Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thailand - Koh Chang & Koh Kood, Reading, & India

Time to check back in to the world of trip blogging. The last two and a half weeks for us have pretty much been spent relaxing and taking it easy before heading into another phase of our travels. The way I describe is that we took a vacation within a vacation. This is our second vacation within a vacation with our two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania being our first. Although the pace of travel in Southeast Asia has been slower we still have been on the go for six plus weeks since we arrived in Hanoi in mid-December. I think it is a good thing that we've been able to just relax for a couple weeks. We decided to spend out downtime by visiting a couple of the islands that Thailand is so well known for.

view of the beach on Koh Chang

The first island we stayed on was called Koh Chang. Koh Chang is in the southeast part of Thailand. We researched various different islands to visit and decided to go for something on the quiet side versus Phuket which from I read is either a wild party scene or an upscale resort destination. To get to the Koh Chang from the far north in Chiang Mai we flew to Bangkok then Trat. We found some last minute cheap air tickets and decided to cover most of the ground by air. After we arrived in Trat we purchased a ticket on a shared minibus and took it from the airport to a ferry and all the way to our hotel. The name of our hotel in Koh Change was called Penny's Bungalows. It was a nice quiet simple hotel on the ocean. The hotel didn't really have a beach. It was on the ocean but was pretty rocky which we knew that before we arrived. It had good views and also a decent pool. We initially booked 7 nights but stayed an extra night since we couldn't get the dates we initially wanted at our second hotel on Koh Kood. The hotel had a restaurant on site that had plenty of dishes to choose from at good prices. Beer was a little expensive but we found a couple markets on the nearby road for nearly half the price of what the hotel was selling it for. We pretty much spent our days getting on online in the morning before spending the afternoon reading and relaxing by the pool or ocean. One interesting thing about our hotel is that it had some pets that came with it that kept us entertained. There were two dogs and 4 cats (1 mom, 3 kittens). They would come up to us and wanted to be petted or at least wanted food. They looked well taken care of and a lot of the guest either fed them or played with them. In all it was a pretty good 8 days of rest.

Alethea petting one of the cats @ our hotel on Koh Chang

The next place we stayed at was on the island of Koh Kood which is further south than Koh Chang. To get to Koh Kood we first took a truck taxi for about a hour to the southern tip of Koh Chang. We then walked down a long pier and took a speed boat for about a hour until the boat pulled right into a bay to the dock of our hotel. Our hotel on Koh Kood where we spent 6 nights was called the Koh Kood Resort. Koh Kood is much smaller than Koh Chang. I enjoyed Koh Kood more because it was more scenic and there was more to do. The hotel is set in a decent size bay with two other hotels. It also good sized calm beach. We were able to go kayaking out into the bay and go snorkeling on multiple occasions. Both activities were free. On one day I even participated in a scuba demonstration and spent a few minutes geared up. I have never been scuba diving before. I enjoyed it but struggled at first. I was taking too many short quick breaths versus long steady breaths. I calmed down and did better once I remembered how to breathe right! Our hotel was similar to our 1st in that it had a pretty good on site restaurant that we ate each meal out. About the only negative was that beer was kind of expensive and it was a solid 15 minute one way walk to the only market we knew about. Like the first hotel we also spent a lot of time reading which I will discuss next.

dock to our hotel on Koh Kood

In Southeast Asia I've read four books. The total I've read on the entire trip is I think 5 which means I've been doing a lot of reading. I'm glad that I have had the chance to read more. I've started to read more books set in the places that we are visiting or about to visit. Alethea's done this for a while but I have only started recently. Reading books set in the area you are visiting adds to the culture and sometimes helps you understand why things are the way the are in a way that history books or wikipedia cannot explain. In Vietnam I read a book called The Things They Carried that was about the experiences of a former US soldier in the Vietnam War. It reminded me how bad the war was. In Thailand I read a book called Phra Farang which is about a 45 year old British man who gave up everything to become a Buddhist monk in Thailand. It was a very interesting book that helped me to understand Buddhism and Thailand more clearly. Probably the best book I've read has been Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It is a book detailing the lives of three generations of Chinese women from the same family from the early 1900's to the 1970's. It paints a real picture of how bad China has been over the last century. It is amazing they are where they are now considering all of the problems from Civil Wars, the Japanese occupation in World War II, and then the flat out atrocities under Mao. I wish I would have read the book before visiting China last fall. I probably would have experienced some things differently or maybe just been more curious. I think it is important to read books that take place in the areas we'll be even if they aren't in the same time period. I did take a break from the geographical based reading and read one fiction book that I've wanted to read for some time. I read the original Bourne Identity novel by Robert Ludlum. It was written back in 1980 and all I'll say is that the movie quickly departs from the book. It was still a very good read even if didn't end the way I thought it would.

