Tristan’s Birthday – 2/2/2017

South Siam Divers Company is one of the many dive companies that run from near Panwa beach (we just had to drive across the long bay, to get there.) It was very well-run and professional, the staff were friendly, and there was food included (an absolute must).

Koh Dok Mai is a limestone island around an hour and 15 minutes from Chalong Bay. The wall there stretches down about 25 metres, and is full of small creatures and corals. It is often offered as part of a 3-dive plan.

The King Cruiser was a 85 metre-long car ferry that sank two and a half hours after hitting Anemone Reef in 1997. All passengers were rescued by police and local fishing boats that heard the distress call. The wreck was left to lie in the ocean, the first wreck to dive near Phuket.

Shark Point is about an hour and a half from Chalong Bay. So titled for its leopard sharks, this dive spot is also famous for the multitudes of sea fans and colourful soft corals, that retain an unusual vibrancy underwater. Does have current, sometimes, but usually running parallel to the wall.

Mum, Dad and I went on three dives with South Siam Divers Company. Our first dive was Koh Dok Mai or Flower Island. It was a wall dive and we saw lots of fish, I saw a bamboo shark with big eyes.

Our next dive was my first wreck dive, The King Cruiser. I sat on an underwater toilet. We saw scorpionfish, which were like underwater chameleons, eels, and shrimps which chewed my gloves, trying to chew my fingernails.

Our last dive was to Shark Point, which should have been called No Shark Point, because all the sharks were gone, fished out for shark fin soup. We saw blue-spotted rays, clownfish and a tiger-tailed seahorse, which was quite big. Our safety stop was in a beautiful group of pink and purple coral.

We went out for dinner and had a birthday cake.

– Tristan

 

 

Tourist Information on South Siam Divers Company:

Prices for this day-trip (Koh Dok Mai, The King Cruiser and Shark Point) are 3,400 baht per person for divers, 2,000 for those who don’t wish to go diving, and individual dive pieces, or a full set for 500 baht, can be rented if you don’t have the equipment. Food, drinks, a dive guide and transfers from your hotel in Phuket all come included.

They run trips to other dive sites, too: see website for details.

http://www.southsiamdivers.com

Wat Pho, the Emerald Buddha, and the Grand Palace – 23/1/2013

On the 23rd of January, 2013, we went to The Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Pho.

We first went to Wat Pho, which had the largest reclining Buddha we have seen and a lot of Buddha statues and a roof with statues of dragons and dragon scale roof tiles.

After that we went to the temple, which contained the Emerald Buddha, which was very disappointing considering the size of the other Buddha’s we had seen, but the temples which were around the Buddha were very interesting, with giants and the Royal Chapel.

We then went to The Grand Palace, which is not used except when other leaders come to stay in it. Also, there was a big weapons museum which had everything from elephant spears to guns and cannons. There were also white-dressed soldiers which were basic.

– Josh

Hellfire Pass – 21/1/2013

On the 21st of January, 2013, we went to the Hellfire Pass. The small museum next to it told us all about Konyu Cutting (Hellfire Pass.) It showed us what they ate (a few vegetables, rice and dried fish), rations, and the sicknesses.

The Hellfire Pass took approximately 250,000 Asian labourers and 6,000 prisoners of war to build it. It took them from 1942 – 1945 to build it, but about 92,400 people died. They died from cholera, beriberi, pelegra, malaria, dysentery, tropical ulcers and more. After the completion of the railway, the POWs that were still surviving were either kept in Thailand or sent back to Singapore. However, many who recovered still carried mental scars.

As we walked through Hellfire Pass, we saw small holes in the rock where dynamite would have been stuck to blast out the rock and a broken drill bit embedded in the rock.

After finishing at Hellfire Pass, we went on a very loud, old-fashioned train which drove along some of the Thai-Burma Railway and across a bridge with a good view of the River Kwai.

– Tristan

Death Railway Bridge, Allied War Cemetery, War Museum and the Thailand – Burma Railway Center – 21/1/2013

On the 21st of January, 2013, we went to the Death Railway Bridge, Allied War Cemetery, Jeath War Museum and the Thailand-Burma Railway Center.

We first went to the Jeath War Museum, which stood for Japanese, English, Australian, Thai and Holland servicemen. It showed you the conditions they lived in, and pictures of the prisoners of war (POWs) and their things.

We then went to the Allied War Cemetery, which we looked upon from a distance. It contained only a small fraction of the POWs that died.

