Tag Archives: temple

Around Asia – Indonesia (Day 2: Borobodur, Prambanan)

Today marks the official start of our trip. At 4am, we met our tour operator Salim for the first time. Finally, there is a face to the person I have been e-mailing with for the past few days.


From Yogyakarta, we drove for an 1 hour to reach Manohara Resort. As a tip, you can opt to stay here as the Borobudur Temple complex is right inside the resort grounds. They also have discounted rates if you are staying there.


We were one of the first guests that arrived at the resort. While waiting, we had a chitchat with Salim and our driver Yahia (Sorry, but I am not sure how to spell your name). It was nice to know that we were in good company after we got to know them more.


It was almost 6am when we started lining up to head to the entrance of the temple complex. We were each given a flashlight that you will only use for a few minutes to climb up the temple stairs.




As we reached our vantage point, I did not expect the huge amount of tourists that visit the temple during sunrise. We had a difficult time finding a decent spot as there will be a blockade from a fellow traveler wherever you position yourself. This was definitely a turn off for me and it somewhat degraded the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.




After sunrise is where it becomes better. Most tourists will be moving around the complex giving you more space. As time passes, there will be less and less people around as well. This gave me an opportunity to take a few decent shots of the stupas. Maybe next time, I can just stay behind the complex before sunrise. This way, I can take a clear shot of the complex from the back.

Don’t get me wrong but going here should be in everyone’s travel bucket list. Definitely one of the best, if not the best, Buddhist temple I have seen. It’s sheer size, symmetry and design is  mind boggling. Just google some aerial shots of this place and you will be amazed!


From Borobodur, we headed back to Yogyakarta to have our breakfast and checkout from our hotel. We then went for a quick stop to visit another UNESCO site – Parambanan Temple.



Also another must-see temple to visit. Although, I prefer Borobudur a lot more than this other temple. Prambanan looks very similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. And just like the latter (when we visited back in 2012), it was also under construction during the time we visited.


From here, we went back on the road to what will be the longest land travel of our Asia trip. Our next stop was to head towards the city of Probolinngo.




Third Thai’s A Charm – Ayutthaya (Day 2: Temples)

Our second day in Ayutthaya is another day of more temple touring. Not that I’m complaining… For today, we hired a private tuk tuk guide to tour us around the temples.


Our first stop was Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. This temple is well-maintained and had several attractions to enjoy. You can even go walk up the temple and view the surroundings.




Next was Wat Mahathat. Probably one of the more well-known temples to visit and is a must-see when you’re in Ayutthaya. Don’t forget to check out the large Buddha head that’s enveloped by a tree.




We also passed by Wat Na Phra Men. One of their active temples inside the Historical Park.


Our fourth stop was Wat Lokkayasutharam. The main feature of this place is the large outdoor reclining Buddha. On a side note, we had an accident before we reached this destination. Our tuk tuk abruptly braked when a motorcycle backed in front of us. My girlfriend hit her left side on the metal railing of our tuk tuk. At that moment, I panicked and thought we would be ending our trip short. Thank goodness she just ended up having a bruised arm and a bit of bleeding in her mouth. No broken tooth and all… Phew!



We rested for a bit to recover and moved to our fifth stop – Wat Mongkhon Bophit. This was probably the temple I liked the least. I prefer old “ruined” temples over modern looking ones.



Our last stop was Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Most of the structures seemed to have been restored to it’s old beauty. I could just imagine how much more beautiful it could have been if it was in it’s original form.


By this time, we were so exhausted that it was time for us to grab some really late lunch. We ate in a riverside restaurant and ordered several dishes like tom yum and grilled river prawns. Just what I needed to cap our tour in Ayutthaya…

After our lunch, we went back to Baan Thai House. Dipped a bit in their pool before having our traditional Thai massage. By this time, the weather was getting rainy. We had a few drinks at night and even had a bicycling fiasco. I guess that’s another story to tell. This wraps our last day in Ayutthaya as we’re moving back to Bangkok tomorrow.

This place definitely has it’s unique charm! Definitely one of my favorite destinations so far.

