May 082012
 

After twenty hours of travel, we finally arrive in Ko Tao.  Twenty hours seemed excessive, since it was only a 14 hour overnight bus ride from Bangkok to Ko Lanta.  But in order to coordinate bus and ferry times, our journey to Ko Tao from Ko Lanta turned into 3 different layovers that were about 2 hours each.  We had some time to kill in Krabi before we got on the bus to Suratthani, so we had some lunch in a cute café with A/C (!).  Our requisite drink on this trip has been mango shakes and we average 1.5 a day.  Kind of like what milk teas were to us in China.  So far Easy Café in Krabi wins for best mango shake so far. =)

Best Mango Shake!

The green curry fried rice there wasn’t bad either—good spice!

Green Curry Fried Rice

After a 3 hours bus ride from Krabi to Surratthani, we have two hours to kill before the night ferry leaves for Ko Tao.  There is a decent night market set up next to the ferry and looks like a lot of the locals eat there.  There was a nice breeze blowing and they even had a TV on, broadcasting a soccer match (with Thai announcers!).  We sat at a table and got some good cheap grub.

Surrathani Night Market

Hmm, so night ferry.  Wonder what that’s going to be like?  We have no idea whether we’ll be in seats? Beds?  The night ferry takes a whopping 7 hours to get to Ko Tao.  There is a faster express boat, but there was no way to catch it with all our transfers from Ko Lanta.  So, we walk into the ferry, and it looks like this:

Small Beds on the 7 Hour Night Ferry to Ko Tao

Ha!  Everyone gets a narrow pad on the floor and you are assigned numbers.  Mike doesn’t even fit on the pads, so his feet stick out into the walkway.  It’s pretty hot inside and we just sleep on the pads with our clothes and drape our jackets over the pillows.  Not comfortable and if you pay too much attention to the boat swaying, you’d probably make yourself sick.  There were some beds double-assigned too, but luckily there were some empty ones so everything worked out.  Whew!  We arrive at the Ko Tao pier at 6:30am, and hail a taxi to our hotel where we wait two more hours for reception to open.  So tired!  Good thing we planned on doing nothing the rest of the day!

 May 8, 2012  Posted by at 10:06 am Ko Lanta, Ko Tao, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
May 082012
 

Every place we visit, I capture photos that I think speak to the everyday magic of the place.

Everyday magic was a bit tougher in Ko Lanta, everywhere we went I would most likely be getting wet, so I wasn’t able to bring my nice camera along as often as I usually do.  Plus, we stayed mostly confined to our beach. =)

Patterns in the Sand Formed By Tiny Crabs

Fragrant Plumeria

Washed Up Coral

 

May 062012
 

That’s it for Ko Lanta! We are headed on another overnight trip, this time it’s bus plus night ferry to Ko Tao. Ko Tao is north of Ko Lanta, and off of the Gulf coast (the east side) versus where we are coming from, which is the West Andaman coast. The Gulf coast is usually less affected by the wet season, so hopefully we’ll get better weather there. It’s been raining for the last couple of days in Ko Lanta.
Ko Tao is known as the diving island and gives out more diver certifications than any other place in the world. We have a package booked with a dive shop/hotel for 6 dives (3 days of diving) so far, but we may do up to 10 dives over the 10 days if the conditions are good.
More to come once we get to Ko Tao!

 May 6, 2012  Posted by at 8:16 am Ko Lanta, Ko Tao, Thailand Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
May 062012
 

The food in Ko Lanta is largely tourist focused, so everywhere we’ve eaten has been good and decent, but not amazing.  Krua Kritsana was recommended to us by our divemaster and it’s a 5 minute drive north of our hotel.  The first time we went, we took a nice walk along the beach to get there.  Mike saw a big crab on the sand and couldn’t resist finding a stick and poking it, poor thing! (He does the same thing with stranded jellyfish on the sand).  Boys will be boys.

Poor Crab

We’ve eaten at Krua Kritsana twice because there is one dish there that keeps us coming back.  The crispy pork laab salad!  The flavors are so perfect.  It’s minced pork fried up and tossed with lime, cilantro, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, chili pepper, and green onions.  So amazing.

