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Chiang Khong

overcast 25 °C
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Day 8 - Trip to Chiang Khong

The final leg of our trip in Thailand, until after our visit to Vietnam, commenced with a 7 hour journey by mini bus to Chiang Khong which is located right on the Thailand/Laos border. This trip was very bumpy and rough as it swept up through the mountains of northern Thailand and brought us to the very remote town of Chiang Khong.
Just outside Chiang Rai, we stopped to take pictures of Wat Rong Khun which is an all white temple and was rebuilt after an earthquake in 2014. The guy who designed and built this is an artist who funded the project himself and receives only small donations. As far as i know, this temple is not used for buddhist services so its sole purpose is for tourists only. This is quite a controversial issue at the moment between monks and this artist and one that is sure to hang around for a while.
This place consists of one quiet main street with shops, restaurants and bars, all geared towards the backpackers who use this as a quick stopover to the border. It was very peaceful here in comparison to the madness of Bangkok and the very touristy Chiang Mai and it was good to see a different part of Thailand.
Our hotel was located on the riverbank overlooking the Mekong river and the landlady made us feel at home with cold refreshments on arrival, assisting us with tickets for the slowboat and all the paperwork required for the border crossing. Our room included a balcony looking across to Laos and free bottled water, something that nearly all of the hotels that we stayed in so far provided.
We strolled down the path along the Mekong river looking across at Laos and searching for anything that stood out or was different to our time in Thailand so far.
There was nothing major from what we could see.
We feasted in a Thai/Mexican restaurant where we met a New Zealand family who were taking the slow boat down the Mekong the next day.

Posted by Ronantattan 06:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai

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Day 5 - Train to Chiang Mai
After a nice lazy morning at the hotel, we boarded the train for Chiang Mai at 1.30 pm. No sooner were we on the train, but we were given some lunch which consisted of spicy mackerel and rice. It was difficult to eat and was probably the hottest food that we ate since our arrival in Thailand.
Nearly 6 hours later, after passing through nearly every single town in Thailand, we arrived in Chiang Mai. The first thing we noticed was that the weather was a little cooler than Bangkok and even Phitsanaluk which was a welcome relief for us. After the obligatory haggle with the tuk tuk driver, we, along with a few other backpackers, hopped onto a tuk tuk/van which brought us to the next lot of our accommodation, the DP guesthouse.
The guy who checked us in had little or no English so with a few hand gestures, we got to our room. Guesthouses in Thailand as we have come to realise are a cross between a hostel and a motel, where you can stay in a dormitory or private room, which ours was. This guest house was set right beside the Mekong river which flows right through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia into Vietnam and it had a nice little garden right outside our room and alongside the river.
We went for a walk around the nearby streets to us and found the night bazaar/markets of which there are alot of and soaked up the atmosphere.

Day 6 - Exploring the old city

Looking at a map, Chiang Mai is made up of two main parts; the old city which was the original city that is walled in and has a real old iron gate, and the new part which is like any other thai town. Very popular with tourists, almost anyone that visits Thailand makes a stop here due to its vibrancy, night markets and access to the northern most points in Thailand.
We strolled towards the old city and spent sometime exploring the many amazing temples or wats (in thai) which had the most amazingly designed architecture with lots of bright colours and mosaics on ceilings. Of course, every temple houses at least one buddha with their distinctive sitting pose and made up of the finest shiny gold material available.
One or two of the smaller temples have reclining buddhas which are lying down full length resting on their arms.
Later that night, we ate in Lert Ros which came highly recommended to us by an english couple that we had met the night before.
All of the food that they offer is either barbecued, fried or boiled outside and served up fresh for the customers. We ordered Tilapia, hot chicken soup, grilled beef, mixed vegetables and rice all for a tiny sum of 5 euro and the food was excellent and was one of the best meals on this trip so far.
Every sunday night in Chiang mai, they close the main street in the old city in order to hold one massive open air market which we visited.
There must be nearly 1000 stalls at this market selling everything geared towards tourists at ridiculously low prices and the stalls are located on both sides of the street, in the grounds of the temples using up every inch of space available to them.
After leaving the market, we stumbled upon a drummer who had buckets for his drum kit and was singing cover songs. He drew a fairly decent crowd and created a good buzz around that part of town.

