End of the Month Roundup - March 2013

Time indeed moves very quickly. The month of March has ended and the first quarter of 2013 is gone. Nine months more and we'll be welcoming 2014. Aside from the end of first quarter, March is also the month when I ended my 6-month stay in Thailand. I posted my farewell to this beautiful country before the Holy Week began.

Some of you might have noticed that I didn't posted anything during the Holy Week. I also failed to visit other blogs. I even went missing-in-action (MIA) in Facebook. The reason is that I was overwhelmed with my work loads in the office. I also had a difficulty adjusting to my old-new environment. I had no choice but to take a rest from blogging during the Holy Week.

I am glad to report that I enjoyed a long rest during the Holy Week. I didn't went to vacation, though, because I want my Holy Week to be spent with my love ones.

There are so many things that occurred during the month of March. I managed to visit some interesting places during my remaining days in Thailand. I managed to visit the Grand Palace and saw the much revered Emerald Buddha. I also joined a trip to towns located in northern Thailand, which gave me the chance to reach the Thai boundary with Myanmar. I also visited Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, which are the old capitals of the Kingdom of Siam. I assure you will enjoy my posts about these travels. So, please watch out for them.

It seems that I already said a lot of things (4 paragraphs!). So, without further ado, I begin the roundup for March.

I only posted about my [mis]adventures to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary this month. I started with our stop over at a Buddhist temple, which coincidentally is the very first Buddhist that I visited.

Wat Promraungsri in Thailand

This is Wat Promraungsri built by a Thai celebrity in honor of a Buddhist monk, who lived around 150 years ago.

I enjoyed our visit to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary. I saw many animals like the deer, some wild dogs and few birds. The animal that I were so attached to during my visit is the leech.

Leech in Phukhieo Wildlife Sancrtuary, Thailand

I also got the chance to see a big skull of an elephant complete with its tusks!

I'm a little disappointed with our Phukhieo trip because our travel time is longer that our actual stay at the place. Our bird watching is a failure because the birds of Phukhieo hid themselves from us. My disappointment was gone, however, when I saw Phukhieo's giant tree.

Giant tree of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand

The trip also had two bonuses because it gave me the opportunity to visit the Chulabhorn Dam and the winery of Vin de Ray.

Giant bottles at Vin de Ray winery, Thailand

So, these are my posts during March. I am slowly laying out my adventures in Thailand. So, expect more Thai adventure posts in April, May, June and even July. I only hope that you will not be satiated with my Thai adventures.

End of the Month Roundup is the monthly segment of this blog that summarizes all the adventures that I featured for the month.

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La-kawn Sawatdee Siam

Last Tuesday  the whole office gathered for a send-off ceremony for me and a Mongolian office mate. Our bosses gave us our certificates and of course we gave our little speeches. I realized that day that I'm really leaving Thailand. That my days here in Siam are numbered.

And now I come to this day – my last full day of stay here in Thailand. Tomorrow I'll be going to the airport, ride a plane and look at Thailand from the air for the last time. Tomorrow, I will say “la-kawn sawatdee Siam” (farewell Siam).

Letter of farewell

My 6 months stay in Thailand passed very quick. I can still remember my first day here, my first meet-up with my office mates, my first nasty experience of tasting super-spicy Thai food, my first attempt to cook, the joy of finally learning how to bike, my first drinking session with my kababayans in the Filipino community...such memories, such sweet memories!

I wrote in my final report that I learned many things that will be of great benefit for my career. Frankly, that is just half of the story because I didn't wrote the other things that I learned.

My 6-months stay in Thailand taught me the highs and lows of living alone outside of my country. I felt like an exile in a land of foreign tongues and alien food. I felt the loneliness that most Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) feel. It is sad to celebrate New Year and other special occasions away from my love ones.

My companion in Thailand: Teddy Bear
My only companion: the Teddy Bear that my Beloved asked me to bring to Thailand.

I met a lot of people of different races. I met Thais, Indians, Bangladeshis, Burmese, Vietnamese, Italian, Spaniard, and many more. This exposure taught me how to deal with other people of various cultural backgrounds. I learned that a smile is the best tool in establishing friendship with other people. Human beings, no matter what their backgrounds are, understand that a smile is a welcoming gesture.

Flowers given to me by a Catholic sister
A gesture of friendship. Flowers given to me by a Thai lady, who is actually a Catholic sister.

The best part of my stay in Thailand is my travels. I am thankful for generous friends who invited me to join their travels. I'm sure that without their help I may not be able to travel places located far away from Bangkok.

