Bangkok Days

Bangkok, by far my favorite town in the world, is an excellent place to start or finish a trip. Normally I always try to stay in another part of the town whenever I am here, just to get to see and know more of it. But I still had a bicycle waiting in Bangkok, so went back to the same hotel as a couple of weeks ago.

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One of the best ways to travel fast and cheap through the city are the fast river boats in the picture.  Be aware that they make really formula 1 style stop & go’s at the pier, so you better be quick hoppin’ on and off.
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River style housing along the Chao Phraya river.
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Genuine Thai smiles at the flower market.

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Flowers on a skewer.

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I always wanted to visit the Baiyoke Tower in Bangkok, but it never happened in the past.  Baiyoke Tower is the highest hotel tower in southeast-Asia with 84 floors.  The tower is 309 m heigh (328 meters with the antenna on top of it).   It stands on 360 Continue reading “Bangkok Days”

Thailand: Mae Hong Son – Chiang Rai – Sukhothai

After visiting Mae Hong Son I rode in one long day to Chiang Rai via the famous road nbr 1095. There are reportedly  1,864 curves on this route.  Doing it now by car instead of on the bike, it seems much harder as back then.  (The report of my 2008 journey can be found here.)  One thing is sure: traffic has become about ten times more than back in 2008.  It is still a spectacular route, but I had multiple close calls with cars and motorbikes.  On a bicycle, I wouldn’t recommend this route anymore.

Chiang Rai and the surrounding area has some interesting attractions:

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Wat Rong Suea (The Blue Temple)
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Inside the Blue Temple. Stunning Buddha image.
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On the way to Khun Khorn waterfall, one walk through impressive bamboo forests

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Wat Rong Khun. This is the forst time I saw ‘The White Temple’ with my own eyes. Unforgettable and probably second on my list of must sees after the Golden Palace in Bangkok.

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Continue reading “Thailand: Mae Hong Son – Chiang Rai – Sukhothai”

Thailand: Bangkok & Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son

After leaving Australia, I flew to Thailand for a month. My mother flew in as well and I showed her around the country. We started off in Bangkok.

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Wat Arun is a good starting point to show a first time visitor to Thailand. It is a very impressive temple and it involves a nice boat trip across the Chao Phraya River to Thonburi.
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Chao Phraya river by night.
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On the way up to Wat Saket (Golden Mount), one of my favourite temples in Bangkok.
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The stunning Loha Prasat.
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Loha Prasat. You can walk around here for hours and still, every time I’ve been here, I’ve been virtually on my own. It’s not on the tourist trail. Good.

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The Golden Palace in Bangkok, with Wat Phra Kaew.  It was my fourth visit to this place and it seems to get busier every time.  Rightfully so because few places on earth can match this place.  But I prefer the quieter times of my first visits.
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Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  It is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.

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Guardians of the Golden Palace.
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The Golden Palace from outside its walls.
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Wat Pho is the oldest and largest (80.000 sq.m.) temple in Bangkok.  It houses more than thousand Buddha statues, more than any other temple in the country.

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The reclining Buddha, 15 meter high and 46 meter long.
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The Buddha’s feet are 3 m high and 4.5 m long.   The different panels on his feet are displaying auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified.  At the center of each foot is a circle representing a chakra or ‘energy point’.
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One of the many buildings inside Wat Pho.

The night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is very popular with tourists. I can’t understand why, because you miss all the scenery along the way, so we took the daytime train, leaving Hua Lampong train station at 8:30 am and arriving in Chiang Mai at 19:30. The last hour is still in darkness, which is a pity as it is the most beautiful part of the trip.

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Arriving in Chiang Mai in the evening, first priority is Thai food !!!
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Wat Chet Lin, a quiet temple in the centre of Chiang Mai.

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Wat Chedi Luang, also in Chiang Mai’s centre.  The fences around the temple weren’t there yet during my previous visits.  The toll of mass tourism.

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Wat Phra Sing. All this golden stupas were still white concrete stupa’s when I visited it years ago.
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Wat Phra Sing.

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More Wat Phra Sing.

