A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok on Foot

sunny 32 °C

We are staying in Bangkok's central district so we can walk to many of the most amazing places in this incredible city!

Breakfast next to the Koi pool at our hotel got us going early so there weren't too many people about when we strolled through nearby Saranrom Park, which features several exercise stations complete with fitness equipment!

Next we visited Wat Pho, a huge Buddhist temple complex, famous for its large reclining Buddha among its other buildings and statues, many of which show Chinese influence. When we left Wat Pho about mid-morning the tour groups had arrived in force so by the time we arrived at the Grand Palace grounds the crowds were too large and the line-ups too long to enjoy seeing the Palace or Royal Temple themselves, so we contented ourselves with the grounds.

Then, just as we were about to exit the Grand Palace precinct, we happened upon the Textile Museum of Queen Sirikit, and had a lovely unhurried/uncrowded time exploring the silk weaving process and the resurgence of Thai silk designs spurred on by the Queen's commissioning of numerous beautiful Thai styles, which she showcased around the world in their state tours beginning in the 1960s. Naturally there was a museum store, and coffee counter, so we happily patronized both!

We followed the streets along the river, noting several ferry crossing points (@3 baht=12 cents) to temples etc on the other side, the standard river ferry (15 baht=60 cents/trip), and ended up going through the shops back to Khao San Road (not too crazy in daytime) and on back to our hotel without getting too lost or turned around! Alan bought a souvenir T-shirt with a standard Thai saying he has come to appreciate - he also got the serious giggles thinking about this with some other tour friends at our homestay village a week or so ago! Too funny!

When Jeannie and Ross White get here from Koh Phangan ~8pm tonight we'll have a bite to eat in the hotel and come up with some plans together for the next few days in Bangkok!

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Posted by alangcampbell 04:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Koh Phangan to Bangkok

sunny 31 °C

Today was a travel day as we made our way from quiet, unhurried Milky Bay on Koh Phangan Island back to the busy crowds of bustling Bangkok for our final 5 days in Thailand. We left the resort at 11 am and finally checked into the Feung Nakorn Balcony Hotel just after 8 pm, having travelled by troop transport truck, high-speed catamaran, highway bus, plane and taxi to make the journey!

They put stickers on you when you get your tickets from the islands which helps to see at a glance if you're in the wrong line-up, boat, bus etc. - it is confusing with lots of tourists going every which way and not many of us speaking any Thai! The boat was a bit slowed by wind conditions and we enjoyed quite a few little saltwater spray-washes along the way as we sat outside on the back deck to avoid nausea!

The Lomprayah high-speed catamaran called in at Koh Samui on the way, so we got a brief glimpse of that island, much more developed and populated than Koh Phangan. The island and mountain shapes are startlingly steep-sided and covered in palm trees and other tropical vegetation, so the contrast between the lush green land and the turquoise sea is quite dramatic!

The little airport on the Thai mainland where the bus took us was easy to get around, and had excellent coffee at the Doi Chaang shop, and then it took just over an hour on a Nok Air 737 to get to municipal Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok. Finding a taxi was easy since they have floor lines directing you to ranks of taxi-assigners, but our driver didn't know where our hotel was located, despite the address and little map we had in Thai, so she drove us to the general area, and then consulted a tuk-tuk driver at some length before finally taking us to the right address!

We are in more of a residential area than before, so found no restaurants open at 9 pm, until we happened across the golden arches while walking aimlessly about! Tomorrow we'll find an alternative to McThai/McDonalds, but tonight we were happy to find it!

Not many photos from the day, so I have also included one of a little sheet of Buddhist wisdom (in English and Thai) that we saw tacked to the post in out Mae Kampong homestay house - enjoy!

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Posted by alangcampbell 07:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Waterfall Hike to Mae Pen Rai, Wat Khao Tham

sunny 30 °C

This was the last day of our Global Pilgrim Thailand Cultural Exposure tour, so we took in the optional outings instead of chilling out at Milky Bay Resort!

First up was a hike to several picturesque waterfalls along a stream flowing into the ocean at Mae Pen Rai on the SE of Koh Phangan. Bird of Paradise flowers were growing right where we started the hike, but it quickly became apparent that following the stream all the way to the sea was not the safest plan, so we hiked back up to the cement road under construction and used it instead. Several stone inscriptions mark the visits of different Thai Kings to the refreshing waterfalls, but today Mae Pen Rai is home to little bungalows perched above the gorgeous surf beach with the usual open air beach bar and restaurant! No doubt the Kings had something similar!

