Travel

Seoul for my Soul ♡

IMG_7911

Wandering around streets in Seoul never feels so pleasant and better. The fresh Spring breeze blew to welcome me and my “koreaboos”, 16 Degrees breeze is something we never experience on a daily basis in Bangkok.

Our first activity started off with Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자). Our Korean friend Minwoo (who had been waiting for us to arrive for three hours) took us to a popular restaurant in small and busy streets of Myeongdong. The dish was simple but tasted sooo heavenly, Minwoo ordered three Kalguksu ‘chopped noodle’ soup and Mandu dumpling for us. This local meal fulfilled us completely!

Afterwards, Minwoo brought us to a famous tea cafe known as “Osulloc (오설록) Tea House” in Myeongdong. We tried their soft green tea cake, milk green tea smoothie, tea from Jeju island and its tempting milk spread with crackers. That afternoon was all about food.

IMG_7909

Being fatigued from the last uncomfortable flight, we only walked around a bit in Myeongdong and decided to go back to our hotel “Chungmuro Residence & Hotel” in order to ‘officially’ check in and for a powerful nap. Since we would meet my Korean friend “Jiin” tonight. I have been friends with her for 6 years and I was very excited to introduce Jiin to my two Ploys.

We met with Jiin at the underground bar called “Tipsy Rabbits” in the middle of Hongdae. This bar is not one of those overcrowded bars, it rather offered a cool and friendly vibe. We had cocktails and the girls had some tequila shots (’cause why not?!?).    Apart from catching up, we made friends with Jiin’s friends as well, it was hands-down a cozy atmosphere. Moreover, we chatted a little with the owner since he speaks good English so we got to introduce ourselves to each other. That night was the first fun & enjoyable night with my good old & new friends in Seoul.

IMG_7929

*****

To tell you the truth, we had not planned anything for Seoul as we were quite chill and easy-going, so we just went with the flow. The next morning, we randomly singled out blue outfits and wore it together for a change. The weather was lovely out with its fresh spring breeze. We stopped by to have noodles in a restaurant next to our hotel and later took the metro to Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) to wander around their famous landmark. We were here once in 2016 for a university trip, but still we wanted to feel the touristy vibe again.

IMG_8045

A bit further from the palace we continued to Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) to see a well-known Korean traditional village. Just right at the entry of Samcheong-dong, we spotted a quiant garden café called “Jinsun Book Café (진선북카페)” so we decided to have some coffee under the sun as well.

IMG_7947

IMG_7948

fullsizeoutput_1627

Bukchon Hanok Village consists of hundreds of old styled houses, it was like we went back in time during the Joseon Dynasty. Some houses are transformed to cultural centers, cafés, tea houses. However, it is still the residential area, tourists who visiting the area have to respect the area and its people. We shall not disturb them by talking loudly or whatsoever. For the village itself, I would say it is a nice old area overlooking the city and being surrounded by mountains since this place is up on the hill but it is not a must-see in my opinion.

Some modeling in Seoul…

S2
My big Ploy
S4
Our small Ploy – สายดื้อ

S5

In the afternoon, we met another friend of Big Ploy. His name is Tomi and he is a freelance model living in Seoul. He took us to Gwangjang Market. We were very excited to try the local food and because we like to stroll around in all kinds of markets. This one is full of interesting-looking traditional Korean food. We sat at a restaurant and tried bindaetteok (빈대떡 – crispy deep-fried mung bean pancakes) served with a vinegary dipping sauce. It was very tasty but also very oily so we ordered rice wine to help enjoy this dish more. The market itself is lively, there is a lot of local people enjoying their food and shopping spree. Markets are always one the best places to see the real lifestyle and to get closer to the country. It’s always  been a pleasure to immerse myself in the real culture.

IMG_7952

fullsizeoutput_1628
mung bean pancakes

IMG_7959

After strolling in the market, Tomi took us to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (동대문디자인플라자 (DDP)). The place is outstanding for its interesting exterior. We did not to see what is inside but it seems this place holds a big number of exhibitions, conferences, or important events. We stopped for a coffee and later on parted ways since we were seeing Jiin for Korean barbecue! Woohoo!

IMG_8020

IMG_8021

IMG_8047

IMG_8018

There we were again in Hongdae. The weather cooled down, we were so freezing but the Korean barbecue helped immensely. Jiin made us try So-mac (soju + beer), their traditional drink I guess. Soju consists of about 17 – 53 percent alcohol  (by volume) and even though it was sweet, I did not want to drink a lot and get trapped. However, Big Ploy and Jiin made sure to compensate what small ploy and I did not drink. Haha The atmosphere of the restaurant was very friendly and casual. Jiin went there all the time and we got a free steamed egg as well. We were enjoying our food and talks, how I have missed Jiin so much during the past two years. More importantly, I was glad Jiin got along well with my friends which made the dinner more enjoyable.

