Tag Archives: camping

Koh Phi Phi Don

We arrived to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee) early in the afternoon, just in time for the heat of the day!  As the numerous tourists and locals collected their bags and disembarked from the ferry, heading for the island toll (20 baht per person to “enter” the island) a few things about the island became immediately apparent.  First off, the views of this island were absolutely spectacular with steep cliffs jutting out from crystal blue and green waters.  Second, this was DEFINITELY a popular tourist destination, even in low season.  Third, the presence of cats on the island was immediately noticeable (seriously cat lovers would be in absolute heaven!!).  And finally, despite having several walkways winding through and around town, there was no motor traffic… No cars, no motorcycles, not even bicycles!

Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger of the Phi Phi islands, the smaller being Phi Phi Ley, which boasts the famous Maya bay (made famous by being the location where they filmed “The Beach”).  While it is possible to find plenty of accommodations on Phi Phi Don, it is not possible to stay on Phi Phi Ley (camping is also not allowed there!).  Another little fact about Phi Phi Don is that in 2004 a tsunami devastated the island with waters rushing in from BOTH sides of the bay.  It has since recovered, but still unfortunate it happened.

Since we hadn’t booked accommodations in advance, our first task was to find somewhere.  We passed numerous tourist shops near the pier entrance that offered to assist us in finding a place, but we simply ignored them for the time and headed off on foot to try to find a place on  our own.  We walked aimlessly down one of the walking paths and eventually ended on the beach of Loh Dalam bay.  Instead of being sensible and turning around however, we continued on along the beach with our backpacks in tow sweating our rears off trying to find somewhere.  The scene on the beach was a rather confused one.  On the one hand the bay and surrounding beauty was absolutely stunning!!  On the other, loud party music thumped through the air, ruining the serene nature around.

None of the accommodations along the beach (or rather people who worked there) were helpful in any way in getting us information on where to go or even how much their places were.  They simply kept sending us off in different directions to “reception” that ultimately lead us back to our starting point.  Frustrated, tired, hot, hungry, thirsty and sweaty we decided to go back to the pier to the tourist offices and ask for help.  The tourist info shop had a huge variety of accommodations advertised from the very reasonable to the extremely expensive!  I had previously looked up potential places to stay on the island via Travelfish, so I knew of at least one reasonably priced place to stay (space permitting).

As mentioned on Travelfish, the Phutawan Bamboo Resort was one of our available options for cheaper accommodation.  As described by the Travelfish post the resort was located a bit from the main town and up a steep hill.  It was the cheapest of our options (400 baht per night) so we thought, why not?  We booked at the tourist shop then waited while an employee came along, threw our bags into a trolley cart, and started heading through town.  We walked at a rather clipped pace following our guide through town, around the bay and finally up and up and up and up the hill to a parked tuk-tuk.  From there we were thrown into the back of the tuk-tuk and were escorted the short distance further up the hill to the bungalows.

At reception we were shown to our bamboo bungalow (which ended up not being in Phutawan, but rather right next door to Phutawan in a place called Phi Phi Hill Bungalows)…  While the Phi Phi Hill Bungalows were technically livable, it was also quite apparent why they were so cheap.  Put quite simply in the words of Anna: “beasties”!!  While they weren’t immediately apparent, the bungalow did have quite a few cockroaches that also lived there.  Thankfully for me, no spiders, but unfortunately for Anna, cockroaches!  She fears cockroaches as I do spiders, so at least we had each others back in case of either appearing.  Also, since we were properly in the jungle, mosquitos were also out and about in large numbers at dawn and dusk.

On the whole, Phi Phi Don was a strange mix.  My favorite article about the island was a post I found on Travelfish (click here to read) that not only hit the nail on the head in its description of the place but was also hilariously witty to boot.  In addition, the article also provided great ideas for our future activities on the island.

