Appon's Thai Life

Sightseeing - Thai Life Archives

Erawan Museum in Bangkok

The Erawan museum, GPS 13.6284N, 100.5890E is the giant three headed elephant you sometimes see from the East Bangkok roads. It's a modern attraction, and although it's aimed at tourists, I thought it would still be worth a visit.

It's 300 baht to get in, 150 if you're Thai, it's a giant three headed elephant, a museum below, a large staircase up to a lit glass ceiling, the stairs lead you through the ceiling into a room with a viewing window in the leg and further on up to a temple in the stomach, all surrounded by gardens and ponds.

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Chinatown Bangkok

A visit to Chinatown on your tour of Bangkok is obligatory, this area in Bangkok is packed with narrow side streets, each side street stuffed with Chinese stalls selling their wares. The place is overflowing with colour and sights and smells, not all of them good ones. The main thing to do in Chinatown is, soak up the atmosphere, eat and shop.

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Tourists View of Thailand

This has to be one of the happiest tourist videos, you can see they had a lot of fun. Lopburi monkeys, Kanchanaburi, Floating Market, snakes, elephant rides, temples, many things I won't be covering, you can see right here in this video.
Thanks to deliaoulala for making the video.

Baiyoke Sky Tower, Bangkok

In the center of Bangkok, near Platinum Mall, there is a hotel. The tallest hotel in Thailand, the Baiyoke II Sky Tower. At the top is a rotating viewing platform that you can go up to see a panorama of Bangkok. I took a camera up there and took a video of a loop around the Skytower. It takes about ten minutes to do the loop, so the video is at 2x speed so it's not so slow.

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Floating Market Khlong Latmayom

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Khlong Latmayon is a floating market in the North West of Bangkok, it's visited by Thai's rather than foreign tourists and so the prices are cheap, the goods are far more varied and traditional and the food is just excellent! Especially the seafood.

These markets are about selling you goods and services, rather than selling you a 'floating market experience' which is the Trueman Show like experience you get from Damnoen Saduak, the market much further away that foreigners are usually taken to.

The main stalls are on the land either side of a narrow river, only a few stalls are actually on boats and they mainly sell food and flowers. It's open Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 5pm, but stall holders start to leave earlier, and the last boat trip is at 3pm. I only spent the afternoon there, and I ran out of time, I didn't realize until after my boat trip that the market is in two halves split by the road and I didn't get a proper look at the northern half.

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Fireflies Bangkok, Thailand

I found a fireflies tour in Bangkok! Fireflies are the little flashing bug that you can see at night. A popular trip for Amphawa, in Samut Songkran, but I actually saw a lot more fireflies right here in Bangkok than I did at Amphawa! You can see them right in the heart of Bangkok, at the 'Pig Stomach Island', the island created by the flood relief canal in central Bangkok is a little rural retreat from the busy city. There are home-stay accommodation there too and a weekend floating market, and the riverside walks along the flood gates, so you could stay for the weekend and explore this island, see some fireflies, soak up the atmosphere and relax... right in the middle of Bangkok!

Lets start with the fireflies, (hint turn out the lights and make the video full screen):

Although the video is very short, the tour was long, over an hour. Fireflies are easy to see with the naked eye and extremely difficult to film. In the video you don't see much but, in real life it's a delight! The river is amazing at night, we sailed between row upon row of huge black barges that were moored up in the river, and climbed off the boat to see stretches of wild terrain to see the fireflies. These barges carry rice up and down the river, and are moored up due to the floods.

Huge dark bats flew overhead, they're called 'chicken bats' because of their size. There were whole trees filled with fireflies all lit up like a Christmas tree draped with fairly lights. None of which you really get from the film. We got so close to the firefly by paddling in quietly. The guide keeps track of where fireflies can be found and takes you to many places along the bank of the river.

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Bangnarmphueng Floating Market Bangkok

This is another of those floating markets that Thai's visit, rather than tourists. It's right in an island in the center of Bangkok, open at weekends, a short taxi ride across a bridge from the city center. It's called 'Bangnarmpheung Floating Market', but really it's a craft and farmers market set next to small canals, rather than a true floating market.

There's so many interesting things to see there, that I didn't cover in the video. For example, these are giant mushrooms, an ice cream seller had this pot of mushrooms on his stand, not to sell, just to attract attention in a competitive market!

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Lotus Festival Banphliyainai 11 October 2011

In Samut Prakan, east of Bangkok they have a traditional festival where a boat procession travels down the river, locals throw lotus flowers into the boats. Make a wish in the form of a prayer, throw the flower at the boats, if you get it into the boat the wish may be granted. Get it into the big boat, the one carrying the Buddha image, and that's you're best chance that your wish will come true.

This year the festival is October 11th, and I'm going to make a full day of it, and since it's a temple festival, I'm going to do a tribute (known as a tambone) to my dad, who sadly died a few years ago. Tambone time at the temple is 6am-7am, boat procession is about 8-10am. First the tambone and the warmup:

It's busy in the town center, the locals all have their seats ready for the lotus throwing, camera crews everywhere with big professional camera and big professional camera men. They're part of the show too, so naturally I got close ups of Channel 7 filming the boats.

