Thailand

KINGDOM OF THAILAND

2012

Part 1, General Information

Part 2, BLOG Pictures and Gallery

PART 3, VIDEO CLIP

PART 1, GENERAL INFORMATION

Capital city: Bangkok

Population: 70 million

Currency: Thai Bath

Km travelled: 2944km

Days in: 51

Languages: Central Thai, (used to be called Siamese)

General

Since the latest coup Thailand is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy under a military junta. Thailand comprises several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups. The north of the country is the mountainous area also called the Thai Highlands with Doi Inthanon the highest point at 2565 meters. The centre of Thailand is dominated by the predominantly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs into the Gulf of Thailand. Southern Thailand is narrow but widens when approaching the Malaysian border. Plans have resurfaced for a canal like the Panama Canal which would connect the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand. It would cut fees charged by the Port of Singapore and improve ties with China and India. The government hopes that this would make Thailand a logistical hub for Southeast Asia. Expected cost around 28 billion USD. Prostitution in Thailand and sex tourism also form a de facto part of the economy. Campaigns promote Thailand as exotic to attract tourists. Cultural milieu combined with poverty and the lure of money have caused prostitution and sex tourism to flourish in Thailand. One estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$4.3 billion per year or about 3% of the Thai economy

 

Tourist Highlights

Thailand was the most visited country in Southeast Asia, according to the World Tourism Organisation. Asian tourists primarily visit Thailand for Bangkok and the historical, natural, and cultural sights in its vicinity. Western tourists mainly visit Bangkok and the southern beaches and islands. To accommodate foreign visitors, the Thai government established a separate tourism police with offices in the major tourist areas and its own central emergency telephone number.

BANGKOK

Bangkok has swelled to a cosmopolitan, 21st century city of more than 11 million inhabitants. While the immensity of the city and its bustling streets can be intimidating at first the city itself is a true tourist paradise. Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Besides a very vibrant nightlife it has lots of things to do in and around Bangkok. Bangkok offers mostly historical attractions and temples with elaborate architectures and arts. The most famous temples (in total 400 temples in Bangkok alone) include Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Phu Khao Thong, Wat Ratchanadda, Wat Traimit, Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Bowon, and Wat Sutat. There many palaces, the most well the know is the Grand Palace, museums, parks, and a wide array of shopping centres, from luxury malls to flea markets and street markets such as Chatuchak Weekend Market, Sampeng Market, and Pahurat Textile Market. A cruise on the Chao Phraya River, a visit to a floating market, or an exploration of the city’s “back alley” canals (khlongs) are must do’s when in Bangkok.

 

CHIANG MAI

Chiang Mai literally means “new city” and has retained the name despite celebrating its 700th anniversary in 1996. The Chiang Mai weather is always cooler than the rest of the country, with an average temperature of 25°C throughout the year. The beauty of the mountains, hill tribe villages, and botanical gardens attracts millions of tourists to Chiang Mai. Classic Northern Thai temples and architecture are a fusion of Lanna, Mon, and Burmese styles. Must do’s are a visit to Kew Pha Wok and witness cross border trade between Myanmar and Thailand; Bhumibol Dam, Sam Ngao Cliff, Mae Kasa Waterfall. Visit the Royal Folk Arts and Craft training centre in Mae Hong Son and various other cultural performances, enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

CHIANG RAI

Located in the far North of Thailand, Chiang Rai’s population consists of people of various ethnic backgrounds, including those from hill tribes and Chinese lineage. This factors into Chiang Rai’s unique traditions and makes the city an excellent and different location for tourists to experience. Must do’s: a River cruise on the Kok River, Visit Mae Sai Market and if you organize a visa visit the markets Tha Khee Lek in Myanmar. This area also was called the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Burma come together; an area that was once the hub of opium production, a trade that had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. Around Chiang Rai, its people enjoy very leisurely development and mostly traditional, rural lifestyles and entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character.

SUKUTHAI

Once this was the capital of Thailand (700 years ago). The word ‘Sukhothai’ means ‘the dawn of happiness’ Most of attractions in Sukhothai relate to historical backgrounds such as the Phra Mae Ya Shrine situated in front of the City Hall, by Yom River. The shrine houses the stone figure of Phra Mae Ya, and it is believed to house the spirit of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great whom is beloved by Sukhothai and Thai people. The superb temples and monuments of this great city have been lovingly restored, as well as Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not far away is Khao Naria peak in Ramkhamhaeng National Park. The peak is 1,160 meters high above sea level with the cliff from where you have a good view of Sukhothai city and the nearby city – Pitsanulok.

