Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Night Boat to Koh Tao

Our next stop was Koh Tao (Turtle Island) where we planned to catch a little more sun and meet up with my little sister and her tour group one more time. We were pretty weary on this trip, Matt especially. He managed to crash on the first boat ride on a pile of luggage.

We then switched to a bus filled with some friendly Australians before catching our overnight boat. I wasn't sure what to expect but this boat was pretty creepy. It looked like something out of a concentration camp or maybe a boat carrying illegal immigrants. The mattresses were so tiny and smelled pretty bad. It did have a bathroom but good luck using a squat toilet on a boat! Basically I cranked my iPod up and thanked all the gods that the boat wasn't crowded so I didn't have to sleep crammed next to a stranger.

It was worth the trip though! We arrived early in the morning and I thought I knew where Stephanie was staying so we grabbed a guesthouse nearby. We decided to splurge for our last island and our place came with a private bathroom and a TV! We passed out for a nap and then called Steph. As it turned out, there is more than one Crystal Dive Resort and she was staying at the other one. Bum! But she was able to find us without much trouble. We spent the afternoon together and then met up with her group for mini golf shenanagins. Just in case you were wondering, I was the mini golf champion!

We couldn't stay long but we made the most of our time. We had a lot of fun and good food. I didn't get to take that many pictures but it's possible that Steph has some more on her camera. She'll be back from her adventure on June 9th.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who's Hungry?

One of the restaurants on Koh Phi Phi was offering this buffet deal. Hehe!

Koh Phi Phi- the most expensive island ever!

Our next stop was to Koh Phi Phi. We decided to skip the famous Full Moon Party on Koh Phangnan because it sounded like it would be tricky to find accommodation. It was worth it since Koh Phi Phi had celebrations of it's own and was much quieter than usual. To get there we had to take another night bus (they suck so much in Thailand! You have to sit upright, they always seem to be noisy and cramped) and then transfer to yet another bus and then a van and then wait THREE hours until we could catch our boat. Crappy. We were so tired and disgusting by the time we got there. The first thing we did was stop at a cafe to get something to eat. Immediately we noticed that the prices in this area of Thailand are through the roof! I was so thankful that it was the off season because they do lower things a bit. If it hadn't been I think it would have been a very short visit to Koh Phi Phi.

Anyway, while we were eating we starting chatting with a friendly German couple next to us. They gave us a lot of great tips and recommended the cheapest place to stay. It was still $10/night but much better than the places that were over twice as much! Why is this island so popular? Well, even though it was one of the places hit hardest by the tsunami, it is just gorgeous. It was the most beautiful island we traveled to. They are still fixing and rebuilding things but for the most part everything is back to normal.

One day we hiked up to the viewpoint and enjoyed the fantastic view. Another day we took a snorkelling trip, met some cute Koreans and visited Monkey Beach and Maya Beach (where the movie "The Beach" was filmed). Our evenings were spent relaxing on the beach and watching fire shows (and occasionally participating- Matt did fire limbo).

On the snorkeling trip, I couldn't believe how retarded most of the tourists were with the monkeys. I mean, sure, these monkeys are really used to people but they are still wild animals! We watched one moron chase a mother monkey with her baby (which caused all the monkeys to totally freak out), another moron allowed an aggressive monkey to climb up on her and then bite her! (the monkey was moving slowly enough that she could easily have avoided this) and another to let a monkey climb all over her and scratch the crap out of her leg. Anyone else care for some rabies? It was just ridiculous.

Maya Beach is really gorgeous but it's a bit tricky to get over to it. You have to crawl over sharp volcanic rocks and squeeze through a couple of tunnels to get there. Our tour guide kind of sucked and failed to mention that there wasn't any good snorkeling in that area (so we didn't need to lug our stuff over) and that we should take our cameras (which we didn't and it was so difficult getting over there so we didn't get to take any pictures of Maya Beach).

Otherwise we spent a lot of time enjoying the beautiful scenery and friendly people on Koh Phi Phi. It's a great place to party and has a great variety of restaurants. We befriended a British girl who lives and works on Koh Phi Phi. Actually, she married a Thai guy and they run a travel shop and a rock climbing shop. If you're ever on Koh Phi Phi we definitely recommend Spidermonkey Climbing and the lovely Naomi! Matt went climbing on our last day with this company and had a good time (even if it did kick his butt a bit- it was a difficult cliff and he hasn't climbed in awhile). We were sad to say good bye to Koh Phi Phi but we needed to get going so we could meet up with Steph one more time. To see all the pictures go over here!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time with the Lovely Leah

We made it back to Bangkok in one piece and then spent a day and a half exploring Khao San Road (this is where most backpackers stay but last time we stayed closer to downtown). I got my first ever facial as well. Did you know that they stab your face and squeeze the crap out of your zits during a facial?!? At least they did at this place! The worst part was that I didn't know it was coming so I was totally surprised! It was like, "Oh this is relaxing, oooh, she is rubbing some sort of cream on my face... HOLY SHIT! WHY ARE YOU HURTING ME!?! OKAY I'LL TELL YOU WHATEVER YOU WANT!". It was an experience, that's for sure.

