I was in San Diego last week for the Cloudopen conference, running alongside LinuxCon. One of the evening events was at Bali Hai, which offered a great sunset view looking over the water to the city. There’s a dining room upstairs that looks out on the water. Nice spot!
Well, my attempt to post during the entire Thailand trip kinda fizzled so I’ll try to add some more details of the trip from memory. Here goes…
From Chiang Mai we headed back to the south, stopping for a night in Phuket and then on by boat to Koh Phi Phi. Phuket has a nice feel to it but my lasting impression is that there were a lot of very brown retirees there. I don’t know why that would be, but at least on Kata Beach where we were that’s how it was. The food at Mom Tri’s Boathouse was pretty tasty, too. Due to somewhat awkward trip scheduling we were in Phuket for a very brief night’s stay and then were up in the morning to make our way to Koh Phi Phi.
We started out on the front of the boat where we found some room but we quickly realized why it wasn’t crowded to begin with… large amounts of water regularly splashed over spraying everyone. Our particular spot was partially shielded so we made it longer than most but we too eventually made our way to the back of the boat where we could stay a bit more dry. It was still not dry, but much more so.
As we approached Phi Phi we saw some pretty cool rocks jutting out of the water and the boat slowed to give everyone a chance to be tourists. It’s apparently also a god snorkeling spot and there were a lot of other boats around.
We arrived at the main dock in Phi Phi which was very hectic and crowded with tourists and touts trying to sell to tourists everywhere around. We found a water taxi and managed to get our luggage and all of us into it without getting too wet in the process. It requires wading into the water a bit to climb up the short ladder into the boat. The boat ride was about 30 minutes and took us around a pretty good portion of the island. The driver pulled up to the shore and the Zeavola staff came out to help with the bags.
Zeavola is a pretty fancy resort and it was a nice way to spend a couple of days on the beach. One slight oddity is they use salt water for the showers and the pool. It’s been desalinated but not completely and you never really feel completely clean there. I guess it’s about being one with the ocean or something, but I think Vida would have preferred to be one with the clean instead.
The beach there was delightfully free of crowds and most of the hassles that were part of the other beaches we went to in Thailand. From my shady spots I managed to read about half of a book in short time we were there.
After our resort stay on Koh Phi Phi, we headed on to Khao Sok.
We’re now in Ko Samui, a very popular beach destination in Thailand. From some descriptions we had read we were worried it would be totally overrun with tourists, but so far it’s not been bad at all. We’ve only had one day here so far and it was raining most of the day, though. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.
This phase of the trip is sort of the ‘cool down’ like when you walk for awhile after running, and there will probably be more time to reflect on the trip. So, in that spirit… Thoughts on Chiang Mai.
After our three nights in Bangkok, we flew up north to Chiang Mai. A few people we had talked to were glad we were taking some time to see parts of Thailand other than the ever-popular beaches so I was pretty excited to experience it. We stayed at a pretty swanky hotel called D2Hotel with all modern decor and style. Chiang Mai has apparently been developing its tourism market very quickly over the past several years and newer hotels like D2 have come out of that. It’s pretty reasonably priced for how nice it is, too… a definite change from Bangkok. It’s also very centrally located right near the popular night market.
The Chiang Mai night market is centered around a large warehouse-like building with three levels of vendor booths selling all kinds of merchandise from cheap tourist junk to pretty nice cloth items to high-end antiques (though it’s very definitely slanted towards the former end). Additional smaller booths line the sidewalks for several blocks as well as some parking lot areas, too. It is a great place to pick up souvenirs, but most of the fun is just experiencing the energy of it all. It’s even more amazing when you think about the fact that they do it every single night. One morning we went walking down the sidewalk and noticed how much more open and wide the street felt without all the vendor carts… and then it made us start wondering what they do with all the carts at the end of night. It must take a lot of space to store them all!
On our first day in Chiang Mai Vida and Elise learned how to cook some classic Thai dishes with the Thai Farm Cooking School. Sage, Riley, and I came along to hang out and eat the food, too. It was the best Thai food we’ve had since we’ve been here!
The next day we went to an elephant training camp for a quick elephant ride, and to see them paint a few pictures.
Very quick update… After Bangkok we spent a couple of nights in Chiang Mai where we rode some elephants. It was tourist craziness but still fun.
After Chiang Mai we headed to the beach of Phuket and then Ko Phi Phi. We’re now rejuvenated for our trek to the jungle of Khao Sok.
This is now our fourth full day in Thailand and Vida and I have taken over 500 photos already. We’ve had easy access to Internet but not much time to use it. The heat here is pretty draining on us so we mostly use our free time to rest. Gallant adventurers we are not… yet.
We spent our first three nights at the historic Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, and it definitely met expectations. The service was very friendly and warm and the food was good, too. Somehow we got upgraded for free to deluxe river-view rooms which was certainly enjoyed. The Chao Phraya river that runs through Bangkok is pretty amazing and is a unique aspect of the city. There’s a steady stream all day long of ferries, river cruise boats, shuttle boats, tug boats pulling huge loads of who knows what, and the noisy water taxis. They crisscross paths frequently and it’s fun to watch them narrowly avoid collision time after time. At night, the river cruise boats are lit with colorful light scenes and decorations. The King’s 80th birthday is being celebrated and most of them seem to have something to do with that at the moment. On our first evening we went out on a river cruise dinner, and it was neat to seem them passing by. Many of Bangkok’s historic attractions along the river are nicely lit at night as well.
The roads of Bangkok are packed bumper to bumper with cars, tuk tuks, and scooters basically all the time so the frequent river ferries are a very nice way to get around, as well. The locals keep the boats pretty full and tourists squeeze to fill in the remaining gaps. Bangkok is definitely a city of hustle and bustle, and an amazing mix of old and new, side by side. The Skytrain public transit system is quite modern, clean, and efficient, for instance. We used it to we got around on our first day and it was downright pleasant compared to the next day’s combination of ferries and taxis.
Bangkok’s air pollution is very noticeable, especially when stuck in traffic on the roads. It’s not quite as bad as my memories of Mumbai, but it is still a major problem for the city. It’s less noticeable up on the Skytrain, which is heavily used by everyone. I can only imagine what the traffic and air would be like without it.
While in Bangkok we visited the Jim Thompson house (this Jim Thompson guy was entirely unknown to me before coming here, but he’s all over the place…), the Grand palace with it’s Wot Phraw Kaew, Wot Arun across the river, and the Vimanmek Teak Mansion.