A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Southern Thailand Island Life

Koh Phangan you are the best!

sunny 30 °C

It is January 29, 2015, around 7:00 am and we are leaving our island paradise of Koh Phangan after a 6 night stay. We arrived early in the morning on January 23 after a 12 hour overnight train from Bangkok Hua Lamphong station. We had purchased our tickets the day before and we're lucky enough to be able to upgrade to first class which gave us our own cabin. All and all the train is very cheap and inexpensive way to travel if you have the time in your travel plans. There are lots of people who will stand outside of the train stations and try to get you before you go in so buyer beware. They will get you to go to the TAT, which is another shady little travel office outside of the station. Just keep on walking and get into the station where there are tons of ticket windows and people to help. To get to our final destination we had to arrange for a short bus ride and a ferry and again this was done through our ticket purchase at the train station. For a little over $50 Cnd we had all our transportation looked after.
Even though it was still very early in the morning when we boarded the Ferry at Donsak Pier, a shot of energy began to surge through me again. We were on the water, surrounded by beautiful islands and the sun was just beginning to rise up from behind the clouds. The ferry was well outfitted with washrooms, cabin and deck seating, along with a small assortment of refreshments and snacks. The sun was hot and the heat felt amazing when we jumped off of the boat in Koh Phangan around 9:30 am. Using our lonely planet Thailand book we had figured out where on the the island our accommodations were roughly, so we just needed to find a taxi to get us there. Just off to the right of the peer we found a taxi service that loaded us into the back of their truck and began hauling us, along with 4 other travellers up to Sunset Hill. We had no idea what to expect of our resort as we only booked it online just a few days before and we based that on great reviews from Trip Advisor in combination with the reasonable price (approx $60 Canadian/night). After what seemed like a straight vertical climb up a hillside we arrived at our hotel where we were immediately greeted by a staff member who took our bags and welcomed us to the resort. We were way early for checking in, so all we hoped for was to get that done, then maybe be able to hang by the pool until our room was ready. To our surprise, not only were we able to upgrade our room to Ocean view for a very reasonable rate, but we were also able to check in to our room right away. You will see why we upgraded if you check out some of our photo's. The staff where all so welcoming as they helped us with everything we needed and they did it all with great big smiles on their faces as well. We really felt at home! Thank you to Tina and Wii - you ladies are the best.

So, we had 7 days to live it up on the island and here is a bit of a run down on how we spent our time. Getting Around - you quickly learn that the main mode of transportation on the island is by moped, scooter or smaller dirt bikes. Taxi's are readily available but if you are staying for a long period of time, you can rack up quite a bit of cost just getting around. For 200 baht per day or $7.50 Canadian you can come and go as you please travelling all the over the island. There are some gas stations on the island but for 40 baht you can get what is the equivalent to a 26 ounce bottle of booze in volume of gasoline to top up your wheels. There are road side stands all over the place so running out of gas should never be a fear. Through our resort they ordered, dropped off and picked up our moped which was really convenient. Now this did result in me getting a hot pink coloured moped as I didn't get to pick my wheels out, but I could not have cared less as we where in paradise! Make sure you do take photos of the moped when you pick it up and do it in front of the person you are renting from. There have been scams run where they claim you damaged the vehicle and will try to get some more of your hard earned dough before letting you return the moped.

When it came to food, the options were endless. Everywhere you went there where little road side bars and restaurants. We tried to diversify the best we could in what we tried but the Soul Food cafe which was right near the pier in Thang Sala and which served vegetarian, became a common stop, along with just about any beach front bar that served cold beer. Sherry has a gluten free diet and has been eating raw for some time now and we had no problem finding places to match her appetite. The Freeway was a really cool spot that I would recommend checking out for a sunset drink and a bite to eat (see photo's). The prices are reasonable everywhere in terms of food. There are some more upscale restaurants if you wish to dine a little bit classier one night but even at these places you won't be overwhelmed by the bill.

