Grand Palace, Bangkok

Grand Palace, Bangkok

2013 kicked off with me moving to a new apartment in a new location in Bangkok.  It was a move that I greatly looked forward to, and I really enjoy my new apartment.  At the start of writing this report, it was March and I’d spent just more than a week at my apartment this year since I’d been traveling during the last couple months.

In early January, just after moving, my good friend Andrew came  to Thailand to visit and to travel.  We explored Bangkok for a few nights, relaxed a bit, and in mid-January his aunt Freya came in.  I hosted them for a few nights at my place in Bangkok, went clubbing a bit, and to Grand Palace, then we headed off to Lopburi for a night.  Lopburi is famous for all the wild monkeys roaming around the buildings and on the power lines. We arrived late, got a lift on a few mopeds to our hostel, and then headed out and explored a bit of the city.  The city was quite small, and that night we ate street food and drank some beers. The monkeys are hidden at night, so we had to wait until the next day to really see them.

Wild monkeys in Lopburi.

Wild monkeys in Lopburi.

The next day we woke, had most of the day to explore the city, see the monkeys, and take some pictures.  We were warned not to carry any food-like items in our hands because the monkeys would chase you for them.  Sure enough, both Freya and Andrew had monkeys chasing them.  One monkey even jumped onto Andrew.  In the afternoon, we caught a train from Lopburi to Ayutthaya. We spent a night there exploring, and had quite the “party”.  Freya and Andrew decided it was a good idea to drink, and then trespass into the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya, so I waited outside and talked on the phone with Darunee (my girlfriend).  After hanging up, I yelled for Andrew, waited about 30 minutes, and then decided it was time to call it a night.  So I started walking back (we were several miles from our hostel), and had a few flakely characters stop and offer me a ride (including the biggest ladyboy I’ve ever seen), but I just kept walking.  Once I got about 1 mile away, I met 2 guys with a moped drinking in front of 7/11, and I paid one of them 50 baht to take me to the train station (which is right next to our hostel).

The next day we rented mopeds, and began driving around the city to the main landmarks.  Right at the beginning Freya got separated from us, so Andrew and I searched for about and hour for her, then went back to the hostel and didn’t find her.  We decided to start exploring a bit on our own while she found her way back to the hostel.  We went to pretty much every landmark around the city, and out of the city.  There were some spectacular places.  In the afternoon, we headed back to the hostel to look for Freya, and she was there safe and sound. So we got back on our bikes and explored more together.  Freya ended up wrecking on her bike while rounding a corner, but ended up with just some small scratches.  Toward the end of the day we went to the elephant farm in Ayutthaya, which was awesome.  We stood right next to and touched a baby elephant, and captured some awesome pictures.  Afterward we headed back toward the hostel to catch our train back to Bangkok.  The train ended up arriving in Bangkok super late, but we made it there nonetheless.

Old Ayutthaya structures.

Old Ayutthaya structures.

We returned to Bangkok for a day to meetup with Darunee, who was finishing her work and in a job transition. The plan was during the job transition, we would all travel together for a couple months, exploring Thailand. Once we got all packed and ready, our first stop was Koh Samet, an island southeast of Bangkok, near Rayong.  We arrived late in the evening and took a night boat to the island.  We had to negotiate because there weren’t many people who were going (in which case the operator will always try to rip you off).  Once on the island, Darunee went by herself to search for accomdation (she does this because they typically charge Thai’s less than white people, so by going by herself we get a better rate – it’s the sad truth).  She was able to get us 2 rooms in a nice place along the beach for around $10 USD/night each. That night we went to a fireshow, and several parties along the beach. We also went swimming in the water at night, which is always a beautiful thing.  It was a wild night.

The next day we had to move to a new place since the one we stayed at the previous night was fully booked.  So we searched around for awhile and ended up finding a place about 10 minutes from the beach, owned by some older English man.  So we decided to get 2 rooms there.  The place was nice, but the location wasn’t too great.  During the day we relaxed on the beach, ate some great food, and went swimming in the warm water.  In the evening we went to another party.  The next day we had to checkout by 10am, so with little sleep, we got our things and checked out.

