Tag Archives: Bangkok day 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).

68 years of Vespa

Never realised I love Vespas so much.  I really want one. We’re gonna get one. One day…:)

68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand

So we found out about this Vespa event, I can’t even remember where from. We marked it in our diaries and then… forgot about it. Until yesterday morning when I looked at my phone and noticed a reminder. We were so lazy to get out of the house as we didn’t even know where exactly we were supposed to go. By the time we finally managed to get into town it was already a bit too late to join the start at Asiatique, so we decided to go straight to Nang Loeng Horse Racecourse where the biggest Vespa caravan in Asia was supposed to arrive around 3:30pm. We were walking around for a while (it’s a massive field!) trying to find the entrance, getting tired from the heat until we almost gave up but then as if out of nowhere we walked into a gap in the wall – which was in fact the entrance!

To our excitement there was a cosy coffee shop inside (with much needed air-con) and perfect view of the whole car park with cute little Vespas starting to show up one by one. It was like being in a cat cafe, except that all the kittens were outside. We were already happy:) And then the caravan came – lead by the 3 police motorbikes, tons of Vespas started piling in. All sorts of colours and models, loads of really old ones (those are the prettiest!), some carefully polished and shiny, others covered in rust… All sooo beautiful!

68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand

We were sitting there, admiring the kittens flowing in. We just couldn’t stop smiling and taking pictures!:) But then the caravan finished. Well, at least we thought so. Then, after a while a second wave of Vespas came in! And then the third, and the fourth… there was no end! Although we didn’t actually realise just HOW MANY Vespas there were at the event until we bought the tickets and walked in. I have never seen so many Vespas in my life. I didn’t think it was possible to have that many of them in one place!

68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand

Initially we thought we’re just gonna take some pictures and head home. But then we started walking between the Vespas, reached the vintage stands and the food fair where we had some amazing pizza… Good music, good food, loads of beautiful stylish people and Vespas everywhere you look – it was too good to leave!

68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand

By the time we got our second slice of pizza (we couldn’t help it) it was already dark and the bands started playing on stage. Interestingly enough at that point it didn’t feel like Thailand at all. It felt as if we were at a summer concert in Vilnius, back home. Even the people around us looked like lithuanians in Vilnius (I know it sounds strange, but that’s what it felt like!). Of course we couldn’t understand any of the words of the songs or the jokes that the singers were making, but the pure joy we were surrounded by didn’t need to be translated. Everyone was dancing, singing along and laughing. And we were a part of the fiesta.

More photos here.

68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand68 years of Vespa festival Bangkok, Thailand

Pattaya, Koh Larn, and the Russians

Last weekend we had our most disorganised trip ever. Last minute we decided we wanted to go away for the weekend, somewhere by the sea. It had to be somewhere close as we were only going for a couple of days, so we thought Pattaya will do. We’d read it’s one of the worst places in Thailand to go to, full of Russian tourists, crowded beach etc. But we thought, so what? It has a sea. It can’t be that bad.

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On Friday we had a staff party (leaving do) at Loft in Love, lots of fun, and came back late. We had forgotten how tiring a party can be! The following day we felt so tired that we slept in, took forever to get ready, finally left for Victory Monument to try and find a van going to Pattaya, eventually did find it and got on. We didn’t have any maps or any idea where the van would drop us off in Pattaya (not like us at all!).

2 days earlier: late Thursday night, we were both sleepy, trying to book a place to stay on Agoda. We found this cheap apartment, but for some reason the map on Agoda refused to work, so we googled the place instead – it was right near the main beach! So of course we booked it.

And now it was Saturday evening, we had just got off the van in Pattaya. After looking around for street signs we realised it had dropped us off right in the city centre. Perfect! We thought we could just walk to our apartment. Until we looked at the map. This time Agoda’s map was working. And guess if our apartment was in the same place where google showed it to be…? It was right in the middle of nowhere. Far faaaar away from the centre. Far away from anything, really. We stopped a few taxi cars just to realise the ‘meter-taxis’ don’t even have meters in Pattaya! Of course they were all quoting extortionate rates. Even the price for a motorcycle taxi was just as ridiculous (150 each). Then we tried to ring the number on our booking to check if there would be anybody there to give us the keys – as it’s not a hotel with a reception. We tried ringing a few times – no answer. We decided we’d be better off losing the money we paid for the 2 nights and instead just finding a place that is REALLY in the city centre. So we ended up walking around Pattaya on a Saturday night, looking for a place to stay. Just like the travellers to Pattaya should be.

