Lanna Dusita Boutique Resort

I took a quick two-night trip up to Chiang Mai last week – and yes, the ability to say that is pretty awesome, and one of the better perks of an expat life. It was for a photography workshop, which was a lot of fun and I will probably write about some time soon. One of the two nights was spent in the Lanna Dusita Boutique Resort (by Andacura Hotels & Resorts), which is what I’m going to be writing about now. So, without further ado…


202_5154The Lanna Dusita has a lovely rural setting, right on the western bank of the Ping River, which passes through Chiang Mai just the the east of the Old City. Of course, “rural setting” is kind of a nice way of saying “it’s quite a long way from the city centre”, but it actually works to the place’s advantage, in this case. It’s the sort of resort where being far from the bustle of the Old City is practically its best selling point! Additionally, it is only about 5 km from the city – maybe a little far to walk, but you can rent a bicycle from the hotel or it’s only a 10-minute drive, which you can easily arrange with the tours desk or the concierge.

The resort is nicely self-contained, being behind an imposing frontage and surrounded by walls, which creates a nice sense of exclusivity. The fact that it opens onto the river at the back, with a lovely and open view across the calm water, means that the walls don’t also create a sense of being hemmed in. The resort is well-designed to maximise the amount of rooms without feeling cramped, if that makes sense…basically, they hit the sweet spot of design, where it is compact without being what you’d think of as ‘small’.

The one downside to the location is that you are under the flightpath of commercial aircraft heading north out of Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX). However, with the airport being practically right in the middle of town (slightly to the west of the centre, if you want to be pedantic), there’s virtually nowhere in Chiang Mai you can go which isn’t under the flightpath and, by the time they get over Lanna Dusita, the aircraft are high enough that you can hear them, but the noise isn’t rattling your teeth as it can if you’re staying in town.

It should be noted that the hotel is also directly over the road from the local fire station, which may occasionally make a little noise. It didn’t while I was there, and I don’t suppose it would be anywhere near as frequently noisy as the jets, but it would probably make you jump if there was an emergency.


202_5029The half-dozen two-storey structures where you will find the rooms all have a lovely old-fashioned design, with lots of stained wood on show. However, the rooms themselves are surprisingly modern-looking on the inside, as well as being fantastically spacious and pretty comfortable.

Lanna Duita Boutique Hotel has three room classes which, as seems to always be the case, have mostly baffling names:

202_5019I was in a Superior Room and, with 28 sq m of floorspace and a king-size bed (which must have been designed for a king of the dimensions of Henry VIII, because it was massive!), it felt like the daft naming convention might actually be accurate, for once. I was also very impressed with the comfy chairs. This may seem silly, but I find a lot of hotels get this wrong and provide chairs which are very far from comfortable. These ones were a delight to sit in.

The in-room amenities were perhaps on the plain side, but certainly adequate. You get an old CRT TV with a fairly basic channels package, the obligatory tea and coffee making facilities and an en-suite bathroom with toiletries. Nothing particularly astounding, but far from being actually bad. The shower, in fact, was fantastic. I was initially a little down on it because it is quite a modern white PVC thing in a bathroom which is otherwise pleasantly rustic. However, it uses two taps to control the temperature. While it took me a minute or two to figure out which was hot and which was cold, I was able to easily and precisely control the heat once I had. Many hotels favour the single dial control, for which you need the patience and dexterity of a safe-breaker to find the sweet spot. This, by contrast, was one of the most enjoyable showers I’ve had in years.

202_5026The really fantastic part of each room is the balcony. At 10 sq m, it is almost bigger than some hotel rooms in the world! It is home to a comfortable chair, clothes drying racks and a padded seat along the front edge, making it quite a pleasant place to chill out. However, I couldn’t find the light switch, which made it also quite a dark place, in the evening. I’m pretty sure there is a light somewhere, but an exhaustive search failed to reveal a switch. It is worth mentioning that the set-up of light switches around the room is a little odd, to the extent that it is impossible to turn on the lights around the bed from the door.


202_5142Unfortunately, I arrived at the hotel pretty late and had to leave pretty early the next morning, so I didn’t actually get a chance to dine at the hotel. I can therefore only give you my impressions of what I saw, which were very good. The Lanna Dusita’s main restaurant has seating with a beautiful view right over the river. Named Wai Restuarant, after the prayer-like gesture used as a formal greeting in Thailand, they serve predominantly Thai cuisine, with some local specialties.

202_5121There is also a small coffee and snack bar by the pool, named Hohm Dee (I’m not totally sure what that translates as). It boasts an interesting selection of special local teas and hilltribe coffees, alongside a collection of classic hot beverages, soft drinks, pastries and cakes.

202_5174As the weather wasn’t that great while I was there, the breakfast was being served in the rather lovely lobby building, at the front of Lanna Dusita and well away from the river. I was told that it would normally be down by the river, allowing you to enjoy your food with the fantastic view. I had a quick peek in the dishes and found that it was pretty normal hotel breakfast fare, with a couple of local additions.

It should be noted that, because of Lanna Dusita’s fairly remote location, you are a little limited in dining alternatives. There are one or two little local restaurants within a short walk. Fortunately, it would appear that you have two of the best (in the immediate area) on site.


202_5112Despite such a short stay in the Lanna Dusita Boutique Resort, I saw no shortage of examples of the outstanding service they provide. The guys on the 24-hour reception desk were especially friendly, helpful and welcoming (and the welcome drink they provided was really tasty!). While I was taking a wander around the resort in the morning, everyone said hello or wished me a good morning. It’s a very simple gesture, but a very much appreciated one. I have always found Chiang Mai to be one of the friendliest parts of Thailand and Lanna Dusita demonstrated that better than most. At the same time, said staff were assiduous about their duties. The whole place was very clean and tidy.


202_5119As I said earlier, the Lanna Dusita Boutique Resort is well designed, making optimum use of a modest amount of space. This includes an impressively large swimming pool, not far from the river, with an adjacent sundeck. Massages are available and there is a tours desk at reception.

On the downside, the hotel does not have an on-site bar, but that seems to be the nature of this rural area of Chiang Mai. Indeed, the whole city is not what you’d call famous for its nightlife. Even so, it would be nice to have the chance to enjoy a couple of drinks by the river in the evening.


