Saturday, 31 December 2011

Chiang Mai Inn

We arrived at 'Chiang Mai Inn' after a 10 minute tuk tuk journey, that to our surprise was complimentary of the guest house. The reception area was homely and there was free wi-fi. We were lead to our room, which was quite large and although plain, the bedsheets were freshly cleaned, the shower was hot and for 200B a night it was an absolute bargain.

The guest house had a very homely feel to it and it was nice to relax downstairs at the large table that was located next to the reception area. Food and drinks were a little pricey here but the staff didn't mind if you bought food elsewhere and ate it downstairs.

Train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

We got a cab from Koh San Road to Hualampong train station for 53B. The train station was very impressive and clean, with plenty of food outlets, flower displays and the staff were extremely helpful, two even approached us and pointed us in the right direction before we even had to ask. The UK could definitely learn a thing or two from here!

The train carriage was well maintained and kept clean inside and out. Our reservation had a bunk bed design with the same pattern repeated opposite us. There was a compartment to the side of the top bunks for luggage, an extra roll mat for sleeping, a pillow, two plug sockets, and curtains around each bunk for privacy, I have to say i was more than impressed. The toilet was squat down style, with toilet roll provided and a sink with soap. It smelt of urine slightly but kept as clean as the trains back in the UK. We later had our bed made for us with fresh (yes, a guy came and made up our bed!), clean bedsheets, a pillowcase and blanket. I was once again more than impressed with the service provided.

After a good nights sleep we arrived at Chiang Mai train station roughly an hour late than originally scheduled. We made our way to the exit and to our surprise there was a man holding up a sign with both our names written on it. Surprised by this we acknowledged him and he explained that because our friends had reserved us a room, the guest house would arrange for a pick up from the train station. Our journey to Chiang Mai had really got off to a great start!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


46.50B to the £1

Cover up when visting temples

Lots of markets/stalls, shopping malls located in the business district, selling electrical goods, shoes/clothes, everyday products and much more

This is my third visit to Bangkok so it kind of feels like a home to me now. If you can navigate around Mumbai then Bangkok will be a breeze. We paid 450B for a cab to drive us to Koh San Road from the airport. On the last couple of occasions here we have always splashed out on accommodation but this time we needed a cheaper place to stay. We looked around at some of the backstreet's but many places were fully booked, probably because it was still early in the morning and most guests wouldn't have checked out yet.
We then came across a place called 'at Home Guest House' but they only had an AC room free for 500B. We asked if we could get a slightly cheaper price but were refused.

Although we didn't want an AC room we took it anyway and asked if we could have a fan room for 400B the following night should anyone check out. The room itself was tiny but very secure (2 locks on the door), with bathroom tiles all over the walls (easy to clean i guess!) but the room was clean, had an en-suite and even hot water. The restaurant/reception area was kept very clean and well presented, plus there was free wi-fi.

Tip: If you are looking for cheaper accomdodation and don't mind using a shared bathroom, try 'Live Good' for 200B, located just around the corner from 'at Home'.

Firstly, we enquired around some of the tour operators for visas into Vietnam and prices of trains to Chiang Mai. We ended up booking through the place we were staying at as they already had their own tour operator who offered a similar price to everyone else and the lady here was so friendly and helpful.

We paid 1900B each for a 30 day Vietnam visa, that would be ready for us within 2 days, and 800B each for an AC sleeper train from Bangkok to Chang Mai. You can also get a bus to Chang Mai for slightly cheaper, although we were told that this would not be a sleeper.

On the first night we had a brief look around Koh San Road, ate some delicious Pad Thai street food for 30B and had an early night due to me still having stomach problems and us both being tired from the lack of sleep following our overnight flight.

Koh San Road

The following day we met up with some friends from back home, Jason, Aaron, Josh & Luke, and went to the MBK shopping mall. It sells everything there, from knock off Mulberry handbags and Rolex watches to your general everyday products and it even has a Boots. I again had to lay off the alcohol, so i treated myself to a massage and another early night.

On our final day here we had to pick up a couple of things we missed out on yesterday and i managed to spend £100 in Zara! You can find three high street stores (Zara, Gap & Mango) at the 'Siam Paragon' shopping mall, which is located a short distance from MBK. The rest of the stores are all designer, obviously waaaaaay out of my price range! If you are after some cheaper clothes then obviously Koh San Road is the place, but you can also find some lovely items in some of the shops dotted in between the shopping malls.