NAKHON NAYOK

Is not far from Bangkok and the gateway to Khao Yai National Park which offers refreshing natural beauty, including waterfalls, parks and renowned historical sites. A great stop once you have crossed the border from Cambodia

UTHAI THANI

The Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Reserve here was even proclaimed a Natural World Heritage Site because of its pristine jungles, forests, plains, streams, and most importantly, several rare and endangered animals. See the different lifestyles of Uthai Thani locals, such as the life of raft residents on the Sakae Krang River and a waterway that has been a lifeline for the people of Uthai Thani since ancient times. Life on and around the river eventually grew from a small community into the major province that it is today. Some residents continue to live upon the river, both the source for their livelihoods and as a means for provincial trading. Must see is the floating village on the Sakae Krang river.  It is a little out of the way travelling north from Bangkok towards Chian Mai but worth the detour.

RATCHABURI  

It is located on the banks of the Mae Klong River 80 kilometres west of Bangkok. This is an ancient city of Dvaravati kingdom whose centre was Nakhon Pathom. It is said that Nakhon Pathom was the centre of spreading Buddhism. The monument of King Rama I is an interesting attraction on the foothill of Khao Kaen Chan, Phetkasem Road. The monument is respected by Ratchaburi people. A well-known place in Ratchaburi is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. The over-100-year market is crowded by woden boats with multi-coloured fruits and vegetables. Vendors in the market sell their wares by paddling boats along Ratchaburi’s canals. Every morning, hundreds of boats crowd the market, paddled by women in straw hats. For a few hundred-baht you can hire your own boat and explore the canals while shopping for everything from vegetables and fruits to freshly cooked noodle. Be early as the markets close around 10.30AM. If you like nature, you can go to Huay Phark Waterfall, which is a small waterfall in Tanowsri Range, in Amphoe Suan Pheung. Ratchaburi features lowlands to the east and the Tanaosi Mountain Range to the west, which provides a natural border with Myanmar (Burma). The Rose Garden is an excellent place to experience Thai culture, including traditional dancing and Muay Thai.

KANCHANABURY

During World War II, the Japanese had a railway built from Choom Thang Nong in Thailand to Than Be Au Sa Yai in Myanmar. The notorious Death Railway passed through the town, near which stands the site of the Bridge on the River Kwai. Nearby the reconstructed bridge are monuments including an Allied War Cemetery and a war museum. In World War II, the Japanese built a railway through the pass using forced labour, including western POWs. Later known as the Death Railway, the line included an infamous bridge crossing the Kwae River that was the subject of a historically academy award winning film. The story of this railway can be experienced through many museums in Kanchanaburi. The area surrounding Kanchanabury is of pristine national parks and virgin forest. The terrain is comprised mainly of mountains and high plains, with the Thanon Thongchai Range acts as a natural border between Thailand and Myanmar. The most defining natural attractions in Kanchanaburi is arguably the Three Pagodas Pass, a break in the Thanon Thongchai Mountain Range that divides Thailand and Myanmar. Along an overland trade route from India, it is through this pass that Buddhism was thought to first to arrive in Thailand around the 3rd century. It is also home to numerous hill tribes and other minority groups who reside in the area as nation-less refugees without citizenship in either land.

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN & HUA HIN

Serving as a gateway to Thailand’s more southerly provinces along the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Prachuap Khiri Khan’s income comes mainly from fishing and agriculture, while tourism is largely focused on Hua Hin. The islands of Prachuap Khiri Khan are also alluring such as Koh Talu and Koh Sing in Amphoe Bang Saphan Noi. The islands are rich of colourful coral reefs and white sandy beaches. Prachuap Khiri Khan is the province occupying Thailand’s narrowest strip. Just 13 km wide from the Gulf of Thailand on the East to Myanmar in the west. It also features several national parks, including Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park which was established to protect the largest freshwater marshes in Thailand.

HUA HIN

less than 200 km south of Bangkok, making it one of the most popular weekend getaway destinations for Bangkok residents, Hua Hin is also the location of the King of Thailand’s summer palace, Klai Kang Won, which means “Far from Worries.”

