Category Archives: Days out

Day trip to Ko Kret

It’s Saturday and we’re both not working. That doesn’t happen very often, so we planned a day trip to Ko Kret – a man-made island in the Chaophraya river. We didn’t want to get on any organised boat trips (as we like exploring places at our own pace) nor did we want to hire a longtail boat (since that’s a bit of a rip-off), so we looked into the options for getting there by public transport. Wiki travel has a good detailed article about ways to get into the island.

Beautiful ceiling in one of the temples on the island
Beautiful ceiling in one of the temples on the island

We left home around 6:30am, got the BTS to Saphan Taksin and around 7:30 we were already on the Chaophraya Express, heading for Nonthaburi. An hour later our 15-baht trip ended and we had to say goodbye to the nice breeze coming from the river. Wiki site read there’s supposedly a bus going to Pak Kret, so we decided to give it a shot. We simply followed the main road walking away from the river and just a few minutes later we saw a bus stop – with our bus no 32 approaching!

Now, I’m not a big fan of GPS and prefer old-school maps whenever possible, but finding a good detailed map in Thailand is quite a challenge and Google maps doesn’t show half the street names… And yet with a combination of tracking our whereabouts on Google maps with my barely working phone and looking at street names around us we managed to get off exactly where we needed to. A short walk to Wat Sanam Nuea and we saw a ferry approaching the shore – it seemed that we had perfect timing with transport:)

ko kret

It was 9:30am and we were finally on Koh Kret. We glanced at the map of the island and it looked pretty tiny, so we decided not to get the bicycles and just walk instead. We looked around the first temple, fed the giant fish at the pier and took the footpath circling the island. We walked into a lovely market with stall after stall selling food, drinks, plants and souvenirs on both sides of the footpath. There were also plenty of Thai restaurants with tables on the riverside – offering plenty of meat and seafood dishes. We were looking for a coffee shop as we wanted to sit down at one of those lovely riverside tables, but there were only restaurants. We were getting hungry, so in the end we stopped for a chicken green curry (the curry sauce minus the chicken). For most non-vegetarians it’s difficult to believe that sometimes there’s literally nothing to eat. To our joy they gave us a full plate of veggies as a side dish – the typical mix of beansprouts, pickled and fresh cabbage, and green beans. If only they sold this as a dish on its own – we would buy it!

ko kretko kret

We then continued along the footpath. After a while we started thinking that the whole island is a never ending market, but then it suddenly ended. No more noise and rush, just a few peaceful houses along the path and sooo much greenery. And of course, the heat. We didn’t notice it that much before as the market was all under a roof, but just a few minutes without shade and we started sweating. If you’ve ever been to a greenhouse on a hot sunny day – you know the feeling.

ko kret

We were still hoping to find a coffee shop. Soon we realised that the island was bigger than we thought. Bicycles and motorcycle taxis were passing us from time to time and there was nothing but the jungle and a few old houses around us. I started joking that we will probably reach Chitbeer (a micro-brewery on the other side of the island) before we find any coffee shops. We were getting hungry and tired, and the heat was getting unbearable.

And then we found a shade in an area covered in trees, large enough to keep the temperature down a bit. And a bench. And a stand selling cold drinks. And we had some sandwiches with us. Perfect!

When we started walking again, we found an information board with the map of the island and it turned out we had walked half of the way already! So the island wasn’t that large after all. It was lunchtime and we still hadn’t found any coffee shops. But we did find a friendly iced tea vendor with two cute little girls, which he tried to encourage to talk in English (unsuccessfully though, as the little ones were too shy to say anything to us, they just said bye:) ).

We kept walking and we soon reached the corner of the island with another pier and another temple. What we didn’t know was that Chitbeer was just round the corner waiting for us… and so our 4-hour search for breakfast coffee turned into afternoon beers instead.

ko kret chitbeerko kret chitbeer

Oh, but the beers…! Thai beers that have TASTE – we didn’t know such a thing existed! We tried 6 different types and 4 of them were gorgeous. And even the two that we didn’t like that much tasted way better than the watery Chang we had to get used to while living here. It was a shame to leave as you can’t buy any of their beers to take home, but we simply couldn’t drink anymore, so it was time to head home.

Ironically, next door to Chitbeer there was the most perfect coffee shop we could ask for. Lovely atmosphere, ridiculously low prices and really good coffee from locally grown beans. And even though coffee right after having a beer adventure is the last thing you could think of, we stopped for coffee. Watching the owners roasting the coffee beans on a little stove while we were sipping our lattes from the pretty clay pots (I guess made in the pottery village nearby) was the perfect way to end our day. They also do DIY sets where you get to roast the beans, then grind them and make some coffee for yourself. We’ve got to try it next time (yes, there will be next time, we just have to come back for the beer again:) ).

ko kret coffee shopko kret coffee shop

What’s strange is that while the whole island reminds of a small Thai village, there’s this modern hip corner with Chitbeer and the coffee shop that makes you feel as if you’re in the centre of Bangkok.