We have already done a lot of the touristy things in Bangkok, apart from the floating market which we will hopefully be visiting upon our return in March just before we have to fly home.

 Local markets

Ian with a tazer gun

Couldn't resist taking a photo of this!

Chicken Massam, my favourite Thai dish

The famous 24ct gold buddah

 Temple of the Reclining Buddha

One of the best places we visited last year was the 'Sky Bar' at the Lebua Hotel. This place was out of this world, i have never seen views like it. We arrived there at 5:30pm, which was the best time to go, as we saw the whole city during daylight, watched the sunset, and then night fell at around 6:30pm and the whole city just lit up, it looked amazing. You will pay a lot for drinks here (around £10 a cocktail) but it is worth it for those views, oh and to be treated like you're royalty, which for me, was kind of weird!

Make sure you wear smart/casual clothes (men need shoes). When we visited, flip flops were a no no, as were scruffy clothes.

Inside The Lebua bathrooms

The views from the 'Lebua Hotel'

Another cool place is Chinatown, we stayed here last year at the 'Shanghai Mansion' (beautiful room with huge bath) and ate some great food too. Not many westerners were about which was a nice change and we walked around on foot quite a bit and found some really interesting places.

 Our room at Shanghai Mansion

We also watched a Thai boxing match for roughly £35 per person. I wouldn't pay to do it again as a lot of the time when they guys fighting thought that they were winning towards the end of their fight, they would just dance around the ring so that they didn't lose! Still, i would recommend going, especially if you're interested in Thai boxing.

Thai Kickboxing

Machinery stalls, near Chinatown

If you are approached by someone (even if they look official) and are told that a temple you want to visit is closed due to a 'holiday', do not trust them and please walk away! Also if anyone approaches you in the street and try's to sell you a package deal for trips/accomodation, again please walk away and check out a few tour operators so that you get the best price.

Beaches we rated the best and worst in Kerlala and Goa:


1.Agonda - South Goa
2.Cola - South Goa
3.Palolem - South Goa
4.Mandrem - North Goa
5.Varkala - Kerala


1.Little Vagator - North Goa
2.Big Vagator - North Goa


1.Anjuna - North Goa
2.Cherrai - Kerala

Mumbai take two

We arrived in Mumbai at around 7:45am after we departed from Margao at 8:15pm. We were dropped off somewhere in Mumbai and had pre-booked a place to stay called 'Travellers Inn' located in the Fort area. As we had no idea how far away Fort was i tried asking around to ensure we didn't get ripped off by a cab/rickshaw, but no one could understand me.

We then started getting hassled by one cab driver who was quoting us 900Rs. We both refused, knowing this was far too much money and carried on asking around but again the language barrier became a problem, and we were still getting pestered by the cab driver who had since dropped his price to 500Rs.

A passerby then stopped and asked us where we were going and how much the persistant cab driver was quoting us. We told him 500Rs from here to Fort and then some harsh words were exchanged between the cabbie and the passer-by. The argument got more and more heated and i was in the middle of these two guys shouting at each other. I looked at Ian in shock at what was happening and we both agreed to look elsewhere, by now a small crowd had gathered around the two men arguing.

We found an alternative cabbie who agreed a price of 350Rs, when i looked back at the two guys still arguing i saw that punches were now being exchanged! Although it was very nice of the passer-by to warn us that we were being ripped off by the cabbie, i still couldn't quite believe that it had turned into a fight.

We arrived at 'Travellers Inn' where we paid 1700Rs for a room with AC and hot water. The reception area was very clean and well run, with our room being cosy but clean and pleasant. We tried booking here during our first stay in Mumbai but it was fully booked.

I wanted to explore Mumbai as we only had one day left in India but i had come down with a case of the notorious 'Delhi belly' (travellers diarrhoea) and wasn't sure if i would be able to. In the end i decided to just go for it and see how i felt once i was out and about.

Our first stop was the 'High Court' where i read that you could gain access to and watch cases being heard. On our way there we both realised it was Sunday and therefore it would be closed, still we carried on, just to have a look around anyway.

The next stop was the 'Taj Mahal Palace & Tower' and the 'Gateway to India', where we paid a cab driver 50Rs to drive us there, as it was a bit of a walk. The outside of the Taj Mahal Palace was quite spectacular, although difficult to photograph properly. Inside was immaculate and very upper class, we both felt quite out of place in our scruffy clothes. There wasn't an awful lot to see here and food and drinks were extortionate, so we enjoyed 10 more minutes of the air con and headed back out into the city heat, where we viewed the 'Gateway to India' directly opposite.

