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Thailand & Cambodia are awesome!

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, Mar 4, 2014.

  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Every once in a while I get bored of sitting here in southwestern Ontario, Canada and I go somewhere I've never been to before and do things that I've never done before. The timing of these trips seems to be suspiciously aligned with me having enough money saved up and enough vacation time booked for a month long trip or so... but the location is always a bit of a mystery until it falls in my lap or just "feels right".

    In the spring and early summer of last year I had no idea where I wanted to go; nothing was calling my name loud enough. I had not taken any vacation time since my early 2012 Peru trip and I had been living a fairly frugal lifestyle (save save save!).. so the time was almost ripe for a trip.. And yet things were very busy at work, I couldn't find the frame of mind to focus planning a trip, and people at work had gotten used to having me around every single business day. My stature at work had increased by a level or two in that time period as well, increasing my responsibilities and involvement with day to day operations.. so the thought of getting away for 4-5 weeks again was a bit nerve-wrecking to say the least.

    So then.. you know what? I've never been to Asia, LET'S GO TO ASIA. I started looking up flights and cast my net wide. A cheap flight to Bangkok came up via some intel found on a forum suggested by my roommate. Nov 15 - Dec 15, from Toronto, good connecting flights & decent waits, $918 after everything. Perfect. Thailand was on my list and I had just seen amazing pictures that my friend brought back from there on facebook. Plus it was already summer and the other places on my list from Asia were Japan and Nepal - places I'd rather visit in the summer - not enough time to plan a trip there.

    Plus you know what? Thailand would be me going into the unknown again, out of my element. On my 2008 trip to Patagonia I was fully out of my element. Me, hiking through the mountains in the middle of nowhere, in a place where nobody spoke English, German, or Polish? Are you kidding me? It was very not me up until that point. New Zealand in 2010 was my first solo trip, and again a large portion of the trip included hiking. In 2012 I took my first high altitude hiking trip in Peru, which was new and the most challenging yet, but.. in the end it was a hike through the mountains again.

    Don't get me wrong, those were all amazing experiences. It's just that I felt like I needed to mix it up a bit, you know? And this Thailand thing seemed like a perfect opportunity. I bought a guide and started figuring out how the hell to launch a high profile project I've been working on at work early so that I could make that early (Friday) morning November 15th flight from Toronto.

    To make a long story short, my last week in Canada was BUSY. Projects came at me from nowhere! I worked hard and "phase 1" of the high profile project launched November 11th.. or 12th.. or something like that. It didn't matter, at 11:30pm on Thursday November the 14th I was on a Robert Q shuttlebus to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

    The Plan

    I had a return flight booked to Bangkok through New York and Tokyo. I had a hotel booked in Bangkok for 4 nights. I had done a ton of research on Thailand and the surrounding countries and knew that I probably wanted to see Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I had a less than half-filled 70L backpack with stuff I thought I'd need for 4 weeks in south-east Asia. Other than that I was flying in without a plan.

    The journey from the bus station here in my hometown of London, Ontario, Canada to my hotel in Sukhumvit, Bangkok, Thailand would take roughly 38 hours. This includes the 2 hour bus ride to Toronto, the wait at the airport there, the 1.5 hour flight to New York, 3 hours in New York, 14 hour flight to Tokyo, 3 hours in Tokyo, 8 hour flight to Bangkok, and 1 hour for the cab ride to the hotel. Like I said I got very lucky with that tip - a super cheap flight with very reasonable connecting flights.

    The Flights

    were long and one of them took me like almost right over the north pole or something.



    Movies watched: This is the end, Pacific Rim, WWZ

    This Thread

    I don't think I'm going to be too restrictive in my formatting of this thing. I'll post pictures, stories, videos, assorted maps and reference material, whenever, and then try to make sense of it all in a master index. It makes sense for me to go through things chronologically, but I will not be doing a day by day post type thing so I will totally do a day by day writeup type thing. And there are probably going to be more pictures this time - the stories are there to be told but there are just sooo many pictures. (and a bunch of 1080p videos)

    I'm also making this an [RD] thread - to invite constructive questions, observations, recollections from personal experience, corrections (hey, nobody's perfect!), and other assorted on-topic banter. But hey, if I'm posting a crapload of monkey pictures or something and we're just sick of talking about monkeys, a lack of discussion suits me just fine as well. Whatever, I'm just here to show my pictures and tell my stories!

