We have now got the hang of this blogging game and as you can see we are updating much more regularly.
After the success of our sleeper train from Malaysia we decided it would be the mode of transport of choice throughout Thailand.
We alighted the train in Bangkok and were greeted by the usual crowd of taxi and tuk tuk drivers, some literally running toward us, vying for our business. Often this transaction is a fun game of the taxi driver thinking of the biggest number he can and eventually agreeing a ‘fair’ price.
Our first full day in Bangkok happened to be one of many bonus days where tuk tuk drivers can procure petrol vouchers from all manner of local businesses. On advice from a local man we hopped on one of these traffic jam defying three wheeled motorised carriages. To cut a long story short it is possible to see numerous sights, and enjoy a hair raising ride on one of these if you are willing to entertain tailors or jewellery sellers for a while. The tuk tuk drivers get their petrol vouchers for delivering customers. Although this provides free transport around the city it takes a big chunk out of your day and is nearly impossible to escape the clutches of a keen suit salesman. Needless to say after our first ‘petrol voucher run’ we decided in future to pay our way, soon stumbling across the canal taxi; a fast and cheap way to criss-cross the city.
Bangkok, like K.L., is home to the infamous mega malls. Pleasingly though, the modern ones are much more spacious and offer a far more pleasant shopping experience. The newest of these boasts an impressive cinema complex where for the price of a chewing gum clad British seat you can enjoy a fully reclining leather armchair and waitress service.
We spent the rest of time in Bangkok visiting numerous Wats (Buddhist temples) and getting lost in it’s maze of Chinatown streets. The Chatuchak weekend market (about the size of a large village) offered a mind boggling array of goods for sale and easily occupied us for an entire day. Having spent the day walking miles around all the stalls we treated ourselves to some authentic Thai massage, a strange arrangement where you pay tiny Thai girls a few pounds to massage you. In spite of their skinny arms these girls offer a back rub that could easily be mistaken for assault; despite this, after an hour of poking and prodding you emerge very relaxed.
Having seen the best and worst of Bangkok we headed north to Chiang Mai for a few days of elephant riding, jungle trekking, bamboo rafting and waterfalls (see photos). From Chiang Mai we had to extend our visa. Thailand has a strange visa system whereby they are very strict regarding the length of your stay but don’t seem to care that it can be easily renewed by leaving and re-entering. For us this meant an 8 hour round trip to Myanmar. Upon crossing the border you simply turn around and re-enter; we were happy to do this as Myanmar wasn’t exactly top of our ‘must see countries’ list.
Chiang Mai had a similar appeal to that of Georgetown, Malaysia. Both are cities with impressive histories and are large enough to entertain us for a few days but small enough to explore on foot. Reminiscent of York, it has its own city wall and moat, helping to stave off the homesickness, but presumably not designed to keep out the Vikings. Disappointingly some of the sections had been re built in the 80’s but we won’t tell anyone…
We are now back in Bangkok getting sorted for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday. We are spending 4 weeks in Vietnam, traveling north to Hanoi. Hopefully our run of short, up to date blogs will continue.
Hope all is well and the British winter hasn’t started just yet. Believe it or not we are actually looking forward to some fresh, cold air which will no doubt greet us on our return in December.
Please keep in touch; we both enjoy hearing peoples’ news.