Wild Junket » Thailand http://www.wildjunket.com An adventure travel blog that brings you on a rollercoaster ride around the world Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:30:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Family Time in Singapore and Thailand – Captured on Instagram http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/03/28/singapore-and-thailand-as-captured-on-instagram/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/03/28/singapore-and-thailand-as-captured-on-instagram/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 17:10:25 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=16446 SingaporeOur trip back home to Singapore this January/February was a very special one. It was the first Chinese New Year with my whole family together in quite a few years. Joining us for the first time in Singapore was my sister’s boyfriend Gary and their one-year-old kiddo, Dominic (also my current favorite person in the world). We spent our [...]

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Our trip back home to Singapore this January/February was a very special one.

It was the first Chinese New Year with my whole family together in quite a few years. Joining us for the first time in Singapore was my sister’s boyfriend Gary and their one-year-old kiddo, Dominic (also my current favorite person in the world). We spent our time showing Gary around the city and I loved seeing that look of awe in his eyes, the kind you get when you’re in a place for the first time. Baby Dominic, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about where he was; he was just too excited to be surrounded by so many of us.

In the three weeks that we spent with my family, we celebrated Chinese New Year with a traditional reunion dinner, explored every corner in Singapore from Chinatown to Little India, took Dominic to the beach, feasted on our favorite chili crabs, hung out with old friends, partied at a Korean bar (and downed way too many soju bombs) and even hopped over to Thailand for a quick family vacation. We laughed, drank, danced and ate like there was no tomorrow.

And the best part? I had my computer shut the whole time. Putting my work aside and making time for my family is definitely the best perk of this job and I am extremely grateful to have this life I’ve built. This trip in particular made me realize how important it was to spend time with my loved ones.

To share some memories from this trip, here are some of my iPhone photos:

Singapore's Marina Bay Sands

 The skyline of Singapore has changed so much since I first left home in 2005 — now it’s dominated by the biggest hotel in the country, Marina Bay Sands.

 
With my sister and Gary in Singapore

Hanging out with my sister and Gary at Marina Bay.

 

Singapore's Masjid Sultan

Masjid Sultan along Arab Street, the Muslim quarter in Singapore.

 Orchids in Gardens by the Bay

We found plenty of this orchid – Singapore’s national flower – in Gardens by the Bay, the newest attraction in town.

 
My favorite chili crabs

 If Singapore had a national dish, it would be the chili crabs. This is what I miss most when I’m away from home.

 
The quintessential dish in Chinese New Year

On Chinese New Year Eve, families usually get together for a reunion dinner. The quintessential dish in this dinner is the yu sheng, a mixture of raw fish, carrots, green vegetables, plum sauce and crackers. The key lies in how we eat it: according to traditions, we have to mix it all up using chopsticks, tossing the yu sheng as high in the air as possible, thereby bringing in more wealth and luck in the coming year.

My adorable nephew

Baby Dominic thrilled to be surrounded by us!

Reunited with old friends

I love hanging out with my old friends back at home – they always make me realize how loved and blessed I truly am.

Patong Beach in Phuket

We chose Phuket for our family vacation because we didn’t care where we went, we just wanted somewhere cheap, near and convenient. In order to spend time together as a family, booking a house rental was the perfect solution. We decided to try out short-term apartment rental with FlipKey, a new holiday rental website, and definitely enjoyed our experience in our two-bedroom house.

 
Chalong Temple, Phuket
We took a day-trip to explore the other parts of Phuket and had a great time seeing it from new perspectives. Chalong Temple in particular was extremely impressive in terms of architecture and atmosphere.

A street vendor in Phuket

One of my favorite things in Thailand: the streetside pancake vendors.

Thai food in Phuket

Food, food, food — it’s everywhere in Thailand and you don’t even have to go far to get good food. We feasted on cheap and delicious Thai food everyday: from pad thai to grilled seabass and chicken with basel leaves.

Nightlife in Phuket

 Nightlife in Phuket.

 

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7 of the Cheapest Travel Destinations in the World http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/10/31/7-of-the-cheapest-travel-destinations/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/10/31/7-of-the-cheapest-travel-destinations/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 14:30:21 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=12325 Taj MahalTravel has a reputation for being expensive, but whilst that’s often the case it’s equally true that there are some exceptional bargains around if you’re willing to spread your wings a bit further. In many parts of the world it’s possible to live on only a few pounds a day – or in luxury for [...]

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Travel has a reputation for being expensive, but whilst that’s often the case it’s equally true that there are some exceptional bargains around if you’re willing to spread your wings a bit further. In many parts of the world it’s possible to live on only a few pounds a day – or in luxury for the same amount of money as you would spend at home. Here are seven of the cheapest destinations in the world, based on our own experiences and research.

