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R & R

Ang Thong National Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine Park

When  Megan last left you, we were getting our bearings back in Koh Samui, Thailand, an island in the south.  After our disappointments in Laos and our bout with homesickness, we needed something to get us out of our funk.  It turns out that a Thai island is just what the doctor ordered.

Though Koh Samui was a little more crowded, a little more developed, and not quite as stunningly beautiful as Koh Chang, the island we visited with my Mom and Andrea in May, it did the trick.  Though we complained about laziness and complacency when we were dealing with our little burnout thing, laziness and complacency didn’t seem to bother us when we were sitting on a beach in southern Thailand.

We lucked out and found an awesome little bungalow about 100 meters from the beach, complete with complimentary beach chairs and a very friendly staff.  There were the usual touts on the beach as there seem to be everywhere here in SE Asia, but they were all super friendly, always smiling, and very cordial when you gave them a “No Thank You”, provided it was accompanied by a big smile.

Most people’s complaints about Thailand are that it’s too touristy.  And while yes, it is that, it doesn’t seem to affect the local people.  They’re as friendly as ever, as evidenced by the two ice cream men (boys, really) that we became friends with throughout our week in Koh Samui.  Every day when they first saw us, they would come up to us, shake both of our hands, ask how our night was and what we did, and just sit and chat with us for a few minutes.  And every time they passed us throughout the day, they would always stop to say hello and see how we were doing.  And this was all before we ever bought a thing from either of them.  After a few days,  and since they were so nice, we did decide to purchase some ice cream from them a few times.  But it was solely because of the friendliness, I swear.

There’s not a whole lot more to tell about our time in Koh Samui.  We didn’t do much.  We had a few morning runs on the beach, and one morning we took a long walk early to get some pictures.

Hat Lamai

Hat Lamai 2

Hat Lamai 3

Hat Lamai 5

Hat Lamai 7

And while the weather was beautiful pretty much the entire time we were there, it did storm one late afternoon right before sunset, creating the opportunity for a great photoshoot.

Storm Pics

Storm Pics 2

Storm Pics 3

Storm Pics 4

Storm Pics 5

Storm Pics 6

Another great thing about Koh Samui was the seafood.  While we weren’t able to partake as often  as we would have liked to because of our limited budget, we did splurge for one dinner on the beach where we picked out our own red snapper and small, blue crabs that we ate for dinner.  We enjoyed a nice, quiet, beautiful, romantic beachfront dinner of the day’s fresh catch.

We had our choice

We had our choice

Our table for the night

Our table for the night

It wasn’t all lounging on the beach.  We did decide to take one day to visit the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park, which consists of hundreds of little islands in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.  We had a great day taking a boat ride around the islands and hiking straight up about 500 meters on one of the islands for some breathtaking views of the park.

Us

Ang Thong National Park

Ang Thong National Park 3

Ang Thong National Park 4

Ang Thong National Park 5

Ang Thong National Park 6

Ang Thong National Park 7

Ang Thong National Park 8

Ang Thong National Park 9

Us at Ang Thong National Park

And now we’re back in Bangkok for the fourth time, and it’s quickly becoming one of our favorite cities on the trip (Megan will have more on that in the next post).  We picked up our Vietnamese and Indian visas yesterday when we returned, and we fly to Hanoi on Tuesday, which we’re both very excited about.

We’ve also had many discussions about the end of this little adventure, as it is nearing.  While we haven’t made any clear cut decisions, yet, we are getting closer and closer to planning the rest of the trip and booking that final flight home back to the United States and St. Louis.  We don’t have an exact return date, yet, and the final decision depends on what kind of word we receive from Megan’s employer.  Hopefully we’ll find out sooner rather than later, and we will obviously keep everyone updated on our exact return date.

Have a great 4th of July weekend everyone, we miss you all a whole lot, and until next time…

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One of the joys of this trip is being able to experience the simple day-to-day of far-away places, to observe people as they go through their daily routines, eating how they eat, traveling how they travel and shopping where they shop.  Despite it being one of my favorite parts of this whole experience, descriptions of these moments rarely see the light of day, pushed aside in favor of accounts of big planned activities or snapshots of dramatic landscapes.

Since these little moments are some of the things that make me happy on a daily basis, it seemed like it would be an appropriate way to share some pics from Chiang Mai.  I’m still lamenting the fact that I never could whip my camera out fast enough to capture the ubiquitous entire-family-on-a-motorbike, sometimes four or five deep, or the pickup truck filled with fruit or fabric to a height of two or three times the height of the truck.  I’ll keep trying!  Since many of these are stolen shots, they won’t be winning any awards for photography, but hopefully they’ll do 🙂 .

Adam enjoying a traditional Thai breakfast of spicy fishball noodle soup--fishballs are similar to meatballs, but made with white fish.  The texture can take a little getting used to, but the soup overall is so delish.

Adam enjoying a traditional Thai breakfast of spicy fishball noodle soup--fishballs are similar to meatballs, but made with white fish. Yup, that's right, for breakfast.

