Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

  • Me and the hammock

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    Since we arrived in Koh Tao and found “Homer”, the way we have to refer to our beautiful wooden house in the island, I’m experimenting a great feeling of peace and joy through spending long hours in the hammock. It is something I had already learnt from this trip and anothers before. Since our visit in India I have tried, rounding up, around fifty different hammocks and other balancing sits. It has always been recomfortating and nice to let myself flow with the movement from side to side. But it is being this time, in our wooden house in Koh Tao, that I am really getting addicted to it. I have breakfast on the hammock; write, read and smoke on the hammock. I even eat on the hammock and spend the time I’m at home laying on the hammock. When I have left the house and come back, I come back to the hammock. When we go to a bar, I always look for a bar with a hammock. I also sleep on the hammock sometimes.

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    I have realized it is starting to be too much but I can only wish there is a hammock free for me wherever I go. Am I getting even lazier in Koh Tao? Is it because I feel like inside the belly of my mom again? I’m starting to be concerned about that and I think is time to quit this bad habit of only thinking about my hammock. Should I really be worried about or should I only let it be? Is there any way to avoid it? Is there any detox theraphy I could do? Well, I will try to find an answer to all that questions inside my head. While I look for the answer, I will only lay on the hammock again, watch the time pass by and enjoy life from the sight of my hammock!

  • Run Visa, run

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    The day in which we had to renew our Thai visa arrived and we did it fast and easy, although very tiring. After spending long hours discussing which way would it be the best for us to extend our stay in Thailand and whether to cross to Myanmar or to Malaysia, we decided to do it through one of the travel agencies offering the “Visa Run” service in Koh Tao. We paid them money and they arranged everything, such an strange feeling for us.

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    We contemplated the possibility of doing it by ourselves but were a little discouraged when we realised, after doing numbers, that we would end up paying almost the same and maybe having to stay overnight in the main land, thus extending the time to 2 whole days. Doing it with everything organised was faster, so we surrended this time to a travel agency (sigh!). So we bought the pack: night ferry boat + minivan from Chunporn pier to Rangon + boat to the Myanmar border + return to Chumpon pier + fast catamaran back to Koh Tao. Easy, fast, comfortable and safe.

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    The night was clear and the sea was calmed so we didn’t experience much movement in the boat, although it was very noisy and we didn’t sleep much. We arrived to main land at around five in the morning. The minivan was pretty new and had enough room for long legs like Hector’s, it picked us up from the ferry pier and drop us at the inmigration office. We got our exit stamp, jump on the boat to Myanmar, got the Myanamar stamps too and back to Thailand for another 30 minutes boat trip, including a stop to search through our bags and belongings. The officials at the border weren’t friendly but they were brave enough to stamp our passport with another visa on arrival, 25 days this time. We arrived back in Koh Tao that afternoon, tired but happy for having finished with all that disgusting burocracy for now and to be able to enjoy another “month” of peace and relax without having a look to the calendar or to our passport again. That day we spent the whole afternoon watching movies and sleeping. Only some beers could help us sleep again at night!

     

  • Our wooden house in Koh Tao

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    We started to feel kind of sick of nonstop travelling a couple of weeks ago. It is a pretty confusing feeling because we really love to travel and want to go on with our trip, but at the same time we feel tired of visiting new places everyday and never get to know them well. We have the feeling that we need some holidays from our trip again, something like a stop over to settle and rest for a while. For a couple of weeks, maybe for a month… This is why we decided to look for a house for rent in the island.

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    Surrounded by green and coconut trees, amid the jungle in a quiet valley we found our place that morning, right on the deadline point we had fixed to find a house or leave the island. The house hunting was exhausting due to the strong sun these days. We had checked different houses for rent, but they were not what we were looking for. It was on our way back to the hotel room when we found Gong Valley, just a 50 metres detour off an important road, and a 5 minutes walk to the main pier in Koh Tao, so kind of isolated but well comunicated.

