Overview – Southeast Asia – 2015

Overview of my trip:

25 days of non-stop travelling is great when things are planned out. I find that the stuff that are booked and planned go by fine but when I give options on what to do but nothing confirmed we end up wasting more time than anything trying to figure out what to do. I think whoever Im travelling with should have a clear picture of things to do per city besides the main things we book beforehand. Everyone needs their own space. I don’t know why I have to lead everywhere we go especially when they know I will be shooting over anything else. Crocs are the preferred footwear or similar sandal/croc imitations. Deet and tiger balm will be your best friends. Toilet paper roll will save you in Lao & Cambodia. Recycling isn’t something they really do out there unless its a person going through the trash and removing the bottles themselves. Garbage cans don’t really exist either (Vietnam had some though) but you kind of just make a pile when you see an open garbage/plastic bag as you walk around. They also have a large assortment of plastic bags and plastic is plentiful here. Plastic chairs/stool/tables are prime tools of people’s trades as they can set up and clean up pretty easy anywhere. Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia are more reserved – women stay covered in long sleeve and pants. Thailand – more likely to see tatted people, tank tops on local women but also the whole long sleeve cover up but booty shorts. Also tons of pretty ladyboys everywhere. Get use to smog and smell of diesel as well as dirt/dust. Ive heard stories of people on motorbikes snatching phones and purses by the side of the road but never saw it happen – just be vigilant and keep your purse on the opposite side away from the road. Otherwise, I felt safe everywhere I went. I had my camera attached to my hand but otherwise everything was out of sight. HCMC is very populated so just be cautious when it big crowds or when people are too close. The men there will just keep looking at you though. Siem Reap – same thing, big crowds especially in the night market just be cautious. Bangkok – the only real place we really saw any homeless people – they will leave you alone for the most part… ladyboys will be more aggressive than them.

Vietnam:

Ho Chi Minh

Hot and humid – Its grungy, tons of motorbikes, don’t trust taxi cabs and stick to Mai Vinh and Vinasun cabs. Its rather easy to cross the street if you have no fear and stare them down. Its humid and full of people everywhere. People watching is great and the french influence in architecture make it beautiful. People stare. PJ and rice hats everywhere. Crocs rule this place as well as sandals and croc imitations. If they need to move anything around the city, it can fit on a motorbike including 2 old people with 2 ladders or bags of rice and other things. There are road rules and lights but not everyone abides by the rules. Its built with french influence – everyone eats on the sidewalks and people watch but on plastic stools and tables rather than wicker sets. Each restaurant specializes in one or two particular dishes so you eat at one place and move on. Sidewalks also become roads and parking lots. No age limit for drinking – babies drink beer.

Hanoi

Humid but rains and cools down a tad bit – Taxi’s are better than in HCMC – more regulations. Love the history of the old city where the streets were named after the product they specialized. I love that its such a mix of nature and city. There are so many random alleys that you can just turn your head and look at and its a small vignette into a smaller world; a smaller moment that I absolutely love and look for on all my trips. The people are different here form HCMC… a little more refined. From the looks of things, Hanoi looks more educated. Reminds me of Hong Kong – Humid as hell. Slightly calmer traffic but still amazing little streets to walk through. If it wasn’t for our food tour there would be so many foods we tasted that we would’ve missed out on.

Ha Long Bay

Hot – Beautiful pinnacle of islands to sail through and live aboard a boat was a great experience. Sunrise was so serene. I hear good things about Ha Long Bay but I hear Sapa is a dream… next time.

Lao:

Luang Prabang

It’s a dream world. A little village like city. Weather reminds me of Hawaii – hot but not humid. Mix of old and new but now with a huge mix of expats. Buffet street, morning market street and alms giving were great. Wish I had more time there. Kuangsi falls – spectacular!

Pakse:

Hot with normal humidity compared to Vietnam. Tuktuk will be cheaper options and can grab one outside the entrance of airport – Haggle down the price but check inside first what a taxi costs. A look into normal life – a small city that has great land nearby that produces one of the worlds best coffee. The people are lovely. Made new friends playing volleyball.

Paksong

Small little village but even on the van ride over, the people were just so kind hearted waving and smiling. The jungle was awesome. Wet but it only rains for a short time then it can be nice. I love being outdoors and this was definitely a workout and a half. Zipllining was awesome too but wished it was a little safer like Whistler nonetheless still a great experience

Cambodia:

Siem Reap

Hot and humid. Not all roads are built of concrete so they will be bumpy. Tuktuks will be your main choice in transportation. Full day tuktuk will be roughly $25USD + feeding your driver. Tickets for temples can be purchase morning of first day of temple running – $20USD for single day up to $40 for 3 day. Angkor Wat at sunrise is nice but everyone goes so its crowded and gotta be patient to not get another tourists camera in your shot. Bayon even though we didn’t go inside because it was so hot of a day and we had already visited at least 4-5 was by far the prettiest. Its hot… drink water – heat stroke is real. Dress modestly for temples – t-shirt and cover them knees. Phare Circus is awesome and is a great asset to the community helping low income individual strive for better. The show is awesome too! The kids are so adorable here but when you’re closer to temples – tons of poor families and kids will approach you to purchase things – don’t buy from kids! If you want to purchase prescription glasses – this is the place to do it and haggle down price! I got mine for $38USD with lenses.

Thailand:

Koh Samui

Hot but not too humid. Hawaii like weather. Best time to go is April-March. #1 source of income – tourism. Very commercialized. Central Festival mall is pretty nice and has night market stalls outside overnight with cheap food and other. The night market by the water sells all souvenirs you want. There is also a volleyball / basketball court at the very end past the chewang food court market. Recommend staying in a resort beachfront near Chaweng. Sandalwood was great but hassle to be on top of a hill and needing to be driven down and then work within schedule for drop off and pick up if you don’t want to pay for your own taxi.

Chiang Mai

Taxi from airport is relatively cheap. Tuktuk as well. Hot with little humidity. More cultured – I see more style and edge to the people here. Laid back but very safe and nice. Sunday walking market is long and huge in a t format. Tons of temples to goto. The old city holds a lot of the culture and things you want to see. Top of the north wall – stalls – street food for locals – thai cowgirl – 30baht – best khao kha moo. Good Khao soi nearby stall. The Central Plaza – Chiang Mai Airport mall is nice too. Goto north village and all the way to the bottom to their foodcourt for cheap meals indoors in AC. Coffee trending here – Ahka Ama, Ponganes, Clay Studio Coffee, Graph Cafe, Natwat Home Cafe, Mao Coffee etc. Elephant, karen long neck tribe, tigers etc tours all can be done here.

Bangkok

HUMID. disregard the taxi stand right outside the arrival gate. head to gate 8 at Don Meuang airport and line up for a cab there. metered taxi. If you take the highway – tolls that need money up front at each toll. Don’t take an unmetered taxi unless you negotiate price first. Ride into downtown is about 35-40 minutes. HUMID. tuktuks are little pricer here but can negotiate price. Grand Palace is 500baht to enter. Was Pho is 100baht plus free water. Dress modestly for temples – t-shirt & cover knees. Visit Chinatown to see what the city use to look like years past. Khaosan Road – touristy but cool to see/experience once. Buy all your souvenirs here. Get a thai massage in an AC place – 250baht for an hour is standard.   

Bangkok – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 24 & 25

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We ended up switching from our 6 person dorm to a 4 person dorm on the first floor of housing. We journeyed to the Grand Palace but it’s 500baht to enter and we didn’t want to pay that to go in. SO many tourists there and also Amy and myself brought clothes to throw over our shorts and tanks but Adam wouldn’t have been allowed in with his shorts so we moved on and went to Wat Pho. It is 100baht to enter and the ticket gets you a free water. There are tons of buddhas around so you should dress modestly. The temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46m long Reclining Buddha. The temple is also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and still houses a school of Thai medicine. It is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practiced at the temple. Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples; it existed before Bangkok was established as the capital by King Rama I.

