04.06.2017 - 30.06.2017 31 °C
It doesn’t matter if you are travelling or at home, there is never really a good time to get sick. Our first weeks in Thailand got off to a slow start with lots of coughing and feeling cold while it’s 30+ degrees outside. Ah well. Because of the low season on Thailand’s Andaman coast, a private bungalow with terrace and hammock on Ko Lanta costs less than 8 euro’s per night. No problem to “waste” some time. With the help of spicy curries, healthy fruit shakes and the occasional massage we slowly recovered. A highlight was visiting the Lanta animal welfare center, which does a great job in keeping the stray cat and dog population on the island under control and healthy.
In search of sunshine we crossed over to the other side, the Gulf of Thailand, with Ko Samui island being our first stop. The ride involved four different busses followed by a ferry and shared taxi, which wasn’t much fun for poor Isabella who was still high with fever. When we got to our Italian-owned hostel however, a freshly prepared pasta carbonara was waiting and did miracles! It is really incredible how good something can taste after you haven’t had it for a few months!
The fever stayed though and a visit to the doctor was next on the list. Our doctor on duty named Yodpiria Lemkongek M.D. (say that out loud five times in a row! ) was quick to rule out anything really serious and was happy to prescribe a shitload of pills. In the end the antibiotics did the trick and we enjoyed the beautiful but very touristy beach of Chaweng. We had finally really arrived!
Leaving most of the package tourists behind we made a short ferry hop over to legendary party island Ko Phangan, famous for it’s monthly full moon parties on the beach. On the quieter east coast of the island (are we getting old?!) we found a perfect stretch of paradise beach where hours slowly turned into days and weeks. Relaxing and swimming combined with discovering the island by scooter and longboat proved a perfect recipe. Hopping on to Neighbor Island Ko Tao we improved that same recipe by adding some amazing snorkeling to the mix. Blacktip reef sharks and juvenile batfish are newly added to our spotted sea life list.
Island hopping is so much fun that the end of our 30-day visa for Thailand came in sight quickly. Extending is one option, but a pricy one… Putting our puzzling hats on we decided to cut through east Thailand and make a run for the Cambodian border. We can always come back with a fresh free visa later! :D The first leg was a ferry + night bus from Ko Tao to Bangkok. It turned into a classic travel story where a French traveler turned out to have a huge alcohol problem, getting completely wasted and keeping everyone in the bus up all night by walking around, shouting, smoking, peeing and simply shaking people trying to wake them up for no apparent reason. It required self-control like Buddhist monks on our part not to break some bones.
Bangkok in the early morning light was a welcome sight and we celebrated our arrival with drinking some old-fashioned buckets on Khao San Road the next evening. Then it was off to Nang Rong in the East, from where a visit to the Phanom Rung historical park can be made. Excited and ready to scooter our way to the ancient temples that lay there, our brave little scooter got a flat tire after about ten minutes. Dragging it up to a repair shop in the blistering sun wasn’t pretty, but after some confused calls between local repairman, us and the owner we were up and running again a few hours later.
Situated in the middle of the rice fields on an extinct volcano, the Phanom Rung temples are the best conserved Khmer temples in Thailand. We will see a lot more when we reach Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but it sure was great to see them here without the hordes of other tourists. The pink sandstone used for building them was especially beautiful, and the immense rain shower refreshing.
Taking the public bus in rural Thailand is hilarious, unexpected things that wouldn’t be possible in Europe happen at every turn. For instance, our bus from Nang Rong scheduled to leave at 10:30 in the morning happened to be almost full at 9:00 – so they decided to leave 1.5 hours early. Why not. On the road through countryside and small villages stops happen for all sorts of reasons. The driver could want some food, so runs out to the local market across the street and comes back with yummy stuff. Or perhaps the attendant needs to pee, so a quick stop to “water the rice fields” is scheduled.
Happily enjoying the show, we sat back and relaxed until eventually we reached our destination in Aranya Prathet. A tuk-tuk to the Cambodian border was quickly negotiated and we are ready to face this infamous border crossing to Poipet on the other side where touts and scams attack you.
Stay tuned for more in the next episode, sometime and somewhere!
Michael & Isabella