A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan - Beautiful Island.

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We have been to Taiwan four times. We visited Taipei twice and Kaohsiung twice. I've already written up these trips, but we did several excursions from Taipei which I did not include in the write ups so I will write a bit about them here.

One of our first excursions was to Wulai. We went here on an organized tour. Wulai is a small town in the mountains, about an hour's drive away from Taipei. It has beautiful mountainous scenery, a large waterfall and lots of Taiwanese Aboriginal culture. The Taiwanese Aborigines here belong to the Atayal people. They make up roughly sixteen percent of Taiwan's indigenous population. The name Wulai comes from an Atayal phrase kirofu ulai meaning hot and poisonous. This is due to Wulai's natural hot springs. Our tour first stopped at Wulai's scenic waterfall which is around eighty metres high. Then we had some time to wander through the town. It began to pour down as we wandered Wulai's streets. Thankfully we were heading indoors to the Wulai Atayal Museum to watch a cultural show. At one point the performers wanted to demonstrate a traditional Atayal wedding. They choose a man in the audience to come up on stage and help them, but he was too shy, so Peter volunteered to go up. He had to act out an Atayul wedding with a beautiful Taiwanese Aboriginal girl. At one point he had to carry his Atayal wife across the stage strapped to his back in a sort of harness. Then they both drank from a traditional double scoop wooden drinking vessel. Unfortunately, I was laughing so much, I messed up taking the photos, though we did buy one, at a rather rip-offy price, that was taken by the museum's photographer. Even now Peter still sometimes refers to his second wife. Apparently she's much better behaved, less demanding and easier to control than me.

Waterfall.

Waterfall.

Waterfall.

Waterfall.

Waterfall.

Waterfall.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Streets of Wulai.

Atayal Cultural Show.

Atayal Cultural Show.

Atayal Cultural Show.

Atayal Cultural Show.

Hubbie with wife number two.

Hubbie with wife number two.

Hubbie with wife number two.

Hubbie with wife number two.

A second place we visited was the port city of Keelung. We have been here twice: once was on an organized day tour and the second time we made our own way here by train. The second time was quite funny. We bought our tickets and boarded the train which was so packed we could scarcely move. I asked someone if the train went to Keelung. He looked sort of puzzled like he wanted to say something but couldn't, then he just nodded and looked a bit sad. Anyway the journey was horrible and really squashy. Then at one station around two thirds of the people on the train suddenly got off. With a great sense of relief, we finally sat down. The scenery started to get really beautiful too - lots of mountains everywhere. Suddenly the ticket inspector appeared. We gave him our tickets and he looked at us in despair. Then he started calling for people still on the train to come and help him. Soon all the passengers in our compartment were around us, looking at our tickets and shaking their heads. Not a good sign. By joint effort they managed to tell us in somewhat broken English that we should have changed trains at the station everyone else got off at. Through another joint effort they eventually got through to us that we would have to get off and catch a train back the way we had come then get off again and change trains. One woman was getting off at the station we should catch the train back from. She was assigned the job of looking after us. When we got off at the next station, she physically placed us on the correct platform, pointed at the information board to make sure we knew which train to take, then after we'd thanked her, took an escalator down to leave the station. I moved away from where I had been positioned to take a photo, then I was suddenly grabbed from behind. The same lady had come back up on the escalator, because she had seen me move. She then physically re-positioned me so I didn't get on the wrong train. I was too scared to move after that till our train came in. Still we got there in the end.

Keelung is Taiwan’s seventh largest city and is located in the north east of the island. It is the largest natural port in northern Taiwan. Keelung is nicknamed the rainy port and it certainly lived up to that description on our second visit. The train station is near the port and we began our visit by wandering around the port area looking at the huge cruise ships that called in there.

Keelung Harbour.

Keelung Harbour.

Keelung Harbour.

Keelung Harbour.

Keelung Harbour.

Keelung Harbour.

From Keelung Harbour we walked to Zhongzheng Park in the eastern part of Keelung City. This park has three levels. The first level has a historic fort. The second level has a Buddhist library, a Martyrs’ Shrine and a temple. The third level has Guanhai Pavilion. One famous sight in the park is a twenty-five metre high white statue of Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy. There are good views over Keelung and its harbour from here.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Kuan Yin.

Peter in front of the temple.

Peter in front of the temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Peter ringing the bell.

Peter ringing the bell.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

View.