Lanna Duista Boutique Resort is one of those wonderful ‘get away from it all’ places, which are increasingly challenging to find in the mid-range price bracket. I’ve used the word “sweet spot” a couple of times above, and that perfectly describes the whole resort – it is away from the town, but not remote; it is compact, but not small; it is affordable, but not cheap; it is simple, but not uncomfortable.

202_5180The resort’s location is probably its biggest asset. The pool, sundeck, restaurant and even several of the deluxe rooms overlooking the gentle river, creating the sort of countryside scene for which the word “charming” was invented. Charm just drips out of every surface, from the beautiful lobby and its nearby fishpond to the river-side dining deck. The rentable bicycles near the entrance even have a charm of their own, and the thought of cycling along the riverbank into town makes me wish I’d had the chance to stay there longer.

When talking about the service, I said that Lanna Dusita demonstrates the friendliness of Chiang Mai better than most, and that is also true of practically everything else. It is like everything that makes the city such a wonderful part of Thailand, distilled and contained in one resort.

Lanna Dusita Boutique Resort

146 Patan Road
Patan / Mueang
Chiang Mai 50300

Tel: +66 5 311 0345-6

GPS: 18°49’31.8″N 98°59’41.6″E

Recommend: Relaxing on the huge balcony.
Avoid: Stubbing your toe while trying to find the light switch.

Full Disclosure

I stayed at Lanna Dusita Boutique Hotel for one night. My stay was arranged by a third party with a view to providing a review. The room therefore did not cost me anything and it is highly probable that the staff were well aware of who I was and why I was there.

While this fact may have had an effect on the staff’s attitude and treatment of me, said third party is aware of my ethics policy and declined the offer to vet my review prior to publication. True to said policy, I have endeavoured to give as honest a review as possible.

The Death of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and what it means for you

Earlier today, I saw a headline from a Daily Mail article which, while I can’t recall the exact wording, said something along the lines of “British tourists are annoyed that the death of the Thai king has ruined their holiday”. Now, I don’t expect much thought for…well, for anyone not British, to be frank…out of the Daily Mail, but this is a new low.

Incidentally, the reason why I can’t just nip to their website and find the exact wording of the headline is that the Daily Mail has been banned in Thailand (not as a result of this, but from earlier indiscretions) and their website is blocked. I only read the headline from a screenshot on Facebook and I don’t remember who posted it.

Anyway, this was such a staggeringly dumb and insensitive headline that I felt the need to explain a few things to those not fortunate enough to reside in Thailand.

The Thai Monarchy

The first thing you need to realise is how significant the Thai monarchy is in the everyday life of the Thai people. In the UK, the Queen is just a face on the back of your coinage and an occasional embarrassment on the news when Prince Philip says something stupid again. In Thailand, they are practically gods.

Think of how your parents and grandparents described what the attitude to the monarchy used to be like (if they’ve never told you, go ask now). Everyone used to stand up for the national anthem being played at the end of movies and even at the end of scheduled programming on TV. People used to lie about their age to sign up to fight in wars on their behalf. “Fighting for King and Country” isn’t just a tired old cliché – that was the level of respect and pride that the British royal family used to illicit in people.

In that regard, Thailand is very much like the UK was in the early 1900s. The anthem is played on every radio and TV station at 8am and 6pm. Just recently, I was getting off the skytrain in Bangkok at around 6pm and suddenly everyone around me in the busy station stopped moving. The final strains of the anthem could just about be heard and, once they had died away, everyone carried on moving again. The anthem is played at the start of every movie in the cinema and, without fail, everyone stands for it. It is so ingrained, even in me, that I once went to see a movie and I was the only person in the theatre and I still stood!

A Lifetime

To be fair to them, that level of respect has absolutely been earned. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej spent a lot of his time, money and effort getting to know his people, addressing their needs, benefitting those worst off and generally doing absolutely everything to improve his country and the lives of his people. His queen consort, Queen Sirikit, did the same. He did it for a long time, too, being the longest reigning monarch with over 70 years on the throne when he died at the age of 88 on 13th October 2016.

Think about that number: 70 years! The average life expectancy of a Thai person is only 74.19 years (71.9 years for a man, 78 years for a woman)! That means that the vast majority of the present population of Thailand was born during the reign of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He has been a part of every person’s life for the vast majority of their lives, if not the entirety of it. Is it any wonder that his death has had such an impact on the country? That the grieving process is so extreme?


For readers of the Daily Mail, said grieving process consists purely of every bar and nightclub in the country being closed so that they can’t get a drink. Frankly, if your holiday experience can be ruined by an inability to buy alcohol, there is something seriously wrong with your priorities. However, the point that I am actually trying to make is that there is much more to it.

I went into work the day after the King’s death was announced and the atmosphere was completely different. Even I, as an expatriate, could feel the sadness and shared in it. It wasn’t just the fact that everyone was wearing almost entirely black attire. It was like the life had been ripped out of everyone; like a part of them had died with their King. The Land of Smiles was no longer smiling.

Since then, my Facebook newsfeed has turned monochrome as all of my Thai friends and many of my fellow expats set their profile picture black-and-white or, in some cases (my own included), just a pure black image. Google’s and YouTube’s logos (localised for Thailand) have done the same. Hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Thais have travelled to Bangkok to visit the Grand Palace to pay their last respects. No one really knows what is happening or what is going to happen next. This event is entirely unprecedented and, in spite of the fact that his health had been declining for about a year before that sad day, no one was really prepared for it.

This, again, might seem hard to grasp for someone who hasn’t grown up in the same kind of environment, so consider this an analogue: On 31st August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died. The UK effectively ground to a halt for at least a month afterwards, if not longer. To this day, nearly 20 years after, people still talk about her and how sad her passing was. She wasn’t even technically royalty anymore when she died, but she was well respected by much of the population. Even that doesn’t come close to how sad the King’s death has made people here.

Expats React

I saw another headline – this time from Coconuts – a couple of days ago, which caught my attention. It was describing the reaction of the over 200,000 foreigners living in Thailand (about 0.3 per cent of the country’s total population) and it said something really fascinating:

“I have been surprised by the expat reaction. Either more people than I thought have genuine feelings of affection for the King, or they feel compelled to project that image.”

