Sunday and Monday
On Sunday we left Koh Phi Phi on our merry way to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. The morning trip started with a short long boat ride across the bay trying not get our luggage wet.
We then boarded a bigger boat that would take us to Phuket. Annoyingly the sea was quite rough due to the storm the night before. Needless to say the boat rocked up and down and from side to side. Quite a few passengers were sick. Heidi and I on the otherhand had our trusty travel bands on and we managed to ride the 2 hour journey without feeling (too) ill.
At this point we should say that Thailand has had its worst weather ever for this time of year. Usually it’s quite sunny and hot around now. I must admit I quite like the temperature, it’s very comfortable.
From the pier at Phuket we caught a bus to the airport and then a short hour flight to Bangkok. We stayed in a place just outside of the airport for the night.
On Monday we travelled to down town Bangkok to the hotel where our month long Indochina Encompassed tour with Gap Adventures would start. We checked in and found out we were meeting our group later that evening.
Since it was still early in the day, we caught a bus to Khao San road. This is the really touristy part where only tourists, mainly the backpacker traveller type, visit. We wanted to experience it and it was very interesting. You get hassled by people trying to sell you suits or a ride in their Tuk Tuk.
We really like the city so far, it’s chaotic and very different to Europe. The traffic in the city centre is mental! There are cars, taxis, motorbikes and Tuk Tuks everywhere! All the pavements are crammed too with street sellers on them selling everything from delicious looking food to bracelets and jewellery.
In the evening we met with our tour group. We first met Mark who is our tour leader or CEO (Chief Experience Officer) as GAP like to call them. He is a really nice guy, originally from Blackburn, who has guided around Asia for many years now. We then met Carolyn from London who is travelling on her own around Southeast Asia.
The fourth person in our group was Rhonda from Canada who didn’t arrive until later that night due to a delayed flight.
After Mark gave us an introductory talk our small group went into town for some lovely dinner at a restaurant next to the river. We had some nice food, a nice chat and then a drink later at a bar on the Khao San road before heading back.
We woke in time for breakfast and met Rhonda who arrived during the night. After breakfast our group were taken to a pier on the river where a long boat picked us up to take us on a tour of the canals. It was very interesting and we even got to feed hundreds of catfish. Apparantly 2 Maillion people live on the houses on the stilt houses along the river!
Next, we went to Wat Po, one of the many Buddhist temples in the city and home to the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. It was huge! The temples here are really beautiful and decorated in great detail. You have to take your shoes off if you go into any of these temples. 4 of the structures at Wat Po contain the ashes of some of the early kings in Thailand.
We then caught a boat across the river to Wat Arun, another temple and slightly different in appearance to the gold lined temples at Wat Po but beautiful nonetheless.
After that we walked to the Grand Palace, again full of beautiful gold and sparkly buildings and temples and full of gold Budhas everywhere. The place was huge and is used for state ceremonies and also contains government buildings.
After getting some food, we went back to the hotel to prepare for our trip to our next destination Chiang Mai.
We crossed the road to the station where we caught an overnight train to Chang Mai. I was expecting the sleeper cabins to be quite grubby and similar in design to the overnight trains I’ve caught before in Spain and France. I was really surprised when the beds were set-up that you had a huge bed with curtains making it very spacious and private. There were two beds per section and Heidi got the top bunk which was slightly smaller but Heidi’s only teeny tiny anyway
We arrived about 8am at Chiang Mai station. Waiting for us was a Mainibus that drove us to our guest house, which is a very nice comfortable place in a great location.
One of the things we were told to do in Chiang Mai was Thai cooking lessons so we immediately booked up on the half day course and left got picked up straight away.
We were driven to the house were the lessons took place. Waiting for us were the other people doing the same. Two Aussies called Cleo and Cheryl and a Californian called Nicole. They were very nice and great fun.
The first thing we did was go to the local market where the teacher (a lady named Oy) explained all the different types of ingredients to us including the many varieties of rice, herbs, spices, sauces and mushrooms.
We were then given everything we needed to cook our 4 chosen dishes which were Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup, Thai Green/Red Curry and Spring Rolls.
The whole lessons were superb! Oy basically showed us what to do and we followed her lead. She did it in a way that we could learn about all the ingredients and how they go together. It was really interesting and great fun! Best of all though was eating the final product after our hard work! The dishes were delicious! I felt like a professional chef!
Later in the afternoon we visited another Buddhist Temple (called Doi Suthep) as an included activity on our tour. This one was up in the hills high above the city of Chiang Mai. It was very similar to the ones we’d already seen. The most spectacular part were the long flight of stairs that led up to the temple from the bottom.
In the evening we visited the night bazaar, a series of market stalls lit up by lots of lights. It was very nice and they sold lots of touristy tat that souvenir lovers like to buy. The areas the market covered was huuge! We had a nice meal before retiring back to the guest house.