Soiphet and driver (I wish I could remember his name) drop us off at our final hotel for our final 2 nights. The Rachamankha is extraordinarily beautiful, and so peaceful. Like a museum, actually. That night we have dinner in an open, tree-filled courtyard, while a musician plays ancient instruments. I feel existential for a split second, like, Wow, I’m really somewhere right now. Continue reading
Arrival in Chiang Mai. We depart the train station and walk to a nearby hotel where we meet our tour guide and driver, who are taking us on a two-night eco-tour to the “hill tribes” north of the city. But first, we stop at a couple of sights within Chiang Mai. These are not on the itinerary, so we’re a little surprised. Continue reading
Tonight we’re taking an overnight train to Chiang Mai. I had pre-ordered the tickets online which were delivered to the Sukhothai for us. Pretty cool. I’d taken overnight trains before in Europe and China, and they were both a fun experience. Seb had never done it, so I thought he was due. Unfortunately he may never let me do it again.
This morning we leave Bangkok in style – by restored rice barge. We’re spending two nights on board, cruising the Chao Phraya river to the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya and back. Continue reading
From Phuket, we head to Bangkok. Here’s where I broke my no-within-country-flight policy. To travel overland would take us a day and a half, and we just don’t have that kind of time. So instead, we jump on a Thai Airways flight, and arrive in 85 minutes for about $100 per person. With a full lunch and wine served in-flight, of course, in keeping with the Asian hospitality theme.
Bangkok. There’s something about that name, like Kuala Lumpur, that sounds all exotic and mysterious to me. I can’t wait to see it.
Christmas morning, 2010. We’re crossing the Andaman Sea from Krabi to Phuket, a two-hour trip. It’s a gorgeous day, and we are lucky. When we entered Thailand a few days ago, we encountered a Frenchman going the opposite direction who said he’d not seen the sun for two weeks. Monsoon season is not quite over yet.
Today a long journey lies ahead of us. We’ll spend about three hours crossing the Andaman Sea to get from Malaysia to Hat Yao, Thailand, then another few hours overland. First up, a limo pries us away from our fantastic beach paradise and takes us to the other side of the island, where we wait for our ferry. A little motorboat takes us from the pier to the waiting vessel. The weather is a bit temperamental, the waves high and the ride rough. The boat is packed. Everyone has a seat, but there are no seats to spare. Someone behind us gets seasick. Continue reading
Langkawi… ahhh. I had never heard of it before beginning research for this trip, but apparently it’s “Malaysia’s best-known holiday destination” according to Lonely Planet, and now I can see why. Seb’s request for this vacation, well, besides being somewhere developed, was that we would find a place to spend several days in a row doing nothing but relaxing beside a beach. This was the kind of place I hoped he’d had in mind. We just had to rush through the first several stops to get here.
On Thursday morning we said goodbye to Kuala Lumpur and headed back to the train station with our $20 tickets. Seven hours later we arrived in Butterworth, then walked right on to a waiting ferry that shuttled us in 15 minutes across the Malacca Straight to the island of Penang for less than 40 cents per person! Continue reading
I love trains. They’re a comfortable and fun way to travel, not to mention much cheaper and greener than flying. And unlike flying, you get to see stuff while en route. There’s a great website for train travel that I’ve used in China, India, and throughout this trip: seat61.com. It’s written by one dude whose job I envy and is chock-full of details and travel advice. I may use it more than Lonely Planet, even.
Our train to Kuala Lumpur left Singapore a taddd early for my tastes – we were at the station by 6am if I remember correctly – just to make sure we had plenty of time for check-in. We did. Ahem. Continue reading