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Thailand – Flashpacking Wife http://www.flashpackingwife.com Just another WordPress weblog Tue, 06 Apr 2010 04:15:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 Ko Lanta http://www.flashpackingwife.com/ko-lanta/ http://www.flashpackingwife.com/ko-lanta/#respond Sun, 30 Mar 2008 13:51:55 +0000 http://www.flashpackingwife.com/?p=8 We spent 9 nights on Ko Lanta. The first two at Papillion which is run by two women from Belgium. Great place! Cool restaurant with great music (the furniture reminded me of the Chai restaurant in Kits), a pool, nice bungalows, nice owners, real coffee, flush toilets and very clean. My only complaint was that our bungalow (Bungalow 8!) was too close to a Burmese family’s home and their roosters woke me up at the crack of dawn. We were paying 800 baht a night and their cheaper bungalows were all taken so we were forced to move somewhere cheaper.

We scoured the beach and looked at several places (a few of the cheaper bungalows were so dark and nasty, I couldn’t believe that anyone would stay in them) but there were also some nice ones in the lower price bracket. We found the best of the bunch and agreed to a weekly rate there. (You can get beautiful accommodations for very reasonable rates here but since we’re traveling for a year, we are seeking out the cheapest digs we can find that are actually habitable).

When we had checked out the bathroom, all we saw was a toilet and just assumed that it would flush. Boy, were we wrong! It turned out that we had fill a bucket up with water and manually flush the toilet. Fun! The entire bathroom would smell like an outhouse every morning (horrible gases having no where else to go except for back up into the toilet is what we guessed) and our shower would smell strongly like sulphur every time we turned it on, for the first 5 minutes. It was such a stinky bathroom that we actually splurged on an air freshener!

When we had checked out this place, the Lanta LD Sandy Beach, the staff had been nice. (One guy there named Job was a really sweet kid) but we soon found out that the receptionist had a bad attitude. When we were almost out of toilet paper, we requested some more and were told that they were out and we could buy it at the store! This happened twice and we did have to buy our own (totally unheard of anywhere else we stayed and also to the other travelers I’ve told!) I was so pissed off that we paid them 50 baht less at checkout to recoup the cost of the TP that we’d had to buy. Based on their customer service, I would definitely not recommend them!

The location was good, right on Long Beach, but there are so many other places to stay that I wish we had stayed at one with nicer staff. The Best House was right beside it and the couple who run that are super nice. We booked our boat to Ao Nang through them (not wanting to give Lanta LD anymore of our money) and they drove us to the pier in their air conditioned truck.

While on Ko Lanta, we rented a motorbike for the day and explored the island. Super fun way to get around! I took a bunch of pictures and movies while Curtis drove. I got a great shot of him where he looks like the Red Baron (helmet, sunglasses, hair blowing in the wind).

The Red Baron

Some of the Muslim ladies ride side-saddle here…looks dangerous to me, I don’t know how they balance (and no helmets of course).

Curtis only drove on the wrong side of the road twice….we quickly remembered that right is wrong when we saw the traffic coming straight for us so our mantra that day simply became “LEFT!”

We saw a sign for a waterfall and decided to follow it, even though it meant leaving the paved road and maneuvering over a dusty bumpy one.

We had to hike into the waterfall which was fun. It was nice being near a stream, snaking our way through the jungle and jumping from rock to rock when the path led into the water. After about 30 minutes we were rewarded with a sheer cliff wall and a slight water trickle. No fall, just a trickle. I guess it’s the wrong season for waterfalls.

The best part about our hike though was that we saw 3 elephants taking some people on a trek. My first time seeing elephants and I couldn’t get over how huge they are. Absolutely enormous! Their poop was bigger than a soccer ball!

After our hike, one of the elephants was chained up to a tree (I really wanted to undo that chain from around his ankle and set him free!) but he seemed happy enough and waved his ears at us and put on a little show with his trunk. I (barely) resisted the urge to touch him since his handlers weren’t around. We will definitely be going on an elephant trek in the future!

My first elephant!

