Kansai, Day 8: Nara – Osaka

NARA KOEN was our first destination but we were confused where to get off (while on the bus) so we chose a random stop. Apparently, the park was huuuge and all of the places we wanted to visit were all there. We looked for a quiet spot first to eat breakfast – and away from the deer!

MARCH 13, 2017

Another daytrip that we did from Osaka was to visit Nara. Our train ride was about an hour and a half, which gave us enough time to sleep because we woke up early.

NARA KOEN was our first destination but we were confused where to get off (while on the bus) so we chose a random stop. Apparently, the park was huuuge and all of the places we wanted to visit were all there. We looked for a quiet spot first to eat breakfast – and away from the deer!

After filling our tummies, we went to KOFUKU-JI (UNESCO) and we had free access to the temple grounds. Its five-story pagoda was an amazing sight and considered to be the second tallest in Japan.

We were unable to view Central Golden Hall (the main hall) because it was undergoing renovation. We decided to just explore the other parts of the temple grounds instead.

Since we did not have a lot of stops in our itinerary, J suggested we visit NARA NATIONAL MUSEUM. It was also raining so it would be good for us to seek shelter for the meantime. Taking pictures was not allowed inside but it was worth the visit. The extensive history of Buddhism can be found there as well as A LOT of Buddha and Buddhist-related statues. We also visited a portion that was dedicated to Omizutori, which was our last item for the Nara itinerary.

Near the museum, we saw an old lady selling sweet potatoes per gram. We bought 500g and we were surprised how big it was. Even if the three of us shared it, we were not able to finish eating it.

One deer spotted us with the sweet potato and it followed us even when we crossed the road. We ended up hiding in a shrine but we could see the deer looking for us. LOL.

Seeing and interacting with deer was the activity we were all looking forward to. But, I was initially scared especially when we encountered them in groups. We saw a local who threw bits of crackers and the deer nearby went wiiild – I even saw a few jumping over rocks while rushing towards the food.

I followed my cousin’s advice on how to feed deer with lesser chance of experiencing them being aggressive:

  • Be careful when buying food in the deer cracker hotspot – areas with many vendors who are all selling deer crackers. Better to look for another place with less vendors as fewer deer are hanging out there. (We were able to buy ours in a store near the road – it was the only store at that spot)
  • Do NOT let the deer catch you buying their food! Put the crackers inside the bag right away. They are smart enough to see that you bought crackers and where you put it. Once they see you, they will not stop bugging you to give them food.
  • Most of the deer roaming around the park can be too aggressive especially when it comes to their food. Those that are inside temples are more docile and they kind of act like a hippogriff – when you bow to them, they’ll bow to you. Some already bow once they see you. We felt that it would be cold of us not to give them food so we ended up giving most of the crackers to deer inside temples.

Fun fact: Deer is the symbol of Nara and it is regarded as the messenger of the gods. Nara’s deer mascot is called Shikamaru-kun – and this made me realize one of the famous characters in Naruto named “Nara Shikamaru”. Cool!

The walk to our next destination was quite long but it was a pleasant one. It took us about 20 minutes of walking along a path covered in trees before we reached KASUGA TAISHA.

This is the most important Shinto shrine in Nara, and it is famous for the donated lanterns decorating a portion of the shrine. These are only lit during evenings of Lantern festivals in Nara. Similar to Kofuku-ji, the grounds do not have any entrance fee.

We spotted a few deer here and they were hiding near the stone lanterns.

 

Inside the hall, we saw the lanterns with intricate designs as well as ema which included deer-shaped ones.

Since we still had time to kill before the Omizutori, we ate late lunch and checked out the line of stalls near Todai-ji.

 

Our last stop in Nara was TODAI-JI (UNESCO), a famous Buddhist temple founded thousands of years ago. We were not able to explore this since we arrived during closing time. It was a bit of a bummer though as I wanted to visit the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall – Main Hall) – largest wooden building with the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan.

