While in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to go on our second tour by Grasshopper Adventures – Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour. This was again a night time biking tour which took us though the old city highlighting some incredible temples and history. Our guide was absolutely fantastic and his knowledge of the city was scholarly. Here is a video showcasing our experience!!!
After meeting up at the Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai headquarters, we mounted our bicycles and headed off into the city. Again, we were very impressed with the quality of the bikes offered by Grasshopper — so comfortable and with front and back lights!
Our first stop was at Chiang Mai Pae Gate. It was built as the main entrance to the walled city, easily accessible to traders coming though on the nearby river. We learned that the city had several ways in, each for specific types of people, historically. One exit was reserved only for the dead on their funeral marches.
Next we rode to several amazing temples, each with Buddha relics and lots of good energy. We used a kind of rope and pulley at Wat Lok Molee to send holy water which automatically dropped over the temple. Apparently doing this together would guide our spirits back to each other in the next life. “I don’t know, one life with you might be enough…” said Carrie, maybe joking but probably serious. I am a piece of work sometimes.
Near the end of the tour we walked through the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City. The temple is partially collapsed on top and reminded us a lot of places we visited in Cambodia.
Our final stop was at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Food Market We were treated to some amazing coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice, and some smoothies. Food always makes me quite happy, and even though we had taken a feast of a cooking class earlier in the day, I was happy to eat again.
Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour was a great look into the history of the northern Thailand city. We learned much about the Lanna empire which existed independently before they were absorbed into the Siam empire (Later Thailand) and how the younger generations are trying to bring back their historical culture.
We had a very wet, exhilarating blast of a time during our first Songkran Thai New Year celebration! In Chiang Mai, people converge around the Old City‘s moat with water guns, hoses, buckets, and refill barrels! Our friends from the USA picked Songkran week to visit us in Thailand so they could join in on the madness! We had tons of fun acting like kids, dueling with Thai families, dodging water gun fire all around us and sneak-attacking unsuspecting tourists! Who’s coming to Thailand for Songkran next year?
Ramayana Waterpark in Pattaya is the top-rated waterpark in Thailand and third place in Asia. With over 20 slides, you will be thoroughly entertained and exhausted by the end of the day. We are 30-year-olds and we loved it, but there are a lot of things for kids to do too. We took a lot of Go-Pro videos and here is a little film that we made!
Our favorite slide was the Aqualoop, which has you climb into a tube like you’re about to be launched. The timer goes 3-2-1 and then the floor falls out and you plunge down a super tall slide then around a 360 degree loop. Another favorite of ours was Boomerango, which has an primary slide then you slide up another hill until you are almost vertical then you end up coming down backwards.
Most of the bigger slide have the option of scanning your wristband before descending. Once you get to the bottom simply scan your band again to view the pictures and video from the slide. From there you can email the files to yourself for free!
The restaurant at Ramayana Waterpark has local and western foods. We got some curries that were pretty tasty with huge portions.
Ramayana Waterpark has a van that brings you the 20km from Pattaya and back. It does the trip several times per day for 120 Baht.
Bangkok is a crazy city that has everything you could possibly want, healthy food trends and fitness included! Yoga is hugely popular but it usually comes with a big price tag since it’s trendy and many of the gyms and studios are super new and fancy, geared towards wealthy Thais and expats.
I spent the last four months living in Bangkok and discovering all the options for FREE and donation-based yoga. After some looking on Meetup, Facebook, and asking around, I found some great **free** classes and made new friends!
Yim Yam Hostel & Garden(the hostel we are marketing consultants for!) has a free sunset rooftop class open to everyone Tuesdays at 6pm! The class is taught by Kwan and it’s usually a hatha style class suitable for all levels. After the class, you can hang out in the garden or cafe at a Post-Yoga Social Hour with 30% off all drinks!
Yoga with Evelin offers classes in Benjakitti Park around sunset twice a week! Tuesday at 6:00pm is a Hatha Strength class and Wednesday at 6:30pm is a Relaxing Yin class. I loved coming to her Wednesday yin yoga class to really stretch and meditate while watching the sunset! Evelin is an amazing teacher and also runs cool yoga/meditation retreats on Koh Samet!
Wanna do yoga on Thursday? Kwan, the teacher from Yim Yam Tuesdays, sometimes offers a FREE class in Benjakitti Park. Check her Facebook page, Bangkok Free Yoga, to see if it’s happening!
Last but definitely not least, my favorite Bangkok restaurant Broccoli Revolution, recently started a donation-based class on Thursdays on their rooftop at 5:30pm. The volunteer teachers rotate through and have always had great music and a great flow every time I’ve gone. Donations from this class go to Sati Foundation, a nonprofit working on health and education programs with under-served and at-risk populations in Thailand. So this class has a great karma yoga thing going on and it’s a great excuse to eat amazing vegan food for dinner after class! Just check Broccoli’s Facebook page for the official dates of this class and send them a message to sign up!
I hope this guide helps you find some wonderful, affordable yoga classes to attend in Bangkok and leads you to some meaningful connections with other yogis as well!
