Posts Tagged With: buddha

May 27th – Day 8 – Monks, Caves and Coffee

This morning we met at 5:20am, before sunrise, which meant a 4:30 alarm (followed by a 4:35 alarm, a 4:40 alarm, a 4:45 alarm and a cold shower…). The reason for our early rising? Today we were to give Alms to the monks who live at the various temples around Luang Prabang.

The daily ritual is the way that the monks in the area receive food and gifts from the local community. Every morning at sunrise the monks walk a route around the city with collection baskets and locals give gifts of sticky rice, crackers and sometimes treats. It’s something of a tourist event now, but there were still plenty of locals continuing the tradition even in down-season.

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Our 5:20am walk

We headed quickly from our hotel to the Main Street, around a 5 minute walk, and took our seats on some small plastic stools. By each stool was a large basket of sticky rice, provided by GAdventures as part of the tour.  Shortly after we sat down, the first of 5 temples worth of monks began walking past us.  Dek instructed us in how to create balls of sticky rice and place them into the donation baskets. The rice was incredibly hot, which made it difficult to handle, but it was an amazing experience to provide for the monks who live their lives from donations.

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The monks arrive at sunrise

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Prepped and ready at 5:30

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Me, giving alms

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The procession of monks

In total 5 temples passed us in the space of about 15 minutes, and a lot of the experience for me was reflection on the life of a monk – taking their spirituality into mind and understanding more about how much it means to them that these traditions continue.

After giving alms, Dek led us through the local market in Luang Prabang where we were warned we would see a lot of unusual products. This market was really for local people, not like the tourist markets we’d been shown so far. As I mentioned yesterday, Laos people are really resourceful when it comes to food and eat pretty much whatever is going in the area – and that included a lot of fish (in various states of disembodiment), snakes, lizards, bags of animal blood and animal bile, snails, frogs and a thousand other things you wouldn’t expect to find as food! It was really interesting to consider how much these people take from their resources which we would normally disgard or not consider as part of our diet. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to pick and choose what we eat, but we are also incredibly wasteful.

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Some stuff was actually packaged

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Chillis of all types

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Some sort of lizard for sale at the market

With our stomachs now rumbling even though it was only 7am, we were offered a chance to try Lao coffee – a local speciality which is prepared with condensed milk at the bottom of a glass followed by strong thick coffee poured on top.  It was served to us outside of a local coffee shop, with a small fried doughnut in an H shape for 6000 kip – less than $1.

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Lao coffee

Just after the coffee, we headed back to the hotel for real breakfast before preparing to leave at 8am for our next adventure.

At 8 we got onto the minibus to head upstream – this was the easier option of two we were given (the other one involved an extra 90 minutes on a boat floating upstream).  The 30 minute drive gave us all a chance for a short nap before we arrived at what was described as a rice whiskey village. This was a local village by the edge of the water where tourist boats stop and the locals sell their rice whiskey, as well as other hand made products – I bought a terrible hat (to match my terrible hat from Peru) but avoided trying the rice whiskey which had scorpions soaking in it (to add to the flavour, or just to make it look scary – I couldn’t really tell!)

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Rice Whiskey lady

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Styling out my new weave/Burberry $3 hat

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Snake rice whiskey

Once the locals had finished convincing us to buy things, we boarded our boat and started a short 30 minute trip on the river to our destination – the Pak Ou Caves.

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Our boat

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River photo

These caves are famous for housing over 2500 Buddha statues, a sort of cave temple I guess. The caves are split into two – the lower cave is easily accessible from our boat and the upper cave is a few hundred steps up the hill.  I decided to do both, and it was really spectacular. The lower cave is well lit and interesting, but the upper cave was pitch black and meant I needed a head torch to see all the statues. Jaqueline and I explored and felt like we were in something out of an Indian Jones movie. It was so hot at the top having climbed the stairs, I was glad to get back down and drink some cool water on the return boat ride to Luang Prabang.

