A Travellerspoint blog

Koh Phangan

Full Moon party 2014 madness :)

Hiiiiii,

Well the flight and journey to Koh Samui wasn't too bad, the flight was relatively quick and comfortable (Bangkok airways) and when we arrived they had different staff to assist you on how to get to your next destination. I left which type of boat up to Siobhan as I'm not the one who suffers from motion sickness. It was the choice between a ferry ride or a speed boat. We got the speed boat to Koh Phangan; which was as you imagine speedy and at the pier the other end you were huddled into taxis which had been expensive (We had a feeling this would be the case as it was full moon party season). When arriving at our hotel we were taken up to our room; which to say the least was basic. But it had air con, two beds and a bathroom (of sorts.... We were later to find the toilet didn't flush but that's another part of the tale). I think we had been spoilt by our accommodation in Chiang Mai but we had always known this wasn't to be the ritz. The hotel was split in two, the backpackers were we had been staying originally and the hotel, which had the swimming pool, pool bar, restaurant on the beach side (although the beach wasn't exactly quite a picture of perfection). The first night included in our package we had an all you can eat and all you can drink party invite included. So needless to say we over indulged on Chang beer; I think we were a bit overexcited as we had only a few beers occasionally in the last 7 days. We ended up in the pool in our bikinis till the early hours drinking and having a giggle with friends we made.

As a result the next morning got off to a sluggish start, we were both booked to do a dive in shallow water; although we both knew Siobhan was not going to do it. I had eventually geared myself up to go, had breakfast drove to the pier in one of the taxis (local bus, which was like a van with two rows of seats and you hung on for dear life). But alas I saw the boat bopping the water and could not face it, my Chang-over (someone called it this and it cracked us up) defeated me and I could not go. So we spent 3 hours laying on the beach, cooling in the sea and enjoying a fruit shake whilst we waited for everyone. I thought the beach was much nicer than the one near our resort but Siobhan had been wary as she had seen crabs that kept popping up from the sand and became quite freaked out. When our friends returned from the dive; one of them had not enjoyed it and the other said it had not been very clear water and you didn't go that deep so I had not been too disappointed. That evening following a shower; we went out to dinner with our new buddies Sam and Nancy but after not eating a lot all day we were hungry but chose the restaurant to hastily and this was disappointing as the food all came out at random times and separately and we were left waiting for ages for something that wasn't nice. Oh well! And to top it all off our toilet was still not flushing properly so the stench in our room had been disgusting.

The next day after a mammoth sleep we were booked to go on a mini tour of the Island. But first we asked if anything could be done to sort out our smelly room after complaining to our friends who were too moving rooms (for different reasons) we managed to get a room next to them in the hotel side of the resort near the pool and on the beachside. This was to cost us an extra 900 baht between us but that's just under about 40 pounds and we were willing. The organised day began with a trek to see Phangan waterfall; which unfortunately for us was just a trickle of a waterfall usually we were told it had plenty of water (?!?) but we trekked further up the to a beautiful view point where you could see miles of the Island. Although it was quite overcast today it was very humid and by the time we reached the top we were very sweaty but I must say it was worth it. We then drove to a Chinese temple, this alike other temples we had seen had been very beautifully detailed and the buildings had been white but decorated with colourful pictures and statues. Then we drove to a beautiful resort in the mountains where we were to have a Thai lunch; which was delicious and all freshly cooked for us. This restaurant had beautiful views of the Island and the sea so we soaked in the atmosphere, chilled and played cards. We were then to go a boat trip; Siobhan and Nancy had already decided they were not going to come so me and Sam went. When we got near a bay called bottle beach we were told to jump and swim to shore, it took me a while (I've never been the strongest swimmer and did doggy paddle) but I made it. Bottle beach was lovely; it was a quirky little beach you could only get too by boat, we had a drink each and played killer pool (I was not very good) and enjoyed the beach. Although at this point it had decided to rain so we kayaked back to the boat rather than swam (well a few lads swam) and made a blustery rainy way back to the pier. Tonight was also the night of the Full Moon party; the one reason we had come to Island. The once a month event which took place the night of the full moon. We booked for our taxi to get us there at 12.30am, as we had been warned not to get there too early else you will flag and seeing the sunrise is the worth it. So we leisurely got ready, went out for a Mexican dinner (much nicer than the night before), attempted and failed to nap and played cards by our rooms which had a table and chairs outside with a hammock until it was time to go. Well the Full Moon was a eye opening experience but an amazing one. It was held on Haad Rin beach, and as soon as we got there we saw swarms of people (some a bit worst for wears). The atmosphere was electric, loads of stalls were set up in the walkway to the beach selling various things and the beach itself was like a giant fun fair (minus the rides) lots of lights, music all in different parts of the beach playing their own stuff and although it sounds overbearing it wasn't at all it was brilliant :) There had even been people skipping under ropes of fire and sliding down fire slides. I must say some people forgot there graces but it was just something you overlooked. We danced and drank (well Sam and I did, buckets of vodka, sprite and some sort of redbull) until daylight hours; I think we decided to go home about 6.30am. The one reason we had come to the Island had not let us down; it was INCREDIBLE!!!

