A Travellerspoint blog

Kuala Lumpur

City sights, sounds and smells...

What a great couple of weeks, we've gone from the city scenes and shopping centres of Kuala lumper to the hectic party island of Koh phi phi and Railey beach and are currently in the tranquil paradise of Koh Lanta island. I'm playing catchup with this blog since we havnt had a good wifi connection in a while!

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Kuala Lumpur
After arriving in Suzie's guest house we hit the night-life of Chinatown Petaling street and sampled the street food stalls a mix of Chinese and Indian with Guinness, Heniken and Tiger the most popular beers sold in pretty much every shop and restaurants but a lot more expensive than Thailand due to the Islamic influence and government taxes. The week was spent visiting the various shopping malls in the Bukit Bintang area, the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre) home to the very beautiful and impressive Petronas towers (which were closed to the public to complete a new walkway through the city linking the Pavilion shopping centre with the towers) with adjoining mall that is home to many high end stores from Armani and Chanel to Billabong and Topshop. Food is pretty cheap here with western eateries like Auntie Annie’s pretzels, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Burger King and the like rearing their Western heads in almost every shopping centre and street corner and rubbing shoulders with the more authentic Indian, Japanese and Malaysian restaurants (taking influences from neighbouring Indonesia, India, the Middle East, and China. Malay food is a fusion of these different influences and is usually spicy and full of spices and herbs) and of course nowhere in the world is complete without a McDonald's or five offering familiar processed cow sandwiched between a ridiculous amount of MSG, salt and sugar and the standard fries and coke combo's. I guess everyone needs their familiar fix now and again. For me the reasonably priced sushi restaurants in The Pavilion shopping mall and KLCC mall were more intriguing and I sampled some of the best I’ve had outside of New York's upper west side, with colour coded plates meandering their way around the restaurant on a conveyor belt waiting to be chosen by hungry diners from all walks of life and the sake at its most delicious, I loved it!. The shopping didn’t appeal to me as a backpackers budget doesn’t allow for luxuries like Armani bags and MiuMiu dresses, but it was still fun to window shop and take in the different cultures all bowing down to the gods of consumerism.

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The bars and night life were fun if a bit pricey (but only really when compared to Thailand!) with a different vibe for anyone and everyone, we sampled the backpacker bars in Chinatown at the weekend filled with international students 16 years and upward all studying in international schools based in the city and hailing from places like Germans, France Denmark Canada and the UK. We also visited some of the higher end Beach bar clubs near KLCC's Times Square area with its Hard Rock Café and rooftop bars and clubs.

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The whole week we were there I was exploring solo as Gareth had fallen ill with some mysterious bug that left him with horrendous stomach cramps and praying to the porcelain gods in more ways than one for the entire week. We taxied it to a clinic ( one thing to note here is that taxi drivers in KL seem to have no clue where half the places in their city are bar of course the standard tourist destinations, and we found that rather than attempt to find out where..oh hey lets say a clinic is they will fob you off to the next taxi driver who you have to once again show a map of the city to and point at the clinic your hostel owner has very kindly circled in an attempt to help you out) anyway.. we got to the clinic which was fantastic and not what we expected at all, it seems health care is a big deal in KL. Unfortunately the medicine that were prescribed did nothing to help the situation (its worth mentioning they cost very little which was a relief!) and two days later we had to take it a step up and head to the hospital a few days before we were due to leave. They at least prescribed some antibiotics (again a cocktail of different meds were around £20) and within a week Gareth was making a proper recovery.

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Suzie's hostel was clean and basic if a bit small but we met some really cool travellers in the common room and id recommend it if you need somewhere cheap and central and don’t care that your stuff will drown the room if you attempt to take anything out of your bag. The toilet/shower combo is communal and the rooms open off the central common room area (basically a really long table with seats on both sides) so first thing in the morning if your looking a bit worse for ware and need a shower/loo stop you will most likely be opening your room door to a group of other backpackers having the complementary tea and toast breakfast or surfing the web.

