Saturday, October 14, 2006

South Islands Phuket, Phi Phi and Samui

Well, I'm back in Bangkok after a week in the south islands. I'm not sure if it's because I live in a beach town already, or because I felt like I was on a tourism conveyer belt, but the island experience was generally disappointing. There were some highlights, like a good night club, a couple really nice mornings laying in the sun and swimming in clear, warm water, and hanging out with my buddy Joseph, but there were also long transit times between Bangkok to Phuket to Ko Phi Phi to Krabi to Ko Samui, and the endless and monotonous streets of tailors, girl bars, t-shirt shops and dive centers.

We didn't stay long on each island because there was bad weather on the Andaman sea (west) side islands, and everywhere felt like a tourist trap. We got a nice hotel in Ko Samui though, and the weather was pretty good as long as we got started early, so overall that was a success.

Approaching Ko Phi Phi by ferry from Phuket

Viewpoint on Phi Phi

Old style projected theatre with live band and voices. Didn't quite get the storyline, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Staying here too long made me miss the night ferry to Samui.

Pimped out rollling buddhist temple/monk blessing mobile in Surat Thani. Part of the end of monsoon festival.

Now Joseph has left for the north to Chiang Mai, and since I've already done that, I'm going to meet back up with Jessica (when she emails me back) and go to Cambodia to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is. Angkor Wat is an ancient city that has been preserved in overgrown jungle for centuries, and was recently rediscovered. We'll have to take a 6 hour bus from Bangkok, then get a visa at the border then another 6 hours by bus and we're there. We'll probably stay for 2-3 days then back to BKK, maybe do some final shopping and then back home!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Slow Boat to Laos

Jessica and I separated in Chiang Mai. She headed south for the islands, and I headed north for the border town of Chiang Khong. I caught a slow boat on the Mekong river from there into Laos, a 2-day trip, sort of as a research expedition for a future trip. So far, the expedition has been a success! The boat ride was just beautiful, with lush green scenery everywhere, and a soothing pleasure cruise on a large passenger boat.

The boat stopped off on the first night in a tiny village with a lovely view:

I met a nice group of travelers, which composed about 80-90% of the passengers, and I've been hanging out with them over the last new days. Now in Luang Phabang, I'll explore the city, stay for a few days, then make a bee-line to Bangkok to meet a friend who's flying in for his own vacation.

Everything is good. Everything is great.

Chiang Mai - Cha-ching!

The overarching theme for Chiang Mai was definitely shopping. They have an incredible night market, which covers both sides of a major street with vendors for 20 blocks. Most of the stuff was interesting at first, but it soon became a monotonous string of tourist trinkets. It was sort of like watching TV though, even though the show was bad, it still had attrative force we couldn't escape. Walking the night market was fun, and we explored nooks and crannies, less popular shops for better deals, and searched for original art by Thai locals.

We also took a scooter up a mountain just outside of town, Doi Suthep, and saw an incredible temple there:

After Chaing Mai, we took a nauseating 3.5 hour minivan ride to Pai, a small enclave in the mountains of northern Thailand that has become a sort of mecca for hippies and rastas. It's one of those places that Lonely Planet plublished as being "off the beaten path", which means that a path was instantly beaten to it, but it's still great. We found some excellent original art, live music bars, and stunning country scenery. Forgot to take photos, sorry!