But, we did not felt that bad because the main reason why we visited was attend the Omizutori. The ceremony was held at Nigatsudo Hall, which also gave a good view of the city. We were lucky enough to be able to climb the steps going up the hall but we were eventually asked to leave as the locals prepare for Omizutori. OMIZUTORI is one of the oldest festivals in Japan as it started in 752 AD. It is done as a way to cleanse sins and welcome spring. They say that March 12 and 14 are the best days to watch the ceremony – longest on the 12th (45 minutes), shortest on the 14th (5 minutes) but more spectacular as torches are lit all at once.

Even before sunset, there were already a lot of locals in the temple grounds. Wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than a thousand people there.

Funny story: we realized we came unprepared when we saw almost everyone were sitting on the ground with a plastic or cloth that they can use as a mat. There was still about an hour of waiting because Omizutori would only start at 7PM. I had scratch bond papers inside my bag and brought it out to use. But, an old lady took pity on us and gave us her extra big disposable plastic mat. (Arigatou obasan!) Made us love Japan and its people even more! ❤

The ceremony started on time and seeing this 1250-year old tradition in real life was surreal. Series of torches were lit one at a time and on occasions, the torch holder would shower sparks over the crowd. It lasted for about 30 minutes and everyone was focused in this ceremony.

I wish I could post the videos but the file sizes are too big. 😦

After Omizutori and making our way out of the crowded place, we decided to have dinner in Osaka. Automatic choice was to go to Dotonbori and just choose whichever we wanted to try. We went to DARUMA, which is famous for its kushikatsu (deep fried skewered meat/vegetable) and has been in the business since 1929. We were lucky because there was no line and we were able to get a table right away. Our table (2nd floor) was also next to the window which provided a view of Tonbori River.

We initially wanted to order 2 sets but because there were 3 of us, that would mean that for every type of kushikatsu, one of us would not get to taste it. And so, we decided to just get one set each. I think the staff could not help but stare at us because 1 set has 12 kushikatsu sticks. But, we were hungry plus we did not know when we could get to eat again there. J and I ordered oyster too because a deep fried one sounded yummy.

Our orders did not disappoint! Definitely not for health-conscious people but come on, the oil probably helped in making the kushikatsu delicious. :p

Note that they do not allow double dipping for hygienic purposes. You are only allowed to dunk each kushikatsu in the sauce only once. If you still want more sauce, you use the piece of cabbage (provided for free) to scoop more sauce. I also read in some posts that eating the cabbage helps in digestion.

After dinner, we explored Dotonbori some more and after seeing J enjoying her Cremia ice cream before, I had to buy one. My sister always told me that it is fun to eat ice cream during cold season but the idea is weird to me. So after trying this during this trip, I finally understand what she meant. What I like about eating ice cream during winter is that I do not have to worry that my ice cream would easily melt and drip everywhere. Haha!

That’s it for Nara. Next stop is USJ (and WWOHP)!!!

 

LINKS TO OTHER KANSAI REGION / JAPAN 2017 POSTS:

Japan, Day 0-1: Kyoto (Higashiyama Area)

Japan, Day 2: Kyoto (Arashiyama)

Japan, Day 3: Kyoto (Fushimi, Northern Higashiyama)

Japan, Day 4: Kyoto (Central & Downtown)

Japan, Day 5: Kyoto >> Osaka

Japan, Day 6: Kobe >> Osaka

Japan, Day 7: Himeji >> Osaka

Japan, Day 9: Universal Studios

Japan, Day 10 (AM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 10 (PM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 11: Osaka

Kansai, Day 5: Kyoto – Osaka

Our first stop for our last day in Kyoto was KINKAKU-JI (UNESCO) – also known as the “Golden Pavilion”. It is one of the famous Zen temples which has its top 2 floors covered in gold leaf. This golden structure overlooks a pond, which is a real sight to see.

