Category Archives: Thailand

Most scenic places I’ve visited: Ko Wai, Thailand

Ko Wai, Thailand

Most scenic places I have visited - Ko Wai, Thailand

This series is a visual ode to the most scenic places I have visited. I want to pay my respects to the places I have travelled for giving me such rich and memorable encounters. Hopefully, in the process I might also encourage others to go out and explore the world and be respectful and mindful of its beauty.

The photograph was taken from a sea kayak we had hired for the day on an attempt to circumnavigate the tiny  island of Ko Wai. As the island has no roads, no cars or other means of transport except a few small dirt paths the only way to get around is by sea.

En route, we passed dazzling turquoise coastlines, amazing coral life and jungle terrain that flowed almost to the shore. What is not shown however, is my terror.

As we moved further around the island, the waves became increasingly choppy.  We started taking on a lot of water. The wind also picked up slightly making it more difficult to steer and avoid the coral and rocky terrain that lurked underneath the surface threatening to damage the kayak.

When, we eventually did make it back, minutes before sunset fell. We all yelped a ‘wohoo’ as we arrived safely ashore. Dragging our sea soaked, exhausted bodies to the bar for a well deserved Singha beer.

How to get here:
From Bangkok take a bus to Laem Ngop pier then take a ferry to Ko Wai. Alternatively, take a ferry from Bang Bao on Ko Chang

 

Tagged , ,

Ayatthuya, Thailand – a 3rd class train ride, a relaxing at Baan Lotus guesthouse & a lot of temples

After a one night stop over in Bangkok with the usual long islands and some dinner at Hemlock restaurant we went on to catch the third class train to Ayutthaya from Hua Lamphong station in a pretty hungover state.

 

getting-some-air_third-class-train-to_ayutthaya_thailand

getting-some-air_third-class-train-to_ayutthaya_thailand

 

To our surprise the ticket price for the 3rd class two hour+ long train ride was only 75baht (about E1,90) for the 5 of us. We found some seats in the rickety but pretty clean coach without windows and soon departed. We crawled slowly through the the city, stopping at small stations or just grinded to a halt on the track on various occasions – we passed many track side shacks and restaurants which you could touch if you reached out of the window. After about 1hr15Min’s we where out of the city and going through swamp lands and rice paddies ricketing across the occasional river. Simmered out, after all the fresh air and mesmerizing views of the train ride we headed out of the station and took the small ferry across the river (the former capital of Ayutthaya is on an island surrounded by rivers) which we shared with some locals and monks. We found a coffee and had some food while Vourneen set out to find us a nice Guesthouse.

 

The ferry accross the Chao Praya River in Ayutthaya

The ferry accross the Chao Praya River in Ayutthaya

 

We ended up staying at the Baanlotus guesthouse, which is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable guesthouses we found in Thailand so far.[singlepic id=295 h=130 float=left] The guesthouse sits on a big plot of land with an impressive size lotus pond behind it and a covered jetty running over the middle of it. The back of the pond is surrounded by dense woodland which adds a very rural feel to it. The Guesthouse is run by a dotty pensioner biochemist who had to come back to Ayutthaya after her parents past away to look after the house. As she had so many international friends come over that she decided to start a guesthouse. She has many enchanting stories to tell and the pond is full of fish, some very large lizards and even a 30 year old turtle that pops its head up occasionally.

[singlepic id=293 h=120 float=right]From this relaxing place we set out to explore the old capital ruins, many temples and the old trade settlements over the next 2 days, while having relaxed lunches at the river side and eating at the local night market stalls. we visited the museum in the old Japanese settlement which gave a lot of information about trade and foreign influence. It also showed the important role the Dutch VOC shipping company had played in the area by documenting and mapping the surroundings and trade relations.

Ayutthaya has a very relaxed atmosphere and not too much to offer in the form of nightlife but we got extremely relaxed and were almost sad to leave Ayutthaya after the 3 days we had stayed. However, we had spotted the prospects of a reggae festival so were ready to head to Chiang Mai on the evening of the 19th of January…

Find a selection of pictures from our visit to Ayutthaya, Thailand below. You can also visit the gallery page for a slideshow of these pictures.

[nggallery id=11]

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Koh Chang & Koh Wai – Snorkling, Kayaking and Motorbiking

We had decided to travel from Bangkok to Koh Chang by first class government bus which was more comfortable and trustworthy then using the private operators from Khaosan road. The only problem with this was that we had to get up pretty early in to catch a taxi to the bus station which was slightly tricky with our pattern of getting up around noon and partying until late at night. We ended up being stuck in traffic for most of the cab ride and stopping in front of the bus just as it was getting ready to depart. Luckily our mates taxi driver had taken them over the express way which meant that they had arrived early enough to buy us a ticket and hold up the bus a bit.

