Our Trip to Pai: a little hippy town!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our most recent trip was a 4-day, 3-night trip to the quaint little town of Pai in the far north of Thailand.  On the advice of a random website, we travelled by mini-bus (about 4 hours from Chiang Mai) rather than mini-van (about 3 hours!)  The reason the writer gave, which is probably quite true, is that the guys in the mini-vans drive too fast on the incredibly windy roads.  (Thats wine-dy, not win-dy: there are more than 600 bends in the road and they even sell T-shirts to celebrate the fact!)  So after a stop at the halfway mark, we arrived intact.  Pai is a fantastic little town.  It has a real hippy feel to it, very laid-back and friendly.  And everything is unbelievably cheap, even by Thai standards.  I think the reason may be that you don’t get all the mainstream tourists up here, it’s more the backpacker types who don’t have as much money to spend.

We discovered a brilliant location to stay.  Arriving near dusk, we wandered to the end of the main walking street and crossed the Pai River on a cute, rickety bamboo bridge: fantastic, but simply wouldn’t be allowed in Australia!  There we had the choice of several great looking, village-type hut arrangements.  I think we took the best accommodation in the entire village!  For $10 a night our hut had a queen sized bed (and a single), ensuite bathroom and verandah complete with hammock.  Possibly our best value of the trip so far!  No Wi-fi, but there was an internet cafe on the town-side of the bridge.

Full American breakfast in town was $3.  We are talking bacon, eggs, toast, fruit shake, coffee and fruit here! And we enjoyed a two-course dinner at ’The Steakhouse’, complete with waiter dressed like a cowboy.  Soup, fillet of fish, chicken or steak, hot bread roll, salad AND veg, for just under $4!!  Washed down with a large bottle of Chang beer @ $2, outrageously marked up from the $1.50 supermarket price!  The town is full of great little coffee shops, bookshops, clothes stores, craft shops and restaurants and the street food of course is even cheaper.  No wonder people never leave!

We spent our third day in Pai doing a full-day yoga course at Mam’s Yoga.  As a 66 year old Mam’s been doing yoga for over 40 years and is living proof of its benefits.  She swears her full head of BLACK hair is her own, due to the benefits of standing on your head.  And she contorts her body into all sorts of weird and wonderful positions: “Don’t try to be like me!”  “As you can!”  Firm but fair.  A few tough moments, but our bodies survived the day.

After an enjoyable sojourn we tackled the bends in the road again.  Back to Chiang Mai for a couple of days in the old town and then the overnight sleeper train to Bangkok (refer to previous blog!)

 

Trekking in the Thai Jungle

Trekking

While staying at our hotel in Chiang Mai, we checked out the offerings at the travel desk, a common feature at hotels in Thailand.  We were amazed by the value of the 3-day, 2-night trekking package and signed up immediately.  The package included a 24-7 guide, transport from and back to our hotel, one night’s accommodation in a hill tribe village and another night’s accommodation in a hut in the jungle.  The total cost of the package was only 1700 baht (approximately $50) per person!  But it also included a visit to a Butterfly House/Orchid farm, white water rafting, bamboo rafting, a visit to a village to see the Karon ‘long neck’ people, local markets, a one hour elephant trek and all seven meals!  Incredible value!

Our Thai guide ‘One’ spoke very good English and was keen to advise us, explain things and point out items of interest along the way.  He explained local remedies and taught us the 5 laws of Buddhism, all of which he managed to break during the three days!  Next time you get bitten by a scorpion, remember to piss on the wound!’  He gave us a choice of ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ trekking.  Thankfully we chose the medium, because it was tough!  We were used to lots of daily walking but this was relentlessly UPward.  Towards the end of Day 1, Jenny and one of the Estonians were really struggling.  Thankfully a local woman arrived on her motor-bike and was able to take Jenny the last couple of kilometres, for a  small fee.  The Estonian was not so lucky!  The evening was relaxing with a prepared meal, drinks and some singing by the local children.  I even took up the offer of a massage, which turned out to be TWO women at no extra charge.

We were woken by the village roosters, but had the luxury of a sleep-in.  Day 2 was just as tough as Day 1, only there was some relief from the fierce Thai sun.  We trekked through lush jungle terrain with massive trees stretching upwards towards the sun.  Two fantastic waterfalls, where we enjoyed a refreshing swim, and a lunch stop, broke up the day.  We would occasionally meet up with other groups of trekkers and exchange details.  The muscles were really straining as the day came to an end, so it was great to relax when it was all over.  Beers, another great meal, chatting and cards followed.  We ended the night around a camp fire exchanging stories.

