots of fluids but then travel responsibly. Bring your own water bottle.
  6. Wat Pho is just a few minutes walk from the Grand Palace.
  7. Wat Arun is just across the river.
  8. To be able to explore and see most of the place, it would take at least 4 hours and to avoid the heat, the best time would be to visit this place as soon as it opens.
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La Union – Eco commune

Living in Metro Manila is a bit stressful, with all the fast-paced, daily hustle and bustle, the week seems so long and exhausting. Most people agree that the best way to relax is to commune with nature. Studies even prove that being with nature truly allows an individual to unplug and thus,decreasing secretion of stress hormones.

After a very busy month, I’ve decided to unwind at last. The first thing that came into my mind was to go trekking and stay overnight under the stars, but this option was not feasible because of two reasons: I don’t have a tent and it’s now in the wet season. So another option would be to stay at the beach and accessible locations would be Batangas, Quezon Province, Cavite, Bataan, Pangasinan and La Union. Because I wanted to learn how to surf, despite being the farthest among the choices, I have chosen La Union.

La Union is a well-known destination among surfers who want to catch the waves and for weary souls who want to recharge. San Fernando and San Juan are amongst the most famous surfing spots in this town. Tourists and travellers alike flock these towns on weekend.

The trip

It took 4 hours to get to Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union from Manila. According to bloggers, it usually takes 5-6 hours depending on the traffic situation. The drive was a bit long but the view was very rewarding. Scenic views of the countryside greeted me along the way.

The decision to stay at Fatwave Surf Resort was undoubtedly perfect, this resort offers a beachfront view and has a bar that opens until midnight I think. Rates are very affordable, at Php 1,800.00 for a night in an air-conditioned room with common bathroom at Php 2,500.00 per night for an air-conditioned room with a private bath. Both rates, include a complimentary breakfast – a hearty meal that provided me enough energy to start the day.

The beach, bars, restaurants and even the streets usually get crowded with travellers in the afternoon until late night. Swimming and surfing time is limited from 6AM to 6PM for safety reasons, so most of the people are bar crawling and partying in the evening. The perfect time to stroll in the beach would be early in the morning, however the beach is facing the west side so sunrise could not be witnessed from the beach side, but the view is equally stunning. The moment the sky changes from dark to pinkish to bluish is very spectacular. Sitting on the sand, listening to the rumbling of the waves, waiting for the water to play with my toes was just the perfect weekend. At the back of my head, I was humming Zac Brown Band’s Jolene.

“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand

Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand

Life is good today, life is good today.”🎶🎵

The sea, sand and the sun – best medicine for the enervated. But, aside from that I had also a chance to pick grapes from the farm in Bauang, La Union. It’s not harvesting season yet but I had so much fun. Looking for ripe fruits under the grape vines was like a treasure hunt; it was very invigorating both for the mind and the spirit. Why? I can’t explain.

After a very rough month, “I certainly deserved that break”, I told myself and I do. I felt so relaxed; I was at home. Nature truly is the best place to recharge and heal. As mentioned in a Chinese proverb, “Nature, time and patience are the three great physicians.” Nature by the far is the most accessible. 

From a life of less clutter to a blog of jumbled ideas

Waste Audit

This blog was initially created to chronicle my journey towards zero waste lifestyle. Early this year, I have committed live a clutter-free life. My goal is manage my resources well as to minimize wastage. I am a believer on concept of sustainability. Diligently, I have audited my garbage. Most of the non-biodegradable that I’ve generated came from food packaging.

The dilemma now is that most of the food sold in the market are packaged in plastic. Snacks in the convenience stores are sold in single use plastic and even produce in the grocery are packaged in plastic. The solution: choose what to eat. I never really cook for myself. I always rely on fast food, convenience stores and the office cafeteria for my food but this time, I’ve learned to shop for my own food, carefully choosing where to buy. At first, I thought that this would be expensive but then, I realized it’s not at all. 

Pros aside from less garbage

  1. Learning how cook.
  2. Eating healthier.
  3. Eating more palatable foods
  4. Buying local products thus helping local economy
  5. Saving money

Cons

  1. Requires effort
  2. Requires consistency
  3. Requires mindfulness

But then, if the disadvantages would be summarized it just boils down to discipline. Discipline is a good thing after all. 

This journey is going to be rough but I’d be taking this a step at a time. 

