I woke up to see sunrise but it was torrential downpour with thunder and lighting to boot. Around 6AM there was an opening in the sky and turned out nice but it rained on and off all day. Our resort / hotel has a little restaurant called Blue Ginger. They served a breakfast buffet as well as food made to order. We were unsure if it was included or if we needed to pay but it’s included. I had the pad siew and a thai ice tea plus some coconut yoghurt and some other little tasty morsels.
We went back to our room and tried to figure out what are our plans for the day would be. We told the ladies at front desk we wanted to go to Na Muang Waterfall and also coconut harvesting monkeys. Sew helped us book a half day tour real late with Mr Ung’s Jungle Safari – half day for 1300 baht. The hotel drove us down the winding path to wait at the side of the road until our jungle jeep came for us. We stopped off at the mummified monk then went to watch a elephant, monkey and crocodile show followed by a visit to Na Muang waterfalls where we also climbed rocks we shouldn’t have but hey after Paksong, this was a breeze and in flip flops. Our driver stopped at one point and asked if anyone wanted to sit up top above the driver seat so Amy and myself did so and there was no seatbelt so we just had to hold on and hope for the best. It was a fun experience although the rain did pick up a bit and we had to dodge and duck under tree branches. We went to a mountain top restaurantfor traditional thai food with a great view momentarily as the rain kept stopping and going. After lunch, our final destination was the secret buddha garden. It’s such a unlikely spot for it but after you climb through, the main area is stunning with beautiful statues that look like they are performing for you as there are a few off to the side with instruments and then in the river there is that one special statue with a arrow rock in front of it. Very wet but not bad a trip.
We got back to the hotel around 3PM so we decided it was jacuzzi time. We discussed what our night plans would be then Amy and myself went to the front desk and asked to used the free shuttle service to take us down to Lamai beach area and then we would just have to call for a ride home after (400 baht after 5PM). I took a quick dip in the pool by reception. It’s sort of an infinity pool but the view is wonderful so I can’t complain. We changed quickly and off we went to Lamai where we got dropped off at the McDonalds. We wandered the streets around our drop off point and came a little early as they were setting up the night market which isn’t anything special considering we keep going to one everywhere we go with no intention of purchasing anything. It is just a few streets lined with restaurants, shops and bars that screams tourists! We also exchanged more money as Uniqlo and tours were leaving us dry. We took a turn onto a random street and found a path that led us down to the beach and it was a nice view. Swing Bar apparently does nightly fireshows. We walked on the beach for a bit until we found an opening to go up and it was just our luck that it was the street that led us back to McDonalds. We walked a bit more to find a little strip of food stalls. 2 phad thais, 1 fried noodle with seafood, 1 panang curry in total. What they do here is there is a communal food court sitting area and when you are finished with your dish, you bring it back to the stall. We then continued down the road and it is marketed for tourists. There are a cluster of bars with women just screaming and hollering at men crossing and they are dancing and pole dancing-ish. We decided to call it a night and called the hotel for a ride home from McDonalds (400Baht after 530PM).
We booked another tour today that would take us to Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan tour with Lomprayah High speed ferries– 1600baht. We got take away breakfast in the morning which we ordered the night before and the boys wanted a lot of food and they sure got it. It was full sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Egg sandwich, grilled ham and cheese, chicken sandwiches plus fruits, yogurt and juice. The hotel driver took us down the hill to an awaiting car and then we picked up a few people and off we went. We were in the waiting area at the pier then got assigned a group with ribbon colours to identify our group. Group orange for the day with John as our guide and #6 as our boat. It took an hour in the boat to get to Koh Nang Yuan where we all disembarked and went snorkelling.
