Tag Archives: boat tour

What IS That?!!?

I arrived in Ayutthaya by train from Bangkok.  Though it said it would only be just over an hour, as I’ve read from other travelers, travel times should never be trusted as it always takes much longer than stated.  The train was very basic.  No air conditioning, only windows and honestly reminded me of a school bus on train tracks.  People at each stop would hop aboard to sell water, bits of food, rice, etc for the journey.  Leaving Bangkok it was amazing to see how many people live and set up work directly on the edge of the train tracks.

Along the way a very friendly Thai woman started chatting with me and as it turned out she lived in Ayutthaya and volunteered to make sure I got off at the right place :).  Though they do have an intercom system on the train that tells you what stop is next, I was still very grateful I had someone to tell me for sure since my ears are not yet trained to hear Thai words correctly.

Just across the street and almost down to the end I found my hostel for the next several nights: Baan Are Gong GuestHouse.  Originally I planned to stay 3 nights, but extended to 4 as I just got so comfortable there!!  The people are very friendly, the accommodations are clean and the location couldn’t be better and easier as the train station is just down the road and the boat to get across the river is right next door!  I stayed in a private room on the second floor (fan only) and adored that everyone has to take off their shoes before going upstairs.

The only perhaps, let’s call it ‘culture shock’ that I hadn’t encountered yet was the bathrooms… They were shared bathrooms and there were several sets of flip-flops in front of the bathrooms to slip on before going in.  Inside the bathroom was a regular toilet, sink and mounted on the wall was a shower head and knobs.  But no shower curtain…  So when showering it’s literally like going into a standard single bathroom stall (except larger) and showering.  Water of course goes everywhere and there’s just no way to avoid that!  So it sprays all over the toilet, the sink and all over the floor.  There is a drain behind the toilet to drain shower water away, but if it gets clogged with hair, well you then have a mini-flood going on… Definitely was a first for me and I kept having to remind myself that all the water on the toilet seat was from the shower, not from people peeing on it… I hope anyway, lol!!

But all in all, I adored this hostel!!  They also have a little puppy that is just too darn cute for words and I just couldn’t help but play with him every second I got!  The woman who owns the place is very nice to talk to and she gave me some great information on places to visit in the country.

My stay in Ayutthaya included going into town the first night to watch the street festival in honor of the King’s Birthday.  One of the main streets was shut to traffic and they had stage after stage set up with live music, traditional Thai dancing, a muay thai boxing ring, and tons upon tons of street vendors selling everything from live fish (as pets), shoes, food, desserts, and my personal favorite to see: fried crickets and worms!  No… I wasn’t brave enough to try any, but it was awesome to see!!  A couple hours later once the sun set and the full moon rose high in the sky, fireworks started shooting off.  It was such a fantastic time!!

Other activities included spending the whole day wandering the streets of Ayutthaya visiting the tons upon tons of temples and temple ruins they have available.  From Wat Lokayasutharam (Buddha reclining) to the Phra Ram Park where several little Temples could be found, to Wat Maha That, site of an ancient Temple ruins, the Ancient Palace, Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit where one of the largest bronze Buddha images in Thailand can be found and so many more!  Though some of the Temples have been given the status of being World Heritage Sites, they do charge admission (50 baht) for foreigners.  Some people I came across took issue with that, but it’s such a teeny amount, I really wasn’t that bothered by it.

One funny here: as I was wandering through the park, walking through the grass in my flip-fops, I was thinking to myself whether there were any animals in Thailand to be worried about.  Before going to Costa Rica EVERYONE and their brother (mine included) warned about the fer-de-lance snake (highly poisonous and can kill you within a half hour!!) but I hadn’t heard a thing from any fellow traveler to Thailand of critters to beware of.  Just as I was thinking this, up ahead on the side walk was… Is that??… What IS that?!?!?… No…. Is that a komodo dragon???  Do they have those here???  Of course, my instinct toward animals not always being on point, I stealthily rushed toward it so not to scare it off, but yes I wanted a picture!!  Later I looked it up and it’s not a komodo dragon, but rather what they call a ‘water monitor’.  Interesting stuff!

I came across a local fishing for shrimp in the river, which was fun to watch for a bit 🙂

They also have an Elephant Village in Ayutthaya in the center of town where people could ride them down and back on the street.  I opted NOT to do this, but did buy a basket of food that I fed directly to the elephants hanging out at the ticket area.  I have so much more to say on this topic, but will save it for another post as it’s too long for this one…

My last activity in Ayutthaya was of a boat tour.  For 200 baht, the two-hour tour included a visit to Wat Phanan Choeng near the Japanese settlement that featured a bronze Buddha that looked larger than the one at Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit, then over to Wat Phutthai Sawan followed by the ever so beautiful and my favorite (especially at sunset!!) Wat Chaiwatthanaram.  The tour ended by continuing along the river until we made a full circle back to our Guesthouse:)

On to Animal Exploitations?

