Bangkok, Thailand (Temple of Dawn & a Wild Tuk-Tuk Chase)

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We woke up at 11.30am. Oops. Good job breakfast is served until 2pm in peak season, eh? After cramming our faces with avocado and salmon, we headed to the pool for half hour for intense burnage.

Then we caught a taxi to the pier and hopped on a blue boat to The Grand Palace. 40 baht for a single trip. Because we were sooo slooow getting ready (blame the jetlag), we got there at 3.25pm and were convinced (by someone who looked like a Palace official) that we wouldn’t be allowed in wearing the outfits we were in (which, we’ve later realised, was BULL). He then planned a “special tour” of the unknown temples and he hailed us a tuk-tuk and agreed the whole magical adventure for 60 baht…

Yes, we should have known better.

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We did kind of realise we were getting screwed but we figured it would be a quirky way of seeing the city for next to nothing. It’s absolutely ridiculous how they do (or don’t do) business. One after another, sets of tourists arrive in these backstreet shops; each tourist is told by their tuk-tuk guide to pretend to want to buy something and spend five minutes “performing” accordingly – ‘oooh that’s a nice man’s suit’, etc. That way, the tuk-tuk drivers get their commission. But it seems like an absolute pointless activity because nobody bloody buys anything. We went all around the city and spent about an hour and a half on the tuk-tuk in question. In that time, we saw a shit temple and a shitload of shops.

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He finally dropped us off at an unknown pier, not marked on the map, for a temple and floating markets tour – which, of course, the tuk-tuks and their bosses arrange out of the goodness of their hearts. We kept up the act so he didn’t drop us off in the middle of nowhere / a ditch and then did a runner, much to their dismay. We’re surprised they didn’t chase us down the street in their tuk-tuks. It might have looked a bit suspicious to the rest of the tourists who, for one reason or another, didn’t realise they’d been conned.

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Once we had successfully fled, it was time for the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). 50 baht to get in and 20 baht to hire a longer skirt (plus a 100 baht deposit which you get back).

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Wat Arun is absolutely stunning. The detail is incredible; a work of art in its own right. Climbing the steep steps is a bit of a ‘hairy’ experience but the views at the top are well worth the near-death.

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We had a late lunch / early dinner at this unnamed street food cafe on the Wat Pho side of the river (east), in the midst of various street food stalls.

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I ordered chili chicken and rice and Victor ordered Pad Thai. Again. Each dish cost 90 baht for a large portion (less than £2) and we had some Chang to wash it down. The waitress held out her hand for a tip, which was a bit off-putting. She pocketed it instead of popping it into the tips jar. Got to admire the nerve of her! Oh and she also showed us a box containing a cockroach just as we were about to take that first mouth-watering bite. Thanks, love.

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After that, we caught the orange boat back to central pier (15 baht so don’t ever bother with the blue tourist boat because that’s 40 baht and runs less frequently… and you can’t really understand the commentary anyway). The orange boat doesn’t announce the stops so you need to know where you’re going / getting off.

Then we caught the Sky Train to Siam square and enjoyed a Chang and a cocktail as we watched live music in the outside quarter of the shopping centre.

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Then we wandered around the markets, nearly bought some fake Ray Bans, and had a cocktail / glass of wine at the Hard Rock Cafe… and watched another really cool live band.

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You can get a tuk-tuk from Siam Square to Salom for 100 baht. They’ll ask for 200 but you can get them down. They don’t take too kindly to haggling so our tuk-tuk man nearly killed us on the journey back to prove a point. We, however, were too merry to really care so we just laughed every time the contraption swerved a little too close to a car!

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Bangkok, Thailand (Wat Pho)

Sneak peek of day one before I start at the beginning…

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‘Plush’ doesn’t quite do the Metropolitan by Como justice – although we are paying a pretty penny for the privilege. We were greeted with a smile, some tea and a plate of fruit (most of which I couldn’t name). And everyone bows! They’re all very sweet and friendly. Breakfast was lush. Avocado, salmon, fresh fruit, juice, pastries, cakes, ham – you name it. And you can order off the A La Carte menu to save you the trouble of even lifting your heavier arse off the chair. Naturally we ate everything in sight.

We got a taxi from the airport to the hotel. It was a 25 minute drive or so. He quoted us 500 baht (that’s around a tenner), which would have been a fair fare. BUT then he tried his luck and tried to charge us 500 baht… each! He demanded double the fare before we were in sight of the hotel, in a shady backstreet, out of sight of the Metropolitan staff.  We smelt a rat. Victoria had the grand idea of pretending we’d been to Thailand before and I told him outright that we weren’t paying any more than 500. He soon dropped the half-hearted demand. And it turns out – we were right. He was being a cheeky chops.

