Hello First-time Travelers!

Are you going on a trip to a particular place for the first-time? Will you be setting foot in a foreign and unfamiliar soil? Rest assured that you have fellow travelers on the road who are embarking on new journeys.

I have been to many places, and the first time I stepped into unfamiliar territory I had to feel my way and rely on what I have on-hand especially when all I had were travel books, maps and print-outs from the web. My friends and I make our own itinerary. It is truly advisable to check out anything about the place before going on a trip.

Yet, you need not necessarily hire a travel agent or tour guide to get you around every time you visit a place for the first time. A little help from locals can add spice to your first-time travels. It can give you the freedom to explore the place and enjoy the feeling of not spending much, based on my own travel experiences.

You can take my word on some tips and information on the places I visited but feel free to be creative and be adventurous. I may offer some advice here and there but, as they say, “experience is the best teacher”. So, read on and find out more about my first-time travel adventures.

I want to make things easy for you. If you want to view the articles I wrote in this site, click the Table of Contents tab.

Photos used in this site are taken by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

And since I’m from the Philippines, I invite you to travel to my country as well.

Video taken from the Best Destination Travel TV site.

Wats in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is home to one of the old Thai cultures, as seen in the many heritage sites in the city. In fact, the old square alone has several ancient temples that reflect the Lanna culture.

My last trip to Chiang Mai was more focused on business travelling and we never had so much opportunity to visit the temples. I didn’t mind because I have visited five temples there during my 2010 trip. But on our last day, as we were the last batch to fly out of the city, our hosts told us that we can roam around the city, visit the umbrella making center and drop by in one of the temples.

I kept my silence hoping that it won’t be a temple I’ve been to before. But I instantly felt guilty as I might be a bit selfish for thinking that way, I thought that if ever it happens, I’d happily show my fellow visitors around.

As we passed by Dhara Dhevi, I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that the temple we would be going to was something I’ve never set foot before.

Wat Buak Krok Luang

Wat Buak Krok Luang’s compound was not as large as the previous temple grounds I visited four years back. At the far right of the area, there was what looked like an excavation for a new building that had to be constructed.

The temple itself was of medium size. Yet, do not be deceived by the area because Wat Buak Krok Luang, or what was also known as Wat Muang Kham, is one of the significant temples in northern Thailand.

Wat Buak Krok Luang

Wat Buak Krok Luang

Old documents have already mentioned the temple since 1822. It has undergone several renovations as it was continuously restored by Lanna royalties. Its design was an interesting example of northern Thailand architecture, depicting details and materials that are characteristic of the indigenous Lanna Style. At the entrance, serpents with bird beaks were found on both sides of the steps. Inside the temple, an interesting mural that tells about the life of Buddha filled the walls.

Mural paintings inside the temple's walls.

Mural paintings inside the temple’s walls.

In my familiarization trip in November 2010, I had the good fortune to enter several other temple grounds that also play a part in the history of Thailand. Here are the religious sites that I have visited.

Wat Pra Singh Voramahavihara

Constructed by King Phayoo of the Mengrai dynasty, Wat Pra Singh, which is also known as Wat Lee Chiang, is an important temple in Chiang Mai for over 700 years. The site of the temple is said to be the very spot where the chariot bearing the Buddha image broke down at the time when King Mahaprom ordered the image to be presented to the Chiang Mai king, King Saen Muang Ma of the Lanna Thai kingdom.

Wat Pra Singh

Wat Pra Singh

After several reconstruction and restoration processes, the wat was given the status of royal wat in 1941. The temple houses the Buddha images Pra Buddhasihing and Pra Thongtip.

Inside the temple devotees come to pray.

Inside the temple devotees come to pray.

Wat Chedi Luang

The chedi at Wat Chedi Luang was the tallest structure in Chiang Mai for over 500 years before it was destroyed in an earthquake. The temple was built by King Saen Muang Ma as a place where he would enshrine his father’s relics. Construction began towards the end of the 14th century but it was King Tilokarat who was able to see its completion.

The chedi still rises behind the temple.

The chedi still rises behind the temple.

Still under reconstruction, the remnants of Wat Chedi Luang is still impressive. Elephant structures surround the middle level of the chedi. Inside the temple grounds are also Wat Pan Tao, the city pillar, the assembly hall, the Mahamakut Buddhist University, the Yang tree, and other prayer halls.

Still magnificent, the Wat Chedi Luang.

Still magnificent, the Wat Chedi Luang.

Wat Chiang Mun

Wat Chiang Mun is said to be the first royal temple that was constructed in the vicinity of Chiang Mai’s old city area. The temple compound houses the white quartz image of the Buddha called Phra Setangkamanee or Phra Kaew Khao.