We chose to explore the island on our own instead of signing up for tours and trips. With our moped and information gathered from talking to other travellers we made our way around almost the entire island stopping at Wai Sai Beach, Bottle Beach, Chokulum Fishing village, and many other cool, but inexpensive stops. We enjoy making our own adventures for the shear thrill of the unexpected and unknown and in many cases it is just cheaper - remember, we are unemployed and homeless! One of the highlight stops for Sherry and I was a newly established Sauna called The Dome. For 200 Baht each ($6.00 Cnd) we hung out in the middle of nature by a campfire which was surrounded by pillows and little lounge areas. For the price we paid you also got to use the Dome Sauna, and you where served watermelon and tea. This place was right up Sherry's alley and I always enjoy trying out new things and I really had a great time myself as well. You can stay as long as you want starting from 6pm and going until 12:00 am. The atmosphere is very chill and laid back with people sharing stories and trading perspectives on life. Now contrary to what my brother in law Brent thought, no giant orgies broke out while I was there but there where lots of people that you could class as "free spirits". If you decide to put this on your list of things to do then make sure you bring a bathing suit to change into - they will provide you with a towel and sarong. For those that love raw food there is also a menu that you can order from while you chill by the fire. The sign to enter the place is tough to see so make sure you are paying attention as you get close. Thong Sala is a port area where there are markets daily for shopping for just about anything and everything. There is room for a bit of bartering but not in all cases so don't push your luck too hard as the prices are already bargain basement. Another must is taking in Muay Thai fight. Just look for the posters that line then streets or listen for the pick up trucks with loud speakers going around pumping up the fight nights. Did I have a clue what was going on in terms of how the scoring worked or what the announcer was saying - nope sure didn't- did I have great time - you bet. There is great respect amongst the fighters and that was one thing that I didn't need a translator for. A highlight for me was seeing a guy knock out his opponent in just two rounds, after which he proceeded to get out of the ring, light up a smoke and then crack a beer! It was like post game rec league hockey! There are many beautiful waterfalls on the island as well. We checked I a couple but noticed not many people around as they would assume they found the waterfall as soon as they saw running water hen would walk away disappointed. If you are just a bit adventurous these places need a little exploring to get the most out of the experience. We hiked around two water falls, one of which was Wai Sai and we ended up getting some cool pictures and where able to cool off in the falls as well.

The people that would be considered permanent residents of the island are very kind and also very diverse at the same time with people coming from all over the world to open their own raw chocolate stores or beach front restaurants. Never did we feel like we where in the tourist pressure cooker. We took everything at our own pace which is why we loved it so much. Although the island is known for its crazy full moon parties which take place once a month, there is so much more to discover. Haad Rin is where the parties take place and we did take a drive over there one day just to see what it was all about but we did not stay long. There is one thing and one thing only that happens down in that beach area and it is a crazy wild "use it and abuse it" party. Remnants of the parties lay all around and for us, there just wasn't that free and welcoming feeling that we had back on our part of the island which was about 30 minutes up the coast near Haad Yao. I don't want to spoil too many of the other first time sights and sounds of island so I will refrain from going on anymore as I know how much we like going into experiences with no expectations and being pleasantly surprised when the unknown reveals itself.

Our next stop is going to be Chiang Mai which is in the North of Thailand. We hope to meet up with a friend from back home who is on a yoga retreat there. We had originally planned on going to Vietnam first before Chiang Mai, but at the last minute decided we wanted to keep exploring the country we were in. We where able to get direct flights from Surrathani through Air Asia for just under $100 Cnd each. Well that's all for now, we are off and flying to our next stop on this crazy adventure!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 19:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

So that was Bangkok!

