Thursday, February 26, 2009

Khao Sok waterfalls (26.02.09)

Today I went for a hike in the park. I left 9 am and returned 4:30 pm, and covered about 16 km. I went on trails leading to 7 waterfalls mainly on the Sok river. If you are not into hiking, definitely it wouldn't worth the effort. Only 2 waterfalls were a little bit bigger, but nothing spectacular. I saw few monkeys, a big lizard (about 0.8m) and a snake (about 2m). I also saw 3 tourists that made it all the way to the top waterfall (where I swimed a little bit). This is probably the longest I have gone for a hike, surprisingly I wasn't too tired. I am sure that in the wet season these waterfalls and probably the entire park is more impressive, for now I will say just it was nice.
In the evening I checked my mail and was glad to see I got some pictures from diving at Ko Tao.

Expenses (bath)
breakfast 70
water 20
lunch 60
water 20
room 250

Khao Sok National Park - Cheow Lan lake (25.02.09)

I have booked earlier a joint ticket to Khao Sok. I took an express boat in the morning to Don Sak, from there a bus to Surat Thani, 2 times transfer by pickup truck, and then a minibus to Khao Sok. I arrived 2 hours later than I was told, but I coped well. I learnt that this is how it is, and getting angry or upset will do me no good, neither will change anything. Besides, what's the rush? I have found a decent bungalow close to the park entrance and for the first time I've been in Thailand, I had hot water. I was actually happier for the free wi-fi. I booked a 2 day jungle tour by the lake.So yesterday in the morning we went about 60 km east, where there is Rajjaphapa dam, and from there we took a long tail boat for about an hour to the floating raft houses. The lake is huge, 165 sq. km., and all around there are mountains and jungle. Everything is so green. I really liked the lake and the fact we were so isolated. We took the boat and went around to see animals. We did see many monkeys. After lunch I had a good swim in the lake; the water was clean and warm. Later I took a kayak and ventured through channels. It was so beautiful, I could have gone for hours. In the evening we went out again by the boat to see more animals.Today we went trekking through the jungle. The highlight was going through a big cave. Although I have seen more spectacular caves before, I did find this one interesting. Inside there were hundreds of bats. The second half of the cave was not do interesting, but for the sake of diversity we went ahead instead of returning to the same entry. We had to go through cold and waist deep water to cross it.

Expenses (bath)
milk 24
toothpaste 45
lunch 30
mango 20
room 250
dinner 70
water 20
durian 60
overnight trip 2000
room 250
ice cream 20
park fee 100
dinner 60

Monday, February 23, 2009

Angthong National Marine Park (22.02.09)

Yesterday I left Ko Tao in the morning with an express boat. I arrived in Ko Samui a bit after lunch time. I decided to stay in the town (Nathon), very close to pier, instead of going to some beach. I got myself a very nice and spacious room in an old hotel. For the first time, I had a TV in my room. It reminded me a bit of the good life I had once in Philippines, when I was living in 4 star hotels. After I checked in I shopped around for a tour of Angthong park. Patience paid off, I got a good price. Later I explored a bit the port city, and went to a night market.This morning I was first of the boat, so I chatted a bit with the staff. They told me they used to have a lot more tourists. We arrived at the park after an hour and half. The marine park is composed of 42 small islands, close to each other, about 31 km northwest of Ko Samui. We did a little bit of the kayaking, and then went to Ko Mee Ko (mother island). Here, in the middle of the island, is an emerald saltwater lake, connected with the sea by underground tunnels. The lake (Thale Nai) was so beautiful. I wish I could swim right then and there, but it is prohibited. We went back to the boat, had lunch and then went to another island, Ko Wau Ta Lap (sleeping cow). Here I went to the view point, a pretty step climb of 500 meters. My effort has been well rewarded. The view from the top was just breath-taking. After I descended I had a good swim in the bay.In the evening I have watched a show - it was actually a charity event - right from my hotel room. It was a couple of bands playing popular american songs, followed by traditional Thai dances.

