Archive | May, 2014

My Favourite Beach In The World

13 May

The boat ride from Koh Tao was about an hour and a half getting in to Koh Phangan so I had a feeling in my gut that any awaiting hotel transfer had long gone. After a frantic search in the heat we discovered that I was indeed right and that we would now have to forge our own way out to the remote paradise that is Bottle Beach. We managed to find a taxi to take us to Chaloklum Bay and when we got there they told us that we had a water taxi coming to meet us soon. We waited around for awhile but no boat showed so instead we met a lovely couple from Israel and arranged to just hire a boat from down the beach together. Once in the water taxi I finally let myself relax and look forward to returning to my favourite place in Thailand. Two years ago I visited Bottle Beach during my Beach Travellers 24 Day Land Of Smiles Tour and I fell instantly in love with the little secluded beach. When we pulled up on to the beach I felt like I had come home. We would be spending the next four nights at the Bottle Beach 1 Resort and as fate would have it I would even be staying in the exact same cabin as my last visit. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and hitting the pool.

For our first full day on Bottle Beach we decided to take things easy and just alternated swimming in the ocean, swimming in the pool, and eating at the restaurant. We had planned to do the lookout hike that evening but after a somewhat close encounter with a giant garbage dump lizard and a hoard of mosquitos (not to mention the setting sun) I decided that we should maybe postpone the hike till the next morning. That night we settled in for an early night watching Olympus Has Fallen, which we rented on DVD from the hotel gift shop.

We got up bright and early the next morning to grab a quick breakfast before heading off to do the lookout hike. I made the same mistake as the last time I did the hike and booted it up the first very steep part of the hike way too quickly leaving myself feeling kind of like I was dying. I almost gave up at this point but Braden talked me into continuing on and made sure that we went at a much slower pace for the rest of the way up. The last time that I had done the hike I couldn’t get myself to go all the way out to the end of the viewpoint as the walk out is along a narrow rock ridge that has a very large drop on either side and I am super afraid of heights. I had told Braden that I had really regretted not making it out to the end so he did his best to help get me out there, and boy was it worth it (see the pics bellow). We took our time coming down but by the time we got back to the resort we had just enough energy to fall right in to the pool. That evening I booked us in for our first massages in Thailand, which were done in a little hut right by the ocean. While we were getting our massages, the resort’s cat decided he wanted in on Braden’s massage and kept sitting in between his legs (despite being pulled out several times much to my amusement). We had another lovely dinner at our resort and then hit the hay.

For our final day we had decided that we should maybe get out and do something more adventurous so we signed up with Ocean Safari tours to do a full day trip of activities around the island. We had to get up super early to catch our taxi boat over to Chaloklum Bay where we were supposed to get picked up by the tour company. We ended up waiting for about an hour for our pick up as the driver was brand new and had gotten super lost. Us and another couple from Germany plus one Thai guy who was in training were our only group members for the day. Our first stop was to a Muai Tai Gym for a mini demonstration of the Thai boxing style. Next we hit up an elaborate Chinese Temple that had a beautiful view overlooking Chaloklum Bay. Now the reason we had chosen this tour was because we were supposed to end the day at Bottle Beach which would have been perfect for us since we wouldn’t then need to make our own way home. Of course not everything works as planned and our next and not last stop for the day was to go snorkelling followed by a rest on Bottle Beach, so much for a free trip home. After a little rest and refresh at our Resort we headed back out and into the jungle for some elephant riding. I couldn’t let Braden come all the way to South East Asia and not get him on an elephant so I let him ride the whole time on the actual elephant while I sat in the chair on its back and our rider walked and took a billion pictures of us with our camera. We had some time to kill while the German couple went zip-lining so we tried our hand at some archery (leaving my poor arm rather bruised from not remembering how to properly hold the bow). Next up we went on a little mini hike to a “waterfall” which is in quotations because there wasn’t much of one since it was dry season still. After that we split up from the Germans and went off to go ocean kayaking with a guide who pretty much just handed us the kayak and told us to head for the island in front of us. Let me put it this way, kayaking to an island and back after a full day of activities is definitely not what I would call tons of fun. We managed to survive the kayaking and even made it back to Bottle Beach without too much trouble. That night we packed and prepared to bid farewell to Bottle Beach and Koh Phangan.

Our next day was our longest travel day yet consisting of a water taxi, regular taxi, ferry, bus, a 5 hour wait in the most boring airport, sketchy airport food, and finally our plane to Bangkok.

