Go to Bangkok or go to Chiang Mai. Just do it! Get up and go!

Myself at the Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai.
Myself at the Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai.

We had a brilliant time in Bangkok and an awesome time in Chiang Mai.

In fact, if you’re looking for a country that offers a summer time thrill then do yourself a favour and book the next flight or train to Thailand!

And why should you do that?

Thailand is a great destination and it isn’t all beaches. In fact, besides, the raw city life of Bangkok, the delicious food of Chiang Mai, and the adventure of riding an elephant, Thailand is so much more.

At the Festival of Good Fortune. Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand
At the Festival of Good Fortune.
Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO IN THAILAND BESIDES THE LOVELY BEACHES?

We actually wanted to go to Pai, but The Music Producer wasn’t feeling well, and Pai was much further than I expected. A full days’ drive at least. Ah well, another reason to come back and take a hiking visit to Pai and Rai LOL! So we decided to book a car and driver, and spend the day at the Doi Inthanon National Park.

Behold! The Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai!
Behold! The Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai!

What is the Doi Inthanon National Park?

The Doi Inthanon National Park is a 1,005-square km park that encompasses Thailand’s highest mountain peak and rises to 2,565 metres above sea level. The park is rich in flora and fauna and is a source of magnificent bird life and “small” creatures.

A private driver is recommended as the main attractions are spread over a distance of 40 kilometers and also because we went outside peak season. Our driver came to collect us from Tanita House at about 09:00 and was extremely punctual. In fact, I’m proud to say that on ALL the trips and places that we went, the drivers were not only punctual, but early! Perhaps they knew that we were of the German variety LOL!

The National Park was about an hour away and it was rather nice to see other parts of Chiang Mai and gently fall asleep, as we drove through the sunny wind, and rain.

I'm wet mummy!
I’m wet mummy!

Rain?

Rain?!!!

Yes, it began to rain!

I'm still wet mummy. And so is everything else!
I’m still wet mummy. And so is everything else!

No surprise really. After all, we were visiting Thailand in the monsoon season.

In fact, come to think of it, I’ve only ever been to Asia either slightly before monsoon or slightly after it. As such, I’m generally in Asia between the months of August and November. Mid-season I’d say. Not too hot and not too wet but with sprinklings of hot showers of humidity. Great for your clothes but not always comfortable if you come from Northern Europe, as we do.

The problem?

Ahhhhhh! Leave out the air-conditioning! Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.
Ahhhhhh! Leave out the air-conditioning!
Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.

Air-conditioning!

In Europe, and I’m including Mediterranean Europe too, we hardly use air conditioning. If you’re from England like I am, well there’s no sun anyway and if you’re from Italy or Spain, the houses are made in such a way, that the inside walls are enormously cool. Think Morocco. No air-conditioning there!

As such, the constant change of in and out, and heat and cold, don’t make for a happy mix. When I went to Vietnam in 2007, I became ill for a month ‘cos of the blasting air-conditioning on my Russian Aeroflot flight!

The Music Producer had the same. With an influx of different temperatures, the fever and head-aches began to afflict him and he was soon spending most nights in a sweaty feverish mess. Thank goodness, we were in the safe arms of Tanita House and locally made ginger, lemon tea!

Back to the National Park.

If you're a local or an expat local, entrance is free! free!! free!!!
If you’re a local or an expat local, entrance is free! free!! free!!!

The cost of our driver didn’t include the entrance fee to go into the National Park, so for adults we paid 200 Baht or $6.00 each and for children we paid 100 Baht or $3.00. Locals or expat locals went in for free, which I thought was acceptable! Our driver was a lovely chap and asked us if he could bring his girlfriend along. We said yes and she came along chatting away! He directed us as to where we should go and as it began to rain, they both ran after us with “Tweety Bird” and “Angry Bird” umbrellas. Even though we were already equipped with our raincoats, the umbrellas came in handy as the rain began to pelt down quite heavily.

It's raining "Angry Birds!" Such a cute umbrella LOL!
It’s raining “Angry Birds!” Such a cute umbrella LOL!

Rain makes for great photos though and we took rather a few as we danced in the natural showery mist LOL!

Look! Thai pot noodles. You can have some too!
Look! Thai pot noodles. You can have some too!

You go down some stairs into the forest which is full of twisty branches and deep green fauna. You follow the nature trail and try not to get lost. There were quite a few families from the Far East and the Middle East so we all took photographs of each other. The trail then leads you to the top again where there’s a few local shops. By this time we were wet and cold, so we had some local Thai pot noodles which they supplied with hot water and a spoon. Yummy but unsurprisingly, spicy LOL! They were 20-25 Baht or 0.60/ 0.77 cents each.

Our driver joined us for coffee too!
Our driver joined us for coffee too!

We then went further into the National Park and into the swamp and river area. After that, there is an Ang Ka Nature Trail and a Memorial Site. We went to both. Our driver came running to collect us again as we went further up into the peak.

We went up to “The Highest Point in Thailand” which consists of the ruins of an ancient temple, the ashes of King Inthawichayanon (after whom Doi Inthanon is named), and two monumental stupas erected in honour of the king and queen. The temple can be reached by climbing up all the stairs or going up the escalator, but there was so much wind and rain up there that we couldn’t stick around. We had a quick peek at the Buddha and tried to carefully get back down again without slipping on the steps!

