A Travellerspoint blog

January 2006

Leaving Thailand

...for now



We left the islands on a 12-hour overnight bus journey back to Bangkok. It was a very interesting evening to say the least. It is nice to save a night's accommodation, but you really never get much sleep, nor do you get to see any of the countryside. Also, the bus drops you off at 5:30 in the morning in downtown Bangkok, which is an adventure in itself. Having nowhere to go, we hired a tuk-tuk to drop us off at Wat Arun, a temple along the river, where we were able to see the sunrise.

Back in Bangkok, we were lucky to stay with Jup, Pum and Patty, the Thai family we have befriended thanks to Eric & Ying. The first night we were with them, they took us out to a German restaurant. We initially thought it was funny to be visiting a German restaurant in Thailand, but we stopped laughing when we realized they had dark beer on tap. Any of you who have been over this way will understand that the beer in Thailand is horrible, unless you like flavorless lagers (Brian). An interesting thing that we finally learned that night is that Thai servers will keep filling your beer unless you tell them not to, hide your glass, and run out the door.



The next day Jup, Pum, & Patty all took the day off and we headed out to Ayuthaya, the old capital of Thailand. We saw the ancient ruins that were abandoned in the 1700's when the Burmese attacked the capital city and burned everything that could burn and did their best to destroy everything else. They even cut the heads off all the Buddha statues, which boggled our minds, as the Burmese are Buddhists themselves. We also visited several wonderful temples and, of course, ate well.

A wonderful Buddha face being taken over by a banyan tree.


group at ruins.JPG

To get the scale, notice the person in his hand.

One of the ubiquitous portraits of Thailand's king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The lunch spot was along the Chao Praya River, where we were greatly entertained by spitting Tiger fish. Notice the piece of shrimp on the right is airborne.

Our final dinner.

From our experiences; Thailand is an assault on your senses. You are bombarded with smells, sights, and sounds everywhere you turn. The streets hit you with good (food) and bad (open sewers) smells; the temples smack you with incense, quietness, and colors; the beaches meet you with salty air, hot sunshine, and crystal clear water; the people greet you with kind words and leave you with a wonderful respect for their culture.

Thanks for the compliments on all the photos. I (Amber) must admit however, that Justin has taken a good share of these as I am usually off fiddling with my SLR - so he deserves at least half of the credit! Here is another one of his "award-winning" shots of a Thai "school bus".


Posted by rebmamber 00:59 Archived in Thailand Comments (10)

Koh Phi Phi



After a few days of being spoiled at the Sheraton, we headed to the Phi Phi Islands. Phi Phi Don Island is in the Andaman Sea, about 2 hours from Krabi by ferry, and consists of actually two rock formations connected by a small sand bar.




Prior to the tsunami last year, the sand bar was very built up; now, there are only a few structures remaining and a lot of recovering palm trees. Approximately 2,000 people lost their lives on this small island last year when the tsunami hit, but the island is working feverishly to recover and great "progress" is being made. The memorials on the island and the stories of lost lives and unbelievable survivals were quite humbling. Here are a few photos of some tsunami-affected areas - those of you who have been here may recognize these places.

Due to the reconstruction, there is work being done all over the island. This is the pier where all the construction materials arrive.

A barbershop, with mirror and chair still in tact.

This was the main tourist beach. Before, there were shops and hotels, but until it is rebuilt, the beach has tents for rent.


The first day we went out to Phi Phi Ley Island on a snorkeling tour. Phi Phi Ley is protected from development and was made famous by good old Leonardo and the movie "The Beach", which was filmed at Maya Bay. Amber's quest to visit the set of every Leonardo Dicaprio movie is going well.

This is the beach where "The Beach" was filmed.




The snorkeling was pretty amazing around Phi Phi Ley, with schools of colorful parrot fish swimming by, beautiful coral formations, and we even got a great look at a Moray Eel. The bad part was that there was a ridiculous amount of boats in some of the areas and we feared being chopped to chum a few times.

The town of Phi Phi Don was actually quite nice and we spent the second day on the island just strolling around and hitting the beach now and then. There is also quite a bit of nightlife on the island which kept us entertained as well.

Amber's not the only one who picks up stray cats in the street!


We caught a "traditional" Thai boxing match, but it was more like WWF since everything seemed pretty staged.


Notice the mural behind the band.

Posted by rebmamber 05:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (7)

A Backpacker's Life?

