A Travellerspoint blog

Ko Tao

Our most favourite island yet!

sunny 32 °C

After a sitting upright in a chair on an air con train for 12 hours (it was FREEZING all night) we eventually left Bangkok and arrived early morning (about 5am) to Chumpon on the south eastern coast of Thailand to catch a ferry to Ko Tao. After a very hairy race for the boat in a benched car (imagine a pickup truck with benches in the back) holding on for our lives we arrived at the pier and boarded the boat.

Our arrival on Ko Tao was met with buckets of sunshine. The island seems to radiate colours. From the bright green hillsides (it is quite mountanous in the middle of the island) to the white sand palm fringed beaches and the bright colours of the flowers and even the people emmited an energy here we have not seen elsewhere! It felt very tropical and homely in a very wierd sort of way. We chose Ko Tao so we could complete our PADI/SSI open water scuba diving course. You need to pass a course of five dives with instruction before you can do it anywhere in the world. Ko Tao is the global centre for diving, it issues more dive certificates than anywhere else in the world (even more than places like the great barrier reef. This means that the whole island is run by dive schools (about 50 of them and the island is only about 2km wide and 15km in length) and it is the cheapest place in the world to complete your course. The island is surrounded by beautiful beaches and tropical corals perfect for diving. Out of everywhere we had been in Thailand, Ko Tao was a place we felt we could stay a while and not get bored. It was very centred around health it had a surfer vibe. Lots of young and sporty type people here, with a good bar culture at night.

Our first few nights we spent at a beach called Hin Wong Bay. The bay was spread across great bouldering landscapes with the huts protruding on the rocks jutting out over the sea with amazing views morning and night when the sun sets and rises changing the colours of the landscape. Hin Wong bay was also a great snorkelling spot. We both spent many hours of our 4 day stop here in the water swimming with the fish (and there were a LOT of fish) The best and the worst thing about Hin Wong Bay was the seclusion. With only a few bungalows it felt like it was your own beach. However to get to the other side of the island you had to walk (hike) over a 3km 300m high hill. This hill was a HILL. not for the faint hearted the incline meant you felt you were climbing a wall not walking a path. This trip we did nearly every day to get to the shops or walk around the restaurants and bars of the beaches on the busy side of the island. The staff at Hin Wong Bay served us great Thai foods. Vegetable Shrimp noodle soups, Thai curry, salads and fresh breads and fruits. The last night we spent here we also climbed to a veiwpoint at a pinacle of the island to take in the veiws from the top (take a look at the pictures) This was probably the hardest walk we have ever taken it also seemed to take forever! but the veiw was worth it. We sat breathless on the top of the hill for a good thirty minutes before flopping in the restuarant for the whole evening not moving one muscle.

The next few days were the most exciting for us. We moved over to Sairee beach (Hat Sai Ri) over the hill and into our new home for the next 5 nights at Pheonix dive school so we could start our dive course the next morning. Yippeeee!

The first day of the dive school started with a morning of watching a video and our instructor Claus telling us about the apparatus and how to use it safely. We were given homework and tutorial books and sent away until the afternoon. The afternoon was spent in the swimming pool. Here we learnt basic techniques needed to swim under water. Firstly we put on all the diving equipment (which is a task intself) then swam around in the pool using the regulator to breath (the first time you do this it is really wierd!) It really does take some time to learn to feel comfortable swimming under water and breathing normally. Whislt sitting at the bottom of the pool we learnt how to take the regulator in and out of our mouths and continue breathing, hand signals, taking our mask on and off and importantly how to learn to inflate and deflate the BCD (the air jacket the controls how much you float or sink) so you can stay boyant at the bottom of the pool swim around without touching the bottom. Again this does take some practicing. Once all this was done we had the last 10 minutes to fool around and play. Kit and i spent it doing somersaults and flips. As we were told to come up Kits air supply stopped!!! Underwater whilst mid somersault. So quicklky swam to the surface. Apparently this doesnt happen so often. We concluded the Kit has superhuge lungs or breaths deeply (or was scared to death from the outset), whatever it was Kit was very sure to use his gauge on his tank to check the air supply often when we did the rest of our dives! Not the best first experience for building confidence thats for sure!

