BANGKOK TOUR: Bang Pa-In Summer Palace and Private Boat Ride

When my sisters and I planned our trip with mom to Bangkok, we aimed to know more about and experience the country’s culture. After much research on various options for tours, we decided to avail a private tour guide for the temples at Ayutthaya. We chose this over a DIY/Shared tour because of the timing and convenience.

In this post, I’ll be sharing about the temples that we visited and some of the things that I appreciated throughout our tour.

OUR TOUR GUIDE: Ms. Pookie from www.thaitourguide.com

INCLUSIONS:
With Private Minivan 9,300 Baht for 4 persons
+Private tour as indicated in itinerary
+Pick-up and drop-off at the hostel
+Private qualified and experienced english speaking tour guide
+All admission fees as indicated in itinerary
+All transfers and taxes

Our meet-up with Ms. Pookie was scheduled at 10 am. But because of our delayed flight, we met her a few minutes before 11 am. Thankfully, she still enthusiastically welcomed us and proceeded with the tour. Because our hostel was about two hours away from Ayutthaya, our tour guide took advantage of the travel time to brief us about Thailand, Bangkok, its history and culture even before we arrived at Ayutthaya.

FIRST STOP: Bang Pa-In Summer Palace

This place was huge. I can’t even begin to describe how many mansions, lakes, and parks I’ve seen inside it. Ms. Pookie patiently toured us around the place for two hours under the heat of the sun. She shared stories about the royal family, historical events in Thailand, the people’s freedom, and the backgrounds on each area inside the compound.

It was very interesting to see how the Royal family lived and how the King had a great impact on the countrymen. Another interesting part of their culture is the way they show respect in their temples. Before we could go inside their temples and some of the royal family’s houses, we needed to remove our shoes and wear conservative clothes first.

Inside the Summer Palace, we also saw different structures that were influenced by other people such as the English and Chinese allies of Thailand. Another observation that I noticed was that the palace was filled with photogenic places, including lakes that show beautiful reflections of the houses and temples.

Also, going around the Summer palace can be done by foot or by riding a golf cart (with additional charge).

SECOND STOP: Private Long-Tail Boat around the historic ruined city (where Wat Chaiwatthanaram can be seen)

It was a lovely 20-minute boat ride where we witnessed the livelihood of the people near the ruined city. Most of them were fishing huge catfish and were doing their laundry in the river. A lot of the houses beside the river also had a Thai-inspired design. It was also a good thing that the river didn’t smell bad, so cruising along it was a breath of fresh air after a hot tour in the city.

(Part 2 of the itinerary can be seen HERE.)

BOHOL TOUR: Loboc Man-made Forest and Chocolate Hills

In my previous blog post, I shared about the start of our day tour in Bohol where we visited the Bohol Bee Farm and the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.

Here, I’ll be sharing about the second half of our trip. :)

 

MAN-MADE FOREST 

Before going to the chocolate hills, we passed by a zigzag road covered with beautiful, towering Mahogany trees. According to our driver, these trees were planted many years ago for the purpose of rebuilding forests in the land. They needed to do so because the people of Bohol used to clear lands before by slashing and burning trees.

Now, the trees have grown tall and have occupied a stretch of two kilometers. There are no parking areas nearby, so if you’re bringing your car or a motorbike and you want to have your pictures taken in the middle of the road (which is commonly done by most tourists), then be sure to quickly park at the side of the road and carefully document the experience. It was fun and thrilling to alternately stand in the middle of the road and sprint a second after the picture is taken. Haha!

 

CHOCOLATE HILLS

Finally, our last stop for the day: one of the places that I’ve read about in our history books back in gradeschool. The lovely chocolate hills! Okay, so they weren’t brown when we visited because of the recent rainy weather. But, it was still an amazing moment to finally see them with my own eyes. It reminded me of God’s greatness! Only He can create such beautiful sceneries.

In order for us to have a nice view of the hills, we needed to pay an entrance fee of Php 50 and climb 214 steps on a steep stairway. We weren’t prepared for that, but we just laughed along the way, as we did our best to catch our breath and reach the top. Unfortunately, because we needed to catch our ferry ride at 6 pm, we weren’t able to ride the ATVs near the chocolate hills anymore. If I can still squeeze this in our itinerary next time, I would love to ride one!

 

 

So, there you have it! The Bohol Bee Farm, the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, Man-made Forest in Loboc, and the Chocolate Hills. Four stops in seven hours! Not bad, I guess. Haha. If you’re planning to do a daytrip in Bohol, I would strongly suggest that you join a group tour or rent your own car/driver. Most of the tourist spots can’t be accessed by public transportation. Also, taking uber or taxi rides will be very difficult too since one destination is far from another, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

On our way back to the port at Tagbilaran, we thanked our driver for his assistance and we took time to rest before our 2-hour ferry ride to Cebu. I highly recommend our driver, kuya Joseph. If you want to hire him for your tour in Bohol, let me know so I can give his contact number to you.

It was a tiring trip because we didn’t have much sleep the night before. But, being able to tour around Bohol was such a refreshing treat for my friend and I. I can’t wait to go back and experiences the beaches next time!

