Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park in Bangkok

Lumpini Park is the first public park in Bangkok, given for community use by His Majesty the King Rama VI in the royal occasion of his 15th anniversary of accession to the throne in 1925.  His Majesty's contemplation was to provide a park with various types of plants and trees for his people to relax in and gain knowledge of.  The name 'Lumpini', given by His Majesty, was taken from the Lumpiniwan District in Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha.

Later, during His Majesty the King Rama VII's sovereignty, ninety Rai of the southern part of the park was leased to build 'Wanaremgrom' enjoyment park to raise funds for Lumpini Park's restoration.  His Majesty explicitly ordered the government to maintain its condition and only use it for public purposes.

Visitors to the park can enjoy a wide range of recreational activities.  People can be found routinely jogging, doing aerobics, tai chi, fencing, yoga, or other activities.  There are also paddle boats available to go out on the water where one can go down the water banks to watch the monitor lizards. 

A map of the part is provided below.  There are ample paths for the public to use within the park free of any motorized traffic.  Centers are located within the park for both the elderly and youth to enjoy.  There are several pavilions around the park where a variety of leisure activities can be found.  The park also hosts a public library, food course, swimming pool, outdoor gym, school, radio station, playground, tennis court, basketball court, and restrooms. Multiple entry points exists from all sides of the park.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Dining in Thailand

Dining in Thailand

One of the enjoyments of Thailand is sampling the varied cuisines and dishes that are available. There is a wide sampling from the grotesque and exotic, to the savored and certified. As a hub for tourists all over the world and ex-pats there is a wide abundance and variety of food at multiple price points. It would be difficult for a person not to find that special location for food they are into. What is presented below is just from my experiences and barely covers the tip of the gastronomical variety available.


Thailand is a big melting pot of the world so they would naturally have an extensive menu of food to sample.  On the right is a popular setup called shabu shabu.  Not only does the food come out to your table, but it's still cooking in the pot!  This piece was served on the Baiyoke Balcony in Bangkok.

The dish shown in the bottom-right is from the Gulliver's restaurant in Bangkok.  They have hollowed out a pineapple and filled it with scented jasmine rice and shrimp.  The top is covered in shaved cinnamon.

At the bottom-left is a full meal of spring rolls, prawns, soup, salad and spring rolls from the Cabbages and Condoms venue in Bangkok.

On the right is a typical sushi place.  This is from the high-end restaurant Mantra in Pattaya.  Above the sushi is an appetizer plate of creamy goat cheese presented in a multi-layer presentation.  It is very easy to spend over 3,000 baht at Mantra for just the food.

At the left is a typical group meal from May's Urban Thai restaurant in Pattaya.  The restaurant is outdoors with a covered roof.  The authentic thai food is also one of the top rated in the area.  Dishes of jasmine rice complement the stuffed fish and the bowls of Thai curry and soups.


Even the global franschise restaurants have their own unique Thai flavor to some of their dishes.  I'm sure many of us have thought about the taste of popcorn on our pizza (right).  If not then you can always try the pork burger at McDonalds (left).  But, I would highly recommend the Thai curry burger at the Hard Rock.  It's a pricier burger with a juicy flavor to wash down with a local Red Bull.


The high-end dining is one of the best offered in the world.  The left side shows some appetizers, cappuccino, and prosciutto (top-left)  from Ruffino's restaurant on Jomtien beach.  From the same restaurant (bottom-left) the main course consisted of braised lamb over potatoes served with vegetables.

On the right side you can see the size of the prawns available at the walking street seafood restaurant in Pattaya.  Just look at how big those monsters are compared to the woman next to them!

The last selection (bottom-right) shows 120-day grain fed beef tenderloin with truffle risotto, asparagus and dried fig jus from Mantra in Pattaya.


No review of eating in Thailand would be complete without mentioning the various street vendors and dining options which are available.  As the photos below show there is a wide assortment of options whether you want to grab a bite on the go, or sit down at a street-side stall for a snack.  And the range of food is huge.  There are elaborate setups for soup with various broths, meats, vegetables and spices to add.  Or, you can grab a squid on a stick to munch on while you're walking down the road.  In the early morning you might want to pop over to get some eggs or some fruit to start the day  off.  But it might be better to just pick up a cooked chicken to take home and cut up yourself.


There's also a variety of food that caters to the Middle Eastern appetites to try out.  One of my favorites to try every time I arrive in Pattaya is the Lebanese restaurant in CentralFestival.  The meat skewers, flan, and drinks really help to get your energy up after a 2-hour ride in from Bangkok.

