A Travellerspoint blog

Sukhothai - An Ancient Kingdom

sunny 29 °C

After another overnight bus ride and another 4am arrival, we had a new city to explore. We were welcomed in Sukhothai by our friendly British host with open arms and a sleepy smile at the bus station. We had planned to stay at the Mountain View Guesthouse which British expat Malcolm has run for 8yrs after reading great reviews about it. It offers simple homely accommodation but as the name suggests, its biggest draw card are the views of Northern Thailand's mountainous terrain.

Sukhothai Old City is a small and quiet place however it holds significant value in Thailand's history. It was the first Royal Kingdom and therefore has some of the oldest monuments and sacred places in the country.

P1010763.jpg Buddhist temple in Sukhothai town center

The best way to explore Sukhothai's Historical Park is by bike. There are over 10 temples to cycle your way around with the biggest attraction being the Royal Temple (Wat Mahathat). It took us the best part of a day to see everything including a picnic stop for lunch.

P1010678.jpg Riding in the Historial Park
P1010669.jpg Wat Mahathat
P1010706.jpg Wat Si Chum
P1010699.jpg Wat Sorasak
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P1010690.jpg Wat Sa Si
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As it was a Saturday, Malcolm had told us that we must revisit the Historical Park in the evening as the local council switches on the show lights to display the monuments in a more romantic setting. He was right, the scene was one out of a fairytale.

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Our stay in Sukhothai was short but sweet. Besides the Historical Park which is a must see in our books, there isn't much else to do but relax in your guesthouse, which for us wasn't too bad at all.

P1010720.jpg Cooling down at Mountain View Guesthouse

Posted by willbourn 07:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Remembering the POW's in Kanchanaburi

Home of the River Kwai Bridge

semi-overcast 28 °C

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Two hours northwest of Bangkok lies the town of Kanchanaburi. It has become well known & is frequently visited by western foreigners due to the fact it is home to the Bridge over the River Kwai. It is also a popular place for Thai's to visit on the weekends due to its tranquility and ironically its crazy karaoke floating restaurants.

Here we learnt the hard facts of the hardship & devastation the POW's were subjected to between 1942-1945, the era of the Japanese invasion. As you probably know, when the Japanese were building the railway from Burma to Thailand with the aim of transporting military arms, they used thousands of Australian and British prisoners among others, for hard labour to complete the railway and the now famous River Kwai Bridge. Thousands of young prisoners lost their lives here and never made it back to their home soil to rest in peace.

On our first day we hired bicycles and visited the local Burma & Thailand Railway Museum which was truly fascinating and saddening. We continued our historic tour of Kanchanaburi stopping off at many war memorial gardens.

Later that day we visited a ancient Buddha cave in the surrounding mountains and cycled the scenic country road before retreating to our riverside bungalow for the evening.

Another reason for us venturing to this part of the countryside was to visit the Erawan Waterfall. The following day we caught a local bus which took two bumpy hours to reach the seven tiered majestic falls. As we'd left it quite late in the day, we only had two hours to walk up and down the 5km trail as well as have time to enjoy the beautiful baby blue pools of water before the last bus back to Kanchanaburi town. The hike really tested our current fitness levels and after having to run most of the way back, we thankfully only came away with Nathan's minor injury of a scraped ankle and a hilarious tumble into one of the pools. All in all it was worth the journey.

On our final morning before returning to Bangkok, we took the famous walk over the River Kwai Bridge. Here we reflected on the historic events that took place here which felt surreal at the time as the river and surroundings of Kanchanaburi are so calm and peaceful.

P1010658.jpg Kate on the River Kwai Bridge

P1010602.jpg Tier 4 of Erawan Falls

P1010579.jpg Tier 5 of Erawan Falls

P1010625.jpg Local Bus to Erawan Waterfall

P1010638.jpg Nathan at our Riverside Bungalow

P1010639.jpg View of Sunset from our Bungalow

Posted by willbourn 06:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Love You Long Time

Bangkok - A City Where Anything Goes

semi-overcast 30 °C

We arrived at Bangkok's Southern bus terminal at 4'o'clock in the morning. After a night of restless sleeping, we were surprised how easily our bodies kicked into gear and carried us into town. We headed straight to the popular travellers hub around Khao San Road.

Khao San Road appeared to be pretty dingy but still very much alive & kicking at that time of the morning. It was still dark so we hurried along the road passing drunken tourists till we reached a side street which looked more welcoming. Surprisingly we were shown a room immediately at a lovely hotel and managed to fit in a few hours kip before stepping out onto the streets again.

During the day and early evening, Khao San Road is a brighter picture with colourful market stalls and upbeat bars. We ended up settling in well around this part of town and soaked up the buzzing atmosphere. We made the most of the quality food stalls which lined most streets, the clothing vendors who helped us cheaply replenish our wardrobe & we couldn't say no to the hour long massages on offer.

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P1010421.jpg Khao San Rd
P1010519.jpg Night Food stalls
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On our second day we caught a public passenger long boat along the Khlong Saem Saep Canal to Siam Square where there are plentiful of shopping arcades to spend a day in. No matter what kind of budget you are on, there is a shopping centre here to meet your needs. We came across MBK which basically is a cheap electrical & fake goods haven. Nathan was like a kid in a sweet shop.