The next morning spent in the classroom and afternoon on the boat! We went out to waters 12m deep to do two dives. Diving is wierd at first, really wierd. You jump off the boat into the water (again there is a technique) and floating/swimming towards the guide rope (usually the ankor) once you are there you let all the air out of your jacket and you start to sink using the rope to guide yourself to the bottom of the sea. Along the way you have to keep equalising (holding your nose and pushing air through your ears) as the pressure on your body is much more than above water. Once we were at the bottom it was sooooo cool! A little like finding nemo. Coral everywhere so many fish. You look above and see the sun shining through the water and the bubbles rise to the surface with fish swimming all around you. The wierd thing with diving is that your colour spectrum goes. So the deeper you dive the less colours you see. At the level we were at all the reds and oranges had gone. So most of the coral looks blue and purple (even though its not when you see it on a film or camera) We spent time at the bottom of the ocean carrying out some drills with the equipment and some skills before we followed Claus and he would point out different fish and creatures. The best thing about our first dive was seeing a turtle! We were also warned about trigger fish (they come our and attack you) but our instructor was always there to bat it away first... A 40 min dive was over in what felt like seconds and we were back on the boat having a rest drinking coffee and eating fruit. Our second dive at a different dive site a little deeper and a few more fish. The day seemed to end in a flash. For both of us it seemed a really magical day. Nothing really prepared us for what it was going to be like or how awesome it really was.

Day three the third and final day was 2 more dives (early morning start of 7am) this time we went deeper. We had a camera man with us to take shots so we did some really cheesy stuff like diving off the boat, pretending to be a rock band under water (there was 7 of us on our dive) and we were told we went deeper than we should probably 24m ish (our certifcate is upto 20m only) but the diver sites were incredible. We had swim throughs, and large cliffs of coral with fish swimming in and out. Creatures in the sands large whirlpool formations of Barracuda, tones of angel fish more than your eyes can take in even going super slow! Before we knew it we were on the long tail boat riding to the shore and it was all over. We did our exam (we both got 49 out of 50) :-) then we got our card so we can dive all over the world (hopefully the great barrier reef) To celebrate we had a yummy BBQ on the beachside. Ko Tao was good for BBQs, there were BBQ sticks with fresh vegtables and seafood (red/white snapper, Barracudda, shrimp and squid) salad jacket potato and corn. For us eating Thai food, indian food etc.. this was a real treat! We celebrated our diver certification with a few buckets. We resisted the urge to drink the buckets whilst out here however we decided to give them a go... The buckets were filled with a local whiskey and coke etc. The morning after was greeted with the dirtiest of hangovers.... not the best way to spend the last day on the island.. and probably a good detterant from ever buying one ever again!

With the dive trip over we had to leave, we would have stayed longer but we had to do a visa run. Our visa expired the day after so left the island, the fun times and the good friends we made there to do the 2 hour boat journey with a night in Chumpon in a grotty hotel with a mattress on the floor, from paradise to poverty in a few hours! From there an early morning 5.30am bus to Ranong to start the palava that is a visa extension in Thailand.

You arrive at the port go to an office sign a departure card, take a boat to Myamer (Burma) for 45 minutes which means you have officially left Thailand. There you get off the boat have your passport stamped. Burma was not a nice place. I was asked if i wanted to buy female viagra on the boat jetty (date rape drug) and cheap cigarettes. I think this was a place for most shipping of every illagility you can think of. Once stamped and payment of 500 bhat back on the boat sign an arrival card and voila... 15 more days in Thailand!

What to do now? We have 12 days left before we fly from Krabi to Singapore then onto Melbourne. We decided on the nearby Railay - a place you can only access by boat, however a mainland localtion feels like an island. Miles of cliffsides a perfect climbers retreat? It sounded good to us so off we went!

And here we are... we will keep this blog to a Ko Tao insert and will update our final 10 days before we leave for Melbourne. Hope you are all safe at home and enjoying what we believe is nice cold but sunny weather with nearly spring in the air!