This is where it all went wrong. My Outex case which I thought I secured on tightly was not so secure as water got into it and well I was disappointed in myself for letting that happen – ALWAYS ALWAYS CHECK TO MAKE SURE WATERPROOF CASINGS ARE PUT ON PROPERLY. Plus it’s so much harder to snorkel without the use of 1 arm that is holding the camera. A GoPro will suffice for snorkelling. Lunch was a buffet style being served for an hour or so. I threw all my gear onto the table to be dried out when an onlooker came over and asked me if I got my camera wet and indeed I did. His name was Richard and I think he was Austrian. He is also a Nikon user and had told me that this has happened multiple times to him so he knows what to do. So you need to be counter intuitive by getting fresh water and pouring that into the effected areas. This is to clean the salt water out of your camera as it becomes corrosive and will destroy your camera. Depending on how much has been submerged and how long, you need to rinse it out with fresh water and let it sit for a few days up to a week just in case to ensure all the moisture is gone from the camera before trying to turn it back on as the salt water creates an electrical charge and will short circuit it. So luckily on this little island we were on, I grabbed 3 glasses of drinking water and Richard came over and I handed it over to him and observed. The camera got wet in the battery, memory card and bottom part of the camera but the lens to body attachment was dry so he pour fresh water into the battery and memory card compartments and swished it around then poured it out and from there, just let it dry. Memory cards are resilient and should be able to take the impact of water but of course let it dry out.. same with batteries.
After lunch, we went back to snorkelling and wading in the waters before we hopped back on the boat to sail 10 minutes to Koh Tao where we would jump from the boat into the water to snorkel for an hour. It was beautiful which all the giant rocks with shells, coral and fishes! The ride back was brutal as it was so choppy and then the rain came down and they didn’t put down the plastic windows so we all got drenched and it was the coldest I’ve been all trip especially because i was still in a bikini with a wet towel wrapped around me. We got home and I showered right away and then we ordered in from Blue Ginger and ate on the ground together watching Hong Kong Open – Badminton. By 9PM I was ready to pass out and so I did.
We didn’t set an alarm that morning and gradually awoke around 8AM for breakfast. My stomach had been dying since we reached Koh Samui. It’s either everything is catching up with me or that there is something that I am eating that doesn’t react well with my stomach. Also dehydration is playing a large part.
We decided to put the jacuzzi to a different use – laundry. We took the shower gels and shampoo and loaded it up with our laundry. Why not right? it’s hot water, big enough that we can actually wash everything at once and also has jets (we used for a second before things started blocking the jets) It’s beautiful weather so we just hung everything out to dry.
We arranged with the hotel to take a free shuttle at 11AM to drop us off at Central Festival Mall – Chaweng and walk about 10 minutes behind the mall to the beach. The beach was bright and we planted down where we got on the beach because it seemed to be the least populated at the time. Andrew rented a surfboard and took to the waves for about 2 hours. A group in front of us brought a volleyball but alas no nets around. Adam and myself peppered for a bit in the shade but got too tired and a few digs that i went down on my knees for actually hurt. After Andrew returned from surfing, we walked back onto the main street that we entered the beach from just behind Central Festival. We walked up and down a bit andfound ourselves at Onion Big Horn for a late lunch where I got a mixed fruit shake (80baht) and chicken pad thai (90baht) – both were delicious and decent price!
By the time we finished eating, it was already 330-4PM and we were to get picked up at 5PM from Central so we contemplated dinner options – McDonalds, buying food or getting groceries to cook back in the kitchenette back in the villa. We ended back at Tops Supermarket where I picked up a crab meat & seaweed bun, pineapple bread and taro bun (74 baht) and Adam and Amy purchased ingredients to make a penne seafood rose which they made tons of so we shared. But before anything else, we returned to the villa, collected our dry laundry, dropped off our things and headed to the pool for sunset. Adam and Amy were cooking their meal when all of a sudden the breaker blew leaving us in the dark momentarily as we got a staff member to come and aid us in our situation. Power went back on and dinner was made. We sat on the floor of our villa with pillows like the night before and ate as we watched tennis – Wawrinka vs Murray at the Barclays ATP. After that, Badminton doubles to end the night.