View.

View.

View.

On our first visit to Keelung, we also visited nearby Yehliu. Yehliu Geopark is a rocky area by the sea that is mainly made up of sedimentary rocks. These have been weathered into a weird and wonderful variety of different shapes by the wind and the sea. Shapes include the queen's head which looks like the Egyptian queen, Nefertiti, mushrooms, shoes and many more.

The whole area is supposed to be shaped like a turtle. There's an old Chinese legend about a mischievous turtle who once lived in this bay and liked to cause lots of trouble. Eventually the Jade Emperor sent a fairy to punish him. She arrived riding on an elephant and brandishing a sword. She lashed out at the turtle with her sword and injured him badly. Nowadays when the sea mist turns the sky here foggy locals will say: "Look the dying turtle is taking his last breath."

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape

Yehliu Landscape

Yehliu Landscape.

Yehliu Landscape.

Queen's Head.

Queen's Head.

Me at the Queen's Head.

Me at the Queen's Head.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Rock Formations.

Finally, we also went to Yingge, a lovely pottery village near Taipei. We made our own way there by train with no mishaps. In the past Hakka farmers cultivated tea in this area. Then potters began to produce high quality tea sets here, too. Later a wider range of ceramics was produced. Yingge Old Street has lots of potteries and shops selling all sorts of ceramics. I'd have bought lots if we could only have carried them. As we visited here at Chinese New Year, we were suddenly surrounded by lion dancers as they chased away bad luck and welcomed in the new year.

Peter on Yingee Old Street.

Peter on Yingee Old Street.

Me on Yingee Old Street.

Me on Yingee Old Street.

Pottery.

Pottery.

Pottery.

Pottery.

Yinggee Old Street.

Yinggee Old Street.

Peter on Yinggee Old Street.

Peter on Yinggee Old Street.

Lion Dancers.

Lion Dancers.

Buskers.

Buskers.

Posted by irenevt 07:43 Archived in Taiwan Comments (4)

Zhuhai - Pearl Sea.

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I can't imagine this blog will be of interest to anyone as we did not really see Zhuhai properly, but I'm adding it here as a blog because it was the first time we ever set foot on Mainland China. It was the 28th of March 2002. The day before my husband's birthday. We were on holiday in Macau. We had been to Macau many times and often gazed across into Mainland China from it, either from Sun Yat Sen Park near the Barrier Gate or across the Pearl River from the Maritime Museum or Coloane Village. This time we actually had a visa as we were shortly due to visit Beijing, so we took transport to the Barrier Gate and walked across into Mainland China.

We only explored the parts of Zhuhai near the border with Macau and we just wandered around on foot. This area mainly consisted of a lot of night clubs and restaurants. We were quite shocked by the live animals in cages outside one restaurant waiting to be killed and cooked. They were kept in very small cages and included things such as badgers and bears. There was also a very pleasant large wide open grassy area.

Zhuhai means Pearl Sea as it is located where the Pearl River flows into the South Sea. Zhuahi became one of China's Special Economic Zones in 1980 due to its proximity to Macau. Its population is around 1.9 million. One day we'll have to return and do proper justice to Zhuhai as it's supposed to be one of China's prettiest, greenest and most liveable in cities.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Posted by irenevt 00:13 Archived in China Comments (2)

Marvellous Malaysia.

Johor Bahru, Labuan, Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi and Penang.

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Marvellous Malaysia, hibiscus in Kota Kinabalu.

Marvellous Malaysia, hibiscus in Kota Kinabalu.

Just as there were places in Thailand we visited long before I did travel blogs, there were also several places in Malaysia. We went to Malaysia for the first time in 1996 and have returned frequently since.

Our first ever visit to Malaysia was at Christmas time in 1996. We were on holiday in Singapore and we decided it would be a good idea to go across to Johor Bahru for the day. We did little or no preplanning and more or less messed up big time. We left from what is now known as Queen Street Bus Terminal and took a bus to Larkin Bus Station, Johor Bahru. Of course we had to exit the bus at the border and that was the problem. We noted the registration number of the bus so we could get back on it after immigration, but that's not what you do. You get on any bus going to the place you are going. We did not know this. We missed our bus so we walked. That was ok but we never got to the bus station. We did not know where it was. We could not find it for the way back. We did not have a ticket back. We walked to the border and tried to buy a ticket back but could find nowhere to buy it, so we ended up walking all the way back to Singapore. We had to cross the causeway bridge filled with almost stationary cars belching out fumes with little room for pedestrians in blazing heat and high humidity. By the time we reached Woodlands, Singapore we felt half dead. We boarded the MRT back to the Garden Hotel where we were staying, sunstruck, unable to eat anything and feeling terrible. We took it easy the next day and recovered, but it wasn't fun.

