Koh Phangan’s Top Five Must-See Beaches

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Some of the best beaches in the world are located on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand

Thailand is known for its world-class beaches and travel options. The beautiful beaches of Koh Phangan are world renowned for a reason and here is a list of my top five must-see beaches on the gulf island.

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No. 5: Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi

Koh Phangan
Great views & Great atmosphere

Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi is one of Koh Phangan’s smaller and underrated beaches. Great views, plenty of small and chilled beach-front restaurants to grab drinks and snacks from and a cool vibe give this little piece of sand a cool vibe not found many other places in the hustle and bustle of the Thai islands. If you’re in the mood for some sun, a few sodas and some cool views, check out Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi.

Koh Phangan
Food & Drinks & Chill at Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi

No. 4: Haad Salad

Koh Phangan
Nearly empty beach on a crescent-shaped cove

Koh Phangan

Haad Salad is the place to go for beachfront traditional Thai massages, nightly seafood BBQs and last but not least, a lovely and quiet crescent-shaped beach. Haad Salad has two resorts located at each crescent tip and most restaurants and massage parlors rely on them for the majority of their business. As these resorts are generally smaller than others and packed with luxury, the majority of the beach remains empty most of the time. A terrific and quiet find.

Koh Phangan
The thick, dense jungle hides a beautiful crescent-shaped beach

No. 3: Haad Than Sadet

Koh Phangan

A beach cove on the eastern edge of the island of Koh Phangan, Haad Than Sadet is a small beach book-ended by a pair of small resorts and in the middle, a view into infinity. This beach is the entrance into the Gulf of Thailand and the mesmerizing view coupled with quiet surroundings is a great place for relaxing after a night of partying or just unwinding from the world for a bit.

Koh Phangan
The sound of waves… and occasional lovebirds

Koh Phangan

No. 2: Haad Thian Beach

 

Koh Phangan

A sandbar beach in paradise? Sign me up! The Haad Thian Beach is pretty much your average cool island beach – small shack-bars with cold drinks, a couple lounge chairs strewn about and random passersby sticking around for indeterminate periods of time – except for one amazing feature – a giant sandbar located some 20 yards from the beach itself! The massive sandbar feels like its own separate island and has the cleanest sand you’ll find.

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan

The haze that sets upon the tall hills of Koh Phangan adds a fairytale-like feel to this tiny sand oasis in the bay of Haad Thian. Haad Thain is located on the western coast of Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan
The view from the edge of the sandbar is immense… almost as if the sand is melting back into the sea

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan

No. 1: Haad Rin

Koh Phangan

It had to be #1, right? “The Full Moon Party” Beach of Haad Rin is the most famous beach on the entire island of Koh Phangan, let alone its neighbors Samui or Tao. The monthly festivities last all night long and in the morning give way to a freshly-cleaned cleaned canvas of sand and hungover/still sleeping partygoers. Known as a backpackers beach, you’ll want to enjoy the cheap food and drinks that dot the area along with taking a tuk tuk to and from the beach during the party season.

Koh Phangan
When the beach isn’t hosting all night parties, there are beach football/soccer tournaments put on by the local pubs
Koh Phangan
Catching some sun

Koh Phangan

I hope you enjoyed my top 5 beaches on Koh Phangan! Stay tuned for my rundown of Koh Tao coming up next and as always…

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Honeymoon in Style in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

If you’re looking for an unforgettable honeymoon or vacation with a partner, look no further than Koh Phangan, Thailand

The islands of Thailand may no longer be secret getaways, however they are just as romantic and luxurious as ever! And even if you are looking to travel in style but want to save a bit of cash, Koh Phangan, Thailand, has all that you could ever dream of and more at a reasonable cost!

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Koh Phangan, Thailand

Everyone wants “The Most Romantic Honeymoon Evaaaaa” and I have to say we probably nailed it. Thailand’s many islands are world famous for their pristine beaches, crystal clear waters and incredible luxury spas and resorts. Sure you can backpack it up (like I’ve done for the most part of this blog) but when you shouldn’t shlep  you can roll in style for reasonable prices in remote places with some of the best service on earth!

