14 February 2017

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) - Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

Date of Exploration : 29 Jan 2017

Completed in 1880, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is perhaps the oldest major monument of its standing in Ho Chi Minh City. It is conveniently located within the heart of the city in District 1, just opposite the main entrance of the Reunification Palace (the two attractions are separated by a park).

I did a half-day self-guided walking tour of the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, the city's Old Post Office next to it, and ending off at the Reunification Palace.

As the foliage of the park that separated the Reunification Palace and Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon parted, the cathedral's transept made its stately presence felt.

I had wanted to start my day's exploration at Reunification Palace first but it was closed during lunch (11am - 1pm) so I came to the cathedral instead.

While I was at the closed gate of the Reunification Palace, a motorcycle taxi rider came up to me and offered to bring me on a ride to show me where the various attractions are located for US$5.00 (duration of ride is about 30 minutes). I did not take up the offer and pointed towards the park in front of the palace's main gate and indicated that I'm going to the cathedral. He told me that the cathedral is not located in the direction which I pointed and offered to take me there. So I consulted Google Map and it showed that the cathedral is very near.

With the staggering amount of traffic in Ho Chi Mink City, getting a clean shot without any vehicle in it is good training for patience. God knows how long I waited to get this shot without any vehicles in it.
I was a little baffled, wondering to believe him or not but I declined his offer anyway and decided to cross the park to find out. As it turned out, the motorcycle taxi rider hadn't been truthful. The cathedral is located exactly in the direction that I pointed and it took me under 3 minutes to cross the road from the gate of the Reunification Palace, cut across the park, and arrive at the side transept of the cathedral!

Personally, I feel that the attractions (Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Old Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, the French Quarter and Bitexco Tower) are located within a reasonable walking radius. That's if you stay at the centre of District 1 which is near Ben Thanh Market. So it is not necessary to take the motorcycle taxi ride. Moreover, US$5.00 (approx. 115,000d.) is rather expensive to just ride past the various sites. Anyway, there are a lot of taxi scams and other money rip-offs in Ho Chi Minh City so be very careful. Click here for some of the unpleasant encounters I experienced.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is right next to another of the city's historical gem - the Ho Chi Minh City's Old Post Office that was completed in 1891. It is also listed as one of the city's attractions to visit.

My visit coincided with the Chinese New Year period so while I was crossing the road to Saigon Cathedral, I caught sight of this CNY decoration on wheels. Talk about flower power! LOL

Facade of the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. I shall call it "Saigon Cathedral" for short.

Building materials for the cathedral were brought over from France with the marble statue of the Virgin Mary fabricated in Rome. "Notre Dame" means "Our Lady" in French.

Getting that essential "I am here" selfie shot :o)

In 2005, this statue of the Virgin Mary apparently wept tears from her right eye with a tear trail running down her right cheek. Is it a miracle?

The weather quickly turned gloomy with light rain during my visit but thankfully, the full blooming sunflowers planted around the statue added a smile to appreciate the cathedral with.

The two bell towers housing 6 bells each stands at a height of 58m.

Getting upclose with the Saigon Cathedral.

The cathedral was closed during my visit so I didn't get to see the interior.

Reflection of a star attraction from the French era of Ho Chi Minh City.

I stayed about an hour snapping photos of Saigon Cathedral's facade, most of the time spent waiting for traffic or people to clear the scene for cleaner shots of this historic religious monument.

Saigon Cathedral may not be as elaborate or atmospheric as the gargoyles-laden and medieval Notre Dame de Paris, but it offered a glimpse into the early Europeanisation of Vietnam. The "invasion" of France into Vietnam's politics started because a Catholic priest asked the French government to provide military support and help to Vietnam's Emperor Gia Long in reclaiming lost lands from the country's rebelling peasants.

So, always be careful when asking for help. Or one may end up losing much more.

09 February 2017

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) - Taxi Scams & Other Rip-Offs

Date of Scamming Experiences : 28 - 30 Jan 2017

There are many things that could go wrong during a vacation but nothing mars a holiday more than being scammed by the locals, resulting in a constant worry of what more you could be losing or the bad things that might happen next.

You simply cannot trust the people you rely on for help and hospitality.

And my first visit to Ho Chi Minh City was a crash course on the myriad ways one could be scammed, especially by the taxi drivers.

My 9D8N Vietnam trip spanned Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi. During the course of my research of the 3 cities, I came across a lot of warnings about the dishonesty of taxi drivers and cab scams in the various cities. I thought I was well-informed and prepared. But I was wrong.

