This post is going to consist of pictures because they obviously speak louder than any words I could come up with for this magnificent place.
Included in our stay at Rosy Guesthouse was a pick up from the airport. It was very exciting to see a man holding a sign with my name on it.
Our tuk tuk drive was pleasant although a little dusty and our first impression of Cambodia was that it was a peaceful, beautiful country. It just had a good vibe to it and the traffic was nothing like we had experienced in Thailand and Bali. But after spending 4 days in an air-conditioned, completely bug free hotel room in KL, we are back to Bugville.
We received a warm welcome from this big spider who was hanging out in our bathroom.
A few months ago, our first instinct would have been to kill. Immediately. Maybe the Buddhists were rubbing off on us or maybe we have become slightly braver from our months of travel. Whatever the reason, we decided to try and gently remove the spider from our room without unnecessary bloodshed. His as well as ours of course.
Our spider removal plan included a little wicker basket, a small plastic bag and a Time magazine. Curtis managed to get the plastic bag covered wicker basket over our eight-legged friend while I tried to slide the Time magazine between the basket and the wall without the spider escaping. We got it to the window and threw him out.
After breakfast and a nap (we had been up since 3:30 am to catch our early morning flight and arrived in Cambodia at 8:00 am), we ventured out to explore our neighborhood. We had dinner at the Butterfly Garden restaurant, which looks exactly as you would picture it. Tables scattered throughout a garden that is filled with butterflies. Best of all, the proceeds from the restaurant support local charities.
After dinner and a little wandering, we stopped for beers at a pub/restaurant in an old French colonial looking building. Seated at our bistro table a few steps up from the sidewalk we enjoyed three large bottles of Angkor beer for the low price of $4.50. While enjoying said beers, there were a host of grasshoppers, flies and some other unknown black bugs that would occasionally land on us, only to be swatted off.
And that’s when I felt a little tickly on my right boob. I peered down my shirt and found a black bug in my bra! I wasted no time in getting the bug out of my bra, although in the process I bared my nipple to Curtis and anyone else who was lucky enough to see it. And I didn’t care in the slightest….my motto is, “No bugs in the bra, no matter what!” That’s my new motto anyways.
The next day at breakfast, Rosy’s resident dog Pickle showed us what his favorite activity is:
Simon is the driver of the bike and also the British owner of Rosy’s Guesthouse. I would highly recommend this place to anyone going to Siem Riep – they’ve got great English breakfasts, free wifi, pool and other games (like Connect Four – which if my favorite game of all on this trip. Probably because I keep kicking everyone’s butt!), friendly staff and spacious and clean rooms.
Next up: Angkor Wat
Although I could have easily spent another few days to a week in Bali, I looked forward to returning to KL. It was familiar. We were staying at the same hotel and knew how to get around the city. We were also able to do our own laundry there and believe it or not, that was very exciting!
First on my agenda for KL was to do the skybridge tour at the Petronas Twin Towers. Not only was it free, but it was way high up in the sky with a great view of the city – and I like heights!
You have to go to the towers in the morning as they only offer a limited number of tickets and only for the same day. We got there about 10:00 am and were slated into the 4:15 pm tour.
The twin towers are 88 storeys with the skybridge connecting the towers at the 41st floor. It took 41 seconds (one second per floor) in the elevator to reach it. The ride on the way down is even quicker! The double decker skybridge was put in to act as a connector (and an escape route in case of emergency) between the two towers which house mainly offices. Over 36,910 tons of steel were used and 77,000 sq meters of glass. Let me tell you, it’s impressive.
We also went to the Aquarium one day where we got to pet some little bamboo sharks. Even though they are harmless, it was still scary sticking our hands in to that tank. They felt like slimy silk – it was strange.
They have the largest underwater tunnel in Malaysia. You walk through surrounded by glass on three sides and watch big manta rays, sharks, eels and other fish swim over your head and all around you. I admit that I had a memory of Jaws 3 where the glass breaks on the tunnel…but we were safe in our water shrouded world. It is quite something to see the sharks teeth inches away from your head. We couldn’t resist this picture of two sharks sleeping, one with his fin over the other in a little cuddle.
