A Travellerspoint blog

Sand,sun, and a little seediness in Phuket

sunny 34 °C
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A nine hour bus ride through the night and we finally arrived in Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island. We were once again ripped off by a tuk tuk when our guesthouse ended up being a few minute walk from where we were. If only there were some other form of transportation, those guys are the biggest scammers! Poor George gets angry every time and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was formulating some elaborate plan of revenge in his head.

When we did get to Patong, the most popular beach on the island, it was beautiful. Soft white sand, warm turquoise water, what more could you ask for? Since I wasn’t feeling well (and am still trying to fight off this cold) it was the perfect day to sit under an umbrella and get up for nothing except for a swim in the beautiful water.

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it's a screecher! (Dad's inside joke)

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are you getting as sick of these self pics as we are?

We found that Patong is an interesting place once night falls. Thailand itself has a certain seedy undertone to it in most parts and it is definitely evident here. Patong felt to us a little like the Vegas of Southeast Asia. It’s fun to be a spectator but at the same time, leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

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you can take the girl out of McDonald's but you cant take McDonald's out of the girl

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people watching - and the people are definitely interesting to watch!

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Las Vegas!...Oops, I mean Patong

We were supposed to meet Mary and her friend Carolina on our second day there but true to Southeast Asia form, what should have been a 5 hour ride from where they were to Phuket ended up being 16 hours. I was beginning to think Mary would come all the way to Thailand and we weren’t going to see each other! We made another plan to meet on our way to Ko Phi Phi, another island (where The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed). Our van to the pier was running late and we feared we would miss the ferry and again, miss Mary. Thankfully, we made it on time and as we stepped out onto the pier, there was Mary! It was so great to see a familiar face from home and after a warm embrace, we knew the next few days would be a blast. Little did we know what kind of adventure was ahead!

Posted by jgjourney 05:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Islands, we're coming! But first Cha Am and Hua Hin

sunny 50 °C
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Over a month in and finally, some beach! Cha Am Beach was our first stop and we got a great last minute deal on a resort so we decided to stay there for a couple of days and relax. To get there, we took taxis, which consisted of the back of two motorbikes. I agreed to this only because it was so close and traffic is minimal here. George got onto his bike and didn't know what to do with his legs so he just let them hang down on the sides while the bike took off, which looked hilarious. Our drivers kept yelling at him to pick up his feet and he finally found the foot rest. I could not stop laughing.

The hotel had four pools that we could barely pry ourselves away from. George worked on his back float (he still sinks) and I made many ungraceful entrances into the water (it was a little chilly!). We read our books and we went into town for our meals...not much else to report! Just a nice relaxing time in some beautiful weather and fantastic resort.

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9 out of 10 for style

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cha am pool...a little different from our typical accommodations

On New Year's Eve, we made our way a little further south to Hua Hin, another beach town just down the road from Cha Am. Staying in nicer places is great, but you lose some of the great things about staying in budget accommodations, like knowledgeable staff (and free wi-fi!). So we were happy when our next place was so incredible with booking buses and providing information in general. One of the staff members even went into town and booked our ticket at the bus station himself at no extra cost! Our last place barely knew where the bus station was.

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relaxing, except we forgot our towels and the chairs made us green

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nothing like a day at the beach

So after more beach and pool, we decided to go out for a simple dinner at a local place down the street and head back to our hotel for their New Year's celebration, which they had already started by 6:30pm! The only problem was, it seemed as though they couldn't keep up the momentum of entertainment until midnight so they stopped with just half an hour to go! What??!?! Oh well, we turned on the TV and watched tons of fireworks go off from our balcony, which was perfect for us. What we found really cool was the release of "sky lanterns", paper lanterns that are lit with a flame inside that causes them to rise high into the air. The Thais believe it is good luck to release them and think of it as problems and worries floating away. It was amazing to see little balls of fire fill the air (I thought the first couple were UFO's).

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new years festivities before they ended prematurely

The next day we prepared for our overnight bus to Phuket. Finally getting down to the islands!

Posted by jgjourney 19:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Elephants and Waterfalls - Kanchanaburi

sunny 32 °C
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We headed to Kanchanaburi - after being in cities for so long, we were craving some natural beauty and this was just the place. After searching for a room for what seemed like forever (since it's the holidays, everything is pretty booked up), we finally found a resort-style hotel on the river. We booked ourselves in for a tour the next day which included the thing I was looking forward to most in Thailand - elephant riding.

To kick off our tour, we headed for the Erawan Waterfalls, a series of seven waterfalls and pools that are not only beautiful scenery, but you can swim in them as well. We swam in a couple of them and even slid down a natural water slide off a boulder. Very fun! I should also add that all over Asia, you can experience "fish massages", where you put your feet into a tank of fish and they feed on the dead skin, a natural exfoliation I guess you could say. Well, our waterfalls came with a free fish massage. I couldn't manage to swim or put my feet in without loudly shrieking but George got the most out of his fish massage. Those fish had an all you can eat buffet off of his huge feet.

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waterfall number 2 out of 7. Good fish massages at this one!

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"beware of fierce monkeys", said the sign. Although we didn't find them very fierce.

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geronimo!

Next was the ever anticipated elephant trekking! George and I rode together and even took turns driving her bare back. We waded through the water and she even playfully swatted us with grass she gathered in her trunk. It was definitely scary at first, but after a while it was just plain fun. After the trekking we put our bathing suits on and bathed with our elephant in the water, again riding her bare back. As she sat in the water her trainer would command her to spray us and being in the front, I got completely soaked. We had a blast!

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holding on for dear life...it's a long way down

Our tour ended with a train ride on the Death Railway, a railway built in WWII where 100,000 Asians and 7,000 allied prisoners of war died during its construction, and the Bridge over the River Kwai, a famous bridge (and movie).