Third Thai’s A Charm – Bangkok (Day 3: Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Siam Ocean World, Baiyoke Sky Hotel)

– The Tourist Pao

Third Thai’s A Charm – Ayutthaya (Day 1: Wat Phanan Choeng, Wat Phutthaisawan, Wat Chaiwatthanaram)

When I first visited Cambodia in 2011, I was inspired to see more ancient temples similar to those in Siem Reap. After careful research and what my budget permitted, I decided to visit the ancient city of Ayutthaya which was just a stone’s throw away from Thailand‘s capital city of Bangkok. For numerous reasons, our trip to Thailand seemed to be the perfect choice for us back then. This trip marked my 3rd time in Thailand.


Our trip starts once we arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport. From there, we traveled around 2 hours by land to Ayutthaya. Our first stop was to check-in at Baan Thai House. We booked their Deluxe Lake Villa which has a nice view overlooking the grounds. We were able to meet the owner Leena who has been helpful to us even before we arrived in Thailand. This place is definitely a true gem! I recommend that you stay here if you plan to visit Ayutthaya.




After we settled, we decided to join a boat tour which we were fortunate enough to book late in the afternoon. We were lucky that there was no one else on the tour so we had the boat all to ourselves.


Our first stop was Wat Phanan Choeng. The highlight of this temple is the large golden buddha statue.



Next was Wat Phutthaisawan which featured an outdoor reclining buddha. The grounds also contained several statues lined up together.





Lastly, the highlight of our first day was Wat Chaiwatthanaram. It was unfortunate that we did not enter the grounds as there was an entrance fee. This temple is probably the best if not one of my favorites during this trip.



The weather was getting a bit gloomy and sun down was nearing so we decided to end our first day in one of the nearby night markets. Of course, our day will not end by trying some thai milk tea and rice cakes.



We headed back to Baan Thai House after. So far, so good for our first day in Ayutthaya. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us tomorrow!

Third Thai’s A Charm – Ayutthaya (Day 2: Temples)

– The Tourist Pao

Osaka, Japan (Day 6: Shitennoji Temple, Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and more)

Just like Day 4, today is another day of guided touring but in Osaka. Our first stop was Shitennoji Temple. It is said that this is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan built around 593.


We were only able to enter the outer temple grounds. Apparently, another place to visit is the Gokuraku-jodo Garden which is located inside the grounds. I only discovered this inner temple area as I’m writing this post.


From Shitennoji Temple, we went to our last historical stop – the Osaka Castle. Walking towards the Osaka Castle was a very nice experience. You will pass by a moat to enter the grounds. On the opposite side, you can enjoy the scenery of lush gardens.


Once you enter the complex, you can already see the castle from afar. I was excited every step we walked closer to it.


Make your way inside the castle and get to the top floor. From there, you can view the rest of Osaka.




Lunch was already nearing so we had to go already.


For our lunch, we headed to the port area. We had buffet lunch in one of the buildings there. Food was just right but the view was killer!


During the afternoon, we went to Umeda Sky Building. This officially marks the last stop of our guided tour.


We went straight to the Floating Garden located 173 meters above. It was so cold when we reached the open area.



They even have love locks on the top floor.


Another souvenir token for me!


Though our guided trip has already ended, our driver was nice enough to drop us to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Only 4 of us went out of our group of 15. If there are only two things I can do on a trip, it would be temple touring and aquariums.


The place is huge spanning several floors. The variety of marine animals alone is worth the visit. The highlight of the visit however, is the large tank that features an actual whale shark. I believe this was my very first time to see one in real life.


I also enjoyed their jellyfish tanks.




There’s also a semi-open area where you can  see seals and other marine animals. They can see you as well!


After our aquarium tour, we headed back to Umeda for dinner. I think I’ve eaten tempura at least once a day during this trip.


The young ones decided to head out after dinner. We found an area with drinking places about 15-20 minutes away from our hotel. Our first stop was drinks at a classic whiskey bar.


After a few glasses of good 18-21 year old whiskies, we went to another bar that serves yakitori.



I order some niniku (garlic) and kawa (chicken skin) to go along with my beer.


This wraps our 6th day here in Osaka. Kampai!

