A day at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay (GBTB) is not just about Supertrees and the tallest indoor waterfall, there are so much more to explore beside that. And the best thing is, most of the gardens are FREE! And so, Gan and I decided to explore this one-of-the-best-attractions in Singapore on our self-guided trails by foot.

Map of Gardens by the Bay

Getting There

The cheapest and easiest way to get to GBTB is by MRT (railway system in Singapore). You can either take a Circle Line (Yellow Line) or Downtown Line (Blue Line) to Bayfront Station. Take Exit B and follow along the underground linkway till you see a flight of stairs leading up to exit. 

Walk along this linkway till the end where you can see a flight of stairs leading up to Bayfront Plaza

If you are walking from Marina Bay Sands, there is an overhead bridge (Lions Bridge) located at Marina Bay Sands Hotel which leads to GBTB as well. However, do note that the door only operates from 0800-2300 hours. Alternative, you may walk along the waterfront from ArtScience Museum which leads you into Bay South Garden.

Cruiser Services

It can be quite a walk from Bayfront Plaza to the Conservatories which are the main attractions in GBTB. Be it sunny or rainy, the cruiser services seem like a popular option among the tourists and the locals to go around the gardens. There are 3 types of cruisers for you to choose from and only for a small fee.

Shuttle Service

This service loop between Bayfront Plaza and the Conservatories only. For a fee of SGD3 (USD2), you can take unlimited rides for the whole day. 

OUTDOOR GARDENS AUDIO TOUR

For a fee of SGD8 (USD6), you can enjoy a 25-minutes ride around the outdoor gardens with informative commentary on the cruiser. This tour will go around the cooled conservatories, Heritage Gardens, The Meadow and Supertree Grove. 

Auto Rider

This is the coolest transportation we had ever seen in a garden. The Auto Rider is a fully operational self-driving vehicle which allows visitors to see more of the Gardens from the comfort of an air-conditioned tour vehicle, with live commentary on board. Due to limited capacity (6 passengers per rider), the tickets are sold on a time-allocated basis which starts from Bayfront Plaza to Flower Dome for SGD5 (USD3.50).

Outdoor Gardens Trails

One of the fun things to walk around GBTB is to find as many art sculptures as you can spot! There are more than 40 sculptures from around the world featuring in unique pieces, intriguing crafts and stone works. Unfortunately, we didn’t managed to spot all of them.

Map of the sculptures’ locations, which is quite confusing

On a sunny afternoon of 27°C

One of the iconic buildings in Singapore: Marina Bay Sands

The first sculpture which greeted us was a giant baby named “Planet”. 

Each sculpture comes with a description panel

Walking further, we entered into “World of Plants“, which learns all about the spectacular myriad of tropical plants and the systems these plants support. Our favorite theme here is “Web of Life” with 8 life-sized topiary animals from Southeast Asia. 

Once done with “World of Plants”, we arrived at the center of GBTB where Supertree Grove is. This is the first time I see these Supertrees in the day time. They are not as enchanting as night time but still awed to look at. 

There are two pairs of guardian lions’ sculptures placed to welcome visitors at both ends of the Supertree Grove.

It is believed the male lion (Right) guards the entrance, the female lion (Left) protects the interior of the dwelling

We went into a shady area to plan where to go next, and found more stone works hidden among the lush greens. 

Tiger among the bamboo trees

Can you spot the lion’s head?

Seated old man stone

Moving on, we went to “The Canyon” which showcases a large collection of sculptural rocks and exotic plants species unique to arid regions. But before that, do not miss the Floral Clock which is located beside the Canopy. 

Chinese Totem (HuaBiao)

Dragon-Turtle

Once out of “The Canyon”, we were wowed to see a big water play area for children, and that’s where “Children’s Garden” is located. What surprised us was that this play area is much bigger than we were expecting. 

Instead of walking along the waterfront promenade after “Children’s Garden”, make a loop and you will find yourself in a secluded area of the Gardens: Victoria Lily Pond.