There are other tactics that were not spoken about which I will share in this post as a matter of direct, personal experiences. Not something I've read about, or heard from, but actual incidents that happened to me.

I spent 4D3N in Ho Chi Minh City and can't help feeling I'm nothing more than a wallet on legs. From the moment I arrived at the customs to getting a cab to the city to various experiences in patronising businesses as well as street encounters, the whole city just came across as being very money hungry.

Here are my experiences with the money scams that I encountered in Ho Chi Minh City...

Custom Officer Asking for Ang Pow Money

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on the first day of Chinese New Year (28 Jan 17, Saturday). While getting my passport cleared at the customs, the immigration officer kept saying something I couldn't decipher while he cleared my entry into the country. He kept repeating himself and when I continued to have a blank expression on my face, he opened a drawer next to him and blatantly waved a collection of about seven pieces of S$10 notes. There were other monies of different currencies in the drawer.

That's when I realised hes asking him to give him "ang bao" (red packet) money because it is Chinese New Year. I just smiled and waited for him to stamp my passport and left without acceding to his request for money. My friend who is Malay and got his passport cleared by another immigration officer did not experience that.

If you visit Ho Chi Minh City during Chinese New Year, or possibly during any other major festive periods, just be mindful that the immigration officer might take the opportunity to ask for money. Just smile, wait for the immigration process to be completed, take your passport and leave.

Taxi Coordinator Asking for a High Flat Fee for a Ride into the City

Outside the airport, we wanted to take the metered taxi to the city centre where our hotel is. A coordinator who's helping passengers get cabs told me that it is Chinese New Year, all the cabs go by fixed rate and not by meter. He asked for a flat fee of 250,000d. (approx. S$16). This is the taxi coordinator, not even the taxi driver. What if we paid this coordinator and get on the taxi and the taxi driver still charge us a metered fare?

When you exit Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat International Airport, turn left to get a public taxi to your hotel. There are touts offering taxi rides inside the airport but those will ask for a flat fee that will be much higher than a metered fare.

From online sources, estimated fare from airport to the city centre is about 140,000d. I didn't believe the coordinator so I asked a Vietnamese who's also waiting for a cab next to me if it is true that it's a fixed rate. He said no, the taxi should go by the meter. The coordinator promptly walked away and we got on a cab who used the meter to take us to our hotel.

So if you encounter a taxi coordinator asking for a flat fee, ignore him. Check with a cab if it is using meter and get on. As a general rule, use only the green Mai Linh taxis or the white with blue and dark green Vinasun taxis.

Taxi company to take in Ho Chi Min City - Mai Linh Taxi (green).
Tel : 38 38 38 38

Taxi company to take in Ho Chi Minh City - Vinasun (white with red and dark green logo).
Tel : 38 27 27 27

I've taken both Mai Linh and Vinasun and the drivers use the meter. But be careful of copycat companies who use these taxi company colours but are not by them. The copycats may use the same colours (especially the Vinasun colours) or similar looking logos.

While drivers from these two taxi companies are generally trustworthy and use the meter, that does not stop them from not giving exact change or going a long way to clock mileage so they can earn a higher metered fare. And that takes me to the next scam...

Taxi Driver Did Not Give Exact Change

On reaching our hotel, the metered fare showed 118,000d. Less than half the price that the coordinator asked for. But our driver turned around and asked for 200,000d. I said no. Unfortunately, I do not have smaller notes as I've just arrived in HCMC so I gave him 200,000d. and asked for change back. He gave me back only 50,000d. instead of the correct change of 82,000d.

Before I could ask for my exact change, he promptly got out of the cab and unloaded our luggage.

Driver Stole Handphone

The worst of the experience was when we took a cab to a further district. We made the mistake of not sticking to Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis as we couldn't get any. After walking around quite a bit, a taxi driver called to us near the Ben Tanh Market area and we boarded his cab. I can't recall which taxi company it was but it's neither Mai Linh or Vinasun although it is mostly white in colour.

When we got on the cab, the meter showed 100d. I immediately wanted to get off as I thought the driver is charging me a starting fare of 100,000d. But he assured me it's only 10,000d. So we took the cab and when we reached our destination, the meter showed 188,8880d. We were shocked and confused about the fare as it couldn't have cost so much since the journey was barely 15 minutes. So the driver clarified by taking a piece of newspaper over to explain the fare.