Back to Thailand

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Bocas del Toro, Panama

Before beginning again, I must admit… It’s been quite a while since my last post.  It’s crazy how life can just sweep you up and time flies so fast you forget to keep up with some things… In any event, I am currently getting ready to travel again but must first finish the tales of the last adventure…

After leaving the quaint little town of Boquete, Panama I made my way to Bocas del Toro.  It was quite obvious that the closer we got to Bocas, the more prepared the locals were for lots of travel from tourists back and forth in that area.  Taxis were lined up around the bus terminal waiting and ready to sweep tourists off the bus, into the taxi and whisk them away to the boat terminal.  Honestly I don’t even recall saying much to the locals as the swaps occurred, only “Bocas?” followed by a head shake indicating “yes” and away we were.

It took about 40 minutes by boat to arrive on the island of Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama.  Again, once off the boat and on solid ground I was immediately greeted by a local named Carlos.  He was most eager to shuffle me around and help find me accommodations for the night.  Of course he would be getting a commission for getting me to the “right” place but I first wanted to check out a few places that I had heard about from others on the road.  Carlos was quite determined to get his commission however and literally refused to leave my side as I walked from place to place inquiring about prices of the places that were recommended to me.  They were quite out of my price range however, and Carlos’s efforts to not give up on me were soon rewarded as I finally gave up and told him to take me to the place he recommended.

The place he took me to was right on the main road just across the street from the community park and also right across the street from THE BEST sandwich shop anywhere!!!  The name of the place was called… And this is why I should keep up with my posts more frequently… Los Zapatos… I believe… Anyway, the place wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.  I felt comfortable enough to stay there for the night.  The place next door honestly enough looked much more inviting, but they were booked.  So for one night I opted to stay at Los Zapatos and paid for a private room.  The one definitely nice thing about the place was it had several floors with a balcony on each floor overlooking the town, so it was great to just sit and watch the traffic and people watch.  Carlos, after collecting his commission from my sale said bye and trotted off back to the boat dock to greet the next arriving boat.  Honestly I recall the lady looking quite bothered by his presence and the fact that he brought me in.  I think mainly because she just didn’t want to pay the commission, but such is how life there works I guess!

In any event, perhaps now is a good time to actually describe Bocas del Toro.  Prior to my arrival I had imagined and envisioned (all due to the descriptions provided to me by other travelers) that Bocas was an island in the Caribbean surrounded by beautiful beaches.  Quite to my disappointment, the reality was absolutely nothing as what I had conjured in my mind!  The water as we came toward the island became increasingly gross.  It was quite apparent that at least the water path we took to get to the island was becoming increasingly polluted from all the boat traffic.  As for beaches, there is no waterfront anywhere on the main portion of town on the island of Bocas.  The waterfront is completely built up with resteraunts, hostels, hotels, docks for boats, bars, etc, etc.  The only beaches on Bocas are at least a 40 minute bus ride to the other side of the island.  Apparently there was one beach 20 minutes by bus, but it was recommended not to go there as the currents for that beach, depending on how they were flowing, tended to wash up all the seaweed or trash from the ocean, etc on to the land making it not quite a nice beach to be on.  The beach 40 minutes away however was the world famous starfish beach.  The sands are literally littered with hundreds of starfish!  Or rather, that is what I’ve been told since I sadly never kicked myself hard enough in the rear to go there!

Honestly, I think just I was just disheartened when I arrived on Bocas that I kind of lost energy or enthusiasm to do anything.  I was hoping to arrive on a beautiful island with beaches nearby to walk to.  Instead I arrived on basically a party island built up to the hilt with beaches only accessible by yet another bus ride or a boat ride to another island nearby!  So, needless to say, I was just bummed!  I didn’t really like the energy of Bocas.  In any event, I was determined to make the best of it so I once again did what I did best and simply wandered the streets getting to know my new surroundings.

As I wandered I found the Spanish school where I once again contemplated taking some courses, but then couldn’t imagine spending weeks on an island with no easily accessible beaches!  I found the local internet shop where I stopped in to check emails.  Then I found a boat tour group called JAMPAN tours (honestly you couldn’t miss them as their front door was the most colorful anywhere on the island!) that offered services to the nearby island of Bastimentos, home of the world famous Red Frog Beach!  On this National Park island there was also a hostel called Bocas Bound which I had seen many advertisements about.  So, since I wasn’t 100% enamored with the island of Bocas, I decided to jump over to Bastimentos and stay in the hostel there for a few nights.  I booked my departing trip with JAMPAN tours for the next day as well as my return to Bocas several days later then continued my wanders.  I was informed by the tour group however that there were no grocery stores on Bastimentos, but that there were community refrigerators at the Bocas Bound hostel, so unless I wanted to eat out the entire time there, I should go to the grocery store and stock up on food for the several days to just bring with me.

The rest of the day went by without any major occurrences.  I ate in the bakery across from my hostel (seriously the biggest and best sandwiches of all kinds and for only $4!!!!!!!) and otherwise sat on the balcony of the hostel people watching and chatting with a guy from Germany about politics and such.  Ok, massive correction here… I wasn’t speaking about politics but rather listened to HIM talk about politics in the US.  And as I listened to him talk it occurred to me how amazing it was that someone who lived in Germany, yet worked in Panama City, Panama knew so much about US politics whereas those FROM the States (sadly including myself) know so little about it… Hmmm…. In any event, I eventually turned in and for the night, got up bright and early the next day, did some grocery shopping for food for the next several days on Bastimentos and headed over to JAMPAN to hitch my ride over to the Red Frog Beach!