We caught the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi which was hot (3rd class with fans but not much breeze). Despite the heat, the journey was great. The train was quiet and Otto got to sleep the whole way.
Bangkok was very brief this visit. A quick trip to MBK the supposed mecca for shopping and a swim in the hotel pool - oh and a slow, massively over heated jog by me as I try and get some fitness back after nearly a year since exercise.
We stayed in a beautiful hotel, Ploy, which had beds on raised platforms and a cottage right on the river side which my ma and pa stayed in.
Despite the 'get drunk for 10 baht' signs (that's about 20p) the town was worth a visit and we took a good look around the war museum and the bridge over the river Kwae. A visit up the the Erewan National Park was also fun as we braved the pedicuring fish to swim in the pools at the 2nd and 3rd waterfall (except these fish were over a foot long so the nibbling was more than a little tickle!)
However, the real highlight of our time in Kanchanaburi was our day spent at Elephant World, a sanctuary for sick elephants rescued from logging, trecking and begging work. We got to spend the full day helping the volunteers look after the 22 elephants at the sanctuary who range from 4 to 81 in age.
We prepared their food - fruit baskets as snacks for the youngsters; sticky rice with pumpkin for the oldies who've lost their last set of teeth. We learned lots about these magnificent beasts. For instance, did you know elephants only have two teeth but they get six sets of them during their lifetime? They are also the only other animal apart from us who knowingly morns their dead family and friends. And lots of them don't like papaya but they all love watermelon - hmm, maybe I was an elephant in a previous life.
We made Easter Egg hunts for them with bits of watermelon hidden and got to watch them playing around in the mud a lot. At the end of our day, we even got a chance to join in bathtime although Otto did more swimming away from the huge creatures as fast as he could than scrubbing them.
Jess was in her element and was a proper teachers pet following our volunteer Julia around all day on her very best, most helpful ever behaviour. The whole day was amazing from start to finish and gave me a new found empathy with the elephants that surprised me.
I would thoroughly recommend it if you ever get the chance.
The border crossing from Cambodia to Thailand was the usual mix of being quietly ripped off for everything from bag carriers to taxis plus mild panics about loosing kids and or bags whilst trying to arrival and departure cards, but we made it relatively unscathed. We arrived at the port by Trat around midday and caught the 12:30 princess ferry to the gorgeous island of Ko Kood or Ko Kut as some write it.
We spent four days on the island but could easily have stayed longer. The beaches were amazing, white sands, reefs for snorkeling from the beach, and a relaxing friendly vibe everywhere.
We hired scooters for two days to explore the islands interior waterfalls and the fascinating fishing village which was more free like a free aquarium where the kids got to hold all manner of sea life. The island is ridiculously hilly akin to Ko Tao in its gradients so just riding around the roads was an adventure in itself. One hill in particular saw us relaying up individual passengers on the bigger of the two scooters just in case we didn't make it so as to avoid the jumping off half way up we had in Ko Tao. Sandy roads down to the beaches also provided excitement with the bikes skidding all over the place under the careful driving of my dad, Alan and Mikey.
We stayed at Dusita which had an expansive garden with gigantic coconut trees which were harvested every day by a man with a trained monkey. Watching the argument between organ grinder and worker was a reminder that they are not so far removed from man in evolution.
It felt way to early to leave the island but with flights booked we had to return to Bangkok for our final destination with the Grandparents Judge: Kanchanaburi.
Ao Thong Nan Pang Yai is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand; a crescent of soft sandy beach and green sea which is so sheltered and shallow it’s very safe for the kids.
The beach side has a scattering of restaurants most of which (in fact all except one) serve great food and good cocktails. The beach is also home to the Flipflop Pharmacy which appears on Conde Nast's best beach bars. It’s no Ty Cock but the swinging seats, pooltable, great views make up for the lack of Welsh accents. Before Kaney and Amanda arrived we’d already spent a few nights sampling the drinks in Flipflops. We’d also attempted and just survived the dusk scramble around the headland jungle to reach the posher (but nowhere near as nice) sister beach of Ao Thong Nan Pang Noi. We were covered in sweat and dirt after the scramble so looked just the part as we came down through the £200 a night private pool villas. Despite our appearance we were still invited to dine at the £20 a head BBQ. That may not sound like a lot but it was nearly ten times what we sometimes payed for a meal. We politely declined the invitation and walked along the beach till we found the only cheap eat.
Kaney and Amanda arrived the following day (23rd - the day of the infamous full moon party: coincidence? I think not).
What a pleasure to see them and now we were 6 friends and the kids. Yey!
That night whilst the kids and I stayed on our beautifully serene idyll. The other 5 (Mikey, Al, Claire, Kaney and Amanda) all braved the neon face paint and full moon party t-shirt clad teens to dance till dawn on Hat Rin beach. I wasn't sorry to miss the hangover they all woke with and whilst a good night and many sangsam buckets were consumed, I think I'm happy to have missed out. I have partied on Hat Rin once before as a mere slip of a lass (24) and I'm happy to remember it back then.
