Tag Archives: Thailand

Thailand Lessons Learned

Standard

Oh my that must be some of the Kiewit culture still in Aarissca speaking, lessons learned oh my.  Here’s our list of lessons learned and tips picked up from our time in Thailand.

General Tips

  • For the most part, if you are travelling in low season don’t book your accommodations in advance unless it’s a highly popular place.  The people we found who got the best deals just showed up to the hotel, Koh Phangan during the Full Moon included.  Doing this during high season might be risky.  Also if you book in advance spring the question when you check in of if they have any deals on right now.
  • If money allows, spend some nights in one of Bangkok’s 5 star hotels. They are reasonably priced and some of the best in the world.
  • Northern Thailand is worth a lot of your time.
  • The Full Moon Party has encompassed the party part and is really overrated in our eyes. We thought  Ton Sai &  Loh Dalum on Koh Phi Phi were better party scenes.
  • Koh Phi Phi is really as beautiful as everyone says.
  • Koh Samet has beautiful beaches but they are pretty developed.  Also watch out it gets really busy on weekends from all the Bangkokers escaping the city.
  • Tourist Police can be super helpful.
  • Koh means island and Ao means bay in Thai.
  • Thai is a very tonal language (think yes. versus yes?) so just give it a go and practice.
  • The Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar were are two favorite markets.

Getting Around Tips

  • This one is a double edged sword, book flights well in advance because they are dirt cheap.  However don’t plan your trip to the littlest detail, you will like certain places more and others less.  A rule of thumb that worked for us well was, take a guess on how many days it will take to do the things that interest you and add 3 days on top.
  • If you are travelling by bus make sure not to get on any private buses that aren’t sanctioned by BKS, they are shady and huge scams.  BKS is the government bus transport commission.  Read about our private bus encounter here.
  • Research what local transport should cost then barter till you can’t barter no more.  Because there will be a time when Thailand bartering will break you.
  • Cheap tuk-tuk drivers are too good to be true, they will stop at many shops in hopes they can make a commission off you.
  • If a driver tells you something is closed for repairs, holiday, out of business they are trying to scam you.
  • Always insist on using the meter in taxi’s that have them.
  • Renting a scooter is a good option in most small towns & islands.  Just make sure your travel insurance covers it and you are a decent driver. We saw way too many hurt tourists from crashing them.
  • Walking in most places is tough due to traffic, so having a hotel in a good location is a great idea.

Staying out of Jail Tips

  • Carry a copy of your passport and visa stamp.
  • Keep your Visa dates in mind, you automatically get 30 days on arrive via air and 15 days on arrival via land .  It’s a big deal in Thailand to over stay your visa. 500 Baht a day penalty when you exit and if they catch you on the street with an expired visa that is ‘uh oh’.  You can apply for 60 day visas and 7 day extensions.
  • They do ask for proof of onward transit from Thailand sometimes, so have e-ticket for a flight or bus ticket in hand just in case.

Culture Tips

  • It’s impolite to sniff food before eating it.
  • In public places they play the national anthem at 8am and 6pm, stand up for it.
  • The head is view as the holiest and feet as the dirtiest on the human body.  Never touch a Thai on the head and if you do apologize immediately.  As for feet don’t point at or touch people with them and stepping over someone’s feet is a no-no.

We used Fodor’s and Lonely Planet’s travel books both did the trick, but we preferred Fodors.  Other then that, that is all we have for you folks.

Safe Travels,

Aarissca.

Islands, Thailand, The End.

Standard

After Koh Phangan and the Full Moon Party, we hopped back on the mainland and switched from the Eastern Gulf to the Andaman Coast. Everyone talks about how beautiful Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee) is and that was where we wanted to go on the Andaman side. In order to get to Phi Phi we had to drive to Krabi and catch another ferry from there, but as things always seem to go in Thailand we arrived at the port well past the time of the last ferry. As we jumped out of the van at the port, there were tonnes of Thai hustlers yelling at us “you need a place to stay? My friend, my friend good price for you!” Tired from the long day of travel, we decided to look at these brochures and choose a place to sleep for the night, with plans to resume going to Phi Phi in the morning.

Oddly enough the place that we chose to stay was called the N.S. Mountain Resort and had a full on cowboy bar in the middle of nowhere. It was no surprise however, that the only other people staying there were Canadian (2 German girls too, but they don’t count). Animal heads mounted on the wall, staff with cowboy hats, yep that would draw Canadians in wouldn’t it. We arrived at a dude ranch in the dead of night, with a man we just met, in the middle of nowhere. Visions of a slasher movie were galloping through our minds, but we were more than thrilled when the escort to our room revealed a spacious, clean, comfortable, poolside room. In fact considering that this place was a bargain price of 500 Baht ($16 Canadian) a night, we couldn’t be happier and settled in for some much-needed sleep.

