A Beautiful Adventure

On the Road Again...

Author: KatoZoo (page 3 of 3)

Thailand: Krabi

The night ferry left Koh Tao at 9pm Tuesday night.  We met up with a group of British guys and hung with them at a near by bar before the boat left.  We were having too much fun because we almost missed the ferry, but we hopped on just in time.  Night traveling is the way to go; there are mats lined up with plastic pillows, open windows and fans.  I had a travel sheet and a travel pillow, so I slept very comfortably actually, on the boat.  Another plus is the price; I only paid for travel, so I didn’t have to spend money on a hotel that night…I didn’t miss out on the daylight, and it is cooler at night.  All around, night travel is the way to go. 

The ferry arrived in Suratthani at 5am Wednesday morning.  From the port, we were shuttled to the bus station, where we purchased our tickets to Au-Nang, Krabi.  This was 250 baht each.  The bus picked us up at 6am and we arrived in Krabi around 9am.  At the bus station in Krabi we were shuttled to another travel agency, where they put us on another taxi that drove us to Au-Nang.  We arrived in Au-Nang around 11am.  At least all of the shuttleing back and forth was included in the 250 baht.

While at the travel agency we met a young British couple who were headed to Railay Beach…we were told by several people that there was not much accommodation at Railay Beach and it was more of a place to just take a day trip to, but worth the visit.  Our plan was to stay a night or two in Au-Nang and visit Railay Beach for a day before heading to the Phi Phi Islands.

On the taxi to Au-Nang we chatted up a Norwegian who was studying abroad in Singapore and using his time there to travel around Asia.  The three of us adopted him into our pack and actually ended up staying with him until the next day.  Once in Au-Nang we found a place to sleep pretty quickly, 300 baht each for an air-conditioned room with TV.  It was called the Sea Shell Hotel or something.

We ate lunch at fancy beach side resort, and the service and food were pretty horrible, and expensive.  Never eat at the resorts.  The beaches in Au-Nang are nice, long, sandy beaches with deeper water.  The beaches in Koh Tao and Koh Phangan were shallow, not even to the knees.  This beach went up past the shoulders, quickly.  Unfortunately, it was jelly fish season around Krabi though, so we actually didn’t even want to be in the water all that much when we realized this.

Its interesting in Au-Nang on the beaches, how the massage stands operate.  They each have stands located beach side and they entise you to use their chairs and buy their water in hopes that you will leave the lazy beaches to get a massage, or pedicure, or something.  We didn’t.  Instead we collected sea shells and walked a jungle path in hopes of seeing monkeys.  In light of the “Warning, Do Not Feed Monkeys for Your Own Safety” sign, we didn’t see any monkeys at all in Au-Nang.

We did eat Indian food at a nice restaurant that night.  The service was great and the food better, but it was just as expensive, if not more so, as it would have been in the States.  After dinner, the sky began to fill up with lighting and thunder…the rainy season was beginning to creep in.

Thailand: Koh Tao

While in Koh Phangan we did learn how to say “Hello” and “Thank You” in the native tongue.  “Hello” Is “Sa-wa-dee-” and for us females it is “Ka” and for a male it is “Kop”.  I am spelling these the way they actually sound.  So “Sa-wa-dee-Ka” is how we say hello here.  “Thank You” is “Kope-on-Ka” or a male would say “Kope-on-Kop”.  We also learned that the Thai people are covered up when walking through town (as in not just a bikini), take their shoes off before entering most shops and all homes, and bow their heads with hands in prayer position while greeting eachother.  Some of these cultural traditions are very relaxed, like the bowing of heads and hands in prayer position, but it is still polite to do since we are visiting. 

With a little more knowledge of the local culture, we ventured onto a ferry that took us to Koh Tao.  It was about a 50 minute boat ride. We got there around 11am.  Everyone tends to flock from the Full Moon Party to Koh Tao, so it shouldn’t have been surprising when we ran into Dude one night.  Koh Tao was very crowded though and we had to hunt for a room.  We finally got a room at the hub of all the activity, Lotus.  It was kind of a dump, and the electricity would turn off and they would forget to turn it back on, but hey, it was a place to stay.