I will give you a hint that the travels that I already posted here on this blog are less than 50% of my travels to the many places that I visited in Thailand.

Sunset in Thailand
A preview of my future posts: hitting the beach.

Will I be able to visit Thailand again? I have no sure answer for that. My opportunity to visit Thailand is unplanned because it came to me as a surprise. Maybe my next visit to this country will come as a surprise as well.

I say it once again: “la-kawn sawatdee Siam!”


The first image was obtained from a blog named, Life's About Experiences...Let's Share Them!

Final Stopover at Vin de Ray Winery

The sun is setting and I'm exhausted because of our very long travel from Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary. Our driver wanted to get home fast so he just gave us few stopovers along the way. The result is my butt and back hurt so much because of too much sitting.

My travel companions, exhausted as we all were, still had little energy left for more adventure. Thus, our group leader decided to bring us to the final stopover at the winery of Vin de Ray.

I was surprised that a vineyard exists in Thailand. Whenever I hear of winery and vineyard, I always think of grape farms of Italy. The presence of a vineyard in tropical Asia is a remote possibility for me. Well, I'm glad that I'm wrong.

Statue of Mae Phra Thorani in Vin de Ray winery

The first thing that welcomed me in Vin de Ray winery is a statue of a lady twisting her hair. This lady is a goddess of Buddhist myth named as Mae Phra Thorani. She is the goddess of the earth and the water pouring from her hair drowned the demons attacking Buddha.

Many Thais place images of Mae Phra Thorani at their homes to call forth the bounty of the earth. I guess that the placing of her statue in Vin de Ray is intentional because vineyards depend very much in the richness of the soil. The  winery owner is calling upon this goddess to take care of his vineyard.

Vin de Ray farm

Large “bottles” of wine can be seen from afar. This place is truly a winery and a vineyard.

Giant bottles of Vin de Ray winery

According to Andreas Hörstemeier, a blogger living in Thailand, Vin de Ray is owned by a TV personality. It is the second time I visited a place built by a Thai celebrity. The first is the Wat Promraungsri, which we visited while traveling to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.

Grapevines of Vin de Ray winery

It was my first time to see grapevines. Too bad that there is no grapefruit yet.

There are other things that the visitors inside Vin de Ray vineyard can do aside from taking photos with the giant “bottles” and grapevines. There are motorquads that can be rented for 100 Baht per hour.

Motorquad in Vin de Ray winery

Some of my travel companions rented the motorquads and zoomed around the vineyard. I just stayed on foot and watched them go because I don't know how to drive a motorquad.

I just discovered in the Internet that Vin de Ray vineyard has spotted deer. They are bred for their meat. Too bad that we didn't know of their existence. I would've photographed them if I just knew.

Vin de Ray vineyard also has a shop for those who want to buy wine, grape juice, raisins and other products made from grapes. Andreas said that the red wine has same quality as the European ones, “at least for the taste of a casual wine drinker”.

Vin de Ray shop
Vin de Ray shop.

There are other items that are for sale like sweets, souvenir items, vegetables and chicharon.

Items for sale in Vin de Ray winery
Vin de Ray products for sale.

I didn't bought any item from the shop because I'm such a “penny pincher”.

We still had miles to go before reaching home. So, we hit the road again after my travel companions bought all the items that they want from Vin de Ray winery.


Info about Mae Phra Thorani came from Wikipedia.

Some info about Vin de Ray winery came from  Andreas Hörstemeier's blog, My Unseen Thailand.

Inside the Forest of Phukhieo

I had no experience in entering a thick forest prior to my visit to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary. I actually live on the top of the mountain in a province near Metro Manila but the forest is gone. The trees were cut down for the sake of “development”.

Entering the forest is the last activity that we did in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary. The forest trail is about 3 kilometers long and passes through different features inside the forest. One of those features is the site where the smelly rafflesia flowers grow.

Trail map for Phukhieo Wildlife Park

Unfortunately, we had little time left for our stay in the wildlife sanctuary. Our group decided to just enter the forest and look at one the gigantic trees of Phukhieo, which is just a short walk away from the road.

People walking inside the forest of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

One of our rangers lead the way. Other rangers also joined our group to ensure our safety. Wild dogs and other ferocious animals still inhabit the forest, so we needed their protection.

