PERIOD: 28.12.16 – 24.01.17
MODE OF TRANSPORT: AIRPLANE/BUS/BOAT/KLOHNG/TUC TUC/ SCOOTER
First leg: Chiang Mai Thailand via Doha and Bangkok
Chiang Mai – the temple city
Acclimatize to Asia
All we knew for sure, when we started our journey, that we had to be in Chiang Mai for New Year’s Eve because we had an appointment with friends there. We have arrived 2 days earlier to ease in a bit. And just to make it a bit more exciting,
we arrived without luggage and dressed in winter clothes. Really beginner-like! As well you might need an address when your luggage doesn’t arrive.Which we didn’t have. So quickly we booked the 7century guesthouse and massage salon. What can we say about it? Maybe you better have a massage there than sleeping there, but the owner was really helpful with our luggage and super friendly!!
TIP: always put some clothes to survive for at least one day in your hand luggage!
Luckily it was not too hot! So we have explored the old town with plenty of temples, nice and small markets and chaotic Chinatown. We tried all kind of street food all around and overall we enjoyed the friendliness of the warm people in Chiang Mai.
MUST TRY: Koi Soi soup and Morning Glory with chili and garlic. Mostly better in the street than in the restaurant.
Without any reservation, we went to Chiang Mai, what actually should not be a big deal, but just for this special date of New year’s eve all hostels/guesthouses in the center were quite busy. We checked out some rooms although they were not available and so far we could recommend the cathouse , who had nice prívate rooms with balcony and a private restroom. And in their restaurant, they had really yummy pancakes!! We ended up staying at the Siam Tulip Guesthouse, it was clean (what at this moment was the most important thing for us), the hosts were friendly and the location close to the river, the night bazaar, such as still in walking distance to the city center. Chinatown is also in the neighborhood.
New Years Eve
Our friends had organized a dinner at the Riverside Bar&Restaurant. Here you can choose whether to eat in the beautiful terrace with river view or the even more special atmosphere, the boat. We had dinner on the boat, beside us were a nice mix of locals and foreigners. After 1,5 hours eating, cruising and chatting we returned to the bar and enjoyed the live band who were playing that night. And actually, hey were way better than we expected! All in all a good start to the night.
From there we hopped to some bars to finally get the tip from a Tuc Tuc Driver to go to the Phae Gate for the Countdown.
So we did…
The Countdown 2017
At midnight at the Phae Gate in Chiang Mai all people welcomed the new year with the traditional flying lanterns that originated from“Songkran” the Thai New Year’s Eve that actually is in April, but the Thai people adopted this tradition also for our end of the year 31st of December to celebrate the ‘international New year’ with the people from abroad. And we were inside!Such a special experience!here we have them for you in 360°.
After midnight we just followed the motto ‘Go with the flow’… In the old town we did bar hopping until they closed around 2ish and after that, we went to an ‘underground’ club with guys we got to know in the old town. It was also our Tuc Tuc record with 8 people inside.
In general Chiang Mai is perfect for live music lovers as there are a lot of nice little charming bars, mostly with live music. For example the bar Ska Party.
Doi Suthep Temple the town’s landmark
The whole name is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Ratcha Wora viharn . We did it included with the Bhubing Palace and the Doi Pui Village. The most interesting of these 3 is definitely the Doi Suthep Temple. It is just golf and shiny and you have a fantastic chance to get a view into the ceremonies they do.
TIP: There is a lot of traffic. So as always the best way to get around is the scooter!
This temple is especially famous and holy because of the original copper plated “Chedi”, they say it contains a relic of Buddha. A lot of people go there to meditate.
And now lean back and enjoy a selection of the best moments in Chiang Mai…
Second leg: Siem Riep Cambodia vía Bangkok
Siem Reap – more than just Angkor Wat
Mystical Angkor Wat
We started with the most popular sight ‘Angkor Wat’. And is definitely worth to see! We made it by bike.
