12.07.2014 - 01.08.2014
By now, those of you following our blog know that we joined forces with the Drurys in Bangkok and the plan was to spend the following two and half weeks together exploring the capital and some of the islands further south. We were beyond excited to have some travel buddies for our time in Thailand and couldn't wait to see them.
I've also mentioned that their blog is fantastic and up-to-date, which means you can read all about our little foursome, if you haven't already, by clicking on the following links (in chronological order):
1: Bangkok - http://marriedtoourbackpacks.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/bangkok-thailand/
2: Koh Samui - http://marriedtoourbackpacks.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/koh-sumui-thailand/
3: Koh Phangan - http://marriedtoourbackpacks.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/koh-pha-ngan-thailand/
4: Koh Phayam - http://marriedtoourbackpacks.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/koh-phayam-thailand/
5: Railay - http://marriedtoourbackpacks.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/krabi-railay-thailand/
6: Phi Phi - http://marriedtoourbackpacks.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/phi-phi-don-thailand/
To avoid paraphrasing what James has already so eloquently written and because, let's face it, I'm slightly behind here, I tried to give you a summarized version.
So here goes...
Thailand 2014 with the Drurys
They arrived from Chiang Mai on the overnight train, and us on the bus from Siem Reap. Both teams did well to coordinate meeting in BANGKOK but somehow forgot to do any further planning!
We tried to explore the city, only to find out we had arrived the weekend of a religious holiday and everything was closed. So we crammed ourselves into a few tuk-tuks, ate and drank, and talked...a lot.
We snacked on scorpions on Khao San Road (popular backpacker street):
Yes they ate the whole thing! Well...almost, the girls nibbled on the tails. Nothing to it.
We looked for more traditional street food and ordered the first of many, many, many Pad Thais.
We found a bar to watch the world cup final between Argentina and Germany. The boys placed their bets, I focused on my "buy 2 get 1 free" G&Ts, and Natalie searched for spring rolls. We eventually made it to bed at 5am.
When we finally woke up some time in the afternoon - the Drurys would have gone straight into the evening if we hadn't knocked on their door at 3pm to check their pulse - the pain was evident and we craved junk food, lots of junk food. So we hit the mall and gorged on KFC, McDs, ice cream, cupcakes, chocolate and more. It was appalling but amazingly satisfying at the same time. We also got cozy at the movies. What else were we meant to do in our state??? Greg was eyeing a Ducati on display in the mall so the foodcourt and the theater seemed like the safer alternatives.
We eventually got organized and saw some Bangkok sights.
The Grand Palace:
Security made me wear this flattering shirt to cover my shoulders and I had to wrap my shawl around my waist to cover my calves (?). This is the only picture Greg allowed of me in that sexy getup.
Wat Pho or "Temple of the reclining Buddha":
when we thought we'd seen it all ...
We took a water taxi up and down Chao Phraya river for a different perspective of Bangkok:
We walked through Chinatown:
We strolled through the Patpong night market where we saw a glimpse of the Bangkok we had heard so much about - hint: ping pong - and that's all I'll say about that!
Greg negotiating a discount:
We visited Damnoen Saduak floating market in Ratchaburi province near Bangkok:
We celebrated James' birthday on Soi 11 - a popular party hub for the local expat community
We drank buckets from a converted VW wagon on the side of the street:
We found more VWs and drank more buckets.
...too many buckets! So we climbed 32 flights of stairs to get into Agua Bar through the fire escape exit - because it made perfect sense at the time.
The owner and bouncers didn't appreciate the pink bucket Greg was trying to smuggle in nor James' flip flops. Some insults were exchanged. We were escorted to the elevator we should have taken to begin with. Big fail.
Unphased by the turn of events, Greg headed back to the main entrance without his pink bucket while James tried to "borrow" shoes from innocent bystanders.
Luckily, James' western feet were too big for the average Thai shoe and we moved on.
Back on Soi 11, we reflected on wtf had just happened and naturally, decided to order more buckets.
In hindsight...we wouldn't have done anything differently. It was a brilliant night
Another difficult morning led us back to Wat Pho, apparently the mecca for Thai Massages
Natalie getting her spine realigned. Just what the doctor ordered.
We said goodbye to modern, cosmopolitan, naughty Bangkok and boarded the overnight train to Surat Thani,
then a bus to Donsak, and finally a ferry to KOH SAMUI, the first island on our list.
We rented scooters:
The boys drove, the girls took pictures:
Greg's never impatient, no sirrie - "oh look, the sidewalk's clear, let's bypass the traffic"
We hiked to some waterfalls...in flip flops...it was challenging:
But what a view:
and thankfully, quite refreshing:
We eventually found Monk Luang Pho Daeng because James refused to give up the search:
Rocking those shades...
Monk Luang Pho Daeng died while meditating in the mid-1980s and his mummified body is on display at Wat Khun Aram. A bit creepy, I know! He apparently instructed his followers that if his body started to decay, to cremate him. If his body did not decompose however, he wanted his body to be kept in a glass casket in the temple to serve as an inspiration for future generations about the teachings of Buddha.
It's considered a miracle to some but others believe that his small intake of food, his low metabolism and reduced need for oxygen because of his meditation technique might be the explanation for his body staying so well preserved. Who knows?!
We then popped in to see the notorious Grandma and Grandpa rocks:
and giggled like schoolgirls.
We tasted delicious street food at the night market:
Apparently so did this big fella:
We visited more temples:
Not so good at catch?
We then boarded a ferry to KOH PHANGAN, island no. 2 on our hit list:
We were there for the half-moon party and party we did:
The prep, which included pre-drinks, fake eyelashes for the girls, lumo nail polish for Nats, a quiff for me and body paint for all:
I'm not quite sure what we were doing at this stage of the night but those kebabs, wow...simply the best EVER! I think the girls had 2 each despite James' words of wisdom: "eatin' is cheatin'".
Too cute to deny him some of our leftovers. I meant the dog, not James
Another brilliant night with the inevitable painful hangover the next day - that face says it all not to mention the fact we were still covered in paint.
Luckily, the view from our shack wasn't too bad:
so we chilled there for most of the day:
and eventually went south in search of other beaches:
We found the famous full moon party venue where we assumed our horizontal chillin' positions:
We stopped at a bar to watch F1 (boys), blog (Issy) and plan (Natalie)...
and ended our very lazy day sprawled on comfy bean bags with our feet in the sand - life can be a bit tough sometimes.
We explored the island further and saw the different, much more authentic side of Koh Phangan, far removed from the touristy party hub in the south.
But first, we had to wait for team chubby to make it up a few hills
When you know husband's in for a beatin'
We trekked - it was exhausting:
but well worth the effort
although it left some of us a little famished....
who needs cutlery anyway?
Satisfied with our Koh Phangan experience, we boarded an overnight ferry back to Surat Thani, a bus to Ranong and another ferry to KOH PHAYAM on the west coast of Thailand. Known to be far less touristy than its eastern cousins, it suited us perfectly as we were keen to spend a few days in a less developed environment.
Some interesting accessories on this particular tuk-tuk:
We took the ferry to Koh Phayam:
yes, that's the wooden gangway in the water after the captain forgot to retrieve it before pulling out. Three men and a few minutes later, it was safely back on the ferry.
After bartering for a couple of scooters, we found an open lodge - there weren't many!
Our hut at Starlight Bungalows - low season does have its perks, we had the place to ourselves!
On the rare occasions it stopped raining for more than 15min, we zoomed around the island and enjoyed the deserted beaches and stormy weather.
We found Hippy Bar, the coolest beach bar made entirely of drift wood!
Although closed for the season, the owner and his friends let us take refuge from the rain inside the bar and even shared a few beers with us for which they refused payment. A very cool rasta man indeed.
There are no cars on the island so Greg finally let me drive the scooter on the virtually deserted small roads and it was AWESOME!
he was confident I could do it...obviously!
It rained...and rained...and rained some more so we made 9 liters of sangria, bought 2 jars of Nutella, 2 tins of condensed milk and a Kit Kat for some - what else were we supposed to do??
The owls kept a watchful eye on us:
"what on earth are these people doing?"
while this evil venomous centipede tried a sneak attack on us and almost bit one of the doggies - nasty creature!
I think it is worth mentioning at this stage that our bungalows were slightly exposed, meaning that any curious creature of the night could come in and pay us a visit. We found a rat in the room one evening before bed - always reassuring - and a bat flew in through the front door and out through the gap between the roof and the bathroom wall earlier that day - anything else? Probably. Enough to give us city folks a few nighmares. Not sure how we managed to sleep! I'll admit I woke up a few times in the middle of the night to make sure the mosquito net was still tucked in around the bed!
In addition to all the uninvited creatures - oh and Todd (the owner) also mentioned he had seen cobras on the property, in case we weren't terrified enough - we also mingled with Wolfgang and Gas, the resident pooches. Wolfgang is Todd's gentle giant and Gas is just a pup who showed up one day and never left.
Aren't they the cutest??? I wish I could adopt you Gas - you took a little piece of my heart....shhhht, don't tell Bella
With so much time on our hands...
Early morning on our way to the dock to catch the ferry back to Ranong:
Some of the amusing bathroom signs we saw along the way:
From Ranong, we caught the bus to KRABI town further south where we spent the next day blogging, planning and doing some much needed admin, before heading to the beaches of RAILAY, known for its towering limestone cliffs and a popular spot for rock climbers.
Catching a longtail boat to Railay:
that tiny spec is a rock climber just behind our hotel.
So when in Rome....
and the battle wounds:
because that's how we roll.
We hit the "town" after a quick recovery nap.
Thai Jenga = 3 regular Jenga sets because we all need a challenge. Yes that's James watching F1 on the owner's computer.
The boys ordered cocktails:
We didn't judge.
And we rounded things up with a fire juggling show:
The next morning we split up according to dehydration levels and hangover severity - Team Drury and Issy relaxed by the pool while Greg climbed a steep muddy hill to see a lagoon. It is still unclear who was the most affected by the prior night's activities....
Greg took pictures:
James questioned their legitimacy and implied they may have been "googled" - no witnesses have come forward so the jury is still out on this one...
We were eventually reunited and managed to leave the hotel to visit some of the nearby beaches.
Railay and Tonsai beaches - simply stunning!
On our last night, we thought about mixing things up a bit but decided to stick to what we knew:
Thai Jenga = 5 regular Jenga sets because we were that good and drinks were at stake.
The next morning, we tackled the 4th and final island on the tour - Phi Phi Don (pronounced Pee Pee).
We had more Pad Thai - it's addictive!
and this is where I lost everyone. One by one, the youngsters of the group went back to the hotel with some sort of stomach bug and I was left on my own to fly the team flag . Kids, they don't make them like they used to.
Me myself and I at Banana Bar sipping a smoothie and watching L.A. Confidential on their outdoor screen:
So no diving the next day despite our best intentions but we did manage a day trip to Phi Phi Leh, made famous in the movie "The Beach" starring Leonardo DiCaprio:
Fooling around in one of the bays:
The longtail boats could not access Maya Beach, "The Beach", directly because of the rough seas, which left us with a tricky alternative:
but we made it and walked onto Maya just a few minutes later:
less the special effects seen in the movie but still beautiful!
Some interesting Russian characters we observed on the beach...
we tried not to judge.
Back on Phi Phi Don:
Where everything can be bought....for the right price:
Not really, but his mom had fun watching him being photographed.
We managed to stay away from these dangerous concoctions:
and enjoyed our last day together exploring the island - it was quite emotional.
We share James and Natalie's views that Thailand is a beautiful country but that beauty has also been its downfall in some way. The north of Thailand is quite different in that it hasn't been too spoiled yet but places like Phi Phi Don have little authenticity and culture left, which is such a shame. Who can really blame the locals for trying to make a living though? If only they could also do something to ensure the environment and wildlife are protected.
In the end, we had an amazing trip, made unforgettable memories and will forever be grateful that we were able to share the experience with the Drurys. Please come back to Cayman! We look forward to picking up where we left off. Don't forget the Nutella!
We are in New Zealand at the moment, the final destination on the Greg and Issy world tour. Wow, I can't believe we've been on the road for over five months. It's strange, our time in South Africa seems like it happened years ago yet I still feel like time has flown. An update on our week in Malaysia coming next.
Greg and Issy.