In Johor Bahru we visited our first ever Hindu temple, walked to the Istana Besar a former Sultan's palace which is now a museum and wandered its grounds without going in. We also visited the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque. Later we went for a drink in Annie's Bar which looked like a converted garage but did a good beer. It would have been a good day if we hadn't had to walk all the way back to Singapore.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

The Istana Besar was at one time the main palace used by the Johor royal family. It was built in 1866 by Sultan Abu Bakar. It's supposed to be very interesting inside, but we just visited the grounds.

Istana Besar.

Istana Besar.

Istana Besar.

Istana Besar.

We also visited the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque. This is a very unusual looking mosque. It looks more like a town hall than a mosque. It was built between 1892 and 1900.

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque.

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque.

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque.

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque.

Another part of Malaysia we visited very briefly is Labuan Island. We stayed in Bandar Labuan. We went here by ferry after staying in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. Labuan is a duty free port which sells cheaper alcohol than other parts of Malaysia. People come here to buy alcohol. There are quite a few things to see on the island. Most of these are connected to World War II. During the war Labuan was occupied by the Japanese for 3 years. The Japanese forces who occupied Borneo surrendered here at the end of the war. The Japanese officers responsible for the death marches from Sandakan were put on trial here. There is a large war cemetery here.

Unfortunately, we had such a short time here it wasn't possible to go to them. We stayed in a hotel called the Waterfront, which is now called Billions Waterfront Hotel. Our room wasn't ready when we arrived and we had to spend a long time waiting for it to be ready. The hotel had a beautiful swimming pool so we went for a swim. We also walked along the seafront a bit, visited the Padang or village green, visited a Chinese temple and wandered around the duty free shops.

Hotel and Pool.

Hotel and Pool.

Hotel.

Hotel.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Padang.

Padang.

Padang.

Padang.

Chinese Temple.

Chinese Temple.

Chinese Temple.

Chinese Temple.

Fountain.

Fountain.

Labuan.

Labuan.

Labuan.

Labuan.

After Labuan we took a boat to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, one of the two Malaysian parts of Borneo. We stayed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel and had access to the club lounge each evening where we could get free drinks and snacks. The Hyatt had a very nice pool. I remember we had paid extra for a sea view, but didn't get it. We did not complain though as we had not paid extra for the club class facilities, but were given them free.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Pool.

Our Pool.

I'm interested in history so I wanted to see the old British colonial buildings which were built when Kota Kinabalu used to be known as Jesselton in the late nineteenth century. The British North Borneo Company (BNBC) was based here. Unfortunately there are not many old buildings as Jesselton was almost completely destroyed by the allied forces as they battled the Japanese in the second world war. When the town was rebuilt after the war, it was renamed Kota Kinabalu.

One of the few remaining old colonial buildings in Kota Kinabalu is Jesselton Post Office which was officially opened on March 16th, 1918. It is now the Sabah Tourism Board Building.

The old post office, now the Sabah Tourism Board.

The old post office, now the Sabah Tourism Board.

Another survivor is the Atkinson Memorial Clock Tower which is located on Signal Hill Road overlooking downtown Kota Kinabalu. This was built in memory of Jesselton’s first district officer, Francis George Atkinson, who died of Malaria at the age 28. The clock was constructed without the use of nails. It used to be used as a shipping navigation landmark.

Atkinson Memorial Clock Tower.

Atkinson Memorial Clock Tower.

Another survivor is the Jesselton Hotel. This was built after the war when Sir Herbert Ralph Hone, the Colonial Governor of Jesselton, encouraged Hong Kong Chinese businessmen to invest in and help rebuild the area. The Jesselton Hotel was constructed in 1954 and is located on Gaya Street. Chinatown is nearby.

The Jesselton Hotel.

The Jesselton Hotel.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

We took a walk along the waterfront from our hotel and visited the market and handicraft centre.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Waterfront.

Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu.

Market.

Market.

Market.

Market.

Market.

Market.

