Travelling with a 20 litre backpack 5kg, ultralight minimalist packing

It’s time to revive my travel blog! Mostly because I’m mega excited about my 20 litre backpack. So to summarise I will give my full packing list and gear choices. In a few days I will post breakdown of my trip, which could not have been booked without the amazing site The Man in Seat 61: https://seat61.com/ 👌 all the info you need to book a Trans-Europe train journey.

Back in 2015 I travelled to Asia with the 35 litre Lowe Alpine Eclipse weighing 7kg, read my original packing list post. It was reasonable but I did reduce along the way, posting stuff home, read about that drama here.

The gear detailed in this post would be the same that I would take for a 6 months or year trip so don’t let the week in Europe trip dissuade you. I won’t need to wash this time but for a longer trip that’s what I’d do.

It has always been my dream to travel with the bare minimum and last week I acquired a deuter speedlite 530, 20 litre bag. Just a note here, I am a serial thrifter, car booter and charity shopper so this was of course second hand.

Deuter speedlite 530, 20 litre bag:

It’s very basic inside with no pockets which is fine for my purpose. There is a front section where you can stuff you coat or jumper. It also takes a water bladder but I won’t use that for this trip.

I say it seems good quality and even worth the money new, although I paid next to nothing for it.

What I can fit inside:

Clothes:

-7 t-shirts:

-3 are ROHAN ultra silver T excellent, thin, roll to a tiny tube, not cheap at £30 a pop but I got one in charity shop (which is how I discovered them).

-2 are Quechua from Dec4thlon but I got in a charity shop

-2 other similar cheap equivalents

-2 pairs of shorts:

-One grey and one tan from Dare2Be. Love these, they don’t crease too much and look like normal fitted shorts but are light. I can’t stand cotton or cord shorts anymore. Also deep pockets.

-7 pairs of underwear:

-4 pairs are Under Armour, high quality technical wear, actually branded as shorts but are great underwear

-3 being other brands but similar long leg so no chafting

-1 pair of black patterned swim trunks by Speedo that pack into a pouch that doubles as a back pocket

-1 grey merino wool jumper – bought in a car boot for £1.50 about £30 new but worth it

-5 pairs of trainer socks but hope to be in flip flops most of the time

Other items (shown in images below):

-iPhone and chargers

-Headphones

-Powerbank

-Travel adapters

-Wash kit (in detail below in next section)

-Notepad and pens

-Book – Death in Venice! As will be going there!

-Sunglasses

-Glasses

-Waterproof or umbrella (can’t decide yet but both would actually fit if I wanted them)

-Trainers

-Flip flops

-Travel towel

-Travel neck pillow from Muji love this as it clips shut in a ring for the traditional U shapes neck pillow but also goes flat as a sausage (as pictured below)

-Hidden waist money pouch

-Obvious stuff like passport and money

How I’m packing.

So I have a handful of packing cubes, many I’ve had for years. I could say if you have to use compression cubes you are packing too much. Also they shrink size but not weight, so you will be filling your bag with more weight than it is designed for. They seem to work for some people though.

My cubes are pictured here with contents:

I mainly use Travelon cubes which I buy from a shop called Lakeland but can also be bought from Amazon. I like them because they hold a rectangle shape and slide in and out nicely.

Pants split into two, socks in another, my seven t-shirts split into two. Shorts, one pair I will wear and the other loose. Jumper loose and swim trunks loose.

Other cubes hold my chargers, and outside is the power bank which is a must for an iPhone, as much as I love them the battery life is sh*t.

One cube is my wash kit which I will outline next, as it is very minimalist and may give you some ideas.

Wash Kit (in smallest Travelon cube):

Contents:

-Packable flannel (outside)

-Foldable toothbrush

-Mini travel toothpaste

Salt deodorant! Best thing ever! I discovered in Thailand and use all the time, at home as well. One stick lasts a year! And costs approx £4 and huge saving and environmentally it cuts down on a lot of spray cans or plastic deodorant sticks

-Universal travel plug (not pictured)- I recommend the flat kind because some traditional plug shaped ones don’t fit all sinks

-Travel clothes line (not pictured) – basically a piece of twisted elastic – needs no pegs

-Clothes washing soap sheets

-Mini razor set

-Ear plugs

-Eye mask

-Folding mirror

-Scissors and nail clippers

-Mini Nivea cream and a bar of soap

All fits in this fab tiny cube! The size of my hand.

I am also taking a zip case of games for the train, Hero Realms, Dobble and Pit. Will also add some dice for Yahtzee.

If this wasn’t being packed I could take more items, for example one pair of jeans if it was going to be colder.

Finally I will be taking my awesome ROHAN Transit 10 litre satchel. Which holds tons!! I actually won it at the Travel show at Olympia last year. I’m still counting this as a 20 litre holiday as this bag actually fits inside my main rucksack. I will have it out for airport and daily use. Also we will be going to the spa baths in Budapest! So will need swim stuff and a towel with me during the day.

The only things I would add if this was my RTW packing list would be:

-Silk sleeping liner – I used this so much much in Thailand, rectangle not the mummy shape as then it can be used as a sheet and even a towel when desperate, packs the size of a fist.

-Travel hammock – for Asia or beach trips, same size as above and a luxury really but something I like to have, most hotels in Thailand had them included and this would not be useful for Europe anyway.

So excited as this will be the lightest I have ever travelled, it’s only 5kg!

Related posts: lightening the load and the Thai postal system.

Packing light, 35 litres for three months in Asia.

Days forty-six and forty-seven in Thailand – 2015

For newcomers: this post continues with my journey, currently in the north near Pai, on Tacomepai farmstay.

Day 46 – Mon – 20th July:

Up today at 8.15am ish, there was no breakfast set out in the kitchen so I walked up to the house. Grandma was sitting out on the porch as normal, she motioned for me to go into the kitchen to collect the pot of rice (which is, I will explain, the same as yesterday, in a plastic tub like a wine cooler and then in a thin fabric bag within) and metal pot of red curry. The lady of the house (wife of the owner Sandot) was there, getting ready to leave for work in Pai.

I took the food back to the kitchen and then after breakfast Jep (the name of the Thai man who I have seen around the farm several times, he showed me the huts on the first day, and he cooks all the food), came and showed me where we would be working.

It took some miming but in the end he demonstrated the we would be clearing the field adjacent to the one I started (unfinished) yesterday. 

We used the same traditional tool which was hard work and after a while I noticed that the plants were so loose it was easier to pull them up by hand. I started to do this and after a while Jep did the same so it must have been a good idea.

We dumped all the cleared bean plants over into the next field segment, (this field btw is one eighth or twelfth, I didn’t actually count, of one normal sized English field, so quite small for a farm really). The whole field is cut into retangle sections, declining, so that the water drains down the field and waters all the crops.

I then followed Jep back up to the farmhouse, where we spent half an hour or so looking at seed. It was very confusing for me but I now know that this was rice seed.

Now yesterday Carine (the French girl, another volunteer) was telling me about the problems with ‘bad seed’ and that the traditional Thai farmers don’t test the seed or select correctly. The method they use here, I discovered, is to toss the seed like a giant pancake in a shallow tray and then half the seeds fly out onto the floor. I think this is because the ‘lightest seeds’ the seeds with no insides will fly out. Problem is this doesn’t really work. I looked at the seed in the ground later and it was a 50/50 mix of dud empty seed cases and normal seed.

