63 Bangkok Boutique Bed & Breakfast

 Hello again, everyone! If you’ve been following my whirlwind 2 week trip to Bangkok where I learned a bit about daily life in Bangkok then you’ll know that I didn’t mention where I stayed before I managed to rent a place for 5 months. Yup, the place I stayed at is the title of this post and here I’ll tell you all about it. If you haven’t read my previous post about my trying to rent a place in Bangkok, it’s in this post, Bangkok Dangerous – a temporary relocation experience.

My trip was on such short notice (I was on the plane within 12 hours) meant I couldn’t be so stringent with choosing a place to stay. After a really quick search on Expedia, I chose the 63 Bangkok Boutique Bed & Breakfast. Please keep in mind that I chose the cheapest, single occupant room I could find which set me back about $29 Sgd per night.
So, what do you get for $29?  Anything you wa…Just kidding.

The hotel is right on Sukumvit Road, which is a main road and a very busy one at that. Right at the entrance of the hotel, maybe about 6 steps away is the up escalator to Ekkamai BTS station. Having said that, I didn’t hear any traffic noise even though I was on the 3rd floor, which should be right about train level but I couldn’t tell since my room didn’t have a window which is probably why I couldn’t hear the traffic. When I booked the hotel, I knew the station was close, but I had no idea it was this close.

 The lobby is quite roomy, clean and has a nice comfy vibe to it. The hotel has an elevator just beside the stairs and because of the decor (is my excuse) I didn’t notice there was an elevator until the receptionist told me as I headed to the stairs with my luggage. Towards the back, past the stairs is the seating area for the free breakfast and what looks like a coffee shop but I’ve never seen anyone eating or having coffee over there. I’ve seen people just hanging out, though. There’s also a couple of beauty shops (nails and hair I think) back there. Half a floor up there is a shared office type setup as well as another beauty salon. The hallways and elevator lobby areas are actually quite spacious and from what I could tell each floor has a huge fan to help with air cooling and circulation. I was not expecting that at all.

 

Since I was on the third floor I chose to use the stairs and noticed that the steps are not of uniform height and the ceiling seems a bit low so watch your step and mind your head if you’re over 5 feet 10 inches tall.

Into the room I go. Really not much to talk about as far as rooms go. It’s four walls with a wall mounted shelf and clothes rod, a wall mounted tv, a single bed, a mini fridge, small bedside table, a desk with a chair and a washroom. It’s small but I’ve been in smaller.

The room was clean and there weren’t any weird smells. The sheets were clean but I did find a hole in them. I didn’t watch tv but there was power to the cable box and the standby lights were on so I guess they work. The power outlets were easy enough to find and access which was nice. The aircon worked but the funny thing was, when it got too cold and I turn the cooling off but kept the fan on, I felt it getting hard to breathe so I turned the cooling back on and that feeling went away. The fridge doesn’t work too well but better than nothing. As for room security, well, the door locks when you close it but there isn’t a double lock or security lock. No safe either so I did what I usually do, find something wall mounted and loop my laptop cable lock through it and secure the other end in my padlocked suitcase. Not great but better than nothing.

Now for the washroom. At first glance it looks fine maybe a bit gloomy because of the gray colored walls but when you look closer you’ll find that it’s actually more like an unfinished wall because the sections of wall making up shower area are tiled the rest is not. Originally the shower “stall” had a glass door but it’s gone, replaced by a spring loaded curtain rod holding up a plastic shower curtain. No big deal right? Well it wouldn’t be but somehow a lot of water escapes and pools around the toilet and the water doesn’t go down the drain that is located between the shower and the toilet because the water pools mostly on the other side. For the most part the walls and floor of the washroom are clean but there are noticeable mold/mildew patches at the bottom corners of the shower stall. If you’re opposed to this you can wear slippers. I used a pair of $2 slippers from Daiso (for the wet floor not the shower stall). They’re really light and make good padding for soft “carry on” duffel bags. Although there were the usual hotel amenities like shower soap an stuff, I never use them, especially if they are in a bulk dispenser mounted on the wall. Housekeeping doesn’t come around unless you ask them to and when you do they may not have enough clean towels to give you. In my case it was only a hand towel. Not too big of a deal unless you want your bottle of free water per day. Like many Asian countries, flushing toilet paper is not “allowed” so you dispose of your used toilet paper in the little uncovered trash can beside the toilet. OK, maybe the no daily housekeeping is a big deal.