KO SAMUI

84 kilometres from Surat Thani City, and the third biggest island in Thailand and the largest in an archipelago of more than 80 islands that includes the Ang Thong National Marine Park. It is busy with tourists all year round. It has wonderful nature, white beaches, clear seas, waterfalls, spectacular viewpoints and beautiful temples.

KOH PHI PHI

One of the most unique and attractive clusters of islands in the world, Koh Phi Phi is an idyllic island retreat. Known as the ‘jewels of the Andaman Sea’, there are six islands in Mu Koh Phi Phi-Nopparathara National Park: Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley, Bamboo Island, Yung Island, Bida Nok, and Bida Nai. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited; all others are undeveloped and protected by their National Park status. Phi Phi Ley was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster movie The Beach. Maya Bay was a suitable choice as it epitomizes the stunning beauty of these islands: a bay of pellucid aquamarine water surrounded by towering limestone cliffs that harbors an arcing, white sand beach. Another highlight is the day trip to James Bond Island.

KO LANTA

Located 70 km south of Krabi. Koh Lanta will never disappoint you. Koh Lanta is an island province consisting of 52 islands. Koh Lanta Yai, the largest of the islands, is located approximately 70 kilometres South of Krabi town and can be visited by car-ferry from the mainland. There are many interesting places to explore such as Aow Nui, Tanod Cape Viewpoint, Hat Kor Kwang, Hat Khlong Dawn, Hat Phra Ae, Tanod Cape, Baan Sriraya, Sea Gypsy House (Baan Sangka U). Because of being remote from the mainland, Koh Lanta keeps its beauty and richness of beaches, clear water, and amazing underwater world where you can see colourful coral reefs and fish. Long beaches, clear water, and laid-back atmosphere makes this a great place to relax or camp on the beach. The best spots are in the far south where the beaches become more secluded and the road terminates at a national marine park.

KHAO LAK

Our favourite spot in Thailand with perfect white sandy beaches, palm trees, great locals and many secluded spots. Just 100km north of Phuket. The Khao Lak region was the hardest-hit area during the tsunami in Thailand with over 4,000 fatalities, more than 3,000 more who were never accounted for and thousands who were injured. 20km of great beaches are set against a backdrop of jungle-covered mountains. The expanses of lovely uncrowded parks, mountains, roads and beaches, relatively unspoiled nature, Thai customs and lovely locals makes this an ideal area for some R&R.

PHUKET

BUSY BUSY BUSY however when the world hears the name Phuket people think sea, sun and sand. Phuket Province is in Southern Thailand. It is the biggest island of Thailand and sits on the Andaman Sea. Phuket has a large Chinese influence, so you will see many Chinese shrines and Chinese restaurants around the city. A Chinese Vegetarian Festival is held there every year. While the Chinese community is quite big, there are many other ethnicities bringing all their traditions and festivals from all over the world to Phuket.

KRABI

The town in southern Thailand on the Andaman coast, is an almost otherworldly region of labyrinthine archipelagos, where islands seem to erupt vertically out of the sea and secluded beaches are only accessible by colourfully adorned long tail boats. Krabi features some of the most photogenic sunsets in Thailand, often accompanied by spectacular displays of cloud to cloud lightning. Ao Nang is the major launching point for boat trips to nearby islands and the isolated beaches of Phra Nang Cape, where the famous former hippie enclave of Railey Beach is located. 2 must do’s are the Pier Night Market which runs from 5.30PM to 12.30AM and the Maharaj; walk the street from 5PM till late.

TRANG

Has beautiful beaches, forests and historical attractions. Hat Yao (Long Beach) is a long sandy beach with lines of sea pines spread along the beach. Hat Yao Pier is a major ferry port that tourists can catch ferries to Trang’s islands. Koh Muk and Morakot Cave are the most prominent tourist attractions in Trang Sea. Koh Muk is famous for the island’s pristine sandy beaches and Tham Morakot or Morakot Cave which gets its name from the emerald water inside the cave. Koh Sukon is the second largest island in Trang, only 3 kilometres from shore. There are over 2,500 villagers living on the island. Kuan Khang Hot Spring is in Hat Chao Mai National Park.  Mu Koh Petra National Park, is where idyllic beaches and islands are perfect places to enjoy the warm, clear waters of the Andaman Sea

CLIMATE:

Thailand is divided into three seasons. The first is the rainy or southwest monsoon season (mid–May to mid–October) which prevails over most of the country with August and September being the wettest period of the year. Winter or the northeast monsoon starts from mid–October until mid–February. Most of Thailand experiences dry weather during this season with mild temperatures. The exception is the southern parts of Thailand where it receives abundant rainfall, particularly during October to November. Summer or the pre–monsoon season runs from mid–February until mid–May and is characterized by warmer weather. During the monsoon season months of June through September, rains come quickly and heavily, particularly in the afternoon. Adequate footwear and an umbrella are advisable.