The boat ride back took about an hour but we landed right in the centre of Luang Prabang, just behind the Royal Palace Museum. It was a short bus ride back to the hotel and we were able to relax for the rest of the day.

First on my priority list was a massage which I took in the hotel spa.  It wa a little more expensive than the massage places in town, but still only $20 for an hour!

My stomach wasn’t feeling so good so I opted to just make a short trip to the store and bought some snack foods to have in my room before napping and sleeping off my funny tummy. After all, I had woken up at 4:30!

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My snacks

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May 22nd – Day 3 – Chinese, Canal trip and Chiang Mai

The adventure has officially begun! Today I woke about 6:45 ready for adventures and after a quick shower, headed down for breakfast. In honesty I hadn’t slept well the night before – it turns out that turning off your air conditioning in a country where the ambient temperature is upward of 25c outside isn’t such a good idea.

Breakfast was, like most hotels, a buffet style but in Thailand this buffet included curried vegetables, rice and soups – although I initially stuck with the conventional yoghurt and cereal, followed by some French toast, potatoes, an egg and I did brave some curried vegetables (which were pretty good!).  I also had some amazing fresh pineapple juice, and some terrible tea. I ate breakfast with Karl, since Petra didn’t want breakfast and it was nice to get to know someone in the group a bit more.

Breakfast

After breakfast I went to my room and jammed all my stuff into my bag before meeting the group in the lobby. I have a pretty small bag compared to most people – all the Canadians have tons of luggage, only Jaqueline has a smaller bag than me, so I feel pretty good about how much stuff I’ve brought (I was really worried about this before the trip).

My bag is really reasonable in comparison to others

We loaded the bags onto 2 minivans and travelled over to the Grand Palace, our first stop for the day. The minivans are ours for the day which is great because we can leave all our luggage with the drivers whilst we go explore – I didn’t think twice about this but some others seemed concerned about leaving their bags with the drivers.  Maybe I’m too relaxed, or maybe I should really worry a bit more?

The Grand Palace opens at 8:30 and we got there pretty much bang on time (good score, GAdventures).  Unfortunately it seemed like the entire population of China also got there for 8:30. This place was CRAZY, it was busier than Disneyland at opening time.  In fact it reminded  me a lot of Disneyland – without the rides.  Lots of tour guides waving flags and babbling in foreign tongues whilst people shove and jostle to get through ridiculous security procedures that involve tying a piece of yellow twine around your bag to prove it is safe.

Busier than Disneyland!

There were so many people at the Grand Palace that it was actually fairly uncomfortable – I’m not great in crowds and this was one of the busiest places I’ve ever been.  We queued to go through security and then had a short wait whilst Dek (our CEO) picked up our tickets and then joined another queue (no, a crush – there was nothing orderly about this one) to get through the turnstiles and into the palace.

Once we finally made it through the crush, Dek took us to a shady spot (it was already over 30c at 9am!) to describe some of the history of the Grand Palace and it’s many buildings.  The palace has a lot of Hindu styling which surprised me since Thailand is a mostly Buddhist country but a lot of the Royal history is Hindu and the practices follow a combination of both cultures.  To say that the palace is beautiful is to do it an injustice – this place is quite seriously one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. There were whole buildings decorated in gold, others with ornate sculptures and carvings, and incredible murals and paintings too.

The amazing view as you enter the palace

This building is made entirely of gold mirror tiles, like a giant abstract gold mirror ball

A close up of the giant mirror ball tiles

Another angle on the giant mirror ball building

Dek, our CEO and Thailand guide

Phra Si Ratana

Amazing carving and sculptures too

The lines of the buildings are so beautiful

The symbolism here is amazing

Another incredible statue

This is where the Emerald Buddha lives, but cameras are forbidden inside

The official highlight of the trip is a chance to see the Emerald Buddah (actually made of Jade) which is housed in an oppulant building of it’s own which you have to remove your shoes to go into.  Dek stayed to guard our shoes, and we proceeded to push our way through the throngs of Chinese to get into the temple to see this famous Buddah. It was really an interesting experience, and the Buddah looked good, but there were an unnecessary amount of people and photography wasn’t permitted, so you’ll just have to believe me on that one.
After the Emerald Buddah, the crowds thinned a bit as we headed into the more modern section of the palace with the latest buildings added in the 1850s – these were built in European or Western style, but with Thai roofs – quite a neat mixture.  We timed it perfectly to hit the changing of the guard procession, and got to see the white uniformed guards following a drummed march off duty.

