Temple Hopping in Bangkok, Thailand

It was on February 2016 when I decided to start on my dream of solo travel. The first time’s always the hardest, as other people commonly say and it’s true; but all I needed was to make the first step. And so, I did a lot of reading online about traveling to Bangkok. There were lots of interesting things to do in Bangkok but my travel theme was temple hopping since Bangkok is home to many temples especially the one in Ayutthaya, which is recognized by UNESCO.

So, for my accommodation, I used Booking.com to look for a cheap but decent place to stay – I got 4 days stay at Once Again Hostel. It’s a new hostel which caters mostly for backpackers. They charge reasonably cheap and the place was clean, and the staff were very friendly. They offer bunk beds and have curtains for privacy since it’s a dorm style accommodation. Each bed have a small cabinet where you can keep your valuables and the rooms are locked with electronic keys. Cool! It’s situated at the center of Bangkok which was a perfect location for my temple hopping.

For my flight needs, I left that job to our travel agency at work; all I had to do was tell them my traveling period.

Finally, the day of traveling came. From King Khalid International airport in Riyadh, I had a lay-over in Abu Dhabi International airport for 01:35. Then from Abu Dhabi to Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. I reached at around 18:00. From the airport, I had no idea how to get to my hostel since there are various modes of transportation available. After securing my luggage, I bought a Happy Tourist sim card somewhere inside the airport. It cost 299 Thai Baht which had 100 Baht call credits and 1.5 GB of internet for 7 days which was more than my length of stay. I called my hostel and they told me that the best way to reach their place is via cab and so I did. There were plenty of cabs lined up outside the airport which was great! I had the driver talk to the receptionist of my hostel since the driver didn’t speak English at all and there was even a moment when I swear, he looked upset he couldn’t understand me… After about 30 minutes, I think, on the road, we reached the hostel, I was charged about 300 Baht for the ride and 75 for the toll fees along the way, which according to the receptionist was OK.

 

(Feb. 21) in Bangkok – Arriving from the airport

I was greeted with a friendly face at the reception of Once Again Hostel. She spoke good English so that was a relief! She gave me the electronic key to my room and the key to my own cabinet after payment of my due fees. Then, she led me upstairs to my room. Alas! There was no elevator and I had 2 trolleys – a medium sized one and the cabin trolley. Phew! Those were heavy… She did help me carry the cabin trolley and I had the medium sized one. I reached  my room and started unpacking my things. I wanted to take a stroll along the streets near my accommodation but then I was exhausted from the flight so I just decided to have dinner and sleep, prepared for heading out the next day.

 

(Feb. 22) – Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount)

I woke up early and prepared to go to Wat Saket – also known as the Temple of the Golden Mount is located in a low hill somewhere in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district. It was about 15 to 20 minutes walking distance from my hostel. The highlight of this place is the huge golden stupa on top of the hill, which you can reach after 344 steps.Yes, that’s right! 344 steps! 😀 The place is open from 08:00 to 19:00 daily, with an entrance fee of 20 Baht.

How it looks now is not how it was years ago. Lots of renovations were done to strengthen the base and the golden stupa was added on top.

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There are bells along the path; you may ring them for good luck! 🙂
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Stopping for a gaze up on this beauty right here
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Different buddhas housed inside the golden stupa
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Finally reached the top! This is what I went to see – the golden stupa!

 

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The view from the top of the golden mount

If I’m not mistaken, it took me about 2 hours roaming the whole place – prayed, enjoyed the silence, and took photos. 20 Baht was sure worth it! 😉

 

(Feb. 23) – Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace

I spent my temple hopping mostly on foot since my hostel was practically near to almost all the places I planned to visit.

Wat Phra Kaew is one of the most visited temple in Bangkok and I made a mistake of going there late in the day; I arrived at the place and there lots of people inside already and there were long lines in paying the visit fee which was a total of 500 Baht (the visit to the Grand Palace is already included here).

Wat Phra Kaew is regarded as the most sacred temple in Bangkok and it houses the emerald buddha  – which was sculpted from a single jade stone. Seeing the emerald buddha in person was awesome! I wish it was OK to take a photo of the buddha but it’s forbidden. Taking photos of the temple and other infrastructures however, is OK.

