First Day in Bangkok: Grand Palace, Tuk Tuks, & Go Gos

First Day in Bangkok: Grand Palace, Tuk Tuks, & Go Gos

Guest Post by Austin Rose at PeaceJoyAustin travel blog.

 

I Made It

After 20 hours of travel from Denver through San Francisco & Beijing, I landed at Thailand’s Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport late on a Saturday evening, converted 20 USD into Thai baht (the airport exchange rate isn’t the best so I didn’t convert much yet), and took a $6 cab ride to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment 30 minutes away. My host was out partying, but another guest who was staying there let me in and showed me the bed in which I was to sleep. I woke up in the next morning with a stranger (my host I hadn’t met yet) in my bed.

Water Taxi, Khao San Road, & Mysterious Lines

In the morning, I went out to explore with two fellow guests, a couple from Israel who had just finished their military service and were on a celebratory trip through South and Southeast Asia. We hopped on the SkyTrain (Bangkok’s light rail) and took it to the Saphan Taksin stationon the Chao Phraya River. From there, we hopped on the cheapest river taxi option (orange flag, 14 baht) and took a ride North to the Tha Chang stop by the Grand Palace. The boat ride was beautiful – there were lots of pretty hotels and office buildings on each side of the river and tons of interesting barges – some of which interestingly had large tires all over their edges.

We stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants along Na Phra Lan Road and I had a delicious pork dish. After that, we separated so I could go exchange money. I wandered into a hotel I passed and pretended to be waiting for a friend as I sat in the lobby, used their wifi, and charged my phone  Then I walked over to Khao San Road, a long and colorful block of hostels, restaurants, and bars. I found a great exchange rate at a green Kasikorn Bank currency exchange booth – this brand is known as having one of the best rates (after Superrich which are harder to find) but each booth can vary significantly.

Next, I began to walk through the Royal Field to get to the Grand Palace when I found myself stuck between incredibly long lines of people wearing all black. I found my way out of the crowd after several minutes and eventually found a way to exit the field, ultimately feeling completely clueless about what was happening. I later found out that these were Thai people waiting in line to go to a special area in the Grand Palace to mourn the king who had passed away that year. Thai people mourn the death of their kings for a period of one year and this king was especially beloved so throughout my time in the country I passed many people robed in black or wearing black ribbons in honor of him.

Bangkok

Streets of Bangkok.

 

Grand Palace & Wat Pho

 

I finally made it to the Grand Palace, where I paid my 500 baht (14 USD) admission, the single most expensive thing I bought on my entire trip. Worth it? Absolutely! The palace is easily the most beautiful human-made place I have ever visited. Wandering among dozens of ornate buildings, statues, and temples was a very magical time. While the main Grand Palace building is seemingly reserved for VIPs, Thai people, special events, etc., you are allowed to walk by and take a peek at this huge building as you exit the palace grounds. Note: this is the most touristy place in Thailand, which is arguably the most touristy country in Asia. SO MANY TOURISTS. So thankful the rest of my trip wasn’t like this.

I walked a few blocks south to Wat Pho, one of Bangkok’s other famous temples – passing a few monks along the way (not an uncommon sight in Thailand). A reasonable 100 baht entry fee got me entrance to this large complex of temples, gardens, and the famous Reclining Buddha who is gigantic, super chill, and totally my spirit Buddha. After some wonderful wandering, I exited and negotiated a tuk tuk driver down from 400 baht to 150 baht. Then ensued a thrilling ride through rush hour traffic – there was lots of weaving around stalled regular-size cars and maybe even a few squeals escaping my mouth. This 20 minute ride was one of the most fun things I experienced in Thailand and you can’t leave Thailand without taking one of your own! A tuk tuk is probably going to set you back more than a taxi, but as I did you should negotiate the price before getting in. My driver ended up giving himself a non-negotiable 50 baht tip for his (admittably impressive) driving skills which apparently can happen.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho.

 

Emquartier Mall & Benjasiri Park

From there, I hopped on the SkyTrain and went back to the On Nut station where I had

began my day to meet a Couchsurfing acquaintance. We took the SkyTrain to the new Emquartier mall where we went directly to the food court. (Side note: malls are very exquisite and popular in Thailand and they are known to have pretty decent food.) This food court requires you to put money on a card which you then use to purchase from the various vendors. If you end up with excess money on the card, you can get it refunded after your meal. I had hainan chicken and mango & sticky rice, a popular dessert consisting of slices of mango paired with a very sweet rice.

Bangkok

Thai Food.

