Ao Nang – Part 1

We’ve been in Ao Nang for 2 weeks today – our longest stay in one place – with no plan to leave anytime soon. We’ve really settled in to living here.

Our wood and bamboo bungalow is simple but very comfortable. It sits about 4 feet off the ground on stilts and we’ve got a great front porch and nice bathroom. We’re next door neighbors with Curtis’s dad Tom and spend a lot of time on our porches visiting, mostly eating fruit and drinking coffee or beer.




The pool at Green View Village is awesome and we usually have it all to ourselves for our morning and evening swims. We’re surrounded by lush greenery – lots of trees, shrubs and flowers – with majestic limestone cliffs jutting miles high. A Koi pond greets you at the entrance to the open air restaurant (where they serve real coffee. Yeah!)



There are some great sidewalk eateries close by. One of our first discoveries was one where all the locals eat. You can choose from a bowl of noodles with different soup/sauce toppings (the green curry is my favorite), fried chicken and plates of rice with chicken. You sit family style beside the Thais with a big bowl of fresh herbs and a plate of different toppings (hard boiled eggs, small dried fish, cucumbers, sprouts and all sorts of other things to add to your soup) in front of you. If you are still hungry after that, they also make great coconut waffles for dessert. This feast can be had for about $3 for two.

We went there 3 days in a row and the ladies got to know us, saying “see you tomorrow” as we were leaving. One evening a Thai family was sitting beside us and the grandma was enjoying chatting to me even though I couldn’t understand a word. Her sons spoke English and asked me a few questions and next thing I knew they were taking our picture. The grandma had a huge smile and was pressing in close beside me for the shot. It wouldn’t be my last photo request….

One day we went on a great tour of 4 islands. Barracuda’s Tours picked us up at our bungalow at 9:00 am and took us to a long tail boat. There were about 30 people and our first stop was Tup Island where we snorkeled. The water was clear and the fish were amazing. I got a little freaked out when I saw a water snake but it didn’t get too close and I swam the opposite way in search of the more Nemo looking fish. I got “chased” by a very curious pink fish and schools of blue and yellow fish were not shy either.


After a great hour there, we went to Chicken Island (it’s name comes from the fact that it looks like a chicken, not because it’s inhabited by them). The snorkeling there was amazing too, this time more because of the coral than the colorful fish.

chicken island

Our next stop was Poda Island. White sand beach with a forest of trees was our lunch spot. Boxed lunches of rice, chicken and veggies and ice cold water followed by a swim and a short walk around the island before we headed for our last destination: Phra Nang Cave (The Princess Bay). This stop had floating long tail “restaurants” where you could purchase fruit shakes and food and a “spirit house” cave where people would worship in front of a small shrine surrounded by penis carvings. Lots of lots of penis carvings.

Princess Cave

The cliff backed isthmus was great for climbing and we watched several people scale the walls. One guy climbed up freestyle – truly amazing to watch.

Our journey ended when we headed back by boat at 3:00 to the mainland and then back home. It was a great day for only $12 each!

Some of the days here slip by with having accomplished nothing more than breakfast and lunch, a swim and a lot of reading (me for pleasure, Curtis for work). We usually go out for dinner with Tom and feast on shared local dishes.

We spent last night at an air-conditioned spa getting foot and leg massages ($7.50 for an hour!) Our calves were killing us as two days before we climbed 1,237 steps to the top of Tiger Cave – a mountain topped Buddha temple. We did this in flip flops in 40 degree heat with no water. I know, I know, what were we thinking? Well obviously we weren’t! For some reason we didn’t realize the enormity of the climb, until we were about ¼ of the way up but by then it was too late. Failure was not an option!

At the top, drenched in sweat, we were rewarded with an amazing view 600 meters above sea level. The Buddha was big and bronze (no surprise there) with lots of colorfully carved “men” holding him up on their backs and the usual Wat suspects like lots of small Buddha’s, incense and old bells. And best of all, there was free water at the top!

Tiger Cave Buddha

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and unlike the Grouse Grind, there was no gondola here. The journey down obviously wasn’t as gruesome but about half way down our calves started shaking and that continued to get worse the further down we went.

Curtis at Tiger Cave

The 1,237 steps weren’t “regulation sized” steps. Some of them were as tall as 2 or 3 normal steps and almost none of them were deep enough to plant your whole foot. This meant that usually you had only the front half of your foot on a step, relying on your calves to do the heavy lifting.

All pain was forgotten though when close to the bottom we happened upon at least a dozen monkeys. My hand was on the railing when all of a sudden a monkey appeared (sliding down the railing) and when he got to me he kind of swung around over my hand.


In the parking lot there were signs everywhere, “Beware that monkeys steal your belongings”. We thought that was cute until we witnessed the thefts.

