A Travellerspoint blog

Living it up in Patong Beach, Phuket

Day 9, 10, 11, 12

sunny 33 °C
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For the last 3 days in Phuket I decided to splurge and stay at an actual resort on the beach, where you didn't have to pay for towels or air conditioning it was included with the room. When I checked into the Baan Laimai Beach Resort I was expecting to stay in the windowless room on the second floor that I had booked on sale, but to my surprise I was escorted to the top floor where these villas where located and was told the one in the middle was mine. I have been upgraded before (party suite in Panama) but this a complete surprise, especially in high season! It has a large soaker sub and the views looked down on the beach. Had some of the best sleeps here!

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My villa for the next 3 days!
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The large bathroom with the HUGE tub!

The next 3 days I had no plans, would sleep in , have brunch at the hotel (it was included so I no longer needed to go to the Holiday Inn!) and either relax on the beach or by the pool or both. I would meeting with friends for dinner/ dancing and repeat the same schedule the next day. It was extremely relaxing and one of the few times I have planned days with no plans, something I need to do more!

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The gorgeous pool at the resort. They played Celine and Whitney Houston and the random Christmas CD on repeat. Quite the mix!

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Prawns for dinner one night

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Met two awesome Aussies on the Elephant Day trip in Bangkok, they also went down to Patong Beach and I met up for dinner overlooking the beach

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Last sunset on the beach

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One of my favorite things to do after dinner was to sit on the beach and watch the fireworks and lanterns that tourists would buy from vendors and light them. The lanterns would typically fly for 5-7 minutes before burning out. I love lanterns, especially at the beach.

The trip is quickly wrapping up, I have 2 nights in Bangkok, where they have just announced a ban on liquor and fly out to Edmonton via Tokyo and Denver at 7 AM Monday (5 PM Sunday) and will arrive in Edmonton at 11 PM Monday.

Posted by anthonyfalls 01:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged vacation phuket patong_beach Comments (1)

Puttering Around the Islands of Phi Phi

Day 7, 8

sunny 30 °C
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This is my "It's January and it's not -40C face!"

Day 7 was a total beach day. I spent the day reading, eating and sleeping on the beach. Went for my daily massage, 1 hour for $6 and went to bed early as Day 8 was going to be the Phi Phi Island Adventure! This was my second trip tour that I booked in Thailand. I am glad I did not book it online, as I was able to barter a much better deal in person, $55 instead of $105. The trip is a full day our and starts with pick up at the hotel at 7:30 AM, you are then transported to a marina in Phuket Town. At the Marina you are given a light breakfast, pick up your flippers and can help yourself to a bucket full of pills for motions sickness,I recall them telling us not to take more than 2 or you would be asleep for the duration of the trip. You are then loaded onto a gorgeous speed boat to Phi Phi Island. I was lucky to get a seat in the front of the boat with a group of Russians. There Russians did not believe in following rules, smoking and would try and stand while we were flying in the water. After repeatedly being asked to sit down, one fell and hit his head on the railing. I can't imagine any one felt bad for him! The boat ride is FAST, and it was a windy day, bumpiest boat ride I had been on. I am lucky, I don't get motion sickness, however, there were some people on the boat that were not as lucky. I just had to watch out for my Russian friends falling overboard or on me. Before getting to Phi Phi island you stop and have an opportunity to snorkel. The snorkeling was not as good as the Bahamas or Panama but there were plenty of fish and the surroundings are beautiful. At Phi Phi Island we got off to have lunch. Interesting lunch of rice, pasta and chicken fingers. Phi Phi Island was devastated in the 2004 Tsunami and thousands of people lost their lives. It has been completely been re-built and there is a new warning system and signs indicating the evacuation route.

I simply can not imagine what this must of been like. Surreal to see the power of a Tsunami

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Regardless of your language the sign says it all
After the island, the boat stopped at several islands including Khao Phing Kan Island where they filmed the James Bond movie: The Man with the Golden Gun. Our last stop was an island that was set up for tourists with restaurants and lounge chairs. We had 2 hours to spend and explore the island. After being stuck in traffic for about an hour made it back to the hotel for 5:30 PM. Here are some more photos of the day. The photos can't capture just how beautiful the area is!

