(Thailand) Koh Phangan >>> Khao Sok (Cheow Lan Lake) >>> Chiang Mai
7/16- Scuba Diving on Sail Rock and Partying all night at the Half Moon Party!
7/17- Relax and Recover Day in Thong Sala
7/18- Touring around the North part of Kho Phangan and Snorkeling
7/19- Ferry and Minivan Transport to Khao Sok National Park
7/20- Khao Sok National Park Tour with Boating on Cheow Lan Lake!
7/21- Day 2 of our Khao Sok Tour and Fun Reggae Time!
7/22- Travel Day from Khao Sok to Surat Thani to Chiang Mai
Scuba Diving on Sail Rock and Partying all night at the Half Moon Party!
+ We woke up and got ready for our day out on the water. Then we waited outside the Lime n Soda office for our ride to pick us up. It eventually showed up 20 minutes late (we could’ve slept 20 more glorious minutes!) and took us all the way to the North side of the island where most of the dive shops were located.
+ The agenda for today involved a scuba trip with Dive Inn to Sail Rock. We were doing 2 dives around this pinnacle that jutted up out of the water.
+ After suiting up, we hopped in and surface swam the remaining distance from the boat to the pinnacle, which was exhausting.
+ During the dives, we went down to about 27 meters each time. The diving was nice with lots of coral coverage and huge schools of fish everywhere, but we found ourselves not as impressed as we probably should be. Komodo National Park in Indonesia had spoiled us!
+ We had been hoping to see a whale shark since this is one of the best places in Southeast Asia to do so, but unfortunately no luck this time!
+ In between our 2 dives, we spoke with our Divemaster named Dublin Dave about diving in Thailand and other areas of the world while we ate the lunch buffet that was provided.
+ After the 90 minute surface time had passed, we did our second dive which was a little better but still failed to awe us. Thankfully Liz’s mask worked better this time. No better way to ruin a dive then with a leaking mask!
+ We chatted with some more people on the ride back and tried not to get seasick as the weather was worsening by the minute which meant bigger swells.
+ Back on land we said goodbye to our new scuba friends and rode the truck back to our hostel where we ate some more food, showered, and laid down to try and take a nap.
+ It was important to nap today since we were going to try and be up all night at the Half Moon Party. Liz passed right out but it took Corey another two hours to fall asleep.
+ A few hours later we woke up feeling a bit more refreshed and ventured out for dinner. The places we had hoped to eat at were all closed already but the burger place we ended up at was amazing! Corey especially liked his burger since it had lots of blue cheese on it. While eating, we watched Federer win his 8th Wimbledon title on TV. Lots of tennis fans all the way out here!
+ On the way back to the hostel we grabbed a couple of beers to pregame with before the Half Moon Party. Then we got paint from our hotel’s reception and painted each other up in the rooms with the neon florescent body paint.
+ From the hotel we took the shuttle truck to the middle of the island where the party was. We’d already bought the (expensive) tickets from our hotel so we didn’t have to wait in line like the rest of the suckers.
+ The party itself was basically a big outdoor electronic music festival and had a couple thousand people already partying. There were 3 different stages, although 1 was significantly larger than the others. There were also a bunch of bars where you could buy shockingly over-priced drinks from. Seriously shocking! They were over-priced even by US standards. Much less Thailand!
+ We spent the next few hours walking around between the different stages, nursing our drinks, dancing, making fun of drunk people, and just enjoying the party. Around 5:15 am the crowd really started to dwindle and although we’d been hoping to make it to sunrise, we decided we’d already spent enough money and enjoyed ourselves so there was no need to stay any longer.
+ It proved to be a good decision because, after our ride home hanging onto the back of the speeding, overloaded pickup truck, we got into our room only 10-15 minutes before it started POURING rain! Glad we missed out on that!
+ After showering to get off all the paint, we got into bed and, despite the sunshine outside, quickly fell asleep, exhausted from our long day and night!
