Friday, February 27, 2009
Tuesday a.m. meant time to leave Phi Phi and head for the Southern Gulf of Thailand. In pursuit of the Sumai Archipelago stretch (a group of 80+ islands, most famous for Samui, Tao and Phagnan (where you supposedly are able to get more "bang for your baht") we were off! The morning started strong - an 8am start on our long tail to hop aboard the ferry to Krabi. I'm not sure how it happened, as we are what I would consider smart, semi-well traveled folks - but we were conned. We have heard you haven't been to Thailand 'til you've been "had" by one con man or another, but this one kept the day "entertaining", and by that I mean... well, let's just map out our travel day.
In pursuit of Phangnan Island we knew that it would involve a ferry ride (check! success!) a bus ride (to cross Krabi Island) and ANOTHER ferry to get to Phangnan. Lonely Planet said bus shouldn't be more than 2 hours, and ferry about 2 1/2. "Con Man" quoted a 2.5 hour bus ride, followed by a 2p hop aboard the ferry, "arrive like no other transport can provide, and before dark." (I know, sounds fishy now that I repeat it, but in our groggy and trusty state it souned like a great idea. Anyhow...) I guess what he really meant is that the bus ride COULD end up lasting 6 hours (it did) and involved stops for him to drop off various shipments over the entire island (yep), pick up friends (naturallY), and drop us at a random buddy's restaurant so we could help fund a little cash in is pocket with a required bus switch and hour "layover." (we did not purchase a thing). Needless to say, this "incident" reminded me I should never volunteer for the Amazing Race or any other reality show, as my "reaction" was not one I'd want any of you, let alone National Broadcast see. We arrived in Bottle Beach/Phagnan around 10p (including 2 long tail boat trips, 2 ferries, an additional "songthaew" (a vehicle common here which is really a bed of a pick up turned public transport) across the island and another long tail to Hat Kuat (our beach).
We checked in to our bungalow (highly recommended by a fellow traveler). To say we suffered a downgrade from Phi Phi would be generous... but hey for $10/night who would expect their bungalow to have a sink in their bathroom (or a flushing toilet, or hot water) - it had none of those things - or their room to have AC (or electricity between the hours of 8a and 6p?!) :)
Luckily when we awoke and headed to the beach we were reminded it was all worth while. On Phangnan Island two world's exist. First, the southeaster corner houses Hat Rin. Home of the "young backpackers party paradise and famous for Full Moon Parties". As we were reminded it was not a full moon... and we weren't 21 anymore, we headed to the norther coast. to Hat Khuat/Bottle Beach. Our beach was beautiful, had a low key atmosphere and a bay backed by lush green jungle and PERFECT swimming water.
Our days at Bottle Beach were filled with mid morning naps on the beach, lots of delicious food, beach side beers watching the sun go down, a couple of books, bottles sunscreen, hands of cards, and refreshing dips in the water! After a few days of this relaxing it was sadly time to leave our relaxing island to head to Koa Samui.
We arrived today to the third largest island (Coconut Island/Samui) around mid-day. This area has become one of the most popular in SE Asia (even more so since the tsunami has sadly scared some folks from the Adamen Sea.) We settled in Hat Bo Phut (Fisherman's Village) on the north coast of the islands we are enjoying this romantic seaside village - it's quiet with great eats, a view and lots of shopping (which we managed to partake in for most of the afternoon.)
We get one more day in Samui tomorrow then off to Bangkok where we've already got a room booked in the hotel attached to the rumored biggest shopping area of the town (thanks for the recco Tyde's!)
...Trying hard to forget the trip is almost over, hope this finds you all well!!
Monday, February 23, 2009
Upon the ferry we opted for rooftop front chairs + great view \ dumb decision with little SPF and no hats + we d be paying for that later Ø= After about 2 hours on the boat and 2 Dramamine for Brett, we spotted Phi Phi aka Paradise! Words can not describe and pics will never do justice. This is a top 10 see in a lifetime. The jagged limestone peaks, tropical jungle, jade water, white beaches along curved bays are breathtaking... as are the reminders of the effects of the 9.5 magnitude earthquake turned tsunami just over 4 years ago. It shakes you to think of the 6 thousand lives lost. Just being on those beaches you canæt help envisioning where the nightmare took place. But the beautiful country and its people have and continue to rebuild. They are focused on moving forward and we've been told the towns and beaches look just almost as they did pre+tsunami.The island's ban form cars, motorbikes and tuk tuks is a nice break + our beach (Hat Yao\Long Beach) has no pay phones and is only accessible by long tail. Our ocean view bungalow is fit for honeymooners (our trip +splurge+ at the price of 70 bucks-night, but heck, when a dinner for 2 WITH bottled water AND beer comes to 3 bucks, you deserve a splurge!) During the day we find time to at last just sit, crack open our books, and enjoy the beach! In the afternoon we took a break to head into town for a rewarding hike atop Phi Phi View point. Back from the hike I decide it's been too long since I've shopped )the shopping here is crazy, so cheap, and everywhere) after 15 minutes and only 15 bucks I managed to find a 100% linen sundress, a new purse-bag, AND some coconut coasters to replace those Lucy mistaken for a chew toy a few months back. \photo of room entry way in PhiPhi\\photo from Long Beach-Hat Yao\were our bungalow is\\fun pic brett caught while i was reading on a beach chair\\time for some bartering\shopping!\post hike \view from phi phi point\Our last day in Phi Phi we wake early to board our private longtail we've hired to tour us around Phi Phi Ley + the island where The Beach was filmed. Early bird DOES catch the worm + we were the first 3 +farange\foreginers+ on the beach!
