Thai Royal Flag

Sightseeing Thailand
Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Chang Mai, Phuket

October-November 2008

Organized by, Slovenia

Duration: 16 days
Group size: 14
Tour guide: Damjana Račič

Map of Thailand

Ljubljana - Istanbul - Bangkok

Starting at Ljubljana airport on the way to Bangkok, out first stop was Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, Turkey. Getting there in the afternoon, we had a few hours to kill while waiting for a connecting night fligh to Thailand's capital.

We landed in Bangkok early in the afternoon local time. We were soaking in out first impressions of Thailand while driving from the airport to Bangkok downtown. We settled in the Twin Towers Hotel, had a few hours to rest, then gathered in the evening to check out the night life.

Driving from the Bangkok International Airport on the new highway to the hotel

The room was nice Performance at the hotel lobby

First evening in Bangkok, we visited a local street market. Lots of small shops to put our bargaining skills to the test, street vendors with delicious chicken kebabs.

Shortly after arriving, it started raining heavily

Sonja and myself took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel for the first time Video: Tuk-tuk ride
44.1 MB, 3:44


The second day in Bangkok, and we had some serious sightseeing to do in the city. There is a lot to see in Bangkok, and we had a full day ahead. The weather was still acting up in the morning, starting with heavy clouds turning in light presistent drizzle in the first few hours. Last evening's downpour still left plenty of water up there.

We started by visiting Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the main and most visited temple in Bangkok, located on the ground of the Royal Palace, and is regarded the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. The is a home to a 66-centimetre image of the meditating Buddha carved out of jade. Seated on a gilt altar and surrounded by other effigies, it is so precious no one else but the Thai King is allowed to touch it, and even then only to change its robes at the start of the summer, rainy, and winter seasons.

Entrance is the most photographed spot in Thailand

All around the complex is a long wall with very detailed paintings, depicting
the life of the Buddha and steps to enlightenment.

Crowd at the enterance to the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha

Each season it is
dressed differently
Dipping lotus buds in
water for luck.
Extreme mosaic details on the buildings

Wat Phra Kaew guards

Phra Mondop is a library built in Thai style by Rama I, bookcases containing the Tripitaka (sacred
Buddhist manuscripts), human- and dragon-headed nagas (snakes), and statues of Chakri kings.

Wat Phra Kaew is located at the Grand Palace

Royal Guards

Changing of the guards at the Grand Palace

Leaving Wat Phra Kaew, we walked to the nearby Chao Praya river and boarded a long-tail boat to take us driving for an hour or so through Bangkok's Canals, the Khlongs. Khlongs are often found on most major rivers in Thailand, forming communities living on the riverbanks. There can be seen some of the incredible contrasts in Bangkok, get an insight into how people live on the riverbank and see the city from water level. It's a very different world from the commercial centre.

Video: Tour on Khlongs 1
6.03 MB, 0:29

Khlong wildlife

At this temple, fish in the khlong are considered sacred and are well used to feeding.

Video: Tour on Khlongs 2
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Back on the Chao Praya Royal Navy headquarters,
Wat Arun rising behind

Disembarking on the pier right next to the temple, there was Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn, one of the Bangkok's oldest temples. The most attractive structure of Wat Arun is the center Khmer-style 79-meter high pagoda or Phra Prang decorated with sea shells and a mosaic of multi-colored Chinese porcelain. The outer four corners are Prangs which hold statues of Phra Phai (god of the wind). Buildings in the compound of Wat Arun house the monks, and some of them are used as small museum and library.

Returning to the east bank of the Chao Praya river taking the Chao Phraya River Express boat, we went for a short walk to one of the small street vendors for a well deserved lunch. Waiting for us not far away was the third major Bangkok's temple, Wat Pho, The Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Wat Pho is the largest Wat in Bangkok, as well as the oldest, dating in 200 years before Bangkok became Thailand's capital. It is mainly famous for the huge Reclining Buddha statue it houses. The highly impressive gold plated reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and is designed to illustrate the passing of the Buddha into nirvana. The feet and the eyes are engraved with mother-of-pearl decoration, and the feet also show the 108 auspicious characteristics of the true Buddha.

A detail of Buddha's feet Offerings

On the way back to the hotel in the afternoon, we have passed a small fruit market, a chance to experience and try some exotic Asian fruit you rarely have the chance to see at home.

Exotic fruits on stands - dragon fruit, papaya, jackfruit, pomelo, baby bananas, star fruit... The most exotic of them all, apples.

Driving to Kanchanaburi

The next day, we are driving to Kanchanaburi, a small town 150 km west of Bangkok and bordering Myanmar (Burma), the location of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai. On route and back will will be stopping at several other locations, including the Maeklong Market built in the middle of the railway, the Tiger Temple, and one of the most beautiful Thai floating markets Dumnoen Saduak, Ratchaburi Province. It's another long day ahead.

