Joe's Travels - Round the World 2003

 Diary - Week 1
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Week 2 (Fri 21st Feb - Thu 27th Feb)
Week 3 (Fri 28th Feb - Thu 6th Mar)
Week 4 (Fri 7th Mar - Thu 13th Mar)
Week 5 (Fri 14th Mar - Thu 20th Mar)
Week 6 (Fri 21st Mar - Thu 27th Mar)
Week 7 (Fri 28th Mar - Thu 3rd Apr)
Week 8 (Fri 4th Apr - Thu 10th Apr)
Week 9 (Fri 11th Apr - Tue 15th Apr)

Thursday 13th February - flight London to Singapore

 Singapore Airlines 747

After all the news this week regarding plans to target aircraft taking off from Heathrow I must say I wasn’t particularly looking forward to flying from there, but very little was different from normal. Just two military vehicles and a few extra police were visible outside Terminal 3, whilst inside I didn’t see anything at all unusual.

Our flight departed a little late just before 1900. Many people had told me that Singapore Airlines are excellent and I would certainly agree - our 747 was very smart with a new seatback entertainment system giving you the choice of 25 movies on demand plus many audio CDs, games and Flightpath – showing the plane’s location at all times, together with altitude, speed and estimated arrival time.


Friday 14th February - flight London to Singapore then on to Bangkok

12 hrs 20 mins later we were in Singapore, arriving on time at 1515 local time (8 hours ahead of GMT). The temperature was around 30°C but we were soon on another 747 heading back towards Bangkok, for a flight of just under 2 hours arriving at 1710 local time, 1 hour behind Singapore.

Getting a taxi at Bangkok airport was far from easy at this time of day, especially at rush hour on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend. Eventually we were off, and heading along the tollway towards the city centre, however the traffic put paid to our driver’s desire for speed and the use of all three lanes at once. For at least 30 mins we didn’t move more than 100m whilst trapped in a particularly bad jam. Eventually we were on the move again and reached the apartment where we were meeting friends nearly 2 hours after leaving the airport! We are staying at the “luxury residence” Park Suanplu (www.parksuanplu.com) - a smart tower block with very well appointed rooms, a health club on the 5th floor and very friendly doormen and receptionists. We have a suite with large sitting room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and small kitchen – all this for 3,000 baht (£46) per night shared between four! The views over Bangkok from our 16th floor room are great.

Later that evening we went to the superb Ad Makers restaurant on Langsuan – live music, plenty of beer and fantastic food. Everything we ate was delicious (having decided to avoid both the pig’s neck and the sun-dried worm shells).


Saturday 15th February - Bangkok

 Grand Palace

A very hot day with the temperature reaching around 35°C. We took the Skytrain from Sala Daeng to National Stadium (20 baht for 3 stops). From here we visited the amazingly beautiful and peaceful Jim Thompson’s house. Following this we risked our lives once more taking a taxi to the Grand Palace – probably the most amazing sight we’ve visited in Bangkok. We then took in the sights, sounds and smells of a nearby market. There’s no doubt that Bangkok is a real assault on the senses – especially smell! There are frequent whiffs of delicious food and drains in roughly equal proportions throughout the city. Colourful flowers are everywhere, hanging from walls as well as in parks and gardens

In the evening we walked to the night market in Patpong 1 and later had an excellent meal. Even a really good quality Thai meal at a renowned restaurant with 4 or 5 beers each costs just 400 baht (£6). For a lover of Thai food this city is quite amazing.

We finished off the evening with a boogie and a few more beers at Ministry of Sound - 300 baht (£4.60) entry - which by Thai standards is quite pricey. A great atmosphere, lasers and friendly bouncers, but unfortunately a hard house night which was not quite what we had hoped for. Quite surprisingly, it was not terribly busy. Gave up about 0100.


Sunday 16th February - Bangkok

 River in Bangkok

Another scorching day with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s C. We took a taxi to Wat Pho, another temple that’s definitely worth a visit, and housing the reclining Buddha (46m long and 15m high). After this we took a boat from Tha Chang pier to Tha Orental – a wonderful way to experience another side to Bangkok, and see some of the houses that dangle precariously just above the water’s edge. Despite being very crowded these boats cover the distance pretty quickly and are a comfortable way to travel. After a short walk we took the Skytrain from Saphan Taksin to Sala Daeng.

In the evening we ate at the nearby Shenanigans Irish pub, then took a túk-túk to the recently-opened Suan Lum night bazaar (www.thainightbazaar.com) where we browsed the market stalls and had a beer before returning to the apartment on another túk-túk.


