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Month: August 2012

Last Day in Thailand/Bangkok

Last Day in Thailand/Bangkok

On our last day in Bangkok, which happened to coincide with the Thai mother’s day, we stopped and said hello to Sam’s brother-in-law’s mother before heading to the hospital so Sam could get a check-up (don’t worry, this was planned in advance).  The hospital is (lucky for Thai people) probably the nicest, cleanest most modern place I’ve seen in the entire country outside of well-appointed private residences.  The entire place was all white and thoroughly modern looking.  Even the bathrooms were as clean as any at a Billionaire’s Orange County California yacht club (I’d visit one for business two days after we got back to LA, but that’s a story for another time). If hospitals in the US looked like this perhaps we wouldn’t have so many people with a fear of going.

Around lunchtime we were dropped off in a neighborhood of Bangkok I’d never seen before.

We were there to visit with (Sam’s friend) June’s husband Paolo.

Paolo was borrowing a second floor hosting space to cook a feast for a small group of friends (which, luckily, included us). The owner of the space (also a guest) is the proprietor of the bar/gallery across the alley called WTF (look to the left in the photo below).

How about a close-up of that mural over there…

Upstairs we found a wedge shaped room with windows on one side, a kitchen/bar on the other, and DJ equipment at the tip. The table had already been set before we (the first guests) arrived.

Paolo is a master chef (soon to open a new restaurant in Bangkok) who had generously offered to cook a multi-course gourmet meal for us and seven other lucky guests.

The space was owned by Paolo’s friend Chris, an expatriate from Vermont, who works professionally as a photo-journalist by day and hosts events in the little angular second floor space at night.  Other guests in attendance were Chris’ business partner Jarek (Jared?), Jarek’s wife Candice, Jay, Apple, June and Giulio (Paolo and June’s son).  We were not able to move the heavy window coverings on the long side of the room, so the only light came in through the far doors, making shots sans flash (I never use it) coming the other direction quite problematic.  This is made even more troublesome when considering the native humidity in the country.

The food was fantastic, cementing Paolo’s validity as an expert chef.

Below (and above) is Jay (also a trained Chef) serving a portion of pasta.  (Long Family – does she not remind you a little of Alice with that hairdo?)

The best part was the pork chops; served with fresh broiled tomatoes and an apple sauce.  We could barely finish a single chop, despite it’s deliciousness. The food lover in me was legitimately sad that I couldn’t eat more of this food.  After an endless supply of rice and fried fish in the preceding two weeks, this was a more than welcome departure back to the kind of cuisine I’m more accustomed to.  It’s worth noting that I normally love fried fish, but there’s only one thing I can eat every day (not to mention TWICE a day) without getting tired of and it isn’t fish (it’s spaghetti!).

After we’d already been stuffed too full to breathe Paolo brought out a big Apple cake.  It was basically a more complicated apple cobbler.  It was moist and soft enough already, but Sam and I decided to pour our red wine on it.  When Paolo saw this he admitted that his mother enjoys doing the same thing.

When we arrived at the space it was overcast alternating with pockets of bright sunshine.

As we ate monsoon rains came down, flooding the street and alleys around the building with at least a half inch of standing water.

After the lengthy eating session we went to the nearby market with Jay and Apple before taking a cab back to Sam’s sister’s house and preparing for our return to America later that night.  Sam’s sister lives in the same neighborhood as a temple (although I suppose this no rarer than living near a church is in America).

Our flight was at 1:30am, but we left for the airport just shy of 10pm so as not to keep Sam’s sister and brother-in-law up all night.

At the airport we were greeted at our terminal with this monument to the “swirling milky air” or something like that.

