- Bangkok – the city that twists your head
- Ko Phayam – the unknown hippie island
- Khao Sok – Breakfast with monkeys
- Krabi – Dream scenery with side effects
- Ko Lanta – Quiet tourist island
Bangkok – the city that twists your head
“No, no, I cannot”, we had to constantly listen these words from taxi drivers during these 3 days in Bangkok. Apparently we had our hotel in a street nobody knew. Therefore it was difficult to find a taxi driver who took us at all. After taking a look at the hotel’s business card, they shook their heads and drove away in front of us. When we finally found someone who was willing to drive us after several attempts, we still had to help him with our offline map (map.me), while the driver swearingly drove through the narrow streets. Well, we have to admit that the hotel was a little outside Bangkok, but near the famous Chatuchak Market.
Conclusion: Choose a hotel in the center or at least near a bus stop! ?
First a few more numbers that impressed us a lot and thanks to them, Bangkok is easier to understand:
Bangkok has 9 million inhabitants, the Bangkok suburb area even 14.5 million, which means that every fifth Thai lives in Bangkok and surroundings.
There are 85,000 taxis and the longest road is 400 km long.
Now you can imagine the dimensions, the chaos and noise there. Besides there are strong smells everywhere, which are unusual for us. The roadsides are full of places with street food offering all kinds of dishes. From fruits, to traditional dishes, to deep fried insects, you will find everything. The cheapest Fried Rice we ate cost 30 cents!
The city really offers everything your heart desires. You will find both luxurious and simple restaurants and hotels. The range of entertainment is endless. There are large shopping malls, cinemas, art galleries, markets, music halls etc.. However, green spaces are rarely seen. We went to the almost only park in Bangkok to find some “peace”. The Lumphini Park. But here it’s more like a sports field. The inhabitants jog here, do yoga and in the evening there are big aerobic classes. Very amusing to watch.
If you are interested in animals, you will discover a lot there. During our walk we saw monitor lizards, turtles, bats and various bird species.
Our highlight was the Chatuchak Market. This weekend market is the largest of its kind in the world. Here you will mainly find clothes and accessories, souvenirs, food corners, but also furniture and animals. We were most interested in animals (who knows Aaron, knows why ?). We were curious to know if the animals are kept horrible as they say. Unfortunately we had to find out, that it really is so. Partly the animals are without water or far too many animals in the same cage, so that they are forced to lie on top of each other. The puppies are fed with bananas, but are still relatively well kept. The heat is a problem for every animal there. We prefer not to go into details here. Photography was forbidden, so everything is already said.
It is also worth to buy a day pass for the “Skytrain” (BTS), to cross Bangkok and admire its skyline. From above you realize how close people live to each other, how close luxury and poverty are and how barracks stand next to modern skyscrapers.
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you anything about the temples, just as no churches in Europe attract us, so do the temples in Asia. However, we have seen the impressing royal palace from the boat.
A boat tour over the Chao Praya river gives by the way another beautiful perspective of the city. Far away from the lively events, whereby also on the river there is quite a lot of traffic. Among others the famous floating traders. Here there are only a few boats that sell something. The real floating markets can be found outside Bangkok. These are definitely worth a visit, even if they are quite touristy.
Bangkok is also known for its Roof top bars. Whether the bar from the movie “Hangover” or another, the view is simply breathtaking. This experience has its price. Cocktails and food are much more expensive than below. Attention: mostly there is a dress code.
In general, the people here are very friendly and courteous. You feel welcome and safe. You don’t get bothered, as you are used to from other countries.
Hotel: Loy La Long Hotel. (We tested this in April 2017). A very charming, authentic and special hotel. The owner is friendly and courteous. Also the food is sensational and the location is also top, directly at the river. You feel like living in a boathouse. The only minus point: At night it is a little noisy, because the river traffic does not make a break.
Roof top Bar: Red Sky. A very modern, cool bar on the 54th floor of the Centara Grand Hotel.
Restaurant: Mango Tree Surawong. Here we ate one of the best Papaya salad. Nice garden.
