It was time. Time to leave Thailand. The trauma of leaving Thailand was monumental and so to cushion the blow, we decided to ease ourselves from Asia to Australia, via a speedy trip to Kuala Lumpur. The fact that the train to there from Bangkok combined with the forwarding flight also proved cheaper than a direct flight, was just an added bonus. We took the overnight journey to Penang, then the bus to Kuala Lumpur, followed by a flight to Perth from there.
Regardless of sudden jerks on the rickety rails, strange warm meaty smells of people’s food and the occasional unexplained stop in the middle of nowhere for up to an hour, we consider a journey on a Thai sleeper train to be a peaceful and unmissable experience, and we relaxed and chatted merrily with our fellow train passengers. Watching the train guard come along at 8pm to unfold everyone’s seats into beds with military precision and speed was quite hypnotising, and we slept soundly until morning.
Crossing the Thai-Malaysia border caused slight confusion; “everyone get off the train!” “Everyone get in this queue!” “Everyone over there!” “Everyone wait a short while!” “Everyone put your bags here!” “Everyone back on the train!”
After 24 hours on the train, we stepped out at Penang station to… nothing. It was completely deserted, and upon finally finding someone who worked there we found out that all trains to Kuala Lumpur were full. Never fear, we could take the bus! A friendly local pointed us in the direction of a coach station, and we paid £7 for a ‘VIP’ seat. 5 hours later we arrived – hello Kuala Lumpur!
When Lucy came to visit us in Thailand, we experienced two weeks of laughter, culture and total chaos. Once we’d shown her the key tourist attractions, Lucy awoke on day 6, only to declare that today it was her heart’s desire to get a Thai tattoo to commemorate her holiday thus far. What would she get? “I’ll decide when I get there” was her brilliant response.
Currently working towards being in the police force, Lucy was pleased to learn that her favourite symbol from the tattoo catalogue stood for protection against guns… Perfect! And that’s what she went for.
The worst part about Lucy’s visit was her leaving, but at least we felt assured she was leaving safer and more protected than when she’d first arrived…
*Warning: excessively long post, only immediate family need feel obliged to read*
For anyone who knows us or has been following our blog, you would not be wrong to assume that we were not at all prepared for what lay ahead. For example, instead of purchasing appropriate road bikes, we opted for the cheapest bikes we could lay our hands on, which happened to be mountain bikes – not at all fit for our purposes (in fact they tethered us to the road!).
DAY 1: ‘NOT THE BEST START!’
Chiang Mai to Lampang – 106km/66 miles (Route 11)
And so it begins… 0km down, 800km to go…
We’d aimed to start at 5.30am, so rising at 7.30 we were slightly behind schedule. We were slightly put out further when first mounting our bicycles and discovering our little rucksacks were far too heavy for the front baskets that we’d bought to save weight on our backs, and we couldn’t turn the bike handles to steer. Nevermind… they’re only little…. on our backs they go! Rather than panicking at these small hindrances, we went for a calming latte in Starbucks to send us on our way! Of course this was an error, and the enormity of actually doing the bike ride, rather than just talking about it, soon sank in. Continue reading →
We’ve been so lucky with visitors and as Tate checked in to head home, Lucy’s plane was landing. She was here for our last two weeks of officially living and working in Bangkok and so it was a chance to do loads of the touristy things we’d been meaning to do for ages. Top of the list was to visit a floating market. It wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, the dirty water not matching the postcards and being in a boat also meant that you couldn’t escape the hassling vendors. However, it was an experience and it was a definite novelty.
Here’s our ‘market rating’ below:
Range of products: 2/5
Commercialisation (1 being very commericalised): 1/5
Overall opinion: 2/5
Tate came to visit us from England for three weeks, spending two weeks in Bangkok and a week in Koh Samui, having the best time. We asked Tate to choose one of the main highlights of his trip to write about and he decided on the Muay Thai he watched. It’s a massive part of Thai culture and brilliant entertainment…
When I booked my ticket for three weeks in Thailand, the first thing on my list was eating as much Thai food as I could and the second was to watch some Muay Thai – so when Charlotte and Sarah told me about MBK Fight Night I felt like quite a few Christmases had come at once. This Muay Thai showcase is held every Wednesday at 6pm right outside MBK. It’s free, next to the National Stadium stop on the BTS, and attracts a lot of attention from tourists, travellers and Thai natives alike.
Knowing that we’d soon be leaving Bangkok to travel through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, our Thai meals were numbered! There was no way we could leave Thailand without learning how to cook some of our favourites. With Tate in tow, we booked a day’s course at Silom Thai Cooking School, costing just 1000 baht each. This even included a trip to the market to buy all our ingredients.
The Thais know how to do shopping malls and at the top of these skyscrapers, you’ll nearly always find a cinema to match the standard. You can see a film for just a couple of hundred baht, or alternatively go for for one of the more high-end options. Tate was visiting us from England, so we splashed out on two tickets to the fancy Bangkok Airways cinema, at the top of Siam Paragon.
The most modern and popular areas of ‘new Bangkok’ are accessible by the skytrain (BTS). This floating train network is a really simple and comfortable way to travel, with long trains and some serious air conditioning! Also a great alternative to swinging off the back of a motorcycle in a haze of fumes, if you want to get somewhere quickly. It’s one of the few places in Bangkok where you won’t catch a whiff of food – strictly no eating or drinking. It’s refreshingly cool, clean and crisp (except for rush hour and the inevitable face to armpit stampede).
Looking to extend your visa? We’ve done it plenty of times now, here’s the essential rundown:
Thailand is a huge and exciting country, and any backpacker who plans to visit will very quickly realise that their planned length of stay is just not enough! Before leaving England, we purchased a 60 day tourist visa, thinking that that would be sufficient to see all the southern islands and Bangkok, before moving on to Cambodia. However, we hadn’t counted on Bangkok’s bustling and chaotic charm seducing us to the point of wanting to live here for a few months!
For those with expiring visas, there are two options to make sure you can stay longer. Firstly, you could take a day or two ‘running’ to another country to cross the border and back again, and steal yourself another few days. However, the easier, and usually cheaper, option is to visit an Immigration office, and apply for a visa extension.