A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Bangkok

overcast 29 °C

We’ve been in Bangkok for three days now and it’s been fun being back. I've blogged about Bangkok twice before (if you're looking for further information check out my first entry from 2011). There were only two reasons I decided to come back. One was for Alberto as he had never been, and secondly it serves as a hub to move onto Malaysia. It's a chaotic city and most people will only want to visit for a couple of days. On a side note, I must admit I'm finding it a little difficult time wise to keep up with blogging so you may have noticed by now I'm relying more on pictures than words. Thank god I hear you cry. Some of my earlier entries have definitely been on the longer side!

Sightseeing has been a little light as we’ve been enjoying the night time activities instead. Jeanette (aka USA #2) from Xi’an and Shanghai also happened to be here as the same time as us so we’ve been partying it up with her.

On Thursday night we took part in a little compulsory sing-song (as is now tradition)…

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Friday evening was spent at the Khao San Road, Thailand’s version of Temple Bar, only much wilder. You'll spend your evening telling the locals you don't want a Tuk Tuk, lady massage or a ping pong show. And being asked repeatedly if you want laughing gas or a spider to eat.

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The Macerena was in full force again...

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We discovered that Blackberry phones still exist

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The Thais like their drinks large

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Tequila shots bring you good luck and fortune

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There are always fun randomers to chat with

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Getting drunk is compulsory...

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Somehow, we managed to get ourselves out of bed today to visit the Grand Palace. No visit to Bangkok is complete without it. The palace was built in the 18th century during King Rama 1st's reign and is one of the most impressive architectural attractions you can find in Asia.

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That concludes 11 nights in my favourite Asian country. Tomorrow we fly to Kuala Lumpur for the first leg of Malaysia. I'm looking forward to getting back into uncharted territory. Kop Khun Khrap Thailand, we love you long time!

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Lost in translation:

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Posted by mattld 11:04 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Chiang Rai

semi-overcast 30 °C

Sawatdee Khrap! We hit the one month mark today, so I thought it would be a good time to share a map of where we’ve been so far. Oooh, a map…

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We originally planned to spend four weeks in China and were considering three in Thailand. As we reached Hong Kong a little sooner than expected, we’ve decided to cut Thailand a little short and instead spend two weeks in Malaysia, specifically in Borneo. We’ve got some diving and trekking plans ahead. Back to now though, we’re just about finished our four night stay in Chiang Rai. What a great place this is! It’s like visiting the Asian version of a small Irish country town. You know the kind, a one kilometre strip of road where all the shops, restaurants etc. are based. And everyone knows everyone. Chiang Rai has only reaffirmed how wonderful the Thai people are. We’ve met some of the friendliest and funniest locals in the past few days.

We spent most of our first afternoon with a second helping of bank issues. We had been living off the Hong Kong cash we converted into Baht on arrival in Chiang Mai and it had finally run out. Permanent TSB (naming and shaming) decided to block us both again, despite telling them twice in advance of the trip where we were going and having conversations/complaints the previous week. Their fraud department prefer not to read notes on a customer’s account it seems and any international activity will trigger an alert. After further complaining we’re up and running again. I’m expecting issues when we arrive in Malaysia but let’s stay positive. Thankfully, when we were on the phone to the bank the weather had the decency to have a massive thunderstorm while we were in our bedroom. Bucketing down!

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That evening we went to the night bazaar where you can get all kinds of yummy Thai food, snacks, desserts etc. for a Euro or two. I’ve also discovered my new favourite fruit, the coconut! Fifty cent = ice cold coconut juice fresh in a coconut and then after they’ll cut it open and you can eat it. I’ve had two already and am craving more.

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On Tuesday we took a full day tour with four other travellers to various sights, the main one being the Golden Triangle, a place where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) all cross-intersect with one another via a river. There were a few really interesting stops on the way.

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This is the White Temple. It was built only 17 years ago and is one of Thailand's best known temples.

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For some reason this guy is everywhere at the temple. We don't know why?

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We visited the 'Long Neck' village. The local tribe follow a custom whereby every woman has to wear very heavy metal rings around their neck. Every three years they add another until they reach forty. Naturally, I thought this was a great idea for Alberto. He loves it!

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At the same village we also randomly saw a snake eat its lunch. Look away now if you're particularly fond of frogs.

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We also visited the 'Monkey Cave' and got a chance to feed some monkeys. I felt like the guy from that film Outbreak.

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There was a steep climb up to the cave where there's a small temple. I'm not sure where Alberto was looking either.

