Japanese Covered Bridge… with all the other tourists
As we drove through Danang from the airport towards Hoi An, we were pretty amazed to see a lot of development, especially along the beach. There are a startling number of new resorts in varying stages of completion along there, and the Danang airport also has a brand new international terminal since we were last here in 2014. Wow!
Da Nang isn’t the only place to be developing – as we drove in, we saw Hoi An is growing quickly too, and the sleepy town we’d visited is now much bigger too. One night we walked along Cua Dai where we’d stayed last time, and we were shocked to see that almost all the places we’d eaten at (and the cheap beer places, too) had been replaced by more new hotels and electronics shops. The little Pho place next to that hotel was still there, but it looked like only just!
We flew with Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi, which was uneventful, as preferred! The airport at Hanoi is brand new — only two years old (I couldn’t work out why it seemed unfamiliar, when we’d flown into Hanoi only three years ago…)
Driving into the Old Town, we were overrun by mopeds, and remembered hearing last time that there is some strangely huge number of motorbikes in Vietnam, like three per person or something. There were certainly a lot on the roads!
NYE on Beer Corner
Our hotel was the Essence on Ta Hien St, right off Beer Corner. We had chosen it knowing it was in the middle of the Old Quarter, but didn’t realise quite how much it was totally in the thick of things. It was busy on the Saturday night, but on NYE the streets outside were heaving — literally wall-to-wall people!
Train to Kanchanaburi
Next after Bangkok, we headed out to the countryside (well, it’s all relative) to Kanchanaburi, the home of the Bridge over the River Kwai. We decided that to do it properly, we should take the train, and so we hopped onto the slow 3rd class passenger train (no aircon) at Bangkok Thonburi station (otherwise known as Bangkok Noi – small).
The station took R aback somewhat, as he was getting used to Bangkok’s flashiness, and Noi was certainly not that. The train was even less flashy, with hard seats and the occasional fan and open window providing the “aircon”.
After the quiet of Laos, Bangkok was a bit of a shock!
We arrived in the middle of rush hour (well, hours) so it took us over an hour to get from the airport to the hotel, The Matria, a newish place off Sukhumvit. After checking in, we went for a wander of the streets to get acclimatised to Bangkok: traffic, traffic and traffic!
Our street, Soi 18, has about 6 massage places, at least two laundries, three or four other hotels and restaurants, and at least three 7/11s. Plus a goodly number of street vendors selling juices, meat-onna-stick, soup etc up near the Sukhumvit intersection, depending on the day. This makes for a great gauntlet to run when wandering out on excursions — everything from “Massage?” to “Tuk tuk?”
Sunset over the Mekong
Summer holidays means travelling to Europe to take advantage of the extended break, right? Not this time! We’d started planning an Eastern Europe trip, but I threw in the towel and decided that closer to home would be better, and it wouldn’t be nearly as cold as further north.
Laos was the fourth country in the Indochina circle for me to visit – I’d been to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam before, so I was expecting something similar. Laos is similar to its neighbours, yes, but it’s also got a charm all of its own.
This school holidays I’ve headed up to Singapore with my friend K and her 7-year-old, M.
We hit the ground running in Singapore. After the midnight flight, we were pretty tired, but couldn’t check into the hotel straight away.
L and I flew with Bangkok Air down to Phuket to spend a couple of days relaxing before heading back home to go back to work.
Gluten free breads at the Movenpick!
A random seafood restaurant
Dinner on our first night in Phuket
The train station at Chiang Mai isn’t too hard to navigate (and has platforms long enough for the train!) so we found it easy to find our transfers to the hotel. We were staying at the People Place Building 2, which is near the night markets, but quite a walk to the old town and the main drag.
Leaving the Chiang Mai train station
Leaving Kuchanaburi, we headed to Ayutthaya to spend the day before catching the night train to Chiang Mai. We stopped into a grocery store for obligatory Thai coffee (espresso and sweetened condensed milk poured over a few cups of ice, then sipped over the next few hours) and snacks for the train.
Yummy spicy chips
Chocolate flavoured cheezels
Leaving Bangkok, we concentrated on the outskirts for a while, visiting a couple of different markets before heading up to Kanchanaburi, where we stayed for a couple of days.
Our first stop was the Railway Markets, where we fortified ourselves with Thai coffee before heading into the markets.
Various food for sale
Always a few kitty cats
How much is that kitty in the window?