In early January we had our first friend from home come to visit us in Thailand! Hooray! Mackenzie is my old climbing and hiking buddy from San Diego. She’s a natural adventurer and in super great shape– she’s basically Superwoman! I knew she would love Thailand, and I guessed correctly that the world famous rock-climbing peninsula of Railay Beach and Tonsai Beach would be her favorite spot!
Coming back to Railay after our previous quick visit last October was a great opportunity to go straight to the climbing routes we knew we could tackle, and to fly our brand new drone! Yes, that’s right, we bit the bullet and purchased a DJI Mavic Pro. Get ready for some next-level travel videos as we’ll now be adding drone footage of every destination video we make from here on out!
We stayed in Tonsai Bay on this trip, which is the super-hippy Burning Man-esque village on the beach full of dirtbag climbers, reggae bars built out of driftwood, cheap/sketchy Thai food, and fire-spinning slackline shows!
Here’s a 10-minute vlog all about our adventures with Mackenzie in Railay and Tonsai! We think it’ll give you a sense of how laid-back and beautiful this peninsula is! And we hope you’ll notice we got better at climbing! We even crushed a 5.10a!
Ahh, yes, the infamous “Penis Cave”. As I explained in the video, this cave has been filled with phallus figurines by locals as a way of summoning both fertility and success in fishing! No disrespect to Thai beliefs intended, but it’s definitely a unique site and a hilarious place to visit!
It was great to feel way more comfortable on the walls of Railay and Tonsai! And we always feel at home in the hippy vibe of Tonsai Beach so we can’t wait to come back for another visit!
The Golden Mount and Wat Saket in Bangkok, Thailand is one of the most beautiful sacred sites in the city. Sitting on top of a small hill, the temple is crowned with an impressive 58-meter golden stupa (the monument at the top which points at the sky) which contains a relic from the Buddha. With 360 degree views of Bangkok encompassing both the old city along with the modern skyscrapers, the Golden Mount is one of the most impressive places to watch Bangkok’s famous sunsets.
334 steps lead you to the top of The Golden Mount. Originally built before Bangkok was the capital city, the original structure collapsed and eventually became covered in weeds, creating an artificial hill. When the capital was moved from Ayutthayato Bangkok, King Rama I began renovations of the grounds. The temple was continuously added to by his grandson Rama III and more by his son Rama IV. In the 20th century the sides of the hill were covered in concrete to prevent erosion.
As you head up the steps there are many rows of hanging bells and several large gongs. There are also speakers along the way where monks are continuously chanting, creating a very strong and calming energy as you head up the steps.
It’s amazing to see the contrast between the traditionally built temples and the modern skyline of Bangkok, Thailand.
The most popular time to visit the Golden Mount is during Loy Krathong, one of Thailand’s biggest holidays occurring every November during the full moon. People release “krathong” offerings — little boats made from banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense — on the canals and lakes all over the country. The festival originated as a way to honor the river goddess, but it also has Buddhist meaning. “The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements.” (Wikipedia) Some people put their fingernail clippings or hair in the boats to “get rid of the bad parts” of themselves.
The Golden Mount and Wat Saket entrance fee is only 20 Baht and it is open from 9am to 7pm. If you are staying near Khao San Road you can walk to the temple, or if staying in another part of the city we recommend the canal boat. You can check out our article about navigating Bangkok’s many transportation options for more information. You can see the temple’s stupa from all over the old city, so don’t worry about getting lost!
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As soon as we arrived in Thailand we started noticing people’s traditional tattoos. After a few internet searches, we learned more about the “Sak Yant” as they are called– magic bamboo tattoos. Sak Yant are beautifully designed and come with a blessing, their goal to grant protection and to give strength to the bearer of the tattoo. The sacred tattoos are given by Buddhist monks, or ex-Monk tattoo masters called Ajarns. The Ajarns dedicated their lives to learning the ancient art, passing the traditions down to their apprentices.
Our Sak Yant Experience in Ayutthaya
After the initial research we put in, we were turned off by the whole “free tattoo in the temple thing” as from the accounts we first read the process seemed crowded and rushed, with questionable sterilization practices. We searched for a more personable experience, and that is when we found Where Sidewalks End Travel. WSE’s owner Ian has spent years traveling all over Asia looking for the best Ajarns masters of the art of Sak Yant. He now offers the most authentic Sak Yant experiences for travelers by providing a translator/guide and making sure participants really understand the purpose of the tattoos they are getting.
On the morning of our appointment, our guide, Coco, picked us up at our hostel and we took a taxi to Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. From there we took a mini van for the 1.5 hour journey north to Ayutthaya. We chose to go to Ayutthaya because of the amazing things we had heard about Ajarn Wao, the sak yant master there, and his psychic abilities. He seemed like the best choice and we trusted him to use his mastery to help us decided on the right sak yant tattoos for us.
Once in the city, we stopped to buy marigold wreaths as an offering. After getting the flowers we jumped into a tuk tuk that would take us to the “samayant” the studio/temple where the ceremony would take place. After driving past the temples of the old Thai capital, we arrived and were welcomed upstairs into the sacred space.
