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Best Times on the Farm

In no particular order:

Playing I spy (and mostly winning, though another would disagree ;)) on the way to Victoria with horses in tow. Mind you it was a 12-14 hour drive each way, so we had lots of time to kill:)

Rudy: A rooster on the property that just one day showed up and staked his claim on the land was one of the many creatures that roamed around.  Though I had never really had an issue with him (I bribed him daily with food!) any time a new person came on the property, he would try to attack them.  He was rather sneaky at it too, even going so far as to attack unsuspecting people who had been on the property before from behind!  Many people had stories of their encounters with the rooster ending in bloodshed (on the humans part, not the rooster’s!) or very close calls.  Luckily I was never one of them, so from my perspective it was extra entertaining to hear about others close calls!

Rudy!
Rudy!

General wildlife on the property: goats (ham and cheese), burger the bull, bats, wallaby, kangaroo in the valley, snakes, huntsman, frogs, moths, bunnies, foxes, black cockatoos, parrots in the valley… the beauty of the wilderness that surrounded us daily was unbelievable and amazing!!

Dried bat:  I had been used to (somewhat) encountering many a huntsman spider while opening and closing gates around the property as the sneaky buggers loved to hide out in the wood.  They mostly stayed away from gates that were opened often, but ones that weren’t operated daily were havens for the gigantic arachnids.  So one day while very cautiously going to open a seldom used gate, as the wood plank slid back and a giant fuzzy THING dropped out from the gate, I couldn’t help but scream and run away!  Of course I was laughed at and for good reason that time… It turned out the furry thing that fell out wasn’t at all a huntsman, but a flattened dried, very dead little bat:(  Poor buddy!!!

Goodness snakes alive!!! I had about 6 close encounters of the slithery kind while on the farm.  Luckily though they were only encounters with the shy red-bellied black snakes!  While they are still quite poisonous to people and animals, thankfully their first line of attack was to simply slither away.  My two most harrowing encounters go as follows: one evening while enjoying a cocktail (or two) as I was sitting outside, one appeared from under the truck heading directly toward me.  I didn’t know whether to move or stay still!  Options raced through my drunken mind as it got closer and closer.  Finally I made my move and very slowly lifted my legs off the ground to the chair.  Thankfully that was enough to alert the snake to my presence and it abruptly lifted its head, flipped 180 degrees in the opposite direction and scurried away!  My closest encounter however was while I was walking across the lawn (again a wee bit intoxicated, though a different day).  I was taking confident strides to my destination until I noticed a coiled red-bellied black snake not three feet in front of me sunning itself in the afternoon sun.  We literally didn’t notice each other until we noticed each other!  I stopped and squealed and it uncoiled at warp speed and hauled away from me as quick as it could, lol!!

A wallaby sighting: in the valley around sunset it was a common sight to see several dozen kangaroos in the fields just off the main road.  But never had I seen any ‘roos’ or their smaller counterparts in the mountains until one early morning while collecting one of the horses from their field.  Normally this horse was always calm and relaxed as we walked out of her field, but on this day as we exited she startled quite abruptly and stared in wonderment behind her.  While wondering what was wrong with her, I followed her gaze behind us only to spot a little wallaby at the entrance to her field staring back at us.  We all stood frozen for a few moments checking each other out until the little guy hopped away.  Very cool!

Watching My Kitchen Rules with ‘S’ and getting drunk: I had discovered the TV reality show My Kitchen Rules while in Thailand and it quickly became one of my favorite evening shows to watch and relax to.  I introduced my house mate ‘S’ to the show and it wasn’t long before we started making nightly ‘dates’ to enjoy our meals and company while watching the show together.  Often times we would get (or already be) a bit tipsy on our drinks of choice and would laugh hysterically throughout the show with our added commentaries.  Loved it!

T’s account of Rudy’s beating by the farrier:  Just the visual of this one still makes me laugh!  T, a French rider at the farm, while very good at speaking and understanding the English language still had a few things here and there that he was learning along the way.  The phrase “beat the $h!t out of…” was one phrase he was introduced to.  It came about as the farrier told ‘T’ about how Rudy had attacked him relentlessly one day, forcing him to retaliate in self-defense.  As the rooster continuously attacked the farrier, he defended himself by striking the rooster until one particular blow ended up knocking the rooster unconscious.  Hence, the phrase “he beat the $h!t out of Rudy” became a new phrase in T’s repertoire, and his recounting of the story the farrier told him was simply hilarious, lol!!  And don’t worry readers- Rudy is just fine!!  He is alive and well and still attacks who and when he pleases!

Listening to music on the front porch and talking for hours with A: ‘A’ was another groom I had the pleasure of working with.  We had so much in common that I called him my male twin.  Evening after evening we would sit on the front porch after a long day with drinks in hand and conversations for hours while listening to music from all ages and genres.  One particularly fantastic night, ‘A’ put a blanket on the front lawn and we just lay there listening to music while watching a gloriously beautiful night sky, sparkling bright with every star from the heavens.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Jumping over jumps drunk: ok, so I’m noticing that many of my stories here involve drinking… But hey, there really wasn’t much else to do on the property after finishing with the horses and drinking just brings out the fun in myself and my company!  On this particular night, it was myself, ‘S’ and the Australian ‘T’ who got our drinks on thought it would be a great idea to try to jump over the jumps set up for the horses!  In all reality however, it was mainly ‘T’ who was doing the jumping while ‘S’ and I simply laughed our rears off while running around the arena.  Good times!!