After strolling through the mall’s beautiful rooftop garden and taking in the view, we walked South to Benjasiri Park, which was bustling with locals running, doing fencing, getting in some pull-ups, or simply sitting on benches people-watching. The park surrounds a large lake and there’s great views of skyscrapers in every direction.

I met up with another local friend and we took motorbike taxis (basically getting on the back of someone’s motorcycle and holding on) to the rail station to which we needed to go. It was my second time ever riding a motorcycle so a bit scary at fast but quite fun. We headed to the Silom area, a hot-spot of sinful and fun activity and home to Bangkok’s largest gay scene. We walked into a back alley gay red light district known as Duangthawee Plaza off Surawongse Road and found ourselves surrounded by men inviting us to come inside their businesses for massages, shows, and who knows what else. Research where you’d like to go ahead of time as I’ve heard some of the less-known places will misrepresent their prices and not allow you to leave until you pay an exorbitant fee.

 

Silom – Go-Go Show & Karaoke

 

We went to Classic Boys Club to see a go-go boy show – 300 baht admission got us into a wild and unforgettable 40 minute performance which included ladyboys expertly performing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” an underwater show (a man doing somersaults in a giant water tank), an obligatory ode to Ginuwine’s “Pony,” and dancing men in trench coats who finished wearing a lot less than when they started.

We walked a block over to the main gay strip (Silom 4) and went to Telephone Bar, one of the most popular gay bars in the city. We went to the upper level to do some karaoke– for a one-drink minimum, you get free, unlimited karaoke shared with the other tables on the level. Basically you request the songs you’d like, the karaoke coordinator (what a job!) takes turns granting each table’s request, and when your song comes up you take the mics and perform for the small room (either standing or sitting at your table – it’s casual). Since I think alcohol is poison and only drink on the most special of special occasions, I had a banana shake. Yum!

Bangkok

Night clubs of Bangkok.

From there, my friend and I took local buses to his place and called it a night. I was fascinated by his small bathroom which he described as being an old-fashioned Southeast Asian style – there was no separate stall for the shower. When you shower, the bathroom floor, toilet, sink, etc. get soaking wet! So definitely not my fave but it was a cool cultural difference to experience.

Click here to go on to = Bangkok Day 2 Blog as I head to the historic city of Ayutthaya and the tallest rooftop bar in the world.

Click here for a travel guide to Bangkok outlining cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to see, eat, and drink.

 

*This article comes courtesy of Austin Rose at PeaceJoyAustin travel Blog.

About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

Ditch Phuket!!! And Head North to Khao Lak instead

Ditch Phuket!!! And Head North to Khao Lak instead

Ditch Phuket!!! I hear what you’re thinking, Is this guy serious?

Perhaps I am being a little harsh, because Phuketis great, yes great!!! And if that is your preferred holiday destination, I’ll be the first to say there is nothing wrong with that. Especially if you love the busy atmosphere that comes with the popular tourist island of Thailand.

What if I could tell you that there is another option just as appetising for travellers, that is situated along the West Coast of Thailand that overlooks the Andaman Sea, and better yet, it’s only a short 60-minute drive from the Phuket International Airport.

Sounds Great!!! Well let me introduce you to Khao Lak.

The chances are you have probably heard of it, some of you have probably paid a visit, but if you haven’t stumbled across Khao Lak during your time in Thailand or if you are just plain unfamiliar with coastal town, I am going to give you a few reasons why you should head North to Khao Lak and ditch Phuket in the process.

Ditch Phuket

Jump for joy, it’s Khao Lak.

 

 

Less hustle and bustle

 

Less, crowds, less tourist, less worries. Walking around the town centre and the major markets of Khao Lak are a breeze, especially when there is less chance of colliding with people on the streets and watching your step at every turn. Another bonus is the amount of traffic on the streets, it is considerably less, which also means less motor bikes to doge.

In the quieter streets of Khao Lak you have the luxury to shop with freedom and without getting hassled constantly by a shop owner, at least until you are ready to buy because that’s when the bartering begins. The same can be said with laidback nature of Khao Lak’s bars and restaurants, wander in grab a seat and enjoy a relaxing Chang beer, while mingling with those around you, and at the end of night, either stroll back to your hotel or catch an affordable taxi that are readily available.

 

Khao Lak Markets

Get out and about in the markets of Khao Lak.

 

Pristine beaches

 

From the time you enter Khao Lak and take your first glimpse of the coast line over the Andaman Sea, you will be mesmerised at how beautiful the beaches look from afar. Very white and pristine. The first thought will be take camera out and take some amazing photos.  

