Trip to Thailand- September 2002
Please note that Nikki and I went to Bangkok again in May 2007. You can find the trip report on this page.
Information about this page
For the first time I also travelled with a digital camera by the way. This summer I bought a Canon Powershot S30 and together with two 128 Compact Flash memory chips and a laptop I could take as many pictures as I wanted each day. I hope of course that this will lead to better pictures…there should be a few that are good because I took more than 400 pictures during our stay :-)
The trip begins
We decided to fly to Thailand on September 11th and due to the events last year on this date many people asked if we really would dare to fly on this day. But we did and we left Stavanger on a beautiful clear day. We made some arrangements before going and that was to book a hotel in Bangkok and to book a hotel at Ao Nang beach in Krabi. The first hotell was booked by Tom - a close friend of Olav and Allis, who lives in Bangkok. The hotel in Krabi was booked through www.hotelthailand.com and I’ll get back to the details about this.
The trip to Bangkok this time must be one of the most efficient trips that I have ever had. We flew from Stavanger in Norway to Copenhagen in Denmark and we just had enough time to get to the gate where the Thai Airways plane was waiting for us and then we were off. The flight with Thai took about 10 hours and we started flying at about 2 in the afternoon and we landed in Bangkok 6 in the morning. Normally long flights are placed in such a way that you get tired and you feel that you need to sleep. But on this flight we flew most of the day and due to the time difference we skipped one night. The consequence of course was that we got very tired in the middle of the first day in Thailand.
Arriving in Bangkok
Our hotel was as mentioned earlier booked by Tom. We had originally wanted to stay at the Baiyoke Sky tower (the tallest building in Bangkok) but Tom said that it was not a very good location. So he booked us in at the Rembrandt hotel (check out their webpage on www.rembrandtbkk.com) located on Sukhumwit Soi 18. This is a very nice hotel and well located. Only 5 minutes away is the Asok BTS station and from here you are only like 5 minutes away from Siam square. The hotel has good restaurants, a nice swimming pool and great elevators *grin*.
The first thing we did after getting into the hotel was to go into the Siam area to look around. But we were there at about 9 am and most of the shops were not open yet. But we were stopped by many tuk-tuk drivers that wanted to take us on different trips but due to previous experiences from Thailand we tried to avoid that :-) But we also met a few locals that started talking to us and asked us where we were from and so on and they seemed just like curious and friendly people. But in the end they started to recommend that we should go to Thailand Export center because it was the last day of the sale (of course). It can be a bit overwhelming when you come from a place where you hardly see the sales personnel in a shop. In the end we got so used to the nagging from tuk-tuk drivers and we go better and better at ignoring them. But it also made us a bit rude of course and I don’t like that. One day this guy wanted to ask us about directions to a hotel and I just ignored him and walked past him. Luckily Nikki understood that this was a guy that just wanted a little help.
We landed on a Thursday morning and we stayed in Bangkok until Monday. Many people just make a short stop in Bangkok to get to their “final” destination either south or north in Thailand. I still feel that Bangkok is a city that is worth several days of exploration. The city itself has become less…eh…exotic since the last time I went there. It seems like a lot of work, energy and effort are being put into making Bangkok a more western city. I’m not sure that I’m able to explain this in a good way but it seems like progress is destroying some of the Thai lifestyle.
