Tag Archives: Thailand

Bangkok

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Now anyone who has followed my blog on our recent trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam will know that we have been back a few weeks now but I just want to add the last post of our trip, and that’s about our stay in Bangkok. After our truly magnificent trip we decided to stay in a very nice hotel that being the Anantara Riverside Resort and chill for the last three nights of our trip, but before we go onto that I must add to my very first post on Bangkok where our trip started.

When I finished this post I said we were going to visit Wat Arun, Wat Pho (the home of the reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace, first Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, it’s named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. and is situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. In the centre is a tall tower surrounded by four smaller towers a truly magnificent spectacle, “Top Tip” climb the very steep steps up the tower to get some fantastic views from the top of the Chao Phraya river.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Wat Pho or temple of the reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have lived. Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long, The 3 m high and 4.5 m long feet of Buddha are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers.

Next up the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. Rather than being a single structure, the Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development, with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. Just a few tips when visiting the Grand Palace, firstly as we walking from our hotel to the palace a few random people who innocently asked if we were we lost or where we were going promptly told us the Grand Palace is closed in the morning but they can take us on a tour of the city for a cheap price, but don’t be dissuaded by these offers as the Palace is definitely open in the mornings to everyone not just tour parties like we were told. There are public address systems notifying visitors of the various scams around the palace. Another tip when visiting the palace, shorts, sleeveless tops are not allowed to be worn inside as a mark of respect as I found out when reaching the entrance, but don’t panic as you can loan trousers and shirts free of charge, you just have to pay a small refundable deposit, and this is where the second scam kicks in as we approached the main entrance just as we were about to go in I was confronted by a chap who noticed I was wearing shorts, he then gave me a pair of ridiculous trousers with a hideous flowery pattern and said that would be 100 baht please for the hire and if it was not for my eagle-eyed travelling companion a certain J Duggan who read the large sign above the chap hiring the said trousers detailing the free loan of the said items at the ticket office, which incidently were neither ridiculous or flowery, the bare face cheek of it.

There are many other sights and things to do in Bangkok, like taking a trip to one of the many roof top bars especially at night offering magnificent views of the city, we chose the Vertigo bar, and although the views were stunning the bar and restaurant were nothing like the picture on their website. Another tip if you visit the Vertigo bar, the dress code is smart casual and no shorts which I knew about in advance but although I was dressed smartly, I had sandles on, I was refused entry unless I donned a pair of ridiculous shoes which they will loan you free of charge I looked far less smarter than what I was originally wearing. Another must do is to take a trip on the very reasonably priced river taxi for some great vista’s of the city from the Chao Phraya River.

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Grand Palace Bangkok

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Today we visited the Grand Palace, a truly spectacular place and a must see if your in town. Now I can go on enthusing with superlatives, but I am not, just go and see it for yourselves and make up your own mind, but what I will talk about is some advise if you are visiting the palace. Now if you visit most temples in Thailand or a lot of other countries for that matter, you need to cover up i.e. no bare arms and legs, and the Grand Palace is no exception, but a thing to note is that they will loan free of charge trousers, blouses or sarongs with a 200bht refundable deposit for anyone who turns up for an impromptu visit, the reason I mention this as outside the main gate there are vendors willing to hire you any of the above items at a cost of 30bht right under a sign telling tourists that they are free inside. That’s cheek for you. Next think to watch for is that a lot of nice smiling friendly people will approach and tell you that the palace is closed until later only open for organised tours, this is to get you to go with them on one of there’s. There are public address systems around the perimeter wall informing people of the prospective scams in English I might add, so listen out for them. So we ignored all the scam artists as we had come well prepared, and just walked in to the main entrance, paid our money 500bht this was 10:45 when all the nice friendly people outside were telling us it was closed. luckily we did not encounter the long queue’s like a fellow blogger did on the day before our visit. A brilliant day was had by all concerned.

