Car collection at Hertz Thailand (Sathorn)- THB5000 inclusive of insurance and GPS
Drove from Bangkok to Khao Yai, 4 hours including a stopover at Palio for lunch (MK Steamboat – THB600 for two). 3 highway tolls en route – THB50, THB10, THB55
From the Bangkok highways, we made our way towards Mitraparp Road and Thanarat Road. The map provided by the resort was very accurate and it was comforting to ‘check in’ with the various landmarks to ensure we were on the right path. There are 2 routes to get to Muthi Maya from Mitraparp Road, one of which is shorter and termed the Scenic route since it passes through the vineyard. We had planned to stopover at Palio for lunch, thus had give the scenic route a miss. We took the scenic route on Day 3 instead, on our way to the Grand Monte Vineyard. Continue reading Bangkok and Khao Yai, 6 days itinerary→
The junta has taken over Thailand. There will be nation-wide curfew from 10 pm to 4 am.
With a countdown of less than 10 days before our 5-days Drive and Golf adventure to the Land of Smiles, the news was a spoiler. Logically, we knew we should cancel our trip, since such situations are unpredictable and have the potential to escalate any moment. Yet we knew that through all the disturbing reports, a big part of Thailand was still safe and life goes on as normal. We were in Bangkok in February 2014, right in the heat of all the ongoing protests and eventual election. We witnessed the closing of a busy section of Sukhumvit Road by the protesters. We also witnessed how the closed-off section was alive with night markets, parties, and rock concerts. So we knew that this time, the military rule and curfew will not make us change course too.
Though we’ve traveled through a few parts of Thailand, this was our first attempt at driving in the country. Traffic in Bangkok is crazy. Handling directions was easy, since we’ve got the handy GPS. Maneuvering through the traffic was another matter. Inching through the jams patiently was yet another. After the successful management of the traffic in Thailand, it makes one wonder:
What are traffic rules for? During rush hours, the shoulder of the road may be taken as a lane. A four-lane highway can become a six-lane highway to accommodate more. Signaling is not to give ample notice that you have the intention to change lanes; signaling is to tell people ‘Hey, I’m changing lanes RIGHT NOW’. Rules… are meant to be broken.
Without a doubt, Bagan was our favourite destination during this 2-weeks adventure. Scampering up temple ruins (sometimes through tiny openings and corridors that makes one wonder about the size of the past-humans. Have we evolved that much?!) and witnessing the awakening of the Bagan plain during each sunrise are some highlights of this segment. At Bagan, it was also obvious that Myanmar is on its way to internationalisation – besides the throngs of tourists, we also came across a number of restaurants and cafes operated by foreigners.
From Mandalay to Bagan (Slow boat ride along the Ayeyarwaddy River)
We had planned to try the various modes of transportation as we travelled across Myanmar. It thus seemed logical to travel downstream the Ayeyarwaddy River, from Mandalay to Bagan. We were looking forward to a slow and exotic ride with the locals, produce, and whatever else that comes along. The slow boat operates from Mandalay every Wednesday and Sunday at 5 am, and costs US$15 per person. However, with YM’s food poisoning situation, we had to forgo the initial plan of hopping onto the junk boat.
Back at Kaung Wai Hotel in Mandalay, we had requested for the hotel receptionist to purchase the tourist boat tickets for us. We also arranged for a taxi to pick us up from the hotel at 4.30 am. We reached the RV Shwe Keinnery Jetty at 4.45 am, and were in time to see the loading of the local boat. With the aim of profiting as much as possible with each boat trip, there were no rules on maximum loading. Everyone and everything were pushed on board. It definitely would have made for an interesting adventure! Continue reading Bagan 5-days itinerary→
On hindsight, it was wise to have chosen the tourist boat, albeit the higher cost. The toilets came in very handy for YM who continued to suffer through bouts of diarrhoea and vomits. The cushioned indoor seats also meant that one can comfortably catch some winks during the journey.
The complimentary breakfast was a simple affair, consisting of bread and eggs. From the ala carte menu, one can find a comprehensive list of local fares, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and a variety of fruits.
The journey itself was smooth. As the boat drifted downstream, the two banks remained in view and we passed by several sand banks and local villages. Bagan emerged through the dust across the horizon, and the sun was beginning to set and glistened against the water. Disembarking from the boat, we stepped foot on the sands of the Bagan plains and were immediately greeted with overly enthusiastic horse carts owners hoping to clinch a deal.