Thailand 2017

After starting a new job at the begining of the year, it was difficult to take a real break from work to fully disconnect from everything. Around June I got back in contact with an old friend from school who was working in Thailand and by August I had announced my holidays at work and tickets were booked.

The trip on the way there included a 10 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, this lost me a day in Thailand, but also saved me approximately 50% on the cost of tickets, so evens out.

Day 1: Bangkok

Jim Thompson House: This museum is located in a very industrial area and the architecture has a striking contrast. Guided tours are compulsory, and allow to really capture the history and to catch a glimpse of life at the house approximately 50 years ago.

From there I went to the river and caught a boat to visit Wat Rakhang, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. All temples are of an impressive size, and the height of the buildings suggests almost a small town.
Wat Arun is very colourful and uses pottery to create a fractal mozaic throughout the entire temple. Unfortunately the temple was being renovated and I could not climb to the top.
Wat Pho has a giant reclining Buddha, representing Buddha’s final moments. On the Buddha’s feet are 3 fingerprints per toe and the palms are separated into squares with images, each one representing one of his stories/teachings. The stone statues are not of local Buddhist descent, but were gifts from the Chinese in the 19th & early 20th centuries from the trade between the 2 countries. This temple is home to a massage parlour, which is the authority for the certification of other massage parlours.

In the National Museum there is a gallery with sculptures of Buddha and some related divinities. It is very interesting to notice how the features of Buddha change depending on the region where the sculpture originates. Given the transition in royalty, there is also a gallery depicting the work of King Rama IX showing how the effort he put into helping his people was both constant and immense.

Day 2: Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand until the old palace was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 burning everything that is not stone to the ground and destroying many statues along the way.  Here we visited
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol, which is home to a plethora of Buddhas;
Wat Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit, which is an active temple, close to the old palace, however it was under renovation so the visit was relatively short;
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which houses 3 chedis containing remains of past kings;
Wat Maha that, where you can find a Buddha’s head with a tree that grew around it;
Ayutthaya ancient palace;
Ayutthaya Royal Elephant Camp.

Of these only Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol involved taking a vehicle to visit, all other were within walking distance of each other.

Day 3: Amphawa

The Floating market of Amphawa, or how I now know it, The Tourist Trap of the unorganized. My trip to Amphawa started out as more of an adventure than anticipated. The expected van to Amphawa no longer left from the central station and getting the correspondence to the terminal was difficult (not impossible thanks to the aforementioned generosity of the Thai people).  Travel to Amphawa came out to the following:
– Trip to the terminal: 35 BHT
– Trip to Amphawa:      80 BHT
TOTAL:                            115 BHT

Once at Amphawa the cost for 1 hour of boat was 3000 BHT. I assume the cost per person would be greatly reduced for groups. As I was alone the pilot attempted to stop at every “stall”, however the stalls have limited choice. The beautiful part of the floating market was seeing the fruit vendors, as well as some meat & fish vendors selling fresh fruit and meals cooked on the water to the other tourists. At the end of the market was a visit to the Bazar where there is a much larger choice in items and bartering is a lot easier.  The bazar is an excellent place for acquiring dried spices at relatively low prices. The original price was 4 times what I was offered at the end.

Returning to Bangkok proved to also be an adventure:

Cost to BKK centre:  220 BHT or almost double than the trip there. Consider asking to buy the return ticket from the same place as your going ticket.

Day 4: Weekend Markets

There are several markets in Bangkok, one of which is the Chatuchak week end market. Due to a previous engagement I was unable to spend more than 2 hours here, but in that time I am certain to have missed more than half of the stalls. Clothing, leather and accessories are the most common stalls, followed by foot massage parlours and soap/beauty products. Haggling is a requirement and if you are not satisfied with the price, you can litteraly walk 10m and find the exact same product.  As the name of the market says, this is open on week ends. I would suggest taking a half day (i.e. saturday) to visit and find which stores interest you and visiting and then return the next day (i.e. sunday) with small bills to haggle to your hearts content. Bring small bills.

 

Day 5: China Town & More Temples

China town impresses with all the jewellery stores and the size of the stores. Some small temples around, but I did not find anything of particular interest. However, close by was Wat Thepthidaram where there is the Suthorn Phu museum. At the museum I found an american who worked there as a tour guide and was able to give me some insight into the Bhuddist culture and the life of the Bhuddist monks. I was also able to visit Wat Suthat, but this temple was under renovation and it was impossible to enter any of the buildings.

