Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

I’m OK y’all. I’ve seriously neglected this blog for the last month and I’ve got some stories of adventure and misadventure to fill everybody in on. For now though I’ll give you the brief rundown. The last extensive post I did was 0n my time in Ayutthaya, since then I’ve been to Lopburi, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Lampang, Chiang Mai, Pai, back to Chiang Mai and back to Pai. I obtained a 60 day visa in Ottawa at the the Thai embassy prior to leaving with the idea of spending about 45 days in Thailand to ensure I was here for Songkran. Things have changed, yesterday I made the 110km drive by scooter to Mae Hong Son from Pai to visit an immigration office to extend my visa for another 30 days. After 60 days in Thailand now I’ve seen big and small places, seen more temples than I can remember, met people I’ll never forget and met people I wish I never had. I’ve paid ‘fines’ to police, been robbed, been told ‘I’m the one, take care of me and my family’ and everything in between. Here it is chronologically in a nutshell, I will do further posts on each destination and give detailed reviews of where I’ve stayed.

From Ayutthaya it was another third class train up to Lopburi, a quaint little town famous for being overrun by macaques. At first it interested me but after some close encounters and horror stories from other travelers of scratches and bites I decided they were vile little bastards and I would keep my distance. Luckily my guesthouse was in an area of town where the monkeys aren’t as common. Lopburi was a nice little town with a few decent attractions, mostly the people I met were English teachers from the UK, Canada and the US. I stayed at Noom Guesthouse which I enjoyed and a proper review will be coming.

King Narai's Palace In Lopburi

King Narai’s Palace In Lopburi

From Lopburi I decided to get the train to Phitsanulok. I was unsure of whether this was somewhere I would enjoy and so far it is my only regret. With hardly any tourists and hardly any English it was a very difficult time when it came to directions and getting food. Yes it was real Thailand but I found the people in this city to be different from the rest of Thailand, to be quite honest the people weren’t as friendly, maybe because they are much less used to seeing tourists. My guesthouse didn’t help either. I stayed at Lithai Guesthouse which was actually like a hotel and was as sterile as a hospital. Meeting fellow travelers here was non-existent.  I did have one good night at a night market where some Thai’s took me to a massage bar. I didn’t partake in the extra curriculars but I did watch my new friend get dragged out by three bouncers for getting too touchy-feely. That was the end of Phitsanulok for me and I couldn’t wait to get out.

Clock Tower In Phitsanulok

Clock Tower In Phitsanulok

From Phitsanulok I got a quick 40 minute bus ride to Sukhothai. I originally planned two nights here but it became three, mostly due to a hangover. I really enjoyed Sukhothai and the heritage park in the old part of the city was quite nice. I rented a bicycle for the day checked out the sights. There was no shortage of good eats and drinks here either. My guesthouse, TR Guesthouse was really good as well. IMG_0369

Sukhothai Heritage Park

Sukhothai Heritage Park

After Sukhothai I had planned to head straight to Chiang Mai but decided to spend a few nights in Lampang, about two hours South of CM. I’m glad I made the stop here. The city was quite nice filled with old teak wood homes. I stayed at Riverside Guesthouse and would not again but the reasons will come in a later review. I had a great night one evening at a local bar where an expat told me where to go for after hours fun. I ended up in a warehouse type place where there was something different on each floor. My Thai folks I shared a bottle with took me out for a 4am supper where we ate mussels, spring rolls, shrimp, pho, pad thai and much more. It was one of the best meals I’ve had so far and my friends even got me a safe ride to the guesthouse.

OK kids, here where shit is about to get real. I made my way to Chiang Mai and spent three crazy nights of FUN. I met some of the best people these days so far. Each night myself, the two great Danes and the two crazy Swedes drank the nights away. I saw nothing in Chiang Mai except my guesthouse and the dance floor of Zoe In Yellow. That was OK though as I knew I was coming back to CM at some point. CM has so much to offer and I would enjoy it at a later time, for now it was all about spending time with some of the best travelers I’d met so far. The five of us decided to go Pai together and endure the 762 curves in a minivan along highway 1095. Despite always drinking copious amounts and eating way too much we all held our ground and nobody got sick, something that this ride is famous for inducing in people.

