Back in Thailand and traveling south through Khao Sok

It was nice to be back in Thailand! People are so friendly and laid back, there’s nowhere else in the world like it. It was only a week that we were in Cambodia but I really missed it.

I don’t actually remember much of the trip down south other than we were on a 2nd class train for a long time. Guess I was tired, lol.

We had absolutely no idea where we were going to stay the night but ran into another backpacker and ended up going with her to the Khao Sok Green Mountain View resort.

We definitely lucked out. These jungle bungalows were just what we needed after a long trip. They were actually in the jungle, very comfortable (though somewhat spartan), and had their own private bathrooms. My only disappointment was that we didn’t have any hot water which was actually an issue as it was chilly early in the morning! I would suggest showering the night before while it’s still warm.

Onsite there is a small restaurant run by the owner and his family. We got a chance to talk with him at dinner. He is a super nice guy! Full of fun stories about the area and different people he’d met. There were several guidebooks for things to do at the lake and we booked an excursion that included sleeping on the water in a floating cabin. Sometimes I look back and am amazed by all the exciting things I was doing during this time period!

After a good night’s sleep we left for our river trip. First we stopped in town to buy some supplies for the hikes included in the tour. The guide told us that we would need some type of water proof shoes (not sandals) and a headlamp to see in the cave. All the options were very expensive and I wasn’t able to find anything but a very ill fitting pair of croc knock offs. It was the only thing we found that even remotely fit me. Which is kind of strange as I thought there would be a lot more options in Thailand since my feet are a bit small. We met back at the sangthaew and left for the dock where we got into a large power boat.

It was actually an hour or two boat ride to the place we were staying, but quite scenic!

Sadly I didn’t get a picture of the place we stayed, but here are some cabins that look similar. There are a few options in the area and we stayed at the Ton Toey Raft House. While it was very picturesque and I enjoyed my time there we had several major issues that I’ll get into.

Our stay included two separate hikes through the local cave system and a late night wildlife viewing boat ride. I decided on the easier hike and the wild life viewing.

Even though I decided on the easier hike it was really a challenge. To be honest it was fairly dangerous. At one point we had to descend a 6-7 foot waterfall and our guide abandoned us! Luckily one of the other guests was very outdoorsy and was able to guide our group down.

When we exited the cave we found out that it had started to rain while we were inside. That was part of the reason the waterfall was so difficult to cross. This is the exact scenario that had killed several hikers in years past, a flash flood due to rain filled the cave and they were unable to escape. In fact the trail is only open part of the year after the end of the rainy season, and had only been open a few days before we arrived. Pretty scary. I’m glad that things turned out okay for us!

Other than that hairy part the hike was amazing. Both the portion through the jungle and in the caves. I wish that I’d gotten more pictures but because the cave was flooded in some places I left my phone behind. I really need to get water proof GoPro.

That night we went on a relaxing wildlife watching tour. I didn’t see much other than a little eye shine in the trees and a bird, but it was a fun excursion. Being on the water and listening to the sounds of the jungle was magical.

Sadly the next day poor Eric got a terrible case of food poisoning. It was made worse due to the fact that they have very poor toilet facilities (and no sinks to wash your hands or any soap) and did not supply enough water. You could use the shower heads in the bathrooms and bring some soap with you, which we did, but I’m sure many people didn’t bother. The last two days of the trip I ended up stealing water off the supply shelves and asking for extra at meal times. I felt like a water hoarder.

We were so remote I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone all day so I stayed at the cabin. Plus I was pretty tired from the day before. Actually a lot of people skipped the hike scheduled for that day and just went swimming or borrowed the single kayak that was available. One of the women staying there gave me some hydration salts to help with Eric’s illness. Backpackers really do look out for each other, it’s such a nice part of traveling.

Later we found out the hike we missed was through a bunch of leech filled pools. Everyone who went was covered from toe to knee in leeches! Pretty disgusting.

My advice, if you decide to go make sure that you bring extra water. Skip the cave hike near the rainy season, and skip the second hike if you can’t handle the leeches. The boat tours are fun though you might not see many animals. It is beautiful and you can just enjoy the scenery and have a good swim. I’m glad that I went I just wish that I had a little more information about what the hikes were like. And the sanitation really was an issue. There really should be a place for people to wash their hands after using the bathroom, especially the cook.

I wish that I could give this a better review. It was a really polarizing experience. Both great and terrible.

