Sunday, August 15, 2010
We relaxed on the flight to Tokyo, got off the plane and saw a woman holding a sign with our name. She told us to run and took off through the terminal. She got us to the front of security and we made it to our connecting flight just in time! We watched lots of movies and napped here and there for 12 hours before landing in Newark. There we had plenty of time, made it through customs and hung out in the Continental Club. We were impressed that our luggage made it after the airport sprint! We got on the last leg of our trip which was a smooth flight to Austin. We were home!
We had a fantastic trip to a beautiful country!!! Good night!
Next we headed to Tiger Kingdom where you can go into the habitats of tigers! We did the medium sized tigers and the first one we petted was a bit grumpy and kept snarling at us. After that, I waited outside of the cage and let Trey play. They were beautiful and we wandered around a little. We saw a little tiger cub stalking two little kids! Next we went to a couple different factories. We stopped at a bronze factory and a place where they make silk bedspread, shawls, and some of the most gorgeous hand woven rugs I’ve ever seen. They each rug takes one person 1.5-5 years to make!
Then it was back into the heart of Chiang Mai for the temple tour. The provence of Chiang Mai has over 700 temples. We stopped at a number of them including: Wat Chedi Luang, What Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, and more. Many of them have schools for monks and Monk Chat were you can talk with the monks about anything. At one of the temple, two monks waved Trey over and they talked for awhile.
It was sunset by then and we were hungry! We headed to Nimmanhaemin Road, which seems to be a younger, hip area for dinner. We had our final meal and it was off to the airport. We somehow drove through an air force base on the way! We checked in and waited for our flight. A huge storm hit with torrential rains, but amazing our flight still left pretty much on time. We arrived in Bangkok a little after midnight. After gathering our bag, we checked the monitor only to discover our United flight to Narita/Tokyo had been cancelled...
We were then off to meet our elephants and learn how to take care of them! My elephant was a 7 year old male, named Poo-Chan (that’s phonetically!) He had tusks! Trey’s name was something like Bo-Tak. We were given a basket of food and taught to say “Bo” to get them to open their mouths so we could hand them food. They had crazy strong tongues. Both of our elephants like to hold a piece or two of food in their trunks and still be fed. We learned how to check their health including smelling and feeling their poop! Next we walked them by holding their ears and saying “mai” which means comes. We then brushed some of the dirt off of them before leading them to the river for washing.
We scrubbed them clean then posed for a picture as the trainers prompted the elephants to spray us! Then we had to learn how to mount and ride our elephants. There were three options: (1) you could have your elephant lay down and then scramble up (2) you could have your elephant bend one leg and then you climb up that way (3) you could have your elephant make a step with his trunk and then lift you up. Believe it or not, we both went with the third option. Trey was a bit more graceful about it then me!
We then began the ride to the waterfall. “Bai” was forward; “toi” was backwards; “yanna” was don’t! It was a bit harrowing but I was doing okay until our elephants got spoked and stared running up a hill. (Trey will tell you that’s a slight exaggeration.) It was enough deja vu to the last time I wrote a horse which tried to jump off a cliff with me. It was a bit nervous after that and not a fan of the uphill and downhills. It was quite impressive how carefully the elephants plan their step and how surefooted their are. After about an hour, we arrived at the waterfall where we got off and left the elephants play in the water while we had lunch.
Our luck it began to POUR. Thankfully most of our food was wrapped in palm/banana leaves and we used big leaves to cover the rest of the food. We had tons of rice, awesome fried chicken, and great fruit. We stuffed ourselves as the rain poured down. The elephants had fun playing in the water. A 13 yr old girl and her dad played in the water with them. On the way back, another girl and I decided to walk back. Everyone took the road back instead of the crazy trek we took to get there. We had a little wrap up and Trey and I climbed on an elephant together for some final pictures.
We got back to the hotel; I relaxed reading in the bathtub. By about 6:30-7pm I was sound asleep. Trey followed not too much later!