What’s around the hotel? Well, beside the hotel there’s a coffee shop and on the other, a temple. At night the street food vendors come out and as will the occasional less fortunate people with their “tip jars.” On the opposite side of the street is a “Mediplex” and the Gateway mall with the usual shops and food outlets but outside they have like a sidewalk sale setup with local crafts and on weekends you can get some farm fresh produce. Being right at Ekkamai BTS station means most of the touristy shopping places are close by like Terminal 21, Paragon, Siam and MBK which are all just a few train stops away, as is the station to transfer to the airport train (Phaya Thai station). I would highly recommend not crossing the street unless you are fond of playing live action Frogger (I think these days they call it Crossy Roads). Instead just go up the escalator and walk through the station to the other side where you’ll end up right at the entrance of the mall. Don’t worry you won’t have to enter or exit the gantry.

For what it’s worth, the room was just what I needed it to be and at a cost I was willing to pay. The hotel is nice enough for me to stay in again if I ever needed to and I’m pretty sure there are nicer rooms available if you’re so inclined to check them out.

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The beginning of the end for fiat currency in Singapore?

Green colored currency

This came as quite a shock to me the other day when I was shopping for hiking pants. Why hiking pants? I find that hiking pants/shirts are the best for travelling in S.E. Asia because they are light, easy to pack and dries quickly whether from sweat, rain or a washing. So instead of the branded lines like Columbia that retail over $100 Sgd per piece, I opted to check out the “no name” brands which are about $30 Sgd.

My “go to” chain of stores when I’m looking for sports stuff in Singapore goes by the name of Decathlon. They carry a lot of “no name” brand goods as well as branded goods at good prices. Anyways, I heard a new branch opened up in a mall named Velocity @ Novena, which is really close to where I am and I needed to be as time efficient as possible. Check out my post Bangkok Dangerous – a temporary relocation experience if you wanna know why, it’s kinda funny now but not so much while it was happening, lol.

When I arrived at the Decathlon store in Velocity @ Novena, I found it underwhelming, I was expecting the usual huge shop with lots of stuff in it. This branch was claustrophobic-ly small, ok maybe not that small but close. Anyways, they had what I was looking for and after trying it on, I went to pay. Here comes the WTH moment…

So I’m standing behind this lady, probably looking as confused as I looked, because there wasn’t a cashier or cash register at the counter. There were employees walking around but none came to collect the money. So she waved an employee down and he came to assist. So apparently the whole system is self service and if you want a bag, you’ll have to pay for one and then ask someone to get you one. I don’t have an issue with the self service system as I’m getting pretty used to it. Singapore is highly into the self service/pay systems. Almost all fast food chains have a self order/pay system, many restaurants have ipad (or equivalent) menu order systems. The local grocery store near me only has self check out booths with machines that collect payment, although there is still a cashier at each kiosk to help. Same with convenience stores, the cashier rings you up and you shove your cash into a machine. What I have an issue with, is the “we are cashless” stance that this particular Decathlon is taking. When it was my turn, the Decathlon employee was still there watching as I scanned my item and when I handed him the cash, he pointed at the sign. I asked him, “seriously, you don’t take cash?” in which he replied, “yes, we don’t take cash.” Well, nothing I could do about it, plus I was in a rush and had to finish packing and catch a flight so I charged the pants to my credit card. Thankfully, Decathlon isn’t a store that charges an extra 3% if you use a credit card. If you’re not aware of this practice it’s pretty frustrating the first few times.

Now someone correct me if I’m wrong but “this note is legal tender” printed on fiat currency means that business’ must accept it as a form of payment, right? Well, that’s the way I understand it. Apparently, this isn’t the case in Singapore? OH, another thing I’d better mention, when it comes to paper money, in Singapore, you can use the Brunei dollar as equivalent to the Singapore dollar. I found out the hard way years ago when I received change in Brunei currency and caused a bit of a ruckus, lol. Back to this issue of business’ not taking cash. Since my purchase at Decathlon, I’ve asked some Singaporeans for their thoughts. One person vehemently defended the right of business’ not to take cash citing that it’s the government of Singapore’s push for a cashless society and that even the hospitals are telling people to pay at the 7-11 if they insist on paying cash. Wait, what? Really? I haven’t followed up on that but a few others believe, as I do, that it is illegal for business’ doing business in Singapore to not to take Singapore currency. These people have suggested I lodge a complaint with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and when I asked, “why me,” they said it’s precisely because I’m a foreigner that I should be the one to complain. I don’t understand that logic but I’m probably not going to lodge a complaint since (in my opinion) it won’t matter one bit. Equally confusing to me is that, of all the people I asked, the majority just didn’t care.