Relax and Recover Day in Thong Sala
+ Slept in until a little after noon. We think it was our growling stomachs that woke us up! Lol.
+ Walked back over to the restaurant road in Thong Sala and ate lunch at an Italian restaurant called “Mona Lisa”. Corey got the spicy salami pizza while Liz got a chicken and pepper pizza and they were delicious! Most authentic Italian pizzas we’d had since Italy!
+ After a stop at one of the ferry offices to ask a few questions, we went back to our hostel where we figured out our plans for the next few days.
+ Around 4:30 we went and laid by the pool facing the beach which was just a few feet away. We kept working online and planning things out and booked a tour in Khao Sok National Park that would start 3 days later.
+ Although we had planned to spend the remaining time we had before Chiang Mai on the islands, we decided we’d already done everything we’d wanted to, outside of seeing whale sharks. Since there wasn’t a guarantee to see them no matter how many days in a row you went out, and each time was expensive and took up most of the day, we decided to save whale sharks for another time.
+ The sunset wasn’t very nice due to the cloudy skies and shortly after the bugs started coming out in full force so we retreated back to our room to finish finding accommodation in Khao Sok and Chiang Mai.
+ Ate dinner at the hotel. We finally tried the delicious Papaya salad and also had a tasty chicken cashew dish which was another Thai specialty.
+ Hung out in the room and watched some Brooklyn 99 episodes to end the night. A very lazy, but nice day!
Touring around the North part of Kho Phangan and Snorkeling
+ Rented a scooter again from the hotel. Drove up through the middle of the island to Coral Bay Bungalows Resort.
+ Had a quick lunch of Thai food and then walked down to the oceanfront bar area. They had a really big pot-bellied pig sleeping next to the bar!
+ Went snorkeling even though the weather wasn’t the best and the waves were kind of big. We had waited too long to leave our hotel and now that it was later in the day it was really hazy water which resulted in bad snorkeling over all.
+ Enjoyed a smoothie hanging out at the beach with the pig!
+ Rode the scooter over to the Northwest corner of the island. There was an isthmus connecting the mainland to another small island and you could walk out to it! Corey explored some abandoned bungalows on the connecting island.
+ Rode over to a local waterfall attraction. It was closing for the day but they let us walk around and explored the place. Everything looked very rickety and not that much fun plus the waterfall was a teeny tiny stream of water that could hardly be called a waterfall. We didn’t feel bad missing it.
+ Drove all the way up to the top of the cliff and had a couple of beers while watching sunset at Bar 360. The views were magnificent and we were happy our little scooter had been able to get us all the way up there!
+ Toured the west coast of the island through Haad Salad and Haad Yao. By now it was getting dark and we were nervous about having a repeat accident with our scooter like we’d had in Nicaragua. Luckily this time our headlights worked and we survived unscathed.
+ Ate dinner in Haad Yao at a place called House People. Had burgers again but they weren’t quite as good.
+ From there we had almost a half hour ride back South to Thong Sala and went back to our hotel and changed. Then we quickly drove back up to Moonlight cinema. They had a group watching party for the premier of Season 8 of Game of Thrones tonight. It wasn’t that fun of an atmosphere but it was our only way to watch since the hotel didn’t have good enough wifi to download the episode.
+ On the way back to Lime n Soda, Liz decided to try driving the motorbike for the first time ever. She was super good at it and even honked the horn while driving down the road! What a natural!
+ Back in our room we packed everything up and prepared some stuff for the Khao Sok tour we’d be going on soon.
+ By the time we finished with that and internet stuff, it was very late and we went to bed around 2 am!
Ferry and Minivan Transport to Khao Sok National Park
+ Corey rode the scooter over to the ferry office and they gave us our tickets, leading us to think our online transaction had been successful.
+ Back at the hostel with Liz, we called to confirm it was successful and that we would be picked up at the dock on the mainland. After some back and forth, the ferry company said the purchase did not go through and we had to repurchase the tickets, so we hung up and did just that.