On one of our days we walked to The Sabah Museum. On the way we passed the Sabah State Mosque. The Sabah State Mosque was completed in 1975. It was designed by Arkitek Jurubina Bertiga and officially opened on 28 June 1977.

Sabah State Mosque.

Sabah State Mosque.

Sabah State Mosque.

Sabah State Mosque.

After the mosque we went to Sabah Museum. This is a large museum with a Main Building, a Science and Technology Centre, a Heritage Village, an Ethno-Botanical Garden and the Sabah Islamic Civilization. We just went to the main building and the Heritage Village. The Main Building is supposed to look like a Rungus longhouse. It has exhibits on Ethnography, Natural History, Ceramics, Archaeology and History.

The Heritage Village is in the Ethno Botanical Gardens. It has several traditional Sabah houses including a Bajau House, a Murut longhouse, a Chinese farmhouse, a Bamboo House and a House of Skulls.

The Sabah Museum.

The Sabah Museum.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

The Heritage Village.

Trains.

Trains.

Trains.

Trains.

Next day we took a boat trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. This is a beautiful marine park off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. It is made up of five islands; Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik. The sea here was crystal clear and filled with multicoloured fish. It was wonderful to swim here. There were long sandy beaches and it was here we saw monitor lizards for the first time.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

On the way back from the museum we passed the Padang. Every Malaysian city has one of these. It's a large grassy field used for sports and parades. It was Christmas Day and we had received several invitations under our hotel room door to celebrations in the Padang. We thought it'll just be lots of tourists milling about and we were not that interested, but since we were passing and it was free, we decided to go. Well, we were glad we did. It was brilliant. We were the only foreigners. It was full of Malaysians in Santa hats singing Christmas carols. It also had traditional Malaysian dancing. As foreigners we stood out a mile, so much so we were approached by journalists who interviewed us for the local paper.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

Celebrations on the Padang.

We also visited the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque which is a very beautiful building dating from 2000.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

One part of Malaysia we visited for a decent amount of time was Langkawi. Langkawi refers to a group of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea. We stayed in a beautiful, peaceful resort on the main island. Like Labuan, Langkawi is a duty free zone. While here we enjoyed our resort with its beautiful pool and beach. We visited the island's main settlement. We took a half day tour round the main island's sights. We visited a crocodile farm and we went on a boat trip to some of the other islands in the Langkawi group. It's a wonderfully relaxing destination.

I've forgotten what our hotel was called. It was away from the main town. Our accommodation was in individual chalets. They were clean and comfortable. I remember being disturbed in our sleep one night by an extremely loud bird that perched on our roof. I had to get up and chase it, it was so noisy. Our accommodation had a beautiful pool and it was located on a wonderful sandy palm fringed beach. We took photos of the beach one day in perfect sunshine, then went for a walk. As we returned a storm was blowing in transforming the earlier beach scene. Our hotel had a main restaurant which we used, but we also had a romantic sunset meal where we were seated at a viewpoint next to the water. It was lovely.

Room.

Room.

Balcony.

Balcony.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Grounds.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach before the storm.

Beach before the storm.

Beach during the storm.

Beach during the storm.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

The main town on Langkawi's main island is called Kuah. It is in the southeast corner of the island. If you come here by ferry, this is where you will arrive. Kuah has lots of duty-free shops. We came here twice. Once by free shuttle from our hotel to have a look round and eat dinner and once on our tour of the island.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

Kuah and surroundings.

On the tour of the island we went to Eagle Square or Dataran Lang. There is a 12 metre tall sculpture of an eagle about to fly here.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

Langkawi's Eagle.

We also went to Mahsuri's Tomb. The legend of Mahsuri has different versions. Some versions say she was a farmer's daughter. Other versions say she was a princess. All versions say Mahsuri was a very beautiful woman who was born on Langkawi in the late eighteenth century. The chief of her village fell in love with her and wanted to marry her, but he already had a wife and she felt extremely jealous of Mahsuri. Mahsuri herself married a soldier, but he had to leave her to fight in a war. During this time a storyteller came to the village and Mahsuri gave him a place to stay. The village chief's wife took this as an opportunity to accuse Mahsuri of committing adultery with the storyteller. Her case was taken to the village elders. They found her guilty and sentenced her to death in the year 1819. She was tied to an wooden pole and repeatedly stabbed. With her dying breath, she cursed Langkawi for seven generations. As she died white blood began to flow out of her body, proving her innocence. Soon after her death, the Siamese attacked and conquered Langkawi. The villagers burnt their rice fields and poisoned their wells to drive the invaders away. After this Langkawi was a barren land for a long time. District Officer Abdul Rahman later built a modest tomb for Mahsuri. On the site of Mahsuri's Tomb there is also a traditional Malay wooden house on stilts.