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    The house is made of wood and bamboo, it’s pretty basic and has a lot of charm. From the beginning we liked the good vibes of the owner and his place. He showed us around the valley and the 6 different houses he made himself. All of them have a bedroom, a toilet and a basic kitchen (gas fire, small fridge and a wooden bench, that’s all). Exactly what we were looking for! Outside the house, big front terraces where to admire the view over the valley from your hammock, some hundreds of metres from the sea.

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    We directly felt in love with the place and decided to rent one of the houses for 15 days, later we would see if we were staying longer or not. At the moment, that half month is not over yet and we feel so good here, that we are thinking to stay even longer. That would mean to have to extend our visa and change plans again but, who cares, we are on holidays now and can do whatever we want!

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    We have found also our way to go to the beaches that are far by hitch-hiking. It worked out well in the north of the country and it seems pretty easy in the south too. You just need to stand by the side of the road and stop any car driving in your direction. That’s all. Life here is easy and good. Wake up, have some breakfast and see what you feel like. Later put some sunscreen on and go to the beach with mask and snorkel to see the amazing underwater world. When you feel tired, get some lunch and have some rest. Late in the afternoon it depends, watching a movie, surfing the internet or going out for a drink. What else could we ask for? We are starting to call Koh Tao home…

  • Diving in Koh Tao

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    We knew from the beginning of our trip that we wanted to do a diving course in the south of Thailand. We had heard that Koh Tao was the cheapest and also one of the best options to spot different fish species in all Southeast Asia. That’s why we decided, without knowing the island yet, that we wanted to have our first ever diving experiencie in Koh Tao. We booked our 4 day course from Bangkok so we didn’t do any research when we arrived. There are plenty of diving schools here and all them offer more or less the same. The company we chose, Planet Scuba, is a small school with less students, which makes groups smaller and the classes more personal.

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    The course starts with some clashroom time in which you learn basic things about scuba diving, the underwater world and diving technics. After having passed your test reviews –they are quite easy- arrives your first contact with the diving gear –mask, wetsuit, airtank…- in shallow water. The feeling, when you breath from your tank for the first time, is quite relaxing. At least it was to us. We were very excited about how strange it would feel. Once under water you just need to continue breathing and be calmed. Easy!

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    We learned some necessary skills for diving safe and know the do’s and dont’s under water. Each 45 minutes dive appeared very short in time when we were finished. We would have spent hours there, getting used to the bottled air, the “absence” of gravity, our new friends the fishes, etc. But we had to wait until the next day’s dives.

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    When you have tried it once and know you like it, it is like a kind of drug. I mean, you want more and want it now!! It is tyring to be under water but the excitement gives you strength to continue. When you go out of the water, you realise how tired you are and you start to proccess all the beatiful things you have seen there. The rest of the dives in the course were deeper –up to 18 metres- and even better. We saw many fishes that we had never have pictured in our head before and others –like in the film Nemo- that we had always dreamed about. We haven’t learned much since diving is a thing about experience and time, but we know now that we love it and we are certified to do it everywhere!! It won’t be the last time!!

  • Back in Thailand

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    Four months are over now since our last pit stop in Valencia and we have had the opportunity to visit the north of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The trip has been mainly inland and in hill areas and we could hear the call of the sea in our souls. We come from a coastal town and need to feel the sea breeze in the face much often. So, the next move was going to be to get closer to the sea, heading to the south beaches and islands of Thailand.

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    Once in Bangkok we did some research again and booked an Open Water diving course with free transport from Bangkok and free accommodation in Koh Tao -it was a very good deal, around half the price of what it would have cost back home. Off we go! This part of the trip seemed to be different and more relaxed, and we were getting so excited of the idea of settle down for few days in the same place. Not only we were coming closer to the sea, but to a turquoise water one with loads of colourful animals to observe. We coul not wait any longer.