We left our bungalow at Koh Samet around noon trying to catch the ferry back around noon or 1pm, but we arrived just after one had left, so we had to wait an hour.  Once we arrived back on mainland, we looked at our time and decided to it was best to take our time and make our way toward Koh Chang.  We got to Rayong near sunset and decided to check out the city and spend the night there. We stayed in a very nice hotel for 300 baht/night ($10), and after checking in we walked the night market, and played a few games of bowling.  Freya ended up with some type of food poisoning so she didn’t feel well for the next couple days.

In the jungle of Koh Chang.

In the jungle of Koh Chang.

We woke the next morning, and caught a truck toward Koh Chang, and then a ferry over to the island.  We stayed at the same bungalow that Darunee and I had stayed at over Christmas, which was fantastic.  It was right along the beach, had internet and excellent food, and was cheap.  We rented mopeds from a nearby shop, and explored much of the island.  We took a lot of side roads, hiked around, and took lots of pictures.  At sunset we would swim in the warm water and watch the sun go down, it was fantastic.  One of Darunee’s friends rented a fishing boat, and one night we had a party on the boat and went squid fishing.  Only 1 fish and a squid were caught (which we ate raw), but it was a great time nonetheless.  Another day we rented some kayaks and kayaked out to the nearby islands and hiked around them.  It was beautiful.  We were only able to 1 3-person and 1 single kayak.  So me, Darunee, and Freya used the 3-person and Andrew kayaked himself.  On the way back to the main island, Andrew and I hopped out of the kayaks and swam in the water; it was a bit scary (not knowing what is under you), but fun. Over the next couple days we went to some awesome restaurants, saw another couple fire shows, did some hiking, and explored the island.  One story specifically that was funny was when we were on our mopeds and it started to rain.  So we pulled off to a random hut, that appeared to be a restaurant/bar.  We sat down, and decided we grab a drink.  A local police office was there, and he was the only one who spoke English, so he placed the order for us.  So we sit there, he brings us beers, opens them for us (even though he just saw us drive up), then about 5 minutes later 3-4 Thai girls come up, and they get into the back of his car and leave.  Welcome to Thailand, crazy stuff like that happens all the time, haha. In the evening we went to a dinner with Darunee’s father and his friends (on the opposite side of the island), who were on the island for a short vacation from Chiang Rai.  Freya ended up getting lost, so we drove all the way back to the bungalow to get her, but we all ended up safe and sound at the end of the day.

After a few nights on Koh Chang, Andrew headed to Cambodia to do a visa run, and to explore that country while Freya, Darunee, and I headed up through the north eastern part of Thailand; Issan. Andrew left in the early morning, and we left around noon, caught a ferry to the mainland and took a shuttle van up to Chantaburi. Upon arriving, we used our guidebook to go to the cheapest and best located hostel.  It was full, so we went to a nearby hotel  – the Mangchang Hotel.  It was pouring rain around this time, so we dropped our bags off, walked around the streets nearby.  Chantaburi is known for a gem town, where they buy, sell, and trade precious gems.  They were everywhere. Inside the shops everywhere you could see people trading.  Every restaurant we went into had their own little jewelery shop.  It is odd looking at a lot of these, not knowing if it is real (I’m positive there are lots of scam artists around there).  In the evening I went to the hospital to get my second Hep A shot, and we walked around some spectacular-looking temples.  It was a short stay, but cool to see this little Thai village.

Chantaburi, pretty typical Thai town.

Chantaburi, pretty typical Thai town.

We woke the next morning, and took a bus to Khorat. We arrived late in the evening, and while Freya and Darunee went to get some food, I stayed in and worked, and also got on skype to catchup with friends.  We stayed at Tokyo Hotel, which was a great place for the price.  Had 2 double beds, excellent AC, good internet.  The shower wasn’t the nicest, and there wasn’t hot water, but it was comfortable nonetheless.  The next morning we woke early, and walked around the city. Darunee decided to was a good idea to buy a nearly dead, pregnant fish so she could take it to some nearby canal and release it.  So she did that without telling us and left Freya and I confused.  After that, we went to grab some food, walk the city a bit more, then headed back to the hotel to grab our belongings and continue heading north.  Khorat is a nice city – classic Thai village – most people don’t speak anything but Thai, prices are cheap compared to Bangkok, and there is a a plethora of street vendors.