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Independent Travel, “go on you know you want to”

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Well the day is very close when we embark on our month-long trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, it’s been some eight months now since we booked our flights to Bangkok, and the journey since that day has been immensely pleasurable, with many hours spent reading guide books, researching the internet, reading the invaluable blog post from people who have had first-hand experience in visiting the countries we are going to. On the journey I have learnt a great deal about their history and culture and the many facts about the various conflicts they have had. Some of the facts I have read about the Vietnam War and Pol Pot regime in Cambodia were very startling indeed.

I diverse, back to the planning. Now anyone who reads my blog will know that I am a great advocate in independent travel, as for me the months as in this case of planning is just as pleasurable as the trip no doubt will be itself, as I feel like I have been on the journey all this time, and no doubt my fellow travellers will agree. Now there are many people who would never attempt to do an independently arranged trip and would be completely out of their comfort zone in doing so. I’ve had people say to me “your brave” or “are you mad” but I’m neither (or maybe I am having served many years as a London firefighter), but have gained this experience over many years and on many trips, but everyone has got to start somewhere, so if anyone reading this post has the slightest interest in I urge you to have a go. Now I am not saying do something like we are embarking on, just something small like a city break in Europe or a country nearby whatever part of the world you live in, having said that our very first independent trip was back in 1993 when we went to California for a month with two small children, we just booked a flight and a car and found the accommodation along the way, we travelled some 2500 miles and had a fantastic time.

So let’s start. First the flights, if you are booking short-haul flights with a budget airline the rule of thumb is to book well in advance as this is when you will find the best deals, this is normally the same case for long haul but this can be a bit more hit and miss on pricing, we booked some eight months before the trip hoping that this would be the best deal but later found out we could have got the flights cheaper if we had left it a while, you win some you lose some as they say. I have also found it pays to go to the various airlines direct as they all offer deals from time to time, so my advice is to take the time to register your details with them, and get on their mailing list and they will email you from time to time with their various offers and promotions. Also whilst on the subject of flights there are numerous web sites and phone apps to help you with the process, like flight search engines like Kayak and Skyscanner also another very good tool to use in conjunction with booking flights which is also available as a phone app is Seat Guru, this will enable you view the various airlines seating plans and help you in choosing the best seats.

Next onto the accommodation, there are many sites available on the web to help you find the right hotel, villa or apartment; it is really all down to your personal preference in which you use, personally I use booking.com, but like I said there are many others. In conjunction with Booking.com another good site to which I use a lot is Trip Advisor, Once I have found the accommodation I am thinking of booking I go onto Trip Advisor and get the low down and reviews on the accommodation I am thinking of booking, which in my experience are pretty accurate on the whole.

Next the legalities and requirements of whichever country you are planning a trip too, like what are the  visa entry requirements for the country you are visiting. My advice on this one is to contact the country concerned embassy direct either via their website or phone for entry advise, the reason I say this there are many third-party companies offering to do this for you but like everything in life nothing is free and there will be an additional charge on top of the normal fees, and it’s quite easy and painless to do it yourself, many of the embassy’s offer an online service as well. If you read one of my previous posts on “Vietnamese visa application” you will see how easy and pain-free it is.

Now onto vaccinations, obviously your first port of call for this is your GP, but a really useful website is FitForTravel which is run by the NHS it was recommended by the nurse at my GP’s practise and is the one that they use.

One last website worth a mention is the Foreign and; Commonwealth office which will give you up to date advice on any countries you may be thinking of visiting.

Once last useful tool I want to mention and which I have used extensively and found invaluable in planning this trip is Pearl Trees, now I will try to explain but if I loose you just visit their site as they will do a far better job than no doubt I will so here goes. First things first is to set up an account which is totally free, then you download the add-on for your web browser in my case I use Firefox but I’m sure it will work with all others, then you start by creating a main pearl, which in my case is Vietnam then when you are doing your research you just add the various things you find to your pearl, I said I would make a hash of explaining, just visit the site and you will see what I mean. Before anyone says you can just use bookmarks, but pearltrees is unique whereby your pearls are available for everyone to see so it’s a great way of sharing information on any given subject. Phew that was tough I was even boring myself.

