Around the World in 90 days, Last Epic Blog Post

Trip Start Dec 16, 2012
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Trip End Mar 18, 2013


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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Well, well, well. We've made it to our very last blog post. We may already be back in the States when this gets posted, but better late than never. This is extremely bittersweet because while our time around the world has been absolutely amazing, we really look forward to seeing family and friends back in the U.S. This is Jessie here, filling you in on our adventures on Thailand's Southern Islands.  These past 3 and half weeks in paradise have been absolutely wonderful, with sunshine, beaches, parties, diving, and pure relaxation.  There are many islands to visit in Southern Thailand, so we had to pick and choose, which wasn't easy. We ended up choosing 3 islands for very specific purposes. Koh Tao for diving, Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party, and Ko Lanta for WWOOFing.

After leaving Jen's village, we had our longest travel stint yet.  We started by taking the night bus from Khon Kaen to Bangkok, where we then took a day bus from Bangkok to Chumphon, which is a coastal town where you can catch the ferry to your choice of islands.  From Chumphon, we took the night ferry to Koh Tao, our first island destination.  Unfortunately, during these 36 hours of travel, Robyn was sick with a cold, so she had to be quite the trooper.  She was also sick for the 4 days we were on Koh Tao, but this was the perfect recovery time for her.  She didn't have me breathing down her neck to do something with me, because I was off getting my PADI diving certificate each day we were there. 

Although I was a bit nervous, I'm so glad I did it!  It was a 4 day course that involved classroom time, pool time, and 4 different ocean dives.  I was with an amazing dive group, where I made many friends from around the world, and learned so much about diving.  As soon as I had my first dive, I knew that I caught the bug.  I wanted to be diving all the time! Under the ocean is just an entirely new world.  So many tropical fish, colorful coral, and we even saw a sea turtle!  Koh Tao is known for its diving, and is one of the cheapest places in Thailand to get your PADI certification, which was perfect for me since we are on a bit of a budget.  This was our only reason for going to Koh Tao, and I'm so glad we did.  My many thanks to Robyn for coming along with me while I dove.  I have to say that I was a bit more high maintenance on the Thailand portion of this trip because I really wanted to trek and dive, and Robyn went along with it and made it happen with no complaints.  What a good travel buddy :) Plus, while I was out diving, she got the chance to recover from her cold and work on her tan, so I think she was a happy camper anyway!

During the evenings we spent our time eating and drinking with our friends from my dive class, and watching the endless fire shows happening down the beach.  We later realized that fire shows would be a theme of the Thai Islands. We saw at least one nearly every night! Although we really enjoyed Koh Tao, the day that I ended my diving course we immediately jumped on the ferry to our next destination, Koh Pha Ngan.

There isn't too much that I can say about Koh Pha Ngan , because it is literally a party island.  Every month, Koh Pha Ngan is the host of the infamous Full Moon Party.  This is basically a huge beach party, where people come from around the world to drink buckets of alcohol, dance to loud music, dress up in neon clothes, paint themselves with neon paint, and let loose all night long on a tropical beach.  We stayed on this island for 4 nights, one of them being the night of the full moon party.  We quickly realized that even before and after the full moon party, people are still on the island for one reason only, to party.  This resulted in Robyn and I being mostly nocturnal during our time here, up all night and sleeping most of the day.  With that said, when we were awake in the day, we spent our time lying on the beach, eating delicious Thai food, and we even watched a Muay Thai fight!  This was quite the show! Muay Thai boxing is like an art here, they have dance-like rituals before each fight.  The fight that we watched was a championship match, with 5 fights in total.  It was mostly Thai fighters, but there was also an Austrian man and a Swedish woman who joined in the fun.  They had clearly been training for weeks, because they both beat their Thai competition with no problems.  It was far more violent than expected, with one fighter blowing out his knee.  He wasn't able to walk out of the ring on his own, poor guy!

The night of the full moon party was a blast.  We joined in the fun with neon clothes and paint, and even ran into friends we had met on Koh Tao! This was a nice surprise, because with so many people on the beach, we never expected to find people we knew! Needless to say, after our 4 long days on Koh Pha Ngan , we were ready to go to a much more quiet and relaxed island, Ko Lanta. 

