Friday, 12 June 2015

Sights: The Amazing Diverseness of BANGKOK, THAILAND

I've always heard from people who have beento Bangkok that there aren't much things to see or do in Thailand's Capital. According to them, Bangkok is basically temples and shopping. Moreover, I've been warned ahead of time that the city is filled with scammers. I got to admit that the main purpose of why I want to visit Bangkok is the food but little did we know that we were in for a very memorable experience.

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

I've been doing Muay Thai for a couple of years already and I wont pass on the chance to try out training in Thailand even if it was just a couple of hours. There are a lot of muay thai schools to choose from in Bangkok but we decided to try it out in Master Toddys. The gym is well equipped with all the facilities for training. From a boxing ring, punching bags, boxing gloves, weights, lockers and shower areas.

Master Toddy
Address: 55/103-109 Sukhumvit 107 - Bearing Soi 22
Contact Number: +66 2 7433 372

It was such a fun and learning experience. Jim learned the basics while I got to learn a few new techniques.

Jim learning the basics


The night before, it was raining so hard while we were resting in our hotel room. Luckily, it was all sunshine the next day cause we were off to take long strolls outdoor. First stop was at the Grand Palace.

 Grand Palace

Grand Place
Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, 10200
Entrance Fee: 500 Baht (around 670php) includes entrance to Wat Phra Kaew
Contact Number: +66 2 623 5500
Operating Hours: 8:30am to 3:30pm daily

The best way to get to the palace complex and its neighboring attractions is thru the Chao Phraya Express Boat. The commuter boat runs thru the Chao Phraya river and caters to both locals and tourists. It was a unique and fun experience commuting with the locals.

Chao Phraya Boat

I've been to palaces and old government houses in Asia, the one common thing about them is the vast amount of land it occupies, it was all about the space. The Grand Palace is totally different, compared to other Asian grand structures, it didn't occupy as much space. But one thing is still certain, the word 'grand' perfectly suits it. Every structure inside was so colorful, glistening in gold and beautifully designed.

It was a good thing that there was a miniature replica of Angkor Wat inside. Cause we were off to see the real thing after a couple of months.

Mini Replica of Angkor Wat

Inside the complex was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. Bringing in cameras weren't allowed, good thing I had a pretty good zooms lens to take picture of the Emerald Buddha inside.

Wat Phra Kaew

Emerald Buddha

Nearby was the famous reclining buddha found in Wat Pho Temple. I've seen pictures of the reclining buddha before but nothing beats seeing the real thing, we were still amazed on how big the actual buddha is.

Wat Pho
Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District
Entrance Fee: 200 Baht (around 270php)
Contact Number: +66 2 226 0335
Operating Hours: 8am to 6:30pm

Reclining Buddha

Its feet are laid with Mother of Pearls

Inside the Wat Pho temple grounds one of the best massages we ever experienced. The Wat Pho style of massage is already known worldwide and you can easily find spas who does it back home but having it done here felt different. They exactly knew which pressure points to press, it hurts at first but after a couple of strokes, I felt all the tension being released all throughout my body.We initially wanted to have a full body massage but since the waiting list was long, we settled for a foot massage.

Wat Pho Massage Center

Here are the rates during our visit which was last September 2014.

Feeling recharged after the massage, we decided to drop by Wat Arun since it was just across the river. It wasn't really part or our itinerary but we were glad that we passed by. After being treated to all the color and glamour of the Grand Palace, it was nice to see the opposite. The Wat Arun ruins is beautiful and charming on its own. Also known as The Temple of Dawn, the place is best visited late afternoon to view the sunset.

Wat Arun
Entrance Fee: 30 Baht (around 40php)
Operating Hours: 8:30am to 5:30pm

People can climb the very steep stairs up the Prang or tower, it can be challenging especially when going down.

The very steep stairs of the Prang.

I was contemplating if we should try to go to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market on our own or join a tour instead. After computing the expenses, put into consideration the time and convenience plus reading about the different scams of going here, I decided to book a half day tour from a legit tour operator. I knew it was going to be touristy but I really didn't mind, the place was really interesting, it was chaotic and organized at the same time.