Sunsets on the bench:  Self explanatory

Smokes falling asleep on my hands: One of the shows I had the privilege of being a part of was down near Melbourne and unlike previous shows, it was 4 days long.  All our horses were doing really well and one in particular, Smokes (my nickname for him) made it to the final round as a contender for Champion of Champions.  After his jumping round I stood on the sidelines holding him while watching the other contenders being ridden.  Now, Smokes since I’d met him had a habit of always wanting to lick, whether it was our hands or arms.  Normally I wouldn’t allow this behavior in case it led to a nip, but he had been such a good boy all weekend that I allowed him his guilty pleasure.  I stood to his side with my hands clasped under his muzzle allowing him to lick the salt off while I watched the others do their course.  A couple of minutes later I realized that his licks had subsided and that he was simply resting his muzzle in my hands.  A few minutes after that I started to notice how heavy he was feeling in my hands… It was about then that I noticed his eyes were closed and his body had a very gentle sway to it… He had fallen asleep in my hands!!  I gently woke him giving him some loving pats while whispering in his ear that the show was almost over.  Bless him!! By the way, he did win the Champion of Champions!

Worming a young stud: I think the picture says it all!  While I thought he had swallowed, he apparently didn’t and instead spat all the medicine right back on me!

Worming Failure
Worming Failure

Reconstructing my San Blas anklet: my anklet from the San Blas Islands had at some point come undone, so I made it a project to reconstruct.  Since we had a road trip coming up, I brought it along to help kill time.  What I wasn’t expecting however was how involved ‘T’ (Australian rider) got into the project himself!  Along with providing helpful suggestions on how to make the slow and sometimes painful process of stringing hundreds of teeny beads on a teeny rope, he was also my cheerleader, egging me on to keep going and get the project done!  It was on the leg back to the farm that I finally did complete the anklet and got it back to its place around my ankle.

Peggy the possum: Possums were common creatures to see during the night but usually only from afar.  A couple of them however ended up becoming quite brave!  One particular evening as we sat on the front porch having a few drinks, we noticed this creature walking along the stone path directly up to the front porch steps.  It came up so confidently in its movement that we all at first thought it was a cat!  But no, it was a possum!!  It stopped just shy of getting on the porch, perching itself on the stairs.  It looked at us, we looked at it in amazement, and it simply turned away from us, scampered to a nearby tree, climbed it to the roof, ran across the roof overhead us, down the tree on the other side of the porch to a little spot we often threw bits of old bread or muffins.  Absolutely surreal!  We named this possum Peggy:)

Gabrielle the frog and T’s reaction to the frog: The French rider ‘T’ may kill me for posting this, but we had a frog that seemed to appear nightly in the same spot, so it was named Gabrielle.  One particular night, ‘T’ left the porch and entered the house and let out a scream that put 5-year-old girls to shame!  ‘A’ and I went to investigate what happened and it turned out that one of the frogs (maybe Gabby?) got into the house and startled ‘T’.  Needless to say I was cracking up over the sound of ‘T’s’ scream, and once he calmed down he too had a little chuckle over it;)

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

Of course there are many more, but since this post is getting rather lengthy, I will leave it at that!

On to Wildlife Park & Jenolan Caves

Back to Australia

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Hangover to Koh Ngai (Hai)

The time had come to leave Ko Lanta (Lantaaaah) and do some more Thai island hopping.  Ko Ngai, pronounced “Hai” was the next destination.  Up until this point in our travels together, Anna and I would enjoy drinking nightly and so far had been very tame about it.  No hangovers, no overdoing it, we had been behaving!  A couple of days before we left Ko Lanta, there was a Buddhist holiday for 2 days where booze were not allowed to be sold in any stores.  You could still get them in restaurants however, but in honor of the holiday, we decided to abstain ourselves.

However… The night before we left Ko Lanta, which was no longer one of the holiday days, we went a teeny bit overboard.  I guess you could say we were making up for lost time!  We were due to leave the next morning at 8am for a taxi boat… And we ended up staying up the night before drinking until about 2am, then chatting away until about 4am.  Or maybe it was 5… So needless to say, when the alarm went off at an ungodly hour of the morning (7ish) we were not happy campers!!  The only good thing that we did do was pack our things before falling asleep, so all that was really necessary was to drag our rears to the front office with all our things and wait for the taxi.

While we did manage to make the taxi relatively on time, it was just painful to be awake at all!  I wasn’t so hung over from the booze as I was just grumpy and not feeling well due to lack of sleep.  After a very long delay in picking up more people from other hotels, we made it to the taxi boat and headed out.  All morning it had been sunny, but about 10 minutes into our boat ride it began pouring rain!  The poor taxi boat driver looked miserable in the back getting soaking wet!!  Yet somehow he was still able to light and smoke a cigarette…

Moving on, we made it to Ko Ngai (Hai) probably 40 minutes later.  The taxi boat driver ran us onshore and Anna and I got off.  As it turned out, all the other people on the taxi boat were on an island hopping snorkeling tour, so they were heading to a different island first.  Made me wonder how good the snorkeling would be with all the rain around, but I digress.

We were dropped off on the shore of a cheap place (our request of course) and got settled into one of the bungalows.  Well, it really wasn’t that simple.  Anna and I were both still exhausted and grumpy to ridiculous levels.  We barely spoke to each other all morning, neither of us wanted to make any decisions, everything seemed ugly and miserable.  Everything was annoying.  Everything sucked.  We were just plain out of ourselves.  So at first we had turned down the “horrible” cheap bungalows and tried to go elsewhere but were stopped shortly after leaving by an english speaking local who said that every other hotel/bungalow (literally) on the island was MUCH more expensive… I’m talking into the thousands per night!  So really it was (at first) with GREAT reluctance that we settled into the Koh Ngai Villa.

