Koh Lipe (Jan 14-20): Heaven on Earth

My six days in Koh Lipe went by way too fast – I was nearly in tears when I had to leave, and that hardly ever happens! The taxi driver (who must work for the hostel) picked me up at my hostel in Langkawi and we made the 20-30 minute drive to the pier. He said that I was lucky because he was about to wash his car so if the hostel owner had called him ten minutes later, he wouldn’t have been able to drive me. We got to the pier and as we walked into the building, the taxi driver said that Koh Lipe was more expensive than Langkawi, which scared me since Langkawi was already expensive as it is. We walked up to a dark office, where there were a bunch of people filling out forms and waiting. The driver asked me for my passport and told me to sit down, then came back with a number for me to wait in the queue. My number was 75, the most recent number was 53, and the ferry was to depart in about an hour. I FaceTimed with my parents while waiting and surprisingly, I was called after two numbers. The man asked if I was coming back to Langkawi and then asked why I didn’t buy my return ticket. I didn’t know how long to stay and because it was 40 dollars each way, I didn’t want to just stay for 2 or 3 nights. I said I’d stay for a week and got a return ticket for the 20th, which cost 118 ringgit ($38.52AUD). He said to be in the waiting room a half hour early (2pm), so I went downstairs and called my parents back. When I told my mom about cutting my foot, she told me to go buy antiseptic because I still hadn’t properly cleaned it, especially since everywhere in Thailand and Malaysia (even in many convenience or clothing stores) we have to walk barefoot when inside and leave our shoes outside. Just as I hung up with my parents, they made an announcement to line up for the ferry so we could go through customs. I quickly ran to the pharmacy to find antiseptic, came back, and the door was already closed with a gate set up across it! I panicked, walked up to the door (which thankfully opened), and snuck around the belted gate to go to customs (so no one actually took my ticket). After going through customs, there was a man standing there and he asked for my passport before getting onto the ferry. “Why?” I asked, hesitantly. “You’ll get it back when you’re in Koh Lipe.” I reluctantly gave him my passport, which he added to the big stack. I then walked onto the ferry, which was quite dungeon-like – very dark with glazed windows. I found a seat and relaxed for the next 90 minutes until we arrived to the transfer terminal. I had gained an hour so it was only just after 3pm when I arrived. We all got off the ferry and then had to walk across the floating dock, go down a ladder (with all of our luggage), and get into a long-tail boat, which would take us to the Koh Lipe beach (the ferry was too big and would destroy the coral if it got too close). The longtail boatride was less than five minutes and before we knew it, we were on Pattaya Beach.

Koh Lipe is known as the Maldives of Thailand… I’ve never been to the Maldives before but if it’s anything like Koh Lipe, then it’ll be one of the next places on my list. I almost don’t want to share how much I loved Koh Lipe because I don’t want it to lose its charm and become a huge tourist destination, like many of the other Thai Islands are. Its beauty is captivating, with clear waters and corals all around. There aren’t any vehicles (occasionally you’ll see a pick-up truck), but there are many motorbikes with sidecars.

They don’t allow tourists to rent the motorbikes, but you can get one as a taxi for 50 baht per person (which I never did). The island is completely walkable, and you can probably walk from one end to the other in about 45 minutes. It has three main beaches: Pattaya Beach is the most popular so I only went to it a couple of times, and it has bars and restaurants along it. Sunset Beach is a smaller beach which I never actually went to. And Sunrise Beach was the closest one to my hostel, and was much less busy so I spent most of my time there. Anyway, we had to wait in line to go through border control. Luckily, there weren’t many of us so I didn’t have to wait long but I’ve heard that people have had to wait for over an hour. Then, they checked my bag and made me pay the Tarutao National Park fee for 200 baht ($8.73), which protects the coral reef so assuming you’re on the water (which you would have had to in order to get there), you have to have a national park permit with you. I walked less than ten minutes to my hostel, Shanti Backpackers, which is run by a friendly, quiet pregnant lady who often has her 8-year-old daughter (Shanti) with her. Shanti warmed up to me quite quickly and would come give me big hugs when she saw me, and ask me questions. She doesn’t go to school, but her English is so good! The hostel was basically one big room that fit about 16 people, so we had to get used to being one big, happy family. I paid 250 baht per night ($10.91). Outside the hostel, an old man stands on the street corner all day everyday (he closes at midnight) and sells coconut pancakes. He sings the same song over and over again: “Coconut donut, 10 baht, 10 baht, Coco!” and I’m pretty sure all of us could sing it in our sleep just within one hour of being at the hostel. I got changed and made my way to the northern part of Sunrise Beach so I could get one swim in before sunset.

After sunset, I went back to the hostel and there were a bunch of people about to go for dinner, so I joined them. We went to NOT Wangcha-aon, where I got tomyum rice with a coke for 130 baht ($5.67). The food was average but definitely didn’t stand out. After dinner, I went with some of the group (a couple from Chile and a guy from Germany) to get some beer from 7-11 and sit on the beach. At about 11pm, we walked into the water and as we kicked the sand, we were able to see the plankton light up – it was pretty cool!

On Tuesday, I got up to go for breakfast and went to a restaurant that was suggested to me by the hostel owner called Coffee House Lipe. I decided to get a set breakfast for 125 baht ($5.45), which came with eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, toast, and coffee. However, it came out within two minutes of me ordering it and I knew it was because most of the items had just been sitting there, waiting for someone to eat them. The toast even came untoasted. I ate the bacon but left the sausage and ham behind, as I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. I decided to walk to the viewpoint of Koh Lipe, which only took about ten minutes. The view was really nice!

I took a different trail back down, which led to Pattaya Beach, but it was really steep and covered with leaves. There was a rope ‘fence’ along the trail, but it was falling apart so as I made my way down and started slipping on the leaves, the stakes came out of the ground when I held onto the rope. As I kicked a pile of leaves, a huge swarm of mosquitoes came out and I got eaten alive. I started to panic because I couldn’t go down fast enough and I didn’t want to climb back up, and it was really steep so I couldn’t even try to get my mosquito repellent out of my bag. I’ve never seen so many mosquitoes at one time, and I felt like I was in the Hunger Games. I finally decided to turn around and head back up to try to outrun the mosquitoes, and it worked! I got to Sunrise Beach, found a nice spot, and came up with my daily routine: lie for 15 minutes on each side, go for a swim, lie for 20 minutes on each side, go for a snack (usually a chocolate-banana pancake with fruit shake) and work on blog post, repeat steps 1-3, watch sunset, shower, go for dinner with people in the hostel. It was the perfect routine!

That evening, one of the girls suggested an Indian restaurant called Bombay Restaurant, which was a bit more expensive than usual. However, it was really good food! I got Vegetable Korma with naan and a coke for 250 baht ($10.91). We were able to watch one of the ladies make the naan right in front of us, which was neat to see.

On Wednesday morning, I went to a restaurant called Nee Papaya for breakfast. This time, I decided to stick with having Asian breakfast, as I no longer trusted English breakfasts. I had rice with chicken and vegetables, and a coffee for 120 baht ($5.24).

After that, I made my way to the southern part of Sunrise beach, where it seemed like there were private beaches for the resorts so there weren’t as many people around. The hostel owner had lent me her snorkelling gear, so I checked out some of the coral next to the beach and spent the rest of the time on the sand.