Chakri Mahaprasat

Beautiful temple, possibly my favourite so far

Changing of the guard

It’s clear that the monarchy in Thailand is still very important to the country, and (unlike in the UK) they seem very proud and happy with their King.  We finishes the tour with a quick chat about the funeral processes in Thailand which involve cremation and spreading of ashes to the earth and water, following the Buddhist principles of returning the physical body to the elements whilst the spirit/soul moves on to it’s next life. Apparently some people get buried with something they want to have in their next life – money, nice clothes, etc are common but occasionally people will go with a car or something else they’re attached to!

After the end of the tour there was a request from the group for a toilet, which seemed to be lacking in the actual complex of the Grand Palace.  Our guide popped us back on the minibus and we headed towards the river, our next stop – where he discovered that the toilets were closed.  No problem – a bit of chatting away in Thai with locals and he was pointed to the university building down the street, where we processed like a group of school children on excursion before invading the university cafeteria building for a quick pee break. The university building actually had a small exhibit showing the old city wall and some bits and pieces which were found in the canal/river next to their site.

Dek on a Deck

Once everyone was suitably refreshed we headed down to the river to board a long tail boat for our river trip.  The purpose of this trip was not to see the major sites, but to see some of the other parts of Bangkok – including the houses which literally border to the river.  These people live their whole lives around the river, even their bin lorries (garbage trucks) float up and collect the bags from the edge of the water.

We saw a lot of interesting sites on this trip, including a water monitor (lizard) which made everyone quite excited, and a huge variety of standards of living from almost collapsed buildings to luxury waterside properties.  I think the highlight for everyone was when a old lady in a canoe floated up and sold us beers (ice cold) in the middle of the river. Clearly a tourist trap, but a great experience too!

Our boat arriving

Boat Selfie

Steve took my photo too

One of the grander places on the river side

The boat trip finished fairly quickly and then we jumped back on our mini bus to head to the airport – a trip of about 45 minutes.  The airport in Bangkok really is streamlined – check in was smooth (although some of the party had problems with overweight luggage) and security also simple (again, others had liquids in their hand luggage and other issues – being a frequent flier is paying off!)

Once we made it through security we stopped at the ‘Food Stop’ for a spot of lunch. I bought a Pad Thai and a coke, which cost 255 baht (£5, $8) – not much to us, but REALLY expensive compared to most Thai food! The food was okay, nothing really special. After my food I decided to treat myself (and our CEO) to a Krispy Kreme doughnut – after all, it’s a holiday! It’s Mango season in Thailand and as a result, they had special Mango doughnuts – I chose a Mango Twirl and a coffee, and together with a doughnut for our CEO, it cost 178 baht (£3.50, $5).

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Pad Thai at the airport

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Krispy Kreme Mango Twirl


The group dynamic was a bit weird at this point – a few people chose to sit apart from the rest of us. I think it’s going to take a while to bond with everyone!

Whilst we were waiting, Dek (our CEO) talked about the options for the ‘free choice’ day in Chiang Mai. I was really interested in doing something called the Flight of the Gibbon which is a zip lining adventure course near Chiang Mai which I had read about.  Dek told me that there are lots of competitive options there, and recommended a different company, called Dragon Flight, which is cheaper and better in his opinion.  He showed me their website and it does look pretty good – I think i’ll trust his local knowledge and save myself 1000 baht! The course has 47 platforms, 26 zip lines and the longest zip line is 800 meters – can’t wait!