BANGKOK

HOT SEASON: March to June from 27 degrees at night to 38 degrees during the day

RAINY SEASON: July To October from 27 degrees at night to 34 degrees during the day

COOL SEASON: November to February from 25 degrees at night to 32 degrees during the day

CHIANG MAI

Nov to March: 16 degrees at night to 30 during the day

April to Nov: 23 degrees at night to 36 degrees during the day

Rainfall: April to September

KANCHANABURY

Nov to March: 25 degrees at night to 38 during the day

April to Nov: 22 degrees at night to 32 degrees during the day

Rainfall: May to October

 

NAKHON NAYOK

Nov to March: 22 degrees at night to 33 during the day

April to Nov: 22 degrees at night to 33 degrees during the day

Rainfall: May to October, Heavy falls Sept and October

 

PHUKET

All Year: 24 degrees at night to 33 degrees during the day

Rainfall: July to October

 

KO LANTA

All Year: 22 degrees at night to 36 degrees during the day

Rainfall: September to October

Part 2, BLOG Pictures and Gallery

EASTERN THAILAND

In Thailand we also became a bit older because 2012 is year 2555 in the Thai culture! (543 years is the interval between Buddha’s entry into Nirvana and the Birth of Jesus). As the crossing was such a breeze the idea was to push through to Khao Yai National Park, but with a flooded road and darkness setting in, we decided to stop in Prachinburi at a service station with a 7/11 store and a huge food market. It was a noisy night but good enough. Sawadee from Thailand. When we crossed the border from Cambodia we had to start driving on the left-hand side of the road again. This felt very strange for a few hours.

Since August 2010 (Crossing from Kenya into Ethiopia) we have been driving on the wrong (Australian) side of the road. Thailand together with Malaysia, is South East Asia’s premier tourist destination. KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Shell etc., everywhere. Perfect National Parks with camp grounds, perfect roads but we must pay a higher price for food and drinks. Once we arrived in Bangkok we drove into an international city full of exotic sights, world class shopping, a mix of the old and the new; from century old temples to state of the art public transport.

BANGKOK

The week started with a drive into Bangkok, and being Sunday night it did not take long before we came to a halt in the famous Bangkok Car Park. Having said that we did find the drivers well behaved and it did help that we are now well used to the Tuk Tuks and motorbike drivers. We had received GPS co-ordinates for a park in the centre of Bangkok where we could camp for a few nights. But unfortunately, when we arrived, we were told that we were now no longer allowed to do so. We were told of a very good guest house where we could park our truck, and this was not far from the Skytrain on the Eastern side of town half way between airport and city centre. It didn’t take long to find the guest house and when we arrived we were surprised to find out that for 1000 Baht we not only had a nice room and WIFI, but also a pool and breakfast was included in the price. The guest house was called the Cottage, and there was plenty of room for our truck. Having been to Thailand before, and many times to Bangkok, it was a more relaxed visit this time, visiting some of the places we have not been to for at least 15 years. i.e. the Floating Market (It has now become the floating souvenir shop markets), the King Palace, the Emerald Buddha, the reclining Buddha and of course shopping for next year’s clothes. The weather was not very good, and it was very humid and hot, with huge downpours and sunshine competing. We combined this with some R&R near the pool area.

Bangkok nightlife is famous and has a reputation for being wild and rowdy. Famous names such as Patpong Road, Nana and Soi Cowboy are known worldwide. But at the same time, it also has trendy bars, restaurants, jazz clubs, live music, and superb night clubs. Patpong is one of the best known red-light districts in the world. This is where Thailand’s GO-GO culture started. It has even been immortalized in a James Bond chase sequence.

