After the tour some of the group stayed longer in Chiang Mai and went on a three day jungle trek and stayed over night in wooden huts in local villages. The scenery was superb and treked along various steep paths winding down one of the many streams and waterfalls.
On another day a few us went on a rather tame white water rafting session followed by quad biking to a local village and through the countryside. The bikes were on their last legs and health and safety didn't seem to be much of a concern as we were given brief instruction in how to start them up and that was about it. The trip ended up in a argument with the tour company at a police station after one of the people I was with got overtaken by one of the wheels on his bike......... The police initially were sceptical (understandably) until luckily, some photos were produced backing up the story. Eventually we got some money back and they said they would look in the condition of the bikes.
Bangkok is the city where anything goes and in particular Koh San Road (the main traveller
district) is full of weird and wonderful people. As it is a major hub for travel in Asia with many people starting or finishing their holidays, if you spend a couple of days around Koh San road it is highly likely that you will bump into someone you know. The street markets are full of everything you can think of and stalls selling fake watches, T shirts, DVD's etc etc. The Tuk Tuk's seem more powerful than other countries and the drivers race around the city as if they were involved in F1.
After Bangkok headed to a couple of the islands. On travelling by bus from the station to the ferry, on the mainland, we were taken on a small diversion and then told that we had to rush to the ferry. Once we got on the ferry various people noticed that their luggage had been opened and a few items had been stolen whilst the bus was on the move. On another occassion I had the lock broken off may bag and the same thing had happened. Talking to other travellers this is quite common but I was lucky that nothing was taken.
Onto Koh Pang
Yang for a couple of days without much sleep as it is one of the most hedonistic islands in Thailand and after that I needed a few days relaxing on the beach in Koh Tao.
Koh Phi Phi is a very small island and as cars and motorbikes are banned it is very easy to walk around the town which sits in between two hills. The width of the island at the town is very thin and can be walked in about five minutes. So it is easy to imagine the devastation caused by the Tsunami in 2004. I was only here for a few days and as Phi Phi is re-nouned for diving decided to join the many other divers and went to Phi Phi Leh. Although the visibility is better at other times of the year it was good enough at 10 metres and saw a large number of fish, leopard shark and octopus as well as the resident three legged turtle.
The islands were stunning and no trip would be complete without a visit to the island featured in the film 'the beach'. The only problem was that all the travellers in Thailand had the
same idea and although it is very impressive there are about 20 boats in the bay (this I was told was quiet), as well as a lot of people sitting on the beach. Another popular spot is James Bond Island which again had to be seen, although it was slightly spoilt by a souvenir shop on the middle of the beach.
After an excursion back to Bangkok to pick up my new passport photo, it was back to Koh Tao to spend Christmas with a few people from the tour group. It was a good few days with Christmas eve spent doing a 30 metre dive where I learnt that drinking the day before a dive is not recommended!! Christmas day started late and was spent on the beach which was quite different and almost slipped by unnoticed.
Although at times it seemed like a whistle stop tour of parts of Thailand it is somewhere I could easily go back and spend more time.
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