A Travellerspoint blog

Nara.

Former capital of Japan. Visited in 2008.

sunny

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Stone Lanterns.

We went to Nara on a day trip from Kobe. First, we had to take the fast train to Kyoto which took only thirty minutes. From Kyoto to Nara was by a much slower local train. At Nara we wandered off to the central Nara Park area. It was beautiful with cherry blossoms, tame wild deer, temples and shrines. We only looked at the sights in Central Nara; we did not have time to explore further afield. However, these sights were wonderful. We visited Todaiji Temple with its huge Buddah statue; Kasuga Taisha with its wonderful lanterns and Kofukuji Temple with its tiered pagoda.

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Temples and Blossoms, Nara.

Japan's first capital was established in Nara, then known as Heijo, in 710. However, as Nara's Buddhist monasteries became so powerful, they were seen as a threat to the government and the capital was later moved to Nagaoka in 784.

Many of Nara's sights such as: Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kofukuji Temple and the Nara National Museum are located in Nara Park. This park dates from 1880. Nara Park is filled with hundreds of freely roaming deer. In the Shinto religion deer are believed to be messengers of the gods. Deer have come to be the symbol of Nara.

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Nara Park.

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Nara Park.

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Tame Deer.

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Nara Park.

Todaiji Temple means Great Eastern Temple. It was constructed in 752. It became the head temple of all the Buddhist temples of Japan and later grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in an attempt to reduce Todaiji's power and influence. Todaiji's main hall is the world's largest wooden building. It is home to one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha. The statue is a seated Buddah. It is 15m high. There are also several smaller Buddah images in the main hall.

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Todaiji Temple.

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Todaiji Temple.

Kofukuji Temple was once the family temple of the Fujiwara. The Fujiwara were a very powerful family clan during much of the Nara and Heian Periods. The temple was built in 710. Kofukji has a five story pagoda and a three story pagoda. The five story pagoda is 50m high, making it Japan's second tallest pagoda. Kofukuji's pagoda was originally built in 730. It was most recently rebuilt in 1426. The Eastern Golden Hall of the temple has a large wooden statue of the Yakushi Buddha. Kofukji also has two Octagonal Halls. These date back over a thousand years. Their present reconstructions were completed in 1789 and 1210 respectively. Kofukuji's main building, the Central Golden Hall, was destroyed in a fire in 1717. Reconstruction of this hall is happening now and is scheduled for completion in 2018.

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Kofukuji Temple.

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Kofukuji Temple.

Kasuga Taisha or Kasuga Shrine is dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of Nara. Kasuga Shrine is famous for its lanterns. Hundreds of beautiful bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the shrine's buildings and hundreds of wonderful stone lanterns are located around the outside of the shrine. The lanterns are lit twice a year on Lantern Festivals in early February and mid August. This was a truly stunning building. I especially loved the moss covered stone lanterns that surrounded it and the tame deer that could be found strolling around these.

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Kasuga Shrine.

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Kasuga Shrine.

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Kasuga Shrine.

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Kasuga Shrine.

Posted by irenevt 01:36 Archived in Japan Tagged nara Comments (2)

Rising from the Rubble.

Kobe. Last visit March 2009.

overcast

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Kobe In Spring.

Kobe

We have stayed in Kobe twice. The first time was when we bought a Japan Rail Pass and used Kobe as a base from which to explore: Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Himeji and Hiroshima. The second time we had again purchased a rail pass and spent a couple of nights in Kobe exploring Kurashiki and Okayama, before moving to Kochi and exploring a bit of Shikoku Island. We both really like Kobe for a number of reasons. It is quieter than staying in Kyoto or Osaka and cheaper. It is also less crowded. We were able to find a hotel close to the Shin Kobe station which made it a convenient base for travelling. On our walk back to our hotel from the station each evening we passed an area devoted to beer dispensing machines. Perfect!!

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Kobe In Spring.

Kobe has a few interesting sights in its own right, but is not a particularly touristy town. It is a real place where Japanese people get on with their daily lives. Sometimes I like to escape touristic places with their noise and crowds and queues. Kobe has some good places to eat and we've had several enjoyable meals there at grill restaurants and noodle restaurants.

Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture. It is a port city situated between the sea and the Rokko mountain range. As a port city, Kobe was one of the first areas of Japan to be opened to foreign trade in the 19th century when most of Japan was still closed to the outside world. Other parts of Japan which were open to foreign trade at that time were: Yokohama, Nagasaki, Hakodate and Niigata.

In 1995, Kobe was struck by the devastating Great Hanshin­ Awaji Earthquake. This horrific event killed over 5000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. Today the city has been completely rebuilt, with just a few deliberate reminders of this horrendous catastrophe.

Kitano

Kitano­cho or the Kitano area is located close to Shin Kobe Station. If you were standing in the station facing the sea, this area would be on your right. In the second half of the 19th century when the Port of Kobe was first opened up to foreign trade, Kitano was the area where many wealthy foreign merchants and diplomats lived. Many attractive European style mansions have survived in this area and are open to the public nowadays as museums, cafes, or shops. Poorer foreigners lived closer to the port area, but not much of their former dwellings remain. I loved the old buildings in this area and I also loved the statues of musicians which were dotted around everywhere. The whole place has a lovely relaxed arty atmosphere about it, making it a pleasure to visit.

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Kitano area.

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Kitano area.

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Kitano area.

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Kitano area.

Kobe's Ropeway or cable­car.

Also located near Shin Kobe Station is the Shin­ Kobe Ropeway. A ropeway is the term the Japanese use for what I would call a cable ­car. The Shin ­Kobe Ropeway takes people up the Rokko Mountain to an observation deck and the Nunobiki Herb Garden. You can buy a ticket which includes entrance to the herb garden. From the top of the cable ­car there are wonderful views over Kobe and out across the sea. We also noticed a little statue donated to the people of Kobe by the people of El Salvador in commiseration for their devastating earthquake; an experience the El Salvadorians sadly shared and understood. We also enjoyed wandering around the Nunobiki Herb Garden with its colourful plants. Due to lack of time we took the cable ­car both up and down the mountain, but it is possible to walk back down. We went up the cable car during the day and enjoyed spectacular day time views. I believe the night time view is also lovely though we did not see it.

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Herb Garden.

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Herb Garden.

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Herb Garden.

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Cable Car.

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Herb Garden.

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Cable Car.

Nunobiki Waterfall

Behind Shin­Kobe Station there is a path which will take you up the Rokko Mountain. If you follow it all the way you can walk to the cable car stations and Nunobiki Herb Garden, but we just followed it for around 10 or 15 minutes to see the lovely 43m tall Nunobiki waterfall. A pleasant and easy walk.

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Nunobiki Waterfall.

Meriken Park.

Meriken Park is located in Kobe's port area. It contains some examples of modern art including a giant fish statue. It is also home to the Kobe Port Tower.

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Meriken Park.

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Meriken Park.

Maritime Museum.

This park was one of the areas devastated by the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. I found the park's memorial to the many victims who were killed in this earthquake very touching. As a memorial they have retained an area that was severely damaged by the earthquake with the ground and lamp posts and walls twisted and tilted at crazy angles.

Harbourland

Near Meriken Park also on the seafront is Harbourland. Harborland is a shopping and entertainment district located on the waterfront in Kobe's port area. It has many cafes, restaurants and shops. There are two shopping centres in Harbourland: Mosaic and Canal Garden. Mosaic has fashion boutiques and a wide range of pleasant restaurants overlooking the sea. Mosaic also has an amusement park with a large ferris wheel. Canal Garden has a Hankyu department store, an electronics shop and family fashion outlets. This area is beautifully lit up at night and is quite atmospheric.

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Harbourland.

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Harbourland.

Posted by irenevt 05:35 Archived in Japan Tagged kobe Comments (2)

Tokyo.Capital of the East.

Last Visited 2008.

all seasons in one day

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Giant Spider, Roppingi

Japan

We had lived in Asia for quite a few years before we finally got round to visiting Japan. We were put off going for several reasons: 1/ we had heard it was incredibly expensive and thought we might as well go somewhere where we could afford to eat, drink, travel and visit places when we got there; 2/ we thought no­-one would speak English and all the transport would be in Japanese and we would struggle to get around and 3/ we were convinced everything would be ultra-­modern, built up and new. There would be no sense of history or culture. Despite all these negative thoughts, we finally decided to give it a try and LOVED it immediately. We've been back many times since our first visit and, to be honest, I would happily go there every year.