beach by our hotel on Koh Kood

Toward the end of our time on the islands we did a little planning for India. We booked a place to stay in the city we'll be flying into. We're flying into Kochi down in the south. We'll be switching gears to both being on the go more often and also being in a different part of the world. We'll be saying good bye to southeast Asia and hello to South Asia. I've wanted to go to India for quite a while and came close to going a couple times via work especially when I worked in the call center world. I'll have to admit I'm a little bit nervous about going to India. I've heard a lot of horror stories both from people who were on their 1st trip outside of the US and by some hard core travelers. I have also heard more much more feedback about how such a wonderful experience it can be. I'm glad that we are visiting India at this point on our trip. I'm far from being a perfect traveler but I think I am much better than I was when the trip began. I've been exposed to numerous different environments during the 6 months we have been on the road plus I think it has helped being in Southeast Asia for two months where the traveling is somewhat easier than other parts of the world. Also, resting up on beaches in Thailand goes a long way too.

me taking it easy on the pier by our hotel on Koh Kood

Some of my biggest concerns for India will be getting some type of nasty disease although I've spent quite a bit of money getting vaccinated against all types of diseases and have been taking malaria pills since mid-November. Along with getting a disease I'll be worried about getting sick to my stomach from the things we will eat. I think I've been lucky in that so far on our trip of over 6 months involving nearly 20 countries I haven't been sick to my stomach once and only had one nasty 72 hour case of diarrhea (contracted in Egypt somewhere). I expected before we left that I would have gotten sick more often. I just hope I don't make up for lost time in India :-). I guess the other real concern I have will be the totality of the somewhat negative daily experiences. Specifically, I mean the exposure to grinding poverty, begging by children, and constant offers from people begging for all kinds of stuff. I'm pretty much used to it by now but occasionally I reach saturation points when enough it enough. I think it is good that Alethea has been to India a few times too including spending several weeks there although she hasn't been to the south where we are starting our trip.

We'll see how it goes in India. I haven't decided how I'll blog about India. I may blog more often but in shorter posts or not. It really depends on how I feel and how much time we have. Speaking of time we have no definite amount of time we plan on spending in India. We have multi-entry 10 year visas but understand that we can only stay for 2 consecutive months separated by at least 2 months outside the country on each visit. Our flight into India is the last air ticket we bought in advance before we left the US. Our plan for exiting is to use Alethea's moms passes on Delta to fly from Mumbai to Amsterdam where we'll begin the Europe phase of our trip. 

This wraps up our month in Thailand. We enjoyed our time here. It was a good way to end our visit to Southeast Asia. Thailand is a country that could definitely warrant a trip by itself. It has a relatively modern western type infrastructure while also containing elements that remind you rather quickly that you are in a foreign land. Cannot really thing of any negatives except that Bangkok is a little bit of a zoo. It was quite hot and sticky but nothing too much out of the ordinary. I enjoyed Chiang Mai up north as well. There were Buddhist Wats everywhere plus we enjoyed multiple activities. My favorite was probably our time on the islands with Koh Kood being the area I enjoyed this most. That is all for now. Hope everyone is doing well. Take care!

Link to photo album:

Daily Log

Thursday February 3rd
Made it to Koh Chang with no real issues. Took taxi from hotel to Chaing Mai airport. On Bangkok Airways you get to use a mini business lounge so we ate some mini sandwiches. Flight to Bangkok was 1 hour 15 minutes. We were served a sandwich on board for breakfast. Had 4 hour layover in Bangkok. Spent the layover in the lounge next to our gate. Was able to get on wifi after changing my DNS servers away from Google's. Flight to Koh Chang was 40 minutes. We were served another meal. Took minibus from on a ferry and all the way to our hotel. It costs 470 Baht per person vs. the 350-400 we were advised it would be. Checked into hotel. Explored around our area. Bought some supplies. Relaxed by pool. Ate dinner. Read and went to bed. Long day. Got up @ 5 am and didn't sleep well.

Friday February 4th
Slept in until 9 am.
Ate breakfast at hotel since it is included. Pretty decent.
Swam in pool for about 40 minutes. Didn't want to get too sun burned.
Got lap top and got online. Spent quite a bit of time troubleshooting my blog. It is not updating to Google Reader, Networker Blogs, Blogger dashboard. Was unable to fix anything on my own. Submitted help request to the Blogger forum. Don't have much confidence it will lead to anywhere.
Also researched going on a side trip to Nepal. No major obstacles at this time. Need to research our India visas to see if we can re-enter within a short time frame. Also researched how to watch the Super Bowl in Thailand.
Ate lunch at hotel.
Walked to market to buy some more beer including Leo beer that Alethea likes.
Mailed post card to Grandma. Haven't sent one to Grandma since Israel in November.
Spent nearly two hours by pool reading and sipping on my 1 beer of the day. Currently reading Phra Farang which is about an Englishman who at 45 became a Buddhist monk in Thailand. I'm about half way done. It is pretty interesting as it tells his story and also educates you on Buddhism which I was very ignorant of before this trip.
Ate dinner at hotel.
Came back to room. Washed swimming trunks out. Read & went to bed.