As was previously stated, our reason for going to Ko Lanta was to WWOOF, which is a program where you volunteer on an organic farm, and get free accommodations in return.  We had been in contact with our hosts throughout the trip, and we had planned on living and working with them for the last 2 weeks of our time in Thailand.  Let's just say, this didn't really work out.  After a long day of travelling by bus and by boat from Koh Pha Ngan to Ko Lanta, we didn't arrive to the farm (Asa Lanta) until about 9pm.  This didn't seem too late, so we gave our hosts a call to let them know we had arrived, and to see if they could show us where we would be staying.  This was awkward from the start, because even though they had been expecting us all day, our hosts were sleeping! Luckily, one of them woke up to show us the way, but she didn't seem too happy about it.  Robyn and I were also a bit disappointed because we literally hadn't eaten all day because the buses and boats never stopped, and by the time we were at the farm we were deep into the jungle and couldn't get anywhere to find food. 

We went to bed in a hot bamboo hut, with both of us sleeping on one hard twin sized mat, under a very poorly put together mosquito net, and very hungry.  This was a miserable night.  Not only were we squeezed into a hot, tight space with huge spiders, mosquitos and cockroaches all over us, but Robyn also got a terrible case of amoebas and bacteria that night, so she was up and down going to the bathroom and getting sick all night.  This wasn't just a simple case of a stomach ache, she was really hurting, and needed medicine and hydration immediately.  Because I was so tired, I barely woke up through her suffering, and didn't really realize the extent of her sickness until the morning.  It just so happens this was an illness she’d had plenty of times during her Peace Corps service so she at least knew what was happening to her and what she needed right away so she wouldn’t go into shock from losing all her electrolytes.

That morning, we were supposed to start volunteering immediately after having breakfast with the group.  Robyn woke up and tried to join the team, but when she couldn't keep her breakfast down, we all knew that she was in no condition to work on the farm.  She rested for the morning, while I worked (chopping down any plants that were growing near bamboo trees).  After work, we decided that she needed to get a hotel down in the main town to recover from her sickness. We rented a scooter for the next 2 weeks on the island, so I was able to safely get her to where she was staying. I then took the scooter back to the farm/jungle to enjoy a BBQ with the owners and their friends.  This was a great chance to get to know our hosts, and they had some wonderful friends visiting from the Netherlands.  The host’s names were Anke and Aoi. Anke is a Dutch woman, and her husband Aoi is a native Thai man.  Because Anke was Dutch, they had many Dutch friends who spoke Dutch all night long.  It was a very strange experience for me to be the only person there that couldn't understand the conversation.  It made me realize how rarely this happens to me, because people all around the world speak English.  By the end I was quite enjoying it, because I could often figure out what they were saying based on body language.  I would often just blurt in and guess what they were talking about, and I was usually correct!  The BBQ itself was also wonderful, with pork skewers, fresh fish, cucumber salad and Thai sausage.  After filling up on delicious food and Thai wine, I went to bed early because I had another day of volunteering ahead of me. 

 The next day of work was a bit brutal, where I started my morning by clearing a path through the jungle.  I literally just walked in a straight line and hacked down everything in sight.  I didn't really like this job because it was really hot, hard work, but mostly because I was killing all sorts of beautiful tropical plants!  It just didn't feel right.   Because we only worked half days, I finished at 12:30pm and immediately went to the beach town to check on Robyn.  She was doing better, but definitely not enough to work and live in such uncomfortable conditions.  She had been planning on returning to work the following day, but simply wasn't doing well enough.  So the decision was made that I would stay with her during her recovery to make sure she could get around town and have enough water with her at all times, so I told our hosts that we needed to stop volunteering.  This was no problem for them, as I'm sure they are used to people leaving after a few a days.  The accommodations were terribly uncomfortable, and the work wasn't rewarding at all.  Plus, it was the last 2 weeks of our trip.  We figured we deserved some good R&R, so that's exactly what we did. 

This decision changed the dynamic of our last 2 weeks drastically, in an amazing way!  We had the free time to do and see the things that we wanted to.  For the 2 days after stopping at the farm, Robyn was still in recovery mode so we laid very low.  She slept a lot and tried to get better, while I went on morning jogs, did a lot of reading, and of course we both spent lots of time on the beach.  When Robyn finally started to feel better, we decided to find accommodations on a different beach.  With all of the unexpected free time we were granted, I decided to book a few days of diving, and found it less expensive to book a diving package that included accommodations.  This led us to a beach called Klong Doa, where our new hotel was much cheaper, and had a very nice pool directly on a quiet and beautiful beach. I booked 3 days of diving and 5 nights of accommodation.  In the end, they messed up, and we got 6 nights of accommodation...score!