I think a cashless society would be just one Mt. Gox hack away from anarchy and I’m of the opinion that when the masses are being herded in one particular direction, it’s not gonna be too good for the herd. Of course I’m no expert and I don’t know if cashless business’ are going dominate the shopping landscape or not but I do know that the push for going cashless is real and relatively quick. There is an increasing amount of crypto atm’s popping up in more malls in Singapore and I’ve seen establishments accepting crypto, which may or may not be a good thing. Have a read of my post, Funan DigitaLife Mall’s rebirth. What’s the big deal? Something you’ll want to think about for more info. If you’re looking for crypto atm’s they maybe hard to spot as they are not heavily advertised. I plan to compile a list with pictures and detailing what services are offered at these atm’s in the near future. It’s on my to do list, lol.

So what do you think about a cashless society and as a tourist being forced to use online payment (potential loss of anonymity assuming your particular online funds is accepted) or use your foreign credit card (potential additional fees). Thankfully, it’s not that prevalent now but it’s happening. I kinda feel sorry for the smaller ‘mom and pop’ shops that will need to “subscribe” to all the services necessary to make them cashless and what will happen to the extra 3% increase that a lot of business charge to the consumer for using credit cards? All those fees are inevitably gonna be added to the purchase price, that sucks.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

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Bangkok Dangerous – a temporary relocation experience.

Ok so if you’ve read some of my previous travel posts, you know that I’m always rushing, more often than not plans don’t work out and that something weird/funny/stupid usually happens. This most recent trip is no exception but by far the least planned and most rushed ever! In fact, I don’t think it can get any worse than this. Curious? Read on, my friends…

Long story short, my daughter’s final year course work includes an optional 5 months overseas internship program. She got an offer from a company in Bangkok but at the last minute things fell through. Even more last minute was the school being able to find 3 alternatives. By the time the dust settled (interviews and choosing which company to go to), my kid would start work in 8 days. So being the ~~busy body~~ concerned parent that I am, I booked a flight, a room and packed. I was in the air within 12 hours. The premise was I would go check out the office and the vicinity as well as start apartment hunting. The school had a rule that students must stay in the same apartment complex/building but at that moment nobody had picked a place yet so I was flying blind with only the office address to go by.

While waiting at the airport, I found some info that taxi fares are about 400-700 from the airport to where I was going, Ekkamai. What I didn’t know was that the taxi’s from the airport are metered. You line up to get a ticket on which a number is printed and you go to that berth where a car will be waiting. So thinking it was like Chiang Mai, I asked how much before I even let the driver take one of my bags (I was packing my kid’s stuff too). He said $500 Baht including highway toll and since it was within the range I read about, I agreed. So off we went. Not much traffic, it was night time and I arrived at my hotel in around 40 minutes. The other choices at the airport are limo taxi’s which start at $1000 Baht depending on distance and vehicle you choose to ride in. Another choice would be a VIP service type deal which you have to arrange in advance and that starts at $700 Baht. You can also take the train (cost dependent upon destination).

What about sim chips? Well I bought my sim chip at the airport (after getting my bags and clearing customs) at a cost of $599 Baht (upgrade able to a 3 months plan at the end of 15 days for around $1200 Baht (check the photo below for the specs). If you need one for longer, the 3 months plan that I bought for my kid was $1400 Baht. It may be a bit more than some of the other plans but apparently DTAC’s wifi is more consistent as some of my kid’s colleagues have switched from Tru (?sp). We can both tether/hotspot our laptops to our phone and access the internet without any issues. My Nintendo Switch acted squeamishly though but maybe because my laptop was tethered too. Oh, the phone numbers with a zero in the front, that’s part of your number so people calling you will have to “dial” the zero as part of your phone number. Making calls will cost $1 Baht so use internet calling (Whatsapp or Line for example) to get around that. I used AIS the last time I was in Thailand and it was just as good as DTAC but I didn’t see one at the airport that’s why I got DTAC.

After settling in, I went out to grab a bite to eat, it was around 8pm and I was super tired and super hungry. Some eateries were already winding down for the day so I just went to a shop that looked open, looked willing to let me order and order the special which was a platter of sausages which included a chili dog. I love chilli dogs and was really looking forward to it. Well, it wasn’t a hotdog with chilli on it, it was a hotdog with chili peppers in it. It was so spicy I could only eat half, ya that sucked! Anyways, while eating i realized that I didn’t notice having to stop to pay a toll on the way from the airport and figured it was an automatic thing like they have in Singapore. While entering the meal receipt into my expense tracker, I noticed that it my meal wasn’t cheaper than a meal in Singapore of the same standard. Oh well. Back at the hotel I asked how much a taxi ride from the airport would be and the lady said around $500 baht, so I felt relieved but I still had a bad feeling for some reason. So fast forward a few days…I had to take a taxi two more times to and from the airport. Once in the afternoon, metered, at a cost of $300 Baht including highway toll and once in the evening via Grab taxi at a cost of $383 Baht. The toll booths are manned so they’re not automatic and the driver asked me for the cash to pay the toll on my afternoon, metered fare trip from the airport. I was guessing no toll at night since both times I failed to notice having to stop and pay the toll. However, after Google’ing, I found that there is a way to get to and from the airport without using the highway and thereby bypassing the toll, so that’s more likely what happened on my rides in any event, I don’t mind paying the toll if it means getting to where I need to go, faster. Word of caution, the traffic gets pretty bad around 6-8 pm and Grab drivers are more prone to cancelling or accepting from far away. My return flight was at 9 pm, I started to booking Grab taxi’s at 6 pm, got into one at 6:30 pm and arrived at the airport at 8 pm.

