Koh Samet and swimming with the fishes.

I was up and out early again this morning, sat outside Olly’s to use the WiFi and have a water while watching the world go by. Next thing I know there’s loads of music, cheering, and general merriment! Some kind of small parade was making it’s way through the street.

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It was barely 8am and already scorching so I can see why they did it at this time. I’ve no idea what it was for though.

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I went back to the house with Leia wondering what all the noise was about. Today we had decided to try a beach further south than the original one. So beach gear in hand we spent 20 minutes or so walking up the road till we saw a sign for Ao Thub Thim, a beach that was meant to be lovely. We got down and it was spread in front of us, hardly anyone else around, a little cove with a couple of restaurants set back from the beach. It was on the way Leia and I had bought some snorkelling gear and couldn’t wait to get it on! The sea was clear, full of fish and the best bit, rubbish free! It was almost impossible not to see fish but we headed for the rocks on one side and there we saw a myriad of them all colours and shapes. There was a platform way out in the sea so we swam towards it, watching the sea floor get further and further away.

When we got closer to the platform we saw loads of little fish all swimming underneath it, with some bigger colourful fish just on the periphery of the action. Hauling ourselves up onto the floating deck we spent some time diving and jumping in. It was a lot of fun, but we had more snorkelling to do, so we dove back in and went towards the other side of the cove. Here we saw lots of coral and even more fish, loads of sea cucumbers, hermit crabs and a few unidentified animals that disappeared into crevices along the rocks.

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It was the first time I had been snorkelling since I was little, there was a slight fear of what could be lurking out there just beyond our vision but the joy of seeing all these things out did the fear!

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We stopped for lunch, buying pineapple, snake fruit and wa wa. It was all delicious, the wa wa and snake fruit totally different to other fruit back home. More fun in the sea followed and the sun was soon starting to dip beyond the trees. We walked back along the white sand beaches and up the road to the house. I realised it took half the amount of time to walk when going the beach route.

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Cooling off with the air con and relaxing after a full day in the sea we went out to grab a bite, stopping in a plastic chair and table style place for noodles and rice. Again the food was great, and there’s loads of choice depending on how western or eastern you want to be. We fancied cake after this but the one place that looked good was closed, so we settled for treats from 7/11 and got cosy back at the house.

Koh Samet and the best beach so far.

I woke early, excited for the day, dressed I left the others sleeping and walked down the opposite direction we went in the previous night. There were several bars and restaurants along the road and two 7/11s opposite each other before you came to the entrance of the beach. You’re supposed to give a one off payment of 200baht for the upkeep of the national park but so far no one had asked for it.

Walking through a tunnel of shops selling beachwear, souvenirs and games I emerged to a gorgeous stretch of beach and water. I was so happy, kicking off my sandals my feet plunged into the sea and it was so warm already! I walked through the surf down past lots of deck chairs and bars/restaurants and started to notice a few bits of rubbish here and there which is a massive shame, but something I’ve read is quite common in these touristy areas. I reached some rocks with a mermaid statue perched ontop.

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I walked back up the beach and back to the house where the others were just rising. We all got ready, bought a bat and ball set on the way and soon had our spot on the beach. Immediately we were in the water, enjoying the warmth and how clear it was, you good see fish swimming past (and a glass bottle 😦 )

Even with a couple of bits of plastic floating around it was paradise compared to the cities we’d come from, especially the sadness of Phnom Penh. We spent a few hours there lapping up the sun, soaking in the water and chatting to a couple of women in the sea. It was then that I started to worry about burning, plus I was starving. So we packed up and went in search of food, do we stopped off at a place near the entrance of the beach, eating papaya salad, rice and chicken and seafood.

We went back to the house to cool off and chill out, had a bit of a siesta until Leia was gagging for pizza. So went to a place called funky monkey where Leia and Liam had pizza and I stuck to rice with egg and vegetables. The women from earlier had mentioned a fireshow at a bar called Ploy out on the beach front, so we went there and got a seat second from the front and a beer. Four people near us ordered the most food ever and got a tower of beer! It looked well good, but I wasn’t ready for that yet. I tried out the google star map app and found Neptune and andromeda as we waited for the show. Some sparks in the distance heralded the beginning of the show. There were 11 guys and one girl in total and they started doing some regular tricks and moves out on the beach.

