Thailand In September – Phi Phi Second Part

The following couple of days we decided to take trips to beaches further away from the village. Long Beach, Loh Ba Gao, Loh Moo Dee. They took about 20 maximum 45 minutes walk. We took a boat (70-80 baht) on the way back.

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IMG_0731You can see the sinister sky – monsoon arrived 2 days later.

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TIP about Bomaboo Island (Koh Phai): another uninhabited island that you can take day-trips to. Greg enjoyed the corals very much, but I didn’t like the fact they were everywhere around the shallow waters and you couldn’t swim or walk to the beach properly. I kept hurting my legs and feet kicking into them. Not to mention after 30 minutes a yellow fish bit me. Greg of course didn’t believe me, told me off to stop whining already. Until he got bitten too. Perfect.
Based on reviews, Bamboo island is lovely if you walk a 10-15 mins away from the crowds (especially families). I personally didn’t like it, but I’m sure it was because of the upcoming stormy weather.
We paid 1000 baht for the long tail boat or 3 hours. Do try to bargain as we started off with 2000, slowly going down. Next time we’ll go there with a tent, and staying the night. 

Unfortunately no photos, we didn’t take camera with us.

Our last night, and the bungalow we stayed in on Long Beach:

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We were pretty much chased away from the island by the monsoon – decided to go to Koh Lanta next which was quite a few hours of ferry ride. Terrifying experience as we got into a huge storm, I was a 100% sure we won’t make it. The waves were enormous, the captain was sweating trying to navigate the boat. Greg – the calmest person in the world – slept through whole journey. Lucky him.

We didn’t get to climb up to the viewpoint, or hire a sea kayak to search for truly hidden beaches. Or ate lobster. Next time I’ll make sure to cross everything off my list.

Thailand In September – Phi Phi First Part

After beautiful and empty Phuket, we were looking forward to Koh Phi Phi, as heard such mixed reviews from friends and family. Some swear it’s the ultimate paradise island, some find it commercialised, touristy, and would never go near it again. Honestly… You can always find hidden beaches, gems where you can be alone. Just gotta make an effort to find it.

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We were very inexperienced travellers back then (I was 19!) and I admit, now I would do a lot of things differently. I might get the chance to correct silly mistakes – soon planning a big family trip with parents, nephew, siblings, all the family jazz. I’ll be a pro then.

I’d probably spend less time hopping around and stick to a place for longer, this would allow funds to be spent on accommodation AWAY from people. We were young and restless (I know I sound like a 60-year-old) and would rather save money on accommodation. 3-4 nights we spent in the village which meant 350 baht a night (£6.50). There was no problem, I am not too fussy as long as we are saving money, but I felt the village (Tonsai Bay & Village) had the atmosphere of a party island, rather than a romantic dream island. So if you wanna party stick to Tonsai Bay/Village. Restaurants are the cheapest there, they’ve got thai boxing shows, fire dancers, clubs and countless bars.

The 5th night we slept in a quiet resort, but more on that in the next post.

So what we did to resolve the ‘I don’t like the atmosphere’ issue: on day 1 we did the trip everyone does on Phi Phi, the Maya Bay Boat Trip. There are two small islands next to each other, Koh (means island) Phi Phi Don which is the populated one, and Koh Phi Phi Leh, which is where the movie The Beach was shot with Leonardo Dicaprio and is uninhabited. You can do a full day or half day trip I think, ours was about 6 hours, from 3pm to 8-9pm, until sunset basically.

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We really wanted to hire a private long-tail boat, but one can dream of course… Was way too expensive, so had to join a group. It was 1200 baht this way, per person, water and fruit was provided. It is actually a lot if you think about it (£22).

First stop is Monkey Beach – I absolutely despise monkeys, they are irritating, mean, sly and sassy. They steal stuff and just get fed all the time – so what do we get back in return when they aren’t even cute and cuddly?! Anyway, we stayed clear of the crowd feeding them with watermelons. The beach was small, beautiful, bit crowded though. Just gotta chuck the monkeys out. I’m a cruel person.

IMG_0634Next came the Viking Caves and Pileh Bay where we stopped for quite a while to snorkel (must have been 1,5 hours):

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IMG_0668The trip had 3 stops until Maya Bay, with plenty of time to enjoy snorkelling (Greg) and jumping (me). We spent the day together but I remember barely speaking to him, as in the boat I was mesmerised… all the fish, the colour of the water, the vegetation. Once we stopped, Greg put his head under the water and he was gone. I don’t think I have seen him be so occupied with something that much – other than when he’s gaming and has to save the world from a zombie apocalypse 🙂

IMG_0658A quick video to get an idea what it looked like (change the quality to 720p)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmfMyKWZzTM&w=560&h=315]

And then finally Maya Bay.

TIP: if your budget allows you, hire a private long-tail boat, and go either early morning or after 6pm when most people are gone already. This way, you avoid crowds which is the only thing that ruins this gem.

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Had 3 hours to chill there, but we got bored after 20 minutes. So walked to the other side of the island through a tiny forest (and tsunami evacuation signs, scary) where I think we basically got back to Pileh Bay – the snorkelling bay.