Saturday February 5th
Pretty similar to the previous day.
Work up around 8:30 pm
Ate breakfast
Got online for about 2 hours. Troubleshot my blog. Probably fixed everything except for Feedburner emails.
Ate lunch
Got in pool for about 30 minutes.
Read from around 3 pm to 5:30 pm while working on a beer. Nearly finished my book. The hotel dogs hung our around us sleeping by our chairs.
Ate dinner around 5:30 pm
Came back to room, washed out swim trunks
Went to bed
Finished reading the book Phrar Farang. Pretty interesting.
Starting reading Wild Swans

Sunday February 6th
Slept until a little after 8.
Ate breakfast then got online for a couple hours. Alethea got caught up on editing and uploading pictures. I worked on my taxes. I am expecting a refund so I would like to file some time relatively soon especially since I have the free time and decent internet access. Only piece of info I need is my W2 info from Dell. I can import it but need info off the real one back in TN so I emailed mom & dad to get it for me. Everything else has been keyed in already so once I get this it should take just a few minutes to double check everything and then file.
Ate lunch at hotel.
Came back to room to since it is real hot outside (plus 90 F).
Did some research on snorkeling here in Koh Chang. Pretty much have to go with a day trip. The price for the ones offered here are kind of high, May wait until we are on another part of the island to see if I can get it cheaper.
Spent 2.5 hours in the afternoon reading the book Wild Swan before eating dinner.

Monday February 7th
Alarm went off at 6:15.
Made it to the reception area right at 6:30 as the Super Bowl was just beginning. We watched the whole game online. We were watching the live Fox telecast but via the BBCSport feed. We couldn't watch the commercials though as they would break away to the studio during TV breaks. We did try another link for a little bit where we saw commercials but there was too much buffering so we switched back to the original link. The game was a little sloppy but pretty good overall with Green Bay winning.
After the Super Bowl we researched places to stay on Koh Khood. We've emailed one place but the dates aren't lining up so we've emailed them back. We might have to stay at our place one more night.

After lunch I went on a resupply mission. We were out of beer so I walked to the main street. First market didn't have the beer that Alethea liked so I went to another one. I bought 4 640 ml beers which cost 230 Baht (almost $8 USD). The lady running the store didn't have change for my 1,000 Baht note so she kept going down to different stores until she got the correct change. This sometimes happen in SE Asia as the ATMs dispense big bills and the merchants don't always have change. I also went to the local book store to scout it out and a local dive shop to check into renting snorkeling gears. My last stop was back at the 1st market to by noodle bowls. We're rotating between eating lunch at the hotel and noodle bowls to save a little money with our meal expenses.

Spent the next three hours sipping on my beers and reading some more chapters in my book sitting by the ocean. China was one screwed up country. The time period I've covered so far is from the 1920's to the 1950's. One note is that it mentions the US's involvement in China's civil war following WWII. A lot of people in the US how much of a hand we had in their civil war which was way China intervened on North Korea's behalf during the Korean War.

Tuesday February 8th
Slept in until 9 am.
Got online after breakfast. Finished confirming hotel down in Koh Khood.
Researched hotels to stay at in Bangkok.
Swam in the pool for only about 10 minutes to cool off.
Spent 3 hours reading by the ocean.

Wednesday February 9th
Not too much to report for today.
Slept pretty good until around 8:30
Got online. Pretty much select our accommodations for Bangkok and sent emails
Went to market and bough 4 beers and 2 noodle bowls
Read for about 3 hours by the ocean.

Thursday February 10th
Slept in until around 8:30
After breakfast got online and finished my taxes. Cannot file until 2/15 since I have itemized deductios.
Read the last 100 pages of Wild Swan. Very good book. Took 3 plus hours to finish. Read the whole 500 pages within 5 or 6 days.

Friday February 11th
Checked out of hotel around 9:45 am
Got online until 10:30 am
Put on sun screen and waited for taxi truck
Taxi truck picked us up @ 11:10. Stopped 3 more times had full truck took 1 hour to get to pier
Took boat to hotel. Stopped at Koh Wai, Koh Mak, and once at Koh Kood before getting dropped off. Last people off!
Checked in around 2 pm
Ate lunch
Went on a walk looking for store to buy beer. Couldn't find any. Puppy followed us.
Bough beer at beech bar. Walked back to our hotel to drink it.
Swam in ocean for a little bit. Came back to hut and showered then ate dinner.
Came back and showered again since we put Deet on to eat.
Few things need to be fixed in room such as light by bed, shower, and shower door otherwise it is Ok
Exchanged the book Wild Swans for Mr. Nice at hotel.

Saturday February 12th
Alethea woke up with a migraine headache that she had all night but didn't take medicine until the morning.
After we breakfast we inquired about changing rooms to a non air conditioned room. They had one available. We checked it out first then packed up and moved our stuff. We didn't use air conditioning the night before and felt fine. This will save us 600 Baht or $20 per night. Yes!
Got online. Internet is pretty slow. They use satelite broadband.
After lunch I spent over a hour reading the Bourne Idenity. Nothing like the movie. Read in a hammock by the ocean. Nice but windy.
Hike to market to buy beer. Couldn't find market the 1st day. Only 20 minute walk. Price of beer is 25% cheaper than bar on beach. Not sure it is worth the extra walk.
Went snorkeling for about 20 minutes. 1st set of gear wasn't any good but second pair was. Snorkeling was good. Water was calm and clear. Saw some big crabs then swam over by some rocks where the water was warm. Saw plenty of fish. Very good snorkeling.
Ate dinner at hotel. Split a dish of veggies and dish of seafood.
Came back to hut and cleaned up before bed.