The newspaper covered my friends bag. He explained that it's only 18,000d. We gladly paid him 20,000d. and he kept the change. We thought we were in luck to have taken such a cheap ride. 20,000d. is roughly only about S$1.30. Immediately after we got off the cab, as a habit of checking our belongings, my friend realised that his handphone was gone. He placed it in the front pocket of his bag and the driver has distracted us with the confusing fare, newspaper and stolen it.

Driver Went a Big Round to Get Higher Fare

When we headed back to the city centre, we took a Mai Linh taxi and the driver went off on a tangent road, attempting to make a big round instead of the direct road that leads to our hotel. Thankfully I've been following our journey on Google map and asked him why he didn't take the direct road. He said he saw the address on our hotel's card wrongly, but I doubt it. The fare came up to 90,000d.

The scary thing is that we encountered all the above money scams all in a single day!


1. Take only Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis
2. Use Uber instead of the public taxis
3. Invest in a local SIM card and turn on Google maps to track your journey
4. Take a photo of the driver's license displayed on the car's dashboard. If the taxi driver doesn't display a license, it is most likely a scam cab. Get off.

Dishonest Motorcycle Taxis

The four-wheeled taxis aren't the only ones that will potentially scam you, the motocycle taxis will do that too.

I went to the Reunification Palace for a visit but it was closed during lunch time. As I exited the ticketing office, a motorcycle came up to me, offering to take me on a tour around the city sight's such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and other sights for US$5.00.

The Reunification Palace is closed to visitors during lunchtime from 11:00am to 1:00pm.

I declined the offer saying that I'll just walk to the Notre-Dame Cathedral as it was just across a park at the opposite end of the Reunification Palace. I pointed right ahead across the park to where Google Map showed me the location of the cathedral is. The motorcycle driver immediately said no, that that is not the cathedral and that he will take me there.

I smiled, declined his offer again and walked off. I crossed the road from the Reunification Palace towards the park, cut across the park and rising before me after the park's tree foliage cleared was... you guessed it, the Notre-Dame Cathedral! It took me under 5 minutes to walk from the palace to the cathedral.

Another motorcycle scamming incident was when we headed out to a club for a drink. It was about 2am when we left and there were no taxis in sight on the road. A little drunk, we had no clear idea of our location. After walking for a while, a motorcycle came up to us and offered to take us back to the hotel for 150,000d.

As it was late, we were tired and a little tipsy, we agreed to the price thinking we were far. However, we actually weren't that far from our hotel. The bike ride lasted only around 5 minutes. If we had taken a cab, the fare would've probably been around 50,000d. Our bad for agreeing to such a high price.

Coconut Con Artist

Other than the transport scams, there's another high level scam around the outside parameters of the Reunification Palace. This is the coconut seller scam, which belongs to the highest grade of conning.

As we were making our way to the War Remnants Museum, we walked past a coconut seller. He walked alongside us and engaged us in light banter, asking where we are going and pointing us the way (even though we didn't ask as I was using Google Map). Then he said his coconut burden is very heavy and asked us to try. So we had a feel of it, posed for some photos and returned it to him.

We saw many people posing with the coconut seller's prop and there were a couple o them operating in the area.

Taking back his coconuts, he went on his way without trying to sell us anything. This is where the psychology game sets in. We felt bad for him and the fact that he wasn't trying to sell us anything and yet so friendly made us decide to buy drinks from the seller.

So we caught up with him and I asked him how much for one. Before he even answered me the price, he already split open one fruit and stuck a straw in it. He was about to open another one when I stopped him That's when he told me the price. Each coconut costs 50,000d. (S$3.20). At a restaurant, one coconut costs about 20,000 - 30,000d.

That's when we realised he's a high level type of scammer. So we paid for the expensive coconut drink and take it as fees to learn yet another lesson about the scams in HCMC.

Pay no enough in Singapore. Come holiday also must work part-time as coconut drinks seller. But I promise I won't scam you. LOL.

The scams we encountered were total holiday mood killers. It was such a damper when my friend's phone got picked and the police weren't of much help, telling us to go from one station to another to lodge a report until we gave up.

This was my first visit to HCMC and the more I ventured into city, the more I felt ripped-off and can't wait to leave. I've never felt like this before for any other place. It will definitely be the last time I come to this scam city of Vietnam.

24 January 2017

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) - Limablas Peranakan Restaurant @ 25 Jalan Mesui

Date of Exploration : 16 Jan 2017

Peranakan cuisine has always been one of my weaknesses and any mention of udang petai (prawns stir-fried with stink beans) would instantly start a wild saliva party between my teeth. So when I saw a friend's Facebook photos of his nyonya lunch at Limablas, my keyboard got drenched.

