The Rest Of Our Days In Chiang Mai

The next day the plan was to go to the Grand Canyon. We set our alarms nice and early, supplied sun cream all over and went to leave when we saw the weather was absolutely chucking it down with rain. No chance was we going to leave the hostel with weather like that, let alone drive a moped in it. We were so disappointed but just agreed that we would do it the following day as the weather forecast was due to be better. We pretty much wasted a whole day because from 8 am until about 3 pm it was constantly raining. We expected to have days like that where our days don’t go to plan, but it gave us time to catch up on writing the blog etc.

As soon as it had stopped raining we eagerly left the hostel and went to explore around the area. We took a slow walk around the town and that evening went to a back street where we got some food. We sat in a street food market and enjoyed a Pad Thai each & enjoyed a refreshing beer.

We enjoyed our meals thoroughly & enjoyed the fact that we didn’t get charged for our beers – bonus! We went to a bar afterwards and had a soft drink whilst I whopped James’ bum at pool (I will make sure I remind him of that moment for the rest of my life). Commiserations.

The following day we were due to go the Grand Canyon, again. This didn’t happen as unfortunately, I was ill. We had to move hotels as we only booked for 4 nights. We said goodbye to S.K Guesthouse 2. All we would say is it’s a great hotel in a great location, however, be sure to get a room with air-con and don’t cheap-out like we did.

We had to shift ourselves from the bed, pack up our bags & make our way to the new hotel. We got there about 9:30 am and had to wait until 10:45 am to check in. When it was time, we were taken to our room and it was lovely and spacious (just what you need when you have massive bags that take up a quarter of the room). Our new hotel was called Mandala Guesthouse which is perfect for us in a great location.

We relaxed for the day so I could rest up and focus on getting better. By the end of the day, I was feeling 100% better so we went straight out for some dinner and then headed back to our cosy hotel.

The next day we woke up nice and early and decided we would hire a moped and drive to the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. We agreed to do this rather than the Grand Canyon first because it wasn’t as long a journey compared to Grand Canyon and James wanted to get some practice on the moped. We hired our bike with a company called Bamboo Bikes where you can hire a bike for the day for as little as 99THB (about £2.70). We went for a slightly more expensive one (about £4) because we were going uphill so required a bike with a bit of power.

James tested driving it around the backstreets first and with all due respect to James – it was scary to watch, to say the least. After getting used to it we ventured out and began our nerve-racking journey to the National Park. We got 10 minutes away and got pulled over by the Police – brilliant start. Feeling slightly uneasy and nervous, we obeyed every word as quickly as possible because we really didn’t want to imagine what life inside a Thai police station would be like. He asked James for his driving licence, feeling 100% confident he handed it over by which we knew it wasn’t going to be that simple from the stern look in the cop’s eyes. Here we go. We were informed that we required an International Driving Permit, we were completely unaware of this and just assumed that our normal driving licence was sufficient enough but of course not. We got fined 400 baht (luckily only about £8) and were given a slip which gave us permission to ride the bikes for 3 days. We were more than happy to hand over the money rather than being put in handcuffs and taken to the police station. It was still so incredibly annoying considering how many people don’t get pulled over but yet within our first 10 minutes we did. But hey ho, all part of travelling I suppose.

The journey was a lot of fun and going uphill into the mountains was incredible- we felt like we were part of a movie. We went straight up to see Wat Phra That Doi Suthep,

As you can tell this was massive and the views from the top were surreal

We stayed up for about an hour and stopped in a cafe for a while whilst we embraced the views before continuing to explore the mountain. We hopped back on our moped and rode back down the mountains to discover the Doi Suthep Waterfall. Unfortunately, we had to pay to enter which was 100THB pp (just over £2) and then another 20THB (about 50p) for the moped. It was fantastic to see although we wouldn’t recommend paying to see it considering there are many other free waterfalls in Thailand.