Next thing they were on a stage at the front of Ploy bar and doing loads of impressive tricks and twirls.

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They came running through the crowd, blowing fire in the air and carrying on the show, once they got to the beach the bar blared out 90s techno music while they acrobatically lept around, standing on shoulders and doing all sorts of flicks. It was pretty cool and there’s always that ‘danger’ element with fire.

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The finale was a different type of fire, which sprayed sparks up and away from the performers, it was a good way to end the show and looked spectacular.

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With the show ended lots of people went out to play with the fire etc, two Thai girls asked for their picture with me, totally felt like a celebrity haha. With that I was ready for bed, I am not much of a party animal in Thailand. I got back and relaxed, the others arrived 45 minutes later and it was bedtime! Tomorrow, snorkelling!

A long and stressful journey.

Up at 6:30am the breakfast was served on the rooftop which was lovely, and a French guy asked if Leia and I were Spanish which gave us a good tan confidence boost!

We had to be at the tourist office at 7:30, we got there in time and were put in a minivan to take a 5 minute journey to then be put on a larger coach. It’s about a 3 hour journey to the border so we napped most of the way. Upon being dropped off in poipet we went straight through departure immigration before a guy found us and offered us a minibus for 500baht each to Koh Samet. Telling us it would take 4 hours and left at 12, this was perfect as we needed to get to the last ferry at 5pm.
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We made it through Thai immigration no problem and he was there waiting for us. We were very wary as I had read that there’s a lot of dodgy cons going on at this border crossing. The guy led us to an office where they called the minivan and chatted away to us. Then the boss asked me for the money upfront while the others were in the toilet, when I checked how long it would take he said 6 hours!

No way would we get the ferry with that and if we missed it it could cost up to £40-50 for a speedboat over to the island. We told him we would get a taxi as we knew we could get one for 2500baht, however he said he would ring one for us but that it would cost 3000baht. I politely declined and we left to go to the atm, at this point he followed us and started betting annoyed saying we should pay and get in the minivan like we had agreed. It was a little confrontational for my liking but we just said no thank you, we need to get to the pier in time. At this he started saying it was very bad and no good, but we walked away and got a taxi easy. Although a random man in an orange hat tried to get us to tip him for helping when he hadn’t done anything! I found it hilarious and a bold move.

The taxi was great, air conditioned, playing a lot of beegees and fast! It took us around four hours with a couple of stops for coffee, toilet and for the others, ice cream!

Once we got to Ban Phe, where our ferry would depart our driver got lost! Having to ask a tour guy on a bike the way. The motorbike guy took us to a load of tour operators where they tried charging us three times the ferry price. We managed to get them down to a better amount with a bit of stressing, and the three of us were soon in a dodgy tuk tuk to the pier that could hardly steer, the whole thing shaking for the duration! The girl dropped us off at what we realised was the actual ferry point where tickets were the normal price. It was too late to argue!

The ferry was a medium sized fishing type boat which for the next hour crammed as many people and objects into it and on the roof as possible. We finally departed and within 5 minutes something was wrong, people were standing to see what was happening and a speed boat was waved over. Leia was not having a good time, worried the boat was going to sink as it slowed to halt.
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As the suspense and terror mounted, we realised one of the crew wasn’t feeling well and just needed to go back to port. The boat continued on and we arrived in Koh Samet! We were using airbnb for the first time, staying at a house rented by Olly, who turned out to be from Newcastle and owned a hostel and bar on the main street up from the port.
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We met him at the bar and he took us round to our new home, it was great, loads of space and comfy. We went for food by the pier, I enjoyed it loads, noodles with basil and chilli…yum!

We headed back to Olly’a bar, got a beer and Leia taught us some card games. Olly turned up and gave us some recommendations for the island. After a long day it was back to the house and bed time.

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Crossing the border and party town


Up and about early the next day. We were ready to hit the road and make our first border crossing. We took the hotel tuk tuk who turned back halfway there after a phone call, as I had left a portable charger that didn’t work. We were convinced it was a scam and felt pretty bad when he charged us the correct amount at immigration. From there we stamped out of Thailand and got on a cramped bus over the friendship bridge. We were stood on the bus until a girl squashed onto the backseat and insisted we sit down so we crammed onto two seats and relaxed while we watched the Mekong go past from the window. Visa control was pretty simple and we then took a 60baht each tuk tuk to Vientiane.

