A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok to Koh Phangan Island

semi-overcast 30 °C

A very long travel day that started at 0400 to catch the bus from Bangkok at 0600, the catamaran from Chumphong at 1300, change to another catamaran at Koh Tao Island at 1500 and finally arrive on Koh Phangan Island in the Gulf of Thailand at 1700! Toilet on the bus [which made no comfort stops] was pretty unpleasant when used out of necessity...Catamarans were better, though ride a bit rocky with NE winds so riding outside best. Quick truck/taxi ride to lovely Milky Bay Resort and lovely rooms with all the mod cons.

Alan's hope to try scuba diving tomorrow dashed as an extensive algae bloom has stopped all scuba diving in these islands right now! We'll hike/explore and snorkel instead (due to warm waters, some areas here may be clear for the top few feet, then murky/dark all the way down with algae - opposite to BC!).

Beautiful beachfront dinner with grilled red snapper and roast vegetables - tasted great after eating little all day on the road and sea!

More Koh Phangan photos and info tomorrow as we explore!...

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Posted by alangcampbell 09:06 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Bangkok and Ayutthaya at 35C!

sunny 35 °C

After a quick early breakfast we boarded minibuses and headed for Bang Pa-In, the summer palace of the King and Queen of Thailand on the outskirts of Bangkok. It is a very beautiful estate, kept immaculately for the royals of course, but also the pride of the Thai people who love their monarchs. On the grounds we saw a large monitor lizard devouring the remains of a turtle it had caught!

Then we motored further north to Ayutthaya, the ancient and glorious capital of (then) Siam, which was sacked by the Burmese in the late 1700s. A huge city the Thai subsequently abandoned for the more defensible Bangkok, Ayutthaya had 400 temples so even the ruins left today are very impressive. To dispirit the Siamese, the invaders (also Buddhist!) decapitated many of the statues of Buddha and defaced temple adornments. It didn't work, of course, the Burmese were eventually repelled and apparently have made reparations in modern times for the destruction they caused - perhaps they are trying to improve their collective karma!

It was mostly sunny and 35C here today and it felt like you were being slowly par-broiled outside, so after a refreshing riverside lunch stop, we just made one more temple stop at Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol, where there is a huge stupa, reclining Buddha and a massive collection of rooster statues many of which devotees born in that year leave behind for good luck! They are very colourful and look pretty cool in their flower garlands!

Some in-hotel aircon time was needed to refresh most of us (Catriona and Mary amazingly headed straight back out for some more exploring!) so we could enjoy dinner by the Chao Phraya River and get back to pack and rest for an 0500 departure tomorrow and a long journey to Koh Pha Ngan, further south in the Gulf of Thailand!

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Posted by alangcampbell 03:34 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Chiang Mai to Bangkok

sunny 32 °C

Our last morning in Chiang Mai! We had just enough time to return to a couple of favourite local temples and savour the pace of street life in the old city, Then we piled into two of the little red transport trucks ("rapchangs") with all our suitcases strapped to the tops, and made our way to the airport for the 1hr+ flight to Bangkok.

Thailand's capital city is immense and we managed to be in the traffic to our downtown hotel during the afternoon rush hour. There are an amazing number of scooters and motorbikes here! Every intersection looks like a motorbike convention as they all seem to sneak up between the cars at the lights and take over the front of the queue.

The Rikka Inn is on the street of the night market, so our minibus driver let us off at one end and we threaded our way through the growing shopping/strolling crowd to find it. Rooms here are smaller and less funky than the Parasol Inn in Chiang Mai, but they have everything you need in about 200 sq ft.

Dinner in a quiet outdoor restaurant down a private alley was delightful, but Bangkok's 33C humid heat doesn't dissipate until overnight, and then only down to 23C! A stroll down the night market street madness and back to our hotel room - thank goodness for air conditioning!

Tomorrow we are up early and off to visit the ancient abandoned Siamese capital of Ayutthaya north of Bangkok!

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Posted by alangcampbell 07:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Washing the Elephants...or not!

sunny 30 °C

Alan spent pretty much all last night practising his "Thai two-step" moves and "praying" repeatedly at the holy toilet, so opted to stay at the hotel and get some sleep today. Catriona, clearly made of much sterner stuff, left around 8 with the rest of the group for the Elephant sanctuary so at least we were represented! It seems I may have had a bad shrimp in my otherwise excellent Thai dinner at highly-recommended Huen Phen restaurant last evening.

At this sanctuary, the elephant herd (43 in all!) can roam a huge area and interact with people for their feeding and washing in the river. Catriona was able to get up close and personal with several of the gentle giants, who elsewhere in Thailand are still used to work in the jungle for clearing and hauling. It was a fabulous experience seeing the elephants in their family groups and learning more about their situation in Thailand. It was heartbreaking to see some of the abuses that the elephants had suffered in the logging, circus and begging industry and were still living with the effects of broken hips, blindness and broken bones. Lek has been rescuing since the late 1990s and was giving this large property to continue her work rescuing abused elephants. a number of baby elephants have been born here and the mothers choose a nanny and family group to help her look after them. We spent the day wandering around feeding, bathing them sitting in the sun watching them frolic in the river. What a wonderful day for Catriona and the group. Alan's better so we off to the Riverside restaurant tonight.

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Posted by alangcampbell 02:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Mae Kampong Homestay

sunny 30 °C

Our trip to Mae Kampong took less than an hour by minibus, but the change from Chiang Mai's busy urban scene to the tranquillity of the hill tribe people was truly remarkable! By cultivating shade-grown coffee and tea under the large trees on nearby slopes, and by hosting people like us in their homes, the villagers are able to subsist and maintain their traditional rural family lifestyle. After being billeted in various homes, we went for an energetic hike up and down beside a mountain stream with 7 waterfalls! We were all more than ready for a break to enjoy their local coffee and tea in a cafe perched on the edge of the ravine.

But the really great thing about this trip was the opportunity we had to get to know some local people and how they live. We had 4 Thai-speaking guides with us to help translate, since the villagers know little English, and one village elder to lead us on the hike through their lands. Dinner was a terrific array of spicy and not-so-spicy vegetable/meat dishes taken with lots of rice, and more hot sauces if you were so inclined! They refer to the tiny local everything shop as the "7-11" since that chain is very well known here. So it was that in the morning, before breakfast we all convened at the "7-11" to help present their temple monk on his daily begging bowl rounds with gifts of food from our hosts. The diminutive, smiling monk received all the donations and chanted a blessing for us all before continuing on his way. The little children on their plastic tricycles seemed to already have the right attitude to charge around the narrow roads on scooters as most Thai seem to do! Eric, one of our group, delighted them by taking their photo with his iPhone and showing them the result!

On the way back to our hotel in Chiang Mai we stopped in Bosang at large demonstration workshops for making parasols, Thai silk and silver jewellery, and of course, equally large shops attached to sell their wares! We enjoyed another great Thai massage in Chiang Mai, but a few of our group decided to try the "fish massage" in which you put your feet in a tank with lots of little fish who nibble off your dead skin! The Sunday Walking Market, partly on our street, is in full swing as this is posted, complete with entertainers and vendors of everything you can imagine and then some!

Tomorrow, the group heads out of town again, this time to a nearby elephant sanctuary, as our time in Chiang Mai draws to a close in a couple of days.

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Posted by alangcampbell 06:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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