The rest of our sharks through the glass photos didn’t turn out. When we emerged from the tunnel, they had a little section where you could get a picture of yourself drawn while you wait. A man sat down to get his face drawn while his burqa clad wife sat and waited. We found that a little ironic…and I also saw my chance to ask for her picture. I didn’t know when else I would be able to get my photo taken with someone wearing a burqa so I went over and asked her. She was surprised and started giggling a little – then she asked her husband and he jokingly said that they would charge me for the photo. Even though her face was covered, I could tell she was smiling and she seemed very pleased that I wanted a photo with her.
I figured it was my turn to ask someone for a photo after the dozens of people who had asked for mine. I had so many people (especially Muslim girls) ask for my photo in Thailand and Bali and some Indian men ask for it on the skybridge (they included Curtis in their request). This woman was very sweet – shy and giggly – and I thought she had beautiful eyes.
We used the KL transit system because the trains were a cheap, relatively easy way to get around the city. They’ve got 5 different lines and sometimes you have to transfer between them – but after our first transfer which involved crossing a street and following the crowd through an underground tunnel – we had it figured out. They’ve got station names like Masjid Jamek, Sultan Ismail, Setiawangsa and my personal favorite – Dang Wangi.
Our four days in KL flew by and pretty soon it was time for our flight to Cambodia.
Our drive to Ubud was filled with breathtaking scenery.
We stopped for lunch again in Candidasa where we took a few shots of the passing motorists (we never tire of seeing how many people they can fit on a motorbike) and went for a walk around a little lake where some of the local boys were fishing. We came upon a little sliver of a bay of turquoise water where a family was hanging out in a hut surrounded by boats.
Note the one kid who’s fast asleep – not uncommon!
We arrived in Ubud without managing to get lost (a great feat when armed with a vague map which forced us to rely on street signs for directions) but once there, it was very difficult to find where we wanted to stay. Ubud is filled with narrow streets which often have “do not enter” signs posted that lead you to believe a two way street suddenly becomes a one way (which was further confusing when you saw motorbikes ignore them or people start suddenly honking at you). We had picked our spot for the night from our travel bible – the Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a shoestring. Once we found it (Sama’s Cottages), we settled in and were pleasantly surprised when the owner brought us a big thermos of tea to enjoy on our patio.
After our tea, we set off to explore Ubud, determined to see as much as we could with our only night there. We went to the rice paddy walk first, wanting to stretch our legs which were still extremely sore after our climb, and also because it was free. Free entertainment is always welcome.
The rice paddy walk was great. A trail through the rice paddies for as far the eye could see – we were surrounded by green and flocks of ducks. Locals who had been working in the fields passed us on their way home for the evening.
We came upon a restaurant in the middle of it all and were intrigued by it – they served only locally grown food that was either grown right there in their garden or their neighbors gardens – and it was organic when possible. We decided to have dinner there and were delighted with the freshest pesto sauce ever – enjoying chicken pesto pasta and fruit smoothies. The sun went down and a huge orange harvest moon came out to bathe the paddies and light our way back along the trail after dinner. We had to step off the path whenever a motorbike approached and Curtis commented that one of us was going to leave there muddy. We were almost out when I stepped aside for a bike and right into the mud. It took me several minutes to be able to remove my foot without losing my flip flop – the mud was sucking me down into it’s boggy depths. It was a flashback to one of our hikes through a Costa Rican rain forest – where I had also emerged with one brown foot.
We made it back to town in time to see one of the shows – which is all that mattered. This was our last chance to see a Balinese dance performance. There were several performing that night and we picked one that sounded good.
I personally didn’t care for it. The music was too high pitched, the incense overwhelmingly cloying and the”dancing” just plain weird. It mostly consisted of them doing hand gestures while bugging out their eyes to convey their feelings. The costumes were about the only redeeming quality. I was following along with the program just waiting for it to be over. Curtis seemed to enjoy it though – he got a kick out of taking pictures.
After it ended, we went for a drink and then back to our room. The next day after breakfast was served to us on our patio, we had about an hour before check out to go in search of a kite.
Ubud is a mecca for anything arty that you want to buy – think Granville Island times a hundred. Ceramics, carvings, paintings, jewelry, clothes and all sorts of other things. They have a market so we thought that would be the best place to go in search of a kite. We wanted a dragon kite like the one we had seen in Sanur but our search didn’t turn up anything nearly as nice and we left empty handed. The market itself was buzzing with activity and we were sorry not to have taken our camera along. There were people dressed up carrying all sorts of things on their heads (it looked like they were having some sort of offering or worship service) right alongside the tourists and shopkeepers trying to hawk their wares. We saw one old lady shopkeeper who was dressed in only her skirt and a bra – no shirt.