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We had debated the pros and cons of staying in Vientiane and after some research decided not to and we were glad we made the decision as there wasn’t much that we were interested in seeing. So we got some food and organised a ten dollar mini van to Vang Vieng. A place that doesn’t quite have the reputation of old but is still a must see spot for backpackers. Our first impression of the van wasn’t good, old and with huge cracks spread across the windscreen, it didn’t bode well. However the journey was incredible, the views amazing, as we were being thrown from side to side, up and down, and back and forth as the driver negotiated his way past pot holes, missing parts of roads, goats, motorbikes, chickens, and water buffalo. It was interesting to watch him slide across the road to overtake everything in sight and dodge oncoming vehicles. As we drove through small towns that turned into small villages we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Making our way into the mountains and forests of central Laos. Seeing the karsts for the first time was spectacular. Each time we peaked at the top of a hill we dove down into more fascinating views than before. I tried dozing off a couple of times but my head just ended up cracking off the window and I wondered if previous occupants had caused the cracks in this one.

We arrived in Vang Vieng near an old airfield and were again set upon by tuk tuk drivers offering to take us to the centre. Luckily out hotel was 2 minutes walk away and we found out later the centre was 5 minutes across the airfield

We walked down a small path to our hotel which is a collection of wooden houses surrounded by foliage. We felt like we were in paradise.

A swift re-energise and we were ready to go. Travelling had taken around 6 hours in total and we were looking forward to exploring the town.

We crossed the airfield after realising our street was devoid of life in any of the bars or restaurants and found the main street, full of backpackers, hostels and bars infamously playing friends. We sat down in one bar where you take your shoes off and lounge on a platform with a small table in front of you and ordered drinks. I went for a Lao Whiskey bucket with sprite for the equivalent of £2. It arrived in a childrens sandbucket and I was asked to check it was strong enough. I couldn’t really taste any whiskey so the host added more! The others just ordered beers as the cocktail man wasn’t arriving for another 20 minutes. By this point all I had had to eat were some cashews and pretzel sticks so I headed out into the night to find some street food. As Laos was a former French colony they have baguettes and pancakes everywhere, so I opted for a hotdog, bacon and cheese baguette. It was sublime, lots of filling and greasy, just what I needed for a night on the town. Arriving back to Leia and Liam hunched over a mango daquiri bucket I was offered to taste it as they had decided it tasted like grass, which it did, Grass soaked in Bacardi. Tonight would be a fun night.

We decided to check out the rest of the centre and wandered round spotting people returning from the tubing we were going to be doing the next day.

We settled down in a bar playing friends, something I had read was quite popular in bars here. It was comfy we had beer and the temperature was perfect. After a couple of beers here and a pancake for Leia we knew the Manchester derby was on so we went looking for a bar with the game on and duly found a busy street with an Irish pub playing the football. It’s regrettable that we’ve ended up in two Irish bars in 6 days but needs must!

The place itself was filled with the obnoxious sounding travellers we were worried about coming across. Glazed looks on there faces and girls two drunk to string a sentence being seduced by several guys.

We got a £1 beerlao and found a seat with a partially obscured view and soaked in the atmosphere. It was actually quite fun but we’re not the best bunch to strike up conversation so it was left to Liam to chat to an irish girl who announced she had slept with a German guy earlier in the day but who later went home with a Canadian man. Maybe the hedonistic vibe of Vang Vieng still survives. We got chatting to the Canadian man’s Canadian friend who had never met a Welsh person and barely knew who Tom Jones was.

Several beers later and we stumbled back to the hotel via pancake and burger stalls ready for tubing the next day.

Nong Khai and the unexpected guest.

Waking up on the train and spending the last hour chatting to a fellow traveller who had engulfed my nostrils all night with an interesting smell was an interesting way to start the day. We arrived in Nong Khai after 9 hours and were immediately set upon by tuk tuk drivers wanting to take us to the border, we just wanted to go to the hotel! So we agreed our price and set off through a calmer, laid back city.

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The hotel was just out of town, we would find out how far later on. We arrived to big Sawatdee smiles and managed somehow to get into our room at 8am. I’m not sure whether places just don’t care for check in times of the room is ready or if they feel sorry for us as we look a mess 90% of the time.

