Blogs from Thailand

Chiang Mai

Date: 28/03/2007 | Author: Dave

We spent 3 nights in Chiang Mai. Really just killing time till our crossing into Laos for The Gibbon Experience. We are staying at a lovely mini resort by the Ping River called Lanna Mantra. It seems to have only about 10% of it's rooms let at the moment. Has the smoke scared the tourists away? 10 days ago there was a state of emergency declared here but we are following the air quality graph and it is hovering down by the acceptable threshold. I say acceptable, until Florence starts to develop a cough, that is.
We are using a driver here called Pong. A lovely man with a very comfortable Isuzu station wagon. It is loaded with boy racer accessories. The two 'Sard-shift-technical-works' vision obstructing extra unnecessary meters on the dash are attracting my attention. Can't work out what they do. He takes us to an excellent elephant sanctuary and hospital. The elephants look very healthy and show us an amazing display of their skills. Very accurate kicking and pushing of logs. I know it sounds tacky but two elephants painted two quite respectable pieces of art. Better than some things I have seen in the Tate but not as good as Rolf Harris if you know what I mean. There are some very poorly 70 year olds in the hospital, a land mine casualty and a very cute 20 day old baby with it's step mother. Asia's first successful artificial insemination. A ray of hope for the Asian Elephant. The girls are now getting hot and bothered so Pong takes us home.
Florence is feeling unwell, coughing getting worse and with a slight temp so Gabby takes her to the Hospital. Our parental instincts are making us feel guilty for coming here but the hospital is excellent and puts our minds at ease. Gabby has quite a bad time with her that night and we are wondering if she will be too weak to walk into the jungle in just two days time. It is becoming clear however that we need to streamline our progress through this area. Pong takes us to Chang Rai and we reach the Laos border the following day with Florence's health improving but the smoke obviously thickening. This smoke is worrying me and I am constantly trying to equate it to situations I am more familiar with. Like sitting round campfires in Cornwall or the portaloos burning at Reading Festival. We cross into Laos and the smoke is if anything, worse.... but the locals seem to pay it no heed.

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Chiang Mai

Date: 28/03/2007 | Author: Ella

We flew to Chiang Mai and arrived at 2pm. We were staying at a place called Lanna Mantra just outside Chiang Mai. It had a very nice swimming pool overlooking the River Ping so we spent the afternoon keeping cool in the pool and hanging out by the river with our school books. For dinner we went to a nice restaurant near the Ping River called the Riverside. I enjoyed going there and liked the food very much.
While we were staying in Chiang Mai we visited a place called the Elephant Conservation Centre where you could see an elephant show, go elephant riding and there was an elephant hospital. The elephant show was really really cool and the elephants bowed, played instruments and painted pictures. The pictures were really good. I really liked elephant riding even though we have done it before. This time it was really cool because the elephants went through creeks and rivers. At the elephant hospital it was very similar to a human hospital. The sick elephants had either broken legs or infected parts of their body that had to be looked after. One elephant had even stood on a land mine!! Also at the elephant hospital there was a baby elephant who had been born on the 7th of March (20 days ago). He was so cute but had been abandoned by his mother and had a step mother who was looking after him.
The driver that was normally taking us around was a lovely man called Pong and when we had finished our time in Chiang Mai he took us all the way to Chiang Rai. It is a long way so we stopped at a few places. We stopped at a hill tribe villiage which was really nice but I felt a little bit sad for them. because they were being made to be tourist attractions so they couldn't get on with their life. It's like going to a human zoo, which is very sad. We also went to a glistening white and silver temple that was so beautiful. We were allowed to go inside so we took our shoes off and said a prayer to the Buddha then went out because it was getting late. When we arrived in Chiang Rai it was very late so we went to bed as soon as possible. We were staying in a place called Laluna Resort which had a very nice swimming pool but apart from having a swim we didn't do much there and soon we were on our way to the border, to Laos.