Wat Chaing Mun

Wat Chiang Mun

Also found within the temple grounds is a stone inscription that dates back to 1581, detailing the historical records of Wat Chiang Mun and Chiang Mai. The elephant-surrounded stupa called Chang Lom is more than 700 years old and considered to be the oldest and most significant stupa inside the compound.

Chang Lom, the elephant-surrounded stupa.

Chang Lom, the elephant-surrounded stupa.

Wat Lok Molee

This is said to be the temple where the 10 monks from Burma who were invited by the sixth Lanna King of the Mengrai dynasty stayed. They were asked to deepen their study of Buddhism in his kingdom. Although it was not indicated when the temple was actually built, historical records first mentioned Wat Lok Molee in 1367. In addition, the chedi was built in 1527 through the orders of Phra Kaew Muang and the main hall was erected in 1545.

The entrance to Wat Lok Molee.

The entrance to Wat Lok Molee.

This temple is also significant because this is where the ashes of the Royal Mengrai Dynasty members were kept until the end of the dynasty.

The temple and the stupa behind it.

The temple and the stupa behind it.

Wat Lok Molee is distinct because of its intricate design on its façade and the materials are made of wood.

Intricate design on its wooden facade.

Intricate design on its wooden facade.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Located on the mountain of Doi Suthep, this temple offers a magnificent view of the city of Chiang Mai. Legend has it that Sumanathera, a monk, had a vision where he was instructed to find a relic in Pang Cha. There at the site he found a bone, believed to be of Buddha, and brought it to King Dharmmaraja of Sukhothai. Although the king hosted a ceremony, he asked the monk to keep the relic. As King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard of it, he invited the monk to bring it to him to which Sumanathera obliged with King Dharmmaraja’s consent.

Going up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Going up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

As the relic divided into two, the king placed the larger piece at the back of a white elephant, which believed to have climbed Doi Suthep when released to the jungle.

Elaborate architectural design on its roofing.

Elaborate architectural design on its roofing.

From the entrance of the temple grounds, visitors can either climb the 309 steps to get to the main area or take a tram. Many pilgrims go to the temple, which is regarded to be a sacred site, to say their prayers or bring their offerings.

The golden stupa shines brightly under the sun.

The golden stupa shines brightly under the sun.

First-time at the Lanna Folklife Museum

I have seen its façade four years ago for I have been to the building just across the street. This year, I finally had the chance to enter the Lanna Folklife Museum in Chiang Mai where it documents the way of living of ancient Northern Thai tribes.

The Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre across the Lanna Folklife Museum.

The Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre across the Lanna Folklife Museum.

The Lanna folklife Museum.

The Lanna folklife Museum.

We began our walk down history lane at the Temple Courtyard for Special Ceremonies. The Lanna way of life is greatly influenced by the people’s practice of Buddhism, which is also evident in their rituals, art and architecture. The room led to another, called the Buddha Image Hall, which shows the pattern of many Buddhist temples. The image is enshrined inside what seems to be an altar-type structure and a huge space is dedicated to worshippers where they can kneel and pray.

Inside the Buddha Image Hall.

Inside the Buddha Image Hall.

A small room contained the many items that are made out of elephant ivory. From combs to religious images, you will find them in this tiny room. We entered another one which showed the Lanna worship offerings. One interesting item there was a banner bearing the animals in the Chinese 12-year horoscope. But instead of pig, they replaced it with an elephant.

Lanna worship offerings.

Lanna worship offerings.

The 12-year horoscope.

The 12-year horoscope.

Other rooms showed the Lanna mural painting, as mostly seen in Buddhist temples. Olden literature were written in a fan-shaped paper. The upper floors were more about the tools and appliances of the Lanna folk. There were also displays on their music and lifestyle, including textiles. Different images of the Buddha made out of various materials were also on display.

Budhha images made of various materials.

Budhha images made of various materials.

It was interesting to see how their people lived centuries back. How fascinating to know how advanced they were in their practices and the materials they use during those times.

Mural painting.

Mural painting.

We felt famished after that tour as it was already noontime. We headed to the nearest eatery and enjoyed the present day-to-day life of the locals.

A local eatery in Chiang Mai.

A local eatery in Chiang Mai.

First-time at the Chiang Mai Night Safari

The Chiang Mai Night Safari.

The Chiang Mai Night Safari.

Porcupines. Wild boars. Hyenas. Tigers. Lions. One by one these animal species appeared in the glass-enclosed arena as part of an informative and entertaining show on the Night Predators.

The porcupine is hungry.

The porcupine is hungry.

A white raccoon.

A white raccoon.

