Archive for August, 2013

Koh Samui to Bangkok

Koh Samui had a tough act to follow after Koh Phangan. We kept saying we should have gone there first as it just couldn’t live up to what we had been used to on Koh Phangan. That said, we still had an enjoyable four nights here. We stayed at the Ibis Bophut resort, booked through Agoda for $AUD94 for a family room, which was actually two adjoining rooms. One room had a double bed and one had two singles and a wii player which kept Dave and Lil busy. The Ibis was a standard comfortable hotel. Rooms were small, but we had two! The beds were the most comfortable of the trip so far. Bophut Beach couldn’t compare to Haad Yao on Koh Phangan and we didn’t go further afield to explore other beaches. Most of our time was spent at the pool or resting in the room or eating.

dinner time

Bophut Beach Koh Samui

We left Koh Samui last Friday on what turned out to be a rather epic travel day. It started at 12:30pm with a 30 minute taxi ride to the ferry pier. We ran into a family there whose daughters Lil had made friends with in the pool on Koh Phangan so she had fun playing while we waited. The ferry ended up leaving an hour late and took one and a half hours to get to the mainland where a bus was waiting to take us on to Suratthani. The bus also took longer than we had expected and we arrived at the train station just after 6pm. Great! We thought. Less time to fill in before our 8:15pm train departure. Let’s get dinner and buy some snacks.

We're at Suratthani train station. Time for dinner before we get the sleeper train to Bangkok.

Dinner at Suratthani

Dinner done we headed into the train station to find out that our train was delayed. This board became our focus for the next six hours as every time it got within about 20 minutes of the train’s expected arrival time someone would come along and rub it out and put a new time in.

361 minute delay

Delay Board of Doom

All the trains before and after our train came and went with various minor delays but ours was nowhere to be seen. The kids made friends with a couple of Dutch girls sitting near us. Thank goodness for them and their entertainment! Edward did not sleep during the whole wait and Lil only slept for the last hour.

Waiting

My face says it all

Finally at about 2:30am the train arrived, we climbed on, found our bunks and settled down to sleep.

2nd class sleeper carriage

2nd Class Aircon Sleeper Carriage

Our overnight train turned into a night/day train as we didn’t get to Bangkok until after 3pm the next day instead of the expected 9am.

coming into Bangkok

Coming into Bangkok

On arrival to Bangkok we found a taxi (that would use its meter) and were soon at our air bnb apartment. I was very glad I’d decided to splurge on this place for our three nights in Bangkok. (We paid $AUD86 a night for this apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, washing machine, pool. Highly recommend!) We were all exhausted and after a wash, a rest and dinner nearby it was time for bed. Which is when disaster struck.

Lillian’s beloved pillow (seen above at dinner) was nowhere to be found. We remembered her carrying it off the train, she remembered having it in the taxi but after that nothing. It was still in the taxi. All we knew was that the taxi was pink. Do you know how many pink taxis there in Bangkok? Lots. There were many tears that night but eventually she fell asleep while I googled madly trying to find a central taxi contact number. In the end we found out there are some radio stations that the taxi drivers listen to that make announcements like this.

The next morning the security guard at the apartment pulled a random English speaking passerby in to help us and she called one of these stations. Our air bnb host, who I had emailed the night before also called a radio station. But alas, pillow did not return. This photo makes me a bit teary. Lillian’s last ever sleep with pillow. She used to say she loved pillow more than me (I was number 2) so perhaps I should be pleased.

last ever sleep with pillow

Last sleep with pillow. Sniff.

Our few days in Bangkok passed quickly with preparations for our teaching homestay. We got all the things on the list ticked off and on Tuesday we flew off to Ubon Ratchathani for the real adventure to begin.

List 34/52 – Bangkok To Do List

We’re in Bangkok for three nights now before we head to the village where we’ll be doing our month long home-stay and English teaching. The next couple of days are all about preparing for that. Site-seeing will have to wait till next time!

1. Washing. The air bnb apartment we’re staying in has a washing machine. I am washing all the things! I even washed my handbag.

2. Buy a Thai phrasebook/dictionary.

3. Vote in the federal election at the Australian embassy.

4. Meet with someone from the organisation who arranged our home-stay.

5. Shopping for teaching shoes and shirts.

6. Pay our home bills and move some money around.

7. Use the excellent internet here (one modem! just for us!) to download some stuff and upload some stuff.

Good morning Bangkok!

View from bed

 

8. Haircuts for Dave and Edward.

Week Two On Koh Phangan – Haad Yao

I’ve already written a bit about the cruisy routine we fell into during our second week on Koh Phangan but this post will go into more detail about accommodation and where we enjoyed eating.

We stayed on Haad Yao beach at Sandy Bay Bungalows. We booked this way in advance as it was the venue for Dave’s brother’s wedding. We paid 2025 Baht (~$AUD70) for a huge bungalow with two double beds, aircon, enormous bathroom, tv, and (intermittent) wifi.

Our bungalow at Sandy Bay

Inside the bungalow

our bungalow

Outside of bungalow

We had a nice big verandah with a view over the pool and a glimpse of the beach too.

bungalow view

Bungalow view

The beach right out the front had lovely soft sand and was nice and shallow most of the time for the kids.

Our favourite place for breakfast was High Life Bungalows which we got to up a flight of stairs at the end of the beach. If the tide was high you had to go around by the road (or get wet) but at breakfast time it was low enough to walk around. Dave and I also ate dinner here one night (and waded back through the water afterwards.) The view was great and the food good too.

breakfast view

View from High Life Restaurant

We ate dinner a few times further down the beach at See Through Restaurant. Nice Thai food, swings and hammocks, chairs and cushions on the floor, and right on the beach. The kids loved this place.