If you ever plan to visit this place, it would be better to be there early in the morning so as to avoid the crowd. This is not advisable if you’re looking for a quiet place. It’s great for taking photos and admiring the architecture and the buddhas though.

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Grand Palace grounds

(Feb. 24) – Ayutthaya and Bang Pa In Palace

Ayutthaya is a province in Thailand and was once one of the capitals of Siam – former name of Thailand. The ruins on this old city has the Historical Park of Ayutthaya, where you can find palaces, ancient temples and amazingly ancient statues! Currently, it is recognized by UNESCO as a historical site and is being protected and maintained. Two of the most famous attractions here are the reclining buddha and a buddha’s head in a boddhi tree.

I booked a trip with a tour agency which I found as I was wandering Khao San road in Bangkok. I spent 750 Baht for the trip to visit Ayutthaya and Bang Pa In palace. The trip is inclusive of two-way transportation and a tour guide.

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Chedi at Wat Phu Khao Thong

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the huge ancient reclining buddha
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laughing buddha
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a buddha’s head in a boddhi tree

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headless buddha in Wat Mahathat
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ruins in the historical park of Ayutthaya

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Wat Thammikarat
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Prang

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Wat Phra Si Sanphet
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HO Withun Thasana – a watchtower in the palace
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a view of the Phra Thinang Wehart Chamrun from the outside
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Inside the Phra Thinanng Wehart Chamrun
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topiary in the palace grounds
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a solo travel is incomplete without a selfie 😀 with the Phra Thinang Aisawan Thiphya-Art

(Feb. 25) Wat Pho (Temple of the Golden Reclining Buddha)

The Phra Buddha Saiyas, otherwise known as the reclining buddha is one of the most well-known cultural icons in Thailand. It’s 46 meters in length and 15 meters in height.

The place is famous among tourists as well and the entrance to the temple cost 100 Baht.

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the scripture hall

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(Feb. 25 still) Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun is known to be the most impressive temple in Bangkok; with it’s location – along the Chao Praya river, it makes the temple even more beautiful and dramatic in photos especially during sunset.

Entrance to the temple is 100 Baht. It’s directly opposite Wat Pho and you can take a boat along the Chao Praya river for 2.50 Baht.

Unfortunately, the prang was under renovation when I went there and my plan to climb the central prang wasn’t possible. I just explored the temple grounds and garden.

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the Chao Praya river with Wat Arun on the other side of the river

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My last day in Bangkok (Feb. 26) was spent preparing for my flight at 18:00. One of the receptionist at my hostel was kind enough to arrange a taxi for my ride going to the airport.

Overall, my first solo travel was nevertheless wonderful! If I ever come back, I would visit their floating market which I never got to see because it’s open only during weekends and I was in Bangkok during weekdays and had to leave Friday (Feb.26).

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A Temple Called Ma-Cho

On my last week of my 45 days vacation and I’m out of possible places to visit with such a short time to spare. As I’m looking up places online, I come across Ma-Cho temple, then I remember! I’ve always wanted to visit it although I don’t remember why I never did the first time. And so, I prepared for the visit.

Ma-Cho temple is located in Brgy. II, along the national highway of San Fernando. It’s situated high above sea level, seemingly like on a hill, overlooking the nearby sea. The building was built by the Chinese community sometime in the year 1975.

The temple houses the image of the deity Mazu – the goddess of the sea – believed to be carers of the fishermen and those who live near the sea.
Legend has it that Mazu and the virgin of Caysasay of the Roman Catholics are one and same.

The temple is open to the public, no matter what your religion is. I’m a Roman Catholic and I’m drawn to the beauty and silence of this place. There is no entrance fee.

Now, I present to you the photos I took after having a moment of peace, a momentary escape from my jumbled thoughts.

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This is the towering welcome arch of the temple, adorned with dragons and a bagwa in the middle.
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The temple’s facade
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The entrance to the temple
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One of the temple doors
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Adorning the temple stairs

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A miniature tower positioned infront of the temple’s facade
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A pagoda located in the garden grounds of the temple

And that concludes my brief visit to Ma-Cho temple. If you’re looking for a quick stop to visit somewhere in La Union or if you’d like to have a moment of silence and peace, then this is the place to be. They have weekly prayer sessions where they read out Mazu’s teachings to the devotees.