We had enough for the day so we returned the bikes and went to our hotel to make ourselves look (and smell) presentable again. We decided we would have a night in so we headed to 7-11 (the BEST supermarket in Thailand) to get some toasties. I feel like we could dedicate a whole post to these toasties because they are out-of-this-world! I don’t want to bore you so I’ll keep it short, but they are just unreal. We had 2 for dinner along with some snacks, don’t worry mum/s we had a fruit juice so we did get 1 of our 5 a day. A chilled night in went down a treat and we definitely needed it!

The following day was by far one of the best days of our lives! We took a drive to Grand Canyon Waterpark. This isn’t your everyday ordinary waterpark, it was an old quarry filled with water covered with inflatables. We paid only 350THB pp (nearly £8) to get in and we could stay there for as long as we wanted. We stayed for about 3 hours but we could have stayed so much longer but we wanted to get back before the traffic started to build up. I’m going to let the photos/videos do the talking and I’m sure you will be able to see how much fun we had!

We would 100% recommend going here, it is perfectly safe with staff members scattered all around & I guarantee you would not leave the park without a huge smile on your face (unless you don’t like water, but then I guess that would make you stupid for going to a waterpark?! At the end of the day, James safely drove us back to the hotel where we had a quick nap and headed out for some drinks. We had the best day and a great evening to top it off.

First Few Days In Chiang Mai

We arrived in Chiang Mai early hours of the morning not-so-ready to explore just yet. First thing first was to catch up on sleep! We arrived at our peaceful guesthouse and was taken to our room. The room was spacious, however, resembled an oven (it was so hot as we stupidly only paid for a fan room). A few hours passed and we woke up and went to check out the pool.
Having a pool is such a luxury especially when our room felt like a sauna – it felt like a spa day, all we needed now was a massage. We didn’t do a lot on our first couple of days being here because we were really starting to lag from lack of sleep. We had booked for 4 nights but fully expected to extend our stay because we want to take full advantage of the free 30-day visa – this also gives us more time to check out attractions without cramming it all in throughout the space of 4 days.

We went out for an early dinner and visited the Sunday night market. This was a great experience hosting such a happy, positive atmosphere.

We didn’t want a late night because we knew the next day we would be up early ready to become ‘flying squirrels’ (keep reading and you’ll know what I mean by this). If you know us personally you’ll know that one of the things we were most excited for on our whole trip to Asia was zip-lining. We were spoilt for choice as to where to do it, but having done research we decided we would do it here in Chiang Mai. We went with a company called ‘Flying Squirrels’ which was originally around £61.00pp, however, we managed to work our magic and grab a discounted rate of £41.00pp. This was considerably cheap compared to their competitors.

The course had a range of activities (mostly ziplining) including riding a bike in the trees, skateboarding & abseiling. We were so excited and even more excited that we could test out our new baby (the camera). We were picked up at 8:30 am and made our way up into the mountains ready to become flying squirrels, something we have always dreamed of! We were all suited and booted and ready to go. It was a great look, although not the most comfortable gear.

We uncomfortably shuffled outside and was greeted by the most incredible views

Looking around we slowly realised that we were the only Westerners, we were surrounded by Chinese. We stood out like sore thumbs and everyone was talking in their own language including the staff, we just hoped that they would be able to talk English to be able to instruct us in the only language we understood. Thankfully they did, however only to a minimum. Despite only having each other to talk to (no-one else spoke English) we had the most incredible day full of laughter and fantastic views- it was surreal and becoming a flying squirrel definitely lived up to our expectations. Our camera was excellent and we got some amazing footage which is going to be made into a video which will be posted on our blog within the next few days – so keep an eye out. But for now, here are a couple of photos of our experience

The following day we pretty much just lived in the swimming pool enjoying the sunny weather aching from being slammed into multiple trees from the day before, now we definitely needed a massage. That evening we went to check out the Night Bazaar. It was great, although not necessarily cheap considering it was street food which was disappointing. We witnessed the weirdest performance we have ever seen. (Sorry about the video- we couldn’t rotate it)

We were actually left speechless and just looked each other as if to say, ‘is this real or am I dreaming?’ We were stood there observing the peculiar performance and then began to hear the dreaded noise of thunder. The sudden panic of realising we were a good 25-minute walk away and no rain macs. Uh oh, please not again. We made a quick exit and walked very fast back to the hotel – fortunately we missed the rain for once! We bought some munchies on our way back and watched a film in our room.