On our drive out of town, I did manage a few shots of some them along with a hidden gem we had passed tucked away behind a restaurant. That’s the thing about Bali – there are all these quiet beautiful spots tucked in with the chaos.
We left Ubud wishing we had more time there. There was so much to see and do and we promised that we’d definitely go back. We found our way back to Kuta to return the jeep and spend our last night before an early morning flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
Gunung Agung is Bali’s highest volcano, standing at 3,142 meters (that’s 10,305 feet!)
We had an awesome view of it from the beach in Amed (that’s it behind Curtis in the picture on my last post) and here it is again.
Curtis decided that climbing this volcano was something that we had to do…I wasn’t quite as convinced and suggested that we climb Gunug Batur which stands at only 1717 meters. But Curtis was convinced that we should conquer the big one. You definitely need a guide for this climb and ours was the best. Katuk picked us up at 2:00 am.
On the drive there we past several night markets that were bustling with people. I was surprised at how many people were out shopping in the middle of the night and Katuk explained that there are several markets throughout the night and day. At each market, the price of the goods goes up a little more and at the first night market, goods are usually bartered back and forth instead of bought. So the earlier people get there, the cheaper things are.
Armed with flashlights, we started our ascent at 3:30 am. This was going to be Katuk’s 105th climb to the summit. This is us right before we started, still looking a little sleepy on only 4 hours of shut eye.
The first part of our journey was easy, just lots of steps up to a temple. After that, we headed into the jungle portion where a narrow path had us hiking in single file line. There was lots of climbing over fallen trees or crouching under them. When we would come to a clear spot in the trees, the stars were absolutely amazing. A black sky filled with thousands of bright stars without any interference from city lights. We even saw a few shooting stars!
We were just about out of the jungle portion when the sun started to rise.
After the jungle portion came the tough part – the rocky portion. This part seemed to go on forever and had a very surreal feel to it. We were surrounded by volcanic rock in all directions but also had a view of the entire island – it almost felt like we were walking on some kind of desert moon. A very steep one.
As we neared the top, the terrain got worse and we were literally rock climbing – finding the safest spots for our toes and fingers to pull ourselves up . At the very top there was a spot where the Hindus lit incense and made offerings to the gods. There was some rice and fruit and 6 dead white ducks that I stepped over in surprise. Katuk said a prayer and offered a jaffle (a toasted sandwich) while Curtis and I rested and took in the scenery. We had both been expecting the top to be flat and to be able to see the other side of the volcano but instead were met with a jagged edge that gave way to a Grand Canyon like crater. The top blew off the mountain in 1963.
After a rest and a snack, we were ready to make our decent. I had a moment of panic when I looked down and saw just how high up we were really were and how steep the incline was. Not to mention all those rocks which would make for a nasty landing should I misstep and fall.
The panic subsided and we had a great time on the way back down. Katuk knew the best route and pointed out all of the slippery areas to avoid and even held my hand when I needed a little extra help on a particularly trickery part.
We encountered about 20 monkeys who were on their way up the mountain as were on our way down. They were heading up to eat the food that had been left as offerings at the top. Katuk gave one of the monkeys a banana which he happily ate.
A few hours into our descent, I started feeling weaker and weaker as my legs began to give out on me. Obviously going on a hike of this epic proportion was not the best idea after 6 days of severe dysentery…but I had made it up to hour 10 in fine form…the last 2 hours were not so. It got to the point that I literally couldn’t walk without experiencing severe pain with every step. Both of my big toes felt broken (they were only severely bruised…still are in fact completely black under and around the nails) and my left quad muscle felt like something had popped. We were making slow progress and it got worse when it got to the point that I was unable to take another step without Curtis or Katuk’s help (and sometimes both at once). I just couldn’t stay upright without holding on to someone. At one point Katuk carried both backpacks and I leaned my weight onto Curtis’s shoulders….it was slow moving and painful. It was the never ending descent….I was half hoping the volcano would just erupt so it would all be over. I was also fantasizing about helicopter rescues no matter what the cost.
But alas, I did not die on that mountain! We finally made it back to the temple and down to the van.
All of us promptly fell asleep on the hour plus ride back to our hotel (we had a driver pick us up as Katuk’s wife had taken their vehicle to go to the market).