Kayaking

The next morning we woke up with the best intentions of heading to Koh Phi Phi, but the hotels hustler wasn’t letting us go that easily. The before you knew it he had us convinced that Koh Phi Phi was just too expensive to go to and he could arrange diving, kayaking, and ocean tours here, with the bargain price for our room attached. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we kind of got “lost” here for a few days. In fact, every single day we tried to leave we were reassured once again that this was a terrible idea and wound up right in our room again. After having a Aarissca team meeting we decided that if we were going to stay in the twilight zone then we might as well make it worth while and planned to do a few things.
On day 2, we woke up early and met our tour guide at the front desk to go kayaking.  For the tour we went around a few of the limestone islands, into a couple of bays, through a mangrove forest and peaked into a cave or two. Some of these areas were tight and tricky because they aren’t always accessible as the tide plays security guard. Since the tide was still high we were, barely, granted access in and we’ll let you decide on who was the kayak master to get Aarissca out of this conundrum. Maybe say who you think it was in the comments section, and we’ll reveal the hero in the next blog post. We can give you a hint though, ONE of us continued to spin us in circles, and whine how sore their arms were. The other was the master of kayaking and made sure to proclaim “look how good I am at this! I’m the best!”

After we managed to kayak back to where we started the tour, there was some refreshments and once they were done we headed back to our hotel. Our plan was now to try to head over to Phi Phi with the rest of the afternoon left in the day, but again this plan didn’t come to fruition. Later in the afternoon we decided to take a day trip and hopped on a boat from the pier by our hotel a nearby island named Railay. The cool thing about Railay is it’s connected to the mainland, but it’s not.  There are sharp limestone cliffs that separates the two and make it impossible to get to here by land, so now it’s only accessible by boat. A short 20 minute long-tail boat ride (our first on the trip) later we set foot on Railay Beach, ahoy matey! Starving for both food and a sunset view we walked from the East beach where we were dropped off to the Western facing beach.

Sunset At Railay Beach

Being a small ‘island’ we didn’t have much choice once we got on the West beach and just did ennie, meanie, minnie, moe with a little bit of which one is busy. Shortly after we finished eating a fork in the road came up. Do we catch a boat back now and beat the late night hike in price or take in this sun set fully? Feeling naive and like high rollers, catching the rest of the sunset with some deep-fried ice cream was our choice (Aaron is now hooked). Once we were tired out, we walked back to the Eastern beach to hail a boat but the story didn’t go that way. We walked up and down the Eastern beach to find anything that floated that was heading back to our pier, but there was nothing. Eventually a resort worker informed us there were no boats here and nothing was probably coming to the island. He did mention a resort boat for the workers was coming, but was not sure at what time, and that we could catch a boat on the West beach to Ao Nang still… probably. With that being our only option, off we trekked back to where we caught the sunset in hopes of finding a boat to Ao Nang and then a cab back to our resort.

Once we got to the other beach we saw a taxi boat docked in the water, so we promptly started looking for its captain. Eventually we found him in a bar, half cut and eager to charge us out the ears for our misfortune. The drunk sailor wanted us to wait for more passengers and more beer, so he said just wait on the beach for a bit. We waited on the beach alright, if wait means running back to the one on the opposite side. Hoping for the last time, we made the walk to Eastern Beach to try and find a fluke boat or the resort one. When we got to the beachone half of Aarissca went to buy water, while the other half kept watch. Not a 100% sure, at the time, but there was something in the distance that resembled a boat that we needed to check out. Off we sped walked to the other end of the beach with our fingers crossed. Quickly we started asking everybody around the tractor (the tide is so low they carry people by tractor to/from boats at night) “where is this boat going?” Everything was peachy it was going to where we needed, except it was a staff only boat. After some discussion among the security guards and a few of the staff they said we could get on. Phew! That was a big relief! Once we got to the pier we gave the boat driver a big thanks (and our luck the ride was free!) and walked back to our dude ranch resort to crash.

Boat on The Water By Phi Phi Don

The following day, we made our way to another pier in Krabi to catch a ferry to Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee). We were going in blind with no place to stay, until we broke down at the ferry terminal and booked four nights online at the PP Natural Resort. The ferry ride was about 2 hours long and 350 Baht a person. The ferry arrived at Tonsai Bay on Phi Phi Don (Koh Phi Phi is actually 6 different islands) and right off the boat they charge you 20 Baht to keep the island clean. Which you will notice is probably true, the island is better looking then Miss USA. We knew our resort was located on the most northern tip of Phi Phi Don and was only accessible by long-tail boat. So when one driver said 1,500 Baht to get to our resort we choked. Seeming like a lot we looked around to see if anybody else was going where we were. Eventually we pulled out our change from the keep Phi Phi clean fee and said 960 Baht is all we have. He reluctantly accepted and got his boat ready.

A 30-40 minutes long tail ride from the main pier and we were at our new place of residence. The boat dropped us off on the opposite side of the beach as our resort and we had to walk a good 500 meters to the resort. Once we got the PP Natural they greeted us with a juice, cold towel and the bags off our shoulders. This resort isn’t the nicest on the beach (Zeavola or Holiday Inn are), but it is still nice and has a lot of amenities and is less expensive. Once we got all checked in, we got into a golf cart and went to our bungalow. The place was nice, big, and private. The decor was a little dated, but wasn’t a big negative at all. That evening we went out for supper and had great pasta dinners on the beach in candle light.

