Bangkok, Thailand: 15-18 March 2017

Update: a/o 21 May 2017. Bangkok will be cleaning up its streets, including its street vendors. There goes my street food!!! Only certain tourist spots, like Yaowarat, will be retained. Read it here: Bangkok Clean up

Trying out a new format to my headings. I get confused over my own headings so I best try out a more effective one. LOL 

Okay. So…

It was the March school term break here in Singapore. For the other parts of the world, this is something like your Easter holidays except that we all know that Easter is in April this year. We work on a 10-week term for the primary and secondary schools. Junior Colleges are slightly different and Polytechnics are totally on their own.

Anyway, with my colleagues-friends, J and T, we were off to the Land of a Thousand Smiles for a short stay of only four days. 

We took the Airport MRT to the city from the airport. It was quite convenient. Got to thank J who helped us get the transport card, Rabbit (yeah, the animal 🐰) Card, by standing in line (it was quite a line!). (After traveling by the local metro system, I realised that it’s about a dollar odd for each trip. Not too bad except for the crowdedness. You might get squashed in the process.) 

From the metro station, we walked about 10+mins to our hotel in Pratunam in the hot midday sun β˜€οΈ . Centre Point Pratunam is centrally located, near the clothing and shopping areas of Pratunam itself. It’s about a stone’s throw away from Baiyoke. Our room for two can easily fit us three, and with space to spare. 

It’s easy to get food all around the area. There’s even a 7-11 Convenience Store just outside the side door of the hotel, along the main road. If you don’t mind street food, then you will find many street food carts along the way, especially in the smaller lanes.

Hot hot day!

Our room for 3! 2 double beds to roll on. 

Skewered barbecued pork at 10 Baht (approx. 50cents SGD) freshly made and cooked.

We took a walk around the area. J wanted to do some clothes shopping so we went to Platinum Mall, which is down and across the road from the hotel. There is a food court on the TOP floor. Get a cash card from the main counter, buy your food from the stalls, and if there is any balance, you can get your refund.

Mango sticky rice!!! Our main snack of the day.

With the sun down and being hungry, we managed to find a Halal Thai Restaurant just on the other corner from the hotel. Total bill, including two bowls of plain rice 🍚 and a bottle of water, it came to about 300baht (approx. SGD12). Happy tummies, happy pockets, happy people! 😊 

Green curry with chicken and round brinjal, plain omelette, fried kangkong (water-spinach/η©ΊεΏƒθœ).

After dinner, we went to take a look at the night markets. There are quite a few in Pratunam and Baiyoke area. In fact, there are quite a number of these night markets in Bangkok itself. The famous one, ArtBox, had already packed up in preparation for the temporary move to Singapore. Singaporeans couldn’t wait for the favourite night market to arrive. 

The second day. 

We made a trip into crazy Yaowarat or also known as Chinatown. Looking at those signboards suddenly reminded me of Hongkong. Street food is plentiful, so don’t worry too much if you’re going to starve. From our hotel to Chinatown, it cost us 80baht by metered taxi. 

Our Friend, C, told us about a wholesale market there in Chinatown, called Sampeng Market. We finally found it in the midst of lanes and alleyways, and packed home loads of stationary for our students. Haha!!! That’s what Teachers buy when you bring them to a wholesale stationary place. Just make sure to find out about the wholesale prices in the shops you go to. 

The trip back to Pratunam was difficult as many taxi drivers refused to take us unless we fork out 200baht instead. Their reluctance was mainly because it was the evening peak period. We finally got one but the road back was on the side of being hair raising. We paid him 100baht for the trip. 

J and I had dinner together because T went for a massage appointment at upmarket Novotel Hotel. There are many little restaurants in the Baiyoke area. These places are housed indoors and not on the streets, but if you want to have an outdoor experience, it is always available.

What really marvels me is that the Drivers in Bangkok are really patient. They don’t sound their horns when there are pedestrians on the road, instead, they will slowly inch their way through, and hope that pedestrians will be more road-aware.

Oh yes! Try their local milk tea from the street vendors. Also, do take note of the cute packing for the takeaway packets.

