featuring Thailand & Malaysia
Apologies its been a while, in our defence we have been busy flat hunting, jobhunting and generally readjusting.
Our last blog left off in Coron, the Philippines, from where we undertook our last of many back to back flights, finally landing us in the backpacker hub of Bangkok (Banglamphu) just in time to see all the freaks on the streets. We really enjoyed the craziness and randomness of Bangkok, although it was a bit of a culture shock coming from the tranquility of the tourist starved Phillipines. Bangkok is rammed, smelly, traditional, modern, Eastern, Western, sleazy and cultural all at the same time. The chaos of the bars, stalls and nightlife of the Khao San Road can also be seen in the main temple – beautiful but bursting with tourists.
We enjoyed the spicy food obviously, and managed a trip along the Klong on a river taxi, before riding the monorail into the new high-rise and shopping precincts before hopping on a tuk-tuk back to tourist town. If there were awards handed out for the number of modes of transport we in one day, we could be in with a shot!
After a night out on the Khao San road, longing to escape the hoards of backpackers, we boarded a train for Ayuthaya, resisting the temptation to get haircuts on the platform… Ayuthaya was a strange place, a sort of island surrounded by four rivers, home to a multitude of ruined temples, Buddha images and packs of stray dogs. The old city was originally built as the capital of the Siam empire but was later sacked and near destroyed by the Burmese, who have recently apologized and donated a heap of cash. The ruins remain as they were left by the Burmese army – very cool actually – along with being overgrown in places by the routes of sacred Bodhi trees.
Dinnertime in Ayuthaya was spent at the exciting night market eating spicy fish dishes and hot and sour seafood soups (Tom Yum) among the ruined battlements that line the riverfront. This was of course washed down with Bandy’s favourite ice cold asian beer, Chang, it would simply be rude not to.
Another day and an overnight bus journey later and we were in the northern city of Sukhothai. A bit like Ayuthaya’s older, bigger, less wrinkly sister, Sukhothai and its temple complexes are larger and much better preserved. The walled city is so large that we hired bicycles to get around, which was a real highlight as we zipped around from temple to temple on retro bikes, with Bandy snapping away madly on her beloved camera. The thai schoolkids were out in force that day with many a different group approaching us to practice their English, and they seemed to think Mark was some kind of celebrity asking en mass for his autograph.
Another bus ride and another delightful northern thai town, we next hit the bustling cultural centre that is Chaing Mai. More well established on the tourist trail than Ayuthaya or Sukhothai, Chaing Mai had at times a Bangkok-esque feel. However, there is never a shortage of things to do, and we were spoilt for choice from treks to the nearby hill tribe villages to white water rafting.
Aside from spending the evening eating and people watching at yet another amazing Night Market, our love of filling our face won out and we opted for a Thai Cookery course at Baan Thai Cookery School. Surrounded by a group of likeminded, greedy foodies the day began with a visit to the local market to pick up the ingredients for each of the five mouth-watering Thai dishes we had chosen to cook (and eat!) that day. Our patient teacher explained each and every one of the multitude of Thai produce on display, along with their nutritional value and regional origin.
Back at the school we tucked into Thai snacks and tea before getting stuck into the cooking. As well as cooking a plethora of delicious dishes, including pounding our own curry paste in a gigantic pestle and mortar, we also of course got to eat them all. We ate so much that, having rolled out of there once the course was over, had to sit very still and digest for quite a while before venturing out of our hotel room.
After a few days back staying in the Siam Square area of Bangkok and Christmas shopping at the quite simply gigantic Chatuchak market, we boarded our Air Asia flight back to Kuala Lumpur en-route to Australia. Room service and a film in our upgraded deluxe room at the splendour of the Impiana hotel later and we were on our way again, headed down under for our lengthy stint in Melbourne, but thats one for the next blog!