We didn't pass on the chance to get on one of the paddle boats to go around the market. We had to pay a fixed fee before getting on. As expected every thing that was being sold was catered for tourist and prices of the items here are marked up way higher than the usual price. We just bought food and ate it while we were cruising around.

After the paddle boat ride around the market, we rode a motorized boat to go around the village.  It was really interesting to see modern houses, electrical cables running from one home to another and boats parked on their lawns. We couldn't help and wonder how people live their daily lives, the houses were built on stilts in the middle of a river.

Motorized Boat Ride

Houses on the middle of the River

One of the things that was a must do in my list was to watch a professional Muay Thai match. Upon doing some research, I decided to watch in Rajadamnern Stadium.The sad thing about watching it here are the ticket prices. Foreigners will be ask to buy tickets at a different counter, they will force you to sit ringside and normal prices for the ticket are 2,000 Baht per person.  Be ready to shell out around 1000 to 1500 Baht per person, it all depends on your haggling skills.

Rajadamnern Stadium
Address: 1, Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd.,Pom Prap Sattru Phai
Ticket Price (Ringside): 2000 Baht (around 2685php) but you can always haggle
Fight Matches: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. 6pm 

We were seated at ringside together with the other foreigners. It was quite fun watching the matches, you can see how fit and powerful the fighters were.

Push Kick

Celebrating after a Powerful Roundhouse Knockout

What's more interesting is the local crowd who were watching and rallying behind their fighter, they really get into the action. Every time a fighter throws and lands a knee, everyone would go "Knee... Knee..."

The numerous local crowd seated at the 2nd and 3rd tier

Normally the last place I'll visit when travelling is a mall but since we had time to kill, we decided to see the themed mall, Terminal 21. We were glad that we visited the mall, aside from escaping the heat outside, it was really unique to see what's inside. The design on each floor corresponds to what country it represents. Even the restrooms are themed, how cool is that?!

Terminal 21 Mall
Address: Sukhumvit Soi 19 Sukhumvit Rd North Klongtoei Wattana 
Operating Hours: 10am to 10pm Daily

Japan, London, San Francisco all in one Mall

Themed Bathroom

I came across Escape Hunt in Trip Advisor, during that time there wasn't anything like this back here so we decided to give it a try. It was such a fun filled experience, it was like you are inside a video game. With the help of the lovely Ms.Ploy, we managed to solve the Murder Mystery room.

Escape Hunt
Address: Interchange 21 Building, Soi Cowboy, Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana
Entrance Fee: prices range from 600 to 900 Baht (around 800php to 1,200php) per person depending on the number of players.
Contact Number: +66 2 611 2828
Operating Hours: 9:30am to 8:30pm Daily

Travel Tip: Taking a taxi in Bangkok is relatively cheap, we were surprised to find out that it is cheaper for us three to travel around by taxi compared to taking the BTS or Bangkok Mass Transit System in the main city area. But if you're in a rush and don't want to get stuck in traffic, BTS is the way to go.

All  the things I previously heard about Bangkok was all true, it is a shopping mecca. We rarely shop on trips but this time around, we got to buy some neat stuff. There were scammers who would take advantage of tourist but this was pretty normal when you visit a foreign country. There were a lot more friendly locals we met who were always smiling, sharing stories with us and helping us out in times when we got lost. What  I'll fondly remember about Bangkok is the city's amazing diverseness. From the quirks and kinks of Pat Pong and Soi Arab, the grandeur of the Palace Complex and temples, the uniqueness of the floating market and village, the choatic busy streets of Chinatown and the luxuriousness of the 1st class malls, it is unforgettable. Most of the time, a city has a specific or certain 'feel' and impression. But when it comes to Bangkok, it was hard to pinpoint the exact impact it had on me. One thing is for sure though, I would love to go back to Bangkok over and over again.

Bangkok, Thailand

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Remembering An Amazing Woman

I would like to introduce to the whole world the most amazing woman I've known and will ever know in my entire life. Her name is Sally and she is my Mom.

All throughout my 30 plus years of existence, I would always hear people saying how lucky I am to  have her as my mother or how they wished their mom was like mine. If I remember it right, I was only 5 years old back then when it was first said to me. It was mentioned by my playmate and I never really put much thought on it, I thought every mother was like my mom. It was when I got older when I understood what people were saying about her. She wasn't just kind and caring to her family, she was with everybody.