Monday 17th February - Bangkok to Pak Chong

An exceptionally hot day – the car thermometer showed 39°C during the journey from Bangkok to Pak Chong. About a 2 hour drive northeast of Bangkok – arriving mid-afternoon. Saw a couple of huge geckos on the outside wall of our friends' house – and there are several small lizards on the inside walls too!

Went about 20 mins down the road for dinner to an excellent restaurant (the Khao Yai Villa), where we ate outside, but undercover. Had a fantastic Thai meal, with 2 beers each for 250 baht (£4). The resident cat took a huge interest in my White Snapper. We also had thai green curry, red curry, chicken with cashew nuts and a few other delicious dishes.


Tuesday 18th February - Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

 In Khao Yai National Park

Up at 0630 and our friends dropped us off at Khao Yai Garden Lodge, just down the road. We then set off on a full-day trek in Khao Yai National Park at about 0830. We travelled to, and around, the park in the back of an open-top pickup truck. The cost of the whole day was 850 baht (£13). Apart from us there were also 3 very pleasant couples, aged about the same as us, from Cologne, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Our guide, who was determined to show us everything possible, took us on three separate treks throughout the park during the day, travelling between each one in the pickup truck.

The first trek was through some quite dense jungle, seeing a variety of trees and an eagle overhead. We could frequently hear gibbons calling out above us, but never saw them! The temperature was bearable within the undergrowth, but once out in the open it was baking hot.

We stopped off near the visitor centre about 1200 and caught sight of a couple of giant squirrels in the trees above.

The second trek was the hardest, starting off on the path overlooking the Hew Suwat waterfall (used in the film “The Beach”), then down to the river and along the gorge, crossing the river at several places. Saw great hornbills and thousands of beautiful huge butterflies. We returned the same way and stopped by one large waterfall for a swim. The water temperature was lovely.

Had lunch at a small place in the middle of the park – not a high-quality meal but very edible and just 70 baht (just over £1) for the two of us including drinks. Saw a monitor lizard (about 6 feet long) and sambar deer nearby.

Our guide asked if we needed to be back by 1400-1500 which was the original plan and when we said no, he decided to continue the trip for the rest of the day! We then drove a long way (at least 30 kms) and en route to the next trek starting point we saw lots of monkeys sitting alongside the road, and up in the trees.

The third trek was about 2 kms walk to the Haew Narok waterfall – then 185 steps down to the best viewing point. Back up again to the top, from where there are superb views down the long valley below. Also saw a number of colourful birds in the trees.

Went out for another good Thai meal in the evening.


Wednesday 19th February - Pak Chong, Thailand

 Joe and ManLan on an elephant

Just down the road from our friends' house is The Jungle House where there are a number of captive elephants, as well as ostriches, a turtle, peacock and lots of chickens running around. We started the morning with an elephant trek for ½ hour. Our elephant was 35 years old and very obedient and incredibly sure-footed. We trekked through the forest, along the river and back to the Jungle House, where we then fed bananas to the elephants – and one of the guides put a harmonica in the trunk of one of the elephants, which then proceeded to play it and dance (as only elephants can).

Had lunch in Pak Chong at the Riverside restaurant, then visited the market – a wonderful experience seeing all the food, flowers and hustle and bustle. Not being a touristy place at all, we were the only westerners around – all the market traders were incredibly friendly and smile a lot. A sign showed the temperature as 40°C.

In the evening we went to the Texas Saloon restaurant in Pak Chong – all things cowboy reside here, in fact according to a sign behind the bar “If you ain’t a cowboy, you ain’t shit” – so now you know! Food was excellent by the way.


Thursday 20th February – My birthday – Thailand & Singapore

Had a leisurely morning then set off towards Bangkok. On the way we stopped off to look at a huge white Buddha on a hillside. Temperature 35°C today so we didn’t climb up to the Buddha.

Flight to Singapore on a Singapore Airlines 777 left at 1540 and arrived in Singapore at 1845 local time (1 hour ahead of Bangkok). Caught a taxi to friends who live close to the middle of Singapore. They presented me with a delicious fresh mango birthday cake soon after we arrived!

In the evening we went to the cafes just below the apartment and had a lovely meal in a very traditional atmosphere – beef noodles, and chicken and beef satay sticks with spicy peanut sauce. Mmm, yummy! Wonderful smells of garlic, ginger and spices all around us.

 

Jump to: Week 2 (Fri 21st Feb - Thu 27th Feb)