A Travellerspoint blog

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27 Hours in Korea

on a cold winter's day

sunny 32 °F

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Seoul from the roof of the Vabien II Hotel

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My excellent Goodwill Guide, Doochull Kim

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That's me at the Gyeongbokgung Palace

Arrived in Seoul on Feb 19th, had a little difficulty working Korean ATM's (the keyboard was all numeric), and then hopped on the #6005 limousine from Incheon Airport down to the Vabien II Hotel in the center of town. A great room for $85. on the 19th floor, went to the roof to take some pictures, and went down to the street to experience Seoul at night. It was a short walk, almost no signs in English, and the one restaurant I went into was too hot to stay there to eat. I picked up a snack at the 7/11 in the hotel, went upstairs, ate, and turned it for the night. Next morning, I paid 12,000 KRW in advance for the breakfast buffet at the hotel, stuffed myself silly, checked my pack at the desk, and turned around in the lobby to see Doochull Kim, my Goodwill Guide, waiting for me (he was 1/2 hour early). I knew it was him because we had exchanged pictures, and we set about seeing the center of Seoul in the bitter cold. After taking the subway to the palace (correct name to be entered later), freezing in the cold wind, we saw the extensive grounds, and started walking around Isadong in search of a Pork BBQ place for lunch. Isadong is a tourist mecca for the arts of Seoul. We found a great place to eat, and feasted on the pork wrapped in lettuce with several spicy side dishes. It was over much too fast, and soon it was time to return to Incheon, but not before Doochull treated me to coffee drinks twice (guides are supposed to be free, but this was ridiculous - he was treating me!) Time for Thailand, but not before a little incident at the airport. Asiana has a coat check service for folks like me heading to the tropics who transit through Korea. I handed over my jacket and gloves only to have them returned to me. I was not returning until March 18th, and the airline only provided the service through 3/15. I voiced my displeasure loudly, tried to abandon the jacket on the spot - only to have the agent chase me down the terminal for 10 minutes.

On to Thailand...

Posted by Daawgon 14:53 Archived in South Korea Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

My weekend in Bangkok

a very very very warm intro

sunny 95 °F

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Khao San Road pad thai vendor

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Khao San Road Cafe - A backpacker haven with excellent food

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Selling puppies at the Chatuchak Weekend Market

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American politics sells in Bangkok too - T-shirts for sale

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Delicious fresh coconut ice cream at Chatuchak Market

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Main street of Bangkok's Chinatown

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One of several Gold Stores in Bangkok's Chinatown

Smooth sailing through Bangkok Airport and into a cab to the Baan Dinso Boutique Hostel, where I was warmly greeted by name, and shown my second floor room (a rather small single, but cozy). I was in bed within the hour - it was about 1:30AM. Up with the sun, and breakfast on the patio at 7:15 - a very generous tray of fruit, pastry, cereal and coffee. Next it was time to explore the infamous Khao San Road backpacker ghetto in the blazing Bangkok sun, and the shock of going from Siberian Korea to the SE Asian tropics was painful! I stopped for a good lunch of noodles and fruit shake, came home and took a siesta with eyeshades. That was Saturday, and today, Sunday, I also got up very early, came down to the hostel's computer room, and started this blog with the Seoul entry. Later, after another great breakfast, I went by Tuk Tuk to the Chatachak Weekend Market. What a market - everything under the sun (makes Portland's Saturday Market look rather pale), plenty to eat, and plenty to buy. They even have live animals (some rather exotic) for sale as pets (no, Thais do not eat dog or cat meat). Then on to Bangkok's Chinatown by subway via Hua Lampong RR Station, and another surprise - this Chinatown is at least twice the size of San Francisco's CT, and extremely busy on a Sunday morning. My feet gave out then, and I tuk tuked back to Baan Dinso for a rest and this blog update. It's easy to see why this is such a popular tourist destination, and even though the size of Bangkok is overwhelming, the variety of things to buy, the graciousness of the Thai people, and the spectacular Thai cuisine make this a unique and special place.

Posted by Daawgon 00:52 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The Baan Dinso

a Boutique Hostel like no other

sunny 85 °F

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The lobby of the hostel is something special

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My friend Kong on the front porch - a hard working guy, aka King Kong

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Two very important people at the Baan Dinso - Mam and Ple

I could not continue in this blog, without mentioning a very special place. The hostel is a small, unpretentious accommodation in Pranakorn, Bangkok (the Old City), where the guests are treated like family, fed like kings, and the whole atmosphere is wonderful and relaxing. This would have to be the highlight of my stay in Bangkok - a city of many millions, pink taxis, and outstanding individuals (did I forget fantastic food!)

