Why You Should Visit Marmaris, Turkey

Marmaris is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Located in the Mulga province in the south-west of Turkey, Marmaris is filled with gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, friendly people and great full-day tours.  For those adventurous travellers – there are also lots of options for you. 

My family and i just wanted a relaxing Turkish summer holiday and Marmaris was perfect for that. It had the perfect combination to make everyone in the family happy – for those family members who want to just chill on the beach all day (my brother), eat all day (my sister) or wants to mix it up with some activities (me). 

Here is a list of why Marmaris should be your next summer vocation.

Excellent, yet affordable 5* resorts  

There is no shortage of accommodation in Marmaris, Turkey as it’s a very popular summer destination for European travellers, especially with us Brits. There is a variety of accommodation suitable for all budget types – from hostels and apartments for those on a budget and to 5* hotels if you are looking for luxury. 

My family and I stayed at the luxury 5* hotel – D-Resort Grand Azur Marmaris, located only 15-20 minutes walk from Central Marmaris and the Marine. It has a freshwater pool in the most beautiful tropical setting as well as a private beach. My sister and brother appreciated the volleyball tournaments organised by the the resort’s entertainment team.

To satisfy the foodies… the resort has 5 bars and 2 restaurants. The food was delicious with plenty of choices in the buffet.

I particularly loved how spacious the rooms were (given I was sharing a room with my siblings) and the huge single beds. Fortunately, we also had a large private balcony and the best ocean views I’ve seen in a while.

The evening entertainment was also the best ive seen so far with a different star act coming every night.

On a side note, I was also particularly impress with how the hotel dealt with an earthquake we experience on 21st July. Read about my experience here.

Whether you are on a romantic getaway or holidaying with family, D-Resort Grand Azur is the perfect spot for that summer holiday. (unsponsored post) 

Full-Day Cruise to Dalyan

Part of the compromise with my family is if we go on one full-day cruise from Marmaris to Dalyan to get some sight-seeing in. The boat trip started off by us snorkelling in the clear blue waters of the sea, sunbathing and BBQing on the boat. The views from the boat cruise are absolutely amazing. 

After this, we moved to a small boat where we headed to turtles’ beach. We were lucky enough to see some turtles in the water and on the beach. 

we then viewed the rock-cut tombs of the ancient Kings as we cruised on a small boat on Dalyan river. 

The most fun part of the day cruise is the mud bath! I mean who wouldn’t want literally bathe in mud? The mud is usually warm and perfect for the skin – and your skin is left glowing afterwards. Its also meant to add 5 more years to your life… call me cynical, but im not quite sure I’m convinced. Its super fun nonetheless. After bathing in mud, you have a quick shower to wash it all of and then you jump into the thermal pool. When I say the thermal pool is hot… I mean it was really hot (like borderline boiling)

We all really enjoyed the day and would recommend this to anyone. You can book for this tour online beforehand but we just booked it at a stall in the marina, near the hotel. Don’t forget to haggle! 

Take a Turkish Bath! 

Locally known as Hammam, it is one of the most relaxing things to do in Turkey. The bath is not the most private spa experiences you’ll have but It is one of those things you have to try while in the country! 

We took a Turkish bath in our resort. I don’t think my dear siblings knew what a Turkish Bath was and spent an hour making the whole room soapy and sliding one end of the middle island to the other. *facepalm* 

turkish-hamam-spa-marmaris

Enjoy the Beach and the Water sports 

I would say, as a 9 to 5 professional, the most important thing on summer holidays like these is to RELAX. The stress of working can’t be to good for the body and soul, so just relax – take in the cool breeze, swim away and sunbathe. There are plenty of beaches around Marmaris but we were quite happy with our private hotel one (and too lazy to look for another). 

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When you’re done relaxing for the day, its super fun to participate in the water sports. There are lots of companies on the beach where you can do snorkelling, scuba diving, banana boat ride, kite surfing, jet ski etc. 

