Gold and jewels - the shimmer of the Grand Palace in Bangkok was out of this world, and it was fortunate that we were all on digital cameras, or all the film would have been used up in the first full day of the tour. More opulent than its neighbours, Thailand was full of decoration, with red and gold everywhere, and mirrors reflecting the light. Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai was even more stunning, and the bright flagstones were rather hot under tender western feet! The night market of Chiang Mai, starting only metres from the hotel entrance (though far enough away that the noise was no bother) was a big attraction to the group's shoppers. We had good fun - and kisses - at the elephant sanctuary. Letting us take bikes around the park at Sukhothai could have been a mistake... some of the group were instantly transported back to childhood, and there was lots of bell-ringing and laughter as we cycled around the site. The raft house made a relaxing break from the busy schedule - take a swimsuit if you're very adventurous, as the best way to cool off is to jump into the river at one end of the hotel, and float down the river to the other. Plus jumping overboard is the recommended exit route in case of fire. No, really! And Siem Reap - amazing. Every temple was different, and the group selected for visiting (there are lots more if you want to do some additional exploring) show off the variety amongst the best. They're so spread out that the bus took us into and around the site - or tuc-tucs, if you're up for self-exploration.
Suncream and a decent hat are essential - the rocks reflect the heat, and there's a lot of big steps! Funniest part of the trip - for myself and one other member of the group, taking our first exploration of Angkor Wat in complete darkness, whilst trying to locate the best spot to watch the sunrise. We managed to stumble right through the complex and out the other side, still without having seen anything! We were very knowledgable about the route when we returned with the group later that day! (OSC -18th February 2011)