After almost a week in the rainforest eating little that wasn’t fried, this sculpture was a good metaphor for what was going on in my gut that day.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the trip, I cannot sleep on airplanes.  Our flight was delayed by an hour leaving Bangkok.  Before even lifting off the ground we’d already had a nearly 20 hour day.  Not getting any sleep on the ensuing six hour flight from Bangkok to Seoul didn’t make the situation any better.  I attempted to watch The Artist on the flight, not realizing I was sentencing myself to a two hour SILENT BLACK AND WHITE film.  After a quick shower at Incheon we boarded a short-hop (2 hours) to Narita airport in Japan.  This was a frustrating bottleneck.  We were forced to deplane the same aircraft we would take all the way back to Los Angeles, go through two different security checks with lines as long as any at LAX on a Saturday morning, walk to a different gate and finally reboard the same plane.  All of this after being up for nearly 28 hours.   A few hours into the ten hour flight to Los Angeles the crew dimmed the lights and I took sleeping pills.  I managed to catch 90 minutes or so of shakey light “sleep.”   Sam had more intelligently picked a window seat and managed about six hours of sleep on the flight. I should mention that none of this, unlike China Southern last year, was due to the airline; Korean Air is one of the best airlines I’ve flown, I’d consider it the Virgin Airlines of Asia.  They even served “pizza” (cut into six inch by two inch sections) on the way to LA.

When we arrived at LAX, passed through security and retrieved our luggage we called LAX Hyundai to get picked up.  After no less (but possibly more) than five calls, I finally reached a person who was brave enough to tell us they WOULDN’T pick us up and we’d have to take a cab.  We’d had a problem when we came back from Seattle with their airport service (discontinued to new customers) when they couldn’t locate our car.  This opens up a can of worms for any future long trips.  Although there is ample parking at our condo, we have only one assigned spot and the rest can’t have the same car for more than 72 hours without getting towed.  Keeping Sam’s car at the dealership allowed me to park my car in “her” space.  In the future we won’t be able to do that, so the question is up in the air where I’ll be parking my car while we’re on the other side of the world for two weeks (or Ohio/Seattle/etc. for a long weekend).  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

After getting home and doing laundry we went to bed around 8pm that night.  For me, 8pm on Monday night was the first sleep, aside from a 90 minute nap in the air, since waking up at 5pm Saturday (LA time, 7am Sunday in Bangkok).  That’s over 48 hours.  I believe that’s longer than the sleep deprivation of the previous Thailand trip, and therefore undoubtedly the longest I’ve ever gone without real sleep.  It didn’t feel good, but the catch was that I got to be back at home, this time more “home” than last as we’d be returning to our new condo in the Hollywood Hills together.   After travelling to all the resorts in Thailand I suddenly realized that our home was a bit like a resort itself.  We’ve got a lush tree-lined complex with two pools, a jacuzzi, tennis courts, pool tables (Griffith Park next-door) and a gated entrance.  The quality of the furnishings here is certainly above that of some (but not all) of the “resorts” we stayed in on the other side of the Earth.  Now I just wish we could entertain some guests.  (that thought makes Sam’s face wrinkle since we’re not finished “fixing up” the place yet)

Ratchaburi Day 2

Ratchaburi Day 2

After checking out we visited the hotel’s coffee shop – Panoza.

Next we stopped at The scenery vintage farm.

First we fed the goats.

Then we tried archery.

All my arrows hit the same ring in different spots about six inches from the bullseye.

I guess it’s good I don’t have to hunt for my dinner every day.

We lingered around the gift shop for a while, using the discount coupon for a sheep’s milk ice cream cone.

I want to make a painting out of this sculpture.

Or perhaps I’m only reminded of an existing piece (that I really like) by Jeremy Geddes.

When looking for the bathroom my only clue which one was the men’s room was this wooden artwork.  I didn’t notice the lever until reviewing these photos later, one can only speculate what happens to that poor chicken when you move the handle….

Ratchaburi is flush with resorts and they all have a different theme.  Obviously the more notable ones are the one we stayed in and Scenery Vintage Farm, but there is also a Flintstone’s themed resort (I’m dubious of their copyright permission) and a Swiss Valley themed one complete with a “swiss timepiece” on the grass, windmills and an actual Swiss white and red old fashioned airplane (not pictured).

This video shows a little bit more of an overview on these resorts:

That place at the end of the video was the candle shop we visited the night before (and would again). After leaving The Scenery Sam’s brother in law was kind enough to spot for a minute to let me hop out and shoot a photo of the massive elephant god (he covers the fine arts) Phra Pikhanatre. I can’t find any online information about the temple that houses this statue.

We’d heard about Bo Khlueng Hot Spring, but upon making the short walk to see it’s bubbling heat it was a little less than impressive.  I did, however, find a big frog in the bathroom.

