moonwire

luang prabang (part 3)

Posted in laos, luang prabang by moonwire on August 27, 2009

So I’ve spent a week in Luang Prabang and have definitely caught up on French baguettes and some red wine. I decided to rent a bicycle again as I enjoyed it so much in Chiang Mai and though I enjoyed it here, too, it is not really necessary to have one as this is a very small town that can easily be done by foot. There isn’t all that much going on here, either. I did want to get ‘out of town’ a bit, but not too far as the rain can come on suddenly and ferociously, however, that brought another set of problems… the roads. Or lack thereof. I wanted to check out what was on the other side of the Nam Khan river so I crossed the little bridge. Well, soon enough the road stopped and all that was left was just a dirt road with rocks. Quite steep as well so it was hell trying to get up there. Also, a different kind of world. While the ‘downtown core’ of Luang Prabang is pretty, just outside of it is where the real poverty starts and makeshift houses of corrugated sheet metal and plastic are everywhere. Lots of dust and sand. Not a pretty sight.

What amazes me here, and I’ve seen this everywhere in South East Asia,  is how hard the women work. While a lot of men drive their tuk tuks (basically motorbikes with a carriage attached to either the side or the back), they also like to take breaks and you see them sleeping on the benches of their tuk tuks all the time. The women are often the ones running the guest houses, restaurants and little shops, and doing the shopping while taking care of the kids and sweeping the sidewalks. Most of them don’t have a real stove, they do it the old school way with fires. I cannot imagine.

My days were low key here. I’d usually wake up at around 5 or 6 am and go out to shoot for a bit. Then I’d have brekkie at this tiny little restaurant run by a lovely young woman. Warm baguette, eggs and black Lao coffee. After brekkie I’d usually go for a ride on my bicycle. By that time, at around 9, it would already be too hot and bright to shoot. I’d go back to my room to chill a little. Then in the afternoon I’d go for lunch and ride around some more or sit in the shade by the Mekong river. Back to my room to take a nap, then back out with my camera for a few hours and eat at one of the veggie buffets at the Night Market. Great concept. You pay about 60 cents for a plate. Load it up with a whole bunch of dishes and eat it at a long table with everybody else. The food wasn’t spectacular, but it was cheap and cheerful enough to keep me happy.

After I walked around the old part of the city some more I would usually go back to my room with a Beer Lao (which is light and crisp) and read til I went to bed at around 10 PM. Yes, that early. There’s nothing going on here at night. Most bars close very early and well, I didn’t feel like it anyways.

I finished a bunch of books here. One of them was ‘The girl in the picture’ about Kim Phuc, the girl in that famous shot by Nick Ut, who’s running naked down the highway after getting hit by napalm. After reading ‘The rape of Nanking’ I didn’t want to read anymore depressing stories but I’m glad I did pick up this book. Interesting read.

So, I’m off to Vientiane, the capital of Laos for I think a day or five to a week. I haven’t booked a hotel yet as I’ve found it’s actually cheaper if you just show up. Also, I want to check out the bed before I take anything. After roughing it in Chiang Mai and here in Luang Prabang as well with not such good rooms and beds, I’m ready for a bit of comfort. My back is starting to hurt from sleeping on ‘concrete’.

Some more shots for your viewing pleasure:

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lao life – photos from luang prabang

Posted in laos, luang prabang by moonwire on August 26, 2009

Lao Snake Whiskey. No, I didn’t touch it 🙂


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luang prabang

Posted in laos, luang prabang by moonwire on August 23, 2009

Sabaidee! I took a plane from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang in Laos on Friday afternoon. It was a tiny turbo prop plane and I felt a bit uneasy about it first but it was totally fine. It was noisy as hell, but I enjoyed the ride. We didn’t fly too high so I had great views of Northern Thailand and Laos, which is mostly mountainous jungle but it got really cool when I could see the Mekong river.

In flight entertainment magazine from Lao Airlines.