After walking into a few hotels and hostels we realised we’ll have to pay at least double of what we expected to spend (based on the price of our middle-of-nowhere apartment, ha ha) in order to get a place to sleep with no cockroaches. So we ended up paying loads, but found a really nice hotel to stay in. I guess I will never understand why people say it’s cheaper to find a place on the spot instead of booking online – for us it’s always been the opposite. Whenever we checked the walk-in prices, the same place and same room was cheaper online. And even in this case, even though we walked in and the staff showed us the room, we then made the booking online as it turned out to be cheaper. Maybe if you’re staying in dorms you might find places that are not online with lower prices, but for us – we always book a private room for the two of us, even in hostels, so the deals are always better online. And we like to be organised. I guess this experience just proved it to us that we need to organise our travels in order to make the most of the time that we have.

The next day we realised why people say that Pattaya is full of Russians. Russian signs, Russian restaurants, Russian tour guides, Thai waitresses speaking to the little kids… in Russian! Even the product range at Tops was adapted to suit the Russian taste. And… cucumbers with sour cream at our hotel’s ‘American breakfast’ buffet. SOUR CREAM in Thailand. Not to mention the fact that everyone approached us in Russian. At least that’s what it looked like at first. Then we realised there are plenty of Russians working there and they were the ones addressing us in Russian. Most of the Thais were speaking to us in English, but when they asked where we’re from they were still expecting to hear ‘Russia’. What a strange world.

What we didn’t expect though was to find just as many Indian restaurants and Indian tourists! Funnily enough, even the Indian restaurants had Russian snacks and meals on the menu… Just to be clear: we don’t have anything against Russians, it’s just that we don’t like when mass tourism changes the place so much that it becomes as foreign as the tourists themselves.

Pattaya beach, ThailandPattaya beach, Thailand

Anyway, the next morning we took a stroll along the beach to the main pier where we got on a ferry to Koh Larn island. What a difference: narrow streets with only a few motorbikes passing by, peaceful, quiet and pretty much empty. Tawaen beach might be different, but we didn’t go there on purpose – we got off at Na Ban pier and walked along the tiny streets seeing where they would take us. We found a tiny rocky beach where we spent a few hours just chilling, reading and having a small picnic. I have to say, Pattaya does look beautiful… when you look at it from a good distance! Then we found a really cosy café where we had a few iced drinks before heading back to the ferry. It’s just a shame we didn’t have more time to explore this lovely island.

Koh Larn, ThailandKoh Larn, ThailandKoh Larn, Thailand

Back at Pattaya we went to the Horizon skybar on the 34th floor of Hilton. That is definitely a perfect place to watch the sunset – you have the whole coastline and Koh Larn island in front of you with the sun slowly disappearing behind the island’s silhouette. Simply beautiful.

Horizon at Hilton Pattaya, ThailandHorizon at Hilton Pattaya, ThailandHorizon at Hilton Pattaya, Thailand

And of course with so many Indian restaurants we just had to have an Indian meal. So we found a restaurant and couldn’t stop ourselves from ordering too much – we love Indian food. And everything we ordered tasted amazing. Everything. We could barely move after such a feast, but it was worth it.

So up until this point our opinion of Pattaya was not that bad. But if you want to scare yourself to death, go to Pattaya’s walking street in the evening. It looked bad enough when we passed it in the morning on our way to the ferry – the smell, the dirt and rubbish with all the adverts of thousands of bars all offering ‘pretty sexy girls’. Well, if that looked bad it’s a thousand times worse at night as it’s full of ‘pretty sexy girls’ offering themselves – when in fact most of them are not even girls! The funniest thing is that at the gate to this sex tourism walking street there’s a police van with about 5 officers sat at the table. I wonder what they’re controlling…?

Walking street Pattaya, ThailandWalking street Pattaya, Thailand

Next morning, it was pretty cloudy and after breakfast it started pouring down – a proper tropical rainstorm. Luckily it stopped just before we had to check out. The flooded streets looked funny – especially the ‘pretty girls’ on the motorbikes trying to keep their high heels above the water:) we had another Indian meal before leaving and got a van home. Never sit at the back of the van. NEVER. The driver was going like crazy – we were flying past every single van, bus and car on the highway – all the time jumping up and down, as the road was that bumpy. We were so glad when we ‘landed’ in Bangkok 1,5h later and the driver had to slow down because of the traffic.

Pattaya flood, Thailand

So actually you can have a nice weekend away in Pattaya. You can easily escape to the quiet Koh Larn (the ferry costs only 30 baht one way!), and even Pattaya’s beach itself is not as bad as we thought it would be – yes, it’s full of deck chairs but you can still find some space to just lay down on the sand and watch the colourful boats floating in the water. There’s plenty of good Indian restaurants and there’s a perfect skybar for the sunset. And it’s only 2 hours away from Bangkok – great for a weekend getaway. Just avoid the walking street and you’ll be fine.