Hey, that's my "omelette!"
Hey, that’s my “omelette!”

Walking up the stairs makes you hungry so we drove on again until we came to a local market. The only food they had were in wrapped plastic bags, so we went to a man selling what I thought was omelette and on eating, found was actually a very plain pancake!

Whoo! Grinding this coffee needs two strong men at the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village.
Whoo! Grinding this coffee needs two strong men at the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village.

After our snack, we were taken to the Hmong and Karen hilltribe villages where they showed us natural Somsak coffee bushes with green coffee beans, and how they make coffee using a very heavy grinder which I could hardly turn! Even The Music Producer had a little difficulty and he’s usually quite strong!

Green coffee beans. lots of green coffee beans. Smells and tastes like poo!
Green coffee beans. lots of green coffee beans. Smells and tastes like poo!

The hilltribe villagers were friendly and kept making jokes at our expense. There was also coffee to be drunk, but I don’t drink coffee and sadly, I cannot appreciate the flavours, as coffee tastes and smells like poo to me!

I'm standing in front of the beautiful viewwwww and then I was forced to try the pooooooo!
I’m standing in front of the beautiful viewwwww and then I was forced to try the pooooooo!

There were only three other tourists there but still I felt rather awkward, and wondered whether it was OK to walk around this part of the park. So I asked.

The hilltribe villagers nodded and smiled and waved us on. We were careful to only stay on the path and not intrude too much. I saw new buildings besides the old, and lines of washing filled with jeans and a half-naked guy hanging on the edge of a flat half-made roof! I also observed that you could do a homestay in some of the huts for a few days, if you so wished.

Further on, into the hills was another cafe where there were abandoned spinning wheels. As this wasn’t the tourist season, we were quite happy to look at the mountain views and just chat to a few of the local guys there.

After this, we went to one of the highlights of the National Park – The Wachirathan Waterfall. Wow! They were amazing. And so worth the hike. As some as we heard the rush of water, we began to run as if something was chasing us. Goooooorgeous!

Under the waterfall in Yosemite
Under the waterfall in Yosemite

We love waterfalls. We did the same when we went to the Yosemite National Park in California.

There’s a wildness about the Wachirathan Waterfall, and a lot of spray. The fencing isn’t all that fantastic either so I had to keep a close eye on “The Tall Young Gentleman” who followed a group of 20-something boys and slipped away from me. And for a while. I couldn’t find him. Again! If you recall, the same thing happened in Scotland. It wasn’t funny then, and it certainly wasn’t funny now. Every parents’ nightmare.

Anyway, we called him on his phone and we stuck a little closer. I know that I have to let him go someday. But not today.

"I'm the king of the woooorld mummy!" Hmm! We'll see about that!
“I’m the king of the woooorld mummy!” Hmm! We’ll see about that!

As you can see, some of the water is raging, so care has to be taken when climbing over the rocks and taking it all in, as one can easily slip.

We nevertheless, had a great time there. Very much recommended.

Among the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village.
Among the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village. Do I spy another set of secret bunny ears?

AND WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO IN THAILAND?

Well, you can go shopping!

Yes. Don’t judge me. After almost a fortnight of nature and animals and food and stuff, it was time to get to the nitty-gritty of what it’s all about.

Shopping of course!

So what are you waiting for?

Do it!

Go on then.

Just do it!

You know you want to.

Go on. Get up and do stuff!

One of the Hmong and Karen hilltribe ladies.
One of the Hmong and Karen hilltribe ladies.

WHAT IF THE DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

For more information please contact: The Doi Inthanon National Park.

Happy within a mist of grey!
Happy within a mist of grey!

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the spicy pot noodles and plain pancake that I happily swallowed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

I have a surprise for you. In a fortnight, will be going to France! On my first (1st) ever press trip! Yipee!

In October I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

A Streetcar named Desire on: 02.10.14.

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14.

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be a marvellous month.

Watch this space!

 

We. Are. Family. I've got everything I need and a waterfall, with me!
We. Are. Family. I’ve got everything I need and a waterfall, with me!

Have you been to a National Park? What do you think of waterfalls and coffee beans?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

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3 days in Bangkok: A walking tour isn’t what you think!

Don't look if you're squeamish. These pig heads are real. In Bangkok, Thailand.
Don’t look if you’re squeamish. These pig heads are real. In Bangkok, Thailand.

Asia was great!

Exactly a week ago, we returned from our one month trip in Asia. One of the first places we went to was Thailand and to be honest, there’s no point in going to Thailand if you don’t spend at least a day or two in Bangkok.

We spent 3.

As I told you at the beginning of the week, our holiday was independently organised by myself and that included where we were going to stay and what we were going to do.

The front of pretty Lamphu Tree House Boutique Hotel in Bangkok.
The front of pretty Lamphu Tree House Boutique Hotel in Bangkok.

I decided to reserve a boutique hotel in the suburbs of Bangkok.

I’m sorry, but this being Bangkok, I wanted to ensure that we would be in a “family-friendly” hotel as much as possible.

As some of you might be aware, Bangkok has an unfortunate reputation of being slightly seedy and indeed, I did note one of the like, but only one. In that wise, we went to the Lamphu Tree House Boutique Hotel which is situated near the river district of Phranakom.

