A Travellerspoint blog

Bringing in the New Year with a Bang!

....in Bangkok

overcast 24 °C

Picture_002.jpgIt's been awhile and mostly because we couldn't find any cheap internet sites. We arrived in Bangkok in style...somehow we were upgraded to business class for our too-short flight to Bangkok. We lounged in the Silk Lounge for awhile nibbling on all the desserts since we missed breakfast at the hotel. The flight was really nice, especially since we could recline all the way in our seats.

We got to Bangkok and were immediately surprised by all the hustle and bustle. Our hotel was not actually in the main area of Bangkok but right across the river. The view from our room was amazing since it overlooked the river and the night lights of Bangkok. Again, Bangkok is very similar to many big cities we have visited on this trip, it is caught between being very cosmopolitan and old traditions. To get around from our hotel we took a ferry to the other side and from there we could take a ferry taxi, subway, or above ground train. On occasion we took all 3 forms of transportation. When we arrived we wanted to get in some sightseeing, so armed with maps and guides we took the hotel ferry to the regular ferry. We were able to see the reclining buddha and climb Wat Arun.

After sightseeing we were off to the fights. Muy Thai boxing was high on Andy's list of to-dos in Thailand. We bought some excellent ringside seats for the tuesday night fight in Lumphihi stadium. Muay Thai boxing rings can be found all over Thailand but the best and most legitimate is supposed to be in Bangkok so we saved it for Bangkok.

First off, I have never been to any fight so I was not sure what to expect. I did learn a little about Muay Thai during my training for the wedding. I took a year of boxing to get ready...but as far as getting into the ring, I mostly chased my trainer around and never got a good hit in.

We got to the ring early to make sure we could find it first. Apparently there was no assigned seating, only seating by section. We were ushered in and took the next available seats. Luckily we were so early that we were able to get second row in the ringside section. We left our place markers on the seats and went to grab some quick pad thai and fried crabs.

When we got back to the stadium the fights had begun, I was surprised to see little boys in the ring. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly mine) that night. I couldn't watch the little boys fight, they must have been about 12 or younger. I buried my face into the guide book and read up on the history of Muay Thai and the associated traditions until the little ones were done fighting. The fighting is hard to stomach, maybe because I watched a 20/20 episode on how the children are sold into fighting to support their families. I had to question the authenticity of the report and whether that pertained to the sport as a whole or a fraction.

I could see that it was not simply fighting, but a lot of long standing traditions to the sport. Before each fight the fighters do a traditional dance around the ring, simultaneously. The dance is coreographed by the fighter and the trainer. The dance is meant to pay homage to the sport and gods. The fighters do the dance around the ring and stop at each corner to pray. When the dance is done, the fighters retreat to their corners and pray with their trainer, who then takes off their headpiece and flower garland. The fight consists of 5 3- minute rounds. Between each round the fighter is rubbed down and cleaned off. Judging is scored on not only punches but how the fighter defends himself and recovers from hits.

We watched 5 separate fights. Some were bloody, some were not. At the end I decided I had probably had enough Muay Thai for my lifetime. I still questioned whether I had just fed money into some sort of child fighting scheme but I could see that Muay Thai is a part of tradition for the Thai people.

On the last day of the year we took in some more sights and the thornburi water canals by long tail boat. The long tail boats were the only way to navigate the canals but sort of a rip-off. We were promised some floating markets ( we didn't get a chance to do the Mekong Delta one) and it really consisted of one lady chasing down our boat trying to sell us some fanta and various carved souvenirs. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool.

For New Years eve we had some Wagyu steaks at one of the restaurants at the hotel. The view was amazing and so was the food. We then headed out to Central Worlde Square for the count down. We were supposed to meet up with a buddy from GP...but once we got there it looked to be impossible. First off we headed to the Hard Rock Bangkok to get a gift for one of our roomies and then we battled the crowds at the square. I have never seen so many people in my life. Central Worlde Square is similar to Times Square in New York for Thais in Bangkok. There were so many people crammed in such a small place. We drove through hordes of people until we were in a perfect spot and waited for the countdown. Immediately after the countdown we turned around and tried to get back on the train. We were on a deadline because the hotel boat would stop making runs at 2am and we didn't want to get stuck on the wrong side. While we pushed and squeezed our way through we heard large bangs and police cars. We didn't see anything so we just thought it was some people getting carried away. Unfortunately it was not until the next day that we realized what it was. One of the clubs in the Square had caught on fire. 59 people died and over 200 were injured. Really makes you realize that life is short and unpredictable.