1. India

This huge, sprawling country has an incredible amount to offer. Although there are plenty of tourist traps in the big cities, you’ll find super-low prices as well as a more authentic cultural experience once you veer off the beaten path. Most parts of India are highly affordable, from Mumbai to Rajasthan and everywhere in between. All in all, you should be able to exist very comfortably for £10 a day.

Taj Mahal

2. Tunisia

Tunisia’s capital is consistently ranked among the world’s cheapest cities by Mercer who conducts an annual survey on worldwide cost. The coastal city is where the Mediterranean meets North Africa, with the best of both cultures at a fraction of the price you might expect from nearby countries such as Italy. It continues to be the cheapest city in the region of Middle East and Africa.

Souk in TunisFlickr image by liketearsintherain

3. Eastern Europe

You can expect to pay comparable prices to those home in Western Europe, but a little further east and you’ll find a very different picture. Food and accommodation are excellent value and they’re often cheap to fly to from European hubs like London and Paris. There is plenty to see and do for free here as well as historically-rich sites to visit. Head for some of the quieter spots in Slovakia, Albania or Macedonia; you’ll find the capitals are reasonable value but further afield prices are truly outstanding.

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

4. Vietnam and Cambodia

These are well-known tourist destinations thanks to their stunning scenery and cultural heritage, but their popularity among backpackers means that there are plenty of places where prices are ideal for the budget traveler. It’s possible to get an excellent meal – including beer – for $3, and a decent hotel won’t cost much more. There’s so much to see: from beautiful Sapa n Northern Vietnam to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, you can easily spend months exploring this region.

Sapa, Vietnam

5. Thailand

In fact, Southeast Asia is good value all over, and Thailand is another destination where it’s possible to stretch your money almost twice as far as at home. Recent flooding and political problems have driven prices lower still, and you’ll be helping to boost the local economy. Whether you head to the beach or inland into the jungles, Thailand has all sorts of adventure for the budget traveler

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temple in Chiangmai

6. Mexico

On a similar theme, Mexico has had plenty of bad publicity recently thanks to a series of high-profile drug killings. Unfortunately the whole country has been tainted by association, despite the fact that its beautiful stretches of beaches and quaint towns are nowhere near the violence and remain completely unaffected.

Tulum

7. Greece 

One to watch. Already cheap due to its struggling economy, if Greece crashes out of the Euro and reverts to the Drachma then your dollars could suddenly go literally twice as far against the vastly devalued currency. Public transport and other services may be shaky for a while longer, so make contingency plans – or build some flexibility into your timetable and stay longer.

AthensFlickr photo by Arian Zwegers

 


 

 

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Highlights of Our 6-Month Trip in Asia http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/07/25/highlights-of-our-6-month-trip-in-asia/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/07/25/highlights-of-our-6-month-trip-in-asia/#comments Wed, 25 Jul 2012 15:00:51 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=10316 Whale Shark in CebuWe’ve been back in Spain for over a month now, taking time off to concentrate on marketing our magazine as well as working on our new app and other projects. The last six months in Asia have been quite the journey as we trotted from one country to the next, with our laptop and camera in tow. From [...]

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We’ve been back in Spain for over a month now, taking time off to concentrate on marketing our magazine as well as working on our new app and other projects. The last six months in Asia have been quite the journey as we trotted from one country to the next, with our laptop and camera in tow. From the hot sultry islands of the Philippines, we hopped over to Vietnam, into Thailand, before making our first visit to Myanmar and eventually China and North Korea. Before we hit the road again, it’s time to take a look back at the past six months and share with you our favorite moments of the trip.

1. Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cebu, Philippines

At the start of our trip, we revisited the Philippines mainly to fulfill our dream of swimming with whale sharks. It was an experience unlike no other, swimming just inches away from a massive animal (whale sharks average 9.7m in length), it was surreal, intimate and extremely moving. In the clear glassy water, I saw its red gills flapping, and its dorsal fin zigzagging through the water. There was one point when the shark glided extremely close to me, and whipped its tail in a forceful motion, missing me by mere inches.

Whale Shark in Cebu

2. Watching Sunset in Bagan, Myanmar

Thousands of ochre stupas sprawl across the plains of Bagan, amidst wilting Acacia trees and whirlpools of brown earth. Before our trip to Myanmar, many friends told us that sunrise and sunsets in Myanmar were extraordinary. It wasn’t until we came to Bagan that we fully understood the true meaning of their words. On the top of Shwesandaw Paya, we watched the colors of the sky and the stupa-studded landscape transform from bright vermillion to golden yellow and eventually a pale shade of plum purple.

