Monday, April 9, 2012

Chiang Mai

We spent a few days over new year in Chiang Mai. We arrived by overnight train which is definitely a more comfortable way to travel than by bus. It isn't that much more expensive as well. We got into to Chiang Mai early morning, and found accommodation, a motorbike and a map (the three essentials whenever in a new place).

In Chiang Mai we checked out many temples and Buddha statues, did some shopping at the local markets and ate lots of tasty Northern Thai food.

After that, we got on the motorbike and got out of the city. There are some great rides once of out Chiang Mai. We opted for the National Park which is about 10km out of town but the traffic was crazily busy because so many Thai people flock to Chiang Mai over the new year. We stopped at one of the famous waterfalls, enjoyed the views of the city and dropped in to the local zoo.

And on New Years Eve we made the few kilometer walk from our hostel to the center of town. Along the way we stopped for a drink at a countdown site where a band was playing live to pretty much no one. They were very happy when we arrived and sang to/for us as we had our drink. We stopped for dinner on the way at a busy market/open air food court before arriving in the middle of town where things were getting busy. As it approached midnight everyone was lighting lantern type things which floated up into the sky. There were thousands flickering away in the dark night sky. We ended the year sitting by the river, with heaps of Thais and foreigners, watching amateurs lighting countless fireworks (one guy got hit in the head).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The end is near

No more tuk tuk

Our year in Bangkok, and 3 years in Asia, is about to come to an end. In a few weeks we are going to leave Bangkok and move back to the UK; not before I have a short break in Australia and Celine in France. We have had such an amazing time in Asia. We have learnt so many things and met so many interesting people. We feel really lucky to have had the chance to live in two different Asian countries and learn about their cultures. We arrived in Asia uneducated and have come up against a number of culture shocks along the way. We fear that the culture shocks will come again as we move back to western society.

I have been rubbish on the blog in Thailand, but I will try and keep the posts coming to document what we have been up to in the past few months. Here are some of the things we are going to miss from Thailand.

Street food

There will be no more street food in London. This is such a great part of Asian culture. The grilled chicken, grilled fish, som tam (papaya salad), and sticky rice is one of our favourites and costs just a few dollars.


There will be no more Thailand beaches. London has rocky beaches in Brighton I guess :(

Pool on the roof

There will be no more relaxing on the roof of our apartment block, enjoying the sunset, getting a tan and swimming in the pool. I think it is around 10 degrees in London at the moment. I don't have a jacket. Hmmmm.

Asian Markets

There will be no more Asian markets. No more hanging meat, flapping fish, and squawking chickens and the vast array of unusual and sometimes awful smells that go with it. The smells I can do without but the markets a very typical to the culture and really makes you realise you are far away from home.


No more festivals - Thailand style. This means no more Songkran - the worlds biggest water fight. I will however get one more in before I leave. The water festival this year is from April 13-15 and I will be enjoying it with my brother Chris.

Chao Phraya River

No more river trips.


No more temples.

With all this in mind we plan to get the most out of Bangkok in the next few weeks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas in Bangkok

Christmas day for Celine and I started with a morning class. You can definitely find elements of Christmas throughout Bangkok but in terms of work, or in our case teaching, it was business as usual. All the shopping centers are decked out with Christmas lights and decorations. The hotels as well.

There was a mass of options to choose from for Christmas lunch with many pubs and hotels putting on a real Christmas feast. We had our Christmas lunch at a German restaurant in Nana on soi 11. We had planned to go to another restaurant for a Christmas lunch but when we arrived it was empty and playing rap music. It was a typical Christmas lunch with a German tinge; turkey, potatoes and a German style red cabbage recipe. Add some ice cream and a German beer and you have an enjoyable Christmas lunch.

In the evening we went for a walk in the city to check out the Christmas lights around Central World and the nearby hotels. There were people everywhere. It was a real East meets West atmosphere. There were Christmas trees, lights and kids playing Christmas songs mixed with traditional Thai dancing, Buddhas and late night praying.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Phuket: On the beach

Kata beach

If you go to Phuket just for the beaches you will have a great holiday. We spent a lot of time on deck chairs between the various beaches around Phuket. You can rent a chair for the day for a few dollars, have cold drinks and food delivered to you while soaking up the sun and enjoying the amazing water. What more would you want?

We stopped off at Kammala, Surin, Patong, Kata and Karon beach over our week long trip. Kammala and Surin have cheap eateries that line the beach. You can also do some shopping there or organise some water sports. Patong is the most touristy and the one I liked the least. Patong is the place to go at night. In the day the other beaches are much better options. Kata and Karon seem to be more for the resort crowd. All the big resorts seem to be in this area. The beaches are nice but the small restaurants don't seem to have the same vibe as Kammala and Surin. My vote - Kammala.

