Monthly Archives: November 2014

Visiting Kek Lok Si Temple

What do you do when your 30-day Thai visa is expiring? You make a visa run to Malaysia and visit Kek Lok Si Temple!

In 1891, people began building the Temple of Supreme Bliss. Today, it is still undergoing many upgrades and renovations. However, Kek Lok Si Temple is definitely worth the detour.

The inspiring design blends Chinese, Thai and Burmese architecture to symbolize the welcoming of different schools of Buddhism. It’s said that this is the largest Buddhist temple in southeast Asia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this were true.

After climbing through a tunnel of never-ending market stalls, visitors finally reach a turtle pond and glimpse Kek Lok Si Temple. More stairs lead toward the real structure and the beginnings of the Buddhist temple are further unveiled.

To get to the upper part of the temple, visitors catch a rail-mounted elevator (after paying a small fee) that glides them to the top of the hill. Halls for prayer and worship abound as well as monks at work. Intricately carved designs and figures adorn the buildings while thousands of buddha look down upon you. The place is serene and intimidating at the same time.

Flashes of bright colors – golds and reds – gleam in the sun and remind you of the strong influence from the Chinese that has shaped the temple. A humongous statue of Guanyin (or Kwan Yin or any other variation), the goddess of mercy, stands towering above the temple. She is highly respected in both Buddhism and Chinese mythology. Other statues stand guard of the temple and ward off evil spirits.

Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam, Penang, Malaysia is a great place to spend the day, and I’d recommend visiting if you’re in the area.

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Filed under Attraction, Culture, Malaysia

Run Away to a Foreign Country

There are times in your life when you just feel the need to run away and discover the world and how you it relates to your life. And, I suppose I’ve run for the past few years now, because I’ve certainly “seen the world, been to many places.” Along the way I’ve “made lots of friends, many different races,” but I still feel as though there is so much more to learn and the benefits of leaving home outweigh the discomforts of life on the road.

I’ve always been independent and had a willful spirit despite, perhaps, not being the most outspoken and attention-seeking person around. I’m also pretty happy being alone. I’m not someone who needs a ton of people around, and, in fact, crowds probably annoy me more than energize me. I prefer observing and listening to things going on around me and not contributing to the dialogue. I suppose I’m an introvert in that way.

But, over the years I’ve met couples who travel together and find the dynamics between them interesting fodder to contemplate. Traveling with a partner definitely tests the relationship and the people. You discover things you never really knew about the other person, even when you’ve spent oodles of time together before traveling. Backpacking can definitely make or break your relationship, and I think it’s a really good way to decide if your partner is capable of being your forever love or if he or she is more of a temporary friend.

I’ve also seen many relationships blossom between travelers. Of course, there are those fleeting one-night stands that, to be honest, seem to happen loads and loads. But, miraculously, there are couples who meet while traveling who somehow string together the days, weeks and months and survive the journey even when the end of the road is near.

Meeting a beau while making a run away from reality presents a dilemma for me, and I’m unsure how I’d react to it should it happen. On one hand, my goal is to see and experience new cultures and learn about people, which in turn will help me learn about myself. It’s a quest for understanding and knowledge that I think is best done, for the most part, solo. Without solitude, it’s difficult to really reflect on your thoughts and feelings. You don’t form your own opinions because you’re susceptible to those of others.

However, sharing an experience like this with another person can also be beneficial. Intimate dialogue between two like-minded people about self-discovery, life-goal setting and more can solidify your idea of self when you have a foreign experience together. Both people are out of their comfort zones of daily routine and can discuss the likenesses and differences between cultures and attitudes. This may lead to developing a new attitude for approaching life.

I suppose the true test will come if a similar situation presents itself to me, but until then, rest assured dear readers. This gal will continue living life and loving it . . . solo. I left home alone and will probably return alone . . . and I’m totally cool with that.

What do you think about traveling by yourself versus with a partner? Have you ever sustained a holiday romance after your vacation ended?

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Filed under Personal, Thailand, Travel

Kicking it on Ko Lanta

Krabi is the gateway to parties on Ko Phi Phi for many backpackers, but I headed for the relaxation and solitude of Ko Lanta. I was looking for a peaceful experience away from the maddening crowds, and I definitely found it on Ko Lanta.

Transportation to the island came by way of a white minivan, which is typical when you book through hostels. I’m sure there are other ways to get from place to place if you really want to go the independent route, but these minivans are very convenient because they usually offer door-to-door service.

After a hectic drive on the mainland with stops at various accommodations to pick up other passengers, we crossed a small stretch of water on a vehicle barge. The ride was short and soon we were bumping along the roads of Ko Lanta.

I was one of the first passengers to be dropped off at my hostel, so I quickly checked in and went to explore the beach. Ko Lanta’s beach was the best I’d seen so far. The water was clean and there was a bit of wave action, unlike most beaches in Thailand. This circulated the water making your quick dip refreshing and renewing. The sand was soft and lacked large rocks or coral formations. Best of all, there was much less pollution and garbage than on Bali’s Kuta Beach.

For the next day or two, I kicked around the island with two German girls, Franzi and Hannah. We hired a bike and pedaled ourselves to a nearby German bakery as the girls were craving bread from home. We puttered around Sala Dan so the girls could book the next leg of travel and stopped by a small restaurant for a refreshing fruit shake.

One night we went clubbing with a group from the hostel. The unique thing about Ko Lanta is that there’s only one club open per night so there’s no question about whether the club will be busy. This also gives those wanting a break from the constant boozing and late nights a chance to catch up on their sleep. With only one place open, you’re not summoned by the siren’s call of glitzy lights and loud music.

Ko Lanta is a gem in the Andaman Sea that offers backpackers the best of both worlds. It answers your call for excitement, fun and serenity. All you have to do is know where to look.

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Filed under Attraction, Thailand