Monday 24 September 2012

Bangkok and Koh Samui

30th August-10th September 2012

Taking advantage of our newly acquired economies of scale, we were able to take a taxis from Siem Reap to the Cambodian–Thai border at Poipet and then on to Bangkok for not much more than the cost of taking the bus. The benefits include not having to wait for the rest of your fellow passengers on the other side of Thai customs and being taken directly to your hotel in Bangkok.

We had four days in Bangkok. We began with a cruise up the river on the river-bus, getting off at the Grand Palace. Karen and I had already seen the Palace on a previous visit so we left my parents to it while we sorted out some passport photos and train tickets.

Wat Arun
Bangkok river boat
Wat Phra Kaew (next to Grand Palace)
Their visit was cut short however when security guards started asking everyone to leave. On further questioning they were allowed to stay, as long as they sat down and kept quiet. Mystified, they complied only to be treated to a visit from the Queen of Thailand who was there as part of her birthday celebrations. Unfortunately they weren’t allowed to take photos – this was the best they could get.

It started pouring with rain shortly after this photo
The next day was fairly relaxed, we went to the weekend market at Chatuchak for a couple of hours and that was plenty. Good job too because I’d earlier agreed to accompany my Dad on a day-trip to the Bridge over the River Kwai. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the train leaves at 6.30am from Bangkok station so it was an early night for me.

So, while my Mum and Karen spent Sunday reading, having lunch and getting pampered at a local spa, my Dad and I were up with the larks and off to Burma (almost). After leaving Bangkok, the train goes through Kanchanaburi, crosses the river Kwai (which, incidentally, had to be renamed as the famous bridge didn’t cross the actual river Kwai but a different river – not a problem until tourists started arriving and asking questions…) before finally ending up at Nam Tok. First stop though was at Nakhon Pathom to visit a large Buddhist stupa. And breakfast!

Stupa at Nakhon Pathom
Thai man doing his morning exercises outside the stupa
Half a chicken on a stick - these were good
Then, it was on to Kanchanaburi, and shortly beyond it, the bridge itself.

Dad driving the train backwards
The Bridge over the River Kwai
Dad on the bridge
The journey continued along a combination of seemingly endless straights, winding around cliffs and rivers, the line finally ending at Nam Tok where there was an old locomotive, a waterfall you could swim in (we forgot our trunks), and lunch.

Dad in his element
Waterfalls and pools at Nam Tok
Yummy Tom Yum Goong
'Can I have some too?'
Then, all we had to do was take the same train back to Bangkok.

'Heylp, heylp, somebody save me...'
'Betcha can't stand with your legs like this...!"
'I'll take that bet'
Waiting for the train
We got back to Bangkok at about 8pm – a long day, but a good day. Also, a total bargain at only 120 baht (£2.40) per ticket - about 20p per hour! I'll have to watch the film/read the book now.

After all that excitement we needed a day off and spent it wandering around Silom, having lunch and sharing a couple of bottles of wine - a rare treat for us in Asia. On our final day we'd booked a cooking class at the Silom Thai cooking school, the very same one that Karen and I went to on our first trip to Thailand four years ago. The class was every bit as good as we remembered.

Goong, our teacher for the day
Thai herbs and spices
The Hoskins
Dad with his tom ka gai ingredients
Hang on, who's that guy on the left?
We cooked red curry, fish cakes, glass noodle salad and chicken with cashew nuts but my favourite as always was the tom ka gai – chicken with galangal in coconut soup. So simple to make yet so very, very tasty.

That evening we all boarded a sleeper train to Koh Samui. Toilets aside, these were the cleanest and most comfortable trains we’d been in in Asia. For example, the blindingly white sheets were still warm from being freshly pressed when they were brought to our cabin. Luxury!

Fresh sheets on the sleeper train
Should I put beer in this glass?
As per usual when I’m on a sleeper train, my bladder decided to wake me four times during the night. Shouldn’t have had that beer before bedtime.

We arrived in Surat Thani fairly well rested. Luckily, Karen had had the foresight to pre-book tickets for the bus connection to the pier and then the ferry ride to Koh Samui itself. She also had the foresight to take some motion sickness pills and just as well because the sea was very choppy so thankfully no repeat of the trip to Macao!

Our hotel was literally right on the beach (Mae Nam beach in the north),really quiet and extremely relaxing. All we did was spend the days sunbathing, drinking coconut smoothies, reading and swimming (dodging the occasional shoal of jellyfish!) while the evenings were spent playing cards (canasta) and eating at some of the many beach-side restaurants.

Oh, and I also decided it was time for my parents to try some durian.

Durian goes down a storm with Mum and Dad

Here are some photos to make you jealous!

The warmest sea I've ever swam (swum? swimmed?) in
Coconut smoothies - that's my 'Mmmm, that's good' face
View from the bar with Koh Pha Ngan in the distance
View along Mae Nam beach
Beach hut (not ours sadly, we were a whole 10 metres further back)
This dog spent hours sitting in the sea staring into the water looking for crabs
Look! That dog's still there!
It was truly a tropical paradise.

I wish we could have stayed longer but there was more fun to be had up in Chiang Mai. Make sure you don't miss that one...

Current location: Chiang Khong
Next stop: Laos


  1. VERY impressive James but I'm amazed at the lengths you will go to, to be the centre of attention.
    Apart from the episode of nearly drowning in two inches of water, I can see your resemblance to James Bond, not only in looks but also bravery and spirit of adventure. My daughter was truly a very lucky woman when you came into her life.
    P x