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Published: November 23rd 2008
Who ever wrote that New York was the city that never sleeps has clearly never been to Bangkok! It is easily one of the craziest, most non-stop places we have ever been.
We arrived in Bangkok after an 11 hour flight from Heathrow.
2 hours later we found ourselves sat on plastic stools by the side of a busy downtown junction being served stir fry chicken by a street vendor. What exactly had we got ourselves into? This would infact become normal to us before the week was out.
Over the next few days we explored Bangkok from the comfort of our Hotel. The Centre Point was equipped with a gym, swimming pool and large glass doors which take you straight into "Robinsons" department store! We learnt how to use the skytrain, metro and river boats pretty quickly. We also enjoyed just walking through the city stumbling across Wat's, streets selling everything from car parts to knives and hundreds of delicious street vendors. We quickly learnt that crossing the road is an extreme sport.
All too soon, three nights in our plush hotel were over and it was time to brave the hostels in the infamous Th Khao
San area. This is a Mecca for backpackers desperate to get their hands on the buckets of strong, very cheap cocktails. We steer clear of the bars packed with tourists and try our hands at batering with the locals instead.
Everyone talks about the cultural contrasts within Bangkok but until you have seen it, it is virtualy impossible to understand the huge spectrum caught within one city. Old, new, rich and poor literally collide head on wherever you look.
On a good tip off we head to the sirocco sky bar. 64 floors up we find ourselves with the best view in town and our wallets considerably lighter.
Quite by chance we were in Bangkok for the Loi Krathong Festival. Thousands of small boats are made from banana leaves, flowers and candles. These range from very simple to incredibly ellaborate. The candles are lit and the boats are floated on the river. It is said that couples who sail them together will never drift apart. (As a result it seems that we will have to put up with each other for a long time to come!) It was unlike any festival we have been to before. Watching
the river come alive was simply stunning.
Quickly we became bored and frustrated with the tourist trap and hectic pace of khao san life. Our time in Bangkok has passed in a blur of heat and neon and we are desperate for fresh air. We jump on a third class train and head north for Ayuthaya. Two hours later we emerge from the sticky, overcrowded train. We jump on a small ferry to cross the moat like river that rings the city and immediately feel that the pace of life in much slower.
It's around 1.30pm and far too hot to trek around looking for the best guest house. We jump into the first one we come too and get extremely lucky. Our room has a view over the river, a terrace outside and a riverside resturant next door. Ayuthaya is a beautiful city that was once the capital of Thailand and as a result is awash with ancient ruins and stunning temples. One such temple contains a 30m golden seated buddha that has to be seen to be believed. Three more days pass as we spend our time wandering around huge ruins or simply watching the world
go by on the river as we sit with our books on the deck outside our room. We didn't really want to leave our lovely riverside room. However we get itchy feet and decide that it is time to move on, leaving the hundreds of gecko's and two huge monitor lizards behind. After much consulting of guide books and train schedules we took a second class train to our next destination. This enabled us to have a much quicker journey and much needed air con!
Phitsanlok was even hotter on arrival than Ayuthaya. We explored the night bazaar, ate by the river and found a strip of tiny bars where we pointed at various pictures to various people before two unusual drinks arrived! The city had little else to offer on a short term basis and we find ourselves back on the train the very next morning.
The train journey to Chaing Mai takes us a further seven hours. Not long into our journey the landscape started to change as we headed up hill into the jungle. We had a couple of unplanned stops including a school crossing and a dodgy wheel but it was a relatively easy
journey and we were well looked after.
We arrive in Chiang Mai after dark in light refreshing rain. We take a wild guess at the map and jump into a taxi. We soon find ourselves checking into a hostel with a pool! (bleached hair has now turned green!) The city is laid back and the climate is much cooler and less humid than in the south. We spent the first couple of days exploring the city and eating some of the best food yet. After a long day walking we treated ourselves to a thai massage. "Treat" however may have been the wrong word as we are still recovering from it! We think it's done more damage than it was worth.
As a break from all the Thai culture, on Friday night we hopped in a Tuk-Tuk and headed for the cinema as we had had no time to see the new Bond film before leaving. Thai Cinema is awesome!
Saturday saw us take the first organised trip of our travels so far, a cookery course on a farm in the beautiful Chaing Mai countryside. Pad-Thai, Red/Green curry,Stir fry, soup, spring rolls and sticky rice DONE!
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