Tag Archives: Bangkok

Land of Smiles

Here it is, the final of my posts from 2015’s trip to Thailand.  Expect some posts from 2016’s trip in a few months time, but I think it’s likely I’m going to move off travelling for a while and post the results of the portrait shoots I’ve also been working on.

Phuket … Patong especially, is a place that I think I’ve fallen in love with.  It’s brash and loud and a tourist hot spot. Why would I like it so much when there’s so many other beautiful places in Thailand?  Well, I don’t especially subscribe to the backpacker ideology – in fact, I find it often far too self indulgent.  If you’ve ever seen ‘The Inbetweeners 2’ you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about.  Instead, Patong despite it’s tackiness and obvious tourist traps I find to be somewhat honest – it is what it is and it doesn’t try to hide it. I understand why some people hate it, but not me.

Patong Beach, although busy is still very beautiful and there’s enough space on it to find your own spot.  The water is warm and inviting.  My favourite spot at sunset was to walk North to Kalim Beach.  A rocky cove about 5-10 minutes from Patong main beach.  Just perfect for long exposures at dusk.

At night there’s an abundance of restaurants.  I preferred to stay away from the big ones on the ocean front and stick to the smaller local ones hidden away on side Soi’s.  Beautiful food for an incredible price (and what’s more, I went back after 12 months and I was recognised like an old friend – you can’t put a price on that!).

After that, there’s as many bars as you could wish for to drink in and places to dance and bands to listen too.  Every night, a couple of beers and some guitar driven rock music.  It was great.

Thailand is indeed, a Land of Smiles.

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The Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha

Day 3 of the Thailand trip and this time I was heading off to see The Grand Palace.  Now, I was supposed to have been here before however the 2007 tour was waylaid by a wild preceding night on Khaosan Road.  I don’t need to remind you of that now, but you can of course read about that adventure here should you feel inclined.

We were told en route by our travel mates to Sydney that we’d really missed out, so this time I was determined to find out for myself.  My drinking buddy Mike has since returned to Thailand and seen it and now was my chance to tick it off the list  This was also the last of my scheduled Bangkok trips and the next day I’d be heading North on a flight to Chiang Mai.  Again, a trip with Isango proved to be just the ticket easily booked from the UK prior to departure.

I wasn’t disappointed at all; The Grand Palace is spectacular.  It was absolutely heaving with visitors and I could easily see why it’s such a popular tourist destination.  The colour, detail and intricacies of the buildings blew my mind.  I’ll let my photos do the talking and to give you an idea, but if you happen to find yourself in Bangkok do make sure you allocate some time to see this place.

 

Temples of Bangkok

And so, the Thailand posts continue …

One of the first posts on this blog was of a day in late 2007 where I was taken around three of the most popular temples in Bangkok.  Flash forward to late 2015 and although I’d been once before, I felt that I’d only have regrets if I didn’t take the opportunity to spend a day seeing them again.  It’s funny what time does to memories and I really wanted to savour the moment this time around.

As with the previous days trip to Damoen Saduak, I booked with Isango who offered a well priced trip (including pick up and drop off at my hotel) which would cover everything I wanted.

Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha)

This was stop one and in this instance was the one I was most interested in.  Back in 2007 the Golden Buddha (official title Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon) was kept in a much smaller building (see pics here). Since then it’s been moved into a much larger building which is far more fitting.  It was weird in a sense as aside from the Buddha itself, I didn’t recognise the site at at all!  The Golden Buddha is made of solid gold and weighs 5 1/2 tonnes.  Awesome!

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Stop two and this one I remembered well.  This is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples and the Reclining Buddha within is huge (15 metres high and 46 metres long). It’s a big site and in 2007 we only saw some of it.  This time, although I didn’t visit Phra Ubosot (the ordination hall) I did get to look around the exterior of Phra Mondob (the scripture hall) which I found fascinating.

Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple)

Final stop, at the beautiful Marble Temple.  Construction began here in 1899 using marble from Italy.  Not a lot to say other than it’s a stunning building.

Following are rather a lot of snapshots (apologies) …

Damnoen Saduak

I originally started this blog with the intention of it being a travel blog.  I was planning on processing the images I’d taken on my travels across Australia (years ago now) and to write short accompanying stories with each section.  As you’ll know, it hasn’t quite worked out like that.  In fact, I’ve not posted a single story or image about Australia to date.  I did in my early days however write a post about the couple of nights in Bangkok, where I had a short stopover en-route.  Ever since then (late 2007) I’ve had a burning desire to go back.  Well, November 2015 came about and I found myself on a plane once again travelling long haul.

So, from here I’m going to share the 3 weeks I enjoyed exploring a small part of this amazing country.  I figure it’s time to get to work on it … ‘cos I’m going again in less than 6 months! Yeehah!