As you go there in the early morning to catch the sunrise, it is still not too hot. What you should know they don’t sell the tickets at the entrance. From the center, you take ‘Charles de Gaulle Street‘ in the direction of Angkor Wat. But instead of driving there you turn right on Street 60 to the Asphara office. More or less 3 km straight on there is a roundabout and it is on the left side. Get your pass and go back to ‘Charles de Gaulle Street‘ straight to Angkor wat. There is also the option to rent a Tuc Tuc Driver for all day around $15 or a scooter for $5-10. For the bike, we paid $1.50. Many people we met went there for 2 or 3 days because they said you can’t see everything in one day. Well, I’d suggest just to get you a ticket for one day and then if you have the feeling you need to see more, you can get yourself another day pass. We were fine with just one day there.
Have a look into the 360º Video about Angkor Wat. Don’t forget to scroll it around with your mouse to have the 360º effect!
TIP: Put on a lot of sun cream and make sure to already have your ticket before or be aware that you can’t buy it at the entrance. Before it was like this, therefore a lot of guides and Travel Blogs say so.
What else to do in Siem Reap? There is a local Night Bazar just next to the river. Where you can try weird things to eat like cockroaches, grasshoppers, snakes or snails. It was the first time in our life we tried any insect and we started with grasshoppers. It was not as bad as I expected, but still far away from being my favorite dish! They also had a lot of games there to play, for example, the Cambodian version of Bingo. It’s fun but cautions highly addictive;) We almost won a “Hello Kitty”!
And for sure there is the Pub Street, that is really touristy and noisy. There are a lot of small bars in the street where everyone can choose their own music and have a cheap cocktail. Well, make up your mind about it 😉
Floating Village – unspoiled hospitality
You can visit the floating villages.What for us were a highlight in itself? There are three. We went to Kompong Khleang it’s the one that is the farthest away from them. And most blogs say it is the one that is the less commercial and still the most authentic. We went there by scooter. As it was already dark when we arrived there, we thought it would be a great idea to sleep there. No one spoke English, so we explained what we wanted with gestures. But round about half an hour later came an officer to let us know, that it is totally forbidden to stay in this village without permission, also to take a boat of these people and we should come back tomorrow to take a safe boat from his association. A bit depressed we went back to our guest house 1,5 hours away and had a strong feeling that we had to go back there. So we set an alarm at 5:30h the next day to be there by sunrise. As we entered, the officer caught us directly and offered us to come on his boat. Well, we kept going on to the village. In the beginning, a bit shy and with a lot of respect for the privacy of the people who live there. But they invited us to join them. So we ended up drinking homemade liquor, having a lunch and playing volleyball with them. As we went back we were just happy that we made the decision to come back, and that we didn’t take the boat to see the village just from outside. Anyway, we had to pay $1 permission entrance fee at the end.
Third leg: Battambang Cambodia by boat
Battambang – the way is the goal
From Siem Reap to Battambang you can go by bus or by boat. By boat, it is more expensive about $25 and it takes much longer about 6 – 8 hours instead of 3 – 4 hours. BUT anyway we decided this way. After reading a lot of blogs some with horrible experiences and some with great. We wanted to make our own opinion about it. And we didn`t regret it. The boat starts in the Tonle Sap lake and then it goes through the river to Battambang. You pass by a lot of unique floating villages and there are always nice landscapes around. The seats, they begin to fill up the boats inside there are padded benches and when it is full, they put the people on the top of the roof. At the beginning, we were inside as we arrived early. But after half away we went to the roof to be there. You have a much better view from there and the mood was also way better. AND you don’t have the disturbing noise of the engine. Well, I think the option half upstairs half downstairs is quite good. When we arrived in Battambang there was already a bulk of Tuc Tuc Drivers to welcome us. For $1 they brought us to the “Tomato Guesthouse“. The price was $2 for a Dorm and $3-4 for a private room. Ours were like a room in the corridor made with some improvisational thin walls with an open roof and a window to the restroom. Well, it was ok, but really noisy especially when it was raining.