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Traditional Long- Tail Boats. I would love to come back and hire someone for the day to take us from island to island

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Monkey Island- Monkeys live on the island, disgusting to see the amount of garbage has accumulated.

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Basking in the sun, my hair is a mess from the speed boat

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Phi Phi Island in its beauty

Posted by anthonyfalls 00:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach phi_phi_island monkey_island long_tail_boats khao_phing_kan_island Comments (0)

Off to the Beaches of Phuket!

Day 5, 6

sunny 28 °C
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Day 5 was the day I flew to Phuket. It was recommended to leave 4 hours before the flight to get to the airport due to the many road closures with the protests. Bangkok has 2 international airports. I arrived from Tokyo at the newer Suvarnabhumi International Airport and fly to Phuket from one of the oldest international airports in the world; Don Mueang International Airport which was built in 1924 and looks like a movie set from the 70's! It only took 1.25 hrs to get to the airport (23 KM away!) so I had plenty of time to catch my flight. I booked my flight through Air Asia which is the Asia version of the low cost carrier, Ryanair. The flight cost me $120 return and is roughly a 1.5 hr flight to get to Phuket from Bangkok/

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The long stretch of beaches around Phuket as seen landing at Phuket International Airport

Hard to believe but traffic is WORSE in Phuket! I am staying at Patong Beach which is the main tourist area in Phuket and where the majority of the resorts are. The first 4 nights, Tune Hotel is where I am staying. It is a unique concept, it could be considered a low cost hotel chain. You pay for a standard room and then pay for things such as towels and soap, television and air conditioning. During a Black Friday Expedia sale I got it for $27 night and this included the premium package which included towels :) by the time I finally arrived at the hotel, I had just enough time to throw my luggage down and go see the sunset on the beach. Patong is nothing I have seen before, imagine Las Vegas with no gambling (it is illegal here) but every 5 meters you have someone selling you something, anything really: massage, coconuts (so good!), sunglasses, towels- you name it you can buy it on the street. I also met two ladies who came to Patong to get breast implants, apparently they are 50% cheaper in Thailand then in Australia and they can have a vacation at the same time. There also seems to be no rules in this town. You can drink on the streets, prostitution appears to legal as it is everywhere and traffic is an absolute nightmare, with people parking wherever they like. This area is also a huge travel destinations for Russians.....sometimes LOUD and OBNOXIOUS Russians!

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The busy streets in Patong Beach

However, the beach at Patong makes it all worth it. It really is a stunning beach that goes on for miles. I plan to spend days here, reading and getting some sun!

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My spot on the beach,spent 7 hrs in that chair!

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Coconuts are delicious and great for the hangover!

Posted by anthonyfalls 21:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged phuket patong_beach Comments (0)

Staying Put

Day 4

sunny 30 °C

After a thrilling few days I spent Day 4 relaxing and spending time at my new hotel, the Four Point By Sheraton. Best part-there was no cost as I redeemed some points to stay here. It is a great hotel with a roof top pool and the room has a Jacuzzi tub! I love my tubs! Unfortunately, this was the day the riots started getting violent in downtown Bangkok and a bomb went off earlier in the day. There were two protests within a kilometer radius so spent most of the day at the hotel, reading, swimming and browsing at Terminal 21, this amazing mall across the street that is designed like an airport with each floor representing an area of the world- Paris, Tokyo. Istanbul.

12080480315_5f852494f9.jpg12080475075_7bff7ff52c.jpg The mall had at least 7 floors, puts WEM to shame!

Posted by anthonyfalls 21:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

Elephants!

