Thursday, June 30, 2011

Train to Kanchanaburi and The Rafting Guest Houses

It is my last day today with XM-Asia, the digital company was also my client back then I first engaged with after selling off my start-up in year 2007.

If you are following me closely I'm going to get my hands on my dad's security business, I have a few plans, but the uncertainties await.

Life goes on albeit the uncertainties, that's the general story that I've been telling everyone and everyone's telling me it's going to be fine. Thank you.

Throughout the years, I learned to share, good or bad. Many had shown some encouraging kindness and spoken about some considerably good advices, more so just kind words and later forget about it, I thank you all for listening.


Muang Kanchanaburi is located 150km at the west of Bangkok, The Golden City has a very dark past where the Allied prisoners of war were enslaved by the Japanese army to build the death railway and the bombing of the Bridge of River Kwai during the infamous World War II.

Ten of thousands of prisoners of war died as the result of brutal treatments under the Japanese fearful force. Many died of malnutrition after working day and night with little food supplied, and deceases that spread across the camp that were never treated properly due to lack of medical care for these unwanted labours.

Kanchanaburi is very much for cultural focused tourists, it's definitely not the most famous tourist spot for party goers as the nightlife is rather calm and no beach to be found but the serene and relaxed river awaits.

Beautiful rafting guest rooms at Khancanaburi

Taking The Train to Kanchanaburi

Don't bother to walk to Thonburi train station from Khao San road unless you know exactly where you are heading to, and if you do, it's going to be in the morning. I almost made it to Thonburi by foot at night to get the train ticket, sadly I got lost and paid extra Baht to get a taxi only to find out that they don't sell next day's ticket..

The attempt was in the evening and the night walk was not something unusual for such an unwise daring character like me, but the confident always wore off in the end I just had to rely on the local taxi drivers.

Thonburi train station
The railway
The fan train to Kanchanaburi
Settling down on the train

The train usually was very punctual at arriving and departing, there were still some time and I decided to go off the train.

Emo shot

There was a market across the station and I took some quick bites.

Street food across the station

Traveling with the non air-conditional train was particularly exciting, usually filled with local passengers but it didn't get filled up at least until halfway through the journey to Kanchanaburi. There were food and drink sellers coming up and down.

There were very little tourists traveling from Thonburi station, I wondered if it's because it's low season month.

The goings and scenery were fascinating, the train passed by temples, houses and padi fields and were very original. I got worried a bit on which station to stop, was very alert after traveling for two hours as I knew it's getting nearer.

The goings scenery on the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

My worries quickly eased off after a traveling Thai girl offered to alert me to make sure I get out of the train when we reach Kanchanaburi, she probably realized what's on my mind from my stressed face after traveling some two hours and half.

The Rafting Guest Houses

I quickly settled down at the first friendly guest house, the main street was just 10 minutes walk from Kanchanaburi station. I still had in mind to check out the Sugarcane guest house that was recommended by my travel book and some Internet blogs that I came across researching.

The room I took for 350 Baht at Maenamkwai road, which is the main street where all tourists stay, was a rafting room that floated quietly on the calm and serene river. Occasionally there were these noisy motor boats carrying raft restaurants passing by.

And yes, again, like usual, I took the twin bed that I didn't need to.

That's the twin bed I took that I didn't usually need to
The bed
Clean toilet

The flooring had some holes that leak
The chairs outside the door could be useful for drinks at night
Calm and quiet surrounding
It's very quiet in the month of May in Kanchanaburi, the bars and restaurants were mostly empty but it's definitely one of the best time to travel here if you want a bit of the peacefulness from the heritage town.

Make sure you pay a visit to the night market at the Sangchuto road beside the railway station, there were a lot of good local food for takeaway, I brought them all back to my guest house resting area, and I bought more food than I could eat.

Potato fries

Sticky rice with choices of dishes

It rained that night, the smell of the rain made me so comfortable and soothed on a swing chair, the mind was so relaxed but it wouldn't feel complete if it was without a few bottles of Singha beer, if only the wooden swing chair was powered to swing on its own.

The next day was a full day on tour package to Erawan Waterfall, elephant ride, visiting at the Death Railway before taking the train and stopping at the famous Bridge of River Kwai. I'd recommend anyone to visit the bridge early in the morning, it's very busy in the evening. I'll cover this on my next post.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok

There is a lot of uncertainty judging from the latest development of what I believe to be entering second half of the Andrew Lee's life.