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Go for a romantic stroll in the Promenade 

We walked along the promenade a few times and it so pleasant. My parents loved doing this just after dinner, to walk off the food and because the weather is undoubtedly cooler. It was only a short 20 minutes walk to the Old Town. I wish I remember the name of it, but we had the BEST Turkish ice cream from a stall in the promenade. Make sure you try Turkish ice cream (or otherwise known as Dondurma). Its a mastic ice cream similar to the Syrian dessert, booza. Dondurma typically includes the ingredients of cream, whipped cream, sales, mastic and sugar.

turkish-ice-cream-marmaris

Soak in Culture in the Old Town

The old town basically begins at the crossroads at the statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk was a Turkish field marshal and the found of the Republic of Turkey. He became the first Turkish president in 1923 until he died in 1938. He played a huge role in rebuilding and modernising Turkey. That’s why he was rewarded with the surname Ataturk by the Turkish parliament in 1939 which means “Father of the Turks”. 

The old town really blew me away by its architecture and old stone. Inside these old buildings were dozens of shops filled with counterfeit merchandise.

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marmaris-old-town

The other main attraction in the old town is the dancing fountain of Marmaris. What seems like a normal fountain during the day, transforms into a sightseeing adventure at night. Every day around 8:30pm, the show begins with the fountain splashing water in different colours and matching with the music in the background. 

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Have you been to Marmaris Turkey before? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below or if you know any other places to see while in Dalaman or the surrounding area.

Earthquake in Marmaris: My First-Hand Experience

Everything about my one-week summer vacation to Marmaris was perfect, from the beaches, tours to the beautiful resort and the food. But the one thing we did not expect or plan for was an earthquake hitting Marmaris. I knew that Turkey is prone to earthquake due to it being located between the Arabian and Eurasian plates – but I didn’t expect it to happen to us.

Th earthquake struck on 21st July at 1:31am. I woke up to the sound of all of my makeup falling from the shelf and then 3 seconds later my mum banging frantically on our door to wake us up. The whole building was shaking, the lights were swinging and i could hear banging on the ceiling. My sister was still sleeping throughout all of this until I woke her up to tell her that we need to leave NOW. We both looked at each other and both had the same look in our eyes when we were in the Gaza Strip and we had to take cover after hearing bombs. Obviously, we had no idea what was going on…

The instant reaction was to get ourselves out of the room. The corridor was full of people screaming, crying and running around like headless chickens. The hotel was still really aggressively shaking. It was quite a scary situation actually – but all i was thinking about was making sure my family gets out. My older brother was meant to be coming the next day from NYC to surprise my father, but i wish he was with us at that moment as he is good at calming us all down.

We ran down what seemed like 13 floors of stairs before reaching the lobby. There were hotel staff waiting by the bottom of the staircase trying to evacuate the hotel. At this point, we still didn’t know whether or not it was an earthquake, a terrorist attack or something else.

We stood outside the hotel for an hour and just waited and watched as many of the locals rushed out into the streets in their pyjamas. Holidaymakers from other nearby resorts were also gathered in the streets and abandoned their rooms for safety. Even though we were all quite frightened, I just remember all of us laughing at how much my mama brought with her – somehow, she was able to grab her phone, our passports and some snacks from the room fridge. She was also able to change into other clothes! I think she had years of experience, born and raised in the Gaza Strip that the reaction is automatic for her.

We waitied for what seemed like forever before hotel staff directed us towards the beach/pool area. We couldn’t go back in the hotel as aftershocks continued to rock the city.  We slept the night in sun beds as my mama used sheets and cushions from nearby deck chairs to build us makeshift beds. The staff came round to each sunbed and provided us with blankets and water bottles. Considering the situation, i slept like a baby and it felt great sleeping outside!

The next day, we discovered that our hotel, along with a few others had broken glass and other damages. 

All I know, was that it could have been so much worse.  I am so thankful for the brilliant job the staff of D-Resort Grand Azur did to keep the guests calm and providing great customer care, even in these condirions. 

The next day, my brother came from NYC to surprise my father. Quite an emotional few days, to say the least.

One Week in Antalya

My family and I spent the summer vacation of 2009 visiting Antalya. Even though its a while back, before i even started this blog – i still remember the places we visited like it was only yesterday. Here are a few of the place we went to and the beautiful resort we stayed in! 

  • Termessos Colosseum

We went with a guided tour to reach Termessos Colosseum as its an hour out of the city centre of Antalya. It was a trek to get here due to its elevated position 1000m above sea level and the fact that its located in the middle of the Tauras mountain range!

