A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

2019 June 22 - 25 Australia to KL to Bangkok to Ko Samui

Flying all day to get here! Relaxing on an island! Couple of days in Bangers.

sunny 28 °C
View 2019 Adventure - Germany, Malta, Italy & Indonesia on Cindy Bruin's travel map.

Saturday 22nd June 2019 (day 1)

Well hello folks, here we are again, mid year and it's time to escape the Australian winter (mild as it is) and head to the Northern Hemisphere to enjoy the summer weather up there. It looks like I am going to write a blog, but I'm only going to do it when I have time. There are always posts on FB with photos.

This year Lyn and I are traveling together again - after heading off in different directions last year. And we are going to attempt another European bike ride - the first together since Lyn's fateful bike accident in Belgium a few years ago. Don't worry we are taking it easy and our ride along 3 beautiful rivers in Germany is not going to be too difficult. Although, yes we are camping, so lets just see how it goes.

So for those of you who are interested, a rough idea of this years itinerary:

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Fly Australia to Thailand (spending a week here as our stopover to visit Lyn's son Patrick who lives on the Thai island of Ko Samui)

Fly Thailand to Frankfurt, Germany - here we will purchase bicycles and ride for about 4 weeks along the Saar, Mosel & Rhine rivers

Fly Germany to Malta - the usual 4 weeks relaxing on the beautiful islands of Malta and Gozo - can't seem to not visit this favourite destination - here we will meet up with our travel buddy Dolly.

Fly Malta to Sicily to Naples - 10 days enjoying a small piece of Sicily, before flying to Naples for 10 days around there and a little of the Amalfi Coast
Train Naples to Rome to collect a hire car for 10 days exploring the hilltop villages just north of Rome

Fly Rome to Indonesia where we will be joined by 4 friends flying over from Australia and again Dolly for 4 weeks of Indo Adventure Island Hopping.

From Indonesia I fly on to New Zealand to have a catch up with mates over there, before retuning back to Brisbane in the first week of December.

Big thank you to Mitchell for getting us up nice and early this morning to drive us down to Coolangatta airport for our morning flight. I usually prefer to fly at night, as a whole day is lost sitting in the plane to get from Australia to Asia, but I guess at the time this was what was available when I was booking.

There are 2 things that I really hate about traveling. #1 is packing i.e. deciding what I need to pack/take for my travels. You would think after the amount of trips I have done that this would be an easy task, but alas no. I am not exactly an over packer, but I am also not a light packer. Of course it's very difficult when we are doing a bike tour as this involves taking bike paraphernalia as well as camping/cooking gear. The clothing part of this scenario is very easy, 2 sets of on bike clothes and a set of off bike clothes. But its the other gear that takes up room and weight.

Which brings me to my #2 hate: airport check-ins. This always gets my heart rate pumping because 9 out of 10 times I seem to be over the weight limit or at least very close to it. Have been lucky in the past to just scrape through with overweigh check-in luggage, but not today! The Air Asia check-in lady was not letting us get away with even 100 gram over our allowance. She was good enough to allow us to remove some heavy items from our checked luggage and said it would be ok to take on as carry on. Little did she know our carry on was already double the weight of the allowance. Nevertheless, our bags disappeared along the belt and we walked away struggling under the weight of our carry on, trying to make it look like it was light as a feather! Hard to do with a grimace on your face!

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The almost 9 hour flight from Coolangatta to Kuala Lumpur was a little more bumpy than usual. As we chose not to pay extra to pick our own seats we ended up with an aisle and a middle seat. Which wasn't too bad, I did actually sleep a good majority of the flight, hence why I am still up at 1am typing this. Our 2.5 hour stop over in Kuala Lumpur airport was just enough time to grab something to eat and head to the gate for our next flight to Bangkok. Unfortunately, during this security check the guards suddenly decided that the 2 tape measures Lyn was carrying to give to Patrick were a safety hazard and could be used as a weapon due to the sharp edge of the tape and said she could not take them any further. Unreal that they had already made it through 4 previous security checks, but not this one. No point in arguing and we had no time to go and try and check them in as our flight was boarding.

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The flight to Bangkok left late but was only 2 hours in duration. Minutes after take off Lyn was hit with sudden air sickness and spent the entire time down the back of the plane vomiting. No idea what brought that on as we had eaten the same thing in KL. Luckily our overnight hotel was just a short overpass walk from the airport and we were there in minutes. I purposely chose this close location due to our all day flying and this turned out to be an even better idea since Lyn was feeling crook. We are at the Amari Hotel, very nice and they gave us a free room upgrade - not sure why but not complaining. Lovely way to start our holiday in a flash hotel - but best not get used to it.
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Lyn jumped in the shower and went straight to bed, I walked down the street to the 711 to get some milk for a cup of tea. I tell you it's hot and humid here in Asia! 10pm at night and its like 28 degrees Celsius and about 88 percent humidity. I've been complaining about the cold at home the last few weeks and was longing for some heat, well here it is! Enjoy!

We are just one night here in our flash hotel, tomorrow we fly to Koh Samui for some beach R & R.

Sunday 23rd June 2019 (day 2)

We were awake early this morning after a good rest in our lovely hotel room. We opted not to have the expensive hotel breakfast, instead had a cup of tea and a muffin left over from some snacks I brought from home to have on the Air Asia flights.

Today we are flying to Ko Samui, a touristy Thai island situated in the South of the Gulf of Thailand. Lyn's youngest son Patrick lives on Ko Samui so we are going there to catch up with him. Seemed like a perfect excuse for a stopover - not that we need one!

Last night we flew into Don Mueng Airport and today we need to fly out of the main Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport - which is about an hour away. There is a free shuttle bus between the airports which we decided to take advantage of since a taxi or GRAB (Uber) was going to cost us 640 baht (aud$30), which doesn't sound like much but every baht saved is another baht towards a meal or better still a cocktail. And since it was just a short 4 minute walk back to the airport it was fairly easy for us to move our luggage and catch the bus. We were allocated to the 9.40am bus and arrived at the airport in plenty of time about an hour later.

Again with checking in the luggage we were over weight so we took a few things out of the check in bags to carry on. Hopefully once we drop off the bag of goodies Lyn is transporting for Patrick we should be able to organize our luggage better.

A coffee from Coffee Club at the airport, 130 baht each (aud$6.06) - typical airport prices.
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It's just a short 2 hour flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui on Bangkok Airways and we were surprised that we were served quite a substantial snack, which was good enough to be called lunch in our books. Spice fish with rice which had my tongue burning for the remainder of the flight - that said, I must admit I have a very low tolerance of any chilly in food whatsoever.

Patrick and a mate were there at the airport to meet us. Weather looks a little cloudy today, but no doubt it will be better tomorrow and the next day. First up we stopped for some lunch, but since we had eaten on the flight, Lyn and I opted for our first cocktail of the trip. Not a bad pina colada (not the best) but a good start, and the orchid was a nice touch.

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After lunch, Pat drove us around his work site. He is working as a construction manager for a company building luxury condos being sold to wealthy Chinese investors. The site is on the side of a hill - although to me it resembled a side of a cliff more than a hill. He certainly has a very stressful job, kudos to him. We then took our luggage and settled into 'Chez Patrick' - Pat's place of abode and our home for the next 5 nights. Room with a view!

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Dinner was at a local pad thai shack that cost us a total of 216baht (aud$10.09). Lyn and I had seafood & Pat had chicken pad thai (noodles). Loving the price of food in Thailand.

Pretty early into bed tonight, still catching up on lost sleep and getting into holiday mode.

Monday 24th June 2019 (day 3)

A very lazy morning, Patrick went off to work and Lyn and I hung around the bungalow in our pj's until hunger got the better of us and we decided we would have go for a walk to find food. It's warm and sunny outside today, still cloudy but the heat is there. Lucky for us Pat decided to come home at lunch time to take us out, so we didn't have to brave walking the busy road in the heat.

Lunch was at a beach side restaurant on Lamai Beach. You can really tell its off season as the beach is almost deserted. We take a seat with a perfect view for the ocean and order lunch. I had noodles with porK and a delicious coconut shake, Lyn went for a bacon baguette (not very Thai lol) and a coconut shake also. Pat went all out and had a chicken sandwich, and then had to go back to work so left us as we headed to the water for a swim.

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Love the temperature of the water in Thailand, warm and inviting, we stayed in for about 30 minutes enjoying the sun that was playing hide and seek with the overhead clouds.

Time to get out and head to the main shopping street to find somewhere for a manicure and pedicure for both of us. After a quick up and down the street we chose the first place we saw and sat in the air con for our hour and a half pampering session. This wonderful service was half the price that we would pay at home, with the mani / pedi costing us 500 baht (aud$23) each. Money well spent we now have beautiful nails.

Time for a drink! We found a restaurant that had a sign offering happy hour cocktails for 70 baht each, so we took a seat and ordered off the cocktail menu. They did not have our first choice so we opted for the usual pina colada - and this was a good one. Better than the one we had yesterday so we decided on a second round.

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Just as we started on our 2nd drink, Pat showed up to collect us to go to another bar for sundowner drinks. So we downed the cocktail and headed off to a quiet little beach side bar which did not have a direct view of the sunset, but did have the hazy colours reflected on the water and rock formations. Our third pina colada for today was served up in a coconut!

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Dinner was an assortment of Thai dishes at the Pown Restaurant - another little gem Patrick has taken us to.

Holiday progressing splendidly so far!

Tuesday 25th June 2019 (day 4)

Another relaxing morning, Pat collected us and we returned to Bamboo Restaurant on Lamai Beach for another lunch with a view.

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I had pork with Thai basil (which has an aniseed flavour) with rice 100 baht ($.4.64) and a coconut shake 60 baht ($2.80).

When we returned to Chez Pat, Lyn had a bit of a nap and I sat on the balcony and watched the rain. Most of it was light, but we did get a good down pour which prevented me from waking Lyn as we were going to take Patricks bike out for a ride around this afternoon.

Instead we had happy hour on the balcony with a couple of Tiger Radlers aka lemon beer, until it was time to go out for dinner.

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Tuesday Taco Night at Tips Tacos has a special of 3 tacos + a beer for 200 baht ($9.29). Pretty good deal and the tacos were much bigger and filling than we expected.

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And so come an end to another island day for us, tomorrow we have plans to be a little more 'active'.

Wednesday 26th June 2019 (day 5)

Today Patrick took a full day off work as we are heading out on a boat to visit a couple of small islands off Koh Samui.

Breakfast stop first, at Bamboo Restaurant, for bacon and eggs and a fresh juice smoothy.

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After breakfast we drove to Captain Tom's Beach Bar on Bang Kao Beach to meet our boat which would be taking us out to Tan Island today. We climbed into the long tail and headed off out to sea. It was just a little choppy, so we travelled slowly as to not make it too rough a ride. It took about 45 minutes to reach the island, however we stopped before hitting the beach to do a little fish feeding. The warm water was very inviting and lots of small fish gathered around us in a feeding frenzy as the captain threw in little pieces of stale donut. The fish were loving it and must have thought it was xmas with a change from normal stale old bread to this tasty sweet, albeit soggy human food.

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We only stayed in the water long enough to cool off and I think the Captain ate more of the donuts than the fish were given, so maybe they were not stale at all? We were only 100 metres off the sandy beach shoreline so it didn't take long before the boat was beached and we climbed out. The beach on this side was not much, but Patrick assured us there was a nicer beach on the other side of the island. Obviously, this was too far and too hot to walk to so we hired a golf cart (500 baht) to take us to the other side.

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We did a bit of a tour along the way, stopped at another beach that unfortunately was littered with lots of plastic rubbish. All rubbish that had washed in from the ocean, so sad to see this.

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Tan Island is still very underdeveloped and it would be nice if it stayed like this forever, but I doubt it as progress will happen and I guess this island will become another overcrowded paradise like everywhere else. But today it's still lovely, with the interior thick jungle still.

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There are supposed to be wild boar on the island although the only ones we saw were cement statues at a roundabout. And we did see quite a bit of buffalo poo on the cement path. But the only wild life we did encounter were a couple of goats.

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We could not drive the buggy down to our secluded beach, we had to follow the goat track (in pic above) down to the water. It did turn out to be a beautiful beach and we went straight into the sea to cool off. The water was crystal clear and no another sole on the beach, except for the curious goat that kept an eye on us. We had bought lunch with us so we ate and enjoyed a bit of down time. Unfortunately, the buggy had a time limit on it so we had to head back up the hill and return to the beach where our boat was waiting.

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We thought we were lost trying to find our way back to the boat, which didn't matter except for the fact that the battery on the buggy was running low. Managed to guess the correct turns and we made it back without having to push the cart.

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Back in the boat we were taken to another smaller island where we stopped for a quick swim. Matsum Island is another day-tripper stop, but this late in the afternoon there was no one.

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The ride back to Samui was ok, the waves were starting to get up but we travelled slow and just sort of rode the waves in. Back at Captain Toms Beach Bar we had a dinner of bbq fish.

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Had a great day today, managed to get a bit of sun so we will sleep well tonight.

Thursday 27th June 2019 (day 6)

Another relaxing day on Koh Samui. Lyn and I went for a little ride around on Patricks motorbike.

We went for a swim at Chewang Beach. Weather was hot and sunny today. The water was beautiful.

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Friday 28th June 2019 (day 7)

We flew back to Bangkok from Koh Samui today. Not before our last meal at Bamboo Restaurant to enjoy the beach view.

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Our hotel in Bangkok is close to the airport that we fly into and that we will be flying out of in a few days time. BS Residences offer free shuttle to and from the airport, have a food market in the same street and have a very nice pool which we used during our stay. Our first stop was to the 711 down the street to fill the minibar with a few supplies for our stay.

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We ate dinner from food purchased in the local market.

Saturday 29th June 2019 (day 8)

Lazy day by the pool, food from the local market. Tomorrow we fly to Europe!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 12:06 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

2017 OCTOBER - THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part four

WE TAKE A SLEEPER TRAIN TO THE THAI/MALAY BORDER

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL.
I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND

DAY 247 TUESDAY 10TH OCTOBER 2017

HIN TO PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

Back on the train we are continuing to travel south from Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan, just a short less than 2-hour distance so we opted for a 3rd class seat @ 19 baht = aud 75c.