As Anne-Marie Bonneau said beautifully,

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

 

Memoirs – Puerto Princesa, Then and Now

I’ve been to several provinces here in the Philippines but amongst all, Palawan has a special place in my heart. Dubbed as “The Last Frontier of the Philippines”, it truly lives to its moniker. It has the right blend of being urbanized and being laid back.

I was fortunate to be able to visit Puerto Princesa, its capital in 2015 as a part of a civic group that have offered to clean up the non-touristy coastal community of this city. I have fell in love with the place, the verdant greens, the magical beaches, delectable foods and the warmth of the people enamoured me. I can still vividly remember the first time I have walked from the airport and hailed a tricycle (which is the primary mode of transportation in the city proper) to see the Cathedral, the Plaza Cuartel and the Baywalk. I was really in awe as I navigated my way to the tourist destinations like Binuatan Creations, Butterfly Garden, Baker’s Hill and Mitra’s Ranch.

This year, I get to visit this lovely city again and to my surprise, a lot has changed. Infrastructures are being built all over the city proper. It was as if the whole city suddenly awaken from a deep slumber, as if a witch had cast a spell on this quaint place. The modest airport has been replaced with a topnotch international airport, aesthetically and functionally designed for visitors from all over the globe. The main streets nowadays are lined with newly opened artistic restaurants and food parks, beckoning holidaymakers. The trend is that they not only offer mouthwatering cuisine but also ambiance which are not only perfect for relaxation but are also very instaworthy? instagrammable?

Four years ago, the nearest mall was few kilometers away from the city proper but nowadays, it’s just a stone throw away. Progress is oftentimes synonymous with positivity but there really is no absolute thing. Along with the rapid industrialization are problems like overcrowding and congestion. Gone are the days when the national road are comparable to freeways. But alongside this growth, Puerto Princesa exhibited readiness and resilience. Touring the underground river is now a lot organized as compared before. Back then, queues seemed endless, this year, I’ve noticed a remarkable decrease in the length of waiting time from Sabang Port. The way the LGU handles tour activities is very commendable. Employing the use of technology to lessen environmental impact like the use of audio device to decrease disturbance due to sound is praiseworthy.

In this fast changing world, the environment and the people are often compromised but this city showed us that it shouldn’t be the case. We have options, we just have to choose wisely.

Puerto Princesa, kudos to you!

Things I wish I have known when I was younger

Dear younger self,

Didn’t you know that you were misguided? Life isn’t all about certificates, medals and titles. Recognition is the least that you should care about. People judge, that’s a fact but you shouldn’t allow them to bring you down.

Don’t try to figure everything out, nobody does anyway. You might think adults around you have everything plotted but you’re wrong, they’re just like flocks of sheep following the shepherd.

Medals tarnish, certificates fade; strive for excellence, for perfection, for joy, and be ready to serve. Remember, less is more. Do not compete with society, compete with yourself. Challenge yourself, never be afraid to fall, the greatest failure a man could suffer is the failure to try. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. Learn! Life is a never ending learning process.

Do no be wary that people may judge you. They do, and they do it most of the times. Let them! When people stab your back that means you’re in front of them; when they pull you down, that means you’re above them. Just do your thing!

Success is not equated to fame and fortune. Success is when you are contributing to the good of mankind, joyfully. Success is very subjective, don’t let the world define success for you. Remember that when you’re happy in what you’re doing, you are successful.

Ponder on these:

  • Study to learn, not to earn.
  • Be respectful, always.
  • Do not judge, it’s not always what it seems.
  • Be curious, that stimulates the brain.
  • Be passionate on what you do. Keep the fire burning
  • Support a cause.
  • Do the right thing even if you’re the only one doing it.
  • Do not let society define you.
  • Love. Learn. Laugh. Live. Cliché as it seems but basically, that’s why we exist.
  • Share. Do not hoard what you have. Share your knowledge, wisdom, expertise, experience, smiles and even the people in your life. In being selfless, you’ll know yourself more.

Plan your work and work your plan so they say, but no matter how great your plans are, there would always be flaws; just go with the flow. Learn from it.

Know thyself young me. Do not fear. Be the person that you are destined to be!