But more than just serving up mouthwatering Peranakan food, Limablas' contempo-retro decor is a photographer's dream come true and would turn even the most camera-shy into an instant camwhore.

Here. I must come!

Tucked along the eclectic Jalan Mesui lined with quirky shopfronts, the entrance of Limablas is an invitation to travel back in time. It felt like I was walking into a 70s hipster's home.
 The good thing about Limablas is that it is located within the popular Bukit Bintang tourist district so it doesn't need a spaceship to get to. We stayed at Rae Hotel (which is on a street parallel to KL's famous Jalan Alor food street) and took us under 5 minutes to walk here.

We had initially wanted to come by for lunch on Sunday but the restaurant was closed so we came back on a Monday expecting a large lunch crowd but it was comfortably patronised. Unfortunately, they were out of petai (stink beans) that day and I'll have to find equal pleasure in Limablas' other menu offerings to make up for the disappointment.

Limablas means fifteen / 15 in Malay and is the unit number where the restaurant was originally located on Jalan Mesui. It's current unit number is 25 that's why there's a "@25" at the end.  To match the retro decor theme, I decided to channel Fei Yu Qing (费玉清) so that my poses will fit the setting...

... but of course, I can't emulate my evergreen idol so it's free-styling with the patchwork of vintage furnishings.

Limablas has an open bar at the patio but it was too early to sample their interesting sounding cocktails.

Hello there! This uncle chio or not? Hahaha...

Interior of Limablas... Yesterday didn't happen once more, it never went away.

Limablas offers a set lunch menu as well as ala carte selections. Most of the Perankan signature dishes are in it except Ayam Buah Keluak. At RM13.90 for the set lunches, they are a pretty good deal. Otherwise, eating here would rank on the high side. I find eating in KL generally quite expensive by local standards.

Retro-hip... a place to feed the stomach and the camera!

This flower fan looks like it fell out of the pages of Alice in Wonderland.

One of the fun things to do was to take a closer look at the display items... sometimes recovering a memory, and sometimes discovering a good laugh.

Old things given a new purpose at Limablas... me not included.
The period setting very got 'feel'. We stayed till past 2pm when all the customers had left and practically had the restaurant all to ourselves to shoot.

Put me in a vase and I'll bloom for you :)

We were so caught up with capturing nostalgia and putting ourselves in the photos that we almost missed the arrival of our orders. The charms of Limablas' movie-set grade interior could almost steal the limelight from the food.

Now that I've fed my Olympus Tough TG-4, it is time to feed the tummy...

We ordered the Bendil Kukus (literally translated as "bundle steamed", which is the okra dish), Nyonya Laksa, Ayam Ponteh (stewed chicken) and Gerang Asam Fish. The servings are rather huge so for the two of us, this is an over-order. Usually, waiters would warn us that we've ordered too much but maybe the waiter at Limablas thought I looked yao gui so he didn't stop us. Thankfully we didn't waste food. *Burp!*

Our bill totaled RM106.95.

The steamed okra (Bendil Kukus) was easily my favourite. The lady's fingers were cook just right and really tender and fresh but the belachan dip it came with was a stranger. Usually when I order this Peranakan dish, the vegetable comes with a coating of stir-fried minced garlic, onion and chilli in lime sauce layered on top with crispy hae bee (deep-fried tiny shrimps).

Maybe that's another dish altogether and not Bendil Kukus. For this, I much enjoyed the okra on its own without the sauce.
As for the Nyonya Laksa, I think it has an identity crisis. It looked like Penang Laksa (cucumber strips and lime) fell into a bowl of Curry Mee yet resembled neither in taste. The broth was thick and hearty but it didn't taste like the Nyonya Laksa I know. The taste wasn't bad, but somehow the flavours didn't quite work together and left me baffled. Perhaps some Laksa leaves could turn things around or it should be called Nyonya Curry Mee... LOL

The Ayam Ponteh won us over. Although the gravy was a tad too watery (nothing that a little tapioca flour solution mixed into the sauce can't fix), the dish hit all the right notes in taste and aftertaste. The chicken was stewed till the meat divorces the bone readily and the potato and mushroom had all soaked up the robust flavours.

No room for dessert... We were thinking of some Peranakan sweets to end off the saliva party but we were too stuffed!