Kammala beach sunset

Celine on Kammala beach

Views from the deck chair

Kata Beach

Enjoying the water

Kammala beach sunset: Take 2

Kammala beach by day

Phuket: With the girls

Views from the Big Buddha

Who said the French don't travel? Since arriving in Bangkok we have had a constant influx from the French contingent. What's the deal Australia? First one of Celine's friends came to Thailand for a few weeks, followed soon after by two of Celine's aunties and one of their friends. Not long after Celine's cousin and his girlfriend came for a few days before going done to Phuket to see their French friends. Celine's cousin stayed on for a few months. While staying with him, and his friends, in Phuket another of Celine's cousins (from the other side of the family) came to Thailand with her girlfriend. We caught up with them while we were in Phuket.

Girls on the bike

Melanie and Joelle were doing a few week island hopping trip. Their first stop was Phuket. We rented an extra motorbike and rode up the mountain to the Big Buddha, having a great lunch on the way. Super views up there. The girls also got a chance to hang out with a baby elephant. We also spent some time on Kata beach and enjoyed a few beers.

Melanie and Joelle chat to the elephant

Celine and the elephant

Lunch views

Kata beach

The girls enjoying lunch

Phuket: With the boys

Playing pool with the boys

The flood problems in Bangkok reached a climax towards the end of October. It was high tide and there were fears the city would be flooded. The government declared a 5 day holiday over the weekend of the 21st-22nd and as a result many businesses closed. All of our corporate English classes were cancelled. Our apartment owner who had been telling us for weeks that we MUST leave due to impending meter + high floods in our area was virtually pushing us out the door. Our apartment was full of his fear propoganda and with the latest government warning his paranoïa reached boiling point. Adding to that it was near impossible to buy bottled water as well as some foodstuffs.

For these reasons we decided to leave Bangkok for a few days - destination Phuket. Celine's cousin, Romain, who has been staying with us was already heading down to Phuket to see friends and it just so happened that they had a spare room in their house for a few days.

We ended up staying with them for a little under a week. They had a house on Kammala beach - one they moved into a day before the 2004 tsunami. Luckily their house was not affected.

The first stop was to rent a motorbike.

We spent the mornings riding around the island and exploring different beaches. We stopped at Patong (the most touristic), Kata, Karon, Kammala and Surin beach. Our favourite was Kammala which was laid back and relaxed while having all the ammenities you want at the same time.

At night we had dinners at different restaurants and explored some of the various bars on offer. We had a night out in Patong and experienced a ping pong show; amongst other things - very educational :). There were markets to explore as well so we always had things to do.

We both had a good time meeting Romain's friends and enjoying Phuket. It really is a cool island when you have the chance to explore it on motorbike.

Romain eating at a French restaurant

One of the bars on Kammala beach

Dinner - special Thai curry for me

A few to many for one guy

Phuket market

Monday, November 28, 2011

Back in Vietnam: Hanoi

Me and Noppy at Puku restautant

It was a real treat to be back in Hanoi. It was definately a different feeling than the first time we arrived - wide eyed without a clue of anything that was happening. A holiday to a new place is always exciting but there is also something refreshing about understanding how a place works. This time in Hanoi everything was on auto-pilot. We knew how to take a taxi and where to go. We could speak to the driver and opted for the Old Quarter. We decided to stay in the same hotel as the first night we arrived in Hanoi a few years ago. The hotel had changed it's name but this is not unusal for Hanoi. We knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. We knew the food to eat and what restaurants to eat it in. For Romain, Celine's cousin who was travelling with us, the trip was " the best of" our year and half in Hanoi.

We only had a day and a half but we were able to fit a lot in.

You can't have a stay in Hanoi without a bowl of pho - the famous noodle soup. I tried and got sick of many Vietnamese dishes over my time there but pho was always a favourite. I could do with a bowl now.

As soon as we arrived in Hanoi we went to see our friend Quan who rents motorbikes. You can find him at 68 Hang Bac street in the Old Quarter. We picked a two motorbikes for a couple of days. Motorbike is the only way to properly get around in Hanoi. One of our first stops was to ride over the Long Bien Bridge.

We had dinner at the Rainbow restaurant with our friends Nam and Mai. Mai (pregnant in the photo) has recently given birth to to a beautiful baby boy. The raindow restaurant was on Bao Khanh street in the old quarter and was one of our favourite places to go.

Romain and I by Truc Bach Lake or what we called it; poo lake. The lake really smells. The trick is not to get too close.

Celine and Noppy at a cafe drinking coffee.

Romain and I eating frogs legs at Quan An Ngon restautant.

Eating and drinking at Sen restaurant - all you can eat buffet.

One of our stops on the motorbike was a small cafe by West Lake. It is a great place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of busy Hanoi.

There are always fisherman on West Lake. I wouldn't want to eat anything they catch though.