[THAILAND] o18. SALA AYUTTHAYA


Sala AyutthayaThailand might be most famous for vernacular and religious buildings, but its modern-day architecture has surpassed world-class standards. We hunted down this structural wonder, with the luxury of time and an inexplicable need for coffee, situated across the famed Wat Phutthaisawan, along Chao Phraya river.

Sala Resort’s boutique accommodation in Ayutthaya features 26 guest rooms (all uniquely designed) including a duplex river view suite and a pool suite, a small art gallery as well as a signature restaurant with a splendid view of Chao Phraya (reservations required, but helluva beautiful place to sit and ponder about life). I loved their deconstructed wave-inspired bricked buildings that were impressively designed to capture a play of lights. Sala Ayutthaya SIgnature Curved Staircase Sala AyutthayaArt Sala Ayutthaya ThailandArt Gallery Thailand Seaview Dining Sala Ayutthaya Thailand Seaview Dining Thailand Ayutthaya Coffee and canapés. In Thailand sauce maketh a meal complete.Crispy Rolls Thailand Sala Resorts Thailand Coffee Latte Thailand Sala Ayutthaya Sala Ayutthaya DiningDesigner living spaces and boutique serviced apartments are increasingly receiving its share of love in the land of smiles, even in city-centred resorts away from beaches and the sea. Interestingly, ‘photogenic’ qualities plays a big part nowadays as holidaymakers want to take incredible pictures for their social media platforms on top of collecting snapshots as memories. The deciding factors of holiday accommodation are as much about concept as they are about prices, location and people factors.

Food for thought. Happy holidays, people!

Sala Ayutthaya Resorts
Thanon U-Thong
Pratuchai, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[THAILAND] o17. AYUTTHAYA – OF RECLINING BUDDHAS AND WISHING WELLS

Following a seafood-induced food coma and a brief exposure to Thai Buddhist rituals at renowned Wat Phanan Choeng, our local Thai friends took us on yet another cultural tour – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, also known as Wat Lokkayasutharam. At this point it would be useful to note there are more than 2 Temples with Reclining/Sleeping Buddhas in Ayutthaya – one of which is indoors at Wat Pho, and 2 others are documented below.

In good faith, devotees typically purchase incense sticks for prayers, which came with flowers, candles, joss-sticks and 2x2cm flecks of gold paper for ‘dressing’ the Buddha. A huge test of devotion often involved patience for adhering the flimsy pieces of gold, bound to escape like seeds of the dandelion in the wind.

The first thing about ‘Sleeping Buddha’ at Wat Lokkayasutharam that amazed me was its absolute size, followed by the sense of peace upon seeing the gentle unassuming smile of the sacred giant. Putting aside fatigue of travel and accumulated stress, an aura of serenity took precedence as all else fell into the background. Away from the bustling city was this figure of faith on which many troubles were unloaded, to which hopes and dreams were articulated.

IMG_6601
Gold Flecks on the Reclining Buddha

IMG_6605

It suffices to say that the Kingdom was wealthy, to be in possession of enough to construct multiple such shrines in praise of its gods. IMG_6665

IMG_6657

IMG_6649

IMG_6644

IMG_6643

IMG_6623

IMG_6638

IMG_6637

IMG_6635

IMG_6629

IMG_6619

IMG_6615

IMG_6597

IMG_6591

Within the shrine more surprises were in store. Wishing wells, treacherous stairs, relics from another life. To make a wish at this particular wishing well, you have to conquer a tough flight of stairs.

IMG_6627
Wishing well for the weary – only by conquering a treacherous flight of stairs could you be deemed eligible to cast your wish

If one reclining Buddha wasn’t enough, we visited and prayed to yet another, this one albeit with a much brighter smile in my opinion! Don’t you feel instantly cheered up by this mega-watt beam? For a truly cultural experience this part of Ayutthaya is definitely not to be missed. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing the the local customs of praying and showing respects to local monks, as well as learning to different eacf part of the city from another by events that went down post Burmese-invasion. I don’t think there was any other way I could have learnt more from the trip.

