After our 7 nights in Phuket, we rode in a speedboat to Phi Phi island. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort. There was a nice pool and a few restaurants nearby selling good food. The breakfast (which was included as part of the package) was unbelievable! It was a buffet, but with everything and anything you can think of! They had the normal yoghurt, fruit and cereals and then they also had waffles with chocolate sauce and a lot of sushi! It was very quiet and relaxing on the island, almost a bit too quiet. We went snorkeling in the sea near the hotel where we got attacked by tiny little water-bugs that looked like tiny, white squares of jelly. They didn’t sting terribly sore but it was unpleasant. Phi Phi Island is very beautiful with soft, white sand and tall coconut trees – exactly how you would imagine an exotic island to look like.
It was only on the last day when we found out there were two sides to the island – the fun side and the other side, the more fancy side. We weren’t on the fun side. At least on our way back we got to spend a few hours on the fun side where there were much more people, a lot of little shops, lots of pretty boats and very cheap coconuts. We still really enjoyed our 2 nights on the island.
From Phi Phi we went back to Phuket where we flew to Bangkok. We now know why they call it the city that never sleeps. Who has time for sleeping when you are surrounding by colourful lights, millions of cars and tuk-tuks, trains, markets on streets and rivers, huge malls and tons of interesting food!?
The clothes were even cheaper in Bangkok than in Phuket. The price for a body massage was also cheaper. Marc was in his element in one of the 6 story IT malls. The whole mall was filled with computers, play-stations, watches and all kinds of gadgets. We also went to the China Town part of the city where we had no idea what anything was because there was no English written or spoken anywhere.
Thai people are short and petite so Marc towered above the crowd. I was about the same size as the Thai men. Bangkok, and actually the whole of Thailand, has a particular, slightly stinky smell. I think it might be because they have a different type of sewerage system than what we have and because it’s always incredibly hot. It’s not an extremely bad smell; it’s just a distinctive smell which is part of Thailand. Another thing which was strange for me was all the Buddha statues everywhere. There are big buddhas, small buddhas, giant buddhas, reclining buddhas and gold buddhas. By any Buddha there is often food and red cool drink in plastic drinking glasses around the statue which is an offering to Buddha. I’m not sure who ends up drinking this holy drink.
A longtail boat took us along the Chao Phraya River passed tall buildings, hospitals, a golden Buddha and many houses. The houses are built on the water’s edge, virtually on top of the river. When we were there in November 2011, it was just after a bad flood in Bangkok. The water was still inside some of the houses. I remember there were huge fish in that river. Tourists in a river bus were throwing bread crumbs out their windows which attracted millions of schools of hungry fish.
This friend of mine who is planning a trip to Thailand soon (as a surprise for his honeymoon so I can’t mention names) asked if I have any tips or advice for him. If you have been to Thailand do mention anything else you think could be useful to know before the time. Here’s what I told him:
1. Book a package holiday which includes flights, accommodation, breakfast and transfers. This usually works out much cheaper than booking flights and accommodation separately.
2. Pack light. You are going to want to have enough space to bring stuff back home. If you don’t buy any new clothes they have places where you can give your laundry in to be washed.
3. Be willing to try new food. Why would you want to fly all the way to Thailand to eat hamburgers and pizza the whole time when you can do that at home?
4. Be open-minded. Thailand can be a bit of a culture shock for some people. Lady-boys, Buddas and temples, strange foods, different smells, ping-pong shows…
5. Go watch a ping-pong show. The police aren’t going to come lock you up in jail for this. Yes, it is shocking, but it’s also quite incredible. How long must they practice to be able to do some of the things they do!? It’s more of a circus act than a sex show.
6. Get ready to barter. Every price can be negotiated. Every salesman has a calculator where they first punch in their price and then you punch in what you are willing to pay. In general you pay about a 3rd of the starting price. The best trick is just to walk away. The price quickly drops if they are eager to sell. If the price doesn’t go down when you walk away then you know that that’s probably the lowest price… then you must either carry on walking, and hope you find that same item somewhere else, or you must swallow your pride, turn around and go back to the stall to buy whatever it was you were looking at.