The original post dates back to September 2010.
Thailand is everything - colours, smells, flavours, movement and stillness - everything you have ever wanted. Visiting period - September (rain period), 15 days - Bangkok - Chiang Mai - Bangkok - Ao Nang (Krabi)
We fly with Etihad - one of the best world companies at that time - and indeed, not bad at all - choice from 3 menus, wine, latest movies and lots of space!
We arrive late in the evening and are impressed with the way luggage is handled - beautiful airport, orchids everywhere, hi-tech screens which show where your suitcase is and staff which helps to get your suitcases from the belt. Great service, haven't seen something that like in Europe...
We get a local taxi to our hotel and it seems that we don't get cheated there, the price is adequate but if there is one thing we learned about Thailand - if they can cheat you, they will :-) So better read before info about prices and processes...
Our hotel is superb - Pan Pacific, 29th floor with a beautiful view... It's in the financial area but the red light district is not far. As we get out of the hotel to get some dinner, soon we are overwhelmed with offers for ping pong shows, banana shows etc... We just want to get some noodles, Ok?
For the next day on the agenda we have visiting of temples. And again, we get many offers saying lots of crap like "today it is a holiday, all is closed, I will show you the best way", "I'm a teacher, I would like to help you, come with me..." No way guys, I read about you and I have studied my map, so no way I'm going to go with you.
It takes us some time to figure out how the boat schedule works and finally we get to the Grand Palace. It's already pretty busy, should have came a bit earlier but it's still very beautiful.
Next stop - Wat Po - much more calmer, can enjoy the beauty of all the ornaments. Next stop - 46 m long Buda. Very impressive! beautiful setting too. I'm attracted to clinging sound - cling - cling - cling... people put coins in small pots... Unfortunately I did not figure out what this ritual was for.
While relaxing on a bench, a monk surrounded by teenagers approaches us and asks my husband about his piercings and tattoos. Then he explains the answers to teenagers who are laughing and taking pictures with their smart phones all the time.... Hm... Then the monk talks to me too. I read somewhere that a woman cannot start a conversation first and cannot touch monks, so finally I have a chance to speak :-) The monk has heard about Latvia and knows a bit of a history! Great! Then the most surprising thing happens - the monk asks my husband to confirm that he will love me forever :-) he confirms... hahahaha... what else to do?
It's super hot but I'm happy that I have brought some clothes to cover myself to enter the temples, they are very strict for this.
The next day we visit the China town and Mount Gold. There we see people praying and telling fortune with some kind of sticks, a very relaxing place in a very busy town.
As a next stop we have chosen Dusit Palace, I read about a dancing performance that is taking palace there every day. The security to enter the palace is super strict, no shoes, no cameras, no water. Nothing. I found it a bit weird that it's so strict but Ok, we follow the rules. Oh, now I see why all this security, it's still used as a reception place for their king. Then the guided visit starts... here we have a room where kind Rama was sitting, eating, having receptions... Here is a china vase from China, here is a gift from Germany, from the Netherlands... from... from ... from... After the 10th sentence about china vases I understand we are definitely not going to see any dancing, we are simply in the wrong group :-) And I see that we are not the only ones. But we don't say anything, no plan to stay in Thai prison for life... (think about Bridget Jones here) Talking about prisons, one can get a life sentence for dealing drugs but you don't get anything for pedophilia... This is not acceptable for me. It's horrible to see in the park an older European gentlemen holding hands with a young Thai boy...
We have bought 2nd class tickets with the night train - only 20 h for +/- 600 km - to go to the North. Initially we were a bit skeptical about the 2nd class but as we had no choice (first class was sold), we had to take it. Well, we were very impressed! It brought back some memories from the train - Riga - Valga where ladies were pushing golden trollies and offering tea with sugar cubes (sugar cube was a real treat when I was 5 or so...). The train is very comfortable, you even get fresh linen and pillows, everything is clean and nobody is disturbing anyone! The cockroaches get out only at night but that's not a big deal.
We are staying in Tomman homestay are we are picked up even if the train arrives 2 h later than expected. In the north we want to visit an elephant farm. But one where animals are treated well and where they don't need to do tricks or carry structures on their back to carry lazy tourists. And we have found one - Patara elephant farm. For a day each os us can become a care taker of the elephant. I get Pouchang. He is big! :-) I'm super scared... Now way, I'm getting on that elephant to ride it... In the beginning we get nice explanation how to know when an elephant is happy (moving his ears), how to see if he has enough of water (take a poo and squeeze it...), see if he is sweating correctly (at the nails...). We also learn some commands - Bonn (take!) and Didi (good!). First we wash them and they really like it. Then it's time to get on the back of the elephant. OMG. There are 3 ways - from the leg, fly from the trunk, forgot the third one... I have no choice and as my Puchang is not lazy, he lifts his leg high enough so I can get on it easily (nobody need to push my bum from the back...). Then we take the elephants for a walk! Oh, what a trip in the jungle! It has been raining, so it is very slippery but not for elephants. This experience is very stressful for me but for the same time also very unique. After the walk, it's a morning swim. WITH elephants... oioioi, nooooo... They all play in the waterfall and swim up and down. I manage to get in to water for 5 min to take a picture and then out! But others really enjoy the experience and play like kids. In the afternoon we visit baby elephants and then the visit is over. Wow, really an experience of a lifetime.
The next day we spend visiting beautiful water falls, it's raining, nobody is around us... and time to get back to Bangkok and the next destination - beach.
Ao Nang (Krabi)
It was a real challenge to choose the best beach to go to, our choice falls on Ao Nang because of the special cliff formations and white sand beaches. First day we just spend chilling and figuring out how the massage business works... I don't want to hear the sentence any more: You are so pretyyyyy, come to my massage salooooon... We have also arranged a private boat tour around the islands. In our mind the boat pier is a 15 min walk from the hotel but it was a very wrong assumption. :-) Our driver meets us in the morning at the hotel and says that we should take a taxi to the pier... Hm... I say that we will walk... he does not understand why... looks and me and says ok and leaves !!!! ???? Ok, we continue walking... then he arrives with a self-made side-car motorbike and urges us to get in... Ok, we do so and then in turns out that the pier is not 15 min walk but 5 km from the village! Ok, when we get in the boat then our driver announces that he cannot go with us but his friend will go... ok, next surprise... turns out that his friend does not speak English... Well, what to do??? We are afraid that maybe it's again some kind of an attempt to get us cheated but in the end all works well. We get to the most beautiful beaches and we are all alone!
Actually we were very lucky with the weather, it was raining only one afternoon. We also visit the Phi Phi island and and where they filmed The Beach (it's soooooo full of people....). While in Ao Nang we also discover superb little restaurants with amazing food and cocktails. Could go back only for that! And of, course, the sun sets... beautiful, every single evening!
And then it's time to get back to Bangkok, we are flying with AirAisia, something similar to Ryanair but with so much better service (no surprise they were nominated as best low cost company in 2009).