Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move 2

Tourists on the move at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

Better late than… whatever! ¬†ūüėČ

I’m not strictly following the rule of three. ¬†I just want to focus on one image, the Temple of Dawn or Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand, taken at three different time intervals in July 2013.

It took a lot of patience waiting for hours to witness the magnificence of the lighted temple.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Hmmm… Hope I’m not too late for this photo challenge (since I can’t commit to the other writing/photo challenges, I vow to at least complete the weekly photo challenges).

Here’s for the selfie challenge…

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If you travel alone, then prepare to take some selfies.  Taken at the Bridge of the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand in July 2013.

Must-See Ruins/Spots in the Old Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Thailand

You should not miss going to Ayutthaya if you are in Thailand. ¬†It’s very accessible, an hour-plus van hire ride from the Victory Monument in Bangkok. ¬†This old kingdom had been the Thai capital for 417 years and is now one of the country’s major tourist attractions. ¬†Its magnificent ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Indo-China’s most prosperous cities.

Let’s look at some of the ruins (and tourist spots) that made the city’s historical park earned a spot in the UNESCO World Heritage list since December 13, 1991.

1)  The monastery Wat Phanan Choeng, that houses the image of Big Buddha, the most revered by the inhabitants of Ayutthaya.

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2)  The Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, a magnificent ancient royal monastery conveying a sense of the power of the Ayutthaya kingdom which once expanded in all directions.

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On each side of the temple and front are elegant rows of sitting Buddhas.

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3)  The Ayutthaya Elephant Village.

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One can also see a replica of a Thai house.

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There is a small floating market too.

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4)  The Wat Maha That, the most sacred royal temple in Ayutthaya during the glorious time.  It is renowned for the remains of the sandstone Buddha image of which the head lies beneath a Bodhi tree while the body has disappeared.

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One of the magnificent prangs.

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5)  The Thanon Si Sanphet, the path leading to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the most outstanding monastery located in the grand palace compound.

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6)  The Wat Phra Si Sanphet, with its bell-shaped chedis.  The three large chedis contained the ashes of different kings.

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7)  The Wat Lokayasutharam, the site of the large reclining Buddha made of brick and covered with plaster.

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8) ¬†And the finale, which for me is the most gorgeous (I’m out of fitting adjectives), the Wat Chaiwatthanaram. ¬†Its great beauty has been reflected from the main stupa and its satellite stupas along the gallery. Its architecture was influenced by Khmer.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

ImageLet me play it backward. ¬†I focus on this couple to signify the beginning of a family. ¬†It is at this stage that the institution of a family is being crafted. ¬†I took this shot, caught up with the couple’s private world as they enjoyed each other’s company against the falling waters of Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Hopefully, they will still travel as a family like the one I met traversing the old charm of the Bridge of the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

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10 Things to Do at Khaosan Road in Bangkok, Thailand

Khaosan? ¬†Does it ring a bell? ¬†Remember the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo Di’Caprio of which is based on a book of the same title by Alex Garland. ¬†That’s Khaosan. ¬†It’s a short street in central Bangkok in the Banglamphu area about 1 km north of the Grand Palace famous as a haven for backpackers and as the center of night life in Bangkok. ¬†Curiosity brought me and my friends there and true to its reputation, Khaosan indeed is teeming life of its own. ¬†So based on a few hours that we were there, let me offer 10 things one can do in Khaosan.

1)  Get lost in the crowd.

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2) ¬†People watching (and probably make friends). ¬†There’s a plethora of colors and personalities.

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3)  Inspect souvenir shops.

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4)  Eat and drink in a sidewalk cafe.

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5)  Eat Pad Thai by the road.

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6)  Drink Beer Chang by the road.

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7)  Sample fresh fruits and veggies.

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8)  Discover a quieter section of the stretch of the road.

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9)  Discover ingenuity like this automobile cafe.

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10) ¬†Don’t forget to take a souvenir shot at this marker.

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Enjoy Khaosan!

Guess Who’s My Date?

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Guess who’s my date?

I was lucky to have my ‚ÄúJack‚ÄĚ touring me around Bangkok.¬† I felt more and more Rose-like by the minute.¬† Haha!¬† Dream on!

– at Siam Paragon in Bangkok, Thailand, July 18, 2013 –

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

then I met GRANDEUR…

The Rail Less Traveled By

Poet Robert Frost immortalized ‚ÄúThe Road Not Taken.‚Ä̬† I would like to borrow one line of the poem and pictures out the essence of my experience as a solo backpacker to Kanchanaburi, Thailand along this line.¬† Specifically, I will focus on the feelings and impressions I derived from riding the train that passed through the Death Railway.

What is this Death Railway anyway?

Months before I researched on our trip to Thailand, I chance-encountered a 1957 movie entitled ‚ÄúThe Bridge on the River Kwai.‚Ä̬† For reasons unknown to me, I was so drawn to the movie then later found out that the real bridge on the River Kwai is still standing, imposing and history-filling just at the heart of Kanchanaburi.

The bridge was part of the Thailand-Burma Railway or the Death Railway, so called because of the deplorable conditions leading to numerous deaths of the Asian laborers and Allied prisoners of war (POW’s) who constructed the railway during the 2nd World War under the command of the Japanese.  The POW’s were mostly British, Australians, Dutch, Americans and some Canadians and New Zealanders, forced to labor when the Japanese found an alternative route to transport war supplies away from the senses of the enemies.  This was the railway from Nong Pladuk in Thailand, passing through Kanchanaburi then Nam Tok (a town in Kanchanaburi), leading to and connecting to Burma (now Myanmar).