Across the road there was the best museum, the Thailand-Burma Railway Center, which was a bit sad because it had things and letters from the loved ones of the POWs. It also had models of the rail tracks.

After that we went to the 300 meter long bridge built by the prisoners of war. It is commonly known as the Bridge Over the River Kwai, which is now legendary.

– Josh

Ayutthaya – 19/1/2013

Our first stop on our visit to Ayuthaya was Wat Phra Mahathat. Built in 1374, the best thing here was the Buddha sandstone head in the photos tangled in the tree roots. It’s apparently the most photographed thing in Ayuthaya. All around the Wat were headless Buddha statues.

 

The photo of the chedis was taken at Wat Phra Si Sanphet. There are three large chedis surrounded by three smaller chedis. The rest of the photos were taken at Wat Ratburana. It’s undergoing major works due to flooding last year. The carvings on the top of the temples are of mythical creatures and were pretty cool.

 

In the afternoon we did a boat trip around the island of Ayuthaya (Pop hated it, thought there was too much poverty). One of our first stops was to Wat Phanan Choeng. Inside the wat was an enormous gold Buddha (well, 19 metres is pretty big). We visited quite a few other temples and saw a lot more Buddhas. There is also a photograph of Andrew in Ayuthaya’s own style tuk-tuk. The last stop was to Wat Chai Wattanaram, and I thought it was amazing. I think it was my favourite temple we’ve seen. Josh and Tristan wandered around with me and had a look, everybody else was “watted out.” It was peaceful and very beautiful at sunset. Apparently only 40 years ago it was still covered by jungle.

– Karen

 

official website for unesco: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/576

tourism authority website with opening hours:  https://www.tourismthailand.org/Attraction/Ayutthaya-Historical-Park–2352

The Buddha head imbedded in the tree trunk and roots in the grounds surrounding Wat Mahathat 

This is one of the vihara, (Buddhist monastery) which is a satellite of the main Wat Mahathat. What is special about this one is that the Buddha in the front is still intact as the Burmese army decapitated most of them.

Same three chedis at Wat Phra Si Sanphet just photographed from different angles.

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One of the chedi at Wat Phra Ram, it was built sometime between 1369 and 1434.

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The most impressive thing in Wat Lokayasutharam is the enormous reclining Buddha, which is 37 m long and 8 m high.

Tourist Information for Ayuthaya:

Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm

Cost: Wat Lokaya Sutharam, Wat Thammikarat – no charge. The other wats charge 50 baht to enter.

One of our stops on the boat trip was to Wat Chai Wattanaram.  It was made even more special at sunset.  Unfortunately everyone was tired, hot and had, had enough.

Tourist Information Wat Chai Wattanaram

Open: 8.30 am – 5 pm

Cost: 50 Baht

Sukhothai – 15-16/1/2013

We arrived in the town of Sukhothai on Wednesday the 16th of January. Andrew and I left the kids at the hotel to swim in the pool and we hired a scooter and went for a drive out to Sukhothai. It was peaceful and very few people, we wandered around and had a look at a few temples. Little did we know what tomorrow would bring.

On Thursday we went out to Sukhothai with everyone. We hired bikes for the kids, one with trainer wheels for Ava. Max insisted he didn’t need trainer wheels; after he fell a few times and had skinned knees, Andrew took his bike back. Max then took it in turns with riding Ava’s bike and sitting on the seat on the back of Andrew’s bike. It was a little stressful to keep everyone together and going in the same direction.

There was a big festival on the day we went and it turned the quiet Sukhothai of yesterday into a congestion of bikes, cars, elephants, monks and endless people, all of which, on bikes, we had to dodge. Nan and Pop walked and went off on their own. It was pretty hot so we made our way around fairly quickly looking at the different temples, moats around the temples, Buddha figures and of course, lotus flowers. It was very beautiful and it was unfortunate that there was a festival because it detracted from an otherwise peaceful place. I think Josh and Tristan enjoyed, Max and Ava not so much.

In the afternoon, Andrew took Ava on a ride on the scooter.

– Karen

Flight of the Gibbon – Zip-lining – 15/1/2013

Flight of the Gibbons is a ecologically-friendly and stable zip-lining tour that runs in several locations across Thailand. It supports the rainforest in which is is situated, especially the gibbons for which it is named.

 

We went to the zip-lining in Koh Chang Forest. We had to put on harnesses and helmets. At a platform, a man told us how to do it, then we ziplined through the forest. It felt like when you fell off a tube. We went on the longest zipline which was the best. We went on a sky bridge and it felt like the poles would break. We went abseiling which felt like I was plummeting down to certain death. We had lunch then went to the top of a waterfall and then went to the hotel.

