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Old 9th June 2013, 18:11   #1
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Default Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

A true auto enthusiast is never content until new ground is broken, unless he has burnt rubber on uncharted roads, in lands that take him beyond the seas. The irresistible prospect of a bigger set of wheels, inviting roads and exploring exotic places and unfamiliar terrains is what got a serial road tripper in me to contemplate hitting the roads in a foreign land...and as usual team bhp came to the rescue. Inspired by accounts of fellow bhpians (especially SS Traveller whose threads on road tripping in Thailand formed the basis of my blueprint) I decided to test my driving skills in Thailand, with the wife and the daughter to boot.

What germinated as a possibility in my mind rapidly spread its branches in my mind with the effect that soon, I was able to think of little else. Every daunting thought in the form of budgets, inconvenient connections to avail low cost fares, the deterrence of driving in a foreign land yielded one after the other to the irresistible call of adventure. With the promise of the exotic looming ever close, I was soon hooked to the Avis Thailand website to check out the set of wheels that could do duty for us. In the event, it was the Toyota Vios with a 1.5l VVT mill that was to be our workhorse for the trip.
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01161.jpg

As with any average middle class Indian family which had ever aspired to look beyond their own shores for a holiday, our first baby steps in great trepidation started by surfing every possible travel site promising to fly you to any exotic destination and back for less than the cost of a Big Mac. Vey soon we realized that although its become conventional wisdom that a South East Asian vacation can be cheaper than a domestic one, there are, in fact, only a handful (actually more of one or two) of options which strictly speaking, will fit this description when you add up all those itemized expenses which rarely cloud your judgement at the time of dreaming of exotic locales. In the event, all roads led to Rome..er Bangkok as the Air Asia promo offer from Chennai to Bangkok actually resembled a bargain even after one includes the rail travel to Chennai (we live in Bangy) and the overnight hotel stays (with our toddler daughter travelling the break in journey was inevitable - it kills you to pay full air fare for a 27 month old passenger ) not to mention the visa and other sundry charges. So with these incidential details which were but minor air pockets, we cruised ahead full steam to our first 'phoren' holiday!

Some tips at the initial stage of planning a Thai holiday with the minor detail of a roadtrip thrown in
  • Your first port of call obviously are the budget carrier sites like Air Asia, Tiger airways etc - bear in mind that the advertized fare you see initially WILL get inflated once you get around to paying for checked baggage (yes every ounce of it) and seats (unless of course you want your little one to be flying sitting next to a stranger), so factor these bits in
  • Bear in mind that the LCC (low cost carriers) typically fly out from hubs like Chennai. Kochi etc for specific destinations (e.g. Air Asia doesnt fly to BKK from Bangy) and unless there is the happy coincidence of you staying there you need to plan for connections, stays etc to these ports of departures
  • For Thailand, we got our visa done from VFS Bangalore, extremely convenient and done in a matter of a couple of days. Of course you save a few hundreds if you get a VoA (Visa on arrival) at Suvarnabhumi or Don Meung (the old BKK airport which Air Aia flies to) but you may encounter long queues (which we didnt see) and need a thousand Thai Baht in cash (which we had) handy prior to immigration. I was of course being my paranoid self especially with a small kid but you decide!
  • Repeated ad nauseum in various threads by veteran TBHP travellers, that you get the best hotel deals by shopping around at the agodas, hotels, bookings dot coms of the internet. We did a combo of agoda and booking.com and managed to stay at some of the finest places at the kind of rock bottom tariffs that we paid. More on those once the TL revvs up and takes me back in time. Especially if you're travelling in what we thought was the off season, typically with such sites you often dont have to pay anything in advance (we didnt) and just enter your card details as confirmation. Tip - you may want to choose a bed only deal skipping the breakfast part as in Thailand as the mind boggling anytime anywhere grub options mean this is one worry you can leave behind
  • I got my forex fix from Centrum, good deal (works out to about 50p more than the official USD rate of the day once you include taxes etc) We also got 2k Thai Baht since we didnt want to exchange our USD at the BKK airport and figured we may need some local dough for food and gas since we planned to hit the road right after reaching BKK (yayy). Paid some 6% more than the official rate; TB is difficult to come by in India and comes at a price but not impossible to procure, we felt comfy carrying some and didnt have to part with a kidney in getting some. As drilled into my head by TBHP veterans - the 2 step conversion of USD in India and then TB in Thailand is the most convenient and VFM option
  • We carried about a grand in USD and 2 grands in TB (paid for the car rental and air fare by card over and above this) for all expenses there. Of course we are your quiniessential shoe string budget travellers and didnt plan to shop entire markets back to India. This was quite sufficient for our needs (though I ran out of dough before I could make full use of my duty free booze quota ) for 6 nights and 7 days. If you plan to survive largely on the amazing street food there (which we did) and plan wisely (we think we did) such a budget should be sufficient. And oh yes, didnt need to prove our credit worthiness to Thai immigration by showing greenbacks but as a policy this exists (they may ask you to show sufficient funds to cover your stay there and only hard cash - read USD/TB - will work) and you dont want to appear stupid standing in a pair of bermudas if you are asked this and all along you were relying on your plastic to fund your stay.
Finally the day of reckoning arrived on a pleasant Chennai evening on 30th May (we had travelled to Chennai overnight on 29th by rail and stayed at a budget accomodation near the airport) as we strolled into the state of the art Chennai airport...oops thats the new domestic terminal our cab drove by, its still the old workhorse for int'l flights! But these were mere monster sized Bangy potholes which failed to deter us as we marched on brimming with excitement. Got all the paperwork outta the way and settled into our seats on our jet plane to Bangkok. The flight was uneventful and all three of us caught up on our sleep (armrests up with daughter leaning on mum and mum leaning on dad like a pack of dominos). We finally touched down at Don Meung at an ungodly hour at 3 AM and cleared immigration into an equally drab terminal (like the adrenalin rush when the immigration officer scans your passport at incredible angles making all kinds of ill boding thoughts rush through your head) Some initial impressions of BKK
Attached Thumbnails
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00799.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00801.jpg  


