We've just returned from a wonderful 3 weeks in Thailand, and whilst I've still got the taste of Pad Thai noodles on my taste buds I thought I'd better write 'my journal'.

This was the 1st proper family holiday we've had since Lula was born, and I must say it turned out to be the perfect desitintion for travelling with a 4 year old - no jabs or worries of malaria for starters, safe & lots of easy food options. I just hope she remembers it, even just a little bit. Maybe she'll read this in years to come & it will spark a memory or two!

So our travels started in Bangkok. After a rather long, but comfortable (thanks Emirates), flight via Dubai, we arrived at our destination.
New Siam II Guesthouse, the hotel we stayed at became our base inbetween travels whilst we were in Thailand. It was perfect for our needs; a triple room, private bathroom & air con (an absolute must!), over looking the pool. Perfectly located, only a 5 min stroll to the ferry taxi pier, 10 mins to Khaosan Rd & next door to a row of lovely quaint coffee shops (including a Parisian styled, gorgeous bakery The White Story which in a moment of holiday romanticism, whilst eating a custard danish, I envisaged us running - me selling Warrens fresh bread & pastries!)

Anyway, back to our 1st night in this exciting city. Not wanting to lose 1 moment of valuable holiday time, we had a quick swim at the hotel to freshen up & headed off to find one of the night markets I'd read about : Rathada Ladphrao (apparently Bangkoks hipster night market - perfect for us then!!). Turned out that this wasn't quite as simple as I'd hoped; after a long Tuk Tuk ride to the opposite side of town & hanging around lost for a while, we realised that there are a lot of street stalls - everywhere! So working out if this was the one we were looking for was tricky. Eventually it turned out, that the market in question had moved location & had joined forces with another night market, Rot Fai which was also on the agenda to visit! So after a further 2 stops on the underground and a 15 min stroll (now dark & carrying hot, sleepy 4 yr old) we found the combined hipster/vintage/night markets and killed 2 birds with one stone 

Was worth the mission. It's like a car boot sale, but really big, in the dark & a lot trendier! People selling their treasures & collectibles out of cars or on the ground; everything from quirky kitsch, retro furniture, 50's memorabilia, & vintage clothing all interspered with cool pop-up bars and stalls of steaming take-away dishes & sweet treats. Too much to take in really in such a weary state & we didn't rummage too much in case we found some retro treasure we wouldn't be able to squeeze in our suitcase & would regret forever. I'd have loved to have hung out longer - it was getting really busy with all the cool kids meeting up and it looked like a great night spot for a casual hang out.
So for anyone going to Bangkok, Rot Fai Night Market is highly recommended. It's only at weekends after 5pm & is a short distance from Ladphrao Station.

Eye candy galore

Pop Up Bars in coverted VW vans

Vintage shoes/clothing
Loads of yummy eating options

Interesting goodies everywhere

The other hot shopping spot we loved was Platinum Mall. Unlike MBK shopping Mall, that we didn't find particularly inspiring & was a bit repetitive (just as an aside, MBK is an all inclusive mall with floors dedicated to jewelery, electronics, phones, food halls, cinemas etc, but from a fashion/kids wear perspective, we found it wasn't great), Platinum Mall is 6 MASSIVE floors dedicated to Fashion - split in to Women's, Mens, Kids & Accessories. It's insane & amazing. You have to totally immerse yourself in the abundance of clothes on offer & try not to get too overwhelmed! It's all at wholesale prices with the average item being Bht 200- 350 (for dresses etc), and the rule here is if you buy 3 or more you get further discounts. The incredible thing was that despite how vast this mall is, and the number of stalls in it, the pieces are nearly all once off's. So much variety. Brilliant. We could have spent a couple of days in there! Bring cash, comfy shoes & a big bag! Lush.

We spent quite a bit of time wondering around Khaosan Road due to it's proximity to our hotel. I actually enjoyed it despite it being full of bars, tour operators & every traveller that comes through Thailand. We enjoyed it for cheap Pad Thai noodles, massages & t-shirts. The only bad experience I had here was my attempt at comissioning some custom designed dresses. If you're looking for 'fashion' pieces, be cautious, I think a lot of them are great at classic tailoring, but when it comes to designer looks, in my experience, they over-charged, over-promised, the processs was frustrating & the end result was extremely disappointing. So avoid Amit Fashion (67 Khao San Rd), I went there based on a website listing but only discovered once I arrived home & looked them up, that I'm not the 1st to have had a terrible experience with them. But that was the only negative aspect of our trip, so, moving on...
Khao San Rd

We wanted the holiday to be a mixture of city & shopping, culture & sight seeing, island & beach, so we chose just a couple of the most famous temples to see to avoid getting bogged down with too much walking in the city in the heat.