Koh Phangan, Thailand
The view from our luxury villa at Salad Buri Resort and Spa

We had a 2-part honeymoon with a week in Koh Phangan (also spelled Ko Pha Ngan) and a week in Koh Tao. Koh Phangan  is located in the Thai Gulf just north of Koh Samui and just south of Koh Tao. Famous among backpackers and travelers alike for its Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan has so much to offer in the way of hiking, temples, beaches, scuba, charming villages and more. One of the things to keep in mind about this brilliant island is that it is only reachable by boat from neighboring Koh Samui or land-based ports such as Surat Thani or Chumphon. Flights from Bangkok are available to all of those destinations. There are ferries that travel between many destinations in the Gulf and destinations like Koh Phi Phi, Phuket or Krabi. We used Lomprayah with VIP Shuttle Service.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Our high-speed ferry from Surat Thani Laem Thuat Pier

Koh Phangan, Thailand

So now that we’ve established how to get to Koh Phangan, check out our luxury honeymoon suite on Haad Salad at the Salad Buri Resort & Spa. Talking a private villa with an infinity pool, sunbed, wood deck, fridge, living room, king-sized bed and more. To be honest, the flat screen was a bit small but who needs TV in paradise? The view out of the window is significantly better.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Our private infinity pool

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Not a shabby view

Koh Phangan, Thailand

The rest of the resort featured a three-tiered freshwater swimming pool, a tad overpriced but decent nightly seafood BBQ dinner on the beach, great breakfast buffet and near practical private beach. The cove, named Haad Salad, has several massage parlors located right on the beach, a few restaurants and scuba lessons plus boats willing to ferry you around the island. More after a photo break:

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Three-tiered swimming pool with our private villa in the background

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Open-air breakfast buffet…
Koh Phangan, Thailand
And our perfect view from breakfast
Koh Phangan, Thailand
The resort is located on a pretty steep hill. Not to worry, as chauffeurs in golf carts can whisk you anywhere

From there we rented a jeep and tooled around the island for the week. You can easily get by with a motorbike but for the two of us planning excursions every day, it was well worth it. And since we arrived in October/November, rain was a real concern and we had two days of rain during our stay on the island. Though the rain is cumbersome, it isn’t a deterrent from driving all around and checking out all the local markets, shops and restaurants. The best part of a jeep is how much time it saves you, allowing maximization of time on the island. I mean, if you come to paradise, you gotta explore it all, right?

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Right-hand drive and driving on the left side of the road… like a boss
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Like exploring the Saampan/Deog Waterfalls

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
We drove the entire island and found a great spot on the other side
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Finding hidden beaches

Another travel tip for luxury/high-end travelers is to stop off at Baan Srithanu Village. There you’ll find a lovely beach and some fantastic food options. Taboon, a middle eastern restaurant, has some delectable malawach and one of the best shakshukas I’ve ever had outside of Tel Aviv. Highly recommended and a definite for your travel itinerary.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Taboon restaurant, highly recommended

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Stopping off at the top of the mountain… and behind a Buddhist monastery was the most amazing view

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Best. Pad. Thai. Ever.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
One of Koh Phangan’s amazing Buddhist Temples
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Head to Haad Than Sadet Beach and on the way stop off at this incredible lookout
Koh Phangan, Thailand
And… off to Koh Tao!

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Walking with Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Asian Elephants are some of the most amazing, graceful and gigantic creatures on Planet Earth.

On a misty morning and up in the high mountains of northern Thailand, I found a herd of formerly-abused Asian Elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The ensuing shenanigans made for possibly the most fun day of my two week-long northern Thailand/Laos trip.

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Elephants
After a hard trip up the mountain… the view

The ride up to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was miserable. About 2 hours in the cold and rain in the back of a truck bed with benches on both sides. A small tarp didn’t break the wind or rain nearly as much as it should have and the 8 of us crammed in there was just tough. We ended up laughing about the whole thing which brings you closer as a group but you know, I’m cool with distance if I’m not freezing. Anywho… the ride up the mountain about 60 km north of Chiang Mai was pretty steep but the views are impressive.

