Day 25 – Bangkok to Chumporn – Saturday March 26th 2011
We decided to have a look at the famous sights of Bangkok today, so we booked our transport to Koh Tao, left our baggage at the tour office, and then set out for the day.
We started at the National Gallery and Museum, which were free today due to a public holiday. Then we made our way to the famous Emerald Buddha. We arrived to total chaos so decided to skip this one and go to see Wat Pho instead. It was a good call, as Wat Pho has a massive gold reclining Buddha and large grounds to walk around. There were big stone guardians at the gates.
Frank and Chick left early to return to Khao San Road, but Nic and I decided to head for Wat Arun. We walked via a street market, monument bridge, and a lovely waterside path before snaking through back streets to reach the temple. The temple looked really different and was covered in tiny ceramic tiles. By the time we got there, we didn’t even have time to go in, so we flagged down a Tuk-Tuk to take us back to Khao San Road. It only cost a pound, which was a bargain, as it took ages to get back.
After eating, we headed for the tour office at about 6:30pm, but didn’t get on a bus until almost 9pm. On the plus side, I got chatting to an Indonesian guy Boris, who was travelling to Koh Tao to work. He gave me his copy of the guide-book, which we hadn’t been able to get anywhere else.
The lush wet greenery of Pai is worlds away from the Thailand we have come to know. This place is quiet, rural and laid back, even when compared to Ayutthaya. The landscape is mountainous and feels almost English. The fact that the rain has been relentless also reminds me of home.
Earlier today we were all sat around reading, just chilling out. Frank came busting through the quiet time with his exercise routine. Our chalet rocked from side to side with his every squat thrust.
We had to laugh. Even in Pai, where relaxation is king, Frank just couldn’t sit still. Eventually he succumbed to the Pai way of life and is now sitting in a hammock reading a book.
In the afternoon we got our rain macs on and headed across the river to book our travel back to Bangkok. The bus back to Chiang Mai was only £3 (150B) but we were gutted to find the next sleeper train fully booked. We had to book an overnight normal seated train for the 12 hour trip. That train cost £14 (711B) and if we couldn’t sleep on it then we had the next day to catch up before our flight to Hanoi.
Nic has had a bad stomach today so hopefully feels better before the flight.
Day 13 – Chiang Mai to Pai – Monday March 14th 2011
I woke early and was a bit freaked out about my potential ghost sighting last night. Breakfast was Coco Pops, yoghurt, and fruit. This guesthouse is run by a German guy and does great breakfasts.
The minibus was late but then we travelled around Chiang Mai collecting some Chinese travel companions.
We had a rest stop after a couple of hours and then got to Pai at around 1pm. It’s a small pretty town on a river, with quaint bamboo bridges and a decent local art scene. Some of our best postcards came from Pai.
We crossed a bamboo bridge and after walking for half an hour in the wrong direction found Darling Viewpoint Bungalows perched on the hillside. The owners were away, so a French guy that was living there and a Thai cleaner lady helped check us in. For some reason we got upgraded to the VIP chalet so we had our own en-suite bathroom and our own terrace area with hammocks and seating.
It was a beautiful setting with mountain views beyond the town below. There must have been a temple nearby as we often heard the hypnotic sound of monks chanting. We also heard a bit of karaoke at one point but couldn’t tell where it was coming from.
Frank spent about two hours trying to light a small fire on the land outside our chalet. He finally got it going when the rain started. I was looking forward to a decent storm from our view up here. It didn’t really happen and just drizzled for ages.
The cleaner, who spoke no English at all, was also a decent cook. She cooked up some real authentic Thai food for us. We had to just point at things on the menu, which is a pretty universal way to order things in an unknown language. I think one of us may have mimed out a chicken dance, to confirm the meat content. It seems that the chicken dance is also universal.
That night, as we were falling to sleep, there was a massive crash and bang on the terrace. I got up to see what it was but I couldn’t see anything. It sounded like an animal, so we just went back to sleep.