It only took an hour and we arrived on time. Immigration and getting my visa was pretty quick and painless and before I knew it, I arrived at the Spicylaos hostel. This hostel is located in an old colonial building and it has lots of character. It’s not a big hostel; just 22 dorm beds and 4 double privates. I chose one of the privates. I don’t think I can deal with the dorm thing anymore. Still, people stumbling into their rooms at 1.30 and then proceed to talk loudly while there’s no glass windows (only mosquito netting) is not my idea of a good time.

Anyways, I had just booked it because I expected delays and didn’t feel like lugging my pack around town in the dark, but I could have easily done that here. There are so many guesthouses; it makes me wonder how they are ever going to fill them. Today I looked around for another place and I found one, close to the Mekong river. The room itself is not impressive at all. A tad dark, but it has a little patio area and a small common area with couches where you can use wifi. I have seen some really gorgeous places overlooking the Mekong and I’m thinking if I’m going to stay for more than a week, I will check into something really sweet for the last 2 nights or so.

French toast at Joma Bakery. One of many bakeries here…

So, Luang Prabang. I cannot believe this place. It’s probably the most touristy place in Laos (and maybe even on South Asia’s main land) as it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The architecture is mostly French colonial. It could easily turn into some Disney theme park, but it’s not. Not sure if it’s because it’s not the high season, so it’s not overrun with tourists. Of course, there’s a night bazaar with the usual stuff, though quite a bit more upscale than the one in Chiang Mai. More silks etc.

Anyways, these kinds of places do not interest me, though there’s something redeeming about them: food stalls. Lots of them. And even better. A lot of them sell crepes and Lao sandwiches, which are just baguettes with the filling of your choice and they’re cheap and yummy. I never even knew about the baguette thing. I pretty much assumed, after Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur and Thailand with the exception of Chiang Mai, that good breads are not to be had. Well, I’ve had them. I also noticed there’s a Lao version of Khao Soy, the spicy broth noodle dish I had in Chiang Mai. Yummy.

So far, I’ve basically spent trying to get a feel for the place. The lack of street names doesn’t help, but Luang Prabang is actually very small so it’s hard to get really lost. The Mekong river is an excellent point of reference.

The food frenzy from Chiang Mai has continued. They don’t have the granola veggie traveler’s cafes here, but I can’t complain. Lots of bakeries, which makes me very happy.  But my favourite place so far is probably a bookstore/cinema/tea house/restaurant called ‘l’Etranger’. Good coffee and sandwiches and an amazing collection of books at a very reasonable price. I am oh so tempted to just take it really easy here and spend a day or 10. A bit of exploring in the morning and late afternoon and for the rest just laze around with a book and a cup of tea. This is definitely one of my favourite places so far. I love the relaxed vibe and it’s very photogenic. Haven’t shot much as I got up too late this morning and in the afternoon I was walking around with a dead battery in my GRD, but I certainly will make an effort here.

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chiang mai (part 2)

Posted in chiang mai, thailand by moonwire on August 20, 2009

Can’t believe I’ve spent almost a week in Chiang Mai as I’m writing this from my boiler room. I did not do much here, other than cycle around town, eat some of the best food I’ve ever had, read, relax and just enjoying the moment. I did go see one temple though. Yeah, it was great… next 🙂

International phone somewhere in the Old Quarters.

Thailand has been wonderful in many ways. Though I don’t feel the ‘connection’ here as I did in Bali, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The language is crazy. I have managed to learn how to say thank you, hello and good luck only. The latter, thanks Peter G., came in use yesterday. When I just sat on the square near the East Gate (where the cats in the hole live), a group of young Thai students came up to me. They were from a polytechnic college in town and were working on their English assignment. They asked if I was willing to participate in one of their exercises. Sure.

So one of them gave me a sheet of paper with questions, which I had to fill out. Very basic stuff. One of them was ‘what your name?’, another one was ‘Have you seen baby panda?’ and my favourite question: ‘Do you like Thai foot?’. I’m not joking. After the ‘rehearsal’ they filmed them asking the questions and me answering them. They were totally confused by my answer to the Thai foot question, but I had some fun with it. Chok dee!