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Sometimes You Need To Hibernate

11 May

I was looking forward to Koh Tao as I had heard and seen much about it since I was last in Thailand so I was pretty excited as we pulled in to the island’s harbour. My first impressions of Koh Tao however were not what I had been expecting, the main town where the harbour is, Mae Haad, was full of cramped narrow streets filled with dingy restaurants and shops, not quite paradise. We had thought that we could walk to our hotel, located on the next beach North, but with the heat of the day and the empty stretch of highway (with no walking path) I quickly changed my mind and so we hoped in the next taxi. Our hotel in Sariee Beach was the Sariee Sariee Guesthouse which was right on the main strip of the tiny beach town. Our room was quite lovely with a/c. a powerful fan and a tv with a decent movie channel (the downside we later learned would be the quite uncomfortable bed). We rested and relaxed for most of the afternoon finally surfacing just in time to catch a beautiful sunset down on the beach. Sariee Beach is definitely not the nicest of beaches and is mainly muddy with coarse sand and is mainly used as a parking cove for longtail boats. After the sun set we picked a restaurant at the beach to have a few drinks and some dinner at before heading off to bed nice and early.

The next morning after a bit of a sleep in we headed out in search of breakfast, ending up at a funky looking little cafe down the main strip. I tried to order a brie sandwich but when it arrived the cheese on it was clearly not brie but most definitely blue cheese. We tried explaining to the staff what was wrong but the language barrier just could not be breached. After our interesting breakfast we headed back to the room to hide from the heat. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and watching movies on tv. That evening we emerged to check out the infamous Koh Tao pub crawl. The first stop on the crawl was an Aussie bar for free buckets (our first ones in SEA). The next stop was at a pool bar where they offered free shots to anyone who got in the pool but the pool’s water was so hot that almost no one got in (except for a naked guy of course). Our favourite stop of the night was to a ladyboy cabaret show where a bunch of dressed to the nines ladyboys lip-synced to amazing song choices. Next it was back to the Aussie bar for some live music. The final stop of the night was to a beach bar for some fire dancing.

We spent most of the next day after the pub crawl nursing our hangovers in bed watching even more movies. The only productive thing that we managed to do was go out for a super delicious pizza dinner, such amazing food and service!

For our last day in Koh Tao we finally decided to actually get out and do something so we hopped into a longtail boat and headed over to Koh Nang Yuan, a small island just out from Sairee Beach. Once on the island we hiked up to the view point to take a few very sweaty pictures. Afterwards we headed down to the beach to do a bit of snorkelling over a strange looking coral forest called the Japanese Gardens. We headed back to the mainland just in time to catch the sun sink into the ocean.

We were up early the next day to catch our taxi to the ferry that would take us over to Koh Phangan.

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Island Hopping Begins

5 May

The beginning to our island adventure started with a scramble to find a bus/ferry to take us over to our first island. Koh Samui. We straight away encountered a couple problems; the airport did not have internet, I did not screen cap our hotel reservation, and no one at the ferry desk knew the hotel that I had booked resulting in a bunch of confused Thai men staring at me needing to know what beach we needed to be dropped off at. Finally after one of the ferry attendants had called about five different people someone recognized our hotel name and set us straight, phew. For the next two hours we settled into our double decker bus ride to the ferry docks. At the docks we quickly boarded our ferry and were off into the open ocean. When we arrived on Koh Samui we ushered on to a mini bus and driven around the island to Lamai Beach and our hotel for the next three nights, Samui Beach Resort. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the fantastic hotel pool, swimming at the beach and lounging by the bar/restaurant, nothing more than a perfect afternoon in paradise. I had booked us into a fan only room (our first night without a/c in Asia) but after a night spent dying of heat and unable to sleep due to the neighboring bar blasting music (at least for me, Braden can sleep through anything) I decided that I am an a/c kind of girl.

The next morning we found ourselves at reception booking our next ferry over to Koh Tao when I casually asked if we could upgrade to a room with a/c for our final night and as luck would have it they actually had an a/c room available to move in to right there and then for only a minimal extra fee, yay!! After I happily cooled down in our new room we set out to see what the rest of the Lamai beach main strip looked like, which is not that much though we did stumble upon a sign directing us towards a viewpoint. At the base of the view point there was a little waterfall and the hike up wasn’t too bad. The view of the beach from the lookout was pretty beautiful. After our hike we were hot and sweaty so some serious time in the ocean and pool was required. After dinner that night we decided to take a long walk down the beach to check out some other the other hotels/restaurants. Since we had brought some money along we stopped and smoked some shisha at Swing Bar and got to watch as people sent off lanterns up into the sky. As luck would have it we also happened to be at the bar during one of its nightly fire shows, our first in Asia. After all of the walking that we had done during the day, that night I slept like a baby in our nice cold room.

