We got up at 7:30 and had a super quick breakfast of Yakult before taking an Uber to the Suvarnabhumi airport (where I realized that I had forgotten the Thai Pancakes I had bought for my wait at the airport in Paul’s fridge - so sad!). There was surprisingly little traffic and the ride only took 1 hour even though the driver (who had a very odd style of driving) got lost.
With time to kill and empty stomachs, we bought a (surprisingly yummy) microwaved meal and a toastie from the airport Family Mart.
At 10:30 we said our goodbyes and Manu went through security. Turkish Airlines not being open yet, I made myself comfortable for my 12 hour wait out front, resolute to be productive with my time.
Once again it was a wonderful experience! Thailand was definitely different than I had expected. More modern and used to tourists. The beaches were wonderful and the landscape breathtaking. The people were friendly and ready to help. I can’t wait to see where we go next year!
5 October 2017
Having nothing much planned for the day we got up late. For breakfast we stopped at a random restaurant and pointed at a random item on the menu. We were served a plate of rice with 4 little pieces of crab meat on top for 60B (1.50 EUR). Not our best meal.
Manu needed to check in for his flight so we drove around looking for a place with wifi, which we ended up stealing from Starbucks where we realized that our plan to get to the airport tomorrow wouldn’t work. Plans rearranged, we drove towards FatBoy’s to return the motorbike and grab our bags. On the way we stopped to get the (by now much needed) coffee and some spices and sauces to take home.
After returning the motorbike we decided to take a taxi to Paul’s since we had 2 backpacks. It took us 4 attempts to find a driver willing to take us who took forever to figure out where we wanted to go and ended up ripping us off.
After dinner with Paul we bought a bit of local tabacco for 10B per packet and got everything ready for tomorrow.
4 October 2017
It started to rain heavily, but we decided it was part of the adventure, so we drove back to Paul’s anyway. We actually arrived some time before 19:00, so we waited with the laundry machines until Paul got back from work. After we had changed into something dry, Paul took us to a local restaurant that specialized in rice with chicken and a signature sauce with a soup.
After that he took us to Jim’s Burger and Beer, where we ate some fries and drank an ale that cost 185B (4.62 EUR) for 0.33 l. An expensive amusement, but Manu enjoyed it. I didn’t like it at all, but more for Manu then. (Manu: Yiiha!)
On the walk back to Paul’s apartment we bought another beer (or 2) and talked for a bit. He let us try his menthol cigarettes, which were made with thai tabacco and, as such, an interesting experience. We all played on our phones in companionable silence for a while before drifting off to sleep.
We started to walk towards Wat Pho since it was one of Bangkoks main attractions, but as we neared we were stopped and told that the area was closed to non-Thais since the Thai people would pray for the new king in this area. So we went back to Khao San Road and just wandered around, ate something and decided to drive to one of the biggest malls in Bangkok, the MBK. It was absolutely enormous and, as in most buildings in Asia, freezing cold.
Once again, we got up rather late (cough, cough) and drove into the city to find something to eat. We hadn’t decided on anything by the time we reached Khao San Road (main backpacker area), where we had the choice between Pad Thai and Pad Thai. By now it had started raining, so we ate Pad Thai with deeply fatty spring rolls and wandered around once the rain had let up.
We came across Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, but found a mass of Thais all dressed in white and were told that the Wat was closed due to a ceremony for the old (or new) king. Instead, we were advised to go to the Golden Mountain because it would be free of admission for the Buddha Holiday again. It ended up costing 20B per person (0.50 EUR), but it was well worth it. After 344 steps, we were rewarded with an awesome view over the rooftops of Bangkok. We took more obligatory pictures and videos, observed a procession of monks walking around the temple summit and rang a few bells on our way back down.
3 October 2017
In an attempt to beat the rain we drove straight to Bangkok. We failed utterly though and drove straight into the rain. A lot of rain. We had to make many stops and it took us at least 3-4 hours to reach Bangkok.
We arrived at FatBoy’s, changed clothes, repacked, lunched on a rice dish and grabbed a deep-fried shrimp pizza to snack on before driving to Paul’s place, our couchsurfing host for the last few days. There was a lot of traffic. In consequence, Manu had his fun while I clung on tight and had another core workout.
We arrived at the family mart in front of his place right on time and he was there shortly after. He took us to his room, and it was only that: a room. About 12-15 sqm plus toilet. But it had all the necessities and he offered to sleep on the floor. Paul turned out to be fun, caring and gay and we had a pleasant evening drinking a few beers. For dinner we grabbed a Tom Yum from the Family Mart for 8B (0.20 EUR).
We actually got up quite early and drove to the beef noodle soup place. I had my eyes set on some white dumpling thingies I had seen the day before, but as always in Asia, the vendor wasn’t there. I was quite disappointed, but satisfied my hunger for new food with 2 more surprises grilled in banana leaves for 7B each (0.18 EUR) and an iced thai coffee while Manu ate 2 bowls of soup.
