James Bond Sightseeing Trip by Long Tail Boat

Explore James Bond Island and Phang Nga Bay from Krabi


James Bond Sightseeing Trip by Long Tail Boat Sitting on board a long tail boat, sultry warm sea wind blowing in your face and wave hopping in the azure blue seas of the Andaman as you head out to some of the most exotic island destinations in Thailand. How does that sound to you? A dream holiday for sure! When you visit the province of Krabi in Southern Thailand, this is one of the must do things while in Krabi, island hopping to the famous James Bond Island 

You can arrange for these island visits through thaitourismguide.com as part of their island trips in Krabi packages. Some package is only for James Bond Island, which is an almost full day tour and sightseeing of James Bond Island with visits to the sea gypsy village and another small island to spend some time snorkeling or diving. Most of these Island hopping tours in Krabi also do include lunch and transfers so you need not worry about how to get there or what to eat, just hop on the boat and take a leisurely cruise around the islands and bays for a great time out at sea! Just make sure you have your sea legs about you because it can be quite a bumpy ride!

James Bond IslandThere is nothing much else to do in Krabi except for these highlights to visit the islands and the surrounding marine parks but that is the attraction of Krabi! It is a place where you can spend quiet time, get back to nature, enjoy all the plethora of exciting and exotic marine life in the marine parks and laze around the beach all day or even go scuba diving all day! James Bond Island is a must go, not so much because of the popularity of the James Bond film but because of the unusual rock formations at the beaches around the island and also to actually see with your own eyes the natural beauty of the work of Mother Nature more so that to hope and see James Bond on the island! It is always better to book your tours of James Bond Island and Koh Lanta ahead of time especially in the peak seasons of November till March.

Koh Lanta on the other hand is a beautiful serene island with beautiful white beaches, swaying coconut palms and wonderful coral reefs dotted around the waters of the island. It is home to some of the most exotic marine life and coral species that you can see without actually needing to go scuba diving. For the avid diver who can’t get enough of a nitrous high, this is a diver’s paradise no matter how many times you come back here! You can also make arrangements for scuba diving lessons in Krabi with Koh Lanta as one of your destinations or hire a boat for a few days of full board to Koh Lanta for scuba diving or full board to Koh Lanta for sea fishing, whichever is your preference but make sure you do not miss visiting these two places while you are in Krabi!

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Wat Tham Sua

Foot prints of Buddha and tiger paw prints at the Wat Tham Sua


Wat Tham Sua There are many legendary beliefs in the footprints of the revered Buddha found in caves throughout Thailand but what about fossilized paw prints of ancient tigers? These are old but not necessarily prehistoric tigers or they just as well might be because they are fairly large in size and found only in one place in Thailand. A visit to the Wat Tham Sua in the province of Krabi in southern Thailand will be the place where you actually get to see this. The word “Wat” in Thai means temple and this place is known as the Tiger Temple Cave of Krabi. There are also many other tiger temples around Thailand and not to be confused with each other.

This particular temple of Wat Tham Sua in Krabi, can be included in a temple tour in Krabi package as there are also several interesting temples to visit as Krabi is in Thailand which is rich in temples and places of worship! In reality, Wat Tham Sua in Krabi is one of the most beautiful temples in the south of Thailand with a most breathtaking view on the top of a very steep hill and a maze of caves at the bottom and a jungle valley for the surrounding areas. There is also a killer of 1237 steps to climb for you to reach the top! Sounds like a very daunting task having to climb those steps but it is not a matter of racing for the top rather take your time to walk and stop along the climb up and admire the view. It is reputed that it takes a little more than an hour to climb the steps up to the top with stops along the way and half that time to come back down!

Krabi ThailandThe Wat Tham Sua is a must see site when you visit Krabi and you can either go there on your own or you can also arrange for a private tour of the Wat Tham Sua from your travel agent such as thaitourismguide.com where you can also get a guide to accompany you and explain all the little intricacies of the temple. You do not need to rush and can take your time with those many steps which will leave you totally weak kneed if you are not in a very fit condition but well worth the effort for the climb when you see the view from the top. There are also plenty of beautiful Buddha statues and icons at the top which off course you can only see if you take the stairs, sorry no elevators or escalators here, it is all leg power!

