You are hereThailand 2008
Up early to go elephant trekking. We eat our breakfast whilst walking to the pickup point. We jump in the pickup and chat to another guy called Darren from Dublin. At the elephant centre we all fall in love with the elephants that are there. We feed them some bananas and get ready to go.
Abby and I are on our own elephant, called, Pom Pen. After climbing up her leg and onto her back we are ready to go. We are riding bareback, so that we can go swimming with the elephant at the end of the day, which means we get sore bottoms pretty quickly. It's an interesting way of riding on the elephant and great fun.
We head up into the forest area. It's not so easy to stay on the elephant when going up steep hills, and even harder when coming down steep sections. We both feel like we are going to fall off more than once. Our elephant guides are funny guys, and they use various noises and techniques to keep the elephants moving when they decide to stop, try to find food or start heading for pools of water.
Once we have descended from the forest we head over to the river. The elephants pick up their pace the closer we get to the river. Once in the river the elephants take great joy in throwing us from them into the water.
We wash the animals and take turns being bucked from the larger elephants back.
We climb back on and head back to the elephant centre where we sit in their hot tubs, which are fed from a local hot spring.
This has been a wonderful experience, something we will not forget in a long time.
We ask the pickup driver to drop us off at the swimming pool. We arrange to meet Darren tomorrow night. We spend the day at the swimming pool relaxing with drinks and good music.
After breakfast we take a walk around town. It's a small town and it doesn't take us long to make a lap.
We decide to take a look at the swimming pool, so we find out where it is and take a walk out of the village. The pool is actually really good. A nice little place with grassy areas, cool music and a bar. We enjoy lounging around and getting wet. It rains quite heavily whilst we are there, which just adds to the fun.
We make out way back to town in the afternoon and book an elephant trekking trip for tomorrow, which we are really looking forward too.
We pack our things and have breakfast whilst waiting for the mini-bus to Pai. We are sad to leave The Britannia guesthouse. We get in the mini-bus, collect other people around Chiang Mai and head off towards Pai.
At first the roads are smooth, but as we get close to Pai the roads turn steep and twisty. We stop for a break and chat to the Israeli people and Dutch girl we bumped into at Bangkok train station. We continue towards Pai and the roads get worse. Abs and I are both feeling a bit travel sick. One of the Israeli girls has to stop the bus to be sick.
We get to Pai and find the guesthouse we have booked is just around the corner. We walk there and settle into our nice Bungalow. We have a drink overlooking the river.
Pai is a nice town, but much more developed than I was expecting. I had envisaged something more traditional, like the places we stayed in Laos. Instead the town has lots of tourist facilities and even a 7-Eleven store. Oh well, the place is nice and tranquil.
After changing guesthouses we take a long walk through the city of Chiang Mai. We stop at several of the Wats and leave contributions for the monks.
We see a lot of interesting things, such as schools and people working. A lot of friendly people give us advice, about where to go, and where to find good shopping. People here are really friendly.
In the evening we head over to the market, which is cheap, but doesn't have much for us. Then we continue to the night bazaar, which although tourist orientated, has plenty of things for us to buy, and we have a great time.
We wake up on the train and call a guesthouse to collect us from the train station, which they do. They guesthouse is OK, but not as good as we had hoped. They have a swimming pool though, which is what we were after. We decide to take a good look around town and try and find somewhere better to stay. We walk miles checking out lots of places with pools, but none are very good. We get back to our guesthouse a bit disheartened. After dinner we try a guesthouse across the road called the Britannia, which is great. So we pay a deposit for tomorrow night.
We head off towards the palace and monuments today but a chap tells us that we need to properly dressed to visit these sites. We decide to just chill out for the rest of the day, as we are catching the overnight train tonight to Chiang Mai.
We relax in a nice local park for a while and kill some time walking around.
We have some dinner and collect out bags from the hotel. We eventually find a taxi who'll use the meter and head to the train station. We find our train and settle in for the night ride to Chiang Mai. The train is comfortable and the staff are nice.