This 12 hour hike was honestly one of the toughest and most rewarding things I have ever done. It was mentally much harder than either of the marathons I’ve done. Even the last marathon that I did with my leg injury was easier than the last couple of hours of this hike. I had months to mentally and physically prepare for those marathons and I knew what kind of pain I was in for during the 2005 one. Also, if you do collapse or run into trouble during a marathon, help is just at the side of the road. The only way for me to get down this mountain was to do it on my own by placing one foot in front of the other no matter how much it hurt and I simply wanted to stop. Knowing I couldn’t was a tough mental game. Curtis and Katuk were so awesome though – so helpful and understanding and positive.
We spent another two days in Amed recovering (Curtis couldn’t drive our standard jeep – he was too sore for the clutch). Ping pong was a fun diversion as were beach front massages and relaxing in the pool.
Looking back on the experience now, I remember all the good parts of the climb and the beauty of how breathtaking it was much more than I remember the pain (well, that’s not entirely true but close enough). It took a full week for our legs to stop hurting…both of us found it difficult to walk and stairs were a nightmare (I used the old trick of walking down them backwards which doesn’t hurt as much but sure gives people something to stare at). Getting up from sitting at the table we looked like we were 90 years old. We helped each other hobble and laughed at the extent of just how sore we were.
Next stop: Ubud!
The currency in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah. The exchange rate is approximately 10,000 to 1. So the 50,000 bill is only worth $5 and the 1,000 bill is only 10 cents. All of the bills are large and you usually have a stack of 50,000 and 100,000 bills. This made it difficult to withdraw money at the ATM because the ATM limit was either 500,000 or 1,000,000 (which is only $100!) Getting charged $3 every time we made a withdrawal, we were of course trying to minimize these and finally found a currency converter (guy on the street with a little booth) who took our travelers cheques and gave us a good rate so we didn’t have to bother with the ATM fees anymore. Imagine withdrawing 1,000,000 from the ATM at home and still having millions more left in your account. It felt kind of neat.
The roads in Bali are very narrow, there is just enough room for two cars to pass each other and that’s it. There were no sidewalks or curbs or even much space between the road and the buildings. Everything there was built so close to the road – stores and houses. This made passing slow moving trucks difficult and traffic pretty crazy at times having to dodge pedestrians, chickens, dogs, oncoming traffic and passing motorbikes.
Other than that though, the drive from Kuta to Amed was absolutely beautiful. We were blown away at the beauty of the rice paddies, especially the tiered ones. The different shades of green and the patterns they made were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Everywhere you look in Bali, you also see this amazing stone work. It’s everywhere and I never tired of it’s beauty. This picture was taken while we were driving so it’s not the best but this was the type of thing we kept passing. I guess we got used to it because I don’t have many photos to show of it from our drive.
We arrived in Amed and checked into the Amed Café which was by far and away our favorite accommodations so far. Our room was beautiful and the staff were beyond nice. We had a great pool, a ping pong table (where we spent many competitive hours and became quite good), a beach front restaurant and a little store next door. The cleaning staff were amazing too – they even folded our clothes for us! Breakfast each morning was included and we got all of this for only $15 a night!
Amed has a very calm beach with excellent snorkeling and diving. Curtis did two dives while we there that he really enjoyed. Unfortunately, I got really sick while we were there (I’m guessing the culprit was a salad I ate in Kuta) and I was bed ridden for a few days and had to take anti-biotics to clear up a very nasty stomach ailment that lasted 6 days. Eating gave me terrible stomach cramps and I couldn’t keep anything in me…it was definitely the dysentery diet….I lost a lot of weight.
When I finally got better, we took a short drive along the Eastern coast.
Coming up: Our epic climb of Bali’s highest volcano.
We got to Bali with Air Asia where we got sit wherever we wanted (at the very front on the way back!)
We spent our first two nights in Bali in a quiet little beach town called Sanur. Our room was absolutely huge, the marble bathroom alone was bigger than some places we’ve slept. The town had some nice little restaurants but the beach wasn’t exactly what Curtis was looking for.
Our Lonely Planet had said that Sanur’s beach was among Bali’s best but after seeing it, I wondered how they came to that conclusion. If they meant the best beach for walking along the promenade (while avoiding the touts) or best beach for fishing (tons of locals were thigh deep in the water with their fishing rods), then they were right. But it was not a surf beach or even a good swimming beach so we headed to Kuta on day three for the real waves.