Day 3

sunny 31 °C
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One of the reasons I like to be cheap when I travel is that it allows me to go more places and allows me to do 1-2 activities on my trip and still stay within my budget (for instance I have snuck into the resort next to my hotel to write this entry as they have a library with gorgeous iMacs and don't charge for WIFI). When I went to Panama last year we did a snorkeling day trip and looking back at my trip it was a definite highlight. In Thailand I have booked two tours. The first tour is through the tour company Viator- Khao Yai National Park and Elephant Ride Day Trip from Bangkok. The trip is 10 hours, and you cover a lot of ground, but by far the most exciting thing is you get to ride an elephant in the jungle. The tour started bright and early at 6:30 AM. Most of the tour is spent driving, and more particularly traffic within Bangkok. It takes easily 2 hours to get out of the city and on to the highway. Our first stop is to a market in a rural village. The tour guide apologizes several times to us for the market being so quite, apparently a lot of the people have headed to the protests in Bangkok. I however, can not imagine what it would look like if it was busy, the market is jammed with stalls selling literally everything. You need brain, how about bags of blood, or a pig face, this market is for you! I bought a small bag of tomatoes for a few cents and we were off to our next excursion of the day- ox riding! I have no idea why the tour company picked this activity, but all I know, is that for 25 minutes I was in the back of an ox wagon in a set similar to what I imagine Little House on the Prairie was like, wearing a foolish hat and trying not to fall out of the wagon. The gentleman driving the ox knew no English, but could make some pretty interesting noises, which the Ox seemed to understand. After, we were invited for lunch at the farm house, where we were treated to a genuine Thai meal.

12048650054_5b4cbc299e.jpg See it does look like Little House on the Prairie! 12049102266_a3bbcf6838.jpg Our Thai Lunch being cooked for us

The tour continued to a National Park where we (actually just myself as the other tour members was too tired and were only there to ride the elephants) descended into the Jungle to see a waterfall. It is dry season in Thailand (which means NO RAIN while I am here!) and the waterfall wasn't spilling with water but it still was a pretty site.
12049095156_40e9d9a772.jpg Haew Narok Waterfall

Finally on to our last stop, Jungle House elephants! The place is a gorgeous resort and they are proud of how they handle their elephants. It still is within the National Park and elephants roam in the wild in this area. These elephants were rescued and taken in years ago. My understanding was that we would be paired in 2 to ride the elephant while the trainer takes charge. It started this way, and then I was asked if I wanted to sit in front, which I did! To my dismay the trainer jumps down and I am in charge of this elephant. The person from India who was selected to my partner, was already worried about getting on the elephant and has closed his eyes. Through my loud, clear and deep voice (inside work joke!) I was able to steer the elephant on the path. It is great to see they do not condone hitting the elephant, it is all done through talking. The trainer is on the ground helping me talk to the elephant, but for most of the time on the elephant I was in charge. Definitely an experience I will not soon forget!
12048236415_6171d2b6dd.jpg The Elephant Cherry, the guy from India and myself!

Posted by anthonyfalls 04:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged elephant khaoyai_national_park haew_narok_waterfall Comments (1)

The Grand Palace

Day 2

sunny 26 °C
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With only spending 5 days in Bangkok I feel like I need to get in everything I can! On my second day in Bangkok I spent the day at the Grand Palace. I planned to go for 2 hours ended up staying for 4 hrs! The palace has strict clothing attire requirements and shorts, sandals are not allowed, you can rent trousers but I just put on some jeans and shoes. The day started off with an awesome brunch at the Holiday Inn (which is by far the nicest Holiday Inn I have ever seen- would be equivalent to our Westin in downtown Edmonton) which has a promotion for $295 BHT ($12) you can eat their lunch buffet. I love a good buffet and this one was great. Different stations with chefs making you custom Italian, Thai and Japanese food in front of you. The prices for food still continue to surprise me. Food is so cheap and delicious. I am eating like a King in Thailand and because of Thailand's diverse population there is such a variety. I am hooked on these Orange Julilus type drinks that I get for $0.85 they make with fresh strawberry's and bananas. They are great on a hot day or with a splash of vodka before going out. Anyways this travel blog is derailing into a food blog very quickly.
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On the tourist ferry to the palace.