Leaving Bangkok
The first short stop is at the Maeklong Market. It's a market like any other, but with a touch...'s build right on an operating railway, with train passing through several times a day. When train approaches...

...they pack away their stands within minute, clearing the way. Video: Train approaches
12.4 MB, 1:03
Video: Train passing
6.34 MB, 0:27

The next stop on route to the floating market is at the Coconut Sugar Farm by the road, also featuring an orchid farm.

This is how they make palm sugar from coconut flowers, and we got to taste some.

Palm oil is used
in cosmetics
Orchids were just asking to be photographed up close.

Finally we are getting to the most famous floating market in Bangkok, Dumnoen Saduak Floating Market. According to history, around 1866 King Rama IV ordered that a 32 kms long canal be dug at Damnoen Saduak. This canal would connect the Mae Klong River with the Tacheen River, providing a transportation route for goods to Bangkok. Most people live densely along both sides of the canal from one end of the canal to another. The majority are agriculturists, grow several different kinds of fruit and vegetable, for examples oranges, grapes, papayas, cabbages, bean, onion and etc.
As it is floating, you get there by taking a boat. We boarded a long speedboat some distance away, and first got to enjoy the local scenery while driving to the market through the many canals.

Long speedboats transporting tourists to the market

Midday past already, we were heading to the Tiger Temple. On the way, we made a quick stop at one of the larger teakwood carving shops by the road.

Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, is a Buddhist temple in Western Thailand which keeps numerous animals, among them several tigers that can be petted by visitors. According to the abbot and others associated with the temple, in 1999 the temple received the first tiger cub, it had been found by villagers. Over time. several tiger cubs were given to the temple, typically when the mothers had been killed by poachers. As of 2007, over 21 cubs have been born at the temple and the total number of tigers is about 12 adult tigers and 4 cubs.
Tigers are fed with cooked chichen to avoid giving the tigers a taste for blood. The temple is making considerable income by charging visitors for photo opportunities with the tigers.

Monks and volunteers are taking care of tigers Robert trying not to look like a cooked chicken

Sonja with the tigers

Pigs and piglets running around the sanctuary

There are several small tiger cubs brought out and available for petting

Late in the afternoon, in dying light, me just made it to the final destination of the day, the town of Kanchanaburi with the (in)famous Bridge on the river Kwai. It gained notoriety during World War II when the Japanese needed a railway connecting Bangkok with Rangoon in preparation for an invasion of India. Work started on what has become known as ‘The Death Railway’ in October 1942 and was completed in December 1943. In that short space of time more than 13,000 Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war lost their lives. It was also a main target for the allied forces, as the Japanese wanted to use it to transport there supplies, and the railway was therefore bombed several times.
A novel and one of the best Hollywood movies of all times The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) both tell the story of building this bridge.

A well known silhuette of the Kwai bridge in the evening light Sonja and Jen,
our local guide

You can cross the bridge, and look at it up close

The bridge is still in use, a train crosses it about once an hour

Kanchanaburi War Cemetary, with more than 6900 prisoners of war victims associated with the Burma railway,
mostly British and Dutch

We returned to Bangkok in dark of the evening. Altough tired, this was the last night we would have in Bangkok, and we went out to explore some more. We visited Patpong, the notorious red-light district, with plenty of barganing opportunities at street stands and night bazaar, did some souveneer shopping, had a nice late dinner at a small restaurant nearby...

Bangkok - Chang Mai

We were leaving humid Bangkok, and flying to the north of Thailand, looking forward to a more moderate climate. Chang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, although a lot smaller than metropolitan Bangkok. In the heat of the summer in Bangkok, it's a popular refuge of many wealthier Thai. Chang Mai has over 800 years of history, city centre feauturing a defensive wall and a moat. It's located among some of the highest mountains in the country, and has a beautiful nature readily accessible all around it.

Leaving Bangkok, the view from our hotel room in the morning

Our baggage gets loaded Taking off in Bangkok

It was a beatiful day for flying, as we got good seats for taking photos all the way to Chang Mai

Descening to Chang Mai, vegetation gets thicker and greener

We settled in the Pornping Tower Hotel, located just next to the Kalare Night Bazaar, and in walking distance from city center. We checked out the night bazaar in the evening.

Map of Chang Mai

Kalare Food Court, fast foof Thai style
Entertainment in the evenings

Kalare Food Court, fast foof Thai style Sonja bargaining
for old coins

Chang Mai

The next morning we started the day by driving to Doi Suthep, a mountain about 15 kilometers from Chiang Mai, with on it Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, a Holy Buddhist Temple.
The temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most revered temples in Chiang Mai, as well as in Thailand. According to the legend of its founding legend, a Buddha relic was placed on the back of a sacred white elephant, which was allowed to roam whereever it wanted. The elephant climbed to the top of Suthep Mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down and died. This was taken as a sign that this was the spot where the relic wanted to be, so King Ku Na built the original of the chedi on Doi Suthep at the end of 14th century.