But what do I know? I know nothing about agriculture.

Anyway it was very funny to see them tossing the seed like this. Grandma did it too. Jep then got out an extension cable and plugged in a leaf blower and tipped it all out on the ground (on a tarp) and started blowing it away! This seemed crazy, maybe the tossing would have removed some empty seed cases but the leaf blower was more than strong enough to blow all the seeds alway.

It certainly didn’t look like it was working very well.

I must have looked very confused…

I helped him pour the seed that was left back into the bowl it came from and then he motioned for me to go for lunch.

Then I had lunch and about 2pm Jep came and found me. First he showed me a plastic tub of live frogs which he proceeded to put into a bag poor things. Then we got in an very old truck that was parked in the drive. The glass was smashed and the truck was full of holes. It was the worst condition I have seen so far here. Probably because it was used for heavy and dirty work on the farm. The Songtheaws are normally in good cosmetic condition, maybe the Thai drivers have learnt that westerners won’t pay to get in old bangers.

We drove about 10/15 minutes to a place which I think was owned by his parents or friends. An older man greeted Jep and proceeded to show him the trees in the orchard. Jep also gave him the bag of live frogs. We then sat on a bench for a while, waiting for somebody?

This turned out to be a lady, around the same age as Jep, but it was hard for me to tell. After she arrived Jep led me to a large pond/small large, surrounded by a grassy bank. The bank was high and we sat on the edge and dangled our feet over. He gave me one with a reel to use but interestingly he fished with just a long stick and thread!

She joined us shortly and she spoke some English, and again, she (like Grandma) didn’t understand much of my Thai, possibly due to the northern dialect being different to the south (where I learnt).

She helped me set my line but I still didn’t catch anything. We crouched down on the bank and I told her where I had visited in Thailand etc. We used some kind of animal gut as bait, I’m not sure what. I had to carry the caught fish to the other side of the pond/small lake to where Jep had the net bag of fish. It was very wriggly and the lady found my attempts to hold onto it very funny.

We, I say we, they, caught about eight fish between them and the fish was kept alive during fishing in a net bag hung under the water. 

On the walk back to the car Jep stopped in one of the orchard style areas in the farm, the trees were neatly in rows and motioned for me to help. We picked the fresh, smallest green leaves from about six trees. He said the leaves were ‘aroi’ อร่อย (delicious in Thai) and ‘gin’ กิน (eat in Thai) implying that we would be eating them?

Back at the farmhouse (his friends farmhouse, not Tacomepai) the lady we had been fishing with offered me a Dragon Fruit, picked from a tree nearby. They had a wide range of fruit trees and bushes, but only one or two of each. Probably just to feed themselves, not being produced to sell. The dragon fruit is a lovely pinkish fruit the size of a large orange and it has wavy leafy bits on the outside like dragon scales. Inside it is white with tiny black seeds and is very sweet with not a lot of flavour. Very refreshing.

She also offered me some water. She said ‘gin nam’ กินน้ำ which is ‘eat water’. A lot of Thai people don’t say ‘drink water’, ‘doom nam’ ดื่มน้ำ but ‘eat water’, ‘gin nam’ กินน้ำ. This is just part of the slack use of their own language. They also say ‘cow’ ขาว which means ‘rice’ instead of ‘gin’ กิน (eat) because rice is the staple food and if you are going to eat you most likely will be having ‘cow’ ขาว ‘rice’.

After Jep drove us back to the farm we went to prepare dinner. I chopped the fish outside the kitchen. Out the back there was small stone veranda. I used a slice of a wooden stump as a chopping board. 

This involved chopping the heads and tails off, scraping the scales off and gutting them. But then only chopping them into chunks, not de-boning them. This is for ease of preparation but makes it really hard to eat the fish. This was frustrating for me as I like to shovel my food and not nit pick it but you really had to be careful with the bones.

The fish guts where thrown to the chickens pecking about below the veranda.

He put a couple of fish in the fridge for tomorrow and the rest he cooked in a stew with some vegetables. He gave me a plate which I took down to the kitchen to eat.

With hindsight I think I may have been rather confused when we first got in the truck and went off, not knowing where we were going. On the other hand, that is what I would have expected to feel but I don’t remember being at all concerned and just went with it. I guess I have adapted to taking it as it comes. Especially when half the time you cannot commutate to ask what is actually happening.

I don’t know what will happen to the frogs in the bag that we gave to the man on the other farm but I’m afraid that whatever their purpose is, they won’t live through it :(.

While I was resting late afternoon, on the bench outside my hut, I heard some people talking. I got up and saws group of backpackers, complete with full bags, walking up my front path. There was a guy and two girls. They asked me if their friend was here? They said he arrived today. I knew there had been no new volunteers but I didn’t want to put them off so I asked how many nights he was supposed to be staying. They said just one, so I knew then they must have the wrong farm (there is a three night minimum at Tacomepai).

I said I hadn’t seen any new volunteers today but that they were welcome to stay if they wanted and that we had just started planting the rice fields. Well I tried my best to get them to stay but it wasn’t very easy. Their friend wasn’t here and also it was hard to explain what ‘programs’ and ‘organised activities’ were running (there weren’t any..).

There certainly needs to be some changes made around here if they want the volunteer program to continue?

 Sand water filter barrel and bamboo cups and one of the many eco promoting signs around the farm.

Sand water filter barrel and bamboo cups and one of the many eco promoting signs around the farm.

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Day 47 – Tues – 21st July:

Breakfast appeared on the table as normal and as no one was around, I spent a couple of hours peeling the bean pods.

Jep came round with a petrol powered grass trimmer and was clearing the paths, which, being just dirt tracks, get overgrown with plants to the point that they completely disappear.

After a bit he motioned for me to have a go. He taught me (all miming) how to work it. It had a string pull cord and was very simple.

I cleared a few paths but I wasn’t very confident on it because, A it sometimes flicked up large stones that were amongst the plants and also B simply because I hadn’t had any training on it and I don’t think my insurance would cover it.

It was backbreaking work, the engine was hung on a single strap over the shoulders and then from the engine there was a long pole and at the end the large trimmer blades.

Carine said later when I spoke to her, that she thinks Jep doesn’t like using it because it is very uncomfortable. She explained that it is very hard to explain to him when she doesn’t want to do something because, for example, I couldn’t say in Thai, I have no insurance (I can now but this event happened weeks before I returned to the Thai school). Sometimes she has to say no to a task, but cannot explain why.

Carine also said she knows the trimmer is ment to have a double shoulder strap and that one is much harder to use as it only has the one strap.

Anyway I stopped after a while and went for a shower (it was hot work).

I went for a walk out of the front of the farm and to the right. There was a good convenance store, locally run and I bought some bug spray, biscuits, some toilet rolls and an ice lolly!

I walked past the farm in the other direction and ate my lolly. I bought a smoothy from a local food stand that was by the road. There didn’t seem to be much more that way within walking distance so I headed back.

I sat in the ‘school room’ hut and used the Internet (the wifi was only available in that spot).

I spent a hour or so trying to clear a bit of one of the field sections but gave up when it started to rain.

That night there was a heavy storm right above us. I ate dinner and shelled beans in the kitchen in the dry and watched the rain, it was very peaceful being so far from any city’s or towns.