So on the whole, as an overview of the place, while the physical beauty was undeniably stunning, the party scene was annoying.  The beaches in front of the bars were littered with straws, cigarette butts, cups and beer bottles which was also rather unpleasant. And again, the seemingly non-stop party music was out of place to me.  Anna and I kept complaining about the noise pollution and then started joking about how “old” we must be getting in wishing they’d turn the music down, lol!!  It wasn’t until we hiked to the other side of the island and to Long beach that we found the quiet and beauty we sought.  More on those locations later, but first I have to share the most humorous event that happened while we were on Phi Phi Don…

On to Kamikaze Cockbox

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Sangkhlaburi

Once again I opted for the ‘bit more expensive but will get you there faster’ mini-bus from Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlaburi.  It took about 4 harrowing hours to get there, and boy, I’d never been so happy to finally get anywhere before!!  Reason being was because of our absolutely lunatic mini-bus driver!!  It was one of those times I just had to breathe and trust that he knew what he was doing.  Why you may ask?  Well, basically because every car or truck or motorbike we came behind was swiftly passed at a very rapid speed.  And for a good percentage of these passes, we were doing so while going around blind corners!!  Interestingly I later heard from a fellow traveler that there is an accident involving a mini-bus every day because of how crazy they drive!  And even more scary, one of the volunteers said her driver FELL ASLEEP at the wheel in the mini-bus she took!!  Lovely…

I must admit though that through much of the driving (that is while we weren’t driving like a bat out of hell around blind corners in the WRONG LANE) I was thankfully distracted by the absolutely stunning national parks around us.  I tried so many different times to take some decent pictures, but failed each time.  Again because of the warp speed we were driving, it was just impossible to take a picture that wasn’t blurry!

The road to Sangkhlaburi is one to take your time on.  And if you are able to rent a car and don’t mind driving on the “wrong” side of the road (in Thailand they drive on the left like in the UK) then do it!  Between the Erawan National Park, Sai Yok National Park and the Khao Laem National Park, just about the entire trip was breathtaking!  The last half hour or so was a bit rough because the road turned unkempt with lots of sharp uphill turns, but other than that (and the crazy driving) it was beautiful.

I arrived mid-afternoon and started wandering the little town.  It was boiling hot and I had no idea where I was really going.  All I knew was that the gentlemen I’d spoken to in Kanchanaburi who turned my mind around about going to Sangkhlaburi told me of a lovely hostel called J’s Family Homestay that he’d really enjoyed.  So in my mind, I was set on finding that place to stay as well.  There were a couple hostels in town but no one wanted to help me find J’s place, they were only set on getting me to stay there.  So I wandered town aimlessly for a bit and spotted a little place to eat on the corner.  As it was mid-afternoon, I was starving and sweating profusely and my bag was really starting to bother me, so I figured I’d stop for lunch and maybe Google where the J’s place was.

Across the street there was a spa that advertised WiFi, so I thought maybe they had it everywhere.  I asked the woman at the eatery whether they had WiFi (basically I just said WiFi?? as she didn’t speak any English) and she immediately busted out laughing.  She said something to the ladies behind her with the word ‘WiFi’ in there and they too suddenly busted out laughing.  I’m talking full on hearty belly laughs as if I’d told a hilarious joke!  So well, yea, I figured the several minutes of laughter meant that no, they didn’t have any WiFi there, lol!!

After filling up on some fried rice, I headed on down the road leading away from the main town.  I walked for what felt like forever in the heat, just feeling the sweat drip down my back and moisture soak into my backpack.  My instincts were not on my side on that day because every side road I took “feeling” like it may be down that way was in fact not correct.  I backtracked so many times that I almost just gave up and went back to town for a hostel there.  Thankfully I came across a place where the woman knew where the J’s place was!  YAY!!!  Sad news was I was going the wrong way and had to turn back up the street, make a right and walk about a kilometer down the main road… BOO!!!

The heat of the day was really wearing on me and the several glasses of water I had with lunch were just being sweat out faster than I’d absorbed them.  I was once again just about to give up when I spotted a little sign across from the Temple grounds that said “J’s Family Homestay”… HOORAY!!!!