I remembered being impressed with how well-preserved it is and how relatively untouched the archeological site remained. Alexander the Great once referred to Thermessos as the ‘Eagles Nest’ and i understood why upon visiting – from the car park, there was a winding rocky path leads up the mountain to the Lower City Walls. It really felt like i was stepping back in time.

  • Duden Waterfalls

Duden waterfalls in Antalya are a group of spectacular waterfalls with a unique charm. These waterfall cascades exist in two different places but they belong to the same river.

  • Hadrian’s Gate, entrance to the old town

Hadrian’s Gate acts as a middle road between the old town and the new. Easy to spot in Antalya as it’s located at the start of the main shopping street.

  • Kaleici, walking around the old town of Antalya

Kaleici is the old town location in the city of Antalya. Here you can take yourself back in time and walk around the old cobbled streets as you navigate your way through marinas, mosques and old bazaars.

This was one of the big highlights that made Antalya special to me as the old town of Kaleici simply has it all and you could easily get lost for days exploring all the back alleys.

Accommodation:

We stayed in a beautiful 5-star beachfront hotel called Crystal Sunrise Queen Luxury Resort Spa. It was in the resort town of Side on Turkey’s Antalya coast and was a perfect establishment for a relaxing, sun-soaked getaway. It had four hotels, a huge selection for breakfast and dinner and great evening entertainment.

Do you have any questions about travelling to Antalya that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 

hotel-nena-istanbul

Review – Hotel Nena, Istanbul

I don’t usually dedicate a whole blog post on a hotel – but Hotel Nena completely blew me away.

we stayed here for 3 nights as we wanted a small, boutique hotel in the Sultanahmet area. It was the right decision. We were upgraded to a larger room and with a cute little patio overlooking the Blue Mosque.

Upon checking in, my family and I were greeted with the traditional Turkish tea and our suitcases were taken straight up to our room.

On the last night, my sister and I went downstairs to print off our boarding passes and played checkers in their dining room/games room.

The rooms, the breakfast and the breathtaking view were perfect.

A Wonderful Weekend in Istanbul

Istanbul is amazing. Its one of the best cities i’ve been to thus far. It has delicious food, colourful bazaars and beautiful architecture. I don’t like visiting a city twice but i can happily visit Istanbul again and again. Heck, i can even live there. So here are 8 unmissable things you should do if you visit Istanbul.

  1. Visit Sultanahmet’s Top Tourist Attractions

Sultanahmet is home to the city’s most important attractions like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern and the Blue Mosque. No visit to Istanbul can be complete without visiting all these places. We visited these attractions over the space of a few days:

a) Hagia Sophia

This is one of the world’s architectural wonders and Istanbul’s most famous attraction. It was first built between 532 and 537 as an Orthodox cathedral from the Byzantine Empire. It was the seat of Patriarch of Constantinople (the “Orthodox Vatican”). After 1453, Sultan Mehmed II from the Ottoman Empire converted it into a mosque. Islamic elements like the mihrab, minbar and four minarets replaced Christian features of the alter, bells and iconostasis. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was turned into a museum showing the greatest work of Islamic art. Sophia is the Latin phonetic spelling of the Greek word for wisdom.

b) Blue Mosque

This is a world-known landmark and is a grandiose mosque with six minarets. It was completed in 1616 and is considered the last imperial mosque of the city. Sultan Ahmet I commissioned the building and his intention was to surpass both Suleymaniye Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. In an attempt to emphasise Islam’s superiority over Christianity, the larger Blue Mosque was built opposite Hagia Sophia on the site of the Byzantine royal palace. Only 2 mosques have 6 minarets: the Blue mosque and the central mosque of Mecca. The latter now has 7 minarets to emphasis its status.

c) Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century and used to be the city’s largest underground water reservoir in Byzantine times. Its purpose was to ensure the city’s water supply even in time of droughts and sieges. I came here with my sister and apart from the two Medusa heads at the far end, found it rather disappointing.

d) Topkapi Palace

We spent all morning of our second day here at the beautiful Topkapi Palace. This used to be the Ottoman Sultans’ prime residence for almost 400 years. Beside the sultan’s residence the palace contained offices, the seat of government, a Harem and also a military training ground for Ottoman soldiers. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1921), the government turned the Topkapi Palace in a museum of the imperial era in 1924. The museum now houses such invaluable treasures as the 86-carat Kasikci Diamond, the Topkapi Dagger and what i personally found most interest, Prophet Muhammad’s clock and sword.

