Sunday, August 27, 2006

So glad we came

I'm so glad we didn't get a chance to go to Mongolia and hence took the SEA route instead. Coming to Thailand was a blessing. It is such a beautiful country, I can't believe we didn't come sooner.

The people here are amazingly friendly, the food wonderful and the sights, breathtaking. We've both said that we have to come back for sure again some day. There is so much more we still have to see here ... and of course, we must visit our paradise again. :)

We're now in KL and it is good to be back again to see my family. The food, of course, has been mouthwatering. We already had nasi lemak, chicken rice, mee, curry laksa, chee cheong fun, and..... DURIAN! Yes, yummm.... M'sia durian I tell ya.. you just can't beat it.

We'll be hanging out here for a couple weeks before we head out to Delhi!

We found paradise .... again

You might have noticed that we have been in blogging hiatus for the last couple of weeks. This is because we were in paradise.

We spent a lot of time before this trying to figure out which island to go to. It was a difficult time mainly because of the SW monsoon which pretty much took out all the Andaman islands as possibilities. This pretty much left us with the islands to the east of the gulf. Out of the 3 islands (Samui, Phangan, and Tao), we finally decided on Phangan since Samui was too developed and Tao seemed to be more of a diver's paradise. Now that we had the island in mind, we had to pick a beach. There was of course Had Rin, the spot of the infamous Full Moon Parties. That wasn't so much our style so we decided to skip it. We finally settled on Thong Nai Pan Yai. Not as busy as the roads there aren't developed yet but not completely cut off from the world.

When we got there, we knew this was it. Even though it was an overcast day, it was still beautiful. The water was absolutely clear and was amazingly green, the sand was fine and white, and there were palm trees hanging above us.

We knew which 'resort' we wanted to go to already as we had read in LP that this was the place. Unfortunately, you can't reserve with them as they don't have a phone or e-mail. We were taking our chances. We got there just in time it seems as we got the last bungalow! Hooray! I had put 'resort' in quotes earlier because it really isn't a resort in the traditional sense. It was a basic wooden shack but laid in a beautiful environment. It was called Dolphin and was owned by a Kiwi-Thai couple. They had built an amazing atmosphere with lush tropical plants everywhere and an ultra-cool lounge. (Too bad the Kiwi half was a little anal but I won't let that spoil my memories).

Back to my thought on the monsoon ... I didn't have very high hopes for the weather as I figured we'd probably get one sunny day and the others, overcast or rain. Someone must have been looking out for us as we got 9 days of pure sunshine and blue skies. It was amazing.

We spent so much time out on the sand and in the water the first couple days, we both ended up getting burns (oops). We had to spend a couple days after that lounging in the shade, sometimes on the beach but other times on the hammock on our porch. That hammock was heaven sent. It was an amazing place to dwindle away the afternoon and evening, just relaxing. We realized we lucked out with finding such a great place.

This was exactly what we needed after 5 and a half months on the road. I can't remember the last time I was this relaxed ... maybe the summers of my teenage years. This place gave us so much opportunity to let our minds wander, something we didn't really get to do beforehand as we were always preoccupied with what to do and how to do it. This was heaven sent.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Big kitty

Ian loves tigers. So when we saw an opportunity to sign up and visit a tiger sanctuary in Kanchanaburi, we took it. This sanctuary began because a monk had took in a cub whose parents were killed by poachers. The original cub died but more came in later, same stories. Soon after, locals begin bringing in animals of all kinds.

When we got to the sanctuary, we see a sign saying, no hot colours! If you wear red, orange, pink, or yellow, you will not be allowed into see the tigers and you can't take a photo with them! No one told me this! Here I was wearing a yellow shirt. Great. I can't believe this. I asked them and they said it would be ok. Hm... why have a sign up if you're going to let people in anyways? I don't know about this.

We went in and I was getting a little nervous. Didn't know what to expect. We eventually got to the canyon and saw maybe nine tigers in all. They were all chained up, thank goodness but it was quite the amazing sight. No bars between you and them. Just chains you hope will hold.

They tell you to leave you bags, give them your camera and they'll take you around and take photos of you with the tigers. Apparently, if the tigers were to take a swipe at you, it'd be easy to hook you with the bag on. Great.

I give them our camera and a guy holds my hand and leads me in. He puts me behind this giant tiger and tells me I can touch him while another person takes my photo. I'm thinking, are you MAD? You want me to touch this thing that can turn our around in a second and bite my head off?! I was terrified. Didn't know if I could handle being so close to these creatures. I kept thinking, they can smell my fear. You can really see it too in the photo.

The guy then takes my hand again and leads me to another tiger. This tiger was chewing on some bones so he was a bit preoccupied. This time, I touched him. Not so bad. Kinda cute. I loosened up.

Guy takes me again and leads me to a third tiger. I'm much more comfortable now. These kitties aren't so bad. Sure they growl alot and can eat me up but they're kinda cute too. :)

Once was enough for me though. Ian went in twice for photos, he loved it!

