Monday, June 27, 2011

more photos.

I have finished uploading the Thailand Photographs and have started a new album for the Laos photos which I will be steadily adding too.

Travel costs in Thailand

I kept notes of all my expenses during the Thailand portion of the trip and averaged out spending 1200 Thai Baht or NZ $48 per day, this includes the cost of my visas for China and Vietnam which were 2600 Baht each.

The average cost for some of the major daily items is below.

Accommodation 495 Baht/Day
Food 305 Baht/Day
Transport 70 Baht/Day
Entry Fees 45 Baht/Day

Accommodation: I stayed mainly in air conditioned rooms some of them quite nice. If you stay in fan cooled rooms or bargain better then I do you can probably do it for half this price.

Food: Three meals a day and plenty of coffee but no alcohol. I normally ate in restaurants but you can save yourself a lot of money by eating in the food markets. Any alcoholic drinks will add significantly to the cost.

Transport: This is largely intercity transport as I tend to walk a great deal when I am at my destination. Preferring an hours walk over a five minute taxi ride.

Entry Fees: Depends really on the speed with which you visit museums, temples don't charge an entry fee but might ask for a donation.

Miscellaneous: I spend some money on Internet access, toiletries and a few post cards. The major expense were the two visas which I had arranged via a travel agent. You can get them a lot cheaper by going to the embassy and doing it yourself, but who wants to deal with embassy officials more than he has too?

Be careful what you wish for.

A few days ago I wrote about the lack of rain so far on this trip. Well my message must have gotten through to the Buddha of the rain.
It started to rain the evening that I arrived in Luang Prabang and hasn't stopped since, 36 hours and counting. It is not your European drizzle or New Zealand squalls but torrential monsoon rain all day longs as if someone has opened up a fire hydrant and aimed it at the city.
The Mekong is a mass of floating debris and big churning water. it's also steadily rising. Last night just before dark I grabbed my umbrella and walked to the boat landing to see what the skippers of the long boats were doing. Quite tellingly they were all busy moving there mooring ropes as high up the bank as they could,and the water looks indeed like it's rising.
At least another ten vertical meters to go before it hits the road though and there is a hill in the middle of town that goes up another two hundred odd meters so now worries about washing away anytime soon.

Note: Just when I was about to post this the power failed. Now 24 hours later it rains again but it was dry for a while yesterday afternoon and I went for a walk. The places along the river bank have suffered quite a bit of erosion with banana plantations and vegetable gardens just slipping away in the river. The cause for the power outage became clear too. An enormous tree had lost it's footing on the hillside and crashed across the power lines leading to a small transformer. It was eight in the evening before the lights came back on.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

It's early in the morning and I am up and ready to take the boat to Luang Prabang. This is a two day trip with an overnight stop in Pak Beng. Our scheduled departure time is 9am and I am ready well before then.
9am arrives and departs I ask the skipper when we are going to do the same. "maybe 10am" OK what's an hour amongst friends. Meanwhile people keep on trickling down and the boat starts to fill up, by 10am all seats are taken and still more people are arriving by 11am they have crammed every available space with people and there are still twenty or so back packers on the quay side.
Midday, after a lot more waving of arms and frantic phone calls, a number of the locals is unloaded and the tourists, who pay higher fares, are put on in their place. We are on our way!
The country side changes quickly to hills and jungle with the occasional open patch with a village in it.

From time to time we make a stop to let someone on or off but mostly we steadily travel down river. Most people gasp at the first large set of rapids but the captain negotiates them without a hitch, and after five and half hours we arrive in the Pak Beng a village whose only reason for existence seems to be to put travelers in rooms, sell them some food and get them on their way again.
A young man whispers "you want to buy opium?" I decline he goes off in search of other customers. It slowly starts to rain.

The next morning it's absolutely pouring down we get back on board. Three English guys who took the drug dealer up on his offer almost didn't make it in time and end up sitting all day in the engine compartment. the only space left on board. We do depart on time. it rains most of the morning and the pattern of yesterday repeats itself.

Two young monks sit stoically through it all and try not to touch any of the women, difficult given how crammed it is on board.

A young girl, initially shy ends up playing peek a boo with the tourists and is given plenty of attention, lots of sweets,and even a toy, funny what some people have in their backpacks.
The rain stops by midday we roll up the tarpaulins that have been keeping the worst out of the boat. It does stay quite overcast but that's all right with me, keeps it from getting hot. Then all of a sudden we are there it has taken almost nine hours today and my body feels sore from all the odd angles I have been sitting in. I stretch out, get my pack, avoid most of the touts and go in search of a hotel.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


After a mad dash across the countryside I made together with Kelly an American traveller. We got into Laos about a minute after they closed the border. Luckily the immigration officials were having a beer around the back of the place and processed our visas out there.
Tonight I have a room that overlooks the Mekong river and tomorrow Ill set off for a two day boat trip to Luang Prabang.
Any further news will have to wait until then.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Still in Chiang Mai

