Today was the day we started on our tours. This one involved Phi Phi Island and required us to leave our hotel at 7am…
The tour itself involved a cruise to Phi Phi Island, where we would snorkel in a coral reef before having lunch, and cruising back to Phuket. I have to admit that the hype with Phi Phi is just not worth it. Apart from the snorkelling, I would rather have spent most of the day doing something else (like relaxing!).
Snorkelling is always fun, and I’m a huge addict. Must get myself a proper underwater camera before my next snorkelling adventure (the Fuji FinePIX J15 just does not cut the cake – infact, I’ll summarise the woes with it in another blog).
Not much to say about Phi Phi Island really, so I’ll end it here with this entry…
Note: Pictures below are of islands around Phi Phi.
Spent most of the day relaxing before heading to our night show FantaSea! It’s good to have some time to just do nothing, especially when you’re staying at a 5 star resort. Makes the holiday actually feel like a holiday, and not just rushing around trying to tee end-to-end tours.
FantaSea is theme park, but the theme park is pretty ordinary. The two best elements are the zoo (for giggles) and the show itself. I’d recommend seeing the show once if you come to Thailand. It’s one of those things you’d have to tick off your to-do list.
The show itself is quite interesting. Storyline is a bit hard to follow, but from the middle to the end the actions speak for itself. The fireworks and effects on stage is really spectacular. Who would’ve thought you could launch fireworks in a confined space! The security there is quite strict, and you will undergo multiple bag checks. The most amusing is the final check before the show where they will get you to deposit any type of recording device (mobile phones, cameras etc) to protect the copyright of the show.
Today we went to Phuket Town. I’m sure during peak season, and when there is lesser political turmoil in Thailand, there would be more people roaming around. Today when we went though, the town was practically dead.
We roamed through some smaller shopping centres, before heading to the larger Festival Center Shopping Center. This one is of decent size, and you can spend hours here (as we did). We ended up buying quite a few items, and even got a massage.
Later that night, we headed across to the Phuket Night Markets. This was of decent size, and comparable to the Chiang Mai Sunday Market. Items were more expensive here though, and bargaining was more difficult (read my Thailand Tips page when it comes out).
After doing a bit more shopping in the night market, it was time to head back to the hotel for a good nights rest.
Sorry folks, no photos again. The last two days have been a bit dry.
Phuket covers a large region, and today we were off to Patong. The beach here is nicer than Surin and is quite busy. There are many side shops, but the night market lacks anything interesting. The shopping centre (Jungceylon) here is nothing great, but its good if you want to get indoors and enjoy some airconditioned comfort.
If you have been up to Chiang Mai, you will notice things in Phuket are more expensive and the people here try harder to get your attention (and probably rip you off). The classic that springs to mind was the Thailand Shot Glass – they wanted 300 baht = $11 AUD. Wouldn’t even cost me that much back at home. In department stores, it was a reasonable 150 baht, which I would consider to still be expensive.
I had predetermined that I would go to Thailand to purchase a tailored suit since it seemed to be all the rave. I will post a review of the suit once it is fully made and I get it home to compare the quality against some of my other suits. I ended up paying 7600 baht for 2 suits (totalling 2 coats, and 2 pants).
Had dinner in Patong, and funnily enough the suit was my only purchase for the day. Nothing else caught my eye.
Finally checked out of Chiang Mai today, and after a cancelled flight to Phuket (flight was re-routed to Bangkok then to Phuket due to only 10 people being on the direct flight!).
Grabbed dinner on the beach and called it a night. Setting myself up for a long day tomorrow!
Staying at Surin beach where it feels extremely quiet. Think traffic in Thailand overall has dropped a lot due to the Red Shirt protests and violence in Bangkok.
Had a semi relaxing day today with a Thai Cooking Class. Loads of fun making 6 different meals, and it turns out that Thai food is not too complex to make.
There is an element of shock when you go to cook your first wok fried dish and create a great big ball of fire. Takes a bit of getting use to. I suggest anyone to try cooking classes, and the steady flow of eating throughout the day if quite enjoyable!
