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Thailand take 2

THAILAND | Wednesday, 12 December 2012 | Views [8242]

Monks releasing Lanterns
Chiang Mai

Monks releasing Lanterns Chiang Mai

Thailand take two.


Ten days back in Australia is a whirl of family and social commitments, housekeeping and tidying up loose ends. So wonderful to be greeted at the airport by youngest son and Mum, so emotional to leave again this time for maybe a year. And just like that we left again. It was an honour sharing cherished moments with our much loved family and friends and so grateful people went out of their way to spend time with us. 

 So it was a car, a train, three planes, a minivan and a boat that landed us on Koh Lipe, Thailand.  We had arrived in Trang with no other plan than to get to a fairly quiet but beautiful place to relax. It was more of a case of where we could get quickly  and fairly effortlessly and what a great decision Lipe was located In the Tarutao National park islands (one series of survivor was filmed here). We had left Bangkoks Don Muang at 8 am and we were swimming by 2 pm. Many will say we are 5 years too late as the resorts are taking over and food prices have skyrocketed but this is a truly beautiful island. There are still many magnificent beaches where you find yourself alone, palm fringed, white powdered sand, the ocean like a giant aquarium. We found ourselves a 300 baht bungalow in Daya resort one of the few places owned by the original Chaw lair families who inhabited the islands in this region. They definitely had the best and cheapest seafood BBQ each night with large slabs of freshly caught mackerel for 80 baht and 4 pieces of squid 60. We quickly settled in to an idyllic rhythm of wandering the island swimming, snorkelling sleeping and recovering from our very busy 10 days back in Australia. 

One favourite day we hired a double kayak and not only circumnavigated the island but also explored nearby Ao Nang another national park island not to mention discovering and claiming land rights to Coggos Island with 2 perfect beaches depending on which way the wind blows. 




 Stopping for beer at sunset beach we decided to watch the sunset from sea and sat out in the Andaman sea watching the sky turn orange then pink and sizzle into the horizon.

After 6 days on Koh Lipe we decide to try another island for 3-4 days. Somewhere quiet with few tourists. We land on Koh Bilone, a small island with a few expensive resorts catering for the package tourist. We can't afford the price they ask so we walk around for a while and find a small beach with local fisherman and family run accommodation. Settle into our little bungalow on the water and spend the next 3 days getting absorbed into the local village lifestyle. Men fish, women cook and children play and swim. Leeanne relaxes collecting heart shaped coral on the beach while I collect driftwood and build fires to help keep the mozzies away plus the simple fact I'm a real "piro" at heart. This is the closest I've been to camping in a while and it feels good!

We eat fresh fish every night really cheap usually wrapped in banana leaf and cooked on the BBQ. With no refrigeration it's hard to get a cold beer, but if you are patient someone will scrounge up some ice to get things cold. 



Once again we meet some fascinating people, whether it be the friendly locals or intrepid travellers looking for that something special like ourselves. We eat and talk with a couple of German travellers, Odo and Christina. If you need some inspiration to enjoy the travelling and exploring lifestyle then look no further. Both are 70 yrs old and wander the planet with small backpacks looking for that special place and moment! They insisted on showing us  a cool sunset viewing spot on the island only accessible on low tide. We clamber over rocks and through jungle and sit and wait for the last magical part of the day. Their English is limited, but the questions just keep coming in our direction. Odo is so inquisitive about Australia and our way of life. We give him the lowdown on Oz tossed in with a touch of Aussie slang and humour. He had an infectious smile. Personal details are exchanged as we say goodbye and we get a ride in a long tail boat back to the mainland toward Trang.

We share with about 13-14 locals, mainly family, and talk along the way as we pass fishing boats at sea. The scenery is spectacular, small karst iislands poke up everywhere along the coastline. The SW coast of Thailand has some fantastic islands to explore. With little effort you can stay and experience this part very cheaply, especially if you avoid the peak tourist season of Dec,Jan,Feb.

We "recharge the batteries" in a clean room in Trang. Leeanne finds wifi which she needs desperately to do some work related stuff and to try and talk with our kids in different parts of the globe! We prepare to fly to Bangkok and start the next phase of our journey and spend some fun times with Niki, Molly, Chelle, Mark, Georgia and Lexi. Wow! So many Aussie people at once! It's gunna be noisy!

5 days later, after a whirlwind Cheapskate tour of Bangkok including the Royal Palace, The Chao Praya River and Khao san road ....we sadly said our goodbyes to Niki and Molly, great to catch up with them so brief but so lovely. The rest of us head off to experience some WW2 history in Kanchinabari. A sense of pride and gratitude engulfs the body when you try and imagine life as an Aussie POW forced to build the 'death railway'. We hire 3 motorbikes and ride nearly 200 km in a day, with sore bums and a tyre blowout (only 80cents to fix) we enjoy quiet beers, wine and a game of 'shithead' at our riverside floating house for 3 nights. A good value stopover for only $8/nt. Back in Bangkok briefly.