I spent one day at the spa in Lanta….soooooo amazing! I had a massage, followed by a coconut body scrub and a facial and then a manicure and pedicure. 3 ½ hours and all of that cost about $45! All of my services were performed outside under a beautiful tent with a nice breeze. I didn’t have to change locations or estheticians in between services, they all flowed together with a quick outdoor shower in between my body scrub and facial.

Curtis got a one hour massage on the beach for 300 baht ($9).

The swimming was awesome on Long Beach and had the most amazing sunsets ever!

Sunset on Long Beach

We found a great beachfront restaurant that made delicious thin crust pizzas called Mr. Wees (where we were served by various lady boys all 3 times we went there). Our favorite restaurant was on the road called Cookies and Cream (which you won’t find in a guidebook). The Thai food was outstanding and the service was a welcome relief. The Thai family who owns it basically cook for you in front of their home and the food is so fresh and tasty. They even give you complimentary pineapple for dessert and the meals and beer are dirt cheap.

The restaurants in town near the pier are really cool. There’s a row of them all on stilts over the water with lots of colorful hanging baskets.

My fave pic that I've ever taken!

One night we found a little bar (outdoor of course!) at the very end of the beach that played kick ass music. After ordering our beers, they brought over a game of Connect 4 to keep us amused and we played and drank for hours! The resident expert, who’s name was Boo, took turns beating us (“pop pop, you lose”) but on the rare occasions that I beat him, I gloated even more.

After nine days on Lanta, we were ready to move on. There were a lot of tourists and prices at most of the restaurants along the beach were too inflated. We were more than ready for a change of scene so we hopped on a big boat and came back to the mainland.

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Ko Libong http://www.flashpackingwife.com/ko-libong/ http://www.flashpackingwife.com/ko-libong/#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2008 13:57:45 +0000 http://www.flashpackingwife.com/?p=7 We spent 8 nights on Ko Libong at the Libong Beach Resort, which has a very Robinson Crusoe like feel to it. It really felt like we had traveled to the end of the Earth by the time we got there.

Beach at Libong

After our overnight train from Bangkok and a 4 hour stop over in Trang, we made our way to our first island in Thailand, but not without getting a little lost first. While Curtis was at the internet café for 3 hours, I had plenty of time to wander around town. Buying some books for some serious beach reading was a high priority so armed with my Lonely Planet I managed to find my way to both a new and a used bookstore. At Ani’s books I made the mistake of having a conversation with the European owner who asked where I was heading. I replied, “Ko Lipe” and he was very helpful in providing me with directions on how to get there.

So when I collected Curtis from the internet café, and found a tuk tuk (a Thai man actually helped me wave one down and didn’t even try to get money out of me), I told Curtis that I knew exactly how to get to where we were going and I had the directions written down.

When I had made the reservation for our accommodations, they offered to pick us up for 700 baht but that sounded like too much so we were determined to get there on our own for much cheaper.

We took the tuk tuk to the bus station (40 baht), got on the right bus (120 baht) and about 30 minutes into the 2 hour bus ride, Curtis was sure we were going in the wrong direction (again with the help of the Lonely Planet) so we got off at the next stop. We managed to cross the street, hoping to get a taxi back to Trang but there were none in sight. We happened to be in front of a jewelry store and the 3 women working there took pity on us and called a friend to come and pick and pick us up for an agreed upon price of 180 baht (just under $6).

We only had to wait about 30 minutes (very good by Thai standards) for our “taxi” which turned out to be some guy in an old Sedan from the ‘70’s with a carpeted dash board. He drove us to the minibus station in Trang where we were able to purchase our ticket for the Hat Yao pier to take us to the correct island.

“Ko” in Thai means island and with so many that start with an “L”, I had said the wrong one to the guy in the bookstore.

The minibus (120 baht) was crowded but air conditioned (yeah!) and ours was the last stop (about an hour’s drive). We took a long tail boat (another 100 baht) to the island with a bunch of Thais (mostly Muslim women) and on the other side discovered the only means of transportation were motorbike taxis with a posted rate of 100 baht to any of the 3 resorts.