We headed to our gate (B8, if you’re keeping track) to board our flight (WE164, with Thai Smile airlines). It was a small bus gate but since the plane was also small, that wasn’t really a problem. The plane was a Airbus A320-200, and the flight was short and uneventful – although they did present us with a funny bag snack pack containing a bottle of water and what looked like it was meant to be a Tuna sandwich.

Obligatory plane selfie

Obligatory plane selfie

Bag of food, our 'smile meal'

Bag of food, our ‘smile meal’

Water and a suspect tuna sandwich

Water and a suspect tuna sandwich

As we came in to approach Chiang Mai, it was clear we were in a completely different region of Thailand – where Bangkok had been hot and flat, Chiang Mai was green and hilly.  I asked Dek and he confirmed that Chiang Mai is about 330m above sea level.  Chiang Mai means New City, but it’s also centered around an area called Old Town, so it’s quite a juxtaposition to get your head around.

In Chiang Mai we only had one van, so with all our luggage it was really full when we all got in! Luckily the journey to the hotel was short! During the van trip, Dek briefed us on the stay in Chiang Mai and what our plan was.

Backpacking! (And front packing)

Backpacking! (And front packing)

Tight pack on the van

Tight pack on the van

Nice hotel!

Nice hotel!

Our hotel in Chiang Mai is really nice – the Empress Chiang Mai.  I have a nice sized room and we got around 2 hours to sort ourselves out before meeting at 7pm to head out to the Sunday Night Market, which is a huge attraction in Chiang Mai. Before our meeting I headed down to the hotel bar to use my ‘welcome drink’ voucher, which was presented to me- a glass of what tasted like apple juice… Not that exciting!

As we got ready to meet at 7pm, a bit of drama happened when one of the Canadians got their credit card stuck in an ATM and our CEO had to run to the rescue.  It all ended up okay, but they seemed really stressed by it – understandably.

We took a red truck ride to the Sunday Market. The red trucks in Chiang Mai are great – they’re like a cross between a taxi and a bus. You get on and pay almost nothing (20 baht – £0.40, $0.50) for your ride, and the driver takes you there but he also stops and picks up other people and goes wherever they want to go too.  Because we were 9 people, we got our own truck for just 180 baht.

Our red truck to the market

Our red truck to the market

The Night Market is huge, and crazy busy – tons and tons of stalls line the streets of the old town. They shut all the streets to traffic, so it’s just people walking around shopping and lots of food stalls.  The primary focus of this market is hand made and craft stalls – locals make things and bring them down to sell. I bought a couple of trinkets, but since my backpack is pretty tight already resisted the urge to go crazy and buy a ton of things.  During the market we got split apart as a group by the sheer volume of people, so I ended up on my own which was actually great as I got to go explore a few temples and food stall areas alone.

Sunday Night Market

Sunday Night Market

A temple at night. There are over 300 temples in the old town of Chiang Mai.

A temple at night. There are over 300 temples in the old town of Chiang Mai.

Hand made crafts

Hand made crafts

Glass blowing

Glass blowing

Everywhere you are in the world, there is Starbucks. I didn't try it.

Everywhere you are in the world, there is Starbucks. I didn’t try it.

The market was really colourful

The market was really colourful

Colourful elephants

Colourful elephants

Neat little lamp. If I had space in my bag, this guy would come back with me.

Neat little lamp. If I had space in my bag, this guy would come back with me.

When I got bored of the market, I decided to walk back to the hotel – about a 40 minute walk. Dek had provided us all with maps and the route is really simple, and it gave me a chance to see more of the city. I really like Chiang Mai – it’s small and friendly and not hot and noisy and crazy like Bangkok.

Back in the hotel, I bought a 50baht internet voucher and sent a few reassuring texts home before heading to bed. We have a 9am start tomorrow for our cooking adventure!

Want to read part 4? It’s here!