Elephants
Mud + constant drizzle = plastic rain coat fashion accessories
Elephants
Nom nom

Those who know me are aware of the obligation I feel towards responsible tourism, especially when it comes to impoverished or indigenous tribes and native wildlife. Too often in undeveloped parts of the world you can find tiger “temples” and basically “photobooths” with locals – both of which are usually accessible for only a few dollars and terribly abusive for the animals and people involved. So with that being said, during my brilliant but short stay in northern Thailand’s largest city of Chiang Mai, I decided to check out the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary where both of my concerns were alleviated instantly.

Elephants

Elephants

The sanctuary was started as an experiment in eco-tourism through ethical and sustainable business practices in 2014. The joint-initiative combines international travelers with the Karen Hill-Tribes which dot this part of Asia. As I’m currently living in Myanmar I’ve become very familiar with the Karen as they live in the jungles between Shan State, Myanmar, and the northern provinces of Thailand, it’s great to see this effort in action. The no-riding experience began with a quick overview of what’s up in the valley and the plan for the day. We had about 20 participants in our group and as it was roughly 7:45am and most of us had been enjoying ourselves the night before, not many were paying close attention. I just wanted a coffee.

Elephants

Elephants

We meandered down in to the valley were the elephants were hanging out and munching on some bamboo. The thing about these elephants is that you can tell they’d been abused, could easily see the scars and holes in their ears, yet they didn’t seem to care. The quality of their lives is readily apparent as their days consist of eating bamboo, getting fed treats by travelers, playing the mud, hanging out on the hillsides and washing off in a pristine natural stream.

Elephants
It was her idea…
Elephants
The world’s largest land animal and an elephant
Elephants
Wearing a traditional Karen shirt over my wind jacket

The elephants are very friendly (you are feeding them, after all) and aren’t shy in the slightest – which is both good and bad. You have to constantly keep your head on a swivel as they move about without much regard to who’s around them. The last thing you’d want is to have your foot be stepped on by on of these gigantic creatures. I grew up around Belgium draft horses and there is really no comparison as to how incredibly tall and wide – these animals are easily as wide as a U-Haul truck.

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

After a short time of feeding the elephants, off they went to the mountainside for a bit of graze. The steep muddy slopes make for tricky terrain but their flat feet somehow hold. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. Next was off to the stream at the end of the valley to play in the water with the elephants. Elephants really do engage in an incredible amount of social activity with each other and watching them play about from only feet away was such a uniquely-awesome experience.

Elephants
Paradise in the dense Thai jungle

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants
Baby always climbing on mama

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

We spent about 6 hours with the elephants in total and it was worth every minute. The whole tour plus travel costs runs about 1,500 baht (give or take $40 USD) but for the experience, interaction with the animals and for the cause, it really is worth the expense. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and have recommended the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to many friends and fellow travelers. I mean, the weather was atrocious and it was my favorite day in Thailand.

Elephants
Elephant paradise

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Charming Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is one of the gems of Northern Thailand’s dense jungle region

The jungles of Northern Thailand are still a mysterious and wild place to visit, however a traveler can hang his hat in Chiang Mai while enjoying modern first-world comfort

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Chiang Mai
Arrive at airport, hop on tuk tuk, food. And more food.

Chiang Mai! I was really excited to get a chance to really explore Thailand and after so many trips to the islands it was definitely time to get back to some adventure and the jungle way up north was calling me. The flight over really gets you pumped for what’s to come, I mean check out this view from my plane window:

Chiang Mai
Next-level shades of green

So to be completely fair, I had no idea what to expect of Chiang Mai other than the obvious ‘being in the middle of nowhere.’ It’s about 700 km north of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok and it turns out Chiang Mai is actually the largest city in Northern Thailand and, up until recently, had some serious issues with air pollution. I experienced no pollution while there but after being in the islands for so long the sticky humidity was a bit tough. It was also the capital of the Lan Na Kingdom (1296-1768) and was then known as the Kingdom of Chiang Mai (1774-1899) which are important factoids considering the first thing you see upon entering the city are the expertly well-kept old city walls.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

I was in Chiang Mai to visit a mate of mine that was traveling all throughout Asia after journeying through the Middle East. He told me to expect some craziness and late nights so I left my photography gear at home and was traveling with only my Samsung Galaxy A8 on me. This turned out to be a good call as my sunglasses and watch all were wrecked on this trip (mostly from visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary just outside of town… but that will be in the next post). So after arriving in the Chiang Mai it was time to hit the hostel and drop my bags, then grab some Thai street food and check out the night market. Chiang Mai’s night market is world renowned and is a big part of why TripAdvisor named the city one of its “25 Best Destinations in the World.”