Third day involves a trip to the supermarket, again. We found a link ridge from Pratunam to Big C supermarket. It also links to Central World, where we got our Shibuya Toast fix at After You Cafe. Thank God for smartphone maps! Or else we would had walked all the way to Siam Paragon, which is really far from where we were.

In the evening, we took the MRT and headed for JJ Green, another night market. It is located where Chatuchak market is, just next door only, but opened in the evenings. Quite crowded, so for the claustrophobic ones, avoid this area. There are many stalls selling vintage items, clothes, handicrafts, food and drinks, and there is even a stage with a live band. After a whole day out in the hot sun, I was ready to call it a day, or night. Whichever.

Last day in Bangkok and we went back to the same area as last night, but this time, we went to the one and only Chatuchak Weekend Market, where hundreds of stalls operate, where tourists flocked to but locals shunned. πŸ˜‚ 

PETA and other Wildlife agencies will be up in arms with what is being sold at this market. But first, food. 

Lots of food to feed the masses, and I found the best crispy pork   (Siew yok/燒肉) ever. And paired it with homemade sour chili sauce, it was just awesome! Writing about it now makes me salivate. πŸ˜† It is a little on the expensive price for street food, 150 baht (S$6) for 100g, but it was worth it, and I relished every single bite.

Alright then. Time to head back to the hotel, get our luggage, do some last minute packing, and get on the taxi for the airport. I initially wanted to have a foot massage but due to the time constraint, I’ll have to postpone it to the next trip to BKK. We three were quite sure our feet were tanner than when we left. Haha! 

Good bye, Bangkok! See you the next time!


14 Dec. 2016 – Day 11: Strahan, Stanley, Launceston

After breakfast and checking out, we took another short walk to a waterfall, this time in Strahan. Hogarth Falls is located in People’s Park, Strahan. Look out for the signs to it, but it is basically located some where near the Visitor’s Centre. 

The walk is very manageable, under the shade of the trees and due to the rain the previous night, the whole place was very cooling. There’s only one trail, so it is really hard to get lost in there. Instead, take a look around as there are very interesting and informative signs about the various plants there. For a moment there, I was expecting some mini dinosaurs to pop out from the ferns.

Much to my dismay, the entire town of Strahan is Optus-unfriendly. You can only get Telestra signal there. Even the wifi at my accommodation was very weak. So, I was pretty much “handicapped” that one night. The visitor centre has very good wifi though. 

Goodbye Strahan! 

And we were on the road again.

Headed north to… 

Stanley! Main attraction at this super windy town is The Nut. It’s actually a volcanic plug left behind from ancient history. What’s left is what you see; a table-top plateau that’s accesssble by either a steep staircase climb or a AUD10 chairlift. We decided to admire this geographical entity from afar by braving the strong winds. Even the seagulls decided to lie down on the grass instead of taking to the skies.

We continued on to Launceston, but make a stop at the Makers’ Space Workshop in Burnie’s Visitor’s Centre. It’s a very interesting place that not only has travel information, but also a cafe, a gallery, and a shop which sells original items by local Makers, or crafters. It’s a good pit stop before hitting the road again. I was mentally exhausted by the time we drove into Launceston.

Stayed at The Olde Tudor Motel again. We got the same unit just two nights ago when we were in Launceston. Yay!

Good night.

12 Dec. 2016 – Day 9: Bicheno, St. Columba Falls, Launceston

Moved out of Swansea, but first, here’s a photo of the beach just behind the Swansea Holiday Park. Lovely, isn’t it? Quiet too. Maybe it’s because it was quite early in the morning still, around 9.

First stop, not that far away, is Bicheno. What to see? The Bicheno Blowhole on the coast. If you had studied or are studying Geography, you would know what it is, if you don’t, I’ll try to explain it to you as plain as possible. 

A blowhole normally forms from wave 🌊erosion of a cliff (seacave), when the waves make a tunnel through the bottom and due to some vertical fracture in the rock and consistent attempts for the waves to escape, pressure builds up over time and the vertical shaft expends, water then eventually “erupts” from that shaft after a wave hits the tunnel. Some blowholes can be just next to the sea/ocean, or even about a kilometre inland!

