Travel

Bangkok Day 5 // The Reclining Buddha

Robe at Wat PhoReclining BuddhaMonk at Wat PhoWat Pho BangkokWat Pho BangkokWat PhoWat PhoWat PhoWat Pho StatueBuddhas at Wat PhoGold Buddha DetailWaterlily at Wat PhoOn the morning of our fifth day in Bangkok we decided it was time to think about getting out of there so went to the main train station, Hua Lamphang, and booked tickets for the sleeper train on Thursday evening (two days later). People say Bangkok is kinda crazy (and it is!) and most people only stay a couple of days, but we ended up staying practically a full week. I think it helped we weren’t in a super busy touristy area, so there was a slower pace and we walked around most places just taking it all in. There’s so much to see!

After buying our train tickets we went out to get a cab to Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha. We went out to the front of the station- big mistake! There are tuk tuk drivers all ready to hustle tourists, one told us he couldn’t drive us anywhere, we had to get a boat from where we were to wherever we were going, and that a tuk tuk there would only cost 10 baht. If any tuk tuk driver tells you the journey is only 10 baht, RUN!! They basically take you to the boat where you’re charged 1000+ baht for a ticket, and they get a cut of it. That or a dodgy gem store where you’re pretty much forced to by gems. Lucky for us we weren’t having any of it, but we met a couple later in our trip that had been taken to a gem store and spent 800 USD on gems.

So anyway, if you want a cab from Hua Laphang go out the side exit where you’ll find a taxi rank. We grabbed a taxi on the meter from there to Wat Pho. Wat Pho was the first (and only) attraction we paid for in Bangkok, it was 100 baht each, so just under £2, and completely worth it. Ladies, you also get to sport a rather fetching green robe if you’re not dressed decently enough ie knees and shoulder out, ooh er!

It was a stunning area of temples and pagodas, everything was so sparkly it felt kind of like Disney Land. Inside one of the temples is a gigantic gold Buddha laying on its side…the reclining Buddha. It’s 160ft long and pretty impossible to get a decent photo of!

Standard
Travel

Bangkok Day 4 // A day of rest

UMA Residence BangkokUMA Residence BangkokUMA Residence BangkokUMA Residence BangkokUMA Residence BangkokUMA Residence BangkokUMA Residence BangkokKangpa Sriyan RestaurantKangpa Sriyan RestaurantKangpa Sriyan RestaurantSo I guess to a lot of people the idea of backpacking seems like one big holiday, and it basically is. But remember how tired you feel after days of travelling and sightseeing when you’re on holiday? Yeah that! So having spent the past four days travelling, walking and sightseeing we decided it was time for a ‘nothing’ day, and lucky for us we had a rather nice hotel to do nothing in.

Our day was spent reading, relaxing and eating biscuits by the pool before venturing down the road to a traditional little Thai restaurant called Kangpa Sriyan Restaurant. The owner was such a lovely guy and recommended us a couple of dishes, one (pictured) was Kang Keaw Wan Loak Chin Plagrai (don’t worry, I have no idea how to say it either!) A Thai green curry with fish cake, bitter eggplant and palm hearts. Spicy but delicious. We shared this along with some fried chilli squid and steamed rice- yum!

I thought I’d also share a few photos I’ve taken around our hotel, UMA Residence in Old Bangkok. I love the decor here particularly around the lobby and pool.

Standard
Travel

Bangkok Day 3 // Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak MarketChatuchak MarketChatuchak MarketMarcus at Chatuchak MarketChatuchak MarketChatuchak MarketSticky rice and mangoChatuchak Market bagChatuchak MarketBangkok tuk tukChatuchak Market haulFor our first (and only) Sunday in Bangkok we had planned to go to Chatuchak weekend market. After waking up way later than planned after sitting up til 4am with jet lag we weren’t sure if we’d make the market in time after reading ‘it’s best to get there early’ in a guidebook. Well we’d missed the boat on the whole early thing, but decided to go anyway.

It was about a 5k walk from out hotel and walked half of that before jumping in a cab for the rest of the journey. The part that we did walk we walked through some tiny little backstreets full of little houses that were almost just shacks. It was an eye opener to see the different areas of Bangkok. Once we got to the market we had to go over a footbridge across the main road to enter, and we didn’t initially realise just how big the market was when we first went in. It has over 15,000 stalls but I swear we just kept walking round in circles in about the first 100!