2 October 2017
After another late morning, we breakfasted on beef noodle soup before visiting the adjacent Wat Mahatat. Situated in a park with many smaller ruins, it’s one of Ayutthaya’s most prominent attractions. Along with expansive grounds and many buildings, there’s a pretty tree that has grown around a face of a statue.
We wandered around the park for a while, but it was too hot so we cut our explorations a bit short. On our way out of the park we came across something huge moving in a bush on the side of the pathway and out comes a huge Waran. It had either shed or was eating a decaying fellow and the stench was more than unappetizing. Unsure if it would get defensive about its food we stayed a cautious distance but it soon slid harmlessly into the water.
We wanted to go to Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit but only found a market. Before we could continue our search it started pouring and storming. Foreseeing a lengthy storm, we braved the rain and spent the rest of the day snuggled up at the hotel.
1 October 2017
On our way back we stopped at the Monument of King Naresuan the Great and Wat Phu Khao Thong. Both were rather unimpressive after the sights from the last few days, so we quickly drove on.
Our next stop was the Wat Lokayasutharam ruin with a huge laying Buddha. Pretty but quick.
It was getting dark, but we took a chance and drove to Wat Suwandaram, but it had closed for the day.
Looking for something to take back to the hotel, we stopped at 2 markets but didn’t find anything that didn’t need to be prepped, so we dined at the hotel that night.
To get an overview and a bit of background knowledge we started at the tourist center’s museum, which was an impressively modern exhibit with too much to read. Still overwhelmed, we decided to use the good weather to see Thailand’s largest sitting Buddha 40 km outside of the city at Wat Muang.
It was well worth the ride, with dragons flanking the stairs leading up to a huge golden Buddha rising far into the sky. A line of visitors waiting to touch their head to Buddhas fingertip ran the length of its base.
Obligatory pictures taken, we strolled around the market stalls and more obscene statues before heading ball towards Ayutthaya.
For breakfast we drove to a floating market a few minutes north of our hotel. To get there we had to pass through a very eccentric wat, full of unusual statues, alcoves and various other attractions.
The market was situated on a wooden pier with the vendors in boats around the sides. Most of the food cost only 20B (0.50 EUR) and once again we were overwhelmed with the decision of what to eat. Manu chose an oyster omelette and I ate yellow palm cakes (and of course an iced thai coffee).
As we were eating we noticed that people would buy bread and brightly colored pastry balls from a nearby stand, go to the side of the pier and dump the contents into the river, usually with somebody taking their picture in the process. Curious, we peered over the edge to see hundreds of large fish swimming against the current with their mouths wide open to catch the falling food.
30 September 2017
By 19:00 we were hungry, so we tried to find our way to a market we had seen on our way in to Ayutthaya. There were many stalls with interesting food, but once again almost nothing was translated and only a few stalls offered food on plates and a place to eat, so our possibilities were limited. Manu chose half of a chicken, breaded and deep fried complete with head and bones, for 25B (0.60 EUR) and I ate something prepared in banana leaves for 35B (0.88 EUR). To wash it all down we drank a delicious fresh lime smoothie for all of 30B (0.75 EUR) and a not-so-delicious grape smoothie.
When we got back we joined two other couples and our host sitting on the porch, with whom we stayed up chatting (and getting eaten alive by mosquitos) until 00:00.
After a fun but uneventful ride, we arrived at Ayotaya River House at 17:00. It was a wooden affair that was almost completely open to the outside. The ground floor had almost no walls and functioned as a dining room/lounge with direct access to the river. Upstairs, the bathroom and the porch were under open sky. Only the 6 rooms had a roof and were divided by walls a bit higher than head height, but were clean and had a mattress with a mosquito net and a table.
We were picked up at 5:40 by a minibus and brought to the airport where our flight to Bangkok left at 8:30. With the local bus and train we were at Fat Boys Motorbike Rental by 12:00. By the time we had repacked everything, grabbed a bite to eat and exhausted the use of the free wifi it was 13:30.
We left Manu’s backpack at FatBoy’s so I strapped on my backpack, we put on our sexy helmets and swung into the saddle. Which was so insanely hard that our behinds were sore within a few minutes and we used every red light to stand up for a few seconds. I eventually stuck a sweater into my leggings. Our Navi didn’t know that motorbikes aren’t allowed onto the expressway though, so we struggled through Bangkok traffic (Manu having fun weaving in between cars, me trying not to topple sideways with my insanely top-heavy backpack and hoping my knees would survive) until 16:05, when we finally found a road we were allowed to drive on out of Bangkok!
29 September 2017
Being cooped up yesterday, we decided we needed to get out a bit farther today. We drove out to a national park and commenced our 3.7 km hike straight up the side of a mountain. The sun was actually shining and the weather was noticeably hotter today. We were out of breath quickly but enjoyed the most jungle-like trek we had taken up to date.