Expenses (bath)
laundry 70
internet 20
water 10
room 350
lunch 80
AngThong tour 800
icecream 29
juice 26
water 9
sunglasses 80
bateries 25
room 300
ticket Khao Sok 350
dinner 85

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunrise at Ko Tao (20.02.09)

I woke up very early, because of the noise around. I couldn't sleep anymore, so at 5am I went for a hike. The road from west coast to east coast goes through the forrest. i haev about half on hour when there was no light whatsoever on my path, I just used the flashlight. Although I knew there are no big animals in the forrest, I realized that maybe it wasn't such a good idea (to go into a forrest at night). Anyway, I kept going and about an hour and half later I was at Tanote bay. 10 minutes later I caught the sunrise. It was nice (but no magical, or spectacular). I haven't seen one in many many years. I went for another viewpoint and then returned to the bungalow, about 4 hours since I left. I was tired but satisfied.In the afternoon I went snorkeling. Some folks I met on the diving trips told me about a nice and close spot. They were right, I saw a lot of fish, even some I haven't seen before. I spent about 3 hours in the water. If I knew it would be that good, I would have stayed one more day.

room 300
milk 50
ham 50
bread 28
boat ticket Ko Samui 300
snorkel rental 80
water 10
water 20
beer 35
tuna 40
bread 20

Working from home (19.02.02)

A little bit of hiking at Ko Tao (19.02.09)

I was thinking to explore the island by foot, since it's not that big. I spent a little bit more time in the bed in the morning, and after breakfast I was on my way to the first viewpoint. I left about 10 am, and when I got there was 11:30 am. The viewpoint it's only about 400 meters above the sea level, but the heat was just too much. I was completely exhausted. I have no desire to continue this way; I could have a heat stoke. I decided to come back to bungalow and either way go by motorcycle or go very early in the morning another day. I have spent the evening at the beach. It did rain for about 20 minutes, I liked it.

room 300
batteries 70
breakfast 69
beer 70
mango shake 50
internet 30

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Diving at Ko Tao (18.02.09)

So I arrived yesterday at 7 am at Ko Tao. I took a taxi (pick-up truck) until Sairee beach. This is a long beach where most accommodation are, also close to the village. I have found a cheap and decent room in a bungalow on the beach, and I was quite delighted with it. I went to explore the surroundings and have a feel for the prices. After breakfast I looked at diving options. I was thinking is expensive and it will hurt my budget (and I already spent more than I was supposed). There are many diving shops on the island, and prices are about the same. Still, I have found one shop that will give one free dive for every 3 dives, so I signed up for it. An hour later I was on the boat, ready to dive. I have noticed that the colour of the water was unbelievable turquoise. I haven't seen this beautiful color anywhere else so far. I had a little bit of anxiety, because it was about 6 years since I last dove. Once that I got in the water, it all came back, I felt comfortable and went for it. The first dive was in the Mango Bay, close to the shore. It was a shallow dive with some corals and some fishes. The visibility was great. I wasn't very impressed, but it was OK. The second dive was at the White Rock, a bit further away. This was better, more marine life, and for the first time I saw stingrays. I wasn't sure I will do any diving, but I am so glad I did it. In the evening I walked around.Unfortunately, leaving right on the beach in the middle of everything has its downsides. Close by, some kids had a party all night long, so I barely slept. I went for the morning dives (7am), and I was so tired, I had to get a coffee on the bot to keep me awake (I very rarely drink coffee). The first dive was at Southwest Pinnacle. I was deeper, and a lot of marine life, I enjoyed it. I saw some huge fishes. The second dive was at the Shark Island, and it was probably the best of all. Among other things, saw a turtle. After diving, i went back to the bungalow ans slept few hours. In the evening I walked on the beach and to the pier. Although I've been already on few islands, I wasn't bored with it. It may be the same in some regards, but in others is different. This island has something picturesque.

Expenses (bath)
taxi 50
room 2 nights x300
mango shake 30
water 6 bottles 45
breakfast (grill chicken sandwich with french fries) 60
dinner (fried noodle with mango shake) 90
snack 30
internet 25
diving (4 dives) 3200
milk 50
pad tai (fried noodle) 50

From Railay to Ko Tao (16.02.09)

After a day of relaxation at the beach, it was the time to go somewhere else: from the west coast, where is Andaman sea, to east coast, in the gulf of Thailand. I took a log-tail boat to Ao Nang (10 minutes), then a minibus to Krabi (40 minutes) and then a bus to Surat Thani 4 hours). I arrived around 2 pm. The night ferry was leaving at 11 pm, so I had about 9 hours to wait. By pure chance I found a computer service shop and got my laptop fixed. Turns out it wasn't a virus but a problem with conflicting ports in Windows. One thing I did in the past when I had a lot of time to spend in a city and too much weight to carry it around was going to the movies. I think one time I saw 3 movies one after another. So I found out there is a movie theatre in the town, took a minibus and got there. It was in a big mall, so I had something to eat too (KFC, for a change). I saw a movie called "Underworld" and the was enough. The movie was dubbed in Thai so I could not understand a single world. I have spent some time afterwards wandering in the mall. If until now everywhere I went I saw more tourist than locals, this time was different, I was the only tourist in the entire mall. I sort of liked it.I returned close to the pier, walked around for a while, got some food from a night market. I haven't seen in other countries this, I do not know the reason they set up markets at night (actually, more like evening). Maybe it's because of the heat during the day, maybe it' just a lifestyle. Finally, the time to get on the boat. I knew the night ferry wasn't a luxury cruiser, however I was expecting a little bit more. The boat is a freighter, and on the main floor they set up tiny mattresses on both sides. This was like a dorm for 60 people and it was almost full. The mattress was about 1.80 by 0.5 meters, so barely enough. I guess in times like this I would prefer being stuck between 2 young beautiful women, unfortunately I wasn't that lucky . The good part was the mattress on my right was free, so I slept comfortably for almost the entire 8 hours trip. When I woke up the boat was almost at the pier.