Air China, despite hearing a bombardment of criticism from pretty much every source, was absolutely fine. The food wasn’t great but it’s airplane food so it never is. The film selection was shit. Well, it’s great if you speak Chinese. But we had a Diazepam each so we didn’t really care. Oh and they’re really stingy with the wine. You only get wine with dinner and they give you a child’s serving. We asked for a top up. Three times – the third was the charm. I’d suggest you just keep asking until they get sick of you. Claim ignorance and pretend not to hear when they say “with dinner”.

After chasing the sun for a while at the poolside (no sunbeds left so we floored it), we headed out. We walked to the nearby BTS stations (Skyline) and hopped on the train to Sathorn , central pier. (I’m making this sound easy when in reality we got lost several times). An all day ticked cost 130 baht (£2.60). We then queued up for the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat and glided across the river to Tha Tien so we could visit Wat Pho.

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What a magnificent temple! The sheer artistry and detail is enough to ‘wow’ anyone. If you’re inappropriately attired, you’ll be given a bright lime green coat to cover your modesty. One lady manhandled me; she pulled my skirt down as low as it could get. It felt like I was back at school (Miss Gidley in the girls changing room… scarred me for life PE did).

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Then we wandered to the Grand Palace but it was closed by the time we got there (closes at 4pm, last admission is at 3.30pm).

We had a light Thai lunch at a place called Bote, which was packed. The Pad Thai came to £2 and it was delicious. But we only got two prawns. You win some, you lose some.

We hopped back on the boat, had a couple of cans of Chang, and the next stop was China Town. But again we got there too late. Oops.

So instead we had a cocktail at a restaurant overlooking the river. We sipped as the sun set and we watches the blue sky melt into a blood orange haze before disappearing into night.

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Back on another pier, waiting for the last boat home, we came across an absolute mentalist. He was shouting at everyone and everything, clearly off his face, but in a really happy way.

After having a wander around the shops, we caught a tuk-tuk to the Pullman Hotel and had a glass of red at Scarlett’s Wine Bar. We didn’t want to eat there because it wasn’t very Thai (and it was a bit on the pricey side!) so we hobbled (we were a bit drunk) over to a street food cafe in Silom and feasted on Tom Yam soup and more Pad Thai (Victor’s a Pad Thai whore).

Rather than go to bed, we went to the hotel next door for one more cocktail. Mistake. Victoria was given an alternative skirt to wear because her denim shorts weren’t representative of the clientele (aka, rich arseholes) and I was given an alternative pair of bloody shoes! Flip-flops in Thailand?? How dare I?! This place was called the Banyan Tree and although it offered a spectacular view of the city, it was clearly frequented by… wankers and hookers (excuse language but there’s not a blog-friendly alternative description for these cretins). Oh and two cocktails came to £30. Won’t be going back there again.

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South America Adventure: The Top 29 To Dos

Buenos Aires, Argentina:

1. Tango Show at Cafe Tortoni

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2. Private tour of La Boca… La Brigada (steak & malbec) was the runner-up!

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Colonia, Uruguay:

3. Calle Los Suspiros… followed by cheese and wine at Buen Suspiro and our chat with Daniel (and our first try of mate)

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Santiago, Chile:

4. Drunkenly wandering around the city… & lunch at Mistura del Peru

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5. Terremotos (“earthquake” cocktails) at La Piojera, Santiago’s oldest & best dive bar, where we met a lovely Chilean family.

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Patagonia, Chile:

6. Sitting by the fire with our Chilean wine at the ever so cosy Patagonia Hostel

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7. The marble caves on Lake Carrera

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8. Getting onto Toastie for the first time & hacking through the Patagonian countryside and mountainous terrain

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Santiago, Chile:

9. Airport “adventure” – first time for everything!

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San Pedro, Chile:

10. Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)… and watching the sunset on a sand dune

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11. Hanging on hammocks… & the live music that night at Barros

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The Bolivian Wilderness:

12. Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon)

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13. Watching llamas bathe in a multi-coloured lagoon

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14. Playing on the Salt Flats

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La Paz, Bolivia:

15. The free Red Cap walking tour La Paz

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16. The Witches Market… & my first taste of “Api”

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Cusco, Peru:

17. Cusco walking tour… specifically the llama petting

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18. Quadbiking around the Peruvian countryside

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19. Phaal at Korma Sutra (& winning a free pint and certificate because I ate it all)

