July 2, 2015

Overland Penang - Laos : Bangkok to Laos by Train

Read about my train ride from Penang to Bangkok here .

I got my ticket to Laos as soon as I arrived in Hua Lamphong Station. Ticket price was 758 Baht.  
Spent a couple of days in Bangkok, and I was ready for another long train ride.

Luckily, it only took half the journey time from Penang to Bangkok. The train departed at 8 pm from Hua Lamphong Railway Station and arrived in Nong Khai at 8 am.

Basically, the train is almost similar with my previous ride but this is an older version.

My ticket is on the 2nd class air-cond sleepers.


 By day, bays of seats on either side of the aisle.



At night, upper and lower berth fold out, each with curtains for privacy.



 my bed

 wash basin


The toilets.



Once arrived in Nong Khai, you can either go out from the train station and visit the small town or simply head to the immigration counter to continue your journey to Laos.  


I went through the immigration, and from here I had to take a connecting train to Thanaleng in Laos. The fare was 20 Baht.



 Nong Khai - Thanaleng connecting train


3rd-class coach

The train crosses the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, a bridge over the Mekong river connecting Nong Khai in Thailand with Thanaleng in Laos.




Welcome to Lao PDR.




Had to go for another immigration check point in Thanaleng.



Malaysians do not need a visa to visit Laos. But if you are citizens from other countries who need it, you can apply it on arrival.


The station is very small, and I could see a group of taxi and minivan drivers were already waiting at the station exit. As all the other travelers and I made our way out from the gate, one by one approached us.


Taxi would be expensive so some of the travelers and I waited if there were any tuk-tuk coming to the deserted station. Minutes passed and one by one, the minivans and the taxis left with passengers. But still, no tuk-tuk were in sight. Afraid we were going the be stranded at the railway station, finally we decided to share the minivan to central Vientiane. Cost me 150 Baht.

Thanaleng and Vientiane is not that far, just about 20 km in distance. Arrived at my hostel in less than half an hour.

July 1, 2015

Thailand : A day in Ayutthaya

Continuation from almost one year ago.. hahaha
This trip was wayyy back in January 2014 but whaddaheck.. I just had the mood to finish it.

I have covered almost all the attractions in Bangkok so this time I decided to go to Ayutthaya. This former capital of Siam is located about 80 km north of Bangkok so it's perfect for a day trip.

After breakfast at my friend's crib, I joined the rush hour crowd on the MRT, heading to Hua Lampong railway station. I read that the best way of getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok is by train. So train it was.


I didn't book my train in advance as the trains are quite frequent. And they are very cheap! The 80 km journey only cost me 15 Baht. When I was buying my ticket I almost asked the lady behind the counter, are you sure this is the right fare? But then I controlled myself and just kept quiet. Orang dah kasi murah accept je la. hahaha... But really, it's the correct fare. Just don't expect it to be first class la kan.


third-class coach

It can be packed during peak times so you have to be quick to get a seat. If not, you have to stand for half of your almost 2-hour journey.



Took a quick look at the tourist map at the train station.


As a former capital of Siam, Ayutthaya was strategically located on an island. So OK, let's cross the river. I was thinking of walking towards the bridge in the map when a few foreigners walked past me in front of the train station. Follow them la.. at least I don't have to walk alone.

They didn't head to the bridge though, instead they walked through the small road directly opposite the train station. Just a short walk from the main road, I already saw a small wooden jetty.  


Took a ferry which cost only 4 Baht.

The attractions are scattered all over the small island thus one needs a transport to go from one site to another. There are shops renting out bicycles and motorbikes right off the jetty. I got a bicycle for 50 Baht. Not only that, they handed me a bike lock and map of the island as well. Great.


So off I went riding the bicycle dangerously. One hand maneuvering the handle, the other hand holding the map. haha..

 The history of Ayutthaya and its notable ruins has established the island as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. Once an impressive city, Ayutthaya's glory was brought to an end when the Burmese invaded the city in 1767. During the attack, the Burmese decapitated most of the Buddhas statues so you'll see a lot of headless Buddha statues around the ruins.   
Some of the ruins can be visited for free but some Wats charge around 50 Baht for entrance fees.   

Wat Phra Mahathat

You can spot the famous tree that has grown around a Buddha head. 