Japan can be expensive but does not have to be. There are lots and lots of things to do that are completely free. Just walking down a street or through a park is an experience, seeing the strange ways people dress, or watching a group of teenage teddyboys with enormous quiffs rocking away in the centre of a park, or wandering through a multi­storied department store after being welcomed by a line up of bowing greeters. Eating and drinking does not have to cost the earth either. Lots of restaurants have plastic models of food with clearly marked prices in their windows, making ordering easy and the very reasonable price known in advance. There are also convenience stores such as AM/PM, Lawsons, Family Mart and more everywhere. These sell the most delicious fresh sandwiches and mouth-­watering packs of sushi, cold water, cold beer all very cheaply indeed. In Japan you will certainly not starve even on a low budget.

Getting around the major Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto is easy because they all have large subway networks. You can buy tickets from a machine and follow the instructions for how to purchase them in English. Station names are marked in English lettering as well as Japanese characters. In Tokyo you can easily obtain free subway maps in English.

Japan is modern and a lot of the stuff you will see there is fascinatingly high tech ­ like toilets with warmer seats or self cleaning systems and a huge variety of buttons and attachments. However, the Japanese are proud of their culture and traditions and look after their past. There are stunningly beautiful temples everywhere you go. There are lots of castles and gardens and parks everywhere. Visit during spring or autumn and you will see lots of people in traditional Japanese clothes out for a nature walk or posing next to famous Japanese sights. Japan has it all.

Travelling by Shinkansen

On two of our trips to Japan we have treated ourselves to a week long JR Rail Pass, so we have stared out in Tokyo then travelled down to Kobe or Kochi. JR Rail Passes are expensive, but you only need to make two or three long journeys before you break even on the price. We have never pre-­reserved seats and have only had to stand once. Normally the journey could not be more comfortable. For a start the trains arrive accurately to the second ­ there are no hold-­ups or delays. Then there are comfortable seats, each with a little pull down table, perfect for enjoying all the delicious snacks you picked up in the convenience store before boarding. Trains, with the exception of some of the smaller local ones, are incredibly fast, turning long distances into manageable day trips. Every train I have ever travelled on in Japan has been spotlessly clean. Ticket collectors and trolley-­ladies on the train are the stereotypical polite Japanese. Before entering and leaving each compartment they formally bow to all the passengers. A ticket collector will practically apologise for wanting to see your ticket ­ very, very different from say travelling around the UK by train. All in all travelling on the train is as much fun as exploring your destination when you finally arrive.

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Waiting for a train.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Japan is expensive. If we went, for example to Thailand or Malaysia, we would end up staying in a beautiful hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, stunning open-­air restaurant and well­-equipped gym. In Japan for a similar price we will end up in a tiny hotel room with no extra facilities. However, despite this, Japanese hotel rooms are fascinating. Though tiny, they will contain absolutely everything you could possibly need all very cleverly and efficiently squeezed into your room: tiny fridges, torches cunningly concealed in your bedside table in case of power failure, alarm clocks and radios built into your headboard. Once we nearly missed a long distance train because I turned over in my sleep and accidentally switched off the alarm clock with my head. And don't even get me started on the toilets. They have to be seen to be believed.

TOKYO

Tokyo is an exciting mixture of old and new; modern and traditional. You can visit fast paced, busy shopping districts such as Ginza, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Akhibara. Or you can go for slower paced traditional areas such as Asakusa, Yanaka, Nippori.

Getting Around Tokyo:

Although Tokyo is huge, it is relatively easy to get around using the underground or trains. There are several different lines such as the JR Yamanote line, lines belonging to the Tokyo Metro, Private Toei Lines and several private lines such as the Tobu line from Asakusa to Nikko. Buying tickets is easy. Just press the English option on the ticket machine. Ask for free English maps at major Tokyo metro stations.

Eating in Tokyo:

Be careful where you choose to eat in Tokyo as some traditional restaurants can be very pricey. If you don't understand Japanese and want somewhere that has reasonable prices, check out the restaurants with clearly priced plastic food models in their windows. Then all you have to do is point and you know the price of the meal in advance.

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Plastic food display in window of restaurant.

Asakusa

When we are in Tokyo, I always like to stay in Asakusa. It is a bit different from other Tokyo districts. It feels more spacious as streets are wider and buildings are shorter. It is at the end of two underground lines so it is not a bad base for travelling around to other districts. In the past Asakusa was the naughty red ­light area of Tokyo, famous for strip clubs and brothels. This is no longer the case. Nowadays in addition to just aimlessly wandering through the streets looking at a variety of shops which still follow traditional crafts (e.g.shoe­making, drum making, plastic ­food model making), and passing an assortment of brightly lit restaurants, people come to Asakusa to see its famous temple. Senso­ji Temple, also called Asakusa Kannon Temple, is the beating heart of Asakusa. Its origins date back a thousand years or so to an incident in which three fishermen are said to have netted a golden statue of the goddess Kannon,the goddess of mercy, and decided to build a shrine to her. Enter the temple through its massive Thunder Gate and wander along a heaving, stall ­lined lane to the main temple building. The stalls here sell all sorts of traditional clothes, snacks, souvenirs and more. In front of the main temple building there is an enormous cauldron wafting the scent of incense into the air. Take a peek at the tiny statue of Kannon. Then wander through the temple grounds which contain a five story pagoda and a variety of small Buddhist shrines and traditional gardens. Directions: Asakusa is the end stop on the gold coloured Ginza line and the last stop on the pink Toei Asakusa Line

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Asakusa Kannon Temple.

Shibuyu And Harajuku

A visit to Tokyo for me would not be complete without pursuing the following itinerary. Because we tend to be based in Asakusa we take the Ginza line all the way to the other end alighting at Shibuya Station. We take a quick look at the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was a Japanese Akita dog. He was owned by a Professor Ueno who worked at Tokyo University. Every day Hachiko walked to the railway station with his master as he set off to work. Then he sat and waited for him to return to walk him home. When Professor Ueno died unexpectedly, Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for the next 9 years. (This story was recently Americanized and turned into a movie starring Richard Gere). The statue is now a popular meeting point for young people in Shibuya. As well as taking a look at Hachiko, while visiting Shibuya it is worth having a look at Love Hotel Hill. Go to the crossroads past the Hachiko statue and wander off up the hill to your left. This area is filled with love hotels, which rent rooms by the hour to amorous couples. The interesting thing is that many of the buildings are built in colourful and over-­the­-top ways, for example, with bright purple and pink outer walls, or made to look like medieval castles etc.

Shibuya is a shopping area and while I'm not big on shopping, I do love to have a wander round the Tokyu Hands Department Store. This sells everything weird and wonderful including clocks that tick backwards. On my last visit I was fascinated by some little models of a rock group which play instruments and dance to whatever music is played to them. I could have watched them for hours but would have needed to take out a mortgage to buy them.

From Shibuya we then take a stroll up to Yoyogi Park. It's much quicker to reach Yoyogi Park from Harajuku Station if you want to go direct. Yoyogi Park was once the site of the American base and was nicknamed Washington Heights at that time. After the Americans left, it became the site of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Then it became a park. At one time it was a popular venue for youth sub-­cultures such as the dancing teddy boys, but the police began to move them on, so there are no longer as many. I strongly recommend a visit to this park at the weekend, especially a Sunday, when the park is filled with people out for a stroll, or picnicking under the trees, or sword fencing, or practising other sports. Not to mention, a group of friends that meet up there to provide impromptu drumming concerts and throngs of youngsters who set up mics and electric guitars and perform near the park's main entrance. This park is also filled with stunningly beautiful cherry blossom in spring.

Between the entrance to Yoyogi Park and Harajuku Station there is a little bridge which on Sundays becomes a popular spot for Cos­play. Cos play is some weird Japanese thing which results in young Japanese school girls dressing up bizarrely as anything from French maids to Pokemon characters and posing for photos with passers­-by. Fascinating, but strange.

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Shibuyu And Harajuku.

