All posts filed under: Things I’ve seen

Buddha lives in Chalok Bay, Koh Tao

KOH TAO, THAILAND. Koh Tao is a couple hours ferry ride and a world away from Koh Samui. Peaceful sheltered bays, great diving and snorkeling. We relaxed for a 4 days before Koh Phangan. I can see why Buddha lives in Chalok Bay. It’s sheltered and calm and very peaceful. We saw the rock Buddha admiring the view. He sits facing out to sea. A round head, a gently sloping chest and a big round belly. Do you see? There were a few restaurants on the beach. This one was our favourite but I can’t remember it’s name or if it even had one. It was across the road from Koppee Bakery. It was never very busy, but it we just perfect. We had triangle cushions, deck, shade, great food and plenty of drinks on this deck. The sunset from near the rock Buddha. Back to the sunset, looking back across Koh Tao. Koh Tao Tips Hire a scooter. It’s cheap and totally worth it. The island is small, but there are lots of steep …

High up in Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a temple way up high overlooking Chiang Mai. There is a cool legend about this site. From Wiki: “a white elephant which was released in the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep…trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.” As at any site, there were plenty of snacks available outside. Fried quail eggs and cups of sweetcorn (seasoned with condensed milk) were eaten with enthusiasm. Simple street food. This monk figurines lined a low wall. I love their cute features and chubby cheeks.

Chiang Mai Thai House

If you go to Chiang Mai on a modest budget, you should stay at Chaing Mai Thai House. We stayed here for a week and wish they weren’t fullY booked during the rest of our stay in Chiang Mai or we would have stayed there for the full time. Our fan room (nightly rate: 400 baht / $16NZ / $13US) had a TV with plenty of movie channels, our own bathroom with a big teak mirror, a queen bed a wardrobe and a lovely big window. Fan room was fine for winter, it was warm enough that a daily swim was welcome, but I actually prefer fan over air con. Facilities include a computer room with 5 computers and free internet, a swimming pool, a cafe/restaurant (good food and reasonably priced), a laundry service and a tour service. Only a a few steps from a fabulous dentist on Thapae Rd (handy if you need dental work done) and situated between the Old City and the Night Bazaar. Lots of bars and restaurants within walking distance as …

White Temple. One for the bucket list

The next morning we left Chaing Khong and drove to Chiang Mai via Chiang Rai. At Chiang Rai we visted Wat Rong Khun – the White Temple by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. A glaring white and covered in tiny mirrors, this glorious beacon encourages dark eyewear. This temple is unlike any Buddhist temple you have ever seen. The red skull road cones that we passed on the way and the life size Predator stuck in the grass outside were fairly bold suggestions. The decapitated heads hanging from trees was a pretty blatant give away that this was no serene place of meditation. If you find all this fairly interesting, you must go inside the White Temple. No photography was permitted but the unfinished murals on the wall inside are incredible. The artist relies heavily on pop culture icons as well political figures to create an inspiring, modern scenes of doom and glory. Bush, Bin Laden, Avatar, Neo from The Matrix, Spiderman, Batman are a few of the unconventional characters found on the inside walls of this …

Heading to Thailand on the Mekong River – Day 2

At 6am the next morning, we left our guesthouse in Pakbeng with our pre-ordered, packed breakfasts and bag-carrying local boys in tow. The morning is cold there are no windows to close. We wear our layers and shrink our necks and hands into our clothing to keep warm. By lunch we’ve shed the layers and are happy in our t-shirts. We draw more, play cards, draw more and give most of the drawings to the kids on the boat. Kelvin’s drawing of the girl and the boat. Monk Bunny. Hilltribes Bunny. Buddha Bunny. Mekong River Catfish. We didn’t see any, but these fish get crazy big. As in 3 metres long and weighing 300 kg. Mekong River doodle. Lunch on the boat is a delicious Laos style feast made by the family. At 40,000 Kip / $7NZ / $5US each, we certainly ate until we were full. The chicken curry was the crowd favourite. Immigration is painless and we get stamped in for a 2 month visa for Thailand. Too bad we only need 1 …

Slow Boat on the Mekong River – Day 1

After watching and participating in the monks receiving alms, we returned to our guesthouse to pack and say goodbye to Luang Prabang. Our slow boat for the next 2 days on the Mekong (pronounced May-kong) River was one of these long wooden affairs. I would highly recommend a slow boat trip if you have 2 days to spare getting from Laos to Thailand. The boat had comfortable seating as well as tables and chairs, a toilet, beer and snacks. The open air also made the smokers happy. The smooth trip meant that I never felt sick (unlike windy bus trips). Run by the captain, his wife and 3 kids, it was a family affair and The Koala quickly impressed the kids with his drawing talents. We both did a lot of drawing while on the Mekong River. 20 hours of down time makes for good drawing time. Locals panning for gold at the edge of the Mekong River. The return isn’t very good, but during dry season, there isn’t a lot to do and panning …

