A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok Day 2

sunny 33 °C

Sunday, December 18

Today we moved to Centra Hotel to join up with the G Adventures group. It’s near one of the railway stations and in a much older part of Bangkok. For hotel security, the reception lobby was on the 12th floor of the building and to access our room on the 6th floor, we had to go up to the 12th floor and switch elevators to go down to the 6th floor, and the reverse to exit the hotel. To fill a bit of time in the afternoon, we walked a couple of blocks to the Temple of the Golden Buddha.


The hair and topknot of the sitting Buddha in this temple is 99% pure gold; from the chin to the forehead is 80% pure gold and and the body of the statue is 40% pure gold. It weighs about 5.5 tonnes and is about 4 metres tall. We stood inside the room with the Buddha for half an hour or so and when I exited, I felt a distinct change in energy in my body. I went back into the room to check if it was just my imagination but no, it wasn’t.

In the evening, we met our fellow G Adventures travellers: 10 young people from around the world - all under 45 years old - 1 other Canadian, 4 Americans, 1 Russian, 1 Brazilian, 1 German, 1 Australian and 1 from the UK. It's a good, interesting group. Our host / tour coordinator, Sambo, is from Cambodia.

Sambo has quite a story too. He's 44 now, was 6 during the war and lost his mom to starvation during the war years. He has had a tough life but has been determined to make his way, and he's worked hard to reach where he's at now. I'm so glad I read 'Under the Banyan Tree' before our trip so I have some insight into what he went through as a child. All Khmer people (Cambodians) were touched by the nightmare of this recent war, and yet through it all, they always greet you with a smile, a namaste bow, and a cheery demeanour. Incredible resilience!!

Posted by HosMiniTravels 15:55 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok Day 1

sunny 25 °C

Saturday, December 17

We hired a private guide today to take us to the Grand Palace and royal temple, a canal tour, Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) and Wat Pho – the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. The guide’s name was Petch, which means ‘diamond’ and she was a gem! She really went out of her way to give us an extraordinary experience!

The former king of Thailand died in mid-October and there are signs everywhere that the Thai people are in mourning. Most people are wearing black clothing, and at the stores, most racks are selling black (or black and white) clothes. Many are also wearing the Thai symbol for the number 9 because the former king was known as “King Rama 9”. The number 9 also signifies the way forward and the former king certainly moved Thailand’s development forward. At the Grand Palace, about 45,000 Thais are streaming through the palace grounds each day to pay their respects to the king who will be lying in state for a year.


Although the new king has been named, Thais do not seem excited about him as he has spent a lot of his life outside of the country (in Europe) and he does not seem to have the virtues they admired in the former king.

Lyle and I loved the canal tour in a long-tailed speed boat. These fancy boats have lots of kick, powered by a truck engine and controlled with a long rudder. Bangkok apparently has a thousand canals and one-fifth of the population lives along the canals. Some mail even gets delivered along the canals. We were astounded by the number of Buddhist temples we saw as we were riding along the canals.


These boats are the easiest way to get around Bangkok – avoiding the traffic congestion! At one location, Petch bought a loaf of fresh bread from a temple monk and we stopped to feed the good-sized fish in the river. Not like our northern pike, but they were still probably about 5 pounds each. Good splashers!!

Petch gave us lots of information about the temple features: differences between Thai architecture with pointed spires and Cambodian-style towers with rounded tops; and the crossover between Hindu gods and Buddhist deities. She also explained the hand painted art on the walls.


Some Thai kings were quite frugal and chose to decorate temple buildings with salvaged broken pottery shards from Chinese trading boats that had been tossed around at sea. As you can see, these pottery fragments produced magnificent works of art! This is a close-up of the base of a spire similar to the one shown below the next comment.


Petch timed our visit to Wat Pho, where there is a huge reclining Buddha statue, so that it would be at the end of the day when the crowds had dwindled and we could see the night illumination of the towers. The reclining Buddha pictured below is actually one we stumbled upon at a boat pier along the river. The statue was probably about 50 feet long and about 12 feet high. In front of the statue is a memorial to the King.


Wat Pho temple is famous for its wisdom pertaining to healing through yoga and Thai massage, so there are statues in some of the gardens that show people in healing positions or experiencing Thai massage.


We made it back to the hotel in time to have a refreshing swim in the hotel pool – ahhh! We closed out the day watching the boat traffic on the river below us. There were lots of party boats on the river tonight.


Posted by HosMiniTravels 07:49 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Singapore to Bangkok

semi-overcast 35 °C

Friday, December 16

Another hot, humid day in Singapore. Camera-ready Lyle spent a good part of the day trekking around the neighbourhood to see what he could find. After a mini-adventure to find breakfast (chicken rice porridge spiced up with ginger and chili sauce, along with a minced meat omelette which we shared), and a short walk around the neighbourhood, Donna decided that it would be a good time to stay in some ‘air-con’ and catch up on the blog. Lyle covered about 15 km and found the old part of town with homes that have preserved the old architecture, and he was able to dip his toes into the ocean. He certainly worked up a good sweat in that heat!


