We landed at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport at 1515 on Monday 2nd December after a short flight from Chiang Mai. We had booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express Siam, right in the middle of the CBD, but our first challenge was to work out how to get there! We would normally have taken a taxi from the airport, but with Bangkok being so big we decided against that idea as it would take a long time and cost a small fortune. Instead we opted for public transport! We had done some research before leaving Chiang Mai about public transport options, but these all looked quite complicated.
We arrived in the ancient city of Ayutthaya on Wednesday 3rd December following a two hour train journey from Bangkok. It was the first train I can remember being on where the train stopped for vehicles at a level crossing! Once out of the station it didn’t take long for a tuktuk driver to pounce on us, offering to take us to our hour l hostel for 100BHT. We were prepared for this, having asked the hostel how much a tuktuk from the station should cost and were informed it should be around 50-60BHT, and turned down the 100BHT offer. We eventually managed to get a price of 80BHT, which we accepted. The drive to the hostel only took five minutes, by which time we were right in the heart of the old city.
We spent 11 nights in Chiang Mai in total, across two visits. This is the longest time we have spent in any one city on our travels, making it a pretty special place! We loved the relaxed atmosphere in the city, the cafe culture, the ability to walk most places and the variety of things to do – there was something for everyone! So how did we fill all these days I hear you ask? Well, here are some of our highlights from Chiang Mai…
On Tuesday 26th November we took a VIP bus for the three hour journey north from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, looking to do a tour to the Golden Triangle (the three-point border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos).
We had three stays in Hanoi during our time in Vietnam. The first was after getting the overnight train north from Hue and before heading to Sapa, the second was between returning from Sapa and our visit to Halong Bay and our third visit was between returning from Halong Bay and flying to Thailand.
When we were doing our research of where to visit in Vietnam one place that everyone agreed that we must visit was Halong Bay. When we looked further into trips in Halong Bay it didn’t take long to start to understand why. Having been there, I would wholeheartedly agree with all the advice we received on this one!
The train arrived almost two hours late at Lao Cai station. In the UK this can happen on a 30 minute journey. It was slightly more acceptable here though as we had been on the train since 2030 the previous night, but it was 0720 before we finally pulled to a stop and the doors were opened. We had taken the overnight train from Hanoi and it was supposed to arrive at 0530 on Thursday 7th November, but the two hour delay meant that we would be able to enjoy the next part of our journey – the 38km, 1 hour bus ride to Sapa – in the daylight and be able to take in the views of the mountains, rice terraces and local villages as we passed.
From Hoi An we took a daytime train for the two and a half hour journey north to Hue. After enjoying the views along the coast we arrived in Hue mid-afternoon on Friday 1st November and were met by a driver from the hotel. This was something we have now learnt – when you arrive in a new place it is so much easier if you have pre-arranged to be collected and taken straight to your hotel as it saves a lot of hassle and haggling with taxi or tuktuk drivers! It was only a fifteen minute drive from the train station to our hotel, which was located in the backpacker area of the city.
From the hussle and bussle of Ho Chi Minh City we took a sleeper train (for 17 hours) to Da Nang, from where we were picked up and taken to our hotel in Hoi An. Arriving around midday on Sunday 27th October, we dropped our bags in our rooms and, after a quick freshen up, went for lunch in the hotel restaurant. After lunch we returned to our room for a rest and do some research on places to see and eat as well as tailors, for which Hoi An is famous for. Feeling rested after a few hours, we walked into town for an explore and to find somewhere to eat dinner.
Our room on arrival at Hai Au