Thursday 29 March 2018

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

I saw this place online and it looked interesting, so we walked to see it today. It is an amazing building and we spent ages just walking up and down admiring it.

It had some arty photos around the circular floors, so I was inspired to have a go at some myself. 
We also went around a very surprising exhibition, called 'I am me'. 
Below is an example of his work. I can't show more pictures as the artist was always either very angry or rude!

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Lumpini Park

We had a busy day today and started with a 5 kilometre run around Lumpini Park. It was really hot and humid and I was on the verge of walking, but I made it around although I looked a bit worse for wear back at the end.

After a big breakfast we walked to Jim Thompson's House, which is a lovely old house set in beautiful jungle like grounds. We were dressed quite smartly as our next appointment was afternoon tea at the Erawan Hotel. 

I booked the afternoon tea and wasn't able to find the menu online, but it was highly recommended, although apparently with Thai dishes. 
When we got there I was a bit astonished by the menu as we had no idea what it would taste like, and Darren ordered butterfly pea tea, which was a navy blue colour! 

It was a mystery meal, and one or two things were a bit challenging, but overall very nice with mango and sticky rice, and crispy rice pudding with corn or spring onions being particularly good. 
On the way back we stopped off again at Lumpini Park, this time to look for the monitor lizards. We watched a dad and his little boy throwing bread to fish in the lake when suddenly one of them appeared. The man picked up his little boy and left immediately and I think that you can see why. 

They grow to over 10 feet long and have the freedom of the park. I was trying to pose for a photo but it was too scary, although I have since looked online and apparently they just eat turtles, fish and birds. Amazing sight though. 

Monday 26 March 2018

Last day of the temples

We caught a train this morning to Ayutthaya, which was the old capital of Thailand.
We are getting a bit templed out now, and have been here before in 2013, so we didn't do nearly as good a job of our visit as we did last time. 
We just went into one of the temple grounds and found the famous  face in the tree. 

It belongs to a bhudda statue that toppled over hundreds of year ago, and gradually the tree picked up the statue and incorporated it into it's trunk. 
It looks a bit scary just over my shoulder, but I think that it is a friendly bhudda so I should be okay. 
This building reminded me of a giant chess piece.... 

... and here is a more traditional statue with the head still attached. . 

We are staying in a lovely little bungalow that is sat next to a large pond, and the reception area is on stilts over the water. 

It's all very calm and peaceful. 

Sunday 25 March 2018

Phimai Historical Park

Today we caught a bus 60 back up in the direction that we came from yesterday.
The reason was to visit the Phimai Historical Park which is said to be the inspiration for Angkor Wat. 

It is about 200 years older than Angkor Wat, but to my untrained eye looks almost identical. It is obviously much smaller and at 100 baht, or just over £2 it is much cheaper to visit. 
It is also much quieter and I even spotted what I think is a hoopoe in the gardens. 

Afterwards we walked down to a beautiful lake that was covered in lotus and lily flowers. 

Just around the corner was the biggest banyan tree in the world, or so it says. It is over 350 years old and sprawls across a huge area. 
We finished off with a beer at a local stall and then back to our hotel.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Train from Udon Thani to Nakhon Ratchasima

This morning was a Saturday so we did our own parkrun around the lovely Iake that was near to our hotel. It wasn't too hot, and I got round quite easily, which is good as we are in training for a real parkrun next Saturday.

In the afternoon we caught a tuk tuk to the station for our journey towards Bangkok. 

The station only has five trains stopping there each day, but it has a surprising number of staff, and lots of people waiting around. 
As expected, our train was late, but it eventually arrived and we all piled on board. 

The guard waved his green flag and blew his whistle, the driver waved his flag in response, and off we went. The engine was very noisy, the train shook and rattled loudly, but then this was called the slow train. 
It was a single track line, so we sometimes had to wait for trains to pass in the opposite direction before we could continue. Occasionally we changed onto a side line and the points looked like the ones you used to see on a child's train set. The stations were all beautifully maintained and looked as if they came from the 1950's.

It was slow going, but lots of people walked up and the aisles selling drinks, roast chicken on sticks, cooked quails eggs and lots of things that I couldn't identify. 
Seven hours Iater, and after 37 stops we eventually arrived at our destination. It was quite a relief to be on quiet and solid ground. 

Friday 23 March 2018

Sightseeing in Udon Thani

We had a lovely day today looking around the town. We are staying very near to the beautiful Nong Prajak Lake and started by feeding enormous catfish from a pedestrian suspension bridge. 
There was also a giant vase, clock and the lovely yellow ducks. 

The ducks were the only reason we came here as I saw a photo of them online. After Daz had booked the hotel I checked TripAdvisor and last week someone posted that they had gone! It was too late to cancel so we came anyway, and two baby ones have come back, but the mother duck is still missing. The duck on the left is a little deflated, but we walked past again tonight and a man in a boat was inflating it. Hopefully mum might arrive overnight. 
There are very few tourists here so we had the place almost to ourselves, so enjoyed various temples and coffee shops. 

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Chinese temple and it's beautiful gardens. There was a big language barrier, but the people were lovely. They seemed to be offering us free food, and there was an interesting museum, but best was feeding the koi carp with a baby's bottle. 