We slept until around 1.15pm but we had already anticipated the day after full moon was going to be a write off. Both surprisingly feeling ok (well me feeling ok.... No Chang-over) we had a refreshing dip in the pool then realising how hungry we were decided to go in search of some food. This day was a mixture of chilling by the pool and on the beach, napping and reading. We all went out to dinner that night and had a filling pasta dish each which was delicious and just chilled by our rooms.

On what was to be our final day in Koh Phangan; us girls decided to pamper ourselves. We firstly went and had a manicure each (although my nail polish only lasted until that evening; partly my own fault). Then we decided we wanted to experience a Thai massage; and woah what an experience that is. Then ladies may be tiny but gosh do they pull you around. Although to start with we got the giggles as we were not used to being pulled around in such ways, we all eventually relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. Although we all commented we did not realise we were so flexible. The massage lasted an hour each, and had only been 300 baht which is around a 6 pounds or so English money. Bargain :) We then sunbathed by the pool/beach all afternoon. Going for an early dinner at a lovely Thai restaurant and enjoyed a few final Chang beers whilst in the pool bar at the hotel (yes we were in the pool in our bikinis... We had to it was our final night).

The next day we checked out by 10am, we were driven to the pier for our ferry to the mainland which took a few hours, then shipped onto a bus which again took a few hours which took us to the train station ready for our night train to Bangkok. Which I am now writing this entry from. It was a 12 hour journey, from 18.30pm yesterday to 6.30am today. The train is not as desirable as we imagined and very hot. They come round and make your beds for you and surprisingly I managed to sleep quite well, well from about 21.30pm ish till 4am ish. I took top bunk and kept imagining I was going to roll off and Siobhan had the bottom of my bunk. The carriage consists of about 16 bed, top and bottom, no air con and just fans. But alas we are here in Bangkok to enjoy our last final days of the holiday :)

A nervous but excited Hayley xxxx

Posted by Renae84 00:19 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai, Golden triangle, Laos, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai

So much beauty in this place.