Categories: South East Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

May 21st – Day 2 – Bangkok, Buddha and Sweat

We resume our story much as we left off – on a Boeing 777 somewhere over the middle of the journey.  Truth is I didn’t sleep that much, a few hours and then some in and out of sleep tossing and turning on the plane as we approched Bangkok.  The seats on the BA long haul 777s are pretty reasonable but I was longing for a Premium Economy seat by the time we approached Bangkok.  I’m kind of out of practice with the long haul flights now and 11 hours felt really really long… But finally we approached and were served a standard airline breakfast of Omelette, Tomato, Baked Beans and some mystery passion fruit cereal yoghurt thing which looked, tasted and felt weird (yes, even the texture was blurgh).  Before long we were on approach to Bangkok and I got quite excited seeing all the cities on the trip appearing on the in-flight map – spotting Chaing Mai, Siem Reap and Hanoi made me realise the adventure really was about to begin.

Classic airline breakfast


Mmm, appetising


Getting close!

Once we landed in Bangkok the plane taxi’d really quickly to the gate and amazingly we walked a short distance to the immigration which had virtually no queue. I’ve become familiar with immigration processes in many different countries and had anticipated some hassle entering Thailand as I did not have a visa (UK Passport holders don’t need one) – but shockingly the guy just scanned my passport and landing card and stamped it and handed it back – the whole process took less than a minute and immediately after the passport control we were presented with the baggage carousel, which was already rolling with the Priority luggage. I didn’t have priority luggage (boo, I miss my premium status!) but my bag came out within 15 minutes of us landing in Bangkok. If anyone has ever immigrated to well, basically any country, they’ll know that this is a CRAZY short amount of time for the clearing process. I was in shock!

I headed out of the ‘Nothing to Declare’ lane all ready to spot my G-adventures sign and being my adventure. And then… There was nobody. Well, that’s not quite true… There were LOTS of companies looking to pick up their tour guests and ferry them onto their adventure, but nobody from G-adventures.  Did I screw up? Did I forget to give them my flight details? Did I give them the wrong date? Should I phone them and find out where they are? What do you do in this situation?? I have to admit that I was a bit panicked by it…. But tried to remain calm and double, triple, quadruple checked that my name wasn’t on ANY of the boards by the exit gate. It wasn’t.

Hmm…  I decided to wait it out, and hung around, looking suspicious by the exit gate, when I spotted an equally bamboozled looking person with a G-adventures paperwork in their hand.  I headed over and asked and yes, she was also looking for G-adventures… Okay, good, so it’s not just me!

We panicked together for a few minutes before a friendly tour operator from another company came over and asked who we were looking for.  We told her G-Adventures and she pointed us to ‘Door 4’ – we had no idea, but we were at door 1… About 500m from where we needed to be! Thank you tour operator lady – I’m not sure what we would have done had you not popped up and helped us!

We made our way down and were relieved to find a lady in a bright purple ‘GAdventures’ t-shirt who told us to go sit down and wait. Hmm. Okay.  Anyway, it gave us time to talk and I got to know Louise, who is a student in Bath and just finished a year in industry working in London.  We chatted – she’s on a different tour, hopping the islands in Thailand and snorkelling and doing generally relaxing things, which sounds awesome but definitely not the same as my temple packed adventure.

Did I mention yet that Thailand is really hot? Because even in the airport, we could feel it and I headed over to a touristy store in the airport and bought myself a 35 baht bottle of water.  Little did I know that this was THE most overpriced water – 35 baht is about 70p ($0.50) and even that felt super cheap compared to the UK!

Louise and I were eventually herded into a GAdventures car and told we’d be dropped off at our respective hotels.  Since neither of us had any plans during the first day, I suggested to Louise that we regroup after our post-flight showers and buddy up for the day to go be tourists together.  She was thankful, since she really didn’t have any plans, and we exchanged numbers (although stupidly, not names – I think I’m still stored in her phone as GAdventures guy).