Food was the next agenda item.  Neither of us was really hungry, but we knew it had to be done.  We wandered next door to another hotel where they served food and ordered.  I found a teeny roach in my soup, and honestly would normally not have said anything (it’s just one of those things you get used to picking out and setting aside when traveling) but because I was so darn grumpy still, I pointed out the little critter to the staff.  Mind you, I still continued eating the soup because, well why not?  And I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it, I just wanted to let them know about it.  But when the bill came, they said they wouldn’t charge me for the dish (though I tried to pay still) and that they had decided to close down for the rest of the low season because they felt like they were “losing face”… I felt absolutely a million times worse after hearing that for even pointing out the bug!!  It broke my heart!  But certainly they will be back up and running again in time for high season.

It wasn’t until the next morning, when we woke up sober and well rested that we really realized what an absolutely beautiful little island we were on!  The water was clear and warm, and had this gentle current that ran parallel to the shore where you could literally swim in it and not actually go anywhere!  Great exercise!!  The beaches were white and clean and the beach dogs were all so very friendly.  It was quiet and serene and every evening the tide would go out so far that you could walk all the way to the Southern tip of the island to watch the sunsets.  We even ended up really liking our bungalow and “princess bed” at the Koh Ngai Villa!  It’s amazing how your view can shift so easily when you aren’t really yourself!  In any event, I would recommend this island for a visit, though I would also recommend showing up for it sober;)

On to Koh Muk (Mook)

Back to Thailand

Monkey Beach Adventure

After having kayaked to Ko Nangyuan on Koh Tao, Anna and I were hooked and made a pact of sorts to make sure and do it again!  Ko Phi Phi Don provided yet another fantastic opportunity to do so.  On our second or third day there, we got up bright and early (around 10am-ish?) and headed out for food and coffee to quench our slightly hung over bodies.  It was probably about noon or one by the time we made it to Lo Dalam beach to rent a kayak so we could paddle our way to Monkey Beach.

As soon as we stepped foot on Lo Dalam we were approached about renting kayaks by a local shop worker.  The price for the day was 600 baht.  This price wasn’t out of the realm of what we were expecting to pay, but being the bargain seekers we were, we tried a couple more places first.  The third place we stopped by was the winner.  The woman (whom I’d guess to be the boss) had that feisty vibe that reminded me of Mol from Mol’s beach bar on Hin Wong Bay (Ko Tao).  We asked her how much the kayaks were, and she said “200 baht per hour”.  We replied that we wanted to rent one for the day, to which she gave us a quizzical look, checked her watch, looked back at us and said “for the day??”.  Lol!  We had to laugh and give that one to her!  I’m sure most people renting kayaks for the day would have in fact rented them in the morning, but alas there we were mid-day.  She gave us the kayak for the bargain price of 400 baht and away we went.

The crystal clear water of Lo Dalam bay was so calm and almost lake-like that the paddle just around the corner to Monkey Beach took very little effort and time.  Once there, the only thing to really watch out for was the boat traffic!  Dozens upon dozens of tour speedboats were coming and going with numerous tourists aboard, all coming for the snorkeling and monkeys.  A quiet beach this was not!!  The snorkeling was also ok, but not the best of the bunch really.  The monkeys of course were adorable and lovely and amazingly patient as tourist after tourist shoved their phones and iPads toward them on selfie sticks.

After several hours of literally baking in the sun, we decided to try to get to yet another beach that was located across the Lo Dalam bay.  We skirted around tour boats and out into the open sea we went!  While the sea looked to be quiet and calm from our perspective on Monkey Beach, it wasn’t quite the correct story once we were actually out there…  Lets just say that Anna started to feel a little sea-sick and we both started to question whether it was really smart of us to continue on.

We opted for the “Safety first” route after making it probably 3/4 of the way.  But seeing how the waves were crashing violently against the cliffs ahead and not wanting to potentially be part of those waves doing so, we headed back toward the sanctuary of the bay waters.  We didn’t quite make it until sunset on the kayaks, but instead simply went to the Sunset bar for drinks to toast the setting sun. 🙂  Anna took a picture of a kayak in the sunset (while we sat comfortably drinking) and we pretended that was us in spirit. 🙂

On to Ko Lantaaaah

Back to Thailand

The Quiet Sides of Phi Phi

Getting away from the party scene on Ko Phi Phi Don isn’t hard.  The East side of the island as well as Long Beach on the far east side of the southern bay are two great spots to really feel like you are getting away from it all.  Whether you choose to walk or hire a longtail boat taxi to get there is up to you. 🙂

The one good thing about having chosen to stay at Phutawan (technically Phi Phi Hill Bungalows) was the close proximity to the viewpoint.  We were only a short uphill hike to a rather stunning view of the two bays of Ko Phi Phi.  The signs to get up there were fairly reasonable and noticeable.  However the signs on how to get to the beaches of Rantee, Moo Dee or Ao Toh Ko on the east side of the island from the viewpoint was another story!!  To be fair, we were warned in advance (thanks again to a post on Travelfish) that the signs would be sketchy at best!