IMG_7964

 

IMG_7979

*****

Like yesterday, today’s plan was decided the second we woke up. And our wish to enjoy Seoul nature came true. We took Seoul metro Line 4 to Hyehwa Station (혜화역). We read in a guidebook that the area is for photography and relaxation which still displays creativity and youthful energy so it was perfect for a relaxing day. Today we met JJ, a friend of Big ploy and together we visited Ihwa Mural Village (이화 벽화마을) and Naksan Park (낙산공원).

fullsizeoutput_1618
Wall painting on bottom left
IMG_8017
Naksan Park

IMG_8010

fullsizeoutput_1629

Hyehwa neighborhood is off the radar to most tourists and even overlooked by locals, yet this area comprises about 80 independent theaters showing performances on a daily basis, affordable restaurants & cafés. To discover a city or a country, we have to do a bit of digging to see what it truly is. The so-called Hyehwa area throughout Ihwa Mural Village is the gateway to hike up to the Naksan park. Paintings on walls and staircases are signs of creativity, we walked through the lovely (normally –  but at that moment not so much due to the construction) village and up the hills to see magnificent view of the entire Seoul. Along the way, we chatted and stopped by to exercise with local workout equipment established within the park. This place is full of locals yet lacks sight of tourists. Naksan Park gets its name from its camel-hump like appearance. The mountain is a natural granite bedrock. In the past, the Joseon royal family would enjoy coming to this park, but during the Japanese colonial period, new urban planning almost entirely demolished the mountain. (thanks to http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/) Nevertheless, this park was designated as a park since 2002 allowing its visitors to enjoy the old fortress wall, the collection of sculptures and history. We were very much enjoying the time on the mountain through our talks & laughs. We spotted many couples on their romantic dates, people walking their dogs, parents coming with the kids,  adult caretakers bringing their patients in wheelchairs, company outing and so forth.

We felt a little sad that we had to come down. Still, the area downhill never stopped to surprise us with their street styled shops with inexpensive goods. Two ploys bought cute bracelets and ice cream. The weather cooled down with the evening breeze, then JJ brought us to this yummy-looking crispy Korean chicken restaurant. All of us enjoyed it too much with its local beer – it was called a perfection.

fullsizeoutput_161c

fullsizeoutput_161d

IMG_8002
Crispy Korean Chicken ^.^

*****

We slept in, therefore, we started the day later. Today we went to Hong Dae to do some shopping and just to stroll around. Hong Dae is the area full of youngsters and of course you can see some Korean youngsters’ fashion. We were enjoying the area and its lively ambience. We got Korean make-up for our family and friends. I got a few pieces of clothes because of the girl at the shop. Clothes at her shop were very cute and stylish but first I was not certain to buy because it was quite pricey, then she literally hugged my arm and said “please, unni!”. That moment I lost it, I could not resist her cuteness. So I bought them. Haha In the late afternoon, it was raining a bit so we decided to stop for some coffee. We talked about all stuff; about how we find Korea so intriguing and that we possibly would make Korea our annual trip. 🙂 We obviously do have a thing for Korea.

IMG_8049

Before the last evening was devoted to Korean BBQ once again, our most favorite of all in Korean cuisine. It was very funny how we communicated with middle-aged ladies there to order what we wanted as the other side do not speak English. With Big ploy’s formidable knowledge of Chinese language, she managed to convey what we needed to the lady who also knows a bit of Chinese.

IMG_8053

IMG_8052

Full tummy from our last barbecue evening then followed by a big party with all the friends in Korea was beyond awesome! We met up at the heart of Itaewon. Our forever-best Korean friend, Minwoo, brought us to a nice cocktail place where we met up with a few friends of his. It was a catch-up night full of funny stories and laughters.

IMG_8094

IMG_8092

Later on, we decided to go to a night club called “B One Lounge Club” It was okay with cool music and all but it was too crammed that we were circled in a group of Korean guys and that we had to leave. It was a weird experience and would not want to try it again.

As we wanted to go to different nightclubs afterwards, we parted ways and kissed goodbyes with Minwoo and his friends. It was yet the last chance to see him. Two ploys and I went straight to our favorite spot “The Fountain“. Our good old spot with big area to dance and play some childhood games. We fought our ways to the counter bar to order some drinks. We chatted with a few people and later that night made friends with two young Korean girls. They were really cute and friendly and they were almost sticking to us all night. We danced together and shared a lot of funny moments and stayed together until 6 am in the morning. Haha

Actually Big ploy told us “let’s go home at 1 am ’cause we have a flight tomorrow”. Here is how it turned out. We said goodbyes to the girls and invited them to Thailand when they have a school break. Then we took a taxi drunk, we were quite talkative with the driver which made him laugh all the way. Got to the hotel safe and sound, we closed the curtains and went to bed FINALLY at 7 am!

IMG_8085

fullsizeoutput_161e
6 am cuteness…

*****

IMG_8079

IMG_8074

We started our last day at around 1 pm or so and went to Myeongdong and Lotte Mall to do some last-minute shopping for 1-2 hours. Then we rushed back to the hotel re-pack our luggages, then dragged the luggages to the bus station. We only waited 15 – 20 minutes until the next bus arrived. The bus was quite luxurious and offered the comfortable seats with spacious leg room. It took us about 1 hour to get to the airport, which we considered quite convenient. Comparing to the train from the airport on our first day, I recommend airport bus even if it’s a little more expensive but that comes with more comfort and convenience.

We checked in at the airline counter and after a while Minwoo came to see us off, it was great to see him again before flying back. We did not have a lot of time to linger so we quickly kissed goodbyes and passed through the security & passport controls. We quickly had dinner – the last kimchi stew in Korea – and literally ran to the gate… and it was the time to say good bye to our beloved country!

