13.1.11

trip to the future: amazing Thailand

2550, indeed. It's August 2550 on the Buddhist Calendar which is used in Thailand and it corresponds to 2007 on our Western calendar. It was a bit shocking when I saw it for the first time on newspapers and monuments and for a while it was quite nice to think that i could have travelled with the time machine!

Sawadee Bangkok!

I started my lone trip in Bangkok arriving to Suvarnabhumi Airport which is located 30km east of Bangkok. At that moment (2007) high-speed rail link to the new airport was under construction and the best way to get to Bangkok city was by taxi, which I booked outside of the terminal and It cost me around THB 400 (Thailand baht). Booking a taxi in Thailand is always tricky as most of taxi drivers prefer arranging a closed price to use the taxi-meter. 
I spent 4 days in Bangkok and I immediately fell in love with Thailand and its laid back, peaceful and smiley people. In less than a week I had already got the feeling of being away from home since months! Thailand it's the top relaxing trip I have ever done! 

Thai people are lovely, extremely helpful and always smiling. In contrast, Bangkok is a polluted metropolis with two different faces, where it's possible to walk the quite and narrow streets of traditional old neighbourhoods, markets and gorgeous Buddhist temples, ending up on the 85 floor of the Baiyoke Tower II (304m) in the modern hub of Siam.

Bangkok's traffic is always chaotic and there are many mains of public transport to move around. You can catch an old bus with a lady selling the tickets on board, and changing to the ultra modern skytren. The faster ways to move around Bangkok are by tuk-tuk, skytren and boat on the Chao Phraya River, which despite of diesel pollution it's a great experience, and on top of all, offers you a fantastic view of the city skyline that will make you realize where you are: Bangkok, the bustling metropolis and trading center of Southeast Asia.

Young monks at The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Driver of an old bus and on board ticket seller, stuck in Bangkok traffic jam


Bangkok's skyline and traditional boats on the Chao Phraya River
Baiyoke Tower II and skytren at Siam Square, Bangkok



Taxi boats on the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok






First place I went to see in Bangkok was The Grand Palace of Bangkok, which is a short walk from the famous backpackers area of Khao San Road and it's really impressive and has breathtaking giant golden stupas surrounded by temples and mythological giants and creatures. The visit is worth to the minimum detail and you can delight yourself by standing at any corner and just observing the life happening in front of you, as many little monks in bright orange costume visit the palace, pilgrims and worshipers pray with deep devotion offering lotus flowers, incense sticks, candles and food to Buddha. It's really magic!

The guardians of the Emerald Buddha are impressive and colourful giant demons (yaksha) at the entrance of Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

Wat Pho, the Giant Reclining Buddha, which is 46m at the base and 15m height it is a must see at the Grand Palace complex and it represents it pass to the nirvana and its death.


Giant golden stupa at The Grand Palace Complex, Bangkok
Prayer monk offering incense, flowers and eggs to Buddha
Lotus flowers offered to Buddha


People pray and offer incense and flowers to Buddha
Yaksha, the giant demons guardians of the Emerald Buddha
Giant golden stupas at The Grand Palace complex, Bangkok
 
Giant Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, The Grand Palace


Accommodation in Bangkok and street food: 

The cheapest area to stay in Bangkok is the lively and well known Khao San Road, which it's been backpackers's heaven for years. As prices vs. quality may vary, the easiest way to get a room is walking around to check a few hostels until you find your favourite one.
Lots of street food stalls are everywhere an at all times! delicious fruits, smoothies, seafood, pad thai... it doesn't matter you are hungry or not, you will keep eating and drinking just because food is gorgeous and incredibly fresh and cheap! And the best of all: it's highly safe and recommended trying all types of food from the street!
Fresh made and delicious fruit smoothies on the streets of Khao San Rd., Bangkok
Little and narrow streets of Khao San Road, Bangkok. Thailand
Choose your favourite sea food and it goes to the grill! on the streets of Khao San Rd., Bangkok
Cooking pad thai in the streets of Khao San Road, Bangkok. Thailand




























