A Travellerspoint blog

Busy doing nothing in Koh Lanta & Phuket :)

sunny 35 °C
View Cass & Lee's RTW trip! on Cass - Lee's travel map.

After leaving Krabi, which had no crabs, we arrived in Koh Lanta which was full of them… and our stay there doubled from our original plan of four nights to eight! It turned out to be exactly what we had hoped for… absolute beach bliss. We found a lovely little place to stay called Darawadee Resort on Khong Klong beach. As I had been a little bit against staying in a beach hut due to the wildlife people reported on finding in their shacks… the place we stayed was perfect. A ‘proper’ room, right on the beach, and with a pool! We hadn’t expected that sort of luxury on a backpackers budget, though it’s surprising what your money can get you with a bit of haggling! To be honest, there’s not really a lot to report on our time spent on Koh Lanta… it was extremely lazy and mainly consisted of sunbathing, sunbathing and yep you guessed it… more sunbathing :) Must not forget to mention the resident sea otters who made a daily appearance around the resort, and fought with the million resident cats. Our daily exercise consisted of a dip in the pool and a game of bat and ball, followed by refreshments… mainly beer and noodles. We went all out on a couple of days and walked down the beach, and the daily jaunt to the shop on the beer run is worth a mention. We managed to work our way through the menu at the restaurant which was right on the beach, and binged daily on red, yellow, green, panang and massaman curries whilst listening to either Bob Marley or Jack Johnson. Being on the west coast, the sunsets every night were to die for. Our beach front resort had something we found nowhere else… a book swep. We have seen a similar concept along our travels, though it’s usually referred to as a book swap ;) Katie took part in some swepping which she thoroughly enjoyed, though sadly the laziness took over and I never swepped my magazine. One particular evening whilst waiting for Katie to finish her massage, we were sat on the bed, to be greeted by a man in Speedo’s walking through our patio doors! He’d just been for a massage too, and had got the wrong hotel room, random to say the least! Having not quite had enough massages whilst in Laos, we decided to push the boat out and try a Thai massage on our last night in Koh Lanta… oooh it was lovely :)

The following day we boarded a boat headed to Phuket, via Koh Phi Phi. We only spent an hour and a half in Phi Phi… and that was more than enough! Ruined doesn’t quite explain the extent of our instant dislike to the place. Given that the island is quite possibly the most stunning of all, the mass tourism it has suffered has definitely taken its toll. If you closed your eyes for a second, you really could be anywhere, and not somewhere as idyllic as Thailand.

The main reason we headed to Phuket was to catch our next flight to Malaysia, so with limited time left in Thailand we only had a day here. We weren’t in quite the same beach bliss as Koh Lanta though we did take a walk to the beach the following day which was still quite nice. We decided to head to the pier and watched some people fishing and some crabs scuttling around, and then popped to a market where you can buy any seafood you like and then at a bar opposite you pay them to BBQ it for you, pretty cool :) We had our last supper with our ‘homie’ Katie as she decided to boycott Malaysia and spend a month at a Muay Thai Boxing place. Rather her than me, all sounds a little too energetic… ;) After a final game of cards in our room, we had a visitor… who was most definitely not welcome… a flippin HUGE spider. Yes I may exaggerate sometimes, but seriously this guy was the size of my hand outstretched, and my hands are not small. Katie and I quickly jumped on the bed and turned into screaming crazy women who probably sounded like they belonged in a mental institute! Lee then had to play find the spider as this guy was a quick little git and was very good at the game of dodge the flip-flop, and disappeared behind Katie’s bed, much to her delight. I’m afraid to say that the flip-flop won in the end, we were just hoping that he hadn’t brought his friends. Not much sleep occurred after that as I was a nervous wreck!

Thailand has been lovely (minus the spider incident) and we will hopefully head back again one day to discover more of the beautiful islands :) But for now, we are onward bound for the jungle, highlands and beautiful beaches of Malaysia… I’m not even going to google which spiders they have there…

Posted by Cass - Lee 19:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

From cities to complete beach bliss...

sunny 35 °C
View Cass & Lee's RTW trip! on Cass - Lee's travel map.

