Thailand Part 3: The journey south……

So on our last day in Pakse with our tickets ready (bought a day earlier from Pakse travel at a discounted rate of 275,000 kip ($33, £21) (normally around 315-330,000 kip ($38/£25-$42/£28)) each for the border crossing and upper sleeper on the night train to Ayutthaya. Basically the last day in Pakse was spent not doing very much and just waiting to leave, we went to the market and Gav picked up some recycled spoons and apparently there were illegal animals for sale there- the mere sight of us though and I think everything was hidden as we heard the ripple of “Falang” as we entered the meat section. There is no sneaking up on the people of Pakse! Damn it! It was your standard market and the only thing out of the ordinary were huge bags of really fragrant tobacco.

As we were checking out I spotted this chap. Biggest grasshopper I've ever seen! Bigger than my index finger!
As we were checking out I spotted this chap. Biggest grasshopper I’ve ever seen! Bigger than my index finger!
Piles and piles of fragrant tobacco
Piles and piles of fragrant tobacco

A trawl of coffee shops- some bad (Delta-why can’t I charge my dying phone?), others excellent (Daolin– our main place in Pakse, gave us a table where I could charge and play with my phone! Yay!).

So after a rather uneventful morning we headed to the office for our 3 pm pick up, the bus arrived, we piled on- bags on the roof, zoomed around Pakse picking others up and we were off for the border! It was only 40 km to Chong Mek, where were were unloaded and had to walk to the Laos border control. After a very confusing few minutes of handing in our passports to one window and getting a ticket, then handing the ticket in to another window and paying either $1 or 10,000 kip, getting another ticket and going back to the first window where you hand in your ticket to the clerk who holds up various passports and asks “is this you?”, Gav got a blond guys first, then an american passport handed to him before handing it back and pointing to his one eventually got his one. I got shown a man’s passport first (!!! the cheek!), then with the dwindling pile eventually managed to get mine by pointing. Secure eh?

Then it was another 150 m or so to the Thai boarder, up a dirt path and through a turnstile manned by a very blase security guard, he checked Gav and waved the rest of the group (6 of us) though. Then next job the Thai border control, which this time involved the usual entry card plus a health questionnaire- MERS related, the guard we handed it to barely glanced at it with a slight smile, soaked as it was with the sweat that was dripping from our faces in the roasting room. Then on to immigration, as we had our visas already, the only worry was if we would get the two months we had requested-otherwise it would have been pointless for Gav as he gets 30 days at the border anyway, a rather tense few minutes passed and then I was at the front of the queue where the officer asked me what we were doing in Thailand. I think he regretted it immediately as I started off into our 6-8 week travel plan but I got my two month visa anyway. The last hurdle was a security bag scan and I waited for Gav on the other side. I waited for what seemed like an eternity and eventually he came through and we joined the rest of the group. What followed next was the most confusing 2 hours we have had in a while…..

We were separated into groups, then the groups were mixed when we got in the tuk tuk for the short drive to the bus station where our ticket was taken and we were pointed in the direction of our bus, or was it our bus? Who knew? Eventually someone confirmed that we would get to Ubon Ratchathani but not what would happen after that. There was no room for the bags so it was a massive squash in and more people crammed on as we wound our way to Ubon. Gav was somewhere in the back of the bus, I was crammed behind the front seats between two guys and our rucksacks. On arrival into the bus station, we were met by the usual slew of taxi and tuk tuk drivers. We were to find someone who had our train tickets- luckily it wasn’t too long a wait and eventually he found us, gave us our tickets and whisked us away to his taxi for a short ride to the train station. On arrival he escorted us to the ticket office where we discovered the train was delayed by an hour (this we would soon discover would be a common theme with Thai Railways). We took the extra time to grab the most horrible bowl of chicken (neck?) noodle soup. Then it was time to board the train…….

As we only booked it a few days before we could only get two upper sleepers (they are cheaper anyway)....
As we only booked it a few days before we could only get two upper sleepers (they are cheaper anyway)….
...right across from each other
…right across from each other
...the conductor came along and made your bed for you, plus he kept an eye on us and made sure to let us know when it was our stop, which was really nice of him..
…the conductor came along and made your bed for you, plus he kept an eye on us and made sure to let us know when it was our stop, which was really nice of him..
..we had gone for a fan carriage, it was a bit hot with the curtain closed but too bright with it open, the black strap you can see there was one of two and was infinitely more comfortable than the train in Yangon,, we actually got some sleep!
..we had gone for a fan carriage, it was a bit hot with the curtain closed but too bright with it open, the black strap you can see there was one of two and was infinitely more comfortable than the train in Yangon- we actually got some sleep!