 

Sincerely,

Me

Kawasan Falls

Kawasan Falls

 

 

This year (2019) was declared the 2nd hottest year ever, Manila was scorching hot and being outside from 9:00 AM to 4:00 literally felt like you’re being baked in an oven. My mom being a plain housewife, which translates to a wife who plainly stays in the house got overwhelmed with all the boredom of being alone and was tired of having to confront the agony of being subjected to the extreme heat that mother earth emits; decided that she wanted to go somewhere refreshing. With that, we’ve decided to visit Kawasan Falls.

On my trip to Cebu to visit the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist at Simala, Lindogon Hills, Sibonga, Cebu, I’ve decided to bring my mom with me. The trip from the city was really exhausting but I can see that she enjoyed the whole thing so it was worth it.

How to go to Kawasan from Simala?

From Simala, you have to go to the main road or the national highway, cross the other side and wait for buses going to Cebu City that would ply by Carcar. Ask the conductor to drop you off at the Gaisano Mall in Carcar. In front of it, buses going to Moalboal and Badian pass by that route. Be wary though, most the seats are already occupied so you must be ready to stand for and hour or two. Mind though that the ride would not be smooth. (Titas, have the salonpas ready!) Carcar to Moalboal is around 3 hours by bus, Kawasan Falls from Moalboal is around 30-45 minutes by bus or van.

What we did was we decided to spend the night in Moalboal and then proceed to Kawasan the following morning. Several buses and vans ply by this route, finding a ride from Moalboal to Badian is trouble-free. From Moalboal, we took a van which was on its way to Oslob to pick up guests, the driver dropped us off at Matutinao Resort in Badian, it is in front of Sto. Tomas De Villanueva Parish. It is where the trail to the falls commence, no means of transportation is available so tourists are obliged to take the trail by foot.

The trek is not really hard, my mom made it and she’s more than 50 years old. 🙂 It’s just around 20-30 minute walk and it would start on a paved pathway with lots of food vendors on the right side and a river with crystal clear water on your left.

After around 15 minutes, the baranggay registration area would be reached. An inexpensive fee of Php 45.00 per person. There are several stalls along the way that offer life vest rental for Php 50.00 but I highly suggest that you rent from Willy’s (the resort close to the falls) for convenience.

 

What to do in Kawasan Falls?

Canyoneering is a booming activity in Badian; it is a combination of trekking, jumping, sliding, floating downstream while enjoying the gift of mother nature. Usually, they start from above which is in Alegria and stops on Kawasan Falls which is the first of the three falls which is according to locals is the largest among the three. We were not able to see the other falls for it was an uphill climb and my mom was too tired to do it.

To those who aren’t into strenuous activities and are only up for relaxation, swimming in the lagoon is a perfect activity. The water is turquoise-blue, very mesmerizing, never have I seen a body of fresh water that color. It’s just a bit crowded though, but with the life vest on, floating on the water would be very leisurely.

Willy’s and the Kawasan Falls offers picnic tables, rooms for overnight stays and lockers to guests and visitors. To those who have not brought food, they also serve rice meals which are a bit pricey.

Willy’s also offer the use of bathroom for a fee. So after swimming and you now want to change clothes, you can pay 10php and proceed to the bathroom and take a refreshing shower.

Where to go after Kawasan?

  1. Experience the Sardine Run at Moalboal
  2. Laze at Lambug White Beach
  3. Be Arielle under the sea in Pescador Island
  4. Experience a romantic sunset at Osmeña Peak
  5. Swim with Whale Sharks in Oslob (I don’t recommend this activity because the practice of feeding these gentle giants is unsustainable.)

How to go back to Cebu City from Kawasan?

Just walk back to the National road, you don’t have to cross the road just wait for buses in front of the church. Take a bus going back to Cebu City and get off at the South Bus Terminal. Fare is roughly at Php 180 per pax and travel would take around 3-4 hours depending on the traffic situation.

A weekend in Bangkok aka Less than 48 hours in Bangkok

Travelling always gives me a different kind of thrill, it makes me feel so alive; but travelling outside the country is a different story, it both excites and scares me.

Earlier this year, a friend (Lea) informed me that she have come across a cheap deal to Bangkok and asked if I wanted to join her. Of course, without even thinking on how I’m going to secure the funds I eagerly said Yes! So, she booked a package for 4, that included me, Kizzie and Niza. (Yayamanin si frenny!)

We were scheduled to fly on the 29th of March and be back home by the 31st. To make the most out of the very short trip I giddily googled possible activities that we could do in Thailand. Downloaded offline maps and read blogposts on backpacking Bangkok. I did all of those in mid-January and for 2 months, I haven’t even revisited my notes until the night before the flight.