It would be impossible for me to deny that the image must have something to do with it. The lèse-majesté laws punishing criticism of the monarchy in Thailand are famous and notably prevented the BBC’s correspondent in Bangkok at the time of the King’s death from speculating too much on…well, anything, actually. When I first moved to Thailand, I was emphatically informed that the two things Thais respect above all else are Buddhism and the King. Insult or joke about either and you’re in deep trouble.

However, to suggest that it was all about projecting that image (combined with self-preservation) would be very wrong. As I said earlier, I genuinely shared in the grief. I didn’t expect to at all. I don’t have that national pride in such a great monarch; don’t have that innate respect and regard. What I have is a lot of very dear Thai friends and I shared in their sadness. I also have a little bit of knowledge about what the King has done for his country. He was a good man – the kind the world can ill-afford to lose.

What it means for you?

Thailand, of course, is a very popular tourist destination. It is a common misconception that the country’s economy depends on tourism when it is actually only the fourth biggest industry here, after automobiles (11 per cent), financial services (9 per cent) and electrical appliances (8 per cent). However, the grieving period will naturally impact some tourists hoping to travel here.

I can sort of sympathise with the frustration of someone who has worked and slaved for 50 weeks to save up for two weeks in paradise, only to find that the country has all but shut down. However, complaining to the newspapers about it – particularly once you have realised the root cause of that shut-down – is a whole new level of pitiful.

There are those who have already booked their trips, cannot cancel at this late stage, and are understandably worried about the impact on their trip. For them, I would advise checking this site for updates on what to expect. However, in general terms:

  • Bars, clubs and pretty much any entertainment venue will be closed until approximately 10th October 2016, because no one is in the mood to party.
  • Major festivals as special events have been cancelled for 30 days (until 12th November 2016). Yes, that does include the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. Some festivals are still going ahead, but will be heavily subdued.
  • Pretty much everyone will be wearing subdued colours (mostly black) for that period. While it has not been demanded that tourists comply with this, it would be appreciated.
  • The country is still safe, the beaches are still lovely, the weather is getting better as we approach the high season. Thailand is still Thailand.

No one is exactly sure what will happen next because, as I said, this event is pretty much unprecedented. However, it is my educated guess that the majority of these unusual circumstances will have passed by mid-November and things will be back to at least a semblance of normal. If you have booked your trip for during the high season (December to March), you have nothing to worry about. If you booked your trip for this 30 days of mourning…well, suck it up and show a bit of respect for the passing of a genuinely great King.

Nook-Dee Boutique Resort

The last few weeks have been quite tiring for me, with one thing and another. My Project52 has slipped to the point of being effectively abandoned, an intensive workout and diet programme has left me with increasingly little time to relax and work has been particularly trying recently. As a result, when I was approached by a friend with the opportunity for a little staycation in Phuket in order to review a hotel, I was very happy to oblige.

It is, sadly, the middle of the rainy season. In fact, September is the wettest month of the year for Phuket and climate change appears to have had little impact on that statistic, except possibly making it wetter. However, I always find that reviewing a place under the worst possible conditions is the best way to get an accurate impression of it. If it had been a beautiful sunny day, I would essentially be reviewing Phuket’s nice weather. As it was a wet day, I was forced to stay inside, giving me a far more in-depth look at what Nook-Dee Boutique Resort is really like. Spoiler: it’s fantastic!


Kata Noi, as viewed from the rooftop terrace.

There is a wonderful stretch of road along Phuket’s east coast, rising from the junction where Kata Beach meets Kata Noi Beach. The road climbs up the hill and skirts along the side of the hills behind the latter beach before continuing towards Ya Nui Beach and on to Promthep Cape – the southernmost point in Phuket. It is probably the most beautiful road on the island because the view is outstanding. Naturally, a number of bars and small restaurants have taken advantage of this. So, too, has Nook-Dee Boutique Resort. The view of Kata Noi Beach is spectacular, particularly from the reception, pool, restaurant and the rooftop terrace.

Naturally, there is a slight downside to this setting. If you like the beach, getting down there is a long walk and getting back again is very challenging because of the steep incline. Fortunately, the hotel offers a shuttle bus service to save your legs. Running at regular scheduled intervals throughout the day, it is free for guests. I’m not much of a beach kind of person but, if I was, Kata Noi would absolutely be my first choice because it is one of the quietest and most peaceful on the island, as well as having some of the softest sand. There are also plenty of beachfront restaurants to try. Kata Beach is close by and it is considered one of the best surfing beaches in Phuket.

The hotel is well-placed for being both peacefully isolated without it being an arduous trek to get to outside restaurants, bars and attractions. Public transport is rather limited as the aforementioned beautiful road is quite a quiet one, but the reception staff can help arrange something for you. The hillside restaurants are literally at the end of the entrance road (about a 300 m walk) while the bars are about another 300 m further along a relatively flat road – far enough not to disturb your sleep while being close enough for them to be no challenge to reach.


Dining/Living area of the Honeymoon Villa.

I did not avail myself of the nearby attractions. Admittedly, this was because I was primarily there to review the place, so I could hardly go wandering off to inspect the nearby business. The rain was also a factor, but so too was the simple fact that the room was really comfortable. My expectations, as always, were relatively modest. It isn’t that Phuket’s hospitality industry does not feature some really outstanding properties, but my blog’s relative youth means that I don’t expect to get the chance to stay in luxury accommodation just yet. Additionally, I’m the sort of traveller who is happy sleeping on the floor, if necessary. As a result, getting a stunning villa to myself was almost overwhelming!

Nook-Dee Boutique Hotel has six room classes, which are named in the standard baffling hotel jargon which continues to be essentially meaningless (though I shall attempt to avoid a rant on the subject this time):

  • Superior Room
  • Deluxe Seaview Room
  • Deluxe Panorama Room
  • Deluxe Panorama Corner Room
  • Deluxe Jacuzzi Room
  • Honeymoon Villa
Bedroom of the Honeymoon Villa.

It is my strict editorial policy to only report on that which I have personally experienced, so I am obliged to only discuss the Nook-Dee Boutique Resort’s Honeymoon Villa. Put simply, it is amazing! It has its own 125 sq m private garden behind an ornate gate, with a palm-thatch sala for a modest jacuzzi pool. The villa’s roof forms a 97 sq m private terrace with an impressive sea view. The 79 sq m interior has an elegant modern style, with an outdoor kitchen containing a large fridge-freezer, a smaller refrigerator inside containing a mini bar, a four-seat dining/living room with comfortable sofa and widescreen TV, an equally large TV in the bedroom and the biggest bathroom I think I have ever seen.

