Monday, May 15, 2006

Bangkok: Last day

I repacked once again. This time resulting in an 11kg city backpack and a 28kg gear bag. Luckily they didn't charge me for the overweight. The taxi ride to the airport, arranged through the guesthouse for 290 THB, took 45' using the normal road (not the expressway). There's a 500 THB departure tax. The duty free hall is fairly big but rather uninteresting.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bangkok: Chatuchak weekend market

From the Khao San road area the easiest way to get to Chatuchak is by taxi (80 THB). Once there you can wander around the vast covered market area for hours. They sell all kinds of things here: clothes, household stuff, silverware, amulets, souvenirs, furniture, ... and of course food. Quite an experience. A must see really.

For a totally different shopping experience you can head to one of the big up-scale shopping centers like Siam Center/Paragon or the more popular MBK complex. In the former I had a nice cafe latte and muffin in Starbucks, for 135 THB. And in the latter I enjoyed some great Japanese food (sushi, tempura & soup) and sake, for 420 THB.

It's quite amazing actually how fast you can move from one price range to another, eating for 30 THB, then dining for 600 THB, just by walking to another street. And as you can imagine, I didn't even come near the really expensive places...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

from Hua Hin to Bangkok

There's a 2nd class AC bus leaving Hua Hin for Bangkok every half hour. The ride takes about 4 hours and costs 160 THB (including a small bottle of water). From Bangkok's southern bus station it's a 15' taxi ride to Khao San road (55 THB by meter, 200 THB if you listen to the touts).

Before leaving Bangkok, I'd left my heavy dive gear at New Siam guest house for 15 THB/day, allowing me to travel light. A real luxury! At New Siam, prices vary from 240 THB for a single fan room with common cold water shower to 550 THB for a double AC room with private hot water shower. Breakfasts here are decent.

For nice food I can recommend the Baan Sabai hotel & restaurant. It still has some colonial atmosphere and a quiet terrace.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hua Hin

Hua Hin is a modern coastal city, only 2 hours south of Petchaburi (30 THB by 3rd class fan bus), fully geared towards tourism, both Thai and foreign. Its long beach is completely lined up with private properties, towering condos and tourist class resorts. While this may not sound too great, in a way it's actually nicer than over-built and over-crowded Koh Tao. At least if you find the right place.

Baan Talay Dao resort is a fairly new and relatively small place with accomodations varying from comfortable studios to deluxe suites, just a couple of kilometers south of town. I stayed here three nights, enjoying buffet breakfasts, walks along the beach, the refreshing swimming pool & jacuzzi, the peaceful lush garden setting and dinners overlooking the beach... all that for about 80 USD/day, all included. The restaurant serves delicious Thai food and pretty decent steaks.

Monday, May 8, 2006


Just a short 3rd class train ride (3h45, 138 THB) from Bangkok lies Petchaburi, a town off the main tourist maps, where people still smile at you and offer help without being asked. I stayed in a no-name Chinese hotel, in a basic fan room with common cold water bathroom for 200 THB.

The town is full of wats (= temples), one of them on top of a small hill, where monkeys rule without mercy. Vendors actually sell corn and bananas to feed them. And they know it. It's strongly advised NOT to bring anything in a plastic bag unless you want to get rid of it. I personally witnessed several take-away strategies.

Strategy #1: A medium sized monkey nonchalantly strolls towards you, looking the other way, as if interested in something in the trees. But as it passes by your side, it suddenly turns around, snatches your bag away and leaps off to examine its catch.

Strategy #2: An alpha monkey comes towards you without a trace of doubt, its purpose clear: your plastic bag. In this case I was holding the bag and cleared it away from its grabbing hands. Having missed the bag, it then jumped straight onto me to get another go, baring its teeth to warn me not to fool around. At which point I conceded and it ran away with its booty: a couple of sweet cakes and a botlle of water - which it expertly opened to have a gulp after having gorged on the cakes.

Strategy #3: When a tourist is stupid enough to buy monkey food, why wait till he/she actually gives it to you? As the vendor hands over a couple of bags of corn to an unsuspecting (Thai) tourist, a big female monkey jumps in and runs off with both bags crammed in her arms.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Bangkok: Wat Pho

Dressed in shorts I wasn't allowed in the Royal Palace, but I could enter Wat Pho (entrance fee: 50 THB), the temple of the oversized golden reclining Buddha. There're quite a few other temples and stupas on the grounds and several stone statues of fierce looking guards.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Bangkok: Khao San road

Khao San road & surrounding streets truly are a phenomenon. So much so that they've become a tourist attraction. It's much more alive than Charoen Krung road where I stayed upon arrival. Not only because of all the backpackers from all over the world, but also because you can easily get away from it all by submerging yourself into the bustling city life just a couple of streets away. Off the main tourist streets, you can get a street side meal for 20-30 THB. A fraction of the price you pay in the places catering to tourists.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

from Koh Tao to Bangkok

After 3 days of doing nothing but sleep, eat, read and walk along the beach at sunset I finally got myself together to leave the island and bought a joint ticket (ferry-bus-train, 2nd class AC upper bunk) for 1080 THB.

The Songserm ferry is pretty terrible, its aircon being set to deep-freeze, chasing everybody up to the windy roof for the 3 hour crossing. From Chumporn pier to Chumporn train station it's only a short 10' bus ride. Dinner in the nearest eatery, as I really don't feel like lugging my 40kg of gear around town. The express train leaves on time, and I'm actually able to get some sleep before arriving in Bangkok around 7:15 (only 45' late). From the station its a 50 THB taxi ride to Khao San road.

Shambara guesthouse is full, so I head over to another backpacker street nearby, and end up in the Bella Bella guesthouse. Basic twin room with fan and common cold water bathroom, 270 THB. I'm totally drenched in sweat by the time I've climbed the stairs to the fifth floor. But, it's quiet up there, and there's even a view of Bangkok's rooftops. Eggs, toasts and coffee breakfast costs about 70 THB. Internet access is cheap at 30 THB / hour and burning a CD only costs 100 THB.