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The water randomly turned off half way through our stay there and to the hostels credit they provided big bottles of free drinking water... probably to take the edge off the lack of showering facilities and toilets that couldn’t be flushed, ill let your imagination run with the smells dancing their way through the hostel a few hours into this scenario and needless to say we didn’t stay indoors long. The one other issue with our room (and in SE Asia you come to accept this as the norm in most budget places) was the presence of ants meandering their way around the floor inspecting all of our belongings for edible material we may have missed at some point and upon finding something resembling food calling on all of their mates to help them bring it back to their castle in the crack in the wall. This hostel had a few to many for our liking and that coupled with the fact Gareth had to spend most of his time in bed, on the last night we jumped ship and taxied it to a four star hotel called Corus in the Bitang area of the city beside KLCC.

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We were greeted by a very well dressed porter who didn’t hesitate to throw my smelly backpack on over his well tailored suit and lead us up to the reception. The receptionist was fantastic and friendly and in a sea of beautifully dressed guests, all sporting silks, suits and flowing dresses,sipping their overpriced cocktail's in the adjacent bars and reception area's he kindly upgraded the Irish tramps to the Executive suite of the hotel (floor below presidential...although I’m sure the president has far higher class hotels to crash in on his trips to the city) and we were lead to the most fantastic room at the top of the hotel with balcony views of the Petronas tower’s and KL skyline, not bad for £30 between us, buffet breakfast included.

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I’m almost sure I saw a couple of our ant friends who had stowed away on our bags wave us off at the end of our stay at Corus, I bet they couldn’t believe their luck, no doubt if any presidents ever stay they will pay them and their mini bar a visit.

In all KL was an interesting experience and even if the prices were higher for drink and clothing and for backpackers some of the excursions are out of budget there are lots of cool things to do and places to visit and shopping to fill your suitcases with. We checked out before 12am and got the underground subway to the bus station and from there to the airport and were back on our way to Phuket and another 30 days entry to awesome Thailand.

Posted by eimearmck 06:03 Archived in Malaysia Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises beaches buildings people parties night planes trains food rain beer chinatown travel bus market kuala thailand drink storm malaysia adventure new bangkok bars tiger asia chang phuket lumpur kåta floods patong karon Comments (0)

Life's a beach

Sunshine, storms and ultimate Jenga

all seasons in one day 30 °C

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The past week has been a mixture of beach life, markets, regee bars and delicious food. The sun finally decided to make a consistant appearance and we spent our days on Karon beach soaking up the sun, swimming, bodyboarding, drinking beer as the sun set and munching on corn on the cob sold by one of the many beach-roaming sellers who sell everything from food to hammocks and suitcases to the sunbathing tourists.

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On Saturday we caught a bus to Phuket town to visit the weekend market. The bus costs 30 baht and you basically wait at the side of the road and hope it comes your way in the next hour! The market was similar to those of Chiang Mai and Bangkok selling all manner of fake clothes, shoes, handbags, CD’s, sunglasses..you get the idea and some amazing and unusual food. We sampled some great sushi at one of the stalls, had fresh crab meat had some random fruits and chilled in a Western themed bar at the centre of the market with a British couple we met on the bus. The owner of the bar was dressed as a cowboy and there were leather waistcoats, belts and checked shirts for sale hung up in a washing line fashion all over the bar. After a few drinks we headed off for a last walk around the market and then since we were told the buses stop at 6pm, taxied it home for 400 baht, expensive but all taxis here seem to charge the same rates no matter where you go, and they aren’t into bargaining like the taxis and tuk tuks in Chiang Mai and Bangkok!

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Last Wednesday we headed to the beach early and enjoyed the hot sunshine before a huge rainstorm came to take the fun away, its amazing to watch as a wall of thick dark clouds rolls in from the sea, sending all the tourists including ourselves for cover. A thai women let us shelter in her massage marquee set up on the beach and as the rain bore down on us we made small talk about Thailand and Ireland with her over the roar of the wind. Once the storm had passed the sun came out again and we ventured back to the beach. Less than an hour later as a second storm rolled in, this one stronger than the last we decided to call it a day and walked towards home in the downpour.