These monkeys were very aggressive if you had any food. They stole a bag of chips from one person who had a grocery bag of water and snacks. Okay, so everyone laughed at that. But then two of the monkeys actually pursued and jumped up at a girl who was hiding her snack under her armpit. If that had been me I would have surrendered the goods but she held on tight and they eventually gave up.

When they weren’t thieving, they were busy sliding down railings, swinging from trees and telephone wires, sitting relaxing within a foot or two of the people passing by and, also, humping. The humping was kind of sick to watch, mostly because the male had his teeth bared in a very scary and smug “grin”. It didn’t last too long, not more than a minute, before they were on their way and up to some other shenanigans.

There were baby monkeys right up to old man looking ones, some of them actually had grey “beards”.

I sat right next to one of the calm monkeys and got to examine his hands and feet close up. I think he was doing the same to me. His feet had a very long thumb like big toe which he used to grab onto things but his hands only had fingers. His “thumb” was only about an inch long. After he got bored of me, he dashed off and used his tail to help swing himself along the telephone wires.

Descending the final 20 stairs, we were bummed that our camera battery had died capturing the monkeys because we saw a heavily tattooed monk talking on his cell phone. Not a sight you see every day!

Coming up: Elephant trekking, the seedy side of nightlife and the Songkhran Festival (celebration of the Thai New Year which is a full day, full-on water war in the streets).

Same Same But Different

Things I will never take for granted again:

  1. flush toilets

  2. toilet paper

  3. fans

  4. real coffee (not the instant crap!)

The first two are pretty much my only requirements at the moment! 24 hour electricity is nice, but not too big of a deal.

I’ve fallen in love with air conditioning…but alas I have to enjoy my few stolen moments with it when I’m in the 7/11. I don’t think I will ever complain about the cold again! I actually get quite excited when it turns cloudy now and especially when it rains! Anything to keep the burning hot rays of the sun off my skin for however long it lasts is a welcome relief.

I hate the bugs here! I wouldn’t mind them so much if they would quit eating me alive. Am I really that tasty? I’ve got big red welts all over my body to prove it! I just came back from the pool and I’ve got a new bite right on my elbow. My elbow! Seriously, another huge welt right on the bone.

There are things I will miss when we aren’t here though. Mainly:

  1. Cheap massages

  2. Cheap and tasty food (especially the sidewalk vendors!)

  3. Cheap beer

  4. Cheap clothes (when I can find something that actually fits)

  5. Cheap living

Things we don’t do at home but I’m used to now:

  1. Take off our flip flops before going inside a restaurant, store, our own bungalow, even to the reception area of wherever we are staying. (except in Bangkok, you leave your shoes on in Bangkok!)

  2. Cold showers. Gotta love ‘em!

  3. Eat with a spoon. Thais never put forks in their mouths, the fork is used only for putting the food onto the spoon.

  4. The wait staff really do wait. If they come over to take your order and you’re not ready yet, they stand by your table and wait until you are. When they bring the bill (which you always have to ask for), they stand and wait until you give them the money.

  5. In a store, it’s very common for the sales people to follow you around while you look at things. Like literally follow you around like a lost puppy. If someone did that at home, I would walk out but here they are just trying to be helpful.

Things I hope I never get used to:

1. Old fat white men with young pretty Thai women. They are everywhere!

Ko Lanta

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.

Ko Libong

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….

Train to Trang

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.


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.

Leaving on a jet plane…

About a year ago, Curtis came up with the idea that we quit our jobs and leave the pressures of the city behind us to embark on an adventure around the world. It sounded like a great fantasy….but not a very realistic goal.

It was soon dismissed, only to be reawakened several months later. This time it was me who wanted to turn the fantasy into a reality. I wanted to turn the routine of my 9 to 5 existence into something MORE. Taking a trip around the world was something I had dreamed about for as long as I could remember and I realized that if we didn’t do it now, we probably never would.

So we quit the security and comfort (and steady paycheque) of our jobs, rented out our condo, put all of our stuff into storage, got our shots and visas and a couple of Lonely Planets, packed our backpacks and are now sitting at the airport in Vancouver waiting for our first flight.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, saying our goodbyes to co-workers, family and friends and doing all the prep work that comes with leaving the country for a year. We just did our taxes last night!

The itinerary is: 4 months in Thailand, 3 months in Australia and then 5 months in Europe. Not sure exactly where  we are staying or what we’ll be doing yet. But that’s half the fun!

It is with a huge sigh of relief that I sit here blogging waiting for our 10 hour flight to Frankfurt. There is nothing left for me to do except sit and relax. Oh, and figure out where we are going to sleep once we get to Thailand. We’re definitely winging it…but we’ve got 3 plane rides to figure that out.