Trekking Tangadan Falls

On my fourth time visiting La Union, I finally got the chance to trek Tangadan Falls!

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If you would like to go the off the beaten track and have a change of view from surfing and beach bumming, Tangadan Falls is the perfect side trip when you’re in La Union. If you are coming from San Juan, you can get to the visit the falls in about 30 minutes in the nearby town of San Gabriel. Tangadan Falls is just one of at least ten found in this town.

Me and two of my friends rented a tricycle from outside our accommodation at Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel to go to San Gabriel. We paid PhP 200 each for a round trip fare. We were dropped off at Brgy. Duplas, our starting point of the trek. We then hired a guide, Christopher who will help us all throughout the trek which also involves 3 river crossings and for the daredevils, you can also go cliff diving. We also paid for PhP 200 each for the guide fee.

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Still all fresh at the start of the trek

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After the first river crossing

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The struggle is real to get this shot. Haha

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River crossing #2

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River crossing # 3

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Taking a quick rest

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Cliff diving

I am not brave enough to do cliff diving but one of my friends did. If you plan to go cliff diving, you have to pay PhP 50 to ride a sort of a cable car to take you to the jump off point. And whether you are a good swimmer or not, it is highly advisable to rent a life jacket for PhP 50. Safety first of course.

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Once we were finally at the falls, we paid for PhP 30 for the entrance fee and PhP 50 to rent for life jackets since the basin is about 30-50 feet deep. The water is cold and is a welcome treat after a more than an hour trek.

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Me and my friends after a quick dip

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Chasing waterfalls

On our way back, since we were very tired, we decided not to trek the same route we’ve been to. We decided to join another group up the easier route which is mostly paved trails. But it is still challenging especially for someone like me who is not used to doing treks since some parts are too steep. We were supposed to ride a jeep that will take us to the jump off point but because of some technical problems, we rode the habal-habal ride (PhP 150/person) instead. It was fun but scary because the road is very steep and there are a lot of sharp hairpin turns. We were dropped back off at Brgy. Duplas where our tricycle driver was waiting.

Here are some tips when you go to Tangadan Falls:

  • Wake up early. The entire trip took us almost five hours. The earlier you start, the earlier you get to be back to do other activities. And it is better to start early so that there are not a lot of people still when you get to the falls.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. Bring some bottle of water. You may also bring some snacks and trail food since you will most likely be starving before you can even go back to the drop off point. Our Tangadan Falls trip ended at around 2:00 PM!
  • Wear your most comfortable clothes that are just perfect for trekking. Slippers are okay to wear but just make sure that it has a good grip since some parts of the trek are a bit slippery.
  • Secure your belongings especially your gadgets. Secure them in waterproof bags especially when you are crossing the river and when you are near the falls.
  • Always prioritize safety. Wear your life jackets when cliff diving and swimming.

It was one tiring activity but I had so much fun. Once in a while you just need to disconnect and commune with nature. Plus I get to bond with my new friends and met a few more.

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La La Lovin’ La Union: Why I Keep Coming Back Here

It has been a long while since I last had a blog post and it is great to finally found the time to post one. I just realized that I have tons of adventures just waiting to be shared. And let me start the end of this hiatus by blogging about a place that I have fallen in love with and has became one of my favorite places to go to for a quick getaway from the city: La Union!

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As I was browsing through my Facebook account, I got to see from my Memories that it has been exactly a year ago when I first set foot in this province together with my closest friends. And I have been back there three more times, two of which were solo travels.

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First time in LU

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Chillin’ with friends at the common area in Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel

Known as the “Surfing Capital of the North”, La Union or Elyu, as it is fondly called, has been one of the go-to places of young professionals and millenials alike who wants a quick getaway from the city especially during weekends with just around 5-7 hours away from Manila. The once sleepy province is now teemed with weekend warriors who just want to beach bum, surf and chill.

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I have been to this province a total of four times already and one might wonder, why am I keep coming back? Well, let me tell you why.

