posted by Mandy
26.07.2011 - 23.08.2011 90 °F
After a two month hiatus in the states, we got back on the road and headed for South East Asia. Lucky for us, our good friends, Amanda and Josh joined us for three weeks in Thailand. We met Amanda and Josh in Bangkok on Kevin's birthday to begin our journey. We celebrated by eating street food and going to a Muay Thai boxing match.
The food was delicious and the boxing match was entertaining! Bangkok overwhelmed our senses; a crazy city, with buzzing traffic, sticky sweet food smells, sweat inducing humidity and brilliant colors. The rest of our time was spent eating great food, exploring the massive city and appreciating the beauty of the temples (or wats) and Royal Palace.
We decided to head north via train to the smaller city of Chiang Mai. We loved the slower paced city and it's arty vibe. Unfortunately, we were hit with a monsoon rain on the first day, so the site seeing was accompanied with soggy clothes and rain gear. Our second day in Chiang Mai was spent at the Elephant Nature Park, which is a large open park where rescued elephants live and are taken care of by volunteers. We were able to observe the elephants closely, and even feed and bathe them. The large animals were for the most part gentle creatures, but we had a little scare when two of the males started fighting near Josh and Kevin. Video to follow!
We then headed a couple hours more north to a small village called Chiang Dao, recommended by a friend. We stayed at a beautiful lodge in the jungle for a peaceful reprieve from the city. The monsoon rains followed us, but it didn't damper our moods. We explored the nearby temples, including one temple in a cave, soaked in hot springs, got our first Thai massages (oh my, what a treat!) and explored the village on bicycles. One of the highlights of our time in Thailand was in Chiang Dao, bicycling through the country side. We recommend to anyone who is goes!
Off to the beach! We saved ourselves from spending 24 hours on a train and flew down to Phuket, to catch a ferry to Ko Phi Phi, a small island in the Andaman Sea. The island was breathtaking, exactly what you picture when you think of South East Asian beaches. The white sandy beaches were surrounded by massive limestone cliffs, with turquoise water and old wooden longtail boats along the shoreline.
We didn't know this until we arrived, but apparently Ko Phi Phi is a big backpacker party destination. Our “hotel” was a trashy bungalow surrounded by garbage in the middle of the bars and clubs. Amanda and Josh definitely got the worst bungalow, as their walls were literally made of newspaper and they had a hole in their bathroom floor, all the way down to the dirt! Anyway, we made the most of it (we weren't there to hang out in our hotel anyway) and joined the party. We had a great time sunbathing by day and bar hopping by night. One day we hired a longtail boat to take us to remote beaches and snorkel spots around the island.
After a few days, we took another ferry to the mainland for our next destination: Railay Beach. Railay was amazing! Similar beauty as Ko Phi Phi, but without the clubs. Also, the limestone cliffs are much more dramatic along the coastline, which has become a huge rock climbing area. Amanda and Josh partook in this and had a great time. We rented kayaks and explored the coastline and hung out on the beautiful beaches.
After Railay, we headed to the Gulf of Thailand, to the island of Ko Tao. Ko Tao is known for their scuba diving and snorkeling and we went there for just that. Kevin got his scuba certificate, and Josh, Amanda and I did some of the best off shore snorkeling I have ever experienced. We saw tons of beautiful coral and fish and reef sharks.
This was the last stop for Amanda and Josh and we were sad to see them go. Kevin and I spent a couple more days on Ko Tao (one of which was our 1 year anniversary!) and then headed to the island south of Ko Tao, called Ko Phangan. This island is larger than Ko Tao, with wider beaches and more remote accommodations. We spend a couple days on the north part of the island, then a couple days on the east side. Lazy but great fun! Time could easily have gotten away with us, but our one month visa was expiring soon, so we had to head out. We took the long trip back to Bangkok (6 hour ferry then 8 hour bus ride) and spent our last days in Thailand shopping at a huge street market and taking a Thai cooking class. We got lots of good wares and learned how to make our favorite Thai dishes. Can I just say, again, how great the food was in Thailand! Yummy!