Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pattaya City Tour

We had our conference in NongNooch Tropical and Botanical Garden, Pattaya, which by taxi, was 30 minutes away from city center. Nong Nooch Garden was a beautiful place, which fused both nature and man-made scenery. Please read more about the garden in our previous post. Arranged by the conference organizer, we had the chance to tour around Pattaya for a half day tour and visited Khao Chi Chan Buddha Mountain, World of Gems Collection Company, and the streets along the beach.

Pattaya City is built along the coast of Gulf of Thailand, in the province of Chon Buri. We had the impression that Pattaya was a place with beautiful beaches and clean sea, along with picturesque villages and coconut trees. We only spent two evening at Pattaya City, and it turned our old impression upside down (we stayed in NongNooch most of the time in our 4 days in Pattaya). 

Pattaya is in fact a major metropolitan in Thailand- high rises, busy streets full with people, hotels and shopping complexes, bars, pubs, restaurants, and thousands of tourists from all over the world. It is a great place for beach and sun worshippers, pub and disco addicts, and shoppers who love endless walking streets with hawkers and stalls line up beside the streets. We may be wrong again, but for us, Pattaya City is not a place for us to seek peace in mind.

Khao Chi Chan Buddha Mountain is located at a hill at Khao Chi Chan Road. The site was around 45 minutes from Pattaya City, 20 minutes from NongNooch Tropical Botanical Garden. The important facts- the Buddha was drawn on a side of a hill. So there was no sculpture, just a drawing of Buddha, using laser guided technology. No doubt, the drawing was huge (maybe one of the biggest in the world). It worth a short visit, if you have the time and don't mind to travel far away from Pattaya City. Try to visit this place in the morning, as the sun is moving to the back of the hill in the afternoon, providing strong backlight, which is not a good condition for photo taking.

The painting on the hill side was huge.

A small garden in front of the Buddha Mountain.

We went by this house on our way to Buddha Mountain, along Khao Chi Chan Road. We visited an upside down house at Tamparuli, Sabah before, so decided to skip this place.

The beach stretches along the Beach Road.

We were lucky to see the sunset at Pattaya.

The sea was calm and the sunset was beautiful. But the beach was full with people (upper left), and even more on the pedestrian walkway beside the beach (upper right). Beach Road was busy (lower right), with hawkers selling clothes, watches, shoes, dolls, books, electronic gadgets, snacks, and many more.

We had the opportunity to visit two major shopping malls in Pattaya- Central Festival (upper row) and Mike Shopping Mall (lower row). Central Festival was newly built with a good food court providing wide variety of food at the lowest level of the mall.

Pattayasaisong Road was very busy as well. Pattaya Night Bazaar (upper row) and Pattaya Avenue were good place to hunt for souvenirs, but keep in mind that the price could be a bit expensive. Street food court like the one in front of Mike Mall could be found scatter around Pattayasaisong Road.

Talk about food, Pattaya might not be the best place to hunt for cheap Thai food, but the food served here was as good as the food we tried in Bangkok. Recommended food- Thai mango (upper left), which we could eat it with sticky rice (upper right), Thai style spring roll and fried chicken with sliced mango (lower right), and the raw vegetable with special Thai sauces.

Other nice food- Thai pork rice (upper row), tomyam, and fried cockles with egg.

Beside long dull conference, we had the chance networking with other participants from all around the world.

Beach Road and Pattayasaisong Road were the most busy streets in Pattaya. Getting somewhere nearby to stay means we can easily assess to the most happening places in Pattaya. Food and items sold in air-conditioned malls were a bit expensive. We could find cheaper and locally made items on the street further away from the places where tourists amassed. We didn't really went into the walking street, as the atmosphere inside was too condensed to us. It was like the whole street was on party. Well, who knows,  it may be the place for you. If you wish to go to Pattaya without stopping at other places in Thailand, then take a flight to Utapao International Airport can avoid hours of tiring journey on the road. Oh, by the way, about the gem collection company, forget about it unless you like to buy the gems very much.

Getting around Pattaya was easy, with many choices of transports. From Utapao International Airport, we took an airport limousine to our hotel at NongNooch (upper left). The price was fixed, which the taxi coupon had to be bought at the counter. The driver was a polite and careful guy. He paid respect to all the King's portrait that he could see along the road. If you can get enough people for a trip, you can get a fully air-conditioned van (upper right). If you are travelling alone, motorbike taxi can be an option for you to travel light (lower right). We had the experience to board on a songtaew or minibus. Songtaew is a specially modified pick-up truck, which can accommodate more than 10 person. It is one of the cheapest transportation favourable by both tourists and locals.