So there we were, navigating our way across the rocks, and trying to get the perfect timing to capture the spray coming out of the blowhole. 

It looks like steam coming out of the ground, right? A geyser? πŸ˜†

There are other parts of this beach to explore, so go explore!

Next stop, St. Columba Falls, in the general direction of St. Helens . But first, an unplanned tea break. We noticed lots of cows in this portion of the drive and soon came across Holy Cow Cafe & Cheese. They serve really fresh cakes and coffee (the cake set for the day is really worth it!) and even ice-creams, which I was hankering for. They even sell cheese from their own dairy. Really fresh and yummy! 

After our refreshing break, it wasn’t too far away to St. Columba Falls. It is one of the shortest great walks in Tasmania, and I agree. It was a really short walk and the view at the end was really beautiful. 

Then we were on the road again, towards Launceston. We stopped at the “Town of Murals”, Sheffield, for a late lunch. The town has more than 20 art murals around, and artworks by the locals were on display everywhere. It was like a living art gallery.

And then it was Launceston. 

We overnight at the Olde Tudor Motel. The place was really like an apartment, with a washing machine and dryer included! 

It was a good day. 

11 Dec. 2016 – Day 8: Richmond, Freycinet National Park, Swansea

Moving out of Hobart today. 

Thank God for the free upgrade to the Kia Sportage! We intially rented a Toyota Camry but look at how our current number of luggage took up all the space in the boot. Don’t worry, there was enough space left for the humans. πŸ˜†

Here’s a view from the motel we stayed at for 2 nights.

The motel: Motel Mayfair 17-19 Cavell Street, Hobart. How was it? Well, from the outside it looked really nice and old, but the inside was sadly, old, like from the 1980s and they forgot to renovate it. It facilities in the room were all clean and good enough to be used, and there were electric blankets for each bed and a central heater in the sitting area, but it was just old. So if you don’t mind the older interior design but care more for the facilities, this place is just right.

So, our first stop was Richmond, about 30mins away feom Hobart. Lovely little town, with a historic brick bridge that was built by convicts in 1820s, and the equally old but lovely and serene St. John’s Catholic Church nearby. Stopped there for photos, stretch the legs a bit before moving on.

Moving on to Freycinet National Park, which was almost 2 hours away, we stopped at a little town by the sea for our picnic lunch and while driving to Freycinet, came across this lovely little isolated beach.

By then, we weren’t very far from the National Park.

Got to stop at the Visitors’ Centre to get the ticket for our car. It was $24 for a car, which was cheaper than paying per adult. Drive down the road somemore, following the road signs to Coles Bay. Our final destination was to see Wineglass Bay. Saw a few wallabies along the way, or was it the same one who hopped uphill through the bush faster than us? It was quite a climb, about an hour up, but the views, and fresh air, were worth it. 🌬😊 How shall I rate the climb? 3/5. Definitely need some minimum amount of fitness. Bring a hiking stick.

After that, it was (backtracked) to our lodging in Swansea for the night. Located right next to the beach, it was a clear night to star gaze but the temperature and the long drive tires me out early. I could only give myself some minutes to walk to the beach, look at the twinkling stars, find the Southern Cross stars, identify Orion’s Belt (and Orion himself), before calling it a night. 

5 Dec. 2016 – Day 2: Williamstown & Melbourne

Met up with an old family friend who brought us out to lunch in Williamstown which isn’t that far from Melbourne city, via West Gate bridge.

Lovely little town near the waters, with many sailing boats moored. We are at the Anchorage Restaurant. One of the waiters, George, really friendly and helpful, and have a great sense of humour, informed us that they now have a new executive chef, hence a new menu. He highly recommended the Fried broccoli. I say, don’t be deceived by its name. It’s battered lightly and air-fried, acompanying it is a slightly spicy tangy sauce. Really lovely! We also had a smoked and cured salmon canapΓ©s, and a dish of scallop and chicken dumplings. All of these were just the sharing platters. 