For lunch we stopped at Monkai again.

The road leaving the valley was very scenic.

After lunch we stopped at Bhan hom thien candle shop again.  This time it was packed with people.

We stopped next at a local oddity, the Pong yub sinkhole.

It was kind of like a walk-through miniature of the grand canyon sculpted out of mud.

Sam’s brother-in-law asked us if we wanted to stop at Khao Bin cave on the way back to Bangkok.  We said “sure” – not knowing what we were in for.
On the empty road leading to the cave site we encountered a troop of little jungle monkeys.

Here is a video from not the same road, but the same province, and same kind of monkey.

watch?v=sicnyw_9xjw (I think the embed code on this isn’t working – so you may have to click the link at left)

They were curious, cautious and most of all – hungry. Sam and I got out of the car and had fun tossing them our leftover pineapple and mangosteen.

Khaobin cave was not what we expected. While most caves are cool, this one was very hot and even more humid than the area outside (Thailand is VERY humid if you didn’t know).

After only a few minutes sweating in there we were rushing down the path to the exit.

The cave hadn’t been preserved well, and thus every bit near eye level had been broken off and taken home by someone.  Clearly fire had been allowed in the cave as many sections of rock overhead were covered with black soot.

Our last stop on the way to Bangkok was Ratchaburi market, the Thailand version of a “farmer’s market.”

All over Thailand I saw these strange signs on trucks and vans.  At first I thought it was some pop culture sign (and I’m still not really sure), but eventually I started to realize it had something to do with search and rescue (or perhaps EMT work).  The sticker is always of a swooning woman being held in the arms of a walking man from the back.

It’s hard to describe what the average city looks like in Thailand to someone who has never been there.  Many city planning restrictions seen in the west are nonexistent in Thailand.  In Bangkok this results in bare electric cable coagulating into clusters overhead everywhere and brand new luxury condos fifty stories high popping up next to slums.  In the small towns this essentially just means lots of  printed advertising hung/plastered on everything in sight and an abundance of rats and cockroaches taking advantage of the street food and (sometimes) poor sanitation systems.  The shot below is simply meant to capture this “average facade” of a small town building in Thailand.

Across this same street, a view of the river:

And one of the “tuk-tuk” methods of transportation:

In Thailand instead of having a guy tossing a sign at the side of the road, they have a girl barking into a mic followed by a bunch of guys holding signs (and one poor soul dragging the amplifier).

Ratchaburi Day 1

Ratchaburi Day 1

On Friday we visited the popular River khwae rock valley hot spring and fish spa.

We took a long-tail boat down the river and got off just before the rapids.

We came to a series of natural hot springs – but first we were given mud masks to wear and sent to the “Dr. Fish Pool.”


This fish pool had the little skin eating fish that Sam and I had experienced in Phukiet, but here there weren’t as many, and we had to share the pool with many Russian tourists.

The western area of Thailand is filled with vacationing Russians, so much so that it is common to see market signs in Thai and Russian before seeing English.
After the fish pond we went through a hot spring and a mineral pool before starting in on the “themed” hot springs.

These six springs each featured separate aromas in the water (like peppermint and coffee).

After each one we’d take a dip in a cool rock pool.

After the first two dips our guide “Mickey” (who took all of these pictures) started bringing us an endless supply of poolside sugar cane drinks.

It turned out there was another fish pool by the “tea” pools, and we took a dip in that one as well.  It turned out to be better as there were more fish.  These fish were all black, where the first pool was full of white fish.
Our last stop in the spa was to get a cucumber cooling mask treatment.

It feels better than it looks.

The entrance/exit road was lined with these wide growing (banyan?) trees forming a tunnel.

We stopped for lunch at the same roadside restaurant we’d had a late dinner the night before.  Afterwards we went to the Tiger Temple.  It was too crowded and we weren’t wearing proper attire, so we didn’t do more than stop and snap some pictures of animals (I think this was just me) at the entrance.

Our last stop for the day was Mueang Sing historical park.

This was a cool abandoned temple ruin dating back 800 years.

It is always amazing that these places aren’t guarded and secured like a (just) 200 year old “historical” site would be in America.