Delicious Pork Laab Salad

We also got a few curries there that were also tasty.  Highly recommended!

Red Seafood Curry

 

 

 May 6, 2012  Posted by at 4:44 am Food, Ko Lanta, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
May 062012
 

Mike and I rented a motorbike again yesterday to explore some more of the island.  We’ve been wanting to check out Tham Mai Kaew cave inland, so we drove about 15 min south to get there along a dirt road.  It was 300 baht each to get into the cave plus a guide, which is pretty pricey for a tourist attraction.  Well, we were there, so why not?

We had two other German guys join us on the tour and began the 30 minute hike to get to the cave entrance.  The path was through the jungle and we passed a large rubber tree plantation along the way.  There were several parts of the hike that we had to use ropes to climb up some slippery, steep rocks.  Not great in flip flops!  It was a pretty intense hike so I was thinking, well if the cave sucks, at least this hike is pretty awesome.

Hike to Mai Kaew Cave

We get to the cave and our guide points to the entrance.

Cave Entrance - a Hole with a Bamboo Ladder Peeking Out

What, that??  We have to crawl down this tiny hole?  Ha!  So down we went into the hole and clambered down a bamboo ladder.  There are no lights hung up in this cave, as they’ve kept everything very natural, with only bamboo ladders and planks to get through some parts.

Mike Edging Along a Bamboo Plank

We had head lamps, but it was still incredibly dark!  We went through the cave passageways, some were great caverns with stalagmites and stalactites dripping and some were small spaces we had to crawl through.

Dripping Stalagmites

We went deep down into the cave and came across a lagoon that you can only swim in during the wet season.  So we climbed down another bamboo ladder and went for a dip in the cold water.  A couple of times our guide turned out all the lights, and that was super creepy!!  Pretty insane.  Down that deep in the cave, there’s not that much oxygen, so by the time we climbed out of the pool, all of us were out of breath.  That’s when I started feeling a little light-headed and couldn’t wait to get up higher to get more oxygen.

Cool Dip in the Cave Pool

On the way back, we went out through a separate entrance—our guide called it “the hard way.”  We had to crawl through a tiny hole to get out.  Mike had to army crawl on his stomach in order to fit, and I managed to make it through on my hands and knees.

Mike Had to Crawl on his Belly

Right before we got out of the cave, we came across a couple hundred bats sleeping in a passageway.  A couple of them were even flying around to add to the creep factor.  Needless to say, we were incredibly muddy after we got out.  Clothes totally demolished!  That, and while I was crawling through the tiny hole, my flip flop broke.  Saddest thing ever.  So for the hike back, Mike was sweet enough to give me one of his flip flops and he had one bare foot!

Wow, so what an experience, but totally worth it.  I doubt we’ll ever be in another cave that well preserved with such crazy passageways.  Mike’s left knee is swollen from being scraped in the tiny hole and I have another 10 mosquito bites from the hike back in the jungle (which brings the total count to over 30!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 May 6, 2012  Posted by at 4:43 am Attractions, Ko Lanta, Thailand Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
May 032012
 

After another lazy beach day yesterday, we went diving today with the dive operator at our hotel, Dive and Relax.  We actually combined groups with 3 other dive shops to go on one big boat to Ko Haa, a neighboring island cluster of 5 islands (Haa means five in Thai).  We had to take a big boat out since the waters were a bit choppy and taking our dive shops smaller speedboat would have been less comfortable.

Mike and I decided to take seasick tablets before we set off, and it’s a good thing we did, because the waters were pretty choppy!  Even with the tablets, it was easy to feel a little queasy.  It took about 2 hours to get to the dive site and we split into smaller groups with our guides.  Mike and I were really lucky and got a guide to ourselves.  It’s so much nicer to have small groups.

