Showing posts from 2018

Chatuchak Weekend Market, the Sky Bar

I got up bright and early today to be driven aaaaaaaall the way back to Krabi, to then be flown aaaaaaaall the way back to Bangkok, where I’m spending one last night in order to board my plane to Paris tomorrow morning. 
To make my life easier tomorrow, I’m staying at a hotel near the airport (the Vismaya hotel), which has its own free airport shuttle, breakfast, beautiful enormous rooms and a pool to boot. The only downside is that, being close to the airport, it is far from everything else, so when I saw that I had an hour of travel time for my afternoon plans I was mightily tempted to call the whole thing off and just spend the rest of the day by the pool. But, eventually, my good judgement prevailed and I left to take the L to the city!
My big plan for the afternoon was to check out Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the largest markets in the world which, as the name suggests, opens for business mainly on the weekends (I say mainly because apparently there are some shops that do open…

Four Islands

My plan for today had been to go to Ko Phi Phi, but to my dismay Maya Bay (the beach from The Beach) is closed! Thailand had closed that and several other areas for around six months earlier in the year, to allow the environment to regenerate after the damage done by excessive tourism, and they were supposed to reopen in October; unfortunately, they have extended the closure indefinitely. It’s good that they’re taking steps to preserve the place... but it hurts to come all this way and not get to see it!
Instead, my hotel redirected me to a Four Island tour, which as the name implies revolves around visiting four different islands around Ko Lanta. Once again I was picked up by a speedboat from the beach outside the hotel.
Our first stop was Ko Ngai, a tiny island with a beautiful, narrow beach. They basically dropped us off to our own designs; I opted not to snorkel, since I did that all day yesterday and the water didn’t seem clear (not dirty, necessarily, but it had lots of leaves and…

Ko Rok, Ko Ha

First day of the island! Today I was booked on a snorkeling tour of two nearby islands, Ko Rok and Ko Ha. I got up bright and early for my pickup at 8:00, only to be told that (despite what my voucher said) pickup actually started at 9:00, and by the way, we’re still setting breakfast buffet. Suffice to say that this did not endear them to me...
Anyway, eventually a large speedboat approached the resort’s beach and picked me and two couples up to join around twenty people total on the tour. We rode for about half an hour to reach our first destination, the island of Ko Rok: a large enough island that seemed densely forested; it must be a natural park, because there was no development to be seen. The water was clear enough that you could see all the coral and rock formations from
The boat stopped closed to the island, and simply let us swim and snorkel for a while. They provided us with all the equipment we needed and then some: some people put on flippers and life jackets, whereas I was…

Arrival in Ko Lanta

It is on for the last leg of my Thailand trip! This is the “beach paradise” part. I am not a big fan of beaches (I grew up on a beach town so maybe the novelty just wore off) but I figured it was worth checking out the turquoise-water-white-sand experience at least once, and this seemed as good a chance as any. I’m telling people I’m going to relax, although if you know me you know that I don’t relax and that my secret plan is to tour around the neighboring islands.
When looking for Thai islands to visit, it’s difficult to choose from several dozen options, from all-night party islands to remote natural hideaways. Because I had so little time, I wanted one that was easily accessible, which shortened the list to the biggest and most popular ones (inevitably, well connected means frequented, and vice versa). Ko Phi Phi, the famous Beach, has a reputation for being drunken/trashy so I didn’t want to stay there even if I still want to visit Maya beach; Ko Samui looks great and I love that …

Doi Inthanon National Park

If you remember, I wasn’t sure whether I was up for a full hike, but I also wanted to get out of the city a bit, so I booked myself a tour of Doi Inthanon National Park. The van was supposed to pick me up “between 8:00 and 8:30”, so of course I was waiting for it in the lobby at eight o’clock, and by nine o’clock nobody had appeared. I remembered a piece of advice I was given about pickup arrangements in Southeast Asia: “It will always feel like they have forgotten about you, but they’ll always appear”. Altogether good advice, it is tempered by the fact that one time in Vietnam they did really forget about me and left me as the only foreigner in the Lao Cai train station at 5AM, but I digress. 
Sure enough, five minutes after nine the tour guide walked into the lobby and waved me over. On my group there were three other Spaniards (we’re taking over!) and a Malaysian family of seven. I was shocked to find that the drive to the national park would take nearly two full hours; the distance…

Temple-hopping in Chiang Mai

Today was my first acquaintance with Chiang Mai! I had originally planned to take the bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai early yesterday morning, but all tickets were sold out and I could only book the 16:15 bus; so I took the chance to do my laundry, hung out at a café, then hung out at the cat café, then hung out at the hotel until travel time.
The bus ticket cost me 160 baht (€4), which is not bad for a 200 km journey! It felt really long, though: it got fully dark outside by 18:00, and we would only arrive at the bus station in Chiang Mai at 20:00.
Since I didn’t get to do anthing yesterday, this morning I walked out of my hotel (the Golden Bell) and crossed a street to reach Chiang Mai’s Chiang Mai Gate. You see, Chiang Mai’s old city lives inside a near-perfect square delineated by ancient city walls and a moat. A lot of hotels and other lodgings are outside of the old city, so you’ll have to find the nearest gate to cross the moat and get into the city proper.
The contrast with Chi…

Chiang Rai (all of it)

This was the day where I had to see Chiang Rai province... all of it! I was signed on to the tour that I found yesterday, if you were reading, which was officially called “Popular Sightseeing Tour” but which I refer to as the See Everything Tour because it’s absolutely packed with Chiang Rai highlights!
So a van picked me up at 8:30 and sure enough, in addition to the French girl and the American guy from yesterday they’d also picked up three pairs of Chinese people to fill up the group. Also, turns out the American is originally Mongolian and has also been to San Sebastian! What are the chances?

Our first stop was the famous White Temple, which is around 13 km south of Chiang Rai. It’s this stunning Buddhist temple, all painted white with mirror tiles on the edges, which has become one of Thailand’s most recognizable images. It is easy to asume that it’s a historic temple, but in fact it was only built in 1997! By one artist, because he wanted to! How crazy is that?!
As you arrive, you …