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Entries about thailand

The Family that Travels Together...

sunny 33 °C
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I'm glad we are able to spend a considerable amount of time in Thailand before we head home. We came back again to a warm Bangkok welcome and reacquainted ourselves with great Thai food. The weather is perfect (finally!) and after a few days in the city we headed south to Hua Hin, a small fishing village and the traditional home of the royal family, with the sole purpose of sunning ourselves and reading our books. It seems these days that it is also home to an enormous amount of elderly Europeans, they were everywhere and had a delightful habit of wearing next to nothing (bloody Germans) and letting their old leathery flabby bits hang out while wandering the streets of the town.


It wasn't long after returning to Bangkok after our few days in Hua Hin when we were joined by Will's mother and uncle. With Red Shirt rallies on the horizon for the weekend we decided to make the visit to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho the day after their arrival. It was extremely hot and the Grand Palace is the busiest tourist attraction I have ever been to. It's quite stunning to walk around but with the crowds and the heat, not massively enjoyable (this isn't helped by the fact that you have to wear long trousers).


We arrived in Chiang Mai today. It's been six months since we were here last and it is probably our favourite place of the trip. It's especially strange being back here and thinking of all the travel that has been done in the meantime, I'm getting nostalgic and I haven't even returned home yet. Dad arrives tomorrow, I foresee lots of Thai massages in our future...

Posted by suzebert 19:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok hua_hin Comments (1)

Nong Khai

Last stop before Laos

sunny 34 °C

After spending a few days relaxing, eating well, shopping in Bangkok we took an overnight train to Nong Khai, a tiny border town in the North East of Thailand. The overnight train was relatively comfortable. We splashed out on first class tickets and got ourselves a two person cabin which came with a little hand basin and room service from a lovely Thai woman who refused to take no for an answer when asked did we want a beer - it would be rude to refuse right? Despite the odd mini cockroach (not as bad as the Hué to Hanoi overnighter taken last year) and the neighbours coughing their lungs up, the beds were comfy, the beer was cold and the train trundled along at a comfortable speed throughout the twelve hour journey north.

Arriving in Nong Khai our fears of entering a typical dodgy border town disappeared. The town itself is relatively sleepy and sits on the Mekong river with Laos across the water. We were lucky enough to arrive in the middle of the annual Thai-Lao boat race so the promenade along the riverside was packed with locals cheering on the boys on the water while commentary was blaring on huge speakers along the riverside and it made for a fantastic atmosphere. Here's a link to a video Will took.

The races along with one of the most spectacular sunsets I've seen made for a nice introduction to the town. We did, however, find it slightly difficult to find anything else to do and in hindsight a three night stay may have been a bit much. The riverside in my opinion is hugely underdeveloped and is crying out for some nice bars and restaurants. Also, everything seemed to close at 8pm! Even the street food failed to inspire (despite the brief excitement surrounding the discovery of fried potato chips sprinkled with your seasoning of choice - yum).

Nong Khai is worth the visit however, not only for the easy border crossing over the Friendship Bridge to Vientiane, but for Sala Keo Ku - a park full of massive sculptures inspired by both Hinduism and Buddhism. You can read all about it here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sala_Keoku) if you like but the most impressive piece was the immense seven headed Naga snake. Very cool and to top it all off the creator of the park (who was this Laotian guru type dude but had to leave the country after the Communists took control) is entombed in this plastic bubble surrounded by Christmas lights....very strange. The same guy also created a similar park just outside Vientiane and we'll be off to investigate when we cross the border.

Onward to our first new country of the trip and more passport stamps!!!!!

Posted by suzebert 23:08 Archived in Thailand Tagged train thailand laos border_crossing nong_khai Comments (0)

Kanchanaburi & The River Kwai

sunny 32 °C
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A long day's travel. Six hours on a train, we splurged on the air conditioned second class seats which were great, if a little uncomfortable on the arse, but the windows had this film on them so the sun couldn't come in and bake you. As a result you didn't get to see much of the countryside passing by. This is probably best as I spent most of the time sleeping anyway. On a side note, I've determined that Thai people must have arses of steel. We have got to the stage where we rejoice when we find the luxury that is cushioned seats. On the bus, on the train, on scooters, on elephants, in restaurants and bars, we have, on many occasions, left with rather sore behinds which results in a little groan each time we sit down for at least 24 hours afterwards (or in the case of the elephant, about three days). I did consider writing a whole post on just this topic, an ode to a cushion if you will, but I doubt it would have been appreciated.

