A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Bangkok

Hustle Bustle

sunny 35 °C

A night train brought us early into Bangkok. From what people had told us, we would either love it or hate it. It was almost like coming to a new country as it was so much more hectic and polluted than anywhere else we have visited in Thailand. The relaxing beaches seem like a world away. However, we were ready for it and were prepared for a shopping spree and some temples.

Whilst the shopping here is fairly good (there are markets practically everywhere), a major highlight is our hotel! Back in Chile an older Canadian advised us to book The Royal Hotel online. It is quite old fashioned but very grand. Its a bit more than we would normally spend but when in Bangkok, you definitely need some sort of peaceful retreat (with a pool!). The huge buffet breakfast has been an unexpected treat too! As soon as you leave the hotel lobby, it is back into a world of mayhem!

We visited the must see Grand Palace and the adjoining Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddah). The grounds were very impressive and the buildings magnificent. The lavish design and vibrant gold colours made for some great photos! We also stopped at the nearby reclining giant buddah at Wat Po. Inside a temple there is a golden buddah the size of a bus, lying down!

As for shopping, we have covered the main markets. The well known MBK shopping centre, Kaosan Rd, Pratunam market, Patpong market, Suan Lum night bazar and JJ's market (not only open on weekends we found out). It killed Yvette's foot to walk around and my shopping tolerance was wearing thin but we left much of our shopping until Bangkok, so it had to be done! We haggled the best we could and often got what we thought as a 'fair' price but nothing has been dirt cheap. In fact, Bali was cheaper. I guess in Thailand, there is always some other tourist around the corner who will buy the item if you do not! If anyone is considering a shopping spree in Bangkok, Suan Lum night bazar and JJs (weekend) market were by far the best destinations in our eyes.

I'd say that we fall into the 'love Bangkok' crowd just about - only for three days though!

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Posted by LuVet 00:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Thailand - Khao Sok National Park

Welcome to the Jungle

sunny 32 °C

Before getting to grips with Bangkok, we thought a peaceful retreat to the Khao Sok national Park would do us good. For the first night, we stayed at Khao Sok but unfortunately could not fully explore the waterfalls due to Yvette's injured foot. We hired a motorbike and explored the area surrounding the national park. The next day we headed to the enormous reservoir. A 1 hour longtail boat ride took us deep into the lake. The scenery along the way was stunning and when we pulled around a corner and saw the floating bamboo huts we would stay in, it made us smile. The area was so tranquil and it was amazing to be totally surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle. Canoes were also available, which was great since we could explore the lake whilst others went on jungle treks.

The bamboo huts were very basic. It was fine for one night but things became a little problematic when we found out our luggage was not going to join us after all. Poor communication from our tour leader! Well we were probably a bit at fault for not double checking but when he locked our luggage in the truck at the visitor centre, we just thought it would come on another boat but as the boat ride went further and further, we started to realise that everyone else didn't just have a day bag with them, they had overnight gear too! Once we got over the fact that we had nothing but our clothes on us, we tried to look positively at the simplicity of the next 24 hours.
After a delicious group meal, we headed on a night safari around the lake. It was tricky to spot animals with the high powered torch but the atmosphere of cruising around in pitch black was special in itself. We saw some black hornbeaks and what we think our guide was calling a 'sloth'.

Despite floating on the lake, we did not the best sleep as there was a huge toad noise coming from what I assume was a toad living outside our bamboo hut. Then the gibbons started their calls at 5am. We had an early start for a dawn lake safari anyhow. We saw some monkeys playing high in the trees but not tigers of elephants drinking at the water sadly! After breakfast, I joined the group on a short jungle trek whilst Yvette stayed behind (poor thing) and learnt how to make jungle jewellery. It was a great experience to stay in a lakehouse but we were glad to get back to our luggage!

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Posted by LuVet 00:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Thailand

Island hopping

sunny 32 °C
View LuVet World Trip 2008/2009 on LuVet's travel map.