I checked into the hotel and was given a room key, together with the information that I’d received a free upgrade to a suite! GAdventures pricing policy is that everyone shares rooms, but glancing over the passenger list posted in the hotel reception I quickly realised that I was likely the only single guy on the trip – and this I was confirmed when I go to the room and it had only one double bed – win! Another trip with GAdventures where I get a free ‘single room’ status! On this trip, that’s a saving of £750!!

Suite! Sweet!


Double bed… win!


Not gunna make much use of the kitchen!

A short shower later and a few texts and I was back in a Taxi (arranged by the hotel) to Louise’s hotel, where we met and began our adventure. We decided to walk around and try to get a feel for the area surrounding the Central Station – mainly China Town it turns out, which was really interesting and fun to see. We walked quite a long way, exploring little back streets and figuring out how to cross the roads (suicide run seems about the only option!) before stopping off in a small shopping mall food court for lunch, where we ordered Thai food – I had Tofu and Basil with Rice, which cost 40 baht (80p, $1.00)!  It was amazingly cheap and pretty good for the price.  I also had a iced coffee and some water – much needed as we had already been out in the Bangkok heat for a good couple of hours by this point. It was around 33c and humid as hell, and we were both sweating like the just-arrived unacclimatised tourists that we were.  Louise bought a pair of Elephant trousers to enable her to visit the temples with relatively cool legs, and we were both shocked that they cost 150 baht (£1.50!).

Tofu and Basil, Iced Coffee and a water, and change from 100 baht (£2)


Street market in China Town

As you probably guessed, our next step was to find a temple. We had literally just planned to find any old temple but managed to stumble upon Wat Pho, the home of the reclining Buddha and many many many other Buddha statues too.  A 100baht entrance fee (£2) got us in, and we spent a happy couple of hours exploring the amazing sight of so many gold Buddhas all in one place.  There we small Buddhas, big buddhas and the biggest Buddha of them all, the reclining Buddha.  It would have been nice to have a guided tour of the place, since we were pretty much guessing and taking photos, but still it was an amazing place.  I couldn’t believe the colour and vibrancy of it all, with such beautiful architecture and decor in amongst the fairly dusty dirty city just outside of the walls.  Below are some photos from Wat Pho – in no particular order and with no particular sense, since I didn’t really understand all the significance.  Time to get out my guidebook and read!

Some of the many buddhas


Amazing, vibrant buildings. My guidebook says these are the Royal Chedi, built in the Ratanakosin style and the 4 of them represent the first four kings of the Chakri dynasty. So now you know!

I really can’t ca[ture just how beautiful the decor is here, and the statues

Everywhere you turned, more icons


Buddha with snake headrest


Phra Buddha, Deva Patimakorn. His pedestal contains the ashes of Rama I and the statue was given to the temple by the king of the time.


Obligatory cheesy photo. I look so hot here, it was seriously hot outside. Love my stylish grandad trousers too.


The reclining buddha, plus me, and a monk in the background. This is huge!


More Chadi, I really like this photo – it’s how I want to remember the first day.

Feeling like expert tourists to have found such an amazing place, Louise and I decided we’d had enough exploring for day 1 and we should probably head back to our hotels so that I could freshen up before the welcome meeting, scheduled for 6pm. Our initial thought was to grab a taxi, but after trying 4 taxis and coming up dry on a good one (word has it that you should never get into a taxi in Bangkok which refuses to run on the meter), we settled on the idea of getting a Tuk-Tuk.  Our logic was that if we were going to get ripped off, we may as well make a life experience of it! And what a fun life experience it was – bouncing around the streets of Bangkok on this crazy Tuk-Tuk for 150 baht to get back to Louise’s hotel before I then battled and failed to find a taxi willing to take me to my hotel on the meter and ended up spending another 100 baht to do the short 10 minute ride to my hotel.  Anyway, I made it back to my hotel in one piece and for that I was pretty thankful!