Last edited by hothatchaway : 6th July 2013 at 17:13.
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Old 6th July 2013, 18:27   #2
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

As the photos suggest, it was a time of waking the dead and none were around even if we wanted to. The Avis counter opened onlt at 730 AM and we had a good 4 hours to kill. Unhappy at the temporary break in momentum yours truly stomped around the yard with little more than a sandwich stand and a small convenience store to conquer while the missus settled into a waiting chair with the little one to try and grab some shut eye in true backpacker spirit. We finally managed to get snatches of sleep (except our daughter who was getting chatty with fellow squatters) before the Avis counter showed signs of life and we could finally get our ride.
Some tips on hiring a self driven car in Thailand (Again these are no longer uncharted waters with pioneers like SS Travellers educating us greenhorns with their numerous such trips in the past but hey I also went and hence also get to write hoping to add a l'il something)
  • Found Avis to be by far the most VFM proposition among the options available, in the event, we chose the basic and the cheapest option - the Toyota Vios 1.5 Petrol with Manual transmission. I drive a manual in India and was comfortable with this (all options above these are AT) The rental was for four days and Avis graciously gives you a grace period of 4 additional hours before they charge you for an extra day (which we equally graciously made use of) and the option of dropping the car off at a different collection point (we dropped her off at the Avis downtown office on Wireless road, very close to Sukhumvit where we stayed)
  • The overall rental came to 6112 TB which included a 200 TB per day rate for the GPS and another 200 for the Super collision damage waiver in addition to the base rate. As it happened, the GPS was a dont-leave-home-without-one aid without which you are staring at a scenario of asking for directions in a language few understand outside BKK. The SCDW is also highly recommended; its essentially a comprehensive insurance cover wherein your liability is nil in case the car gets a shellacking. We didnt opt for the other add ons like Theft protection (car theft is rare in Thailand) and Personal accident insurance (which your overall insurance should cover if you take one) All said, having a car at our disposal made the trip memorable as time and again we stumbled onto places which no guidebook would mention and hang around there to our hearts content. This was also the excuse yours truly used to push the road trip idea through in the first place!
  • If you're wondering whether your local DL is valid to drive on in Thailand and whether its safe etc for a foreign national drive then the answer is yes. As long as your licence is issued by a competent authority and is in Roman numerals you are good to go. They drive on the same side of the road as we do and I came across roads which were in excellent state (more on that later) so if you have learnt and done most of your driving in India then its like touring England and getting a nice true turning track to bat on, to borrow a cricketing analogy! I was careful to not exceed prescribed speed limits and cut lanes and do all those courteous things we are famous for in India and consequently was not stopped by coppers. If you are then it could be how rules are interpreted by the individual officer, with you possibly being asked to show an IDP. Always carry a copy of your passport and other documents if you are prone to keeping the originals in the hotel for safekeeping. Stay cool and enjoy your drive, I know I did and am raring to go back and drive some more!
  • Finally, Avis will take a pre-authorization on your card (atleast 20k TB - more for expensive cars) as a security deposit. They dont charge your card and will not appear in your statement. However, your credit limit is reduced by this amount till the time you are in possession of the car so factor this in if you plan to use your card extensively
Phew! writing this seemed to have taken more time than going through this while renting, maybe was too excited to be conscious of whats going on and was raring to get my hands on the keys. Finally was taken to the car parked just outside and given a quick demo of the car (do check for existing scratches and insert that in the rental sheet to avoid being questioned on this later) and the GPS. It was one with a million miles on the odo (some 80k odd) but still put a huge grin on my face at the prospect of crusing down the roads in a foreign land. Considering that I drive an Alto, this was huge in comparison and the boot just swallowed our meagre belongings. Having settled in, we finally drove off bracing for the legendary and maddening BKK traffic

