Monday, August 22, 2005

Traveling Thailand

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 25 April 2008.

06Aug05 - 07Aug05: Bangkok, Thailand
We arrived in Bangkok fairly early on our first day (since we only had to come from Singapore) and had some time to explore a little of Bangkok. Our accommodation was conveniently located within walking distance of Khaosan Road, a fantastic stretch of road-side markets. We bought so many things here!

The next day we hit as many Wats as we could ... by the end of the day, I was most definitely all Watted out! Unfortunately I can't remember which Wat's (what Wats?) we visited, but I know we definitely saw Wat Phra Kaew (based on the photos ... it seems that all around the world, people take the same photos of the same things :) ) and Wat Pho, with the the Reclining Buddah.

But we definitely skipped Wat Arun (it being across the river and all). Traveling on the Water Taxis was also quite a fun experience :) The Wats were mostly exquisite and decadent. Decorated with gold and mother of pearl.

08Aug05 - 10Aug05: Chiang Mai
We then headed North to the jungles in Chiang Mai for a few days as well. While in Chiang Mai we visited our last Wat, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. It is up a vast number of steps and delivers a beautiful view of the city from the top. Chiang Mia is also a fascinating city, built inside & around these giant old walls.

We also got to ride on an Asian Elephant. They're not as tall as their African counterparts and the experience was far from the same because you sit in a funny little chair that's been strapped to their backs. And we went for a Thai Cooking demonstration. The food we made was divine, but somehow you never get it quite right when you're back in your own kitchen :(

We also spent some time visiting local Hill Tribes, the Meo and Karen tribes specifically. which was very interesting :)
11Aug05: Bangkok
We go to spend another night in Bangkok while heading down from Chiang Mai to our island break. It was spent getting all the rest of the necessary shopping done on Khao San Road and a Thai Massage too :)

12Aug05: Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
We spent the day visiting a Floating Market in Kanchanaburi and the bridge over the River Kwai. Then we overnight-trained to Surat Thani for our crossing to Koh Pha Ngan tomorrow. The Thai overnight trains are fabulous and I would recommend them to anyone. Guys come round and fold down a bunk above your chairs and then your chairs slide and fit together making another bunk. You really can get some sleep, if you're not partying in the restaurant carriage ;)

13Aug05 - 17Aug05: Koh Pha Ngan
Ah, finally our beach break. Ko Pha Ngan is the middle island and as such not nearly as commercial as Koh Samui. We had a lovely time relaxing on the almost exclusive beach and enjoyed watching fire poi at night :)

We went diving (which I didn't think was all that impressive) and lazed about and also managed to go to a half-moon party, a rave in amongst the coconut palms. Great fun :)
Thailand has such amazing food and although one might think eating curry twice a day is simply not do-able, it was honestly one of the best food-experiences I've had while traveling. I admit to being disappointed every time I chose Western food and by the end of the tour would never have considered it! It's fascinating that they have hardly any dairy (cheese or milk) in their diet and you get quite used to it. My all-time favourite was their Watermelon (milk-free) Shakes. Oooh, I'd love one now!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Singapore Stopover

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 24 April 2008.

We spent a total of 3 full days in Singapore, before and after our Thailand tour. During this time we really made the most of our visit! And we just happened to be visiting while they were celebrating their 40 years of independence.

05Aug05: The Singapore Zoo
The Singapore Zoo is absolutely amazing ... and I do love zoos in general. It is absolutely huge with the most fantastic signage!We saw (I'm going on my photo's here, so there was probably more!) Elephants, pygmy Hippos underwater (they have a very clever tank!), Tigers, all sorts of Apes & Monkeys, Polar Bears (my favourite from this zoo), Lemurs, Sloths, Bats and plenty of birds! It is so worth the visit. 

05Aug05: The Raffles Hotel
Naturally we had to go and have the obligatory Singapore Sling at the legendary Raffles Hotel with their nut-shell covered floor! 

18Aug05: Sim Lim Square
And we also had to check out the largest Electronics Mall we'd probably ever see! Sim Lim Square is like nothing we've ever seen at home and we walked out with plenty of gadgetry :)

18Aug05: Night Safari
The Night Safari is honestly one of the most amazing experiences I had in Singapore. I was naturally skeptical and not entirely sure just how many animals we'd get to see in the dark (or even that there were enough nocturnal animals to warrant an entire safari experience!). It was unbelievable. It's like not being in the dark at all, the whole place is lit, but at such a low lumen, the animals still think it's night and you can see them quite clearly. If you are going to visit any of Singapore's many animal attractions, this should top the list!

19Aug05: Jurong Bird Park
The Jurong Bird Park was far more interesting than it sounds and we had plenty of opportunity to see the birds up close as we hand fed them (yes, that's my hand in the pic). There are bird with the most fantastic colours and some of the hugest bird cages I could imagine (like the Lory Loft)! 

19Aug05: Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is probably one of the most famous places to visit in Singapore. We took the cable car across to the island and enjoyed the birds-eye view of Singapore.

We climbed to the top of their huge Merlion statue and went to the Southern Most Point of Continental Asia. We saw their famous pink dolphins (fascinating!) and went to the Underwater World oceanarium. We also went up the Carlsberg Sky Tower.

20Aug05: Bum Boat Tour
We even "cruised" around Singapore's waterways on a traditional Bum-Boat! Quite a nice, different way to get a view of the city.

20Aug05: Orchard Road
Naturally we also wandered around Orchard Road and did a little shopping before we headed home :)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Planning the Next Big Trip

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 23 April 2008.

By 2005 Bean and I were happily living together in Joburg and wanted to plan our first international holiday. After considering Peru for a while (about as long as it took to get pricing!) we decided to visit Thailand with Imaginative Traveller.
We chose their 12 day Thailand Encompassed tour, an Adventurer style tour, which gave us the opportunity to experience the bustle of Bangkok, the jungles near Chiang Mai and the beaches at Koi Pha Ngan. What I like most about the Adventurer style tours of Imaginative Traveller is that they basically organise your accommodation and transport between destinations, but the rest of the time you're left to your own devices to discover as much or as little of the place your visiting as you like. It is an ideal way to see Thailand :)

Due to our flight plan, we arranged to spend a few days on either side of our tour in Singapore using Singapore Air's very handy Singapore Stopover package.

I had resigned from my First Joburg Work Experience and my last day was 29 July. We left Joburg on the 3rd of August. And I came home to start a new job.

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