Following the hotel fire, we were glad to get away from a built up resort. We spent 3 days on a nearby island called Yao Noi. There were very few tourists or bungalow operations and it offered a true insight into Thai agriculture. We hired a scooter and zipped round the island taking in rubber plantations and hamlets. There was only one main road around the island which you could complete in 30 minutes! We stayed in a nice beach bungalow. The convenience was handy given that Yvette was in no shape to walk. We also chartered a long tail boat and guide for the day to explore nearby islands, including Koh Hong which offers access to its natural lagoon during hight tide.
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We were enjoying island life and decided to go one step further and camp on the beach at a privately owned island further south off the coast. Yvette said it reminded her a bit of the Shipwrecked TV show, except we didn't have to survive solely on rice! There was no escape from the pristine beach as the rest of the island was impossible to get at since the beach was enclosed by high cliffs. This meant that rock climibing was on offer! We were both a bit conerned about one another's injuries but we were getting fed up of sitting out all the activites during our travels. We geared up and succesfully completed three climbs. The dizzying heights meant overcoing my fear of heights. Yvette was a bit more carefree. Whilst on the island we met a lovely Dutch couple who became our card buddies since you had to make your own entertainment after the sun had gone down. The only thing we were glad to leave behind was the damn caterpillars that were taking over the island and infesting all the tents!
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After a stopover in Trang, a snorkelling day tour and an all-clear from the local Ear doctor, we got the bus back up the coast to Koh Lak. From this national park we booked an overnight scuba diving trip to the Similan Islands. We had planned to head East to Koh Tao (very popular for divers) but too many people had said that the Similan Islands would offer better diving. We were a bit short on time so opted for 2 discover dives instead of trying to get a PADI Open water qualification. It was my first time down to 12 metres and I was amazed by the sea world down there. Sadly we saw no sharks but we were both impressed by the variety and size of the fish and colourful coral. Swimming with a turtle was also something special! The only thing missing was human sized beds on the boat - it seemed they were catering for hobbits and small children only.

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A sidenote on the food and drink of Thailand. We love Thai food, so nothing to moan about! Getting a Thai curry for a pound a go is very satisfying. 'Real' Thai food can sometimes be too spicy for us but usually they will tone it down with some coconut milk for us 'farang' (tourists). If they do not, Yvette asks for a bowl of coconut milk to save her tongue! They use plenty of fresh ingredients and the seafood has been excellent too! As for drink, lots of fruit shakes and the beers are surprisingly good. I've tried them all...Beer Chang, Singh, Leo, Cheers...some are 7% too. At under 50pence a can, you cannot go wrong!

Posted by LuVet 22:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Trauma in Thailand

sunny 31 °C

Ok, so besides the usual travelling problems, luckily nothing that bad has occurred whilst we have been away.
Sadly our lucky run had come to an end!

The trouble began with Yvette's ear infection which she seemed to pick up in Phi Phi when snorkelling. It has caused her much pain and required a couple of ear suctions at the doctors as well as every kind of ear medication you can find here. Luckily over a week later she has been given the all clear to go in the water again. An ear infection may not seem like a big deal but it was not fun for her given that she is in Thailand spending time on beaches.

The next event was a bit more surreal. After booking a 6 day island getaway (to leave the next morning) through our tour shop friends, we were tucked up in bed on the fourth floor of our sidestreet budget hotel when this shouting started outside. It sounded as though a few English blokes were having a post night out scrap outside. So we tried to drift back off to sleep. Our ceiling fan was going full blast so that covered the noise quite well. Suddenly there was the smash of a bottle and then Yvette said to me she could smell smoke, so I went to the window to look. There were a crowd of people outside shouting 'get out, get out!' as a cloud of smoke billowed out in front of our hotel. (Clearly the hotel had no fire alarms!) Half asleep, I thought to myself, this cannot be happening to us.' I told Yvette we had to get out of the hotel. I grabbed my rucksack and both of our luggage (which upon reflection, I definitely should not have done) and opened the room door. The smoke in the corridoor was so thick that vision was less than 1 metre and we thought we would meet flames as we bolted down the four floors. Luckily we made it out to the street without encountering fire. We will never forget the smell and sting of the smoke. Everything happened so fast, I had left my camera and wallet in the room and had to worry for a while before finding out that the fire had not spread to our rooms so those things would be ok. In the panic, we stupidly forgot to cover our mouths with a damp towel. The Thai fire service took an amazing 15 minutes to arrive!