Ok enough of that, continuing on now, I spent the next 3 days going back and forth between Ekkamai, Thong Lo and On Nut BTS stations because that’s the general area of where the office where my kid was going to intern at and the recommended housing areas. I did a lot of walking and waiting in the heat and rain, being orchestrated by my kid in Singapore and rental agents in Bangkok, not fun. The most frustrating part was finding some place suitable but having to wait for confirmation from the school to see if there were any students currently in the building. Yup, that sucked too! I also did a lot of window shopping and eating. I really thought Bangkok was going to be similar to Chiang Mai in terms of cost of living but Bangkok is more expensive. The restaurants (fast food/chain type) are roughly the same price as I would find in Singapore. The same cafe chain (Black Canyon) I ate at in Chiang Mai, although different items, seemed more expensive. I’m basing this solely on how the bill made me feel. The bill in Bangkok made me think “wow, same as Singapore” and not “wow, that was inexpensive for good food” (as was my reaction in Chiang Mai). Eating at food courts in a mall is generally cheaper but many require you to get a proprietary meal card which you deposit money into and funds are deducted at each food stall you purchase from. Make sure you spend all the money you put on the card because most are 1 day only cards meaning after the day you buy it, whatever amount is left, it’ss gone. Happened to me at MBK’s food court I lost about $100 Baht, I think.

Transportation wise, if you’re going to use the BTS a lot (mass transit train) I would suggest you get a “Rabbit Card” it’s a card that lets you store a balance and you use that to tap in and out of the gantries. It is a lot more convenient than lining up every time to buy a one ride ticket, as the lines can get pretty long some times. Whilst the lines to top up your Rabbit card do get long, you won’t have to do it as often and you can choose the time to do it. As far as I can tell, the cost per ride on the BTS is about $15-20 Baht per station and going in and immediately from the same station still incurs a $15 Baht charge (I did it twice unfortunately). The initial cost of the Rabbit card is $200 Baht of which $100 Baht is the deposit on your card and “top ups” must be in multiples of $100 Baht. I found that out the “hard” way as well as not being able to “top up” from within the station. You have to exit the gantry first. I don’t know if you get a refund for the card as I still have mine. If you’re a student, you can get a student’s Rabbit card (show your student ID or student visa) and that card has concessions on fares.

OH! the Rabbit card can be used at some places like 7-11 but cannot be used for the train to the airport from Phaya Thai station, you have to buy a token for that ride ($45 Baht). Meaning when you’re on the BTS line that has the stations Ekkamai, Siam etc. you have to change trains at Phaya Thai and that other train line does not accept the Rabbit card for payment.

Please note: if you’re trying to get on the train between 8 and 10 am it’ll be an experience (an uncomfortable one if you’re a girl). While people are more civilized when it comes to lining up for the train they are a less so when it comes to getting on so don’t be surprised if you really get wedged in, think of a can of anchovies, seriously. Almost every morning I had to skip at least one train and I’ve witnessed my fair share of pained/uncomfortable looks on peoples faces the times that I do make it on. Lucky I’m a dude and wear a waist pack in the front when I travel!

Housing wise, it seems that Airbnb’s are illegal in Thailand. There are signage in some condo lobbies saying they’ll turn you in if they find out, referring to both guest and host. Anyways, for the most part, the agents I spoke to were unwilling to rent for durations of less than a year (I need one for 5 months) without “consulting with the owners” then coming back with an inflated price. It also seemed to me that they only want to show you one as in they’d say they have more but when you ask to see them they just start talking about the first one they recommended. I had to ask several times to see the others and of those times only twice did I get to see the other units.The other times the answers ranged from “I’ll have to ask the owners”, the “duration isn’t long enough” and or “it’s out of your price range.” The price ranges I’ve come across from studios to single bedroom apartments were between $11000-$16000 Baht a month for 1 year contracts. Terms are first month rent and a security deposit equal to the first and last months rent upon getting the key. A small amount will be withheld from your deposit when the contract expires since you would have left before the bill arrives. All the places I checked out had a “pool” but a few of them were so small that if you were to jump in, you’d hit the other side. Most were ok, just don’t expect to be doing any “laps”.