For the mains, we had Seafood Pasta and a vegetarian pasta (I ordered it but can’t remember the name). Both were delicious! 

Lovely little dining spot right next to the water, and with such good weather, we could even see Melbourne in a distance. 

After that, our friend dropped us off at Queen Victoria Market (QVM) as he had to return home for another function in the evening. Even though the QVM was closed (they close on Mondays and Wednesdays), we took the free city tram and got off just a stop later at Melbourne Central, spending the 4-5 hours getting acquainted with the area. We took the tram back the way we came, finally getting in at 7:30pm.
The sun finally sets at around 8pm. 

I’m so tired now… Goodnight!

Day 8: 11 Sept. 2016, Sydney-Home

End notes:

One thing good about getting the airport shuttle is that we didn’t have to rush and worry about the time to get to the airport. has these kinds of add-ons. I took the package type of ‘flight and room’, and then add on the hotel-airport shuttle. It really makes things convenient and more affordable. 

Get the Opal card – New South Wales’ answer to public transportation payment. Be it buses, the metro, or even ferries, it covers all. Unfortunately, it can only be used in the state of NSW and not in other states. Just tap when getting on and off the public transport system, but do look out for the stainless steel “pillars” at certain locations where it doesn’t have any gantry points. These, with huge arrow stickers on the floor, are where you should tap your cards before and after taking the transport. 

Opal cards can be bought from convenience stores that sport the Opal logo. Top-ups can also be done at the stations themselves. 

As for the fares system, it seems that there is a cap of $2.50 of any trip on every Sunday, and for the rest of the days, there is a $60 cap from Monday to Sunday. This I have to read up on.

The weather in September is lovely. Not too cold even though it’s the beginning of Spring, as the sun is quite strong. Good to have sunscreen, but if you don’t have it, there are many pharmacies and even at the supermarkets that sell it. 

The international airport at Sydney has enough shops and eateries if you are early. I found a good Thai place there where the food is authentic enough and portions big enough to be shared between two to three adults. Just for my friend and I, we had a beef tomyum fried rice and a bowl of chicken tomyum soup. It was a good balance of spicy and sour. Total bill of $29 for those two dishes. Yum!

What else to write? Hmmm… πŸ€”

I think that’s about it. 


Day 7: 10th Sept. 2016, Sydney

Another day of taking it easy. Walked around the city, went to the markets at Paddington and to The Rocks at Circular Quay. Both places were very busy, especially the quay area. Apparently, there was an event being hosted by one of the leading Australian television channels, so many food and dessert stalls were set up. It was crazily crowded!

We went to Pancakes On The Rocks for lunch. There was a queue but it moved at a moderate speed. We waited for almost half an hour before it was our turn. I had a seafood crepe with a side of mushrooms while T had a small pancake with a scoop of icecream (her reason being that she wanted to eat Pad Thai noodles from one of the stalls outside). In my opinion, crepe rolled up with the food inside like that is like the Masala Thosai we have back here in Asia. LOL! But it was a satisfying lunch for me. 

But not so for T. The Pad Thai (fried Thai noodles) she got at the stall was horrible. It was too sweet!!! And it was runned by Thais. Can’t believe they totally cut out the chili and put in so much sugar. 😲

Anyway, it was nice sitting out with a view of the Opera House behind us.

Went to walk around the Circular Quay area somemore and visited the stalls at the markets. (Sorry for the terrible photo!) Amazing stuff they have there, and there was a man who did on-the-spot painting using spray paints. Wow! Unfortunately, he asked that people don’t photograph or video-record him. Oh well… But it was nice to just watch him do his artwork. He was selling his works at $40 per piece, I think. 

Walked around the CBD and visited the Strand Arcade, which was another lovely building. The interior is very much like the QVB from across the road.

I went for Saturday Evening Mass, 6pm, at St. Mary’s Cathedral, near Hyde Park at St. James. Lovely place. 

After that, we walked to Darling Harbour to see the weekly 8:30pm fireworks display. It’s a Free event so if you are in Sydney and are free on Saturday evening, head down there. 