Right next door to this is the Meiji Shrine which could not be more different. It is a beautiful Shinto shrine set in acres of green woodland ( it also has a famous iris garden). At weekends it is a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings or child blessings. Certain numbers are considered unlucky in Japan. A child going through an unlucky number year must be blessed by a Shinto priest to cancel the bad luck. A wonderful place to take photographs of people in traditional clothes and watch traditional ceremonies. Directions: Shibuyu Station ­ for Hachiko, Love Motel Hill, Tokyu Hands from there a 10­ to15 minute stroll will bring you to the other sights or you can travel to Harjuku Station. ­ Cos­play bridge, Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine are right next to each other.

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Meiji Shrine.

The Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace occupies a huge area in the centre of Tokyo. As the Japanese royal family still live there, it is not open to the general public. There are two things worth doing in this area. First go to Nijubashi. This is the most famous access bridge to the palace and while you cannot cross it, it provides a good photo opportunity as it crosses the moat to the palace gates and walls. Secondly, visit the free entry Imperial Palace Grounds. This is an extensive garden which was originally part of the imperial palace grounds but is now open to the general public. It is peaceful, pleasant, green and quiet. You can take a peek into the real palace grounds from some points or just bring a picnic and enjoy a few hours of peace and tranquility. Directions: This is right in the centre of Tokyo, you can walk to this area from Hibiya Station or Nijubashimae Station or from Tokyo Station.

Old Tokyo

Another itinerary which can easily occupy a whole day is a trip to Ueno Park and the nearby old Tokyo areas of Yanaka, Nippori and Nezu. To reach Ueno Park take the train to Ueno Station. Ueno Park contains Ueno Zoo which I have never visited, but I do know it has pandas. It also has Tosho­gu Shrine which is a life­-sized replica of the main temple shrine of Nikko. On our first visit there a Noh play was being staged in the grounds. Free ­entry and worth a look. The park also contains several water-­lily covered ponds and this area has a small temple to the goddess Benten ­- goddess of good fortune. At the top of the hill not far from the Ueno Station entrance to the park there is a statue of a mighty samurai warrior taking his little dog for a walk. Near Ueno Station before you enter the park you will also find a wonderful street market selling everything and anything, including lots of colourful food stalls. There are several museums including the Tokyo National Museum in this area. If you exit the far end of the park, near the Tokyo National Museum, you can walk to the Yanaka, Nippori district. This area is one of the few areas of Tokyo which survived the bombings of World War II. Wander aimlessly down winding lanes with traditional wooden houses and beautiful little temples set in idyllic Japanese Gardens. Or take a stroll through Yanaka cemetery. Nearby Nezu has a beautiful 300 year old shrine with a fantastic azalea gardens and pathways lined with bright red tori. The azaleas are at their peak around April/May Directions: For Ueno Park alight at Ueno Station. You can stroll through the park and end up in Yanaka or you can reach Nippori from Nishi Nippori station, stroll through Nippori, down through Yanaka and end up at the top of Ueno Park.

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Nezu Temple Gardens.

Shinjuku Imperial Garden

Tokyo has some of the most beautiful parks and gardens I have ever seen, but Shinjuku Imperial Garden is hard to beat. I have been there in spring on a freezing cold day when we strolled past the lakes with cherry blossom petals raining down on our heads. It was also stunning in April with its brightly coloured azalea bushes. The park also has a series of hot houses; perfect on a freezing cold winter or spring day. Directions: Get here from Shinjuku Station The gardens are open Tuesday to ­ Sunday from 9am to 4.30pm. There is a small admission charge. You can buy a ticket from the machines by the entrance.

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Shinjuku Imperial Garden.

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Shinjuku Imperial Garden.

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Shinjuku Imperial Garden.

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Shinjuku Imperial Garden.

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Shinjuku Imperial Garden.

Old Ladies' Harajuku

For an unusual trip in Tokyo, take the train to Sugamo Station and go to Jizo dori. This street is known as Harajuku for old ladies. While Harajuku is a trendy young people's shopping area with all the latest in fashion, Jizo dori sells everything the elderly could ever want, including shop after shop of rather large bright red thermal underwear. Red is thought to have heat inducing properties. There is also an interesting temple in this area ­ Kogan­ji Temple. The temple has a statue outside it. Legend states that if you are afflicted with pain on part of your body and wash the corresponding part of the statue's body the pain will disappear. You'll see a long line of people next to the statue waiting to do just this. Keep wandering down Jizo dori and you will eventually come to one of the stations on the Toden Arkawa Line -­ Tokyo's last remaining tramway. We took a ride to the last stop just for the fun of travelling on it.

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Old Ladies Harajuku.

Back on the underground Sugamo is one train stop away from Komagome which has a beautiful garden called Rikugien Park. The park has a beautiful central lake. Apparently there are famous scenes from Japanese poems set out in miniature around the gardens. Beautiful. Directions: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Sugamo for Jizo Dori and the same line to Komagone for Rikugien Park. We actually walked from the Rikugien Gardens all the way to Sugamo which if you like walking and are in no hurry is an OK way to get there, too.

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Rikugien Park.

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Rikugien Park.

Sumo Wrestling

We also enjoyed a trip to Ryogoku to visit the sumo arena. The sumo arena has interesting wall paintings of sumo wrestlers outside it. Inside you will find a small, free sumo museum. The best bit about this area though is as you stroll around the streets kimono clad sumo wrestlers will walk or cycle past you on their way to and from the arena. You will also see restaurants selling huge protein filled meals (chanko nabe) for maintaining the sumo wrestlers strength and physique. The Tokyo Edo Museum is very nearby. It is supposed to be very good, but we did not visit. Directions: Take JR East railways to Ryogoku or the Toei Oedo line to Ryogoku

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Sumo Wrestling.

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Eat a Sumo Meal.

Posted by irenevt 05:02 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

The Dawn of Happiness.

Sukhothai - January 2012

sunny

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Lilies at the airport.

We have wanted to go to Sukhothai for a long time. The old town of Sukhothai was the first capital city of Siam and contains the remains of several palaces and temples.

Getting to Sukhothai:

We flew to Sukhothai from Bangkok on Bangkok Airways. The journey takes about one hour. Bangkok Airways are a friendly and efficient airline. I liked their policy of offering free drinks and snacks to all passengers in their domestic lounge at both Bangkok and Sukhothai. They also provide food and soft drinks on every flight no matter how short. The plane was a holiday plane brightly coloured and covered with pictures of tropical fish and beach huts. Each of their planes has a different name and picture.

Sukhothai Airport is an excellent introduction to Sukhothai. It is the most beautiful airport I have ever seen. It is small. The runways are lined with flowers and ponds. The airport buildings are in typical Thai style. The grounds of the airport have deer, wallabies, horses, paddy fields with oxen. There is a shrine, a ceramics museum which was closed on our visit. We deliberately took an early transfer back to the airport so we could look around. The friendly staff offered us free bikes to do so.

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The most beautiful airport I have ever seen.

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The most beautiful airport I have ever seen.

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The most beautiful airport I have ever seen.

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The most beautiful airport I have ever seen.

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The most beautiful airport I have ever seen.

Sukhothai

We stayed in the Ruen Thai Guesthouse in Sukhothai New Town. The best things about this guesthouse were its lovely pool and the random assortment of oddities dotted around the hotel as decoration such as Thai masks, wonky clocks all at the wrong time, drafts board with bottle top pieces and many many more. On our first full day we travelled in to Sukhothai Old City. You can get there by songthaew ­ a kind of open backed truck with two long benches for 30 baht (I suspect it is only 20 if you are Thai).

We spent our first day mainly exploring the temples of the Old City ­ entry 100 baht. We did it on foot, though many people preferred to use a bicycle. If you are only doing the Old City, it is easy on foot. Sukhothai means dawn of happiness. It was the first capital of Siam and was dominant at a time of great prosperity and progress for the Siamese people. The temples that remain nowadays are beautiful and peaceful and a real pleasure to visit.

On our second full day, we explored the temples in the north part of Sukhothai as well as wandering around the moat and having a look at the potters' kilns. Again we did this on foot, though many people may prefer bike or you can hire transport to take you around if you prefer. The people in our guesthouse strongly recommended a visit to some of the western temples located in the hills around Sukhothai, but we did not do this. The temples of the north - ­Wat Sri Chum and Wat Phra Pai Luang ­ were well worth seeing.

