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.

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?

First-time in 137 Pillars House

Fresh Mango Carpaccio with fresh Tuna, beetroot compote and simmered Shiitake mushroom served with avocado and lime mousse, mustard seed and tamarind dressing. Chargrilled fish fillet with garlic butter chili lime emulsion and vegetable “Misticanze”. French Baked Cheesecake with fresh berries compote sauce and spiral Tuile.

The mouthwatering food served at 137 Pillars House.

The mouth-watering food served at 137 Pillars House.

There goes my diet. But, who’s counting? Come to think of it, the food doesn’t seem unhealthy at all. Far from it, I believe. But they looked and tasted so delicious it felt like it was a sin devouring all these food. Yet, I can’t be stopped especially if I’m dining at the 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai.

The reception area.

The reception area.

Just the mere reception area or the lawn or the swimming pool had me swooning as our group entered this property that is rich in history, elegance and ambiance. The teak house in the middle of the estate bespoke of wonderful stories that only time can tell. The name “137 Pillars House” came from the 137 teak pillars that were used to build the house.

The famous teak house.

The famous teak house.

Who would have known that 137 Pillars House traces its roots to the fabled Anna, the British teacher in the royal Thai court whose student is King Chulalongkorn. Anna’s son Louis Leonowens joined the East Borneo Company in 1886, opening its Chiang Mai office in 1989. The company’s office was situated at the Ping River where three teak houses were built on the site of the estate. The rest of the story is detailed in the hotel’s website.

The suite.

The suite.

After our sumptuous meal, and after we were given the gifts prepared by 137 Pillars House, the hotel staff proceeded to tour us within the compound. We were allowed to view one of the suites, a Louis Leonowens Pool Suites, which has a private swimming pool. I still think that guests would still take a dive at the hotel’s main pool screened by a tall green wall.

The pool.

The pool.

How I wish I would have stayed here as well. Maybe some other time. On my next visit perhaps.

Photos are compiled in my Facebook page http://facebook.com/firsttimetravel. For more info, visit http://www.snhcollection.com/137pillarshouse/.