Our superior room which included a divan, perfect for a young family or a few friends. In Bangkok!
Our superior room which included a divan, perfect for a young family or a few friends. In Bangkok!

The hotel was 30 minutes from the bridge and bordered the Chao Phraya river. I was enormously pleased with the quality and standard of our hotel as I requested a superior room in the original building. It had a double bed, a divan, a private bathroom with running water, a private balcony and AC, as well as a breakfast buffet. The hotel also had quite a charming swimming pool and was enormously clean, and decorated with Thai paintings and antiques.

Our lovely swimming poo in Bangkok. Not too big, not too small, perfect for those first sticky, humid nights!
Our lovely swimming poo in Bangkok. Not too big, not too small, perfect for those first sticky, humid nights!

Just what I wanted!

At the beginning of the week, I mentioned that we spent our first day in Bangkok, just relaxing and walking around. I mean, we’ve just spent 13 hours in the air and spent another 4.5 hours in both the Berlin and Qatar airports, so I guess we were allowed to while away the time.

But not all of the time.

Insects on food! Photo@ blogspot.com
Insects on food!
Photo@ blogspot.com

People have so many opinions about Bangkok. Some people hate it.

Thailand. We loooooooove you!
Thailand. We loooooooove you!

Some people love it.

Whatever the case, you’re going to have an opinion.

In fact, when I first (1st) visited Bangkok, back in 1999, I didn’t like Bangkok either. It was my first time to go to Asia, I was travelling solo, it was August, and it was hot. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and where I was going. It was just dusty and hot, And I couldn’t read the writing as it was in Thai Sanscrit in those days, but I was fascinated because that was the first time I saw a “real” elephant roaming the streets and blocking up traffic!

The last time I was in Asia, 7 long years ago!
The last time I was in Asia, 7 long years ago!

The second (2nd) time I went to Bangkok was in 2007, after almost a month in the Mekong valleys and jungles of Vietnam. This time I was intrigued to go to Bangkok. I loved it. We went to a few shows and had lots of sushi. The highlight of that trip was when a tuk-tuk driver took me to a go-go bar instead of the Thai dance performance venue that I had actually requested. It was only when a couple of men started fighting in front of a steel iron door, and I happened to be the only dressed woman around, that I thought to leg it out of there!

Walking through the backstreets of Bangkok.
Walking through the backstreets of Bangkok.

Seven (7) years later, I returned again. With family in tow.

I wanted my family to have a fascinating first-time approach to Bangkok so I contacted a company called Bangkok Vanguards. I found out about them from the post of Maria Wulff Hauglan a Norwegian blogger: Nerd Nomads.

I saw her post and I thought, yes. This looks good. A guided walking tour, but a walking tour with a difference and not only that, but an owner who not only happens to be half-Thai, but he also happens to be half-German. A match made in heaven!

You all know how I love walking tours. Remember, when I went to Scotland and took the Edinburgh walking tour, and then I went to London in January and went on a walking tour in London too. Do you know that even though I am The British Berliner and that I’ve lived in Berlin forever, I still felt it useful to go on an alternative walking tour in Berlin. So of course, I’m going to do the same in Bangkok.

And Then We Were Four. Make that Five: The Music Producer, "The Tall Young Gentleman," Michael, Cherie, and myself as the photographer, On the river in Bangkok, Thailand.
And Then We Were Four. Make that Five: The Music Producer, “The Tall Young Gentleman,” Michael, Cherie, and myself as the photographer, On the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

Anyway, I contacted the Managing Director of Bangkok Vanguards: Michael Biedassek, and he was really nice and friendly. He was so nice that I couldn’t believe it when the next day the person leading our walking tour was Michael himself, and his assistant Cherie! An honour indeed.

Let me tell you, you haven’t seen Bangkok until you have seen Bangkok around the clock and in every corner of that most intriguing city. The tour that we went on was called: Bangkok Three Sixty.

Some of the local people in Bangkok, Thailand.
Some of the local people in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Bangkok Three Sixty is a private tour so Michael and Cherie came to our hotel and picked us up, and since it was only The Music Producer, “The Small Young Gentleman,” and myself, the tour started immediately. This tour is a walking tour and so the walking started as soon as we set foot outside the hotel!

Getting all excited inside a local river boat.
Getting all excited inside a local river boat.

We walked through our suburban neighbourhood and then took an express boat across the river. At first, we were a little nervous of walking literally through people’s front door but that was what the tour was about. Getting your hands dirty and seeing Bangkok through the eyes and feet of locals. Once we gained some confidence, while Michael chatted to the residents, we smiled and attempted some basic Thai small-talk!

Through the back streets of Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand.
Through the back streets of Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand.

Our first stop was.

Chinatown!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times but I’d never been to Chinatown. In fact, I hadn’t even been to that most famous of places, Khao San Road. Until the day before.

We had lunch.

A typcal Thai kitchen restaurant.
A typcal Thai kitchen restaurant.

And bought a couple of T-shirts that cost 170 Baht or $5.00 each!

Birds in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.  I can't remember why they were in the temple area. Does anyone have any idea?
Birds in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
I can’t remember why they were in the temple area. Does anyone have any idea?