A left turn and a block later I found the place and just as I walked up the drive, a woman stood at the top.  Her face went from a smile to neutral.  She shook her head left to right solemnly and lifted her right hand out to her side pointing to a wee tent on the grass.  “That’s all I have” she said.  Sold!!  At that point I couldn’t have cared less what kind of accommodation I actually had, I only cared that I no longer had to carry my bag around!!  I paid for a few nights and settled into my tent, happy as a clam:)

As the sun set, I went for a stroll to see the famous Mon Bridge.  Sangkhlaburi is a richly diverse area consisting of several ethnic groups to include Mon, Burmese, and of course Thai people.  Several decades ago the valley of Sangkhlaburi was home to the Mon community.  However the village was destroyed after a flood following the construction of the Khao Laem Dam.  Now a lake separates the area with the Mon village on one side and Thai/Burmese people on the other.  The two sides are connected by the famous Mon Bridge which is a very tall wooden bridge that from afar looks to be constructed in a VERY sketchy way, but walking across it feels completely secure!  Believe it or not, children actually jump off this bridge!!  Brave souls!!  There is even a second bridge made of bamboo that parallels the Mon Bridge.  Walking across it however feels completely sketchy as the bamboo is basically floating on the surface of the water and sways left and right like a slithering snake as you walk across.  Definitely NOT recommended to walk after a few drinks, lol!!!

The lake is dotted with several homes constructed out of bamboo that also simply float on the lake.  It was so lovely to see such impressive simplicity.  I must admit I’m curious as to whether the homes have bathrooms… Do they use the lake as their toilet or go elsewhere?  I’ve been harassed by my fellow volunteers as to why I don’t go swimming in the lake like the locals and they do… Let’s just say that just in case those floating house residents DO use the lake as their bathroom, well that’s why I’m choosing not to swim in the lake, lol!

That evening I went to town for the Saturday market.  Streets normally open to car traffic were completely blocked off and lined with hundreds of street food and shop vendors selling again every imaginable food or physical item one might need.  I dined on street food and wandered the shops listening to local boys jamming on guitars and drum sets then wandered back to my hostel for rest.

The next day I wandered the neighborhood, back to the bridge for another viewing then over to a little animal sanctuary I had spotted earlier in the day.  I spoke to a guy hanging out there who turned out to be the vet and inquired about volunteering there.  Unlike volunteering in the States and even in Costa Rica, they didn’t require copious amounts of information, insurance, etc, etc to vounteer.  Simply show up and work.  My kinda place!  The next day I arrived there at 9am ready to work.  I planned to only stay a few days and help out where needed.  That was almost a month ago…

I’m still here loving each day with the animals and learning something new.  I stayed in J’s Homestay for about 2 weeks, then moved into the volunteer house with the rest of the gang.  Honestly, how can I possibly leave a face like this???

 

Elvis
Elvis

One for the Dogs

Back to Thailand

Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes!  As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!!  Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂

Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance.  They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch.  Yea…. this was not us at all!!  We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up!  Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!).  So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!

Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill.  The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!!  The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!!  It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace.  The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch.  Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:(  In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!!  It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…

Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!!  It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them.  Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!

For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!!  Good times!  In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!!  Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!!  Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂  We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!

Almost forgot!  On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉  Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!!  Lol!!!

On to Lochgoilhead

Back to Glasgow

Back to United Kingdom

An Interesting Start…

The first afternoon in Puerto Jimenez, I simply spent wandering the streets of the little town simply getting to know the area and my bearings.  I spent several hours just wandering back and forth checking out all the little nooks and crannies in between private homes that served as short-cuts between “main roads” and all the spaces in between from the landing strip (which actually functions as an airport!!) to the far corners of the town.  I of course stopped for some dinner at a local soda recommended to me by Berta and then settled in for the night at the hostel.