The next day we headed out on another plane ride to Phuket. Unfortuantely, our delicious new years eve dinner did not quite agree with us. Both of us were a little sick the whole day and didn't do much of anything besides watch tv. We didn't feel too adventurous in the way of food so we had some spaghetti and ice cream for dinner.

Today we are doing much better, we dropped off 5kgs of laundry and sunned at the beach. We are winding down the vacation and looking for a little more rest. We opted to take a few days in Phuket lounging at the beach. Apparently so did most of Europe. We barely got reservations and settled into Karon beach, a few kms from Patong and Phuket town. Apparently, Karon is also very popular with the Danish. All the restaurants are danish-thai. We are thinking of trying some danish food for dinner with a nice side of curry.

We hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Years.

Posted by Garcia2008 23:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Coffee in South East Asia.....

overcast 28 °C

For those who like a good cup of coffee once in a while or those who religiously drink it everyday, South East Asia is a hard place to visit. We have been on this trip for close to 3 1/2 weeks now and during our journey we have come arcoss many cafes and small coffee shops. Annie has not felt my pain as she does not drink coffee and rather enjoy some tea. I on the other hand like a good cup o' joe and when we visit these cafes or coffee shops I go in thinking that I will enjoy a delicious cup of the local coffee beans. To my surprise, I have not yet found a descent cup of coffee in our 3 1/2 week journey. From my own personal experience so far from this trip, coffee is either too bitter or too dark. Not even a full gallon of creme and a bag load of sugar can fix the taste. Sometimes it even tastes burnt. Annie makes fun of me when I mention to her that the next Starbucks I see I am going in and I am going to get a cup of coffee that will be worth it. She thinks that by me going into a Starbucks I am selling out because I am not in the US and that I should experience the local tastes. At this point I do not care and the next time I see a Starbucks which will most likely be in Malayasia or Singapore I will cave into the temptation and order a delicious cup o' joe. So coffee drinkers beware of the coffee in S.E Asia.

Posted by Garcia2008 23:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged food Comments (0)

Good-bye Chiang Mai

sunny 20 °C

Currently we are in the Chiang Mai airport waiting for our plane to Bangkok. We decided we wanted to ring in the new year in a big place...and what bigger place is there than Bangkok?

We spent our last night in Chiang Mai at the night market....to our disappointment the sunday market we attended the day before was livelier and better bargains. We bargained on a statue for awile until i noticed the hand was a little deformed and not worth lugging across the world. We wandered around for a little bit and ended up at a seafood market. We indulged on some crab yellow curry, grilled prawns, chiang mai noodles, Singha beer and a cold coconut shake....quite an indulgance at $20. We even watched some traditional Thai puppetry and dancing on the stage. Afterwards I tried to find some sticky rice and mangos ( had some yesterday and it left me with pleasant dreams) but noticed a little cart with hordes of people outside. It was a roti...we ordered a banana and chocolate one to go. We munched on it at the hotel while we watched Death Race the movie.

We loved Chiang Mai but we didn't have time to do any of the outdoorsy activities....maybe next time.

Posted by Garcia2008 18:12 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Rose of the North

Chiang Mai - Thailand

sunny 21 °C

Well we made it to Thailand - Chiang Mai to be exact. We have reached the halfway mark of our trip. Annie and I took a plane ride from Siem Reap to Thailand. We made a brief lay-over stop in Bangkok first then we landed in beautiful Chiang Mai. We had a small scare with our luggage when we arrived in Chiang Mai. We thought that our bags did not make the trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Lucky for us they were found at the other end of the airport in the international arrivals. Annie and I were thankful that we still had clothes and our things.

