Marta's Photo Album of Thailand - June 2006
We departed Johannesburg on the services of Malaysian Airlines at 13H40. Just before takeoff we were handed warm towels to freshen up before the flight that would take nine and a half hours across the Indian Ocean to Kuala Lumpur. After takeoff we were served refreshments and some nuts. Shortly after that we were served dinner. We had a choice of either a spicy chicken dish or lamb or fish, this was accompanied by a choice of wines and non alcoholic drinks. During our flight we enjoyed a viewing of the latest movies. Before we realised the time it was breakfast and then landing in Kuala Lumpur at 06H40.
We transferred through passport control and customs and were met by a friendly representative of Mayflower Tours. He was most informative and friendly during the 40 minute drive to the Regent Hotel.
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
We checked into the Regent Hotel. This 5 star hotel is well located in the centre of the golden triangle, with all the shopping within a short walking distance.
Our room was located on the seventeenth floor, which meant we were able to use the facilities of the executive lounge on the eighteenth floor. We had the use of the internet and the upstairs library. During cocktail hours we were able to enjoy an assortment of hot and cold snacks and canapés with an open bar, all complimentary to guests on the seventeenth floor. The next three days were spent shopping and enjoying the facilities of this fantastic hotel. If you are looking for cameras, software, shoes, clothes and cosmetics you will find an abundance of this in Kuala Lumpur.
The hotel is connected via an underpass to Star Hill Gallery which offers the most stunning restaurants and high class fashion shops. We ate at My Thai which has the famous Jim Thompson’s name displayed. Jim Thompson was an intelligence officer attached to the United States who made his name by reinvigorating the Thai silk industry after the Second World War. He disappeared mysteriously in the jungles of Malaysia in the late '60s and this restaurant carries his name. The atmosphere is vibey, the food served stylishly with a fantastic selection of Thai dishes all beautifully presented and very fresh. There are also Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese and Middle Eastern restaurants just to name a few in this area, all of which are certainly worth a try. A visit to the Petronas Towers which is a staggering 442m high is a mind blowing experience, it is hard to believe that modern man constructed such an enormous and spectacular structure.
We transferred early in the morning for Kuala Lumpur International in time for our flight departure to Bangkok. The flight was on Malaysia Airlines, with a very nice breakfast served, and after around an hour and a half we landed in Bangkok. Upon our arrival in Bangkok we were met by Louis the representative of Destination Asia. He was very friendly and most efficient in handling our transfer. Soon we were travelling into the bustling and hectic Bangkok. What struck me most were the number of exceptionally tall buildings, millions of cars and bikes, and so many smiling faces of people amidst this franticness, the country is known as the land of smiles.
We arrived at the Banyan Tree Bangkok which is the tallest all en suite luxury hotel in the heart of Bangkok offering spectacular views of the Chao Phraya River. Thsi hotel offers spa facilities with rejuvenating massage body and facial treatments. This sanctuary in the city features al fresco dining on the rooftop at Vertigo, the tallest open – air champagne and grill bar in the world. The Moon Bar at Vertigo has an extensive collection of wines from all around the world, and a selection of cocktails can be enjoyed whilst watching the sunset from the 52nd floor. The swimming pool on the 22nd floor is a haven of tranquillity in the sky. The suites are so stunning you do not want to leave, every comfort is catered for, which is why we chose to order in suite dining.
Later that day we visited James Fashions, which is a top Bangkok tailor house. They have an amazing selection of fabrics and are able to design or copy your favourite suit within 24 hours and deliver the garments all immaculately packed and perfectly fitting to your hotel room. The following day we did a tour to the Grand Palace and surrounding area. The Grand Palace is situated on the banks of the Chao Praya River and is the most spectacular collection of buildings in Bangkok which began life in 1782. The buildings of greatest interest are those clustered around the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The works of gold inlay and glittering coloured glass mosaics and carvings are a sight to behold. This tour is a must do. We later drove down to the jetty and boarded our private long tail boat for a tour around the canals and waterways of Bangkok. This tour was an eye opener into the lives of the river people of Bangkok. There are shanty homes right next to very wealthy homes creating an extraordinary contrast between rich and poor living harmoniously side by side. We ended the tour on a permanently docked cruise boat where we enjoyed a really nice lunch with very fresh food. Later that afternoon we went exploring the streets of Bangkok with the intention of shopping. It was very hot and the streets were teeming with people selling their wares. Everything from fake designer handbags to pots and pans, you do need to bargain for everything. We finally found a shopping mall located near the Indra Regent Hotel and this is where we made most of our purchases and emptied our purses, as at least it was air conditioned.
There is an enormous variety of shoes, clothes, luggage and many fashion items on sale here and it seemed the more we looked and bargained the cheaper the prices became. After what seemed hours of shopping we finally decided it was time to relax and make our way back to our hotel. We hailed down a tuk tuk and this was an experience. The driver negotiated his way through the millions of cars at top speed and in a short time we arrived at our hotel. Dinner that night was room service at the Banyan Tree. We ordered Thai food which was served in a traditional frying pan laid out on a beautifully set table that the butler wheeled in. The food was great and we enjoyed every mouthful.