Osaka, Japan (Day 7 & 8: Ichiran Ramen, Yakiniku Icho)

– The Tourist Pao

Osaka, Japan (Day 4: Nara, Kyoto, Cherry Blossoms)


We’re almost halfway through our trip and there’s still so much to see in Osaka. For today, we will be heading to nearby Nara and Kyoto. Travel time was around an hour or so before we reached our first destination.


Our first stop was Nara. As a whole, Nara’s historical sites are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The first temple we visited was the Kasuga-taisha shrine. From the moment you step foot on the grounds, you will be greeted by dozens of deer roaming around freely. You can actually feed them if you want. They sell goodies specific for deer feeding. Be careful though as some of them become aggressive if provoked.



From Kasuga-taisha, we walked along a pathway leading to Nara Park. There were more people here (and more deer). We were not able to spend time in the park grounds since we were time constrained on our tour.




From Nara Park, we were welcomed by  large gate heading towards Todaiji Temple. This was my favorite temple during our tour.



Walking towards the temple was just splendid. Wait until you get near and you will be amazed with how massive this temple is. It’s also built from wood and was burned twice. But here it is, beautifully restored. Amazing!



When you enter the temple, locate the column that has a hole on it’s foot. You will easily spot this column as visitors line-up to pass through the hole. It is said that if you’re able to pass the small hole (which is larger than it looks), you will reach enlightenment. I was able to!


Likewise, there’s a wooden statue to your left when you exit that is said to heal any ailments. I had a bad ankle sprain two weeks prior to this trip so I tested my luck out. Not sure if it worked but the pain did not bother me for the most part of our trip.


At this point, It was already early in the afternoon.


It was time to say goodbye to Nara… Next stop, Kyoto!


Our first and only stop in  Kyoto was Kinkaku-ji (also known as the Golden Pavilion). By this time, most were too exhausted and wanted to return to Osaka. My enthusiastic touring vibe was to no avail – everyone wanted to head back. We were in a group of around 15 during this trip.


It was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to see the other must-sees in my list such as Fushimi Inari ShrineKiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo Castle. I guess, that just means another trip to Kyoto for me in the future!


When we returned to Osaka, we still had one last stop. One of the few places left with cherry blossoms still in full bloom was at Japan Mint Osaka. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of this wonderful flora during the time we visited.


We stayed there until sundown then we headed back to Umeda for dinner. Though we ate some Korean food, it was still very good. I don’t even remember having a bad meal in Japan.

Speaking of food, head on to Osaka, Japan (Day 5: Kuromon Market, Den-Den Town, Shinsekai and more) to see where we ate for lunch and where we went afterwards.

– The Tourist Pao

Bali, Indonesia (Part VI: Uluwatu, Jimbaran)


Our 4th day is our last full day in Bali. This time, we are moving to another place again so we first checked-out from Brown Feather. Before heading to Legian, we grabbed some quick lunch at Wah Wah Burger. Their food is quite expensive but good.


After our quick lunch, we headed down to check-in at our last place – Ossotel. More about this place in my last post about our Bali trip.


Before heading out, we decided to check the Legian Beach area. The beach is similar to Seminyak Beach with the difference of having light-brown sand here. I prefer this beach better than the one in Seminyak. Beach bumming and water activities are more prevalent around this area.


After, we headed straight to our last destination – Uluwatu Temple. It took us awhile to get to this area but it was worth it!



Uluwatu Temple is situated along a cliff which required walking. There’s one area there without a concrete trail. It was nice to just relax and catch the sunset while you hear the waves crash along the cliffs.


Since we were running out of time, we did not wait for the Kecak Fire Dance. Heard some good reviews about it so you may want wait for the show.


For our last dinner (and sunset view), we headed to Jimbaran for a seafood feast. This area is well-known for their seafood restaurants. You can choose your own seafood and have it cooked the way you like. As the area suggests, it is a touristy spot so the prices can become expensive.


Despite the deep hole in my pocket, the food was great and the view was really nice! We were also fortunate to get a table nearest to the shore so our sunset view was unobstructed.


We then headed back to the Kuta/Legian area to do some last minute shopping. This was the only time we went to the more commercialized district. Probably something you can do as well (if you’re into shopping) when you visit Bali.


I did not want to sleep when we returned back to Ossotel since it was our last day already. I even drank some of the Bintang I bought to busy and keep myself awake. But fatigue took over and I slept the last few hours before we departed.