Take care love you all very much

xxxxxxxxx

Posted by Kitanddup 19:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged ko tao Comments (1)

Angkor Wat, Kampong Cham, Ban Lung and memorable Bangkok

Exploring temples, log cabin retreats and a proposal :-)

overcast 30 °C

Angkor Wat. For those of you who dont know Angkor Wat (Or the city of Angkor) it is a world heritage site built in the early 12th century and had a population of around a million (this is about the same time as when London had a population of about 200,000) It really is incredible to see such huge yet intricately calved structures. The city was overgrown like a jungle and was rediscovered by the french. It has been used for filming the first Lara Croft Tombraider film and is about 25k wide. It is one of those places you arrive at and think WOW.... worth the price of a tuktuk driver (Mr Fee!) for a day to take us round and the 20 dollar!!!!! entrance fee. Kit and I set off at 5am to catch the main temple Angkor Wat at sunrise. We thought it was quite an intimate experience until the sun rose and we were greeted by around a thousand other people stood around the site. We spent the whole day exploring, climbing in and around the structures. By our 15th temple and around 4pm our legs gave up and the temples started blurring into one so we called it a day... but a trully memorable experience.

After seeing the famous Angkor Wat we really fancied something different from Cambodia, so we read the guide books and found that the North East is the 'wild west' of Cambodia. It took quite a bit of time to get there so we stopped over at a place called Kampong Cham on route. A place of non descript, along the Mekong river with a few sites to see. We hired push bikes and travelled to a nearby lighthouse which we climbed (take a look at the pictures it was quite a climb and really scary, well for Kit anyway) Other than that the only other interesting thing in this town was a bridge made totally of bamboo. As the river rises and falls with the seasons and rainfall a 1km bamboo bridge is constructed and taken down every year across the river. A pretty impressive site.

One night in Kampong Cham and an early moring rise to start the 7 hour bus journey to Ban Lung 'the wild west'. They call it the wild west because a lot of the land as barron. The roads really are not suitable for anything but an offroad vehicle but our bus seem to hobble and plough through the red dust roads (EVERYTHING is covered in red dust here, people cars, homes etc) and after a rather hairy ride (as always in Cambodia) we arrived late evening. We were greeted by a barrage of about 10 Cambodians shouting and touting for hotels. We spoke to one who took us to a hotel which looked like something out of the rocky horror show. For 5 dollars a night we stayed in a HUGE room with a massive dark oak bed, decor which swallowed you up and made you feel quite small in comparison. The room was awesome but it was a hotel with probably 40 rooms or so and there was no one.. absolutely no one else there. Very wierd! We woke quite early and did a morning run around the dusty roads and ventured to a new place for the next few nights called Tree top eco lodge. Everything was made of wood (hence the name treetop) the long wooden walkway to the resturant, the bar, the tables, the huts everything. It was set in the hillsides of Ban Lung which gave it a sense of serenity and calm in comparison to the town. The first morning we set off on a 10 km round trip walk to the volcanic lake. The lake is said to be sacred (Some believe it to be a meteor hole) as the lake is perfectly round (about 800m diameter) surrounded by thick trees and forest with jettys poking into the water. Kit and I spent a few hours jumping/diving of the jettys and swimming in the lake. The water was a greeny blue colour and was great for swimming. We spent some time chatting to other travellers there before we set off back in search of some well needed food!

The second day (and after all our exertion on the first day) we hired a moped to see the 2 waterfalls in the area. The first was a long thin waterfall with a drop of about 40ft. We climbed down and stood under the waterfall and watched some crazy young Cambodian use the vines hanging down the drop to swing tarzan style through the waterfall dangling 10ft off the rocksides. The second waterfall in the area was definately a highlight for us. It was set in a small green lagoon, surrounded by trees and rocks. The water was a deep green colour, butterflys floated around and we could hear nothing but the birds and the sound of the waterfall crashing into the lagoon. We swam and splashed until we got too cold and wet then headed back to the volcanic lake (this time with some local Cambodian Palm wine) to watch the sunset (and take a few shots of us on the jetty!)

Leaving the lodge was not easy. Especially because our next plans were to travel to Ko Tao to do a paddy diving certificate. On route we planned to stay on Bangkok for a few nights and visit a super huge market with wicked clothes (to take to aus with us) So we booked the horrible bus journey back through the border of cambodia and into Bangkok. The first leg 13 hours with a stop over in Siem Reap then 12 hours the second day (two buses) We can safely say that we were quite happy to reach the city by the end of day two!