What a lovely place for a day out. We were a bit tired though (the heat and the beer…) so on the way back we traded the bus/boat combo for the 25 baht aircon van to Mo Chit BTS.

The Green Lung of Bangkok

The Green Lung: not two lungs, but one. If it wasn’t for Sukhumvit road, there would probably be two. Joke! Most of Bangkok’s long-term tourists have heard about it, but actually only very few have been there. Since the hustle and bustle of the city happens on the east side of Chaophraya, there are very few reasons to cross it, apart from, perhaps, Wat Arun. However, there is word of mouth going about “The Green Lung” of Bangkok.

That's how green it is in Bang Krachao
That’s how green it is in Bang Krachao

It’s an experience. A small group of us took a quick taxi ride from Udom Suk BTS towards Chaophraya river. By quick I mean like 15 minutes. We got to a tiny pier, where you could catch a motorbike-friendly ferry to a larger pier with a temple, or a longtail-boat to a smaller one (which we took and paid 6 baht each). As soon as we stepped off the boat we could feel the serenity of the place – no cars, no people, just empty streets. Mind you, we were there in midday heat as usual. The motorcycle taxi drivers were almost starting their bikes when they saw us, as it’s normal to just pay the 10 baht and scoot from A to B within minutes, but instead we took a relaxing (nice and hot) stroll to the Bang Namphueng floating market.

Maybe this is the reason most businesses swap boats for concrete stands...
Maybe this is the reason most businesses swap boats for concrete stands…
Local 'shoppers' at the floating market. There are some temples to visit too.
Local ‘shoppers’ at the floating market. There are some temples to visit too.

Since I hadn’t been to such a market before, I had imagined them to be more ‘floating’ so to speak. We only saw a few women selling goods from little boats – the rest seemed to be set on the concrete walkways. There were many, many foods to choose from: meals and snacks, including vegetarian, local organic produce, good coffee, and many more options. Both the vendors and visitors seemed to be quite friendly and excited to see foreigners visiting, some of whom even wanted to take pictures with us! as you’d expect, there were also dogs everywhere, but they were friendly.

The cutest little fella shopping around the market with its owner.
The cutest little fella shopping around the market with its owner.
Feeding the friendly canines by the water
Feeding the friendly canines by the water

The whole area is a criss-cross of canals with plenty of tall trees, elevated concrete walkways, and very few roads. Just by the entrance to the floating market we rented bicycles for 80 baht/day, and as soon as we left Auste got a flat tyre! Luckily they were happy to exchange the bike at no extra charge. Just riding a bicycle felt like a form of meditation, probably because of all the green around us.

Getting ready for a sunny ride
Getting ready for a sunny ride
at the Bangkok Tree House - a modern spot surrounded by trees. A nice place to rest after a walk/ride
at the Bangkok Tree House – a modern spot surrounded by trees. A nice place to rest after a walk/ride

To be honest we also spent a fair bit of time enjoying drinks at Bangkok Tree House, which is also a hotel, and at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery. Coffee addicts, huh? After navigating the narrow pathways for a while we went to the newly (Spring 2015) renovated pond area in the Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan park. We had been there last year (late 2014) but it was rather shabby compared to current paved paths and activity-friendly grassy fields.

park in Bang Krachao

Kids feeding fish and parents doing their job
Kids feeding fish and parents doing their job
It was a hot day, and Thai kids were playing about in the water
It was a hot day, and Thai kids were playing about in the water

Time flies when you’re having fun, and that was definitely evident when we returned the bikes at around 5 pm: everything was closed and we rushed to the pier to catch one of the few last boats (running until around 6 pm).

Little Truck Tales: Little India in Bangkok

We’ve been eating a lot of Indian food lately. It has probably something to do with the fact that… we absolutely love it! Unfortunately we haven’t mastered making Indian meals at home yet. We’ve been lucky to have a number of opportunities to indulge in our beloved Indian cuisine: a home-cooked feast at a friend’s place, a super sweet neighbour treating us to home-made Indian goodies from time to time , and streets full of great Indian restaurants on our recent visit to Pattaya.

It all started with a trip to Little India almost two months ago. (No, not the Big India – we didn’t leave the country) Phahurat or Pahurat (known as Thailand’s Little India) is a small area surrounding Phahurat road, home to the Thai-Indian community in Bangkok. The area is well known for its textiles, but what we were really interested in was… yes, you guessed it right – the food!