That evening, a group of us went out for dinner at Sunrise Beach Restaurant, where I got cashew chicken with rice and an iced tea for 155 baht ($6.76). After dinner, a group of us got some beer from 7-11 and sat on the beach to watch the fire dancers, which was cool to see. I was so itchy from all of the mosquito bites that I had gotten (by the way, Koh Lipe = mosquitos galore!), so I went to buy some Tiger Balm from the pharmacy. Tiger Balm is made for sore muscles and can also help people clear their sinuses if they have a cold, but I’ve met lots of tourists who use it for mosquito bites, and it works!! The heat sensation takes away the itchiness so I’d put it on all of my bites before bed.

On Thursday, I decided I should finally go do something, as I had been lazing around the past few days. I went to Thai Lady Pancake for breakfast, where I got mango sticky rice, a coffee, and a shake for 180 baht ($7.85).

I wanted to go to the larger island next to Koh Lipe so I walked to Sunrise Beach, saw a sign that said “Taxi 100 baht” and I told them I wanted to go to Koh Adang. I got on the boat and the driver asked me what time I was planning to come back. “Oh, I don’t know! How long do you think I’ll need?” But he didn’t understand what I was asking. The ride was only about ten minutes long but was very wavy and I wasn’t too dry by the time I got there.

I got off the boat and the driver went back to Koh Lipe. I found signs directing me to Chado Cliff and made my way up. The hike had three viewpoints, with the last one obviously being the best. However, this hike was one of those hikes where I kept thinking to myself, “Why did I decide to do this? Why do I do this to myself? Is it REALLY going to be worth it?” Most of the hike was in direct sunlight, in ‘feels-like’ 38 degree weather, and usually had a steep ascent. I definitely took a lot of breaks because I was nervous that I was going to get heat stroke if I pushed myself too hard. I think I made it up to the top in about 45 minutes and even though I was sweating through every pore in my body, the view made it totally worth it! I had the perfect view of Koh Lipe, along with all of the surrounding water with different shades of blue.

I sat there for quite awhile, had the place to myself for a bit, and then visited with a couple who joined me at the top before heading back down. The beaches there were pretty much empty, as I only saw about five people on the entire beach. Therefore, most people treated it as a nude beach because if the closest person to you is 300 metres away, then why not? I stayed there until the clouds covered the sky at about 4pm and then walked back towards where I was dropped off. On my way there, I noticed some of the shells moving in front of me but when I got closer, they’d stop. I don’t even know how I noticed them because they were so tiny, and difficult to see if you weren’t looking for them. I sat and watched them for quite awhile, and then continued to the dock.

I was expecting to see some boats waiting to take people back but there weren’t any. Finally, a boat came with two tourists and when I asked if they were going back to Koh Lipe, they said no and told me to keep waiting. Then, another boat came with two locals who were bringing stuff over to the island. As they were unloading the boat, I went and asked if they were going back to Koh Lipe. He asked if I was one person or if there were two people and I said one. He shook his head no. I had 100 baht in my hand and the woman said something to him, so he told me to get in the boat (thank goodness!). He took me back to Koh Lipe and then left again, so I’m not sure if he was actually a taxi but at least I got a ride back. I went to go have my pancake and shake and once I got there, it started pouring rain! I thought it would only last for awhile, but it just kept going and going – everyone outside was absolutely soaked. We went out for dinner to Madame YooHoo, where this old lady stands outside the restaurant yelling “Yoo hoo!” to try to get everyone’s attention. We had a pretty late dinner so I decided to go to bed afterwards – I think I tired myself out after the hike!

On Friday morning, I went back to Thai Lady Pancake for breakfast, where I had Pad Thai, a coffee, and a shake for 150 baht ($6.54).

I had to get laundry done so I went to a place close to the hostel that charged 60 baht per kilo. The thing that I liked about this place was that they pulled out a scale and actually weighed it right in front of me so I knew what the price would be beforehand. Today was going to be my “spa day!” I knew that I still needed to get a Thai massage and I figured what better place to have one than on the beach? I was hesitant to get a massage, as I’ve only gotten one before, which was a foot massage in China. And it was one of the most painful, un-relaxing experiences I’ve ever had so I wasn’t in a rush to get another one. One of the girls at the hostel told me to get an oil massage because it’s less painful, so that’s what I did. I went to JK Blue Beach Massage on Sunrise Beach because it had high ratings, and I knew that the masseuses (weird word…) were all certified and had education in massage. I asked for an oil massage, which would be 400 baht and then I also tipped 40 baht, which cost $19.20 in total. There were about 8 massage beds all in close proximity to each other – I was less than a foot away from the person next to me. In order to have an oil massage, you have to be naked so that was a bit weird for me to undress on a beach with people all around. However, the ladies were really great with keeping you covered and making the process as easy as possible. I have to say that during the first part of the massage, it took quite awhile for me to get comfortable with the actual massage. At one point, the lady was kneeling on my legs and digging her hands in my shoulders – as in all of her body weight was on top of me. I couldn’t ever get my mind to fully relax (obviously, I’m an over thinker – this is why I can’t nap) and I was constantly thinking of what I had to do later that day, what was she doing, how does it feel like there are ten hands on me at once. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to last an hour. Eventually, I eased up and finally started to relax as every part of my body was massaged, head to toe (and all ten toes). The time then sped right by and all of a sudden, she said I was finished. I was so tempted to buy another hour, but decided against it. Best massage of my life (although I don’t have much to compare it to)!

After that, I decided to go for a manicure/pedicure. I was just going to do a pedicure, which costs 200 baht, but a mani/pedi costs 300 baht, so why not? Well, I’ll tell you why not in awhile… I found a place that looked nice (called Sabye Sabye) and walked in. The plus side was it’s the first place I had been to on Koh Lipe with air conditioning, so I got to enjoy that. Now, I have only had one pedicure before that I can compare this to, but this one definitely wasn’t the same. There was no soaking of the feet or hands, no scrubbing, no washing, etc. All it included was cutting the nails (which I had already done the day before) and painting the nails (which started coming off the day after). Regardless, I still tipped 30 baht so in total, it only cost me $14.40 so it wasn’t a huge amount of money wasted. I haven’t painted my fingernails in about five years because the last two times that I painted them, I woke up the next morning with huge, swollen eyes (almost swollen shut – I couldn’t even put my contacts in) and a rash all over my face and down my neck. I was hoping that since it’s been so long, maybe it won’t happen again. I woke up the next morning and I was fine! I was so happy because ever since I’ve come to Asia, I’ve had less skin problems and my skin hasn’t been as sensitive. I wasn’t even reacting to my sunscreen! (I had forgotten to knock on wood…) The day after that, my bottom lip felt a bit puffier when I was eating breakfast. I peeled off as much of the nail polish as I could that day, but I don’t have nail polish remover so there is still some that has stayed on. The next day, my eyes were a tad puffy (not as bad as usual, but if I looked up, I could feel my eyelids touch my eyebrow) my skin was soooo itchy, and I started to get spots all over my neck and chest. The problem was I kept scratching, but I’d obviously scratch with my fingernails, which would just add more chemicals to my skin, which would in turn make it even more itchy. I took a Claritin, which temporarily would make me less itchy. Today, I’m less puffy and less itchy, haven’t taken a Claritin, but the spots of my skin are starting to break into rash so it’ll probably take a few more days to clear my system (plus having a bit of nail polish still on my fingers probably doesn’t help but I couldn’t find nail polish remover so I might just have to sit through it). Anyway, I’ve always wanted to try fingernail polish again to see if I’d react, so now I know to stay away from it! After my mani/pedi, I went for my pancake and shake and then went back to visit with people at the hostel. We went for another late dinner at Thai Lady Pancake Shop, where I got Pad See-Ew and a shake for 130 baht ($5.67), and then we once again got drinks at 7-11 and sat on the beach to watch the fire dancers.