Selling fresh fish in a street market around Khao San Road, Bangkok. Thailand

North of Thailand: Chiang Mai and 'Long Neck' Women

Next destination was Chiang Mai, the largest city in the north of Thailand, which is 700km from Bangkok and surrounded by mountains and beautiful nature. There are cheap flights to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, but I decided to adventure myself in a 16h journey by train departing from Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok.
Chiang Mai itself has not much to offer apart from temples and markets, but it is a key place to move around and see gorgeous nature, to go trekking or visit tribes on the jungle.

Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Bangkok. Thailand

Night train Bangkok-Chiang Mai. Thailand

Night train Chiang Mai-Bangkok. Thailand













Little monks in the streets of Chiang Mai. Thailand
People from the streets of Chiang Mai. Thailand
Night Market, Chiang Mai. Thailand

Crispy bugs are sold in the streets of Chiang Mai. Thailand
Tuk-tuk in the streets of Chiang Mai. Thailand

Rickshaw in the streets of Chiang Mai. Thailand

Rambutan fruit, delicious! Fruit market in Chiang Mai. Thailand


From Chiang Mai I went on a day trip by jeep to Mae Hon Son on the northwest of Thailand and close to Burma's (Myanmar) border, to see the place where long neck women (known as giraffe women as well) live in. It was quite a long journey trough gorgeous scenery, visiting orchid gardens, temples, giant Buddhas and caves with stalactites, stalagmites and underground temples.

Gorgeous scenery on the way to Mae Hon Son, somewhere in the northwest of Thailand

Orchid
Gorgeous scenery on the way to Mae Hon Son, somewhere in the northwest of Thailand

Beautiful orchids

Giant Buddha's head, somewhere in the northwest of Thailand
Giant Buddha somewhere in the northwest of Thailand
Amazing temple on the way to Mae Hon Son, somewhere in the northwest of Thailand
On the road, on the way to Mae Hon Son, somewhere in the northwest of Thailand

Once we got to the village where 'long neck' women' live I've got mixed feelings about visiting them as they are victims of tourist exploitation and the place looks like a tourist market where these poor women are kept as part of a human zoo.
The 'long neck' women are war refugees from Burma (Myanmar). They escaped the oppression in Burma in the late 1980s and moved to the Thai border area where Thai authorities allow them to live, but they don't recognize them as Thai citizens and they don't allow them to move.

The tradition of the 'long neck' was about to disappear as many women began breaking it, but in recent years the practice of applying brass coils to women gained popularity in Thailand when the authorities realized the business they generate by bringing loads of tourists which money benefit a few businessmen that run the villages.

Long neck woman at Mae Hon Son village, Thailand

Long neck woman at Mae Hon Son village, Thailand
Young long neck woman at Mae Hon Son village, Thailand
This is how 'long neck' women look when they remove the brass coils















Long neck women village at Mae Hon Son, which is actually a touristic market run by a few businessmen that get profit from these Burmese refugees exploited and exhibited as a human zoo.

































Time to relax: heading to paradise in south Thailand :)

After more than a week going up and down and having seen loads of beautiful temples and landscapes, it was time to enjoy the stunning white sandy beaches of South Thailand. Air Asia has tempting low cost flights in and around Thailand, which is convenient to save money and time as train journeys may take endless hours. A short flight took me to Krabi, a tiny, relaxing and charming village near Pukhet where it's worth a night stay just to take a boat to Phi Phi Don Island :)

Krabi's night market is the perfect place to have dinner, meet local people and tourists before going for some drinks at any of the many reggae bar in town.

I made the mistake to take the speed boat to Phi Phi Don which bumps on the water all the way to the paradisiac Island and I ended up at Phi Phi Don Hospital, almost fainting due motion sickness! Caring was really good, they gave me a Reliveran injection and 2 hours later I woke up to paradise: Phi Phi Don village and its lively streets full of fruit markets, shops, live music bars and the 2 bays one each side of the village looked like the perfect place to relax. Slowly I made my way through the little streets and found a place to stay.