Monday, August 9, 2010
In the evening, we headed to the Night Bazaar that is supposed to huge but well organized. There were two distinct buildings, one with multiple floor, and the usual street vendors. We did a bit of souvenir browsing, bargaining, and buying before it was back to the hotel to rest up for our big job tomorrow being elephant owners for a day!
Sunday, August 8, 2010
We got up, grabbed some breakfast, and waited for our car to the airport. Check-in was fairly easy here and we read and nap (I’ll let you figure out who did which!) at the airport. 2 hours later we landed in Chiang Mai and caught a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel was quite nice with pictures of various Thai royalty staying there as well as old pictures of Princess Diana and Prince Charles from many years ago!
Once settled in, we investigated cooking schools. We found one that is supposed to be the #2 attraction in Chiang Mai (#1 being the elephant tour we are doing on Tuesday) and signed up for an evening course. We wandered around the hotel area for a little seeing the remnants of the old city wall and moat. We got a delicious watermelon fruit shake at the hotel while we waited for our ride to cooking class! A pick-up Tuk-Tuk showed up and we were off!
The first stop was at a market where we learned about all the different types of spices and ingredients that would go into our meal. They have similar herbs but not quite. “Same-same but different!” We had a few minutes to wander the market; I bought some dried kiwi. Meanwhile, Trey found some durian fruit that we saw on a travel show that is supposed to smell off but taste great. The lady was amused by Trey’s interest and let us try a little bite. It was almost creamy and quite rich tasting.
Next we were off to the family’s house where our lessons would take place. There were 8 of us; two Scottish girl, and a group of 4 Irish, 3 girls, and 1 guy. We had some water and mango as we picked our menus. Trey choose Hot and Sour Soup, Spring Rolls, Fried Holy Basil with Chicken, and Yellow Curry. I picked Chicken Coconut Soup, Chicken with Cashew Nut, Panang Curry (which is yummy red curry with peanuts crushed in), and Sticky Rice with Mango (my new favorite dessert). We learned out to chopped all the ingredients, cook things in the wok/pots, and more. Trey even got to play with fire. Then we got to eat everything we made! Nancy, our teacher, was fantastic and wonderfully enthusiastic. With her guidance, we made some good food. I even have leftovers!
We had the Tuk-Tuk drop off us at the Sunday Night Market, but a rainstorm had just finished, and it was just starting up despite the streets being flooded. We wandered for a little and then caught a little Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
After the long boat ride back, followed by the taxi, we arrived at our new home for the next two nights, Devanna resort and spa. It was slightly further from the beach and action than our last place, but when they greeted us with some delicious juice and cold towers, I couldn’t have asked for a better place. Trey also got to pet his first elephant in Thailand (see picture!) I still wasn’t feeling the greatest, so we settled in, found the movie channel, and went to sleep.
|How we spent our time between dives|
|Home Sweet Home|
We were going out on a dingy, which meant I had to go ahead and do a backwards flip off the boat. While not my favorite method, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The dives were all quite good, a combination of coral and sandy beach. The tsunami in 2004 destroyed a lot of the coral and the heat wave over the last year has bleached a lot too. We did have to watch out for this scary triggerfish that would become aggressive if you got too close to their nest. We got lucky and saw a turtle on one dive and a bunch of blue spotted rays on another. The basic pattern of the day was eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, nap, dive, eat, nap, and then the night dive. This was my first night dive, and I was a little intimidating. I’m not a huge fan of the dark or certain fishes, but I did it. We got to step off the boat this time and four of us went down together. I made Trey hold my hand on the way down. We all had big flashlights, so you could see some. The best part of the night dive was the phosphorescence. As long as the flashlight wasn’t right there, you could wave your hand or fins and see little blue specks flying about the water. Silly comparison, but it is similar to what you would imagine fairy dust looks like!
Overall the night dive wasn’t bad, but I’m not dying to do another on right away. I more prefer tons of visibility. I was beat when we finished around 8:30, had some tea, picked out a movie, Friday Night Lights (perhaps I was feeling homesick?) and curled up in bed.
