Weather update

28 01 2010

Just a quick update on the weather.  Today it was 33°C (feels like 38°C) and calm with a slight breeze.  The weather is expected to stay the same for the foreseeable future :)

We are staying now on Ao Nang, close to Krabi town.  Today we went to Rai Le  beach on a long tail boat where I shot the video below.

Danger in the jungle

27 01 2010

We are now on the bus to Krabi after a night in the Jungle.  We stayed at the Bamboo House in Khao Sok National Park, which is the biggest jungle in the South of Thailand.  The first thing we noticed in the jungle is that there are a lot more insects: flies, ants and other bugs  …oooppss just jumped to change busses… Yeah there are definitely more bugs in the jungle, not that it should surprise us, we just didn’t think about it.  We haven’t been plagued too much and the bites seemed to get fewer every day until now.  Elínborg got some red spots the other day (100-200 of them) and we thought that she had been attacked by ants but the woman at the pharmacy convinced us that it was something from the sea. My theory is that she is allergic to coral sperm as I saw some of the corals release something into the sea.  At least she got a crème that seems to be fixing the problem.

IMG_4892 Pigs on the way to the islands

Elínborg faced another danger in our bungalow when we were preparing for bed time.  She spotted something hairy dive behind our bed and I immediately  thought we were either dealing with a rat or a tarantula spider.  A rat seemed unlikely in the jungle but the other option was still open.  I had read that tarantulas are actually not poisonous so I grabbed the flashlight while Elínborg stood still frozen by the door.  When I moved closer to the bed I saw something shoot up the wall and down again so I couldn’t see it properly.  When I pointed the flashlight behind the bed I saw the cutest little eyes of a tiny mouse that seemed as scared as Elínborg ;)  As she saw me she moved frantically up the wall and out a hole close to the ceiling.

IMG_4898 The bungalow with the frightening animal

We only stayed one night in the jungle so we weren’t able to see everything that was on offer but we went to a fantastic elephant trek where we went for a walk into the woods with Kaidam, a 17 year old elephant boy, and his keeper.  Riding Kaidam was a fantastic experience, he was so careful and gentle going up the rocky slope.  At first we were in the saddle but on the way back Elínborg got to sit on his neck like a proper elephant rider.

IMG_4907 The elephant riders

During the trek we didn’t see too much wild life since an elephant has quite a presence.  We did see two snakes though just before they managed to hide in the bushes.  After the trek one of the guides guessed that the snakes were Black Cobra :-o

IMG_4910 Kaidam getting his payment

In the middle of the trek we were able to wander around the jungle on our own.  We walked along this stream and as Elínborg walked over a tree trunk a big Black Cobra started moving within a meter from where she stepped down.  Elínborg’s instinctive move was to jump back into a karate position, which scared the cobra away!  I was quite impressed that she didn’t even make a sound even though I heard her heartbeat pounding for the next minute.  It seems like Elínborg has nine lives like the cat and needed three of her in just two days :)

IMG_4903 Quick to regain her cool :)

ps. I’m trying out Windows Live Writer that allows me to blog while offline, setting up the photos and everything and then posting when I have access, so bear with me the posts look a bit funny for now.

From one island to the next

25 01 2010

It was with great regret that we left The Island View Cabana at Ao Mae Haad. Not only were we saying good-bye to a great beach town and a great resort with very entertaining Burmese waiters, we were leaving the wonderful Ko Phangan and saying good-bye to our Canadian friends, Isabelle and Kyle. We hope though that we will see them again in a couple of days in Krabi, before they head down to Malaysia.

With Isabelle and Kyle from Canada

With Isabelle and Kyle from Canada

We on the other hand took the ferry to Ko Samui, the biggest island of the three we have visited and most westernized. On Ko Samui you will find an international airport, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut and a lot of fancy resorts for package travelers. It had worked so well for us on Ko Phangan to go against the stream that we headed away from the main beaches on the east coast and took a taxi towards the west coast. This time we weren’t as lucky as before and didn’t find the town we ended in too exciting. We therefore took another taxi to the east coast and ended in the town where the main port is located.

...we're on the road again...

...we're on the road again...

