Tag Archives: Palaces

From a Grand Palace to Grand Reptiles in Bangkok

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is the very definition of opulence. It has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782 and is only partially open to the public as a museum, since it still houses several royal offices. The large complex also features other buildings and pavilions, including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Everywhere you turn, you see some amazing building or detail, it’s almost overwhelming. Everywhere you turn, you also see droves of fellow tourists … and their parasols.

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Seriously,though, what an incredible place. Again, you have to cover up before going in. If you don’t have a wrap, they provide you an outfit.

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Southeast Asia Vacation Part 2: Bangkok’s Ornate Temples & Bustling Streets

Bangkok, Thailand, seems to be a popular destination among people who travel to Southeast Asia. Personally, I think we could’ve skipped it. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun there or that the city doesn’t have anything worthwhile to offer, but we could’ve happily gone without a big-city experience during our vacation.

We were surprised during the drive to our hotel to see such a sprawling city with so many high-rises and skyscrapers — wow! I’d argue there are way more high-rises in Bangkok than in L.A. We also spotted numerous mosques and halal-friendly hotels and buildings, which was a first for us (we’d never seen entire hotels with a golden dome on top).

From humongous billboards along the highway and super luxurious shopping malls to crowded markets and dilapidated homes along the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok was a hodgepodge of sceneries. Here’s the view from our hotel, the Hotel Icon Bangkok. It was nice, our room was spacious and clean, and the hotel provides free shuttle service to the main avenue where you can catch the train.

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Jet lag = vacation teaser

Up since 3am or so — can you say jet lagged?

Perfect time to post some teaser photos of our vacation to Siem Reap, Bangkok and the Phi Phi islands. I can’t wait to share with you all about our trip, from exploring ancient ruins of Buddhist temples, riding tuk tuks and hanging with monitor lizards at the park, to kayaking and getting attacked by monkeys, scuba diving and swimming in some of the world’s most amazing beaches.  I have so many videos and photos! Here’s a sneak peek:

Siem Reap traffic
Siem Reap traffic
Bayon temple in Siem Reap
Bayon temple in Siem Reap

Continue reading Jet lag = vacation teaser

Candid shots of Seoul this week

Having a relative visit us here in Seoul has (thankfully) forced me out of the apartment this week. Here are a few candid shots from the last few days I thought you might enjoy:

Hadn’t seen this part of Incheon International Airport before. Pretty futuristic looking. 

Incheon International Airport

Came across this demonstration on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Sewol ferry disaster (must watch video — so many people!).

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Continue reading Candid shots of Seoul this week

Vacation Fun

As I write this, I realize we’ve been eating so much good food lately — Korean, Japanese, today some Korean-Chinese — that I’m going to do a food-related blog soon. So, stay tuned for that.

Ah, Christmas vacation. It’s been wonderful. Lots of sleep, lots of delicious food, quality time with my husband, with friends, with our families back home. Been to the movies (I mostly enjoyed “Into the Woods”), discovered the amazing saunas and hot tubs in our apartment building, started re-watching the “Lord of the Rings” series, and in between all that, we went ice skating and today I took a nice walk through the Jeong-dong neighborhood. Ok one thing at a time.

If you want to go ice skating in Seoul over the holidays, I know of two options — at Seoul Plaza, or at the Grand Hyatt Seoul. We already knew that ice skating at Seoul Plaza was pretty cheap, just 1,000 won for the skates rental and an hour of skating, wow! Seriously. As in, that’s less than $1 USD. So we went there. They looked like brand new skates, too. They control the flow of people on the rink by assigning you an hour time slot, and they also clean the ice every hour, so you get to skate on fresh ice. Continue reading Vacation Fun

Christmastime in Seoul

Christmas shopping in Seoul, in my opinion, is a bit of a challenge. Yes, there are a lot of cute things! (I heart Artbox.) Scarves, stationery, printed socks, handbags, etc. But if you’re looking for nice clothes, shoes, or designer accessories like sunglasses or watches, I feel like you’re going to get ripped off. This is based on my very limited time here, but still. From what I’ve seen, things are overpriced. Way overpriced! It’s better to shop online, on Amazon or something, you’ll likely find the item for much less. The challenge for us, of course, is getting it shipped here in time.

The crowds have been insane. There are always crowds, and old ladies shoving you out of the way, but we only have a few days left until Christmas, and people are even more desperate to sift through the “sale” piles and racks and find what they want.

Regardless, I’m enjoying the season here. We’ve had days of snow and plain ol’ bitter cold. FREE-ZING. We’ve both finally bought proper, long winter coats, which has helped battle the single-digit temperatures and wind. I especially love the Christmas decorations in what seems like every plaza and shopping mall. Christmas trees everywhere, lights everywhere. Here are a few:

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Secret Garden Fit for a King

Many kings, actually. Yesterday we visited Changdeokgung Palace, built in 1405 and — second to the Gyeongbokgung Palace — the palace from which many Joseon dynasty emperors ruled, including the last reigning one, Emperor Sunjong, who ruled until 1910. Like the Jongmyo Shrine, this palace is also a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the way its buildings and design are integrated with nature. It was Will’s first palace visit in Seoul.

The palace grounds are immense, 110 acres if I remember correctly. Many different areas and so many buildings — whether housing quarters for queens, concubines, princes, or staff, or meeting halls, ceremonial halls, horse stables, storage rooms, etc. — it’s easy to get lost looking around. We were there for hours and I still don’t think we saw everything. Once you pay admission into the palace, you can explore freely. If you want to visit the palace’s Secret Garden, however, you need to pay a separate admission fee and go in with a guided tour group. They give the tours in various languages, several times daily.

The Secret Garden (aka Rear Garden) is even larger than the main palace grounds, taking up almost 60 percent of the entire area of the Changdeokgung Palace. Its acres and acres are filled with ponds, streams, gazebos, pavilions and many beautiful walking paths. The garden was meant as a place for the kings and their royal family members to relax, but also used for military exercises, archery contests, banquets and growing certain grains. Since it is also located next to the Changgyeonggung Palace, it was used by members of both palaces.

Continue reading Secret Garden Fit for a King