We were all free to walk all over the ruins, touching everything as we went.

Nearby was a burial ground of some primitive Thai people that lived tens of thousands of years ago.

Back on the road we passed a school bus.  And you thought YOUR ride home was bumpy…

When we reached the Ratchaburi Province we stopped at Ban Hom Thian Candle Making Factory, but found they were closing up for the day.

At dusk we reached Panalee Resort.

This was the best resort from either trip through the rainforest.

The place had a neat “African/Spanish” theme and each “Room” was really its own house, complete with living room, bedroom and a rooftop area to enjoy the mountain scenic view.

We went to nearby Monkai restaurant for dinner.

I saw a giant elephant on the road and we stopped for a moment.

When we got back to the resort I went out bug hunting – I didn’t have to go far as I found a massive grasshopper near our front door.

I also found a lost firefly, we never saw any others.

Kanchanaburi day 2

Kanchanaburi day 2

After breakfast on Thursday we drove to Pumpee in khao lhame national park.

Next we drove up a mountain.  Up past a yellow sign telling us we weren’t allowed to continue. And still up and up we went.  Eventually we went up so high that we were enveloped in the low hanging rainclouds blanketing the mountaintops of the region.  Sam’s brother in-law put the SUV in park to let the engine cool down and we took photos of the eerie gray calm above and below us.

I was only later informed that the road lead to a radar satalite station for the Thai Air Force.  When we got back in the car it was turned around and we went back down the mountain.
Our next stop was at a complex that had Wat Sunanthawanaram and Sunamtharwarrnaram Pagoda.

They were under construction, but practically abandoned (quiet) on a Thursday afternoon.

Our next destination was not so abandoned.  We visited the Hellfire Pass.

We started down the long trail but turned around very quickly when the heavy rain started to reach monsoon levels.

We pulled over for lunch at the ”off-road kitchen.”

The look of the restaurant was much like most roadside restaurants, with chairs and tables made of trees, koi ponds, etc.; but the big difference was a constant stream of modern pop country music (like Alan Jackson’s “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”).

This prompted a discussion about what country music was (and wasn’t).  I tried my best.
On the way to our last site of the day we passed high above Srinagarind Dam.

We then stopped at Huay Mae Kamin waterfalls, like many falls in Thailand it is a series of many falls (in this case six).

Sam’s brother in law walked into the water, but I was too cold to go in any deeper than my knees.

At the upper level of the falls there is a bamboo forest.

After cleaning up we were back on the road.  Something I didn’t get any pictures of, but we saw constantly, was the abundance of road dogs; that is, dogs that simply lounge about in the middle of the road regardless of traffic.  It seems there is so little traffic on the roads in this area that roads aren’t recognized by these dogs as a danger zone, but a flat and cool (often because they’re dirt roads) place to take a nap.  It often requires several bursts from the horn to produce movement, and there were more than a few close calls.  The photo below was taken from one of those roads, but doesn’t have any of the aforementioned dogs.

We stopped at a roadside restaurant shortly before closing.

After a long drive we came to Pung-Waan Resort.

It didn’t live up to our expectations and I didn’t take any photos of the subpar accommodations.  They certainly didn’t resemble what they show on their website.  It is worth noting that this says nothing of Sam’s sister’s booking skills, as online resort booking information and photos are commonly trumped up more than in the west.  Sam and I were already victims of this a year earlier when we booked an “ocean view” hotel in Phuket only to find it was across the street and had a view only of the hotel in front of it (which was closer to the beach).

Kanchanaburi day 1

Kanchanaburi day 1

On Tuesday we got back to Bangkok from Pattaya pretty late (after 11) only to wake up really early (4am) on Wednesday and head west out of a predawn Bangkok.

By 7am we were at the infamous bridge over the river Kwai, the end of the “death railway.”

Note the sleepy looks on our faces in the photo below.

We had a market breakfast in a nearby town, probably The Makham.

We then drove along the jungle roads deep into the forest.  It had started to rain and we stopped briefly at a rest stop with an observation point, but the ground was too wet to reach the observation point.

Around lunchtime we reached the sprawling Nature Club Resort in Kanchanaburi.