  • Back in Bangkok

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    On the same day we had arrived back to Pakse from our three days motorbike loop through the Bolaven Plateau, we took a songthaew (kind of a pick up van with two benches very common in Laos as a local bus) to the Thailand border crossing of Vang Tao. Once in Thailand again, we decided to try our luck and increase our hitch hiking experience and got a free ride to Ubon, the closest railway station with a daily train service to Bangkok. Our expectations of getting an sleeper train and have a good rest that night could not be accomplished and we had to complete our 10 hours night ride in a quite small and hard 3rd class sitting bench. One of the inconveniences of travelling without any fixed plan or booking-security, but who needs that…? At least not us.

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    So, we arrived in Bangkok early on the next morning tired and close to a neck contracture from the many contortions in the train. We catched a bus to Kao San Road, the tourist area of the city, got a room and went to eat something. We were back in Bangkok, something we had been secretly expecting in our mind. Somehow, we love this city and we still have so much to discover here…

  • Conclusion of Thailand

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    Thailand is the preferred destination in Southeast Asia by tourists. Most travellers begin their journey of discovery Asian culture in this fabled country, the perfect balance between East and West. Foreign yet familiar, adventurous, accesible and cheap to chill out in, Thailand has the right blend for backpackers. Although if you are looking for tradition, ancient rhythms of life and untouched places this is not the best country, since tourism has been highly exploted in the last years, specially in the south.

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    It is a country in which travelling is very easy: it has a reliable transport that facilitate travelling along the touristic routes, but we have also arrived to off-the-beaten-track places simply by hitching on the roads (Thais are always happy to help you). It is also very cheap for people travelling on a budget. It is easy to find cheap food, accommodation and transport if you shop around for the best prices.

    The two “holy cows” of Thailand are monarchy and religion: Thai people tolerate almost everything provided that none of these two elements are insulted or offended. Thai people love their King and his image is printed in flags, boards, pictures and posters almost in every shop, street, official building and home of the country. They even wear yellow T-shirts, which is the color of the King. The dominant religion in the country is the Buddhism, that’s why it is very common to find orange dressed monks and golden, stone or marble Buddha statues almost everywhere.

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    Thai language is very complicated and has its own alphabet but it is worth to learn few words and sentences to be able to communicate with the locals, even if it’s just for fun. The biggest difficulty is that it is a tonal language: the same word can be pronunciated with increasing, decreasing, high, medium or low tone and, in theory, it can have five different meanings!

    In conclusion, we love Thailand and we highly recommend travelling on this country for many reasons. The most important one is Thai people, very kind and welcoming, always with a smile and a great sense of humour. Other reasons are the amazing and still well preserved landscapes, the laid-back atmosphere, the delicious food and the rich culture they have. And this is after travelling just on the north of Thailand, we are so looking forward to get to the south and explore its wonderful beaches and islands. But this will have to wait a few more months (after visiting Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam).

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  • Thai gastronomy

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    Apart of their eternal smile, Thais have another quality. Like other Asian societies, the people of Siam have a natural ability to produce choice cuisine. There aren’t just temples, beautiful beaches, rice paddies and smiling people in Thailand, there’s also the gastronomy and the seasoned traveller will tell you that the fine Thai cuisine is well worth the detour.

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    The art of Thai cooking is based on simple principles but it is vast, sumptuous and can be elaborate – in any case, its possibilities are endless. The immense menus in the local restaurants bare witness to this. No matter where you go in Thailand, food is never far away. The variety of places to eat is simply astonishing. Street stalls, food courts and outdoor markets may be the cheapest and tastier option.

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    Showing its Burmese, Chinese and Shan influences, the north prefers curries that are more stewlike than the coconut-milk curries of southern or central Thailand. Sour notes are enhanced with the addition of pickled cabagge and lime. Of course many dishes are accompanied by the inevitable Thai rice, which can come in two forms – the classic long grain rice or as rice noodles (khoueitiao). With the latter, however, there are, like a lot of other foods, a lot of different ways to cook them. Asians have a reputation for cooking ‘light’ by boiling ingredients or by steaming food. They do use oil as in deep-fried dishes and to sauté food in their famous stir-fried wok dishes.