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Within momnets It got so heavy that in true Irish style we took shelter in a bar called Montana Bar in Bangala plaza not far from our hostel, located just off the beach road. The soi is lined with bars, mostly girlie or ladyboy venues. All of the bars are open-sided with some extra tables outside and featuring the occasional pool table. With names like Winner Bar, My Way Bar, Nan, Nightflower, Black Cat and Jinda all aimed at a certain type of clientelle, Montana bar is the exception. Air-conditioned with a few chairs outside, it specialises in retro music and is free of bar-girls. Three beers each later and we had made friends with the owner Jin, who asked us if we wanted to play a game.. of course we said yes unsure of what we might be getting ourselves into, and waited as she dissapered into the bar and reappered moments later with a Jenga set. Great we know jenga this should be easy..not in Thailand, they have their own ultimate jenga and we played for beers, whoever lost bought the table a round of drinks or shots!

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The game was set up by Jin and her friend Nutty joined us to make it four. The rain began to ease off and as the jenga tower rose higher and higher, drinkers at neighbouring bars started to take an interest shouting advice to Gareth who's turn it was. Sadly his was the first tower to fall and the drinks were out in moments. This continued into the evening and by the end of it we were all pretty drunk with the scores standing at Gareth with three, Jin and myself with two and Nutty, who was a bit of a pro at this game with only one loss. We headed to the nearby "lady bar" for a laugh and danced the night away with Jin, Nutty and their friends! A great night and whilst we spent a lot more than we intened it was worth it for the banter!

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One place to take note of in the Karon beach region is Mama Noi's a small resturant which specialises in both Italian and Thai food just beside Pineapple Guest house and where we ate most often when we were in Phuket. Its priced well and has a wide range of dishes from western food like pasta, lasagne, salads, sandwiches, chicken and chips and Thai food covering pretty much any Thai dish you can think of. The spicy Penang Curry was one of my favorites from here and the club sandwich with fries is huge and could feed two for lunch on days where we needed a change from the spicy Thai dishes.

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We also had a newly opened subway to indulge in when we were feeling like indulging in western food and were there the first morning it opened for the sub of the day, a bargain at 69 baht (£1.49) and watched as the friendly smiling Thai staff took on western personas greating us loudly with "HI WELCOME TO SUBWAY" and repeating our orders in almost American English accents. Subways seem to be popping up all over Thailand, another strong indication of the constatnt influence the western culture is having on Thailand as it changes to accomadate its ever growing tourisim industry.

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At the corner between Siam Commercial bank and the 7eleven, there are a range of street vendors that set up every day selling foods ranging from fruit , fruit smoothies, banana pancakes,chicken and fish skewers, noodles soup and fried chicken to name a few, and these are all priced from 10-40 baht depending on what you go for.

We visited Angus O'Tools Irish bar near the middle of karon beach (http://www.otools-phuket.com/index.html ) for a Guinness that according to Gareth tasted like fresh tyres smell (I don’t drink Guinness so I had myself a nice cold Chang instead) and we subsequently went on a bit of a bar crawl through the neighbouring bars, finding most of them dominated by Asian women looking for the next Western man to entertain but still interesting for one or two (expensive) drinks.

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Closer to Kata beach on route from Karon you come across a huge stretch of restaurants and bars and home to Dino Park indoor mini golf and restaurant, one of the weirdest looking buildings in the area (http://www.dinopark.com/gallery.html) and probably worth a visit if mini golf is your thing! Further round at Kata beach beside our favourite SKA Reggae bar and the restaurant next door does a fantastic range of fresh seafood dishes and is worth going to for dinner before chilling the night away next door. We had great shark steaks here for 200 baht (around £4) and friends of ours had the crab which was delicious and the same price as the shark ( http://www.rollinglobe.com/RGWeb/map/details.aspx?loc=2487&city=30169 ).

