Sunday, 23 February 2014

Ao Nang and Railay Beach, Southern Thailand

Oh man. You guys. This area is...I have no words. So beautiful!! I love the Andaman coast :)

We made it to Ao Nang and checked into our first dorm room style hostel of our trip. We got two bottom bunks beside each other (bottom bunks are the best so you can hide your big bag under your bed and even drape something from the top bunk to hide from the light) in a co-ed room for 30 people. 

We stayed at Ao Nang Backpackers and I would def recommend it - super clean, friendly and helpful staff, good breakfast (although not included) AND real coffee.

It's the little things in life, amiright?! 

Anywho, we kind of messed up our schedule a bit by booking a flight out of Krabi (40min drive from Ao Nang) to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand ahead of time, so we only had a day and a half in this area. 

We both decided that we could have stayed for at least a week - there are so many cool islands to check out in this area, like the infamous Koh Phi Phi where the movie 'the beach' was filmed, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. 

Alas, we had to make due with the time that we had, so we took a long boat taxi ride to Railay beach, about a 20min ride, to hang out for our first afternoon. 

The west side of the beach is gorgeous white sand, but packed full with long boats. We decided to wander over to the east side, which is covered in mangroves so you aren't able to swim there. The views are still stunning: we walked along the boardwalk to the very end and spent a ridiculous amount of money on two soda waters so we could loiter about on the cushions and look out on the cool rock islands. 

We then wandered back over to the other side to go for a swim - it was flipping got outside. En route, Cynthia spotted a monkey crossing the path in front of us. She had mentioned just that morning that the one thing she really wanted to see were monkeys. 

All of a sudden, we were surrounded by them. I have this irrational fear of being bitten by a monkey, so I kind of freaked out haha but it was awesome to see them just randomly hanging out. 

After a dip in the ocean, it was time to head back to our beach. We took a long tail back and passed by Tonsai beach, known for its awesome rock climbing. You can even climb certain combos over the ocean and just drop into the water if you mess up. So cool! 

We wandered along the road towards our hostel and stopped for some massaman curry for dinner, my new fave :)

We then found a random night market walking street. It was the coolest one we have seen so far - there were a bunch of clothing vendors, a lot of second hand clothing and unique handmade stuff. Cyn went a bit buck-wild buying souvenirs and I was satisfied by shopping vicariously through her. 

Long boat taxi drivers

It's still too early in my trip to load up on gifties for people back home. Don't fret Momster, I haven't forgotten that I promised to bring back an elephant for you ;) 

The first mosque I've seen here! The call to prayer made me miss Egypt a bit...


Fresh chicken (just kidding, kind of) 

This morning we had a delish breaky (did I mention they had real coffee?!) and wandered down to Ao Nang beach. It is hard to say goodbye to this area so soon, I would love to come back and explore it more some day. Isha'Allah, God willing. 

We are now at the Krabi airport waiti for our flight to Chiang Mai. I feel a bit lavish taking a flight when most people brave the 36 hour bus ride. Cyn only has 9 more days here(!!) so we are making the most of the time we have left. 

Truck ride to the airport 

Hoping the flight goes smoothly and our bags make it there without incident, and can't wait to explore a new and different area of Thailand! 

Overnight Ferry - Koh Tao Island to Surat Thani and Krabi, Thailand

Hi all! 

Hope you are all feeling fantastico today :) if not just cause life is good, but for the fact that Canada won our second gold medal for hockey - BOOYAH!! So proud!

Anywho, Cyn and I braved the overnight ferry from Koh Tao to Surat Thani on the mainland on our way to the western side of the southern tip of Thailand. 

There were two floors on the ferry, both with huge bunker rooms that were filled with double bunk beds. It was like a giant sleepover party. 

I am (not so secretly) glad that I had my awesome travel buddy for the ride, it would have been pretty close quarters with a stranger haha. Oof. 

About half an hour after we left the pier, the lights were turned down and people got a bit hushed and tried to settle in for a few hours of sleep. The ferry left Koh Tao at 9:30pm and was set to arrive at around 5am in Surat Thani. 

And then the waves started. It was a tad terrifying, and there were times when the motor stopped in order to crash through a wave. As I said, terrifying. 

Yet, despite the crazy rocking of the boat, we actually managed to get some shut-eye and arrive alive. 

We were shuttled to a random office through the company we booked the bus with and waited a while. 'Big bag at the back!' We were one of the first people to arrive, so our bags were at the bottom of a mountain by the time we were set to leave. All part of the travelling experience in Thailand ;)

We were transferred by white van to Krabi. I passed out during the 2 hour ride, but woke up to amazing mountain views passing by the window. The west side is absolutely gorgeous and SO different from the east side. 

We hung out at another random office for about an hour, until all of the madness of people trying to get buses to their respective destinations died down a bit. Things just take a bit more time here than you expect. 

We grabbed a van ride to Ao Nang near Krabi, ready to start our adventures on the west side of the peninsula! 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan Island, Thailand

Hi friends! Hope all is well in the world with you :) 

[Momster and Popster - this might be a post that you want to have been forewarned!]

I am laying on the beach as I write this, munching on some new snacks: seaweed flavoured chips ( my new fave), dried seaweed crisps (what can I say, I was feelin' the seaweed vibe today) and a yogurt drink that I seen a bunch of people drinking here. Pretty sweet, but delish. 

[Another side note - I don't actually have any pics from the night on my iPhone since I decided to leave my iPhone in the safety of our hotel room and just being my point-and-shoot, which I'm SO glad that I did because I probs would have lost or destroyed it haha so enjoy a medley of other pics]

Anywho, the full moon party on Koh Phangan island was amazing. Point finale. I want to do it again haha. 

