Chatuchak Market

Yesterday we hopped on the Skytrain and headed to Chatuchak Markets, the largest open air air markets in the world. As we went past it from above I could feel my jaw dropping. For a Melbourne comparison, I’d say multiply the Vic Markets by perhaps 12? Seriously huge. Each stall varies in size from something the size of a phone booth (there were people on the road into the market who’d set up in an actual phone booth) to shops the size of a 2 car garage. Most were fairly basic but some had chandeliers and wallpaper.

It was quite overwhelming. We wandered into one narrow alleyway and then just meandered around. I had one piece of advice in my head from my reading online – if you find something you like just buy it because you’ll never find the stall again. My shopping list was pretty short. A pair of jeans, a bar of soap (for once our hotel didn’t provide any), anything that stood out as a nice gift for friends and family and maybe a few other bits of clothing for me.

I love to look at shops but, what with all the saving for this trip, I’ve pretty much gotten out of the habit of spending money frivolously. I looked at jeans but couldn’t find any I liked. We bought a bar of soap and I got a waterproof bag for my camera (on Ben T’s recommendation – thanks Ben!) and a couple of gifts and that was it. We did spend quite a bit on cold drinks as the day was hot but that was it. On reflection I probably spent less than $70. I could’ve spent more if I’d taken more time – and it was only when we were leaving that we saw a stall set up by a shipping company so you could post your purchases immediately. How convenient!

I’d definitely add Chatuchak Markets to my list of places I’d return to in Asia. It was extremely interesting and there were a number of stall that sold really interesting and unusual stuff – really stylish bags, lovely fabric and homewares. Prices weren’t as cheap as I’d hoped for many things but things were certainly cheaper than in Australia (but right now pretty much everywhere is cheaper than home).

After the markets we went back to our cosy cell hotel room for a rest then over to MBK. I found a pair of jeans that I didn’t mind (I’m starting to get a bit worried about the fact that Munich is still covered in snow and we’ll be there in 5 days) and then we had another night of IT Crowd and a few drinks. Possibly a few too many because I woke up with a bit of a headache the next morning.

After some aspirin and a big breakfast (the breakfasts you get in the hotels here are great. I know I keep saying this, but eggs any way you like them, croissants and a plate of fresh tropical fruit… so good!) we headed to Fortune Town, another mega mall with the focus on electonics. The trip started off quite oddly as we tried to catch a cab and the driver pretty much said no and then a lady from our hotel came out and convinced us to catch the train. Later in the day we tried 3 cabs for another journey before finding one that would take us. We couldn’t work out if they didn’t know where to go, the trip was too short or what, but it’s very odd to be in a country where everyone is trying to get your money off you and be told ‘no’ when you’re asking something pretty simple.

Anyhow, Fortune Town was pretty quiet, which was nice, and we bought USB sticks and hard drives to store all our photos and video. I am going to post a memory stick home shortly so that if anything happens to my laptop at least most of my photos are safe. I also looked at a Canon 8-15mm lens. I’ve been eyeing off this lens for quite some time and figured I’d have a look. I put it on my camera and was immediately taken with the distorted effect it gives but it’s quite expensive so I thought it was a good idea to take some time to think about it.

Anyway, we had a mission to accomplish and it turned out to be quite a challenge.

When we were in Cambodia we made friends with our driver, Ean (pronounced An) who was also going to Bangkok on the same day as us, although by bus. He was going to meet his ‘godfather’, an Indian-Australian man who had sort of adopted Ean on a trip to Cambodia years ago. Ean’s godfather helps support Ean and his children and was in Bangkok on business and so paid for him to travel from Cambodia for a week to be with him. Ean had never been outside Cambodia before and told us he was very nervous about the trip so we said we’d meet him and maybe we could all go out together.

So that was our mission, to find the hotel and Ean. We decided to catch a taxi as it didn’t look far on the map. After 3 refusals we finally found someone who agreed to take us near to where we wanted to go and dropped us off on a very wide, busy street. We couldn’t find the right number or see the hotel and wandered around asking directions every so often and getting pointed further on, then into back streets, then further back streets until I was almost ready to give up. Finally we spotted the hotel, went in and they had no record of the people we were looking for. This, as you can imagine was quite disheartening. We stepped out of the hotel and standing there was Ean! We were so happy we hugged him and he looked very happy in return.