Hellooooo,

We had a restful night sleep at the hotel in the mountains; I think because it was cooler the further up you went so it didn't feel so humid and sticky. Following breakfast our first stop was the tea centre, on the way to the centre we saw the thousands of tea trees planted, a sea of green blended into the gorgeous green mountains. Northern Thailand especially in the mountains very much reminds me of New Zealand; luscious green fields and trees that go right up to the mountains. En route we also experienced our first rain, although it poured down it was not cold- this was not unexpected as it is the beginning of their rainy season and we could see the rain cloud around the mountains when we were in Chiang Mai. Throughout this mini bus journey the driver never let us open the door ourselves; he opened it for us and when we got to the tea centre they were waiting with umbrellas to greet us so we would not get wet. Thai people are so very kind and helpful. The tea centre had hundreds of different types of tea (not in bags; tea leaves). They sat us down at a station and allowed us to try a few different types. They showed us how to prepare the tea leaves within the teapot and then to pour it into a cylinder tube then into a bowl; you sniff the tube and drink from the bowl. Amy explained it was based on the Japanese method. We tried oolong green tea, oolong red tea (our black tea- Siobhan asked if you could put milk into it), jasmine herbal tea and a green tea with honey. Each being delicious especially the one with honey so sickly sweet :) We then travelled up to the northern most of Thailand....the border town to Myanmar (Burma) Mae Sai. As we were having our photo taken on the bridge; we noticed a man taking photos of us, he was a tourist police officer and then to our surprise he asked to have a photo taken with us. We felt like celebrities, Amy explained because of the coup there had not been many tourists and as we walked round the markets of the town we noticed we were the only two white English (European) people around, no wonder we were getting looked at :) Although not at one point did we feel unsafe. Due to it being the border town to Myanmar a lot of the people were Myanmar people. We then had a buffet lunch at a stop en route to the golden triangle. We visited the opium museum before visiting the golden triangle. Opium use had been a big thing (trade) in the past in Thailand and is made with poppy seed. They used to have opium factories and trade the opium for gold to other countries until it was made illegal. The town of Sop Ruak is where the centre of the golden triangle is, you can literally see the three separate countries Thailand, Myanmar and Laos joined by the river Mae-khong. Amy explained the river actually starts in Tibet and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is home to many fishes but it's particularly famous for it's large catfish; however you can not see them the water is very muddy to say the least. We took the obligatory photo with the sign (finding it slightly more amusing as we live within the golden triangle at home- lovely as it is but nothing compared to here). We then took a short boat trip up the Mae-Khong river and down to a small market in Laos. You do not need a visa for this small stop off in Laos and you are only allowed to stay for around an hour. We did however have to give photocopies of our passports and hand the actual passports over for the trips duration. We only saw a glimpse of Laos but we managed to squeeze a photo in to prove it :) We ended the day in Chiang Rai staying in a hotel called Diamond Park Inn. Here we enjoyed eating our first western meal ..... Pizza (I think Siobhan was craving it) and then wondered around taking in the crazy night bazaar markets. In true 'backpacker' style we have purchased two more bracelets each one from Mae Sai market and one from Chiang Rai market :)

It was an early start to ensure we got to the white temple or as it is known in Thai as Wat Rong Khun. This is a breathtaking (literally.... Siobhan and I were amazed by it's beauty in real life) temple built and designed by the famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat who has solely made it with his own money because he wanted to give something pure back to the people that they can visit (it is free to visit too). Unlike all the other temples we have seen in Thailand which were gold with lots of rich colours, this temple was pure white with mirrored plaques to add detail. The statues and unique models around the temple were just as splendid, representing different meanings for instance the hanging heads which hung off the trees were evil people (Freddy Krueger being one of many) and lots of hands reaching out for help as you walk on the bridge of the temple representing hell; we particularly liked one of them which was flipping the finger with red polished nail. There had also been lots of angels, figures to protect from evil and beautiful detail such as flowers. Inside the temple you were not allowed to take photos; but what we saw was four brilliantly painted gold walls with numerous fantastic painted images, three walls with homage to Lord Bhudda, Nirvana (heaven) and all that's good then adversely a single wall dedicated to the Mara (demon), hell and all that is bad (which had lots of modern western influence which is harming the world). Unfortunately exactly a month to the day we visited; Northern Thailand suffered an earthquake and parts of the temple were damaged so lots of reconstruction was happening but this did not take away any of it's unique beauty. Among all this beauty there were thousands of hanging silver leaves where people could write well wishes to their family and friends; which both Siobhan and I did. It's nice to know we have left a little bit of love and well wishes in a place of luck to our families and friends. This place also harboured the poshest toilet or happy room as Amy refers to it as; we have ever seen. A large glamorous gold building literally fit for a king :) We also took the time to look around
Chalermchai Kositpipat's art gallery; the attention to detail in his artwork is exquisite. We both purchased copies from the gift shop I brought a copy of one of his paintings and Siobhan brought postcards for her scrapbook. To top the morning off we also met Chalermchai Kositpipat himself, but we literally said hello as we were so star struck. Amy explained he was there most days ensuring everything is in order and building/adding to his beautiful temple. Following the viewing the white temple and en route back to Chiang Mai we went to a natural hot spring and jeez was it hot. All excited and in the questionable sarongs they provided us with; we followed the instructions to have a cool shower then slowly bathe and lower yourselves into the hot spring. Well it was boiling after 10 mins of putting the water over ourselves Siobhan could put no more than her toes in and I managed my legs. We then cooled down on the springs edge and decided to try again and I managed it, you couldn't stay in longer than 8-10 minutes but I think I last 3 minutes at the most. The hot spring again was in the midst of the green landscapes with the picturesque mountain backdrop..... Divine. That day and what was to be our final car nap (we had numerous... Clearly we were sleepy passengers) and final lunch on the tour had been in a charity organisation called 'Cabbages and Condoms'. Who raise awareness of safe sex especially amongst the poor, we both brought a charity condom keyring. They cooked us a feast, red curry (Siobhan's first), rice, noodles and vegetables, sweet and sour vegetable omelette and fresh fruit for desert.... It was amazing :) With full bellies we were driven back to our hotel 'The Small' where we had previously stayed and took advantage of the pool and sunshine as lazed all afternoon sunbathing. That night we decided to cross the bridge and eat dinner (well snack after the feast we had for lunch) at 'The Riverside' restaurant. As the name suggests a pub on the riverside, it had a live Thai band who were fantastic, singing all the classics and modern music. We ended up celebrating with an British couple and their Thai friends. Gladys was turning 71 years young and she was a hoot, previously she was a nurse and had a cracking personality. She had us both laughing with her stories :) and even shared her birthday cake. Happy days indeed. We went home smiley after Siobhan tried her first Chang beer and well before the curfew of 12am that was still in place.

