A Travellerspoint blog

It's impossible to be KRABI in a place like KRABI

Krabi

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Finally, the beach!!! After 2 weeks of city shops, sweltering heat, traffic everywhere we looked and temples galore, we had arrived in Krabi. We were lucky enough to stay in this little beach town called Ao Nang and with its beautiful limestone cliffs and clear blue water for miles, we have reached a little piece of paradise. Not that we didn’t enjoy the amazing city life of Bangkok or temples in Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai, but to finally have some sand beneath our toes and a slower pace of life is something we deeply needed. I (Sean) was super excited about Krabi, as this was a brand new place for me and one that I wish I had seen on previous trips.
Ao Nang was a breath of fresh air for us. This “quiet” beach town intrigued us in a different way than the cities did. There were still the same “mom and pop” restaurants and souvenir shops lining the streets, but the sights to see were quite beautiful. Our hotel, one that we decided we would splurge on, sat perched along one side of the cliff overlooking the ocean below. Staring at us from across the street were more limestone cliffs covered with greenery that were beckoning us to climb them. It was easy to say no though as we are both scared of heights!
As in any beach town, the ocean is the hot spot and that is where we spent most of our time. Our favourite day (I think everyone who travelled with us would agree) was our island hopping day. After some negotiations on where we wanted to go, our long tail boat driver took us to see many different white sand beaches and aquamarine water. Right after pushing the boat from our own beach, his son decided that it was a good time to take a as we made our way to the first island. He jumped up on the bow of the boat, covered his face with his hat and dozed off. We’re really not sure how he didn’t fall off through the waves we encountered!

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Overall, it was an incredibly sunny day with a few clouds off in the distance but we really couldn’t ask for anything better. The first island was so spectacular; we didn’t even want to leave. By now, we were feeling the heat of the sun, the water was just right and the white sandy beach couldn’t have been more comfortable.

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Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to do there though other than beach combing and swimming, so after catching some rays we decided to head to our next island. After waking up our driver who looked so comfortable sleeping in his hammock, we were on our way. After a few islands in between, we finally arrived at Phranang Beach. This was a beach we fell in love with, where the limestone cliffs had been eroded by the ocean so that we could actually walk through them to see the cliffs and caves left behind. It was stunning to look up, way up, and see how the sun nudged through to shine off the different layers of limestone and rock and to see plants that were growing from the most random and seemingly impossible places. Very hard to describe, but easy to just stand and stare at the wonders of nature.

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We stayed at that beach for a while, trying to get a little more tanning in before we turned in for the day. It was quite a wonderful day experiencing a little piece of heaven. It is days like these that have left us wondering if the people who live here actually know how beautiful their country is, or if they take it for granted like we do with the Rocky Mountains. Maybe we’ll do a little more hiking and camping when we get home?!
The ending to this amazing day was something special for me (Lindsay). We were leaving for Koh Samui the next day so we were trying to get as much in that last night as we could. As we were walking down the street looking for somewhere to eat (as usual, somewhere cheap but amazing!), I looked up to the sky and saw something that caught my eye, something that I have always wanted to do whenever I was lucky enough to visit Thailand. It seems somewhat cliché, but special to me none the less; I have always wanted to light a Chinese lantern on the beach and let it fly away in the night sky.

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I have had many opportunities to do this on other beaches, on different vacations, but I knew that I needed to wait for the beaches in Thailand. I don’t know why it had been so special to me, or why I wanted to wait until this particular moment. Maybe there was something inside of me waiting, yearning, for this to be the place where I could finally let go. Finally prove to myself that I could make it to another part of the world, do something I have been craving to do my whole life. When I lit the lantern, watched it fill with hot air, start to rise in front of my eyes and fly off into the star filled sky, somehow a weight was lifted off my shoulders. What a great end to an even better day, and thank you Sean for capturing that moment in my life!
We had a great time in Krabi and enjoyed every day we spent there. Our entire group, including Sean all said it was one of the highlights of this trip. What an exceptional beginning to island life.