Unanimously, the water and power bill are sent to your mailbox and you pay the water bill to the property management at the office/front desk and the power bill to the gov’t at a 7-11 or bank so you won’t have to set anything up yourself.

Shopping…I must not be going to the right places because everyone tells me that Bangkok is the place to go for shopping. Well, from what I’ve seen, not really…maybe for women’s clothes because my kid seems to think it’s cheaper there (compared to Singapore). What I’ve seen is things like fun electronics/appliances down to usb cables, the prices are on par with Singapore. Things like games/accessories for the Nintendo Switch can be even more expensive! Yup, I had to buy a wall adapter powerful enough to charge my Switch because I thought my powerbank would last long enough, but nope I played more than I planned, lol. I didn’t look much at men’s clothing but I did buy some outfits, even after bargaining for a better price it still came out to what I’d pay for something similar anywhere else. I’ve shopped at 2 Walmart/Kmart/Superstore type hypermarts by the name of Big C and Tesco Lotus. I would recommend buying household items from Big C and food items from Tesco Lotus because Big C’s household items are cheaper and Tesco’s food freshness is better. In general necessity appliances like rice cookers, water bottles and toasters are much cheaper than what you would be able to find in Singapore. Fortunately for me, both shops were in a small mall and i felt that the Big C and the shops around it are more “local.” Please keep in mind that this is only my opinion of the two stores/malls and only for the days that I shopped there. Oh, I’ve never noticed anyone bargaining at the Big C, Tesco Lotus so I’ve never tried. I did buy a potted plant from a shop just outside the Big C and was able to bargain a bit.

Final notes, there is a lot of traffic in Bangkok and a lot of it is comprised of motorcycle/mopeds. If you see a seemingly random line of people on the sidewalk, they are lining up for the motorcycle “taxi’s”. From what I’ve been told, the driver’s wearing the reflective safety vest are the more “legit” ones and there’s usually a sign board indicating the prices (at the head of the line), I couldn’t read it but the numbers looked significantly cheaper than a taxi/or tuk tuk. I’ve seen girls riding side ways because they’re wearing skirts so that’s an option if you’re so inclined. I was told helmets were mandatory in Thailand too but I don’t recall ever seeing a passenger of one of these “taxi bikes” wearing a helmet. My kid tried it and reported they didn’t even offer her one. Being a pedestrian crossing the street isn’t much better and can be just as scary. Just keep in mind that yielding to pedestrians isn’t at the top of a driver’s list, seemingly even on a cross walk so so be extra careful especially at an intersection when a car has already stopped for you. Some drivers in the outer lanes will be reluctant to stop or may even take advantage of the stopped car to change lanes, yup almost got my feet rolled over, twice! Same intersection different days, lol.

After all the prep, shopping, route finding, transport timing and stuff were done, I found one day for my self to check out Bangkok, obviously not enough time, so I Googled “must do’s in Bangkok” and found some interesting places to check out. I’ll be posting this adventure soon, stay tuned…

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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Chiang Rai’s Wat Rong Khun aka the White Temple definitely a must visit!

Wat Rong Khun aka the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

If you are ever in Chiang Rai or even Chiang Mai, Wat Rong Khun aka the White Temple (in Chiang Rai) is a must visit if you’re into art and or wats/Buddhism in general.  If you’re interested in getting to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai, I’ve made a post about my experience with that HERE. After being inspired by Chiang Mai’s silver temple (post is here), I did a quick online search and found the White Temple and two other spots that looked interesting so I quickly made arrangements to go as I only had a few days left in Chiang Mai.

Not having any time to spare (I planned to visit 3 places in Chiang Rai), I used the Grab app and booked a ride to the white temple (at a cost of $200 TBH) immediately after stepping off the bus because I didn’t have time to mess around with the tuk tuk drivers or songthaew drivers. They are all at the back of the terminal, I didn’t see any at the front, it’ll probably be cheaper (highly dependent on your negotiating skills) to go via tuk tuk and songthaew. By the time I got to the front of the building, maybe 30 meters away, I got a message on the Grab app from the driver asking where I was and I replied with “in front of the building” to which I got a reply “me too”. So I looked around and didn’t see any car idling or coming down the street. Then someone came up to me and said, “Taxi?” to which I said “No, thanks” but he showed me the Grap app so I went with him. He was parked on the other side of the street. This was a first for me. Anyways, away we go! (Can you tell I’m excited?!)