Saturday was my last full day on Koh Lipe. I had booked a full-day snorkel tour for 700 baht ($30.54) with Star Travel, and they would be picking me up at 9:15. I went to Thai Lady Pancake for a quick breakfast and coffee before going back to the hostel.

There were 8 of us in the group, but all of the tour groups went out together since we were in the middle of the ocean so if anything happened, one of the surrounding boats could help out. We rode the longtail boat for about an hour to go to the furthest point, stopped at Ko Hin Sorn to take a picture of the rocks, and went to Ko Bulo, where we got to go snorkelling for about 20 minutes.

I thought my snorkelling trip in Koh Lanta was nice but now that I’ve done this trip, it can’t even compare! There was so much coral everywhere with so many different types of fish, and the water was so clear. I kept seeing clownfish in the anemones, and the guide would pull me by the hand and dive down to point out other fish and animals. It was so cool! It really is like another world down there. We then went to another area, where we got to snorkel for another 30 minutes. Here, there were even more organisms – so many starfish, sea cucumbers, urchins, and many different types of fish. Then when I was about to get back into the boat, the guide took me away from the reef and pointed out a little stingray on top of the sand. I definitely wouldn’t have noticed it if he didn’t show it to me (along with many other fish)! We stopped at a beach called Ro Khloi Island, where we took some pictures and then we got to go for lunch.

They took us to another beach on Ko Butang and of course, this island had to have monkeys. I sat with a Dutch couple, and we enjoyed a pretty spicy curry chicken with rice meal while watching the monkeys steal other peoples’ food. After lunch, we went to a little inlet across from the beach to enjoy another 20 minutes of snorkelling.

We travelled to Ko Hin Ngam Gravel Beach, which was filled with perfectly polished rocks (meaning it was extremely slippery and dangerous walking from the boat to the island). As tempting as it were to stack the rocks, there were signs all around telling us not to, as well as a scary warning telling us about the Curse of Tarutao Island, and what would happen if we took a rock.

After our stop at the island, we had one last snorkel stop somewhat in the middle of the ocean. We just had to get out of the boat and pull ourselves along a rope to the other side and back, but the waves were so strong, it was a lot more difficult to see anything. We headed back to Koh Lipe, and the guide said that we could come to pick up our picture at 8pm (they took a picture of each of us underwater). I just stayed on the beach to enjoy the last of the sun and then watched the sunset before heading back to the hostel to shower.

I went to pick up my picture at 8 and they sent me a file which had about 100 pictures on it, which was a bonus! I’ve attached a few of them, but keep in mind that I didn’t take these pictures.

That night, we went to Thai Lady Pancake Shop for one last dinner.

On Sunday morning, I had to catch my ferry at 11am and had to check in between 9 and 10am. I packed up my stuff, went to Thai Lady Pancake Shop for one last breakfast and one last shake, and then walked to the beach to check in at 9:45am. The walk was long (even though it was only 8 minutes), and I felt so sad to leave. It was nice to feel so at home on this beautiful island! I’ll definitely be back one day… Love always

Krabi Town (Jan 2-5): Monkey Attacks and Tropical Storms

My trip back to Krabi was pretty simple – my hostel owner booked a shared taxi for me, which cost 300 baht ($13AUD). Once I arrived, it was about 5:30pm. The hostel I stayed at was called Pak-Up hostel, and it used to be a primary school before it became a hostel so they stuck to the school theme, which was kind of neat.

I stayed in a 10-person female dorm for 300 baht per night ($13.58), and the hostel offered a free barbecue every night of your stay (which was just two skewers with chicken and vegetables, so I only took advantage of it once cause we ended up having to stand in line for over a half hour to get them). I showered and got all of my stuff organised, and then I was starving since I didn’t really eat a proper lunch. I went to a restaurant nearby called Chalita, which served both Thai and western food. My stomach still felt a bit off so I decided to just get a spicy chicken burger with fries. After dinner, I walked around one of the night markets before heading back to the hostel and going to bed.

In my last blog, I forgot to mention that when I went for lunch with Karin in Koh Lanta, she had found a news article about a tropical storm heading towards southern Thailand. She was worried that she should leave Koh Lanta because it was supposed to get worse by Friday and Saturday. On Thursday morning in Krabi, I got up earlier because I wanted to catch the ferry to Railay Beach, which is one of the really nice beaches in the Krabi area. The hostel said that as long as I show up a half hour early to book, I’d be okay. The ferry I wanted to catch would be at 10 so I went down at about 8:30, booked my ticket, and went to a cafe nearby for breakfast. I decided to just get chicken fried rice with a latte at a place called Coconuts Cafe, and then I went back to the hostel at 9:30 to catch my ferry.

However, once I got there, the hostel workers said that the government wasn’t letting any boats leave the pier so I wouldn’t be able to go to Railay Beach.

All of the other tours that I would have wanted to take would have already done their pick-ups between 9 and 9:20, so I couldn’t even choose one of those as another option. Krabi Town doesn’t really have much to do for tourists – most of the stuff to see is outside of the city so you either need to pay for public transportation, or rent a motorbike. I decided I might as well check out the Tiger Cave Temple, so I asked the hostel workers how I could get there. They said I’d have to take a taxi for 500 baht, which seemed a bit steep. After doing some research online, I realised I could just catch a songthaew, which is basically just a truck.

For me to get to Tiger Cave Temple, it would only cost 50 baht each way ($2.18)!! I don’t know why the hostel workers didn’t bother telling me this information because it was a much cheaper alternative, at 10% of the price. However, now I think it’s because they have a taxi that belongs to the hostel so they’re able to make more money this way. I walked about five minutes to where all of the songthaews were parked, found a red one that specifically said Tiger Cave on it, paid the driver 50 baht, and got in the back of the truck with two other locals. It was a pretty cool way of being able to see the city, as the entire back is open. I got to the entrance at about 10:30am and by that time, it was already so hot!

In order to get up to the temple, you had to climb 1260 stairs while passing multiple hungry and agressive monkeys. I had brought some snacks cause I figured I would get hungry, but I could fit them into my day bag, so my only other option was to tie the plastic bag of snacks onto the back of my backpack. I started the trek up to the temple and I’m not even kidding that after 100 steps, my legs were already hurting. These steps all had different sizes, so some would only be a few inches high, while others would be over a foot. It definitely tired me out a lot faster, and the heat didn’t help!

After about 250-300 steps, I finally ran into my first group of monkeys. There were plastic bottles and food wrappers everywhere, and I was trying to face the monkeys at all times in hopes that they wouldn’t notice the plastic bag on my back. I suddenly felt a tug on the water bottle under my arm, and pulled it back from the greedy monkey trying to take it. It was then that a smaller monkey noticed the plastic bag on my back so it jumped on my bag and was hanging off of it. Luckily, it couldn’t figure out how to open the bag so eventually it jumped off and I quickly ran up the stairs to escape the rest of the group.