Okay, I must qualify ah... I'm no expert in Perankan cuisine except for being good at eating so what my tastebuds dance to may be different from yours. Overall, although vintage-themed cafes and restaurants aren't exactly a rarity nowadays, I feel that Limablas has a character of its own and makes for an interesting dining (and photography) experience in the heart of KL's downtown tourist district.

Address : 25, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours : 11am - 3pm, 6pm - 10:30pm (Mon - Sat)

19 January 2017

Chiang Rai (Thailand) - Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

Date of Exploration : 30 Dec 2016

There's a saying that if you've never been to Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), you've never been to Chiang Rai. So...

... the best way to 'prove' a visit is to selfie with the temple. As if I needed an excuse to have a selfie. LOL

Planning a Visit to Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

The famous attraction is located about a 30-minute drive from Chiang Rai city centre (where the Night Bazaar and Bus Station are) and it's easy to find a day tour package that includes a visit to this temple as every one of them have it in their packaged itinerary.

If you don't want to follow a packaged tour and want to come on your own, I read online that you can hire a tuk-tuk (local motorised tricycle) for about 300-400bht for a return trip. The driver will wait an hour or two for you. A tuk-tuk will comfortably sit about 2-3 persons.

Roadside view of Wat Rong Khun. The temple is not hidden in some secluded spot but is highly visible by the side of the road it sits along. These photos were taken on a pavement next to the road before even entering the temple.

A water demon guards the shallow canal that runs next to Wat Rong Khun, offering a prelude to the bizarre and macabre sculptures within the temple grounds.
As I wanted more time to explore this icon of Chiang Rai at my own pace instead of following a tour, I decided to hire a car for a day and customise my own tour itinerary.

There are 3 of us (my parents and I) and it costs 750bht per person to go 4 places - Wat Rong Khun, Singha Park, Khun Korn Waterfall, and Wat Huay Pla Kang. It is good to group these 4 attractions together as they are within the southern cluster of attractions (using Chiang Rai city centre as a point of reference) so travelling time from one to the other can be cut down.

To me, the northern cluster of attractions would be Baan Dam (Black House), 5 Tribes Villages, Mae Sai, and Golden Triangle, which are offered by most tour packages and they usually include Wat Rong Khun as well so you can imagine how rushed the day tour would be. If you join a tour, you'll get about 45 minutes at Wat Rong Khun. I prefer to take my time to take photos and take in the ambience of the place. My visit lasted slightly over 2 hours here.

With my folks at Wat Rong Khun. They were wearing matchy-matchy t-shirts. How cute!

We booked our tour through an agency (called "So Good") near the Night Bazaar. We've asked a few agencies and So Good offered the best rate. So good indeed!

Our driver picked us up at our hotel (Wangcome Hotel) at 8:30am and our tour ended at almost 7:00pm. We tipped the driver who didn't speak much English 200bht. So our total cost for the day's tour was 2,450bht, not inclusive of meals and entrance fees.

Beauty and Her Necessary Beasts

From far, Wat Rong Khun looks like an immaculately pristine embodiment of purity. But on closer look, you will find frightening and grotesque sculptures that seem out of place in this vision of great divine beauty.

This coexistence of gods and demons, heaven and hell, is deeply rooted in the Hinduism percept of duality where good and evil are complementary. One cannot exist without the other. Without darkness, we wouldn't understand light. The ying goes hand-in-hand with the yang. As Buddhism has profound connections to Hinduism, Wat Rong Khun expresses this fundamentally Hindu philosophical principle in the context of Thai Buddhist architecture.

Personally, whenever I encounter a skull or 'ugly blemish' to the overall beauty of Wat Rong Khun during my visit, it is a reminder that nobody is perfect. We all have skeletons in our closets. Me included :)

I can't read Thai but it looks like this is a health warning for alcoholics against the golden gate of spiritual nirvana. Wouldn't this send a message to booze more so as to get there faster? Hmm...

What is Predator doing at Wat Rong Khun? Is it a nod to the ancient alien theory of life on earth?
Hanging heads of folklores and superheroes greeted us.

Hellraiser, Ironman and Hellboy... Hollywood comes to Chiang Rai.

My pre-cious...
Before even entering Wat Rong Khun, my curiousity was piqued by the assortment of loathsome looking heads dangling from branches. Entrance to Wat Rong Khun is free for Thais while foreigners pay a 50bht entrance fee, which is rather nominal.

I thought I've left the scary stuff behind but I'm greeted by entrance gates topped with 4-faced skulls upon entering Wat Rong Khun. Is this a temple or horror house?!