If you’re expecting your usual wat, you are in for a huge surprise, as I was. Just to prep you a bit, here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia  “It is a contemporary, unconventional, privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple.  It is owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed, constructed, and opened it to visitors in 1997.” I didn’t find monks praying/chanting inside the “white temple” nor “monk chat” sessions (at the time of this post) but I did find monks taking selfies outside and around the premises.  The décor is definitely not the norm for wats, here’s some examples of what you can find:

When I saw those statues/figures, I was like “what the @$#! Is this?! Is this even a legit wat?” but I did find it kind of cool in the way that those Hell themed parks are (like the one in Singapore that I posted about HERE). Definitely not what I was expecting to see but I liked it.

I guess a bit of historic reference is needed. Wat Rong Khun was a wat at one point in time but for whatever reason had no funds for repairs so Mr. Chalemchai Kositpipat,an artist, had taken it upon himself to completely fund and rebuild the temple to what you see today and he’s not done yet. The original plans for the entire compound is to have 9 buildings that include the “white temple” (which is the ubosot), a meditation and learning center, housing for monks, an art gallery, a hall of relics and others to be completed by 2070. I’d guess there will be a prayer hall and such for monks and the followers of Buddhism to practice their faith, it is a wat after all, right?

I wasn’t prepared for just how stunning it was and it just kept getting better and better the closer I got to it. Nor did I know exactly how big the compound was.  All the statues and buildings were well maintained and intricately detailed as was the rather large pond and water ways around the temple. Even the “under construction” buildings and areas that were off limits to the public looked neat and tidy unlike any construction site I’ve ever seen.

So the white structure that is being referred to as the White Temple is actually the ubosot but inside the ubosot you won’t find the usual things you would find in an ordination hall. Instead you’ll find murals of more modern day things like depictions of the World Trade Center attacks, Michael Jackson, Superman, fiery murals with demon faces and others. It was quite shocking to me as I didn’t expect to see that and frankly my mind is having problems coming to terms with it (I guess I was expecting all the usual religious statues and relics but done up in the same style as the exterior). Don’t get me wrong though, the artwork is stunning and that’s an understatement.  I can also understand the message that the artist is relaying but my mind is just so conflicted(?) …I don’t know, I don’t have the words. I would have loved to have taken photos to reflect upon and further contemplate what I saw and to show you but sadly no photos allowed inside and there are ushers reminding you as you walk in.  You won’t find any of the usual donation boxes or incense pots or the offerings of food and drinks at the altars inside, to be honest, I can’t even remember seeing an altar in there.

When you’re done with the ubosot and pond area, there are other areas to check out such as the washroom. Wait, what?! Yup, you should check it out. This building is at least 2 levels, done up in gold with intricate statues all around. Just looking at it you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s the toilets. Lucky, I didn’t need to use the facilities because standing in front of the building, I couldn’t tell where the “Mens room” was because both paths leading  into the building had signs in Thai with the English word “women” on it. However, there are images of both male and female on both sides of the building! Being really short on time, I didn’t go any closer but judging from the people buzzing about maybe I should have.

Toilets at Wat Rong Khun aka the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Beside the toilet building is the gift shop with the usual gift shop items as well smaller prints and art cards of the artist’s work. On the other side there is a mural/display depicting a scene with the Monkey King/God, Sun Wukong, complete with bells you can ring. A bit further down the path is an area where you can offer incense and fruits and prayers in front of a Buddha statue in a jungle themed alcove.

There is a rather large, open air pavilion type structure which has a large floor area for praying as well as chairs. I”m guessing this where the monks would chant/pray. Within this pavilion are the more traditional Buddhist  statues and artwork. Right outside is a booth selling thin metallic leaves you can write your name and message on then hang them on the tree like structures, which when full, the leaves get moved to create the roof of the covered walkway, pretty clever right?

Behind all of this is an area with another  temple, I think, all done up in gold. I didn’t have enough time to check it out. It was around this time that I realized that I wouldn’t be able to see the other two if I spent any more time at the White Temple so I rushed past this area, reluctantly.

As I was rushing by things, I saw the Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat’s art gallery/museum and I had to go in.  I’m really, really impressed with his style of art. The gallery doesn’t look big from the outside but it’s pretty big and has a decent sized gift shop area. Yup, I bought some art cards I just couldn’t resist. Lucky, I had time and space constraints or I would have bought more and bigger pieces too. Now, at this point, I had to make a choice. It was clear now that I couldn’t see all three of the places I had planned and if I didn’t leave now I wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy the second spot so completely finish this awesome place or hit the next spot? There is an entrance fee of $50 TBH for foreigners but free for Thai people and even with the bus fare I found Wat Rong Khun, the white temple, well worth the trip and so I left with the promise of . . . I’ll Be Back.