The room was open with many windows. At the far end was a tiered altar containing many images of the Buddha, Ganesh (the elephant god and god of art), and other sacred figures. Incense burned in the corner and the master’s apprentices sat patiently at the side of the room. While we waited for Ajarn Wao, our guide Coco told us some guidelines to follow in order to be respectful. These included never pointing your feet towards the altar and walking with bent knees, aiming to never walk taller than the Ajarn.
When Ajarn Wao entered the room, we kneeled at the front and lit nine sticks of incense each, nine being the most lucky number in Thailand. We then presented our marigold wreaths which were hung on the altar. Carrie decided to go first, since she had more tattoo experience. Through our translator Coco, Carrie answered questions about her birth-date, along with a few details about some struggles she has had and her desire to be more mindful in her life. Ajurn Wao made a chart in his notebook, which he used to explain her future and recent past.
Carrie’s Sak Yant Experience:
Carrie’s tattoo was decided; she would receive a tiger to protect her and give her strength. The tiger would be depicted looking over its shoulder at her past, which was difficult but would make her stronger. In the future her enemies will become jealous of her strength and success, and will try to take it from her, the Ajarn said. But in the end she will overcome, emerging stronger than ever. Thus that tattoo was also a reminder to stay in the moment, to not worry about the future.
Ajarn Wao worked fast, but Carrie’s tattoo was large and it took nearly an hour. It was amazing the precision of his needle strikes. After he wiped the ink away, intricate patterns were revealed. As he went he was constantly uttering blessings, his mantras calming. After a few more blessings were added, the tattoo was finished.
But Ajarn Wao wasn’t done. He wanted to give Carrie a special additional oil sak yant tattoo, invisible but still powerful. Our guide said that this was very rare. Carrie agreed and soon a design formed on her upper back out of small bits of blood. The oil yant would fade over the next few days, but it’s lucky magic would remain.
Zach’s Sak Yant Experience:
As it was my turn the calmness left me and my palms became sweaty. I sat in silence with plans to share about some of my struggles, my idea that I was my own worst enemy. I knelt before the Ajarn and before I could speak a word, he said to me (translated through Coco) “You need to decrease your ego. Try to think before speaking.” This was shocking because ego was what I already knew to be a problem and exactly what I had planned to bring up.
He then figured out the meaning of my birthday. In the Chinese calendar, I am born in the year of the rabbit. However, Ajarn Wao based his predictions on the Thai calendar. Under these dates, I was born in the year of the snake, and on Saturday, the day of the snake. This double snake made me very powerful, but my biggest enemy was my ego. The Ajarn then asked me about what I wanted to share, and I exclaimed that everything had already been said. I felt as if Ajarn Wao could see into my soul, which was scary but also calming in a way, as understanding your weaknesses is the only way to truly overcome them.
My tattoo was to be a blessing, with an emphasis on a chicken. The chicken would distract the snakes (my ego) and help bring my consciousness away from my ego’s control. It would help me to listen and think more before speaking, allowing me to choose the right words at the right time. After a blessing I bent forward, away from the master who began inserting the inked stick into my back.
Traditionally given with sharpened bamboo, present day Ajurns use sharpened steel poles called “khem sak”. At first it was just a few pricks, but soon I could feel the sharpness grind against my spine. My knuckles turned white and sweat poured down my face. I was warned that the placement would be difficult, and I was given a mantra to repeat when it got rough. I noticed that the others present felt my anguish and my reaction was laughter which engulfed the room. Soon I was able to relax myself and I became numb.
I noticed the apprentices, who where holding me still, stand and the sak yant sacred tattooing was finished. Ajurn Wao splashed me with cool water and a flood of energy flooded by body. I felt a great power come over me, as if I was new. A smile spread over my face as gold leaf was rubbed into the blessed tattoo.
After we were both finished we thanked Ajurn Wao and presented our donations to him for his services. He told us that in our relationship we needed to stop trying to one-up each other, to listen more and let things go. He was spot on again! This man has real wisdom.
We chose this experience because of the reputability of WSE Travel. Other options include going to a temple where the tattoos are given in exchange for an offering. In these places you will wait in line and receive a tattoo for very cheap, but it may be rushed and you will miss the personal experience. While the needles at the temple are sterilized, they are dipped into the same ink from person to person. Theoretically this could spread diseases and even though our research never found any confirmed cases, we decided that it wasn’t for us.
This was hands down one for the greatest, most spiritual experiences of our traveling lives, and the lessons we learned have immeasurable value. WSE’s Sak Yant tattoo experiences are definitely not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for and this is a lifetime commitment. With their inside knowledge and their commitment to sustainability and making sure the sak yant tradition continues in Thailand, WSE was the obvious choice for us. They also offer experiences in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, with more cities in the works throughout Thailand as they search for more of the country’s best Ajarns.
We’ll write an update on our tattoos and how they are affecting our lives soon! Do you think Ajarn Wao’s predictions will come true?
Would you get a sacred tattoo to help you on your life journey?
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