So we arrived in Kanchanaburi by bus from Bangkok (after the train journey from Phitsanulok) having broken a golden rule...never book accommodation in anywhere with the word 'resort' in it. We were tempted by the good reviews but instead got a location THB60 out of town (ok so it's €1.50 but every penny counts) and a completely dozy staff with no personality. We have been really spoiled/lucky with some of the guesthouses we've stayed in with great friendly staff so the bar is set high when we move somewhere new. It was clean which is what matters most so I'll stop moaning. We had a little bungalow to stay in which was nice too.


The town itself seems to be split in two, one end that is purely tourist orientated and another for the local Thai population. We unfortunately were stuck in the touristy end and never got to explore the other end as we were only there for three nights. To avoid the tourist horde, on the second day we chose the 06.05am train from the River Kwai Bridge to Nam Tok, the last station on this stretch of track. When it was first built, it crossed the Burmese border but that has since been ripped up after WWII. This particular stretch of track is one of the most scenic in Thailand, according to seat61.com (http://seat61.com/Kwai.htm) and I can't argue with it. The Death Railway is so-called as they say for each sleeper laid a person lost their life in the building of the track. Something that I didn't know was that there were more Asian labourers in the camps than there were POWs - labourers that were recruited by the Japanese on the promise of high wages and good working conditions.

From Nam Tok we took a taxi to the Hellfire Pass - named by the POWs because it was a part of the track that cut through a mountain and when the labourers were working at night the light from the fires resembled the fires of hell. There's a fantastic museum there established by the Australian government with a trail leading along the bed of the old railway track and a stunning contemplation deck looking over the valley. It included a great audio tour as well with stories from Aussie POWs, some with particularly admirable views on the Japanese officers that treated them so brutally. The Japanese looked upon the POWs with disgust as they believed death and suicide was more honourable than living as a captive in enemy hands, hence the sub-human treatment that was inflicted.

On a more frivolous note, we found a brilliant bar! Run by Nong a local guitar teacher who was giving lessons to a guy from Manchester who kept a nice little collection of guitars in the bar. One beer led to another and Will, Nong and Phil from Manchester had formed their own little band in this little bar on the side of the road.

After this brief sojourn in Kanchanaburi we are Bangkok bound again for a few days of rancho relaxo and a restock of supplies before heading on an overnight train to Nong Khai and onward into Laos, a whole new country!!!!

Posted by suzebert 23:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand river kanchanaburi kwai Comments (0)

Sukhothai & Phitsanulok

sunny 34 °C
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We finally got out of Chiang Mai. There was a distinct danger of running out of money in a few months and realising we hadn't left the town. We got ourselves to the bus station after a long goodbye with Sawasdee Guesthouse and Sam and piled on to a rather fetching pink and purple bus to Sukhothai, the old imperial capital of Thailand (before Ayutthaya). It was a rather comfortable 6 hour journey. I've learned that when getting on a bus in Thailand you must choose your seat astronomically - you'll often find that the locals will sit on one specific side so as to avoid the baking sun in the windows which makes for a very sweaty trip as the air conditioning is more akin to someone sitting five feet away from you and blowing really hard toward your face. So my tip is, before getting on a bus, consider which direction it is going in, what time of day it is and where the sun will be.

We were picked up in Sukhothai by the Flemish owner of the guesthouse we were staying in for two nights, a guy called Luc who co-ran the place with a Thai woman called Poo who also ran Poo's Restaurant down the road (by the end of our 48 hour stay the joke did eventually get old even when faced with the Poo special breakfast). We happened to be in town for Luc's 50th birthday and so were invited to the party. We weren't sure what to expect but it took us about five minutes of Poo pestering us to eat something to get over the awkwardness of being sat at a huge table with enormous amounts of amazing food laid out in a room full of Belgians and Thai locals. A good night was had and we only had to pay for the beer!

The guesthouse was in the new city of Sukhothai and therefore there wasn't much happening in the town. It seemed to be the converging point of all the noisiest birds in the country who perched on electric wires come dusk. Thankfully they were nice enough to miss my clothes when they shat on me (it's good luck right?). We took the local bus to the old city early one morning, and by bus I mean converted pick up truck with two wooden benches at the back, a good way to travel but by no means comfy after about 25 minutes.

The old city was stunning. We rented bicycles to get around and found it much more impressive than Ayutthaya which we visited last year and to which it is often compared. Most of the action is within the old city walls, it's filled with ancient crumbling temples and large ponds of water. Thankfully, it is also full of very large trees under which we had to shelter from the sun after about 11am.

