Friday, April 20, 2012

Tantalizing Thailand! Where beauty meets gastronomy and adventure!

Forgive me readers for I have procrastinated.  It's been over two months since my last blog rendition.  In my defense, I have been pretty busy with the new school year and getting back to the grind (although it's hardly a grind at all).  But I confess that in my free time, I haven't had the blog much in mind.  Instead, I've been reading, endlessly surfing the web for travel deals, and working out.  (Yes, I finally decided to start getting back in shape through "Insanity"... literally) But now that I've accepted that I've let you and myself down, I will try and get back on the wagon and catch up the last couple of months of our lives.  We've been pretty active, doing a lot of things, seeing a lot of places and enjoying every minute of it!  So here is the final installment of our Winter vacation trip:  Thailand!  Enjoy!

It was just past noon when we set foot aground on Thai soil for the first time.  After an unusually long wait to get past immigration, we hopped on a train headed toward the famous backpacker/tourist spot, Khao San Road.  Since the train doesn't reach our destination, we hired a Tuk Tuk (a mini taxi) to take us the rest of the way.  As we weaved through the busy streets of Bangkok at incredible speeds, the wind cooling us from the scorching heat, we felt alive and excited.
Just arrived...

Our first Tuk Tuk ride

Our tuk tuk driver dropped us off at the doorstep of our hostel.  NapPark was a very clean, quiet and beautiful hostel, very well rated on, located just a short walk away from KhaoSan road which made it truly perfect.  Close enough to the action, but far enough from all the hustle and bustle.  Upon registration, I picked up our train tickets to Surat Thani that the travel company had delivered for us.  After freshening up, we set out to explore this tourist stronghold to see what all the fuss was all about.  We were only spending a little over 24 hours in Bangkok so we had to make the most of it!

The juice guy
On the first street corner we crossed, we stopped for some fresh squeezed fruit juice for 30 baht, which roughly converts to $1 CAD.  Our walk brought us past many shopping stands, restaurants and street vendors where everything was incredibly cheap.  We stopped for a few drinks here and there, Jen bought some shirts, but we couldn't seem to find KhaoSan road.  Finally, we crossed this small enclosed street that smelled of sweat and sewage and came out on the other end right in the middle of all the action of the famous destination.  It was a sensory overload!  KhaoSan is but a short road but it is jam packed with restaurants, shops, street vendors and foreigners.  Back when I was planning this part of the trip, I had decided to keep Bangkok to a short visit because of all the horror stories we had read of this spot and the over saturation of foreigners and pressure selling.   While we found both these things to be true, we had to visit the set of the opening scenes of "The Island" featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.  We also found that KhaoSan road had a very distinct allure that we thoroughly enjoyed.  During the day, when it's hot and muggy, you can actually get around quite easily.  Once the sun goes down however, the night creatures come out to party and drink the night away, so it becomes pretty crowded and little annoying.  One night was more than enough for us!  We enjoyed the company of some awesome people from New Zealand, tasted the best street food to ever hit my palate ($1 Pad Thai anyone?), got an hour long foot massage for $5, and even adventured into the culinary experience of eating a fried cricket.  All in all, our stay at KhaoSan road was just what we expected... but the cheap fruit juices and tasty pad thai sure exceeded our expectations.

Refreshing Chang!!! less than $3 for the big bottle!
KhaoSan Road
My favourite Pad Thai lady
Serving up a feast for $1
Wat Phra Kaew
The next morning, after some more street pad thai and fruit juice for breakfast, we set out to explore the many treasures of Bangkok.  Our first stop was at Wat Phra Kaew, the temple of the Emerald Buddha and the adjoining Grand Palace.  While it was unpleasantly crowded and we were forced to rent clothing to wear over our "inappropriate" clothes despite the smoldering heat, the temple was quite breathtaking and well worth the long wait.  We spent close to an hour exploring its many cracks and crevices while taking numerous photos of the awe-inspiring golden statues and architecture.  The temple even has a model of Angkor Wat to go along with many other South East Asian Buddhist rituals (putting money on the head of statuettes, etc.).  The highlight, of course, was the actual Emerald Buddha itself, enshrined inside the main temple building in the middle of everything.  Wat Phra Kaew is an absolute must see for anyone visiting Bangkok.

Model of Angkor Wat

Saw coins... put coins

The Reclining Buddha
Our next stop was Wat Pho, or the temple of the reclining Buddha, which we finally reached in mid-afternoon after following a map that had the North to the left and forgot to mention it. (So yes, we took the "long" way.)  But again, it was well worth it!  The reclining Buddha statue is the largest in Thailand and the temple itself holds the most images of Buddha in the country.  We spent about 45 minutes exploring this old place of worship before walking to the nearby river where we planned to take a ferry to the famed Chinatown market.  While we waited for the next ferry to dock, we decided to grab a cold beer in the restaurant by the river.  Shortly after being served, we heard an extremely loud, high pitch scream that got me to my feet instantly, just in time to see a freakishly large water monitor slither straight towards Jen, who seemed oblivious to her surroundings.  A quick "Jen, watch out" came naturally to my lips before she instinctively jumped on her chair in time to see the huge reptile crawl underneath her seat and slide into the water.  The whole episode lasted no longer than 30 seconds but definitely made for one of the highlights of our trip.  Legs still shaking, adrenaline still pumping, we hopped onto the next ferry and were on our way, laughing it off and happy about the outcome!

Wat Pho
This is seconds before the water monitor incident!!!

Wat Arun
On the way to Chinatown, we were able to snap a few pictures of the famous Wat Arun, the temple of the Dawn, while we passed it by rocking on the gentle waves of the polluted water.  Once in Chinatown, we walked aimlessly through the narrow streets packed with tourists, locals and vendors with no particular goal in mind other than taking in the sights and the smells.  Jen stopped to buy some underwear to replace those that had been stolen in Singapore (and she was running out of clean ones... Eeeeewww.)  As the afternoon was getting late, we hired a tuk tuk to take us back to the hostel to freshen up and take in some last minute street pad thai and fruit juice before transferring over to the train station and our overnight 1st class sleeper cabin bound for Surat Thani.  When we would wake up the next morning, about 13 hours later, we would be in the Southern part of Thailand, a bus and ferry ride away from Koh Phi Phi, the famous tourist destination island, and Phuket, our final stop before getting back to reality.  But that will be for the next blog entry (which hopefully will be very soon!)

"wave" panoramic

crowded Chinatown

Jen needs underwear!

Bangkok train station

Let's do this overnight train thingy

Now that's first class

Relaxing with a Chang before leaving

Transformed into a sleeper car! 1st class all the way
 Here is a Potpourri of some pictures I didn't know where to put:
More KhaoSan road
breakfast pad thai lady
Asian Ronald
Cheap fresh fruit everywhere!
KhaoSan at night
Why not get a bucket? When in Rome!
The bucket made me do it!
Some friends we met along the way
Our New Zealand friends
The little man who made us buy roses by beating us at thumb wars

Nothing like a fresh fruit juice to get rid of the hangover on an unbearably hot day!

1 comment:

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