The delay would have worked in our favour but we managed to make up the time so still arrived into Ayutthaya at 5.30 am, our guesthouse didn’t open until 6.30 am, so we found a spot and waited… once it did open our room wasn’t ready so we had to wait till 9.30 am to get into our room. We were both stinking as you can imagine and really wanted a shower but we had to wait. After coffee and breakfast we got our room, finally had a shower and then headed out to see what Ayutthaya was like.

To get to the old city you had to get a boat across (or a tuk tuk- the boat, right next to our guesthouse, was 5 B ($0.13/£0.09) though so no contest there). We spent a day and a bit there. It was enough.

The tuk tuks here are from Japan apparently, not a style we had seen before
The tuk tuks here are from Japan apparently, not a style we had seen before

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This is the top of the central temple in Wat Rathburana, it's currently under restoration by a team of German specialists.
This is the top of the central temple in Wat Ratburana, it’s currently under restoration by a team of German specialists.
Finally a decent bat picture, this little guy was hidden in one of the small temples.
Finally a decent bat picture, this little guy was hidden in one of the small temples.

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Severely damaged but still recognisable huge seated Buddha
Severely damaged but still recognisable huge seated Buddha in Wat Ratburana

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One of the libraries in Wat Mahathat. Just as we got here four tour groups arrived. If it looks like there is noone about it's because we are very good at avoiding herds of people (in fairness it's quite easy if they are only going to see one thing at each temple).
One of the libraries in Wat Mahathat. Just as we got here four tour groups arrived. If it looks like there is noone about it’s because we are very good at avoiding herds of people (in fairness it’s quite easy if they are only going to see one thing at each temple).
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
The big draw at Wat Mahathat, a Buddha head trapped in tree roots.
The big draw at Wat Mahathat, a Buddha head trapped in tree roots.
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Check this guy out! Caught him running across the grass and up a tree!
Check this guy out! Caught him running across the grass and up a tree!
The most amazing coloured head!
The most amazing coloured head!
Bung Phra Ram Park
Bung Phra Ram Park
One of the four stupas at the Ancient Palace
One of the four stupas at the Ancient Palace
Ancient Palace
Ancient Palace
Ancient Palace
Ancient Palace
Phet Fortress
Phet Fortress
Literally just exterior walls but nice views of the confluence of the rivers
Literally just exterior walls but nice views of the confluence of the rivers
Gav told me off for taking this.. Ayutthaya's Special Bureau of Investigation.
Gav told me off for taking this.. Ayutthaya’s Special Bureau of Investigation.

After Ayutthaya we grabbed a 3rd class train ticket for 15 B ($0.39/£0.27) into Bangkok. It was another episode of extreme train riding as there were no seats….

3rd class was packed...
3rd class was packed…
We took it in turns to sit on the steps by the door as there were no seats.
We took it in turns to sit on the steps by the door as there were no seats.

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The train was also used to bring goods from the countryside into Bangkok- Gav helped unload all this.
The train was also used to bring goods from the countryside into Bangkok- Gav helped unload all this.
...for the most part the journey to Bangkok was just fields, the odd village and some industrial units. ...
…for the most part the journey to Bangkok was just fields, the odd village and some industrial units. …
...once in Bangkok however apart from the horrible slums we passed (like houses we saw in Yangon), the rubbish and chaotic traffic there was some cool graffiti..
…once in Bangkok however apart from the horrible slums we passed (like houses we saw in Yangon), the rubbish and chaotic traffic there was some cool graffiti..

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It arrived an hour late into Bangkok and we quickly got off and out of the station and away from the tuk tuks for the short walk to our hotel (20 mins). I ended up injuring myself within two minutes of getting out of the station thanks to their slippy and steep crossings so it was shaping up to be another crappy trip to Bangkok.*sigh* We were staying in the New Road Guesthouse near Silom. It was ok, I would not recommend it though.

So Bangkok…. Apart from Silom being so expensive (UK prices essentially) we didn’t hang about there much. What we did mange to do was meet up with Stu again (Thailand Part 1) and visited the Chatuchak Weekend market, one of the largest markets (if not largest) in the world apparently. Amazing for shopping, this part of Bangkok we do like. Also since it is on the Metro we didn’t have to get a tuk tuk. Hurrah!

Insanely expensive craft beer in Silom. They charged 7% vat and 10% service charge. All they had to do was open a bottle.
Insanely expensive craft beer in Silom. They charged 7% vat and 10% service charge. All they had to do was open a bottle.