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Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

Date: 28/03/2007 | Author: Florence

We are staying in a lovely place called Lanna Mantra. We are staying in a little house and just around the corner is a pool with water trickling down a step to a very cold pool (we swim in it a lot).
On the first day we just stayed near the pool, did school work and played in the pool. The next day we went to see an elephant show. Pong took us there, he is our taxi driver. There wasn't just an elephant show, there was an elephant hospital and you could go elephant riding. There was also a tincy wincy elephant, he was born on 7th March. He was abandoned by his mother and he had a step mother beside him.
I was feeling a bit poorly in Chiang Mai because I had a really bad cough - I was coughing all night and didn't get much sleep. It was soooooooo bad Mummy took me to the hospital. The doctor looked inside my throat, ears and listened to my chest. They gave me some medicine and we left - I feel much better now!
The next day Pong took us to a lovely white temple [here is a picture].
We stayed one night in Chang Rai, our last night in Thailand before we head to Laos.

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The Smoky North

Date: 28/03/2007 | Author: Gabby

Chiang Mai was really really hot, not as humid as Bangkok but a few degrees warmer.
We were staying in a hotel just outside the city called Lanna Mantra. On the banks of the Ping river. Thankfully, it has a pool. The kids happily cope with the heat if they are within 5 metres of it!
We were spending a few days there as we're booked on the The Gibbon Experience on 30 March (the earliest day we could book in) and it seemed like a good place to while away a few days. We spent time doing school work (in between cooling dips in the pool) and went to an amazing Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, about an hour's drive from our hotel.
It was lovely to be back in Chiang Mai again. I spent quite a lot of time there when I studied Thai massage in 1993 as well as when I was travelling with Helen Beales in 1989. The town has grown a lot but I did manage to find an old favourite, The Riverside restaurant, where the food is great and they sell pretty palatable wine (NB our alcohol consumption since arriving in Asia has plummeted). Going there brought back a few memories from my other visits to Chiang Mai.
The air was dramatically better than it had been but it still wasn't great. The Thai, Laos and Burmese farmers all employ the slash and burn methods of farming during March and April every year. The effects are worse this year because of the long, hot dry season this region is experiencing (yet another part of the world where water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity). Florence developed a really nasty cough while we were there. The guilt I felt for bringing her here was insurmountable and for the first time on our trip I didn't want to be where I was. I think my feelings were exacerbated by the lack of sleep I had experienced for the 2 nights Florence was ill. I took her to the Lanna Hospital for a check up - less than 30 minutes and 10 later we were on our way, armed with medication and masks, in case the air quality became any worse.
Fortunately, by the time we were ready to head to Chiang Rai, en route for the Thai/Laos border, Florence was feeling a little better and the cough had subsided (as had my guilt). I just hope she's well enough for the one and a half hour hike to get to the treehouses at the Gibbon Experience and hope that the air doesn't get any worse.............

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Bangkok, waiting for the smoke to clear

Date: 24/03/2007 | Author: Dave

We are still concerned about the smoke situation up north and are still holding off booking flights to Chiang Mai, when to our rescue, along comes the New Zealand Embassy web site with a link to the Thai pollution control dept with daily readings and nice graphs. At last we can make an informed decision. Kiwis to the rescue again.
There is a good time to be had in Bangkok. We are staying in a hotel by the river with a massive room. We go to Wat Pho temple by river bus on the first day. Educational. Followed by a great family massage. A short tuk tuk ride to the Grand Palace next but we are immediately defeated by the heat and the queue to borrow respectable shoes and clothing to gain admission.
On day two we go by the nice air conditioned sky train to Jatujak weekend market. It is the size of a football stadium and truly amazing. I purchased a Japanese second hand leather man-bag. If I wasn't so obsessed with the amount of stuff we have with us I could have purchased loads. Gabby has just introduced me to a little pocket guide called Luxe. A fantastically gay insight to all that is good about Bangkok. You can get them for all of the main South East Asian cities. We followed their route through the market religiously. I am a fan of the Luxe already. This market is disorienting and I fear that lose sight of the kids and that could be the last time we ever see them. Well, just when we are becoming overwhelmed by the whole experience Luxe deposits us in a very cool jazz bar.
It then guides us to the Jim Thompson House next for (an excellent) lunch. On our way back to the hotel a tuk tuk driver gives us a discount in exchange for dropping us to browse at a jewellery store. The store gives him free petrol and we almost buy a ring, so the system does work.
Climatically adjusted now and ready to move on now, but Bangkok shows plenty more to do so I will not mind a few days here on our way back through Thailand.