Sunset in Bagan

3. Meeting Local Children in Pyongyang, North Korea

Our short trip to the DPRK (North Korea) was definitely the one of the most insightful experiences for us to date. Despite having been shut out of the outside world for centuries, the North Koreans we met were surprisingly curious and friendly towards us. Out on the streets, we smiled and waved at people – many of them coyly giggled, while others waved back enthusiastically. At a park, we even played finger guessing games with a big group of school children who had crowded around us and poked curiously at our cameras. (The photo below was taken at the park.)

 

4. Celebrating Songkran in Bangkok

In Thailand and many other parts of Southeast Asia, Songkran is celebrated as the traditional New Year’s Day.The splashing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, but these days, it has evolved into major water fights and a means to cool off from the heat. We celebrated Songkran in Khao San, Bangkok where locals and tourists alike flood the streets, armed with chrome-colored water guns, ready to have a good time. We squeezed elbow-to-elbow with the crowd, getting buckets of ice cold water poured on our heads and chalk powder smeared on our faces.

Songkran in Bangkok

5. Learning to Farm in Yangshuo, China

In the rural outskirts of Yangshuo, we met a farmer and his family, not just to learn how to plant rice, but also get to know them better and learn about their lives. Mr Pan and his wife had no idea why anyone would come and plant rice from them, but they were happy anyhow to have us as their guests. Pan told us one story after another about his life growing up in this village and we shared an amazing day with them. That night, we left their home with gratitude and eternal memories; we had come as strangers and left as friends.

Farming in Yangshuo, China

6. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam

We had long heard about the beautiful rice terraces of Sapa and the Hmong ethnic groups who inhabit this region — and it didn’t disappoint. While the trail was clearly well-trodden (as with most parts of Vietnam), it was still impressive – we experienced Vietnam’s backcountry, stayed in a local’s home, and met plenty of Hmong people (who all offered a helping hand during the challenging trek). Emerald green rice terraces stacked up one on top of another, as water buffaloes ploughed through the soggy field. It was definitely our favorite part of the country.

Rice terraces of Sapa

7. Celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore

We rang in the Year of the Dragon with family and friends in Singapore. Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals of the year in this part of the world, celebrated in fervor with a flurry of traditions and cultural practices – such as spring cleaning, reunion dinners and lion dances. It was a great time to be there – with streets and shops splashed in red, Chinese words of wishes sprawled across hallways and an infectious festive spirit in the air.

Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore

 

Where are we off to next?

In a week’s time, we will be heading to South Africa for a week or so of traveling with Cape Town Tourism. We will also be speaking at the Getaway Travel Blog Conference. It should be quite an exciting event, with many bloggers and industry folks from around the region gathering to discuss ideas and exchange tips. We’ll then spend two weeks traveling around Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.

In August, we’ll be traveling to Florida and Canada before flying to California for a family reunion. I’ll then hop over to Palau for a press trip with Visit Palau – the itinerary includes scuba-diving trips, sea kayaking and swimming with jellyfish.

Right after, we’ll be back in Spain for TBEX(Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference). This time it’ll be held in Costa Brava, and we’re looking forward to catch up with our travel blogger friends and industry folks. Travel plans after that are still up in the air, but we have plans to head to Australia and Israel.

It’s going to get even more hectic over the next few months, and we can’t wait! Follow us on the journey either here or on Twitter and Facebook.

Where are you off to the next few months? Share with us!

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An Intimate Elephant Encounter at Khao Sok National Park, Thailand http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/07/11/khao-sok-national-park-thailand/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/07/11/khao-sok-national-park-thailand/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2012 17:12:27 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=9247 Preparing food for the elephantsDeep in the rainforest of Khao Sok National Park, a hungry line of swaying elephants waited impatiently for their lunch. Before I could finish preparing my basket of fruits and vegetables, Masrinuan was already prodding my back with her wet, hairy trunk. With choppers in hand, we sliced up pineapple, watermelon, cucumber, and pumpkin and [...]

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Deep in the rainforest of Khao Sok National Park, a hungry line of swaying elephants waited impatiently for their lunch. Before I could finish preparing my basket of fruits and vegetables, Masrinuan was already prodding my back with her wet, hairy trunk. With choppers in hand, we sliced up pineapple, watermelon, cucumber, and pumpkin and piled them up in the baskets. Each elephant eats about 250kg of food every day — this was just a minor snack for them. “Now take a slice of tamarind and dip it in rice and seeds before wrapping it in a banana leaf – this helps their digestive system” said our guide, Bamboo.