Can you spot the tortoise sun-bathing?

There’s a mini aquarium!

Out of the loop led us to “Sun Pavilion” with amazing desert-like landscapes and over 1,000 desert plants! 

Turk’s Cap

“Sun-bathing” on the unique chair

Mexican Columnar Cacti

Last of the free outdoor gardens we had explored was “Heritage Gardens” which separated into 4-themes: Indian, Chinese, Malay and Colonial. 

Flower Dome

Another reason why we have decided to visit GBTB was because of Autumn Harvest Floral Display (From 1 Sep to 29 Oct 2017) exhibiting in Flower Dome. Being the largest glass greenhouse in the world as listed in the 2015 Guinness World Records, Flower Dome has its permanent floral display as well as an area for seasonal displays. So, no matter which month you visit, there’s always something to see! 

Waiting for Cinderella to come out from her “Pumpkin” carriage

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest is famous for its World’s Tallest Indoor Waterfall of 35-meters. Entering Cloud Forest is like stepping into the world in “Avatar” movie. As you walk along Cloud Walk and Tree-top walk, you will have a closeup view of various plant species that clad the side of the whole “mountain”.

Cost of Flower Dome & Cloud Forest: SGD20 (Local Resident Rate) / SGD 28 (Foreigner Rate) 

**Purchase tickets online for better discounts!

Last but not least, do catch the free light and sound show at Supertree Grove! Shows run every night at 7.45pm & 845pm. 

Guide to backpacking Mongolia

Known as “the land of blue sky”, Mongolia is an undiscovered backpacker’s paradise. It is not a very touristic country, thanks to its vast and boundless territory and the many unspoiled corners that are beginning to whet the fantasies of travelers who wish to go beyond the now conventional travel and the usual beaten tracks. This is the country ideal for those in search of adventure and who love nature. 

Getting In and Out

Flight schedule in and out of Ulaabaatar

By Plane: There are only few flights into Ulaanbaatar from Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Berlin, Moscow, Istanbul and Erlian. 

I flew from Singapore to Beijing, from Beijing to Erlian and then from Erlian into Ulaanbaatar. The whole journey took me about 25-hours, cost about USD330 for one way.

Always pack light for small plane like this!

By Train: Ulaanbaatar is a major stop on one of the World’s Great train journeys, the Trans-Siberian Railway. There are also other local trains to get you over the borders to and from Russia and China. While the scenery on this journey is breathtaking, buses will only cost about 1/3 of the price.

Train schedule in and out of Ulaabaatar

By Bus: The bus from Beijing to Erlian (Mongolian border town in China) costs RMB180 (USD27)  and takes about 12 hours. Once in Erlian you can take the Trans-Mongolian train or a local train into Mongolia. There are also buses from Erlian to the border, where you will then need to change buses to Ulaabaatar. If you’re leaving Mongolia for Russia by bus, it’s easiest to go from Ulaabaatar to Ulan-Ude in Russia where you can hop on another train or bus to Irkutsk.

Visa

Check out mongoliavisa.com to find out if you can enter Mongolia visa-free!

Getting Around

Getting around in Mongolia is not always easy but it is not impossible. With a little more patience and effort to ask around, you can certainly travel like a local. In the capital, it’s easy to walk around from one place to another. Alternative, you can take a bus or trolleybus to almost everywhere! Just check with the staff which bus number you need to take from hostel as there are no English written on the bus stop. It will be more convenient to buy a bus card “U money” if you are going to travel by bus/trolleybus frequently, otherwise you will have to pay exact amount (T300-T500) as no change will be given. (Tip: If you ask for how much in English, you may be lucky enough to get free ride!) Flagging down a taxi will be a standard rate of T800 per kilometre.

