Thursday, November 15, 2012

Detour to Thailand

Day10 (Mon)

So although we were planning on leaving today for Thailand, last night we decided that we wanted one more day in Siem Reap. Linds is finally feeling better and wanted another day to visit Angkor, specifically the Bayon temple that I visited by myself Sat; and we had a few more souvenirs to purchase.

So today we took our time getting up and having breakfast. We walked around the old market, purchasig a few more gifts and then spent time on the internet planning our detour to Thailand. Linds and I are both coastal girls. We LOVE the beach. And although she lives on the beach at home and I spent the last two years doing coastal work and living on an island, we both felt the ocean calling to us. We also decided after talking to other travellers that we didn't need to spend a week and a half in Laos like we originally planned.

After planning our detour, we decided to hire a tuk-tuk to take us to Angkor. Although we have been enjoying renting and riding bicycles to the temple, we didn't want to be worn out for the next day's traveling. We bargained with a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the Bayon temple and he waited for us as we spent about an hour walking around the temple and taking pictures of the over 200 faces carved into sand stone. This visit was much nicer for me than my first one since most of the tours happen in the morning. So in the afternoon when we went there today, there was only us and a few other straggling tourist wandering around the temple. It gave us the opportunity to take some really great pictures and to really take in the wonder and history of the temple.

When the temples of Angkor were built, the sand stone used was quarried over 50 km away and then transported down the Siem Reap River.Considering Angkor is one of the biggest temple complexes, this was a massive undertaking. It is almost surreal to imagine the man power and time it took to create such complexly designed and massive structures.

So after taking in Angkor for the last time, we returned to Siem Reap to pack. After preparing for our departure we had our last Cambodian dinner. All of the guidebooks tell you to have Cambodian barbeque, often recommending a more high-end place located on Pub Street. However Linds and I had noticed a more local place serving Cambodian barbeque with outdoor seating across from the night market. It was quite a bit cheaper and the food was delicious! They have options of a $5 or $10 set. We were able to split the $5 set, which included two meats, noodles, vegetables, sauces and steamed rice. They set the barbeque up on our table, which consisted of a gas burner and a pan that had a steamer in the middle. After adding broth, fresh greens and noodles to the outside of the pan, we put the meat in the middle to steam, then made our own mixture of meats, noodles, rice, veggies and sauces. YUM!

After eating we walked around the night market one more time and bought some last minute gifts. Tomorrow we head to  Thailand and THE BEACH!

Day 11 (Tues)

We left on a bus this morning at 8am leaving for the border town of Poipet. It took around 2 hours to get to the border and another hour and half to get through immigration on both sides. The Cambodian side was easy enough to get out of, but the line going into Thailand (despite us not needing a visa) was long. After finally making  it into Thailand, we had to figure out the best way to get to Koh Chang. We originally planned on taking a tuk-tuk to the the Aranyaprathet bus terminal and finding a way from there but a Thai guy approached us about taking a van all the way to Koh Chang. He wanted to charge us $15. It sounded like an easy way to go but we wanted to look around for a cheaper fare. We went to one of the many van companies and found the same trip for $11. Sold.

The island of Koh Chang, off the coast of Thailand. 

The sign in the office said "van to Koh Chang, leaves 1-3pm", so we were expecting to have to wait around for awhile to see if there would be others joining us in the van. But we had a bit of luck and only a few minutes later we were in a next-to-new van heading south. We were even more surprised to find that we were the only passengers. So we had a huge van to oursevles for the 4 hour trip south.By the time our ferry got to the island of Koh Chang it was already dark so we hired our driver to take us to the other side of the island referred to as Lonely Beach, the more "backpacker friendly" beach with cheaper accomodations.

Heading into Thailand
On the ferry to Koh Chang Island.
We stayed the night in a wooden bungalow for a mere 100 baht ($3.30) total. It doesn't get any cheaper than that. Tomorrow, beach time!