    So sit back and enjoy the beauty that is Thailand.. and Cambodia. Mostly Thailand really, I was only in Cambodia for a couple days. But a bit of Cambodia still
     
  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Goddamn Index

    Day 1: First Impressions of Bangkok | Loi Krathong | 2
    Day 2: A walk to Rattanakosin Island | 2 | Chinatown and beyond | Wat Intharawihan | Grand Palace | 2 | 3 | 4 | Elephants & Khao San road
    Day 3: Jim Thompson house | 2 | Siam Square
    Day 4: Ayutthaya | Wat Yai Chai Mongkol | Wat Chaiwatthanaram | 2 | Chedi Phukhao Thong | 2 | Wat Na Phramen | On the island | Wat Phra Si Sanphet | Wat Thammikarat | Deep fried duck
    Day 5: Birthday in Sukhothai
    Day 6: Sukhothai | Wat Mahathat | 2 | King Ramkamhaeng Monument | Wat Sa Si | 2 | Shade | Wat Si Sawai | End of day 6
    Day 7: Chiang Mai | 2
    Day 8: On a hike | Waterfalls can be loud
    Day 9: In the Jungle | Roosters can be loud
    Day 10: Of bugs and elephants | On an elephant
    Day 11: Cooking with Gay | Wat Phra Singh | Golden chedi | Goodbye to Chiang Mai
    Day 12: Overnight bus to Bangkok | Into Cambodia
    Day 13: Angkor Wat | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Bayon | 2 | 3 | Ta Keo | Ta Prohm | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Banteay Kdei | Sunset at Phnom Bakheng | 2
    Day 14: Sunrise at Angkor Wat | 2 | 3 | Through Angkor Thom's South Gate | Preah Khan | 2 | 3 | To Banteay Srei | 2 | 3 | Cambodian Landmine Museum | 2 | Lunch | Neak Pean | Ta Som | East Mebon | Pre Rup
    Day 15: Chaos in central Bangkok
    Day 16: Khao San Road
    Day 17: Ao Nang Beach | The monkeys of Ao Nang Beach | 2 | 3 | Dealing with a monkey bite
    Day 18: Railay Beach | 2 | Ko Poda Island
    Day 19: Ao Tha Lane kayak trip | 2 | Elephant ride
    Day 20: Tonsai beach | 2 | Muay Thai Kickboxing
     
  3. Glassmage

    Glassmage The Desert Flame

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    Fun time
     
  4. CavLancer

    CavLancer This aint fertilizer

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    This is gunna be good. :)
     
  5. Mechanicalsalvation

    Mechanicalsalvation Thraldom dictator

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    Oh, thanks for reminding me. Thailand is were I want to make a visit as well. If everything goes well I could spend fall of thís year in Japan and Thailand sounds good as a winter destination. I will peep in here once a while to get some inspiration...
     
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    First impressions of Bangkok

    I generally prefer to stay at hostels and guest houses when I travel, but for the first 4 nights in the country I was checked into a centrally located 3.5 star hotel. After 38 hours of flying and sitting around at airports you want to make sure to get a really good night's sleep.



    On my first full day in Bangkok I woke up at noon. I can't begin to describe to you how amazing it felt to sleep in that bed for the first time. It was an amazing contrast to what I endured lying around on airplanes and at airports. More than 24 hours of the stuff in a row and you start going a bit crazy. 38 and you know you are going to be a bit funny for at least a couple days.

    The first day was always going to be a bit of a write-off, but I was feeling relatively good and wanted to explore a bit of the city. My hotel was in a strategic location with many amenities and public transit options nearby, giving me plenty of options for a lazy day trip.

    So I went to a fancy mall and a traditional German restaurant.

    In my notes Terminal 21 was a market but in reality it turned out to be an amazingly flashy overpriced 9 story mall. I got out of there quick.

    The German restaurant was just me being hungry and not wanting to put up with any more walking up and down streets, looking at restaurants, having women yell at me from across the street about potential massage opportunities, dealing with the fact that yes, motorcycles are allowed to go on the goddamn sidewalks, and that yes, I mean no, sometimes there isn't a sidewalk at all. So then I saw this fancy looking German place and I thought GERMAN BEER AND SAUSAGE and you can guess the rest.. It was awesome, but actually ended up being the last western style meal I had on the trip until the very last day, when I had my last dinner in the country at another German restaurant.. for completely different, unrelated, and at the time unavoidable reasons.