2. Take a ferry ride down the Bosphorus 

We took a ferry service costing only 12TL for an hour an a half along the Bosphorus. It was nice seeing Istanbul from a different viewpoint. Even though we didn’t have time to – i would suggest doing the cruise at sunset as it adds that little extra magic. I made friends with the captain – delightful.

3. Go to Taksim Square at nighttime

Taksim Square is the main square of Istanbul’s New Districts. It lies on the east end of the busy shopping street, Istikal Caddesi (Independence Avenue). Taksim comes from the Arabic meaning ‘division’ or ‘distribution’ and use to be the point where the main water lines from the north of the city were collected to be breached off to other part of it. This square is a common meeting point for locals and the venue of many public events such as concerts, parades, new year celebrations etc. We were there during a festival and there was live music and street stalls. We ate the best shawarma on Istiklal Street.

4. Get lost in the Grand Baazar

This is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the whole city as its the world’s oldest covered market. The atmosphere here is just dazzling as there is another never-ending hive of activity. You can find rows and rows of shops selling everything from silver jewellery, colourful lantern to clothes. The amount of times we got lost in this unique maze of Turkish goods was uncountable, yet enchanting. I bought a lovely galabeeya from here and some other souvenirs.

5) Walk across Galata bridge and head up the hill to the Galata Tower

So we actually did it the other way as we walked all the way from Istiklal Avenue down to Galata Tower and then across the bridge. Even though it was shut when we to the tower, the Galata Tower is open to the public, and has been since 1967. The tower was built by the Genoese built the tower in 1348 and called it ‘Christea Turris’ which is latin for Tower of Christ and was part of the fortifications surrounding the citadel of Galata. According to travel stories (called Seyahatname), Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi, a 17th century aviator, overflew the Bosphorus from Galata Tower using artificial wings for gliding. From the 18th century, Ottoman Turks used the tower for spotting fires in the city as it has the best 360 degree views of the city. After a storm destroyed the tower’s conic roof in 1875, Galata Tower remained without a top until the 1960s. Its one of the city’s most striking landmarks.

From the tower, we walked down cobbled streets to the Galata bridge. Even though we were all rather exhausted at this point, it has a romantic appearance and had stunning views over the Golden Horn. This is a two-level concrete bridge that spans Bosphorus at the Golden Horn. The original Galata bridge, which was the first bridge spanning the Golden Horn was built in the early 20th century. However, the Turks realise that this bridge was becoming insufficient for modern traffic, which led to the current Galata Bridge being built in 1994. Apparently, Leonardo da Vinci designed a revolutionary new bridge in 1502 for Galata Bridge’s current location. If this was built, it would have been the longest bridge of the time. The lower level of the bridge is lined with restaurants and cafes and the upper level offers beautiful panoramic views of Istanbuls olds town. We spotted hundreds of fishermen standing along the railing trying to catch the biggest fish of the day.

Top Things to Do in Chang Mai

Chiang Mai is the largest and the most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. Many travellers use it as the main base if they are looking to explore the north – and that’s due to its culture, friendly locals, food markets and the relaxed vibe. What I personally loved about this city is that it hasn’t lost the old Thai-ness like in Phuket and arguably Bangkok. We spent two nights, three days here before heading to Bangkok – and my only regret was not staying longer! Here are the top 10 things to do in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai:

1. Visit Wat Doi Suthelp and its 304 Steps

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is Chiang Mai’s most sacred temple. It is located at the top of Doi Suthelp Mountain, 1053m above sea levels – thus offering impeccable views of the entire city. As soon as the taxi driver dropped us at the entrance, we had to climb 306 steps to reach the temple (however there was the option of ascending by funicular railway) – we all marvelled at the intricately carved mythical Naga (Serpent) Staircase and its surroundings. The main attraction is the on the 2nd floor terrace where lays a picturesque golden pagoda or cedi that enshrines the relic. The pagoda in its centre supposedly contains some of the relics of the Buddha. Around it has five-tiered umbrella built in honour of the city’s indepdence from Burma and its union with Thailand. I was in awe of the temple and the Buddhas around – if you ever visit Chiang Mai – make sure you visit this temple – it is a must!