Day 12 (Wed)

So today we decided to transfer hostels. We don't feel our belongings are secure in the place we stayed at last night and though it is located on a beautiful creek bed and feels like camping in the jungle, we want to stay closer to the beach. We found another bungalow to stay at called Siem Hut. It is a bit nicer of a bungalow, complete with fan, mosquito net and private bath. It is only $4 each and located a few short steps from the beach. It also has a pretty cool restaurant deck on the beach and has a dive shop and kayaks to rent.

After having a nice breakfast on the beach, we decided to inquire about diving. After a short talk with the local dive shop, Linds decided to get her SCUBA certification! So we would be extending our stay for three more days a this beautiful paradise beach! After making our SCUBA plans (Linds' three days of certification, with me joining her on her last day for a fun dive), we rented some kayaks and headed to a small island off the coast. The water is crystal clear and it was a gorgeous day. We paddled for around 15-20 min to the island and then spent some time looking for shells, swimming in the secluded cove and taking pictures of the mangroves.

After enjoying the island we kayaked back to shore and walked around the small beach town looking for some good Thai food. We settled on one of the many dining choices and ordered delicious alcoholic shakes, coconut tempura shrimp, chicken pad thai, and french onion soup to share. (I know the soup is not Thai but it sounded good! LOL)

our place on the island
We are really enjoying some island time and are more and more glad we decided to make this detour!

Day 13 (Thurs)

So today Linds starts her first day of SCUBA school. She will be spending some class time at the dive shop and then working on skills in the pool. Since she will be busy with that for most of the day,  I decided to rent a moto and explore the island a bit.

I headed to the opposite end of the island, where I saw on the map there is a mangrove forest you can visit. It took be about an hour, and aside from a few sharp turns going up and down a mountain side, the ride was nice and the view was spectacular!

When I made it to the Mangrove Forest, I decided to rent a kayak and paddle around. It was so quiet and beautiful. The only sounds were that of the wind, birds and water lapping against my kayak. I took my time paddling around and tried (unsuccessfully) to take a picture of a circling sea eagle. After about an hour I was tired and ready for lunch, so I headed back to the fishing village where I rented the kayak and had lunch at a local restaurant, built on stilts alongside the mangrove forest. I had delicous spicey sweet and sour shrimp with fresh steamed rice. Oh how I love Thai food!


My delicious lunch

After leaving the fishing village, I ventured further around the island to see one of the many temples on the island. I ended up at the Salek Phet temple. This temple is home to a rather large gold buddah, but the most amazing part is the painted mural that covers all walls of the place, depicting different ways of honoring and celebrating Buddah.

After taking a few pictures, I got back on my moto and started to head back the way I came. I had wanted to stop by a few waterfalls that I heard were free but I must have missed the turn off and ended up at the gate to another waterfall that would cost me 200 Baht. I have never paid to see a waterfall (unless you count paying for a guided trek) and I had no intention of spending money to see this waterfall so I just turned around and continued on my way. At this point I was beginning to get tired and my bottom was sore from sitting on the moto for so long so I just headed back around the island to Lonley Beach.

I really enjoying riding a moto around, it is very freeing and can be a great way to see the island. With that being said, there are many accidents involving tourist that happen every year, so although I recommend it as a way to explore, I also recommend that you are comfortable on a moto and always wear a helmet! Also remember that in Thailand, you drive on the LEFT side of the road! I was a bit nervous about remembering this at first but actually it's not that difficult to get used to.

After getting back to the resort, I did some laundry in the bungalow and waited for Linds to return and fill me in on her first day of SCUBA class. We had dinner at the resort and Linds worked on her "homework". At our resort, they show movies in the evenings during the week, projecting on a screen so you can sit at the beach and enjoy dinner and movie. So Linds and I enjoyed a relaxing evening before turning in.

Day 14 (Fri)

It rained almost all last night and is a bit cloudy this morning. Linds went off for her second day of SCUBA school and first day of diving in the ocean so I hope the rain will stay away. I was hoping for a beach day in the sun so hopefully the sun will come out later. I am pretty sore and tired from the past two days of kayaking so I will just take it easy today and relax by the beach. There is a beach party tonight at our resort and then tomorrow I will join Linds for some diving!

I am just loving the beach here and am already thinking of future beach vacations to southern Thailand...

to be continued...


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