Monk on a cell phone

Monk on a cell phone

Not, as it appears, a motorbike dealership, but in fact the street outside of a school.  Possibly a junior high.  Driving age of eighteen, my hiney, Lonely Planet--I have seen kids on motorbikes that couldn't have been older than 13.  For reals.

Not, as it appears, a motorbike dealership, but in fact the street outside of a school. Possibly a junior high. Driving age of eighteen, my hiney, Lonely Planet--I have seen kids on motorbikes that couldn't have been older than 13. For reals.

Adam had just made his selections from the smorgasbord of deep fried bugs right behind him.

Adam had just made his selections from the smorgasbord of deep fried bugs right behind him.

Showing off the size of his grasshopper.  heh.

Showing off the size of his grasshopper. heh.

hurgh.

hurgh.

Doing the deed.  No, you will not see a similar photo of me.

Doing the deed. No, you will not see a similar photo of me.

Mmmmm.  Crunchy fried grasshopper.

Mmmmm. Crunchy fried grasshopper.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

pretteh

pretteh

Wat Chedi Luang, decorated for the funeral of the regional chief monk.  You should have seen the crowds that turned out later in the week.  I think everyone in northern Thailand attended that funeral.

Wat Chedi Luang, decorated for the funeral of the regional chief monk. You should have seen the crowds that turned out later in the week. I think everyone in northern Thailand attended that funeral.

The ruined chedi at Wat Chedi Luang.  This stupa was constructed in the fourteenth century, collapsed in 1545 and was just recently restored in the mid-1990s.  Wrap your mind around those dates.

The ruined chedi at Wat Chedi Luang. This stupa was constructed in the fourteenth century, collapsed in 1545 and was just recently restored in the mid-1990s. Wrap your mind around those dates.

****************************************************************

On another topic entirely, I’d love some feedback, if anyone feels like weighing in.  Anything that you’d love to see more of  here at TheWanderYear?  Anything that makes you want to smack us?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, even they consist of “post more often, lazies!” or “sometimes your font is stupid”  (you may have too much time on your hands in that case, but I’m open to all criticisms).  We’re still new at this, and as much as we’re doing this to have a record of this trip for ourselves, we also want it to be fun for people who take time to come here and read it.  And lest you think your comments will not be taken to heart, we have finally taken the advice of our very wise friend Dave B. and started resizing our photos, so they’re no longer so mammoth and should take less time to load.  Thanks Dave!

~Meg

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Flight of the Gibbon

I’m not quite sure what spawned her obsession, but one of the things my mom most wanted  to do on her trip to Thailand was go ziplining through the jungle.  I had no idea that Thailand even did it, but she got on it herself and googled it and gave me some helpful information.  It turned out that there was a chance to go ziplining up in the northern part of Thailand, near Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai was on the initial list of places we were planning on going with Mom and Andrea, but because they wanted to do the trip how we were doing it, i.e., just planning as we go, we never booked anything.  We later found out that the same company was opening a new zipline down closer to Bangkok, not far from Koh Chang, the island we spent time on.  We planned on doing that and hanging out in a different city instead of spending the time to go all the way to Chiang Mai.

Well, as they often do when traveling for this long, the plans at the new place fell through.   So we woke up one morning planning on going one place and had to think on the fly.  Luckily for all of us, my wife is very smart and a quick thinker.  “Why don’t we look into flights to Chiang Mai?”

A couple hours later we were on a bus back to Bangkok, got a room there,  booked a flight for the following day to Chiang Mai, and completely flipped our plan on its head.

So Friday night, May 22, my birthday, we were off to Chiang Mai.  After spending Saturday and Sunday just hanging out, seeing the sights, and getting to know the city better (more on all that in another post), we were off on Monday morning for the jungles surrounding Chiang Mai, off on our ziplining adventure.

In case any of you don’t know exactly what ziplining is, it’s basically flying from tree to tree up in the canopy of a jungle on a snazzy little zipline that you are harnessed into.  A bit like a monkey (and if you’re still reading this, Biggs, you need to stay tuned for our visit to the monkey training facility the following day).

Megan and I had been ziplining once before on our honeymoon in Mexico, but this was a bit different.  We did some trail walking from platform to platform in Mexico, and there weren’t as many ziplines.  In Chiang Mai, once we took our first ride, we were in the treetop canopy for the next two and a half hours.  And not only were there ziplines, but there were also two tiny, wobbly bridges we had to cross, and three abseils, which just added a little more bang for your buck and some variety to an already really cool day.

I’m not going to write too much more, except to say that we all had a great time and a great day with our guides, Dave and Tiger, and our whole group.  I know Megan, Andrea, and I had a wonderful time, but it was pretty awesome to see the giant smile and child-like grin on my mom’s face the entire day.  She even said to me after it was over that it was the coolest thing  she had ever done.

Enjoy the pictures and videos, many taken compliments of our awesome guide, Dave, of Flight of the Gibbon.

Arms and legs out to the sides, huge grin, this is how my mom spent most of her day while ziplining

Arms and legs out to the sides, huge grin, this is how my mom spent most of her day while ziplining

Andrea was a little more hesitant at first...

Andrea was a little more hesitant at first...