Kuta was a very touristy town. There were heaps of people everywhere, especially at the beach. We stayed at a place called the New Arena Hotel which looked really lovely and fancy from the outside and the rooms were nice too. We had prepaid for 3 nights upon check in. We had met a couple on the bus from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur and we ran into them at our hotel.
Our first night in our room, we discovered big fat black bed bugs. We killed about 10 of them (which were filled with blood, having just munched on Curtis) but soon realized that our mattress was infested and there was no way we would be able to sleep on it. We summoned the guy from the front desk who came to our room to investigate. He told us that the hotel was full but that he could bring us a new mattress. This was about 1:30 am and by 2:00 am after he and another guy had lugged our old mattress out of the room and a new one in, we discovered that the new mattress was infested with the disgusting little creatures as well.
Curtis suggested that we bring up some lounge chairs from the pool and sleep on those and that was when it came out that there was in fact another room available but it was a “superior” room and since our original room was only a “standard” room, they wanted us to pay twice as much.
Up to this point I had been sleepily sitting out on our 3rd floor patio trying to read and stay awake while waiting for the bed bug incident to get cleaned up. After hearing this utter bullshit I snapped. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen me really tired but it is not a pretty site when something is standing between me and my beckoning bed of sweet dreams. I came in from the patio and proceeded to lecture the poor guy about customer service and how no where else in the world would they dream of asking you for more money to sleep in a room that was free of bed bugs. I explained that it was the middle of the night, that I was tired and there was no way I was paying more for the “luxury” of sleeping in a room on the ground floor by the pool as opposed to one on the third floor. Frankly, he looked a little frightened when I was finished and said that we could sleep in the “superior” room and talk to his manager in the morning. Curtis left to go inspect the new bed, came back to report it was free from bugs and we moved our stuff down there and finally got some sleep. Our new room was in fact, almost exactly the same as our old room. Our old room was actually a little bigger and had a queen size bed but this new “superior” room had 2 single beds (which we pushed together of course).
The whole bed bug fiasco forced us to sleep in and miss the free breakfast which was included with the price of our room (standard practice in Bali). We were prepared for a big fight at the reception desk but they actually apologized and said no problem about changing rooms.
That night after a day at the beach and dinner and a movie at an open air restaurant that showed free movies on a big screen, we headed back to our hotel to find a pool party in full swing. It was after midnight and the pool party had moved from the water to pool side where the music blared and European and Aussie surf types entertained us with their renditions of Hotel California (now changed to “living it up at the Hotel New Arena” and other clever parodies. This was a step up from their earlier pool shenanigans when there was a group of 8 or so European guys all in a group hug in the pool singing some kind of team song. Needless to say, it was another late night….of course missing breakfast again.
Kuta had lots of cheap places to eat with great food but I was sick of the young party vibe (especially the one that happened right outside our door) and ready to see the rest of Bali. We rented a jeep for $12 a day (including insurance!) and set off with our maps to explore the rest of the island.
I felt like a real traveler today. A real backpacker.
Today was the first time I’ve had my 50 pound backpack strapped to my back for quite a distance (Curtis usually carries it for me because it’s never been further than 50 feet). We left our hotel and had to walk about a block and a half to the first train station. Up several flights of stairs to the platform and then two stops later we got off, made our way across a busy street and down into the next subway system. I’m now sitting at KL Sentral with our huge packs while Curtis carries on to another station to run an errand before we take a bus to the airport. We’ve decided to take advantage of the price and lack of taxes to purchase a new camera here since our beloved waterproof Pentax has decided it is not so waterproof after all.
When I took my pack off, I literally felt 50 pounds lighter but my muscles are still shaking slightly from carrying all that weight. It’s a great workout!
We have spent the last two days in Kuala Lumpur and have enjoyed being in a big city again. KL has some amazing buildings. We never tired of gazing at the Twin Towers – at night they look like diamonds sparkling in the sky.
We spent one day on foot exploring the city. The Twin Towers, the park surrounding it, the huge mall (catching Iron Man at the cinema a day before it came out back home), going to the observation deck at the KL Tower (the fourth highest in the world). We got to the KL Tower after dark so it might have been more exciting to see the city during the day. We enjoyed looking through the telescope, bringing the cars and people on the street into clear view – spying is fun! We even managed to spot our hotel.
