16 October 2017

Lake Huts and Golden Buddhas in Thailand


Ahh Thailand, known as the land of, elephants, giant golden Buddhas and copious amounts of Pad Thai. And I can tell you now, it certainly lived up to my high expectations. After finishing in Bali I hopped in a taxi and boarded my 4 and a half hour flight to Bangkok. Unlike IVHQ, Contiki Tours, the second company I used, did not provide airport pick-up, luckily I had friends who picked me up from the airport and let me stay with them before my Contiki Tour started. 

My first impressions of Bankok were not quite as positive as they had been for Bali, the streets were dirty and chaotic, and masses of electrical wires hung messily in the roads. The roads however, did seem a lot more organised and safe than those in Bali, although not by a considerable margin. The weather was also slightly less humid making the heat a little more bearable. I met my Contiki group around 7pm and had a little meeting explaining how the trip worked, who to contact and also general introductions. 

Bangkok
The Grand Palace

On my first full day in Bangkok, Contiki organised a group tour to the Grand Palace. We took the river taxi, which was packed and slightly claustrophobic, through the city to reach our destination. At the palace gates we met our guide and made our way through the crowds of tourists into the main palace area. It consisted of several ornate golden buildings, with the most beautiful, intricate decorations and designs. I'm not going to lie, I found it hard to understand a lot of what the guide was saying, as English was not her first language, but I still managed to get a bit of information. The golden reflective colour is created from rubbing gold leaf onto the buildings, and the statues on the outside are protectors of the palace/temple. The palace, built in 1782, is also home to both the Emerald (dates back to the 14th century) and Jade Buddha. There were hundreds of people queuing to give their respects, as my visit coincided with the recent passing of the Thai king. The architecture and rich history definitely made this a must visit for anyone going to Bangkok. 




Khaosan Road 

One of the busiest most vibrant streets in Bangkok. It's known for having cheap backpacker accommodation, amazing nightlife and cheap shops. I would definitely recommend going both in the daytime and at night. It has some great cheap shops and food stalls/restaurants where you can get anything from cooked scorpion to fresh mango sticky rice. 

The White Buddha & Wat Pho (the temple of the Reclining buddha) 

It's quite likely at some point you'll be pulled in by someone offering you the best price to see all the Buddhas or an all encompassing tuk tuk trip and against your better judgement you'll take it. For us it was a three attraction tuk tuk ride, which was supposed to take us to the white Buddha temple, the reclining buddha temple and one other. When we made it to the white Buddha temple, which in itself was a relief as the tuk tuk was leaking gas and was effectively a 90km death car, the driver dropped us off in a strange back alley. Although we made it to a temple with a Buddha we weren't all that convinced it was the famous white Buddha temple. Never the less it was still pretty impressive but to this day I still have no idea where we actually were. We did thankfully make it to the temple of the Reclining Buddha, which was incredible, but decided that was enough. We decided not to get into the death car again and instead made our own way home. It's safe to say that I've definitely learnt my lesson from this experience. 


The overnight train to Surat Thani 

Initially I was excited for this as I had heard you get cool little bunk beds, it's safe to say this didn't last. We did not get beds, in fact we got hard tiny seats that moved side to side and shook. It didn't make it any better that the cabin temperature seemed to be regulated below freezing. At the time this was pretty much 12 hours of hell, but looking back on it, it was actually an interesting experience.

The Cave temple 

On the way to Khao Sok national park we stopped at a little temple. It was incorporated into a natural cave which you could walk through. The monk blessed us and gave us string blessing bracelets. 


Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok national park is located in south Thailand and consists of the oldest evergreen Rainforest in the world.This is definitely what made my Thailand experience. When we arrived we all took an incredible kayak trip into the Rainforest, this included seeing wild monkeys, mangrove snakes and having an impromptu bamboo brewed tea break. Accommodation was wooden tree houses in the heart of the jungle surrounded by thousands of monkeys and even an elephant!

The floating houses 

After the tree houses I thought it couldn't get much better, but I was very wrong. In the morning we made our way to Cheow Larn Lake where we all piled into several traditional long tail boats. The boats took us far out until all that could be seen were massive limestone cliffs and endless jungle. Our accommodation, tiny floating huts in the middle of the lake, was unbelievable. The huts emerged out of the early morning fog like something out of a movie. They were basic, consisting of just two mattresses and a small naked light bulb. The wooden front door opened out onto miles of fresh water and towering jungle covered cliffs, even photos didn't seem to capture it sufficiently. 

The boat took us to the other side of the lake where we started our hour hike through the jungle. It was muddy, damp and incredibly humid, but never once failed to impress. I was pretty intrigued to find out that pineapples grow in bushes! We then took a giant bamboo raft to the Pakarang caves, where stalagmites towered and bats hid in the darkness. Back at the huts we spent the evening swimming and jumping off the massive dive boards. 






Krabi 
Tiger Cave Temple 

Krabi was our last stop in Thailand. A group of friends and I decided to attempt the Tiger Cave temple, a temple located 1260 steps up a rocky cliff face with a giant golden Buddha at the top. The climb was painfully long and exhausting, with the steps randomly changing size and direction the whole way. I would definitely recommend going on a cool day and taking lots of water as there are no taps on the way, there are however lots of monkeys who will take stuff from your bags if they get the opportunity (so make sure your bags are closed). Although it takes around an hour, or 45 minutes at the fastest, to get up, it is definitely worth it. The view looks over both Krabi and the Rainforest. The temple itself is simple with an absolutely ginormous golden Buddha in the centre. The walk down was pretty scary, considering if you slipped you would probably fall the entire 1260 steps down the cliff, but much less tiring than the way up. 





All in all Thailand was definitely just as good, if not better, than what I expected. Although I didn't particularly like Bangkok, the natural attractions easily made up for this. My favourite part by far was Khao Sok National Park, the scenery and accommodation was like nothing I had ever seen before. My one recommendation for anyone going would be the floating houses Cheow Larn Lake, you will not regret it. 

Extras:

- Search up good places to get Pad Thai, because if not you'll probably end up getting something not that great. 

- Hawkers have good local food (but nothing vegetarian). 

- If you are vegetarian I would recommend buying lots of snacks as not many places sell vegetarian food. 

- If you're going into the Rainforest don't leave anything outside not even for a second, it will get taken by monkeys. 

- Temples or palaces will require you to cover shoulders and legs. Always have a sarong with you. 

✈ Next Malaysia 

Links: 
Contiki Tours
Khao Sok National Park 



2 comments so far

  1. the grand palace is SO pretty! there's so much going on in terms of pattern and texture *-* khao sok is so pretty too - and those floating houses are amazing! have you seen a baby pineapple before? they're so cute and tiny, hehe. I've heard pad thai in thailand is actually very different from the pad thai in america, where I'm from. Did you see that clip where gordon ramsay made pad thai with a thai chef in thailand and the chef disapproved of it?!

    becky @ star violet

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    1. I know it was so beautiful! I just looked it up and it is SO CUTE, I need one ahaha. I haven't but I'll have to look it up, to be honest nothing beats a good Pad Thai from Thailand! You should definitely go if you haven't been before though!

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