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Archive for January 2018

Six Days in Bangkok

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting Bangkok to be like, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. (If that makes any sense at all.) I guess I was expecting it to be more… Asian. Turns out that it’s a highly Westernized, cosmopolitan city that often feels a lot like somewhere in Europe or North America. At the same time though, everywhere you look there are beautiful, intricate Buddhist temples and other architectural wonders that could only be found in Asia. In short, I found Bangkok to be a nice balance between East and West.

My first full day in Bangkok was a Sunday, so I decided to visit the Chatuchak weekend market. Apparently it’s the largest weekend market in the world, and I kept reading over and over that it’s an absolute must-visit when in Bangkok.

The market certainly is large, with vendors selling nearly everything you could ever want. It would be impossible to walk down every aisle in a day. I’m not sure that I would want to though, to be honest, since after a while all of the stalls start to look the same. I wouldn’t classify Chatuchak market as an absolute must-see, but if you happen to be in Bangkok on a weekend you might as well check it out.

What I would classify as a must-see is Bangkok’s most popular tourist attraction, the Grand Palace. It’s the city’s #1 most visited sight for a reason. I know nothing about architecture, but I can say without a doubt that the buildings that make up the temple complex here are exquisite. You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering around and gazing in awe at the amazing craftsmanship on display. The price of admission is surprisingly steep (500 baht in January 2018, which is $20CAD), but I think it’s worth it. After all, you won’t have to pay that much for anything else in Bangkok!

Right beside the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, another one of Bangkok’s most famous temples. You might as well visit both temples on the same day, since they’re so close to each other. Like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a thing of incredible beauty.

Wat Arun, a third famous temple, is located directly across the river from Wat Pho. You can travel between the two via a very short and very cheap ferry ride. Keep in mind, however, that temple-hopping can be quite exhausting in Bangkok’s unrelenting heat. After seeing the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, I was too hot, sweaty, and tired to face the task of touring yet another temple, so I decided to save Wat Arun for the next day. I’m glad I saw all three temples though, because they’re all different and all stunning. Here’s Wat Arun for you:

If you feel like you need some green space after all that temple-hopping, take a stroll through Lumphini Park. It’s got a picturesque lake, a fancy clock tower, lots of cute stray cats, and even a population of monitor lizards!

Another worthwhile activity is taking a stroll through the city’s Chinatown. If markets are your thing, make sure you check out Sampeng Lane market. It’s a refreshingly untouristy attraction in a touristy city.

Chinatown is also home to Wat Traiwit, which houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha statue. It’s worth paying the 40 baht fee to pop inside and take a look. This thing weighs 5.5 tons!

As for nightlife, I’m sure you’ve heard about Khao San Road. Well, I can affirm that it’s just as crazy as you could hope, every night of the year. I had a couple of really great nights here, dancing in the street with people from my hostel. Don’t even think about missing a night out on Khao San Road if you visit Bangkok. I didn’t take any pictures of the street at night because I was too busy enjoying myself, but just know that it is LIT. Here’s what it looks like during the day:

Before I left for my trip, somebody told me that six days was too long to spend in Bangkok. I completely disagree with this; I felt like six days was a decent amount of time to spend there, but one more day would have been perfect. I had meant to take at least two day trips outside the city, but found that there was so much to do in Bangkok that I only had time for one. I chose to go to Erawan National Park, and I highly recommend anyone who visits Bangkok to do the same. The park’s claim to fame is its hiking trail that winds past seven tiers of waterfalls, each of them unique and absolutely gorgeous. If getting pretty Instagram photos is important to you, you should definitely visit Erawan National Park.

Getting to the park from Bangkok is easy, but just be aware that it makes for a loooooooong day trip. I left my hostel at 6:30AM and didn’t get back to the bus station in Bangkok until after 8:00PM. And I only spent three hours in the park. In order to get there, take a taxi to Bangkok’s southern bus station, Sai Tai Mai. From there, take a bus or a minivan to Kanchanaburi. (I took a minivan and it took just over two hours to get to Kanchanaburi. On the way back to Bangkok at the end of the day, I took a bus and the journey lasted 3.5 hours. Both the minivan and the bus cost me 100 baht each way.) When you arrive at the bus station in Kanchanaburi, take another bus straight to Erawan park (1.5 hours, 50 baht). Don’t worry about needing to figure out which bus to take, either in Bangkok or Kanchanaburi — the second you step out of your taxi or bus, you will be approached by people asking you where you are going, and they will point to the bus you need to take. Just buy a ticket from the ticket stand right in front of the bus and get on. Easy peasy.

