A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AnitaBhogal

Back to Bangkok

36 °C

03/03/2016 - Our flight back to Bangkok from Krabi was nice and uneventful. We arrived at the smaller of Bangkok's airports and got a taxi to our new hotel. We got stuck in Bangkok rush hour traffic and all had a little nap in the taxi. The hotel was a bit swisher than the hostels we had become accostomed to and as we were on the 18th floor it had pretty impressive views of the city. After we had checked in and got freshened up we decided to look for somewhere for lunch. However that proved to be more difficult than we had anticipated. After looking around for a while we ended up in a cafe across the road for a late lunch. It was surprisingly good food despite us just happening upon it. After our late lunch/ early dinner we all went back, had a chance to relax and then to got ready for some cocktails. This was the first time in a few months that Fleur and I had got dressed up. We wore some make up, did our hair and even managed to wear a vaguely non backpaker esque outfit. Once ready we headed to the Banyan Tree hotel to visit their sky bar which had been recommended to us by a few friends back home and it did not disappoint! The nighttime views across the city were amazing and although their cocktails weren't backpacker friendly priced they were really good. We stayed for a few hours, possibly taking too many pictures of the view but it was stunning. Just outside the hotel we picked up some mango sticky rice to share, the addiction was in full flow at this point. We had our post drinks dessert and then headed to bed.

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04/03/2016 - Fleur, Mum and I left the hotel at 9am for a little day trip, it was an hour later than we'd planned but we were up way past midnight the day before!? Hannah spent the day relaxing in the hotel. As we were eager to get a move on we picked up some breakfast bits to share from Starbucks which was just below our hotel. We then tried to get a taxi to the bus station. It was a bit of a struggle but we eventually found a taxi driver willing to take us on the meter. Most wanted to charge us at least four times what we ended up paying. We then took the two and a half hour bus ride to Kanchanaburi. Whilst Fleur and I tried to nap a little, Mum impressively stayed awake for the whole journey and knitted. Once we arrived in Kanchanaburi we took a taxi to bridge over the River Kwai, which was made famous in the film from the 1950s of the same name, starring Sir Alec Guinness. It was a really hot and muggy day. We walked the length of the bridge to a Chinese temple at the other end. We also saw a train pass over the bridge. We stopped for a quick lunch and a chance to get out of the sun before heading to the Thai Burma Railway Museum. We spent a couple of hours in the museum learning about the atrocious conditions in which Allied Prisoners of War (PoW) and Asian labourers were forced to build the ill fated railway. Many thousands died in the construction, mainly due to the conditions they were subjected to. The Japanese kept good records of the PoW and therefore their death toll was relatively accurate. However of the Asian labourers, many of whom were forced or tricked into working on the railway there were no such records and estimates of the death toll are much higher than of the PoW. After the intersting but harrowing visit to the museum we went across the road to the Allied War Cemetery. It was a surreal experience seeing the rows and rows of plaques. Each with the name, age and battalion of the soldier killed. Some had messages from their families engraved on them too. The youngest soldier's plaque was that of a 20 year old, the same age as Amar which really hit me. Atfer our emotional day we took the long journey back to Bangkok. We ended up getting back just after 9 and went straight to dinner in the restaurant below our hotel. Dinner was followed by a mango sticky rice of course. Mum ended her day with a late night foot massage...only in Bangkok!