Now some of you may be wondering how much a lot of this food costs so you can adjust your budgets.  Several of the photos show the prices listed in them, but for the rest the range can go anywhere from a 30baht meal on the side of the road up to thousands of baht.  For example, on the left is a receipt my group had for one meal at Mantra between the three of us.  The final total came to 13,029.39 baht.  So as they say in the country on where to eat, 'up to you' ...

Monday, September 5, 2016

Getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap

How to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap (Ankor Wat)

We're going to talk about the two options that will get you from Bangkok to Siem Reap, where the Ankor Wat temples and ruins are located.  While it might be possible to leave Bangkok and tour Ankor Wat in one-day and return on the same day it's not preferred and may run you into trouble with the airlines and Thailand as they generally don't allow this.  The optimal choice would be to spend one day getting to Siem Reap and enjoying the evening around town.  One the second and any subsequent days you would get a driver to take you around Ankor Wat and any further ruins around the jungle you want to visit.  If you are a history buff then a tour guide would be recommended.  Your last day in Siem Reap would give you time for a good meal, checking out of the hotel, and flying back to Bangkok.

  1. Getting to Siem Reap by Air - This is by far the preferred method I have found.  This will take less time and the cost isn't that much more than going by road.  Both the main BKK airport and DMK offer flights to Siem Reap for roughly $150 round-trip.  If you are lucky and get your tickets well in advance the cost can drop as low as $100.  The flight itself takes only 1-hour.  Once you arrive in Siem Reap you will go through immigration and pay a fee under $30 for processing.  Once you get your luggage a taxi into town should cost around $10 to your hotel.

  2. Getting to Siem Reap by Land - There are multiple options for getting to Siem Reap by land which are covered below.  In all cases you will need to get through the Poipet crossing to enter Cambodia.  A map is provided below to assist you in getting through the border crossing as it can be tricky and a few individuals will attempt to 'help' you even though they have no authority except to try and take your cash.

    • Train - If you take the train from Bangkok it will stop in Aranyaprathet, Thailand.  It will cost less than 50 baht and take 6 hours to get there.  At the border you'll exit Thailand and enter Poipet, Cambodia.  From there you'll need to negotiate a ride into Siem Reap.

    • Bus - The bus should cost less than 1,000 baht to take.  The ride will last over 12-hours usually due to the many stops it will take along the way.  One of the advantages of the bus over the train is that it will take you all the way into Siem Reap.  They will make all of the passengers disembark in Poipet and go through the Cambodian immigration but you will be able to get back on the same bus once you are cleared.

    • Taxi - A private ride will cost around 3,000-3,500 baht for a taxi to take you from Bangkok to the Poipet crossing in 4 hours.  Once you get through immigration control there will be taxis on the Cambodian side which can take you to Siem Reap for $40 in a 2-hour ride.
This section will cover the actual border crossing from Aranyaprathet, Thailand into Poipet, Cambodia. Avoid anyone who comes up to you as they are only trying to take you out of the official immigration system and into their way to scam you.  They will try to pass themselves off as officials or able to help you get your visa stamps.  Just follow the steps below and you'll save time and money.

The map below shows the Thailand Immigration office in the top-left corner.  This is where you will start.  Whether you arrive by train, bus or taxi you will need to talk to this office in order to get stamped out of Thailand. 

Once you have exited Thailand you are technically in no-man's land.  You will be in Cambodia, but you have not entered the country.  This is why, as you go down the road, you will notice all of the casinos.  Gambling is illegal in both countries but since you have left Thailand and not entered Cambodia you are now in a loophole.  Just pass down the road.  There will also be money changers along the way but you really won't need the Cambodian riels as US dollars are accepted everywhere.

As you go under the gate welcoming you into Cambodia there will be a small office to your left.  This is the Cambodia visa office.  You will need to stop in here and get an official visa stamp for entry into Cambodia. 

After you get your stamp you will need to continue down the road past all of the casinos.  Up ahead you will see a gatehouse.  On the right hand side is another Cambodian office where you'll need to fill out some forms and then officially enter Cambodia. 