Bangkok is pretty cool... (if you stay away from Ko San Road) We ventured out and found a villa and made our way to the Chatuchak weekend market. It has more than 15,000 booths selling goods from every part of Thailand. For us it has thousands of cool stalls with clothes that wouldnt be out of place in Portabello market. Happly shopping away all day until i (Anne Marie) started to feel a little twinge in my ankle. The little twing was followed by a massive pain which made me feel instantly sick and then i fainted. Not my shining hour I have to say. Off we popped to the nearest hostpital where they told me I had tendinitis. My fault for running on beaches with no shoes and on roads with converse and not running trainers. The next few days here in bangkok have consisted of me hobbling about with a strap round my ankle (but it seems to be getting better!)

And the finale to this weeks installment. Kit and I went out for a few valentines drinks and he proposed to me. Not in a way that he got down on one knee (really not my style too embarrasing!) we talked about it and then well he asked me! :-) I can happly say it was a very special night and we then proceeded to basically tell everyone. A very happy ending to a fustrating couple of days in the capital!

Tonight we take a night train to Chumpton and then a ferry over to Ko Tao to stayat what is to be believed a beautiful island and a hot spot for divers around the world (also the cheapest place in the world for us to do our diving certificate!)

And thats all folks... Hope this little installment made you smile as it did us.

Until next time miss you all muchos

Peace and Love xxxxx

Posted by Kitanddup 01:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Camboooodia (so far)

Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap (again)

sunny 35 °C

Ok we had our lovely 36 hour journey including the border crossing (Aranya Prathet to Poipet) in which we were approached and taken to the "Cambodian Consulate' which it really was not, to get our visas. After much scam tactics we ignored everyone and made our way to the real borer and got our visas. We reluctantly gave an extra 100 Bhat to the police guy at the counter for a quick processing fee. Kit quickly got annoyed at this and told him he wanted it back. The police guy laughed and handed it back over (power to the people :-) )

From there we took a 2 hour taxi ride to Siem Reap. The taxi ride seemed to take FOREVER. We had travelled for 34 hours and the taxi driver was mental. The roads here are right hand drive (opposite to UK) However our driver had a Thai car, which was also right hand drive, Which meant he couldn't really see the road very well so he generally overtook when he thought it was ok, even when he wasn't really sure. Hoff had to tell him to stop and pull back in a few times, with a few near misses with oncoming traffic.... not the best ride!
Siem Reap was cool. Siem Reap means ''Siamese defeated', hardly the most tactful name for a major city near Thailand! It was discovered by the french in the 19th century so the city is a mixture of French and Khmer infused architecture. We liked the vibe here. The population around 120,000 so not that much for a city. The bars are plenty-full but not overrun, the guesthouses are cheap but pleasant and the restaurants are awesome! It was also the place were Kit and Hoff could sink a few 50c beers, 26p! (which was a bonus)

After spending a night in a bed (rather than a bus train etc) we hired a tuk tuk for the day and saw some of the local sites. We intended to go to the floating village (although we found out once we arrived it was a rip off to see it) so we spent a few hours walking along the lakeside through a Cambodian village. An eye opener. The village was VERY poor, but it seemed they had everything they needed. A floating church, shops and even an a few pool tables in one of the huts! Most huts consisted of a three walled exterior on stilts. The fourth wall was non existent so when you walked past you really saw right into peoples homes (which is just one tiny room) Everything was very communal here. The electricity supply was near non existent (they even had a hut to recharge batteries which was full) and they had a TV room with plastic chairs for anyone who wanted to watch TV! We had a scoot up a temple (Although didn't have enough energy to walk the full distance) bypassed the crocodile factory (turns poor crocks into handbags) then booked the night bus for that evening to Sihanoukville.

Yes another night bus, but that was definitely the last one..ever..it was rather luxury, actual beds and actual blankets but they were designed for the, how can I put it..Cambodian midgets rather than actual human beings (Anne marie was fine)..so cramp was on the cards for the whole Journey. We arrived in Sihanouksville early morning, greeted by a bombardment of tuk tuk drivers jostling for position. As per usual we ignored them all grabbed a coffee then headed to the main road to pick one up. We took the advise of our 5 year old guide book and headed to the (once deserted, 5 years ago) Serendipity beach. Unfortunately this is now not deserted and has fallen to mass tourism of the package variety, hotels everywhere, and we mean everywhere, kinda Costa Del Sol but dirtier!..To be quite frank we were bitterly disappointed..we sat gathered our thoughts and were approached by a weary tuk tuk driver who told us of a nearby beach which was very quiet with beach huts 200m from the sea!..we decided to go with it and off we went to Otres beach. Otres beach should have fallen to the tourism a few years ago but due to financial collapse the developers couldn't continue and the small cluster of beach huts and restaurants still remain.