Our first destination in the land of smiles was Kanchanaburi which has the river Kwai made infamous by the death railway bridge during WW2 flowing by it. We had made reservations at the Xanadu resort (a beautiful place immortalized in SS Travellers TL) for a couple of days and were looking forward to sample authentic Thailand. Little did we know the twist in the tale that lay ahead of us as we weaved through the gridlock from Don Meung into the city...
Attached Thumbnails
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00802.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00807.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00808.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00810.jpg  


Last edited by hothatchaway : 6th July 2013 at 18:42.
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Old 8th July 2013, 19:26   #3
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

Bangkok traffic was exactly as promised, things moved along at a snail's pace but not exactly bumper to bumper as motorists there maintain a asfe distance from the car ahead of them. Also after a long time I happened to see what lanes really look like and had to bite my lip to resist the temptation of sneaking into the yawning gaps between cars! Gradually however and with the aid of the GPS intoning 'her' directions to me in an inviting tone, we managed to crawl in and out of Bangkok into Highway 323 which runs from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. As is customary with road trips, we stopped over at a McDs (not great imagination I agree in a country noted for its authentic cuisine) for a bite.

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00811.jpg
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00812.jpg

Here is where I first witnessed the Thai affinity for ice which I would see many times over in the course of my stay - already chilled drinks ensconced in a bed of crushed ice...just in case!

We were soon on our way in fabulous weather...with some local Thai chartbusters livening things up on radio. Didnt even bother to carry a pen drive with my fave numbers knowing that it wont be compatible!
Attached Thumbnails
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00850.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00852.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00854.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00910.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00911.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00914.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00916.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00919.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00999.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01000.jpg  


Last edited by hothatchaway : 8th July 2013 at 19:43.
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Old 8th July 2013, 20:36   #4
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

It does not take long for you to be behind the wheels for a suspicion, which begins by slowly sneaking up your mind but becoming an all pervading reality even before you have had a chance to get your ride to really stretch her legs, is that this is a nation which is really nuts about cars and they like theirs big and bejewelled Huge pick up tracks pull up by your side as you wait for the lights to turn green and I just gawked at the alloys which seemd to be stock on all cars. Very few 'small' cars (am talking to sub 1.2 l league here) with Nissan March (read Micra) and Swifts making up the hatches with a smattering of Brios. With smooth tarmac and unbroken stretches inviting the motorist and only benign 'strips' or 'rumblers' offering any resistance (however ridiculous!) its a petrolhead's delight as you really get to gun the engine. 323 is dual carriageway with a solid divider hence you are not daunted by oncoming traffic. I was marvelled at how cars about to enter the main highway patiently wait for oncoming traffic to pass and not sneak into the path of barelling traffic like a blind hare as we are so used to seeing here!

As I was grinning and gunning away to glory, I soon started missing the lilting tone of the GPS, only to realize that she had run out of power. Prompt pulling over and quick inspection revealed that the charging point was not working to begin with and yours truly had not realized that having not ever used a GPS before The initial euphoria soon gave way to a gnawing unease of getting through four days of crisscrossing the Thai countryside without the trusted satnav, as asking for directions was a classical recipe for a linguisitc disaster; the Thai language is a very tonal one to begin with and even for a Thai who knows a smattering of English may not understand an English term pronounced in a certain way. I pulled into the nearest gas station and used my best histrionic skills to convey the fact that there was a general problem with the car to the attendants with the hope of getting a mechie to help. After a point all of us were grinning helplessly at the language predicament and gawking here and there for some unknown force to rescue us. And soon he came, a 30 something in a SUV with clean cut kind looks. He knew enough English to understand what was up and tested my GPS on his car charger and hey presto, it started charging! He asked us to follow him to the nearest workshop some 5 kms off where he explained the problem to the mechanic. After an incomprehensible exchange, I gathered much to my dismay that the chappie was too tied up to look under my hood and we are to seek assistance elsewhere. My saviour (to this day I bemoan my discourtesy of not even finding his name out) contemplated for a moment and then asked us to follow him onwards for another 10 kms or so. Finally we got someone to fix the issue (which he did by creating a connection directly to the fusebox) and the GPS roared back to life. Then, to give me a taste of Thai hospitality, our knight fished out a 100 TB note and paid the mechanic before I could even react; no amount of persuasion would convince him to accept money from me. And then, just as providentially as he had appeared, with a smile on his lips he kicked up a plume of smoke with his alloys screeching and disappeared into the horizon, leaving me so dumstruck that it did not occur to me to even take a photo for keepsakes!