I continued slowly making my way up the stairs while taking multiple breaks along the way. I kept getting “Good lucks” from the people coming back down, and they’d point to my bag of treats. I’d reply that I’ve already been jumped on and it was fine. However, I definitely wasn’t prepared for what was to come… I’ve found that on many stair climbs that I’ve done, the monkeys get more and more aggressive as you make your way to the top. And these ones got much larger. A few hundred steps later, I ran into my second group of monkeys. They noticed my plastic bag within a matter of seconds, and before I knew it, two large monkeys jumped on my back, ripped open the plastic bag and all of the snacks inside it, and had a feast of food at my feet. Everyone around me was shocked, including myself. I should have taken a picture but I think I was more stunned than anything, and wanted to get myself as far away from those monkeys as possible. I FINALLY made it to the top after about 45 minutes and I looked and felt like a hot, sweaty mess. When I did the CN Tower climb a few years ago, it was 500 steps higher, I did it almost ten minutes faster, and I felt like I was going to die THEN. However at least during that time, the steps were all the same height and I was in a cool stairwell. This time felt way worse! I sat down for quite awhile to try to cool myself down and then I finally got up to enjoy the views. It was a pretty overcast day, so I’m assuming it would have been even more spectacular with a blue sky, but at least it wasn’t foggy so I was still able to see everything around. At the top, I had to make sure my knees and shoulders were covered, so I covered up with a sarong and a cardigan (which was the last thing I wanted to do in the state that I was in). However, the climb was definitely worth it and the views were still pretty nice!

I stayed at the top for quite awhile and then made my way back down. The way back was obviously a lot easier, so I just kept it at a steady pace, but I also had to be careful with each step as it was still a pretty sharp decline. With about 100 steps to go, my shoe got untied so I stopped to lift up my foot and it suddenly started shaking uncontrollably – I couldn’t stop it! My calves were killing me and my thighs felt like jelly so when I got to the bottom, I got a cool taro drink and sat down for as long as I possibly could. My calves didn’t stop hurting for nearly three days! My shirt looked like I had went under a shower with it on, and my hair was also soaking wet. It was then that I realised how thankful I was that I decided to do the trek alone, as I’m sure I didn’t look like the most attractive person on the planet. Apparently the songthaews don’t pick people up from the temple gates so I decided to walk towards the main road in hopes that one would eventually pass me.

I read that they would honk and then you could wave them down, but when I saw one just pass me without honking (and I didn’t notice that they were there until it was too late), I started to panic. Multiple taxis and motorbikes would stop and ask if I wanted a ride, but I didn’t want to risk it because I knew they’d end up charging me too much. All of a sudden, I heard a honk, looked over, and saw a songthaew heading in the opposite direction (back towards the temple). I somehow crossed the extremely busy freeway and hopped in the back. The songthaew dropped off some people at the temple and then he started driving even FURTHER away from Krabi town. He was determined to get as many passengers as he could so even when we thought we couldn’t fit any more people in the back of the truck, he still continued to honk. He then stopped at what seemed like a house, said he would be back in about five minutes, and walked away. Me and the other foreign passengers looked at each other, unsure of what was going on. The driver eventually came back and seemed to take as much time possible in getting us back to town. I went back to the hostel to have a cold shower and change and by that time, I was starving since it was 2:30. I walked around, got lost in a really cool street market, but eventually decided to eat at an Italian restaurant, as I think my stomach was still having difficulty with eating non-western food. I think the Italian restaurant (called Uno) was pretty authentic, as the owner definitely didn’t look like he was Thai. I decided on penne arrabbiata, which was so good! I got that with a coke for 175 baht ($7.64). After my late lunch/early dinner, I walked around for a bit and then went back to the hostel to decide what to do the next day. The rain had started from the storm and would be continuing for the next couple of days, so my options were pretty limited. The ferry to Railay beach still wouldn’t be working, so I decided that I should just take a tour to see the hot springs and the emerald pool. It was a half-day tour so I’d get back to the hostel by 2:30, and the hostel worker said that the storm wasn’t supposed to start until about 4. I went to the free bbq at about 8:30, visited with some of the other people for awhile, and then went to bed.

On Friday morning, I woke up to a bunch of rain. I double-checked to make sure my tour would still be happening and then I went back to Coconuts Cafe to have a quick breakfast. This time, I had a yogurt and fruit bowl, which was also very good. The presentation on their food and drinks are so nice!

I then went to 7-11 to pick up some snacks for the trip since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to buy a lunch anywhere. My tour was booked through Cattery Tours and they were very organised! It cost 800 baht for the tour ($34.90), which was a bit pricey but was still a good way to spend the day. They had 16 different groups going, so they gave each of us a coloured bracelet in order to keep track of our vehicles. We drove for about an hour to get to the hot springs and when we got there, they were absolutely packed! I’m glad that I was just one person cause it was easy for me to be able to squeeze in between random families, but it seemed to be more difficult for people who came in groups.

We were given just under an hour at the hot springs, but they say that you should only stay for a maximum of 15-20 minutes, as the temperatures get too high. It was pretty relaxing though, and I may have extended my time by at least 5-10 minutes 🙂 After the hot springs, we drove another 15 minutes to emerald pool and blue pool. There, we had the option to walk 800 metres through the wet path, or 1400 metres on a heightened path. I opted for the longer option, covering my backpack with my rain jacket, and trekked through the rain to the pools.

I saw emerald pool but decided to keep walking another 600 metres to blue pool, hoping to beat most of the people behind me. The path started heightened but about halfway there, it dropped back down to ground level, where there were puddles of mud everywhere – with a lot of it being unavoidable to walk through. I had to slow down quite a bit, being careful not to lose my footing and slip into the mud. I finally got to blue pool, which is exactly as its name suggests : a blue pool. You’re not allowed to swim in this pool, as it’s protected, so most people just got a picture in front of the pool and then left (including myself).

I made my way back to emerald pool and had about a half hour to enjoy myself before having to walk back to the van.

I took the 800 metre walk back and I was completely worn out. I think the hot springs actually made my already-sore calf muscles even more sore! However, I made it back with five minutes to spare and then we drove back to the hostel. I showered, changed, and went to Arun Restaurant for dinner, where I had some more Tom Yum soup (since it was cold, rainy, and my last dinner in Thailand) with a coconut shake (to go with the heat of the soup) for 140 baht ($6.11). After dinner, I asked my hostel the best way to get to the airport for my 7:30 flight the next morning and they said I should leave at 5:30 in a taxi for 400 baht ($17.45). However, considering they said the same thing for me to get to Tiger Cave Temple, I wasn’t convinced. I walked to where the songthaews were to ask, but the driver didn’t understand what I was asking and just kept telling me to “get in, get in!” Luckily, there was a travel stand next to me so I asked him when the songthaews started running and he said 6am. When I asked him how much a taxi would be and he said 400 baht, I realised it would be my only option so I went back to the hostel, booked the taxi, got my bags packed up, and called it an early night. To be perfectly honest, Krabi Town wasn’t my favourite place – it’s extremely touristy and there wasn’t a lot to do. However, the weather and constant rain probably contributed to my impressions of it. I think Krabi province would probably be more worthwhile to explore so maybe I’ll have to check it out next time! Love always

Ko(h) Lanta (Dec 30-Jan 2): Kitties, New Year’s Eve, and 4 Islands

Thankfully, I had asked the Smiley owner about taking the bus to Koh Lanta before I went to bed the night before. I assumed that I could just show up at the bus stop at 8:30am, but now I’m not too sure I would have gotten a spot had I done that. I had to go to the local travel agent next to a pharmacy in Khao Sok to buy a ticket ahead of time. She gave me three options to leave: 6:30am, 8:30am, or 9:30am. I went with 8:30am, she called to make sure that there was space available, and then wrote me a ticket. It cost me 650 baht total ($28.36AUD) – 250 back to Krabi and 400 with the ferry to Koh Lanta. This service was great in that it picked me up from my accommodation and also dropped me off at my hostel in Koh Lanta, so I didn’t have to worry about paying extra from the ferry. From the time I left Khao Sok until the time I arrived in Koh Lanta, it took about 7.5 hours. On Sunday morning, I got up and ready, picked up the best “breakfast” I could find at a nearby shop (a pack of donuts and some bananas), and waited for my taxi. The ticket said that the taxi would arrive between 8:30 and 8:50, and it came shortly after 9. We then started the 4-hour trip to Krabi. This time, the 13-passenger van was full for the majority of the trip, and the driver had to turn down some passengers on the way (so I’m very happy I ended up buying the ticket beforehand). I actually didn’t end up arriving at the bus station in Krabi until just after 1:30 pm, as the driver had to make some stops along the way. Then, I waited for about a half hour until the next taxi came. I thought it was going to be just me but then we stopped at the airport and filled up the van again. We arrived at the ferry terminal around 3:30 and were on the next ferry within a half hour. A little boat had to push the ferry in the right direction, as I guess the ferry couldn’t turn on it’s own.