Earlier on this trip, we watched a bit of television in Koh Samui and saw this one commercial with one small yet cute ice cream parlour called Farm to Table in which we checked their Instagram and website and saved their location for later. We walked down to the Farm to Table Cafe and I grabbed a matcha tea latte – 52baht and then i picked up a little map that showed there was indeed another location – the main spot which we saw in the commercial. We walked just around the corner and found Farm to Table – Hideout and it was so adorable and the interior decor was great. Here is where the real homemade gelato is made. I grabbed a grass jelly with real grass jelly, brown sugar and jackfruit – 72baht and it was so good! The grass jelly gelato flavour was so intense and tasted better than the actual grass jelly. We walked through a food market which then brought us to the flower market.

All the blogs I’ve read had said if you want to experience what Bangkok was probably a decade ago, you need to visit Chinatown to get a picture of what the old city looked like. We walked from Farm to Table Hideout all the way to Yaowarat aka Chinatown and it was very visually stimulating. Mix of old and new and so many colours. I had read on a blog about a place that sold satay skewers dipped in coconut milk called Jay Eng but the address I saved wasn’t the right location so we ended up wandering around gun street and then walked onward to fabric street. We somehow found ours going into a huge mall complex of just fabrics ensued – Sampheng Centre. There was a food court located on the top floor and there we ate. You have to buy coupons in order to actually order from the stalls. You give them 60baht and then they give you a packet of tickets and if you have some remaining, you can return it for baht. I went to Blue-Taiwan and got myself a fried rice green curry – 45 baht and then at the corner a thai tea for 15baht – both so flavourful and delicious.

We continued to wander and eventually made our way to Yaowarat Rd and walked that street for a bit to visually capture the life that is chinatown. Adam and Amy were getting tired of walking so we hailed a cab to Siam Paragon – It was rush hour so all the cabs were off meter – we settled with 100baht. Siam Paragon is one of Asia’s largest malls and it sure was.

There are so many food courts but we ate in the enormous one on the main floor. I got a huge matcha strawberry daifuku mochi for 100 baht – Incredibly tasty from Tokyo Sweets. We had only eaten maybe an hour previous but they were hungry and got cheese gyoza from 7-time Gyoza Champion before we grabbed ramen from Nantsuttei. I got the Kara-Miso Ramen – 210baht. Not bad but not the best I’ve had – Daikokuya still wins out for me. So much selection – The main food court looked like Eaton’s Centre revamped food court but quadruple the size and that was only one of them. Each floor had it’s own food selection and I wish I had a bigger stomach.

We walked all the floors of Siam Paragon to notice that there was still another complex – Siam Centre. We tried to get over to Siam Centre but it took us a while to figure out how to get out of the mall. We also went to the basement where there is a Madame Tussade and Ocean Discovery – You can literally dive with sharks in a mall. We went over to Siam Centre and it was huge as well. We wanted to goto Siam Discovery and tried very hard to get there but it was closed for renovations. We decided that was it and we should leave. It was still rush hour so we decided to crossed over the bridge looking at the traffic to end up on another street filled with people selling merchandise to locals.

We grabbed a Tuk tuk from outside Siam Centre to Khao San Rd – bargained 150baht – fun and fast ride.

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We woke up at 4AM and went to hail a cab to take us to the airport. We had to walk down the street a bit to a busier street at 430AM to find a cab. We found one on a street nearby but as we were getting in a ladyboy came over and was propositioning Amy then Adam. The ride was fast and smooth. There were actually quite a few people out and about at that time of day either ending their day or starting it.

We flew out of BKK and the airport reminded me of Toronto YYZ which is strange because Bangkok reminds me of Downtown Toronto. Adam and myself were flying with ANA airlines in partnership with United and Amy’s flight was slightly later leaving for Hong Kong where she will be for a bit before heading to Shanghai then finally back to Toronto. After Adam and myself checked in, I had to walk to the end of the airport to get my VAT Refund forms stamped – she barely looked at them and stamped – easy enough. Once we got through the security check and what not, I followed the signs to VAT refund only to find out halfway through the walk there was another sign further down that pointed to another VAT refund on the other wing of the terminal which our gate was on. Anyways, got there and the lady didn’t even say a word to me but i got my refund in Baht. I brought the remaining baht to convert to USD and off we went.

We got onto our flight from BKK to Narita which took about 5-6 hours. Arrived and had 2-3 hours there which were well spent. We went to McDonalds and I got the Teriyaki Burger combo + 15 piece chicken McNuggets – 1240yen then went to the origami store and grabbed a few more snacks which added up to 1600yen for myself. These 2 purchases alone were roughly $30CAD which is more than what I had spent the entire week on meals in Thailand but well worth it. When I travel I come back with souvenirs in the form of consumables – coffee beans for my father and then candies especially if I get a chance to goto convenient/grocery stores. I’m still surprised how much I actually fit in my duffel bag considering I only got rid of 3 items.

Onto the next flight with United to Denver – 10 hours. Flew by quickly and watched a ton of movies. Then following flight from Denver to Chicago just felt brutal. It was only 2-3 hours but felt the most uncomfortable and also my movie screen didn’t even work. Outside was -7 degrees celsius. Arriving in Chicago was a good feeling as we were one step closer to home and also in terminal F we found Garrett’s popcorn! I bought 2 medium bags of Garrett mix and Cashew CaramelCrisp – $15USD. Our flight got delayed by 30 minutes because the flight attendant was on another flight and couldn’t come over until the people left the other aircraft and after doing post flight protocol. We got in the air and just went. We actually landed on time. The plane quite small ( single window seat or 2 chairs together).

Overview of my trip:

23 days of non-stop travelling is great when things are planned out. I find that when places or tours are booked and planned ahead of time, things go smoothly but when nothing is confirmed we end up wasting more time than anything trying to figure out what to do. Crocs are the preferred footwear or similar sandal/croc imitations. Deet and tiger balm will be your best friends. Toilet paper roll will save you in Lao & Cambodia. Recycling isn’t something they really do out there unless it’s a person going through the trash and removing the bottles themselves. Garbage cans don’t really exist either (Vietnam had some though) but you kind of just make a pile when you see an open garbage/plastic bag as you walk around. They also have a large assortment of plastic bags and plastic furniture is plentiful here. Plastic chairs/stool/tables are prime tools of people’s trades as they can set up and clean up pretty easy anywhere. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are more reserved – women stay covered in long sleeve and pants. Thailand – more likely to see tatted people, tank tops on local women but also the whole long sleeve cover up but booty shorts. Also tons of pretty ladyboys everywhere. Get use to smog and smell of diesel as well as dirt/dust. I’ve heard stories of people on motorbikes snatching phones and purses by the side of the road but never saw it happen – just be vigilant and keep your purse on the opposite side away from the road. Otherwise, I felt safe everywhere I went. I had my camera attached to my hand but otherwise everything was out of sight. Ho Chi Minh is very populated so just be cautious when in big crowds or when people are too close. The men there will just keep looking at you though especially if you are wearing tank top and shorts. Siem Reap – same thing, big crowds especially in the night market just be cautious. Bangkok – the only real place we really saw any homeless people – they will leave you alone for the most part… ladyboys will be more aggressive than them.

Chiang Mai – Bangkok – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 23

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We slept in a bit and left at 11AM. We grabbed a tuktuk and went straight to the airport. The line to check in luggage was long but luckily we found the 3 small kiosks and checked in skipping that line only to headed upstairs for security check line which apparently was 3 separate lines that combine into one which took forever. We got through and then made it our gate with plenty of time to spare. This time we flew Airasia and it was about an hour and 10 minute flight but took longer to get the bus shuttle out and then the line up for taxi cabs – NOTE: goto Gate 8 and grab a taxi there! metered taxi is cheaper than the stalls you see up front right out of the arrivals. They were going to charge us 800baht plus we would have to wait 30-hour for a cab to get to our hostel. We lined up at gate 8 and the cab ride wasn’t too bad considering it was rush hour and the hostel was in the downtown core so 40-45 minutes away.

