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.
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
concrete piles, each driven to 65 meter into the ground with a 5 meter thick mat over the top. At the time of completion in 1997 it was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world.
You can visit the 77th and the 84th floor to admire the spectacular views.
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:
I took smaller back roads from Chiang Rai towards the Mekong River, passing villages like Ban Mae Paeng and Ban Than Sat.
Ban Sob Ruak is where I actually saw the Mekong River again. It is the epicenter of Mekong tourism in Thailand, called the Golden Triangle, the point where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. The bus loads of tourists here, I know them from the past. What really susprised me is the complete new city that is being built at the Laos side of the border. Multiple high rises, all hotels and casino’s for Chinese and Thai with enough $$$.
We took a boat trip on the Mekong and visited the Laos side but it has zero charm and has nothing to do with what Laos really is.
Leaving the mayhem of Ban Sob Ruak behind (but not after we had an excellent lunch at a small local restaurant in the north of the town), I followed the river down stream towards Chiang Khong.
We continued going south, close to the river. First to Doi Pha Tang viewpoint with its General Lee Memorial pavillion and a nice sitting Buddha.
For the next attraction we had to stretch our legs a bit: climbing up to the famous Phu Chi Fa. From the top of the cliff, you have an incredible view towards the Mekong Valley and over Laos. Most people go there for sunrise, so it’s better to go in the afternoon when all is quiet.
From Chiang Khong, I rode via Phu Sang & Doi Phu Kha National Parks to Ban Sop Bong. Doi Phu Kha is the highest point in the province of Nan (2.000 m)
Some different temples from small villages in Nan province below:
Upon leaving Ban Sop Bong and riding through a small village, I stumbled upon a fantastic little, white temple, totally devoid of tourists.
For the fourth time I visited Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukhothai.
One of the most famous temples of Sukhothai is Wat Si Chum. Inside is a giant Buddha, Phra Atchana. King Bhumibol ordered renovations of the temple, which were done in 1952.
A small last update about the last days in Bangkok to follow soon.
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.
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.
A must see when you are in Chiang Mai is Wat Doi Suthep, about 15 km outside the city in the surrounding hills.
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.
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.
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.
Next day, I was queuing 3 hrs before we were supposed to fly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below some more pictures of the festivities and food stalls in Chinatown.
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.