We visited Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), What Po (Reclining Budha) & The Grand Palace (and Emerald buddha). It worked out great as they were all quite close to our hotel & each other. One morning we took the early river ferry from Phra Athit, down the Chao Phraya River, a couple of 'stops' to Tha Rachini. It was a lovely way to travel, to see the Rama VIII suspension bridge behind us & high rise buildings of the city in front for just 10 BHT each. We climbed the steep steps of Wat Arun with some intrepidation, but it was well worth it for the view & to marvel at how on earth they actually built & decorated these places at such heights. From there, we hopped back across the river & took a short stroll to The Grand Palace. This was very busy by this point (mid morning) with lots of tour groups & it was a bit much in the full heat. But it felt very special to be there & experience the splendour, glitzy architecture & significance of the place - Thailands most sacred site. Here as well is where the most important of all Buddha's lives, The Emerald Buddha (actually carved out of a solid piece of Jade and discovered in the early 15th century). A must see, but go early to avoid the heat & crowds.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Grand Palace

Topiary at The Grand Palace (that look like they belong in a Mr Men book!)

Wat Po (Reclining Buddha)

With visitied Wat Po on a different morning, and again, add it to your 'to do' list. It's enormous! It's the largest temple in Bangkok & is famed for it's 46m long, magestic reclining Buddha covered in shiny gold leaf with giant toes beautifully adorned with Mother of pearl.

In all, we loved Bangkok. The juxtaposition of ancient & new; the rich tapestry of electrical wires, signage, architecture & people. It got a big thumbs up from us.
I love cities. The layers. The grit. The whole package.


From Bangkok we hired an air con Mini bus & driver (2500 Bhat) and headed south to Amphawa. We later discovered, on our return to Bangkok that we could do the same journey, by bus, for 200 Bhat for all 3 of us! But we wanted to stop at the Salt Fields on the way, & get door to door service so it was fine.
We're so glad we went there - Thai people flock there at weekends to relax & visit the floating market on the Amphawa canal. There's such a  relaxed, friendly atmosphere as people walk around the waterfront walkways, stopping to eat in front of the old wooden shop fronts. There's so much delicious sea food on offer & most of the dishes are prepared  in the long boats & then lifted up to hungry customers on the banks. In the evening we hired our own long boat for 800 Bht to take us from our room, to a restaurant where we enjoyed the most incrdeble crab yellow curry, and then once it was dark, he took us down the little canals to see the enchanting fire flies which lula just LOVED!

Amphawa River Market

Our accommodation, Chotika Riverfront,  was serene & beautiful, from the monks silently paddling down the river in the early morning collecting alms, to the rise & fall of the tide & watching local children collecting crabs in the muddy shallows & our wonderfully helpful & informative host.

Chotika Riverfront

The salt farms are fascinating to see - I can't imagine a harsher set of working conditions. The couple we met there were so happy to see us (well, Lula!) despite the midday heat & glare of the sun against the piles of salt they were shovelling in to sacks ready for market.
Was a great stop to get some nice photo's.


We went in to the little town one evening to watch the sunset from one of the canal bridges and to sample some of the treats and snacks available from the street vendors. All the kids were queuing at one pancake stall so lula eagerly joined them with her 10 baht coin, but was less than impressed when the lady cracked a quails egg on to it, sliced a bit of dubious looking sausage on top of that and then finished it off with some torn up crab stick - she had one micro bite and said she'd "had enough thanks". Was a bit like my reaction to our dinner choice at the 'Romance Restaurant' - I thought I'd try the razor clams, but they were a bit like chewing gritty worms tossed in pepper corns and chilli. The calamari we ordered was pretty pungent and rubbery too. Not our best meal (or choice of meal let's say!).

There's a wonderful floating market, Dumneon Floating Market,  that doesn't feel too commercialised. Although don't get me wrong, it is definately skewed towards the tourists, but maybe it's because there's not many Westerners there it doesn't feel too contrived & you can still get beautiful photogarphs of the local traders selling their goods & cooking interesting dishes.


After a look around there, we took our Tuk Tuk to a unique little temple called Wat Kai Bang Kung. The whole temple is engulfed in fig trees. I have no idea how old it is but it must be ancient, you'd hardly know the temple was actually there at 1st look. 
There was golf leaf floating down like snow inside from the draft through the open air windows & I was a bit embarrassed to discover lula shoving bits of the sparkly buddha in her pockets - but she does have a thing for glittery things! 
Bang Kung Camp next to the temple has an interesting display of kick boxers showing their muay thai moves (statues!).

Bang Kung Camp
Before heading back to Bangkok, we took a walk through the Railway Market. Another great photographic opportunity. Fish, meat, vegetables, fruit & spices cling to the sides of tracks & you shimmy down the middle under the low awnings. As we walked under these low tarpaulins & wriggled down the tracks, we couldn't believe that the line could still be in use, but the sound of a the horn soon dispelled that theory as people leapt out of the way, pulling down the canopy's  as the colossal thing trudged by, inches from where the goods were displayed. 

3 nights is perfect here in Amphawa,  but make sure that it falls over the weekend to enjoy the weekend river market.

It was actually while we were in Amphawa that I began to notice all the hanging plants outside houses & restaurants.  It never occurred to me that vertical gardens & floating creepers had to have originated somewhere. I just saw them become popular on Pinterest & then loved the 'delicious monster' hanging plants that Opus creates. Anyway, maybe it all started in Thailand? They were everywhere & looked so at home there. But I think I'll do a separate post on that.