NEXT STOP – KOH SAMUI & KOH PHANGAN

Posted by BlondeandCurly 02:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Chiang Mai - Part 1

Jail Time Feats & Spicy Eats

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Due to the constant warnings that heading to Chiang Mai during the months of March and April was a bad idea; there was a lot of nervousness leaving Bangkok and heading up north. We had been told by various people prior to departure in Calgary as well as people who we met in Bangkok, that the smoke infiltration into the city of Chiang Mai, caused by farmers burning their crops post-harvest, makes visits to the city during these 2 months unbearable. As the air reports appeared to be getting better as we toured Ayutthaya, mixed with the fact that our guesthouse and flights were already booked, it became very evident that we as a group were headed to Chiang Mai no matter what the conditions. As we flew closer and closer it became very clear that the skies were filled with an orange haze that simply lingered all over the entire valley that surrounded Chiang Mai. However, once on the ground we realized that the air actually didn’t seem that bad once you were plunked right in the middle of it. Luckily for us the smell was not that bad and the warnings that our eyes would be burning after a few days never really came to fruition (at least for us non eye contact wearing folks).
As I could bore everyone with multiple pictures of more temples (we did see quite a few), I am simply going to show everyone one, only because it had an air of freshness to it. It felt like I had never seen anything like it before. It was a very distinct temple, as it was missing a large chunk from its roof and it contained a large number of elephant statues, which is something we had not come across on this trip. Wat Chedi Luang was built around 1400 and with several later additions stood some 90 meters tall. It was reduced to around 60 meters in height when the upper section fell as a result of an earthquake in the 16th century.

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That same day continued as planned, more temples, following a walking tour set out in our travel book, when we came across something absolutely fascinating. As we were nearing the end of the tour, the final destination was supposed to be an active women’s prison. We had a little trouble finding it and when we ended up running into a government building I assumed that was it. I was a little disappointed in the book that led us to a boring government building. As I was getting ready to head back to the guesthouse, Mitch decided to ask one of the locals if that indeed was the prison. The locals quickly corrected us and sent us one street further back where we found the prison, warning us however, that the prison had since been closed since 2010. We all figured we would still go and check out this old abandoned prison, and what we ended up finding was something very interesting. I (Sean) have been to some pretty eerie places; Auschwitz, Birkenau, Dachau, some of the deserted towns in Russia, a haunted old mental hospital in Poland, but this place made me feel something different. I am by no means comparing this old prison to something like a deserted concentration camp, but it really made me think of the possible atrocities that occurred behind those walls. One of my favourite shows on TV is Locked up Abroad, where they follow and re-enact peoples true stories of being locked up in a foreign country and to see a prison like they portray in the show was ultimately fascinating

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As we walked around the barbed wire walls, Lindsay actually found an entrance to one of the guard towers. As we walked up the creaky old wooden staircase, Mitch yelled back to us that he just saw a bunch of rats scurry off out of the tower. Once we reached the top, the rats were gone and we were greeted by an exceptional birds-eye view of the entire complex. All I could think of while sitting up in the guard tower was the movie Brokedown Palace and what those women went through while serving their jail time.

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As we descended the staircase, we were greeted by a small neighborhood of abandoned buildings which we thought were where the workers of the prison used to live when the prison was open. We spent the next hour exploring, walking in and out of empty houses, a small apartment and on top vast rubble piles. It was very eerie, feeling debris and leaves crunch below your feet while you walk between structures and being attacked by a multitude of bugs while inside them. It felt like we were a world away and yet, at any moment, someone could just pop their head up from inside bringing us back to reality. This walk through, up above and around this prison, was a real eye opener into where criminals were sent after committing crimes in a third world country.

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A far cry from the woman’s prison, we spent the next night at a traditional Chiang Mai cooking class. Kim had thought of the cooking class idea before we had left for the trip and we knew it was one thing we absolutely must do in this city. We were lucky enough to be picked up in a van by the Asia Scenic cooking company, but then quickly realized that it was only a short walk from our hotel and felt a little sheepish when we arrived. Our driver was the actual teacher of the class and he was amazing. Overly flamboyant, outspoken and hilarious, “A” made the night an experience to remember. In the beginning of the class, we as a group (there were more people than just the 5 in our group) had to decide what dishes we wanted to make that night. Once we decided, “A” took us to the backyard garden and showed us what ingredients are commonly used in Thai cooking. After making very suggestive jokes one after the other, somehow we learned about these spices, herb, chilies and fruits. Once we were finished in the backyard, we were taken to the market where the locals shop for ingredients every day. One of the interesting things that we appreciated from this class was that “A” realized we could not get the same ingredients in Canada as he could in Thailand, so he purposefully showed us samples of what to look for in our own shopping markets. This will be helpful when we all decide to have our Thai cooking nights!