Expenses (bath)
boat Ao Nang 80
minibus Krabi 60
bus Surat Thani 140
breakfast omlete 60 orange juice 20
water 20
boat Ko Tao 55
0minibus 2x30=60
lunch KFC 120
movie 90
dinner hot dog on stick 2x10=20
watermelon slice 25

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Random notes (15.02.09)

Since I came to Thailand I wear flip-flops, except few times, when going hiking or visiting temples. The problem with that is when walking on the beach and getting sand between my feet and the flip-flops; it acts like sand paper and caused me some minor bruises.
The proper way to use mosquito net is to tuck it in around the mattress. Even so, some mosquito repellent can be useful. I use the mosquito net anytime I can. It's not like a single mosquito bite will cause malaria, but better be safe than sorry.
The first day on Railay, when crossing on the rocks from West beach to Tonsai, my foot slipped on the rock and I fell on my ass. Still hurts after 3 days. The second day I just almost fell; still got a superficial cut on my arm. This is what happens when I am being overconfident.
I drink 3 to 4 liters of water daily. I got used to eat twice a day, first time 11 to 12, second time 6 to 7 in the evening, when I'm not on the road. I haven't got sick to my stomach yet, and I ate mostly food from the street vendors. I did got a little bit bored with same kind of food. The heat doesn't make me very hungry.
The running water on this island is salty, unlike I've seen so far. I am not sure they treat the water right, so I decided to brush my teeth with bottled water. The sound of jungle is loudest in the morning. It is like all the animals slept on the wrong side of the bed and are very nervous.
I saw a lot of monkey climbing on the cliffs, some 50 meters above the ground; they beat any world rock climbing champion.
I met a German couple and exchange some travel info among others. They asked me where I live and I told them I live where I am. They looked so confused.
So far I have seen more tourist than locals. It's like I'm somewhere in Europe.
I do not know anymore what day of the week is. I care only about the day of the month.
My laptop got a virus, I think. The screen is just black right after restart. It does work in the safe mode.
I thought that I will be excited by this journey every single day; it looks more like every 2 days. It is the novelty that gets me excited; the second day I just feel peaceful. Before I am about to get bored, I just hit the road, looking for something else.
I can see a pattern in my actions. The first thing I do when arriving in a new place is finding accommodation. Then, I just explore the surroundings until I get familiar with the place, and see all the point of interest. After that I may allow myself a day of relaxation and then get going.
It's a good habit to check both directions when crossing the street. Sometimes the car will came from the other way.
Another good habit is always ask for the price before.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Railay viewpoint, lagoon, Phra Nang beach (14.02.09)

Yesterday I moved to a bungalow up the hills, about 5 minutes walk from the beach. It's almost in the jungle. From this beach (Ton Sai) to West beach you can go by boat or walk around on the rocks at the low tide. At high tide, there is a 30 minutes hike through the jungle reaching the east beach. I enjoyed this hike so I went both ways. In the afternoon I stayed on Ton Sai beach, and watch rock climbers. It is probably a lot harder that it seems.
Today I went for another hike, a lot more difficult. There were some ropes along the way to help. The first stop was at the viewpoint, about 100 meters above the sea level. From this point there is a beautiful view of both East and West bay. The second point of interest was the lagoon, situated in the middle of the mountain, surrounded all around by 100 meters cliffs. The down climb to the lagoon was difficult and in some places dangerous, a couple of 5 meters almost vertical drops where was just the rope to help descending. I believe watching the Discovery Channel helped here, so I always maintained 3 points of contact, used the force of the legs rather than arms. Anyway, made it all the way down. I was expecting to find a crystal clear, very light blue lagoon, instead I found an almost dried up pond, muddy and rather ugly. The cliffs surrounding this lagoon made me feel like I was on the bottom of a cooking pot. The echo was great. I was disappointed by the lagoon, but the challenge of getting there was so great, I didn't feel sorry a bit. Climbing out of the lagoon was easier, maybe because I could see where I can put my feet.
After I got down to the see level, I went along the cliffs and I came cross the forth beach, Phra Nang. I have found it the most beautiful beach on this peninsula.
Expenses (bath)
room 250 Saithong Bungalow
lunch 70
water 15
dinner 70
water 20
room 250
water 20
mango shake 30
laundry 80
lunch 70
dinner 100
internet 40