NOTE: if you take the highway, there are tolls you pay immediately (70baht then 50 baht) then on top of the actual metered fee is 50baht for the driver so our final ride was 420baht. We ended up getting to the hostel by 430PM. We are staying at  D Hostel103 Bunsiri Rd, San Chao Pho Sua, Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand. We got upgraded sort of to a 6 person dorm as they didn’t have a 4 person mixed dorm available. We asked about volleyball and alas there was nothing! I guess the moment when Adam and myself peppered on the beach in Koh Samui counted as our playing volleyball in Thailand. D Hostel has concrete interiors and very clean. It is however hot in there though. No elevator and we are on the top floor – 404. Because it’s a mixed dorm style, the rooms are clean and have 3 sets of bunkbeds and nothing more (besides a little ledge, reading lamp and a little cubby to store your phone at night with an outlet. Outside your door are lockers where you can lock up your things. Each floor either has a men’s or women’s bathroom and the second floor has laundry. There is a common room where breakfast is served and there is a movie room. Unfortunately Andrew was leaving for his 5AM flight and was leaving around 1130PM to catch a cab to the train station and take the train from there to the airport.

Our friend Emily (who joined us for Hanoi/Ha Long Bay earlier) had mentioned this one place we had to goto for phad thai in town called Thip Samai313-315 ถนนมหาไชย แขวงสำราญราษฎร์, กรุงเทพมหานคร 10200 – iMaha Chai Road – It is always busy and has a line outside so you know that it is good. They are known for their phad thai omelet – 90baht and they make it so quickly. The kitchen is open concept and on the sidewalk so you can watch them throw egg into a wok and make a thin layer then throw the phad thai into the egg and fold it then plate it. We grabbed ours to go. The orange juice here seems fake but the fresh stuff is made with their oranges which are more like clementines so the colour is like Hi-C. We walked a bit to find somewhere to eat as the restaurant was overflowing. We sat down to eat at King Rama III Memorial – Phra Nakhon, จังหวัด กรุงเทพมหานคร – While we sat down and ate our delicious meal, they were setting up christmas lights everywhere and all of a sudden they turned on and it looked spectacular.

We walked Soi Damnoen Klang Tai past the Democracy Monument and somehow ended up on a street similar nearby Khao San Road that was quieter but we were on the lookout for massage places. We ended up choosing Smooth Massage 1145 Soi Ram Buttri – 250baht – 1 hour thai massage. It was heavenly. I have a high threshold for pain and the man that worked on me just went full out. I know he was complimenting me on looking all sporty before we went in but then I think I surprised him by how flexible I am. He found all the knots and a thai massage felt more so like visiting a chiropractor than an actually massage which I like much better. At one point, he was even stepping on me and he even found the really tight knots at the base of my neck and tried to get them for me. He even cracked my neck for me. At one point I was lucid but could’ve fallen asleep even with the pain that felt so good.

We walked over to the famous Khao San Road – Tons of bars and restaurants and food and clothing vendors – Very touristy. I bought a Adidas tank top for 150baht and a McDonalds cone for 9baht. We walked home from there and Andrew went wandering for a bit before coming back for a quick shower and out he went to catch a cab to the train station then train to the airport.

Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 22

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It’s one of the biggest days of the year here in Chiang Mai – Loy Krathong!

A little history – Yee Peng (local name) is part of the festival of lights in Northern Thailand to show respect to Buddha. It’s date usually coincides with Loi Krathong which all of Thailand celebrates using floating lights on water. In Northern Thailand Yi Peng, which is celebrated alongside Loi Krathong, is different in that lights are placed into sky lanterns which float up into the air. Loi Krathong still happens in Chiang Mai but the actual Loi Krathong floating lanterns on water event happens the day/night after Yi Peng. as the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar corresponds to the second month in the traditional calendar of the old northern Lanna kingdom. The festival features beautifully illuminated lanterns, which are either carried, displayed in houses and temples, and even launched into the night sky. Krathong which are an offering – traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money – are floated down the rivers. The Khom Loy, also known as Khom Fai, is a cylinder of paper about one meter high, braced with wire circles. Suspended from the bottom of the cylinder is a tray containing cotton soaked in kerosene. Fireworks and firecrackers are also often attached to the tray. These catch fire and explode after the balloon is launched. Once the cotton is lit it takes about a minute for the air inside the cylinder to heat up enough to lift the balloon into the air. It is believed that launching one of these balloons can send a person’s bad luck and misfortune away into the air, especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out. Often people will say a short prayer before launching the balloon. Sometimes they will also place their address in the balloon, or write it on the outside. Anyone who later finds the balloon can then claim money from the sender. In this way the good fortune is shared.

We witness the pre-2 day festivities with loy krathong floating lanterns yesterday but it wasn’t massive. Near the US Consulate on the Ping River is where majority of it happens.

Sing Prasert GymBamrunburi – for a muay thai class – 400baht for 2 hour session. Taught by Kru Yoi who has over 30+ years experience and is 66 years old. We showed up and immediately he made us skip rope for 10 minutes. A couple from France joined us – Marion and Stan but only Stan took part. From there, he wrapped our hands and then did some quick stretches with us then broke it all down for us on the moves. You need to be relaxed and loose and unlike boxing, keep your hands high and up. My shoulders were to stiff and I kept trying to use then for all my jabs when it should be hips as your power source. No bouncing in boxing or volleyball. Left punch, right punch, upper cut, elbows, high knee, push – long kick, twist with elbow attack. It was a very intense 2 hours and he does this twice a day.

We came back to shower and figure out the rest of the day. I had to go back to the mall for my VAT refund for my camera but Andrew didn’t want to come but Adam & Amy wanted cheap eats there. We decided to meet back at the hostel for 5PM and figure out from there the evening plans. Adam, Amy and myself walked to the mall and the sun was more intense than yesterday and also it was noon-1PM. We got there and immediately went down to the northern village food court. I grabbed a khao soi – 45 baht and a lemon lime tea – 35baht. The Khao soi was hot and hits the back of your throat but it was so good. I went back to Photobug and got my forms for the VAT refund within 10 minutes then back home in a tuktuk as Adam and Amy got hit by food coma and wanted to nap. By this time, it was about 230-3PM? So they took a nap and I went exploring on my own through little streets. I went east towards a cafe called Clay Studio Coffee in the garden that I read about before which is literally a cafe in a garden with statues and broken statues covering the premises. I grabbed a thai ice latte – 65 baht – tasty but really only there for the atmosphere. From there, I continued my wandering down random streets which would eventually lead me to the east wall and continue to the south wall that would bring me back to the hostel. There are already floats in the water and the people are prepping for the nights festivities.

The parade started at 7PM and the paper lanterns weren’t suppose to be launched until around 9PM but of course people launch them anytime they want. They send some into the sky during the day as well and attached sparklers or firecrackers to them. We opted for smaller roads and made our way east to the night bazaar. Coming to the east wall, we saw the start of the parade but it hadn’t started just yet. Amy was getting “hangry” so she pushed towards finding food and not stick around for the parade. We continued east past the gate to the river and night bazaar and came to stalls that were all facing inward against the street as there is still active traffic but there weren’t really any stalls for food there so we went into the Anusan night market where there were established restaurants but considering we have been eating at the local food market stalls where food is 30-60baht seeing lowest of 120baht for the same food we ate for half the price detoured us. We ended up eating at Roadside something and I ate the chicken pad thai for 60baht – it was ok but the cheaper ones I’ve had were much better and service was much faster. We finished our meals and followed the crowd towards the river. We walked up Charon Prathet Rd and followed the people and sounds. Little stages and stalls were set up for beauty pageants, food and games with people making and selling the floating lanterns. It was very congested as motorbikes, cars, and people took over the street simultaneously trying to go north. One crossroad that was packed was Charon Prathet Rd and Loi Kroh Rd. We continued straight and all of a sudden passing that street we looked up to see a sky full of lanterns gracefully floating away – so surreal.