I lugged the baskets over to Masrinuan, a small Asian elephant originally from Northern Thailand. Swaying from side to side, she stretched out her huge trunk, swooped up the slice of watermelon in my hand, and threw it onto her massive pink tongue – all within seconds. Even before she finished chewing it all up, she was back for more, her trunk coiling and twisting, sweeping the floor for the watermelon chunks that I’d dropped. Her eyes sparkled and shimmered – almost as if she was grinning at me.

Preparing food for the elephants

Jungle Bath

Next, it was time for the elephants’ daily bath. Armed with scrapes of coconut husks and a water hose, we prepared to scrub them down. Masrinuan’s mahout gave her instructions to lay down for the scrub and she dutifully followed (the mahout is a trained elephant handler). All 14 of the elephants at Elephant Hills Camp have been trained and taken care of by their mahouts since birth.

The mammoth task of scrubbing the elephant required all hands on deck and four of us worked hard to hose down Masrinuan. We each took charge of a different body area – from the head, to the ears, underarms and even the rear end. Masrinuan was so gentle and cheeky, none of us worried about the possibility of getting kicked or swatted. Apart from the occasional flap of an ear and the mischievous squirts of water from her trunk, she stood quietly for us to work through her tough, leathery skin.

Just like the other travelers, I was amused, mesmerized and truly touched by this intimate experience with the elephants. Despite the short encounter, we felt like we had developed a bond with the gentle giants.

Just like the other travelers, I was amused, mesmerized and truly touched by this intimate experience with the elephants. Despite the short encounter, we felt like we had developed a bond with the gentle giants.  

Responsible Travel

We were at Elephant Hills, Thailand’s first luxury-tented jungle camp in Khao Sok National Park – not just to explore a less-conventional part of Thailand, but also to have a close encounter with Asia’s largest land animal. As the only property in the country to provide an elephant experience, Elephant Hills has a strong emphasis on responsible travel. “We want to show people that there are ways to experience them without mistreating them,” said Jonathon Chell, international marketing manager of Elephant Hills.

Aimed to raise awareness of the elephant, Elephant Hills want to provide an elephant experience that helps both the visitors and the elephants. At the same time, they are doing their part to provide a conducive environment for the elephants to thrive. Camps such as Elephant Hills help get elephants off the streets, and into meaningful employment, while also ensuring a future for the mahouts.

Feeding the elephant

Elephant Hills Camp also does its part for the local community by mainly employing people from the Khao Sok region. They run the Children’s Project to help local schools in Khao Sok and lend a hand to educating the future generation on responsible tourism. Jonathan told me that they had recently built a library in a local school (in cooperation with travel agent) and donated computers to the community. During our stay at the camp, we were even treated to a dance performance from the local school children who are benefitting from the project.

“We want to show people that there are ways to experience them without mistreating them,” said Jonathon Chell, international marketing manager of Elephant Hills.

Elephant Hills Camp

Luxury in the Jungle

Earlier that day, we had arrived at Elephant Hills Camp just after daybreak – to the sounds of bullfrogs croaking, cicadas singing and gibbons screaming. Overlooking a sea of jungle, towering karst limestone cliffs, and the winding Sok River, the luxury camp is located in the middle of the national park, enveloped by wilderness. Our luxury tent, built on a concrete floor under the shelter of sturdy roofs, had everything you’d expect from a hotel room: a comfortable large bed, a mosquito net, fresh sheets, reading light and a spacious stone inlaid bathroom with flushing toilet, hot shower and amenities.

A hammock hanging outside was perfect for an afternoon snooze surrounded by the verdant greenery and distant calls of wildlife. The decor and design of the dining area, swimming pool and lodge was also planned to fit with the surrounding jungle environment and uses traditional Thai construction techniques in many aspects of its design and build. Elephant Hills literally brought comfort and luxury into the wild.

Luxury tent at Elephant Hills Camp

The Elephant Hills’ experience also included rafting down the Sok River. Floating down the mud-brown river, we wound through the narrow channel, past thick bamboo forests and limestone mountains that rose up to 1,000m high. As part of an ancient trade route between India and China, Sok River has surprisingly seen very little human interference, with few development along its banks. For hours, we paddled through the gentle current, waving to locals who were taking a dip in the water and listening to the sounds of gibbons in the distance. We haven’t come a long way from civilization, and yet, we were immersing in one of the most pristine parts of Thailand.

We’ll be writing about the second part of our experience, stay tuned! In the meantime, here are more photos from Elephant Hills.