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In all Phuket was a great place to spend a just under two weeks and whilst the prices are higher than Chiang mai the people are just as friendly. While the Indian street vendors dont like to barter prices much and will hassle you ar you walk by the Thai remain a little more approachable and friendly when it comes to bargain hunting. Karon beach is alot quieter than neighbouring Patong for nightlife and has no clubs but has some great bar and resturants and the beaches of Karon and Kata seem much cleaner and are great for water sports. You can rent bodyboards and surfboards on Karon and Kata for around 200baht. We also saw some kitesurfers out on the water as well as jetskis for hire near the middle of the beach. The sunset from Karon was spectacular and worth chilling out on the beach right into the evening to capture your own postcard perfect sunset.

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Our initial 30 day visitor visa to Thailand was two days from running out and since the easiest way to renew it is flying out off and back into the country, we left Phuket on Friday to spend a week in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. Pineapple guest house organised a taxi for us for 650baht, which is pretty cheap considering it is an hours drive from Karon to the airport at the North of Phuket. From here we flew with Air Asia and the flight took under two hours. The hostel Suzie’s Guest house (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Suzie-s-Guesthouse-and-Hostel-KL/Kuala-Lumpur/48749 ) provided us with directions from the Airport and we arrived around 7.30pm after taking the free airport shuttle bus to catch the KLIA Express Train to KL Sentral station and then the Rapid Kl LRT train to Pasar Seni Station a short 2minute walk from the hostel, the whole trip cost around 16 Ringgit (around £3).

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Once we had checked in we headed to Chinatown for some cheap eats and found that food here in Kuala Lumper is around the same price asThailand, with a meal style munch in the middle of the market costing 17 RM ( £3.50ish) but with alcohol prices alot higher due to the governments tax on alcohol in this predominantly Islamic country, a large Tiger beer cost us around £4.00 where in Thailand the most we ever paid was around £1.40. Clothes and good from the market seem priced a little higher than the markets in Thailand also, which may be a good thing as our backpacks are beginning to weigh a ton! We are spending 6 nights here and hope to visit some of the citys landmarks like the Petronas twin towers and the the 421-metre-high Menara KL Tower amongst other things before heading back to Thailand and renewing our 30 day visitor visa upon re-entry for what will hopefully be a month with more sun and beaches than rain storms and flooded streets, fingers crossed!

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Posted by eimearmck 02:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises beaches buildings people parties night planes trains food rain beer chinatown travel bus market kuala thailand drink storm malaysia adventure new bangkok bars tiger asia chang phuket lumpur kåta floods patong karon Comments (0)

The road to phuket

A 23 hour bus journey

storm 29 °C

:O

:O

Well we made it to Phuket after a 23 hour bus journey from the beautiful and busy Chiang Mai. We checked out of our hostel just before 12pm, had lunch at a little restaurant opposite Sompet Market whilset it poured down outside. The women who own the place where we had eaten a few times since moving to Mojito house hostel because of the awesome dishes all priced 35-45 baht (around 73-93p) were happy to see us again and asked us about our travel plans and wished us well on our travels as we left to leg it through the rain and flag down a taxi.

Thailand has certainly lived up to its reputation as the 'Land of smiles' as almost every Thai person we have met so far is so friendly and welcoming and willing to help if they can! We grabbed some water and snacks in Tesco Lotus (yes Thailand has tesco, and Boots) that just opened between Moonmuang soi 5 and 6 then headed to the bus station via taxi bus for around 1.30pm. We originally planned to bus it back to Bangkok then get another bus from there to Phuket but we discovered that there is a newly opened service run by the Green bus company (http://www.greenbusthailand.com/) that goes the whole way there costing 1770 baht (£37) and covering a distance of over 1500km.