There was a storm settling over us as the sun started to set, and since I wasn’t quite tired yet, I opted to hang out with Berta in the front area.  We spent some time getting to know each other and chit-chatting when another man came by, calling Berta “Mama”.  In fact, this man wasn’t Berta’s son but rather the son of the woman who owned the soda I had eaten dinner at.  “F” as he will be known as from now on was a tour guide for the famed Corcovado Park on the Osa Peninsula, a National Park that attracts real adventurous hiker backpackers.  As I came to later learn about him, he had a lot of tragedy in his life which either from those events or just because it was his nature, he was also an alcoholic.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, “F” took an immediate liking to me and after the initial introductions were exchanged he left only to return a little later with some beers.  I’m never one to turn down free booze, and since I had yet no idea of his trouble and problem with consuming alcohol, I had no qualms about drinking with him.  As we drank we discussed the usual topics of conversation such as “where are you from”, “what are you doing in Costa Rica” etc.  I gave my general background and stated that I was hoping to find somewhere I could call home and who knows, perhaps start-up my own business of sorts.  When Berta heard this, it became her greatest topic of conversation with me throughout the rest of my stay in Puerto Jimenez, especially since I also stated that I quite liked this particular area.

With Berta sitting at her desk, playing solitaire and listening in to the chatter and interjecting where she had opinion (F spoke English, so at this point the majority was spoken in English with F filling Berta in to what was being said) F and I were steadily becoming intoxicated with beer after beer.  We had at one point even gone to the grocery store for more, which was quite conveniently located just across the street from the hostel as well.

Time skipped by and the next thing I recall was Berta announcing that the 9pm bus would soon be arriving and that we should go scout people from the bus to stay at the hostel.  When I had arrived earlier in the day, I was the first and only person staying in the hostel.  At Berta’s request “F” and I hopped to attention and went off toward the bus station (just down the street a few blocks) to collect any backpackers that may have been on the bus.  I chuckled at myself as we walked down the road on how in less than 12 hours I had gone from being the one escorted and lead to a hostel for the night to being the “hustler” in getting new arrivals to come to my hostel!   But as I was intoxicated, I really just relished the little trip of something new to do.

We made it to the bus stop just as it had dropped off 3 passengers, one very tired man from France, and two travelling friends from Belgium.  “F” and I rounded the trio up and walked them over to The Corner to help get them settled in.  The man from France simply signed in and passed out within 20 minutes of arrival and that was the last anyone saw of him for almost a full day as he apparently spent just about all of the next day sleeping!!  The other two friends from Belgium hung out with myself, Berta and “F” and joined in the booze festivities.  They were interested in hiking and camping in the Corcovado National Park and upon hearing that “F” was a tour guide, became very interested in picking his brain.  It was at this point that we had all learned that the Corcovado Park would be closing in 2 days for the entire month of October for Park maintenance.  So, if one were to want to go into the Park, it could only be for a single night and 2 days.  This greatly saddened the two Belgium friends, as they were quite looking forward to some major hiking and camping in the Park.

In any event, as it was starting to get late, Berta excused herself and retired for the night, while myself, “F” and the two Belgium men decided to continue the fiesta by going to a local bar.  There we had several more drinks and sadly the once festive tune began to turn rather somber and strange as the alcohol in “F’s” system started to bring out an entirely different personality.  While at the bar he continuously tried to hit on me and though I tried to politely turn him down, perhaps it was the rejection and his drunken stupor, but the demons began to draw out of him.  Noticing signs I didn’t want to associate myself with, I began to withdraw myself from his company and instead talked more with the Belgium friends and others at the bar.  For those of me who know me, when intoxicated I tend to become a very social butterfly.  I love talking with everyone and enjoy festive tones throughout drunken occasions and drift away from energies that are negative.

The final straw for us all was when “F” began telling us about the tragedies in his life (which I won’t share as it’s not my business to) and then turned on the two Belgiums claiming they were giving him a look he didn’t approve of and that he would kill them if they didn’t stop.  The Belgiums tried to pacify the now very touchy situation by buying “F” another beer as the three of us scurried back to the hostel, leaving “F” to his tico friends at the bar.  I mentioned earlier about the great security at The Corner, and it was particularly in this occasion that I was most happy for it.  The upstairs area where we were all sleeping (my private room and the dorm room area for the boys) was padlocked and only those with room keys could open it.  We locked the gate behind us and all went to sleep.

On to Crocs!

Back to Costa Rica