When we arrived in Pai we had an idea of where to stay but that was quickly washed away. As we exited our minivan a man approached us about his guesthouse. He saw the maple leaf on my backpack and informed he had an online subscription to NHL Gamecentre which means access to all hockey games. For a Canadian that was all I needed. We decided to check the place out and we ended up with a huge room that fit all five of us and had a massive private terrace. There was hockey, beer and even BBQ’s. It was heaven. Pai is an amazing place to catch your breath. Everybody including the locals are laid back. It is the chillest place I’ve been in Thailand and my favourite. Happy House Pai is a great spot. Throw in five more great Danes that showed up and it was a place that felt like home with people that you felt you’d known forever. My planned two nights here turned into nearly two weeks. As new friends made their way in different directions it was time to head back to CM for an extended period and really experience the city.

Unfortunately Chiang Mai long term wasn’t what I had hoped. It is a spot where countless bloggers, digital nomads and backpackers alike stop to catch their breath. It wasn’t for me. Maybe because spending almost three weeks there started to feel like real life and my life right now is not real life. The worst of my time in CM was being robbed but that escapade merits its own post where I will go into more detail. I decided to head back to Pai and extend my 60 day visa for another 30. So here I am in Pai, happy as a pig in his own shit.

I feel better than I look. LOL

I feel better than I look. LOL

Stay tuned, more to come on cities I have experienced and my suggestions on where and where not to stay.

 

 

 

Ayutthaya is a must, even if just a day trip from Bangkok or to spend a night or two. It is a city of ruins that seem never ending. It was the second capital of Thailand after Sukothai and at one point had a population pushing 1 million by some accounts. It was one of the highest populated cities on Earth in its heyday. In 1767 the Burmese army sacked and destroyed it leaving it in ruins…of course. Like most places big and small in Thailand there is food and nightlife to be found as well.

I bought a third class train ticket from Bangkok for the two hour or so ride and it was only 15 Baht! The ride was fine, the seats were bench style with a bit of padding, a bathroom on board and food and drinks for purchase, like ever three minutes there was food and drinks for purchase. You could hear the lady yelling from the next car and you knew she was a comin. There’s no fans or A/C with third class but the windows open fully creating a great breeze and awesome views. When I arrived at the station in Ayutthaya I made the short walk to the riverside where 4 Baht gets you on a boat across to the main part of the city. From there I got a tuk-tuk to a guesthouse where I grabbed a room. I stayed at The Sixty At Ayutthaya. I was little wiped after waking up quite early in Bangkok and getting to the train station and making the trip so I unpacked and had some beauty rest. When I woke up I was two things, hungry and thirsty. What better way to fulfill my needs than the night market right? After looking at Google maps and seeing it was only a 20 minute walk I figured why spend money on a ride. Big mistake. I quickly realized that at nights the streets are filled with stray dogs and rats running around. It made walking sketchy and despite being a dog lover I know enough not to get too close packs of strays. Having finally made it to the market it became clear I had missed the action. By 10pm there were hardly any people around and the stalls were beginning to close. No walking home, I was paying for a taxi or tuk-tuk. Wait? I couldn’t find one at the market, fucking great. There was no way I was playing hopscotch over dogs and rats as big my shih-tzu back home. After asking somebody how I could get home, mostly with hand signs, he signaled for me to get on his scooter. So off I went on the back of a scooter with a local, racing in and out side streets and alleyways. It was quite fun really. When I arrived I offered him Baht but he would having nothing of. He was just a good dude being nice. The next day was much more successful, having met two German guys at my guesthouse we decided we would pool some money and rent a tuk-tuk for 3 hours to take us around to the main ruins and temples. Renting a bicycle in Ayutthaya is by far the most popular way to see the city but with temps above 40 with the humidity we decided against it. We spent the better part of the afternoon exploring ruins and temples and seeing a good chunk of the city thanks to having the tuk-tuk. The ruins were certainly a site to see, you try and imagine what they looked when they were still a working city. After a shower and chilling for a bit the two Germans and myself made our way to the night market. Earlier than my previous adventure of course, I sure as hell wasn’t getting stuck for a ride. This time it was bustling and lively. The air was filled with smells of all sorts of food and children ran and played. Two adorable little girls, maybe six years old, ran up to me and yelled ‘farang, farang’. I smiled and reassured them that I was indeed a farang. We left the night market (in a tuk-tuk) and headed to an outdoor bar/restaurant near our guesthouse. We sipped beers and whiskey sours while high school kids drank and celebrated the end of a semester. A musician played and the beers flowed and everything was right with the world after my previous nights issues.