I was also very taken with a shop selling outdoor tables and chairs in the shape of animals. I would really like a duck family in my garden, but they are very heavy so would be a problem to bring home. 

Thursday 22 March 2018

Laos to Thailand by bus

This morning started off very well, as a truck arrived at our hotel to take us to the bus station for our journey from Laos to a city called Udon Thani in Thailand. It was only 40 miles door to door and was expected to take three hours.

We sat in front of a young couple and their little boy who spent the whole trip leaning over the seat and taking an intense interest in everything that we were doing. Occasionally he would stroke my hair and be told off by his dad, but the worst thing that he did was to sneeze loudly onto the back of Darren's neck. 

We all had to get off at the Lao border and troop through the immigration booths, then get back on again for a trip across the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River no man's land. At the highest point of the bridge the flags changed from Lao to Thai so we knew that we were half way there. 

At the Thai border we had to get off again, collect our cases and go through the Thai inward immigration. It all went well, although it was interesting at the customs section, as it was manned by at least three staff members, but the suitcase x-ray machine had a sign on it saying that it was broken. It had obviously been that way for a long time as they had placed pretty pot plants all of the way along the conveyor belt and the staff just smiled and let everyone through. 
We arrived at Udon Thani with plenty of time to spare and all we had to do was to get a tuk tuk to our hotel. It was less than 4 kilometres away and right next to a large lake. We couldn't get any of the drivers to understand where we wanted to go and even showing them the map on my tablet didn't help. In the end we started to walk and then  asked a few more drivers, but with the same result. 
We eventually thought that we had sorted it after a driver took my tablet into a shop and the lady shop assistants tried to help. There was a roundabout next to the Iake and with a lot of hand signals I said to take us there. 
We happily set off but the driver soon turned off the expected route and took us to a massive, but completely wrong roundabout! We were in despair but then he set off again and eventually reached the opposite side of the lake to the one that we needed. I was so grateful that we got out there and walked the rest of the way. 

Ps, they don't get many tourists around here! 

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Vientiane, capital of Laos 🇱🇦

Today we had a full day tour (organised by me) of the sights of Vientiane. 
It is the capital city of Laos, but has the look of a quiet, almost forgotten provincial town. Our previous stop at Luang Prabang was in the ancient Royal capital, and it is bigger, has more impressive buildings, more tourists and seemed much more prosperous.
We walked over 18 kilometres in total, and saw all of the top sights. Unfortunately, I found the back entrance to the Presidential Palace instead of the front, and then went to visit the temple on the wrong side of the road by mistake. However, we corrected those errors and Daz then started to get a bit more involved with the map reading. 
My favourite place was the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane and it was apparently made from cement that the Americans sent over to extend the local airport runway. It might also be known as the Vertical Runway, but I may have made that up. 

We then walked quite a long way to see a golden temple and sleeping bhudda that was Daz's highlight. We did also buy coconut ice cream there that came with rice, jelly, peanuts and evaporated milk, so that might have helped sway it for him. 

We visited the fountains at Namphou Park which TripAdvisor said were a bit rubbish, although we did find a nice place to stop for a cappuccino. 

I also liked this elephant outside of a temple that was just being built. His trunk is not finished yet although he already looked very happy with his new home. 

It was a good day, and please note that these are the edited highlights, there is more to the city than I have included! 

Monday 19 March 2018

Last day in Luang Prabang

We did lots of little things today, including sending another mother's day card to my mum as the one that we sent from Vietnam never arrived. The latest one is very rustic and made of elephant dung paper, so I hope it doesn't get wet on it's journey. Hope she likes it! 
We borrowed bikes from our hotel and cycled across a bridge that is only built for motorbikes and bicycles. You have to drive very carefully in a straight line and I ended up with quite a train of local people behind me every time I crossed. 

Then we went for a Lao massage where we had to wear some enormous trousers! It was quite nice though. 

Afterwards we messed up the timings to see the inside of the old Royal Palace and could only walk around the grounds. Possibly all that was necessary. 

This is a statue in the grounds of the last King of Loas who was thrown out in a communist coup in 1976,  He was sent to Northern Loas for 're-education' and was never seen again. 

We then cycled to the Unexploded Ordnance museum to hear the terrible facts about the massive number of bombs that were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War, the huge numbers that didn't explode and the mine clearing efforts that are still going on today. 

Finally, in the evening we went out for gin sling cocktails and met two lovely Japanese boys. They took this photo and we chatted to them for ages.  

Sunday 18 March 2018

Kuang Si waterfall

I saw a photo online of this place and thought that it was too good to be true. It was a lovely surprise then to find out that it was actually even more beautiful than I expected.

There was many layers of ponds, some of which people were allowed to swim in, and others that we could only admire from the bank. It was not very busy and we jumped in for a dip, although it was surprisingly cold.

We walked to the end and there was a big waterfall that cascaded down from a great height.

There was also a sanctuary for bears that had been rescued from poachers. They were all injured in some way and one of them had an arm missing. It didn't stop him climbing though and they all seemed happy and very well fed.