Thailand

It’s been a while since my last site entry but that’s (mostly) because I’ve been away on a well-deserved holiday to Thailand. I had planned to go away earlier in the year but that didn’t happen due to work commitments. That excuse no longer existed by the end of September, so I made my plans for a holiday.

Adrian on the beach

I chose Thailand because I expected it to be a relatively easy place to travel to and around. I’d decided to travel on my own and to go as an independent traveler, rather than as part of a package holiday or tour group. My concrete plans extended as far as a return plane ticket to Bangkok and three night’s pre-booked accommodation. And even that bare minimum plan didn’t go exactly as it was supposed to …

As pure bad luck would have it, I found myself caught up in Thailand’s on-going political crisis. PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) protesters staged a sit-in at Bangkok’s international airport, closing it for a week, starting barely a day before my scheduled return flight. To cut a long story short, this meant I spent an extra seven nights in Bangkok (at the Thai Government’s expense!); endured five visits to the Thai Airways ticket office after they repeatedly canceled my flights and failed to re-book me on an alternative; visited Government offices on either side of town to seek compensation details; and finally had to pay for my own ticket home from Frankfurt after this was as far as Thai Airways would send me. An annoying situation made far worse by the inconsiderate behaviour of Thai Airways.

The rest of my holiday was far more enjoyable!

In my first few days I got to see Bangkok, including cruising on the river, visiting Jim Thompson’s House/Museum and touring the Grand Palace and nearby temples. Or Wats, as they are known.

Bangkok Grand Palace

From Bangkok I fly to Phuket, where I stayed off Kata Beach in a newly built (and very reasonably priced) hotel that the local taxi drivers pointed out for me after I was dropped off, clueless about where to go next to find somewhere to stay.

I used Kata as my base whilst I spent the next week learning to scuba dive with Phuket Scuba Club. The lessons were harder than I’d expected as there’s not a lot of room for error and being in the sea, rather than a swimming pool, makes quite a difference with the current to deal with. In the end, though, I completed the course and am now qualified as a PADI Scuba Diver. This means I can dive up to 12m deep as long as I am accompanied by a qualified guide or instructor.

For my open water dives I dived near Racha Yai island, an hour’s boat ride to the south of Phuket. We saw some amazing fish, including huge barracuda, Trigger fish and a Banded Sea Krait. Of course everything was new to me, so I had to concentrate on a lot of things besides the fish - breathing, buoyancy control, watching where I was going, etc, etc. Great fun, though and diving’s like visiting a whole new world.

Adrian on Dive Boat

I moved from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi, a small island on the Andaman Coast. I met some nice people here and had a fun longtail boat trip around the island to the nearby sight seeing spots, including Maya Beach, as seen in the film The Beach. Due to a state occasion there wasn’t much nightlife happening at the time I was on Ko Phi Phi, so I moved on after a couple of days.

Adrian on Ko Phi Phi

Next stop was Ko Lanta, another island nearby. While I was there I stayed in a neat little bungalow not too far from the beach. It was pretty quiet on the island. On several occasions, notably during heavy rain, I had the entire beach to myself. I especially enjoyed the boat trip I did which included a visit to 60m long underwater Morakot Cave which opened out onto to a hidden beach.

Adrian on Ko Lanta

I flew from Ko Lanta (via Krabi Airport) to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, where I spent just under a week. Being a city, Chiang Mai was a pleasant change from the constant grubbiness of living on the beach. I’m pretty sure Ko Lanta is where I picked up a rather annoying foot infection that I still have. There are lots of temples to see in Chiang Mai and it is a very picturesque city. Shame my camera broke just after I got there. Again, Ko Lanta beach sand is a suspect.

There were also tons of activities to do in Chiang Mai. I took part in Elephant Riding, Whitewater Rafting, Trekking, visiting hill-tribe villages, meeting monks and a cookery class, amongst other things. I even had time for a trip to the border with Laos and Burma in a misunderstanding over a trip I’d expected to only go as far as Chiang Rai.

Elephant Ride

Whitewater Rafting

I returned to Bangkok with two days to spare before my scheduled flight home and felt like I’d well and truly “done” Thailand. Of course there’s plenty I didn’t see and do, but after three weeks that was how I felt. I filled my last couple of days up with lots of visiting of sights, temples, the aquarium, the VIP cinema, before discovering that my flight had been canceled.

After that, I did what I could to fill the time in productively, rather than just sit around. I went to some of the less well known museums; went to the park; did some walks; wandered the enormous shopping centres; went to the zoo and the aquarium. I also spent a lot of time queuing to see Thai Airways representatives at their office, which wasn’t quite so entertaining.

In the end, though, having to stay an extra week wasn’t such a hardship and didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of my holiday.

Sunset off Ko Phi Phi Ley

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