Wat Tham Sua is located approximately three kilometers from the town of Krabi which can be reached by private tour transfers to Wat Tham Sua or you could also hire a taxi to take you there. If you want to see fossilized tiger paw prints, they are embedded in stone within the maze of caves on your way in and take the 1237 stairs up to see the Buddha footprint encased in stone at the very top of the temple!. Outside is surrounded by trees which are several hundred years old as well as valleys, mountains and caves. The whole scene reminds you of a movie scene from a Lara Croft adventure or one of those Indiana Jones movies about lost temples.

The monks who live and worship in this temple use the maze of caves as their meditation routes, living quarters and meditation chambers. The monks here practice insight meditation which is a focus on overcoming the human frailties and to reach a state of enlightenment of spiritual focus.  One of the ways to make them focus on this is a collection of weird and bizarre images of dissected human organs and cadavers to depict the short terms of a human life and body. Do make it a point to visit this beautiful temple while you are visiting Krabi and make that extra effort to climb those stairs because the reward of a fantastic view is well worth the effort and do bring plenty of water with you for the climb and remember to go to the toilet before you start climbing those stairs!

Phi Phi Islands

Explore the islands of Phi Phi Don like Robinson Crusoe


Phi Phi IslandActually, more like Leonardo DiCaprio that dreamy eyed actor from the movie “The Beach”, this is also the location of Maya Bay on the island of Phi Phi Don in the province of Krabi, southern Thailand. The island of Koh Phi Phi is one of the most exotic island destinations in the world where it is not too packed with tons of tourist as accommodations here are rather limited and on the pricey side but you can visit this island on a day trip. There are many tours for visits to Phi Phi Island offered by the various tour agencies in Thailand including thaitourismguide.com

Most of these tours to Phi Phi Island include long tail boat rides to the island and surrounding areas either for snorkeling and also scuba diving and the more avid anglers will be able to get overnight full board fishing trips to Phi Phi Island as well. Divers, who want to get a glimpse of the whale sharks known to grow up to seven meters and above, should head out to Hin Muang, a forty minute boat ride from Phi Phi Island and guaranteed to be one of the best dive spots in the world. You can ask for a Phi Phi Island dive package to get to this rock formation and a diver’s paradise.

In and around the island of phi Phi are numerous other activities that you can indulge in if you are taking a tour package to Phi Phi Island such as sea kayaking in Phi Phi Island where you can explore the cliff formations along the coast of the island or paddle out to the nearby marine park. Best time to go sea kayaking at Phi Phi Don is in the early morning or just about sunset. You can also make a snorkeling trip to feed the sharks at Phi Phi Don. These are two meter long black tip sharks that are actually more afraid of you then you are of them! Just be careful they do not nip your fingers while feeding them especially when you get over excited.

KrabiThe Robinson Crusoe types can try a camping trip on Phi Phi Don at the famous Maya Bay and join the tour groups for camping trips to Phi Phi Don or check out the monkey beach called Yung Gassem which is a very isolated bay on Phi Phi Island. The natural primates of the island have a stake on the beach where they come out to frolic and play. All these special tours to Phi Phi Don Island such as a day tour to Phi Phi Don which includes kayaking, monkey beach and snorkeling trips need to be booked in advance from your travel agent in Thailand.

Other places of interest on the island includes the Bamboo Island National Park which is a little to the north of Phi Phi Island. You can book a tour to Bamboo Island National Park through a travel agent in Krabi or thaitourismguide.com in advance. You can have the privacy of this whole island to yourself as you laze or picnic your time away in the quietness of the island with only the wind blowing through the many casuarina trees that line the beach! Isn’t that a romantic getaway just like in the movies!?

A CLOSE ENCOUNTER AT MADAME TUSSAUDS


madame tuassudMany reviews have been written about Madame Tussauds around the world and what makes this one in Bangkok any different? We all know about the famous wax figurines conceptualized and created by Madame Tussauds in the early French Revolution period and now undertaken by her predecessors around the world.

Did you know significantly that no two Madame Tussauds around the world exhibits all the same wax figures? At least two thirds of the exhibits reflect famous persons and personalities unique to their region. For instance, you will not find the Chamber of Horror exhibit which is unique to London in a Madame Tussauds in Bangkok; rather you would find famous Thai and Asian personalities. So which ever country you go to that has a Madame Tussauds exhibit, do make sure that you go visit at least once. They are also always adding on to their exhibits with new figures.

