A Travellerspoint blog

Tour through Khao Sok

semi-overcast 29 °C

Even with our tricky mosquito net that didn't like night time bathroom runs, we didn't get eaten by the bugs. Our wake up calls came from gibbons, birds, and Ryan's favourite, the cicada squeal. He probably still cringes thinking about it. Breakfast was pretty relaxed with only a few people ordering and we managed to chat with Mr. Bao, the owner, and book the overnight lake tour. His absence yesterday was explained by the fact that he owned three business and they kept him on his toes.

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We ventured to Jungle Huts guesthouse where our solo tour departed a touch late. They were nice enough to drive us to the gate. Our guide, Beer, welcomed us and made sure we bought our admission tickets. Then we went through the check-points to enter the park. We felt very tracked and it was odd.

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The first part of the trail was a wide road with red dirt. Beer pointed out monkeys, flying squirrels and even a chameleon. We ventured into a more trail-like path soon after. We stopped quite frequently at viewpoints or to take a break even though we weren't tired. These seemed to be smoke breaks for the guides.

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The waterfalls we saw were more like rapids in each spot that we visited. At least the water was clear and turquoise so it offered some natural beauty. I still didn't want to swim until we made more progress on the trial walk.

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On one of our many breaks, other guides called out to the monkeys and offered them bananas to their hiker's delight. Many gray primates came over, even a mother with a small black baby clutched to her abdomen. They followed those guides afterward for awhile. We, Beer included, kept our distance. Beer shared in the opinion that feeding them only led to dependence and trouble. Afterwards we stopped for an early lunch.

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At the fifth viewpoint, Beer had us cross a river in a sketchy way only to have another guide tell him not to go that way because of the water levels. As I struggled to make it back across the river, our guide decided it was a good time for a cigarette, probably to make up for all of those times we'd declined a break. The Thai rational for the mandatory guide was to make the experience safer. I wouldn't have tried to cross the river on my own, and Ryan was the only reason I made it back across. I was get more disillusioned by the guided experience.

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The path to view the sixth area was covered in leeches that sat on the ground like inchworms with teeth, ready to pounce. My choice to wear sandals wasn't the brightest. I had to keep stopped to pluck them off my feet and would lose the group. When we finally arrived, I had two spots bleeding quite a lot. I washed them up while swimming near some neat caves. Ryan helped me patch up my foot. His shoes had been a much better barrier. By the time we made our way back to the entrance, I had picked up five more leeches. We also saw a centipede on the slippery ground.

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For supper, we found a restaurant with good vegetarian and lacto-ovo options. We shared a massaman curry and sweet and sour tofu, which were both pretty good. When we got back and talked to Mr. Bao, he confirmed there would be enough participants to run the lake tour we wanted to postpone a night. Tomorrow would be a nice relaxing day for our bodies and wallets. Never hurt to rest in a beautiful place.

The following morning, just as we finished our tasty French toast and were about to sort out our arrangements for diving and research for the rest of our Thailand trip, the power went out. There went most of our plans for the day and the reason to postpone the lake trip. Shortly after, a man on a motorbike came by and confirmed that power was out around the whole town and probably wouldn't be up and running until later tonight.

The day passed by leisurely, reading, writing, relaxing in our little cabin. It was nice to have a balcony and the breeze since the fan wasn't working. We wandered a bit into town and found that the vegetarian restaurant was one of the few still open. With power out, many couldn't keep the fridges going. Exploring took up a bit more time, although Ryan was dismayed to learn fruit shakes couldn't be made and blended without power.

In the evening, the power came back, we got our dive booking sorted and went next door to eat since they had a Thailand Lonely Planet, something we'd be needing to figure out what sections I hadn't yet seen as Ryan wanted sights to be new for me too. That would be the biggest challenge. By the end of the night, we found a few sights in the Northeast that would be interesting to visit and might fill up the next couple of weeks: volcano temples linked to those in Cambodia, but on the Thai side since the Khmer empire stretched that far.

Posted by Sarah.M 23:17 Archived in Thailand Tagged monkey thailand waterfall hike national_park khao_sok Comments (0)

Koh Sok canoeing

sunny 29 °C

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It was time to move on to Koh Sok, a touristy national park in the south. Our ride there via minibus took about four hours from Krabi and cost 250 baht each. For an air conditioned ride, that was pretty good. They stopped to pick up and drop off people all along the way. Sometimes it got pretty squishy.

Once we reached the bus stop in Koh Sok, there was a man with a sign displaying different hotel names. After inspecting it closer, I found ours and he confirmed that guests staying there got a free ride in. Things were going our way again. The Valley Lodge was away from the main road and surrounded by trees. They had rustic bamboo bungalows on stilts along the forested path. They had roofed balconies and a bed surrounded by a large mosquito net. It was very cozy.

