Tea growing near Pu Mat National Park at Con Cuong, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Con Cuong (Pu Mat National Park), Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Happy New Year 2024!

One of the reasons we paid the extra to have accommodation right in the center of Kuala Lumpur was because we were coincidentally going to be here for New Year's Eve. And Kuala Lumpur is one of the world's great New Years Eve destinations. 

There is normally a midnight fireworks show at the iconic Petronas Twin Towers to ring in the new year, however that was cancelled this year as they unfortunately politicized the event due to the war in the middle east. They said we should not be celebrating while others in the world are suffering. However, some private enterprises here in Kuala Lumpur stepped up to the plate and we got to ring in the new year with fireworks anyhow.

Highlights of 2023. The Year in Review...

At the end of 2022, I wrote "2023 is going to be just as good"... and boy, was it ever!

We started 2023 in Granada, Spain and ended it in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With 18 other countries in between! We were in 20 countries in total in 2023, with 10 of them being new countries for us, bringing our total countries visited list up to 67!

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Welcome to Malaysia, country #67 for us!

With a 9:10am flight departure time, we left the hotel at about 6:30am. We originally thought about taking a Grab taxi, but there was hardly any traffic so we decided to walk to the airport. From the hotel it was just under 2 kms so we were still there by 7:00am.

We were already checked in online, but we had to check our carry on bags. We found the check in counter for AirAsia, and we were surprised to find that there was a huge line. This is when we almost made a rookie mistake!

Friday, December 29, 2023

Back to Chiang Mai

We needed to get back to Chiang Mai, and had originally thought our host would be driving us back to the main highway, and we would take the local transportation back to the city.

But the young couple, Jorrit and Mei, we had said hello to the day before had a car, and so we asked if they were heading back that morning hoping we could hop in with them. It turned out that they were, but they were making a side trip to a waterfall. "But you are welcome to join us", they said!

Thursday, December 28, 2023

It's all about the money

With sore bums from the ride the day before, we hopped back on the bicycles for the 8 kms (5 mile) ride to the Wat Ban Den Temple Complex. Yes, we've seen a lot of temples (there are 37,000 of them in Thailand), but this one was supposed to be something special.

And it was!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Well, everything was going smoothly...

We went down for breakfast at 8:30am. Not quite as special as the breakfasts we had at the last place, but still sufficient... scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, and fruit. Right after breakfast, our host Pohn told us that they had to make a trip to the Myanmar border, and that we were on our own and to make ourselves at home.

He had left three older bikes out for us to choose from, and said there was no charge.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Now this is more our style!

At 8:00am Tuesday, we set up the laptop for a Christmas Day video call with the family. Of course it was Monday evening back in Canada, and with participants spread out between Nova Scotia and Alberta, there are a few time zones involved.  But, we got everybody online at the same time and there were seven different video screens open. Certainly amazing technology that allows us to do this from anywhere in the world!

We had one last great breakfast at the Chedi Home Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, and then set out walking with all of our worldly belongings.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Moving to the countryside

Our original plan was to stay at this guesthouse in Chiang Mai until the 30th, but when I booked, they were sold out after the 26th. This has turned out to be a good thing, since we've had enough of Chiang Mai and are taking our last three nights here out in the countryside!

The guesthouse itself has been great. But our first impressions of Chiang Mai have stuck with us. It's not for us. Far too busy, too big, too touristy, too much traffic, not easily walkable... we're just not seeing the attraction.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas from Thailand!

It's Christmas morning as I write this here in Thailand. And Christmas Eve in all of North America where the majority of our readers are located. Millions of kiddies will wake up with excitement and big smiles on their faces in the morning!

From the weather reports, it's looking like a green Christmas in our hometown of Ottawa. Not that rare of an event, as there have been about 15 of them since the 1950's. And it's most certainly a green Christmas here in Thailand!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

What's on the agenda for 2024...?

I noticed that our friends Linda and Steven over at The Chouters posted their upcoming plans for 2024, and yesterday was a quiet day for us so I thought we'd take this opportunity to do the same.

Our plans are always pretty flexible though, so don't take all of this as being written in stone! 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Temple tunnels, and met some other Canadian senior nomads

We had originally planned to go on a hike, but ended up going to a temple instead. Personally, I'm already "templed out". They begin to all look the same after a while, so unless there is something special, I've lost interest. However this one had some interesting tunnels built into the complex, so we made the 5.5 km trek through the city to get there.

So I suppose we did do a hike... but it certainly wasn't in nature!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand

We called a Grab taxi (about $3.00) to take us and our bags to the Big Ubon Breakfasts for one last great breakfast before we flew out. It's only about 2 kms, and we would normally walk that, but Ubon is definitely not pedestrian friendly, especially during morning rush hour. 