In 3 days of Bangkok we have seen only a tiny part of this pulsating city, but we could get a good overview and a personal impression. So if you have any questions, please ask! ?
Ko Phayam – the unknown hippie island
After 4 days in Bangkok and the last hectic weeks before our departure we just wanted to go to the beach and sea. The large choice of Thailands islands made our decision more difficult than we thought. One thing was certain: no Ko Samui, no Ko Phangan, no Ko Phi Phi. So we picked out some never heard island names and wrote them down. With the finger over our list we drove until the other one said “Stop”. The finger pointed to “Ko Phayam” , that’s it, it will be our next destination!
This island stayed especially in our hearts, not only because of the “first time effect”, but because the clocks here tick differently. The fact that here the time plays little a role, we first noticed this by seeing wrongly running clocks, which hang everywhere. We were accordingly surprised when the ferry actually left on schedule.
Already at the arrival at the pier you feel the relaxed atmosphere. There are no cars on this island. The only means of transport is the moped, which also serves as a taxi, even if one has a lot of luggage. 5 minutes after we had called a cap, two mopeds came, which we stared at with our large backpackers & small backpacks and thought someone misunderstood us. “And our luggage?” we asked stupidly. Without answer they each packed the large backpack in front of them between their legs and we sat on the back with the smaller backpacks. Despite the bad roads, the trip went smoothly.
Without any expectations (maybe that’s why), the island has conquered our hearts. The pleasant rhythm of the days, as well as the friendly nature of the people gives you an unbelievable inner peace. Already after a few days one welcomed oneself with one or the other. The days were filled with good conversations, long walks, discovering beaches and observing animals. We couldn’t get enough of the sunsets. A dream!
The only 8 km long island was explored relatively fast. The choice of restaurants and generally of the typical Thai services, like massages and tattoos was also quickly compared. Nobody stood in front of his shop to attract new customers. One felt like a member of the community and not a tourist to rip off.
The visit of the village of the sea nomads made us think a lot. The children jumped towards us with their extremely wide smiles and pulled us across the river to their village with their self-made raft. They showed us their school and wanted to play with us. In front of the very modest houses we saw the parents with empty facial expressions. Many of the children obviously had a health problem, which is most likely due to a lack of hygiene. The smiling faces will be remembered forever.
About the sea nomads
Moken is the name of the sea nomads of the Andaman Sea, a minority that is discriminated against by the authorities and usually not even registered and therefore they have no rights. They are stateless. Their way of life is semi-nomadic. During the monsoon they stay on the islands, during the rest of the year they go from island to island by boat and live mainly from catching fish and seafood. Through generations of diving in their livelihood without technical aids, their underwater vision has greatly improved. During the Tsunami they became heroes, because they were the only ones to face the imminent danger due to the unusual circling of the birds, the restless dogs and the retreating sea. So they were able to save themselves and some tourists.
We have enjoyed this easygoing life on Ko Phayam very much and have enough energy to move on after 7 days to Khao Sok where we can live out our jungle trekking passion.
Facts about Ko Phayam
Province: Ranong (northern Andaman coast)
Size: 8 km long, max. 5 km wide
Arrival: from Ranong by speedboat (35 minutes – 350 Baht p. p.) or by ferry (1,5 h – 200 Baht p. p.)
Best travel time: From November to Easter is high season, otherwise it rains a lot and many facilities are closed.
Tip: travel shortly before or after the high season. The weather is then usually good and the prices are still those of the low season.
Prices: Bungalows from 300 Baht; Moped 150-200 Baht per day
Travel type: Nature lovers who want to move off the beaten track and can do without luxury and countless entertainment offers. Here you can still experience the simple Thailand.
Beaches: There are the two main beaches Ao Khao Kwai (buffalo bay) in the northwest, which is always suitable for swimming and Ao Yai (long beach) in the southwest, where you can swim only at high tide. Other small beaches: Ao Klang Peer (Monkey Bay), so called because of the monkeys that can be found there. Ao Mae Mai, right next to the pier. Ao Hin Kam in the northeast.
