A Travellerspoint blog

Sukhothai

sunny 25 °C

After the heaving bustle of Bangkok it was an absolute contrast coming to Sukhothai. The new city is situation 10 minutes from the 'old city' - former capital of the north Thailand region. The old town is now a collection of 21 ruined temples surrounded by a large square-shaped perimeter wall. This has to be my favourite historical location of my travelling so far.

The first day I stayed in bed until 6pm in an attempt to shift the chest infection that had been with me since Kanchanaburi. Got out to the new city in the evening and ate at a really nice restaurant. After the meal I had a traditional Thai stamina drink in order to boost my health. I didn't realise that being the creators of Red Bull, Thailand has a heritage of 'health boosting' drinks containing various herbs, spices, ???, etc. It did seem to alleviate my symptoms for a few hours though.

To see the old city I rented a push bike which was a relaxing and gentle way to see the place. Anyway, I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking....

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Posted by oli.heeley 08:15 Archived in Thailand

Bangkok

sunny 34 °C

To describe my time in Bangkok in a nutshell, I went to more clubs each night than I spent hours sightseeing throughout the whole time I was there. And I think that's an accurate reflection on the best activities that BKK has to offer, not just my non-drinking friend that would stay up until dawn almost every night.

Nightclubs with a very pleasing tourist:local ratio are in good supply and cheap taxis mean that nowhere is too far to go in one night. I visited the rooftop bar as seen in The Hangover 2. Although I haven't seen it still.

As well as the nightlife, I managed to see The Hobbit at the IMAX cinema, Sebastion Vettel and Michael Schumacher battle it out at the Race of Champions and the grand palace - home of the King I believe.

The IMAX cinema was very impressive. Situated in one of BKK's many huge supermalls, the IMAX screen and sound was really amazing. I think it did more justice to the film than the film did to the book.

Race of Champions was a Red Bull organised mini tournament so it's more like a showcase of driving than a serious competition. I'm glad I took the opportunity to check out some motor-racing as it's something a bit different and you don't often get to hear the roar of an F1 car engine up close. David Coulthard took a spin around the track in one and it was pretty deafening, I can't imagine what 20 of them screaming past is like.

The grand palace was really stunning in how dense, huge and gold the temples and other buildings were. Temples are now a very common sight so it's nice to find something that still has the ability to impress.
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Posted by oli.heeley 08:30 Archived in Thailand

Kanchanaburi

sunny 30 °C

Big jump north now. Overnight coach to Bangkok (about 3 hours sleep approx) and then another 3 hour trip out north West and I was in the town of Kanchanaburi - famous for the 'Bridge Over the River Kwai.'

I hadn't realised this was anywhere near my route until just before travelling but I'm really glad I made the effort for the visit. I stayed in a raft house on the river where the whole room would sway gently when a boat passed. Unfortunately the dusty/dirty air con unit in my room gave me a rather nasty chest infection that is so far lasting 10 days!

There was a wonderful feeling of pride as I walked along the bridge. Despite the crowds you could still imagine how it must have appeared all those years ago to the many POWs who helped construct the bridge. I definitely couldn't imagine the conditions they themselves were in.

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My visit coincidentally fell in the same week as the annual Festival of Light and Sound, a commemoration of the bombing of the bridge by Allied forces. Twice a night there was a re-enactment of the film involving special effects like explosions, flashing lights, audio clips from the film as well as actors with dummy weapons. But who cares about historical accuracy when you have FIREWORKS!

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The following day I took the train over the bridge and up to the Hellfire Pass. As I was waiting for the train a gentleman running the stall behind me tapped me urgently on the shoulder. I thought he was going to tell me the train would be here soon but when I turned around there was a sizable green snake touching distance behind me! I got my photo (I'm a good tourist after all) before he found two 8-foot long poles to bash/chopstick it away.

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The Hellfire Pass is a site where POWs suffered almost unimaginable cruelty as they were forced to build a train line up to Burma (now Myanmar) to transport soldiers and supplies for the Japanese forces. I'll spare you the history lesson but it's really worth just checking out on Wikipedia.

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Just had time for a quick dip in a waterfall before heading home and preparing for my next stop - Bangkok!

Posted by oli.heeley 06:15 Archived in Thailand

Koh Phi Phi

sunny 34 °C

Oops. Fell behind again. Something I'll blame on Bangkok! Anyway, after Phuket I made it across to the western islands of south Thailand - specifically Phi Phi.

Like Phuket, I had heard mixed opinions of Phi Phi. It's true that the village is now overrun with people who feel the need to go to one of the world's most beautiful locations in order to get drunk every day but it is still possible to be captivated by the breathtaking landscape. Especially when you look a little 'deeper'.

Family and close friends will know that I'm just about the opposite of a 'water' person as you can get. I had heard that the scuba diving on Phi Phi is some of the best in the world and the opportunity to do my PADI Open Water certification was too good to ignore. Never let it be said I shy from a challenge!

The first dive in confined water was a real struggle. The mask skills involved flooding the mask and clearing and also taking the mask off, swimming and putting it back on. As my greatest fear on the whole world is having my face (particularly nose) underwater I was really lucky to have an amazing instructor who was helpful and patient. By the end of the experience I was really comfortable with the mask skills. Maybe you could say the island healed me??

Any stresses caused by the introduction to scuba diving instantly melt away when you hover above coral reefs and glide through schools of fish. It is like being in a completely other world, one where humans are merely the guest and spectator. The highlight was on my last dive seeing turtles and a blacktip shark (if anyone asks it was HUGE).

Didn't do much else apart from the diving. Kept drinking to a bare minimum while I had to be up early for the dives. Spent the last day having yet another massage and walking up to some viewpoints

WEATHER UPDATE - it was much better on Phi Phi than the eastern islands. No rain and so hot in fact the locals were complaining.

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Underwater camera

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Below is 'The Beach' made famous by the book/film - Maya Beach

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Goodbye Phi Phi!

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Posted by oli.heeley 18:15 Archived in Thailand

Phuket

sunny 31 °C

I had been told that Phuket is not very nice and one night would be enough. It turned out to be a lesson in appreciating that travelling is really what you make it. If you go to Pattong Beach (uber touristy and full of prostitutes so I've heard...) you will no doubt come away with that impression of the place and maybe Thailand in general. I stayed 3 nights in the town, rented a scooter and saw some pretty cool stuff. Kata Beach on the first day was nice, finishing with a beautiful sunset on the very bottom of the peninsular at a stunning viewpoint. To make up for a necessary late night visit to Maccy Ds the previous night I stopped off at a night market and ate 3 chicken hearts as penance. They tasted like chicken.

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The second day I went up to a national park near Tonsai waterfall and did a jungle nature trail. Saw spiders, mosquitoes, crabs, mosquitoes, huge ants, mosquitoes, butterflies and mosquitos. It's worth mentioning that at this point in my journey the soles of my feet are starting to resemble a dark uncleanable leather and the top of my feet a feeding ground for mosquitoes. After the park I stopped of at a Buddist temple just before the sun went down.

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My first night in Phuket I stayed in a grotty hotel as the hostel I had tried was full. It was the kind of hotel where you try and touch as little as possible but it was my first private room in a while so that was some joy. The following 2 nights were in a very nice hostel and with a few good days of sightseeing around Phuket I was feeling back on form after feeling a bit flat and directionless when I arrived.

Posted by oli.heeley 05:22 Archived in Thailand

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