Lunch at Niras Bangkoc / Petit Peyton, best curry I’ve had in a long time;
Dinner at Thipsamai, the most famous Pad-Thai in Bangkok.

Finished the day with a visit to Asiatique on the waterfront, another market well worth visiting

Day 6: Trip to Pattaya

 

vinaigrette

You need:

  • 3 shots Cointreau (orange liqueur)
  • 2 shots berry syrup
  • 1 shot olive oil
  • 1 shot balsamic cream or balsamic vinegar
  • dash of salt/soy sauce

Put ingredients in a bottle/bowl and mix. The Cointreau adds a citrus punch to the sauce, and the alcohol helps keep the thicker ingredients liquefied. The berry syrup and balsamic cream add a little sweetness, to contrast with the salty tang.

Great for green salads. Or Sushi.

Getting ready to start with the military

I recently completed my compulsory service as Qm Sgt with an artillery school, and came across a page mentioning equipment to obtain for a slightly easier boot camp.

This was 2 lists, the 10 essentials and the 10 objects to have sent to your mil school.  In order to differentiate where to put equipment, it is separated as follows: P for uniform Pocket, V for tactical Vest (ammo pocket for example) B for Backpack.

10 essentials:

 

No Qty Where Item Use Where to find Accepted in the army N.B.
1
1
B Poncho or emergency blanket
  • Raincoat
  • Carpet (when it rains)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sports shops
Yes, except as a raincoat Gold/aluminium lining models exist and are particularly useful for harsh weather conditions
2
1-2
B Poncho Liner US
  • Secondary sleeping bag
  • Csecondary blanket
  • Sports shops
Very well
3
10
B
V
Elastics with clips
  • Stabilizing equipment on backpack
  • Tightening for tent
  • Sports Shops
Very well
4
25 m
P/V/B Paracord 550 olive green or black
  • Tying objects down
  • Make-due laces
  • Cheek guard on Fass 90
  • Sports Shops
Very Good Keep 5m on man at all times. Spare 20m either in backpack or with rest of equipment
5
3
1 V1 B Waterproof bags, 15-20l
  • Protecting clothes and equipment
  • Water transport
  • Sports Shops
Very Good
6
1
B Olive green or black Duct tape
  • Keeps the universe together
  • Hobby shops
Very good
7
1
V Small themos (0.5l)
  • Transport hot water
  • Sports shops
Very Good
8
1
P Multi-tool
  • Extra blade
  • pliers
  • Hobby shop
Very good Small Leatherman.
9
1
P Bonex Gloves
  • Better dexterity than regulation gloves
  • Sports shops
Very good
10
1
P Led Lamp
  • Secondary lamp
  • Sports shops
Very good

 

I think this list is fairly exhaustive, however I would make some modifications to it:

– Remove the poncho liner. The Swiss Army regulations sleeping bag is more than enough. Perhaps take 2 ponchos /emergency blankets instead.
– The elastics with clips are useful with your backpack, not so much so on your tactical vest.  Same goes for the waterproof bags.
– The small Thermos is made redundant with the metal cup and emergency cooking set distributed to all military personnel.

With the led lamp, make sure you can attach it easily to your rifle and control it with a pressure switch. slightly bigger investment but much easier for clearing rooms in the dark. In the case of use with a handgun, you only need to have a thumb-switch.

With the removal of the 2 previous objects, I will replace them with the following:

– 1 pot Johnson & Johnson’s Vaseline, kept in backpack possibly with spare clothes or toiletries. It helps in the case of small cuts, rashes, friction burns, rashes and happens to be a great fire starter (with cotton from a q-tip for example).
– Camouflage scarf.  Obviously on man during harsh weather conditions, in backpack when not. Very multi-purpose equipment, the camo scarf as sold in most barracks doubles as a small camouflage net, allowing you to hide in the forest. It is also big enough to be transformed into a pillow during nights out.