Other than the signage issue, the hike downhill wasn’t terrible.  The jungle was very thick at times, mosquitos hovered around every pore on our bodies and took to nibbling on us the second we stopped or paused, and at some points it took a little bit of clever maneuvering to continue on, but overall wasn’t bad.  On the other side, the beautiful beaches and quiet greeted us!  Granted, compared to the Lo Dalam, the beaches weren’t as spectacular but they were still beautiful in their own way.

We spent the afternoon snorkeling, having lunch, reading books and of course drinking beers.  Earlier in the day we had the best of intentions to actually hike back up the hill to the viewpoint and then back down to our bungalow again… But of course after a few beers and the fact that the sun was starting to set a little (the other excuse we used to not hike back up, lol!) we opted to take a taxi boat back:)

We made it to Long Beach a couple of days later.  What a difference in vibe that beach was!!  The party scene was transformed into a chilled and relaxed family-type vibe!  No doubt this part of town was where the money stayed as well, as the bungalows and other resorts here were quite impressive!  It was only about a 15-20 minute (very easy) walk from the main town area, but the energy was completely different!!  We found a little alcove on the beach with stunning white sands and lots of easy snorkeling.  There was also a restaurant and outdoor massage area for the ultimate in relaxation!  As we did with all the other beaches we’d been to, our afternoon was whisked away with reading, tanning, snorkeling and…. you guessed it!  Drinking beers! 🙂

On to Monkey Beach Adventure

Back to Thailand

Eating Bat and The View

Many days after my morning Muay Thai Kickboxing workout I’m left exhausted wanting to do little more than just relax with a book or have a massage.  The best remedy for my sore body (especially my feet) however is to walk.  I really have to rev myself up for the task however.  Especially since the walking includes doing so during some of the hottest hours of the day.  Usually I head to Hin Wong for a snorkel or Sairee to just hang about but this time I thought to check out a new route.

My initial plan was to head to Jim’s bar.  Located high up on one of the hills nearby, it seemed like it would be a nice ‘goal’ place to walk to and to be rewarded in the end by a cold drink and hopefully a beautiful view to boot.  Armed with my plan I headed out toward Hin Wong bay but made a turn at the top of the hill toward Jim’s bar instead of heading down to the bay.  The walk there wasn’t altogether unpleasant.  Though there were bits with a 20% or 30% grade to them, the majority was variable enough to cut the monotony of just walking uphill.  Bits of the path were concrete while other bits were only dirt and gravel cut through with erosion from storms.

Though it is possible to make the trek with a motorbike or an ATV, I prefered walking.  First because of the exercise aspect, but most importantly because of the condition of the unpaved bits of the path.  They really were quite treacherous and while during my hike up I didn’t notice any accidents, on my way back down I witnessed 2 rolled motorbike accidents (one with injuries) and heard from another person that he’d witnessed 3 as well!  But I’m getting ahead.

It felt like I had been walking for hours!  No one was in sight except the occasional random passing motorbike and the sun was beating down hard on my skin.  I took appropriate breaks here and there to chill in the shade and have some water or take pictures of the local wildlife (I spotted a water monitor!!) and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat to the point of all my clothes being soaked through, I trudged on having no idea how far or close I was, yet determined to get there.  Eventually (after going up the 30% grade bit of the path) I made it to a little bar.  It turned out to be the Butterfly Garden!  That was good news for me since Jim’s bar wasn’t too far beyond that. I stopped for a sugary tea to replenish a bit of energy then continued up the hill to Jim’s.

I was surprised that Jim’s wasn’t that far at all from the Butterfly Garden since on the map they seemed to be a bit further apart.  It literally was just up the hill from the Butterfly Garden.  While it was a cute little bar, no one was there and the views were simply of the surrounding jungle.  So instead of sitting and staying, I opted to check out a bit further along the path.  There were signs for the Mango View Bar and another place simply called The View Bar.  One was down the path to the right, the other to the left.  I chose the right path toward The View Bar and about half a km later, I’d arrived to one of the most stunning views of the island I’ve seen so far!  You could see just about the entire island including the National Park islands to the South of Koh Tao, a bit of Koh Samui to the SW and even the mainland of Thailand!

So stunned by the beauty of The View’s views, I took a seat on the patio and ordered a drink.  I learned from the owner that the place had only been open for 5 months now, the deck I was sitting on was only a month old and the bar itself is the highest bar on the island!  There was only one other couple there when I first arrived which gave the atmosphere an even more peaceful and beautiful appeal to it.  I met Suay (beautiful), the local squirrel who would pop in every time it was hungry for some fruit.  He ate out of the owners hand but unlike other squirrels I’ve seen, he didn’t live in a cage.  He simply came and went as he pleased 🙂  He did come over and sniff my toes at one point during his search for some more food, but sadly my camera didn’t reload fast enough to capture the shot 😦

I spent hours up there sipping on drinks and chatting with people as they came and went and was reminded just how international Thailand is.  Within the few hours I was there I met people from Spain, South Africa, Norway, Germany and the States.  Quite an impressive mix!  In any event, the day was moving along and it was time for me to start heading back along the 3.5km path back to my place.  As I came back into view of the Butterfly Garden however I was coaxed into staying for “just one drink”.  “Have a beer, kick up your feet!  Free view!” the Thai’s were calling to me.  And though I had been kicking up my feet for several hours I thought, why not?  So I settled in for a beer and started chatting with the locals who owned the place and a tourist from Canada.

It was then that the local said they were going to have a barbecue.  And the main meat of this barbecue??  Locally caught and freshly killed bat… Yes bat!  I LOVE bats!!!  Ok, not in the eating sense but I love those cute little critters!!  I’ve loved them since caving in college and have always adored their little furry faces!  So when he pulled out the bodies ready to be put on the barbecue, I couldn’t believe it and figured there was NO WAY I’d eat a bat!  Alas, after 2 beers (why not have 2 when you’ve already had 1??) I thought, yea, I could try some bat!  The meat was very tough and quite hard to pull off the bones but it was flavorful.  I only had one wing however as I started to feel a bit guilty for having eaten one of the cute critters, but at least I tried something new.

I ended up staying for another couple of hours at the Butterfly Garden having beers (3 in total, I promise!) chatting with people coming down or up the road, heckling them to stay for some bat, doing some Muay Thai play fighting with one of the locals who then invited me back everyday to practice with him for free, and sadly witnessing 2 motorbike rolls (one resulting in a nasty road rash injury).  After my 3 beers however, the sun was really starting to set and it was definitely time for me to head back down (I still had 3km to go!) before it became pitch black.  I thanked my new Thai friends for the bat and conversation, and headed down the quickly darkening path back toward town.  I won’t lie that I kept thinking how idiotic I was to have waited so long to go back down as the path became darker and darker.  But, all’s well that ends well, and my hike down the hill was thankfully without injury!

Sun setting
Sun setting

I made it to the bottom of the hill just in time to see one of the most stunning sunset skies I’ve seen since being on Koh Tao.  I wish the picture I took did it justice, but really it doesn’t.  Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take night shots well at all!! 😦  All in all, it was a beautiful day full of unexpected people, experiences and breathtaking views all around.  And on top of being thankful I’d made it back home in one drunken piece, I was also so very thankful that I’d made myself get off my duff that morning and make that hike in the first place.  I will definitely have to go there again!

On to Muay Thai Kickboxing Training

Back to Thailand

Hua Hin Days

The next day, having risen at the rear-crack of morning (also known as 11 am) we bounded out for something to eat before hitting up the beach.  Now, again, we had been so very starved of food selection while living in Sangkhlaburi, so food or eating or snacking or anything to do with any food topic seriously took up most of our consideration!  I also wanted some coffee, so we found a place down the street, on the way to the beach, called The Coffee Club.  They also served food of course!

Now, another thing about me… I never, I mean NEVER take pictures of my food.  I’ve never understood it before… I understand plating can be quite well done and very picturesque, but in general have never understood why people take pictures of their food.  However, on this occasion, after having looked at their menu and seeing that they had a grilled chicken sandwich that included AVOCADO (I seriously almost fainted when I saw that and then nearly cried!!!) I couldn’t help but take a picture of both the menu AND the food once it arrived.  I mean, come on!  It was even served on ciabatta bread!!!   I again almost cried at seeing REAL bread again!!  So yes, I’m now a photographer of food…

OMG!!!!!
OMG!!!!!

In any event, we spent the rest of that day lounging on the beach with some beers and I proceeded to get one of the worst burns I’ve had in a long time!  Not just along my shoulders, but my stomach and high up on my thighs as well.  It’s now been almost a week since that burn, and though I’ve been slathering myself with coconut oil and pure aloe vera, I’m still red and a bit itchy, lol!  The day basically just passed on the beach (rough life I know) then we went off for a few happy hour cocktails on one of the beach bars along the pier.  We sipped on several cocktails, talking away the hours when we were suddenly visited by some interesting guests on the roof of the next bar over.

Yes, three macaques decided to see what all the happy hour fuss was about!  I wasn’t sure what to expect from them because they can be quite violent at times, but these three just seemed to keep to themselves, accepting bits of food they wanted from sharing people.  Once dinner time came around, we opted for the Spanish Tapas restaurant  It did not disappoint!!  We ordered a liter of homemade sangria and had about 6 different dishes between us!  It was quite a treat that neither of us had had in a long time.  We were supposed to have left the next day but Jo heard that there was a Muay Thai fight the next night, so we decided to extend our stay for a night in order to catch it.

When we rose that next day, it seemed to just be a comedy of errors.  Of course, despite my burns we still had to go to the beach to hang out and swim for a bit.  We didn’t last that long though as the heat of the day felt twice as hot on my skin and as there wasn’t any shade to sit under, I could only bear it so long.  From the brief beach time, we went off to scout where the fighting was to take place but when we got there, we found out they only had fights 2 nights a week (Thursdays and Saturdays- and we were on a Friday).  Dejected by that, our next thought was to go get some food (again with the food, I know!! ;)).  Jo had seen something on TripAdvisor about a mexican food place that got great reviews along Dechanuchit Alley, near Prapokkiao (street?).  So off we went in search of that…

Another brick wall was hit as even though we were using the GPS app on TripAdvisor to find the place, it seemingly didn’t exist.  However, the street where it was supposed to exist on was an absolute bustle of energy!  There were restaurants lined one after another along this strip of road and though they were each already quite spacious, the street was being turned into an extension of the restaurants so people could sit in the street and other general shop owners were setting up for a street market!

At this point I was seriously kicking myself for not bringing my camera because it seriously was a sight to see!  Hundreds of people walked about busily setting up their shops.  I mean not a single person was simply hanging about (except us).  Everyone had a job to do and there were even people who set up a little lemonade stand and walked up and down the road selling cups of lemonade to the workers.  Jo and I got a coffee from a shop nearby Ko’s restaurant and simply watched the life around us.

Interestingly for us, a bar was even being set up on the street just next to where we sat!  So of course, even though at this point neither of us had had any breakfast or lunch, we just HAD to get some cocktails once the bar opened up!  As we sat on the street downing some beverages, a banner caught my eye several food stalls down.  I went to get a closer look and (suspenseful music here) lo and behold it was an advertisement for a Muay Thai fighting match TONIGHT!!  Yay!!!  So essentially, had it not been for us wandering to find the non-existent Mexican food place, and for us to decide to hang out with coffee to watch the street wake up for nighttime activities, and for us to decide on having a few cocktails at the street bar, then I never would have seen the advert for the Muay Thai!!  We took this as a very good sign that we were supposed to see a fight on this night!

After our several cocktails (and a free whisky shot) we stumbled our way to the site of the fight (the name escapes me now, go figure!) bought our tickets (800 baht each!!) and finally had some food at the Italian place next door.  Though all the events of the day seemed to just line up in random ways so that we could see a Muay Thai fight, after having seen the 7 fights, I still call the day a comedy of errors.  I say that because only about 3 of the 7 fights were actually worth watching.  It was a disappointment and honestly we saw better fights over New Year’s in Sangkhlaburi than what we watched there.  Oh well!  And we weren’t the only ones who felt cheated as there was another couple in 7-11 (where we went after for more booze) who were talking about how lack-luster the fights were and how disappointed they were.  I mean, come on, for 800 baht we were expecting some really good fights!  Not seemingly mismatched, gloves on, not highly ranked matches!  Oh well.  Just goes to show not everything turns out as you’d like. 🙂

On to A Real Gem

Back to Thailand

Arriving in Hua Hin

The bus ride to Hua Hin was mainly uneventful.  I say that because I had gotten a wee bit tipsy before meeting Jo at the bus station and therefore don’t recall most of the trip.  However, at one point between little naps, the inevitable sensation that always creeps up when one drinks started to kick in… Yes, I REALLY needed a bathroom!!  I had heard that the trip was only a couple of hours, so I figured I would be ok…  But just like all mini-bus journeys in Thailand: whatever time you are given for the trip, double it!  However, given that, what’s also nice about the mini-buses is that they inevitably always take a bathroom break about halfway or just an hour shy of reaching the destination.  Thank goodness for this!!

I seriously was starting to worry whether my poor bladder would hold up!  I kept asking the driver “hong nam??” (room water literally) in hopes he would hear the absolute desperation in my voice and make a potential emergency stop just for me.  “Ha nittie” (5 minutes) is all he kept saying as I kept praying that THIS time it really would be ‘ha nittie’…  Sure enough we did (eventually) make a stop at a gas station for food, drinks and bathrooms (hooray!!!).  Fully content (and about a quarter less body weight in water) we continued on the last little bit to the coast.

It’s amazing how much you miss something and don’t ever recall that you do until you are faced with it again… I speak of the ocean.  We pulled up at a random junction near the clock tower (which is really a HUGE poster of the King with a teeny clock at the top) where the driver said to us “falangs” (foreigners) and pointed for us to get out.  True to my style (and thankfully Jo’s too) we didn’t have any place planned to stay just yet.  Jo used her phone to track down a potential place to stay and we headed off in the direction It showed, which was also in the direction of the water.

About 10 minutes later we hit Naret Damri Alley, a bustling tourist street full of every possible worldwide cuisine restaurants that you could possibly imagine.  I mean they had German, French, Spanish Tapas, Italian, Norwegian, Swiss (seriously!!), Greek, American, Indian, Finnish, and more!!  Having come from and lived in the small town of Sangkhlaburi where the most exciting thing was pad thai or fried rice, we just about fainted when we saw all these delicious food options!!  Keeping ourselves in check (wiping the drool from our chins as we walked by each place) we first found a place to stay.  Memory Guesthouse just down the street from Dechanuchit Alley on Naret Damri Alley was where we decided to settle for 400 baht a night.  We paid for 2 nights, settled in and then headed out for some FOOD!!  We opted for an Indian restaurant just across the street and dined as if we had never had food before!

At this point the sun had already set so going to the beach wasn’t an option as far as tanning was concerned.  So instead we got a couple of beers and headed out just to scout where the beach actually was from us.  First we went the wrong way down N.D. Alley to basically a dead-end, along the way checking out and continuously being shocked even more so by the array of differing cuisines available.  We turned around and went the other way down N.D. Alley, past our guesthouse toward the Hilton.  We reached what looked like another dead-end (a parking lot near what looked like a Chinese Temple of sorts) but continued on as I was determined that there HAD to be a beach nearby!

 

Luckily, just around the corner from the Chinese Temple, the land opened up and a vast beach lay ahead of us.  The water was severely choppy and there was absolutely no way to swim in it, so we just dipped our toes in for a bit (gloriously warm water!!) then sat on the beach drinking and talking.  We watched the moon rise, a fabulous red-orange glow coming over the horizon through bits of hazy clouds and eventually headed back for some rest.

On to Hua Hin Days

Back to Thailand

Unexpected Company

I left Sangkhla with a vet volunteer who popped in the sanctuary during the last few weeks I was there.  Bettina, from Denmark is seriously a star vet and reminded me quite a bit of Nyzil, the vet who worked at the sanctuary when I first arrived.  She was amazing with the animals, the other volunteers and had a ridiculous amount of knowledge in her craft.  Her calming aura during times of stress was unbelievable and inspirational!

I recall one particular time when we insisted she take the day off (she had been working without rest for quite some time and needed it).  Only a few hours after she left to enjoy her day, a cat was brought in that had been bitten by a dog.  At first glance I couldn’t see any immediate damage.  But when I lifted the cat out of its carrier and a line of blood spurt out from its side, I knew this was more serious than it looked like.  Now I’m not queasy about blood or guts or animal bodily functions, and I tend to stay calm where others panic… But when I saw that, I got a little panicked.  It was evident that poor Bettina’s day off would be cut short.

I hopped on the motorbike and started into town in search of her, luckily finding her only about 10 minutes later.  As I pulled up, I could feel my sense of urgency creeping up.  I almost ran her over with the bike trying to get to her and immediately started rattling away that there was a cat bitten by a dog, blood spurting, will need stitches, fluid building up in the belly, yada, yada.  Her reaction?  “Ok, not a problem.  Let me just pay for this real quick and we will get going.”  Her confidence immediately soothed me.  Snapped me back into a state of calm that I had let go of before.  We headed back, she took care of business and the cat is doing very well.

In any event, Bettina had planned to go to a horse facility in Nepal and had plans to do so around the time I was planning to leave.  Since our plans coincided nicely, we thought it would be great to leave together and spend a couple of days in Kanchanaburi before parting ways.  Those few days spent with her were among some of the most relaxing I’d had in a long while.  We walked to the Death Railway at night, which is beautifully lit up by changing colored lights (though unfortunately my camera takes crap photos at night!!), visited probably every coffee shop in town and dined on delicious food.  Oddly, time seemed to just absolutely dissipate anytime we started talking.  We would arrive at a coffee shop at 10am and the next thing we knew it was 3pm!  We stayed up until 2am one night just talking, sharing experiences, things we want for ourselves, discussing politics and ideas, etc.  I think in the 48 hours that we spent in Kanchanaburi, probably about 36 of them were spent talking, lol!! (555!!)

Funnily enough, the last night we were there, two volunteers from the sanctuary surprised us while we were hanging out for some dinner.  They had two dogs that required more medical attention than they were able to give at the sanctuary (X-ray and major surgery for a dog hit by a car) so they brought them down to the vet in Kanchanaburi.  Needless to say that night turned into a late one, at least for me!  Bettina sadly was still feeling under the weather so didn’t join in drinks till 5, but as I thought it would be the last time seeing the other two volunteers (Jo & Oli) I couldn’t resist a few drinks.

The next day Bettina and I said our goodbyes and as she headed out I opted to stay in Kanchanaburi a couple more days so I could actually plan where and how I Was getting to my next destination.  It was about a couple of days later that I got an email from Jo (who at this point was back in Sangkhla) saying she too was leaving the sanctuary and wondered if we could travel together for a couple weeks.  Though I have traveled a lot, I’ve never really traveled with people.  I’ve met people along the way and we’ve kept each others company for several days or just shy of a week, but I’ve never really traveled with people.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling alone because of the fact that I never have to answer to anyone else: what do you want to do?  I don’t know, what do you want to do??… I hate those conversations!!  But seeing as she and I got along well at the sanctuary, I thought why not?  It would be nice to have some company for a couple of weeks.  So a few days later we met at the bus station in Kanchanaburi and headed South to Hua Hin on the Thai bay coast.

Oh and I should probably state, the images in this section are kinda random- just several I found that I’ve taken from the Sangkhla area and didn’t fit in other posts:)

On to Arriving in Hua Hin

Back to Thailand

Ode to Water

Refreshing and cool, clear and crisp,
Water should always be at the top of my list.

It’s just what the body hungers for first,
And for workouts or hot days, it’s the best to quench thirst.

It satisfies and nourishes in so many ways,
You’d think it’s what I’d reach for at the end of my days.

Alas, I must confess that instead what I do
Is reach for water turned into a brew.

It’s always the same: “Just one for today”
But as soon as it’s consumed I get carried away.

As the cans begin to stack and the fun buzz begins,
The memory of the hangover starts to sink in.

And though I am reluctant and try to not care
I know in my head I better prepare!

Guzzling some water at first is a chore
As the plain taste suddenly seems a bore.

But as the beer buzz is gently washed away
And sleep comes comfortably to bring a new day,

I think just how good that water did taste
And the miracles it worked in avoiding the next day being a waste!

Leaving Sangkhla

Back to Thailand

Crazy Kanchanaburi Nights

From my other posts about Sangkhlaburi, it’s probably easy to tell that it is a teeny little place and while it has a lot of the necessities, it lacks quite a bit as well.  We have no proper grocery store here.  The market is where you go for meat, veggies and fruit (which personally I prefer anyway) but for other necessities that are generally found in a grocery store, well, we have a place called CJ’s that has the basics and believe it or not, if it’s not in CJ’s, the other “grocery store” in town is 7 Eleven… Yes, 7 Eleven!

Kanchanaburi in contrast has proper grocery stores and even stores comparable to Sam’s Club or Costco.  They also have proper pet and vet stores where supplies are easily found for the shelter.  As some items were starting to run out at the shelter, it was time for a run to Kanchanaburi to stock up.  I went along with 2 other girls from the shelter for a weekend getaway.  We drove there in a truck lent to us by another gem of Sangkhlaburi, Dr. Mays, a dentist in town and avid animal lover and made the 212km trek to Kanchanaburi mid-day a week ago on Saturday.