Oh almost forgot, there are eateries, snacks and gift shops in a plaza like area right beside the wat so you can plan to have a meal or two there. I hadn’t eaten anything yet so I just grabbed a couple of Gatorades and croissant like things from a shop and off I went to the next stop. Again the Grab driver was already there, in the parking lot of the plaza, lucky me.

NOTE: Even on an overcast day such as it was the day I was there, the buildings are really, really bright and glittery. I lowered the brightness of the images (a fair bit) in this post to better define the details, so bring a pair of sunglasses just in case it gets too bright.

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All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

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Getting to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai

Sunset at Chiang Rai’s bus Terminal 1

Hi again everyone, if you’ve been following my recent chain of posts you’ll know that whilst in Chiang Mai I had the pleasure of finding the “Silver Temple.” HERE’s the post if you’re interested.  I was so moved by the uniqueness of this temple, I went to look for other such artistic temples and find some I did. BUT… they weren’t in Chiang Mai, they were in another city named, Chiang Rai and luckily it’s close enough to Chiang Mai to warrant a visit.

How to get to Chiang Rai then? Well, there are no direct flights nor direct trains to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai. So that leaves buses, car (self drive or taxi) and motorcycle.  Keeping in mind that it’s at least a 3 hour journey, I chose go by bus because it was the cheapest and IMO most comfortable and safest. As far as buses to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai, there’s really only one company that I could find whilst searching online (in English) and that is the Green Bus Thailand. They offer 3 “classes” of tickets…A, X and V (V for VIP, the costliest, roomiest and quickest. Plus there’s a toilet on board). I booked a Grab taxi and off I went to the bus station. There are 2 bus terminals in Chiang Mai and the one that I needed to go to was Bus Terminal 3. The ride cost me $200 TBH from around Tha Phae Gate to Terminal 3.

Entering from the front entrance, the Green Bus’s ticket counter is on the left and quite clearly marked, you can’t miss it. There’ll most likely be a lot of people yelling calling at you to get your tickets from them though as soon as you walk into the building. I just went to the line in front of the ticket agents under the Green Bus signage. Thankfully, the ticket agent’s understanding of English was good enough for me to pick my seat, ensure that my destination is Terminal 1 and book my VIP return tickets, two days in advance, at a cost of $560 TBH. Quite easy and hassle free. Here’s some photos of the front of the terminal taken at night because like this whole trip I’m winging it.

After purchasing my tickets I walked around a bit to try to find where I’ll be getting on my bus. I looked at my ticket and found two berth numbers. Great! Whilst looking around inside, I couldn’t find any berth numbers. You actually have to go outside of the building to find the berth numbers. The signage is on the outside walls. I actually lucked out and found my bus berth on the first try. It’s the first exit on the right when walking further into the terminal.

Chiang Mai’s bus Terminal 3 berths

The terminal has two floors but the second floor is basically empty with a small seating area and empty shops.  The only reason why I went up there was because there was signage indicating that there were clean toilets up there plus it’s relatively deserted so no need to wait in line. All the toilets in the terminal have an entrance fee but the main floor ones have an attendant at the entrance collecting the fee and selling toiletries like toilet paper just in case you didn’t bring your own. In my experience, when traveling in Asia always, ALWAYS have a packet of tissues and wet wipes with you (In Singapore you can also use them to reserve your seat/table at food courts)! The entrance to the toilets upstairs are coin operated turn styles but I’m guessing there’s an attendant around somewhere that cleans frequently because the toilets are clean. Here’s some photos inside the terminal, not of the toilets cuz that’s creepy.

If you have time, there is a mall next door with food shops and bars in  it, and at night there’s street food vendors in the parking lot. The bar on street level looked energetic and happening whereas the bar upstairs was more quiet and moody. I would have loved to grab a beer or three but I was on meds from the dentist. Around the corner is also some sort of religious area with statues and shops selling all sorts of religious items was pretty cool to just stumble onto something like this.

