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9th Year: 2007
- SAC Spring Cleaning & Rock Climbing at SAFRA Yishun
- Chinese New Year
- Visiting Relatives in Malaysia
- Family Climbing Fun
- NDP @ Marina Bay
- Army Open House
- Robyn's 9th Birthday Celebration @ Hindhede
- ART Excel Course by The Art of Living Foundation
- Accidental Thailand Adventures

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Accidentally Thailand (Prelude to Part 1)
4 Dec 2007 - How India Became Thailand, Accidentally...?

Enroute to Budget Terminal

India, here we come! That was our intended destination and one that we'd been longing for for weeks. We were supposed to check in to an Ayurveda centre to experience this ancient health treatment in Kerala.

This was also our first flight out from the new Budget Terminal on Tiger Airways. Grandma and Grandpa went with us to send us off.

But the real excitement came when the immigration officer flipped repeatedly through our passports and asked for our visa.

"Huh? We need visa to India?" Daddy responded.
That was it, India evaporated.

Daddy and Mummy exchanged look and were so amused that it had to have been some divine intervention to divert us elsewhere. India would have to wait for our next round of holiday...

After some enquiry, we changed our tickets and decided to head for Chiang Mai at 6.30am the next morning. And so, Thailand, here we come, accidentally!


Accidentally Thailand (Part 1)
5-7 Dec 2007 - Hill Tribe Adventure in Chiang Rai

Breakfast at Chiang Mai

We spent the night at Grandma's place at Eunos and set off to the Budget Terminal again 5 hours later at 4.30am.

We had no idea what to do, where to go or stay, in Chiang Mai. But that's the uncertain excitement and surprises that come with such an impromptu travel adventure.

Then we met Mr Daniel Chung in the queue at the Budget Terminal. He was taking the same flight and heading for Chiang Rai to launch a new school that his Nanyang University Alumini built. At the point when he mentioned that Chiang Rai is mountainous, we decided to we would head to Chiang Rai!

With Mr Daniel's help, we caught a song-taew (taxi) from Chiang Mai directly to the bus terminal, and bought our coach tickets to Chiang Rai.

Then we realised that we'd arrived on the day when the entire nation was celebrating the King's 80th birthday - 5 Dec 2007!

We enjoyed our first Thai breakfast at the bus terminal and a restful sleep on the 3-hour long coach ride to Chiang Rai.

Robyn in Chiang Rai

Arriving at the Chiang Rai bus terminal, Mummy Jin caught sight of a travel agency, PK Tigerland, and we found its boss, Mr Kitt, helpful and professional. He became our guide for a wonderful tour to visit some hill tribes over the next 2 days.
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar

We stayed just 2 units away at the Orchid Hut for the night. The location was great as it was right where the night bazaar was located.

The night market sprang to life by night fall. There were hundreds of stalls and it was one of the most lively night markets we'd been to. The food bazaar was fantastic too and we enjoyed many variety of delicious Thai food. And the place was packed! Robyn bought a pink jacket as we were not prepared for the highland cool temperature.


Our 2-day Hill Tribe Adventure began with a pleasant boat ride along the Kok River to the Elephant Camp.


R: Boat ride along the Kok River

Boat ride along the Kok River

Elephant ride
There were many elephants at the Elephant Camp. Some elephants trekked in the river. Sitting high up on the elephant offers a great view of the mountains around!
Baby Jumbo at work and play
Robyn and Daddy Alvin

Robyn, Daddy Alvin and Mummy Jin at the Elephant Camp

Robyn, Daddy Alvin and Mummy Jin at the Elephant Camp

Robyn Yong in Chiang Rai

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch before setting off on our Jumbo ride to a hill tribe village called Ban Yafu 17 km and 3 hours away. This would be Robyn's first elephant ride through the forest, river and the hills.

The ride was fascinating. The elephant could walk on narrow and hilly paths, and river beds, where human would find trying. Of course, we imagine it may not be easy for the elephant too!

It was a challenge trying to hang on to the seat while the elephant was walking, especially downhill. Uphill is more comfortable, but it must be pretty bad for the elephant's knees.

The Yongs on the mighty Jumbo

After 3 hours of bumpy ride, we finally arrived at Ban Yafu village.

It was tricky to feed the elephant because it liked to blow at you with its long trunk. Its amazing finger-like trunk tip was able to grip the banana very precisely and firmly.

Robyn feeding mighty Jumbo
Hillscape view from Ban Yafu Ban Yafu is a beautiful hill tribe village that enjoys a breathtaking view of hillscape.
Our bamboo chalet at Ban Yafu

Our bamboo chalet at Ban Yafu This was the 'bamboo bungalow' that we stayed overnight at Ban Yafu. Mummy Jin was doing a headstand beside Robyn.

The extensive and innovative use of bamboo in building houses, fences, furniture, utensils and kids' toys was impressive.