We continued our wandering, stopped at a jewelry shop and found a beautiful necklace and bracelet for me (I’m a lucky girl!). We relaxed at the hotel for bit, before heading to the beach briefly. It was a beautiful day so we played at the water’s edge before it was time to get ready for dinner. Les and Deb, from Bangkok, we in Phuket so we met them for dinner and drinks. We had a good meal with great drinks and desserts, including a cute blue drink on the house. We then went to Walking Street, which is almost like 6th street in Austin (but more lady boys!) We stopped for a drink once, and then wandered along the beach road. Deb and I both stopped and bought bathing suits before parting ways to our respective hotels.
I fell asleep quickly when we got in, making sure to set the alarm with enough time to pack before our diving pick-up.
Once in Phuket, we were put on vans for the transfer to our hotel, the Aspery. We finally made it to our hotel at Patong Beach, checked in and discovered we had a room with two twins beds. We settled in and headed out to get some dinner since it was after 7pm already. We found a nice outdoor place across the street from the beach with a live cover band. It wasn’t quite our hole in the wall place in Railay Beach but it was good. We strolled back amidst offers of massages, suits, DVDs, Tuk-Tuk, and every knick knack souvenir you could imagine.
For my 8th dive every and 4 in an ocean ever, I felt quite comfortable once we headed underwater. It’s just cool to be able to float around breathing underwater. The first dive had about 10-15 minutes of super low visibility. There were times when I could only see the dive guide’s fins, not even his tank! Luckily, that didn’t last and there was tons to see. There were all different fish everywhere, a jellyfish on the floor, and Trey saw a sleeping nurse shark hiding in the coral. On our second dive of the day, we saw tons more fish, a ray, a bunch of clownfish, and some seahorses, including one that much have been 8 inches long and yellow on the ocean floor! The boat ride back was chilly but the weather was beginning to clear up.
We returned to our bungalow, showered, and wandered to find a restaurant called The Rock. After a bit of trudging up some hills, we found a quaint place with a view of the ocean. We had a good meal and headed back towards the town. On the way back, we stopped at a little national park that was a path inside some of the monstrous caverns with the crazy stalagmites and stalactites. They reminded me of the salt mines in Krakow, Poland.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
We slept in this morning. I was first awoken by a huge rainstorm around 7:30am. I read a little and then went back to sleep until almost 11am. We went out to get some breakfast and by then the clouds were clearing and it was hot and muggy. The bugs here are unbelievable! I get bit continuously... luckily it’s also unbelievable gorgeous. The peninsula we are on reminds me of Jurassic Park; I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur stick his head up at any point!
On our walks between the beaches, we had seen the sign for the lagoon. This lagoon is at the top of the mountain and supposedly they aren’t really sure how it got there. The little sign points to a giant hill of red clay that is full of craggily rock and red clay. It’s more of a scramble than anything else. With no other set plans, we decide to tackle the hill. Climbers have set ropes on the hill to help when things get a bit slippery (often), but we made it up the first part fairly easily. Going back down? We’ll tackle that later!
We found a couple viewpoints, took some pictures, then headed off in the direction of the lagoon. First obstacles was a steep downhill that it was necessary to use the rope so you didn’t just slide the whole way down. There are some handholds and footholds, but not everywhere. We took our time and made it down that one just done. Then it was just watching your footing. The next set of obstacles was three drops that were probably about 15-20 feet each. Each you needed to have a few more inches to your body than me and use the ropes as well. So I stayed at the top, while Trey scaled down the three drops. On the last one, he found a small rabbit hole so he didn’t have to scale sheer rock. Cut to the end, he made it out safely with some great pictures of the lagoon.
We headed back, and made the slow scramble back down. Well, I went slowly; Trey conquered the hill with ease. We then made to the short walk to the beach and jumped in the water to cool off and clean off a little. The red clay would only come off when scrubbing with sand! Our shoes and clothes will be tinted forever! After the second best shower of the trip (see post on Full Moon Party!) we relaxed a little and headed to dinner, and arranged diving for the next day. I am really loving Thai food!