For our last day in Koh Samui we decided to do what most tourists do in Asia and rented a scooter. Parents and family reading this we are safely intact with not even a scrape on us. We headed off down the highway to find the next beach North of Lamai, Chaweng Beach. Chaweng is much more of the party/shopping beach but since I wasn’t feeling super well that day we opted to do more observing while having a nice quite lunch followed by some reading on shaded beach chairs. Since we wasted most of the day reading we figured it was better to return to our own beach before it got dark and navigating got tougher. Braden was exceptionally good with the scooter and we managed to make it back without getting lost and in one piece. That evening after a dip in the pool we headed over to the view point at the end of the beach near us to watch the sunset. We hit the hay not long after our mini hike as we had to be up early in order to catch our mini bus that would take us to our next ferry. Koh Tao, here we come!

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The Super Ks

5 May

Our boat ride back to Bali was a little bumpier the second time around but nonetheless we made it safely back to Padang Bai in one piece. We managed to navigate through the bus transfer madness and made it back to Pop! Hotel just in time to crash for a late afternoon nap. After realizing that it had been hours since we last ate we went for a late lunch/early dinner at a nearby restaurant where I devoured two appetizers and a main dish. After dinner we curled up in our room watching tv till we passed out very early.

The next morning we awoke quite refreshed and ready for another long day. We got packed, had breakfast and even managed to sneak in a quick swim before checking out of our last room in Indonesia. After leaving our big backpacks at the front desk we ventured down to the beach for some last Indonesian rays. We took a break from tanning to have lunch at a funky restaurant just off the beach that had really yummy food. We spent some time after lunch wandering through some of the shops in town and running a few last minute errands while making our way to a more northern part of the beach. Back on the beach we rented some shaded chairs and a surf board which we tried to use (Braden was far more successful than I). As the sun began to set we said our goodbyes to Kuta Beach, walked back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and headed off to the airport. We got through security quickly and managed to only find one restaurant on the other side that served crappy and expensive food, not the best last meal in Indonesia. After being wholly unimpressed by the Denpasar International Terminal we boarded our first Air Asia flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. (Note to those planning on traveling with Air Asia, you have to purchase all snacks and drinks on the plane, there isn’t even complimentary water!)

The flight was over quickly and we soon found ourselves in the arrivals terminal at KLIA LCCT searching for our driver who was supposed to meet us and take us into the city. Luck however was not on our side that night and no driver was found, even after multiple calls to our hotel’s front desk. Finally at about 1:30am we decided to abandon hope of our driver ever arriving and hopped into a taxi instead. By the time we reached the hotel we had just enough energy to check in and make it up to our room before passing out. For the next two nights we would be staying at the Orange Pekoe Guesthouse, a lovely little place that was very clean and not too far from everything we wanted to see in the city. After a bit of a sleep in we got a late start to our first full day in Kuala Lumpur. Our plan for the day was to see the newer downtown part of the city and most importantly check out the Petronas Twin Towers. While making our way downtown we stopped at the KL Tower and had lunch at a very Irish pub (strange to find in the middle of the Malaysian capital city). We managed to make it to the Petronas Towers just as it started to pour so we delayed picture taking and instead took refuge in the huge fancy mall at the base of the towers. We spent the next few hours wandering around the mall till the rain finally cleared out so we could take some pictures of both the towers and the fountains in the park behind them. Our goal had been to climb the tower but we were informed that tickets to go up went on sale at 9am (for which you have to line up at 8am) and they usually sold out then, aka we were out of luck. To kill the next few hours we decided to pop into the mall’s movie theatre and check out the latest Johnny Depp film Transcendence (interesting idea to being with but they took it way too far). By the time the movie had finished night had fallen so we popped outside to check out the towers lit up in all of their glory. I must say that seeing the Petronas Towers at night is one of the most beautiful architectural wonders that I have seen so far in my life (sorry CN you just can’t compete).

For our second day in the city we decided to check out some of the older parts of the city starting with the Central Market located near Chinatown. The market had lots of cool souvenirs and art but since we were on a budget we only bought one picture done in the Arch style, which is a common art form in Malaysia. We next wandered over the river and into the heart of the old city coming out right near the old British Parliament building. We stumbled in to the City museum and spent some time learning about the history of the city. After the museum we went and checked out part of the botanical gardens and made a stop at the KL Planetarium (mostly to hang out in their a/c). To get home we decided to hop into a cab which ended up badly for us as we were over charged and dropped far away from home. In the end everything worked out and we managed to be lost for only a brief moment. Later that evening we went out in search of dinner only to discover that all this time we had been staying right near a restaurant/bar hotspot, silly us. We had a lovely last meal in Malaysia at a hip restaurant along the strip.

The next morning we woke bright and early to meet our taxi to the airport, which actually showed up this time. Navigating the Low Cost Carrier Terminal at KLIA is a horrendous experience, the signs are unhelpful the many lines were long and slow moving and the maze-like set up of the whole terminal is quite confusing. I sincerely hope the new KLIA 2 terminal opens up soon cause the old terminal sucks. In the end we made our Air Asia flight to Surathani only slightly worse for wear.

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