More information about our hotel:

We recently stayed in the Ruean Thai Hotel for three nights. We arranged pick up from Sukhothai Airport to the hotel for 600 baht per car one way. The driver was there waiting for us when we arrived. We took the same service back. The Ruean Thai Hotel is housed in a large, old wooden Thai house. Check in was friendly and pleasant. The receptionist gave us a small map of the hotel surroundings and information about how to get to Old Sukhothai and what to see there. Our room, the ill­-named Room 101, was right next to the pool. The pool was for me the best feature of this hotel. It was set in a lovely central courtyard surrounded by rooms and all around it was an assortment of interesting curios and bric a brac the family who own the place have built up over the years. This included masks, several clocks (all at the wrong time), an assortment of dog ornaments ­same style different sizes, Hilda Ogden style flying geese, among other things. At night the scent of jasmine wafted through the air as you swam. Heavenly. Our room was decorated with the same dark, heavy, old fashioned furniture found throughout the hotel. It was in keeping with the hotel style.The bed was comfy and clean and had a mosquito net all round it, as the little blighters were pretty ferocious all over Sukhothai. There was a reasonable amount of storage space if you were travelling fairly light. There was a good selection of TV channels. Towels were provided, as was soap and shampoo. The shower always had hot water. It was the kind of shower that drains across the bathroom floor though. We brought our own swimming towels with us from home. I believe there was a charge of 40 baht for a swimming towel from reception. A bit mean, I think. There was no tea/coffee making facility in the room. Two bottles of water were provided daily. A safety deposit box for valuables was available at reception. Breakfast was OK. You are provided with instant coffee, tea bags etc and make your own. This was good for me as I like a couple of cups of coffee in the morning. There was plenty of bread and a toaster. Jam was available but not butter!! There were fried eggs, omelette, spring rolls, pork wonton, sausage, meat (sort of ham) and fried rice. All rather cold it has to be said. Fresh fruit and fruit juice was also available. We ate evening meals at the hotel twice. The food was much better than breakfast. I especially liked the chicken curry and the pork wonton. Prices were a little dearer than in the restaurants near the bus station, but still reasonable. The hotel is a bit away from the centre of New Sukhothai, about 20 minutes on foot to the songtheaws to Old Sukhothai. The hotel offers free transport to the songtheaw or transport all the way to Old Sukhothai for 270 baht. If you go by Songtheaw, it is 30 baht per person. The hotel sells bottles of beer from its fridge ­ 79 baht for a big bottle of Chang, 89 baht for a big bottle of Singha. There is a 7 eleven about 10 minutes walk from the hotel. Exit the front of the hotel, go left. When you reach the main road go right until you reach it. The hotel was nice and quiet when we tried to go to sleep but on two of our three nights there was loud music from somewhere nearby the hotel. The owner said this was to do with a food festival so not sure if this happens all the time. I must admit I cannot stand loud noise. On one night it stopped around 10pm on the other around 11pm. The hotel certainly has lots of character, the pool was great and staff were pleasant. Address: 181/20 Soi Pracharoumit, Jarodwithithong Road, Sukhothai, 64000, Thailand

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The Ruean Thai Hotel.

One of the first places we visited was the Royal Palace and Wat Mai. To enter the temples in the Old City you should buy a ticket from the ticket office to the left of the main gate. Tickets cost 100 baht. We explored on foot, but there was a bike shop,­ K Shop, ­ just across the road from the entrance. Wat Mai was the first temple we saw just off to the right as you enter. It was small compared to the other temples but was still worth a look and took a good photo.

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The Moat.

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Wat Mai.

Next we came across the King Ramkhamhaeng Monument. King Ramkhamhaeng is said to have reigned from 1275 to 1317. He was responsible for greatly expanding the old city of Sukhothai. There is a statue of him near the Wat Mai. We watched locals make offerings here.

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King Ramkhamhaeng Monument.

In my opinion Wat Mahathat was the most beautiful wat in Sukhothai. This was once the religious and political centre of the Kingdom of Sukhothai. It is a wonderful place to wander with its large standing Buddha, seated Buddhas and stucco frieze of walking monks. The area around this wat is full of waterlily strewn ponds and beautiful colourful flowers. A lovely peaceful place.

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Wat Mahathat.

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Wat Mahathat.

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Wat Mahathat.

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Wat Mahathat.

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Wat Mahathat.

Wat Sri Sawai is located to the south west of Wat Mahathat. It is surrounded by several walls. This wat has three prangs or towers. The tallest of these is 20m high. This wat is situated on a very attractive pond.

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Wat Sri Sawai.

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Wat Sri Sawai.

­ Wat Trapang Ngoen means wat silver pond and it lies to the west of Wat Mahathat. It contains a lotus bud chedi and a seated Buddha image. It is a pleasant place to wander around and is also very photogenic.

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Wat Trapang Ngoen.

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Wat Trapang Ngoen.

­Wat Trapang Thong lies on an island to the east of Wat Mahathat. You get to it by crossing a rickety, old wooden bridge. There are good views towards Wat Mahathat and towards Wat Trapang Ngoen from here across the lily-ponds.

­Wat Sra Sri is a lovely, peaceful wat located on an island. It has a large seated Buddha image and a Ceylonese style chedi. You get here by crossing the wooden bridge. A second small bridge will take you to a smaller island. A good place to find a shady spot and rest your tired feet for a while.

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­Wat Sra Sri.

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­Wat Sra Sri.

Wat Sorasak is a shrine outside the old city area near the San Luang or northern gate. There is no entry fee to visit this wat. The wat consists of a chedi with lots of elephant carvings and although it is small it is photogenic and a bit different, so worth seeing. It is also near other shrines.

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Wat Sorasak .

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Wat Sorasak .

Wat Son Khao is also located close to the northern gate. While we were here, I enjoyed watching a herd of cattle being driven past. Not sure why the top part is at such an odd angle to the rest of the wat.

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Wat Son Khao.

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Wat Son Khao.

After Wat Mahathat I thought Wat Phra Phai Luang was the most beautiful and most interesting of Sukhothai's wats. This wat is one of Sukhothai's oldest. It was originally built by the Khmers as a Hindhu temple. You can still see some beautiful Hindu carvings here. The whole wat had been badly burnt and all the rocks and Buddhas were blackened. I could find no explanation for this in my guidebook. The wat is surrounded by a lovely lily filled moat. Entry is 100 baht and the ticket is also valid for Wat Sri Chum. If you enter from near the northern gate, there is no ticket office, but we were asked to pay on our way out as we headed for Wat Si Chum. We used the same ticket to re-­enter Wat Phra Phai luang so I guess it is valid all day.

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Wat Phra Phai Luang.

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Wat Phra Phai Luang.

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Wat Phra Phai Luang.

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Wat Phra Phai Luang.

­Wat Si Chum costs 100 baht to enter. The ticket also covers entry to Wat Phra Phai Luang. This wat consists of a square building known as a mondop. Inside the mondop is a huge 15m Buddha image. The image peeks at you through the mondop opening as you approach. There were some stalls located just outside and a smaller seated Buddha image off to the right of the mondop.

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­Wat Si Chum.

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­Wat Si Chum.

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­Wat Si Chum.

Next we took a walk along the picturesque moat to have a look at the potter's kilns. Not hugely exciting but I guess it makes a change from wats and the walk was pleasant enough. You can still see the remains of several kilns. They date from around 1300 AD and produced a special green glazed pottery.

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Potters' Kiln.

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Potters' Kiln.

I was quite interested in watching the locals fishing in the ponds dotted around Sukhothai. They stood on the banks, threw a wide heavy net into the water then waded in to see what they had caught. Worth a look.

There were lots of good places to eat in Sukhothai. Here are some we tried:

One night we ate in a restaurant with the unfortunate name of Poo Restaurant. We tried this restaurant because we had seen other reviews of it and because it was right next to the songthaew stop where you get off when returning from the Old City. The restaurant is owned by a Belgian man and his Thai wife. The Thai woman who served us (not sure if it was the wife) was very pleasant. The restaurant does lots of Belgian beers as well as Thai beers. We stuck to the excellent draught beer Chang, but if you fancy a change this may be the place for you. The tastiest dish we had was Sukhothai noodles with chicken. We also had a green curry which was good but very mild and a bit sweet. All in all good food, good service, very reasonable price and convenient location. Who could ask for more?