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We headed to town to see if we could rent canoes. The answer was no, but we explored the town and found the national park. The tour companies offered two hour canoe trips and the man we talked to offered us enough of a discount that we took it. It came out to 500 baht for both of us.

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They picked us, the guide, and the kayak up in a songtao, and drove further up the river. We passed through a Buddhist cave and a monk to get to the river. Our guide didn't speak much English, but we enjoyed the views. We didn't get the option to paddle though, it was all done for us.
On the river, fish swam, and birds flew around. There were even some nuts and fruits on the trees that they enjoyed eating.

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The vibrant blue kingfisher was a favourite in flight as it revealed its colour. From the front, they had a plain white/gray body.

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Beautiful karst hills and mountains came up on the horizon. Next we sailed by the drunk tourists tubing down the river with their beers in hand. They were friendly enough.

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By the end of the tour, we got to see rubber trees as well, with little bowls underneath to collect the liquid. We made a pit stop to drop off the kayaks at someone's home and our guide hopped out to chat. The family was buying homemade ice cream from a local vendor so we hoped out too to buy some. It was coconut and really tasty. The guide was laughing at us as we left.

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We wanted to visit the park tomorrow, but unbeknown to us when we planned this destination, it wasn't possible to walk more than a few kilometers into the park without a guide. The park rangers confirmed the tour companies claims. They also offered their own guide service and we told them we'd come back after thinking about it. Even after doing more research online at the guesthouse, we got the same answers. It seemed to be a recent change.

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When we went back to find the ranger, he was gone. Our guesthouse owner and the staff there had vanished as well after our meal, so we couldn't book with them either. We went next door and booked with the guesthouse next door.

Posted by Sarah.M 20:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged park national canoe ice_cream kingfisher koh_sok Comments (0)

Four Islands Tour

semi-overcast 30 °C

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In the morning, a colourful Mercedes bus that belonged in the 60s soared by our street playing party music out of its open windows. It pulled a U-turn and stopped in front of our guesthouse. We were pretty stoked about the sweet ride to the four islands tour today. The tour was a steal, maybe $15 (450 baht) each included transport, lunch and snorkeling. They gave us stickers on the bus to help organize everyone. When we arrived at the coast, we found out why.

Hundreds of people were standing around awaiting instructions from the guides. They organized us by tour then by hotel name. Finally, we were ready, or so we thought. Our boat still had to stop and pick up more people in Railay.

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Our first tour stop was Tup and Chicken islands, Koh Tup and Koh Gai, which were attached by a sandbar if the tide wasn't too high. We walked Chicken island's shores. Blue seas and skies extended as far as we could see. A few islands were dotted on the horizon. The sun was strong today too.

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Crowds thinned out and we headed back to the boat with our time limit expiring. We did have time for a quick swim and to see a fish or two in the sparse coral. I got a few more photos then rushed back to the boat.

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Our next stop wasn't far and we jumped off to snorkel. Fish darted around in all sizes and colours, but we had to stay off the bottom to avoid the dangerous sea urchins. Ryan got the hang of the snorkel pretty quick too. Afterward, we hopped back on for a photo stop that illustrated how chicken island got its name. The rocks formed a long neck and a beak.

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We jetted off to Koh Mawr for our lunch stop on the beach. There was a fried veggie dish to share and a spicy chicken dish as well. We had time to swim in the refreshing waters and even see fish between the anchored boats. Their colours were light, blending in quite well with the sand. Sii Island stood tall in the background, mostly to look at due to its limestone rock composition and lack of surrounding beach.

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Our final stop was Railay beach so we explored the far side we'd missed before and did some more snorkeling. There weren't quite as many fish, but it was still beautiful. Kayaks darted out of nooks between the rocks and I wished we had taken the time to rent them earlier. Back on our charter boat, we got pineapple and watermelon as a snack before heading back to mainland.

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We had to move guesthouses once more to get closer to Krabi. We took a songtao to the bus station to buy tickets to Koh Sok for tomorrow, then rather unsuccessfully tried to find a songtao that would take us to our next destination. After walking and asking a number of them, we jumped in a taxi songtao that a few girls were taking to the city, rode four blocks, then hopped out to walk another twenty minutes.

It got a bit tiring with the big bags. Rain started coming down and we hoped it wasn't that much further. I pulled out my tablet to use Google Maps, checking my e-mail in the process. An e-mail from the guesthouse owners informed us of a free shuttle service from Krabi town, since they were out in the sticks. Alanis Morisette would be singing. If only we'd just rode the other songtao into town. A tour minibus pulled over and asked us where we were going. He confirmed the place was only a few minutes walk down the road. Nearly there!