Day 1

ETD was at 6AM but I’ve learned from a previous experience that I shouldn’t be as lax as when I fly locally, so I was already at NAIA Terminal 3 at 3 AM. Queuing to enter the terminal, pay travel tax, check-in and immigration clearance took around an hour and a half. I still have lots of time to eat and wait for my friends to arrive.

Instead of 6, we took off at past 6AM (Ph time), so we arrived at around past 10AM Thailand time. However, we have to walk for around 1km so we could exit the terminal and be with the tour provider who’s going to take us to our hotel. It took us forever to find them and a lifetime for them to arrange our transport to our respective hotels. By the way, there are 40 of us in the tour – imagine the crowd!

We were assigned to this driver who barely speaks a word, the drive from the airport to the hotel was about an hour. Thailand welcomed us warmly, very warm indeed (literally)! The heat or maybe the hunger or maybe both made me dizzy; to entertain myself I was very noisy. I pretended that it was my first time to see stuff like cars or interchange or billboards but then eventually I got tired and fell asleep.

 We arrived at the hotel past 12 noon, the kind lady in the reception informed us that the rooms were not ready yet and advised us to take our lunch first and be back by 2PM. We stayed in the crowded part of Thailand. It has a Chinatown-ish or Baclaran-ish vibe. Streets littered with vendors, street food and vehicles. We decided to eat in a hawker center near the hotel and ordered foods that are familiar to us.

Belly -filled, spirits lifted we went back at the hotel, checked-in and freshen up. Then we left the hotel and navigated our way amidst the confusing alley. Since, we’re not really sure where to go, we decided to ride a tuktuk to the grand palace. What a ride! It absolutely felt like we’re on an amusement park or more of a cast in a Fast and Furious film, as the tuktuk driver made his way past the traffic – swerving left and right. We paid 300 baht for the 30 minute ride. The driver dropped us off at the Sanam Chai Road, in front of the Ministry of defense building so we have to cross the other side of the street and we ply by Na Phra Lan Road and took the entrance in front of the Naphralan Post Office.

The Grand Palace

This is actually overrated, almost all areas in the Palace grounds were littered with people. Tourists taking selfies or pictures here and there. What’s amusing though is that most tourists feel really bad when someone photo-bombed them but would never ever mind photo-bombing other people. The entrance fee for the Palace which includes entrance to the Emerald Buddha Temple is 500 baht. To be able to appreciate most of the amazing architecture inside it, one must be willing to spend at least half a day inside the Palace.

What to see inside the Grand Palace?

1. Structures

2. Spires

3. Giants

4. The Angkor Wat Replica

5. Wat Phra Kaew  (Emerald Buddha)

Tip: If you’re visiting the Grand Palace in the afternoon, check the Emerald Buddha first as this closes at 4PM. Shoes off. Proper attire (no shorts or sleeveless shirts)

After a tiresome tour under the scorching heat, we decided to check out the temple of the reclining buddha or Wat Pho. Entrance fee costs 200 baht per person which includes a free bottled water. Wat pho is just a few minutes walk from the Palace gate. Upon exiting the grand palace grounds, we walked along Maha Rat road to go to Wat Pho. We passed the Thai Navy Clubhouse, naval civil affairs and Nagabhirom Park. Wat pho is just a block away, it’s in the corner if Thai wang alley and Maha Rat Road. It is in the east Bank of Chao Phraya River just a few meters away from Tha Tien Pier.

Wat Pho

This temple according to the locals is very special to the Thais. For them, the 15 meters tall, 46 meters long gold plated Buddha lying on the right supported by his right hand is a symbol that just like us, Buddha too rests or sleeps. However, I’ve read online that this is a representation of Buddha past death in a state beyond Nirvana.

Aside from the humongous Buddha, what’s exciting to see is its 5-meter long feet which is adorned with intricately designed illustrations made up of mother of pearl . However, other than the reclining Buddha and the paintings in the wall, there is not much to see inside temple. On the way out though, there are bowls which people drop coins purchased from the entrance. People do this for their wishes to be granted. You may opt not to do so and just watch others do this, the pennies make a ringing sound when dropped at the metal bowls. Hearing that sound amidst the solemnity of the temple is beautiful.