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A Buddha With a View

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As you head south, down the Asia highway why not take the time to walk up a hill and visit this Buddha with a spectacular view, facing towards the sea. It's not a day trip from Bangkok, it's far down the peninsular, and half way to Phuket, you really have to be heading south to see it. It's in Chumphon, on the northern direction of the highway. I was headed to Phuket, and Chumphon is a good half way rest on this long trip.

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Phuket Orchid Farm

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It's a rainy day in Phuket, and a visit to the Phuket Orchid farm suffers badly from the rain, the wrong season for orchids and quite frankly the small size of the farm! I saw this orchid farm received 7/10 on Trip Advisor, so I thought it was worth a visit, but this is really not a large orchid farm by Thai standards, you'll find bigger farms on the floating market boat tours, and Nong Nooch on the other side of Thailand has a far larger orchid gardens among a much larger gardens and attractions.

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Gibbons, Waterfall, Bugs in Phuket

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There's quite a few waterfalls on Phuket, but I'm going to visit one of the less popular ones: Bangpae, a waterfall in a national park, towards the north east of the island. It's popular with the Thais who live in Phuket, but there are smaller waterfalls closer to the tourist beaches, that the tourists go to. It's free for me, but foreign tourists pay 200 baht to get into the National Park.

The park visit is 3 parts, there's a gibbon sanctuary, a nature walk into the jungle to see real gibbons, and a waterfall to wash off the jungle bugs after your walk!

The gibbon rehabilitation project is a few gibbons being prepared for release back into the wild, and some that are too domesticated and cannot be released. The gibbons were frantic, swinging about in their cages, well that's my excuse for the blurred photo:

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Sarasin Bridge

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Sarasin Bridge is the bridge connecting the mainland to Phuket Island. When they built a second bridge here, they also build a viewing platform in the middle, so tourists can visit it, and get a good look at the straits.

The strait runs east to west, the bridge is at the north side of the island, and this means there are two headlands, one on the Phuket side, west, and one of the Phang-na side East.

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Ta Pan Cave, Phang-na

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This is one of the less popular caves, mainly due to mis-billing. The cave is small, plain, and not the main attraction here, the monkey temple is! Yet the sign on the road mentions the cave but not the monkeys.

[I've revisited this cave, and gone into the full depth of it, and I take back my comment. The cave is small, but the bridges up into the center and temple inside make it a very atmospheric place to visit, not only that I've found a breathtaking view over Phang Nga bay here. See my second blog entry on this., Ta Pan Cave Revisited]

Phang-na is the region with the sharp rocks that jut up from otherwise flat land, the caves form at the base of these rocks. Rich vegetation cover makes them lush and green and very photogenic, look at the temple below posing for my holiday photo against the mountains.

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Phan-gna Viewpoints

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Phangna (pronounced p-hang-gna, not fangna, just as phuket is pronounced poo-ket, not fooket), the mainland next to Phuket famed for the bay where rocks jut up in strange unnatural formations, has many viewpoints.

So if you're visiting, say a temple, or a beach, or a waterfall, or a cave, or taking a boat trip to the islands from here, it's worth spending some time getting high up to soak up the view.

Photographs don't really capture mountains. Your brain scales mountains to be much larger than they are in the camera. So you won't really get the sense of Phangna from my amateur photos, but to help, I've stretched them a little, to give you a sense of the splendor your eyes see.

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Khao Sok National Park

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Between Phuket in the south and the beach resorts of Hua Hin, in the middle of the Thai penisular is a national park with a vast lake. This lake was created by a dam built in 1982 and apart from the scenery it has kayaks and floating hotels.

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Tuk Chang, Good Bad and Ugly

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When you're in Bangkok, visiting the famous Chatuchak weekend market, one of the building nearby is famous and worth a visit.

It's Thai name is Tuk Chang, better known as the elephant building. It's regularly voted one of the ugliest buildings in the world, but the owners prefer to use words like 'notable' or 'iconic'.

If you imagine a 3 legged elephant drawn by a toddler on an etch-a-sketch, then that is pretty much what the elephant building is. But in a way, the terrible design makes it more appealing. The Yang to the Ying of modern life.

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Buddism & Bangkok

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A temple tour is a must when you're in Bangkok. But so many of the tours choose quantity over quality, they bus you around from temple to temple and you never really get time to relax and enjoy the space. Since I was in Bangkok for the new year, I thought I'd visit the two best temples for tourists to visit in Bangkok.

The two temples to visit are Wat Pho (Wat means temple), next to the river and home of the reclining Budha, and the Golden Mount, a temple on a hill with great views of Bangkok and plenty of bells to ring and gongs to strike.

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New Years Countdown, Bangkok

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If you come to Thailand during the new year celebrations, then you really need to find a place to join the countdown. In Bangkok that was traditionally Central Mall, but now Asiatique is becoming the go to place for a good party!

A big-wheel gives a view over the river, and TV crews were ready with their cameras to film the countdown here.

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Ancient City, Bangkok

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Ancient City is a huge park filled with traditional buildings, arts, crafts, history, boats, floating markets, serpents, monuments. It's just outside of Bangkok and easy to reach by Taxi. This really is a wonderful thing to see, and I wish I could find the words to convince you to visit this attraction!

