20 Days In Bangkok: Our Budget-Friendly Itinerary

I’ve been wanting to learn surfing. After I quit my job, I decided to travel to Phuket, one of the best surfing spots for beginners in Asia. So why not! On my way to conquer the waves, I stopped in Bangkok for a few weeks, which my bestie has told me a million times that it is a vibrant city packed with amazing restaurants and shopping malls. I couldn’t agree more! I also fell in love with its beautiful architecture, cultural heritage and of course, its super friendly people.

Although I only had a limited budget for the trip in Bangkok, I actually visited more places and tried out more activities than I expected. One tip is to know your way around in advance. I went to most attractions by BTS Skytrain. However, Uber is also a great choice for tourists during off-peak hours. The app definitely saved me a lot of time translating the English address into Thai for the drivers.

You should not miss the Grand Palace even though it always crowded with tourists. The entrance fee costs 500 Baht (~ 120 HKD), which is a bit steeper than other attractions in the city. But it’s worth the splurge to explore the royal life and experience Thailand’s history. I got off at the Saphan Taksin station and took the tourist ferry across the Chao Phraya River to get to the palace (In hindsight I should have taken the public one, which is just right next to it and it is much cheaper).

After a few minutes walk from the pier, you can see the spectacular and atmospheric palace. Remember to dress appropriately. Covering your legs and shoulders is required for entering this royal palace. Since their King Bhumibol passed away not long ago , there were a lot of locals who dressed in black came to the Grand Place to mourn him. The king’s portraits were also hung in many public areas, such as the stations, banks and many other places. From each corner of the city, you could truly feel people’s love towards their revered king .

Not far from the Grand Palace is the Wat Pho, where you could find a gigantic reclining Buddha statue. It is 45-meter long and 15-meter high, and covered with golden colour. The overall temple complex is very impressive with a number of gorgeous stupas. They are beautifully decorated with gold and shiny objects in old-Bangkok style. I was amazed to see how glorious it looked under the evening sunset.

On the other side of the river is where the Temple of Dawn located. Taking the private ferry is ridiculously cheap and convenient. It costs only 3 Baht and the duration lasts around 2 minutes. However, the temple was under construction and a few main towers were caged in scaffolding. You could see a lot of adorable kittens live in the temple and enjoy a lazy afternoon there.

Aside from the Grand Palace and temples, the night markets are not to be missed! Two of my favourites were the Asiaquie night market and the Chatuchak weekend market. Chatuchak is known as “the mother of all markets”, which consists of 15,000 stalls. It amazes with alleys after alleys of stores and sells all kinds of lovely things, including trendy clothes, accessories, Buddhist crafts, antique wood carvings, ceramic wares, art painting, farm-fresh flowers and… you name it!

I can guarantee that there is something for you, and prices are very competitive. There’s nothing I enjoy more than shopping all different natural essential oils and organic soaps in various fragrances. I was also crazy about their extra virgin coconut oil which smells so nice.

 

I was obsessed with the coconut ice cream served in a coconut husk with sticky rice and some other toppings like aloe vera jelly and red beans. I missed it so much that my mouth water when I think about them! This is one of the must-have street food in Bangkok!  In this city, you can actually find street food within arm’s reach — fresh chopped fruits with weird dressing, all kinds of BBQ, Thai snacks, and a whole lot more that I still cannot figure out what are they. Plus, there are always some food stands near the stations that you can enjoy on the way home.

Visiting the Chinatown was not in my plan. But since my girlfriend was so eager to taste the durian and she was so sure there should be some over there, I decided to make a short visit to the Chinatown before her afternoon flight. Despite the intense heat that day, I had a good time here seeing a lot of traditional Chinese shops and buildings with rich culture and history.  The Chinatown covers a large area at the riverside and it has lots of small narrow and peaceful alleys that we can enjoy a slow walk and take some nice photos.

The last day and also the most exciting day, I spent 4 hours in Silom Thai Cooking School, learning how to cook Thai food. The instructor picked us up in the station at 9 am and we walked to a local wet market to shop for fresh ingredients that we needed for the class. While the instructor was introducing different kinds of Thai herbs and spices, I was wondering whether I could buy them from the markets in Hong Kong. There was a stall selling fresh coconut mike and sugar, which tasted really wonderful.

The class was pretty hands-on and I got a lot of chances to chop the vegetables, make the sauces and stir-fry them with meats. Everything went on very smoothly and I have learned to cook five dishes. We had a short break to taste each dish after cooking them and I’m not shy to say all of them taste fabulous! To be honest, I even think that the Pad Thai I cooked at that day taste much better than any I tried in the restaurants ;)! The cooking class was definitely a highlight of the trip!

At last I also want to mention one of the hostels that I stayed for a night in Bangkok when I was traveling alone. It is called the Yard Hostel, which located near the Ari BTS station. I met some friends there and we ended up having a lot of fun hanging out together. One of them was from Korea who is currently planning to open a Korean restaurant in Phuket. Without knowing where to go for dinner that night, we decided to follow his suggestion and go to the Korean town for Korean barbecue. After that, we headed to an architecture exhibition, which was also a fascinating experience for me.

Hong Kong Pride Parade

Events celebrating and protesting LGBT rights have taken place in many parts of the world over the last several months. Hong Kong enjoyed its annual parade on November 10, with a theme “dare to love”, attracting people from all over the world. Starting from Victoria Park, the attendees dressed in a variety of fashions denoting their occupation or favorite social theme, calling for equal opportunities and fair treatment in the work place. With a huge rainbow flag and colorful popping bubbles, the happy throng paraded through the city centre creating a carnival-like atmosphere during the two-hour-long procession.

A huge rainbow flag is carried by participants during the 4th Hong Kong LGBT parade.

Is Brunei a “Boring” Country?

Brunei is probably not a usual destination for most travel and it is always labeled as boring or “no fun”. My parents chose this place for holiday and they invited me to come. I was more than happy to join since I haven’t been to a strict Islamic country yet. I was so surprised to find that the gasoline in this country was cheaper than water! Located in Southeast Asia, Brunei is super rich in natural gas and petroleum resources, which allows its people to enjoy great wealth.

The first impress that I had for Brunei was the low pace lifestyle. It took each of us around 5 minutes to cross the customs when we first arrived. Eating in the restaurants, we were normally required to wait for around half an hour to get your food. Though the efficiency drove me mad sometimes, I gradually got used to it and tied to be more patient for Brunei people.

The tour guide told us that Bruneians were very proud of their amazing social welfare such as completely free medical care and education. If a students want to study aboard, the government will pay the tuition fee as long as they will serve the country for ten years after graduation. And also, if people suffer serious illness and need medical treatments outside the country, the government will pay all your expenses including the air tickets for the patient and family who accompany.

There are more we can jealous of – the housing policy. Local people can apply for the public houses and borrow money from the government. Normally, it takes around 7 year for people to pay off the loan, with just few hundred Hong Kong dollars per month. It is easy to find a lot of public houses along the streets while we were visiting the city. You would not believe that all those houses have a huge garden and 10 bedrooms at average. However, alcohol and cigarette are forbidden in Brunei, which has made my dad a bit upset during the trip. So if you are a alcoholist,  it is not a place for you then.

 

 

Travel to North Korea – Pyongyang

Nothing can be more excited than getting an opportunity to visit North Korea, the so call most isolated and mysterious country in the world. So many questions came to my mind immediately – Is it safe there? Can I have enough food to eat? Where can I exchange my money before I go? I was confused, curious and a bit worried.

We, a group of journalism students, took the Pyongyang airline in the Beijing airport. Each of us had a North Korea style hamburger on the plane. Seriously, it tasted really terrible and that is why I decided to head to the grocery store for some cup noodle once we arrived the hotel (but this is a stupid decision).

We were not allowed to take any pictures at the Pyongyang airport, but some of my classmates did. Unfortunate, the tour guide saw that asked them to delete the photos right away. In fact, the customs officer even checked some of our iPhones very carefully when we crossed enter boarder. But anyway, we all got into the city!

Every photograph we wanted to take needed permission from the tour guide because we was not allowed to capture certain aspects of life in North Korea, like the local people, soldiers, workers and construction sites. But since we were a group of people, sometimes we just took it anyway when the guide busy introducing the attractions. Two cameramen followed us for the whole journey, filming almost every moment. They said they would make a CD for us at the end and we could choose to buy it or not (it was damn expensive as I remember).

We could not wander around freely, which was a completely different experience of travelling. We have little opportunity to interact with locals and in turn, the locals were too afraid to interact with the foreign visitors. The tour guide told us if the citizens have talked to tourist, they would get into trouble.

We stayed in a five-starts hostel where electricity was cut off from time to time. No Internet of course and no phone call could be made, but we could still “enjoy” some local and Chinese TV channels in our room. I have never seen their currency during the whole trip. However, RMB was accepted in all souvenir stores. I was very curious how they exchange the money back?

In our five-days trip, we checked out a lot of statues and monuments where we needed to offer flowers and bow to show the respect of their president and revolutionary martyrs. We also went to the DMZ, the most fortified border between North Korea and South Korea. It was fun to visit one of their kindergartens and primary school and watch the performance by local kids.

Everything that they showed in us in Pyongyang City looks great but don’t forget many North Korea people are still suffering starvation and struggling with their life. People here are not able to enjoy the freedom that we have. After I came back, I checked out a lot of videos and books that disclose the real life of people in North Korea. I felt extremely complicated and upset.

A Fishman in Lamma Island- Uncle Ming

Because of the increasing fuel price, implement of environmental policy as well as variable weather in recent years, Fishing is suffering a tough time. Most traditional fishermen decide to divert to other fields. Uncle Ming, being as one of the local traditional fishermen, with great luck, found his new job eight years ago and now works as a fisherfolk docent in Lamma fisherfolk’s village.

“As the leaving and retiring of older generation fishermen, some valuable “fisherfolk” culture like fishfolk wedding, traditional way of making dragon boat, weaving the fishing net and frizzling up salty fish pass into silence gradually,” said Cheng Wah Ming with a sense of pity.

Uncle Ming has contributed his own fishing boat which he used to live in with his ten sisters and brothers, as well as all his personal stuff to set up a small fisherfolk’s museum, hoping that all visitors could have a first – hand experience of fishmen’s life and better understand their culture.

“I know even thought it won’t make a big change under my own steam, I am trying my best to remain our traditional fisherfolk culture by working as a docent here. I love my job and it seems a responsibility for me, it is really meaningful.” said Uncle Ming.

“I did the decoration and wrote every piece of spring couplets here by myself.” He said with a bit of pride. And he is in this way, using each tiny action, carry out his promise to preserve fishfolk culture.

Uncle Ming is glad to share his own way of making fish nets and drying salted fish with visitors. But he looks more attractive when he performs magic! “I already have a lot of fans!” he joked. “I learned by reading books and simple wish to bring greater happiness to my visitors.”

Like most fishermen, Uncle Ming believes fishing will be his first and also the last job. However, not everyone get that piece of good luck. “For most of traditional fishermen, with inadequate education and poor stamina in their age, they have to work as sanitation workers or stevedores in urban city when they no longer work as fishermen.”

The <Fisheries Protection Ordinance> will be put into practice in the coming December. Legislative Council has passed the legislative amendments to ban trawling (including pair, stern, shrimp and hang trawling) in Hong Kong waters. By conservative estimates, around 400 trawl boats owners will be affected.

Even though the government is going to buyout those affected inshore trawlers from trawler owners who voluntarily surrender their vessels, it occasioned Uncle Ming much anxiety. “What those fishermen lose will not be simply a fishing boat, but the spiritual patron for their living.” Said Uncle Ming with a sense of sadness.

Being a Volunteer Teacher in Gansu

[ 在甘肅做義教,學懂知足和珍惜 ] 能有機會去甘肅義教是我覺得在大學期間最大收獲的一件事,我非常感謝這次經歷給我帶來的友誼和成長。其實,在短短的幾個星期裡面,我自己覺得我沒有教會孩子太多的知識,但相反,他們卻教會我一生受用的道理-如何知足和珍惜。

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