For those interested, the class we went to was held by Pad Thai Cookery School and the instructors name was Meow (like a cat).
Had a day off from tours today to relax and check out Chiang Mai itself. Spent most of the day in Central Airport Plaza, which is the largest shopping centre in Chiang Mai. Not a bad place, and the food court in the basement was awesome. Plenty of food to pick at and enjoy.
The quality of the goods at the small stalls were also better than those you pay out in the Night and Sunday Markets. The price is a little more expensive, but you get what you pay for.
Spent the rest of the day at the Night Market and got myself a fish massage and thai massage. Relaxing day overall (apart from a Tuk Tuk driver that got lost and made a 5min trip turn into 45mins).
The tour I booked for this day was the Golden Triangle. This is perhaps one of the longest tours spent on the road (about 6 hours of driving all up).
On the way, you will pass a hotspring which is too hot to bath in or touch (90C). You will pass a White Temple, which is still currently underconstruction. The interior of the White Temple has to be seen to believed. It is a work of art! The wax replica of a Monk is also amazingly real… Unfortuantely, no photos are allowed inside the temple for copyright reasons.
The centrepiece of the tour is going to a location called the Golden Triangle. This is where 3 Countries meet around a small island in the Mekong River (Laos, Burma, Thailand). The small island is unclaimed land, and it use to be the drop off point for Opium back in the days. Part of the tour will take you on a cruise around this location, and take you over to Laos. You will be allowed to walk on Laos land for a small fee and you will collect a stamp (no longer stamped into your passport).
On the long drive home, you will probably drop past the Long Neck Village. These are refugees for Yemen that have been granted land to live on by Thailand authorities.
The tour I booked for this day was called Elephant Riding and Bamboo Rafting. It is listed on the top 10 list of things to do in Chiang Mai. You will find that this list is fairly typical across all hotels and tour companies.
For us, we went to a Orchid and Butterfly farm first. Beautiful coloured orchids were on display that take many years to grow. The butterflies at this location were also amazing in colour.
Next stop was the Elephant riding. These are magnificent creatures. The package also includes riding on a wagon with two bulls pulling you along. The Elephant show was next where they got the elephants to perform all sorts of tricks and you were able to feed and take photos with them. The highlight was the ability for one elephant (named “Suda”) to paint a very realistic drawing!
As it was a Sunday, we went to the Sunday Market. This is huge in comparison to just the Night Markets. Make sure you book your stay in Chiang Mai over a Sunday to experience this.
Here are my tips from my experience in Vietnam for those who are travelling in the near future:
- Do not consume ice or tap water. It is untreated from what I can gather, and I ran into stomach issues from consuming just lettuce that was washed with tap water. You may have a more ironclad stomach. It is advised that you carry anti-diarrhea and anti-vommit medicines.
- As a preference, try to travel in Vinasun or Mei-ling taxis. These are metered and you shouldn’t get ripped off. Stay away from push-bike carts and people offering rides on the back of bikes – Taxis are extremely cheap.
- Anything that doesn’t have a price marked, bargain. If you do decide to bargain in the markets, make sure you have an intention to buy the goods if the price is right. Otherwise you may cop some abusive language! Therefore, do not ask for a price on anything you have no intention of buying.
- If you understand Vietnamese, bargain in English and listen in on their backchat.
- Anything you want to buy, you are guaranteed that more than one person will have it. Therefore, offer an outrageous price to see how low they will go. You can walk away to test this price, as they will only let you walk away if the price is below their cost.
- When going through Immigration, use English only to avoid any issues (think it’s been cleaned up alot lately, but in the past you may have had to fork out bribe money)
If I remember anything, I will keep adding…
My personal opinions about Vietnam
- Food not that great in quality and taste. Way better at home (Australia).
- The People tend to be grumpy. A smile on your face doesn’t get you anywhere (obviously there are exceptions – hotels and reputable restaurants tend to treat you well)
- The roads are bad condition and congested. Very hard to get around without a local.
- Most things overall are extremely cheap.