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Wat Huai Mongkol

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On the road to the south of Thailand, not far from Hua Hin, a famous beach resort, you'll find Temple Huai Mongkol, with a large monk statue on top and a lake and gardens.

It's a dose of religion for Hua Hin tourists, but this is really a celebration of one monk, not of Buddhism. Statues of him surround the large one, and you can gild these with gold leaf.

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Phutthamonthon Park, Near Bangkok

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I'm here 20km west of Bangkok for the pro-democracy protests. They've sealed off Thanon Utthayan, a long wide highway with a canal running down the middle, set up stages in the middle, and the protest is in the west most 2km of road.

It's a great location, with a gigantic park just across the 3310 highway, and since I'm here for 2 days, I get time to explore this park, well at least parts of it!

At the center of the park stands a giant standing Buddha statue, with intricate topiary, large green area, lakes, picnic areas, and temples all around.

You can rent bicycles from the office on most days, but not today, the red protests mean the park is setup for the protests, with overspill areas if the road becomes too full, and the roads inside are full of cars and trucks parked for visitors that came from far.

I've parked along the east side of Thanon Uttayan and walk the full 2km length of the protest to get to the park. I'm going to be doing a lot of walking today, I can see.

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Wat Khao Yoi Cave

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I'm heading south on the Pan-Asia highway, the main road that runs down the length of Thailand and into Malaysia. It sounds romantic when I call it the Pan Asian highway, but its just a rather long, boring two lane road. So on the way, I'm taking in sights to break the journey and Khao Yoi temple and the caves next to it, are one of my breaks for this trip!

There's really two parts to this cave. One is a small temple, with a reclining Buddha for worship and donation, the other a more natural cave that's far more effort, but has the potential for far more fun if you use your imagination a little!

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Crystal Canal

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My road trip from Phuket to Bangkok is long and boring, and normally takes a good 10 hours of slog. I want to make it as fun as possible, so I'm looking out for things to visit along the way.

Crystal Canal? That looks promising! I wonder what it is. Since it's only a few kilometers detour, I take the turnoff and go inquire.

There are lots of people here, all Thai, the car park attendant tells me it's a crystal clear water river with the water source to the left. You can bathe here and enjoy the clear cool water.

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Hot Spring (Khao Sok National Park)

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My road trip from Phuket to Bangkok is yielding lots more treats. Not far from the crystal canal, I find a hot spring. Thailand isn't that close to the edge of a tectonic plate, so we don't get full volcanoes and magma, but we do get hot springs!

After my visit to crystal canal, I have a few mosquito bites, and the hot spring water soothes theses, I find the bumps gone and the itching stops.

The hot spring itself if divided into 3, the main well, a lower pond that can be used for washing and the lowest pond, used for bathing.

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Train Market, Bangkok

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Tourists spend their time at the big attractions, and never go anywhere else. Even the major malls don't get many tourist visitors unless they're near the sky-train. But since I'm in Bangkok, I'm determined to explore around Udomsuk where I'll be staying for the next few weeks.

I found a great little place for night shopping and fun eating. Inside it's called the Train Market and the huts are themed like 19th century train wagons. But strangely the entrance has an unexplained wooden boat

My nearest malls here in Udomsuk, are Seacon Square, and Paradise Mall. Seacon Square is a mega-mall that's had a recent refurbishment, there's a lot of useful things here, but ultimately it's just a big building with shops. With no real theme, a sprawling layout, overcrowded parking, I would normally give this mall a miss. Paradise Mall, further down, I've covered before, it's got a terrific food hall and is one of my favorite malls: the right size, easy to find things, simple parking layout. Normally this would be my choice of the two.

That's changed now, since I've discovered the Train market, just after Seacon Square. It's one street down, so you can spend the day shopping in Seacon then move onto Train Market for an evening meal, live music and a bit of antiques shopping to finish the day. Suddenly Seacon Square looks a lot more appealing!

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Swatstika Temple

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I'm calling this the Swastika temple, a temple covered in Swastikas, not for the Nazis but for the Hindu good luck symbol, that the Nazi adopted/hijacked for their own.

Phra Narai is a major Hindu god, and this archeology site was the location of a temple to this god. When the Burmese invaded Thailand in the 1785 they tried to remove this statue, but it was too big and heavy to move, so they left it up in the hills nearby.

Trees grew around it, the roots enveloping the statue of Phra Narai and a statue of servant Phra Lak, wrapping them safety, without breaking them.

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Flying Chicken

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What was that saying, your mother always taught you? Don't play with your food?? Does flinging roasted chicken out of a metal trebuchet onto a head-mounted-spike while uni-cycling around an obstacle course, count? I think it might.

This is a fun place to visit just for the cooky floor show.

Flying chicken is a restaurant near the junction of Bang-na Trat and Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok. It's been going a long long time, 29 years so far, and its the same show night after night! By the sound of some of the Karaoke singers, they've been here from opening night with the same material!

(Video after the break)

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Chumpon Best Beach

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I'm visiting Chef Win, in Chumpon to see his new noodle shop, and while here I want to check out the local sights. He recommended this beach, it's not in the center of Chumpon, its to the north, but he says it would be excellent to catch at sunset.

