A Travellerspoint blog

Day 6 Chiang Mai

5th November 2012

sunny 28 °C

We both sleep really well. The bed is enormous so plenty of room to stretch out. There is a tiny dining room for breakfast so I am not sure what would happen if everyone arrived at once. However coffee is delicious and bacon and eggs cooked to order with lots of delicious fruit and yogourt as well. After talking to the young receptionists we decide to go on a river cruise to a herb and vegetable farm. The company is called and someone comes to collects us. We are told it is going to be a two hour cruise with a short stop at the farm. They have seriously undersold this as we have a good two hours on the boat and an hour at the farm. Rather unusually although the river is quite large it does not flow through the centre of Chiang Mai, and, therefore, after passing a few hotels and restaurants we find ourselves looking at quite a rural scene. The farm is a truly magical place with plenty of vegetables and herbs grown in the very fertile soil at the edge of the river. The farm buildings are made in a traditional wooden style and even the sinks and urinals are made of wood! We are served a herbal drink Tony chooses ginger and I choose lemon grass both are delicious. We are also served pineapple and watermelon. As we leave the farm the boatman shows us a small round fighting ring. Apparently one of the snake fight scenes from one of the Rambo films was shot here! On our return Tony decides he would like another massage so we go back to the prison! Then we wander around the old town and visit most of the best known temples. Late afternoon seems a good time as the monks are coming in to pray and there are not too many people about. We take a tuktuk back to the hotel and chill for a while before going out for supper. On the receptionist's recommendation we go to a lovely place called Whole Earth built in the Lanna style. Lots of lanterns and water features. I am cross as I decided not to bring my camera. We have to take our shoes off and Tony climbs the stairs without a problem. Those prison girls certainly know their stuff. The food is delicious and I enjoy a fresh lime juice while Tony has Thai beer. He did look at the wine list but the prices were expensive and for nothing that great.
Back to hotel by tuktuk to play scrabble with various people back home and for me to write up the blog. We have a relatively early start tomorrow (9am).2B62A71F2219AC6817D611E94F1A4AAF.jpg2B7702D52219AC68170440EAAFAA705C.jpg2B9C7DF72219AC6817B26252DE52B70C.jpg2BCDE5772219AC6817ED5D2914B9E055.jpg2BF499822219AC6817ED369977C8734E.jpg90_2C1E68652219AC6817B53761A69069E4.jpg

Posted by MichP 07:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 5 Chiang Mai

sunny 28 °C

We wake early. Tony is absolutely shattered but my training in couchettes meant I had a good nights sleep. The countryside is quite lovely - a mixture of jungle, then clearings with paddy fields , oxen and the occasional wooden house and heavily wooded hills. As we approach Chiang Mai we see some quite smart houses. Every so often we stop at a station. These have beautifully kept gardens and usually a station master in uniform waving a green flag. However our progress is tortuously slow. We eventually arrive in Chiang Mai an hour late apparently we are lucky as it is often delayed three hours or more. Unfortunately I couldn't work out how to stop the reflection on my camera so there are no decent pictures of the journey.
We are approached by a man as we leave the station asking if we want a taxi we negotiate the price only to find it is a songtiew (sort of shared bus with sideways seats in the back) he continues to tout for business but as we threaten to get out he reluctantly takes us into town but we have paid way over the odds for this type of transport.
Our hotel is just outside the old town so within walking distance which is good but although they take our bags we cannot get into our room until later so we decided to go to get our ticket for the bus on Wednesday and then we went to the Chiang Mai women's prison. To have yet another massage. I know you are going to be shocked at how many we are having and amazed at going to the prison but I had read they offer the best and cheapest massage in town. These girls are trained while in prison and then let loose on customers in the last six months of their sentence. The massage was excellent and we kept wondering what these sweet pretty young girls could have done as a crime. We had lunch their too and this was also delicious. Mind you the sign on the toilet door made me laugh! After that we went back to the hotel. Tony fell asleep and I was able to catch up on my blog. Early evening we went to the Sunday walking market. This was huge with lots of crafts from the hill tribes, a fair amount of tat and plenty of stalls offering food. We tried a few things but quite a lot of it was deep fried so i didn't fancy it but Tony managed to find some sausages that he enjoyed. As we get more used to what is on offer am sure we will become more adventurous. F771AAC42219AC6817EF2268AB029A54.jpgF798CA9F2219AC68171E4A4A9E54F602.jpgF7A973C22219AC68173718D239D07020.jpg