During the night the white cat visited me and wanted me to let she her in but I didn’t want her climbing all over me so she had to sit outside, she wasn’t there in the morning.

 

The organic waste disposal machine (the piggy) and another snap of the kitchen area.

 
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Next up: days forty-eight and forty-nine.

Previously: update on my return home and how to support the blog.

Previously: days forty-four and forty-five.

Support the blog by pledging – Thailand 2015

Just a brief interlude. I am now back home from my travels but no fear the blogs will be continuing for some time. I have only got you up to day 45 (less than half way) as I was abroad for 99 days!

I hope reading them is no less exciting with the knowledge that I am safe and sound in England.

Coming home wasn’t as strange as I expected. On my return home from Africa in 2012 after only a month, I experienced ‘return culture shock’. So much glass (in the windows) everywhere and carpet, polished high streets with no shacks (even the rough areas looked flush). I was expecting the same on my return from Asia but I think because I was prepared for it, it never came.

I am keen to complete the blog and it will be free to read here as before, but I have joined a community of artists and other creative minds called Patreon.

This site allows us to fund our work, much like Kickstarter. However instead you ‘pledge’ a small amount per published article (for example $1, the site is in U.S. dollars). If you pledge a larger amount then you will get added bonuses like printed copies of pictures of your choice, or a custom upcycled item (from the William Stone Upcycled Goods side of the blog).

You can pull out any time. Read more about it and sign up to pledge to the blog at:

https://www.patreon.com/Jeffro292 

My goal is to raise enough to print the blog as a travel book! And of course if you’re still pledging at that time you will receive a copy or get a percentage discount, depending on your pledge amount.

Keep on following here for days 46-99 of my travels in Asia.

The main differences coming home have have been cultural and economical. For example I found it very strange looking at a brochure (that came through our door) for a weeks cruise in Europe at £1,500 pounds but for double that you could live in Thailand (in one place, not constant sightseeing) in a rented house (approx 450 baht a day, food, water, gas and electricity) for a year!  

Crazy!

So long.

I hope to see your name on my patron site soon :p

The Ruins in Sukhothai (from back in my first week in Thailand)

Next up: days forty-six and forty-seven.

Previously: days forty-four and forty-five.

Days forty-four and forty-five in Thailand – 2015

Day 44 – Sat – 18th July:

Today is the day I am going to the Organic Farmstay in Pai. Firstly I got up early and packed, and then asked in reception for the quickest way to 7-11. The guy actually recommend that I try Tesco Lotus which was very nearby at a gas station. I was unsure how food would work at the farm so I was planning to stock up on some dry snacks, determined that the same thing (that happened on the camping trip) wouldn’t happen again.

I also bought a 50 baht rain-poncho (basically a very thin plastic sheet in neon pink) as I had no wet weather gear. Then I walked back to the hotel. At 11.50am I went to see if my laundry (which I dropped off yesterday at the place next door) was ready, it was. She did say to collect at 12pm but my bus was picking me up then and I wanted it all packed in my bag before then, ready to go.

Of course I should have known that the bus wouldn’t be on time. I think it arrived in the end around 12.40pm so I spent a slightly frustrating but reasonably interesting hour in the reception watching two men install a metal shop grill shutter thing across the front of the shop. I was accompanied by a small Thai girl (it was Saturday so no school, but then I have learnt since that they don’t start school until the age of 7 anyway so maybe that is irrelevant), who was playing some kind of game on a tablet PC.

The lady who may have been the owner, but who was often on reception, came and explained about the shutters. She said that a couple of nights ago someone threw a small molotov cocktail (which didn’t explode) through the wooden shutters (which was the only form of door the property had). I expressed my surprise, as I thought the area was very safe. She mostly agreed but had decided measures had to be taken hence the shutters.

Anyway a songtheaw finally picked me up and took me to the bus station where (me and some other tourists) we were transferred into a small 15 person minivan. After an hour and a half the bus stopped for a quick rest break and I bought some interesting Thai sweets, much like chewits but from an obscure brand and mangosteen flavour! They were very nice!

We arrived at 4.20pm ish in Pai, it was like a quiet giant Ko San Road, the town being three or so large main streets full of tourist shops. Anyway the annoying thing was that in the bus we drove right through the town that the Farm ‘Tacomepai‘ was situated in but (and I asked before when we first got on the bus) the driver would not stop to let me out. He kept saying ‘one stop one stop’, which is stupid really, it’s not like I wanted to be dropped off down a road just literally get out of the bus.

So I had to pay a lot (200 baht) for a taxi to get back to the Farm because no one else was going that way, and I ended up with a whole mini van to myself.

On arrival the Farm seemed deserted so the driver got out and tried to help me find someone. I don’t think he would have done this if I had change to pay him but I only had a 500 baht note and he had no change (which also seemed silly). We found an old lady sitting in the porch out of the rain weaving baskets. I had read about her on the farm website (she was described as Grandma, and it said she was always in the porch, if you wanted to watch traditional weaving). She spoke no English but went and got a mobile phone and put me on to her daughter (the wife of the farm owner), the person who I had been emailing.

She seemed very surprised that I was there even though I had said I was coming, but explained in Thai to the Grandmother. The driver then asked the Grandmother for change and left once I’d paid him.

I sat with the Grandmother in the porch, waiting for something (I didn’t know what), pointing at the chickens and saying ‘gai’ which is chicken in Thai the lady pointed at the ducks and said ‘bet’ which is duck (which I didn’t already know), so that was interesting.

Then a Thai man arrived and gestured for me to follow him with my bags. He took me down a dirt track past some small fields on my right. Another volunteer appeared, she was French and spoke some English. She showed me to a hut but then the Thai man asked her to show me the next hut along instead.

I asked her what I should do and she said tomorrow she would show me round the farm. Here a picture of my little house with ensuite bathroom.

My Eco hut with ensuite bathroom at Tacomepai in North Thailand

My Eco hut with ensuite bathroom at Tacomepai in North Thailand

The bedding was very grotty looking so I was super glad I had my hammock and silk sleep sack. You can see in the pictures that I strung it up between two bamboo beams.

The hut was made from 100% bamboo and some kind of large leaf (maybe Palm leaf).

I took stock of my food from Tesco, it was mostly snack food but I had one can of tuna because I was unsure if I would be fed tonight, arriving at the time I did. So I ate the tuna and then put it outside, not sure where to dispose of it just yet.

The Thai man called me out of my hut and gave me some clean sheets and blankets. I used the blankets as a sort of carpet/mat under the hammock and I used one sheet. It was a duvet cover (and pillow cases) that I think was for the floor mattress bed and grotty pillows but I pushed it all to the side against one wall.

Then the French girl came and called me for dinner! Yay food. It was rice with a vegetable/stew/soup thing. It had a good flavour as most Thai food does but was not very filling for me. It was like a watery stock with stringy leaves in it. The Thai are very clever with the food, they make a lot of flavour from very little but they also fill up on rice. I think my metabolism is set for meat and veg and rice doesn’t do much for me.

Anyway when I returned to my hut I discovered I had made a new friend. A little white cat was enjoying the tuna water and dregs from the can I had left out (I was unable to drain it at the time of eating). She was very happy.