Luang Prabang – the working class

We opted for a village tour with a local jumbo driver. The jumbo driver was great. He was lovely and had a great sense of humour. He had photos in his jumbo and one showed him and his wife at the Sydney Opera House. I found this surprising as so many people in Laos live on so little, it’s hard to imagine them not only being able to leave the country, but to spend time in countries where the living cost is so many times more than what they are used to. At $5US per head, the village tour was a fairly cheap way to spend the afternoon. Before the tour, we were told that the conditions would seem harsh to us because these are real working villages. The people we saw actually live in these villages and make things to sell. They actors in a museum, pretending to work for tourists. We visited a real blacksmith village, a real Lao Lao whiskey village and also saw the production of paper, silk and silver (tourist …

We Freakin Love Elephants

The old name for Laos is Lan Xang which means the land of a million elephants. One of our fondest memories of Laos was meeting Mae San the elephant, her mahout (trainer) and her friends at the Elephant Village. “Elephant Village gives rescued elephants a new home where they are free from abusive work. Elephant Village provides local villagers a better livelihood, so they can stop their slash and burn tradition.” Many elephants in Laos were, and still are, used in the logging industry. They are mistreated, forced to pull loads that are too heavy for them, fed drugs to work longer and work in dangerous conditions. The sweet nature that elephants are know for are taken advantage of and some people use sharp hooks or knives to bend elephants to their will. It’s painful to learn about the lives these elephants suffered before being rescued. Elephants wear their hearts on their sleeves. It’s delightful to see them happy, but it’s also obvious when they suffer. How can people mistreat these animals? No one is that …

Balloons over Vang Vieng, Laos.

Every sunrise and sunset, a white or a yellow hot air balloon can be seen floating low across the sky in Vang Vieng. On our final morning in Vang Vieng, the yellow balloon was ours. It was the first time any of us had been ballooning and what a way to say goodbye. We got off to a scary start as the balloon threatened to tip over, but once the 12+ men let go, we shot straight up into the air. We were in the air for about an hour total and about 15 minutes into the ride, the sun rose over the mountains…Pictures are better than words right? Ballooning Highlights: Watching the sun pop up over the mountains. Ballooning Tips: Just do it! Take a camera.

Vientiane: Buddhas and Temples

Vientiane Attractions We didn’t spend the whole time in Vientiane eating. Honestly, we didn’t. After sorting out our Thai visa at the embassy in the morning, The Koala and I spent the rest of the day apart from our group, touristing around on our own. Haw Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha have lovely grounds and is now a museum of buddha relics. A 45cm jade Buddha figurine was housed here for a time many, many years ago but now resides in a temple in Bangkok, Thailand. Wat Si Saket is just across the road. Come here to see buddha figurines and a temple. How cool is this leaning chair? Then we hopped onto a jumbo. A jumbo is like the Thailand tuk tuk but with 2 benches so that the passengers face each other. They can comfortably fit 6 although you could cram 8 or 9. Tuk tuk seats face forward and comfortably seat 2 adults, although you could cram in 4. Our driver didn’t speak a word of English, but he had …

Eating Brunei

Arriving in Brunei at 7am after a 10 hour flight from Auckland, we were exhausted. We should have given into a few hours nap but with only a day in the tiny sultanate, we foolishly stayed up to be tourists. Nothing was open that early anyway so we hung about the hotel for a couple of hours and had a swim in the pool etc. Really should have taken that nap! Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. Big, white, gold, in the centre of town. Truly dazzling in the summer sun. Don’t visit without your sunnies! Our first meal was at Food Zone in the shopping complex by the big white mosque in town. Chinese Cuisine can be found here at a fair price. We ordered a Steamed Chicken Set, a Roast Chicken Set (both sets include chicken, chicken rice, pickles, sauces and soup), Sweet & Sour Prawns, Siu Mai (pork dumplings), Ha Gaw (prawn dumplings) and drinks. A measly $24 ($19US) for the lot. Brunei dollar and New Zealand dollar are pretty dollar for dollar, meaning …

Food on the box

We don’t pay for tv so we don’t have the food channel, but I feel spoilt by the amount of foodie programmes on the free channels. On TV in the last month or so: Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey Rick Stein eats in many of the South East Asian countries we plan on eating in very soon. It’s like watching a travel show written for hungry people just like me. Rick’s shows have a seafood slant on everything. I adore eating fresh seafood in Asia, so the seafood slant is fine by me! This series covered: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bali and Bangladesh. Peta Unplugged in Marrakech New Zealander Peta Mathias and her gastronomads on a culinary tour of Marrackech….just finished and replaced with… River Cottage – Spring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage winter season has only just finished and now we’re onto the spring series. River Cottage isn’t just about food, it’s also about sustainability and lifestyle. It’s about growing, catching, gathering as much as it is about cooking and eating. We would love …