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Finally we reached the Golden Triangle! Sarah Palin has a holiday home nearby so she can see Laos and Myanmar from her backyard.

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Today we managed a 15km jungle trek. We sweat a lot, the picture below was taken only 30 minutes in.

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We got to see a waterfall and some nice views.

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The highlight however was our lunch, noodle soup with pork/veggies and an omelette. Wait, wait. We cooked and ate everything using only bamboo, a knife and fresh water from a natural source. Take that carbon footprint.

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The day was finished with a stop at a tea house followed by a relaxing soak in a hot thermal pool. This travelling thing is a tough gig.

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We both loved Chiang Rai and if we had more time we'd have stayed longer to chill out and relax. Tomorrow we fly to the madness of Bangkok. I'm going to spend this evening rehearsing my Tuk Tuk negotiation skills.

Posted by mattld 10:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Chiang Mai

semi-overcast 30 °C

That infamous phrase... 'I need a holiday after the holiday'... that’s how we were feeling by the end of Hong Kong. China couldn’t have been better but with so much to see there hasn't been a lot of time for relaxation. Cue: world's smallest violin. We haven’t exactly been lazing by the pool every day but we’ve taken it down a gear since we arrived in Thailand. Alberto is a Thai virgin but this is my third visit, and second in Chiang Mai. There are so many reasons to visit this country. Great weather, food, people, culture, activities etc. the list goes on. And you can barely spend your money it’s so cheap. A one hour full body massage for five Euro? Oh my Buddha! Here's what we've been up to...

A night Safari… get up close and personal with giraffes, tigers, hippos, rhinos and so on as well as some unusual animals we haven’t seen before. It was difficult to get good photos as no flash is allowed, and rightly so. However, the night time setting makes it more fun, and the animal enclosures are much larger than any zoo.

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There's also a light and water show while you're there and randomly, two camp cabaret acts. It's not officially advertised as drag but the girls were only short of having a wind machine on stage. Answers on a postcard.

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Thai cooking class... we prepared four dishes each. Asian Jamie Oliver eat your heart out.

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Ziplining… we got the chance to be monkeys for an afternoon. Great views up here too.

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An obligatory temple. Rude not to.

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Aside from the above, we’ve been sleeping in, watching movies, indulging in cheap massages, visiting the night markets, playing cards and having a few drinkies. Stick Chiang Mai on your hit list the next time you're in Thailand. Today we take a bus three hours north to the neighbouring town of Chiang Rai.

Posted by mattld 09:16 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Final Thoughts on South East Asia

sunny 28 °C

Well, it started off slowly but the last few weeks have just flown in. Where have the past two months gone?? Looking back on my blog I feel like I’ve done so much since I arrived at the start of January. Summing up travelling around South East Asia is too difficult to do in a simple blog post. There have been many highs and lows along the way. It was a real experience and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been thinking about my top five highlights for the past week now but I’ve finally made up my mind:

1: Halong Bay (Vietnam)
2: Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
3: Tubing in Vang Vieng (Laos)
4: Lunar New Years Eve at Hoi An (Vietnam)
5: Chilling out in Koh Phangan (Thailand)

You couldn't call it a highlight given the nature of it but the Killing Fields and Prison Museum in Phnom Penh are a must see if you're in Cambodia. Laos as a country was just such a pleasent surprise - I'm already looking forward to going back and seeing more of it.

Two memorable low points worth adding include the overnight bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An. I’ll never forget the look on Carly’s face as she got into her ‘bed’ for the night as the locals were shouting at her to climb up a dodgy make-shift ladder. It was too funny. Another was that awful first day in Ho Chi Minh city. After getting ripped off by a dodgy taxi driver on the way and discovering our hotel was in the most anti-tourist friendly location, we spent over an hour walking the streets for something decent to eat. Eventually we found an Italian restaurant and thought we were saved. We were both starving so when a horrible four inch pizza arrived followed by seven chips on a plate to share between us, it was the final straw. I’ll never forget the tears of laughter by us both and the confused look on the poor waiter’s face!

I would recommend travelling South East Asia to anyone. It’s not easy and there are times you’ll be seriously pissed off but believe me it is worthwhile – if you look back on the previous entries you can see some of the amazing things we’ve experienced. I just want to say a big thank you and shout out to Carly my Asian travel buddy. I’d like to wish her the very best of luck with everything in life and I know we’ll keep in touch as we shared this adventure together. I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without her. Carly, before we both forget her name… Dilly Morgan!!