Near the exit, there is a spot where one can write in an ema but what we did was light candles. There was a variety of candles depending on which one you want to wish for – career, health, and safety among others.

MARCH 10, 2017

Our first stop for our last day in Kyoto was KINKAKU-JI (UNESCO) – also known as the “Golden Pavilion”. It is one of the famous Zen temples which has its top 2 floors covered in gold leaf. This golden structure overlooks a pond, which is a real sight to see.

Near the exit, there is a spot where one can write in an ema but what we did was light candles. There was a variety of candles depending on which one you want to wish for – career, health, and safety among others.

We decided to have lunch @ KYOTO KATSUGYU – a restaurant famous for Kyoto-style Wagyu beef and aged beef; interesting for us since we were used to pork as key ingredient of the katsu. Another interesting thing about the katsu in this place is how they deep fry the beef for only 30 seconds, which results to medium-rare meat (which is my preferred done-ness!)

After our early lunch, M suggested we go to KYOTO INTERNATIONAL MANGA MUSEUM. Good thing Shu, our Airbnb host, was kind enough to let us leave our luggage in the unit longer than the check-out time. In the museum, most of the manga were in Japanese (obviously). While I could not read kanji, I still felt in awe handling physical copies of manga, especially titles that I encountered from childhood up to present. Before leaving, I bought a few souvenirs to take home, including earphone plugs with Law and Luffy from One Piece.

Time for us to head to Osaka after the short trip in the museum! It was quite confusing inside Kyoto Station because there are different platforms, depending on your destination. When we found ours, we had to figure out which side would take us to Osaka. We asked a kind Japanese lady and while she did not speak any English, when a train arrived, she motioned to us not to get inside because that was not the train bound for Osaka. We had to wait for the right one otherwise we might end up in a different place.

When we arrived in our Osaka Airbnb, we took time to rest our feet and we only went out for dinner.

[Just like in previous posts, I was supposed to share here the details of the Airbnb but unfortunately, host took down the listing already. 😦]

We went straight to Shinsaibashi-suji to check out shops we may be interested to check out on another day. Afterwards, we went to one of the ICHIRAN branches in Dotonbori. The one we went to was a different style because instead of the individual counter, there were tables for groups (ideal for family and friends).

Just like my Ichiran experience in Tokyo, I also enjoyed this one and it was interesting that we could freely talk with each other because of the set-up. We went home after finishing our big ramen bowls because the trip to Kobe would require us to leave early.

And so, Kobe day trip details on the next post! 🙂

 

LINKS TO OTHER KANSAI REGION / JAPAN 2017 POSTS:

Japan, Day 0-1: Kyoto (Higashiyama Area)

Japan, Day 2: Kyoto (Arashiyama)

Japan, Day 3: Kyoto (Fushimi, Northern Higashiyama)

Japan, Day 4: Kyoto (Central & Downtown)

Japan, Day 6: Kobe >> Osaka

Japan, Day 7: Himeji >> Osaka

Japan, Day 8: Nara >> Osaka

Japan, Day 9: Universal Studios

Japan, Day 10 (AM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 10 (PM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 11: Osaka

Kansai, Day 3: Kyoto (Fushimi, N. Higashiyama)

Another early start for us since our first stop for our 3rd day in Kyoto was in FUSHIMI INARI TAISHA and we wanted to avoid the crowd. The place is well-known for its senbon torii (thousands of torii) spread across an entire mountain. The whole hike usually takes 2-3 hours according to those who have already experienced doing it. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, with foxes as the messengers.

MARCH 8, 2017

Another early start for us since our first stop for our 3rd day in Kyoto was in FUSHIMI INARI TAISHA and we wanted to avoid the crowd. The place is well-known for its senbon torii (thousands of torii) spread across an entire mountain. The whole hike usually takes 2-3 hours according to those who have already experienced doing it. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, with foxes as the messengers.