Terrific, I hop in the car and set off ready to catch the sunset, imagining the photographs, the sun melting into the sea, a golden sunset, dramatic red sky, perhaps a palm tree in the foreground... wait a second! Chumpon is on the East coast, the sun sets in the West, so what is the point of a sunset on an east coast beach! No matter, I can spend some time on the beach and relax, maybe grab a drink and watch the sun go down behind the trees.

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Ranong Hotsprings, Raksa Warin

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Ranong is one of these places rarely visited. It's next to Burma and is a major gateway for travel across the border, but not so much for foreign visitors, more for Burmese migrant workers.
There's quite a few hot springs in Ranong, Its not that we have volcanoes and magma, but the mountains here are being pushed up and the pressure squeezes the water making it hot.

That pool at the top, it's for looking not for swimming. A wall nearby has the only word you need to recognize, 65 Celsius will easily scald.

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Floating (Bobbing) Market North East Bangkok

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This is a new floating market, part of Wat Prayasuren in north east Bangkok. I say floating, but it's not really a floating market, more a market next to the canal. That shouldn't put you off, there's plenty to buy and plenty to see at this market.

The most exciting thing for me, was the nut candy being made. I've always wondered how easy this is to make, because it's a recipe I haven't covered. I always thought it was made in a complicated factory process, but no! You can see from the video it involves a lot of hammering, a lot of nuts and not a lot else.

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Kwan-Riam floating market, Bangkok

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I've covered some other floating markets in Bangkok before (link to 3+ floating markets). None of them are the touristy floating markets of Samut Songkran that you tourists get taken too, and as a result they're really really good!

This one is in Min-Buri, an Eastern part of Bangkok known for factories, Mama Noodles are made here, so is Hel-bru-boy (Hales Blue Boy soda syrup). The factory workers are lucky to have a nice big bustling temple on a canal here, and the temple runs this market at weekends and special holidays.

To be a floating market it needs to have boats selling wares, and this one doesn't disappoint with two banks of food boats selling all manner of Thai dishes. You eat onboard, so you have some pleasant bobbing up and down while you tuck into Isan pork, barbecued fish or, like I did, noodles.
(Video after the break)

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Pornrung Hot-spring Ranong

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Ranong has lots of hot-springs. I passed 4 just driving around the place. This isn't even the best of them, it's just the first I explored.

The water from this hot-spring is piped into pools to bathe in, and you can enjoy the natural warm soothing mineral waters that way. However this spring is not that hot, it's just warm, and it's not much different from sitting in a warm bath. The hot-spring itself isn't why people really come here and the pools are mostly empty.

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No, the big attraction for this Pornrang is the fish.

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Amphawa Homestay

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Since I've visiting Amphawa, a floating market West of Bangkok on the way to Kanchanaburi, it makes sense to stay overnight in a guest house. In Thailand we call these "Home-stay" they're Bed and Breakfast or Guest houses, or Gîtes.

There are plenty of them along the banks of the canal, as you drive into Amphawa people beckon you into parking places. Lots of these parking places also have Home Stay next to them, at the front they face the water, at the back is parking.

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Amphawa Fireflies Trip

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Amphawa, the floating market west of Bangkok I'm visiting, is famous for its fireflies trip. You'll see fireflies everywhere, on t-shirts, on key-rings as statues of fireflies. It's one of the things you do when you come to Amphawa, and I will be no different, I will hop on a boat head out into the dark river and see the fireflies.

There are a few places to catch a boat along the canal, keep an eye out as you walk. Mine went at 7:40pm and takes about an hour, when you get back that gives you just enough time to eat before the place shuts down for the night around 10pm.

If you want to go shopping, its better to do that before you head out on the trip, as most will pack up at 9pm, you don't really have time to go shopping later.

(Video below).

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Kanchanaburi 'Beach'

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Sun, sea and sand. Well without the sea. This is not really a beach, Kanchanaburi is inland, well away from the sea! This sea-side scene is next to a wide part of the Mae Klong river, on the road just before Kanchanaburi. I spotted a lake on the map, and a little bit of exploring revealed the locals have a seaside-style resort here.

As a tourist you do the highlights, for Kanchanaburi, that's Bridge over the River Kwai, Damnoen Saduak floating market, with perhaps a stop-over at the Tiger Temple. But I'm determined to find less explored sites and this river doesn't even rate a mention on tourist map.

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Temple on the Hill, Wat Ban Tham, Kanchanaburi

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When I was at the beach in Kanchanaburi, I spotted a pagoda on the hill behind. When something catches your eye, it beckons you, you have no choice, you have to go! I only hope it isn't a huge climb, I have a long way to go today and don't want to exhaust myself. Memories of the Tiger Temple in Krabi flood back. That pagoda takes two hours to go up and down and two hours for your shaky legs to recover!

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Gap in the Hills, Kanchanaburi

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I've visiting Kanchanaburi, and for me that means I'm skipping the classic tourist things of the River Kwai Bridge, Damnoen Saduak floating market and the rest. If you want that, book a tour (I'd recommend Indo-Thai-Tours who do a multiday tour of the main tourist sites) and the tour company will arrange it all for you. For me, I will explore and see what I can find that isn't so popular, off the beaten track, or things I've always wanted to do!

As I drove north past Kanchanaburi, I noticed a gap in the mountains, perhaps its a mountain pass, a secret hide-away for pirates, a home for fairies, who knows what I might find there! I won't know till I go!

