Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Wednesday March 31st March 30, 2010

Filed under: Laos,Thailand — esacc @ 11:37 PM

I have finished transcribing my pre-written entries … so from here on out, it will be more of a timely update (provided I can get a good wifi connection!)

It’s been just over a week since my last entry … after Chiang Mai we made the 3-4 hour van ride South West to a small hippie village of Pai. There wasn’t a lot goingon here … the town itself seemed to operate on it’s own terms … and it wasn’t uncommon for shops and restaurants to open from 5 – 8 PM. We would wake up early and walk around the town, but it honestly felt like a ghost town with little going on and few people strolling about. At night people started coming out of the woodwork to open their shops along the night market – and to take part in the endless amounts of live music – but after a couple hours, they’d pack it in for the night.

On our last day in Pai we rented a scooter and decided to check out a local waterfall outside of town. It was a fun little ride … we nominated Maria has driver after I nearly drove into oncoming traffic and a parked vehicle – hahaha so with Maria driving, it was my duty to provide the entertainment. So we scootered around while I sang songs from every Disney movie I knew.  Our last day we went and checked out the local swimming pool as well which was pretty refreshing, but aside from that, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, so we only spent 2 nights there. But I really liked the small town feel of the place and it made for some great rest and relaxation!

From there we booked our ticket to Luang Probang in Laos. – not an easy trip. From Pai we had to take a night van through the windy, mountainous roads … by van for about 6 hours, arriving at the guest house at around 2 or 3 in the morning. We “slept” for about 4 hours before we were awoken by the owner singing us Happy Birthday. We had breakfast then headed to the Laos-Thailand “border” which was nothing more than a fence with a sign … paid our fees for the Laos visa, then headed across the river to Laos immigration. From there we were granted our visas and boarded the slow boat. We spent the next 8 hours on the boat before arriving in a small town for the night. We located our guest house, had some dinner and then did some mingling with our new buddies from the boat. (After 24 hours in small areas with people, it’s amazing how well you get to know each other!) The next day, it was early to rise again and back on the slow boat for another 9 hours to Luang Probang. We arrived in the early evening and found a guest house with our new group of travel “mates” (a majority of them being British and Australian) then it was dinner time and bed time shortly after.

The next day Maria and I rented bicycles for the day at about $2 dollars a day … and we decided around lunch time – at the peak of the sun – that we were going to ride our bikes to the infamous waterfall nearby. And well, Lonely Planet said we could make the treak, so we were bound and determined to go. To our dismay, after about 10 KMs into the 35 KM journey on our cruising, gearless, basket bikes, we turned around and headed back to Luang Probang. We cruised around the small French town and decided we put forth a great effort. We rewarded ourselves with a nap then it was off to bowling for a girl’s birthday. The shops, restaurants and bars all close here around 11 PM so the thing to do is to go bowling as it’s the only place that stays open. So we did just that. We can now say we came to Luang Probang and bowled. Two games.

The next day we slept in and decided to do like the majority, and hired a driver to take us to the waterfall. Thank goodness we did! After hitting the 10 KM point in which we turned around on our bikes, the terrain got rather challenging – and without well equipped mountain bikes, we never would have made it there – let alone there and back – before dark. haha

We spent the afternoon climbing to the top of the waterfall and swimming in the swimming holes at the base of the waterfall. Then it was back to Luang Probang where we ate dinner at the night market – we shared a large buffet plate for 10,000 kip which is about $1.25 USD – and we were stuffed. We walked around the market then made it home and passed out by 7 where we basically slept for the entire night.

We booked our bus ticket from Luang Probang to Vang Vieng … the 6 hour bus ride … we arranged to be picked up at 10 AM from our guest house. At 10:45 when no one showed up, we inquired about the location of our bus and we were informed that – in true Laos transportation style – it had broken down and the next bus wouldn’t be available about 1:30. So, we are now killing time until our bus leaves at 1:30.

Vang Vieng is the main tourist attraction popular for it’s tubing. We won’t be getting in until late tonight now, so tomorrow we will make a day of tubing down the river and exploring the ruins outside the city.

