Beauties of Bangkok: the temples

 

I was super excited to visit two of the most important attractions while in Bangkok. Even though I prefer the less touristy spots, Wat Pho and The Grand Palace can’t be missed. Both of them are extremely touristy, luckily when I went at Wat Pho it wasn’t such a huge crowd though. The ferry ride there is already an adventure itself, one of those adventures that I prefer not repeating. If the traffic on the roads of Bangkok seems unorganized and chaotic, check out the ferry on the river and you will kiss the ground when you get off. I didn’t like riding the ferry, but as I stepped to the fascinating Wat Pho I forgot about all the hassle I went through. The calmness you feel in this sacred place is probably better than any yoga session. First I was completely blown away of the beauty and the so meticulously decorated walls of the complex. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m thinking what a hard work must be behind it.

  
Wat Pho is famous for the huge reclining Buddha, so my friend, Amita and myself make sure that we check it out. We are both impressed, it is truly big and it leaves us breathless for a second. Several notes around it, saying ” be aware of pickpocketers”. I can’t believe that in such a place some mean people can take advantage. It didn’t happen to us, but seeing those notes made us be more conscious and keep an eye on our belongings every second. Quite sad, because you don’t enjoy as much the whole setting when you know that someone closeby might rob you, do you?

  
However, the rest of the complex is calmer, tourists are all spread around, so we can explore every part in our own rhythm, calmly and observantly. I get excited at every step and probably repeat a thousand times : ” wow, that’s so beautiful”. 

  
With this occasion we can’t make it in time for the Grand Palace, so we leave that for the next morning and as we get there around 9 am is already so extremely packed with tourists from all over that you can barely move. Everybody is trying to get in but there’s no order whatsoever. That’s already annoying and for that reason I already think that I prefer Wat Pho. 

  
Finally we get in the complex but no chance to get rid of the big crowd at any time. Visiting the temples is another challenge, long queues and people pushing from all sides. When you eventually make it, at least inside you can relax a bit and feel a moment of calmness while admiring the Buddhas. As you may know, before entering a temple you need to leave your shoes outside, so just imagine what an aroma is floating in the air and your nose doesn’t know anymore what’s that fresh air. With other words, this visit is a fight for air, which is painful, but during this fight you see absolutely mesmerizing buildings, which somehow give you the energy to go on and survive in such conditions. 

  
I guess you could spend hours here, visiting several sights, but I gave up quite quickly. I’ve seen the most important ones and chose to escape the crowd. 

   
 It was way too much for me and if I end up again in Bangkok I will skip Grand Palace for sure. On the other hand I do recommend in for every first timer. Just have a lot of patience with you and some water, you will need one more than the other!

Trip to a Thai floating market 

   
As if the various markets going on all around the city were not enough, decided to check out a real special one. A market on the river.
After a two hours drive from Bangkok we reached this very touristy, but yet so authentic floating market, called Damnoen Saduak floating market.  

The bus drive there is way longer than spending time at the market itself, but it does worth the travel. More or less in an organized way – Thai standards – the tour guide directs us first of all to the long tail boat and in each boat board aprox 6 people. Off we go! Not more, maybe just less than 10 minutes of long tail boat ride and we had a sneak peak of the market. But that’s not all. 

   
   
Those people put out all their products to be sold and they definitely know to advertise them. In order to have a close look and literally float between “boat boutiques” we take this time a regular boat that a strong Thai gentleman is rowing around trying to avoid the boat traffic. 

  
That’s nearly impossible though, all the others trying to do the same thing. Boats everywhere, we are being pushed either from the right or from the left ,but also from front and back and our boat does the same thing to the others . Perfect location for socializing with people from the other boats. 

  
As soon as we get close to a boat full of souvenirs the seller quickly pulls the boat closer and the bargain starts. 

  
Seller: “1000 baht for 2 wooden elephants.”

Tourist: ” whaat? 400!”

Seller: ” 500″

Tourist: “350.”

Seller: ” ok”

And that’s how my friend, Jonas ended up buying his souvenirs for much much less than the initial price. Basically they accept any price you offer as long as you don’t give up on bargaining. When you give the impression that you are losing the interest they will accept your price instantly. 

The floating market is going on all day long, 7 days out of 7 and if you haven’t found what you’ve been looking for on the boats, there’s a chance to find it on the riverside. 

From clothes to souvenirs, the selection is vague. 

   
 You can easily empty your wallet, but fill your stomach. Food is present in several locations, great cooked meals or easy snacks and fruit salads, mango or coconut ice cream and my favorite of all: pancakes. 