Driving around the minor roads didn't get me close, the proper roads run the lengths of the valleys not into the hills, I would have to go down these dirt tracks.

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Sai Yok Yai Waterfall, Kanchanaburi

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Kanchanaburi is famous for its River Kwai Bridge, a bridge built by the forced labor of captured soldiers during the second world war. Except its not the same bridge, its a new steel one. One thing is the same, the river!

The River Kwai is fed by two smaller rivers and I'm on Kwai Noi visiting a waterfall Sai Yok Yai, Yai means big, there a smaller Sai Yok waterfall I will catch on my way home. I'm staying overnight in raft houses that float on this river. It will be a new experience!

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Dawadung Cave, Bats are the least scary things

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I'm visiting Kanchanburi's not so popular sites, this one is not far from Sai Yok Yai waterfall. I noticed a sign on the road, took the detour and then regretted it almost immediately, well sort of.

The first hurdle is the guard, he explains that its a walk about 500m into the jungle, then you get a guide to take you into the cave. Walk? Up hill into a jungle? I must be getting lazy, even 500m sounds a long way.

Fortunately there are rest places up the hill, its not a long walk. He assures me the cave has bats to see, so that will make a change from the usual cave visit.

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Sai Yok Noi, Go to the source!

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I've covered Sai Yok Yai, Yai being big, the bigger of the two waterfalls, already. But the more visited is Sai Yok Noi. Mainly its on the road, so coaches stop for an extra little stop-over on Kanchanaburi visits.

There isn't much rain at the moment and the waterfall is barely a trickle. So I decide to explore the other sites here, and quickly find the locals know where to go.

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Wooden Mon Bridge, Sangkhla Buri

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When you visit Kanchanaburi, the classic tourist thing is to visit the River Kwai Bridge. But there's a less famous and more important bridge to visit. It's the Mon Bridge, not far from Burma (Myanmar), it is built and maintained by monks and is a ramshackle wooden bridge across an inlet into the lake.

Crossing it is spiritual... and also twenty baht, be sure to donate, it goes to the upkeep of the bridge.

Next to the bridge is a wooden floating walkway that the boats moor up against, this will give you your best photographs of the bridge, but the best view of the bridge is on it, looking through at the flimsy wooden beams held with bolts. This is no Milleu Bridge, its hand made and constantly patched and repaired as the wood rots.

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Flooded Temples By Boat

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After the Mon Bridge, the next thing to do on my itinerary is obviously the boat tour! This lake was damned to hold water, and some villages were flooded as a result. Since the tallest building in a village is often the temple, the temples stick out of the water.

Next to the Mon Bridge is a walkway, and the long boats there take tourists out to explore these derelict temples.

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More adventurous tourists, well richer anyway, rent the house rafts. These are sleeping rafts, that are towed around the lake so the tourists can enjoy swimming and sightseeing in their mobile floating home.
I'm not keen on these, they insulate the tourists from the world, better to go shop with the locals, eat with the locals and chat to the locals.

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Three Pagodas Pass

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Having made the journey, all the way up the highway to the Mon Bridge and to the border of Myanmar, I just have to round off the trip with a visit to the actual border post.

Three Pagodas Pass as its known, name inventively after, erm Three Pagodas is where local Burmese produce comes across from Myanmar, and Thais sell the goods across to the Burmese.

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Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Mega Temple

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North of Bangkok, in Pathum Thani, is Wat Phra Dhammakaya, a temple dedicated to Dhammakaya meditation. It was built quite recently in 1970 and currently being massively expanded.

Lets be honest about this, the reason to visit this temple is not because it is massively spiritual, rather it is massively huge. It's the mega-city of temples, a huge imposing site of concrete buildings around a golden dome shaped like a spaceship, visible from space.

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Temple on Prachuap Kiri Khan Hill

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As you drive the long journey from Bangkok to the South, just need to find things to break the journey. You just gotta. Thankfully its not that hard, this will catch your eye as you pass through Prachual Kiri Khan, it's a white building up on the hill with stairs leading up.

Time to explore.

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Kanchanaburi Roundup

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It's time to look through the many places I visited on my Kanchanaburi trip.

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There were waterfalls, plenty of waterfalls, some with houseboats and some with trains at Sai Yok.

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Bangkok Dinner Cruise

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It's touristy I know, but just because something is made for the tourists doesn't mean its not fun! Dinner cruises along the Chao Praya are a staple of Bangkok. It's a combination of music, sailing, sightseeing, with a full buffet and a show.

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If it's high tide and you choose the top floor when you check-in, expect an added extra, a bit of drama. These boats are 3 stories high. They carry up to 800 people. The bridges are low, one bridge in particular is a real limbo bridge, with boats almost crouching down as they pass under it.

You can see in the video, disco lights are lowered, flag poles bent over, and everyone ducks with people touching the steel as it pass over their heads.

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Ancient Siam at Songkran Time

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I've visited Ancient Siam before. It's a huge complex of reconstructed buildings, traditional markets, pavilions and mock monuments.

It's Songkran and they're having a free entry day. Some four letter words are nice to hear, and free is one of them! So off I head to visit Ancient Siam and catch all the things I missed the first time.