Trolleybus runs on overhead wires

Normal bus

Getting out of the capital is a bit more challenging. No matter which part of the country you plan to go, you will have to go through Ulaabaatar. Be sure to have a local from hostel or your couchsurfer to help you write the destinations in Cyrillic to avoid buying wrong ticket.

Central:

  • Gorkhi-Terelj National Park (Горхи-Тэрэлж) —> Take Bus XO: 4 from Peace Avenue, opposite Narantuul Hotel. Bus leaves daily at 1600hrs and take 2.5-hours to Terelj Village. The bus will stop last at the Turtle Rock. The bus costs 2,500MNT (USD1). 
  • Kharahorin (Хархорин) —> Take Bus from Dragon Bus Terminal. Bus leaves at 1100hrs and 1400hrs. The journey takes about 6-hours and cost 17,000MNT (USD7).
  • Tsetserleg (Цэцэрлэг) —> Take Bus from Dragon Bus Terminal. Bus leaves daily at 0800hrs, 1400hrs and 1900hrs. The journey takes about 8-hours and costs 23,000MNT (USD10).

North

  • Mörön (Мөрөн) —> To get to Lake Khövsgöl (Хөвсгөл нуур), take a bus to Mörön from Dragon Bus Terminal. Bus leaves daily at 0800hrs, 1500hrs and 1800hrs. The journey will take about 18-hours and costs 32,000MNT (USD13). After reaching Mörön, you can share a taxi/van to go to Khatgal village (15,000~20,000MNT for 2-hours) where the lake is.

South

  • Dalanzadgad (Даланзадгад) —> To get to South Gobi, you need to take a 10-hours bus ride to Dalanzadgad. The bus will cost 22,500MNT (USD9) and leave at 0800hrs daily from Bayanzurkh Bus Terminal. From Dalanzadgad, you will have to hire a jeep to bring you to popular destinations. I have two contacts here recommended to me by others travelers whom I met along the way:
  1. Yu. Altanchimeg —> Mobile: 976-99055366 (chimeg_yu@yahoo.com) 
  2. Munkhdualga (Duke) —> Mobile: 976-88812052 (Ikhbogd.travel@gmail.com)        

West

  • Olgii (Өлгий) —> If you want to save on expensive flight and do not mind a 48-hours (or can be 4-5 days) bumpy bus ride. The west side of Mongolia is where Atlai Mountains are and where the Muslims community (Kazakhs) can be seen. Bus leaves daily at 1500hrs from Dragon Terminal and cost 80,000MNT (USD32). Flight will cost about USD250-USD300 for 2.5-hours.

Accommodation

You can’t say you had experienced nomad life if you don’t stay in gers (Mongolian Yurts)! Mongolians are quite active in couchsurfing if you are looking into free accommodations in Ulaanbaatar. If you are planning to stay longer to experience how the locals live in the countryside, try workaway! There are a lot of hostels in the capital which ranges about USD7-USD10 per night. Sometimes, you may even be offered to stay with a family for free, but a small offering or donation is recommended for such generosity.

Ger by Lake Khövsgöl

Food

Most hostels provide free breakfast which comes with bread, biscuits and tea/coffee. Food are generally range about USD3-5 for a meal in Ulaanbaatar, and much cheaper if out of the city. Most backpackers like myself will buy fruits vegetables from local grocery stores or pop-up stalls along the street which will cost less than USD2 (Did I forgot to mention most hostels are equipped with small kitchen for usage too!). If you are not a fan of meat (especially mutton) like me, it is pretty easy to find vegetarian food (цагаан хоолтон) in Ulaabaantar or request it from the nomad families! 

Vegan food with drink: USD4

Ramen: less than USD2

Western food: 11,000MNT (USD4.50)

Shopping

When you visit the middle east, you shop for carpets. When you visit Mongolia, you shop for cashmere! Cashmere stores can be seen around the central of Ulaanbaatar.