   
 There is also an unusual attraction that I got the chance to meet from close and despite his scary behaviour , I enjoyed posing with the massive snake.

   
  
 Shopping, eating, snake cuddling, all possible at the floating market! Don’t forget sunscreen and hat, the sun is burning over there! But if you did forget, for sure you’ll find at the market! One rule: bargain rules!

Bangkok – a bit of a culture shock

I’m a first timer in the Thai capital and as expected, the adventure comes together with a bit of a cultural shock. Not as much the first evening , when I land and surprisingly the taxi driver doesn’t charge me double or triple fare. The boom is the next day, when I hit the road to explore this new city. What other way to feel the real lifestyle than riding a local bus? Now that’s gonna be a bit of an adventure!
  
What air condition, what ticket machine, what station announcement or punctuality? Not even rules, but still as chaotic as you could imagine the traffic – and frankly there’s quite a bit of a chaos – after a while I realize that I haven’t heard any honking or fights, that makes me think that those people must be having their order in the big disorder that I see.
  
However, the bus ride is endless, takes ages and people around me are sweating but with lots of patience and water you can survive it and it’s actually fun. Not many tourists opt for the local bus, so apparently I’m a bit of attraction for the locals, who give me shy smiles when getting on and off.  

I was curious to see a market that everybody has been talking about, but that didn’t impress me. Unless you are after cheap and not good quality products it’s a place to be, if you need good stuff better you go to a shopping mall I guess. In any case, checking out a market it’s one of the top things to do in Bangkok. The variety is huge: night market, day market, weekend market, food market and the list could continue. 

   
 Bangkok wouldn’t be Bangkok without the famous tuk tuks and their as well known drivers, who’s voice keeps following you everywhere : ” tuk tuk, tuk tuk”. 

   
 They all try to attract you to their tuk tuk and so kindly offer you the magnificent best price, which at first will be at least the double of the normal fare. Bargaining has never been my thing but I quickly improved my skills in such environment and proudly rode the tuk tuk around the city. 

  
The cheapest way to get around is still the taxi – cause riding the local bus is enough once – and it has air condition! 

As European ( and probably every other nation than Asian ) getting a lot of attention, compliments and smiles from all around becomes usual after a while when you just ignore it automatically because otherwise it’s just way too much to handle. Maybe it’s because it’s Valentine’s Day and you are solo in a park?! I don’t know…, but I don’t think I remember any other day of my life feeling so admired. Hilarious! 

   
 Also, you wouldn’t expect Asians celebrating love in such an intense way! I spotted dozens of romantic pals driving their scooter towards their partner with flowers, gifts or heart shaped balloons in hands. Love is in the air in Bangkok!

From my side all the love goes to the food and the marvelous pancakes I got the chance to eat every single day in Bangkok and later on in several other places in Thailand. Simply delicious and insanely cheap ! Also the street food is safe to eat, just adviseable to have a look from where you buy it. I’ve seen a few places where I wouldn’t have eaten for sure. 

   
    
 
   
 That’s Bangkok: everything happens just a step away from the busy traffic, on the street they cook and serve your meal, exchange your money, make your pedicure and offer you a massage. 

   
 Khaosan road, Silam and Chinatown are great examples for that and definitely must see spots while in Bangkok. 

 
   
  

Exciting Hong Kong-ing

When it comes to Hong Kong I doubt that someone would bring up the word: silent. For this reason now, when I look back I am so greatful that my plane landed at 6 am in this marvelous city. That meant I started my 10 hours layover very early, at 7 am on a Saturday morning wandering on the usually crowded streets of Hong Kong almost all by myself. I got the chance of experiencing a silent city, which was covered up with the previous nights party’s remains – those were not the most pleasant things to see, I have to admit that.   
The pleasant part though was present: watching how the city comes to life again. 
  
  

As I walk around the tempreture is remarkably rising, the humidity is high and even if it’s still early morning and I can’t even spot the sun, I can feel that it’s gonna be another hot day. The typical Asian attention and admiration is impossible to not notice, as polite and kind they are, the way they stare at me – I’m not Asian looking so they check well the differences and they are not really diplomatic at it – is slightly disturbing after a while, considering that I’m dealing also with a nasty jetlag. However, I just instinctively ignore the deep looks and go on exploring and discovering the city by the Star Ferry, which takes me to Kowloon, the part of the city that I found super exciting .

  
Victoria Harbour is fascinating and walking around is simply relaxing and refreshing. If you want to escape the real world you can always pop in the Space Museum, where I assume you meet a few more similar pals of the little green man.
  