There are two lines that can take you to Fushimi Inari Taisha – the nearest one to the location is the JR Line. We rode this one and right after exiting the station, we can already see this big orange torii.

Upon entering, we passed by the main prayer hall. We saw a map and a few signs that pointed to the start of the famous line of orange torii. A few minutes of walking and we finally saw it! There were only a few visitors around at that time so we were able to enjoy walking slowly along the torii-lined pathway.

We only reached a third of the hike when we decided to go back. It was too cold already and we had not yet eaten breakfast so we knew that we were not going to last the hike.

 

By the time we reached the area with the main hall, there was a huge crowd already due to students on a field trip.

We decided to exit via the road with food stalls so that we could also buy breakfast. Unfortunately, they were still closed – most likely since it was still early. We looked for the nearest convenience store and bought the usual: onigiri, sandwich, hot tea and coffee. There were no seats inside the store so we went back to Fushimi. Luckily, when we got there, the food stalls were already opened. I wanted to try the yakisoba but the serving size was too big! I ended up buying karaage shared with my friends. Might be weird to eat something that heavy for breakfast but it was really crispy and delicious!

TOFUKU-JI was our next stop, which is a place famous for maple leaf viewing. Unfortunately, most of the trees were bare since it was still early March. We only visited the Sanmon Gate (oldest Zen gate) and Hondo (main hall) since these were free. Access to Tsutenkyo Bridge and the gardens have corresponding charges. Our trip here was just short.

We headed to Ginkaku-ji although we had a hard time getting a cab from the station we got off. Not sure why there were very few cabs in the area since it did not look like a rural part. We finally got a cab and I was a bit surprised that the driver was a lady. She spoke good English and we saw that there was a “Foreign Friendly Taxi” sign inside her car – though the fare was more expensive than the usual. She toured us a bit by pointing interesting places we passed by such as the road to Nanzen-ji and an expensive restaurant with really good food.

We had to walk going to Ginkaku-ji since vehicles are not allowed anymore at some point. But before entering, we tried mini cream puffs from GENMAI – vanilla, matcha, and sakura flavors. Not sure what to feel about the sakura flavor – it was okay but it tasted like vanilla with pink food coloring.

As we had more energy to do activities again, we headed to GINKAKU-JI, another UNESCO site in Kyoto.

It is also known as the “Silver Pavilion” – similar to Kinkaku-ji without the gold colors on the structure. Near the pavilion is the Dry Sand Garden, which has this massive sand cone named Kogetsudai (Moon Viewing Platform). I took a panorama picture with my phone but the quality was crappy as usual.

We were able to easily follow the path since it was just straightforward and there was a big crowd anyway in front of us. We passed by the main hall, Sengetsusen Waterfall (although it was not a huge one), moss garden, and the overlooking spot which gave us a breathtaking view of this side of Kyoto.

Before our DIY tour ended, we got another glimpse of the Silver Pavilion but this time seeing the back side.

The street that would take you to Ginkaku-ji reminded me of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka because of the various shops along the sides – food, souvenirs, etc. We were looking for Omen to have our late lunch and we were relieved to find out that it was just a few minutes away on foot.

OMEN is popular for its handmade udon and since the weather was cold, we opted for the hot version. We got the set meal which included appetizers we did not know – everything tasted okay except for the green vegetable with a small slice of raw fish. It was too bitter! J and I also got an additional order of sabazushi – too big to eat in just one bite but it tasted really good! Definitely recommend getting this one.

Omen recommends experimenting with the four spices on the table when eating their udon. However, I recommend eating first the udon without any of these so that you can get compare more precisely which you prefer. There is also a brochure with English instructions on each table, and each spice has an English name so you kind of know what you’re putting in your dish.

We headed to GION afterwards. Since it was mid-afternoon, there were only a few people around. We were not hoping to see real geisha or maiko at that time but we encountered three women who dressed up like them.