Sheraton Krabi Resort

sunny 31 °C

As we were feeling tired of the "hustle and bustle" of the backpacking life, we decided to live it up and stay a few nights at the Sheraton Krabi Resort (plus we got a screaming good deal - thanks Papa Jenks!). Let me tell you, if you ever go to the Thailand beaches, take a Jenks family member, because this resort and beach were NICE! (By the way, Amber says that she is always available if anyone is interested!)

We entered the lobby with our backpacks, smelly and looking like we needed a shower. They greeted us with cold lemongrass tea and chilled lemongrass towels, the service that we expect when we return home. The grounds and buildings were very beautiful, and we knew we were going to be spoiled here.



Our first night we relaxed in the "infinity" pool for a while, watched the sunset on the beach, then watched "The Gladiator" on the big screen set up under the Australian Pine trees and the stars.



The next day we pretty much just hung around the resort. Our main highlight of the second day was our afternoon swim with "Ra-Ra", the Sheraton's baby elephant! They bring Ra-Ra out to the beach for a swim at 3 pm and you can join in, feed her, ride her, whatever. Yes, I (Justin) was bucked off Ra-Ra in under 8 seconds, but you'll have to wait to see the video!). Ra-Ra has a pretty good life from what we saw; she even had a trainer that would carry her poo out of the water with his bare hands, now that's love. After Ra-Ra has an accident in the water, everyone just shakes their heads, puts their hands on their waists and says, "Oh Ra-Ra". In fact, Ra-Ra can pretty much do whatever she wants. It was very interesting to see how the baby elephant would play almost like it was a very large puppy, splashing about, diving under the water, and enjoying the people around her.






After swimming with Ra-Ra, I was so inspired that I joined some local guys for a game of "soccer" on the beach. They actually called me over as I jogged by them, probably thinking that I was a lousy western soccer player. But, I showed them a few things and even got called on a foul (unjustified). Sorry that there are no pictures of me tearing up the beach, Amber was not with me.

The following day we hired a long-tail boat to take us and a kayak to Hong Island, which was beautiful, of course. We kayaked around the island, fed some "wildlife", and relaxed on the beach.





A monitor lizard on the island.


On our last night, we watched the sunset and then spoiled ourselves (again) to a nice dinner at the Sheraton's restaurant overlooking the beach - although, with 50% off discount on food, how can you pass it up!




Thank you for all the wonderful comments, especially the one about my (Justin's) abs. You too can have abs like me if you follow my simple plan! Just send me 4 payments of $9.99 and you will receive my MONEY BACK guaranteed ROCK hard ab plan...

Posted by rebmamber 23:56 Archived in Thailand Comments (8)

Welcome to The Islands

Railey Beach

sunny 31 °C

If you were wondering why you have not heard anything from us in about a week it's because we have been absorbed into the island lifestyle of southern Thailand. Some islands have no internet, while others are expensive. So we are (unfortunately) back on the mainland and are reconnected. But don't feel too sorry for us, we will be heading to a town on the beach as soon as I send this.


I'll begin with our arrival to the islands via a delayed flight from Bangkok to Krabi - a town on the west coast of Thailand near the spectacular Andaman Sea. We planned to stay on the peninsula of Railey for a couple of nights, which can only be reached by boat due to the impressive limestone cliffs that have made this region famous (it also means there are no cars anywhere on the peninsula!). We got a taxi to take us to the beach, and then caught a long-tail boat, the main form of water transportation, to take us to Railey Beach.

Getting ready to board the long-tail boat from Ao Nang beach.

Our first impression of this place was literally of disbelief - I don't think I could have imagined this place if I had tried, it looked like something out of a dream. "This is unbelievable" was a common utterance from our mouths. Picture massive, lush limestone rocks descending into crystal clear turquoise waters. I will venture to say that this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen (granted, I love beaches!)

I took many photos as you may have suspected, but none of the digital pics even come remotely close to how it is in real life. Here are a couple of Railey Beach and the sunset on our first night's arrival.




That evening was an event of the full moon, which is a huge celebration on the islands here in Thailand. While the big party is on an island in the gulf, there was supposedly going to be a full moon party on the beach just north of us. So, we took a boat to Hat Ton Sai and had a few drinks. While there were many young backpackers hanging out and a couple of fire shows, it was a pretty mellow evening - but we've noticed that a lot is mellow in the islands.