 

Tuesday March 23

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 11:14 PM

Chaing Mai – we have spent 3 nights in Chiang Mai – tonight being our forth and final night. The place we are staying – The Royal Guest House – has proven to be ideal conditions and very cheap! 350 Baht total per night gets us a fan room (which, oddly, we both prefer) – two twin beds, a hot shower, toilet paper, a pool and very friendly, helpful staff. Food seems to be cheaper in Chiang Mai as well!

On Sunday we did an authentic Thai Cooking course which was delicious. We made Chicken Phad Thai, Coconut Chicken, Green Curry Chicken and Spring Rolls. Sooooo good! Sunday night we went out on the town and met up with a couple from the cooking class. Before we knew it we were deep into the cheap local beer (chang) and busting a move at a (packed) Thai club with our new “friends” from the UK and New Zealand. Monday was definitely a “Changover” day and with no plans, we took full advantage of a day of rest.

Today was a jammed day as we had the Elephant trek booked. We were picked up around 8 AM and taken to Baan Chang Elephant Park where we spent the morning feeding, kissing and learning how to ride bareback and command the elephants. We broke for a delicious lunch and in the afternoon went for a 1.5 hour hike through the park while riding bareback. It was incredible. During our rest station at the top of the hill on of the elephants (a younger one, around 5 years old) went rogue and ran around the park rampant **no one was riding the elephants at this point**. The trainers finally settled her down and took her home as we made the descend back to the entry and into the bathing pool where we got to scrub the elephants clean – all while being sprayed by the baby elephant. It was an unreal experience I will never forget!

 

Saturday March 20th

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 11:01 PM

Oh wow … I am writing this during our 13th hour on the train to Chiang Mai. One hour to go!

Yesterday Merna and I spent the day in Bangkok .. shopping and killing time until our 10 PM train to Chiang Mai departed. We had high hopes going in to the train station, but upon boarding the train we were more or less in a state of shock and confusion. We booked the 2nd class sleeper train with a fan – and it was literally like out of an old war movie. The first few hours were spent trying to understand the rave reviews we read about 2nd class sleeper trains to Chiang Mai,, which we contemplated over a few Changs (beer). Just after midnight, we were starting to feel the Chang, so we decided to hit the sack and try to sleep. Although it wasn’t a perfect sleep, we woke up chilled and comfortable. After  missing the sunrise, we then realized our beds turned into chairs too – and after falling back to sleep, we woke up with only a few hours left in the journey! We both even agreed we’d definitely do the overnight train again.

 

Thursday March 18th March 27, 2010

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 9:23 PM

We made the trek from Ko Tao to Bangkok – 3 hours on a ferry; 8 hours on a bus. Arriving in Bangkok close to 2 am we grabbed some food and tried to fall asleep. This morning we were up at 630 and in the van heading to the floating market by 7 am. The floating market was pretty neat – but such a cash grab. After the market we were taken to numerous other places that we had no interest in visiting then finally reached the tiger temple at 3 pm. There we were able to take pictures with the tigers – which was really cool but felt pretty inhumane at the same time. After just over an hour there we made he 3 hour drive back to Bangkok, stuffed our faces with delicious food for caitlins last dinner, then the waterworks started. It’s hard to imagine not seeing someone I’ve spent sooooo much time with over the past year – and moreso, not knowing when the be t time I will see her again. All I can do is hope that it is one day soon. Anyway, I was a tearful goodbye as she departed for the airport. And now it’s just me and Maria. Tomorrow we are going to make a rough plan of where we are headed – and we are bound and determined to stick to a budget!

 

Tuesday March 16th

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 12:12 AM

Ko Phangnan was a bit off the beaten track. We are finding accomodation is getting pricier than we expected. Although we managed to swindle a cabin by the beach for 1000 baht a night but with that we had to get cozy with the local lizzards as well. Our days in Ko Phangnan were mainly spent on the beach, eating or browsing the shops. We did manage to go for a traditional Thai massage and boy was it interesting.