For those of you who have never been to a life-like wax figure museum, this is a good place to start. Prices for the entrance at Madame Tussauds are also much cheaper in Bangkok comparatively. Going up the lift to the sixth floor and walking a short corridor will bring you to the entrance of the famed Madame Tussauds Bangkok Wax Museum The wax figures are uncannily realistic from the facial expressions, facial hair and resemble the actual person to perfection. When we looked closely at the figures, it would seem like they can come to life at any moment!

Madame Tussauds BangkokThere are a few historical persona displays near the entrance but most notably is the one of Mahatma Gandhi. He is dressed in his white cotton tunic, glasses hanging off the brim of his nose and walking stick in hand, it might just as well really be him walking along the streets of India on a typical day. Other notable historical figures include Mao Tze Tung (never realized he was that tall in person!) and several other heads of state in the “Head of State” room. Here you can pose with the Queen of England and wear a crown to sit next to her, which makes a very regally amusing scene or take a picture with President Obama and the First Lady at his desk in the White House! You can hardly tell the difference between the wax figures and the real person! If you want a good quality picture, there are Madame Tussauds personnel on hand to take a great picture for you and they even know the best angles. There are several heads of states here on display from Asia and around the world such as former Prime Minister of Malaysia, YB Tun Dato’ Dr Mahathir Mohammad.

The new concept of Madame Tussauds in Bangkok means that these figures are not just displayed in glass cases for you to admire, rather it is a unique opportunity for you to interact with these wax figures. Yes, you got that right! You can actually interact with them, which means you can touch them, pose up close with them, hug them or even appear to be right where they are notably famous at doing! You do not get such opportunities at other Madame Tussauds around the world except for a few, so this is the concept where it is no longer just another wax museum! There are also many interactive games you can play in here such as a goal scoring interaction game in the soccer sport section with David Beckham, and trying to score a hole in one with Tiger Woods golfing simulator plus a few others located at different places in the museum. These will keep even the kids entertained!

Those of you who are sport fanatics will relish the time you get to spend with the likes of David Beckham and stand right next to him, or play golf with Tiger Woods, shoot a hoop with Yao Ming ( he is incredibly tall!) among several other famous sport personalities. If that is not enough, go check out the Martial Arts section where lo and behold, you get to pose with Bruce Lee in his famous yellow and black stripped costume, or greet the crowd with Jackie Chan, and spar with Tony Ja, Thailand’s famous martial art expert and movie star from the series “Ombak”. Every picture you take is an opportunity that would not have been possible unless you know these celebrities up close and personal!

madame-tussaud-thaitourismguideWalking further into the hall is the Television Talk Show area where you get to sit in on an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she looks so real right down to the freckles on her skin, or sit next to Will Smith or George Clooney. In the movie celebrity section, there is Bruce Willis, Anthony Hopkins, Jim Cary, and Johnny Depp, Elizabeth Taylor and even Nicholas Cage among many more which would make it a fun time with your favorite movie star, hero or heroine!

Then there are the great music icons like Justin Bieber the teenage superstar, Nickhun and Jay Chou who are local and Asian rising music stars not to mention off course the likes of Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga who unveiled her wax figure while on tour in Bangkok. You can get away with saying you had a photo session with the stars while on holiday in Thailand! Technically you did, even if only with their wax duplicates but none would be the wiser with the uncanny resemblance! For the kids, there is there ever popular Doraemon, which is a first attempt at Japanese anime cartoons and which we hope to see more in the likes of popular manga characters.