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We arrived and the staff showed us around the rooms. The first had a broken sink that they were in the process of fixing, so they moved us to a twin room where everything was supposed to work. Ryan had to fix the toilet tank and ants crawled across the floor.
The only resort-like quality, given that their name was Diamond Home Resort, was the nice pool. We ran over there, discovering in the process that our sunburns were a touch worse than we'd thought. At least the water cooled them off and we wouldn't be snorkeling too soon, so they'd have a chance to recover.

After getting supper at the only place with food nearby, we sat outside our room to enjoy some cookies. There were too many bugs in the room to do otherwise. Since they only had one chair and a desk that was weathered enough it had to stay outside, I jokingly sat on the desk. It collapsed and we spent the rest of the evening trying to get the silly thing to stand upright again. In the end, Ryan managed to get it looking normal.

Posted by Sarah.M 22:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged krabi railay snorkel 4_islands_tour long_boat Comments (0)

We're Railey Rock Climbing

rain 26 °C

Dark clouds obscured the sky and soon droplets fell down as well. None of this was reassuring to two people who had booked a rock climbing session in Railay today. The staff at the guesthouse assured us that it would go, rain or shine. The company picked us up in a songtao and drove to a very desolate pier. Compared to yesterday, we seemed to be on the opposite side of Railay. The rain gained momentum as it attacked our skin and clothes, damping our optimistic thoughts that the rocks could stay dry. The operators weren't bothered, a good sign surely.

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The tide was quite low this morning so 'docking' required quite a bit of walking through murky water to reach the beach. They brought us to King
Climbers straight away to get fitted with gear and sign our waivers. We were impressed with our climbing shoes and chalk bags too.

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Next, we walked back to Railay East where our target rocks lay. At the far end were karst towers just before a small stretch of beach. To our good fortune, the rocks were hardly even wet at all since they were so sheltered. Another group had already started climbing. I was a bit envious of their small group size. They managed the first wall with only a few difficulties.

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We learned our first skill, tying the figure eight knot that would keep our harnesses attached to the rope. It required two twists then slide the rope through. Next the rope came close to the harness, through the two loops and the rope end followed the original eight's path. If the rope was still too long it got tied in a simple knot.

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A few people raced up the first wall the guides set up and once the second was up and running, they invited me to start climbing it. It was pretty easy to get a good grip on the rocks. The footholds were great as well. I scaled it pretty quickly until I looked down and realized how high I was. I began to panic a bit so my grips got worse and shaky. Reaching the next point was tricky, but I pushed myself to do it with sweaty palms. I touched the silver ring at the top and gestured I was ready to come down. Even after I was on the ground and untying my figure eight knot, my hands were still shaking.

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Ryan tried the first wall, which was a bit higher. He raced up pretty easily and only slowed at one section where he had to wedge himself a bit to get the leverage to go further.

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When I tried the same wall, it took much longer since I couldn't reach all of the holds. I forged my own path in the beginning and had plenty of rest spots where I could chalk up my sweaty palms. I made it in the end but my forearms felt like lead for half an hour afterward.

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Ryan tried out the third wall. The bottom had a tricky section where you had to stick in your feet, pull with your arms and stretch to make it past the protruding rock. Ryan made it to the top easy enough after that.

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When I'd rested enough to give it a go, I got stuck further up since my feet wouldn't plant well enough for me to reach the next rock. Short people problems. When I finally did make it after many tries and needed a rest, the belayer dropped me back to that initial tricky position. A few more failed attempts and I called it a day.

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After the climb, we had the option to boat back right away or stay until 5:30. We decided not to let the rain clouds decide for us and stayed. Need be, we'd wait it out in a cafe. Ryan and I walked over to Princess Cave to go exploring. It was one of my favourite parts of the area. People stuck near the beach and few waded over to the cave so we had it all to ourselves. We climbed up the sandy rocks and sneaked through crevices until we made it to the other side where the waves rushed and back out. There was a small cove with limestone rock formations sheltering it from oncoming boats.

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When more people found the spot, we ventured up to a higher cave with a nice viewpoint of the limestone walls blue waters. The climb back left us a bit muddy and bruised, but it was worth it for the nice views of the beach. We swam a bit afterward until hunger called.

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Wandering around the island, we found a little restaurant with reasonable prices and vegetarian food. Ryan had some of his favourite Pad Thai in all of Thailand and I had some green curry.