I’m off to Laos tomorrow. I’m flying into Luang Prabang. I did not want to take so many flights but after hearing about how to get to Luang Prabang from Chiang Mai, It was a pretty quick and easy decision. (See previous post). Also, I’ve decided to skip Vang Vieng as it looks like it’s mostly a place where young kids go tubing down the river while intoxicated. There isn’t all that much of a town. What this means is that I’ll probably forego the 11 hour bus on the cliff bus in favour of flying to Vientiane. If I don’t spend too much time in LP and Vientiane, I might head into Southern Laos, but I’m not too sure at this point.

Anyways, one of the best things about Chiang Mai was definitely the food. One of the local dishes, Khao Soi is my favourite. I got to indulge in some great whole grain breads as well here. Hope this will continue in Laos.

Here’s some more random shots:

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chiang mai

Posted in chiang mai, thailand by moonwire on August 17, 2009

I love it here. And I would have never ended up in Chiang Mai if I hadn’t met the French girl in Bangkok, Melanie, who just came from here and really enjoyed it. Usually I’m a bit weary when it comes to certain travel destinations, and mainly tourist attractions. Yes, I did go to the Borobudur that one day. Just like half of Indonesia went that very same day. Ugh.

But after my talk with Melanie, I figured out we’re pretty much on the same wave length. Yeah, you visit a temple and it’s great. Doesn’t mean you have to visit all the other 19,580. What I enjoy most is just living and observing life. And good food! And I have all that here. Plus a whole bunch of really good book stores. Oh, this makes me happy.

Veggie omelet with delicious whole wheat toast, coffee and fresh pineapple juice at Dada Kafe.

So here the story goes… I left Bangkok on Friday morning at 7 am to go to the airport and to my big surprise, my Air Asia flight to Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) was not delayed this time. as a matter of fact, we arrived a bit early. Within 15 minutes of leaving the plane the taxi driver dropped me off on Moon Muang, a street just inside the city walls. I hadn’t booked a hotel yet and as it turned out, it wasn’t necessary either. One of the places that looked really nice was booked up (because it’s in the Lonely Planet guide.- same old, same old) so I kept on walking. Lots of guesthouses there and just as I started to sweat, I saw a sign for the ‘Green Oasis’ guesthouse. Free wifi! Oh yes. I thought that sounded too good to be true.

And it was. It was neither green nor an oasis but  I did take the room because it was very cheap (about 4 bucks a night, with fan and hot water) and I just wanted to rid myself of my backpack, but it sure was depressing. It felt like a prison cell. It did not have any windows, just some vents high up to let some air in and no outside area to chill out. I decided to get some lunch first and then start looking for another room. It’s just so much easier to do so without my backpack. I looked at a couple of places. All very cheap (4 to 10 bucks) but all kind of depressing. However, I did find a place, the North Star guesthouse, that had a pretty big room with a double bed, wooden floors, lots of windows and a veranda (and a very thin mattress, unfortunately). Much happier here. It’s still a pretty shabby place (but clean) but I like the vibe of it. It’s light and airy and tucked away in a pretty quiet soi (lane). There’s pretty loud music at night, but ear plugs do the trick just fine.

On my first morning I walked around in the East part of town, just outside the city gates. There was some sort of market going on. Lots of food and cheap clothes that will never fit me. And lots of good book stores so I exchanged my book. I walked towards the night bazaar area but nothing was going on there but I could see from the stalls that it’s actually a pretty large area and I ended up checking it out on my second night. Well, once again, it’s another tourist trap with tons of stalls selling the same pants, t-shirts and other generic touristy crap. Had some good food there, but it’s not my scene. Too high of a Disneyland factor, for sure.

The best part of the day was spotting a kitten in a hole in the wall. I moved very slowly as I wanted to take a photo but the closer I got, the more curious the kitten became. I came up very close and then another head popped out. And another one. As it turned out, there were five cats hanging out in that hole and they all got out to say ‘sawatdee’ (hello). It may sound really silly, but it was magic. I hung out with them for about 15 minutes and felt so happy, as if I’d discovered some sort of well kept secret.