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20. Pisac market (& NOT the guinea pig we had that night)

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21. The Sacred Valley tour (our tour guide, Pablo, was brilliant)… oh and dinner at Indio Feliz in Aguas Calientes

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22. Machu Picchu (of course)

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Foz Du Iguaçu, Brazil:

23. Two steaks (each!) at Bier Garten

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24. Iguazu Falls Boat Trip (even though we nearly drowned under the falls) at Parque Nacional do Iguaçu / Natural Park

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Rio, Brazil:

25. Dinner, drinks & dancing at Rio Scenarium for Vicki’s birthday

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26. Christ the Redeemer (it’s a must, isn’t it?!)… followed by drinks at Fasano Rooftop Bar for Vicki’s birthday, part 2

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27. Can’t choose between Escadaria Selaron & Sugarloaf Mountain so they’re sharing this spot!

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28. Ipanema Beach… dinner at Garrafa.

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29. Farewell caipirinhas at Lapa Cafe

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South America, Day Twenty-Nine: Rio, Brazil

Noooo it’s our last day!

We’re currently at Rio International Airport and there’s sweet FA here, so we’re very bored. The one coffee shop here is naff. And the one shop is also shit. It’s Rio for God’s sake! Oh and ‘duty free’ is a myth. In fact, it’s bullshit. It’s more expensive here than anywhere else.

(Grumpy)

Today, we had breakfast (our final day of avoiding the frankfurters and the eyes of pervy waiters), then we sat by the pool and burnt to a fine crisp (it was about 33 degrees). Then we got rushed out because reception couldn’t seem to agree on a check out time. We had lunch at Mangue Seco in Lapa (more streak but they lied about Madeira sauce… it was just gravy, and they even forgot to serve it in the first place). Then we wondered around the junk shops (well, Vicki wondered, I stood outside in the sun). We had another caipirinha at the ever-so-cool Lapa Cafe.

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Then we chilled out by the pool, took hundred of jumping photos…

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…And now we’re wandering around Rio airport, wondering how to spend the 40 reals we have left.

Oh, I forgot to say we witnessed a motobirke accident in Ipanema yesterday. He was fine but the bike wasn’t. Taxi went right into him. He flew into the air. Everyone at the restaurant gasped but soon forgot about it. Just shows how bloody mad they are on the road.

Well, it’s been one hell of a month – and we have pretty much LOVED every moment (except my “condition” and Vicki’s e-coli). Vicki has been a great travel buddy and we’ve had so much bloody fun and laughs!. Until next time…

(‘The Best Ofs’ from all 29 days to follow)

South America, Day Twenty-Eight: Rio, Brazil

We spent a good few hours on the roof and I burnt my feet.

Then we caught a bus to Ipanema Beach. Nobody chatted us up this time. (I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed about that). We had lunch (fish stew with rice) in the bar / restaurant where the song ‘Girl from Ipanema’ was written. And, of course, a caipirinha to wash it down. Both were good but the waiter ruined it by waiting for his tip (demanding cash as opposed to paying service via card) and making us both feel awkward.

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Shortly afterwards, we had a wonder along Ipanema beach. It was such a gorgeous beach and much quieter than Copacabana yesterday – no doubt because today’s Monday.

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We caught the bus back after having one more caipirinha “for the road” (literally).

For our last night out (boo), we tried to find Centro Cultural Carioca but – as with every other cool bar on a Monday in Rio – it was closed. So we went to Garrafa instead. It was packed and the food was good, and by the third caiprihna (on top of the earlier seventeen), we were over the fact that our last night in South America was the most pants night of them all since everyone here adopts Garfield’s mode on on Monday.

Word of warning; do not order a Pisco Sour in Brazil. It was way too eggy. I am not eggagerating. Not at all eggcelent. (Sorry)

The food was lush though. We had filet mignon (beef) and cheesy, mushroomy rice. Best. Grub. Ever.

The waiter took a shine to me and gave me a white rose (made out of a receipt). He came over, pretended to wipe the table, and said ‘I – like – you – Do – you – like – me – Kiss – ’. All in one breath. Then he kept trying to offer me one of his balls. Rice balls, I mean. And would sweep by with an ‘I love you’ as I sweetly declined.

Oh, we did actually try a rice ball. It was.. well, it was a ricey ball.

South America, Day Twenty-Seven: Rio, Brazil

Before I go into details of the day, here are some observations about Brazil.