Chiang Mai is in the northern section of Thailand. It is surrounded by hilltops and mountains. Annie and I were a bit nervous to see where we were going to stay. The hotel that we booked did not have too much info on the booking website but in order to have a place in such short notice we booked ourselves at the Ayatana Hotel. Ayatana is amazing. It is located in the hilltops of Chiang Mai City. The place is beautiful and we would recommend it to anyone who is planning to come to Chiang Mai.

After we checked in and got settled, we made our way to the city below. Our mission was to catch the Sunday Night Market in Chaing Mai City. When we arrived it was packed to the max with people. Vendors were stationed on both sides of the street, sometimes in the middle. The market went 6 blocks deep with vendors spilling over to the side streets. It was so crowded, it felt like we were packed in like sardines. So many things were for sale from clothes, carvings, paintings and food. Annie and I had some of the local dishes while we were in the market. We tried the fish balls, Thai sausage and Ramen noodles. We also had a freshly made strawberry shake and a delicious Thai Ice Tea. Needless to say we had a long night of walking up and down the market street viewing all the beautiful things and sampling the local food. We ended the night by taking a ride on a Tuk-Tuk. Annie and I thought that we saw the last of the Tuk-Tuk taxis in Cambodia, but they are here in Chaing Mai. They are a little different but they have the same feel. Our driver was a little crazy but we got to our hotel fast and safe.

Tomorrow we will go into town during the day and see the local Wats in Chiang Mai City and then check out the old Night Bazzar Market located outside of the city. Hope all of you back home are well.

Posted by Garcia2008 21:09 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Exploring the Temples

overcast 23 °C

Today we finally got to see Angkor Wat. Since we have actually been in Cambodia for quite awhile and in the city of Siem Reap for 2 days we were tired of everyone asking us if we had seen the temples. We wanted to really prepare and start early in the morning so we saved all the exploring for today.

We hired a driver and guide for the day. We wanted to do the tuk-tuk thing again but when we saw the road conditions, or lack of roads we thought it might be better to get a car...a car with air- conditioning. We met our driver and guide at 6:30am at the hotel. Our guide was very informative, he was big on geography and Khmer history. At times he was too excited and Andy and i were not sure what he was talking about because he was listing off gods, kings, and wars in Cambodian from the last 14 centuries.

We started off at Angkor Thom, the largest town of all the cities. Inside we visited Bayon temple, the temple of 216 giant faces set on 54 towers. We explored the 3 floors of the temple. Our guide explained each of the stories depicted on the walls of the first floor. We roamed around the King's palace, private temple, swimming pool and bath. It's good to be king. Before lunch we visited Ta Prohm, where they filmed the first Tomb Raider. The temple is over 800 years old and was left abandoned for the last 4 centuries. When the temple was re-discovered, massive trees had grown all over the temple walls. The trees were 200- 500 years old.

After lunch we started to explore Angkor Wat... "8th" wonder of the world. according to Cambodians. It is the biggest religious monument on earth. It took 135 years to finish. I cannot even imagine working on a project for that long. All the temples were dedicated to bringing together Hindu and Buddhism religons to bring together the people of Cambodia. All day long we could not stop commenting on how andy felt like Indiana Jones and I felt like Laura Croft.

The overall message and lesson learned about the Kingdom of Cambodia that Andy and i got is that there is a long history of fighting and civil war. The country is starting to recover but it takes time. It was amazing to think that close to 2 million people were exterminated less than 30 years ago. In my lifetime these people have gone through so much suffering, while I was growing up on the other side of the world. The tourism economy is taking off and it seems as if they are trying to grow, while still preserving their heritage and monuments. We had a really great time in Cambodia, the people are friendly and the food is awesome. We talked about coming back in 20 years to see the reconstruction efforts on the temples, but we also laughed at how different things would be from now. The things we loved, tuk-tuks, cheap/cold beers, and the quiet country-side might be gone.

We are going to miss Cambodia, the country that we were most interested in seeing but had the biggest doubts about.

Posted by Garcia2008 05:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

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