Back on topic, the trip from my hotel to the River where the Grand Palace is located is about an hour. You then hop on this river boat that takes tourists from the sky train station to the Palace. What is interesting is that their are different classes of ferries and you can really tell the different between tourists and citizens. Our ferry had comfortable seats and life jackets and looked in good shape. It cost $40BHT one way ($1.50) there is another type of ferry that cost 3BHT ($0.10) and well it is a miracle in my opinion it is floating with no seats and I an not imagine life jackets on that vessel. There are numerous stops on the ferry that you stop at to get to the Palace. It really is not the most efficient transportation method out there. When you finally arrive at the pier for the Grand Palace you are on your own. You have to venture past a market of all type of raw fishes and insects, cross a busy intersection (again absolutely chaos, this must be the most dangerous aspect of Thailand) and then you finally get to what is the Palace grounds. However, you must ensure you go through the right entrance or a guard will approach you with a rifle and startle you, which happened to me. Finally through my awesome hand gesture communication I found the right entrance.

You can walk around the grounds but there really is not to much to see, the temples and palace are walled off, and if your a citizen of Thailand, if not you have to pay $500BHT ($15) which is quite shocking as that is a lot of money for Thailand. However, as soon as you walk in you realize it is worth every penny. It is hard to explain the site other than it is one of the most stunning sites I have visited. (Joyce you would have went crazy taking photos!) Enjoy the photos below, the great thing about the iPhone is that regardless of your age, nationality and English speaking skills you can usually take a photo for you!

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After the palace for the first time since being in Bangkok I got lost and could not find the ferry terminal, when I finally did find it again I missed the ferry and had an hour to browse through the market. They literally have everything and anything for sale. Turtles,Eagle (!!!!!), frozen cubes of blood, the list goes on. When the ferry arrived I was starving (surprising after what I had just seen at the market) and got off at one of the ferry stops at the gorgeous Royal Orchid Sheraton where I had dinner on the patio and then made myself at home crashing their pool area and using their private boat to take me back to the train station. They never asked me I was a guest so I feel I was welcome to use their amenities :)

12006054625_5a765f11bf.jpg The sun setting while having dinner at the Sheraton

Wrapped up the evening by visiting the night market by my hotel overall another productive day in Thailand!

Posted by anthonyfalls 07:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok grandpalace Comments (0)

The Protests Friday January 17, 2014

Feels like the Tide is Turning

sunny 28 °C
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Just a few hours ago I was writing how I felt on Tuesday, when I went down to the protest site that it had a carnival feel to it and was quite organized, today (Friday January 17, 2014) 5 days into the protest, was the first day of real violence. A grenade was thrown into the protesting crowd this morning and 36 people were injured. Talking among other tourists, despite the inconvenience with traffic snarls and businesses closing early, everyone I have talked to agrees with the protest and most had been down to one of the sites to watch it. Thailand citizens just want democracy and are extremely proud of the fact they had 160,000 (CRAZY!!) people in attendance and there was no violence. What made today's event surprising is that the incident occurred in the daytime near the tourist area. The Canadian consulate in Thailand was quick to send an email to Canadians in Thailand advising them of the situation and to avoid the protest areas, which happen to be 1 block away from my current hotel and 5 blocks in the other direction, there are 8 in total. I can actually here the one from 1 block away from my hotel room. I personally feel safe in Bangkok, I will be avoiding the protest areas from now on and tomorrow I fly out to Phuket, (which was always the plan) and there is no protests there. The only concern I have is the possibility of the protesters closing the airport, which would delay me getting back to Canada. Will be interesting to see what happens in the next few days, the government has as of now not intervened with the protesters, but with the recent violence it may not be able to continue to do this. If the Government intervenes I imagine it will get ugly.

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The main road in downtown Bangkok closed for the protest on Monday, parts of the stretch are still closed today.

Posted by anthonyfalls 08:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok bangkokshutdown Comments (0)

Perfect First Day!