The receptionist showing me around said that the villa can accommodate up to four people which, based on the places at the dining table and on the large sofa, makes sense. There is only one bed, however and, while it is a large and extremely soft and comfortable one – with feather mattress and pillows (and, for reasons unknown, a large stuffed elephant) – I doubt it could sleep four people. Still, it would be nice for entertaining guests who are staying elsewhere in the hotel and, with a second bathroom by the entrance, you wouldn’t even need to have people walking through the bedroom.

The main bathroom deserves special mention. I really love baths. However, being about 193 cm (6’4″) in height, it is extremely rare that I can find one in which I can properly relax. I was almost pathetically happy to find such a tub at Nook-Dee Boutique Resort. I was a little disappointed to find that, among the otherwise excellent complimentary toiletries, they had failed to provide any bubble bath. This did not prevent me from merrily lounging in a nice hot bath for over an hour before slipping on one of the lovely silk bathrobes. No less than two rainfall showers were also available in the villa.

Garden and outdoor jacuzzi of the Honeymoon Villa.

There are only two criticisms I have of the place. The first is an odd choice of layout in the living room. Maybe it is a legacy of my parents’ generation, but I normally expect the sofa to be directly opposite the TV to ensure the best view. Instead, it is off to one side while the dining table has pride of place, meaning that the view of the TV is almost parallel to the screen, in some cases. I don’t watch much TV, so this wasn’t a problem for me. The greater issue was the fact that, being further down the hill from a good amount of the hotel’s rooms and the restaurant, an awful lot of balconies look directly down into the otherwise private garden and terrace, including right into the jacuzzi pool. There are curtains around the sala, but it still feels kind of exposed.


The Nook-Dee Boutique Resort restaurant follows the naming convention of the rest of the hotel. Nook-Dee roughly translates as “good time” or “enjoyable”. The restaurant’s name is Roy Dee, which means “tastes good” (though “a’roi” is the more common expression). It is almost a disappointment to find that the spa is just called “Spa”. Either way, all of the above are true to their name.

Roy Dee Restaurant serves a modest selection of Thai and western dishes. While the menu is short, I have always preferred places which do a small selection of dishes well, rather than having an encyclopaedic menu of dishes prepared badly and using second-rate ingredients. Roy Dee’s ingredients are very definitely first-rate.

Moo Balow at Roy Dee Restaurant.

I decided to completely ruin my diet, but also sample both aspects of the menu, going for a western starter of cream of tomato soup with tarragon and gin (190 baht) followed by Moo Balow – slow-cooked stew with pork belly, boiled eggs, five-spice and fresh tofu (150 baht). I also had the BB smoothie, containing mixed berries, banana, pineapple milk, yoghurt and wild honey (130 baht).

It was a little odd to pay more for a bowl of soup than for a main meal, but that just speaks of Nook-Dee Boutique Resort’s genuine determination to pass savings on to their guests. Imported ingredients are more expensive because of Thailand’s high import taxes. However, locally-sourced ingredients are very cheap because of the country’s largely agricultural economy. As a result, ensuring high quality across the menu inevitably means that the western menu is slightly pricier than the Thai choices. This use of high-quality ingredients really tells in the flavours and textures of the dishes. All of the above tasted sublime and the meat of the belly pork was extremely tender and juicy.

The restaurant also serves a buffet breakfast, which I sadly did not get a chance to sample – mostly because my body refused to allow me out of the ludicrously comfortable bed. It looked quite impressive, though.


The staff throughout Nook-Dee Boutique Resort were excellent, though particularly the reception staff. Even the car park attendants were doing their utmost to be helpful and obliging! My needs are generally quite simple, but they were immediately met with a friendly smile and with the offer of additional services.


As I said, the reception staff deserve special mention, not least because I managed to lock myself out of the villa within about five minutes of arriving. I’d set off to go and take some photographs around the hotel and abruptly realised that I’d left the keycard inside! They quickly issued me with a fresh one without quibble and without laughing at my foolishness, which is impressive, because even I thought it was hilarious. They also came all the way down to the villa to return my passport when I accidentally left it at reception, rather than calling for me to come and collect it. It’s a simple gesture, but indicative of an attitude whereby the staff are willing to put themselves to inconvenience so that you don’t have to.


201_7514While Nook-Dee Boutique Hotel is a fairly compact place, it is not lacking in facilities. The pool is impressively large, with a great view from one end, a sun deck at the other, a submerged bench in the middle and a bar close by. I didn’t actually explore them (I was too busy enjoying my bath), but there is also the aforementioned Spa, a modern fitness room and meeting facilities. The reception area has a tours desk and a little souvenir shop.

The rooftop terrace is definitely worth a visit, and I’m surprised that the hotel doesn’t make greater use of it. The view up there is excellent, particularly around sunset. It is all covered with artificial grass and would be a great place to relax in the sun. However, I suppose that the long distance from the bar and the noise of the air conditioners do make it a little inconvenient and the view is nearly as good from the pool (except that you can’t see Kata from there, but you’re not missing much).


Private terrace of the Honeymoon Villa.

Nook-Dee Boutique Resort is a great for a stay during the rainy season and I have absolutely no doubt that it would be just as good in high season, too. It takes full advantage of the unrivalled location, providing a comprehensive range of facilities so that you can have a fantastic holiday without ever leaving the hotel or its immediate surroundings. While it is far from the only hotel to enjoy a fairly isolated location (only “fairly” because there is another hotel directly adjacent to it), it is one of few with such a good view, ensuring that isolation never gets dull. If you do choose to experience the outside world, it is easily reached and the staff are extremely willing to help you do so to the best of their abilities.

I said at the start of this that the true test of a good hotel is to review it under the worst possible conditions. A bad hotel would have made me stir crazy and desperate to check out, in spite of the rain, while a good hotel would have made me wish I could have extended my stay. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to work for a living, I would still be there now.

Nook-Dee Boutique Resort

216/9 Koktanod Road
Karon / Mueang
Phuket 83100

Tel: +66 7 668 8888


Twitter: @nookdeephuket

GPS: 7°48’40.4″N 98°18’03.6″E

Recommend: Great view from the rooftop terrace.
Avoid: Using the jacuzzi pool without closing the curtains.