After you leave the Cambodian office there will be a large round-about outside.  This is where you can get back onto your bus, or find a taxi to take you the rest of the way into Siem Reap.  It is very unlikely that you will find anything of interest in the actual town of Poipet and should be avoided.  The town can get very dangerous at night.  Just remember, Poipet rhymes with 'toilet'.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Bangkok - One-day tourist option

How to get through the essentials of Bangkok tourism in one-day

While in Bangkok there are several tourist options available in the city.  This plan should take 1-day to complete and will hit the main attractions Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace.  Enough time should be left over after visiting these locations for a possible side trip to Khaosan road, an evening shopping in MBK, and a bite to eat in Siam Paragon.

  1. We're going to go through the trip I've done many times by myself, with friends, and then with family who all wanted to experience the sights and sounds from the city.  Based on that we're going to assume this trip will start and end on Sukhumvit road where most of the tourists generally stay at.  If you don't stay in this area then skip straight away to step #2.  For now we're going to get over to Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.  Our first objective is to get to the Tha Thien pier on the Chao Phraya river and then cross it to the temple.
    • Taking a TukTuk - Never do this, it's just bad.  These little vehicles would take too long to reach the destination and the price is based on what they think they can get you to pay.  There's also the issue that they may divert you to other venues where they can get a commission or other distractions.  While some drivers are okay, the distance is too far for these unsafe vehicles.  In Bangkok you should never have one of these vehicles take you more than a few blocks and never for more than 100 baht in my opinion.
    • Taking a Taxi - One of the fastest ways to get to the pier is by taxi, more or less.  Bangkok is notorious for its traffic  but if you are a typical tourist you should be out and about after the morning rush is mostly over.  Before you get into the taxi make sure the driver will use the meter, don't negotiate a fair as it will never be in your favor.  The ride over to the pier should take about 10 minutes and cost less than 150 baht.
    • Taking Uber - A modern option which is about the same as a taxi.  With a ride-hailing service you won't have to worry about taxi meters or prices as they are all preset.  The drive will take about the same 10 minutes and cost about 100 baht to get there with the basic service.
    • Taking the SkyTrain/Ferry - This option will take a bit longer but you will also get rewarded with a more adventurous trip to the temple.  The first thing you'll need to do is find one of the SkyTrain stations on the Sukhumvit road.  The common locations to enter at are on Sukhumvit soi 4 (Nana station), or Sukhumvit soi 14 (Asoke station).  At the station you'll need to go up to the ticket machine and find Saphan Taksinr, this is where you'll want to end up at.  There will be a circle over Saphan Taksin on the route map indicating your ticket.  On the ticket machine you press the button matching the number on the map, enter your amount in coins, and it will spit a ticket out.  Take your ticket over to the entrance and feed it into the turnstile.  It will let you pass but don't forget to take your ticket  when it spits it back up  you'll need it to exit.  Head up the stairs to the 2nd level indicating the train which is heading to Mo Chit.  This is the direction we want to go on the line.  When the SkyTrain arrives enter in relaxing air conditioning and enjoy the ride.  Pay attention along the way as you will need to get off at the Siam Paragon station.   Once you depart from the train at Siam Paragon head down one level to the next line.  From here you'll want to get on the train going back the way you came.  This will take you on the next line where you'll want to get off at Saphan Taksin.

      The picture below shows a typical ticket machine for the SkyTrain - coins only.

      Now that you've made it to the Saphan Taksin stop you want to exit the Terminal.  At the turnstile you'll enter your ticket again and it will let you out.  It will keep your ticket as it has been used up.  Exit the facility and head towards the Sathorn pier, it's in the same direction the SkyTrain was moving towards.  After you exit and see the river ahead you will need to pass under the SkyTrain to your left and down to the pier.  At the pier you do not need to get into any special boats, just wait at the pier until a ferry boat comes up with an orange flag on it.  The flags all look red to me but it's the same ferry boat you want to get onto as they don't have a red line.  Make sure you exit to ferry at the Tha Thien pier.  Along the way enjoy your cruise up the river.  This route will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes and cost about 100 baht.
  2. Now that you've made it to the Tha Thien pier you'll want to get across the river to Wat Arun.  There is a ferry here at Tha Thien pier which will take you across for about 5 baht in a matter of minutes.  After you cross the river you will need to exit the pier and turn to your left.  You are now at Wat Arun.  Take some pictures of the demon guardians, visit the gardens, explore the temple, and get some drinks as it will be hot outside and we don't want any tourists passing out at the temple.

