tag archives: thailand

thailand photos, pt. 6: bangkok

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me, stefan, lisa & mathias - i think the usual maximum number of tuktuk passengers is two

classic sightseeing, annoying tuk-tuk drivers, impressive temples, crowds, sushi, and more – here’s the final part of my thailand trip report.

when we arrived at the hotel (one of two that we had booked ahead from austria), stefan and lisa had already checked in. as mentioned before, we couldn’t get more overlap-time for our “thailand trip of 5″, so we decided to meet up in bangkok for a few days.

for the typical sightseeing part, we decided to experience what the travel guides warn of: just around the corner of the entrance to wat phra kaew (the biggest and most popular complex of buddhist temples in thailand), there was an unusually friendly man who told us that the temple was closed for another two hours (which was of course just a big lie).
he was also “friendly” enough to mark four or five popular sights on our city map AND get two tuk-tuk drivers to drive us there for nothing (i’m talking a few cents).
we had read about this, and decided to “try for ourselves”.
the strategy behind this is that between the sights, the drivers ask you to go into an affiliate shop (tailor, jeweler, …) and look at the things they have to offer. you don’t need to buy anything, but the fact that they supply the shops with lots of potential customers earns them gas coupons.
if you’re already expecting this, there are no other surprises – except that they might leave you at the last but one sight, and go search for new victims instead.

one of twelve giant demons (yaksha) that guard the gates of wat phra kaew (at hor phra naga)

wat phra khaew, by the way, is the most impressive complex i’ve seen. the entrance fee is so high that no thai would likely be able to pay for it (locals enjoy free entrance), but it’s no doubt worth it.
another sightseeing highlight was wat saket, the “golden mount” (free entrance).

there were also lots of malls, which from the inside you can’t really tell apart at all. except one mall which had only two elevators – one going to levels 1 and even numbers, and the other one going to levels with uneven numbers.

as usual, the few obligatory postcards that i absolutely had to send (to family) were dropped off at the airport, right before boarding the plane.

[view photos: bangkok (thailand pt. 6)]

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thailand photos, pt. 5: hua hin

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the beach, plastered with sunshades

the way i experienced hua hin [G], it’s about what most people picture if they hear of a single guy going to thailand for holidays: there were “massage” studios with tinted windows on every corner (some of the signs went as far as saying “special massage for man by woman”) and lots of grey-haired men with local women who were far below the standard creepiness rule of dating.
it seems like everybody you speak to (except for the staff of bird guesthouse (a converted fisherman’s pier, it’s family run) – they were really friendly) wants to sell you something.

a tailored suit with vest and shirt for 200 euro? yes please!

big portions of the beach were covered in sunshades from the hotel’s exit right up to the water. i think it wouldn’t have been hard to stay out of the sun completely. on the beach.

for us, there was really only one reason to go to hua hin: getting a tailored suit for next to nothing. :)

we stayed there for exactly as long as we had to, and then headed north.

[view photos: hua hin (thailand pt. 5)]

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thailand photos, pt. 4: prachuap khiri khan

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wat tummikaram, prachuap khiri khan

as indicated in the previous post, the bangkok strikes caused most of public transport to shut down, just before we could leave the little village of khao sok.
we postponed our departure for a day and were able to go back to suratthani the next morning, and from there managed to book two tickets on a private long-range bus to prachuap khiri khan [G].

prachuap was first recommended to us by a local in khao sok. lonely planet also said that this was a good city to leave the tourist-trail, and step into an authentic part of thailand. they were right!
the only person in our hotel (yuttichai hotel; a very nice one, by the way!) speaking english was the owner himself.
in 3 days, we only saw three other farang (“westerners”) – one at a restaurant and two young women at the night market (one of the few places to find food in the evening).
near khan kradi cave, three school children took pictures of us.
..and in one of the restaurants, they just served us a set meal as soon as we sat down, because nobody spoke english anyways…

i used to laugh at the “evil monkey in my room” jokes in family guy — until i met some monkeys in the city that just seemed to be out to get me.
some of them tried to scare me with intimidating grimaces, while others made a direct approach to assess my reactions!
now i see how the writers might have come up with the joke…

[view photos: suratthani & prachuap khiri khan (thailand pt. 4)]

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thailand photos, pt. 3: hiking in khao sok national park

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a bridge in khao sok nationalpark

leaving koh tao at the end of the second week, we boarded the night boat that would leave around 11 pm and slowly drifted towards the city of surat thani on the mainland.
it was the evening i had my last pad thai (a tasty fried noodle dish), because it stayed in my consciousness for too long. in fact, it kept bugging me during the whole trip to the mainland – more than 6 hours in a moving ship…

our next stop was khao sok national park [G]: one of the world’s oldest rainforests (older than the amazon rainforest).
we stayed at nung house, which was exactly as nice as two canadians had told me just days before. the guesthouse is situated right by the river. it’s very calm and comfortable with hardly any other travellers around. our hosts were extremely friendly and helpful (especially when we found out that the strikes in bangkok had gone to the point where public transport was shut down).