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We stopped three times along the way for lunch, breakfast and dinner, dinner and lunch were both free. We also got a snack at the beginning of the journey consisting of chocolate wafers, crackers some sort of cake thing, orange juice and water. Our bus attendant a smiley happy guy called Jack (well that was the English version of his name apparently!) was really helpful once he found out we were Irish and brought us maps and gave us advice on which areas of Phuket to visit and which to avoid, Patong beach is pretty hectic according to Jack and pretty dirty so luckily enough we are staying at Karon beach further south and one of the nicest beaches on Phuket. We arrived in Phuket an hour before schedule after a speedy (and bumpy) journey and having been advised by Jack earlier not to take a tuk tuk as they cost over 500 baht for a short journey to Phuket town center, we jumped in a taxi and got dropped off at the bus stop in the market area where a Vegetarian festival was in full swing with the streets packed with stalls selling food and soviners as well as the usual fake bags, clothes, hats and sunglasses.

We got dropped off near our hostel; Pineapple Guest House (http://www.pineapplephuket.com/) and the bus journey cost 30 baht each, which was cheap for the distance we traveled compared to the tuk tuk to town which was 100baht. The hostel is awesome, huge room, fridge, air conditioning, fridge/freezer en suite shower room and safe box and only £5.19 a night! Its 5 minutes from the beach and right in the middle of shops, banks, tattoo parlors, bars and restaurants. The beach itself is awesome and clean and we cant wait to get some sunshine so we can enjoy it!

Gareth on the beach!

Gareth on the beach!

Karon beach sunset on the day we arrived (only sunny day so far!)

Karon beach sunset on the day we arrived (only sunny day so far!)

Karon beach sunset

Karon beach sunset

So far its rained a lot here as there is a tropical storm 'Nalgae' off the coast but its due to get sunny again tomorrow or the next day so fingers crossed for some beach time in the sun! We rented a motorbike yesterday from a cool Swedish couple who own a guest house around the corner from ours for 150 baht to share. Having never ridden a moped before we got a bit of practice in with the help of our Swedish friends who then guided us on moped to a nearby petrol station to fill up and as it started to rain showed us where to buy ponchos! Then we hit the road in what can only be described as a baptism of rain as It started to pour down with a vengeance and Gareth, who was driving, navigated the crazy Thai traffic and we headed to Patong beach for a visit over the some of the steepest winding roads ever as the rain beat down and we tried not to die.

With Gareth quickly becoming a bit of a pro on the old motorbike we made it safely to Patong beach 15 minutes later and walked off our adrenaline hangovers along the busy streets lined with stalls and Indians with fake Australian accents trying to sell us everything from fake watches to custom made suits and navigated through the thick crowds of tourists and holiday makers shopping a baht shaped hole in their wallets. The beach is separated by the shopping area by a busy main road and the place resembled china town in New York with a bit of Koh san Road thrown in. It was hectic and unpleasant with loads of western foodchains like McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks dotted along the main road and restaurants and bars all clogging up the beach front. The beach didn't look to clean but that could have been because of all the rain, although having a busy street and road beside it probably didn't help.

We realised too late that it was quickly getting dark and jumped back on the moped and floored it back to Karon beach in near darkness. For someone who has never ridden a motorbike on main roads Gareth did an awesome job, once the weather picks up we are getting one each for a bit of sight seeing. We were warned by the Swedes to be wary of road pirates who roam after dark and who rob westerners on mopeds so night travel might be kept to a minimum while we are here!

We hit a reggae bar at the South end of nearby Kata beach last night called Ska bar, met some cool travelers and the owner and his mates and drank too many cocktails and Chang beer. One of the guys who is friends with the owner gave us a ride home on his moped which was nice of him! Id say we will definitely be back there a few times before we head to Phi Phi island on the 12th.

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So far Phuket is a lot more expensive than Chiang mai for everything, food is over triple the price, where before we paid 35-40 baht for a big meal and around 40 baht for a small Chang beer we are lucky to get a meal for under 180 here and Chang is at the cheapest around 65 baht. We've found a few good restaurants selling cheaper food and there are street stalls dotted around at random times of the day so our budget travelling might survive a while yet! Hopefully the sun will make an appearance for the rest of our time here although with the rainy season in full swing we might have to put up with rain for a while yet!

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Posted by eimearmck 07:52 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches people parties sky night travel thailand drink adventure bangkok bars phuket kåta patong karon Comments (0)

Chillin' in Chiang Mai!