I want to learn something new. And with that I TRIED to learn how to surf.

I once tried surfing when I went to Baler about 3 years ago. I have always had some challenges when it comes to my balance and since I am already in the place where surfing is known for, I went ahead and TRIED to learn it. Was I successful? Not so. But who knows in my next visits, I would finally learn to do it well and might become a new sport for me to engage to.

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Me trying so hard to surf. And failed.

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Mandatory surf shot

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After surf photo op with our surfing instructors, Justin and Raymart

La Union sunsets are the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

I have always been a sunset chaser and each sunsets I have seen in all those times I have been there did not disappoint!

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I want to live the beach life. Even just for a weekend.

As someone who spends most of my waking hours at work, battling the Metro Manila traffic and dealing with a lot of stress, a quick beach trip rejuvenates me and keep me sane. It feels great to just bum around the beach reading a good book, people watch and just be mesmerized by sound of the crashing waves.

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I would love to explore more on the LU food scene.

With more travelers going to LU, the local food scene is also thriving. I would love to do a blog post in the future about it too!

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Post surf lunch spread

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Flotsam and Jetsam menu

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Coffee stop at El Union Coffee

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Breakfast of Champs!

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Getting our Mexican fix at Olas Banditos

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Burgers and more at Mad Monkeys

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Going a bit healthy at Makai Bowls

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Bagnet! Bagnet! Bagnet!

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Carbo loading at Coast Call

It is fun to explore more places in this province other than the beach.

Aside from the beach, I was able to explore Ma Cho temple in San Fernando and also got to trek Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel (which I will post a blog post soon!) Next on my plans when I go back is to visit Bahay na Bato and Pebble Beach in Luna, have a pottery lesson in Taboc and visit the grape farm in Bauang.

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Overlooking West Philippine Sea at the Ma Cho Temple view deck

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Ma Cho Temple

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Tangadan Falls

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River crossing

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If you are a daredevil, a cliff diving here is a must-try.

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A little rest from a long trek

What made this place charming is the people I get to meet and interact with. La Union made me rediscover myself and helped me get out of my shell.

Getting the chance to travel solo here made me discover that I can be brave to be in a new place alone and gain new friends along the way. I have always been shy around people I don’t know and with the travels I had here, I was able to slowly come out of my shell and be more comfortable in meeting new people.

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With the OG LU crew

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UP KMS Mini-Reunion

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LU Pals for 24 hours

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Reconnected with my former orgmate and schoolmate, Marian

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Met some new friends at the Flotsam party

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Flotsam roommates

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At the LAbor UNION party

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Party pals

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With THE Rico Blanco

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Breakfast with my dormmates

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Reunited in LU

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With Mark and Justin

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The five solo travelers

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Friday night squad

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Post trek bonding over food

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Beach girls

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With Raffy of Makai Bowls

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Nice to see you again, Dan!

I am still very much looking forward to go back to this place I have come to love. And I hope, my dear readers you also get to experience La Union and eventually fall in love with the place just like how I did. 🙂

Travel Around the World at Terminal 21 Bangkok

Beyond the awesome culture, beautiful temples and mouth-watering food Bangkok has to offer, Bangkok has always been well-known as one of the top shopping destinations in Southeast Asia. From bargain and bulk finds as what I have experienced during my trip to the Chatuchak Weekend Market (Shop Till You Drop in Chatuchak), shopaholics will also get to see great finds, from artsy and indie to the luxurious, in big malls like MBK, Siam Square and the likes. One of the malls that me and my friends went to struck me as one mall with a unique concept. Let me share my experience at Terminal 21.

Terminal 21 is located at Sukhumvit Road between Soi 19 and 21 and is accessible via Sukhumvit MRT station and Asok BTS station. Unlike other malls, Terminal 21 is known for its cutting-edge concept of bringing several world-famous cities under one roof.

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12140552_10153783875666162_9103898454694447669_nTerminal 21 has 9 floors housing around 600 shops, a cinema, supermarket and a food court. Each floor has a theme which features one world city.