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We made it back from the market and got to cooking right away. “A” described the dishes we were making as either “sexy”, “very sexy” or “baby sexy”, depending on how spicy we wanted the food. Unless you are cooking Pad Thai, which no matter how spicy you made it, you were a boring cook. We spent the next 2 hours cooking, eating and laughing. It was so refreshing to be able to cook with all fresh ingredients picked from a little garden or from the market and prepped ourselves. Back home I make every effort to cook with somewhat fresh ingredients, but as a Canadian, it can be difficult, especially in the winter. The colors and the smells were so vibrant while we prepped the ingredients for our dishes. We started by cooking our stir-fry dish, followed by our curry (which we handmade ourselves with a mortar and pestle) and we finished up with our soup. It was crazy to learn that most Thai dishes are based on 3 main liquids; oil, fish sauce and oyster sauce. You use the oil to sauté your ingredients (ie garlic, chilies, and veggies) and then follow with the fish and oyster sauce. We quickly realized that even Lindsay can follow most of the recipes. With a little bit of support from “A” we eventually finished all of our dishes and we were able to sit down and enjoy our creations. Everyone did really well; except for one little “burnt” incident with Lindsays Pad Thai, but no one really noticed. The cooking class was something that I would recommend to anyone when they visit Thailand. It not only gave us the skills to cook the food ourselves (as well as gave us a cookbook in case we forget); but I also feel we now have a way better understanding of what we are currently eating on our trip. Thank you “A” for making this an unforgettable experience.

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PS – We ate bugs on Lindsays Birthday. That is all.

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 04:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai - Part 2

The Great Elephant Adventure

As most of you know, I (Lindsay) am used to spending my birthday in a city somewhere in Canada, playing my favourite sport, ringette, at Nationals. This has been my life since I was 16 years old and I have not really known any different. This year though, I was lucky enough to experience my birthday not only in a different city, but in a completely different country on another continent on the other side of the world. Quite a large leap if you ask me!
By the time my birthday rolled around, we were in a northern Thai city called Chiang Mai. I was told before our trip started, that Sean had booked us into an elephant training day in the jungles outside of the city limits for my birthday. This was something that I have always wanted to do; spend an entire day with elephants, really getting to know them, and not just see them in a circus setting or chained up somewhere, possibly in a place where they are treated poorly and are only there for entertainment purposes. Elephants have always fascinated me, always had a special place in my heart. This feeling began when I rode one with my Grandma in a little town in Ontario many years ago. So, when Sean told me that we were spending an entire day with our “own” adopted elephants, I couldn’t contain my excitement!

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The day started off bright and early at 7:30am as we were picked up by the Patara Elephant Farm van. Our guest house had been gracious enough to send us on our way with a little care package, as we would be missing breakfast due to our early departure. The package included breakfast sandwiches and coconut water, YUMMY! Since we had only explored a little bit of the old city by this point, it was refreshing to see some other parts as well as the nature and trees as we left the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai. Along the road towards our destination, we got a glimpse of some elephants walking the road and others enjoying the land their owners let them explore. Every time I saw one, my heart skipped a beat in anticipation for what was to come.
We pulled off onto this little road where we all got out, were encouraged to put on sunscreen and bug spray while we waited for our guides to explain what they had in store for us. It was already starting to get warm, and I could tell it would be a long day. The guides explained to us that we would be doing all the trainers work that they would normally do in a day, like bathing and feeding them, and that in order to make friends with the elephants, we always needed to have food. “Just like finding the way to a man’s heart, always have food!” We practiced feeding one of the friendlier elephants, saying “bone”, which pretty much means, “open your mouth and stick out your tongue, I have some amazing bananas and sugar cane so you’ll love me”! Once we were comfortable with this, we were split up into different groups of around 10 or so and sent on our separate ways.