The resort is an “adventure” resort with lots of areas for “nature” activities like off road ATVing and ziplining.  We didn’t do any of that though, after checking in we had some lunch and then left to go to the new temple Wat Wang Wi Weh Karam.

We passed by these guys on the way:

Next stop was the New temple (I’ll explain why it’s new in a moment)

As we left the temple is started to drizzle.  The photo below was taken from the bridge on Song Ka Lia on the 323 road.  This was our first glimpse of the famous old wooden bridge (supposedly the oldest in Thailand).

We stopped by an overlook for the wooden bridge that crosses the Songaria River.

We left the lookout and drove down closer to the bridge until we were in a little town nestled right at the base of the bridge.
We parked on a street in the tiny little town nearby and walked down to the river’s edge.

Then we walked out onto a long tail boat.  The rain started to pour harder and harder but we kept going.

Eventually, far down the river we came to the old location of the Temple Wang Vivagaram before the watchiragum dam built downstream at the intersection of the three rivers caused the temple to be almost completely submerged underwater.

This was one of the more unforgettable images of Thailand.  On a tiny boat.  In the pouring rain.  Circling a submerged Buddhist temple.  It was perfectly mysterious and exotic, like a Beksinski painting come to life.

Halfway to/from the old temple you can look to the right/left and see the gold tower at the new temple.

On the way back to the Nature Club we stopped at the border point with Burma to see the three stupas.

Then we stopped in a small town to eat at a local restaurant.  On the wall was a painting illustrating the new and old temples, bridge and so on.

They had asked for a medium spicy venison entree, but it was so hot I was coughing and hacking for a while.

This was exasperated by the fact that they didn’t have a single milk-based product in the establishment.  Whatever chilies they put on the meat were different than the normal ones as these burnt my tongue and kept it hot long after I’d gulped down the dish.  It was about ten minutes of sipping water and eating plain white rice before I could actually taste anything but “hot” when I tried to eat any of the other food.

The restaurant had nice plants hanging down growing from seashells around the exterior.  I’d like to duplicate something like that in our back patio some day.

At a gas station I spotted this gigantic gold monkey.  No big deal to the locals…

Our resort was certainly something a nature lover would appreciate.  We each had our own room built inside little houses on the side of a lagoon.  Looking out the window there were no signs of human life anywhere around the lagoon, save the occasional fishing boat drifting across.  We would see (and hear) more ducks and dogs than people that night.


From Bangkok to Pattaya

From Bangkok to Pattaya

On Tuesday we left Sam’s mother’s house to visit a temple and donate some food to the monks and receive a prayer for her father (Sam’s father passed from cancer a few years ago).  They told me it was okay to take pictures during the ceremony.

After the temple we went to eat lunch at the same roadside restaurant we’d been to a few days before with Sam’s mother, aunt and uncle.
Our next stop was Sam’s aunt’s house before being off on our journey to western Thailand.  Our first stop was Phliu waterfall.

To get to the waterfall you have to walk up a rocky stream teeming with fish.

I was told that these fish are plentiful here because they eat something poisonous so humans can’t catch and eat them.

this fellow was wearing a curious fashion choice:

We first tried the scenic trail – but deemed it too dangerous due to the rain and mosquitoes.

Check out the funny things at this drink stand:

Okay, so the milk is cold, but does it have doodoo in it? Yes it does…

There were a few iguanas on our path as well:

There were also several other interesting things to see before reaching the waterfall.

There was an old pyramid (I don’t know the significance).

I don’t remember who this is (probably a king, Thai people love their kings), but he was presiding over a sign that implored us not to take photographs with him if we had swimming clothes on.

There was also a cool moss covered stupa.

There were also lots of butterflies flying around us, we were in a rain-forest after all.

We stopped at a roadside fruit stand on our way to Pattaya.  There, I tried salacca for the first time.  It’s good, but not as good as mangosteen.  It has a thicker, dryer yellow fruit inside which tastes slightly tart.  The really interesting thing, if you can see in the photo below, is that it is covered with prickly spines that are actually tough enough to break human skin if not careful.  Experienced eaters have a way of snapping off the tip with their fingers and peeling off the rest.  People like me just wait for those people to do it.

On the freeway we kept seeing these trucks that had one phrase in English: “Business Design by Ohio University Alumni 1996”

After a few more hours we stopped at a restaurant on the beach in Pattaya called Glass House.

