December 2018
  • Day20

    Bangkok

    December 21, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    So travelling in first class on the train was not quite as luxurious as we would have hoped. The bed was incredibly hard and my back was very sore which may have also had something to do with my fall down the stairs (I have developed a rather beautiful bruise now). It therefore wasn't the best nights sleep so after arriving at our hotel in Bangkok before 8am and not being able to check in until 2pm we weren't in the mood for a day of hardcore sightseeing. We therefore decided to check out a new mall to which we could catch a free shuttle boat from the hotel. Now a shopping mall may not seem particularly exciting but this one was insane! The whole bottom floor was kitted out like an old Thai market with a small lake and all kinds of elaborate decor! It's also a great place to escape the Bangkok humidity creating a popular hub for locals. There was so much to see in the mall across 8 floors that we had no problem killing time until we could check in. For the last couple of nights of our holiday we treated ourselves to a fancy hotel with a jacuzzi bath in our room!

    For dinner we headed to an Italian restaurant on the river. It was a complete tourist trap but there was a good armosphere with the hustle and bustle of people. The restaurant also had an all night happy hour with 2 for 1 cocktails and a girl singing which wasn't bad so after eating we hung around for a few hours.
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  • Day19

    Day 3 - Chiang Mai

    December 20, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    It's our final day in Chiang Mai before we take the overnight train down to Bangkok. For our last day we booked ourselves into Siam Home Cooking Class. We were picked up in a tuk-tuk and taken to a local's food market just outside of the Old City where we met Nancy our cooking teacher. Here she showed us all of the traditional Thai ingredients including the fresh fish counter. The fresh fish counter was nothing like the one in Asda and instead there were numerous buckets of fish swimmimg around. You could literally pick which one you wanted and they fished it out and chopped it up in front of you!

    After the market it was back on the tuk tuk and off to the cooking school. When we arrived we were able to choose 7 dishes from a menu to create which included a soup, stir fried noodles, curry, dessert, salad, stir fry and deep fried.

    We started off with the soup, tofu coconut milk soup for me and wonton soup for Simon. Nancy showed us how to chop the ingredients and then put them together to make the soup. We then sat down to enjoy our dishes which were delcious. Turns out my tolerance to spice has significantly improved whilst we have been away. I put 2 green chillis in mine and found it quite mild!

    We were then back up to make our stir fry, tofu and cashew nut for me and sweet and sour chicken for Simon. It was at this point we both really regretted eating breakfast. I was already full and had another 5 courses to get through! They weren't small portions either.

    Before the next course we got to have a little break and a walk around the neighbouring lake to 'help digestion' as Nancy put it. After a couple of laps (it was a small lake) we started on the salad course. I went for a green mango salad and Simon made a sweetcorn salad. My salad was very sweet and not because of the mango as you may think but the lashings of palm sugar that went into it. Salt and sugar appear to be key ingredients in Thai cooking, with 1 - 2 spoonfuls going into every dish! As we were finishing up our salad we were joined by another couple (up until now we had our very own private tour).

    Next up was the deep fried and noodle course. I opted for the vegetable spring rolls and Simon for the fried wontons. Turns out Si is a complete pro at constructing the wontons and I also smashed the spring rolls! Both of which were delicious! Unfortunately I wasn't able to try any of Si's dishes as they all contained meat and fish sauce (even the salad had fish sauce).

    After popping our fried goodies on the table for later we started on the noodle dishes. I opted for the traditional pad thai and Si for Pad C-eaw. Despite loving Pad Thai, this was actually my least favourite dish. It just didnt have much flavour. Si wasn't a fan of his either (he is still traumitised from all of the stir fries he ate in South America) and it contained large noodles which were a bit slimy.

    After polishing off the noodle dishes, spring rolls and wontons we moved on to the curry course and making our own curry paste with a pestle and mortar. I quickly discovered that the most effective method of making the paste was to simply bash the crap out of it, much to Si's amusement! It was actually pretty easy and smelt delcious! I reckon its something I may even be able to do at home. For the curry course I made a Khao soi which is a traditional dish for Northern Thailand and Si made a massaman curry (one of our favourites). This was by far my favourite course but I was so unbelievably full by this point I couldn't eat much. It was quite good that we were joined by another couple as we got to see a few other dishes being made.