This caps off our wonderful Bali trip. Before we decided to go here, I knew Bali did not have the best temples. I also knew Bali did not have the best white-sand beaches. Neither did I surf nor trek mountains (yet). But everyone who has been here really enjoyed and loved this place. So we took their word for it…


From Ubud to whatever it is beyond to the more hip scene along the Seminyak area; and finally, the wonderful beaches down south.  Bali has this magical vibe that we easily fell in-love with. One must experience Bali as a whole to fully understand this place. Whatever floats your boat, Bali will be ready for you!

Wait, there’s still Part VII for those who are interested to stay in Legian.

– The Tourist Pao

Bali, Indonesia (Part I: Ubud)

Last September 2014, I went to Bali, Indonesia with my girlfriend. It was both our first time in this country. After months of planning and making sure we had everything covered, we were finally set to go! We booked our flight via Cebu Pacific direct from Manila to Denpasar. Our flight was 4:00 am and we arrived in Bali around 8:00 am.


I was quite surprised that their airport in Bali (Ngurah Rai International Airport) is very nice! Considering this is not their capital, it’s way better than any of our airports here in Manila. Since we moved to 3 different places during our short stay, we decided to hire a driver who will drive us around Bali. Our driver, Boron, picked us up in the airport. (More about our driver in the last post of our trip)



Since we arrived way early for check-in, Boron decided to drive us around certain areas near Ubud. Our first stop was a batik making facility that doubled as a souvenir shop. This was followed by a silversmith facility that sells jewelry. We were a bit wary when Boron brought us here. There were lots of other tourists who may have just arrived in Bali like us. On the bright side, they did not force us to buy any of the goods. And yes, some people appreciate these kinds of things. I actually ended up buying a silver cross necklace for my dad.


After the first two stops, we decided to grab some brunch before checking-in. Right off the bat, we were able to try the popular Babi Guling (at Ibu Oka). Babi Guling is quite similar to our local lechon. The main difference is probably the sauce and garnish that it comes with. We got one full order of Babi Guling with an extra order of skin and vegetable soup. If you love lechon, this is a must try!



Afterwards, we decided to check-in at our first place – the Alaya Resort. Since it was still early, we just left our luggage and headed out again. I was able to take a few shots of the hotel grounds. More about the Alaya Resort once we return from our tour.




For starters, we visited the closer but lesser known temples called Goa Gajah and Pura Gunung Kawi. Be warned that both temples require some walking especially the latter one. There were some large stones with engraving on the bottom part of Goa Gajah but we decided not to go further down.



Pura Gunung Kawi required a longer walk downwards. It was a good thing that the view was wonderful heading to the temple.




After several minutes of walking, we finally reached our destination. These massive rocks were engraved to create these temple structures. We stayed here for quite some time since we needed to rest. It was also nice that the temple complex is set along a river.



Returning back might be the most excruciating part of our first day of temple touring. We had to walk upwards this time. Since we wanted to maximize our day, we headed to the more popular temple called Tirta Empul (also known as the Water Temple). The water temple is much easier to walk-around.


Contrary to it being more popular, I actually prefer the first two temples we visited. Tirta Empul is flocked by lots of locals and tourists as this place is still actively used as a religious site. One can actually bathe in one of the “holy springs”.


It was around 4 in the afternoon already and we still had several stops to visit. I was very tired at this moment so what better way than to drop by an actual coffee plantation. We tried several Balinese coffee and tea before we purchased a few bags to bring home.


(Unfortunately, the coffee we bought did not taste like the ones we tried at all. I was very excited to try them when we returned back to Manila. The taste is not even near. It was rather bland and tasted like ash. Very disappointing…)


Our next stop was a glimpse of Mount Batur. We headed towards a higher (and colder) area where we passed by several orange and lemon farms. I was very surprised that they grew those in Bali thinking that their weather is much like ours which is tropical.


The last stop before we checked-in was a view of one of Bali’s rice terraces. Nothing much to stay since we also have our very own rice terraces in the Philippines. I was also too tired at this point.

Stay tuned for Part II: Alaya Resort!

– The Tourist Pao