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Sean, Mitch and I went up the hill to meet our elephants and get down to the dirty work. One thing Sean forgot to mention to me earlier was how dirty the dirty work actually was! After meeting my elephant, Tilasu (which translates to waterfall; he was named this because when he was born, the trainers could only hear the sound of a waterfall…cute right?), and making friends with him by stuffing his face with treats, we learned how to make sure our adoptees were healthy. There were the usual things to look for, such as how often their tail and ears were flapping (the more often, the happier they are), if they had tears running from their eyes constantly (also a good thing as they do not have tear ducts; no tears could mean an infection) and sweaty toenails (that’s the only place they sweat from). Then there was an unusual distinguishing factor of healthy vs non-healthy elephant that had not really crossed our minds; stool dissecting. Yes, this one sent us all for a loop. Apparently, it’s one of the most important factors in whether or not the elephant is healthy. The most important factors are the number of “poop balls” from each bowel movement (6-8 is healthy just for future reference), that there are no full leaves in the poop as this could mean their teeth are weak, if the poop is moist, if it crumbles between your fingers and that the smell from each ball should not be overpowering. This was our cue to jump right in, and jump in we did. As I grabbed a poop ball in my hand, I was acutely aware that I would probably never do anything like this again in my life, so I might as well just go for it! As I crumbled, smelt, squeezed and counted, I was able to watch Sean and Mitch enjoy the same experience without a hint of disgust on their faces and I knew that this day was a success!

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Next we were shown how to wash the elephants off before we could ride them and to show me how much attitude he actually had, Tilasu took the hose from out of my hand and shoved it in his mouth for a drink of water. We sat like this for about 5 minutes until he took the hose out, sprayed me with his trunk and allowed me to finish washing him off. In nature, the animal always wins, especially one who is triple the size of you and could crush you with one step. Once they were cleaned, the trainer showed us three different ways to get up onto the elephant for our ride through the forest. All of them looked completely impossible, but once you approach your elephant and choose a way, they actually help you up by bending their legs and lifting you up. Of course, I was completely graceful and did not look like a giraffe trying to mount a dinosaur. Sean struggled slightly, but recovered well and off we were for our ride.

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The ride was very cool, but a little bit too long. It probably took us about 2 hours to get where we were intended to be, going up and down super steep hills in the heat of the day. Some of the hills were so steep that Tilasu and many of the other elephants did not even want to go down. It was quite interesting to look back at the group and see how they were moving, swaying back and forth with their riders on top. We did have the trainers beside each of us, just to give a love tap (bamboo stick to the butt) in case the elephants were distracted by some greenery on the trees. It was a great experience to be able to ride these massive creatures, even if the ride was an extended one.

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Our last stop was lunch and bathing the elephants. Lunch was delicious; inside a little hut built along the cliff above a pool at the base of a waterfall. We had many Thai favourites like sweet rice, random meat filled balls and other things baked in banana leaves. Of course, Sean really enjoyed the chicken wings! After lunch, we went down to the base of the waterfall and started to bathe our elephants. As we are all in the water, the elephants lay down and we give them a really good scrub with a scrubby that would probably rip our own skin right off. This was all happening as we watched “poop balls” float by in the water. Maybe not the cleanest water to give them a bath in, but it was also an experience I will never forget. Mitch was not laughing as much as I was, but I’m sure I saw a smile somewhere in there while he was scrubbing. The weirdest part of bathing Tilasu was washing his trunk. Trunks just seem so weird; I’m not sure how to describe it. He just kept trying to grab my bracelet off my arm the entire wash; so muscular those trunks! Once we were done bathing them, they were taken back to the areas where they sleep and we were taken home.

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This, I will have to say, was the best birthday I think I’ve ever had. It was amazing spending a day like this so close with an animal I have been intrigued with for so long and to have people I love share it with me, I really couldn’t ask for more. I’m not sure I will ever do anything like this again, and I’m so happy Sean thought of this idea. Finally, one thing that will stick with us forever was earlier in the day the elephant trainer had told us that if the elephant lets you look at them in the eye, it means that they trust you and will remember you for life. As you all know elephants never forget..... just like we will never forget this day. What a day, what a life

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 01:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged elephants chiang mai Comments (2)

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam between the years of 1350 & 1767. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. At one point the kingdom spanned a greater area then England and France combined. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya was our second stop in Thailand.