 

 

 

We’re Coming For You, Bangkok

 

We got to the airport in good timing (way too early – but better to be safe than sorry). We couldn’t check in/drop our bags off until 2:40 pm, we got to the airport at 1 pm. We patiently waited and people-watched until the check-in desk was open. We went through all our checks and waited until we were ready to board. We boarded our plane and were ready to go.

We arrived in Bangkok after a short 1-hour journey. We waited at passport control for ages because some people don’t know how to queue and also because the staff were taking their time having what looked like a mothers meeting – they were so slow!

We made it through and picked up our bags. We asked at the information desk the cheapest way to get to our hostel. We jumped on a bus which cost us 50THB pp (just over £1) and was dropped off just up the road to our hostel. We didn’t arrive until about 6:30 pm, so we dumped our bags, took a shower and went out for some dinner.

We noticed it was a lot pricier compared to Vietnam/Cambodia but that was because we were down a busy road. We wandered around and found a street food restaurant where we got some dinner. It wasn’t too badly priced, we both had rice dishes.

We looked at the price of beers and that was when we experienced our first-ever heart attack. “£2 for a beer. WHAT?! Do they think we are made of money?!” We must of looked absolutely devastated (well we felt it anyway). It’s funny because back home in England you’d be lucky to even get a beer for £3.00! It is fair to say we had become major cheap-skates. We finished our meals and went to investigate the big fuss of Khao San Road. This place was basically a glorified Magaluf strip. We were drawn in by a worker ramming his board of happy hour deals in our face. We got a bucket of spirit and mixer for around £4.50 and took in the antics of Khao San Road. It was an experience although not necessarily something we would want to experience again.

The following day we woke up with slight headaches although smiling at the fun events from the night before. Our first night in Bangkok was great and we already fell in love with the place. We got ourselves up and decided that a GoPro would be useful for our trip and then we wouldn’t have to rely on other people for photos. We got a taxi to the nearest shopping centre which would have been paradise for any shop-addict. This shopping centre had 6 floors, and trying to find a shop that sold a GoPro was at first a struggle. We eventually came across many camera shops, but the GoPro’s were very expensive (even for an older model!). We continued to look around and walked past a book shop where there was a stand advertising ‘action cameras’. We took a note of the name and went off to research.

After a lot of debating and researching, we decided to just get it because it only worked out to be £35 each and it would come in handy (we hoped). We walked out of the shopping centre after about 3 hours of searching and £80 down, but we had done it! Was it a good idea? We were yet to find out.

We went out for some dinner whilst we tested our new camera out, and LOVED it! It was the best buy of the trip so far and would be so useful for many activities. The worker from the restaurant even seemed to love it!

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We didn’t make it a late one because we were tired from all of walking and night before. We stayed in Bangkok for only 2 nights because we knew we would be coming back in a few months’ time, therefore that is why we didn’t do a lot. The next day we were due to catch a bus at 7:00pm to take us to Chiang Mai. We booked the bus ticket through an agency which costed us about £12 each. We didn’t do a lot during the day other than take a walk around the town and have an early dinner whilst we waited. The hotel we stayed at was called Green House. If noise at night does not bother you and you love to party then we would definitely recommend. Otherwise, if you are the complete opposite then avoid this hotel!

The evening soon crept up on us and we were ready to get the bus. When the bus arrived, we were saying how comfortable it looked and that we would “sleep like babies”. You know when people say never judge a book by its cover? We now completely understand why. It wasn’t comfortable at all. The seats didn’t rotate back enough & there was a metal bar by our feet. But there was a toilet, and that’s very important. Although, a part of me wishes there wasn’t one. I went to the toilet to get changed, went to get out and the lock was not going to budge. I couldn’t believe I got stuck in a toilet… on a bus! I started to bang and shout and no-one heard me. Eventually, James realised and came to save me. The lock got stuck on my side but luckily James managed to open it the other side, my hero! If there is something I have learnt this trip so far it is not to lock toilets on public transport in Asia. 12 hours later and we had arrived in Chiang Mai, finally.