We reached the top in about 2.5 hours and were rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. We could see all the way to both shores of the little land-bulge we were on.
28 September 2017
It started raining during breakfast, so we retired to our room and waited it out. By the time it was dry enough for us to go out the day was half gone, so Manu dropped me off on the main strip of Ao Nang. He enjoyed a Thai Massage while I wandered the strip, venturing into various shops and generally enjoying the Thai hustle all around me.
Dinner was the usual affair at the little market, where the employees greeted us with „welcome back“ and saw us off with „See you tomorrow.“
27 September 2017
We waded straight into the water, washing away all the mud and sweat from our exertions and enjoying the sinking sun on the water between the karsts. After air drying on the beach we took a boat back to the mainland. Exhausted as we were, we didn’t do much else that day other than dine at our favorite market.
Soon the rain had passed and we walked to the entrance to the trail that led to the lagoon. It led straight up the side of the hill, which was all mud now because of the rain. Not anticipating a climb like this we had worn our flip flops, so I attached them to my belt and up we went barefoot. The climb was slippery and muddy and thoroughly enjoyable. It took us half an hour to get to the lagoon over muddy rocks and down slippery bamboo ladders and we were sweaty and dirty from head to foot. The lagoon was gorgeous but full of sharp rocks, so we enjoyed the view before making our way back.
We detoured to a viewpoint from which we could see all of Railay and were back where we started an hour later. Dirty as we were we headed straight for the beach, collecting stares the entire way.
After breakfast the weather looked exceptionally sunny so we took a boat to Railay, a tongue of land that’s not accessible by road 15 minutes outside of Ao Nang. The boat ride itself was already worth the 400B (10EUR) we had paid for the ride to Railay, passing by the immense karsts that jut straight out of the clear blue water and then rounding the corner to come into the little bay that shelters the white beach under palm trees.
We arrived at Railay Beach and walked across to the other side and along the beach to Phra Nang Beach. There we found a little cave called Princess Cave. At the front there was a little temple and stacked high behind it were wood penises of all shapes and sizes. A sign told us that the Thais come here to pray for fertility and leave a wooden penis as a gift to the spirit of a young shipwrecked princess.
It started raining, so we found shelter under a rock outcropping and watched as the people scattered.
26 September 2017
A ways behind the Tiger Cave we found a staircase leading up the mountain. The sign at the bottom read “1,237 Step To Top Mountain” so of course up we went! Monkeys jumped up and down the first few landings, but quickly left us to fend for ourselves. It would have been much worse had the weather not been overcast, but nonetheless we were sweating and worn out by the time we finally reached the top. The temple was old and quaint, but fit in perfectly above the clouds. A giant sitting Buddha, Buddha’s Footprint and a few bells added to the scenery.
Expecting the worst, the way down was actually rather easy-going. The monkeys joined us again towards the bottom and we had a bit of fun with them while they tried to steal our stuff until one big guy really wanted to keep Manu’s shoe. When Manu pulled it our of his grasp he bared his teeth and lunged at us and we quickly escaped down the last few flights of stairs.
[I made a video of the monkeys! https://quik.gopro.com/v/1cMKtNFbWh/]
After a late morning and a yummy breakfast at our favorite stall at the market, we headed off to the Tiger Cave Temple. The temple grounds are vast, with many different buildings and temples. In the temple with the actual Tiger Cave we were greeted by a female monk, who took our wrists and ceremoniously tied a woven bracelet around each, embellishing the gesture with compliments and kind words of advice. After which she pointed at a brown box and demanded “Donation Now”. The Tiger Cave was a rather anticlimactic scene: just a very small diver in the wall of the cave with a statue of a tiger covered in many offerings.
25 September 2017
We were picked up by a minivan and driven to Krabi, where we were transferred to a bus that wound its way painfully through little streets to various hotels. Our hotel was a lovely collection of bungalows called Mild Garden View. Our room was clean and large and we even had a front porch.
That night, we rented a scooter and cruised around. We found a collection of stalls with community tables that immediately became our place to go for all meals.
24 September 2017
Enjoying our sprite in front of the minimart, we were joined by an elderly couple and started chatting. They told us about a little monkey temple nearby and I was immediately sold.
It only cost 20B (0.50 EUR) per person to get in and another 20B for a bag of peanuts. The monkeys were adorable and quite obviously used to taking their peanuts from inexperienced visitors. Two of the females had baby’s hanging from their bellies that looked completely unreal. We had a blast being jumped and climbed on and Manu amused himself by teasing them with the peanuts in his hand.
It started pouring again as we were leaving, so we sought shelter in a cave temple until the worst had past. Upon our return, we discovered that the “town” had lost power. So we took a cold (and thus very quick) shower and climbed into bed in the dark.
