April 29, 2011

AMAZING THAILAND: Siam Ocean World

Siam Ocean World sits at the basement of the Siam Paragon Mall and is the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia. This 10,000 square meter aquarium houses 30,000 marine animals and 400 aquatic species.





It consists of 7 different zones: weird and wonderful, open ocean, deep reef, rainforest, rocky shore, living ocean and sea jellies.




For 750 Baht, you also get to ride a glass-bottom boat while the boatman gives a short lecture on marine and aquatic life.



Witness the Otter and Seal feeding at 12:30pm and 4:30 pm while shark feeding is at 2:30pm and
5:30pm. And if this isn’t enough for you, you can go diving with the sharks, but it’s probably going to
cost an arm and a leg. Don’t fret as I don’t mean that in the literal sense of the word as they have qualified and experience divers to guide and watch over you. But I must also say that the shark was a bit over eager while being fed that he even dived inside the basket to steal more than his ration. That is after the feeding diver was bitten a bit playfully (!) on the leg throwing him off balance leaving the basket unguarded. So yeah, no diving with the sharks for us.




HOW TO GET THERE: the aquarium is at Siam Paragon in 991 Rama I Road, Pathumwan. Take the BTS Skytrain – Sukhumvit line and Shilom line to Siam station. Siam Ocean World is open daily from 9am-10pm.



View Bangkok: Siam Paragon in a larger map

April 27, 2011

AMAZING THAILAND: Wat Arun or Temple of the Dawn

From Wat Pho, the lakwatsa continues as we walked a few steps to the port to cross Chao Praya river on a 3 baht (Php4.50) khlong (longtail boat) after to visit the Khmer styled towers of Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahawihan or generally known as Wat Arun. This temple is named after the Indian God of Dawn Aruna and one of the most published images of Bangkok. Entrance is Thai baht 50 or Php 70 or USD 1.67.





Despite it's name (Temple of the Dawn), the temple is best viewed at sunset between 6-7 PM and we timed our visit for a supposedly sunset shoot but we haven't gone inside the temple yet, our luck has run out as the sky has opened up. Thunderstorms seemed too near that was an experience by itself forcing us to sprint on aching feet to the dry comforts of the khlong then to a cab.





We capped the day with a relaxing Thai foot massage at the most tourist infested area - Khao Sarn road. I’ve also read somewhere, that Khao Sarn holds the most number of unwashed humanities so we were careful not to breathe too much through the nostrils as we sat on a table with a clear view of the backpackers area watching people watching themselves.




 

This itinerary (GRAND PALACERECLINING BUDDHA, TEMPLE OF THE DAWN, KHAO SARN ROAD) can be done in a day even at an unhurried pace as these sights are close by each other and all within the city.

HOW TO GET THERE: The best way to get to Wat Arun is through the Chao Praya River.  The boat pier is just a short distance (less than 2 minutes walk) from Wat Pho, boats leave every few minutes.


View Larger Map

written by kim & mj 

April 25, 2011

AMAZING THAILAND: Wat Pho or Temple of Reclining Buddha

Next on the agenda is the much haggled short ride on the ubiquitous tuktuk to get to the temple of the famous Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho which is directly adjacent to the GRAND PALACE. Entrance is at Chetuphon road for an admission fee of Thai baht 20 or Php 28. or USD 0.66.





This wat is one of the largest and oldest in Bangkok and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest -the impressive Reclining Buddha made even more famous by Leonardo de Caprio’s movie, The Beach.





The Buddha’s vital statistics: forty-six meters long and fifteen meters high, decorated with gold plating on the body and mother of pearl as the eyes and the soles of his feet.



Wat Pho is open everyday from 08.00am to 5.00pm, with a break from 12.00pm to 1.00pm. Again, don't listen to anyone on the street telling you it's closed for cleaning or a Buddhist holiday. It's all part of a tourist trap scam.

WARNING:  watch your belongings and be careful of pickpockets.



HOW TO GET THERE: Wat Pho is located at Chetuphon Road, just a short walking distance from the Grand Palace.  When you decide to take the tuktuk, settle on a fee before hopping in. Bargain with a smile but try not push too hard if you can afford to let go a few Bahts, remember too that they are just trying to earn a living.


View Larger Map

Currency exchange rate at the time of travel is 1 Thai baht = Php 1.4.

 

April 24, 2011

AMAZING THAILAND: Grand Palace

The sun was fiercely beating down our backs that we're risking potential skin cancer and heat stroke but we just couldn't resist the Grand Palace's shutter magnet.


The grounds of Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang or simply known as the Grand Palace (although nothing could ever be deemed simple here) serves as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards. At the turn of the 20th century, Thai Kings stopped living in the palace, but the complex is still used for some official and ceremonial events.






It’s open to tourists upon paying the Admission fee of Thai baht 350 (or Php 504 or USD 11.72) daily from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM unless there is a state function which is quite rare.






WARNING: Be careful of the ubiquitous touts manning outside the palace who will advise you that it’s closed and suggest another tour instead. Most likely, they will just bring you to some tourist traps aka shops where they get a commission from your purchase.