Mahsuri's Tomb.

Mahsuri's Tomb.

Mahsuri's Tomb.

Mahsuri's Tomb.

Traditional House.

Traditional House.

We also went to a craft workshop.

Traditional Crafts.

Traditional Crafts.

Traditional Crafts.

Traditional Crafts.

We also did a day trip on a speed boat to some of Langkawi's other islands. We visited Dayang Bunting Island, which is shaped like a pregnant woman lying down. This island has a beautiful freshwater lake called Tasik Dayang Bunting or Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. We went swimming here. According to legend, the lake has special powers including inducing pregnancy after bathing in its waters. It did not work for me though.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

Dayang Bunting Island.

We also visited Pulau Singa Besar or Giant Lion Island which is an island with a wildlife sanctuary. It also has unique rock formations, mangrove plants, and tranquil beaches. This island is home to eagles, monkeys, mousedeer, hornbills, snakes, monitor lizards and peacocks. These can all roam freely on the island. The deer were very tame. We could stroke them.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.

Pulau Singa Besar.



We also visited Langkawi Crocodile Farm. This caused some tension. I wanted to go, Peter didn't. He didn't like crocodiles. By the end of our visit he'd changed to finding crocodiles fascinating and I'd changed to being terrified of them.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm.

Finally, we have been to Penang twice. I already wrote a blog on our second visit, but it was short and we only visited Georgetown, so I'll write our first visit up here.

It was our second ever holiday from Hong Kong. It was Chinese New Year, 1997. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Hotel in Batu Ferringhi. Batu Ferringhi is a resort area consisting of lots of hotels stretching along a long white sandy beach. The beach is beautiful, but the water is quite murky and has quite a lot of jellyfish. We did swim in it, but the pool was better. Along the other side of the road from the hotels there are lots of restaurants and shops.

Holiday Inn Hotel.

Holiday Inn Hotel.

Our Room.

Our Room.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Pool.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Typical Wooden House.

Typical Wooden House.

Batik for sale.

Batik for sale.

Walking around Bathu Ferringhi.

Walking around Bathu Ferringhi.

On one of our days we walked along the beach to the Penang Butterfly Farm. This was a beautiful colourful place filled with ponds, flowers and, of course, butterflies.

The Butterfly Farm.

The Butterfly Farm.

The Butterfly Farm.

The Butterfly Farm.

On another we travelled up Penang Hill by funicular. There are beautiful, scenic views from the top.

Penang Hill.

Penang Hill.

The Funicular.

The Funicular.

At the top of the hill.

At the top of the hill.

View from the hill.

View from the hill.

View from the hill.

View from the hill.

View from the hill.

View from the hill.

Penang Hill.

Penang Hill.

Bukit Penang Mosque.

Bukit Penang Mosque.

We also took the ferry from Georgetown to Butterworth, though we were short of time so just came straight back rather than exploring there. In Georgetown itself we visited Fort Cornwallis, Saint George's Church, Kapitan Keeling Mosque and the Temple of Kuan Yin.

Ferry to Butterworth.

Ferry to Butterworth.

Eastern and Oriental Hotel.

Eastern and Oriental Hotel.

Fort Cornwallis.

Fort Cornwallis.

Padang.

Padang.

Graveyard.

Graveyard.

Saint George's Church.

Saint George's Church.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Kapitan Keling Mosque.

Kapitan Keling Mosque.

Kuan Yin Temple.

Kuan Yin Temple.

Kuan Yin Temple.

Kuan Yin Temple.

Incense Sticks.

Incense Sticks.

Temple Lion.

Temple Lion.

Chinese New Year Decorations.

Chinese New Year Decorations.

Flower Sellers.

Flower Sellers.

Street in Georgetown.

Street in Georgetown.

Posted by irenevt 06:55 Archived in Malaysia Comments (8)

Travels in Thailand.

Floating market, Bridge on the River Kwai, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Nong Khai, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Golden Triangle, Mai Sai, Hill Tribe Village.

sunny

Us in our favourite restaurant in Bangkok.