Madame Tussauds BangkokAfter all the exhibits downstairs, make your way one level up to the exhibit where it all started. Here you will meet the effable yet demure Madame Tussaud herself, closely examining one of her beloved head sculptures with a keen eye. Madame Tussaud seems to jump to life as she holds up a head sculpture. In the room is a brief history on how the now famous Madame Tussauds wax museum started from making effigies of politicians during the French Revolution to give a three dimensional tabloid of the political scene in those days and to get the people up close to the sometimes notorious persons of which many were actually sent to the guillotine! You also get to see how wax figures are made from the concept, the rough sculpture and making of the master molds. It is an interesting process because every little detail is recorded and added into the sculpture. You will see how a life-sized wire armature is constructed in the desired pose and layered with clay for the sculpting process. There is also a whole tray of glass eyeballs to choose from for that “just right” look, though it looks kind of eerie to see a whole tray of different colored eyeballs starring right back at you! There is an in progress head sculpture that shows how the face is painted and facial hair as well as a wig is implanted, giving the figure that realistic look. There are also the different types of paint used on the wax figures and how it is applied. You can say that the exhibit on the process of creating these figures are just as interesting as the wax figures themselves and gives you a deep appreciation into the amount of creative work put into each figure to bring it to life.

Just before you leave the exhibits, there is a small counter where you can play with the cold wax method of creating a hand cast. Yes, you can get a wax casting of your own hand as a keepsake and in psychedelic colors too in any pose you want! There is also a small gift shop where you can get other Madame Tussauds memorabilia including the photos professionally taken for you in the exhibits area. You can spend several hours here having fun taking pictures in all poses with your favorite characters and they are very willing models for you, never complaining about the many camera clicks in their faces and all the hype of enthusiastic fans!

Madame Tussauds BangkokMadame Tussauds in Bangkok is a great opportunity for you to mingle and rub shoulders with famous celebrities from around the world, leaders of states and countries, World and Thai royalty, movie stars, talk show celebrities, famous singers, sport personalities and even artists, opera singers and legendary musician and artists or scientist. It is a worth-while experience and not to be missed when you visit Bangkok city and should make Madame Tussauds a part of your sightseeing itinerary for Bangkok as there are not many in the Asian region, the other being in Hong Kong.

The Madame Tussauds in Bangkok is located at the Siam Discovery Center on the 6th floor. Siam Discovery Center, Siam Center and Siam Paragon are all inter-connected so you can actually spend a whole day within these three buildings to shop, sightsee, eat and be entertained and conveniently located at the Siam BTS entrance.  Tickets for Madame Tussauds are available in the online booking site at thaitourismguide.com for your convenience. So when you are visiting Bangkok, do make sure you drop by the Siam Discovery Center to do a discovery of your own with the fabulous wax figures of Madame Tussauds incredible wax museum!

AN OCEAN IN THE HEART OF BANGKOK AT SEA LIFE BANGKOK OCEAN WORLD


ImageMost large cities and Bangkok not being the exception is host to one of the largest indoor oceans in a thriving city scape.  at the lowest level of Siam Paragon in the heart of Bangkok has seven interesting zones for you to explore including an awesome 5D cinemas which will blow your mind. With the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum just practically next door, you could spend a half day over there and another half day at the Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World for a great whole day outing plus plenty of shopping and eating all along the way.

Greeted at the entrance way by a huge hanging shark and surrounded in darkness except for the illuminated tanks, it takes some adjusting to the eyes. A prominent cylindrical tank in the center of the room contains the first of the seven zone exhibits which is “weird and wonderful” and the highlight exhibit is the giant spider crabs. As large as four feet from leg tip to leg tip, theses crabs are not only huge but rather scary, looking more like hard shelled spiders! To the enthusiastic food connoisseur it would make a most tasty and meaty seafood dish and rather than looking at them in awe, it would be more like drooling mouths in anticipation of a feast, as were some of the comments heard! Other interesting exhibits here are the very alien looking Nautilus Shells that look like something out of an alien science fiction story. Did you know that the Nautilus Shell is a prehistoric creature dating back millions of years without much change to their form and structure? Just an interesting fact to consider when you look at them.

Sea Life Bangkok Ocean WorldThere is a pavilion tank along the way to the next zone that is two floors high with a rich collection of sea fish swimming happily. You would expect a mermaid to pop out at any time from among the corals. There are seating spaces for you to take a rest and admire the fish swimming by oblivious to the people gawking at them from the opposite side of the tank. This is the “Living Ocean” zone where you can get onboard a glass bottom boat to take a tour of the vast tunnel tank. It is a guided tour with an English speaking guide who will explain to you all the different marine life currently residing in this huge salt water tank. There are a variety of sharks, eagle rays, trevally, groupers and some other reef and coral fish. You might be interested in some of the facts presented about the marine life while on this glass bottom boat tour at the Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World.