Before cashmere is made…

The most famous market among the backpackers is the Narantuul Market (aka Black Market). Here, you can shop for almost everything from food to counterfeit designer goods to traditional ger furniture. You can even buy a horse! However, do take note of pickpockets and rough drunkards while doing your shopping.

If you are looking for authentic international brands and souvenirs, head to State Department Store. Conveniently located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, State Department Store is the largest and most luxurious store in Mongolia. You can basically find all products and services under one roof! (Tip: You may get your SIM card here as all telecommunication companies are next to each other for easy comparisons plus the staff can speak English)  

Looking for handcrafted gift? Try shopping at Mary &  Martha, the only WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) registered store in Mongolia. Their products are real nice but prices are kind of steep.

Cost of Attractions and Activities

Unlike most countries, Mongolia has not implemented higher fee for tourists into national parks, museums and monasteries. However, they do charge for photography (which is usually higher than the entrance fee) but you can always take pictures in discreet. The best thing is students from all over the world can flash their student card for more than half the price less! Typical entrance fee for adult is around USD1-3, so imagine how little I’ve spent with my student pass!

Horse trekking is one of the most expensive activity I paid for. A day of horse trekking will cost about 25,000MNT (USD10) and another USD10 for your guide. Therefore, it is always nice to make friends from hostel to share guide’s cost and maybe to get a better bargain.

Toilet

While you can easily find proper toilets in restaurants, big malls and parks in Ulaanbaatar, but once you are out, you will have to settle your nature call out in the wild. If you are travelling to other cities by local buses, either you learn to control your bladder or learn from the local and do your “business” in nomadic style. The only “proper” toilet you will come across is when the driver stop for food. And by “proper” means a deep hole covered with a few wooden planks. It is advisable to prepare toilet paper, wet wipes / sanitizers when on the road.

Money

The Mongolian unit of currency is tögrög or tugrik (T). It comes in T5, T10, T50, T100, T500, T1000, T5000, T10,000 and T20,000. The highest-value note is worth less than about USD10.

Only in major stores, restaurants and hotels in Ulaanbaatar accept common credit cards. Once you are out of the capital, only cash will be accepted. USD and Euro are widely accepted even at the countryside, however do take note that dollar bills older than 10-years will be rejected.

ATMs works well for most credit cards, but do carry enough cash to last if you are travelling out of Ulaanbaatar. Even though smaller city like Kharahorin and Mörön do have ATMs, they often run out of cash.  

Banks are available everywhere in Ulaanbaatar for money exchange. But I do recommend the money changer in State Department Store as they give better rates than the banks. However, they only accept certain currencies such as USD, Euro, Chinese Renminbi , Russian Ruble and Korean Won. 

Bear in mind change or spend all your tögrög before leaving the country as it’s worthless elsewhere.

Weather

The best time to visit Mongolia is during the warmer, drier months between May and October with spring and fall being the absolute best. Ulaanbaatar is the World’s coldest capital, and across the country winter temperatures regularly drop to -40°C and below. Only the southern Gobi Desert is truly hot in the summer months, though this is also when some rainfall is most likely. July and August are the warmest months but you may need to have a sweater or wind breaker at night.

People and Culture

Approximately 30% of Mongolians are nomads to this day! In Mongolia, the people are always interested in you and try to help you out any way they can. You will find that they are welcoming, kind and extremely generous. They are always curious of travellers and love to try to connect with you, even if they can’t communicate. They are intriguing and inspiring people and you can learn a lot from their hospitality and earthly wisdom.

So how much did I actually spent? For a month in Mongolia, I spent no more than USD450. This budget inclusive of food, transportation around the country, accommodations, all the attractions and activities I had done (inclusive of Naadam) plus some souvenirs! 

Laos: A real taste of laid-back lifestyle

Laos (pronounced as Lao), is one of the poorest country in Southeast Asia. A mountainous and landlocked country, Laos shares borders with Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west, and Myanmar and China to the north. 