Two nights I think was just right for Sukhothai as the old city is easily done in one day. So the decision was made to make our way to Phitsanulok, an hour east by bus, to join up with the railway line going south to Bangkok (about a 6 hour train journey) where we can get a bus to Kanchanaburi (approx. 3 hours). That sounds like a lot doesn't it, which is why we settled on staying a night in Phi'lok. A pretty uneventful night at that, the town from what we can tell isn't much to write home about, although to be honest we didn't see much of it. The only things of note were an unusual amount of people in what seemed to be an aerobics class in a park by the Nan River and joggers were out in force - the first time we've seen that anywhere - and a nice night market.

Onward to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai *whistles*

Posted by suzebert 19:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged bus thailand sukhothai phitsanulok Comments (0)

Chiang Mai & Pai

sunny 27 °C
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Almost a month on the road, I've officially broken the record for my longest trip/holiday ever. Where to start, we love Chiang Mai! The city is small enough to walk around, just about, there are great markets and a huge abundance of great food, the weather is a little cooler up here and if you want to get really chilly all it takes is a scoot up the nearest mountain, of which there are many. We also love scooters! Hopping on a scooter (FAO Mammy: in daylight only with a helmet and insurance) and getting out of the town and up the hills is the best experience yet and no amount of videos and photos will get that across although you.

We hooked up with a mate of Will's in Chiang Mai who is travelling with a friend and it was their idea to go to Pai, a tiny little town northeast of CM. Nice town (it reminded me a bit of Hoi An) but tiny and a total crusty hippy mecca, not our scene at all. We had one great night out in a tiny bar where we could ignore the crusty backpackers and hang out with the locals...and by hang out I mean them insisting on us trying the local booze and beating us at pool. Apparently we were there when it was extremely quiet, in a month or so it gets really busy so I can only imagine you'd find it even harder to spot a local person in town. The place is full of dreadlocked hemp clothed hippies (who like to stare a lot which was odd) either being drunk, loud and obnoxious (perfectly acceptable to drink and drive here too it seems) or droning on about travelling and trying to out do each other with their anecdotes of where they've been and where they're going....gets very boring after a while.

We did an elephant trek in Pai, something I wouldn't do again and wouldn't recommend people to do. We turned up to one of many places in Pai that do it to find these huge animals chained up. I can only hope that when all the treks are done for the day they are allowed roam about somewhere. Apparently also, I have read that elephant trekking is now so popular with us western folk that while originally it was used to give a home and a job to old logging elephants it is now leading to people poaching them from the wild (especially around the Burmese border) and putting them into these trekking services, many of which I imagine aren't cared for properly. Also they're incredibly uncomfortable creatures to be placed on top of...our arses are still recovering.

We also went fishing in Pai, in a small place run by a lovely English guy. He has a few ponds with a few thousand fish in them (so he says), including piranha. Great day out was had, I was champ for the day with my catch of two fishies which were promptly plopped back in the water. It seems like my kind of "sport", a lot of sitting around drinking and snoozing...

So we left the constant fight to resist shouting 'have a shower hippy!' at passers-by and we have escaped back to Chiang Mai arriving yesterday evening. We also left our two travelling companions who have stormed ahead into Laos on the slow boat so we're back to just the two of us. They don't have as much time as we do and are on a schedule to hit Oz on Nov.2nd, and they had us up and out early most days doing things....god forbid.

We're staying in the same guesthouse again with the best guy running it along with his niece, he's a local bloke and calls himself Sam (think it's short for Samoeng or something) but he's definitely our fixer here. He's done loads for us from organising scooters and buses, to directing us to the best meals in town and a massage place that was amazing. The massage place was set up by the old warden of the local women's prison to give women being released a job after receiving their training in prison - strong girls! The guesthouse even gave us an excellent unexpected fry up the morning we left for Pai.

Today is the 4th anniversary of the military coup that ousted the old PM Thaksin, so the place is overrun with redshirts. They're having a rally to mark the occasion this evening, with this area of the country being hardcore redshirt territory I don't feel as if there's any aggro towards them. There are a few cops about but they don't look too bothered. Everything seems to be going off ok in Bangkok so far today so I don't expect any trouble.

I think we'll stay in CM for a week at least before deciding where we're going next. It's gonna be hard to leave.

Posted by suzebert 01:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged fishing thailand elephants chiang_mai pai redshirts Comments (0)

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