We took a ferry over from Koh Samui Island at around noon, where we were staying since the ENTIRE island was booked solid, no joke. If you want to stay on the island (which I would recommend so you don't have to worry about the ferry in the morning) definitely book your place in advance! 

We got to the island and got immediately lost, as per usual. We ended up on a beach and asked someone where we were. 'Haad Rin Nok, yo. Sunrise beach. Full moon party tonight!' 


We wandered back through the town and got our supplies for the night - neon full moon party tank top, glow in the dark paint, and flower headbands for our hair. We then continued on to the sunset side of Haad Rin, the southern area of the island, since it was less crowded and we could chill and sleep for a bit. 

We ended up meeting some Israelis who were playing volleyball and ended up hanging out with them til after sunset. They wanted to take proper naps, so we decided it was time to find something to eat. We said we would see them later, and they replied 'yeeeah there's only going to be 30,000 people on the beach tonight, right?' 

We ended up leaving a couple of restaurants since the service was so slow - everywhere was flooded with people from all over the world, all decked out in neon and flowers - and ended up waiting in line for some street food. 

Mangosteen fruit- our fave!!

It turned into about an hour-long wait, but it was totally worth it. The man made everything one at a time, and it was seriously the best pad thai of my life. We made a couple of Canadian friends in line, who helped us get our war paint on. 

We were ready to tackle the beach! 

The rest of the night was a beautiful mixture of buckets (Thai alcohol, pop and redbull), dancing in the sand, dancing on stages, running along the was a ridiculously good time. 

Dragon fruit - not my fave

We ended up finding our Israeli buddies by pure chance. Crazy pants! 

A couple of downfalls from the night [Momster and Popster, skip this part]:
i) We saw people doing the limbo under a stick that was on fire. Everyone else did it but I said I was afraid of fire. Peer pressure kicked in and I thought, what the heck. BAD IDEA - the stick was balanced on two stools and rolled off just as I went under. I was SO freaking lucky - I had a black stripe across my chest and got away with only a few singe marks on my thigh and leg. I was kind of shaken, but decided to get back on the horse and went under...making sure two people were holding onto either end. 
Lesson learned: don't do the limbo under a fire-y stick unless it's held down. 

ii) Pickpocketing happened. I noticed someone tug on my bag, and then looked and saw that some of the shirts I had bought were gone. We looked around and somehow managed to find them all soaking wet in the sand. I didn't, however, find my glasses. Seeing is overrated, I guess...I'm secretly still hoping that someone will get them back to me, but might just have to get some made in Bangkok. I'm glad I was prepared for this, though, and didn't have anything else valuable to be taken. 
Lesson learned: be vigilant with your bags! Use a lock if you have one! It's dorky, but handy ;)

iii) The lady who sold us the tickets for the ferry had warned us to take one earlier than the last one (at 7am) but we didn't listen to her. After watching the sun rise, which was the highlight of the night, we wandered back to the pier to see a gaggle of people waiting in line. We stood there for about an hour when we started getting antsy. An Australian guy that I met in line said that he found a boat that would take us for 3000 baht (ridiculously expensive). 'I don't have cash on me, but if you pay for it I'll pay you back the whole lot'. Deal. Get me the hell off this island! 

So, off we went to our 'speed boat' aka wooden long boat. I would NOT recommend taking one of those things out into the open sea. We put life jackets on and stashed our stuff in the front of the boat and off we went into the craziest waves of all time. We were soaking wet in no time, laughing our pants off at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. We were near shore when we stalled. And then again. And again. It was all I could do not to kiss the ground when we docked. 
Lesson learned: stay on Koh Phangan or take an early ferry back to Koh Samui. Don't take a wooden boat. Or if you do, make sure the motor works ;) 

So, it was an adventure to say the least. But an epic time and seriously an experience I think everyone should have at least once in their lives. Don't be afraid - I let people freak me out beforehand. Be vigilant, but enjoy it!!

Chillin' on Koh Tao Island, Thailand

Turns out this is the longest amount of time that we have spent in one place so far during our time in Thailand. 

I convinced Cyn to do her open water diving course, so we have been here for 4 glorious days full of sun, sand, diving and fun. 

As a side note, I am SO proud of her for doing the course! She had a bit of an incident where she inhaled water on her second dive and couldn't cough into her regulator (the hose you breathe through) so she panicked a little and ascended. She calmed down, coughed a bunch, and decided to go back down. It's hard to do that when you have your first scare under water, but it totally paid off - she is now PADI certified, so proud :) 

The most adorable diving center dog 

We got free accommodation through our courses (sunshine inn), and it was a bit of a sketchy place. Bare bones, no sheets on the stained beds, a yucky bathroom, but we survived. 

We are staying at the south end of the island, but have also heard that Sairee beach on the west coast is awesome too. 

If you're not here for diving, don't fret! There are awesome snorkelling places just off the beaches, and you can do day excursions to nearby islands and see turtles(!!) and also do some sea kayaking. 

If you are looking for a chill place to hang out, with cool little bars and restaurants and a good vibe, I would def recommend coming to Koh Tao. 

Be sure to book your accommodations in advance, especially if you are coming after the full moon party. Tourists kind of come in waves to this place - it starts in Koh Phangan and Koh Samui (for the poor suckers like us who didn't book a place in advance) and then people disperse to the nearby islands, like Koh Tao. 

The beaches here are beautiful, and there are cool rock formations along the coast. One of the guys that I did my advanced course with said that they look like they could stand up and walk away. I know, so poetic ;) 

Anywho, we're taking the night ferry and bus to the west side of the peninsula tonight to do some rock climbing. So pumped! 

Hope all is well in the world with everyone, catch you on the flip side.