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We are booked into Safe House Hostel for the next 3 nights @ 650 baht = aud $25.56 per night, no breakfast. This hostel had really good reviews regarding owner who advises on what to see and do in area.

On arrival at PKK before leaving the station, we sit and have lunch that we purchased in Hua Hin before leaving. Herring on a roll from the Dutch restaurant – it was very good. A little extravagant at 160 baht = aud $6.29 each but where else in Thailand can you get real Dutch herrings?? Washed down with a flask of coffee that Lyn had made back at the hotel before we left.

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We take a tuk tuk from the train station to the hostel for 60 baht = aud $2.36 ,no compromising on price.

Owner is not at hostel and we are checked in by her parents so no help with what to do in area. Room is ok, with 2 single beds and our own big fridge.

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We head out in the late afternoon to take a look at the sea front. Not what you would call a swimming beach, but it is on the coast.

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We walk out onto the jetty and spy a temple gracing the top of a ‘small’ hill and decide that climb is a job for tomorrow or the next day!

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Food stalls are being set up along the waterfront and we try a couple of Japanese deep fried balls as a snack. Then take a seat in one of the seafood restaurants to have the cheapest beer we had found in Thailand. Large Leo for just 70 baht = aud $2.75 , so we had 2!

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Walking back to the hostel in the dark we did not have much cash on us so just bought a couple of pieces of fried chicken to have for dinner.

DAY 248 WEDNESDAY 11TH OCTOBER 2017

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

We didn’t do much today, highlight being the seafood dinner that we enjoyed in one of the beachside open air restaurants. We had natural oysters, garlic clams, little deep-fried fish and crab rice. Delish – and all for just 445 baht = aud $17.50, washed down with a 70 baht = aud $2.75 beer.

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DAY 249 THURSDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2017

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

We did even less today than yesterday, highlight being the fact that last night’s yummy seafood dinner may not have been as fresh as we would have liked. Although it tasted ok and good at the time, obviously something was not good as both Lyn & I are struck down with toilet duty for the day.

knew something was amiss when I woke up burping the taste of the crab rice. I had abdominal pain most of the day with minimal trips to the bathroom, which was just as well as I would have had to share the toilet seat with Lyn as she occupied it most of the day. To add to our misery, the beds in this hostel would have to be the most uncomfortable beds we have had the whole trip. It was like already being laid out on a concrete slab!
We did not leave the room or eat anything all day! Not bad odds really, this is the first time on this long trip that we have been bailed up with upset systems.

DAY 250 FRIDAY 13TH OCTOBER 2017

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN TO PEDANG BASAR

Thankful that our train was not departing until 8.30pm, the hostel allowed us to keep the room until 6pm for just an extra 150 baht = aud $5.90.

We were feeling a lot better than yesterday, now that everything had passed through us, but still a little weak. We had to go out to get some cash from the atm, but still food was not a priority. We did toss up hiring a motorbike for the day to explore, but I soon kyboshed that idea, not wanting to risk anything too strenuous or too far from a loo just in case.

7.30pm we decided to get a tuk tuk to the station, of course when you want one, there is never one in sight. Our hostel grandmother said she would take us up for the usual 60 baht = aud $2.36 , and we happily agreed. Only thing was she seemed to ride very warily and at a speed that I could have walked faster. And she insisted on taking us in 2 trips. Lucky we had plenty of time, and thanked her with 100 baht = aud$3.93, because of the 2 trips she had to make.

Our sleeper train arrived on time, and we only had a few minutes to scramble on board with our luggage. Due to the time the seats had already been converted to the sleeping bunks, and our carriage looked like it was full. We both had upper bunks, because this is all that was available when I purchased the tickets a few days ago when we arrived in PKK. 764 baht = aud $30.04 each. We must take a sleeper train to get us to the border because our Thai visas expire on the 14th, so we must leave the country tomorrow. Our luggage half blocks the passageway, but does not seem to be a problem, we are both sleeping with a bag in our bunks too.

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Top bunks in sleeper trains are always cheaper than the lower bunks, this is due to many reasons. Firstly, the lower bunk is obviously easier to get into, you need to climb up a ladder to get to the top bunk. Secondly, the lower bunk is MUCH wider than the top bunk, more room. Thirdly, the top bunk is usually artic cold due to the air con vents blowing straight into the curtained compartment. Fourthly, the top bunk curtain rail has a gap to the roof, where the passageway lights shine in on the sleep all night! Despite all these drawbacks it was not long before I could hear the sound of Lyn’s nasal music, even over the noise of the moving train. Obviously, these draw backs to not prevent some people from having a good night’s sleep on the train, others are not so lucky.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged penang khan besar prachuap khiri Comments (0)

2017 OCTOBER - THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part three

TO BANGKOK AND FURTHER SOUTH

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL. I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND.

DAY 243 FRIDAY 6TH OCTOBER 2017

AYUATTHAYA TO BANGKOK

Today we are returning to Bangkok, we need to make just a quick stop to collect our bag that is in storage at Mango Lagoon Place, we left it there before we went over to Cambodia - over a month ago, so we hope it's still there.

Breakfast at our accommodation was the easiest for this morning, but it was more like brunch as we were not in a big hurry to go anywhere early.
I had pancakes with banana & sweet syrup 80 baht = aud $3.08 & Lyn had fruit & yoghurt for 60 baht = aud $2.31, we shared a mango smoothie 40 baht = aud $1.54.

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After eating we returned to our room to pack up the last of our stuff and I was merrily chatting on FB when Lyn asked 'what time is the train?' Just after 12 I replied, well we best get going as it's 3 minutes past now. Shit, I thought it was just 11 o'clock. Lucky for us the train station is only 4 minutes walk away - maybe 5 with us dragging our luggage. I was purchasing our tickets as the train was being called. That was close. This is only a short ride over under 2 hours to Bangkok so it really would not have mattered if we missed this one as there would be other trains we could catch today. 3rd class 15 baht = aud 58c - unallocated seats so everyone just scrambled on when the train stopped. We were just lucky with timing and managed to both get seats as soon as we boarded the carriage.

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This was the longest (most amount of carriages) and the most crowded train we have been on so far, which makes getting a seat even more lucky. There were people having to stand in the aisle, made even more uncomfortable by the food and drink vendors plying up and down the corridor.

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Not much countryside to look at out the window in this leg. Being so close to Bangkok already we drove through suburbia nearly all the way. Seeing the back of peoples living quarters, as you do when travelling by train, is always interesting. Not the prettiest of views here in Thailand as you can imagine, and some of the food preparation sights you just really don't need to see.

Our train arrived into Bangkok station just a little late due to the fact we were delayed at a couple of stations, think we had to wait for oncoming trains to clear the tracks, because as soon as they passed we would move on. As we are only spending one night in Bangkok we decided to purchase our onward ticket while here at the train station. There are special ticket windows for advanced ticket purchases so we had to take a number and a seat and wait our turn. 10 minutes later I was at the counter handing over cash for our ride out of Bangkok tomorrow. Lucky we did buy the tickets today as 2nd class was already sold out, so 3rd class it is for us again.

Leaving the station building we are prime targets for taxi touts and drivers. These buggers refuse to use the meters with us, they quote a stupid price and don't seem to care if you walk away. I guess they know that we need the transport so this is one of the rare places where they stick together and do not give in to a reasonable price. I suggest to Lyn we go out onto the main road and flag down a taxi away from these sharks. This has worked in the past, but did not go so well today. I few stopped but would not agree to use meter and would not agree on the price we wanted to pay. This was not looking good, we even got so far as to load our bags inside a taxi only for him to remove them once he saw the address.

We moved further along the street, still prices quoted were crazy 200, 300 even 400 baht. We know the distance in a meter taxi is only about 70 baht so it was hard for us to give in to a more expensive price. Eventually, we had to, and climbed into a tuk tuk with our bags at an agreed price of 100 baht = aud $3.85. This was worse really because a tuk tuk should be cheaper than an air con taxi, but this guy was the only one who agreed to take us for the maximum that we wanted to pay. Worst part about travelling in a tuk tuk is you get all the traffic fumes right there in your face. Lucky the ride was only about 15 minutes and he dropped us at the front of Mango Lagoon Place, where our bag was hopefully still in storage and where we hopefully would be able to get a room for the night.

Prices are a bit higher here in Bangkok and due to the facts this was where our bag was, we knew this place was clean and they had a room with 2 single beds we gladly paid the 900 baht = aud $34.65 they asked for.

Up in our room we had air con and a tv with English speaking channels! Small things satisfy us!

We had been looking forward to having ribs and roast potato for dinner, from the restaurant attached to our hotel. The old man was again in the alley way bbqing and we were not disappointed with the meal for 160 baht = aud $6.16 each. Washed down with Bangkok priced Leo beer for 110 baht = aud$4.23.

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After dinner we returned to the same massage/nail salon to have a manicure 150baht = aud $5.77. So now our nails are back to looking lovely and cared for. Just before the ladies finished our nails, I suggested to Lyn we should have a foot massage 120 baht = aud $4.62 while we wait for them to dry. So a great pamper session for less than aud $10 each!! Makes up for the overpriced beer.

Back to our room we rescue our bag from storage and I must admit there was a little part of me that was surprised that it was still in the storage room. And another little part of me was hoping that it was not there as now we have more weight to carry. lol The bag was still totally intact and looked untouched, still we decided to wait until the morning to open it up and tackle the question of how we are going to carry it all.

More English TV, watched a few non-descript movies, before going off to sleep.

It was supposed to rain today, but both on and off the train we did not see any.

So we have now travelled from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on an assortment of trains.
Chiang Mai to Lumpang 53 baht + Lumpang to Phitsanulok 48 baht + Phitsanulok to Ayutthaya 168 baht + Ayutthaya to Bangkok 15 baht = totaL 284 baht = aud $10.97 each, approximately 700km.


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DAY 244 SATURDAY 7TH OCTOBER 2017

BANGKOK TO HUA HIN

Our train is not until 1pm later today so we head out for breakfast. We go to the Green House Restaurant at the other end of Rumbuttri where they serve a great tomato & egg dish called ‘shakshuka’. We ate here a few years ago and keep meaning to come back to have it again, but always seem to run out of time, so made special time for it this trip. It was delicious as we remembered and served with real bread & butter – washed down with a coconut shake total 332 baht = aud $12.83.

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Getting a taxi to the train station was again a challenge, however we managed to find one that would take us for 150 baht = aud $5.79 , no one wants to use a meter when you can rip off a tourist.

Today we are traveling to Hua Hin.

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We had 2nd class tickets and sat in an aircon compartment, it was a pretty comfortable 4 ½ hour trip for 152 baht = aud $5.87.

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The hotel I booked for the next 3 nights was walking distance from the train station so we dragged our luggage down the street a few blocks and finally found it. Hotel Ansu 630 baht = aud $24.34 per night including tea & toast breakfast. Didn’t realize it was a cave room, with only a tiny window in the bathroom to the outside, but with air con, TV & hot shower we didn’t mind. The location was good also.

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Hua Hin is known for its seafood night market and our hotel was just 2 blocks so we went out looking for dinner. Unfortunately, the seafood is priced the same or more than it is as home so we gave it all a miss and had a huge pork chop that was cooked on the BBQ served with a big baked potato – excellent.

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DAY 245 SUNDAY 8TH OCTOBER 2017

HUA HIN

Today we went to the beach, walked about 7km along the length of Hua Hin Beach. Stopped a few times for a swim, the water was lovely clean and very warm, like a bath. It was very hot so after a cooling off in the air con of a 711 we cheated and caught a songthaew back into town for just 5 baht = aud 19c.

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That night we ate at a Dutch restaurant – it was delicious and a nice change from the Asian food we have been eating.

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DAY 246 MONDAY 9TH OCTOBER 2017

Today we hired a motor bike to do a little bit of exploring. Just south out of town we found a fishing village with lots of shack restaurants selling seafood which was much cheaper than the seafood we saw in the night market. We ear marked this place to come back later for dinner.

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We stopped and had a swim at the beach on the other side of monkey mountain.

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And stopped at KFC to have our addicted to ice coffee.

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We decided to ride up to Cha Am which is about 30 km up the north coast, first stopping at a petrol station to fill the bike with fuel, always get motorbikes empty. The bike had been playing up all morning, being hard to start but now after putting in the fuel it would not start at all. The young guys who pump the fuel did their best to get us going again but the bike did not want to start. They even put in a different battery from one of their own bikes to see if that would work. Of course it didn’t so we were stuck with a no go bike. The guys helping us did not speak any English but we managed to convey to them to phone our hotel where we hired the bike from and advise them it was not working. We waited for an hour before deciding to walk back to the hotel as no one had shown up to replace the bike as yet. Back at the hotel they had sent someone out but of course we had the key so they could do nothing. Long story, short, the bike was kaput and we were refunded our 200 baht hire fee so we could hire another bike from the place next door. No refund was given for the fuel we had put in the bike as suddenly no one spoke or understood English. It was only a couple of dollars so we did not worry too much and had lost 2 hours of time already.

Rode along the highway up to Cha Am which looked like a really really touristy place even compared to Hua Hin. But definitely more aimed at the Thai tourist. We stopped and had a swim because it was so hot but the beach was not half as nice as it was in Hua Hin.

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Rode out on the Cha Am Jetty to see the big squids.

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Rode on the highway back to Hua Hin before dark and headed straight to the fishing village to have a fabulous seafood dinner of oysters, scallops & clams.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

2017 SEPTEMBER THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part two

TRAIN PHITSANULOK TO AYUATTHAYA

rain 25 °C

DAY 240 TUESDAY 3RD OCTOBER 2017

We booked a 8.55am train, so it was early down to breakfast and then a taxi (flash air con taxi) 60 baht = aud$ 2.31 to the train station.

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Our 3rd class ticket costs 168 baht = aud $6.41 on Rapid train #106 and took about 4 hours. We got allocated seats on this train and luckily we were given side seats as they were much wider than the other seats and we could both fit on it. They are both bench seats but the forward facings ones are not really made for 'Westeners' girth. Even some Thais have difficulty fitting on the bench side by side.

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The train ride was uneventful, the scenery much the same same same, lot of rice paddies. Again there were lots of food vendors on the train, who seemed to work in a system of travelling just so far along the track before they were replaced with new vendors.