Sunday February 13th
Woke up around 7 am.
Went snorkeling before breakfast. Snorkeled for about a hour. Got out of the water because Alethea saw a fishing boat that had come to the pier to sell some fish discharge some fuel into the bay and it was coming towards me. The snorkeling was good while it lasted though.
Ate breakfast then got online. Did a lot of research on Kochi.
Ate lunch then spent little over two and half hours reading the Bourne Identity.
Went kayaking out in the bay for about a hour. Little choppy but I enjoyed. Starting to be able to paddle a lot better.
Came back to room and discussed things with Alethea.
Ate dinner. Took shower. Went to bed

Monday February 14th
Pretty simple day overall.
Slept in until a little after 8 am. Ate breakfast
Got online and narrowed down our options for Kochi, India and booked a place for 4 nights.
Ate lunch
Read for around 3 hours. Only 150 pages left in my novel.
Walked to market to buy two beers and bag of seaweed potato chips.
Ate a la carte dinner tonight from package menu. Alethea had grilled pork and a backed potato that were both good. I had grilled squid and corn on the cob. Very good. Total cost was only $12.

Tuesday February 15th
Rained during the night quite hard even thundered. Little worried our hut would leak but it didn't. Also worried that my swimming trunks that I had left outside would be wet or blown away but they were fine and underneath an overhang. They were dry.
Went kayaking before breakfast. Went for 40 minutes.
Got online after breakfast. Researched the numerous items for India. Researched different areas and activities. Internet connection was kind of bad. Kept dropping.
After lunch I participated in a free scuba session at the end of the pier of our hotel. It was pretty neat. Only lasted about 10 minutes. I have never been scuba diving before nor ever had the equipment on. I struggled at first. I was taking to many short rapid breaths. On the way back to the pier I did better and started to take long consistent breaths. It is kind of the same thing that happened when I first went snorkeling in that I had to think about breathing or breathing differently until it became second nature.
Since I was already wet I went in an grabbed some snorkeling gear and snorkeled for about 30 minutes.
Finished reading the Bourne Identity. Good book. Ended differently than I expected.

Wednesday February 16th
Didn't have an early morning activity scheduled but still got up around 7:30 am and ate breakfast.
Got online and uploaded pictures to FB and Google.
Researched profile information.
Put together financial numbers for Thailand in order to help us plan for India. We might come in slightly under budget but may go over a little bit.
Worked on blog.
Went snorkeling around 4 pm.
Kayaked in the bay for 30 minutes.
Came back to shore and drank two Singa beers while Alethea had a cocktail
Washed up and packed after dinner.
Had nightly discussion including India.

Thursday February 17th
Traveled from Koh Kood to Bangkok with no real issues.
Checked out of hotel and bill was over 200 Baht less than I had added up. They probably forgot to add in some meals. I ended up tipping the staff 200 Baht
Took a speedboat for over a hour to Trat.
Took pack taxi truck to Trat bus station
Immediately got on the 11 am bus to Bangkok.
Arrived at Ekami bus station at 4:30 pm. Took 5.5 hours.
Took BTS to our stop. Eventually found hotel. Pretty nice
Ate dinner at Chinese place next door
Took showers. Got online.
Filed US Income tax

Friday February 18th
Slept better last night. Nice to have air conditioning and a mostly quiet room
Ate breakfast at hotel.
Took skytrain to boat but goton wrong type of boat to go to Forensic Museum. Cost 50 Baht instead of 28 Baht
Got to museum only to find it closed for the holiday.
Took cheaper boat all the way back to Central Pier.
Took Skytrain to mall
Ate steak meal. 1st steal since New Zealand last August. Pretty good.
Walked around mall.
Went to 2nd mall and looked around.
Took train back to hotel.
Alcohol cannot be sold since it is a Buddhist holiday. Managed to get some from hotel.
Got online

Saturday February 19th
Final full day in Thailand
Got up around 8 am and ate breakfast at hotel
Took Skytrain one stop. walked around a red light district during the day light to see if we want to come back to that area at night.
Bought new pair or sun glasses soon as we got off the train for 120 Baht for $4
Got a hair cut for 150 Baht or $5. Went in to quite a few places that were charging 200 to 400 Baht. Gave 20 Baht tip
Bought new razor and razor blades. I have a Gillette Fusion razor and am out of blades. They don't sell these type of blades overseas. I believe Gillette is phasing them out.
Took train back to hotel.
Ate lunch at hotel.
Got online to research things.
Went to Sky Tower. Tallest building in Thailand. I believe 88 floors
Ate dinner at restaurant close to hotel.
Washed up and went to bed.