So like I said at the beginning start off small and work up to a more adventurous trip or jump straight in at the deep end like I did all them years ago and I am sure you will be throughly rewarded by the experience and also save some money in the bargain for your next adventure, let me explain. On browsing the various itinerary’s from the various travel companies offering trips to Vietnam I was amazed at the cost. Typical trip for 11 to 14 days in just Vietnam were ranging from between £2500 to £4000 per person, our month-long trip which include return flights from UK to Bangkok, two internal flights in Vietnam, a flight from Hanoi back to Bangkok, 30 nights accommodation in nice hotels not hostels all for the grand total of approx £4000 for three people give or take a £100, bargain in my book.

So hopefully after reading my post I hope I have wetted your appetite for independent travel, and given you some useful tips along the way. So as always stay safe, keep well and keep travelling. Next stop Bangkok watch this space.

Vietnam 2013

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Well its holiday planning time again,and this trip is a big one, you see its my dear wife’s let say milestone birthday next year and also we have been together for forty years so we decided that we would do something special. Now from previous posts you can see we love travelling and have always been ones to do lets say not your average holiday, we have always booked our holidays independently and not with tour or holiday company, now for many people having the comfort of leaving it all to a travel agent is the way they like it but personally the planning of the holiday is just as enjoyable as the holiday itself.

We have travelled a great deal but mainly to the USA and throughout Europe and we have only been on the eastern side of the world  a couple of times both these times to India with a stop overnight in Qatar but our experience of the east has left us wanting more. Now the idea of going to Vietnam was conceived after watching an episode of Top Gear where they travelled to Vietnam and travelled from Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in the south, travelling north along the coast and ending up in a place called Halong Bay a Unesco world Heritage site which I instantly fell in love with as it looks a truly magnificent place.

Another reason for booking independently is that you can change your plans along the way the more information about the country you are visiting to you gain, so here is the itinerary so far

  • Fly to Bangkok with Emirates airlines, where we have three nights at the hotel Boonsiri Palace.
  • We then have the option of either taxi, coach or train to the border town of aranyaprathet
  • Cross the border into Cambodia then travel onwards to Siem Reap by coach or taxi (no trains in Cambodia)
  • We have three nights at the Hotel La Tradition d’Angkor it’s from here will be visiting the temples of Angkor
  • Then our next leg is an onward journey by river speed boat , (looking forward to this part) to Phnom Penh for two nights where we are staying at the Aqua Boutique Guesthouse.
  • Next it’s onto Ho Chi Minh City formerly Saigon. We are staying here for four nights and are staying at the Nhat Ha 3 Hotel it’s from here will be visiting the various sights that Saigon has to offer, the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels (not all the 200km of them I might add) and the Killing Fields etc, although the killing fields will be a rather sobering and distressing place to visit I feel its a must if you are in Saigon
  • Next it’s an overnight sleeper train to Nha Trang where its time to chill for a couple of days. We staying at the Fairy Bay Hotel in a luxury sea view suite, I might add all for £60 per night bargain
  • Then its on the train again to Hoi An a Unesco World Heritage site for three nights at the Vinh Hung Hotel & Spa
  • Next it’s off to Hue  (pronounced hway) where we are staying in the Orchid Hotel for two nights
  • Then it’s an overnight sleeper train to Hanoi where we are staying for three nights at the Ha Noi Eternity Hotel with a day visiting Halong Bay

Finally here are some of the websites that I have used to put this trip together just click on the highlighted links

You can find more of the sites that I have used by checking out my Pearl Trees account, just click here Bob Rouse@ Pearl Trees . Keep a check on this from time to time for more additions and useful information for anyone planning a trip to Vietnam.

Finally please follow my blog if you are interested so you can keep up with the regular updates