Bangkok Tourist Markets

Bangkok is a huge city full of multiple markets and shopping malls. During our stay, we we decided to check out 3 tourist-oriented markets.. and 1 mall ūüėā.¬†

To visit the Railway and Floating markets, we booked a Tripadvisor tour ($30usd/pp), as they are located outside Bangkok. 

Maeklong Railway Market

Located approximately 1 hour's drive from Bangkok, at the end of a 65km train track, Maeklong Railway Market's history dates back to the early 1900s when the railway was originally built.  What makes this market very unique, is its location directly on the train track. 

Whenever a train approaches the market, merchants swiftly dismantle their kiosks to allow the train to pass, and then they set everything back up again as soon as the train has passed.  The vendors have become absolute experts at positioning their merchandise incredibly close to the tracks, just out of the way of the passing train, thus eliminating the need for frequent relocation of their wares. 

Although the market has become overrun by tourists, it still continues to serve prepared foods and produce to locals. 

During our tour, we boarded the train a few stations before the final stop.  This gave us the perspective of the market from inside the train. We then disembarked to visit the market and observe the vendor's take-down and setup routine as another train passed through the market on its way back to Bangkok. 

Prior to taking the train, we also had a quick visit at a local salt farm.


Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

After visiting the train market, we continued on our journey to the floating market.  It was originally created after King Rama IV built a 32km canal to join 2 nearby rivers.  Although it has lost its primary vocation serving locals, the tourist industry has certainly kept it alive.  Tourists flock here to experience shopping for various touristy goods, from their designated long boat.  

Our tour stopped here to first enjoy green curry and mango sticky rice for lunch, then we hopped on a boat to be navigated through the canal. 

One of the land merchants at the boat dock, had a Loris. ¬†Although the experience was questionable, seeing a live Loris in real life has been on Jen's bucket list forever. ¬†After a little hesitation, we did pay to hold it and take some pictures. ¬†They also had a baby one that they let us hold. ¬†Jen was really¬†ūüėćūüėćūüėć.


MBK Mall

Every time we've been to Bangkok, we've gone here to find cheap t-shirts for Dom and cheap electronics for Jen. This time was no exception, as it just happened to be the drop-off location of our Markets tour ūüėā.


Chatuchak Weekend Market

On one of the days, we visited the Bangkok Weekend Market (Chatuchak) to buy some souvenirs.  Dating from the mid-20th century, this market first started as a small local market and now boasts around 15,000 stalls and up to 200k visitors every weekend. You can find a lot of things here, but we personally found that the Chiang Mai weekend markets had a better selection of more-original, artistic souvenirs.




Bangkok Temples

We spent the last part of our trip with Dom's mom, in Bangkok. 

Despite the humid 35¬įC temperatures, we managed to visit 3 main temples in Bangkok:¬†

  • Wat Phra Kaew, known as the Grand Palace and host to the Emerald Buddha,¬†
  • Wat Pho, home to the huge reclining buddha, and¬†
  • Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.¬†

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Pho

Wat Arun

To get to Wat Arun, we hopped on a 5THB ferry to cross the river.  Wat Arun has more of a Khmer style, so it was more similar to the temples that we had seen in Cambodia.


Our hotel was also very near to some other temples, so we decided to stop by for a quick visit. Jen enjoyed watching and listening to the monks chanting.

Wat Suthat (and the giant swing)

Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan and the Golden Temple.  

Although we didn't get a chance to visit the inside of these temples, we were able to take a short walk to see some nice views of them illuminated at night.


Relaxing in Ko Lanta

Before heading back to reality, we wanted to get some beach and sun time in Southern Thailand. We chose a place where both of us had never went and that seemed a bit less touristy than other parts of Thailand - we chose Ko Lanta.

After a rather confusing wait for the airport pickup in Krabi, we drove about an hour to our cozy little beach resort, just outside of the small fishing village on the North West side of Ko Lanta island.

Since Ko Lanta is a small fishing village, we spent most of our time relaxing at the resort and strolling along the endless pristine beaches.  

You could tell there aren't many tourists in this area because you can still find so many perfect seashells.  The girls went crazy and spent hours harvesting all kinds of cute seashells.


We also had a lot of fun playing in the beautiful sunsets.

There weren't many restaurants open while we were there, but we did find one delicious place to eat Khao Soi, called Bun Noodle.

We also took Charlotte on her first TukTuk ride, to visit the nearby village and night market. 