Forest of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

I was in awe when I entered Phukhieo's forest. Being inside the forest is very different than merely watching about it in an environmental TV show. Inside the forest, the sunlight is blocked by trees and the view is obstructed by vegetation. Anyone can get lost easily inside a thick forest such as this.

Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary is a very cool place. I woke up in our room that is so cold as if somebody left the air conditioner at very low temperature. I also had to take a bath using nearly-freezing water. This cool weather of the wildlife sanctuary is perfect for those who want to escape the heat of the lowlands. Unfortunately, this cool weather is also perfect for that bloodsucking menace, the LEECH.

I suddenly felt something cold crawling up my left foot. I panicked and shook my feet frantically. This is the thing that fell off my pants:

Leech in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Zooming in

Another photo of leech inside Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

This leech smelled our blood. I bet the leeches are following our group so they can feed on us.

I was so preoccupied with the leech that I lost the people in front of me.

Thick vegetation inside Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary
Oh no!

I'm glad that the trail is clear enough to follow. I walked a little more and then I saw the most amazing sight  in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.

Giant tree of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

So far, this is the tallest tree that I saw in my lifetime! It is so high that I can't see the top.

Big tree of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

The base of the tree is wide that around five people are needed to fully “hug” this tree.

We linger a little time beside the giant tree until we felt that leeches are creeping up our legs. We ran as fast us we could to reach the safety of the road. I immediately checked my feet the moment I went out of the forest.

A leech of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary sucking my blood

One way to remove the leech is by sprinkling salt on it. However, we didn't have salt so the alternative is by rubbing tobacco from cigarette. The leech got irritated so it left me in peace.

Wound made by the leech of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

The wound left by the leech was bleeding so I had no choice but to cover it with tissue and cloth.

I am more fortunate because only one leech was sucking my blood. Other people in our group had three or more bloodsuckers on their legs.

The experience with the leeches dampened our group's desire for more adventures inside Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary. So, we packed our bags and hit the road again. Our destination, this time, is home.

A Disappointing Day in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

I had a feeling that my trip to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary will not satisfy my expectations. The second (and last) day in Phukhieo proved just that. I traveled for 10 hours just to be disappointed.

I woke up early that day to do some bird watching. Our group is ready and many brought their cameras so as to capture some rare birds in photo. Our guide, meanwhile, had his weapon: the telescope.

Telescope in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

The road is still foggy when we started our journey.

Foggy road in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Walking in the middle of the forest is indeed refreshing. The air is fresh and the weather is cool. Too bad that my intention here is not walk but to see some birds.

Sadly, what we only saw are just bulbuls and grass.

Grass in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary
Yep, this is grass. The birds are hiding.

Where are the birds? I  don't know if they're hiding or they just hate our group. Maybe the birds were in the other parts of the wildlife sanctuary.

A deer in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

A deer showed up to steal the show from the birds. I wonder what this deer tastes like.

Our guide brought us to the top f a hill. I was surprised to see a beautiful house in the middle of the forest.

Royal house in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

This house was made for the Queen of Thailand. I'm not sure if the royal family already visited Phukhieo. Maybe the park authorities built it just in case the king, the queen or any of the princes or princesses showed up.

The Queen's Palace is not the only house in the area. Located at the back are houses and rooms made for the officers and servants that accompany the Thai royal family in their travels.

View from Queen's Palace, Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary
View from the Queen's palace.

The view from the Queen's palace shows the wide expanse of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.

I had the feeling that my time was wasted that morning because the birds hid from us. Frankly, I've seen more birds in Bangkok than in this wildlife sanctuary.

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Short Stop at Chulabhorn Dam

Chulabhorn Dam is a big dam located in the vicinity of Phukhieo Wildilife Park. Our group made short stop on the top of this dam before we actually went to the wildlife sanctuary. And yes, I admit, that I didn't not posted in chronological order. 

Impounded water behind Chulabhorn Dam

Chulabhorn Dam was named after the youngest daughter of the current Thai King. The purpose of this dam is to generate electricity and provide water for irrigation.

We did nothing much on this dam but to marvel at its size and take photos.

I noticed that the other side of the dam has little water. It seems like the dam greedily took all the water. This situation is not good for those people downstream who need continuous supply of water for their crops.

Downstream of Chulabhorn Dam
The other side of Chulabhorn Dam.

Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the “dry side” of the Chulabhorn Dam. Fortunately, the wildlife sanctuary has other source of water other than the river. If not then the animals in the forest will fight each other for water.

Road on Chulabhorn Dam

Chulabhorn Dam is quite big that it also serves as bridge for people and vehicles who want to cross the river.

