Video: Bangkok – Ayutthaya

The ancient capital of the kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya was a breathtaking day trip! When you find yourself next in Bangkok, don’t leave without seeing this incredible piece of history for yourself.

Enjoy this video the hubs made! I’m so glad for his ever-patient soul, never complaining when his wife runs off to take “just one more” photograph.

Click here to watch a video at Wat Pho Temple!

Click here to read more about adventures in Bangkok!

 

 

 

 

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Video: Bangkok – Exploring Wat Pho

We had so much fun in Bangkok! One of our favorite temples was Wat Pho, home of Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha, the birthplace of Thai massage, and just one of the most breathtaking temple complexes I’ve even seen.

As promised, here is a short video of us exploring Wat Pho! Between my photographs, and the hubs’ video skills, we are unstoppable when it comes to travel documentation.

To read a full post on adventures to have in Bangkok, read Bangkok: Things To Do!

Click here to watch a video of us exploring Ayutthaya!

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok: Things to Do

In summer 2015 we took a two week trip to Thailand. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had, and I can’t wait to share some details with you in a series of blog posts!

Today, let’s talk about Bangkok.  This is a city that gets a mixed review from travelers.  While planning the trip, I was very unsure whether to skip Bangkok entirely and head for the hills (Chiang Mai) as soon as we landed. We decided to give it a chance, however, and I am so glad we did!  Besides the delicious food, bustling street life, and colorful tourist shopping typical of all locations in Thailand, Bangkok offers some of the most astounding temple complexes, interesting local markets, and a large variety of day trips.  Below, I’ll outline three categories of things to do: (1) Temples, (2) Markets, and (3) Day Trips. I’ll detail my favorite example of each category, and then list others you should check out too!

1. Temples

 Wat Pho – Wow this place was insane. When you research Wat Pho, the typical image that appears is a reclining Buddha the size of a cruise ship (not quite, but yeah). A reclining Buddha represents entering into Nirvana, and the ending of all reincarnations. This is one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand, so it’s definitely worth checking out! Maybe the best part of the statue are the feet, which are covered in beautiful engravings and mother-of-pearl inlays.

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After seeing the statue, now you can wander around the temple complex! It was incredible, we spent about 2 hours meandering, and still didn’t see it all!

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Click here to watch a video of us meandering around Wat Pho!

Other temples to check out:

2. Markets

Amulet Market – Another cool place to check out would be the amulet market.  Open every day of the week from 7am-5pm, the amulet market is a great opportunity to get off the beaten path of tourist traps.

Thailand is one of the largest producers, sellers, and exporters of amulets. From warding off sickness, to finding true love, to obtaining monetary fortune, Thais place great trust in these manufactured trinkets.

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Chatuchak Weekend Market – This place was INSANE. Never ending maze of stalls, organized into sections based on product type.  This market was a well-oiled machine.  Grab a map of the market (available on site or here!), otherwise you will get seriously lost in this massive tourist trap treasure hunt. Oh, and make sure to grab a smoothie! Fresh fruit smoothies are a highlight of street food life in Bangkok. At 50 Baht (or $1.50) a pop, I was slurping these down morning, noon, and night.

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Other markets to check out:

3. Day Trips

Ayutthaya – Wow, just wow.  This day trip surpassed all of my expectations. Thailand wasn’t always called Thailand. For a larger portion of its history, this part of the world was known as the kingdom of Siam. On this day trip you will explore the ancient capital of Siam: Ayutthaya. Built in 1351, this city represented the every-growing power of an ancient kingdom. However, ruthless Burmese armies eventually invaded and destroyed the city. The heads of all the temple statues were severed, leaving the once beautiful city a place of ruin.

This trip is an all-day affair, as there are more than a few various temple complexes to explore. Grueling, but so so worth it.  The ancient temples look, at times, almost alien. And the freedom you have to mill around and explore will more than satisfy your inner Indiana Jones adventure spirit.  (Tip: if you’ve spent more than an hour drooling over photos of Thailand during your travel planning, you’ve probably seen images of the famous Buddha head wrapped in tree roots. This is in Ayutthaya, so keep your eyes peeled!)

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Click here to see a video of us exploring Ayutthaya!

Other day trips to check out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gyeongju | History and Cherry Blossom Festival

SPRING IS HERE PEOPLE!  I am determined to savor every fleeting beauty it offers.  I have never been more conscious of weather than I am here in Korea.  Before now, I have always had the comfort of a car to get around in.  If it was snowing, drizzling rain, or blazing hot, never fear!  Heated seats and ice cold A/C were there!  Now, I walk everywhere and in every weather condition.  I am forever conscious of the 24-hour weather forecast.  I have invested in a squishy pair gel shoe inserts.  Some nice muscles have been developing in my calves.

One of the most exciting parts of Spring in Korea is the grand appearance of the stunning cherry blossoms!  Almost overnight, the streets are transformed into picture-perfect venues, framed in a halo of pink and white.  There’s a constant murmur of cell phone cameras click, click, clicking, as everyone tries to capture the breathtaking scenery.  And as quick as they come, after about a week, the blossoms fall off, and everything goes back to normal.