    Bangkok seemed like a very interesting and safe urban jungle to explore... for the most part. But on my first day I took it easy and stuck to my feet and the general area around my hotel. I didn't really want to go far. At the end of the day I found myself in Benjakiti Park.



    And next thing I know this happens, just as I'm taking the literally first video of the trip:


    Link to video.

    There were 2 cops standing behind me making sure that everybody was adhereing to the previously agreed upon "don't walk during the anthem" thing that I had no idea about until that very moment. It startled me and later made me wonder what other sorts of unexpected and/or strange things await me on the days ahead.

    And keep in mind that I'm not a professional photographer or anything of the sort. I'm just a guy who enjoys taking pictures of things and has a rudimentary grasp of composition theory. I could do post-production on the pictures in photoshop, but I'm going to be posting a LOT of photos here.. It would be too much work.. I'm going to post everything unaltered.

    So I think the pictures are going to be good, but don't expect National Geographic quality material ;)





    And what's that? Oh yeah, Loi Krathong! I had totally forgotten about it and was wondering what the hell those things were that the street vendors were selling on my walk to the park... They were selling krathongs - things you light on fire and let float on a lake or river. I had wanted to witness this festival, but thought that it had been postponed, as my earlier research had indicated. Here I am stumbling into a park and getting to witness it anyway - as Borat would say "Very Nice!"

    It was getting dark and more people had gathered by the water. I moved back and gave them a respectable amount of space, as families and couples were each involved in their own private rituals of lighting the candles, releasing the krathongs, documenting the experience with cameras and smartphones, and praying. There was an air of significance like you might feel on Christmas around me, so I tried not to get in the way.



    I was full of German beer and there was magic and even love in the air. The scene was set for a very respectable end to a "write-off" day.

     
  7. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Looks nice. Though that room looked tiny.
     
  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It wasn't very big! When I had a tailor over one day for a suit fitting there wasn't really that much room there to move around in to stake out your own personal space. But I wasn't there too much anyway, I was usually out and about, so it didn't really matter.

    The other sorta bad thing about the room is that the window faces a very busy street - Sukhumvit street - actually one of the 4 longest streets in the country. It's close to a big intersection so there's nonstop urban sounds coming in from down below. That and a walkway over the street is at the exact same height as that window, so when you wake up in the morning and look outside, you'll see businessmen, businesswomen, and other assorted people walking around.. and there you are standing in your pajamas.

    None of that really bummed me out even though I wasn't really expecting it - I saw it as a small price to pay to be right on the subway line and right on the skytrain line.. with a station right there beside the hotel. That and all the amenities and all the stuff in the happenin' neighbourhood I was in. And I got it cheap! Err to be honest it was the most I paid for a room on the trip ($45/night?), but it was cheap. The hotel is right in the middle of a cluster of relatively fancy hotels in a part of town where businesspeople from out of town tend to generally stay. So the hotels are pricy.

    I can write so much about this one thing so much because the people at the hotel - the S Sukhumvit Suites Hotel - were so incredibly awesome to me and from what it looked like to every other customer. Those 3 and a half stars really went a long way at this place.

    Anyway, here's a picture of the room facing the shower and front door. Now that you've pointed it out it looks much smaller than I ever remember it.

    Spoiler :
     
  9. CavLancer

    CavLancer This aint fertilizer

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    I want one of those swans for our 4 yo, Abby.

    The room might have looked big when you got there because its larger than an airline seat. ;)

    Funny about the anthem isn't it? Here in the Philippines at morning school flag ceremony they shut down the street in front of the school for the duration. Then at 3PM if you happen to be in a supermarket the "3 o'clock prayer" comes over the speakers. Most everyone stops shopping until its done.

    Sounds like a great first day, a toe in the water.

    Warpus, if you're looking for a place to go after, don't forget my offer. :)
     
  10. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    yeah, that's definitely the smallest hotel room I've ever seen. :lol: Though it looks nice.
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    My first reaction was "Whoa this feels and even sounds kinda communist"

    I will definitely keep your invitation in mind whenever it's time to go on a trip somewhere far, thanks! I'm just not sue when that might be, I've sort of been eyeing Nepal and a 2015/16 type date and Europe and Morocco are also high on my list, not to mention chatter about a return to Peru and/or Patagonia and a visit to the salt flats in Bolivia. Then there's unexpected stuff life throws at you. But who knows, a "Screw it, I'm going to the Philippines" type scenario is not impossible, these things just sort of happen.