Activities: Kayaking, snorkeling, diving, surfing, stand-up paddling, trips to the neighbouring islands.
Money: There are no ATMs!
Restaurant: FlowerPower. Here we had found our favourite place on the first day. The Italian couple was a lucky find for our spoiled palate. From homemade pasta, pizza, italian coffee to thai and malay cuisine, they have practically everything your heart desires. All this in a cosy ambience and very friendly hosts.
Tattoo: The FlowerPower also has a very recommendable tattoo artist, who uses the traditional Bamboo technique. Aaron couldn’t resist his long-awaited wish for a turtle on his calf. The tattoo result was awesome. The pain is less severe than with the tattoo machine, it doesn’t bleed and itch. The best: you don’t have to do without water and sun afterwards!!!
Khao Sok – Breakfast with monkeys
After a 9-hour journey in a speedboat, mini van and public bus we arrived exhausted in Khao Sok in the evening. Thanks to the crazy driver of the minivan, who apparently didn’t know that you shouldn’t overtake in curves with a double line and thanks to the young Thai woman who filled her plastic bag the whole trip, it felt like 24 hours. The driver also loaded packages and goods all along the way, which he later had to deliver somewhere. We certainly didn’t take the shortest way to Khao Sok, otherwise we would have needed less time for 250 km, despite the conditions of the Thai roads!
The breathtaking view of the last hour with the public bus made the previous hours a bit good again. The sunset gave a magical atmosphere to limestone mountain ranges.
As we arrived at our beautiful hut build on stilts in the middle of the rainforest in front of a river with its limestone background, we were very happy to have this accommodation for the next 3 days.
The next morning we suddenly felt the hut tremble. After a short fright we discovered that a monkey had climbed up our stairs. Soon he was followed by a whole gang who let off steam on our balcony. We had the pleasure of watching the monkey spectacle for quite a while. What a unique experience!
The 2 jungle paths in the national park could be discovered either with or without a guide. In Travelino’s way we tackle the first path alone. The path starts very easy and is well signposted, so that we don’t regret our decision to go alone. Little by little the signs become less and less and the paths unrecognisable. Also the map, which was given to us at the entrance at the park, did not help us. While we were ambitious and of course very careful not to get lost, trying to find the right way, we also met other hikers, who had the same problem.
Slightly disappointed, not to have reached the destination with the probably worth seeing waterfall, we turned back to the base camp. Furthermore we ran out of supplies and hunger caught up with us. The grim park ranger at the entrance assured us before, that there was a restaurant about half way, which we had also seen. But when we arrived there at noon, the unsympathetic guy behind the bar just said “no food, no food”. Exhausted and angry at the misinformation we marched to the exit, where we threw the restaurant’s situation at the ranger’s head.
Finally, the entrance fee for the park over 300 Baht per person was unjustified. The entrance fee is only valid for 24 hours, so we renounced the other path the next day. It should be more difficult than the first one. Travelinos does not even think to pay a guide. “On our own” is our motto. We want to make our own discoveries without a guide putting an animal in front of our feet and pretending to have just discovered it.
So the next day we walked on the trails outside the park, which turned out to be very exciting. We could see in different places that the national parks and their guided tours are completely overpriced.
Accommodation: Our jungle camp.Beautiful stilt huts in the middle of the rainforest. Take earplugs with you! The nightly cicadas/frog concert and other unidentifiable noises robbed us of several hours of sleep.
Restaurant: Family Restaurant You Are My Family, this wonderful family cooks everything fresh and serves generous quantities. Here we had excellent grilled chicken.
Krabi – dream scenery with side effects
The paradisiacal motive of sandy beaches with a breathtaking scenery of limestone rocks lured us to Krabi. It also looks exactly like the Google images, but the mass tourism here has clearly clouded the authenticity of Thailand. Restaurants, souvenir shops and tour operators are lined up next to each other. Everybody tries to catch customers in front of his shop. The most blatant was the massage offer along the beach promenade. While we walked here and actually wanted to enjoy the sea and the landscape, the women yelled constantly “Massage, massage, you want massage?”.