In the tracks of a monk
About Battambang, here are some of the touristic sights like some Buddha Temples, waterfalls and over all the bat cave. All the Tuc Tuc Drivers offer a day tour where you can go to all of them in one day. We preferred to rent a scooter for $5/day and being flexible. So we went off to see the waterfalls and to go afterward to the bat caves.But we never arrived at the waterfalls. Because on our way to get there we made a break by reason of the rain. We were seeking protection in a temple and there we met a monk who wanted to show us a Temple where he used to live 10 years ago. And he was building the stairs to getting up there. It took them half a year because they only could work at night as it was too hot during the day. So we followed him with our rented scooter. Even he got lost on the way to get there. We almost had an accident by following him, because there was only a muddy street. Well as we reached the stairs he made years ago, we parked our scooter and climbed up them. It was a really special moment. He was full of emotion to coming back there and said, that no one ever comes there makes him really sad. And he was so happy to show us this hidden place. Unluckily he could not remember the name.
Phnom Sampeau and its vampires
After that, we still had time before the bats came out so we went up to the hill aside “Phnom Sampeau“. On the top of the hill is another Temple with some caves where you can walk through from one side to the other of the temple, really cool. You also have a great view all over the beautiful landscape from there. So as the sun is about to go down you should be at the bat cave. We went down there to be there on time. And with us, there were a lot of other tourists waiting for the bats to come out. There are a lot of bars with seats to have a perfect view of the cave. After waiting around about half an hour, the bats came out just at the same time the locals had promised. It was awesome how they all came out of the cave. I have read that they are about 2 million bats living in there.
The wedding crashers
On our way home we saw a wedding. And we were really curious about how a Cambodian wedding would be. So we just entered there and were observing the wedding from the sidewalk. It didn’t take long until the first guest of the wedding noticed us and brought us a beer. That was actually not what we were expecting. We thought when they noticed us, they would tell us to go! And then guests wouldn’t stop coming with beer and food. In the end, our place where we were sitting looked like a little kiosk. We had to stop them bringing us more 😉 Another experience that showed us the great hospitality of the amazing Cambodian people. And what we realized in the wedding even more, that although our cultures are highly different we are just the same. Same same but different 😉
And here another wedding, though it was in Chhnang:
What was really interesting for us, that a lot of the guests took urn with their beloved ones to the wedding!
Fourth Leg: Kampong Chhnang by Bus
Kampong Chhnang – The untouched city
As it is the city with the least tourist attractions of all, it is not too easy to move there. No one rented scooters and the people who worked for “travel agencies” did not speak English. Well, the first day we rented bikes from our guesthouse. Which was, by the way, the most beautiful guesthouse we had in the whole trip! The “Garden Guesthouse“. We paid $8 for the room with fan. For $3 you can have the delicious breakfast. It’s really worth it. Well, e discovered that there are a market and a floating village. First of all, we went to the market and tried a plenty of nice and fresh things there. Like mussels, fresh pineapples, the stinky fruit (Durian), fried donut kind of things. And what still was missing, was finding out what was so special about the eggs, that they sold everywhere. So we bought one. I opened it like a hard-cooked egg. Knocking it on the table. And it came out some kind of soup. A Cambodian guy already started laughing. Well, that wasn’t the right way to open it, I assume. And there was another surprise! Instead of the egg yolk, there was an unborn chick inside!! We didn’t take a pic of that. It was just disgusting. But actually, it must be a delicacy.
Sangkat Phsar Floating Village and fish market – not yet ruled by the state
After the market, we went by bike to the “floating village Sangkat Phsar” and like the times before in the other floating village we were welcomed like guests from the people of the village. But this time we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee. Well, I just have read about the bad experience from other tourists who took boats from outside the village and were overcharged and had a kind of zoo experience. I feel sad for them. We just entered the village and ask some fishermen if they are willing to give us a ride. And they gave us a 3hour sunset ride for $7. And we were with local people, no show from children or something like that. Maybe I shouldn’t publicize this because maybe it will become like everywhere ruled by the state!? Well I just can say, as a free person, I think I am allowed to ask whomever I want to, if they give me a ride on their boat, aren’t I? And we had a great, great time!