We managed to secure good spots near the waterfront facing the area where the fireworks would be launched. It was all so pretty!!! 

Well, that’s it of Sydney from me. Heading back home on the next day. 

Thank you Sydney for this lovely one week!!! I’ll visit you another time! 😊

Day 6: 9th Sept. 2016, Sydney

After days of hiking, walking, and climbing hills, I think I deserve a day of plain old shopping and staying indoors, right? πŸ˜†

So, we visited the Queen Victoria Building to soak in the architecture and feel the period. I heard a piano playing but just can’t locate it. Do you know where it is?

Saw this on the top floor. A letter from HRM Elizabeth II, to be opened in 2085. I’ll be an old woman in her 90s by then, that’s if I’m still alive.
After that, it was dinner at Jemie’s Italian on Pitt Street. I managed to secure a booking through Food was good and atmosphere was nice. Only 2 points: it was quite dark inside and the music was too loud, which caused everyone around us to talk loudly too.

That’s about sums up a really relaxing day. 😊

Day 5: 8th Sept. 2016, Harbour Market & Bondi-Bronte Beaches

Our day started off with a breakfast of seafood at Sydney’s Harbour Market. Lots to a see and loads to eat, but we also were a little mindful of our calories and the bill πŸ˜…. 

We got our food from Peter’s – a mix of battered white bait, baby calamari, half tail of grilled lobster, and a seafood kebab. $39. Ok…

How to get there: Take the Light Rail from Central Station and get off at either Fish Market Light Rail or Wentworth Park Light Rail. One thing to note! Tap on and off before and after you get on/off the light rail. Look down on the floor and you’ll find the arrows leading you to the tapping machines (like a pillar). 

And then it’s a little walk to the market. Follow the signage or use your Google map.

Sydney Fish Market is close to the Anzac Bridge, so if you are into taking photos of bridges, it’s a good spot to eat and take your photos. Just be careful of those darn seagulls. And a pelican, or two.

After that, to help us burn off our seafood calories, it was walkies at the coast of Bondi!

How we got there, it was the incredible rail system from Central Station, of course! All the way to Bondi Junction and then a bus, service 333, to the beach. Just get off when you spot the beach. 

There’s a Kite event happening at the beach on Sunday, so if you are in Sydney, do drop by on that day. It seems exciting, looking at the events lined up. Unfortunately for me, I’ll be heading home on that afternoon. Oh well.

Lovely beach and crazy waves. Lots of surfers but also lots of people. If you follow the beach walk to Bronte Beach, there are lots of beautiful views and incredible stone formations along the way. 

We took the bus back to Bondi Junction from Tamarama Beach, which was the beach just before Bronte Beach.

I think I got tanned. A little.

Day 3: 6th Sept. 2016, Manly

Ferry from Circular Quay at 11am. $7.36 one way. Wharf 3. 

Bus 135 from across the road from the wharf to North Head takes about 5-10mins. Unfortunately, it’s about a service per hour, and we were about 30mins early. Didn’t want to wait so we walked. 

Up the hill (horribly steep!) and up somemore, 4+km,  with some confusion along the way, looking out for the correct signages, and after a short rest watching a Kookabura sit on the branch of an old gum tree, we finally got to North Head after an hour and some minutes on the road. Oh my gosh… My feet were killing, but as the saying goes, “No pain, no gain”. 

The views were stunning. Here, see them for yourself. But it doesn’t do justice to being there yourself.

We rushed back to the bus stop, as we didn’t want to miss the only service for the hour. Same bus service from earlier, remember? Caught it in time with a few minutes to spare. And the trip downhill was so effortless and restful. 

Got in to Manly town area and went to search for fish and chips. When you are hungry and food is fresh from the pan, it’s delicious. Pair that up with eating next to a beautiful beach, it’s pleasure. Unfortunately, seagulls were eyeing our food too, surrounding us like thugs. Beach thugs.

Water was cold. Tested it out for myself while T was hugging herself warm on the beach, but the water was so clear. I like it. Haha!

So, that’s our day at the beach and in Manly!