Yesterday we managed to try three of the five types of taxis that we have seen here in Thailand. First we took the “regular” taxi to the port in Ko Phangan. The regular taxi is a pickup truck where the passengers go in the back with the luggage. If you are lucky there are benches on both sides and some sort of a roof, other times it is just the naked back side of the pickup (what ever that is called :). From the port in Ko Samui we got a party van with a huge stereo, disco lights and an mp3 player and to the port town we got a motor taxi, which is just a scooter and a driver (we needed two sets ;). The driver managed to put the bag between his legs and we jumped on in the back. The other two types that we haven’t tried yet are the normal yellow taxi and a tuk tuk, which is a motorbike with three wheels and has a bench for two in the back.

The night market

The night market

Last night we went to the food market down by the peer. The market consists of maybe 40 booths, each selling its own specialty. To name a few of the dishes the booths were offering they had:

  • Fried chicken either whole with the head and everything or single pieces (definitely something for you Deepak and Bob)
  • Grilled chicken and duck on a spear with the hearts, liver or feet available on a spear as well
  • Fried noodles with pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, crab or fish
  • Grilled squid or white fish of all sorts
  • Sausages or hot dogs made of pork, chicken or tofu
  • Some kind of meat balls made all sorts of ingredients
  • All kinds of different curries with rice or noodles (red, green, masman, etc.)
  • Dumplings with curry, fish or meets
  • All sorts of juices and shakes
  • Crepes with bananas or chocolate
  • Jelly and cakes and rice boiled in syrup and sesame essence
Fried chicken

Fried chicken

Different types of curries

Different types of curries

Jelly and other desserts

Jelly and other desserts

Coconu custard

...and our favorite - Coconu custard

…and a lot of other stuff that we didn’t really recognize. We finally settled on a box of fried chicken, a couple of spears of grilled chicken and meat balls and for desert we had the rice boiled in syrup and sesame and some sort of fried coconut pudding. Everything except the meat balls was absolutely fantastic and ended up costing us 120 baht with water or less than $4 all in all. We are planning to go again before we leave and hopefully we will be even more adventurous.

The meatballs waren't so nice :)

Everything except the meatballs was very nice :)

You need rest

You need some rest when you are full :)

ps. can someone update me on the Tiger Woods story ???  Are they back togeather?  Is he dating someone else?  Did she break is jaw with the 9-iron? Is she dating Björn from Abba? Is he a ladyboy (well he is half Thai)?

Little piece of heaven

21 01 2010

We have never thought of our selves as beach loving people and we have always said that we would not want a beach kind of holiday. Now we have been here on the islands for seven days just laying on the beach sunbathing, snorkeling and swimming in the sea and we are absolutely loving it! I don’t think that we have changed but that now we are not in a hurry while on holiday, we have plenty of time and it is not a choice between the beach and something else. Going on a beach OR exploring an exciting city. Going on the beach OR checking out that great museum. Now we have plenty of time to do all the things we want to and it doesn’t have to be either or. We are also getting relaxed about not having a plan to follow. We have a rough (big) plan in our mind but we just decide from day to day where to go and where to sleep. When we have traveled before everything has been organized, all accommodation booked beforehand and the most events set. It is quite liberating not to follow a plan but needed some time to get used to.

Ko Maa Island connected to Ko Mae Haad by a sand reef

Ko Maa island connected to Ko Mae Haad by a sand reef

We are now in Ao Mae Haad on the North West corner of Ko Phangan. This is definitely the best place we have visited so far. It is a bit off the regular tourist track and not many tourists are staying here. During the day it is very busy though since many people seem to come here for day trips. The beach is about 1 km long and there is a large island just off shore and is connected to our beach with a sand reef on the low tide. Everything is very cozy and nice: the people, the environment and our bungalow.

Ao Mae Haad

Ao Mae Haad

We met up with a very nice Canadian couple in Haad Yao that were also on their way to Mae Haad so we joined forces. We had seen them on the bus from Bangkok so we started chatting. They are also on a long trip here in Asia. From Thailand they are heading towards Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia so we probably won’t see them again after Ko Phangan but you never know. He has been a couple of times in Thailand so he has given us some tips and suggestions. It is always great to catch up with people that are doing similar things as you are doing.