As I said we stayed in Bangkok for several days. So how do you get around in Bangkok? Well, I have to say that I just loved the Skytrain (also know as the BTS). As the name indicates this is a train that moves around in the city of Bangkok and the lines are one floor up compared to the road. This is absolutely one of the best changes since I was in Bangkok the last time. Back then we were stuck in traffic all the time trying to take a taxi or tuk-tuk from one place to another. But now it is possible to move quickly from A to B even in rush hour. But of course the two existing lines don’t cover that much of the city but it is a great start. We bought a 3-day pass for 280 baht and we took the train quite a lot. Included in the ticket is also a little booklet that shows you maps of the area around the stations and also other places of interest. For more information about the BTS you can check out their homepage. Once this is said I have to add that taking a taxi or taking a boat doesn’t cost much and is also a great way to get around. Well, when it comes to taxi it can be efficient as long as you don’t end up in a traffic jam :-)
Thanks to Tom we got to see more of the Bangkok nightlife than I have seen before. The Rembrandt hotel is located not far from Soi Cowboy and we walked over there one night. I guess this street is a red light district because when we went there to have a few beers, the girls from the bars were very…eh…present. They tried to drag us into the different places but we refused. There is a club there called the Doll house if I’m not mistaken and one of the girls outside carried around a poster which read “The Doll house: 50 gorgeous girls (+ 2 ugly ones)”. I thought that the poster was pretty funny. We also went over to different bars on Silom road at night and that was great fun too :-) DJ Station was pretty lively as it got later and later. We also went a couple of times to a restaurant/bar located on top of the Banyan Tree building. This building is one of the tallest in Bangkok and the restaurant is located outside and on top of the building and the name is natural and clever: Vertigo. Go there if you want to sit outside, have a drink and enjoy the view of Bangkok by night.
Coming to a major city like Bangkok also offers great opportunities when it comes to shopping. It might sound strange to travel on vacation to go shopping but the stores do have more to offer than the shops here at home. And there are plenty of places that I can recommend in Bangkok. We went to places like Emporium (Phrom Phong BTS station) and Gaysorn (Chit Lom BTS station) but they seemed to be more upmarket. So it was better to go to places like MBK, World Trade Center, Siam Center, Central Chitlom and Sogo. If you are really into hardware/software you can go to Pantip Plaza. I guess the latter is like Singapore’s Sim Lim square. For us the prices were pretty nice due to a strong Norwegian Krone compared to the Thai Baht. But also because things are generally cheaper in Thailand compared to back home.
There are many nice fruits too that I hardly see at home here in Norway (at least in fresh condition). My favorite is the Rambutan and it’s relative Mangosteen. Apart from that you can always try durian which smells so bad that in some places there are signs saying that you’re not allowed to bring it :-) I have tried durian in Singapore but I have to admit that I had to give up after the second bite. It was not the fruit for me, that’s for sure :-)
After a couple of days in Bangkok we met Kittimawadee (a Thai friend of mine) and her fiancee Bee. They took us to the Chatuchak weekend market (as you understand from the name it is only open on Saturday and Sunday). It is pretty easy to get there now because it is located near the end of the BTS line (Sukumwit line). The market is so big and it would have taken us ages to see it all. I have heard that there are 9000 different little shops. And you can get everything here from clothing, souvenirs, jewelry, pets, food and so on. We walked around there for a couple of hours but we didn’t buy much. Well, Nikki did come out of there with a pair of slippers with a cow pattern on them :-)
As mentioned we were first thinking about stating at the Baiyoke Sky Tower so we decided to go there one day during our stay. We actually walked there from Siam square and it was a bit of a walk. Crossing the main streets can be quite a challenge and walking to Baiyoke Sky Towers you have to cross Petchaburi road which is quite a busy street. But we made it to the tower and for about 120 baht you can take the express glass elevator to the top and enjoy the view. And there is quite a view from this 309 meter building.
While we were on the other side of the river we decided to walk over to see the Royal Barges. I think we did misjudge the distance a little bit because it took us quite a while to get there. And the entrance from the road to the Royal Barges was really strange: it took us through narrow pathways and it was like almost like going through a maze. But there were signs so we had no trouble finding it. But I’m not sure that the barges were worth the walk though. It is more or less just a big garage for 8-10 big boats.
Going to Krabi
The flight to Krabi was nice and short (just over an hour) and the airport here is quite small. As I mentioned earlier we booked a hotel through www.hotelthailand.com and when we booked the hotel we went for a summer special (stay 4 nights, pay for three nights and free transportation from the airport). The only problem was that no one came to pick us up at the airport. When we book this package on the internet we clicked on a link where it said something like “Summer package” so we took it for granted that this is what we got. But it turned out that we should have specified this in the remarks field when booking and that seems a bit odd to me. But we grabbed a taxi, drove for 30 minutes to get to the hotel and then we got in touch with www.hotelthailand.com and things were sorted out.