After breakfast we buy tickets for tomorrow nights overnight train to Chiang Mai. We head over to the river to walk to the forensic museum, which has been recommended by friends. The two sketchy maps we have are difficult to follow, and after crossing the river by bridge we ask a tuk-tuk driver for directions. We doesn't speak English, but a chap we had spoken too before tries to help. They don't seem to know the museum, but do seem to know the hospital that the museum is part of. We agree a price and head off in the right direction. Soon though we are going the wrong way. I realise that we are going the wrong way and ask the driver to stop. We can't communicate the problem, he is obviously heading to a different hospital. We ask him to head back to the hotel, but he calls over another Thai man.
The man is really helpful and after chatting for a minute he says he will drop us at the hotel as he is going that way. We accept his offer and pay the tuk-tuk driver. We get into his nice car and chat whilst he drives. He is a book manufacturer and he shows us some of his books. He is a really nice guy and we chat a lot. He calls his girlfriend and I try to chat whilst he drives, but the line is bad and she is difficult to understand. He gives us a lovely address book, which ironically was designed by a girl in Oxford, England, but is published by him in Thailand.
We effortlessly get us to the hospital, pointing out a political demonstration on the way. We doesn't just drop us nearby, but drives inside the busy grounds, asks the guards and delivers us as close as he can. Situations like this prove how something that can good bad (the tuk-tuk ride) can have such a nice ending. We thank him very much, and he does us. We exchange bows and I take his photo.
We enjoy the museum, but it's fairly gruesome. Preserved infants and photos of serious accidents are a bit hard to stomach. Some of the displays are interesting, especially that of the Tsunami and malaria.
We leave and grab a taxi back to the hotel.
Today we are traveling to Kuala Lumpur again, to stay with friends and to watch the Grand Prix. We check out of the hotel at out noon and wander around Hat Yai. We have 3 hours to kill and intended on doing a little shopping to buy some things to send home. Although we had read that shopping is good in Hat Yai, we find it a bit limited and don't buy anything.
We jump on the train and find our seats through to Kuala Lumpur. The seats are already made into our beds, which is a bit annoying, but I change them back to seats.
The train runs through to the Malaysian border, where we get off, go through customs and get back on the train.
We get under way again and continue south towards Kuala Lumpur. We both sleep well and get off early. In Kuala Lumpur Sentral station we stop to get coffee, then grab a taxi to my friend Cameron's house. It's great to be back at Cams.
Tomorrow we catch a train from Hadyai to Kuala Lumpur. There are trains from Surat Thani to Hadyai, but they are only in the mornings and often full.
So today we check out at 10, have a leisurely breakfast and pay our sizeable bill. We catch a pickup to the jetty and catch the ferry to Surat Thani, via Ko Samui. From the ferry we take a big bus to the ferry companies office where we have some nice fried rice.
We expected to catch a bus to Hadyai at 17:30, but at 16:30 a mini-bus arrives and we are called. I prefer big buses over mini-buses, as they are more comfortable, but mini-buses are often faster. So we leave the bus compound, but it takes about 2 hours for the driver to collect his passengers from around Surat Thani, and so we actually leave an hour late.
Our driver drives really quickly to try and make up the time, but we arrive in Hadyai at 22:15. We've been to the town before and know exactly where we want to stay. The drive agrees to drop us off at the train station, and does, after getting lost a couple of times.
We walk to the Louise Guesthouse and check-in. We try to find somewhere to eat, but it is late, and the town is closed. We are very tired, but our travelling today has left us an easy walk onto the train tomorrow, where we can sit back and watch the world go by.
Today is our last full day in Ko Pha Ngan. In the morning we ride the scooter to the jetty. We inquire at the Songserm office, one of the biggest ferry operators, which I read travels to the ferry terminal closer to Surat Thani town, rather than the one further out. They provide a bus from the ferry terminal on the mainland to Hat Yai, which is good for us. We'd rather take the train, but they only operator in the morning, and are often full.
We ride back to Sun View, drop the scooter off and head down to Long Beach for our final day in Ko Pha Ngan. We do our normal routine of sun, drinks, lunch and swimming. Earlier in the day I traded a book for a Thailand Lonely Planet, and although I have the Lonely Planet Guide to Southeast Asia, it's nice to have more details about Thailand. We read bits of the new guidebook on the beach.