Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thailand - Day 30 - Home

Day 30

We have been home for a week now, so we thought it was time to do a final blog post on our time away.

They say there is nothing like being away to make you appreciate home, well we found that to be partly true. We missed our family and friends (but mostly Holly :p), Aussie food, road rules, and clean air, but coming home was definitely like coming back to reality. It is actually starting to feel a bit like it was all a dream.

We loved Thailand, pretty much everything about the place was fascinating. The people, for the most part, were friendly and helpful. Pretty much everyone spoke at least a little English and did their best to make us welcome. We learnt how to say hello (sawadee ka*) and thank you (kob khun ka*), but even that wasn't necessary, just polite. Simply putting your hands together and bowing your head is enough of a greeting or thank you. I don’t think I once felt unsafe (even when we were lost, the driver was just silly) except for the taxi on Samui, but I think we might have been imagining it. They also genuinely seem to love their king, and he seems like he is a pretty good leader. We were told that he spent his own money to improve infrastructure in Bangkok in a major way by building a new highway. There are pictures of him everywhere as well as other members of the royal family. At first we thought it was strange having all of these pictures of him around but having no one talk about him, then we found out he is very ill and it actually upsets a lot of the people to talk about him.

We had some awesome experiences, the highlights of which were the tigers and elephants in Chiang Mai, eating corn on the beach in Koh Samui, learning to love Koh Samui under the guidance of Pot Pot with Sarah and Jana, the crazy game of football golf, the party tuk tuks on Phuket, the canoeing through the caves near James Bond island, everything Koh Phi Phi (expect maybe falling out of the boat), the ruins at Ayutthaya, the moving experience that is visiting the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, and of course doing all of these things with my favourite person.

The food was interesting, there was a lot more “European” food available than I expected, but it was never quite right. The most amazing food experience we had was on our tour with Pot Pot, at Bang Por Seafood. We had a few different plates to share between the four of us, and it is safe to say (in my opinion) that the garlic and pepper prawns was the best food I had while over there. We also experienced some terrible food but I won’t go in to that.

A major thing that left an impression on me was how the Thai treat animals. The stray dogs and cats everywhere was hard for me to deal with, even though I feel in love with a couple of them. But it was the exploitation for the sake of showing tourists a good time that upset me the most. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the elephant on Samui that was chained up and “performing” for food, or the monkeys chained to trees by their necks in Chiang Mai. I just want to be very clear that there are places there that do put the animals welfare first, the Elephant Conversation Centre is a clear example as well as organisations such as  the Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation on Koh Samui (

We had fun everywhere we went but I just wanted to do a short summary of each city.

Chiang Mai didn't have any Australian tourists that we met, we were told it was mostly European and Japanese tourists. I fell in love with cute tiger cubs and Matt was cautious of the adult tigers. We got to feed bananas to elephants and watched them paint some very impressive artworks. We encountered some very sad monkeys and had our feet nibbled by fish. We learnt to bargain in the night markets and found that it is  a good idea to have a proper look at the quality of the goods you are buying. Temples temples temples.

Next was the beach/party island of Koh Samui. There were more Aussies here and it was good to have a drunken conversation with no language barrier to think about. Eating corn on the beach, making friends with stray dogs, and football golf which I'm amazed hasn't made it's way to Australia yet. We were shown some cool things by the local Pot Pot, who just wanted us to love Samui but the thing that sticks out in my mind about that day wasn't what we saw/did but how fun Pot Pot made it. Seriously if you go to Koh Samui get a tour from Mr Samui. 

Then on to Phuket. I personally hated Phuket. Ok maybe not hated, but I really didn't like it. Matt liked it and thinks that I should give it another chance. Phuket was dirtier and more touristy than any place I have ever been. There were way to many bogans there and the people selling things in the markets were far too in your face. I was extremely disappointed in the Banana Walk. In one of the brochures the Banana Walk looked like the funnest shopping centre ever - there were pictures of people dressed as bananas. We didn't encounter a single banana person and I felt ripped off. The tours that got away from Phuket and out into the nearby islands were good though.

Koh Phi Phi was paradise. There are no other words to describe it. The island is beautiful and had a lot to offer. It was the most expensive place, but it was worth it. Even when we went around in a long boat to the main part of the island it was still pretty clean. There are no cars and very few scooters so most people just wander around. Staying at Zeavola was like having a holiday within our holiday. I would go back there in a second if I could, the 9 hour plane trip followed by 1 hour car ride followed by 1 hour boat ride would be worth it.

Finally it was on to Bangkok. We didn't have enough time in Bangkok. We only got to see about half of what we wanted to see and we spent our only two full days out of the city so I'd really like to go back and see what we missed.

Anyway, here are some of our favourite photos from our trip.

Our elephant painting


Matt doing one of his favourite things - in golf form


Party tuk tuk

The Beach beach - Hollywood magic closed the gap for the movie

Fish punching

Post massage relaxation

I love my husband

*ka is the feminie while krap is the masculine.

We had an amazing honeymoon and it was a great way for us to start our married life together. We have had a lot of people tell us they have enjoyed reading our blog, so thank you for reading it. We appreciate all of the people who have taken the time to read about our adventure.