The next day, we took a long-tail boat tour out to four nearby islands. It was an all day event and was amazing! We snorkeled with and hand fed beautiful reef fish, watched monkeys on the beach, and just relaxed in the warm, clear waters.











Returning to Railey Beach, set between two awesome rocks.

Since we had gotten a view of the surrounding islands, the next day we set off on our own by renting kayaks for a couple of hours.




We stopped at a nearby beach, where a local boy, Patah, befriended us. Even though he didn't speak a lick of English, we managed to entertain each other. Before we left, he hopped on the front of our kayak - I think he might have come home with us!


More to come...

Posted by rebmamber 03:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (5)

Two Nights in Bangkok...

...and the world's your oyster. The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free.

After returning from our trek, we spent a night catching up on sleep (read previous post). The following day, we had booked to join an overnight meditation retreat - kind of like "Meditation for Dummies". We, along with about 15 other westerners, were taken 1/2 hour outside Chiang Mai to the Meditation Center, a newly constructed building for the purpose of initiating westerners to meditation and Buddhism. This is all run through a temple in Chiang Mai - and the amazing part is that accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and instruction by a Buddhist monk are all free. Of course, we did give a donation at the end, but still pretty amazing.

As far as meditation is concerned, it is impossible to achieve any state of "awareness" in a 24-hour period. Monks practice their entire lives to be good at this. But, we learned some of the basic fundamentals of meditation which we can practice on our own when return. What we found more interesting was the discussions on the Buddhist "religion" and the beliefs of the Buddhist monk running our training. I (Amber) have always been drawn to the philosophies of Buddhism, but this really opened my eyes to many things that I was unaware of, and to hear the information directly from a Buddhist Monk is a little better than reading it from a book. All I can say is that all the monks we've spoken with since our time here are truly some of the most peaceful people I have ever met, and it's probably not a coincidence.


Practicing walking meditation.

The morning alms (food offerings) given to the monks.


Our morning yoga session.

Our "class". Come join our cult! :)

Check out the program if you are interested at http://www.monkchat.net/meditationretreat.htm. There are some more pictures posted from our retreat.

Our schedule:
1st Day : Tueday
02.15 p.m. Assemble at Wat Suan Dok
02.30 p.m. Introduction to Buddhism.
-What do Buddhists worship?
-What do Buddhists believe?
-How do Buddhists practice?
04.00 p.m. Departure for the Training Center.
05.00 p.m. Free time / tea and snacks.
06.00 p.m. Evening chanting and meditation.
09.00 p.m. Bedtime.
2nd Day : Wednesday
05.00 a.m. Morning gong/Get up.
05.30 a.m. Morning chanting,
Yoga Meditation,
Insight Meditation.
07.00 a.m. Breakfast.
08.00 a.m. Discussion on the general ideas
of Buddhism
10.00 a.m. Meditation
11.30 a.m. Offer food to monks and lunch
12.30 a.m. Take pictures/ Clean up rooms
13.30 p.m. Return to Wat Suan Dok.

After the retreat, we were off to Bangkok. Unfortunately, when we arrived to the airport, our flight was delayed a couple of hours. We have since learned that this is a common practice.

354 miles

Bangkok, as could be expected, is a very busy city. There is a lot of air pollution, but it’s surprisingly clean otherwise. We stayed our first night outside of Bangkok with a friend of Eric's, which was really nice, and we will probably go stay with them again when we return. But, we left the pleasant home stay figuring it would be best to stay in the heart of the action since we only had 2 nights in Bangkok.

Amber, Patty, Pum and Jup outside their house.

We stayed off Khao San Road, which is tee shirt, Singha, phad Thai, & banana pancake-land. Basically, commercialism is king here, but why not pay too much money for a beer and watch the action? It was alive with backpackers and young Thai’s out for the evening. We managed two good nights out on the town absorbing the atmosphere.

Looking for a cheap hostel near Khao San Rd - not as easy as we thought!

The busy Khao San Rd.


Enjoying a drink and watching the world go by.

Street eats- what's your favorite insect? Fried grasshoppers, mealworms, ants, or maybe a scorpion?? Yum!!

During the day we toured the city and went to the Grand Palace and Wat Praew Kaew, which were both spectacular. The wat was by far the most elaborate that we have seen so far and is the King’s personal temple.



Some of the elaborate tiles that covered every square inch of the wat and surrounding buildings.



To get away from the craziness and pollution, we will be spending the next couple of weeks down in the islands of Southern Thailand...we can't wait!

Posted by rebmamber 01:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

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