Next stop + snorkeling! Thousands of fish, water so clear you don't even really need a mask + breathtaking!
After lots of swimming stops in amazing emerald waters we made our last stop at Monkey Beach. These silly little guys scale down the jagged slate cliffs as soon as they hear a boat, as they know a boat means free fruit. You just had it over and away they go. So cute!
Off to Ko Phangan in the Lower Souther Gulf tomorrow!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Our group for the trek was amazing (these people made this adventure even more spectacular than it would've been) - 3 English, 3 Americans, 3 Germans and 1 Greek, all between 20 and 30 and up for a great time. Hilarious, fun people that were warm and welcoming and just amusing to be around. Email addresses and Facebook info was exchanged - neat group!
The first day started with a trip to the market to grab food for the trek, followed by a visit the most amazing waterfall dunk (Brett was brave enough to go in for a dip, it was early and I was cold - I know, cold in Thailand where it's been 90 degrees and perfect - but I was), then a visit to the hot springs (of course I was all about that) before our 4 1/2 mile hike through the jungle visiting various hillside villages (cutest little children and most amazing lifestyle - they live in huts and live off the land - yet they have small solar panels near their roofs to allow for night light.) The end of the hike left us in our final village where we were able to bath in the river, eat some great pad thai and sit around the fire for singing, exchange of travel stories, and beers - Toto, the guide, warned of a "Changover". We managed a couple hours of sleep despite the spiders Brett found nesting above our heads and the roosters that started up around 2am.
At last we made it back to the guest house with the ambitious plan to shower up and head out to a Thai boxing match... until the plan was interrupted when I lost my lunch. :( I'll spare the details but it got ugly, and worse before it got better. This is the Thai sickness that I was warned about. Dr. Brett was great and ran out to find the closest thing he could to "sprite and saltines" and the guest house even upgraded us to a room with a t.v. so we could relax in comfort while I fought the bug just in time to head out the next a.m. for our flight to the southern island of Phuket!
Thanks to everyone for your notes - we are having an incredible adventure. We could not have picked a better couple weeks to visit Thailand - the weather is AMAZING, and yet it's not too crowded. The people here are gracious and charming... yes they are after your money and trying to squeeze an extra buck where they can but they are not threatening and your money truly feels like the only thing they are after, not safety, etc. Everything is different here - the language the letters/characters, the food (yum!), laws (there are none), lifestyle, bathrooms (THANK YOU Brooke for teaching me how these work before I left) etc. and that is what has made this so incredible!
One more week - and all to bask in the sun down on the islands!
Hope this note finds you all well!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
We managed to make it to our hostel just of Koshan Road (popular backpacker haven in Bangkok) around 1:30am where we threw down our stuff and walked next door for our first Chang beer and green curry - yum! (Wasn't 'til the morning that we realized this restaurant was in the same hostel Brooke stayed in when she was here - fun to feel like you are walking in someone's footsteps! 3am crept up fast and it was time for bed after our 30 hour travel day(s)!
Sunday, Feb. 15 was devoted to a whirlwind jam packed "Bangkok in a Day". It was perfect - managed to see all the "must sees", including the massive "Wat"/temples, the Grand Palace, float along the Choa Phraya River, put a python around our necks (um not sure how the con man managed that one?!), shopping in China Town, a ride on the Sky Train and elbowed through the massive Chatuchak market (8k stalls with everything from live animals, food, clothing, plants, beer stalls, etc.) All before 8pm (our early bedtime on Day 2). :)
Today (Monday, Feb. 16) we hop on a plane to Chiang Mai for our elephant trek - more details to come!
Hope this finds you well - we are having an amazing time!!
p.s. We are TRYING to add pics, but the computer is insanely slow, so it's not been easy - stay tuned!
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Laa Kawn! (That’s “goodbye” in Thai, or at least that’s what Lonely Planet tells us) :)
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Thursday: Enjoyed a free screening of “Slumdog Millionaire” – is it weird I was more excited about the free drink, popcorn and candy more than the free tix?! Really enjoyed the show: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1010048/ - loved the bonus surprise during the credits!
Friday: Birthday week continues… While we celebrated earlier in the week as a family on Brooke’s “Golden Birthday” (28 on the 28th), Friday was the “Friends Celebration Night” starting with Mexican (weird, who knew that Brooke would want to eat Mexican for her bday dinner) with the Kertons and SIL, followed by the big party at a fun local German bar called Bierstube in the Roosevelt neighborhood of Seattle. http://www.diebierstube.com/. Between meeting new friends (Jake’s buddies we had not yet met) and seeing some old ones that were in for the weekend (yay Benzels!) made for a fun night!
Whew! Is it already Monday again?? Motivation = We leave for Thailand NEXT WEEK!!