A week in Tokyo is going so fast! Over the last couple of days we’ve checked out Ueno Park and surrounds, Shinjuku shopping, and a few of the local craft brew bars.
Ueno Park was in full cherry blossom frenzy, even though there was not much blossom actually out yet. People were picnicking and taking photos and having a good time regardless. A wonderful atmosphere. We detoured to Benten Hall, and on the way there was a kind of flea market and various street food stalls which was interesting viewing. We also stopped in at the Toshogu Shrine and Daibatsu before picking up some street food lunch – on the way to the fabulous Tokyo Museum. So much to see at the park and Museum, but we gave it a good try and enjoyed everything we saw. On the way home, we tried out the Irish Pub ‘World End’ and it’s sister venue, Towa. Towa has Japanese craft beer and soba noodles. I liked both places. World End was a trip back in time – punk music playing and the venue smoky and dark. Towa was much more sophisticated – with the added Tokyo element of trains rumbling over head every 5 minutes or so. We finished off the evening with a walk around some of the Ueno sidestreets. Venturing into some pachinko and slot machine venues was an experience – the volume was incredibly loud with music and machine noise, and the venues were busy, with young/old/male/female playing.
The Cherry Bloss PR icon for Ueno Park
Picnics under the buds
Daibutsu – where students pray for exam success
Love those okonomiyaki pancakes
Amazing hairpin from the fabulous Tokyo Museum collection. Go there.
Our chosen hotel happened to be across the road from Phra Ram Park. Usually a peaceful place, according to the blogosphere, on our arrival it was alive with a large event crew setting up for a big event. Our BnB proprietor told us that a huge muay thai championship was being held on the Friday (we arrived Wednesday night), and was quite relieved when we said we would be checking out by 10.30 am on Friday – as he needed our room for the Mayor, who would be officiating at the ceremony.
As we were within walking distance of a number of historic sites (some of which M and I are lucky enough to have seen about six years ago) we headed off on Thursday morning to check out some places. After lunch we rested in the air conditioning – then did a late afternoon boat tour, ending with dinner at the fabulous night market. We enjoyed our two nights in Ayutthaya, but I have to say for ancient temples, Sukhothai and Si Satchanali were my preferred locations. And on Friday when we left for Bangkok (taxi door to door – 1400 baht) it pelted with rain about 30 minutes into the journey. I hope the mayor didn’t get wet.
So we did get a little closer to the monkeys by walking certain streets of the old town, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to enter Pha Prang Sam Yot – where the monkeys know they can jump all over you. In our Lopburi experience, the monkeys were mainly centred around the aforementioned temple, and the railway crossing nearby – and surrounding streets. Not running rampant everywhere.
But Lopburi has so much more to offer than monkey encounters, with a number of really wonderful temple sites (ancient and current). And we did a Noom Guesthouse tour which included Ang Sub Lak (the local lake) and the out of town ‘Peacock Temple’ (Wat Weyru Wan) – so wonderful to see some surrounding countryside. The biggest surprise was the really fabulous museum, housed in the old palace. The info panels were informative, in English as well as Thai. Downstairs housed a most impressive collection of ancient jewellery/jewelry. And the information about surrounding historical sites makes us want to return to see more around Lopburi.
Storm cloud at Buddha Footprint temple/ Wat Phra Phutthabat
Shrine at the end of 450 steps to the Buddha at the Peacock temple/ Wat Weyru Wan
View from the ‘Peacock Temple’
Sign at Ang Sub Lek
Use this entrance to make sure you see the whole museum
The primary reason to stay in Sukhothai is proximity to Sukhothai Historical Park. There are numerous fascinating ruins from the 12th century and later, with three main areas of ruins – inside the old city walls, and Eastern and Northern sections. For the latter two, it was great having the car to get around, as it was pretty hot while we were there. People mainly used bikes and motorbikes to get around the outer sections. The central section we did on foot – we didn’t see all of it, but spent most time at the main wat. And we came back in the early evening when it was cooler to see one of the smaller temples. Each of the sections required a ticket – just 100 baht per person.
We had two fantastic, packed days touring with family and friends in Chiang Mai. On the first tour day, we headed to the hills to check out Bhubing Palace, Doi Suthep, and a wonderful Royal Project Restaurant and shopping venue. After lunch we headed north to Wat Ban Den, which deserves a separate post (coming soon). We ended the day with a cultural show and Northern Thai dinner. On day two, we went to many beautiful wats in the morning, and ALL the craft workshops in the afternoon, finishing off the day with a great Chinese dinner.
After a few days here by ourselves, we met up with family and friends to make a party of 6. Thanks to our dear Thai friends we had two and a bit days of fascinating sightseeing and eating.
Prior to meeting up we headed to the train station to get tickets. We’d had advice that we could buy them in advance – which was true for the first leg of our journey, to Phitsanulok. All the other tickets we will need to buy on the day… Oh, and if you’re buying a ticket, you will need a passport for everyone who is travelling. No passport, no ticket issued.
M is becoming an expert at hailing long taxis – we did fit four of us into a tuktuk, but it was a squeeze. He has discovered the best trick is to know which Wat is near where you want to go – the driver may not recognise the street or the hotel, but he will likely know the Wat. A map sometimes helps too.
Our first night all together our friends took us to an amazing temple, unlike anything I’d ever seen before – Wat Muen San. There are a number of temples on the site but the one we looked at most closely was covered in detailed and sometime intricate silver metal work. We then headed to the Sunday walking street and tasted plenty of excellent street food. My favourite new taste sensation was mieng kham (betel leaf wrapped snack).