After several hours in a bus, we arrived near Loei (city).  The bus dropped us about 20 minutes away from Loei, assuming we would be able to go camp in the Phu Kradung area (which is why we headed there).  However, that was not the case, since the park closes for hiking around 2pm (see more below).  We ate some amazing food along the side of the road at like 10pm (some locals had a bunch of food prepared), and then we took a moped to a nearby guesthouse, which was very very nice and unexpected. The price was excellent, and it was a very modern and well built accommodation.

Atop Phu Ruea

Atop Phu Ruea

We woke early the next morning to a lot of rain, and a cold temperature (probably the coldest I had felt in Thailand at the time). The manager (or owner?) of the guesthouse we had stayed in gave us a lift in his truck to the main road about 1 km away, where a bus stopped by and picked us up and took us to Loei city.  From there, we quickly found a guest house, Sugar Guest House, dropped our bags off, and then caught another bus to Phu Ruea.  We caught a bus, and about a 45 minute ride later, we arrived in a small town.  There was a 9km road that went into the national park, and some people were charging a very high rate to go up.  So we started walking, and eventually hitchiked and got a lift all the way to the top.  Sadly Freya and I had to pay the 10x “foreigner fee” to get into the park (which is typical for southeast Asia – racism at its finest), but once in, it was all good.  It was very foggy the time we went up, so the views weren’t too good, but it was awesome to be in the wilderness again.  After hiking around up there for a few hours, we caught a van ride down with a guy and his wife who worked there, and they charged us a fair price.  They dropped us off at the bottom of the road, in that small town.  By this point it was around 5:45pm, and we had to catch a bus around 7pm.  So we grabbed some dinner and checked out the area a bit.  Around 6:30pm we started waiting (since it is +/- 30 minutes apparently).  However, by 8 nothing came, and then 9, and then 10pm.  We started trying to hitchhike, but no one came.  1 guy did finally come around 10:45pm, but he needed gas and the gas stations were closed.  So he dropped us back off at the bus stop, and about 20 minutes later a bus finally came.  It was such a waste of time, but an adventure nonetheless. Once we got back to Loei at our guesthouse, we called it a night.

The next day we had to get Freya to the airport around noon so she could catch her early afternoon flight from Loei Airport to Bangkok (where she would later fly out to Tokyo in route to the US).  We woke early, walked around the city, bought a few things, then took a tuk-tuk to the airport.  It is a tiny airport, and it was only about 5km away, so it was quite easy to drop her off.  After dropping her off, we walked for a bit (since there were no cheap rides from the airport), then got a lift about 10 minutes later back into town, where we went to the mall and grabbed some food, and walked around the city.  It was a pretty calm night and day, and was great to checkout the city.  Loei is a beautiful place, with few tourists, and close to some very nice national parks.  The people seemed friendly, and the place was clean.

Made it there!

Made it there!

Phu Kradung…

Our plan for the next day was to head to Phu Kradung (Phu means “mountain” in Thai), hike up in a day, camp for a couple nights, then eventually make our way over to Chiang Mai (to meetup with Andrew and his girlfriend, who he went to meet in Bangkok). We woke from the Sugar Guesthouse early in the morning, took a tuk-tuk to the bus station, and then caught a bus toward Phu Kradung.  We had to switch over to a truck once we got closer since there weren’t any bus routes that we knew of.  After paying our entry fees (I paid 400 baht, Thai’s pay 40 – racism at its finest again), we started hiking.  We started around 1:30pm, which is considered quite late. After 2pm you can’t enter since it is a good 3-4 hour hike, and after sundwon they don’t want people hiking due to all the wild animals that come out (monkeys, deer, elephants, etc.).

1 guy carrying roughly 80kg of baggage.  He made it to the top, no problem.

1 guy carrying roughly 80kg of baggage. He made it to the top, no problem.

The hike was pretty steep, and it wasn’t easy.  I was dripping in sweat the entire time. We made it up just as the sun went down.  Once at the top, we rented a tent, sleeping bags, and pillows, and dropped our bags off in the tent. It was sprinkling a bit of rain as well.  We originally weren’t sure if there would be food, so we brought snacks and water along with us.  That evening, we explored the area, and to our surprise, it was very developed.  There were probably 100 tents already setup, and there were quite large rooms full of pillows and sleeping bags.  Not only that, there were several food vendors that served excellent food.  The place was very well developed (and apparently all of it was built by hand, with all the good being carried up the mountain by hand – aside from some mopeds, which were apparently brought up by helicopter).  As we were hiking up, we saw guys carrying massive bags on a bamboo stick on their shoulders.  These are workers that are paid to carry goods and supplies of people who want to camp (so they can hike and camp without having to carry all their goods).  We asked them about it, and apparently they carry between 60 and 90 kg up at once (1 person), and then they carry the same amount down later in the day.  They typically do this each day.  1 kg costs 30 baht, so they actually make good money by Thai standards, but it is certainly not easy work and takes a lot of endurance. There is no way I’d be able to do it – the hike is hard enough with just 1 small bag.