Our Thailand tuk-tuk


Tuk Tuk ride selfie!

A quick recharge of the camera battery, shower and unpack of the essentials and I was back downstairs at 6pm for the welcome meeting. After a short wait in the lobby I introduced myself to the group who I will be touring with over the next few weeks:

  • Dek – our Chief Experience Officer (CEO) from gAdventures
  • Steve, Yvonne, Fred and Carol – two married couples from Victoria, Canada
  • Karl and Petra – a married couple from South Africa (Petra is German and Karl is Canadian)
  • Jaqueline – a student from Colordao, USA

The make up of the group is really similar than the one I had in Peru, although the age dynamic is a little different – in Peru we were all age 25-30 whereas here we spread between 19 and 50+.  That’s fine though, we seem to be getting along okay!

Dek, our CEO, called us together and suggested that rather than sit in the hotel and do a briefing, we should go somewhere to see a bit of Bangkok whilst we talked. He told us there was a sky bar near our hotel, about a 10 minute walk and we all concurred that this was a great idea, although many of the others then had to head back to their hotel rooms to grab money or deposit passports and other valuables.  I seem to be the most relaxed on the trip when it comes to my baggage and valuables, although I’m listening to their advice and tucking things away a bit more than I normally would.

Meet and Greet at the Sky Bar


Amazing View of Bangkok


The Bangkok Skyline

So, our first outing as a group was a quick walk to the Sky Bar near the hotel – hidden away in what looked like an office building, we reached Cloud47.  It’s an outdoors sky bar but luckily the weather had held all day (I had feared the start of monsoon rains due to the crazy humidity).  What an amazing view! It’s hard to describe Bangkok since at this point I’d only really seen China Town and Wat Pho, but the view showed me all of the different areas, from the river right through to office buildings, and the city stretched as far as the eye could see.

We sat and talked through as a group the itinerary and Dek added a lot of useful titbits about Thailand, as well as the other countries we’ll visit on our trip. I hadn’t realised that both Laos and Vietnam are communist countries – 2 of only 5 in the world (the other 3 being Cuba, North Korea and China).  Dek is from North Thailand, quite near Chiang Mai (although he then told us it’s a 3 hour drive to Chiang Mai from his home, so I’m not sure I understand the Thai definition of Quite Near and will be watching out for that next time he tells us a bar is Quite Near our hotel!!).

After a really long but interesting presentation from Dek and filling out some required paperwork, we finally got to order a beer.  I wish we could have done that before the talk, because by this point I was REALLY thirsty with the humidity and heat, but it was well received when it came, along with the small dinner of vegetables in oyster sauce with rice which I ordered to go along with it. I like the Thai dining style – light meals and lots of vegetables, that works for me!

During dinner we chatted and go to know one another better – Karl and Petra are really interested in doing a GAdventures tour to Peru so they were very interested to hear a few brief stories about that, and Jaqueline has already been in Tokyo and Indonesia before arriving in Thailand for this tour, so it was interesting to hear a little of her stories as well.

As part of the briefing, Dek had informed us that we would be required to cover our legs during the visit to the Grand Palace tomorrow and this caused a bit of a stir from some of the group who hadn’t prepared for this – luckily nearby the Sky Bar is a night market which Dek happily showed us to and most of the group tagged along whilst people bought Elephant Pants (yes, those are a real thing, no they don’t make you look like an elephant – they have elephants printed on them, and no, I don’t know why!)

By now it was getting late, or at least it felt like it – it was only actually 9pm – but we headed back to the hotel (via some cockroaches and rats in the alleyways) before saying goodnight and arranging to meet between 7 and 8 for our 8am set-off tomorrow.

I headed to the room and forced myself to stay awake a coule of hours, in desperate hope that it would stave off jet lag and allow me to sleep through the night.  Eventually around 22:30 I headed to bed, and rested, excited for the first proper day of the tour tomorrow!

Read about day 3 here!

Categories: South East Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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