Leaving Koh Chang – back to Trat

Leaving Koh Chang – back to Trat

On Monday we hung around the hotel till about 2pm.  We went to the pool, came back and ordered room service (the fried fish sandwich this time) and then hung out in the lobby to use the less than reliable wifi for a couple of hours.
We took a two-rows to the pier and rode the ferry back to Trat, where Sam’s sister and brother-in-law picked us up.

An hour later we were down by the water again, far north of Koh Chang.  We stopped in at a little outdoor seaside restaurant and before I knew it there were plates of seafood on the table.  We met up with Sam’s mother and uncle and he treated us to a the biggest seafood spectacle I’ve ever seen.

There was fried grouper, a plate (at least 15) of crabs, a plate of (larger) crab legs, a plate of fried mantis shrimp and a plate of boiled mantis shrimp.

That was when I took pictures.  After I took pictures, dug in and got my hands dirty, more food kept coming.  A plate of crab fried rice came out, followed by tom luck soup, followed by a plate of prawn.  They brought out a ramekin of garlic butter for me when I said that the hot chili sauce was a bit too much.
It became clear the goal was to finish as much as possible.  I had to have eaten at least: 1 fried mantis shrimp, 3 boiled mantis shrimp, 1 crab, 1 cup fried rice, 20% of the grouper and two prawn.  Then I decided to eat the fish head.

Then it was revealed that we could finish it off with ice cream.

Somehow we managed to cram that in as well.
Afterwards we went to the nearby pier.

In the photo that dark island in the distance is actually Koh Chang.  They explained that it was currently raining there, so it looks like luck was with us as the rain poured on Koh Chang and Trat both before and after our visit, but not during.
We left the pier and headed to Sam’s Aunt and uncles house (a different uncle than the one that just treated us to the seafood dinner) where Sam’s uncle rebandaged my toe and put a waterproof coating on it.  In addition to owning a clinic with her husband, Sam’s aunt keeps a warehouse for birds on the second floor of their house (think of it as a small upstairs garage) in order to sell birds nests to the Chinese to make soup with.  I was told a kilogram of birds nest can fetch 50,000 baht (about $1,666), but maybe I’m remembering it wrong.  On the ground floor they had a giant fish pool.  The fish pool only exists to house fish that have grown too big for the massive tank inside the house that takes up an entire wall.

Koh Chang Day 3

Koh Chang Day 3

On Sunday we woke up early so we could catch another two-rows to Bang Bao Pier where a large boat (after the usual 45 minute delay for late tourists) took us into the sea.  The ride was unusually choppy and at least ten of the guests were seen vomiting over the side.  I don’t know if my fate was better or worse; the choppy sea upset my stomach too, but the lower part.  There were two bathrooms on the boat, the first was taken by someone saying hello to their breakfast again.  I’d later learn that THAT bathroom had a functioning toilet and bidet sprayer.  My toilet room was about 4’x3’ and featured a broken porcelain bowl (no seat) and a big tub of water next to it.  I’d seen (and used) these before in Chiang Mai, but with the rough waves I was literally bouncing off of the bowl and into the wall, splashing water (and god knows what else) all over myself.  Undoubtedly the worst bathroom experience ever.
After the 90 minute ride through the chop we finally reached our first destination.  It’s worth noting that the weather reports the week before had all said there was at least a 60% chance of rain with thunder and lightning throughout the weekend.  On both Saturday and Sunday there wasn’t a raincloud in the sky.  In fact, the weather was better than on our island hopping day in Phuket the year before.  We eagerly hopped into the water and started swimming with the fish circling through the corals circling the island.

At one point I got too close to the rocky island and kicked in the water to get away.  I was already closer than I thought and kicked up against the rocks and/or barnacles under the surface.  This made lots of scrapes on my foot and cut a half inch circle of flesh clean off of the side of my big toe.

I had insisted earlier that I didn’t need a life-jacket as I knew how to swim.  Now, as I bobbed up and down holding my thumb against my foot to stop the bleeding (thinking “there aren’t any sharks around here … right?) I was reconsidering the benefits of a life jacket.   Unfortunately this had all happened quickly and I hadn’t yet been in the water for five minutes of our 45 minute dip.  I maneuvered around the best I could for the rest of the time but my mobility in the water was limited to say the least.