Taking a Lunch Break From Diving

For our first full day, we slept in past the free breakfast buffet, did a bit of snorkeling off the coast, swam in the pool and oh yeah booked a diving trip for the next day(which Aaron did not want to do at all but Jessica made him.) We opted to try diving in the resorts pool the following morning in order to get the nerves out safely. Learning the hand signals, how to clear your mask, operating your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), clearing your mouthpiece, etc in the pool also. The best part of this was the totally rad underwater hight five the instructor gave you when you did it right! We even got to witness some wildlife in the pool on our first dive as their was a dead giant crab sitting at the bottom. After that, we loaded up a long tail boat with all the gear and headed to the Northern tip of Phi Phi Leh to do a couple dives. On both dives we saw lots of fish, coral, artificial reefs, giant clams and eels. The seas were really rough that day (our boat just about flipped heading back). The hardest part was getting into the water because you had to hold onto the edge of the boat and jump in, with a weight belt on and hold on for dear life that you didn’t sink untill your gear was tossed into the water and was put on you to cause you to float. But we had a great time, so great, we booked to dive again the next day when we got back.

Scuba Diving on The Second Day

On day 2 of diving, we had a speed boat this time and about 10 people. However only 3 customers and 4 instructors were actually diving. We were going with the same gentleman as yesterday, Peang, and the rest were going with a German girl. I think people at this dive shop just look for excuses to go diving. We dove the same island as the day before, Phi Phi Ley, but did the southern part of the island in hopes of seeing turtles and sharks. Both dives this day were great, we hung around sea turtles for a good 20 minutes as the just swam around us and then hunted for sharks. We did manage to swim with some black tip reef sharks but when one came close to us Jess would swim over and grab the instructor to hide. Not exactly the bravest fish in the ocean. After our two days of diving we were probably better off doing our PADI or SDI (getting certified so you can dive up to 15 meters by yourself), but we only had two and a half days. Where it takes at least 3 to 4 days to complete the classroom time and dives for either PADI or SDI. Just a couple of notes on scuba diving in Thailand, Koh Phi Phi has a price freeze all dive shops comply with for getting certified, 13,900 Baht. Koh Tao on the Eastern Gulf Coast is where the most divers are certified world-wide. The diving there isn’t the best they say, but you can get a steal of a deal to get your PADI/SDI there. If we had a rewind button and more time we would have gotten certified in Koh Tao or Phangan, then head to Phi Phi and Similan Islands to dive a bunch of times for cheap.

One of Our Sea Turtle Friends

Later that evening we headed to the main pier on Phi Phi Don to meet up with Ian & Sheree, who we met in Koh Phangan, for dinner and drinks. Our first stop was for a drink at the bar formally known as Poo’s Bar, but now goes by Pu’s Bar. Pu was a really interesting guy and gave us a bunch of laughs all the way from the neck of the bottle to the bottom. Next, was finding a restaurant called the Orange House. Which we were all shocked Ian found, it was really tucked away far back. The lady who owns and cooks the food here is known as a crazy lady with a bunch of cats, but the food is to die for. The only gripe against the place is they don’t serve beer, so Ian and Aaron took care of that by borrowing the lady at the restaurants bike. Doubling up (and cradling each others male body’s oh so gently) on that tiny bike didn’t work what so ever, and Aaron just ended up biking to the store and back while Ian waited in the street. Convincing the store owner that Aaron can manage to carry ten bottles of the big Chang Beer on a bike took a bit, but 500 Baht ($16 Canadian!) later he was off to meet Ian and then back to the restaurant. Successful mission! Minus the gash on Aaron’s leg from the crash.

Once we were all full, we wandered around the town off the beach browsing here and there. Eventually we landed back at the beach at a place called Stones where we watched fire dancers. These guys were so much better than the ones on Phangan at the Full Moon Party. We thought the whole party scene here was more of our kind of party over the Full Moon actually. It’s an expensive little island, but we enjoyed it the most out of all the ones we went to. As the night went on we remembered the boat we hired was still probably waiting. We told them to wait for us till 10:30pm, but we’re having too much fun and kept on partying. When the night finally ended for us, we crashed on Ian & Sheree’s spare bed in their bamboo hut. Then the next day we all headed back to our resort so we could check out and take in some of the good snorkel right off our beach.

Hermit Crabs Hanging Out On The Beach

Then we all headed on the ferry from our resort that stopped at the main pier, so Ian and Sheree could get back to their place, while we carried on to Phuket. We arrived in Phuket late in the afternoon with no plan for the evening, just a plane ticket to Bangkok the next day. Sitting in the dock terminal finger dancing thru books to find a place to stay, we decided to head to Patong and finally just wing it. We whistled for a cab and when it came near he saw right through us and knew we didn’t have a place to stay. So he drove us to his uncle’s tourism shop where we booked a room for a really good price at the AO Mansion.

We got all checked and settled in then headed out to change over some more money (Phi Phi wasn’t easy on the pockets) and have dinner. After walking up the main drag a time and a half we decided on eating at a Korean BBQ restaurant. The food was good and really filled us up! After supper we went back to the hotel to catch some Z’s and eventually a flight; Or so we thought. The next morning we got out the door around 9am and proceeded to hound a cab to the airport down. After a lot of walking and bartering we finally got a cab for a not bad price.

