Bangkok Temples and the Bus to the Islands

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.


Impossible Addresses

Day 10 – Chiang Mai – Friday March 11th 2011

Our plan was so simple:

  • Have breakfast
  • Check out of the Winner Inn
  • Check into new place
  • Spend the afternoon visiting temples

The reality was far from simple. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned how complicated addresses can be in Thailand. We were within 50 feet of our new guesthouse and still couldn’t find the place. Even a Tuk-Tuk driver took us half way across town without finding the place.

In the end, we set up a base camp at De Naga, a Hotel and restaurant. Nic and Chick waited with our bags and Frank and I went off to find the place. After about 2 hours, tucked down a narrow side street we found it. There were two almost identically named roads.

We went back to the girls and took our bags round to get checked in. We still had time to tour some temples and ended up in a public park at the bottom corner of Chiang Mai. The park was busy with people practicing juggling, tightrope walking and playing games on the grass.

That night we walked to the night bazaar for some food and ended up eating from a strange food court where you exchange money for tokens, then tokens for food. The food was pretty average but the walk back afterwards was an eye opener. We saw countless old fat white men chatting up Thai women in sleazy bars. Some real desperate stuff. As we were in couples we didn’t get much hassle from the girls in the bars but we saw single guys get pounced on as they walked past.

I nipped in to a 7-11 for a Coca-Cola slushy on the way back. My favourite refreshment in Thailand aside from Chang beer, and only 35p!

The Winner Inn – Chiang Mai

Day 5 – Chiang Mai – Sunday March 6th 2011

Our sleeper train arrived a few minutes early in Chiang Mai, so we waited around for our transport to the Hotel. Our driver arrived in a nice modern pickup truck with comfy benches in the back and a roof. As pickups go, this was a decent example. Our hotel was located just outside the southeast corner of the Chiang Mai canal boundary. The Winner Inn was clean and tidy, and maybe a bit old fashioned. Considering it cost us almost nothing, it was relatively luxurious, and certainly nicer than a hostel.

View from The Winner Inn
View from The Winner Inn

The restaurant area had a strange British Seaside feel to it. It’s hard to explain, but we could almost have been in Brighton twenty years ago.

Chick wasn’t feeling well so Nic, Frank and I went to explore the city, and to find Chick some medicine. We went to the market and had a look round some temples. It is customary to remove your shoes when entering a temple, but the ground is hot in Chiang Mai. We wanted to light some candles and incense and almost burnt the skin off the soles of our feet in the process.

The main centre of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat. We ventured outside this liquid boundary to find the Airport Plaza which was a massive Mall with a huge food court. We ate some food from a Japanese stall,  got some medication for Chick’s throat and then caught a Tuk-Tuk back to the Winner Inn (Which we pronounced Vinner Inn).

Before the night out, I applied my various potions – 55% Deet to repel insects, Anthisan for the bites I already had and Savlon for my already flip-flop ravaged feet. I had been told to wear long sleeves and long trousers in the evening to avoid getting bitten too badly. For the most part that plan worked.

After dark we walked to the famous night market. It was so busy, and there were swarms of flying ants (or something similar) buzzing round the street lights. After an hour or two, the ants had mostly disappeared (we saw some Thais catching them in bags and eating them!).

Nic and I sampled our first street food here with samosas and spring rolls. We were also on the lookout for Chang beer t-shirts. Everyone had them and Chang beer has become one of my favourites, on account of the unpredictable alcohol content. We didn’t find the right size t-shirts but Nic did get some maroon pantaloons.

On our way back from the market we stopped off for a beer at John’s Place. Due to the crazy time difference they were showing the Liverpool Vs Man Utd game live. We left at half time and Kuyt ended up with a hat trick in a 3-1 win.

Tomorrow is Jungle trekking, and none of us know what to expect.

Touring Temples & Sleeper Train

Day 4 – Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai – Saturday March 5th 2011

Our room was comfortable but the air conditioning was noisy and kept us awake for most of the night.

In the morning we arranged for our tuk-tuk driver to take us on a tour of all the local temples. Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol was huge, and still in use by monks. Our driver would sleep outside while we went in the temples.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol - Ayutthaya
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol – Ayutthaya

After the long hot day touring temples, I wanted nothing more than to chill out and have a shower and a beer.

Our itinerary had other plans. We had to catch our next train to Lop Buri (Monkey Town). The train was 2nd class this time, with comfortable airline style seats and fans on the ceiling.

We arrived as the sun was setting and I realised quite fast that I didn’t like this place. The monkeys were violent and savage, grabbing things and attacking people. Luckily we only had a few hours to kill.

After a slow drink at a small cafe Frank went to explore whilst the rest of us went to take cover on the railway platform. Little did we know that Frank had almost got mugged by some dodgy locals after accidentally getting lost down some back streets.

Waiting for our third train, the famous sleeper train, I was not looking forward to a ten hour overnight journey. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The security was excellent, with guards on every door checking tickets and passports when people arrived. We were then lead to our top bunks which were surprisingly spacious.

I had an expensive Chang beer, which seemed to help me fall in love with the sleeper train even more. In fact, I wouldn’t mind just paying to do a few trips on the sleeper train. I couldn’t wait to get to sleep, and nearly nodded off with my beer still in my hand.

The toilets were an experience, but I was soon tucked up and asleep. I slept right through till morning. It was a million times more comfortable than any economy class flight!

Train to Ayutthaya

Day 3 – Bangkok to Ayutthaya – Friday March 4th 2011

We arrived at the TAT office at 11am and were taken into the railway station and shown which platform to wait at. We were heading for Ayutthaya, one of the most historic cities in Thailand, and former capital.

Bangkok to Ayutthaya Train Ticket
Bangkok to Ayutthaya Train Ticket

This train was ordinary class, which meant we were travelling local style. We travelled with mostly Thai people but there were a few other backpackers around. Our carriage had a rudimentary style of air conditioning, otherwise known as open windows.

The ride was a couple of hours on slatted wooden benches. Fine for this short distance but I can’t imagine sitting like that for much longer.

During the journey, a drunk Thai couple started having a fight in the middle of the train. The man was kicking the woman in the head until a very officious guard arrived to restore order and booted them off at the next stop. There seems to be a real respect for uniformed officials. Nothing like back home.

At Ayutthaya we were met unexpectedly by a friendly woman for our first ride in a Tuk-Tuk (pronounced Took Took). The tuk-tuk was fun and we were quickly at Baan Eve Guesthouse. It was away from the main road and had outdoor seating, tuck shop style bar, and a really lovely family running the place.

The family were more than happy to arrange transport and suggest local places to visit. We could easily make them laugh by trying our hardest to speak Thai. Sawatdee-Krup!

In the afternoon we walked to some local temple ruins, which were literally a few scattered rocks on the ground. They were so inconspicuous that we walked straight past them at first.

In the evening we had some new arrivals so went with our new friends to the night market by tuk-tuk. The market was tiny, and mostly selling food, so we were soon back at the guesthouse enjoying a beer before bed.