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04/03/2016 - We checked out of the hotel early in the morning, leaving our bags there to collect later on. We then went to the Grand Palace, a complex of buildings that are the official residence of the King. On the way we were almost scammed by the most unassuming old man who tried to convince us that the Grand Palace was closed and that we should get in the taxi he had just flagged and go to the floating markets instead. Luckily we weren't convinced and decided to check ourselvelves and of course the Grand Palace was open. Despite our attempts to beat the crowds it was really busy and hot as well. The Grand Palace and it's grounds were beautiful to see but with the crowds and the heat it was a little bit of a struggle at times. Halfway through we had to stop for ice cream and a coconut...we hadn't eaten breakfast, foolishly thinking we would afterwards and were feeling a little faint by this point. Once we had finished going around the Grand Palace we headed to Wat Pho, a nearby temple complex to see the reclining Buddha. The complex was much bigger than I had expected and very impressive. Wat Pho contained some stunningly beautiful buildings. However with the heat and lack of substantial food we were all starting to really struggle by this point so we got a taxi to a cafe that Hannah had found for lunch. We all managed a main and shared two desserts between us. Slightly revived after lunch we went to pick up our bags and got a taxi to the new hotel, walking through a market and picking up a couple of bargains on the way.
We got stuck in traffic again on the way to the new hotel. We quickly checked in and then headed straight back out to the night market. Mum was after a couple of last minute souvenirs. After having scoured the market we went to a South Indian restaurant for dinner and had dosas. Once we were back in the hotel Mum freshened up and got ready to leave. Fleur and I went with her to the airport. We had an emotional goodbye and then she left for England.

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05/03/2016 - We woke up early and went to Chatuchak weekend market, the largest market in Thailand with over 8000 stalls. We picked up some fresh spring rolls and mango for breakfast and then tried to systematically tackle it. We walked around most of the market, which considering it's size and the stifling Bangkok heat was a pretty big achievement. We did well with our shopping and managed to get some lovely unique pieces of jewellery at good prices. Hannah did well with some cute pieces of clothing too. Sadly we had a disappointing lunch but we did get coconut water and smoothies later in the afternoon which made up for it a bit. The heat in the afternoon got quite intense and by the time we left at 4 we were well and truly exhausted.
Later that evening we had a bit of a night out. We had cocktails and food in a fabulously camp gay bar before doing a small bar crawl in the go go bar area. We ended our night back in the first bar watching some amazing Thai singers impress with their karaoke skills.

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06/03/2016 - The next morning we had a bit of a slow start. We had breakfast in the restaurant in the hotel before going over to Lumphini Park, stopping off at some market stalls on route. The park was lovely and relatively calm in amongst the craziness of Bangkok. We walked around the large pond and spotted a giant lizard, which kept up entertained for far too long. It actually took until it was out of the water for us to figure out what it was. We carried on strolling through the park until we found a spot to sit in the shade and watch the world world go by. We saw lots of runners and joggers by whom we were all impressed as the day was still so hot and humid. We also saw a load of ridiculously cute Thai babies out with their families. There was also some young guys practising their acrobatic/gymnastic skills by flipping themselves off large rocks and a beautiful sounding choir singing by the bandstand.
After the park, we went to a small shopping centre and Hannah picked up some bits to take home. We then tried to find a pizza truck (for our traditional last night in a country pizza), that was meant to do really good pizza, for dinner but when we did eventually find it it was closed. We walked back through the market and picked up some starters and then picked up dessert from 711. For dinner we ordered pizza from a local restaurant and ate it while we packed and watched Crazy Stupid Love.

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07/03/2016 - We had a 4.15 wake up, which was a bit of a struggle. We got ready, finished packing our last few bits and said goodbye to a sleepy Hannah before making our way to the airport for what was to be the longest journey of our trip so far. We started off with a relatively short trip to Hong Kong, followed by a 14 hour journey from Hong Kong to Dallas, Texas. We both struggled to sleep on the flight...I made it through four films, a personal record for me. Our last flight from Dallas to Mexico City despite being an other short one saw us both drift off. When we finally made it to Mexico we were greeted by the longest queue for immigration we had ever been stuck in. Male, Fleurs friend from France had kindly sent her husband and her brother to pick us up from the airport. On the drive to her house I fell asleep in the back of the car not surprising as by the time we arrived we had been travelling for 30 hours.

Posted by AnitaBhogal 18:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok and Sukhothai

20/02/2016 - Our flight into Bangkok was quick and uneventful. We even got given a light breakfast of a ham and cheese sandwich, coconut cake and a fruit salad on board which was a nice surprise. Once in Bangkok we got a taxi to our hotel. We had a bit of a relax after our early start and then walked to collect our train tickets, passing a local market and the train station on the way. It was so hot and humid and the walk took longer than we thought (possibly got a little lost along the way). Luckily the ticket office was air conditioned and had free water which revived us a bit. We then had a quick lunch before heading to Siam Square where we went to the cinema.