31 °C
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Upon finally arriving in Bangkok I crashed and slept for several hours. My first 4 days I am staying at the Best Western Klassique for $27 night. It's crazy deal and had a pretty hight TripAdvisor rating (I highly recommend TripAdvisor or you could find yourself next a run down hotel with 1970's shag carpet, peeling walls and a bucket like contraption for a toilet as I did in Wellington a couple years ago!) , the hotel also provided free breakfast and WIFI which makes it a stellar deal. I have no window in my room but this actually worked out well as I could sleep or nap anytime of the day and could not hear any traffic or protests. After waking up from my coma state sleep I went to explore. The hotel offers a Tuk Tuk service (see super crazy good deal!) from the property to the closest Sky Train Station. Although traffic is a nightmare in Bangkok, the transit system is suburb and can get most of the main areas with it. Day pass is $4 and it runs to midnight. I have pretty much been using it exclusively unless I come back after 12 AM. First stop was to get a massage, massages parlours are everywhere and can cost as little as $5 for an hour massage, but they are usually seedy and for a good tip can end in a good time, not my thing and with the help of TripAdvisor found a great spa that for $40 offers a 2 hour massage and body scrub. Simply Heaven! The food choices are endless here, and ridiculously cheap. There are vendors everywhere offering anytype of food imaginable on the street for $1-$2. It smells great, but I am not sure if my stomach is up to the challenge. A regular meal at a restaurant is around $5 and $10-$15 at a more high end hotel/ restaurant. I love food as most of you know so I have been trying a lot of different restaurants, on the first day I had a delicious Japanese rice bowl and for dessert I went crazy at McDonalds as they have McFlurry buffet- which is essentially whatever you want on your $0.85 McFlurry, including corn flakes (?!) and "McBubbles" similar to bubble tea.

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The Tuk Tuk at the hotel that takes guests to the skytrain (for the life of me I can not get this photo to rotate!)

Bangkok is by far the largest city I have ever visited. The population is around 14 million in the area, and as far as you can see there is skyscapers. It just goes on and on and on, and the contrast between the wealthy and the poor is everywhere. You can have an amazing building like the Four Seasons Bangkok next to a run down slum. However, what I like about this city is they have temples and parks everywhere. As I found out on the first day, it is possible to read a book at a park in the heart of downtown and not realize your in Bangkok, actually quite peaceful. The weather is fantastic, no rain in the forecast this week and the temperature is anywhere from 28C-34C and sunny.

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One thing that apparent is the city is in turmoil politically and the day before the city was shut down by protests with tens of thousands of people participating. When I landed in Tokyo I had an email from the Canadian consulate advising citizens to consider altering their plans and to stay indoors. The day I arrived was actually the second day of the protests, and while they were not as big, but there were still thousands of people participating with streets shutdown, street vendors and stages setup with lighting and sound systems on these 4 lane main arteries causing havoc on traffic! After visiting the park I walked by and was surprised at how festive the protests were. More of a carnival theme than felt safe, and very organized- very little violence has occurred so far.

photo_2.jpg drinking my coconut water and watching the protest spectacle
photo_1.jpg there are several sites across this city with protesters

Later that evening I checked out the gay district which is massive in Bangkok, met a nice guy from Vancouver that organizes trips with people from around the world. He was just wrapping up a 10 day tour with a group of people and arranges around 10-14 trips a year around the world, Essentially he has my dream job. He was nice enough to give me some great tips and advice for the next 16 days in Thailand.

Posted by anthonyfalls 20:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok bangkokshutdown Comments (0)

Anthony's Adventure in getting to Asia!

Nothing always goes as planned, just have to go with the flow!

sunny 29 °C
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35 hours after departing Edmonton I arrived in Bangkok!

Had fantastic flight to Denver, used my United Club Pass that I scored on ebay for cheap (I love a good deal!) and managed to take in some drinks and get some studying while watching planes taking off from Denver. As an aviation geek I was in Heaven! Denver is a United Hub City and a wide variety of aircraft take off and land there. Unfortunately, the 787-Dreamliner aircraft continues to have maintenance issues and our aircraft from Denver to Tokyo was delayed for 2 hours, which meant more orange juice vodkas, and plane watching ahead of me!