Chatuchak has an outside part and an inside part, we did the inside stalls first and it was surprisingly not too hot considering it was 35 degrees outside — the little fans most people had at their stalls seemed to do the trick. A lot of what was on offer was quite repetitive, but it means you can shop around a bit for the best deal and have some fun haggling, the prices vary quite a lot on the same item on different stalls. Just don’t expect to be able to find a stall if you want to go back to it!

After a few hours browsing and shopping the indoor stalls we headed outside for some food, and we discovered two of our favourite foods of the trip so far: 1) Mango & sticky rice- just wow! Sweet, ripe mango next to a bed of stick rice doused with a sweet coconut cream and topped with crispy mung bean sprouts. 2) Honey bbq pork sticks. Just 10 baht each. Need I say more?! You’ll see the pork sticks for more, don’t pay it. Find the 10 baht stall!

After a day of walking round the markets we decided to get a taxi home, he wouldn’t do it by the meter and whatever he quoted us was way over the odds so we decided to walk a bit and get one further down. They don’t really need your business at the market where it’s so busy, so they’re not up for playing the haggling game. We ended up getting a tuk tuk and it was both our first time in one, so it was definitely an experience worth paying for! It was pretty bumpy but fun racing between the cars on the busy roads of Bangkok.

Just to give you an idea of how cheap things are here, I took 700 baht (just under £14) to the market with me which paid for our taxi there and tuk tuk home, some mango rice, some elephant harem pants (gotta be done!), a tie dye top, a little cross body bag and four bandanas to wear as headbands. Bangkok is so much cheaper than the UK, if we weren’t at the very start of our trip I could have spent a lot more! However, if you’re up for a bit of a shopping spree and your heading to Chiang Mai I’d wait til then to do your haulin’. Things were even cheaper there, so definitely worth waiting for.

Standard
Travel

Bangkok Day 2 // Khao San Road

Sunshine BangkokThai MagazinesPink WaterTiger BenchBuddhaBangkok TempleBangkok TempleMarcus at Bangkok TempleMarcus and MonkBangkok TrollyKhao San RoadPad ThaiBefore we came away I asked the world of Facebook ‘where’s good to stay in Bangkok?’ ‘Khao San Road’ was most people’s answer. Except for one girl who’s travel opinion I totally trust who said we probably wouldn’t want to stay right on Khao San Road. So we didn’t. Either way, we had to check out what all the fuss way about.

Our second day in Bangkok began with a swim in the rather serene garden of our hotel, so relaxing and a million miles away from what I had pictured myself doing in Bangkok! We set out towards Khao San Road hoping to pop into a couple of temples en route. And jeez, those things are everywhere! I think there’s something like 900 temples in Bangkok, craziness! Probably the equivalent of pubs in London though! Anyway we did pop into a couple on the way and they were beautiful, peaceful places. I love the splashes of bright colours and the sparkly-ness of it all. Even in the more run down areas you could see how much effort had been put into keeping the temples in such good condition.

Further towards Khao San Road we veered off towards a temple and found a pier looking out over the river where there was a little boy throwing in bread crusts and hundreds (or thousands?!) of catfish going crazy for them. Like the amount of catfish was actually ridiculous!

We eventually stopped getting sidetracked and made it down to Khao San Road, and we weren’t exactly overwhelmed by the place. It was ok and I can see the attraction if you’re 18 and on a gap year looking to meet other like minded ‘let’s go to Thailand and get drunk’ backpackers, but it wasn’t much different to a smaller version of Camden High Street. We browsed the stalls a little anyway as it was the first market we’d been to (they did have some nice bits and pieces) then got Pad Thai from one stall for dinner. That totally made the trip to Khao San worth while, it was the best Pad Thai I think I’ve ever had! Full bellies and a bit of ladyboy spotting later, we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel. At this point the heat and jet lag was definitely taking it’s toll and bed was alread calling our name.

Standard
Travel

Bangkok Day 1 // Central World

Victory Monument BangkokBankok selfieBangkok ElephantWatermelon FrappeBlack Canyon CoffeeSnoopySnoopy SelfieBangkok TaxiSo we accidentally missed most of our first day in Bangkok (screw you jet lag!) after not setting an alarm and waking up at 3pm. We also had blackout blinds in the hotel which didn’t help! We’d seen a place called Central World on the taxi drive into Bangkok from the airport and it seemed to be really busy outside there at night with lots of little food stalls so we decided to head towards there. It ended up being almost 8km away, but was a really nice walk to see a bit of Bangkok even though it was practically dark before we even set out.