Maria and I had just sent our dirty laundry to be cleaned so I was without any sort of under garments while wearing my last clean dress. Unaware of what an authentic Thai massage entailed we located a place and got ready. After some confusion about what the massuese wanted us to wear we layed down completely clothed. At this point there was 3 of us and two girl masseuses. We sat in anticipation of the final masseuse. Sure enough in walks a male and of course he comes to my bed. The three of us errupted into laughter and could barely contain ourselves through out the pulling and stretching yoga like positions they twisted us into. We died of laughter.

The next day we slept in and lounged on the beach for a couple hours. Monday night wad the Black Moon Party so we needed to rest up for the nights events. Around 11 pm we made our way to the party beach and it wasn’t really at all what we expected. It was all techno trance beats with modern day hippies crucifying themselves to the speakers. It was pretty trippy. We stayed for a few hours – beating the beat up – then headed back to our bungalow. Going on about 2 hours sleep, 7 am came far too quickly and before we knew it we were on the ferry to Ko Tao. To our amazement the ferry was full of Koreans heading to another isla d so we felt right at home!

Once docked in Ko Tao it took some time to find a place to stay as everythig is a bit pricier here. Eventually we managed to swindle the price of – literally a villa suite – to a more affordable price. So now we are spending our last night on the islands of thailand at the prettiest place with the best room. It’s amazing here!

 

Sunday March 14th March 26, 2010

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 11:53 PM

We arrived in Ko Samui on Friday night. We found a place to stay- took a much needed shower since our last place didn’t have enough running water to suffice- then we hit the streets in search of dinner. We found a bomb place with cheap delicious Thai food and ate our weight in food. afterwards we toon a taxi to the main party area but didn’t do much aside from walking around. After a short ride back to our hotel we retired to bed exhausted after a full day of travelling. Saturday turned into a major beach day. The beach was hopping with people and the waves made for a fun swim. We couldn’t stand a whole day in the sun so we hit the streets to paruse the shops. By then it was dinner time so again we ate some delicious Thai and Indian food. Then it was off to the cabaret! Quite possibly the highlight of Ko Samui. The cabaret was put on by some Thai ladyboys and it was pretty hilarious. It obvs made for some photo ops. We then called it a night as we were in for an early 630am morning. We were picked up at 730 and on the ferry by 8 bound for Ko Phangnan. We arrived by 830, saught out a place to stay and were on the beach of Haad Rin by 11 am. Rough life! Tonight we are going to watch the sunset, maybe see what Haad Rin beach night life has to offer but more than likely we will be in bed by 1030 with our books. Tomorrow will be another beach day followed by a nap and the Black Moon Party. Tonight will be the last night for a good sleep in since after tomorrow we will be on the move for a couple days.

 

Island Life, Thailand

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 4:39 AM

Thursday March 11

It’s been awhile since I’ve found time/energy to write. The days are flying by and everything is just happening so quickly. Hopefully I can do my best to recap it all.

We arrived in Phuket last Saturday in the late evening. From the airport we took a taxi to Patong Beach area (one of the funnier taxi rides I’ve ever been in) where we spent the night at the Sweet Home Guest House. The owners of the guest house were ridiculously cute and gave us great travel advice — mind your wallets; the location of the “discotech” and of course, the big local shopping mall. All of this being irrelevent – minus the mind your wallets – as we were only in town for approximately 12 hours. Once settled we went on the search for an internet cafe and some dinner. We decided to try a street side tent restaurant. It proved to be delicious and the workers were beyond entertaining. We also med a 5 year odl local girl, Mina, who coerced us with her kisses and cuteness to sell her flower necklaces. When we tossed her a couple coins, she looked at us like we were insane and said “No Money, No Honey!” — what a sass! We also met some casanovas from Italy whome we made speak to us in Italian which was absolutely beautiful.