We went back to our Airbnb early again as we were too tired to go around. I’m curious how Gion looks like at night so I will surely be back here. Shirakawa area might also be at its best during spring season because of the willow trees lining it (+ Shirakawa Canal). I also want to do the Kurama-Kibune hike so I think that’s another reason to go back to Kyoto? 🙂

 

LINKS TO OTHER KANSAI REGION / JAPAN 2017 POSTS:

Japan, Day 0-1: Kyoto (Higashiyama Area)

Japan, Day 2: Kyoto (Arashiyama)

Japan, Day 4: Kyoto (Central & Downtown)

Japan, Day 5: Kyoto >> Osaka

Japan, Day 6: Kobe >> Osaka

Japan, Day 7: Himeji >> Osaka

Japan, Day 8: Nara >> Osaka

Japan, Day 9: Universal Studios

Japan, Day 10 (AM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 10 (PM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 11: Osaka

Bangkok, Day 3: Shopping + Food Trip

When I entered MBK, I was overwhelmed by the size. Good thing this was my only shopping stop for that day. I was able to go to an area where there were numerous stalls that sells clothes that are ideal as pasalubong. I also bought a few more tops for myself, all for 300 baht or below.

After shopping for clothes, I went to MONT NOM SOD as recommended by a close friend. I ordered the classic toast with milk and another toast with chocolate. Both were sinfully good, but I prefer the milk one because I find the chocolate to be a bit too sweet.

MARCH 17, 2016

Breakfast for this day was soup with rice mixed in it. Glad that it was not spicy at all and despite the heat outside, the aircon in the sala was turned on so eating soup was not a problem.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

After breakfast, I went back to my room and stayed in the balcony for quite some time. My only plan that day was to shop at MBK so I asked my family what they wanted me to buy for them.

At around 9AM, I left the house and headed to MBK. I just hopped on a BTS train, got off at Siam station, and walked for about 7 minutes. While walking at the overpass going to MBK, a woman approached me and spoke in Thai. Mistaken again as a local?!

When I entered MBK, I was overwhelmed by the size. Good thing this was my only shopping stop for that day. I was able to go to an area where there were numerous stalls that sells clothes that are ideal as pasalubong. I also bought a few more tops for myself, all for 300 baht or below.

After shopping for clothes, I went to MONT NOM SOD as recommended by a close friend. I ordered the classic toast with milk and another toast with chocolate. Both were sinfully good, but I prefer the milk one because I find the chocolate to be a bit too sweet.

Sugar rush!

After finishing both toasts, I explored the rest of the floors of MBK — not only to see if I would buy more items but also to feel hungry again since I wanted to eat at the food court. I ended up eating late lunch. Good thing that my experience in Platinum Fashion Mall made me aware of the payment system in their food court.

Do not worry if you do not know the prices of the food. You can opt to load 300 baht, for example. If in the end, you were not able to consume all 300 baht, then go back to the station where you got the card and hand over your card. The ladies there will give you the cash equivalent of your card’s remaining balance.

I had no idea where to eat so I settled for C17 stall which sold crab meat noodle soup. They mix in real crab meat, not the fake crab sticks so getting a bowl of crab meat noodle soup for less than 100 baht was already a steal.

I went back to Mooncome Homestay afterwards to take a nap before going out again to meet Arm, a friend’s friend. I was excited because I would be able to talk to another local plus we would be going to a place which is not touristy.

I met with Arm at Phaya Thai BTS station and we walked for a few minutes before reaching a certain soi. It was an area popular with Thai locals, especially the Muslim community. The dishes served there consist of Thai dishes but of course, following the halal code. We went to a local restaurant and I ordered the tom yum. But since I learned my lesson about their “very mild” spiciness here, I told Arm that if it was possible to have the soup to be not spicy.

When the tom yum was served, I was quite doubtful if this request was done because the soup had a dark red shade. So I took a spoonful of soup and to my surprise, it was not spicy at all. The picture below made it seem that the serving is just small but in reality, it was really big. I did not get to finish everything, unfortunately.

