05.02.2013 - 11.02.2013 35 °C
Sorry for the delay in our posts - internet wasn't free where we were staying in Thailand or Cambodia so now we are in Vietnam with free internet we will take advantage of it to update you all! See Alice's flickr for all her photos if you are interested.
Bangkok (5th February - 9th February)
We arrived in Bangkok from Hong Kong. Apart from the heat (30++) the biggest thing we noticed was being around western backpackers! It was a bit of a mini culture shock! Our hostel was very near Khao San Road which is the party street in Bangkok. The Thai people were so friendly and as soon as we got to Bangkok city centre from the airport with an address in English which the driver couldn't read, a boy let us use wifi through his phone so we could get the Thai letters. We spent the afternoon looking for summer clothes which wasn't as successful a trip as we had hoped!
The next day we took a very long time going to the Vietnam embassy to arrange our visas. The bus took over an hour but it was an interesting experience crawling through the city and also watching and listening to the middle aged driver and conductor shout at each other from one end of the bus to the other - sure we were the butt of their jokes! We went for express one day visa service as it was so painful trying to get there in the morning. Bangkok has a sky train (metro on stilts) which is lovely and air conditioned but doesn't really cover much of the west of the city (where we were staying) and the metro wasn't near us either. On the way back, we waited and waited for the bus which when it did had the same driver and conductor as the morning. While we were waiting we jumped in a tuk tuk for not much more than a bus fare but the driver said to us as we pulled off he would make 1 stop (where he takes you to a friends shop and force you to buy something at an inflated price). We quickly jumped out and resisted his offer of a free ride for 2 stops but Alice was disappointed we didn't get our first tuk tuk experience.
On our third day we went to the Grand Palace with a Geordie guy we met at the hostel. The residence of the King, the buildings were amazing but the number of tourists and being almost fully covered in the heat didn't make it the most enjoyable experience. In the afternoon we went to see Wat Pho, a Buddhist temple with a very laid back Buddha (literally).
Our last day in Bangkok saw us take advantage of our Grand Palace ticket to visit Vivanmek Palace (former royal palace only made of wood) and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall (royal reception hall) which was a very elegant building full of objects to celebrate one anniversary or another of the royal family.
Bangkok was a buzzing city but we were a bit overwhelmed by the western commercial tourism (which we didn't appreciate the lack of in China).
Khao Yai National Park (10th February - 11th February)
To break up our journey to Cambodia we decided to travel 3 hours in that direction and stop at a national park. Getting from our hostel in Bangkok to the bus station was eventful. We took a taxi to the sky train station insisting on the meter but as we pulled off he suggested an inflated price which we turned down. He proceeded to drive round the block before going to the station which we both noticed so we gave him a little over half of what the meter said and ran! It was then (an unforeseen) 30 minute walk to the bus station from the Sky train stop which left us both dripping in sweat and Alice very very unhappy! Despite having a ticket for a bus at 11am we went to the platform at 1030 and were told to jump on the bus which left immediately leaving us both a bit nervous if we would end up where we wanted! We were picked up in the back of a pick up truck and driven to our guesthouse where we had some lunch before going out to see some local caves and bats. Our guide had an amazing ability to spot animals and as we drove to the caves he spotted a whipsnake which Alice was privileged (and brave) enough to hold. At the caves, which are used by monks at night to meditate, we saw hundreds of bats and a selection of creepy crawlies the guide found. On the way back, we stopped at a field where every night about 2m (yes, million) bats go in search of food. It was an amazing sight to see the animals fly out the cave - some unlucky ones were caught by waiting hawks!)
The next day we went into the national park where we had to wear sexy leech socks inside our shoes / over our trousers. We began the morning by seeing some gibbons which we were able to get great photos of through the guides spotter scope. We also saw monkeys and a massive horn bill which was very exciting. In the afternoon we went to the waterfall which featured in the Beach film - unfortunately no swimming was allowed - and then went off in search of elephant and the elusive tiger but unfortunately spotted none.