Chiang Mai
Trademark Thai cutoff t’s
Chiang Mai
Pancakes with nutella and banana? Yes please!

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai
Everything from art to t-shirts to watches to electronics are on offer at the night market
Chiang Mai
Obviously a ladyboy show in the middle of the plaza
Chiang Mai
Live music at most bars
Chiang Mai
Muay Thai boxing gyms are located throughout the city for the short- and long-term travelers
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai’s most famous bar/club is Zoe in Yellow – recommended

 

The diverse night market is a great way to meet people and see the city. The vendors here were incredibly friendly and not nearly as pushy as the ones you find throughout Southeast Asia, Bangkok especially. Ladyboys dancing and inviting onlookers to their show later in the evening and bars scattered throughout the market with live music adds to the ambiance all while tourists and travelers from the world over mingle about and peruse all the goods on show. It’s quite a cool experience even for those looking to party and get some drinks in. We ended up at Zoe in Yellow, Chiang Mai’s most famous bar which morphs into a club around 10:30-11:00 pm. Bars close notoriously early in Chiang Mai so you’ll have to get the evening started straight away. You can try to find clubs open late on the popular Nimmanhaemin Road. We met some cool people at the clubs whom we met up later in the trip, however it was time to crash as we had a full day of siteseeing the next morning. Ready for pictures of Wats (Pagodas, Stupas, Temples)? Well here we go:

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai
Thai temple architecture is unique from neighboring Myanmar and Laos

 

Chiang Mai
Some temples are much more ‘touristy’ than others

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

As a pseudo-professional photography (I’ve been paid but this isn’t a full-time gig at all for me, still a hobby), the picture above taken with a sub-par phone camera makes me proud. The photo below, however, is riddled with lighting issues. The debate I have with myself is this: post and tell the story as fully as possible or omit the photo and just photograph the exterior of the building. I’ll let ya’ll decide.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

I’ll be back with another post from the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, one of the gems of Chiang Mai and a brilliant experience. Responsible tourism is an important issue to me and to support a local initiative that takes formerly-captive work elephants and let’s them live a full life in a rich and diverse environment was an unreal experience. The zoo was never an option and time ran out on us to do the Flight of the Gibbon zipline adventure, but I’ve heard good things. See ya’ll soon and here are some parting shots from the charming Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai
Police ceremony at the central square
Chiang Mai
Proper Israeli graze, malawach with tomato sauce at Sababa
Chiang Mai
Turkish coffee, hummus with falafel and homemade pita

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

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Bangkok Style: Sunday Drive in a Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk, Bangkok, Thailand

When in Bangkok, one must Tuk Tuk

Known as a rickshaw in the west, the tuk tuk is the east’s primary form of transportation when facing the choking traffic of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok.

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Tuk Tuk

The Tuk-Tuk is synonymous with Bangkok. Named for its motor’s distinctive ‘tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk’ sound, it’s the best way to cruise through Thailand’s capital… as long as you don’t mind the choking-from-smog air. There’s no seat belt, no door, usually no-side gate for extra safety (though it succeeds in only making you ‘feel’ safe) and generally no rules. So I point, click and enjoy. And now through my lens, you can too!

Tuk Tuk


Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk

Bike for Mom weekend was in full swing during this weekend in Bangkok. The Thai people love their Royal Family and they celebrate their birthdays in all sorts of ways. This year contained bike rides for the King and Queen whom they refer to as “Dad and Mom,” respectively. The ride took place on Sunday morning and thousands upon thousands of participants took part in it.

Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk

There are so many shopping options in Bangkok, making it a central hub for travelers and tourists from all around the region. For backpackers, the ability to engage in adventure travel in the heart of a big city is priceless… though you needn’t worry as those on a tight budget can get by on a few dollars a day.