Tom Yum (but no spiciness at all – Arm helped me with this special request)

After dinner, Arm introduced me to Lily, his good friend. They told me that we were going to a sidewalk store for dessert, and that this place is very popular with locals. When we got there, it was a full house but a table got freed up so we were seated right away. We were literally seated beside the main road but good thing there was not a lot of cars passing by that night.

Arm and Lily recommended the milk tea (forgot the local term for it) and they ordered a few more desserts. Apparently, they got the toast slices with condensed milk, same as the one served in Mont Nom Sod. Theirs was equally delicious. By the time the other food came (naan with egg?), I was already too full to eat.

Thai tea (forgot what this was called T.T)

 

 

We left the place at around 10PM but all the tables were still occupied and there was even a long line of people waiting to be seated. I really had a good time with Arm and Lily, and it was such a great feeling to finally be able to talk to someone for hours. ❤ Something that I missed while on this solo trip. Time flew by quickly when I was with these two so that is a good sign of having fun, yeah? 🙂

Now contemplating to go for CouchSurfing when traveling?

 

LINKS TO OTHER BANGKOK 2016 POSTS:

Bangkok, Day 1: Preps, Lay Lao, Platinum Fashion Mall, The Best of the Boat Noodle, Puritan

Bangkok, Day 2: Grand Palace, 5 Wats, Thip Samai

Bangkok, Day 4-5: Terminal 21, Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar, Rot Fai Market, Mooncome Homestay

Bangkok, Day 2: Temple Run

Upon getting off at Saphan Taksin (Exit No. 2), looking for CHAO PRAYA EXPRESS was easy since there were signs on how to get there. I bought a ticket to Maharaj Pier (No. 9) so that I could reach Grand Palace. Ticket price is 150 baht.

I was lucky enough to score a seat that was away from the shade of the sun but still had a good view of the sights we would see during the ride.

MARCH 16, 2016

I was supposed to start my temple run day at 8AM but the bed was just too comfortable that I ended up having breakfast at 9:30AM. My first breakfast at Mooncome Homestay was spicy fried rice with pork bits and cucumber slices at the side. It was really delicious and quite spicy but still tolerable for me.

Before leaving, I made sure I was wearing appropriate clothes for visiting the temples i.e., no shorts or skimpy skirts, no sleeveless tops. If you forget about this rule, do not fret since there are a lot of stores and vendors near Grand Palace that sells scarves and cover-ups.

Delicious Thai breakfast at Mooncome Homestay

I left the house a few minutes before 10AM and I knew that I would end up regretting not going to the palace at the start of its opening hours. I consulted Google Maps to check how to reach Grand Palace but all suggested directions had a bus involved. Good thing I decided to search and found in the official BTS website that I should get off at Saphan Taksin (change lines from Siam Station).

Upon getting off at Saphan Taksin (Exit No. 2), looking for CHAO PRAYA EXPRESS was easy since there were signs on how to get there. I bought a ticket to Maharaj Pier (No. 9) so that I could reach Grand Palace. Ticket price is 150 baht.

I was lucky enough to score a seat that was away from the shade of the sun but still had a good view of the sights we would see during the ride.

Inside Chao Praya Express boat

When we reached Pier No. 9, I walked quickly since I saw the tourists ahead of me being approached by different locals who were selling tour services. After a few minutes of walking, I already saw the walls surrounding the Grand Palace. I went to the side and after some more walking, I figured out that I was at the wrong side and entrances are usually at the center part.

True enough it was at the center part… and yes, I regretted coming there “late” because the crowd was insanely huge. So having lots of people there plus the unbearable heat of the sun (almost 40C) was a bad start to my day.

Grand Palace

Tourists everywhere inside the Grand Palace grounds

I paid 500 baht for the entrance fee, which also includes access to WAT PHRA KAEW, The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion, and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile. I had no map and no tour guide so I do not know if I visited all of these. I was only sure with Wat Phra Kaew.