Are we going to visit Pattaya again in future? Yes, only if we have something really important to be done there, and definitely not for leisure and get away trip. Again, we wish to emphasis that Pattaya is a great place for those who love busy beach with a lot of water sports, pubs, disco, party street, shopping at malls and streets. 

 You can read more about our experience in Thailand at:


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden Pattaya

We attended a conference at the conference center in Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, Pattaya. The place is located around 30 minutes away from Utapao-Rayong-Pataya International Airport by taxi. It would be another 30 minutes drive from the conference venue to Pattaya City. Well, we were right at the middle point between the airport and Pattaya City. It was a 4-day conference, thus we decided to stay in NongNooch Resort, which was just 5-minute walk to the conference venue.

We followed the trip organized by the conference organizer to visit a few places of interest around Pattaya. We went out with our fellow friends from different countries as well. The trip however, was a busy one, as we spent most of our time attending the conference. The resort was built in the Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, thus we could walk around during the free time.

In fact, Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden (or NongNooch Pattaya Garden) is one of the attractions nearby Pattaya. Started as a fruit orchard, the garden was turned into tourist spot since 1980. Today, it is more like a man-made park than an orchard. We didn't see any public transport nearby. But, tourist buses were everywhere. The entrance area and the theater were crowded, while the crowd getting lesser as we walked deeper into the garden. 

The garden was more than 600 acres (some sources stated 500 acres). We took two evenings to explore around (including the cultural and elephant show), and yet to see everything in the garden. Well, we would advise to allocate at least half a day at the resort to enjoy the shows and the scenery around the garden.

The garden opened from 8 am till 7 pm. The entrance fee for garden only for adult and child (1 - 6 years old) were THB 100 and THB 50 respectively. For the garden plus cultural and elephant show, the ticket fees were THB 366 and THB 244. We didn't have to pay for the entrance fee for the garden, as we stayed inside it, but had to pay for the shows.

We reached Utapao International Airport at around 4 pm. We queued for 30 minutes at the immigration counter. The airport was small. The space outside of the arrival hall was limited (upper left), with a few counters selling tickets for taxi and mini bus (upper right). The waiting area was actually outside of the airport building (lower right). We bought a ticket for taxi from Utapao to NongNooch Resort with THB 750.

NongNooch Resort for us, was located far away from city and airport (upper left). There was a really big nice swimming pool there (upper right), with very big and comfy room (lower right). The balcony was a good place for a rest and coffee.


The resort was very nicely decorated. Exquisite wood and stone carvings could be seen everywhere, accompanied by beautiful flowers and plants.

Conference center (building on the right) was located beside a big lake. Click the picture for bigger panorama view.

There was a beautiful Butterfly Hill at the entrance. But strange, we couldn't see any butterfly there. Click the picture for bigger panorama view.

A garden with a fusion of Thailand and French Garden. Far behind was Dino Garden, which we decided to leave it behind. Click the picture for bigger panorama view.

Further from the entrance were the Cars Garden (upper left), Bromeliad Display Garden (upper right), Italian Garden (lower right), and Pottery Garden.

 There were animal models everywhere, mammoths were available in Mammoth Garden nearby the antique house (upper left), elephants in the Pottery Garden (upper right), koala (lower right), and fennec fox.

Cultural show was another big attraction of the garden. The show with combination of history, ethnics, musics, religions, sports, and even ancient war was great! We were amazed by how fast the backdrops and the decoration were changed between the transition of performance. Arranged by the conference organizer, we watched the show at the VIP area.

 The elephants were staged!

After the cultural show, the elephant show followed at the elephant theater. Elephant show was arranged at the end of the cultural show so that the visitors could see both shows continuously. Both theaters for cultural and elephant shows were located next to each other.

 The conference banquet was held on the lawn with open air stage.
The Broadway-style show with the performers from three different genders (hope you got the idea). 
Moving around the garden was easy. We could use the shuttle bus (upper left) which we could simply hop on and off. To our best estimation, the shuttle operates with 10 - 15 minutes interval. A better way to explore the garden- follow the elevated pedestrian walkway (upper right). The walkway would lead us to most of the places in the garden. Of course, we could opt to take a small round on the back of an elephant (lower right), or simply took a walk along the street.

The garden was very big. To walk around, comfortable footwear, enough drinking water, umbrella, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent, are needed. There were vendors and stalls selling souvenirs, food and drinks along the pedestrian walkway. The price was reasonable. More information about the garden is available at the official website of NongNooch Pattaya Garden.

Is this a must visit place in Pattaya? In our opinion, it depends on the purpose of your tour. If you wish to sweep all the tourist spots into your travel diary, then the garden is highly recommended. But if you visit Pattaya just for the beautiful beach and endless beers and bars along the streets, then you can forget about the garden. For us, it is a must visit place in Pattaya. We had visited it, after all.