Saturday morning we went to the airport to pick Leah up. This airport is one of the most confusing and frustrating ones that I've been in! For some reason none of the elevators go to the floor where the arrivals are! And once you manage to get there you're not allowed to go through to the area where people get in (we were bad asses and jumped over the barriers though). I suppose this is to try and dissuade cab drivers from hanging out there or something but it's really a pain.

We found her though! Some of the things that we did while we hung out in Bangkok with Leah included: going on a canal ride, touring the Wat Pho (our second time but that's okay), lots of shopping, seeing that stupid new Wolverine X-men movie and hooking up with my littlest sister Stephanie! We took a lot of pictures.

One of the nights with Stephie was spent at the tallest building in Bangkok. It was a bit pricey but the restaurant offered an amazing view and a fab buffet! Afterward Matt and Leah went back to the guesthouse and I went with Stephie and her tour group to see a "ping pong show". It was pretty traumatic. Matt asked me why I chose to go to it and I was like, hey, I figured I should see the ugly, seedy side of Bangkok too.

Matt and Leah also went and saw a Muay Thai match but I opted to stay back since I was feeling a bit under the weather. They said it was fantastic though! After about a week in Bangkok we sent Leah on her way (to Khon Kaen to see her Mom) and we headed south to Koh Phi Phi!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bus Crash Disaster!!!

We left Koh Chang bright and early on a very, very rainy day. Overall we were lucky on our trip and didn't encounter much rain. It seemed that when it did rain we were spending the day traveling. We caught a songthaew to the ferry port and caught our ferry to the mainland. From there the company that we bought our ticket to Bangkok through picked us up in another songthaew and took us to meet our bus.

At this point we'd been traveling for about 3 months and had spent a lot of time in various buses. When we boarded this one it didn't take me long to notice that our driver didn't seem to know what he was doing. He got lost (or maybe just made wrong turns) three times!!! This is a really common and simple trip- hell, even I know that you need to take highway 3!

There was nothing that could be done about it so we dozed off. Later I woke up and was biding my time reading my novel and listening to my iPod. Suddenly the bus driver ran the bus into the cement divider! My iPod slid off my lap and onto the floor and everyone else was rudely awoken. We all rushed outside to get a better look at the damage. The bus was definintely fucked up.

This delayed our trip quite a bit and I had time to talk to some of the other passengers about our driver. It seemed that the bus had worn brakes and they had noticed this earlier on. It could explain the wrong turns (not being able to stop so instead turning down a different road). No one was hurt and the driver had gone into the divider to avoid hitting the truck in front while stopping for a red light.

Eventually the police came and then a tow truck and we were transferred to a different bus. This bus didn't have enough seats though so I ended up sitting on the floor for the rest of the trip. We arrived in Bangkok about 3 hours later than scheduled but things could have been worse. I suppose with all the traveling we'd been doing we were due for some kind of accident. Thankfully it was nothing like the one a fellow traveler had experienced in Laos when her night bus went off a mountain!

Dirty Hippies and Delicious Curries

Koh Chang is a surprisingly large island. We'd been in this general area at the beginning of the trip (it's close to Koh Maak) but hadn't made it over to Koh Chang. We chose to stay on the quietest beach first which really only had one option for lodging. Luckily, the Treehouse Guesthouse was fairly charming, had an okay beach, fantastic restaurant and decent prices. It's a bit like camping since all of the showers are taken with buckets but the warm weather heats things up so it's not too daunting. The stilted bungalows with hammocks on the porch are definitely the best part! This was a fantastic place to unwind and get a lot of reading done (after all, there's only electricity in the evening for about 6 hours so what else are you going to do?). The staff here are friendly and it seems like a lot of hippie types are attracted to this area of the island. I heard a lot of people saying that the other side of the island is so terrible and overcrowded.

For the second half of the week we decided to go to the horrible, terrible, overcrowded backpacker section of the island. We were going a bit buggy being so isolated and needed to check our email to make sure we were still supposed to pick Leah up in Bangkok on the weekend. Anyway, I'm sure what those travel snobs were talking about. The other side of the island (we went to Lonely Beach) was just fine! We both enjoyed having restaurant and guesthouse options and being about to go to convenience stores and shops. It was also nice having constant electricity again. We did visit in the low season so it's possible that things are like they described when it's high season. I wouldn't write it off though!