Once at the beach itself, there is plenty of room to move about, with crowds simply not an issue and the seas quite calm in most areas. Best of all you will find the beaches are kept relatively clean, so take of your thongs and enjoy the soft sand underneath your feet and enjoy a stroll by ocean.

Khao lak beaches

Ditch Phuket for these beautiful Khao Lak beaches.

 

Delightful beachside resorts

 

When a town is situated on the beach, there are bound to be some fine beachside resorts and Khao Lak doesn’t disappoint with many fine resorts spread out through the town. You will find a number resorts either within walking distance of the town or some a little further out.

Some great resorts of note in Khao Lak is the Mai Khao Lak Resort, Laguna Resort, Beyond Resort and the delightful Anda Mani Resort. Be sure you that you will find plenty of accommodations in the area to suit most budgets.

Heading to Khao Lak? Check out hotel prices at TripAdvisor.

 

Mai Khao Lak

Mai Khao Lak Resort.

 

 

Khao Lak has everything you need for a perfect holiday

 

Whatever it is you desire for a luxury holiday, khao Lak will not let you down. Shopping, beaches, waterfalls, restaurants and bars and many attractions within close proximity to town. Khao Lak has all what Phuket has to offer, just with less crowds.

You want a day trip out to James Bond Island or Phi Phi islands, Khao Lak and their popular tours will deliver. You want a trip over to Phuket, it’s only a short drive away and you can be back in time to watch a gorgeous Thai sunset to end the perfect day.

If you didn’t know much about Khao Lak, well now you know a little more, but nothing can beat seeing this fabulous town for yourself and witnessing true luxury. It may persuade you to ditch Phuket for your next holiday and explore a different of Thailand.

 

Khao Lak Beach

Overlooking a beach in Khao Lak.

About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

Blackheath in New South Wales – What to See & Do

Blackheath in New South Wales – What to See & Do

Originally known as East Lithgow, Blackheath is a region located in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia and as one of the highest of towns in the Blue Mountains area above sea level, there is plenty of fresh air and amazing views.

The name ‘Blackheath’ was given by the then Governor Lachlan Macquarie due to the black wild appearance of the native shrubbery and landscape of the area. Here’s some interesting things you could do while hanging around at Blackheath.

Blackheath

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Admire the scenery

Pulpit Rock Lookout is just a 15 minute walk from where you park, but to get there you do have to drive through unsealed dirt roads. The hike itself is a medium difficulty one but has a great reward of its spectacular views. This lookout is one of the lesser known ones but provides a 360 panoramic view of the mountains if you walk all the way down the stairs where it points out.

The Govetts Leap Lookout is the most popular lookout in the area, boasting clear views of the waterfall on the opposite side. Evans Lookout and Perry’s Lookdown share similar views to Govetts Leap Lookout, but at different points across the mountains of the Grose Valley.

Blackheath

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Get involved at the local events

The Blackheath Rhododendron Festival… Rhododendron sounds a bit like a many-sided shape but it is actually a genus of woody plants that bloom from winter to early summer.

Azaleas are a species that are part of the Rhododendron genus. This festival is held annually on the first weekend of November and features attractions such as its garden and art exhibitions and more.

For monthly events, there is the Blackheath Growers Market where you can buy and indulge in regional food produced by local growers and try artisanal foods. The market is held on the second Sunday of every month from 8am-12pm.

Blackheath

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Indulge in some local food

If you’re a lover of eating apples, head on over to Logan Brae – a boutique apple orchard with history dating back to 1919 where it was first planted and the Shipley Plateau which is a few minutes away was an important area for apple growing. It’s the last remaining orchard in the area so make a visit for apples, apple juice and all sorts of delicious foods such as apple pies.

Blackheath is home to many great cafes such as Anonymous Cage, Vesta and Victory Cafe. There are plenty of dining options available in the area.

Blackheath

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Horseback Riding

To further enjoy the wide open spaces of Blackheath, why not head to Centennial Glen Stables and go on a horseback riding tour on a sunset ride with great views along a variety of trails. Trail rides go for 2-5 hours depending on what you sign up for.

Blackheath

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The Blue Mountains area is a must see for both local and international travellers! Be sure to cross off Blackheath on your bucket list!

Heading to the Blue Mountains? Search for Accommodation at TripAdvisor.

Blackheath New South Wales

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About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

Postcards: A Journey to Thailand’s James Bond Island

Postcards: A Journey to Thailand’s James Bond Island

You may think the appeal of heading out to Thailand’s James Bond Island has a lot to do with the Bond 1974 movie, “The man with the Golden Gun,” and you’re probably right. Back then it was used to house Bond’s main antagonist, while Roger Moore used his bag of tricks to bring down the bad guy. Not to mention Britt Ekland, who looked quite sexy as Bond’s leading lady.