Sunday was the day we were going to learn how to cook properly, as you all know we are a bit of a jar and packet cooking girls. We got picked up at 9am from our hotel and we were taken to Baan Thai cooking school. We were greeted by a lad who explained what the day would entail and little bit is out the benefits of Thai cooking and how healthy it is. We even got given a cookbook to keep. Firstly we all went to the Thai food markets, he explained the different foods we needed and we were also introduced to things we had never heard, this was most of the fruits. When we got back to the cookery school we put on our aprons and head bands and were ready to cook. We made five dishes each over the day, firstly we both made pad Thai (my personal favourite) we were both surprised how quick it was to cook. The second dish I made fish cakes and Siobhan made spring rolls (her personal favourite)....Both dishes were deep fried in the wok (surprised we had been trusted). The third dish was the chicken and coconut soup (Siobhan made hers with Tofu). Then came the curry we both made Thai green curry but firstly we had to make the paste, this involved a lot of chilli's (Siobhan was cautious but actually really liked hers). Finally we made sticky rice with mango; this is the Thai equivalent of rice pudding but with coconut milk... It was delicious!! Depending on what we had chosen to cook was which one of the lovely team taught us, it was very small group of 8 people and most dishes had 1 teacher to 3 to 4 students. When I made the fish cakes I made them solely with only the teacher. We ate all our own dishes around the table together but instead of chairs we sat on the floor and in between the 3rd and 4th course we were allowed a nap time :) of course we appreciated this!! We got chatting to the other guys on the course, surprisingly two were English (we have not come across a lot of English people, mainly Australians, Americans and Chinese). We found out about all their travels and I must admit we did feel envious but we are lucky to have the time we have had off. After all them delicious dishes you can imagine we were full to the brim so we spent the afternoon sunbathing by the pool and lazing in out hotel room.