Sunday February 20th
Today is a travel day.
Departing flight from Bangkok is at 8:45 am.
Last flight of the day is scheduled to arrive in Kochi, India around 8 pm.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Alethea's guest post on

I am reposting a post from Alethea's blog. She recently submitted an article to and had it published. She is still in the running for a paid position and will find out shortly if she got it or not. Feel free to click on the article to help promote it :-)!

Post from Alethea's blog:

Finally! The guest post I wrote as part of my application for a Featured Blogger position onGoBackpacking is now live. You can read it by clicking the title of this post or this link: Let Social Media be your Travel Guide.

I will find out within the next week whether I've been chosen for the minimum 6-month paid position. To be compensated for my travel writing would be a dream come true and might even help me extend our current trip!

I would love to hear your comments on the article. Please feel free to leave feedback here or on the GoBackpacking website.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thailand - Bangkok & Chiang Mai

 This blog post will highlight our time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our original itinerary from before we left the US had us only spending two days in Thailand. This was because we originally only allocated a month for SE Asia which wasn't too smart. Our revised plans have us spending a month in Thailand. We didn't really have too much of a plan for Thailand until we got to Cambodia and even then it was kind of vague. After a little research we decided to divide our Thailand experience between Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the beach. I'll take the same format when writing my Thailand blog entries as well. I plan on breaking my entries up to at least two and maybe three. This is something I should have done with other countries such as New Zealand, Japan, & China where I wrote long never ending posts.

The first stop on our journey through Thailand was in the capital city of Bangkok. However, in order to get to Bangkok we had to travel from Cambodia overland. Fortunately it was a pretty smooth experience and inexpensive experience. We took a taxi from our hotel which really turned out to be the car of someone who worked at the hotel to the border. We then walked across the border after being stamped out by Cambodian officials. The border scene was a little crazy but not too bad. A lot of people moving around everywhere. They even have at least one and maybe two casinos on the border that might technically exist between the countries which I thought was a little odd. It was the first time I've actually crossed a border between countries on foot. When we crossed between Israel and Jordan you have to take a bus about a half a kilometer that crosses the Jordan river. Every other border crossing has been by boat, train, or plane. We then took a tuk tuk to the bus station in the town close to the border and were lucky enough to time it just right to board a bus for the 4 hour ride to Bangkok. In all we took 6 forms of transportation but only spent a total of $47 for two people. It was going to cost us $229 per person to fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok when we looked into a couple weeks before so this was a pretty good financial win for us.

row of Buddhas @ Wat Pho

Now that I have touched on the transport on the way in to Bangkok I can now highlight our time there. We spent just a total of three nights in Bangkok. The primary reason is that as we looked at our itinerary we knew that we were flexible and wanted to just try out Bangkok for a few days. If we wanted to we could spend more time there later on during our stay since we fly out of Bangkok to India on the 20th of February. This meant thought that we would try to do quite a bit in somewhat of a shorter time frame from what we're used to in SE Asia. I think we accomplished our goals and saw quite a bit for such a large city that neither one of us had been too.

During our first full day in Bangkok we hit the most popular tourist attractions. We visited the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which are at the same location. I wasn't too impressed with the Grand Palace since it cost $11 and most buildings were off limits or closed. Wat Phra Kaew was somewhat interesting plus we got to see the Emerald Buddha which is a very special statue in Thailand. We then made our way over to Wat Pho. There are several Buddha statues and stupas located at Wat Pho but it is mostly known for housing the largest reclining Buddha in the world. The reclining Buddha is 15 meters high and 46 meters long. After lunch we took a ferry across the river to visit Wat Arun which is a a 200 year old Wat primarily known for being 66 meters tall. It was a little tricky climbing up it but it did offer some good views of the city. We spent the rest of the day making our way back to the Skytrain after visiting the Khao San Road area which included getting haircuts and purchasing some medications for my foot. We probably both could have waited a little longer to get haircuts but it is in the 90's most days in Thailand and it only cost around $3.50 per person. It was cheaper than China but more expensive than in Laos.

world's largest reclining Buddha - 15 meters high, 46 meters long

We picked up where we left off the next day. We visited the ChatuChak weekend market which is very large. We then hiked over to a former royal palace that was a part of our Grand Palace ticket. We then did a little more walking over to the river and took a river taxi all the way down to Chinatown where we ate dinner and strolled around for a little bit. We then located the subway and took it back to close to our hotel. We walked around just a little bit before finding one of the red light district streets between Soi 22 & 23. We didn't stop or go into any of the bars but just walked through. There is a lot of neon lights and scantly dressed women touting drink specials which I'm sure lead to other activities. It would have been a neat cultural experience to go into one of the bars but I really didn't want to spend the money plus we were both kind of tired after a couple hot full days on the town.

red light district in Bangkok - we just walked through :-)

On our final day in Bangkok we slept in and hung out at our hotel until it was time to leave for our night train to Chiang Mai. Alethea wasn't feeling too well so we decided to stay indoors. My thoughts on Bangkok are that is definitely a city worth visiting. It is a large sprawling city of over 9 million people. It is a good thing they recently built and are continuing to build their public transportation network because the traffic is notoriously bad. It is interesting to see all the modern aspects of a city with all the Wats mixed in with it. We plan on spending a couple more nights in Bangkok before we leave Thailand. There are still some areas of town we plan on exploring before we depart to India.