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It was obvious that this area had received much more rain than further north as there was a lot of water laying around and a lot of fields were flooded. I guess this is a good thing as they need the rain for their crops, but from a tourist point of view it's not the kind of weather we want to see. Halfway through the trip the rain started and continued until we arrived at our destination of Ayuatthaya.

Ayutthaya, full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok. It is the Capital City of the Province of this name.
Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.

Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya's ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We have been to Ayuatthaya before, back in 2013, and thought it would be a nice place to stop again before we reach Bangkok. I booked the same hotel we stayed in last time, Baan Are Gong Riverside Homestay, air con, fridge, hot shower and TV (with only one English speaking channel which is called France 24 - its a 24 hour news channel so we are now experts on the 3 main news stories of just now. 1. Las Vegas shooting 2. Protests in Spain as Catalona is try to claim independence 3. Trump visiting hurricane torn Puerto Rico stupidly telling them they did not have as many deaths as New Orleans did with Katrina) all this for just 680 baht = aud $25.93 per night. It's a nice location right on the river.DSCN6916.jpg90_DSCN6917.jpg

Unfortunately the weather does not look good for our stay here, and does not look like the forecast is any better for the coming days.

After settling in our room we headed out for a bite to eat and to find an ATM so we could pay for our room. Our hotel is in a small laneway that is directly across the road from the train station, so it only took us 5 minutes to walk to it. This laneway is lined with food stalls and restaurants so food is close by, and a couple of bicycle & motor bike hire places, hasn't changed much in the last 4 years.

We chose one randomly and had a nice meal that costs us a total of 100baht = aud $3.81. Rice with pork for me and noodles & tofu for Lyn.
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7-11 up the street had 4 ATM's outside so after trying them all to check the fee we found they all charged the same. 220 baht = aud $8.39 - outrageous! but we needed cash so had no choice but to suck it up. We paid the hotel receptionist before returning to the street to find dinner. A local food shack was our choice and again the food was tasty. We shared a dish of garlic pork and a bowl of curry chicken soup, both eaten with rice and washed down with a glassed of iced Leo beer. Total cost for the meal 320 baht = aud $12.20.

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DAY 241 WEDNESDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2017

I seem to be getting lazier every day. The more we do nothing, the more tired I get. All this doing nothing is wearing me out and I am managing to sleep very long hours. It's going to be a real struggle to return to the real world, a world where I will need to get up early each morning to go to work, but let's worry about that later, shall we.

So today we had a very late breakfast by the riverside at our accommodation. I had the eggs breakfast for 80 baht = aud $3.05 & Lyn had fried potatoes 80 baht = aud $3.05 and be both had a yohurt fruit smoothie for 40 baht = aud $1.53 each.

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We then made the mistake of going out exploring in the afternoon rather than the morning. Because although the morning was overcast it did not rain, and just within 1 hour of us hiring a motor bike and riding off to see some sights it poured down with rain.

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We managed to find our way to Phra Buddha Sai Yat (The Reclining Buddha), took some photos and then rode to our next stop, but had to pull over to shelter from the downpour.

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When the rain eased a little we braved the ride back to the hotel. That's enough for today, we spent the rest of the afternoon & evening watching Mrs Brown on Lyn's mini ipad.

We had dinner by the river in our accommodation restaurant and I'm not sure who got the best feed, us or the millions of mosquitos that attacked us at the table. We both had simple stir fry dishes that cost just 60 baht = aud $2.29 each and returned to our air con room to escape the feasting of the local insects.

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We have decided to stay an extra night here, maybe I can force myself to wake up a little earlier and we can go out for a ride in the morning when it usually doesn't rain. The hire bike has to be back by 2 which is around the time the rain usually comes.

DAY 242 THURSDAY 5TH OCTOBER 2017

We were up early for a 711 breakfast of toasted sandwich, washed down with an iced coffee, to take full advantage of the clear, dry morning.
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The weather stayed kind to us until after we had driven around and returned the bike at 2pm. We did not have a particular plan of what to see today, however for our first stop we headed to one of the most well preserved temples. Us and every other tourist in Ayutthaya! The area was swarming with tourists like little white ants all over the ruins. Too crowded for us so we hopped back on the bike and headed a little way from the main tourist sites. We rode past a few minor sites which were still free of ants.

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We road just out of town in search of a giant Wat we had seen when we were here 4 years old. It was not very difficult to find because it was so big and stood out over the countryside. And the fact that it had been painted. We rode up to Wat Phukhao Thong and managed to have a quick look around before a bus load of ants started to crawl around the site. On our last visit we were able to climb the giant Wat which afforded us magnificent views of the surrounds, but this was not possible today as the stairways were all fenced off.

You can see by the comparison photos below the new paint job looks great!

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We drove off looking for another memorial but did not manage to find it, although we did manage to get sort of lost, continuing along a busy road hoping to see a sign that would direct us back to Ayutthaya. It was not until we stopped and turned around that we saw the sign, so we had been heading in the completely wrong direction. Not to mind it was a nice ride out in the countryside.
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The memorial to Queen Suriyothai was pretty impressive and was surrounded by lovely frangipani trees.
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A large water monitor crossed the road in front of us at one stage, its back all green from the algae in the waterways.
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We passed another very popular Wat sight on the way back around the river. Again crawling with antlike tourists, we stopped for a quick photo outside the gate just as another 2 bus loads of ants pulled up.
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It was a complete fluke that we found our way back as time was running out to get the bike back before 2pm. Somehow after riding around we don't know where, we came out at the Shell garage just down the road from where we needed to return the bike. Perfect as we needed to fill the bike with fuel before returning it. It took just 60 baht =aud $2.31. The fuel plus the hire cost of 150 baht = aud $5.77, the bike costs us a total of aud $8.08!

Lunchtime, we ate at the same place where we hired the bike from. Lyn had fried green spinach (morning glory) 60 baht = aud $2.31and I went all western and had a chicken burger and chips 99 baht = aud $3.81.
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We returned to our air con room for the afternoon to cool off and watch some France 24 news channel cause we needed to catch up on the top 3 new stores of the world. We got the 3rd nights accommodation for 650 baht = aud $25.02 - discount of 30 baht!

After dark we took a quick trip across the river on the ferry just next to our hotel. It's just 5 baht = aud 19c and takes about 3 minutes to cross to the other side.
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Once there we walked a couple of blocks, found a KFC - fed our KFC ice coffee addiction. 19 baht = aud 73c. Lyn confused the staff by asking for the drink without ice. The staff member had to consult just about everyone one else working at the store as this was an ice coffee so should have ice. We did manage to get the drink without ice, but I don't think we will be welcome back at that KFC.
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Deciding to return back to our side of the river to find something for dinner, we settled for a chicken noodle soup from one of the food carts that are parked outside of the 711. The food was tasty and at just 40 baht = aud $1.54 a very cheap meal.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthaya Comments (0)

2017 SEPTEMBER THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part one

TRAIN CHIANG MAI TO LAMPANG TO PHITSANULOK

semi-overcast 30 °C

DAY 236 FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2017

It rained last night, and it was still raining when we woke up this morning. Lyn did our last load of washing early and hung them on a clothes airer in front of a fan inside so we would have all clean clothes to depart with. Keeraya had gone out early with her mother, but left us a note she would be back at 12 noon to take us to the train station. We left the house at 1pm, which was still early enough to stop and have lunch before driving us to the train station.

Time has come for us to move on again, start our journey back to Bangkok. We have decided to take the train, but instead of doing the overnight sleeper, like we have done several times in the past, we are taking the day train and doing a few stops along the way. Our Thai visa is good until the 14th of October, so we still have a couple of weeks.

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Today we left Chiang Mai on the #52 3.30pm train heading south approx. 100kms to Lampang.

Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang to differentiate from Lampang Province, is the third largest town in northern Thailand and capital of Lampang Province and the Lampang district. Traditional names for Lampang include Wiang Lakon and Khelang Nakhon. The city is a trading and transportation center. Lampang lies 601 km north of Bangkok and 101 km southeast of Chiang Mai.

2nd class, padded seats with open windows and overhead fan 53 baht = aud$2.04 each. Train departed 10 minutes late, but arrived 30 minutes early, arriving at 5.30pm, so made pretty good time.
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Lots of green countryside, rice paddies and jungle along the way. The train stopped at just 3 little stations before it was our turn to get off.

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I bargained a good price for a taxi 50 baht = aud$1.91, from the train station to our riverside guest house which I had pre booked. Not very intrepid, but it's much easier and nicer to have a place to come to rather than having to search once we have arrived. The Riverside Guest House 900 baht = aud $34.45 including breakfast, air con & hot shower. After dropping our bags in our room we returned to the reception restaurant area for a cold Leo beer (which costs the same as the taxi at 50 baht = aud$1.91 each) overlooking the Wang River.

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By the time we drunk our beer and caught up on a bit of internet it was dark. Our receptionist had given me a map of the town and the Friday night walking market was marked on it so we decided to take the short walk and have a look around. It was a pleasant 15minute walk to the market, mostly along the river. It's still pretty warm even after dark, but at least there is no rain here.

The Ratsadapisek Bridge across the river was all lit up with lights changing colours.

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The walking street market was not much, although we did manage to buy some more house slippers and a couple of colourful rag mats. We seem to be a bit of a novelty as there are not many tourists around.

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Not feeling very hungry after the huge lunch we had before leaving Chiang Mai, we settled for a toasted sandwich from the 7-11 store. Always a good standby for a quick bite to eat. Unfortunately there was nowhere for us to sit and eat so we had to pick a bit of sidewalk that had a step where we could eat. Ended up looking like we were sitting the gutter at a crossroads with traffic lights, so we really gave the locals something to stare at.
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DAY 237 SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER 2017

Had a bit of a restless nights sleep, but woke up feeling ok. Breakfast is included at the guesthouse but we had no idea what it might be. Really anything is a bonus if we don't have to go out searching for food first up. So there was a choice of 3 western type meals and Thai style meals so pretty good really. Lyn & I both chose the French toast with bacon which turned out to be quite a large, filling serving - with tea and coffee.

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We decided to hire a motor bike from the guesthouse today so that we could have a bit of an explore around the town. Bike was only 200 baht = aud $7.60, so a cheap way for us to get around without having to walk everywhere. We had a map from the guesthouse, but really just drove around a little randomly. There are lots of teak houses here in Lampang - some restored to their former glory and now used as hotels or guesthouses (like ours). However there was also a lot of houses that just seemed to be occupied by regular Thai families. Some of these were not so well maintained, but they were still obviously liveable. This used to be a logging town years ago so I guess that is why there were so many timber houses built.

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And of course there are a lot of Wats - there are a lot of Wats in every town / city / village of Thailand. Wats in Thailand are a bit like Churches in Europe or Castles in England - once you have seen 100 you have seen them all.

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We went in search of the ceramics market as this area is supposed to be famous for its clay, but unfortunately could not find the location and were advised later back at the guesthouse that the market on the map was no longer there. Anyway while out on the super highway looking for the ceramics market we could see the sky was starting to come over very black. Once we started spotting lightening and hearing thunder we decided it would be a good time to stop at a shopping centre and take cover. Our timing was impeccable, as soon as we had parked the bike in the undercover car park the sky seemed to open up and drenching rain fell. We spent an hour or more wandering around the shops and it's always interesting to take a look at the foods available in the supermarket in a foreign country. And man there were some foreign foodstuffs in this one. Some of the meats are similar to what we would purchase in Australia, just some of the cuts differ a little. Like we have pork, but would not see pork spleen for sale in the super market, and we have chicken, but would be able to purchase fresh chicken feet in our meat department. And then the frozen stuff was just as interesting, with bugs, grubs, frogs and duck heads all ready for purchase. lol, it's interesting and helped to kill some time while we sheltered from the rain.

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Before returning to the bike, we had lunch in the food court. Crispy noodle with pork gravy for 50 baht = aud $1.90 was very tasty.
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We managed to find our way back to the guesthouse, but had to go back out on the bike to fill it up with fuel. The nearest petrol station was a few km's away and I think we used more fuel going there and back than we had used all day. To fill up cost just 30 baht = aud $1.14, and we paid the guy who pumped the fuel 10 baht tip cause he helped us put air in the tyres after pointing out it was flat.

It was dark again by the time we walked down our laneway to the Saturday night walking street. A bit bigger and more crowded than last nights market, but we as tourists still seemed to be in the minority, which was kinda nice. Only purchase tonight was Lyn bought a plastic basket. It was warm again tonight, but not as hot as last night I think. Still pretty steamy though and we are thankful for air con in our room.

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We stopped for a snack of what looked like a cheesy toasted sandwich, but turned out to be a greasy, cheezy, sweet (cause it was painted with sticky condensed milk) toasted sandwich @ 45 baht = aud $1.71. And an ice coffee, one of the best we've had except for the shaving cream consistency of the cream on top @ 35 baht = aud $1.33 each.

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After walking around the market it was time to find somewhere to eat. A short walk up the street along the river to the riverside restaurants, but they did not really entice us to eat there. A little further was a roadside food shack, that was crowded with customers and was offering more at the price we wanted to pay. Lyn had stir fry mixed vegetables with crispy pork and I have stir fry bean sprouts with crispy pork, both served with steamed rice at a total cost of 65 baht = aud$2.47 and we shared a largie of Leo beer at 70 baht = aud $2.66, to total meal & drink for the both of us was aud $5.13 - unreal.

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We had a long walk home as we took the long way looking for a 7-11 to get some milk to have a cuppa back in the room. The 7-11's are a bit thin on the ground here compared to them being every 2nd shop in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

So we are moving on again tomorrow, continuing south by train again, in the general direction of Bangkok.

DAY 238 SUNDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2017

Up early for our guesthouse breakfast, which again was very good.

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A taxi was called to take us to the train station and as it turned out to be an air conditioned private car we agreed to pay the 100 baht = aud $3.82 the driver asked for. The train we wanted to catch was departing at 10.41am and we were there in plenty of time arriving at the station before 10am. I went up to the ticket counter to purchase our tickets and when the guy showed me the price of 421 baht = aud $16.10 each I told him there was a mistake as I had seen them online for just 111 baht = aud $4.24. Apparently it turns out the mistake was on my part as this was a #8 Special Express Train that was fully air con with limited stops. This was not the price we wanted to pay so I asked when the next train was and how much and he advised #408 Ordinary Train will depart at 12.02pm and 3rd class tickets were 48baht = aud $1.84 each. This sounded more like our style so I purchased these tickets and we just had an extra 2 hours to wait at the station for our 'ordinary' train to arrive.
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The #408 pulled in on time and we scrambled with a load of other people trying to get on the 3 carriages and find unallocated seats. We had our luggage to drag on as well so it was just luck that we actually managed to get seats, although I had to ride the entire journey travelling backwards.
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Third class is not so bad, the seats were padded and the windows were open to let in the fresh and sometime fragrant (sometimes not so nice a fragrance) air of the countryside in. Open window is sometimes better than freezing to death in stale air con compartments.