The ride across only took 15 minutes and then it was about a 20 minute drive to my hostel, Wayla hostel, so I arrived just before 5pm. This hostel was such a great place to stay – the owner was so friendly and hospitable, and kept the place absolutely spotless. Breakfast was also included, which was toast and bananas, as well as unlimited coffee, tea, and water all day (the water is a plus, as you usually have to buy it everywhere you go). Plus, the hostel has a friendly cat!

I stayed in a 4-person mixed dorm for 300baht/night ($13.65), and my roommates were all solo travellers – a guy from Israel, a girl from Holland, and a guy from England but living in Mongolia. As soon as I got there, I was starving since I hadn’t eaten a proper breakfast or lunch, so I went for dinner with Joe, the guy living in Mongolia. We ate at a restaurant called Three Sisters, where I had green curry with rice, and a shake for 170 baht ($7.42). I was so hungry, I forgot to take a picture! We then walked to the beach to catch the last of the sunset, and then got some drinks at one of the bars on the beach, Freedom Bar.

Koh Lanta is a very chill island, where reggae music is playing in almost every bar, and you can order a mushroom shake at most places. The bar we were at also had a tattoo parlour in the back room so if anyone wanted to make some late-night drunken decisions, they could get a permanent tattoo. There was a guy getting a half-arm tattoo of a pineapple when we were there, and the girl that he was with didn’t look too happy about it. It was definitely a good place to do some people watching!

On Monday, I decided to have a beach day so I walked about 15 minutes to a nice, quiet beach, which also had two cows hanging around!

At about 1:30pm, I started getting hungry so I walked to a restaurant called Yawee Restaurant, where I had some amazing massaman curry and a passion fruit shake, for 187 baht ($8.16).

I then walked to the Lanta Animal Welfare centre, which takes in stray cats and dogs who are sick or injured, gets them back to good health, and tries to find a home for them. Some of the stories were quite sad, especially about one of the dogs (called Tomato) who had been shot so was very scared around humans. They got her better again and got her used to humans and found a new home for her at a local’s house. Unfortunately, Tomato was too slow to feel comfortable at her new home and the new owner lost patience so the owner tied the leash to the back of a motorbike and pulled Tomato behind. When Tomato came back to the Welfare centre, she was completely skinned 🙁 Now, they are working to get Tomato to feel comfortable around humans again.

The centre is over capacity – they have 55 dogs (with a maximum of 45) and 53 cats (with a maximum of 50), so they are desperately trying to find new homes for as many animals as they can. It’s neat cause they have pictures of all of the animals, and you can see if they’ve been adopted and where they’re going, so there were a few going to Denmark and Canada as well. The centre relies on volunteers (mainly tourists) to come and walk the dogs, in the morning or late afternoon – they don’t allow the dogs to be walked in the middle of the day. Every night, one of the workers (who is also a volunteer) has to sleep in the dog area to make sure they stay calm. They also have a cat cafe, so people can go and cuddle with the cats. After my tour, I stayed in the cat cafe and it started pouring rain, which meant that all of the cats were forced to sit around the edge since the middle part didn’t have a roof over it. Therefore, I had more cats to sit with!

Once the rain died down, I walked back to the hostel. That night was New Year’s Eve so I went to a nearby restaurant called Ohana with Joe and Karin (the girl from Holland). We each got a pizza, and we played dominos until around 10pm. The restaurant also had the cutest cat, so I got even more cat cuddles!

We then went back to the hostel to drop off our leftover pizzas, and got the hostel owner to join us for a drink. We went to a bar on the beach called Moonwalk Bar and waited for the countdown. Many people were releasing lanterns into the air, and then after the countdown, they lit a “Happy New Year” sign on fire, and fireworks went off along the beach (some too close for comfort). After we finished our drinks, we headed back to the hostel, as I had a tour the next morning.

On Tuesday morning, I was picked up from the hostel at 8:15 to go on the Four Islands tour. I read about this tour before coming to Koh Lanta, but I also read reviews about it being too crowded. Maybe going on New Year’s Day was a smart thing for me to do because there only ended up being 10 people on my longtail boat (I think normally, there’s about 25 people), and we ended up getting a lot of the areas to ourselves. There are tons of companies that do the Four Islands tour and the cheapest I could find online was for 1300 baht. Luckily, I asked my hostel owner and he booked my tour through a company called Lanta Longtail, and it only cost me 800 baht. I also gave a 100 baht tip so overall, it was $39.27.

We drove to the south of Koh Lanta, got on our boat and travelled for quite awhile to Koh Chueak, where we were given a half hour for snorkelling. I have had difficulties snorkelling when I was in Cuba because as soon as I put my face in the water, it started burning and I was forced to get out and pour my water bottle on my face. I was quite hesitant to try it again, but surprisingly, I didn’t have that problem here! The tour guide was great and pointed out where to go, and even dove down into the water to point out some clownfish for me to see. Apparently the boat belonged to the main guide, the driver was his dad, and his mom had cooked the lunch.

After that, we went to Koh Waen to snorkel for another 30 minutes. This place had quite a few more fish but I kept feeling slight stings on my legs so I’m pretty sure there were mini jellyfish around.

We then went to Ko Muk. There, we had to swim through Morakot Cave (where there were tons of bats!) to get to Emerald Lagoon. All of the tours have to arrive around the same time, as you can only swim through the cave at low tide. However, when we got to the lagoon we had the place to ourselves for a few minutes. It was such a nice area to go to, and seemed like a little piece of paradise.

Once all of the other tour groups showed up, we left and went to the last island called Ko Ngai. This was the biggest island and it had a long strip of sand, where we enjoyed our lunch. Afterwards, we had an hour to hang around before we headed back to Koh Lanta.

I arrived back to my hostel shortly after 4pm so I showered and relaxed for a bit – I was completely exhausted! It started pouring so we decided to skip watching the sunset. However, the rain stopped 6 minutes before sunset so Joe decided to run to the beach. Karin and I were just going to watch from our patio but we couldn’t get a good view, so we decided to hurry to the beach as well but on the way, it started to pour! Her and I were trapped at a bar on the beach, we missed the sun setting, and we didn’t have any money to buy anything.

We decided to run back to the hostel after our stomachs took over, and were completely soaked when we arrived. We got our money and met Joe back at Ohana, and all of us were completely worn out. After dinner and a quick game of dominos, we headed back to the hostel and went to bed.

On Wednesday, I took my time getting up, getting ready, having breakfast, and packing up my things. Karin and I were going to go to the beach but we stopped for lunch at a place called Nong Pheat kitchen. I got a glass noodle spicy salad with shrimp but by the time we got our food, I think the heat started getting to me and I felt too sick to eat.