Chinatown was fascinating. We went to the temples. We saw the food that was distributed to the poor, needy, and religious. We got up close to monks and respectfully observed the drumming and chanting. We met an ex-Muay Thai boxer who showed “The Tall Young Gentleman” some of his boxing tricks, and also how his teeth could be knocked out whenever he wanted to! Our boy was delighted to see THAT trick!

We met an ex-Muay Thai boxer who showed "The Tall Young Gentleman" some of his boxing tricks!
We met an ex-Muay Thai boxer who showed “The Tall Young Gentleman” some of his boxing tricks!

We went through the river community and stopped to see some sort of huge water-snake-lizard-thing in the river. It was so large, that I thought that they were crocodiles. There were two of them.

Two huge water-snake-lizard-things in the Bangkok river.
Two huge water-snake-lizard-things in the Bangkok river.

We went to Indiatown. In fact I didn’t even know that was an Indian community at all. We decided to drop into a Sikh temple and we were enormously lucky to find a Sikh scholar who was willing to take us around the school and temple. Completely off the chart, as this wasn’t actually part of the tour, but you know what? That’s what it’s all about. Keeping it authentic, real, and Bangkok style!

Myself, "The Music Producer", and "The Tall Young Gentleman" donning bright yellow scarves and a colourful shawl at the Sikh temple in Bangkok, Thailand.
Myself, “The Music Producer”, and “The Tall Young Gentleman” donning bright yellow scarves and a colourful shawl at the Sikh temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

It was so authentic that we all had to wear scarves on our heads, and that included the boys too!

Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf - Bangkok, Thailand.
Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf – Bangkok, Thailand.

We went through the market where we saw and tasted exotic fruit, vegetables, and sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf. Since we were still in Indiatown, we had our first taste of market street food: samosas that were spicy, sharp and enormously tasty. We also had lunch at a local Indian restaurant. Why not?

We each made an order and then shared the food in the middle of the table. And then I went to the bathroom.

And stayed there for some time.

Quite a while in fact.

My husband was worried.

The restaurant staff were worried.

After 20 minutes, although it felt like 20 hours. I re-appeared slightly pale, but alive and well, and ready to sample more delights!

With those beautiful flowers at the Wat Suthat Temple.
With those beautiful flowers at the Wat Suthat Temple.

We visited the Wat Suthat, a first grade Buddhist monastery which contains the Buddist image, otherwise known as Phra Si Sakkayamuni. Michael showed us how Buddhists perform the ceremony of folding a flower, and lighting incense sticks and making a wish of desire. We also learnt how to sit in a temple (with feet tucked in or to the side), and how to observe the custom of not rising higher than senior citizens who were praying, but bowing and bending the knee, whilst walking past.

Drinking through a plastic bag and a straw in Bangkok, Thailand. Our faces were scrunched up 'cos the crushed ice was bloody freeeeezing cold!
Drinking through a plastic bag and a straw in Bangkok, Thailand. Our faces were scrunched up ‘cos the crushed ice was bloody freeeeezing cold!

We went to the park and observed locals and expats working out. We went to other temples, we went through the back streets, and drank coca-cola and sprite through plastic bags and a straw.

On a rickety bus in Bangkok!
On a rickety bus in Bangkok!

We squeezed all five (5) of us into the back seat of a tuk-tuk, and then jumped onto a local rickety bus. We basically had to leap into it, as the bus was surrounded by commuters going home or coming from work and the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing is not really an option, so off we went!

Fantastic views of everyday life on the riverbanks in Bangkok, Thailand.
Fantastic views of everyday life on the riverbanks in Bangkok, Thailand.

We had a Ruea Hang Yao or a long-tail boat, waiting for us. It was chartered specifically for us so that we could stretch out, relax, take as many photographs as we like, and er, sleep!

Don’t judge me!

Before we fell asleep on the gentle river in Bangkok, Thailand!
Before we fell asleep on the gentle river in Bangkok, Thailand!

I can’t help it if the combination of wind, sunshine, and the gentle swaying of the long-tail boat, eventually contributed to pretty much all of us taking thirty winks, along the way!

By the way, our boat was fully equipped with safety equipment and life-vests, and our captain navigated extremely well.

Children playing on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.
Children playing on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

On the river, we saw another part of Bangkok. A different world to the parts that we had preciously seen. And then we landed at The Artists’ House or Baan Silapin. The Artist’s House is located on the old Chao Phraya River outlet which is also known as Bangkok Noi Canal or sometimes refered to as Klong Bangluang.

At The Artist's House on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.
At The Artist’s House on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

This place is amazing! It’s a row of traditional Thai wooden houses which have been restored to their former glory, and more than two hundred (200) years old. There are weird life-size statues of people dotted about. They’re so large and strangely located that I thought they were actually real people rather than objects! Local crafts shops, organic eateries, a temple, a puppet troupe, and some sort of Thai martial art school for local children.

We met and chatted to some of the teenagers on the upper floor who seemed impressed by “The Tall Young Gentleman,” and the fact that he was only 12 years old. Some of the teenage girls got a little flirty.

At the Artist's House witha ferret-like creature in Bangkok, Thailand.
At the Artist’s House with a ferret-like creature in Bangkok, Thailand.

