Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thailand part3: Bangkok

Bangkok for me was always that point of my travels where everything should change - meaning the transition point from the holiday touristy southern Thailand to the more authentic North or Cambodia (as until 2 days before leaving Bangkok we still were not decided which way to go). Our laziness to deal with the visa stuff at the moment decided that our next steps after Bangkok will lead to the North of Thailand and then Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia... But let's get back to Bangkok. We've spent 5 days there and I must say that I was pretty impressed by observing the life in this big chaotic city. Bangkok is a city of multiple faces and totally disorganized (which ironically makes it very interesting)  - beautiful temples right next to ruined houses with sky-scrapers in the backyard is a pretty usual sight here...

Bangkok skyline from Loha Prasat - one of many buddhist temples that we visited

 In the same temple few guys were shooting video of the temple using drones. This guy does have a dream-job...

 Wat Po temple

Huge reclining Buddha statue in Wat Po

 Picture of thai king in front of Wat Traimit temple - despite the continuous fights about government of the country, one thing stays unchanged and steady - the position of the King.. thai are obsessed with their royal family (insulting royal family can get you in jail here).

To finish the temple section - Wat Arun temple from the boat

And Wat Arun close-up. The staircase was pretty steep.

Temples are the places that get a lot of attention and care and are kept nice and tidy for the tourists... But that's not Bangkok. The real Bangkok is chaotic, dirty, full of people cockroaches and rats... On the picture is one of the streets in downtown Bangkok during the day. 

Downtown Bangkok from the ferry on Chaophraya river (honestly, it is more dump than a river)

Shopping time in Chinatown - I couldn't identify 90% of the items that they were selling here


Siam square - the centre of the 21st century shopping. I loved the massive concrete construction for the sky-train railway.

Khao San Road - the biggest tourist market place where all the tuk-tuk drivers and salesmen gather to get their part of the tourists' money.. Especially the tuk-tuk drivers are literally like vultures once they see a foreigner. They can be very annoying.

To sum up my stay in Bangkok: I'm glad I've experienced it and unlike Singapore it was very interesting to see the actual life and atmosphere of the city. But after few days I'm happy that I'm going out of the city again with a very positive impression - not hating Bangkok ;)

As I wrote at the beginning of the post, our next destination after Bangkok is North of Thailand. I'm writing this short before getting off from the 15 hour bouncy ride on night-train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I'm very excited about this part of the trip. Let's see what it brings...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thailand part2: Koh Phangan & Koh Tao

Koh Phangan and Koh Tao along with the biggest Koh Samui (where we didn't stop) are three islands located in the Gulf of Thailand off the east thai coast. These islands are primarily holiday destinations with white sand beaches and turquoise water being their biggest attraction. Apart from this, each of the two islands that we visited has a different 'side' attraction. Koh Phangan is (in)famous for its full-moon (also half-, black-moon, jungle, waterfall... as long as it sells they will make something up) parties happening every month and dragging thousands young people to get wasted in neon colors and piss in the sea.. Koh Tao's side attraction on the other hand are beautiful scuba diving and snorkeling spots (not that you can't party here ;)). So, whether you feel like partying, diving or just chilling on the beach, get down here; they got it all.. We have planned our trip here so we could experience the madness of full-moon party on Koh Phangan and get some rest on chilled Koh Tao afterwards:

Haad Rin beach getting ready for the full-moon party... It looks much better than the day after ;) Short comment on the full-moon party from my point of view: I must say that I was not expecting much, so there was no way to get disappointed (which is good).. to sum it up: I'm glad that I've experienced it, but I would not do it more than once.. It was just not my cup of tea - too chaotic (I guess I'm getting old ;))

The other side of Koh Phangan. This is shot from the restaurant terrace of the place where we were staying. No signs of full-moon party here.. Very nice place to get off the hangover. And the guy who runs the place (Yoo) - best host ever :)

From the scooter trip around Koh Phangan

The boats are in the harbor - fishermen are not giving a fuck right now...

Upon arrival to Koh Tao

Packed snorkeling-trip boat

This is what Koh Tao is all about :)

Excuse me, do you have a table with view?

Welcome to the paradise

Shark's bay - place where you can spot sharks (the little harmless ones)... at least that's what we've been told. So we gave it a try and went snorkeling there aaaaand surprise - no sharks spotted...

While riding a scooter around the island I accidentally spotted a local football match going on so I stopped for a while to watch. I was amazed how the guys enjoyed every single second of the game and they played with so much respect towards the opponent and the referees... This is what football (and sports in general) should be about. Not money, hatred, cheating and greed...

So, our party 'holiday' cruise around south Thailand is over. I'm currently sitting on a boat from Koh Tao to mainland and catching a night bus to Bangkok later on.. We gonna spend there few days and see what it has to offer and then decide whether we continue to the North of Thailand or to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos first...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thailand part1: Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket

After getting to Thailand, our first steps led to the west coast. South of Thailand is the most touristy part mainly visited for its islands with beautiful beaches with turquoise water. But, there is more than that, and we wanted to experience as much as possible:

1) Krabi - Krabi is quite a small town located on the west coast of Thailand's mainland. It is basically a gateway for visiting the nearby islands. We stayed 2 nights in Krabi (in one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed at) and found out that it has to offer more than just the ferry to the islands.