We have both taken great interest in snorkeling, anything else is difficult given the opportunities that we have here. We have only had to swim 100 meters from the shore to be surrounded by colorful coral and fish beyond believe. We have been snorkeling at a depth of one to four meters in absolutely clear waters and seen maybe forty different types of tropical fish: green, yellow, blue, red, black, white, translucent, striped, spotted, octagonal and solid. Today we spent so much time snorkeling that both of us have sunburn on the parts that stick up when staring down into the water (just check in the bathtub which parts those are).

We have not eaten at a restaurant where the menu has been shorten than seven pages and the restaurant at our resort is no exception. Just to give you some examples is has 14 different fruit shakes and 16 different juices that they list. For breakfast they have 22 different types of roll toast, 13 baguettes and 7 different types of pancakes. For main course they have 16 salads, 30 different types of fried rice, several kinds of macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, fried noodles and so on and so on. On top of all this they have something called Noname – 10 different types. Noname looks like the leftovers from last night mixed together and deep-fried and like everything else deep-fried is tastes very good. These huge menus are therefore quite scary for people with decision anxiety but we have managed so far :) But all in all the food here has been wonderful and almost everything that we have tasted had been top notch.

The massage parlour

The massage parlour

We went for a massage today. Elínborg had a conventional head, neck and shoulders massage and I had a Thai massage. The Thai is based on stretches and pinches without oil rather then conventional strokes. It is quite rough but very relaxing at the same time. Below you can see the price list for massages. 100 Baht are about $3.

The price list

The price list

The clock is almost 22 now when I’m writing this so it is well past our bedtime :) Therefore I won’t have this long for now. All the best….

– Ö r n and E l í n b o r g –

Island hopping

19 01 2010

Ko Tao is a cozy little island (3×7 km or so), the first of the three islands in the Gulf of Thailand that will be our home for the next couple of weeks or so. We stayed for two nights at Freedom Beach on the south end of Ko Tao in a basic hut with Charlie the Cockroach, a few lizards and mosquitoes that were quite happy to have some fresh Nordic blood while I wrote the last post ;) Even though the hut could have been better everything else at Freedom beach was top-notch and the resort was obviously undergoing a major refurbishment like a lot of places around here. The most impressive at Freedom Beach were the beaches and the coral reefs. We rented us some snorkeling gear and snorkeled for a few hours in the crystal clear turquoise colored sea above beautiful corals and colorful fishes that we have only seen in home fish tanks before. It was absolutely fantastic and started just a few meters from the shore. We had never thought snorkeling could be so much fun!

Though life

Life is tough over here :)

After two days we wanted to rent a scooter and explore the island but made an impulse decision to jump on the boat and go to the next island instead and go on a scooter there. So we took the 1 hour boat to Ko Phangan.

Ko Phangan is a lot bigger island and is mostly famous for the huge Full Moon parties held here …every full moon. Up to 30.000 people come here on the full moon during the high season to drink, smoke, snort and dance the night away. They have stretched the full moon concept a bit so now there are full moon, black moon, blue moon and a few other parties going on so basically you can party no matter where the moon and the sun are positioned at that moment. This all happens on the south side of the island so all the oldies and the nerds head basically anywhere else and we went up the west coast to Hat Yao where we have just been enjoying life, exploring the North-West coast on a scooter, trying out a few hammocks and bathing in the sun.

Two things have bother us quite a bit since we came to the islands. Firstly we have hardly gotten hungry lately. It’s not that we are eating so much, it’s more that our appetite has diminished, which is a great shame because we both love to eat. Maybe it is the Beach God telling us that we need to shed a few pounds to walk his sandy beaches half-naked …who knows. I wouldn’t mind if that would be the case and he is helping us getting there.

Chocholate pancake with chocholate

Chocholate pancake with extra chocholate on top

The other thing that has bothered us greatly is that we haven’t been able to bling our selves up. Any descent backpacker that has been in Thailand more than a week has multiple layers of bracelets and necklaces made of leather, shells, coconuts, fish bones and what not around their necks, wrists and ankles. Somehow we have not been able to follow this trend but are anxious to make up for it and will keep you updated. The next steps in the backpacking transformation are dreadlocks and huge tattoos …we’ll start with the bracelets and necklaces and take it from there.

The ladies with the bling

The ladies with the bling

The action on the ABT has been slow, only 2 games in the last 3 days. Örn won another Scrabble game after Elínborg made an incredible comeback and tried to steal the victory but couldn’t quite get there and Elínborg won a Ludo game, tieing the Ludo mini series, in an exciting Ludo mach on the beach of Hat Yao where nerves were extended and adrenaline ran high.