Disclosure: This trip was made possible by Elephant Hills Camp, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

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Unspirited Koh Lanta, Thailand http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/06/23/koh-lanta-thailand/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/06/23/koh-lanta-thailand/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2012 16:37:18 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=9044 A view of the beach when the sun came out - photo NOT taken from the resortTwo weeks before the launch of our last magazine issue, we needed a place to buckle down, focus and work on it at full force. We’d heard many people sing praises about this island that was highly accessible from the busy beach town of Krabi, yet quiet and peaceful, nothing like the other touristy islands [...]

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Two weeks before the launch of our last magazine issue, we needed a place to buckle down, focus and work on it at full force. We’d heard many people sing praises about this island that was highly accessible from the busy beach town of Krabi, yet quiet and peaceful, nothing like the other touristy islands in the region. Koh Lanta was going to be our home base for the next two weeks – where we hoped we could leave the stress of travel behind and let our creativity flow.

A view of the beach when the sun came out - photo NOT taken from the resort

We were forewarned that low season in Koh Lanta probably does not offer the kind of experience that one would expect, and for the most part they were right. Although we partly enjoyed the tranquility of the location, we did not appreciate the frequent rain and strong winds. The beach was dirty, packed with rubbish and huge waves, and much of it was fenced out due to the dangerous conditions. 70% of the restaurants, hotels and amenities were closed for most part of the day (if not completely closed for restoration) and there was hardly anyone around. But we had known all of these beforehand, so we set out to enjoy our time in Koh Lanta while trying to get as much work done as possible.

Our base camp on the island was Lanta Pavillion Resort. Situated along Klong Khong beach, this beach front resort features 37 individual bungalows with basic amenities, a bean-shaped pool and direct access to the beach. Our room was clean and comfortable enough for budget travelers, although luxury-craving couples should probably look elsewhere. We were the only guests there most of the time, so besides the creepy manager, there were few staff around to help us.

Sign at the entrance of Lanta Pavillion Resort, Koh Lanta, Thailand

At this time of the year (we visited in late April), the sea conditions made it impossible to swim or even enjoy the beach but we had heard from friends that the beach is pretty decent during peak season. The sun barely made an appearance throughout our stay but when it did, we made the most out of it and jumped into the pool. Although WiFi was only available at the restaurant area, which was closed for the low season, there was a paid option for internet access in our bungalow that worked quite well for our needs.

Bungalows at Lanta Pavillion, Koh Lanta, Thailand

When we’d planned this new location-independent lifestyle, I had pictured us working on our laptops by the beach, sipping a margarita while the creative juices flowed. But of course things never turn out the way you want them to – we ended up working in our room most of the time, since it was usually too hot to sit out (despite the cloudy weather) and the sound of the ferocious crashing waves made a hardly soothing soundtrack. We did however rent a scooter (from a nearby travel agency) to explore the island, where we found chill-out beach bars, panoramic clifftop restaurants and idyllic beaches.

Our stay at Lanta Pavillion was all in all comfortable, but we wished we had come in a more inviting time of the year. Would we return to Koh Lanta again? I honestly doubt so.

Working at Diamond Cliff bar, Koh Lanta, Thailand


Disclaimer: Our stay was made possible by Koh Lanta Pavillion, but all opinions are our own.

 

 

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A Secret Corner of Chiang Mai, Thailand http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/06/01/a-secret-corner-of-chiang-mai/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/06/01/a-secret-corner-of-chiang-mai/#comments Thu, 31 May 2012 16:18:58 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=8847 Buddha statues at Wat Phrathat Doi SuthepThis is the fourth edition of an ongoing series of reviews on properties (budget hotels and hostels) we’re staying at during our travels in Asia, as part of our partnership with HostelBookers.com. Our first stop in Thailand, during our journey through Southeast Asia, was Chiang Mai, in the northern reaches of the country. We’ve heard so [...]

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This is the fourth edition of an ongoing series of reviews on properties (budget hotels and hostels) we’re staying at during our travels in Asia, as part of our partnership with HostelBookers.com.

Our first stop in Thailand, during our journey through Southeast Asia, was Chiang Mai, in the northern reaches of the country. We’ve heard so many people sing praises of this city that we had to experience it for ourselves. Despite being the second biggest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai surprisingly harbors a medium-sized downtown area, that’s pleasantly laid out and perfect to explore on foot. Within its city walls, there is a perfect combination of laid back cafes, centuries-old temples, cute cocktail cars and affordable hotels. At the same time, it also provides mod cons like ubiquitous WiFi and international cuisine. It’s no wonder many digital nomads like to make this their temporary home.