Taj Mahal Palace

Haggle with the cab/rickshaw drivers, walk away if you have to. We must have spent roughly 300Rs for various cab trips around the city, which we felt was a reasonable price.

After walking around and exploring a little of the city by ourselves, we asked a cabbie to take us to 'Zaveri Bazaar' and paid 70Rs. It was very busy here with many locals, full of various stalls and markets selling random objects or fruit and veg. We endured a few stares from people and a couple of beggars, but one nice guy approached us and asked us where we were from and if we liked India and another kind man let me use his toilet.

Carry toilet roll, especially when ill!

These boys insisted on being in the photo with Ian

Around Mumbai

We paid 80Rs for a lift back to our room, as i was feeling unwell. After a power nap and some will power, i dragged Ian to 'Chowpatty Beach' to watch the sunset. As we had difficulties getting a cab we missed sunset but it was worth going to see the pretty colours in the sky and the bright lights around the city as the night drew in. The beach itself is not really a great beach, you definitely can not go swimming in the sea here as it is toxic from all the pollution, although i did see a few locals enjoying themselves in it!

Chowpatty Beach

After some food we relaxed in our room until our 11pm taxi to the airport for our flight to Bangkok. We paid 500Rs for the 1hr journey there and booked the taxi through the hotel. Last time we paid 700Rs which we now realised was slightly too much.

My opinion of Mumbai is that it is a very fascinating city that i think everyone should visit, at least once in their lifetime, just to experience a completely new world, out of your usual comfort zone.
Mumbai can be quite a sad place, with thousands of homeless people, children sleeping on the street with their families and many others living in sqwalar. Most of the city is very run down and dirty but every unique building tells a different story and keeps you asking questions.

Bus journey from Margao to Mumbai

We had to get a rickshaw from Vagator to Margao as the bus had 3 changes, nobody could give us an exact time of arrival/departure and we didn't want to miss our pre booked sleeper bus. We paid a rickshaw 800Rs for the 1 and a half hour drive, which wasn't too bad in price. Apart from a punctured tyre along the way we arrived with plenty of time to spare, in fact too much time!

The bus we booked with was called Paulo Travel and we paid 800Rs each for a sleeper with AC. Ian did not want to endure another night on the train so i agreed to pay the extra 300Rs each for the bus instead.

The journey was actually very pleasant. The bus was clean, we had a lie down bed next to each other and a curtain for privacy. There was one bunk above us and the same pattern was repeated throughout the bus.

Be aware that there are no toilets on this bus.


Clothing: Bikinis, bare legs/arms acceptable.

Shopping: A few stalls selling usual tourist items.

We stayed at a place called 'Royal Star' located closer to Big Vagator beach but slightly inland. Ian bartered a fan room from 600Rs to 500Rs per night and we decided to spend our last few days there. The room was huge, had fresh white sheets, was spotlessly clean and even had a hot shower. The shower was in fact the best shower we have had since being in India.

Our plan had been to go to Madrem beach on the scooter for our first full day here but Ian had a Delhi belly and so we spent a lot of our time in the room, whilst he recovered.

The following day we ventured out on a scooter and eventually found Ashvem and Mandrem beach. We decided to spend the day on Mandrem, which was roughly 1 mile long and gave us the opportunity to find a more secluded spot due to it not being over-run with people. The ride to Mandrem was really nice, you think you've seen everything in India, then suddenly you get surprised again with something strange and different.

 Photos of Mandrem beach

On our final day we visited Small Vagator and Big Vagator beach. Small Vagator had many sun loungers with a few bars/restaurants. Big Vagator had one bar/restaurant located at the beginning of the beach and not one sun lounger in sight. I preferred this beach because it seemed less touristy, however after Ian left me alone for a couple of hours i soon got unwanted attention from the locals. They are pretty harmless but even though the beach was spacious, a couple of lads decided to sit almost on top of me. I decided to move but then they got up and  followed me, once again sitting too close to comfort and then asking me if they could have some of my water! I also had cheeky locals taking photos of me in a not so discreet kind of way.

Vagator wasn't as nice as i had been led to believe. I asked a few people about the best places to visit in India and had been recommended Vagator for its 'fantastic' beaches but we were left disappointed with what those and found the southern beaches to be nicer.