    Wat Arun shown across the river with a ferry boat parked at the pier
  3. Now that we've taken a ton of pictures at Wat Arun we're going to head over to Wat Pho.  This is going to be a lot simpler than our trip to War Arun was.  The first thing we need to do is to get back to the ferry by the river and cross over to Tha Thien pier on the other side.  Once you get off the ferry head down to the street until you see a 4-way stop.  If you look forward and to your right you will be looking at Wat Pho behind some tall walls.  So, we need to cross the street the same way we have been walking after we got off the pier and stay on the right side of the street.  Head down a little bit until you see the entrance into Wat Pho.  This should take you about 5-minutes to get from the pier to the Wat Pho entrance.  Once inside the current entry fee is 100 baht.  Inside you'll see the temples, the large reclining buddha, Many more buddhas, a lot of gold, and other historical items.  There is also a massage parlor on the location where they train students and provide services for the tourists for a modest fee.

    A row of Buddha statues inside Wat Pho
  4. Our next tourist spot is the Grand Palace.  To get there we want to exit Wat Pho the same way we came in.  Once you get outside just take a look across the street and you will be looking at the back side of the Grand Palace.  The entrance is on the other side of the block which can take 10-minutes to walk around on the right or left side.  The Grand Palace is always open so pay no attention to anyone along the way who comes up to you and tries to steer you away from the entrance or off to another location.  If the distance is too far then a tuktuk should be able to take you around to the entrance for 20 baht.  If they want to take you anywhere else just refuse and make sure they know you only want to go to the entrance.  Sometimes the tuktuk drivers will try to take you off to a shop so they can get a bonus for bringing a shop customers, don't let them take you anywhere else. 
    At the entrance to the Grand Palace you'll need to make sure you are dressed appropriately.  While they used to be strict about the rules to this historic temple area I have noticed a few people slipping into the grounds in violation of the religious rules.  Make sure your legs and shoulders are covered.  Women may need to wear a long skirt.  If you did not dress correctly then there is a station that will rent some appropriate clothes to you for your visit.  The Grand Palace entry fee is 500 baht, the most expensive entry fee for the day.  Once inside you will get to see the emerald buddha, several temples inside, the royal palace, and historical artifacts from Bangkok.  There is a small shop inside which sells water and frozen treats so make sure you don't get dehydrated.  It is a very open space and you will be outside quite a bit.

    A view from the inside of the Grand Palace at the entrance
  5. If you still have the energy then the next stop is Khaosan road.  This is where a lot of backpackers stay and hang out while in Bangkok.  It may not look like much, but the place gets very lively at night.  If you want to visit Khaosan a taxi ride from the Grand Palace should take less than 5-minutes at a cost around 100 baht.  There are also several good restaurants in the area at a very reasonable price.  Along the side streets there are also several silver and jewelry shops which are well known in Bangkok.  This is a good place to relax for a bit and maybe get a massage, or pick up a few shirts from the local vendors.  If you're really adventurous then you can get a tattoo from one of the local artists.

    An afternoon shot looking down Khaosan road
  6. Now we come to the real shopping part, heading over to the MBK mall.  The MBK mall is located right next to Siam Paragon and has a lot of clothes and tourist trinkets at very good prices.  Lately there have also been a number of new malls opening up with competing prices bu the MBK mall is a well known location.  The taxi from Khaosan road to the MBK mall should take less than 10-minutes at a cost under 100 baht.  The roads will be very busy around here with a lot of people.  The mall itself is well known for tourist tshirts around 100 baht, which I always stock up on every visit.  There are also several restaurants with a huge food court on the top floors. 
  7. Depending how your day went it will be either the afternoon or evening.  At this point you can get on the SkyTrain and head back to the hotel or head over to Siam Paragon.  From MBK you can take the stairs up to the National Stadium or Siam Paragon SkyTrain terminals and take the SkyTrain back to Sukhimvit road for about 60 baht.  Another option is to take a 3-minute taxi ride back for about 100 baht.  Or, since you're right next to Siam Paragon, you can explore this high-end mall.  Outside the mall there are several shrines to Erawan and Ganesh.  Inside in the basement is the Oceanworld Aquarium with a huge tank.  The first floor also has about 50 different restaurants from the simple to the elegant.  If you explore further you  may even find the Bentley and Lamborghini dealership inside. 

If you've made it through the whole day and seen all the sights listed above in the 7-steps then you have hit most of the major highlights of Bangkok in one day.  Some people will always say a person should spend more time at each venue while others can't be bothered.  It's all a personal choice to what you feel satisfied with.  I've done this circuit multiple times and everyone has always loved it.  Just don't forget to treat yourself at a good restaurant at the end of the day and post all those wonderful pictures you took.  Make sure you bring someone along with you so you can get into a few of those good shots.