Exploding with tension over the Ludo game

Exploding with tension over the Ludo game

I’m having problems uploading the pictures so I’ll update this post later and insert them so keep looking :)

Until next time….
– Ö r n and E l í n b o r g –

Out of Bangkok

16 01 2010

We had three good days in Bangkok but at the same time were ready to leave when the time came. We had explored the neighborhood, seen the magnificent Grand Palace, visited Buddha temples, seen Buddha in all his seven positions (laying, standing, kneeling, etc.), gotten out of two scams and gotten friskier with the local food so we felt ready to take on Thailand!

Part of The National Museum

Part of The National Museum

Both scams were quite interesting in a way. One we had heard of from other blogs and travel books. We met a nice guy that wanted to help us to get to where we were going. We didn’t quite know where we were going but that didn’t knock him down. After a while we told him we wanted to see the Royal Palace and also the tourist office across the street. He told us that today the King would be at the Palace and the tourist office would be close until later in the day because they all wanted to salute the King. We should go and see some other Buddha that he knew of. He also told us that today the King was giving out petrol and therefore we shouldn’t pay more than 20 baht (50 cent) for any Tuk Tuk today. Right on cue a Tuk Tuk arrives and the driver carries a map which our friend uses to show us where this Buddha of his is located. They talk a bit and the driver offers to drive us to the Buddha for the 20 baht. We had already realized that something was fishy in this story so we just walked away saying we wanted to check for our selves. We walked across the street to the tourist office and there everything was in full swing and at the Palace it seemed like a normal day, not that we know what a normal day is like there but you know…

The other scam was a school book example as well, we met an old old lady that was attending the pigeons. She wanted us to take small bags of corn from her and give to the birds. When we didn’t want the bags she managed somehow to hang them on me and told me to give the corn to the pigeons which we did. When we had emptied the bags she demanded 150 baht from us (5 USD). After haggling with her a bit I paid her 7 baht and off we went.

I wouldn’t say that the scams were entertaining, well maybe the first one, but at least a bit of an experience and teaches us to be careful and take nothing for granted. At least we got off easy this time.

As I said, we have been getting friskier with the food here. We have tried some street food and snacks and everything has been really tasty. We are not eating insects or some unidentified things yet but who knows, that might come later. We have been tasting the regular Thai food like fried rice, noodles and curries and have had some Indian food as well and as I said, everything has been very good. The price on the street is about one-third of what you pay at a restaurant where you pay about 120 baht ($4) for one of those above mentioned traditional dishes. I have been a bit surprised with the price of beer here. It costs about $2 a bottle, even at seven-eleven-, which is more than in the stores both the US and Switzerland. It seems that the Thai people are on the same boat as Icelanders in breaking the universal code among men to offer cheap beer to the masses.

We left Bangkok in a VIP night bus – no less – heading towards Chumphon in the south. The bus was a nice double-decker, quite comfortable, so we were able to sleep most of the way. When in Chumphon we took a big catamaran that took us to the island of Ko Tao where we are now. Ko Tao is on of three famous islands in the Gulf of Thailand and is mostly sought out by divers. The atmosphere in the boat was quite special. Since the sea was moving a bit, people were puking all over the boat but others didn’t seem too distracted and slept the whole way. We kept somewhere in between the two groups, partly sleeping and somewhat nauseous but without getting too sick.

…and now the sport section. We have started an Asian Board-game Tour (ABT) and at first the tour will include Ludo, Backgammon and a diced Scrabble. A couple of rounds have already been played and the score so far are as follows

Ludo 1 2
Backgammon 1 0
Scrabble 0 1

On Ko Tao we rented a very basic bungalow near the ocean for two nights and headed straight for the beach. We’ll get back in touch when we’ve seen more of the island than just our beach and the coral reefs beyond :)
The view from the bungalows on Ko Tao

The view from the bungalows on Ko Tao

For those of you reading this from facebook – please drop by the blog as well for a few extra features.  We are so interested in who are reading the blog and we can’t see any statistics on facebook :(

Looking forward to hearing from you!
– Ö r n  and  E l í n b o r g –