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It was too muddy to climb to the viewpoint/lagoon so we just relaxed on the beach until it was time to take the ferry. Opposite the cave we actually found a neat swimming area and a pretty cool island.

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The Chinese family we had climbed with this morning was still there too and the man asked us if we'd attempted even more climbing. Not so much. Our bodies were content with just the morning. Back at Ao Nang, I had an relaxing massage with lots of much needed stretching. Then Ryan and I went for supper nearby.

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Posted by Sarah.M 04:08 Archived in Thailand Tagged rain cave rock climb limestone railay princess beginner Comments (0)

Krabi kayaking and ants

semi-overcast 31 °C

The next morning we learned why the guesthouse had a no food in the rooms policy. I went out on the balcony to make myself a breakfast sandwich only to find nature had added its own protein. The jar swarmed with tiny ants so I put the lid back on, left it on the ledge and went back inside.

"I hope you like plain bread."

"Why?" Ryan asked.

"Go look at the jar."

Ryan walked over to it and had a similar reaction. That thing wasn't coming near our room if it wasn't it a Ziplock. Some ants had escaped and were crawling around the ledge too.

We didn't think they'd get up to the fifth floor. Crazy buggers.

We packed up our bags and lastly brought out our rule breaking offense. We found a trash bin in the lobby to dispose of it. Soon we were in the van with a few other tourists as our guide briefed us on our half, or full for others, day of kayaking. He had a lot of information and zest. No one in our group had kayaked before either.

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At the site, they walked us through the basics of paddling forward and back in our two-man sea kayak. I sat in the back as 'captain' since I'd been kayaking before. An Indian couple were in our group as well as a Canadian woman who went with our guide.

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Our first stop was an oyster farm and around the time I realized the different memory card we brought was corrupted and wouldn't allow us to take more than 10 pictures, so apologies for the poor quality. Essentially the farm was our guide picking up a crate with oysters attached then putting it back in the water.

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Next we paddled to Lod cave with impressive stalactites. The neat part was that we were able to paddle the canoes all the way through and back. Our group was more interested in getting photos of themselves kayaking in these places than moving around too much. Very recreational tour. They kept telling us to slow down. The mangrove forests that we traversed were quite beautiful and the root structures showed as the water was low.

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We paddled a short distance to the second cave that featured ancient cave paintings. According to our guide, they were done in blood and still remained today. The water levels then would have been much higher, given the location of the paintings. Some paintings were of men, animals, and even aliens. Jury's out on whether he was joking or not. He did also tell us that the people used the caves to hide from dinosaurs in all seriousness. Ryan found this quite amusing.

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We kept walking around the dry cave to admire the stalactites and stalagmites. The caves were quite large, a couple stories high and we explored the different levels. Lighting was a bit bad for photos, but we all snapped away anyway. We found out the other Canadian woman had been studying in Australia so she shared some information about it with us. Partway through the chat, it was already time to paddle back and have lunch.

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The Indian couple's boat got towed back behind the guide's since they were struggling. We raced them all to the starting/ending point. The guide complimented our kayaking skills. I'd wished we'd done a little more real kayaking, but maybe next time. The caves were cool.
We had a lunch stop on the way back, delicious cold fried rice, but meat-free and that's all that mattered to me. The van dropped us off at 3 Bees guesthouse which was a bit tricky since neither us nor the driver had been there before. When we saw the Italian flag on the sign, we got them to stop and we were there.

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We walked up the fifth floor, again. The Thai guesthouses really had it out for us and settled into our room. We took our time showering, washing some clothes and cooling off until we realized there was no wifi in the room. When we asked about it, they explained it would work a floor down or we could switch rooms. We weren't sure why we didn't get the other room in the first place, but it all got settled. The other room was in a different building but luckily only on the fourth floor.

We booked another tour for tomorrow, rock climbing, inspired by our false attempts in China, and then tried to make it down to the beach for sunset. We got easily distracted with the supply of cheap fruit shakes, little markets and even a nearby mosque in passing. In theory, twenty minutes of walking down this street would reach the beach.

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Near sunset, we finally made it to the gorgeous beach, even in time for a quick swim. The clouds were epic against the lightly coloured horizon. With working memory cards we took a lot of photos. Some settings are more fun than others. We found a dramatic one we enjoyed.

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For supper we found a tiki style restaurant where we shared pineapple fried rice which came in a half of a hollowed out pineapple and Ryan's favourite, Penang curry. On the walk back, the pancake stalls were so tempting we topped up our supper with an apple cinnamon pancake each. Thailand was a land of wonderful snacks and treats.

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Posted by Sarah.M 01:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged sunset beach krabi cave kayaking painting ants butter peanut Comments (0)

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