On our final full day in Chiang Mai we spent the morning at the Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital. This was about an hours drive outside of Chiang Mai, our previous Thai tour guide Amy organised for her friend Jo to pick us up (he is a freelance taxi and tour guide) he also spoke very good English. We only thought he was taking us and picking us up but he showed us round with the guide and translated for us, which we greatly appreciated. He also taught us how to count 1 to 10 in Thai :) The Elephant hospital is what it sounds like a hospital for elephants, it is the worlds first elephant hospital but now I believe they have set up a few more in other countries. It was founded in 1993 by a lady called Soraida Salwala; it is charity run and survives on donations and fund raising. At the hospital presently there were 10 elephants, all having been found with bad injuries and saved by the hospital. The most famous being Motala who lost a limb because of a land mine bomb. Although now they exercise and rehab her with a specially made prosthetic leg. We got to meet the magnificent creature, although she did have a toilet break as we were taking pictures but hey you gotta go when you gotta go. We met all 10 elephants, some being baby elephants who were so lively and bouncy, some playing with little footballs. Our favourite elephant kept giving us eye contact and raising her trunk to try and touch us, her name was Boonmee. We both put a donation towards the marvellous work these kind people do and both brought a tshirt... The money goes to the charity. We then went on the elephant conservation, we had a brief drive round and stopped where they made paper out of the elephant dung... Yes that's right the poo. Apparently the poo doesn't smell and it is boiled and cleaned first. The paper was great and so tough more like card. We then went to meet a few elephants on the conservation, one of the elephants had been so maternal she had adopted a few baby elephants. You could get an elephant ride if you wished but we felt that we didn't want to do this as the poor animals had been numerous trips thought the day .... Not fair. When back in Chiang Mai we walked around the day markets, but they didn't have the same atmosphere as the night markets and the heavens opened so we chilled in the hotel. We returned to the night markets for one last look round and sampled out first banana and chocolate rotee (pancake)..... Delicious.

Well our adventure in Northern Thailand has now come to an end and we fly south to Ko Samui today. It has been eye opening and each day has taught us both something new. How we have loved it all, the trips, the food and the people. We hope the islands are as interesting and fun :)

Now after travelling all day we are on koh phangan ready for a night of drinking :) woooohoooo!!

Hayley xxxx

Posted by Renae84 04:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao and Mae Salong

First stop and start of tour up the mountains :)

Sa-wat-dee kah,
Thai airways is a great airline :) it was a good flight well good two flights the 1st being Heathrow to Bangkok and the 2nd being a small flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Again I used it as an excuse for a pj day, three films watched and multiple episodes of friends with not a lot of sleep. The plane was surprisingly really empty, we even got a row each to lay out on at one point. Siobhan the nervous flyer had said it was one of the nicest flights and landings she had experienced. I had thought she would enjoy it being on a long haul is a lot different from a short haul as it is a much larger plane. Once in Thailand we could feel the warmth on our skins and with our heavy rucksacks we attempted to find a taxi. We got a bit confused when we first left airport about where to go for taxi but eventually worked it out, literally just walked up the road a bit!! It's soooo cheap. We weren't able to check in to 'The Small' hotel till 2pm and we got to hotel at 10am so we dropped off our big rucksacks and wandered round Chiang Mai. This resulted in us getting lost + very sweaty as we aimlessly walked around the streets and we were being continually tooted at by taxis and tuk tuk's offering us lifts. Finally admitting defeat, we got a tuk tuk back for a few hours later. Mid tuk tuk ride Siobhan (who had not been holding her hat like me) screeched 'STOP my hat' and she jumped off, fought across the traffic to retrieve it; luckily not squashed. The traffic is Thailand was as I had been told crazy, no one stops you literally take a leap of faith and run across the roads praying not to get hit. The room is lovely, beautiful painted ladies in traditional Thai on the wall, two single beds and lovely free standing shower. We then had a much needed nap :) after not a great deal of sleep in the last 24hrs this was glorious. That night we had our first pad Thai (prawn for me) it was amazing in a lil restaurant called mo mo's; which was amid the night bazaar. So it was only fair to explore the night markets following dinner, this city certainly comes alive at night. Thousands of stalls with lots of Thailand goodies, clothes, food, jewellery and handmade nic nacs. We both brought a pair of elephant harem stylee trousers for our trek. We were in bed by 8pm, I managed to stay awake until 9pm but Siobhan was defeated at 8.30pm and consequently woke up at 4am. But hey she is new to this jet lag!