We had a great breakfast, and the owner Andy offered to drive us the short distance to the Ubon airport terminal.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Daytrip number two to the Mekong River

We didn't see everything we wanted to see the day before, so once again we hopped in the rental car. This time, we drove northeast to Kaeng Sam Phan Bok, or as it is known in English, the 3,000 holes.

This is a section on the Mekong River where there are a lot of rapids during the high waters of the rainy season, and the swirling waters have created an odd landscape of erosion in the rocks. This phenomenon can only be seen during the December to March dry season when the low water levels enable you to explore the shoreline.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Busy day in a part of Thailand that not many tourists go

We are staying in the city of Ubon, which is a place not many tourists go. The city itself doesn't have a lot to offer, however it is day trip distance from the Mekong River and the border with Laos. 

And on that border at the river are quite a few interesting things to see!

Monday, December 18, 2023

We're going to be renting a car for a couple of days!

It was 8:30am before we finally made our way out of the room for breakfast. We've got a kettle and tea and coffee in the room so we were just relaxing. Anyhow, the little restaurant area is right outside our room, so we figured we'd go for breakfast because we'd seen breakfast items on the menu. We went out there, and there was nobody around, with a "closed" sign on the door. (Turns out they stopped serving breakfast during Covid, and never got it started again).

So, I found another place about 15 or 20 minutes walk away.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

We're kind of bouncing around without a plan!

But that's fine, because it's all new to us anyhow. 

Yesterday, we took the train from Pak Chong to Ubon Ratchathani. Everyone just calls it "Ubon", so that's what I'll do from now on. Originally, we were thinking we would try to get into Cambodia from Pak Chong, but the route was too difficult.

Back into the national park

One of the problems with this type of "senior backpacking" travel that we are currently doing is that we don't have a vehicle. We've solved this problem in the past by renting a car, the way we have done in Romania and Turkiye. This time, we've been trying to avoid it because we really didn't need one in the cities, and the train is so easy to use. 

But when it comes to getting into a national park here in Thailand to do some hiking, it does make things a little more complicated.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Bugs and bats

On Friday afternoon, we did our scheduled half day tour with the group from the guesthouse. This tour does not go into the national park itself, so it's quite a bit cheaper because you don't have to pay the park entrance fee per person.

Once again, there were five of us in the back of the truck... us, a single guy from Birmingham, UK, and a couple from France.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

We saw a lot of interesting stuff!

A busy day yesterday as we did a full day tour into Thailand's Khao Yai National Park. 

We had read that the full day tour can have as many as 15 people on it, but you are separated into groups of 5, so it feels like you're on a small group tour. We had a younger guy from Germany, and a mother and daughter from France with us.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Ayutthaya to Pak Chong travel day

Wednesday was not that exciting of a day, but you kind of want travel days to be like that! 

We had reservations for the 11:30am train from Ayutthaya to Pak Chong. It's a two hour train ride, and each ticket cost 173 baht (4.85 USD, $6.60 CAD) each for a one way reserved seat in third class. We are quite happy in third class with all of the locals. Much more fun that way, and they have all the windows wide open with the wind blowing through.

Ayutthaya Boat Tour

This is the second post of the day because we were so busy yesterday it wouldn't all fit into one post! So if you missed the first one, you can read it here... https://www.travelwithkevinandruth.com/2023/12/busy-day-with-elephants.html

Anyhow, after we were done having fun with the elephants, we had to meet up with the boat tour group at our guest house for a 3:30pm departure. We hesitated about doing this boat tour because it got mixed reviews. But, we decided that the 250 baht ($7 USD, $9.50 CAD) price was reasonable, and it would just be a chance to do something different.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Busy day with the elephants!

We had a busy day yesterday, so I'm actually going to break it into two posts. The first part of our day, we walked over to the Royal Elephant Kraal Village. About 3 kms (1.8 miles) of flat walking. People think we are crazy to walk that far in the heat, but hey... you gotta get some exercise!

There are a lot of elephant rides given in the Ayutthaya area. This is a controversial thing, with many westerners trying to change the practice. However the Thai people generally see nothing wrong with it, having lived and worked with the elephants for thousands of years. And of course there is a lot of rhetoric and misinformation thrown into the mix by the animal rights organizations.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Day trip to visit the King

Not the King of England though... the King of Thailand!