Caution: Do not enter after 3:00pm because wild elephants roam this trail.

Caution: Do not enter after 3:00pm because wild elephants roam this trail.

The first night we ate excellent and relaxed.  An elk and a deer came right up next to our table in the evening, which was pretty cool. The next day we woke only to see it was very foggy, with 10 meter visability.  So we decided not to hike around too much in the jungle but instead explore the “town” that sits on top of Phu Kradung. The day was pretty relaxed, and our plan the following day was to wake at 5am, hike to see the sunrise, then come back to our tent, get our gear and hike one of the many trails at the top. So the first day we basically explored the top of the mountain and hiked a bit into the jungle.  We went to bed early to wake early.  We followed our plan and saw the sunrise, then hiked around one of the many trails.  We hiked for a good 6 hours straight, returned to our tent and turned our gear in, then began to hike back down the mountain and get back to Loei.  On the way down we got a trashbag and picked up a bunch of trash. The descent took about 3 hours, and then it took us another hour to get back to Loei, where we explored more of the city, walked along the river and through a local park, and explored the walking street.  I also had probably the spiciest papaya salad in my life there.  It was an excellent day, and a relaxing day.  Our bodies were tired from all the hiking we did.

Elephant habitat.

Elephant habitat.

We woke late the next day with the plan to buy a bus ticket to Chiang Mai for the evening (so it would take us there overnight).  We were able to book a bus that left at 9pm, and would arrive 10 hours later around 7am.  So we spent the day exploring more of Loei, eating some awesome steet food, and then came back around 7pm to get ready to head to the bus station.  Around 8, we left to the bus station and caught the bus to Chiang Mai.

Rats ready to eat outside a market in Loei.

Rats ready to eat outside a market in Loei.

Chiang Mai…

We arrived early morning into Chiang Mai bus station, ahead of our friends.  We took a red taxi truck to the center part of the city, and from there used our travel books to locate a few places to stay. The first place we tried was full or too expensive, and we grabbed a bit of food while discussing where we should try next.  Not far away, we found accommodation that was cheap and clean, and near an Irish pub and near the center of the city (we stayed at the Eagle House 2).  After checking in, we relaxed and showered while waiting for our friends to show up.  Once they showed up, we ate some lunch, and then explored the city.  There are several nice walking streets where you can buy every Thai souvenir you can think of, as well as a large selection of food.  I bought a nice little painting for 120 baht.  After walking around a bit, Andrew and his girlfriend went back to the hostel to rest since they didn’t sleep much the night before.  My girlfriend and I went out and explored a bit more, then stopped into a local pub for some drinks/dinner.  Andrew joined us an hour later.

Exploring Chiang Mai.

Exploring Chiang Mai.

My plan for the next day was to wake arond 6:30am, get to the Chiang Mai Immigration office to extend my visa 30 days, and then be back before noon.  However, that didn’t happen.  I woke around 9am, and by 10am we headed toward the office.  Upon arriving, it was packed.  Lines everywhere, and no signs of how to get things done.  I just walked around until I figured things out, an then waited (see my write on here it).  Long story short, we got out of there around 4pm, walked around the area, then took a taxi back toward the hostel.  We then explored some of the cool temple’s in the city, and later met up with Andrew and his girlfriend and had some dinner.

The next day we checked out the hostel, rented some mopeds, dropped off our extra bags at the bus station lockers, and then headed up to Doi Suthep National Park to camp for a couple nights. We rented 2 mopeds for the 4 of us (2 on each), and drove them into the national park, which was about 1 hr outside of Chiang Mai. On the way up, we stopped at many overlooks to see some spectacular views of Chiang Mai.  We stopped and grabbed some dinner just before entering the park, and then drove into the night, into the forest, down some narrow roads we’d never been down before, and ended up at the campground we were looking for.  Upon arriving, we found a guy, half asleep that worked there and showed us where our tent was and where we could rent sleeping bags and pillows. We rented 2 tents, and after setting up we had a few drinks and relaxed.  We ended up meeting a Russian couple who were camping nearby (the rest of the campground was practically empty), and share a lot of cool stories with them.