Long-tail boats in the port

One of the beaches in Krabi area

One of the highlight's of the trip so far for me: buddhist temple on the top of the hill (I almost died after running up the 1260 very steep steps. Totally worth it though.). We got there for sunset and it was truly magical. I was totally speechless. On the picture Ben and 2 monks contemplating life...

View over the hills from the temple before sunset

Same shot on sunset

Buddha statues and sunset

2) Koh Phi Phi - Koh Phi Phi is very popular island (basically 2 islands but you can only stay on one of them) for its beautiful beaches but also party life.. As it is well-known fact that British people love to party, there was no doubt that we will meet some of them here.. But we would never expect that they made a second home out of Phi Phi - it is just flooded by young Brits (e.g. our hostel was me, Ben, maybe one more German and 20 to 30 Brits). As it is still off-season now, it was not too crazy busy, but I can imagine it can get really mental here.. One thing I really liked about Phi Phi - same as in Gili islands, there were no motorized vehicles as it is so small that you can get everywhere walking or by bike.

Shot from the ferry before disembarking in Phi Phi. The island in the back is the uninhabited second Phi Phi island with its beautiful bays and beaches (including the beach from movie "The Beach")

We stayed in a hostel+bar on the main party beach which is full of beach bars, so there was no other option but to stay up late for us as there is no way you could fall asleep in that noise.. On the picture is the day-view from the beach bar.

And here the sunset view on the same beach. Btw. it was a perfect place for a party beach because it was knee-deep shallow for about 300 meters (see the guy on the picture) so it is harder for the drunk people to drown 

And once more - same view during the day and low tide

We did a half-day long-tail boat trip around the islands to see all the remote bays and beaches of both Phi Phi islands. On the picture one of many small beaches that is only accessible by boat..

The cliffs over the beaches are remarkable.. Probably would be nice spot for rock climbers as well..

Caves on the sea

We stopped at several places like this to go snorkeling or just for a swim. 

And of course the main attraction was Maya bay - well known for its appearance in the movie "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio. It is such a big thing here that the locals decided to introduce a special tax (100 baht = 2.5 euro) for visiting Maya bay (on top of the tax (20 baht) for visiting Phi Phi as such.. We were quite lucky here as it was not too crowded (off-season) because I have heard people hating this place due to the fact that it was just flooded with people and boats..

Leo, is that you??

3) Phuket - every single person that we met on our travels told us not to go to Phuket.. Only this was good enough reason for me to go and see myself why is everybody hating Phuket so much... After I experienced it, I must say: DON'T GO TO PHUKET! EVER! 

  Here we go. The main reason why people visit Phuket: Patong beach (there is a "beach" at the end of this road) and the Bangla street a.k.a. the filth factory... This street during the night is that kind of place where you can get anything.. It's full of bars, strip-clubs, prostitutes, lady-boys, drugs and god knows what else.. (Un)luckily I didn't have opportunity to experience it myself properly (I got struck with food poisoning on the night we planned to go out) but I can easily tell that it is one of the most disgusting places that I've ever seen. The thing that amazed me was how big it can get.. the bars and strip clubs were huuuge and full of people (even off-season). Another slap to open my eyes and see how fucked-up the human race is.. The picture is made at 7AM and even at this time some clubs were still open and I got number of offers from the local ladies... YUCK

Except Patong beach we visited some quite nice places during the ride around Phuket Here are the houses in the old Phuket town.

Buddhist temple in old Phuket town

Big Buddha statue overlooking all the action that is happening on Phuket

The highlight of my Phuket stay - I went surfing on Kata beach (one of the beaches on the picture). It felt so good to be on the board again..

So much for the SW Thailand. After 'beautiful' Phuket and my night spent on the toilet, we've spent 13 hours in buses and boat to get to the islands on the East - first we headed to Koh Phangan where the (in)famous Full moon party is happening tonight... Rock on!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Malaysia part3: Langkawi island

Langkawi - last stop in Malaysia before Thailand. It is a small, laid-back duty-free (read: cheap alcohol ;)) island on the Malay-thai border. The plan was to spend here up to 3 days only, but we somehow got stuck for 6. This fact is quite funny, because it is off season, not many people, raining all the time and even the beaches are not the nicest I've seen. The thing that made this place so special for us was the people (both locals and travelers) that we met here. It was such a great time!

Here are few pictures mainly from the ride around the island. (I'm really sad I did not take my camera for the evenings at our local favorite place - bar made out of few pallets in front of convenient store. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I wouldn't trade for any other place in the world.)

 Ben at the Cenang Beach - the place we stayed at.

Cenang beach from different point of view

Langkawi from above. As a local 50yr old rasta surfer/sailor who met Mick Jagger named AC taught us, Langkawi is not 1 island, but consists of more than 100 islands.

Local kids having fun at the waterfalls.

Every port needs a pier. Langkawi style.

One of Langkawi's main attraction is this ridiculous square with an eagle at the end. So after Malaysian flag, Ben found another similarity to USA.

Cenang beach on sunset on the last day. Nice way to say goodbye Langkawi. Thanks!

So much for Malaysia, we are currently after first 2 days in Thailand and I can already say that I'm quite sure that there is a lot to look forward to. Can't wait...