Again, the people of Singapore amazed us. As we tried to give our taxi driver a tip, he refused it so we left it on his seat when he got out to help with the luggage. When he got back in the cab and found it, he ran back to Lyle and just refused to accept it.

After supper, we caught a plane to Bangkok and took a taxi to our hotel, the Chatrium Riverside. We were wowed by our room on the 31st floor with a river view, overlooking the lights of Bangkok and the constant activity on the river. To our delight, the air is cooler, breezier and less humid than in Singapore (whew!), and there is no noticeable air pollution. Here are views at night from our balcony and in the daytime from the pool area.


Posted by HosMiniTravels 20:13 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Day 5

Thursday, December 15

Lyle started off his day in his favourite way: doing laps in the pool, then we packed to go to airport. We found out that we weren’t actually confirmed on our flight (!) and all flights to Bangkok were full – unless we wanted to pay for business class. So, we bought a ticket for Friday. More expensive but it will be a direct flight.

That gave us an extra day in lovely Singapore. We found a heritage hotel: Santa Grand Hotel in the Katong area (east of downtown) with a rooftop pool in its new section (the brown building behind, in the picture below) where we could overlook the neighbourhood. Our booking.com bargain room was also in that newer section of the hotel. Singaporean hotels are equipped with digital pads outside each room to convey messages for Make up the room, Do not disturb, etc. You press a button inside the room and the pad outside your room indicates what the staff need to attend to. We'd never seen this before.


This area, Katong, used to be the wealthy part of Singapore with a history of trading empires, coconut plantations, and seaside retreats. Our taxi driver pointed out some interesting spots along the way, like the hotel where the gangsters hang out and good local restaurants. Good food is very important to Singaporeans!

The Santa Grand hotel has informative artwork posted on each floor that describes the cultural richness of the neighbourhood. Some of the lobby furniture includes cultural treasures, such as furniture used in traditional weddings and a magnificent clock.


We spent the hot part of the day at the hotel pool and trying some local food (fried vermicelli and braised brinjal – which turned out to be eggplant), then struck out mid afternoon to Gardens by the Bay. This is a park with constructed trees that tower over 2 biosphere domes, one containing plants from different zones around the world and notes about climatic/natural and human threats to the vegetation, the other containing a cloud forest environment. The former, referred to as the Garden Dome, has some wonderful animal carvings created from tree roots.


The Cloud Forest has the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. We were somewhat reluctant to visit this cloud forest since we thought there was no way it could simulate what we experienced in Costa Rica last year, but we were amazed! The vegetation was magnificent and there were parts of the rainforest where you felt the penetrating humidity! We would definitely recommend a visit to the cloud forest to anyone visiting Singapore.


The most visible feature of the Gardens by the Bay is the Supergrove of trees. Think of the movie Avatar.


By the time we wandered into this area, it was 7:30 and getting dark – the perfect time to explore the forest, seasonally transformed into a ‘Winter Wonderland’. As you enter, there are LED light displays that simulate stained glass windows, and the towering trees are lit up as well (this might be a permanent feature on the trees). When we got to the heart of the display, the stained glass exhibit went dark, Christmas music started playing and there was a light show on the supertrees, including star lights! It was breathtaking!


Once that excitement ended, we wandered and found ourselves by a gazebo just when a college choir was starting a concert of Christmas carols. Imagine sitting on the grass, in shorts, listening to songs like: Frosty the Snowman and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas! It made us a little nostalgic and homesick until we remembered that instead of +35, the temperature in SK is -35!

Posted by HosMiniTravels 19:31 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Day 4

Wednesday December 14

Today, we slowed down the pace a bit. We found a post office in Chinatown to mail a box of items back by sea (it will arrive in 2 months). Lyle went to an art gallery exhibit on (En)countering Colonial Legacies. It dealt with different perspectives on the colonial experience.

We made an interesting observation today: under the scorching sun in the heat of the day, you don’t see people waiting at the edge of a road waiting for the “Walk” sign, but as soon as the light changes, people emerge from the shade of nearby buildings and flow across the intersection. Gotta be smart to keep cool!!


At rush hour, we boarded the MRT subway to go to the Night Safari at the zoo. On the subway, we found this poster:

We had to switch to a bus for the final leg to the zoo and were confused about where to go. A local woman sensed our confusion and offered to walk with us about half a km to where we actually needed to catch the bus. What an angel!! This is just a typical example of the friendliness that we have encountered with the Singaporean people.

The Night Safari had a show with live animals and then a tramride around the park to see rhinos, lions, elephants, deer and many other critters by night. The amount of lighting was similar to the light of a full moon. You had to strain to see the animals, but there were lots to see! We actually gave up on taking photos because of the poor quality.

Our meals were atrociously expensive today as we were in places that served more western style food: breakfast salad at a deli, and a Night Safari: fish and chips (for Lyle) and spring chicken for me.

Posted by HosMiniTravels 03:43 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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