My Time Capsule: 2018

6.6.18

Chiang Rai: The Blue Temple - Wat Rong Suea Ten

Chiang Rai, February 2017




Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in Chiang Rai. It's the first images popped up when I was googling some information about must visit places in Chiang Rai. While I think the architecture is indeed stunning, my heart was actually stolen by the Blue Temple - a lesser known temple located slightly outside Chiang Rai's city centre, in Rim Kok District. The Blue Temple is about 7 km away from Mae Fah Luang - Chiang Rai International Airport.


Wat Rong Suea Ten

The Blue Temple or it's called Wat Rong Suea Ten by the locals is considered a new temple. Construction of the monastery and temple started from 2005 on a 6 acres area - upon the ruins of an ancient temple which abandoned nearly 100 years ago. The main hall was only completed in January 2016 and until today there's still works going on sites. Thus only a handful of visitors around when I was there, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed this temple more than the White Temple. It was so serene and enhance a more spiritual experience.

"Suea Ten" in Thai literally means the dancing tigers. According to the locals, it's an area where some tigers used to jumped over the Mae Kok  River. The tigers leap in such graceful way that it looked as if they were dancing, hence the name of Rong Suea Ten village. Honestly, I was secretly disappointed that there wasn't any tigers in Ballet tutu dress doing a tiptoe pirouette or grand jetté. I know, I shouldn't set my hopes too high 🙅


sunset gleam

Naga

"Wow! Such a striking colours!" I blurted out upon seeing the exterior of the temple which is mainly in electric blue colour (or is it Smurfs blue?) embellished with intricate gold details and covered with bright terracotta roof tiles. It certainly looks very different from any other traditional temples I have visited in Thailand. A more vibrant one I should say.  A local friend told me that blue colour represents Dharma in tribute to Buddha which is also the symbol of purity, wisdom and healing. Even the pair of fierce naga (dragon) that guarding the hall's entrance are in blue colour.


Blue Temple, Chiang Rai

Blue Temple ceiling

beautiful painting at Wat Rong Suea Ten

I was walking into the ubosot or the main praying hall when I froze in awe. My eyes widened as they swept across the room. The tall pearl-white Buddha statue is undoubtedly beautiful but what amazed me more was the paintings that covers the entire walls, pillars and ceiling. Delicate paintings in Thai contemporary style was created by Phuttha Kabkaew. He is a student of the national artist - Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple. Hand painted murals along the blue walls depict the Lord Buddha's spiritual journey and also a fiery giant demon can be seen atop the exit door which depicts Hell. I love the fact that there's some huge windows along both sides of the main hall that allow natural lights and cool breezes to pass through.


Wat Rong Suea Ten


one of the guard with Dharma wheel representing the teaching of the Buddha

Green Yasha

Around this temple I also spotted some Yakshas known as guardian warriors who keep away evil spirits. It's very common in Buddhist temples throughout the country since the 14th century. Yakshas are important element in Thai temple art and architecture.

At the back of the temple, there's a Buddha statue displaying Abhaya Mudra hand position or gesture of fearlessness. It represents protection, peace and benevolence.


 the standing Buddha statue at the rear 

I was walking towards the parking lot when I turned around, decided to take some last shots of the Blue temple. It was right before the sun went below the buildings behind this temple. The pinkish sunset light against the intricate ornaments of the temple creating luminous golden orbs as I clicked my camera shutter. I looked at my camera screen and smiled. I knew I have captured a perfect image I want to remember about my visit to this beautiful Blue Temple. Whenever I look at this photo, I can still feel the warmth of sunlight in my face. Fond memories, indeed 😊


Tips:
* Don't forget to take off your shoes/sandals before entering the main hall
* Entrance fee is free and photography is allowed inside the ubosot
* However selfies could be considered rude since it's disrespectful to turn your back on Buddha statue
* Never point your feet at Buddha statue
* Dress properly and prevent loud talking

How to get there:
I'm not quite sure if there's any public transportation to Wat Rong Suea Ten since I went there by a private vehicle. Take Highway 1 north before crossing Kok River Bridge. After about 350 metres you'll find a direction sign to this temple and turn left. For a fuss free trip, you can always hire Tuk-Tuk or Taxi for a very affordable fare 😁



12.5.18

Croatia: Licitar Heart & Pickpocket In Zagreb

Zagreb, August 2013

St. Mark's church in Zagreb

I can't believe it's been 5 years since my Balkan trip! I can't believe there's still tons of stories from my previous trips that I haven't post here. I should really find a way to cure my chronic procrastination! Any tips, guys?