They also had a ferret-like creature which they let him play with, and we let them hang out a little while we had cups of tea and bought some postcards, and hand-made writing paper.

Eating together. Working together. Living together. In Bangkok, Thailand.
Eating together. Working together. Living together. In Bangkok, Thailand.

We spent a little time here then we went back to town. Back into Chinatown where we were submerged into the market scene, and where people were cooking with huge pots of food on the street, and people were living from shoulder to shoulder, as close communities. Eating together. Working together. Living together.

The gallery at the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand.
The gallery at the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand.

We then visited a local charity foundation in the heart of Chinatown called the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation. They are a charity interested in preserving the history of the Chinese descended people in the area, the buildings, the culture, and language. The building was actually closed, but one of the locals ran around the neighbourhood and very nicely fetched the key, so that we could look around the gallery.

Living history all around us in Bangkok, Thailand.
Living history all around us in Bangkok, Thailand.

Even though we visited the gallery quite frankly, the history of Chinatown was all around us, but perhaps not for long as history has taught us that some of these immigrant areas soon become prime estate. Bangkok is no different. Side by side the cooking pots and the children skipping on the streets, was an underground station being built.

"The Music Producer" and Cherie, on one of the longtail boats!
“The Music Producer” and Cherie, on one of the longtail boats!

It was soon time for us to take a longtail boat again, but this time the commuter boat. It was about 17:00 and it was pretty crowded. The boat would come around and it would stop for about 10 seconds. 10 seconds in which you either jumped into the boat or you fell into the river. Michael was extremely attentive and held my hand so that we could leap into the boat together LOL! Once in the boat, the boat cover would go up so that you couldn’t fall into the river, and off they went. The conductors would collect the fares by standing and walking on the edge of the boat!

The modern city of Bangkok, Thailand.
The modern city of Bangkok, Thailand.

At 17:30, the Bangkok walking tour was officially over, but we were all having so much fun that Michael, the Managing Director decided to invite us to meet his girlfriend: Gift, and then a friendship began. We turned from clients to friends. He did call his lovely girlfriend and then we went into the center of the city and walked through the shopping district. My goodness. Bangkok is fantastically modern.

I don't know what it is. Is it some sort of elephant? But I want to take it hooooome!
I don’t know what it is. Is it some sort of elephant? But I want to take it hooooome!

I couldn’t believe how clean and organised those shopping centres were. The bathrooms were amazing. With toilet paper. And ladies, there were at least 30 cubicles on EACH FLOOR so that you didn’t need to queue! And they were completely and utterly free of charge. Wow! I mean, even Germany can’t beat that. In Berlin, our shopping centres have about 8 cubicles AND you have to pay 50 cents for them too!

In the shopping malls were Thai young people everywhere. There was even some concert going on, so we stayed, and watched for a while. It was amazing and lovely to meet real Thai people. I hardly saw any foreigners. Isn’t that funny?

Spicy chicken and pork in Bangkok for 80 cents a piece is an absolute bargain. And at a shopping mall too!
Spicy chicken and pork in Bangkok for 80 cents a piece is an absolute bargain. And at a shopping mall too!

Anyway, we hung around a little and went and had some snacks. In the shopping malls, you have food halls just as you have in Europe, and the food variety there was pretty huge, and most importantly, cheap. Yep! You heard me. The food in the halls were cheap! 15 baht or 45 cents for a stick of grilled pork, 25 baht or 80 cents for spicy chicken, and lots of strange stuff.

Michael also took us to a local restaurant frequented by students called Inter Restaurant. It’s in the Siam district area across from the shopping mall in Siam Square, and is fairly easy to find. It serves authentic Thai food at prices ranging from 65 baht or $2.00 to 120 baht or $3.80.

Delicious, yummy, spicy Tom Yum Goong soup in Bangkok, Thailand.
Delicious, yummy, spicy Tom Yum Goong soup in Bangkok, Thailand.

We had a variety of meals which we shared together and even though we were stuffed to the brim, we didn’t reject the idea of going to a bar.

A sky bar.

In Bangkok.

Using the Bangkok Sky Train.
Using the Bangkok Sky Train.

And so we took the Bangkok BTS Sky train. The BTS Sky Train runs through all the important downtown districts and major transport hubs in Bangkok. As it’s described, it zooms above Bangkok traffic at sky level and is connected at various places, in the city. Pretty neat.

Inside the Bangkok Sky Train.
Inside the Bangkok Sky Train.

This was our first time to go on the Sky Train and again, it’s clean, organised and efficient. No problem at all. Tickets are fantastically cheap and once children are above 160 metres, age isn’t a factor, but height. In this case, “The Tall Young Gentleman” was a full-grown adult LOL! Single tickets are between 15-20 baht or 45 to 60 cents, and a one day pass would be 120 baht or $3.80.

Cocktails at the rooftop bar of Cloud 47, Bangkok.
Cocktails at the rooftop bar of Cloud 47, Bangkok.

As I said earlier, our last stop was a sky bar. In this case on the top floor of the United Center office tower, and is pretty chilled out. The sky bar was called: Cloud 47.

There was no cover and you didn’t have to dress up. This was a godsend as we were still wearing our shorts and trainers, with bottles of water sticking out of our city backpacks.