 

And so comes the second list, 10 items to have family send you:

1
4
  • 1 P
  • 1 V
  • 2 B
Paper tissues
  • T.P.
  • Tinder
  • Tissues…
Anywhere Very good
2
10
  • 2 P
  • 2 V
  • 6 B
Ziplock
  • Bin
  • Protect papers & docs
  • Protect tobacco
Anywhere Very good
3
1
  • 1 P
cheap lighter
  • fire
Anywhere Very good
4
10
  • 2 V
  • 6 B
Tea bag
  • tea
  • tinder
Anywhere Very good
5
10
  • 2 V
  • 6 B
Chicken/beef stock
  • hot drink
Anywhere Very good
6
5
  • B
Thermos cleaning tabs
  • remove taste of stock/tea in flask
Sports shops Very good
7
1
  • 1 P
Plastic spoon
  • Eating utensil
Store for infant articles Very good
8
1
  • P
Pre-paid telephone card
  • When phone battery dies
Post Very good
9
1 m
  • V
bicycle air chamber
  • Elastic
  • waterproofing material
Bicycle shop Very good Ask for damaged tubes
10
1
  • V
Weapons oil in small bottle
  • Replaces one of the automatic weapons grease from the service kit
Gun shop Good Easier to clean the piston and gas chamber

Interesting list as well, but again I would do some modifiers:

– The ZipLock bags are interesting, but fail to address crumpling issues. For a soldier, there are much better solutions (water-proof paper, A5 blocks with document carriers). As for protecting tobacco, the ZipLock keeps the water out, but also lends itself to crushing the cigarettes. I would not have it on my list of items.
– The bicycle chamber was useful in the past; nowadays not so much, or at least not to the same extent.
– The plastic spoon is not as useful with the new service utensils.

-I would replace the cheap lighter with a more durable and robust storm-proof lighter like a Zippo. Specially as most schools now sell them with their badge engraved on it.
– Replace the prepaid phone card with a high capacity external battery. NewTrent has some that can charge up your phone 4 to 5 times. Very useful, specially now that phones come with GPS, 3G etc. etc.
– The tea, while useful as a fire starter, doesn’t compare to chip crumbs mixed with Mayan dust. or tissue paper rubbed with Vaseline. You only really need the one (or 2) bags, and keep it between your flask and metal cup or in the cooking system (along with your Mayan dust)
– Stock is definitely interesting, however very difficult to carry in useful packaging that is easy to access. Perhaps a box of OXO in the field cooking set, but I would much rather have come condiments there.

-Now that the cooking system has some condiments, perhaps some trailing equipment comes in handy.  Fishing line and a small set of hooks and buoys will allow you to fish for meat. You can also use the fishing line to set snares.
-A button compass with a mirror. This will not only help you to move in the right direction, the mirror will come in handy to check your shaving in the morning. Lifeline makes some survival kits that came with a button compass-mirror-waterproof-match case-whistle combo.
– Rubber bands (to keep in your main baggage). This will allow you to mark chargers, as being special or not (i.e. luminous, marking etc. etc.).
Obviously anything military is directed by regulations, so the first thing to do is to place your regulations where you will have them when you need them. Weapon handbook with hearing protection, NBC handbooks with gas mask. Minimising your baggage makes travel more comfortable.

Things that were not mentioned above:
– Tea candle. Or any candle for that matter. They provide a small flame that gives more light than heat (as opposed to an alcohol penny stove for example). Useful for illuminating yourself at night when stationary.
– Band-aids. You hopefully won’t be needing any, but just in case, having 2 or 3 decent band-aids in your wallet never hurts. Consider tying your toiletries along with a ‘liquid band-aid’ for more serious injuries.
– Water purification. Depending on the type of missions you’re going on, having a dedicated filter may become necessary.
– Electrical tape. This is possibly the best tape for your buck both on strength quality and variety of uses. You can use it to hold down tissue paper on large wounds, hot-fix small parts (where you need length but not the width of duct tape) or even create small isolation when working near electrical wires (although you should probably be wearing gloves), even tying your knife to a stick to make a spear.
-Batteries: always have a backup battery for your lamp, specially if your lamp produces lots of light. You want to be able to quickly change that situation.

 

Isla de los Micos

Isla de los Micos, litteraly ‘Monkey Island’,  was created in the 60’s by Mike Tsalikys as a place for the monkeys and other reptiles to freely reproduce.

Very peculiar experience. The monkeys all weigh under 1Kg, and although the are all going to eat, they do nothing to attack humans. (I can only imagine holding a steak in front of a pack of hungry wolves).