Otres beach is stunning, finally we witnessed some emerald sea and white sand (which we thought were a myth up until now). We opted for a cheap beach shack above a restaurant at 5 US dollars a night. As the places on Otres beach are so remote there is no electricity so a generator provides the power for the whole place. This seems like paradise but when your fan turns off at 10pm in 30 degree nighttime heat it gets pretty sticky, but we soon acclimatised!..Hoff opted for the cheaper 2 dollar bedroom, this was a cosy mosquito net and sun lounger on the next door restaurants beach, a cooler alternative with natural aircon and all thje mod cons!! 9well bitten feet anyway and the company of stray dogs). Finally we had found a break from the tourism and so began our morning ritual of the beach running dodging waves and trees and the occasional land mine (not really but we will explain later). We chilled for a couple of days and soaked up the scenery. On the second night was a beach party over on the neighboring Island of bamboo. It was a choppy 1 hour boat journey in the dark with western company. We arrived to a huge sound system (that didn't work properly, maybe that damn generator again) and strange green Cambodian whiskey drinks. These would prove to be the downfall of all of us with Kit sleeping starboard on the return journey and Anne-Marie catching a few zzz's earlier on on the beach (light weights).

The best and most memorable part of the evening was the sparkly plankton. Now I have never seen or heard this before but you have to see it to believe it! This plankton (which is in both Cambodia and Thailand is invisible to the eye) However when it is moved and the oxygen mixes with it it glows like a shiny glitter in the sea. In the dark it makes the whole area around you glow up. Its crazy! We spent quite a bit of time on the shoreline marveling at this (we hope to see it again in south Thailand)

The following day was spent saying not very much and doing even less... Hangover city! The whole day gone in a flash. The next few days however we filled with moped excursions around the area (a very interesting meeting with a family of monkeys who played with and sat on the scooters checking themselves out in the mirror) and one one day we payed for a hire boat to take us snorkeling. We spent the whole day travelling round three islands (including Bamboo island) Snorkeling was fun. We were told we had to stay clear of the sea urchins. Now if anyone has ever seen these blighters they are ugly buggers. They look like black balls with two little eyes and long black spikes protruding from all around its spherical body. You touch one with your foot and the hooks (very similar to a fishing hook) stick under your skin. you have to wait an hour or so for the hook to release itself naturally, take it out yourself and you take off a good proportion of your skin! These little dudes were everywhere. But we were careful and managed to spend a few hours looking at the coral, fish and the underwater wildlife which was awesome!

We spent 4 nights here and we felt super rested and wanted some action so made our way to Phnom Penh. Not the best city at all (super busy with lots of noise and traffic) but it is the place of the famous S21 and the killing fields which we really wanted to check out.

In Phnom Penh one of the largest secondary schools under the rule of Khmer Rouge was turned into a torture camp and prison called S21. All members of the previous regime, lawyers, teachers, doctors, educated people and even people just for wearing spectacles were brought toured round most of the rooms of the buildings within the grounds. We started in the part of the building where the prisoners where routinely interrogated. Inside on the walls were some photo's that the Khmer Rouge had taken depicting the most brutal scenes. In some rooms there is still blood splattered on the ceilings. The next few rooms were set like a gallery with 1000's of photographs that were found of the actual prisoners who had been interred at the S21 camp. The next 2 building's were where the prisoners were imprisoned in cells no bigger than 5 feet by 7 feet and permanently manacled to the floor. There are also rooms of photographs of people who worked for Khmer Rouge in S21 along with their present day feelings in which you got some insight into the fear of the people - Kill or be killed. We spent around 4 hours here feeling hopeless, distraught, depressed, astonished and deeply shocked at this treatment of humanity only 30 years ago

Next we went to Cheong Ek, the major Killing field of Phnom Penh. Just beyond the entrance is a huge stupa where thousands of the skulls that have been unearthed have been kept in order of age. Beyond, you were free to walk around, and as we walked between different, separate ditches, where people were executed, you could still see remains of bone, teeth, and clothing poking out from below the earth.It was horrifying to walk around these mass graves, knowing from our previous visit at the S21 museum, what exactly went on here and how exactly they were killed.