The next morning we caught the ferry to Ko Phi Phi. It took about an hour by boat. We arrived the port with no accommodations books, so we trekked around the island looking for decent budget places. Budget accom is virtually impossible to find, but we settled for a place for 900 baht per night – roughyl $27 USD split 3 ways – so about $9 bucks each. We quickly dropped our bags and hit the beach. The view was incredible but the beach itself was covered with garbage and the water was literally as warm as bath water so it definitely didnt make for a refreshing dip. After a few hours on the beach, we went back to our room for a nap. When we woke up, we found ourselves, the bed and our bags covered with bugs. We tried to cope with it, buty the fact that our door was incorrectuly cut and not properly sitting in the frame only made the bug matters worse. We asked if we could change rooms, but were told they were full for the night, then after a bit of an attitude from the owner we decided to cut our losses – despite the fact they wouldnt offer any sort of refund – and went on a frantic hunt for another place to stay. After literally seraching the entire island, we found a place in a good location with a clean, big room with the biggest bed I have ever seen. It was honestly bigger than a King. The 3 of us slept perfectly comfortable without bothering each other. We had planned to only stay there for one night, but our backup plan hotel was booked up when we went to check in, so we stayed at K’s House all 3 nights. The girl working the desk was so sweet and what whould have been a 1500 Baht room a night, she gave to us for 1200 Baht – so roughly $11-12 bucks a night each.

Once settled in our new digs we decided to embrace Phi Phi night life – and it more than made up for the not so fantastic beach. All the bars along the beach turn the beach into a big outdoor discotech – music, dancing and fireshows – the whole 9 yeards. We strapped on our dancing shoes, grabbed a bucket and danced the night away – or until 1 AM when the music stops and the beach party ends. — This is MUCH different from Korea where the bars basically don’t close until the last person leaves.

We met some fellow Canadian travellers, which was actually really refreshing. It was nice to be able to have a full conversation in regular English with people who understand and relate fully to you. It was a nice dose of the homeland – Canadians rock!

Our last full day on Phi Phi island was spetn on a 6 hour sailing trip of the islands. It was a bit pricier than regular trips as we decided to go with a fellow Canadian – Captain Bob – who has been living in Thailand for 3 years after making a 9 year trip from Vancouver to Thailand by boat. The trip included a visit to monkey beach where we fed the monkeys; kayaking; snorkeling; swimming; fishing; lunch; an hour at the infamous Maya Bay where the movie The Beach was filmed; cliff jumping; watching the sunset; and of course, unlimited drinks. The tours usually hold about 12-14 people, but when we went it was just us 3 and a couple, so it was a more intimate experience. I think the best part was hooking up our ipods and jamming to sweet tunes while touring the islands around Ko Phi Phi. Overall I’d say it was worth the extra money and I’d definitely recommend it to others.

After 3 nights in Phi Phi, we caught the 1.5 hour ferry to Ko Lanta. We booked a room prior to boarding the ferry so we had transportation arranged for when we arrived. We arrived at what was basically a mini-resort – yet, still within our budget. However, the beach itself wasn’t nice infront of our resort, but the onsite pool made up for it. We made friends with some young travellers from Sweden, so after dinner Maria and I spent the night playing cards & jenga with them and some local Thai employees of the resort. It was pretty neat hearing Maria speak in Swedish and help translate things into English – but overall their English was bomb. They even knew all the slang, swear words and sarcasm!

This morning we checked out of the resort and went on a hunt for a bigger and better beach. With the help of our driver, we ended up on Long Beach where the name basically speaks for itself. The room itself is definitely nothing to write home about as we were without running water for a majority of the day, but the location is ideal and again, it’s within our budget. Today we spent the afternoon soaking up the rays, but it’s almost too hot to sit out for longer than a couple hours. At least the water here is more refreshing, but we found each time we went in we were being stung by something. Oh, and I witnesses someone pull a sting ray from the water with a fishing net – so needless to say, I didn’t stray far from the edge.

Tonight we are going to catch the sunset and take an easy night as we have an early morning and a long day of traveling. From here we will take the 2 hour ferry to Krabit; a 5 hour bus ride and another ferry to Kho Samiu. The next week we will spend exploring the islands of Kho Samui, Kho Phangnan and Kho Tao. We plan to be in Kho Phangnan for the Black Moon Party on the 15th, then fly back to Bangkok by the 18th. From there we plan to visit the infamous floating market and a tiger temple. Then on the 19th we will see Caitlin off to the airport, then Maria and I will head north for some elephant trekking and boarding crossing to the nearby countries.

Everything is going really well right now and I’m loving being a world nomad!

(sorry for no pictures! It’s too much hassle to upload them up on a public computer).