Posted by Daawgon 16:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sightseeing Bangkok

Chao Phraya river cruise and getting lost in Sukhumvit

sunny 95 °F

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Aboard the Chao Phraya Express

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5 Star accommodations along the Chao Phraya

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Bangkok's Skytrain - the BTS

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Up with the birds to beat the heat, breakfast on the patio of Baan Dinso, and off to see Bangkok. I discovered that cabs here are just as cheap as tuk tuks, they come only in bright shades of pink, red, yellow and green, but mostly pink - the Toyota Corolla is the cab of choice. I bought my day pass on the BTS Skytrain, and was off to Central Pier to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat and see Bangkok by water. Very few slums here - such a prosperous town, and the architecture is magnificent (I think half of Thailand must be employed decorating temples and office towers with that unique Thai flair.) I did the entire river from Central Pier to the extreme northern boundary of the city, and saw that this boat was also used by residents just like a bus. The whole trip took almost 90 minutes, and by that time, I was glad to set foot on dry land. Next, on to Sukhumvit by Skytrain, and to find that Indian restaurant that I read about in one of the guide books. I got off at Phrom Phong since it was near Soi 35, but the address I had (#2 Soi 35) was nowhere to be found (I must have walked around the area for a good 45 minutes in the sweltering mid-day sun (all the while sweating as no other farang could). I gave up (my feet spoke up), and settled for a nondescript plate of fried noodles. Sukhumvit almost resembled the East Side of Manhattan (with tropical plants) - where the wealthy Thais shop and dine, and most upper-middle tourists stay.

Back to the hostel, showered and took a siesta. About 7:30, I dressed and went out looking for dinner. I headed for Khao San Road, but I was a little tired of all the noise and cheapness of the hood, so when I saw a likely place a few blocks away, I entered and sat down in the AC. I had entered a karaoke club by mistake - it looked just like any other restaurant, except for the middle aged man singing on the stage. I had second thoughts when I discovered it was karaoke (would they force me to sing too), but ordered a mango and pork salad and hot and sour shrimp soup. Everyone at this club knew each other, and many had full whiskey setups next to the tables. It turned out to be quite a fun evening, and the bad singing was fairly amusing (the food was good too). The shock came with the check - 455THB (an all time high for me in Thailand - about $12.)

Posted by Daawgon 17:09 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Night train to the land of the Elephant

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

sunny 0 °F

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Bangkok's Hua Lumphung Train Station

It was time to leave the big city and move on to the north of Thailand. I had reserved first class on the so called, crack train of Thailand, the Night Express - train #1, but if this was first class, what did the masses have to put up with. The equipment was old and smelled of petroleum products, but I did have a compartment all to my lonesome. I had eaten a large lunch at Anna's on the mezzanine of Hua Lumphung Station, and since I loaded up with peanuts, bottled water and tamarind candy in the station, I said no to the overpriced packaged meal. The train arrived just 15 minutes late at 07:30 in the am; quite a boring trip - nothing much to see or do. I had an unusual breakfast in Chiang Mai station of black coffee, a pineapple pastry and fresh fruit topped with ice and a sweet pomegranate syrup. Since it was cool out, and I had adequate maps of the city, I set out on foot for the inner city (my destination, the Tri Gong Residence, was just inside the NE corner of the inner Moat). I managed to slip on wet pavement just a block down the road, nothing serious, just dirty water on me and my pack, but after that incident, my walk was a little unsteady. The Residence was right where the map said it was - some 2.5 miles from the station, and Adam, the owner, met me on the front porch. Tri Gong was more like a small motel than a Thai house, but very clean, and at 700THB, a bargain with private bath and AC. They even had misters - just like Palm Springs, to cool things down in the heat.

After a shower, I took my laundry down the street, and went on a short walking tour of central Chiang Mai. This looks like a city of farangs, monks, tuk tuk drivers and many many many Wats (every third or fourth building was another Wat with it's gold adorned facade). I was fairly well done in even before this walk, so it only lasted long enough to find the tallest mango shake I've ever had (much too sweet this time).

Turns out I really overdid it, again - too many uneven sidewalks between the train station and CM, and later with food. The Thais eat lightly (we say small plates at home), and this farang is not totally satisfied with so little, and my solution is to order more! Much much better to take a clue from the Thais - I paid for it in discomfort. I'll concentrate on the great tropical fruit for a while. Looks like the tourist business is way down in CM - more Vietnamese-like hawkers here.

Posted by Daawgon 01:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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