The following night was Mikey's turn to babysit. We headed up the road to the south end of the beach to a hilltop bar hoping the trek qould be worth it. And it was.
On arrival, there was not much room left to comfortably fit the 5 of us so they pointed to a step ladder and asked if we wanted to sit on the roof! Of course we said yes. Shakily with the aid of a tree we climbed onto the roof where we were brought cushions to get comfy on and cocktails to consume. After about 4 'one for the road's we were forced down from the roof by an encroaching thunder storm. Sitting on the roof of the only building at the top of a hill didn't seem the wisest place for a drink. So another couple of roaders saw us drenched walking back home for the last night at Baan Puri bungalows on Ko Phagnan.
The next morning we awoke to continuing rain as the storm was well and truly upon us. The beach had disappeared and the sea had turned from into a surging mess of huge breakers. The closest bungalow to the beach which had yesterday been the prime lodging had been evacuated and was in the midst of being reclaimed by the sea. There was more excitement when a longtail boat that had been moored a few metres from shore was rescued by being hauled by about 30men, both locals and guests, right up onto the path between the bungalows and the restaurant. Even the staff weee videoing the storm so I can only guess it was unusually fierce.
And this was the day we were booked onto the ferry (well actually a smallish catamaran) to sail to Ko Tao.
Surely the boat wouldn't run in this storm?
Oh yes it would.
Well surely the boat must be safe if they decode to run?
Jury's still out on that one but needless to say we will not be getting a small boat in that kind of weather ever again.
As soon as we left the shelter of the island and hit the first couple of waves the whole boat screamed. After a few minutes everyone silenced probably in terror and it was only the biggest waves that elicited the odd terrified scream - the ones where the window view immediately alters between full sea and full sky and you have to hold the arm rests to remain on your seat. It was like being on a rollercoaster but without the safety bars and with no guarantee that you were actually safe.
Some poor soles had opted for the open air top deck and came in at various stages of the journey, when they'd summoned enough courage to climb down the external stairs and make it back inside. These people all shared the same look: wet through, wild eyed and shaken as of they had come face to face with death.
Once such unlucky soul slumped into a spare chair next to Claire and me and immediately burst into tears.
How were Jess and Otto, I hear you ask. Otto slept the whole way and Jess watched Frozen albeit with a bit of a moan as the screen kept toppling over.
When we pulled up to Ko Tao our nerves were shot but we were relieved to be safe. Or so we thought. Only to be scared witless once again in the taxi - back of a pickup - up and down semmingly vertical hills. Once again we were clinging on for dear life and also catching our loose luggage too.
After all that adrenaline we decided to rent scooters the next day to attempt the vertiginous slopes on our own. It was mostly successful and we found a beautiful beach Coral Bay. We only had to jump off the bike once on a particularly steep bit which to be fair had a warning sign for one rider only which we ignored only to run out of steam half way up the steepest bit. I managed to jump off with the kids and Mikes managed to push the bike up the hill with the help of Claire and Amanda (where were the boys??).
The evening saw us administering first aid to a Japanese girl who we witnessed coming a croper head first off her mountain bike on the descent to where we were eatimg dinner and apart from a minor skid by Al on the way home we'd made it through another day safely.
All that proved too much for us and the next day Claire and I booked in for a 2hr yoga class where we tried not to giggle at the ohmmm shanti shantis. Followed by booking into a gorgeous hotel with a hilltop infinity pool. And relax.
Our friends all abandoned us the next day and we left the islands uneventfully the day after. We've retreated a couple of hours up the coast to Bang Saphan Yai which is cheap and very quiet. We are at a lovely place called @myhome. It has the feel of a French campsite rather than a Thai beach place. Perfect for now. It has a big lawn for football, a nice restaurant, pool and table tennis, and even a petanque pit.
And relax some more.
So I recognise I haven't posted for a while, sorry. For the last two weeks or so since the last post we have been travelling with friends so less time for me to get on the web. I will attempt to catch up.
We arrived in Bangkok from Hanoi about 3 weeks ago and spent 4 days sorting out visas for Indonesia and enjoying (?!) the city.
Some days were great- visiting a water park on top of a shopping centre where the water slides felt like you were on the barclay card advert. Some days were a bit dull - standing in queues at embassies (hungover) trying to fill out forms.
But on the whole we had a great few days. We met a lovely couple from Pompei (Olly and Emma) who we had a few fun nights out with - we even convinced them to come to the water park with us. The kids loved them too so we had extra hands looking after the littluns.
After Bangkok we flew back to Phuket to meet Al and Claire.
What an amazing time we've had with them and Kaney and Amanda who met us a week later.
We enjoyed far too much Gin in Phuket but it was great to see friendly faces from home.
After relaxing on the beach for a day we went jungle in Khao Sok. We were staying in tree houses (well enormous bungalows built on stilts nestled in the trees). The monsoon rain that greeted us on arrival did little to dampen our love of the place. Within an hour of arriving an enormous explosion accompanied by a bright flash startled us a bit as lightening struck one of the karst cliffs towering above us. It blew the power for a few hours but it was back on before the sun went down so we could still enjoy an evening of cocktails in amongst the billion bugs.