We did spend the evenings trying to get around but to be honest its a bit of a bitch to get around without getting run over! The next day we made our way back to Siem Reap (we plan to go North East of Cambodia and Hoff returns to Bangkok for his flight home)

These last three weeks have gone so fast! It has been lovely having Hoff around but flash and hes gone again! We are currently back in Siem Reap touring around (that's for the next blog as its about 50 degrees in this IT room and we are both needing a break) so we will love you and leave you!

Miss you all at home....very much so! We are hoping that you still read this and actually care where we are etc... :-)

Speak to you all soon xxxx

Posted by Kitanddup 22:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged reap siem sihanoukville phnom penh (again) Comments (1)

Thailand with the Hoff!

Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Sappong & Pai

sunny 30 °C

Hello all hope your all well? Sorry for not writing for so long, we've been traveling around a lot and now that Hoff's departed, we thought it was a good time to update :-)

Our arrival into Bangkok was ok... Anne Marie cried a little leaving India (softy) but soon we were on course to see another country and it was a real shock to the system. We were sat around the airport waiting for Hoff, the sari's were gone and replaced by the Thai girls and boys quite fashionable... the airport was clean! and new..... very strange to get used too.

After we found Hoff we started the journey into Bangkok to find a place to stay (it was about 9pm at this point) we arrived at Ko San Road and our smiling eager faces drooped. Imagine the worst 18-30s holiday place you can imagine. People wasted (and we mean wasted) falling about the streets, bar after bar, dirty overcrowded streets. Thai lady boys and hookers, drunken chavvy girls from US, UK and Aus mixed in with some dated dance music. Now I am sure for some this does sound quite heavenly but for us well it was like we had been taken from heaven and dumped headfirst in a hellhole.

So we found a place (which was pretty horrible) and had a few drinks. Bangkok wasn't all bad though. They had a pretty cool air rail system that shoots around the city, they had an amazing market (which we intend to revisit before Oz to pick up some cool clothes (it was a bit Portabello Esq) We spent a few days just wandering around to the port, to China town and absorbing some of the much needed culture. The main difference for us 9after India) was the food, street vendors selling anything from chickens feet to Pad Thai.

Our next stop was Chang Mai... we had to wait another day for a train availability, so we decided to get out of Bangkok city and stay over at a smaller town called Ayutthaya on the train route up to Chang Mai. This was definitely a welcomed rest-break from Bangkok. Ayutthaya was lovely. A small town, staying in a small guesthouse. All three of us spent the day biking around the town, through parks along roadsides and visiting numerous Buddhist temples along the way. We also stopped off at an elephant farm to feed some elephants, which looked slightly mistreated but willing to eat anything you put in front of them all the same.

Our first night train from Bangkok to Chang Mai was pretty impressive. Now the Indian trains, you were very lucky to have a bench to sleep on. We arrived on the train and we had a little bunk with a curtain, sheets and even a pillow.. it seemed heavenly. We used Chang Mai as a stopover, visited a night market and the next day we travelled to Sappong. Sappong is what we REALLY needed after our travels through the cities. We arrived and it was QUIET! It was mountainous. Sappong is north of Chang Mai around about a 2 hour bus journey up a winding mountain (Kit had a little travel sickness on route). Sappong was a place we had read about on an online forum and wasn't in our travel book so we didnt know what to expect. The village is a trading and market centre for the many hilltribe villages that populate the area - this is all we knew. Our main ambition was to get away from scheduled trekking tours and the opportunity to explore the Thai mountains by ourselves...and we found it..

We found a brilliant guesthouse, called the Jungle Inn, run by a little Thai lady called Dea... (Pronounced Daaaa) She was very willing to do anything for us, spoke very little English (Sometimes our food orders reflected this) but it was quite the retreat. Jungle Inn was nestled in some trees up a windy path. The main building was where Hoff slept and Kit and I had a little log cabin hidden behind the guesthouse amongst the trees. The hut was wooden and jolly cold! At night the temperatures reached a staggering 4 degrees (I know this really is nothing compared to home but we are used to 35 degrees!) We kept warm by wearing pretty much every layer of clothing we could find and made full use of the open fire that Dea had burning early morning and evening.