There was a whole row of little cafes, restaurants along the main road that lead to the entrance to the old city. We tried two of them for drinks and snacks and found them very pleasant. We were under the impression there was nowhere to eat in Old Sukhothai. This certainly was not the case during the day. Not sure how late they stayed open. Plenty of choice here.

The Ruen Thai Guest House. We ate in our hotel restaurant twice. The food was tasty and good. I especially liked the pork wonton, but the chicken curry was very good, too. We washed it all down with some excellent bottles of beer Chang.

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Travelling between old and new Sukhothai.

Posted by irenevt 23:33 Archived in Thailand Tagged sukhothai Comments (2)

Bangkok

The City of Angels.

sunny

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Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn.

We first travelled to Bangkok for Christmas in 1997. When we told people we were going there, they assured us we would hate it. Why? Too much traffic, air pollution, scams, sleaze. On that trip we somehow managed to get ripped off before we even left the airport, so it did not start well, but to our surprise we really loved Bangkok. We then proceeded to spend every Christmas there for several years in a row. Often combining a couple of days in Bangkok with a few days in other areas of Thailand (Hua Hin, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Nhong Kai). Then we moved on to new places and forgot all about Thailand for a good many years, so our most recent visit was probably in January 2012.

There are many wonderful things about Bangkok. The food is fantastic and very cheap. I love taking the public boat up and down the Chao Phraya River. There are some spectacular sights: ­the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Wat Arun, the Marble Temple, the Golden Mount. Nowadays we do not do huge amounts of sightseeing, only one or two sights a day as we spend a lot of time relaxing and swimming. Some of the posh hotels in Bangkok are like being in a resort a million miles away from a big city and are fantastic for a relaxing break.

One of my favourite things to do is a boat trip on the river. I love going for a trip on the Chao Phraya Express Boat. For one thing it is a real boat used by locals to get around and to and from work and while lots of tourists use it, it does not exist just as a tourist attraction the way some sights do. (If you have ever been to the horrific floating market and taken photos of the tourists, taking photos of the tourists you will know what I mean.) For another thing there are no traffic jams when you travel by boat. Also it is a great way to cool down and you pass some wonderful sights. You can use this service to get to the Grand palace and Wat Pho (Tha Tien pier), the sky train(Sathorn Taksin pier), the Oriental Hotel, China Town and River City. There are different boats depending on the colour of flag the boat is flying. The different boats have slightly different end points and stop and start at different times. They also have slightly different prices, though all are pretty cheap. We normally paid around 14 baht a trip. One point to note is that the boats stop running around 7pm, some routes even earlier so don't try to use them too late on. At some piers you have to buy your boat ticket in advance; at others you pay on the boat. If you buy it in advance, the ticket seller will want to check it and tear it so it cannot be used again. If you get on a very crowded boat, move down inside rather than standing at the back. People get on and off at almost every stop, so if you move inside, you will generally end up getting a seat.

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Chao Phraya Express Boat.

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Chao Phraya River.

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Passing a wat.

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Chao Phraya River.

On some evenings you may experience a beautiful sunset over the river. Some of the hotel we have stayed in in Bangkok have been on the river and provide a free boat service. Travelling up and down the river at sunset is a very pleasant way to pass some time.

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Sunset over Chao Phraya River.

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Sunset over Chao Phraya River.

Another of our favourite places is Lumphini Park. This is right in the centre of Bangkok. We got there by taking the skytrain to Sala Daeng Station which was fine, but you have to cross a couple of busy roads to get there. On our last visit I noticed the metro station exits straight into the park, no roads to cross. Lumphini Park is a huge, peaceful green expanse with several lakes. You can hire boats, stroll, jog, watch people do tai chi, have a picnic (minus alcohol, according to park signs), look at the sculptures and best of all look at the huge monitor lizards that call the park home. There are lots of these. We saw about six or seven and we were only there about an hour. I knew nothing about these lizards before I got to the park, so the first one was a bit of a shock. Once you realize they are not going to eat you, they are great. Really beautiful. They wander around on land, but are also great swimmers, so you'll see them going in and out of the lakes.

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Monitor Lizard.

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Lumphini Park.

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Lumphini Park.

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Sculpture in the park.

The Grand Palace is Bangkok's most famous sight. This building is a must see for visitors to Bangkok. Dress respectfully, cover your knees and shoulders or you'll have to borrow clothing before you go in. Don't listen to the touts outside who tell you the building is closed and try and get you into their tuk­tuk; just ignore them. The palace grounds contain the wonderful Temple of the Emerald Buddah, a much revered Buddah image dating from the 14th century. The Siamese took this from Vientienne, Laos. We saw its original home when we visited there. The temple complex is large and ornate, the Buddah is quite small. It is normally surrounded by worshippers. The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and was home to the Thai kings for 150 years. There are some lovely paintings on the palace walls. Address: Maharaj Pier, Chao Phraya, Bangkok.

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Temple of the Emerald Buddah.

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Temple of the Emerald Buddah.

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Royal Palace.

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Painting on wall of palace.

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Temple of the Emerald Buddah.

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Royal Palace.

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The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

We enjoyed exploring the area behind the Grand Palace, between the palace and the Temple of the Giant Swing. This area was filled with shops selling golden Buddahs of every shape and size. It is well worth having a stroll around here.

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The area behind the Grand Palace.

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The area behind the Grand Palace.

A second very famous sight in Bangkok is Wat Pho. We have visited here three times and our last visit was as lovely and interesting as ever. In fact we were not intending to visit it, we were heading for the City Pillar Shrine then the Giant Swing, but it was so hot we went for the closest sight to the boat landing instead! To get here take the boat to Tha Tien. Entry is only 50 baht. Some parts of the site are currently undergoing reconstruction but it is still beautiful and the reconstruction does not spoil it. Near the entrance just past the ticket office is the huge reclining Buddha statue. It has a wonderfully serene face and beautiful mother of pearl inlaid feet. The statue is 46m long and15m high. The grounds of the temple are wonderful and very extensive. They are covered in ornate pointed chedis, contain many statues,­ lots of which were Chinese originally and were once used as ballasts in Chinese ships. The grounds have around 1000 Buddha statues most taken from the ruins of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. There is a second part of the temple across the street but we did not visit that part. The temple also contains a massage school. Address: Tha Tien Pier, Chao Phraya River, Bangkok. Directions: The entrance to Wat Pho is on Chetuphon road. Entrance is 20B. It's open every day, opening hours are from 08.00am to 5.00pm, with a break from 12.00pm to 1.00pm.

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The Reclining Buddah.

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Chedi.

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Chinese Ballast Statue.

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My husband among the chedis.

The City Pillar is located not far from the Royal Palace. The City Pillar is another place in Bangkok where people go and pray and if their prayer is answered they pay the dancers here to dance for them as a way of thanking the gods. The city pillar shrine was the first building of the capital city. It dates from 1782 and was built by order of King Rama I. It is made of laburnum wood. The city's birth certificate is stored here. Address: Thanon Sanam Chai Directions: Near the Grand Palace.

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City Pillar Dancers.

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City Pillar Dancers.

We went to Vimanmek Palace because it is included on the Grand Palace ticket. Vimanmek Palace dates from the 19th century. Vimanmek Mansion, the main building in the palace compound, was built for King Rama V. It was completed in 1901 and King Rama V lived here until 1906. The mansion has 81 rooms, halls and ante­chambers. From 1906 to 1925 Vimanmek Palace was empty and unoccupied. From 1925 King Rama VI's wife, HRH Indharasaksaji lived here. She stayed there until his death. In 1982 HRH Queen Sirikit re­opened the palace as a museum to commemorate King Rama V. Traditional Thai dancing performances are carried out here. Location: Ratchawithi Road, Dusit District, Bangkok. How to get there : taking the bus Routes no. 12, 18, 28,56,70, 108, 515 and get off on Ratchawithi Road. or Ratchasima Road Opening Hours : Open everyday from 9.30 am. to 3.30 pm. ( close on Public Hoildays) Admission Fee : Baht 100. *If you have visited The Grand Palace you will have also received an entrance ticket to Vimanmek Palace which is valid. Address: Rajavithi Road, Dusit Directions: Behind Bangkok's National Assembly.

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Vimanmek Palace.

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Dancing at Vimanmek Palace.

Another famous temple is the Wat Benchamabophit. Wat Benchamabophit is also known as the marble temple. King Rama V ordered construction of the marble temple in 1899. The temple is made of carrara marble imported from Italy. The entrance consists of four lovely marble pillars, and the temple's large courtyard is made of shiny white marble. On either side of the entrance is a large stone lion, guarding the temple. Inside the temple's ordination hall you will find the main Buddha image of the marble temple, the Phra Buddha Chinnarat. Under this bronze Buddha statue, lie the ashes of King Rama V. In the galleries surrounding the ordination hall you will find a display of 52 Buddha images dating from several periods and in various styles. How to get to the Wat Benchamabophit: Wat Benchamabophit is located on the intersection of Thanon Rama V and Thanon Si Ayutthaya. Since there is no BTS Skytrain or MRT Subway station nearby, the best way be combined with with the Vimanmek Mansion and the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, since they are just a few hundred meters apart. Opening hours. The temple is open daily from 8 am until 5:30 pm. Admission is 20 Thai Baht. As in any temple please dress appropriately, especially since this is one of the temples of highest importance in the country. Address: Si Ayutthaya Road, Bangkok. Directions: Near Chitralada Palace.

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Wat Benchamabophit .

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Wat Benchamabophit.

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Wat Benchamabophit.

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Hubbie with Buddahs.

Another popular temple is Wat Traimit ­- The Temple of the Gold Buddah. The Temple of the Golden Buddha or Wat Traimit is located on Yaowarat Road, in Chinatown. This temple is well known for its 3­metre tall, 5.5 tons solid gold Buddha image. This image is believed to have been made over 700 years ago during the Sukhothai period. Originally the gold image was covered with plaster to conceal it from potential invaders. However, around 40 years ago when the image was being moved, it dropped down and the plaster broke to reveal the gold Buddah hidden inside. Address: Thanon Yaowarat. Directions: Near Hualamphong Station.

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The Temple of the Golden Buddha.

We got to Bangkok's China Town by taking the public Chao Phraya River boat to Rachawongsee Peir. China town was beautifully decorated with red lanterns. I am not sure if this is normal or if it was just in place for Chinese New Year. The streets were busy with stalls selling goods, food stalls and restaurants. There was an interesting temple, too. Worth a look around for the crowds, the colour, the shopping, the food. Address: Ratchawongsi Pier, Chao Phraya River Tour, Bangkok Directions: To view typical China Town scenes go straight ahead to Ratchawongsi Road until the intersection of Yaowarat Road.

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Chinatown Temple.

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Chinatown Food Stall.

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Colourful Chinatown Street.

Another sight worth going to is Jim Thomson's House. This sight is a very easy walk from the National Stadium sky train station­ around 5 minutes. Ignore any idiots who tell you it is closed, or offer to take you on a 20 baht tuk tuk ride. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Entry is 100 baht and you have to go around on a guided tour. The house belonged to Jim Thomson an American businessman and designer who settled in Bangkok just after World War 11 and helped revitalise the Thai silk industry. The village where his workers made the silk was just on the other side of the canal from his home. Thompson brought the houses that made up his home from different parts of Thailand. All the houses are traditional Thai wooden houses. They are built without nails, the pieces of the houses slot together. As well as being famous for revitalising the Thai silk industry Thompson is famous for suddenly and mysteriously disappearing while taking a stroll in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. There are many theories about his disappearance: was he deliberately killed? Did he stage his own disappearance. No-­one knows. There is a lovely cool cafe at the sight. There was also a free exhibition above the Jim Thompson shop which displayed many silk dresses, showed a film about Thompson's life and disappearance and had many interesting news clippings from the dates he lived in Thailand. These included stories about the disputed temples Thailand and Cambodia are currently fighting over, but from when the dispute arose around 50, 60 years ago; a horrible story about a Chinese man who killed and ate Thai children and became a kind of Thai bogeyman with mother's threatening their children that he would come and eat them if they did not go to bed right now and reports about con men ripping off tourists and the need to do something about it from the 1950s. This is worth a look. Address: Rama I Road, Pathumwan District. Directions: National Stadium or Siam Skytrain station.

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Cafe at Jim Thomson's House.

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Canal at Jim Thomson's House.

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Silk Dresses at Jim Thomson's House.

We also like to visit the Erawan Shrine. The Erawan Shrine sits at a busy intersection near the Grand Hyat Erawan Hotel. You can get here by taking the sky train to Chit Lom Station. As you approach the shrine you will see lots of stalls selling garlands. In the centre of the shrine is a four faced statue of Brahma. People come here to ask for his help. If the help is given, they return and give thanks by paying the temple dancers to dance in his honour. The shrine was originally built when the Erawan Hotel was being built. The construction of the hotel was facing lots of problems; an astrologer stated this was due to construction starting on a non-­auspicious day, so the shrine was built to cancel out the bad luck. In 2006 a mentally ill man attacked the Brahma statue with a hammer; he was killed by outraged bystanders. It is interesting to sit at the shrine and watch people lay offerings and pray. It is also interesting to watch the temple dancers perform. You can see similar dances at the city pillar shrine. Sadly, twenty people were killed here in a terrorist bomb attack on August 17th, 2015 . Address: Chitlom Station, Bangkok. Directions: Near the Sogo Dept. Store.

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Erawan Shrine.

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Erawan Shrine.

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Dancers.

You can't visit Bangkok without taking a look at its most famous hotel - The Oriental Hotel. It is quite interesting to pay a visit to the author's wing of the Oriental Hotel. This was the first hotel in Bangkok to cater to foreign visitors to the city. It is located on the Chao Phraya River you can get there by express boat. The hotel is famous because many illustrious visitors have stayed there ­ many of them authors, for example Somerset Maughm, Graham Greene, Noel Coward, Joseph Conrad. You can look at the old colonial style author's lounge which is famous for its afternoon tea and you can visit the author suites. The Oriental Hotel is now part of the modern Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

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Authors' Lounge.

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Oriental Hotel.

On one of our trips we visited the Suan Pakkad Palace Museum. The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum is located 5 minutes walk away from the Phaya Thai sky train station. Entry is 100 baht. You cannot take bags inside, but ­lockers are provided. You cannot take photos within the palace, only in the gardens. You need to take your shoes off to enter the wooden palace buildings. The name of this palace means Cabbage Garden. This Cabbage Garden was bought by Prince Chumbhot Paribatra and his wife Pantip Paribatra and used by them as the site for their palace. Chumbhot Paribatra was the grandson of Rama V. The palace is made up of traditional wooden Thai houses which were dismantled and brought from other parts of Thailand to this site where they were reassembled. Each house holds a collection of the Prince and Princess's artifacts. Their collections include musical instruments, masks, pottery, semiprecious stones, shells. One of the houses,­ the lacquer pavillion, ­has wonderful lacquerware pictures covering its walls. The palace is open daily from 9am to 4pm. Address: 352­354 Sri Ayudhya Road ,Phyathai , Bangkok. Directions: From Phyathai BTS station turn right and walk along the road about 3 minutes, you'll see a group of Thai traditional houses. That's the museum.

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The lacquerware pavillion.

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The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum.

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Traditional Wooden building.

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Traditional Wooden building.

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Royal Barge.

On one of our visits we went to Benjasiri Park. You probably would not travel across Bangkok just to see this, but if you are in the Sukhumvit Road area, it is a pleasant place to escape the traffic fumes. To get here take the sky train to Sukhumvit Station. The park was built in honour of the Thai queen. It has lakes, ponds, lots of great sculptures and a really nice atmosphere. It was filled with kids playing, joggers, skateboarders, basketball players. It was really a pleasant place to wind down and relax as the evening begins to cool a little.

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Benjasiri Park.

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Benjasiri Park.

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Benjasiri Park.

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Benjasiri Park.

Benjakitti Park is also in the Sukhumvit area. To get here take the sky train to Asok Station. The park is really a large lake on land that formerly belonged to the tobacco industry. The park has several sculptures and some lovely flowers. It is possible to hire boats and sail on the lake. It is possible to hire bicycles and cycle round the lake. There were also many people jogging round the lake.

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Benjakitti Park.

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Benjakitti Park.

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Benjakitti Park.

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Benjakitti Park.

The Flower Market can be reached by the Chao Phraya Riverboat. It's near Memorial Bridge Pier. It's best to go early. It's very colourful and pretty. Address: Th Chakkaphet & Th Atsadang. Directions: Near Memorial Bridge.

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The Flower Market.

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The Flower Market.

On one visit we visited a Fertility Shrine. This shrine is located just behind the Swiss Hotel in Nai Lert Park. It seems to be a popular place to come and pray in the hope of having children.

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Fertility Shrine.

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Fertility Shrine.

We have been to Bangkok many times and have done most of the touristy sights, so I was pleased to find a suggested walking tour of the Old Thonburi District in a guide book I borrowed from the library. The first sight on this walking tour was Wat Prayoonwong or Turtle Temple. We got here by taking the public Chao Praya river boat, getting off at Memorial Bridge, walking across the bridge, walking a short distance to the right from the bridge, then turning left and following the road until we reached two turtle statues sitting outside the temple garden. It is quite well signposted from the bridge. The temple garden has a large pond filled with lots of turtles. There are lots of little houses on the rocks around the pond. We also visited the temple itself with its lovely mother of pearl inlaid doors and a large seated image of Buddha. On the same complex there is a large white stupa. Interesting and a bit different.

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Turtles at the temple.

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Monitor lizards swimming in khlang.

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Hubbie with the little houses.

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Mother of Pearl doors.

Next we walked to Santa Cruz Church is in the Old Thonburi area of Bangkok. The church is well signposted from the bridge. This church is located in the old Portuguese area of Bangkok. The original church which occupied this site was built more than 200 years ago by the Portuguese, but this church was demolished in 1913 and replaced with the current building. The church is made of wood, surrounded by colourful flowers and located in a quiet, peaceful area near the river. The church was locked when we visited so we could not go inside.

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Santa Cruz Church.

The area around Santa Cruz Church was mainly inhabited by westerners or farangs at the start of the 20th century. This is a peaceful area with narrow streets and some lovely wooden houses. It is close to the river.

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Wooden House near Church.

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Old Farang Quarter.

Apparently quite a few Chinese people live in the Old Thonburi District. We passed this busy Chinese Temple (it was Chinese New Year time) on our way to Wat Kalayanamit. The temple can be accessed from the river walk which passes by the Santa Cruz Church.

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Chinese Temple.

I have passed Wat Kalayanamit on the Chao Phraya river boat many, many times, but this is the first time I have ever been to it. We spent a lot of time here as the skies opened and lashed down torrential rain as soon as we arrived. This temple is supposed to be older than Bangkok itself. It contains a very large seated Buddha image. It also has the largest bronze bell in Thailand. This temple is popular with the Chinese. It was a hive of activity at Chinese New Year with stalls outside and lots of people making offerings or ringing the bells for luck inside. Worth visiting.

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Large Seated Buddah image.

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Child ringing bell for good luck.

We walked along Khlong Bangkok Yai, a pretty canal, from near Wat Kalayanamit, then found a bridge across so we could walk to Wat Arun. This canal is not really a canal. It was part of the original Chao Phraya River till a false section of the river was dug in order to avoid this loop. It is one of the prettier stretches of canal/river. You can travel along it by local boat I believe. There were certainly many long tailed boats around in this area.

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Khlong Bangkok Yai.

I loved cats we and had to include them. Everywhere I go cats always attract my attention as they are my favourite animal.

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Cats.

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Cats.

One of our favourite temples in Bangkok is The Wat Arun. The beautiful Wat Arun or Temple of the Dawn is situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. You can get here by boat from Tha Tien near Wat Po for 3 baht. We did that on our first visit. This time we walked here from Wat Kalayanamit on the other side of the Khlong Bangkok Yai. This temple is steep and as you climb up you will be rewarded with wonderful views over the river and over Thonburi. The temple is decoarated with many statues and with brightly coloured crockery. Well worth visiting for the views alone. We came during Chinese New Year and were able to watch lion dancing here, too. Address: Tha Tien Pier, Chao Phraya River Directions: From Tha Tien pier take a cross river ferry to Wat Arun.

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Statues Wat Arun.

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Statues Wat Arun.

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View from Wat Arun.

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View from Wat Arun.

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View from Wat Arun.

We have stayed in lots of hotels in Bangkok. These are some of them.

Astera Sathorn: We stayed in the Astera Sathorn Hotel for four nights. We got to the hotel by taking the airport link train from the airport to Thai Station, then transferring to the skytrain, travelling two stops to Siam Station, then walking straight across the platform and changing line and travelling five stops to Saphin Taksin Station, then exiting through exit 3, crossing the main road, walking ahead for 3 or 4 minutes, then arriving at the hotel on our right. The airport link cost 45 baht per person, the sky train to Saphin Taksin cost 35 baht per person. On hotels.com we had been told check in was at 12. We arrived at 12 and were told check in was at 2. I was hot and tired and argumentative. Anyway we were allowed to go to the pool. They stored our luggage and we had to stay there till the room was available. No hardship, except I don't really like to start a stay with an argument. Our room was clean and comfortable. We had a large double bed, a wardrobe, drawer space, an in-­room safe, kettle, 2 teas, 2 coffees, sugar, creamer, fridge, 2 free waters, complimentary coke, sprite, crisps, nuts, replaced daily. The latter were a nice touch, I thought. In the bathroom, the bath was a little on the worn side. Toothbrushes, tiny toothpaste, soap, combs and showercaps were provided. By the bath there were big refillable bottles of liquid soap and shampoo. The water was generally lukewarm rather than hot. The room was nice and quiet; we slept well. The air conditioning worked well. Breakfast was included in our package. To get to breakfast go back to the ground floor and go up to floor two in a separate part of the building. Breakfast was buffet style. It included tea, coffee, orange juice, bread for making toast, congee, 3 differing cooked Thai dishes, sausages, ham, salad, either pancakes, or potato cakes. There was also an egg station where you could get freshly made omelette, fried eggs or scrambled eggs. I thought breakfast was fairly good. You need to bring your breakfast coupon and hand it in. The hotel pool was a kidney shaped pool. It was not huge but, as it never seemed to be too crowded, that was not a problem. We spend many a happy hour by the pool. There was also a gym which I did not use. There were saunas and steam rooms too but I never saw them on. Last place I wanted to be as it was so hot already. The hotel was extremely handy for the sky train and also for the river boats. It was 5 minutes walk away from a river pier. If you exited the hotel walked back to the sky train then continued along the main road you came to Robinson's Department Store. There was a supermarket ­- Tops Supermarket in the basement. The supermarket also had a bakery. There was also a food court on the fourth floor. On the ground floor there was a McDonalds, a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Restaurant. On the fourth floor there was a great hot pot restaurant. We had a lovely meal there. Buffet at 219 baht per person. You get your steam boat to which you can add wonton, pork, chicken, beef, vegetables, fish etc, There was also dim sum, sushi and a choice of 3 already cooked meals and rice, a salad bar and desserts including a selection of ice-cream. 20% off on Wednesdays. Serves beer, very good. Closes around 9pm. The staff largely left you alone. They were helpful when asked things, said hello and good bye etc. internet was available free ­ just go to reception and ask for a user name and password. On the whole comfortable, pleasant enough and a good location. Oh, one more thing the road to the hotel from the skytrain to the hotel was full of hairdressers. I got my hair cut for 100 baht ­ - very cheap, but don't do it if you have curly hair like mine. It is a bit of an alien concept. I may be applying the hair gel to stop bits sticking out all over the place for a while. Address: 481 South Sathorn Road, Yannawa, Sathorn, Bangkok, 10120, Thailand.