We chatted to his godfather and agreed to meet them back there at 5 the following evening so we could all go up Baiyoke Tower to the sky deck (it is the tallest building in Bangkok and almost right next to their hotel) for sunset then go and have dinner together.

We had a well-deserved rest for a few hours after that then had dinner at the hole-in-the-wall place at the end of our block. Bangkok is littered with places like this. There’s a big room, open to the street and generally painted a dirty eggshell blue. The lighting is florescent, there’s a bank of cooking equipment on the street side, piles of salad stuff, fruit and meat. The furniture is all plastic, there’s lots of condiments on the tables and a roll of toilet paper instead of napkins on each table.

It’s basic, there’s very little English, lots of Thai people and the food is fantastic. I had Tom Kha soup and it was so flavourful I could not find words to describe it. It made me very sorry that I’d wasted precious meals eating anywhere else.

This was our last night on this side of town, tomorrow we’re moving to my birthday treat, Lebua at State Tower.

First Night in Bangkok

Bangkok is definitely the most easily commuted city we’ve visited so far. We had no difficulty getting to our hotel, just across the road from mega-mall MBK. Although once we stepped off the train I did refer to a compass to get my bearings, for the first time in my life. While I lack skills in things as simple as accurately recalling three digit numbers, I’m pretty good with map reading and orientation and I quite enjoy the challenge of navigating around a new city.

Our hotel, Wendy House, is… uh… serviceable. Our room has fake wood paneling of a style that looks about 40 years old and we have no windows and a bright florescent light. You can imagine how charming it is, I’m sure. The staff are nice though, and it does come with free breakfast and a flight of the steepest and narrowest stairs I’ve ever seen in an establishment that has no lift. Fortunately they changed our room from the 4th floor to the 1st.

I lied – there is a window but it opens onto the corridor and you can barely see through it so I don’t think it counts.

We showered then headed down the road to MBK where there appeared to be a Cosplay convention happening right outside. Naturally, since we’d only gone down to do a preliminary reconnaissance, I didn’t take my camera. Fortunately Luke got some video. After a couple of hours of wandering around we sat down in a restaurant on the ground floor and watched all the people in elaborate costumes walk past. There seemed to be more photographers than actual cosplayers and the event seemed to comprise of nothing more than giggling and taking photos.

In the evening we wandered down the road and ended up buying some packet noodles, some fresh mango and a few drinks to have in our hotel room. We the forgot about the noodles, drank quite a few drinks and watched a few episodes of the IT Crowd and then went to bed, ready for Chatuchuck Markets in the morning.

Here Comes The Planet 03 – Koh Phangan to Koh Samui

After some Thailand word association at Mae Haad, it’s time to head to Koh Samui to check in at the infamous Ark Bar on Chaweng Beach.

While we were there, we also caught the ladyboy cabaret show at Starz. I got picked to go onstage, along with my sister’s boyfriend. Thankfully, I was the only person in our group who had a camera on them, and that came backstage with me when I was picked. No footage of our performance will ever see the light of day. 😉

One Night In Bangkok (Luke)

Our time in Koh Samui at an end, it was time to move on. We caught an early morning flight in to Bangkok and took a shuttle to our overnight digs – the nearby Novotel Airport Hotel. We would stay there the night so as to get as much sleep as possible before catching our early morning flight to Hanoi. The only catch being, we realised after checking over our flight details, that our ongoing flight to Hanoi did not actually leave from the airport in to which we had just arrived. It departed from Bangkok’s second airport, which was across the other side of the city.

Crestfallen at our discovery, but relieved it was picked up very early, we enquired about transport to the other airport. A shuttle bus ran from Suvarnabhumi Airport across to the distant Don Muang airport, but it started at 5am and would take about an hour and a half. We needed to make checkin by 6am at the latest. The concierge told us that a taxi would definitely be the best and quickest way to go, and so we booked that in for 4:10am.