In spite of all my good plans I am still in Chiang Mai. But I promise, really, perhaps, maybe that I will move on tomorrow.
In the meantime the number of photos in my Thailand album keeps increasing and I might even make a start with labeling them. So just have a look in there from time to time and you might see something new popping up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I am doing some maintenance to my blog and for starters have put a number of photos that I have taken on this trip on the web. You can access them by clicking on the link that says 2011 Thailand on the right hand side of the page. I'll be undoubtedly messing around with the settings a bit so you might want to check back from time to time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vietnam Visa

My visa for Vietnam arrived this afternoon as promised and tomorrow I'll be moving on again.
Probably Chiang Rai tomorrow and the border with Laos on Monday. I anticipate to be about two weeks in Laos before going to China.

Friday, June 17, 2011


The advertisement below was in this mornings Bangkok post, the sex change looks like a bargain to me. And although I could probably do with a tummy tuck I think I'll pass on that one as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Visa run

The same as for my China Visa, I have handed the friendly lady at the travel agent my passport, a photo and some money, and she promises me that my passport will be back on Saturday with a Vietnamese Visa stamped into it.
As always I remain a little wary of these kind of transactions but last time it worked flawless.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chiang Mai

After lots of thought, and changing my mind about five times, I finally decided to keep on heading North, rather then go East, as I had initially planned.
So this morning I got on the bus to Chiang Mai and after a pleasant ride got here around half past three in the afternoon.
Not sure yet what I am going to do in the next few days but trying to get a visa for Vietnam and doing some cooking is on the agenda.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have spent most of yesterday hiking and biking through Sukothai and surroundings. Of the three historical cities that I have visited on this trip this one is definitely the most impressive. The main area is a large and beautiful parkland where the largest and most scenic remains are, with a suspiciously amount of Buddha statues in good repair or more likely of a more recent vintage then the remainder of the city. Then when you hop on your bike there are countless smaller sites half lost in the jungle and where you can play out your Indiana Jones fantasies to your hearts content. And to liven things up I did see indeed a snake while wandering through the jungle. Luckily the snake saw me first and took of at great speed.

Any way below are a few more photos to bore everyone with and to get an idea of what it looks like.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Surprisingly it hasn't rained at all since my arrival in Thailand. Normally like a rain god the monsoon follows me around wherever I go. But this time it has been dry, it might have threatened a few times, but that's where it stayed. That is until an hour ago when, with a loud crashing of cymbals and flashing of lights, the skies opened up and it all poured out.
Funny but things like that make me a happy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Status update.

Just a quick note. I have moved on from Phitsanulok and am now in Sukothai where I hope to do some more ruin hunting over the next few days.
The traveling goes smoothly and it's still pretty warm.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Train to Phitsanulok

I spend most of the day on or near the train the ride from Lopburi to Phitsnulok is scheduled for just over four hours but when I got to the station it was already delayed by 45 minutes.

Never mind we got our luggage stowed,

waved goodbye to Lopburi,

and settled down enjoying the scenery.
The trip got longer as we frequently stopped on passing loops waiting for other trains to pass. It is one of those things that once your train gets delayed for more then a few minutes it makes more sense for the railway to keep on delaying the one train and keep the others running on time rather then delay every one else so you can make up time.
I do enjoy train travel there is always plenty to see and new and interesting things to eat.

This lady sells egg noodles and pork slices,

that in spite of the look on the child's face were actually rather nice.

Eventually we arrived in Phitsanulok around two hour behind schedule. I didn't see a single other tourist all day and doubt I'll see any here either.

Friday, June 10, 2011


It is Gaston's birthday today, another year without my brother.

Monkeys and Monasteries

Lopburi is famous for both it's ancient Monasteries and Palaces as well as the monkeys that roam the city streets. And not just one or two but hundreds of them! They hang of the overhead wires, climb over the roofs and hold up the traffic when they cross the road.

And while they look pretty cute they are also known to bite if they think you have something they want. Steal cameras of unwary tourists and poop on people while sitting on the edge of a buildings roof.
On the Monastery side of the equation Lopburi is older then Ayutthaia and the architecture reflects that although here there is a large Khmer influence as well.

And I see shades of Angkor Wat wherever I go.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Lopburi doesn't get anywhere the number of tourists Ayutthaia does and the ones that do come here tend to be Thai rather the European. S what to do if your request for toast and jam gets blank looks.? Obviously eat what the locals have. I must say the sight of tentacles on my plate did put me off a bit but hey these things happen.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The bus to Lopburi

I got up early had coffee and some breakfast and then got on the bus to my next destination, Lopburi.
The bus was the typical ramshackle affair that plies most of the back-roads of Asia, basically a truck frame with the springs removed and a bus body bolted on top. Not that they don't have nice buses in Thailand its just that they don't use them for what are essential local runs. Utility is more important then comfort with normally a large area in the back with the seats removed so that people can stow whatever produce they take to and from the market with relative ease.
Anyway the trip went smooth and I am now enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned room at Noom's Guesthouse.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The heat.