The hotel itself was alongside the Mekong river, surrounded by fields and exotic foliage. After watching/reading/hearing so much about this immense river it was great to finally see it. A great brown snake slowly slithering towards the ocean.

The hotel room was great for the price (a fiver each) with a single bed pushed up to a double to make for some interesting sleeping arrangements. Some who are reading this blog will know I’m not great with creepyw crawlies and I have found myself looking over a room for potential entry points or hiding spots. This room was no different.

I asked Liam to look under the bed if I lifted the covers and he refused, so I jokingly lifted them and next thing a lizard came scuttling across the side of the bed! Liam and I jumped a foot in the air screaming to Leia that we had a guest. Lizzie the lizard! We soon realised that lizzie had brought the whole family and that this hotel was crawling with cute little lizards. A bonus as they’d keep the creepy crawlies away.

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Anyway, we headed out to Sala Keoku, a sculpture park designed by a Laos man inspired by Asian mythology. I agreed a 200 baht price with the hotel lady and a guy gave us a lift in his truck, but when we got there he charged us 300! I was sure I heard 200 but we realised later this was his own little scam. It was only 60p each extra so we paid and headed to the park.

Sala Keoku was incredible, it’s only small but the statues were crazy. Some of them towering 50 feet or so above you. The highlight being a multiheaded snake that was so big it blotted out the sun. It’s just a shame we couldn’t read Thai as there was writing underneath all the statues.

There was a wheel of life which you entered through a big mouth, elephants, snakes, Buddhas, archers, skeletons and warriors. We all loved it and it gave us some great photo ops.

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We then headed to a nearby crocodile farm, something that hadn’t been on any lists of things to do in Nong Khai which should have been a warning. We were expecting lush watery pens with different crocodiles. What we got was two Thai lads pulling and prodding the crocs around a concrete slab with a bit of water around the outside before putting their hands and heads inside the crocs mouth. We weren’t impressed and it just felt sad that a Buddhist country could treat animals this way. The most exciting part was seeing a giant Centipede make it’s way past us all.

After this downer we jumped in a tuk tuk after Liam spent 5 minutes explaining we would pay 100b for all of us to get back into town, not 100b each. We got dropped off by an ATM in what we thought was the centre of Nong Khai. We got this very wrong. After walking for about an hour last the same shops selling different equipment and food we thought we would walk along the Mekong so went through some markets and emerged onto a promenade full of restaurants and bars looking over the river to Laos.

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After walking past the busiest restaurants that were excluded by a hot and bothered Leia because they had no air con we ended up in Brendans. An expat restaurant bar selling Thai food alongside cooked breakfasts and steak.

We ordered chicken and cashew, pork and cashew and prawn sweet and sour. They came and they were all a weird shop bought looking sweet and sour sauce with carrots onions and tomatoes. Things I hadn’t really seen much of so far in Thailand. Leia wolfed hers down but I was dissatisfied after the amazing flavours of previous meals and left half of it, something I rarely do.

(Partly) Filled up and undecided on what else to do we headed towards a park that looked close on the map and was heading back to the hotel. After walking for an hour there was still no park and we were on the outskirts of town. Liam checked where we were and we were a 30 minute walk from the hotel so we set off to relax and get ready to hit the town on a Saturday night.

The walk was horrendous, the sun wasn’t too hot but along the road there were several stray dogs that took a liking to Liam and his bright yellow t shirt. I marched on and it was actually nice to see different homes, shops and restaurants on the walk. I think the locals found us very strange to be trekking up this main road. We made it back in one piece after Liam fended off the dogs with his bright green brolly.

We chilled out for a bit and planned the next few days in Laos and also checked out some Ha long bay cruises. Got ready, and slapped the deet on.

We accidentally interrupted the hotel owner’s family meal to catch a ride into town, this time ensuring everyone heard the price. The guy dropped us into town on the back of his van and pointed us in the direction of a few restaurants. We used the universally acknowledged method of choosing a restaurant by going into one which was busy with locals.