Our camp area in Doi Suthep

Our camp area in Doi Suthep

We woke the next day, got on our mopeds, and explored.  We did a bit of off-road hiking too, and explored lots of the nearby forest. One of the more memorable things was driving through the tiny villages in the middle of the forest.  There were tiny schools, tiny houses, and lots of kids.  Apparently the villagers speak a language unique to the area.  Not only that, there were no teenage girls, only teenage boys.  It is very common for girls, when they become a teenage, to be sent to the south by their parents and be “sold” as prostitutes.  They then take care of their family and send money back to their family (this is very common in Thailand).  It was quite moving seeing this in person.

Sunset in Doi Suthep National Park

Sunset in Doi Suthep National Park

In the evening we went back near the park entrance and ate some food (there were lots of small shops selling food).  After buying a few drinks, we headed back into the park, in particular to this spot with a good view of the sunset.  We sat there and watched the sun go down, talked to a couple monks there, and relaxed.  After that we drove our mopeds to the top of Doi Pui Summit in the very dark night.  We had to hike about 5 minutes into the jungle which was pretty crazy (and Darunee got scared).  Afterward, we grabbed some drinks and headed back to the sunset-overlook area, though by now it was around midnight.  We sat there and listened to music and talked while looking at the still-impressive view.  About an hour later 2 guys pulled up in a truck and started praying loudly, so we left due to the suspicion.

We woke somewhat late the next day, explored more of the area (Andrew wrecked his moped, but didn’t really get hurt), and then headed out of the park.  On the way out we climbed up the steps to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which was spectacular. After making our way back to Chiang Mai, Andrew dropped off his moped while Darunee and I went to buy an aircard for my laptop. After getting that, I returned our moped and met up with Andrew and his girlfriend.  We made our way to the bus station to catch a bus to Chiang Rai.

Exploring Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on our way out.

Exploring Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on our way out.

We arrived in Chiang Rai around 9:30pm, and after getting off the bus Darunee’s parents were waiting to pick us up.  They live in a small village called “Thoeng”, about 1 hour south east of Chiang Rai.  Once they picked us up, we went to the store and Darunee bought a bunch of food and drinks for her family, and then we headed to her house.  After eating a bit, we relaxed and called it a night.

The next day we woke, ate some breakfast (made by Darunee and her family), then hopped on some mopeds and explored. Darunee and I rode on 1, while Andrew and his girlfriend rode on the other.  We drove all over the country side, all the way to the Laos border, which was a good 2-3 hour commute, 1 one.  Once there, we snapped pictures, ate at a small restaurant near the border, and then headed home. Along the way, we stopped at a waterfall, and took a few breaks.  One stop I particularly remember was a stop on a random side road to do a bit of star gazing.  It was a crystal clear night, and all the stars were out.  It was spectacular.  I also remember it being very cold on the way home, which was surprising, but somewhat expected since we were riding mopeds.  When we arrived home, we relaxed and called it a day.

Exploring the northern Thailand countryside.

Exploring the northern Thailand countryside.

The next day Darunee’s dad drove us all up to the Golden Triangle, where Burma, Laos, and Thailand all meet.  The Mekong River divides them, and you can actually cross into Laos without getting your passport checked here.  The interesting part about it is that Hong Kong has leased a stretch of land from Laos for 99 years here, and they are building a lot in the area (this is called the Special Economic Zone – see more here).  I talked to one Chinese man who is building a tourism business that will drive people from China, down the Mekong, and into the Golden Triangle.  There are massive casinos and hotels being built all over the area.  I expect it to booming in the near future.  After crossing into Laos and spending the day at the Golden Triangle, we ate some dinner along the Mekong, and then headed back home.  It was a good 2 hour commute each way, so whole trip was pretty much a full day.