Pottery – Kampong Chhnang means in Khmer “Port of Pottery”
The last day we went to a pottery farm. This time by Tuc Tuc. It was just too hot to take a bike. We arrived a bit late and nobody was working then. So we continued our ride and we just got to a family who was producing potteries in their house. The Tuc Tuc Driver explained to us, that every family produces potteries in different sizes. So that there is no competition between them. It seems like they all really live in peace together!
Afterward, we were looking for the bus station to buy a ticket. Well, the bus station was a gas station and when we were asking for the bus station, two kids folded a camping table open and put out some papers. Tataaaa here you have a bus station with a travel agency. Unluckily they didn’t speak English and sold us a ticket at 10:30h to Kampot that actually didn’t exist. Well, the next day the Tuc Tuc driver, father of the kids and owner of the “travel agency” came to pick up other guests of our Guesthouse, lucky us! And told us, that the bus goes at 11:30h and he would come back one hour later to pick us up. Well, in the end, everything always goes their way 🙂
That morning we got up at 5h to go by bike to the fish market and going there we once again passed by the market. It was incredible how lively was the market at that time. All people came to buy their fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat for their restaurants and street food stands. Was just a joy to observe! And then the fish market. Well, the smell was a bit strong for me, especially in the early morning. But really worth it to see it, mainly in that time of the day.
Fifth step: Kampot by bus via Phnom Penh
Kampot the stinky fruit city
The bus took 8 hours and the price about 10$. It just takes so long because you have to enter to Phnom Penh and here we lost about one hour. Too much traffic and bad streets. In Phnom Penh, we changed the bus. And went directly to Kampot. As we heard that Phnom Penh is not really worth seeing, we preferred to skip this destination. If we would have had more time for sure we would have done a stop here as well.
In Kampot, we stayed at “Samons”. It is really nice and located on the river. It has small little tree houses from $6-20. In the center, we rented a scooter ($4/day ) to be as flexible as possible especially because this time we were not in the city center.
Another special place we discovered is the Italian “restaurant” Ciao. It is in the hands of an Italian guy who moved to Cambodia 10 years ago. The restaurant looks like a typical Cambodian street food stand but he has 2 mini ovens here to make pizza and 2 hotplates to cook self-made pasta. Really tasty and all made by him. So if you miss Italian pasta during your journey, it is a perfect place to fulfill your needs.
TIP: Change your money at the market where they sell gold! Best rates there and also it’s absolutely worth seeing it, as they produce all jewelry there.
Bokor National Park – The ghost town
The old spooky casino
The next day we headed off to the Bokor National Park. The hill station is 1080m high. and the higher you get the more freezing it is! So be prepared for blazing heat, freezing cold and rain as hell. The highlight here is the abandoned Old Casino that was built in 1925 by the French. We almost didn’t find the Old Casino because it was so foggy, that you could not see further than 2 meters. But luckily we saw the French couple, that we had got to know one night before and we asked them if they know where the casino is? And they replied that we are just standing in front of it 😉 We really didn’t see it!
TIP: Good clothes especially for the rain. And prepare your route well! When you pass by the new Bokor “Highland Resort“ that is still running and the new Casino. Just keep going on straight on! And on the right side, it is.
All the atmosphere up there is really special and spooky. These big, empty and massive buildings just up there in the foggy mountains has actually a touch from a ghost town. While waiting for the rain to stop, we were hanging around in the little bar on the opposite of the casino. And like always we were invited from some Cambodian people to drink a beer with them.
Going down was just a joy… every meter it became a little bit warmer.
Rabbit Island – Or rubbish Island?