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3 Nights in Bangkok

Date: 24/03/2007 | Author: Ella

When we arrived in Thailand it was the middle of the night but it was boiling.
We woke up at Centre Point Silom a big hotel near the Chao Phraya river. We got up really early to beat the heat to the main things we were doing that morning.
Seeing as we were near the river we did lots of river activities like taking the express boat to loads of exciting places on the river. We went to Bangkok's biggest temple, Wat Pho. There were lots of pictures and statues of the Buddha. A lot of people in Thailand (and other countries we are going to in Asia) are Buddhist. After the temple we found an air conditioned massage centre to cool us down. We all had our massages in the same room - it was great to get out of the heat and relax.
After our massage we took a tuk tuk through the busy roads of Bangkok to the Grand Palace (a tuk tuk is a half motor bike/half quad bike taxi). The Grand Palace is where the King of Thailand lives. By the time we arrived it was really hot so we decided to go swimming instead.
The next morning we went to a big market called Jatujak. We got to the market in these fabulous trains called Skytrains. They are called Skytrains because their tracks are high in the air. The carriages are air conditioned so it is a pleasant ride and you can see the whole of Bangkok from up there. In the middle of the market was a pet area and all you could hear was tweet, squeak, ruf, miaow over and over again. It was a mean way to sell pets because they were all crammed in small boxes and cages and they must get very hot. One of the most cruel things about the pet market was that the smaller animals like rabbits had clothes on! If I was a billionaire I would have bought them all!
Also that day we went to a very old house then had another swim.
I loved Bangkok, it is a huge city but I'm not sure that I would like to live there!

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Our time in Bangkok

Date: 24/03/2007 | Author: Florence

When we landed in Bangkok it was the middle of the night but it was really hot! We had to get the taxi to our hotel. Our hotel room was quite big, it had two balconies over looking the river. The river is called the Chao Phraya.
On our first day we visited Wat Pho. It is a temple which is like a Thai church for Buddhists. It had lots of pagodas and Buddhas. Inside was a golden Buddha, he was lying down. They built the Buddha before they built the temple around him because they might have built the temple too small. After that we had a wonderful Thai massage. I love having massages. We had our massage on a hot day but it was in a cool air conditioned room. We had it as a family. Ella's masseur had an extra thumb on each hand. After that we got a tuk tuk to the King's Palace but we didn't go inside because it was too hot!! Instead we went for a nice cool swim.
The next morning we went to a big market. We walked in to a bag shop. It had lots of different bags, Daddy bought himself a man bag (that's what he called it). It was really hot so we got a nice cold smoothie - it was really cold!! After that we went to see some cute animals - they were for sale! We didn't think it was a kind way to sell animals because they were in crowded cages and it was too hot in the market. We didn't buy any because we can't travel with them. If Ella was a millionaire she said she would buy them all!
I liked Bangkok but it was really hot!