On Sunday I basically did the same thing, just walked around. Got some good food the only thing was that blisters had started to form on the bottom of my feet. This doesn’t exactly add to a good time while walking around, so this morning I decided to rent a bicycle. Got a banana yellow one for 50 baht a day and let me tell you… I love it and it’s made all the difference in exploring. If I didn’t have any sense of self restraint you could have heard me sing out loud while cruising through the city. Just fantastic.

I had no goal or place I wanted to go, I just went all around the Old Quarters and I ventured East of the old town all the way to the river and up and down and left and right, through little lanes and bigger streets. I wish I had discovered this earlier. Such sense of freedom. I will definitely do this again in other places if I have the chance. Not having a driver’s license means I can’t rent a scooter, but the bicycle is just as cool and I get to see more because I’m moving at a slower pace.

So after cruising for a few hours, I decided to have some Khao Soi, a Northern Thai dish made with flat noodles in a spicy curry broth. Usually they make it with chicken or beef, but at the veggie place where I had brekkie this morning, they had a tofu version on the menu. Mmmm, it was yummy.

A nice big bowl of Khao Soi and a carrot/apple/ginger juice.

And even better, while I had my lunch, a guy came in to have some lunch as well and asked if he could join me. Of course. I always love chatting with other travelers. I don’t want to hook up to travel with them, but a conversation is always very welcome. We ended up chatting for a few hours. Greg has been on the road for three years now. Coming from a corporate environment like myself, he called it quits and started backpacking. He now is an editor at his own backpacking web site. We had a great talk. Of course, he’s a veteran solo traveler and I’m such a rookie compared to that but he did give me some ideas and we exchanged lots of stories.

I’ve been enjoying Chiang Mai a lot, and I’ve decided to give up on going further North to Chiang Rai in favour of catching a flight from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang (Laos).  I thought I could just take a bus from Chiang Rai to LP, suffer a bit but save some money going overland.

Well, as it happens, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Yes, first you take a long bus ride, then you have a choice. An 8 hour speedboat ride over the Mekong river (one of the most dangerous rivers in the area, if not the world) where they give you a helmet to wear and where you sit with your head between your knees with your ears covered to shelter you from the noise and general hellish experience, or take the slow boat, which takes 2 days of being on a usually overpacked boat. Uhm no.

I am flying to Luang Prabang on Friday afternoon. It’s only a one hour flight and though it was much more than I was willing to spend on the flight, I will definitely catch up on horrible bus rides when I head South to Vang Vieng (8 hours by bus through the mountains) and then Vientiane (another 3 hours).

So, I’m doing well. Enjoying every bit of it, except for this paper thin mattress.

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bangkok (part 2) and travel observations

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on August 13, 2009

The pictures below are the pictures of my second room in Bangkok, at the Lamphu House on Soi Rambuttri. I absolutely loved this room. It had a huge balcony as well. And I spent quite a bit of time there just reading and chilling out.  I over extended myself on the first day and a bit on the second day and third day as well, so today I did a few rounds around the ‘hood, but I also spent a lot of time just enjoying being here.

It is funny how a really nice room can make me so very happy.  After being on the road for a few months, I’ve stayed in all kinds of places. Some of it bordering on disgusting, and some of the places, like my room in Yogyakarta, have been wonderful retreats and actually made my time in those places so much more enjoyable.

My biggest thing these days seems to be the water issue. I don’t mind not having hot water. Most of the places I’ve stayed in don’t. I don’t even mind not having an actual shower. I can deal with a mandi (a big tub with a scoop so you can pour water over yourself). But having clean water makes me happy. In Sumatra the water was so brackish that I’d actually smell worse after having taken a shower and after washing my clothes, they smelled like a sewer.

So, what did I do in Bangkok? Not all that much. I usually strolled around a bit in the morning, then had lunch to go back to my room for a nap. Then go out again for a bit in the afternoon and at night I’d stay here in the ‘tourist ghetto’ for cheap street food and people watching. Last night I met a French girl who was also traveling by herself and we had a really nice conversation over our pad thai.

