As some of you may know, I had the pleasure of my family and girlfriend come join my adventures over Christmas and the New Year period. What a pleasure, delight and wonder it was! I won't detail the joys and minute details of our family holiday but I did want to share some of the great things we did so that others might enjoy them.
For a bit of context, the schedule of my holiday from travelling was :)
- 7 nights in Jomtien, near Pattaya – Mum, Dad, Alis and following after Josh & Clare
- 3 nights on Koh Samet island – Alis, Josh & Clare
- 8 nights in Bangkok – Alis, Josh & Clare and then by myself once they'd departed
Sanctuary of Truth
This place is special, magnificent and slightly surreal. With a name like the Sanctuary of Truth you may well question what it’s going to reveal. Well, it touts itself as an Ancient Vision of Earth and it certainly delivers an ancient style, despite still being in construction (albeit it's a project that could grow indefinitely).
The Sanctuary of Truth is an epic demonstration of wooden carvings from floor to ceiling and the closer you look the more it reveals. A private couple that believe the best aspects of religion and philosophy have achieved our modern civilisation, through their inherent goodness, created it. It's built to encourage moral and spiritual contentment. I definitely felt an element of peace wandering through its intricately sculptured boughs. I could spill a thousand words on it and still not even provide you a glimpse of its intricate beauty – I feel only the pictures below will do it some justice. It's a must visit in the area around Pattaya city.
The Sanctuary of Truth
Alis wandering the halls of the Sanctuary
The delicate and intricate carvings
All Senses Coffee & Eatery
All Senses was a bit of a treat out of nowhere. Away from the beach area of Jomtien and situated next to the busy coastline-tracing highway, we could walk to it from our villa. And we did. Multiple times. Perfect for an artisan coffee or a bacon and egg croissant, it was our number one brunching hotspot. All of this was provided with a lovely veranda, a cool interior and surprisingly, art classes upstairs.
Bacon & Egg Croissant
Mum & Dad in All Senses
When in Thailand, do as the Thai’s do. Except I’m not sure how many Thai people visit the abundance of massage parlours across the entire country – I certainly never saw a local getting a massage! Still there’s every reason for a tourist to have one. They are cheap and delightful.
We spent an evening scouting one out only to discover that the legitimate establishments had a good wait or weren’t open. Fortunately, this led to an enjoyable stroll round the Jomtien night market, a tasty bag of fried crickets and a dance in front of some perplexed market visitors taking a rest.
Still, the next day we spied out a place that had enough room for the 6 of us and at 200 Baht each (~ £4.50) we had an hour of pure luxury. We’d chosen a foot massage and soon discovered that although the focus was the calves and feet, to do it properly, a foot massage involves the whole body. We left calm, collected and completely worked out. I reckon at least one massage in Thailand is a must-do. Just be careful on which establishment you choose!
Josh, Dad & Mum enjoying their foot massage
Firstly, Koh Samet is a beautiful and relaxing island. You get to it from Ban Phe via the chugging local’s ferry or a rapid, splashing speedboat. On our arrival, the later drew epic bursts of excitement from our fellow Asian passengers who whooped and hollered ecstatically. They really had a great time and this was before we jumped off into the water of the island’s main beach. Designated a national park, there’s a 200 Baht fee for entry and you must be able to present your ticket at all times.
Cycling around the beaches of the island
At 7km long, Koh Samet isn’t too big and lots of it can be explored in a day. Beaches line the east coast and there’s pretty much only one road to follow to the rocky headland at the southern point. We choose the option of renting bikes and cycling around. This certainly involved a bit more effort than getting a scooter and some of 15%+ incline signs were rather intimidating. Still, the height to climb was never that great and it just meant we got fairly sweaty – nothing new for me then. Running up and down the coast, checking out the different beaches was a wonderful day out.
Me playing with some Thai children also on holiday
Josh & Clare beachside
With a little bit of nifty booking from Clare we had two ensuite rooms overlooking the sea. While there was no beach to walk out on, having a balcony, a gorgeous view and the sound of the sea caressing the rocks was a delight. It wasn’t overly expensive either and meant we were a nice distance from the main beach. As couples, it was perfect.
View from the villa
Playing cards on the balcony
Fireworks/New Years Eve
We were on the island for New Years so it’s fair to say we did our share of partying. Much like many other Thai islands, bars and restaurants line the beachy waterfronts and while dining, you can run sand through your toes. However, Koh Samet is slightly different as all the bars usually close around midnight. This wasn’t the case over NYE, with many allowed to stay open later for the festivities. There was much frolicking to be had, glow in the dark paint and wanderings along the moonlit beach. One blessing was the absence of the ubiquitous Thai cocktail buckets – they were confined to just a few bars and on an island where it was more about chilling, this seemed totally appropriate. I must be getting old – I’ll make up for it when I get to some of the party islands ;)
NYE itself was a grand occasion. Hung-over from the night before, we joined 100s of people digging small dimples in the sand and planting candles. It lit up the beach like a votive candle rack. When midnight came, a cacophony of roman candles were lit and the beach sparkled intensely for a few minutes. Readily available from street sellers on the way to be beach we had candles, sparklers and fireworks too – we had many smiles :)
Morning after the night before
Marriott Octave Rooftop Lounge and Bar for Sunset
On a recommendation from a family friend who has lived in Bangkok recently, we had a wealth of fun activities to get to while in Bangkok. Perhaps the best one was the sky bar atop the Marriot hotel. This isn’t your typical sky bar taking up maybe 1 floor of a hotel and providing a high but potentially restricted view. This was 3 floors at the very top of the hotel and provided 360 degrees of panoramic pleasure to watch the sunset.
