Tag Archives: Bangkok

It’s an Asia Thing

My first foray into Asia was to India. I marvelled at the temples of Tamil Nadu, spent Christmas in KodaiKanal and saw the sunset at Cape Cormorin. There was a visit to a strange circus in Kerala, a boat trip in Cochin and lots of ice cream in Goa. We went to markets, met Mormons, climbed Cape Rama Fort and left through the gateway to India in Bombay.

Next was a school trip to Indonesia where we were educated in all the traditional arts and crafts from batik to silver making. We travelled through Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The highlights were the vast Borobudur temple and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

On the way home we went through Sentosa Island in Singapore. There have been many trips to the land of the Merlion since then to explore the food in Chinatown, the shops on Orchard Rd and visit friends, now expats of the city.

Close by is my favourite Asian destination of Malaysia. The fabulous food halls in Malacca, the life of Penang and the beautiful islands of course. So far I have visited Pulau Kapas, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman twice. Each island is special and interesting in its own way for the monkey in a hammock, the snorkelling or the sunsets.

The first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand I thought it was a big dirty Asian city. I thought Phuket was incredibly spoilt by tourism and I was sure I would never return. How wrong I was, as the island of Koh Lanta was to become the special place where I became engaged and later married. The little town of Ban Saladan and the beach at Kaw Kwang will forever have a piece of my heart.

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise, largely untouched by the greed of making a buck when I went there. I loved Hanoi, the city built around Haan Kim Lake and was fascinated by the other side of history as the story of Ho Chi Min unfolded before me. Halong Bay was undoubtedly beautiful and the little French colonial hill village of Tam Dao was a rare treasure.

When you think of places to go in Asia, South Korea is probably not at top of mind. However, I found I very much enjoyed discovering the two sides of Seoul. One deep in the traditions of markets, gates and palaces; and the other slightly crazy side of shopping centres, theme parks and off beat fashion.

I wish I had visited Hong Kong before the English handed it back to the locals, just to see how much it had changed. The modern world could clearly be seen here, but there were still the remnants of old. Like the Star Ferry and the fact that the city still had many large green spaces that had not yet been bulldozed by development. The smog of Victoria Peak reminded me that it was still Asia, but back on the ground there was always a drink in Soho to cool you down.

Yes, Asia can be hot, dirty and tiring; but it is also exciting, enticing and an assault to the senses. Riding in tuk tuks, bargaining with the friendly locals and appreciating the simple things in life. Asia has a lot to teach us and I sincerely hope that modernisation doesn’t engulf it to the point where it can no longer be recognised for the glorious cultural explosion it is.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Destination Thailand, 2010, Thailand, 2009, South Korea, 2008, Malaysia, 2006, Vietnam, 2003, Thailand, 2002, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, India, 1987- 1998, Part 2: The Journey North, India 1987- 1988, Part 1: The Road South

Thailand, 2009

My husband-to-be (HTB) found himself between jobs, so we thought we would take the opportunity to take a week’s holiday. We went to the travel agent who saw that we were good candidates for a last minute off season wholesale deal for a week in Thailand.

We flew to Bangkok a week later and met up with Yam, a friend of my HTB and a Thai local, for dinner. It was the hottest time of the year, just before the monsoon, so was very humid even at night.

The next day we flew to Krabi and then took a two hour bus trip, including a vehicle ferry, to the island of Koh Lanta which is almost on the Malaysian border. Our deal was at the Cha Da Beach Resort & Spa which had a very imposing reception and impressive grounds.

There was a huge main pool with its own bridge, a game room with a football table and two other pools near Kaw Kwang beach. We picked the adults pool near the beach that had a pool bar and staked our spot.

Our deal included an Emerald Suite which had a romantic canopied bed, a lounge area and one of the biggest shower heads I had seen. To have a view of the ocean from the balcony was wonderful.

Not content with just seeing the inside of the hotel, we explored the cute little village of Ban Saladan which was a short tuk tuk ride away. Only two of the many fresh seafood restaurants built on stilts over the water were open due to the off season. We chose Ko Lanta restaurant, had our fill of seafood cooked how we requested it and took in the view of boats on the water.

My 31st birthday began with a pedicure at the hotel spa, followed by reading by the pool, swimming and cocktails by the pool. At sunset, we took a walk on the beach where my HTB completely surprised me by proposing. We went back to the hotel to congratulate ourselves with champagne and a chocolate sundae.

Related posts: Thailand, 2002

Thailand, 2002

On the way back from England I met my boyfriend in Phuket.

We stayed on Karon Beach and I found the area very touristy compared to other parts of Asia that I had been to. We climbed to the top of Rang Hill for a view of Phuket and the lovely Chalong Bay. We also went to the Golden Jubilee Lighthouse and the brightly coloured Wat Chalong.

As is the way with a lot of tours in Asia, when we booked in for the elephant ride tour we had the obligatory visit to the shell museum on the way there and the cashew nut factory on the way back.

The elephant ride itself was a great experience. We had to climb a platform to get onto a seat on the elephants and we went on a walk through the jungle and up a hill. Back at the elephant orphanage the baby elephants put on a show- painting and playing soccer. It was cute and entertaining, but I hoped the animals weren’t being exploited.

Another day, we went on a kayak tour through sea caves in Phang Nga Bay. I was dubious at first as I am not the most sporty person, but was relieved to find that we each had our own personal paddler for the day. My guy was cheeky and funny and made the trip more enjoyable.

We went to Panak Kho Diamonds cave, Panak Island Bat cave and inside Kho Hong. It was a surreal experience to go through a dark cave and come out to what looked like a volcanic crater with the sunlight streaming in from the open air.

One night we went to the Phuket Fantasea show. It was very commercial with a buffet dinner included and a mandatory walk through the cultural village which was basically just lots of shops. The Palace of Elephants Theatre where the elephant show was presented was a pretty impressive, obviously manmade modern structure and you had to pay extra to get your photo with a tiger cub.

Heading back to Bangkok, we took a canal boat tour on the Chao Phraya River by Klong boat. I loved the white Wat Arun which seemed to rise out of the water from nowhere. We also went to the Thonburi snake farm which had a scary snake show and tigers and bears in cages that were too small.

We went to the Grand Palace with its gold Phra Siratana Chedi, the Temple of Emerald Buddha and impressive Chakri Maha Prasat Hall. I liked the snakes on the rooves of the temples.

In Bangkok, the thing to do was shop on Khao San Road, and so we did. We also went to one of the infamous ping pong shows where the entertainers looked more bored than I did.

Upon reflection, my first Thailand experience was probably coloured by the fact that I was angry with my boyfriend at the time (we broke up a few months later) and I was willing to give the country another go- perhaps by going to a different area.

Related posts: Canada, 2002, England, 2002