The following morning we enjoyed a spectacular breakfast at the Banyan Tree. The variety of fruits, cereals, yoghurts, special breads, smoked salmon, including platters of fresh sushi and eggs was unbelievable, if you stayed for week you would not have been able to sample all that was on offer. I enjoyed the sushi the most, and it was probably the best I have had in a long while. After breakfast we were transferred to the airport for our one and a half hour flight to Koh Samui.
Koh Samui Thailand
We arrived on Bangkok Airways at the open air airport of Koh Samui. Koh Samui is the third largest of Thailand’s islands and is situated on the Gulf of Thailand. It is well known for its long stretches of uninterrupted beaches of powdery white sand and crystal clear waters, with great swimming and a variety of water sports. The characteristic style of accommodation is the beach bungalow. In such an idyllic setting the temptation is simply to laze peacefully on the beach and soak up a tropical suntan. Island hopping is another attraction and boats can be easily hired for trips to nearby islands, where beautiful bays with colourful coral formations offer excellent conditions for snorkelling Koh Samui is a gourmet paradise offering a variety of restaurants serving fresh seafood and other delights. Thai cooking courses are also available at many of the restaurants.
We transferred to the Banana Fan Sea and after check in we were shown to our comfortable and compact room. The resort is surrounded by tropical plants and koi ponds along the walkways. The pool overlooks the tranquil sea which is only a few steps away from the white sand beach. Sundowners can be enjoyed at the open air restaurant overlooking the sea, with the tables set out on the sand in the evenings. We were most surprised at how reasonably priced the items on the menu in the hotel were.
The streets of Koh Samui have numerous restaurants and shops in both directions. For our first meal we chose a traditional rustic Thai restaurant, which was very clean. We ordered noodles with seafood and found it very fresh and spicy which was great, you can however request them not to add hot spices and then you will still enjoy the flavours without the chillies. Two dishes of food and two local beers cost no more than R50.00 for a couple.
The following days were spent exploring the various restaurants and these were some of my favourites. The Three Monkeys is a genuine pub restaurant with the menu above standard pub fare. Mango Monkey is a great dish consisting of marinated king prawns topped with a delicious mango sauce, very refreshing and different. Sandies is beachside dining with tables in the sand surrounded by large bonfires which are lit at dusk. They serve both Thai and International cuisine and the presentation of the food is most stylish. Poppies is another favourite, where you can enjoy your dinner under the stars overlooking the Gulf of Siam. For food lovers this is definitely the place to be.
Many of the days were spent relaxing on the beach and swimming in the crystal clear waters of the ocean. Thai boxing is also a great feature in Thailand and we had booked ring side seats to watch a famous fighter from Bangkok. Thai boxing differs from Western boxing in that the contestants are allowed to use almost any part of the body with traditional music being played between the bouts. It was a most exciting evening.
I had decided to check out the scuba diving and found out that you would have to do a two tank dive as the dive sites are a fair distance from the island. I contacted a reputable and very professional dive centre called Koh Tao Coral Grand Resort. I was collected at 07H00 from my hotel. We transferred to the jetty to board a fast well equipped speed boat. Our first dive was to Chumpon Pinnacle, North West of Koh Tao. This was a fabulous dive fairly deep with great topography and soup bowls of fish all around. The gorgonian sea fans were most spectacular. The following dive to Twin Peaks was equally great with numerous colourful coral outcrops and exciting swim throughs.
Koh Samui is now well known for its spa and health centres. In the afternoon I had the option of trying out a full body massage on the beach, this is one of the great attractions on the beach. The massage was most skilfully done and I felt completely rejuvenated. There are numerous massage and beauty treatment salons along the streets offering Swedish massage to traditional Thai massage all very well priced and certainly worth a try.
The shopping along the street is great. Suits and clothes can be skilfully tailored and copied here. I tried a local tailor and the items he made for me were very well made and extremely well priced. Bargaining is the order of the day in each and every shop and you will be sure to find almost anything from books to cds, clothes, copy designer handbags, sunglasses and souvenirs.
The rest of the days were spent on lazing on the beach and bathing in the warm sea whilst watching the sun go down, time tends to stand still on this idyllic island and slowly you feel all your stresses disappear and you feel you could stay here forever.
Thailand is a fascinating, intensely beautiful and most welcoming destination. There is a large choice of accommodation options available from budget to five star. The variety of restaurants is staggering, and this is definitely a gourmet’s paradise. Thailand is a shopping haven and you can literally shop until you drop with so much to choose from at such seriously low prices it is a pleasure. There are numerous activities that can be enjoyed, from snorkelling, scuba diving, jet skiing, hill tribe trekking and caving in the North and massage therapy. Holiday packages can be tailored to suit any budget and activities arranged to satisfy your heart’s every desire. Thailand has something to offer everyone and promises to be an unforgettable experience! Certainly not one to be missed.
With Special Thanks
This trip was made possible by the assistance of the following people:
- A special thanks to Destination Asia for organising the trip
- A special thanks to Coral Grand and Easy Divers for the sponsorship of the dive safaris.
- A special thanks to Lesley Simpson of Lesley Simpson Communications for arranging a complimentary night at the Banyan Tree.
- A special thanks to Panpath Kanlaya Director of Sales at the Banyan Tree for the wonderful and memorable stay we had at Banyan Tree.