Enroute to the airport we hit some bad traffic and it was now after 10am. So a little scared about our 11 am flight time we dug in the bag for our tickets and saw our departure was actually 10:20am…opps. Eventually we arrived at the airport at 10:30ish and proceeded to do the walk of shame to the ticketing office. We tried the sob story that our cab broke down on the way here, but we got no sympathy and had to pay a change fee. 2:30pm was the new time and needed no double checking. After killing a lot of time in the airport, meeting a couple Canadians and a couple hours of flight delays we finally broke the sky. The plan was to be in Bangkok for 2 full days, but now we had 1 and a bit. For the nights in Thailand we booked our stay at the Banyan Tree Hotel and boy was it nice. Bangkok has some of the top rated hotels in the world and they are cheap by North American standards. Whether it’s the roof top bar of Lebua, the unique experience of the Chakrabongse Villas, wicked infinity pool of the Hilton Millennium, the good nightlife at the Conrad or the world-class spa of the Grand Hyatt Erawan, Bangkok has something for your tastes.

Our package included a 90 minutes spa package, 2 free set meals at the restaurants in the hotel and access to the Banyan Tree Club. As you can imagine we were tired from packing our lives around every two days, a few shady places to sleep, and the life of a vagabond in general. It may sound fun but somewhere in between the bartering, living on a non replenished cash diet, adjusting, and then re adjusting, we were quite run down. This two night hotel heaven splurge was just what we needed. We were given refreshing towels, champagne glasses full of a mystery juice, and our heavy bags of burden were removed from our shoulders and we were escorted to a private check in lounge for the elite on the 19th floor. This place had everything! Smoked fish on crackers, chocolate mousse, jars full of all kinds of treats including chocolate chip cookies and m&m’s and FREE BOOZE!! In fact everything in this place was free for us big ballers, too bad our clothes made us look like we were invited here by a help the needy committee. In fact, by the way we were slurping down glasses of red vino and salmon carpaccio we defiantly looked shady… to say the least. Jess continued to repeat “have I died? Are we in heaven?” and Aaron was eating too much to even talk. The lady who escorted us up here was arranging everything for us as we enjoyed ourselves and then came over to hand us our complimentary tickets and to escort us to our room.

Located on the thirtieth floor, was our heaven. This room sported a bathroom larger than Aaron’s bedroom at home, no joke. It was contemporary in decor and the best part was a gigantic soaker tub with incense, bath oils, epsom salts, and a candle. I mean honestly, we had been showering over the toilet the entire trip. We actually had a bath tub. Incredible. The next two days, were fairly uneventful to tell our readers. We ate delicious food, snuggled, enjoyed a complimentary massage each, Jess had a pedi, and just really enjoyed spending some tlc together.

We only ventured out once to the largest farmers market in the world, the Chatuchak weekend market. This market was divided into sections, clothes, electronics, art, and pets. Yes that’s right, pets. This was the most disarming part of the market. Everytime we have seen a pet dog in Asia they have seemed a little, lets say, not right in the head, and at this market we found out why. The dogs here are smaller than any dogs we have seen in the world, obviously inbred from people wanting smaller and smaller versions and shady laws regarding animal rights in general. We both felt terribly sad to see a little pug with eyes on the side of his head instead of the front, and cages and cages full of pups crying for someone to take them home. We were not aloud to pet the dogs, or take pictures and after trying to pet one puppy a lady pointed to a posted sign that comically stated “no fingering the dogs.” We decided it was time to find our way out of this nightmare, which was a little easier said than done. Jess wandered to see them all, almost drawn to witness their plight but repelled at the same time. There was more than dogs here, turtles, fish, lizards, kittens, and flying squirrels to name just a few. Finally we wandered out of this maze and ended up on a street full of clothes. If you ever go to Thailand we recommend that you season yourselves with other markets before this one because even being avid market goers we were lost, overwhelmed, and cross-eyed by the time we found the exit of this place. In fact their was so much stuff here that we really didn’t purchase much at all. All the decisions and varying prices just made us want to run back to the hotel and crawl into a big ol’glass of wine.

So that’s exactly what we did, drank a glass a wine and looked out the window at the glittering night lights of the country we had come to love. Thailand had its hardships, and we can’t say that things always went the way we wanted them too. In fact some things in Thailand were downright confusing and frustrating, but as we were leaving our room with our packs on our back for the last time, we both had teary eyes. Neither of us wanted to leave this beautiful country, there were so many more things to do, more adventures to discover, more hardships and set backs to face, things we wouldn’t change for the world. Thailand opened our eyes to a different way of life, to accept being three hours late to everything, to plunge headfirst into a deep blue ocean, strapped with eight pound weights on our wastes, sink, and trust that whats below would be spectacular. It taught us how to let go and be free, to just enjoy whatever was thrown at us and to realise that in the end we had each other, and as long as we stuck together and looked after each other it would turn out somehow in the end. So in reflection and hesitation we caught our last cab to the airport, and had to giggle when the guy refused to take us the cheaper route and made us pay the toll fee for the “express highway.” At the airport we hit our final snag, the border police. Now don’t get carried away thinking we were drug mules or harbouring weapons. No we were just illegal aliens, having come to Thailand on foot from Cambodia we had only a 15 day visa instead of a 30 by air travel. So we were pulled out of line, had to pay a fee, and sign a ticket stating our 5 day over stay.  Then with an empty wallet and shiny new stamp, we were set free to board the plane to India and leave our new home behind.

