Chiang Mai – Wat Wat Wat ( A la Borat)

Well, we are now in Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. Chiang Mai is a city with many Wats (temples) and we visited a few on our first day here. We first visited Wat Chiang Man which is thought to be the oldest temple in Chiang Mai (1296). We then visited Wat Phra Singh (1345) which was also beautiful. That night we went to the famous Chiang Mai night market which goes on for many streets. It was fun and very busy. Stalls everywhere, packed with people and all the vendors telling you “special price for you”. We have to admit that we had our first burger that night, partly because we had both been sick lately and needed a change. Moreover, Mike’s burgers is a famous place “converting vegetarians since 1977” :-).

The next day we went to Royal Flora 2006 which is a huge flower show in honor of the King that last 3 months. It is so big, it takes many hours to go through it. It was really cool except for the fact that this time Marj was mostly sick. But still got to enjoy it.

In Chiang Mai, you can’t walk a 100 meters (in the touristy area) without someone trying to sell you a trek up North to ride elephants or see the long-neck ladies. We briefly considered it but because we only had one day, it seemed a bit much: drive for 3 hours, ride elphants, take a bamboo raft down the river, drive more to go see the long neck ladies, go see waterfalls, go see an Orchid farm, and drive back for 3 hours, all in one day… we thought it might be pushing it.

But because we still wanted to do something touristy, we went to a dinner and show at the cultural center.  Despite the fact that Roger thought it was going to be “a rip off only for foreigners”, he had to admit that the show was pretty good.

We had decided to just take it easy the next day and just hang out. We went for a nice Thai massage. Shortly after that, Rog was hit again by a bug and was very sick. It did not move from the hotel room from 3pm that afternoon until we left for the aiport the next morning at 11:00. Very rough… Ah, the joys of travelling!

Sukhothai

Our next destination was Sukhothai which is between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  We came to Sukhothai to visit the ruins of the first Thai kingdom that dates back to the 13th century.

When we landed in Sukhothai, it was really cool. Only Bangkok Aiways flies there and the airport is privately own by them. It is a beautiful, thai style, open air bulding. A little train brought us to the “terminal”. There was a little sign carved out of wood that said Bagage Claim. A pick up truck pulled up and handed us our bags. The building and surrounding gardens are very beautiful. We then took a minibus to our hotel. The drive was great. The sun was setting and we drove for over a half hour through rural Thailand. The houses and vehicles (some look that they were from Madmax as Bert says) were very cool. The houses are lifted on pillars for the raining season.

We then arrived at our hotel, the Ruen Thai Hotel, and immediately fell in love with it. The buildings and decorations are gorgeous, as was the room. It is a family run business and the whole family was so nice. The first night, Roger was exhausted (he hadn’t been feeling that great all day) and slept to try to get better. I went to ask a few questions about ruins and ended up hanging out with the family. The daughter showed me family pictures of them visting the ruins to illustrate the different places she was showing me on the map.

Thankfully, the next day, Roger was feeling considerably better. After a nice breakfast in the garden, we took the bus to the ruins where we rented a bike and biked around the ruins for about 5 hours. It was very nice, hard to describe, you will have to wait for the pictures :-).

That night, we hung out at our hotel.  We were a bit tired from biking around in +33.  Considering we spent the previous 9 days laying on a beach, biking for 5 hours took a bit out of us.  :)  The next morning, we took a flight to Chiang Mai.

We were really happy that we came to Sukhothai.  Between the cute airport, the wonderful hotel and the amazing experience visting the ruins on bike, we were able to move on with some great memories.

Making our way North…

When we woke up on the morning we were leaving Ko Samet, both Roger and I were not feeling a 100%. Well, it turned out Roger was quite a bit sicker than I was and was really not feeling well all day. It was a rough day… We took the speed boat to leave the island, we then took a minivan for three hours to Bangkok airport, we then had a couple hours at the airport and then took an 1 hour 1/2 flight to Sukhothai.

By the way, I don’t know if we mentioned it yet, but here in Thailand, the traffic is on the opposite side of the road (we have a tendency to say wrong side but I guess it is not culturally sensitive :-)). We were both out of it when we took the minivan to the airport. When the driver told us to get in the front of the van, I went around the van, opened the door and started climbing and then realized I was climbing in the driver’s seat, oups. I think a few people had a good laugh. It was also interesting to be in the front and see the traffic first row. Although I am not sure how interesting it was for Roger who was already not feeling well. I think the most difficult part, since we are mostly walking, is looking on the left first and then on the right before crossing the streets. No worries we are beeing very careful :-).

 

Pictures from Bangkok and Ko Samet

We finally posted some pictures.  The link below brings you to a few photos taken when we were in Bangkok:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Bangkok

This 2nd link is of some photos of our time in Ko Samet.  We will probably post more photos from Ko Samet a little later in the trip as we are still here.

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Ko-Samet-1

Ciao!

Marjorie and Roger

From the King’s Birthday to Marj’s

Hi!

So we are still on Koh Samet. December 5th was the King’s Birthday which is a big holiday here. Everyone wears a yellow (royal color) polo shirt. Marj got one for herself, she wanted to fit in :-). We just hung out at the beach and in the water. We are moving slower and slower as the days go on. Bert says it is normal, getting used to island life. That night we went for our first non-Thai, non seafood supper. Roger had a filet mignon on the beach. At night, there are always fire show and firework, lots of entertainment. Later in the evening, at midnight, we went to the beach and had a banana crepe to begin the celebration of Marjorie’s birthday (thanks for all the wishes by the way!).