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A few days in Bangkok

Date: 24/03/2007 | Author: Gabby

We arrived in Bangkok for a couple of days with no subsequent plans. We had planned a route which involved travelling to Chiang Mai in N Thailand for a few days and then over the border at Chiang Khong and in to Laos for The Gibbon Experience (the only thing we had already booked) followed by a trip down the Mekong to Luang Prabang.
However, when we were in Manly I spoke to Helen Beales who said that she had read reports in the UK press about the pollution in Chiang Mai due to the slash and burn farming methods used in the region. Of course, I was straight on the internet and the situation seemed dire. Everyone advised to wear masks and children advised not to go outdoors altogether! Fortunately we had not booked any flights at the time and Dave and I decided we needed to monitor the situation once we reached Bangkok.
Arriving in the intense heat at about midnight, we checked in to our accommodation Centre Point Silom. A great place with huge roomy apartments (I have never experienced that before in Bangkok), a little shabby but just about to undergo a major refurb so should be really swanky in about a year. It's in a great location too - close to the Chao Phraya river and seconds from one of the stops for the relatively new sky trains - these futuristic looking air conditioned trains are the best and coolest way to get around the city!
On day 1, we took a guided tour of Wat Pho, a huge temple complex just south of the Grand Palace followed by a family Thai massage before we were defeated by the heat and retreated to our hotel swimming pool.
By day 2 we were all feeling a little more acclimatised and ventured to the huge Jatujak weekend market. I have never been there before in all of my trips to Bangkok because it was always such a nightmare to get to. The skytrains and (even newer) underground have changed that! It was a great market, sure it had an element of the usual tourist tat for sale but there were some great little stalls which we found courtesy of the The Luxe Guide to Bangkok. We were also directed to the fabulous Viva bar where we were greeted with a moist towelette before being offered the drinks menu!
We even managed a trip to Jim Thompson's House. Before this visit to Thailand I had heard of him but didn't have a clue who he was - now I know and I also know that he had built a very lovely house in Bangkok prior to his disappearance in 1967.
Our final evening in Bangkok and the official news was that the smoke and smog was clearing so flights to Chiang Mai were booked - ridiculously cheap with Air Asia. Let's hope the conditions don't change............

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Our Snorkelling Trip

Date: 04/12/2006 | Author: Ella

The next day all of the family went on a snorkelling trip. We saw many fish and went to about five islands and one of them was islands joined by a strip of sand, but the sand was under the water so it looked like people were walking on water, it was so cool.
After that we didn't do anything really exciting but we did have fun.

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We are in Thailand

Date: 01/12/2006 | Author: Florence

We've got a lovely house by the beach. We visited a few other beaches and at one of them we saw lots and lots of monkeys. We are having an amazing time. We swam in the sea to cool us down. Me and Ella run around in the rain when it rains. It is a lot of fun! The rain is very warm.

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First Day Krabi

Date: 30/11/2006 | Author: Ella

On our first day at Krabi we just hung out and had a swim before it got too hot. When lunchtime came, me Florence and mummy climbed over some rocks to another beach, (we could only do that because the tide was out) and had lunch there. A few days after we went to another beach, on the way we saw some monkeys and we fed them pieces of sweetcorn and bananas.

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We are in Thailand

Date: 29/11/2006 | Author: Ella

We are in Thailand. It is so beautiful and has so much to do. On our first day we stayed at a hotel called Novotel at Bangkok airport. The staff were so friendly they even gave Florence and I a little toy each.
The swimming pool there was one of the best swimming pools I have ever been in. We only stayed at the Novotel for one day, so next morning we got a plane then a car then a boat to arrive in Krabi. We had to get a boat to our beach, West Railay. When we arrived a man took our bags and showed us to our lovely wooden house.

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Krabi

Date: 29/11/2006 | Author: Gabby

God it's good to be here! Dave calls this part of our trip - me, the girls & mum in Thailand - our pre trip holiday - I call it a very necessary week of relaxation in the heat! I have been so stressed the last couple of weeks in London. I'm sure the energy flying from me could have powered a small city! What with packing the house, organising Ella's birthday & party combined with making sure we had taken into account everything we had to do & pack for the next 8 months - I was physically & mentally drained by the time we left.
We are finally plotted up on Railei Beach, Krabi, staying at 'Deborah's House' at the Railei Beach Club - a gorgeous house right on the beach, lovely sunsets & a huge deck for sittting and doing very little - just what I needed. The girls are having a ball, snorkelling around the beach and, with me, getting acquainted with the delights of Traditional Thai Massage - it's just bliss. I highly recommend the Railei Beach Club - it's pretty expensive (I am good at spending money) but still substantially less than some of the sterile resorts you can stay in in Thailand. It was definitely a great idea to break the journey to Australia - for so many reasons! At least Dave won't have to cope with our major jetlag by the time we get to Sydney........................

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