IMG_6722

IMG_6725

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

SEOUL DIARIES 021: DONGNIMMUN GATE 독립문

In late 19th Century, the King was many-a-times escorted through Dongnimmun Gate, thereafter to demonstrate personal reception towards visiting Chinese envoys. Dongnimmun is 独立門 in Mandarin, the gate that signifies independence and free will of a country’s people. Built in 1897, the gate served to concretize South Korea’s sovereignty.

20140410-193555.jpg

 

Planted aesthetically in areas surrounding the independence gate are vessels of mugunghwa – South Korea’s national flower. This place is also known as Yongeunmun, after its current location that used to be known as Yongeun.

20140410-193607.jpg

20140410-193613.jpg

20140410-193621.jpg

True to form, Dongnimmun was built to proclaim the nation’s sovereignty – a grand spacious courtyard is dedicated solely for the King’s long walk to greet their allies from a foreign land. Majestic, isn’t it?
20140410-193634.jpg

20140410-193627.jpg

20140410-193647.jpg

I found a sense of solemnity to the place. The Dongnimmun Gate must have been an impressive structure in the initial years, but is now dwarfed by high-rise estates and interconnected highways of the metropolitan city. Yet it remains a silent and powerful testimony to the struggles of the people’s ancestors.

Here are some other monuments and effigies at Dongnimmun courtyard:

20140410-193653.jpg

20140410-193640.jpg

20140410-193700.jpg

20140410-193714.jpg

20140410-193720.jpg

20140410-193706.jpg

20140410-193731.jpg

The courtyard leads to Seoul’s Former Prison, a large space now barren and left empty for visitors. Dongnimmun is afterall a solemn place, and also an important national heritage site for South Koreans. 20140410-193746.jpg

YONGEUNMUN 영은문
945 Hyeonjeo-dong
Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
South Korea

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Day One: BLU Home Guesthouse

7:45am – Touched down at Incheon International Airport
8:30am – Claimed all baggage and cleared customs
8:45am – Bought T-Money (Bus, Train, All-In-One Fare Card) and WiBro (incredibly fast and useful portable WiFi egg gadget)
8:50am – Boarded Airport Railroad (AREX) Commuter Line towards Hongik University Station
9:40am – Reached Hongik University Station (Hongdae!) Then proceeds to take an hour to find BLU Home Guest-House. Because am stubborn and for the first half an hour, refused to use Google Maps. Lugs trolleybag all over Hongdae. Gets lost and finally seeks the almighty navigator.
10:40am – Heaved a huge sigh of relief at locating the blue swing doors. Successfully checks-In at BLU Home Guest-House!!

Well, I love this place! My room is small (am allocated the double bunk beds all to myself for the first 3 days although I paid for the single room) because somebody else is occupying it at the moment. I’ve been here for only half a day, and already the owner, Denny, appeared extremely helpful and dependable. BLU Home is a cosy double-storeyed building fully equipped with everything a backpacker/hostelite would ever need (internal heating, desktops, Free WiFi, heated water etc) despite not boasting of grand exteriors or showy furnishings. Presenting to you…my humble little room!

20140320-204924.jpg

20140320-204930.jpg

20140320-204938.jpg

20140320-204945.jpg

Yes I am ALWAYS hungry so this honey pancakes comes in handy.20140320-204952.jpg

I really brought nothing much. My heaviest possession is my MacBook Pro and 4 novels.20140320-204958.jpg

BLU Home Guesthouse deserves a proper post when I get round to taking proper photographs of its kitchen, the laundry room, lobby and the breakfast area.

For the rest of the day upon checking in, I roamed all over Hongdae’s busiest streets and wandered over to its very quiet Wausanro 27 to 29-Gil. Visited some very interesting cafes which I’m dying to share with everybody ^^ Hope everyone’s having a good day!

BLU Home
464-52 Mapo-Gu, Seoul

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (I)

In life sometimes it pays to be a little wild and adventurous. On check-out day, we took an early tram to Fishermen’s Wharf @ Pier 39, rented a pair of bikes and helmets, then peddled for a good half-day from San Francisco to Sausalito via the Golden Gate!

This is where Part 1 begins, from the pier to the foot of the famed San Francisco bridge.

20140307-133158.jpg

Step 1: Begin with the end in mind. So we took photos with our final destination!

20140307-133205.jpg

This is also where the negative self-doubts kick in…can we reach Sausalito and still make it back by evening to catch the flight to Hong Kong?

