Monday, July 30, 2012

Rose Garden and Thai Cultural Shows in Thailand

Rose Garden
Cultural Shows
Enjoy the unique and unforgettable experience of the world-renowned Thai Village Cultural Show. Daily, over 150 performers vividly portray a fascinating cross-section of Thailand's culture, heritage and way of life -- dances, ceremonies, rituals, sports and pastimes.
Thai Martial Arts
Thai-style boxing is extremely popular in Thailand. Accompanied by its unique ritual and ceremony, it is an art that demands a high degree of skill and fitness.
Thai Wedding Ceremony
 Witness a traditional Thai wedding ceremony performed according to ancient Thai customs. 
The Monkhood
 In Thailand, young men usually spend a period of time in the Buddhist Monkhood. To mark a young novice's entry into the monk-hood, the Buat Naag ritual consisting of a traditional procession followed by the ordination ceremony is performed.
The Fingernail Dance
 The Fingernail Dance is a graceful dance which originated from the North of Thailand. It is usually performed as a gesture of greeting and welcome.
Bamboo Dance
 Another North Thailand dance, which is usually performed during the the full moon. It requires great skill, practice and timing. Even a small slip can be very painful.
Elephants at Work
see how elephants work in teak forests and you will enjoy riding on them

The Grand Palace in Thailand

The Grand Palace adjoins Wat Phra Kaew in a common compound, and is where you will end up after exiting Wat Phra Kaew. Despite the proximity of the two, there's a distinct contrast in style between the very Thai Wat Phra Kaew and the more European inspired designs of the Grand Palace (the roof being the exception). The Grand Palace is nowadays used only for occasional ceremonial purposes and is no longer the royal residence. The present King Bhumibol (Rama IX) lives in Chitralada Palace (also closed to tourists), which is located not too far away in Bangkok's Dusit district. Though the interior of most of the buildings remain closed to the public
Highlights of it are: 
  * Boromabiman Hall, built by King Rama VI and every king since has lived here at some time. 
  Amarinda Hall, the original residence of King Rama I and the Hall of Justice. Nowadays it's impressive interior is used for ceremonial occasions and coronations. It contains the antique throne, used before the Western style one presently in use. 
  Grand Palace Hall / Chakri Maha Prasat. Visitors are allowed inside the spacious European style reception room. This building has not been used for royal residence since the mysterious death of King Rama VIII (the older brother of the current King), found shot dead in his room in 1946. The reverence for the monarchy in Thailand means that, even today, this remains a completely taboo subject to talk publicly about in Thailand.
  The impressive Dusit Hall, rated as perhaps the finest architectural building in this style. 
  The Museum, which has information on the restoration of the Grand Palace, scale models of the Wat and Palace and numerous Buddha images. Labels are in Thai only, but there are free English tours available frequently. Entrance is 50B. 
The combined compound is open 8.30am to 3.30pm everyday. Cost is 200B (if you are Thai, it's free), and includes admission to Vimanmek Mansion and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, both in the Dusit area of the city, the Coin Museum in the compound, and so-so free guidebook. The entrance to the compound is on Na Phra Lan road, on the north side.
Don't listen to anyone on the street as you try to enter telling you it's closed for a 'Buddhist holiday', 'cleaning' etc, or asking if you want to see the 'Lucky Buddha' instead - it's all part of a sophisticated gem scam.
As Wat Phra Kaew is Thailand's most important temple, you are expected to dress appropriately or risk being turned away. Signs put up around the entrance show you are not permitted to enter wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, singlets or any form of open ended shoes. Sarongs and long trousers are usually available for loan should you forget.
Other attractions easy to reach from here are Wat Pho, Wat Arun, the National Museum, others sights in the Ko Rattanakosin area, and the Banglamphu district.
There's plenty of options for getting to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Ordinary buses 44, 47 and 91 stop on Thaiwang road between Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew. Ordinary buses 1, 25, 44, 47, 82 and 91 also stop on Maharat road, on the west of Wat Phra Kaew. On nearby Sanam Luang, north of Wat Phra Kaew, ordinary buses 3, 15, 30, 32, 43, 44, 59, 64, 70, 80, 123 and 201 all stop, as well as aircon 6, 7, 12, 39 and 44. The Tha Chang river express boat stop is also very near. If you're staying in Banglamphu, it's possible to walk there via Sanam Luang. It's only about a 1 km walk, but involves crossing some large and busy roads which don't have any obvious crossing places.