Buddha statues at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Our stay in Chiang Mai gave us the opportunity to meet some fellow travel bloggers and also some good friends we hadn’t seen for a while. It also allowed us to slow down our pace, relax, and catch up on some work while exploring the many secrets that the city had to offer. Thankfully, we found a comfortable base to do just that.

Chang Puak Hotel is a traditional Thai hotel with modern facilities and styles. It features a quiet, garden setting with a peaceful atmosphere, providing a respite from the bustling traffic. Stepping foot into the hotel, we immediately left the bustle of Chang Puak Road behind and into a calm, relaxing ambiance. The lobby, designed with teak wood and traditional Thai furnishing, was a grand entrance; while soothing music played in the background. Around the reception was an open-air dining/breakfast area lined with white Victorian outdoor chairs and beautiful red hibiscus and birds of paradise.

Despite its quiet location, the hotel is  situated several blocks north to the wall of the ancient town. To get into the city center, we either had to walk 20 minutes or take a tuktuk. But after visiting our friends who stayed in a hotel within the city walls, we were relieved that we’d chosen to stay outside the downtown area and in this quiet and comforting spot.

Open air reception at Chang Puak Hotel

The staff at Chang Puak were extremely friendly and helpful, they had no problem with us getting our mail delivered there before we arrived (it was there where we got the first printed copies of our magazine!) and they even helped us pay the delivery fee in advance.

There was also a small travel agent at the entrance of the hotel where a friendly guide would help arrange everything we would need for our stay, from day trips (like elephant riding or white water rafting) to bus tickets and scooter rental (the most convenient mode of transportation around the city). We found the prices reasonable, but if you have time and a tight budget, it’s always a good idea to ask around in the town center where there are plenty of tour offices to choose from.

Our room at Chang Puak Hotel

Our room at was clean and spacious, featuring a pretty four poster, pastel-colored cushions, a comfortable desk to work on, wooden carved doors, and windows that look out to the swimming pool. There was also a cushy daybed that made lounging around especially comfortable and also made a second work station for us. The whole room had a vintage marine feel to it, with framed seashells and posters adding to the ambiance. From the second floor, our view was also fantastic, overlooking the pool and surrounding houses. We were lucky to get one of the newly renovated rooms, that looked much better than those shown on the hotel website. There was also free high-speed internet with WiFi access, which made our stay all the more productive.

Swimming pool at Chang Puak Hotel

If I had to choose a favorite part of the hotel, it would definitely be the swimming-pool. Set around the center of the property and fringed by beautiful palm trees and birds of paradise, this beautifully designed area was the perfect place to relax and enjoy ourselves after a day of working and exploring. We wouldn’t have been able to relax and get so much work done in Chiang Mai without this comfortable abode. The next time we return to Chiang Mai, we’ll definitely be staying here again. And maybe then, we’ll stay just a bit longer…

Prices for Chang Puak Hotel start from approximately US$22 a night, with rooms ranging from twin/double to triple rooms.


Disclaimer: Our stay was made possible by hostelbookers and Chang Puak Hotel, but all opinions are our own.


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At Home in Bangkok http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/05/18/at-home-in-bangkok/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/05/18/at-home-in-bangkok/#comments Thu, 17 May 2012 17:51:17 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=8766 Roundabout in downtown HanoiThis is the third edition of an ongoing series of reviews on properties (budget hotels and hostels) we’re staying at during our travels in Asia, as part of our partnership with HostelBookers.com. As we journey around Southeast Asia, Bangkok has been a frequent stop for us – since it’s a major hub in the region. Our Songkran [...]

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This is the third edition of an ongoing series of reviews on properties (budget hotels and hostels) we’re staying at during our travels in Asia, as part of our partnership with HostelBookers.com.

As we journey around Southeast Asia, Bangkok has been a frequent stop for us – since it’s a major hub in the region. Our Songkran experience in Bangkok was definitely one to remember; so are the times spent hopping from one temple to the next, cruising on the Chao Phraya River and navigating the chaotic Khao San Road. But I have to admit Bangkok has never quite grown on us – perhaps it’s because of the boulevards lined with mega-malls after mega-malls, or  the towering skyscrapers amidst shabby districts, or just the endless chaos and noise. Thankfully, we found a comfortable base from which to slowly adapt to Bangkok’s rowdy ways. Lub d (meaning ‘sleep well’ in Thai), with its welcoming and friendly vibes, made Bangkok feel almost familiar sometimes.