Sights, sounds and chaos

sunny 27 °C

We just finished up our 4 night stay in Bangkok and we loved every minute of it. We arrived on January 18th after over 20 hours of straight travel which left us both drained mentally and I am sure a wee bit stinky too. All that seemed to be pushed aside though as we made our way through the airport in search of transportation to our hotel. There is just something about arriving in a new place for the first time that reinvigorates you and can bring you out of the tired ass funk you are in. I am sure it is a mixture of nerves, excitement and anxiousness all wrapped up into one and passing thru your veins like a miny blood transfusion. We had no problems getting to our hotel through a combination of the Airport Railway system, the underground subway and good old two feet and a heart beat. The closer we got to the hotel the more my tunnel vision was intensifying as I had nothing but a cold beer and a nice shower on my mind. Even with those distractions at the front of my mind, it was impossible to ignore the chaos that was all around us once we popped out of the subway and into the streets of Bangkok. There were people everywhere! Cars, scooters, tuk tuks and taxis were weaving in and out of traffic with very little honking or shouting. Street vendors cooking up all different kinds of treats like sea bass on a stick could be seen everywhere we looked. The side walks were crowded but not too fast paced, the only thing that got you moving every once awhile would be the odd moped or scooter that came zipping down the sidewalk. It was a short walk to our hotel but our eyes got opened wide in that short distance. People always talked about how it smelled in the city but I didn't find it too bad at first. Once we checked in I grabbed that shower and opened that first cold beer and started to relax - that was game over for me as the jet leg caught up and before I knew it I was out cold! That sleep was the best thing that could have ever happened as we both woke up the next day refreshed and ready to embrace the city. It may sound like a waste of a day to some, but for us it was aninvestment in the next 3 days.
I don't want to go on to much about our every movement during our time in Bangkok, rather I will provide an overview and highlight some things we learned along the way. Transportation in the city is limitless. We used the subway system a lot as it is very cheap and easy to navigate with English being used at the ticket dispensers and on the majority of signage. We also managed to use a tuk tuk, the river boat, the canal boat and the taxi throughout our stay. Traffic is absolutely crazy so it can take you a long time to travel a short distance if you are in a taxi. Tuk tuks and mopeds play by their own rules and seem to make pretty good time bobbing and weaving their way through the chaos. When we took the canal boat down to old Bangkok on day two we got a really good taste of the poverty that exists in the city. All along the canal banks their was squalor. It wa tough to see that side of city but it really makes you appreciate what you have. Aside from the apparent poverty, you have to be damn fast getting on and off those boats. You just hop on and hope for the best! I would not recommend this for families with small children. The subway gets my vote as it is very easy, fast and clean - but if it is your first time in the city you have to try them all!
As for what we visited we did the tourist thing and saw as many highlights as we could. We made it through the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and many other religious structures in old Bangkok. You have to pay for many of these but it is not outrageous. There were also many beautiful parks in our area which we took time to tour around and enjoy. Lumphani park was one of the parks close by that we stopped at on our way to the shopping district. It was a great opportunity to see Thai culture at play. The one cool part about the parks was that they contain fitness equipment that anyone can use. I have attached a pic of Sherry working out her legs in one of the pieces of equipment. We saw both sides of the shopping world, which happened to be very close to each other as well when we first visited CentralWorld, followed by Pratunam Market. CentralWorld is the third largest mall in the world while Pratunam Market is large itself but it is a street market where bartering is alive and well, along with deals on "name brand" cloths, sunglasses, watches etc. Pratunam market or one just like it, is a must.. Never did we feel unsafe but you do have to keep your wits about you just like anywhere else.
The food was great everywhere we went. We didn't get to crazy adventurous but we did try out some local hole or should I say hut in the wall cuisine. The prices are always right and people serving us were great. Probably one of the funnier experiences we had was on our last night out when we stopped at a pub called the Penalty Spot. We just planned on stopping in to grab a quick drink but it wasn't long before the band was playing travelling willberries and a whole other whack of western music. The first band was great but then second band which opened up with "the graduation song" and then followed up with "I'll be missing you" by puff daddy and faith evans just blew our minds. A few drinks later and large smiles on both our faces and we headed home for the night. The other part of that story that was of interest was the high volume of white males sitting with young beautiful Thai women. There was something else going on at that bar because the odds of that many goofy looking white dudes landing the attention of such beautiful ladies seem somewhat astronomical to me....
So that was our last night in Bangkok and I can safely say I was ready to go when it was all said and done. Loved every minute, but it is a crazy place. We booked our next stop while we were in Bangkok which is Koh Phanagh. This is an island in the south of Thailand which is best known for its Full Moon parties. We won't be there during one of those but no doubt it will be a great time. So we are headed for some R&R and another view on Thai culture. Bangkok is a cultural punch in the face but if you can get up from the first one and enjoy all the craziness you will no doubt have some awesome memories. Until next time.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 23:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Southeast Asia, Australia, Ireland and many more