We ordered 3 Chang and had our first warm beer with ice experience. I ordered a hot and sour salad with pork which is making my mouth water just thinking about it. The flavours were intense, however it was one of the hottest things I’d ever eaten. My mouth was burning, it was eye watering and according to Leia (who laughed) and Liam my face was bright red. I just couldn’t stop eating it! I love spicy food and this was no exception. I had to chug down my beer just to ease the pain to a modest tingling sensation. Liam also had a spicy dish of pork mince basil and rice but wisely picked the chillies out and Leia went for the safe choice of fried kale and pork. All three tasted great and makes me excited for what else we’ll try.

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In the afternoon we had noticed a stage being set up on the promenade so after paying the bill we made our way through stalls and stalls of food and gifts to the river. Keeping our eye out for ice cream. As luck would have it a young girl jumped out tempting us to a stall selling fried ice cream. Liam had lemon and Leia and I opted for cookie and cream flavour. It was delicious, cornflakes on the bottom the fried ball of ice cream then drizzled with sauce and sweets. We couldn’t get enough of it. With big grins on our faces we went over to the stage to watch Thai people do their version of a barn dance. Crazy country music blared out over the river while they danced in sync with each other. It looked really fun but even a man insisting we dance couldn’t get us down there, our bravery would need to be built up.

It was such a great atmosphere and a real Saturday night. We ended up in a bar full of local teenagers drinking vast amounts of whiskey and beers and smoking like chimneys.

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This was all soundtracked by a girl and guy act with a guitar and box for the guy to drum. It was a perfect evening. Due to the time difference at 9pm a big screen came to life and the Chelsea v West Ham game came on. Many of the Thais seemed to be Man Utd fans so Chelsea got a lot of boos which I enjoyed.

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The bar workers came to the table to fill up glasses with beer and ice but somehow always did Liam’s glass and never mine! Maybe they were hinting I didn’t need anymore. After a few beers we went back to the hotel, refusing to pay the tuk tuk driver more than 100b to get us there. Maybe we were finally getting good at this whole thing.

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Day 4, Lumphini Park and the search for beer

Day 4 started off much like days 1 to 3. Up and ready, mess about trying to pack properly, bit of breakfast and off we went.

We found out the reason the train was booked up was due to a public holiday today, which also meant things closed early so we were limited on what to do.

Also I use the BBC weather app regardless of the fact it has never got the weather correct, so today we were in for heavy showers in the evening. With this in mind we headed to Lumphini park. Somewhere I would definitely recommend. It was a blue sky and hot sun type of day but the park was an nice open space so we had a nice breeze running through.

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We crossed a bridge into the park and headed for a lake, as we got closer we spotted a huge lizard, followed by an even bigger one. Liam went running after it to get some quality photos and we watched one swimming through the water. It was a great spectacle and the type of thing we’ve all only ever seen in a zoo.

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We carried on walking round the park past a nice old clock tower which struck 12 just as we went past. We spotted some swan pedalos but unfortunately it was only two to a ped so it would mean leaving one out, but at only 40b for 30 mins it would ‘ve been a fun thing to do.

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We walked past various flowers, coconut trees and animal life and had cyclists zooming past us. It was such a pleasant experience and seeing the towering skyscrapers on the periphery reminded me of central park. Only Asian. After this we decided on a little rice bar for lunch and it turned out to be Korean, so I was in my element. I ordered rice, kimchi and Korean wings which were all very tasty. Leia had chicken noodles and egg and Liam had black bean noodles. We even got complimentary miso type soup.

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After this we planned on going to the red cross snake farm where they ‘milk’ the poison from venomous snakes to create the anti venom, but got there and it was closed due to the holiday. Definitely should’ve done the 108 lucky coins at Wat Pho.

On our way to the snake farm we saw a statue of a previous king and joined in on bowing to him as everyone else did, even car drivers going past not looking at the road!

As the snake farm was closed we decided to head towards a building that was built to look like a robot which was pretty cool but something to just see on your way to…..

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The Hindu temple Sri Mariamman, this was a very intricate and pretty building with vibrant colours, we just viewed it from the outside as our sweaty feet were no place for a sacred temple. On the way whilst crossing a road I heard Liam shout “Omg a rat” and suddenly saw a huge rat run in front of me, hit a moving car, run under it and scuttle into a hole by a tree. This wouldn’t be the last time we saw rats out in the open in daytime, but it didn’t bother us, everything is just exciting at the moment.