Robyn at Ban Yafu village

Enjoying local tea at bamboo chalet

Alvin, Jin and Robyn enjoying local tea at the bamboo chalet, which has bamboo flooring, walls and roof.

Lahu woman weaving

Walking around the village, we met friendly villagers who belong to the Lahu hill tribe. Many women weave traditional cloth for making clothing, bags and garments.

Our guide, Mr Kitt, showed us numerous bridges and humanitarian projects undertaken by Singaporean groups such as SMU, Republic Poly and Singapore International Foundation. We were proud to know that Singaporeans had been caring and generous in making an impact in this faraway land.

We enjoyed a most wonderful evening of local cooking, interesting chat with Mr Kitt and a fantastic view of night starry sky. The highland temperature was low but the blanket was thick and warm. It was a good night of rest for all of us.


At dawn, we practised yoga and meditation at the balcony of our chalet. "Om...." amidst the surrounding natural sounds of birds, chicken, pigs, dogs and insects...

The Yongs doing yoga at Ban Yafu Daddy Alvin and Robyn meditating in nature

Breakfast at Ban Yafu

Followed by delicious Thai style breakfast of porridge with piping hot Ovaltine.

The Yongs at Ban Yafu
Exploring around, we discovered that Ban Yafu has great views from every angle as it was perched on a high ground. The surrounding hills unfold like a prized painting that spans the horizon against a sky so blue that fixated our glaze. We felt we could stand there and take in the view forever...
Group photo at Mr Kitt's jeep From Ban Yafu, Mr Kitt rode us in his 4x4 jeep to visit the highest point, Doi Boa View Point (945m), Huey Mae Sai Waterfall and other hill tribe villages - Ban Jalae and Ban Apa. Robyn loves waterfalls
The Huey Mae Sai Waterfall was a welcome stop as we always enjoy waterfalls in all our travels. The water was clear and refreshingly cool. Here, we learnt a great deal about the different types of bamboo from Mr Kitt. Being a Karen who grew up in the farm, he explained which type of bamboo is used for house construction, which is for cooking bamboo rice and which for making utensils.
Daddy Alvin and Robyn at Huey Mae Sai Waterfall

L: Daddy Alvin and Robyn at Huey Mae Sai Waterfall



R: Mummy Jin at Huey Mae Sai Waterfall

Mummy Jin at Huey Mae Sai Waterfall
Robyn with a small Akha boy

Ban Apa is an Akha village that's more updated and modern as compared to Ban Yafu. Here, we saw many zinc roofed houses and the villagers enjoy electricity.

L: Robyn with an Akha boy

Back in the jeep again, we visited Mr Kitt's Karen village enroute to Chiang Rai.

The 2-day Hill Tribe Adventure was most educational and fun.

Robyn's best memory was the elephant ride.

On Mr Kitt's recommendation, we checked in to the nearby North Hotel, a very new 7-month old hotel.

Robyn in Mr Kitt's jeep
Jin and Alvin ejoying Thai foot massage As a token of appreciation, we invited Mr Kitt to a dinner at a vegetarian restaurant. After that, we shopped at the Night Bazaar. The next morning, we would head to serene Naga Hill for our hideaway retreat...
Alvin, Robyn, Jin and Mr Kitt of PK Tigerland


Accidentally Thailand (Part 2)
8-9 Dec 2007 - Naga Hill, Chiang Rai

After a leisure breakfast at The North Hotel, with Mr Kitt's help again, we boarded a song-taew to Naga Hill Resort.

Jin and Robyn in a song-taew Our luxurious bungalow at Naga Hill
Naga Hill is a lovely hideaway retreat nicely tugged away into a beautiful natural setting so well designed that we hardly notice the bungalows as we wandered through its premise. Being fully booked, we were fortunate to be given a specially large bungalow reserved for the owner and his guests. We loved it the moment we set sight on it and we loved it even more when we were shown the interior.
Jin, Robyn and Alvin at Naga Hill

Jin, Robyn and Alvin at Naga Hill

Naga Hill is situated next to a large peaceful lake and the opposite side of the lake is a beautiful garden, a project supported by the King's mother.

Constructed with bricks and bamboo, the bungalow boosted a huge bedroom, a spacious living cum dinning area, a large kitchen area, a roomy bathroom with an adjoining open-air shower area. The balcony that overlooked the surrounding greenery was our favourite resting and reading corner.

We had plenty of retreat time to take in the natural surrounding, rest our minds, recharge our spirits and enjoy each other's company.

Robyn at Naga Hill


At the rate of Robyn's reading, the 5 story books she brought along for this trip would not last much longer...

Robyn enjoying her story book

Robyn really loves this place.

We also explored nearby eateries to savour different Thai dishes and cooking styles. Daddy Alvin had been eating so much that he would sure to put on weight if he were to stay here for a month.

R: A regular bungalow at Naga Hill Resort. We were impressed by the friendly and helpful staff, and the many finer touches they put in to make the guest feel special.