  
Further down you meet significant people from our planet, well, I mean celebrities of Hong Kong, more precisely statues of them at the Garden of Stars.

  As we are all special and significant too, at least let me believe so, you’ve got the necessary setting to feel like a film start shooting the movie of your carier right now right here.

  
Obviously after meeting space creatures and celebrities, feeling both star – thanks to all the eyes pointed at you because of your non-Asian look- and space creature – dizziness that comes with jetlag seriously feels like having your head in the space spinning round and round – a walk in a park it’s necessary, especially when the entry looks so welcoming.
  
A well deserved chill time is indeed possible right when Hong Kong became the busy city I had imagined. Life is running in faster rythm outside of the park, but inside it’s all about relax, quiet, people chilling and stretching. 

  


 
  In the city of Hong Kong I met the unexpected diversity of dragons, refreshing and silent nature just around the corner from the busy shopping districts and kindness and polite attitude of the locals.

  
  
 This is how a good trip starts after all…   

  
 

❤️ AUSTRALIA ❤️ – When a dream comes true…

The Land Down Under was ( and it will stay forever) my number 1 country to visit on my endless travel list. A childhood dream , which came true at the age of 29, after a long wait and fantasizing about . It was my birthday present from myself to myself, cause yea, I deserved it. Three wonderful weeks in the most fascinating surroundings, mind blowing nature and exciting cities, scary but yet admirable wild life and above all: amazing, truly great people. 

If you like Australia before going there, once you reach it you will completely fall in love and leaving it behind will be much harder than imagined. Such an emotional, beautiful trip, the best of all and so private, that I’ll just release a few pictures that talk for themselves, for the rest just one suggestion : go there and experience it and then  you will understand what I mean.

Darwin

   
 
Brisbane

   
   
Gold Coast

   
   
Melbourne

  

Great Ocean Road

   
   
❤️ Sydney ❤️

   
   

Singaporean layover – excellent choice

When you are on your way to the charming Aussie summer, escaping the cold European winter, along the way you may end up enjoying the Singaporean stop over. I can only recommend it!Singapore looks appealing already from the window of the landing airplane you’ve been staying in for many many hours.
   
   

Finally taking off the last piece of winter clothing you have on and starting your summer vacation in the middle of December is epic. Singapore is warm and humid already in the early hours of the day, but that’s just a good reason to directly jump in one of the most famous swimming pools in the world. Not only the water is refreshing, but also the view is a buzz that will lift your energy up.

   
   

I’m talking about the Infinity pool, located on the 57th floor of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands hotel, where a room per night starts at the ” modest” rate of $400 and can reach the stars. Theoretically only the guests of the hotel can benefit of the pool, in reality if you are lucky and know who to talk to, you can find your way to the big attraction completely costless. I can consider myself fortunate in this case, because I wasn’t willing to pay insane amounts for such a treatment, yet still I was spoiling myself at this cool spot just like that, free! 

   
   
After some chill time, ready to explore the city that from above looks so interesting and diverse.

Singapore won’t disappoint anyone that appreciates quality, safety and clean surroundings. I would call it the Switzerland of Asia. It is indeed clean, safe, public transport is good and people respectful. A lot of nature at every step and no need to travel long from a spot to another.

Marina Bay Gardens is absolutely impressive, with a huge variety of vegetation and a cute Christmassy atmosphere.
  
   
    
    
   
  
Whether it comes to shopping or eating , Singapore is a good place for both. You can find from very cheap to very expensive, but in both cases you will not be disappointed. Though some areas are super cheap for eating out, it’s very safe for your stomach, I’ve tried and licked all my ten fingers a few times. Asian food is amazing and hospitality is their number one quality!
In my 15 hours layover I truly felt at the end of the day that I did explore the city and felt like I’ve spent at least a few days. 
    
   
    
   
I arrived to Singapore tired after a long flight, left Singapore refreshed to continue with another long flight, but in between I had a big smile on my face and nothing else matters…

Skydiving in Algarve – Portugal

With the time and with gathering more and more travels under your belt, you discover not just the world, but also yourself and your wishes, desires. You find out that the location becomes less important, but the way you feel there, the people you meet and most of all: the memories you make, those are that you will always attach to the spot. 