The next stop for us in Thailand was in the northern city of Chiang Mai. We decided to travel up to Chiang Mai via train. We spent around $20 a ticket to take an overnight from Bangkok. We didn't really have any major issues other than leaving 1 hour late and arriving 2 hours later than scheduled with no announcements as to why. I was a little surprised at this considering all the trains in Vietnam that we took left and arrived exactly on time and Thailand is definitely two or three levels up on Vietnam when it comes to modern infrastructure.

Chiang Mai itself is a rather small city of 170,000 people about 450 miles north of Bangkok. It is an old city that is over 700 years old. There are over 300 Buddhist temples. The city itself is somewhat modern and touristy but also laid back. The city has an old town section surrounded by parts of a brick wall and a moat. Inside the old town section is pretty quiet for the most part while outside the wall there is a lot of traffic and western influences such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut but we didn't see a KFC. We originally committed to only 3 nights at our hotel Baan Nud-Kaan but quickly decided to extend our stay to 9 nights. Our hotel was off a main street. It was quiet, plus we liked the owner Ms. Tao. They helped us out quite a bit with our bookings too.

Wat Chian Man in Chiang Mai

In Chiang Mai we slowed our pace down a little but still found plenty of activities to entertain us. We spent our first sightseeing day going on a walking trail we found in an informational book. We visited many Wats within the old city part of Chiang Mai. The first activity we did outside of Chiang Mai was go whitewater rafting. This was a first for me. We went on a 10 km trip that lasted about 2 hours. There were a couple class 5 rapids for those who know anything about rapids (I don't). I enjoyed it for the most part but it took me a while to get comfortable with sitting in the raft and going through the rapids. I also slightly twisted my knee during one stretch when I got pinned backwards while passing through some rapids but it was probably a good thing because it may have kept me from getting thrown from our raft.

us whitewater rafting outside of Chiang Mai

Next activity we did after taking a day off was attend a cooking class. This was the 2nd cooking class that I have participated in on our trip. I didn't really particularly enjoy this one though.. It wasn't the teacher's fault. She is very good and spoke good English. My problem was that it was a little over my head and I felt frustrated. I was under the impression that the class was Ok for novices like me to take and that there would be assistants to help us but this wasn't the case. Cooking is still something I want to be good at but I am very much in the learning stage and need to follow steps in a linear fashion versus watching a demonstration then trying to reproduce what I just saw. It'll take time but I'll get there someday.

Alethea @ a cooking class we took in Chiang Mai

The third activity we did was ziplining. This was something else that I have never done before. We went with a company called Tree Top Asia who advertises under the name Flight of the Gibbons. They have a course about a hour outside of Chiang Mai. The course is up in the hills in a forest with several tall trees to zip between. We spent two hours on their course going from platform to platform. Not sure how many lines we zipped. It was probably around 15 or so. The longest was 800 meters. Many of the platforms were 30-50 meters above ground. We also walked across swinging bridges and repelled down to two platforms. Our program even included a nice lunch and a side trip to a nearby waterfall in addition to transportation. Only slight negative was that the operator was about a hour late picking us up. Apparently, there was some type of accident with one of the vans although we never got a clear explanation. I would like to do this again sometime.

me ziplining 

This wraps up the first half of our time in Thailand. I've enjoyed it so far. Bangkok was a little hot, massive, & a little expensive. Chiang Mai was more like the rest of southeast Asia that I've been accustomed to meaning that it is more laid back and cheap. There are a lot of western tourist in Chiang Mai but it hasn't been too bad. I think every other tourist has been Australian. Australians travel about as much as any other country of people I've interacted with on this trip which is kind of amazing considering how relatively small the population is to other countries. Australia is close to the size of America with only 10 percent of the population.

Thought I would take a minute to include some thoughts on all the unrest in Egypt. I am really not surprised at all by any of it. Of any of the countries we've visited Egypt was the one that I felt something could happen and the one that I've felt the least safe in. Mubarak has been brutal in dealing with political opposition. Some of the tour guides we had in Egypt didn't care for him and some told us how they would love to leave their home country to go somewhere else. It will be interesting to see if they move towards democracy because they've never really had it. They have been ruled by the military since right after World War II and were occupied by Britain, France, & Italy for a couple hundred years and before that when they had kings. It could be kind of messy like in Russia. Anyway, ever since South Africa when a US consulate staff member recommended us to register with the US State Department's travel website I've registered and updated our status at each location, so the US government knows where were at. It is pretty simple and easy to do. You never know what might happen. Thailand has had a few protest over the last few years including a coup in 2008. Their military runs the country here for the most part.

Next up for us is some R&R on the beach. We're flying down from Chiang Mai to the island of Koh Chang in the southeast part of Thailand. We're at least going to stay there for a week. If we like it we'll stay there for another week or move to another island depending on costs before heading up to Bangkok. We don't have too many plans other than relaxing, reading, and maybe some snorkeling. I plan on trying to watch the Super Bowl somewhere. It comes on at 6 am on Monday morning the 7th. I haven't seen a single live snap of football the whole season :-(. Oh well....

