Monday, July 20, 2015

My Thailand Adventure - Phi Phi

After Koh Tao we made our way to our final destination, Phi Phi Island. You get collected in a water taxi to your resort. This is home to the movie The Beach. This is a place where you can just relax and unwind and do nothing after your travels. We did an amazing day trip to The Beach Island which was outstanding. Phi Phi Lee also houses the "Viking Cave", where there is a thriving industry harvesting edible bird's nest. Ko Phi Phi was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, when nearly all of the island's infrastructure was destroyed. As of now most of this has been restored. We stayed at Phi Phi Outriggers Resort which was incredible, the best place to unwind after a long holiday. Thailand thank you, you were amazing. xoxo

My Thailand Adventure - Koh Tau

After Koh Pha Ngan, we caught a ferry to the best island of all - KOH TAO. Ko Tao is less developed than Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, and has become increasingly popular especially with naturalists in search of relatively inexpensive scuba diving certification. Ko Tao offers some of the best scuba diving in Thailand. And with help by island conservation groups the island's environmental outlook is improving. We dived our hearts out, and stayed at the rustic and beautiful View Point. 

Words cannot describe this place - the snorkelling and diving is just out of this world...We stayed a week here and am definately heading back here...this is the place, and without a doubt the highlight of our trip. We dived with black tipped reef sharks, amazing!

My Thailand Adventure - Koh PhaNgan

After Phuket we set off for Koh PhaNgan - the further away you get from Thailand the better, these tiny islands of Koh Samui, Koh PhaNgan and Koh Tau are Paradise. Advice: Next time I will fly straight in as it took us 12 hours of traveling time on ferries and busses and was tiring. Once we got there it was paradise though. We hired a scooter for the week and traveled all around the islands at our own leisure. I checked the full moon party off my bucket list. - All though this was not my highlight, the music being too commercial, but the island itself is serene and beautiful.

We stayed at a private villa, Sandy Bay Bungalows located along the beautiful Haad Yao Beach on the tropical paradise island of Koh Phangan. It's famous for its pure white sand, crystal clear waters, coral reefs and breathtaking sunsets. Haad Yao (Long Beach) runs for over 1km and the resort covers the whole of the southern end of the beach. The highlight for me was having our own transport and having a week to do as we please. Also we found some amazing food and restaurants on the island, the restaurant below us at the end of the beach was special and authentic, we had some of the best Tom Yums imaginable.

My Thailand Adventure - Phuket

Phuket was my least favourite place in Thailand - with its backpacker party types and its commercial like atmosphere, perhaps it was a bit of a come down after the innocent natural beauty of where we had just been. We spent 2 nights there, which was enough for me, we saw Banlga Road, Patong which was not great for me - I detest ping pong shows, if you think about it - these young women and how they are being exploited, you wouldn't want it for your child or anyone, so I just couldn't relax and enjoy it. I didn't choose to put myself through one of those shows. Advice: be careful in Bangla Road and don't get into fights with bouncers (they can be aggressive). be streetwise, be mellow.

My highlight though, was a foot massage (by fish) and an amazing day trip to Hong Island, Krabi..where we kayaked into caves and saw monkeys and breathtaking sights, it has to be done.

My Thailand Adventure - Chiang Mai

I wanted to visit the jungles of Thailand and visit the temples and monks - Chiang Mai is the perfect place for this, with it's spectacular mountains, vibrant hill tribes and a relaxed vibe, it is Thailand's unofficial "second city" and is everything Bangkok isn't. We booked a flight from Bangkok and flew easily in to Chiang Mai. There are no words to describe the beauty of this place. We stayed at
Sukantara CascadeResort &Spa. It is situated in the middle of the jungle bordering close to Myanmar people, on a waterfall. We stayed here for 5 nights as there is so much to do in the area.

What we did:

We trekked to the hill side villages and visited the Myanmar people

We spent a day walking in Chiang Mai village.


Authentic Thai Massage in the market from the rehabilitated woman prisoners.

We walked the 300 steps up to Doi Suthep...presiding over the mountainous horizon to the northwest of the city, Doi Suthep mountain is the most recognizable landmark in Chiang Mai. Its glimmering mountaintop temple is a popular first stop for visitors. We trekked up the 300-plus steps of the Naga staircase to visit the working monastery and it was amazing. We got blessed by the monks - note that men and women have to go in separately. Advice: go in the early hours of the morning, when you can avoid the heat and crowds, and watch the flickering lights of the city fade as the sun rises.