My new cat friend and the kitchen with a pot of rice on Tacomepai farm, North Thailand

My new cat friend and the kitchen with a pot of rice on Tacomepai farm, North Thailand

Day 45 – Sun – 19th July:

A lot of cricket type insect nosies last night. I got up for 8.30am and went down to the volunteer kitchen for breakfast. There was a lovely sweet bread which was a nice surprise and also some egg and veg, and of course more rice.

I couldn’t find the French girl who was supposed to show me round so I wandered up the the main house. Next to the house was a large wooden open walled building which was labeled the ‘classroom’. This is where the owner (when he was there) used to teach permaculture farming.

I found a middle aged Swiss guy called Andy who was very nice and explained to me about the farm.

It was built and designed by this Sandot the owner, a farmer who studied permaculture farming, he ran courses and volunteer programs until a couple of months ago when he just left to run a new project he had thought up. The new project was near the border further north, near Laos (or so I gathered). The only volunteer here was the French girl Carine who had been here over two months, since the last properly run course.

He said he was hoping the owner was going to come back or maybe was going to formally sign over some control to him so he could continue with the projects. I asked what I could do to help and he said that he was leaving later today but I was welcome to help him clear up from his current project. He said it was a shame I wasn’t here last week as I could have helped with the building of his ‘art studio’.

So I spend half an hour or so with his Thai wife/partner, clearing the waste wood that was scattered around the classroom building. This literally involved throwing the scrap bamboo into the forest that started a few feet from the building, of course it would rot down and be good for the ecosystem but it was amusing to me anyway.

Then the Swiss guy Andy showed me the ‘art studio’, which was another wall-less structure with a strong concrete base a few inches thick and four metal girders supporting a corrugated iron type roof.

There was a large locker which was full of tools and he said he hoped to rent the space out to artists etc. I told him about William Stone and some of our scrap art projects. He said I was welcome to use the space for free while I was here as he had no plans yet as such.

I helped clear a bit more rubbish and this was stuff like plastic cement sacks which we threw in a pit (already full of rubbish) and I think they will burn it all at some point (that is what they do here in Thailand).

There wasn’t much left to do that I could help with so I went to find the French girl. She explained to me that a lot of volunteers come and sit in the kitchen and smoke and drink and pay the volunteer fee (200 baht a day) but treat it as a cheap place to stay, and maybe do some yoga in the yoga hut. She was very fed up of this and also with Sandot the owner who had popped off to his new project.

Her English was quite good and I think the reasons she was short with me yesterday was also because her English was a bit rusty, she also spoke some Thai in order to communicate with the farm hands etc and probably hadn’t spoken English for weeks.

Anyway she said she studied permaculture farming and at the moment was just running her own little garden near her hut because she was unable to plan any big projects without Sandot’s help to explain it to the farm hands.

She showed me the last crop of beans and said I could help peel them and then after lunch, which appeared by magic on the table in the kitchen area (a pot of rice), she showed me a field I could start clearing. I worked for a couple of hours, using the traditional Thai farm tool which is like a large garden hoe with a slightly thicker and sharper metal head.

Later at dinner (in the kitchen again) the French girl Carine talked about some of the problems with Thai farming. One being the lack of farm education and also that they didn’t remove ‘bad seed’ and just kept planting the same stuff every year, (in a couple of posts time I will explain how I learnt about their seed checking process which is very funny and illogical, which is strange as the Thai people are normally very logical).

I mentioned the white cat and she said that cat was always bothering her, Carine thinks it was looking for some affection (her own words). She told me it also had two kittens but it killed one and kept trying to put the other one in her house. I haven’t seen any sign of the kittens though.

The farm is set in a very beautiful flat area surrounded by other farms. It is nice and cool compared to the city’s, as there is a lot of greenery and damp air. It is also very quiet except for the loud insects in the evening. I can see why people like to come here for their yoga retreats.

Organic bean shelling, the walk to my hut and the overgrown field I have been clearing, on Tacomepai farm, North Thailand

Organic bean shelling, the walk to my hut and the overgrown field I have been clearing, on Tacomepai farm, North Thailand

It has been a very interesting taste of the farm so far. I have enjoyed it even though it is very confusing as to what is going on….

Next up: days forty-six and forty-seven.

Previously: days forty-two and forty-three.

Days forty-two and forty-three in Thailand – 2015

Day 42 – Thurs – 16th July:

I wanted to spend some time in rural Thailand, I had previously emailed a bunch of places about volunteering, a couple of farms, a couple of animal shelters (there is a large stray animal, mainly dogs, population here), and a monkey sanctuary. No one had replied so this time round I emailed about 20 places with the hope that at least one would reply.

Surprise surprise, several emailed back quite promptly, but due to what happen before I had already said yes to the first farm that replied. I then also made a provisional plan with the monkey jungle sanctuary for the following week, as their program sounded good.

The farm that I will be going too (in a couple of days) is in Pai, North West of Chiang Mai. Pai is a place many people have recommend to me. It is ‘supposed’ to be a more authentic town as not as many tourists venture past Chiang Mai.

Thinking of my budget I decided to move hotels again. Using trip adviser I found a decent looking hostel with private rooms for only 251 a night, (their price is 250 but due to booking online and conversion rate it is 251, this happens sometimes). It was called the Cumpun Guesthouse and I walked there from the Royal Guesthouse using the paper map.

I would be departing for the farm on Saturday the 18th, so I had two days to spend in the city, I didn’t really see a lot of it when I came last month, as we were only here for two days.

I had a look at the leaflets in the lobby and on trip adviser. I discovered a zoo very near about 40 mins out of the city. I hailed a Songthaew, which asked for 100 baht to the zoo as I was the only customer. Normally they charge about 20/30 baht in the North.

When I arrived the taxi driver pointed me towards the joint ticket counter where I could get a combined ticket to the zoo and aquarium.

The first enclosure was some crested cockatoos! My fave bird (I even have a little tattoo of one). The zoo was laid out like a small safari park with the enclosures quite widely spaced apart, but they were in a sort of theme park style with concrete painted to look like wood etc, see pics.

Theme park style exterior decor at Chiang Mai Zoo

Theme park style exterior decor at Chiang Mai Zoo

The birds didn’t look that happy, nor did the monkeys, whose enclosure was the worst in the whole park. But as I walked on (past the shuttle bus, which you had to pay more for) the enclosures got bigger.

I fed the hippos, who had a nice pen with a pool. You could buy large chunks of carrot to feed them and they knew what was coming and stood there with mouths wide open. See pics. It was actually quite comical. There was a whole group of people there and the carrots sold out very quickly.

It poured with rain for about ten minutes and I stopped next to the hippos to talk to an American couple who were doing TEFL in China and had a three week holiday which they were spending in Thailand.

After the rain stopped a Thai man came to refill the carrots and I fed the hippos too.

Feeding the awesome hippos at Chiang Mai Zoo - they knew the drill

Feeding the awesome hippos at Chiang Mai Zoo – they knew the drill

As I moved on, past some fibreglass animals (much like Blackgang Chine in the UK, on the IOW), I found two giraffes, in a decent sized pen with other herbivores, like goats.

I fed these too and at nearly every enclosure you could pay 10 or 20 baht for a plastic tub of chopped vegetables, and in the big cats cage, you could buy raw meat on a stick to poke through the bar! Yes this is true! I have never see this in a zoo before.