20140307-133223.jpg

Okay who am I kidding. I was too excited for any of those worries. Golden Gate here we come!

20140307-133229.jpg

The terrain from Pier 39 was straightforward and easy for bikers, even for amateurs who haven’t touched a bike for more than a year (me). Right after the photo above was taken, we met with our first terrible uphill climb (there are only two along this bike trail). I can still feel the strain of the burn in my calves and thighs!

We took a couple of scenic detours (including a long stop at the Palace of Fine Arts) and a hell lot of photographs along the way, which I will eventually come around writing about, and progressively we also took shots with the looming Golden Gate as we inched closer and closer…

20140307-133246.jpg

20140307-133254.jpg

20140307-133301.jpg

Viktoria Jean victory jump at Golden gate Bridge

… and before you know it, you reach this jetty! Beautiful place to put your feet up and watch the seagulls circle overhead whilst waves hit the shores and you get to sip a latte from the cafe by the bay in full view of the San Francisco bridge. We took a short break and grabbed a hot drink. Although sunny, the biting wind sometimes numbed our faces; as I recall it was 3-5 degrees Celcius.

20140307-133316.jpg

A semi-victory shot: we’re getting close! If only we could pull the bridge to us.

Viktoria Jean in San Francisco.jpg

20140307-133332.jpg

20140307-133339.jpg

20140307-133345.jpg

Still on the jetty, and guess whose familiar face we saw!?…

20140307-133358.jpg

20140307-133405.jpg

Yep… none other than the urp-urp-urping sealions! This one’s way more active than the lazybums tanning their asses at Pier 39’s Sealion Center. I swear he has a slimmer butt.

20140307-133411.jpg

Interesting find: there are so many of these ship anchors along the shores leading to the Golden Gate. In the early days, warships, cargo fleets and passenger boats were tied and docked at these parking area.20140307-133418.jpg

And according to these people, fishing is lucrative along the bay. Perhaps they sell their catch to the restaurants at the wharf? I doubt any of them fish for personal consumption.20140307-133424.jpg

I SEE YOU NOW.
Viktoria Jean in San Francisco golden gate.jpg

You ain’t far away no more!20140307-133437.jpg

One last detour: we wanted to enter Fort Point at the foot of the bridge, but all visitors are banned from its premises. Built to protect the San Francisco Bay, the United States Army completed the fort just before the American Civil War, as defence against hostile warships.
20140307-133445.jpg

20140307-133452.jpg

Oh well. At this point, we met the second uphill climb. I gave up and pushed my bike instead. What a loser, I know. Everything was good again when we reached the top, and look what we saw!

20140307-133500.jpg

Hi there, so much closer now!20140307-133510.jpg

Before you hit the actual bridge path, an exhibit shows you the entire history of who, how and why the iconic structure came about. This fascinating board shows you the timeline of San Francisco bay: you just need to walk from left to right, and TA-DA – watch the Bridge appear!!

20140307-133524.jpg

20140307-133532.jpg

20140307-133540.jpg

20140307-133552.jpg

If you’re wondering whose smart idea it was to build this bridge, in 1872, a self-proclaimed Emperor Norton (highly eccentric citizen of San Francisco) decreed that a suspension bridge was to be constructed connecting Oakland to San Francisco. On July 9, 1933 – construction began on the longest bridge in the world at that time. It took three years and five months to complete the Bay Bridge. The final bridge cost was approximately $77 million, $6 million under the estimated cost.

20140307-133602.jpg

Time for a little fun hands-on! You get to experiment why the bridge is of this length and height – everything was engineered and calculated to maximise efficiency of construction, stability and the ease of raising the columns to its desired positions.

20140307-133629.jpg

20140307-133620.jpg

The Bay Bridge opened to traffic on November 12, 1936 at 12:30 p.m. A chain cutting ceremony took place where former San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi, former President Herbert Hoover and Chief Engineer C. H. Purcell looked on while former California Governor Frank Merriam opened the Bay Bridge. When the ceremonies were completed, President Roosevelt telephoned workers on two sides of the bridge to flash a green light to signal the bridge was officially open. Everything you wish to know can be found on the information boards.