Back on the boat the captain (?) put betadine on the wound and lit a lighter under a bandaid so it would stick to my foot through the next three wet stops.
The first stop had basically been a bunch of rocks jutting out of the water.  Our next stop was an actual beach with white sand.

We didn’t seem to have much time at this stop and the water was very shallow, so I didn’t take very many underwater shots.  The seafloor was basically sparse rocks covered in white sand and larger bits of broken coral.  Even the fish swimming by were mostly white.

Our third stop was another rocky outcropping similar to the first stop.

It was here that I took the most underwater photos, as my toe bleeding was under control, the water was deep and the Chinese tourists had brought pieces of bread to feed the fish.

Our last stop was Kohwai island.  This island was bigger than the others, with resorts and an actual pier on the beach.

The water near the beach was very shallow going out almost all the way to the end of the pier.  I spent most of my time swimming in water only up to my belly button far from shore.

Earlier, at the third stop, one of the “guides” had said that island #3 was our last chance to snorkel.  Because of this I didn’t bring my snorkel to Kohwai, although it turned out I could have.  Ironically it was at this stop that the fish were the least afraid of me.  Near the pier there was a constant sream of fish swimming through a warm current, and they were happy to come up and sniff at me.

After getting back on the pier to get to the boat we saw these really long skinny fish that I hadn’t seen in the water before (perhaps they’re scared of humans).

After we made it back to the hotel we hung out by the pool.  I tried the cheeseburger at the pool bar and it was actually really good. (it was also really expensive by Thailand standards)

After we got out of the pool we decided to explore the complex a bit more.  We went to the far side of the horseshoe (the opposite side of the one we were staying on) and discovered that there was a creek running right beside the resort, a small land barrier and then a lagoon on the other side of that.

When we kept walking and got to the curve in the horseshoe we saw an exercise room and a spa.

We went to the spa and got a two hour jasmine oil massage for $30 (each).  I’m told this is way cheap by LA standards.

Koh Chang Day 2

Koh Chang Day 2

Each morning at our resort a breakfast was served, and each successive morning the self-serve part of the menu got smaller and smaller.  On Saturday breakfast had an omelet bar, cooked tomatoes, potatoes and onions, cereal bar, toast bar, various cooked sausages, various Thai style cooked meats, fried rice, noodles and more.  By our last breakfast on Monday this had whittled down to the only thing self served being ketchup, with our meals ordered off of the menu.

The only tour we’d already purchased on Saturday was the “Tree-top Adventure.”  That didn’t start till 2pm, so we decided to go to the beach first.  We were informed that the white-sands beach transport was only available twice a day, so we went to Emerald Cove instead.

We saw all ages of skittering white sand crabs running across the beach to dive in their holes.

After sitting on the deck chairs for a few minutes we got back in the two-rows transport and headed to the Khlong Phlu Waterfall.

The waterfall was reached by taking a 600 meter hike through the jungle.

After the short hike, waterfall visitors are free to dive into the cool waters at the fall’s edge.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to swim in a real life tropical island waterfall (pool).  There were already ten or fifteen tourists in the more shallow end, so Sam and I hiked up to a more dangerous deep end where the waterfall surging water becomes the placid pool.  I suppose “pool” may be a poor description as the water does keep on flowing down the hill eventually ending up at a creek that flows beside a small air strip and out onto the beach where we’d waded only an hour before.

Sam and I took turns swimming to the other side of the pool.  It was actually much more exhausting than it looks since the water was churning rapidly.  As soon as I touched the surface on the other side I came face to face on the black rocks with a monster spider.  Look where my gaze is going in the photo (tightly cropped from a photo from the other side of the pool) and you can just make out the stripe on the spider’s back. If you still can’t find it look for the “triangle” at the bottom of the checkmark.

It wasn’t quite a tarantula, but it was certainly larger than anything I’d ever seen in the forest back in the States.  The abdomen section was a big bulbous black blob at least the size of my thumb with a yellow racing stripe, followed by two smaller sections and held aloft by long spindly legs stretching from end to end about the size of my extended thumb to pinkie. Ironically my first thought wasn’t “oh crap, that’s probably poisonous”, it was “my camera is over there on the other side of the pool – damn!”