The adventure so far

sunny 30 °C

Takes forever to upload pics so ill add more at some stage!!

Sunday

Sunday we decided the stench of our unwashed clothes was becoming too much so we headed around the corner from our hostel and did a batch of laundry, 20 baht for a kg load which is dirt cheap! While we waited for it to finish we walked around the corner to the Tha Pae walking market on Ratchadamneon road and bought some baggy trousers and vests to survive the heat here. I would advise everyone and anyone not to bring that much stuff with them to thiland as you can buy clothes, cosmetics, bags pretty much anything for an absolute bargain here its crazy to bring any with you!

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We chilled that night in the Lost Hut bar also around the corner from our hostel a cool reggee bar with a chilled atmosphere and great people. It sarted pissing down heavily outside at one stage and im told me and the owner of the bar Sai, a cool thai lady, ran out into the rain like two lunitics and started dancing and singing along to the tunes from the bar (my memory evades me of this but i blame the Chang for that..).

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Monday

Monday was a late start as you imagine after the previous night and we took a random wander through the old city and decided to book a tour for the Wednsday which includes elephant ride and rafting so that should be good banter! We walked to the Anusam market for food and ended up having to stay for ages as one crazy lightning storm hit and the heaviest rain ive ever seen poured down as the market stall holders rushed to put up plastic sheeting over their goods. One piece of advice if your in this area, Burger King is a great place to use a clean loo with toliet rool and also get change for a big 1000 bhat note! The other toilets near the market charge 5 Bhat so use that as a fall back if you need to! We tuk tuked home through the Loi Khro rd, the red light district of Chiang Mai (or one of them) where the western men come to have a good time and the thai women stand at the entrance to the bars waiting on their nights business. They all pay pool here , i guess to break the awkwardness of the whole thing and relate in ways to the western bar and pool culture..or they all just love pool who knows!

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Anusam market in the rain

Anusam market in the rain

Tuesday

Tuesday after checking out of the All In One hostel and bidding farewel to our French friend Gill we checked in a couple of streets over to a cheaper hostel without the luxury of airconditioning for £3.95 per night in Mojito house on Moonmuang soi 6 and headed out on our free half day tour of the arts and crafts of the region,we were driven by the tour guide we had met the day before, a friendly guy who loved comparing western prices to Asian prices with us and stopped off at wood making, silk weaving, cotton, brass gemstone, paper and honey making warehouses where the workers gave us a tour of the factorys and the shop at the other end incase you decided to fork out for any of the goods. The gemstone factory shop, the biggest jewlery shop in the world according to sinage outside was probably the most impressive and also intimadating as a thai women walked around with us showing off the different cases of jewellery and quoting prices we politely declined the offer to try on 40,000 baht rings (which is only £1000 and not expensive as far as diamond and gem rings go, but still out of a backpackers price range.The paper making factory was by far the coolest as the time and effort taken to convert wood from the Sa plant into paper amazes me . They make umbrellas and fans and loads of cool paper products and we ended up getting a couple of paper souvenirs to take home. The Honey bee factory was also notable in that we were given a presentation on honey making and the different honey products made by the bees in their hives and we tried Royal jelly, high grade honey and pollen grains. We got some honey ice cream on the way out to cool down, it was immense!

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Wednesday

Wednesday we awoke to monsoon rain, which was annoying because this was our activity tour day. We headed out into the soaked streets and were drenched within minutes. Our driver picked us up and the group which consisted of Germans, Chinese and Turkish tourists headed off to our first stop the Butterfly and Orchid farm. It was interesting but a bit...er washed out..in the rain as we all walked around with umbrellas and i weaved my way around the orchid farm trying not to cut any down with my umbrella and be hit with a 2000 baht fine. The butterflys were'nt overly enthused at the rain either as one or two put on a little bit of a show for us before retreating back to the shelter of the trees.