Back in Bangkok we decide to have dinner at a local soup kitchen off Khao san rd. We are half way through our noodles, it is lightly drizzling when all of a sudden .- "Bang" !! we hit the ground not sure at first what had happened. An electricity meter box had exploded . Apart from staff, we are the only people sitting. We are close to the explosion, ending up on the floor checking for injuries. We are both OK as we scramble to the street amongst smoke and sounds of women staff crying. The fire is extinguished and the clean up process begins. I go back in to find my missing thong then we find a bar, buy a beer to settle the nerves and recap the previous half hour. A close call !

We continue our Thailand journey in Chaing Mai in late November to coincide with the famous lantern festival. Thousands of lanterns float skyward along with candle lit krathongs floating down the rivers and canals. The ritual is believed to help us release negative feelings and make us better people. I sure know it makes you feel better just being part of it and enjoying the moment. The town is alive with excitement. Music, parades, lots of fireworks. I mean lots! We buy some crackers to join in on the fun. Skyrockets, bungers, throwdowns, tomthumbs, you name it. All of these missiles being let off by rank amateurs , so the result is organised chaos! "Cracker night" on steroids !

Although the Loy Kraton festival runs for 4 or 5 days the main night is the full moon of the 28th. We settle on the top of a double decker bus with a fabulous view of the River, bridge, fireworks and lanterns. The night is awe inspiring.

We peruse the hundreds of offerings being sold along the river and after making our selections we release them into the Ping River along with our hopes and dreams. Our necks ache from looking skyward and our nerves are frazzled from the constant explosion of fireworks many right under our feet and many released by Mark and Paul. We buy more lanterns and the boys decide it is a good idea to tie 3  together and release them from the top of the bus. Needless to say they catch fire and after a lot of commotion the fire is put out and the evidence dispensed over the side of the bus. The whole town seems to be on fire or exploding. Chelle and I are duly proud of the fact that when Sophie first described this festival to us a year ago and we promised we would try to make it that we actually were there sharing the night together. 

We leave Chiang Mai and hire a minivan to head north up to Pai. A pretty town nestled in a valley with a small river running through. Lots of cool bars, music and restaurants. Once again, we find the 'cheapie' eats with Mumma the cook serving us local dishes...more chilli please! It's time to leave our backpacks in town and head up into the hills for a few days. Renting motorbikes are cheap in Pai ( $5/day inc. insurance) . Leeanne and I make our way to Sappong by bike crossing a fantastic mountain. The ride is unbelievable, lots of steep climbs, and hairpin bends. The views are great. With little traffic and new road  it makes it a safe journey, just keep your eye on the fuel gauge as the hills really suck the juice, especially with 2 on board!

After meeting the Coles in Sappong we are  all equipped with bikes and make our way a short trip to our home for the next 3 days. Cave Lodge at Ban Tham Lod is a rustic timber guesthouse overlooking a winding mountain stream. The area is famous for its river caves which are a must to visit in this far north region of Thailand. It is dusk. We hire bamboo rafts and a guide ,with a kero lantern, to take us through the river cave passing enormous limestone formations, hidden tree log coffins over 2000 yrs old, before coming towards the exit to witness countless thousands of swifts (small black birds) flying into the cave to nest for the night. They seem to swap places with the bats which are eager to leave the cave on nightfall. It's one of those magical moments of nature which happens everyday, same place, same time!

The next part of our journey takes us to Chiang Rai. We need to do a visa run which involves hiring a bike and riding to Mai Sai about 65 km's towards the Myanmar border. A small bridge separates the two countries. Simply pass through each immigration office, pay 500 baht or US$10 (much cheaper) on the Myanmar side and back you go over the bridge into Thailand. That sorted, we join up with Coles back in Chaing Rai. Melancholy starts to take hold as all 6 of us enjoy our last night together before we become 3 and 3. Bloody hell, Chelle has started with the tears! Her eldest daughter, Georgia, is about to join us for a couple of months as we make our way to Mexico and Central America. We promise to look after her just as if she is a  Coggo child. It will also be a privilege to witness her evolve as she leaves the nest ... just for a short time  .  Seeya Coles, love you guys! 


Only a few more  days and we fly east over the Pacific to LA, bound toward Central America and a brief chance to be as one with our 4 amazing kids who have been on their own journeys this year. Xmas together in Mexico many stories to hear and tell, many hugs to be had and plans and dreams discussed. Leeanne is a little excited! 7 months since we sold most of our material possessions, packed our packs and started our adventure through Asia. "Thank you" .....China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar ..... you have made us better people .




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