*****

Just to give you an honest background…back in the past I did not have any interest to Korea, not being crazy about their food, culture, people, or the country in general. But after 2016, we went on a university trip for academic purposes to Korea. It was truly a rare opportunity per se to be able to visit the Seoul City Hall and discussed with the officials or to visit the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul and were warmly welcomed by the Ambassador and other Thai diplomats. We also had an opportunity to visit the Office of the Defence and Army Attaché and to meet with a professor and students at Korea University at the Faculty of Political Science. In addition, we visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) (which was established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea) and Songdo International Business District or a new smart city, which is the part of Incheon Free Economic Zone and was then being developed to be the hubs for international business, logistics, tourism, and leisure for the Northeast Asian Region. During our free time, we would be discovering this new country through trying their cuisine, cafés hopping, and going out to clubs to meet new people or even make new friends.

It is sooooo true when hearing the statement “Do not judge a book by its cover”. Things that we thought we knew about a country or anything in life…could not be always accurate if we have never really experienced it ourselves. Before, I would be thinking…Korea is a country with these fancy k-pop singers, k-series, make-up industry, surgery, and Korean handsome-looking oppas whom Thai teenagers would be crazy about. Korea somehow represents and definitely has all those things, nevertheless, the country enlightened me more… to see how they developed their country this far with their soft diplomacy and became powerful in the region in away, it was a very smart way…and for the better. I read a lot more about the Korean history and their Korean series somehow give good storylines and food for thoughts and most of the time reflects their society. For becoming more open and accepted of new countries, cultures, and ways of life, I could not thank enough to my travels and to the desire inside me that always wants to learn more about anything. Cheers to that!

And South Korea, thanks to you with all my hearts for taking me on a fun ride from the traditional palaces & villages down to your cool & chic streets and unforgettable nightlife! Promise we will go back and make memories!

IMG_8123
So long!

 

With lots of love (for oppas ♡)

Advertisements
Travel

Angkor Wat (Siem Reap) – Photo Series

IMG_2317
Angkor Wat at dawn, 5.37 am

I traveled to Siem Reap for only one day just to see Angkor Wat. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is regarded the largest and oldest religious monument in the world and it is the most ancient seven wonders of the world. Built in 12th century, it has become a must-see destination in South East Asia. Some people say they could die in peace if they got to see this Temple City. Well, I guess it is kind of true.

IMG_2319
Angkor Wat, 5:40 am
IMG_2322
Angkor Wat, 5:53 am
IMG_2347
Angkor Wat, 6:18 am – Sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of the most unforgettable moments

IMG_2363

Inside of the temple complex…

IMG_2366

IMG_2377

IMG_2380

Bayon – Angkor Thom

IMG_2402

IMG_2405

IMG_2415

Baphuon Temple

IMG_2421

IMG_2424

IMG_2423

Phimeanakas – a Hindu temple located within the Angkor Thom complex.

IMG_2427

Prae Roup Temple
IMG_2432
We had to climb a long way up but the view was worth it!
Ta Prohm – aka Tomb Raider Temple
IMG_2436
IMG_2441
IMG_2448
Tree-eaten temple
Banteay Kdei Temple
IMG_2450
IMG_2454

One day trip at Angkor complex was worth every sweat and dollar. I was amazed and  in awe by the architecture that were created thousand years ago by man. Although, I could not help thinking how would life be a thousand years back, I could still feel the glory of the past empire. It seemed time erased everything else, but Angkor complex remains wonderfully to the eyes of the world.

I do recommend everyone to visit Angkor Wat before you die.  You’ll truly love it!

Travel

Sri Lanka – my new love♡ ตกหลุมรักศรีลังกา

SL6

In the past years, there have been a handful of countries in which I was excited to visit and Sri Lanka was not among them. The country had never crossed my mind until I learned last year that a good friend of mine moved there for work, I promised her that I would visit. And I finally did! As my trip ended, I left Sri Lanka with an empty heart.

I flew to Colombo end of February and only had 5 days to explore Sri Lanka. Colombo has been known as the (commercial) capital of Sri Lanka but Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the real administrative capital.

I arrived in Colombo late at night and my lovely friend was already waiting for me at the airport. How kind! I was so happy that after roughly two years, we reunited again in Sri Lanka, the land of a million smiles. 🙂

I started off my first day alone since my friend had to work. I thought it would be boring to discover this city by myself but surprisingly it was very pleasant finding my way to places and I would like to share with you these places I have been to.

IMG_6514

National Museum in Colombo

I took a tuktuk (with meter) to the National Museum and to my surprise — I had to tell a tuktuk driver the direction. I did not realize it but every tuktuk driver most of the time did not know all places. The tuktuk fee should be around LKR 100-300 to commute in Colombo. If you pay more, there is a great chance that you have been taken for a ride (literally) which of course happened to me.

IMG_6511

I paid LKR 1000 to visit the National Museum. There are 15 exhibition rooms. The museum is an old colonial building encompassing a lot of artefacts and interesting displays depicting Sri Lankan history, culture, and development. Exhibits are well described in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. I spent at least 1.30hrs wandering through centuries of Sri Lankan history which was well organized and demonstrated. Items like jewellery, coins (from different countries), clothing, masks, swords, glasswares and others are still in good condition. In my opinion, it was totally worth a visit. School kids also visited the museum for the educational experience which made the atmosphere more lively and enjoyable for me.

 

Seema Malaka Temple

Next up, I went to seema malaya temple which is a part of the main temple called Gangaramaya Temple. I walked from the National Museum to this temple in the heat, it was pretty hot but I enjoyed seeing the sights as well. I found the temple very special as its construction is in the water (Beira Lake). I was walking around the three platforms. Apart from enjoying the temple itself, I very much enjoyed the contrast view of this temple and skyscrapers.