We realised our hotel is pretty out the way of most things, which can be a bit of a pain as you can’t walk to many places, but we later realised we were in such a non-touristy area when we went out and came back to our hotel it was like a little behind-the-scenes snapshot of Bangkok away from all the tourists and seediness.

Once we made it to Central World we visited one of the little food stalls for some chicken noodle soup and a couple of fresh pomegranate juices, all for just over £3! Street food really is as cheap as they said! We sat and ate on some steps taking in the buzzy atmosphere before heading into the mall.

Central World is a huge mall, and also really nice. Realistically most malls are pretty similar but it was really clean and modern and generally a nice place to hang out for a bit. We browsed the shops, realised we couldn’t buy much anyway as we didn’t want to start shipping bits home on the first day, then decided to find somewhere for a drink. We found a place called Black Canyon Coffee, a Thai food and drink chain. I had a watermelon frappe which was delish! Although things are cheap here you pay a lot more in restaurants and cafes, for example that frappe was 60 baht, so pretty pricy compared to the 40 baht I’d just paid for a bowl of chicken noodle soup but still cheap compared to the UK.

The mall closed at 10 and we were about to make our way home before being distracted by some sort of Snoopy takeover outside Central World (hello photo op!). We jumped in a taxi (where I took the photo of all the money on the roof) back to our hotel. I’ve noticed a lot of taxis here have drawings / things stuck to the roof of their taxis which is quite pretty!

p.s. yes, the traffic really is as crazy as they say!

Standard
Life, Travel

A little catch up // Our RTW trip

IMG_0104.JPG

After posting about our journey to Bangkok yesterday I realised I should probably back track a little for those of you that don’t know, and tell you about the round-the-world trip Marcus and I have embarked on. We’d been planning a trip for quite a while and didn’t get round to booking something until the very end of September when we booked a round the World ticket to fly us out of Heathrow just six weeks later. First stop, Bangkok! We have three months in South East Asia before flying out of Singapore mid-February. We’re currently in Chiang Mai and loving it! After that we fly to Brisbane and have a little over a month in Australia before flying out of Sydney and onto New Zealand, Auckland to be precise, for another month of adventures. For the final leg of our journey we fly into Los Angeles before heading back to London (boo!) from New York another month later. Phew!

I’ve never done anything like this before so the whole experience is exciting and a little scary at the same time! We only have a rough route planned between flights, and are booking accommodation and transport from place to place a day or two before we need it. For a serial-planner like me this is a little daunting, but it means we can really enjoy each place (or get out of there quick!) and go with the flow. We’ve decided to do a sort of slow travel and spend around a week in each place before moving on so we’ll see a few less places but more of each place. I think it will work out to be a more relaxing and slightly cheaper way of travelling rather than moving place to place every couple of days.

So that’s that in a nutshell. I’ll be blogging our journey on Being Charlotte and hopefully sharing a few travel tips too- like just how I’m managing to do this 6 month trip with just hand luggage! I hope you’ll enjoy my blogs and let me know if you have any good recommendations for anywhere I’ll be going!

Standard
Travel

Touchdown in Bangkok

Away we goOn the planeSunrise Marcus sleepingAbu Dhabi skyviewUMA Residence RoomGrey KimonosThai Biscuits

10 days ago Marcus and I touched down in Bangkok after an epic sixteen and a half hours of travelling! I’m not the best of flyers so was dreading the flights a little, especially after the pilot on the second one told us it was going to be a bumpy ride, but a couple of Diazepam later and it wasn’t too bad at all! The first part of the journey was a 7.5 hour flight to Abu Dhabi (that’s where the birds eye view photo of the city was taken) with a 3 hour stopover there. That was probably the hardest part of the journey as we were both so exhausted by that point but knew we couldn’t fall asleep so just drank coke in Burger King for a couple hours while trying to keep our eyes open! The final leg of the journey was a 6 hour flight to Bangkok which I think we mainly slept through- I managed to switch the language on Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to French and watch half an hour of it before realising something was wrong, I must have been tired!

After touching down in Bangkok we booked a taxi from inside the station as we’ve heard about so many scams from non-legit taxi drivers at the airport there. We definitely paid way over the odds for that taxi journey, but we got to our hotel safe and sound about 11pm.