+ Now it was a race against time to eat lunch at the hotel, gas up and return the motorbike, and catch the hotel taxi to the port to board the ferry before 1 pm.
+ It’s a lucky thing that we repurchased the tickets because the company had actually called the ferry crew and informed them to not let us board since we’d apparently gotten our tickets without the online purchase being completed. Of course they wouldn’t have known about that if we hadn’t called them, but whatever. We were happy it was sorted now.
+ We managed to make it in time and spent the majority of the 2.5 hour journey talking with 2 other backpackers we met on board named Matthew and Louis. They had also been traveling for a while and we talked about our times in Central and South America.
+ For no apparent reason our minivan transport to the Phantip office in town was 20 minutes late after all the other ones left which confused and worried us for a bit, but eventually it did arrive to scoop us up from the port.
+ The ride from the port to the office took an hour and then we purchased our tickets for the journey to Khao Sok National Park. While waiting for that minivan to depart, we grabbed some quick milk tea and fried chicken to satiate our hunger.
+ During the 2 hour journey to the National Park, we spoke with the other tourists and then read some of the blog and our books.
+ It wasn’t until 8 pm when we finally pulled into the little village outside Khao Sok where everyone’s hotels were.
+ We got dropped off at Khao Sok Jungle Huts and were shown to our room by one of the staff members. She put us in one near the back of the property and near the river. It was a proper hut up on stilts and had it’s own bathroom, but no A/C.
+ They weren’t serving dinner any longer, so we walked out to the main road instead to where all the restaurants were. We chose a little Italian place. Liz got her spaghetti bolognese within 10 minutes but due to a problem with the oven, it took over an hour for Corey’s pizza to come! Luckily the staff was nice and gave us a free coke and some free mangostine fruit for dessert!
+ Back in our room, we packed our bags for the tour the next day and then watched the end of Brooklyn 99 Season 2 before falling asleep. We didn’t have a lot of info on what we needed to bring or even what exactly we would be doing, but Liz researched a bunch so we were now prepared.
Khao Sok National Park Tour with Boating on Cheow Lan Lake!
+ In the morning while eating our banana pancake breakfast, we met with the guide Kwui whom we’d already spoken with over the phone a few times. He was friendly and answered the last few questions we had about what to bring and the tour itself.
+ A little while later a big bus pulled up and we piled in along with a few other people from Jungle Huts. After picking up a bunch of other peeps, we were off to the park!
+ After a quick stop for people to buy any flashlights, food, or supplies they needed, it was only another 90 minutes or so until we arrived to Cheow Lan lake. Even though Liz had strap on sandals, we opted to buy the $2 cleat-like rubber shoes they recommended so she wouldn’t be slipping and sliding in the muddy caves.
+ The boat ride out to the floating huts took a little over an hour but the journey was filled with beautiful views and towering limestone kaarsts jutting out of the water! Everything looked so idyllic as if it was a postcard and we snapped more than our fair share of pictures. If the sky wasn’t so gray it would have been even more gorgeous!
+ When we got to the floating huts on Smiley Raft Houses, we dropped our stuff in our private room and everyone met again for a buffet lunch. Then we all set out to go do a hike to a cave.
+ The hike was extremely muddy and had people slipping and sliding everywhere. But not Liz! The $2 shoes ended up being fantastic for muddy trails and helped Liz confidently splash right through any mud without fear of slipping. Now she was a super speedy hiker!
+ The cave itself was neat but we were all a little disappointed that we couldn’t explore all of it. Since it was rainy season, the water levels were too high and too strong so we only went in a couple hundred meters before turning around and hiking back out. The worst part was that our group was so large (45 people!), and the fact we had to wait for another group in front of us to finish, that our cave time took over an hour and a half when it could’ve taken 10 minutes with just the 2 of us!