IMG_6527IMG_6519

 

The Dutch Hospital

In the afternoon, I visited the Dutch Hospital. In the past, it was the hospital for officers who worked for Dutch East India Company in 1600s before converting it into a shopping center in 2011. There are a few restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and bars. They sometimes host some live music in the courtyard. The day I visited was very hot and quite desolated, so I decided to go to the red mosque instead.

IMG_6535

Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque

The red mosque is located in Pettah. Pettah area is full of busy markets, shops, and people. It was a bit hard to find this place in the middle of the narrow streets. I asked around a few locals but still did not find the treasure I was looking for. Until I met one guy around my age. He was very helpful and volunteered to take me to the mosque by asking around (as well). It was quite complicated to find the red mosque, so after 40 minutes of wandering the narrow streets, there it stood above all of the overflowing bazaars. It is a truly magnificent edifice of all. I did not only make my way to the mosque, but also made a new friend that day.  With my new friend, we had a good chat and afterwards parted ways, he took a bus home and I found my way back to the Dutch Hospital somehow.

IMG_6539

IMG_6540

First day in Colombo was not bad at all. That evening I spent time with Leyla at a cafe and also with one of her friends at a tailor shop. Then we went home and had pizza delivered because of the heavy rain outside. We ended our days humbly and I slept so well in the embrace of Colombo.

————————————–

Next few days, Leyla had some time off. We decided to travel together to Southern Province of Sri Lanka. First stop was Galle.

SL22

Galle

It is known as Galle Fort and regarded as a World Heritage Site. The city was captured by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British respectively which is why we see outstanding colonial buildings in old town area nowadays. We can walk around Galle Old Town within a day or even an afternoon. Since we arrived in Galle in the middle of the afternoon, we decided to walk around, had ice cream, and went from one (gems/antiques) shop to another. Afterwards, we did a walk along the Fort’s walls to see the sunset which was very pleasant. Not only tourists who enjoyed this picturesque sunset, locals also gathered to chill, drink a beer, and just sit down to watch this orange sky turning into dark over the Indian Ocean.

IMG_6575
Common Sri Lankan tuktuk
IMG_6568
Galle Fort
SL4
Strolling around in Galle

SL5

SL3
The best shot from my dear Leyla
IMG_6629
breathtaking sunset

IMG_6631

IMG_6641
Delicious prawn curry!

————————————–

Next day we walked around some more and wrote our postcards to send to loved ones. Galle Post Office is very old but dope and still functional. It was very impressive to see quite a lot of people still taking time to write and send their postcards across countries and oceans. This will never get old how much time passes. Before moving to another place, we enjoyed iced coffee in a hidden cafe and had a good chat with the owner.

IMG_6678
Dope post office

IMG_6677

IMG_6680

Mirissa Beach

IMG_6706

Traveling from Galle, later in the afternoon we arrived in Mirissa Beach. I have heard a lot about its beauty, and my colleagues recommended me this beach as well. We stayed at Lemazone Inn just right next to the beach, Mirissa South.

Beaches in Sri Lanka are very popular for surfing as there are always strong waves. During that afternoon, all we did was just sunbathing and going into the sea. A lot of people enjoyed swimming, surfing, sunbathing, reading, or just sleeping there. At night we dressed up a bit to go a nice restaurant a little far from our place. They served very good chicken kottu and salt & pepper calamari. Then we ordered the local beer “Lion” and just chilled & listened to the sound of the ocean. This bar&restaurant turned on some good music and everyone was just enjoying their evenings. We enjoyed our first night a lot in Mirissa Beach and had a plan for blue whales watching the next morning.

IMG_6703

IMG_6697

IMG_6714
salt & pepper calamari and chicken kottu
IMG_6711
Local beer “Lion”

————————————–

 

IMG_6720
Busy fish market

IMG_6726

Next day we woke up before 6 am to be picked up by a tuktuk driver who basically transferred us to the pier. The pier is already busy with people in the early morning selling and buying fresh seafood, or even selling mobile phones. 😛

The way to the pier was so beautiful as the sun was just rising and we got to see such a lovely morning. We paid LKR 4000 each for blue whales watching, which would normally cost LKR 6000. The boat ride was 1 hour into the Indian Ocean – the Laccadive Sea. Local breakfast and tea were served but I did not eat anything. I got pretty dizzy after the 1 hour ride. In the middle of the ocean, the boat stopped and a few minutes later, a boatman called us all to come the prow of the boat. Then we all experienced the unforgettable moments, our boat was very close to blue whales, we saw one swimming just right next to us and the other one put its tail up – so adorable. Leyla and I were very excited to see blue whales this close – they are such beautiful huge creatures.

IMG_6735

Afterwards, we saw quite a few more whales and we had to head back to the pier since one Chinese guy on our boat got very seasick and became all pale. We tried to help on the way back. When we arrived at the pier, the ambulance was already waiting for him. We really hope nothing severe happened to him.

After soaking up the sun for a bit more in the afternoon, we traveled back to Colombo by Pickme (popular taxi service in Sri Lanka). It started raining the moment we got in the car. Thank you Southern Province for all this good time & food.

IMG_6752

 

SL15

————————————–

Shops

Apart from beaches, Sri Lankans preserve well their arts and crafts, which I can see from the famous shop called Barefoot. I read on their website that every product is made in Sri Lanka and every item is designed and made by local workers and craftsmen. The name Barefoot represents being in close contact with the nature and the earth.