My parents, sister and I were exploring Slovenia then travelled through the stunning Plitvice National ParkSplit and Trogir. Spent a couple nights in Dubrovnik where we found a nudist beach in Lokrum Island during a boat tour. Moved to Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina before finally arrived in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

a quiet morning


We started the Old Town walking tour early in the morning to avoid the unbearable heat on midday. Seriously, summer in Balkan can be harsh! Also it was the peak of summer holiday so the town got really crowded as the sun reached its highest point in the sky. At 9AM most of the shops haven't started their business yet. So we wandered around Lower Town until Upper Town where we visited the beautiful St. Mark's church. It was a perfect time to observe the local people doing their daily activities. Even if you don't have a goal, a long walk through the streets of Zagreb always brings discoveries.

Fun fact: Did you know that Croatia is the homeland of the tie?



beautiful dog! 😍

Dolac Market in Zagreb



If you love traditional market like I do, you shouldn't miss Dolac Market. The farmer's market is located in Gornji Grad - not far from Zagreb's Cathedral and the main square. People from all over the city come to this market to get groceries and other fresh product, specially on weekends. The vibrant red umbrellas agains the colourful products they sell there instantly caught my attention. I enjoy being in the middle of chatters and negotiation that buzzing around me. It's gotta be one of the most colourful sights in Zagreb! Even if shopping is not your thing, there's some cafes and restaurant which is a great spot to absorb the vibe of the town and to experience local flavours. Or like I did, scouring pretty traditional handmade stuff and souvenirs. Dolac Market opens everyday from 7AM until around 1PM.

handmade Croatian embroidery and lace

Licitar Heart

While wandering around the city of Zagreb, I've seen this pretty intricately decorated red heart with a little mirror on the centre - almost everywhere. Being a super curious cat, I just had to stop at one of the stalls and asked the seller what's all the hype about. The name is Licitar hearts and it's an interesting part of the old Croatian cultural heritage. Though the real Licitars are actually made out of gingerbread. Traditionally, instead of roses, it was used by young men to express their love to the girl they fond of on Valentine's day. Suddenly my imagination run wild and I visualised this romantic scene...


👱 : "Ahem! (nervously presenting a Licitar heart to the girl). Dear Walawuluwili (or insert any preferred names here)...errr....I...I...really like you. Would you accept this heart of mine?"
👸 : (hesitant but eagerly accepting the Licitar. Her cheeks turn to rose colour as she smiles).
👱 : "That face you see in the mirror is the most beautiful girl in this universe and my most favourite things in the world besides noodle and gelato."

👸 : "Awwww! That's me! It's my face in the mirror!" (blushing even more)
👱 : "Of course it's you! I would have died if it was the face of the Evil Queen in Snow White!

Walawuluwili, would you be my girl?"
👸 : "Yes, I would! I like you too, Baraburubiri (or insert any preferred names here)". 💏 💏 💏


...and they lived happily ever after...or until they fight about what to eat for dinner.

Okay! I should never write a romantic piece ever. Horror stories definitely suit me better.  

Croatian souvenirs 


So yeah, it's corny but sweet. It's sweet but corny yet I still smile when I look at this Licitar hearts.

The colourful decorated cakes of sweet honey dough dated back to Middle Ages when food crafts became widely popular. It represents a special sign of devotion and attention. Nowadays they are sold as souvenirs in various form such as plates, bells, jars, fridge magnets, and else; as well as to decorate Christmas tree and wedding favours for guests.