We eventually made it to the epicentre of Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang where massive amounts of lanterns were being lit and released but so much light pollution to get a true effect. Mae Jo University is apparently the BIG BIG place to release but that one you need to purchase a ticket in advanced and I think it is sold at $100USD for that experience. We watched and wanted to purchase lanterns ourselves. The best deal is 3 lanterns for 100baht. Don’t buy for 50 or 100baht! If you buy further from the site, much cheaper. We went looking for lanterns and the ones within that vicinity were selling for 100baht each and illegally as police were present stopping hawkers. We walked further down back to Loi Kroh Rd where we found a guy selling them on the side of the alley where we bargained and got 4 for 40baht each. We walked east through an alley. There were food stalls and even a spot for carnie games set up. We made it to the bridge where some were releasing it but it wasn’t anything special. Underneath the bridge, people had gotten down and were releasing their floating lanterns. We crossed that bridge and went back north (tons of cheap food stalls and floating lanterns on sale here) on Chiang Mai – Lamphun Rd toward Thanon Charon Mueang and we situated ourselves at the beginning of the bridge. I was the first to go and pretty much you open it up and either holding the top end open and lighting the cotton/wax circle you flip it over and wait for the air to inflate it and is ready for take-off. The lanterns send off bad luck and you can make wishes on them as they float into the sky. It was so cool to actually release one myself and watching them float away is amazing. The next to do it was Adam then Andrew then Amy. But be warned, wait for it to truly fill up with air or they will come back down or float away really slowly and beware of falling wax!

We watched for a bit there before making our way across the Thanon Charon Mueang bridge towards Tha Phae Gate. So many police cars trying to get through which cleared a path for us to follow but man I felt bad for the motorbikes stuck in the swarm of people. Also note, don’t try to release your lantern too close to trees or wires are they will get stuck and may catch on fire. I at some point grabbed a red horse beer (not cold so not enjoyable) from a really busy 7-11 and then also grabbed a banana rotee – 25baht. We decided that it would be a better option to walk home especially in all this traffic so we continued south on Mun Mueang Rd which is the east wall and walked down the south wall back to our hostel. Definitely an experience I would recommend people to do.

Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 20 & 21

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Woke up and had complimentary breakfast – toast, fruit and juice. We booked Blue Elephant tours – 5500 Baht – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe.

Muang Kued Valley – where we went.

Mr Ek and Mr Od picked us up for our private tour. We stopped by a local fruit market to pick up a few things for our trip and then another stop at Orchid restaurant to look at butterflies and orchids. From there, we drove to Wangnumyard resort – to visit the Karen Longneck tribe. Considering it is called a resort, I don’t know how well the people are treated and unfortunately it feels a little exploitive. We gave out little treats to the children (our guide purchased them and gave them to us to give to his “little friends”). I fully respect different cultures and traditions but it looked like we were just going from station to station to take photos with these women. Mind you, each one was in their own hut where they were selling products – some of which they made and some you can purchase in any market. Nonetheless, very interesting experience to say the least and beautiful tradition that is a sacred ritual which has been modernized. Mothers can choose for their daughters to either undergo the process at age 5 with a starter necklace that is 2 piece that can be taken off and on with ease OR if they decide that they don’t want their daughters to continue that tradition and go pursue academics and whatnot. Mr Ek was very knowledgable and sassy but told us that it’s not impossible for them to reconsider late in life they don’t want to continue wearing the necklaces but that there will be leftover scarring and their necks may feel uncomfortable and weak. The village itself is pretty but once you get to the bottom, its is ‘all catered to the visitors. Ethical or not, its a beautiful tradition and there were so many people still continuing it. But don’t be “that” tourist who doesn’t acknowledge the women as humans and treat them like animals – acknowledge the person and ask permission to take a photo with them.

We drove a bit more into the mountain area so we were at a higher elevation of the Mae Tang River for our white water rafting. The rapids weren’t too bad and easy to sail through. My whitewater tubing experience was more intense even in low tide season. When we arrived at the bottom, we got out and climbed up to a buffet lunch – tasty food – the fried chicken was so tasty! We changed into our mahout blue elephant outfits (XL) with our swim suits under. We had to wait a bit as there was a backlog with people and the elephants so we played ping pong on a cement table with a deflated ball. When it was our turn, we hopped back into the van and off we went to Makha Elephant Village. We arrived and Mr Ek was teaching us the basic words we should know to ride the elephants.

Pai – forward

Sai – left

Qua – right

how – stop

yea – don’t do that

bonbon – treats!

dede- good boy/girl

We all got a chance to get familiar with the proper way of getting on an elephant and riding an elephant – either bend your knees and tuck them on the ears or straight legged behind the ears with both hands on the top of the head. That way you can balance and after saying a command you can pat the elephant on the head and say dede – good boy/girl. It is also good to call them by their name so they get familiar with your voice. We made sure to choose a place where the elephants are treated well and are ethically riden (as ethical as it can be for riding an elephant) which this place showed signs of both. We had to wait until 2 people on one elephant to come back because we needed one more elephant for us. We rode individually on each elephant but the group before us had 2 women on one but at least no harness/seat apparatus like we saw earlier with 4 grown men a top of a elephant in a seat. Also, getting on a elephant when they are bowing puts strain on their knees when they get up so you should technically climb on from a higher height. My elephant is the oldest elephant in this sanctuary and her name is Mec-Ham. They add “Mec” in front of the female’s names which means mother to show respect. For a bit she would stop listening but for the most part, very chill, very hungry pulling at vines but listened. The ride was fun and the mahouts are great with them. Elephants don’t like cars and get frightened by them as we found out on our hike with a car passing through. Once we arrived back from our little hike in the jungle with them, we got to feed them bananas then Mec-Ham went back out immediately with another group. Luckily, Mec-Ham didn’t throw mud on herself when I was riding her but she did with this new girl and she was basically given a mud bath. We got to bathe them as well and it was really sweet. Mr Ek prepared some food for us and so we ate and talked a bit before our adventure back home in rush hour.

We all showered and then decided on dinner options. Andrew had looked up a place with a food market – Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก) that had 30 baht pad thai and we literally walked on Salmon all the way north gate of the old city. We got there and couldn’t read all the menus but we settled on one place and I got myself chicken khao soy – 60 baht and it was so delicious but that spice hits the back of your throat and lingers. I also grabbed a passionfruit shake – 30 baht. Along the way there, there was one stall we passed that sold fried ice cream for 20 baht; we returned and I got the lemon with the strawberry sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles, it reminded me of a donut.

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I asked Stella if there were any places around we could play some volleyball and she said there wasn’t any. The schools have volleyball courts but I doubt we can use them especially seeing some of them we saw yesterday with armed soldiers at the gate. So sad.

I couldn’t go the rest of the trip without a DSLR so I decided I need to purchase a new one here. Denchai is the #1 camera store here in Chiang Mai although, they do not stock all camera models. They do however do repairs. I called them and unfortunately they don’t stock the Nikon D610 and only the D600. Instead, we walked over to Central Plaza – Chiangmai Airport mall. The mall opens at 11AM. It took about 20-25 minute walking south of our hostel. When we got in, I went to information and got a tourist discount card which I applied for earlier in the morning online. This mall is 4 floors and has a Uniqlo. I purchased the new DSLR camera at Photobug but had to wait 30 minutes as they had to deliver it from their other location so we all wandered the mall to met back up at Uniqlo. 

I feel better knowing I have a DSLR in my hand. We ended up going down to the Northern Village side of the mall where there is a food court that is indoors, clean with tons of stalls selling food cheap like the night market stalls. I ended up at one place where I got a fried egg on rice with chicken thigh in oyster sauce which was 50baht and delicious. There was also a ice cream stall called Paton Ice Cream which serves you 3 scoops for only 20baht – they also add coconut jelly to the bottom and any toppings you want.

We ended up sharing a tuktuk back to our hostel with a family visiting from Malaysia and one guy actually lived in Toronto back in the day near Dundas Station. Amy & Adam were so wiped and in a food coma that they napped for a bit. After their nap, we went to Akha Ama Coffee (Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai) so I could pick up coffee beans. I’ve read online about it and I love the story behind it and all the effort it is in sourcing locally. The name comes from the Akha village of Maejantai. Ama means mother in Akha language and it is that face that graces the logo as she convinced her village to combine strengths and produce, process and market their own coffee. The beans are grown in Northern Thailand and the proceeds of the coffee beans sold here go back to that community. I grabbed a small bag of italian roast for only 180baht and a green tea latte 50 baht.