Edventually I came to the aquarium, which had a massive fibreglass sharks head protruding from the roof. It was a decent enough size but you could only go in one tunnel as the other was under construction. The tunnel I did go in had a very fancy conveyer-belt that would take you round (but the power was turned off, maybe they turn it on during busy periods).

After the aquarium I walked round the last third of the park (you could walk all the way round on the concrete road) and then reached the entrance again at around 4.30pm, which managed to concede with some other people leaving in a songthaew.

Back at the hotel my room was now ready (it wasn’t this morning at 10am when I arrived), so I collected my main bag, from where I had left it in reception (quite safe).

I walked out about fifty metres to a street food stall, where I had a lovely chicken salad (this is English chicken salad, as in Thai food a salad is a complete different dish), but a disgusting orange squash, which I didn’t finish.

I then visited the night market and replaced my flip flops with a new pair and bought a few souvenirs. The last stop of the night was of course, 7-11.

A flavour of the animals at Chiang Mai Zoo - Thailand

A flavour of the animals at Chiang Mai Zoo – Thailand

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Day 43 – Fri – 17th July:

This morning I chatted to a Silja on facebook, she and the others were off on their three day jungle trek today. I told her about my plans for the Farmstay.

Then I headed off to find several museums that I had found on trip adviser (and which were vaguely marked on my paper tourist map).

My first stop turned out to be to buy a pair of those baggy hippy traveller trouser (you can buy them all over Thailand). I had been considering a pair for a while and my justification was that I didn’t have a pair of trousers that I could use for messy activities on the farm.

Then very shorty I came across a lovely temple. It was very calm and peaceful, they were playing some oriental music from speakers set high in the walls.

The trouser shop where I bought my baggy trousers, and the first couple of temples I visited.

The trouser shop where I bought my baggy trousers, and the first couple of temples I visited.

I moved on and aimed in the generals direction of the museums. On the way I stopped at another temple, this one had quite large buddha statues and was set in a small area of grounds with a seating area. They were also playing music.

I had an early lunch from one of the street stalls, there where quite a few Thai people eating too. It felt like people used this daily, much like a canteen crossed with a local park.

There were quite a few stalls dotted about selling the usual souvenirs. One lady showed me a necklace she claimed was crocodile teeth, which at the time I didn’t believe (most of these teeth are moulded resin) but you will see in a later post, having been to a crocodile farm (in a few weeks) it is quite possible that this was true.

I was a bit lost so I asked a local (in Thai) where I was, and he spent ages pouring over my map. After a while a couple of ladies came over to help and we came to conclusion that the temple we were standing in wasn’t on the map!

Of course they found this very funny, most simple things will get a Thai in stitches, but they pointed me in a vague direction. I didn’t hold out much hope for this as the Thai people seem to be very inaccurate when it come to directions.

I found the Architecture Centre/Museum and another nice temple next too it. There was also a young monk school here as the area (and the public toilet) was full of mini monks (boys around 7 to 11 years old).

Then I found the ‘Chiang Mai Historical Centre‘ which was much more official looking, with a leaflet and map not unlike the museums in England, but it was very small.

There was a farmers market on today outside the museum, just a handful of stalls, I had a glance but there was no point me buying anything as I had nowhere to store it.

I was just reading the history of Chiang Mai in the museum when the lady came over and asked if I had paid and where was my sticker (they always sticker you in Thailand). Oops, the architecture museum had been free so I had assumed.

Anyway I went back out and paid my 90 baht entry fee (foreigner price lol, the sign is literally labeled price for Thai 20 baht and price for foreigner). I was given a sticker to wear and a paper ticket as well.

The museum was air conditioned and very modern. I read quite a bit about Chiang Mai’s history but I have forgotten it all now…..

Down in the basement they have some (not greatly exciting) archeological remains of an old ‘Wat Phra Kaew’, from the Rattanakosin Era.

I also found an interesting statue of ‘TheThree Kings’, the legendary founders of the City of Chiang Mai.

The lovely seating area outside a temple, my fave buddha of the day, some religious hangings swaying in the breeze though the temple door, 'The Three Kings' statue, the legendary founders of the city.

The lovely seating area outside a temple, my fave buddha of the day, some religious hangings swaying in the breeze though the temple door, ‘The Three Kings’ statue, the legendary founders of the city.

Got a Songtheaew back to my hotel as I had been walking in the heat all day.

Tonight I met Daniel, Silja’s friend from Denmark, he hadn’t gone on the jungle trek with the others and was planning to spend a week in Chiang Mai and then we made a provisional plan to meet up after my week on the farm.

He came and collected me from my hotel and we explored the two larger night markets and tried lots of different street food. As well as Thai street food there was a lot of world-food available.

I also booked my bus to Pai from the hotel for tomorrow lunchtime.

 

Next up: days forty-four and forty-five.

Previously: days forty and forty-one.

The Royal Guesthouse – Chiang Mai

I had some requests from subscribers for pictures of the Royal Guesthouse which I mentioned in this recent post.

It was lovely with trailing plants and a Greek feel to it (can’t explain it but it was like an urban derelict building themed as an abandoned Ancient Greek temple).

The Royal Gueshouse -Chiang Mai - North Thailand - Urban decay

The Royal Gueshouse -Chiang Mai – North Thailand – Urban decay


The Royal Gueshouse -Chiang Mai - North Thailand - Urban decay

The Royal Gueshouse -Chiang Mai – North Thailand – Urban decay


Next up: days forty-two and forty-three.

Previously: days forty and forty-one.

Days forty and forty-one in Thailand – 2015

Day 40 – Tues – 14th July:

Up for my 6am alarm and down in the reception for 7.30am. Daniel was down before me but we had to ask the reception lady to wake Sijia for us (she was in the female dorm) as she had missed her alarm call.

It turned out to be very tight for getting to the station on time. We grabbed a taxi but it was close! We arrived at platform 10 seven minutes before it was due to leave at 8.30am and we waited on the platform for AUS Ryan (who was in a different hostel last night).

The doors literally closed behind us and the train left on time! Very unusual! We were given free water and a sweet bun, a common thing in these long journeys, it is included in the price and I think it’s so people don’t faint etc as the water from the sink in the train isn’t drinking water (same as all sinks in Thailand).

Well not much to say except it was a long and gruelling journey. Is was meant to be 12 hours but it was late, no surprise there. So 14 hours on a train in a tiny seat…. Yes I wouldn’t advise this journey lol. I wrote a few blog posts and read my book.

Here is a photo of Silja’s stolen from Facebook, of us looking very optimistic at the beginning of the journey.

Day train to Chiang Mai, North Thailand - 14 hours!

Day train to Chiang Mai, North Thailand – 14 hours!

The train arrived in Chiang Mai (North Thailand) at around 9.30pm and we got a taxi to a couple of hostels. The first one was full, we ended up at the second one.

I was a little annoyed as I didn’t get much choice of where we were going to stay but it was so late and many receptions close at 10pm so it was very tight.

A bit stressful. I walked down the road to try and find another place but couldn’t so I walked back to the hostel to find they had locked the doors! Oh dear. Lucky a girl who was staying there let me in and I found the dorm room where the others were.

I couldn’t check in though as the reception was closed. There were plenty of spare beds so I just took one. I will pay in the morning.