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The part of the railway connecting to Burma is no longer in use.  Passengers from Bangkok are brought only up to Nam Tok, and back from Nam Tok to Bangkok, costing foreigners 100 Baht every time they ride the train, no matter where they got on and off.  Two trains from Bangkok travel to Kanchanaburi up to Nam Tok, one in the early morning at 7:50, the other one in the afternoon at 1:55.

The railway’s war background then became the motivating point of my journey.

From Bangkok, I met a few foreigners riding the early train, mostly Westerners.  For one who was having her solo trip abroad for the first time, I longed for the presence of a familiar feature, someone distinctly Asian, if not rightly Filipino.  Seeing none, I did not let it deter me from enjoying the lush and green scenery of the countryside we passed through, of breathing the cool and grassy smell of places I know nothing about and of dreaming of old scenes in the war, traveling back into the era of 1940’s too well suggested by the clickety clackety sound of the 3rd class train I was riding.

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After almost four hours, I arrived in Kanchanaburi .  I immediately surveyed the phenomenal bridge despite the tiny speck of rainfall, crossed it on foot, walked barefoot to feel the dampness of the iron track, and hung around the side platform to drink in all the scenic view of the surrounding river. I got my fill of the bridge and the nearby tourist destinations like the war museum, the floating restaurants, jewelry market and knick-knack booths along the way on my first day.

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My second day proved to be more adventurous and way extraordinary.  With several tourists, most in group tours, some in two’s who appeared to be backpackers like me, and I, who was enjoying the comfort of my own company, together we waited for the train from Bangkok that would transport us along the old, rickety and rugged track of the Death Railway.  Almost 12 noon, the arrival of the late train (of which I overheard someone commenting that it was to be expected), was met with a euphoric clapping of hands and heightened whistles by most waiting passengers.

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The train had not fully stopped but people were clamoring to step on the side doors, in a race to get the best side of the window, left in going to Nam Tok, then right upon coming back.  Excited chatters of different tongues assailed my stretched-wide ears, hopeful and alert for a tiny bit of a familiar word.  None came.  I shrugged, with a slight regret, but life on the train along the Death Railway moved on.

The journey from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok amounted to almost three hours.  Getting the best view of the left side window, I ignored the sound of my tummy protesting for food, tiny silent hunger pangs ashamed to break my wondrous mood.   Like most tourists, I can’t sit still from gazing on my side of the window, then suddenly craning my neck hoping to look closely on a spotted view from my neighbor’s side.  Our train was speeding in between fields of green on top a reddish brown land, ranges of mountains forming a horseshoe, enclosing the rust-colored train solitary in the center.

I knew there was more to the rows of trees, corn fields and betel fields once we neared the Wang Pho viaduct.  This section of the rail is the highlight of every trip along the Death Railway.  The viaduct is a wooden lattice structure supporting the railway line around a cliff wall with the unending stretch of the spectacular view of the River Kwai below.  It was a heart-stopping near-death crossing over the creaking, ancient wood bridge.  Passengers all flocked to the left window, gathered as much shots and videos of the moment, unmindful of the train’s seemingly tilting movement, as if to bowl over and throw us all out of the window into rocks, stones and pointed branches before going under.

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Whoah!  I lost track of time when we crossed the viaduct.  It was short, maybe not more than 15 minutes, but the experience will forever be etched in our minds and hearts.  At that moment, we were aware of the grave danger, that even just one mechanical or human error, several lives could perish.  But the subconscious pointing out the danger was overruled, brutally pushed to the outermost portion of the mind, letting the ecstatic heart rule otherwise.

Elated glances from eyes that have seen varied forms of beauty and madness, coming from different cultures and lands, became unified.¬† I forgot my solitary state, felt one with the whole group, especially when someone spontaneously told me ‚Äúcareful‚ÄĚ when I let half of my body inclined outside the window to take pictures and I didn‚Äôt notice that we were about to pass through a tunnel-like mountain.¬† I was touched, and can only grin apologetically like an answer to an old friend who knows of my errant ways.

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There and then I affirmed the wisdom of my decision to follow this unpopular path.  For to me, the Death Railway was indeed a rail less traveled by, at least for us Filipinos.  Thailand?  Let’s cross-country then to Cambodia and Vietnam, is usually the plan.  The rail to Kanchanaburi may be un-trodden by some, but it definitely paved the way back to what for me is essential, rediscovering my free mind.

Riding the ramshackle train, listening to its worn-out noise, and passing through the deathly rail, I had ample time to contemplate on some ironies in life.  In danger arose the need to seize and preserve an ecstatic moment signifying life at its best.  In diversity came a need to stand out to keep the distinct trait alive and intact.  And in solitude there originated genuine confidence, empowered by the fact that if one can be happy by oneself, then one can rise above other predicaments.

As Robert Frost immortalized, ‚ÄúTwo roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.‚ÄĚ

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Indeed, the rail less traveled by, has made all the difference.

3:52pm, Sunday

10/13/2013

Nescilisa M. Buta