The next day was pretty chilled to say the least. We leisurely got up for our breakfast, we stuck to the usual egg, toast, fruit and waffles. But yes you could have noodles, rice and vegetables if you so desired. Not what we would fancy first thing in the morning. We then got in our bikinis and lazed around the hotels pink plunge pool. A tiny pink pool with an equally tiny area with three sun bed amidst lots of green plants in the outdoors. The sun to say the least was hot hot hot! Literally sweat dripping off us within a few minutes. I can honestly say this is the first time I have felt relaxed in months, just absorbing the rays and reading my paperback. After a few hours we decided to walk into town in search of lunch and ended up deciding to eat in the quaint place next door which was a tea house and we had a very english afternoon tea. This little place was like an old stylee saloon almost, lots of white wicker, flowers and teapots. As you all know I love tea rooms so this had been right up my street :) We then returned for more glorious hours sunbathing. The sky looked as if it would rain but alas it did not. We even saw a rainbow where the rain cloud passed the sun.... Needless to say this made us smile. After a long shower, we hit the night bazaar again, this time eating at a lil place called 'The Lemongrass' where I had my first Thai yellow curry with pineapple fried rice and it was divine. Also indulging in my first Chang beer. We enjoyed the night markets more today as we knew what to expect and both brought a compulsory 'backpackers' bracelet. We plan to buy one in each place we go. This was the night we would also see our very first ladyboys :)

Day three was the first day of the Chiang Mai and Golden Triangle tour. Amy our English speaking Thai guide met us in the hotel at 8.30am. We had packed out daypacks, leaving our big rucksacks behind. She was somewhat surprised with the little amount of stuff we had... What can I say we are good at packing lightly. She then proceeded to tell us it was only the two of us, her and the driver on our tour. So without knowing it we have now got our own private tour. The transport was a lovely spacious air conditioned mini bus. The seats even reclined to allow us to nap :) First stop had been Orchid and Butterfly farm, we got to see how orchids were grown, this process took months and they need surprisingly very little water. The farm itself was idyllic, lots of hanging beautiful coloured orchids amongst these luscious green gardens. The Butterfly enclosure was in the middle and it was like something out of a Disney film lots of butterflies fluttering by and around lots of beautiful green plants and colourful flowers. Within the visitors shop they had beautiful jewellery which is handmade from the original orchid and were just gorgeous. Next we drove further up the mountain to the Chiang Dao temple and cave. This cave is meant to be a spiritual cave. You walk up a stairway which is located within a stream of mountain water to the mouth of the cave. We fed the catfish which swam in these crystal blue waters before entering the caves. The caves had many shrines to Buddha, the lost children and famous monks. We learnt about the Buddhist faith and mythical creatures such as naga. The cave itself was dark but had been lit up for the tourists benefit. The limestone formations were incredible and even bats were flying around. During the tour Amy had said that if you saw a snake it was very lucky and he would not harm you. She said this was very rare. However as we reached the end of the cave (well as far as the public could go, the caves were much bigger) we were admiring the sleeping Buddha and Siobhan alerted us to a snake slithering on the wall above him. We can only say we felt blessed and Amy couldn't believe it, she even had goosebumps as she had never seen one before in the caves in 20 years. Amy had also said if you got dripped on by holy water this was lucky and this too happened to us both :) The temple and the grounds itself was under construction but you could still see it's beauty. We then had our lunch cooked for us fresh by a local restaurant, cucumber soup, sweet and sour veg and rice. I also had chicken and Siobhan an omelette. Again goes without saying it was delicious :) Following this it took a three hour journey to get to our hotel which was in a picturesque place in the mountains in a town called Mae Salong. The whole town and this hotel is particularly influenced by the China as a lot of Chinese people migrated here, originally taking it over then agreeing to be Thailand citizens. The gardens of the hotel were divine and the view from the hotel was breathtaking. Misty green mountains as far as the eye could see. This said I am really not doing the view justice. That evening we met for a Chinese style dinner; I had chicken with cashews and we shared fried noodles and vegetables... Again just divine. The staff did not let my tea cup go empty continually filling it up with delicious green tea. We had been the only people in the hotel and restaurant so we could really take our time and take in our beautiful surroundings.
Write soon,
Hayley xxxx

Posted by Renae84 08:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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