The Beauty Of Angkor Wat

Jess & Sam had recommended that we try a ‘hotel bus’ where have our own double bed. We thought we would give it a go because what is there to lose? The bus arrived and we made ourselves comfortable. We were given blankets and I must say James’ ‘Hello Kitty’ blanket really suited him – he looked very at home. The bed itself was pretty comfortable (although not as comfy as our beds at home which we miss dearly). The journey took us 11 hours which is a reasonable amount of time, and we both managed to get a fair amount of sleep which was a result. Throughout the journey, we did quite a few toilet stops. When we arrived, we were obviously in such a deep sleep the bus driver had to wake us up to let us know we had arrived – always a sign of good sleep. We stumbled off the bus all bleary eyed and was greeted by our tuk-tuk driver.

Our journey from the bus stop to the hotel was complimentary so at this point in time, we were happy bunnies. The journey cost us $13 per person which is a good rate considering how far we travelled. We walked into our hotel and we already loved it! We have an actual swimming pool rather than sea water, we feel like we were living luxury.

It didn’t even cost us a lot of money only £11 per night for 2 of us and the swimming pool was definitely worth every penny. Our room was also extremely comfortable although we were greeted by a Gecko and then a millipede when we arrived. We had 2 double beds and we were for sure going to have our own bed each.

We enjoyed our first few days in Siem Reap just relaxing and enjoying the swimming pool whilst we attempted to play volleyball.

It is fair to say that the Spanish group were a lot better than us, but then I’m sure they were just showing off! Our first few days in Siem Reap were pretty much just repeated – just consisting of sitting in cafes, swimming in the pool, occasionally walking around the town and of course mostly eating. Although, our first evening we did check out the ‘pub street’ where we agreed we would do our own 2-man bar crawl. We started off really well getting free drinks in different places, but then the happy hour was over and we had to actually start buying drinks which kind of sucked!

It was incredible but I can only say we are so very jealous of the travellers who get to experience pub street on Khmer New Year. The pub street isn’t very big but it is an amazing experience and if you are in the area you must check it out. So, there we were, bar hopping on free (if not free, then cheap) drinks & photo-bombing peoples’ photos. We were loving every minute of the experience.

Jess & Sam recommended a cafe called Hill Street Cafe and we spent most of our days here. The food was ridiculously cheap and it was only a 5-minute walk from our hotel! We would definitely recommend anyone visiting Siem Reap to visit this cafe. It was an enjoyable few days just relaxing, just to be able to unwind and remove ourselves from the busy backpacking lifestyle for a little while. We checked out the Night Market on the second night which was great, again, hosting a great atmosphere. We managed to grab a few bargains which are always a winner.

Our fourth day in Siem Reap we went to go and see the Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monument in the world and I must say it was breath-taking. We were unsure whether to visit because it was very expensive costing us $37 per person! What was more annoying was that they recently increased the cost from $20 pp. We thought we would suck it up and just pay it because we might never get that opportunity ever again. We are so glad we got to see it and would say to anyone thinking about it to just do it!

Angkor Wat is the main attraction, however, there are many other temples surrounding the area. We organised a small circuit tour with our hotel which is where we paid another $15 (for both of us) for the tuk-tuk to take us to all the temples. It was an expensive day out, but as you can tell from the photos it was so worth it. Our favourite temple was actually the Ta Prohm which is where the trees were growing around the temple. I’m sitting here trying to think of ways to describe these amazing temples but words just do not describe it properly and the photos do not do it justice.

We began our tour at 8 am and got back to our hotel about 1 pm. 5 hours was more than enough time for us and gave us the afternoon to just chill in the pool and get some rest.