So, being in a new hot and humid city at an unearthly hour, we ended up wasting a few hours in one of the parks until we could check into our hostel. Later we decided to head to the famous Koh San Road where we did a bit of shopping at the market. We found a little cart full of some thing which was attracting a lot of attention. We wandered over, and there was a lovely little pick and mix trolley… of many weird and wonderful bugs to eat. Luckily I wasn’t feeling all that hungry so I was able to decline such a nice offer, but Lee decided to try a cricket. Apparently it was just hollow and didn’t really taste of anything but soy sauce. I’m quite happy to take his word for it on that one!

The following day, we met up with our ‘homie’ Katie (We met on our tour in China, our tour leader called us his ‘homies’ which we found pretty amusing) :) The heavens opened and torrential rain appeared from nowhere, the road quickly became a swimming pool and we were wading through water to get to our taxi! Luckily we had flip-flops on, unfortunately Katie had her walking shoes on. We headed to the airport and flew to Krabi on our ninth flight. Lee spent all of my birthday money and bought himself a camera. Ok, ok, maybe that’s not entirely true, it was his birthday money too… he is like a dog with a million tails though with his new toy.

On our first full day in Krabi, we took a wander to the seafront as we were so lazy at getting out of bed, we missed all of the buses. We walked along the beach and booked ourselves a trip, and then really pushed the boat out and bought a beach towel :) The following day we just spent on the beach, flippin ‘eck is it hot here… 36 degrees to be precise. The thoughts of snow back home makes lying in the scorching heat that bit more bearable ;) The sunset here was a bit special too. On our last day in Krabi before moving to the islands, we headed out on an excursion firstly to the Emerald Pool. This was pretty amazing, a freshwater pool in the middle of the jungle. I was on the lookout for any nasties, though all we found was a couple of rather large spiders. We think they were bird eating spiders, as they look like the pictures I googled on the internet. Yes, me being me decided it would be a good idea to look up every weird and wonderful insect (or anything for that matter) that I may spot whilst on the Thai islands. The list is pretty endless, though the ones that stuck in my mind were the poisonous spiders, poisonous centipedes, scorpions and not forgetting King Cobra’s – all to be found in the idyllic beach bungalows. Then when you go for a dip in the sea you need to watch out of the Box Jellyfish – those lovely little guys apparently hold the most poisonous venom on the planet… just cracking that is, and really entices me in for a swim! I am prepared though, and some may laugh, but I have purchased a bottle of vinegar ready to treat any stings :) Oh I do like to be prepared! Anyway, back to The Emerald Pool… it was gorgeous and so clear, and the only thing in it seemed to be a few little fish swimming around. After the Emerald Pool we headed to the Hot Spring and waterfall. This was also pretty nice, though a little bit busy by the time we got there. The water was between 35-40 degrees, it was like being in a lovely hot bath. The waterfall itself was made up of various little rock pools, so we just got comfy and relaxed, well for all of about 15mins as we had to get out for our lunch. After not feeling very hungry as I’d gobbled a bag of crisps and ruined my appetite, I managed to do a good job of demolishing most of what was on the table in front of us :) We then headed to the Tiger Cave Temple. We hadn’t been warned about the energetic climb required to get to the top viewpoint. With a climb of 1237 steps, in the roasting 2pm heat we decided to give it a go. Katie and I made it to 500 steps and then left Lee to do the rest alone :) We then headed back down and enjoyed some ice-creams while Lee continued to climb to the top and take pretty pictures for us (I think I preferred our deal!) He had an animal encounter on the way down as a cheeky monkey took a liking to his water bottle in the side of his bag and went for the kill. Luckily Lee saw him coming out of the corner of his eye, and the water bottle was saved! He also saw one sitting eating chewing gum, and loads of them sliding down the handrails, they were having a whale of a time!

We are now on board a ferry on route to Koh Lanta… our nice little beach hideaway for the next few days, or maybe longer if we take a liking to it!