I went to Barefoot garden cafe for lunch and its shop on the first day in Colombo. On the outlook, Barefoot sells high-quality handcrafts for example traditional bleached clothes for men & women, household decorated items, home fragrances (candles & diffusers) and so forth, good quality hence comes with the price. I went again for the second time to the store in Galle Fort. It was a real pleasure to stroll around in this style of shop even if my pocket would not allow me to buy anything.

 

Another shop for souvenirs is Spa Ceylon. Except for their spas, there are products such as body care, hair care, fragrance, home aroma, teas and infusions and more. I bought a few things (chest rub and breath herbs)  for myself which I found it very nice and soothing.

Cafes & restaurants

Apart from crafts, the most important thing I am so happy and impressed with Sri Lanka is their healthy food & lifestyle! Leyla always introduced me to new cafes and every place she took me, their food is heavenly amazing.

IMG_6544

Cafe Kumbuk in Colombo

Cafe Kumbuk is not just a cafe. It also includes yoga classes and its handcraft shop. Kumbuk is the name of a big tree commonly found in Sri Lanka. We arrived with a tuktuk and walked into their spacious courtyard. The cafe is very lovely and the food is tasty-looking. I read on their website and found out they strongly stress healthy and sustainable living. Food menu are 100% fresh, healthy, and authentic. They have local suppliers who source out only fresh ingredients right to the kitchen. The food is affordable and the staff is cordial and welcoming. We had a really amazing breakfast. Leyla loves avocados so she ordered “Avo Toast” (LKR 900 approx. THB 180) and I got myself “Salmon N’Sourdough” (LKR 1000 approx. THB 200). Their good coffees cost from LKR 200 – 450. The cafe is decorated with photographs and maps of Sri Lanka which is very interesting and useful for a tourist (like me haha). We had a great time at the cafe and I would recommend anybody at all who passes by Colombo to stop and “sri-lax” at the cafe kumbuk.

 

Black cat cafe in Colombo 

I had breakfast at this cafe before flying back home to Thailand. First, I thought this cafe was somebody’s colonial house. Yet  when I entered, the ambience is very warm and minimalistic. There are simple chairs and tables made of old Singer sewing machines. The food is out of the question amazing and discreet. I ordered salmon with some eggs, I don’t remember the name but you can see in the picture below. We did not spend much time there as I was in a rush to go to airport. To conclude, the cafe is simple and quiet but food is extraordinary, thus, I definitely recommend you to try this cafe as well.

 

Shady Lane in Mirissa

This breakfast spot is in walking distance from our hotel in Mirissa Beach. Leyla was here last time and fell in love, hence, she took me there. After our unforgettable blue whales watching experience in the early morning, we were starving and decided to treat ourselves with some good food. Shady Lane is located in a small alley, no one would notice it had they not known their reputation before. When we arrived, there is already a lot of people having some healthy toasts and bowls of goodness. We both ordered simple but wonderful French toasts. For Leyla, it was avocado (of course hehe) + cooked mushroom on top + tropical crush drink. For me, I had poached eggs + grilled tomatoes with basils + fresh coconut juice (with the environmental-friendly bamboo straw). The island vibes under palm trees with great food were what we just needed. Needless to say, this cafe owns a place in my heart.

SL14

IMG_6745

IMG_6748

To sum up what I have experienced on cafes in Sri Lanka – the owners are very aware of healthy and sustainable living. Everything is  merely simple but extremely gold like the chosen healthy dishes, natural utensils, and decorations – everything is environmental-friendly. They do not seem to exploit nature, they’d rather live in harmony with it and adapt accordingly. I have been surprised and impressed how we can just live simply and that this lifestyle is widespread in Sri Lanka.

————————————–

Now for Sri Lanka, not only food that I loved, but also their culture, arts, crafts, architecture, and particularly people. You are day and night welcoming. Sri Lankan people tried to talk to foreigners and smile all the time. I used to think Thailand is a land of a thousand smiles (with all due respect of my own country) but I could say Sri Lanka is a land of a million smiles. 😀

Last but not least, I would like to say “Thank you a million Sri Lanka” for all the memorable times and your hospitality and “thanks a lot to my dearest Leyla” for having me & hosting me very comfortably, I always value our friendship and enjoy your company. I know I am going back to Sri Lanka sooner or later, as it has become my favorite country so far.

I LOVE YOU SRI LANKA! 

SL10

SL19

 

Thanks to you all who stop by my page and read my stories.

With love, Pik.

Travel

Luang Prabang – เที่ยวหลวงพระบางเมืองมรดกโลก

A lovely trip I have been wanted to share with you is the one to Luang Prabang, located in the northern part of Laos, with my lovely Iranian-Japanese friend, Leyla. It has been more than a year but the memories are clear and so these they need to be put in words.

Leyla and I spent a few days in Luang Prabang, during the time she visited me from Japan. The city is one of the most beautiful towns on my bucket list I had to visit. And I was so thankful that the trip was possible and I got to share the experiences with the  wonderful friend of mine. Finally, there we were to spend a few days in the UNESCO world heritage site by the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, I really could not wait to see what this town in the mountain has to offer.

IMG_7696

IMG_7699

Just before we landed, I spotted the mountainous view down the airplane which was truly breathtaking. Once we arrived at the airport, we exchanged the money, and took an airport taxi to the hotel.

“Villa Maly Boutique Hotel” was our home for the next three nights. We were nicely greeted and welcomed. They’ve made such a great first impression in Luang Prabang!