Next to this zone is home to some very interesting seahorses including the very rare and elusive “leafy sea dragon” which is actually a very elaborately decorated seahorse and present only in much colder waters especially in Australia and New Zealand. Not even regular divers can often see this particular seahorse but you have the chance to do so right here in Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World! Not all seahorses look alike, some look like floating dead upright leaves and yet others are master at camouflage making it really hard to spot them. You can have a go at trying to see if you can spot some of them in the tanks as we could not even after staring at the tank for quite a few minutes!

From here it is down to the “Amazon and Rainforest” trails where you get a glimpse of huge tropical fishes such as the Arapana which is noted to swallow monkeys whole, a small section of cave dwelling fish and insects including a very lazy cave catfish that looks like it is playing dead. There are also some unusual frogs and toads as well as snakes and a giant tortoise. However, the one fish you must check out is in the tank located to the right of the walk way. It is reputedly one of the oldest living prehistoric fish known to man that looks like a cross between a pterodactyl and a fish. It has a long flat scoop bill and swims with a box like gaping mouth! Quite an unusual specimen to say the least, and worthy of a look.

Next on is the “Rocky Shore” section where you get an eye full of the largest rats on earth and they are about the size of dogs in this case! These water rats are not your average house rats and feed mostly on mollusk and small fish. You can watch out for the feeding times for these water rats as well as the other inhabitants of this section. Then there are also the very lovable penguins and otters who never fail to steal your heart as they play and frolic around.

Sea Life Bangkok Ocean WorldWalking on further, the path then leads on to the large underwater tunnel known as the “Open Ocean” where you can see a pack of swimming sharks grinning to show their full set of teeth, beautiful eagle rays gliding by like flying saucers and these huge sucker fish clinging on to the surface of the tank! There are also many other reef and coral fish swimming by, but off course everyone is anxious to take a picture with the ferocious and huge looking sharks. This long underwater Plexiglas tunnel is one of the main highlights of the whole complex and cleverly extends almost all around. At the other end of the tunnel, there is also a touch pool section for the kids and those curious enough to give it a go. Here you get to feel what a starfish is like, or have a look at a shark’s egg which is just the empty shell really but also rather interesting because it does not look like any ordinary egg. There is a staff on hand to explain to you what is unique about the species. There is also a little section that shows how sea grass is cultivated and the importance it has on the balance of the environment in the sea as well as efforts to grow more of it in the seas around the world.

The last section is reserved specially for the “jellies” and these are not your edible sugar coated jelly and sweets but rather the soft-bodied, graceful jelly fish. Displayed in fluorescent tanks, the fluorescent colors highlight these cute little jelly fish that swim like alien objects gracefully in the water. Looking at them, you wonder if they are capable of thinking with a brain because they look rather intelligent to some extent as they glide effortlessly in the water. The little colorful ones are often seen teeming on the shores in Trat province at certain times of the year, turning the whole sea-front into a colorful mass of bobbing jelly fish. This variety does not sting and make excellent food for the sea turtles who find it very tasty treat.

Within Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World are also many small cafeterias where you can grab a bite or drink while exploring the place. Look out for the feeding shows scheduled at various times of the day for the penguins, water rats, otters, sharks, tropical fish and reef fishes. On the way out there is an awesome 5D cinema with the show “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” which is actually an environmental awareness cartoon BUT what is mind blowing about this short cartoon is the 5D effect which differs from your regular 3D shows. The characters in the screen really pop out and look real enough for you to reach out and touch it, not to mention the wind effects and motion of the chairs you sit on. Also another noteworthy item to go and see while you are visiting Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World. If you are traveling with kids, there are a few small play areas with plenty of kid entertainment equipment such as climbers, swings, seesaws and the likes to keep them entertained, plus ice cream parlors inside to feed off their hunger!

Located one floor below the food court in Siam Paragon, it is easily accessible by the Siam BTS or even a taxi. Tickets can be purchased in advance via thaitourismgImageuide.com online booking services for ease and convenience. It is recommended that you visit both Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World and Madame Tussauds on the same day if you can as they are located in close proximity to each other. These two places are must see places in Bangkok city while you are visiting and considered the main sightseeing attractions in Bangkok. Tours of Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World are part of the tour packages found on most Thailand and Bangkok travel itineraries and for the time you spend there it is a worthwhile sightseeing activity in Bangkok. So do not miss out on these two major attractions of Bangkok City and book your tickets in advance through thaitourismguide.com online booking page to avoid the hassle of running everywhere to get a ticket!