Us in our favourite restaurant in Bangkok.

I have already made blogs about Bangkok and Sukhothai but I have been to many more places in Thailand and I've decided to also add a blog for these.

I'll start with the floating market. We went here on a day tour to the Bridge on the River Kwai. It was a very poor choice of tour for us. We stopped at this market for a very long period of time. Personally I just wanted to take a few photos and leave, I've seldom been so bored. The market is so touristy. No-one seems to buy anything. They all just take photos so it ends up being tourists taking photos of tourists taking photos.

There are several floating markets. The one we went to was Damnoen Saduak. It was used as a setting in the 1974 James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. That's why so many tourists want to go there. It is about 100 km away from Bangkok and is open daily from 7am to 5pm.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

The Floating Market.

After the market our tour took us to a war cemetery. We were very interested in this, but before we could enter some very sweet Thai children came and asked really nicely if they could interview us for a school project so we did not have the heart to say no and ended up with only about 5 minutes left to see the cemetery. When we got back after racing round part of it, our guide screamed at us for being about 2 minutes late.

The war cemetery.

The war cemetery.

The war cemetery.

The war cemetery.

After the cemetery we went to a museum about the prisoners of war who built the Bridge on the River Kwai. Now we were really interested in learning about this but we were given a ridiculously short period of time here - about ten minutes. Our guide came in looking for us after about 5 minutes and screamed that we'd held everyone up at the cemetery and we were to come out and get on the bus straight away. We were really angry about this. We ended up getting back on the bus without seeing anything as we'd spent our alloted time at the museum fighting with the guide. No photos to share here. I didn't have time to take my camera out.

Then we got to the Bridge on the River Kwai and an included set lunch. The lunch was ok and we got enough time to see the bridge and railway but it still did not make up for our earlier disappointments.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

A second day trip we did from Bangkok was to Ayutthaya. This was a much better trip than the above one. We were taken to Ayutthaya and given a few hours to look at it by ourselves before coming back on a boat with a buffet. Ayutthaya really deserved more time than we had to do it full justice and I've often said we should go back and stay overnight, but even so we saw a lot. The journey back by boat was long, maybe too long, but it was still worth doing.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya.

On this trip we also visited Bang Pa Inn - a palace built by King Prasat Thong of Ayutthaya in the seventeenth century. It was very beautiful and had beautiful flower filled grounds.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Bang Pa In.

Another place we visited twice in Thailand was Pattaya. Now Pattaya has a reputation for being sleazy and in many respects that is true, but it does not have to be sleazy. It's got a beautiful long stretch of beach. It's got temples. It's got lots of resorts. When you are out looking for somewhere to eat you'll find normal restaurants next to strip clubs etc and that's where Pattaya may not be a good choice as a family resort, but it's not a horrible place. We had a perfectly peaceful and relaxing time here.

I don't remember the names of either of our hotels, but I know one was off the main stretch of beach to the south and the other was off the main stretch to the north. Both hotels were very pleasant.

Pattaya has a long beach, an interesting temple called Wat Phra Yai Temple and some viewpoints. While in Pattaya we also attended a show featuring the famous ladyboys. The ladyboys are men who live and dress as women. All of them are stunning enough to be Miss World. The show they do, in my opinion, was only interesting because the performers are men who look like beautiful women and not because of their performances. Once you get over the fact they are men, it was all a bit dreary really. We also did a day trip from Pattaya to Nong Nooch Gardens which are wonderfully landscaped gardens but which sadly have drugged out of their head wild animals you can take a photo with. We didn't. Tranquilized tigers are not my thing. There was also an elephant show here but it also seemed rather cruel. Minus the animal abuse these gardens would be nice.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One

Accommodation One

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation One.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Accommodation Two.

Temple Pattaya.

Temple Pattaya.

Temple Pattaya.

Temple Pattaya.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

At the Temple.

At the Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Me at the temple.

Me at the temple.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Views.

Views.

Views.

Views.

Eating Out.

Eating Out.

Eating Out.

Eating Out.

Lady boys.

Lady boys.

Lady boys.

Lady boys.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

Nong Nooch Gardens.

At one point we decided we would like to go to Laos. It did not, at that time, seem all that easy to fly to Vientiane, so we decided to take a tour from Bangkok to Nong Khai in Northern Thailand and do a day trip across to Vientiane from there. Not the best idea we've ever had as Nong Khai was a very long way from Bangkok. On route we stopped briefly at a reservoir and in Kon Kaen. We also stopped at some stalls on the side of the road. For example there was one selling honey from a honey comb.