We stayed there for so long that we didn’t have time to go to the beach so we headed to the hostel and I waited for my taxi, which was scheduled to pick me up at 2:20pm. I was seriously contemplating skipping my time in Krabi because I didn’t want to leave Koh Lanta, but I decided I should continue with my plans. I hope to make it back there again someday!

I’d probably recommend renting a motorbike, as there’s so much to see and I was quite limited with only being able to walk. My hostel owner rents out motorbikes for 200 baht/day ($8.93) so it’s extremely cheap but since I didn’t have an international drivers license (which isn’t a huge deal here unless you need to be covered by insurance), and I don’t have any past experiences riding a motorbike, I decided not to risk it. Maybe next time though!

*Please note that all dollar conversions are Australian dollars (AUD)

Khao Sok (Dec 27-30): A Slice of Paradise

My trip to Khao Sok wasn’t horrible… I had been nervous about making the bus on time, as I read that there would only be one bus per day from Krabi to Khao Sok, which was at 11:30am. My original plan was to fly to Krabi from Bangkok the night of December 26, spend the night in Krabi, and take the bus to Khao Sok on the 27th. I found my flight on Skyscanner (as I always do) but I booked the tickets through an agency called Travelgenio, which is a TERRIBLE agency – I would avoid it at all costs (you can see that it has many negative reviews). Anyway, the airline had cancelled my flight on the 26th so the agency changed my flight to 5:30am on the 27th. I hate morning flights and I also knew that I’d be cutting it close to catch the bus at 11:30, plus I had already booked my accommodation in Krabi the night of the 26th. Therefore, I emailed and asked if I could still get a flight on the 26th (this was back at the beginning of November). They wrote back two weeks later and gave me two options on the 26th. I immediately wrote back and chose one option, but said I could do the other option as well (I just wanted to get a flight on the 26th). They wrote back a week later and said that they’ve seen my confirmation and would send me the new itinerary shortly. Then the next day, they wrote and said the airline would only allow 5:30am on the 26th or 5:30am on the 27th. I immediately wrote back and said I’d prefer the option on the 26th. Another week later, they wrote back and said that they’ve seen my confirmation and would send me a new itinerary. Then a week after that, they said that the airline would only allow December 27th at 5:30am, which was the original flight! It took nearly a month and a half to arrive to this conclusion, so I wasn’t too impressed. I finally agreed with the flight change and the next day (December 12), they said they’ve seen my confirmation and would send me a new itinerary shortly. However, five days before my flight, I still hadn’t received confirmation so I emailed them. No reply… The day before my flight, I STILL hadn’t received anything so I emailed them again. I was so angry that I wrote a review on Trustpilot about how horrible the company was, and I got a reply within a few hours. They told me to send an email to their advanced support department about my booking, so I did, and they FINALLY sent me my itinerary. The person who I had been emailing since November wrote me TEN HOURS AFTER my flight with a reservation confirmation and electronic ticket… absolutely terrible service. Again, avoid at all costs! Anyway, I wanted to be sure I had a spot on the plane since I wasn’t able to check-in online so I got to the Bangkok airport at 10pm, kept myself occupied until 3:30am, and went to check-in. I gave the travel agent my passport and she kept asking me questions and then was taking an awfully long time to check me in. She asked if I could wait a minute, took a screenshot of her computer, and got up to show her phone to someone at the back. That’s when panic started to set in – I wasn’t sure if I’d be getting onto that plane. After about 5-10 minutes, she came back and thankfully printed out my boarding pass. I went through security, didn’t even bother trying to sleep, and boarded the plane.

The flight was only an hour and ten minutes so I arrived in Krabi at 7am. I went to the information desk to ask about getting to Khao Sok, but he basically only suggested taking a taxi, which I’m sure would have cost at least 2000 baht. His only other suggestion was to go to the Krabi bus station and see if there was a bus there. My ticket to the bus station was 80 baht ($3.49) and when I got on the bus, the bus driver asked where I was going so I told him. Then when we arrived at the bus station and I was about to get off, he asked “Khao Sok?” I nodded and he yelled over to someone at the station who walked me to the correct till to buy my ticket. It was 7:30 when I got to the station and she said the bus wouldn’t be until 10am. I paid 250 baht for my ticket ($10.91) and went to the only restaurant there to get some food. I got fried rice with chicken but upon taking a bite of a big chunk of chicken, I noticed it was still raw on the inside so I quickly spat it out and pushed all the chicken to the side. I went to the bathroom right before having to leave, had to pay 3 baht to use the toilet, and then realised I’d be forced to use my first squat toilet on this trip (also, there’s never any toilet paper so luckily I came prepared when I bought a 6-pack of tissues!). Finally at 10, I got on the bus, which was actually a 13-passenger van. It was just me and another girl until she got off after about two hours. Khao Sok is only 100km away from Krabi and the schedule makes it look like you arrive an hour later but the driver went along the length of the coast so it ended up taking four hours total. After the girl got off, I got the van to myself for an hour, and then we picked up a mom with her two boys and all got off at Khao Sok. The taxi driver asked where I was staying and dropped me off right at Smiley Bungalows, so I gave him a tip. The place was completely deserted when I arrived but eventually the daughter showed up and showed me to my room. The bungalows were like treehouses, and I got a room with a queen-sized bed and my own bathroom; it was so nice! I had a much-needed shower and even though I was exhausted, I walked around town until 5 and then had dinner at a place called Lab Roi-Et, where I had Pad Thai and a Thai coffee. My night at Smiley Bungalow was only 300 baht ($13), which was amazing!

I had booked a 2-day/1-night tour to go to Smiley Lakehouse the next day so I had to get up and ready for breakfast at 8am the next morning. I had breakfast with a couple from the Netherlands (both teachers) and a girl from Hawaii (also a teacher). Everyone who I’ve met up until this point and on this tour is only in Asia for 2 or 3 weeks for the Christmas holidays, and many were couples (one was on their honeymoon!). There were about 25 people on our tour, so it was a good amount of people. We left Smiley Bungalows in two 13-passenger vans and drove towards the pier at about 9:30am. After an hour, we stopped in a small town to pick up food for 20 minutes and then drove another 20 minutes to the pier. We then got on two longtail boats and drove for another hour across Chiao Lan lake to Smiley Lakehouse. The boat ride there was absolutely gorgeous, and the scenery was like nothing I’ve seen before.

I was absolutely amazed and couldn’t believe I was in a place that was so beautiful! We arrived at the Lakehouse around 12:30, were told our room numbers to settle in, and were served lunch at 1. We each got our own room with our own bathroom, and each room came with two queen-sized mattresses, plus our door opened right up onto the lake – it was amazing!

The thing I loved about this tour was that it was 2500 baht plus a 300 baht national park entry fee ($122.16) per person no matter what – they didn’t charge a single supplement fee to make up for the fact that there was only one person in a 2+ person room (which solo travellers like myself often get cheated with). The tour also included five meals – two breakfasts, two lunches, and one supper. After lunch, we were given free time until 5pm. There was only one other solo traveller on this trip, so her and I took a kayak out for a couple hours. However, with neither of us having much experience with kayaks, we continued just spinning around in circles. Once we got far enough, we gave up and just sat on the kayak in the middle of the lake.

We still had an hour of free time when we got back, so I decided to go for a swim. The company said that we had to wear life jackets if we went swimming or kayaking because there was a 20-35 metre drop from our deck but since I had enough experience swimming, and other people weren’t wearing life jackets, I decided not to either. However, AFTER our free time was finished, the tour guide said that there were cobras in the lake and one time, someone was swimming and was either bitten or pulled down by a cobra and drowned. I likely wouldn’t have went into the lake knowing this information so I’m glad they told us this after the fact. At 5pm, we went on a night safari, but only saw one monkey in the far distance. However, we got a nice view of the sunset!