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Some shops in a bus in Terminal 21 (each floor was a different city theme, this was London
Some shops in a bus in Terminal 21 (each floor was a different city theme, this was London… Stu brought us here. It was quite cool.

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In Terminal 21 shopping centre- super fancy toilets..
In Terminal 21 shopping centre- super fancy toilets..
The metro line- and the tickets are these little tokens.
The metro line- and the tickets are these little tokens.
Some of the choice stuff for sale in Chatuchak Market- dog stollers (you can also get them off Amazon), along with dogs, dog clothes, soap, bags, clothes, food, massage, homeware... basically if you can think of it, they probably sell it.
Some of the choice stuff for sale in Chatuchak Market– dog stollers (you can also get them off Amazon), along with dogs, dog clothes, soap, bags, clothes, food, massage, homeware… basically if you can think of it, they probably sell it.
Looks delicious no? All fake. So what did we buy at the market? Gav got a new bag- like this one. I got some clothes, a massage by a guy with gang tattoos, ..
Looks delicious no? All fake. So what did we buy at the market? Gav got a new bag- sort of like this one. I got some clothes, a massage by a guy with gang tattoos, ..
.. we also got some amazing coconut ice-cream, coffee, juice and chicken noodle soup.
.. we also got some amazing coconut ice-cream, coffee, juice and chicken noodle soup.

We liked Bangkok a lot more this time although we always seem to have stomach issues when we are near Bangkok (including this time Ayutthaya), I don’t know what it is but once we leave we are fine, it’s weird.

Anyway after Bangkok we hopped on another train south to our next stop of Prachuap Khiri Khan, a sleepy little town and holiday destination for the Thais since Hua Hin has been overrun with westerners, where we planned to do not very much at all and we succeeded very well at this.  We arrived into Prachuap within an hour of the horrific bombing of the Erawan Shrine. Gav got notification of it on his phone as we were having dinner, I thought he was joking but then reality sunk in and we notified family and friends that we were ok and no longer in Bangkok.

2nd class fan, not the cheapest but quite comfortable. My reclining seat failed to recline though. Journey time was 13.00-17.30. We left at 13.30-arrived at 19.00... we hadn't booked a hotel either but luckily had chosen a few to try.
2nd class fan, not the cheapest but quite comfortable. My reclining seat failed to recline though. Journey time was 13.00-17.30. We left at 13.30-arrived at 19.00… we hadn’t booked a hotel either but luckily had chosen a few to try.
Although we didn't arrive in daylight as expected, the sunset was really beautiful..
Although we didn’t arrive in daylight as expected, the sunset was really beautiful..
The hotel we stayed in was the Yuttichai Hotel. We stayed first in a horrible room with a hole in the wall covered with a sheet of corregated plastic (it was 170 B a night though) with shared bathroom. The following day we moved to the nicer room at 300B a night, en-suite but with cold shower. They had two puppies, a mynah bird and these- japanese fighing fish water planters. We also got free lunch one of the days.
The hotel we stayed in was the Yuttichai Hotel. We stayed first in a horrible room with a hole in the wall covered with a sheet of corrugated plastic (it was 170 B a night though) with shared bathroom. The following day we moved to the nicer room at 300B a night, en-suite but with cold shower. They had two puppies, a mynah bird and these- Japanese fighting fish water planters. We also got free lunch one of the days.

The first few days were gorgeous, really warm and sunny but then the weather turned and it got cold and wet. Yep 23ºC is now cold for us. I dread the next UK winter we experience.

Prachaup Khiri Kahn! Noone uses this beach in the centre of the town, its more of a dock for boats...
Prachuap Khiri Kahn! Noone uses this beach in the centre of the town, its more of a dock for boats…
Nice view though....
Nice view though….
The main beach to go to was Ao Manao.
The main beach to go to was Ao Manao.
To get to the main beach which is 5 km from the town and rather randomly located in an airforce base. All foreigners have to sign in and out. You have to cross the runway also.
To get to the main beach which is 5 km from the town and rather randomly located in an air base (Wing 5). All foreigners have to sign in and out. You have to cross the runway also.
We visited the beach twice, it was a nice spot. The beach wasn't amazing but there were some fish swimming about in the sea and it was warm and quite shallow. It was a good 300 m and over a sandbar until it covered your knees...
We visited the beach twice, it was a nice spot. The beach wasn’t amazing but there were some fish swimming about in the sea and it was warm and quite shallow. It was a good 300 m and over a sandbar until it covered your knees…
On one occasion I went out for a quick swim and some kids came to talk to me, first four, then they went away so I went back to floating, then they came back with ten kids, then they went away and then the whole class came and I was surrounded. They were lovely and trying to speak english to me which was quite fun.
On one occasion I went out for a quick swim and some kids came to talk to me, first four, then they went away so I went back to floating, then they came back with ten kids, then they went away and then the whole class came and I was surrounded. They were lovely and trying to speak English to me which was quite fun.
One the other things to do here is visit this temple on Monkey Montain. Looks easy doesn't it?
One the other things to do here is visit this temple, Wat Thammikaram on Monkey Mountain. Looks easy doesn’t it?
Except for these evil bastards.
Except for these evil bastards.
Look harmless don't they?
Look harmless don’t they?