Posted by MichP 07:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 4 Bangkok

3rd November 2012

sunny 35 °C

We wake in good time and have a leisurely breakfast on the terrace. it is another lovely day and there is always a slight breeze by the water. After breakfast we go back to the room and pack and then have another massage. After months of pain Tony is walking much better. The actual massages are quite painful but they work on stretching and pressure points and seem to be helping us both enormously and are definitely £4 (!) per hour well spent. We then go to the pier as we have hired a longboat to take us to Taling Chan, the nearest floating market in Bangkok via the canals in Thornburi, which is the ancient site of Bangkok. We have to wait a while as the river is so high the locks entering the canals have been closed to stop flooding. Eventually we are allowed on the boat but even so we have to wait a few minutes before we can enter the canal. Once inside we can see why. The water is lapping up to many of the houses. You can't believe that people live in such circumstances so close to a modern 21st century city. The people living here, wash, drink and swim in the filthy water. It really made us both feel very fortunate with our lives. We were dropped off at the floating market and had time to wander around it. There were very few tourists and we both found it fascinating. Most of the cooking was done by the ladies in the boats and was then handed up to girls who served it to customers sitting on benches on floating pontoons. The food looked really good but we decided not to try it as the last thing we wanted tonight was a dodgy tummy! There was also a market on land where the fruit and vegetables were beautifully laid out. We enjoyed a fresh coconut drink and then got back onto the boat to continue for another hour along the canals. The last bit was thrilling as we roared along at full speed in the middle of the Chayo Phra river dodging the ferry boats at the last minute. Tony looked terrified much to the driver's amusement.
We then took a taxi to the station. In true Power style we were a couple of hours early so we went to sit in a nearby hotel and enjoyed the air conditioning.
At last it was time to go back to the station and we were able to get on the train. There was only one first class compartment right at the back of the train with about a dozen cabins. There was also a small restaurant car on the train and the rest of the train is made up of open seats that are made up into bunks with curtains round them. We are pleased we opted for the first class option!
The train left at 6.30 pm and although lots of people had food delivered to their berths we decide to go to the restaurant car where we have a pretty decent meal of soup, chicken with cashew nuts in a sauce with rice followed by fresh pineapple for £3. It is fun to watch the Thais drink their soup with chopsticks while the train rattles and shakes along. Our bed is made up on our return. I opt for the top bunk as I don't want Tony falling down the steps in the middle of the night. I feel a bit cheated though as I can't see out of the window but actually it does mean I get a decent nights sleep whereas Tony looks out of the window for most of the night as he is mesmerised. Apparently we went through very thick jungle where the branches were literally brushing against the windows. The train goes very slowly and stops and starts a lot.

Posted by MichP 06:20 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 3 Bangkok