On our last night we decided to try the Eagle Bar for dinner. A place tucked into the cliff between our resort and the stairs up to High Life that we had bypassed all week. The food was fantastic! Best of the week so it was a pity we only discovered it on the last night. The tide was up high when we were there which made getting there an adventure in itself. (You can see the stairs up to High Life in the background of this next photo.)

across the rickety bridge

Across the rickety bridge

And the view at sunset was beautiful.

choose a table

Eagle Bar Restaurant

I can’t write about week two without mentioning the wedding of Dave’s brother James and Cara. They were married right on the beach at a high tide with a beautiful personal ceremony they wrote themselves. Lillian and Edward were flower girl and page boy.

squinty flower girl and page boy

Carrying the flower petals

The reception that followed was full of yummy Thai food, great speeches, Irish dancing, gangnam style dancing, normal dancing and lots of fun. The kids actually asked to go to bed at 10.30pm they’d partied so hard. The invitation to this wedding is what sparked the whole idea for this trip so we are very grateful and wish them a lifetime of happiness together.

It was with some sadness that we dragged ourselves away from Haad Yao yesterday and I hope we return one day. We’re now on Koh Samui (which is quite different) until Friday when we travel by ferry, bus and overnight sleeper train to Bangkok.

Next week our trip will enter a new phase as we begin our one month homestay and English teaching placement in rural north-east Thailand. We’re very excited and a little nervous!

List 33/52 – The Best Things About A Wedding On A Thai Island

1. If you don’t already live in Thailand you have an excuse to go to Thailand.

2. Nobody has to wear shoes.

3. The sunsets make for amazing photos.

4. So do the beaches.

5. You can have a feast of Thai food for the wedding meal.

6. You can dance on the sand.

7. Cheap drinks.

8. Friendly people.

9. You can get married just a few steps from your bungalow and party just a few steps away from that.

10. You get to go to Thailand (did I say that already?)

setting up

Wedding Setup

 

The Koh Phangan Daily Routine

We’ve settled in to a very pleasant routine here on Koh Phangan. We wake about 8am and get ready to head to breakfast with Nonna and Poppa (and this morning Richard and Lucy too since they arrived yesterday.) Sometimes we head down the beach…

breakfast by the beach

Breakfast by the beach (photo by Lil)

…and sometimes we head up the hill.

breakfast view

Breakfast View

We eat muesli and yoghurt, fruit, pancakes, omelette, cornflakes, toast and drink coffee (of varying standards.) Following breakfast we head back to the resort and get changed into swimming gear and do the suncream battle with the kids. Then it’s swimming time! We usually head to the pool as the tide is quite low in the mornings.

Our new digs. (Still on Koh Phangan.)

Pool Time

After swimming we get lunch supplies from the 7-11 and eat sandwiches on the bungalow balcony. Lunch is followed by quiet time inside away from the sun. Ed eventually falls asleep and Dave and Lil head off to do some school work (journal or mathletics or reading.)

Ed wakes up around 4 or 5 and there might be time for a dip in the sea or some sand castle action or another pool swim before showers and dressing for sunset pre-dinner drinks and nibbles on Nonna and Poppa’s balcony.

Nonna and Poppa's bungalow

Nonna and Poppa’s bungalow

Then it’s off to dinner where we eat yummy Thai food (and Lil has a pizza or burger and Ed has plain rice) and drink Thai beer to the sound of the waves nearby (or music of varying quality.) By this time it’s about 9pm and we go back to the bungalow for bedtime. Ready to do it all again tomorrow!

silhoettes

Sunset play

Week One On Koh Phangan

After our mammoth two travel days to get here we awoke on day one on Koh Phangan to this view:

walking to the sandbar

Walking to the sandbar

Lovely.

We stayed at Lime n Soda Beachfront Resort, which I booked through Agoda for two nights. Once we decided to spend the rest of the week there we extended our stay by five nights and they gave us a discounted price of 1360 Baht per night including breakfast (about $AUD47). Breakfast was a pretty good buffet spread with hot and cold foods and coffee.

Lime n soda bungalow

Our bungalow

breakfast

Breakfast at the restaurant

The resort is walking distance from the pier at Thong Sala where the ferry stops. Although the beach out the front is not the nicest it was good to be able to walk into town easily from here. The staff were lovely and friendly and great with the kids (free ice-creams abounded) and there were games to play, ping pong tables, volleyball and of course, the pool. We had a very pleasant week here and didn’t do a whole lot besides swim, eat, rest and walk into town every now and then.

down the path

Our bungalow on the left

sunset

Sunset

Yesterday we checked out of Lime n Soda and moved on to the wedding location. Nonna and Poppa have arrived, James and Cara have arrived (the wedding couple) and throughout this week more and more wedding guests will turn up as we slowly take over the resort. So far the kids are enjoying having extra adults around and Dave and I are looking forward to a meal or two without the kids. Yay for grandparents!

List 32/52 – One Month of Trip Stats

(Blogging from iPhone today so please excuse any wonkiness.)

We’ve now been traveling for just over a month. Each month I’ll update these stats.

– Days traveling: 34
– Places stayed overnight: 9
– Modes of transport: 6
– Total hours actually traveling between places: 32hrs 40mins
– Hours on planes: 8
– Hours on trains: 4hrs 50mins
– Hours on buses: 8hrs 15mins
– Hours on minibuses: 8.5
– Hours on boats: 3
– Hours on sangthaew: 10mins