We got back around 7pm, had dinner, and then I visited with two girls from South Africa who were also teachers (one is teaching in Thailand, which started giving me ideas of moving to Thailand to teach). We had to be ready for 6:40am the next morning, so we didn’t stay up too late.

On Saturday morning, we met at 6:40 to go on a morning safari. It was so foggy, it felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park. We were waiting for dinosaurs to jump out at any given moment! This time, we were a bit more successful in finding monkeys.

We went back at 8am to have breakfast and then we were given half an hour to pack up all of our stuff before our cave trek. We got in the boat to make our way to the Nam Taloo hiking trail and were warned that we’d be going through water up to our shoulders, so I decided to rent some shoes (for 50 baht – $2), as I didn’t want to ruin my new ones.

We hiked for quite awhile – walking through lots of mud and some streams and then we finally made it to the cave entrance. Apparently, leeches are abundant throughout the park, so we had to keep doing “leech checks” every once in awhile.

We basically spent the entire time in the cave walking through water, and having to scale some of the walls – I felt like Spider-Man! We each had a head lamp, but many times, it was still too dark to see where you were stepping in the water.

Along the hiking trail and in the cave, the guides pointed out numerous plants, spiders, and centipedes that were poisonous, so that was comforting… After about 45 minutes, we made it to the bat cave, where we just saw a couple of bats. Then, we had to turn around and make our way back. I had never done anything like it before and it was such a fun experience; I had a great time!

We got back to the Lakehouse at about 1pm, had a quick lunch, changed clothes, and then we had to travel back to Khao Sok.

Again, we had to take a one-hour boat ride, and then drove back to the bungalows. We got back just before 5pm so I showered, went out for dinner, and bought my bus ticket for the next day, and went to bed. Khao Sok is one of those places that still hasn’t caught on in popularity, which adds to its charm. It’s an absolute gem of a place – I was so sad to leave! Until next time…

Bangkok (Dec 23-27): Needles, Christmas, and Temples

After my 4-hour flight from Shanghai to Bangkok, I took my time going through border control, waiting for my bag, changing clothes, and then standing in line for at least half an hour to get a SIM card. Normally, I just live off of wifi while I travel but since I had some appointments the next day, I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. Also, SIM plans were so cheap that it was hard to turn down. My SIM card with the dtac provider cost me 179 Baht ($7.45AUD) for 9GB during 7 days, so essentially a dollar per day. I got a coffee from 7-11 and then figured out how to get to my hostel. It actually wasn’t too difficult once I was led in the direction of the bus. I had to take the A1 bus to Mo Chit Station, which cost me 30 baht ($1.25AUD) and then I had to get a ticket to my station (Chong Nonsi), which included a transfer at Siam Station and cost me 44 baht (1.83AUD). I probably got to the Lub D Silom hostel a bit before 2pm but they let me check in anyway. The hostel was nice in that it had air conditioning in the room, which is very necessary in 33+ degree weather! I had a much-needed shower after my all-nighter in the Shanghai airport, and then another girl arrived. She was meeting up with friends so I joined them for lunch. I soon remembered why it’s so difficult for me to travel with other people. They chose a nicer, more expensive restaurant so my meal came up to 360 baht ($15AUD), which is still a steal of a deal if I was having dinner in Australia, but it’s the most expensive meal that I’ve had here so far. I do everything as cheap as I possibly can and for this trip, I’m trying to stick to a $30/day budget (although I’ve failed miserably up until this point). My hostel was relatively pricier to begin with (just over $17AUD/night) so that really limited the amount of money that I could work with. I already came into the trip knowing that I’d be spending more money than normal during Christmas and New Year’s, so it didn’t come as a surprise. Anyway, I decided to take it easy that evening and plan out the following day before getting some sleep.

The next day (Monday), I decided to make it a Christmas Eve to remember. Back when I was in Australia, I was looking at travel clinics to get my vaccines but none of them listed any prices. I was nervous that it would be another London situation, where I would spend hundreds of dollars on a few needles. The only vaccine I needed (since I updated all of mine last year when I went to Africa) was Japanese Encephalitis. I was thinking of just not getting it but then an outbreak happened in Bali so I figured I’d rather be safe than sorry. I did some research and found out that there’s a Thai Travel Clinic in Bangkok, and they charge $16AUD per vaccine! I booked an appointment weeks ahead of time and I’m sure glad I did cause when I came at 9:45 for my appointment, the place was full of walk-ins (and they were booked all day for appointments as well). When I got there, they checked my passport and then tried to get me to fill out all of the paperwork (which I already did beforehand because c’mon, it’s me). Then I had to go to the blood pressure machine, which printed out all of the relevant numbers and then I had to go weigh myself and give back all of the information to the front desk. I then went to my consultation, which they actually do in depth – I was quite impressed! We went over everywhere I was going, down to all of the cities (luckily I brought my itinerary!), and went over my medical history and any medications I’m on. What I forgot to bring though was my vaccination record, but I still remembered all of the ones I had gotten. After about 15 minutes, the nurse recommended that along with Japanese Encephalitis, I should also get the influenza vaccine. Now, I’ve never gotten the influenza vaccine as the flu is constantly changing, and I seldom get sick anyway, but she said there’s a lot that goes around Asia so I should get it to be on the safe side. As a matter of fact, I’ve constantly been sick while living in Australia and I’m wondering if it’s because there are different viruses going around than I’m used to, or maybe it’s because I’m constantly around snotty-nosed children. Anyway, I agreed that I’d get it. Then she asked if I had gotten the chicken pox vaccine. My sister and I had both gotten the chicken pox when we were younger but our mom said that we had only gotten a few pox each. For some reason a couple of years ago, my sister got a blood test to see if she had built up the immunity to chicken pox and she hadn’t, so I’ve always been paranoid that I’d be the same. I asked if they’d be able to do a blood test and they said they could but it would take a week to get the results, which was fine. Anyway, after the consultation, I had to go pay for everything (which came to 1437 baht, or nearly $60AUD). I then had to go sit in a waiting room for about 15 minutes before they called me in. Once they called me in, I warned them about my phobia of needles before they did anything (as I alway do ever since one nurse learned the hard way when I nearly passed out). They started with the blood sample and she told me to look away, but it took forever! I felt her poke me at least five times and I almost got to the point of telling her not to worry about it cause I couldn’t stand it any longer. She said she couldn’t get any blood out of my right arm so she tried my left arm and got it out soon enough. The vaccine needles are now easy for me, so those weren’t as bad. After all of the needles, they told me to go sit in the waiting room for the next half hour so I could be observed. The thing that happens with me is when I get a needle, I’m so nervous that my hands get wet as if I ran them under a faucet. Then, after it’s all over with and I calm myself down, I get freezing cold cause my body just went into overdrive. So I sat there shivering for the next half hour, feeling somewhat silly as it was a 33-degree day that day. I asked about how I’d get the blood test results and they said I’d have to come back in. After saying that the next time I’d be in Bangkok wouldn’t be until February 22 and them still refusing to email or phone the results, I decided to just book another appointment.