Being the eldest, I think I got spoiled by my parents when I was younger. Even though this was the case, my mom has her ways of 'tricking' me to do the things the way she wants me to. One of the most common problem that parents have is to make their children eat healthy. I was a very picky eater when I was younger but I remember how my mom magically transformed me. She would prepare Mah Khut Tung (pork bone soup) with Chinese cabbage, potatoes and carrots.

While eating, she grabbed a chuck of pork bone and told me that it looked like Twin Popsies, my favorite popsicle treat. Being curious and gullible, I got hold of the pork bone, started to gnaw and suck on the bone imagining it was really a popsicle. She would proceed to cut small square pieces of cabbage, telling me it looks, tastes and feels like eating Juicy Fruit Gum. She would also tell me that carrots are sweet as candies, I believed her and ate everything in my bowl. After that eventful night, I would always look forward to meals when my mom prepares the Mah Khut Tung. Right now, I practically will eat anything edible, a foodie and it was all because of my mom!

Mom at Age 7....ain't she so cute?!?

Thru stories of relatives and friends, it was flattering to know how our mom was so proud of us, her three sons. We all had our share of compliments on how we all grew up to be kind, generous and responsible. My mom deserves all the credit, it was because of her how we all grew up to be this way. Being the only woman at home, it wasn't an easy task to raise three boys, make that four including our dad. My brothers would always joke around how kawawa (pitiful) our mom is for not having a daughter. Whenever there was an occasion, mom would wear her dress, model it in front of us and asked for our fashion opinions. Mom would go thru three to five sets of clothes until we gave our thumbs up. But it doesn't stop there, her shoes and bag would be the next agenda, accessories and jewelry would be the last. There were even times that she would even ask us to zip her dress up from behind.

Mom and her four Boys

Whenever someone asks me what my mom does for a living, I always proudly say that she has the most noble job in the world. Being a teacher for more than 30 years, she wasn't just our mom but she was also a mother to her hundreds and maybe thousand of students. She's no ordinary teacher, it was inspiring to hear stories on how she touched and made a big difference in the lives of her students. I would hear countless number of stories on how thankful they were because my mom became their teacher...
"Your mom was so patient in teaching my son".
"My son will always remember Mrs.Cheng".
"If it wasn't for Tsai Lao Sh, Auntie Sally, Mrs.Cheng......I wouldn't have learned Chinese".
To her teaching is not her profession but her passion. Among the three of us, no one followed her footsteps but one thing is for sure, I definitely got the love of being around with kids from her.

Mom with some of her Kiddos

These are just some of the many Awards that my mom got from being a Teacher

My mom is a wanderlust, She loves to travel whenever there's an opportunity to do so. She has been to different local and Asian destinations. When she came back from her last trip in Singapore, I asked her how she liked the country. I'd always remember the look of happiness on her face when she told me how much she enjoyed it . During that time, I saw myself in her, she had the same look as mine whenever I get back from a trip. Sadly, I never got to travel with my mom. Maybe next time mom, maybe next time.

If I were to describe my mom in one word, it would be selfless. She always thought of other people first before herself. She is someone you don't need to ask for help because she will always be the first to be there in times of need. My mom would always make an effort to visit or help out someone even if it was obvious that she was tired. My brothers and I have often told her that she should think of herself first but more often than not she always put us and other people's priorities first. As I've been told by her friends and our relatives, this selfless trait of hers is what they will remember her by.

As we mourn and grieve for the passing of my mom, I'm sure that amazing and inspiring stories will still be told about her. A couple of hours before my mom decided to move on, she told me. "I'm already satisfied with my life". Ma,,,I apologize for being selfish and telling you that you shouldn't think that way. Though it will be hard for us to live our lives without you around, I'll try to accept the last words you told me. Ma you should be satisfied, you've done enough goodness, you've touched people's lives, you've proved that unconditional love does exist and you've been a perfect mother to us. I'll miss you ma!!! We all will! Thank you! I love you!!! I'll forever be honored to be called your son.

Rest in Peace Ma. (1946 - 2015)