Our fifth day in Siem Reap and we were due to leave. We booked a flight ticket to get to Bangkok but that in itself is a story to tell. So, we researched thoroughly (before we came out travelling and briefly when we were looking at booking) and discovered that if we travelled into Thailand via land then we only get a free 15-day visa, however, if we travelled via air then we get a free 30-day visa. It took a few days for us to make the decision and to weigh up what would be more beneficial and cost efficient. We researched that if we went by land then to extend our visa it would cost us around 2,000THB (£45 pp) and then for the bus ticket it was about £15/£20. Or to fly and get our free 30-day visa then it would cost us about £55. We decided we would fly as it would save us time and not much difference in price. It was all booked and we were excited to step foot on a plane and not a 7-hour-long bus journey. We were happy and glad it was all sorted! Happiness soon changed to frustration. We were sat there and I thought I’d just check on Gov.uk Thailand Visa and I saw the writing I did not want to see ‘free 30-day visa when travelling by air or land’. This rule had obviously changed since we had been out travelling. Annoyed is an understatement because a lot of websites haven’t updated their information. But it was too late now and unfortunately, we just had to crack on with it, still a least we would get there quicker. We checked out of our hotel (which we were going to miss). The hotel we stayed at was called Angkor Pal Boutique. – If you are travelling as a couple and can afford to spend a little more on accommodation then definitely check it out.

We said goodbye to Cambodia and jumped in our tuk-tuk on our way to the airport. Cambodia treated us well, but bring on Thailand.

Tip: If you are looking to cross over from Cambodia / Laos or any other country do your research on the best way to get to Thailand. As you can see we didn’t check the gov.uk website in regards to the Thai visa and ended up paying more for flights when we could have simply got a bus into Thailand and got the same 30-day visa.

What Could ‘Koh Rong’ In Paradise?

We booked a speedboat ticket from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong (Long Set Beach) where we paid $20 pp for a return journey. The boat journey went smoothly, other than one of the engines breaking down a few times, but we eventually made it and that’s all that matters, right? 40 minutes later and we arrived in what looked like paradise – quite literally!

We felt like we were living life inside a postcard. We made it to our resort which was a glorified beach hut, but it was so much fun. It had so much character and I felt like I was ‘glamping’.

We had a mosquito net and thank goodness for that because the inside of our hut was a mosquito festival – they saw their prey and they were ready to feed on us, already. We dropped our bags and went straight to the beach, and if you know me (Sarah) then I usually would avoid the sea, but this was just something else – I felt like I was in a bath…until I kicked a fish then I was back to reality. We literally just chilled out all day on the beach occasionally changing the scenery for food (obviously).

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The evening came around and we thought it was a great idea to walk 30 minutes along the beach & forest to the ‘village’. The village was very small, but our main aim was FOOD! We stopped for a delicious dinner & then suddenly it got incredibly windy and the clouds above us were horrendous. We rushed our meals and thought we should really hurry back to our hut before it was too late. We paid our bill, stopped in a shop to get a few soft drinks & began our speedy walk back. But it certainly was too late. A few spits of rain and then it hammered it down, we ran so fast and found a hut where there was what looked like shelter, but it was a see-through roof. We were attempting to shelter ourselves outside a man’s’ shop/home and he saw us and invited us in. That was where we spent our next hour or so, surrounded by home essentials & sat on a tiny stool, but what a kind man for letting us shelter ourselves. We couldn’t believe that we got caught in storms AGAIN – when would we ever learn?

The man in the shop brought out a selection of different rain macs which we reluctantly paid out for. We took a fast walk back and eventually made it back to the bug hut where we were greeted by mosquitos, lizards & sand flies- but yet we have never been so relieved. Our adventure out was laughable, although not at the time.

The following day we pretty much repeated the previous day’s routine, up for breakfast, go to the beach and only changing the scenery for food breaks. That evening we got talking to a lovely couple from Southampton. They were very similar to us where we both have the same sense of humour often finding ourselves quoting ‘The Inbetweeners’. We played a game of pool – embarrassingly they beat us and I’m still unsure how because Sam was shockingly awful (sorry Sam – we love you really. Although admittedly I wasn’t much better). We sat talking to them for the rest of the evening whilst our ankles were being hacked by mosquitos and agreed that we would meet them for breakfast the next day and challenge them again to a game of pool (we were determined to win).