The hotel we were staying at was great. It’s called Tune Hotel and the concept is 5 star beds & showers at 1 star prices. Our bed and pillows were the comfiest we’ve ever experienced, even better than the Pan Pacific or Westin Bayshore in Vancouver (at $20 a night instead of $350). It was great taking a warm shower again, we haven’t had hot water since we were in Bangkok. The shower head was one of those big rain shower ones too. You don’t get any extras for free though, you have to rent your towels (great fluffy white ones for about $1.60 each) and buy 5 or 12 hours of aircon (we got 5 hours for $1.50 and ended up using only 3 hours of it over 3 nights. There’s a big fan above the bed so the temperature is very comfortable). We loved the concept of not paying for anything we didn’t need and just purchasing any extras that we would actually use.
The lobby had a 7/11, a subway, some other coffee place and an area with computers that offered free internet. I would highly recommend anyone looking for an upscale budget hotel to stay at Tune Hotels in Kuala Lumpur – you get a lot of bang for your buck!
For the most part, KL is pricey. Dinner and drinks out can cost the same as home but movies and transit are a little cheaper. It’s definitely expensive compared to Thailand but it’s a beautiful city with all the modern conveniences one would ever need. And, best of all there are cheap flights to Bali from KL with Air Asia!
The monorail/subway system makes it easy to get around the city and we’ve enjoyed the architecture here as well.
Our last night in Ao Nang, Thailand, I was feeling a little sad to be leaving but as soon as we crossed the border into Malaysia, I loved what I could see through the tinted windows on the bus. Everything was so green! Rice fields, rolling hills, distant mountains and tons of tropical trees.
Our journey was a long one. We got picked up at 6:20 am in Ao Nang and took a minivan to Hat Yai, arriving there about 11:30 am. We had until 2:00 pm before our bus left so we grabbed a light lunch (fish ball and noodle soup) not far from the station. Walking the few blocks back after lunch, we encountered our first beggars. A few older women and one small child, two of which got up and came grabbing at my arms. A little creepy actually. We just kept walking and they didn’t pursue us.
At the Thai/Malaysia border we had to get off the bus and walk through Immigration with our passports. There were four well-dressed Malaysian women in front of us and when one of them removed her dark sunglasses for the Immigration official, we saw that she had fresh scars on her eye lids. A little trip to Thailand for a cheap eye lift.
At one of the rest stops in Malaysia, Curtis ordered a cappuccino and it came in a plastic bag with a straw. He found it super hilarious.
We’ve experienced a lot of firsts traveling. First time to get served by a waiter with a gun strapped to his side (restaurant in Ao Nang. Turned out he owns the restaurant and is also with the travel police), first train trip, first long tail boat, etc. but there was nothing quite like seeing someone in a burqa for the first time. There are a lot of Muslims in Thailand and even more in Kuala Lumpur – most women here wear head scarves. But it is different walking down the street and seeing a woman in covered in black from head to toe with only her eyes showing. Her husband (dressed in Western clothes) was taking a picture of her. Then in the mall, which is filled with every store you can imagine – from high end name brand clothing and shoes to electronics to absolutely everything in between – to see fully clad burqa wearing women shopping was a little startling. One of them was so covered up that she was even wearing sunglasses (inside the mall) and black gloves on her hands. Of course, I’m sure it was more of an unsettling experience for me because I just finished reading the book, A Thousand Splendid Suns (one of the best books I’ve ever read! I highly recommend it!) so right now view the burqa as a very oppressive thing for women, especially if her husband is making her wear it (which is how it worked in the book). I just couldn’t imagine wearing something that was so limiting – you can’t play sports or go for a run in a burqa, and you definitely wouldn’t be able to go swimming. Oh well, I try to respect others customs and religions, even if I don’t understand them. I’m very glad I was born in Canada and raised in the time of “girl power”.
Next up: Bali! Stay tuned.
Note: I wrote this post just after reading a book in which women were treated terribly in the time of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now that a few weeks have passed, I’m not as freaked out by the whole burqa thing and do not mean to offend anyone who chooses to wear one.
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.
I couldn’t seem to get that Dr. Seuss line out of my head when we were snorkeling off of the Phi Phi Islands. It was truly the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve snorkeled with the sea turtles in Barbados and at the Great Barrier Reef – plus Hunama Bay in Honolulu). The water here was so clear – an amazing turquoise color.
There were indeed red and blue fish plus everything in between. One of my favorites was the multi-colored fish (no idea of the name, but there were a decent size). These ones were yellow, green, blue and purple – really beautiful all mixed together.
I wasn’t too crazy about the Barracuda looking ones, but they didn’t come near us.