We then proceeded to do a temple run today starting off with วัดพระสิงห์วรมหาวิหาร Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District then continuing on to Phonon Rachadamnoen Alley stopping by some smaller ones and watching sunset at Wat Chedi Luang before making our way to Wat Phantao (which was closed until 730PM) so we continued and made our way to the 3 Kings Monument Si Phum which was once city hall but is now serves as a cultural centre. The city is getting decorated for the festival as the bigger ceremonies and festivities are in full swing the 25th & 26th. We returned to the North Gate market on Manee Nopparat Road – Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก). The cheapest and best pork is served here by the Thai cowgirl – she is known for her Khao Kha Moo – pork served with rice and a hard boiled egg for only 30baht! I got shrimp pad thai beside it for 50 baht as Amy and Andrew both got Khao Kha Moo. After dinner, we continued walking and made our way to the Ping river near the US Consulate where people were lighting floating krathong (boats made out of bamboo and flowers) and sending them down the river with their wishes and bad luck. It was pretty and tons of people were there. There was one man I thought was saving the drowning boats and re-lighting them but he was actually taking the money in them. We watched for a bit but the smoke got intense so we continued on down the river which brought us to Warorot Market then continued walking and made our way back to Wat Phantao and it was perfect timing. You enter to see a row of lanterns and people purchasing candles with wishes or blessings on them. They bring them to one of the larger monuments where they hand it off to monks to place higher up – that in itself is visually stunning. At the back corner you see giant trees with lanterns lit up and young monks sitting on the ground surrounded by candles as an elder reads off something in thai. There is a bridge made out of bamboo which we are not to suppose to stand on but of course chinese tourists “can’t read signs” and proceed to do so. The crowd got huge and somehow I got my way in front row to watch. The young monks got up and together lit paper lanterns and tied it to a string so they could make it float but not release them into the sky as they are saving that for tomorrow so they can do it all together. It was absolutely stunning. 

Koh Samui – Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 19

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Flying Bangkok Airways to Chiang Mai this morning. We woke up and had our final breakfast at the villa before they transported us back to the airport. It was an experience to be in Koh Samui but I don’t think I’ll come back. It’s #1 income is tourism and it’s so touristy that they just bring you in, you take a tour and then you’re done and on to the next. Sandalwood is beautiful and all but the fact that it is on top of a giant hill and the only way down is to either get shuttled down or taxi, it limited us to exploring on our own timeline. They offer free shuttles to either Lamai or Chaweng areas starting at 11AM and last returning at 5PM or you pay 400baht. I would recommend if anyone were to come here is to stay at maybe a nice luxurious villa that is beachside and close to the Central Festival mall because it’s close to everything including food and the night market experience and of course the beach.

We said our goodbyes to Sew and Mr. Chai (our driver) and got through check in at the kiosk no problem at the airport but it was a long walk outside to get to our gate. It looks like a outdoor mall in the airport before getting to the security portion then it’s just fans going off. Once again, Bangkok Airways offers free beverages and light snacks as you wait to board. 2 hours to fly to Chiang Mai from Koh Samui.

Landed and got a taxi from the airport for 10 minutes (160baht) to our hostel Green Tulip Hostel (Mueang Chiang Mai District). We didn’t know they only accept cash so we all had to go exchange more USD/CAD. We had to walk about 10 minutes to Siam TV – second floor and exchange there. But before we left the hostel, we booked a cooking class so we had to pay for that as well. The cooking class was 800 baht. And we divided up the cost of the hostel and paid 3300 baht for both cooking class and hostel. After putting aside cash for the elephant tour, I was running low of baht and money to convert. I packed roughly $900USD for the entire trip but didn’t expect all these tours to pop up (as we prepaid & booked ahead for a few).

The hostel is owned by a Singaporean man but Stella and her family have been running it since day 1. Stella is intense but in a good way. Very nice, aggressive and informative. She wants to make sure you are having a good time and getting the best deals. Since arriving in Thailand, you can notice the culture shift – Koh Samui – more skin showing, tattoos. Chiang Mai – the hipster look and those earlobe hole earrings. The way they dress feels kind of like home.

We got 2 rooms – 1 with a double bed and 1 with 2 single beds which were adjoining rooms so we asked them to unlock those doors. The group took a nap before our cooking class as I explored the hostel. When you enter the main entrance, it is an open cafe style area with computers, pamphlets and whatnot available. You enter the back area to the rooms – no elevator but only 4 floors with its multi-colour walls and doors. We were in 202 & 203. There is a rooftop but the view isn’t so great which I guess is a good thing for privacy sake. I stayed up there for a while to attempt one last dry out session for my camera. I came back in to test it out and the smallest glimpse of life but nothing more, nothing less. Devastating. Shooting with my phone does nothing in comparison to my DLSR.

We got picked up in a Thai tuktuk which looks safer than a cambodian one. We booked Siam Rice – cooking class (800 baht for evening session) with May/Melody? as our teacher. We were joined by a mother-daughter duo from Ohio – Jenny & Allie (celebrating her 25th this week) and 3 from San Francisco who were here for a wedding and one who just recently moved here – Collin. We got driven to a food market to get familiar with ingredients then driven off to Siam Rice kitchen for us to cook. We got to choose what dishes we were making – soup, noodles, curry dish and either a thai dessert or a starry vegetable. I chose hot and sour soup, pad siew, jungle curry and pumpkin in coconut milk.

We all had our own little stations with the ingredients that we needed to prep. Once completed, we moved over to our own individual stove tops and May would walk each of us through our dishes as we would cooked them in the woks simultaneously squirting coconut milk in for the dishes that required it. All the food we made was so delicious. After completing and devouring our food, we had the tuktuk drop us all off at the Sunday night walking market (Rachadamnoen Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District) that spans a few blocks and goes in a cross shape. It’s more established and more difficult to bargain here. So crowded but tons of things to purchase and eat if you’re looking. 

Koh Samui – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 16 – 18

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I woke up to see sunrise but it was torrential downpour with thunder and lighting to boot. Around 6AM there was an opening in the sky and turned out nice but it rained on and off all day. Our resort / hotel has a little restaurant called Blue Ginger. They served a breakfast buffet as well as food made to order. We were unsure if it was included or if we needed to pay but it’s included. I had the pad siew and a thai ice tea plus some coconut yoghurt and some other little tasty morsels.

We went back to our room and tried to figure out what are our plans for the day would be. We told the ladies at front desk we wanted to go to Na Muang Waterfall and also coconut harvesting monkeys. Sew helped us book a half day tour real late with Mr Ung’s Jungle Safari – half day for 1300 baht. The hotel drove us down the winding path to wait at the side of the road until our jungle jeep came for us. We stopped off at the mummified monk then went to watch a elephant, monkey and crocodile show followed by a visit to Na Muang waterfalls where we also climbed rocks we shouldn’t have but hey after Paksong, this was a breeze and in flip flops. Our driver stopped at one point and asked if anyone wanted to sit up top above the driver seat so Amy and myself did so and there was no seatbelt so we just had to hold on and hope for the best. It was a fun experience although the rain did pick up a bit and we had to dodge and duck under tree branches. We went to a mountain top restaurant  for traditional thai food with a great view momentarily as the rain kept stopping and going. After lunch, our final destination was the secret buddha garden. It’s such a unlikely spot for it but after you climb through, the main area is stunning with beautiful statues that look like they are performing for you as there are a few off to the side with instruments and then in the river there is that one special statue with a arrow rock in front of it. Very wet but not bad a trip.