On the day of departure, I went about an hour early and bought some snacks and drinks, even though I’m supposed to get a drink and a snack on the bus (which turned out to be a small bottle of water and a small little cake, like a swiss roll).  At the berth, there are lots of attendants walking around in Green Bus  uniform (they are very easy to spot) so I asked one which berth will my bus be at and she looked at her clipboard and pointed. Easy Peasy. Looking at the buses coming in and out, you can’t visually discern which ones are the VIP ones and which aren’t. I would say 98% of all the buses I saw looked, um, dated.  Some more than others. There were a couple of really nice looking double decker tour buses but sadly not Green Bus ones. A bus arrived relatively close to the time on my ticket but didn’t look VIP at all to me but it looked newer than most of the buses that came and left this berth. There was only a paper sign on the window saying Chiang Rai, so I proceeded to get on the bus. I figured if it’s the wrong bus the attendant would stop me. Anyways, when the bus pulled in, I started having flashbacks of riding the Greyhound buses back in College.  I got on the bus and was pleasantly surprised. It was cold, seats were big and leg room was more than sufficient. I had my back pack on the floor in front of my chair and couldn’t feel that it was there.  My happiness subsided a bit when I sat down. The seats weren’t as comfy as they looked and mine felt a bit lumpy but at least mine reclined. I saw other fidgeting with theirs and eventually gave up. There were individual aircon jets you can adjust and I adjust mine away from me and I still had to put on my jacket.  Still for this price, well worth it and so much better than the Greyhound buses I used to ride back in day.

Things to note: I was told by hotel staff that there was construction on the roads to Chiang Rai that started last year and that my bus ride would probably be more than 3 hours. They recommended that I should not put my bag in the cargo hold of the bus as there have been reports of attendants climbing into the hold (while the bus is moving) and stealing things. I only had my backpack so I wasn’t worried about that plus I always have a TSA combination lock to lock bags’ zippers together. Anyways, I’m happy to report that we got to Chiang Rai in 3 1/2 hour and I didn’t get robbed. I did see some road construction going on outside Chiang Mai in multiple spots on the ‘highway’ between my naps.

Once In Chiang Rai’s Terminal 1 you can immediate tell it’s much more subdued and less busy than Chiang Mai. Terminal 1 is within downtown Chiang Rai with shops and buildings all around so most likely you’d want to alight here. Terminal 2 is on the outskirts of town and is the first stop, so make sure you’re aware of where you are and where you want to alight, as any instructions given by the attendant is in Thai. Frankly I didn’t have much time to look around Chiang Raias I only had one day including travel to see the three artistic temples that I planned on visiting. Long story short, I only saw two because they were just so awesome! Keep a look out for my posts regarding the white temple and blue temple, I’ll be putting them up soon. Anyways, I made it back to the bus terminal to catch my bus back to Chiang Mai about 30 minutes before the departure time. A bit too close for comfort. I shouldn’t have stressed because my bus was late.  How late? Well, 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, a bunch of passengers bombarded the attendant with questions to which she only answered with wait (in English) she said a bunch of stuff in Thai but most of us couldn’t understand and those that did, didn’t translate so I went into the terminal to ask the ticket counter and they told me they don’t know where the bus is but it should be here shortly. 30 minutes turned into an hour, an hour turned into two. Yup 2 hours late. The most stressful part, for me, was the hopes and dashing of hopes every time a bus pulled into the berth. Then the thoughts of “I hope that’s not my bus” when a clunker drives in. I couldn’t wander too far off either because I don’t want to miss my bus. But just so you know, there is a night market that sets up just behind the parking lot. I saw a bit of it but not too much. There was even some comic relief that made my day a bit better. I found it quite entertaining to see some of the more irate passengers causing a fuss, and at one point a Chinese guy was literally jumping up and down screaming “VIP, VIP” while his buddies tried to calm him down but they too eventually moved away and left him jumping by himself. After he calmed down an attendant went up to him and noticed that he had some prohibited food items(the very pungent, durian) in his bag and when they tried to tell him that he can’t bring them on the bus, he began his VIP chant again but this time he pulled out his ticket out and waved it around. While waiting for the bus he and his buddies ate the durians. The best part about the wait was the sunset probably why I wasn’t all too upset about the delay.

Thankfully on the bus everyone just slept. Even more impressive that being two hours late, this bus driver might actually be a retired rally car driver. We still made it back to Chiang Mai in about 3 1/2 hours, on winding roads and in the dark! Keep in mind that there are scattered construction areas along the way. Yup you can tell because those were the only areas with lights aside from the roadside establishments that our driver liked to stop at so frequently.  He stopped far enough away where I couldn’t see where he was going or what those stalls/huts were for. Maybe checkpoints, I don’t know but he wasn’t gone long, a few minutes at most each time. There were a couple times at the construction areas where I couldn’t tell if we were on the correct side of the dirt road because sometimes headlights were on our right and sometimes on the left. The area wasn’t lit well enough for me to see any railing or traffic cones or maybe there weren’t any but like I said, this driver is impressive.

All in all, I will take this method of transport again because well, it was fun and I don’t think there’s a better way from Chiang Mai. I’ll probably be back in Chiang Mai before the year is done and I’ll definitely go back to Chiang Rai but next time I’m gonna spend at least 2 days in Chiang Rai.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art