My whole Portugal trip was based on the idea of going with the flow: booked my accomodation last minute, decided where to go the day before, did what I felt when I did feel it. I had one single plan: to do skydiving in Algarve. I booked it quite in advance and I knew that is going to be the highlight of my trip. I was enjoying and making the most of every single day spent in this wonderful country and I didn’t focus much on my only plan, but when that Saturday was approaching I felt the excitement more and more intensely. So intensely that I didn’t even realize that on that specific morning outside was raining so badly that there was no chance of jumping out of a plane if you are sane. Obviously you can’t be completely sane, however, to do such a thing in the perfect weather conditions either, but in rain no chance. Weather is one thing you definitely can’t control, you have no choice than to accept and live with it. Still the positive me calls the people from Skydive Algarve, who are extremely friendly by the way, and we postpone the big event for the next day. Sunday: I start the day with the usual jog on the seaside, some me time on the shore while waiting for the sunrise and the best breakfast at the nearby cafe. The day looks promising if we ignore the strong wind, which we can’t put aside since it has a vital role today: if it’s calm enough I can go ahead with my plan, if he continues showing his power I got all the chances to be literally blown away. At this stage he, the wind, is messing with me and my hair, proving that he’s the boss and might not be a good idea trying to confront him.

  
Again I talk with the skydive staff, considering that it’s my last day in the Algarve, we discuss the details of the refund, but before hanging up the phone I say: ” You know what? Let’s not do the refund just yet…Tomorrow I need to leave to Lisbon since the day after, early morning I’m flying  home from there, but if by any chance the weather miraculously changes I could still squeeze in a little skydiving before I leave.” We agreed on that, but on one side I though: well, it’s just not meant to happen this time in this spot, on the other hand: tomorrow is the last try – anything can happen. That being said, my day went on great and in the morning I woke up as usual, before the sunrise, ’cause that I watched from the shore, of course. The jog, the sunrise watching, the breakfast at the cafe – all of them were happening for the last time… I was expecting a sad day with hard moments because I had to go and say goodbye to all the wonderful people I met in Lagos, people that made me feel truly at home and people that I shared beautiful conversations with at dinners, at drinks or just while passing by next each on the corridors of the hostels.

While watching the sunrise I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the most mesmerizing sunrise I experienced in Lagos, like a last gift from the universe for me.

   
    
    
 
It filled my heart with so much happiness that I smile now when I remember how I felt back then. It was simply beautiful. Just after I realized how calm it is: no wind, not even a single raindrop… My hopes were realistic than ever and in that moment I received the email from Skydive Algarve confirming me that the jumping is likely and I should get to the aerodrome Portimao as soon as possible, the weather can change any moment unexpectedly. I call them, we are all happy, I quickly say goodbye to everyone, even have a short hairdresser session and off I go.

As I mentioned you earlier, the staff from Skydive Algarve is very friendly, absolutely amazing. As I get there I am welcomed by honest smiles and joy, they express their positive emotions as if we were all friends there. It feels good and I believe it’s quite important also in building up the trust level. Luckily that happens instantly, my instructor, Bruno is funny but in the same time transmits seriousity and jumping out of the plane attached to him doesn’t seem as crazy as it is actually. What did I just say? Hahaha! It is absolutely insane what I’m doing but I totally enjoy it!

We do the preparations on the ground, I try to understand all the instructions Bruno explains me, they all sound like pervert scenarios from another story, but you need to know the right position if you expect a positive experience. I look like I’m dressed up for an amateur trip to the Mars, to my outfit being attached also a very not good looking cap, which has a benefic role though. At least for the health of my ears, can’t guarantee for my companions because since my ears are basically plugged I talk much louder than usually and they don’t have a cap on.

  
If you believe ( I believed at that point too) that I’m prepared, just have a look later. You are actually never completely prepared and that’s the whole magic. You need to feel the fear, the excitement, the adrenalin, the trust and all of them in the same time at a very high level. As confusing as it may seem, it’s the greatest feeling ever and it touches the highest peak at the moment when you are just about to jump out.

  
That’s when you realize what you are doing but there’s no way back even if you wanted to, you just go ahead and enjoy the ride. You smile but it’s not your real smile and it’s frozen on your face, but somehow it did freeze because the extreme feelings you experience are in a way positive even if we deal with fear as well. I mean, come on!, of course you are freaked out, you are just about to jump out of a plane! Bizarre, no?  At that point there was no time to think so much though, in a second I just felt that I’m flying, the wind is strongly hitting my face but I love it and all my fear is transformed into pure joy experienced on a very intense level.
   
   
It’s happening very fast, it will make you feel the both extremes of fear and joy, you will land and get back to your normal rhythm, but you will never forget your first skydive experience!