Our hotel in Nong Khai was very nice. It had a very nice though chilly swimming pool. While in Nong Khai we visited a temple, the market and did a boat trip along the Mekong at night. The most noticeable thing about the boat trip was the Thai side of the River was fairly brightly lit and the Laotian side was absolutely pitch black.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Reservoir.

Honey comb seller.

Honey comb seller.

Kon Kaen.

Kon Kaen.

Kon Kaen.

Kon Kaen.

Our Hotel in Nong Khai.

Our Hotel in Nong Khai.

Our Room.

Our Room.

Our Pool.

Our Pool.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Mekong.

Mekong.

Mekong.

Mekong.

Mekong Cruise.

Mekong Cruise.

Dinner on Mekong Cruise.

Dinner on Mekong Cruise.

Night Market.

Night Market.

Night Market.

Night Market.

Nong Khai.

Nong Khai.

A resort we really enjoy visiting in Thailand is Hua Hin. This is a seaside resort, but it's much quieter and more peaceful than Pattaya. It has a long sandy beach, a monkey mountain, lots of Buddhist shrines, a night market, an interesting old railway station and lots of places to eat and drink. We also enjoyed wandering around the gardens of the Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Sofitel.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

Beach.

One of Hua Hin's best known sights is its beautiful, brightly-coloured old wooden railway station. This was built during the reign of King Rama VI.

Railway Station.

Railway Station.

Railway Station.

Railway Station.

Another sight is Khao Takiab Mountain, also known as Chopstick Mountain or Monkey Mountain. It is located next to the sea. There are several Buddhist shrines here and of course many, many wild monkeys. The views from the top of the mountain are lovely.

View from Monkey Mountain.

View from Monkey Mountain.

Monkeys on Monkey Mountain.

Monkeys on Monkey Mountain.

Flowers and Monkey Mountain.

Flowers and Monkey Mountain.

While out exploring we also came to another hill covered with Buddhist shrines and brightly coloured flowers. I think this is called Wat Khao Krailas.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Buddah images half hidden in flowers.

Buddah images half hidden in flowers.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Temple.

Near Hua Hin there's a place called Cha-Am. This is home to a royal summer palace - the Maruekathaiyawan Palace. This palace was constructed in the early 1920s during the reign of King Rama VI. The palace is made of teak and is located close to the sea. It consists of three inter- connected one-storey pavilions supported by more than one thousand pillars to avoid flood damage.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.

We've been to Hua Hin twice. Once we stayed in the Grand Hyatt Hotel which had the best swimming pool ever due to the lazy river which joins on it. It took me a thousand strokes to go round the pool and river once. I nearly did not bother to look at Hua Hin I loved this pool so much. On the other stay we stayed in the Blue Wave Hotel which was also lovely.

Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Hotel.

Hotel.

Drinks in the hotel.

Drinks in the hotel.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

Dinner out.

One last trip we did to Thailand was our trip to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is Thailand's second biggest city. It was founded in 1296. The old part of town is surrounded by walls and a moat. Throughout its history. Chiang Mai often fought with Burma and Laos. It was captured by the Burmese in 1556 and rejoined Thailand (then known as Siam) in1775.

During our stay here we explored the old city, visited several temples, went to a traditional Thai dinner dance evening, saw some traditional Thai crafts and visited the night market. We also did a day trip which I'll put at the end.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Old City Moat.

Old City Moat.

Old City Moat.

Old City Moat.

One of the temples in the old city we visited was Wat Chedi Luang - the temple of the big stupa. This temple was started in the fourteenth century by King Saen Muang Ma. He wanted to bury his father's ashes here. In 1468, the famous Emerald Buddha was housed here. In 1545 an earthquake caused the top part of the temple's stupa to collapse.

Wat Cheri Luang.

Wat Cheri Luang.

Wat Chedi Luang.

Wat Chedi Luang.

Wat Chedi Luang.

Wat Chedi Luang.

Another lovely temple was the Wat Chiang Man. This is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai and dates from 1296. It was built by King Mengrai who founded Chiang Mai. The oldest part of this temple is the Chang Lom Chedi or Elephant Chedi. This sits on a square base surrounded by 15 elephants.