    We then finished off with a dessert of sticky rice with mango and banana and coconut milk. Im a big fan of sticky rice and mango which on the face of it sounds really healthy but again was full of sugar.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our cooking class and Nancy was lovely! We will have to cook up a Thai feast when we get home.

    Feeling completely and utterly full we headed back to our hotel to grab our bags before heading to the train station. We were a couple of hours early but so was our train so we were able to sit in our first class carriage instead of on the platform. We were greeted by a very grumpy lady thrusting menus in our face and asking if we wanted to order food. When we asked if we could also buy food from the food cart she snatched them out of our hand and stormed off! Rude! Fortunately we have stocked up on lots of snacks as the food is supposedly terrible and we ate a 7 course lunch!

    A lady came around 7pm to convert our cabin into sleep mode so after a couple of episodes of netflix we downloaded, we tucked in to get some sleep. We will let you know how that was tomorrow.
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  • Day18

    Doi Ithannon

    December 19, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Another day trip today, this time to explore some of Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest mountain in Thailand. It was another early start which involved a spectacular fall down the stairs in the hotel by yours truly.

    Our day started off with a 2 hour hike along the Kiw Mae Pan Trail which gave us breathtaking views of the national park. At points we were above the clouds which was pretty magical. To walk through the park, you have to pay a local guide who accompanies you on the trek. Our guide was Mr Chicken who wore the most spectualar blue glittery disco pants! Our main tour guide (not Mr Chicken) was a fountain of knowledge, telling us all about the National Park, Thailand and the local hill tribes. I can't remember his name but he was lots of fun and was happy for us to take our time taking pictures which was great! We also completely lucked out on our group. Everyone was really friendly and didn't stop chatting throughout the whole hike, including a girl who used to live down the road from us in Bedminster!

    At the end of the walk we jumped back in the minibus to the highest point in Thailand. You were unable to see any views from here so it was more of a photo op than anything else, of which our guide was very obliging. It was then off to see the King and Queen Pagoda's which were built for the King and Queen of Thailand's 60th birthdays.

    Lunch was served in a hill tribe village of the Karen people. When you think of the Karen people you think of the long necks where women wear numerous hooped necklaces which gives them their name. There are however 4 different types of Karen people and the long necks are the newest of the tribes, moving over from Burma in the last 5 years purely for the tourist trade. The village we visited was more traditional which was really nice. There was also loads of cute little piglets and baby chicks running around too!

    After lunch we checked out the Wachiratham Waterfall beforw heading back to Chiang Mai. After a long day we were pretty pooped so found a nice vegetarian restaurant for dinner before heading back to the hotel.
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  • Day17

    Pai

    December 18, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Unfortunately we couldn’t book on to the group Pai trip as it was fully booked so we decided to go for the slightly more expensive option of hiring a driver for the day. We’re glad it worked out that way in the end though as it would have been super rushed and more limited to what we could see having joined the group tour.

    Pai is about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai so we had to be up and ready for 7am to be picked up by our driver Leena. The road to Pai is notoriously windy and it didn’t take long once we left the city for that to become apparent. Blake bought some motion sickness bands before we left so she got them on pretty sharpish as we started almost rally driving the corners.

    About halfway into the trip we stoped at a road side cafe which didn’t have anything that we would class as breakfasty so I went for stir fried rice with chicken and Blake went for a fried egg with steamed rice. Back on the road it was about another hour until we reached out first stop Memorial Bridge. This was another WWII bridge crossing the river Pai however was not the original wooden construction as when the Japanese left after the war they burnt the bridge down. The next stop was Love Pai, Love Strawberry. Nothing other than a strawberry farm tourist trap on the way into the town where everything was heart and strawberry shaped, although I did get a super yummy fresh shake! Next stop, Coffee in Love. Another tourist spot serving coffee with some nice views and a random house people seemed to be taking pictures of. We later found out it was a 3 bedroom villa you could actually rent out.

    Leena mentioned lunch but having recently had breakfast and an enormous shake we decided to press on and see Wat Numhoo, Yun Lai viewpoint and Mo Paeng waterfall. Wat Numhoo is a collection of temples, one surrounded by a nice pond with hundreds of huge fish. Yun Lai was a little Chinese themed look out point over Pai which for 50p served up a pot of Chinese tea. And Mo Paeng waterfall was well, another waterfall. All touristed out we decided to head to Pai village for lunch. I found a nice restaurant called Om Garden which was full of raging hippies but served yummy food. We then had a walk around the shops for half hour or so.