Ecstatic delights of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour in Ratchaburi


Ecstatic delights of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour in Ratchaburi

Damnernsaduak Floating MarketMost travelers to the province of Ratchaburi would know of the world famous floating market of Damnoen Saduak. This is one of the must not miss tour programs for the province of Ratchaburi and is just a mere one hour drive from the city of Bangkok. Almost all travel agents will have this place on the tour and travel itinerary for Thailand where it involves visits to floating markets.  The Damnoen Saduak floating market is the most authentic of all the old floating markets, still keeping very much to the original feel and boat waterways that feed the trade of the market. You can go crazy here in a manner of speaking with the wide variety of food, snacks, souvenirs, decorative and household items as well as everyday items which are on sale including some very exotic looking plants.

Plan a visit to the Damnoen Saduak floating market when you are in Ratchaburi and savor the authentic feel of the canal dwellers and their trade. One word of advice here, dress casual when you visit this place! There is no air-conditioning which is obvious and can get quite hot when it is packed with people. However, getting through all that will be a rather eye-opening experience for those who have never experienced a floating market. You will not go hungry here with the variety of food that you can buy directly off the canal boats and eat it right on the spot or even from the vendors who have set up stalls in the newer areas of the floating market. Goods are open to bargaining and there is almost no limit to the items you can buy here.

River KwaiAn interesting thing to observe is not just the color, smells, noise and variety of things for sale but the river boats themselves and the canal. These canals feed the interiors of the province and there are boat rides you can also take from the canal to explore the waterways. Some tour packages to Damnoen Saduak floating market include a tour of the canal waterways before you dock at the floating market. These boat rides will give you an insight into the lifestyle of the simple folk who trade at these floating markets as well as the types of houses the live in along the canals and a peek into their daily life. Seldom nowadays do you get to see much of this with the development and modernization of the country. So do check with your travel agents in Thailand or thaitourismguide.com for the best tour packages that include these boat rides. Along with the standard packages are also included tours to the River Kwai and the Bridge over the River Kwai in the province of Kanchanaburi and the famous Erawan Waterfalls where you can spend some time swimming in the cool waters of this pristine natural pool that is a refreshing change after all the heavy food, walking and sightseeing. Tis floating market in Ratchaburi is also listed as one of the top ten tourist destinations in Thailand, so make sure you do not miss out on it!

A good time at the festivals of Chiang Rai


A good time at the festivals of Chiang Rai

 

Aside from the usual holidays of all Thai nationals there are a few outstanding ones which though commonly celebrated among Thai people around the country are also a few that are unique to the province of Chiang Rai. These festivals of Chiang Rai are the Thot Kra Tin (which is a merit making ceremony at the temples of Chiang Rai), the Visakha Puja (which is the full moon celebration in May), the Ahsa Puja (which is the full moon celebration in late July), the Klum Fai Candle Balloon celebration, the Khao Pansa (the starting point of Buddhist lent period), the Heh Tian Candle Festival in mid-August and the Awk Pansa (which is the end of the Rain Retreat). These festivals are celebrated by fireworks, lighting of candles, floating lighted lanterns, merit making and music celebrations as well as food fests.

The highlight festivals of Chiang Rai are the Songkran festival in April where you get to throw buckets of water at passing motorist and pedestrians, which is very much like being a child again and off course being splashed in return! This is celebrated for a week in Thailand throughout and it is actually a Thai New Year so aside from the usual fanfare there would also be plenty of food and delicious delicacies on sale which can be enjoyed by all. It is also when vendors and street stalls are all setup for the biggest water fight of the nation with plenty of colorful water guns of all sizes for sale! This is a kid’s galore festival and you can see small kids and adults alike trying to buy the biggest gun available or if all else fails, there is always a great big water pipe to splash you with!