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Far from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok's city roads, Ayutthaya, or the "City of Gorgeousness", was somewhat more relaxing. That is, until the scooters were involved! We stayed on the island at a guest house called "Tony's Place" (yes, we went from Wendy House to Tony's Place, awesome I know) and our main goal was to see temples, ride scooters and explore what we could in a short amount of time. Sean had a great time exploring with scooters on previous trips to Thailand and was excited to share this experience with us.

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However, it did not turn out the way we had planned! The streets were busier than Sean had remembered and our friend Kim got stuck behind a tuk-tuk, was a little too scared to pass because she had only been driving the scooter for 30 seconds and we ended up losing her! We had to pull over, wait for her to catch up and eventually, I ended up on a scooter by myself (a little scary when you have never rode a scooter before in your life). For the longest time, I couldn't figure out how to turn right! I would try and turn, but the scooter just went straight, and I ended up awfully close to some ditches (I know you're proud dad!). No one crashed though, and we were all able to maintain some control of driving and made it to 3 amazing temples that first night.

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These temples are truly amazing. The feeling you get when you step on stones that were laid by people hundreds of years ago, and to imagine how they lived, see what they saw and walk in their places of worship, is truly an experience of a lifetime. After climbing some very steep stairs at the first temple and getting an amazing birds eye view of the old city, we scooted to the next temple (yes, I had to turn right, and no, I didn't crash!) where our goal was to find this tree that supposedly has a Buddha head jetting out from its trunk. Of course knowing us, we went to the complete opposite end from where the face was. But on the plus side, we were able to see the entire temple grounds and saved finding Buddha till the very end. It was breathtaking to see all of the leaning/crumbling temples mixed in with the setting sun and all of the overgrown trees. Once we took a picture with Buddha's face, we made our way to the last temple of the night. This one was completely different. This temple had been basically demolished. There were only a few small Buddha structures remaining and the temple floor. However, at the head of the temple was this reclining Buddha. It was just massive, laying on it's side, draped from head to toe in a beautiful golden sash. It was quite stunning with the setting sun shining down on it. And this was only the beginning of my love for temples!

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We decided the next day that maybe scooters were not the way to go, especially because we would be traveling off the island to see some new temples. Instead, we rented a tuk-tuk for the day. It ends up being quite a reasonable price when there's 5 of you! We ended up seeing 3 more temples and a floating market. All of the things we saw that day were outstanding, however I do have to say, this one temple, Wat Ya Chai Mongkhon will be in my mind forever. It has stuck with me so much that if I am ever in Thailand again, I will be back to visit this one. It honestly took my breath away. Tranquility washed over me the moment I stepped foot onto the temple grounds. It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. This temple was huge. In order to make it to the top, there were many many steep steps that opened up into this area where people could pray and buy gold flakes to put onto the Buddha statues inside. Along the outside of the main temple were rows upon rows of Buddha statues, each one slightly different from the one before. These magnificent statues also had beautiful golden sashes flowing in the wind. I had a moment where I literally shed a tear because I was so overcome with emotion; it was amazing. I'm pretty sure Sean liked this one too....haha!

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After 2 solid days of temple hopping, we had some well deserved street food and Chang, the beer of choice over here. For 50 TBH, or $1.50 CND, how could you say no?

NEXT STOP CHIANG MAI

Posted by BlondeandCurly 06:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples ayutthaya Comments (1)

