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Green Christmas in Koh Tao

sunny 29 °C

In the morning, we did our little scavenger hunt. My clues were bit less cryptic than Ryan's so he had to help out with a few and grab the one that really got wedged in the light/keycard socket where I had been looking but couldn't find it. His gift was a set of drawing pencils and a sour candy and mine was a pack of coconut banana rolls, mango candy and popcorn.

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Since it was Christmas, we went to our favourite breakfast spot to treat ourselves to the big breakfast sets. The vegetarian one had beans, hash browns, toast, egg and a very oniony grilled veggie along with tea and orange juice. No room for cinnamon rolls. Ryan had a similar set but with meat in place of beans and veggies.

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On our way back, we stopped at the front desk. I was sure they were gearing up to reset the wifi since we were constantly asking about it, but instead we asked them to take our picture by their Christmas tree.

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We figured out a beach to visit up near Saiwee beach on the east coast this time. I brought sport sandals just in case we ran into island hills, which we did. The signage was poor for the roads. We passed a Thai boxing arena and Saiwee beach until we did find a sign indicating that we were at the farther beach we hadn't intended to visit, again. This was getting familiar, but we thought ah well, we'd check out Laem Thian beach anyway, known to be quiet.

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The hike soon turned challenging as we passed construction on a new resort and more signs to tell us that this road was also dangerous for inexperienced motorcyclists. The uphill trek began and we checked our not so full water bottle. If the resort area was anything like the last one, we could get some overpriced water there. Along the way we passed a man's home, a jogger, flowered trees, and old homes. But most of the trail down followed a waterline, reassuring us that there'd be some kind of development at the end, be it a shop or a hotel.

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The crashing of the ocean's waves grew stronger and the blue water would peek through the trees, leading us onto another hilly path. We came across a tall concrete building with loiterer's debris and smashed windows. Ryan joked we should climb it for a view but I was cautious of squatters.
The other stairs led down to the other section of the shabby resort that we later found out had been abandoned in 2011. Mainly English graffiti and the liquor bottles confirmed this was a party site, not somebody's temporary home. We avoided broken glass from windows and bottles as we walked.

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We sat on the tiny tip of beach and the cement ledge. The waves crashed in, too strong to swim or stand leisurely up to our knees. We welcomed the break, though we had trouble seeing why this would be ideal resort territory.

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Next, we went exploring a bit, up the two flights of stairs to the roof with a nice view. We were at the tip of the island with ocean to our left and right. The wind tunneled through and we couldn't help but think what a nightmare the place would be during a storm. Perhaps an accident or big storm closed down their business. It was always eerie to see things frozen in time, the signs still up and a few beds still around in the busted rooms.

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We walked back using our limited energy and water. There were some birds and small animals, lots of butterflies too. Parched at the bottom of the hill, we sought out shakes at a nearby restaurant. The ladyboy working took our order: a coconut shake for Ryan and mango for me. They weren't the greatest ones we'd had, but boy did we need them and the fan they turned on for us, operating at top speed. We topped up our water supply nearby and explored Saiwee beach area a bit. Most of the same shops were here like in our area, including Zest, but here was bigger and had far more tourists.

For lunch, we stopped at The Hippo as Ryan had been quoting Along Came Polly since we'd started diving. He had even wanted to get the French instructor so he could get him to say 'Rueben, are you for scuba?', but sadly it never happened. He could be 'happy as the hippo' with his generous portion of pad thai. I had a veggie burger that had my mouth watering since I read about it and enjoyed every bite. We rolled ourselves out of there and back to the familiar Mae Haad area. Our plans to visit a real beach got scrapped by our desire to rest out of the sun.

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Come supper hour, we still had minimal appetites. We wandered the streets indecisively for a bit before going to see a Thai acoustic band Fah Mai. We could only see half the musicians from our position at the back couch. At the same venue we'd ate at yesterday, they'd expanded the temporary steel walls and were cutting up vinyl table clothes during the show. The group's sound was good, like folk fest meets folklorama vibe. All the lyrics were in Thai. Overall, it had been a Christmas that would be hard to forget.

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Posted by Sarah.M 22:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach waves music christmas band resort hike thai koh_tao abandoned Comments (0)

Christmas Eve, Koh Tao

During a relaxing morning, we treated ourselves to a full breakfast at our quick favourite cafe Zest. We had cinnamon buns, a spinach omelette and Ryan had another pepper ham sandwich. We've become regulars around there. They even gave us a Christmas gift from the friendly Thai owner, a cute bag of cookies.

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Our next mission was to find a beach on the South side of the island with calmer waters. The roads weren't the greatest for walking with steady traffic and no sidewalk. There were hills too, not too bad until we reached closer. A map would have been handy as the signage was pretty minimal. Finally we saw a sign that said Haad Sai Daeng beach. It was further than we intended but there was no use backtracking. We climbed past the palm trees in our poor footwear. Not a good day for flip flops. At the summit, there was a tower with a view of Shark Island. The slope down was quite steep and not recommended for vehicles.