We had chosen to stay at Golden Beach hotel which is located on Ao Nang beach outside Krabi. The hotel has both regular hotel rooms and bungalows. We chose to stay in a bungalow and that was very nice. We had only a few meters to the pool and the beach is only a few yards away as the hotel is more or less located on the beach. Being in a bungalow you get a bit closer to the nature. We had geckos all over the place (even one inside), frogs, ants and so on. And let’s not forget the mosquitoes by the way :-) I recommend that repellent is brought along because we got quite a few bites during our stay. The summer package deal gave us the room for about 2400 baht per night.
On the first day we just played around in the pool with Olav, Allis and Tonje (who went down to Krabi before us) and we took a walk along Ao Nang beach. The place looked like a construction yard by the way because they were building a new pavement along all the restaurants and bars on the beach. The work was scheduled to be finished in October but my impression was that they were behind schedule. But I’m sure that it will look very nice in the end.
I’m pretty pale even if I have been outside quite a lot during the summer in Norway. So I managed to get sunburn on the very first day in Krabi even if it was cloudy and raining. So I guess this is just a warning: remember to bring along some sun cream and put it on before you jump into the pool :-)
We decided to rent a car one-day and we just asked the in reception. After a couple of hours Budget brought a nice Honda Civic to us for 2000 baht for a day. Driving around Krabi was not to bad even if they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. I guess the main point is to try to drive like the locals. At one point we were going to slow and the cars behind us very eager to get past us. We drove of to find some hot springs but that turned out to not be that easy. Olav, Allis and Nikki read the map while I tried to keep the vehicle under control. When we were getting closer to the hot springs we started asking locals and we were sent in all sorts of directions. But we found it in the end and we were more or less alone here. They have built concrete pathways in the jungle and in the end you find the hot springs were you can take a little bath. Once again it seems like they are doing lots of construction work so I’m sure the place will change quite a lot in the future.
On the way back we stopped at a food market and walked around for a while. It was amazing to see all that was on display here. I like to cook at home and this was the place for me. Big piles of curry paste and all the ingredients that you need to make a good Indian or Thai meal. I don’t think that that many tourists stop by this market because a lot of the people seemed curious when we turned up there with our blond hair. People in Thailand are very friendly and I read in a book that children have a very important place in the Thai lifestyle. This time we traveled with a Tonje who is only 3 years old and we noticed how fond the Thai’s are when it comes to children. People kept asking hername, trying to hug and cuddle and so on.
Most people associate Krabi with beautiful beaches. I have to say that the Ao Nang beach itself is not a great beach and we only tried to swim there once. When we got into the water the seabed felt kinda muddy and it felt like we were bitten by something. Quite spooky actually. But one day we took the boat out to Phra Nang beach which is located about 10-15 minutes away. This is quite a nice beach and the only “problem” was the people that were walking back and forth trying to sell us stuff. We also stopped by West Railey beach on the way to Phra Nang and that also looked very nice. And from Ao Nang/Phra Nang you can also look over to the white beach located on Koh Poda so I don’t think that you will have trouble finding a nice beach if you go to Krabi.
Ao Nang beach was not as big as I thought. Yes, there are quite a few hotels there at the moment but it is still a pretty quiet place. We went out one night and most places started closing at about 10.30. Along the beach you’ll find both restaurants and bars and there are also a couple of places where you can get access to the Internet if you need to check the mail.
One of the real highlights of this vacation came one evening when we were going out to eat. We were trying to find a place to eat and this one guy came over to me and asked me if he could ask me a question. I said “sure” and then he started talking Norwegian and he asked me if I was Norwegian. I confirmed this and then he asked me if my name was Gard. This was really surprising and I said yes once again. It turned out that he had been on my homepage and he had seen pictures and he recognized me from that. That is quite amazing if you ask me. I travel half around the world and then I get recognized because one guy has been on my homepage. Quite amazing.
