Friday, 30 December 2011

Koh Phayam

After catching up with our good friends over a few beers we hit the sack with the view to leave early to catch the afternoon ferry to Koh Phayam. Sanne woke up with a hangover so we left a little later and hit the road before lunch. Within an hour or so we found ourselves pulling over to gear up in our wet weather gear. For the next couple of hours it didn't stop raining. It didn't dampen our spirits too much though knowing we were off to visit the hot springs when we arrived in Ranong. Boy were they hot, in no time we were red as tomatoes and needing a cold beer to cool back down again. The following morning we were up early to get the first ferry. Just so happened to be low tide so loading the bikes on board the passenger ferry was not much of a drama. What we didn't think about was the trouble of unloading the bikes. By the the time we arrived at the island 2.5hrs later the tide had come in quickly and the wind also making it very choppy and the boat very unstable. This did not stop the crew from jumping right in to unload our bikes. Sanne and I were shitting ourselves when it came to this, we still have a long way to go on our journey and the last thing we wanted to see happen was our bikes go over the edge and to the bottom of the ocean. However with enough man power we all managed to get the bikes off without incident. No more island hopping after this!
We spent the first night with our friends at their bungalow before checking out what accommodation was on offer and the best beach to stay at. After looking around we decided to stay at a little place called Sunset Bungalows on Aow Khao Kwai beach. We thought we could stay here to start with and move around after looking at more of the island. We ended up staying at this place for 10 days. We had found the cheapest place on the best beach with great cheap food. What else could you ask for. Phayam is a great island which is like no other place we have been in Thailand. Most other places have been over developed but this is still a quiet, little place to just chill out, and that's just what we did. We ate, we drank, we slept and occasionally went for a dip in the ocean. Island life agrees with us but we always know that we have a long way ahead of us so we made the most of our time knowing it could be a long time again before we get to have a break this long. Christmas came and went and was a quiet affair and made us both feel a little homesick. We soon forgot about it though with planning where we were off to next. Bangkok is where we have decided to head for new years and our first real big city to navigate! 
Getting off the island was almost as much fun as getting onto it. We were all set to catch the afternoon ferry but with the wind, the waves and the higher than expected tide we had to put it back to the following morning. No wind, no waves and a low tide make a big difference when it came to loading and we were away in no time. Back on the mainland we were all loaded and ready to rock when Sanne's bike decided it didn't want to play. How could there be problems with the battery again! Soon realised that when loading the bikes someone had flicked her heated grips on by mistake which is directly hooked to the battery so one dead battery. Managed to get it jump started without too many worries and after a good run the battery is charged and running fine again.

Loading the bikes was the easy part, getting them off was not!

Safely loaded and on our way to Koh Phayam

Burma in the distance

Sanne and I were both shitting ourselves at the way these guys wanted to unload our bikes. These guys did a great job however and somehow they were taken off with no major problems

Sanne zoned out on her swing

My first sunrise in a long time

 Also my first drive of a long tail boat

My man Joey!

 Sorry, another sunset photo!

This place has to be the coolest looking bar we have ever seen

These little ones loved chatting to one another through the intercoms on the helmets

Christmas lunch

 Our local beach where we stayed for 12 days

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Khao Sok National park

On our way to Khao Sok we met a fellow biker Kevin who was on a short trip round Asia on his Christmas break from University. We met him in Krabi and decided over dinner that we should ride together, so the following day we headed north only getting to ride a short distance together before parting ways. It was good to have someone else to ride with and we hope to get to do it again along the trip. After saying our good byes we had to make a quick detour to Phuket to pick up our passports which contained our visa for Pakistan. The main road north was nothing out of the ordinary, just your usual mad car drivers who care little for anyone else on the road. Once we pulled off of the main drag the following 40+ km's made for a great ride with less traffic and beautiful scenery. We pulled down into the main small village in Khao Sok to find a place to stay and came across a great little place by the river with really cheap bungalows and a good bbq dinner was to follow. The next day we went off hiking to see if we could find ourselves a wild elephant or maybe a Gibbon or two. All we manged to do was hike about 16km's and see nothing, well no animals anyway. The place is beautiful with not many people but the animals didn't want to play the game with us this day. So feeling exhausted after our first real exercise in quite a while we made our way back to camp for a cold beer and a wash. On finishing up in the bathroom we were given a massive surprise when our friends we were on our way to visit, rocked up on our doorstep. So we now had an escort to Ranong and then onto Koh Phayam.
Can anyone please explain?