The following morning saw the sun come out and we braved the inflatable canoes for a river trip. Snake count was 5. Four menacingly black and yellow striped ones and a relatively harmless small green one, which I made out I could see but if I'm being honest without my glasses it could have been another cleverly disguised leaf. A tarzan swing halfway down provided quite few laughs at the bravado attempts.
Al and Claire came face to face with a band of monkeys raiding our tree houses for the remains of the kids choco breakfasts but we all escaped the jungle unharmed.
From the jungle we travelled to Ko Phangan off the East Coast of the Thai peninsula where we spent 6 days on a quiet, beautiful beach Thong Nan Pan Yai. It was here we were to meet Kaney and Amanda.
The beach was perfect. Shallow calm waters, beach toys aplenty, and loads of kids to play with. It was also pretty perfect for us grown ups too.
Finally we meet a fun family to hang out with. We've so far met quite a few lovely families but we have always been heading in different directions so have only ever got to hang out for a day or a few hours. In Ko Phayam long beach we met a great fun family from Bali or South Africa or London or all 3 and had a great few days nursing hangovers and enjoying hairs of the dog in the heat. Sarah and Rupert were on holiday (from home in Bali) with their son, Jeremiah) and due to a similar penchant for festive drinking and the good fortune that we all including the kids got on great together, we spent an easy few days enjoying the excessiveness of Christmas (minus the commercialism and the tv).
Ko Phayam was perfect for kids with no cars, great fun to be had on scooters and a huge safe beach to run themselves tired on. We would love to head back there and stay longer buy our visas were expiring so time to move on.
Hello and happy christmas everyone.
So we have left the comfort of flashpacking with Shirls. It was great having Grandma out to see us. We visited Ko Jum after Ko Lanta which was a great experience. The ferry stops in the middle of the sea and a swarm of longtail boats pull up beside it and you have to negotiate dropping down kids, backpacks, and yourselves into the boats to get taken there.
We stayed at Loma bungaows which was beautiful but did involve 180 steps to get up!
We had some awesome storms whilst staying there and were woken up by the monkeys !ost mornings.
From here we stayed on Ko Yao Yai in true flashpacker style complete with a private beach and an infinity pool!
All in all a great 2.5 weeks and well worth the traumatic three hours when Mikey and Grandma left us in a hostel in Phuket for the send off at the airport.
We're struggling to feel very chrsitmassy but our current bungalows do have a Christmas tree and we may buy some Christmas hats from the shop for the big day. We're currently on Ko Phayam, a small island near the Myanmar border. It's fantastic. There's no cars and limited electricity but it has loads of great restaurants and lovely beaches and it's quite cheap (finally).
We've been on the island for a week so far and already feel very welcome. WIFI is a bit scarce though hence the lack of posts. The atmosphere here is very friendly with lots of families around.
Christmas day thhosting is hhosting a big by Thailand's no.1 band: Job2Do so there's plenty to keep us occupied and not too homesick.
The kids are loving our bungalows at the minute thanks to a playground with swings and slides.
We hope to Skype on Christmas day so we'll speak soon. Love to you all.
Here we are in Thailand. What a shock. Landing in Phuket after 2 months in Sri Lanka was a bit of a culture shock. After asking Grandma Shirls to bring a bounty of supplies we find enormous Tescos and huge shopping malls and a gazillion tourists and if we thought Sri Lanka was pricey then Thailand has made us reassess again.
We spent our first Thai night in a small tent at Micky Monkey resort on Phuket island. Thanks to our new friend, Uncle Fred - a larger than life Ex-Saffa military birthday boy - and his many brothers and sisters (especially Matt) we had a wild 30hours of beer, great food, endless ice cream and beer plus Pete’s trapeze which Mikey and Jessica conquered (as did Uncle Fred despite having lost both legs above the knee) and I bottled out due to my pathetic excuse of the broken fingers sustained 3mths ago that have still yet to gain full movement
We switched the tent for a luxury apartment once Shirls (Mikes mum) joined us. Three bedrooms, private plunge pool, roof terrace, 3D flatscreen TV. Now we're definitely flashpacking.
3 nights living the highlife visiting the pleasant enough Naihan beach and the lovely Yonui cove was a great easing into the country. We even got away with the scratched bumper on the hire car (thanks to me reversing backwards over a moped). Never underestimate the power of taking a ridiculously cute blonde haired toddler with you!
We moved to Ko Lanta from Phuket and are currently staying on Klong Nin beach. We have a great pool, an awesome beach and even a beach bar named after our youngest, Otto.
Another 3 nights here before slumming in Ko Jum and then luxury in Ko Yao Yai.
Love to everyone at home and happy travels to all those we’ve met so far. xx
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Kelly and Mikey (but mostly Kelly). We sold up in the UK to travel with our two littluns for a year or so. If you want to know more click the about us!