Railay east, west (12.02.09)

Yesterday morning I moved to another resort, in a bungalow on the beach. This is on a different beach which is very good for swimming. So I spend the morning and afternoon at the beach, just enjoying the water, the sun, the beach. The resort had a bar on the beach and they had magic mushroom on their menu. Also they had happy mushroom. I don't know the difference, but I'm pretty sure those mushroom have some funky effects on the brain. I wasn't curious to try, as a matter a fact I didn't even get a beer. For some reason, the bungalow was getting very hot, despite the fan running.Today I felt full of energy so I hit the road again (so to speak). I took a boat to Railay. This is a peninsula but is so isolated that feels like an island. It can be reached only by boat. This place has beautiful cliffs, fine white sand and clear water. Because I arrived in the afternoon, I was only able to get a room somehow expensive (for a backpacker budget), on the east side, and this after half on hour of searching. Afterwards I went exploring the island. The west side is very expensive, but this is where is the fine beach (on the east side the beach is not usable, just mangroves). There is a third beach, very rocky, which is favourite by backpackers and/or climbers. I went exploring uphill a long way, by the time I got back it was getting dark. A little bit later I went to a reggae concert, some guys named job2do.

Expenses (bath)
breakfast 70
milk 49
internet 25
room 700 Rapala
water 30
dinner 60

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exploring Ko Lanta (10.02.09)

Finally, a good night sleep. Although I was woken up at 5:30 by the noise from a nearby mosque (island is Muslim, I guess it was the morning prayer), I felt rested. I spent most of the day on motorbike. After I was picked up and brought to the new resort, I left my stuff in the room, dropped of my laundry, had brunch and rented a motorcycle. Ko Lanta is about 27 km long, and about 4 km wide. I have circled the island 2 times. I managed to do some shopping - better sun lotion, mosquito repellent, t-shirt and hat. It's wasn't as cheap as expected. The highlights of this trip would be:-fantastic view of Andanaman sea and few islands from the viewpoint restaurant-beautiful secluded Klong something beach-sea gypsy village-old Lanta town-riding motorbike off road I had a little bit of hard time to remember where I left my laundry and from where I rented the bike, since there are so many places. Looks like the people who provide this services don't know either, so you could pick up somebody else laundry. I also noticed today that most tourist on this island are Germans. In the evening I walked a lot on the beach. It was full moon tonight.

Expenses (bath)
boat ticket Ko Lanta 470
meals 2x40 = 80
water 15
motorbike rental 150
gas 120
mango shake 40
sunscreen 300
mosquito repellant 110
milk 48
t-shirt 180
hat 200
laundry 30
bateries 32
internet 78
breakfast 60
water, milk 40
banana pancake 25
internet 20
water 15
dinner 120

Avoiding the crowd and the noise (09.02.09)

I am a morning person. I always been like that, and I like it this way. Sleep important for me, and If I don't get enough I feel tired, cranky, miserable. Ko Phi Phi is a gorgeous island, but also very crowded and noisy. It's too bad I only stayed a couple of days, but now it's time to go. I need something quiet. So I took a boat for an hour and half ride to Ko Lanta. This is more family orientated, quiet, and not crowded at all. Once that I arrived, I saw the difference. It looks like a county side village. I think I'm gonna like it here. It's a good place to recover. Catch up with the sleep. Heal the sunburns. Recover financially. The idea is to relax, although is a strange concept to me. How do people relax? Is it by doing nothing? 'cause I don't think I can do that. I was never able to completely shot down my brain. Sometimes, although rarely, the thoughts are running through my head so fast I barely sleep at night. I have found cheap accommodation in a bungalow by the beach. I wasn't very happy about it (because bathroom has no sink), but I took it for a day. Later on I went looking for others. It's a lot easier without baggage, and this island is big. I have found one a little more expensive but more likable, so I booked it for next day. On my way back I stopped at a restaurant on the side road and I had a lunch/dinner (Very tasty and cheap fried noodles with . When I got back I have somehow lost the key. I got another one at reception.In the evening I walked on the beach, watch the sunset, stay more on the beach, then got a bear and lay into hammock at my bungalow. Not so bad, I could say!
Expenses (bath)
breakfast 100
internet 20
room 300 Blue Andaman
room 400 Lanta Family
late lunch 40
water 15
beer 120