20140307-133644.jpg

20140307-133658.jpg

WE MADE IT!! I’ve always pictured the Golden Gate enshrouded in fog , and as it was a clear day, nothing was hiddenViktoria Jean in San Francisco travels.jpg

20140307-133732.jpg

20140307-133748.jpg

Two hours and we made it from Pier 39 to the beginning of the bridge! Honestly, it wasn’t tiring because I had great company and an awesome view of the sea. It was a good 2 hours and a few hundred calories well-burnt.

20140307-133758.jpg

I’ll let Part (II) show you the next part of our biking journey…across the Golden Gate!!!

20140307-133814.jpg

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

P.S. A full day rental of the bike costs around USD30, inclusive of helmets, without a safety insurance which you have to pay an extra 4 dollars for. There’re many bike rental places along Pier 39: Blazing Saddles, Bay City Bike Trails etc.

Micro-Chip, Macro Dreams

20140115-012937.jpg

Could somebody invent a micro-chip for our brains, to programme us in such a way we can speak all the languages we will ever need? Frustrates me soooo so much that I can’t speak German, and I’m in Frankfurt where everybody rattles off in their native tongue and all I can mumble back are Guten Tag, Danke…Ciao.

Frankfurt is loooovely! And I’m here with very awesome people to hang out with. Am checking out places to go, things to do in future, yummies to eat and cathedrals to see…. Already hoping to come back in spring or summer. The next time I’m back I wish to speak a little German if I can!! (Yeah right I say that about every other language)

Till then 🙂

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House 3

Sydney Opera House 2

Finally I have a picture at one of Australia’s most iconic 20th Century architectural masterpieces. A creative brainchild of architect Jørn Utzon, Sydney Opera House was built by detailed study of its topography and relationship to the harbour plus surrounding land marks. Construction of this grand soaring white roof sails along with its massive red granite platform took 16 years and $AUD 102,000,000. On 20 October 1973, it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

How very humbling, this grand piece of art.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Bennelong Point,
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
+61 2 9250 7111

[MELBOURNE] oo2. Caffe e Torta

Upon touchdown I had managed to catch a good nights’ sleep (albeit, due to time difference, it was 3am Melbourne time when I finally crashed), and even woke up for hotel breakfast early next morning. Late afternoon, I ventured into the CBD area with hopes of locating Hardware Societe which was further out past Collins Street, but to no avail! Darn Google Maps pointed me in the wrong direction; for some crazy reason, even my GPS is screwed up. But I’m glad that happened, because I stumbled upon Caffe e Torta on Little Collins, and had the most juicy and scrumptious hot apple strudel with ice cream I’ve ever had! The only other worthy contender being the Cafè Braun in Mondsee, Salzburg.

The whole ambience at Caffe e Torta was reminiscent of Italian sidewalk cafes, hence the Italian-inspired name. The baristas and waitresses were all amazingly chirpy, just as how all Australians appear to be. Didn’t get my order of flat white because I was intending to sleep some more when I got back to my hotel, regrettably, but I would regret more if I stayed up all evening from the overdose of caffeine.

As I got ready to fly home yesterday, I felt tremendously blessed and so spoilt for choices. Whilst others cafè-hop in their own countries, I get to explore quaint cafes in every city I travel to. And I get to experience cultures or practices deviant to and unlike my own. It’s scary because this nomadic lifestyle is the kind I love and could stick to forever, because seeing the world puts things back home in simultaneously greater and finer perspectives. I want to shake hands with all parts of the world everyday, forever.

Caffe e Torta Shopfront

Caffe e Torta Interior 3

Caffe e Torta Interior 4

Caffe e Torta Interior 2

Caffe e Torta Interior 5

Caffe e Torta Interior

Caffe e Torta Stairs

Caffe e Torta Hot Apple Strudel

Caffe e Torta Menu

Caffe e Torta Exterior

314 Little Collins St,
Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
+61 434 595 885

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[THAILAND] o10.Lamai Beach Samui

Samui Asian Girls Beach

Ever taken a day from work to stroll all morning along the calmest beach on Koh Samui? I love how my traveling job makes it all easy to find myself on an entirely different city from day to day. Yet it makes me appreciative of nature’s beauty on a minuscule scale. I’m all excitement and “let’s take more pictures!”, even when all that’s truly picture-worthy are a row of colourful beach houses, or teeny-tiny pretty sea shell on the beach. Hell, if you’re not noticing these little things, you’re missing out on a whole lot in life.