This is the Chiang Mai Night Safari. Located in the Hang Dong District in Chiang Mai, the safari is 12 kilometers from the city center. They are home to thousands of animals. Visitors can camp out at the Night Safari by staying in one of the lodges inside its compound.

As we arrived in the afternoon and a bit early for the night zoo, we watched the Night Predators show where the animals really did their part on cue. A lion and lioness captured the audience with their fierceness. The tiger wowed the crowd as it swam into the pool to prey on the food it spotted.

The Night Predators show.

The Night Predators show.

We also lingered at the entrance area, which has a magnificent view of a lake. There we amused ourselves by feeding the porcupines and what appeared to be a white raccoon. The Asian elephant was also around to steal the spotlight from the spectators.

The Asian elephant.

The Asian elephant.

But not for long. Performers clad in colorful costumes walked at the open area to do a bit of dancing and gather the crowd.

A few steps away, dinner was waiting for us at the Huan Wari Kun Shorn, a Lakeside venue that can fit in about 80-220 people. It has a terrace that gives immediate access to the swan lake. The dinner was also the closing ceremony of our familiarization trip hosted by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and organized by the ever helpful men and women behind Bangkok Writer and The Amiris.

One of the performers.

One of the performers.

The swan lake.

The swan lake.

The buffet dinner was superb. Each of us also got a scarf and a white tiger stuff toy. Then an announcement beckoned us to the terrace for the musical fountain with water screen where a welcome message for us delegates was flashed. Multi-colored lights and a light show through the water fountain were projected.

Colorful lights brightened the lake during the water fountain show.

Colorful lights brightened the lake during the water fountain show.

Finally, it was time for our tram ride. No flash photography was allowed but the open tram had a spotlight that gave us ample light to view the animals inside the zoo. We even fed the zebras and giraffes up close. But as we started enjoying it, we were back at the tram station. The ride was too short for me though because I would have wanted to spend more time on each animal and capture them while they were resting.

Feeding time.

Feeding time.

And since we didn’t want to end the night yet, we opted to do some shopping at Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar where I hunted for souvenir items that my sister asked me to bring home for her.

Capping the night by shopping for souvenirs at the Night Bazaar.

Capping the night by shopping for souvenirs at the Night Bazaar.

Science & Tech Fair at CMICE

On a dark afternoon, while the mist covered the mountain view of Chiang Mai and its vicinity, the large expanse of the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (CMICE) appeared before us as we approached the compound.

Approaching the Chiang Mai International Conventino and Exhibition Centre.

Approaching the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

A giant skeletal structure of a dinosaur stood at the open area, giving us a preview of what’s in store inside. Coincidentally, the National Science and Technology Fair 2014 was also taking place at CMICE as we made our ocular of the venue.

A skeletal display of a dinosaur.

A skeletal display of a dinosaur.

CMICE, a two-story building with three major areas, was newly opened in 2013. Its largest zone, the exhibition hall, has an area of 7,935-square meters which can accommodate up to 20,000 guests.

CMICE can accommodate thousands of guests a day.

CMICE can accommodate thousands of guests a day.

During our visit, school children, students, young monks and even adults filled up the halls occupied by exhibit stalls of various sizes that utilized LED screens and interesting displays.

Creative booth design.

Creative booth design at the Science and Tech Fair.

Featured exhibits were about the dynamic earth, with a 4D theatre that brings visitors to prehistoric times. There was also an area on smart farming where they show new technologies in agriculture. Exhibits from various countries were also found inside the hall. Other displays focused on crystallography, sustainable energy, water innovations and careers in science.

Know about the prehistoric era through a 4D theatre.

Know about the prehistoric era through a 4D theatre.

Farming and agricultural technology are also displayed in one of the booths.

Farming and agricultural technology are also displayed in one of the booths.

We toured the other halls inside CMICE and were astounded at how advanced the venue is when it comes to hosting large events such as conferences and exhibits. But what really had me in awe was the Ratchapruek Convention Hall 2, with its elegant Thai design, which has been converted into a VIP lounge and can rival a five-star hotel lobby. It seemed like you walk into a royal venue inside this hall because of the intricate designs and the beautiful Thai aesthetics of the booths, especially the large one at the center that occupied almost the entire hall.

The beautiful hall that is turned into a VIP lounge.

The beautiful hall that is turned into a VIP lounge.

A closer look of the center booth inside Hall 2.

A closer look of the center booth inside Hall 2.

With such world-class facilities, Chiang Mai is truly getting ready to becoming a major destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. These events will bring together new ideas and concepts, paving way to a vibrant creative society. Who knows, maybe such science and technology fair events will lead to more new inventions and discoveries. So, I wondered as I walked out of CMICE, if who among the youth I’ve seen in the venue will someday emerge as great scientists of their time. Only time can tell.