It was a very cute old fashioned cinema where the ushers, who showed us to our seats, were dressed in yellow and black uniforms that included bow ties. We had decided to gamble and got tickets to see Joy, which we'd not yet heard about but we were pleasantly surprised. Jennifer Lawrence was as usual amazing. Before the film began, just after the trailers we were instructed onscreen to pay respects to the King. At this moment everyone stood up while a short photo montage of the King came up on the screen. It was a really surreal experience and emphasised how well loved and revered he is in Thailand.

After the film we wandered around some of the shops in the Siam Centre before heading upstairs to get some food. We had a little feast sharing roast duck noodle soup, schezuan fish and steamed pork buns all washed down with a fresh coconut. For dessert we went a little less authentic and had ice cream. Later that evening we pampered ourselves with facemaskes that we'd bought weeks ago and had an early night in anticipation of our visitors the next day.

21/02/2016 - We woke up early as we were expecting Mum and Hannah to arrive in the morning. We got ready and headed down to breakfast only to be surprised by Mum who was already waiting for us. Her taxi driver hadn't been able to find the hostel we were moving to later that morning and had dropped her off at ours instead. It was a really lovely surprise. The only thing more surprising was the bright blue water we were given at breakfast to drink. After breakfast we attempted to walk to our new hostel but mum's suitcase and the uneven streets were proving problematic so we ended up getting a tuk tuk. Once at the hostel we got to catch up properly, relax and eat the delicious lemon drizzle cake mum had made and smuggled into the country, while we waited for Hannah to arrive.

Once Hannah arrived and freshened up we went to Wat Traimit but there was something going on. Crowds had gathered and were waiting along the sides of the pavements while official looking people guarded the gates. Mum asked someone but all we could make out was that in half an hour it should be over. So we decided to head over to China town in the meanwhile.

It was busy and with the heat and humidity it made for an interesting experience. On many of the menus of the restaurant we saw birds nest soup and sadly shark fin soup being advertised. We had a bit of an explore and pcked up possibly the largest pack of dried mango available. Once we were done we decided to give Wat Traimit another go.

It was still busy but this time we tried another entrance. We managed to squeeze our way to the gates through hoards of people only to find the temple was shut. We then had to squeeze our way back through possibly the same hoards. Part of what was going on involved the temple giving out free food and despite the tourism and the development of parts of Thailand the country still has issues with poverty so there were plenty of people trying to take advantage of a free meal. We had managed to get ourselves mixed up with the people queuing.

Once we finally got out of the temple we headed back to Siam Square for some food. We also walked through the MBK centre, one of Bangkok's less glamorous shopping centres before heading back to our hostel to relax for a bit. Before we got the chance to relax we had to drag all our bags and mum's (who had conveniently fallen asleep by this point) up three flights of stairs, which was harder than it sounds. In the evening we got taken to the wrong night market by our taxi driver, we ended up in pat pong market. A typical touristy market. Before we tried to tackle it we went and got some pad thai from a street kitchen, me and mum also shared some fresh papaya for dessert. We then spent an hour wandering around the market before we all ran out of steam, mum and Hannah still recovering from the flight over, and had to go back and to bed.

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22/02/2016 - We got up and out of our room early. We had breakfast at the hostel which had the nice addition of some fresh watermelon. After breakfast we began our journey to Sukhothai, it began with a taxi to the train station. Once at the train station we had a little bit of a wait. Which is when we discovered that monks have their own waiting area. Who knew?! Once we finally got on the train we were given lunch. We got a curry, a stir fry and rice which was surprisingly tasty. The train journey was around six hours long and later in the journey we were also given coffee and cookies.