Another trip I can recommend in the Krabi area is a trip to Wat Tham Sua or Tiger Cave temple. We took a taxi to this place one day (400 baht each way) and it is located about 3 km north of Krabi town. We started by climbing to the top of the mountain, which has a pagoda, a sitting Buddha and Buddha’s footprint. To get to the top you have to climb about 1200 steps. It was kinda funny to see how tiny these steps were to start with but all of a sudden we had steps that were 40-50 high and pretty narrow. This means that the steps were pretty steep in some places. But it was a great trip anyway and the view from the top is very nice. Ok, I have to admit that it was great to get down again and buy some ice cold Coke from the nuns that run the mini mart at the bottom of the steps. We also stopped by the Tiger Cave temple of course and we got some blessing from a monk there. The munk seemed to be interested in talking to us but his English was not that good so it was hard to understand him.
We stayed at Ao Nang from Monday 16th until Sunday 22nd. The day before we left we went on an organized trip called James Bond Discovery. The cost of this tour was 1600 baht per person and we were picked up at the hotel at 8 am. First we had to drive quite a while to get to the Phang Nga bay (about 1 ½ hours from Ao Nang). When we got there we got on board in a long tail boat and first of all we went out to a place to go paddling. The Phang Nga area is pretty spectacular because stack of limestone stick out of the water everywhere. And when we went paddling we really got close. We even went into one of these stacks and it was beautiful.
After this we were transported over to another tourist attraction in this area: James Bond Island. I guess this is one of the most well know landscapes in the world and it was made popular by the movie “The man with the Golden Gun”. The island itself was not worth more that the 30 minutes we stopped there but it was cool to have been there :-) We had lunch at Panyi, which is a Muslim village where all the houses are built on stilts in the water. We walked around just a little bit after lunch but they were trying to sell all sorts of stuff to s and they were pretty pushy.
The last leg of this tour was a trip to a camp where they had some elephants. It is always fascinating to get close to these big animals and we even got to ride them and see a show. But it is also a bit sad to see these animals in captivity. I’m not expert on elephants so it is hard to say if they were being treated well or not. I hope of course that they are taken well care of. Well, this three in one tour was nice but it was a long day and we were only back at the hotel at about 5 p.m.
Ao Nang was a pretty nice place and we had a good time there. Unfortunately the weather was not all that great while we were there but I don’t think that it stopped us from having a good time. And even if it rains it is still 30 degrees so at least it doesn’t prevent you from going into the pool :-)
Going to Hua Hin
We took a walk in the area around Hilton the first night and there are few things that I have to mention. First of all: there are a lot of tailors in this area and they all try to drag you into their stores. And I guess there must be a lot of Scandinavians coming this way because a lot of them had no problem guessing where I was from just by my looks. And there were a lot of cockroaches running around on the streets. Kinda fascinating because we don’t really see cockroaches at home :-)
As I mentioned it was raining when we got to Hua Hin and the next day was a bit grey too. So we decided to rent a car together with Olav and Allis. We rented the car from Avis by the way because they had a little stand in the lobby in the Hilton and once again we got the car for about 2000 baht. Allis had done some of her homework so she recommended that we should go south to visit the Kha Sam Roi Yot national park. The national park is big but we were aiming for the Tham Phraya Nakon cave. To get into the national park you have to pay 200 baht per person by the way. Once you get into the park there are signs that leads the way to different attractions like the cave that we went to. We had to park on one beach and then we walked over a little hill before we came another beach and here we could access the path leading up to the cave. Nikki, Allis and Tonje stayed on the beach while Olav and I went up to the cave. It is not a very long walk but the path can be steep at some points and it can be slippery if it rains. I got soaked in sweat just by going up this path but it was worth it. The cave is actually two sinkholes where the ceilings have caved in at some point.
Hua Hin seems to be a good place to eat seafood by the way. At night we choose to go out and eat instead of using the pre-set dinner at the Hilton. Not far from the Hilton you will find many restaurants located on piers sticking into the ocean and for about 2000 baht we had quite a meal all 5 of us.
The following day we had the car we rented until noon. So we chose to drive up to a hill that is located right outside town to look at the view. Several platforms have been built to give access to the view of the city from different angels.