+ Our hike back out was just as void of animals as it was on the way in (we did see 2 snakes up in trees though) and when we got back to the longtail boats, we were happy to just sit down and enjoy the views for the ride back.
+ One thing that happened on the hike back was that we got stuck in the middle of the French people. In front of us, the guys were wildly flinging branches around and trying to pass us and other people at inopportune times to our inconvenience. Behind us, a family decided to fling mud at each other and threw a bunch on Liz’s back and hair! Now that we have some travel experience under our belts, we just have to say it… French people are often the rudest travelers! Of course there are exceptions, but for the majority they consistently seem to have the least regard for anyone other than themselves no matter what country or setting we are in! Still, we try our best not to pre-judge anybody. Things like this just keep happening though!
+ Before dinner, we had some free time so we jumped into the water from the porch right in front of our floating huts and swam around. Liz hadn’t swam in a lake in a long time and was surprised she wasn’t as buoyant as usual! We also used the lake to wash off all the mud from the hike on our clothes and shoes.
+ For dinner the staff had 3 different choices to go along with the rice and Liz discovered a new favorite Thai food: Massoman curry! It was made with a bunch of sweet potatoes! Her favorite!
+ At night our guides took us on a boat tour to look for animals but unlike the one in Borneo where they drove the boat close to the riverbank to better spot any animals, these guys did a lot of searching while they were still 40-50 meters from shore! That’s too far to spot wildlife even during the day, much less at night!
+ Unsurprisingly, we didn’t spot much but we did see an owl who everyone thought was a monkey at first. While trying to decide what type of monkey it was, it flew away and surprised everyone! Lol!
+ That night we hung out with everyone on the floating bar and enjoyed a few beers while talking about everyone’s travels. We always felt embarrassed and as if we were bragging when people asked how long we’d been traveling for. Especially when we told them we hadn’t worked this whole time! We never mean to gloat and we hope it didn’t come across that way!
+ One thing that surprised us about our large group is that only us and 3 other British guys were native English speakers. Everyone else spoke Dutch, German, or French (with 1 Swiss couple and 2 Austrian guys). In fact, out of all the travelers we’d met in Thailand so far, probably 75-80% were Dutch! Crazy.
+ Everyone hung out for a long time and we didn’t retreat back to our hut until around midnight. Fun times!
Day 2 of our Khao Sok Tour and Fun Reggae Time!
+ We slept surprisingly well considered we were floating on a lake and you could feel when anybody was walking on the connecting docks outside. The fan in the room actually kept us pretty cool too!
+ Around 6:20 we forced ourselves to wake up so we could go on the optional morning boat tour. Our decision was aided by the fact the power cut off at 6 am so the fan would no longer keep us cool as we tried to sleep, so we might as well get the most bang for our buck!
+ The boat tour was nice enough and they did get a little closer to the shoreline than last night. We didn’t see much, but did manage to see a few Spectacled Langur monkeys! They were the only type of monkey left we hadn’t seen in Southeast Asia (we think) and we were happy we had the chance to snap a few pictures before moving on. They were so cute with their little faces with markings just like little eyeglasses!
+ Back at the huts everyone had breakfast and then checked out.
+ Then we all rode over to a popular area of the lake with 3 limestone rocks poking up out of the water next to each other. They were pretty cool looking but nobody really got a good picture because there were too many other boats in the way and our captain hardly lingered at all before rushing off to the next destination. Oh well, we took brain pictures at least.
+ Went to another cave where the entrance was right next to the lake so we didn’t have an hour long muddy hike this time! This one was much less crowded and more dry and we were free to explore on our own. Our torches were dying and so the light they produced was much dimmer than everyone else’s, even the people who’d bought the $1 headlamps at the beginning of the trip! Despite that, we bravely explored (though with some trepidation in our step).
+ Corey was really proud that he was the one to find most of the passageways and lead a lot of the other tourists to new parts of the cave!