There you have it. Bangkok is a great city that I liked a lot more than I thought I would. Tourism is huge there, so you can expect to find all the Western comforts that you’re used to at home. The city is crawling with backpackers from Europe, Australia, and North America, so you’ll meet plenty of people to have fun with.

Next stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand!

My Itinerary for 3 Months in Southeast Asia

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything. Since returning from my 3-month-long Europe trip at the end of August, my life has been just like that Rihanna song: work work work work work.

Well… work and trip planning, that is! I’m heading out in just over a week to spend almost three months in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. As you can imagine, I’m pretty friggin’ excited!

In true Jodie style, I have my entire itinerary planned out in detail and all my hostels booked, weeks before my plane takes off, even though conventional backpacker wisdom says to wing it and figure out your route as you go. (As I’ve said before, I like to have peace of mind knowing that I will have a bed to sleep in, in the hostel that I want, when I arrive in a new city.)

Here’s my painstakingly planned-out itinerary:

Jan. 19: Fly from Toronto to Bangkok (arrive Jan. 20)
Jan. 20-27: Bangkok
Jan. 27: Take the train to Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jan. 27-Feb. 2: Chiang Mai
Feb. 2: Take a minivan or “sawng teeo” to Pai, Thailand
Feb. 2-8: Pai
Feb. 8: Take a minivan or sawng teeo back to Chiang Mai, then fly to Bangkok to spend the night
Feb. 9: Fly to Hanoi, Vietnam
Feb. 9-18: Hanoi (Feb. 14-16 spent on the Castaways Island Tour in Halong Bay)
Feb. 18: Take the overnight sleeper train to Da Nang, Vietnam
Feb. 19: Take the bus to Hoi An, Vietnam
Feb. 19-26: Hoi An
Feb. 26: Take a bus back to Da Nang, then take the train to Nha Trang, Vietnam
Feb. 26-Mar. 2: Nha Trang
Mar. 2: Take the train to Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), Vietnam
Mar. 2-8: Ho Chi Minh City
Mar. 8: Take the bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Mar. 8-13: Phnom Penh
Mar. 13: Take the bus to Battambang, Cambodia
Mar. 13-17: Battambang
Mar. 17: Take the bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia
Mar. 17-23: Siem Reap
Mar. 23: Fly to Bangkok
Mar. 24: After arriving in Bangkok late at night, take the 6:00am bus from Khao San Road to Chumphon, Thailand, then take the ferry to the Thai island of Koh Tao
Mar. 24-28: Koh Tao
Mar. 28: Take the ferry to the nearby island of Koh Phangan
Mar. 28-Apr. 2: Koh Phangan (Full Moon Party on Mar. 31! Wooooooooo!)
Apr. 2: Take the ferry to the mainland, then take the bus to Ao Nang Beach in Krabi, Thailand
Apr. 2-6: Ao Nang
Apr. 6: Take the ferry to Koh Lanta
Apr. 6-11: Koh Lanta
Apr. 11: Take the ferry to Koh Phi Phi
Apr. 11-15: Koh Phi Phi
Apr. 15: Take the ferry to the island of Phuket
Apr. 15-19: Phuket
Apr. 19: Take a 14-hour bus ride back to Bangkok
Apr. 20: Catch my early-morning flight back to Toronto
Apr. 21: Touch down in T.O.

As for what I’m bringing with me, my packing list will be largely the same as the one I used for my Europe trip. The biggest difference is that I will be swapping out a few pairs of shorts in favour of long skirts and maxi dresses. One of the requirements for visiting temples and the like in Southeast Asia is to have your shoulders and knees covered. No way am I going to be one of those clueless tourists who turn up to Angkor Wat in a tank top and booty shorts!

I’m also excited to use the brand-new anti-theft bag that my mom gave me for Christmas. OK, so it’s not the most fashionable handbag ever, but it’s got slash-proof straps and body panels, as well as locking compartments. (If only I had had this bag when I was in Berlin last June, my passport wouldn’t have gotten stolen. Sigh.) It’s even got “RFID blocking slots” thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure exactly how those will come in handy for me, but hey! Cool!

southeast Asia

Locking zippers. Why doesn’t every handbag come with these?!

If you’re interested in purchasing this bag, here it is on Amazon:
Travelon Anti-Theft Signature 3-Compartment Crossbody

Looks like Travelon has tons of other anti-theft bags with varying designs, too, so you have lots to choose from.

As for me, I’ve just got a few odds and ends to tie up before I take off. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Thailand!