Another reason that brought us to Krabi was climbing. Climbers from all over the world come here to climb these gigantic boulders. We didn’t want to miss this new experience and the next morning we were driven to the bay, Ao Ton Sai, which can only be reached by longtail boat. An experienced instructor taught us the basics before we tried to climb the rocks ourselves. This sport takes every single part of the body and needs concentration. Cool experience!
Krabi is an ideal starting point to get to other popular destinations like the bay of Phan Nga, Ko Phi Phi or Phuket. There are also many beautiful smaller islands with white sandy beaches for a day trip.
Surely Krabi is worth seeing, but no oasis of well-being for us. Therefore we were happy to move on after 3 days and hopefully to find the quieter and authentic Thailand on Ko Lanta again.
Climbing school: Base Camp Climbing.
Fish restaurant: Krua Thara Seafood Restaurant, not the most beautiful restaurant, but fish and seafood fresh from the pool.
Tip: Get several offers before booking a tour or transfer. The prices vary a lot due to the large offer. Have the courage to bargain with the price.
Ko Lanta – Quiet tourist island
Apart from the first horror night in a not yet opened resort (that was really spooky), the 9 days on Ko Lanta were exciting and relaxing at the same time.
The island is good to explore with a moped. The more you go south, the quieter it gets. The beaches on the whole island are very beautiful and suitable for bathing. Since they are so extensive, the beaches are never overcrowded. Everywhere there are cosy bars and restaurants. Every evening after sunset fire acrobats on the beach create a great atmosphere with a delicious drink. Live bands and dignified beach parties round off the evening program.
In the very south lies the National Park, which offers a beautiful viewpoint and a 1.7 km long trail through the rainforest. Since we expected more physical exertion here, we went on to Tiger Cave to hike on. Actually, this cave is offered everywhere by the tour operators, but when we arrived there everything was deserted and badly signposted. Nevertheless we made ourselves on the search for the Tiger Cave. After we had once taken a wrong way, we found the restaurant, which sells the tickets and provides a guide. The funny thing was that there was not a soul there. Only a woman with the tickets, who came out of the house with her child and chickens, when we arrived. Ok, we weren’t so interested in this cave, where no tiger lives any more anyway, so we hissed gratefully.
The Oldtown of Ko Lanta deserves to be visited in any case. The old town is a short street with sweet restaurants and nice souvenir shops directly at the sea. There is also a market on Sundays. But watch out: Only in the morning! Travelinos were so smart and decided to visit the city first and then only watch the market being dismantled.
Hotel: Baan Pakgasri Hideaway. Top location. Directly at the Klong Nin beach. Very friendly hosts.
Best smoothie:In “The same but differant, Papa & Mama”(they really wrote different with “a”, so you can’t miss it) in the Old Town, we drank the best smoothie of our life: Green mango, peppermint, ginger, passion fruit.
Bar: Why not Bar. Cosy ambience directly on the beach. Fire shows, cool live music, free popcorn.
Our opinion about mass tourism
Sure, word gets around fast where it’s nice. We ourselves report here about places worth seeing. It is also good that these countries can enrich themselves and develop further thanks to tourism. It’s a pity that the expansion of the tourist infrastructure is not being implemented in favour of Thailand’s natural beauty in our opinion. Aesthetics is not their strength. Nature is often overloaded, which has serious consequences, see the example of Maya Bay. The famous bay of “The Beach” had to be closed this year for 5 months to recover from the strains of the daily 5’000 visitors. The marine flora and fauna was completely destroyed. We also love Thailand because of the pleasant and safe feeling here. Crime against tourists is quite low and seldom someone wants to talk you into something for sale. But this happens from time to time in the tourist strongholds, which we prefer to avoid, because of the mentioned reasons.
Good bye Thailand! We will surely come back. There is still much to see. Now we’re off to Malaysia!
Jenni & Aaron