A Bangkok Birthday

To celebrate Jun’s birthday, we ventured to Bangkok for a long weekend. We started our trip by heading to the airport for our flight in the evening. Everything at the airport went smoothly and we were soon on our way to Bangkok.

Immigration went quickly and our taxi quickly got us to the hotel—Lebua at State Tower. Soon Jun and I were up in our wonderful room. We showered and soon were in bed for a restful sleep.

Day 1

After having a restful sleep, Jun and I ventured from the hotel to take a water taxi to visit the Grand Palace. The late morning on the Chao Phraya was beautiful. There was an eclectic mix of historic and modern buildings, with temples interspersed between these buildings. With the wind blowing it was a great way to start our exploration of the city.

When we alighted at Tha Chang Pier we soon found our way meandering through the queue to the entrance of the palace.

Once inside Jun and I were amazed at the beauty of Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. The temple on the grounds was magnificent. While everything inside it was of an impressive scale, what caught my interest was the minute attention given to the smallest of details. Because the smallest components build up to a larger whole, it created a unified design at different levels. It was quite impressive.

From the temple area we went and walked around the rest of the palace. By then it was a bit after noon and the sun was becoming intense. We took refuge in one of the museums of the grounds. Afterwards, we decided to go find a place for lunch.

We walked south of the Grand Palace to find a restaurant called The Sixth that had good reviews. When we got there, however, it was full and there would be a wait. Next to it, though, was a new restaurant—All Meals Sawasdee—that looked interesting. We took a look at the menu and decided we would try it. The food was amazing. We particularly enjoyed the simple, delicious dish of morning glories. The preparation of these vegetables left such an impression that for almost every meal we had in Bangkok we ended up ordering morning glories.

After lunch we took the ferry from Tha Tien across the river to Wat Arun. When we got to the other side of the river we walked around the area and saw that the local school was having a service at one of the temples. We saw the children with lotus flowers in their hands as they listened to the monks. The children were sweet during the entire ceremony. Jun and I worked to be inconspicuous as we went around the temple.

The area around Wat Arun had a certain romantic feel to it. The decorations on the temples were in pastel colors and used a flower-based motif. We saw a clear distinction between Wat Arun and other temples we had seen in the region.

One of the neat things about Wat Arun was the symmetry of the structure. It created a lot of opportunities to take interesting pictures.

After having visited Wat Arun, we took the ferry back across the river to Rattanakosin. It was now mid-afternoon, Jun and I decided to escape the heat and go to one of the shopping centers in Bangkok to get out of the sun and do some shopping.

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We had an argument about how to get there, but eventually we settled on the means on how to get there. When we arrived, the air conditioning was much welcomed. The main thing we wanted to get was the Swatch Destination Watch for Bangkok. After finding the store, we were soon in possession of a new watch to add to our collection.

We walked around for a bit, but then decided to go back to the hotel to rest.

Once we had rested it was near time for dinner and we ended up at a really nice neighborhood restaurant called ZabBangLove. The place was cozy and had wonderful food. The staff were really friendly. We ended up having another great meal.

We went back to the hotel after dinner. I got ready for bed while Jun got ready to go to the airport to pick up his cousin, who was joining us on the trip to celebrate his birthday.

Day 2

Jun arrived back before 3:00 in the morning and soon went to bed. He slept in a bit while I did some photo editing in the living room until he decided to wake up.

When he did, we waited for his cousin to get up before we went out around 11:00 for a walk and to find a place to eat. As we were walking we decided to go to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Jun ordered a Grab car and we were soon on our way to the market.

The first thing we did there was to find a place to eat. We had a decent meal, but it wasn’t anything special. The snacks and drinks we bought at the market, however, were quite nice.

The market is huge! It covers roughly 35-acres and has over 8,000 vendors roughly broken into different sections. It was easy to get lost in the different things you could buy there. I particularly enjoyed the art section. We ended up buying a small watercolor from this really nice artist: Supachai Charoenjiti.

After having spent a few hours there we decided to walk around the park a bit and make plans for what we wanted to do. Jun’s cousin preferred to do some shopping, so we went back to Siam using the Skytrain. When we arrived there we went around for a bit, but noticed prices were comparable to China and there wasn’t much worth in buying anything that you could get back in China.

At that point we decided to go try afternoon tea. After some research we decided to go to Cher Cheeva at Iconsiam. We took the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. From there we originally had planned on walking to Iconsiam, but as we exited the station we saw that there was a free ferry to take people from the station across the river to Iconsiam. We waited for a bit and soon were on our way across the river.

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When we got there we spent some time trying to find the place and found one venue of the establishment. The sweets and tea were amazing. It was a nice way to pass the late afternoon.