I'm quitting my job, not because of traveling, but to try to focus on getting my dad's security arm force company back on track before venturing into other optional startups that I've been planning for some time.

It's going to be challenging years ahead, really, a lot of things to be picked up from where they were left some time ago. But I'm just going to be tougher and being myself once again, the Andrew Lee that was once vocal and confidently taking on all challenges into bed with him every night.

The Jim Thompson House

The Jim Thompson House is a museum in Bangkok, just 5 minutes walk from Lub.d Hostel. It a complex of various old Thai structures that the American businessman Jim Thompson who helped to revitalize the silk industry in 1950s.

That morning, I got up at 10am, later than expected, I think was because of clubbing till late at RCA. RCA was awesome, great sound systems, great music, hot chicks, full of fashionable clubbers. I like it very much.

The weather wasn't really good, gloomy sky.

The food from the roadside was looking particularly nice, and me and the girls just decided to settle down for breakfast. It was awesome, but too spicy I sweated like a pig, wait, does a pig sweat? I don't know.

Fried pork, chicken? I didn't bother too much

There was a cute girl, I was just taking shots at the food and thinking, what's wrong with making her my photo collection?

Not kidding, but super spicy delicious breakfast, the pork was chewy and the vege super spicy

Jim Thompson collected from all parts of Thailand in the 1950s and 60s and putting them together form the art of this museum. It's one of the most visited tourist spot in Bangkok according to wikipedia.

The Jim Thompson House is located on Soi Kasemsan (2) Song, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Rd.

Opening Hours: 09:00 to 17:00 everyday with the last Guided Tour at 17:00 according to its official website.

Jim Thompson House's entrance

The well preserved traditional old Thai structures

The art gallery houses all the finest silk products of all kind

One of the tour guide reading on some book, they generally speak good English, and Japanese

The flooring, just took some random shots while waiting for the tour before it started

The main hall of Jim Thompson's house

The front yard that is facing the river

Some fine arts in the museum

The signs of years, some duplicate copies are available for purchase

Jim Thompson's conspiracy. He came to Cameroon Highland, Malaysia in 1967 and was disappeared shortly after taking an evening walk.

He took a way at noon, and never returned. Malaysian police forces conducted a thorough search over the jungle but their efforts were futile, he was never found.

His disappearance became a mystery, many books had been published since then, but there were no concreate conclusions and solid facts to back the claims.

As many theorists had try to come to conclusions on the conspiracy of why Jim Thompson had disappeared, his contribution to the silk industry had never been forgotten.

Jim Thompson's foundation continued to operate and expand on the businesses that he owned and his house was preserved and opened to the public for visit.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bangkok, The City of Angel

Bangkok, the vibrant capital of Thailand, known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, meaning city of angel in short, has about 9 millions population.

For many travelers, the city is full of life with many reasons to come to visit the capital, the dazzling temples and palace, delicious local food, shopping heaven, the famous nightlife and anything in between for man and women.

Vibrant Bangkok

Wikitravel says:
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya river, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned vit into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders. Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house and functions as Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic center.

Thailand is such a country so rich in culture, and deeply rooted heritage, The Thais are friendly, polite and the magical smile across their faces are what travelers like most. At least that's what I experienced too.

I touched down at Suvarnabhumi Airport, located 30km to the east of Bangkok. There are many choices of transportations available to get you into the city, the city cab, the train (150 Baht) and shuttle bus (70 Baht).

I shared the taxi fare with the ladies, expect the taxi driver to ask you to pay the toll fares.

Do not simply litter at the busiest street on Rama 1 road, Siam Square, where all the shopping malls are located. You will be fined for 2,000 Baht if caught for littering.
I knew because Miss J "simply, incidentally and inadvertently" threw a cigarette butt on the floor and she was fined on the spot! We haven't even started shopping yet, was just outside our first stop at MBK mall with Miss S, five minutes walk from Lub.d hotel.

Notice that their names were represented by letter J & S because they prefer to remain hidden from my public post.

Anyway, it rained every day in Bangkok on May, the weather was so unpredictable with heavy downpour that lasted for a couple of hours and I wasted the chance to vist the Grand Palace, Wat Phrakaew and Arun. Maybe next time but I still managed to visit Chinatown, Jim Thompson's museum, Chatuchak, Siam Square, Khao San road, RCA, and Soi Cowboy at Sukhumvit though I missed Patpong.

Lub.d Hostel

It was one of the best hostel I've ever stayed and I'd definitely come back to here next time. It is situated at Siam Square, less than a minute from National Stadium BTS in central Bangkok.

