Saturday, 17 March 2012

IATTOUR March 3-18 Koh Lanta and Bangkok

 Koh Lanta Part Duex

Just so this part doesn't get too boring, we have decided more photos, less talk.  After signing up for another week in Koh Lanta, the pattern of our days fell into a routine of exercise in the morning (walk, swim), breakfast at the hotel (feeding the kitten under the table), back to the pool, off to scooter & explore plus eat lunch (many samplings of chicken Phad Thai, fruit shakes, singa or chang beer and varieties of curry with rice), back to swim and then out for dinner (Jai Dee's or Beachside Cafe, mostly).  Here are some of the activities that kept us amused:
Tracking down crazy loud frogs.  We arrived back home one evening to find a large group of guests gathered outside our unit trying to find out what was making a loud "mooing" noise.  Yes, this tiny 3 inch critter, that is right!
Watching the beautiful blue sky and swimming the length of the shore--lots of clean water and beach.  As long as the tide was in and the waves down, this was wonderful.  With the tide out, we tended to get bashed against the rocks as the waves pushed us about.  Also not a good idea to stay after about 11 am as it was very, very hot! 

Beach walking was a lot of fun, especially before or after visiting one of the small, beach-side restaurants that sold great, cheap Thai food (is there any other kind?).Sometimes people come to Thailand and never leave--like the youngish Parisian woman who has started this mixing bar with her Thai partner.  They have a lovely "Happy Hour" in which all cocktails are on offer for about $3/drink.  Blue Hawaiian, anyone?  

Getting around on scooter is quite easy on Koh Lanta (as opposed the insane traffic of Chiang Mai or Bangkok). Quick, easy, cheap and allows you to see a ton of stuff.  Check your insurance though--any accidents may not be covered if you don't have a motorcycle license in your homeland.  (This was just for show--Tony drove all of the time.)

Pretty cool bug, right?  Well, the morning and night guests were less welcome (mosquitos).  Tony bought mosquito coils to light every evening to allow us to sit outside.  We tried not to imagine what inhaling that was doing to our lungs and bequeathed them to our great British neighbours when we left.
Caving on Koh Lanta--very cool!  First thought--wear something with tread as you are going to be climbing a bit and walking on slippery stuff.  Of course, the guide will wear flip flops and stop for a smoke at the top of every difficult stretch. 

The cave is a large one, but we only climbed through 3 "rooms" in the 1 hour we were inside.  The guide related that he also runs 4 hour tours in which you visit 8.  Yes, and he mentioned that there were 20 m. sections that you had to crawl through, so, no, we didn't sign up.  Lots of climbing up and down bamboo ladders and across bridges, but only 1 bat in the main caves.  Stalagmites and stalagtites are present as well as crickets and spiders--that seemed to be minding their own business until Tony mentioned that I had just put my hand beside a palm-sized one to go down the ladder.  Good thing that was after the climb. 
Only the side cave had bats.

To get out is a bit of a squeeze, but we managed.

Rubber tree with tapping.

More swimming--lots of swimming--and then tanning/reading on the beach (or as Bill called it, "working on skin cancer").

Sunset from the hill side
We tried to go to a different restaurant every night (until about the last 3 days).  This one, Hilly Berry, on the hillside over Klong Nin beach was very good, but involved quite a climb.  The owner/chef was working hard to convince people to walk that far uphill.
There are 7-11s everywhere in Thailand!
We picked a lovely day to scooter over to Koh Lanta Nio (the other part of the island set).  The ferries run continuously from one side to the other.  The captain--perched on a superstructure above the deck--keeps the boat ramp perched against the dock and the engine running while you drive on and off.  Don't check out the requisite life jackets--they are strictly for show!

After a brief visit to the beach side, a monsoon erupted and we scampered back by scooter to a small gazebo off the path.  We waited there with a rubber tapper (he was on his bike) as the storm raged with lightening and torrents of water.  Finally, we were on our way in a gentle downpour after about 1 hour.  It was very interesting to look through the non-tourist part of Koh Lanta--lots of local food stops, homes of fishermen and watermelons for sale.
bottom end of Koh Lanta Noi

The day of the monsoon was also the first day of the "Lanta, Lanta Festival".  As the rain had stopped for a short while, we drove in to have a look.  The MCs (one in Thai and one in English) explained that Koh Lanta is one place where 4 cultures live in harmony (hopefully true)--Buddhist Thai, Muslim Thai, Chinese-Thai and Chao Ley (Sea Gypsies).  This festival was strictly designed for the locals--and they were out in droves in their finest finery.  Very neat to see dance demos and cultural exhibitions.  We escaped before the next downpour, but the festival was under water for the next two days. jelly drink (possibly tea?)

