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.