The story goes that when Ayutthaya was defeated by the Burmese, the site was destroyed and the head of the Buddha fell to the ground where tree roots grew around it in the deserted temple. 







Wat Ratchaburana




You can climb inside the prang and take the staircase down, which leads to rooms with original paintings still visible on the walls.


among the original paintings on the wall

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

This is the largest temple in the city and it is situated in the former royal palace.





Phra Mongkhon Bophit

Situated next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet is Phra Mongkon Bophit. This is an active temple with a huge gold Buddha statue inside.





Walking out from the temple, I dashed to the ice cream sellers under the trees.


Bless the ice cream guy cos it was soooo hot and I was tired from all the cycling.


Just a short distance from the temple is the Elephant Palace. Wanted to ride an elephant but 600 Baht for half an hour is expensive for me.

Looking at my watch, I can fit in one more Wat before catching my train back to Bangkok.

Wat Lokkayasutharam

The image of the giant reclining Buddha on my map brought me to visit Wat Lokkayasutharam. Not many people were there since it's a little off the tourist trail but it was totally worth the short detour.



Finally it's time to go back to the crazy life of Bangkok. Returned my bicycle and walked to the train station.

waiting for the train

Overall, it was an amazing site. But as usual, the thing about visiting Indochina region is I always got templed out at the end of the day. haha..

June 21, 2015

Christmas in London

The day after I arrived in London, I went to Manchester to pay homage to my favorite club. Thought of spending more time there, watching a game or two but too bad all the tickets for the games were sold out.

So I chose to go back to London. It's Christmas eve anyway.. London is more happening yeah?

From Euston Station, I took the underground to Hyde Park Corner Station cos they were having the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. Gotta check it out!









So this is how Christmas celebration really feels like. The joyous atmosphere is really different from what I've experienced back home. Well.. not really celebrating in Malaysia, just having fun taking pictures at those attractive decorations in the malls. haha..

There's funfair rides, circus, Christmas market, food and drink stalls, and of course, an ice rink. The ice rink was closed that night though. Boohoo!

The entrance to the site is free but don't go there with an empty wallet. Everything there was overpriced! I could only watch as the rides cost 5 pounds and more.. T_T Actually not overpriced la.. I just couldn't accept it cos I converted the ticket to RM. Memang la menangis one ride RM27.

Since everything was so expensive, I left the park after I finished touring the area and went back to the hostel. Besides, I was jetlagged. The bed was calling me.

-------

On 25th December, everything is shut down.

The shop. The public transportation. Yup THE public transportation. Luckily my hostel was located in Bayswater area and the best thing is, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park is just a short walk away. Yeay!!

Kensington Gardens was once the private garden of the Kensington Palace so the gardens are fenced and more formal than Hyde Park. The garden is only opened during daytime while Hyde Park opens from 5 am until midnight. Both parks are adjacent to each other though. So it's a hugeee park altogether.





So blessed that the weather was perfect. I've heard countless times about the city's unpredictable weather.





Strolling through the park, I spotted the royal residence, the Kensington Palace, overlooking the Round Pond.


So this is where my ex-boyfriend, Prince William lives. haha..

According to the information on the nearby notice board, the palace is open all year for us to explore. But somehow it is closed today. You know I am coming and you don't wanna see me huh, Willie? Fine.

south view of the palace

So I continued sightseeing. Made my way to the corner of the garden which took me to the Albert Memorial, a memorial for Prince Albert who died in 1861.


the Albert Memorial

Just opposite the memorial is the place where our very own popular singer, Dato' Siti Nurhaliza, once held a concert, the Royal Albert Hall.


Both Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water, a large recreational lake within the park.



Crossing the Serpentine Bridge transported me to Hyde Park.

Saw so many cute squirrels here! Some of them are tame, can even hand feed them.




Such a nice view innit? I could just stroll here all day long.. which I really did! I only left when it was getting darker.

Went to Hard Rock Cafe (thank God the cafe and the rock shop was opened!), shopped some t-shirts and shotglass and continued walking till Piccadilly Circus.

From there I made the turn to Regent Street cos I was mesmerized by its magnificent Christmas Lights.



Oxford Street was glorious as well.







Walking past the shops, I could see the workers getting their stores ready for Boxing Day Sale tomorrow. Ahh..that famous sale I've been hearing all this while. So exciting!

I walked for a few kilometres back to Bayswater, and passed out the moment I landed on my bed. Totally knackered.