This time I'll take a bike and use the trolley buses. They are not free, 100 baht buys you the use of the buses all day, but you can hop off at the bike sheds, pick a bike, blow up the inevitable flat tyres and cycle around at your leisure.

(Video follows)

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Wat Phut Thabat, Near Saraburi

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I'm heading North East to spend Songkran in Isaan, Bang Sean has a good Songkran, Phuket has a good one day only Songkran at Saphan Hin in Phuket town, but nothing compares to the party atmosphere in Isaan.

Along the way I'm visiting sights to break up the journey and an accidental wrong turn took me past this temple.

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Elephant Temple Luang Pho Khun

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I've been visiting Chaiyaphum (south Isaan) for the Songkran festival and on the way back looking for sights to see. I can't believe I passed this in the dark without noticing it on the way here! In the daylight this thing is massive, its really difficult to miss! Well that sorts out my find for the return journey.

There are two parts to this temple, the religious part full of monks and prayer, and this giant elephant part which is more a day out. They don't charge to enter, but it really is a way to fund the temple. Before you enter, you care grouped together with a guide, the guide explains how donation cards work, and how to operate the chants and receive your gifts.

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You wave your card where indicated, a gift drops out, a chant is heard and the credit on the card is debited. It isn't long before you've spent 500-1000 baht. The cards make it too easy to donate. Oh well. (Video after the break).

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Tatton Park Waterfall

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Chaiyaphum continues to show promise, well apart from the disappointing Stone Henge, Tatton Park is a nature park North West of Chaiyaphum city and it's got an excellent waterfall in it.

It's Songkran, and all the locals descend onto this waterfall in their hundreds, a big line of traffic at the gate and large overspill car-parks means the place will be packed.

At the high part of the waterfall, children play in the relatively slow shallow water. I head for the bottom part, past the danger signs and into the water below. Don't jump off the the top into the bottom, its not deep enough, hence the danger signs!

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Chaiyaphum Dam Food

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I've swam in Tatton Park waterfall, I've seen rocks be rock-like, so now it's time to eat, and for that I head over to the dam across Khuean Bon.

This really is the same fun that's been had over the centuries. You eat freshly barbecued food next with a view over the water, followed by some playing in the water itself.

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Phraya Nakhon Cave, Near Hua Hin

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I'm visiting Sam Roi Yot, which is a hilly area of coast just south of Hua Hin, in South Thailand. Sam Roi Yot literally means 300 peaks.

There's plenty of caves here, and this is one of the most famous, Phraya Nakhon Cave, famous because its huge and has a pavillion built into it. It's a lot of chambers that have collapsed ceilings, letting light stream down into the caves below.

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As you can imagine this is very photogenic, but you need to work to get the shot. The entrance to the cave is 500m up the side of a hill, and even before you get there, there are two hills to walk across from the nearest beach entrance. Fortunately there is a shortcut, a boat ride around the coast, but at 400 baht per boat it's not cheap, but at least its there and back! More expensive boat rides from hotels around the coast take you direct from the hotel to the cave entrance.

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Sam Roi Yot Temple

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If you've just visited the cave at Phraya Nakhon, then nearby there's a temple with some big monk statues set against the hills.

This one is Wat Hub Ta Khotar, set in Sam Roi Yots many peaks, for some nice moody photographs.

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Monkey Island Sam Roi Yot

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Off the shore at Sam Roi Yot, there are a group of small islands, one of which, Ko Kho Ram, is better known as monkey island. In the tourist season, tourists come out here by kayak and fishing boat to feed the monkeys, and during the off season, the fishermen feed them.

This is not my first visit, I've kayaks out to this island before and fed the monkeys, so I know the drill.

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Phra Mahathat Chedi Phakdi Prakat

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I was tired, it was a long drive and I needed a rest. Perhaps a cooling sea breeze? Some shade by the beach? Thankfully it's not so hard to find the beach when driving south on the main highway, the beach is only a few kilometers east of the road, a short drive is all it takes.

And sure enough, I found a long stretch of under-developed beach, with plenty of trees for shade, and the perfect breeze.

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Homestay with a View, Phuket Chalong

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I decided to explore what looks like a new reservoir being built above Chalong Bay in Phuket. As I drove around the backroads, I stumbled upon this place.

It's a homestay, (the Thai version of a guesthouse, bed and breakfast, or gite), with a view across Chalong bay, and Chalong temple below.

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Ranong Vegetarian Festival

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It's that time of year again, when the only meat that gets cut, is the faces of the Chinese shamen!
Vegetarian festival, for this year I'm widening my trips to cover more of the festivals outside of Phuket.

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Ranong is a provincial town near the Burmese border, and although its not as crazy as Phuket, it has its Vegetarian Festival traditions all the same.

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Bat Cave Ranong

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I'm heading North, via Ranong, a border trading city with Myanmar. Ranong has a lot of natural sights to see, and I decided I would explore some of them. Prakhayang Cave is on the main road North, and I decided to take a look.

The first thing that hits you when you walk in the entrance is the smell. Ammonia, strong and pungent from the bat droppings.

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Kra Ismuth, Border with Myanmar

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As I'm exploring Ranong province, I head North and pass Kra Ismuth. This is the border with Burma (Myanmar), where a very very narrow, 100 metre waterway separates the two countries.