After putting our backpacks in place and freshened ourselves up a little bit, we went straight to the heart of the town, aka the walking street. We decided to just take a walk and find a nice restaurant to treat ourselves after the long flight 😛 (really). We ended up at an Indian restaurant ’cause why not right! 😛

The sun slightly went down, but the night was still young so we went to a bar to have their famous affordable “beer lao”. First night in Luang Prabang was quite impressive.

IMG_7717
Market strolling

———————————————

The next day, our plan was just to take free bikes from the hotel to ride around town and experience the local lifestyle.

Two rivers go along both sides of the town – Mekong River and Nam Khan River – and in addition, the other side of the town is also embraced by wide mountains. In the center, Luang Prabang provides its cultural richness such as temples and museums. The architecture reflects the mixture of Lao traditional wooden buildings, which was introduced during a colonial period, with the 19th & 20th century European styled edifice. Brick colonial buildings, often with balconies and other decorative features in wood could still be seen in today Luang Prabang.

We visited an ancient and well-preserved temple, Wat Xieng Thong, which was built since the 16th century, representing the centre of Buddhism and their long history from mural paintings.

lp12

IMG_7741

IMG_7751

IMG_7753
Our bikes for the whole stay… 😀

The exploring of colonial buildings…

IMG_7758IMG_7802

After riding around town for the whole morning, we were very hungry and decided to look for an authentic Lao restaurant I once got recommended from an old friend. The place is called “Tamarind”, it is located by Nam Khan River. We were riding under the sun in attempt to find the restaurant. It took us a while however we enjoyed seeing the colonial buildings & schools all the way to the restaurant very much.

IMG_7785

IMG_7787
Kaeng Om Gai (Chicken spicy soup) & Larb Kwai (Baffalo spicy salad)

After lunch, we rode around some more until late afternoon. Later on, we got back to the hotel to freshen up a bit before going to Mount Phousi for sunset. The way up to Mount Phousi was very crowded. Apparently, this viewpoint is very popular and has been recommended a must whilst you are in town. When we arrived, almost all of good spots are taken by tourist to watch the best part of sunset over Mekong River. For me, it was very entertaining though to watch people go completely crazy with their phones, GoPros and DSLRs when the sun was going down…. 🙂

lp5

IMG_7815

IMG_7821

Afterwards, we walked down with the crowds to go to the black market. Dinner was what we were after…

That night we tried local dishes…look where we ended up and of course we got very excited and impressed with all the food.

IMG_7715

IMG_7836

With stomach full of amazing Luang Prabang papaya salad & the grilled fish, let us call it a night. 🙂

——————————————–

The next day we intended to chill and just cafe hopping. As we were there to relax – no plan, no rush.

A positive comment for this boutique hotel – every morning we enjoyed our breakfast very much as all kind of food provided was really wonderful altogether with their attentive staff. I would recommend you all to stay at this place and I am sure you would not be disappointed.

IMG_7914

Like yesterday, today we still rode our bikes along the Mekong River and found this cafe called “Saffron Coffee”. Therefore, we decided to get a cup of coffee. The location of the cafe is simply beautiful…looking over the Mekong River and it certainly is a good spot for (local) people watching. We took our time and discussed about lots of stuff, particularly about the Iranian history and revolution. 🙂

IMG_7862

lp19

After that coffee, off we went again to ride around to the other side of the town. In Luang Prabang, it is all about riding bikes and experiencing the local lifestyle. Later on, we decided to stop at a local restaurant where everyone was lining up to get their lunch. Anywhere you go, if local people line up for food – you are safe.

IMG_7883

In the early afternoon we instantly made a decision to go to”Kuang Si Falls” a famous waterfall in Luang Prabang. We got very excited yet the van ride was painful for me…as I was trying so hard not to throw up. Could not be happier when I heard the driver stopped the engine, it meant we were already there!

The moment we arrived I could completely breathe the fresh air of the forest and the waterfall…it was naturally magical.

IMG_7885

IMG_7897

We were hiking to the falls and found a relaxing spot to enjoy our books for a few hours. Late afternoon, we had to head back to town, it was such a pity but we made a few friends on the ride back. At town, we took our bikes to Mekong River again in order to watch another sunset by the Mekong River. Once the night came, we went back to the market to feed our hungry little stomachs with the Lao cuisine time and again.

IMG_7903

IMG_7907

———————————————————-

Last day in Luang Prabang, we were still on a quest of finding the best French pastries in town. We came across “Le Banneton Cafe” which is quite renowned for their french pastries – so we had to try if what we heard is true.

IMG_7858

Certainly, their colonial styled building is very outstanding from all the others. For me, their french bakery i.e. croissants & pain au chocolate might be one of the best that I have ever tasted (in my life – well I have not tasted a lot yet :P), even though for drinks I would prefer the other cafe we visited yesterday.

However, there are loads of cafes we did not have a chance to visit so that will be for you all to explore by yourselves next time you decide to give Luang Prabang a try.

IMG_7934

Our last day was somehow fulfilled with the delicious pastries and we had to leave Luang Prabang already.

Before saying good bye, I would like to say a few words to this pretty town – Luang Prabang was truly, amazingly and remarkably wonderful, worth visiting and really full of charms in its own way. Their architecture and culture are present in every corner of its streets. The two rivers, Mekong and Nam Khan River depict the meaning of life and how local people depend very much on them. I enjoyed every second spent in this town and especially spent with my lovely travel partner – I really could not ask for a better one. Thanks a lot Leyla for traveling together. Good bye Luang Prabang and for Leyla until I see you again in the next few weeks in Sri Lanka. 🙂

IMG_7937

Thanks everyone for visiting!