Not a Typical Thai Temple

Wat Rong Khun is not actually a temple but a privately owned art-chitecture gallery conceived by Chiang Rai's resident artist, Chalermchai Kosipipat.

Wat Rong Khun was a temple that degenerated into disrepair and restoration works had to be stopped due to insufficient funds. A deeply devout Buddhist, Chalermchai decided to fund and rebuild the temple with a vision to blend tradition with contemporary art. Wat Rong Khun would serve as a centre for Buddhist teachings and meditation in Chiang Rai and is the artist's way of contributing merit to gain immortality.

The reconstruction of Wat Rong Khun began in 1997 with new buildings and extensions added. The entire architectural project is expected to be completed in 2070. This is kinda like the Asian answer to the Spanish Sagrada Familia.

The must-get shot with the White Temple in the background. Still can't get over my parents' matchy-matchy t-shirts. LOL... And I thought romance was dead.

Money-maker shot of Wat Rong Khun (I'll use Wat Rong Khun and White Temple interchangeably). While there are many tourists around, it is not difficult to get a clear shot of the temple as this angle is by the water's edge so no one will be in front of the camera.

Pass the surrounding pond with white kois (yes, even the fish is white!) we arrived at the entrance to the ubosot, which is the main prayer hall.

To get to the ubosot, we must first cross hell, be judged by the guardian deities before crossing the bridge of the cycle of rebirth to heaven represented by the ubosot building.

A beautifully ugly face... No matter how good we looked, it will one day decay away.

So very Pan's Labyrinth-y.

Outstretched hands fill the pits that the bridge crosses.

The outstretched hands in a pit represents incessant needs, where human aspirations and desires are unending and never satisfied.

When you cross the bridge, there's no turning back. Literally. If you turn back for a quick photo with the pit of hands as foreground and ubosot as background, a staff will chide you over a loud speaker for stopping, even if just for a split second, and hurry you to move quickly along.

Guardians 'judge' those who cross the heavenly bridge at the entrance.

Approaching the very busily decorated gable of Wat Rong Khun's ubosot (main prayer hall). No photography allowed inside the ubosot which has paintings on its interior wall depicting the four stages of life - birth, vigour, illness and death.

White represents the purity of Buddha while silver embellishments represent his wisdom.
An aspara making a floral offering.

No inch left undecorated.

Entrance of the ubosot. Shoes must be removed before entering and no photography allowed inside.

Corridor next to the ubosot.

Looking back towards the gate from a corridor surrounding the ubosot.

An vision of calmness and serenity... the simplicity of the monk is a visual pause button.
The 'clean' white pagodas in the back garden provide a stark contrast to the highly ornate decorations all around Wat Rong Khun.

Exit gate of Wat Rong Khun's ubosot area.

While I've seen many photos of the White Temple, nothing beats the thrill of finding a personal angle to frame the temple, an angle that I have not seen before.

Close to the exit from the ubosot area is a pavilion guarded by what looks like twin cone-shaped Christmas tree.
The 'trees' are adorned with countless bells with hanging medallions in the shape of stylised bodhi leaves.

The 12 Chinese zodiac animals rim the cap of the pavilion which houses a wishing well.

You can try to toss a coin and land it within the lotus sculpture at the bottom of the well or just anywhere in it and make a wish... Hope your wishes will come true :)

Another ornately decorated pavilion I came across within the compounds of Wat Rong Khun.

At the base of the pavilion, look out for grotesque faces that would hopefully not cause a nightmare.
Face your demons... The artist's controversial depiction of Buddhism with popular culture and the unholy has provoked ire and attempts were even made to have him banned from the Buddhist community.

Gold Where No One has Gone Before

White isn't the only colour to be found at Wat Rong Khun as a grand building in gold commands an equal measure of admiration. But the building is not a temple, prayer hall, or any religious structure. It is in fact, the toilet!

Gold at such massive scale is quite a sight to behold!
Gold at such massive scale is quite a sight to behold!
Exterior of the gold toilet at the White Temple.

Interior of the male toilet... Makes pooping here a glam dunk. A good release feels even more heavenly in this gold lavatory fit for royalty!

Pano view of Wat Rong Khun's site. As I took my leave at about 11:30am, more crowd streamed in. So come earlier, best by 8am when the temple opens.

Address : San Sai, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand
Opening Hours : 8:00am - 6:00pm
Entrance Fee : 50bht (for foreigners), Free for Thai

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