I’m going to break up these posts into roughly daily sections or places where I spent several days.  I’m not entirely sure yet, but here’s the first post which was essentially my first day and second night in the country.  I’d got into Bangkok late Friday night, I headed out for a couple of beers to relax (it turns out Nana Plaza is NOT a place for a quiet and relaxing beer!) and then got a fairly early night for a 6am wake up call to head to a floating market.

Seeing a floating market was high on my wishlist and Damnoen Saduak, despite being pretty touristy didn’t disappoint.  We had awful weather, but it didn’t detract from the fun.  I also enjoyed my first taste of Pad Thai ever.  That’s now up there with my all time favourite foods and I subsequently ate it again at every opportunity presented to me! As with all my Bangkok tours, I booked with Isango in advance to ensure I could see all I wanted in the short time I had arranged to stay in the city.

Here’s a selection of photos from my first day or so in Bangkok.  The following day I re-visited the temples I’d seen on my first trip. Photos from thatwill be in the next posting …

 

Bangkok Adventures …

November 2007.   That was the start of my year long adventure.  In hindsight it wasn’t as adventurous as many other travelers, yet to me it was a step into the unknown.

A group of 10 of us met at Heathrow with our final destination being Australia for a years working holiday. I’d wanted to do this for about 7 or 8 years and couldn’t believe the day to leave had finally come.  The flight I plumped for (I had a choice) included a stopover in Bangkok in order to break up the journey.  We were there for 2 nights and managed to pack a fair few things in. Of course, now, I would do it a completely different way.  Bangkok would have been only the start of an Asian adventure.  I’d have traveled there for weeks, maybe months, gone to a full moon party, visited the islands … but hey, why worry about the things you didn’t do?  I hope to have a chance to go back one day and put that right.

So, to keep you entertained we may as well roll with a story from the short time I was there:

On the final night, after having had a traditional Thai meal and watched a local dance we headed to Khao San Road to sample some nightlife. Arriving here for the first time is truly a scene straight out of the beginning to “The Beach”. Touts, tourists and backpackers everywhere. As soon as we got out of our Tuk Tuk  we were approached by countless touts, and subsequently had to turn away several offers of trips to Ping Pong shows and Go Go Bars in preference of finding somewhere to get a drink and soak up the atmosphere properly.

After a couple of drinks with the full crowd of us, Mike (“I’m from the Wirral. D’ya know it?”), Fraser (“I like the blondes”)  and I got itchy feet and left the others to go exploring and find another bar. Having found one (and fended off the interests of a couple of girls from Vietnam to boot) we got stuck into a few beverages.  Unfortunately we seemed to seriously underestimate the strength of the local drink and by midnight it was game over for Fraser who headed back to the hotel. Mike and I had decided we did want to see a ping pong show after all and grabbed a local Tuk Tuk driver. He said it was too late to see a show (too late?!) but he’d take us to some other place where there would be lots of girls. We really should have just said no. We were frighteningly naive.

A short while later we pulled up in a quiet street and were ushered into a near empty bar. At this point I think we both knew something was up but weren’t quite sure what. The proprietor of the bar came over with two fresh, cold beers and introduced himself. Feeling a bit heartless, I thought it would be funny to somewhat drop Mike in it and made my excuses to head to the toilet to leave him to fend off the owner alone.  As I rounded the corner to the toilets I found a room of approximately 20-25 girls all with numbers on them waving at me. I stood open mouthed for a second …We had been taken to one of those bars.

I quickly returned to a wide eyed Mike gesturing that we should leave as quickly as possible.  I didn’t need to worry as for Mike the penny had already dropped; our friendly host had been taking him through the prices!  We made our excuses and scarpered. I still have no idea if we paid for those beers or not! We found the Tuk Tuk driver outside who seemed surprised to see us again so quickly and we told him off. I’m not sure “Bad Tuk Tuk driver!” whilst gesticulating at him is much of a telling off but there we go.  He shrugged and pointed out a local club we could head to instead.  Rather intrepidly (after the earlier experience) we gave it a go, and to our surprise found a huge dance club full of young local Thai people. It was a fantastic atmosphere and we had an absolute blast. I did lose Mike a couple of times but always found him again (usually interlocked with a Thai girl in the middle of the dance floor!). We eventually made it back to the hotel at about 7 am and had to sneak past our tour guide who was having breakfast in the restuarant! We got up to our room and discovered a half naked Fraser hadn’t even made it to bed. He’d spent the night sleeping on the bathroom floor!

We had about 30 minutes to be ready before we were due to leave for our Grand Palace tour. That’s definitely enough time for a power nap right? Isn’t it? Well, it turns out that no, it isn’t. We woke at 11:30 am having missed the trip and “probably the best bit of  our few days in Bangkok” according to our travel mates.

Still … what a night!

The only thing that puzzled me and Mike, was that the girls swore blind they had called the phone in our room to make sure we were ready for the tour.  And a Thai girl had answered.  Fraser … have you told us everything?