Traveling by myself has been easy and difficult at the same time. The biggest difficulty has been choosing places to go to, how to get there and where to stay. If you’re traveling with somebody else, you have a sounding board. I don’t have that; it’s all up to me, which of course, also means a lot of freedom.

Another thing about traveling by yourself is that you really have to take care of yourself. I am always watchful of my belongings and my surroundings. I always make sure that at night I’m never too far from my hotel (so I need to pick my hotels accordingly) and I can’t be drunk either. Actually, that’s not too big of a deal. As most of you know, I love my red wine, but as there isn’t really any here (or it’s really expensive) and I don’t drink anything that comes out of an open bottle – I am stuck with beer. Though I’ve had my share of Bintangs in Indonesia, I do not particularly like the beer here in Thailand.

And I’m terribly afraid of getting sick. Luckily, I only had the cold, and once a case of Bali belly. Nothing to be concerned about, but it sucks if you’re alone and you’re not feeling well.

Another funny thing is, and I talked with Melanie, the French girl, about this, is that there are a lot less solo women travelers than I expected. Guys, yes… you see them carrying their backpacks around by themselves, but there’s not a lot of women who do the same. As a matter of fact, I’ve only met three women so far, and all three were more on a ‘vacation’ (just traveling for two or three weeks) than on an extended trip.

Also, another thing I’ve discovered is that when you’re traveling solo, you don’t really hook up with people traveling in pairs or small groups. Almost all of the people I’ve met so far, with the exception of the father and son I met in Legian, are traveling by themselves.

Well, at least after a few months of doing this I have become way more confident that things work out when it comes to getting from A to B and finding a place to stay. In the beginning I would book a room online or give them a call. Experience has learnt that once a hotel is in the Lonely Planet guide, it’s usually booked up. However, this also means that when a hotel is in the Lonely Planet guide, there’s usually a whole bunch of other hotels right around it where you can just walk in and get a good room. In Thailand I had only booked my room in Phuket as I was not feeling well and didn’t want to schlep my backpack from hotel to hotel, but in Phi Phi, Krabi and Bangkok I just showed up and it all worked out fine. Best time to hunt is around 11 when people are checking out. Just this morning I saw a lot of people leave the Lamphu house but by 5 pm the ‘full’ sign was up again.

Anyways, I know this isn’t really a Bangkok blog, but I really did enjoy this city. Traveler’s heaven, as whatever you need to stock up on, it’s here. And cheap! So, I’m fully supplied again and ready to go to Chiang Mai tomorrow morning. After Chiang Mai, I also want to check out Chiang Rai, which is even further up North, before I head into Laos.

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bangkok (part 1)

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on August 11, 2009

I decided to fly from Krabi to Bangkok, instead of making the 1000 km. journey by train or bus. I booked a cheap Air Asia ticket online, got a bus ticket to the airport in Krabi and off I went. I arrived at the Bangkok airport at around 6.30 pm.

I had called a few hotels from the Lonely Planet guide, but they were all full. If I arrive at night, I usually like to have my first night booked so I have somewhere to go.  In this case, I took the airport bus to Khao San Road and just started hunting. Well, I had already heard about this, but being there confirmed it. Khao San is loud. Really loud and it’s an all night long affair, so I just started walking to find something in the side streets. The first few hotels were full. One of them, the Lamphu House was one I really wanted to stay in, but they had no rooms. I looked further up Soi Rambuttri and found the Siam III guest house. They had a room. I checked in. The room was nice enough and it was quiet, yet still in the heart of a very lively area.

Soi Rambuttri, the street where my hotel is located in Banglamphu.

On my first day I decided to walk to Siam Square, in the new part of Bangkok. The subway/sky train service doesn’t extend to Banglamphu, the old area of Bangkok where my hotel is located, so I decided to walk. I knew it would be about 4 kilometres but I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see something of the city. Well, I did. I got lost and ended up in Chinatown. Then I discovered the secret to Bangkok’s road system and maps. Every intersection has a number and once I’d discovered that, it was very easy to make my way to Siam Square. However, just before Siam Square I found the MBK mall. After all, I was on a shopping mission for five things; underwear, flip flops that don’t hurt my feet, a raincover for my backpack (very much necessary here in Thailand in the rainy season), B&W film for my camera and books.