 

Vip bus from Bangkok to Koh Chang

Vip bus from Bangkok to Koh Chang

A bus ride, ferry crossing and about 7 hours later we found ourselves within the palmed surroundings of Koh Chang (island) where we hitched a ride on a songthaew (communal taxi service) to Lonely beach. As many places had been booked out due to high season Vourneen had booked us in to a place called Sunflower bungalows, which was run by a very relaxed German guy and his Thai staff. The place had a very nice atmosphere and bungalows of various quality and price, set in a landscaped garden. We got comfortable and then headed to the beach – which was a couple of hundred meters away for our first sunset across the sea. One thing that amazed Vourneen and me is the sheer amount of development that happened since our last visit to the island in 2007. Lonely beach a very laid back area back then is now a big party place full of late night parties, bars with even an open air cinema screen on one of the beach resorts. It was as the owner of Sunflower aptly said no longer lonely in any way. We went on to have some nice food at nature rocks – a beach front resort with a good restaurant and the beach front and ended up back in our usual evening pattern of bars and cocktails.

 

 

sunset-splash lonelybeach_koh-chang_thailand

Sunset splash Lonely Beach Koh Chang Thailand

The next 2 or 3 days or so were spend in the increasingly routine way of getting up late, some hungover lazying at the sunflower restaurant with a fruit shake and breakfast. Then heading for the beach, going for a swim, heaving a beer, going for some food, watching the occasional monkey play at the roadside, and heaving a party at varying bars and at our bungalow.

 

After these days we decided we should get a bit more active and agreed to do some beach kayaking the next day to one of the uninhabited islands of the beach. What we had not foreseen however was that there was another party going on that evening at the Magic Garden bar and resort, which would get quite out of hand, particularly as Chris ordered us 5 buckets of Long Island ice tea by mistake (he had wanted to order 1 bucket and 5 long island ice teas). Needless to say things went downhill quite quickly from there and we ended up getting to the beach kayak place after 4PM which didn’t leave us with a hell of a lot of time to chill at the uninhabited place. We did our little excursion none the less and felt a bit better for it. After this we decided that it became time to actually start doing something during the day from now on..

 

Magic Garden Bar buckets Lonelybeach Koh Chang Thailand

Magic Garden Bar Long Island buckets Lonely Beach Koh Chang Thailand

The next day we agreed to rent a motorbike and set out to explore a bit more of the islands different beaches and nature. We drove south to find some very chilled beaches, and then drove on to basically the end of the road. Where I gave Hans some driving lessons on a quiet patch of road as he had never driven a scooter or motorbike before. All of us really enjoyed the drive and we decided to the the same thing again the next day. We rented slightly better quality motorbikes this time from one beach up and circled all the way to the southeast side of the island and back, stopping of at various sights along the way.

 

 

-the-motorbike-crew_koh-chang_thailand

The motorbike crew Koh Chang Thailand

 

We had an early night after this as we had decided (for the 3rd time) to go to the Island of Koh Wai tomorrow. The next day we indeed made it to Koh Wai and enjoyed the great hospitality and pristine beaches of Pakarang resort (one of only 3 resorts on the island, which had pretty much no roads and only generator electricity). Koh Wai was pretty much exactly as we had remembered it from our 2007 visit, the ultimate laid back island with pristine quiet white beaches of which some where only accessible buy climbing through thick jungle or kayaking to them. As it was still early in the day and we would be staying only one night we jumped right in to the sea – did some snorkeling.

 

Snorkling in Koh Wai Thailand

 

 

After the snorkeling we rented kayaks again to explore some of the beaches. After a few deserted beaches and a couple of stops we found another resort on the opposite side of the island where we had a beer.  We had about another 90 minutes of daylight left and after being told by a local that both directions were equally long we decided to continue on in the direction we were headed.  We had 2 problems however. The Kayak shared by Tommie, Chris and Hans, seemed to be slowly sinking and the seas where a lot rougher on this side and 2 contrary to what the man at the resort had said the distance on this side was quite a lot longer. After 90+ minutes of extreme speed kayaking and emptying kayaks we made it back to our resort just as it got completely dark. That night didn’t get very late and the next day we set back for Koh Chang and we’re headed on to Ayutthaya through Bangkok the day after on the 17th of January.

 

Kayaking Ko Wai Thailand

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Arriving in Bangkok – The massive meet up mash up

Backpacking in Bangkok

Backpacking - The arrival in Bangkok good times!

After flying from Shangri La to Kunming on the early flight, a short night and another early flight from Kunming, China we finally arrived in Bangkok on the morning of January 5th to meet up with our mates Tom, Chris and Hans who had arrived a day earlier.

While on the flight from Kunming to Bangkok we got talking to a very nice Chinese girl with surprisingly good English who was on her first trip ever outside China to study further in Bangkok. She was a bit nervous and was supposed to meet a person from the university there to pick her up and had no idea what to do if he would not be there. We decided to go through immigration with her to make sure she was OK and ended up staying in the airport for quite a while to help her find the person that was supposed to be there, but in the end it all worked out.

When we had finally left the airport it immediately struck us how western everything felt and of course how lovely and warm it was after the freezing temperatures in the Himalaya.  When we got to the guesthouse we found our mates in deep coma’s due to jet lag and the previous nights drinking.  We settled in to our room as they got ready for the day.

