(Entry by Gemma)
We arrived in Thailand just over two weeks ago. The last couple of days in Malaysia we spent in Penang, chilling and doing some sightseeing with two guys named Daniel (a Swedish guy we met in Taman Negara National Park and Bouche (a well-travelled Canadian who gave us lots of stories and laughs), who we met along the way. We had fun with them exploring the delights of Penang and drinking some beer.
On Monday 13th February we had a long old journey up through Malaysia and over the border into Thailand where our minibus took us to Krabi on the south-west coast. It took about 9 hours and involved lots of stopping to swap mini-buses and do paperwork at the borders. Boring, but a necessary part of travelling! We arrived in the evening and after a hunt for accommodation, finally settled in to a guesthouse and found a lovely Italian restaurant where we fulfilled our craving for pizza!
The following day we took another minibus and short car ferry journey to an island close to Krabi called Ko Lanta. We had a lovely beach bungalow there and immediately fell in love with the relaxed
A rowdy bunch
Dave, Bouche and Daniel recreate an actual scene from colonial times in Fort Cornwallis, Penang
atmosphere of Ko Lanta. The staff at our bungalows were great and the kids kept Dave busy on the table football (see photo). We spent three days on Ko Lanta, just relaxing on the beach, swimming, snorkelling and reading. We met a lovely couple called Paula and Mike who we spent our evenings with, drinking beer on the beach as the sunset and having a relaxed meal at one of the many restaurants that line the beach. It was pure bliss!
On the Friday (17th Feb), we got the morning ferry across to Ko Phi Phi. It is made up of two islands, Ko Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh, but there is only accomodation on Ko Phi Phi Don. The islands suffered a lot of damage in the Tsunami of 2004 but much of the damage has now been repaired and the main town that was almost completely washed away has been rebuilt. We wanted to stay away from the town on a quiet beach, so as soon as we arrived we took a longtail boat to Long Beach, which only has four accomodation resorts. The island is beautiful, large limestone cliffs, a lush interior, white sand
Digs on Ko Lanta
We stayed in really nice bungalows.
and turqoise clear water. The negatives are that due to it's beauty it is a really popular spot for tourism and it hasn't been controlled, so it has been over-developed. I would have loved to have gone there years ago when there were just a few beach bungalows operating on the island.
We settled in to the cheapest bungalow we could find, just a simple wooden hut, with cold shower, mosquito net etc. and then headed for the beach. Spent the rest of the day snorkelling at both ends of the beach and chilling in the hammocks.
On the Saturday we did a day trip on a longtail boat, across to Phi Phi Leh and to nearby Bamboo island. There were just 6 of us on the boat, a lovely French couple (our GCSE French came in handy!) and a young English couple. The boat broke down after about 10 minutes, but our Thai captain managed to fix it luckily! We stopped off at some beautiful bays and snorkelling spots, including Maya Bay where much of the film 'The Beach' with Leonardo Di Caprio was filmed. It was all stunning although there were lots of boats all doing
the same as us, so some of the bays became very cramped. We saw some lovely fish and a sea-snake. Bamboo Island was beautiful, we had a picnic on the beach there.
Sunday morning, we walked along the coastline and into town and amazingly bumped into Dave, a guy we had met in the Red Centre in Australia. We caught up on each others travels over lunch, it was great to see him again. The rest of the day we spent snorkelling. We swam out from the beach to a big rock called Shark point and not surprisingly we saw a big black-tip shark. We spent about 20 minutes just watching as it circled near us and got closer and closer until we decided it was probably best to swim back to shore! It was just short of 2 metres and was such a beautiful creature, but you certainly wouldn't want to make it angry! We were very lucky as the weather was brilliant the whole time we were on the islands and the sunsets were amazing (see photos). I will try and lock the memories of those days into my mind and will think of them when I
am at work, back in the real world!
Our last morning (monday) we spent snorkelling and said goodbye to the family of nemos that we had visited every day! We then got the afternoon ferry back to Krabi.
Tuesday 21st Feb we had a very active morning, rock climbing at the limestone cliffs of nearby Rai leh beach. We took a half day course, which was definately demanding enough, we got to do three different climbs, each one harder than the last. It was different to what i was expecting, i didn't find the height scary, it was just exhausting on your arms and was challenging to see where to put your feet and hands. The instructor holds the ropes at the bottom and shouts up instructions when you get stuck. Dave and I held each others ropes for one of the climbs, which was a bit scary! My arms were killing afterwards, we ached for at least two days afterwards! It was great fun though, I would like to do it again.
The next day we travelled further North, where we stayed one night in Surat Thani before getting the boat out to another island-Ko Tao.
Mike and Paula
A lovely couple we met on Ko Lanta.
This island is just above Ko Phan-Ngan, and is a Mecca for scuba-divers. It is full of dive-centres and is really cheap to get your certifications. Having already done our Open-Water PADI, we decided to take the next step and do our Advanced, which is a two day course, involving five specialist dives. We chose Bans Dive Resort, which was pretty luxurious, with a big swimming pool and nice accommodation that you get at a discount rate when signing up for the course.
So our time on Ko Tao was spent diving. After a morning of theory in the classroom, we did a deep dive, down to 30 metres where you feel the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis, it is a bit like being drunk! We then did a navigation dive where we had to find our way around underwater using a compass and then a night dive which was amazing. That was all in the first day! We saw lots of beautiful fish, huge schoals of barracuda and in the night dive a blue spotted ray which glided past us. The dive sites were very vast with huge walls of coral, it is so magical, you feel like you
Table football, Ko Lanta
We certainly taught those kids a table-footballing masterclass.
are in another world down there.
On the second day we had some more theory to do, then another two dives. A multi-level dive, where you change your depth as to gain more time under the water and finally a naturalist dive where you have a board to write down all the fish you identify. It was on this dive that a huge trigger fish tried to attack us and chased us through the water. They have huge teeth and their bites are nasty, but luckily we got out of its way pretty pronto! We also saw a Moray eel and lots of other nice fishes. Unfortunately we didn't see a whale shark which are in the waters of Ko Tao, you have to be lucky to see them.
We spent one day relaxing on the beach and in the pool after completing our course and celebrating with a few drinks with some guys and instructors from our course.
Yesterday (Monday 27th Feb) we sadly left Ko Tao and travelled, first by boat to Chumpong and then by an overnight train to Bangkok where we arrived this morning. The train journey was good fun, we had little
Sunset, Ko Lanta
We've been watching a lot of these recently...
beds with curtains around and surprisingly we managed to get a few hours sleep. Bangkok is certainly a big contrast from the relaxed islands. We jumped straight into a Tuk-Tuk and headed to the Koh San Road area where we found a nice guesthouse on a quiet backstreet. We met up with a couple that we made friends with in Australia and had kept in contact with. The rest of the day we have been exploring and organising visas for Vietnam.
It has been a brilliant two weeks, we will continue to explore Thailand for another couple of weeks before heading into Laos.......
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