We slept in today as it was such a long gruelling day in the sun. We finished packing and went for breakfast – the poached eggs were on point this morning. After breakfast, we checked out and Mr Dany drove us to the airport at 11AM. The check in was speedy and because we are flying Bangkok Airways, we get complimentary food and drink similar to Porter service. I also didn’t know that both our 1 hour flights, we receive meals/snacks which in the end became really filling. We had a stopover at Bangkok airport and just pretty much walked from one end to the other to get to our next gate. We are actually the minorities on this plane. When we touched down in Koh Samui, the landscape is very LA/West Coast/Hawaii-esque. The #1 source of income here is tourism and then #2 is coconuts. We exchanged money in Koh Samui as the rate was 35 instead of 33 in Bangkok. 100 baht = $3USD.
Different from the rest of the trip as they drive on the left side of the road here. We are staying up in the middle of the island at Sandalwood Villa (211/7 Moo 4, Tumbon Maret, Amphoe Koh Samui) and holy hell the street leading up to the villa is on a 60-70 degree angle and winds. Sandalwood offers free shuttle service from the airport and so they picked us up in a SUV and now I understand why they would need such a beast of a vehicle. The streets here are quite narrow (single lane) and there are some road rules here and there but if you want to over pass someone you can do it then drive right back into your lane but also trying to avoid hitting stray dogs, people and motorbikes and other on coming vehicles or stopped vehicles. We were greeted by R at the villa and the lobby smells like heaven. The view is spectacular because we are higher up and right beside the main lobby is the public infinite pool and lounge area.
Our villa is the Amarin Villa which seems like a trek to get to. We go down the driveway then see where the stairs connect then walk through an area where you need to brush the tree vines to get through then you see the spa and make a left down those stairs then turn right and back up a pair of stairs. Our villa is massive. There is a kitchenette then the main room has a giant queen bed with such a high ceiling. The joining room has a double bed but both have sliding doors and just windows everywhere to enjoy the view. We have a jacuzzi o our balcony along with some lounge chairs and a egg swinging chair. There is a washroom and the main bathroom is massive with a stand up shower and a tub but just so much room. There is also a fridge and they give you free water everyday but also they provide free fruit and other drinks if you purchase. Unfortunately, there was thunderstorm previous to arriving which actually knocked out the wifi so Amy and Adam complained and somehow convinced them to give us a ride to Chewang – Central Festival and back for free which would be $20USD RT in a taxi. Central is their main mall are and they have a night market setup outside and continues down to the river front. We saw a basketball court and volleyball court but its further away from the mall and we only had 3 hours before we would get picked up. You need a Thai license to drive a motorbike out here. To enter the mall parking, you need a valid thai passport or license to get through in your vehicle.
There was a night market going on where they were selling the souvenirs plus cheap food. We eventually went inside the somewhat open concept mall to my favourite store – Uniqlo. I ended up purchasing 2 pairs of pants and Adam and Andrew also bought a bunch of stuff which resulted in qualifying for a VAT refund when we depart. We stayed in this area and also crossed the street to the extended part of the night market then walked back to get picked up back at the mall. And that was our first night.
Turns out November is not a good month for Koh Samui because its monsoon season here. March/April is the perfect time to come here. Since the weather conditions are bad, Ang Thong (the national park which also houses the beach that inspired the movie “The Beach” with Leo DiCaprio) is closed until December.
Woke up early yet again but this morning woke up to rain which sucks. We packed up and went down to the second floor for breakfast buffet before getting picked up by Sun Legend Tour to take us on our journey to Ha Long Bay. We booked the 2 day and 1 night tour for $143.45USD/pp.