The basement floor takes you to the Carribbean islands and is where you will find a gourmet supermarket, market-style food vendors and take away food outlets.

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One floor up to the ground floor takes you to the city of Rome where you will find international brands like Nike, Kipling, Levi’s, Adidas and more.

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Up the Mezzanine floor is like walking the streets of Champs-Élysées in Paris. More international brands are located here. FYI, it is also a must to go to each floors’ restrooms since they are also Instagrammable. The restrooms also matches the floor’s theme so get ready to take those restroom selfies!

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One level up and you will see your self walking the maze of shops and see all things kawaii like in the city of Tokyo. You will mostly see women’s fashion and accessories from independent labels.

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Shopping for your brother/boyfriend/husband/dad? Go up to 2nd level and saunter down London’s Carnaby St. and you will surely find fashionable threads and other accessories for the boys in your life.

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If you are up to buying unique collection of accessories, eclectic fashion and home ornaments and beauty products, bag bargain finds in an Instanbul zouk at the 3rd floor.

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For sure, after hours of shopping, you have to fill and satisfy your hungry tummy! going up the 4th floor will take you to the City of San Francisco where restaurants and the food court is located.

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Up on the 5th floor is where the cinema is located. Me and my friends rested our tired feet and decided to catch “The Martian” when we were there. Of course, just like on the other floors, the 5th floor also features one city and is is just apt to have Hollywood as their featured city.

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This day at the mall concludes our 5-day stay in Bangkok. Later that night when we arrived at our hotel, we packed our bags and got a good night’s rest as we prepared to go and cross the border to Cambodia.

I will be posting my Cambodian adventures real soon. For the meantime, feel free to show some love on my Bangkok adventures. Feel free to comment and also share your own experiences.

The Way to the Bangkok Temples

The Grandeur of the Grand Palace Complex

Exploring Wat Pho and Wat Arun

A Visit to Jim Thompson House in Bangkok

Definitely Not For the Faint-Hearted: Inside the Siriraj Medical Museum

Food Tripping in Bangkok

Shop Till You Drop in Chatuchak

Exploring the Ancient City of Ayutthaya

 

Overland Travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap

And so all our bags were packed and we were all ready to go. After making the most out of our remaining hours in Bangkok: ate all the Thai food we can and did some last minute shopping, me and my friends retired to our hostel early since we have to leave before 5:00 AM the next day to catch the earliest train out of Bangkok to Aranyaprathet, our gateway to reach the Thailand-Cambodia border of Poipet.

We checked out at Lub D Siam at around 4:30 AM and rode a cab to Hua Lamphong train station. From there, we rode a third-class train from Bangkok to the Thai province of Aranyaprathet. There are two options of overland travel to get to Cambodia: one is take a bus which may cost you more or less 100THB if I am not mistaken or ride a train which is what we did since we are more into experiencing how locals commute and it has been 2 decades ago when I actually took a long commute on a train. Plus it will only cost you 48 THB for this 6-hour train ride.

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Never did we regret this mode of transportation since we were able to experience, even for a little while, how locals commute from one province to another. The train is pretty basic, non-AC but the view from the outside is so beautiful. Nothing beats seeing the Thai countryside while on board the train.

Tip: There are random police checkpoints to make sure that both Thais and Cambodians are not illegally crossing borders. And since Southeast Asians tend to look the same, police might approach you. Do not fret and panic. Just show your passport and you’re clear. 

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After the 6-hour train ride, we have reached Aranyaprathet station. From there, there are motorbikes and tuktuks for hire that can take tourists to Poipet. Since we are a group and we have quite a number of luggages with us, we decided to take a tuktuk. It was close to a 30-minute ride to Poipet and we paid 60 THB for the tuktuk ride. We were dropped off by the Thailand Immigration office.