The countryside was not much different to what we saw the other day. Lots of green. Where it was hilly it was jungle and where it was flat there was rice paddies.
It took about 5 1/2 hours for us to travel approximately 250km, stopping a mere 36 times at tiny village train stations along the way. These stations of varying sizes were spotlessly clean with manicured shrubs and decorative flowering plants. All had on average 12 resident dogs, sitting, lying or standing at the station or running to greet the train and or persons who may be disembarking the train. Station masters, at every station, wearing their very tight fitting beige uniforms waved the red and green flats to officiate the coming and going of the train. These many sights made the hours fly by. An no worries about if you get hungry or thirsty on the train as there is a constant procession of ladies selling just about anything you might want to eat or drink. Lucky for us Lyn had done a toasted sandwich run to the nearby 711 before we boarded the train.

Arriving at our destination, Phitsanulok, dead on time at 5.22pm we decided to purchase our next train ticket for 2 days time so that we would not make the mistake of arriving at the station for the incorrect train again.

We stepped outside the station onto the street and we met with the usual 'you want tuk tuk?' Having pre booked our accommodation for the next 2 nights our answer was 'yes we do want tuk tuk.' After advising the name of our hotel the driver said she (yes our first women tuk tuk or any kind of taxi driver) wanted 60 baht = aud $2.29 to take us both to the hotel. I only wanted to pay 50 baht = aud $1.91, but after a long train ride am I really going to insist and argue over 10 baht = aud 38c?? No! We loaded our bags in the back and were driven the 10 minutes to our hotel.

P1 House Hotel, I booked online for 650 baht = aud $24.86 per night including breakfast. Our room was a surprise - much bigger and better than what we expected after seeing the foyer. 2 large single beds - always a bonus when we don't have to share a bed. Air con is a must now, TV (which turned out not having any English channels) and a fridge! All good, ah and hot shower. Win, win all round.

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After dropping off our bags we returned downstairs for a nice cold beer. Largie of Leo was a little overpriced at 100 baht = aud $3.82, but it had been a long day so we had 2!
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After dark we walked 100m up the street to find the Sunday night market was on. Similar to the market in Lampang it was not at all targeted to the tourist trade, unlike the markets in Chiang Mai. In fact there were no tourists at all to be seen besides us, and we seemed to be a bit of a novelty.

Lots of roadside stalls that sold real Thai food, the kind that we don't really want to eat, you know the ones that have that unidentifiable meat on a stick. And lots of hot soupy dishes with god only knows floating around in it. We did not feel like going native for dinner tonight so we safely bought some crispy chicken wings which we took back to our room to eat in the air con, with a cup of instant noodles.

I surfed the TV channels for a little while, but it seemed no matter how many times I did the loop of all the channels, everyone was still in Thai!

DAY 239 MONDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2017

Quiet day today. Breakfast was a bit of a let down after the last place, but hey it was something that we didn't have to go out looking for. Deep fried egg with a teaspoon of pork mince!

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Not much to do here in Phitsanulok and we did not want to hire a bike as it looked like it would rain most of the day - turned out it didn't.

In the afternoon we went for a walk down by the Nan River, which had that same lovely brown colour as all the rivers we have seen here in Northern Thailand. The current was running quite quickly here too, not sure if that is due to it being the wet and a lot of water is rushing through the rivers or if they are always running this fast. I think that may have something to do with the colour as well, not that I think they would usually be crystal clear as my own Brisbane River back home is never clear either.

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I guess the main attractions around this area are Wats, and as I mentioned earlier we are Watted out so did not go out exploring much today.

Dinner was a repeat of last night with some more crispy chicken as the same street vendors were out selling their mystery bowls of food.

Tomorrow we are back on the train tracks continuing our journey south towards Bangkok.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged train mai guesthouse lampang riverside chaing Comments (0)

2015 MAY THAILAND - OVERNITE TRAIN AND ONE DAY IN BANGKOK

Yep, Bangers is like a furnace!

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Tuesday 19th May 2015 (day fifteen)

Our overnight train journey went unhindered and surprisingly for the first time we have travelled on the overnight train it arrived into Bangkok train station on time at 6.50am. No one wants to be arriving into a big city at this hour in the morning, no one wants to be woken up earlier than this on the train so the beds could be converted back to seats for the last hour of the journey. No one, especially not me! I had the privilege of sleeping in the top bunk on the train and instead of a gentle rocking to sleep as would be comforting I was jostled from side to side in my narrow bunk. Did manage to sleep a little but the cabin lights are left on all night and the curtain rods are just below the light so my little compartmented area was bathed in light the entire night. Thankfully my eye mask (thanks Jan) did cut most of it out, but with the flashes of light and the body shaking it was a bit like sleeping in a noisy disco.

We had dinner on the train for 170 baht = $6.80 (no beer) which was served to us at our seats at 7pm. By 8pm the stewards were chomping at their bits to set up our beds and after this was done we had little choice but to try and sleep. I guess they know that the passengers are not going to get a fitful nights sleep so they send you off to bed early. And the fact that there is not beer being sold and it was dark outside so nothing to see, so what else are passengers going to do?

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We have the day to amuse ourselves in Bangkok before our flight out at 9pm this evening. We head outside the station, dragging our luggage in search of a taxi to take us to our usual haunt to wile the day away. Of course the usual offenders come up to try and hustle us into an overpriced cab with fixed price of 400 baht = $16, which immediately dropped to 300 baht = $12 when I gave them the ‘we are not fresh off the plane’ look. I want a meter taxi I exclaim and immediately my luggage is dropped (taken minutes earlier to aid me when they thought they could rip me off) and the offender walks away mumbling. Sorry mate, not your lucky day today, I have been here before.

We deposit our luggage into a metered taxi and the driver speaks absolutely no English! Which I must say is pretty rare for a Bangkok taxi driver. Sometimes I despise my own arrogance when I come to these countries and expect the locals to be able to understand me speaking a language that is foreign to them, but it had been a rough night and I was tired. To make it worse we had no idea where we were going, well I mean we did know, but did not have the address or anything to give this poor guy. We just rattled off the name of a hotel that we know it in the area we want to be taken to and automatically presume this and every taxi driver will know where every hotel in Bangkok is located and understand the pronunciation we are giving him. I think he was happy to have a fare and drove off, I guess he would figure out where we wanted to go as we were driving. With a few broken words he asked us for an address or phone number to locate the hotel but we did not even have that to give him. Bloody hell, not very organized was I?
Just a block from the station our taxi stopped next to a tuktuk and the driver asked him if he knew where we wanted to go and after I repeated the hotel name to him he yelled something at the driver and gesturing with his hands waving us on. We felt like we were heading in the right direction, like we know Bangkok backwards, NOT! Then I remembered the name of Khao San Road, which is a well know tourist area and once I told our driver this street name he seemed to recognize it and drove with more confidence in our direction.

We did reach our chosen destination with little more fuss and the meter read less than 90 baht = $3.60 - bit different to the 300 baht = $12 the amount the original taxi driver wanted us to pay. It was still early and our first stop was to find some breakfast. We headed towards our usual Bangkok office (a restaurant where we spent a lot of time at last visit to Bangkok using the internet), but unfortunately it was closed down for renovations. How dare they! A few steps up the alley we found another place to sit and have something to eat. It was still only 7.30am and we had the whole day to fill in before our flight. It was worth our while to get a room so that we could have a shower and somewhere to re-organize our luggage. I did a bit of a walk around pricing some rooms (while Lyn sat guarding the bags :-/), we only wanted a room until 5pm but all the hotel receptionists advised the price was the same for half a day as it was for a full day with overnite. We settled on a room at the New Siam 2 for 600 baht = $24, worth the money to be able to shower now and again before we departed for the airport and a safe place to leave our luggage for the day.

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First up we again emptied the contents of our 2 bags onto the bed and repacked them. Our flight to England allows us 20 kg checked luggage each and these repacked bags were just a kilo or so over. Not too bad.

Showered and refreshed we headed back out into the steamy Bangkok day in search of a manicure. We returned to a place we had visited on our visit to this city and paid the going rate of 150 baht = $6 each for an manicure while relaxing in an air-conditioned room. Yes it was very hot in Bangkok as per normal.

After this little piece of pampering it was time for lunch and our last Thai meal was taken in one of our favoured street stalls, 165 baht = $7 - boy are we going to miss these prices in Europe.

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Another shower and soon it was time for our airport transfer. We waited on the side of the road for our minivan that fought through heavy traffic to take us to the airport. Thankfully we took the 5 o'clock shuttle and not the 6 o'clock one as this would have been too close to check in time.

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My least favourite part of travelling is airport check-ins as I always freak out we have too much luggage and today was no different. I think the stress is warranted as we do usually have overweight luggage.

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Turns out we did have a few kilos over our 20 kg limit each, but the Jet Airways attendant did not seem to care about this fact. Phew! Stress gone.

We had an overpriced meal at the airport before boarding our flight which was flying via Mumbai, India so you can imagine the nationality of the majority of passengers.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged train bangkok chiang mai overnight sleeper Comments (3)

2015 MAY THAILAND - FURTHER NORTH INTO THAILAND, CHIANG MAI.

Ferry from Koh Samui to Don Sak, coach & mini van to airport, fly Surat Thani to Chiang Mai. Free days in Chiang Mai relaxing


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Thursday 14th May 2015 (day ten)

We had an early morning today and a full day of traveling via several forms of transport.

After breakfast at Weekender Villas and a quick farewell to a hung over Patrick we were taken by mini van to the bus station. Lyn had gone out yesterday and purchased tickets for 650 baht = $26 each for our transfer from Koh Samui to Surat Thani airport. Although our flight is not until 3.30 this afternoon, our pickup was at 8.30am to enable us to get to the airport on time.

First a mini van (driver was early we were not ready so we made him wait till 8.30am agreed pick up time) to take us to the ferry, but, wait, no, we get dropped off at a bus station. At the bus station we were instructed to load our luggage onto a large coach which would take us to the ferry where we would have to walk on to the boat and then get back on the coach on the mainland side. Waiting about 30 minutes at the bus station for various minivans to deposit passengers for our coach gave a little indication of the waiting time ahead. The drive to the ferry port was only about 20 minutes and we were given tickets for the ferry as we exited the bus and walked onto the ferry. Passengers are not allowed to stay in any of the vehicles travelling on the ferry so we followed the crowds and managed to get a seat inside the air conditioned salon. We would prefer to sit outside in the fresh air during water crossings but the only outside seating on this ferry was in full sun and it was way too hot to be spending the next two hours out there.

We found a couple of comfortable seats and before the ferry even left the dock Lyn had fallen asleep, which shattered the silence of the loud marine engines and prevented anyone else within 10 meters of getting any sort of shuteye. ( I'm sure she is telling lies, I can't snore that LOUD!) I read! The sea was again calm so the ferry trip was smooth sailing. When we docked there was the usual mad rush to be the first off, but I was kinda hoping they would do a head count on the coach and not take off before we had reboarded it so there really was no need to push along with all the over eager disembarkees. As it was we were not the last to reach the waiting coach anyway as some very over hung smashed up lads had stopped to purchase water to try and re-hydrate. I was impressed that there was actually a head count performed before the coach took off towards Surat Thani town, just under 70km away. We were told we would be transferred to the airport by minivan.

About an hour later driving into the city limits of Surat Thani the bus just stopped by the side of the road and all passengers with the red airport sticker were to get off here. That was us. And although it seemed like we were being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, I know better than to question these things as this is Thailand and this is just the way things work here. No doubt a minivan will show up any minute and take us and several others on to the airport. Not to be left just standing on the side of the road we were ushered into a restaurant / waiting area where there was a 5 baht fee to use the loo. Luckily I did not have the need, as even for a loo that you pay for does not guarantee any standard of cleanliness. We were told to sit and our minivan would arrive in 20 minutes. We had some snacks and water with us so we were fine, I think the idea to keep us waiting was in hope we would order food. Finally a minivan did show up but we were not asked to load into it until a good 20 minutes of time had passed. I guess they realized no one was going to purchase any food so we may as well go.

It was about another hours drive in the minivan to the airport and we arrived just before 2pm - so that means our airport transfer had taken 5 1/2 hours - not bad.

We checked in our luggage and as we still had full bottle of duty free Baileys that we did not drink on Samui we asked if it was ok to carryon? No, still no liquids on domestic flights so we had to pack it into our checked luggage. Staff were not happy with this option either and I had to sign a tag to say they were not responsible for any breakages. They slapped on a fragile sticker, which I'm sure the luggage handlers ignored as after we had landed I saw our bag come out of the plane first and was impressed that perhaps extra care was being taken. Until the ground staff grabbed bag and tossed into the waiting luggage cart and then was piled high with other bags being tossed from the belt to the cart.

We had lunch at the airport, not the best meal, but it was cheap and colourful:

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The flight to Chiang Mai is less than 2 hours and we end up landing 15 mins early at 5pm after the Captain informing us its 36 degrees. It had been a very hot day in CM today reaching over 40!

We are in Chiang Mai to visit Lyn's daughter-in-law Keeraya (married to Lyn's eldest son Michael) and her grandson Nik (who just turned one last month). Can hardly come to Thailand not visit the grandson.

When we exited the airport terminal the hot air really hit us, much hotter than the last couple of days on the island. Here the air is think and feels very close. Keeraya arrived in an air conditioned car and took us to an air conditioned mall to eat so we remained pretty comfortable. Of course the house is air conditioned so I don't think we will suffer that much.

Friday 15th May 2015 (day eleven)

First stop this morning was the CM train station to purchase tickets for us to get to Bangkok to meet our flight to the UK. We booked 2 berths on the overnight sleeper train for the 18th departing at 5.00 pm - scheduled to arrive in Bangkok 7.30am on the 19th. It's probably cheaper to fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, but we enjoy the train journey and have the time so take the train.