Bangkok is heaven for shopping. I managed to find everything I needed. And except for the film, everything was very cheap.

My walk through the old part of town was lovely. As soon as you get out of the tourist ghetto of Khao San you’ll see the real Bangkok. Lots of little alleys with people sewing, selling all kinds of food and other stuff and just going about their business.

The new part of town is just hell, in my opinion. Lots of bigger stores with loud music, lots of concrete, traffic jams and fast food outlets.  It’s just anonymous to me. Might as well be in Blok M in Jakarta, the business district of Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong. It all looks the same to me and I have no interest in it. The older parts of said cities are wonderful, though. So I’m sticking to that.

The Skywalk around Siam Square Station.

At night I went out in the streets around my hotel. Lots of little stalls with t-shirts, food, bars and restaurants. Very very lively and very busy. It has definitely much more of a backpacker vibe than any other place I’ve been to so far. With backpacker vibe I mean people who do not have a bunch of toddlers in tow or those resort types that tend to hang out in packs and crowd the sidewalks.

This morning I checked out of my hotel as I had found a room at the Lamphu house. While I was having my brekkie, I saw Sarah, the woman from SF who was my neighbour in Phi Phi! That was really cool. We had a nice chat, talked about what we both had done since we left Phi Phi (we left on the same boat).

At noon I checked into my room and it is absolutely fantastic. Wooden floor, contemporary asian furniture and everything very light and airy with a huge balcony. I don’t mind roughing it for a couple of days here and there, and I have, not even being able to take a real shower for days, but when I find a nice room, it certainly is bliss. Living out of a backpack is slightly unsettling and being on the go all day, every day for months at a time is a killer. It is nice to be able to read and relax in a comfy room. Like today. My feet are still hurting from my approximately 10 km walk yesterday. It’s not just the long walk, it’s also the stifling heat, humidity, traffic noise and air pollution that adds to it. I’m taking it real easy today and mostly enjoy my room.

One of the many street food stalls on Soi Rambuttri. You can have a pad thai and 2 spring rolls for a buck at these places.

I just went for a walk around the Banglamphu market and I saw the river and then I decided to walk back and just spend the rest of the afternoon writing my blog and reading my book (Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’. It’s good.). Tonight I’ll go out for a stroll in the area and tomorrow I’ll hit Chinatown when my feet aren’t aching so much anymore.

One rainy morning on Khao San Road.

Bangkok is cool. I’m really enjoying it here. I’ll have three nights here at the Lamphu before I head to Kanchanaburi (three hour train ride north east) but I know that I’ll have to come back to Bangkok before heading to Laos so I might even stay more than one night next time.

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krabi town

Posted in krabi town, thailand by moonwire on August 9, 2009

Though Phi Phi was absolutely beautiful, and I could have spent another day or two there, I did feel the need to travel on, away from the beach.

So after two nights, I decided to take the ferry back, not to Phuket, but to Krabi and spend a few days in Krabi town and then move on to Bangkok for a few days.

The ride back wasn’t as bad as the one to Phi Phi, though at one point it felt like the boat was going to capsize. Really scary. I am not a big fan of boats as it is, especially not when the waters are that rough. I hope I won’t have to take another boat any time soon.

Krabi is a mellow little town. Not much going on, other than that it’s a departure point for boats to islands like Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi. I had had a few rain showers in Phi Phi but it was nothing like I would encounter in Krabi. Here it rains on and off all day. And when it rains, it really rains. The sky erupts usually very suddenly and then it comes down by the truck load, usually for 5 to 20 minutes. Then it stops, the sun might come out again, or not, until the next outburst.


