After leaving Phuket (for the third time) we headed to Ko Samui, Thailand. It involved a full day (12-ish hours) of travel for 2 very exhausted girls. We arrived in Ko Samui and it was raining and ugly weather in general. And that weather continued for the next several days. Since we weren’t doing anything but sitting in a hotel room, we decided to leave early and explore other parts of the country. The next stop on our tour of Thailand was Bangkok. Getting back to a bigger city was something that intrigued us and we were ready to explore and see what Bangkok had to offer.
Flying into BKK, we were picked up by Al, a friend of a friend. Kerry’s friend Mandy (who we stayed with in Napier, New Zealand) is married to Ben, who is childhood friends with Al. Al was kind enough to pick us up and take care of us for an evening! We were greeted at the airport by Al and his sign with our name on it! Then we headed for his part of town where his family owns several accommodations. We got to stay in a super cute house that was so homey and comfortable – something we haven’t had in awhile! We met Al’s family, had the pleasure of spending time with his mom on her birthday and then settled in for an authentic Thai meal at the market right outside our door.
Our new home also allowed for a great nights sleep on a soft bed! Success! The next morning we spent time talking with Al, hearing his suggestions for the city and then grabbing a taxi into town. We stayed in Sukhumvit, near the BTS (skytrain) and tried to find a place to get our laundry done. This proved to be a pretty difficult task as there were no laundry facilities nearby. We finally found one and packed up our heaps of dirty clothes to be cleaned.
An added bonus on this trip was meeting up with Nazair. He and Kerry worked together for several years and he had arrived in Bangkok that morning to start a 30 day group tour of SE Asia. He had one free day before meeting up with his group and we were excited to see him! After dropping laundry we headed into city center and met up with Nazair. We all decided to head to Chinatown and see the sights, taste the yummy foods and to catch up on our travels.
Chinatown provided many hours of entertainment and great food and drink. Nazair was a trooper and even did a fish spa with us (his first one!) When we were all sufficiently exhausted, we said our goodbyes, discussed our plans to meet up again in other cities and headed to bed.
The next day was a busy one with our cooking class and visiting the big weekend market in the city. JJ Market is a huge weekend market with over 8,000 stalls of shopping and food. Once we finally found it, we wandered around and bought a few small things for ourselves and feasted on delicious food!
Our fourth day in Bangkok was a slightly frustrating one. We had a mission: buy VIP bus tickets to get us to Chiang Mai on April 11. And we failed. We were heading to Chiang Mai at the most popular time of the year: Songkran (a huge Thai New Year celebration) would be happening while we were in the city. While this wasn’t planned, it worked out perfectly (except this whole ordeal with finding a way to get there!). The day started with picking up our laundry and doing some shopping nearby. Then we found a hostel and asked for help on getting bus tickets. No luck with the online purchasing system for tickets. We got directions to the main bus terminal and tried our luck there. At each window, every provider was sold out of tickets for the next few days. Feeling defeated, we started our journey back to our hotel and checked online for train tickets. Sold out. Our only option at this point was flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, so we agreed to look into this when we got “home”. Feeling frustrated, we stopped at the store and bought groceries and toiletries and snickers bars to ease the pain of wasted hours and tons of sweat.
Once we were back at our hotel we booked flights to Chiang Mai. We also reserved extra nights at our hostel and airline tickets to get us out of Thailand (we will hit our max of 30 days in the country) and over to Vietnam. The next few hours were spent planning our stops in Vietnam and getting an idea of what we wanted to do. This disaster of a day resulted in us being exhausted and agreeing to spend the rest of the night eating sandwiches in bed and being lazy, but at least we did get some productive planning done. We had planned to visit the Grand Palace, but after things went awry we were unable to get there before it closed. The next morning would be an early one so we could visit this must-see landmark before catching our flight.
On Tuesday we woke up early, wore clothes that covered our legs, shoulders and feet and headed out for the Grand Palace. We took the BTS close to the city center, then hopped in a taxi and headed for the gates of the Grand Palace. Then we were stopped at the entrance because leggings were not allowed. So we bought skirts and added another layer of clothing to sweat in. Once inside the Grand Palace we were immediately in awe of it’s beauty. The intricacy of the buildings and the colorful detailed exterior swept us off our feet. We spent over an hour exploring the grounds, looking around at the elegant temples and learning more about the history of the Grand Palace. Wishing we had a guide to provide us with more insights, as well as more time to explore the grounds, we learned a lesson: on future visits like this we would try to find a tour group to join.
We had to leave in a rush since we had a check out time and flight to meet, so we headed back to our hotel to clean up and start another travel day. Chiang Mai was calling our name and we had some elephants to meet!
~ Kerry & Jenny