Just hanging at the airport

sunny 23 °C

Well here we go, it's time to travel and it is time to blog - both things that are new for me and my wife Sherry. Today we sit at Toronto's Pierson International Airport awaiting our 9:40 departure to Thailand. First things first, how the heck did we get here? It is a bit of long story but if you have some time and don't mind indulging me for bit I will fill you in on some details. Sherry and I have been married for 2.5 years now and we have been together for almost 8! Over our 8 years together we have had our share of ups downs and everything in between while we lived in our small cottage country home in Lurgan Beach, Ontario. One of the biggest struggles we had was when Sherry was dealing with post concussion, which ultimately lead her to leave her position with the county of Bruce as a pre school resource teacher. For almost 4 years we sought out treatments, lifestyle changes and anything that would help her get her life back on track. The headaches, dizziness, fatigue and depression came all to regularly and often without warning or a logical explanation. This was a trying time for Sherry and I both personally and for our relationship as a whole. Perseverance paid off and just shortly after we got married on August 25th of 2012, Sherry began receiving treatments on her atlas vertebra which dramatically increased her health and wellness. In combination with a dogged commitment to eating healthy, Sherry began to turn the tide and it was not long before we regularly saw glimpses of the Sherry we all knew and had grown to love. As of the day we left Sherry is doing well in the health department.
So, what about me, Shayne, the guy writing this opening post.... Well I lived in small town Ontario, Canada for all of my life and have worked in the local power industry for almost 10.5 years since I was 21 (had to leave you a bit of math to figure out how old I am). I have been blessed with great family, friends and work colleagues throughout my life and have absolutely nothing to complain about. I have enjoyed my employment over the last 10.5 years and I know that without it, we would be in a lot different position with respect tot the changes we have recently made....what are those changes- well to start with I resigned from job and sold my house. Yep, my wife and I are unemployed and homeless, so the next obvious question has to be Why. Part of this I can explain, but part of it can't, so here goes the part I can explain - with Sherrys health challenges and me being employed at the same place since leaving school and never having seen much outside of my home town, we decided that life was too short and that we needed to see what else was going on out there. I am very appreciative and thankful for my employment, but I had a growing sense of not being content. I enjoyed the work I did but just was not content not knowing what I was missing out there in the world and Sherry felt the same - I just wasn't ready to settle in and needed to scratch that itch. We went back and forth for several months trying to decide what the next step for us were going to look like - Sherry had just started a business selling gluten free and raw desserts while I had started a new job as an HR business parter - we were both doing things we really enjoyed but knew there was more and we kept going back and forth on what that looked like. We knew in our hearts it was travel and had started making plans for where but not the when part. Sherry was all in and ready to go, but it was me that had some major thinking to do, I had a great job and leaving wouldn't be easy. Then came a random weekend in May when I went on a canoe trip to Algonquin park with a good friend, Curt Donaldson and a bunch of his buddies who he regularly went on this trip with from the KW area. The only guy I knew was Curt but I was up for the adventure. It was a short trip but on the second day I jumped in a canoe with one the other dudes I didn't know before the trip who is known as scooter. Scooter and I headed out to catch some fish for lunch and while we didn't get any fish I am happy to say I did come away with what I was looking for. The small chat began quite general and then it was not long before he started telling me that he and his wife (mrs scooter) had quit their jobs a few years earlier and moved to Australia to work and live. His story convinced me that travel was the right next step, I didn't need anymore signs. When I got home and told Sherry, she was really excited and the the planning began. I finished work on December 19th and we sold our house with closing date of February 27th. Our plan is to be in Thailand on January 18th and to spend 32 days travelling south east Asia, after which we will head to Australia to meet up with friends on the west coast. We plan to spend 30 days in Australia before heading to Dublin, Ireland in late March. The whole idea is for us to get a taste of world travel, learn to navigate our way through different countries and cultures, to have a bit of vacation along the way, to learn more about ourselves and most importantly to have some fun! We hope to travel for at least one year with no definite plans in place for when that is up. We are leaving ourselves open to any and all possibilities as you never know who you might meet along the way and what life changing opportunities might open themselves up to you. We will be blogging about our adventures to document all the ups and downs along the way in hopes of keeping our family and friends in know about our travels while also hopefully helping other people to learn about what is out there in the world to experience. Well I think I have rambled on long enough but I thought it was important for people to understand our back story so that you can gain greater meaning from the posts we make from here on out.

Cheers and we'll be in touch again soon!

Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 17:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (6)

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