We got back to the hotel around 3PM so we decided it was jacuzzi time. We discussed what our night plans would be then Amy and myself went to the front desk and asked to used the free shuttle service to take us down to Lamai beach area and then we would just have to call for a ride home after (400 baht after 5PM). I took a quick dip in the pool by reception. It’s sort of an infinity pool but the view is wonderful so I can’t complain. We changed quickly and off we went to Lamai where we got dropped off at the McDonalds. We wandered the streets around our drop off point and came a little early as they were setting up the night market which isn’t anything special considering we keep going to one everywhere we go with no intention of purchasing anything. It is just a few streets lined with restaurants, shops and bars that screams tourists! We also exchanged more money as Uniqlo and tours were leaving us dry. We took a turn onto a random street and found a path that led us down to the beach and it was a nice view. Swing Bar apparently does nightly fireshows. We walked on the beach for a bit until we found an opening to go up and it was just our luck that it was the street that led us back to McDonalds. We walked a bit more to find a little strip of food stalls. 2 phad thais, 1 fried noodle with seafood, 1 panang curry in total. What they do here is there is a communal food court sitting area and when you are finished with your dish, you bring it back to the stall. We then continued down the road and it is marketed for tourists. There are a cluster of bars with women just screaming and hollering at men crossing and they are dancing and pole dancing-ish. We decided to call it a night and called the hotel for a ride home from McDonalds (400Baht after 530PM).

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We booked another tour today that would take us to Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan tour with Lomprayah High speed ferries  – 1600baht. We got take away breakfast in the morning which we ordered the night before and the boys wanted a lot of food and they sure got it. It was full sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Egg sandwich, grilled ham and cheese, chicken sandwiches plus fruits, yogurt and juice. The hotel driver took us down the hill to an awaiting car and then we picked up a few people and off we went. We were in the waiting area at the pier then got assigned a group with ribbon colours to identify our group. Group orange for the day with John as our guide and #6 as our boat. It took an hour in the boat to get to Koh Nang Yuan where we all disembarked and went snorkelling.

This is where it all went wrong. My Outex case which I thought I secured on tightly was not so secure as water got into it and well I was disappointed in myself for letting that happen – ALWAYS ALWAYS CHECK TO MAKE SURE WATERPROOF CASINGS ARE PUT ON PROPERLY. Plus it’s so much harder to snorkel without the use of 1 arm that is holding the camera. A GoPro will suffice for snorkelling. Lunch was a buffet style being served for an hour or so. I threw all my gear onto the table to be dried out when an onlooker came over and asked me if I got my camera wet and indeed I did. His name was Richard and I think he was Austrian. He is also a Nikon user and had told me that this has happened multiple times to him so he knows what to do. So you need to be counter intuitive by getting fresh water and pouring that into the effected areas. This is to clean the salt water out of your camera as it becomes corrosive and will destroy your camera. Depending on how much has been submerged and how long, you need to rinse it out with fresh water and let it sit for a few days up to a week just in case to ensure all the moisture is gone from the camera before trying to turn it back on as the salt water creates an electrical charge and will short circuit it. So luckily on this little island we were on, I grabbed 3 glasses of drinking water and Richard came over and I handed it over to him and observed. The camera got wet in the battery, memory card and bottom part of the camera but the lens to body attachment was dry so he pour fresh water into the battery and memory card compartments and swished it around then poured it out and from there, just let it dry. Memory cards are resilient and should be able to take the impact of water but of course let it dry out.. same with batteries.

After lunch, we went back to snorkelling and wading in the waters before we hopped back on the boat to sail 10 minutes to Koh Tao where we would jump from the boat into the water to snorkel for an hour. It was beautiful which all the giant rocks with shells, coral and fishes! The ride back was brutal as it was so choppy and then the rain came down and they didn’t put down the plastic windows so we all got drenched and it was the coldest I’ve been all trip especially because i was still in a bikini with a wet towel wrapped around me. We got home and I showered right away and then we ordered in from Blue Ginger and ate on the ground together watching Hong Kong Open – Badminton. By 9PM I was ready to pass out and so I did.

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We didn’t set an alarm that morning and gradually awoke around 8AM for breakfast. My stomach had been dying since we reached Koh Samui. It’s either everything is catching up with me or that there is something that I am eating that doesn’t react well with my stomach. Also dehydration is playing a large part.

We decided to put the jacuzzi to a different use – laundry. We took the shower gels and shampoo and loaded it up with our laundry. Why not right? it’s hot water, big enough that we can actually wash everything at once and also has jets (we used for a second before things started blocking the jets) It’s beautiful weather so we just hung everything out to dry. 

We arranged with the hotel to take a free shuttle at 11AM to drop us off at Central Festival Mall – Chaweng and walk about 10 minutes behind the mall to the beach. The beach was bright and we planted down where we got on the beach because it seemed to be the least populated at the time. Andrew rented a surfboard and took to the waves for about 2 hours. A group in front of us brought a volleyball but alas no nets around. Adam and myself peppered for a bit in the shade but got too tired and a few digs that i went down on my knees for actually hurt. After Andrew returned from surfing, we walked back onto the main street that we entered the beach from just behind Central Festival. We walked up and down a bit and  found ourselves at Onion Big Horn for a late lunch where I got a mixed fruit shake (80baht) and chicken pad thai (90baht) – both were delicious and decent price!

By the time we finished eating, it was already 330-4PM and we were to get picked up at 5PM from Central so we contemplated dinner options – McDonalds, buying food or getting groceries to cook back in the kitchenette back in the villa. We ended back at Tops Supermarket where I picked up a crab meat & seaweed bun, pineapple bread and taro bun (74 baht) and Adam and Amy purchased ingredients to make a penne seafood rose which they made tons of so we shared. But before anything else, we returned to the villa, collected our dry laundry, dropped off our things and headed to the pool for sunset. Adam and Amy were cooking their meal when all of a sudden the breaker blew leaving us in the dark momentarily as we got a staff member to come and aid us in our situation. Power went back on and dinner was made. We sat on the floor of our villa with pillows like the night before and ate as we watched tennis – Wawrinka vs Murray at the Barclays ATP. After that, Badminton doubles to end the night.

Siem Reap – Cambodia – Koh Samui – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 15

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We slept in today as it was such a long gruelling day in the sun. We finished packing and went for breakfast – the poached eggs were on point this morning. After breakfast, we checked out and Mr Dany drove us to the airport at 11AM. The check in was speedy and because we are flying Bangkok Airways, we get complimentary food and drink similar to Porter service. I also didn’t know that both our 1 hour flights, we receive meals/snacks which in the end became really filling. We had a stopover at Bangkok airport and just pretty much walked from one end to the other to get to our next gate. We are actually the minorities on this plane. When we touched down in Koh Samui, the landscape is very LA/West Coast/Hawaii-esque. The #1 source of income here is tourism and then #2 is coconuts. We exchanged money in Koh Samui as the rate was 35 instead of 33 in Bangkok. 100 baht = $3USD.

Different from the rest of the trip as they drive on the left side of the road here. We are staying up in the middle of the island at Sandalwood Villa  (211/7 Moo 4, Tumbon Maret, Amphoe Koh Samui) and holy hell the street leading up to the villa is on a 60-70 degree angle and winds. Sandalwood offers free shuttle service from the airport and so they picked us up in a SUV and now I understand why they would need such a beast of a vehicle. The streets here are quite narrow (single lane) and there are some road rules here and there but if you want to over pass someone you can do it then drive right back into your lane but also trying to avoid hitting stray dogs, people and motorbikes and other on coming vehicles or stopped vehicles. We were greeted by R at the villa and the lobby smells like heaven. The view is spectacular because we are higher up and right beside the main lobby is the public infinite pool and lounge area.

Our villa is the Amarin Villa which seems like a trek to get to. We go down the driveway then see where the stairs connect then walk through an area where you need to brush the tree vines to get through then you see the spa and make a left down those stairs then turn right and back up a pair of stairs. Our villa is massive. There is a kitchenette then the main room has a giant queen bed with such a high ceiling. The joining room has a double bed but both have sliding doors and just windows everywhere to enjoy the view. We have a jacuzzi o our balcony along with some lounge chairs and a egg swinging chair. There is a washroom and the main bathroom is massive with a stand up shower and a tub but just so much room. There is also a fridge and they give you free water everyday but also they provide free fruit and other drinks if you purchase. Unfortunately, there was thunderstorm previous to arriving which actually knocked out the wifi so Amy and Adam complained and somehow convinced them to give us a ride to Chewang – Central Festival and back for free which would be $20USD RT in a taxi. Central is their main mall are and they have a night market setup outside and continues down to the river front. We saw a basketball court and volleyball court but its further away from the mall and we only had 3 hours before we would get picked up. You need a Thai license to drive a motorbike out here. To enter the mall parking, you need a valid thai passport or license to get through in your vehicle.