With love, Pik

Uncategorized

Guadalest Valley

Thinking about the destination of my summer this year, I could not help to reminisce a little day trip I took last year to Guadalest Valley. I promised you guys several months ago that next post would be about Guadalest Valley. It has been a little too late but I got caught up with so many things in life, so many changes, yet for the better. I have finally finished my Master’s thesis and conference, and I only wait for the graduation day which will be in the December this year! YAY! I also got a new job which is very interesting and somehow challenging.

So, here I am with the promised post! 😀 Last summer I was in Spain in Javea and I was traveling around here and there. Besides Valencia and Barcelona, I also made a little trip to Guadalest Valley, a lot of stories and memories made.

So let me introduce you to this pretty village!

Guadalest Valley enjoys one of the most spectacular locations of any village in Spain and it is hidden in the midst of stunning landscape. There are only 200 people living in the village which mostly make their living from tourism. From what I saw there are many little souvenir shops and cafe to welcome tourists.

IMG_6323

IMG_6356

That day we arrived in Guadalest was around 5 pm but we still managed to go into a museum, the Orduña’s House. It costs around 4 or 5 Euros and the museum was so special and full of stories of the past.

The house was occupied by the Orduña Family in the past. They were in the service of the marquesses as governors of the fortress and governors of their states. The decoration of the house adapts to the beautiful tastes of the bourgeoisie who lived the political ups and downs of the second half of the 19th century. It cannot be forgotten that the house was always a big house in a small town. We were impressed by how great and complete the house has been kept and taken care of. We were walking through every room in the house and afterwards found ourselves outside to the breathtaking view.

IMG_6339

IMG_6334

In the picture behind me, you can see the Peñon de La Alcalá tower stands high above the village to watch over the valley below. We walked towards the tower and found out that there is also the cemetery. We found it very quiet yet interesting that it is located there above everything. Even it is late evening, many tourists still kept coming to visit the beautiful Guadalest Valley.

IMG_6325

The weather was very sunny and nice outside. But the moment we got out from the museum, the temperature dropped slowly, it felt a little chilly. We finished the sightseeing, and later on took a short break to take some photos outside and strolled around for a longer time as I could not really take my eyes off the valley.

Although, I did not take many photos, I remember quite clear in my mind how fascinating the village is and I was very happy that Jonathan took me there. I can say that it was really worth a visit.

IMG_6327

Snapseed

Before we went back to Javea, this last photo of me was taken. So you guys can see how happy I was! I would definitely go back again.

As it was getting a lot chillier, we decided to go back to Javea. When the car went down the curves of the mountain, I was enjoying the breeze out of the window sooo much. I think it took like 30 minutes that we were coming down the mountain. Even the day I spent in Guadalest Valley was for only a few hours, I could say it was one of the most stunning villages in Alicante.

If any of you passes by Alicante, do not miss this gorgeous valley! I highly recommend you guys to visit! ❤ And I hope I inspire someone to go there and please let me know how much you like it!

 

IMG_6347

 

Credit: information from www.alicante-spotlight.com & www.destinoguadalest.com

 

Travel

Endless Summer in Javea

Last summer, I took three weeks off work and left Thailand on 1st of July to visit Jonathan’s family in Belgium and Spain. It was a very exciting experience for me not that I got to travel alone but because I met his family. I couldn’t thank them enough for having me, thanks a lot the Decleires!

img_6366

First of all, their summer house is located in Javea (Spanish) or Xabia (Valencian). It is a coastal town in the province of Alicante, Valencia, Spain by the Mediterranean Sea. As a background, Javea is backed by the Montgo. (Thanks to Wikipedia)

img_6083
Pikky girl on the Montgo

There were many places I went during my time there, a lot of memories. But one thing that was clear in my mind was the day I climbed the Montgo was the day I lost my grandma forever. I remember we woke up around 5 am and we were getting ready to climb Montgo from our backyard.

My mother left many messages on Line and said “your grandma passed away”. That moment I was shocked and was not sure what to do, whether to go climb or to fly back home in a few hours? My tears dropped and I told the family about what happened. I decided to call my mother,

she said “if you want to come home, to say a last good-bye to her, you could.”

But then I talked to my dad, he said “you don’t need to come back my girl, what difference would it make? Enjoy your travel and be careful, but never forget people who love you at home…That is enough… You can say good-bye to her from there.”

So I decided to climb the Montgo at 6 am with a peace of mind. I was saying goodbye to my grandma all the way up and down again. I hope she rests in peace. I was, of course, sad but my mind accepted that she is forever gone but she’ll be greatly missed. And life goes on.

img_6046

img_6065

img_6074

I have heard from a lot of friends that Spain is a nice sunny country but I have never been much excited as it is very sunny here in Thailand. AND when I was there, I looked at her differently, Spain is such a beautiful country with lots of good summer vibes.

img_6031
Cap de la Nao
img_6093
Playa del Arenal

There are many tourist attractions to go around in Javea. I loved going on the curvy roads along the hills, there were such nice routes and nice fresh air.

Other than going to places, food is also very important to talk about. 😛

One evening I cooked Thai food for the Decleire family which were Pad Kra Prow Kai (Fried chicken with basil leaves) and Kaeng Kiew Wan Kai (Chicken green curry). It was very hard to find the ingredients but I used what I could find. Both dishes turned out great but apparently too spicy for some of them. Everyone seemed to enjoy with tears in their eyes. 😀 And I could not be prouder!

img_6042

Besides the food I cooked, my favorite food in Spain is Paella (of course).