Looking around the beach in Koh Tao, every other person was bandaged up somehow.  At first I assumed they were motorbike injuries, but thinking about it now, some of them could have been from the fire jump ropeing going on at the Full Moon Party…quite the site to see regardless. 

Most people who go to Koh Tao partake in a four-day diving certification course.  We were almost talked into this, but decided it was not in our budget.  We opted for a full-day snorkel tour around the island, and it provided plenty of excitment for us at a much smaller price.  The tour included lunch, fried rice and chicken, and stopped at Koh Nangyaun, a national park in Thailand where three masses of land are attached via sand bars.  As if this and snorkeling with colorful fish in coral were not enough, a whale shark swam beneath and around our boat! I spoke with divers later who had hoped to see what we saw, but they weren’t as lucky. 

Koh Tao was so hot, that on the days we weren’t snorkeling we had no other option but to lounge in the water until the sun went down. It was too hot to be anywhere else! Once the sun sets though, there was plenty to do in Koh Tao.  The beaches were lined with fire dancers everynight, and the Lotus bar offered 1/2 off buckets while they sent a glow lamp into the air.  We enjoyed sitting on the mats, leaning back on cushions and watching the fire dancers beach side at night.  If we had the energy, there were plenty of dance clubs and bars to visit along the walkway.  Koh Tao has a “Blue Moon” party in the jungle, and a “Castle” party, located at a castle! I didnt’ make it to either, because the beach bars were so much fun. 

Some nights I just wanted to relax though, and Koh Tao has plenty to offer in that department as well.  There are massage studios, with beds lined up, that offer Thai massages for 300 baht.  One night I found a little place around the corner (I felt kind of weird having people walk past and watching me in the window) where the foot traffic was slower, and enjoyed a one hour Thai massage and a pedicure. 

Koh Tao was a nice combination of beauty and party.  7-11’s were everywhere, so it was convenient to load money onto my sim card, or run into one of the dozens of internet cafes and shoot off a quick e-mail.  After three nights there, we checked out and began our journey out of the Gulf of Thailand.

Thailand: Koh Phangan

The next few days after the Full Moon Party were spent napping and relaxing at the beach and pool.  The sandbar in front of the Milky Bay Resort was a great lounging spot.  Come Friday though, we eager to experience something on the Island outside of the resort.  First we needed to return our motorbike, which should have been easy enough…except there was a two inch scratch on the front bender and the owner wanted to charge us 2000 baht to replace, in addition to our three days of rental at 200 baht per day! Somehow we got him down to 1500 baht for the front fender and just two days of rental, totaling 1900 baht.  Still, that set us back a bit, and possibly ended our motorbike driving in Thailand.

After we cooled off in the water we decided to visit the Wat Pho Temple, right in Baan Tai, the same beach where our resort was located.  It was a very short taxi ride, but we did have to arrange for a pick up time since taxis don’t drive pass that area regularly.  Hearing that we needed straps for our shoes and that our knees and shoulders should be covered, we dressed appropriately.  Once we got there we saw everyone in shorts and tank tops, and when I say everyone, I mean the locals! Also, flip flops would have been fine since one must kick off her shoes before entering any of the shrines.  Very warm, we walked around the old, rundown grounds.  Some of the sights were beautiful, but much of the property was under construction.  It was interesting to see, but compared to the temple in Narita, Japan…well it didn’t compare at all. Across from the temple though is an herbal sauna, accessible for 50 baht. We enjoyed this very much.  It was actually a steam room, not a sauna, but the you could smell and feel the lemon grass.  Although it was so hot and humid, the steam room felt surprisingly wonderful. 

There were several other temples to visit in Koh Phangan, hikes we could have gone on, many other beaches, and not mention the never ending partying that goes on in Haad Rin.  We were content with what we had seen though and decided that after 4 nights it was time to move on to the next Island.

Thailand: Full Moon Party!!!

We woke up at 5:30 am that morning, still not adjusted to the local time I guess.  Drinking our coffee, we watched an employee sweep the beach while two local dogs played around him.  We spent the rest of the morning relaxing and walking around the town a bit.  We did some shopping, which included false eyelashes to wear to the party…we had black and gold, blue and gold, and rainbow eyelashes. By chatting with people at the pool, we also got some advice about what to expect at the party…apparently there is body paint and swimming, so we didn’t want to wear anything we cared about.  Good thing there was a shop next door, for 100 baht we picked up a few dresses we weren’t afraid to part with. After a nap, we began getting ready.
I used waterproof mascara, eyeliner, and a liquid that makes my eye shadows waterproof as well.  I applied my rainbow eyelashes and also helped the ladies with theirs.  Once we were all dolled up we took a taxi to Haad Rin.  In Haad Rin we met Dude for dinner.  Dude had found a beach bungalow right at the heart of the party at Haad Rin Resort.  We used his room as a base camp for the night. After a dinner of Pad Thai Chicken we walked to the main street walk in Haad Rin and bought body paint for 20 baht per bottle.  There are artists on the beach that will charge about 400 baht for nice art work, but if you end up swimming it will have been a waste.  But, body paint is a necessary party tool for the Full Moon Party, so we painted away.  No need to buy paint brushes, fingers work wonders. Think of a two year old finger painting…and this is was just the pre-party.

Painted and ready, we headed to the beach.  The cove is lined with fire dancers, fire jump ropers, and a large fire sign.  The sign read, in flaming letters “Welcome to Thailand, Koh Phangan 2010”.  Later I looked at the flaming sign, that can be seen from anywhere on the beach, and read “Full Moon Party…”.  Along with fire, the beach is lined with “Bucket” stands.  The “Bucket” is literally a bucket, one that a two year old would use in the sand box, filled with a 5th of your choice-liquor bottle, a 12-oz can of soda, and a bottle of Red Bull syrup.  Red Bull originated in Thailand, and the original syrup is strong.  I have heard that the original version, served in buckets, is not even legal in the US.  The cheapest bucket would be one made with a 5th of Sang Som, Thai whiskey.  Sang Som is the cheapest liquor in Thailand.  These buckets are a staple for the Full Moon Party as well…it is expected that those attending the Full Moon Party will party until the sun comes up. These Buckets, made with Red Bull, assist the party-process.

Another famous party tool there are the “Happy Shakes”.  These are shakes made with ice, strawberries, and yes- mushrooms.  These can be found at the Mellow Mountain, which is located at the south end of the beach, up the rocks, for 500 baht each.  Be careful when around the rocks there though, I heard stories of people falling head first, probably after too many shakes? There are also bungalows to be rented behind the Mellow Bar.  I do not think these can be reserved in advanced, but they are a killer-deal if you are willing to show up and hunt for a room.  They are right on the cliff, ocean side and party side.  We met two guys, from Tahoe, (small universe still), who were staying there for 300 baht total, per night, for the room.

So under the full moon, on the beach, we danced all night to hip-hop, dance and tehcno music.  Several stages and DJ’s line the beach, so when we got tired of the music, we just walked a minute down the beach and began dancing again.  Thirsty for something other than a bucket? Water is really the only other option, going for 20 baht per bottle. When we took a break from dancing we could see glow-lamps, which are about four feet tall, being sent up into the sky.  Or, if you walk past the “Sleep Area”, which is a tarp, fenced in on the sand; you might catch a few sleepers who couldn’t make it to sun rise. Bathroom break? Just go for a swim…and look forward to your next shower.

Sunrise happened a little after 5:30am, at which point I anxiously crabbed a taxi back the resort, leaving behind hundreds of people still dancing and swimming. Exhausted from the party, which is basically a gigantic rave on a beach, with literally about 8,000 people, I enjoyed my long awaited shower and sleep.

Thailand: Arrival

Three Ladies, myself and two friends, arrived at San Francisco International Airport at 11pm Sunday, April 25.  The China Airlines flight departed at 1:35am Monday morning.  The 13 hour flight took us to Taipei, Taiwan airport, where we had a 3 hour 40 minute layover.  China Airlines then took us to Bangkok, Thailand, where we landed at about 11am Tuesday  morning, local time (9pm Monday night in the US).  The flight costed $846 each.  China Airlines is great, although I recommend bringing your own snacks, as the food is quite mysterious. I also recommend drinking beer, the white wine was not worth sampling; but if wine is your thing the red seemed popular amongst other flyers.  In comparison to my international flight to the Philippine Islands, I would have to say that I rate Delta International the best still, based on the quality of the food, booze and service. 

Our time in Bangkok was short, we did not even leave the airport. Given the current political setting, we were thankful of this.  We had less than two hours to get our luggage, be waved through customs (he literally waved us through while he spoke on the phone), check in for our next flight, get through security and onto the next plane. The flight from Bangkok costed us each $130 -ish and took us to Koh Samui. The Bangkok Airway’s plane was small and very colorful.  The flight was a bit rough, especially the landing, and our food consisted of tolerable sandwiches.  Alcohol was cheap but not included.  In comparison to our Philippine Airlines flight in January, I would rate Philippine Airline higher.  Beer and wine were included on the Philippine Airline flight, the food was questionable, but the service and flight were good.  Philippine Airline gets a better rating based on alcohol being included and a smoother take-off/landing.

We arrived in Koh Samui at about 3pm. It had been misting a bit in Bangkok when we departed, but when we walked onto the Island it was really raining.  Seems that Asia likes to greet me with rain (as it was raining in Cebu when I arrived in the Philippines as well four months ago). Koh Samui is an Island in the Southern Gulf of Thailand.  It has an airport, so we flew there and then took a boat to Koh Phangan, our first destination.  At the airport, we were able to purchase a shuttle and boat ticket for about 600 Thai Baht each. The exchange rate now is approximately 30 baht/1 us dollar.  No longer raining, the boat arrived at 4pm and we were in Koh Phangan by 5pm. On the boat we met “Dude”, a young man our age from Northern Lake Tahoe as well…small universe. I also met a man from New York who had been to 40 countries and counties so far.

Once off the ferry, we took a taxi (similar to a Philippine Jeepney, but a taxi nonetheless) -these cost 100 baht/person, to Milky Bay Resort.  During the Full Moon Party there is a minimum requirement of four nights at many hotels, and it is difficult to book.  We booked through Hostelworld.com about three weeks out.  When I was not having luck booking a room, a friend who had previously traveled Thailand recommended this site, and I’m glad we used it.  Many of the resorts in Haad Rin, where the party is, were booked already. So Milky Bay Resort became our home for the next four nights. This costed $320 total, breakfast included.  Well worth the money.  The rooms were clean, with internet access having web-cams, a pool and a nice clean beach literally steps from our room. We swam in the ocean, then the pool, then when hunger struck ate bbq at the resort.  For 150 baht we each had a skewer and corn on the cob for dinner.  The chicken skewers looked great, but the shrimp skeweres came with shell, legs, eyeballs and all.  Not something I will get again, but if you can handle all the work it tastes quite good.  Once full from dinner we retired to our room.  With the Full Moon Party scheduled for the next day, we needed to rest up.

First Adventure of 2010…Philippines

In January, my love interest of choice (my boyfriend) and I visited my father in the Philippines. We flew from Reno, Nevada, to Los Angeles, California, to Narita, Japan, where we stayed one night.  Our 22 hours in Narita proved to be the first of many overseas experiences.  We learned that Asia is incredibly fond of Santa Claus.  Across the street from our hotel was the “Christmas Carol Inn”, with monuments of Santa and Christmas tress decorating the grounds.  This was quite a site both at night and in the daylight.  In the morning, prior to returning to the airport, we headed towards a local temple, which we explored for hours.  Japan was quite an adventure, one I hope to experience again. 

We then arrived at the Cebu-Mactan airport.  In celebratory fashion, the airport was decorated with Island and party decor, to announce the 2010 Sinulog Festival.  This was the main reason we arrived when we did.  We got to experience the grand parade, lasting from 8am to 6pm on Sunday morning.  For the next nine days my father and his friends showed us around Mactan and Cebu Island, where we got to experience much of the local lifestyle.

When traveling, if possible, I recommend stepping outside of the resort grounds and getting a feel for the local community.  It is always an eye opening experience, and one that cannot be found in the comforts of maid-up beds and pool sides.

This was the first of what I think will be many visits to the Philippines.  This particular recap was short, but not to worry, details are to come of my upcoming  World Traveling Adventure…Thailand.

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