Thai Adventures - Part Three

July 26, 2014

I've never really thought of myself as a person prone to exaggeration, but the last couple of weeks have proved how wrong I am. I seem to have exclaimed that "this is the best day ever!" at least once a day, which has become something of a running joke; last night, it was for something as simple as treating myself to my first glass of wine in three weeks. For anyone who knows me, going three weeks without my favourite drink is pretty impressive. Admittedly, we are in Thailand and the wine list was not extensive; I had a choice between a nice generic "Mont Clair White Wine" and, a small step up from that, Jacob's Creek Chardonnay. I can't remember what I went for but after drinking nothing but Chang beer and bucket cocktails it tasted like heaven.

Anyway, my point is that in the grand scheme of the holiday, the glass of wine probably not "the best day ever". The best day was, hands down, the day we spent on Monday at the elephant camp. Whilst I was looking forward to it, I was nowhere near as excited as Karis, who seemed to have only tagged along for the rest of the trip for this one day with the elephants. 

To begin with, they're pretty fucking terrifying and I was beginning to wonder what the fuss was about. For those who haven't seen an elephant up close, to say they're not exactly pretty is an understatement; they're huge, lumpy, have very hard skin and their trunks are very capable of crushing a human being. Just some initial thoughts. 



What was immediately noticeable is how nice the camp was. Many of the tourist elephants camps in Thailand chain up the elephants, and use heavy saddles and hooks and sticks to control them; a group of people we met refused to ride the elephants where they went as the conditions were so bad. Here they were  roaming around the countryside, and we rode them bareback...

Getting on was a source of hilarity, especially after we all had to try climbing up their trunks - mainly, I think, to give all the men helping us a good laugh. They also taught us Thai words in order to make the elephants move forward, left, right and so on... And then laughed at us saying it with such an English accent that the elephants did the exact opposite. 

Once we got on, the 'easy trek' proceeded to go up a sheer, mountainous, muddy hill, which only got muddier and more slippery in the monsoon rain shower. Covered in mud, we began to be very grateful for the delightful baggy trousers and rug-like top they gave us to wear.

After we were all suitably dirty, we rose the elephants into a pond and bathed them, quickly jumping off when they decided to roll over or, in our case, give us a shower from their trunks. It was quite possibly the cutest. thing. ever. No exaggeration this time.

After deciding not to to Cambodia because of a lack of time (ahem, money...) we instead went further north to Pai. Which we just loved. 



The waterfalls were incredible, and for some reason we felt it an appropriate place to copy our friend and get arty with the photos. This ones for you Amy! 


The mini Grand Canyon was pretty cool too...


... And we provided some Chinese tourists with some more risqué pictures than they perhaps would have liked... 


We also found a waterfall with a natural slide. After some involuntary slipping, we decided to give it a go anyway... 


Pai is a really cute place with so many lovely bars for the evening. We already loved this Western themed restaurant when, in an odd turn of events, we were suddenly given cowboy hats and made to do a barn dance, in the middle of the restaurant, with the staff. Much hilarity. 


Can't believe we only have one week of our adventure left! Much cry. Very sad. 

Thai Adventures: Part Two

July 19, 2014


I love a good quote. Whilst I've never gone as far as putting a heartfelt one liner as a caption to a Facebook photo, even in my angsty pre-teen years, I have been known to google some wise words when I'm feeling down. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find this gem in the excitement leading up to my travels:

"It's not about the destination, it's the getting there that's the good part"

Well, I can only imagine that the person who said this has not attempted to take three planes, three buses, four ferries and countless taxi journeys in the space of two weeks. Because good isn't the word I'd use. It's boring, stressful and exhausting - although that may have been down to the suspicious looking Thai travel sickness tablets I bought over the counter which make me feel far weirder than some of the less legal drugs I've encountered...

However, it's a pretty small price to pay for some of the places we've seen since we arrived. As I mentioned before, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the island experience so far - even the Full Moon party, whilst a fun night out, is overrated. So when we left Koh Phangnan I had no particular expectations - until we arrived at what is now one of my favourite places in the world, Koh Phi Phi...



Even from the ferry, it's immediately  much more picturesque than the other islands we visited. As Chloe mentioned several times, it's pretty much the only reason she came to Thailand as it's where The Beach was filmed - cue us all being completely overexcited at 'stepping where Leo stepped', 'swimming where Leo swam' and 'eating where Leo ate'. In fact, we mentioned his name so often and so casually that the Canadians on our boat trip just thought Leo was a very adventurous and well travelled friend of ours. If only. 



Fortunately, it turned out that Karis knew a guy from back home who now works out here, so the next day we got on a cheap boat trip. 