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One of them had a rock, it was like Planet of the Apes..
One of them had a rock, it was like Planet of the Apes..
.. then a load of chinese tourist showed up with food and drew them all out so the path up was now covered with them!
.. then a bus load of Chinese tourist showed up with food and drew them all out so the path up was now covered with them! They only got as far as that shelter and went back down. 
We were trapped at this sign for ages, 3 attempts we made to get up before deciding it wasn't worth it. We didn't want to risk a bite and the inevitable trip to Bangkok for the rabies jabs so we headed back down
We were trapped at this sign for ages, 3 attempts we made to get up before deciding it wasn’t worth it. We didn’t want to risk a bite and the inevitable trip to Bangkok for the rabies jabs so we headed back down
When we got down to the bottom we ran into an American tour guide, Chris (http://huahinbiketours.com/) who was doing a tour with two Brazillians for a travel program who kindly asked did we want to come up with them....
When we got down to the bottom we ran into an American tour guide, Chris (http://huahinbiketours.com/) who was doing a tour with two Brazilians for a travel program who kindly asked would we like to come up with them….
We finallly made it to the top! Also I may be on Brazilian TV
We finally made it to the top! Also I may be on Brazilian TV
View North..
View north..
The airbase and runways to the south...
The airbase and runways to the south…
View west to Myanmar (the mountains are the border- Prachaup is only 12 km from the crossing. There is a weekend border market here too.
View west to Myanmar (the mountains are the border- Prachuap is only 12 km from the crossing. There is a weekend border market here too.
The prison...
The prison…
Me and the brazilians :)
Me and the Brazilians 🙂

Thankfully we made it back down to street level again intact and parted ways.

The following day having exhausted everything in walking distance we hired a moped. It was actually our last day in Prachuap- we spent a week there, time flies! Our first stop was a temple, Wat Ao Noi, and cave next to it to the north of Prachuap.

Mirror Mountain (its on Monkey Mountain. Supposed to be nice on a clear day...
Mirror Mountain (its on Monkey Mountain. Supposed to be nice on a clear day…
By the cave...
By the cave…
After a sort but steep climb we arrived at the cave entrance. There was supposed to be electricity. It didn't work but luckily we had torches. Lots of bats in this cave...
After a sort but steep climb we arrived at the cave entrance. There was supposed to be electricity. It didn’t work but luckily we had torches. Lots of bats in this cave…
Reclining Buddha number 1
Reclining Buddha number 1
..and number 2
..and number 2
Also some rather eerie statues...
Also some rather eerie statues…
A ghostly chair...
A ghostly chair…
Nice view from the top though!
Nice view from the top though!
Wat Ao Noi. This monastery makes its money by selling the swift bird's nests to China. Stealing one is 500,000 B (£9,137/$13,879) fine! This temple is quite new and made of teak.
Wat Ao Noi. This monastery makes its money by selling the swift bird’s nests to China. Stealing one is 500,000 B (£9,137/$13,879) fine! This temple is quite new and made of teak.

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Next to it is the crematorium (well across the road). We've been travelling in Buddhist countries for 5 months and we have never seen any until Prachuap.
Next to it is the crematorium (well across the road). We’ve been travelling in Buddhist countries for 5 months and we have never seen any until Prachuap.

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Back past Monkey mountain, these evil monkeys again.
Back past Monkey mountain, these evil monkeys again.
Our next stop was inside the Airbase again to the large mountain to the south. There are a colony of Dusky Languar monkeys here.
Our next stop was inside the Airbase again to the large mountain to the south. There are a colony of Dusky Langur monkeys here.
Most are very cute and will take food gently from you. The odd one will grab your bag off food though and make off with it.
Most are very cute and will take food gently from you. The odd one will grab your bag off food though and make off with it.