After breakfast at a café a the station, Keeraya takes us to a museum. Museum? Yes I know we are not museum goers (being the only people to have ever visited Paris and only stepped inside a museum building to use the toilet), but this is a museum with a difference.

ART IN PARADISE - 3D ILLUSION ART MUSEUM

Art in Paradise the first Illusion Art Museum of Chiang Mai, presents Illusion Art, the painting art requiring techniques and expertise in painting on a flat surface into a "3D" and giving a sense of realistic art. In addition, the museum also offers artworks in the form that allow visitors to take part in the artworks closely (Interactive Art), where the visitors can take photos with creative imagination, emotion and postures designed to correspond with each painting according to their own preferences as if they are a part of the painting. Therefore, Art in Paradise (Chiang Mai) is where the art is understandable for everyone, and happiness and entertainment are delivered to the visitor as well.

WHAT IS ILLUSION ART?

An illusion is a sensory perception that causes a distorted or altered impression. Since illusion is not the opposite of reality, the effect of illusion one experiences is neither true nor false.

The illusion of depth in paintings and installation art are presented on two dimensional surfaces by combining a variety of art elements, special techniques and professional skills. This transforms ordinary artworks into extraordinary three-dimensional interactive environments.

Art in Paradise Chiang Mai welcomes you into the world of fantastic illusion art, where you can create your own activities and be fully immersed in the interactive 3D artworks.

This place was a load of fun as you can see by the silly photos we took, highly recommended.

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Saturday 16th May 2015 (day twelve)

Stupidly, this morning we decided to head out into the heat and go see a local trash and treasure market. After about 30 minutes of walking out in the heat we realized just how stupid this idea was and retreated back to the air conditioned car to take us to an air conditioned shopping mall. The market was set out on the footpath of a few streets and although it may have been interesting it was way too hot for the baby to be out experiencing the discomfort. Well that's our excuse anyway. Nik is too young to dispute the fact and if he could it would be in Thai and we would not understand anyway.

So we found ourselves again in the air conditioned refuge of a giant shopping mall. I said to Lyn, this time next week we are going to be praying for this heat, but right now we complain about it. It would be good if we could store some of this warmth for when we need it later.

Lunch was a pizza at a place called Dukes in the shopping mall. Not usually a visitor to western style restaurants while in Asia, Keeraya had told us the pizza here was pretty good and she seemed keen to go. Being a pizza lover, I did not hold out much hope for a good pizza to be served to us here. But it was lunchtime and we were hungry and open to suggestion. Well I must admit the pizza was very good, so good that I say this is the very best pizza I have eaten outside of Italy and that is that!

On the way home we stopped at a baby shop where Nik tried a Ferrari on for size.

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It's nice to have this spare time to do nothing, spend time with family in a different country. Keeraya cooked for us at home tonight, it was good but still her idea of not spicy (chilly) is enough to make my hair curl. I do love the flavours but the heat just makes my tongue go numb.

Sunday 17th May 2015 (day thirteen)

What a lazy day we had today. Sitting inside in the air con so no idea what is was like outside. lol It did rain a little at midday so it may have not been too bad.

Late afternoon we headed out towards the Sunday Walking Market. On the way we stopped at the shopping mall as I wanted to get a screen protector for my tablet. I wanted to go somewhere that would install it for me, and as the mall had a whole floor of camera, computer and accessories shops, we had no problem finding a place. It cost a little extra because they had to cut to size but for 290 baht = $12. I was happy.

Finding a park for the night market was not so easy, as we discovered after lapping the vicinity several times. Finally we found a parking lot that was only charging 20 baht = 80c and was just a short distance walking to the market.

First stop was food and we bought some chicken wings, fruit shake and pork noodle soup for 175 baht = $7 for the both of us. DSCN1058.jpg Has to be said street food is still unbelievably cheap and it was good too. Walking through the market we topped off our meal with a coconut ice cream on a stick at 10 baht = 40c each.

The markets were crowded as usual and it was interesting to note that there were many more Asian tourists then western/European tourists. Keeraya said there are lots of Chinese tourists coming to Thailand now.

We pushed through the crowds browsing at the market stalls, remembering we can't really buy anything as we would have to cart it with us for the rest of the trip. Or of course we could buy up big and get Michael to bring home on his next trip over. But we were very restrained opting for a foot massage 80baht = $3.20 before heading home. It was hot in the crowds and little Nik had done so well looking around with wide eyes, he's a good kid.

Monday 18th May 2015 (day forteen)

The day started off slow, we were going to use this day to organize our bags, repack everything into our bike panniers to see what could be or needed to be culled. Lyn laid out everything on the bed and took a deep breath then came and joined me downstairs for a cuppa. This needed a little thought before we tackled the repack.

Next thing we know Keeraya suggests we go for a drive up the mountain to have lunch. This sounded like a good idea and as it was only just after 11 o’clock we agreed. Her brother came along to drive up the windy village roads and yes it was a very pleasant drive and a lovely lunch stop at a restaurant up the mountain, in the jungle.

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After lunch we drove on a little further up the mountainous windy road, to a café with a great view. They grow coffee around here and we enjoyed a cup with a chocolate brownie for dessert. Yum yum!!

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Next thing we knew it was 2.45. Our train is scheduled to depart Chiang Mai railway station at 5pm. Home was a good hour drive back, we still had to pack our bags and the train station is another 30mins from home. None of this is taking into account any traffic hold ups.

Shit! Mild panic hit!

The drive back home went ok but of course took longer than expected because while we were up in the mountains the city had experienced a heavy down pour of rain and a lot of water was still covering the roads we were travelling on.

Shit! Panic a little stronger now!

We scrambled up the stairs towards the bedroom, where all our gear was strewn across the bed, at 4.05pm. There was no organizing or culling or sorting – stuff was just being shoved into our two bags with the greatest speed we could muster.

Shit! Now totally stressed out! There was no way in hell we were going to make the train. Adrenalin has now taken over the panic as we kid ourselves we can get to the train station in time.

Meanwhile, Keeraya’s Dad had been recruited to drive us to the station. I think he may have been a Bangkok taxi driver a former life because of the way he was manoeuvring the vehicle with us and our overstuffed bags through the traffic. I had little faith that we would make it in time but he was doing a hell of a job, doing his best to safely weave in and out and around other sluggish drivers. There seemed to be a glimmer of hope, until…

Shit! The traffic! What should be a 30 minute drive from home to the train station was of course taking much longer due to traffic – the fact that is was peak hour and also the extra traffic due to the earlier rain. But still Dad was going to give it one hell of a go, and for a nano second I thought yeah we are going to make it, until…

Shit! Red light! We waited 3 sets of changed lights, I looked at my watch, 4.45 and turned to Keeraya in the back asking ‘do you think we are going to make it?’ I think maybe not, she answered and immediately started to search on her phone for flights we could take to Bangkok tomorrow. We would not have time to take another train as our flight out of Thailand is tomorrow.

Shit! The panic and stress subsided once I accepted we were going to miss the train. We would only be losing $50 worth of train tickets and the cost of a flight would be less than $200 each tomorrow, so really no biggie. I was fine with it, we could get a flight in time to get us to our flight out, just meant spending another night in CM.

Shit! Dad had not yet given up – it was 10 minutes to 5 and we were finally through the lights Now we were so close to the train station let’s just go have a look.

Driving into the car park my watch read 5.01 and although everything is not always on time in Thailand I thought for sure this train, our train would be. The car stopped and I jumped out, ran towards the platform expecting to see the train pulling away. Instead I saw the long line of purple carriages were still there with other panicked passengers running towards it. I bolted back to the car where Lyn had unloaded our 2 huge bags. We both did a quick kiss goodbye to Keeraya and Nic who were still sitting in the car, all this happening so quick.

Shit! So here is Lyn and I dragging our rather large bags towards the train just as I hear the conductor's whistle blow.

Shit! So close and yet so far – but wait, he is waving a red flat – not the green one and another guy is yelling at us to get on the train at the nearest carriage door.

Shit! We made it!

Shit! I cannot believe it!

Out of breath and struggling we drag our bags almost down the entire length of the train, moving through about 8 carriages, to get to our allotted seats. The train had well and truly left the station before we are even seated.

The hostess came around to take our dinner order and I said to Lyn after all that we deserve a beer. She agreed, but we were then informed that they no longer serve beer or any alcohol on the trains.

Shit! No Beer! Now that was a real shit!

We ordered dinner, then menu still being the same as when we travelled on the same service last year – but without the beer. A little expensive at 170 baht = $6.80 , but it is served to us in our seats promptly at 7pm.

By 8pm the seats are converted to our beds and I guess that means it’s bedtime.

Shit! What a fabulous day, nothing like it to get the stress levels up and adrenalin going!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiang mai Comments (4)

2015 MAY THAILAND - WE CONTINUE NORTH INTO THAILAND.

flight Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Surat Thani, Thailand, bus to Don Sak, ferry to Koh Samui - then free days on Samui

Friday 8th May 2015 (day four)

We had to get very early today to be at the bus station at 6.45am for our 7am shuttle to the airport. Luckily the bus station was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. At this early hour, although there were still no shops or anything open, the streets were already congested with morning traffic mostly made up of taxis and buses. Today we are flying from Kuala Lumpur up to Thailand, heading for the island of Samui. Lyn's youngest son Patrick is working at a resort on the island and since we were sort of passing by it would be rude not to stop over for a couple of days.

The shuttle to the airport was 12 myr = $4.20 and took just over an hour, getting us to the airport just a little over 2 hours before our 10.35am flight. Or so we thought. Panic struck as soon as we looked on the board and our flight was not even listed. My computer has been out of internet action for a few days so I did not check the flight or know if I had received any emails advising a change of flight time. We walked towards the self checking kiosk praying our flight had not been cancelled for the day, a delay we could live with but a cancelled flight would be a pest. Thankfully it was just a delayed flight that was not due to depart 12pm instead of 10.35am. Not too bad but had we know it would have meant not such an early start to our day. No harm done, we headed to Maccas for some breakfast.

The usual waiting at the airport always seems so much longer than it is, but in our case it actually was when the flight was delayed almost another hour. Finally flying and a relatively short flight less than 3 hours.

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At the airport we purchased transfer to Koh Samui which included coach to Don Sak ferry dock, ferry to the island and van drop off at our chosen hotel for 550baht = $22 each. We were the last to get onto the coach and it took off shortly afterwards for the hour drive to the ferry dock. We drove through rain most of this drive, but it was hot and sunny at the port. We had to wait about 30mins for the 4pm ferry and by the time is arrived there was quite a crowd and line up of vehicles to load onto it. This all went smoothly and Lyn was relieved to see the sea also was looking smooth.

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Ferry journey was very smooth and took about 2 hours before there was a mad scramble for everyone to get off. I never really understood this mad dash to be the first off. This phenomenon takes place on aircraft also, everyone pushes and scrambles over seats in such a rush to get off you would think the plane was about to take off again before they get a chance to disembark.

After walking the length of the jetty we were met by the van drivers who had already been delegated their drop offs, so when I heard a guy calling out 'Weekender' we gravitated towards him and he showed us to his air conditioned van. A cool haven where we sat for about 15 minutes while he collected his other passengers.

Our transfer to hotel took about an hour as the ferries come in on the opposite side of the island to where the main accommodation areas are. We have been to Koh Samui before and a few things were looking familiar.

So here were are at Weekender Villas Resort for the next week and as soon as we arrive I knew it would be hard to take. NOT!
Travelling with mother to one of the key staff members is a bonus in these situations as we get to stay in the best room bungalow villa in the place. There is only one villa directly facing the beach and we've got it. Beautiful, also overlooking the pool it's pretty flash by our usual Asian travel standards. Air con and flat screen TV and a fridge, wow luxury. Only draw back is only one bed, but its king size so I might be lucky enough to escape Lyn's fondness of spooning. lol.

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We had an early night after such an early start.

Saturday 9th May 2015 (day five)

We are going to take full advantage of our time here on Koh Samui by doing probably absolutely nothing. And what better place to do that than on an island in Thailand where the sun promises to shine every day and the sea is warm.

Earlier this morning I attempted a swim but after walking out approximately 100 meters I was still in only calf deep in water. Giving up I just sat down to get wet, so at our resort the pool is the better option.

Lyn and I did wander out to find some lunch and went for a walk along the beach and a swim in the lovely clear water. Unfortunately the beach directly in front of our resort is not the best for swimming.

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So just a relaxing day by the pool and the sea - times like this we realize how tough life really is.

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Sunday 10th May 2015 (day six)

Mothers Day today, so Pat hired a car to take us on a bit of a tour around the island. Unfortunately the beach that was recommended to us was not the best although its name has received lots of comments on my facebook page. We had lunch at a little beachside restaurant on The Virgin Coast and it was very pleasant.

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Afterwards we ended up back on Lamai Beach where we had a swim and bought an overpriced ice cream on the beach.

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Monday 11th May 2015 (day seven)

Today we managed to do even less than yesterday, can you believe that.

We did however go for a walk up the beach to watch the sunset and have a beer at a different location.

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Cannot believe how warm the water is, in the really shallow places its almost hot enough that if we could catch the tiny fish swimming around us they would be par-boiled and ready to eat straight from the sea. Which reminds me we had a delicious fish for dinner tonight. Red snapper!

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Tuesday 12th May 2015 (day eight)

Ok time to be a little active today. After breakfast we hired a motor bike so we could go out exploring. However our first call was to the computer guy where I dropped off my tablet on Friday. Something happened to the internet adapter while in Kuala Lumpur and I was unable to connect to the internet - apparently this adapter needs to be installed for this to happen. How the hell it became un installed is beyond me, but it had and it needed to be fixed, which it was for a princely sum of 500 baht = $20. I have no idea how computers work but am annoyed when they don't so to pay 20 bucks to have this one fixed I was very happy. Only thing is in the process of re installing the internet adapter he un installed the OFFICE program which I use to keep track of our expenses and to write up this blog. Anyway luckily it was a simple task of getting the program key from Mitchell at home and re installing OFFICE. All good now.