The area is home to over 100 neon lit strip bars offering naughty shows, Go Go bars and pole dancing entertainment. Go Go bars feature women dancing on stage and on tables, and serving drinks and when you are willing to pay the owner a modest fee, you can also take the woman out of the bar. We are sure that the Patpong shows go hand in glove with the police department. For me, Patpong means ‘adult’, but for Clary, Patpong means ‘night market’. At night this teems with hawkers and humble stalls selling souvenirs, T shirts, shoes, Polo shirts, handbags, etc. etc. Three Polo shirts (Ralph Lauren) 5 USD for the good hagglers. Lucky for me I hate shopping and love a drink or two. Bangkok is a must city in South East Asia to visit and to witness its night life, even if it is a once in a life time experience. Nothing has changed over the years. Whatever your father has told you about Bangkok is still the same today.

WESTERN THAILAND

Our First stop after we left Bangkok was Kanchanaburi the town on the river Kwai; world famous for the saga “Bridge over the River Kwai.” Once we arrived we immediately realized that this is a popular stop for Bangkok day visitors as we were greeted by about 50 busses parked all around the bridge. And this is the low season! We were unable to find a nice and quiet camp spot close to town, so we tried Pongphen Guest House that had been recommended to us.

We could park the truck, but they demanded we book a room, and for 14 Euro or 18 AUD we said yes. Five minutes later we dived in a perfect cool pool. We watched satellite TV and within two hours where up-to-date with the happenings around the world. Next day we travelled to Hell Fire Pass also called Konyu Cutting. In 1942 the Japanese forces were fighting the British in Burma with an aim of being an offensive against India. To supply the Japanese troops in Burma, the Japanese needed a more secure supply route than the vulnerable sea-lanes between Singapore and Rangoon, so they decided to build a 415-km long railway line starting just outside Bangkok, through the jungle in Thailand, to Burma (now Myanmar). The railway took 18 months to build and it came with a very high cost in terms of human suffering. The Japanese needed manpower and assembled a multi-national workforce of approximately 270,000 Asian labourers, and over 60,000 Australian, British, Dutch and American prisoners of war. After we visited Anzac cove/Gallipoli in Turkey two years ago, Anzac Day will never be the same again for us. Neither will be the movie the “Bridge over the River Kwai.” Next week more about the Dead Railway Line, which cost the lives of around 90,000 people. We continued to the border of Burma from here, but we found that this border has been closed for a few years now. We returned to Kanachanburi to visit the various museums and the war graves. This week we extended our stay in Western Thailand for another few days exploring the area around the bridge over the river Kwai. It was hard to imagine today that in this area 250,000 Asian workers and around 60,000 Aussie, Dutch and British prisoners of war worked in absolute unliveable conditions. In 1943 the workload increased dramatically as the deadline of August 1943 drew near. Eighteen-hour days had the men working late into the night that was lit up by torches. People more dead than alive and the outbreak of cholera gave the name Hellfire pass its name. Of the 60,000 POWs 12,399 (20%) died; and 90,000 Asian workers died mainly due to lack of proper food, no medical facilities and the ruthless treatment by the Japanese guards. We visited the manicured cemeteries in Kanchanaburi where British, Dutch and Australian POWs are buried; it again begs the question, “did we learn from all this?”