What to see inside Wat Pho

1. The temple of the reclining Buddha

3. Chedis

3. Giants

4. The garden

5. Crocodile farm

6. School of Thai massage

After seeing every nook inside the temple we decided to check the night market instead, we checked the map for the nearest pier since the train station is a bit far from where we are located.

Just across the entrance gate of Wat Pho is Tha Tien Market where Tha Tien Pier is located. This is the pier for the boat that crosses the Chao Phrya River to Wat Arun Temple. Crossing to the other side of Chao Phrya is only around 10 minutes travel or less and just costs 12 baht per person. Most bloggers say that Wat Arun Temple looks magical at dawn but Wat Arun during sunset is just as spectacular.

Wat Arun Temple

Exploring Wat Arun grounds in the evening is quite cool. When the tourists are about to leave the place when the temple closes, the stillness and the quietness of the place gives off a serene feeling.

From Wat Arun, we took the Chao Phrya orange line boat that took us to Chinatown. We get off at Ratchawong and walked to Chinatown. Exhausted and starving, we searched for food. Along the alleys of Chinatown, we found a a street where food vendors abound. You’ll just have to select from the menu, the chef would cook it in front of the customers and voila – sumptuous meal in a heartbeat!

Recharged but still weary, we decided to head back to the hotel. After finally deciding what route to take, we again walked along Yaowarat Road until we reached the Chinatown Gate. Cross the street and walk along Mittahap Thai-China Road until we reached Rama IV Road. Crossed the other side and walked to Hua Lamphong Station where we took the MRT to Petchaburi Station. From there, we transferred to the Airport City Link Makkasan station and alighted at Rachaparop station which is just a-10 minute walk from where we’re staying.

With weary bodies but uplifted souls, we turned the lights off at past 11PM.

Day 2

We woke up early the next day, breakfast was at 6:30 and the call time for the complementary tour was at 7:00AM. As early as 5AM, we’re all set.

On a very unlucky turn of event, the hotel chef allegedly decided not to report to work that day so their’s no one to cook the meal. We just had toast and coffee for the breakfast, not what we were expecting but it was still better than none at all.

The tour driver fetched us at 6:45, and off we went at exactly 7AM. He was such in a hurry to a point that he kept on reminding us that we should leave by 7, only to find out that we have to pick up other guests from various hotels and wait for them while they are finishing their meals. (Oh, gosh Manong driver! Why so mean to us?) Anyway, this is just me being grumpy about having to wait when I’m hungry.

The tour was designed to be from 7AM to 11AM and would cover at least 4 sites. The tour guide, whose name was I think Om was pretty good. He explained that first on the list is the Wat Arun or the temple of Dawn. Having been there the evening before, we already know what to do. After arriving on the corner outside Wat Pho, we know that we have to go to Tha Tien Pier and board a boat to other side of the river. (So bida-bida kami. Lols!)

We explored the temple and the Pagoda and then shopped at the grounds. After spending an hour their, we headed back to the pier and travelled to the next destination which was the Temple of the Standing Buddha. The temple houses the tallest statue of Buddha. However, I wasn’t able to explore the place properly because I enjoyed the street-food outside the temple. I even enjoyed the frappe at the cafe outside the temple.

Next destination was the Gem Gallery, if you’re not really a fan of jewelries, this is not a must try. The displays are impressive though. I remember sleeping in their lounge while the rest of the group are checking out the glass cases.

Last on the list is the leather factory. I’ve read online that tour operators bring guests in this shops so they could get something from the owner whenever a tourist would buy a product. Not really worth the time if you don’t want to shop for leather goods.

For me, the best part of the day was after the tour. We asked the driver to drop us off at Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s like Divisoria, Baclaran and Tutuban in one place. We had lunch outside the market and had all afternoon to explore it. It’s very disorienting.

Upon sunset, we decided that we had enough so we took the MRT and head back to Makkasan Station where we again took the airport link to Petchburi Station.

After dropping our things at the hotel, we had dinner in the neighborhood then explored the night market near Baiyoke. We even grabbed some drinks after.

We went to bed at 2 or 3AM and prepped again at 5 for our flight back to Manila.

I’d be writing more detailed tips on the following:

1. Getting around Bangkok

2. General tips on backpacking Bangkok

3. The Grand Palace

4. Wat Pho

5. Chinatown

6. Wat Arun

7. Chatuchak Market