You can read more about our experience in Thailand at:

 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

First Driving Experience to Kinabalu National Park

We took the opportunity to drive to Kinabalu National Park and the surrounding area middle of this year, bringing Ling Shing's parents, sister, and brother in-law for a two-day-one-night trip. Our brief itinerary- Upside down house at Tamparuli, Pekan Nabalu, Kinabalu National Park, and Ranau Town on the first day. Poring Hot Spring, Kundasang Town, and Desa Dairy Farm, before we went back to Kota Kinabalu on the second day.

Driving by our own to Kinabalu Park and the surrounding area was enjoyable. We could travel with our own pace, with our own way. Well-maintained road and clear signage made the driving easier, compared to Cameron Highlands. Although Waze couldn't be used at high altitude area, Google Map could be accessed all the time.

We rented a Toyota Innova 2.0. The MPV was big enough for a comfortable trip, but a bit under-power at some sloppy area. Anyway, the car managed to travel at 40 kmph, but we needed to use low gear and press the accelerator way down to the bottom.

We got our car rented online. The rate was cheap- RM250 per day for Toyota Innova 2.0. The car was delivered to our hotel at Kota Kinabalu 1 hour late. We checked the car on the spot and found that the third braking light (stop light) was not functioning. One of the tire was punctured as well. The staff apologized and advised us to repair the car before we departed to Kinabalu Park. Well, the car was repaired at one of the workshops along the way, with the charges paid by the car rental company. Issue solved in 30 minutes.

Our first stop- the Upside Down House at Tamparuli. It is the first upside down house in Malaysia and has been listed in Malaysia Book of Record.  The house is located right on our route from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu National Park. The entrance fees were RM10.60 for adult with MyKad, RM19.10 for adult without MyKad, while flat rate of RM5.30 applied for child below 12 years old.

It was an interesting place to visit, but it was not a must. It might not be a place that worth driving a long way to visit, but since we would pass by it, then why not? We reached the house at around 10:45 am, and stayed there for around 1 hour. More information about the house can be found at the Official Website.

We had been to Kinabalu Park and its surrounding area for many times. This time, we would like to share the photos of the places that we had visited.

10:45 am. We reached the Upside-down House. Ample of parking space provided by the management of the Upside Down House (upper left) next to the ticketing counter (upper right). The souvenir shop was comfy, but the items sold was quite expensive (lower right). Was the place a hot tourism spot? We could find the answer by looking at the buses parked in front of the ticketing area.

An upside-down rumah kampung (village house) with a nicely decorated garden. Luckily the coffee shop next to the house was not upside down, or it would be too bad for the coffee served.
Our group photo. The staff there were well-trained photographers. They were friendly and helpful.

Some upside-down mind-blowing scenery around the house. These photos were taken with absolutely zero Photoshop special effect.

Upside-down car park with an upside-down car.

We left the Upside Down House at around 11:30 am, and reached our next stop- Pekan Nabalu one hour later. We took our opportunity to hunt for souvenirs there. Pekan Nabalu was the best place for souvenirs- T-shirts, pants, scarfs, key-chains, wood crafts, hats, caps, etc. The best part was- the price could be bargained. We could get at 20 - 30% off if we bought in bulk. Read more about our experience there on our previous posts.


The condition of the road was good. The area for overtaking were built along the road. The Peak of Mt Kinabalu can be seen from afar.

Pekan Nabalu was still the best place to get our souvenir.

A nice view of Mount Kinabalu from Pekan Nabalu.

We took a 15-minute drive from Pekan Nabalu to Kinabalu National Park. Tickets were required and could be bought at the entrance. With our own car, we could explore more by driving to Timpohon gate- the deepest point reachable by car, some 20 minutes by car from  Liwagu Restaurant and Kinabalu Park Hotel. Timpohon gate is not accessible by big bus, thus not been included in most of the tour packages. We passed by the memorial built for the victims of the earthquake on our way to Timpohon. Several part of the road to Timpohon was narrow, steep, and with sharp corner. But the nice view worth the 20-minute drive from Liwagu Restaurant.

"In memory of eighteen; mountain guides and climbers, who lost their lives on Mt. Kinabalu during the Kinabalu Earthquake at 7:15 am, June 05, 2015", names of the victims follows.

Cooling temperature with lush green environment brought peace in mind.

The observation area at Timpohon was surrounded by clouds. Visitors could bring their snacks, coffee, or tea for an afternoon rest at the observation area.

Tame critters around Timpohon. These squirrels would come very close to humans, hoping to get some peanuts or fruits.

A few stretches of road to Timpohon were steep and narrow.