Thankfully there wasn’t much walking on the final day because our muscles were screaming.  It was mainly downhill and included the whitewater rafting, bamboo rafting and ‘long neck’ village.  Lots of photo opportunities.  We would highly recommend the jungle trek, or anything similar, to our readers.  The pain is worth it.

If you would like to read the full article with all the details, follow this link:

Jungle Trek

Thai Train Travel

Bunk beds on sleeper train from Bangkok to Chang- Mai.

There is a lot to be said for travelling through Thailand by train.  We recently needed to travel from Hua Hin to Chiang Mai.  After checking out all of the travel options available we decided to take the trains!

Trip 1: Hua Hin to Bangkok

For the princely sum of 44 baht each (about $1.50), we enjoyed a relaxing five and a half hour day trip on a slowish train.  Leaving the seaside resort town of Hua Hin just after 2:00 pm, we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed all the passing scenes, arriving in Bangkok around 7:30 pm.

The views from the train window were great: farmland, rice paddies, villages, small towns, thick tropical vegetation, people going about their daily business, vehicles stopped at all the crossings.  While all of this was going on OUTSIDE the train, there was plenty of action INSIDE the train as well.  School boys having fun, young kids interacting with other passengers and lots of salespeople coming up and down the train selling food and drinks.

Trip 2: Bangkok to Chiang Mai

After the value of the local train, we booked the overnight sleeper to Chiang Mai.  This was advertised as a 15 hour trip, leaving Bangkok at 10 pm and due in Chiang Mai at lunch time the next day.  We each had our own bed, Jenny a ‘lower’ and me an ‘upper.’  Again, this was sensational value at $20 per person, for a journey similar to Adelaide – Sydney.  Only the foreigners could afford this luxury though.  The local Thais sat happily upright in other carriages for the entire journey, obviously paying much less!

After clearing the lights of Bangkok, we settled into a relaxing sleep.  We woke not long after sunrise and again were met with stunning views of rural Thailand.  One of the most amazing things was the variety of ‘homes’ we saw along the way.  From valuable mansions to flimsy thatch-covered huts, Thailand has them all.  Hot coffee and pre-ordered breakfasts were delivered as the train chugged on.

Several hours out of Chiang Mai the train appeared to be struggling up the steep mountain rises.  Our speed slowed considerably.  At the next station we were transferred on to buses for the rest of the journey.  We were soon relaxing in the swimming pool at Eco Lodge, reflecting on our amazing journey.

Best link for train travel:  if you want to travel by train in Thailand, or ANYWHERE (!!) check out this incredible website:

http://www.seat61.com/       It has to be the best privately developed travel website I have ever seen! It has information on train trips, great

advice and then direct links for you to buy the tickets!  Amazing!

Hua Hin Seaside Resort Town, Thailand

 

After leaving Phuket we went to Hua Hin to meet up with some Austrian friends. We stayed at a quaint little guest house a couple of minutes walk from the beach and right in the middle of the action. They were staying at the Marriot Hotel just up the beach, so we  felt like millionaires when swimming in their pool and eating at their restaurant.

The beach here was lovely, but different to those in Phuket. There was a lovely warm breeze and lots of kite surfers. You could also hire  horses and ride along the beach.

All seven of us crammed into a tuktuk and visited the Monkey Temple on top of the big hill. We had fun watching at least 100  mischievous monkeys roaming the temple grounds. The nearby fishing village on the river, with the kids playing on the docks and the fish markets were also great to see.

We also ate at some of the many open air seafood restaurants on the end of the piers that protrude out over the sea in the older part of town. As in all places in Thailand the food and massages were cheap and first rate.

After 3 days we hopped on the local open air train for Bangkok. It was a very interesting 5 hour trip for the small cost of $ 1.50 per ticket. Yep, that’s Thailand!

World’s Cheapest Airline Tickets

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Thai Fishing Village – VIDEO

Click on photo to view video.

There are AMAZING beaches and coves around every corner in Phuket. We have been lucky enough to explore some of the smaller islands by boat.

One of our favourite places is this beach at Rawaii that is only 20 mins. by local bus from where we are staying.

We visited on a Sunday when the local fishermen and their families were relaxing.