Roundabout in downtown Hanoi

Rated as one of the 17 coolest hangout hostels in the world by UK’s The Observer, Lub d has the social appeal of  a youth hostel and the commodities of a budget hotel. There are the cheap dorm beds and private rooms, but at the same time, comfortable communal lounges to socialize. With eclectic designs and fully-fledged hostel facilities, Lub d definitely is the perfect spot for flashpackers like us to hang out and relax. It’s also hard to find such friendly and helpful staff anywhere else; they helped us with directions and recommended local favorite haunts for us to visit. Lub d also organizes and participate in weekly-activities such as club crawls, city strolls or thai boxing.

Roundabout in downtown Hanoi

Best of all, both Lub d hostels (there are two in Bangkok) enjoy excellent location — one right in the heart of the city in Siam Square; and the other in the trendy commercial district, Silom (best place to go for Songkran).

We had the opportunity to stay in both of their branches, the first of which was Lub d Siam Square, situated right in front of the National Stadium BTS station and the famous MBK shopping center. I have to admit it’s our favorite of the two, mainly because of it’s location and the convenience of the BTS station. But Lub d Silom is equally comfortable, well-designed and situated right next to one of the most happening areas in Bangkok.

 

Lobby of hotel

Our private deluxe room in both hostels are stylish, clean, practical and comfortable – the one in Lub d Siam Square features an all-red decor, with slick lines, simple furnishing and concrete floors. I particularly liked the design of the bed: instead of a bed frame, it’s laid tatami-style on top of a red deck of sorts, with ample storage space smartly built in. Lub d Silom has similar designs in their deluxe room, although it is definitely much more spacious, with ceiling-to-floor windows that looked out to the main road (without any obstructions).

All in all, both hostels made for extremely comfortable stays. We even published the latest issue of our magazine using the high-speed internet at Lub d Siam Square just a few days ago – which shows how ideal  it is for travelers like us who work on the go.

Lobby of hotel

As their slogan says, “In Lub d, everyone leaves as a friend,” and we can’t agree more.

Prices for Lub d hostel start from ~$16 a night, with rooms ranging from dormitories to deluxe double rooms.


Disclaimer: Our stay was made possible by hostelbookers and Lub d, but all opinions are our own.

 

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Wet and Wild: Water Festival in Bangkok and Yangon http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/04/16/wet-and-wild-water-festival-in-bangkok-and-yangon/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/04/16/wet-and-wild-water-festival-in-bangkok-and-yangon/#comments Mon, 16 Apr 2012 14:20:29 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=8617 People covered in powder and waterIt’s wet, it’s wild and it’s loud. Songkran festival is synonymous with massive water wars and street parties. In Thailand and many other parts of Southeast Asia, Songkran is celebrated as the traditional New Year’s Day. Traditionally,  people celebrate by paying respects to the elders and visiting the temples to pray or give food to monks. The splashing of [...]

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It’s wet, it’s wild and it’s loud. Songkran festival is synonymous with massive water wars and street parties. In Thailand and many other parts of Southeast Asia, Songkran is celebrated as the traditional New Year’s Day. Traditionally,  people celebrate by paying respects to the elders and visiting the temples to pray or give food to monks. The splashing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, but these days, it has evolved into major water fights and a means to cool off from the heat.

Over the weekend, we celebrated Songkran in Khao San, Bangkok where locals and tourists alike flood the streets, armed with chrome-colored water guns, ready to have a good time. We squeezed elbow-to-elbow with the crowd, getting buckets of ice cold water poured on our heads and chalk powder smeared on our faces. The Thais sure know how to bring in the new year and there’s no better way to experience it than to join in the fun. Here are some photos from Songkran (taken with my waterrproof camera):

People covered in powder and water

People covered in powder and water on the streets of Khao San, Bangkok

Khao San, Bangkok

Mayhem along Khao San Road

People armed with water guns and buckets

Families and friends get armed with water guns and prepare to have a good time

Alberto and I
Alberto and I having the time of our lives

Our gang

Our gang of water warriors: Claire and Iain from OldWorldWandering and Deborah and Matt from Travelwithamate. Check out Matt’s awesome video from Songkran.

Cranking it up a notch in Yangon, Burma

Just when we thought Songkran in Bangkok was possibly the best festival experience we’ve had, we arrived in Yangon where the street parties and water fights were even bigger, louder and crazier. The Burmese New Year, known as Thingyan, obviously involved plenty of water splashing as well. In the city centre of Yangon, stages were set up along the streets, packed with hundreds of young Burmese, spraying water with luminous green hoses while gyrating to Burmese rock and the occasional Lady Gaga songs. Around Sule Pagoda, there were traditional dance performance as well as clusters of street food stalls and roads blocked out for revelers.