There wasnt to be too much drama for the rest of our journey as we passed by Kanchanaburi city centre and onto a sideroad deeper into country to the resort.

First glimpses of the Kwai river

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00816.jpg
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00817.jpg

We already knew that we would be driving into an exquisite place to stay (thanks again TBHP TLs!) but witnessing it first hand was a rewarding experience. It was every bit as inviting as the photos promised it to be, a verdant setting by a river which had left its indelible stamp in history. A quaint place which was not without all the right ingredients for great conversations and deep reflections: a well stocked bar right next to the pool


Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00826.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00828.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00830.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00835.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00836.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00837.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00839.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00840.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00843.jpg

The cottage was basic but clean with a pile of DVDs of western classics just in case such picturesque places bore you to seek refuge indoors and plonk yourself in front of the TV set! We caught up on some much needed sleep before planting us by the pool and chatting with Dennis Compton, the 'innkeeper'. Dennis has been around for decades now in Thailand and is pretty much a part of the local scene now. We also met fellow pilgrims who tend to gravitate to such places off the beaten track in pursuit of sights and sounds you will not find in popular guidebooks. There was Richard who chucked a lucrative career in software in the states to explore SE Asia, by starting off in Cambodia and working his way up west with plans to eventually land up in Burma. There was Mathias who had left his native Germany and has been in these parts for the last two decades, with a tan to prove his vintage! All in all, the place promised to be a great melting pot of diverse accounts.

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00997.jpg

We decided to head to town in the evening for the food scene, unfortunately the rain gods decided to bless these parts after many moons and we had to abort our plans of sampling the night market atleast for that evening. Having been deprived of street food, we trooped into a local Chinese restaurant for some local fare. The seafood soup didnt disappoint as every spoonful fished out a tiny squid, cuttlefish, prawn and other delights! The crispy pork had a unique sweet and sour flavour and was quite unlike what I was used to. Soups here are really tangy with a burst of tangy flavours fuelled by lemongrass, ginger, shallots and secret sauces, guaranteed to beat the s**t out of any cold that one may have. The meat and rice/noodle dishes are typically accompanied by tiny saucers of fish and other hot sauces with red/green chilli bits which allow you to flavour them to your taste. My taste buds were already tingling with anticipation (and an overdose of hot sauce) for our gastronomical adventures ahead.
Attached Thumbnails
Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00818.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00819.jpg  

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00821.jpg  


Last edited by hothatchaway : 9th July 2013 at 19:11.
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Old 9th July 2013, 20:01   #5
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

Kanchanaburi is the hottest province in Thailand and is also known for its rugged natural beauty with its hills and woods and waterfalls. We had done our bit of research and had identified Erawan National Park as a must visit, not less because of the fact that it was another 60 odd kms from the resort which meant more time on the road! The Park is situated up route 3199 which again is miles upon miles of smooth tarmac. The park comprises some 500 sq kms of rainforest with the only official trail running up past the waterfall which we intended to visit. The emerald green waters shimmer down the Kwai Yai river and makes for a great place to take a dip. This place is frequented by locals and is a known picnic spot.

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00855.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00857.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00861.jpg

On the way, we came across this dam which looked quite imposing and allowed some more photo ops

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00862.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00865.jpg

Before long we were at Erawan, welcomed by the sight of billowy clouds kissing the crest of the hill

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00867.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00869.jpg

We got free fish foot messages...the kinds people pay to get in fancy malls!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00872.jpg

The water was cool and inviting after the hike from the base, the place is well designed with a huge parking lot and a well marked trail. the waterfall itself has 7 levels but the frolicking in the water happens in the first 3 levels with the ones above more for hiking enthusiasts.