Bangkok

After a grueling, sometimes uncomfortable, 22 hours of flights, layovers and airplane food, we finally landed in the Kingdom of Thailand. For myself, this was trip number 3 to this amazing country, but for Lindsay, this was a whole different ballgame. For those of you that know Lindsay, you already are aware of her infatuation with Disneyland. The city of Bangkok is a far cry from the magical kingdom. From the moment that she stepped off the plane, she was overwhelmed with the sights, smells and bright lights that come along with a city of this scale. I will always remember my first night in Bangkok and I could see parts of myself in her while we walked the streets that night. The excitement that she had was contagious. Excitement that never faltered, even for a second, even when she saw her first rat.
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We were staying at the cutest little guesthouse I’ve (Lindsay) ever seen. “Wendy House” is on this quiet little street that is right downtown in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. When Sean originally described it to me, I believed it was a great place to stay, but I was blown away by how right he was! It was so nice, after a busy day of walking, tuk-tuks, taxis and the skytrain, to turn down this street, or “home base” as we came to call it, I would breathe a sigh of relief. As you walk down this street, there is street food on one side and travel companies, family restaurants and massage parlours on the other, what an amazing first home away from home.

Once we were settled into Wendy House, we spent the next few days temple hopping, street food eating, canal trekking, tuk-tuk riding and trying to see everything we possibly could see in 4 days. Temple hopping happened over a few days and the temple I loved the best in Bangkok was Wat Phra Kaewi. It took my breath away. We live in Canada and we definitely have some historical buildings and amazing sights to see, but this place was incredible. Not only was it the hottest day ever (Sean’s back sweat turned into a heart!), but the sun was beating down, making the temple shimmer and shine. We were inappropriately dressed; tank tops and short shorts are a no-no in temple land, so we were told to put on sarongs and short sleeved shirts. As you can imagine, it now felt like it was 50 degrees instead of a measly 44. I didn’t even care. With the beauty of this temple, I was looking around so much and felt that I was still missing something, that I just wasn’t able to see it all. Sean had already been to this temple, so I’m sure he was amused with my excitement and antics, dragging him all around the grounds. We took a lot of pictures, but I don’t think they will ever compare to what it looks like in real life. The detail that was put into this place, the textures and stone work, statues and gems, will forever be in my memory. Everyone should visit this temple once in their lives.
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The next day, Mitch decided that a canal tour would be a nice relaxing day. After a short skytrain ride, where we actually saw this hauntingly beautiful old building in downtown Bangkok, we walked up to this boat tour place. As we stepped into this rickety old wooden boat, powered by one of the loudest motors I have ever heard, our eyes were opened to a new side of Bangkok not many people see. The water was murky and brown with garbage, sandals and water bottles floating everywhere. As we rode up the river, it was interesting to see the different classes that live in this city. At some points, there are spectacular temples and gated houses with green grass and statues in their yards, right next to those, are these completely run down shacks, propped up on wooden stilts in the water with old laundry hanging off railings, no windows, dirt everywhere and random ragged wild dogs running around. Of course everyone knows these places exist, but to see them, to witness the real “ghetto’s” and how poor people really are in this world was definitely an eye opening experience. It makes you realize how fortunate we are at home in Calgary and how much we actually take for granted. 1st world problems has a whole new meaning now.
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The canal tour took a few hours and halfway through we were lucky enough to stop by this floating market where we had some amazing street food. I (Lindsay) have never had the chance to eat anything like street food, so the first time I had any in Bangkok was a big moment for me! I always thought I was pretty adventurous when it came to eating and would really try anything; however, the mystery balls at the floating market really tested my palate. Sean noticed this little stall with this cute little Thai lady making something that intrigued us both; small little balls on a stick that are barbequed and doused in sauce. Without hesitation, Sean bought 2 sticks of mystery balls. My first experience eating something that I had no idea what it was or what was inside began. As his eyes lit up and his head started to nod, I knew the mystery balls were a successful treat and I dove right in! I still have no idea what these balls on a stick were made of, but they tasted incredible, and the sauce, well, the sauce was to die for! I’m sure the both of us could eat that sauce day in and day out. Once again, as this trip has proven time and time again, Sean was right.
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Well team, if I told you everything that we did and saw in Bangkok, I could write a novel. The short of it is that we loved This city. I never understood why Sean always talked so highly of Bangkok. But now that I have experienced the food, nightlife, sights and ultimately the chaos, I have fallen in love with this city. Till we meet again Bangkok!!

We apologize that it has taken this long for our first entry, but it has been chaos so far. We hopefully will have some extra time as we head south to post our continued experience.

NEXT STOP AYUTTHAYA

Posted by BlondeandCurly 05:11 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (2)

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