Floating Market in Thailand

 Although it's known as Bangkok's floating market the Damnoen Saduak floating market is actually about 100 kilometers Southwest of Bangkok in Ratchaburi Province. If, like me, you've seen many pictures of people selling many colorful fruits and vegetables on the open waters of the canals then this has been on your list to see while in Bangkok. Although there are many different floating markets to be seen around Thailand, Damnoen Saduak floating market is the oldest and largest of them.
Unfortunately all those pretty pictures you've seen of Damnoen Saduak floating market are either a marketing ploy or just some tourists way of making themselves feel better after being ripped off at Thailand's largest tourist trap. The truth is 90% of the merchants at the floating market are selling tourist trinkets like carved elephants, Thailand t-shirts, hammocks and of course those straw hats you see the merchants wearing at the market. Most of the merchants are actually on the banks of the canals and the boat drivers get a cut of the sales so they stop at all the souvenir shops. You'll see people selling fruits and vegetables from their boats but they are few in comparison to the trinket traps.
Now, I knew all this going into it and actually the scam starts well before you get to the market but I had other plans. First let me tell you how the scam lays out. Taxi drivers throughout Bangkok have brochures of the floating market and they push it to all the tourists. They will tell you that they will take you there on the meter or off the meter for 800-1000 baht. You might think that's a good deal considering the distance away from Bangkok, and it is.
The taxi drivers make their money from kickbacks. Once they get you to the area they take you to the power boat tour of the Damnoen Saduak floating market where the operators meet you at the taxi and give you a bottle of water before telling you the cost for a 2 hour trip around the market will cost you 3500-4500 baht per person (over $100). At this point they have you. Most likely you know nothing of the market and don't realize there are other boat operators and you've come such a long way to see it so you relent and pay up.
Knowing all this beforehand I decided to go about my trip to Damnoen Saduak floating a different way. One morning while walking through Bangkok a taxi driver gave me the spiel and I told him I knew the deal but I still wanted to go. I needed to go to Pattaya in a few days and I told him I would use him for that trip as well if he could get me a deal, surprisingly he said "ok". He said I could pay the meter or 1000 baht and he would charge me 1400 baht to go to Pattaya. The deal was set and he picked me up 7am the next morning.
You see, I didn't care about the floating market except to get a few of the traditional photographs of the fruit and vegetable merchants selling from their boats. I knew that the two market areas that comprised The Damnoen Saduak floating market were a very small part of the canal system, the larger part is where the people live and that was what I wanted to see...and like a box of crackerjacks there is a prize hidden in the canals, a beautiful temple which very few tourists to the floating market ever get to see.
 After the hour and a half journey to the floating market the taxi driver hooked me up with a power boat owner that would cruise me through the markets then through the residential canals and to the temple located further back. The boat set me back 800 baht but that was a cheap price to see the markets my way without stopping at every souvenir shop along the way.
The two main areas of the floating market were indeed made up of many trinket shops but there were still great photos to be had of the merchants selling from their boats. I'm told that if you can get onto the klongs (canals) before 8am then you will have the best scenery to shoot as that's when the locals are actually paddling around selling to each other and there aren't many tourists around. By 9am the klongs surrounding the markets are heaving with full boats of tourists and you can get quite jostled around by the boats hitting one another in the crowded lanes.
 Once through the market areas We stopped for some coconut soup before heading into the residential area of the canals which were beautiful. You can see the floating market's impact on the surrounding area by the new houses being built, some of them are very nice. All the houses had many flowers planted and the owners seemed very proud. Of course there were some real shacks as well with trash strewn everywhere but they were few and far between.
We then went to the Wat at the end of one canal. The Wat itself was very beautiful but certain areas looked like they needed to be fixed up. I spent over an hour at the Wat complex and was surprised that I was alone the whole time, not one other tourist was to be seen.
All in all it was a great trip for me because I knew what I was in store for. If you find yourself wanting to visit Damnoen Saduak floating market keep in mind a few things. Getting there early is key to getting the best pictures of the market. Plan beforehand how you will be getting to the market, whether it be by hotel tour or taking a taxi ride. The powerboats are expensive but the paddle boats will cost you 100-200 baht per hour. Keep in mind that you will be riding in these boats with other tourists unless you can make a deal and they also won't go much further than the markets due to paddle power.
If you are tight on time and have many of Bangkok's attractions to see then give the floating markets a pass because it isn't worth missing Wat Arun or the Grand Palace. If you still have your heart set on seeing the floating market then make a day trip out of it and visit the famous rose gardens and Tiger Temple as well as they are very close. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia

Sunway Lagoon is strategically located in the township of Bandar Sunway in Petaling Jaya. Spanning 80 acres, the Lagoon draws fun seekers from all over with its reputation as a fascinating land of fun and excitement.
Officially opened on April 29, 1993 by Prime Minister YAB Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Sunway Lagoon is Malaysia's Premier Theme Park and has become the most visited tourist destination in the country.
Sunway Lagoon is separated into 3 major themed lands, each boasting their own exciting attractions. Find entertainment, adventure and excitement all in place. A place where you will bring back more than just memories.
Journey into Malaysia's only African-themed Water Park. Outlast and outplay your friends in the Congo Challenge, a six-lane headfirst racer. Brave the heights and speed of the intense Cameroon Climb or spin around in loops before being propelled out of gigantic tubes on the African Pythons!
Surf’s up at the World’s Largest Man-Made Surf Beach, backed by the World’s Largest Wave Churning Machine - Capable to churn out perfectly shaped waves up to the maximum height of 8 feet! Perhaps an afternoon of body boarding may suit others or play a game of beach volleyball and build sandcastles on the tropical oasis in the heart of the city.
There are also a number of accommodations for tourists, guests, and businessmen. These include the Sunway Hotel Resort and Spa, a 5 star hotel with 441 rooms; the 4 star Pyramid Tower Hotel with 764 rooms, and other luxurious individual attached or non attached buildings compromising 36 more rooms. In total, the hotels have 1234 rooms. A Mandara spa is also available to guests, offering a mixture of Balinese and Malay massages and relaxation therapies.
Sunway Pyramid is a distinctive retail landmark located beside Sunway Lagoon. It was opened in July 1997 as Malaysia's first themed shopping and entertainment mall.
One of the mall's most easily recognised designs is the Egyptian-inspired Pyramid with a lion "standing guard" at the entrance. The rest of the building is embellished in the monumental style, complete with pseudo-hieroglyphics decorating facades, along with numerous Pharonic statuaries.

Sunway Pyramid is also one of the only shopping malls in Malaysia to have an indoor ice skating rink.
The new wing of Sunway Pyramid, called the Pyramid 2 (or P-2), was opened in 2007. It is open to newer retailers such as Jusco, Giant, Harvey Norman and so on. There is also a new section in P-2 called Marrakesh, named after the place in Morocco. Expansion of the parking area to nearly 8 floors makes this place popular with tourists, local and foreign alike. It is also plays host to many exclusive boutiques. 

Langkawi Island in Malaysia

The entrance for the Langkawi cable-car, which takes visitors all the way up to Mount Mat Cincang, Langkawi’s second highest peak,  is located in The Oriental Village in the upper northwest of Langkawi Island, near Pantai Kok. Entering the village and passing through the pleasant oriental garden and souvenir shops, visitors make their payment at a counter before stepping onto an escalator which brings them to the cable-car pedestal.
Once in, the cable-car ascends; you’ll begin to notice the temperature dropping and a windy breeze begin flowing into the cabin through ventilation slits at the top.
Kuah Attractions
Kuah is more of a commercial centre and shopping zone than a tourist-attraction laden quarter of Langkawi Island. The manmade waterfront is muddy and murky and the concrete buildings surrounding the town are stark and unlovely.
Nonetheless Kuah does have its charms and features a few landmark attractions. Without a doubt Dataran Lang – also known as Eagle Square – is Langkawi’s most well-known attraction. You’ll actually be surprised at the beauty of the colossal eagle in flight statue. On the other hand if you’re not keen on spending the afternoon walking around Dataran Lang take a trip to the nearby Lagenda Langkawi Dalam Taman to cool off. Take in the sights of the statues depicting Langkawi’s myths and legends or spend an afternoon admiring the Moorish architecture of the Al-Hana Mosque.
Langkawi Sky Bride
The Langkawi Sky Bridge is located at the ‘end’ of the Cable Car ride. One of the island’s highlights, it is a 410ft-long curved pedestrian bridge above Mount Mat Cinchang. It may sound like a cliché but it is really true – the views from here are simply stunning – great for those Kodak moments! 
Located 2,300ft above sea level, the Sky Bridge is easily accessible by the Langkawi Cable Car. The journey to the top starts out at the Oriental Village in the upper northwest of Langkawi Island, near Pantai Kok. Once the cable car gets going it gets a little chilly as winds flow through the ventilation slits at the top, so put on a sweater beforehand.
Langkawi Island Tours
Discover the magic and enchantment of Langkawi’s legendary past and experience the rich tapestry of its customs and traditions. This tour first takes you on visit of the Atma Alam Batik Art Village – a treasure trove of Batik creations – the unique fabric painting and dyeing technique that is simply every collector’s dream.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Colour of Masjid India in Malaysia

Part - 01
Part - 01

KLCC Twin Towers in Malaysia

Height: 1,483 ft (452 meters)
Owners: Kuala Lumpur City Centre Holdings Sendirian Berhad
Architects: Cesar Pelli & Associates
Engineers: Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers
Contractors: Mayjus and SKJ Joint Ventures
Topping Out: 1998
Official Opening: August 28, 1999

