The Bangkok Picture

Bangkok is only a few hours away by plane; it has been one of my favorite destination.

The atmosphere is relaxing, the people are friendly and the Thai food is to my liking.

However, things seem to have changed in recent years.

The Thai people are becoming more political; more worrying is the blast last year at the temple of the Four Faced Buddha killing many people.CIMG0367

Nevertheless, I can think of the more peaceful time when we hopped on and off the boat alongside the bank of Bangkok.

If I have to choose a photo of Bangkok, this is the one!

Phoenix – FengHuang (鳳凰) Ancient City, China

We first learnt of this place through the paintings of the Chinese artist Wong Wing Yuk who has based many of his paintings on his home town Fenghuang or Phoenix City.

Fenghuang is the Chinese for “phoenix”, the king of  birds in legends, which is a good omen symbolizing longevity.

It is an ancient community located on the western edge of Hunan Province. This is like the Venice in the Orient;  an example what a village by a river was like before the date of modernization: timber boats, simple river crossings, Chinese style buildings on stilts, traditional food and tribal people dressed as if this place was frozen in time.

The charm of Fenghuang goes beyond the natural beauty. We first  took a stroll of the city, admiring at the ancient architecture. Some of the streets were paved with cobble stones. To our delight, we found a shop selling preserved pig head, meat and field rats.

We walked around the picturesque lanes and little squares. Then we went up to top of the city wall to have a good view of the Tuo river. The Tuo river was not deep , and the water was very clear. Locals cross the river by walking on a series of stepping stone blocks in the river.

Fenghuang was built  a few hundred years ago and restored quite a few times. It was one of the military outposts of the empire, built to keep the minority people Miao in check. But the most characteristic of Fenhuang are the houses along the river, built on timber stilts, with several floors, balconies and windows overlooking the river. We took a boat trip on the river, viewing timber houses leaning out onto the river, watching the locals doing their washing and cleaning vegetables in the river and all the comings and goings you expect or not expect on the river.

Going up and down the river, we were happy at the revelation of more and more river scenes, each one quite different to the other. We took more photos and were impressed with the covered bridge arch crossings above the water (top photo).

When the moon has risen and the place was almost completely dark, all we could see were the traditional red lanterns hanging from each of the timber houses and the faint outline of the distinctive tops of the buildings. We knew it was already late and we should be heading back to our hotel. We also knew we have covered one of the places we should see before we disappear from the face of this earth.

Langkawi – Beyond Sun, Sand and Sea

What a joy it was to start the day with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and breakfast outdoor, overlooking the blue sea in Langkawi.

Before it got really hot, we went for a boat ride which brought us through some limestone caverns.

By noon, it was pretty hot.  Lunching at the Four Seasons Hotel, overlooking the beach and clear blue sky was really enjoyable. All you could see was  pristine white sand stretching for miles, overlooking small limestone islands and the blue sea.

More activities in the afternoon. We drove around and took the cable car up the hill top to have a panoramic view of the harbour. Walking along the cable stayed bridge with just one column support in the middle and intermediate lookout platforms clipped to the side of the footbridge was an amazing experience!

Visited the mangrove area by boat, watching black kites diving down for the food. We were keenly aware that a lot of work had gone into making sure the mangroves would thrive but feeding the hawks would reduce their ability to find food themselves.

We swinged by a fish farm. Like any other tourists, we were eager to touch the stingrays in a fish farm tank. Immersing our feet in a tank of small fishes, we had a strange sensation as the fishes nibbled our feet which we were told would improve our skin.

After several hours of driving around visiting more places, it was almost time for afternoon high tea by the side of the marina. While resting, it was relaxing to see yachts and boats.

Strolling for hours, visiting more interesting places, we were tempted by the snacks at roadside cafes.

We were impressed by the appearance of the boutique Spanish style hotel  Casa Del Mar and decided to try out al fresco dining by the sea. Sitting under the gently swaying palm trees, and watching the sun setting was the only thing we wanted to do.

What a luxurious life! We realized how blessed we were and were grateful that we were given such a blissful day.