– Max

 

Tourist information:

For a full day in the Chiang Mai park, it’s 4199 baht per person. The itinerary varies depending on when you want to start the day, but often goes something like this (itinerary taken from website):

08:30 – Pick up from hotel and transfer to Mae Kampong Village
09:30 – Welcome & introduction, meet your Sky Rangers, put on safety gear and transfer to starting point for a full safety briefing
10:00 – Start your adventure! Approximately 2½ hours of Ziplines, skybridges, nature walks and abseiling, all while taking in the glory and majesty of this beautiful and ancient rainforest
12:30 – Enjoy your authentic, organically sourced Thai lunch
13:30 – Optional hike up to Mae Kampong Waterfall/Mae Kampong wooden temple
14:15 – Program wrap-up and transfer back to Chiang Mai, approximately 1 hour

Flight of the Gibbons is open all 365 days a year (one has to assume this also includes the 29th of February in leap years).

Umbrella Factory – 14/1/2013

The Bo Sang Handicraft Centre is home to many artists who will gladly and cheaply paint t-shirts, fans of all kinds, umbrellas and more. The paintings are fast and professional, and will last a long time if washed properly.

 

After the Tiger Kingdom, we went to an umbrella factory. Kate and Mr A, our guide and driver, respectively, (photo of them with Kate’s new umbrella) explained the process and then took us into the shop where the kids each got a plain black T-shirt and then took it out to the factory where you could choose one of the artists and get them to hand paint something on your shirt. Max and Josh got tigers, Tristan got a dragon, and Ava, butterflies. They were all really impressed with them. I got a fan and chose a design and it was painted in 30 minutes and looks awesome.

– Karen

Tiger Kingdom – 14/1/2013

The Chiang Mai branch of Tiger Kingdom was set up in 2008, providing both money to support captive breeding of tigers, to preserve the species, and new environments for the tigers to live. There have been claims that the Tiger Kingdom drugs or abuses its tigers, but far more that argue against these claims. In our visit, we saw no evidence of drugged or beaten tigers, and the staff did warn us about how to handle the tigers, as they are still wild and not dominated creatures. Well run, and allowed for close interaction with these big cats.

 

When we got to the Tiger Kingdom we had lunch, which was a buffet, then we went to our tigers but we parted. Ava, Dad and I went to the baby ones, Tristan and Mum did the small, and Pop, Nana and Josh went to the big ones. When we got there we had to take off our shoes. We went in and had pictures with the tigers, then we went back to the hotel.

– Max.

 

We went to the Tiger Kingdom on Monday; we had lunch first. We got a tiger then I got a stuffed teddy, then we went to an umbrella store; we bought a t-shirt, and people painted two butterflies on mine, on Max’s one is a tiger, and on Josh’s is a tiger.

– Ava

 

When we went to the Tiger Kingdom we first had lunch, a buffet, and then we went to the tigers. We got the choice of smallest, small, medium and largest tigers. I chose the largest tigers with Nana and Pop, we waited for about 45 minutes.

When we finally entered, we got to stroke the tigers, whose fur felt coarse, but soft like a dog’s; we also got to rest our heads on their bodies. We then went to the side of the pool where they had a large tiger jump in front of us for an action photo.

– Josh

 

We were given a choice of big tiger, medium tiger, small tiger and smallest tiger to go in with for ten minutes.

We had lunch first. It was a buffet and I had a Thai dessert which tasted like rice pudding.

When we (Mum and I) were ready, we went into the small tigers’ cage. There were four tigers inside. Three tigers were asleep. As we approached, the awake tiger was lying on a log, gnawing a stick. He didn’t mind us coming up to pose; in fact, he seemed more concerned with his stick than us.

The next tiger was a female and we sat right next to her. We noticed then that all the tigers had white spots in the backs of their ears; didn’t know that! The photographer had me lay down with the tiger and rest my head on her back. We then left.

– Tristan

 

Tourist Information:

Prices for the tigers vary, according to which tigers you visit. For one person, to see the giant tigers, it is 1300 baht; for a big tiger, 700, for a medium, 600, and so on.

There is also a restaurant at the Chiang Mai branch, where we had lunch; they can take reservations, and for a buffet lunch it is 270 Baht.

Open on all days, even public holidays, from 8 am to 5 pm. However, if you want to have your full hour with the tigers, you’d have to have gotten your ticket by 4 pm, as the park closes at exactly 5.