Slightly expensive Lub.d hostel at Siam Square
The hangout place
It's best recommended to stay at this cozy and clean hostel for a very memorable and refreshing modern backpacking experience, slightly expensive but consider the facilities and the set up, it worths the money most definitely.

I haven't been bothered to look for other hostels or guest houses special thanks to the girls whom I traveled with for the first three days in Bangkok before I embarked on journey to travel a little bit west and north.

Lub.d is good for sweet couple, explorative backpackers, new experience seeker, with slight higher cost of rental. For three days, I saved RM150 staying with them, thank you.

It has got five types of rooms ranging from deluxe dorm to double deluxe. A twin bed room would cost you RM180 where a dorm cost RM50.

Deluxe double, I was sleeping at the left corner

The comfy bed that I hardly get to sleep

There will be more to talk about Lub.d in another post, in fact, more photos and less writing, visit their official website to book a room or you can walk in anytime.


There was a day in Bangkok where I hired a motorbike taxi driver to Hua Lampong train station from the hostel for 50 Bath to try to purchase the train ticket next day to Kanchanaburi, I didn't get the ticket because I was told the train to Kanchanaburi was at Thonburi train station in Bangkok Noi further west from Khao San road.

And I was hungry.

25 Bath curry noodle at Hua Lampong train station

I decided to walk through China Town to Khao San road with no idea that it would take more than an hour to reach my destination on foot.

Thanon Yaowarat, the main street of Chinatown
Before hitting Yaowarat the main street where traffic was very congested, there were moments of peacefuness where I felt like I was back in the past, it's the most awesome and wildest imagination.

People who's working in the old streets were mostly old folks, I looked into each of their eyes, and I could tell they have a lot of untold histories marked over their aging faces.

They were slow and relaxed, but they were determined to finish their routine jobs. There were some friendly faces who put on the warmest smile at me and I returned the kindness of act with respect, but there were some unfriendly grandmas who would be staring at me while I took some pictures of the streets and buildings, still I returned with a smile with respect.

Old Chinese building

I got lost, the survival instinct kicked in and I started asking around for help but everyone was pointing at different directions heading to Khao San road and I thought it would be a good idea to hire a motorbike taxi driver.

I paid 80 Baht to get to Khao San road, was good call. It was farther than I expected it to be.

发财快乐, it means happy good fortune and they sell hopes, people do buy chances don't they?
Khao San Road

Khao San Road is literally drawing a lot of attention from backpackers around the world because of some of its affordable accommodations, tour deals and nightlife.

It's not particularly high class, travelers just chilled out at the pubs along the street and sipping a glass of Chang beer (50 Baht for a small bottle), the dazzling nightlife was definitely the main attraction to me. The street came to life after 8pm.

There were a lot of massage parlors around too if you got too stressful with the roadside bars, they were cheap, 200 Bath for an hour of body massage.

There were three nights on three distinctive occasions I ended up at Khao San road, first was with the girls and two Europeans from the hostel for party and drinks. I forgot their names, neither did we exchange emails nor Facebook contacts.

Kha San road, the main street
Dinner at Thai restaurant with my travel mates
Second, I was there after checking out the schedule and ticket price to Kanchanaburi at Thonburi train station, I went up to chill out at Khao San road 2 (Rambuttri road or something like) where it was quieter and more relaxed at one of the restaurant pub with acoustic live band unlike the main street where pubs and bars blasted deafening music.

There another evening I was at Khao San road for transit to Koh Samui, nothing much to say about that.

One of these things you should try at Khao San road
Fried grasshoppers, beetles, worms, etc
No, I was sober enough to avoid these snacks from the local sellers.

Coming up next, I'll be posting some incredible experience in Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya, and some short post to show you some details of guest houses I stayed.

Some useful words
  1. Sawathee krap/ka (Hello)
  2. Thaorai? (How much?)
  3. Nid noi, Ped nid noi, Mai ped (A bit, a bit spicy, no spicy)
  4. Paragon U tinai?, U tinai? (Where is Paragon? Where is this? - I used this quite often when I got lost, I'd be asking U tinai? And direct the person to look and point on the map)
  5. Sat fai (Train)
  6. Korn song (Bus)
  7. Peng (Expensive)
  8. Dai, mai dai (OK, not OK)
  9. Cai, mai cai (Yes, No)
  10. Khun chi a rai? (What is your name?)
  11. Kee Mong (What is the time?)
  12. Mai cow jai (Don't understand)
  13. Mai phen rai (Never mind)