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A must see when you are in Chiang Mai is Wat Doi Suthep, about 15 km outside the city in the surrounding hills.

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Black elephant statue on the way up to Doi Suthep.

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Wat Doi Suthep.

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A bit further up the hill, you’ll find Phu Phing (Bhubing) Royal Palace, built as a winter retreat for the Thai King.  The palace is closed for the public, but you can visit the gardens.

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Local dancers @ Wat Sri Suphan

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A temple I never visited, never even heard of during my previous visits to Thailand: Wat Sri Suphan.  The temple was originally built around 1500 to serve as the main temple for a silversmith village.  The process of completely covering the temple in silver only began in 2008 though.  By now, he temple is completely covered in silver, from the walls to the roof.

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We rented this little Honda to make a 2.200 km tour in Northern Thailand.
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Close to Chiang Mai is the mountain Doi Inthanon, Thailands highest peak.  It’s a national park.  A few kilometer before the top, you ‘ll find two remarkable pagodas: Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Nophamethanidon.   They were built by the Royal Thai Air Force for King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit’s 60th birthdays in 1989 and 1992, respectively.  Until recently, one had to climb the stairs to the pagoda, but nowadays, progression  is unstoppable and an escalator will bring you up there, if you wish.
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The highest point of Thailand: 2.565 meter, 33 centimeter and 4,1 mm above sea level.  Precise up to a tenth of a millimeter haha.
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From Doi Inthanon, we rode via Mae Cham towards Khun Yuam.

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Thung Bua Tong Fields 
These Mexican sunflowers begin to blossom only in November and early December (for a period of less than 40 days). 
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Mae Surin waterfall, the highest of Thailand.

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Some fantastic accommodation in Khun Yuam.
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Sunrise from the bungalow.

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Khun Yuam is very close to the border with Myanmar, which shows in the style of the temples you’ll find here.  This one is in a small village west of Khun Yuam.

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More Burmese style temples along the way from Khun Yuam north to Mae Hong Son.

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On arrival in Mae Hong Son, we first visited Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu, a pagoda at the top of a hill.
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Spectacular views from Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu.  You can see the small provincial capital Mae hong Son, the airstrip and the surrounding mountains.
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The lake in the centre of Mae hong Son.

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The Thai kitchen, by far the best in the world.
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43 kilometer north of Mae Hong Song, near the border with Myanmar, is the village Mae Aw, also know as Ban Rak Thai.  On the way, we’re passing a few waterfalls. The Chinese style town was established by Yunnanese (Yunnan is a southern Chinese province) Kuomintang fighters who fled from Chinese communist rule in 1949.
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It’s Thailand, it’s right on the border with Myanmar, but it’s all Chinese style here.
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The reservoir at Ban Rak Thai.
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Tea, lots and lots of tea.
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I think, anno 2019, they earn more from the tourist bungalows in the tea plantations as from the tea itself.

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Very beautiful flower, found in a bamboo forest.
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Flower detail.
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A bike, panniers…. freedom !!
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Su Tong Pae bridge, supposedly the longest teak bridge in Thailand.  It looks old but was built in 2012 only to make a connection between Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma, which you can see in the distance, and  locals of Ban Gung Mai Sak village.  During certain periods of the year, this rice fields are full with water, and the bridge makes life easier for the monks to visit the village, and  for the locals to reach the temple for making  merit  and visit to the temple for monk chat and praying.

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Four faced Buddha.
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Inside Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma.
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I guess this is to make wishes.
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Lots of wishes here 🙂

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Hear nothing, speak nothing, see nothing.

Next episode: Going from Mae Hong Song towards Chiang Rai along route 1095, hyped as the ‘hardest road of Thailand’ (it’s not), with supposedly 1864 curves, then from Chiang Rai to Sukhothai.

Thailand: Chinese New Year in Bangkok

This new trip got off to a bumpy start.
Before starting my cycling trip in Australia, I planned to show my mother around Thailand for 3,5 weeks. A few days before our departure, a blood sample that was taken to check whether I didn’t have any nasty diseases from the 25 or so thick bites I had in Bretagne three months earlier, suddenly showed a severe drop in my kidney functions. Something that was still perfect when my blood was checked in June and October 2018.
The doctor advised it wouldn’t be wise to leave on a trip like I had in mind in such a condition.