Croatians are very proud of it, specially after Licitar heart was listed on the UNESCO list of Protected Intangible Cultural Heritage. It's still given as a way of showing affection to the loved ones. 




a bizarre collection of keepsakes from failed love affairs

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral 

Before leaving Zagreb, we managed to visit the Neo-Gothic styled Cathedral of Zagreb. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which dates back to 1217 was formerly known as St. Stephen's Cathedral, located in Kaptol Square. Its twin 108 metres (354 ft) high spires soar over the city and made it the tallest building in Croatia.

The original construction of the Cathedral was damaged during the Tartar attack and and a fire in the 13th century. However the fatal destruction was during the Great Zagreb Earthquake on 9 November 1880. The deadly earthquake struck Zagreb at 07:03:03 which damaged the cathedral beyond repairs and the cathedral clock stopped working. Today the clock is mounted on the defence wall outside the cathedral and always show the time 7:03 as a remembrance to the disaster. 


interior of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral 

Grave of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac

We were walking around the grave of the former archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac amongst a group of visitors when I felt that someone was watching me intensely. You know, the strange feeling you get when you're being stared at though we can't see them? I took a glance around the church and noticed a group of three women sitting on the front pew were whispering to each other while pointing towards us. I shrugged off the suspicious thoughts and assumed they were just amused about how different our looks compared to other visitors. 

I was walking with my sister just a few metres ahead my parents when suddenly I heard my Mom screamed her lungs out. If you have met my Mom in person, you'll noticed that she has a overly powerful voice that will put Freddie Krueger Mercury to shame. Her 'AGGHH' sound echoed off the quiet church and I looked back in shock. I thought she fell down or something. I ran towards her and saw the trio women that stared at us earlier were standing too close behind my Mom. With startled face, they tried to move away from my Mom calmly. Obviously Mom's voice drew lots of attention to our direction. Two security guys were approaching us along with some curious visitors.

"I felt a tiny movement in my handbag as they walked very close to me!" Mom showed her handbag that already being unzipped. I could tell from her face that she was shocked too. The security rushed to the trio who nearly reached the exit door and stopped them right there. I came closer as the women were questioned by the security. But they kept saying "No English, no English!" then continued in French. They tried really hard to act calm but we could easily noticed a glimpse of panic on their face. Another visitor, a middle aged guy approached us and said something in Croatian to the security. Apparently he saw them doing the deed earlier. After a while, one of the security told me that we may leave and they escorted the pickpocket to the office to take further action.

Zagreb

My family and I then sat in a bench in the church yard, trying to grasp about what happened earlier.
"Can you believe we were almost pick pocketed inside a church!" I exclaimed as my parents nodded in disbelief. "And you know, Mom...for a second I thought the church was about to collapse because your voice is more harmful than an earthquake!" We laughed softly as we stood up and walked towards our bus. Such an amusing way to end our road trip around Balkan countries. That day we left the beautiful city of Zagreb with a not so beautiful experience. Nevertheless the precious memory will stay in our heart for a very long time and will put a smile in our face whenever we remember it. Shit happens on travelling, let's just laugh it off and keep walking. 💋



14.4.18

Georgia: Splendid Aerial View Over Tbilisi

Tbilisi, October 2017



When I posted this picture on Instagram, I got some DMs and comments asking where is the best spot to enjoy aerial view over Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. There are several across the city I believe and I managed to visit two of them which are the most popular, Narikala Fortress and Mtatsminda Park.


Tbilisi cable car

First thing first, how to get to Narikala Fortress? Well there's 2 options which are trekking up from the Old Town until you reach the fortress if you are physically fit  and love a bit of adventure, or sit back and relax while the cable car whisking you up to the hill. With a  heavy tummy after a hearty breakfast, I should have chosen the first option to burn the calories. But of course I chose the latter because even though I have a 'love & hate relationship' with heights, I've always enjoy having a-bird-like experience, gazing down while the view under my feet changes swiftly.