2. Visit Karen (Long-Necks) Tribe village

Right after visiting the White Temple in Chiang Rai, our taxi driver took us for a quick stop to northern Thailand’s Karen Long-Neck Hilltribe. They are known for spiral brass coils around their necks. The taxi driver explained how many of the Karen tribe actually reside in Burna, but the ones we saw that day fled to Thailand as refugees to escape the conflict. It is said that they are not able to work in normal Thai companies/jobs and so had no choice but to set up these tourists sites for income. As soon as we arrived, we walked past a few bamboo homes on our way to the heart of the tribe. We continued walked and saw rows of stalls selling scarves, souvenirs etc.  It was too commercialized and touristy for my liking. We then took pictures with the women. The traditional purpose of the rings was to achieve the ideal beauty with the elongated neck. Some of the women were from the ‘Big Ear’ tribe and had large silver gauges in their insteads. The experience was okay – but would have liked to see some authentic northern Thailand tribes.

3. Go to Tiger Kingdom

This was one of the attractions in Chang Mai that we all really wanted to do (except my Dad – he wasn’t keen on being in a cage with an animal that kills). All I was thinking about is that interacting with the tigers is something you should do once in your life and the pictures we would be bomb. Even though we read conflicting reviews about how they mistreated the animals, we thought to give it a shot. After convincing my father that we will survive this experience, we walked around the tiger kingdom, looking at the tigers who were so adorable. Our next stop was to see the big tigers. We entered the cat cage and I just remember thinking how quickly they could take us out if they wanted to. There were a few tigers in the cage, but most of them were napping. We took some pictures and then went to the tiger which was awake. The trainer got him to play with a large cat toy – we proceeded in taking pictures with them, lying on the tiger. It was a petrifying experience – but one I will never forget. 

4. Chang Rai, Golden Triangle

The taxi dropped us off near the opium museum. We were not interested in going in but a few steps from that was the Golden Triangle. This is the name given to the area of the convergences of three countries: Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Until the 21st century, most of the world’s heroin came from the Golden Triangle until overtaken by production in Afghanistan. With our passports in hand, we hopped on a boat that took us right on the border of Laos where there was a little market. The trip to Laos is like visiting a leather bag factory on the side of a road. I don’t recommend taking the boat – even if you are pressured by the tour guide, but I do recommend coming to see the Golden Triangle – only if you have done everything else on this list.

5. White Temple, Chang Rai

The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is a beautiful 20 year old building constructed by a local artist. He claims that this temple is a tribute to Buddha but many of the locals argue that it is just a privately, modern art project. Whatever the reason may be, you can not help by admire the beautiful temple. What I still remember to this day is when you walk past the ticket booth and cross the bride, you see hundreds to hands grasping upward. I couldn’t help but feel that It was like I was walking over hell towards the bright white temple. Another memorable aspect of this trip was the Golden Toilet. So unnecessary but beautiful. I definitely recommend going!

6. Watch a Cobra Show at Mae Sa Snake Farm

This farm is the largest snake farm in the region and famous for exhibiting snakes, from Pythons to Cobras. I wasn’t particularly interested in going in but my brother and father were super keen – especially after they found out that they filmed the film Rambo here. We all took it in turns to hold a live cobra and python in our hands, and pretending to be enjoying it for the photo. “Just smile for the camera” was a line repeated numerous times by my mother. They also put on a Cobra show where he was “training” the cobra. It was very entertaining and dangerous.

7. Go to the Hot Water Springs

8. Cool down at Mae Sa waterfall

We didn’t actually ask to go to the Mar Sa Waterfall – but the taxi driver must have passed it on his way back from Tiger Kingdom and thought it was worth us checking it out. It was a really beautiful waterfall and was a perfect last spot for the day. We didn’t bring our swimming cozzie but did have a little splash about.

9. Mae Sai (The Northernmost Part of Thailand)

The Mae Sai district is as far north as you are able to do in Thailand before reaching Myanmar. The taxi driver drove right up to the border of Thailand and Myanmar and then we got out and walked to the “Northern Most of Thailand”. To get to this point, we did have to walk through a stuff alley vfilled with olibgatory market stalls. We could see the bridge which was letting people through the border on both sides – coming from the UK, where there are stringent border controls – this was quite interesting to see. Otherwise, there is not really a lot going on here.