We spent the next day going from one form of transportation to another until we arrived in Koh Samui, one of the islands in the southeast. I will pick up there in my next post!



Taking the sleeper train to Bangkok and traveling to Siem Reap

Rather than take a plane to Bangkok we decided to try the overnight sleeper train. You can choose to travel in first class, which includes a private berth with air conditioning, or you have the option to go second class with or without air conditioning. Second class is more like a dorm room with an open plan and beds along the walls of the train. You leave in the evening and arrive very early in the morning.

Because first class was sold out we decided to get second class tickets with air conditioning. Second Class was comfortable and it was a fun trip. During the day you sit at a table with two cushioned seats and at night these are converted into two bunk beds that come out of the wall. If you’re interested there are pictures on seat61, a site dedicated to the various forms of rail travel all over the world. We were on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route.

Some of the food left something to be desired but there was plenty of it. It still amazes me how many meals are included when I am using public transportation in Southeast Asia. We didn’t even need to go to the dining car for snacks. Here is a picture of our dinner:

The berths were pretty comfortable and with the curtains drawn fairly private. I’m fairly picky and I even managed to sleep some. I wish that I had gotten a picture of them but I guess I was too sleepy! Here is a picture of us rolling along.

We arrived in Bangkok early in the morning and though not quite refreshed, in good shape.

In Bangkok we stayed at the Good Day hostel for a few days. We rented a private room with access to a communal bathroom. Our room had a bunk which was kind of fun. It reminded me a lot of being a kid. I got the bottom bunk. The rooms are very clean and had outlets accessible everywhere which I thought was great. There was one bathroom for the floor and it was also very clean and nicely decorated. The toilets and showers are in stalls so it’s a little more private than a locker room. All and all I had a good stay here and was very comfortable.

Then we were off to Siem Reap to check out Angkor Wat! The plane ride was uneventful. Siem Reap has a tiny airport and thankfully a very short visa check in process.

You actually use US dollars in Cambodia, which would have been more convenient if I had known about it before, lol. You also want to make sure that all your bills are in decent condition as most places will not accept bills that are overly dirty or in any way ripped.

Here is our plane! We arrived safely and were ready to check into our hotel. Next time I will talk about the city of Siem Reap.

Going to Thailand for the first time!

Tomorrow I am going to Thailand. I’m a mixture of excited/scared/in disbelief right now. I have never been to Thailand or anywhere in South East Asia so this is a first for me. Going to a country where I can’t speak the language will definitely be a challenge and I am really looking forward to it.

I hope that by trying to overcome the language barrier it will help me get over my shyness. I’ve always heard that a huge part of traveling is the interesting people that you run into on the road. I think in the past I haven’t been outgoing enough and missed opportunities to make new friendships. It definitely changes your feelings about traveling! This time it should be a little easier as I am going with my boyfriend and his brother but I still want to meet new people.

I have traveled to Ireland and Australia in the past by myself. While that was an experience in itself, in some ways it was kind of a cop out. I stayed in hotels when I probably should have stayed in hostels, didn’t get a job, and didn’t meet anyone. Wandering around by myself was not the traveling experience that I had hoped for and I ended up going home months early both times. I was disappointed. Sometimes I think that it might have been better to go to Thailand. It would have been the crazy option and not the safe one. Maybe it would have encouraged me to take more chances?

Even years and years ago I dreamed about going to Thailand, but I let people talk me out of it. It seems like the first thing that anyone I spoke to wanted to mention was the sex trade. I do know about it but that isn’t the whole country! There is so much history and I hear Thai people are really friendly.

Looking back it’s always bothered me that it seems like everyone I spoke to was just trying to point out the worst things that could happen. I have resolved to be more encouraging if anyone else says they want to do something like travel by themselves to an exotic location.

In any case I am getting off topic. I’m staying with my boyfriend at his brother’s house for a day, then we are off to Bangkok. We came a little early to practice riding together on his brother’s motorcycle. We are planning to use scooter or motorcycles getting around Thailand and I hear the roads are crazy. I wouldn’t feel comfortable riding myself but if we can manage riding together we might go on some fun motorcycle trips. I hope that today goes well, but we will at least see what we’re dealing with.

Full disclosure, I have never ridden on the back of a motorcycle before. I also don’t have any gear so this may be kind of stupid. We’re planning to just drive around a bit, no crazy turns and probably keeping it kind of slow. My boyfriend is excited about learning to ride with a passenger so that’s good.

I will update later with the results!