Anyway that was out first stop and after that we got on the bike and rode around the island, stopping for lunch at Coral Cove and swims at other beaches along the way and drink stops. It was a nice change and broke a little of the nothingness that we had been doing the last few days. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

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We actually went all out today and got on a double kayak for a paddle out on the water to enjoy the sunset. Gee settle down girls don't go getting to energetic I hear you all saying. Don't worry it was a pretty casual paddle with a beer either side of the experience.

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Fish again for dinner.

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Wednesday 13th May 2015 (day nine)

Today was a real relax.

Lyn went off with Patrick for some Mother/Son quality time together.

I stayed poolside to catch up on some housekeeping after getting computer back yesterday.
It's our last day on the island so making the most of poolside.

Had a couple of cocktails to end the day and a man size chicken schnitzel.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach samui koh surat thani lamai Comments (6)

2014 MAR THAILAND- BANGKOK BEFORE WE START OUR HOME JOURNEY

Quick stop in Bangers before we start to head home, goodbye to Dolly.

MONDAY 24TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 205)

Another early start, we were at breakfast by 8am. Just had it at POP's for convenience. Songtaew arrived at 9.30 to take us to the bus station for our 10 am bus. 20baht = 70c each.
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Today's journey, about 290 km to Bangkok is supposed to take 5 1/2 hours. Ticket cost 265 baht =$9 each, not a bad deal I guess. The sights along the road in Thailand are not as interesting as the ones in Cambodia so I spent most of the time trying to catch up on lost sleep with little to no success. The trip was slow and boring, with a stop for lunch at an overpriced unexciting toilet stop.
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The bus's arrival time was an hour past the scheduled time when we finally pulled into the eastern bus station. Not to worry we were not on a time schedule and now just needed to find a taxi to take us to our hotel, New Siam 2. Taxi sharks met us as we got out of the bus and I gave them a card for the hotel so they knew where to take us. Driver looked at me and said yes ok 150 baht = $5.20 for each person in the taxi. What the??? since when do you pay per person in a taxi?? I laughed at him and said no way we use the metre. He said no metre, so I said good bye. Ladies we will get a taxi on the street.

This was easier said than done, we flagged down about 6 taxi's and while some quoted 500 baht = $17.50, most just said a flat out no or drove off when I said I wanted to use the metre. No idea why no one wanted to take us to our chosen destination. We think perhaps it is because they would have to drive close to where the protesters are camped, but I would think everyone is used to them by now as they have been there so long. Eventually we got a taxi to stop and after reading our hotel card quoted a price of 200 baht = $7, but still did not want to use the metre. This was the best and really only offer we'd had so we loaded our luggage into the boot and climbed inside.

Traffic was heavy, but this is normal for Bangkok at any time of day or night. Two blocks after we drove off the driver put on the metre and just before we reached our hotel he quickly turned it off as it only read 90 baht = $3.15 and our end fare would be way below the 200 baht we had agreed to pay. Taxi drivers here are a rip off, not if you get one to use the metre but this is near impossible. We have not had any luck in recent visits finding a taxi driver that will give you a metered ride, all want to agree on a fixed price. The drivers know what the price should be for any distance that is why they don't want to use the metre, instead they quote double or triple or whatever they think you are stupid enough to pay. As a rule the price they quote will be at least double what the metre would read. I know taxi fares are much cheaper here than at home, but to be so blatantly ripped off all the time is not fair, and hopefully this will soon come to a head when or if tourists start complaining about the system. Or just refusing to go unless metre is used, hard to do I know if you want to travel around Bangkok.

Anyway we were delivered to the hotel and they of course had rooms for us for the next two nights.

We emptied our bags of all clothes to be taken to the washing lady. A good machine wash will be so nice.

Because we are creatures of habit, after dropping off our washing at mama-son the washing lady we always use, we walked directly to our kerbside bar for cocktails. The waiters greeted us with big smiles and the bar man looked at me and said hello pina colada!!
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We ended up having two drinks before finding an alley way restaurant to have some dinner at.

TUESDAY 25TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 206)

Up earlish for a 9am breakfast, we went to the usual place that we go when in Bangkok, now fondly known as 'the office' due to the fact I spend a lot of time there using their free internet. And the breakfast is ok too.

We returned to our hotel for a shower after collecting our clothes from the washing lady and were able to put on clean machine washed clothes. What a luxury!! About to venture out again when we heard outside a huge downpour of rain. We waited out the precipitation for about an hour and discovered outside to be again hot and muggy, but at least the rain had settled a bit of the dust and street grot.

Wandering over to Khao San Road, we browsed the market stalls looking for unneeded things to spend our last bahts on. Lunch was at a pad thai kart set up right outside of McDonalds and at 50 baht = $1.75 for chicken pad thai a much better option than the same soggy burgers that were being served inside Ronalds house. Although I must admit we end go inside to enjoy the air con while finishing our meal with a 9 baht = 30c (15 baht = 50c for choc top) Macca's cone.

The problem with sitting in air con is that you really feel the heat again when you step outside into the humid street. But we did not want to be inside the whole day so we braved it. Our next objective was to find a place where we could all get a pedicure. We found several different salons or massage places and they all charged the same price of 200 baht = $7, so we just went for the one with the most comfortable looking chairs. Yes the chairs were good, but the staff were the most stoney faced Thai girls we have every seen. Not that I would be very happy to be tending to well travelled old western feet either, but they were being paid for a service which I guess did not come with a smile. Smile or no smile the pedicure was very satisfactory so that was the main thing.

We walked back to our hotel to drop off a few purchases that had been made and then headed out again as we had decided to go have a look at the market at Patpong Road. Again I was forced to do the task of finding a reasonable price for our transport there. These other ladies don't know how to haggle or speak (or use it as a way of getting me to do it every time) and after a few laughable quotes I found an air con taxi to take us for 150 baht = $5.50. Of course none of them wanted to use the meter as they know the fare would only be half this amount.

After a 20 minute drive through the Bangkok traffic we were being let off at the Patpong Market. During our journey we teed up the taxi driver to take us to the airport tomorrow at a reasonable price and fingers crossed he shows up.

We walked up and down the uncrowded rows of the markets, which were very similar to the markets in Chinatown Kuala Lumpur. Lots of knock off designer handbags, watches and surfwear. I was surprised at the lack of people, there seemed to be no one there and the stall owners were pushy, rude and prices were just flat out ridiculous. We bought very little, and could not find anywhere we liked the look of to eat so jumped in another taxi to take us back to our regular stomping ground. As luck would have it we managed to find a taxi that was happy to use the meter and proved my theory correct when the fare to our destination was only 75 baht.

We had our last Thai dinner in one of our regular road side eating establishments. I had crispy pork on rice with a mango shake, not going to get much more Thai than that. Didn't realise it at the time but it was about 10.30pm by the time we were having dinner. No wonder there was not much food left there. One of the waiters was having a birthday and there was an ice cream cake that was shared around with us also. Nice little dessert to end our meal.

We returned to our hotel for our last night in Bangkok.

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WEDNESDAY 26TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 207)

9am breakfast at the office was a quiet one. This was our last breakfast together as a quartet and no one was talking much. I think we were all in our own little world, thinking about what we still needed to do before we fly out this evening.

Back to the hotel to sort out our final packing after Lyn and Robyn had been to retrieve our stored suitcase. We have to re pack everything and see if we have enough checked luggage allocation or if we need to send another box home by post.

Soon it was 11am and time for Dolly to leave us. She is going to be spending a few days in Bangkok with her friends who have come down from Chiang Mai before returning to CM and then to the hills to do some volunteer work with the hill tribe people. She will be there until the beginning of June. It was an almost tearful goodbye but we were happy to see her go. Hahahaha just kidding Doll, who are we going to have a laugh at (oops I mean with) now?? You'll be missed Dolly and everytime I see cucumber (or someone having a slash on the beach) I will think fondly of you, as we all will I'm sure. lol

Ok time to get back to the packing. Lyn and I worked out we should be able to take everything back with us with the luggage allowance we have, so it was all loaded into the old black suitcase, zipped up and held together with a wing and a prayer. As soon as we arrived at the airport we had the bag plastic wrapped so at least it would stay together during transit. We packed the clothing and misc things we will need for the next week in our back packs and were relieved when checking them in that we still have 2.5 kg's to spare (just in case we buy something in Singapore??) Lucky they did not weigh our carry on cause I think we may have exceeded the 7kg limit as we are carrying some crockery that we purchased back in Morocco which is just a little weighty.

After sorting the luggage out we went out again to all get hair cuts. At 150 baht = $5.50. It was a bargain, although I paid an extra 50 baht = $3.50 to include a shampoo as well. We came out beautiful, not a bad hair cut at all. We returned to the office for some lunch, then back to the hotel for showers.

Having booked the taxi last night for 4pm we headed down to the hotel foyer to check out. We had to pay a 1/2 day room rate for the late checkout but at least we were able to have showers before departing. True to form the taxi did not show. I was just about to start looking for another taxi to negotiate with, but to his credit he did phone the resident cabbie outside our hotel to take us for the same price we bargained for yesterday.

Traffic was heavy as usual getting out of the city and I'm glad we left early enough to allow plenty of travel time without causing any stress about being late for the flight. At the airport we plastic wrapped the big suitcase for 150 baht = $5.50 and Robyn wrapped hers also for some protection and we checked in. No stress.

Smooth sailing through immigration and customs, except the took our water bottles after bags went through the xray machine. We even had enough time to sit and eat the chicken and salad rolls we'd had the hindsight to buy at lunch time today.

Next it was 7.05pm and time to head to the gate which of course was about three miles away from where we were sitting. No problem we still make it to the gate before boarding had started. Looks like we are the only westerns on the flight. Mostly Singaporeans returning home I guess.

We are travelling on Scoot so no food (good thing we just ate) and no entertainment - maybe might catch a few winks.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

AND BACK TO CHIANG MAI WE GO! THEN BACK TO BANGKOK AS WELL!

A nice drive back to Chiang Mai to chill out in Soi 6, then sleeper train to Bangkok.

MONDAY 24TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 177)

Today was used up by the drive back to Chiang Mai. We broke up the journey by stopping at the hot springs on the way down for some refreshments and to stretch our legs.

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Once in CM we found our way through the traffic and dropped Dolly off to stay with her friend again. Lyn, Robyn and I have booked into the Blue House in Soi 6. I wanted to spend a day or so in the middle of CM and this is my favourite soi.

We chilled out in the gardens and waited until Keeraya arrived before we went out to dinner. The 4 of us went to dinner in the soi next door to a Japanese restaurant. So weird going to a Japanese restaurant in Thailand, and I'm not usually one for Japanese food at the best of times, but this place was very good. I guess Japanese food with a twist of Thai is more pleasing to me than overpriced Japanese food at home in Australia. We had a very enjoyable meal.

Keeraya's brother showed up later when we were back at our hotel to collect the fathers car and to pick up Keeraya.

We had an early night.

TUESDAY 25TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 178)

Ah, breakfast at the soi 6 juice lady, my favourite place on the soi. Fresh fruit and yoghurt - great way to start the day.

We hired a motor bike today to take Lyn and I to the train station to try and get sleeper train tickets to take us all back to Bangkok. On the way there and on the way back we were stopped by the police who were doing licence checks on tourists and locals alike. Lucky Lyn was carrying her international licence otherwise we would have been up for a 1000 baht = $35 on the stop fine.

We collected Dolly from her friends place and caught a red taxi to a nearby shopping centre. There was a western type of supermarket there where we purchased bread rolls and sliced ham to have a roll for lunch. Sounds simple but that's what you crave after being on the road for so long and especially in Asia, just having a plain old sandwich is a treat.

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We went to the movies and saw The Monument Men to while away the afternoon. Entry to the movies is very cheap here in Thailand just 110 baht = $4 - less than half the price we pay in Oz.

After the movie we caught another red taxi straight from the shopping mall to the night bazaar. Not really much there and more expensive than the weekend markets. We stopped for a coldie, then ended up walking back to soi 6 where we had a nice dinner at a roadside restaurant.

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Bought a shake on the way back to the hotel for dessert and then I dropped Dolly back to her place on the bike.

WEDNESDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 179)

I woke up just before 9 this morning and Robyn had already been over to collect our washing from the washer lady across the road. I think a steam train could pass through my bedroom and I would not hear a thing - sleeping like the dead.

Check out is 10am here at Blue House so we packed our bags and stored them downstairs in the office before we ventured out to breakfast. Back at the same place as yesterday, the juice lady in soi 6, I call it this because there is no name of the juice bar come restaurant. Same as yesterday we, Lyn, Robyn & myself, have fruit salad with a little yoghurt and muesli (50 baht = $1.80) and I have an orange shake (25baht = 90c) which is made from freshly squeezed oranges. As are all the shakes made from the fresh fruit on hand. This has to be my favourite place in Soi 6!

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We linger a little at breakfast then think we should move on as there is always a stream of traffic going in and out of this juice place and we don't want to be holding up the table. Walking back to Blue House we notice the businesses that have changed or disappeared since last year when we walked the Soi. Some favourites are gone, but there are new places that would be discovered if we had longer to stay. Sure the next time we come there will be changes again!

We hung around the courtyard at Blue House reading, using internet until it was time to wander out to find food again. We headed out via Soi 7 but funnily enough ended up back at the juice lady in soi 6 where we ordered lunch. Robyn and I had pad thai with chicken (40 baht = $1.45) and Lyn tried a green curry with chicken (60 baht = $2.14). These meals are decent size, so cheap, unreal. Of course we had fruit shakes all round, I'm quite partial to the orange shake after having it at the Japanese place the other day and order the same as I had for breakfast (25 baht = 90c). No way in hell you could buy any kind of fruit shake at home for under one dollar, lucky to get a piece of fruit for that price. Gotta love Thailand for the shakes alone, but they seem to be best value and taste here in the north for some reason.

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After lunch we have a quick look around the market before slowly walking back to Blue House. Resuming the position we have a cup of coffee using our own kettle and before we know it, it's 4 pm and time to leave for the train station.

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Collecting our luggage from the office, again I say goodbye to Blue House and we walk out onto the main road to flag down a red taxi to take us to the train station. The first one accepts the challenge and we agree on a price of 100 baht = $2.60 for the 3 of us.