SOUTHERN THAILAND

Next, we moved south for five or six weeks of beach and Island hopping. Our first stop was Cha-Am a little-known resort town situated about 150 km south of Bangkok. The beaches are long and deserted. Then we went on to Hua Hin, a tourist town with a mix of Thai and expats from Bangkok who spend their weekends there. Cha-Am is the cheap town with hotels charging as little as 600 Baht for a room. Hua Hin is much more up market and caters for the wealthy Thai people. We learned very quickly that the Thai people always swim dressed and never wear bathing suits. In Cha-Am and even in Hua Hin you will hardly see Thai women wearing bathing suits since Thai people consider it indecent. Hua Hin, Thailand’s Royal Beach Resort, is the oldest and most traditional Thai beach destination with the charm of a still active fishing port. Unlike most other Thai holiday destinations that cater for foreign tourists, Hua Hin caters for the Thai upper class and mostly expats. Besides its great 5-mile-long beach, Hua Hin provides the highest number of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand, while it is yet virtually undiscovered as an international golf destination. Many of Bangkok`s rich and famous have built their holiday homes here. we camped a short distance away from Hua Hin at Suan Son, an area owned by the Thai Army. It is a very nice and quiet beach and it is typical of Thai beaches. However, during our stay, we were woken at night by the Army and we were told to leave the area as it was not safe. We refused to leave as it was late and told them we would leave in the morning. Unhappy, they tried scare tactics. We told them to get the Lieutenant (he would have been asleep) and whished them good night. Next morning our beach was invaded by the army, so we decided it was time to leave. But first we had to become Thai residents, and organized a postal address in Thailand for me to obtain a motorbike licence and driving test; pass on some money and the next day my motorbike license was ready to be picked up. We love the deserted beaches or those visited by the local population as it gives the feel of being in Thailand, instead of some overcrowded beach in Spain or Italy. The only problem we have with the local beaches are the many dogs, not aggressive but intrusive and disgusting looking and if they smell food they will sit nearby and stare at you with hungry eyes. Our next stop and last for the week, was Bang Saphan a 20 minutes’ drive south of Ban Krut, with beautiful gold sandy beaches, mainly locals and some expats but no tourists. The beach even features a little beach bar with WIFI where you can have cold beer while watching the waves. An excellent place to spend a lazy afternoon. However, development is heading this way so not sure how long this will last? Time to cross over to the West part of Southern Thailand. we travelled across the mountains from the East Side of Lower Thailand to the West Side of Thailand. At Nong Pak Wean we hit the natural border with Myramar (river Pak Chan). Today we were stopped 3 times by the Thai Army, but more as curiosity and only once were they looking for Miramar refugees, in the rear of our Motorhome. In Ranong (border town with Miramar) we visited the emigration and customs office to extend our temporary import license for the truck so now our Visa and Import license for the truck are both valid till 3 December. Our first night on the Andaman Coast, we camped on a lovely beach overlooking the Surin Islands. The weather forecast was for lots of rain but so far, we have been lucky. October is the wettest month in the region, so we hope the fine weather will stay with us. This area has magnificent natural beauty both above and under the water. The off-shore islands have stunning coral reefs, and abundant marine life in clear warm waters. As we travelled further south, we were confronted with the effects of the 2004 tsunami. Our first beach camp had signs everywhere showing us escape routes in the event of an earthquake or tsunami. The area surrounding us still had many demolished houses and small guest houses as a reminder of this terrible event. Heading further south, we found an area with miles of untouched white sandy beaches, azure blue warm water and a tropical jungle with waterfalls as a backdrop. We parked our truck right on the beach under a variety of palm trees for shade and we felt like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe and friend.

As we sat on the beach that night we said to each other that this is what heaven would look like. During the next 2 weeks, we did absolutely nothing apart from beach walks and some exploring of the remainder of many houses all destroyed in the 2004 Tsunami. Local fisherman told us that the wave was over the trees when it hit the beach (this would be around 12 meters high) and more than 20 meters of land disappeared. It all is so hard to imagine when we sit here and look at heaven. Around 20 km south of here is the small town of Khao Lak. It has resorts, and many small guest houses, and we were surprised to see so many German-Scandinavian and Italian and French people. To give us some mobility we hired a motorbike (4 Euros per day) and returned to our secluded beach camp to do some more hard work. It had to happen! Yes, we had to leave our deserted beach! 2 weeks of doing nothing except beach walking and lazing in the sun had to come to an end.

PHUKET

We had already been warned about the tourist madness in Phuket, so we were prepared. Once we left, it was only 100 km before we crossed the bridge onto the island of Phuket and another 10 km to our overnight stop. As foreigners, we are charged 400 baht for the night! No facilities and Thai nationals only pay 50 baht.

Our campsite next to a hotel in centre of Phuket

We decided the next night to find a guest house with enough parking for the truck. Phuket means Crystal Mountain and it is the most developed island in Thailand. It is 50 km long and 21 km wide. The terrain is incredibly varied with high mountains (highest peak is 529 meter), rocky headlands, long sandy beaches, tropical vegetation and rubber plantations. There are in total 17 sandy beaches, some of which are still untouched by the tourist industry. We hired a motorbike and did some exploring. At night we explored Patong Beach. Phuket beach resorts are not recommended for those in search of solitude, but suitable for those looking for a lively holiday. This is a party island and Patong is the party capital. There is a wide variety of beer bars, discotheques, cabaret shows and go-go bars. There is no recession here! Thailand is a land of bargaining and it didn`t take long to get our day tour to Ko Tapu Island reduced from 1800 baht to 900 baht included lunch. We felt sorry for those tourists on the same tour paying double. Ko-Tapu Island became famous through the 1974 James Bond Film “the Man with the golden gun” it was the scenic topography that helped make the film into a firm Bond favourite. It also turned the previously unknown Phang Nga Bay into a major tourist attraction. Enroute we did the other tourist attractions which included a monkey cave; then with the long boat to a floating Muslim village on the island of Koh Pannyi for a visit and lunch. The locals nick names this island “Bin Laden Village` As we arrived on James Bond Island, the weather changed as a huge tropical afternoon storm approached. The island local traders were pushy but what really surprised us that no one was selling anything of interest to James Bond fans! No replica golden guns, no postcards of the film, not even a DVD of the film. Instead the usual junk! For us, two days on Phuket was enough.