In reality the Thai side is built up with people, and the Burmese side is all mangrove swamp, so really its the border between Thailand and a piece of jungle.

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Golden Pagoda Ranong

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This close to Burma, you just have to visit a Pagoda! I visited the pagoda at Wat Suwankiri, a famous one for the area.

Take a very close look, you'll see a ring of small Buddha statues around the pagoda. You can buy and add one of these yourself if you like, but usually the more agile boys of the temple will climb the pagoda to place it for you.

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Robot Restaurant Bangkok

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In Bangkok, well technically its outside Bangkok at Nonthaburi, so lets say it's within the greater metropolitan district of Bangkok, there is a new mall called 'Central Westgate'.

On the third floor is a buffet restaurant that does Suki and Teppanyaki style meals. Both of these are do-it-yourself style, you order a series of dishes to cook, the ingredients arrive, you either cook your food in soup (that's Suki) or on a griddle (that's Teppanyaki).

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Chumpon Beach (Nana Resort)

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The drive from Bangkok to Phuket is always day long haul and I like to break it up with sightseeing and even overnight breaks.

Half way is Chumpon, a town with a good beach called Thung Wua Laen. So I'm staying overnight at Nana Beach Resort, just north of Chumpon, and that breaks my drive nicely in two. A beach is also the perfect place to practice flying my new toy!

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Yes, I've given in and bought a drone to get aerial shots of the places I'm visiting. This drone has the very handy feature of being less than 2kgs, meaning it doesn't need to be registered, and the height limit of 90m is plenty to get good shots. You can the video I made below.

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Exploring Thai Muang #2

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I'm taking time to explore Thai Muang, the area North of Phuket, along the Andaman Coast. So far I've been camping next to the beach, I've done a Salt Crusted Fish BBQ Recipe also next to the beach. I've visited pagodas.

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Bangkok Islands, Ko Kret

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The Chao Praya river snakes through Bangkok and along the way it creates a few islands. These islands flood frequently and so they're designed green areas. I've visited Bangnarmpheung island before to see the weekend floating market, and the fireflies, this time I'm visiting Ko Kret further north.

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Getting to the island is simple enough, ferries run every few minutes from the east bank of the river. There are two temples here, the ferry runs from piers at the two temples, and if you get there early enough you can park at the temples.

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Temple Sinking into the Sea, Khun Samut Chin

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Just south of Bangkok, in the Bay of Bangkok, there's a temple on its own little island, surrounded by tidal mud and water. To the north the land is all flooded. To the south the sea. This temple was once far inland, in the middle of a village! It wasn't that long ago either, 30 years, since the village was abandoned and the people moved further inland.

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Toilets Toilets Toilets, at Chumporn

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North of Chumporn on the main highway there was a garden. You could visit it, and see fruit and flowers and buy some plants.

It got good reviews for the cleanliness of their toilets. So, sort of as a joke, they built more and more and more extravagant toilets. So now people visit them to see the toilets, and no so much the gardens.

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They have toilets shaped like pigs, they have Tarzan and Jane toilets, that need a bit of climbing to get to. They have a skywalk toilet, right up high.

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7 Pagodas for 7 Hills, Surat Thani

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On my way south, I decided to follow the road signs instead of the GPS. After a while the GPS stopped asking me to turn around and instead took me down a winding road. Punishment perhaps?

Or perhaps fate! The scenery here is amazing, all rock spires, and on one spire I spotted a pagoda! But how to get up there? There must be a way, so I took out the drone, and looked around to find the road way and walkway up to the top.

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Bungaloes on the lake, Khao Sok, Surat Thani

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In Surat Thani province, there is a lake. Choew Lan lake is artificial, a damn was built in 1982, to supply water and electricity. The lake is inside a national park, and on the water, float raft houses.

The raft houses are out in the far reaches of the lake, and accessible only by boat. You book a raft house, catch the boat from the municipal pier next to the dam and from there you can see caves, treks and take boat tours.

It's a life experience.

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(Video below)

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Fireflies, Nature and Boats, Surat Thani

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Surat Thani is really a pass through destination, people pass through the airport on their way to the East Coast islands, or, as I did, when I caught the night train to Phuket.

But since we were dropping off friends, we had time to explore the town and there's one thing well worth doing here.

When the sun goes down, there is a night market along the river, and in the middle of that market is a pier where you can take a boat out and see the fireflies.

I've done similar tours before, the famous Amphawa Fireflies trip, and I've even hired a boat to see fireflies in Bangkok. But how does this compare with those?

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Sanctuary of Truth Pattaya

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The Sanctuary of Truth is a tourist attraction in Pattaya, it looks like a temple, but it's really not. It's an attraction, a tourist show, a sight, a temple to wood carving skills, but not a religious temple.

I spent the New Years in Pattaya, Pattaya is normally buzzing at New Years with fireworks and music. With the King's passing, celebrations were cancelled out of respect. So instead I went to see the many tourist shows that Pattaya has to offer.

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Pattaya Park, Tower Sky Drop

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It's new years, it's Pattaya, there's no celebrations this year, so we make our own fun. But there are conditions! I'm not allowed to do anything scary or stressful for the next few months, doctors orders, lucky for me I have some young cousins who are more than willing to do the scary stuff for me.