It's amazing how while doing nothing more strenuous than listening to your iPod you can still work up a sweat.
Yesterday I walked half the day and sweated out about ten litres of water, or at least it felt like that. The biggest problem really is one that I have suffered before and had forgotten about. The sweat runs from my forehead into my eyes and by midday my vision goes all fuzzy. Nothing much I do seems to help so I try to keep cool and carry on.
In the evening my eyes look as if I bathed them in chilly but in the morning I am as good as new again.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Ayutthaia is a city and an island at the confluence of three rivers, I wont bother you with the names, but it did help to make it both an easy defensible position as well as a great location to tax traders moving up and down its waters.
During the 417 years, from the 14th to the 18th century, that the Thai royal court resided here they built a huge number of palaces, temples and mausoleums. Then in 1767 Burmese sacked the city and carried of a great deal of its wealth and the place was effectively abandoned.
Today the ruins remain and make for a hauntingly beautiful landscape.

A Buddha keeps watch over the ruins of Wat Mahathat

The triple Chedi of Prah Sisanpetch

The head of a Buddha statue covered by the roots of a Banyan tree

The modern day temple at Viharn Monkholbopit

It's obligatory big Buddha.

A small Chedi I came across wandering through a field across the river

Tony's place

I am currently staying at Tony's place. A warren of a joint with rooms everywhere and corridors seemingly leading nowhere. It looks like Tony's started out as a family home, and indeed I am staying in a nice room with teak floors and a four poster bed that looks like it was originally the master bedroom, then they bought the neighbors home and connected them together, built an extension, built some small bungalows, then connected them as well. You get the picture without a GPS you're lost in this place! However the downstairs restaurant is easy enough to find, the menu eclectic, the staff pleasant and the coffee good.
I think I'll have another coffee now.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

On the move

Today I have started my approach to China in the best possible way. On foot! That is I walked from my hotel to the ferry, went about twenty minutes upriver then changed to the sky-train after three stops changed again this time to the subway which dropped me off at the railway station.
At the railway station they have some English speaking staff and it only took me a minute or so to get a ticket on the third class local to Ayuthaya. The train took two hours stopped at fifteen different stations and was a pleasant ride indeed.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Wandering and wondering.

Wandering through Bangkok inevitably includes the use of boats a lot of the city is still built along canals and the Chao Praya functions as a major thoroughfare. The photo below is Wat Arun as seen from one of the river ferries.

While Bangkok is obviously a Thai city there are still plenty of Chinese, with their own temples.

And their own food.

Durian for dessert anyone?

Just a note; The Birds nest restaurant also serves Shark-fin soup, and birds nests come in white and red varieties with white third grade costing around 200 Baht for a bowl, while Red first grade will go for over a thousand. Shark fin soup is closer 5000 Baht, about $200


Much to my surprise my visa for China arrived without a hitch. It is tenable for three months and valid for a one month stay, so that is progressing as planned.
Quite good service from a company that goes by the name of Pilot Purely.
Go figure.

National Museum

Played culture vulture today and went to the National Museum.
The displays are a bit old fashioned but they are housed in a beautiful collection of buildings, formerly a palace.
The absolute highlight are the really elaborate royal chariots.
Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside the museum so this is one of one of the buildings itself.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

I went for a walk around the neighbourhood this afternoon and below are some of the shots I took while ambling about.
First up the Chao Praya river

Caged songbirds at the back of one of the small canals near the river.

The 32 meter tall statue of the Buddha at Wat Intharawihan.

A man saying prayers at the same temple.

Some monks crossing one of the cities busy roads.


I have applied for my Chinese visa this morning the procedure was about as easy as it can get.
  1. Go to travel agent in the hotel courtyard.
  2. Give him to passport, photos and money.
  3. Sign bottom of Visa application form.
  4. Come back on Friday evening to collect visa.
I must admit I am a little apprehensive about all this but I have dealt with this agency before and never struck trouble before. So fingers crossed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

First day flights

The day got off to an unexpected start when I got a call while still having breakfast to say my flight from Whangarei to Auckland got cancelled and I could I take the flight that was leaving in twenty minutes instead. So I grabbed my pack while Mum got the car out of the garage, kissed Dad goodbye and raced off to the airport. The flight itself went fine and an hour later I found myself checking in for the flight to Thailand unwashed and unshaven, never-mind I got there.
The flight from Auckland to Bangkok was long and boring as usual with as only interludes me tearing a hole in my shirt when I made an unusual move while shifting in my chair and the flight attendant spilling coffee over my trousers, oh and it looks as if another cold sore is making its way on my lip.
So feeling tired and disheveled I showed up at immigration in Thailand who didn't gave me a second glance, I guess they see my kind of vagabonds all day.
After that it was just the usual maniac taxi driver to contend with and an hour later I was in my room and ready for some sleep.