This started off promisingly, apart from the minor cuts and bruises sustained from climbing up a cliff face with just the aid of some old rubber shoes and a piece of rope. The trouble really started at the top of the cliff, however, when Karis realised that being both scared of heights and deep water was not a winning combination for cliff jumping. Unfortunately, it soon occurred to her there was no other way down, and she had to bite the bullet and just jump...




She was rewarded with a free Chang, so it was all worth it. 

The boat then went to Maya bay, where the famous Beach scene was filmed. It is the most beautiful place in the world, and only apparently only reachable by swimming over sharp rocks in jellyfish infested water, being thrown against said rocks by the tide, and climbing up another rope. (Health and Safety doesn't appear to exist here.)


We immediately had to go straight into our Beach Jump photo... 


If you haven't seen The Beach, please watch it. If nothing else, it's 2.5 hours of young Leonardo Di Caprio. You can't really go wrong. 

We had also been told to, even if we did nothing else, visit the Phi Phi viewpoint. So, after a long day of sunbathing the next day, we attempted just that. The expectation of a short walk up some stairs quickly evaporated when, 30 minutes into a steep hillside trek, we still weren't there. Smug Thai men on mopeds passed us frequently, no doubt highly amused by the sight of three girls in swimwear, burnt and sweating, flip flopping up a mountain path. After being chased by a mountain goat, we eventually arrived and, thank god, it was worth it... 





Koh Phi Phi is one of the most stunning places I have ever been, and it completely made the island hopping worth it for me.

We're now in Chiang Mai, which I was looking forward to so that we could actually soak up some culture. Today, we cracked and ate dinner at McDonalds, so I guess that's something we have still yet to accomplish. However, we also skipped excitedly round the night bazaar and picked up some amazing handmade goodies for my new house... 





(The pictures don't do that bag justice. It's far less hideous in real life, honest.) 

I spent so much that I came home and quite literally cried into my few remaining bank notes. I'm not sure how I plan on surviving the next two weeks...






Thai Adventures Part 1 - Much Travel and an Unpopular Opinion

July 12, 2014


It's very hard to believe I've only been in Asia for a week. I'm getting pretty used to sharing a room with seven others, wearing the same clothes more times than I'd like to count and DYING for a proper mug of tea. The flight I was dreading turned out to be quite delightful - thank you Emirates - what's not to love about thousands of movies, unlimited G&Ts and above-par airline food? Admittedly the nine hour layover in Dubai was a low point so far - even when you're sleep deprived it's surprisingly difficult to sleep on a stone cold marble floor. However, 30 hours after we left Suffolk, we made it to Bangkok. 

Which I loved. I've always been a bit of a city girl and much prefer a city break to anything else, and Bangkok was no exception. It's hot, stuffy and so hectic it took us about half an hour to cross the road every time we needed to, but also very exciting. After debating whether to spend £10 (a fortune in Thailand!) on visiting the Grand Palace, we were SO glad we did - much glitter, much gold, much Buddha, very gorgeous. Many photo opportunity...





That afternoon we booked the night bus down to the islands for that evening - after hearing many stories about the dubious safety of these buses, Karis (quickly nicknamed Cautious Callum) threatened not to join us on this particular journey. However, after an hour of coaxing and harassing the booking man with questions about its safety, she finally agreed to join us... 

The next morning after an awful ferry journey that led to my first ever bout of seasickness (the memory is still too painful to talk about), we arrived at our first island - Koh Tao. And it was raining.

As Karis quite unnecessarily stated, the beaches did not look like the pictures. In fact, it looked like we had travelled about 6000 miles and ended up on Bournemouth beach. Not a great start.




It continued to rain for most of our two day visit to what is most people's favourite island. During the breaks in the cloud, I can say that the beaches were beautiful in the sunlight - and the nightlife was great. There's nowhere at home that I can limbo under a limbo stick that's been set on fire...

A few days later we arrived at Koh Phangan, where we are now, for the famous full moon party. The sun was finally shining and it was very hot - so hot, in fact, that during Karis and Chloe's first day of sunbathing they obtained what I can only describe as third degree burns. The alcohol is even cheaper and it's much busier than Koh Tao - under the influence of two Thai buckets of vodka the pool party we went to on Friday night was definitely the best night so far! 
(Although I then spent the next day in bed, hideously sick from Thai vodka poisoning, my mum and Cautious Callum's warnings echoing in my ears - not so great) 




So, this is where the unpopular opinion comes in. I don't think the islands are that great. Yes, they're fun for drinking and sunbathing, but so is Malia, Magaluf and Kavos and I needn't have saved since December to go there. I came to Asia for an adventure and drinking vodka, eating burgers and spending a lot of my morning sleeping doesn't quite qualify for that. So whilst I'm very excited about Full Moon tonight, which is going to be amazing, our next stop after another island is Chaing Mai in the North, and I'm itching to get to now!  

P.S forgot to mention the Ladyboy show. Very odd experience that had to be documented. Also not great for the self esteem as most of them were hotter than me....