There was a night market going on where they were selling the souvenirs plus cheap food. We eventually went inside the somewhat open concept mall to my favourite store – Uniqlo. I ended up purchasing 2 pairs of pants and Adam and Andrew also bought a bunch of stuff which resulted in qualifying for a VAT refund when we depart. We stayed in this area and also crossed the street to the extended part of the night market then walked back to get picked up back at the mall. And that was our first night.

Turns out November is not a good month for Koh Samui because its monsoon season here. March/April is the perfect time to come here. Since the weather conditions are bad, Ang Thong (the national park which also houses the beach that inspired the movie “The Beach” with Leo DiCaprio) is closed until December.

Itinerary – Southeast Asia – 2015

1104-2815 Southeast Asia

I travelled with 3 friends (Amy, Adam & Andrew) with guest appearances from new friends – Yu Ling, Lixin, Emily & James who joined us in Hanoi.

We travelled 5 countries (USA, Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia & Thailand), 15 flights in total of 23 days.

 

Included in this itinerary are also some helpful tips from a Canadian travelling overseas.

Vaccinations to get:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Thyphoid

Malaria Pills prescription

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

Vietnam

-Vietnam Visa – $19.99USD ($27.16CDN) – http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/

-$45USD on arrival

-1 photo

-stick to MaiLinh & Vinasun Taxis – make sure it is metered.

-1USD = 22.000VND

– keep your bags close to your body and on the side opposite the road as tandems on motorbikes can grab them as they pass

-Hello – xin chao – (sin jao)

-Goodbye – tam biet

-Thank you – can on (gam on)

-yes- da (yahh)

-no – khong (calm)

 

Laos

-Laos Visa – $42USD

-1 photo

-1USD=8150kip

-Hello – Sabaidee

-Thank you – khawp jai

-Goodbye – la khawn

-yes – Jao/dooy

-no – baw

 

Cambodia

-Cambodia Visa – $30USD

-1 photo

-1USD=4000 Riel – But they use USD everywhere here but not USD coins. If they need to give you change smaller than USD bills, they will give you Cambodian Riel.

-Majority of people speak english

-Hello – surs dey

-Goodbye – lia suhn hao-y

-Thank you – aw kohn

 

Thailand

-Thailand Visa – No Visa required!

-1USD=35.7 Baht – or alternatively 100 baht=$3USD

-Chiang Mai – around 630AM – monks alms giving

-Hello – sawatdee-ka(female)/krup(male)

-goodbye – baai baai

-thank you – kop kun ka

 

Now onto the itinerary. We didn’t accomplish everything on this itinerary but I left it in as some are ideal things to do, places to go, places to eat etc.

 

November

5-7 – Ho Chi Minh

8-10 – Hanoi /Ha Long Bay

11- Luang Prabang

12-14– Pakse

15-17 – Siem Reap

18-21 – Ko Samui & area

22-25 – Chiang Mai

26-28 – Bangkok

 

FLY – YYZ->IAD; IAD->EWR; EWR->HKG->HKG->SGN – United

11/04-05 – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

HOTEL: Hosen 2 Hotel – 4A Thi Sach, Ben Nghe Ward – District 1

 

11/06 – Ho Chi Minh

-Noon – Amy lands

-Nhu Lan Bakery – 50-64-68 Ham Nghi St. Dist.1 – Best place for Banh Mi – fresh & delicious – pork banh mi

-Visit Old Quarters

-Ci Chi Tunnels

-Ben Thanh Market

-Rooftop bars – OMG, Broma or Glow, Rex Hotel Rooftop garden (where American soldiers used to hang), Chill Skybar

 

11/07 – Ho Chi Minh

  • Mekong Delta Tourism – AG Travel – Mekong Delta – Day tour – Cai Be floating market – Tan Phong Island – ($50USD)

(http://www.classytravelvietnam.com/tours-options/vietnam-day-trips/mekong-delta-1day/)

-5AM start

 

FLY – HO CHI MINH -> HANOI – $58.35 – 945AM-1150AM – Vietnam Airlines

Hanoi, Vietnam

11/08 – Hanoi – Arrival

HOTEL: Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 – 95 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District

-Yu Ling & Lixin Chan joins us – staying at same hotel

-Meet Emily & James at Hanoi Street Food Walking tour – $23 USD/pp– 6PM 74 & 76 Hang Bac Street at Kim Tour’s Building – (http://www.hanoistreetfoodtour.com/walking_street_food_tour.html)

 

11/09 – Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

-Sun Legend Cruise – 2 day (2 days, 1 night) tour –$143.45USD/pp- 8AM pickup from Hanoi

-Hanoi – Tuan Chau – Luon Cave – Ti Top Island – Sung Sot Caves – Hanoi  (https://www.halong-bay-tours.com/junks/superior-cruises/sun-legend-cruise-2-days-1-night.html)

 

11/10 – Ha Long Bay

-Sun Legend Cruise – 2 day tour – 5PM Drop-off to Hanoi

– HOTEL : Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 – 95 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District

-Dinner – Quan An Ngon – 18 Phan Dinh Phung – which was a slightly higher end version of street meats but better service

 

FLY – HANOI -> LUANG PRABANG – $172USD – 1030AM-1130AM – Lao Airlines

11/11 – Luang Prabang, Laos

-HOTEL: Apple Guesthouse – Xatikhouman Rd 01 / 05 Xiengmoun Village

-Check in – 2PM; Check-out:11AM

-Apple Guesthouse is picking us up and dropping us off at airport $25USD RT

-Kuang Si waterfalls (there are also black bears!) – need to take tuktuk or motorboat to get there. Entrance is 20,000kip ($3.23CAD)

-Dinner option -Utopia – Restaurant – Beach Volleyball

-Dinner-buffet street – 15000 kip – fill your bowl as high as you can for 15000 kip – beer and bbq meat extra

-Nightmarket

-morning market – opens at 5AM

-Mount Phousi – Sunset – $2.50USD entry – might be crowded

-530AM – Alms giving – no flash photography, women – don’t stand up, keep covered

 

FLY – LUANG PRABANG -> PAKSE – $184USD – 1040AM-1220PM – Lao Airlines

11/12 – Pakse 

-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center – right across the street from green discovery office

-Bolaven Plateau Falls & Coffee Plantation

-coffee shops: Bolaven Café, Delta, Sinouk

-Lunch – Vida Bakery

 

11/13 – Pakse, Laos – Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong – Dong Hua Sao National Park

(http://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/eco-excursions/champassak/champassak-zip-line-canopy-walk/item/354-tree-top-explorer) $240USD/pp

  • 8AM – Meet at Office (Green Discovery – Sales Office – No. 10 Rd & No. 46 Rd) – Store our luggage in the Office. Drive an hour to Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong (Paksong); hike 1-2KM to site
  • stay overnight.

 

11/14 – Pakse

-Tree Top Explorer

-4-5PM – Drop off at office/hotel

-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center

-Dinner option – Champady – restaurant off the main st – good pad thai; passion fruit and strawberry shake are amazing.

-Dinner – Daolin

 

FLY – PAKSE -> SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – $135USD – 1PM-2PM – Lao Airlines

11/15 – Siem Reap, Cambodia

-HOTEL: Secrets Pavilion Urban Boutique Hotel – 120, Angkor Night Market Street, Steoung Thmey

-Nightmarket

-11PM – Meet with Andrew

 

11/16 – Siem Reap

-Landmine Museum – $5USD – hours drive from nightmarket

-Phare Circus (http://pharecircus.org/) – 8PM – $18-35USD/pp

 

17 – Siem Reap

-Angkor Pass – 1 day $20USD; 3 day pass (requires photo) $40USD

-Angkor Wat – Sunrise ($20USD) Bantey Kdei, Phimeanakas, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom, Bayon.