Communist Laos flung open its doors to tourism in the early 1990s and the decades since have witnessed a steady growth in traveller numbers. The country is changing fast, but the lifestyle of the people remains the same, revealing that the true meaning of “Lao PDR” is Lao – Please Don’t Rush.

I took the longest route to travel from Chaing Rai to Luang Prabang, Northern Laos. The whole journey took about 2-days, mainly on the boat. I would recommend to book through an agency to help you arrange the necessary transportation. I had calculated the cost and the difference is about 200-300Baht, better than risking taking unreliable public transport and missing the boat or without a seat. (They have overloaded the boat due to overselling of tickets and I kinda feared the boat might sink!) 😨😨😨

Price breakdown from the hostel. I paid 1450Baht from a tour agency at night market

Van pick-up to Chiang Kong at 0545hrs

Chiang Khong Border

Bus to cross over to Laos Immigration

Show this to board the right tuk-tuk

Being the only Asians who don’t need visa, need to wait for others 😔😔😔

Grab food for boat ride

First leg of the journey: to Pakbang Village

Nope! Not gonna let my backpack squashed underneath

Boat only leave after 2-hours later…. 😥😥😥

Looks empty ’cause travellers start to form groups either at the front or back smoking and singing

Prepare to meet some locals ’cause the boat gonna stop at small villages along the Mekong river

If you are not prepared, there’s food and drinks selling triple the price

From Huay Xai to Pakbang village is about 8-hours. Once you reached the village, you will be approached by the villages selling their accommodations for the night stay. Most guesthouses offer twin bed-room which cost about 500Baht (USD15). If you are travelling solo like me, it will be a wise choice to make friends on the boat so you have someone to share a room with.

Once you’ve decided where to stay, you board the van and they will send you to the guesthouse

My roomie, Laura, from Netherlands

The eldest traveller met on the boat. She spent Winter in S.E.A ’cause she’s so sick of the cold in France

A different but smaller boat for next leg of the journey: Luang Prabang

Pure boredom 😐😐😐

After 7-hours, finally I am here!!! 😊😊😊

Getting a ticket for a ride to town

Luang Prabang

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, the town was described by the global body as “an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.”

50,000kip (USD6) per night

Most guesthouses provide breakfast like this!

There are only 2 purposes for me to visit this touristic town on this trip: Kwang Si Waterfall and Tak Bat. 

About halfway between the park entrance and the waterfall is the Asiatic Black Bear rescue centre, which houses a couple of dozen animals rescued from the hands of poachers and traffickers. The bears are in large enclosures with trees and some simple toys like tire swings. An elevated viewing platform has been built near the enclosure so visitors can observe these endangered animals 🐻🐻🐻

After exiting the rescue centre, continue to head upwards the trail and you will see the waterfall.

While I had not decided where to go next, most days I am just wandering around. Most of the temples need to pay entrance fee so I just take pictures from outside.  

 

There is a daily night market in town and the most popular hidden bar where all backpackers chill every night. You will always see familiar faces and quite a nice place to meet other backpackers to exchange information. 

Not easy to find this place even though you are using google map.

5 solo female travellers

On my last day in Luang Prabang I went for Tak Bat with the other girls I met on previous day. Known as Alms Giving Ceremony, Tak Bat is a daily tradition which gives you an opportunity to experience an ancient Lao tradition. However, as more and more travellers discover Laos, the Buddhist tradition has turned into a circus show with disruptive and disrespectful behavior from tourists. As such, more and more locals stopped participating the ceremony to avoid being part of the show.

Locals will prepare their own food for the monk, whereas they are vendors selling for tourists who wishes to take part in the ceremony

Nong Kiaow

A small town 3-hours away from Luang Prabang on the banks of the Nam Ou River, Nong Kiaow boasts a gorgeous backdrop of imposing limestone mountains, picturesque river views and genuine local colour. This is the place where I can fully connect with nature and enjoyed me-time without interactions with other travellers after 3-weeks.

What I did in Nong Kiaow were mainly hiking and kayaking.

