This is where I say goodbye to Thailand. I didn’t have the time to experience the bad reputation of this border town. Before I reach Malaysia I notice the results of floods that visit the region of Golok river every year (hence so many houses on pales).

Tutaj żegnam się z Tajlandią, nie zdążywszy posmakować nienajlepszej reputacji, jaką cieszy się to nadgraniczne miasto. Przed przejściem na stronę malajską zauważam za to skutki powodzi, które co roku o tej porze podmywają okolice rzeki Golok (stąd często spotykane domy na palach).

Deep south, very Muslim. In these parts of the country religious and political conflicts are not rare. The Muslim minority (who makes a majority in the South) wants to split from Thailand; hence the presence of fully armed troops in railway stations as well as inside the trains.

I was invited to Chana by Sudiman, a friendly guy met on a train. Riding his scooter together we attract many curious eyes. I am introduced to the family and to a bunch of kids who enter Sudiman’s house without knocking (nobody closes their doors here, everybody is welcome). Apart from my host nobody here speaks English so our communication is limited to gestures and drawings. Drawings, or to be more precise – portraits that I made, made everybody draw closer with Sudiman’s buddies, who show me their own personal technique of making low-relief in mirrors.

To już głębokie południe, w zdecydowanej większości muzułmańskie. W tych rejonach…

One of the three famous islands in Gulf of Thailand (two others are Koh Samui and Koh Phangan), in theory it is the one that is the least damaged by tourism. At least this is what I was hoping for when boarding the ferry to Chumphon (a small but very comfortable ferry with air conditioning; the return trip will not be so comfortable anymore – I get on board of what could be described as chickenboat – 150 people stuffed on narrow mattresses, toilet with no water, windows that won’t shut…).When I get there I discover that Koh Tao is full of Europeans who came here to admire underwater views (the island is famous for its transparent waters and rich sea fauna) and taste the evening alcohol.However, if you leave the partying whiteys and hotels invading the land more and more out of the frame, you can still be amazed by the island. Numerous beaches of all kinds (sandy, stony),…

This is southern Thailand already. I chose a place with literally nothing special to see (except for one temple – Wat Thammikaram, visited often by locals as well as by monkeys). Just sea and beaches (I recommend the beach within air force unit – clean, orderly, reasonable infrastructure and friendly soldiers offering a ride).

To już południe Tajlandii. Celowo wybrałem miejsce, w którym właściwie nic nie ma (no, może poza jedną świątynią – Wat Thammikaram, odwiedzaną chętnie przez miejscowych ale także przez małpy). Tylko morze i plaże (polecam plażę na terenie bazy wojskowej – czysto, schludnie, rozsądna infrastruktura i żołnierze, którzy chętnie podwiozą).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZEVgfKzkvg

 Chiang Rai

A tip for those travelling from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai: use Arcade coach station (North East of the moat), not any other.

The town itself might be nothing special but it offers nice temperatures (around 20 degrees in the evening, everybody puts on sweaters and coats). Plus all that surrounds the Chiang Rai makes it an important starting point for all sorts of treks and trips.

I am lucky again – I arrive in the midst of flower festival (festival might be too big a word – it’s just an excuse to party a bit). I join the crowd in dancing and taste the deliciacies offered by nearby stalls.

Uwaga praktyczna dla wybierających się do Chiang Rai z Chiang Mai: należy wybrać się na dworzec autobusowy Arcade (północny wschód względem fosy), a nie żaden inny!

Miasto samo z siebie może nie porywa ale za to oferuje…

Having left Lopburi, I reach Chiang Mai after 17 hours train ride (13 hours travel; 2 hours waiting in the station; 2 hours delay on the way, including switching the trains in the middle of the jungle due to engine breakdown). Luckily the train was half empty and I could sleep quite comfortably.

Chiang Mai (“New City”) was officially founded in 1296 by king Mengrai, though before there already existed a town called Wiang Nopburi. Chiang Mai replaced Chiang Rai as Lanna kingdom capital. The city is located amidst picturesque mountains that make the biggest highlight for travellers (plus the all-night party centre and over 300 temples to see). Chiang Mai can really be addictive – you can ask those many individuals who only stopped here for a couple of days and have been living here for years already.

Do Chiang Mai docieram z Lopburi po ok,…

Another stop on the way is Lopburi – a little town where you can stop for a day, not necessarily longer than that. There is a couple of wats to be found here but it’s not them who make the biggest tourist attraction. The most important are the macaques. They have taken over Wat Phra Prang Sam Yot temple and the streets around. In theory, the monkey problem could be dealt with easily but the Thais – real Buddhists – don’t want to harm the animals so they just put grids over the windows, drive the monkeys away with sticks, shoot them with catapults (they never actually aim at the animals)… All in vain, the monkey invasion continues…

I happened to witness a celebration in memory of former local ruler, founder of the biggest temple in the town – Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat. First the local students painted religious images on a very long roll of canvas,…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9UPf4JLmmk

80 kilometres north from Bangkok, only 2 hours away by train (+scheduled delay), this is the former capital city, ransacked by Burmese army in 1767. And ever since the city has not recovered. Though quite big in size, Ayutthaya feels very provincial and tourist come here mostly to see the ruins of former Siam capital. One of the tourists also arrives here to sped the New Year’s Eve. And – accidentally – gets invited to a neighbourhood party. Though our communication options are quite limited, me and my hosts go along very well, especially when it comes to tasting local whisky and snacks. We watch artistic-karaoke performances taking place on the stage put up together by neighbours – the folk-pop tunes make us drown into nostalgia, the state that I have to get out of in order to make it back to my hostel (B.J’s, 120 baht a for a room). The host wants to offer…

My excuse to go there was meeting with Maciek, a friend from Warsaw, married with kids to a Thai girl, arriving to visit his new family. I thought this could be a good starting point for a trip around Thailand.

First thing we did together was checking out one of those famous unfinished skyscrapers (guarded by a bunch of junkies who try to get money out of those who want to visit the site) and nearby temple – Wat Yannawa. Maciek was also my guide in the condo (little quarter) in the outskirts where he lives with his family. The outskirts were OK but let’s head for the centre:)

Sleeping in Khao San Road is a mistake. Actually, sleeping is physically impossible – hostel walls (180 baht for a mini-room) are shaking with the sound of surrounding bars (a disco to the left, to the right – Thai singers singing American 80-90’s classics,…

Thailand is as easy as it gets. No matter what kind of tourist attractions you are looking for – you will find an abundance of them here. Heading for paradise-like beaches and diving locations? The whole coast is filled with beaches, full of boutique resorts, cheap hotels and bungalows, with troops of Western faces around. So you don’t like the sea? How about a “unique” trek through jungle-covered mountains then? Here you have it – every single hostel can offer a 1-, 2-, 3-, x- day trek. And on the way they will teach you how to make palm-leaf bungalow, bamboo pot, coconut slippers. Or would you rather visit some temples? You’ll be exhausted before you see just a small bit of what Thailand has to offer temple-wise. Or are you a culinary traveller? That’s perfect – here is the country of many flavours, varying from one region to the other (but always spicy!). Still not happy? How…