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Thailand

Ao Nang, Thailand

Life's a beach...

sunny 35 °C
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The night train from Bangkok was actually really nice. We were in a second class sleeper cabin which is basically just a normal train carriage until about 21:00, when they come along and convert the seats into the bottom bunks and fold down the top bunks and then each has a privacy curtain.

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We both managed to get some sleep, but knew we had to get off about 04:30 so were paranoid about missing our stop - annoyingly, we did not reach our stop until 06:00, meaning we could have had an extra couple of hours sleep. We jumped off the train and were almost pushed into a waiting minibus which was packed with people and luggage. After 20 minutes it pulled in down a dirt track past a broken down bus with no wheels and arrived at a "bus station". Kicked off and given stickers (they seem to like them here) we waited for a clapped out coach. A further 2 hours later and we arrived at another "bus station". It turns out this wasn't Krabi or it's bus station but the offices of the bus company we were using and if we wanted to get to our destination we had to fork out another 100 Bhat (50p) each for a minibus to our hotel. Having no choice we purchased a ticket and jumped on the minibus for only a 10 minute drive to J Hotel.

The next 4 days were spent relaxing (and recovering) on beaches and hopping from island to island. So, if a picture tells a thousand words, then we have nothing more to say than this...

Ao Nang Beach

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Railey Beach

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Phra Nang Beach

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Hong Island and it's Beaches

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After a an amazing 4 days it was time to say goodbye to Thailand with a way too early bus to the Malaysian border.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Bangkok, Thailand

Temples, Monuments and Hospital

semi-overcast 31 °C
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For once VIP actually meant it! On so many of our previous "VIP Buses" through South East Asia there has been nothing remotely VIP about them - many of them being Chinese hand-me downs. Our coach from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand was going to be another long overnight journey, but we were so pleased when we boarded and found huge comfy seats that almost fully reclined, free water and box of biscuits, blankets and pillows etc. That being said sadly neither Nick nor I got a great deal of sleep so when we arrived at Mochit Bus Terminal we were both feeling and looking a little worse for wear (again!).

Our hotel had emailed us with directions in both English and Thai as it is brand new and a lot of taxi drivers don't know it. They also advised getting a metered taxi rather than a tuk-tuk and that it should cost no more than 150Baht, so when the touts started quoting us 500Baht we knew something was up. We kept refusing them, much to their annoyance and could not figure out what the best option would be, when Nick spotted a Tourist Information booth - hurrah! The lady basically said "Metered Taxi - about 200Baht" and pointed to the queue - perfect! We headed for the taxi rank and Nick resisted the urge to stick his fingers up at the touts, where we were ushered into a waiting car. Our driver was really cool and turned into a mini-tour guide for us as we weaved through the crazy rush hour traffic watching the most amazing sun-rise over the city and it only cost 165 Bhat

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We arrived at iSanook Residence at 07:00 so knew we were too early to check in to our room (although we had our fingers crossed there would be a room available). Thankfully our wish was granted and we were given our keys and a free breakfast! Being so tired after our journey and me not feeling 100% we ate our boiled eggs and promptly went back to bed. A couple of hours later (opps!) we woke up feeling a little better and took the hotels free tuk-tuk to the jetty to catch one of the water taxi’s, that ferry's people up and down the river. For only 30 Bhat (15p) we went 6 stops up river to Tha Chang Pier to visit the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Place where the famous Emerald Budda resides.

The palace is highly religious, so we donned our temple clothes (long trousers and shirt for Nick, long skirt and cardi for me) and had to laugh at the people who were buying trousers from the touts while standing in front of a huge sign saying they offer free robes inside. We walked into a huge complex of temples, stupas and gardens.

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The decoration was the most elaborate yet, with most buildings covered in gold and mirrored mosaics.

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Reading a sign saying the temple with the Emerald Buddha was closing in a hour we thought we should head that way first. The Buddha had a story behind it and was often referred to as the Loas buddha. This was because it was stolen while travelling from Chiang Rai to Bangkok and had a long stay in Luang Prabang until being seized again by Thailand and finally made it to Wat Phra Kaew - it's new home. So we were a little disappointed that once entering the Temple it was easy to miss as it's so tiny and surrounded by so many other statues of Buddha and other deities.

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After a couple of hours exploring and getting free ice cold water (which was a bonus) we went back to the scorching heat and walked to Wat Pho to see the huge reclining Buddha. Now this was more like it. It was humungous measuring 46 metres long and 15 metres high, it was impossible to photograph and barely fitted in the room it was in. The Buddha was again a gleaming gold with painted black feet and mother of pearl decorations. We again got a free bottle of cold water which was much needed as I was getting really hot and had to keep sitting down.