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is it really a good idea to be walking along something called the "Death Railway"?

The plan was to head down south to the islands for New Years but we quickly found out that all the trains were booked as this is their biggest holiday of the year. So we changed our plans and headed to the beach in the direction of the islands.

Happy New Year everyone!

Posted by jgjourney 02:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

A Bangkok Christmas

sunny 33 °C
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After leaving Cambodia, we made our way to Thailand, the country we’ve been looking forward to for a while. The goal was to have Christmas in Bangkok, so that’s where we headed. Twelve hours of travel and a gruelling two hour wait at the Thai border later, we finally arrived and checked in to our beautiful hotel in the new part of the city (hey, we’re allowed to splurge on Christmas!).

Our first day in Bangkok, Christmas eve, was spent searching for Christmas dinner we could have the next day. We quickly realized that the only way we were having a real turkey dinner was at a hotel, so after visiting all of our options, we decided on the Sheraton.
Now that our Christmas dinner was booked, we were off to do some last minute Christmas shopping for each other at the market. After being in tons of great markets throughout our trip, this one was nothing to write home about but we split up and tried to find a suitable gift. About an hour later, we met back up and were very hot, frustrated, hungry, not to mention the back of my feet were throbbing after being rammed from the back with a cart (on purpose!). We have found that Asians don’t value the concept of personal space as much as we do in the West and this is sometimes difficult to get used to.

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and we thought Toronto traffic was bad!

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the result of our painful search for presents (literally!)

The next morning was Christmas! We took it easy and visited another market – the mother of all markets. It was HUMONGOUS. Not only were they selling everything under the sun, it was also a really cool atmosphere. We spent a few hours there and went back to get ready for our “Grand Christmas Dinner Buffet” at the Sheraton. Since this dinner cost more than all of our meals combined for the past month, we really wanted to enjoy it. It was great to get all dolled up and act like civilised people again! With a visit from Santa and Christmas carolling, we finally got that Christmas feeling we had been missing the entire season. We also ate more food than I can ever remember eating and practically rolled ourselves home. After calling and skyping home, we ended up having a beautiful Christmas (although vowed never to be away during Christmas again!).

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we pretended to be civilized for one night (knock-off outfit and all)

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george's 4th plate of food - the before shot - it lasted all of 3 minutes

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santa found us all the way in thailand

Our final day in Bangkok was spent visiting the tourist attractions, in particular the Grand Palace. Everything was extremely ornate and spectacular. The only problem is, we haven’t experienced this kind of heat yet and we keep going out right in the middle of the day – not smart. We’ve also experienced the largest number of people who are trying to scam us here. It seems like everyone you speak to is cheating you somehow. Everything from, “the attractions are closed today, I’ll take you to a gem store” to “you can’t go inside because you’re not dressed properly, let me bring you somewhere that’s open” (George got partly suckered into that one). It gets to be very tiring after a while.

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at the grand palace - don't laugh, the clothes were rented!

We’re now in Kanchanaburi for some well-needed nature and some elephant riding! So excited!

Posted by jgjourney 06:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Temples, temples, and more temples - Siem Reap

sunny 31 °C
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The Temples of Angkor are Cambodia’s national pride. Their images are on everything- money, the flag, t-shirts, beer, you name it. Angkor Wat – one of the grandest and most preserved temples – is why many people come to Cambodia in the first place. We were definitely excited to see what all the hype was about. We ended up getting a 2 day pass and again, we hired a tuk tuk who took us around to all the temples. There are many of them and they are very spread apart so walking was out of the question.

We didn’t really know what to expect since neither of us has ever learned much about the temples but once we got our first glimpses, boy were we amazed. Again, you pretty much have free reign over exploring each temple and it was astounding to see all the detail and work that had gone into building these structures. Some of them took over 25 years to complete and it’s even more amazing that they have lasted 1,000 years. Our last stop on the first day was Angkor Wat – best for last. It’s something that can’t really be described through words or pictures so I won’t even try. Afterwards, we both walked down its half kilometre raised stone walkway in awe.

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angkor thom - the first of many temples we visited

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this was definitely the wrong day to wear a dress and flip flops

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our photographer was the funniest asian man ever. He was with a group of 10 woman who directed him through every step of the picture taking process, complete with the low, wide-stance of the asian picture taking pose. It was worth it!

One thing that is definitely more apparent in this country is the poverty. Although they have come very far from where they have been during the time of Pol Pot, their government is still hugely corrupt, so there are major disparities between the rich and poor. This is the first time we’ve seen families living on sidewalks and young children selling souvenirs at Angkor. It was often hard to take, the children swarming you to buy from them. There was even a baby who could barely walk, probably no more than a year old, who was selling souvenirs for a dollar. Just the fact that she knows what a dollar is is so sad.

As the day was ending, we climbed up a hill that another temple rests on along with hundreds of other people and watched the sun set over the city. We both talked about how lucky we were to be sitting on a thousand year old ancient temple watching a beautiful Cambodian sunset.
Aside from Angkor, the city of Siem Riep mainly offers a great nigh time atmosphere of restaurants and night markets. It’s very lively and the markets are massive! I got a pedicure for $3 and George indulged in a half hour massage for $2. The girl who was doing his massage was half my size (poor girl) so he definitely got his money’s worth!

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sunset on top of temple - doesn't get much better

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I could really get used to this

Now, we’ve said farewell to Cambodia, which we wish we could have spent more time in because we liked it so much, and are moving on to Bangkok for Christmas. Can’t wait to see what Thailand has to offer!

Posted by jgjourney 08:19 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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