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00875.jpg

After cooling off at Erawan, next on our list was Prasat Muang Singh, a historical site which has remains of Khmer temples dating back to the 13th century. Muang Singh or 'Lion City' is also thought to have been an important military outpost and is of the same vintage as Angkor Wat. If you are not able to cover Angkor Wat by clubbing Cambodia with Thailand, then temples dedicated to Shiva at Muang Singh is your best bet of getting some flavour of Khmer architectural splendour. The site is located off Route 323 and is some 43 kms from Kanchanaburi. We happened to follow signposts from our way back from Erawan and was directed onto this 'rural road' which was again all tarmac and the only rustic quality it had was come cowdung strewn on it here and there!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00885.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00890.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00894.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00896.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00905.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00906.jpg

Blue fanta anyone??!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00907.jpg

You can have lunch at the small food court at the site and the food again, as its everywhere in Thailand was lip smacking! Ensure you are wearing shoes with some profiles on the soles since you will have to climb in and out of the stone remains of the temple

Last edited by hothatchaway : 10th July 2013 at 11:04.
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Old 10th July 2013, 11:16   #6
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

We missed going to hellfire pass since it was already pretty late after we left Muang Singh and made our way back to Kanchanaburi. We decided on doing the mandatory pilgrimage of the local sites like the legendary bridge (this is the tourist replica folks with the original destroyed during the war) and the JEATH war museum

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00917.jpg

Somehow thought this was significant enough to capture on camera

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00918.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00920.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00921.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00923.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00927.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00928.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00930.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00931.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00934.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00937.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00938.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00944.jpg

Found this real gem parked in the museum

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00947.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00951.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00953.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00955.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00956.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00958.jpg

Sends a tingle down your spine!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00960.jpg

Bombshells!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00961.jpg

Having had our dose of history, we came back for a quick catnap and to lounge by the pool. That done and with the weather looking up, we were finally set for our recce of the night market and all its culinary delights. One big insight about this country, when we were planning for the trip we heard so much how this is not a place to take very small kids along and how one will not be able to sample the many pleasures that it has to offer (well certain places, especially in BKK may be offlimits for kids but thats for a dfferent reason altogether!) however what we discovered is that the Thai are really really fond of kids and whereever we went, our daughter received plenty of attention from strangers, to whom smiling and acting goofy with kids come naturally. So go ahead and plan your vacation to this land and dont be daunted if you have a toddler in tow.

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00969.jpg

The sausages and fish balls were a big draw with all the hot sauce that go with them

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00970.jpg

These were small squids and so I thought and still believe!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00971.jpg

Their own version of table top barbeque, you get this conical vessel with charcoals in its belly, you place semi cooked meats and egg and veggies around it and hey presto, you soon have a heap of lip smacking toasted meat!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00973.jpg

Shellfish

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00974.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00976.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00979.jpg

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00983.jpg

A venue for so many of our pit stops, the ubiquitous 7-11 which can be found in every nook and cranny of the country and at gas stations. Apart from standard grocery and beverages you can also buy lip smacking sausages, dim sums and other bites, heat in a microwave and your mini meal is ready!

Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc00984.jpg

With this, the Kanchanaburi leg of our sojourn was coming to an end. Day 3 would see us head back and through BKK towards the Gulf of Thailand and into Bang Saen, a little known and even less frequented Thai beach getaway safely tucked 40 kms away from sleaze central Pattaya. Expect more adventure as we hit the long roads again, sampling the myriad pleasures of this quaint land. Stay tuned for more!

Last edited by hothatchaway : 10th July 2013 at 19:46.
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Old 12th July 2013, 10:12   #7
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

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Moving to Travelogue Section

Thanks for sharing
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Old 12th July 2013, 18:49   #8
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

Have been there, but this is a very different view of the Kingdom country on the road. Also very well documented list of tips of travelling to the country and hiring a rental car which is a very good guide for future travellers.

Must say that the sights and pictures are simply fantastic and bring out the other side of Thailand far from the standard circuit of Bangkok and Pattaya that many from our land actually land into.