Note that since it also houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, visitors must be properly dressed when in the premises. Arms and knees must be covered. If you’re wearing fit flops or sandals bring socks with you as bare feet within the temples is considered disrespectful. When and if you arrive at the gate and not properly attired, there is a booth that can provide you buttoned down polos and skirts to cover you up but a passport or ID is needed as security, refundable upon return of the items. We cannot vouch for the sanitation and freshness of the clothes though so better dress up modestly.

If there is one sight that you must not miss when in the land of tuktuks, pad thai, tom yum goon and chai yen, it is the magnificent Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city's most celebrated attraction.

HOW TO GET THERE: from the Platinum mall, we took a cab to get to the Old City in Na Phra Lan Road  where the Grand Palace is located. 


View Larger Map


1 Thai baht is equals to Php 1.4 at the time of travel.

Next post, AN ICON WITH A HOLLYWOOD APPEAL, made even more famous by Leonardo Di Caprio.

written by mj

April 20, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Bali Bali Beach Resort

There are times that you stumble on a gem of a place and selfishness kicks in, not wanting to share the find. I confess, this is one of those moments. But this place is truly gorgeous, it's a shame to keep it a secret so I snap out of it.

Bali-bali is a Pangasinense word which means “beautiful” and this one hectare resort’s name is truly
befitting.

 walkway from their own port going  the resort

 entrance to the pavilion from the parking area

 the pool with a view that stretches to the ocean flanked by the villas

Sitting at the southwest coastline of Samal, this can be reached in 20 minutes via the resort’s boat from
the Lanang Beach club in Davao city. It shares the same docking area in the city with Pearl Farm.

 Lanang Beach Club's Entrance

If you want to bring your own car, you can TAKE THE FERRY FROM THE SASA WHARF. Once in the island, turn right and head south along the coastline for about 20 minutes.

There’s no restaurant in the resort so walk-ins are not allowed. Bali-bali works in pre-arranged and pre-
booked accommodations providing a semi-private resort feel - quiet, secluded and suspends reality.

The set up offers a full board accommodation in either of their 2 suites (Php 9,000 for 2 pax) or one of
the 4 garden villas (Php 8,000 for 2 pax) by the infinity pool. Boat transfers, welcome treats plus full
round of meals is included for overnight staying guests.

 SUITES

the living area of the suite

filipiniana inspired suite

all bathrooms have an outdoorsy theme and feel

GARDEN VILLAS

 one of the 4 garden villas

 living area of the garden villa

bedroom of one of the garden villas

tropical bathroom

We we’re there for a day trip for Php 1,500 per person. For lunch we had fish ceviche and green
mangoes with shrimp paste as appetizers, a steaming bowl of chicken sotanghon soup with veggies,
tender skewers of pork, juicy succulent tuna belly and sweet salty fresh prawns laid in banana leaves.
For dessert fresh fruit slices and locally made blue pepato cheese, the latter we brought with us.

 fish ceviche with lime

chicken sotanghon soup with veggies

 pork skewers, tuna belly, shrimps and green mangoes

Bringing of food is prohibited but chips and munchies are ok.

The bar has an inferior wine list (Novelino, Infantes, Sol Espana) and has no cocktails but these bottles
are available: Black label, Bacardi, Jaigermeister, Fundador.

the teeny tiny bar/souvenir shop

If you want to bring your own poison, which we did in a form of a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from
Chile, corkage is Php250 (USD 5.81) .

The beaches on this side of the island still got white sand but quite rocky and coral reefs are abundant
in the area so we preferred the pool.

 shady lounge spot by the beach

 white sand beach but with rocky shoreline, farther in the water are dead corals

Due to the unrelenting heat, we had our bottle of red dunked in a bucket of ice and drank it by the pool.

 our poison of choice with locally made blue pepato cheese

The staffs are unobtrusive, courteous and quick to anticipate our needs. Monique, one of the resort staff
was at the marina to pick us up from the city, and she went with us on the boat to cross back as well. As
soon as we got at the resorts pavilion, a refreshing glass of buko juice and turon with langka was served to
welcome us. Towels were at the ready at the poolside lounge when we went swimming. Come noon, we
we’re called out of the water and was pleased to see lunch already laid out on the table waiting for us to
devour. And devour it we did!

 the pavilion

 delicious langka turon welcome treat

fresh towels at the ready

 happy lakwatseras

The shower area for the day trippers need a bit of improvement though as the light was insufficient and there was no hook to hang your stuff. Minor tweaking but would spell a huge difference to the guests' comforts.

But all in all, the attention made for a really nice experience that brands us a returning customer for sure. Makes us wish that customer service anywhere is always this satisfying.

HOW TO GET THERE: they don't accept walk-ins and a 50% deposit is required to confirm bookings and reservations. Their booking office is at Belisario in Lanang, Davao City, near Carmelite Church, for more information, call 0922-3777267 or (082) 234-6415.  Or visit their website at www.balibaliresort.com

You might also want to check these other RESORTS IN SAMAL.

written by mj

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