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Published: December 23rd 2009
Gold Stupa at the Royal Palace
After a quick and painless flight from Hong Kong, we arrived in sticky Bangkok and got the airport bus to The Khao San road, where all the backpackers hang out in an area called Banghlapu. We decided to stay slightly way from buzzing Khao San (we’re not 18 anymore!) in a more chilled out street a couple of minutes away and found a nice guesthouse to call home for a few days (Bella Bella). We dined on amazing street food that night- curry, sticky rice and pat thai for less than a pound and found a cool bar to try out the Thai beers and mojitos (most agreeable!).
We had arrived during the celebrations for the King of Thailand’s birthday. It was supposed to be on the 5th but he’d been ill so the birthday bash was put back a couple of days (lucky for us!). The trees and lamp posts along the main streets around the Democracy Statue were covered with fairy lights and everyone was wearing pink T-shirts (the Kings favourite colour!). Street food vendors were out in force to serve the thousands of people who had turned out to celebrate, watch the live music acts
and see the spectacular (mostly pink) firework display that night. The Thai people really love their King, there are pictures of him litterally everywhere in the city!
Next day we took a stroll to check out the Grand Palace. Holly didn’t read the part in the guidebook which said about the dress code and had to hire a dowdy second hand shirt and sarong before entering the sacred place. The place was truly magnificent. Gold stupas, ornate temples dripping in gold and sparkling mirrored mosaics, statues and hand painted murals. The mainsanctuary housed the famous and sacred emerald Buddha, which sits ontop of a glitzy alter and is draped in gold….dressed by the Thai King no less! We think Thailand must biggest used of gold leaf in the whole world! We then walked to Wat Po, a temple complex that houses the giant golden reclinging Buddha. This was also very impressive at 45m long and with mother-of-pearl inlayed feet. We walked back via thousands of little street stalls all of which were either selling bric-a-brak or tiny stone carvings of Buddha. One of the stall holders insisted we have one of these carvings each for free……we think he saw
our mala beads and assumed we were devote Buddhists, bless.
We also went to see the Vimanmek Palace, a huge royal mansion made of teak and built without nails, which is now a museum and houses some of the King’s artefact collection. Unfortunately, we arived a bit late so had to rush through before the place closed but what we saw of it was very beautiful and well kept. We took a tuktuk through Bangkok’s helliush traffic jams to see Wat Arun, the amazing and tall Temple of Dawn and got a bit of vertigo walking up the tower.
We instantly liked Bangkok. We found a cool roof bar on the Khao San Rd that played acoustic guitar and did cheap buckets. We had a fish foot massage, where little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet and it kinda tickles. We ate at this amazing vegetarian restaurant called Ethos and went to the Espanlades shopping mall where Dee found a really good skate park. But what we really wanted to do was go to the beach! Despite not even scratching the surface of Bangkok, we knew we would be coming back later on in our trip
so we’d see the rest of the sites another time. We booked train tickets and started the journey south to the Andaman Coast and our first stop…..Koh Phi Phi! Koh Phi Phi
We took the comfortable night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (someone comes and makes up your bed and everything!), then a couple of tourist buses to Krabi......then a ferry to Koh Phi Phi Don. The journey took us 18 hours in total but we didn't mind. We arrived at Phi Phi's Ton Sai pier, which was crazy with taxi and hotel touts so we got straight on a longtail boat and went away from the meyhem to beautiful Long Beach and found some lovely hillside bungalows right at the end of the beach with sunrise ocean views. We watched the sun set over stunning Phi Phi Ley Island (the one made famous by the film The Beach) while eating some fab seafood.........bliss.
We ventured to Ton Sai village one night (crowded concrete maize of shops, bars and cafes) and found it was just like Magaluf. We treated ourselves to some Thai pampering, Holly had a mani and pedicure and Dee had a Thai massage
Mural at Palace
and did some shopping before drinking some beers on the beach watching the nightly fire shows. It was quite expensive compared to Bangkok, but then it is an island and everything has to be shipped in by boat.
We went on a snorkling trip with 10 other people from our resort. We took longtail boats to explore nearby Bamboo Island, Monkey Beach on Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley's famous Maya Beach. All three of these beaches were heavenly, powdery white sand (like walking on flour), crystal clear turquoise water, baking hot sun and tropical fish in their thousands. We spent one of the best days watching the multicoloured fish nibble at the underwater coral and sunbathing on the beaches. Phi Phi is such a nice place, could have stayed longer if we weren't trying to stick to a budget!!
We knew we had to be in Koh Phangan for New Years Eve so we made our way in that direction and decided to go to Koh Lanta for some peace and quiet.....
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