We found paradise

We've heard a lot about Erawan National Park while here in Kanchanaburi. We've read that it had a 7 tier waterfall and was one of the most beautiful parks. Sounds good, we had to check it out. Little did we know how beautiful it really was.

We got there and started our hike up to the different tiers. The first tier was pretty, the water was amazing, an aqua blue colour. Nicer than any other waterfall I've seen so far.

We keep walking. The second tier was WOW. There were people swimming in it and I was tempted but we only had limited time there and wanted to see more so we kept going.

The third tier was breathtaking. It's everything we've seen in movies and travel photos but never thought we'd get to a place like this. Massive waterfall and aqua blue water.

We kept this one in mind for swimming. The next 2 waterfalls were pretty but didn't compare. At this point, we really wanted to go swimming and decide to forgoe the last 2 since we were told they weren't good for swimming anyways.

We went back down and dipped into the pool. Water was cool but not so bad. Then a really weird thing happened, we were getting nibbled at! There were tons of fishes in the pond and they keep nibbling at you if you stay still. It doesn't really hurt, tickles more like it but still! I really wasn't enjoying the nibbling so you had to keep moving. We swam out to the waterfall and sat under it. It was STRONG but amazing. I've always dreamt of swimming under a waterfall and we did. I sat there and looked around and thought, this really was paradise. It was tropical and beautiful. Someday, I would like to camp there.

How amazing would that be?

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Since we're in Thailand, we figured it'd be a good time to go see some elephants! The elephants here seem to be smaller than what I've expected. I'm probably thinking of African elephants. Not that these are small, I wouldn't want to get under its foot for sure!

At the trek location, we got onto the elephant's back where they had a little bench tied on. Ian and I are hanging on for dear life as the benches are tiny and it seems easy enough to fall off these giant creatures. After heading into the river and out, our guide asks us if we want a photo. Sure! He gets off the head of the elephant and starts shooting away with our camera. Good for us since they charge 200 baht for one they take with their camera after!

Anyways, this guy gets us each to get onto the elephant's neck/head for photos. Not so bad, the elephant isn't moving. After a while, they get me to get on again. I'm thinking, okay, I'll just sit here for a bit, not so bad. Then the guide jumps into my seat on the bench and I'm like what?! I'm not sitting here while the elephant starts walking! It's not like I had anything to grab onto. There were his big flappy ears but I didn't think Dumbo would be too happy with that. The guide is grabbing onto the back of my shirt the entire time. Not like that would have done much if I fell!

I was leaning back and grabbing onto Ian's arm for the first little while but relaxed after a while and let go. This isn't so bad. The ride is smoother than the camel. Dumbo was kinda cute. A little hairier than I thought (never knew elephants had hair!) but not so bad.

In the end, there wasn't a stampede and all went well. Dumbo got a little huffy at points and blew out his trunk but that was all. I really enjoyed the ride and wished we could have spent more time with these wonderful creatures.

Miki's cooking

While here in Kanchanaburi, we signed up for a popular cooking course at a guest house. We've always loved Thai food and what would be better than being able to make it ourselves! It has always apppeared to be somewhat complicated, with all the spices and all but suprisingly, our cooking course has thought us that it really is quite simple!

The day started out with an awesome instructor. His/her name was Miki. :) She was fabulous - lots of character. We went to the morning market where we learned about different times of spices and veggies. It was quite interesting. We were there at about 11ish and were told that this market opens at 4am! They usually go there then, get their goods and go back to sleep. Insane!

Back at the kitchen, our first dish was the infamous Tom Yum soup. She made 3 variations, one with tom yum paste, two without but one with chilli oil and the other not. Delicious.
Then she also showed us how to make Tom Kha Kai (coconut soup with chicken). Again, with and without chilli oil. My favourite was this soup with the chilli oil. Mmmm... savoury.

At this point, we were getting a little ansy though because we haven't touched the wok yet! Miki had done all the cooking and we just watched! Now, it was our turn. We were going to make Pad Thai! So insanely simple it's amazing. There were 8 of us and we got to sample each other's creations. Ours was by far the spiciest. :P All were very good.

Next, we were going to learn how to make 3 different types of curry! Can we say YUMM?! First was Massaman (originating from India, also known as Masala), then we made Red and Green Curry. Again, amazingly easy. The Red Curry was my favourite although the Massaman was a close second.

Did we ever feast that day. All 8 of us were completely stuffed. Ian and I didn't even have dinner that night. It was that good. :) Hopefully we'll still remember how to make all this stuff when we get back to Canada!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cheap rides

It's amazing, they have these commuter trains running from Bangkok to the north and west which are the cheapest forms of transportation we've ever taken! They're basically old, rickety subways (not air conditioned) going along the railroad tracks. These are considered to be 3rd class train rides here.

The first time we took one was from Bangkok to Lopburi. We figured we could survive 3 hours of hell if need be. It turned out to be semi decent, although a bit hot. This first train actually sounded like a diesel bus. It was a little weird but they had a ton of hawkers walking through the trains selling lots of goodies. This 3 hour train ride cost us 26 baht each which is less than 1 dollar CDN! It's amazing that they charge so little, that would be how much we might pay for a meal as well.