Tbilisi Aerial Tram

Mtkvari river

Tbilisi Aerial Tram opened a couple years back in 2012, it connects Rike Park with Narikala Fortress. As my cable car made a smooth glide over Mtkvari river, I caught a glimpse of Metekhi church on the left and the Bridge of Peace on the right.  I wish the ride lasted longer than 3 minutes though. Felt like just in a blink of my slanted eyes I reached the top station at 492 metres altitude.  Okay, I shouldn't complain since it cost only 2.50 GEL (Georgian Lari) / 1 USD / 14.000 IDR for each ride, which is considered very cheap. Splendid scenery without even breaking a sweat of course it was well worth it!

Note: Don't forget to purchase a Metromoney or metro card in advance. Any transportation in Tbilisi such as ropeway, subway, bus and marshrutky (microbus) is paid using this card. It cost another 2 GEL for the card but some rides like this Aerial Tram allows you to use the Metromoney for whole family or group as long as you have enough deposit in it.

Oh! I've also been told that there are several glass bottom cabin if you fancy a more thrill ride like the one I had in Hong Kong. Find a cabin with a 'only 5 person allowed' sign or simply ask the friendly staff there.

the view over Tbilisi Old Town

scroll down to read about Tbilisi TV Tower in the far right

The Mother of Georgia

The 12 metres statue of Kartlis Deda caught my attention as soon as I hopped off the cable car.
She is famously known as the Mother of Georgia represents a woman with a sword in her right hand and a bowl of wine in the left. It symbolise Georgian national character which is welcoming friends with wine but ready to fight enemies with a sword. See, never underestimate the power of a woman, Y'all! We can be feminine, really nice and fierce at the same time 😬


some souvenir stalls

the only decent picture of me

Though that morning the weather was super nice and clear, the strong wind is another story. Crazy wind simultaneously  blew my hair to every direction that in most of pictures I look like Medusa. You know, from the Greek mythology, a woman with living venomous snakes as her hair. After a while, I gave up trying and went for souvenirs shopping at some of those stalls instead. Ahem...you know, to help the local economy.


hike down 



To compensate my laziness earlier, I decided to hike down back to the Old Town. Just an easy stroll and turned out to be the best decision ever as the view along the way just as gorgeous. I got to enjoy the cityscape from a different angle and to admire more details of the buildings . Definitely it offers more than taking the tramway down. I would wholeheartedly suggest you to do it when you visit Tbilisi. A cable car ride up to Narikala Fortress and hike down back to the city or the other way around. Unfortunately I didn't explore the Narikala Fortress so I can't really say much about this 4th century fortress.


Narikala Fortress



Tbilisi TV Broadcasting Tower

After exploring Old Town of Tbilisi, Nina, my local cicerone asked whether I'd like to enjoy vantage view of this city on a higher level (like literally) on the Holy mountain. Of course I said YES! Why wouldn't I? She told me from that view point I could get a closer look of Tbilisi TV Broadcasting Tower which I saw earlier from Narikala Fortress. Apparently the tower which is used for communication purposes is also the national symbol of the capital.

 If you don't have a private car like I did, the best way to reach Mtatsminda Park is by taking a funicular ride from the station in Chonkadze street. The Tiflis Funicular railway was opened in 1905 and each funicular can take up to 50 people each ride.


Mtatsminda Park 


At 770 metres altitude, Mtatsminda Park or often called Bombora Park by locals is the highest place in Tbilisi. From the city centre it takes about 15 minutes by car or only 6 minutes by funicular. Nina told me that it's a popular area to hang out for the locals specially during summer when the heat is too much to handle in the city. Besides an amusement park and TV Tower, there's also a fancy restaurant and a Wedding Palace! The most loved ride in Matatsminda Park is the Ferris Wheel where you can enjoy the scenery over Tbilisi in a slow pace.

aerial view of Tbilisi

I can't make up my mind if I had to choose which one has a better view between Narikala Fortress and Mtatsminda Park. Both of them offer different experiences which are equally stunning. So happy I managed to explore both of them during my brief visit to Tbilisi. I'd suggest you to check them out too when you're in town and fingers crossed you'll get as great weather as I had. I heard sometimes it's a bit unpredictable though. Nina jokingly said that I brought the sunshine to the city. It was non stop raining and very cold the week before I arrived and on the day I was leaving the city. I guess I was lucky indeed!