A short stay back in Bangkok, & then it was off to Krabi ( quick 2 hr flight with Air Asia) & on to Koh Lanta.

Our home for the following 9 days was Sayang Bungalows on Pra Ae (Long) Beach. The perfect setting & 'island life' at it's best. Our bungalow was set in a tropical garden; home to birds, frogs & a  great variety of crabs. It was relaxed, there was yummy breakfast spread every morning & the best bit...our toes could be in the warm water, literally 80 steps from our bed (yes I counted!)

The beach was lovely - clean, not too busy & great for swimming. There were sun loungers under shady trees, & from there we watched a pair of eagles (we came to know as Eddy & wife) encourage their chicks to flock the nest. And massage tables set up were wonderfully convenient for a Thai massage for only 300 Bht for 1 hr

Thai massage on the beach
The only thing was, that unless we arranged a motor bike for the day, we were slightly restricted to eating at the restaurants on our beach. It was a bit more expensive that in town, but convenient & vast menu's. Our local became Thai Cat - great food, lovely owner Delok & perfect spot to spend evenings on the raised platforms, watching the sun go down sipping on watermelon shakes. The average dinner we found in general was about 700 Bht for the 3 of us (no alcohol included which was surprisingly pricey - in Rand terms!)
All the restaurants are decorated with the biggest election of led lights making every night festive. 

We had such fun on the motorbike. The roads were pretty quiet & in very good condition so there were no worries with the 3 of us piling on together, and for only 300 Bht per day it allowed us the freedom to explore other beaches, head down to Saladan market to do more shopping (Haviannas for 130 Bht, t-shirts, Thai jumpsuits (for me & Lula), sarongs/ scarves 100 Bht etc) & to enjoy the street food in town. 
The Saturday & Tuesday market was also great for photo's and delicious snacks.
Thai stick snacks for 10 BHT each
My birthday was one of the best days of the whole holiday! And I could even go as far as saying one of the best birthdays EVER! We hired a car & set off the South Peninsula, the views becoming more & more beautiful the closer to the National Park we got.
After climbing the lighthouse, marvelling at the visibility of crystal blue waters below we snorkeled on our 'private' beach! On the one side is the rocky beach where we snorkelled & on the other, the most picturesque, desserted Island Paradise. A stretch of white sands surrounded by natural rainforest & not another person in sight. We walked & swam, just the 3 of us, singing ColdPlays "Paradise" and savouring every moment of the incredibly special family moment. (Insert floaty heart bubbles!)

The National Park (Rocky Beach & Sandy Beach!)

We then headed to Same Same But Different for lunch in Kantiang Bay. How many other words are there for INCREDIBLE & AMAZING!! The location, the decor, the food...just perfect. It was quite a pricey lunch @ 1300 Bht but was so, so worth it . 

Diamond Cliff  @ Klongnin Beach was the the next stop for a refreshing drink from the look out point. More beautiful horizons & postcard scenes.

If your budget can stretch to it, an afternoon @ 5* Rawi Warin is recommended! Located in Klong Tob Bay it is super splinky & lush!  Lily pad filled ponds, tropical gardens & cascading waterfalls.  I felt very spoilt & special when Warren pulled in the grounds & surprised me with a spa booking <3. So relaxing & a luxurious setting to get your nails painted!

After that there was still time for a drive across to the Eastern side of the island, to Lanta Old Town for a quick photo. It's very small so it doesn't take long to capture the very obvious chinese influence, and then further down to Sangka Ou, the Sea Gypsie village & unique community who reside there. 


Old Town
Sangka Ou

The cherry on top & the perfect ending to a perfect day was a romantic sunset @ Klapaklum, Klong Khong Beach.

Kantiaang Bay was so idyllic that we returned there on another day on the little motorbike we rented. Drunken Sailors Coffee shop is a must & the perfect place to relax in a hammock, sipping on an iced tea watching life drift by.

There was a "dive & relax" office in our resort so we booked a morning of snorkelling with them. It was 1900 Bhat pp & 800 Bhat for Lula for the trip to Ko Ha. Such a beautiful, underwater world there for us to take in & lula had the cutest mini set of flippers & snorkel & loved bobbing around in the warm crystal-clear waters. We saw colorful Parrot Fish, Angel Fish, Potato Fish, Star Fish, Moray eel, corals, sea slugs & lots, lots more. 
Foodie Tip. Order "Cat Bhla Neung Man Ou" . Delicious. We had it @ Saladan Sea Food Restaurant (one of the many harbour restaurants built on stilts in the main part of town.  I think it was sea mackerel in lemon, garlic, chilli sauce (I hope I've spelt it correct & you don't end up with pickled snake!) I'd have never chosen that independently off the menu, so was really pleased that I ordrered it. 

So that's it!
3 weeks felt like the perfect time to fully relax & enjoy Thai life & our itinerary worked out great. The mix of city & island worked perfectly for us & I'd recommend it to anyone! March was a great time to visit - not too crowded but not in a state of 'closing down' either, and compared to our South African sun, it was hot but not as fierce & burny.

Time to start planning the next trip....New York, New York I hope!

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