Wat Chiang Man.

Wat Chiang Man.

Wat Chiang Man.

Wat Chiang Man.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Shrine.

Shrine.

We had a khantoke dinner one evening. This is traditional Northern Thai meal served on a round wooden table. The restaurant also stages traditional Thai music and dancing.

Khantoke Palace.

Khantoke Palace.

We saw some traditional Thai crafts such as umbrella making and lacquerware.

Umbrellas.

Umbrellas.

Lacquer ware.

Lacquer ware.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Finally, we did a day trip which took us to The Golden Triangle. This is an area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. It has been one of the world's largest opium-producing areas since the 1950s, though that's not why we went - honest.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle.

Our trip also took us to Mai Sai where it is possible to cross the border into Myanmar. There was a lot of Burmese craft on sale at the border. I bought two beautifully embroidered neck purses.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

Mai Sai.

We also visited a hill tribe village and saw inside some tribal homes as well as watching traditional dance performances.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

Hill Tribe Village.

We also stopped at one point to watch workers tending their rice crops in their paddy fields.

Tending their crops.

Tending their crops.

Tending their crops.

Tending their crops.

Tending their crops.

Tending their crops.

Posted by irenevt 06:49 Archived in Thailand Comments (8)

Vientiane - City of Sandalwood and the Moon.

sunny

In March 2001 we went to Vientiane for the day from Nong Khai in Thailand. We only spent a few hours here so just got a taste of the city.

Vientiane is the largest city in Laos. It is situated on the banks of the Mekong River and is not far from the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the Laotian capital in 1573.

The banks of the Mekong River.

The banks of the Mekong River.

Workers in the fields.

Workers in the fields.

We started our day trip to Vientiane by visiting the Wat Si Muang. This temple was built in 1563, during the reign of King Setthathirat. The temple is called after a young woman, Si Muang, who supposedly threw herself into a hole in the ground where the building’s central pillar was about to be placed in order to appease angry spirits. In front of this temple there is a monument to King Sisavang Vong.

We also visited Wat Haw Pha Kaew, which is now a museum. This was once home to the famous Emerald Buddha, which was enshrined here for over 200 years until in 1779 it was taken to Bangkok. Haw Phra Kaew was built in 1565 by King Setthathirath, who moved the capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom to Vientiane.

Near to the Wat Haw Pha Made stands the Wat Si Saket. This is the only temple in Laos that survived the Siamese occupation of 1828. It houses more than ten thousand Buddha images.

King Setthathirat.

King Setthathirat.

King Setthathirat.

King Setthathirat.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Si Muang.

Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat

Wat

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat.

Wat Si Saket.

Wat Si Saket.

Wat Si Saket.

Wat Si Saket.

The most famous temple in Vientiane is Pha That Luang which means the Great Stupa. The golden stupa here is believed to enshrine a breast bone of the Buddha which was brought here by Indian monks during the reign of King Ashoka. This temple features on the Laos coat of arms.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

The Pha That Luang.

The Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang.

We also visited Patuxai or the Victory Monument. This is an arch that looks a bit like the Arc d'Triomphe. Patuxai Monument is located at one end of Lane Xang Avenue; the Presidential Palace is at the other end. The Patuxai Monument was built in the 1960’s in memory of those killed in wars. It is possible to go up to the top of the monument for views over Vientiane. We did this.

Patuxai Monument.

Patuxai Monument.

Patuxai Monument.

Patuxai Monument.

View from the top of the Patuxai Monument.

View from the top of the Patuxai Monument.

.

One of the most enjoyable places we visited was the morning market. I especially liked the fruit and vegetable stalls. The women manning the stalls were extremely lively. Some were singing and dancing, not sure if that's normal or if a celebration was going on.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

At the market.

Another thing we enjoyed, but didn't get that much chance to do as we were on a tour, was just wandering the streets, looking at the people, the shops, the transport, the buildings.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

Local Transport.

School girls buying bread.

School girls buying bread.

Local sellers.

Local sellers.

Local Sellers.

Local Sellers.

Street Scene.

Street Scene.

Street Scene.

Street Scene.

Street Scene.

Street Scene.

We had lunch in a local restaurant. I've forgotten it's name. I think it was part of a hotel. We also had to sample the local beer, of course, and very nice it was, too.

Out for lunch.

Out for lunch.

Posted by irenevt 03:11 Archived in Laos Comments (7)

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