Map of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

There are about 300 steps to climb, with two dragons
on the side all the way
An old jackfruit tree

The white elephant Good luck will come to the visitor who strikes the series of bells

Golden painted pagoda (chedi), one of the
most sacred in all Thailand, is ongoing restoration

Descending the dragon stairs back down to the road

Returning late in the morning from the Doi Suthep back towards Chang Mai is the Chang Mai Zoo. We made a quick stop, just for a couple of hours, far too little to properly explore enjoy all the animals, just enough for a quick tour through the most attractive areas. They are quite proud of their panda, thanks to Chang Mai's Chinese sister city Kunming, and you can also find koalas, monkeys, tigers, a rino, penguins, losts of birds and lizards,...

The next stop after the zoo was one of Chang Mai's most famous tourist shopping destinations, the Silk Village. As the name states, this is a series of handicraft shops and manufactoring plants producing an original Thai silk, commonly in a traditional fashion on a loom.

Traditional looms Silk worms, remains These are fresher

Worms making silk cocoons. They get boiled with worms still inside, so the delicate silk thread isn't cut.

Extracting thread from cocoon Weaving fabric, interleaving silk thread dyed in different colors.

Pottery shop, using different kinds of finish, like handpainting and sticking golden leaves

Gems extravaganza How paper is made

They also make beutiful hand-made umbrellas from split and bound wood and paper

Wood carving, breathtaking as always

Further down the road, already in late afternoon, was the last destination for the day, San Kamphaeng Hot Springs. Famous for hot geysers, mineral baths and gardens that make a pleasant setting for relaxation.

A beautiful green park, perfect for slow walking

The main hot geyser. They have eggs ready if you want to boil them.

Soaking tired feet in a warm, slighly sulphury water

We also took a swim in the swimming pool with warm,
milky spa water


One of the highlights of visiting Thailand came next, a two-days trekking trip in the hills and mountains of the northern Thailand, bordering Mjanmar (Burma). We were looking forward to walking in clean air and unspoiled nature, experience the real jungle from up close and spend the night in one the the hilltribe villages, among Lahu people. In addition, we have other activities to look forward to during the trek, including elephant riding, and rafting.

Leaving Chang Mai in the morning, we had one and a half hour drive to the north ahead, to the trek starting location. On the way, we have stopped on a local market for our guides to shop for needed supplies.

Crammed in a small, open truck, I was taking photos from the back as we went

On the Thai roads, leaving Chang Mai and driving north A quick stop

A small local market where we stopped for supplies

A monk on a Honda A family comes shopping

Soon we turned off the main road, the ride became bumpier, and countryside greener

We arrived at a small camp base to have lunch, before we hit on the trek. We were a bit early though, and the plan was adjusted quickly - elephant riding comes first. We split in pairs, and each got assigned an elephant with a guide. They have special ramps prepared, so it's easy to get on and off an elephant, although you are sitting quite high of the ground.

Having climbed down from the elephants, we had our lunch and started to walk. The plan was to hike for about 4 hours, passing a waterfall, and the destination for the day was a Lahu hillltribe village, where we would have dinner, chat with the locals, and spend the night in one of the guesthouses they have in the village.

Having lunch Local guide made us
bamboo walking sticks
...and off we went

Rice fields Guide is showing us local plants on the way, one has reddish milk and is
used as a dye, the other is soapish inside, and you can blow bubbles
Banana tree

Entering the forest, the first part of the trek is fairly level A big, poisonus spider

There were lots of streams to cross, and walking was generally quite pleasant

Termites It's early afternoon, not too hot, but quite humid in the forest...

The first stop after two hours by the waterfall... ...just to get us ready for the last, exhausting part

The path turns steeply uphill as we enter the hills, and we were biting our knees for the next two hours

Finally, a welcome sight of wooden houses, at the last stretch of steep fields to cross

Entering the village Playful children

A view on the village and surrounding hills from the guesthouse's patio

Having had a shower and change of clothes, long walk is quickly forgotten Most of the village visits us, and we
get a thai massage

They prepare a delicious local style dinner for us, followed by mingling by candlelights on the patio outside late in the night

We woke up to a calm morning, got ourself cleaned up and had a nice breakfast, prepared by our friendly guide. The plan for the day was to leave the village, descend the hill on the other side down to the river, where we would go rafting before return to Chang Mai in late afternoon.

The sun is slowly lighting up the countryside

Preparing breakfast Toast, eggs,
and fresh ananas

Little miss in
nice shoes
School, abandonded for
the lack of teachers
Over there is Myanmar

A nice path through the forest...