10. Eat Fried Insects

Because when else can you eat a fried cockroach?

A Week Long Holiday In Phuket

  • ATV Ride to Big Buddha and Elephant Trekking Tour

My brother was the one who pushed for this tour as he is into the adventurous stuff. After convincing my parents and aunt that it is safe, we booked onto this tour with the same agency we booked the others with. We had breakfast at the resort and then the tour guide picked us up. After a short drive to the centre of Phuket, we arrived at the camp which is located at the foot of Big Buddha Hill. After they briefed us on how to ride the ATV and the safety rules, we began on our adventure with the tour guide ahead of us. We explored the surroundings tracking through both dirt and off-road paths and eventually moved to the top of the Big Buddha Hill. It was such a beautiful, scenic view! Phuket’s Big Buddha is one of the island’s most revered and important landmarks as its visible from almost everywhere on Phuket.

After we rested (riding an ATV is tiring!), we went downhill and arrived at the elephant camp where we continued exploring tropical jungles while riding an elephant! My sister also had a chance to feed the baby elephant. It was such an amazing experience and ticked of ‘riding an elephant’ off my bucket list!

 

  • Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island) Tour

On the morning of our tour, the weather was cloudy – but it didn’t make us any less excited for this trip. The driver showed up on time and then we picked up some more tourists before being transferred into a minibus. I drifted off and when I did eventually wake up, it was to the sound of heavy rain. The thing about rain in Thailand is that its not like rain here in good ol’ England – its not just a drizzle… the rain drops are the size of golf balls and its torrential. But its okay… We ploughed through.

We piled off the bus into a little shop where we could buy oversized pouches for 50 baht. We already each had one in our backpacks so passed through the shop. We then went into the long tail boat which I thought would provide us some shelter from the rain. It was only then that I learnt that rain doesn’t just fall downwards – but also sideways. We sailed out from Ao Poh on Phuket Island to Phang Nga Bay, exploring sea cave lagoons on the way. James Bond island was okay.

The top of the 20 meters high rock is about twice as wide as the bottom, making it stand out in the beautiful surroundings with many other islands and green waters. The island’s real name is Koh Tapu which means nail island. It became famous through the 1974 James Bond movie “The man with the golden gun”, starring Roger Moore as MI6 agent James Bond and Christopher Lee as the villain Scaramanga.

If it wasn’t for the film, I don’t think it’d be given the huge amounts of appreciation that it receives – but maybe that’s just me being sceptical. We took pictures and then made our way back to the long tail boat.

 

The highlight for the trip for me was visiting and having lunch at the historical floating Panyi Village. This fishing village is notable for being built on stilts by Indonesian fishermen. The population consists of 360 families that descended from 2 seafaring Muslim families from Java. The tour guide was explaining how in the late 20th century, the community found it hard to subsist solely on the fishing industry and the postman proposed to invite tourists to the village to benefit the residents.  The food itself was very good – we had seafood soup, vegetable stir fry, chicken legs, crispy prawns and chicken with cashew nuts. I was ravenous so ate the food quicker than anything. On our way back to the tail boat, cockroaches from the seawater were going to the pier we were on and my sister starting crying and causing a fuss – which undoubtedly left my brother and I in hysterics.

We also went to Wat Suwan Kuba, meaning cave temple – located in Phang Nga province, North of Phuket. I remember this Buddhist temple clearly as it is located inside a cave called Tam Yai in a limestone Mountain. It measures 40m long and 20m wide. The main attraction of the temple is a very impressive 5m long golden colored reclining Buddha – similar to the one we saw in Bangkok – again symbolizing the passing into Nirvana. In the cave were also smaller enshrined Buddha images. As im not particularly keen on monkeys, I wasn’t thrilled to see a number of monkeys hanging around the temple (hence the name monkey cave), though the monkeys do not go inside. There were stalls outside the temples that were selling monkey food for those wanting to feed them – this was at the bottom of my agenda and steered clear. It was something different, but due to personal taste, was not something I’d like to do anytime soon. Below is also the picture of our tour guide who declared his unpronounced love for me and cut out a heart shape on a big leaf – delightful.