We had high expectations before we arrived there and that we would be going to a peaceful place, without cars and electricity. The first time on the beach in the whole vacations.We really were wondering if there was a mistake in the name. Maybe it should be named “Rubbish Island” instead of “Rabbit Island” (correct name Koh Tonsay)? Everywhere on the hidden beaches were the waste. We made a walk through the whole island. It takes around about 3 hours. It could be really a nice place and it actually hurts seeing how they treat their nature. But well this is part of the Cambodia vacation! So, if you search for opinions about “Rabbit Island” they are always totally different. As always the best to make up your own mind. If you just want to hang around somewhere to read a book without stress. Perfect! BUT if you expect a white sandy beach with blue water, this isn’t really an option! How to get there? There are small boats who go there from Kep. To Kep, you can go by Tuc Tuc about 1 hour or you rent a scooter like we did and it takes less. The last boat leaves at 13h to the Island and at 16h back. BUT you can also rent a boat with driver for 25$ for 6 people at any time. So if you find 8 people the price is more or less the same.
Where to stay? You arrive on the coast where are all the little charming Bungalows that you can rent. I think they are all more or less the same standards and the same prices from 6$-20$.
Sixth step: Koh Kong by Bus
Koh Kong – Step by step to Bangkok
The last stop before crossing the border was Koh Kong. What is actually directly next to the Thai border. At it took about 4 hours to go there. And it is pretty calm with few tourist attractions. It has a kind of strange flair. A lot of people who live in Thailand come here to extend their visa. Mostly a kind of strange people who are drunk all day. We stayed at “Paddys Bamboo Guesthouse” private room 6$ Dorm 3$. Here we also rented a scooter and booked a jungle hike tour.
The arrival day we discovered Koh Kong by scooter. We crossed the bridge (48) that brings you to the border. Just close by the border, there is a big casino and in that area, there is also a Resort. Here we drove around and found a kind of unofficial casino, where they made cock fights and card bet games. Here we were not allowed to take pictures. On the way back it started raining like crazy. So we stopped at the market to eat something and as the rain got less we took the chance to drive back to the hostel.
It started at 9h in the morning with us were 3 other girls. To start the hike we had to go about 1 hours by a little boat to arrive the Cardamon mountains. Here also the drunk German guys joined us on the boat to spend their day in a village. They were like movie characters from “the big Lebowski” or something like that. Well, we were not unhappy, that they didn’t join us on the hike. But they actually entertained the boat ride.
As it is often raining the paths are super slippery. So you should wear good shoes.The hike was beside some steep parts quite easy. It was more the tropical climate that it made a bit difficult.In the middle of the hike, we made a break next to a beautiful waterfall where we could have a little swim and the guides prepared a delicious Khmer meal for us on an open fire.
So we ate altogether had good conversations and had the energy to return. The way back we lost the group for one moment because Vincenzo was making a video for us 😉 And at this moment we noticed, that you really don’t have any orientation inside the jungle. With the guides, it seemed really easy and clear, but as we were without them, we were absolutely lost. Well after a while screaming at them we first found another French group. And a little moment later one of our guides found us and brought us back to the boat. On the way back to Koh Kong we stopped at a little village where we just had a little walk and a cold beer and picked up our drunk friends. They wanted to stay at the Island, but the people from the village made sure they don’t! All in all, we utterly regretted that we haven’t made more hikes like that meanwhile our journey. And the excursion was it’s 20$ absolutely worth it.
Seventh leg: Bangkok by most comfortable bus of all!
Bangkok – Last but not least…
To get there from Koh Kong you have 3 options.
- Take the bus at 12h everything included also crossing the border (25$)
- Was the way we did. We took a Tuc Tuc to go to the border for 8$ and from there we continued by a Minibus (who drives without a schedule, when the bus is full they start) price 120 Baht (3€) duration 1,5h. And in Trat, we changed to another bus directly to Bangkok for 230 Baht (5€) and highly recommendable! So comfy and they serve water.
- The VIP Minibus 3500 Baht (94€). Directly from the border to Bangkok whenever you want to leave.
¡THIS IS THE BUS STATION!
So as you arrive in Bangkok it makes sense to have an idea where you want to go. We just followed the tip from girls we got to know in Koh Kong to go to Khao San Road and there it should be easy to find a Hostel.