There are many gorgeous islands nearby and it's a short sail to get to any of them.  

Bamboo island which has not accommodation, has the most clean, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

Phi Phi Leh (Maya Beach), famous for Leonardo di Caprio movie 'The beach' it's simply amazing surrounded by 2 steep limestone cliffs that rise vertically out of the crystal clear emerald green water.

Snorkelling around the islands is one of the most amazing experiences having the chance to see colourful fishes, corals and even sharks!

On the speed boat from Krabi to Phi Phi Don, southwest of Thailand
Bamboo lsland... paradise near Phi Phi Don, southwest of Thailand






Bamboo island... paradise near Phi Phi Don, southwest of Thailand


Bamboo island... paradise near Phi Phi Don, southwest of Thailan


Dragon fruit in a fruit market on the streets of Phi Phi Don. Thailan
 
This was a bit scary as we were snorkelling around Phi Phi Don, southwest of Thailand

Snorkelling and sailing around Maya Beach (Phi Phi Leh), southwest of Thailand


Sornkelling and sailing around Maya Beach (Phi Phi Leh), southwest of Thailand

Leaving Maya Beach (Phi Phi Leh) at dusk, southwest of Thailand

Durian fruit on the streets of Phi Phi Don, southwest of Thailand



































































































From western to eastern islands: Koh Tao!

It's really easy to move around Thailand as there are plenty linked trips by bus, boat, plain, etc. Leaving Phi Phi Don early in the morning and after a long journey by boat-bus-boat I got to super touristic Koh Samui at the end of the day, stopping just for a few hours and carrying on my boat trip to my little paradise Koh Tao, where I spent the last week of my holidays.

Koh Tao may not be the most gorgeous island from Thailand, but its tiny size and laid back village make it the perfect place for a relaxing holidays. Accommodation is cheap and location is simply gorgeous. My bungalow made of bamboo was a few steps from the sea and I've got the privilege of sleeping while listening to the sound of the sea, watching the most amazing sunsets from my balcony while having a Singha beer.
Along the beach there are many restaurants that offer fresh fish and sea food, chill out bars and beach bars with thai cushions to relax and enjoy fire games spectacles. As well as scuba diving schools and a wide range of massage and pampering sessions to treat yourself even more!

As it's a small island it's really easy to move around and enjoy the different beaches like Mango Bay, which is a short trip by taxi boat and it's really worth it to spend the day there, having lunch at the restaurant on the top of the hill while enjoying the stunning view of the bay from the terrace.

Nang Yuang Island is a little paradise located at only 15' by boat from Koh Tao and its stunning beaches are one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The little islands are interconnected by a long white sandy beach and the clear emerald water has an untouched coral reefs. This stunning panoramic scene can be seen from the top of the hill which is reachable by a foot path.

Long beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand

Long Beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand


Warning sign underneath palm trees in Long Beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand :)



Lovely Thai people selling corn on the cab in Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand
Sunset at Long Beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand

Fire games on the beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand
Dusk seen from my bungalow in Long Beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand

Nuang Yuang Island, near Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand



Stunning panoramic view of Nuang Yuang Island, near Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand

Triggerfish as seen while snorkelling around Nuang Yuang Island, southeast of Thailand

A shoal in Mango Bay, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand. Paradise!

Long Beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand











Chilling out at my bungalow made of bamboo in Long Beach, Koh Tao, southeast of Thailand

bye bye paradise... bye bye Koh Tao... bye bye Thailand :(

Sadly my holidays met the end of the glorious days in paradise and I found myself on board of the ferry that took me to Thailand mainland, where a coach was waiting for me to take me back to Bangkok. The total journey from Koh Tao to Bangkok took me around 8h. Final destination was Hua Lamphong Station, from where I caught a taxi to Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport...


Koh Tao seen from the ferry to Thailand mainland... :(