Waiting to see more, please keep it coming.
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Old 12th July 2013, 21:00   #9
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Yes, staying tuned expecting more adventures & more pictures.
Hope you got a lot of pics of some country roads too
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Old 13th July 2013, 14:41   #10
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A brief guide for history buffs in Kanchanaburi

One of the reasons which drew us inexorably to Kanchanaburi at the very outset while planning the trip was the indelible imprint that World War 2 had left in these parts. The theatre of war had unfolded dramatically in these idyllic settings with the Japanese making inroads into South East Asia, the seizure of Burma from Britain being the inflection point. Thus began the Japanese endeavor of building a rail link between Thailand and Burma to bring troops and supplies to Burma, the heartrending account of which will forever be written in blood in the annals of history for the immense human cost that it would extract: over 100,000 lives thus earning itself the sinister moniker – The death railway

The railway, which aimed to connect Rangoon with Bangkok, passed over the Kwai river in Kanchanaburi via a bridge which would be immortalized by the eponymously named movie ‘The bridge on the river Kwai’ contributing to the tourism interest in this section and the attention it received from history buffs. Apart from the bridge per se – which no longer exists as both the wood and the steel versions were bombed to the ground by the Royal Airforce in 1945 – there are several other places of tourist interests which are listed below along with recommendations from yours truly!

The JEATH war museum (snaps in prior post) (acronym stands for POWs from the following nations namely Japan, England, American, Australian, Thai and Holland or Dutch who played a pivotal part in building nay slaving under Japanese oppression to construct the death railway) museum is one of the key attractions in Kanchanaburi - atleast history buffs like me who would like nothing better than to linger around artifacts from the war and somehow feel at one with the past. The museum recreates with the help of relics like the salvaged locomotive, firearms and other exhibits the events surrounding the construction of the death railway, one of the most heart rending events of WW2. Dont expect an imposing edifice which bowls you over; the building is rather nondescript and tucked away in a lane leading away from the bridge. But if standing near exhibits which had once breathed fire and felled men gives you goosebumps then pencil this into your itinerary by all means. The entry fee is 40 TB and the museum is open from 9 - 5.

The ‘touristy’ bridge! – As the snaps in the post above suggest, this is meant strictly for touristy types to wrest a slice of history for themselves, a vicarious one at that with enough photo ops to record for posterity. If you have a great imagination and have seen enough war movies and read plenty on the subject, it should not be difficult for you to transport yourself 7 decades back in time, as you stroll along the track and down the bridge, taking in the verdant greenery. Good for those photos to show off back home

Hellfire pass – Known for its forbidding terrain, this was known for the challenge it presented to the POWs to cut through due to the harsh conditions. The pass is called for the sight it presented of labourers toiling away by torchlight resembled a scene from hell. Club this with your visit to the Yak Noi waterfall

Death Railway Museum – The best of all the museums IMO, this is situated on a road flanking the war cemetery. Immaculately maintained, the museum takes you through every detail of the railway chronologically via wall mounted information cards, a mall video room, lifelike clay models recreating the hellish conditions endured by POWs and scale models of the railway detailing every bridge, every camp; so much so that your hair stands on end. There is so much information and written or recorded accounts that you can literally spend hours here absorbing every bit of it. If you are on a whistle stop tour and had to pick only one place to visit, look no further than this.

Don Rak or Kanchanaburi War cemetery – In the heart of the city and across the street to the railway station, this is the place which moved me the most. The cenotaph just outside the entrance sets the tone by solemnly announcing the fact that the terrible harvest of the death railway, the valiant souls are interred here. As I stood at the arched gates to the cemetery made of white stones set against an azure blue sky on a sunny day, I felt the solemn silence to be deafening. As you walk past the headstones bearing the somber epitaphs, you marvel that human beings could be capable of such unspeakable acts and yet in death, revel in eternal hope. I couldn’t help but linger interminably at the obelisk and the memorial wall which announces the brave souls who lay there. You may get to see Thai war veterans walking about the tombs, perhaps conversing with the departed souls. I hope snaps of this must see destination below does justice to this emotionally charged memorial park.
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Old 3rd September 2013, 20:43   #11
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

Having had our fill of what the rugged landscape of Kanchanburi had to offer us, the salty breeze of the Gulf of Thailand now beckoned us. Much has been written about the sleaze pots of Pattaya and the infamy it had earned during the Vietnam war when the GIs would swoop down to have more than just good clean fun. So that we do not become just another addition to the numerous who drift into Pattaya, we decided to do our trip of the coast with a twist; by heading to a popular Thai weekend getaway by the name of Bangsaen. Situated some 50 odd kms ahead of Pattaya on the BKK – Chonburi motorway, Bangsaen has managed to keep unbridled hedonism at bay and generally attracts true blue Thai holidaymakers with few foreign tourists. Always on the lookout to sample local culture and fare, we had no hesitation in keying this place into our GPS as we hit the road again.

A replica of the Kwai bridge bidding adieu

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Mammoth dealerships by the expressway would always keep me enthralled

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BKK beckons again!