Resigned to a day spent in the hotel so we could turn in early, we made use of the time to swim in the pool, do some exercise, reading and blogging. One perk was discovering one of the restaurants did a fantastic pizza that we could easily share between the two of us which made meals a little cheaper than we initially expected.

After a decent night’s sleep in the biggest bed I have ever slept in (also very comfortable), I got up at our pre-arranged time of 3:50am. Amanda was already up and doing last-minute packing. Feeling surprisingly refreshed, I dressed, collected my gear, and we headed downstairs to check out and grab our cab. He didn’t take long to arrive; we stowed our gear in the boot and headed off.

The flight in to Bangkok had made it quite clear that the city is massive. The sprawl from the centre stretches as far as the smokey haze which permeates the city will allow you to see. We sped towards it along one of the many highways which seemed to criss-cross the city when viewed from above.

Being a taxi passenger in Thailand is certainly an interesting experience. For some, white-knuckled. Personally, I love the element of chaos that seems to be part of their driving culture. On the islands (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan) there are no lanes marked. Generally, people stay to the left and pass on the right. They sound their horn to let people know they are there, and about to pass by them. At least twice I can recall being overtaken whilst overtaking someone else. Driving towards oncoming traffic while overtaking is common. Once I saw a 4WD scream past us, and several other minivans, and only just made it back in to the left lane before oncoming traffic passed him. Pretty sure I saw him fishtail a little as well.

In Bangkok, wide highways and marked lanes don’t seem to make as much of a difference as one might expect. Our taxi driver lazily drifts from one lane to the other at 120km/hr. He never uses his indicators. Very few drivers do. Lanes seem to be general suggestions for where to drive. Our driver often drove between lanes, waiting until he was upon other cars before making a lane decision. A black sedan swerves in to our lane to overtake us, then suddenly brakes. As we’re almost tail to bumper, our driver is quickly forced to do the same, causing our hearts to jump up in to our throats. The black car speeds up, brakes, speeds up, brakes, swerving erratically in its lane, before finally flooring it and zooming off down the highway. “That car crazy,” our driver says to us, shaking his head and chuckling. There’s still limits to the chaos, it seems.

Out past the well-lit highway, the city zooms by. Immediately by the highway are small businesses, run-down residences and local stores. In the distance, the central city, with skyscrapers dotted in amongst the gloom. The most interesting feature is the red lights on the taller buildings, marking their presence in the darkness. Some kind of signal to airplanes? The red glow, foreign language on curved street signs and the general feeling of decayed, not-yet-finished infrastructure puts me firmly in mind of cyberpunk classics, the like of which are often set in neo-Tokyo. It suggests there’s a dark, exciting underbelly to Bangkok below the massive billboards advertising clothing sales at Grand Palace and the twisting highways that reach up in to the air. Well. That’s what it feels like, anyway. I won’t know until we return in a couple of weeks. Until then the dark city is a flirtatious wink and a smile, a hint of what might be.

Our driver delivers us quickly to Don Muang Airport and we go through the familiar cycle of checkin, security and immigration. Our flight to Hanoi, Vietnam would shortly depart and deliver us to the next chapter in our adventure. So long for now, Bangkok – be back to explore you soon!

Here Comes The Planet 01 – Melbourne to Koh Phangan

Hey all, here’s the first vlog (video blog) for Here Comes The Planet! We’re filming little bits and pieces and cutting short episodes as we go. They will almost always lag behind the blog entries as they take more time to produce and our internet access is sporadic. At the moment it’s just us talking to camera and taking some footage of the scenery. Not sure what else we’ll end up doing with them, but I’m open to feedback and suggestions. 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Day 6: Monday, 18th March – Mae Haad, Koh Phangan (Luke)

First post for me, finally! Before we left I was busy sorting out work and house stuff, and on the trip I’ve been working on the video part of our blog (or, you know, busy being on holiday), so I haven’t had much time for actual writing.

We’ve just spent five days with my family at the Panviman Resort, on the Thong Nai Pan beach in Koh Phangan. The resort itself is set on a hillside overlooking the ocean, and is nothing short of amazing. Apart from beautiful rooms, it has a tremendous buffet breakfast and a cool infinity-edge pool looking out over the ocean.

