Friday, 23 March 2018

The fun city of Chiang Mai

The third destination I had the pleasure of discovering was Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand’s most populous city.  It’s quite different from Bangkok, with lots of open space and fresh air. Plus, prices are cheaper.

I arrived in the morning anxious to start a full day of travelling after a night bus.


One of the views in Chiang Mai city.

Some of the beautiful restaurants.
I met a very nice girl Eunjin whom we shared the same interests.The first thing on our agenda was to tour the famous temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The tour takes about an hour and the views are lovely. Buddha statues and lotus flowers are everywhere.

My partner in crime.


On the way to Doi Suthep.


Inside Doi Suthep temple.


The view from the temple.
Next we checked out the night food market. There is variety to eat and prices are reasonable. We loved the honey chicken skewers right before our meals. I recommend ordering a variety and share. They have delicious fruit juices, shakes, and Thai tea, the most delicious and refreshing beverage I had on this trip.

The night life in Chiang Mai is not disappointing. There some bars you can go dancing or just sit and enjoy a drink. Going from one bar to another was easy as they were all close by.



Coconut shakes on a warm night.


Variety of dishes ordered.


Sea food.


The delicious Chicken skewers.

One of the things that I recommend you experience is an elephant sanctuary. Spend time with these magnificent animals! Some reserves have rescued elephants that have been mistreated and they are given a more compassionate life. In doing so, you are helping the cause by putting an end to their mistreatment. However, please do not visit the ones that offer riding services.

It was quite an immersive experience with the elephants; we had the chance to play with them in the mud (we changed our clothes) and then bathe them under a waterfall while their trunks sprinkled water and gave us kisses. It was such a fun day!



Elephant hug.


Bath and play time.

Be sure to rent a bicycle and ride around the new and old part of town. I’m not the best cyclist but it was a great work out and the traffic wasn’t crazy. We cycled to Wat Chedi Luang, a beautiful historic Buddhist temple in the center of Chiang Mai built in 1441. If you love old architecture and some quiet time, you need to take a look!



Cycling around town.


Bicycle adventures.

Some remains of Wat Cheda temple.

We also experienced a Tok Sen massage, a treatment meant to clear blocked energy, remove negative energy and deeply get into body's muscles. I felt lighter and better after this. The masseuses were very pleasant and  all four of them out of curiosity came to touch and feel my skin praising how smooth it was.


Just before the Tok sen massage.


Our lovely and curious messaues

Last but not least, they say if you haven't tried the Khao Soi dish (very delicious) or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven't really been to Chiang Mai. I had such an amazing time here and I see myself going back discover more that I left untouched. Such is life!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Krabi


I love the beach. I don’t get much chance to soak in the sun and waves since Kampala is a land-locked city so I was really excited to check out the shores of the Andaman sea. Krabi was my only option since I was traveling on a budget. I took a night bus to get there and upon arriving smelled the sea and so much green. My lodging was in Ao Nang which is pretty popular among the tourists and has a wide beach. It was refreshing to see the rocks and the big trees on every corner of the road.



Beautiful scenery.
Ao Nang was everything I wanted after the big city life of Bangkok. The scenery is so gorgeous it’s hard not to find a moment of Zen.  If you’re looking to get to Railway beach like I was (and recommend), don’t worry as there’s so many people eager to help you along your way to other places like Phi Phi island.

Railay Beach not only has gorgeous surf but also rock climbing for enthusiasts. I regret not having the chance but like every great trip I hope to return one day and try it. Climbing is safe (you wear a harness) and it’s a great full body workout. I hear rock climbing is a 2020 Tokyo Olympics sport so start training.




Beautiful boats ashore.


Railay beach




Buried in at Railay


Back from Railay I went on a pub crawl that was organized by my hostel. It was quite fun moving from one bar to another and observing the night life in this part of the country. Ao Nang is such a party area you won’t be disappointed. However, watch out for lady boys who ask for a tip if you want a photo.

Sunset at Ao Nang


Lady boy performers.
The following day I was in total bliss as I relaxed at a Krabi hot spring, nature’s own Jacuzzi. The water came from thermal springs which originated deep underground in a volcanic chamber. We then moved on to the Emerald pool, with waters that are crystal clear. It was nice to swim after walking through a beautiful trail to reach it. It’s all a feast for the eyes with so much green I felt like I was emerald city, the fictional fantasy land in the Wizard of Oz. Don’t miss taking a look at the Blue Pool, an amazing body of water. You can’t swim in it but it’s a breathtaking sight.

Chilling in the Hot spring




Trail View


All natural Emerald pool. please




Trail to the Pools.


Beneath the Blue Pool.




The last thing on the trip was visiting the Tiger Cave temple. This is not for the faint hearted as it takes 1, 237 steps to reach a Buddhist holy site. But don’t give up, the view is amazing at the peak. The struggle makes it worth the effort. There’s a lot of ‘monkey business’ up there though—many monkeys in the area love it when tourists feed them. Don’t do it though, feeding wild animals does more harm than good. Monkeys will literally grab your snacks from you.

The steps to the Tiger Temple


The view from above the temple.