We took our lunch at Liwagu Restaurant, Kinabalu National Park before we went to our hotel at Ranau. We reached our hotel at around 5 pm. Ranau is a small town with some 21 km away from Kinabalu National Park. We took almost 1 hour to reach there due to the heavy rain.

We stayed in MK Hotel, with only 4 rooms. The hotel was located at the heart of the town, behind the petrol stations beside Ranau-Tamparuli Road. Although the hotel was small, the room was big and comfortable with LCD flat screen, coffee making facility, water heater, air-conditioner, and room service (upper row). A shared balcony with town view was available as well. The owner of the hotel was very friendly and helpful. He recommended nice food around Ranau to us. If you are looking for a place just to stay overnight, this hotel is the best around Ranau.

Ranau is a small town with 100 km away from Kota Kinabalu. It is a town that serves the locals rather than tourists. So we shouldn't expecting top hotels, international franchise fast food and eateries, and shopping malls to be found there. There were a few convenient shops, local banks, a small supermarket, local eateries and food court, to carter our needs. By the way, we found KFC there. The town was not busy at all, day and night. Most of the shops opened till 10 pm. A few eateries operated till mid night.

At night, we tried some food at one local Chinese restaurant not far away from our hotel. There were many local customers there. However, the food was served in small portion with average taste. We personally think that the price was a bit expensive as well. Unsatisfied with the food, we decided to drive a bit further to Ranau Hakka Food Court, as recommended by MK Hotel's owner.

Ranau Hakka Food Court was located at Ranau Tambunan Road, opposite to the hospitals and clinics. It was a distance away from our hotel. Well, we could drive there by ourselves.

Ranau Hakka Food Court was big (upper left) with stalls providing many choices of food. Clay pot noodle (upper right), pork noodle (lower right), and satay were a few types that we tried. All of them tasted good. We took our breakfast the next day at this food court as well. With wide range of choices and fair price, the food court is a good place to get local dishes.

Poring is a beautiful park located at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu. We departed to Poring at around 8:40 am. We drove for 30 minutes to reach there. Poring is well-known for its hot spring and nature beauty. Without much time constraint, we decided to explore the nature beauty of Poring by visiting the butterfly garden and canopy walk. The tickets for butterfly garden and canopy walk could be bought at the entrance. More information about Poring is available in our previous sharing.

With less constraint of time, we visited the butterfly farm at Poring. The farm was just some 3 minutes walk from the bathing area.

We couldn't see much butterflies in the garden, as they released the butterfly to the surrounding environment. The garden was not big. We completed a quick round in about 15 minutes. Frankly, nothing interesting to see in the garden except some knowledge about butterfly.

The entrance to the canopy walkway is around 50 meters away from the butterfly garden.

Some jungle walk was required to reach the canopy walk. The stairs might be challenging physically.

After 10 minutes climbing up the hill, we reached the first station of canopy walk.

Walking on top of the trees was a great experience. The whole trip at the canopy walk took around 30 minutes.

Back to the bathing area, we found a big beautiful swimming pool with entrance fee was built.
 .
Well, if we don't want to pay extra, we can enjoy the hot water from the spring at one of the bath tub prepared. We stayed at Poring until 11:00 am. Bathroom and changing rooms were prepared for us, but we need to bring our own soap, shampoo, and towel.

We took a brief stop at the road-side market at Kundasang, before continued our trip to Kundasang War Memorial.

On our way back to Kota Kinabalu, we stopped at Kundasang to visit the war memorial there. The memorial is dedicated to the the prisoners of 2nd World War who lost their lives in the death marches to Ranau. The entrance of the memorial is located on the foot of the hill beside Kundasang Town (upper left). The memorial consists of several beautiful gardens.

There was an observatory platform on top of the hill. More information about the memorial is available in our previous post.
On the clear day, we can see nice view like this from the observatory platform.

After lunch at KFC, Kundasang, we continued our trip to Desa Farm. It was located around 15 minutes away from Kundasang Town. There was a stretch of steep road in between the farm and the town.

We were really lucky to see the peak of Mt. Kinabalu, every time we visited Desa Farm. The view there was really good. Cooling temperature and strong wind made our stay comfortable. The milk and the ice-cream could be bought from the farm. Must try? Definitely.

We started our descending at around 4:15 pm, and reached our hotel at Kota Kinabalu at 5:30 pm. We travelled during Hari Raya holiday in Malaysia, the traffic however was not heavy. We only used a full tank of petrol, which we filled at the beginning of our trip. The petrol stations are available at the Kundasang and Ranau. We were advised to drive carefully to avoid getting traffic ticket. We need to get the contact in case of emergency or car break down from the car rental company as well.

Drive by our own to Kinabalu Park and the surrounding area? That's a good idea to travel and sight see on our own pace. More about our previous experience in Sabah are available at: