A much overdue post! I have been so busy in Thailand that any spare time I have I usually spend sleeping, which says a lot because I am still freaking exhausted! I have been in Thailand for about a week and half now. It’s going too quickly! Conor arrived last monday and we have been doing the most fantastic tour de Thailand ever. He is only here 12 days so it was tricky trying to come up with an itinerary that would hit all the good stuff but not leave us running from one place to the next. I did a lot of research pre arrival (way back when I had lots of time for reading in my little mud house with no electricity, remember that?) and I don’t mean to brag but I could potentially be a travel agent. Maybe it’s genetic and I got it from my mom. Anyway we spent our first two and half days in Bangkok hanging with the hoards of tourists that flock from all over the world to play in this country. It was interesting being in Bangkok after spending so much time in Nepal and then Sri Lanka, there are white people EVERYWHERE. And there is a lot of money and a lot modernization. It’s good and bad. Bad because it almost feels like there are more tourists than Thai people and you can’t help but feel a little guilty. You also inevitably lose the character of the country when everything is tailored to foreigners. It’s good because the masses of people speaks for the charm of the country, it is incredible and everyone wants a piece of it. I also enjoy meeting other travelers and am now being afforded many luxuries I was left wanting in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Mostly- Not being looked at and/or judged for being a woman, electricity 24 hours, english speakers, shopping. So we enjoyed our few days of sightseeing and photo snapping. I even splurged and we stayed in this posh little hotel called Shanghai Mansion in the heart of Chinatown. It was amazing, if you ever need a great a place to stay- go there. Other highlights included- river cruising, buddha and temple sightings, fish eating our feet, so much street food, roof top cocktails, a thai ska band, and a Muay Thai match.
On Wednesday we crammed into a “bus” (also known as a van, where I am from) and sucked our bellies in while balancing our massive backpacks (why would the bus have room for luggage?) for the one hour ride to Ayuthaya. Ayuthaya was the previous capitol of Thailand back in the 1300s. It was full of massive palaces and temples where the Kings and Monks ruled. A few centuries later most of the structures were destroyed by the Burmese during the war. Now all that’s left is these incredible ruins that will make your jaw drop. Despite the destruction, the buildings are beautiful and the size and detail that was created so many centuries ago is just amazing. We stayed here overnight and rented to bikes to explore the ruins. It was a quick side trip from Bangkok and gave Conor a good taste of the rich history of Thai culture. We arrived back in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon where we had just enough time to grab a drink with some friends of mine from Nepal (an Australian couple who is traveling Thailand now as well) on the notorious Khao San Road. Then we we’re off on the overnight train to Southern Thailand! A word of advice for future rail travelers- book ahead!! We misinformed that we could get a ticket just before we got on the train, unfortunately I didn’t see the blurb in my guide book that recommended the opposite until just a few hours before the train left. We were left with the option of buying seats (for a 12 hour, 7pm-7am ride) or purchasing very overly priced beds from an incredibly savvy travel agent who tailors to people in our situation. She buys out the last car of beds just for the desperate last minute folk. Anyway, it was well worth the money. We got seats that converted into bunk beds and got to know some great Swedes who thought they could actually eat “spicy” food in Thailand. Note: Nobody can eat spicy food in Thailand without some pretty severe consequences.
When we woke up we were just a van ride away from Khao Sok National Park. We spent two nights here in a crazy little tree house bungalow in a forest full of monkeys. This was Conor’s first experience of mosquito nets, cold showers, sharing your room with insects of various sizes, and unreliable electricity. I just felt like I was back at Auma and Baba’s house! We went jungle trekking to some waterfalls after arriving and enjoyed a very hot but fun hike. We even saw a snake eat a frog! So cool. The next day we took a tour to a nearby lake that is about the most massive body of water ever. It was created by a dam about 30 years ago and there are whole villages underwater. It is surrounded by limestone cliffs and more jungle. We went on a boat to a little floating village, where we explored via ancient and unsteady kayak the nearby coves. For lunch we were served very fresh fish and then we were off on another jungle trek. This time to a cave that was amazing! The cave was used as a communist hideout a few decades ago and is a massive network of pools and passages. It was full of bats and stalactites. It was a really cool experience.
The next day, we took another VAN (AHH) to the coast and hopped a ferry to the island of Koh Lanta. Speaking of another van, I think I could author an entire blog on public transport in Asia. Holy crap. Koh Lanta is labeled a beach bum paradise and that it is. We decided it would be a good place to start our time in the islands and it was a good call. This place is so chill and really lives up to its description. We are staying in a little multi colored bungalow with hello kitty sheets and silk-ish blankets. It’s got a lot of character. Anyway its $20 a night and a few steps from the beach. Yes please. Yesterday we went elephant trekking, weird but fun, and explored the island. Today we went on a snorkeling tour of four nearby islands. It was so beautiful and we saw lots of really cool fish. We opted for the cheap boat (the other options being- a large tour boat, or a an expensive ‘first class’ speed boat). Our was a long wooden row boat looking thing with a car engine on the back. I learned the hard way that it is not a good idea to drink a lot of gin the night before boarding one of these boats. Oh man, I thought was going to have to jump ship. I lived however, but not before forgetting my entire wallet (passport and everything. yikes.) on the boat and Conor having a lobster back (it was bound to happen sooner or later). We will stay here another day than go to Ko Phi Phi before returning to Bangkok for Conor’s flight home. This has been his first trip abroad and I’m hoping he’s caught the bug. So far so good! It’s been lots of fun. Okay skeeters are eating me so I gotta run, big hugs to all! xo