P1010396.jpg On Khlong Saem Saep Canal
P1010402.jpg Xmas is on it's way!!!
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On our third day, we motored down the Chao Phraya River to the Grand Palace only to discover it wasn't open to the public. A week earlier the King's sister passed away so a special ceremony was about to take place with the King & Queen due to attend. Just as we started to walk away a crowd started to form so we backtracked and found a place at the front of the pavement. Minutes later we caught ourselves waving at the Royals in their Maybach Limosuine with hundreds of Thai's going crazy around us. Talk about good timing.
The rest of the day we visited two wats (temples) and walked the tiny alleyways of Chinatown.

P1010432.jpg Outside the Grand Palace
P1010468.jpg At Wat Pho Temple
P1010478.jpg Countrys Largest Reclining Buddha
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P1010486.jpg At Wat Arun
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Bangkok is a fascinating city. It's a city of extremes. You can look to your left and feel like you're in any big city with skyscrapers, monorail, flashy bars & restaurants etc and then look to your right and think you're in a small Thai village with local food & market stalls etc. Whichever way you look it is a very busy city with traffic jams everywhere. We liked the fact you could use the quieter waterways to navigate your way around town. Surprisingly Bangkok has many green parks to take a breather in, however we noticed it's best to avoid them at 5pm when the local Thai's participate in massive group aerobic lessons!

It's also true what they say, sex sells..in anyway shape or form here.

We would have liked to splurged & tasted the fine cuisine and to glide through the doors of a swish hotel but we had to remind ourselves that we were backpacking this time round (plus I don't think our thongs/flip flops and travelling clothes would have cut the grade!).

P1010516.jpgCity's skyline
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Posted by willbourn 03:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

To Burma & Back

overcast 28 °C

I know this headline sounds like a promisingly good story, however our short trip to Burma was quite uneventful and exhausting.

Our 30 day Thai tourist visa was nearly up so like many other expats and tourists do, we decided to go on a visa run.

The visa run is simply a process of departing Thailand's border control, crossing over to Burma (also known as Myanmar), then re-entering Thailand to receive a new 30 day tourist visa.

A mini bus picked us up at 6am from our bungalow in Phuket and drove for 4 hrs North along the coast. Our destination was Ranong which is a small fishing village in Thailand and happens to be only a stones throw away from Burma.

P1010364.jpg RanongP1010362.jpg

Immigration in Ranong is situated in a confined narrow space on the banks of a fishing port. On arrival the officials hurried us through border control and collected our passports which they worringly kept a hold of till we reached Burma. We then endured a rocky 30 mins boat journey across the Chan River. Burma wasn't at all a pretty sight. It looked quite run down and dirty from afar so I can't imagine what it's like up close? Passport control in Kawthoung Burma, was a shoe box sized office with a group of young locals hanging about trying to sell us viagra of all things! We joked about how Nathan felt quite insulted but we soon realised there was a real demand for this pill from certain older expats who now live in Thailand....

P1010370.jpg Boat journey
P1010374.jpg View of Burma
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P1010373.jpg Visa office in Burma

Our journey back to Thailand was reasonably easy. Once we were back on Thailand's soil, we departed our group and headed to the public bus station where we would take a overnight bus to Bangkok.

We would soon discover what a serious business this bus business is.

Posted by willbourn 02:45 Archived in Myanmar Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Phuket - The Big Daddy Of Thai Islands

sunny 30 °C

We really didn't know what to expect from the island of Phuket. It's Southern Thailand's biggest tourism moneymaker. It doesn't actually feel like an island due to its sheer size (810 sq km in total) and commercial development.

From the North-Eastern pier it took us 30 mins by bus to reach Phuket town and then a further 30 mins by a giant sized tuk tuk to reach the beach town of Kata. Phuket town is large, noisy, polluted and busy so we had made a quick decision to stay by the coastline. Plus it was going to be awhile till we would be near a beach again so we figured we should make the most of it whilst it's on offer.

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Unfortunately Kata wasn't the quiet beach town we were hoping for. The main street is lined with go-go bars and neon lights with a backdrop of uninspiring concrete buildings. We were so close to jumping on the next bus out of there when a lovely Thai lady/restaurant owner gave us some helpful advice. Not only did she ease our irritable heads but she satisfied our grumbling stomachs. Shortly after we checked into a nice bungalow situated on one of the side streets. We felt much better about Phuket knowing we'd secured a room in a friendly place, had spotted some nice restarants nearby (very important criteria!) and was only a 7 min walk to the beach.

The next couple of days followed the same routine - wake up, shower, eat breakfast at nearby swiss cafe, spend 5 relaxing hours on the beach, read our books, internet session in the arvo, dinner at local thai hut and ice-cream for dessert from 7Eleven!

Phuket is like Benidorm in Spain for the Brits and the Gold Coast in Australia for Aussies. It's a package holiday paradise. The would be lovely stretches of soft sandy beaches are dominated with hundreds of beach umbrellas and chairs. This place is full of cheap thrills and we figured you either like it or loathe.

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Posted by willbourn 02:02 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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