Neighboring Dive Boat in Ko Haa

We did two one hour dives and went in a circle around Ko Haa 2 and Ko Haa 4.  Because of the weather, we had to stay mostly in the lagoon.  The diving was still great though!  We saw a couple of lionfish, a clown triggerfish (which our guide has only seen 4 times out of 4,500 dives), moray eel, garden eels—the list goes on.  The coolest part was swimming with a huge school of bigeye barracuda.  We were surrounded by them, I almost didn’t want to move since I felt like I was going to run into them!  These barracuda are smaller than what you normally think of, the bigeye barracuda only grow up to 2 feet whereas the other kind can get up to 6 feet.  We saw some fish picking a jellyfish, and cute little goby fish sharing holes in the sand with shrimp.  Blue seastars everywhere, sea anemones with blue stems, and giant blue clams.  There were bubble coral everywhere, huge growths that were translucent little grapes.  If only I had an underwater camera to show you!

Ko Haa Island #2, Typical Karst Formation in Thailand

It was really nice probably to go during low season as we didn’t run into any other divers once we were under the water.  Our guide says during high season, sometimes there can be hundreds of people in the waters.  We’ll have to see what Ko Tao is like (where we’re headed next), since that’s known as the dive mecca in Thailand.

Ko Haa Bay

 

 

 May 3, 2012  Posted by at 1:37 pm Attractions, Ko Lanta, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
May 032012
 

Ko Lanta’s considered one of the larger southern Thailand islands, but it’s still small enough to drive around it in a couple of hours.  We rented a motorbike from our hotel for the day and decided to explore the island.

On our Rented Motorbike

The first thing we had to do was put gas in the thing and Mike was confused since our hotel guy said you can get gas right outside.  I looked over at this stand and said I think he means this…this being a wooden stand with 1 liter glass bottles filled with gasoline.  Yep!  For 40 baht (a little over $1) a lady comes out and fills your moped tank with 1L of gasoline that they’ve bottled up themselves in glass bottles.

We drove south and stopped at Kantiang Bay for lunch.  Definitely the best beach on the island!  Soft white sand, very isolated, and a great swimming beach.  Our beach has course shells and rocks underneath which doesn’t make for great swimming.

Kantiang Bay

We grabbed a quick bite at the cute beachside restaurant called Same Same But Different.  The fried chicken and papaya salad were delicious!

Fried Chicken and Papaya Salad

After lunch, we checked out Bamboo Bay which is supposed to have snorkeling.  Nope, we swam up by the rocks and the visibility was really bad.  We asked our dive shop later and they said this time of year, it gets really sandy so there’s no good snorkeling right off the beaches.  Bummer.

We drove to Old Lanta town on the east side, which was an old Chinese trading port.  The view on the east side is stunning, with tons of islands and karst formations.  Thailand’s Andaman coast (the West side) is known for its karst formations/islands, which are essentially eroded limestone that result in jagged islands with steep drop offs.

We ended the day with another spectacular sunset from our hotel.  This time the clouds were in a fun triangle shape that reminded me of a temple.  Beautiful!

Temple Shaped Sunset

 

 

 

Apr 302012
 

Ahhh, the beach!  We’ve waited so long!  Pretty much we spent the entire day on our hotel’s beach-side sun mattress.  Mike still wasn’t feeling well, so I went for a couple of dips in the ocean and walked along the length of Phra Ae beach, or Long Beach.  We’re staying at Lanta Castaway Resort which is pretty nice and has beachfront access.

Lanta Castaway Bungalows

We noticed there aren’t a ton of hotels with beachfront access on this beach, which is nice because you feel like you have the beach to yourselves.  On my walks, I would only pass a couple of people in an hour.

Amazing Sunset

We are in a fan only bungalow with no A/C so it’s pretty hot under the mosquito net.  We’ll see how we can survive the no A/C for a week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 April 30, 2012  Posted by at 2:04 pm Ko Lanta, Thailand Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Apr 302012
 

In order to get to Ko Lanta, you can fly (which is not in our budget) or you can take the overnight bus.  We opted to go for the VIP A/C bus which is about a 12 hour journey from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok.  The bus was actually not bad!  Mike is having some stomach trouble, so he wasn’t the most comfortable.  But the seats reclined well enough and there was good leg room.  We left at 7:30am and arrived in Krabi in southern Thailand around 7am.  From there we took a 2 hour minibus to Ko Lanta which dropped us off at our hotel.  Transport in Thailand is definitely more expensive than in China, but I guess it’s also been our most comfortable intra-country travel to date!