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After enjoying our afternoon we soon started to make plans for Jun’s birthday dinner. He decided we should go to ASIATIQUE The Riverfront. We soon took the ferry back and walked down to ASIATIQUE. When we got there we did a walk around to see which restaurant Jun wanted to dine in. He chose a lovely Thai restaurant by the river called Baan Khanitha. The food was delicious and the service wonderful. It was, indeed, a nice meal for Jun’s birthday.

Afterwards, when we got back to the hotel, Jun received a surprise! The staff at the hotel had provided a complimentary cake to celebrate his birthday. I had a few months prior enquired about purchasing a birthday cake for Jun, the staff at the hotel informed me that would be unnecessary because they were happy to provide a complimentary cake. We appreciated such a wonderful gesture.

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Soon we lit the candles, sang “Happy Birthday,” and Jun made his birthday wish and blew out the candles. The cake itself was delicious. It was a great way to end the day.

Day 3

Throughout the previous day, Jun had been in contact with Jamming Thailand about setting up a tour to visit Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park in Ayutthaya; we needed it to be flexible to allow Jun’s cousin to get to the airport by 4:30 in the afternoon. The tour agent who contacted Jun was great and helped us set up a private van for the day. It would take us to the sites we wanted to visit, as well as go to the airport and back to our hotel.

Our day started with us meeting at the elevator. As Jun’s cousin explained on the elevator ride down, the hotel had accidently sent her a box of chocolates to her room. When she tried to clarify the mistake with the hotel, the hotel staff said that she could keep it since it was their mistake.

She was showing us the box as we went to see if our driver had arrived. He had and we soon were introducing ourselves and got in the van for a day of exploration. To start our trip, Jun’s cousin gave everyone a chocolate to start our journey. Our driver was a little surprised at the chocolate but smiled as he took his piece.

The journey north of Bangkok went smoothly. We were soon at our first stop: Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. Thai kings had formerly used the complex as their summer palace, but as of now been repurposed as a cultural site and museum. The grounds of the palace are beautiful and the structures eclectic. Most of the buildings are based on the architectural style of 19th century Europe. There are a few other buildings in an Asian style, but most of the buildings have a very distinct European look. The most striking of these buildings is the Ho Withun Thasana (Sages’ Lookout). The tower reminded me of Rapunzel; the colors and shape of the tower created for a fairy tale look.

Our walk around the palace was nice, but we soon were ready to go to our next stop.

From Bang Pa-In we drove north to Ayutthaya. Our first stop was at Wat Thammikarat. It’s a working wat with a large chedi on the grounds. It was quite impressive and a nice start on our visit to the different sites at the historical park.

After visiting Wat Thammikarat, we went to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The temple had been built on the grounds of the royal palace complex; the temple is where the majority of the intact ruins remain of the entire palace complex. The wat is known for a row of restored chedis near the center of the grounds. It was really neat to see the different structures.

Across the street was Wat Phra Ram. This site consisted of an enormous prang surrounded by chedis. King Ramesuan ordered the construction of this temple on the site where his father—King U-Thong—had his royal cremation ceremony.

From there we then went to our last temple in Ayutthaya: Wat Phra Mahatat. The temple grounds are fairly large. A number of the prangs are leaning and look like they could collapse to the ground at any second. The temple also have a number of headless Buddha statutes, as well as a Buddha head with a tree growing around it.

From there we went and had lunch at Krua Vietnam before heading back to Bangkok to drop Jun’s cousin at the airport and for us to go back to the hotel. By the time we had arrived at the hotel it was around 5:00. Jun and I went to rest for a bit before going to Chinatown for dinner.

When we got to Chinatown we chose a seafood restaurant that was fairly good and tried a number of dishes. Afterwards, we saw a long line of people waiting at a snack trolley on the street. Apparently they were selling youtiaos with a pandan-coconut sauce. We decided we would wait and try it. The youtiaos were okay, but the sauce was amazing. It was a nice treat to end a busy day.

Day 4

Our last day in Bangkok was a bit of a lazy day. After waking up late, Jun and I decided to have an early lunch at Ruen Urai. Since we went early, and it’s a bit out of the way, on a weekday, we had the entire restaurant to ourselves. The food was amazing! It was a nice last meal to have in Bangkok.

As we were walking back to the hotel to get our things, we stopped at a Jim Thompson store and did a bit of shopping. Then we went back to the hotel.

The rest of the day was spent traveling back to Shenzhen. The normal routine of international travel went without any problems and Jun and I were soon back at our apartment in Shenzhen ready to start work the next day.