    Back in the car we headed to Wat Ya That Mae which is a giant white Buddha high up on the hillside looking over Pai. There were a lot of steps to climb which made for very sweaty photos at the top but again gave a great view and was a pretty awesome statue. The last stop on the way back was Pai’s version of the Grand Canyon, Pai Canyon. I was pretty over it all by then so I let blake walk around with the camera whilst I sat and took it all in. Next up was the gruelling 3 hour drive back all in one go which I managed to sleep most of like always.

    For dinner I satisfied my pizza craving with a delicious meat and slamon feast with an egg in the middle for good measure.
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  • Day15

    Chiang Mai

    December 16, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    There are over 100 temples in Chiang Mai so for our first day we explored the city on foot. With a temple on every corner (sometimes 2) we found a walking tour route online which highlighted a few of the more interesting ones as well as some other interesting sights the Old Town had to offer.

    Chiang Mai is very different to Bangkok. The Old Town area is located within an old stone wall, remenants of which can be found around the city and a canal runs around the outside, resembling a moat. We now understand why people say Bangkok is crazy as Chiang Mai is so much more relaxed!

    As we wandered around we saw some beautiful temples including:

    Wat Chiang Man or the Temple of the Fortified City which is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, built shortly after the city was in 1296 and one of my favourites with a tower supported by 15 elephant statues.

    Wat Hua Kuang with its beautiful architecture.

    Wat Kun Kha Ma or the Golden Horse Temple which as the name suggests is surrounded by loads of gold horses.

    And many many more...

    We also saw many sections of the old wall including the White Elephant Gate which is the North Gate into the city (there are 5 in total with bridges over the surrounding canal). There are only remenants of the old wall left now as most of it was torn down during WWII so that the bricks could be repurposed however some of these have been rebuilt since. The gate gets it's name as it is said that the 8th Lanna King in Chiang Mai, King Geuna, had a piece of Buddha's shoulder bone and let a sacred white elephant free out of this gate to find a spot to build a shrine, of which is the Doi Suthep Temple outside of the city.

    For lunch we stumbled across a very cute garden cafe where Si indulged in an enornous club sandwich (with real meat this time) and chips whilst I tucked into a scrummy spinach and cheese roti.

    After lunch we checked out a few more sights before making our way back to the hotel. As we were heading back they were setting up for the big Sunday night market and I may have accidentally purchased 4 lovely glasses!

    In the evening we headed back out to the market with our haggling game face in search of some more goodies, returning with a rather large thai cushion which we can hopefully squeeze into the suitcase and some other random trinkets.
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  • Day14

    Koh Lanta - Chiang Mai

    December 15, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Check out and travel day today as we are heading up to Chiang Mai. We went for our normal breakfast and then decided to laze by the pool topping up our tans. As twice wasn’t enough at the vegetarian restaurant we decided to visit a third time for lunch. This time I went for the classic club sandwich minus all the good bits like chicken and bacon obvs. Blake went for a spinach salad sandwich.

    We booked a transfer from Koh Lanta all the way to Krabi Airport as we couldn’t be bothered with the faff of taxi-ferry-taxi. We were collected at 2.30pm when the minibus was around half full. There was no boot so he managed to squeeze us and our bags in like Tetris. We then collected another couple and another couple and then a few single passengers until the van was so full no one could barely move. Turns out they sell seats for passengers but don’t really care about the space required for their luggage too. There’s only one thing you can do in that situation and that is sleep until you arrive. Fortunately we managed to baggsy the front seats so we lucked out on the space!

    For some reason our flight time was changed from 6.15pm to 8.10pm which was a bit annoying as getting somewhere late usually means taxis are more expensive and there’s no time for dinner. Luckily however we managed to switch to a flight that was boarding in like an hour. Having landed and jumped into a taxi we were at the hotel in no time.