[I made a video of our play time with the monkeys! https://quik.gopro.com/v/eCz8sl8tKz/]
We breakfasted at the Tree Top River Huts Restaurant and set off to start our trek before it could start pouring again. We dutifully bought our tickets only to find that there was nobody at the first check point to check them. The trail was more of a dirt road with a few small trails leading to interesting spots on the river. Within an hour it had started to rain and we were soaked. But we had paid 600B (15 EUR) so we refused to be cut short by a bit of water. However, we were soon cut short by the fact that the trail had been roaped off.
We saw a little hut with a fire still burning and rested there for a minute, which is when I saw that my ankle was bleeding. Upon further inspection, we both found a few leeches on our exposed ankles. We hurriedly removed them, covered as much skin as possible and started our return trip.
Completely soaked, we arrived back after exactly 2 hours and decided to treat ourselves with a little something from the mini mart in “town”.
23 September 2017
Upon our return we headed off towards the first waterfall. We soon discovered that we needed an admission ticket to trek the trails and turned back around to head to the front office. As fate would have it, just then it started raining so we headed to our room instead. And good thing too! It poured the rest of the day and we were forced to spend it in bed.
We walked up and down the main street (the only street) in search of an affordable restaurant. The road was completely empty except for a few residents and shopkeepers. All restaurants were either closed or empty and expensive. We picked the cheapest one we could find and still paid the most we had up to date for the least amount of mediocre food.
22 September 2017
After a soothing breakfast of noodle soup, we were taxied to the pier and ferried to Donsak, where we were ushered onto a bus. A few hours later we were transferred to a minibus for the last leg of the trip to Khao Sok, where we were picked up by our hotel and finally arrived around 21:00.
Our hotel was in the national park directly behind the entrance. Our room wasn’t a house in the trees as we had been promised, but it was a cute little elevated bungalow that was clean, though a little drafty and damp.
21 September 2017
The weather stayed overcast and drizzly so we stayed in our room and lazed about. We ventured out once to grab some lunch, meeting Tara (the other diver in our group to Sail Rock the day before) at the market.
We figured we could use the chilly day to relax at the herbal sauna at one of the temples, but when we arrived we discovered that there were 2 separate rooms - one for women, one for men - so we decided a lazy day in bed was our only option left.
We were joined by a huge gecko, whom I dubbed Gary but Manu decidedly named Kurt (accent on the "r").
We dined on bacon-cheese-puffs and oreos and finished season 3 of Narcos while the rain beat down on the roof of our little bungalow.
After our spicy culinary escapades of the days before, we opted for the slightly sweet Tom Kha Gai for breakfast. An excellent coconut soup, accented with lemongrass and ginger.
20 September 2017
We were picked up at 7:00 and brought to the dive boat, where we had an hour's ride to Sail Rock in which we could breakfast and be briefed. The weather was overcast and windy, meaning the waves were relatively high and the boat rocked mercilessly. After spilling half my coffee over the brig because of the rolling waves, I proceeded to be sick the rest of the way out.
Once we were under water though, all seasickness quickly abated and we enjoyed our time with the many fish and coral inhabitants. From above water, Sail Rock looks like a drab little rock in the middle of the sea, but under water there is a wonderful reef community swimming with life. During the security stop on our second dive, we even saw a baby whale shark swimming in the depths! Go figure we hadn't taken the GoPro on this dive...
[I made a video of our dive! https://quik.gopro.com/v/bXjuq6gne1/]
19 September 2017
Still in an adventurous mood, we decided to give something new a try that night at the market. We picked a bamboo salad, and when we ordered we were warned that it was spicy, so we were given some leaves, cucumber and cabbage to eat along with it. After his first bite, Manu decided it was nothing for him. Stubborn as I am, I fought my way through half the salad, using half the leaves, all the cabbage and cucumber and half a pint of beer, before giving up through streaming eyes and a burning mouth.
Manu wisely opted for an artfully made Phad Thai.
After a lazy morning we headed off in search of a dive school to book our first fun dive. Manu had read good reviews for one called Haad Yao Divers, so we drove by to see what they had to offer. We found a modern-looking German-run dive school that made us an offer for a dive the next day to Sail Rock that sounded decent, so we just went ahead and booked.
That out of the way, we had the rest of the day to do something else. With the wonderful weather we didn't want to do anything inside so we went for some ziplining through the jungle. The zipling was fun, even if not as exciting as expected, but the staff was super friendly and let us independently go for 2 rounds. After shedding our equipment Manu saw 2 guides smoking the local tabacco and asked if he could bum a smoke. They readily rolled us one in bamboo paper, warning us that it was stronger than what we would be used to. And it definitely was. One puff was enough to make me glad I had declined their offer of rolling me of my own.
18 September 2017
That night I finally got the homemade coconut ice cream I had been eyeing since the first day. Soooooo yummy!
Since we breakfast late, we aren't usually hungry until dinner. Thais, like Vietnamese, eat late though. So when we're hungry for our early dinner most of the food vendors aren't out yet and most small restaurants not open yet. On our way home after dinner we will then usually see the streets full of little restaurants and vendors. So today we decided we would be smart and buy a little something to tide us over so that we could have a late dinner. We stopped in at a supermarket and bought some chips and a baguette before buying a few kebabs at a nearby market we stumbled upon and taking everything back to the room.