Naga Hill bungalow
Naga Hill restaurant

The Naga Hill Restaurant is a delightful area comprising dark wood furniture with mats and triangular cushions. It has a splendid view of the neighbouring farmland and distant hillscape. Next to the restaurant is the salt water pool for a healthy swim and dip.

We really enjoyed the food at Naga Hill, which focused purely on what they do best - lodging and food. They do not offer any other tourist services.

Lunch at Naga Hill
Mummy Jin blending into the Naga natural colors of brown and green.
Jin at Naga Hill

Swimming in freezing cold salt water pool

Robyn's favourite place - the bath tub
The salt water pool was another area of fun. Although not big, the pool has a deep end and served us well. The water was freezing though and Robyn has a teeth-chattering experience.

The bathtub was Robyn's favourite place in the bungalow. We enjoyed many long hours of aromatic baths with our Avita Hydrotherapy Anti-Stress essential oil. The bathtub also served well as our laundry area...

Hot spring spa

After the freezing dip in the salt water pool at Naga Hill, we ventured out to try the piping hot water of a natural hot spring nearby.

Hot bath at the hot spring
We soaked, relaxed, read books... while letting the sulphur worked its magic on our skin. Happy Robyn in natural spring water Jin steaming away in hot spring

Adjoining the hot spring was traditional Thai massage service. It seemed to be popular with locals so we reckoned it had to be good. We returned the next morning to experience a wonderful Thai massage.

Daddy Alvin had his shoulder worked on hard by the massage therapist.

Alvin enjoying a Thai massage
Jin and Alvin at the hot spring spa

Robyn's characteristic photographic framing style was a deightful tilt of angle. Robyn certainly experimented and improved her photographic skill during this travel.

From Naga Hill, we returned to Chiang Rai and took the coach back to Chiang Mai.


Accidentally Thailand (Part 3)
10-14 Dec 2007 - Chiang Mai

Jin, Robyn and Alvin in Chiang Mai Robyn in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was a lot busier and more touristy than Chiang Rai.

Foreign tourists were everywhere, walking about and riding around on motorbikes. Naturally, the local businesses that geared towards tourism were aplenty. The food offerings were less authentic than those we found in Chiang Rai.

Yogasala in Chiang Mai

Then we discovered Yogasala where Mummy Jin and Daddy Alvin attended some great Ashtanga Yoga lessons taught by William Holtby.

So we decided to move to Na Inn, a brand new hotel with a very spacious room, and just 2 minutes walk to Yogasala.

3 nights in Na Inn, Chiang Mai

Lugging our luggage up 4 storeys was tough but the view from our balcony was rewarding. In the distant was the grand sight of the Wat Chedi Luang, one of the oldest and most magnificent ancient temples in Thailand.

We would recommend Na Inn to anyone visiting Chiang Mai as we enjoyed 3 nights of clean and spacious living in comfort.

Good view of the Wat Chedi Luang
Getting aroung Chiang Mai in a tuk-tuk

In Chiang Mai, the air was cool but the sun was scorching.

Getting around Chiang Mai is a breeze with so many tuk-tuks and song-taews zooming about and readily available. And the traffic was smooth flowing all day long. We travelled by tuk-tuk to Kat Luang (Walrorot Market), a local day market.

We had been enjoying great meals everyday since we arrived - Thai-style omelet was Robyn's favourite, pad thai was Alvin's and Mummy's favourite.

In between walking about, we read our books and Alvin developed his 2008 plan. Having finished reading all her books, Robyn picked up an Artemis book at a second hand bookstore. Jin and Robyn in Chiang Mai Robyn and Alvin in Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai

Appreciating Wat Chedi Luang from our hotel balcony was nice. Being there physically was an awesome experience. It was an amazing feeling to stand at the base of this ancient temple looking up at the Buddha statues. We imagined what it could be like during the ancient time when thousands of monks gathered around this temple.

Robyn at Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang
Alvin, Robyn and Jin at the Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai Robyn at Wat Chedi Luang Alvin, Robyn and Jin at the Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai.
Robyn and Mummy Jin at the night market
The Chiang Mai Night Market was a colourful place with lots to see and buy. We met Uncle Lim Yoke Beng and his family there. However, we preferred the night bazaar in Chiang Rai.
We thoroughly enjoyed this roadside roti prata store. Robyn loved the roti with chocolate, Jin loved the plain roti with condensed milk and sugar, while Alvin loved its roti with egg.

Finally, it's time to return home. As our Tiger Airways flight was at 9am, we decided to come into the departure lounge early to enjoy a leisure breakfast. Well, we discovered the Chiang Mai International Airport wasn't quite like Changi's. There was no eatery there and we ended up buying a lousy sandwich onboard the plane which was the price of 6 plates of pad thai!

It'd been a great retreat in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. We wondered what could've been the kind of vacation had we actually made it to India... Whatever, everything is just perfect!

The Yongs going hungry at the Chiang Mai International Airport



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