4 hour car ride. First van shuttle to have free WIFI. One other couple – Wendy & Vincent from Malaysia joined the sticky rice crew. Luckily the weather turned out to be spectacular outside of Hanoi. Our tour guide is Kien who also runs a Hanoi biking tour with Sun Legend and is the poster boy for it. Driving here is crazy but makes sense. Some highways are two lanes with 60km/hr but people float on the lanes and just honk when they want to pass to let them know. Gasoline is expensive over here for them at 84 cents per litre.
We arrived in Tuan Chau a little early so we had a stop at a pearl store. Then we began our adventures to the cruise ship. They had civet coffee (weasel poo coffee) but it was almost $100 USD. We gathered our belongings and took to the dingy which brought us aboard our ship. I being the odd one out got my own room with a double memory foam bed. We got settled in and off we sailed into the pinnacle of Ha Long Bay. These giant islands are made of limestone and look like they just separated and kind of remind me of the 12 Apostles or Loch Ard Gorge in Australia.
We had lunch then went on our way to kayak Luon cave. Once again odd number, I got my own two person kayak and I killed the kayaking on my own. Cool experience gliding through a tunnel into a safe haven surrounded by the limestone with monkeys everywhere; very serene. The next best thing was that on this pier, there were guys playing their version of volleyball on the pier! Asian volleyball at it’s finest which Amy and myself joined for a point or two before we had to go back to the ship.
Next event was Ti Top Island with a lookout point which was named after the Russian man who gave Vietnam their first airplane which was a great thing but no one in Vietnam knew how to fly it. It was about 500 steps to reach the top of this island and it was steep enough to make all of us breathe hard. We were all glistening by the time we reached the top but the view was definitely worth it. We rushed back down and practically jumped into the water at the beach and of course there was a volleyball net so we were obligated to play but that ball was heavy and the court not on even grounds. 4×4 with sort of shooting method of play but obviously Adam owned it. One of the guys was trying to block him but he kept OT-ing him so he switched spots with me. We got back to the boat just in time for sunset and had happy hour time then dinner and squid fishing and karaoke.
Some information about Hanoi from Kien:
–7 million in Hanoi.
-Oldest bridge was built in 1901 but had to rebuild part of it due to the war.
-People don’t move out of Hanoi but tons of people come for university and never leave. They expanded to the other side of the red river to accommodate more people. The north is definitely had more wealth than the south from what I’ve seen. The people seem friendly here and not as judgy just a little.
-The old buildings with green and yellow colouring are old French buildings. I really love the architecture here even when it’s dingy looking but also quite clean and I absolutely love the marble flooring in some of the homes I’ve seen.
-The king moved the capital to Hanoi with 36 items and wanted to make it easier for everyone to purchase products such as copper to one street called copper street.
-Lifestyle – very flexible in terms of life, way of working, way of driving, way of eating etc. I the people here especially in Hanoi are hard working folk who may take their time like I’m sure I would in this kind of climate but nonetheless, working hard at their craft especially agriculturally. People’s homes are a combination home and shop front which makes it very homie everywhere.
-For beer – International Bia Hoi corner. The tour guide likes to go there as local girls don’t drink beer at any other beer halls except there because it’s a mix of locals and foreigners there.
-People aren’t suppose to occupy the pavement as that breaks the law and only use it for walking so a coffee shop owner would need to goto the police officer and ask for space on the pavement and the police are flexible and bribe them with free coffee and money. They can bargain.
-54 ethnicities but 80% Vietnamese.
Some knowledge of coffee for Hanoi & Vietnam:
-Coffee here is very strong; stronger than the south.
-For different seasons in Hanoi. So they automatically offer you coffee with ice there but have options in Hanoi for hot coffee and coffee with ice. People drink coffee for new ideas. Coffee for the inspiration.
-Coffee with yogurt
-Coffee with egg
-Trung Nguyen is the most popular brands.