50,000 kip (USD6) for a room all by myself

Instead of heading to Vang Vieng, the party-town, I decided to go Vientiane instead. As Nong Kiaow is a small town with limited buses in and out, I had experience my worst sleeper-bus ride. 

22,000kip (USD3), 13-hours ride

The bus is divided into 2-rows of double-deck beds. Bad news is, it’s a sharing bed. Therefore, I shared mine with a plump local lady who took up 3/4 of the space the moment she laid down. The bus smelled of leek and onions (locals bringing it to the city to sell), and a girl opposite me kept vomiting non-stop. There was no proper toilet stop, you simply have to pee along the road the driver stopped for you. By the time I have reached Vientiane, I was in a very foul mood. 

Vientiane

For many years a sleepy backwater capital of an equally backwater state, as Laos has slowly opened up to foreign investment and tourism Vientiane has undergone vast changes and continues to expand. With a population of only 850,000, this is likely to be the smallest capital city you will find in Southeast Asia.

50,000kip (USD6) per night

This hostel serves very nice food!

Days spent in Vientiane was as slow as I spent in Nong Kiaow. Coming to the end of the trip, money is running low so I walked from one place to another most of the time. I made friends with the cook of the hostel and often get free food.  

Once under French colony, most street names are still very frenchy

Patuxai Victory Monument

It’s not the local Lao cuisine you must try in Vientiane, it’s FRENCH cuisine! I had tried in a restaurant near my hostel. A 3-course set meal cost me 120,000kip (USD15). Totally worth it!!

Between 1964 and 1973 the US army dropped over two million tons of ordnance on Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) is a non-profit based in Vientiane that runs rehabilitation centres aiming to provide care and support to UXO survivors, including orthotic and prosthetic devices and physiotherapy.

Buddha Park is a combination of Buddhism and Hinduism depicting various deities and scenes from both religions. The park provides no context for the various myths it depicts, except for the giant concrete pumpkin that is supposed to represent hell, earth and heaven. 

Instead of taking a shared tuk-tuk which cost 70,000kip (USD9), try taking a local bus which cost only 6,000kip (less than USD1). From Central Bus Station from Talat Sao, take Bus route 14, an air-conditioned green and white bus that runs regularly to/from the Friendship Bridge. Buddha Park is a few kilometers past Friendship Bridge.

Opposite Buddha Park there’s a bus stop to return back Talat Sao

Last but not least, don’t forget to catch sunset at Mekong Riverfront. This is also where the local night market is.

Watching sunset and doing manicure at the same time

I’m already looking forward to my next trip back to Laos, exploring other hidden gems!!

Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai

Introducing Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai, the underrated treasures on the northern part of Thailand. Apart from affordable shopping and unbeatable natural scenery, get ready for stunning ancient temples, large underground caves and gorgeous sunsets over mountaintops as I explore this part of the country.

I was lucky to catch the most luxurious and newest train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai. This particular train uses new high quality Chinese-built sleeping cars introduced only recently in November 2016. 

12-hours journey, 856Baht (USD25)

After 20-minutes on the train~~ 😴😴😴

Automated door and information panel

The cleanest toilet I had seen on a train so far 😱

Like airplane’s toilet 😱

Bed converted to spacious seat upon arrival

YAYYYYY~~ Finallyyy~~~

Chiang Mai is often referred as “the rose of the North” and is the second largest city in Thailand. It was built as a walled city surrounded by a moat, with new city grown up around it. Though a good portion of the original city wall has collapsed, the four corner bastions are still intact along with various other sections. Most of the ancient temples and museums are located within the walls, I would recommend staying in old city where everywhere is within walking distance.

Inside the wall

Outside the wall

Not expensive to rent a bike to ride around but I prefer to walk since it’s such a small city!

Most of the temples are free to enter! However, do respect the dress code especially for females.