Full Disclosure

I stayed at Nook-Dee Boutique Hotel for one night. My stay was arranged by a third party with a view to providing a review. The room therefore did not cost me anything and it is highly probable that the staff were well aware of who I was and why I was there. I did have to pay for my meal.

While this fact may have had an effect on the staff’s attitude and treatment of me, said third party is aware of my ethics policy and declined the offer to vet my review prior to publication. True to said policy, I have endeavoured to give as honest a review as possible.

Songkran Travelling: Wedded Bliss

Jasica (Napaporn) & Ronald
The third and last of my Songkran travel aims was ticked off a couple of days ago and I’m now back in Phuket and back to work. My few days in Pattaya were a peaceful and very enjoyable way to end my journey, catching up with friends and family and sharing in the joy of a wedding.

Getting from Bangkok to Pattaya was very simple. I just walked from the hotel to the BTS, rode that for a couple of stops to Ekamai, where the Eastern Bus Terminal is located and jumped aboard the next service to Pattaya. Tickets cost only 106 baht now (30 baht less than they did about a year ago) and the buses are well-maintained and carefully driven, using the fastest possible route without driving like a #Hellvan! Rung Ruang is, without a doubt, the safest and most cost-effective public transport available for the journey. From the bus terminal, I took a motorbike taxi to my family’s house on the outskirts of Pattaya. No hotel review for that, obviously!

A Nice Day For a White Wedding

IMG_0280Saturday was the big day for my friend Jasica – the model who starred in my Week 8 Project52 shot – and her fiancé, a Dutch expatriate named Ronald. The party started at 4pm and, not knowing if Songkran would cause chaos on the roads, I left an hour early with my step-mum’s usual taxi driver. Fortunately, while there had been a major accident on the opposite lane, the partying had abated somewhat in preparation for the chaos reported by my Facebook friends today (Monday 18th April 2016) with even more madness expected tomorrow for the really big Songkran day in Pattaya – Wan Lai (“the day that flows”).

I therefore got to the venue – Botany Beach Resort Pattaya – a little early. I was very glad that Jasica had suggested a quite casual dress code because even wearing shorts (and feeling horrendously underdressed as the groom was in a three-piece suit), I was sweating in the intense heat and humidity.

IMG_0267The wedding itself had been expertly planned by Jasica herself. A relatively small affair, with only a couple of dozen friends and family and quite a short ceremony, it was nonetheless romantic and joyful to behold. It was a secular, but western-based affair. I have attended a full-blown Thai wedding once before, but that will have to wait for another post.

I hope Jasica and Ronald have a very happy life together and I wish them all the luck in the world!

Homeward Bound

The following day, I needed to get to the airport. As anticipated, the flights out of Pattaya were fully-booked when I looked around the middle of the week. That gave me the choice of flying out of Suvarnabhumi International Airport or Don Muang International Airport, both in Bangkok. The former is the new, ultra-modern facility just to the east of Bangkok while the latter is the former main airport, right in the heart of the city. Naturally, Suvarnabhumi is the easiest to reach from Pattaya.

There is actually a direct bus service from Pattaya to the airport, but that would have involved getting into town first. My family’s house is a bit in the sticks and far from any public transport links. I wasn’t particularly well disposed to using the regular driver again because he ripped me off on the ride to the wedding, so I instead used the fairly reliable Grab app. I’ve used this a lot, both in Phuket and Pattaya, and found it extremely effective, simple and reliable. Rather than complicate matters by adding extra legs to the journey, I just booked a cab directly to the airport. It was more expensive that way, but not significantly so.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about the journey home. The flight was a little wobbly at times and the aircraft made a few unusual clunking sounds just before take-off, but nothing fell off and we didn’t fall out of the sky or anything. It was a simple and safe trip, with the typical good service from Bangkok Airways.


IMG_0286On landing, I left the airport and got a metered taxi to take me back to my home in Patong. However, as we approached the Phuket Town Bypass, I realised that we were actually pretty close to Phuket Bus Station 2 and my motorbike, so I diverted the cab to there.

What followed was an almost slapstick display of running around and achieving very little. I found my motorbike pretty much as I’d left it, except for one really odd thing: Someone had removed both of the mirrors, but left them on the bike, in the cup-holder-like storage spaces just under the handlebars. They weren’t damaged or swapped for a different type or anything of the sort. They’d been removed for, apparently, absolutely no good reason!

I reattached them without issue and went to drive home. However, when I hit the electric starter, nothing happened. The electrics still worked – the engine was doing its usual diagnostic, the lights all worked and no warning lights were flashing – but the starter didn’t make a single sound. I tried kick-starting it a bit but, while the engine was making all of the right noises, it wasn’t starting.

I decided to check the fuel tank and found that it wasn’t just empty, it was bone dry! What little fuel I’d had left after driving to the station a week previously must have evaporated from it being sat in the sun all that time. I walked across the road to the petrol station which, it being about 10:30pm by this time, was obviously closed. However, there was a lady there with whiskey bottles full of petrol for sale. She emptied out a plastic water bottle, filled it from one of the whiskey bottles, and kindly parted with it for 34 baht instead of the 35 baht it should have cost. That was every penny of change I had and the alternative was making change for a 500 baht note!

Returning to the bike, I poured in the fuel and gave the starter and kick-start a few more tries until I was dripping with sweat, still to no avail. Even a nearby motorbike taxi driver gave it a few goes, but nothing. Finally, I accepted defeat and the helpful driver took me home on his bike – a 300 baht ride.

The following day – today – I returned to the bike after work. The mirrors were, fortunately, still attached. I wheeled it just down the road to a bike repair shop and the mechanic there started to take it apart. Eventually, with the help of his wife (who could speak a little English), he told me that an important cable had been chewed through by rats. He replaced the missing cable (for a mere 200 baht) and I’m mobile once again!

A friend on Facebook posited an interesting theory which does actually explain this weird selection of facts. His theory is that a vampire attempted to steal my bike. He said that the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu showed that vampires are nocturnal and are commonly accompanied by rats. “The vampire that tried to steal your scooter had to unscrew the mirrors in order not to burn,” he said, “but he did not succeed as there was no fuel in you scooter. In his anger he ordered the rats to destroy all cables!”

Seems legit.