Traffic is heavy, but we still make it to the station around 4.30pm, train is due to depart 5pm. Dolly rocks up at 4.45 and we all hug goodbye her friend Tukata. Settled in our seats on the train we pull out of the station on time as usual. The trains always depart on time, but somehow loose time enroute as they always arrive very late. This train is due in at 6.50 am tomorrow morning so if it runs a few hours late it will suit us better, who wants to arrive anywhere at that hour of the morning??

As our porter walks down the aisle I recognize that it's 'P', the same porter from our first train ride from Bangkok to Surat Thani. He remembers us also and greets me with a hug. He asked if we flew from Surat Thani to Chiang Mai but we tell him we have been travelling on the train. He travels the same 2 routes constantly but we must have been at different times or maybe just different carriages. Funny to see him again.

We were going to eat in the dining car this time round, just for a change, but P said it was full of cigarette smoke and we should eat in our seats. I think perhaps he gets commission for the passengers that he serves meals to, so we help him out and have our meal in our seats. We are in carriage #10 and god knows how far away the dining car is anyway.

We had a couple of beers before dinner which was served at 7pm as requested. I opted for the same meal as last time, soup, cashew chicken, some spicy duck, rice and fruit - same price 160 baht = $5.70.

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After dinner a French guy stopped to talk to me. Why?? He did not speak a word of English but seemed pretty determined to stay and chat for awhile. Think I managed to work out he has been travelling for a few months also, but it must be very hard for him as he did not speak one word or understand one word of the english language. Nutter!

This train carriage is slightly different to the ones we have travelled in previously. Not as much luggage storage space and the bottom beds are much wider. Lyn & I scored the bottom ones this time so we scored well. The air con seems a little weak or non existent, but that's better than the usual frosty temperature in the carriage while trying to sleep. Unless it gets too hot and stuffy in the carriage we will be rocked to sleep and arrive in Bangkok rested.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

BOUNCING FROM THE NORTH TO THE SOUTH BACK TO THE NORTH

We leave Pai for a quick trip to Chiang Mai then back up to Chaing Rai.

FRIDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 174)

We had a great breakfast this morning at Pai Country restaurant in the Main Street - so good I can say the best Thai breakfast to date, with shakes that looked a little obscene but tasted great also.

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Happy, and with full bellies, we loaded up the car and took off, as we had a big driving day today.

We had to return to Chiang Mai to drop Keeraya off as she had some business to attend to and needed to be back in town. Due to this we had to change our planned driving route and decided to go a completely different direction instead. It was a long and windy road from Pai to Chiang Mai at a distance of 135 km with something like 762 documented curves in the road. Lyn did a marvellous job at driving the very scenic road.

By the time we arrived in CM it was time to eat again so we stopped at a local Thai place for noodle soup before driving Keeraya to her home. On the road again, a bit unsure of which direction to head we soon learned we were on the completely wrong road heading south when we wanted to be heading north. With a little back tracking and about an hour lost we were finally heading in the correct direction, north, towards Chiang Rai.

This also was a scenic and pretty good road, not as many curves as this morning but very beautiful with all the trees along the roadside in bloom. Traffic was constant but not too heavy. When it was nearing 5 pm and we knew we would not make it to Chiang Rai before dark it was decided we would start looking for a place to stay for the night and continue the drive tomorrow.

As luck would have it we came upon Cabbages & Condoms Inn and Restaurant along the highway. It was as good a place as any to stop and after checking out the rooms they seemed very nice for 700 baht = $18.50 for twin room. Air con, hot shower, tv and fridge it would do us perfect and a novel place to boot.

After getting settled in her room, Dolly attempted to get the television going but after viewing a perfect picture pushed a button on the remote that caused the screen to go blank and she was not able to get anything back again. A quick phone call to the hotel reception soon had 3 men in the room trying to fix the problem. They did not seem to have any luck getting the tv screen to show anything and thought there must be a problem with the cable box. Another one was brought from another room and hooked up to replace what they thought was a faulty one. Still nothing. Minutes past and we were then offered to change to another room as they could not manage to get the tv to work. As watching tv was not really high on our priority list and changing rooms was much more trouble than it was worth Dolly told them not to worry about it.

We went up to the restaurant to have a mediocre dinner. While dining the staff asked for Dolly's room key and gave it to a little girl who looked to be maybe 6 or 7 years old. The small girl took the key and walked off, returning less than 10 minutes later and advising the TV was all sorted and working fine. Sure enough on returning too the room the TV was functioning as it should. Just goes to show it takes a 6 year old girl to get a TV going that 3 grown men couldn't! Girl power!

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SATURDAY 22ND FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 175)

Our hotel included breakfast was nothing to write home about but still it was something to eat before we continued on to Chiang Rai. We had found a nice flashish hotel on the internet that we booked online. Pretty upmarket for us but the price was discounted and a too good a deal to resist. 800 baht = $27.

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We relaxed in the room for a bit cooling off from the drive and then walked over to the hotel restaurant to have some lunch. The setting was really beautiful along side the lake but the prices of the food was a bit over the top. It was cheaper for us to order food from the room service menu and have it delivered to our room - which was crazy as it all come out of the same kitchen. But that is exactly what we did. The food was not fantastic, but it was brilliant cause it was delivered to our hotel room. I think that is the first time in my traveling career that I have ever ordered room service.

The hotel ran a shuttle bus that took us to the night market that is on every night. However being a Saturday night the big walking street market was on and luckily we found this as it was ginormous compared to the nightly market. We walked around for hours in the humid night, and ended up missing our free shuttle bus home as we were not at the meeting spot at 9pm. No problem getting a friendly tuk tuk driver who was about 120 years old and did not have a tooth left in his head when we flashed me a smile as I handed over the 100 baht = $3.50 fare to get us back to our hotel.

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SUNDAY 23RD FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 176)

We left Thailand today, drove one hour north of Chiang Rai to the border town of Mae Sai and walked across the border.

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Before leaving we took photos at the northern most point (supposedly) of Thailand large_49097E692219AC681704BDC5FF1CC094.jpg and then were stamped out of Thailand, paid US$10 for a Myanmar visa and continued walking into a new country.

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It did not take long for the tuk tuk touts to spot new comers and start to hassle us about taking a tour of the sights to be seen in this border town. We were happy to do so, but were only willing to do it at a price I was happy to pay. These guys think you are green and start at some crazy price to drive you to a couple of different spots in less than one hour. So we rejected all offers and were stalked by one single bloke who finally agreed to the price I wanted to pay, 200 baht = $7.

We were taken to a couple of different temples and then to a so called long neck village, which really was a rip off and a total scam as there was a stupid entrance fee which really gave you nothing for the money. Lucky we were there just as a big Japanese tour group arrived so at least we got a bit of a half arsed 'traditional' dance show.

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The tour finished we headed straight back into the market area and the aroma of fresh coffee lured us to a cafe that served the most amazing coffee, hot and iced. We sat for a while being refreshed and caffeinated watching the passing trade go by.

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We did a bit of shopping ourselves, having fun with the haggling process ending with both parties happy with prices paid. For lunch we were shown by one of the cigarette sellers (ciggies are very cheap here and there are lots of people trying to get you hooked to buy them because they are so cheap) a fantastic little local restaurant where no one spoke any English but we managed to get a pretty good meal for next to nothing. It was worth it just for the fun we had with the staff, who thought we four old bags were hilarious.

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Back for a little more shopping and then another caffeine hit before returning to Thailand and driving back to Chiang Rai to our hotel. It was a fun day visiting another country and re entering Thailand it gave us a new 15 days visa.

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Dinner was a simple sandwich bought at the 7-11 on the way home and toasted in the sandwich toaster that I am still carrying in my luggage. Perfect for times like this!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 01:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

FURTHER NORTH WE DRIVE TO PAI THE HARD WAY!

Yes there's a road to Pai and there is a highway to Pai, we took the mountain road.

WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 172)

After another lovely breakfast of bacon & eggs prepared by our host Debbie we slowly started to pack up our stuff and vacate the house we had overtaken for the last 2 days. It really was a nice spot and would be easy to just stay and stay and stay relaxing our lives away.

Car loaded we started out just before 11am with a quick stop on the way out of town at the strawberry lady to buy some more of the amazing fresh berries. She very generously sold us 2kg of giant red ones for 80 baht = $2.75 - yummy.

We drove the backroads over and through the mountains from Bo Keow to Pai today about 160km and thank god we were in a four wheel drive vehicle. At least 100 km of the road we traveled was dirt and in some places pretty rough. So although we did not need to put the gears into 4 wheel drive I don't think a conventional car would have made it past a lot of places, especially if it was loaded up with us and our luggage. Sitting in the back seat with Robyn and Dolly was a very friendly affair as we were jiggled left and right and almost bounced into each other's laps a few times.

We stopped alongside the road at around lunch time at a stall that was boiling eggs in a natural hot spring. Steaming, hot water gushed out of the ground and formed a small pool of boiling water where a lady lowered a small cane basket containing the eggs into it with a pole. We bought 8 chicken eggs for 50 baht = $1.35, and they were cooked for 7 minutes which produced perfectly soft boiled eggs. A bit of a novelty. We ate them with the left over chicken wings that Debbie had packed for us to take this morning.

The last half hour of the drive was on nice sealed roads so we had a smooth landing into Pai. Found a couple of bungalows just over the river from the main walking street. 600 baht = $15.80 for one with double bed that poor Keeraya has to share with Lyn (the major snorer) and 700 baht = $18.45 for the other with one double bed and one single bed which us back seat ladies are sharing. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out in our rooms having a coffee/tea and hot showers all round before heading over the bamboo bridge into Pai proper.

It was just before dark and the walking street market was almost all set up. It seems to be very quiet here compared to when I visited Pai last year around the same time. Lots of shops seem to be closed and not nearly as many street stalls. Also the number of tourists seem to be down dramatically, I wonder if this has anything to do with the political unrest and governments warning travellers against coming to Thailand. Not that we have seen any problems or encountered any trouble, but there is definitely a noticeable decline in numbers where ever we go.

We had a stroll around the market and then found a place have dinner. The shakes at our chosen restaurant were particularly good and I'm hoping this place will be our choice for breakfast also so I can have an encore of this great coconut shake.

Slow walk back down the street, across the bamboo bridge and we returned to our bungalows. It was only just after 9pm, about the usual time for us to turn in.

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THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 173)

A slow start to the day found us having brunch in down town Pai late morning. It was a brilliant sunny and warm day and the temp gauge in the Main Street read 32 degrees - beautiful.

When we finally got a little organized we decided to go for a little drive and check out a few sights around Pai. Keeraya opted to stay behind in the air conditioning, think she has already had enough of us crazy old ladies.

I was still surprised by the lack of tourists around, but think it may have been a weekend when I was here last year so perhaps that accounted for the less number of people around.

We walked the short distance back over the bamboo bridge to our hotel and where the car was parked. We drove through and out of town in search of a waterfall. Although the day was quite hot I remember from last year the water in the waterfall was icy cold (although I did swim in it last time) so we took along our swimming togs just in case.

Without too much trouble we managed to find Mor-Pang Waterfall just a couple of k's outside the town. It was a short walk down some steps to the falls which were really nothing great or spectacular, just water falling over giant rocks. The small pool at the bottom was unfortunately dirty, murky and had uninviting algae growing in it so needless to say we did not go for a swim. We did however go a little down stream where we were able to put our feet into the fast flowing cold water to refresh ourselves. This was refreshing enough and none of us felt the need to immerse any more of our body into the somewhat icy water.

Next stop, or I should say drive thru was the nearby Chinese village of Santichon. We did bother stopping cause to tell the truth it looked exactly like a Thai village except for the numerous red Chinese lanterns that were hung from every possible place. And the fact there were lots of shops and stalls selling Chinese green tea. We drove on.

Just past the village was the Yun Lai View Point, where after climbing the last 100 meters to the viewpoint, we were charged 20 baht = 55c each entry. However entry included green tea and banana according to the sign. Greeting by an old Chinese/Thai man who seemed to block the way until the entry was paid, was also pretty quick in serving us our free tea in lovely little Chinese tea cups and matching tea pots. The tea was lovely but when we enquired about the banana he smiled and said no, no banana. No substitute was offered either, but a free tea refill was given without us asking for it. On returning the newly filled pot the old guy pointed to banana trees about 200 meters down the hill and said if we really want banana there they are! Funny guy, one of the very few Thai's who get sarcasm.

Eventually we left the table and free tea and did enjoy the view of the surrounding countryside. No idea how high up we were at this view point or at what altitude Pai is but from what we could see they were both surrounding by much higher mountain ranges on all sides. It was a pretty clear day and we could see a fair distance.

It was now starting to get late in the afternoon since we didn't start out until after midday. One more stop before we headed back to town for some food. Pai Canyon, also just a short distance from town, and a short walk from the car park. We were not able to explore much of the actual canyon due to some filming that was being set up there. Poles, trestles and what looked like a tight rope was being erected and we were limited to a viewing just a small part of the canyon.

Not to worry we were happy to return to town, with a quick stop off at Coffee in Love and get some food.

After eating we did another quick lap of the markets. On the way back to the hotel Dolly, Lyn & I stopped and had a oil massage. They are a lot cheaper here at only 200 baht = $5.30 for 60 minutes. Unbelievable really for the price, we returned to our rooms and bed completely relaxed. Great way to end a day, even if it was an easy relaxed day.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:55 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

TO THE NORTH WE GO! A SHORT VERSION

THE NIGHT TRAIN TO CHIANG MAI - THE WORST RIDE ON THE TRAINS SO FAR, BUT WE ARRIVED OK. WEEKEND IN CM DOING MARKETS, THEN NORTH WE CONTINUE TO BAKAWO AND PAI.

HELLO AVID READERS,
IF THERE ARE ANY OF YOu LEFT, I NEED TO DO A FAST FORWARD TO TRY AND CATCH UP TO REAL TIME. NOT MUCH bAbbLE HERE AND JuST A COuPLE OF PHOTOS, HOPE YOu STiLL STAY TuNED. CiNDY

FRIDAY 14TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 167)

Today is a public holiday in Bangkok and the post office would be closed, or so we were told by the hotel reception staff. The 2 boxes we had ready to send off now were put into storage, to be mailed the next time we come back to Bangkok.

Hung around doing nothing again for most of the day, when we found out the post office was open so then it was a mad scramble to retrieve boxes from storage and lug them to the post office. So they are on their way and pray to god we see them again.

