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Early Retirement Travels - Week 10 Japan & Thailand

Inside the Grand Palace, Bangkok

This week wrapped up our visit to Japan as we headed to our next destination, Thailand.

Travelling between places uses more time than I imagined. Even a two or three hour journey may not leave enough time to do much before or after the travel. The day disappears without much being done.

I secretly enjoy this. It’s a chance to catch up on chores, or simply have a lazy day. I still feel guilty when not using my time, something that applies to both these travels and my normal early retirement life. I need to learn to accept that the occasional lazy day is OK.

That's a lot of words to explain that Monday was a travel day, and we didn’t do much.

I almost used the same excuse for Tuesday, as we travelled from the city of Masumoto in the mountains to Osaka on the coast. However, we got up in time to tour Matsumoto Castle and to explore the city streets. We were in Matsumoto for less than 24 hours but enjoyed it.

Osaka was our last stop in Japan, with our flight departing late on Wednesday evening from Osaka Kansai Airport. The typhoon of a few weeks before had flooded the airport, but fortunately our flight was operating and the airport rail link, closed after a ship crashed into a bridge in the storm, had also reopened.

We didn’t do much in Osaka, but we did visit the Dotombori district, the outside of the castle and the area around it (we decided we’d seen enough insides of castles) and the hipster Nakazakicho area before catching our train to the airport.

We arrived in Bangkok at 4am on Thursday morning, and only managed to check into our accommodation at 9am. I felt like a real backpacker as we wasted time at the airport, lent on our backpacks outside the accommodation and then slept the morning once we’d got to our bed.

After waking, we walked to explore the local area before enjoying a huge thunder and rainstorm from the shelter of a café bar. After living in a desert climate for the past thirteen years, we get quite excited by thunder and rain!

We stayed in the heart of backpacker Bangkok, not directly on Khao San Road, but a quiet street just a stone throw away. Evidently, the book “The Beach” described Khao San Road as “the centre of the backpacking universe”, and I can kind of see why. It’s certainly very busy with backpackers but for some reason I’d thought it would be more crazy than it was.

Friday was spent visiting the Grand Palace and the temples of Wat Pho and Wat Arun. We walked a lot, it was very hot, very humid, and very uncomfortable. The Palace and the temples are stunning in their opulence, and it’s interesting to see how different the Buddhist temples of Thailand are from those of Japan.

A full day guided trip to the ancient Thai capital city of Ayutthaya was Saturday’s itinerary. At a cost of £12 / $17 per person including lunch, it’s difficult to complain, but it would have been a better trip if we could have understood what the guide was saying.

The large amount of ruins that have survived in Ayutthaya is impressive and I imagine walking in the footsteps of the people of days long gone. It feels strange that there are no fences or barriers, and one wonders if the ruins will be harmed. Maybe I'm wrong, but a few things we saw caused us to wonder whether some renovation works are as sympathetic as they could be. It was another hot and humid day and it was a relief each time we got back to the airconditioned bus.

Pay attention to the guide books and blogs that warn of various scams in Bangkok. We were approached many times by people trying to lead us to some scheme or other, and I’m sure we got caught out with the taxi from the airport, although I’m not sure how. A bar also tried to con us with the wrong change, but we spotted that. You do have to be on your guard.

That said, we enjoyed Bangkok. We only had a few days in the city and we could have spent one or two more as there are some obvious attractions that we missed such as the floating markets. But probably our favourite thing was to sit in a café or a bar and just watch the goings on. I would advise looking at the average temperature and humidity before booking though.

Our week ended with a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. First impressions are good. The owner and staff at our accommodation seem very nice, and we’re very pleased with our £17 / $25 a night, spacious, double, en-suite room. The owner alerted us to that evening’s market which was huge, and we had fun buying our dinner from street vendors and eating it as we looked at the various stalls. When they ask if you want it spicy, be warned, it's hot!

Week 10 - what we've done:

Monday – Norikura Kogen. Laundry in the morning and travelling to Matsumoto in the afternoon.

Tuesday – Matsumoto. Visited the Castle in the morning. Train to Osaka in the afternoon.

Wednesday – Osaka. Visited the Castle and the “hipster” area of Nakazakicho.

Thursday – Bangkok. Arrived early hours, so slept the morning. Walked to explore the local area in the afternoon, and enjoyed watching the thunder and rain storm.

Friday – Bangkok. Visited the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun.

Saturday – Ayatthaya. An organized trip to Thailand’s ancient capital.

Sunday – Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Weekly night market.

Week 10 - we spent a total of £769 / $1,084 for 2 people on:

Accommodation £207 / $292

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £322 / $455

Transport £109 / $153 Around 75% of this was the Bangkok to Chiang Mai flights

Attractions/Fees £65 / $91 Entrance to Osaka Castle and various temples and Royal Palace in Bangkok

Spa £38 / $54 Honestly, this was for Sally

Souvenirs/Gifts £1 / $1 Last of the big spenders!

Clothes £2 / $3

Laundry £7 / $9

Toiletries £5 / $8

Pharmacy £9 / $13

Other £4 / $5


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