Link to photo albums:

Daily Log

Friday January 21st
Walked across border
Took Tuk Tuk to bus station
Purchased bust tickets for 4 hour ride to Northern Bus Station in Bangkok. Only cost $15 for two people. Bus ride was smooth, good seats, even stopped to use bathroom.
Took taxi to Skytrain.
Took Skytrain 11 stops to Nana station.
Walked 1 block to hotel and checked in. Nice room (City Lodge Soi 9)
Ate dinner at local restaurant
Bought beer and candy at local grocery store.
Came back to hotel and caught up on online stuff before going to bed.
Impressed with how smooth all the traveling did. We spent a total of $47 to travel from Siem Reap to Bangkok when it was going to cost us $450 to fly. Glad we did it.

Saturday January 22nd
Long hot day of being a tourist.
Visited Grand Palace – kind of expensive at around $11 USD. Most building were closed or off limits.
Visited Wat Pho – very neat, world's largest reclining Buddha and many other Buddha's. Only cost around $3.
Crossed the river on a 3 Baht ferry to see Wat Arun – large royal pagoda with steep steps, Alethea got dizzy and was slow getting down.
Had trouble getting a taxi and walked 2-3 miles to the National Stadium Skytrain stop. Trains were very crowded.
Ate dinner at local Thai restaurant and then bought beers at grocery store.
Got a haircut for $110 Baht which cost around $3.80.
Stopped at a pharmacist who looked at my athlete's foot and suggested that I have an eczema and that Lamisil is not doing any good. She recommended some pills and cream to treat the inflammation of the skin. She then suggest some drops for my toe nail so it will grow back. I'll detail this out in another document and not in the blog :-)

Sunday January 23rd
Took Skytrain to Mo Chit
Visited ChatuChak Market – massive outdoor market. They like to dress up dogs. Saw some poor dogs.
Took Skytrain a few stops to N3 and walked a few miles to the Vinamek Mansion which is an old royal palace. They make you check your bags and pat you down. Security is tighter than most airports.
Walked a few kilometers to express and took it several stops down to Chinatown.
Walked around Chinatown until we came to a good Chinese restaurant.
Walked around after dinner to explore a little bit. One interesting thing is that after 6 pm the business shut down and the food vendors on the main 1 way 4 lane road take over one lane and put out plastic table and chairs for customers.
Walked to subway station. Took to Sukumvit station.
Walked down to Soi 23 and walked through without stopping the red light district. Pretty glitzy with a lot of neon. To see anything major would have meant going inside essentially a strip club and I didn't want to spend the money or the time since I was tired.
Walked back to our hotel on Soi 9 but stopped at grocery store 1st for some beers.

Monday January 24th
Slept in until about 9 am. Alethea head was hurting.
Ate breakfast around 10 am
Came back to room got online then packed.
Checked out at noon.
Camped out in hotel 2nd floor restaurant since it is over 90 degrees. Don't want to get too hot nor do I want Alethea' headache to get worse.
Ate dinner at hotel.
Took Skytrain one stop to subway which took us to the train station.
Bought groceries at train station. Waited in lobby area for about 45 minutes before boarding train.
Train didn't leave until 8:30 pm. It was supposed to leave @ 7:35 pm. No reason given.
Ate, read until 10 pm ish before going to bed.

Tuesday January 25th
Was awaken by two American woman talking very loudly in the bathroom area of the train around 2:30. They were practically yelling and probably not realizing how much their voice were carrying.
Didn't really fall back asleep until after 4 am. Woke up around 9:30 am. Did hear train attendant selling OJ around 7 am though.
Train arrived in Chaing Mai around 12:45 pm. No reason given for being 2 hours late.
1st taxi\tuk tuk person wanted to charge us 150 Baht to go to the our hotel. We were told 60 and found someone for that price. Tuk Tuk ride tool about 10 minutes
Walked down Soi 1 to our hotel Baan Nud-Kaan. Checked in and rested.
Walked around outside the city walls. Went to local restaurant.
Walked down to street. Alethea checked out a tatoo place.
Went to Night Market Area.
Circled back around to our hotel. Stopped at a market to buy a couple beers before heading back to our hotel.

Wednesday January 26th
Slept until 9 am when Alethea says, “are you going to lay sleep all day?”. Actually didn't sleep well at all. Woke up around 3:30 am and didn't fall asleep until around 5:30 am. Almost got up and read.
Booked activities while in Chiang Mai which including rafting, cooking class, and zip lining.
Dropped off laundry. Was actually washed and dried in a machine this time ($5).
Did a walking tour of Chiang Mai and visited multiple Wats including: Wat Chiang Mai, 3 Kings Monument, Women's Prison, Wat Phan Teo, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Sing
Ate lunch at a cafe run by women prisoners. It was actually good & cheap.
After the wat tour we went back to the hotel and editing pictures and did some online travel research.
Walked outside the city gates to a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant. It was good and cheap. Total was for two people was under $5.