Our plan for the next day was to wake around 4:30am, and drive the mopeds to watch the sunrise. So we were up and out into the darkness of the morning at 4:30am, and it was again much colder than expected.  We were told that there is a mountain “nearby” that we can drive to the top of and see a great view of the sunrise.  We ended up driving in the darkness for around 90 minutes, weaving through the tiny roads in the mountains.  We were about 2km from the top when I was nearly out of gas, and my bike ran out of power trying to get us up the very steep road.  At same time, Andrew came riding up behind us laughing saying he was nearly out of gas too.  So we ended up pushing our mopeds most of the way to the top, parking them, then hiking another 20 minutes to get to the top of the mountain.  Once there, it was foggy, and there was really no sunrise.  We relaxed for a bit, then headed down.  Andrew and his girlfriend hiked around a bit more while Darunee and I grabbed some food at the base.

Cobra in whiskey, in Laos near the Golden Triangle.

Cobra in whiskey, in Laos near the Golden Triangle.

On the way down, our first goal was to coast down and get petrol.  We ended up asking around and found a place not far away.  Not far from the petrol, we saw a sign with a trail next to it near an overlook.  So we explored down the trail to find a large concrete building built on the side of a rock wall. An older monk then came out, asked us if we were German, and invited us to take a look.  He told us he built the entire thing from scratch, by hand.  He gave us a full tour and we talked for about an hour or more. He was Thai, used to own a restuarant in Germany, then his wife left him, so he became a monk and moved into the wild.  He said he has been living there for 9 years (no power, no food other than leaves, water comes from the rain).  It was very interesting to see the structure and talk with him.  He also gave us some type of food to feed the pigs near his home.  One interesting thing about the home was that the windows were made of old beer bottles, while the rest of the house was all concrete.  Quite the place and story.

As leaving there, we explored some nearby village, ate lunch, and then headed home.  Andrew managed to wreck the moped (for the second time) while exploring the weaving, narrow roads. Once we got home about 1 hour later, Darunee, me, and her family went to Tesco (I wanted to buy a birthday cake for her), while Andrew and his girlfriend got ready to go swim in a waterfall.  On the way to the store, we stopped by her cousins house, ate a bit and chatted, then headed to the store.  After the store we went to meetup with Andrew at the waterfall and swam there for an hour or so.  The waterfall came out of a massive hole at the top of the “mountain”.  The water was warm too, which made it quite relaxing. After leaving there, we headed home and celebrated Darunee’s 28th birthday was some cake, excellent food (I made some spicy cheesey pasta for her family), and whiskey.

House that the monk built by hand.

House that the monk built by hand.

The next day we made our way down to Chiang Rai.  Andrew had to do a visa run into Laos, so he left in the early morning and met us in Chiang Rai later in the day.  We ended up having to go around to a few places to find accomodation since they were all booked (one guy booked right in front of us while we discussed our plans, so we missed a room by like 20 seconds).  Nonetheless, we found a guesthouse nearby which worked out great. In the evening when Andrew showed up, we explored some of the city, then called it a night.  The next day we woke, took 20 minute bus ride to a nearby Wat Rong Khun (also known as the White Temple), then on the way home waited an hour for the bus back.  Once back, we walked around the city and discovered the Chiang Mai Food Festival, so had some drinks, ate some food, and wacthed the dancing and listened to some music.

Wat Rong Khun near Chiang Rai.

Wat Rong Khun near Chiang Rai.

We headed to the Chiang Rai airport the next day and flew well south to Surat Thani, then took an overnight ferry to Koh Pha Ngan to attend the Half Moon Party the next day.  We ended up staying in a bungalow about 2km from the water in a jungle.  They were pretty low-level bungalows, but they got the job done.  Each bed had a mosquito net over it to protect you when you sleep at night.  After checking in, we went down to the beach, rented some mopeds, and relaxed for a bit.  Then we drove toward Haad Rin Beach, where the Full Moon Party takes place.  We ate lunch there and relaxed, played some volleyball, and swam until it got late.  In the evening we explored more of the sideroads of the island, and then headed back toward out bungalow for dinner.