We had no idea how far our resort was from the pier but didn’t think it was possible that we’d be able to ride on the back of a motorbike with our huge packs. The small Thai drivers assured us that it was no problem. We wore our small packs on our backs, with our big packs resting in front of the driver and each had our own motorcycle taxi. Curtis managed to get some footage of it with his camera (I was riding on the bike in front of him).

Ko Libong is a big island so there was no way we would have been able to walk and riding on a bike was actually pretty fun. The only nervous time I had was when my driver seemed to speed up a little while a rooster was crossing the road and I really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it in time not to be road kill. They can run pretty fast when they have to!

Going through the villages, the kids would shout out “hello” to us and ask us where we had come from.

Arriving at the Libong Beach Resort for our 800 baht a night bungalow with an ocean view was like heaven. It was absolutely perfect! (Posted rate for the ocean view bungalows is 1000 baht but I got the 800 baht per night weekly rate). The two Thai women who run the place are very sweet.

When all was said and done it ended up costing us 760 baht to get there….but we’d had an adventure along the way! (it’s not actually fun getting “lost” in that kind of heat with those heavy packs, but it was pretty short lived and something we’ll always remember).

There’s not much to do on Ko Libong which was part of the reason we loved it so much. After the chaos of Bangkok and how hectic how lives were at home for the last month, a quiet tropical paradise was exactly what we were looking for.

Swing on the beach

The water was great for swimming when the tide was in (too rocky when the tide was out). Some people commented that it felt like bath water, but it was nice and calm and still refreshing even though it was so warm.We met a wonderful couple from France who asked if we would like to share a boat with them one day to explore the island and try to see a dugong (an endangered mammal that looks a sea cow). We spent about 4 ½ hours exploring the island (no dugong sightings) but we saw plenty of birds and mangroves growing out of the sea. We stopped for our fruit snack at the Wildlife sanctuary and for a quick dip in deeper waters before heading home.

on our boat ride

We met up with Chantal and Alain a few nights later for beer and to discuss some of the other islands they had visited. They had spent two months in Thailand and were at the end of their trip. Their English was definitely better than our French but there were still some words they didn’t know in English and it was fun speaking with them. We taught them a few words, they taught us a few, and some of our high school French started coming back. They laughed at our harsh pronunciation of “r” and taught us how to make the “u” sound they use. We hope to see them again when we visit Bordeaux, they were a lot of fun.

Our bathroom!

Besides a lot of reading, swimming, eating and sleeping, we also took a few walks through the nearest fishing village. The kids loved saying hello and so did the old women, some of the others were a little more shy. We must have walked through one evening at bath time because it seemed almost everyone was bathing or had recently bathed. One guy was wearing a big pink towel wrapped around his waist while riding his motorbike.

There were a group of kids playing outside in their pajamas and after the chorus of “hellos”, one little girl said I was beautiful. I was glad I brought stickers with me and when I started handing them out, all the kids rushed over. They definitely knew the word for stickers too!

We had a surprise visitor one night. We were laying in bed reading when I felt something land on my head right by my ear and run across my hair. I could actually hear the “thunk, thunk, thunk” sound of whatever it was running over my head. I sat up and flicked my hair and asked Curtis to check it. There was nothing there. We were standing up and he thought it probably just a gecko but we didn’t see anything on the bed. I told him to look under my pillow and when he moved the pillow, against the white of the bed linens was a HUGE black spider. HUGE. If I hadn’t been so scared, I would have laughed at the expression on Curtis’s face. It was a mixture of surprise, fear and the horrible realization that he would be the one who would have to kill it. The spider ran across the bed and onto the floor near our backpacks. Curtis wanted to put on some pants (I guess killing spiders in the nude brings out a whole new fear) so he grabbed some shorts and then looked for a good weapon. His yoga mat was the best he could find. He pushed the bags away from the wall and waited for a good shot. We were standing on the bed and he proceeded to beat that spider to death. He really did bang on it a few more times than necessary but we wanted to be sure of its demise. It looked like it was a dangerous spider because of the sheer size of it. We were both pretty freaked out with the heebie jeebies and used the bug net that night to sleep.