Anyway, all I had consumed that day was a cold latte, which was probably my first mistake on a day of getting needles. My second mistake was instead of going to find food right after my appointment at 11:30, I decided to walk towards the dental clinic that I had an appointment at for 1pm. I had gotten a quick check-up in London about two years ago but I was overdue for another appointment and since I’m not covered in Canada or in Australia for the dentist, I’ve been holding it off. My friend suggested that I just get everything done in Bangkok so after plenty of research, I decided to go with Thantakit International Dental Centre, which often works with Australians who specifically fly to Bangkok for dental procedures. Anyway, the walk to the dental clinic was about 40 minutes and once I got close, I really didn’t feel very well. I started losing my vision badly, and it wasn’t the normal type of migraine I get. I saw a McDonald’s window out of the corner of my eye but my vision kept leaving so I couldn’t find the door. I was walking through a market and could see a window and then all of a sudden, it would disappear. It was so bizarre, and I knew I needed food as soon as possible. I finally found the door, ordered a combo meal (for less than $5), and chugged the coke so I could at least get some sugar in me. After eating, I felt normal again and I made my way to my appointment. All that I had to get done was a check-up and a cleaning (no cavities, yay!). However, the dentist told me that if I needed him to stop during the cleaning, to raise my hand, which I thought was weird because normally cleanings are the easy part when going to the dentist. That cleaning was like no cleaning I’ve ever had before – it was so extremely painful (and I have a high pain threshold!). There were a couple of times when I almost stopped him, but I made it through. When he was finished, he told me to rinse out my mouth and spit, and when I did, it was completely red! “Are you okay?” he asked. I nodded, as I think I was just shocked. He definitely did a deep cleanse! However, my teeth did (and still do!) feel so smooth and clean. At this dentist, if you pay with cash, you get 10% off so my bill came to 1080 baht ($47) – cheaper than the vaccines. After my appointment, since I was in the Siam area, I continued walking to the Siam shopping centres, which are huge!

They have stores from all over the world so you can find pretty much anything you need. Plus to top it all off, all of the shopping centres were decked out in Christmas trees and decorations, and Christmas music was blaring non-stop. I got a portable keyboard from the MBK Tower as a Christmas present for myself, so I wouldn’t have to type up all of my blogs on my phone. I spent the entire afternoon there and since I had already spent so much time walking that day, I decided to continue to Chinatown to go for dinner.

However, I had difficulty finding the exact location of Chinatown and as I was already hungry, I looked up ‘cheap eats near me’ (as I always do when I travel), and went to a restaurant called Supa, right across from the main train station. I got prawn pad Thai and a watermelon shake for 120 baht ($5.24)! I walked back to my hostel, exhausted from doing 26,000 steps, and got ready for bed.

The next day was Christmas! It honestly didn’t feel any different than any other day, and many times during the day, I had to remind myself what day it was. I first FaceTimed my parents for about an hour in the closest McDonald’s that I could find. Then I walked to the Sathorn Pier and my hope was to walk along the river until I reached the temples. However, the city didn’t really allow for people to walk along the river until further up, so I zigzagged my way through streets, often getting lost, but that’s one of my favourite things to do in a new city – you see so much more when walking randomly.

I walked by many markets and street food vendors, which was cool to see. Then I started to get hungry for lunch, so using my trusty ‘cheap eats near me’ search, I walked to Chinatown and ate at Nai Ek Roll Noodles. It was so popular that there was a line-up outside the door! I didn’t have to wait too long to get in and was seated between two people, right in front of the ‘kitchen.’ The specialty is obviously roll noodle soup, so I decided to get it with minced beef, and it was delicious!

The broth had a peppery taste, the rolled noodles were just the right consistency, and the meatballs had good flavour to them. I got my soup with a Pepsi for 100 baht ($4.36). I continued walking through random streets, stumbled upon the flower market, and made my way up to the Grand Palace.

I didn’t go in, but I was so thirsty by the time I got there since the heat had reached its peak. I found the nearest 7-11, found some stairs in the shade, and tried to cool myself down. I then walked to Khao San Road, which seems to be a street specifically made for tourists. It’s full of restaurants and vendors selling clothes, but I was still so hot so I just got a sundae at McDonald’s and waited for the sun to start setting. I walked back towards my hostel and stopped for dinner at an Indian/Thai restaurant called Home Cuisine. I got Tom kha soup, which is made with coconut milk, which wasn’t too bad although I still prefer Tom yum.

My soup along with an apple soda was 145 baht ($6.33). That was another huge day of walking, with 31,000 steps, so I slept well again that night.

On Boxing Day, I FaceTimed with my family for awhile since it was their Christmas. Then, I decided to check out the temples. I walked towards the Sathorn Pier, and got something to eat on my way there. I went to another Chinese restaurant called Prachak and it was another full restaurant. Thanks to the recommendations of some people sitting next to me, I got noodles with roast duck and shrimp dumplings, as well as a red pork bun.

Those along with a juice cost me 105 baht ($4.58) – the meal prices here are insane! I continued to the pier and went on the hop on hop off boat. For an unlimited pass, it costs 150 baht, but I decided to just get a one-way pass for 50 baht. I stopped at Wat Arun and went in for 50 baht ($2.18). They check to make sure you’re dressed correctly (I knew this beforehand) so you have to make sure your shoulders are covered and your knees are covered. This is why almost everyone ends up buying a pair of elephant pants when in Thailand, as there are numerous shops there to sell them to you. Wat Arun is absolutely stunning; it’s another one of those buildings that take your breath away.

You’re not allowed to go inside, but you can walk around the entire thing. After that, I took the ferry across the river for 4 baht to go to Wat Pho. Wat Pho costs 100 baht ($4.36) and you get a free bottle of water with your ticket! At that point, the water was necessary cause it was another hot day with no air-conditioning. I started by going to the reclining Buddha, which is a massive Buddha lying down, and takes up the length of the entire building.

They give you a plastic bag to put your shoes into at the entrance and then you walk through, getting as many pictures as you can along with all of the other tourists. This place was busy! It was so hard to squeeze in to get a picture, plus it was really hot in the building, so I didn’t spend too much time in there. Then I went to the actual temple of Wat Pho. The line-up was quite long so I took my shoes off, waited for about 15 minutes to spend ten seconds at the entrance to take a picture and leave (you’re not allowed to go inside).

Basically two people would stand in the entrance at a time to take as many pictures as they want, and then would go. Anyway, between my time at the two temples (aka on the short ferry ride across the river), I decided I should book a pedicure since a) I’ve never gotten one before, b) I’d be going to the beach the following week and c) I had been doing an awful lot of walking. I had searched for a good nail salon near my hostel and found one called So Good Nail Spa. I made an appointment for 4:30pm so after the temples, I slowly walked my way back towards my hostel, buying some flip flops on the way. I got to my appointment a bit early but they fit me in and the whole thing lasted just under an hour and a half; it was so nice!

The pedicure cost 450 baht but I also tipped the girl 50 baht so I spent 500 baht total ($21.81). I went for dinner at an AMAZING restaurant near my hostel called Mama Mia, which is basically a street food place that has seating. This has definitely been my favourite meal that I’ve had so far! I finally got to have my Tom yum soup and ordered it with seafood. Therefore, I got to eat my first octopi, which actually weren’t that bad! I also decided to try the mango sticky rice since I’ve heard so much about it and all I can say is: wow! The saltiness of the rice goes with the sweetness of the mango and the coconut milk so well!! Every bite is different – you never know if it’ll be more sweet or more salty.

I hung out at my hostel for a couple hours and then made my way to the airport. My flight wasn’t until 5:30 in the morning, but that meant I’d have to check in at 2:30 and since there were some complications about my booking (which I’ll write about in the next post), I wanted to make sure I had enough time just in case anything went wrong. I got to the airport at about 10pm and killed the time as best I could until check-in. And that’s Bangkok! Love always.