Fast forward into the 21st century and not a lot has changed about this stunning island, it still holds its unique appearance amongst other islands in Phang Nga Bay and beautiful women are still the catch of the eye with their modern-day swimwear.

The only obvious difference these days, is that James Bond Island is now bombarded with tourist out to get a glimpse of the showpiece and it is quite commercialised with boats and a row of markets to the rear of the beach. None the less it is still quite spectacular.

Heading to Phuket? Search for affordable accommodation on TripAdvisor.

 

James Bond Island

Just like the 1974 film, beautiful women are still making way to James Bond Island.

 

The real name is what?

James Bond Island is what it’s referred to these days to attract all the tourist who flock to Thailand, but it may hold some interest to you that the actual name is Ko Khao Phing Kan. The famous tall islet that receives most attention from travellers is known as Ko Tapu.

 

James Bond Island

I marvel at the James Bond Island, Or Ko Tapu which is the name of the Islet.

James Bond Island

The real name is Ko Khao Phing Kan.

 

  Getting to the Island

There is only one way to get to the island and naturally, that is by boat. Whether it is in style on a luxury speed boat or the less comfortable Longboats, you will find plenty of day tours around Phuket and major tourist towns in the Phang Nga Province that can give you the Bond Experience. Most cruises to the island depart from The Phuket Marina and is on average about a 90-minute trip. Alternative, if staying on mainland Thailand, there are other departure areas in Phang Nga Bay that will get you to the Island in quick time after a bus trip through the land. Ask the tour agencies on the streets of any town centre for more information on day tours to the island.

 

James Bond Island

Tourist boats make their way to shore.

James Bond Island

James Bond Island.

 

  What to do at James Bond Island

Time at James Bond Island is generally limited due to the hectic schedule of a day trip. Therefore, there is no time to waste once you step foot off the boat, here is a few things to do on the island.

  • Take lots of Photos: It is a photographer’s dream and there will be several photos and selfies taken from all sorts of angles and vantage points, especially those higher spots that contain the best views of the Ko Tapu Islet.
James Bond Island

Great photos shots can be found all over the island.

 

  • Relax in the Sun: Even with limited time, those who desire a sunbake will find opportunity to roll out the towel and enjoy a little shut eye in the Thai heat. Alternatively, for the responsible travellers, there is plenty of shade on the main island, for those who seek a little respite from the heat.
James Bond Island

Take respite in the shade from the Thai heat.

 

  • Shopping at the boutique markets: It won’t be cheap, but still the markets are neatly rowed along the rear of the beach and sell most of the same souvenirs that can be found on the mainland. It won’t hurt to have a browse, but save the buying for Phuket.
James Bond Island

The markets are alive and buzzing.

 

  • Have a swim in the Bay: Swimming is a popular option in the calm bay, especially for those who are keen to take the forty-metre swim to touch the famous islet. Otherwise, it is a cool change to have a splash in the water and take more photos of the stunning surrounds.
James Bond Island

Take a swim in the Bay.

 

It’s Bond – James Bond. You have seen it in the movie, now you can see the popular film setting. Book a trip when you are next in Thailand, enjoy the cruise, enjoy the other islands in the area and most of all, enjoy a great day out with family and friends in near perfect conditions.

James Bond Island

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About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia

3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia

When it comes to places to stay, some people can overlook the less conventional options. Besides saving a ton of money, opting for free digs also opens opportunities for new friendships, fascinating encounters and hilarious stories. When we visited Perth, Australia, we found these things in abundance. Here we present a guide to three of our favourite alternatives to hostels, hotels and Airbnb. 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia House sitting House sitting can seem like quite a strange concept. Also known as pet sitting (most “assignments” include animals to take care of), the deal is that homeowners find trustworthy strangers to come and take care of their property (and pets) while they go on vacation. Fido/Felix aren’t sent to expensive, stressful kennels, the owners get peace of mind knowing everything is well-cared for and and you get a free place to stay! There are numerous websites that allow hosts and sitters alike to sign up, log in and search for a good match. We used https://www.aussiehousesitters.com.au/ to find gigs in Western Australia, but there are global ones too, such as https://www.trustedhousesitters.com and https://www.nomador.com/. Sites usually charge a reasonable yearly membership fee, giving you access to potential house-sits all over Australia (and with the latter two, the rest of the world). 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia It’s also important to get some reliable, sterling references, so that homeowners can see you’re the ideal candidates to look after their pets. We recommend starting with a few from friends whose animals you’ve cared for, then after a couple of actual assignments you should have the ideal pet-sitter’s resume; it won’t be long before homeowners are contacting you to come and sit for them! 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia It’s worth noting that this exchange relies of faith in humanity rather than any sort of monetary transaction. We’ve heard of sites that charge both homeowners and sitters, but in our experience, it’s better to avoid accepting payment as it changes the dynamics of the relationship. This deal is all about trust and mutual generosity, not a service just to gain free digs. A word of advice: Try organising Skype conversations with your potential sits too, as it gives you a better idea of what to expect. We speak from experience when we say that not all house-sitting assignments are a walk in the park…   But generally speaking, pet sitting has been a wonderful, fruitful experience for the two of us and in our blog post “Why pet sitting is perfect for travelling animal lovers”, we go into greater detail about why we still look after animals all over the world. Couch surfing Another way to make new friends and have a more soulful travelling experience is to try couch surfing. Some people claim that the website and its concept plateaued in the mid-2000s, but we recently did it in Perth and can vouch for the community’s size and popularity both there and the rest of the world. 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia Travellers can sign up to http://www.couchsurfing.com and create a profile, then search the database for thousands of like-minded people who are offering a place to stay, free of charge. The accommodation isn’t always a couch, either; most hosts offer a private room to sleep in, and have had so many guests stay in their home that they are very well prepared when it comes to hospitality for their sofa-surfers. To bag a decent place to crash, it’s crucial to have an honest, interesting profile and the intention of genuinely wanting to engage with the host. Members want to feel that they’re inviting someone fun, interesting and considerate into their home, so a blank or vague profile is bound to be unappealing. 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia Another thing to remember is to engage with them in online conversation before you show up, asking questions related to their own profile and travel experiences, to see if you would get along in person. It’s important to read their profiles carefully, as some hosts have certain stipulations, such as individual guests only, or a specific gender preference. If all this sounds a little bit kinky, you’re right to be apprehensive. There are a few couch surfer hosts who besmirch the concept with a hint of seediness, although it will be fairly obvious from their profiles if they are looking for more than just a conversation about travel. Look out for “naked sleepers” or “share a bed” in the tags, and stay well clear if sexual adventures aren’t a part of your agenda. Site moderation also helps surfers to stay safe, and there’s a whole section on the website devoted to it, so it’s simple to find the right kind of social experience for you. 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia We stayed with a friendly, fascinating German couple who lived in downtown Perth. They had hosted hundreds of surfers and provided us with a very comfortable private room and even our own bathroom, which goes to prove how well-equipped and generous some hosts can be. We learned about their work in Alice Springs, their conservation efforts all over the globe and got to know Perth a little better thanks to their guidance as locals, which is what couch surfing is truly all about. WWOOFing/WorkAway If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and chipping in to help with physical tasks, this third method of finding free accommodation in Western Australia will certainly suit you. Whether you want to help an eco-tourism company in Broome or try landscape gardening next to the Margaret River, there’s a variety of work to be found in Western Australia. With websites like http://www.wwoof.com.au/ (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) and https://www.workaway.info/ travellers can find ideal hosts to live with in exchange for a few hours of work per day. 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia Like couch surfing and house sitting, registration with the websites allows you to search a database of ideal locations, accommodation, hosts and employment. From large organic farms to private smallholdings, you can help people who don’t have enough workers, or those who can’t do the work themselves, such as the disabled or the elderly – it’s a very positive, productive way of travelling. Our note of caution with working in exchange for accommodation is to be sure you understand the work involved. This isn’t just so that you are sure of fulfilling your requested duties, but also to safeguard against employers who might take advantage of their free workers! Fortunately, the websites we’ve listed in this post list vetted hosts and offer plenty of advice and support, which should protect you from any unscrupulous farmers. 3 Ways to find Free Accommodation in Western Australia With a great profile, excellent communication and the right attitude, “WWOOFers” and “Workawayers” can find meaningful encounters with the locals of an area. If walking someone else’s dogs on the beach, going on graffiti trails with couch surfer hosts or picking oranges near Perth sounds like a unique way to spend a vacation, take a look at the links in this post and give it a go. You’ll be rewarded with more than just a free roof over your head. Byline: This post was written by Mark J Newton, one half of the artistic duo the Escape Artists 11:11. He and his partner Nate Evans have been living a nomadic lifestyle since 2014 but have only recently begun to document their travels. To learn more about life and work while being location-independent (and what 11:11 means to them!), head to their site www.escapeartists1111.co.uk.

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About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...