Posted by mattld 08:56 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Tao & Bangkok II

sunny 28 °C

The boat ride to Koh Tao only took two hours. I slept for one so it felt like we were there in no time. It was a bit bumpy towards the end though. Carly and I didn’t feel too well getting off. It wasn’t helped by the blazing heat when we arrived or the 20+ people trying to get us into a cab or sell us a scuba dive tour. Luckily our hotel was only a five minute walk away from the dock so it was fairly straightforward.

Koh Tao is north of both Samui and Phangan – it’s the smallest of the islands and despite its beauty I must say I wasn’t overly impressed with it. There just isn’t an awful lot to do here – a lot of the island is inaccessible due to poor road conditions. It also wasn't as nice to hang out as Phangan or Samui. Our hotel lacked a pool so after the luxury of our place in Phangan it was a bit disappointing. Thursday was pretty much spent having a walk around the main town area and dinner before chilling out in the room that night.

The next day I hired a scooter (best way to travel on the islands but you need to be really careful you don’t crash – I fell off in Samui and had a few cuts and a nasty fine at the end of it). I travelled over to the North East of the island near Mango Bay. There was a great look out point where you can see most of the island including the main beach at Sairee. The view was great but it was touch and go getting in and out safely as some of the roads were quite dodgy. At one point I got off the bike and pushed it uphill for fear of it skidding. I then headed back towards where I was staying and stopped off at Sairee for some lunch and a look around. I've seen better but the beach was quite nice.

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On Saturday Carly and I split up for the final time as she was heading back to Samui for a few days. She didn’t spend as much time there as me so it made sense for her to go and do that and fly directly into Bangkok for her last night. She is off to Singapore, Bali, Perth and Sydney before flying home for good to London so I’m now officially on my own again! I took the opportunity to do a day scuba diving as it’s the best place in South East Asia. We were taken out to Mango Bay. It’s not one of the best dive sites here but in comparison with Alma Bay where I did my Padi Cert in Australia it was great. The water was 28 degrees and the visibility was very clear. I saw some really cool fish during the two dives… e.g. giant puffer fish, stingray, long fin banner fish and a school of yellow tailed barracuda. The best one though was the trigger fish – these bastards are quite large and have huge teeth. If you get anywhere near them they will see it as a sign of entering their territory. If you’re not careful they’ll fly at you and try to bite. Most of the time it’s only the flippers they go for but we didn’t want to risk it so when we saw one we stayed as far away as possible.

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The next morning I was up early for a boat over to Chumphon on the mainland. From there it was an eight hour bus trip (including a stop for dinner) to Bangkok. It was a long day – about ten hours travel in total. I had a bit of extra drama then on the Tuk Tuk to my hotel. I managed to get a great price (about 25% of what they were all asking for and cheaper than the quotes I had gotten from taxis). The only problem was my driver had no clue where the hotel was so we spent over an hour on what was essentially a free tour of Bangkok’s city centre! I could see the driver was getting more stressed out as time went on. His fee wasn’t all that much at 150 baht (less than 4 Euro) so I was relieved when we finally found the place!

The last three days have been spent chilling out and with a DVD player in the room I was able to catch up on some films that I hadn’t got a chance to watch. This was my third visit to Bangkok so the main reason for spending three nights here was to see friends. On Sunday night I met up with my mate Leon and two of his friends. It started off at about 11pm. After a few drinks in the bar we had a karaoke session for an hour before heading to a nightclub. We then headed to an outdoor street party in Koh San which was a lot of fun but by 5.30am I was drunk as a skunk and ready for bed. Leon kindly got me into a Tuk Tuk and I conked out pretty soon after getting home.

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Last night I met up with Will and Suze two friends from college. They’ve been travelling Asia since September last year so it was great to meet up and compare our experiences. They brought me to a cool little bar called Saxophone near Victory Monument. There was a live band too so a good night was had. After 8 drinks I ran out of money (I'm trying to watch it now as ATM charges are ridiculous – about 3 Euro per withdrawal) so we headed home just after 1am.

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Tonight I met up with Leon again for dinner and went for a drink. He’s moving to Australia for a few years (isn’t everyone these days!) so it was a good chance to say goodbye before he heads off after touring Asia for a month. Tomorrow I check out at 12pm, have a couple of hours to kill and then head to the airport. My flight is at 5.35pm and I should get into Sydney at 6am on Thursday local time. I’m really excited about it. I have friends from Ireland to catch up with and a group of Australians from my time here last year. Mardi Gras is taking place at the weekend so it’s going to be a lot of fun! Next update in a week just before I head to New Zealand.

Posted by mattld 08:52 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

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