I basically spent my time here walking around town, visiting the night market and hanging out at the pier. There’s a few decent little bars and restaurants with cheap, good food. Because of the rain it was hard to photograph here, not that there was anything really good to shoot anyways.

I did enjoy walkiing around here but now it’s time to move on to Bangkok for a few nights, then on to Kanchanaburi. Hoping to find a more photogenic town than Krabi and hopefully less rain, but the latter is most certainly wishful thinking.

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ko phi phi

Posted in ko phi phi, thailand by moonwire on August 8, 2009

After a week in Hat Kata I got a good beach fix and though I was ready to move away from the beach, I did want to visit one of the islands. I picked Ko Phi Phi. Not only is it apparently one of the most beautiful (and sadly expensive) islands, it was also one of the closest.

I booked a ticket so a minivan would pick me up from the hotel and it also included the boat to Phi Phi. Easy breezy. At least that part. Then I got on the boat and after about 10 minutes the sea got really rough and the staff started handing out puke bags. Lots of people didn’t feel so good but luckily I don’t get sea sick; I just get scared. It was a pretty scary ride and I was glad when we got to the pier.

Through the Lonely Planet forum, someone had recommended the Rock Climbing Bungalows at the very end of the main Southern bay, Ton Sai Bay. It was about a 15 minute walk and when I got there, there were still two bungalows available. One very nice one with a big bed and a hot shower and a rickety one with a mattress on the floor and cold water. The cheap one was only 400 baht (about $12) and the big one was double that, so I opted for the cheap one. It was fine. Only a mattress, a fan and a mosquito net, with a private bathroom in the back.

It was lovely there. I could just roll out of my hammock to go for a swim, or have some delicious food at the ‘hotel’ restaurant. There were many cats roaming around and it was very quiet. Also a good place to meet people. In the first one of the three rickety bungalows was an Australian guy, Nick, who is a dive instructor on Phi Phi and had been living there for three months. And right next to me was Sarah, a woman from California who had been there for a week.

I didn’t do much there. I just went for swims and read in my hammock. The cats provided great entertainment, and so did a Multiple Personality Disorder bird who would have conversations with himself in two different voices.

Though the best were the monkeys who would occasionally make an appearance. I was just chilling out in my hammock when I witnessed a macaque making a run for the glass container where the kitchen kept their bananas. The funny thing was that the bird went absolutely nuts and started screaming. The owners were on the other side and didn’t have a clue. I was not going to say anything because I had too much fun watching the monkey trying to open the container. Obviously, the owners were well aware of this practice and had the container locked. After the monkey realized he wasn’t getting anywhere, he walked back to the wooded area and opened a coconut he had found on the beach.

Another funny thing was the first morning I woke up around 6 am and it was stuffy in my room, so I opened the door a bit to let some air in. I went back to sleep and in my dreams I heard the ringing of little bells. At one point it got so loud that I woke up. I open my eyes and what do I see there? Two kittens, a white fluffy one with blue eyes and a tiger striped kitty, looking at me with big eyes. They had obviously been playing in my room. That was cute.

So, Phi Phi was a lovely place to chill out and read. From the little I have seen, Phi Phi is indeed absolutely stunning. It got immensely popular after that Leonardo Dicaprio movie, The Beach, which was filmed there. Development and prices sky-rocketed. However, half of the people on the island died during the boxing day tsunami in 2004 and much of the development was wiped out. However, I didn’t see any evidence of this tragedy, other than tsunami evacuation arrows and designated buildings with outside stairs and upper decks. If something had happened while I was there, my bungalow certainly would have washed up the limestone cliffs.

The weather was pretty good. There were a few scattered showers but nothing too big. Though this morning when I left it was storming pretty bad. I had bought a little dry bag for my cameras but I’ll have to buy a proper thing for my backpack as the rain can come on very sudden and when it does, it usually rains a lot in a very short time. Enough to get soaked.

I am in Krabi town now for 2 days. I hadn’t booked a room yet and I told the driver I wanted to go to a certain hotel. He told me he knew something more quiet and a lot cheaper so I decided to check it out. It doesn’t have much charm, but it’s off the main road. The room is big and clean and there’s a decent shower and a small balcony looking out at a garden of some sorts. Perfect for these two nights. Then off to Bangkok on Sunday.