On April 15, 1996, the Council on Tall Buildings named the Petronas Towers the tallest in the world, passing the torch to a new continent. Although the project's developers, a consortium of private investors in association with the Malaysian government and Petronas, the national oil company, had not originally set out to surpass Chicago's Sears Tower, they did aspire to construct a monument announcing Kuala Lumpur's prominence as a commercial and cultural capital. In the design of American architect Cesar Pelli they found a winning scheme--twin towers of elegant proportions with a slenderness ratio (height to width) of 9.4--that would capture not only the title but the public imagination. 
Pelli's design answered the developer's call to express the 'culture and heritage of Malaysia' by evoking Islamic arabesques and employing repetitive geometries characteristic of Muslim architecture. In plan, an 8-point star formed by intersecting squares is an obvious reference to Islamic design; curved and pointed bays create a scalloped facade that suggests temple towers. The identical towers are linked by a bridge at the 41st floor, creating a dramatic gateway to the city. 
The structure is high-strength concrete, a material familiar to Asian contractors and twice as effective as steel in sway reduction. Supported by 75-by-75-foot concrete cores and an outer ring of widely-spaced super columns, the towers showcase a sophisticated structural system that accommodates its slender profile and provides from 14,000 to 22,000 square feet of column-free office space per floo 
Other features include a curtain wall of glass and stainless steel sun shades to diffuse the intense equatorial light; a double-decker elevator system with a sky lobby transfer point on the 41st floor to accommodate the thousands of people who use the complex daily; and a mixed-use base featuring a concert hall and shopping center enveloped by nearly seventy acres of public parks and plazas. 
In both engineering and design, the Petronas Towers succeed at acknowledging Malaysia's past and future, embracing the country's heritage while proclaiming its modernization. The end result, says Pelli, is a monument that is not specifically Malaysian, but will forever be identified with Kuala Lumpur. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Batu Caves Temple in Malaysia

Batu Caves, the biggest venue of the Thaipusam celebrations in Malaysia, is one of the major tourist attractions in Selangor. Located 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves is another of several places in Malaysia whose name is a combination of words in Malay and English with related meanings. Batu means stone in Malay, so Batu Caves could well mean stone caves. Other similar combination in place names includes Muka Head. I have visited Batu Caves several times, and most recently I explored it once more with my fiancée Chooi Yoke, when we were documenting the sights in Selangor for AsiaExplorers.
Batu Caves were first discovered by an American explorer by the name of William Hornaby in 1891. Ten years later, the local Indians persuaded the British authorities to allow them to use the caves as a Hindu place of worship. A shrine was built in honor of the deity Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam. In later years, another shrine was added, dedicated to the elephant-head deity Ganesh.
The main cavern of Batu Caves is also known as the Cathedral Cave, due to the height of its ceiling. This main cavern is reached by a steep flight of steps that total 272. Until the completion of the new Balathandayuthapani temple building in Penang, this is the longest flight of steps of any Hindu temples in the country. From the top of the steps, one can get a good view of the northern part of Kuala Lumpur. About 2/3 of the way up the steps is a path leading to Dark Cave, which has narrow passages full of bats. 
Batu Caves are busiest during Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated during full moon in the month of Thai, which falls roughly between mid-January to mid-February. This is when devotees ascend Batu Caves carrying kavadi (meaning "burdens") as a form of penance.
Batu Caves, the most famous cave temple in Malaysia.
How to go to Batu Caves
Batu Caves is located about 13 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur. From Kuala Lumpur, take Jalan Kuching followed by Jalan Ipoh, all the way to the MRR (Middle Ring Road), where you turn right. Batu Caves is just a short distance from the intersection of Jalan Ipoh and MRR.
If you are coming from the north, ie Penang, exit the North-South Expressway at the Sungai Buluh Interchange (Exit 113) and head east on the MRR. Continue along the MRR until you see the huge statue of Murugan in front of Batu Caves, and prepare to exit the elevated MRR.
Batu Caves Photo Album

Archway into the Batu Caves Hindu Temple.
The shrine at the foot of the steps.
Statue of the Hindu deity Murugan.
View up the 272 steps of Batu Caves.
Entrance into Batu Caves at the top of the 272 steps.
A statue of a deity in one of the niches on the wall of the cave.
Entering the main cavern of Batu Caves.
Looking back from inside Batu Caves.
Looking down from the second flight of steps.

The innermost sanctuary at Batu Caves.
Entrance to Dark Caves, where caving expedition can be done.