We went out for a quick bite to eat from a street stall.

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Day 41 – Weds – 15th July:

A bit mentally exhausted today and we wasted a day travelling which was a shame. I paid for my gate crashed room first thing while the others lay in.

I felt I needed a few days break so I left the group in the early morning and found a lovely guesthouse with plants trailing up it. Very shabby chic and with a lovely pool.

Then I went to a bookshop and bought a bunch of books, to add to the three I was already carrying.

Here is my bookshelf…. So much for downsizing, I’m not sure how I’m going to fit them all in my bag.

My travelling library

My travelling library

I believe today the others went off to book some jungle treks for the next few days and to the cinema.

Tonight I ate in the hotel. They had a large reception/restaurant, with a pool table and a koi carp pond.

Next up: days forty-two and forty-three.

Previously: days thirty-eight and thirty-nine.

Days thirty-eight and thirty-nine in Thailand – 2015

Day 38 – Sun – 12th July:

Today we got up early about 8am and packed up the tents. This is because US Ryan was leaving today and we would swap our two, two man tents for one three man. We said goodbye to the Germans, who were going off on a planned hike with a guide (which you don’t need btw and it is very expensive).

I explored the campsite and there was a cool ‘Indiana Jones’ style swing bridge which lead to the start of one of the trails and a small coffee shop which only sold coffee. I think they would make money if they did breakfast (we all would have had it) so they are missing a trick there.

It was good iced coffee in a proper printed cup (like Starbucks) only saying ‘Khao Yai National Park‘ with a logo of a deer.

We had a discussion with the park ranger but it was hard to tell where the trails were and where they started. I think most people hire guides at this point (he kept offering us a guide), maybe out of frustration.

Firstly we re-hired our gear (you had to check in with it every day) and then swapped our tents over. We loaded up US Ryan’s hired motorbike and he took the gear, with Silja, to the next campsite. Phakluai Mai Campsite, (last night we were at Lumtakonh Campsite), I think, as there were no signs and it was very confusing. Scroll down on the link here for info about both campsite and both waterfalls in the park.

Me and AUS Ryan walked to the campsite, along the concrete road, and it only took us about 25 mins. Silja and US Ryan had already set up the tents so after a drink in a cafe we set off.

So we took the trail (I think) called ‘Pha Kluai Mai-Haew Suwat Trail 3 Km’, and the first 30 mins (to the first waterfall) was along the concrete road.

The waterfall, ‘Haew Sueat Waterfall’, was lovely but you couldn’t swim 😦 so we hunted around and finally found what we thought was the continuation of the trail. We passed some Japanese tourists sitting on a rest bench as we wandered off into the jungle. They looked at us like we were crazy. I think (as I have said before) walking and hiking is certainly a tourist thing, no Asians would be ‘crazy’ enough to walk in the heat. I guess they have to live in the heat all the time, maybe if I did then I wouldn’t be so keen to hike.

So here is a pic of our map (it was a little worse for wear by the end of the day).

Free Tourist map of Khao Yai National Park Thailand

Free Tourist map of Khao Yai National Park Thailand

And after an hour of guessing the trail, which was incredibly underused, we came to the next waterfall. I think was the ‘Haew Sai Waterfall’, but it was so unclear and not signposted.

Amazingly we bumped into the Germans who had reached that point after three hours of hiking with their guide, and having not seen anything or any animals. Now seeing animals is always luck of the draw but I think it is defo not worth having a guide. It had only taken us 1.5 hours to the same spot from the same campsite.

We swam in this waterfall and it was lovely. Sijia took a retro snap on her Polaroid camera and then we all took pics of the photo with the waterfall in the background. See below.

Swimming in the Haew Suwat Waterfall in the Khao Yai National Park Thailand

Swimming in the Haew Suwat Waterfall in the Khao Yai National Park Thailand

We then walked on for another hour but couldn’t seem to reach the third waterfall? So in the end we turned back. US Ryan turned back about 40 mins before we did because he had to get out of the park and off to catch a plane he next day (I think from Bangkok City).

We arrived back at the camp at exactly 4.30pm. But the cafe was closed and the small shop was literally just closing and the lady was locking the door! I ran over and waved at them but surprisingly the lady rudely just walked off. Normally the Thai people would happily just open the door for five mins and let you buy something.

Anyway I was very hungry as I hadn’t eaten all day so we hitchhiked to the next campsite and found a shop and a restaurant. Then we hitchhiked back again. Defo pack your own food for this trip :/

Lots of deer roaming around this campsite as well, but no people! Just a couple of stoned white (not Thai) guys in a hammock. The place was dead, even quieter than the previous site? Where is everybody….

 

 

Day 39 – Mon – 13th July:

Today we packed up early as we had to be back in Bangkok City to meet Sijia’s friend from Denmark (her home country). It was his first time out of Europe so she planned to meet him in Bangkok and show him the city.

It was very hard to get a taxi out of the campsite. As I said last night there was nobody here and no Rangers either! Unlike the other site which a least had some staff.

We walked back along the road to the other site (we had to go there anyway to return the hired gear). It took us a little longer than before as we were carrying all the tents and stuff.

At the other site we asked for a taxi but they said 1,000 baht out of the park! Crazy! In the end we found a bunch of other people (also Danish) to join us and split the fee. It worked out about 150 baht each, which was doable.

This taxi actually took us all the way to the town (different place than before), cutting out the Songtheaew part of the journey, and we jumped straight into a bus to Bangkok, so it was worth it.

We arrived back at Glur Hostel in Bangkok at about 12pm and after a rest I was introduced to Silja’s friend Daniel (also from Denmark), who had just flown in. This is his first time out of Europe and he has a long trip ahead of him planned to meet friends in New Zealand and also to tour round the rest of Asia.

Read about the awesome hostel Glur in a previous post (in day thirty-five).

His first few hours in Bangkok were rather hectic. First there was a rushed trip to the train station where we tried to get tickets on the night train for tomorrow night. Unfortunately it was completely full for the next five days! This is the first time this has happened to me in Thailand, normally I can get a ticket for the same day no problem but it is getting into a slightly busier season for tourists I think.

We glanced into the bus office but they looked a bit unsafe and we were not in for trying something new this time, just to get to our destination (Chiang Mai).

So we finally decided to take the day train which no one was very happy about but we had no choice (we were all on a bit of a tight schedule to meet other friends in a few days/a week etc).

The best thing about the night train is that the journey flies by and you save the cost of a night in a hostel.

As we walked back from the train station I saw the post office was open for another half an hour! Something I had planned to do tomorrow which was no longer possible as our train left before the post office opens. The hostel had told me it shut at 6pm but it was open till 8.30pm!

So I made a super rushed trip back for my bag of stuff to post, this involved me running for a local bus (35 to Robinsons Dept Store, 7 baht) and then running from the bus to Glur. Grabbing my stuff and running for a tuk tuk. I got there just as they were shutting the doors but they let me in!! Yay.

Let me explain. I had packed my bag and omitted more items (read here about my packing reduction) and I had planned to post the items home tomorrow before the night train. Anyway I was super glad I made it on time because I didn’t want to carry certain items with me on my onward journey and I didn’t want to repack again…..

Silja went off on a similar mission to downsize. She went to drop some items at a friend living in the city and I took Daniel out for his first meal.