After a few visits to the hospital consulting some specialists, and after a lot of anxiety and more blood samples, all seemed to be fine after all.
  Both the doctor and the kidney
specialist don’t rule out a mistake was made with the blood samples, because such sudden drops and recovery can”t be explained in a logical way.

Anyway, the tickets to Bangkok were cancelled and our holiday was down the drain. Hopefully we can give it another try after the Australia trip.

I purchased new and of course much more expensive, tickets to fly to Bangkok on the third of February. That way I had four days in the city during the Chinese New year celebrations. But, more bad luck was lurking.
Thai Airways might have a very good reputation, my flight was cancelled 2,5 hrs before departure. Not much explanation was given but they did give me a nice room in the Sheraton Hotel at Brussels Airport.
After some asking around, it appeared the plane had a ‘technical problem’. Lufthansa does the maintenance of Thai Airways in Europe.
The spares had to come from Lufthansa’s depot in Munich.
Munich airport was closed due to snow.

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Long story short: Only few check-ins open. It was my turn at 10:15 hrs only. It took the incompetent lady at the check-in an hour to get the bike on the plane (although I booked it in advance).
Then I had to go and pay 150 usd to another counter of Swissport, then go to yet another place to handover the bike, and only after that, I got my boarding card.
By now it’s 11:30 am.
Boarding started at 11:20 and I still had to go through security, of which only 2 gates were open at Brussels Airport.
Then I arrived at customs, where I had a queue with a trainee.
Sigh.
I arrived at my gate after 13:00 hrs.
The plane was suppose to leave at 12:00, but was delayed again, due to congestion.

So, off to Bangkok.
I booked a hotel between Chinatown and the Chao Praya river.
Today 5 February is the start of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Pig.
Yaowarat Road, the main street in Bangkok’s Chinatown was made completely traffic free for the occasion.

First I went to Wat Traimit Wittayaram Voraviharn. This temple is where the world’s biggest Golden Buddha , aged more than 700 years, is staying. The Buddha is 3 meters tall and weighs 5,5 tons.

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The biggest Golden Buddha in the world.
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Traimit Royal Temple by night

Food !
Food alone is more then enough reason to travel to Thailand. And you don’t need to go to fancy restaurants to enjoy the very best if it.

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My favorite Thai snack: Sweet mango with sticky rice

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Chinese New Year is nothing without their dragon shows of course.
They started late afternoon on the fifth and would go on in the evening and the same the day after.

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This is the second time I’m in Bangkok’s Chinatown during their new year. It’s also the second time I see the Thai Princess Sirindhorn in real life.
I would even see here two times today.  First I saw here in the afternoon at the entrance gate of Chinatown and later in the evening again on Yaowarat Road.
She had diner in the excellent Shanghai Mansion. I had to wait for two hours with the Thai people to see her.

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The gate to Chinatown
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People excited to see Princess Sirindhorn.
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Security on Yaowarat Road for the visit of the Princess. She’s having diner in the Shanghai Mansion just to the right in the picture.
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Shanghai Mansion.
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Crowded Yaowarat Road after the Princess’ visit.

Below some more pictures of the festivities and food stalls in Chinatown.

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Back streets of Chinatown
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Street performer (singing Michael Jacksons’ Beat it).

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Kuan Yim Shrine at Yaowarat Road

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Donkey playing the guitars 🙂
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View to the Chao Praya River from the roof top of the River View Guesthouse.
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Bangkok
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Green curry chicken, always a topper.
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There was a dragon show where they had to dance on these little platforms.  A movie clip here below.
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Lonely, hungry kitten.

I only had three days in the city this time but for sure I will come back again. And for sure I am planning an extended visit of a month or so in town again.
Bangkok is now the most visited city in the world with 20 million visitors a year, ahead of London and Paris. (source: most visited cities )
And rightfully so.