We went back to Phuket and arrived at the resort at around 6pm. It was a great day out – I definitely recommend!

  • Phi Phi Islands Tour

I’m pretty sure that a day trip to Phi Phi Islands is on everyone’s to do list when they travel to Phuket. Phi Phi islands consist of a group of islands in the area with two mains ones being Phi Phi Leh (where Maya Bay and Pileh Bay are located) and Phi Phi Don which is the larger island with the shops and buildings.

After piling into a boat, we set off across the turquoise water to our first stop – Bamboo Island. This was just so peaceful and beautiful – we cooled off here and swam for about 45 minutes.

We then went back to the boat and the boat stopped near Pileh Bay, just off Koh Phi Phi Leh. The water was a greenish-turquoise colour and very clear. Unfortunately, a lot of the fishes died from the Tsunami that happened here 10 years ago but there were still a good number of colourful fish. This was by far, the most memorable part of the trip – I love snorkelling and diving into the sea from the boat!

We then headed for Monkey Beach and as you already know – I do not like monkeys, so reluctantly followed my family around the beach whilst squeezing my father’s arm. The monkeys were unimpressed by the human visitors – but I was also equally unimpressed.

When we finally left the monkeys behind we went to the Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest of the Phi Phi Islands for a buffet lunch. It was a lovely island and can see why it is popular – the colour of the sea was nothing I’ve ever seen before. Our final stop was to Maya Beach (aka. The Beach). The small bay was clean and the water was very clear. They dropped us back to the hotel around 5:30pm ready for dinner. It was a fantastic day trop and would definitely recommend if you want to see Phi Phi Islands without necessarily having to stay in them.

  • Siam Nirmait, Phuket

I was very skeptical about going to Siam Nirmait as I feared it would be a typical tourist trap in the name of Thailand culture. But these fears were put to bed as soon as we arrived. It was much bigger than I thought as they made it into a small Thai village with bridges, ponds and thatched houses. There were women and men dressed in traditional Thai attire sitting outside these make-believe houses. Once you showed your ticket and pass the shops, you are in a wide open area featuring a giant Naga (a mythical serpent) in a pond. The ‘Thai Village’ is on left and the main stage (and buffet) is on the right. Walking around the wide open area were huge and healthy elephants!

 

The Thai Village was a nice touch – but I wish I came sooner to appreciate it more as we had to rush over to the food before the show began at 8pm. On the way to the buffet, we passed a Muay Thai demonstration. Watching a real fight was one of the things on my Thailand bucketlist – but we never had time to see one – so this was the best we got, which was better than nothing! We finally made our way to the food and wow… was it worth the money. There was so much fried seafood, and meat – huge variety of dishes and soups and desserts. The quality of the food was amazing.

 

Then its time for the infamous SHOW! We walked down the stairs and sat by the steps. We weren’t allowed to take cameras inside and so I can’t show you any pictures – but the Thais really know how to put on a show! The show has many scenes as it takes you through some of the history of Siam (the country was only called Thailand after 1939). It was interesting how Siam started with the ancient kingdoms of the North, then the South (Phuket) only joined afterwards as Chinese traders were trading and marrying the locals. There were many performers/ dancers/ animals that were not limited to the stage but also around the theatre and overhead.

I definitely recommend going if you get the chance!

 

One Day in Bangkok

Out of the entire trip, Bangkok is the city that pleasantly surprised me the most. We only had 2 days to spend in Bangkok before flying to Phuket – but boy was it not enough. Bangkok is the most dazzling capital city that never sleeps. It has a whizzing whir of people, food carts, skyscrapers, vehicles and even more people. It’s true that Bangkok does not have a lot of tourist attractions like Paris, London or New York, but because of the culture, it doesn’t need to have a lot of things.

As soon as we got off the plane, we took a few trams and the underground to the hotel located in Sukhumvit. Unfortunately I can’t actually remember the name of the hotel – but it was beautiful and had a lovely rooftop swimming pool – perfect after a long day out or for a morning dip.

After finding the hotel and resting for an hour – we decided to get a move on to see as many temples/ attractions as possible.