Make your way to this city if possible, do a day trip from Bangkok or stop for a night on the way to Chiangmai, it’s a great spot to break up the long trip or just escape the chaos of the big smoke for a day.

IMG_0287

IMG_0288

DSCF5086

DSCF5087

DSCF5088

DSCF5089

DSCF5090

DSCF5091

DSCF5092

DSCF5093

DSCF5103

DSCF5111

DSCF5112

DSCF5113

DSCF5114

Bangkok is a city of paradoxes. A place where you can be the tourist and still be the traveler, where you can fall in and out of love in a matter of hours, be terrified yet thrilled,  where dreams and adventures begin and end and take new paths. It is the city you love to hate, but that’s what it does, it invades you from all directions and leaves you with strong emotions towards her. Nobody is neutral in their feelings for the city.

The Reclining Buddha At Wat Pho

The Reclining Buddha At Wat Pho

I will pick up where I left off in my last post that I wrote during my first day in the city. I ended the post by saying “Tonight comes the Bangkok after dark. Wish me luck!” Well shit. Khao San Road must be experienced, it needs to be seen, heard, tasted and smelled. The backpacker ghetto where all things Thailand begin and end for so many. I much preferred Rambuttri Road which runs parallel, it is a utopia of street food, guest houses, bars, Hare Krishnas, working girls (girl, maybe, is that a girl? Dude, that’s a dude! No way man) and all around peace and harmony between nations of the Earth. The UN should hold shop here, world peace in one weekend I’m sure. I drank and smoked shisha until the wee hours of the morning with friends and strangers from around the world. Music may be the universal language but alcohol helps get the music playing. It was a great time, it was a learning experience by jumping in the fire. Speaking to people about where they’d been, where you should go and whether that was really a dude. Despite the wicked hangover this night was absolutely epic. Needless to say the next day was a write off. I slept until late afternoon and then wandered the streets near my hotel seeking out good hangover food. It was a quiet night that was much needed even though it was my second day. Oh Bangkok!

OK. No more dicking around. Time to see the sights that are cliched yet necessary. I began bright and early with a good breakfast and did the 20 minute walk to Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha. It was incredible, pictures do no justice to the size. Wat Pho is a must when in Bangkok and goes in hand with the Grand Palace (Emerald Buddha) which is down the street. At Wat Pho I met a fellow Canuck who was traveling solo as well and we took in the sights of the area.

DSCF5079

The Grand Palace was on the checklist but I was underwhelmed by it. Maybe it was the mass amounts of people or the heat but it is like Alcatraz, not much need for a return trip. It was time to see something new so my new friend and I took a tuk-tuk to the BTS National Stadium skytrain station to make our way to Chatuchak, the largest market in Thailand and largest weekend market in the world. Being a Sunday we would enjoy its full potential. This maze of stalls stretches nearly 37 acres and everything under the sun can be found. It was crazy but a sight to see if you are ever in Bangkok. We ended the day with a beer at a pub that had A/C and bid farewell as our journeys were taking us in different directions. The next morning I planned to do some aimless wandering, this came to a screeching halt when a fellow I met on Rambuttri a few nights before was at breakfast at the hotel with friends. Apparently my drunken recommendation of the hotel had stuck with him. Quickly it was to the roof top patio of the hotel for some beer breakfast of champions. On such roof a new friend from Finland was found and taken for the ride despite having only arrived in BKK a few hours earlier. We made our way to the Khao San Road area to find shade, pool tables and of course beer. Our American friends got tickets to head South that evening and myself and Finlandia plotted our evening. When it was time for most of the group to get their train South I retreated to the hotel for an afternoon siesta. Back to Rambuttri once  more to kiss Bangkok goodbye. The next morning I took a tuk tuk (this involved several near death experiences) to get a third class train ticket to Ayutthaya.

There is so much more to my time in Bangkok that happened in between all this. Getting lost in Chinatown, being offered happy ending and ‘boom ‘boom, meeting countless extremely awesome people and food, food and more food!

Bangkok is whatever you want it to be. Culture, history, culinary, relaxation and hazy intoxicated fun. All roads lead here and you must go get that cherry popped.

My Tip: Experience the Khao San area. Get haggled by touts, point at pictures of food and eat it down, smoke shisha and be social. This is the place were friends will be met, some of whom you may meet again in your travels.