Golden Buddha.


Of course, no trip to Thailand would be complete without a famous Thai massage. It was such a treat, my body needed it. Whether basking in the sun or finding peace at a temple, Thailand has so much to offer.

Monday, 12 February 2018

My few days in Bangkok - The City of Life.


This past November I went on a big trip to southeast Asia-- Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The first city I discovered was the city of temples and tuk tuk’s – Bangkok.


One of the streets in Bangkok.

It took 25 long hours of air travel to get there from Entebbe. I was eager to get off the plane, relax, walk about, and try the food everyone praises. The humidity was certainly the first thing I noticed. It was like I didn’t have enough air. The temperature was sticky sweaty and hot.


Bangkok is the biggest modern city I have ever visited, and I felt like an ant amongst the giants in a land of intense street sights of serenity and seduction.
On my first evening I attended a couch surfing meet-up group where I met other travelers and was introduced to Thai culture. It was nice to try local cuisine and learn some Thai phrases. If there is one phrase that definitely sums up Thai life, it’s “same same” -- a simple life-is-life philosophy that you’ll see on more than one t-shirt or handbag. Here’s an explanation:

Tourist: Are those expensive sunglasses, or cheap sunglasses?
Thai: Same-same.

Tourist: Is that a lady, or a lady boy?
Thai: Same-same.

Thais use simple English when communicating with foreigners which is really unique, cute and endearing.

Art Museum.


That evening I toured around Siam (an area in the Pathum Wan District of Bangkok) with the highlight being a museum dedicated to the memory of the late King Bhumibol Adulydej. The art was gorgeous! There were a million street cart vendors who can set your mouth aflame!



Fancy tuk tuks in bangkik. These are expensive.

First time sightseeing in Bangkok.

Fellow African in the city of Life.
Later in the day with a Tunisian friend I had met we decided to go to the Chatuchak weekend market, the biggest in Asia. I had never seen a market this big. They do sell all kinds of clothing and trinkets at very reasonable prices. It was my second day of the trip and I was fighting so much temptation not to buy anything. I did my best but still got some small gifts. After wandering around, we sat to have some lunch and then window shopped.


Chatuchak weekend market.

Some of the door signs.

Having a coconut ice cram at Chatuchak

I did not find the transport system in the city that cheap but I used the metro frequently (it’s called the BTS Sky Train) and it’s simple. They have a transport app called “GRAB” which you can use to move around by either taxi or bike, the meter taxis are reasonable but you can still negotiate a price by asking the driver not to use the meter. I did that a lot. You are supposed to haggle on everything if you want to save and travelling on a long term basis.
GRAB is green and yellow while pink is Meter Taxi.
The next day I visited some amazing sacred sights! Upon crossing the Chao Phraya River I noticed the striking Wat Arun temple (translated as The Temple of the Dawn). It looked spectacular even before we got in! We walked around though could not enter because it is still under renovation. I just could not get over its beauty! It was one of my most amazing views on this whole trip. There is nothing like it and be sure to seek it out when in town.

The next sight on my list was the Grand Palace. It was so big and beautiful but with many tourists! It is hard to take a decent photo. There were many beautiful buildings within, each looking different. The palace was the official residence of King Siam since 1782. Do not leave Bangkok without visiting this palace. Dress code is long clothes and shoulders covered. Don't be caught off guard and start buying new pants and shirt on the street.

My last activity of the day was visiting the Royal crematorium. This is the most amazing crematorium I have ever seen, it is where the late King Bhumibol was serviced. Inside there are buildings that present the culture regarding the ancient ceremony and an exhibition about the life of his Majesty. The kind King died on October 13, 2016 followed by one year of national morning. Cremation occurred on October 26,  2017. The crematorium was all golden and the architecture is brilliant. I am glad I got chance to see it as of now it is permanently closed.


The gorgeous Wat Arun temple.

Wat ARUN
Outside the Grand Palace.

Inside the Grand Palace


The crematorium.

Later I went to meet a friend at the BMK Shopping Center which is one of the world’s largest malls with 600 shops, restaurants, cinemas and games. We had delicious sushi and then participated in a physical adventure game that involved solving a riddle. It was so good! It’s called “The Escape Room,” and each room had a different theme with varying levels of difficulty to solve.

This was one mean sushi


Right after the game.


Bangkok never sleeps. It’s always awake, at all hours.  From sun up to sun down the sights never cease. I visited the famous Khao San road and it was really crazy and memorable. There are many bars, street food, shops, massage parlours and big crowds of tourists. If you like to party, the night life here won’t disappoint.

I went to Soy cowboy, a notorious red light district. All these months later I’m still not sure how to process it! Make sure you check out a sky bar in Bangkok, it’s so worth it!

If you need some quiet time to decompress and meditate, visit Lumphini park. A small lake’s there and you can rent a paddle boat while feeding the fish.


Excitement at Khao San

A certain sign at Soy Cowboy.

Bangkok skyline

Bangkok might be busy but spending a few days to explore it will be unforgettable. The ornate shrines and vibrant street life contribute to making it a world renowned city every traveler should check off their list!
Will be back with Krabi!