Our groups photo taking was over so we hit the road again to finally go to our destination: Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.

On the Way to Phukhieo Wildife Sanctuary

I mentioned in the previous post that we took a stopover at a big wat somewhere north of Bangkok. Who are those “we”? Well, obviously I'm not Multiple Man so I can't make copies of me. I joined a tour to one of wildlife parks of Thailand. Our destination is Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.

Welcome sign of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

The trip to Phukhieo is the longest land trip of my life! I'm not exaggerating when I say that my butt hurt most of the duration of the trip. Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary is miles and miles away from Bangkok.

Road to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary
Are we there yet?

Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Chaiyaphum Province, which is about 280 km northeast of Bangkok. The province is divided into two by the Phetchabun Mountain Range*. The place is highly forested that's why there are many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in this province.

We rented two vans for this trip since our group consists of around 20 people. We started our travel around 7 AM and we reached Phukhieo around 5 PM! Very long trip right? Well, stopovers are included in the travel time.

Road to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary
Still on the road.

Sitting inside the van for the whole day is boring. Me and my seatmates killed time by talking, sleeping, talking, munching biscuits, etc. We even made fun of those who are sleeping (he he he). Our group became excited when saw welcome sign of Phukhieo and some rhinoceros.

Statue of rhinoceros at Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

The travel to the main area of the wildlife sanctuary still took around an hour.

Road inside Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary
Almost there...

We are so happy and relieved the moment we reach the office of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary in the middle of the forest. But before we went to our rooms, the staff of Phukhieo invited us for a short introduction of the wildlife sanctuary inside their office.

All of my tiredness due to long travel was gone the moment I saw the big skull of an elephant.

Giant elephant skull in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

The skull is very big! Its tusk is longer than my arm. How I wish I can take this back home and display it at the front yard of our house.

One of the park rangers told us many things about Phukhieo. Were gathered around the big scale model of the wildlife sanctuary.

Scaled model of Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Aside from the skull, I also discovered some remains from pandas.

Fossils of pandas in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

I didn't know that pandas once roamed Thailand. Now they're all gone in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary. Maybe the reason that they're not here is because bamboo tastes better in China.

After the short introduction, we we went to the guest house...

and took a short rest in our room.

Our room in Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary

I will talk about our adventures in Phukhieo so stay tuned to my future posts. 


*Chaiyaphum Province page of Wikipedia.

My Very First Visit to a Buddhist Temple

There are plenty of Buddhist temples in the Chinatown of Binondo but I never dared to enter one because I'm not a Buddhist. Meanwhile, in Cebu I visited a Taoist temple, which I think has lots of similarities with Buddhism. Thus, entering a Buddhist temple here in Thailand is novelty for me.

Buddhism is the major religion here in Thailand. About 95% of the population are Buddhists*. Images of Buddha and other famous monks are everywhere. They can be found in front of houses, public places, and even hanging as necklaces of the Thais. Due to this, Buddhist temples can be found everywhere.

I am not thrilled or motivated to visit any wat (Thai word for temple). But, as they say, a visit to Thailand will never be complete if you haven't entered at least one wat. So, one day, during a trip to a nature park north of Bangkok, I found myself within the grounds of a big wat.

Temple in honor of the monk named Promraungsri

The place is truly big. The grounds is covered with grass and well-cared garden. There is also a big eatery, which just shows that this wat has many devotees.

I didn't record the name of this wat because it is written in Thai letters. I also have no idea where this wat is located. Thankfully, members of the Thailand Photo community in Google+ supplied the info that I need.

According to Bengt Johansen, this wat was established by a famous Thai actor to honor Promraungsri, who is a monk who lived 150 years ago.

Wat Promraungsri

What's impressing with the Thai people is their generosity for their religion. They have no qualms giving golds or precious items to the their temples. Thus, their temples are adorned with gold or other precious items.

A Buddhist friend told me that they believe that offering more to their Buddha brings more luck or good fortune. Thus, they don't worry to give gold to their monks because they are sure that they will receive twofold or threefold of what they gave.

Many people going to Wat Promsaungsri

It was a weekend during our visit to the wat and the place is a little crowded by devotees. Many of them came to this temple by busloads. What they went to see is the big statue of Promraungsri within the temple.

A peek inside Wat Promraungsri

We ended our short stopover and once again hit the road for our very long trip to Pukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.


*Info on percent population of Buddhist obtained from Thailand page of Wikipedia.