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The snake farm being closed and not wanting to head into the temple caused us timing issues as everywhere else we wanted to go was closed or closing before we could make it there so there was only one thing to do.

Get a beer, this proved more difficult than we thought as we wandered through hotels unable to find the bar, past craft ale bars charging a fiver for half a beer and being told by a hostel information guide that there was no cheap beer to be found except maybe a 7/11. A fitting way to go in our current state of sweat and dirty. Liam managed to buy a drink that tasted the same as mine on the first day and we identified it as Genmai – roasted brown rice. One to avoid definitely!

Silom where we were staying seemed busy so we sky trained it over there and saw an Irish bar a stones throw from the station. At this point we were grossly sweaty and needed prolonged air con so we headed in, paid £3 for a beer and relaxed. Deciding to check flights for Vientiane to Hanoi to avoid the rumoured 24-30 hour bus journey we booked ones for around £70 each from Luang Prabang. We were 20 minutes early for happy hour so had another pint of Chang/Singa. Now I don’t know whether it’s the heat or the strength of the beer but we were well on our way after two! Enjoying the cool temperature and music.

Unfortunately time flew by and we were off to pick our stuff up and head back to Hua Lamphong station knowing we had tickets for the night train.

Upon arrival we stocked up on various food and drinks including custard sponge cakes and pizza sticks I recognised from Japan, SO good, and went to the platform, it was exactly as I imagined it with a hulking old train and old school carriages. There was even a restaurant car! We found our spots, two top bunks and one bottom bunk. This was all very exciting for me as the thought of sleeping in my own little compartment on a train heading through the country to awake somewhere new is something I’ve always wanted to do. I almost got the chance to from Sofia to Istanbul but due to line works ended up on a bus, which wasn’t the same at all.

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8pm sharp we were off! They came round and converted the lower seats into one bed and did an immaculate job on the sheets, better than my hospital corners even. Once the beds were ready (Leia half did hers before the guards shouted down to give them 5 minutes and a Thai also told us to wait) we jumped in, freshened up and settled down ready for the next adventure. Nong Khai and the border crossing.

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Day 3, exploring the temples and the train that wasn’t. 


The next day we reluctantly got up and even though tired, headed back out on the sky train to the boat, once off the sky train we had our first tropical storm. It.was.mental. the crashing thunder and the forked lightning over the river was an amazing spectacle. I just can’t believe they have this on an almost daily basis! After a long wait for the boat due to the storm we ended up at Maharaj dock again, this time we got milk and jelly drinks which tasted immense.

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We headed to the grand palace to see what the number one attraction in Bangkok was like. We didn’t make it. With the rain still pouring we saw crowds and crowds of people, some barefoot, stood in the entrance of the palace with water past their ankles flowing past.

The palace had flooded! We even saw catfish in the streams of water running down past the pavement. Tuk tuk drivers frantically shouting to their colleagues to slow down before they hit them.

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With this discovery we headed to Wat Pho, past a man with a giant snake offering it to people to hold, I was tempted but didn’t have the guts to do it. So we headed into the temple.

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It was incredible, very peaceful and hardly any tourists there. The only time you noticed them was looking at the Reclining Buddha which was huge and very beautiful. I wish I had spent the 20 baht and put 108 coins in 108 bowls along the wall. After that we explored more of the temple checking out the stone giants, crocodile pond and made it to the gold Buddha where, as novices to Buddhism we went in and copied the man next to us. Praying for peace love and prosperity for all. Hopefully Buddha was listening but I feel what happened later in the day wasn’t a good sign.

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After wandering around the temple a bit more and making friends with some cats we headed out to be told the grand palace was now closed for the day. So we went to a small shop for food where it was just us 3 and we chose from a selection. Liam had chicken and Asian cabbage which tasted a bit like the sea, I had spicy pork and a Thai noodle soup and Leia had chicken and ginger which was super spicy! It was all delicious and came to only 170b which is like £3.20!! After this we went looking for the forensic museum. (which we still haven’t found) So we headed back and on the way got fantastic coconut ice cream with peanuts served in half a fresh coconut! For 40b!! (Like, 80p for 3 scoops) sooooo good. Picked our bags up and headed for the 8pm night train to Nong Khai. We arrived at hua lamphong station after negotiating the busy rush hour through sky train and the underground and sweating profusely. To be told the train was fully booked. Oops! This is where our carefree attitude of just see what happens gets us. This just meant we got to spend longer in Bangkok, so we quickly booked a nearby hotel, ‘Urban House’ and headed there. At this point I think all the travelling had caught up with us and we were ready to relax. So we got to the hotel at around 7:45 only to see a sign saying the staff would be back at 9!

