Words and photos by Tammy Lim, Repurposed by Sejal Bagaria
I recently booked a short trip with a Singapore start-up, Anywhr.co, which helped decide my travel destination, booked my flight and accommodation without my involvement at all.
Ms Zelia Leong, a co-founder of Anywhr.co, thought of the idea when she booked a one-way ticket to visit the Scandinavia region alone.
“That was the first time I realized that anyone can travel to places that they don’t even know existed before the trip, and just meeting people and taking the next bus or train out. Traveling is all about meaningful connections and unexpected discoveries,” she added.
So, to experience the thrill of unexpected discoveries, I signed up for a 3-day adventure trip on a regular price package at $650 with her company. A few days later, I received a brief email mentioning the temperature at my destination. A week before my departure, I received an envelope with a short message scribbled on its back: “Open only at the airport!”
It sure was an unnerving experience, especially for someone who’s been so used to planning everything down to the last detail. But I stuck to the rules of the game, and tore the envelope apart only after reaching the airport.
That’s my destination. It’s a small province about 3 hours’ drive from bustling Bangkok. In the envelope, I also found my flight tickets, postcards, local currency for the transportation to my accommodation, and a personalized travelogue that includes relevant contact numbers, details of the nearest money changers, emergency numbers and the address of the Singapore embassy in Thailand.
I boarded the 2-hour flight and touched down in Don Meuang Airport at Bangkok – 2 hours behind schedule due to flight delay. But I was pleased to see the Thai staff of Anywhr.co already waiting for me at the gate. They offered to carry my luggage and escorted me to where I could find transport to my accommodation, Ghai Gan Place, a 2-month-old hotel.
Pro tip: Do note that several recommended activities on the personalized travelogue require advance booking, so remember to make necessary arrangements before crashing for the day.
My itinerary for the day comprised many cultural visits to the provincial sights in Saraburi. To save time, I hired a local driver for $90 for the whole day.
I first visited Namtok Chet Saonoi National Park, a place considered sacred by the locals but often overlooked by travelers.
Here, you can find a series of 7-tier waterfalls cascading 1m to 3m into emerald travertine pools. To beat the heat, I joined the friendly locals for a swim in the pool.
Pro tip: While the pools are considered safe, the rocks at the bottom could be sharp and slippery, so wear your slippers to protect your feet from accidental cuts or bruises.
The second stop was my personal favorite. The driver went along Wang Muang road, a district famous for its sunflower fields. This magnificent yellow hue is truly a sight that I’d never forget.
Pro tip: There are alternative sites such as Amphoe Phra Phuttha Bat, Kaeng Khoi, Nong Don, Nong Khae and Muak Lek where you can find sunflower fields. These are great places for photo op, so if you want to live the #IGlife, make sure you bring appropriate camera gear.
Earning the title of the largest reservoir in Thailand’s central region, Pa Sak Jolasid Dam was constructed as part of a royal project. The dam stretches over many Saraburi provinces, measuring an astounding 4,860m in length and has a capacity of over 785 million cbm. Its main purpose is to prevent flood, but it’s also a popular tourist destination with its scenic lookout points.
Pro tip: Take the train across the reservoir to enjoy the view. Adults and children pay only 25 baht (S$1) and 10 baht (S$0.40) respectively.
I also visited Wat Phra Phutthabat, a cultural sight highly recommended by my driver. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples situated in the heart of Saraburi and is nicknamed the “temple of Buddha’s footprint”, as it has a natural depression within its site – believed to be a footprint of the Buddha in ancient times.
Pro tip: You can experience the best of both worlds by timing your visit at sundown, so that you can see the sunlight fade as the temple glows.
I ended the day by indulging in a feast of Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai and papaya shreds in the vinegary Som Tum.
My itinerary took me to try white-water rafting on day 3. Flowing amid the lush tropical forest, the Phu Ko stream stretches on for 6km. I singlehandedly rowed a six-person boat down the stream, accompanied by a guide that helped me steer to ensure my safety.
Pro tip: If you’re a lone traveler like me, you can choose to either join other inflatable boats or have one to yourself.
What was most memorable, was the short pit stops to the small waterfalls in the midst of rowing. The guide explained to me that experiencing the shower-like spray beneath the falls and jumping into the crystal-clear plunge pool are some of the best ways to experience fun the way the locals do.
And this concluded my short getaway from Singapore.
Is the trip worth it?
If you wish to leave all worries behind and just live in the moment, I’d say, try it! It will not be a perfect trip for sure, but it allows you plenty of time for self-discovery. It may also help you appreciate the beauty of the country more – as you’ll be experiencing it without any expectation.