The next day we spent at the beach. Marj got a Henna tattoo for her birthday, a tiger on her right shoulder. Went for a great seafood dinner, splurged and spent $10 a person!!! We then went for a few drinks at a bar. Drinks here are served in buckets with straws, it is a bit dangerous… for the head the next morning :-). Gerald (one of Roger’s best friends from University), whom we had met in Japan, arrived on Koh Samet on Thursday morning. Guess what we did, we hung out at the beach. We went for lunch at around 4:00 and then Ger, Marj and myself got massages on the beach. We then went out for supper and a couple buckets…  Ahhh, Island life…
Anyway, got to go to the beach… later

Sawatdee Khrab (Hello) from Ko Samet

Hello from Ko Samet, one of many beautiful Thai Islands.  We arrived here on Saturday, December 2nd.  We took a 4 hour bus ride from Bangkok and then a 15 min. speed boat ride to the Island and were dropped off right at our beach.  We had to jump off the boat into the water.  Thankfully the water temperature is around +32.

Ko Samet really is beautiful.  So far the weather has been perfect.  It has been around +33 degrees every day with clear blue skies, no pollution and fairly low humidity. 

The Island is really different than some others in the sense that there are no big hotels and condos built along the beaches.  We are staying at the main beach and along here, there are just bungalows.  There isn’t one hotel.  It is really beautiful to see as when you walk down the beach, you just see cute little bungalows built in the jungle.  We are staying in a bungalow that is built back into the jungle.  It only costs us around $35.00 CDN which includes air conditioning and breakfast.

We have also found the food here really amazing.  And many of you know, Thai food is awesome.  In addition to Thai food, all the restaurants grill seafood right on the beach.  So far, everyday, we have Thai food for breakfast and lunch and grilled seafood for supper.

The 1st day, we arrived in the early evening.  We checked into our bungalows and went for supper.  The restaurants often set up mats right on the beach and you sit right on the sand and eat on a little table.  The first night, there was a 5 person fire show.  Afterwards, we went to one of the beach bars.

Yesterday, Dec. 3rd, we had a relaxing day at the beach.  We caught some rays and around 4 pm, we went snorkelling.  We saw many different kinds of fish.  As we mentioned above, the water is around 32 degrees.  With that, you tend to spend hours and hours in the water.

Today, Dec. 4th, we took a 6 hour boat tour around the Island.  We fished, ate the fish we caught, snorkelled and visited a shark, turtle and fish farm.  It was a great day as we were able to relax on deck chairs on the boat while still seeing and doing many great things.

We hope to be able to put up a few pictures towards the end of the week of our time in Bangkok and some of Ko Samet.

Well, we’ve gotta go.  We have some relaxing to do.  After all it is an Island – a lifestyle we certainly could get used to.  :)

More from Bangkok

The last time we wrote, we were visiting the Kho San road area of Bangkok. This is the area where many backpackers stay. It was quite interesting to see as it is a very busy area with many street vendors selling pretty much anything. Actually, that is the amazing thing about Bangkok. On every street, there is cart sellling either food or rip offs of Rolex and Gucci. You would figure that it would be only in the tourists areas but as you drive around the city in a cab, you see vendors on every street. It is quite obvious that the Thais in Bangkok often eat the food from the street vendors. It must be their equivalent to our fast food in North America.

We were in Bangkok a total of 4 days. The main reason we were in Bangkok was for Marjorie’s conference. It went really well. She presented on the 3rd day and her poster presentation had many visitors. She even had an editor from a journal approach her to ask that she send her research for publication. She also went to numerous interesting speakers. She found it really different from other conference that she has attended as this one was very international. All in all it was a great conference.

When she was not at the conference, we squeezed in some sight seeing. On the 2nd day, we did some shopping. It was interesting to see how they have ultra modern shopping malls in the middle of the city and a few blocks over, there are street vendors everwhere. That evening, we went for an amazing meal at a restaurant called Sadu. It wasn’t anything fancy but the food was to die for.

The next day, before Marjorie headed to the conference to present, we were able to visit Wat Pho. This is a temple where there is a 45 m reclining Buddha. It was all covered in gold leaf. It was quite the thing to see. The area around Wat Pho had many Buddhas. There had to be hundreds all around.

That evening, we visited the Patpong night market. It was right accross the street from our hotel. This night Market is very famous in Bangkok. It is a market that really sells anything. People go around and negotiate for everything from pictures to Thailand to conterfiet watches, pens, clothes etc… As well, you can buy DVDs of any movies, including those that just came out in the theatre. We ended up picking up a few DVDs. We couldn’t go home without testing our negociating skills. :)

The next day, we left for Ko Samet, one of the Islands about 4 hours away from Bankok.

Bangkok really is quite a city to visit. It really doesn’t sleep. There is traffic, traffic, and more traffic. The noize and air pollution is really quite something. We think it is a city that you really need to take in doses. 4 or 5 days in Bangkok and then it is time to move on. However, it really is an interesting city to visit. It is just that after a few days, it all becomes quite overwhelming and you feel quite exhausted at the end of the day with all the hussle and bussle along with the heat.

Until next time from Ko Samet…