sunny 34 °C

We sleep in until 8.45 so have to rush down to breakfast again! We then take the ferry to the sky train stop. The trains are very modern and as the name suggests the track is high up above the tree line so we get a good view of downtown Bangkok and the financial district. Most hotels are situated here. However, we are really pleased we chose to be on the river as there is more air and there is always something interesting to see from our balcony. We get off at the National Stadium which is a huge impressive modern building and walk about half a mile to Jim Thompson's House. He was an American who was responsible for developing the Thai silk cottage industry. His silks were used in the film The King and I. Previously a member of the CIA there are lots of stories and rumours surrounding his disappearance in the Jungle in Malaysia in 1967. Before his death he had 6 ancient traditional teak houses brought to Bangkok from the north of the country. He had them joined together and filled them with antiques. The house has remained as it was when he lived there and is now a museum. Our guide explained that many of the artefacts were given to him by Thais who never keep anything broken as it is bad luck. The house and gardens are beautiful and a real oasis in this manic city.
We get a taxis back to the hotel. This costs 70 baht about £1.50! After a quick swim we have a foot and back and shoulder massage for an hour. This costs £4! Tony is hopeful if he has them on a regular basis his foot will improve. Lunch is a clear broth of prawns and vegetables with fresh mango and yogurt juice to drink.
Later in the afternoon we watch from our balcony a full dress rehearsal of the royal barge procession that takes place on the Kings birthday next week. The highly decorated barges were rowed by men in costume chanting loudly across the water. It was a wonderful display and we were so lucky to have seen it.
After a rest we take a taxi to the Mandarin Oriental and have a cocktail overlooking the river. This is a wonderful five star hotel with lots of understated elegance and an interesting history. Sadly we do not stay for dinner but go to a restaurant nearby that friends recommended called Harmonique. The food arrives quickly but we both agree it isn't quite as good as last night's. I think there was some MSG in the meal as I feel rather bloated and thirsty afterwards.
We eventually find a taxi to take us back to our hotel. As we are furthe north than most we always have to plead with several and negotiate on price before they will agree to take us.

Posted by MichP 09:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 2 Bangkok

1st November 2012

sunny 35 °C

We have a fitful night. As usual the air conditioning makes me think at times I am sharing the room with a freight train but Tony seems oblivious. I end up with both fingers in my ears and ear plugs and eventually fall asleep at about 5.30 am. We both wake with a jolt at 9 am and rush to get showered and dressed before breakfast finishes. Breakfast is on the terrace by the river. Plenty of eggs, bacon and sausages on offer so Tony is happy. I am also pleased as there is fresh papaya, watermelon, pineapple and yugourt. After breakfast we catch the ferry to the Grand Palace. This takes about 10 mins and we get to the outside wall when true to the guidebooks we are approached by someone with an official badge to say that the palace was closed today. Forewarned we ignored him and asked a soldier who showed us the way to the entrance. It is already vey hot and there are huge crowds of people all making for the same place. It is all a bit overwhelming to begin with but we eventually find the place to buy the entrance tickets and join a huge queue of people also visiting. The photos I have taken don't really capture the splendour of the decorations on the walls. We have never seen anything like it especially in such a relatively small space. We are lucky enough to see the guards changing their watch and we both love the cloud pruning on the trees. Tony is unable to go and see the jade Buddha as footwear has to be removed but otherwise he is able to see everything. The throne room and ball room are particularly ornate as you would expect.
We then walk to the ferry through a local food market. Everything looks delicious but we are not hungry after our generous breakfast so ignore the temptations on offer. We then catch a local ferry to the end of the line. It is quite precarious jumping on to them. They don't stop for long and the water is choppy. This gives us the opportunity to see the varied river life. Five star hotels are built next to shanty towns.
We then go back to the hotel for a swim and relax for an hour before going to Chinatown for our food tour. We are 6. Two American ladies and four Brits. Kit our guide is a young Thai graduate who says his passion is food and this is his dream job. We are shown a couple of temples and given a brief history of the area before tasting about a dozen different things. My favourite is the peppered noodle soup, Tony's is the giant prawns with a spicy dipping sauce. We all agree we have tasted things we never would have tried without his guidance. We catch a tuktuk back to the hotel and enjoy a gin and tonic on the balcony watching huge long barges riding up and down the river. We suddenly realise we haven't seen one lorry since we have arrived so maybe all the freight is carried this way. Wouldn't that be brilliant!


Posted by MichP 02:02 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

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