 

 

Quad biking and Hiking in the Desert

The first time I came to Riyadh, I thought there was nothing to it but just fancy malls and amazing towers (especially at night!). But then, I went to what they call the Red Sands and Hidden Valley.

As its name implies, red sands – vast desert and mountains, the sand’s color is almost dark orange-“ish”/ red; maybe that’s why the place was named as such.

It was a Friday when we went to the Red Sands and Motorcycle Park and Hidden Valley. We went there with one of my friend’s dad and his colleagues. There is no public transport leading to the place so you’ll need to arrange for a private transportation. Expats love going there during the cold season; people go there to ride ATVs and take heaps of photos of  sand dunes and the wonderful sunset effect, plus camp desert-style. ^_^

Usually in Saudi, women always wear the abaya when going out but here, women can take off their abayas and experience being normal like the rest of the women in the world do, without being approached by the religious police. It’s a breath  of change in this kingdom.

The place was nothing grand but we surely enjoyed riding the ATVs, feeling and pretending like we’re bad ass riders for a day.

Red Sands

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The view on our way to the motorcycle park

 

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Quad bikes!!! Here we come!!!
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Just look at this view… beautiful, yeah?
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This woman can really drive and she was a bad-ass!
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With the gang!
Stopping for a photo
Stopping for a photo

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Lovely weather while quad biking
Lovely weather while quad biking

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Sometime, somewhere here, I had a minor injury after tumbling down on a small hill. Good thing the bike didn’t fall on me as I fell on the ground.

Hidden Valley

came this close to a camel on the road
Came this close to a camel on the road

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Almost like from those wild west movies! ^_^
Almost like from those wild west movies! ^_^

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The land was dry yet these trees are surviving.

 

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Strolling the desert
Trekking the desert

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Bidding farewell to this dry but surprisingly awesome place.

If you ever find yourself bored from all the shopping and restaurant hopping in Riyadh, do visit these two places. I assure you, you’ll have fun!

 

Trip to the Edge of the World and Acacia Valley

You can’t say you live and work in Saudi Arabia as an expat if you haven’t been to the Edge of the World – the Grand Canyon of the middle east!

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Here is a photo of the not so famous but amazing place!

The Edge of the World is more known as a tourist destination by expats than with the Saudi locals and it’s well visited during the cold season considering how hot the temperature could be in the kingdom during summer!

Finding a way to visit the Edge of the World wasn’t easy especially that I’m alone. Luckily, I came across a local tour company named Haya Tours in TripAdvisor and saw that they’re offering tours for expats to various places, Edge of the World included! Yipee! So, I looked up their website and booked a trip with them – total cost was 350 SAR for a half- day trip to the edge of the world and lunch break at the acacia valley. You’ll need only 400 SAR for the whole trip – 350 SAR for the tour cost and 50 SAR for your own stock of snack and water (this is optional since the tour has free food and water for lunch).

It took us 2 hours to reach our destination and less than 2 hours going home. The road to the edge of the world surely wasn’t easy. We rode in a 4×4 vehicle and the driver’s greatly experienced in dealing with rough roads and quicksands! We also had our own stock of food and water as there were no stores to buy from.

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Our awesome rides

There was no road sign to follow leading to the Edge of the World so if it’s your first time to go there, make sure to have someone go with you (someone who knows the way!). Also, go in groups of 4×4, a convoy!

After 2 hours of rough road driving, we finally reached our destination and we were welcomed with an awesome view! It was breathtaking!

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First viewpoint

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The view was so vast and the place was so high you feel like you’re going to fall just by viewing from the edge! Warning to those with fear of heights!

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If you’re brave enough to go to the edge of the cliff, approach with caution!
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Some guys with bad-ass cameras ^_^

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Our driver found an interesting resting spot on the shade 😀
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Second viewpoint

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Looked for fossils

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She was brave enough to go to the edge!
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With the ladies!! 😀
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This gave me the creeps thinking what could be living inside here!
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On our way to the Acacia valley

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Some random log

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Camped Saudi style
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Tried the Arabic coffee
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Posed with the group, wore the tour agency’s hat ^_^
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Up close with the camels
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And so we bid farewell and leave for the city…

Overall, It was an amazing experience and I would love to go back there if given a chance..

If rough road driving and trekking is your kind of thing, this is definitely worth it!

Saudi isn’t bad at all… if you know where to go and you know what to do!