We spent 3 very happy days here. Mainly exploring. Soppong is known for the abundance of caves in the area, and some are among the largest in the world. Many have prehistoric relics that date back more than a thousand years. One such cave (Coffin Cave) We visited for a day. All three of us clambering up and down rock faces to find caves and openings along the rock sides with views over the mountains. One morning we got up early and started a days walking. We walked a 15km round trip to see the sights of the area. We started a route up a hillside stopping numerous times asking directions from Monks and taking a peep at their meditation caves (The meditation cave we saw was a hole in a rock-face with water a brush to keep it tidy and some clothing in case they got cold when sticking there for a few hours) then we trekked onwards to a HUGE cave. This cave (not sure on its name) was Mahhhhuuusive. Somehow we arrived at the exit rather than the entrance but were greeted by bamboo rafts which floated through the caves entrance onto the other side and then you had a guide with a lantern take you round the twists and turns of the caves (which we tagged on for free). Many important people over time used the caves as places of rest so there were a few remnants of coffins left about the caves (although not sure how these people actually fit in them they were tiny, not even snoops would fit in one - king of Humans our guide put it). The long walk back was welcomed by a few beers (and vodka) around the campfire and debates with an eccentric Hong-Kong/Canadian, French couple and Ibiza/Dutch folk...a strange mix but not out the ordinary out here.

The next day we checked out of the Jungle Inn, looking forward to a Journey back down the mountain to a small town named Pai. Pai was once a quiet market village inhabited by a local tribe (Shan people) but now its well known for its relaxed atmosphere amongst backpackers. The town is full of cheap guesthouses, Pai souvenirs (t shirts and the like) and excursions to nearby sites (waterfalls, canyons, caves & temples). Surprisingly most of the tourism isnt the usual Aussies & yanks but actually Thai people. It is the destination for a film that was shot in 2009 (Pai in Love) so there are hoards of Thais grabbing photos from random places around town which we couldn't quite understand. We settled in well (after a hitch hike ride in the back of a jeep from Sappong). There are numerous health food shops dotted around so the change in cuisine form the usual Thai was great. Pai in the evening comes to life. The streets are lined with shops and music and a ton of food places, chocolate crepes, pancakes and sweetcorn vendors (Kit and Hoff LOVED this) Unfortunately (after much discussion about not eating meat) Hoff succumbed to his manly needs and had a cheese burger..the next 2 days for him were wiped out, a nasty bout of food poisoning was on the cards. This gave me and Anne Marie time to explore the place. We hired a moped and took to the open road in search for the local sites. We found some great temples, breathtaking waterfalls and a pretty scary canyon which we tight roped around the ridge before jumping back on the like to check out a world war 2 bridge. Other than that we all had our first sample of wheatgrass. Anne Marie being a health freak had heard of but never tried it. So we all had a shot (with a Thai yellow tea chaser) Wheatgrass is a wierd concoction. It provides chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes, everything you could ever need in one shot. It also gives you a kick like you had just drank two really strong cups of coffee. We have vowed to see where we can grab it in Aus when we arrive and Hoff has also found a spot on Borough market to get his next hit!

Hoff only had 3 weeks with us so we wanted to witness both the mountains and the sea in this short time. South Thailand was off the cards as it was peak season and judging by the amount of Tourists in the North it was something we did not really want in the South, so after much debate and Hoff finally getting better we set out upon a lengthy (36 hour - 1 night bus, 1 day train, a dodgey border crossing and a taxi) journey to Cambodia.

Posted by Kitanddup 22:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok chiang mai & ayutthaya pai sappong Comments (0)

Last thoughts

Stuff we have written in a little travel book about India

41 °C

Mountains and spice and all things nice
Curry mixed with Chai to chase
Meandering coves and white sand strips
Coconut drinks and Bhang trips
Scammers and cons - boats, cars and bags
Police officials all a big blag
Climbed the highest, reached the lowest,
Under caves and exploring rocks
The good with the bad
The peaks and the troughs
A wobble and a smile
India adventure
India a test
A rough ride
A tough ride
But most definitely the best

Travelled 20 places in 60 days

Mumbai
Dehli
Jaipur
Jaisalmer
Jhodpur
Varanassi
Chennai
Mamalpurhum
Puducherry
Mangalore
Palolem
Patnem
Arambol
Kochi
KodiKanal
Trivandrum
Kovalam
Alleppey
Hampi
Gokarna

Posted by Kitanddup 02:15 Archived in India Comments (0)

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