Day 7 - Learning to cook thai

We spent a couple of hours wandering the quiet streets of Chiang Mai (due to a buddhist holy day) and witnessed a traditional buddhist ceremony in a temple with about 40 monks, led by the head monk. We also got a bowl of coins and deposited them between 106 bowls which would be then given to 106 respective monks at a later stage.
In the early evening, we decided to do a Thai cookery course which is quite a popular activity for tourists in Chiang mai. Here, we were brought to a typical thai market where we were shown the ingredients that thai people love to cook with such as lemongrass, basil, eggplant, chillies, peppercorn, kaferlimes, spring onion, string beans and oyster mushrooms.
We then proceeded to the cookery school where we chose what soup, noodles, curry and dessert we wanted to cook. I chose hot and creamy soup, large noodles, red curry with eggplant and coconut sticky rice while ciara chose chicken coconut soup with noodles, green curry and mango with sticky rice.
We prepped all the ingredients as per the instructions given by tutor and we then proceeded to cook the first two of the four dishes. We then sampled our noodle and soup dishes which tasted damn good before moving onto the curry paste and dessert.
The curry paste was the hardest thing to make as you have to crush everything in a pestle and mortar until it has the texture of ice cream.
Finally the dishes were ready for tasting and by the time we were finished eating, we were quite full up but content with ourselves for having completed the thai cookery course for which we received a cert for.
I don't think that this qualifies us as professional chefs but we are happy with it.

Posted by Ronantattan 06:20 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Phitsanaluk

Phitsanaluk

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Day 4 - Head for the North

Getting up early is part and parcel of travelling so there's nothing like a 6am start to get you moving in the morning.
We made our way to the main Huamphlong railway station using skytrain and metro to catch our train to Phitsanaluk.
We left Bangkok around 8.30 am and i have to say that the train was very comfortable. Just before 2pm, we arrived to our next destination on this trip. Arriving in the blistering heat, we took a tuk tuk to our hotel and it was so cheap. It cost less than 2 euro which shows how cheap this country really is.
We checked into our accommodation which was located on the main street in this little town. Hotel was called p1 house and it was so nice to get out of the heat for a while. As we were leaving the hotel, we ended up getting stuck in the lift and had to raise the alarm to get the hotel staff to open the door for us. The lift was out of service for the night. We took a stroll around the town and found some market stalls in the process of setting up for the night. We then returned to our hotel and ordered food there as there were little or no restaurants in this little thai town.
The food was good and again so cheap and they even had a duo who were singing easy listening songs. We finished off this long, hot day with a trip around the night bazaar, which was pretty cool and sold all types of things at very reasonable prices.

Posted by Ronantattan 07:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok

Days 1 to 3

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Day 1 Bangkok - The Adventure begins

After travelling from Ireland for nearly 24 hours, we were delighted to have reached our first stop on our 2 month adventure in south east asia.
Having been in bangkok in 2010 on my previous escapade, I had an idea of what to expect from this massive city with more than 10 million residents. This was the first time to asia and indeed bangkok for ciara.
However, arriving by plane versus train, are two completely different experiences.
We took the BTS (bangkok sky train) to Nana, the stop closest to our hotel, and a mere 10 minute walk in the early morning heat of bangkok to Hotel Solo, which was located at the end of a quiet street, not far from the hustle and bustle that surrounds the streets of bangkok from dawn til dusk. Hey, i feel a song coming on!!!
A quick change of clothes, a freshening up and hotel check in complete, we went in search of the Vietnamese embassy and we spotted it easy enough.
Getting our visas sorted for Vietnam was crucial
for our trip as there is no possibility of getting these on the border.
Typically, processing of visas takes at least 3 days but luckily, we were able to pay more to have them ready in 2 days time, just in time for departure from bangkok. Payment is in thai baht cash only and as neither of our bank cards would let us withdraw any money for security purposes, we had to change US dollars that we had brought with us. To do so required us to take our passports back from the embassy that we had just handed in. Embarrassing no??
In between all of the above going on, i was approached by an english guy who told me that he was just robbed and was wondering if i had could spare him a bob. I told him that i couldn't get any money from the machine which was not a lie.
Later that evening, in search for some dinner, we ended up at an english bar called bully's for some not so typical thai cuisine, burger and chips.
Well one has to gently acclimatise to their surroundings right!