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Oddly the babies are orange.
Oddly the babies are orange.

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Gav got some great shots.
Gav got some great shots.

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I could have stayed there all day feeding them, they were so cute. Apart from one young one who decided to attack my harem pants and bite them, luckily they don't tend to bite through fabric and I had no monkey bites.
Chris from the previous day appeared with a group and told us where we could see more babies. I could have stayed there all day feeding them, they were so cute. Apart from one young one who decided to attack my harem pants and bite them, luckily they don’t tend to bite through fabric and I had no monkey bites. 

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So cute!
So cute!

This was the highlight of the day! After this we went to the Science Park. It was a bit like a post apocolyptic nightmare, everything broken and overgrown and the much hyped Aquarium was awful.

All the amazing fish around and they have them in tiny tanks. The place was being done up but they closed 90% of the Aquarium.
All the amazing fish around Thailand  and they have only a handful of them here in tiny tanks. The place was being done up but they closed 90% of the Aquarium.

2015-08-24 13.47.05

Poor Gav. It was so depressing.
Poor Gav. It was so depressing.
They even had a cool interactive science area but it was all falling apart or missing bits. Even the Butterfly farm was off limits.
They even had a cool interactive science area but it was all falling apart or missing bits. Even the Butterfly farm was off limits.

We had a play with some of the remaining exhibits- here’s a video of about the only one that worked:

Gate back into Prachuap
Gate back into Prachuap
City Pillar shrine
City Pillar shrine
Prachuap is famous for pineapples.
Prachuap is famous for pineapples.
While we were here we tried some new snacks and drinks, this was the most weird one. Sweetcorn flavoured popcorn. I thought it was going to be plain. It wasn't unpleasant, just unexpected.
While we were here we tried some new snacks and drinks, this was the most weird one. Sweetcorn flavoured popcorn. I thought it was going to be plain. It wasn’t unpleasant, just unexpected. Gav also tried some cheap beer. Which then tasted like cider and turned out to be rice wine. Nasty.
Though Tesco Lotus is usually crappier than 7-Eleven (which is everywhere here) the one in Prachaup wasn't too bad. Apart from this. I'm guessing this might be mushrooms? Dried food isn't really and accurate description Tesco.
Though Tesco Lotus is usually crappier than 7-Eleven (which is everywhere here) the one in Prachaup wasn’t too bad. Apart from this. I’m guessing this might be mushrooms? Dried food isn’t really and accurate description Tesco.

They also had a really good Walking street Market on Saturday and Sunday. It was small but one of the nicest we’ve been to. Lots of cool stuff to try, sorry but we were too busy eating tasty treats to take photos!

It was then time to move south to the town of Chumphon, which is more of a gateway/passing through town for people travelling to the islands (Koh Tao, Phangan and Samui).

So this time the journey was only four hours but again was delayed by an hour. Initially they offered us a 2nd class aircon for over 300 B each. The 3rd class fan was 13 B.  We went for the 3rd class and it was fine.
So this time the journey was only four hours but again was delayed by an hour. Initially they offered us a 2nd class aircon for over 300 B each. The 3rd class fan was 13 B. We went for the 3rd class and it was fine.
We had seen these on the journey from Bangkok. Ladies would go up and down selling these cakes with fancy bags. This time we got one.
We had seen these on the journey from Bangkok. Ladies would go up and down selling these cakes with fancy bags. This time we got one.
Here it is. We thought it was a mocha cake..
Here it is. We thought it was a mocha cake..
It was a sort of almond coffee baked custard. Really nice actually.
It was a sort of almond coffee baked custard. Really nice actually.

We had booked out PADI Open Water diving course on Koh Tao for the 27th August. We opted to spent one day in Chumphon before getting the early ferry to Koh Tao. Believe me when I say that was enough!

Next stop Koh Tao!

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4 thoughts on “Thailand Part 3: The journey south……

  1. Hi guys! I just remembered you said you were looking for travel websites to write for a few weeks ago (or months maybe?). Anyway, last time I checked the editors of http://www.mycities.co were looking for writers. Not sure they still do though (and how much they offer), but thought I’d let you know! (there’s a contact link at the bottom of the page).
    And as always the post was great! (the monkeeeeeeys !!!! :3)

    Like

    1. Cheers for that Pauline! I’ll email them now and fingers crossed! I know! They were amazing and in general so gentle. Apart from two that lept at me to grab a full bag of food out of my hand! Greedy sods!

      Like

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