Lamai Beach Samui

Lamai Beach Samui

Lamai Beach Samui

Lamai Beach Samui

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[THAILAND] oo9.Leaving on a Jet-Ski

Eight of us embarked on 4-hour jet-ski safari that took us on a tour of 7 of Thailand’s offshore islands. While Josephine maneuvered the ride for the journey to the snorkeling island, I drove both of us back to Koh Samui. We had aching arms for days after the ride. Jet-skiing is such amazing fun once you get the hang of it…the way you handle the waves, rising tides and getting soaked from top to toe…it’s all about taking the plunge and just trying. I never thought I would like jetskiing but I’ve seriously fallen in love with the sport!!

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet-Ski Koh Samui

Jet Skiing Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui Girls

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Koh Samui

Jet Ski Thailand

Jet Ski Thailand Island

Jet Ski Thailand Samui

Life Vest Girls

Girls Island

Jet Ski Thailand

Jet Ski Thailand Sun

Sun sand sea jetski

jetskiiing

For a list of island water activities – such as kitesurfing, paddle-boarding and scuba diving – visit Water Edge Sports!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

London Lovin’: Vintage Shopfronts

Shops like these you’ll never find them in Asia. Especially where I come from, space is so constrained that anything below 3-floors will be extinct in the next 5 years or so. Baffled by re-modelling works of architecture in the European cities where its aesthetic appeal lies in its vintage houses! Swarovski is sandwiched between a neo-classical shophouse and a modern, ever so significantly highlighting its contrast.
London Swarovski

London Marylebone 2

These Victorian shopfronts in West End seem to live and breathe with age-old wisdom. Walking along the streets of London, I come alive with the promise of lessons in the cultural vibrance of the British!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

London Lovin’: Old Bailey

London Central Criminal Court

London Scenes 2

Chanced upon the Central Criminal Court, commonly known as Old Bailey, in West End London. In the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, it is the courthouse where Charles Darnay is put on trial for treason. In the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Joshamee Gibbs is tried in the Old Bailey where Jack Sparrow disguises himself as Justice Smith!

Old Bailey
EC4M 7EH

London Lovin’: City Grandeur

Vint London 3

Vint London 2

Overeager to see everything on my first trip to London, I took to exploring West End on foot. My fingers were working the shutter overtime, attempting to capture everything. Which I soon realised was impossible!

Damn, the rush to see it all wasn’t worth it.

Why click fast and leave for another touristy scene, only to ogle at photographs in the privacy of hotel rooms? So I let the images roll around in my head a bit before snapping.

For the life of me I cannot name all the buildings and streets, but certainly I can tell you how I felt at the moment, soaking in the grandeur of the grand London city.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

London Lovin’: Oxford Circus

Oxford Circus 2

Stepping out from London Underground is like entering a different realm, and it did feel that way to me, exiting Oxford Circus Station. Topshop, Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, HMV, Debenhams have their flagship stores on this street.

Oxford Circus 3

Oxford Circus 4

Each year, Oxford Street is decorated with festive lights. Each Christmas, a celebrity turns on the lights in late-November and these remain lit until the twelfth night (Emma Watson did 2004, and last year it was Robbie Williams).

Oxford Circus 1

This year, Jessie J flipped the switch, with James Arthur and Conor Maynard! Inspired by falling snowflakes (well it did feel all White Christmassy without the snow!), the lights feature three quarters of a million LED bulbs. That’s beautiful, but insane!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

London Lovin’: Wafflemeister

London Wafflemeister

Amidst the London rush hour, the lost tourist a.k.a Viktoria Jean was trying to get to the ice-cream store just across the street on South Kensington. At 6pm in the evening, walking against the crowd is no easy feat. Everybody seems to be dashing somewhere, moving fast ahead with their lives, going with the incessant flow. Meanwhile, the lost tourist stops for a Stracciatella gelato.

London Wafflemeister 3

London Wafflemeister 4

London Wafflemeister 2

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

26 Cromwell Place
London SW7 2LD
United Kingdom