Day 2 - Visa hunting
After our goings on at the Vietnamese embassy yesterday, we went in search of the cambodian and laos embassies. While you can get the visas at the borders, we felt it would be a little more convenient to have these got before we visit these countries.
Getting off the metro and attempting to follow directions from google, we decided that we would get a tuk tuk there as it seemed quite far and way too hot to walk. Easy right? You would think so, but as we have experienced and are quickly learning, nothing is straightforward here.
We asked a bunch of tuk tuk drivers who were standing around looking for fares but they were not sure of the locations of the embassies even with the address. This didn't stop them from haggling a price with us though. We left these guys with puzzled faces and flagged down another tuk tuk driver who first of all brought us to the Thailand cultural centre and then after further discussions, dropped us to the laos embassy.
However, it was to our disappointment to find out that they needed our passports, which were in the vietnam embassy on the other side of town.

Enough of the boring stuff, we headed to the grand palace and home of the emerald buddha, via another tuk tuk. Getting tuk tuks in bangkok is quite typical and the norm but rules of the road mean nothing. As far as we can see, it's a free for all.
The Grand Palace is home to some of the worlds most amazing palaces and temples cleverly decorated with diamonds and jewels and a must see for any tourist who visits bangkok. Just be warned if you plan to visit here, wear long pants and cover all exposed skin, otherwise you will be forced to don a lovely army green pants or an extremely large blouse for the ladies. Photos to prove.
Almost two hours after leaving the temples, we arrive back to our hotel by ferry, train and foot.

The swim in the hotels heated outdoor pool was very welcome that evening as we settled into our new lives on the road, well at least for 8 weeks.

Day 3 - Hotter than hot/cycling in the jungle

If you don't like heat, then don't come to Thailand. It's not just hot sun, it is the humidity, the cars, the motorbikes, buses and the street food all generating copious amounts of heat and making it quite uncomfortable if you are not used to it. But, i am hoping that we will get used to it and learn to cope.
At 8:15am, we met Lee our bicycle tour guide, and headed off around the city and across to the island of Bang Khra Jao for more exploration of this magnificent and vast city.
We passed by the area of Bangkok where migrant workers live in tenement shacks on the rivers edge, a huge market down a laneway that serves this community, shops, schools and street vendors trying to earn a living.
Then we met a guy with a small boat that brought bikes and us across the water to the island where approx 20k people live.
On arrival, we headed off on a long but enjoyable cycle around the island. He led us along very narrow paths over marshy land and water some with barriers, some without. It was along one of these paths that ciara, to her embarrassment fell off the path while turning a corner. Luckily for her, there was no murky water at that point but it still hurt like hell and gave us all a shock, knowing how easily it could happen.
We eventually got back to the boat, a little tired but delighted to have experienced a little bit of island life.
Back in the city, we had another 15 minute hair raising cycle in traffic until we got back to the starting point and we said our goodbyes to lee.
3 days in, we learnt that we should stay out of the sun during 12 to 3 so we headed back to our hotel to stay nice and cool before the evenings events.
Later that day, we collected our visas for vietnam, did some browsing in shops and availed of the hotel's pool and 2 for 1 happy hour promotion.
Happy days!!
We topped off a great day with some nice modern chinese food, nothing like you would get at home and so cheap. Sweet deal!!

Posted by Ronantattan 06:59 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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