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Laser Buddha, Pattaya

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My news-years visit to Pattaya, means seeing the sights. This Buddha image is famous in Pattaya, it's reputedly carved using a laser onto the side of the mountain at Khao Cheejan.

That's sort of a legend that's built up, but the image isn't carved at all, rather its slabs of cement painted in gold carefully outlining the shape of the Buddha.

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Frost World, Pattaya

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It's another very hot day in the middle of a Thai winter, and so I escape to Frost World in Pattaya. I've been to many of these around the world, including Harbin Ice Wonderland in Bangkok a few years ago. But this one, well it's confused and confusing!

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Cloud 47, Bangkok Sky Restaurant

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There are lots and lots of sky restaurants in Bangkok. Restaurants on the tops of towers, usually open air, with a view over the city. Cloud 47 in Silom, Bangkok, happens to be one of the cheaper ones! Which was my main reason for choosing it.

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Pagoda 2/7, "Sky Oasis"

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I've visited Thamma Park Pagodas, Surat Thani before. It's a range of peaks, and they're building a pagoda on each of seven of the peaks.

When I visited this summer, the first pagoda was completed and the second was started. I did a donation, and climbed the peak, and kicked myself for getting the drone video overexposed.

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I didn't really expect it to be finished so soon. Only a few monks were working on it, with the help of some volunteers from Surat Thani. I made the suggestion that they should connect the peaks with rope bridges (or at least steel wire bridges), but sadly they didn't do that. You have to climb each peak one at a time.

Lucky the new pagoda has easier, wider, steps up to the top. It was also far busier than last time. Lots of visitors came to see the view from the top.

(Video after the article break).

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Wat Khao Takiab, Temple near Hua Hin

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There's a lot to do at this temple! My friend visited this temple when she was younger, now we're passing she suggests it and the beach below. It's a temple, full of fun things to do, and donations to make, and ways to pray. It's on a little mountain overlooking Hua Hin.

Khao means mountain, Wat means temple.

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The first thing I notice is the monkeys, they fill the road to the car park, one hops on the car and starts playing with the wipers, I try to take a photograph, but there's something unappealing about a large ugly monkey anus on the windscreen. I decide that is a photograph I can skip, and over time, a memory that I hope to forget!

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Dressing up in Amphawa

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I've been to Amphawa before, several times, but I've never been to this park. Rama 2 Memorial Park in the center of Amphawa. I found it while looking for the Thai Sweet Museum, it turns out the sweet museum is inside the park!

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But really don't bother, if you want to see traditional thai sweets, go to Amphawa market any weekend and they sell them freshly made and edible. Here the sweets are made of wax and plastic and resin, and they're mouldy and you cannot taste them or try them. What is the point of a museum for food if you can't eat it!? It needs to be a Khanom tasting session!


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Bang Kung Camp, Amphawa

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Amphawa is famous for it's weekend floating markets, and for it's firefly boat trips. But there's a lot more to Amphawa than just those two things. There's also temples, lots and lots and lots of temples.

Bang Kung Camp is one of the more famous of these temples, it's an old army fortress, next to a river, with an old temple. The trees have grown and consumed the temple, till now, the whole things is just a few windows looking out between a mass of tree root.

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Papa Market, Getting Better!

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I completely missed the back of this market the last time I visited Papa Market! It's the market next to Train Market, the big famous weekend/night market behind Seacon Square shopping mall.

Papa Market is right next door, a 'little brother' market more than a 'papa'. Smaller, and quieter. As Train Market has become overcrowded and overpopular, so I've been looking around for other places to visit. I discovered Papa market has been extended at the back, and it's a nice set of bars and restaurants surrounding a fish pond with a Muay Thai ring in the middle. It's quiet enough to be nice to spend an evening, and busy enough to offer plenty of choice.

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I was about 6 months pregnant when I visited. My baby girl will have major surgery after she's born, to fix a large omphalocele. So I've been frantically searching around for a hospital I can afford with access to expert surgeons. Now I'm happy with my choice of hospital, I can relax more and spend time to catch up on my blog entries.

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Show DC, Bangkok Mall with Shows!

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I've found, quite by accident, a new shopping malls in Bangkok that's worth a visit! Show DC, on Rama 9 is a Korean themed mall from RCA group. There are lots and lots of malls in Bangkok, practically every month a new one opens somewhere. They're pretty much cookie-cutter malls with the same shops and same ideas, so I usually don't review them. You can go to one, or another and they're the same.

Show DC is very different, RCA malls have an unusual twist to them, House RCA has, for example the "Cookin with Nanta" show, a slapstick comedy live show, and a second floor go-cart track!

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Himmapan Avatar Live Show, Bangkok

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I accidentally discovered a great shopping mall, and it has two shows. Himmapan Avatar, a show about tree spirits, and "Ong Bak Live" a live action fight-love-grow show based on the movie. I've seen "Cookin with Nanta", another RCA show at their other mall, and thought it would be really great to catch Himmapan.... I was not disappointed, it was stunning.

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There's two parts to this show, the first part is a stage show in a theatre, the second part is an exploration area, where the actors mix with the audience and you experience life in the forest all around you. The show has wheel chair access areas via a lift, but not for the best (gold) seats, and there are English and Thai language shows.

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