    Once at the hotel we realised we were only about 200m from the Saturday walking street market so we had a quick wash and made our way to look around the stalls and find some yummy street food. The market was HUGE selling all kinds of bits and bobs. We refrained from buying anything this time, holding off for tomorrow’s market which is supposed to be a lot better.
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  • Day13

    Day 3 - Koh Lanta - 4 Islands

    December 14, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☁️ 30 °C

    Today's activity was a boat trip to 4 islands off the coast of Koh Lanta. We were picked up first from our hotel just after 8am and once we had picked up everyone else we were dropped off at a beach to wait for the boat to pick us up. It was a very long wait as the boat was 45 minutes late! When it eventually arrived the crew introduced themselves and we settled in for the 40 minute journey to the first island, Koh Mook, home to the Emerald Cave. Our arrival was timed perfectly with the arrival of 2 ENORMOUS boats full of around 100 extremely loud children. To get to the Emerald Cave you have to swim through a pitch black tunnel which opens up onto a little beach in the middle of the island, completely surrounded by cliffs. It would have been pretty magical were it not for the swarm of screaming children. Fortunately we did manage to swim through before the kids and enjoyed a very brief moment of the beach to ourselves before the masses arrived.

    Leaving the kids behind we swam back through the cave and boarded the boat to head to our next stop Koh Chuck for some 'snorking' as our Thai guide referred to it. There were quite a few colourful fish but having been truly spoilt in Fiji and Australia, it really didn't compare.

    Our third stop was Koh Kradan where we stopped for lunch and a bit of free time on the beach before setting off to our forth and final island Koh Ngai for some more snorking. I decided against the snorking this time but Simon got in for a swim before the 2 huge boats full of kids showed up!

    All in all I probably wouldn't recommend the trip. The cave was cool but other than that it was just a bit too touristy for our liking!

    Back on dry land we headed back to our hotel for a shower before dinner. I had read that the fire shows on the beach were not to be missed so after dinner back at the Greek restaurant, which again was delicious, we headed to Indian Bar which is a cool little bar down on the beach run by a Thai / Indian man.

    As we settled down with a cocktail (the mojitos were amazing), wearing nothing but an indian headress and a brown Indian style skirt, the owner headed on to the beach and lit 2 fireworks which he waved around to start the show! The guy is absolutely bonkers but it was a really impressive show! At one point he had an extra large fire poi which he swang round and round and he literally looked like a human catherine wheel! After he had finished he invited the kids on to play with the fire poi who were also pretty good. We then sat back and drank cocktails for the next couple of hours watching various people with fire poi and batons on the beach. It was a pretty memorable way to spend our last night on Koh Lanta.
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  • Day12

    Day 2 - Koh Lanta

    December 13, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    As I was reminded we were on holiday and not a boot camp I allowed Blake an extra half hour in bed to get her beauty sleep. Another yummy breakfast served by none other than Mr Blackadder himself and we were set to go out for a trip on the scooter again.

    Having not made it down to the National Park and waterfall walk yesterday as we got fed up of windy beaches, we decided to head straight down there first. When we turned off the main road to head to the waterfall start point the two passengers on the bike in front were pulled over, coughing, spluttering and sneezing. As soon as we caught up to them we were exactly the same. Ahead we could see a pickup truck pumping out something which got straight into the back of your nose and throat. Having no idea what it was or wanting to risk driving straight through it to overtake we decided to skip it (having seen a lot of waterfalls last year) and head straight to the National Park. It was a long and windy road with lots of very steep hills which we weren’t sure how easily the bike was going to manage on the way back.

    We bought our tickets, parked up the bike and headed to the start of the National Park walk. The sign said 1.7km taking around 2hrs but knowing this was probably for a one legged man walking backwards we made our way up the giant steps. 10-15 minutes in, very hot and sweaty we considered turning back but decided to carry on as the views were getting better and better the higher we made it up the path. Eventually we made it all the way around in 50 minutes.

    Back at the starting point were two beaches and another short walk to a lighthouse. We climbed up to the lighthouse for a stunning view of the sea and National Park. A well worthwhile trip.

    Having had a delicious dinner the night before at the vegetarian ( I don’t really know what’s happening to me) we decided to go back for lunch. Blake decided this time on a veggie sandwich and I went for the mixed Thai starter for two for a main. Suitably full we went back to the hotel for some more sunbathing and pool time. (It’s a holiday right 😂)

    For dinner, needing some meat by this point we went to a little spot called Patty’s Secret Garden. We ordered two delicious cocktails, one frozen margarita and one caipirinha. For starter we shared a breaded, minced tofu with a lemon and lime mayo like sauce. Sounds odd but was actually really nice. For main Blake went for a noodle dish and I went for a black bomber cheese and bacon topped burger and chips. Mmm meaty!!
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  • Day11

    Koh Lanta

    December 12, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☁️ 30 °C

    After a great nights sleep (no jungle noises and excellent air con) we woke to the sun streaming in the through the curtains. If you prefer not to be woken up in this way, you can actually request extra curtians! Our backpacking days are well and truly behind us! I am holidaying with Sergeant Major though so we dont have time for lie ins 😂

    Breakfast is included here so we headed up to the resturant where we got to choose what we wanted from a menu and they cook it freshly for us. The waiters are very sweet although one looks very much like Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder as Simon rightly pointed out.