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Another one of the macho pickups draped in chrome

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A familiar and ubiquitous sight – A shell station

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This is what they call the ‘Sunny’ in these parts

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A touch of sci-fi to the humble passenger bus

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Check out the rims

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Approaching BKK

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The Thai motorways are amazing to say the least in terms of surface quality and width. After navigating through the maddening traffic in downtown Bangkok, we were on the motorway again. The GPS proved its worth by weaving us through endless exits and roundabouts. Once out of BKK, we were on the gigantic elevated motorway which snaked its way for more than 100 kms into Chonburi province. The toll collection process is efficiently administered by means of this smart card which ensures you don’t have to stop at every toll window fishing for change

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My travelogue would be incomplete without mentioning the convenience stores at the gas stations which kept us well fed and refreshed. Apart from the usual suspects like 7-11, there were couple more like Jiffy’s which serve sausages and dumplings which can be heated in microwave ovens and served on the spot. The large cold coffee and soda dispensers with ice cubes tumbling down from one snout had me queuing up every time with childlike glee 

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Last edited by hothatchaway : 3rd September 2013 at 20:46.
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Old 5th September 2013, 11:34   #12
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

lovely! This TL somehow has a different kind of charm and pull - nice pics and engaging narration. I M loving it! bring it on.

P.S:- I know what happens when you are on a trip and your GPS does not work! Same thing happened to me on my last trip - fuse blown, charging point not working. Luckily, i was in India and could ask around for directions and also use my phone GPS - but it is a pain not being able to keep the GPS running full time. I can surely empathise with you!

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Old 5th September 2013, 13:16   #13
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

Brilliant travelogue, hothatchaway! I too have been contemplating doing a similar trip somewhere in South East Asia. After going through your picturesque travelogue, Thailand is turning out to be an ideal country to explore on wheels!
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Old 5th September 2013, 20:15   #14
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Default Re: Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored

Quote:
Originally Posted by sach.sri View Post
lovely! This TL somehow has a different kind of charm and pull - nice pics and engaging narration. I M loving it! bring it on.
Thanks! somehow the offbeat options always fire our imagination

Quote:
Originally Posted by coloneljasi View Post
Brilliant travelogue, hothatchaway! I too have been contemplating doing a similar trip somewhere in South East Asia. After going through your picturesque travelogue, Thailand is turning out to be an ideal country to explore on wheels!
Thanks, it sure is, the people are friendly, the prices are competitive and most importantly, spanking tarmacs to flog your steed!

One thing you will never miss while driving are the ubiquitous road signs which means that unless your mind has switched onto autopilot, its difficult to lose your way. I mean this when driving on the motorways; it’s a different proposition navigating through the road mazes of Bangkok as the heavy traffic means you need to catch the right exits, else you’re off to a wild goose chase. It had been a long day and from the solemn visits to the war cemetery and the museum we were now looking forward to soaking in some salty breeze. After burning some rubber on NH7 and encountering little resistance by way of traffic, we were gridlocked as were approaching BangSaen. I took a long deep breath and tightened my clutch on the steering wheel as we approached the intersection leading to the main thoroughfare into BangSaen.

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I could also describe BangSaen as a ‘college town’ as it houses a university with a sprawling campus (as I discovered having taken a turn too soon which took my inside the precincts). The sidewalks were buzzing with youngsters hanging out at roadside cafes and by the pushcart vendors hawking street food. A smile is never in short supply as people here break into one effortlessly. No wonder Thailand is called the land of smiles

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We had picked a hotel from a handful of options available online and boy were we surprised! It was spacious with a big pool and a large room to boot. The hotel staff more than makes up for their patchy English with the earnestness they bring to their hospitality. The sea side town itself has been developed well with tall condominiums and roadside bistros and one could see why this quaint town provided weekend succor to weather and traffic beaten Thais. The main thoroughfare provided a profusion of eateries, lined one after the other with chirpy waitresses inviting you in. As soon as we had checked in and settled in, we set off for the beach only a km away. The waterfront is lined by a broad promenade lined by, you guessed it, a long line of streetfood vendors. Whether its fat and juicy sausages or spicy prawns or desserts soaked in sweets, you are spoilt for choice. The food holds centrestage since the water itself is cloudy since the mouth of the river to the sea is not far. It was almost dusk and the setting sun spread an orange hue down from the horizon to the shoreline, gently rocked by the rippling waves. Kids frolicking about the sand completed the idyllic scene.

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Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01085.jpg

The day after, having tucked into a sumptuous breakfast spread, the irresistible lure of Pattaya beckoned, despite us not having planned to spend much time there. A part of me secretly wanted to glimpse into the legendary forbidden pleasures that Pattaya stood for, knowing fully well that I had to be on my best behavior with the family around!