We woke up and went for breakfast where we played our second game of pool which we won! We obviously had to play another round to decide the overall winners – that would be us by the way, we were the proud winners! Sam and Jess moved accommodation further along the beach, so we joined them and this was our first experience of life in a dorm. We arrived at the hostel called ‘The Nest’ and it was so chilled out. We got an ice cold soft drink and laid in the hammock until our room was ready.

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Overlooking the beach enjoying our views just chilling with great company – we were loving life. We were taken around to our dorm and it wasn’t bad considering. We put our bags in our lockers and then all 4 of us wandered to the village and got some lunch. After spending a little while at the village we began to walk back, and as usual, it began to rain. We were really quite wet so we thought we may as well just get wetter and go in the sea. The sea was so warm and the rainwater was cold – but it felt strangely refreshing. The photos we stole from Sam because he had a GoPro.

(Photo’s coming soon)

We all had a shower (not together that’s just weird), although I can’t say that it was an enjoyable shower because there was no hot water, but as long as there was no seaweed on us we were happy. We chilled out at the bar area in the hostel and got some dinner whilst we played a game of cards. We all got on so well and it was crazy how lucky we were to have met people so very similar to us where we all enjoyed each other’s company.

We all started to lag and decided we would go and get some sleep ready for our next day of kayaking! The following day we got up nice and early and went down to the beach to rent some kayaks. We paid $6 per kayak for half a day. It seemed like a great idea at the time and it certainly was a laugh. The waves weren’t choppy but the wind current was fairly strong so it required a lot of muscle and energy (which I didn’t have much of). We kayaked to a small island which was actually where people lived, but they welcomed us and let us go and see the small buddha statues and the wonderful views from the top.

(Photo’s coming soon)

Again, we stole the photos from Sam because he was the chief photographer for the day (it was actually because of his GoPro). We struggled to paddle our way back to shore, but eventually made it and it was a huge relief. We were both due to take a boat back to Sihanoukville in the afternoon, but as we both booked a return journey we both had different boat companies. Their journey was at 3 pm, and ours should have been 3:30 pm. Jess & Sam agreed they would wait for us at a particular bar as we should only arrive a little while after them – just if things went to plan in Asia.

As we waited around it got to 4:00 pm and still no sign of our boat, by which we were told by a staff member it will be here at 4:30 pm. 4:30 pm came around and STILL no boat. It wasn’t until 5 pm that a boat arrived – although it wasn’t our boat, we were told to jump on it. 15 minutes into the journey we then realised that we in fact were not heading to the correct port (there are 2 ports in this particular area of Sihanoukville) – as we watched other people start to clock on as well, an angry Australian man enquired by which he was told that we will be greeted by a shuttle bus which will take us to the correct port and that we couldn’t get the boat there because the waves are too choppy. The man was talking rubbish, there were no waves that side of the water whatsoever and it was just easier and quicker for them.

We got off the boat and got on our shuttle which felt like more like safari adventure about to begin.

20 minutes later and we had arrived at the correct location. The time was 6:30 pm and we walked to the bar we agreed to meet. Sam & Jess were still waiting – top friends right there. So, our boat was 1.5 hours late, the wrong company picked us up and dropped us at the wrong port – so we weren’t overly happy at this point. We were starving as I’m sure you can imagine. We instantly went to our hotel, dropped the bags, freshened up and went for some dinner.

We went to a lovely restaurant near the beach with Sam & Jess. We all seemed pretty tired from the kayaking that day so we didn’t make it a late one. We went back to our hotel and got a good night sleep. If you are travelling to Sihanoukville then check out the Zana Beach Guesthouse. It was lovely and very comfortable costing us £12 per night for 2 of us.

The next day we were both due to leave, we were getting a sleeper bus from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. That day we didn’t do a lot, we chilled around and enjoyed our final few hours with Sam & Jess before they were off to Bangkok. We went and got some breakfast on the beachfront and then played some more pool. We played pool in a strip club which was strange but it seemed to be the only place open with a pool table.

We waited around, killing some time by playing another game of cards and when it was time, we said our goodbyes. Our sleeper bus picked us up from the hotel at about 7:00 pm and we were off to Siem Reap feeling lonely.