I enjoyed the last few rays of sunlight at the Beach Village Beach and Manu went for one last dip of the day in the ocean.
The last temple of the day was Wat Phu Khao Noi, an old, quaint temple with few buildings. We chatted with two German girls we had met at the pier upon our arrival and headed back towards our hotel.
Next we came across Wat Samai Kongka. This was a large pretty temple with an adjoining school and signs in well-written English explaining the principles of Buddhism and Meditation. We were more than a little shocked to find a violent collection of bloody statues behind one of the buildings, staging a scene of enslavement, torture and murder of white people by black people. There was no sign explaining the gruesome scenes, whose intention would have interested me greatly.
Our first stop was at a small temple called Wat Ma Due Wan.
Thinking of our little beach from yesterday, we cruised to the nearest beach and were rewarded with soft, white sand and more blue, clear water.
The sun didn't stay out long though, so we decided to visit a few of the many temples scattered across the island.
Nothing daunted we continued on to the viewpoint, where the walking was a bit more strenuous and at a steep incline. Shortly after that we were faced with a decision: take the more frequented path back to the bottom or continue on a nature trail that would take us on a 2.5 km loop.
Unanimously we set off on the nature trail. The going became even harder and steeper. The trail was not maintained and there were broken trees across the way and the path had become overgrown in many spots. At times we weren't sure where the trail continued and clambered over rocks until we found a path. It was great fun and we returned to the bottom after 1.5 hours, drenched and well exercised.
After an anticlimactic breakfast of fried chicken with garlic at our newly discovered market (not many vendors were set up, so our options were rather limited) we headed out eastward. The weather was once again sunny and humid, so we decided to trek in the national park that included a lovely viewpoint and the most popular waterfall on the island, thinking that a large waterfall surely couldn't dry up too much. After a short hike we reached the point where the waterfall was supposed to be. Barely a trickle could be seen.
17 September 2017
We dined in style at The Shack on the main road, for which Manu had read good reviews. The food was moderately expensive and while it was good, it wasn't somewhere worth remembering. Since we hadn't eaten much that day we were both still hungry and decided to go on the hunt for a little street food snack. We pounced on a market we found with food carts aplenty and even a little food court. Seeing too many yummy things, we settled for a few kebabs and decided that this would be where we went to eat from now on.
After wandering the streets a little more, we returned to our room, watched a few episodes of Narcos and called it a night.
To cool off a bit we made our way to the nearest bay we could find and were delighted to find an idyllic little cove with clear blue water and a tree swing that Manu inspected thoroughly.
Because of the surprisingly good weather, we decided to trek to the Than Sadet waterfall. We were disappointed to find a bit more than a trickle instead of a roaring waterfall, but made the best of it by ditching the trail and scrambling down the rocks along the stream. After about 30 minutes, we reached a spot with rocks so large and slippery that we wouldn't have been able to get back up. By now, the sun had actually come out and we were dripping with sweat, so we returned to a spot a little ways up the stream to cool off and bathe our feet in the trickle. A look at the map told us that, unbeknownst to us, we had passed another waterfall on our descent. Sufficiently rested, we clambered back up the waterfall.
On our way, we came across the oldest Yang Na-Yai tree on Koh Phangan.
Because of our early evening we got up at 9:00, threw a few things into a backpack and headed off to see what we could see.
We breakfasted on Penang (and of course iced coffee) at a little restaurant called Mama's.
16 September 2017
The Beach Village is a huge complex of bungalows directly on the beach. We initially received a small bungalow with 2 individual twin beds, but were allowed to move to a larger one with a double and a twin bed. The bungalows are basic, but clean. We tried to enjoy the pool and beds on the beach, but the weather was so overcast and windy that we escaped back into our room. Soon though, the lack of Wifi drove us to find a comfy spot at the restaurant next to the reception with WiFi.
Manu decided to rent a motorbike directly from The Beach Village and so we hopped on and explored the island in search of inspiration. We found food (and plenty of it) and grabbed a shrimp pad thai (without shrimp) for dinner before calling it an early night.
After a bumpy and seemingly endless (but actually only 2 hour) ride with the ferry, on which I thought I was going to vomit, we arrived on Koh Phangan. We waved away the countless offers of "Taxi. Taxi. Where you go?" and looked for the car with the logo of our next accommodation. It was nowhere to be seen so we wandered around to various stores, asking if anyone could call the contact we had been given. After 30 mins, someone finally agreed to help us and, as things would have it, just as he called Manu saw the pick-up drive by.
We got up at 7:00 so that we would have enough time to grab a quick breakfast at the Carabao Restaurant, but were disappointed to find that Thai food isn't served until after 10:00. So 2 iced coffees did the trick instead, where I watched closely in case this was my last chance to learn how to make this heavenly drink.