Not exactly the image you want to convey.

But the staff ignored our dusty outfits and were professional and friendly all the same. Phew!

A happy time in Bangkok with the Bangkok Vanguards team!
A happy time in Bangkok with the Bangkok Vanguards team!

We had a couple of cocktails and the prices were reasonable. More Berlin than London! We took a lot of photos, clicked glasses, marvelled at the view, and sighed and reflected at the beauty of Bangkok.

We had a marvellous day.

In fact, we had been with Michael and his Bangkok Three-Sixty crew for 16.5 hours! They were great and really showed, and introduced us to the real Bangkok.

We’ll be back.

We Five! Thanks so much Bangkok Vanguards.
We Five! Thanks so much Bangkok Vanguards.

Thank you Bangkok Vanguards.

Here’s the info:

WHO ARE THE BANGKOK VANGUARDS?

The Bangkok Vanguards are a dynamic team of die-hard Thailand fans who strive to connect people, through their passion for exploring the streets, cycling, conservation, street art, and education, about Thailand’s local, indigenous, communities.

WHAT IS THE BANGKOK THREE-SIXTY WALKING TOUR ABOUT?

The Bangkok Three-Sixty is about an intense, exciting, fun, alternative way of exploring the city of Bangkok, by moving away from the ordinary tourist trail, and travelling on a route that takes you on foot, and using all forms of available public transportation, to see Bangkok through the eyes of locals living there.

Phew!

The Bangkok Vanguards Team. Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards
The Bangkok Vanguards Team.
Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAI?

Nope!

These tours are available in either English, German, or Thai!

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of comfortable shoes (no flip-flops due to the intense walk), cultural-sensitive clothes that reach to at least knee level and elbow length (as the walk is through the local community, in temples and personal homes), spare batteries, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, a huge bottle of water, a few basic words of Thai, and an enormous smile!

Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.
Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes, this tour cost $90 or 2,950 Baht per person, for a PRIVATE tour, and was incredibly worth the price.

This trip includes: The VEO (Vanguard Experience Officer or tour guide), a private boat tour, a wide range of transport that includes a local bus, a motorcycle taxi, a Khlong tour, an express bus, a tuk-tuk, a canal boat, breakfast, lunch, various snacks, support for Bangkok’s cultural heritage and art projects, and a pick up at your hotel.

The trip excludes: Personal Insurance, happy hour drinks, personal expenses, and a tip for the guide.

Approximate walking time: 9 hours.

Time: 09:00 – 18:00.

Meeting place: They will pick you up at your hotel if you’re staying within the Central Business District.

Participants: Minimum 2, maximum 8. It is possible to have a private tour for one person but only after an enquiry.

A breath-taking panoramic view of Bangkok at Night at Cloud 47 sky bar.
A breath-taking panoramic view of Bangkok at Night at Cloud 47 sky bar.

The Bangkok Three-Sixty is a full-day tour so don’t make an important appointment immediately after. You might want to hang-out with the tour-guide and other members of your group, over a cocktail or two!

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, there’s a Bangkok by Night tour for 1,300 Baht (group) or 1,600 Baht (private), a cycling tour for 2,500 Baht (group), or 2,950 (private), a first-time in Bangkok highlight tour for 2,500 Baht (group) or 2,950 (private), and of course, you can also organise a customised tour to your own taste to be shorter or  longer!

The Beauty of Culture in Bangkok. Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand
The Beauty of Culture in Bangkok.
Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand

MY VERDICT:

I absolutely loved it.

The idea of a walking tour around a city is enormously appealing, and something that everyone should do. At least once. It also gives you confidence to move around on your own as you now know what to do, where to go, and how to get there.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this walking tour, please contact: Bangkok Three-Sixty.

For more information about alternative ways of exploring Bangkok, please contact: Bangkok Vanguards.

WHAT IF A WALKING TOUR ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There’s more to come!

Me. Myself & I.  Summer In Berlin.
Me. Myself & I.
Summer In Berlin.

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a discount, all opinions and the delicious cocktails that I heartily quaffed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so for the rest of August and the month of September only, I will be writing about our adventures in Thailand, Indonesia, and Qatar and at the same time, keeping you posted as to the fantastic things going on in my wonderful city of Berlin.

Berlin Music Week is going to take place from 03.09.14 – 07.09.14. Berlin is going to show it’s unique mix of music and technology, festivals and club events on a world stage, with two core events: the WORD! conference for business and SOUND! for live events.

STRICTLY STAND UP – The English Comedy Night is going to take place on 10.09.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

November 9th, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Events are taking place all over the city until then.

September is going to be a beautiful month.

Watch this space!
Thanks very much Bangkok Vanguards. Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.
Thanks very much Bangkok Vanguards.
Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.

Have you been on a walking tour? Have you been on a tuk-tuk? What are your top tips for visiting Bangkok?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post,

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

How to go to Bangkok on the superior cheap, and take the family with you!

A beautiful temple in Thailand so, where are you?
A beautiful temple in Thailand so, where are you?

Last week, I wrote that I couldn’t join in the Commonwealth Games because I had other plans…!

OK guys. Surrrrrprise!

We went to Bangkok.

And Chiang Mai.

And Bali.

I’m sorry, but we also spent a night in Doha, Qatar.