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During Cherry Blossom Season, there are countless festivals around the country, offering ideal venues for your blossom viewing enjoyment.  After hours of research, we decided to side-step the more popular venues, and head to Gyeongju, a well-known but far less crowded festival location.  No regrets in this choice, I absolutely recommend Gyeongju to anyone making plans for next year’s cherry blossom season.  One of my favorite practical features of this city is that bike rentals are everywhere, and very inexpensive! An awesome way to see the city.  

Gyeongju was the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 57 BC – 935 AD.  Referred to as “The Museum without Walls,” Gyeongju is filled with pride for Korea’s heritage, and holds many of its historical treasures.  Here are just a few:

Anapji (안압지)

Originally built in 674 CE, Anapji is the ancient palace complex constructed by a king of the Silla Dynasty.  The king made the palace grounds a paradise, filled with exotic flowers and animals.  After the fall of the Dynasty in 935 CE, the palace was neglected and eventually fell into disrepair.  It wasn’t until 1974 that any efforts were made to recover this historical treasure.  After twelve years of excavation,  Anapji now stands as one of Gyeongju’s most breathtaking venues.  Totally recommend seeing Anapji at night! The reflections off the pond are incredible.

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Cheomseongdae Observatory (첨성대)

The oldest surviving astronomical observation tower in East Asia.  Built in 634 CE by Queen Seonduk of the Silla Dynasty, Cheomseongdae means star-gazing tower in Korean.  The reality of having historical sites as old as this surround me has been really hard to grasp.  I mean, they’re not even under glass, or behind those red velvet ropes.  Furthermore, the irony of these ancient relics being surrounded by a throng of selfie-obsessed tourists gives a whole new twist to the viewing experience.

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Royal Tombs (왕릉)

The Silla kings were buried in Gyeongbuk in crazy awesome looking tombs.  While many of the identities of the tomb occupants are known, several of the tombs were left unmarked.  One of the most famous tombs is that of King Munmu.   Munmu asked to be buried outside the city on the ocean, so that upon death, he could transform into a dragon and continue to protect his Dynasty’s coastline.  Although we were fairly certain climbing the mountainous tombs was not advised, after watching many Korean tourists trek to the tops, we decided to follow suit.  At the top we were able to enjoy a gorgeous view of the city, and kind of felt like kings ourselves.  I’ll admit, as the wind flicked my hair and a dead king lay under my feet, the lyrics to Lorde’s song “Royals” rolled through my head more than once.

Taking her pups for a walk among the kings.

Taking her pups for a walk among the kings.

Top of the tomb!

Top of the tomb!

View from the top.

View from the top.

Walking up to the entrance to the grounds of the tombs.

Walking up to the entrance to the grounds of the tombs.

Bulguksa Temple (불국사)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bulguksa was the zenith of our trip to Gyeongbuk.  Built in 574 CE, this temple complex has seen its fair share of hardship.  The complex was burnt down during the Japanese invasion, 1592-1598.  After 200 years and over 40 renovations, the temple fell again to disrepair, and was a target for looting in the 1800’s.  It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Bulguksa was fully restored to its original beauty.  It is now home to many national treasures.

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A part of the Buddhist faith are the Four Heavenly Kings, each of whom watches over one of the four directions of the world.

A part of the Buddhist faith are the Four Heavenly Kings, each of whom watches over one of the four directions of the world.

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Taking a sip from the communal fountain!

Taking a sip from the communal fountain!

Beautiful grounds surrounding the temple.

Beautiful grounds surrounding the temple.

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Before leaving the city, we partook in the Cherry Blossom activities, and spent the afternoon at the local festival.  Many fried foods were consumed.  Many pots of boiled silk worms were avoided (already made that mistake once).  Perfect end to a perfect weekend.

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Hiking Mt. Geumosan

We count ourselves lucky to be located in Gyeongbuk, agreed to be Korea’s most naturally beautiful and historically rich province.  So far, our experience has already provided us many opportunities to partake in Korea’s scenic splendor, one of these opportunities being Geumosan Provincial Park.

Located on the west side of the city of Gumi, Mt. Geumosan is the perfect weekend getaway for any outdoorsman.  The park offers many trails of varying difficulty and duration.  Not only are there natural beauties, such as gorgeous panoramic views, caves, waterfalls, and unique rock formations, but also several different historic fortresses and Buddhist temples sprinkled along the way.  We’ve visited the park twice in our short time in Korea, and have only scratched the surface of all the beauty to be found at Mt. Geumosan.

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There are these cairns everywhere along the trails in Korea.  Each stone represents a prayer or wish for good fortune from Buddha.

There are these cairns everywhere along the trails in Korea. Each stone represents a prayer or wish for good fortune from Buddha.

Found a little abandoned mountain dwelling.

Found a little abandoned mountain dwelling.

Going hiking where all the trail markings are in a foreign language adds a whole new dimension to the challenge!

Going hiking where all the trail markings are in a foreign language adds a whole new dimension to the challenge!

Daehye Falls ( 대혜폭포 )

Daehye Falls ( 대혜폭포 )

From the mouth of a cave at the top of the trail.

From the mouth of a cave at the top of the trail.

Historic Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

Historic Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

From inside the fortress.

From inside the fortress.

Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

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Always keep your eyes open for pretty little hanok pavilions tucked away in the mountains.

Always keep your eyes open for pretty little hanok pavilions tucked away in the mountains.

Such a rewarding view at the top!

Such a rewarding view at the top!

Surveying our fine valley.

Surveying our fine valley.