Young monks

Wisdom trees

Though an old city, Chiang Mai is filled with creativity! 🎨🎨🎨

Massage is slightly higher than Bangkok if you enter a nice, air-conditioned parlor. However, you can still find cheap and good masseses inside a temple or pop-up stall at night market. The price difference can range about 100-150Baht for a 60-minutes body massage.

Sunday night market is a MUST go and it’s within the walled city. There is also stage performance by the students as well. If you missed it, there is a daily night market outside the wall but not as good as the Sunday ones. 

Most travellers would opt for elephant camp or tiger kingdom whereas I chose to explore Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest peak in Thailand. Along the way to the peak, you will see two pagodas for the King and Queen.

Inside the King’s pagoda

This is actually not the highest spot…..yet

King Inthawichayanon’s tomb

A little history here: The name Doi Inthanon was given in honor of King Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai, who was concerned about the forests in the north and tried to preserve them. He ordered that after his death his remains be interred at Doi Luang (former name which means “Big Mountain”), which was then renamed in his honor.

Now, here’s the highest point!

Nearby, there are two waterfalls: Siritarn Waterfall and Wachiaratarn Waterfall. Siritarn Waterfall was named by the Queen who came to visit the fall. Visitors are only allow to view the 40-meters waterfall from a designated wooden platform. 

Wachiaratarn Waterfall is a spectacular steep drop of 50-meters with a large cascade plummeting over the edge into a deep pool below, creating a misty veil of great beauty.

Due to dry season, it doesn’t seems spectacular

Meet my pai-buddy from Belgium!!

Since both of us are done with Chiang Mai, we decided to take a more adventurous way by riding up to Pai!! 🏍🏍🏍

A popular choice among the backpackers to rent a bike up to Pai as they have another branch over there. Free baggage delivery service!

We shared this bike for 140Baht (USD4) per day

Ready to brave through 762 curves on Route 1095!

Pai is a small town of population 3,000 people, up in the valley north of Chiang Mai. With Thai-Western style restaurants, daily night market, live music bars, tattoo parlors, and lots of hidden gems to be discovered, Pai is a haven for backpackers.  

3-beds room for 160Baht (USD5) per night

First thing to do after 5-hours of riding

As long as you can ride, there’s nowhere you can’t go in Pai!

We were stopped by the police….to take a photo with us

yes, he broke the vine!

50Baht to spend half a day soaking in hot spring

Boss of land split. No charge to visit the land, eat or drink. Amount is given by your own choice

Most popular place to catch sunsets

One of the coolest bar we found inside an alley

The Chinese Village; best to come for sunrise

Luckily there’s 3 of us to share the cost

60Baht (USD2) to spend a day to chill

We spent days biking around looking for new places to explore and chill. When we were done with Pai, we decided to ride back to Chiang Mai before parting our ways 😢😢😢

And yet we went to Pai without a scratch!

Last meal together

My next and last destination in Thailand is Chiang Rai. It’s only less than 4-hours bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. 

129Baht (USD4)

There is only a few popular attractions in Chiang Rai, pretty straight forward if you google it. 

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

Admission: 80Baht (less than USD2)

Best time to go: Late noon to evening to avoid crowds

Things to note: Photography is not allowed inside the temple. Females have to wear pants/skirts/dress over the knee in order to enter 

Baan Dam Museum (Black House)

Admission: 80Baht (USD3)

“Long Neck” Tribe

Admission: 300Baht (USD9)

The women in “Long Neck” tribe aren’t literally looooong neck! The metal bangles they been wearing are so heavy that their collar bone sank, giving the “long neck” impression.

Blue Temple

Admission: Free

Golden Triangle

Admission: Free

Mae Sai (Thai-Burma Border)

Admission: Free

There’s a huge market for shopaholic 

Where Thailand and Myanmar networks intersect

Immigration border to enter Myanmar

Clock Tower

Admission: Free

Light-Changing Timing: 1900hrs, 2000hrs, 2100hrs

Something to keep you entertained if you stayed around the area. 5-minutes walk from night market.

