12.03.2012 - 22.03.2012 32 °C
We last left off having just arrived on Ko Phi Phi, the last Thai island we visited on this trip. The island, as we said before, had a great vibe, with lots of character and excellent travellers destinations. We oriented ourselves with the small winding streets and walked around visitng all the various shops and vendors. There was a fresh fruit shake stand on every corner, so we usually had one of these in hand while we wandered. We got some food stand lunch on the beach and refreshed ourselves every so often in our air conditioned room. After a relaxing day of wandering and sun bathing, we headed out for a late buffet style thai dinner at a local hotspot. The food was great and the beer was cheap, so we were pretty pleased. After dinner we roamed some more, taking in the livliness of Ko Phi Phi's street entertainers. There were two men with diapered Monkey's trading pictures and a chance to hold them, for a few baht. Before we knew it we each had a monkey on our shoulder and we snapped a few cute pictures, which you should be able to check out in our blog album. We headed down to the beach for a late night fire show and some drinks. The stage was set up in the middle of the beach, just in front of the bar and along either sidfe of the stage were rows of bean bag chairs, which we sat in to drink and enjoy the show. Mistakenly we sat in the front row, where we were later hit by stray fire crackers, and misfired burning torches. All in all it was fun and we made it out with only a few small burns. The next morning we woke up early and headed out on a half day long boat trip around to some of the various small islands. We first set out for Monkey Bay, where the entire island is litterally run by monkeys. They greeted us at the shore, but were quick to guard their beach, charging with bared teeth at people who came too close. Next we headed to a cove nestled between two giant rock faces where we swam in crystal clear water. It was quite shallow, maybe only 7 or 8 feet deep, but you could see right down to the white, sandy bottom, it was beautiful. after that we headed to another cove, this one darker with endless coral hills covering the bottom, and we snorkeled for a while, seeing swarms of sea urchens and multi-coloured fish. We finished the tour off on Maya Bay Beach, where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. We got some sun and shade and relaxed on some hammocks before heading back to Ko Phi Phi. That evening was pretty quiet, with some more street food, a walk along the beach and a fairly early night.
On the morning of March 14th we took a ferry to Phuket where we immediately boarded our flight to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand. Once we arrived in northern Thailand we immediately felt the cooler temperature difference, which was a nice break from the hummidty we had been experiencing in the Thai islands. Our guest house was clean, comfortable and air conditioned, one of the nicest places we have stayed in during our entire trip. Our first full day in Chiang Mai was spent touring local temples and planning some awesome day trips for the next couple of days. We checked out the local night market that evening and had some great noodle soup. For dessert we picked out some fresh fruit and dried mango and tried roti, fried dough cooked in oil and slathered with chocolate and bananas. The next morning we headed to the Elephant Nature Park, which we chose in light of Jess's love for the humane treatment of animals. We sought out an elephant experience that was both ethical and sustainable and this elephant "heaven" far exceeded our expectations. On our way to the sanctuary we watched a video about the incredible Thai woman who founded the park and has been rescuing elephants all her life. The first thing we say when we arrived was the elephant "kitchen" which housed several thousand tonnes of fruits and vegetables for the 35 elephants. We were able to feed the elephants twice while we were there. This was an amazing experience and quite humbling. Despite the abuse some of these elephants had endured in their past they were always gentle and friendly. Next we walked the grounds among the elephants and we were introduced to the medical centre where the onsite vet cared for some of the more needy ones. While at the medical center we were exposed to just how powerful these animals can be as all 35 elephants were spooked and began to trumpet and charge in every direction. With our backs literally against a wall we were pulled into a small side room until the elephants had calmed down. Once things had settled we headed back to the grounds to meet some of the different elephant groups and hear their background stories. One of the most enjoyable experiences was when we were able to wash the elephants in the river. We all had buckets and scrub brushes and proceeded to bathe the giant animals while they ate bananas and sprayed themselves with water through their trunk. This experience was truly eye-opening and we hope to volunteer at the sanctuary in the futuer. We were sad to leave at the end of the day and we were suprised at the connections we had made with the elephants in such a short time. The evening was quiet as we had another trip planned for the following day. The next morning we were picked up and driven to a local market for the start of our Thai coooking class. We learned about sauces, spices, rice and oils before we were driven to the organice farm where we cooked a six-course feast! We began with Tom Yam Soup, followed curry, stiry-fry, papaya salad and tea. After a brief break we made dessert and a dish to take home. We were absolutley stuffed by the end of the day and full of knowledge on Thai cuisine. We slept in the next morning and boarded our bus to Chiang Khong, a town on the Thai-Laos boarder. Nothing exciting to report on Chiang Khong, but the lady at the guest house was very nice and she made us lunch boxes for the next day's journey.
On the morning of March 19th we left Thailand and crossed the Mekong River into Laos, only a short 30 second boat ride away. Going through customs and immigration was quite a process, having us spend two hours filling out paper work and paying visa fees. We must have had a big red tourist stamp on our foreheads because we were duped into taking the boat back across the Mekong to Thailand instead of down the river towards Luang Prabang. We soon recovered from this beginners mistake and found our way to the slow-boat that would take us on a two-day journey down the river. The boat had minimal facilities and was furnished with old minivan car seats that were loosley placed throughout the boat. It was a long, hot and slow two-day journey. We passed the time by drinking Laos beer, playing cards, reading and staring endlessly at the river.
We arrived in Luang Prabang a couple of nights ago and we have really taken to the city's charm. We have found a great cafe that serves yummy lattes and delicious food. We've followed the relaxed Laos culture and taken it easy the last two days. We've rented bikes, visited a temple, checked out the markets and picked up a few gifts along the way. Tonight we found a great bar called Utopia where we looked over the Mekong as the sun set and enjoyed some drinks and appy's. Tonight we will head off for our last dinner in Luang Prabang before moving south. Tomorrow we take a bus to Vang Vieng where we will continue through Laos, taking in all it has to offer. Soon after we will be taking a short flight across the boarder into Vietnam, entering the eighth country of our tour.
Please take a look at all of the new pictures as they correspond well with this updated post, and as always we love your comments so keep them coming. That's all for now, we'll update again soon.
Love and miss you all!
S & J xoxo