About 25 kms (15 miles) south of Ayutthaya is the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. This was the summer residence regularly used by King Rama V until his death in 1910. Nowadays it is rarely visited by the royal family, and is used for state functions and welcoming foreign dignitaries. So unfortunately, the king wasn't home when we got there!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The day started off a little disappointing

We feel like we haven't been getting enough fruits and veggies, which is really surprising to us. Given the tropical climate, we figured that fruits and veggies would be inexpensive and in abundance the way they are in Mexico. But that's not the case. Most meals are made with some bean sprouts and a few leaves of something green (maybe kale, which is not our favorite), and sometimes a few chunks of peppers.

Anyhow, we've been making a concerted effort to correct that, and one way is with fruit smoothies. They're not necessarily cheap, but we had a mango and banana one the other night that was delicious.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Feeding the elephants, and a lot of interesting things to see!

It didn't take us long to find two good restaurants that we like here in Ayutthaya. And they're both on the same road as our guest house, so it's really convenient. The first one is a hole in the wall type of place with basic cheap meals and the couple running it are smiling and friendly. They do a stuffed omelet for breakfast that's really nice. 

And the other is a little more upscale, but they have a wide variety of interesting dishes, and still at reasonable prices.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, Thailand

We had booked the train on the official Thai train website. The website has an English version, and although it's not super user friendly, I had no problem doing it. 

We left the apartment at noon, and made our way back to the pink line monorail, this time with our daypacks and carry on suitcases. With one connection, we arrived at the Krung Thep (Bang Sue) train station around 1:00pm with lots of time for our 2:15pm departure.

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Thursday, December 7, 2023

A week in Bangkok is more than enough for us

We had been contacted by an American couple, Lisa and Lance who were asking about our time in the stan countries, and they just happened to be in Bangkok and asked if we wanted to get together. We were planning on heading downtown anyhow, so when they suggested a meeting point in a shopping mall in a downtown area we hadn't been to, we were totally fine with that.

We left the apartment at about 11:10am, and arrived at the big fancy Terminal 21 mall and headed to the 5th floor food court. Lisa had suggested having lunch here. Certainly not the type of place we would normally choose, however there were a lot of local food choices, and with typical street food prices.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Glad we went, but it's a bit run down...

Looking for something off the beaten path here in Bangkok, I came across Ko Kret Island. 

It's only an island because of a canal they dug in the early 1700's to speed up shipping traffic between Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Over time, erosion caused the canal to actually become part of the river, and now Ko Kret is a man made island. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Thoughts on Thailand so far

We've only been here for four full days, and only in the city of Bangkok... so keeping that in mind, here are our thoughts so far...

Yes, it's hot. Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world with a typical daytime high of between 32C to 34C (90F to 93F). Doesn't really matter what time of year, although some seasons get more rain than others. 

We're surviving, because we were mentally prepared for it. But I think we knew even before we came here that it's not a place we could live.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Fun exploring some of downtown Bangkok

On Monday, we relaxed in the apartment until after lunch. Ruth had read of a sound at light show that they do at one of the bridges downtown, and it doesn't start until after dark. We hadn't been to downtown yet, so we figured we would start late and see some of it at night as well.

We headed out at about 2:30pm.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The largest weekend market in the world

Another beautiful day in Bangkok. The skies seemed a little clearer yesterday (Sunday), and still hot with a high of 33C (91F). Seems that's the temperature every day here in Bangkok... the forecast for the week ranges between 32C to 34C (90F to 93F), with occasional clouds, although they are saying there is a chance of showers this afternoon.

Ruth had read about the Chatuchak Weekend Market that looked interesting, and it's located right beside a big park that looked nice to wander around on a Sunday.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

First day in Bangkok

We figured we'd take it easy on our first day, but of course in true Kevin and Ruth style, we still walked our feet off! 

First on the agenda was to find a local SIM card for the phone. There are three major cellular networks in Thailand, but the AIS network is supposed to be the best. I did some research, and they have a corporate outlet in the big Fashion Island Shopping Mall which isn't far from our apartment. 

November Expenses... right on target!

When we make up our budget for the following month, it's obviously just a guess. And we are usually above budget because 1), there are so many variables, and 2), we always purposely guess a bit low to give ourselves a goal to keep expenses in line. 

So at the end of October, I posted that "we have a budget of about $2,900 CAD ($2,088 USD) for the month of November"... and we ended up spending exactly $2,922 CAD ($2,165 USD) in total. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Welcome to Thailand, country #66

Last you heard from us, we were in New Delhi airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok.

That flight went much better than the one from Almaty to New Delhi. We both managed to snooze on and off, and we arrived right on time at 4:10pm despite departing almost a half an hour late from New Delhi. Got through immigration quickly, and then waited for our bags.