We stayed at a decent guesthouse that was supposed to have wireless (however a storm had just broken their something or other) and even had a mini pool (they were affiliated with a scuba school). This was the point in the trip when we noticed that the hinge on our laptop was smashed so we wouldn't have been able to use wireless anyway (this caused the connection to our screen to be messed up). You did have to walk to the nice beach but it took less than 5 minutes and most of the restaurants played films in the evenings. We had a really nice time on Koh Chang! Matt went on an epic trek up one of the mountains in the provincial park but I'll let him guest blog about that little experience. If you want to see pictures from Koh Chang go here!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trip to Chanthaburi and then onto Koh Chang!

We decided to travel from Khon Kaen to Chanthaburi, spend a night and then grab the ferry to Koh Chang. We had to switch buses in Nakhon Ratchasima and literally the second that we stepped off the first bus we had a Thai guy on our butts asking us where we were heading next. We get a little suspicious of people who are too aggressive since they generally have their own agendas. This guy actually grabbed my backpack and started taking off somewhere so we had no choice but to follow. I wasn't too impressed.

As it turned out, he was actually being incredibly helpful because he took us to the exact bus that we needed to get onto and in the nick of time since it was ready to leave (and there wasn't going to be another one for a number of hours). The only negative side was that I really had to go to the bathroom and there was no time before we set off. Dammit! Luckily I was okay for a few more hours until they stopped for a bathroom break.

We made it to Chanthaburi in one piece and I made friends with a Philippino girl who lives there so she was able to help us find a guesthouse easily and give us a few tips. We spent the evening hanging out and checking out the mall. Apparently Chanthaburi used to sell gems so there were giant fake diamonds all over the bridge and many abandonned jewellry shops littered the streets. We also found the cheapest internet cafe in the world!!! Ten baht for an hour! (This is about 33 cents.)

The next morning we got up bright and early and hiked to the bus station (since we couldn't find a songthaew at that hour). The trip to Koh Chang was smooth and uneventful and when we arrived we decided to go to the Treehouse Guesthouse on Long Beach. More to come...

Back in Canada!

We made it! It was a long crazy journey but we're at my Dad's house now and have so much to do! I also have so much updating to do on this blog to get us caught up. Our computer is still alive (for the time being) and was ready for us to pick up the night before we had to leave Thailand. How's that for timing? The best part? The repair took less than 2 weeks and cost under $50! I am going to miss Asia! Hahah! So I don't want anyone to be confused, we are in Canada again, but I will be finishing the Thailand story before using this as a regular blog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Heading Back to Canada

Good news- we have our computer back and it's completely fixed (for about $40 too!)! But unfortunately I can't quite update now. It's our last night in Thailand and we're starting our epic journey to Edmonton tomorrow. We calculated how long we'll be in transit (starting from the bus station in Khon Kaen and including things like layovers) and it's over 40 hours! Crazy! I'm excited for our layover in Seoul though since a couple friends are going to be visiting with us at the airport so we don't have to kill 9 hours on our own. Our flight arrives in Edmonton (via Seattle) just after 5 pm on Thursday, May 21st. We can't wait to see everyone! Think good travel thoughts for us (and chase the snow in Edmonton away- I might have a heart attack going from Thailand temperatures to snow).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Less Than a Week to Go...

We've been busy- spent time on Koh Phi Phi and then went straight up to Koh Tao and hung out with Stephie for a couple days. Now we're back in Bangkok and have a massive tour (our last hurrah, really) booked for tomorrow. We're going to the Floating Market, the Bridge over River Kwai, a museum and the Tiger Temple. Then we head back to Khon Kaen (where hopefully our computer is fixed) to pick up our stuff and say our good byes. We arrive in Edmonton on May 21st at 5:30pm. I have so many pictures and stories so hopefully I can update everything really soon!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Heading from Bangkok to Koh Phi Phi

Again, just a brief update from an internet cafe. The computer is on a bus with Matt's sister Leah to Khon Kaen where hopefully they can find someone to repair it for cheap. This means that all of my pictures will stay on my camera's memory card for the time being. We've been in Bangkok for almost a week now. We arrived on Thursday evening (late because our bus got into an accident- no one was hurt) and got everything organized and picked Leah up from the airport on Saturday morning. We had a lot of fun showing her around and we even managed to hook up with my sister, Stephie, who's with a tour group through Thailand. I got to see Steph on Monday and Tuesday and we may see her again before we head back to Khon Kaen to say our good byes and pick up all of our stuff and return to Canada. We'll be back in Canada on May 21st. Today we're catching a bus at 6pm and making the long journey to the south (near Phuket). Apparently we'll have to change buses partway and then get on a boat to get to Koh Phi Phi. We should be there by tomorrow afternoon. Intense! We'll have to pack a lot of snack and maybe get some earplugs (Thai buses are so noisy!). Oh, and my health has improved so cross your fingers that I will be well until the end of the trip!