Cruise Chao Phraya River
After leaving the hotel, we took the sky train to Saphan Taksin and then jumped on a water taxi from Central Pier station. You can ride the water taxi up and down the river for about 20 baht (45p). We went to the end and then came back then voila! You’ve got yourself a cheap river tour. Luckily the rivers and canals are at the heart of Bangkok as the area along the main river used to be the ancient royal district. Because of this, Bangkok’s most famous attractions are located around here. Whilst we were on the water taxi, we saw a woman on a boat trying to sell us items – like they do in the floating markets. We saw quite a few of them actually. We also noticed young boys swimming in the water, (or bathing?) which surprised us as the water was unbelievably dirty and had crocodiles! Brave lads.

We then went to three of the most important temples:

1. Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
The Grand Palace is the former home of the monarch and located right next to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. If you have the time, the palace’s grounds contain more than 100 buildings decorated spectacularly with traditional coloured diamonds and gold. The Wat Phra Kaew is regarded by the locals as being the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand

Grand Palace:
Ticket price: 400 Baht – £9
Estimated time: 2-3 hours.
Opening hours: Everyday 8:30am-3:30pm
What to wear: You must be properly dressed to be allowed entry – e.g. shirts with sleeves/long pants or skirts/shoes (or sandals with socks). If you are improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entry that will provide cover-ups.

2. Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha
You can either wonder down the street for about 10 minutes or take the ferry to Wat Pho – the amazing gigantic reclining Buddha (as well as the famous Golden Buddha). The sight of it is just breathtaking as it is covered in gold leaf and mother-of-pearl ornaments in his feet. It is 46m long and 15m high. It illustrates Buddha entering death (Nirvana).

The Wat Pho complex fills an entire city blocks – so even though it doesn’t take long to see the reclining Buddha, it might take an hour or so wondering around the temple ground to admire the Chinese statutes that were once used as ballasts on ships. The complex also complains four chapels with around 394 Buddha images and a long line of golden Buddha’s from all over Thailand sitting in lotus positions.

Wat Pho:
Opening hours: Everyday 8am-5pm
Ticket price: 100 baht – £2.20
Estimated time: 1 hour.

3. Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn
After taking a break and trying out the scrumptious street food around the temple, we crossed the river and jumped on the cross-river ferry from No. 8 Tha Tien to Wat Arun pier (only 3 baht – 7p). This was my favorite temple by far as in the middle of the temple lays a 82m high tower in which you can walk up the steep stairs and admire the view of Bangkok and its rivers. You could also write on some paper they placed on one of the walls so that you could ‘leave your mark’ – as my brother quite happily did.

Ticket price: 100 Baht – £2.20
Estimated time: Around 1-2 hours depending on your fitness levels!
Opening hours: Everyday 8:30am-5:30pm

4. Khao San Road
In the evening, we decided to visit the infamous Khao San Road before calling it a day. This is backpacker capital of the world that was constructed in 1892. Tourists from all over the world come here to find endless bars, shops, street food, international restaurants, vendors and locals. My family and i came here just to sit outside and watch the hustle and bustle of the streets and people watch! The energy really is addictive.

We then went back to the hotel, slept, woke up – dipped in the pool and then went on our merry way to Phuket.

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If you have more time, these are the places I highly recommend going to:

Visit the Floating Market
If you get the chance, you can enjoy a half-day visit to the floating markets around the city (Khlong Lat Mayom and Thaling Chan are the two most popular). I recommend going as early as possible to avoid the crowd.

Explore Chinatown
Chinatown in Bangkok is like a massive feast street. You can go shopping here and buy lots of useless souvenirs. GO for a walk through the narrow streets and beautiful buildings in China Town and just watch the lift on the streets. The food here is definitely worth trying out if you do get a chance.

Watch an authentic Muay Thai fight
Muay Thai is famous in Thailand and Thais take that sport seriously! It’s a combat sport involving striking and clinching. I saw this in Phuket but its most likely the touristy one. If I was to return, I definitely want to watch an authentic match with world-class fighters in Bangkok at Rajadamnern Stadium.

Check out the Chatuckhak Market
This weekend market is definitely worth the visit if you have more time. It’s the size of a football field and can be very crowded. However, you will find anything and everything here – from fake design bags/clothes to kitchenware, pets, food etc.