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After getting our passports stamped for exiting Thailand, we walked a walkway going towards the Thailand-Cambodia Friendship Arch so that we can get our visa-on-arrival at the Cambodian Immigration office.

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Photo credit: freedomwall.net

Tip: Prior to our trip, we already read about the visa scams near the Immigration offices of both Thailand and Cambodia. Our group did experience some touts trying to talk to us while walking along the walkway asking us for a minimal fee so that they we can our visas faster. We just ignored them and just walked straight to the Immigration office. For those who are citizens of an ASEAN-member country, you do not need to pay any amount for you to get visa.

After getting our passport stamped and got our visa-on-arrival, we rode a free shuttle that took us to the bus station where we can board our transportation that will take us to Siem Reap. We have the option to ride a cab, a bus or a coaster van. Cab rides costs $48 while the bus/van costs $10. We chose to take the coaster van and shared it with other tourists who are also going to Siem Reap.

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We left Poipet at around 2:00 PM and travel time to Siem Reap was roughly around 2 to 3 hours. We were able to take nap while we were on the road and our group also had one stopover should we wish to take a quick pee break, have some snacks or just stretch our legs. The view of the the Cambodian countryside is so peaceful and stunning.

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We arrived at Siem Reap at around 5:00 PM and we took a tuktuk to the hotel we booked. We called it a day and had our early dinner in the hotel restaurant and we had a good night’s rest so that we can prepare for our day one of temple tour the next day.

Stay tuned to more of our Siem Reap adventure on my next posts! 🙂

Hostel Review: Lub D Siam Square

Bangkok has always been a backpacker’s paradise and getting affordable accommodation is quite easy although choosing where to stay is more of one’s preference on location and comfort level.

Me and my friends have always been budget travellers and we do not want to sacrifice comfort over making sure that we only spend less. The important factors that we usually think of when deciding where to stay is location, cleanliness and we also check on good reviews in TripAdvisor and on different blogs. After weeks of doing research, we finally chose to book our 5-day stay in Bangkok at Lub D Siam Square.

Bloggers and reviews rave about this place. The hostel has this chill and youthful vibe and is conveniently located just beside the BTS National Stadium station and is just a walking distance away from malls like MBK, Siam Square and Siam Paragon.

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Me and my friends arrived in the hostel in the wee hours of the morning but the receptionist who greeted us was so friendly and very accommodating. It was hassle-free checking in and we were able to check into our room in a timely manner. We stayed at the deluxe ladies’ dorm located on the first floor. The room can accommodate 4 persons since there are 2 bunk beds inside. Each bed has its own charging stations and bedside lamps and each guest has their own lockers. Just make sure that you bring your own padlocks as the hostel do not have a spare that you can use. On each night that we were there, we had different roommates of different nationalities. The room is quite small but is still comfortable.

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The hostel also have areas where you can just chill, read a book and socialize with other guests. If you want to catch up on TV series, news or just want to watch a movie, there is a TV room/theatre area located on the 2nd floor.

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Each night, there is a mobile bar set up outside of the hostel where guests can have a drink, dance to the party beats and interact with fellow guests.

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What we also like about this place is they always make sure every nook and cranny of this place is clean. While we were out, our room was cleaned and our beds were fixed. I did not see any trash inside and outside the hostel. It is important for me that the accommodation where I am staying has clean bathroom and toilets and Lub D is definitely on top of this and made sure that bathrooms are cleaned round the clock.

The hostel is also perfect for backpackers since they can also arrange tours and they are also helpful in giving tips on where to eat, where to go and which mode of transportation to use.

Our overall stay in this hostel is perfect and I cannot think of anything negative or bad that we have experienced while staying here. I will definitely recommend this place especially for shoestring travellers like me who would like to be comfortable without spending a lot.

Undelivered Letter Part II

Belated Happy Birthday, old friend.