...but she quickly got the hang of it.

...but she quickly got the hang of it.

What a hot pose!

What a hot pose!

Do I take after my mom?

Do I take after my mom?

Adam, Megan, and Mom

Adam, Megan, and Mom

Mom before the bridge

Mom before the bridge

Andrea's not very sure-footed on that thing

Andrea's not very sure-footed on that thing

Megan and Andrea on the final abseil

Megan and Andrea on the final abseil

Adam and Mom on the last abseil

Adam and Mom on the last abseil

We still have much more to update, including elephants and monkeys, more temples, 3-day intensive yoga classes (not me), and a cooking class.  It’s Sunday night here in Chiang Mai as I’m posting this, and we are contemplating leaving here tomorrow after our second longest stay in a single city (after Buenos Aires).  But we may stay another day, who knows?  Stay tuned because  we plan a fast and furrious array of postings this week.

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The Island Life

Magic Garden Huts

One of our first stops in Thailand, other than Bangkok, was an island in the Gulf of Thailand, not terribly far from Bangkok and even closer to the Cambodian border–Koh Chang (elephant island in Thai).  Upon arriving in Koh Chang, we headed straight for a town called Lonely Beach, which is no longer exactly lonely, but does have a beautiful beach and crystal clear water.

Lonely Beach, early enough in the morning to be lonely

Lonely Beach, early enough in the morning to be lonely

Lonely Beach

Lonely Beach

Clear Water

Clear Water

We spent about four or five days on Koh Chang, and worked very dilligently at soaking up the much slower, why-worry island atmosphere (especially as compared to the slightly mad Bangkok).  It was the perfect location to allow Adam’s mom and sister, visiting from St. Louis, to get their bearings and ease into the traveling lifestyle.  Linda and Andrea have been champs, taking the unusual accomodations in style (mosquito nets and bathrooms without roofs, anyone?) and not even flinching at the local lawnmowing service.

Lawnmowers Koh Chang

It wasn’t all beach-bumming though; Andrea and Linda didn’t come all the way to the other side of the world just to lay on the beach.  We started out with a little sea kayaking and learned why a kayaking guide in New Zealand had told us that wind was a kayaker’s worst enemy.  The water was as smooth as a swimming pool when we started, but apparently a storm was kicking up, because by the time we were headed back to our beach, we were paddling directly into the wind.  It was not easy.  There are no photographs of this little outing.  A piece of advice: if you’re going to go kayaking with two people who have never been, check the weather first.  duh.  Sorry guys.

Our other (much more successful) excursion was a snorkeling trip.  We didn’t have an underwater camera, so unfortunately we can’t share photographs of the amazing underwater scenery.  However, I now understand why people flock to Thailand to learn to scuba dive.  We saw enormous rainbow striped fish nibbling away at the sand in the shallow water, teeny tiny electric blue fish darting all around us, deep purple fish with shockingly red mouths, dark pink starfish and semi-obscene looking sea cucumbers.  All of these were nestled among the coral in shapes and colors I had  no idea even existed underwater.

Adam Andrea Linda snorkeling

As much fun as our snorkeling trip was, we can’t downplay how much fun we had just checking out everyday life around the island and enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. Thanks guys, for coming to visit us–we had a wonderful time.

Koh Chang Fishermen (1)

Andrea and Adam

Andrea and Adam

Lonely Beach Sunset

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Southeast Asia, We Have Arrived

(side note before I begin:  we still have plenty of New Zealand stuff coming, and now that we have better and free internet again, they’ll be interspersed with our Thailand posts)

Southeast Asia.  The backbone of the trip since its inception.  The one place we knew we were coming from the get-go.  The one place that we were most intrigued, excited, and nervous about.  Well, it’s finally here.

We left New Zealand early Monday morning and arrived here in Bangkok, Thailand in the middle of Monday night.  It’s only been a day, but the energy and culture of Asia has punched us square in the face, and we love it.

The people (with my crazy new appearance with the hair and beard, I didn’t really stick out that much in S. America, in fact, I was mistaken for an Argentine several times, but here, well, we get plenty of looks and stares, but in a good way), the buildings ( Buddhist wats everywhere instead of Christian churches), and the food (oh, the food the food–markets and food stalls everywhere with firey hot noodle, rice, meat?, seafood, and organ-oh yeah, I said  organ-dishes) all make for a completely different atmosphere that what we’ve experienced.

While New Zealand was incredible, beautiful, relaxing, and easy, we are very excited to back in the mix of chaos and confusion.  That’s really what makes traveling great and exciting, and that’s what made us want to take this trip to begin with.  We wanted to experience completely different cultures, customs, and people and just learn more about the world we live in, and we’ll be getting plenty of that and more during our time here in SE Asia.

We’ll have much more to come as we have two more days to explore Bangkok before my mom and sister arrive Thursday night.  I can’t begin to say how excited we are to share our adventures with them.  We’ll be heading straight for the famous beaches of Thailand where we’ll unwind and let them get over their jetlag.  After that, like with everything so far, it’s up in the air.

So stay tuned because there will be plenty more to come…

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