We went through some really pretty scenery which was a lot flatter than we were used to. When the train finally arrived at Pitsanulok we changed over to a bus via a tuk tuk. The next leg of our journey took another hour. From there we got a tuk tuk van hybrid to our hostel. Feeling slightly tired and like we had utilised all the forms of transport available we managed to check in. We had a bit of a freshen up before going to a local night market to find some food. After dinner we went back to our hostel to be told about a festival in local temple that was on for only one night so we went back to check it out. There was lots of food stalls, some entertainment that looked to include a talent/ pagent show. a fair ground and even some outside dancing space.

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23/02/2016 - In the morning we got a tuk tuk to the Sukhothai Historical Park to see the ruins. We spent into early afternoon looking around and taking pictures. It was a really stunning and peaceful place. It was a super hot day again and shade was minimal which made it a struggle at times though. Once we were done we got a tuk tuk bus hybrid back to the town. We stopped at a local bakery to pick up bits for lunch, none of which we were entirely sure what they were. We split the mystery baked goods between us back at the hotel in their cute shaded garden. Mum went back to the room to recover from the heat while Fleur, Hannah and I hung out with a couple of beers (and some cheese straws that Hannah had brought us) and did some trip research. Later in the evening we went to dinner at a restaurant that had rabbits running around its grounds outside. They were very cute but sadly were too fast and jumpy to pet. Dinner was good but the stand out dish for originality alone had to be the banana samosa. It was a starter and we were all expecting it to have a savoury element but it was just a sweet banana samosa...perfect as a dessert but more than a little odd as a starter.

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24/2/16 - We left the hostel in the morning and made the journey to Chiang Mai. Again we utilised most of Thailand's transport options, we took a tuk tuk, bus another tuk tuk and then train. The journey was another long one and again we got lunch. This time it was much more of a fishy menu with two types of mackerel dishes served up with the rice. The coffee and cookies slightly later in the journey helped make up for the slight mackerel overdose a little. We also broke into a green tea kit kat that had melted and reset so looked particularly appealing. It tasted quite good though. About an hour and a half from the end of our journey a storm began, there was thunder, lightening and some heavy rain. At the same time the train tried to climb a hill...it became clear very soon that it was struggling but no one on board was expecting what was to come. We ended up reversing back quite a distance in order to try and gain some more momentum to ascend the slippery hill, this happened at least three times! The last time the train was reversed all the way back to the last station that we passed, what seemed like miles earlier. We ended up waiting in the station about an hour. We couldn't quite make out what was going on bit whatever was happening meant that thankfully the next attempt saw us climb the hill and finally carry on on our way to Chiang Mai, only a couple of hours behind schedule!

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Posted by AnitaBhogal 18:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Luang Prabang (again) and Vang Vieng

10/02/2016 - Once we arrived back in Luang Prabang we checked into our third guesthouse in the town, we felt like we were doing a good job at exploring the various accommodation options that Luang Prabang had to offer by this point. After a quick freshen up we went and had an interesting flavour combination in one of our crepes for lunch. The savoury one was chicken, tomato and egg. On reflection it doesn't sound the worst but i can assure you it was odd. Luckily the strawberry and chocolate one made up for it (and yes, for all those that know me to well I'm well aware this goes against my fruit and chocolate rule!). As did the fresh papaya that we also had. We then spent a leisurely afternoon in the town and even managed to top it off with a happy hour gin and tonic in a local bar. Later that evening I was feeling a bit down but Fleur came to the rescue with pizza and a bar of Dairy Milk , which in Luang Prabang is no easy feat, and saved the day.

11/02/2016 - We woke up early and were ready and waiting for our pick up at 9 to go to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The drive there took about 50 minutes and in the back of the tuk tuk it was freezing. It started off as a really grey and dreary day but began brightening up the closer we got to the falls. As we had booked a private tuk tuk we had a blissful couple of hours to explore the falls without the hoards of tourists who would eventually arrive later with their scheduled tours. The waterfalls were stunningly beautiful, the water was bright turquoise and the pools that ran off it were all filled with this magical coloured water. We walked all around, possibly taking far too many pictures. We went to the main waterfall and climbed up the side of it to get an amazing view. On the way down from the Waterfalls there was a bear sanctuary and we got to see some very cute rescued bears. We felt a little smug as we left as the crowds were definitely now entering the park. Once back in Luang Prabang we struck up conversation with a really lovely pair of Scottish couples in their 50s who were on a ten week travelling adventure. The highlight of the whole conversation had to be when they thought we were fresh out of university...make up free and slightly bedraggled I thought we'll take that, thank you very much! In the evening we went out for dinner to Khaipaen, where they train and support deprived local young people. We had some delicious tapas style Laos dishes, our favourite being the spicy aubergine dip. From dinner we went to the night market, which it was becoming obvious that it was our shopping weakness. We both bought some more souvenirs and gifts before heading back for the night.