For free!

Yep! Yep! Yep!!

But how did this happen, you might ask? She didn’t even mention it!

A lovely blue tuk-tuk in a residential area in Bangkok.
A lovely blue tuk-tuk in a residential area in Bangkok.

Well, if you have been reading my blog you would know that I would be going to Asia for some part of the summer, I just didn’t say when. You know. Insurance n’ all that. And as much as it was a surprise for you, it was also a surprise for The Music Producer, and “The Tall Young Gentleman,” as they had never been to Asia before.

Ever.

Oh, but I lie. They’ve been to Turkey of course, but it’s not the same. I mean the Asian subcontinent.

Green coffee beans. lots of green coffee beans. And poo!
Green coffee beans. lots of green coffee beans. And poo!

They both loved it and had a fantastic time.

We didn’t get scammed.

Well, just on the last day.

We didn’t get robbed.

Well, except for the price of wine. Daylight robbery!

We didn’t have Delhi Belly except that I had Bangkok Belly on the second (2nd) day, and Bali Belly, on the last day, oh, and The Music Producer became ill. More about that in a later post……!

Bangkok - a complicated, tangled city!
Bangkok – a complicated, tangled city!

Considering that we were on the other side of the world, we had hardly any trouble at all because:

  1. This trip was organised by a more experienced person – ME!
  2. I put in a lot of time in order to maximise and enhance the Asian experience.
  3. They went in with pure open minds.
  4. They weren’t afraid to ask questions.
  5. They tried to taste everything. At least once!

Now don’t get me wrong. My family travel, but they are not like me. And that’s OK.

The Asian lifestyle with a Buddhist monk in Bangkok! Can you see what's different?
The Asian lifestyle with a Buddhist monk in Bangkok! Can you see what’s different?

I’ve been to Asia many times, practically most of Western Europe (except for Greece), parts of North Africa, West Africa, and South Africa, the USA, one (1) Caribbean island, and I used to live in Eastern Europe.

By the time our son was 5 years old, he had already been to twenty-three (23) countries. None of them in Asia. Then international school beckoned which meant running around with skiing, music, theatre, martial arts, Boy Scouts, a stint of modelling, and so many life changes.

Stability was going to France or Scotland! My husband preferred Italy and the opera, but I have a great husband, and whenever I needed to “take off,” I would go to Asia. So every couple of years, with the help of the German grandparents, I would go on a solo adventure to satisfy my soul. This time, I decided to take my family with me.

Taking the family with me to Bangkok, in Thailand!
Taking the family with me to Bangkok, in Thailand!

It. Was. Time.

Time to share why I love Asia so much.

At first, I thought, let’s go to India. That’ll be exciting!! Yeah, but that’s also selfish since I wanted to go to India.

Again.

So I back-tracked and decided to think of my boys, instead of myself. Yes, I can be selfish. And yes, I had the opportunity to open their eyes to the world of colours, tastes, smells, and unpredictability.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. My husband otherwise known as The Music Producer, is German, and he isn’t 25 years old anymore.

I love my husband and want him to have a good time and be comfortable doing so, so I decided to choose the middle road.

A loving husband, in Thailand!
A loving husband, in Thailand!

 

CHOOSING THE MIDDLE ROAD.

I’ve slept in a mixed hostel in Prague for $3.00 per night, a hostel on the Isle of Skye for $21.00 per night. I’ve slept in a “deluxe” hotel in Delhi for $19.00 per night, and a hotel in Africa for $6.00 per night. Hell, I’ve even slept in a casino ‘cos all the hostels were booked up on the 30th of December….!

I know the meaning of cheap.

But I didn’t want to do cheap. I also didn’t want to do exquisite luxury as this was a family holiday, and not a couples romantic weekend, where I’m willing to pay much, much, more, for that extra splurge. Say hello Milan, London, and New York!!

So the idea of what I coin “the superior cheap,” came into play.

Our last night in Bangkok, hotel - The 5 - star Amari Watergate Hotel, Bangkok. 'Such a shame that we only had 1 day and half a night to spend in it. Sigh!
Our last night in Bangkok, hotel – The 5 – star Amari Watergate Hotel, Bangkok. ‘Such a shame that we only had 1 day and half a night to spend in it. Sigh!

 

HOW TO GO TO BANGKOK ON THE SUPERIOR CHEAP.