At 8:30 they drove us to the pier, where we breakfasted on sandwiches and a papaya smoothie while waiting an hour for the ferry that would take us to Koh Phangan.
15 September 2017
Today was an early day: Up at 6:00 - onto dive boat at 6:30!
Dive 3 in Shark Bay: Visibility great! Down to 18 m for 50 mins until 50 bar of air left.
Dive 4 at King Kong: Visibility still good but grew steadily worse. Down to 18 m for 45 mins until 50 bar of air left.
The coral reefs were lovely and active! We saw many fish and creatures of all sizes and shapes.
We were back by 10:30, but the weather was windy and cloudy, so we napped since we had both slept badly.
We were finally driven out of the room at 17:00 by our hunger and enjoyed a meal of massamam soup (very popular dish) at Carabao, which is up to date our 2nd favorite meal after Penang soup.
Too sluggish to be very active, we took up our positions at the poolside, getting up only to grab a few snacks for our trip to Koh Phangan the next day.
At 21:30 we grabbed a light dinner at Carabao before packing up and falling back into bed.
14 September 2017
Today, we actually got up with our alarm at 9:00. After a yummy breakfast at Carabao it was back to our usual spot next to the pool.
At 12:00 we embarked on our first 2 sea dives. The visibility was relatively bad at 5 meters, but the water warm at 30°C and quite fun for the beginning.
Dive 1: 8 meters deep, 37 mins long
Dive 2: 10 meters deep, 38 mins long
By 15:00 we were back on dry land, where we spent the rest of the afternoon next to the pool, with a small interruption to grab a sandwich.
And as per our little routine: delicious dinner at Carabao - narcos - early to bed!
13 September 2017
We walked to the main road for a sandwich and smoothie. Since we didn't want to walk straight back to the resort, we walked to other side of the little island. By coincidence, we found a little pathway that lead to a cute little bay with white coral "sand" and big rocks where we spent a few minutes enjoying the view before returning to Carabao.
After that the usual: pool - dinner - narcos
In order not to miss all of the sun, we actually set an alarm for 10:00, but the bed was just too comfortable and we didn't actually get up until 11:00.
We breakfasted at Carabao in order to fall directly into the pool and dry in the sun.
At 13:00, we interrupted our sunning for our pool dive. Tom showed us how to prep the equipment and we conducted a few exercises under water. Before we knew it, we were done and told that we were ready for our unconfined dive tomorrow!
12 September 2017
A beer livened our walk home and another beer saw us to bed to watch a few episodes of Narcos.
We wandered around, and after deciding against renting a scooter, walked all the way to the pier. We bought a yummy chicken sandwich from a street vendor called DAS Sandwiches, and a not-so-yummy lime shake that we devoured while watching the boats cruise in and out of the harbor.
On our way back, we bought some expensive fruit to eat at the room, but then saw a sign for free food and decided to give it a try. To mask our ultimate goal, we drank 2 Mai Tais (which ended up costing us 320B (8.00€) because of a miscommunication with the waitress) as we scoped out the situation of this free food. Just as we had given up and were leaving, the birthday girl Ning invited us to have dinner from a small buffet. Her, her boyfriend and we were the only ones in the bar, so we sat together and small talked while we ate. She didn't talk at all other than telling her boyfriend that he talks too much. He was a pyrotechnician for ColdPlay and told us a bit about them and giving us tips about Thailand.
We slept long and got up just in time to breakfast at the Carabao restaurant (discovering an addictive iced coffee) before the theoretical part of our OWD. Contrary to our expectations, Tom explained a few things about diving and our equipment and before we knew it, he had presented us with our final exam. It consisted of 50 multiple choice questions, many of which were intuitively answerable and, best of all, since diving is a team sport - we were allowed to complete the exam in teamwork (as Tom drank a beer next to the pool). Despite Tom's warnings, we overthought 2 answers, scoring 96%.
11 September 2017
We met our diving instructor for an introductory round and to make plan for the following days. We hadn't asked for a German instructor, but the resort was undoubtedly trying to be accommodating and Tom ausm Bayerischen Wald was a nice, elderly man with 16 years of experience as a diving instructor. Tom fell quickly into his natural dialect, which I found it harder to understand than if he had spoken broken English. But wherever I couldn't understand what he was saying, context clues came to the rescue!
Too lazy to walk far, we found the menu at the Carabao Restaurant to include a large selection of Thai food for prices much cheaper than anywhere on the island we had seen so far. We shared a large serving of noodles in gravy for 70B (1.75€) at a table on the beach that would soon turn into our regular table.
To our delight, the internet was fast enough for us to watch a few episodes of Narcos before calling it an early night.
Rejuvenated after our power nap, we headed out to catch some sun and sink our toes in the sand. We walked the length of the beach in both directions, which didn't take long since our resort was located in a small cove. The view was idyllic, even though the water was somewhat muggy due to the recent rainfall.