I haven’t tried Paella anywhere but one restaurant at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok and it wasn’t very impressive. But Paella in Spain was very delicious. My time in Spain was concurrent with the  UEFA Euro 2016, and so we always went to one local restaurant in Ondara, which I think they do serve the best Paella in town!

I also would like to share my favorite breakfast below! Best pain au chocolat in town.

Apart from food now I also would like to show you guys Javea’s old town, which has impressed me very much. As I have always said I have a thing for a small town. My first impressions for small towns is that they do not look arrogant and they look friendly which is opposite from bigger cities. I like to stroll around their morning markets and see how local people live. My travels are simply fulfilled by things like these and I cherish it very much!

Javea’s old town is decorated by its cute little alleys and the terrace of each house is very beautifully embellished by flowers which I do not see much in Thailand.

Local people wake up early to get the fresh vegetables and fruits. Some older people enjoy sitting in front of cafes and drinking their coffee. Sometimes when we see small things people enjoy, we then could look back at ourselves and question why is it so difficult to just be happy?? Because we overlook small things and always pursue for greater things and sometimes they are not really promising. (Oh well!)

To be honest, before I arrived in Javea, I thought it would be a boring small town where I might not enjoy at all but I was all wrong. Javea is small yet very cute and I can’t wait to go back again!

Next post I will be sharing short trips to Guadalest Valley, Valencia and Barcelona during my time in Spain! Please stay tuned!

IMG_6078.JPG

                                                 With love,

Pik

Travel

Khao Yai National Park

Before the Easter weekend came, my friends and I were planning on where to go on the weekend (which I would have 4 days off but only 2 days for my friend, well… but that would do). I have been traveled to the north and the south of Thailand but never once to Khao Yai National Park (which is quite near to Bangkok) and since one friend proposed to go there, I said yes! definitely! Great idea!

We traveled from Bangkok since Friday night and stopped at Pak Chong for the night so that in the next morning we could wake up early and go straight to the park!

It took us about 30 minutes from Pak Chong to the park. We read on the internet that there will be a shop for motorcycle rental in front of the park, therefore, we planned to rent motorcycles there and leave the pick-up in the parking lot. We were very excited all the way to find out that the motorcycle shop is closed. :/

What we could do at that moment was to drive back to Pak Chong city for 30 mins to rent motorcycles and would need to ride back again to the national park! What a challenge!

After we got the motorcycles, I had to admit that it felt so good riding to Khao Yai and I felt like we were on the adventures! 😛 At the entrance, we, Thais, paid 40 Baht but our foreign friends paid 400 Baht. Very unfair to them I know.

IMG_4619

Khao Yai National Park lies largely in Nakhon Ratchasima Province and also include parts of Saraburi, Prachinburi and Nakhon Nayok Provinces. Khao Yai is the third largest park in Thailand and covers 300 square kilometers. (Thanks to Wikipedia).

Our first stop after riding past so many sharp curves was at Nong Pak Chi. We parked our motorcycles outside and trekked about 20 mins to the animals watching tower.

IMG_4616
Along the walk

IMG_4618

Nong Pak Chi area is the area full of salt earth and the soil is the food for elephants. Unfortunately, we did not spot any elephants, but we still enjoyed the view and the breeze that blew our faces.

Those were the moments our friends captured. My friend (Nonow) and I enjoyed ourselves at Nong Pak Chi.

Later, we set off to the farthest waterfall in the national park called “Haew Narok”. It is 23 kilometers away. Even if the route to waterfall is quite far away, it is very nice riding through the jungle and we only breathed the fresh air that Bangkok cannot offer us.

IMG_4621

We arrived there and walked 1 km to get to the waterfall and found out that there is no water because of the dry season!!! 😦 The waterfall looked beautiful and amazing regardless. Can’t imagine how amazing it will be in the rainy season.

IMG_4624

IMG_4631

On the way back, we saw so many fresh elephant dungs and hoping that we would have a chance to see elephants. Nothing happened. We went back to our campground, made our tents (of course I did not do it!) and we chillaxed until the night approached.

At 8 pm,we had the night safari tour which we did not see any special animals we wish to see, we only spotted Sambar deer, Black giant squirrel, and Malayan porcupine. I do not recommend you guys to have a night safari as most of the time you will not really see anything and it will just be a waste of money. The worse thing was we forgot alcohol and food to grill, so that was the worst camping experience ever. Finally, we went to bed around 9 pm feeling very frustrated. Haha

———————————–

Next morning we woke up quite early and a family nearby offered us breakfast and as expected…we never say no to food! 😛 Khop Khun Ka.

IMG_4668

Today we went trekking to the route next to the campground, it was nice but I did not have a chance to take any photos as I was busy enjoying what the nature had to offer (really?) haha. My friends saw a crocodile from the other side of the river while trekking and of course I did not have a chance again, poor girl.

In the afternoon, we went to another waterfall “Haew Suwat”, from the movie “The Beach”, I did not recognize any scene from the movie but it was worth going there even if there was not much water.

IMG_4683

In the evening, we needed to say good bye to Khao Yai and head back to Bangkok. Thanks for the good time! It was an awesome getaway! I enjoyed this spontaneous trip with you guys as well as the adventures we shared, thanks to Nonow, Sai, Maëla for traveling together! Until next time! ❤

IMG_4716

With love,

Pik