Kevin and me before we parted ways

 Lookout over Khao Sok NP

Our humble bungalow, a bargain at 200 baht a night

It was a shame we didn't see any elephants nor any wildlife

Our good friends Joey, Enzo and Ricci

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Koh Phi Phi

We went to Koh Phi Phi to see this spectacular island that is pictured on so many postcards and tourism posters of Thailand and was where the movie The Beach was filmed. Well, it is a beautiful place and it would have been nice to have seen it the way it looks in photos, instead we saw the bay lined with boats and the beach overflowing with tourists. There is obviously no regulation when it comes to the amount of people and tour operators who can go here and it kind of ruins it for everyone as no one is really getting to see the picture perfect beach they came to see. A bit of a shame but we had been warned by locals beforehand. 
We did do some snorkeling around the island which was actually pretty good. Although again the corals here were badly bleached, the water was crystal clear with lots of fish.

Maya Bay with all the tour boats lined up!

 Our boat

Crystal clear water

Bird's nest harvesting for bird's nest soup - a delicacy in China

Hungry monkey

Getting ready to go in for a snorkel

Emerald Cave

We decided to go on a trip of 4 islands while on Koh Lanta. We did some snorkelling on the badly bleached reefs but the best part was visiting Emerald Cave on Ko Mook. The cave entrance is a small passage on the island's western side that is accessible only during low tide. The cave itself winds for about 80 meters to the other exit, opening onto a clean white beach with an emerald color open pool which is surrounded by high cliffs. We followed our guide and swam through the cave, at one point in complete darkness, until we reached the lagoon which was stunning except it was full of tourists! That seems to be the way it is in Thailand though, very few places are undiscovered by mass tourism. Nevertheless it was beautiful and we spent some time inside before making our way back out of the cave trying to follow the guide's torchlight through the darkness.

Everywhere you look limestone cliffs shoot out of the ocean

Emerald Cave

Aboard the Longtail boat

In front of our guesthouse

Koh Lanta

Getting to Koh Lanta was super cheap - the barge cost us less than $1 each and we could bring the bikes. From Hua Hin we crossed to the island and spent the next 6 days there. We found a cheap place to stay on the beach in a very simple bungalow. We usually look for the most run down looking places as they usually suit our limited budget the best. Koh Lanta is a pretty little island full of lush forest and white sandy beaches. The second day we were there Mark came off his bike going around a bend. Luckily nothing serious happened but he did have a nice bloody leg to show for it as he was only wearing shorts. It's so easy to fall into that relaxed island way of life and forget about protecting yourself, and then something like that happens and you're reminded again why it's so important to cover up.
While we were there we did a couple of day trips out to Koh Phi Phi and some other islands and otherwise just spent the time chillin' on the beach which is not a bad way of life really :)
One day we went to check out the local non-profit organisation Lanta Animal Welfare. LAW’s objective is to relieve the suffering and pain of the animals on the island through sterilisation and care. We took a couple of dogs out for a walk while we we there.
While we here we got the good news from home that we had been granted our Pakistan visas after only 1 week! That was extremely quick, we had expected it to take at least 1 month. On top of that they gave us a three month visa which is more than we need but not complaining! So we celebrated with a cold Chang beer on the beach.
We really enjoyed our time here and was sad leaving the place, but I'm sure it won't be the last nice beach in Thailand.
On the barge going to Koh Lanta

  Koh Lanta

Our home at Koh Lanta - Charlee Barleys

Our very humble abode

That's what happens kids, when you ride a motorbike in shorts

Dog walking

 Rubber tree

 Celebrating getting our Pakistan visas