Here's Trey with a monkey! Kindred spirits perhaps?
Monday, August 2, 2010
roup from Malaysia, Singapore, and a couple from Turkey
. Our first stop was Lohsamah Bay were we could snorkel and look for clown fish. I still am not the hugest snorkeling fan... the idea of touching fish just creeps me out. Trey on the other hand loves it and grabbed bread to bring more fish to him! We then stopped at Viking Cave where about 10 people live and study the swallows that live there. Next we went to the Phleh Bay which is a lagoon you can only access when it’s high tide. It was absolutely stunning with the high cliffs and aqua waters. We swam in there for a little before continuing on. Next stop was Maya Beach, where the movie The Beach was filmed. Neither Trey or I have seen it but we’ll rent it when we get back. We hiked around and took pictures.
We went went to the main Phi Phi Island, Phi Phi Don for lunch and some sight seeing. We walked around looked at dive shops and rooms for rent in case we decided to stay there next. It was a pretty place, but crowed and all tourists. The last stop was open water snorkeling near Hin Klarng. Trey snorkeled for awhile while I watched. The fish are obviously used to the boats and being feed and schools of them stayed close. I got in the water briefly at the end. Some of the people had gotten stung but something, possibly little jellyfish. We did see one huge pink jellyfish go by when we were sitting on the boat. After a snack of watermelon and cake, it was back the Railay Beach. We had them drop us off at Poapang Beach. On our walk back we saw a whole bunch of monkeys playing on the trees along the path. One of them had a whole ear of corn! Trey played tug of war with some of them.
We relaxed at the hotel pool before heading to grab some food. We went back to the Thai Food place and tried some new, really spicy dishes. We met an interesting man from Barcelona originally, who works in neuroscience on creating artificial limbs that we can control with our brain. He also shared Trey’s enthusiasm for every extreme sport and racing. We walked around a little, then headed to sleep.
We woke up early to try and see sunrise on the beach. It was cloudy, but still beautiful. Walking back in town around 7am looking for breakfast, we were talking with some of the taxi guys about trying to see a couple sites we had missed. Two of the motorbike taxi guys made us a good deal, so we climbed on and went zooming about the island. We saw the view point, Grandmother and Grandfather rocks (which are named due to the genitalia they look like), the waterfall, and the big Buddah. The sites were fantastic and it was a much better way to see the island compared to a A/C van with a bunch of other tourists. We were back before 10am, had a little breakfast and headed to the airport.
The Koh Samui airport is owned by Bangkok Air and is the complete opposite of the airport in Bangkok. The lines were short and organized and we had more than an hour to spare. The whole airport is outside and you walk down a promenade with little shops to get to the gates. At the gate area they have a section with free snacks and drinks for anyone. Also, the bathrooms have giant fishtanks! Despite the heat, it was quite relaxing. We took a little propeller plane over to Krabi and tried to find our way to our next hotel on Railay Beach. We both our bus ticket and were all of a sudden dropped off at a pier and asked for more money for the long tail boat. We didn’t realized we had to take a boat to get there! We took the boat and about 20 minutes later arrived at Railay Beach. We walked through the front side to Railay Beach West and found our bungalow for the next couple of nights. We got in the door right before the Heavens opened! Apparently rain here is almost daily.
We relaxed for a few, then grabbed our ponchos and went exploring. The land here is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The cliffs are high and ragged, covered in what looks like stalactites. Apparently it’s some of the best rock climbing in the world here. The tide is also impressive moving a good quarter of a mile in and out each day. We found a bath to get another beach, Paopang. The tide was out, so were able to scramble through a passage that fills up at other times. We stayed for an unbelievable sunset (don’t worry Trey got tons of pictures) before walking back and went to Railay Beach East to look for food and things to do for the next day. We got a recommendation for a place right near our hotel in West and found some boat snorkeling tours.
We ate at a place just called “Thai Food” and the food was incredible. We met a nice couple from San Francisco, Emily and JD, and joined them at the local bar for a drink as well. We also booked a snorkeling tour around the Phi Phi Islands for the next day.