Late afternoon we caught a taxi to the main train station where we boarded the sleeper train bound for Chiang Mai. We are old hats at this sleeper train caper but this round all had top berths due to lots of people heading north.

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SATURDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 168)

The train arrived in Chiang Mai, I guess from memory not on time. Keeraya was there to meet us as was a Thai friend of Dollys, Tookataa. Lyn and I went off with Keeraya to her new house just outside the city and Robyn & Dolly went off to stay with Tookataa at her home in the old city.

Later that evening we met up and walked for hours at the Saturday Night walking market, as usual it was very crowded. Dinner at the market afterwards.

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SUNDAY 16TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 169)

Slept in, then went for brunch at a local roadside noodle cafe - good thing Keeraya is Thai and can speak the language otherwise we'd still be waiting to order.

We have the use of Keeraya's fathers vehicle which makes things a lot easier to get around. The 3 of us Lyn, Keeraya and I headed for a look around the flash new Airport Plaza Shopping Centre. Keeraya spends a lot of time here enjoying the air conditioning during her pregnancy - good idea I reckon too. To kill some time we went to the movies and saw Robocob.

The movie ran longer than expected and we were late meeting Dolly and Robyn who had phoned while we were in the cinema and thought we were at home watching movie on TV. A little peeved until she realised we were in a cinema.

Sunday night market and we walked for hours - again big crowds. There never seems to be many people around until you head to these markets and see all the tourists around. There was a visit by one of the King's daughters tonight and security was high as she tried to move through the already congested street.

MONDAY 17TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 170)

As I said we have the use of vehicle belonging to Keeraya's father. This is great as it fits all of us in and saves us the cost of a hire vehicle, we just pay for petrol.

After collecting Robyn and Dolly and another friend of Dollys: Debbie we drive out of Chiang Mai and into the country side. We are heading north and will spend a couple of nights at Debbie's house in a little place called Baekeow which is in the mountains near the Karen hill tribes.

It was a good couple of hours drive through lovely country vistas and the road was pretty good for most of the way. Only at the very end did it get a little rough, but luckily we had a 4 wheel drive, not that we needed it but just in case.

Lovely peaceful location, Debbie spoilt us all by cooking dinner from supplies we had purchased before leaving CM.

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TUESDAY 18TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 171)

A totally relaxing day in Baekeow, quick visit to the local market which consisted of 3 stalls.

Bought the most delicious just picked strawberries from the locals, so cheap at 60 baht = $2.10 per kilo. They were giant and so yummy.

Debbie cooked another delish meal and we all retired happy as - tomorrow we hit the road again.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:33 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

GOODBYE ISLANDS, HELLO BANGKOK!

WE LEAVE OUR LITTLE PIECE OF PARADISE AND CRASH IN BANGKOK TO AWAIT OUR NEXT DESTINATION. FORCED TO STAY LONGER THAN PLANNED, WE EAT AND DRINK THE DAYS AWAY.

MONDAY 10TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 163)

Sadly, today it was time to move on and depart our little piece of paradise in Koh Pangyan. The day turned out to be a pretty shitty day for me, everything seemed to go wrong.

Initial plan was to hire the same jeep we had last week on Samui and use it to transfer us around today and tomorrow, as this would work out much cheaper than using expensive taxi's on the island. This would give us an overnight on Samui and then we could plan our return to Bangkok for tomorrow. I had looked quickly on the internet last night and I found that we would be able to purchase a ferry/station transfer/train ticket all in one, similar to the ticket we purchased in Bangkok for on the way down.

First part was easy, our hotel owner offered transport from hotel to ferry port for 150 baht = $5.20 each, better rate than the red taxi. Lyn rode on the back of the motor bike with Patrick and the rest of us 3 rode in the back of the ute, with all the luggage. We had pre-booked our ferry tickets yesterday while in Tongsala while we were riding round on the bikes 300 baht = $10.40 each. We were dropped off at the port early so had to wait a little while for the ticket office to open for us to checkin and get tickets.

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Again the ferry was late to arrive, which meant it was late to depart Koh Pangyan but this was not a problem for us as we were on no particular time schedule. We had not booked a hotel for tonight knowing there would be lots to choose from and as we would have transport no problem.
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As we left Koh Pangyan the sun was shining brilliantly as it had all during our stay and we all left with a smile and fond memories of our most enjoyable stay here.

It was once we arrived on Samui that the shit started to happen and nothing from then on went in my favour.

We waited at the Samui ferry port while Patrick rode off on his motor bike, that had been left there, to rent the jeep for us. He returned about an hour later advising we could not get the jeep.
Ok next plan: as we now had to pay for any transport we would need to get around Samui it was decided perhaps we would depart straight away and only have to pay one transfer amount. We negotiated a price of 1000 baht = $35.00 which would take us from the port to Pat's house (as we needed to collect luggage we left there) and then continue on to take us to the other ferry port to get to the mainland. This sounded like a good option and when we arrived at Pat's I quickly got onto the internet to check which ferry we needed to catch that would take us to the train station. Website advised that the all in one ticket was available at the port, but of course this was not the case and the ticket seller advised that I would be able to buy transfer and train ticket when we arrived on the mainland.

We just scrapped onto the 4pm ferry after a small panic when Lyn (who was travelling on the bike with Pat) had stopped for snacks on the way to ferry. The ferry we caught was different to the one we come over on, this was a car ferry and only 150 baht = $5.20 each. Took the same amount of time, but of course landed at a different port on the mainland. Why was I surprised when they advised me here that they had nothing to do with train tickets and we needed to get to the station to purchase them? Shit!! all plans were turning to shit, especially when I asked about a transfer to the station I was advised that yes there is a 4.30 bus but it left at 3.30! What the?? I presume it was full that is why it left early as no one could really answer the question why it left an hour early.

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Now the sharks started to come out as they knew we were over a barrel. Taxi, taxi this is your only option - and unfortunately it was because the next shuttle bus was not going until 7.30pm and as it's a 2 hour drive to the station we would have no chance of getting tickets for the 9pm train. Shit, shit, shit, I had lost it by now. The best price we could get the taxi for was 1500 baht = $52 which sort of seems like a good price for a 2 hour trip, but the shuttle bus only 60 baht = $2.10 each, but it was not going to get us there on time. We bit the bullet and what really made me see red was when the taxi showed up the tout actually took 500 baht =$17.50 commission and the driver only got 1000 baht = $35.00 for his trouble. Not bad for the shark who only had to make 2 phone calls to find a friend with a car - honestly I felt like getting out of the car and slapping her in the face. Bitch!!

To top it all off - 2 hours later when we arrived at Surat Thani train station and I went up to the ticket office I was advised that the 9pm train was sold out!! F&%K! what an ironic end to a stuffed up day! We did manage to get tickets on the 11.50pm train which just meant we had a longer wait but would arrive in Bangkok at a more reasonable hour in the morning.

A little later having dinner at a restaurant on the road (it was literally on the road) - which by the way served one of the tastiest meals we have had - the bloody shuttle bus turned up and again I sent a curse to the rip off taxi tout. But I guess we were not to know the earlier train was going to be sold out.

Not long after boarding the train we were in bed and I was trying to forget the shitty and expensive day that we had just had. I will try not to connect this crappy day to memories of our paradise found.

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TUESDAY 11TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 64)

The screeching of food vendors selling their breakfast wares up and down the carriage of the train was the incomprehensible sound that woke me from a very unfruitful sleep this morning. Thai can sound like a harsh earsplitting language at the best of times, but first up in the morning at a volume intent on waking train passengers to entice them to purchase something for breakfast, was almost enough make my ears bleed. I pulled back my curtain to see what was on offer and was greeted by a half rotten toothy smile of a little old man carrying a tray of what looked like yesterdays vomit with a cold congealed fried egg on top. Ooo no thanks I tried to smile back and pulled the curtain to avoid any further negotiation.

Our train was running late (as do all the trains it seems) and our estimated time of arrival in Bangkok had passed before the porter even made his way to finally collapse our beds back into seats so we could spend the last hour of the journey upright. We did however indulge in a luke warm 3 in 1 coffee from one of the vendors at a price of 20 baht = 70c.

For the uninitiated: 3 in 1 coffee is a sachet of coffee, sugar and milk powder all in one - just add hot water. The ratio of these ingredients being 5% coffee, 85% sugar and 10% milk powder. Bloody disgusting but the best you are likely to get on the train or just about anywhere else in Asia. These coffee 3 in 1 sachets are very popular and are readily available in just about every shop and road side stall.

When our train eventually came to a halt in Bangkok's Hua Lamphang railway station we were almost 2 hours late, arriving at 11.50 instead of the scheduled 10.10am. Didn't really matter to us as we had no time schedule to be anywhere urgently. We struggled off the train and down the platform with our luggage. I headed straight to the ticket office as our plan was to spend 2 nights here in Bangkok and get the night train on Thursday to Chiang Mai. To my surprise Thursday's night train was fully booked, as was Wednesday's! We had to settle for tickets on the Friday night train and even this train was almost full forcing us to accept 4 seat/upper birth numbers scattered over 2 separate carriages at a cost of 771 baht = $27.55 each.

Onward transport sorted, next step was to get a taxi to take the 4 of us and all our luggage to our chosen hotel. Taxi and tuk tuk drivers here at the train station are real sharks, preying on newly arrived and or weary travellers. The prices they quote are outrageous knowing full well we have little choice but to accept one of their offers eventually if we want to leave the station. This is the time these guys really piss me off, I don't mind so much being ripped off a little - we are never going to pay the price that a local will pay, but when they get downright greedy it's annoying and I walked away from the main line advising the drivers they were crazy with the prices quoted. All the taxi's here are metered but the drivers refuse to use the meters with tourists as they know they can get double, usually triple, times the fare if they quote a price off meter. And most tourists pay the price because honestly the price they quote is usually not much more than taxi flag fall in their home country, but that is beside the point and today after a shit nights sleep I was not going to be messed with.

Resigning to the fact I was not going to find a taxi driver who was going to use the meter, my next objective was to find a taxi that at least would take all four of us and our luggage in the one vehicle. I finally did and he agreed on a price of 200 baht = $7 (should be less than 100 baht). Happily our chosen hotel New Siam 2 Hotel had 2 rooms available for us at the going price of 840 baht = $29 per room - these bigger Bangkok hotels will not barter their room rates. However, this price was acceptable for a place with hot shower, air con, twin beds, fridge, tv and a pool which may come in handy in the coming days.

After we had settled into our rooms it was time to go out and find food, dropping off a big bag of laundry at our favourite washing lady. Lunch at a stall on the alley and then back to the hotel for a swim in the coolish waters of the hotel pool.

Just after 5pm we wandered out again for our cocktail hour back at our favourite kerbside bar. Dinner, then back to room to watch some tv.

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WEDNESDAY 12TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 165)

Did very little today in downtown Bangkok! Found a cool place to sit and steal internet for most of the day, until it was time to return to our hotel room for cocktails. We finished off our last bottle of Boracay Coconut rum with home made pina coladas. Happy memories.

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Ribs and jacket potato for dinner.

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THURSDAY 13TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 166)

Another quiet day in Bangkok, rounded off with cocktails at our favourite establishment.

(this must be my shortest entry ever!)

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:47 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Loving Koh Pangyan!

A day exploring the other beautiful beaches and vistas of the island, then relaxing, a bit more exploring then a lot more relaxing.

HELLO AGAIN, I HAVE TOTAL CONTROL OF BLOG AGAIN, SEEMS IT WAS SOME INTERNET SERVER PROBLEM IN SIEM REAP, BUT NOW ALL IS BACK TO NORMAL. STILL CATCHING UP BUT AM ABLE TO ADD PHOTOS, AND I HAVE ALSO ADDED PHOTOS TO PREVIOUS BLOGS THAT MISSED THEM SO IF YOU WANT TO GO BACK, PLEASE DO.
CHEERS CINDY.

THURSDAY 6TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 159)

Woke to another glorious day, wow we are having such great luck with weather, could not ask for any better.

Today I went off with Pat on the bike to find a vehicle to hire so we can explore a bit of the island. We needed something that was big enough to fit us all in and the hire places would not let us take a small 4 wheel drive when they heard we had 5 people to move. After stopping at several places who were either too expensive or had no vehicles available, we ended up back at Thongsala and hired an Isuzu ute twin cab for 1500 baht = $52.50 for the day. This was double the price that we paid in Samui but it was the going rate so we had little choice.

This island is much smaller than Samui and a lot few roads, so we figured one day driving around would be heaps to see just about everywhere.

First stop was Haad Mai Beach and we walked across to Koh Ma via the angle deep water over a sandspit. The water here was again crystal clear and absolutely beautiful, we had a swim of course before drying in the sun while lazing on the beach for a little while.

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We drove to a couple of more beaches and had a swim - glorious. Late afternoon we had a massage at a beach kiosk and then dinner at a little place Pat had been to before. Yes this side of the island is very beautiful also. I little hard or I should say expensive to get to if you don't have your own transport but worth the effort to get over here to have a look.

Another great day was had, it was dark by the time we returned to Serenity.

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FRIDAY 7TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY160)

Returned the car this morning, stopped for bacon roll.

Rest of the day was a lazy beach day, did absolutely nothing! and loving it !

Lyn cooked spag bol for dinner.

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SATURDAY 8TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 161)

Wow these days are hard to take. Another relaxing day by the sea catching some rays, so hard to take all this doing nothing. lol

As it was Saturday we did hire a couple of bikes in the afternoon and ride into Thongsala to check out the Saturday night walking market. Not much to see, but it did break up the lazing around.

We had an ordinary meal at the night market and rode back home again.

Dolly has been having a bit of an issue with mozzies so took refuge under the cover of a mosquito net that was hung over her bed.

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SUNDAY 9TH FEBRUARY 2014 (DAY 162)

We still had the motorbikes that we hired to take us to the night market yesterday until late afternoon so decided to go for a bit of a little ride around to see if we could find another beach to perhaps match the one we had.

Stopped for lunch at the roadside cafe that we ate at the first day we arrived on Koh Pangyan. The young girl was happy to see us again. Food and shakes again were yummy.

We rode a little longer but all agreed that the beach we had back at Serenity was the best around.

Happy back at our own little alcove, we swam in the clear waters below our room.

While we were down returning the motor bikes we indulged in another beachside massage while the sunset. Ho-hum it's a tough life here in paradise.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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