Daghang salamat, Bohol! (Thank you very much, Bohol!)

*Go Pro photos c/o Zee*

BOHOL TOUR: Bee Farm and Tarsier Sanctuary

“I’m glad we went to Bohol.” This was what Zee and I told each other when we were on our way back to Cebu. By God’s grace, He protected us from harm and He provided what we needed during our day trip in the beautiful province of Bohol. Whew!

We stayed in Cebu last weekend, but since Bohol was just a 2-hour ferry ride away, we decided to drop by for a day. We were only able to visit the tourist spots in the countryside. Next time, we’ll be back for the beaches!

Our total cost per person for a day trip in Bohol’s countryside is Php 2,960. (Of course, this cost will go down if you’ll be traveling in bigger groups.)

BREAKDOWN IN PESO:

1,125 – Rental fee for a car and driver (personalized tour)
900 – Roundtrip for a ferry ride (1 non-airconditioned and 1 airconditioned)
45 – Terminal fees for the port (roundtrip)
60- Fee for the 30-minute tour at the Bee Farm
450- Lunch with shake or dessert at the Bohol Bee Farm’s restaurant
60 – Entrance Fee for the tour at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
50 – Entrance Fee for the Chocolate Hills

Our driver for the trip, kuya Joseph, was awesome! He prepare a printed sign for us and he welcomed us at the port. He also made us feel relaxed and comfortable during the whole trip. Moreover, he exerted effort in taking our pictures and even stopping the car every now and then so we could take photos of the signs and sceneries. He also did his best to carefully drive fast, so we could squeeze in as much activities as possible.

Next time, we’ll try to book an earlier flight so we can make it to the first ferry trip (6 am) to Bohol. Or, we could just fly straight to Bohol! Haha!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our day tour in Bohol!

Here are some of the sights that we visited:

BOHOL BEE FARM

One word to describe my experience at Bohol’s Bee Farm? SURREAL. After our ferry ride from Cebu port to Tagbilaran port (Bohol), it was refreshing to stop over at the Bee Farm and Restaurant first. We got there at around 12 noon, just in time for lunch. The 30-minute tour around the farm was scheduled at 1 pm, so Zee and I decided to walk around, take photos, rest, and eat lunch at their restaurant while waiting.

I felt very much at home because of the environment! There was an area where organic plants were being grown and the place had a calm atmosphere. You could only hear the silent conversations, soft summer music, hustling of leaves, and the sound of the waves softly splashing on the shore. The dining area of the restaurant had the perfect view of the beach. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to see the beach on our trip to Bohol because I knew that we only had time for the countryside tourist spots. So, seeing the lovely view of the clear blue sky and sea really made my heart melt.

For lunch, Zee ordered spareribs while I ordered honey roasted chicken. Both dishes came with red rice and organic garden salad. We also had mango-based fruit shakes.

After our delicious lunch, we went back to the lobby to meet our tour guide. Our 30-minute tour started at the garden patch where our guide explained the different herbs and edible plants they were growing. We then proceeded to walk around the production areas for some of their palm tree products, homemade ice cream (with honey as its only sweetener), green tea made from Ashitaba leaves, cabcab honey chips, and cassava ice cream cones.

The last stop of our tour was the home of the bees. Our tour guide gave some facts about bees and casually joked about how he wanted us (his participants) to also get stung by a bee. I guess he was trying to make the experience fun and light? But, to our surprise, it did happen! I got stung by a bee!! That moment was definitely the highlight of my surreal experience in the farm.

 

Before leaving the place, Zee and I tried their homemade creamy avocado ice cream on their homemade cone. It certainly helped me calm down a bit after the incident. Haha!

Overall, the experience was great! I would love to try more dishes at their restaurant and more ice cream flavors next time.

PHILIPPINE TARSIER SANCTUARY

Our next stop was at the official sanctuary of tarsiers in Bohol. We met the “Tarsier Man” of Bohol, Carlito Pizarras. He was very instrumental in developing a conservation program for the tarsiers. Throughout the tour, we learned that the female tarsiers only produce one offspring every six months. Unfortunately, not all of those offsprings reach their maturity or survive. This is why the sanctuary helps create awareness about the dwindling number of tarsiers in the country.

We saw seven tarsiers clinging on to different trees and branches as we walked along the trails inside the sanctuary. Their curved bodies were only 4-5 inches long. One of the instructions that they gave us before the tour was to avoid making loud noises, touching the tarsiers, moving the branches, or taking photos using flashes.

Since tarsiers are noctural animals, they don’t want to be disturbed during day time. The tour guide even explained that when the tarsiers become stressed, they eventually commit suicide by not eating for days or jumping off of a tree. It is a sad reality. So, we did our best not to make them feel stressed while we were there.

They look so adorable! I hope they can still produce more offsprings!

This ends the first part of our day trip in Bohol. In my next blog post, I’ll be sharing about a childhood dream fulfilled! After decades of knowing about it, I finally saw one of the famous landmarks in our country!