The third problem to occur was the damaged foot Yvette sustained in rushing down the stairs from the hotel fire. Luckily we did make it to Yao Noi island the next day and despite it being so small, there was a hospital there! An x-ray showed that no bones were broken but she is still hobbling around with difficulty.

We hope that we have had more than our dose of bad luck now and that all will be plain sailing from here on out!

Posted by LuVet 19:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Thailand

Phuket & Phi Phi

sunny 31 °C
View LuVet World Trip 2008/2009 on LuVet's travel map.

On our way over to Thailand, we took in Singapore. I thought it was a very nice looking city but the place we booked to stay in was far from satisfactory. Nevertheless we enjoyed some Chinese New Year celebrations in China town.

First top in Thailand was Phuket (Thailand's largest island). The fact that we stayed there for only two days tells its own story. I think many people love Phuket as it is like having Thailand's lovely beaches but with a western feel. The place was very touristy and expensive! Better for a two week holiday than for backpacking. Luckily we picked Kata beach resort which was pleasant enough and meant that we avoided the party crowds from Pattong Beach. We were keen to get on and explore the rest of Thailand. The first obvious stop would be Phi Phi Don. From here we could explore Koh Phi Phi Leh, the neighbouring island on which the famous Maya Bay, used in the film 'the Beach' can be found. Phi Phi wa beautiful but it was also bustling with tourists. Apparently these island have the world's largest tourist footprint!!
The snorkelling around the island was great as the water was so clear. Another opportunity to make use of the underwater digicam! (A great photo, I know! It was just pure luck that this fish swam in front of the lense for me)
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You could even hand feed the fish bread if you wished. We had booked to stay a night on Phi Phi Don. I am glad that we did as we got some time to explore the less touristic parts of the area. We spent an afternoon trekking around the coastline looking for our own paradise beach. We were shocked that we did in fact find ourselves totally alone in the late afternoon on a beach called Ao Lo Mu Di. It was the first time we sat and thought to ourselves, 'wow, so this is what Thailand is all about.'
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The next day we got back aboard the tourist train to do a half day long boat trip around the main attractions of Phi Phi. For those who have not been to Thailand, the longboats are as much part of Thailand as is Thai Green Curry! The tour took us onto Maya Bay. The water was a lush emerald green and the sandy bay was backed by steep cliffs and jungle. No wonder why it made such a great filming location. Again there were many tourists, so it was hard to find a quiet moment.

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We also stopped at Monkey Beach. This was a little beach where monkeys roamed and took fruit from the tourists. At Viking Cave we saw a bamboo structure which people used to live in the cave for a period of time in order to get hold of some very expensive bird eggs. (After travelling around, we have now seen many of these sea caves where people live for upto 6 months to get hold of these eggs!) We really enjoyed the Phi Phi islands for their natural beauty but the pier town at Phi Phi Don was overcrowded and again not a genuine taste of Thailand.
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We caught the ferry over to the mainland and stayed at Ao Nang in the Krabi province. Krabi is known as one of the world's best rock climbing locations. The fantastic scenery provided by the karst rock formations made it easy to see why. Ao Nang was again quite a built up tourist resort but it made a good base to do some trips from. We went into a tourist information shop for the internet but got talking to the English owner, Simon. He and his Thai partner have been a great source of information and have helped us plan much of our island hopping. We booked a morning of Elephant trekking through them. Elephant trekking through the jungle was a must-do activity for us whilst in Thailand. It was great to see the Elephants were treated well and since logging has been reduced, tourism actually keeps the elephants from being unemployed! Me and Yvette rode upon the largest and only male elephant there. The driver let us both take control and sit on the elephants neck. It is a strange feeling to be upon these incredible animals as the trudge step by step.
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Posted by LuVet 18:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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