  • Use a travel agency: What? It contradicts everything you’ve been working for re-cheap. But hear me out, and think again. We wanted to go from Berlin – Bangkok – Bali – Berlin. In August. If you check the prices of Berlin – Bali – Berlin, it’s outrageous. Yes, Bangkok is much cheaper, but I wanted to move around. We were thus able to get our return flights for just a little over €800 or $1100 via STA – the Student Travel Agency in Berlin. I’ve been booking with them since 2005, and they’ve always come up trumps.
"The Tall Young Gentleman" having fun in Bangkok.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” having fun in Bangkok.
  • Use a scheduled airline: We booked with Qatar Airways, and the flight schedule changed. The airline with the help of STA, organised a hotel, transfer, food, etc. for FREE! We didn’t have to do a thing.
  • Make the hotel bookings yourself: I did a lot of research and read posts by other bloggers who were either in the country or region that I wanted to go to, or had just left. I contacted the hotels and home-stays concerned, and told them where, and how I had found them. It inspires confidence that the writings of bloggers work. Real people who could become potential customers, read them.
Thai pickles - Don't pack them too full!
Thai pickles – Don’t pack them too full!
  • Don’t pack the days too full: We all know how tiring it can be when we pack our day full as if there’s no tomorrow, and we also all know the end result: tiredness, frustration, and tears! We decided to take things easy when we initially arrived as it’s good for your budget, and it’s good for you. The day after we landed, we walked around our Bangkok neighbourhood, and then we went swimming. That’s all we did for that day!
  • Have a budget, but be flexible: We decided on a budget of €100 or $132 per day all in. It could be a little less or it could be a little more, and that’s perfectly alright. We’re on holiday and life is for living, and not denying yourself because it’s too expensive. I mean, when are you going to do or buy that “thing”? If it’s your dream, go ahead and do it. You can cut something out somewhere else.
See how beautiful she is. She packed her stuff smartly. No worries at all!
See how beautiful she is. She packed her stuff smartly. No worries at all!
  • Pack smartly: We had a 30 kilo allocation. Thank you Qatar Airways, but we were still flying within Thailand with budget airlines Nok Air from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on 15 kilos and from Thailand to Bali with budget airline AirAsia, for 20 kilos. Packing smartly made sense. I’m not the best packer. I’m usually the girl with 4 pairs of shoes, and a pair of boots. Just in case! This time though, I was strict – three (3) lots of trousers, shorts, summer dresses, “nice” dresses, T-shirts, underwear, and sigh. Three (3) lots of shoes!
  • Buy toiletries in your home-country: I know that Asia is cheap, that’s true, but if you have kids, I’d recommend getting toiletries in your home-country BEFORE you leave. Things such as tissue paper, disinfectant, detergent, sun-cream, cleansers, wipes, insect repellent, moisturisers, shower gel, shampoo, plasters, etc. are superior, and don’t have extra chemical agents included, and they’re certainly much cheaper! We tried to buy a nasal spray that usually costs $4.00 in Germany, but shockingly cost $26.00 in Indonesia!
Stuffed sticky rice wrapped up in a banana leaf in Bangkok. Go on. Try it!
Stuffed sticky rice wrapped up in a banana leaf in Bangkok. Go on. Try it!
  • Eat everything, everywhere: If you’re travelling to a developing country for the first time, you might be shocked by how disorganised things seem to be. Don’t worry about it, and don’t look too deeply. Try not to criticise. It’s another culture. Take it all in. Breathe. Go to that dusty stall on the side of the street. Sit down. Eat and Drink. You won’t die. You might get an upset tummy the first few days, but you won’t die. You might even like it!
Check the weather if it's important to you. Waterlilies in peak season in Bali, Indonesia.
Check the weather if it’s important to you.
Waterlilies in peak season in Bali, Indonesia.
  • Try to go off-season: That wasn’t an option for us as we have a pre-teenager and Germany frowns on taking kids out during the academic year. Even though it was the summer holidays, “The Tall Young Gentleman” was given school work to do during the holiday in order to “improve certain weaknesses.” He wasn’t happy about it, but we did it anyway. August in Thailand is monsoon season. Surprisingly, it wasn’t very busy. In Indonesia, it’s peak season, in my eyes, it wasn’t as busy as I expected it to be either. In fact, at one point in Bali, we went to the beach, and it was pretty empty of an afternoon!
This smiling couple is everywhere in Thailand! Ah well, you can always come back. You're welcome!
This smiling couple is everywhere in Thailand! Ah well, you can always come back.
You’re welcome!
  • Don’t worry: If you run out of time, don’t worry, you can always come back. I like going back to places. I don’t subscribe to the “I’m-never-going-to-go-back-there-again-because-I’ve-already-been” school of thought. If I like the place, I go back again, and again, and again: cue Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Scotland, the Isle of Wight, Denmark, Egypt, France, Spain, Thailand, Indonesia, America, etc. I can’t count how many times I’ve been to the above countries. I’ve included America here even though I’ve been only once as we plan to go to America in 2015 AND 2016!
  • Have fun: Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. You’re on holiday or on a break in the Land of Smiles, surrounded by beautiful, attractive people, and gorgeous weather. Smile, and Relax.
"The Tall Young Gentleman" living the good life and relaxing by the pool in Bali, Indonesia.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” living the good life and relaxing by the pool in Bali, Indonesia.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so for the rest of August, and the month of September only, I will be writing about our adventures in Thailand, Indonesia, and Qatar and at the same time, keeping you posted as to the fantastic things going on in the wonderful city of Berlin.

Berlin Music Week is going to take place from 03.09.14 – 07.09.14. Berlin is going to show it’s unique mix of music and technology, festivals and club events on a world stage with two core events: the WORD! conference for business and SOUND! for live events.

STRICTLY STAND UP – The English Comedy Night is going to take place on 10.09.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

November 9th, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Events are taking place all over the city until then.

September is going to be a beautiful month.

Watch this space!
Thai kids playing football.
Thai kids playing football.

Choosing the Middle Road on The Superior Cheap. What do you think? Would you like to go to Asia?

Are you coming for the autumn?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!