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The Grand Palace at Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace is a highlight of Wat Phra Kaew 

Modern history meets ancient history at the Grand Palace of Wat Phra Kaew

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The Grand Palace

Having previously written about the Wat Phra Kaew in beautiful downtown Bangkok, Thailand, here is quickie on the Grand Palace of Thailand – located on the back end of the compound. The Grand Palace certainly gives credence to the name. Constructed during the reign of King Rama V from 1897 to 1903. The new palace, Phra Thinang Boromphiman (pictured above), was built over the site of an old armory after King Rama V had it demolished. The new palace was intended as a gift to the first Crown Prince of Siam, Prince Maha Vajirunhis. It was originally named Phra Thinang Phanumart Chamroon, however before the construction was finished the prince died of typhoid at the age of 16. Once completed the palace was handed to the next heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiravudh, who ascended the throne in 1910 as Rama VI. He later gave the palace its present name (Wiki). After seeing the Phra Thinang Boromphiman, you can literally turn around and see the original palace shining in the sunlight.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) served as the official residence of the kings of Siam (and now Thailand, for those who haven’t watched the play “The King and I”) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) currently resides at Chitralada Palace but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. As mentioned in my previous post, the palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand and on this day it was easy to see why.

 The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace The Grand Palace The Grand Palace

Construction of the palace began on May 6, 1782, at the order of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, when he moved the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok. Throughout successive reigns, many new buildings and structures were added, especially during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). By 1925, the king, the Royal Family and the government were no longer permanently settled at the palace, and had moved to other residences. After the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932, all government agencies completely moved out of the palace.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The palace complex is roughly rectangular and has a combined area of a massive 218,400 square meters (2,351,000 sq ft) surrounded by four walls. It is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the heart of the Rattanakosin Island, today in the Phra Nakhon District. The Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. The Grand Palace is currently partially open to the public as a museum, but it remains a working palace, with several royal offices still situated inside. After our walkthrough of the Grand Palace, we headed down the road to check out some other sites and grabbed a cab back to our hotel. As always, a quick drive through Southeast Asia can lead to its own little adventure.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

    The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

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Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew stands out among all the hustle and bustle of Bangkok

Thailand’s crown jewel temple, the Wat Phra Kaew, features three massive pagodas in the Sri Lankan, Thai and Khmer styles.

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Wat Phra Kaew

Simply put, the Wat Phra Kaew Pagoda is a mix of three things: the spiritual center of Thai Buddhism, the former residence of the Thai Monarch – the Grand Palace, and a fairy tale. I’ll go more into detail, but that is the gist of what we’re talking about. That, and an incredible collaboration between religion, history and modern politics.

Wat Phra Kaew

Our trip starts out with the Temple Guards, who stand mightily by protecting tourists from taking photos without something clever in them. They did their duty with flying colors while I learned that Ethiopians are more afraid of horses than the Chinese or Koreans. There is a Genghis Khan joke in there somewhere, I just can’t find it. So after that discovery, we entered the packed compound and here it is ever more apparent that tourists have discovered Thailand whereas in Myanmar, locals still dare to tread. In a way it’s almost like looking into the future for Myanmar’s incredible sights as many tourists kind of cheapen the experience of the Far East… but then again, we’re here so… here are the crammed gates:

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

After paying a small entrance fee and changing into long pants (insider tip: always wear long pants into religious sites in Thailand), we finally got a chance to take in the incredible and fantasy-minded Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The most sacred Buddha Temple in Thailand doesn’t disappoint in the least as three large pagodas surrounded by a more than mile long wall make for a once-in-a-lifetime skyline.  There are two main parts of the compound, the first of which contains three pagodas and the second contains the Grand Palace.

Wat Phra Kaew

The three pagodas of Wat Phra Kaew represent the changing centers of Buddhist influence. Phra Si Ratana Chedi is a 19th-century Sri Lankan-style stupa housing ashes of the Buddha. Phra Mondop, in the middle, is a library built in Thai style by Rama I, known for its excellently crafted Ayutthaya-style mother-of-pearl doors, bookcases containing the Tripitaka (sacred Buddhist manuscripts), human- and dragon-headed nagas (snakes) and statues of Chakri kings. The Royal Pantheon, to the east, was built in Khmer style during the 19th century. It’s open to the public for one day in October to commemorate the founding of the Chakri dynasty. All were closed while we visited as security was on high alert for the Queen of Thailand’s upcoming birthday (as a note, we left Bangkok the day before the bombing in downtown). Also to the north is a model of Angkor Wat, perhaps the most sacred of all Cambodian shrines. It was constructed by King Mongkut as a reminder that the neighboring state was under the dominion of the Thai. Thanks Wiki!