 

 

Sightseeing, Phuket Thailand

Jenny loves her elephants.

During our time here we have been doing a lot of sightseeing.  Every day we try to get out and about, whether it’s walking, taking the local bus, getting rides with our hosts, or even lashing out with our own personal driver!  We haven’t been tempted to use the motor-bike taxis or hire a scooter like most other foreigners.

We have visited a couple of isolated beaches on the surrounding islands.  We have seen the sea gypsy villages and explored the coast.  The Big Buddha that sits perched on the island’s highest point, was impressive.  Jenny of course enjoys visiting the elephants and the monkeys whenever she can.  All of the local beaches have their own individual characteristics, although our favourite so far is probably Kata.  The swimming beaches are always crowded with swimmers of all shapes and sizes.  There is lots of activity with restaurants, bars, shops, massage places, tailors and so on.  But you don’t get hassled as much as you do elsewhere.

We had a great day of extended sightseeing with a driver just the other day.  The weird thing is that you can hire your own car for $40 – $50 per day, or you can hire a car, WITH a chauffeur, for $30.  We took the chauffeur.  He was happy to take us wherever we wanted, stay as long as we liked and the car was always waiting, air-conditioner running, when we were ready!  A seafood lunch right on the waterfront added to a great day.

Phuket Beach Party, Thailand

During our stay at Shanti Lodge, we were invited to attend a beach party on a nearby island.  It was to celebrate host Kim’s 50th Birthday Party, and no expense had been spared by brother Mondi.  Mondi had recently purchased a boat, but it wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of the party guests and sundry items in one trip, so there were 3 staggered departure times.

We chose the 1st boat-trip because this also included an opportunity to go snorkelling and kayaking.  The capacity of the boat was about 18, but our trip also took over all the snorkelling gear, a MASSIVE esky big enough for at least 100 drinks, a huge sound system and the kayaks.  After loading up the esky I wondered how they could possibly carry it to shore, but they simply dropped it over the edge and floated it in!

We cruised a bit along the coast and past nearby islands before landing on our pristine island beach and unloading.  Jenny and I had a great paddle on a tandem kayak before going snorkelling.  There was heaps of coral just off the island and it was brimming with beautiful tropical fish.  A great experience.

By the time the other 2 boatloads arrived, we were well into party mode.  In the tropical heat, after a kayak and a snorkel, and soaking in the wonderful views, the beers have never tasted better!  The Thai cook then proceeded to cook up a storm over hot coals: mussels, fish, prawns, spicy sausages, ribs and steak were all on offer, accompanied by the usual condiments, breads, rice and salads.  A magnificent feast!

Meanwhile, Andre, a charismatic Russian also staying at Shanti, churned out party music, particularly Reggae, on the sound system.  A wonderful sunset over the mainland opposite, lots of great chat and just soaking it up.  The Thai staff from Shanti and a mixed bag of foreigners from many nations partied into the night!

The FIRST boat left at 1:30 am to go back, and having put in a 12 hour session, we decided to be on it.  Some of the younger ones stayed on for an all-nighter!  A great Thai Party experience!

 

Arriving on the island.

Adventures in Thailand

Follow our adventures in THAILAND

We have been staying in Phuket this week, near Patong Beach, which is the 1st stop of our 2012/2013 world trip!  The weather has been fantastic and we have really been enjoying ourselves.  We have been staying at the APK Resort and Spa, which is a 10 minute stroll from the beach past all the ‘entertainment’ venues.

There are bars, restaurants, money changers, tattoo studios, souvenir shops, DVD stores, massage parlours etc everywhere!  The beach itself is unbelievable. For those who haven’t been to Patong beach, it’s a beautiful bay surrounded by hills and the water is so warm.  And every nation on earth seems to be represented on the beach.  There are umbrellas, lilos, water sports and food/drinks available for those who want them.

We have had some magnificent meals in and around our hotel and everything is very cheap if you are experienced bargain hunters like we are.  Our days are filled with walking, swimming, shopping, eating, relaxing, reading, internet, chatting, drinking and the odd massage.

Beaches in Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is famous for its beaches and attracts visitors from all over the world.  During our time in Phuket we have really enjoyed hanging out at the various beaches.  There are always crowds and activity and the food and drink stalls and restaurants do a roaring trade.

You can hire a lilo with umbrella all day for about $3Aus.  The water is always warm and the colours are amazing.  You don’t see many white people: most are brown or red from the sun!

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