We are now safely in India and have no Internet, but keep with us, the next leg of our adventure will thrill and excite you, remember to leave your guess on who the kayak master was in the comments section below,

Thanks for reading!

-Aarissca

Full Moons Not Bums, The Party

Standard

On our way back from Cambodia, we were planning on heading to the coast for some beach time next. However by the time we arrived in Bangkok it was around supper time and we decided to spend the night in Bangkok and hit the road the following morning. A couple of folks from the Netherlands, we got well acquainted to on the sardine bus back from Cambodia, were spending their final days of their trip in Bangkok.  Having no place to sleep for the night we hitched along with them to their hotel. After checking in and cleaning up we all headed out to find something to eat and drink. We walked around for a little bit and wound up settling on something normal in all our books, pizza! Pizza pies, garlic bread, chicken wings, salad and Pepsi. It was definitely a nice taste of home, Johan couldn’t stop smiling and eating all of the chicken wings. We were all stuffed by the time we were done mowing down.

Content food wise it was time to find something to do! There was rumblings of a market in the area and off we went to sniff it out. After a few broken english conversation with the locals we soon found out it was already over and the night market a district or two over was closed because it was pouring with rain. Scratch that idea and to the bar for some drinks it is! Jess spotted this super tall building in the skyline and said ‘that place must have a roof top bar, lets head there!’ A block or two of easy navigating the Bangkok streets and we were at the base of the behemoth building, Baiyoke Sky Hotel. We all ventured into the lobby and found out there was indeed a roof top bar on 83rd floor.

Up we went, settled in and ordered up some drinks!  We wound up sipping cocktails, chatting, and swaying to the über chic music the DJ was playing, one drink turned into more, and eventually we wound up staying there way past close. We think it was now sometime after 2am when we finally headed back to the hotel, the Samaran Hotel that is.  The girls  had to use the facilities after the long elevator down, and searched for one in the closed market stalls below. The original plan was to walk back to the hotel but after being grossed out by bathrooms in the market we scratched that one.  Now our game plan was to try and find a cab. Taxi’s in Bangkok are super reasonable if you use the meter, which they are supposed to by law, but a few refuse to anyways and throw out a ridiculous set fare. We have learned that if they tell you ‘no meter, 100Baht then you must be really close to where you need to go and you may as well walk (thus they are trying to rip you off). Our night and luck was going too well up to this point, there was no way we were going to meet a reasonable cab driver.  100 Baht, 50 Baht, 49.9 Baht, but nobody was willing to do the meter for a 2 block cab ride and the girls had to pee! Finally after asking all of Bangkok to take us home, this tiny Thai driver said yes to the meter and we were off to the Samaran Hotel.

Now, the only trick to the meter is I’m pretty sure they pretend they don’t know where your hotel is and do a pit stop to this group of cab drivers to discuss where it is while the meter is running. Seen it before and saw it again with this guy. We even pointed to where it was on the map, but still no dice. There is something about Thailand that makes navigation rather difficult, and earlier in the drinks lounge we were all discussing it. The thing is, us foreigners can pick up a map or a book of Thai and try our best to say the name to the driver. For example we may tell them “we need to go to Samaran hotel” and they will stare at us and say “huuuh?!”.  We can repeat Samaran at least ten times and finally the guy will say “ooooh you mean SAAAAMMMAAARRRAAAAAAN Hotel?!” and the word will be a high-pitched squeaky version of the word you have been repeating for the past 15 mins with no recognition. This is not a con by the Thai people but a difference in how they pronounce words. You can have a Thai language book, and try your best to pronounce what you’re looking for to the Thai people.  However I can guarantee you, when they finally realise what you’re saying they will squeal back some Spongebob Square Pants voiced version that will make your head spin. So it was hilariously coincidental that this guy was probably the most enjoyable cab driver we’ve gotten on our trip. When we tried to tell him the Samaran hotel, this exact thing happened and he squealed a high-pitched SAAAMMMAAARRRAAAAAN at us, we all burst into laughter. He caught on that this was making us laugh and we kept asking him “sir can you tell us where you are taking us please?” and he would frequently squeal Samaran, which got us all giggling the entire way home. He also dropped some gems like ‘where you want to go? Shopping?’ and ‘why you goto sleep? Bangkok never sleep’ among others. (others being trying to convince us to go to a lady boy show, or a ping-pong show, and by ping-pong we don’t mean the sport with paddles) eek! We all got back to the Samaran Hotel and headed up to the room and said goodnight with visions of an 8:30 breakfast and an early start.

At Breakfast With Johan and Anita

No real suspense here, that didn’t happen and we didn’t get packed up and checked out till 11:30-12:00.  Behind the ball a bit we went hunting for a Western breakfast with our 2 Dutch friends.  After not too bad of a search we found one in a hotel right next to the train station, which was perfect.  A few guesses of what the piano-man was playing, folding the napkins into something different, and pictures later we all headed to the station to catch our train to the bus station and say goodbye.

A bunch of stops later we got off and started to make our way to the bus terminal. It was staring right at us, but 6 lanes of Bangkok traffic was between us. Did we mention that cross-walks are non-existent here? We made it to divider and then were stuck trying to cross the last 3 lanes for a bit. Until a couple young guys popped off a bus and said ‘you goto Rayong?’ We gave them a yes and they promptly ran out into traffic to stop it so we could jump on the bus. It seemed like perfect timing and our good luck was continuing! The bus was empty which was the cherry on top!

This bus had a group of 5 Thai’s in their 20’s running the show. Hanging out the door calling out something in Thai and occasionally pulling over to pick up passengers who would bite at the call out. It was only supposed to take 2-3 hours to get to Rayong. However, it was about 6pm when we looked at each other and wondered when are we going to get there. When we got on this bus it was empty and the guy collecting the money from passengers only had our money. Fast forward a few hours and he now had a fat stack of cash with a packed bus, these guys had their hustle on. Eventually we found out the bus will arrive in Rayong at 8:30pm, a solid 3-3 1/2 hours later than it should have.

Our plan was to catch the ferry in Rayong to get to the island of Samet for the night. Not going to happen so much. The bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere in Rayong and we had no clue what to do with no hotel in sight. So we started walking and passed an electronics store. Browsing in we looked to see if they had computers to look up somewhere to stay or something, but alas didn’t see any so we kept on walking. Eventually we came to an intersection, stopped and walked back to the electronics store where we had a chance encounter. The owner of the store was there and owns a hotel just down the road. The two of us, him and his daughter all jumped in his SUV and off we went to the hotel. It couldn’t have worked out better! His daughter spoke very good english and even helped us plan our time in the area while we ate. After we filled our stomachs and heads we said thanks again and retired for the night.  Highly recommend Madina Hotel in Rayong! (Just think ‘Funky Cold Medina’)

 

The next morning we got up and headed to Ban Phe, just 15 minutes from Rayong, to catch a boat to Samet.  Everything went fairly smooth, we rode there in a local truck/taxi called a sangthang and then got on a speedboat to take us to the island. We found a nice bungalow at a good price and had a relaxing few days on the island. We had hopes of going to a turtle conservation center but as this is low season in Thailand for tourism all of the boats that were heading to the island were un-booked. In Thailand, if you want to take a boat you buy your ticket and then wait for 6 other people to buy tickets before they leave. Sometimes the vessel of transport seems so packed you have no idea where they are planning on putting these magical extra people but you have to wait for them before you can go. Also don’t forget Thai time is never on time. So because there was no 6 other tourists to go to turtle island, the boat men wanted us to purchase an entire boat ourselves, and at just over 200 Canadian dollars, Jessica’s dreams of playing with baby turtles were left in the dust. Instead we took this time together to relax, swim in the ocean, eat some great surf and turf and of course lay on the beautiful white sand for two glorious days.

After our relax time we made our way back to Bangkok, and it went 1,000,000% smoother. From the bus station in Bangkok we headed to catch an overnight train to Surathani and then a boat to the island of Phangan for the full moon party! Now we are sure you faithful readers remember our urine soaked adventures of the last overnight train we took, but something had finally happened for us on our trip and everything we did seemed to work out just perfectly. This overnight train only had the two of us in our bunk, as opposed to 4 in the previous one, and although not the Ritz it did not smell badly and arrived on time. We were herded into a van after the train and onto the boat ferry pier to go to Koh Phagnan.

Our Beach in Koh Phangan

This ferry pier had the most tourists we have seen in all of Thailand and it seemed to us (or at least seemed very much to Jess) that these tourist were just looking for a reason to go crazy(giggdy, giggdy). This place was girls gone wild, Thailand style (GOO!) and it really didn’t do much to uphold the reputation of tourists on a whole. Thai people are generally modest, with the exception of some sex trade workers, and wear all of their clothing when swimming in the ocean. It is however acceptable for foreigners to wear bikinis on the beach and tank tops in the heat. This is not an eye sore or a problem. But on the main land pier were tourists, men and women, who were in full on bikinis and speedos sticking their junk out like hill-billies on trash day. Aaron didn’t seem to mind these ladies so much (wonder why?!). This theme seemed to continue for our time in Koh Phangan as we saw tourists doing many things when drunk and partying that made our heads shake with a chuckle. Including getting retarded tattoos, riding motor bikes like Evil Kenevil (Jess had a foot in mouth moment on this topic), dressing more naked than new-born babies, and playing with fire, literally.

The Nice Resort Next Door

We had wisely opted to stay on the beach further down from the partying and had a really great time here. Our accommodations were booked in advance due to fear of not finding a place due to the influx and was really nothing like the pictures.  The beds even had plastic covers on them because of all the puking tourists who must have ruined beds before. Trying to escape from our not so nice place, we wandered down the beach and saw a heavenly ocean side pool that belonged to the resort behind it. We soon discovered that with the purchase of lunch or a drink at the swim up bar, we could use the pool for free! It was here that we met our new friends from London, a couple named Sheree and Ian. We spent that night with them at their bungalow and were introduced to some friends they had traveling with them. Once again one drinks turned into many and before you knew it we were really, really, drunk.

Chillin' In The Pool

One of us was much more drunk than the other, and happened to prove the plastic bed useful as he got sick all over it, all night. Not naming names here but HE really sucked that night, because every time the sheets were changed and we were safely dozing off to sleep, he woke up and got sick all over again. The most hilarious part of this was when Jess was trying to help someone change their soiled clothes and he stated “I’m big boy, I can look after myself! Go to bed!” And then fell back asleep covered in grossness. Oh dear (don’t remember, probably didn’t happen). So need less to say we weren’t really moving too quickly the next day and slept it off on a bare mattress of plastic, with most of our clothes at the cleaners.

Freshly Face Painted At The Full Moon Party

The last eventful thing that happened at Koh Phangnan was of course the full moon party.  We went down to Haad Rin (The Beach where The Full Moon happens) the night before the party to eat some sushi and see what we were up against.  This area was a gong show to say the least and it wasn’t even the night of the party!  Fast forward to the next night, we went down to Haad Rin (pronounced Hat Rin) around 11pm.  Number one on the menu was getting painted up a bit.  Not entirely sure what we wanted and overwhelmed by choices a lot of time was spent moving from artist to artist.  Eventually Jessica suggested the Mike Tyson tattoo for Aaron and Jessica just told the artist do whatever then wound up with a butterfly.  Next up we bought a bucket, which contains a mickey of your favorite poison & mix, we went with the original rum, red bull, coke and headed to the beach.  What a sight it was!  There was lots of beach side bars pumping music, platforms with people dancing, water slides from the top of bars, massive skipping ropes on fire, and fire poi.  When we were watching one fire poi performance some guy ran into the circle and started running around.  From our point of view he was getting awfully close to the fire and trying to do cart wheels.  He never got hit, but from what we saw the night before these guys aren’t professionals and do sometimes lose control!  The following day on our way out of Koh Phangan we met a girl who had the rope braid burned into her thighs, looked really gnarly.

At The Full Moon With The Brits & Americans

There aren’t a lot of real toilets at the party, maybe enough to cover 4,000-5,000 people but not the 20,000-30,000 they estimate, so you have people just going in the ocean.  Some go out a ways (but not too far, that’s the champagne room) and others just do it right off the beach, squatters included.  You could get yourself into some serious trouble here, good & bad, with 150-300Baht buckets ( about 4-8 CAD).  Don’t worry we had learned our lesson and took it slow on the drinking.  Eventually we ran into our British and American friends we made at the resort randomly at a fire performance and hung out with them for the rest of the night.  Some good-hearted fun later all decided it was a good time to head back and skip the sun rise.  When we left the beach looked like war zone with all the passed out people in the sand.  You take the busiest night club in your city, dump all those bodies on the beach and that’s how many passed out people there were.

Hint Hint On Who Got The Hangover

We had a pretty big group heading back to the same beach and we all filled up a truck easily.  Handed the driver a 100Baht per person and nothing…the driver made us wait for more people when we had no more seats!  Eventually two more people came and sat on the tailgate but now were arguing because he was charging them 200Baht each.  This was an extremely painful process and after lots of banging on the truck by the passengers we were off.  Once we got back straight to bed we went and didn’t wake up until around 11am when a large group of partiers came back.  Singing, chanting, yelling we really don’t know how they lasted that long.  Without even blinking they sat down at the lounge at the resort and continued drinking!  This is where having a hut close to the beach and restaurant sucked and not being able to sleep any more we got up to eat some breakfast.  While we were waiting for our food, buddy at the rowdy table said walking by ‘it’s the full moon party, come over and join us’.  We replied maybe after we finish our eggs we’ll hop over to the crowded party table.  The rest of the day after The Full Moon was quiet lots of hangovers soon kicked in, even half of Aarissca!  The tables turned on this instance.

Little Girl On Our Way Back From Phangan

The next day, we had a boat to catch at 7am in order to get to Krabi and explore Thailand’s Andaman coast.  Another failed earlier morning rise, we finally arrived at the pier for the 1pm boat and got on the boat with no extra charge even although our tickets were non-transferable!  We arrived into Krabi later in the evening and are now preparing for some more beach time.  Next time we’ll write you the events in that chapter and the conclusion of our Thailand adventure!  Thanks for reading, till next time!

-Aarissca

Chiang My Oh My

Standard

Well,  were sorry to say that we don’t even recall where we left off last. We have so much to tell that we might have to scrap the blog and do a novel!  On our final day in Bangkok we ventured out of the city a bit to a place where they hold a market called the Damndensaduak Floating Market, which sounds really original and cool.  At this market you hire a boat and they paddle you down this canal to all the different vendors.  You can also hire somebody in a boat with car engine transplanted on the back and the drive shafted in the water with some kind of propeller attached.  Here’s something Jess would say, only Americans would hire those boats cause they are loud and obnoxious.

The Floating Market

The market really was a massive tourist trap of the worst kind, because once a vendor got a hold of your boat (with a long hook and pulls you in whether you want to or not!) you almost had to swat at their hands to get free, and the constant “you buy, you buy” was enough to make you want to throw your wallet into the river and watch everyone dive in whilst you paddle far far away from there. The market had lots of non-interesting souvenirs at ridiculous prices, but their was  some good food here and there.  It was pretty interesting to see how they do sales when you want to buy something that is on the other side of the canal.  Jess was the initiator for that one, they pass a basket on a stick with the goods over to you then you drop your money in it and send it back.  A lot harder then it sounds, especially with all these tourists stopping to take pictures.