Well, we arrived at the bus station and we found directly a shuttle bus that runs to Khao San Road (for free if it was not a mistake that no one charged us). But after 30 minutes (rush hour time) inside the bus, we lost patience because we came in a traffic jam and we didn’t move anymore. We jumped out as we saw a street that seemed like sympathetic from a distant view. Well as we walked through we took notice that there are prostitutes all around and all the hostels, although they were creepy and disgusting, were super expensive. Well, we were not their clientele. Normally their guests only stay 1-2 hours. Welcome to the Red-light district NaNa Road. After seeing 2 Hostels, we decided to take a Tuc Tuc to finally go to Khao San Road. And luckily we directly found a Guesthouse with clean rooms and reasonable prices under 600 Baht (15€) the “@HOME Guesthouse” . The Guesthouse is close to the Khao San Road but still has a laid back atmosphere and a lot of vegetarian restaurants close by.
Famous Khaosan Road
It is a mega touristy street but has its hippy charm. You can find a lot of cool bars with live music, Street food and Spa’s foot and neck massages. So get yourself a cocktail and enjoy the food massage 😉
Here is one route we did during the day:
Starting in Khao San Road searching a breakfast. And we had a great tasty Mango, Banana, Pineapple juice that was like a whole meal. So with a lot of energy, e decided to walk to the King’s Palace, but as we arrived there we explored that it was the day of death of the old king and they made a huge ceremony for him. There were so much traffic that we walked to the river to make a Khlong (little wooden boats from Thailand) tour. And once again we noticed that haggling is really important in Asia. We rented together with other italians who we got to know at the pier a boat and in the end the price was as much for all of us as they wanted for one person in the beginning. So better fight for your price 😉 The Khlong Tour is nice. You feel like in Venice (said my Italian company). I always started dreaming meanwhile passing by this floating villages. About an more alternative lifestyle and more liberty in building your home. After 1 hour more or less they kick you off on the other side of the river after the ride. So you are forced to visit a temple or to pay to come to the other side again. We didn’t visit that temple because we wanted to go to the Wat Pho Temple where the reclining Buddha is. And one temple a day actually covered our demand.
From here we tried another new thing that is forbidden in Europe. Taking a Moto Taxi and drive with 3 people on it. And I am really wondering now why it is forbidden !? Our driver brought us safely to Chinatown. That is the biggest Chinatown in the whole world!
And randomly we found the “Fai Keaw Yao Wa-Rat” Street Food Restaurant, that is famous in TripAdvisor and many other Travel Blogs. I just found out afterward. But we can confirm that it is really worth it to go there. For the quality of the food and the show cooking the chef is presenting. Couldn’t stop looking there.
The route of our last day:
Well… This route doesn’t make sense at all 😉 I wrote down a wrong Metro station and so we made a little loop way to get to our final destination the Baiyoke Sky Hotel.
But anyway I start with the route that still was well planned and is worth to copy. We walked from Khao San Road to the little India. Always following the canal.
On the way we stopped at the Golden Mount (Wat Saket) and walked up all the stairs, kneeled all the bells and enjoyed the view from there.
So and then we kept on going to little India. And suddenly you feel like in India. We drank a Masala Tea and moved on to the canal where you can take a boat bus. The Piers name is Rachawong and from here we drove to The Central Pier to go by Metro to the Baiyoke Tower to be there in the noon to see the city still by day and then to be there by sunset. But as I already mentioned, that I wrote down the wrong station, we drove to the other end of the city, paid a lot and lost a lot of time! Our last day, by the way. Our Pick Up from Khao San Road were at 21h.
Well after a lot of confusion and finding out where we are and where we have to go, we drove by Metro to the Victoria Memorial Station and from there we caught a Moto Taxi. This time 2! And mine got lost in the traffic the others. All in all, at the end we arrived at sunset at the tower of the Baiyoke Hotel with an amazing 360º view that was moving around the shaft of the hotel! It is still the highest building in Bangkok and you really have a great view from there.
Just in time to take our pick up to the airport, we came back to our hostel. What a day… What a journey! We really enjoyed the time in South East Asia and over all the hospitality of the people. Especially in Cambodia flashed us anew each and every day.
p.s. A LOT OF 360º VIDEOS WILL BE COMING SOON!!