One of the things one has to try out in Thailand is the massage. The Hilton has a spa and Nikki and I decided to go for the treatment her. I went for a 1 hour Thai massage while Nikki had the same plus deep facial cleansing. It is VERY relaxing to just lie down for an hour while you are getting pampered :-)
Back in Bangkok
When we got back to Bangkok we checked in at the Rembrandt again. After two weeks with more or less just Thai food we decided to go for something western style again. We tried out the Outback steak house in Siam Discovery center and that was a very positive surprise. The staff were really friendly and the food was excellent. We also decided to try out the cinema of course (yeah, we enjoy going to the movies). So we bought tickets at EGV (Siam Discovery) and it was Gold Class tickets. I think they have two screens here that are Gold Class. We were not really sure what that was but when we got in we realized that this was the first class at the movies. Instead of normal seats we got these huge red recliners where you could get support for you feet and almost put it into a horizontal position. This made it difficult for quite a few when we had to stand up when they were playing the national anthem before the movie started :-)
Please note that there are some unusual pictures in this section. In the BTS guide we found a little piece about a Museum of forensic history. In the short description there were sentences like “for something out of the ordinary” and “not for the squeamish” and of course we got a bit curious. So we jumped into a cab and try to show him the brochure and he didn’t understand much of that. So we explained that this would be located at the Siriraj Hospital and he picked up on that. But I guess he thought that it was weird that we were pointing at a tourist brochure and then asked him to take us to a hospital because he kept asking us all the time if this was where we wanted to go. For the record it is possible to take the boat there too but it is still not easy to find. The museum (or as it turned out many different museums) was located in the hospital itself so we walked around quite a bit before we found it. The museums are first of all in use for medicine students I suspect because here you can see all sorts of bodyparts kept in jars of formaldehyde. But it is also a growing tourist attraction and the most popular place was the place where they kept the mummified remains of different criminals. The “worst” section was the pathology section where they had lots of babies on jars. I could help thinking back to different horror movies where people all of a sudden come to life when you come to close. But there were also lots of pictures of gruesome events, lots of human skulls showing what happens when you get shot or get in a car accident, stab wounds through different organs and so on. Let us just say that this is the most bizarre museum I have ever been to and believe me we got out of there with a nauseating feeling.
Last time we went to Bangkok we went to places like Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaeo) and Wat Pho. Nikki didn’t really feel like visiting these temples one more time so one morning I got up early and I walked around alone. I started at Siam and ended up in the Grand Palace area. I started at like 7.30 am so one my way I watch the city waking up, people going to work and parents feeding their kids on street cafes. On the way I stopped by Wat Suthat which is located right next to the Giant Swing. I came there right after opening time so I walked more or less alone around in this temple and it was pretty nice. But when I got to Grand Palace I was not alone that is for sure. Even if I reached the place at like 9 am it was packed with tourists and it was hard to walk around because I was getting in the way of people taking pictures of each other and so on. So I didn’t stay there long but I took some pictures before I left. I like the paintings on the inner wall by the way (the Ramakien). It is possible to walk around looking at these painting for hours and find new details all the time. The entrance to Grand Palace is about 200 baht but it also gives you a ticket to Vimanmek teak mansion. On my way back I also stopped by the Golden Mount and walked up the top of this. The view that you get from this 76-meter hill is quite nice. A word of advice is to dress in light clothes if you are going to be outside long. I started pretty early in the morning but it was still hot and humid. So after walking for about 1 ½ hours I was pretty soaking wet. But remember that you can’t get into temples like the Grand Palace in a pair of shorts.
I mentioned early that if you want to go shopping there are plenty of places to do that. I was looking for a digital camera for a friend of mine and the cheapest place was Booth “D” Camera located on the 3rd floor at the MBK center. I got a Powershot S30 for about 22.000 baht (about 530 €), which is quite cheap at least compared to back home here in Norway.
Time to go home
A big thank you to Tom for showing us around (especially at night *grin*) and helping us when it comes to booking hotels. And a big thank you to my friend Kittimawadee for taking the time to meet us and showing us around.