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The beach was a decent trek down and fairly small, overtaken by two resorts. Given the crazy road, the beaches weren't too hopping. Our stomachs begged to be taken care of first so we went to the resort and got pricey Cokes, a fried rice dish and a burger that actually filled Ryan up for once as it came with fries. Looking back it seemed cheap, but when your head is working in local currency it's two to three times the price of a regular meal.

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Next, we set our sights on finding a place on the beach where the brazen waters wouldn't soak our stuff. I had some fun photographing the waves before the sunscreen set it. We stood in the warm waters as the waves crashed in, watching the small cove, the island, the few brave swimmers and our bags until my legs started to get funny jolts in my nerves, not bites mind you, but we left all the same. Maybe muscle exhaustion from scuba and the hike, hopefully not jellyfish. We had no problem lazing on the beach after that. It clouded over a bit to offer us some relief.

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Before we left, we wandered to the opposite side of the small beach to find the other resort. The hike up wasn't as bad as we thought it would be and we got to enjoy the coconut trees.

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For supper, after our hour plus walk, we tried to go to the kebab place which was closed and instead went to Bro and Sis to watch some live music by a foreign man named Simon. He covered Johnny Cash, Passenger, Kings of Leon and had a pretty good voice. The atmosphere was neat too with a balcony and pillow seats overlooking the dark ocean and an open warehouse concept complete with cement floors and metal walls inside, though that could have been because they were doing renovations nearby to expand. From nearby Sairee beach, we could see all the party lights.

To celebrate Christmas, Ryan and I did a 50 baht ($1.60) gift exchange based on items we could find in 7-11. We'd turn it into a scavenger hunt by writing up clues and hiding the gifts around the hotel room.

Posted by Sarah.M 17:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach waves christmas hike koh_tao 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)

Ao Nang Beach Bums

sunny 34 °C

In the morning, we had our breakfast on the balcony to avoid eating in the room and breaking the guesthouse's rule. Peanut butter sandwiches and apples were a good call. After that we got ourselves beach ready, digging out the shorts and sunscreen that was long buried during our stint in China, and hopped in another songtao. This time we weren't just being cheap. It was the legitimate way to travel between Krabi town and Ao Nang where the beaches were. The wind blowing in our hair helped cool us down, and the truck bed did have seats, a roof and rail-like walls for the illusion of safety.

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Ao Nang was certainly different than Krabi town. The beachfront was lined with tourist restaurants, fruit shake stands, tour package offers, but nothing to indicate a local presence. We checked out a few of the tours but nothing caught our eye just yet so we hit the beach.
The sand was light and soft on the feet. There were hardly any people on it at all. We wondered who could possibly pass up such a beautiful day. Probably the people on tours. We sprawled out on a nice cozy section and headed into the warm waters. They were still cool enough to refresh and incredibly clear. To our left, there tree covered karst that sheltered the beach and to the right the sand went on further than we wanted to walk.

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Eventually, our stomachs decided they'd had enough beach time and we needed food. We found a reasonable place with vegetarian options as well as whole coconuts that they'd cut the top off, pry open and stick in a straw. Once we'd tackled all the coconut water, we had spoons to dig the meat out of the shell. It was a lot chewier than if it had been dried out as we were used to. Our food was good too, although we couldn't recall what it was.

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We wandered the beach until the lack of shade sent us back in the water for a dip and later to find fruit shakes from a nearby vendor. We brought them along in the songtao packed with other tourists making the return journey and a few local women as well. The journey back took us a little over half an hour, and boy was that breeze appreciated.

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We hadn't intended to stay in Krabi too long, but we were enjoying it so much we didn't want to leave. Unfortunately, our indecisiveness meant that we would have to switch to dorms here or find a new accommodation. Given the prices, we opted to relocate to a cheap double room in Ao Nang, plus the tours would be easier to do from there, we thought. The man working the tour desk at our guesthouse helped us line up a kayaking tour that would also transfer us from this hotel to our next, no hard feelings because their double rooms were booked solid.

We went next door to a pad thai restaurant with only local customers so far. We split a dish that even came with a lime, which was perfect. The pad thai was good, but we wished it had a bit more sauce. Then we ventured over to the weekend market, first acquiring fruits like guava and oranges.
The market was absolutely packed tonight. Ryan managed to get some fried chicken and I stood in a long line for som tam, papaya salad. I had to stand close enough so I could make sure the little shrimp didn't get added. When they did, the man was nice enough to start a new one for me. Surely someone behind me in line would want it the shrimpy one. We fought our way through the crowd to circle the tables and swoop in as one opened up. As we ate, a Thai pop band started playing on stage and increasing the demand for tables. We stayed out of curiosity, but Ryan wasn't really feeling the music.

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After, we perused the market. I had a bag of salty popcorn in hand while Ryan looked through the tank tops that would get him through this hot weather. He found a gray one with a camera printed on it. Next, we looked at the sarong, a must have for the Asia trip in my opinion. They really could be anything and everything: towel, blanket, scarf, head wrap, skirt, table cloth, dress, pillow. Ryan got to barter a little bit for his elephant print sarong and fetched a fair price. All and all, a pretty good night and way to end our stay in Krabi town.

Posted by Sarah.M 02:41 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach drink krabi fruit coconut shake ao nang songtao Comments (0)

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