  • The drivers are mental. It’s perfectly acceptable to kill your entire carload here. Whatsapping, texting and calling are also examples of Brazilian taxi etiquette. Knees “control” steering wheels.
  • The men are all extremely confident – the other night at the Rio Scenarium, two guys walked in as we were leaving, begged us to stay, and then one of them (the more cocky one) proceeded to suck my face (or tried to). He kept saying ‘besito?’ and then he’d lunge in. He was good looking but I resisted his “charm”. Also, at the bus stop yesterday, a guy walked over to us, asked for our names and our numbers, and then asked if he could join us on our journey. We said no. So he did anyway.
  • The quality of caipirinhas varies greatly.

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Today was spent seeing various must-sees. The first of which was Escadaria Selarón. So cool. This street artist has turned a normal street / stairway into a colourful delight. Tile upon tile lines the street and the artist encourages people to bring a tile from every part of the world. There was one from London, another from Bueons Aires, one from New Zealand, Bolivia, France and countless others. Beautiful and inspiring.

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Then we caught a bus to Copacabana (from outside the hotel – 182 or 162). It took about half an hour but make sure you ask someone to flag when you’re in Copacabana. It’s not obvious because the bus route is inland and you have to walk to the beach. It costs 3 reals each.

We had lunch by the sea – in a cafe that served wicked caipirinhas but dodgy chicken. It could have been a pigeon. I found a feather in mine. We also ordered two. Not necessary. We barely finished half of one between us. But that might be because the feathers got stuck in our throats. Eww.

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From there, we wandered around the beach but not for long because Vicki, being a fair maiden, needed shade. Beautiful beach. Packed with locals. Then again, it was a Sunday.

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We had a look around the market, bought a magnet (it’s my thing), then caught a taxi to Sugarloaf mountain. Say ‘Pao ve Azuca’ to the driver. He’ll drop you off at the cable car. (I haven’t seen a female taxi driver yet).

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It costs 60 odd reals to get up to the top and you stop off at a smaller mountain on the way. The view is incredible. If there’s cloud, go up anyway and wait. That’s what we did and it worked. There’s a wicked fruit juice stand at the first stop and they serve ridiculously strong caipirinhas (by the way, I’m finding this word an absolute bitch to spell) at the top. There are monkeys and lizards but don’t feed them because you might get rabies / eaten.

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We watched the sun set over a minuscule Christ the Redeemer, as clouds swept by under out feet. Magical. Then the city came alive and a hundred thousand sparkly lights completed the picture.

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We jumped in a cab to Copacabana and had dinner at a place called Balcony. Really good food, drinks and the place was packed.

We caught another cab home and passed out.

(As usual; photos by Vicki Brand… with a few by moi)

South America, Day Twenty-Six: Rio, Brazil

So my “condition” reached its peak and today was possibly the worst day health-wise. After breakfast (I ate a cracker), we chilled out by the pool – until a load of school kids decided to gatecrash and ruin our lives.

We left.

Then, after a wee lay down, we went out for lunch (I ate cracker). We went to a restaurant opposite Sanatorium in Lapa. Vicki’s prawn risotto looked lovely… if I wasn’t dying of pain, I’d have been jealous.

After lunch, we wandered around the market – Vicki bought some coins and I nearly keeled over so we had to head back to the hotel for another lie down. I blame the guinea-pig (see Day 20; Cusco, Peru).

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And then, we decided to see Christ the Redeemer – we jumped in a cab (for reference say “Cristo Redentor” as none of the taxi drivers speak ‘tourist’, nor do they know where Gomes Friere is). The taxi took us up most of the way to the top. It cost 50 reals. At the top, we bought a ticket to see Christ the Redeemer, which included a shuttle further up to the peak.

The views are incredible:

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And, yeah, as statues go… it was pretty impressive.

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Saying that, I got stressed and moody because it was really busy. Swarming in fact. Hard to take a photo. We actually had to lie on our backs on the floor (try that when you feel like your stomach’s gonna explode with an alien that’s been slowly eating its way through you – like the film).

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Anyway, needless to say, I wasn’t in a happy place but we’ve got the all-famous shot of it so hurrah.

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Oh and at Christ the Redeemer, it’s not easy to catch a taxi back down to earth. There are unlicenced taxis up there who’ll demand a fixed price. Ours demanded 60 but we got it for 50. But still risky though. But we didn’t get murdered. Hurrah.

For dinner (Vicki’s part two of birthday celebrations), we went to Hotel Fasano and the pool rooftop bar. It was lovely – our first taste of posh. The view was stunning and the taxi came right up to our feet. I imagine rich people could get very lazy. And fat.

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10451797_637426787288_1305480202692358664_n(All photos, as usual, by Vicki Brand)