...quickly gets steeper, wet, and slippery

Some two hours later, we finally descend to the valley and reach the waterfall

Time for a shower and welcome rest Golden sand We follow the river, crossing it in many different ways

The last half an hour was easier to walk, and we ended our trekking trip in the rafting base camp

While we were waiting to go rafting, some have dozed off in peace of a comfortabe shadow. The same location was also a starting point of elephant trekking, and there were quite a few elephants standing around.

We are going down there

Elephants welcoming small treats

Now that's a big...
Our boats are here,
time to go

There are no photos of the rafting itself, for obvious reasons. It was fun, wet, and not too difficult. After a quick shower and change of sogging clothes we had a lunch, then climbed back on the small truck for the drive home.

For the final part we were on bamboo rafts Lunch time Our young guides
from the trekking

On the way back to Chang Mai, we have stopped at a local village for a quick walk-through

Driving back to Chang Mai

Free day in Chang Mai

The day after the trekking was a free day, as well as the last day in Chang Mai. Some used to rest and recuperate while most went out on individual trips, or just enjoyed sightseening the pleasant city. Sonja and myself chose to get to know Chang Mai better, spending most of the day just walking around.

Map of Chang Mai

Kalare Food Court,
deserted in the morning
Walking west towards the center of the city Crossing a small khlong

Reaching the ditch protecting the old Chang Mai

We walked up to the Wat Chedi Luang, a historic Buddhist temple in the center of the city. The temple features one of the largest buildings of the 14th century at the time, and was partically collapsed by an earthquake 100 years later. Until then, the temple used to house the Emerald Buddha, we have seen in Bangkok's main temple, Wat Phra Kaew.

Pavilion housing a
reclining buddha statue

We continued to the south-west, passing smaller temples. At that time it started raining heavily, and we took a refuge in a small bar with internet available, having some icecream while waiting, and checking out what's new back at home.

In the south-western corner of the old city walls is the Nong Buak Hat, a very well-kept little public park which is great for tai-chi or reading a book on the pleasant lawns.

Entrance to the park

You can buy some fishfood at the entrance, and feed the fat fish in the pond

Stepping outside of the park, we waved down a songthaew, a small red truck, and took a 10 minutes ride to the northern part of the old city, to the Wat Chiang Man temple.

In the evening we are back on the Kalare Night Bazaar, packed with boutiques, stalls, cheap restaurants, and a beer garden featuring nightly performances of traditional Thai dances. It's the last night in Chang Mai, and the last chance for some shopping and bargaining before we proceed to Phuket.

Night bazaar entrance There are some really amazing artists to be found there, the best
photo realistic drawing we've ever seen

Every evening at the food court, live entartainment presents traditional and more modern Thai dancing.

Flying to Phuket

The next morning we left Northern Thailand, said goodbye to a pleasant Chang Mai, and flew back to Bangkok to proceed to the Thai south, the island of Phuket. Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, also known as the 'Pearl of the South'. Because of beautiful beaches and sea, renouned nightlife and nice weather, Phuket becomes one of the top places in Thailand that travelers choose to go. This island was also among the hardest struck locations of the December 2004 tsunami disaster, suffering 279 casualties and massive infrastructure damage, consequences still visible to this date.

Leaving the Pornping hotel We flew back to Bangkok, and waited there for a connecting flight to the sea side

The last part of the Thailand trip was meant for relaxation on the beach, and Phuket is perfect for just that. Long sandy beaches, beach-side activities, nice hotels and plenty of trips and excursions available. You can do as much, or as little as you want. Were were staying at the Kamala Beach Hotel, on the Kamala beach. Quite a nice place, with a two pools and the sea right next to it.

The second day on Phuket was reserved for a whole-day trip to the Phi Phi Island. A shuttle service picked as up at the hotel in the morning, and we drove across the island to the Phuket Town, the largest city on Phuket. A boat would take us sightseeing by many islands, amazing beaches, and with frequent stops for snorkling and swimming. After lunch and some free time for activities on Phi Phi we would be returned to Phuket and back to our hotel.

The last several days on Phuket were free to enjoy the beach, sunbathe by hotel's pool, slurping cocktails, and relax as we please. Sonja did have an unpleasant encounter with a jelly fish that turned out to be a nasty one, putting her in bed sick with a fever for two days. Luckily, it passed before we had to depart Thailand, and we still managed to squeeze in renting two jet skis for some fast driving while exploring nearby bays from the sea side...

The time has come to leave Phuket, Thailand, and return home. Again, it was to be a long jurney, changing three flights, meaning a lot of airport time. First we flew back to Bangkok, catch a night flight to Istanbul, and back to the Ljubljana Airport.

Taking the last few photos of the island while driving to the Phuket airport A long wait in Bangkok

Nothing much better to do in Istanbul either, counting hours to flight back to Ljubljana and photographing planes outside