Wat Phra Kaew

Besides tourists, the first part of the Wat Phra Kaew compound is chock full of incredibly-detailed statues, figures and more. There is so much to see in the compound that you’d need a few days to take it all in. We tried, but again Thailand’s mini heatwave was baking this boy. So I’ll give a quick history lesson on this part and head to the Grand Palace after these pictures: According to popular belief, the Emerald Buddha is ancient and came from Sri Lanka. Art historians, however, generally believe that it was crafted in 14th-century Thailand. The much-revered Buddha image has traveled extensively over the centuries. The story goes that the Emerald Buddha was once kept covered in plaster in a monument in Chiang Rai, but a damaging lightning storm in 1434 uncovered the treasure.  The king of Chiang Mai tried very hard to procure the statute, but three times the elephant transporting the statute stopped at a crossroads in Lampang. Taking it as a sign from the Buddha, the statue was placed in a specially-built monumental temple in Lampang, where it stayed for 32 years. The next king of Chiang Mai was more determined, succeeding in bringing the Emerald Buddha to his city. It was housed in a temple there until 1552, when Laotian invaders took it. The statue stayed in Laos for 214 years, until General Chakri (later King Rama I) brought it back to the Thai capital at Thonburi after his successful campaign in Laos. In 1784, when he moved the capital across the river to Bangkok, King Rama I installed the precious figure in its present shrine, where it has remained as a tangible symbol of the Thai nation. It is feared that removal of the image from Bangkok will signify the end of the Chakri dynasty.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew

 Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew   Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew   Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

  Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew     Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew

Oh and of course the Emerald Buddha.

“It is not known when the statue of the Emerald Buddha was made, but it is generally believed that it was crafted in 14th-century Thailand. However, there are also claims that the statue originated in India or Sri Lanka. None of these theories can be firmly established as none of the historians could get a close look at the statue. The Emerald Buddha was found in Chiang Rai, Lanna in 1434, after a lightning storm struck a temple. The Buddha statue fell down and later became chipped, and the monks, after removing the plaster around the statue, discovered that the image was a perfectly made Buddha image from a solid piece of green jade. The image was moved a few time to various temples, first to Lampang, then to Chiang Mai, from where it was removed by prince Chao Chaiyasetthathirat to Luang Prabang, when his father died and he ascended the throne of both Lanna and Lan Xang, in 1551. The statue remained the it to his new capital of Lan Xang in Vientiane in the 1560s. The statue remained there for twelve years. King Chaiyasetthathirat then shifted it to his new capital of Lan Xang in Vientiane in the 1560s. He took the Emerald Buddha with him and the image remained in Vientiane for 214 years until 1778. In the reign of King Taksin, Chao Phya Chakri (who later became Rama I) defeated Vientiane and moved the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane to Thonburi where it was installed in a shrine close to Wat Arun. Chao Phra Chakri then took over the throne and founded the Chakri Dynasty of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, and shifted his capital across the river to its present location in Bangkok. The Emerald Buddha was also moved across the river with pomp and pageantry and installed in the temple of Wat Phra Keaw.” – Wiki

Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace… coming soon.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Arun and Roll

Wat Arun Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok’s history comes alive at Wat Arun

The Wat Arun “Temple of Dawn” is a brilliant spot to take in some Thai Buddhism near downtown Bangkok.