- Kristen and Matt

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Thailand - Day 21 - Bangkok

Day 21

Our last day in Thailand. We didn't get much of an opportunity to explore Bangkok so we decided we'd take the few hours this morning to have a look around and do some shopping. We found some cool graffiti.

An excellent example of Thai wiring. This is actually fairly tidy.

A minute after we took this last photo the security guard came over to talk to us. All of the guides and everything say not to let people come up to you and try to get you to go places and buy things. We didn't really follow that rule very well. He was telling us about what we thought was a market and he drew us a little map of how to get there, but then his wife, who doesn't speak English, came up to us and next thing we know we are follow this Thai lady through the streets of Bangkok. We were walking and weren't asked for any money so we followed but were a bit cautious. Before we knew it we were at this massive jewelry store. She left us out the front and it was only just down the street from our hotel. We went in and the took us on a little tour and we picked up a few souvenirs then headed back to our hotel. We may have mentioned this already, but our hotel is connected to the MBK centre. A massive shopping centre. We spent the next few hours bargaining. Then it was time to pack up and leave. We made our way to the airport for our long flight home.

We got in around 7.00 this morning and didn't sleep on the plane so today and yesterday are kinda the same day. We are both very tired, so I'm sorry if this post is a little off.

Stay tuned, we have one more post planned.

Night all,

- Kristen

Monday, 28 October 2013

Thailand - Day 19 + 20 - Bangkok

Day 19

So day 19 we had to get up at 6 for breakfast and to catch our bus to Ayutthaya.

We met up with our tour group and were on our way, first stop Bing Pa-In Palace. This place is huge, we didn't have enough time to see everything, but here are the things we did see.

Doll's Bridge
Phra Thinang Aisawan Thiphya-Art
Phra Thinang Warophat Phiman
Tevaraj-Kanalai Gate
Sakornprapaht Gate
Phra Thinang Uthayan Phumisthian
Ho Withun Thasana
Phra Thinanh Wehart Chamrun

Like I said before, this place is big! I think around 50 acres. It is the best maintained place we have seen in Thailand so far. Everything is immaculate!

Anyway, we left the summer palace and made our way to Wat Maha That. This temple is famous because its pagoda once contained a relic of the lord Buddha. This is the biggest temple we've seen so far, lots and lots of pagodas, however most of the images of Buddha were destroyed during a conflict with Burma (we think). This place is ancient, it is over 600 years old and Kristen was is awe of the ruins.

The Buddha Tree

Think we found 2 intact Buddhas, this is one of them. 

The main pagoda. Previously full of treasures!

2nd Buddha

Next we were off to yet another temple. Wat Na Phra Mane

This green stone buddha is more than 1000 years old.

Then back onto the bus to another temple, Wat Lokayasutharam, home of the 3rd largest reclining Buddha in Thailand (maybe world?).

The bus then dropped us off at a dock to board a boat back to Bangkok. Traveling down the filthiest river I have ever seen took a long time. We saw some cool stuff... a lot more boring stuff. We finally arrived back at our hotel and had a meeting with our Destination Asia rep to book activities for the next day. We bought up the subject of Muay Thai and before we knew it we were in car on our way to the boxing stadium, for what we though was going to be awesome kick boxing...

In reality, most of the fighters were kids or high school students. The 2 fights we found the most brutal were between kids that looked like they were about 8-12. Both of these fights had to be stopped due to 1 fighter being unable to continue.

After a few hours we got to the "Main Event" with a couple of fighters from France. We thought this fight was going to be great. It was over in the first round! You can see in the photos below, the fighter in red slips and cops a kick to the nose, breaking it. The fight was stopped.

Then we were back to more school yard fights.

The kids fighting below we think were about 9 years old.

After all of the fights were over, we left our ring side seats and headed back to the hotel. It was pretty late by then so we just wanted to crawl into bed.

Day 20

After being up late watching Muay Thai the night before we were once again up at 6 this time off to the River Kwai. 2 hours away...

Our first stop was the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Bodies of POW's were moved from camp graveyards to this cemetery after the war.

Then to the railway museum next door (no photos allowed)

Then we were off to the river and the famous bridge.

The rounded metal sections are part of the original bridge from WWII. The squarish sections in the middle are repairs made after the bridge was damaged by Allied bombing. The bridge is still used, but that doesn't stop everyone from walking across the thing when the trains aren't around :P

A Japanese Truck converted to run on the tracks.

2 of the original trains that ran on the line.

After this we were supposed to catch the train to the point were the track ends, however the train had broken down in Bangkok, and wasn't expected for another 4 hours. So we drove to the next destination.

The museum only really has 1 exhibit which is the cutting itself.

Original sleepers from the rail line.

Hellfire Pass was the largest rock cutting along the railway line, and was made using very crude hand tools.

After Hellfire Pass we were taken to another part of the line. The cave below was used as a camp during the war, and due the massive loss of life the locals moved the image of Buddha here as a sign of respect.

View from the cave.

This was our last stop for the tour. So we jumped back into our van for what was supposed to be the 3 hour drive back to Bangkok. It probably would have been 3 hours, if our driver hadn't gotten lost in Bangkok for about an hour. 

Anyway, we've been keeping very busy our last few days in Thailand, hence the double blog update tonight. We fly home tomorrow, any last minute requests from MBK, make them now :P

Next update will be when were finally home :)