The northern part of Koh Pha Ngan

The northern part of Koh Pha Ngan

The next day we drove up to the Mae Hat Beach area for more beach and swimming, and also to explore the island more.  It ended up pouring rain as we were driving there, so we stopped and ate at a restuarant (and played cards) until the rain slowed. We stayed at the beach most of the day, and in the evening ate at a nice western restaurant along the beach. The following day we went hiking to several waterfalls, swam in a few of them, and ended up stumbling upon a far away beach that had a bar and awesome waves.  So after a long day of hiking and driving, we swam in the water, ate excellent Thai food and drank cold beers. In the evening we headed back to our bungalow, showered, and walked to the Half Moon Party near Ban Tai.  It was in the jungle, and they tried to charge us 600 baht entry, so we just hiked through the jungle and walked in.  It was packed with westerners, and over-priced drinks.  It was a massive party, but the entry fee and the prices were absurd, and it was a turnoff.  I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

Swimming in a river after a rainstorm that makes the water brown.

Swimming in a river after a rainstorm that makes the water brown.

Angthong National Park

Since time was winding down in Thailand for Andrew, we decided to head to Koh Samui for a couple days before returning to Bangkok. We arrived at our bungalow in the later afternoon, grabbed some food and swam, and relaxed to some food and drinks.  Andrew found a poster for a day trip to Angthong National Park, which looked great.  I then noticed we could camp there, so we looked into it and decided to camp there 1 night.

View of Angthong National Park. 42 islands.

View of Angthong National Park. 42 islands.

So the next morning we woke early and caught a van to the ferry port, and then hoped on a ferry that toured around some of the 42 tiny islands that make up the national marine park.  We stopped at one to hike to top that overlooks a large pool of green water in the middle.  Beautiful stuff.  Others kayaked around.  From there, we ate lunch on the ferry and stopped at the main island (the biggest one).  Most people stopped here for about 2 hours, but since we were camping there, we walked around and decided where to sleep.  We noticed there were some bungalows there, and we saw there was a half off deal for the day, so we decided to stay in a bungalow instead of renting a tent/sleeping bag.  The bungalow was very nice – more of a hotel than a bungalow.  There was also a nice restaurant on the island.  Once the ferry boat left with all the tourists, there were maybe 10 people total on the island, so it was very nice.  We spent the day swimming, hiking around the island, and relaxing.  Darunee and I hiked up to the highest point (around a 30 minute hike) to watch the sunset, which was spectatular. We later ate dinner at the restaurant  which was very tasty.  The next morning we woke at 5am to hike again to the top of the island (since Andrew hadn’t done it) to watch the sunrise.  Again, very beautiful and well worth it. Afterward, we hiked into the nearby cave, snorkled at 2 different beaches (including 1 that had nice bright coral and some exotic fish).  We were completely by ourselves.  In the afternoon, the ferry came by to pick us up, and we headed back to Koh Samui.  If we would have known how nice it was, we would have planned the trip a bit longer, but because Andrew and his girlfriend had to get back to Bangkok, we decided to leave.

Empty beach that had lots of coral to see.

Empty beach that had lots of coral to see.

Once back at Koh Samui, Andrew and his girlfriend left to catch another ferry back to Surat Thani, while Darunee and I headed back to the bungalow.  We spent the evening relaxing trying to decide what our next plan was going to be. We decided to spend 1 additional night on the island to explore it, since we hadn’t yet had the chance to do so.

The next morning we rented a moped, went to the Tiger Zoo/Aquarium and watched a cool tiger performance, then headed to a couple waterfalls and snapped some pics. In the evening we had a big dinner at a nice relaxing place.  And that rounded up the trip.

This tiger at the tiger zoo wanted to eat me.

This tiger at the tiger zoo wanted to eat me.

The next day we caught a van to the ferry port, headed back to Surat Thani, and took another van back to Bangkok.  The trip home ended up taking around 15 hours since the ferry took us to a different city away from Surat Thani, unexpectedly, and we therefore missed our connecting van to Bangkok.  Nonetheless, we made it back to Bangkok around midnight.

Again, a fantastic trip.  45 days is a great amount of time, and it was great to explore more of Thailand.  There is still much to see, and it continues to amaze me how beautiful southeast Asia really is.  It is no wonder some many tourists come.  Not only this, it is very cheap.  I spent less during the entire 45 day trip than a roundtrip flight back to the US costs.  I certainly learned a lot from this trip, and had a great time with all the people I traveled with. It is nice to be back home, yet it motivates me even more to keep traveling and not stay too comfortable. So, nearly 3 months after starting this writeup, I’m finally able to hit publish.

I’m off to travel Burma, Laos, and Cambodia tomorrow, and then a few weeks back in Bangkok before heading back to the US for a month.

Get busy, there’s a lot to experience.