Monday, February 9, 2009

Around Phi Phi Islands (08.02.09)

The loud music from bars didn't stop until 3am, so I slept again about 5 hours. I am a little bit tired, I don't know how long I can last this way. For today I have booked a snorkeling tour around Phi Phi islands. There are 6 island, the biggest being Phi Phi Don, where are all accommodations, stores, boats. It is actually a Muslim village. It might be the most expensive in Thailand. I noticed the prices are, generally speaking, double than in Bangkok. The tour started at 9 and the first stop was Maya Bay on the Phi Phi Lay island. This is the one from the movie The Beach. For me personally was the main reason I come to Thailand: I had to see it for myself. It was everything I have dreamt of, and if I had a bucket list that would be the first check mark on it. Fantastic beach with stunning surroundings. The big boat stopped in the bay and I came by a canoe to the beach. The beach is just perfect. I guess that's way is protected. The downside is there are any accommodation on the island. The only way is to book a tour and camp on the beach. It is limited to 25 people and starts at 4pm and ends at 10 am. After I returned to the big boat I did some snorkeling in the bay. It was just OK, there are corals and fish but not very great. I learned a trick to touch the fish, I just lay there doing nothing, pretend I am dead. Water is very salty and I can float without moving (or maybe I am just that fat). The fish approach me and some of them even try to bite me. The next stop was on the Phi Phi Don island, at Monkey beach. The snorkeling here was a better than in Maya Bay. I just couldn't have enough. The time went so fast, we had to get going. After a little lunch we went to another island, north on Don, named Bamboo Island. I went by canoe to the beach and walked around. This was the fines sand I ever seen. Almost all around the island water was shallow crystal clear, that very light green. I did a little bit of snorkeling but wasn't that great. The last stop was at the shark point on main island (Don). This was absolutely the best snorkeling around. I didn't see sharks, but I saw tones of different fish. If I wouldn't get that sunburned I would definitely come back there tomorrow to snorkel all day. I am now like a fried chicken, although I did use sunscreen many times. I guess there are no roses without thorns. Sometimes is like this, whatever you like the best is hurting you the most. Despite all my suffering, I still went out and spent a couple of hours at the beach, having a drink, watching a fire show, listening to the music. Just another beautiful day.
Expenses (bath)
room 500 Rungatawan
breakfast 100
boat ticket 350
dinner 150
water 20
beer 50
internet 100
internet 40

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The (perfect) Beach - I'm speechless (08.02.09)

(To all my friends) Wish you were here (07.02.09)

I arrived in Krabi at 9:30. I felt a little bit tired. I haven't slept 7 hours since I arrived in Istanbul. The boat left for Ko Phi Phi at 10am and it took 22 hours. I am the Save-the-best-for-the-last kind of a guy. Not this time! This is supposed to be the highlight of Thailand trip. As the boat was approaching the pier I knew I wasn't wrong. The view was so promising. I checked the prices of accommodations listed in few touristic boots, and it was a lot higher than I expected. I didn't panic and follow the common sense rule: the farther from the beach, the cheaper. In about 10 minutes I have found one good enough and at a decent price for this island. Ko Phi Phi wouldn't probably be so expensive if some dude wouldn't make a movie about a secret spectacular beach some years ago. In fact, this beach is not even here, but about 2 km south. Regardless, this island is amazing beautiful! It looks like two islands connects by a narrow strip of land, with beaches on both sides. After I got my room, showered, had lunch, I went exploring the island. A 30 minutes step climb got me to the highest viewpoint, standing at 186 meter of sea level. I just can't find the right word to describe the view. Fantastic, magnificent, awesome, there are not enough!This probably should go into dictionary under tropical paradise. I just sat there for a while and contemplate. I went down and then walk along the beach till next one - the long beach. I just couldn't wait anymore and I got in the water. It was so clear and warm, must had been around 30 degrees Celsius! I enjoyed my time till close to sunset, then I had early dinner, returned, changed, and went to a beach bar. I had a beer right on the beach, watch a fire show, listen to the music, without a care in the world. This is LIVING!
Expenses (bath)
lemon shake 30
mango shake 40
room 500 Rungatawan
snorkeling tour 800
tuna sandwich 70
stir fry chicken chestnuts 100
beer 60
chicken sandwich 70
internet 10
water 20