In the fishing village, one of the street stalls that we ate at was called Best Phad Thai in Koh Lanta. ¬†While eating, we¬†were visited by 2 giant lizards walking toward us in the nearby ditch. ¬†The tourists were the only ones who seemed interested/concerned with this, so we're guessing this must be a rather normal occurrence for the locals ūüėā.




Chiang Rai’s Temples

Even though Chiang Rai is about 2.5 hours from Chiang Mai, we decided to take a day tour to see a few of the Chiang Rai highlights. 

Mae Khachan Hot Spring

Our first stop was at a natural hot springs.  Jen was super car-sick when we arrived here, so we didn't do much exploring.  In the parking lot, there are several ladies selling touristy items and eggs that you can cook in the hot-springs for breakfast.  We didn't buy any eggs, but one of those ladies saw Jen laying sick on the ground - she took pity and kindly offered Jen some medicine from her personal stash.  Jen didn't take it, but thought it was a really sweet gesture :)


White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

The next stop was our main reason for taking this tour.  Wat Rong Khan, also known as the White Temple, is one of Chiang Rai’s most visited attractions.  Previously an older temple that had fallen into disrepair, it has now been transformed into a modern temple that was designed and constructed by a national Buddhist artist.  Although new work on this temple continues to be ongoing, it was opened to the public in 1997.

The temple is really unique and stunning to look at, yet had an unexplained, odd, touristy/Disney vibe that left us with mixed feelings.  The huge walls are covered with images of Buddha and.. a lot of Hollywood icons such as Neo, Bumblebee, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and Superman.  

We didn't take any photos from inside the main temple since it was not allowed, but we did check google and found a couple of example images from Duke Language School.  Their site also explains that "These unusual murals are placed opposite the Buddhas. They are meant to show that people should free their minds from bad intentions, and that violence, greed, and hedonism is the wrong way of life."    

After visiting the main temple, we also started noticing Hollywood references in other areas of the temple grounds as well (where we were allowed to take photos). 


Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seur Ten)

Our next stop was the Blue Temple.  Apparently the temple was named Wat Rong Seur Ten, meaning "temple of the dancing tiger", because it was built on a site where tigers were said to have jumped over the river.


Black House Museum (Baan Dam Museum)

The Black House is a private art museum with a mixture of unconventional and contemporary art and architecture.  According to the tour websites, it has been called a “dark, mysterious, and almost sadistic representation of hell, complete with preserved animals and a collection of bones".   It sounded ominous, so we were curious to check it out.  It was.. different!  


The tour ended with a long 3-hour ride home with our driver who thought he was driving an F1 ūüė¨.

Cooking Thai in Chiang Mai

We really enjoyed our cooking class in Hoi An so we decided to do one in Thailand. 

Our class with Basil Cookery started with a local market tour.

For the cooking portion of the class, we each prepped and cooked 7 dishes that we had chosen from a list.

The Lunch Menu ūüėā

Charlotte

  • Pad Thai
  • Fried chicken with cashew nut
  • Hot and sour prawn soup
  • Papaya salad
  • Green curry
  • Deep fried banana

Jennifer

  • Fried thick noodle with soy sauce
  • Stir fried prawn in tamarind sauce
  • Chicken in coconut milk soup
  • Savoury minced chicken salad
  • Penang curry
  • Black sticky rice pudding

Dominic

  • Pad Thai
  • Stir fried minced pork with holy basil
  • Chicken in coconut milk soup
  • Fried spring roll
  • Penang curry
  • Mango sticky rice

Then it was time to eat!  As always, we had WAY too much food.. fortunately we had a fridge and microwave at our hotel so they wrapped up some of the leftovers for us to enjoy for dinner later that evening.

Chiang Mai Temples, Markets, and Food

Temples

Chiang Mai boasts over 300 temples and you can easily believe it when walking the streets of the old town. Some are more impressive than others, but they are all well-maintained and very peaceful to wander through.

Markets

Since we were in Chiang Mai on Saturday and Sunday, we were able to visit the 2 big weekend night markets. As night falls, over a kilometre of streets and side streets are blocked from traffic and are filled with hundreds of vendors selling, food, art, electronics, souvenirs, etc.  The Sunday night market crosses the old town all the way from the east to the west gate.  It was huge and had a nice selection of wares to admire, so we liked it the best. 