This is when our packing light really came to the fore. I can’t imagine dragging around a 60L backpack after all this trekking around. So we wandered back to the nearest place with air con and got burgers! To be fair they were amazing burgers for the equivalent of a fiver. Leia even said they were the best she ever had! After this we stocked up on water and honey lemon ice tea, checked into the hotel which was again super friendly and bedded down for the night. Ending up in Bangkok for another night was actually a great experience even if we did just relax.

Day 2, Exploring Bangkok

I awoke this morning to the chill of the air con and a gorgeous view over the city. A quick shower and we were ready to face the city we had heard so much about. A few things so far, we have been surprised how clean everything is, and how friendly the people are, not once have we felt like we are being taken advantage of and people will actively seek to help you even if you’re not buying their goods. Oh and we finally got a selfie stick something that just had to be done to complete our look of utter tourists.

We decided to head to Chinatown and a quick Google got us on a sky train headed to the river. From here we paid 40 baht for a one way trip on a boat up Chao Phraya. This was a lot of fun, so much so that we failed to realise that we had to go to the back of we wanted them to stop! So we sailed past No.5 dock and decided to get off at No.6.

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This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we wandered through the streets we started walking through some amazing markets, selling all sorts of vegetables, spices and flowers. The smells, the colours and the sounds were a sense overload but in the best way possible, it was overwhelming at times, our heads going side to side to take everything in.

I got a drink I thought I recognised as honey lemon I had the night before but it turned out to be a strange unpleasant flavour similar to stale pungent cake. Obviously I finished it though.

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We headed out of the market and saw a park that looked nice from a distance, as we entered we soon realised that it looked a bit dodgy but as we turned back I saw what I though was the last part of a snake slither under a bin!

Obviously Liam headed towards it camera in hand like a young Attenborough. As he did though the real owner of the tail scuttled past, it was a huge lizard! Definitely the biggest I have seen in the wild. It was probably the size of a small cat. This was a reminder that we were going to see all sorts of creatures and was exciting, especially as we then saw something resembling a squirrel in the trees above us!

We headed out of the park and in the general direction we thought Chinatown should be. Wandering past various stalls and shops. It really is a wonder of anyone cooks at home at all the amount of mouth watering food on offer on every street. We also utilised 7/11s and malls to enjoy the air con and cool down

Eventually after asking we found Chinatown, we wandered through but after seeing markets all morning it didn’t have quite the same charm and I’m not sure if where we were was exactly the right part. Although we did get to see Buddhist monks walking through the streets!

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So we jumped into our first tuk tuk to head over to the grand palace, what an experience, speeding through the traffic for around ten minutes was so fun. It also felt pretty safe which was a surprise after hearing about their notoriety.

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When we got off their were some girls feeding pigeons who immediately tried to put corn in our hands, Leia and I just walked through but Liam managed to get given a bag and had to quickly give it back and run away. If we wanted to feed pigeons we would’ve stayed in Manchester.

Next up was a trip down Khao San Rd. Another notorious experience in Bangkok. However we went in the day and it didn’t seem like much was going on. It was the first place we had been that was filled with tourists and the first place with people really pushing to sell you stuff. We stopped for a beer and Leia had the first pad thai of the trip. Luckily the Arsenal v Bayern game was on from the night before so I got to watch that. Again we experienced the friendliness of Bangkok.

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After wandering to the end of the street we headed back down towards the Grand Palace to Maharaj dock. On the way a man stopped me and tried to convince me to go to a giant buddha and a reclining buddha in a special taxi for 20 baht. I politely refused as I could smell a scam and it wouldn’t be the first time a random man on the street would offer this amazing deal. There’s part of me that wants to see scar happens but I’m not willing to part with hard earned baht to do it.

So we end up at the dock which was lovely, a very modern mini mall where I got an amazing custard crepe and Leia had a shaved ice thing with green tea flavours. After enjoying this we headed back to the hotel and the terrace pool.