Full Disclosure

The mentions and praise for Rung Ruang, Grab and Bangkok Airways were not paid for. I have no professional associations with any of these companies, nor any relationship (professional or otherwise) with any of their staff.

Songkran Travelling: Playing in Bangkok

I have now completed the second objective of my Songkran travels – celebrating the festival in Bangkok. It was exactly as chaotic as I’d been led to believe, but it was a lot of fun and a worthwhile experience.

Couldn’t resist snapping this on the bus to Bangkok. Some people just can’t sleep without their teddy, I guess!
As an aside, if you’ve been following my travels closely, the reason why there wasn’t a post yesterday was because not all that much occurred. I slept until shortly before check-out time in Hua Hin (because, as I said before, I’m not a morning person), got a motorbike taxi to the bus station and just managed to get onto the bus to Bangkok before it departed. It meant the people at the station had to chase after it, shouting for it to stop (and I’ll bet I was really popular with the other passengers as a result), but I got it.

Bangkok Bus Terminal Chatuchak
Three hours after that, I was at the Bangkok Bus Terminal Chatuchak. From there, the Phahon Yothin MRT Station is just about within walking distance (if you don’t mind getting rather sweaty), which took me to the Sukhumvit Station, where I changed to the BTS system and went one stop east to Phrom Phong Station as it was marginally closer to my accommodation – S Box Sukhumvit Hotel. As with the place in Hua Hin, a full review will follow, once the trip is done.

Camera still very much broken
As an additional aside, I’m afraid that I don’t have that many pictures to share this time; certainly not as many as I’d hoped for. My camera body does not look like it’s going to recover from having drowned in my sweat any time soon, so I’m reduced to just my iPhone.

Will I Ever Learn?

Although it is generally my philosophy to not make the same mistake twice, there is one I make over and over again, without fail. Actually, there are two: firstly, I can never manage to spell the word “truly” right first time. I always spell it “truely” for some reason. Secondly, I insist on heading out to undertake strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day. I’m currently considering renaming this blog to “Mad Dogs and an Englishman”! Please let me know your thoughts on the idea in the comments.

So, after a generous lie-in (still not a morning person. That might make a good blog name, too!), I headed for the BTS at 11am, arriving at Sala Daeng Station on Silom Road soon after. Silom is, according to reliable information, one of the top places to celebrate Songkran, being particularly popular with Thais.

The other popular destination, rather obviously, is Khao San Road, which is famous for its backpackers and party atmosphere. Of the two, Silom was my first choice for two reasons. For one thing, it is easily accessible by BTS while Khao San Road is not. Secondly, and more importantly, Songkran is a Thai festival and, in my humble opinion, is best enjoyed with Thais. Travelling all the way to Bangkok to party with other tourists and backpackers seems kind of redundant to me. It’d be like a person from Orlando, Florida flying to France just to go to Disneyland Paris!

Nameless Friends

Silom Road at about 11am
During Songkran, Silom Road is closed to vehicle traffic from 10am to 10pm. It quickly becomes lined on both sides and along the central divide of the dual carriageway with stalls selling street food, water guns, goggles, hats, drinks and ice water for shooting, charging 5 or 10 baht for a fill, depending on the size of the gun. I paid about 350 baht for…well, it didn’t really have a brand. It’s the gun with “1500” written on the side. They always use the same selection of water weapons every year, so just look out for that. I’ve always found it to be a good choice, combining a pretty good ‘ammo’ capacity (a 10-baht fill) and a powerful and accurate spray without being overly heavy or unwieldy.

So, armed and ready, I started walking a loop from one end of Silom Road to the other. I soon found that I was walking in the same direction and at roughly the same pace as a little Thai girl. She couldn’t have been more than about 10 years old, wearing a bright orange shirt (the traditional flowery style, which everyone wears at Songkran, including me) and toting one of the backpack-style water guns. While they have a much better capacity, they tend to break easily and lack the cathartic power of the rifle-style guns.

This little girl had a devilish streak and would take quite regular shots at me. I started messing around, shooting other people then pointing at the girl and saying she’d done it (it usually didn’t work and we’d both get shot in return). She started doing it back. Pretty soon, we were generally messing around and having a great time celebrating Songkran. She was making sure I was following along whenever we stopped to reload our water guns or went to dance at the street parties or whatever, so it wasn’t like I was stalking her.

As with my hero from the hill climb in Hua Hin, I have absolutely no idea what her name was. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak much English (hardly surprising, given her age) and my Thai isn’t good enough, so we couldn’t converse much except in the simple language of gestures, laughter and messing about. From what I observed, she was there with her grandfather (some male relative who was on the elderly side, anyway), so I decided to stick with her for a while on the basis that we would both have a more fun experience that way. As I said, celebrating Songkran with Thais is always the more enjoyable option.

Get This Party Started

Silom Road at about 6pm
By around 2:30pm, the place was starting to get much busier. I had initially been concerned that perhaps recent news reports suggesting Songkran would be a much quieter and drier affair (due to drought concerns and water shortages) might have kept people from celebrating. I then realised that, having strayed out with the mad dogs into the midday sun, I’d just arrived way too early. It was around this time that I lost track of my new friend while refilling my gun. I searched for a while, but failed to find her. I hope she had a fun and safe time!

So, now on my own, I continued to patrol up and down Silom Road, taking potshots at people, photobombing people taking selfies and getting perpetually drenched. I briefly took refuge in a fast food outlet just to refuel myself before returning to the fray.

The pace of my patrolling was significantly reduced directly under Sala Daeng BTS Station, where Red Bull appeared to have set up quite a popular party – one of two or three along the length of Silom Road. It was quite a fun one, but a challenge to enjoy. Let’s just say that, if you’re a fan of personal space, it is probably best to give this one a wide berth! Fortunately, the constant spray of icy water prevented it from getting too stuffy.

At the Going Down of the Sun…

Most of the four previous Songkrans I’ve enjoyed around the country wound down around sunset. Frankly, the ice cold water stops being fun if the sun isn’t there to dry and warm you. Also, I’d been walking the same kilometre of road almost endlessly for about seven hours and I’m not fond of partying like a canned sardine, so I called it a day just before 6pm. As I always do, I gave my gun to a total stranger on their way to the party for them to get some more fun out of it.