Little India Pahurat food, Bangkok

It’s not easy to get to Little India as it’s not near any BTS or MRT stops. But since we like exploring, we started the day with a Chaophraya boat ride from Saphan Taksin to Rajinee and walked on foot from there. It seems like the river boat is becoming one of our favourite ways to start a day out – like on this random visit to Dusit Zoo.

We explored the Phahurat market – textiles are not our thing, but the samosas that we bought were pretty good:) And then we stumbled upon the entrance to a beautiful hall. We didn’t know what it was, but it looked pretty so we walked in. The people inside were trying to show us that we needed to take our shoes off – confused and feeling that maybe we shouldn’t be there we were heading towards the exit. But then a really friendly Indian man approached us and asked, in perfect English, if we would like to visit the temple. Ok, so it was a temple. And of course we said yes. He explained where to find everything and apparently there was a mass on one floor, a free Indian meal on another (tick!) and even an Indian wedding a couple of hours later, which he said we were welcome to observe if we’re interested. What a warm welcome!

We spent well over an hour inside this Sikh temple. I’m not even sure how the time flew that fast! It’s not like there’s much to explore, but the food was amazing and it was nice to just calm down listening to some chanting in a language foreign to our ears. If you’re in Phahurat area Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha temple is definitely worth a visit. But apparently the food is only served in the morning – so if you want the full experience, get there before 10am.

Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh temple Bangkok Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh temple Bangkok

We wandered around the area for a few more hours and somehow ended up in Klong Ong Ang market, set up on the banks of the Klong Ong Ang canal. With its extremely narrow pathways and never ending box-like stands all selling video games and guns it felt like some sort of an underground maze. When we finally got back out to the daylight at the other end, we were in China.

Klong Ong Ang market, Bangkok

We made our way back to India, this time overground. We were getting hungry again, but something else distracted us: a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop with all sorts of baking supplies you can imagine! It’s incredible how much stuff you can squeeze into such a tiny space. And I found coconut flakes! (at that time I was almost losing hope of finding them for making these truffles) They have all sorts of bakeware (tins, cutters, shapes, cake decorating tools etc), baking ingredients (flavourings, icings, ground nuts, cocoa powder, butter and cheese in large quantities) and even all the stuff for coffee shops (ranging from tiny pretty spoons to coffee flavourings). Quite impressive. And the shop is actually easy to find if you know where to look. It is right opposite the India Emporium – you just need to cross the street.

Bangkok baking supplies shop

And then, more food. On the corner of the lane adjacent to the Emporium building (next to 7/11) is a little street stall selling great samosas and tikkis really cheap. We bought tons to take home and then went across the street to look for a place to eat. If you take one of the narrow streets and get to the canal it’s like a different world. Instead of a busy main street everything here is calm and beautiful. Narrow walkways, a few street restaurants, some sleepy cats and an old Vespa passing by once in a while. I think it was at this place when we decided to find a Vespa event and ended up at the biggest Vespa caravan in Asia a month later.

Little India Pahurat BangkokLittle India Pahurat BangkokLittle India Pahurat Bangkok

On our way back to the boat we stopped at Pak Khlong Talat (Flower market) as we thought it would be a shame to not give at least a glance at this famous attraction as we were right next to it. And it’s actually beautiful. Not just the flowers – the veggie stalls at the other end, wooden baskets on wheels filled with ice, lots of bicycles and old motorcycles. I guess it was a good time to visit too, as the atmosphere was quite sleepy which really added to the charm of the place. We’ll sure be back at some point allowing more time for ourselves to explore this vast and beautiful market.

Flower market Pak Khlong Talat, BangkokFlower market Pak Khlong Talat, BangkokFlower market Pak Khlong Talat, BangkokFlower market Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok

We finally got onto the boat, but managed to get off one stop too early! Maybe it was meant to be as we found a few architectural pieces that made us feel like we’re somewhere in Italy or France. India, China and Europe all in one day – not bad, huh? And when we got home, we still had plenty of time to chill outside before the sunset. That’s one good thing about getting up early: it makes the day feel much longer – a perfect way to extend the weekends!

More photos on Flickr here.

Little Truck Tales

Little truck tales: Chaophraya river and Dusit Zoo

We finally decided to visit some temples as we’ve lived in Bangkok for 2 months already. It’s not something you’d normally do if you live and work here, as you have other things to do. We don’t consider ourselves tourists anymore (phew!), however, with a lovely day to spare we thought we’d start with Wat Arun early in the morning and then decide where we go next.

Chaophraya River sunrise, Bangkok

We left early. It was still dark when we got off the BTS in Siam, but then a few moments later it was already sunny. The fun started when we walked to the pier in Saphan Taxin and after glancing at the sign showing the tourist boat at the pier on the left took a split second decision to jump on the ferry which had just arrived at the pier on the right. All excited we realised the 20-or-so minute boat ride to Wat Arun felt suspiciously quick. So after a very smooth and quick boat ride we ended up all the way… across the river.