I would have wanted to greet you last weekend, Just like what I have been doing in the past few years. But I decided not to. Maybe because I know that you’ve already made a decision to drop me out of your life. Maybe because I know I will probably not get any reply or if I do, I can feel a certain coldness with how you’re going to respond. But mostly, I am willing to make myself not to make any effort anymore to reach out in order for me to really heal and move on with my life without your constant presence.
Sometimes I am still curious and still wonder how you are doing now with your life. Are you doing well in your career? Are you happy? Are your kids okay? I miss hearing those stories about random things that is happening in your life. Or those times when you feel down and you tell me about how you feel. It sure does feel that it has been eons ago since we last talked about life in general. And I am beginning to forget how it feels like to be in touch with you.
There are times I am tempted to ask about you since we do have common friends. But I am afraid on what I am going to hear. I know for sure that someone is already making you happy. And I, in that sense, do not matter in your life anymore.
Nevertheless, I wish you well as you turn another page in your life. Hopefully, when I see you around, I would be able to smile and look

Exploring the Ancient City of Ayutthaya

One of the nice places me and my friends have been to during our vacation in Thailand is our day trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya.We booked the tour a day before through Day Tours Bangkok (www.daytoursbangkok.com) for 1400 THB per person. This is for a whole day of touring the Ayutthaya Heritage sites and an Elephant ride as well as lunch. We were picked up at our hostel at around 7:00 AM and later joined other tourist in the Khao San Road area. Travel from Bangkok to Ayutthaya via minibus took around 1.5 hours.

We visited five temples around the Ayutthaya Heritage site culminating to an Elephant ride at Wat Phra Si San Phet. Our tour guide shared a brief history of the temples we have visited and we were allotted time to explore the sites and take pictures and we were given a certain time when we need to go back and reconvene before going to the next site.

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The ancient city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of Thailand after Sukhothai. The city was the center of Thailand’s commerce and seat of power before the Burmese attacked and burned the city in the 18th century which forced its inhabitants to abandon the city. Today, Ayutthaya is known to be an extensive archaeological site.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol/Mongkhon

This is our first stop in our tour. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol is also known as “Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory”. The temple became the home of Buddhist monks ordained and trained at the Monastery of Phra Wanaratanathen in Ceylon (present Sri Lanka).  Visible in the complex is the temple’s chedi. There are also rows of Buddha statues around the temple.

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Wat Maha That

The second temple we went to is Wat Maha That or the Monastery of the Great Relic. This temple is one of the most important monasteries of the Ayutthaya kingdom because it is the city’s religious center and it is also in close proximity to the the Grand Palace. It is also the venue of the kingdoms most important ceremonies and celebrations. The temple is influenced by Khmer architecture and design. The most famous relic in this complex is the Buddha’s head enclosed by roots in one of the trees.

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Wat Phu Khao Tong

Our third stop is Wat Phu Khao Tong or the  Monastery of the Golden Mount.  The temple is shaped like a white mountain. Up until now, this is still an active Buddhist monastery.

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Wat Lokaya Sutha

Our next stop before we took our lunch is Wat Lokaya Sutha. This is a massive temple ruin and is famous for one of the biggest reclining Buddha image.

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Wat Phra Si San Phet

After a sumptuous lunch, the tour group resumed our heritage tour. Our next stop is Wat Phra Si San Phet which is the most important temple of the Ayutthaya kingdom. This is said to be where the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok was modeled. The temple is part of the Royal Palace and is for the exclusive use of the Ayutthayan kings.

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After our temple tour, as part of the package we took advantage, we were able to do an elephant ride. Bucket list checked! I have bittersweet feelings though when I rode the elephant. I am happy to have experienced it but on a hindsight, knowing how the elephants were treated when they were trained made my heart break . 😦 We toured around the complex atop the elephant for around 20 minutes.

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We left Ayutthaya to go back to Bangkok at around 3:00 PM. We were dropped off near Khao San Road and we took the chance to explore the backpacker’s lair for a short time.

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This culminates our whole day tour of the ancient city. Last part of my Thailand travel chronicles will be posted soon. 🙂