At one point, Curtis and I were holding hands in our underwater world and realized we were in the centre of a complete circle of small fish. Thousands of silvery fish were swimming around us – we were the eye of their whirlpool hurricane.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures of our magical underwater experiences because our waterproof camera chose this day to go on the fritz. Hopefully we can get it fixed in Kuala Lumpur!
Tom took some pictures of our day on the speedboat tour which I’ll post later.
Besides swimming in the clear water and snorkeling at some amazing spots, we also visited the beach where the movie, The Beach, was filmed. We boated past a cave where they collent the nests for birds nest soup and drinks (something I will not be trying) and past a bunch of monkeys eating crabs in the trees on the shores of Monkey Bay.
I’d had enough of monkeys by then though, after we were almost attacked by some on a walk last week. We were at the beach here in Ao Nang, walking along a path up one of the cliffs (this spot is known for monkeys) and were carrying some small bananas and one pineapple on a stick (in a plastic wrapper). One of the monkeys approached and I handed him a banana. He ate it while one of his friends came down from the trees, looking for food. Curtis handed him a banana. We watched them eat (they make the most disgusting grunting sounds when they eat), and when “my” monkey was finished his, he reached out and grabbed my arm. I handed him another banana. When he finished that one, he reached out and grabbed my arm again. I broke off a small piece of the last banana I was holding and handed it to him. He threw it on the ground and grabbed my arm again.
This time I didn’t give him anything so he got down off the hand rail he was sitting on and half climbed, half reached up my body and stole the bag of pineapple I was holding. He took off and we watched him eat if up in a tree. When he was finished, he sniffed at his tail and licked off the pineapple juice.
That’s when we noticed a cute baby monkey swinging from tree to tree high up, getting closer and closer. We didn’t think anything of it at first, but then it was right above us and we realized it was aiming itself towards us. We walked away so it wouldn’t jump on our heads but it came down to the railing and started after us. We were out of food by this point but he obviously wasn’t aware of this fact, because he kept following us. Curtis tried to fend him off with a bag of books we were carrying but the monkey just reached out and tried to grab the bag. It followed us for several minutes before finally giving up.
On the walk back we found it eating a biscuit some other tourists had given it. They were snapping his picture while he ate and I warned them that he had chased us. These monkeys are cute from a distance but up close they are aggressive little bastards (bahstahds as one of the British girls said walking by). When they are grabbing at you and stealing stuff out of your hands or chasing after you…they are not so cute anymore.
We went elephant trekking at Nosey Parker’s, taking turns riding on the neck. When in Thailand, riding an elephant is something you’ve just got to do! The elephant had sparse, bristly hair with almost leather like skin. At one point, the elephants got frightened when one of the guides got stung by a bee and freaked out, thus freaking out the elephants. They trumpted loudly and it took awhile for them to calm down. Being on top of a scared, trumpting elephant was a little nerve wracking….I was afraid she might rear up and buck us off.
After our one hour ride on top, we fed them pineapple pieces (they take them straight out of your hand with their trunks).
And then we watched them bathe, which was fun.
After their bath it was time for lunch.
The Songkran Festival is a celebration of the Thai New Year. In some parts of the country, the festival lasts for three days to a full week but in Ao Nang, it was big for one day with a few die hards celebrating for 2 days. You pour (or shoot or spray) water onto others and it is considered good luck to get wet. Some people also paint clay on each other, usually on the face. Everybody takes part, the young to the old, Thais to the farangs (foreigners). Some of the Thais actually apologize as they pour water on you, but most take to it with the joy of battle….the day is one big party centered around the biggest water fight of the year.
The kids were some of the cutest participants.
Pick up trucks had huge vats of water to soak passengers of other vehicles as well as pedestrians.
“Shooting” people was fun!
Some of the Thais were armed with koolaid colored water.
This water was ice cold (as you can tell by the expression on my face!) It was a great way to keep cool but most of the water was a moderate temperature so when someone got you with the cold stuff, it was a shock.
Battling with the kids was great fun! They loved shooting the white girl.
There was lots of music and dancing in the streets. As the day wore on, some people were handing out beer (or consuming it), there were street vendors selling food and we spent the entire day walking around soaking wet and smiling. We finished up at a bar, taking turns playing pool with a seven year old (yes, you read that right!) Our egos stayed in tact since she didn’t actually beat us but a few games came pretty close. Songkran was a lot of fun and I’m glad we got to experience it!