The monsoon continued the next afternoon, kicking up quite mess on the beach front--lots of waves and the lounge chairs were tucked away against the retaining walls.  I think that there were more people playing in the water and walking down the beach than we had seen on the sunny days.

The junk moved out and then departed in the storm

In between sessions of storm, we raced out to explore the "sea gypsy" territory and found some interesting information on their survival after the tsunami.  World Vision has rebuilt homes for them, but outside parties had to intervene to keep them from being moved off their land (as they were "too crowded" near the beach and would be "happier" up in the mountains. SEA gypsies?).

A very nice pit stop for lunch; great food and a view.

Sea Gypsies stilt houses.

One of the local markets along the way; check out how many different types of rice and a bucket of live eels!

We noticed and awful lot of extra security forces in the area; police, military now the navy helicopter in the school yard; turns out the King's niece was staying in one of the high end resorts near by.  We had a bunch of Military Police staying at our resort; we felt safe.

We watched the disintegration of this 15m boat over our time at the beach; it started out all together but with a holed hull, then ended up in this state by the end.

Our new Canadian (Nanaimo) friends Bill and Mary at one of the favorite haunts on the beach for evening Happy Hour at the Rasta Bar>  Their last night on Koh Lanta.

We finally got down to the bottom end of Koh Lanta to the National Park.  We hiked through the trails in the parks forest; by the time we were finished we both looked like wet sponges.  Neat place with lots of interesting plants and views. Climbed up to the top of the light house for a view of the bay and islands.

Out wandering on the scooter we went up Mangrove lane and found a whole community. Lots of interesting flora and fauna including walking fish.

Elaine getting some email done at the pool!

Our last night on Lanta, another great finish to the day on the sunset coast.  Each night we get this and usually a full on electrical storm display in the distance.  We send off a lucky balloon into the stars.

going, going, gone!
Driving down the middle of the road to Krabi
Leaving Lanta was an interesting exercise!  We expected to be picked up at about 7:30 so were gobbling down toast as we climbed in at 7:10.  As per usual, the driver picked people up enroute until the van was packed.  No amount of egocentricity will save you extra space.  We watched with amusement as two groups of Parisians (a family of 4 taking up 5 spaces and a couple taking up 3 spaces) tried to hold on to their territory.  First, the driver picked up a tall tourist from the roadside and the family insisted that the couple had more space--they caved.  Then finally, almost everyone was rearranged at the local bus depot.  Out went the single woman and the two small guides and in came 4 large men (the 2 largest in the tiny spaces up front) which finally broke the family's hold on the last seat and the teenage son moved back with his family protesting all the while that there was no room.  Any more changes and we expected to be out on the street!

After our flight to Bangkok it was followed up by a trip with an unscrupulous cabbie.  Under no circumstances accept a ride with a meter-less taxi in Bangkok and at the very least negotiate the fee first.  Thank goodness Tony was able to bargain and hold his temper down to calling the cabbie a "scoundrel".  Straight out of the Amazing Race!

Chief clone in Bangkok!

A very guilty pleasure this--having a dress tailor-made!  Though we still don't have it (very busy at the factory--of course), we met an extremely interesting set of British clients--father, who briefly worked on trapeze in the circus and owned his own construction company, and son, who contracts to complete high-end soft ware engineering for aviation companies (most recently in Switzerland).

Busy Khoasan Road; great for people watching.

Koi, anyone?

Traveling along the river is a fabulous way to see the city.  Get on and off with the tourist pass.  See the amazing temple sites (reclining Buddha, Oriental Palace, Little India's textile mall, etc.).

That is one big Buddha! Wat Po
Touching toes for luck

Relaxing temple time at Wat Po

Hi-5 Buddha1

Oriental Palace

4 floors of fabric mecca

Eyelashes for your Mazda--Mina, Nancy?
Yes--this is were your spices are bagged

1st fitting--no more banana shakes!
Love the translation; rather a dangerous pastime.

getting a new watch battery
tons of fresh spices in the market

bustle of the fresh market
fresh frogs anyone?
2nd fitting

weekend market..massive

Sheesh another market I think its time to leave Thailand!
so much stuff so little time!

 Next stop to meet Janet and Frank.