More booths at the Science and Tech Fair.

More booths at the Science and Tech Fair.

More photos are uploaded in my Facebook page.

First-time to design an umbrella

I always love to paint. Imagine my delight when we were given the opportunity to design our own very own hand-made umbrellas.

Umbrellas are waiting to be painted by newbie umbrella designers.

Umbrellas are waiting to be painted by newbie umbrella designers.

It was a windy afternoon when we visited the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) in Chiang Mai where we did this quick but fun activity. But before we even got to the umbrella painting stuff, we were given a briefing on what TCDC is all about and a tour of its facilities.

The library at the TCDC Resource Center in Chiang Mai.

The library at the TCDC Resource Center in Chiang Mai.

TCDC, for me, is like a factory of creative concepts and they have all the tools to inspire people to think outside the box. They have a Resource Center that houses publications on design and even have a place where Thais can submit their ideas and works of art.

Product ideas in a "safe" room (my own term).

Product ideas in a “safe” room (my own term).

Pumped up after the tour, we proceeded with painting the paper umbrellas at the TCDC outdoor area. I have so many things in mind on what to do with my umbrella, but since we had to finish it in 10 minutes, I opted on the easiest one — a flower. But not without mixing colors and making it appear lively.

Getting into action.

Getting into action.

My design.

My design.

But it was at the Borsang Umbrella Making Centre where I truly appreciated the efforts that are put together to create these beautiful umbrellas. Apparently, the practice of making umbrellas in Borsang traces its history to a monk named Pra Kru In-Tha who acquired the knowledge during his spiritual retreat to a village near the Burmese border. As he taught the technology to the Borsang villagers, the activity has grown. Before, the umbrellas were used as an offering to monks but later on became a household accessory, which later spread to tourists and visitors in Chiang Mai.

The Borsang Umbrella Making Centre.

The Borsang Umbrella Making Centre.

What’s amazing about these umbrellas is that its frames and almost everything in it are made of bamboo. The cover is made of Sa paper, which comes from the bark of mulberry trees. The use of persimmon fruit secretion is what makes the umbrella waterproof. We watched every station as the process of making umbrella is done step-by-step.

First step in making the umbrella.

First step in making the umbrella.

Preparing the Sa paper.

Preparing the Sa paper.

Putting the cover on the frame.

Putting the cover on the frame.

It was at the final part of the process where we enjoyed our viewing the most. The last station are made up of artists and designers who paint not only on the umbrella but also on other materials, such as cellphone jackets, t-shirts, fans, and what have you. I even saw a lady had an artist paint on her jeans! One particular lady, Khun Noi, was painting a butterfly on the hand of our companion. She was so good at it that she did it in a matter of three minutes. I volunteered to have my hand painted as well. She did it so beautifully and so fast.

A visitor had her jeans painted by one of the artists.

A visitor had her jeans painted by one of the artists.

Khun Noi painting on my hand.

Khun Noi painting on my hand.

We didn’t leave the Umbrella Making Centre without buying some stuffs at their shop. In fact, someone in our group bought several umbrellas to bring home. Umbrellas of different sizes, color and design fill the shop, including other souvenir items that are great to gift to friends and loved ones.

The souvenir shop.

The souvenir shop.

The ceiling's decor at the entrance of the shop.

The ceiling’s decor at the entrance of the shop.

Travelling with Disabilities #TTOT

I’m now always looking forward to Tuesdays. Thanks to Travel Talk on Twitter or #TTOT, where I’ve been participating for quite sometime.  Taking part in this travel-inspired online Q&A had been fun and I found it a stimulating exercise that whet my travel appetite.

I couldn’t trace how it all started but I just want to give a kudos to the people behind this concept. Allow me to acknowledge them using, of course, their Twitter names. A big shout out to the #TTOT hosts and organizers: @Traveldudes @RoniWeiss @TravelBlggr @Hjortur @MalloryOnTravel @LandLopers @CruiseBuzz @TravelingEditor @NicoleTravelBug; and the #TTOT co-hosts, namely: @QualityHunters @AboutLondon @CareerBrkSecret @RunAwayJuno @poohstraveler @wildnavigator @Intrepid_Travel @MagellanPR @Travelzoo_UK @MzansiGirl @LowCostHolidays @SonjaSwissLife @SantaFeTraveler.

This week, the topic was on Travelling with Disabilities as suggested by @primavisa. two of my questions were chosen out of the many questions posted at the Facebook page of #TTOT. Reading through the answers and interacting with other participants have even got me engrossed in this weekly Twitter conversations. The variety of the responses made me look at things from different point-of-views.

What amenities or services should be provided for travelers with disabilities?

 

What good deed have you done to a disabled person while travelling?