The ocean water is clear and beautiful, and as warm as a bath. The beach was exceptionally clean. There were no rips and it was very salty and buoyant, which made for great swimming.

I always thought I’d have to go somewhere expensive, like the Bahamas, to have the scenery that you sometimes see in James Bond films – like the beach in Casino Royale. Yet there I was on one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen, drinking large bottles of beer for less than $3 AUD.

We would all go to the Beach Love cafe every day for happy hour, before finding somewhere for dinner. The food has been the highlight for me so far – consistently fresh and exceptionally tasty.

It is very quiet in Thailand at the moment – they’ve only just entered their high season, and it has yet to get busy. Panviman is situated on a more secluded and upmarket part of the island, so the few people that were there tended to be middle-age or older, and were mostly relaxing. There wasn’t much night life to speak of, so it will be a nice contrast to see other parts of the island where the demographic is younger.

Yesterday we said goodbye to my family and headed to Mae Haad on the western side of the island. As well as finally getting to see some sunsets, the snorkelling is supposed to be really great, and that’s what we’re aiming to do next.

Initially we were a little disappointed by the beach here – not as clean and the water isn’t as clear. I think we were always going to be a little disappointed since we started at such a beautiful spot! However we chatted with one of the locals who operates a diving shop, and he said that past the initial seaweed, the reef and area around the small Koh Maa island is a great spot for snorkelling, so that cheered us up.

After a dip in the pool and some fancy cocktails, Amanda opted to nap while I went out for dinner. I went back to a place we had previously visited while exploring, and had a very delicious curried fried rice with pork dish.

There was a family seated across from me with a very loud gentleman who sounded a lot like Jeremy Clarkson. It made for an entertaining dinner, listening to him praise the toilets here in Thailand. They have a water hose with a spray nozzle to clean yourself after you’re done, as the pipes here aren’t designed to have toilet paper flushed through them. There’s a little bin next to the toilet for throwing away the toilet paper after you’ve dried yourself. “It’s great, you feel so clean afterwards!” He enthused. “I should sell the idea to Greece – I’d make a bundle!” For anyone who hasn’t been to Greece, they have the little bin – but no water sprayer. Thailand’s toilets are definitely a lot better! Later on after I was finished with dinner I went up to him and said I completely agreed about the toilets – he was so delighted he shook my hand, and as I walked off he turned to his family and said “See? I told you!”

After breakfasting and blogging, we’re about to head out for snorkelling. Unfortunately I didn’t end up bringing a stills camera with me, as I’m intending to buy one when we go back to Bangkok. So there won’t be any underwater shots like the last time I was on a reef. We’ll just have to be extra descriptive in our posts! 🙂

Photo Post. Fingers Crossed.

Please let the internet not swallow my post for the 10th time today!

In no particular order:

‘Beach Love’, where we have happy hour drinks every night before finding somewhere for dinner. That red lantern in the front created quite a bit of entertainment as we watched every dog on the beach pee on it in succession. There were other lanterns, mind, but this one was where it was at as far as the dogs were concerned.


Nothing says ‘ostentatious’ like giant gold letters on a rock.


panviman sign


Our usual table at Beach Love. I tried to speak a few words of Thai to the waiter only to discover he was from Myanmar and didn’t speak Thai. Typical!



A bit of dawn photography shennanigans. Look at me being all wistful and suchlike.





Luke enjoys a plate of delicious treats from the breakfast buffet. ‘Breakfast included’ is one of my favourite phrases ;-).




Sorry about the tiny photos, it’s on my list of Things To Learn About WordPress.

So what else have we been up to? A couple of massages, which probably doubles the number of massages I’ve had in my life. I wrote some postcards today, one of them to my dog. We’re leaving here tomorrow, which is sad because this is the lifestyle to which I’d like to become accustomed, but it’s probably a bit early for retirement and I’m keen to experience a different side to the island, something a bit livelier.

I’ll leave you with some Engrish spotted at the beach.

seen in Koh Phangan