After lunch we visited Wat Khao Tham, a nearby Buddhist temple which is known for having female monks, and catering to those who wish to meditate or learn to do so more effectively. A silent meditation retreat was set to get underway the next day, so most monks were elsewhere making preparations, but we enjoyed the quiet serenity of their beautiful hilltop temple and grounds.

A final shopping expedition in the main market area of Koh Phangan gave some a chance to make those last minute purchases, though we are returning to Bangkok tomorrow for another few days so felt no sense of urgency in that regard!

Back at the Milky Bay Resort again, Ray McGinnis, our tour co-leader, took us through a writing exercise in which we all created a "pantoum" from memories of our cultural exposure tour of Thailand. Appropriately enough, the pantoum is derived from a Malay form of poetry that features repetition of ideas through a series of interwoven 4-line verses.

After a lovely final tour dinner at the resort we gathered for a short time to reflect as a whole group on what we had learned and valued from the guided tour experience. We all had gained greater respect and understanding for the Thai and their Buddhist way of life, and remembered the many people and places we had experienced over the past 2+ weeks.

Tomorrow most head home, but we take a ferry, bus, plane and taxi and enjoy another few days in Thailand's incredible capital city - stay tuned!

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Posted by alangcampbell 07:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Ang Thong National Marine Park

semi-overcast 30 °C

Today we went on a terrific marine park adventure in the Gulf of Thailand! About 1.5 hrs by boat north and west of Koh Phangan is the Ang Thong National Marine Park, an amazing archipelago of ancient coral reefs, upthrust and overgrown with tropical vegetation.

We reached a few small islands on the edge of Ang Thong and anchored next to the rocky shore so we could swim, snorkel, water slide and dive in the lovely warm blue/green water. Then back on board for a Thai lunch while we motored to the main Ang Thong group and a steep stair-hike to see Emerald Lagoon, fed from the sea by underwater tunnels on Koh Mae (mother island).

We were shuttled to islands like this by long narrow Thai boats, driven skilfully by means of a prop on the end of a long tiller that included a diesel engine! Then we'd leap from the longboat to floating docks on the island shores that undulated with the ocean waves, and finally teeter on a plank or jump into the surf to get to shore! A bit of an adventure for us all!

Fresh fruit snacks on board as we headed for our last stop: Wua Ta Lap island. Here some swam, others walked or relaxed, and the more adventurous hiked to the summit (Alan) or to beautiful limestone caves complete with stalagmites and stalactites (Catriona)! Both hikes were challenging with ropes to help clamber over the sharp coral boulders!

After cooling down in the ocean/breeze we returned to the dock, longboat, motorboat for a bumpier ride back to Koh Phangan in 2 meter seas. Somehow we managed to down (and keep down!) a nice tuna salad bunwich and more fruit on the way back as the orange orb of the sun sank into the sea behind us - magical!

Another torch-lit dinner on the beach at Milky Bay Resort and our almost last group tour day came to a close. No, wait! Catriona and 2 others headed for the local night market for a little shopping! They didn't find anything of interest as it had mostly already closed for the night, but of course tomorrow is another day!

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Posted by alangcampbell 08:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Exploring Koh Phangan...

semi-overcast 28 °C

A parasail rider (not from our group!) was out testing the wind as we arrived for breakfast at Milky Bay's beachfront restaurant, but since nothing was formally scheduled for the day, 6 of us hired a truck/taxi for our own tour of some scenic and beach culture spots north and west on Koh Phangan.

Our first stop was for a short hike to a waterfall in a nearby national park, where we heard lots of Thai scouts singing together before a camping outing and saw a very large spider waiting for business above our heads!

Next we visited a colourful and stylized Chinese Buddhist temple which provided dramatic views down a valley to the NW corner of Koh Phangan. We followed the twisting hilly road down to two bays, one quite rustic and secluded, offering accommodation for as little as 250 baht ($10) a night, and the next more extensive and developed but still very low-key with taxi boats and lots of scooters and liquor bottles of fuel for sale if they run low!

Refreshed by a visit to the local 7-11 (ubiquitous in Thailand it seems!), our progressive taxi party moved on to the beach opposite Koh Ma, a small island you can reach by land at low tide (a tombolo!). Since the tide was too high, only two of our group made it across while the others enjoyed the scene and vibe from a shady spot on the beach.

Our last stop was at a small beach that featured a curious mixture of high-end resort accommodation and inexpensive beach bungalows, with a funky kontiki-style beach bar/cafe out over the point attracting all comers: no shirt, no shoes...full service!

Back again at Milky Bay Resort we enjoyed a swim in the ocean and pool before having a great dinner together at a long table set up on the beach and lit with beach torches: the end of another wonderful day in Thailand!

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Posted by alangcampbell 08:16 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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