-Dinner option -Sojourn Boutique Villa – Destination Dining – $60USD – 3 course menu in a traditional stilt pavilion over a lotus pond including transport

-Dinner -Damnak Lounge Fine Dining – Junction of Oum Khun and 14th Street -7 Course Khmer signature dinner – $30 pp + tax

-Dinner option -Lilypop – 020 Taphul Road, Siem Reap 17259 – cheap and good – freid rice, banana shake, fresh spring rolls

-Dinner option -Marum – Between Wat (Pagoda) Polanka & Catholic Church, #8A, B Phum Slor Kram – 5 course menu – $15 – crispy grasshoppers

-Siem Reap Brewpub – 05 Oum Khun St – local craft beer

 

FLY – SIEM REAP -> KO SAMUI – $270USD – Bangkok Airways – 125PM-240PM Siem Reap-Bangkok; 335PM-440PM Bangkok-Koh Samui

11/18 – Koh Samui, Thailand

-HOTEL: Sandalwood Luxury Villas – 211/7 Moo 4, T. Maret

-Free Airport shuttle!

-Relax, unwind and roll into your pool (http://ca.hotels.com/ho442701/sandalwood-luxury-villas-ko-samui-thailand/)

-Chaweng area – Central Festival – Mall and nightmarket

 

11/19 – Koh Samui

– Take in Koh Samui

-Secret Buddha Garden – Route 4169 (ring road) at Baan Saket – 80 baht pp

-Mr Ung’s Jungle Safari – 1300baht

-Lamai beach area

 

11/20 – Koh Samui

-Day trip to Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan – Lomlahkkhim High Speed Ferries – 1600baht

-Snorkel & Speedboat

 

11/21 – Koh Samui

– Day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park (Bowl of gold) – closed the month of November =(

-inspiration for the movie “The Beach” w/ Leonardo DiCaprio

-scuba diving, snorkel, kayak and beach

-Beach day – Chaweng Beach

 

FLY – KO SAMUI ->CHIANG MAI – $209-ish CDN – Bangkok Airways – 1020AM-1210PM

11/22 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

-HOTEL: Green Tulip – 85 Samlan Road – 18400-183372013 (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Green-Tulip-House/Chiang-Mai/18400?dateFrom=2015-11-22&dateTo=2015-11-26#facilities)

-Tiger Temple

-Sunday street market – Nightmarket – 4-5PM-11PM – the market starts at Tha Pae Gate and goes all the way along Ratchadamnoen Road until Wat Phra Singh in the center of the old city (about 1.5 km). This is the place for souvenirs, t-shirts, artwork, hand made items and just about everything in between.

-Siam Rice Cooking class – 800 baht – evening session

-Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก) – food stalls – where the locals eat – Thaicowgirl – khao kha moo – 30baht – stewed pork knuckle

-Mon Cham – garden/viewpoint/resort/restaurant with 360 view over surrounding valleys – no fee to enter and wander

-Kad luang – 100 year old market next to Ping River – where hill tribes sell their crafts

– Sat/Sun flea market – Starts at the intersection of Kaew Narawat and Bumruang Road on the east side of the river

-THC Rooftop ba – 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road, On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

11/23 – Chiang Mai

-NOT AVAILABLE =( Elephant Conservatory (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/enp/en/visit-volunteer) – Pamper a Pachyderm – 6000THB

-1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand Office Hours: 07:00-17:00 Mon-Sun (GMT+7)

Blue Elephant – Thailand Tours – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe. 830AM pickup – 630PM drop-off – Mae Rim, Longneck Karen & Big ear Kayor Hill tribe village, Muang Kud Valley and raft along the Mae Tang River, Makha Elephant Village – 22000THB – 4c pp – BRING CASH TO PAY ON SPOT! (http://www.blueelephantthailandtours.com/package/tour-detail.php?id=107)

-Coffee shops:

-Akha Ama – Ahka Hilltribe Coffee – Hussadhisewee Road Soi 3 in Santhitham or Rachadammoen Road near Wat Phra Singh

– Graph Café – one of city’s best coffee – nitro cold brew coffee on tap -9AM-1PM – Rathvithi Soi 1

-Mao Coffee – mao gafaae – drunk coffee -8AM-5PM – Kankhlong Chonprathan Road heading south towards Hang Dong

-Ponganes Espresso & Coffee Roasters – high quality coffee – 9AM-430PM – closed Wednesdays – 133/5 Rachapakinai Road

 

-Clay Studio Coffee in the Garden is also often known as the terracotta garden – iced matcha green tea -8AM-6PM – Prapokklao Road Soi 2

-Natwat Home Café – brunch place with lots of light -Tue-Sun – 7AM-430PM – 330/2 Charoenrat Road

-Kanjana – all time fav for expats – pad thai – 7/2 Ratchadamnoen Rd, Soi 5 | -Ratchadamnoen Rd Soi 5, Chiang Mai, Thailand

-Dada Kafe – healthy food – vegetarian kaow soi – best in city – 20/1 Ratmakka Rd | Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, +66 53 449 718

-Khao Soi Khun Yai – Sri Poom Rd, Soi 8, Mueang – 10am-2pm – grandma’s chiang mai noodle – best khao soi in the CM

-Cyclo Resto – Unit 28 No 6 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street | Ben Thanh Ward, District 1 – 11AM-10PM – set menu 5 dishes – hidden in an alley near the roundabout

-Ru Pho Bar – 27E Tran Nhat Duat, Ward Tan Dinh, District 1 – 10AM-10PM – (need to go upstairs) stir fried pho & noodles –

 

11/24 – Chiang Mai

-Doi Suthep – Wat Phra Tha – Wat Palat – hidden temple and trail lined with monks’ robes tied to trees

-Yi Peng – Paper Lantern Festival

-Wat Chedi Luang – Three King Monument & Thapae Gate – Thapae Gate has biggest but most touristy

 

11/25 – Chiang Mai

-Sing Prasert Gym – Muay Thai – Bamrunburi – 400 baht for 2 hour session

-Loy Krathong – Water lantern floating festival – http://theakyra.com/chiang-mais-loy-krathong-festival-of-lights-2015/

– Chiang Mai has a beauty contest as well that is preceded by the Loy Krathong parade that begins at Tha Pae Gate the first evening of the festival. The temples also feature their own private celebrations where the devotees release khom loy and float their krathong and they welcome visitors to share in this deeply intimate event.

-Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang – epicenter for paper lantern festival

 

FLY – CHIANG MAI -> BANGKOK – $73CDNpp – Air Asia – 125PM-245PM 

11/26 – Bangkok, Thailand

-HOSTEL: D Hostel Bangkok – 103 Boonsiri RD., San-Chao-Por-Suea Phranakhon – 92912-184551778

-Goto Gate 8 for taxi cabs – metered and cheaper than other cabstand outside of arrivals gate.

-Thimpsamai Phad Thai – best phad thai in Bangkok – phad thai w/shrimp wrapped in a thing layer of egg – 313 Th Maha Chai | Banglamphu, Bangkok +66 (0) 2221 6280 – 90baht

-Rama III Memorial – pretty

-Khaosan Road

-Nahm – San Pellegrino’s world’s 50 best – try jungle curry w/ pia chorn, pandanus moodles w/black sticky rice, tapioca & coconut cream- Nahm, Metropolitan by COMO, 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok, Thailand, +66 (0) 2625 3388

 

11/27 – Bangkok

-Grand Palace – 500baht

-Wat Pho – 100baht

-Chinatown – Yaowarat – how the city looked years before – essence of what Bangkok was. Visually beautiful to walk through.

-Siam Paragon – Asia’s largest mall

-Talat Rot Fai – Train market – more of a locals – hipster market – Friday and Saturday nights

 

FLY – 710AM-BKK->305PM-NRT; 610PM-NRT->1240PM-DEN; 205PM-DEN->533PM-ORD; 710PM->950PM-YYZ

11/28 – HOME TIME

 

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