Getting there early is a must if you’re after a seat. We arrived 15 minutes before its 5pm opening and there was already a queue. There’s a reasonably strong dress code but I managed to make it in wearing flip-flops (with a shirt borrowed from Josh – it was that or a creased t-shirt and walking shoes). It’s also happy hour for the first two hours so cocktails are half price – they need to be; otherwise you’re coming out with a burn in your wallet – it’s totally worth it for the experience.
Sunset through the clouds over Bangkok
Clare & Alis at the Octave Rooftop Lounge
The lit courtyard of W Market was another wondrous recommendation. Set in amongst a series of sky-scraping apartments, 10s of tables and 100s of chairs filled a space surrounded by a vast array of food vendors. All the vendors serve all the tables and we ordered from 8 of them including our beers. From old bottles of Jägermeister with giant straws to multi-coloured flyswatters, each food type had their own way of marking a table waiting for their delectable dishes.
The atmosphere of the place was rather electric and we stayed there for ages laughing and drinking. For at least an hour we entertained a young boy with nothing but cardboard boxes. We have no idea where he came from or who’s child he was – he certainly took a liking to Josh during the wrestling, chasing and playing.
Enjoying everything W Market had to offer
Clare & Josh making friends
Josh losing friends ;)
The Saxophone Pub provided a touch of class for an evening. Styled like an old British pub, the stage was set centrally in amongst the nooks and alcoves and overlooked by a balcony. This lent itself to a very intimate feel and the band playing that evening certainly knew their way around their music. For something a little different while travelling in Bangkok, it’s a great little place to go for a couple of drinks. There’s live music every evening – get off at the Victory Monument BTS station.
The intimacy of Saxophone Pub
The Grand Palace
It’s touted as a must see in Bangkok and it probably is. The wonder of the Grand Palace and its Emerald Buddha are in their architectural and artistic beauty. The extravagance of the buildings is unlike nearly anywhere else I’ve been.
With the Thai king dying in October 2016, the intense mourning of the nation is still well under way and there were thousands of visitors, dressed in black, queued outside to pay their respects. The logistics for this operation were astounding with marquee seating and free food/water provided to keep people well during the hours of waiting. Fortunately, tourists and visitors to the Grand Palace could skip this and visit the majority of the Grand Palace. It was crazy busy though!
This busyness and the entry cost of 500 baht (~ £11.50) are probably enough to put some travellers off from visiting. Still, I’m glad we visited to see the wonder of the place and participate in the mourning in someway.
Shots from the Grand Palace
Baker Gonna Bake Cafe
This little bakery café will hold a special place in my heart as I spent several days in the company of the staff. Originally just there for their high-speed Wi-Fi to upload various blog bits of the blog, over a few days, I nearly sampled their entire menu. It’s a wonderful place with delicious baked goods, interesting takes on traditional Italian coffee and some attentive staff. The peach iced tea they make is beyond refreshing. It was light, airy and cool – perfect to spend a few afternoons catching up on things. If you’re anywhere in the Thonglor area of the city, it’s a great place to go. I will be (next time I’m there!)
Khao San Road
If there were ever a location to place a backpackers spiritual heart in Thailand, this would be it. In fact, you might even put it at the top of worldwide backpacker hubs. By day, this solitary road is a feast of street sellers purporting their wares and by night, it’s a party location. It’s full on, in your face and intense. It definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste but everyone should go there just to experience it –preferably at night, where the same soundtrack has been playing for 10 years.
Last day with this lot - Khao San Road
All that’s left to share is that taxis in Bangkok are far cheaper on the meter than the classic tuk tuk so it’s generally better (and cooler) to get them. However, you have to get at least one tuk tuk ride while you’re in Thailand and its likely you’ll get lots of these entertaining open air rides – always negotiate a price and haggle hard. Here are a few pictures of our night-time tuk tuk adventure to sign off with…
Riding the tuk tuk
Saturday 24th December – VIP Villas Green Residences, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand
Sunday 25th December – VIP Villas Green Residences, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand
Monday 26th December – VIP Villas Green Residences, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand
Tuesday 27th December – VIP Villas Green Residences, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand
Wednesday 28th December – VIP Villas Green Residences, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand
Thursday 29th December – VIP Villas Green Residences, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand
Friday 30th December – Sunrise Villas, Koh Samet, Thailand
Saturday 31st December – Sunrise Villas, Koh Samet, Thailand
Sunday 1st January – Sunrise Villas, Koh Samet, Thailand
Monday 2nd January – Hotel PlayHaus, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Tuesday 3rd January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Wednesday 4th January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Thursday 5th January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Friday 6th January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Saturday 7th January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Sunday 8th January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand
Monday 9th January – MonkeyNap Hostel, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand