A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Ko Lipe

Island hopping 3: Crystal clear waters and white sand beaches

sunny 40 °C

We finally arrived on Ko Lipe at about 5pm and the music was already blaring for New Year's Eve. We were dropped off on the beach and were surprised at how easily we located our accommodation; it was a little more challenging accessing it. We walked the entire length of the beach, and fortunately the tide was out, leaving nice compressed flat sand to walk on. After about 15 minutes, we came to some seemingly impassable rocks with our accommodation on the next bay the other side of the rocks. We noticed the most rickety walkway over across the rocks and so we clambered up some of the boulders on to the wooden path. All this in the 35 degree blazing sun with our packs on our backs. Our walk around the rocks looked far more precarious than it actually was and 5 minutes later we were at our bungalow.

We have had some pretty interesting rooms over the past six months with us getting ever closer to our hundredth place. Bearing that in mind, we have generally done very well and not had to rough it too much. This bungalow definitely had to grow on you with its walls covered in plastic laminate boards printed with green palm and bamboo trees. The bed was a matress on a raised section of floor with a pink flower bed sheet which would not have looked out of place in a 5 year old girl's bedroom. The curtains were a pink satin like material with frills along the edge and the mosquito net was florescent pink. The bathroom had a matching pink sink, shelf and mirror with a pale blue toilet, which was no more than a foot off of the ground. The toilet was a dipper toilet, meaning it did not flush and required you to pour a bowl of water down after you had used it. Obviously, despite not managing to plumb the toilet in, their was still a bum cleaning hose. The shower was cold. At least we had an uninterrupted view of the sea from our balcony.

That evening, we went out for dinner and although the bars were all playing loud music, none of them seemed particularly inviting for new year. We decided to buy some drinks and ice and use a dry bag as an ice bag and saw in the new year from our balcony. From 11 o'clock onwards, there were constant fireworks from the bay. As we walked along the sea front, we saw people lighting fireworks from their child's outstretched arms!

The following day was spent on the beach. We did the ten minute walk across the island to Sunset beach, which was quieter and less touristy. We saw some children going out and catching fish with a rod to spear them. They managed to get quite a large lilac and green one, some small ones and also a puffer fish. We decided to go snorkeling sooner rather than later in case the children killed all the good fish.

We had to swim quite a way out to see any decent fish but saw plenty of sea urchins, some large blue coloured fish and plenty of black and yellow striped fish. I wish we had had a waterproof camera for this part of the trip as we have seen some pretty cool fish and coral on all our trips. Maybe next time.....

We headed back round to the main beach, Pattaya beach, where we hired a glass canoe for an hour. This was clearly just a novelty as it was very hard to control. The water is so clear here, it was actually a little scary passing over the sea urchins and being able to see them brushing up against the boat. We also saw a couple of blue starfish on some of the rocks.

The following day we had a speedboat booked to Langkawi in Malaysia.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:19 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches islands beer boat beach island sand Comments (1)

Koh Lanta Yai

Island hop 2!

overcast 28 °C

After waiting in the middle of the sea for about twenty minutes, the ferry boat appeared on the horizon and the party amongst the long tail boat men dispersed quickly as we did the final few hundred metres over to where the boat stops. In the boat next to ours was the owner of our accommodation who clearly cannot swim, and looked hilarious in his life jacket and checkered boxer shorts.

We arrived on Ko Lanta 90 minutes later and managed to get a room at the first place we went past outside the port for only 400 baht/£8. So what if it appeared to be the former kitchen with worktops and sink? Unfortunately it turned out to have a major problem with its drains and stunk more than our first one in Bangkok and Bangkok is bad for smells anyway. Thankfully it would only be for 2 nights.

The following day, we took a boat trip to Koh Mook, which we had planned to stay at, but probably couldn't have picked a worse time of year to go island hopping without prebooking accommodation. The attraction on Koh Mook is its hidden Emerald Cave set amongst the mountainous karsts in beautiful green seas.

Our long tail boat was driven by what looked like two Thai popstars from the 80s, both with thin moustaches and one with a short mullet and pink shell suit style jacket. It took a good hour and a half bouncing around in the spray from the boat to get to Koh Mook. We were drenched and annoyed that we had picked the coldest overcast day to do this trip. In the wind and waves, it was a little chilly. We stopped on the way for some snorkeling and saw plenty of black and yellow striped fish and a few other larger fish.

After lunch on the beach, we headed round to the Emerald Cave, which was unfortunately heaving with boats. It was suggested we wore lifejackets to make the swim through the cave, with the guides choosing to wear theirs upside down round their legs like nappies. Despite our boat supposedly being capable of taking 18 people on this trip, we were still a couple of lifejackets short on the 12 we needed. Chris had a ridiculously small child's vest on and I went without. The swim was only about 100m and most people found the ill fitting lifejackets to be more of a hinderance. There were a few entertaining chains of people, clinging onto each other evidently unable to swim, with their guide pulling from the front. I don't think I would have wanted to go through a pitch black cave if I couldn't swim!

Chris and I, perhaps rather sadistically, were highly amused by the number of people who were scared and freaking out from the darkness. We were in the dark for less than a minute, with a rope to follow should you wish and various guides waving torches. Karma got me though as I tripped over a submerged rock while walking out the other end of the cave onto the hidden beach. The darkness had helped build up the suspense of the lagoon, and we were not disappointed; it was beautiful with the karsts rising high, a gorgeous golden powdered sand beach, with the sea looking quite haunting as it flowed out of the dark cave.

We enjoyed the reward at the end of this cave; however preferred visiting the tourist free caves in Vang Vieng, Laos. This cave was also similar to the one we visited in Krabi on Christmas day, but with the added excitment of the darkness opening out on to the secret beach. I think we're beginning to get to the point on our trip where we have done most things, and a lot of what do now is 'same same, but different!'

The following day we have a 5 hour ferry booked to Ko Lipe, an island off the coast of Thailand near the Malaysian border.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea islands beach island cave snorkeling Comments (0)

Koh Jum, Thailand

Island hopping 1: A remote and undeveloped Thai beach island

sunny 30 °C

Koh Jum is a small island about an hour off the coast from Krabi with little else to do than enjoy the beaches. Our transfer to the port was from 10.30am, with the boat leaving at 11.30am. Knowing the port was only 3km, we were not too worried when it still had not arrived by five past as this is Thai time after all. The receptionist rang to double check and said it was on its way, they just had a lot of pick-ups around town first. By half past, we were getting anxious, even though she explained the boat left at 12. She called again, and 10 minutes later a pick up truck arrived and we were hastily packed into the cab in the back. The driver was shouting in Thai down the phone and driving pretty quickly. We were unloaded at the port and told to run the final couple of hundred metres, in the midday heat, with our backpacks.

On the boat we booked some accommodation, which was a bamboo bungalow sat a few metres up the hill just back from the beach. The ferry does not dock for Koh Jum; long tail boats come out to meet you and you make the transfer across the water. The boat takes you the final 5 minutes to the beach where it stops a couple of metres back from the shore. We trudged up the beach to our accommodation dumped our bags and headed for a swim.

Our accommodation seems as though it would remain open until it fell apart. The owner had long given up with his restaurant or even getting dressed for that matter, spending his days in his checkered boxer shorts. We didn't have any bedding and when we asked, he returned with some sheets which truly reeked of antiseptic. When we visited the restaurant next door, they asked where were staying and offered us sheets! There was another guy there who was leaving that day and had also stayed at old lamp, there to return his bedding.

The next 48 hours were spent eating, drinking, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing (in the shade of course) and reading on the beach.

The beach was empty and had a rustic charm to it with broken tree branches and several large rocks,

By night, the wet sand by the water's edge was covered in crabs, with loads of different hermit crabs. The normal crabs would scurry off quickly but the hermits would give it a while before retracting into their shells. Some of them had a pretty jazzy shell on their backs and they came in various different shapes and sizes.

After two days rest and relaxation, it was time to move on and so we booked a boat on to Koh Lanta. As the boat didn't dock on the island, half an hour before it was due, we headed back out on the long tail boat and waited for it to appear.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 07:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea islands beach island snorkeling Comments (0)

Krabi Town, Thailand

A Krabi Christmas

sunny 35 °C

Krabi was a two and a half hour journey from Khao Lak through winding dense forest roads. We quite enjoy our short journey times between locations.

Krabi town is a strange place, set some miles back from the beach alongside the river. It is almost as if someone turned up one day and thought, 'right, we'll stick our beach town here'. As expected, Krabi is not pretty, but functional. Down by the river, along one side is a concrete promenade lined with long tail boat drivers touting for business, the other is made up of dense mangroves, with limestone karsts towering above. If you looked one way towards Krabi Town you would see a sprawling, concrete jungle with brightly coloured guesthouse signs. Look the other way and you could believe you had travelled to a completely different place, in the middle of an actual jungle.

We stopped for a beer on a floating restaurant and watched the long tail boats cruise up and down the river. We struggled to get a beer initially with the ladyboy in his short shorts and strange coral orange lipstick not having a clue what we wanted despite pointing at the beers. He flounced off and found someone who spoke English and went back to doing his very nice hair.

The following day we headed to Krabi beach, which was quite small and full of broken shells and absolutely full of people! We walked along to the end, where there were a group of friendly little monkeys hanging out. One voluntarily jumped on my bag, but as this had the camera in, we didn't want to open the bag with him and his little grabber hands on my back and he jumped down as I tried to give Chris the bag. I soon managed to coax an incredibly mischievous baby monkey on to my head which set about tickling my head!

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Monkeying around

As it was Christmas Eve, I persuaded Chris to have an oil massage. He was somewhat put out that the place was full of beautiful looking Thai female masseuses, yet he was saddled with the one guy. After about five minutes, they managed to find another guy and swapped for him! This one clearly had no idea what he was doing and just copied mine the whole time. Poor Christopher looked less than amused for the duration and spent almost as long complaining again afterwards. At least it wasn't a Thai massage, although watching his expression during that would have been far more amusing for me!

That evening, we ventured down to the river to take a long tail boat through the mangroves. Mangroves are trees whose roots make them look as though they are on stilts as the tree itself is elevated about a foot of the ground. Within these tangled roots, mud and sediment from the river is caught, preventing the river from washing the nutrient rich soil away and providing new land for wildlife. The mangrove swamps look eerie and mystical, and feel a little too quiet. We visited a cave, which although very open on the side of the rock, was impressive for the fact it was hidden unexpectedly behind these mangroves.

Our trip continued to another section of mangroves where some coconuts had clearly been put out to attract some monkeys to the edge of the water for passing tourist boats. They were entertaining, playing and swinging from the branches, one with a very small baby attached to its front, hanging on for dear life as mum swung from tree to tree.

Our final stop was a fish farm, which had 2 large turtles, which judging by their size, were for the tourists rather than meat. They were so cute! We were given fish to feed them. We were shown a few crabs, and some snapper fish, which had netting over their area, and would hide under the water before jumping up and snapping their mouths shut around the fish, and your fingers if you weren't quick enough. We passed on the offer to feed these, valuing our fingers.

The following day was Christmas day, and we had booked a sea kayaking tour around the karsts, caves and mangroves. This was a very relaxed tour with a guide who really did love the sound of his own voice. On the third time he repeated not to spray deet in the cave, Chris and I decided we'd been polite enough but would rather be left to it to explore the cave. This cave had a few paintings on the walls, which our guide had rather imaginatively managed to see a number of different things in the lines and rocks. There were also a few newer looking sketches.

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One of the caves we kayaked through

Back in the kayaks, we went through one fairly narrow cave with staligtites hanging down. As the tide was low, it was easy to move through. When the tide is high, you have to lay down on the kayaks to pass under the rocks.

We carried on through the mangroves before taking a narrow side turning, which led to another cave. We carried on through to the other side and were greeted by the most peaceful and gorgeous lagoon with karst cliffs rising high above with trees growing out almost horizontally.

After this we had lunch on a floating restaurant, served by a ladyboy in the shortest skirt ever! It would not have covered a lady's bum! She was serving the rice and our guide was placing dishes on the table, saying 'make sure you have rice from her, him, chin, I don't know what you call him' laughing as he explained this. As the only native speakers of English, Chris and I were the only ones laughing. When we explained what had been said, a couple of them hadn't even realised it was a ladyboy!

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Merry Christmas from the fresh water pool

After lunch we stopped off at Phutara, a natural water pool in the woods. Its setting seemed more like a flooded section of wood with rocks along the bottom, but the water was a beautiful clear grey blue colour like no other pool we had seen. The water was refreshing compared to the warm sea, but extremely pleasant for cooling off after kayaking.

The following day, boxing day, we headed down to the beach and hired a couple of kayaks for the day and headed off around the Railay Peninsula. This peninsula was made up of various different karsts and is often referred to as Thailand's Halong Bay. It was lovely kayaking between the towering karsts and being able to get right up close with the kayak. We stopped on some rocks to go snorkeling and saw a few good fish, in particular some tiny navy blue fish which had markings in electric blue.

Around the peninsula are various beaches, which are well served by the long tail boats. We stopped off at a couple before getting lunch on one of the busier islands. All along the water's edge were tens of long tail boats which had been converted into kitchens, cooking up virtually every Thai dish there and then. You could even get a freshly blended smoothie for less than a £1. Watching your food being prepared was all part of the fun.

After lunch we carried on round through the karsts before finding our own stretch of secluded beach where we had a swim before sitting to read our books. We both had a short nap and I awoke first to find the tide was coming in on us. Chris was sleeping head first to the water, which was finishing a matter of inches away. After moving his book and the boat which was thinking about floating off, I waited for the tide to wake sleeping beauty. Even though he was asleep on my towel, I decided it would be worth it. And suddenly there was a beeping, and Chris was awake! He'd set the alarm on his watch in case we both fell asleep. Literally two minutes later, a big wave came up, soaking my towel anyway but Christopher remained dry. I was very disappointed not to have my fun. :-(

It took over an hour to paddle back round the bay, and our arms were ready to drop off.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a quick swim before dinner at Mr Krab-i, who do some of the best burgers we have had. I still preferred Whopping Burger in Vang Vieng, but Chris preferred this place.

The following day, we had a boat booked to take us to Koh Jum island.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 05:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Khao Lak, Thailand

Finally made it to the Thai beaches!

sunny 35 °C

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And finally we have made it to the Thai beaches after travelling for four and a half months. Khao Lak is situated to the north of Phuket and was completely devastated by the tsunami on Boxing day 2004. Other than the place looking very new, you would not know the destruction seen from that awful day as the whole place was completely rebuilt within about 2-3 years.

Unfortunately, our accommodation, set about a kilometre back from the coast, appears to have survived the tsunami and had not received any attention since much before. The staff, probably in their early twenties at most really could not have cared less even if they tried. The whole place had a rundown feel and almost a joke between management, assuming there was any, of how long can we leave it before people stop booking their holidays with us? When we asked if there was breakfast, the guy laughed as he said no. Later we noticed a new looking sign advertising breakfast but there clearly was not.

In our bungalow, the bathroom had a decent tiled floor and the lower section of the walls were painted a deep midnight blue. At some point though, someone apparently colour blind must have been asked to give it a touch up, and instead of blue, picked up some watery yellow paint and slapped it all over the blue creating a snot green smeared layer on the walls. I would dread to think when the off-white room last had a lick of paint. To finish the room off were some pretty ghastly frosted coloured small windows.

On our room at least they might need to replace the amber glass as there was quite a hole in it by the time we left. Let's just say my washing line could have got caught in the roof during a failed installation. It might have then pinged out of the roof into the window. (Much to my surprise.) I allowed Chris to deal with that one. We would have informed reception; however if they weren't asleep in their hammock, they were glued to their laptop screen. And even then they didn't speak English. I'm sure they will notice it soon....

Khao Lak town is one straight through road with a few lanes and alleys off of it, solely existing due to the coast. If I were writing a holiday brochure, I would describe the beach as 'a long stretch of palm trees overlooking golden sand beaches containing elements of mystery.' On arriving, you would quickly realise 'mystery' was the not so picturesque unlikely to feature in the brochure black sand. Fortunately for those seeking that image, the blank sand is well contained, creating a stopping point for interested tourists. Not for us though, for we are partial to the odd black sand fight, on more secluded beaches. (Paraty, Brazil.)

The remainder of the day was a challenge, spent lying on the beach reading our books and going for a quick dip when it got too hot. I'm sure there was probably the odd power nap as well for good measure.

Although the beaches here are very pretty and the sea is marginally warmer here than on Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, we preferred Phu Quoc as the beaches were completely empty and slightly more picturesque, particularly when there were locals fishing just off the coast. We shall have to see how the other Thai beaches compare over the next week. It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it.

Khao Lak is mainly used as a base to go snokeling to Ko Similan and its surrounding islands. The following day we embarked on one of the many speedboat trips to these islands, located 70km off the coast of Thailand. The journey took an hour and a half, and would not have been complete without a bit of sea sickness from some of our new found travel companions. Some people can be so antisocial! With my stomach made of metal, I was absolutely fine and quite enjoyed it on the way back as we bounced through the air. Chris was OK, but clearly pleased when it was over.

The snorkeling was brilliant! The coral was better when we snorkeled off of Phu Quoc, but the fish here were so colourful and varied and some of them were a good foot long and really colourful. There were your usual smaller striped fish, but some of the larger fish were turquoise with lilac scales, another was an aquamarine colour with dark blue and gold. A couple of our best finds were the 6ft long barracuda, which slithered off and tried to hide under a rock with its black dog like face sticking out. The other best find was also hiding under a rock and was about 6 inches long with a black and white striped body and yellow fins with black dots.

Our trip on Phu Quoc was more of a relaxing boat ride, whereas the boat was a means to an end on this trip. There must have been about 10-15 boats carrying 30 people out that day, and on the first stop, everyone snorkeled yet by the third stop, Chris and I were the only ones who snorkeled any distance from the beach and as we got back, there were only about 10 other people snorkeling by the water's edge. Not really sure why you would bother with this trip if you weren't going to snorkel? At least it meant the water was empty for us!

We returned that evening feeling incredibly tired, as we had spent over 2 hours swimming without even really realising.

Next stop, Krabi town!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 04:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged sea islands beach snorkeling Comments (0)

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

Trekking through the jungle - an entry by Chris

sunny 30 °C

It's Chris again. Zoë managed to contract tonsilitus for most of this section of the trip so it's up to me to write the blog.

Khao Sok National Park is a large area of jungle and limestone karsts in central Thailand. There is a small area where all of the accommodation and shops, restaurants etc serving visitors to the park are located. Most of the accommodation is bungalow type rooms on stilts. We booked a bungalow right on the river as we were intending to have an easy couple of days relaxing on the balcony, reading, drinking and snoozing after a pretty non-stop couple of weeks. As usual this didn't materialize and before we'd arrived we'd already planned a couple of trips into the jungle.

Unfortunately on arriving Zoë was a bit worse for wear and after a good look down her gullet with a touch it turned out she had tonsillitis. She spent the first afternoon napping whilst I relaxed on the balcony.

The next day she still wasn't feeling right so for the first time on our trip I decided to venture out on my own, guessing she would probably sleep through most of the day. Our guidebook suggested two different trails into the jungle and I decided to try what sounded like the shorter but more challenging trail so that if Zoë felt OK the next day we could do the longer, yet flatter one together.

After eating breakfast (alone), I set off along the 8km route (4km each way) as soon as the park opened to avoid the crowds and the worst of the heat. I needn't have bothered as I only saw one local jogger on the way there and about 5 people on the way back. The jungle was formed of thick bamboo and looked quite cool with the morning sun cutting through it. The first two or three kilometers were quite easy but then I had to start crossing rivers which meant getting wet shoes. This didn't bother me at first but then I realised that my ankle was bleeding and it turned out I was being leeched. I flicked the first few off but more kept appearing so I had to stop every few minutes to remove them. I then reached the waterfall which marked the end of the trail and the turning round point.

I took my shoes off to check for leeches and let them dry out a bit but as I was crossing the final river at the waterfall I slipped over. It wasn't until a few moments later that I realised that I now only had one shoe! After searching in the water in the vicinity of where I fell, I couldn't find it and wasn't looking forward to walking back with one bare foot no doubt being relentlessly eaten by leeches.

After a bit of thinking I decided to conduct a 'controlled experiment' where I would see if my one remaining shoe would sink or float, making sure I could grab it if it went downstream. It turned out they floated which meant my shoe could be miles away. Fortunately after setting out on what could have been a long expedition down the river I found my shoe lodged against a rock not far from where I fell. To say I was relieved would be an understatement. After a clamber up the waterfall and a bite to eat I set out on the return journey.

On the way back I bumped into a guy who we'd sat next to on the bus the day before. We ended up chatting for over an hour, standing in the middle of a stream, whilst he told stories of Thai body-to-body massages (apparently better than sex), getting into Aussie bar fights dressed as a woman, and the ethics of performance enhancing drugs in professional sport. I arrived back about 2.30 and Zoë had just got out of bed. I knew she was starting to feel better as she was ready for lunch.

Fortunately the next day Zoë was feeling better so we set out on the second of the jungle trails. It started off easy enough with some nice spots for swimming along the way. As we got closer to the turning round point the trail started to get a lot more difficult and it was becoming apparent that the guidebook suggesting that this was the easier trail was ill-informed. At points we were sliding down hills and clambering up the other side using our hands. This wasn't helped by wildly inaccurate distance markers, unless the last 200m did actually take us 45 minuted! We finally got to the waterfall at the end of the trail and were rewarded with a beautiful waterfall and rock pool which provided an excellent opportunity for a refreshing swim, made even better by only having to share it with one other person. The trip back dragged and I got leeched a fair bit again, but we stopped off for yet another swim which helped cool us down.

Before leaving I decided it was finally time to get my hair cut. Just realised, this is my second blog post and both times have been when I've had my hair cut. Anyway I was a bit nervous due the language barrier but after requesting 'same same but shorter' the result was fine and I was now a 'very sexy man', the hairdresser's words not mine!

The following morning we left Khao Sok, fully stocked up with corner shop antibiotics, aching and unrested to head to Khao Lak, an hour down the road and for another attempt at relaxing, this time on the beach.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 21:47 Archived in Thailand Tagged waterfalls trek jungle leeches Comments (1)

Bangkok Calling, Déjà vu

Same same, but different!

sunny 28 °C

Returning to Thailand it felt strangely quiet. Nobody was trying to sell us anything and nobody was shouting at us in the street. There were times in Vietnam when we weren't sure how we would cope if there was no one there telling us we needed to eat or drink but somehow we managed it. In fact, we managed to buy more here than we had done on the rest of our trip, yet not a single person had actively tried to sell us anything. Interesting that. There was one Vietnamese market we had wanted to browse, but stallholders began to almost fight over us in desperation that we bought their goods that we ended up just walking straight back out.

After a busy few days, the remainder of the morning was spent relaxing in our hotel, taking full advantage of the complimentary hot drinks and pool table. I am still awful at pool and Chris only appears better because I am so bad!

In the afternoon, after booking our train tickets to Surat Thani, we enjoyed paying 20p for lunch from the street vendors before heading downtown to the endless shopping malls. We have visited about 5 in a row, each one incredibly fancy and surprisingly busy considering the competition. We stocked up on a few necessities before heading to Lumphini park which has a pleasant circuit around a couple of lakes. We returned here the following night to take some night shots of the lake with the tower blocks rising up in the background.

The next day, we headed back up towards old town, taking the riverboat. We were trying to find a street Thanon Tanao, which wasn't named on our city map and didn't link together across the various maps in our guidebook and so a little guesswork was required! As expected, we went wrong, but found ourselves walking down a very pleasant residential street set on both sides of a canal. It was so peaceful along here with flowers and plants along the canal edge and the bridges that you could forget you were in Bangkok. We also passed a park where a group of about 50 school children were taking part in band practice and flag dancing. Although some sections were impressive, others still needed a lot of work and watching them walk the wrong way and then run back while still playing their instrument or waving their flag was quite amusing.

We eventually found Thanon Tanao, described as a street lined with restaurants, to find it pretty bare and nondescript. At least the walk there had been interesting. We found ourselves at Khao San, the backpacker street where we enjoyed people watching on our previous visit. Unfortunately we were a little early this time and although busy, it was more just passing people than drunk backpackers.

We took a riverboat back down to Wat Arun, in order to see it lit up by night. This temple is made of colourful bricks and rises high up on the water's edge.

As mentioned previously, we took a tuk tuk back to Lumphini park to take some photos before having a delicious dinner in the food market just outside. As we walked around the park it began to get a little chilly and I had to put my cardigan on. I didn't know it ever cooled down in Bangkok! Generally it was a much more comfortable temperature here this time round, especially coming from Cambodia.

After that, we caught our night train to Surat Thani in our very comfortable but freezing cold second class seated air conditioned night train.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged parks shopping river downtown Comments (0)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephants, cooking and a few temples for good measure

sunny 32 °C

After our night train to Uttaradit, it was surprisingly easy to get the bus towards Chiang Mai, where we changed to a local bus at Lampang to go to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. We had hoped to be able to do a 2 day homestay program with the elephants, but they were all booked up. They did however have accommodation within the reserve for £16 a night where you stayed in a bungalow with a veranda about three times the size again.

That afternoon, we watched elephant bath time and the elephant show. The elephant show was so cute, with the elephants taking a bow as they were introduced. Over the next half an hour, they showed off their skills from logging, to throwing balls into a basket with their trunk to 'playing' musical instruments. The final part had three elephants doing a painting with their trunks. One did some flowers, while the other two painted elephants. They were really quite impressive pictures.

After the show, you're allowed to feed the ellies sugarcanes and they all stand in an orderly line along the showground perimeter, trunks waving to receive their sugarcane.

The following day we rose early to go to see treatments at the hospital. There was one elephant who liked like he had caught his foot in a trap as the bottom was a bit mangled. It had clearly healed, but he was still not putting any weight on it. Poor thing. There was another one having blood samples taken, but he was fine, if anything being awkward as all he had wanted to do was eat while this was going on.

Afterwards we headed across to the bathing area, where we changed into elephant training outfits, mahouts, ready to help with bath time. The outfits were denim shirt and trousers. The trousers were one size with a denim ribbon to do them up. I inadvertently had put mine on backwards and not done them up properly and so after about 10 minutes you could see my bikini bottoms. This provided much amusement to the workers who laughed even harder when I'd turned them round but didn't know how to tie them and so one of the Thai ladies, while giggling sorted me out. Chris' weren't done up properly either but they left him be.

We climbed up to the loading platform before getting on to our ellies, on their necks, right behind their heads. We rode them across to the water, where Chris'elephant proceeded to fill up its trunk in order to shoot me with water. My ellie unfortunately would not retaliate. We were soon in the water helping to clean them. Chris' continued to shoot me and his Keeper taught him to say 'bong bon' which made his ellie shoot me. I tried this with mine, but it just lifted its trunk to the top of its head and sprayed me in the face. I tried once more, talking to it on the side in Chris'direction before getting a face full of water again. Although Chris wasn't being sprayed, he was being dunked right down to the point where he nearly fell off, which gave a new opportunity to splash h his neck to ensure he was almost as wet as I was. His hair managed to stay dry, whereas mine was as wet as someone who had just stepped out of the shower.

Washing the elephants was so much fun and will definitely be one of the highlights of our trip to Thailand.

Afterwards we visited the baby elephants in the nursery who had cool hairstyles, sticking up nicely. Their miniature trunks were so cute.

To finish off our trip at the elephant reserve, were went for a half hour stroll across the water and through the forests by elephant, this time on a seat on its back,

We took the bus to Chiang Mai, which has a historic wall dividing the new and old parts of the city. Here, there's the usual collection of ornately decorated temples, but it's most famous for its courses. We enrolled on a one day Thai cookery course where you make and eat 7 traditional Thai dishes from scratch.

The trip began with a visit to the local market to get the fresh ingredients needed for the day. Afterwards we headed to the house where the course was being run and picked the relevant herbs and chillies from the largest herb garden I've ever seen.

Throughout the day we prepared and cooked soup, noodles, stir fry vegetables, sweet and sour, papaya salad, mango and sticky rice, green curry and panang curry using curry paste we'd made ourselves. The course was great fun, particularly when we 'cooked with fire' to do the stir fry. At the end of the course, we enjoyed a delicious lunch out on the veranda. Let's hope when we try and recreate the dishes at home they taste just as good.

In the evening, I went for a back, neck, head and shoulder massage, which turned out to be a back of body, arms and chest Thai massage. This was so painful as I had some woman (and I'm pretty sure mine was a woman) trample up and down my body. I am unsure as to how this can even slightly be described as a massage.

On Friday, we are taking a minibus to the Lao border town of Chiang Khong, ready to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 02:12 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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