Since the first ride was ok, we hopped on another train from Lopburi to Ayutthaya. Only an hour this time. This one for whatever reason, was a little hotter but still, a great way to travel. This was more like a real train in the sense that it actually had an engine up front. Great way to see the countryside.

Oh, but you look ....

Yep, you guessed it right. Apparently, we look like the locals here too. The reaction here is a little different though as the Thais end up giggling at themselves when they find out we're not. I guess the asian world hasn't seen too many asian backpackers from Canada yet as we often get shocking "Canada!" responses.

If only we can speak and read Thai, then we wouldn't have to pay farang prices. :)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Monkey business

We were in Lopburi, one of the oldest cities in Thailand and the land of monkeys and ruins. As some of you know, I'm a lover of monkeys and what can be better than to see monkeys taking over a city?

When we first arrived, I was expecting to see monkeys everywhere! Nope, I think we saw one, one measley monkey on the street. I was starting to wonder what LP was talking about!

We had read that there would be lots of monkeys on the ruins and I was looking forward to it. Four ruins later and not one monkey in sight. As we were approaching one of the last ruins, I told Ian that I would be extremely disappointed if we didn't see any monkeys today. Ian tried to reassure me by telling me they'd be out later this evening. I, however, was not convinced. Not more than a minute after, we saw this whole group of monkeys coming down the street! I kid you not. It was such a weird coincidence!

They were hopping off the telephone poles, hanging off the wires, climbing up the buildings, sitting on cars, what an awesome sight!

Of course I got trigger happy and many clicks later, we walked a little further down to the ruins and was even more happily surprised with many, many more monkeys there! There were old granpas, young moms, rascal teenagers and cute little toddlers. I tried to get close to get some decent shots but were actually a little intimidated by them! They would give you this look like they're going to attack!

After a while, we decided to enter the actual ruins so we can get more shots of monkeys in ruins. As we were at the gate, a monkey jumped onto Ian's back and as I turned around, another one followed suit! I didn't know what to do! Here was Ian being harrassed by the monkeys, and I finally came to my senses. I took a photo. :)
One ended up stealing the water bottle Ian had in his backpack. The little bugger wasn't all that bright though as he ran away with the bottle upside down. Needless to say, by the time he got away, the bottle was empty.

Once inside, I ended up getting a monkey on my back once and a cute little one hanging onto my leg another time. Not so bad for me. Ian on the other hand is a monkey magnet! If he was a monkey, he'd be the alpha male. They were all flocking onto him. Everytime I tried to help him by trying to get one off his back, they would stare at me and hiss! A little territorial, aren't we?

I can't believe we were surrounded by so many monkeys! What a field day. I now have more photos of monkeys than I'll ever need! Might as well post them here!

The King of Fruits

One of the fruits I had been really looking forward to in SEA was durian. I've really only had them in Malaysia and thought I should give it a go in Thailand since you can find them everywhere here!

It took me a while to actually buy some since I couldn't eat a whole durian on my own (Ian is still repulsed) and individually wrapped pieces were quite expensive. On top of that, everytime I prodded one to test its freshness, they were all quite stiff! At first I thought perhaps, these weren't the good ones, but since this was the case everywhere and locals were buying them they must be what Thai durians are made off!

I finally gave in after a few days and bought a couple large pieces for 50 baht! To put this in perspective, you can get a whole durian for 80 baht and one meal here can cost 50 baht so that was one pricey snack!

I'm sad to say that I didn't enjoy this durian as much as I thought I would. It just didn't have the fresh creamy texture and strong aroma about it. It just wasn't a Malaysian durian!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Am I supposed to bend that way?!?

I'm usually a lover of massages but little did I know what I was in for when I signed up for my first Thai massage! A couple days before the full body massage, I had gotten a foot massage since we had done a lot of walking. That was a bittersweet experience as there were times when I was really enjoying it and relaxed and other times, not so much. I must be a glutton for punishment though as I put myself through 1 full hour of a full body THAI massage a couple days later!

As I sat there waiting for my turn, I watched the massages that were just finishing and thought maybe I should just get up and run! They were put into some pretty weird positions and this girl was walking on this guy's back! Hmm, that can't be a good thing. My legs didn't work though and the next thing I knew, I was on the massage table being contorted into weird positions.

I have had a pain in my right hip for the last week or so and warned the massage lady about it. Instead of going easy on it, she paid extra attention to it (which may or may not be a good thing). She kept telling me to relax which was very difficult as I was worried I wasn't going to be able to walk after this!! When I told her it was a little painful, I swear she had this menacing smile on her face. These women must like causing pain! She was probably thinking how much of a wuss all foreigners were.

After much focus on the legs, she moved to my back, neck and shoulders. Now, I usually LOVE neck massages but all I felt on this one was PAIN, PAIN, and more PAIN! How was this possible? In addition to this, my back was bent in all these weird positions and cracked many many times. The weirdest part though, was getting my neck cracked! I totally didn't expect that but it did feel a lot better afterwards.

All in all, I'm glad I did it once, but never will I do it again. I'll stick to the good ol' sissy swedish massages in Canada. :)