+ From there the tour guides took everyone back to the main pier where we disembarked and everyone had the chance to use the restroom and get some drinks and snacks. We each got a popsicle for only 33 cents each and they were very refreshing!
+ During the ride back to the Khao Sok village where everyone’s hotels were, Liz went to sleep and Corey played the “Flow Free” game on his phone. He’d had it on his phone since we left home and had played it randomly throughout the trip. Now he was very close to finishing all the puzzles!
+ When we got back to Jungle Huts, we checked into our new room which was in the very back right next to the river! In fact, our balcony was overlooking the water and we could see whenever people went by tubing or kayaking! Very nice for only $12 a night!
+ For the rest of the afternoon we repacked our bags, took glorious showers, and hung all our stuff out to attempt to dry. Then Liz worked on our YouTube page while Corey took a nap.
+ In the evening we headed out to meet up with a bunch of people from the tour. We all met on the bridge on the main road at 8 pm like planned. After walking around the town for a while and striking out on a couple of closed bars, we finally found a fun reggae bar where everyone could hang out.
+ Everyone else went upstairs to the bar area but we stayed downstairs with the 2 Austrian guys (Michael and Johannes) to eat some dinner first. We had some more Thai food and then the Austrian guys surprised us by paying for our dinner! Very very nice of them! We told them we’d get them back though by buying all their beers upstairs.
+ When we finished our food, we rejoined everyone upstairs and spent the next few hours chatting, drinking, and watching the free fire show performances they had! The guy was pretty good at twirling the fire ropes around and could even spit fire!
+ One funny thing that we noticed was how a lot of the Dutch people felt the need to show how flexible they were! For the 2nd night in a row some of them were either comparing splits or how far they could put their legs behind their heads! One guy in particular super reminded us of “Goldmember” from Austin Powers! His accent, look, and random flexibility training! So so so funny!!!
+ Once again we stayed out later than expected and didn’t head back to our room until midnight. We were very tired and pretty much immediately passed out!
Travel Day from Khao Sok to Surat Thani to Chiang Mai
+ Our little fan kept us cool enough inside of our mosquito net to sleep until around 9:30. Then we packed up, checked out, and ordered breakfast.
+ For seemingly the first time ever, our shuttle actually arrived about 20 minutes early so we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. They were nice enough to pack it to-go for us so we took it with us during the 90 minute journey to the Surat Thani airport.
+ We hung out at the airport for a few hours waiting for the flight. The worst part was there were no airport lounges for us to escape into so we had to buy coffee, soda, and ramen like normal people! Ugh!
+ Our friend Eiris from the Khao Sok tour was on the same flight as us so we talked with her for a bit in the lounge before boarding the plane.
+ We had forgotten we ordered food for the flight so that was a nice surprise. After eating we spent the majority of the flight with Corey writing the blog while Liz proof-read and edited past weeks that he had written.
+ The plane touched down in Chiang Mai about 2 hours later and we grabbed our bags and then ordered an Uber to get to our hotel.
+ Our hotel was called The Grace House run by a friendly Thai family. They were also happy to check in their last guests for the night so they could go home!
+ We were both pretty hungry so after dropping off our stuff and venturing out into the surrounding neighborhood, we ate at the first restaurant that tickled our fancy: McDonalds. We didn’t feel bad though since we’d been having so much Thai food and this was still very much a budget friendly place. Plus it tasted good and you always knew what you’d be getting which was certainly nice to know sometimes.
+ Next we walked around the surrounding night market to check out the different street stalls and shops. Liz saw a really cute elephant and pompom decoration that she had been eyeing since we arrived in Thailand. We bought it as a fun souvenir to bring home that Tumbles would surely also enjoy!
+ The rest of the night we packed up our smaller travel bags for our excursion the next day and then flipped through the channels on TV in search of anything in English. We did find a couple of options, but nothing too appealing so instead we watched some Brooklyn 99 on the tablet and then went to sleep.