Despite our run in with the arachnid, we thought we might stay another week on our island paradise of Libong but when a big group from Singapore showed up and started lighting firecrackers at indetermined intervals (causing one to jump suddenly), our quiet paradise was ruined.

One night over drinks with a fun German couple we met, the people from Singapore set off a fireworks display for a full 10 minutes of loud noise (and not much sizzle). When we asked them what they were celebrating, they said every day is a celebration and they are not allowed to do that at home. I guess they were enjoying the freedom of making as much noise as they wanted.

We had a really great night with Lutz & Lena, lots of laughs and a little too much Singha because my head was feeling slightly achy the next day. Over breakfast, when two more random firecrackers went off, we decided right then and there that it was time to leave. L&L were leaving at noon so in order to share their longtail, we packed and checked out in under an hour. It’s cheaper the more people you have in a boat and there were six in ours so our ride back to Hat Yao pier was nice and cheap.

Once there, we bought our tickets for the fast ferry (Tigerline) to Ko Lanta. The journey was pleasant; air conditioned comfortable seats with English movies was a nice way to pass a couple of hours.

On to the next island….

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Train to Trang http://www.flashpackingwife.com/train-to-trang/ http://www.flashpackingwife.com/train-to-trang/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2008 04:13:09 +0000 http://www.flashpackingwife.com/?p=5 We caught an overnight train to Trang and found the experience quite pleasant!

Before getting on the train

We had a 1st class compartment which consisted of a “couch like” seating area that turned into bunk beds, two fold out little tables and a small sink with aircon. The stinky squat toilet was down a narrow corridor (you should have seen Curtis squeezing through, one Thai laughed at how he had to scrunch his shoulders together to make himself smaller). While in the toilet, I just pretended I was camping and it wasn’t so bad.

squat toilet on the train

They brought our meals to our berth and sleeping was kind of soothing with the motion of the train. We played cards and drank Thai beer after it was too dark to see anything out the windows. A great way to travel!

Curtis on the train

We are heading for the island of Ko Libong today.

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Bangkok http://www.flashpackingwife.com/bangkok/ http://www.flashpackingwife.com/bangkok/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2008 04:07:34 +0000 http://www.flashpackingwife.com/?p=4 Bangkok is by far and away the most different city I have ever been to. It takes some getting used to. I hated it the first day, but the more time we spent there, the more I came to like it. The touts are a real pain and once you get over the fact that people are not being friendly when they ask you, “where you go?” or “where you from” or “where you staying” and realize that you don’t have to answer their questions (as Canadians we are so polite), life in Bangkok becomes a whole lot easier.

Bangkok traffic

view from our hotel room

Highlights from our 5 days in Bangkok:

  • one hour foot and leg massages for $9
  • visiting Lamphini Park and seeing two HUGE reptiles that we guess were comodo dragons or similar. Even the Thais were stopping to take pictures. They were the grossest, scariest things I have ever seen walking around a park. They were as big as we are and after they finished snacking on a carcass of some sort, they went into the lake and I watched one of them swim and then crawl out into a big drain….I get shivers just thinking about it
  • the food. OMG, the food here is amazing!
  • buying a Hello Kitty watch for $3 (I’ll be lucky if it lasts for 4 months, but boy is it cute!)
  • buying a pair of Diesel jeans and having them custom altered right in the shop for only $21 (we are giants here and finding large enough sizes in clothes is a job in itself!)

My hello kitty watch

 

Flowers outside of a temple

 

Curtis at the temple

It’s funny how you get such pleasure from seeing familiar places like 7 eleven or Starbucks but it’s nice to see things that we have at home.

Some major differences:

  • You have to buy toilet paper or pay to get in to most public toilets. It’s always a treat when you find one that’s free and has TP.
  • Little things work opposite. Turning on the tap is a downward motion instead of up.
  • Squat toilets. Like camping….only indoors!
  • There’s a crazy spray hose in all the toilets. I have not and will not try spraying myself with it.
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