Afternoon walk Khao San Road Bangkok Thailand

Afternoon walk near Khao San Road Bangkok Thailand

Afterwards we went for a wander around the neighborhood and gave them a bit of an introduction to the back alleys and other places they hadn’t seen in the Bang Lamphu neighborhood before, like the hidden mosque and the remarkably tranquil Chana Songkhram temple, which is in the midst of the main tourist areas and around the corner from khoasan road. We ended up having dinner in one of the cheap but excellent cooking school restaurants The flow and went on to have drinks in one of the many street (cocktail) bars where we ended up drinking Long Islands untill late in the evening. And things naturally got pretty messy while scoring disgusting snacks and beers at the seven eleven after closure.

Street bar Banglamphu Bangkok Thailand

Street bar Banglamphu Bangkok Thailand

The next day we went to show Chris who had come to South East Asia for the first time the shopping craziness of MBK center in the business district (Sukhumvit). Instead of taking a taxi, we decided to take the longer but way more scenic route there using the Express ferry that takes you across the Chao Phraya  river to the Thaksin bridge (a scenic boat ride of about 30 mins for about 40 euro cents) from where we took the sky train, an elevated railway which snakes over the road between the sky scrapers of the business district. After this long Journey and a shopping overload we headed back to our area in Banglamphu and headed for the relaxing ambiance of Hemlock restaurant and on to the street cocktail bars again for some Long islands.

MBK Shopping madness Sukhumvit Bangkok Thailand

MBK Shopping madness Sukhumvit Bangkok Thailand

The next day on the 7th of January, it was time to head for the Archipelago of Koh Chang for some beach side relaxing and island hopping.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Exploring Lanta Island – The southern beaches viewpoint and beyond

Lanta island was big enough to spent several days exploring the Island (with our leisurely speeds).

(Published on: Nov 15, 2010 @ 15:45)

First Sunset on Koh Lanta Thailand

First Sunset on Koh Lanta Thailand

One particularly demanding trip that we made twice by motorbike was to explore the southern Beaches of Koh Lanta Thailand. Up to about 2/3 of the Island on the east coast the roads are pretty good but when you get to the southern bays the road suddenly goes into very steep ascents and descents  and when you get to Nui Bay the road surface suddenly just stops all together while on a steep descent, turning into a messy track with big sharp rocky patches and muddy/sandy parts.  This winds its way up and down over the rocky hills surrounding the southern bays. Very punishing to bums and motorbike but offering beautiful views. on our 2 trips we saw various monkeys and a some stage also an elephant crossing the road with its minder.

Roads in Southern Koh Lanta

Road to souther beaches on Koh Lanta, Thailand

Jungle road to Southern beaches Koh Lanta, Thailand

The beaches of these bays looked very nice and felt very remote still with almost no tourists wondering along the shores and dense jungle coming right up to the beach. Unfortunately large scale building projects were happening even here so its probably only a matter of time before the road is improved and the area will loose its remote charm. For now however the southern beaches still feel pretty far flung and quiet. There are a view scattered resorts and bars and the atmosphere is very laid back.

Southern Beaches of Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta southern jungle beach Thailand

Koh Lanta southern jungle beach Thailand

Another drive brought us up to the viewpoint cafe which is halfway down a winding road that cuts through the islands hilly interior, to connect the  west coast of the island with its eastern coast. It has 2 decks hanging over the Jungle and giving 180 degree views over the paddies/fishponds and the small islands and mainland that lie beyond. The view was mesmerizing and the coffee a mouthwatering strong Arabica definitely added to the excitement.

Hammock shop in Koh Lanta

Cat in hammock shop Koh Lanta Thailand

White cat in hammock shop Koh Lanta Thailand

From the viewpoint onwards we drove on to Lanta old town on the East coast. This quiet one street town was all traditional style with quiet shops and cafes almost no traffic. We saw several cats walking around and it felt as if there were almost more cats than people about. We visited the local Hammock shop which specialised in the handmade hammocks made by minority tribes and sold on fair trade principals. A cat was a sleep in its own small hammock in the corner and a large selection of hammocks was available to satisfy Vourneen’s obsession with anything hammock. After swinging around in the different hammocks for a while we set out to the south western side off the island.

Quirky treehouse accomodation in Koh Lanta

Treehouse bungalows remote resort Koh Lanta Thailand

Treehouse bungalows remote resort in Koh Lanta Thailand

On the southwest tip of Lanta Island accessible by a good but extremely winding road sits a quirky and very cool resort with a range of different style bungalows varying from 2 story wooden bungalows shaped like boats to Tree Houses and cave bungalows.  There was a pool and the place had its own rocky and sandy beach for chilling and snorkeling. The place was completely deserted except for a couple of staff. We asked for the prices but unfortunately they were a bit outside our budget. After a quick drink it was time to wind are way back home.

Thirsty Monkey at southern beach resort Koh Lanta Thailand

Thirsty Monkey at southern beach resort Koh Lanta Thailand

Tagged , , , , , ,