By 11am the pool was teaming with tourists.  It was so bad that we could no longer get our photo taken at the entrance with an unobstructed view of the waterfall.  The photo below was the best we could get after waiting for the constant stream of incoming gawkers to pass by.

After walking back from the waterfall we had lunch at the first vendors on the side of the road.  It was rotisserie chicken and maybe one of the best I’d ever had.  It sounds silly, but this was perhaps the most enjoyable meal I had on the trip. We spent our meal trying to guess the spices they’d used in the marinade.

A short hop into another two-rows and we were back at the hotel to change into our close-toed shoes to go to the Tree-top Adventure.

We decided to take a quick dip in the pool before going to the zipline.

After our ziplining in Chiang Mai last year the Tree-Top Adventure here was kind of a let down.  However, our opinions were heavily tempered by two things that were (probably) beyond the proprietors’ control: slow guests ahead of us and a massive nest of mosquitoes.

We had both sprayed ourselves with mosquito spray before beginning the adventure, but after literally hours of standing around in the nest – getting bitten was an inevitability.  24 hours later it would become apparent just how much the little vampires sucked out of us.  On Sunday my legs looked like I’d contracted chicken pox out in the jungle.

The “adventures” themselves were fun as we were largely left unguided after a short training session.  It could have been a great deal of fun if we weren’t stuck behind a family of European tourists who were apparently very scared of heights.  This compounded the mosquito problem for us as our only option while a scared 14 year old Belgian girl wobbled at the beginning of a cable bridge was to stand on the forest floor and swat at the bugs circling our legs like sharks to chum.

In between smashing blood bubbles on our legs we had fun swinging, zipping, climbing and walking through the tree tops.

Two days later I took a photo of my leg and all the bites:

After getting back to the hotel I splashed in the pool while Sam read and then we showered up and ate dinner at the hotel restaurant.  I decided to have my first Mai Tai.

Koh Chang day 1

Koh Chang day 1

The morning after Jay’s wedding, Jay arranged a minibus driver to take us to Sam’s hometown of Trat in the eastern part of Thailand by the sea.  After a three hour ride we met up with Sam’s mom at the Tesco (Thailand’s version of Target) and proceeded to the family farm.  It was raining heavily at the time and getting late, so we basically just showered up and went to sleep.

The next morning we woke up and took a stroll through Sam’s family plantation.

The next morning we went into town and met up with Sam’s two Aunt’s (and uncles).  We went to eat at a local outdoor restaurant for lunch with one of the Aunts (and uncle).  We ordered four noddle soups, tiger prawn, rice, drinks and another meat dish.  The total bill came out to an amazing $11.  They laughingly informed us that the tiger prawn was $6 alone since it was actually pregnant and a little bit more hard to come by.
After lunch we went to a local massage parlor and got foot massages followed by full body massages.

By this time it was about 3pm and time to head to the ferry to Koh Chang.

After the short ferry ride we took a 15 minute ride in a “two-rows” to the hotel with six other tourists (none from the US).  A two-rows for those who don’t know, is a pick up truck with metal braces welded onto the back with two rows of seats about the same width as a picnic table on either side over the tire well bumps.
Sam had booked our hotel online only two days before and she did a good job.  The chips below were in our room.  Cheese and Onion flavored chips by “Lorenz.”  It had to be a sign.

We checked in and got settled in time for dinner.  We walked around the corner to where the river empties into the beach and ate at Iyara seafood restaurant on the water. We had a “blue hawaiian.”

Ramayana is the quintisential “tropical resort” that one might imagine when reading Jurrassic Park.  Nestled in the heavy rainforest on a small road by the river was a hotel with little two-by-two bungalows arranged around a large central garden (with its own creek) in a loosely winding horseshoe shape (go bucks!).  The only drawback to this formation was that the restaurant/office/pool was at the opening of the horseshoe and our room was near the curve.  This meant long walks back to our room if we forgot sunblock, glasses or a towel (which happened more than once during our stay).

This big butterfly was waiting for me on our steps after I returned from shooting the night photos above.