For the vegetarian, they would love the vegetarian festival in November which is for ten days. This is the time when normal food vendors will sell mostly only vegetarian dishes and the best place to get a good variety is actually from the street stalls that sell economy rice. They have close to thirty or even forty different vegetarian dishes to suit your palate and you can indulge in this for a whole ten days! The vegetarian food is known as “Jai” and vendors selling vegetarian dishes are indicated with a little yellow triangular flag with red letterings and they are surprisingly inexpensive to buy so it is a good watch not just for your waist line but also your pockets.

The most celebrated and beautiful of all festivals in Chiang Rai and around Thailand is off course Loy Kratong which is in November. The kratongs are made from banana stems and leaves with intricate flower decorations, incense sticks and candles. The night of Loy Kratong will see people holding these kratongs at the edge of water ways, lakes, rivers etc and offering a prayer for good wishes and to appease the water Goddess Mae Khong Kha. Even tourists take part in this colorful celebration and make their own little wish and to ward off bad luck! All this is accompanied by float processions either on the streets or on gaily decorated floating barges, traditional dances and performances, fireworks and finally releasing of the floating lanterns into the night sky which will make the whole sky afloat with gleaming candle light as each lantern is released by the hundreds and thousands. This whole festival is a picture perfect time for those snap happy cameramen and you would do well to mark this date in your tour travel itinerary for Thailand!

The people of Chiang Rai love their festivals and they are the highlight of the province. Coupled with festivities from the hill tribes and the local Thais, there are such a variety of festivities year round for all to enjoy. The cold weather during the moths of November to February is also enjoyed along with the festivities and this is the time which is a peak season for traveling to Chiang Rai. Booking early for accommodation and tour packages to Chiang Rai is best done in advance during this period as hotels are rather limited and traveling is done not only by foreign tourist but also the locals alike. Another highlight in Chiang Rai is the local Chiang Rai Food Fair where you can view the many varieties of local produce, buy the different types of snacks and dishes to much till your heart is contented and your belly filled to the brim or if that is not enough, pack for a take-away to indulge in later!  So, if you are planning for a visit to Chiang Rai, make sure you plan early and make all your travel booking for Chiang Rai in advance with a good guide in hand to show you around!

Indiana Jones in the ruins of Chiang Saen


Indiana Jones in the ruins of Chiang Saen

 

Well, not exactly Indiana Jones here but very similar in concept when you explore the small township of Chiang Saen which has over one hundred and thirty ruins of all sorts! The intrepid explorer will have a good time mooching among the ancient stone markers and ancient temple ruins of Wat Jedi Luang ( no not the “Jedi” from Star Wars) and Wat Pa Sak which has seven different ruins among the jungle teak trees. To get to this place, try looking for a tour package to Jedi Luang Temple which should also include the Wat Pa Sak and the Chiang Saen National Museum.

This little town situated near the Mekong River is where you can still see old Chinese Junks that have been restored as well as riverboats from China. This whole area is rich with ruins, carvings and stone gateways and Buddha images that date as far back as 1295. The items all have a touch of Chinese and Burmese influences and are rich with antique findings which are not quite open to the outside world. So if you are one of those treasure hunters who is always looking for some antique or rare find to add to your collection, this is a good place to look. Most of the significant ancient artifacts are considered National Treasures and can only be viewed in museum collections, however the smaller pieces which are open for collectors can still be purchased so fret not, you can still get your fair share of collectables here!

Chedi LuangThis is also a good place to find some really interesting old ceramics which depict ancient stories in their sculpted surfaces, there are also old paintings, dharma scriptures, restored ancient wood carts, silver and gold ornaments, cowrie shell currency (yes, they still traded with seashells in those days!), a good collection of old musical instruments from the ancient era as well as pre and post opium days, and off course handicrafts.