And diving on Ko Lanta was absolutely breathtaking! It was so much fun because I wasn't taking any courses, so I was able to just fun-dive as I pleased without having to prove or learn anything new.  It was so much fun, so I dove with the same company for 4 days.  I had originally booked 3, but diving truely is addicting, so I had to book a 4th.  I got to dive in some sights that were classified as 'world-class' dive sites, and also some that were not as well known, but equally as beautiful.  My favorite dive was actually the last of all the dives, at one of the lesser known places, Ko Haa.  On this dive, we went through a chimney of coral.  The chimney was probably about 3 feet around, and about 6 feet in length.  You dive through it head first, and when you come out you enter a beautiful world of soft, purple coral.  It was absolutely breathtaking, and although there wasn't much wildlife in the soft coral, it was my favorite underwater scene of the entire trip because it was so unique.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures to show of diving right now.  But, I do have a CD of photos that I bought from the photographer on the boat that I will post later.  Unfortunately, the computer we have on this trip doesn't have a place for CD-ROMs, so it will have to wait!

While the majority of my days were taken up by diving, Robyn's days were filled with sunbathing on the beach with our friend we met on Koa Tao. But we also happened to be on Ko Lanta for an annual festival, called Lanta Lanta festival.  We went to the festival on its last night, and it was very entertaining! It was quite the cultural experience, with venders selling anything you could want.  There was lots of delicious and cheap Thai food, clothes, jewelry, sunglasses, and performances.  The performances were quite mixed, with children doing Thai dancing, cover bands, Thai instrumental bands, dancers, a parade, etc. We felt really lucky that we were on Ko Lanta for the festival, and spent a good 3 hours checking out everything there was to see!

When my diving was finished, we spent our last night in Ko Lanta on an entirely different beach, where you could sit and relax in either tree huts or forts built out of sand.  This beach had a very relaxed vibe, and we enjoyed sitting at these bars for hours just simply taking it easy, watching the sunset and fire shows, and enjoying our last days in paradise. We were also with the friend we met on Koh Tao that I previously mentioned, so it was fun to have someone else to enjoy paradise with! We spent our last couple of days on the beach, sunbathing and swimming, and we couldn't have been happier.  We were very sad to leave Ko Lanta when the time came.  This marked the end.  No more beaches, diving and relaxation.

Bangkok is entirely different from the Southern Islands. It’s too hot, too busy, so much traffic, and smells quite bad. We’ve found fellow backpackers either love this city…or loath this city. We were lucky enough to see the city from two angles. The first two nights there we did the traditional backpacker scene and stayed on the infamous Khao san Rd. This is quite a ridiculous road filled with a large amount of tourists, hundreds of Thai food vendors, shops selling souvenirs, and bars open till 5am. We were given a great recommendation where to stay on this insane road and it ended up being a very nice hotel with a pool on the roof! So we spent our entire first day in Bangkok poolside. (It helped ease us away from the beach everyday) We made a new group of friends our first night there and hung out with them for the next 2 days. We all ate Scorpions (It’s the thing to do here!), took in a Reggae concert, got matching bracelets, went to the Sky Bar where the Hangover 2 was filmed, and all around have a strong bond over the ridiculousness that is Khao San Rd.

We won’t deny that we were also happy to say goodbye to this crazy place. THIS road is NOT Bangkok. It’s just where all the tourists know where to go. Luckily, we had already planned to meet back up with Robyn’s Peace Corps friends Jen and Jeff again for our last weekend before we flew out. We stayed in a completely different part of Bangkok called Silom and had much more of a low key experience. We enjoy authentic Thai food at restaurants that only speak Thai. So not only is the food better, but it’s also cheaper! We ended up eating duck A LOT and it was so good!  It was great having Jen and Jeff show us what they knew of Bangkok and of course it’s great they speak fluent Thai. We were so happy we got to see them again before we left.

But we’ve come to the end of our EPIC trip and we’re trying to mentally prepare that this trip has finally come to a close and that it has been nothing but EPIC and amazing. We ate great food, met amazing people, and saw some of the most beautiful places in the world.  We can’t wait for our next journey!!

I’m headed back to the States while Robyn extends her trip by one week to visit a new friend who lives in the UK. We look forward to sharing more details of our trip when we’re home. Looking forward to seeing everyone!!
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Comments

Siri on

Amazing photos as always! The food and colors are incredible. Diving sounds divine. Safe travels back home.

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