Yep. We jumped on a 3-baht ferry to the other side of the river. After walking around for a couple of minutes with no sight of the usual coloured flag boats we decided to get back on the ferry and come back to the pier on the other side. Except this time when we jumped on, the driver tried to show us to get off. He was pointing to the shore on this side where we just got in from, and we were pointing to the other side of the river trying to show him that’s where we need to go. It was funny when he also tried to tell the young Thai woman to get off and she pointed to the other side of the river as well. As the woman refused to get off and just stayed in her seat waiting, we did the same. You know how the saying goes – when in Rome… And about 10min later we started moving and came back to our starting point. This time we waited quite a while, but finally hopped on the boat going along the river towards Wat Arun.

Chaophraya River, Bangkok

I love the boats on Chaophraya. For 15 baht you can travel the whole route (which is an insane distance!), along the way enjoying the view of temples, bridges, and locals living on the banks of the
river. With the morning sun on my face and the breeze so chilly, for a moment I felt just like by the seaside in Lithuania. We were enjoying the ride and couldn’t decide where it’s best to get off. When we saw Wat Arun on the other side of the river, and the distance to the closest bridge, we decided we’ll visit it some other time…:) So we just stayed on the boat, gazing at the shores and a few stops later we got off near a random bridge thinking it would lead us somewhere towards the city.

Chaophraya River, Bangkok
By the way, this is not Wat Arun, but some other temple that looked really pretty from the water

 

We got really cold on the boat with all the wind, so we were super excited when we found a big 7/11 with proper coffee and a bakery! We didn’t really know where we were, but we had nice coffee and
something warm to eat. There was a gentle breeze as we were strolling across the bridge and we could feel the warmth of the sun. I had actually forgotten what it’s like to be missing the sun!

Chaophraya River, Bangkok

We looked at google maps and saw a park quite close to where we were – so we decided to make it our destination. Because that’s what we often do in life: just look at where we are, and where we
can get to 😀 The streets were incredibly quiet and surprisingly tidy. We kept walking, turn after turn, taking pictures, and then… we reached a palace. We wanted to just come closer, take a couple of
pictures and keep walking, but something caught my eye. There was a small toy truck, slightly (editor’s note: more than slightly) burnt, but so cute, just left alone by the road. We took a few pictures with the truck and it was just so cute that we decided to keep it. Then, when we looked at the map again, we realised we ended up near the Dusit Zoo!

Dusit Zoo, BangkokDusit Zoo, Bangkok

If you’re a relatively savvy couple, what’s the first thing you do? Look at the price list! At least that’s what we did. We have our own system of saving while having fun and concepts of what’s value for
money and what’s not. Paying loads to see animals in cages didn’t feel like an investment, but it wasn’t steep at all, so we gave it a go.

Dusit Zoo, Bangkok

The first thing we saw when we walked in was the huge beautiful lake. We can’t say it was a pond, because I don’t think ponds have pedal boats for rent. Using a confusing zoo map we made our way
to the first exhibit – monkeys. They looked very cute and energetic while jumping and swinging all over their cages. Some were reaching their long arms out through the fence and looking at you, as if saying ‘give me my food’. Further on there were vendors selling big loaves of bread for fish feeding. I thought why would they sell loaves this big to feed small fishies, until we saw the giant predators enjoying the carb feast!

Dusit Zoo, Bangkok

The highlight of the zoo was the Meercats. As cute as kittens. And what happens when a girl sees a bunch of cute little kittens? I checked all possible things on Facebook, Line, Instagram, etc, yet she
was still taking photos of them.

Dusit Zoo, BangkokDusit Zoo, Bangkok

It was fun visiting the zoo for the first time since I was 6 years old. However, there is a big BUT.

Dusit Zoo, Bangkok

Seeing all these wild animals locked in cages felt really depressing and I can’t find a nicer word to describe it. There was a sad hippo rubbing his head against the wall with another hippo separated on the other side. You could go up to an observation platform where the giraffes come close to say hello. They don’t actually say hello, duh, they just come very close so you can touch them! There were two hungry hippos in a drained-pool type of area with kids throwing long-beans and other foods into their mouths. There were beautiful exotic birds locked in tiniest cages, tropical cold-blooded creatures isolated in the smallest imitations of their natural habitats. There was a Malaysian Black bear going crazy and rocking back and forth in one circle because of the Thai pop music playing just outside its cage.

Dusit Zoo, Bangkok

On a side note: we spent over 4 hours at the zoo, walked around town for ages, couldn’t find vegetarian food anywhere (surprise surprise), took the BTS towards home, and we ended up eating
McDonald’s fries in the car park outside Tesco with a persistently friendly cockroach trying to join our company!