During the week, we also visited one of the art markets that happens every night outside of the old town - there were a handful of amazing artists that we could watch in action but the majority of the stalls were sadly closed down, likely due to the impacts of covid ūüėĘ.

Food

You cannot experience Chiang Mai and its night markets fully unless you try the food! 

Some of our favourites were the Chiang Mai sausages (super flavourful with curry with lemon grass), Roti with bananas and sweet milk, and the delicious fresh fruit smoothies.

During this trip, we also discovered an excellent Thai dish that was new to us, called Khao Soi.  It’s sort of similar to a curry Laksa, but less spicy, super flavourful, and has crunchy noodles on top.  Our favourite place was at a place called Mr. Kai Restaurant.

Do Not Feed the Monkeys

One of the Hua Hin attractions is a small hill at the end of the beach called Khao Takiab (aka Monkey Mountain).  We decided to walk there on a lovely Saturday to go see what it was all about. 

As soon as we arrived at the base of the hill, we saw monkeys hanging around the rocks along the seashore, all along the paths and on stairways up the hill.  There are warnings all over the internet not to bring food here or the monkeys will attack and bite you for it, so we came completely empty-handed.  As you walk between them, some even approach to check you out, so it's immediately clear that they're not at all afraid of humans.  

Where this place gets its nickname became even more evident as we reached the top and encountered hordes of monkeys scurrying around.  The funny (or sad?) thing is that there's a huge sign that says "Do not feed the monkeys in this area" and about 10 paces later, there are locals selling food for tourists to buy to feed to the monkeys.  We happened to be there while other tourists bought food to feed them.. hence the gathering swarm.  It was pretty crazy to witness such a large number of monkeys all converging to one point, hissing, screeching, and jumping on each other to get food.  

After the feeding stopped, some dispersed, but many still blocked our path to the temple.  Walking through them felt like an eerie scene from The Birds.

We also saw the fattest chunky monkey of them all!  When we arrived, it was sitting with a real/live cat and petting it on the head like a human would!  The cat was loving it - pretty cute!

Kitesurfing at Surfspot

Since our condo was a bit further from the beach and we had done a LOT of kitesurfing for the past 3 months (ie. almost daily) in Mui Ne, kitesurfing in Hua Hin wasn't our main focus.  That being said, we were keen to try a new spot with flat water, so we did spend a couple of afternoons kiting :).  

We met up with Phu's friends, Fawn and Bobby from Surfspot, to rent a board and get some excellent local tips on the best restaurants, markets, and attractions to visit.

Hua Hin's beach is super long and unbelievably clean!  We spent several hours just strolling up and down the beach on our way to dinner or the market.

Just a bit of info for our kiting friends: the kitesurfing was really nice at this time of year (March) - South wind and mostly 9m to 12m kites, though we also saw people riding 7-8 meter kites in the late afternoon.  Compared to Mui Ne, it's far less busy on the beach, waves are super small and the water is warm and shallow.  Unfortunately there were jellyfish.. you can see them while you're riding!  Most of them are the big white ones, which we were told are not dangerous and only cause itching.  Occasionally you see some small brown jellyfish that we heard can cause painful stings. The chances of actually hitting one is probably quite small, but it was enough to make us feel a bit nervous to try any new tricks!

Hua Hin Food & Night Markets

After Bangkok, we went to a popular Thai holiday beach town called Hua Hin.  

We chose Hua Hin for a couple of reasons.. it was a very short journey from Bangkok, neither of us had been there before, they have kitesurfing, and because we managed to find a really great condo with a pool and gym just across the main street from the beach, for only $18USD/night!


Our condo had a little kitchen, but we didn't do much cooking.. why cook when you can visit the cute little markets and eat yummy Thai curry for less than 3$ each!

Cicada Market

Night Market

Random Restaurants

And let’s not forget our favourite... Roti with egg, banana, and condensed milk!!  Every night, a local came just outside our condo with his bike cooking platform, and we could order Rotis/Crepes for around 1$... sooooo good.

Wat Pho

On the weekend, we decided to spend a day walking through Chinatown and visiting the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, since Dom hadn't been there before and it was Jen's favourite Bangkok sight.

Wat Pho is a pretty big complex with several beautifully coloured temples and pagodas.  The area is really well maintained and it's really nice to walk around here to escape the busy streets of Bangkok.

There are so many great things to see here, from the giant guardian to the bonsai plants

..and of course, the main attraction that this temple is famous for - the immense reclining Buddha.