Despite the number of people inside GRAND PALACE (wouldn’t be surprised if it was more than 1,000), the structures and intricate details, wall paintings, statues, and worshipping areas were breathtaking and jaw-dropping. Similar to what I did in Angkor Park temples, if an English tour guide was nearby, I would stop and listen to what s/he was telling the tourists to check if I would pick up any interesting historical details.

It took me around 2 hours to check out both Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. I was forced to buy cold coffee milk to quench my thirst since the stalls I passed by were not selling bottled water anymore (sold out!!!). Towards the end of my visit, there was a cafeteria-like place that had plenty of bottled water so I rushed there to buy one.

It was already past 12PM by the time I made it outside Grand Palace. Hooray for lesser people! I passed by a fish ball noodle store while checking out where to eat. I did not go inside at first since I thought there were other more interesting stores along the area but I was mistaken.

The weather probably made me insane enough to order soup in the middle of the sweltering heat (and apparently it was not even summer!!!). But I did not regret it since it was really delicious and filling enough for just 40 baht.

By the time I finished my lunch, the heat was already a killer outside. I checked how much the tuktuk was offering for a ride to Wat Pho — 100 baht which was very unreasonable because the place was just 10 minutes away if I decided to walk. Since I thought that taxi would be cheaper, I rode one. The driver did not leave the place right away and instead talked to me about road rules. I was already annoyed at that point so I asked him to just drive and turn on the meter. He told me he would charge flat rate of 200 baht instead. I could not hide my annoyance anymore so I left the cab right away and heard him bringing down the price to 150 baht.

In the end, I walked for about 10 minutes and finally saw WAT PHO. It was like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. LOL. When I entered, it was a relief to see very few people in Wat Pho. I guess everyone was still having lunch and taking a break from the heat. Entrance fee is 100 baht.

The highlight of this place was the reclining Buddha in gold color. Upon entering the area with the reclining Buddha, there were less than 10 people inside so I was able to peacefully go around and fully admire it.

The place had a lot more to offer aside from the reclining Buddha. I liked looking up every time I enter a building because I could see more details and art even on their ceilings. In fact, all parts of the building had a lot of intricate details carved or painted.

There was also an area where there were a lot of golden Buddha statues which, according to a tour guide, were dedicated to donors and monks who died.

After going around Wat Pho, I walked to Tha Thien pier to ride a boat that would take me to the other side where Wat Arun was. The boat ride was just less than 10 baht.

Prior to my flight to Bangkok, I read in TripAdvisor that WAT ARUN was under restoration so climbing to the topmost area was prohibited. This was supposed to be my last stop for sunset viewing but because of this information, I decided to just go there after Wat Pho. The only downside of visiting here at early afternoon was that I felt the full strength of the sun, especially since there was no any form of shade present there.

I did not let the ongoing restoration stop me from visiting… which turned out to be a good decision because one could still admire the structures, details, and other works of art here. I only saw less than 5 tourists during my visit. Everyone was probably avoiding the heat of the sun since it was around 2PM. Entrance fee is just 50 baht.

Because of the intense heat, I left the place after around 30 minutes to grab some snacks and cold refreshment. I rode the same boat to take me back to Tha Thien pier. Near the pier, there were a lot of street food stores and vendors. I went to the vendors I passed by when I was just about to go to Wat Arun.

They were selling all sorts of street food that can be placed on a stick. I was tempted to buy squid but I was not sure of the freshness so I bought chicken balls and shrimp (which was actually fake — think crab stick) then went to the nearby park to eat.

I checked out how far WAT SUTHAT was from the park and it was about a 20-30 minute walk. I decided to get a cab and the two drivers I met were charging me 200 baht (parang sa Manila lang). The third taxi I hailed charged me 100 baht and at that point, I already agreed since I would not walk that long under the unbearable heat.