FAR SOUTH THAILAND

We really miss our bush beach camp and white sandy beach where we spent the 2 weeks before we arrived in Phuket. The magnificent white long beach, tropical vegetation, crystal blue sea water, its relaxing tropical lifestyle and local fisherman supplying fresh fish, is something that is truly memorable and is a real part of an overlander trip around the world. From Ao Nang, we took a five- island speed boat trip to the world-famous Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay where the movie “The Beach” was filmed.

When we arrived on the islands, it was one huge circus of boats juggling for position and the nice deserted beaches shown on the tourist brochures, were not to be found. Keep in mind this is the low season! Imagine what it is like when it is in the high season. Nevertheless, the scenery is perfect, the water is clear and blue, and the beaches are white. We always knew that Thailand`s islands are some of the most visited places on the planet, but we never expected the huge number of people we encountered in the off season. What needs to be said about Phi Phi that isn`t already known? Despite the crowds, Maya Bay where “The Beach” was shot is as stunning a vista as ever, but there are plenty of other coves within easy reach. We had a swim at Pileh Lagoon, nature`s grandest swimming pool, visited Monkey Island and its macaques and snorkelled in waters so clear you can see further than 50 meters. In all, we had a relaxed day and met some very nice Brazilian people (Paolo and Elisangela) but this was enough for us and we left the next day in search of some more deserted beaches. We and headed off to the island of Koh Lanta, which can be reached by using two ferries. Let`s not forget that the island of Phuket, Phi Phi and other well-known islands are just a few of the 100 or so islands dotted about the region. We decided to explore Koh Lanta first and it only took an hour before we found our deserted beach. We found paradise in the shape of a rustic bamboo beach restaurant that served the best noodles we had tasted since Laos. We walked on sand so soft that the sand puffs up like talcum powder when you walk on it. We wondered if we would ever like to stop travelling. The rest of the week we did absolute nothing. This region is also renowned for pristine islands which litter the coastline and provide an ideal paradise setting. As we are now bordering Malaysia, it is also home to most of Thailand`s Muslims and Islamic influence and the Imam from the small fishing village nearby wakes us every morning. “Chao ley” (sea gypsies) have also lived here for generations, in small sea faring communities.

Southern Thailand is probably the most diverse region in the kingdom. It is a place of dense forests, imposing mountains and deep caves. It is also a place of rivers, waterfalls and lakes. Most of all it is home to some of the world`s most glorious islands and beaches. Thailand is blessed with natural beauty and its islands are amongst the most scenic and beautiful in the world. White powdery sandy beaches, clear water, and wonderful scenery. We will be back.

Our time in Thailand has come to an end and tomorrow we cross into Malaysia. Thailand has been a place of beauty and wonder, forests, mountains, history, rivers and waterfalls. Thailand`s islands and beaches are the destinations of choice for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. For many, Bangkok, Thailand is the ultimate travel destination. A heady blend of modernity and tradition, Bangkok has something to offer everyone. It is a city where skyscrapers and modern buildings jostle for space, against the Bangkok skyline. It is also very much a city of entertainment and fun. Above all, Bangkok is a city of extremes. Of course, Bangkok`s nightlife is legendary and offers an unparalleled range of entertainment – bars and go-go shows, almost everything you could possibly want is available here. Cha-am and Hua Hin are both beach locations within easy reach of Bangkok, while north of the capital Ayutthaya has every manner of cultural and historical site a visitor could wish to see. West of the city is the Bridge on the River Kwai; East of Bangkok is made up of plains and hilly regions, the Chantanaburi mountain range forming a natural demarcation line between Thailand and Cambodia. In this region you see many tropical fruits such as rambutans, durians, mangosteens and pineapples being grown.

PART 3, VIDEO CLIP

(Video Thailand under Construction)

COMPILATION VIDEO Thailand to Europe including Thailand

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Round the world video compilation