J, one of the three on the trip, drove.  She is from the UK so was used to driving on the left and had amazingly picked up the Thai driving style as I had several mini heart attacks along the way dodging in and out of traffic along the road.  Due to traffic we arrived later than anticipated and missed the vet supply office hours.  So we simply headed to our hotel, took showers in warm water (there is no warm water in Sangkhlaburi for showers unless you shower in the middle of the day when the water has been heated up by the sun), put makeup on for the first time in a month and a half and headed into town.

I will say since being in Sangkhlaburi, I don’t think I’ve seen myself in a mirror except maybe two or three times.  So needless to say, once in a bathroom with a mirror in it, it was almost surprising and shocking to see myself, lol!!

We headed out and first had a drink and shared a pizza at Bell’s, then went to the Lady Boy bar for some more drinks.  Surprisingly the other volunteer (K) who tagged along for the weekend getaway after only 4 beers was already quite drunk!  Normally she can hold her own, but for some reason not on this night.  In any event, since there was more drinking to be done for myself and J, we continued on to the Monkey Bar for another drink.  Then…. Well… though I had stayed away from the “get drunk for 10 baht” bars during my last time in Kanchanaburi, we ended up stumbling into there as well…

In all fairness really it wasn’t myself or J stumbling, it was only K.  Jo and I had a delightful time taking shots and sipping on buckets of booze while K kept excusing herself to the bathroom to vomit… Joy!!  Since J and K had been to Kanchanaburi several times before for these types of excursions, they inevitably made friends with some of the locals, including a tattoo artist with a shop in front of the Sugar Member bar, just across from the 10 baht bar.  The night continued with lots of drinks, conversation, and many bathroom breaks for K.  She ended up going back to the hotel early and passed out outside the room on the lounge chair (since she didn’t have the key) while J and I continued to party until 4am.

Amazingly I woke the next day feeling great!  K and J, not so much…  We had to move rooms around noon (they put us in the wrong room the first night) so everyone was up in semi-good spirits around 11.  We jointly decided the best remedy for our hangovers was to have a yummy pizza yet again, though this time we were each getting our own to soak up the liquor, lol!!  We checked out Bell’s again (they seriously have a really good pizza!!) all craving the deliciousness we had the night before but to our dismay learned it didn’t open until 5pm!!

The idea was in our heads already however, and there was nothing to change it.  We were bound and determined to starve ourselves all day until Bell’s opened again!!  It seriously turned into a bit of a torture game and that day was the longest day I can ever recall!!  One would ask “what time is it” and learn it was 12:15… Then what seemed like forever later another would ask again the time only to learn it was 12:22 😦  The day went on like this with time slowing down just to mock us and as we didn’t have anything else to eat, the hangover symptoms started to even creep up on me!

What does one do to stave off a hangover??  You got it!  Drink more!  I caved around 3:30 and went to the bar at the hotel with K and proceeded to drink three White Russians.  Yum!!  It was definitely just what I needed to tide me over until Bell’s opened!  5pm FINALLY rolled around and we went for our indulgent meal of pizza with mushrooms and ham.  After dinner, K said she wanted to get a tattoo.  I, the night before, after meeting Joe the tattoo artist said I wanted to have him draw out a tattoo for me that I’d been thinking about for 7 years now.  So I tagged along…  J (the smart one) went back to the hotel for an easy night…

Well, of course since the tattoo shop was in front of a bar, we just had to get a bucket of booze to share!  I chatted with Joe about what I wanted, describing the design that I saw in my head and he set off to work as K and I got progressively more inebriated I kept checking back in with Joe every half hour or so to see how the design was coming along, giving input where needed.  About 2 hours later the design was done!  I really was thinking to just pay for the design and get the tattoo later, but then I started thinking “why not get it done now??”… Or maybe it was just the booze talking, lol!!  In any event, I bit the bullet and got it done!

It’s still a work in progress as I want some shading done on the moon and a Japanese word written in the space between the moon and cherry willow tree, but nothing another trip to Kanchanaburi can’t fix 😉  I will say I was quite impressed with Joe as when I said I wanted a Japanese word written in he said “I don’t speak Japanese” (he’s Thai) to which I replied “Google translate!” to which he replied “are you sure??”.  He got me to thinking and I’ve decided that until I find someone who speaks fluent Japanese, and someone who is trustworthy, I won’t do the lettering.  I’m not going to lie, the tattoo was quite unpleasant to get!  I thought the booze would numb me up a bit, but no luck there:(

In any event, after I got my tattoo done, K got one as well even though Joe strongly advised against it since he deemed her too drunk to get one.  Eventually he relented and gave her the tattoo and after a bit of drama over her paying him for his services (she only had a quarter of the money it cost and instead of going to get more money from the ATM in front of 7 Eleven, she wandered INTO 7 Eleven and proceeded to read the wording on every package of items sold in an attempt to avoid (?) having to pay… Once that was sorted out and she finally paid Joe, we wandered back toward the hotel and passed out around 4am… again… lol!!

The next day we rose (K with a hangover) and finally got the vet supplies bought.  We stopped at a REAL grocery store to stock up on goodies not found in Sangkhlaburi (coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and tabasco sauce for me) then headed home.

In all honesty, I was a bit worried that when I woke that morning I would be a bit regretful about getting the tattoo.  But when I thought about it, I had no regrets.  No butterflies or tight feeling in the stomach when one thinks of something they wish they hadn’t done.  It’s still a work in progress of course and it still has to fully heal (the wrinkles will dissipate) but I’m happy I’ve got it:)

On to Spay Camp and Elephants

Back to Thailand