We ate khao soi my favourite. Nothing says "I'm in Chiang Mai" more than eating a piquant bowl of khao soi, noodles bathed in an intense curry broth topped with crispy noodles.

The dish is traditionally served with chicken or beef with a side of chili paste, pickled cabbage, raw shallots and wedge of lime. delicious.

We visited the temples, and chatted to the monks (dream realised - amazing)

We hiked the National Parks.


We visited private monestaries in the hills close to where we stayed. The highlight for me was taking this in and listening to the bells on the temples blowing in the wind, completely spiritual high.

Chiang Mai is amazing and no trip to Thailand is complete without it, it was mesmerising. 

Here is what is sounds like to stand in front of a temple..very beautiful -

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Thailand Adventure - Bangkok

I wanted to tell you about Thailand. There are a few things I wanted to highlight so that when you're in Thailand you know what to expect.

So to begin....

I bought my flight ticket online, it was cheaper than going through a travel agent. I didn't have a desire to do a packaged deal where your travel agent puts everything together for you and you stay in a  resort, 10 nights in Phuket, I could'nt imagine anything worse. I wanted to be careful and choose my own guesthouses and have a real experience. I spent alot of time choosing my accommodation slowly online and viewing their websites on Trip Advisor. I emailed everybody and paid their deposits and I had the most wonderful trip doing it this way. Every accommodation was special and hand picked by me, and I chose the nature and flow of every activity. I flew directly to Bangkok, and asked my hotel to pick me up. I chose to stay in old China Town as I wanted the most unglamorous authentic experience possible. They were there to meet me, I was driven to my guesthouse immediately on arrival with no hithes. You can buy a sim card for your phone with data immediately at the airport on arrival, it's very easy, and I recommend it.

China Town is a riot - take a scene out of the Fifth Element - it's exactly that. I was dropped onto a sprawling pavement and was immediately assaulted by senses - there are hawkers everywhere and it is so completely foreign to anything I'd ever been before. I loved it.

I stayed at the Shanghai Mansion Bangkok - a beautiful small boutique hotel, in the middle of China Town. I hadn't slept on my fight and everything felt surreal but I couldn't wait to do some street photography so I checked in, left my bags and hit the sidewalk with my camera. The first moments in another city is always my best. I could not believe it. Losing myself in the beauty and the street venders and the  humid rain and humdrum - words cannot describe it. You have to go there yourself. These first moments were my best. I think something spiritual takes place when you're in a place on your own and you're getting to know it for the first time.

I walked for miles photographing the landscape, and returned late to my hotel wet and hot and happy, caught in many torrential rain storms. That evening, my partner flew in and met me in the lobby. Andrew had just been surfing in Nias for 3 weeks. I hardly recognized him as he had been living on rice and coconuts and was skinny and burnt brown by the  sun.

That night we took a train to the city and met an old friend from Cape Town, a Bangkok local, who showed us the sights and sounds - I wanted to experience some live local music, and  took us to various restaurants and bars and night clubs. What they say about Bangkok is true - you only need one night, and what happens in Bangkok, stays in Bangkok. Advice: be careful with your credit cards, make sure they are pin protected and be sure to pay cash only and not give your credit cards over..there are many scams. Make sure your cards are protected.

We did however not stay one night, we stayed two, because I wanted to see the floating markets. The photography aspect of the floating markets is amazing, and you get your own private boat and driver and speed through the canals, it's wonderful. We hired a driver for the day he drove us out, it's very far, about 2 hours, and pricey - be warned, but im glad we did it. My dream was to see a tiger and so we did that - Andrew was very patient with me but it's not something I would promote as it's cruel and unsustainable and something I wasn't comfortable with. 

Andrew said I had to experience a show and so we went to see a production that evening. It was brilliant and beautiful and we got to meet the dancers afterwards who are so good. So here ends by 2 nights in Bangkok - it was definately enough time for me and I'm so glad I stayed in Old China Town, that was the biggest highlight. The next adventure begins in Chiang Mai, the spiritual capital of Thailand...