Do you have any plan to visit Tbilisi or Georgia soon? Feel free to shoot some question and I'd be more than happy to share some suggestions for you 😘



3.3.18

Azerbaijan: Old City Of Baku

Baku, October 2017




If you've been following my stories in this blog, you might have noticed that I adore old architecture and ruins. Ancient stuff triggers my curiosity thus I always make sure to explore Old Towns when I travel. I just love getting lost while wandering through those small alleys and the gorgeous maze of cobblestone streets. I would let my imagination go wild thinking about events it has been witnessing through the centuries. Each corners has a story waiting to be revealed.

This post is mostly a photo essay and at the very end of this post I'll let you know what's my thoughts about Baku Old Town...


entering the gate

sandy-coloured buildings




Aliagha Vahid

I walked towards a garden just behind the metro station when I saw this bronze statue. At a first glance there was nothing special about this statue. I thought he looked a lot like one of my uncles. But as I got closer, I was stunned by the detailed sculpture. His hair is actually some inscription which depicts life scenes from sad to happy, also how Azerbaijan was influenced by Iran, Russia and Turkey. To be honest, I've never heard about him before but apparently Aliagha Vahid was born in Baku and once was a well known poet in Azerbaijan. He also helped to translate Persian literary works into Azerbaijan language. He passed away in 1965 at the age of 70. To honour his dedication, in 1990 Rahib Hasanov, Natig Aliyev and Sanan Salamzadeh sculpted the 10-foot-tall bronze. 


European buildings are influenced by the Russians


the wall




Baku Old City or Icheri Sheher is the most ancient part of Baku. Along with the Palace of Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, it became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Not only some historic spot, there's also hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and museum inside Baku Old City. Now more than 4000 native people still live in this Inner City. Surprisingly it was quite empty when I was there.



contrast of the old and modern city

Bakuvi Mausoleum 




Palace of the Shirvanshahs shouldn't be missed when you are in Old Town of Baku. The complex contains the main building of the palace, Divanhane, the burial-vaults, the shah's mosque with a minaret, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi's mausoleum, a portal in the east, Murad's gate, a reservoir and the remnants of a bath house. Built in 15th century, the palace is now serves as a museum where a series of historic treasure are being kept. The Palace is located hilltop so I could get a nice view of the modern city at the background, including the famous trio Flame Towers. 


Caravanserai Restaurant

cellar underneath 



a laid back city indeed

the Royal Mosque

Baku is undoubtedly a pretty city, however I personally think that the Old City of Baku is somehow lacks of character and soul. Partly this could be the impact from earthquake but also from illegal demolition and uncontrolled development. Sadly, some part of it has lost its authenticity.

I was expecting a more exotic setting like hustle bustle of local doing their daily activities which I experienced in Morocco and in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Or something like coming out from the movie of Aladdin. Though I know that Aladdin doesn't come from Azerbaijan. Some source even confirmed that Aladdin was actually from China? Dang! It really ruins my childhood imagination! Anyway it could be me missing some areas and didn't explore it thoroughly. I definitely should have stayed in one of the hotels inside the Old City. Perhaps I would be able to absorb the atmosphere better.

All in all Baku is still a destination worth to visit. Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic, the Walled City of Baku has been a witness of some era from Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian. It's like a melting pot which is certainly rich in custom and culture. And have I mention that the people are genuinely friendly? While not all destinations would meet our expectation, there's always something unique to immerse. Would I give Baku another shot? Absolutely! There's still many places I want to see and many things to experience there.

Have you been to Baku before? Or is Baku on your bucket list?

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