2-weeks in Northern Thailand….and next will be spending 2-days on a boat ride to Luang Prabang, Laos.

Spending 24-hours in Hat Yai, Thailand

After travelling for almost 24-hours from Johor Bahru, I have finally reached Hat Yai, the closest city in Thailand from Malaysia’s border 🤗

Train hotel inside train station

I checked into Hat Yai Youth Hostel which is about 20-minutes of walking from train station and 5-minutes from Lee Garden Plaza. 

Owner of the hostel

Boss of the owner 🐱

Wisdom words from the late King 🤴🏽

How many of these people can you recognized??

187baht (USD5) per night for 6-beds dorm

Lee Garden Plaza is the centre of Hatyai surrounded by shopping centers and restaurants. As Hat Yai is a highly popular city among the Malaysians and Singaporeans, most of the locals are able to speak Mandarin and Hokkien instead of English. 

First cooked meal: 50baht (USD1.50)

SIM Card: 599baht (USD17)

Next morning, i woke up looking forward to what surprises this under-rated city can offer me! 

Vegetarian noodle: 50baht (USD1.50)

Over the breakfast, I chatted with a songthaew driver and showed him a list of places I wanted to visit. I bargained from 1500baht (USD45) to 800baht (USD23) for a day of his service. I’m happy with the deal considering that I’ve chartered the whole car by myself 😇

Wat Hai Yai Nai

Measuring 35-meters long, 15-meters tall and 10-meters wide, Phra Phuttha Hattha Mongkhon is the third largest reclining Buddha in the world. This open-air temple is free of charge!

epic failure picture taken by the driver…🙄

selfie is still a better choice

another failed picture….where’s my pretty roof top?? 😑

 

Municipal Park

Located 6-kilometers outside of central Hat Yai is a park that covered from hills to a lake. In the park there is White Jade Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), Laughing Buddha and a standing Golden Buddha. Newly addition of cable car brings you to Kor Hong Mountain where the four-faced Brahma Shrine is located. The park admission is FREE!

Guan Yin with Jade Girl and Golden Boy

Kwan Kung, God of Business

Grand entrance to Laughing Buddha

Wishing bells

Laughing Buddha

Standing at 20-meters, Phra Buddha Mongkol Maharaj was built to mark King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 72nd birthday

200baht for one-way ride

As I did not want to spend anymore money on transportation, the driver was kind enough to send me to see the Four-Faced Brahma Shrine on the opposite mountain. 

Didn’t want to take cable car but still must take a selfie

Erawan: Three-headed Elephant

So many miniature elephants

View of Hat Yai City

Samila Beach

About 30-kilometers away from Hat Yai lies the neighboring city of Songkhla. Famously known as “the great city on two seas” this city is surrounded by beaches such as Samila and Son Awn. 

Road block…but would he really stop suspicious car?? 🤔

This probably the only beach in Thailand not populated among foreigners 😉

Am I the only human here?? 👻

Such an empty beach!!

The most iconic statue: The Golden Mermaid

On the far end of the beach, you can see this Great Serpent “Nag”. Locals believe that he sprays divine water to make people feel happy and purified their minds.

Tang Kuan Hill

About less than 5-minutes from Samila Beach, Tang Kuan Hill is not only a place for 360-degree breathtaking views of Songkhla City but also housed the sacred pagoda Dvaravati Chedi built to contains the Lord Buddha’s relics.

Admission is free but you have to pay 30baht if you choose to take a 3-minutes, 170-meters inclined-lift ride up

Lift operator 😴😴😴

The Lighthouse

Phra Chedi Luang

Love locks 💝

Accidentally came across this house which used to belong to King Rama V

By the time I reached back Hat Yai, I have 3-hours to get prepared and catch the evening train heading to BANGKOK! 

Hat Yai to BKK: 755Baht (USD22)