Awoke at 530AM to watch the sunrise which at 530 looked like nothing and it was cloudy. I returned to my room but then outside my window, I saw a gleam of light around 6-630AM which was primetime for beautiful morning light. Everyone skipped yoga and taichi. We had breakfast then went to Sung Sot cave which is one of the 7 wonders of nature as this island has limestone tunnels inside into another world practically. They used this cave during the American war to hide from invading soldiers and to hide weapons and it’s interior is massive. It somewhat looks like that secret new world they found in Vietnam that has it’s own ecosystem. Back to the boat where we packed and made spring rolls and had lunch before heading back to Hanoi.
We checked back into our original hotel but in a 5 person suite which is actually pretty nice minus the fact there is one bathroom with low water pressure. Since Adam, Amy and myself are going to be on the move from Luang Prabang straight to Pakse straight into a jungle then off to Siem Reap, we needed to wash our clothes so we used body gel and hand washed them in the sink. Luckily there was 18 hangers in the closet in the hotel room. There is a ledge where the ceiling lowers slightly which came in handy to hang the hangers to air dry all our clothing which reminds us of an open market selling clothing.
For dinner, we walked over to a Quan An Ngon – 18 Phan Dinh Phung – which was a slightly higher end version of street meats but better service. We ordered a bunch of items to share including: ben cha, pho, ben thang, seafood /springroll, mango salad, green onions with garlic, fresh spring rolls, some type of fish thing. Everything tasted great, service was great and the place was booming and clean that we got seated upstairs. From there, we walked back over toward the pond Ho Hoan Kiem and made our way to Highland Coffee to check out the view and buy coffee. Unfortunately the smallest bag of beans they had was a size of a baby so I opted to go outside just around the corner to Trung Nguyen (coffee chain) and purchased a bag of espresso beans for 140.000VND. We walked around looking for dessert so we ended up walking back into the direction of the dessert place we went to 2 nights previously and had more dessert there. 95 Hang Bac. We arrived home shortly after and said our final goodbyes to Emily and James.
8AM – Meet at Office (Green Discovery – Sales Office – No. 10 Rd & No. 46 Rd) – Store our luggage in the Office. Drive an hour to Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong (Paksong); hike 1-2KM to site
11/14 – Pakse
-Tree Top Explorer
-4-5PM – Drop off at office/hotel
-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center
-Dinner option – Champady – restaurant off the main st – good pad thai; passion fruit and strawberry shake are amazing.
-Sunday street market – Nightmarket – 4-5PM-11PM – the market starts at Tha Pae Gate and goes all the way along Ratchadamnoen Road until Wat Phra Singh in the center of the old city (about 1.5 km). This is the place for souvenirs, t-shirts, artwork, hand made items and just about everything in between.
-Siam Rice Cooking class – 800 baht – evening session
–Blue Elephant – Thailand Tours – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe. 830AM pickup – 630PM drop-off – Mae Rim, Longneck Karen & Big ear Kayor Hill tribe village, Muang Kud Valley and raft along the Mae Tang River, Makha Elephant Village – 22000THB – 4c pp – BRING CASH TO PAY ON SPOT! (http://www.blueelephantthailandtours.com/package/tour-detail.php?id=107)
-Akha Ama – Ahka Hilltribe Coffee – Hussadhisewee Road Soi 3 in Santhitham or Rachadammoen Road near Wat Phra Singh
– Graph Café – one of city’s best coffee – nitro cold brew coffee on tap -9AM-1PM – Rathvithi Soi 1
-Mao Coffee – mao gafaae – drunk coffee -8AM-5PM – Kankhlong Chonprathan Road heading south towards Hang Dong
– Chiang Mai has a beauty contest as well that is preceded by the Loy Krathong parade that begins at Tha Pae Gate the first evening of the festival. The temples also feature their own private celebrations where the devotees release khom loy and float their krathong and they welcome visitors to share in this deeply intimate event.
-Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang – epicenter for paper lantern festival
FLY – CHIANG MAI -> BANGKOK – $73CDNpp – Air Asia – 125PM-245PM