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IMG_0698There were no stairs or ladder, only rocks, a rope (seen on the photo) and big waves (at least for me they seemed big) so I was a bit hesitant at first to follow Greg in. I did hurt my hip as a wave threw me against a rock. Was well worth it though, we snorkelled and swam to a beach which was 100% secluded and there was no one else just us. If you descend into the water and the island is to your back – start swimming left for about 15-20 minutes (guessing) to reach it. No photos as couldn’t bring our phones.

Back to the beach for a bit of a rest and then head back to Phi Phi Don. For more Phi Phi, check following post. IMG_0702

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Cambodian Adventures – Part 1 – Siem Reap

I recently read an article about Australian scientists discovering another Cambodian town (Mahendraparvata) in the Siem Reap area, dating back to even further than Angkor. The article made me reread the story of Angkor Wat so I figured – as out of the blue as it is – it would be a great opportunity to introduce it and Siem Reap – the way I saw it.

First of all, a bit of history. Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire (modern-day Cambodia) back in the 9th century. The word ‘wat’ means temple (just like in the Thai language). Angkor Wat, this enormous originally Hindu temple complex was bulit a bit later, in the early 12th century. The Khmer Empire back than was ruling a great part of South East Asia, including Central Thailand, Southern Vietnam and part of Laos.

I won’t go into the countless existing theories why and how the Khmer Empire fell – but the influence on the South East Asian region was smashing. Angkor Wat since been used as a Buddhist Temple (from the 14th century to modern days) and is the only temple that was never completely abandoned throughout the long centuries of history.

And that is where out story starts. We were having an amazing time on Phi-Phi Island, Thailand, when the monsoon arrived and had to leave quickly. Wasn’t sure what to do, where to go, then after consulting with my world-traveller and all time travel advisor brother, he told us to take a bus from Krabi back to Bangkok and then go to Siem Reap, Cambodia. And that was exactly what we did, and at least we had another day in Bangkok, we were hoping we’d like it more for the second time.

Got the tickets on Khaosan Road, and hopped on the bus to Siem Reap, which was about 12-15 hours if I remember correctly. Once reaching the border, we had to get off and manage papers for the visa (20 USD per person). I remember the bus driver telling us that we should take Riel (Cambodians’ currency specifically for themselves…) out using that one and only cash machine that was on the border, as once getting to Siem Reap we can only take USD out. USD was the money of tourists there… A bottle of water may cost 2000 Riel, which is half a Dollar, but for tourists it’d be 1 USD as… why would you pay half a dollar when you can pay a whole?
Anyways, so we took out the worth of 5000 Thai Bahts which was around 650.000 KHR.

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A photo of the magnificent Siamese border and the Cambodian border with Khmer patterns

I will never forget our taxi ride to the town of Siem Reap, sharing the taxi with a lovely married couple and their 1,5 year-old son. The Scandinavian mom was very young (she was only a few years older than me, back then I was 19) and the New Yorker dad got sacked from his IT job and he didn’t want to return to the corporate world just yet… so they figured, what would be the best time to travel the world together? Might sound crazy with a 6 months old baby… but the little dude was the calmest kid I’ve ever met, friendly, open and would eat literally anything. What an adventure for that family! A true inspiration to me, sharing their love for travels and planning on becoming a mom way before 25.

Now, as the monsoon we got caught in on Phi-Phi and Koh Lanta was in Cambodia a few days before (raining for 4 days straight) the town of Sieam Reap was completely flooded.
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Found a guy with a tuk-tuk who told us he knows cheap accommodation. We got a huge double room for 65.00 KHR./10 GBP, everything was cheaper than Thailand. That evening we headed to town for drinks and the night market where we bought a stunning painting. The nightlife was great, spent all of our evenings/nights on Pub street, where we could chat to the locals and other backpackers in nice restaurants and even nicer bars with SUCH delicious cocktails. And not to forget the ‘happy pizza’ which is for the adventurous travellers… Be aware though, walking along Pub street you will find shady people walking to you asking whether you’d like ‘massage with a happy ending’ or any kind of illegal substances. Under no circumstances you should play with that in Asia, even if they seem extremely easy to get hold of. We tried the ‘happy pizza’ which was pizza with weed on top, it was ok but definitely wouldn’t do that again. There is a greater risk, and the experience is not any better or different than in Europe.

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One thing I noticed in Cambodia: while Thailand was full of American and Australian travellers, Siem Reap was full of Russian people. Most locals immediately started talking to me in Russian…
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This was the dinner on our very last evening in Cambodia. The pumpkin curry was our shared appetiser which was perfect as I like to eat something sweet before the main dish, so it would help bring out the savoury tastes later on. Greg tried frog legs with lemon pepper and chilli dipping… We both did like it a lot, never eaten frog meat before and it was nicely moist and tasteful. Reminded me of chicken meat, BUT (most cases I dislike chicken) was not neutral or tasteless… The only problem was the very little meat on the bones!

The main dishes were two Cambodian currys, the first one was a with lemongrass and other veggies and second was HEAVENLY morning glory curry… The cuisine was only a tiny bit similar to the thai currys and dishes, they do not use chili or coconut milk as widely.

Next part of this series will be only on Angkor Wat, stories and background info that we were provided with by the local tour guide.