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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)

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