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We boarded the bus again and headed to the first elephant camp Chok Chai. On the way we passed villages with houses were completely flooded and people waist deep in water. As we climbed higher into the countryside the rivers were swollen with monsoon rain water with massive pieces of debris from upstream cascading their way down. We arrived at the first elephant camp where the rest of our tour were going to see an elephant show. There were elephants everywhere, just chilling out and eating and some with tourists on their backs. After dropping them off the driver sped along the dirt road with Gareth and I to the next camp and we were dropped off. We were greated by a Thai elephant keeper and he pointed to a wooden bridge accross the massively swollen river to where the elephant ride track started and told us to head accross. This was the nerve wracking experience of the day as it poured down and we half walked half ran accross the swaying bridge with the river roaring along below us. Once accross we walked to the platform which was surrounded by elephants all saddled up waiting. The elephant guides were all chilling out and some were asleep and we climbed up and shakily boarded our elephant. The guide secured the seat with a rope, sat on the elephants head and off we went.

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Our trip through the jungle was to say the least..scary as hell. The guide seemed to be carving a new route or doing some gardening I've no idea, but we held on for dear life and our umbrellas as the elephant made its way slowly over new and uncertain ground and the guide hacked away at the overhead trees. You would think that once he pulled out his mobile phone and started a conversation i would be a bit more chilled at his laid back confidence but i wasnt. At one stage he had to hold us both in at a steep decline and i started to wonder what it would feel like to be killed by the weight of an elephant.

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Once we were back on solid ground and had made it once more accross the wooden bridge we had our buffet lunch and after we were driven to an "idillic" waterfall that was more like a white water rapids because of the rain where on a good day you can take a dip and go bamboo rafting. The next stage of our day was zip lining in the jungle and the Chinese group we ended up with were great craic, laughing away at eachother and when one of them didnt quite make it to the other platform but instead zipped back to the middle and had to be hoisted back over by one of the Thai instructors everyone was in stitches. Gareth and I were the last to zipline accross the river and they let us do a "superman" as they called it as we were harnessed to the line by our backs so our hands were free, it was great craic! After that it was a ox cart ride which was verry mellow compared to the elephants, then it was back on the bus and on to our last stop, the hill tribes.

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The hill tribe village was about 20 minutes from the elephant camp and belonged to the Long necked Karen tribe. We were given a history of the tribe by our guide as we walked around and took photos. This particular village was a tourist focused village and the main tribal village was a good treck away into the forest but not part of our tour. We watched the women making and selling scarves and bracelets at their different stalls and basically waiting for tourists to come and buy stuff. They start the elongation of their necks from the age of 6 and stop when they are 24. The process involves fitting a brass ring around their neck every year and is seen as a sign of beauty. Back in the day the rings were gold so once they turned 24 they were wealthy and the men in the village were more inclined to marry them. There were also women from three different triibes who had their own stalls just before the Longnecks and the Akha tribal women chew tobacco gum stuff they make from leaves tobacco and paste to make their teeth black, also seen as a sign of beauty, it actuallly looked like she had coloured them in with a Sharpie marker they were so black! We jumped back the bus ad headed back to Chiang mai city.

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The whole trip cost us the equililent of around £19 and we booked in one of the many travel agencies dotted around Chiang Mai. You get similar packages with well known travel agences in the western world but you pay an absolute fortune for them in comaparison so id advise waiting untill you get here to book anything and also barter for the price!
So far Chiang Mai is awesome and on our walks around we've visited alot of cool temples, there are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai according to a guy who we first ignored as we mistook him for a tuk tuk driver looking for a fare but turned out to be just a guy chilling and chatting to random tourists about his city's temples, so you cant miss them. There are loads of cool bars and restaurants here and the people are really friendly and welcoming. The markets are amazing and the range of random foods you can try is immense! The market beside our hostel on Moonmuang Soi 6 called Wat Dokkham is great for fresh fruit smoothies in the morning! We leave today to hit the beaches of Southern Thailand and hopefully get a bit of tan on our pale Irish skin and do some Island hopping! Cant wait! :D

Posted by eimearmck 21:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged waterfalls bridges people animals travel bus thailand adventure new bangkok mai asia t Comments (0)

Tiger Kingdom

sunny 30 °C

Wow its been a while! The internet in the new hostel we moved to was down for a few days so i couldn't update my blog, this entry covers the last few days and is in two parts, also cant get spell check working on this so please ignore any mistakes!!