Plenty of Burmese came up to us, shook our hands, and asked if we were enjoying ourselves. I lost count of the number of times the friendly locals shouted as us (the only foreigners on the streets), “Welcome to Myanmar!” We will be spending the next few weeks in Burma – meanwhile, here are some photos from the water festival in Yangon:

Dancing in the water

People fill up the temporary stages to spray the trucks with hoses and dance the day away

Getting wet

Getting wet on trucks

People on stage spraying

Underneath the hoses

Streets closed for Thingyan

In front of the Parliament House, streets are closed for the massive water fight

Trucks getting stuck in traffic

Trucks upon trucks of people are stuck in traffic as they head into town for the epic street party

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3 Months of Travel in Photos http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/04/12/3-months-of-travel-in-photos/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/04/12/3-months-of-travel-in-photos/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2012 17:48:23 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=8590 haotic traffic, sizzling tropical heat, bustling street food stalls, megamalls alongside residential neighborhoods: this is Bangkok, one of the craziest – and most seductive cities in the world. We’re currently in the Thai capital, preparing for the annual Songkran festival (or Thai New Year). It’s been almost three months since we left our home base [...]

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Chaotic traffic, sizzling tropical heat, bustling street food stalls, megamalls alongside residential neighborhoods: this is Bangkok, one of the craziest – and most seductive cities in the world. We’re currently in the Thai capital, preparing for the annual Songkran festival (or Thai New Year). It’s been almost three months since we left our home base in Spain and it’s slowly catching up on us – juggling a hectic travel schedule with a crazy workload is quite a challenge – but it’s been the most fulfilling experience of our lives to date.

We started our trip in Singapore - where we spent Chinese New Year reuniting with old friends and family. Our next stop was the Philippines, where we hopped from one island to the next, barely covering 5 of the 7,107 islands in the whole month we were there. From the cosmopolitan capital of Manila, we headed to the provinces: first trekking the volcanoes of Legazpi, swimming with whale sharks in Donsol and Oslob, then scuba-diving in Dumaguete and relaxing on the private island of Sumilon. While working hard to publish the latest issue of our magazine, we went through immense stress but we made sure to squeeze in time to go scuba-diving and relax on the beach. In Vietnam, we had great fun exploring the country by train – dodging crazy traffic in Hanoi, trekking the rice paddies in Sapa and cruising the much-polluted Halong Bay. Vietnam has definitely won my heart over especially with its street grub – the best I’ve had in Southeast Asia to date. After a week in Chiangmai, we’re now in Bangkok, running errands, getting our visas done and meeting up with old and new friends.

Work is important to us, but enjoying our travels is still our top priority. We’re glad that we’ve managed to find a balance between the two – and while we continue to seek for equilibrium, we’re thankful for the opportunity to do what we love most and lead a life permanently on the road, hand in hand. I will be writing more about our digital nomadic lifestyle, but in the meantime, here are some quick shots from the three months of travel.

Thailand

Bangkok’s Chao Praya River

Golden chedi of Doi Suthep, Chiangmai

Buddha statues in Doi SuthepA row of Buddha statues in Chiangmai

elephant in ChiangmaiAn elephant sanctuary in the outskirts of Chiangmai

Vietnam

Rice paddies of Sapa

The green rice paddies of Sapa layered in beautiful curves
a Hmong ladyHmong ladies of Sapa making handicraft on the road

the green fields of VietnamA lady working on the vegetable fields surrounding Hoi An

Street vendors in Hoi AnStreet vendors in Hoi An selling barbecued meat skewers

Philippines

LegazpiThe spewing volcano of Mount Mayon in Legazpi

DUmaguete, PhilippinesClear waters of Dumaguete, Negros

Whale Sharks in PhilippinesSwimming with whale sharks in Oslob

Singapore

Singapore skylineThe shimmering Singapore River with Marina Bay Sands as the backdrop

skyscrapers in SingaporeThe silhouette of skyscrapers in Singapore

The red Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown

We’re off to Burma next, followed by a few weeks of relaxing on the islands of Southern Thailand, then a roadtrip through China, Tibet and North Korea. Read more about our journey here or follow us every step of the way on Twitter with the hashtag #wjasia.

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Daily Travel Snapshot: Koh Tao, Thailand http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/08/21/daily-travel-snapshot-koh-tao-thailand/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/08/21/daily-travel-snapshot-koh-tao-thailand/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2011 01:30:15 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=6963 A view of Koh Tao from above. This beautiful islet is just a short boat ride away from Koh Samui, Thailand.

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A view of Koh Tao from above. This beautiful islet is just a short boat ride away from Koh Samui, Thailand.

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