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I’ve talked a little about Sivatel but this pool was amazing, infinity over looking nearby buildings. It was a special moment and we took advantage of my underwater camera to take some funny pics. It was nice to relax after a day of walking round and we were still tired from the plane. As the sun went down lights came on in the pool which made it more beautiful and it was lovely and warm.

After relaxing we got ready and headed to a nearby roof bar called the Speakeasy, it was a 10 minute walk from our hotel in a lovely classic building, it made me think of Bangkok when Brits first came and brought their own luxuries with them. The bar was amazing. With views of Bangkok at night and a Michelin star chef menu to choose from. It was done up all 20s America with modern rap and RnB on which made for an interesting vibe.

After enjoying the food, drinks and dessert for Liam and Leia we went to find Sukhumvit as I had read that it had a vibrant and more up market red light type district than Nana. However after wandering through a middle eastern quarter and the rain starting to pour we realised it was back to Nana and this time we ended up in Bigdogs bar after finding ourselves in a dead end full of special “shows” and bars full of Thai girls and old western men. I think we all found it a bit of a shock to see how open everything was. It also made us feel bad for the girls, I guess I don’t know enough about it but some were very young and were leading or being led away by men easily in their 60s and 70s it was also crazy how many younger men were wandering around including what looked like a Dad and Son. I think I’d like to know more about it all after this experience. After a few beers and losing Liam to a European expat for an hour we headed back to the hotel.

The Hotel, and our first day in Bangkok

Arriving at the Sivatel Hotel on the very efficient skytrain was fun even with our packs, we were so glad we had brought only 30L backpacks. I’ll probably discuss the pros and cons of packing light later in our journey.

Sivatel Hotel was incredible. We booked it around May this year after deciding we wanted to have a luxurious couple of nights before we became smelly, sweaty backpackers. Boy did it deliver! 5* service when we arrived, and the rooms were amazing. We booked a two bedroom suite for £300 for two nights. We got two king size beds, showers and baths big enough for four people and all the mod cons. The three of us were jumping around the rooms with excitement despite the lack of sleep. I think it’s important to try and enjoy yourself as much as possible regardless of how you’re feeling in these situations. We knew it would be an early night so we had an hours power nap and got ready to hit Bangkok at 6pm.

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True to form we left the hotel not really knowing where we were going or what we were doing. We headed down past Ploen Chit sky train and had our first ‘we’re in Asia’ moment. Crossing an old abandoned train track in the middle of skyscrapers with stalls selling all sorts of meats and fruit, looking down these tracks we could see lights and stalls all the way round. It was incredible. After waiting for Liam to take some pictures with his mega camera we carried on down the road, seeing an interesting road we headed off down it.

The first thing we see? A lovely lady selling bugs! Before we left Leia and I agreed we would try things like this no matter what. So for 30 baht we got a bagful of crickets and found a quiet spot to try them. I would probably say they aren’t going to be a popular snack on the journey but they were nice enough, crunchy, bbq-y but it’s hard to shake that though of what you’re eating.

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As we continued down the road I started to notice the wealth of western men in the bars and no western women. We spotted a bar with cheap Chang and headed in to be confronted with three Thai girls dressed up in anime/maid in the midwest style clothes who excitedly ushered us to a table and got us drinks. I’m not the best at not making eye contact and soon had two Thai women asking me to play pool with them, however it was at this point we realised we had made it to Nana and it’s red light district. It was fun though and brought up a bit of conversation on what the Bangkok sex trade is like.

After one beer we went on the hunt for food, Liam found a chicken thigh cooked on hot coals in front of us and Leia went for some fresh watermelon. We skytrained it over to Siam and found a food court type place where we had tom yum, tofu, boiled chicken, fried pork and rice. The food was amazing and we had our first experience with live bugs crawling around the place. It didn’t actually bother us and as Leia remarked, we were eating bugs the night before so couldn’t really be grossed out.

After filling up on food we headed through the extensive markets through Siam to the national stadium where everything was so cheap it helped justify our decision to pack light. It was also interesting to see how little attention the locals paid us as we walked past each stall.

Being 28 and 30 and old beyond our years we were at this point haggard, limping and ready for bed so we headed back to the hotel and dozed off ready to rejuvenate and see more of Bangkok in the morning.