A year ago today we left home aboard a one way flight to Bangkok. Since then we’ve travelled through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia. It has been without a doubt, the most incredible, exciting, eye-opening and completely insane year of our lives.
Here’s our year in numbers:
1. Total stamps in passports (together): 31
2. Wonders of the world seen: 3
3. Properties stayed in: 72
Christmas 2012, a month before take off. All ready for the year ahead!
Undoubtedly this is the best time of our lives, but with the enviable highs comes the inevitable lows. We could never compress all our highs into a top ten, but ironically, some of the ‘worst’ times are the ones we have had the most laughs over. Whilst hiilarious for us now, they were rather stressful at the time. Let this be a warning for all you full mooners out there, most of these happened in Koh Phangan.
1. Being chased in flip flops by dogs frothing and biting at our heels, only for us to fall over, have them sniff us then leave us alone.
2. The ‘sleeper’ bus from Krabi to Bangkok. Every three hours, lights on “everybody off! Off the bus NOW! Wait on road, next bus soon.” An hour later… still no bus.
3. Bed bugs, sunburn and prickly heat. Our constant frantic attempts to scratch made us look like we were doing some kind of hysterical dance wherever we went.
4. The only hotel we’d prebooked and paid for turning out to be a shed. Forced to upgrade to a hut (bigger shed but with bed) for the same price again.
5. So keen in our first few weeks to make friends, we apprehended an ‘unusual character’ for 4 days of our travels and, spurring each other on, worked ourselves into a frenzy whereby we were convinced he was a murderer. Furniture against the door that night. (N.B. there was no evidence to suggest murderous tendencies whatsoever.)
6. Hiring a boat for Charlotte’s birthday, only to discover that it was actually a rowing boat which prior to rental was used as a bin.
7. Our only early night in a hostel, discovering at 3am we were sharing the room with 6 naked Essex boys, who after one was sick in their bed, grabbed everyone’s duvets and switched, playing some kind of vomit-duvet roulette.
*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.
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.