We braved one of these transactions for some Thai carrot pancake things, but soon had buyers remorse as all the passing started a boat to boat to boat traffic jam that Bangkok would be jealous of.  Oh yeah, and one piece of advise keep your hands in the boat at all times or the angry old lady driver will lose it.  Seriously, she made the I punch you gesture at us, and then later asked for a tip. I don’t think so lady! After the market we had boat tour of the further canals where the vendors of the market lived.

Passing of The Food & Money.

Once we got back to Bangkok, we had a night a train to catch to Chiang Mai.  Which was interesting in it’s entirety, 4 bunks in a room and a strong lingering smell of urine.  I didn’t think it was that bad, Jess would rather walk for three days with her pack on her back.  We didn’t expect the train to be exactly on time, but by the time we actually rolled into Chiang Mai it was almost 4 hours late…sort of killed the day for us but we were told that things here run on Thai time, must be a great excuse to be late for work. After we got checked-in to our guest house, we hopped into a cab with some  delicious supper from the place next door and headed to the Tiger Kingdom outside the city.  Waiting for the dinner to go made us a bit tight on time as the place closes at 6 pm, but with some insane driving from our taxi we got there just minutes before.  Since it was so late in the evening and the tigers were becoming active they couldn’t let us play with the larger ones, we had to settle on the smaller ones, still pretty great!

Playing With The Little Tigers

In we went, to play with these little 2-3 month old Tigers and they play hard!  Biting, scratching, jumping, these guys almost had endless energy and actually were pretty gentle with people but aggressive among themselves.  When they did go a bit too hard with people all the trainers did was give them a little bonk on the nose and they’d stop!  Since it was so late in the evening we got to see the tigers get fed their nightly meal of chicken and play fight with each other. It gets super dark early here so it was hard to get good photos, but in the hour we spent watching and taking pictures of these big cats we got a few good ones.

One of The Big Cats

The following day, we walked around Chiang Mai looking into different stores and Jess trying to find a place for a pedicure.  We did go upstairs to one place, sat down and waited for the lady to do it.  However, soon left because the nail polishes she used weren’t up to Jessica’s standards, so she eventually went to a place beside our hostel. (come on those nail polishes were crappy and had no good colors!) That evening we went to a night market where Jess broke down her shopping famine and bought her first things on the entire trip, who would believe Jess had trouble shopping. Picking up some cool bulb lights, a tank-top and a panda egg holder.

Day 6 in Thailand, involved a tour of the Doi Inthanon national park where Thailands highest peak is located.  On the way up our tour guide was asking us whats the highest mountain in the world, then South-East Asia and then he started going into specific countries of where people in the tour were from.  Our guide knew Germany’s & USA’s off the top of his head but not Canada’s!  Which is mount Logan in the Yukon at 5,959 meters. Our first stop at Doi Inthanon was a waterfall called Wachirathan. We greatly enjoyed this tour as the temperature at this height was only plus 16 degrees c and gave us a break from the sticky heat that we have endured on this trip. We were hopeful of a swim in the falls but after we saw them we realized that these falls were much too fast for swimming.

The king's waterfall

At the top of the mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour guide on this trip was excellent and told us, that the king and queen of Thailand had been trying to help the mountain people who lived in these high northern mountains because they were clear cutting much of the forest for money and killing much of the wildlife. Causing a migration of the animals that lived there.  Apparently there even used to be tigers in these mountains, but due to the tribes all of the animals moved to deeper jungle. The king and queen in these mountains had their own waterfalls and temples as well and we were able to view both on our trip. We were also able to go to a real village, not a tourist trap one and see the king and queens idea to help the tribes people make money, to prevent them from deforesting the mountains any further. The kings waterfall was the first one we saw, as we mentioned called Wachirathan and was very large and fast moving, the queens was smaller but more remote and the more beautiful of the two by far.

Playing on elephant statues in the park.

There were also many elephant statues around the national park, as the elephant is sacred in Thailand and considered the national symbol. Everyone laughed when the tour guide asked us what Canada’s national animal is and we sheepishly replied, the beaver. So after the waterfalls we went to the village and we saw first hand the coffee plants growing beans that the king had given to the people as a way to make money, we were also able to drink a cup of it for 20Baht and it was fresh and delicious. Then we were taken to a room with a loom and were able to see a women making wool scarves, but as it was a real village there was no one there bugging us to buy things and there was a small donation box, we were told that this was the queens idea to help out the villagers in making some money.

The kings temple and a view of the gardens.

 

Lastly we were taken up to the highest mountain in Thailand and to the king and queens temples, which were built to honor them and there efforts for the mountain people. The kings temple was much like the water fall, grand in size but low in decoration. The queens was very ornate and delicate and Jessica’s personal favorite with a narrative batik made of colored clay tiles on the roof. The grounds between the two temples was also a beautiful garden with many flowers in bloom and was very well kept! The tour was then over and we headed back to Chiang Mai to rest up for the exciting adventure we had planned the next day.

 

That’s all the time we have for this installment, have a train to catch back to Bangkok and then onward to Angkor Wat.  We’ll leave you with this picture below to give you a hint on what we left for next time!  Thanks for reading!

Dun, dun, dunnnnnn

-Aarissca