rock formations, khao sok national park

floating bamboo huts

when we entered our bungalow, we were first greeted by a seemingly mental scorpion (we named him alex, NOT alluding to any alex we know). he was turning around and wildly tried to sting the floor.
we later asked our host whether it was dangerous. she said “oh, no…”, then suddenly pausing and, in a more curious voice, asking us what colour it was1. :)

it was there that we met one of the most communicative thais we’ve ever encountered. he was working at nung house and, ironically, happened to be deaf-mute since birth. this didn’t stop him from communicating, and we had some interesting “talks”, using hand signs, pen&paper, and pretty much whatever was around. he got his point across better than most english-speaking thais…
he was also the one who helped us plan our further route, and recommended going to prachuap khiri khan – it turned out to be exactly what we wanted!

the entrance to the national park, with a visitor center and hiking routes (most of which were closed during the rainy season), is just at the end of the main street, so we walked up into the forest one day, and made the interesting acquaintance of tiger leeches. ;)
the following day, we did the “one day lake jungle and cave tour” (the group was too small for the overnight stay at tonetuey floating bamboo rafthouse) – a must for anyone who visits khao sok.
our guide was a part-time national park ranger, and the entire tour was a great experience.

[view photos: khao sok (thailand pt. 3)]

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  1. the poorer their camouflage, and the smaller their pincers, the more dangerous their poison. stay away from whiteish scorpions! []
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thailand photos, pt. 2: diving in koh tao

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four our second week in thailand, we left koh samui and headed on to koh tao [G] – a tiny island (it has a maximum diameter of 7 km) situated about 50 km northward.
we did a padi open water course with emily and amanda at big blue. while i very much liked the course itself, i cannot recommend staying in their cheap rooms. they’re cheap for a reason!

four days later, we took our temporary diver’s certifications and headed down to the southeast of the island and spent the rest of the week at coral view resort, a lovely, quiet place with a beautiful beach, with a panoramic view of close-by shark island, and koh phangan in the distance.
right by the resort restaurant, there’s the office of impian divers.
robert, who runs the diveshop, told us: “impian divers is the smallest diving school of koh tao, and probably also the smallest dive instructor” (pointing at himself).
the entire staff (all three of them: keitha, robert and tom) were very friendly and welcoming, and they took the time to chat.
with hindsight, i’d have done the entire diving course at impian divers.

christmas tree worms (spirobranchus giganteus)

there was a lot of underwater life to see, even just snorkelling (i was snorkelling when i met the shark).

amongst others, we saw a blue-spotted stingray (taeniura lymma), hawksbill turtle (eretmochelys imbricata), yellow boxfish (ostracion cubitus), triggerfish (balistidae), baby squid, giant groupers (epinephelus lanceolatus), sergeant major fish (pomacentridae), barracuda (sphyraena sp.), seal-faced pufferfish (tetraodontidae), and three nudibranches (cool stuff!) including phyllidia varicosa.

all of the underwater photos (except for the last 5) were taken with my pentax optio w60, which is waterproof down to 4 meters without any housing.

alltogether, i think diving has been one of the greatest experiences i had in several years – especially around koh tao, where the sea seems to be stuffed with wildlife.

[view photos: koh tao (thailand pt.2)]

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thailand photos, pt. 1: koh samui

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coconut harvest - mathias, markus & rene

here’s a selection of photos from the thailand vacation 2008.

the prehistory: when four friends (lisa, stefan, mathias and markus) weren’t able to find a sufficient period of time to visit a fifth one (rene), they had to rearrange. the result was a thailand trip of 5, in 3 stages.

part one is about the first week, when mathias and i visited rene1 in koh samui, thailand.

highlights include: take-away food everywhere (i mean it!), loads of exotic fruit including durian, dinners on the beach, thai food in general (especially curries!), a thai massage right by the beach, coconut drinks (basically just coconuts split open) on the beach, ang thong marine national park, sleeping right at the beach, fried insects, bioluminescence, …
[view photos: koh samui & ang thong national park (thailand pt.1)]

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  1. at the time, he was working there as a piano teacher []
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did it, #2

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during my time in thailand, i was able to tick off several items on my virtual “i’ve always wanted to …”-list.

number two: i’ve always wanted to try fried insects.

markus tastes a fried grasshopper
markus tastes a fried grasshopper

while the grasshoppers and maggots mostly only tasted like the old fat that they were fried in, the beatles were the nasty ones!
in a nutshell: been there, done that, not likely to do it again in the near future. ;-)

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