    One of the inconvenients that we have found related to food is that Thai people are usually not vegetarians. They love adding any kind of meat or fish to their dishes (beef, chicken, pork, duck, porcupine, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crickets, silk worms and cockroaches among others). So one of the first sentences that we learnt quickly was Diichãn kin ahãan mangsàwirát (I am vegetarian).

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  • Mae Salong and the hill tribe villages

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    After spending a couple of days in Thaton and the surroundings, we headed up north to Mae Salong. As it’s becoming usual lately in our trip, we hitched all the way up to the little town, since transport here (limited to sawngthaew, which is like a van for up to 8 people) is not very regular and a bit more expensive. A winding mountain road leads over 20 km from the foothill to the top through beautiful woodland landscapes.

    Doi Mae Salong village is a settlement up on top a high mountain peak, out in the middle of Chiang Rai’s mountain country, commanding a grand view of green mountain ridges stretching out to the far horizon in breathtaking panorama. The villagers are ethnic Chinese descendants of the KTM nacionalist army regime that took refuge in Thailand almost 50 years ago when Communist forces won the civil war in mainland China. Staying here gives you the feeling of having being transported to China. Chinese language rather than Thai is more frequently spokern here. Almost all the noticeboards are writen in chinese characteres. The food menu is mainly chinese. The land’s severe inclines boast terraces of tea and coffee plantations and there are tea houses all around.

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    An early morning visit to the interesting market (make sure you go there between 5 and 7 a.m.) gives you good chances to see and interact with the town residents and many tribespeople of the hill villages surrounding the town (Akha, Lisu, Lahu, Hmong and Karen among others).

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    We stayed in Shin Sane Guest House, one of the best guest-oriented lodges we have found so far in northern Thailand. The rooms were pretty basic, but laundry was free, internet access very cheap and the owner was very friendly and helpful, giving loads of information and even a handmade map of the area, so you could trek independiently through all the surrounding hill tribe villages. We did a couple of treks and ended up completely knakered (20 km trek in just one morning!!), all wet and miserable, since the monsoon caught us up on the way back, but feeling so happy to be able to trek alone on that marvellous sceneries and been received with smiles in the villages we visited.

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  • Thai cooking lesson in Chiang Mai

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    One of the reasons why we came to Thailand was for its culinary delights. It was not the beaches nor the big cities, although we would like visit them too, it was the food that called our attention more than anything else. So far in our trip in the country we have been meeting different ethnics and tasting many different regional specialities and we love the way Thais have to prepare their food and how good it taste always!

    So once in Chiang Mai, the culinary capital of the north of Thailand and a very famous city for its restaurant and cooking schools, we have decided to join a one day cooking lesson in “The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School”. On this one day, starting at around 9 am we visited one local market where we were explained about the different types of rice and about the way to extract coconut cream and milk.

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    After buying all the necessary ingredients in the market we drove almost 20 km to the organic farm where the courses are held. The first thing was to cook sticky and steamed rice before going for a walk in the farm to see where all these delicious vegetables, herbs and spices come from. Then we cooked 4 different dishes each: one curry paste (yellow and green), the respective curry (yellow and green) with tofu and vegetables (although it could have been cooked with chicken or pork), one Tom Yam and one Thai Vegetable soups, tofu with basil leaves and tofu with cashew nuts stir-fries.

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    The time to taste and lunch arrived and we ate all these 4 dishes we had already cooked, or at least a part of them since it was too much food to eat at the same time. With the stomach completely full and wanting to have a nap we continued cooking 2 more thai specialities each: Pad Thai Fried Noodles and Spring Rolls and Bananas in Coconut Milk and Mango with Sticky Rice for dessert. We were not able even to try them because we where completely full but we packed every dish in a plastic bag and took them with us for that day’s dinner time.

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    Finally we were brought back to our hotel in Chiang Mai, where we finally could eat the rest of the things. We had a great time in the farm, learnt some good things that we are looking forward to show to our friends and family, and made some new friends who we hope to meet again somewhere else during our trip. See you guys!!

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