Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chiang Rai

We arrived in Chiang Rai early evening by bus from Chiang Mai. The ride was good, although we had our first Lonely Planet fail – since publication there has been a new bus terminal constructed, which is 7km out of town, instead of the 1 km out we thought we were. After trying to understand the TukTuk driver we finally made it to a guest house on the main strip. There wasn't a lot to see in Chiang Rai on arrival, and matters were made worse when we realised we'd left a camera, two hats and a pair of sunglasses on the bus. After a TukTuk ride back to the bus station, a confused conversation, we were finally taken to the bus depot to find that all our stuff was still on the bus!

Chiang Rai was just another city to us, so we decided to try a guest house run by the Akha Hill Tribe high up in the surrounding hills. We were so pleased we did as the place was amazing. We stayed in a bamboo hut overlooking green tea plantations and the surrounding jungle. At night the sounds of the insects, birds and other animals in the jungle were incredible. The guesthouse employs an honesty system in the common room. Each room has a notebook and you just hit the well stocked fridge as hard as you like, write down what you take and pay at the end. Nearby is a waterfall, and a hotspring. The ride up and down in the 4 wheel drive was pretty bumpy, but it made it feel like a real adventure. The guesthouse has won numerous awards, and part of their profits are donated to the local school where their kids are educated.

We left this morning and made our way up to Chiang Khong and crossed the border into Laos. Excited about a new country. The border crossing went smoothly and there was no mad rush like I'd been told about. We found a good guesthouse, ate some food, and I'm now sitting here next to the river peeling back a few Beerlao's. Tomorrow we make our way down to Luang Prabang on a 2 day slow boat. Should be interesting, hope its not packed too tightly...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chiang Mai

After our hectic time in Bangkok, we were stoked to arrive in Chiang Mai on a lovely night, to somewhere a little quieter. After trying a few guesthouses that had been recommended to us (with no luck), we managed to find our way to TK's Guesthouse. It looked a little dodgy at first but with little choice we stayed there for the night. It turned out that the owner (TK) had actually lived in NZ for about 6 years studying and working in Auckland. The staff were so helpful and right away pointed out the best things for us to do, without the hard sell on packaged tours that other guesthouses in Chiang Mai are famous for.Chiang Mai is a lovely city, built around a moated old town. There are numerous places to eat and drink on the cheap, and several night markets - the best being the Saturday and Sunday walking markets where there was definitely a lot more focus on food and handmade items than the Night Bazaar which was full of the same rubbish we saw all through Bangkok. The weekend markets were also attended by locals whereas the Night Bazaar was mainly tourists. The people of Chaing Mai also seem to be on less of a sell that those in Bangkok, and we seem to be able to get around without being hassled too much for “DVD, watch, bag, tuk tuk!”

On Sunday we decided to do a cooking course out on a farm, 20 km out of Chiang Mai. It was an incredible day and was cool to get out of the city and see how life is in a semi-rural area. We made an assortment of dishes ranging from curries, to noodle dishes and desserts. It was really cool to see how the different ingredients were grown and it gave us a greater understanding of what it was all about when we walked through the Sunday walking market and saw the same food and ingredients for sale.

Today we head further north to Chiang Rai, where we are getting ready to cross the border into Laos. We've heard so many good things about Laos and can't wait to get to somewhere even more relaxing. Its really starting to feel like we're on holiday now, and we are both absolutely loving it. Until next time...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


My impressions of Bangkok were not great. After heading to Shanghai last year Lizzie and I felt prepared for what a big Asian city was like – the busyness, dirtiness and constantly being harassed. Bangkok had all of that, and it was ok. What were weren't prepared for, but had heard about, were the sleazy undertones of the city.

There seemed to be a large amount of old white men with young Thai girls, which was disturbing enough until we saw an old white man with a young Thai boy who had a look on his face of complete resignation. That was just about it for us and we wandered a bit more and headed home for the night, also with the feeling of being a farang (foreigner) that we were taking advantage also.

We hit up a couple of temples and the Golden Buddha but without relevant knowledge we quickly got temple overload. Next time we'll get a guide. The tourist haunt of Koh-San Rd was good for a few beers, after which we took a walk down to the flower markets, which were incredible – so much colour!

Despite all its negatives, Bangkok really is a mind boggling city. Like any big Asian city it is not high rise, and consequently is huge. Driving in taxis for km's you still see the hustle and bustle, and the extraordinary large amounts of street food stalls – which is another thing about Bangkok – the people seem really enterprising, everyone sells something! And despite all of the haggling and blatant lying (the temple is closed, the temple is that way, as they try to get you to go on their tour) in the tourist areas, the people are really friendly and always give a wave, a smile and a sawadee (hello). After all, they are only trying to make their way in life, and you just can't get too annoyed or take it personally. Its something we will probably see a lot more of on this trip yet...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the Road

After an amazing last few weeks in NZ spending quality time with family and friends and soaking up the sun in the Coromandel, Hawkes Bay, Palmy North and Marlborough Sounds, we headed to Sydney for a quick stopover on the way to Asia. We had an awesome weekend – Sydney is a fantastic city and it really turned it on for us. A massive thanks must go to the lovely Jess for putting us up in her flat in Surry Hills for the weekend, and also to Tex, Paul, Olly, and Jo, all of whom it was sooo good to catch up with. We spent the weekend largely sifting around, eating good food, drinking, and enjoying the sun.

With both excitement and a little anxiousness we boarded our plane to Bangkok on Monday night. Contrary to what we'd been told, British Airways looked after us extremely well. Tired from a big weekend and the long flight we managed to find ourselves a fantastic taxi driver who got us to our hostel without any dramas at all. Baan Dinso, our hostel, is a beautifully renovated 1920's teak building down a quiet alley, close enough to the action but far enough away to give solace from the craziness of Bangkok when needed. We'll spend the next few days exploring, and hopefully have some snaps up in the next post.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Welcome to the Traveller(s) NZ, a blog about our travels en-route to Europe via SE Asia and China in 2010.

Here we hope to keep you abreast of our adventures through the odd post and photo about where we've been, what we've seen and the people we've met along the way.

We hope you enjoy it.

Aaron and Lizzie.