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phuket

Posted in hat kata, phuket, thailand by moonwire on August 4, 2009

The trip back from Bukittinggi to Padang was not nearly as bad as the one to Bukittinggi. I had arranged a ride in a minivan through the hotel and though we picked up some more people, everybody had a seat. I was sitting next to a physician from Jakarta, who had studied in Holland and we spoke Dutch together. Even though it had been many years since she had been there, her Dutch was very good. And it made the ride go by very quickly.

I had to wait at the airport for a few hours, but it wasn’t bad. A bit of a delay, but that seems to be the common theme. The flight to Kuala Lumpur was fine. I was coming down with something though so I didn’t feel too good, but I was so happy to arrive at the Tune Hotel to find a lovely room with the best shower ever.  Clean water! I took several very long, hot showers. Happy.

The flight to Phuket was fun. Not a lot of people on board and while we flew along the Andaman coast I had some stunning views of all the islands. There’s some really good beaches there as well as huge limestone rocks sticking out of the water. Really beautiful. At the airport I took a minivan to Kata where my hotel was and that was another nice surprise.

Northern part of Hat Kata (Kata beach).

Really happy with the hotel. A really big king size bed and a great bathroom and balcony.

I had definitely a really bad cold so I felt kind of crappy the first few days. Absolutely no energy, no desire to eat. I just wanted to sleep and read on the bed. Couldn’t have timed it better because Kata is definitely not my thing. I haven’t felt so strongly in both directions about a place so far. I love it and I hate it.

The beach is absolutely gorgeous, with warm, clean water, good waves. Big, white, sandy beach. Lovely for walks in the surf.  As I said, my room is absolutely fantastic, I love it, but Kata itself…. ugh. Maybe it’s because it’s the wet season and there’s not that many tourists, but a lot of businesses are closed for the season. There’s not too many people walking around so there’s a bit of a ghostly vibe. Besides that, there’s a strip to right of me with a lot of little hooker bars. Not that it bothers me, but it’s kind of sad to see those young girls sitting there in their tight shorts and skirts, wearing trashy heels trying to entertain (and make money off of) some white middle aged bald guy with a gut hanging out of his shorts.

There’s something for everyone here. The Pussy Station bar and Cockers cover a few of the bases.

To the left, about a 10 minute walk, that’s where the resorts are. Different vibe. Expensive stores and restaurants. Not really my thing, either.

What I miss here is a lovely little cafe to grab some good, cheap lunch and hang out or have a beer at night (btw, I don’t like Singha beer. There must be something better here. It’s got a really hoppy aftertaste. Not like Bintang!). It just doesn’t seem to exist.

Sandwich from 7-11. I guess ‘delicious’ is all too subjective. Didn’t think so!

So basically, I’ve used my week in Phuket to sleep, read, chill out, walk on the beach and do laundry (I washed all my clothes. The water here is clean. You have no idea how nice it is to wash clothes and have them not smell like a sewer.)

I knew I had forgotten something; left my jacket lift at home…

Though I’m pretty much beached out for now, I will still go to Ko Phi Phi for a few days. Just because I’m curious if it’s really that pretty. If the tourist numbers are anything like here in Phuket, it should be alright.

Also, funny thing, because it’s the wet season here, I expected rain. In the week I’ve been here I’ve only had rain once, at night. During the day there’s some clouds, but it’s mostly been sunny.

Hat Karon, the beach just North of Kata. Not as nice as Kata, though.

However, I can’t help compare this to Bali. Yes, the beaches are better and you don’t get harassed by every vendor here, but there’s something magic about Bali and its people that isn’t found here. Though this is a place I’m not very likely to return to, I enjoyed chilling out here. It served its purpose and I’m ready to explore a more real Thailand. Yeah, I know I won’t find it in Phi Phi, but hopefully after, when I travel north.

Sorry about the boring post and pictures. Hopefully some better stuff soon.

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