We had a really nice pad Thai from a street restaurant with pudding from a street stall (fried battered cake thing with sweet condensed milk). It was a really locals place, an experience I would never have done on my first day.

Next up: days forty and forty-one.

Previously: days thirty-six and thirty-seven.

Days thirty-six and thirty-seven in Thailand – 2015

Day 36 – Fri – 10th July:

Today was another slow day. We met Ryan and went to the cinema for the 1.50pm showing of the new Terminator movie.

The cinema was very modern and busy. They had self service ticket machines but you needed a member card to use them. We started to queue for the manned till but a member of staff kept coming and drawing people out of the queue and serving them using the electronic ticket machine. He was taking cash and then using his own ‘unlimited’ staff members card (specially for the purpose I assume) to buy and print them off the machine.

The movie was very good but I like to think of it in a parallel universe as it contradicted a bunch of things from the first three movies.

It was also very interesting that we had to ‘stand for the king’, and watch a 120 second film about his good deeds around the country. Namely the laws against opium fields and various charity works.

We visited a lovely park, which we stumbled across on the off chance while on route to the night market. It was like a small Eden after the rush of the city and also not unlike Central Park. There was also a butterfly farm we wanted to visit but it closed at 4.30pm and we were too late.

In the evening we went to the ‘weekend’ night market which of course not very open as it was a Friday and they are only open from late Friday, then Sat and Sun nights. I arranged to meet the Dutch girl (whom I met on the train) here tonight and although we tried to speak on facebook we were unable to find each other in the large market.

A couple of interesting things we saw today:

On the way to the market there where hundreds of people (Thai’s), who appeared to be queueing in the street. We managed to ask a Thai girl (who was also on holiday in the city) and she said she was surprised at first too, as she had never seen anything like it but they were all waiting for a bus home. It seems multiple buses will pull up and pick them up in an hour or so.

We though they were crazy, they could easily walk a couple of streets, in the hour that they would have to wait, it was like hordes of zombies blocking the way.

The second thing was the market itself, we sat and ate our food while watching a very bad performance with three men dressed as Batman, Robin and some other strange character. They did some crazy dancing on their own constructed stage and a bunch of kids were watching them. They were throwing bangers (floor fire crackers – they just make a loud noise) down on the ground and trying to make a bit of a show for us. We didn’t bother putting anything in the donation pot.

The market also had a bunch of stalls selling toys and junk from the ninety’s. I recognised quite a lot of childhood favourites. Another thing they seem to sell is second hand shoes?

We passed, but didn’t go in, a bar with hundreds of lamps made out of old plastic and metal drums and various upcycled seats.

 

Day 37 – Sat – 11th July:

So the plan for the next few days is to hike in the nearest national park to Bangkok city, which is called ‘Khao Yai National Park‘.

This was Ryan’s idea but I love hiking so it was good with me.

We spent much of the morning trying to find Ryan, a supermarket and a place where the two of them could buy yoga mats to use as sleeping mats. It was all rather rushed and last minute.

We finally found Ryan and dropped back via Glur for our bags. Ryan made homemade trail mix on a counter in reception, using the stuff he had bought from the supermarket while we were looking for him. Another small downside of not having a working phone outside of wifi.

We hunted for a Tesco Lotus (the Thai brand of Tesco) and bought some more odds and ends. We then got the Skytrain to the Victory Monument station and met Silja’s friend Ryan from the USA (same name lol, this is USA Ryan in the post).

We got a bus from the small bus station next to the monument. We asked for four tickets to Khao Yai National Park and all the Thai people roared with laughter. It was a pretty universal thing so we understood, they had all had a bet on how many people were going to turn up next and where they would want to go etc.

Anyway it was 160 baht each and we filled the last seats in a mini van. These vans don’t leave until they are full and I have heard Facebook tales of people waiting for hours for the bus to fill up.

The four of us were crammed into the back row, and it was really uncomfortable, the only plus side is that the bus departed almost straight away for Khao Yai National Park.

After 2.5 hours we arrived in the town of Suphan Buri and they turned round to us and said 200 baht each for the next part of the journey. We knew that was a rip off, so we got out and walked a short way to where there was a Songtheaw waiting, nearly full.

They said 40 baht each to the park, so we got in. We chatted to a German guy and girl who where also headed to the park. The guy only had a little English and the girl even less. We waited a while for the Songthaew to leave and then it took about 40 mins to get to the park.

When we arrived they had just closed the gates and it took a lot of broken English and Thai to get them to let us in. It was 4.30pm and the sign said they closed at that time. We said that the bus told us they would get us here on time so they should let us in. I’m not sure what got across but in the end they let us in. We paid the standard 400 baht foreigner ticket price.

We also had to pay for a taxi 500 baht for everyone but then in the end just me, AUS Ryan and the Germans came in the taxi and US Ryan and Silja hired a motorbike and followed us. This is because they wanted to do some of the longer trails and US Ryan only had one day before his flight home.

Then it turned out that the Germans didn’t have much money on them. They thought there would be an ATM at the park. This was rather frustrating for the rest of us, as we had planned in advance and actually when the topic came up, everyone said they never traveled without at least 2,000 baht hidden somewhere and I travel with around 5,000 in case I cannot draw money for several days.

The taxi waited while the others went to hire the bike. Then US Ryan did a quick run with the German guy to the nearest ATM somewhere in town.

So finally off we went. Another really bumpy and speedy car ride in the back of a truck. The scenery was lovely but it grew dark about half way into the 30 min drive to the campsite.

At the main building we (me and AUS Ryan) decided to hire a two man tent and put it up and then wait for the others. You could hire all the gear there, tents. mats, blankets, sleeping bags, the lot. I only went for a mat and a pillow as I had my silk sleeping sack.

Then the others arrived on the bike and hired another tent. The Germans and me went to bed and the others took a short walk around camp.

There were deers wandering around all night poking at the tent, quite unafraid.

Just to summarise, we had to leave a copy of our passport to hire the gear and the costs for two nights are as below.

Tent around 200 baht, pillow 30 baht, mat 50 baht, then double that as those prices are per night but we split the tent fee between two so that was 360 for the gear for two nights and then the park entry fee 400 baht, one payment for any number of days.

So that is 760 baht for two nights in the park without food, the same price as a hostel so not too bad in terms of value.

Now there are a few restaurants in the park serving a limited menu but they all close at 4.30pm or earlier if there are no customers, so bear this in mind. We managed to get some really gross canned food and crisps from an elderly couple who had a small makeshift shop (table with food for sale) at the campsite.
You can hire camping stoves so I would advise bringing all your food for the trip or staying at one of the other campsites that has a small restaurant (ours just had a coffee booth).

Also trip adviser says you can do this as a day trip but I think it would be a tight turn around. Four hours each way and then the hiking as well. Tomorrow we are hiking to some Waterwalls.

Basic two man tents at Khao Yai National Park

Basic two man tents at Khao Yai National Park

Next up: days thirty-eight and thirty-nine.

Previously: days thirty-four and thirty-five.

Days thirty-four and thirty-five in Thailand – 2015

Day 34 – Weds – 8th July:

I packed and left the Bounty Resort in the taxi I had booked yesterday.