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12/02/2016 - We woke up really early in order to see the local people giving alms to the monks. It happens in all Buddhist areas but as Luang Prabang has such a high density of temples in such a small place it was meant to be more of a sight to see. We got into a good spot by our nearest temple and waited and waited and waited. Nothing happened, looking back on it we were definitely too late but at the time we were just far too sleepy and confused to fully understand what was going on. We headed back to get ready for our 7 hour journey to Vang Vieng. We had bought tickets for the VIP bus but soon realised that in Laos VIP didn't mean the same thing as it does in England. The bus was just grotty and run down, everything looked like it needed a bit of a clean. On the plus side we got a free bottle of water and lunch at the three o clock stop. The last hour or so of our journey passed through some beautiful scenery of limestone rock formations and mountains and lush green countryside. Once into Vang Vieng we had an early dinner and then had a wander around the town to try and get our bearings.

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13/02/2016 - After a lie in, we had a nice big breakfast with a view across the river. Then we went and saw the old airstrip, which was a bit of a no man's land and an old communal well before heading back to the centre. We crossed the river and walked to Pha Poae and then to Luisi caves. The walk was really lovely, through the countryside with the cliffs providing a dramatic backdrop but it felt like it took forever in the blistering heat. On the way back a small red snake crossed our path, Fleur was a little freaked out and I got to be the brave one reassuring her that it was only tiny and hopefully harmless. Once we made it back to the river we sat at on of the riverside huts and had coconuts whilst dipping our feet in the river which was needed after the long walk. For dinner that evening we went to a Laos Austrian fusion restaurant and had some amazingly fresh, delicious and quirky food.

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14/02/2016 - We had a very relaxed day on Sunday. After breakfast, where Fleur had porridge that tasted amazing but like it could have been dessert we went back to the huts on the river and sunbathed and watched the world go by. Some adorable but mischievous local boys, probably around 4 years old, played in the river by us. Splashing us with water accidentally every now and then. They also managed to catch some type of shellfish and brought it round to all the people sat in the huts in an old crisp packet, proudly showing it off. We had a quick lunch in one of the remaining TV bar/restaurants...a remnant from the time when Vang Vieng was the place for hedonistic travellers seeking, alcohol, drugs and tubing. Since a spaite of tubing related deaths in 2012 when the death toll reached over 20 the town has tried to remarket itself and shed it's former seedy image. There are still people who come to Vang Vieng for the crazy partying but you feel that they are a few years too late.

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We then went back to the hostel and freshened up before going to our tour agents for our hot air balloon ride! We arrived at the agents a little early and were given seats and beer to pass the time, a pleasant surprise. Our pick up arrived soon after and took us to the field that we'd be leaving from. When we arrived there was a small group of us and three hot air balloons, it all seemed fine until a larger group of tourist arrived and we were informed that we'd all have to get into the three balloons. We watched two balloons go up before 8 of us squeezed into ours. Once up in the sky the experience was amazing , the sky was a tiny bit hazy but on the whole the views of Vang Vieng were spectacular. We were up in the air for just over 30 minutes, we began to see the sunset and it was magical. After dinner we both Skyped our families who got to meet a little lizard that had found its way into our bathroom.

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15/02/2016 - After breakfast we checked out of our hostel and waited for our bus to Vientianne. When it finally arrived we realised it was a minibus when we had been expecting a coach. The seats were pretty uncomfortable and the driver seemed too young to be driving but he drove well and smoothly which was a relief after some of our previous minibus journeys.

Posted by AnitaBhogal 19:54 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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