A Travellerspoint blog


The Andaman Coast: island hopping from Thailand to Malaysia

5-13 Jan '14

sunny 33 °C
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So just after New Year, I headed to the Andaman Coast for a spot of island hopping - thi is where all those pictures of turquoise seas and limestone karst islands with white sandy beaches come from.

At the advice of a friend, I headed to Krabi, and from there to Ao Nang and on to Railay, which is, frankly, pretty stunning. It's actually known for rock climbing, thanks to the dramatic limestone cliffs, but the beaches are pretty good too. I even took the 20 minute scramble over some rockes to Hat Ton Sai, which was definitely quieter, and actually almost prettier than the more popular Hat Railay West.

Next stop from Railay was Ko Phi Phi, famous both for its looks and its nightlife. I ended up there at peak season, so it was packed, including with all those who had just left Koh Phangan after New Year Full Moon Party. So there were no dorms - I got the final bed in a not great one. But it was fun and sociable enough - although two nights partying on Phi Phi is enough when you're already tired and combining it with half a day travelling to Phi Phi Leh for snorkelling, swimming and some spectacular beaches. The most famous of those, Ao Maya, used in The Beach, is beautiful, although totally packed with tourists.

So on I headed to Ko Lanta - one of the bigger islands, and actually surprisingly flat (in comparison). I originally intended to spend 1 night in Lanta, but my guesthouse was lovely, and because they'd overbooked the dorm, I was upgraded for free to a double room. Having bumped into a girl in the street, we ended up hanging for a while at a chilled beach bar - sipping a beer while listening to the sea and Bob Dylan is always a good end to an evening. The next day - four more islands and a lot more snorkelling and swimming. A very choppy journey by longtail, but pretty worth it. Ko Lanta is known for diving, so it was almost guaranteed to find some fish, although the drivers dropping nbread in to attract them was not my idea of how it should work. Chilling at another bar to the early morning was maybe not the best start when you have a 5-hr ferry the next day, especially when it ends up taking over 7 hours. But Ko Lipe is worth is - because although its become popular, its not yet totally commercialised and you can still sit on one of the main beaches without it being too busy.

Unfortunately my time on little Lipe was short, and after one day I headed to Pulau Langkawi, my first stop in Malaysia. Langkawi is actually a pretty big island, and its duty free, so the cheapest place to drink in Malaysia. I actually stayed in a little village in shore - a big mistake as it meant I was suddenly reliant on lifts to get anywhere. Some people in my hostel shared a hire car, so we headed to Langkawi's big attraction - the Skycar - essentially 2 cable cars to the top of a hill so you can see amazing views of the island chain. Impressive. We then did a brief climb up many many steps to Seven Wells, a load of pools, and the waterfalls below. It was pretty, but nothing to compare to waterfalls in Laos. But overall I was actually glad I wasn't spending much time in Langkawi.

Posted by GoonishPython 13:06 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Adventures in Bangkok: Part 3

3-5 Jan '14

sunny 30 °C
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So after another epic bus journey (involving being left at the border and woking out ourselves how to get to Bangkok) - Cambodia is getting a record on these - I arrived back in the busy capital of Thailand about 4 hours late, and just ready to sleep. With my favourite hostel full, I'd booked one nearby, and unfortunately it just wasn't good, but at 11.30 pm, you can't take the risk of refusing it and finding somewhere else. A very uncomfortable night followed, but at least the shower was warm.

The next day began badly with finding I'd broken my glasses, and continued going wrong, although I did meet some lovely people once I'd headed back to Born Free for a better hostel experience. We went out to a local festival and night market at Santichaiprakan Park, before a brief excursion to Happy Bar and Khao San Road. I headed back to sleep, and on getting up to get the bus to the airport, discovered my fellow revellers just coming in. A wise decision on my part then.

Posted by GoonishPython 12:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Adventures in Bangkok: Part 2

14-17 Dec '13

sunny 33 °C
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My return to Bangkok began with a trip to Laos' only railway station - taking us just over the border to Thailand and to catch a night train. Unusually, the night train wasn't in the compartments - instead bunks were down the side of the carriage, so two bunks facing two across the aisle. Armed with cheap Pad Thai, supersweet cake and a new brand of beer - Archer - as well as some Laos black rice wine, we settled into a merry evening, including such oddities as teaching a Danish boy to sew.