Jun said that he had a great birthday. I’m really glad because he deserves to celebrate another wonderful year. Here’s hoping for many great years ahead!

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Serenity in Chiang Mai

Chinese law grants newly married couples three days leave. As a result Jun and I found ourselves with an extra three days off. And when we tied it with our weekend we ended up with five days. We decided to go to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

We left late on a Saturday afternoon and got to Chiang Mai early in the evening. Jun had to go and get a visa before we could enter the country. It was relatively quick and we were soon on a taxi to our hotel. The place we stayed at was a cute little hotel in a quiet section of the old city. Once we were settled in at the hotel, we decided to go find something for dinner. We walked through the neighborhood streets until we reached one of the commercial areas of the old city. We ended up at a restaurant called Hot Chili that served some wonderful food in a cool environment. After dinner Jun and I walked around a bit before we headed back to the hotel for the night.

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The next day we spent exploring the old city. The old city is the part of the city that used to be surrounded by a wall and moat. Parts of the wall and moat still stand. The first thing we did was explore the area near our hotel. There was a temple—Wat Puak Hong—close by that we went and saw. It had a really nice and old pagoda. This temple was the first of many that we would see in Chiang Mai.

Afterwards we walked through Buak Haad Park and enjoyed seeing the locals going through their daily routine. There were people reading on the grass, kids feeding birds, and people running through the park.

From the park we went towards the center of the old city to start to visit many different temples. The first was Wat Phra Singh. This temple was neat in that it combined a number of materials—wood, gold leaf, stone—for the various structures there. Then we saw Wat Chang Taem, which had a darker look to it than other temples we saw on the trip.

One of the larger temples we saw was Wat Chedi Luang: the historic center of Chiang Mai. This temple has a long history in Chiang Mai. One of the oldest structures in the city is located here. It was partially destroyed in an earthquake in the sixteenth century, but it has been maintained and now there are a number of beautiful buildings that surround it.

From there we took a turn and went to the Lanna Architecture Center where a pop up exhibit was located as part of Design Week. There were a number of exhibits and stores there highlighting contemporary designers in the region. These designers represent architecture, art, clothing, food, and accessories. It was really neat and we were able to visit different exhibits throughout the city.

The rest of the afternoon we visited some temples in the northern part of the old city, such as Wat Chiang Man, and saw some of the old city wall. We rested a bit and had dinner. Afterwards we visited some of the temples at night. Then we went to the hotel for the night.

The next day we decided to venture further out of Chiang Mai. We decided to go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This is an important temple in Chiang Mai and a lot of people visit here. We took a songthaew to get to the temple. A songthaew is like a local form of transportation that you can hire. The temple is located high in the mountain and had amazing views of the city. It is beautiful; especially the inner courtyard, which is gorgeous.

From there we went to visit Bhubing Palace. As one of the royal residences in Thailand, the gardens here are well maintained. The gardens were gorgeous and the variety of flora was quite nice. The only downside was that we were unable to go inside any of the buildings. Overall, though, it was a nice visit.

After our visit to the palace, we headed back to Chiang Mai for the afternoon. We first went to grab some ice cream in the old city. Then we went to explore the city east of the city wall. We went towards the Ping River and walked alongside it. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the walk was nice. We then headed back to the old city for dinner. As we were going we stopped at more temples.

The next day we went even further out of the city and went to a different city: Chiang Rai. Our first stop was a hot springs. It was said to be a hot spring, but it was more of a rest stop on the way to Chiang Rai. It was fine, and we got to see people cook eggs in the springs.

In Chiang Rai we first went to the Baandam Museum. The museum came to fruition from the work of the late Thai artist Thaan Duchanee. There are over 40 horses here that display his work and his aesthetic. All the houses are black and have a very dark tone to them. It was an interesting experience and just fun to walk around the museum.

From there we went to visit Wat Rong Khun—the White Temple. This temple is an example of merging traditional architecture with modern culture. The main temple is an allegory in of itself. One has to start the journey in the underworld in order to venture across the bridge up to the higher plains of the main temple. There’s a mixture of symbolism and culture at the temple. You even see examples of Marvel characters and contemporary politicians as well. It was a cool place and Jun and I enjoyed it. From there we had a long drive back to Chiang Mai. Once back we had dinner and went to bed.

On our last day. We went for a leisurely walk through the old city. We saw some more temples. You would think that after visiting so many temples we would get bored, but each temple is unique and has something new and wonderful to offer. We went to the Lanna Folklife Museum where we saw more of the Design Week exhibits. And then we enjoyed our last bit of Thai cuisine.

We were sad that our trip had to end. We had a wonderful time in Chiang Mai, but it was time for us to head back to Guangzhou.

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