    Apparently the best way to explore the island is by scooter so after breakfast we spoke to reception about hiring one for the day. Turns out the hotel have a selection of bikes that you can pick from so we settled for a yamaha qbix. I was a bit nervous when they said the bike didnt come with insurance and we had sign to say we would pay £1,000 if the bike was stolen. It didn't mention anything about damage to the bike though and the odds of it getting stolen when everyone on the island owns one were slim. At only £7.50 a day to hire it what could go wrong!

    I didnt feel comfortable driving and Simon is a terrible back seat driver at the best of times so I happily left him in charge of the wheel (or handlebars) but imposed a very strict speed limit. After Si had a quick wizz around to get to grips with the bike before I hopped on the back we headed towards Old Town on the East side of the island. It was a lot more touristy than I was expecting with lots of souvenir shops but we did manage to pick up a couple of magnets. It kind of reminded me of an old town from a old western movie crossed with a Cornish seaside town selling tourist tat.

    For lunch we stopped at a restaurant right on the water called Caoutchouc. It was a cute little place run by a sweet French man who also lived there as we could see into his bedroom. It was a very simple receipe of either a wrap, salad or spaghetti so Si went for the chicken wrap and I opted for a feta salad, both of which were quite tasty.

    After lunch we headed back over to the other side of the island to check out the many beaches lining the West Coast and stopped when we found a nice looking beach for a bit of a lie down and dip in the sea. This was very short lived as it turned out to be ridicuously windy and within minutes of getting out of the water we were covered head to toe in sand! It was very similar to when we were on the beach in Byron Bay with Maddy. We therefore jumped back on the bike in search of a less windy beach which turned out was like looking for the holy grail. After another pitstop on another windy beach I was ready to go back to the hotel and lie on a sunlounger next to the pool!

    For dinner we headed to a vegetarian restaurant I found with amazing reviews and only a 5 minute walk from the hotel. It was so scrummy even Si enjoyed it. For starter we shared a mixed Thai appetizer which consisted of spring rolls, samosas and grilled tofu with some scrummy dips! Then for main we shared pineapple fried rice and massaman curry. Feeling very full we headed back to the hotel for some cocktails in the hotel bar.
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  • Day10

    Ao Nang - Koh Lanta

    December 11, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☁️ 30 °C

    Today we would be heading over to Koh Lanta island but not before heading to Lion and Shark for breakfast. I was a bit hesitant at first but I soon fell in love with this place. After climbing a ladder to get into this almost tree house feeling cafe we both ordered a smoothie bowl. I’m not quite sure what’s happened to me but this mango and passion fruit smoothie bowl topped with fruit was a breakfast game changer!! Suitable fed we went back to finish packing and check out. We had to make our way to the pier to catch a ferry so managed to squeeze us, 2 enormous suitcases and rucksacks onto a tuktuk which definitely scraped the floor a lot when hitting bumps and taking corners. We got to the boat nice and early so got a nice spot by a window before heading off on our 2ish hour trip to the island. Once on Koh Lanta we were then squeezed onto the back of a pickup with seats to get to our hotel.

    Chaw Ka Cher came with a recommendation from the Wilton-Kruger's and it was a great shout. The staff literally can't do enough for you and the room, bar area and pool etc. looked awesome and immaculate. Feeling pretty hungry we ate lunch here before unpacking and trashing our bedroom as we always do.

    There was a beach across the road, aptly named Beautiful Beach about a 5 - 10 minute walk away so we thought we’d spend the rest of the day there reading, swimming and sunbathing before grabbing a beer at a rickety beach hut and watching the sunset over the sea.

    Needing a change from Thai cuisine I found a highly recommended Greek restaurant called El Greco back at the top of the island. Our hotel rang our pickup truck taxi and off we went with illumonious blue and purple flashing lights. It was like a silent disco only without the headphones and music. The food was super yummy. I had a chicken souvlaki wrap and Blake had what looked like giant spring rolls but filled with spinach and feta cheese.
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