To our disappointment, most shops were closed and there was no Thai food on any of the menus on display - it was all burgers, pizza and sandwiches. About to give up after 20 minutes, we reached the end of the main road and found a Thai restaurant! Another guy sat down shortly after we did, and since we were the only ones there we invited him to sit with us. An odd encounter as it turned out, but we didn't let it hamper us as we devoured our meal: Manu a yummy Pad Thai and I a huge Green Curry with seafood and a mango smoothie for us both.
It started raining as we ate, so we chatted for a while but made our escape as soon as the rain left off a bit. We were soaked within a few minutes and arrived back at the room cold, full and tired - a nap was just what we needed.
Carabao Dive Resort is beautiful and directly on the beach. Our room is clean and huge. There's a pool, a tiki bar and restaurant, pool and snooker tables and palm trees everywhere.
We booked an open water diver class for 8,000B (200€) per person (which was half as much as what we were expecting) directly with the resort and hurried to throw our stuff into the room so we could start our hunt for breakfast.
A covered pick-up truck transfered our little group to the harbor, where we waited more or less patiently for the ferry that would take us to the islands.
At 7:00 we boarded the freeeeeeeezing ferry that dropped us off at Koh Tao. Unfortunately, we had been one of the first to board the ferry. So when all of the luggage was piled in a corner, ours was at the very bottom. In consequence, we had to wait until most of the luggage had been picked up before we could extricate ours and disembark. We were just in time to see the pick-up with Carabao's logo drive off without us. I waited with the luggage while Manu found someone to call the hotel, who assured us that the driver would return for us shortly. So we parked ourselves on a bench in a sunny spot and waited to be picked up.
We are awoken by someone throwing open the door to our cabin and yelling "Koh Tao! Koh Tao!" We scramble to stuff everything into our bags without forgetting anything under the seats, since we hadn't known we would be transferring in the middle of the night. We fall off the bus to find an empty street in the small town of Chumphon, where we sit against a gated entrance to a restaurant (which I hope will open soon since I suspect I see a coffee machine). The gates are in fact opened soon by an elderly man that ushers us inside to await the next leg of our journey at his tables.
10 September 2017
We were picked up by taxi 10 minutes early and brought to a ticket office, where we were told to wait another 1.5 hours. I wandered around and bought us some interesting snacks from a street vendor.
Eventually, we were squeezed into a tuktuk along with another guy and our combined luggage, and brought to the bus pickup spot. The other guy, John, turned out to be a funny English guy that we passed the time with in companionable chatter.
The bus finally arrived at 18:00 and a few of us were separated from the rest of the bus passengers that were bound to a different destination. It was surprisingly comfortable with big padded seats and walls and free WiFi, but we were put into a small separated room at the front of the bus that had 4 pairs of seats. A group consisting of 3 Spanish travelers each sat in a different pair of seats, forcing one lone traveler to sit next to one of them and leaving us with the last pair of seats and Manu with no leg room.
Upon return to the hostel, we packed up, checked out and waited downstairs to be picked up. As we were melting in the reception area, no less than 8 crews were working on the power lines outside. And no wonder - the power lines looked like someone had hastily unwound a huge ball of cords and hung them along the street.
It was 30°C with 74% humidity, so we each escaped and wandered the streets for a while in turns. I stumbled upon a few stalls in a side street and got us a yummy yummy soup from a street vendor for lunch, along with some fruit and another delicious iced coffee.
We found a restaurant on the main road, where we pointed at a random sauce, which we were then served over rice. The guy at the table next to us received a large orange drink that looked yummy, so we asked our waiter for one of those and an iced coffee. The orange drink turned out to be a delicious Thai Milk Tee. It was all very yummy and ended up costing us all of 85B (2.00€).
On our way back we bought a few interesting looking baked goods as provisions for the bus ride ahead from a street vendor.
Woke up with no power. The room was way too hot to sleep, so we showered and got the hell out of dodge.
9 September 2017
A live punk rock band, DOA, kept Manu up until 1:00.
When Chinatown finally opened, we found a few crowded intersections of bright lights and restaurants upon restaurants with lines filling all streets. We opted for a small vendor that still had a vacant table that we wouldn't have to stand in line for and ordered a yummy curry dish. We finished wandering the few streets and made our way north in hopes of finding the bus that would take us west towards our hostel. To help us on our way, we bought a pint of beer that made me slightly giggly, but the walk all the funnier.
We jumped on the train that took us directly to Chinatown, only to discover that Chinatown didn't open until 19:00. We were told there was another market down the street, so we headed in that direction to meander more stalls until Chinatown woke back up. This part of Bangkok was relatively empty and rather eery and we never found the market, so we sat down on some plastic chairs in front of a 7 Eleven to wait.
We made our way with bus and train to the Chatuchak Weekend Market in the north of Bangkok. It was huge!