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Because I was still feeling bad, Nick saying he was really worried we headed back to the hotel for me to lay down and Nick to have some pool time as our hotel had a nice outdoor pool to relax in. Unfortunately as I was feeling so bad we ended up not doing anything else that day, only just managing to make it to the nearest shopping mall for some much needed food, although I couldn’t eat all mine.

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The next morning still not feeling any better, in fact feeling worst, we ended up missing breakfast and having a slow start. Nick was trying to get me to stay in bed but me being my stubborn self said we should explore. So yet again we went to the pier to get a ferry to Phra Artnit (number 13). From here it was short walk to Khao San Road which has featured in a few films (The Beach and Hangover), it is a street full of stalls, cheap guesthouses and pubs making it a backpackers haven.

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After a quick walk round and sighing in relief that our hotel wasn’t near here we went on to the Democracy Monument. This had a large political demonstration taking place, which meant it had a traffic jam, lots of people and lots of noise.

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We did a quick photo stop and moved on to the Giant Swing monument instead.

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Again this wasn’t what was expected and we weren’t sure what it was about, but it was outside a nice looking temple. I was starting to feel bad again so had to sit the temple out. However Nick went and took lots of photo’s and said that the large Buddha was impressive.

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After a small argument as to whether or not I should go back and lay down, I managed to persuade Nick to go to one more place before going back. This was called the Golden Mountain and offered views of the city once you climbed 318 steps to the top. Yet again there was a debate whether I should go up Nick telling me that I didn’t look great. Once again my stubbornness won out and we went up together. The views were ok nothing special as there isn’t really anything in Bangkok which stands out as a landmark. It was only 50 Bhat (25p) so wasn’t too bad.

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Now I gave in and we got a taxi back to our hotel just in time for me to collapse on our lovely comfy bed until the next day. Dinner that night wasn’t happening I didn’t want food and Nick didn’t want to eat on his own so it was to 7 eleven for a shredded pork bun and a packet of crisps.

Our last day and after me missing breakfast yet again Nick put his foot down and insisted that I go to the doctor, which in Bangkok meant going to the hospital. This felt a little dramatic but I had to admit I need to see someone as I was; feeling sick, couldn’t stand the sight or smell of food (which as you know is not like me) had a constant headache, bad cough and had been bitten once in a malaria area. The hospital was not what we were expecting it was more like a 5 star hotel with a reception desk, chandeliers and comfy leather sofas.

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I had to check in which involved a digital photograph and a few details, I was given a plastic card with me name on and instructed up a level. Expecting this to be when in turned into a hospital we were yet again surprised by waiting room with leather comfy arm chairs. I waited all of two seconds and had get my vitals checked and two minutes for the doctor, who told me that I most likely had dehydrated and may have to go on a drip for one night. At this we both looked shocked and told him we had plans to travel that night. He said he would do blood tests to rule out malaria and dengue fever first. Another shockingly long wait of one minute and I was having my blood taken and nose swabbed. We were now told we would have to wait for the blood test results to come back and were gob smacked when they said it would be under an hour, which it was! Results back and the doctor had confirmed his diagnosis I had dehydration but he wouldn’t keep me in so I could travel and instead told me off for not eating, giving me sickness tablets, sachets of powder to rehydrate me and something for my cough. All of this and it only cost £85 I was amazed! Medicines in hand we went back to the hotel grabbed some food (well a small bag of chips for me) and went off to get our train to Krabi.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Four nights dinner for only £5.60

sunny 33 °C
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After a ridiculously long journey from Luang Prabang, we finally made it to the Tree Residence Hotel around 17:00 looking, smelling and feeling a little worse for wear! We were in no mood to explore and it was already getting dark, so after a long and much needed shower we walked about 5 minutes away from the hotel to the South Gate Food Market where we had our first bad street food (Crispy Pork with rice - both of which were cold and not very tasty!). However for 60p each we couldn’t complain. We popped to Tesco (yes you read that right!!) for some naughty munchies to make ourselves feel better before heading back to the hotel and crashing out!!

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Late the next morning, we headed out to explore and get brunch. Walking into the old town which reminded us a little of Ha Noi, with crowed streets, food stalls, markets and lots of traffic. Our brunch turned into lunch of some very strange not so nice toasted sandwiches, we were starting to think Thailand didn’t do good food. Now it was time for sight seeing which was mostly temples, after seeing so many on our trip we decided to just choose two and take it easy. Both temples were amazing with brilliant decorative artwork and the most amazing monk shrines, they were wax work and looked real.

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It was starting to get really hot and I wasn’t feeling great (as you can see in the photo), so we stopped yet again for some much needed ice-blended fruit shakes.

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It was now late afternoon and a Saturday meaning the Saturday Walking Street was getting set up and it was supposed to be near our hotel. Heading back we saw it was indeed near the hotel, right outside having to weave through the stalls to get to the front door. After a quick shower we went to explore. These markets differed to the ones we have seen through most of SEA as it was goods you would buy in shops, no rip offs, no real bargains and quality. Once half way down the street it started to get very crowed and repetitive so it was time for food.