The taxi turned out to be the hotels own service and car. The manager (I think) whom I had spoken to before, drove me. She spoke to me briefly, again (very common) she thought her English wasn’t very good, but I said it was. And our conversation touched on my travel plans etc.

She kindly dropped me off at the ticket companies office (which was also next to a bookshop). The office didn’t open until 9.30am so I had to wait in a cafe until it opened.

Now I was sure that I had my ticket I went to browse the shops. I popped into the bookshop (of course) but is wasn’t a very good one. The hammock shop was also not the same one described in the blog but it was ok and had the hammocks I was looking for. I bought two, one, one man in purple and one large (same as the hotels provide) for two people (I actually posted the larger one home, read this post).

I sat and waited for the ferry at the pier. There are three different companies supplying the island, Songserm, Seatran and Lomprayah and they all run at different speeds.

I got a little lost in Thong Sala on the way to the pier but I managed to ask for directions in Thai, Merry and Sherry would be pleased with me (my Thai Language teachers).

They were playing the classic Mr Bean episodes on the boat again. I like these but I have been on several ferries in the last few weeks and they just seem to play the same DVD over and over. I think is it the only disk they have.

I had to wait for the night train to Bangkok at Surat Thani as it was delayed by two hours. I bought some meat skewers off the street and a fruit smoothie and then sat in a posh western cafe above the station for a couple of hours. While I ate my meat skewer a very hopeful looking dog came and sat opposite me and gazed at me.

Tip: I followed the locals to the street stands when buying food. I think speaking a little Thai helps but I managed to get some great food for next to nothing. 25 baht for a strawberry smoothie and 20 baht for a large meat skewer thing.

At the station a random Thai man came and chatted to me for a while. He wanted to know where I was going etc. I think they are just curious and I didn’t mind but he also wanted to know how much I paid for my train ticket etc. He was probably interested in what level of commission the tour company had given themselves, but I bought directly from the train station.

     

Day 35 – Thurs- 9th July:

In the morning I woke up early (read the end of this post for more about the the night sleeper train and pictures), and ate a little food I had put by the night before for breakfast.

As we neared Bangkok I struck up a conversation with a Dutch girl (from Holland) and she told me that she just had a couple of days in Bangkok as an intro to Asia to reduce the culture shock on her next stop which was China or Singapore.

We had an interesting discussion about learning foreign languages and I mentioned that I was learning Thai and she said ‘ok’, and I think she was thinking a few phrases not properly and was quite surprised when I got out my workbook etc to show her.

She said that it is always hard to express yourself in a foreign language, even if you are fluent. It is partly because you have a limited vocabulary and have to supplement words for easier ones. Much like a dyslexic person does when they cannot spell the word while writing. Some of the original meaning is lost along the way.

We decided to head to the hostel she had booked and I had nowhere to stay so I thought I would have a look at it too. She wanted to walk, which I was happy to do, but as usual everyone we asked for directions said it was impossibly far for anyone to walk (see day 23 of this post for walking and Asian culture).

In the end a nice member of the railway staff said we could get the number 35 bus (I have only just started using these and they are awesome and so cheap). So we flagged one down and paid 7 baht each. But even with my limited Thai is was crazily hard to explain where we wanted to go. A young Thai (19ish) helped us using her iPad but no one could really understand where they where going. I really can’t understand how they cannot know their own bus route and streets. My sense of direction isn’t brilliant but I do know what street I am going to in England. And I may be exaggerating but I do believe I have seen Thai people look out of the window (like I have been doing), see that they have gone past and then get out at the next stop and walk back. Like they don’t even remember their own home stop?

In the end the conductor gestured for us to get off and we walked in what we thought was the right direction. We asked many people and in the end we spoke to an awesome Thai lady (and her mother) who had lived in a England for a few years and spoke excellent English. She gave us directions and then a leaflet for some Christian Belief spread the word thing. I am using it as a bookmark.

Anyway we reached ‘Boxpackers’ which was her hostel and she checked in. It was 600 baht a night and I was being tight as I was hoping for nearer 400. We did stop for their continental buffet breakfast however, for about 150 baht which was alright.

Sijia messaged me and let me know where she was staying and did I want to join her. She was staying in a hostel called Glur Bangkok so I decide to go and meet her. I arranged to meet the Dutch girl tomorrow night before she left for China. I pointed out some good spots for her to visit in the city.

I got the Skytrain to station S6 ‘Saphan Taksin’ and walked the two minutes to Glur. Silja was not there but I asked and she had checked in earlier, so I did the same.

Glur Hostel advertises itself as a ‘new design hostel’ and there are a few like it in Bangkok. This new style dorm room features ‘pods’, which can be anything from complete pods, wooden or plastic enclosed boxes or just beds with curtains. It is a twist on the traditional dorm and I really like them. Glur is a mix of box and curtain, with three sides of the bed up against the wall and the front being a curtain, see picture.

The hostel is very narrow and on six floors: the reception which is also the coffee shop and restaurant, the common room floor, which features sofas, a breakfast bar and a common fridge, the next floor is the female dorm and is pink and also has its own name (I can’t remember), and then there is the shower floor, then the ‘tuk tuk’ the blue themed floor which is a mixed dorm, and finally there is ‘the pad thai’ a yellow themed floor that also hosts a mixed dorm.

The dorms are very nice with only 12 beds/pods in each room. You get given a key card which had a sticker on the back explaining the floors and a real key for the lock box under you bed. A very large roomy box and the beds at roomy too, even the single beds (upper is single and you can get two people in the lower bed), are very wide.

The only thing I didn’t like at first (I am used to it now, sneak peek, I have since gone back and stayed at Glur again) was the 18 degrees air con in the dorm rooms. For someone who has now adjusted to Thailand temperatures and has been living in a fan room for the last two weeks, it was too cold. But they supply duvets so it was ok.

The shared fridge is also awesome. There is a shelf of things you can buy, they are labeled with prices and then they add it too your bill (like a mini bar), the next shelf is included in the price of your dorm room, and has bread, jam, and soy milk in different flavours. The next shelf is labeled ‘foods not for shared’ (bad translation) and is where you put your own food, and then the top shelf is where you put food you don’t want any more and is a free for all. This is labeled ‘food for other travellers’.

Also included in the price is dried cereals and oats and instant coffee and iced water.

There is also a cabinet full of pens and tape, labelled something like ‘get your bag ready for the road’ and in one corner of the room there is a tub where you can put clothes, toiletries and travel gear you no longer need, for other people to take.

Anyway is is a nice place.

After a shower Silja appeared and said hi and updated me on what was going on. After she had a rest and I made use of the food in the common room, we met her friend Ryan (from Australia) in the reception. We got the Skytrain to the Victory Monument stop where there is a famous (well known really), Jazz bar called ‘The Saxophone‘.

It was nice and the music was good, although more blues style rendering of modern pop songs than jazz and the killer was the drinks were extremely expensive! And it was a bit like the sky bar (read day two in this post), as the place was so popular you couldn’t sit and take up space unless you were ordering drinks.

250 baht for a tiny Black Russian and it was all ice! The water was 90 baht for a tiny bottle. I not sure it was better than the Blues Bar that I went to a few weeks ago (on day ten).

The modern pod style hostel - Glur Bangkok

The modern pod style hostel – Glur Bangkok

Next up: days thirty-six and thirty-seven.

Previously: days thirty-two and thirty-three.