Ibis Riverside: We stayed in the Ibis Riverside for 2 nights. To get here take the sky train to Kron Thong Buri Station. Exit via exit 4, walk straight ahead, keep on same road till a road crosses it. Cross this road over the bridge, you will see the hotel sign on the left as you come down the stairs. Reception, check in was efficient. Our room was a typical Ibis room, basic but comfortable and with all you could need. We had an in­-room safe, tea/coffee making facilities. The bed was comfortable. The hotel was quiet at night. We slept well. The best thing about the hotel was its pool. It was a big rectangular pool and we were often lucky enough to have it to ourselves. I loved the pool. The other good thing was the hotel was located on the river with lovely river views. There was a little play park for children, too. Breakfast was served by the river. Breakfast was fairly good with a selection of local and western dishes. No bacon, though. We ate dinner by the river one night, too. Food was good. There was a buffet going on which looked great, but we were not hungry enough to have it, so opted for a la carte. Restaurant service was just OK. They do draft chang beer.There are buffets most nights with seafood buffet once a week. I think on Thursdays. The hotel provides a free tuk tuk to the sky train. We did not use it. Easy to get around from here by skytrain. Or if you prefer boat, exit the hotel to the main road and go right then down through the park under the sky train and you can catch a boat to Saphin Taksin to connect to the local express boat. There were two seven elevens and some restaurants near the hotel. We would be happy to stay here again.

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Great Pool at the Ibis.

Windsor Suites Hotel: To get to this hotel take the sky train to Asok Station. Walk to Sukhumvit Soi 20 and then go right. It's only around 5­10 minutes walk from the station. The hotel has two buildings, we were in the taller of the two towers. Our room was clean and comfortable with a separate living room, big bedroom, big bathroom. We live in Hong Kong and are used to small, the whole place was around the same size as our flat if not slightly bigger. We had a TV in the living room and in the bedroom. There was a fridge/minibar, a room safe, tea/coffee making facilities. Shampoo, shower gel, body lotion were provided in the bathroom. The hotel had a nice-­looking gym which we did not use and a lovely swimming pool which we used all the time. The pool was a reasonable size and was an irregular shape with bits to swim round, Some bits were a bit shallow. There was also a jacuzzi and a kids pool. There was a bar/restaurant by the pool. Breakfast had lots of western options, Japanese options and vegetarian options. Although it was quite extensive, I found the food a little bland at least until I found the chilli sauce. I was surprised at the lack of Thai food except vegetarian. There was a Chinese restaurant in the hotel which we did not try. Directly across from the hotel was a German restaurant called Bei Otto. We had a good meal there. We also had a good meal in a Thai restaurant a bit further up the road ­ green something, maybe green garden. The Bei Otto restaurant also had a delicatessen where we bought lovely bread and wine and snacks. There was a Family Mart and a 7-­eleven nearby. The Asok area has lots of bars and restaurants. Lots of girlie bars, too, which may put some families off, though they are far enough from the hotel to be avoided. The hotel was quiet at night and we slept very well. The bed was lovely and comfy. We did not do much sightseeing this time, but you can get around easily by sky train and use the skytrain to go to the river at Saphan Taksin and take a boat to the royal palace, Wat Po etc. We were very happy in this hotel and will certainly stay here again. Address: 8 Sukhumvit Soi 18­20, Bangkok, 10110, Thailand.

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View from our room.

Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel: Back in the old days we used to do package trips from Hong Kong to other parts of Asia. These invariably put you up in posh hotels. Due to that we stayed here twice when it was the Marriot Riverside and we loved it. This time we stayed one night as a special treat. We don't normally fork out for expensive hotels now, we book flights and hotels separately. However, now and again it is worth it. We got to the hotel from the airport by taking the airport link train to Phraya Thai, switching to the sky train ­ 2 stops to Siam Station, walk across platform to change line. 5 stops to Saphin Taksin. Go to pier and follow sign for hotel shuttles, wait for hotel's free boat. It runs every half hour up till midnight, leaving Saphin Taksin for the hotel at approx quarter to and quarter past the hour. Leaving the hotel for Saphin Taksin on the hour and half past the hour. If you plan to explore Bangkok from the hotel, from Saphin Taksin you can board the sky train or take the Chao Phraya River boat to the historical sights. We paid around £100 for a double room with kingsized bed, balcony, river view, late check out till 3pm next day, 25% off meals and inclusive breakfast buffet. Our room (room 413) was beautiful. Only minor complaint was the bath was incredibly slippy. Put one foot in and you slide right across the bath before you can even put your other one in. Quite dangerous. I have bruises to prove it. The bathroom came with an assortment of lovely toiletries: ginger soap and cardamon soap and beautiful smelling shampoo, hair conditioner and shower gel. Everything was very clean. The bed was very big and very comfy. There was a TV and DVD player. The balcony was good you could see the river, but it would be truer to say it faced the pool. Tea and coffee making facilities were available in the room with a huge selection of different teas. Perfect for me as I love herbal teas. There was an in-room safe. Lots of storage space. The swimming pool at the Anantara is wonderful. It is big and deep. You can even sit at the bar in the pool if you want to. There is also a lovely jacuzzi. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful. In fact the whole hotel is quite stunning. The standard of service is excellent, too. The receptionists, the boat shuttle workers, the bell boys, the towel attendant, the breakfast staff all friendly and polite. Of course food and drink are expensive here, compared to real life Bangkok. The hotel is much more like a retreat than even being in Bangkok. We ate at the pool and drank there during happy hour 4 to 6pm. There was an evening buffet with classical Thai dancing. We had a look at the dancing but did not eat at the buffet. Breakfast buffet in the morning was fantastic. I thought I would never want to eat again by the end of it and finally a hotel that can keep food hot!! Coffee is served at the table. I had to ask for more. I prefer to just take my own as I like coffee. The freshly squeezed orange juice was heavenly. There's a good selection of bread. Thai food and western food available. For our evening meal on the first night we went to one of the restaurants just outside the hotel on the non-­river side. There are many restaurants here where you can eat much cheaper than the hotel, though the one we went to charged 17% extra on the bill just like the hotel does. This is a bit cheeky as this is not common practice in local restaurants just in the hotel, but they rely on you not knowing this or not wanting to make a scene about this. This arcade also had some shops and a Boots chemist. Nowhere to buy beer though. We took the free shuttle to Taksin Saphin and went to 7 eleven to stock up on that. I would certainly stay here again, but use it as a spa retreat rather than a base to explore Bangkok. While you can easily explore Bangkok from it, the hotel is so lovely, you won't want to leave it.

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Entertainment at the hotel.

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Entertainment at the hotel.

Bangkok has a sizeable Chinese population so has many Chinese temples. We visited one a short distance from the Anantara Hotel and found a practice Chinese Opera session taking place.

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Chinese Opera.

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Chinese Temple.

Bangkok has great food. We have eaten in many places. Here are some:

Hot Pot Restaurant: Robinson Department Store Bangrak. This hot pot restaurant is located on the fourth floor of Robinson Department Store a few minutes walk from Saphin Taksin Sky Train Station. A buffet meal here cost 219 Baht per person. There are some prepared food dishes, plus sushi and dim sum, but the highlight is the steam boat which will be placed in the middle of your table. To this you can add add whatever you wish from a selection of chicken, pork, beef, fish, fish balls, tofu and vegetables. It is fun trying to get the seasoning just right to your taste. There is also a salad bar, couple of choices of dessert and a freezer filled with lots of different flavours of ice-cream. During our visit they were offering 20% discount on Wednesdays. Serves beer. Closes at 9pm. Tasty and good fun. Directions: Located on 4th floor of Robinson's Department Store near Saphin Taksin Sky Train Station. There is a food court on the same floor.

In Town Residence: This restaurant belongs to the In Town Residence hotel. It is located on Charoen Krung Road, not far from River City. The restaurant serves Thai food and has a menu in English. It sells draft beer. You can get a liter jug of beer Chang for 125 Thai Baht. The service is pleasant and the food is tasty and very reasonably priced. Not a fancy place, but a good local eatery.

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In Town Residence.

Sukhamvit Road: On our trip to Bangkok February 2013 we did not do much sightseeing, but managed a lot of eating and drinking. We stayed on Sukhumvit Road first near Nana sky train station, then near Asok sky train station. This is girlie bar area, but it is also wall to wall restaurants and bars. There were local Thai restaurants, British pubs, German restaurants, Austrian restaurants, Indian restaurants. We were spoilt for choice. I'd certainly return here to eat again.

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Eating out in Bangkok.

Posted by irenevt 00:45 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

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