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Another hunk straddling the roads

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My first impressions of Pattaya were that of a surreal version of the Florida streetscape with palm lined boulevards and glitzy shopping malls. This seemed an artists’ impression of the racy hotspots hugging the eastern seaboard of the US, albeit a bizarre one as it stood incongruously along the Chonburi highway in sharp contrast to the look and feel of its sister towns. Pattaya belongs to the hedonistic tourist for whom nothing is off limits. Even the customary Thai smile here begins to fade as the vendors sport plastic smiles and curt repartees; we were quickly revising our plans for the day.

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The cuisine that has conquered the seas

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We searched for some authentic sights and came across the walking street, but decided to move on

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Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01151.jpg

The key to a good holiday is to do generous research so that you can pluck out hidden gems and that’s exactly what we did, by setting our sights on Jomtien, another suburb by the sea, 10 kms north of Pattaya. We found ourselves hitting the open roads again with a song in our hearts and nothing but the GPS to deliver us to the Promised Land. Soon we were zipping down streets which was clearly seeing very recent and rapid real estate development. The waterfront was lined by quiet avenues and tony skyscrapers and that’s were we pitched tent for a couple of hours with the beach almost to ourselves!

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After a dip in the sea and gorging on some freshly fried prawns on the beach, we were in the mood to explore some more. We had spotted the Underwater world Pattaya on the outskirts and debated whether it could help to fill in for the next few hours. The warm waters having fired our appetites up, we were on the road again to look for a place to indulge our tastebuds.
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Old 6th September 2013, 21:37   #15
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At one of the ubiquitous malls with wide open spaces, our little one decides to take a trip of her own.

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Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01164.jpg

The undersea world promised a cheaper alternative to the Siam ocean world that we had tentatively penciled into our itinerary for the BKK leg of the trip. So in we went for a glimpse of undersea delights. The entry charges are TB 500 per adult and kids below 87 cms have free entry. Its worth a dekko if you have a few hours to kill.

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So this is what the Vento looked like

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Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01224.jpg

Came across this huge used car sale lot and couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a look around. Saw some absolute beauties including this one, the prices elude my memory now but in purchasing power parity terms work out similar to prices in India. But I remember some of the deals seemed mouthwatering given that a few of them had so few miles on the odo.

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Hot wheels and big grins in the land of smiles :) - Thailand motored-dsc01229.jpg

Our roadtrip was coming to an end and the gloomy weather reflected my mood; the last few days were a blur of triple digit speeds on some delectable roads and I would need to be dragged out of the driver’s seat, kicking and screaming I might add. We inched towards Avis downtown on wireless road as the rain became torrential. We had some nervous moments while dropping the car as the attendant’s creased brows became a frown as the small electrical jugaad that the roadside mechanic had done by linking the GPS to the fusebox was spotted. I had a long calm conversation with the attendant detailing our predicament on the road with the GPS running out of charge. He calmly threatened to deduct from the pre-auth deposit that was taken on my credit card in case a look through revealed any damage to the vehicle. Given that the queen’s language and her idioms take on a new meaning in this land, I kept reasoning in a dogged manner as to how I had to have the problem looked at since I didn’t know my way and how it was a minor electrical tinkering which should not lead to costly repairs. He promised to get back to me at in a day at the hotel. I didn’t let a warm smile leave my face and I never heard back with the deposit fully refunded. That’s why Thailand is called the land of smiles I guess

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Some sights and sounds of Bangkok including Chinatown. Somehow I saw a lot of authenticity and character in Chinatown with exotic delicacies like Bird’s nest soup and roasted insects (which I couldn’t film) Bangkok is a place where you can shop till you drop and pig out at your hearts content at the food courts anchored to the numerous shopping malls. Budget shoppers think no further than MBK mall which is your commercial street in Bangalore cocooned within AC environs. The sheer number of garments stores will leave you reeling and the knock offs of the high priests of fashion (read Gucci’s and Pradas) have decent quality. I picked up a couple of tees with a Ferrari and a Lambo printed onto them and they came at a steal of a price. Finally, no visit to Thailand for a hot blooded man (I still like to think of myself as one) is complete without a visit to Soi Cowboy, the sin street of BKK. Go there (without the missus) for a dekko if you dare. See but don’t touch!

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The ride back to Don Meung was not without its touch of melancholy. The road trip through an alien nation had somehow brought down the barriers, be that of language or culture. The land had endeared us with her easy smiles and reverent bows. This trip has only whetted my appetite, to bide my time till am back for more
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