Thursday January 27th
Woke up with the alarm @ 7:45 am. Ate breakfast @ 8 am. Finished by 8:30 am for morning pickup
Went whitewater rafting for the 1st time today. Took 1.5 hours to drive out to the site after picking everyone up from their hotels. We ate lunch first then broke off into our boats. Alethea and I had a boat to ourselves. Our driver's name was Ping Pong. We asked him if he was joking and he said he wasn't. I don't believe him. We traveled 10 km down the river for close to two hours. The water level is actually pretty low by their standards. They said they would stop in about 2 weeks due to the low water level. It was pretty fun but took me a little bit to get comfortable. My left butt cheek muscle was hurting and then my left knew got stuck and pinned back underneath me plus my lower back hurt a little too. There were a couple class 5 rapids per the guide. I did enjoy despite the discomfort. I would have liked a little more instruction at first vs. getting about a minute of tips and then you're in the boat going downstream. Scenery was pretty plus we saw people out on elephant rides. There were even some baby elephants out there too.
Came back to hotel by around 4 pm. Bought a couple beers from the 7/11 which are everywhere in Thailand then came back to the hotel and washed the shirt I wore rafting and then took a shower.

Friday January 28th
Today was designed as an off day between activities.
Slept in until 9 am.
Switched hotel rooms around 11:30 am to a room with no air. $5 cheaper a night.
Walked over to a shopping area and bought two t-shits for Alethea
Ate lunch at Night Market area.
Alethea got a Tatoo. Took 2.5 hours. Tattoo guy was 90 minutes late.
I went to Starbucks and enjoyed a caramel machiato. 1st Starbucks I went to since June of last year in Seattle.
Walked down to Dutch pub and shared a liter of beer
Went to Duke's and both ate hamburgers. Good but messy
Came back to hotel.

Saturday January 29th
Today's activity was a cooking class. The name of the school was A Lot of Thai. It is supposed to be one of the top rated cooking classes in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it. I was given the impression that it was ok for beginners for me and their would be assistants to help like their was in China. This was not the case. The class was a little too over my head for me and there were not assistants. Alethea had to help constantly or the teacher did. Cooking is something that I want to learn but I have a long way to go. We cooked 6 dishes plus made a trip to a market. Our teacher was very good and spoke good English but she would cook a dish while we watched then we would try it. It was difficult for me because I couldn't remember the steps. I like learning things hands on but I am more of a linear thinker who like to have some instructions then once I master something I can try it different ways. I definitely should not have signed up for the class and paid $38 for the privilege of being humiliating one dish after another. We did get a lot to eat and I think Alethea enjoyed it.

Sunday January 30th
Pretty much an off day.
Slept in until around 8:30 am. There was group of people that came in late making noise that made it a little difficult to sleep but too bad.
Spent most of the morning working on pictures and blogging in addition to finishing the book Eat, Pray, Love. Not bad. Going to trade it for another book within a day or so.
Ate lunch at vegetarian restaurant close to our hotel. Not bad but not all that great.
Spent the afternoon online.
Around 5 pm walked around Sunday Night Market route. Very long market
Came back at hotel around 7:30 pm ish.

Monday January 31st
Today was an activity day. We went zip lining. It was the 1st I've done this. I enjoyed it. The operator was about 35 minutes late picking us up but everything else was ok. We zip lined several stations. Maybe around 18. We repelled a couple times and walked across swinging bridges. Our trip included a lunch which was good and side trip to a waterfall. We were back in our hotel room by 2:30 pm after starting the morning @ 6 am. Name of the program was Flight of the Gibbons. There website is
Alethea took a nap in the afternoon while I sat downstairs next to the hammocks and got online and had my daily beer.
Went to dinner at a De Stefanos. We were in the mood for something not Thai. I had a pizza while Alethea had a Calzzone.

Tuesday February 1st
No plans for today.
Alethea is working on her blog entry for Go Backpacking. Hope everything works out for her on this because this is something I think she is good at (traveling & writing).
Moved rooms from 302 to 305.
Edited my blogs.
Created some lists on Facebook.
Helped Alethea with her blog post assignment
Walked to a restaurant that was highly recommended but it was busy so we went to another that was at a hotel we thought about staying at. It was ok.

Wednesday February 2nd
Spent the morning working on Alethea's guest blogger opportunity with GoBackpacking. I researched how much bloggers get paid and helped proof read the entry. Bloggers get paid around $10 to $200 per blog post with the average being around $25.
Tried to go get a massage at the women's prison in Chiang Mai. They have a program where women who are within 6 mos of release and in good standing are trained to give massaged. Unfortunately, this is popular and when I got there they were already full booked for the day and today is our last full day. Shouldn't have waited until the last day to do this.
Came back to hotel and drank a cold one.
Went to dinner at place called The Riverside. It was a pretty good hike but the food was good. Little expensive. Total was $15 by far & away the most expensive meal we've had in Chiang Mai. 

Thursday February 3rd
Plan for this day is to travel via two flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang. Should be interesting once we get to Trat as we have to find a minibus to take us all the way to our hotel (Penny's Bungalow Resort -