Posted by Cass - Lee 04:28 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Temples & Tigers… welcome to Thailand!

sunny 30 °C
View Cass & Lee's RTW trip! on Cass - Lee's travel map.

After my dramatic last post about the flight we were about to endure to get to Chiang Mai, it turned out that it was actually fine. Yes the plane was tiny, but the flight itself was probably one of the best we’ve had. Having had hypnotherapy last year, and the fact that I’ve done eight flights in the last two and a bit months, I still don’t think I will ever be comfortable with the whole flying thing. Something to do with the five miles between me and the ground just doesn’t sit well with me :(

We’d been told great things about Chiang Mai, but I think we were spoilt with Laos being so laid back. The city itself was pretty laid back as cities go with Temples everywhere, and the side streets were very quaint. You could while away hours just relaxing in the little eateries and bistro’s. After finding our bearings, we ended up falling off the wagon and eating in an American diner, not proud of the fact as we LOVE Thai food. There was a little mishap when the bill arrived – we didn’t have enough money on us having just arrived in the country – how embarrassing. I stayed at the restaurant while Lee played a game of hunt the ATM, after the one he was directed to was out of service… just our luck!

The following day, we just chilled and got some days out booked, one of which was a Thai cooking course. We headed to the market to collect ingredients and got taken back to the cookery school, when I fell out of the tuk-tuk and dropped all of my ingredients on the floor! Thank god I hadn’t been the egg carrier, and just had a basket full of beans. Luckily the knees stayed in their rightful places too given their latest track record! We got taught how to make some gorgeous dishes from scratch, including Green curry, Massaman curry, Egg fried rice, Pad Thai noodles, Sweet & Sour, Chicken and cashew nuts and Spring rolls, which I was really happy about as it will keep me in the good books with my mother-in-law as they are her favourite :) We decided to head to head to a bar for a beer with one of the guys we met in the class. It turned into more than just the one beer, and resulted in us both having hangovers the next day. Only the third time, since we left the UK, so we’re not doing too bad!

I think it was the hangover that marred my judgement, and we found ourselves sitting cuddling tigers the next day. Little baby ones only 2-3 months old, 5-7 month old ones and adults. We visited a place called Tiger Kingdom just outside Chiang Mai city. It was a fantastic day and a once in a lifetime experience. The babies were really playful, and one took a liking to Lee’s shoulder and starting gnawing away on it, and then decided to try and take a chunk out of my leg too! The 5-7 month olds were a bit more boisterous and were more interested in watching what the older tigers were up to, so it was hard work to get a cuddle. The adults were pretty daunting, just so huge! I was happier near the sleeping ones, though always had my eye on the others prowling around, and most of all the exit! :) A couple of the adults seemed to have the hump, and were walking around growling a bit, but the trainers kept an eye on them! If any of them growled too much while visitors were in with them, they just got a tap on the nose and they calmed down. We may be naïve but would not say the tigers were in any way drugged or anything like that, to enable humans to go near them. They seemed to be really healthy, well fed and looked after, and extremely alert. The sleeping ones were nice and chilled however, and we have since read that tigers do sleep for around 18-20 hours a day! After surviving the adult’s enclosure we went for a wander and saw 3 week old tigers being bottle fed… oh my god they were adorable and I could have definitely fit one of those little guys in my backpack!!

On our way back to the city, we dropped in at a snake farm. Lucky for us there was a snake show just starting when we arrived. This did mean that we had to walk past two Cobra’s which still had their fangs and poison, and we got told if you received a bite, you had an hour to get medical help - wonderful. We moved seat about five times as I wasn’t a fan of our close proximity to the ring! I did get told to sit still when they brought out the jumping snake, as had I moved it would have gone for me. Lucky we did move though as the snake charmers pulled a few pranks on the audience and also threw a rubber snake into the crowd! Lee posed for a pic with a Python, but I was happier without a Python pic! We walked around and saw various different types of snake, and then we heard some pretty awful screaming which seemed to go on forever. My brain was taking me down the avenues that maybe someone had been bitten by a snake and was within an hour of their life… but it turned out that the snake farm was opposite a bungee jumping place.

That evening we decided to indulge in some street food, which never fails to impress, and costs half of the price of restaurant food. We headed to the night bazaar which was just never ending! My desire for shopping was again satisfied, and a few purchases were made :) The backpack is getting fuller and fuller, and weighs more than Lee’s! Our need for Western food reappeared and we found ourselves at a burger joint by the end of the night, exhausted from the shopping. Our last day in Chiang Mai was spent just wandering around as we had already blown our budget. We then boarded our sleeper bus to Bangkok. About forty minutes into the journey we broke down and sat on the side of the road for an hour while the two drivers tried to fix the problem. Luckily they succeeded and it was lights out on the bus way before 10pm, so we had no option than to get some kip. We were awoken at 5am having arrived in Bangkok, onto the street we all poured and got bombarded by taxi men wanting to take us to our hostel for triple the price we had been told to pay. We settled our price and got dropped off at our hostel, only to find it all closed up. We knocked on the door to be greeted by a woman that told us they were full, even though we had a booking. She let us in to drop our main backpacks off, and by 5:30am, we were back trawling the streets of Bangkok and told to come back at midday… what a nice lady eh! We found shelter in a wonderful 24hr McDonalds, where I am sat writing this blog :) We could do with telling most of South East Asia that they really should take their Christmas trees down, yep they’re still up on 1st Feb! To top it all off McDonalds are playing ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’… and we have a drunk asleep next to us… welcome to Bangkok!

Posted by Cass - Lee 08:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The love affair with Laos continues...

sunny 28 °C
View Cass & Lee's RTW trip! on Cass - Lee's travel map.

Off we headed to Nong Khiaw, on yet another three hour bus ride to catch our boat to Muang Ngoi Neua. I say three hour bus ride, you never really know… things never leave on time and you basically get there when you get there – In Lao time :) The bus ride itself was hilarious as we got collected by a proper crazy driver who just constantly laughed away to himself and had a wicked sense of humour! Each time we stopped to collect more passengers he had a habit of forgetting to put the handbrake on, and off we rolled down the road! Once all passengers had been collected and we were ready to head to the bus station, the driver had managed to lose his keys – classic! We finally made it to the bus stop and we changed buses to head north, and what a beautiful drive it was. The scenery was just stunning, with views overlooking jungle, little winding rivers and limestone karsts. We then had to get a boat which we had been told only leaves when it has enough passengers, so you don’t really know how long you will have to wait! Technically you could actually be there days of no one was heading that way, you just have to love the chilled out atmosphere here.

We only had to wait for an hour for the boat ride in the end, though a white knuckle one it was (well in Cassie terms Lee assures me). We were going upstream, over rapids at some points… but it was a beautiful ride, passing a few kayaks, and fisherman on the way. The only thing a little alarming is it seemed to be a game of how many people can you cram in a boat, and backpacks. With only 6 proper seats, literally like car seats and then a wooden bench to park your bum for those left over, they managed to cram 22 people onboard. Once we arrived, we got ushered into a little bungalow which was basically a wicker shack, so cute, and cost us a whopping four quid. We especially liked the curtains which were a sheet hung up with a bit of string :) We had water, though only cold, and the power in the village was only supplied by generators and was on for 3hrs from 6pm-9pm! Outside of our balcony we could see the river ahead. The village itself was pretty much one road with the odd guesthouse scattered along, and a few small shops and restaurants/eateries (someone’s house with a couple of tables outside!). Luckily we were able to grab some candles as that’s a necessity here! We even had our own alarm clock which was a bunch of chickens and cockerels sat outside our shack :) You couldn’t ask for more remote, the place was amazing.

The following day we moved to a different shack which was literally on the river, on stilts. This time we had the luxury of a hammock and hot water… plus they had power for more hours a day, though intermittent was definitely the word to describe it! We did have to cough up 7 quid for this one though, a bit of a splurge ;) I nearly killed all power to our shack when I got the hairdryer out… big mistake! We woke up to a praying mantis sat on the loo roll in the loo… I was so glad Lee got up before me or I would’ve woken up the street! Only downside to the shack was the 5 spider nests in our room (well, those that I could see!).

We headed out for lunch and a little girl joined us and drew pictures of our postcards and other stuff, she then disappeared off around her garden and took photos (over 100) on our camera and then sat with us and reeled off English numbers. We later found out from her mum that she was only 5yrs old – this little girl was pretty amazing. We later had dinner and then had the walk of death back to the shack as it was pretty precarious with no lights!

The next day we went for a walk to see a cave – not the best idea given some of it was rock climbing – literally! We went to viewpoint though I couldn’t go all the way. On the way, we spoke to a girl who told us that her boyfriend had heard snakes up the top and to be careful. As I couldn’t go too far up, Lee did the last bit alone and was greeted by a nice fresh log at the top (I’m not talking about the kind that come from trees…) so we’re guessing that maybe there weren’t snakes up there after all, and she was just trying to put us off! We walked to another little village which was tiny, though had another cave and stream. We had lunch and took a nice stroll back. We went for a dip in the stream in our village, where the locals have their daily wash, and had lovely dinner – I became addicted to a dish called Suzy… it’s like a green/yellow curry, but a soup version - Mmm! I need to learn how to make that one…

We decided to have a nice lazy last day in Muang Ngoi and chilled in the hammock and I made my way through my book and sunbathed a bit. Lee decided to swim to the other side of the river. My heart was in my mouth the whole time as the current was stronger than it looked. Luckily it wasn’t until the following day before we left that we were told the freak story of a 20yr old, who died in the river a month back after getting cramp and drowning, while his friends were close by on the bank. It was sad to say goodbye to the village as it was most definitely a highlight of our trip so far, though we have plans to revisit which is something to look forward to!

After another game of how many people can you fit in a boat, and an hour down the river and the rapids to Nong Khiaw, we headed back to Luang Prabang. After wandering around trying to find accommodation, we found a lovely little place overlooking the Mekong and spent the evening at the night market which was great fun and I managed to satisfy my shopping cravings with some haggling and a few purchases  The following day, we headed to a bakery for breakfast… although not very Lao, we had the most yummy banana muffin that would knock spots off anything sold at Costa! We took a trip to the Kuang Si waterfalls… they just didn’t seem to stop… at every turn there were more and more falls be it big or small, and the water was the most beautiful milky blue colour. The colour actually reminded us of the water at the blue lagoon in Iceland that we visited last year. We decided to head to the top, though the walk in flip-flops, for me especially given the track record of my knee, was not wise. We turned back, though watched some crazy guys passing a small section through the main flow of water, where the drop was about 50 feet, with just a small flexi-fence kinda thing to hold onto – death wish or what!? There was a bear sanctuary there, where they look after bears rescued from poachers, they were so cute lazing around and sunbathing in hammocks. Seriously, I always thought I would like to come back as a cat (given ours have the life of luxury), though a bear living there has a pretty good deal too. As we had money to get rid of before leaving Laos we decided to treat ourselves to a head and shoulder massage. This time it was pretty relaxing for me, and Lee seemed to have the vicious massage this time – haha! We headed for our last meal, I decided to eat yet another suzy, for a change :) Given that we enjoyed the massages so much, we found ourselves then getting a foot massage on our way back to our guesthouse… bliss!

We are now sat at one of the smallest airports we have ever been to and are awaiting our flight to Chiang Mai… this time on a much smaller plane which I am certainly not overly excited about. I’d actually say I’m dreading it… feeling as though I am being stuffed into one of those tubes of sweets you get at Christmas, and flung into the air with pilots that don’t have the same safety precautions that we do back home is not really my ideal day. It may be time to leave Laos, though there is no doubt we will be back, maybe staying here for longer next time… who knows what the future will bring, this country has really touched us :)

Posted by Cass - Lee 17:06 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Falling in love with Laos...

sunny 27 °C
View Cass & Lee's RTW trip! on Cass - Lee's travel map.

Well… having two flights to endure to get to Laos as there was no direct flight, I was my usual nervous self. Flight no.1 was only half an hour so that was fine, flight no.2 however had me wondering if my number was up… turbulent wasn’t the word!

Back on solid ground, we arrived in Vientiane, the capital. It’s much much quieter than we expected a capital to be. We headed out to a restaurant… which was basically a trailer that turns up with a load of chairs and tables, and a cooking area – that’s what you call open air dining! We took a walk around the night market and I managed to find clothes to fit me, oh my god… the people here are as tiny as in Vietnam.

The following day we decided to head to some temples, Wat Si Saket and Haw Pha Kaew, as we are no longer ‘templed out’ having had a break from them! They were both very beautiful… as was the weather, not a cloud in the sky and no humidity, yay  There’s something very relaxing seeing monks going about their day. We learnt that many Lao males choose to be ordained temporarily as monks for one to three years and spend this time in a temple. We took a walk down to the riverfront which overlooks the Mekong and looks out over Thailand. We watched the sunset which was gorgeous and headed back to the night market and for dinner at the same makeshift restaurant as the previous night as it was so good. The food is very much like Thai food which happens to be our favourite, so we are both in our element! Red, yellow and green curries for lunch and dinner going forward I think!

Next stop, Van Vieng. After enduring a 3hr mini bus ride on quite possibly the worst roads (or should I say dirt tracks) we have ever been on, with a driver who seemed to be in a hurry, we arrived in Vang Vieng. We were lucky to have any teeth left after that with the amount of pot holes we hit! Some were enjoying a nice nap and got rudely awakened by smacking their heads against the window due to the terrible roads! We thought Vang Vieng was a ghost town when we arrived – not a soul to be seen. It turns out everyone was down the river tubing. Basically you hire an inner tube from a tyre and float down the Nam Song River, stopping off for a beer en route at the various make-shift bars. It was something we were a bit apprehensive about considering the river has claimed 22 lives in the last year. This was mainly due to the fact that people drink far too much and then get in the water… an accident waiting to happen really.

The following day, we decided to head out on a bike ride. We hired some pretty old school bikes and headed off down a dirt track. Seven kilometres later we ended up at a blue lagoon and cave which was beautiful. We met some lovely German girls and spent the rest of the afternoon with them, and then watched the sunset in a random field – it was gorgeous! The following day we bit the bullet and arranged to go tubing with the girls, none of us really knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a fantastic day, with swings, zip wires, slides, inflatables etc, and nice hammocks to relax in, plus of course the lazy couple of hours spent just tubing down the river. Lee seemed to be the guinea pig for the adventurous stuff, once he’d had a go, half of the bar headed to each attraction to have a go too! There were free shots to be had in every bar and buckets for the many that wanted them… including the Thai guy that latched onto us… my god he was hammered! Us two, being ancient 30 year olds were a bit more sensible and looked after Mr Drunkard who couldn’t even stay in his tube and at one point lost it completely, and was floating down the river smashing into the rocks approaching. We had no concept of time and the day flew past, before we knew it, it was early evening and we were being grabbed from the river by little kids. Sadly on my exit from the river, the inevitable happened… out came the dislocating knee party trick. I think I’ll be booking in for the knee cap removal when we’re back, dunno about anyone else, but I’m fed up with it! I then had to do the hobble of shame through the town looking like a drunken lout with a typical ‘tubing injury’ – though sober!

We decided to move on the following day and head to our next destination, Luang Prabang. We thought we had already experienced terrible roads… oh no we hadn’t. The roads this time were not only worse, but also up steep mountain paths with sheer drops at every turn. Definitely the worst I have seen so far on this trip! Laos as a whole is such a breath of fresh air though, the cities are so so quiet and simplistic, it’s just lovely. The people here are equally as lovely, just so relaxed, friendly and helpful. You never see people raising their voice or getting angry about anything, they just seem so calm. Luang Prabang is a bit of a whistle stop (though back in a few days) as we’re heading straight to a village called Muang Ngoi Neua… which apparently has no roads heading to it, just a boat, no internet, no telephone lines, and the locals say they get mobile phone signal 'sometimes'… sounds like bliss!

Posted by Cass - Lee 10:49 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 34) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 »