I gather that the water spraying in Bangkok does continue well into the night, particularly in the nightlife hotspots like Silom, Khao San and RCA (Royal City Avenue). I however, lack the energy. I shot my bolt much too early and spent too much of the day in the heat of the sun, like a mad dog.

Sawadee pee mai krab, everyone (that’s “Happy New Year” in Thai)!

Songkran Travelling: Mad dogs and Englishmen

I am delighted to report that I have completed the first of my main objectives for this bout of Songkran travelling, though at quite a significant cost. I came dangerously close to suffering from sunstroke and my camera is now inoperable.

The day started at around 10am (because I’m not a morning person, by nature, and I love a good lie-in). I set out with the intention of renting a motorbike to drive to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. I was apprehensive about doing so, however. I don’t know the roads, the rental companies or the police and military checkpoints in the area and a quick check on Google Maps showed that the park is over an hour’s drive away from Hua Hin.

Within a handful of metres of the door of my hotel, a tuk tuk driver asked if I wanted a lift. On instinct, I declined. However, on looking at her vehicle, I noticed a sign listing tourist attractions and, out of curiosity, asked how much she would charge to take me to Khao Sam Roi Yot. She said 1,500 baht for a round trip, which I felt was actually pretty reasonable, so I agreed and jumped aboard.

BR4_0935After the aforementioned hour-long drive – made significantly more comfortable because it wasn’t me driving it – we arrived at Bang Po Beach. My driver – Preda Na Chanan, according to the information in her vehicle – took me to one of the buildings there, where a slightly brusk lady told me the tour options. I could choose any combination of three star attractions: the cave, the islands and the canal. I went for all three, at a price of 1,200 baht.

After buying a couple of bottles of water, a bottle of Coke and an ice cream (90 baht), I walked out to the long-tail boat which would be my transport for the day. There is no jetty or pier – you literally walk out across the muddy shore and wade through knee-deep water to jump onto the boat. At this point, I began to doubt the wisdom of having warn hiking boots.

The Canal

BR4_1018I had the boat entirely to myself, which was quite helpful as it meant I could move around and take pictures at whatever angle I pleased, though the boat did noticeably pitch to whichever side I moved to. The quite elderly captain of the long-tail (also a woman – seems like it’s mostly women in the tourism industry around here) did not object to this, however, and we were soon on our way to “the canal”.

This was actually reasonably interesting. Basically, it was the narrow estuary of the river which comes out into the Gulf of Thailand in this cove. I’d glimpsed it as the tuk tuk crossed the bridge leading to the tours area, lined with elevated buildings and fishing boats of all shapes, sizes and vivid colours. While fascinating and picturesque, our visit was a brief one. We motored up to where the bridge was – a distance of about 1.1km from the mouth of the estuary – turned around and went back out to sea, getting a second look at the wading birds on the beach as we passed.

The Islands

BR4_1074This, bluntly, was a disappointment. While I would certainly recommend that you do take this boat tour yourself, I would suggest sparing the few hundred baht they add to see the islands because, frankly, the four specs of land we went vaguely near were not that impressive. It was quite cool to pass right between the two smallest, but there are much more remarkable places to see islands like them in Thailand – particularly the Phi Phi Islands.

BR4_1151As we sailed from the islands towards “the cave” – Phraya Nakhon Cave, the whole point of this trip – we were joined by a flight of seabirds, which appeared to be common terns. They were following us because our passage through the water was kicking up some small fish, which they immediately swooped down on. In fact, some of these fish ended up jumping right inside the boat!

The Cave

“Gradually sloping”…

In case you’re not familiar with the expression which the title of this piece is referencing, it is a famous line from Noël Coward’s 1931 song, which says that “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,” implying that they are the only ones dumb enough to do so in hot climates. Sure enough, it was 1am when I waded ashore at the beach near Phraya Nakhon Cave.

It should be noted that there is a bench with a set of taps for you to wash your feet under so that you can put on your hiking shoes here. This is located on the extreme right of the tree line as you approach it from the sea. It needs noting because I didn’t see it until the return trip, when it was of absolutely no use to me. There was also a small restaurant and toilets in the shade of the trees.

Bypassing all of these, I rather foolishly went right for the hill up to the cave. Here, the boots absolutely justified themselves. While some people were wearing flip-flops and sandals to climb the 430m trail which nearby signs laughably described as “gradually sloping”, it would certainly not be my first choice.

The Kindness of Strangers

So, with about three-quarters of a bottle of warm water, sand in my shoes and the sun glaring down during the hottest part of what was already an abnormally hot day (it was about 34°C/94°F), I made a start on the trail. It was quite a clear and relatively easy trail, with surprisingly even steps made of rocks rubbed smooth by countless footfalls.

I should mention that I suck at climbing hills; a result of hereditary weak knees. They wear me out in next to no time, leaving me to take long, humiliating rests while young children and elderly ladies spring up the path without even sweating. I got about two thirds of the way up, just past a very pleasant viewpoint, when I was genuinely concerned that I might collapse. I found a rock to lay on and must have stayed there for at least 30 minutes, if not a full hour.

I have always found that outdoor-type people are some of the most caring. Sure enough, two people gave me some of their water, which really helped a lot. With that and a long period of cooling down, I was able to recover enough to very carefully continue. So, my eternal thanks go out to the French guy (who said that he, too, had had some difficulties on the way up and was sort of passing on the kind act) and the Thai guy – neither of whose names I got.

Phraya Nakhon Cave

IMG_0233I met the Thai guy again once I’d finally descended into the cave. We shook hands and posed for a couple of photos together. It is a photo I will treasure, simply because it shows the unlimited kindness you can sometimes receive from complete strangers. However, I will also be treasuring my pictures from the cave itself. For one thing, they may very well end up being the last that my Canon REBEL T1i ever takes.

The Phraya Nakhon Cave was named after the ruler who discovered it about 200 years ago when sheltering from a storm. In 1890, King Rama V ordered the construction of the Khuha Kharuehat Pavillion atop the central mound in the largest of the three limestone caverns which make up the cave. It made for quite a striking photograph, which the near-fatal climb made all the more significant. It was definitely worth the difficulty.

BR4_1214Sadly, on the way back down the hill, I saw a picture I wanted to take and switched on my camera. Nothing happened. I popped out the battery and reseated it, then it started continuously taking pictures, even when I switched it back off! I suspect that I had sweated so much that enough of it got into the camera, frying the electrics! Suffice it to say, I’m going to need a new camera body, though I’m ever-hopeful that it will dry off overnight and start working properly again. I am not totally distraught about this because I still have a spare (a Canon 400D) in Phuket.