We’d booked 4 nights at the UMA Residence in Old Bangkok and as it was our first stop decided to book something a little more luxurious than your average backpackers hostel, and I’m so glad we did, we even got a free upgrade! After all that travel there was nothing nicer than slipping into a kimono and munching on a few complimentary biccies and hot chocolate (that would become a main part of our diet over the next few days, what travellers turn down free food?!) before slipping into a beautiful fifteen hour sleep in that gigantic bed!

Standard
Food

Beak St. Byron Burger

Beak Street Bryon Byron Byron Olives Smog Rocket Byron Burger Byron BurgerHaving lived in London for 2 years (I don’t live there anymore) I can’t believe I’ve never been to Byron before! It’s a London based burger chain serving ‘proper hamburgers’ as they say- and I agree! I’ve walked past loads of Byron restaurants before and they’ve always caught my eye as they’re all decorated in a really cool way. Every restaurant I’ve seen is different, which I really like, if you go into most chain restaurants you kind of know what to expect with the interior. The one we went to on Beak Street had a really cool, industrial feel inside.

We ordered some olives to start and Marcus ordered a rather funky looking beverage called Beavertown Smog Rocket. I went for a sparkling water, not quite as interesting! I ordered the Byron Cheeseburger with Emmenthal cheese and oh-my-god it was literally one of the best burgers I’ve ever had!! I ordered it medium-rare and it came basically rare, which I’m not complaining about. On the side we had some courgette fries and onion rings, both also amazing! I love courgette anyway, and courgette fries are a great idea as they don’t fill you up as much as regular chips. I’ll be attempting to recreate these sometime soon. The onion rings were so big, probably the same size as the burger. They defeated us and we left one! They were also some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had, and that means something- I’m a huge onion rings fan.

Byron, I’ll be back!

Standard
Life, Travel

A Birthday at Bill’s

Birthday PresentsBill's Marcus at Bill's Afternoon Tea at Bill's Afternoon TeaStrawberry TartBill's Birthday!Cambridge BikeSo two weeks ago I turned 26 and Marcus and I went to Cambridge for the day to celebrate me getting old and whatnot. We’ve been so busy since we got home from Malta the last few weeks have been a blur, this really doesn’t feel like two weeks ago!

To start the day I had breakfast in my pjs (of course!) and was greeted by a lovely little table of breakfast goodies and my presents from Marcus. Let’s just say a bunch of new make up, a few boxes of chocolate and an iPad later I was a very happy, spoilt girl! After breakfast and presents we headed to Cambridge. I love the drive there as it’s pretty much all down one road which has nice countryside views.

We did a bit of window shopping and then went to Bill’s for afternoon tea which was one of the reasons I’d chosen Cambridge. It’s tucked away down a cute little side street and is way bigger than you think when you get in. Like all the Bill’s it’s decorated in a really homely, eclectic way with all the things you can buy in really beautiful displays. We had the most friendly waiter who told us the story of Bill’s, and said I’d be glad I bought my camera when I saw the afternoon tea, and he wasn’t wrong! He bought out a cake stand with finger sandwiches, little cakes and scones with clotted cream- perfection! I won’t go on and on about how yummy it all was, but trust me, it was good!

After another little wander round the shops and a drive home the day ended in a slightly less classy way, with a McDonald’s drive through. Not going to lie, that was pretty good too!

Standard
Travel

A day in the Old Town

Carousel Antiques ShopOld TownOld TownOld townBikesIce CreamsA couple of weeks ago Marcus and I went down to Hastings to stay with my Dad and Stepmum for the weekend, and on the Saturday morning we took a little trip into the Old Town. I spent many a weekend here as a kid, my Dad used to live just off George Street in the Old Town. After not having been there for a few years it’s changed so much and has become a lot more ’boutiquey’ (in a good way!) with lots of lovely little shops and cafes scattered along the street. It was a lovely warm morning for September so it was really lively, full of people sitting outside cafes and perusing the antique shops.

After our stroll around the Old Town (and up to my Dad’s old house to see how if it was still the same!) we had to finish off the morning with an ice-cream from Dom’s Ice Cream shop. This always used to be my favourite as it was the first place I found that did two tone Mr Whippy, and it was just as good as I remembered! Nothing beats a 99 at the seaside!

p.s. the picture of the carousel wasn’t actually taken in the Old Town, but I just love how cool the dude running it looked!

Standard