Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Thailand, Laos, Myanmar Recommendations

Recommendations of what I most enjoyed on my trip.

  • Krabi Town- is worth seeing. I had planned to go to Phuket but was told it's as nice but much less crowded (I didn't go to Phuket, so I can't compare)
    •  The beach is quite nice and gets less crowded the further you go from the main road
    • Massages and pedicures are crazy inexpensive at the beach. I got a pedi which was different than what I have gotten in the US (didn't include any massage, scrub, cream, etc.) For $2 USD it was a steal
    • Krabi Sunset Cruises- I did a sunset cruise, booked through Tripadvisor, and loved it
    • Ban Sainai Resort- LOVED it!! It's a 2-3 minute drive from the main road so you don't hear any of the noise from it. It's a lush oasis with beautiful rooms, attentive staff and nice extras. The restaurant is wonderful and breakfast options are extensive and very good. There are less costly options, but I really loved this place.
  • Chiang Mai- it took me a little while to fall for Chiang Mai, but it's worth a visit. The historic center is a square mile and weaves through some gorgeous wats  (temples). 
    • Elephant Nature Park was simply amazing. I learned about the prevalence in the region of elephant abuse and was so glad I did my research. They do pick up and drop off from hotels
    • Chiang Rai and the White, Blue and Black Temples, and the Golden Triangle- the temples are pretty modern art installations and they are worth seeing. The Golden Triangle is mostly a tourist trip-- if it's part of a trip it's worth a look but I wouldn't head to this area alone. It was also really cool to see the long-neck Karen tribe but also a bit of a tourist trap. Purchases do go to supporting the tribe. The tour I booked was through KKDAY and I was happy with it.
    • IDI- Intellectual Development Institute- if you like a really deep tissue massage or want to try a new modality-- wow. It's around twice the going rate for what you can get on the street from the many places but worth every penny
    • Bahn Mi Guest House-- I loved this place. The room is very basic and clean. There is no a/c but there is a big fan and it kept the room cool enough. What is special is the family who owns it. You become part of their extended family and offer their assistance with planning and recommendations. And Aay is one of the most amazing cooks, ever. Go to this restaurant. Daily.

  • Bangkok
    • Wats and palaces- The Royal Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha (same property), Wat Pho and Wat Arun are all spectacular and worth seeing. Beware that during high season (winter in the US) the palace draws thousands and is crazy crowded
    • Lumpini Park- if you're seeking a beautiful refuge from high-season crowds, this hige park, the "Central Park" of Bangkok, is worth a visit
    • New Siam Riverside Guest House- this is a great affordable option near the river and close to  the Royal Palace. The room was comfortable and staff was helpful.
    • Check out the night markets, that are all over the city.
Luang Prabang, Laos

    • Kuang Si Waterfalls- nice walk through the woods to see beautiful waterfalls and some rescued black bears. Only a few minutes from the entrance is the butterfly park and it's worth a look. The owners offer students classes in Biology, not taught in the local schools. 
    • The Alms Walk is worth seeing. I chose my hotel as it's on the route and has a balcony so I could take pictures without being rude. If you go and stand on the street, PLEASE don't put your camera in their face but stand a respectful distance back when taking pictures.
    • Night market is huge and worth seeing.
    • I used Tripadvisor to choose Kaiphaen, which I recommend. It's a training ground for students interested in the culinary arts. I also really enjoyed Bouang, which I stumbled upon as it was crowded but found it's also highly rated in Tripadvisor. I liked the food at Bouang a little better, but both were great. I also ate at 3 Nagas Restaurant, which was in the top 4 when I went. The food was great and beautifully plated, though service wasn't impressive.
    • Living Land Farm- This started off not very impressive when the driver didn't pick me up and told my hotel manager he couldn't find me (I was with the hotel manager for a good 30 minutes around when I was supposed to be picked up.) They did give me my own guide so while I was there less time, I got to do everything as I wasn't working with a group. The farm is gorgeous and the tour was so informative. I'd recommend.
  • Bagan- Go, go now. The temples are amazing. You can take bikes or e-bikes, but if you want to learn about the culture, history and the temples, I highly recommend a guide. I really liked May (May Hnin Mu, Licensed Tour Guide, mayhninmu14@gmail.com, or +959250085697). At least in late 2017 it seems guides have a going rate of $35 a day, and a car was $40 a day.

Hong Kong- even if you have a few hours as I did, it's worth leaving the airport to check out this incredibly huge and modern city. I took the Victoria Peak Tram to climb the mountain outside of the city and it's spectacular.

I would skip Yangon, honestly. 

Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Hong Kong: Favorite Pics

Chiang Mai Street Food, Thailand

Lumpini Park, Bangkok

Ananda Temple, Bagan, Myanmar

Street Market, Bagan, Myanmar

Temple, Bagan Myanmar

Bagan Sunset, Myanmar

Blue Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Mai Wat, Thailand

Chiang Mai Wat 2, Thailand

Chiang Mai Wat 3, Thailand

Daily Alms Walk, Luang Prabang, Laos

e-Bike "safety", Bagan, Myanmar

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

Hong Kong viewed from Victoria Peak

Island off the coast of Krabi Town, Thailand

Island off the Coast of Krabi, Thailand

Krabi Sunset Cruise, Thailand

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Living Land Company, Luang Prabang, Laos

Long-Neck Karen Tribe, Thailand

Night Market, Luang Prabang, Laos

Monk in Temple, Bagan, Myanmar

Royal Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

Shwedegon Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar

Shwedegon Pagoda Woman, Bagan, Myanmar

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Arun Grounds, Bangkok, Thailand

Bagan, Myanmar

I went down for breakfast and the desk had called to check on my flight. Clearly May knew more than I, suggesting we confirm. They pushed the time two hours so I depart now at 6:20. they did suggest I arrive two hours before and not one, which seems a bit crazy given that the airport is so small if you spin you could leave it. But I will see what May says.

I am very pleased with this place, Motel Zein. It was recommended on Tripadvisor (of course) and is basic and the service is very good. The room is a good size and comfortable, with a small fridge, water, as seems typical in SE Asia, some toiletries, etc. There are flip flips in the bathroom as well as the shower is part of the bathroom though in a separate part, and the floor all gets wet.

May gave me her business card, and I'll share on a separate suggestions page as well- May Hnin Mu, and he is a licensed tour guide in Bagan. +959250085697, mayhninmu14@gmail.com.

I learned yesterday as well that the Bagan Archaeological Zone pass for 25k kyat isn't a racket but a government requirement. May said it's to clean up the temples, however, she said it goes into the government pockets. I was asked for this five times during the day so it is a requirement.

***Looks like I didn't update my second day and it's now a month later. So, I'll post pictures and mention a few highlights.

I walked around the town a bit then we went to see a couple more temples. Next we went to a laquer studio to learn how to make it. It takes SIX MONTHS! As there are 19 coats applied and each dries a week, then they do the etchings and that needs time to dry between colors.

We then went to a local village and it was both sadly beautiful and heartbreaking. I learned from my guide that people built with bamboo and thatched roofing until they were able to afford to replace with brick and a tin roof. They do have running water from pipes and collect in a cistern for use. The small buildings are either outhouses or showers. A lovely woman invited us in for snacks. Another older woman said she wanted to invite us in but she had nothing to give. She is widowed, and her daughter works in the city of Bagan to help care for her. It was truly heartbreaking and May and I made a donation for her care. We also bought some fairly good quality lacquerwear. May ordered hers to be picked up.. in six months. :)