The downhill trip was obviously much easier and I got back to the tuk tuk safely. The driver was a little peeved that what was meant to be a half-day tour ended up taking the full day, but she never demanded any more money – just kept repeating “full day!” This was the end of my full day, though. Despite the fact that loud music is blaring across the city, I have absolutely no energy left to go out and enjoy it.


I can confirm that what my friend, Rina, said yesterday about how Songkran starts on the night of the day before the official beginning of the festival (which is Wednesday 15th April 2016) is entirely true. I spotted a number of water-gun-totting people covered in white paste when I nipped out to grab a bite to eat earlier. Fortunately, it seemed to be confined to the tourist area behind the Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa and I managed to avoid getting soaked.

I also noticed a parade or protest of some kind – a long line of what appeared to be students in sports kits holding hands as they crossed a busy junction. I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I had no recording gear on me (and I hadn’t eaten all day), so I didn’t pursue it.

Songkran Travelling: A waking city

Well, it’s fair to say that the bus was a terrible idea for my Songkran travels. Should definitely have taken the plane!

The biggest part of the problem is that I cannot sleep in a seat. Give me virtually any horizontal surface and I’ll zonk out eventually. I’ve slept in the back of a truck on rough roads in Tanzania, on a cheap folding camp bed which felt like a pile of scaffolding, on sofas, on the floor of a cross-channel ferry in rough seas, on a mountain top in Oman, on a sleeper train in Thailand and so on. However, I have never succeeded in getting a solid period of sleep on a plane or bus. I always sleep on my side and the shape of a seat renders that virtually impossible. If anyone has any tips, in that regard, I’m all ears!

I See the Light!

Rest stop at Chumphon

It wasn’t just the seat, either. The bus made a couple of stops along the way to drop off passengers or stop for a toilet break at a huge terminal just outside of Chumphon (about 384km from our starting point at Phuket Bus Terminal 2 and 263km from Hua Hin). At each stop, the bus’ interior was fully illuminated to ensure that those disembarking didn’t fall down the stairs or trip over other people or anything. A perfectly sound safety measure, but one which woke pretty much everyone on the bus. The only person who managed to sleep through it was the Chinese lady who had clearly come prepared for this, claiming the little bit of floor behind the back row of seats (which included my seat) with an inflatable cushion and a blindfold.

When it wasn’t the lights inside keeping me awake, it was the lights outside! For reasons unknown, the curtains were never closed by anyone. Not even the other passengers took it upon themselves to do so, which is quite remarkable, really. There were no signs preventing me from doing so unilaterally (at least, not that I saw/could read), but I didn’t want to buck what was clearly the trend. That meant that every streetlight, headlight and shop light was flashing in my eyes as I was trying to sleep.

I will say this in favour of the bus: I was surprised by how quiet it was. Being on the upper deck, we were well insulated from the engine. Even sat right at the back, directly over what is quite a powerful diesel motor, the sound was negligible. The only audible disturbance was an occasional whoosh from the air brakes and, given the Thai style of driving, it was very occasional!

Chucking-out Time

Hua Hin Soi 61 at 4am

At around 3:30am, I was just starting to drop off through sheer exhaustion and *ping* – on come the lights! Blearily looking out the windows, I spot signs for Hua Hin. We’d arrived, a couple of hours before I expected. I was kicked off the bus as, coincidentally, was the Chinese lady with the creative sleeping arrangements (plus what I assume was her mother). The bus then continued on its way to Bangkok.

BR4_0657I first went to find my hotel, which was a curious challenge in itself (more on that when I review the place), but I was able to drop off most of my luggage. I unpacked my camera and headed for the beach. Then I actually looked up what time dawn would be and went back to the hotel (fortunately not a long walk) to wait out the two hours before 6:30am.

BR4_0728Walking back to the beach again through the waking city shortly before sunrise was quite an interesting experience. It always is – it is one of my favourite times to see a new place, though my inherent laziness and fondness of sleep makes it an experience I have rarely had. It was like watching a shift change. The night shift was ending – the last of the bars closing up and the waitresses heading home (on a few occasions with their latest ‘boyfriend’ in tow) – while the day shift was just beginning. The first stalls were being opened up and prepared for the day’s custom to the musical accompaniment of the dawn chorus.

Personal Sunrise

BR4_0839Sunrise itself was quite a good one. As magical as a nice sunset is, sunrise always has that little bit extra to give; a feeling like it is more personal. Anyone can be awake and alert enough at about 6:30pm to watch a sunset, but very few are out and about for the dawn. I shared Hua Hin’s huge beach with only a few cuddling couples, a couple of fishermen, a number of early-morning joggers and, of course, saffron-robed monks collecting alms and chanting prayers for the hotels along the coast.

BR4_0808Checking the time and realising that I still had quite a considerable wait before check-in was available, I decided to walk along the beach. It’s a nice way to pass the time and there looked to be quite an interesting attraction – Khao Takiab. Sadly, my efforts to reach it were stopped by the tide. I hit a section of beach which I couldn’t easily pass and, by this point, having been awake for 24 hours with only intermittent and frequently interrupted sleep was starting to take its toll. I turned around and barely got back to the hotel with enough energy to get into my room.

Catching Up

And that’s where I’ve been ever since, which is why the bus was a fundamentally foolish idea. In saving money, I have wasted that much more valuable commodity – time. I know that I am a cranky and miserable soul when I am tired. I become more prone to negativity, verging on depression. I know that my body has this limit, so I knew that my only recourse was to give up on the day and sleep through most of it.

Khao Takiab was just out of reach today

To be fair, it’s not like I’m missing much. I felt significantly better about this decision once I’d checked up on Hua Hin’s most notable attraction to find that many websites quote the railway station as being the number #1! I’ll maybe try again at Khao Takiab tomorrow, but the priority is Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.

I’ve spoken to my model friend, Rina – the other priority of my time in Hua Hin – and it looks like a meeting might be possible, but is far from certain. She did reveal an interesting and hitherto unknown fact, during the discussion. While Songkran officially starts on Wednesday, Hua Hin has been known to start it’s celebrations during the night before, making it one of the few places where water-throwing is common after dark.