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Saturday

On Saturday we decided to head out and see some tigers in Tiger Kingdom. We walked to the Tiger Kingdom resturant on the Moonmumg road thinking that the tigers might be there although in retrospect that was a bit mental as a tiger sanctuary in the middle of the old city of Chiang Mai makes no sense! The resturant manager greeted us at the door and after a chat about the tiger park he gave us directions and organised a tuk-tuk at a discounted price for a round trip, 250 baht (£5) for both of us which is pretty good!

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Tiger Kingdom is in Mae Rim around 10km, 20mins by tuk-tuk and the journey out was brilliant. We sped along the main roads of the city and watched as the landscape beyoned Chiang Mai opened up to the Thiland you see on postcards wilst our driver Mr. Khayan Maneekhat (who gave us his card after the trip) had the craic with us about Ireland and the weather in Chiang Mai. He dropped us outside the park entrance and went off to park his tuk tuk and wait for us. We were greated by very friendly and helpfull staff who explained how the attraction worked, you purchased tickets based on the size of tiger you wanted to see and there are three different sizes ranging from small cubs to huge tigers, with a discount for purchasing more than one. We opted for the smallest and largest tigers and paid around 800 baht each, just under £20. The small tigers were up first and they were unbelievably cute, you were allowed into a large cage with around four cubs roaming around playing and sleeping, and you are told that you cant pick them up or pet their heads.

me with the tiger cubs

me with the tiger cubs

Tiger Kingdom

Tiger Kingdom

Gareth and the tiger cubs

Gareth and the tiger cubs

We took loads of pictures and the experience was amazing. The big tigers were in a larger outdoor enclosure and most of them were chilling in the miday heat. The staff stayed close by and again you were advised not to touch their heards or approach them directly from the front as they see that as either you want to play or fight (i guess people picking these guys wasnt somthing they had to worry about!). It was unreal seeing the tigers up close and getting to take photos with them and i would definately reccomend it if you visit Chiang Mai!

Me and the BIG tigers!

Me and the BIG tigers!

Cat nap

Cat nap

As the buffet in the park resturant was closing as we arrived we opted for some food in the Tiger Kingdom Restaurant when our lovely tuk tuk driver dropped us back, the food there is great and they pride themselves on being one of the cheapest restaurants to eat in Chiang Mai according to the manager who was extremely friendly and welcoming when we returned.

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After our meal we headed to the Saturday market on Wua Lai Road, one of the main attractions in Chaing Mai. You can buy a whole range of awesome crafts and clothing and food here and it seemed to go on forever! You are expected to barter for your goods, so never accept the asking price, go around 20-30% lower and work to a middle point with the sellers as Its all part of the experience. we bought a few chang for the walk and the old lady who sold us them wrapped them in magazine paper to make sure we didnt get in any trouble which was cool of her! "She Knows the craic" as my mate Fitzy would say ;).

Subway tuk tuk

Subway tuk tuk

Saturday Market Wua Lai Road

Saturday Market Wua Lai Road

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We went to the night bazzar after the Saturday market located down in the new city along the front Central Kad Saun Kaew street and had some more pad thai and Chang beer at the Anusam market along the Chang Klan road at a place beside where the cabaret show plays each night. The boys and girls all dressed as girls or erm..ladyboys..are a sight to behold as they blow kisses at the passers by hoping to entice them into a show. We got a few more Chang at the 7 eleven shop and headed back to the hostel where we ran into the Gill the owner and ended up heading to a french resturant/ pool hall next door called L'orchidee and had the craic with a mix of french and thai people. Once it closed we chilled back at the hostel with Gill and a mix of other travellers from all over the world.

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Posted by eimearmck 06:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged me animals travel thailand adventure asia tigers Comments (1)

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