Sunsets in Iba, Zambales

“Sunset addict”. This was the term that my colleagues used to describe me while I was sharing about my recent trip to Zambales. Oh, yes! Sunsets do have a special place in my heart. In fact, one of the major reasons why I wanted to go to the beach last weekend was because of the sunset view. For a change, I hoped to watch the sky’s color change without any silhouettes of buildings. Thankfully, I did have the privilege of watching the sunsets two nights in a row while I was walking around barefoot on fine sand. Oh how I wish I could do it again this week.

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GLOOMY SUNSETS ARE BEAUTIFUL AFTER ALL

At around 5 in the afternoon, we were welcomed by rainshowers when we arrived in Zambales. The idea of capturing photographs of a lovely sunset seemed impossible at that time. The sky was white and gray, the rain kept on falling, and the strong winds continued to linger in the area. However, despite the gloomy situation, I still saw a hint of orange in the sky and that gave me hope. Haha. So, I positioned my phone on top of a ledge so I could document a time-lapse of the sunset.  Eventually, after 15-20 minutes, the rain stopped. Without any hesitation, I headed towards the beach and waited for the sun to set.

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What happened in the next hour was just bliss. Because of the gloomy weather, the sunset that afternoon had cool tones. It played with cool shades of blue and pink. While the sun was setting, I made the most out of my stay at the beach by taking as much photographs as I can. What made the experience more interesting was that a random dog who was strolling around the beach decided to hangout near me. It was the perfect subject for the photographs I took! Also, there were some locals and a boat a few meters away from me which became awesome silhouettes in the photos.

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Aaaaahhh!! Everything about that night at the beach was just lovely. When it was already dark, I went back to the resort and stopped the time-lapse that I was recording. It was my first time to record a time-lapse of a sunset and I was very much pleased with the outcome. Although it only had two main colors (blue and pink), I loved how the video showed the movement of clouds through time. You can watch it here:

 

After watching the sunset on our first evening at the beach, you could just imagine how excited I was to have another photoshoot the next day!

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THE MULTI-COLORED SUNSET

On the second day of our Zambales trip, I knew that I had to prepare well for my sunset photoshoot because we were only staying in Zambales for three days and two nights. As the hours passed by, I noticed how perfect the weather was! Not even a hint of rain was seen or felt. It was just splendid. However, when it was around 3 in the afternoon, our parents and their friends spontaneously decided to visit a zoo in Zambales.

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Although I liked the idea of going to the zoo, I was a bit hesitant because we might not make it back in time for the sunset. I was starting to worry about it when I was reminded of the sunset experience that I had the night before. Somehow, God encouraged my heart to be grateful for the first sunset instead and to enjoy our time with my family and friends at the zoo, whether or not we make it back in time.

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So, I told God that it would be okay with me even if He doesn’t allow me to see and capture the sunset that afternoon. By God’s grace, I enjoyed our trip to the zoo and was able to take photographs of unique and funny animals as well. It was also in the zoo where I saw cotton trees and cotton pods for the very first time. So amazing! After hours of going around the zoo, we headed back to the resort and arrived at around 5:30 pm. Can you believe it? Just in time for the sunset at 6:30 pm! Woohoo! What a bonus!

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I had a good feeling about the sunset that night because there still wasn’t any hint of rain. So, again, I positioned my phone on a ledge to document the sunset and then, I headed towards the beach to watch and take photos of the sunset.

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I stayed at the beach from 6 pm to 7:15 pm and I will never forget what happened during that time. For one and a half hours, I think I saw 10 kinds of “filters” in the sky. The sunset that evening was CRAZY! The sky displayed numerous hues and colors that played around white, gray, yellow, orange, pink, red, blue, and purple. I remember saying “Oh, man!” and “Wow!” after almost every shot that I took. I was only expecting the usual orange sunset, but God exceeded my expectations and even my imagination! I didn’t mind walking alone on the beach with my camera. It was just a special moment for me. It also reminded me of Ephesians 3:20.

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MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE

While I was standing on the sand and marveling at the beauty of God’s masterpiece, I remembered what happened earlier that day. What if I made such a big fuss about going to the zoo and possibly missing the sunset? Then, I wouldn’t have been able to sincerely enjoy looking at the animals and bonding with my family and our friends. I guess, in a way, God used the multi-colored sunset that evening to wake me up and remind me that He is BIGGER than any concern, issue, doubt, or fear that I have in life. I didn’t even imagine seeing more than 2 colors in the sunset that night, but God went all out and gave me the privilege of documenting a time-lapse of one of the most beautiful sunset experiences I’ve had in my life.

 

A flurry of questions entered my mind as I walked back to the resort. I felt God ask me the ff.: “Nicole, do you still believe in the worries, lies, and doubts in your mind? Don’t you know that I AM WHO I AM? That I am able? That I make things new? That the skies obey Me when I tell them to change colors? That I am more than able to provide for your needs? That I know the deepest and hidden desires of your heart? That I made you and have a special purpose for you? That I love you more… more than you can ever imagine?”

And just like that, my heart melted again. How can I not get addicted to sunsets when they constantly remind me of God’s greatness, goodness, and grace? Ahh yes, here’s to a million more sunsets with You, Lord.

Oh, and by the way… The minute I got back to the resort, it started to drizzle. :)

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