A few hundred meters away from the temple, I already saw the GIANT SWING so I knew that the driver was taking me to the correct place. The area was much quieter than the one with Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

Entrance fee to the temple is 20 baht only. There were only 2 tourists and inside the worshipping area were purely locals. I stayed there for almost an hour to pass the time since I had one temple left before going to Thip Samai (opens at 5PM).

My last temple stop was WAT RATCHANATDARAM, which houses LOHA PRASAT. Google Maps was not functioning well around the Wat Suthat area so I had this feeling that I was already lost. I saw Mont Nom Sod in the map, which was recommended to me by a close friend. My original plan was to eat in the MBK branch but since I was nearby, I decided to look for it… which I did not find.

I looked again at the map and decided to make a guess on my route. When I saw a 7/11 store, I decided to go there to buy a cold bottle of water. And before I entered, I was surprised to see a sign that points where Wat Ratchanatdaram was and the distance left. I was happy to know that my guessed route was correct.

Lo and behold, I finally reached Wat Ratchanatdaram after some minutes of walking (also passed by Thip Samai so I had an idea where to go after). Entrance fee here is free. Before entering Loha Prasat, I saw a tourist approaching me with a map and I thought to myself that he probably thinks I am a local. So, I told him that I was a tourist but he probably did not hear that because he asked if the place was Wat Pho. I replied no and pointed in his map where he was. He was surprised that I spoke fluent English, and asked how to get there. Uhm, I am not a local… but I still showed him the route and told him to just take a cab since the temple would be closing for the day soon.

At the ground floor of Loha Prasat, there was an exhibit that shows the history of the place. After going around, there is a staircase near the exit which I decided to climb. Each floor actually represents a state of Nirvana, and has instructions on how to meditate or walk around the floor. It was difficult to get in the zone though since the place was under construction.

I did not know what was at the topmost floor so I was surprised that it led to the rooftop. I was seeing face-to-face with the spires of Loha Prasat. I also had a good view of the city and it was just breathtaking. There were only 2 locals around so it was quiet at the rooftop. At one side, there is a small flight of stairs that leads to a Buddha relic which has a prayer, written in both Thai and English language.

While it does not attract a huge number of visitors, Wat Ratchanatdaram + Loha Prasat are now part of my favorite temples because of the serene atmosphere. I bet the different floors would look even better once the construction/restoration is done.

After Wat Ratchanatdaram, I walked to THIP SAMAI and saw a crowd outside. I was puzzled with this because it was just 5PM and supposedly people would start coming at 6PM onwards. It turned out that the place was just about to open so when I reached the entrance, the staff motioned to us that we could already enter.

Thip Samai is dubbed as the restaurant that offers the best pad thai in Bangkok… Not sure if this is true though since some locals I talked to told me the pad thai tastes good but not necessarily the best out there.

I ordered Superb Pad Thai since this one has pieces of shrimp. My only worry was that the serving was big but I was able to finish everything. Probably famished from all the walking I did after lunch. My verdict? The pad thai was really delicious but I am not sure if this was the best since I had no other point of comparison in BKK anyway.

After eating, I took a cab outside the restaurant so that I could go to a BTS station. It was a relief that the driver did not charge me flat rate!

BTS station

Aree neighborhood, walking back home after leaving Sanam Pao station

Free snacks in Mooncome Homestay

When I got back home, I grabbed some free snacks and took these to my room just in case I would get hungry. Called it off a night quite early so that I could have a looooong sleep.

 

 

 

LINKS TO OTHER BANGKOK 2016 POSTS:

Bangkok, Day 1: Preps, Lay Lao, Platinum Fashion Mall, The Best of the Boat Noodle, Puritan

Bangkok, Day 3: MBK, Mont Nom Sod, Food Trip

Bangkok, Day 4-5: Terminal 21, Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar, Rot Fai Market, Mooncome Homestay