Manu found a lovely pair of light blue shorts and I found a replacement for my cloth pants from Vietnam that Lilly had chewed up (and that had shrunk significantly in the wash). We sat down at a random stall and ordered a yummy lunch with milk tea that reminded us strongly of Vietnam. While meandering around further stalls, we enjoyed a creamy smoothie and an icicle made by pouring soda into metal rods suspended in ice.
It was sunny and warm and the atmosphere of the market was thoroughly enjoyable.
Looking for a snack. Found BBQ silkworms, crispy crickets, chili squid, crunchy codfish, puffed shrimp, cheesy octopus, seaweed sheets...
I awoke to find Manu less than enthusiastic about the prospect of beginning the day. He had slept badly on our sad excuse of a bed and I opted to sacrifice a few morning hours in order to be able to enjoy the rest of the day without a grumpy Manu-monster. I busied myself with laundry while Manu caught up on another hour of sleep.
8 September 2017
Back at the hostel, we spend the rest of the evening (more or less) lounging in our bed. The music from downstairs is too loud to watch a movie, the weather too hot to cuddle and the bed too uncomfortable to do anything but sit propped against the wall. Live Ska / Reggae music keeps Manu up until 4 am.
Our poor tuktuk driver is still waiting patiently for us and takes us to another Thai factory, where we pretend to be interested in a tailored suit for a few minutes before finding an excuse not to buy one.
By now it's too late to visit any more temples and our hostel is too far away for tuktuk driver 2, so he drops us off at the pier. From there we leisurely walk back to our hostel, enjoying the lights of Bangkok at night.
Tuktuk driver 2 takes us to another temple, where we meet a Belgian who owns a diving school (Crystal Diving) on Koh Tao. He gives us much good advice on Bangkok, the islands, diving and riding a motorbike. He also tells us that the tourist information offices are legit and run by the government and that the deal we had received sounded quite alright.
Tuktuk driver 2 is still waiting for us when we return to the entrance and he takes us to a different tourist information office. This one is not marked with a blue "i" on our map, but since then Belgian had told us that there were hundreds of tourist information offices in Bangkok, we decide to see what they have to offer. This guy seems much nicer and more willing to offer us a packaged deal than at the last office. After 2 hours and a quick dinner at the street vendor in front of the office, we leave with a 21-day tour for 31,500B (780€) to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Kaosok and Krabi - everything is included except the open water and food.
Tuktuk driver 1 then takes us to a Thai Factory (a Thai tailor) where we pretend to be interested in buying a tailored suit so that our driver can receive a voucher for free gas.
He then takes us to see "Big Buddha". We wander around and dutifully take a few pictures of the enormous golden statue. But when we return to where he dropped us off, our tuktuk driver is nowhere to be found. We wander around in circles for about 15 minutes, thinking that he would return since we haven't paid him yet. Eventually we decide to take a different tuktuk to see the rest of the attractions on our list.
We walk aimlessly around the streets looking for a motorbike to buy to continue our journey. We are completely unsuccessful and can only find a few scooters here and there.
We are stopped by two separate passerbys and told that today is Buddha Day. They suggest a few sights to see and tell us that there are certain tuktuks with yellow flags that are subsidized. They will take us on a 3-4 hour tour to most of the attractions for only 30B (0.75€).
Tuktuk driver 1 took us to a few wats (temples), all very pretty and elegantly decorated. Everyone is very friendly and inviting. After that he takes us to a tourist information center (T.a.T.) where we are presented with a deal for our Open Water Diver on Koh Tao that seems so cheap that we are sure it's a scam. We kindly excuse ourselves, saying that we'll think about it and come back later.
Stumbled upon street packed with vendors selling all kinds of food, trinkets, clothing and household items.
Meatslime for breakfast from a streetvendor with a small restaurant! Despite non appetizing appearance, it's yummy and costs all of 30B (0.75€).
Slept in until 10.00, without blankets and with many interruptions. It's very hot and even more humid. Cuddling is definitely only doable sporadically.
7 September 2017
Dinner in a little restaurant near the hostel. Manu has yummy but tough sun dried beef. I have very yummy pork on spicy salad with herbs. We drink orange and green est soda that tastes like bubble gum ice cream and a pint of beer for 230B (5.75€).
Overstay Hostel is very artsy. Our bed is 2 cm of foam on a board with two thin little blankets. Otherwise there's nothing in our room except a fan. There are 2 public bathrooms on the floor. Everything is borderline clean but run down. The walls are covered in political and hippy graffiti and artwork. There's a drum set and instruments downstairs that are used sporadically and nightly live shows until late at night.
I arrive. Manu has battled his way there to pick me up!
Just when we thought we had figured out which bus to take, the ticketer tells us to get off and we get closer to our hostel with the train. From there we decide to take a tuktuk instead of trying to figure out the bus system and only need 3 hours to get back to the hostel.
Manu arrives. Instead of the expected bus that was supposed to take him directly to the hostel, he needs 4.5 hours to get from the airport to the Overstay Hostel and has his first experience being scammed by a taxi driver.