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Wat Arun

Caked in sunscreen on an atypically blistering day during Thailand’s rainy season, it’s easy to see why the locals are complaining of a heat wave… and why white boys from southwestern Ohio have a hard go of it traveling in Southeast Asia. Bangkok is only 45 minutes away by flight from Yangon, Myanmar, so a weekend in BKK it was! Our second day in Bangkok saw us travel to the outskirts of Bangkok proper to the Bangkok Yai district located on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The lovely Wat Arun brought us out of the Sukhumvit district in downtown and while unfortunately for us it was in the middle of a reconstruction period it was still worth the hour or so trek.
Wat Arun

Wat Arun, or to call it by its full name Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, is a Buddhist temple named for the Hindu god Aruna. Meaning “Temple of Dawn,” the Wat Arun is one of Thailand’s best known and most ancient landmarks. Originally built around the beginning of the seventeenth century, it’s distinctive spires were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.

Wat Arun

The compound itself is quite large, with several different temples all in a typically Thailand/Khmer-ish architecture. Something I’ve found quite interesting around Southeast Asia is that the Buddhist statues are all very similar while the architecture of each pagoda varies depending on the country you’re in. For example, Myanmar’s pagodas all have a very distinct gold-domed appearance while Thailand’s are covered in statues and intricate carvings and are colored primarily in a white-ish hue. This was particularly noticeable at Wat Phrae Kaew, but more on that in the next post.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colorful porcelain. The height is measured between 66.8 meters (219 feet) and 86 meters (282 feet) tall. Very steep and narrow steps lead to a balcony high on the central tower. The circumference of the base of the structure is 234 meters. The corners are surrounded by four smaller satellite prang. The prang are decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China. The presiding Buddha image, cast in the reign of Rama II, is said to have been molded by the king himself. The ashes of King Rama II are interred in the base of the image.

Wat Arun  Wat Arun Wat Arun

Next to the prang is the Ordination Hall with a Niramitr Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The front entrance of the Ordination Hall has a roof with a central spire, decorated in colored ceramic and stucco work “sheathed in colored china.” Basically, it’s incredibly colorful and detailed intricately. It is also a much welcome respite from the searing heat.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun  Wat Arun  Wat Arun

In addition to the towering stupas, a market, several shrines and monastery are all located in the compound. After taking in the incredible sights of the Wat Arun, we took a quick walk around the area (it’s a photographer’s dream) and then stopped off for a fresh coconut and on to the next stop on our journey… the awe-inspiring Wat Phrae Kaew.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun Wat Arun  Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Bangkok Shop ‘Till you Drop

Terminal 21, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Shop UNTIL YOU DROP! Alt. Title – Leave the Mrs at Home!

It’s called Bangkok Shop ‘Till you Drop because lets be honest – after parties and ladies (and ladyboys) Thailand’s capital is a consumers’ paradise.

For some cool high-resolution photos from Bangkok: Click Here

Bangkok Shop

Everyone has heard the excuse “Sorry, my dog ate my homework.” It’s not funny or believable. The Burmese version of this joke is “Sorry the internet is out/incredibly slow in the entire country, turns out an internet cable was cut somewhere up north in the jungle.” Well, at least they didn’t say a tiger or elephant ate/stepped on it. Or something. Whatever, the internet’s back online for now so I can now share with ya’ll our trip to lovely Bangkok, Thailand. Going to hit it in three parts so here’s today’s rather short first installment on shopping.

Bangkok Shop

Bangkok is a a cash dump. I mean with every type of food imaginable, store imaginable, etc. you can literally blow your trip’s budget in a day. But hey, when you miss Starbucks’ coffee, $10 is no problem. In fact, I was happy to pay it #SkinnyLightCaramelFrappacinoForTheWin. Yeah, just like that. After getting our Starbucks’ fix, we headed down Sukhumvit way to the famous Terminal 21 Shopping Mall. Let me tell you, it was worth it.

Bangkok Shop

Each floor of the 9-story complex is themed for a different part/city of the world: the Caribbean, Rome, Tokyo, Paris, San Franciso, Istanbul, London and Hollywood. The intricate detail that went into each floor is incredible and the amount of stores… well there’s a lot.

Bangkok Shop Bangkok Shop

Most stores accept either Baht or US Dollars, so keeping track of the exchange rate helps. Money changers are aplenty in the mall along with free WiFi, however foreigners must register at one of two “gates,” whereas locals can register at any of the numerous computers in the complex.

Bangkok Shop

Bangkok Shop

Bangkok Shop Bangkok Shop

Bangkok Shop