    It was definitely the best room I had the whole trip in terms of modernity, cleanliness, and amenities. You get what you pay for and I definitely made sure to invest in a good bed for those first couple nights
     
  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Loi Krathong Lantern Festival

    I was tired and eager to get back to my hotel room and its comfy bed, but I stuck around for a bit to witness more of the lantern festival.





    My favourite picture of the day I think.



    Some more swans coming your way!





     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Loi Krathong Lantern Festival

    It's not so easy to take pictures in the dark with the flash off and no tripod.. but a couple of the pictures actually turned out alright!











    I am pretty sure I got roomservice Pad Thai at the end of my first day in Thailand... either way it lead me to the hotel restaurant on the 1st floor, which was pretty damn good.
     
  14. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    A walk to Rattanakosin Island

    On day 2 I unfortunately woke up at 5:30am.

    I still had no real plan for the trip, but I knew that I had 3 more nights at the hotel and that I for sure wanted to see the Grand Palace and a couple of the other historical sites on Rattanakosin Island before leaving Bangkok and heading wherever.

    Rattanakosin island is basically what used to be the fortified city centre back in the day when city centres needed to be fortified. It is also the part of town where a lot of those anti-government protests took place .. More on that later.



    I tried to take a cab to the University on the island, but the cabbie wouldn't take me "that far", said the traffic was too crazy. I checked it out later, not a scam, just crazy traffic. We negotiated for him to drop me off about a 45-60 min walk south-east of the city centre, well off-map, after which I would catch a boat to a dock much closer to the Grand Palace.

    Turns out the boat was a scam (the price they were quoting me was outrageous), so I just left and started walking north-west-ish, towards the island. I knew that along the way I would run into a couple temples and Chinatown, and probably other cool random stuff, and it was still early, so I didn't mind the unexpected change of plans.

    So anyway, then I saw this guy:



    The Bangkok urban jungle can be quite an interesting mish mash of random stuff, including German (if you can see it).



    This fence struck me as being unusually shiny.



    Oftentimes sidewalks are taken up by street vendors or there are no sidewalks at all.. Going down random streets is almost always possible, but watch it.. essentially the way traffic laws work in Thailand is that larger things get to go first. That and remember that cars drive on the left here, not the right.



    (I swear that they drive on the left in Thailand, the above picture notwithstanding)

    An awesome feeling is when you find what you've been looking for and it's more or less where you expected it to be.



    I didn't take any good pictures at my first temple visit in Bangkok, but don't worry, there will be more than enough temple pictures posted over the next couple months. I saw a lot of temples (and temple ruins).

    This is the entrance to Chinatown:

     
  15. Goodfella

    Goodfella Showing results for

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    I spy! The German's on that guy's shirt.
     
  16. CavLancer

    CavLancer This aint fertilizer

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    That's the rules of the road here too. Bigger goes firster. Unfortunately the pedestrians are at the bottom in the size scale. Kinda reminds me of the Philippines, complete with tricycles. Much more progress than where we live or even the big city on our island. Looks better, cleaner. One thing, here we drive on the right...and that's a big deal to me. Don't know if I could effectively switch at my age after driving this way all my life.

    Wonderful pics!
     
  17. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Nice pics. :)
     
  18. Goodfella

    Goodfella Showing results for

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    I didn't realize they drove on the left wrong side in Thailand.
     
  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Thanks guys! More pics coming very soon.

    German spotted well.

    CavLancer, I think Thailand has had a ton of work done to its infrastructure in the last 2 decades.. or longer? I'm not exactly sure, but for example crossing the border into Cambodia you immediately notice a lot of differences. And yeah, Cambodia is known to not not have very good infrastructure, but I think Thailand wasn't that much better off not too recently.

    But having said that, Bangkok's infrastructure was often miles ahead of anywhere else in the country.
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The walk to Rattanakosin Island continues

    That temple I said I wasn't going to show you pictures of.. I don't know why I said that, because here are some pictures of it:



    This is a relatively minor temple in the area, not one of the big ones, so I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly which one this is. Let's go with "Buddhist temple"









    Next up, a walk through Chinatown

     

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