On arrival in Bangkok, our group dispersed - some to meet up again that evening. We passed a relaxing day in coffee shops and a park, before heading for a massage. Despite selecting only feet, neck and shoulders, pretty much all of me except my front torso and nether regions got at least a little attention - well worth the few dollars, although being jabbed with a stick was not fun. Returning to Khao San Road again, mercifully a little busier this time, the remainder of our group reconvened for merriment our tour leader had originally planned for the first night. However, finishing a tour singing along with a guitarist in a bar seemed a fitting end to our trip.

Unfortunately the next day I spent with food poisoning, occasioning a cancellation of my planned bike tour, but I got a lot of necessary planning and research done. Back at my favourite hostel, I headed out to chill in the surrounding area with a pile of food and a few (soft) drinks. A relaxing evening, but not what you would necessarily expect in such a mad city.

Posted by GoonishPython 22:03 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Adventures in Bangkok: Part 1

29 Nov - 2 Dec '13

sunny 33 °C
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So I said goodbye to Yangon and after far too long in airports, I arrived in the backpackers mecca of Bangkok. A bit of a return to civilisation, the streets centred on Khao San Road, just north of the old centre of the city, feature such western delights as multiple McDonald's, Burger King's and (blessedly) a Boots. My chilled out hostel, a 10 minute wak away, is newly home to two adorable rescue cats - little balls of affectionate grey fluff.

The first venture into Bangkok takes in legendary street food (scorpion is very bitter) and a view of the protests, currently centred on Democracy Monument. They seemed pretty chilled out to us - very organised, with water and food stalls and a mobile toilet block, roads closed off a reasonable distance away and everyone just sitting around cheering and waving little clappers at the speeches.

Later on, a few of us headed out to sample the local nightlife. Despite a reputation for a little hedonism, Khao San Road was surprisingly tame - perhaps because of the riots, but possibly because of the 2am curfew - certainly Birmingham on a Saturday night would give it a run for its money.

The next day our little crew headed off to the weekend market - reputedly the biggest market in South East Asia. Essentially it came across as more of a tourist attraction than an everyday market, but it was so enormous we probably only saw a tiny amount! The food was intoxicating though, and the mystery bus ride there was a mini adventure.

Early evening saw two of us taking the river boat down to the cultural heart of Bangkok - two of its temples. Wat Arun is a stunning Khmer style temple covered from head to toe in mosaics made from porcelain tiles left behind by Chinese merchant ships. The praang (spire) is so astoundingly steep that I couldn't face the final level, which looked seemingly almost vertical. Crossing the river, we headed to Wat Pho around sunset - a great time to visit - this temple is the oldest and largest in Bangkok, with the largest collection of Buddha's and biggest reclining Buddha in the country (impressive, but I've seen larger). The grounds are beautiful, with some stunning stupas that shone as the sun set. A cruise back along the river at night was followed by chilling in some live music bars, again in/around a subdued Khao San Road.

A busy Sunday followed for me, as I headed to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Again, stunning architecture, but the big draw wasn't my favourite bit - instead, the murals around the wall in the temple complex, telling the story of the Ramayana (Rama & Sita of Hindu mythology), caught my eye, along with the interesting Museum of Textiles within the Grand Palace grounds. I also visited the National Museum, but the lack of explanation of exhibits really detracted from it - after all, in a room of 200 Buddha's, how do you know what styles followed what?

Meeting with my tour group in the evening, we were advised not to head to Khao San Road as the protests had taken a turn for the worst. Maybe that explained the quietness the nights before...

Posted by GoonishPython 20:50 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Enter country number 1...

semi-overcast 30 °C
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12:00 Bangkok
Arrived in Bangkok to 30 °C heat at 9.45 in the morning. This does not bode well. First impressions? Grey. Lots of grey concrete under a grey sky, at least until you see the sun shining and there's a hint of blue up high. I don't think I've been somewhere before where I can visibly see pollution.

Posted by GoonishPython 17:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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