Next to Chiang Saen city is Chiang Saen Lake which is a good holiday and recreation place for those who would like to indulge in swimming, boating or fishing. You can actually rent some nice villas here if you are thinking of spending a night and you can book accommodations for Chiang Saen Lake from your Thai travel agent in advance. Those into the avian lifestyle and can’t go anywhere without a set of telescopic lenses and powerful binoculars, here is your chance to observe the local bird species along the lake shore and surrounding wilderness. There are bird watching tours for Chiang Saen and Chiang Rai that you can book and the guide will take you to some of the sweetest spots for a very rewarding bird watching tour in Thailand

Longneck Karen

Getting intimate with the hill tribes of Chiang Rai


Getting intimate with the hill tribes of Chiang Rai

Longneck KarenThere are many different hill tribes in the province of Chiang Rai and the best place to learn about them all is at the Hill Tribe Museum and Education Center which is established by the Population and Community Development Association(PDA). This is the best place to start your eco-tourism tour package for the hill tribes of Chiang Rai. Some travel and tour establishments in Thailand such as thaitourismguide.com do make arrangements for tours to the hill tribe villages of Chiang Rai such as the Long Neck Karen hill tribes and the Akha hill tribes.

The tours by the Population and Community Development Association includes a museum tour for the hill tribes which explain the intricacies of the eco-system which these tribes rely on as well as the do and don’t while visiting their villages. It will do well that you adhere to these instructions prior to your visit as much is done to preserve the hill tribe’s natural existence without too much modernization so as to lose their traditional and cultural way of life which is already fast diminishing as more of them are being modernized and losing their roots to tradition. There are six predominant tribes in the Chiang Rai province which are the Karen, Akha, Hmong, Yao, Lisu and Lahu. You should also bear in mind to respect the taboos, traditions and values while visiting their villages or else they might think that you are the one that requires a cultural lesson!

Chiang RaiThe tours to the hill tribes of Chiang Rai are not just eco-tourism packages but also a community-based tourism of the hill tribes of Chiang Rai. If you place close attention to the tour narrations, you will understand why the traditional costumes for these tribes are fast disappearing, why they are losing their traditional weaving culture and why their traditional and cultural dances are also not taken over by the new generation. During the tour to the villages you also get to watch the traditional hill tribe dance demonstrations, taste their food, and see how they live and what they do on a daily basis. If you want to feel like one of these hill tribe people and live a humble existence, you can ask for a session where maybe you can spend a day or two among them but check with your Thai travel agent if you have an inclination to play a hill tribe role-play! Maybe you might find it more rewarding than a modernized lifestyle and change your perception of things in a humble way, so you will have to do away with that iPad, iPod or whatever if you want to try and be as close to their way of life! Think you can do that?

Explore the culture of Chiang Rai and the Princess Mother’s efforts


Explore the culture of Chiang Rai and the Princess Mother’s efforts

 

The future of Chiang Rai province is an exploration of its past. The colorful development of this province has left it as one of the most intriguing provinces to explore among so many other provinces in Thailand. The solidary effort by the Princess Mother to eradicate the growing of opium as a cash crop in the province of Chiang Rai has gained the province a much better quality of life and better tourism efforts. Her Majesty spent much of her time and effort in this province to keep a check on things and to spur the success of the eradication efforts and as respect and acknowledgement of her efforts the Princess Mother Museum was established in the 90s in her memory. You can get a glimpse of the things she kept herself occupied with while in the province from old manuscripts and collections for which she had an interest in including weaving equipment, lacquer boxes, ceramics and pottery and some other more personal collections.

Another small attraction here is the Chiang Rai Province Cultural Hall Museum which is rather educational and a good place to initiate the visitor to the province of Chiang Rai. It is a sort of place where you can go to and find out what it is that makes this province “tick” so to speak! It’s not a very big museum but well documented with some old literature, videos, prehistoric tools, medieval defense cannons, antique pottery and the display of the “Tai” culture which was predominant in the province.  The tour to the Princess Mother Museum and tour to the Chiang Rai Province Cultural Hall Museum is mostly included in a city tour of Chiang Rai city. You can always check to see if this tour is included in your tour package prior to booking.  It makes for an interesting day out in the city to understand more of the culture and people of the province.

Wat Rung KhunAnother royal attraction is the Doi Tung Royal Villa which is a summer palace built by the late Princess Mother. It is now a museum and a high-class boutique hotel with ravishing gardens opened to the public. This is a very popular spot for tourism and is definitely on any tour itinerary to Chiang Rai city. Next to it is a small local produce and handicraft bazaar that is popular with the tourist and a good place to buy souvenirs and foodstuff if you had not had enough of the local Thai food here and can continue binging on the many delicacies on offer or stop by the restaurant and coffee house at the hotel for a sophisticated meal and high-end coffee prices!