Beach resorts haven’t been our usual destination, but this wasn’t our first visit to one either. Our trip to Thailand five years ago ran a circuit through Bangkok temples and included a visit to play with tigers in Kanchanaburi. This was our first visit to a Thai beach. The steps to arrive at Koh Phangan make it feel especially remote. A one-hour domestic flight from Bangkok takes you to Koh Samui, a similarly sized island in the south of Thailand that caters to foreign beachgoers. Koh Phangan is a 30-minute ferry ride from one of the piers on Samui. However, the ocean conditions around Koh Phangon typically preclude traveling to the far side of the island by boat. Once you reach Koh Phangan, you’ve got another 45-minute ride through narrow hilly passes that cut straight through the jungle and across the island to the opposite coast. When we finally touched down at our resort, I definitely thought that I wouldn’t be exploring much more than the grounds around the place on foot. Continue reading A Normal Vacation in Koh Phangan
*Full photo gallery below*
Last full day in Thailand today, tomorrow we have an afternoon flight to Cambodia. Sites today included Wat Ratchanadda, Jim Thompson House, Lingam (fertility) Shrine, and Patpong Night Market.
The Wat we saw in the morning is unique in that it’s black and made of metal, the only one of it’s kind. Pretty cool and grabbed a few HDR pics. Jim Thompson House is a little out of the way, and we took some boat rides down a canal to get to it on the other side of town. Basically, it’s the house of an ex-pat American guy that started a Thai silk company and dealt in antiquities. He was also ex-military intelligence, so who knows what all he dabbled in. He disappeared without a trace in 1967 in Malaysia and the story of what happened to him has never been explained. His house was eventually converted to a museum in the 1970’s and mostly houses an extensive collection of Thai and Chinese antiques that he acquired. It was kind of interesting I guess, but I thought they’d talk more about his disappearance and the story around that. We also went to a shrine that is dedicated to fertility…. mostly because to us it seems a little comical that there are hundreds of phallic type offerings all over the place at the shrine. Continue reading Finishing up in Thailand
Full day exploring Bangkok today. We hit the three main tourist sites in Bangkok: The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.
It seems that the place most tourists hit first is The Grand Palace, so we left that for second. It closes at 3:30 though, so you really don’t want to delay too much getting there. We went to Wat Pho first, with a plan to do Grand Palace second, and then close out the day across the river at Wat Arun. The way to get around to these sites is without a doubt by chao phraya express boat. Rides run from about 3 Baht to just cross the river to about 25 Baht (~$0.75) to go multiple stops down the river. You know these are the way to go because there are tons of touts trying to divert you from the ticket areas at these stops to find suckers to pay WAAAYYY more to ride on private boats. You should avoid them at all costs. Well, maybe not all costs. If you’re in a large group of family and friends and you absolutely want to stick together, maybe paying $60 for a boat ride or more could actually be a good deal for you. The express boats are crowded, hectic, and you actually need to know where you’re going. We had several stops to go to get off right at Wat Pho, and we really had no problems getting there. Continue reading Wat a relaxing massage
So what brought us all the way out to Kanchanaburi was a place called “The Tiger Temple.” It’s a Buddhist monastery that has an animal sanctuary around it. There are lots of animals there, many of them running wild within the gates, but what we came for of course are the tigers. The best package you can get at the place has you coming in before all the main tour groups arrive in the afternoon. You have to be there by 0730 and first you have breakfast with the monks there. There was a whole spread of really good Thai food, which was a nice way to start the day. After breakfast, you go through small chores of caring for and interacting with different age groups of tigers. There were a total of eleven tourists there, including Martha and I. The other nine visitors came in two organized tour groups with their own tour guides. Martha and I were the only visitors flying solo. It was pretty badass rolling up to that place on a motor scooter without assistance. Not having a tour guide I think got us a little better experience as well, because we were just one-on-one with staff. So for example, Martha could say “can you make sure I get a really young baby tiger” and they made it happen. Stuff like that, really cool. Continue reading Two Words: Baby Tigers
Made it to Bangkok around 0500. Slept good through the flight with the usual routine. We were really pleased we avoided checking any bags for that flight because Thai AirAsia has a 7 kg limit on carryon luggage. Martha and I put the breakable electronics and stuff into our day bags and then our MEI bags were still like 8 kg. We were able to pass off the day packs though as a “personal item” and they let the MEI bags slide with being a little overweight. Other than that bit of generosity, I gotta say Thai AirAsia is a pretty lousy airline. No drinks, uncomfortable seats, and moody staff. I guess none of that matters too much though if you’re heavily drugged on sleeping pills. That really makes the flight go by quickly!
Arriving to Bangkok was such a relief. It’s a beautiful, bustling, and clean city. Maybe our frame of reference has changed a little after our time in India, but the place really does seem nice. Housing complexes seem organized with sound construction methods. Areas that are “under construction” don’t have construction debris strewn all over the street or surrounding blocks. The streets themselves are paved… and they have sidewalks. There are traffic lights at busy intersections…. and people seem to generally obey them. Crossing the street doesn’t seem like putting your life in imminent danger. A lot of the same cute approaches to product promotion in Japan are seen here in billboards and such. The place is distinctly Thai though of course. I really love the architecture here. Palm trees, fruit stands everywhere, lush greenery, it makes sense why this is a prime tourist destination. Oh, and maybe the most glaring change for us at this moment…. touts. Continue reading Respite in Thailand