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I am so glad in the end I decided to route my trip through Denver and take the 787-dreamliner, it seems absolutely crazy that in 2014 United could still have aircrafts that do not have individual TV's, and my flight from San Fransico and connecting would have had no personal TV's or entertainment that is nearly 20 hours in the air with nothing to do but read- I don't sleep on planes and I would have gone crazy (first world problems I know!) By far the flight from Denver to Tokyo was the best flight I have ever been on. I have never flown on a quieter plane. Each seat came with a blanket and pillow, huge screen with hundreds of TV shows and movies (they even had Downton Abbey as an option!!) mood lighting and the largest windows on any airplane and some sort of filter system that helps with jetlag. The entire flight I felt like I was eating. We had 2 pretty awesome meals a sandwich snack and also an ice cream snack, and I was flying economy!
11958464134_2a0f6bf630.jpg Interior of the Dreamliner
11958828026_a24a3092a0.jpg Chicken and Rice- it was delicious!

Interesting tibit the route from Denver to Tokyo flies directly over Edmonton, so the first 2 hours of the flight was spent flying me right where I started earlier in the day!

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Flying right above Edmonton

Finally arrive in Tokyo - no jetlag (it worked!) and we learn quickly that although our aircraft is still at the airport we can not board and the best option would be to take a red-eye departing in 6 hours, only thing is the flight is at another airport in Tokyo. Had to go through customs, get a transit visa, retrieve luggage and hop on a chartered bus to take us from Narita Airport to Haneda Airport. Best part of this arrangement I got to take in a 1 hour tour of Tokyo! What an amazing city, massive buildings everywhere, fantastic roads and we drove by Tokyo Disney. Haneda airport is stunning, by far the nicest airport I have been too. Had my first meal in Japanese- used my fork with pride! Departed for Bangkok at 12:20 AM on Thai airways on a massive 747-400 (double decker plane). Asked if there was any chance for an upgrade and I somehow managed to get an emergency row to myself. The 7 hour flight was brutal, extremely jealous of anyone who can sleep during a flight. Landed in Bangkok at 5:30 AM. By the time I went through immigrations and got my luggage the sun was rising and it was a balmy 24 degrees.

11958920826_2cfce87a49.jpg Beautiful Haneda Airport 11958965526_ed7925447c.jpg My first meal in Japan! 11958463233_795b8ac00c.jpg Found this in the washroom at the airport- I used it thinking it was a modern urinal


Stay tuned for my perfect first day in Bangkok and how the protests are effecting travel in Bangkok!

Posted by anthonyfalls 19:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged tokyo bangkok denver edmonton haneda 747-400 unitedairlines thaiairways dreamliner Comments (0)

Why Thailand!?

Heading to The Land of the Smiles- January 12-27, 2014

snow -17 °C
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In 2012 I decided to take an adventure of a lifetime and explored New Zealand for three weeks, it was an AMAZING trip (you can read about the adventure on past entries on this blog), upon arriving back I am have been craving an opportunity to explore another part of the world.

Thailand was never a destination that I had on my bucket list, however, in November I became aware of a phenomenal flight deal from Edmonton to Bangkok, Thailand. Researching more about the country it became apparent that it would be possible to explore the country on a tight budget. Unfortunately, I was unable to persuade any of my friends to join me, too many of them are still in university, have children-or about to have children :) or simply can't take 16 days off work in the middle of January. Ironically, I also would not have been able to take the time off during this month, however, a last minute, postponed event cleared my work calendar and allowed me the time off- it all just seemed to work out!

After enduring what I feel has been one of the coldest, snowiest Fall/Winter ever here in Edmonton, Canada I am looking forward to warm, balmy temperatures in Thailand. According to holiday-weather.com; "January (in Bangkok) has an average temperature of 27 °C, with an average high of 32 °C and low of 21 °C, making it a very warm start to the year. January is also a very dry month, with just 10mm of rain over two days, although the consequence of this is humidity that averages 70%. There are about nine hours of sunshine per day." Sounds pretty fantastic to me!

Unlike New Zealand, I have not had as much time to plan the trip out. I have booked a flight from Bangkok to Phuket and plant to spend a week in the beach resort of Patong, which is 800 KM South-West of Bangkok . I also want to check out the Grand Palace & Wat Pra Kaew, Wat Arun, Floating Markets and of course checking out the Elephants!

This video does a good job of summarizing Thailand!

Should be quite the adventure!

-A

Posted by anthonyfalls 23:38 Archived in Canada Tagged thailand canada edmonton beginning_of_an_adventure Comments (0)

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