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This time we decided to go for a stall that had someone cooking from scratch with fresh food to order. We came across a women with a huge queue and great smelling food so put in our order which meant shouting over everyone else and sat down to watch her cook. It was brilliant!! She was so fast, putting a sprinkle of this, a sprinkle of that, breaking eggs one handed on her spatular and all on a small wok over a small single hob. It was almost mesmerising to watch! This time our plan had worked and the food was amazing (again all for 70p each!) so good we went back the next two nights.

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Our next morning was spent doing boring stuff; booking bus tickets, accommodation and checking our bank balance! The day almost gone but the sun still shining we went to the only park in town to relax. The park took up a small space at the corner of the old city wall and was quiet small but perfect for relaxing, with a pond, small bridge and plenty of grassy spots to chill. Once the sun finally went in we headed back for a much needed shower and a change of clothes before going back to our fantastic street stall.

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On our last day I was starting to feel even worse and lacked any energy so thought we would make it a relaxing one before our night bus to Bangkok. We ate breakfast at a small coffee shop, checked out, brought snacks from Tesco and relaxed in the park till late afternoon. Perfect! It was then back to our now local food stall, where the women now remembered us and laughed at the “No Spice!” hand gestures. Stomachs satisfied we grabbed our packs and jumped into a “Jumbo” to the bus station.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

From Laos to Thailand

24 hours, 4 tuk-tuk's, 1 coach, 1 boat, 1 minibus and even the back of a pick-up truck...

sunny 27 °C
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We had a couple of options for getting from Luang Prabang, Laos across the border to Chiang Mai, Thailand and were struggling to make up our minds. Flying would have cost us nearly £200, so well out of our budget, although would have only been a 1 hour flight. Our second option was to take the Slow Boat which takes 3 days / 2 nights involving stopovers in a couple of towns along the river. We had been told that if you had the time this was a good choice as it offered beautiful scenery and was a very relaxing way to do it. However the prospect of two 9 hour days on a boat, then arriving somewhere and having to rush around to find a guesthouse (plus the prospect of me feeling sick on the boat) put us off!

We opted for our third choice which was the overnight sitting bus (not comfy recliners or beds here!) which was one bus straight through to Chiang Mai and would take 17 hours. Although the prospect of that long sitting on a bus was not appealing to either of us, it was our cheapest and best option, (300,000 Kip each) so at 17:00 we were picked up from our hotel and taken to the bus station. We checked in, but had about 40 minutes to wait for the bus and killed time by chatting to some other travellers who were heading to Ha Noi, Viet Nam. However as 18:00 drew closer there was still no sign of our bus, and the lady behind the counter was starting to look stressed before we were ushered us and four others into a tuk-tuk and taken to the other bus station on the outskirts of town - hmmm, something was up!

We arrived at another bus station to get a local bus, we weren't told this just put on and given new tickets. A hour and a half later we finally set off on a full bus which was cramped and smelly and sounded awful when changing gears. We actually managed to get some sleep and the bus only broke down twice with them pulling over and getting in the engine to fix it.

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Then 13 hours later we were at the border town and everyone was ordered off. We were then asked for our original tickets (which luckily we kept) and the 6 of us were put, yet again, on another tuk-tuk and not told where we going (we were being very trusting, but thought if we stuck together we'll be fine). After a 10 minute drive we arrived at a guesthouse/bus depot and given stickers (which said “Boom House” randomly) and told by a lady that she would see us at 09:00 (it being 08:30) to help us cross the border. The tuk-tuk was off again dropping us off at a port/immigration and pointed us down to the water. Standing around we decided we to “check out” of Laos getting our passports stamped and waited for our random lady to return. Surprisingly she did in only a few minutes and ushered us on to a small boat over the Mekong to Thailand.

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Once at the other side she passed us over to a man with a van and said goodbye. Our driver who could speak great English and Chinese told us to go to the immigration window to get our free VOA (Visa On Arrival). This was actually very straight forward, just a small form to fill out and then you get a stamp with an exit date and some how we managed to get 30 days. All with our visa’s sorted we were taken to a pickup truck with two more passengers and had to put all our bags in the back, it was then we realised their were only 5 seats, the 5 men would have to sit in the back on the bags while us 4 girls got to go inside the cab. Just 10 minutes drive and we arrived at the Boom House guesthouse (now the stickers made sense) and told to wait for a minibus. After a little confusion about whether the bus would go to Chiang Rai first we finally set off in an amazingly comfortable minibus.

By 16:00 we arrived at Chiang Mai only 3 hours late! Managing to get a free tuk-tuk to the centre of town, we then had to walk 20 minutes to our hotel in extreme heat! By the time we arrived it was 17:00 making a journey exactly 24hours!!!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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