Koh Samui & Koh Tao – Thailand

Hello!

We’d been to the north of Thailand last month and came back to visit some of the islands. From Siem Reap, we flew to Phuket as it was a lot cheaper than heading straight to Koh Samui but unfortunately this meant we were set for another 6-7 hour bus journey upon arrival. This was probably the first time our lack of planning didn’t do us any favours… Phuket airport is about a 45 minute journey north of Phuket town, already on the way to Surat Thani (the connecting town to the islands). We assumed we’d be able to catch a bus straight from the airport instead of wasting a journey into town only to head back on ourselves an hour or two later. After bitterly trudging around the area near the airport in the mid-day sun and enquiring in several places, it was quickly apparent that we would have to catch the bus from town. Palava. So yes, we wasted more time taking a taxi to the bus stop in town.

We got a local bus rather than a tourist bus (inadvertently) which was a fair bit cheaper. The bus journey was ok but the driver frequently stopped to pick up locals in the middle of the road and inevitably we were an hour or so late. We finally arrived late in the evening but thankfully the hotel staff were very helpful in arranging our boat the following morning.

We caught an early bus to Donsak Pier and boarded a ferry to our first Thai island, Koh Samui. Again, we sort of accidentally booked a ticket on a cargo boat rather than the fancy high speed catamaran tourist boats that most people get because it was cheaper and we didn’t really question what boat we’d be on. We had found a good deal online to stay at a fancy resort on Mae Nam beach. The complex was massive and I think the fact they give you a ride to your room in a golf buggy speaks for itself. There was a massive cockroach in the room though that I valiantly removed using the ashtray (nothing else was big enough to trap it) as Dave isn’t a fan of cockroaches. Unfortunately it looked like we had brought the English weather with us. It would be sunny in the mornings but then take a turn for the worse with torrential downpours. We got caught in one and the roads filled up ankle deep really quickly. Lots of locals stopped to wave/laugh at us as we ran down the street bare foot and soaked to the core! Koh Samui’s waters are too cloudy to see any marine life so we just chilled by the beach. I’ve realised that I don’t actually like doing that because I get bored sunbathing after about 2 minutes and can’t read unless I’m in the shade. I just hassle Dave every 5 seconds asking if he’s finished his chapter yet and to come and play in the sea. Comparatively, if you give me a snorkel set, I’ll be happily amused for hours without coming up once.

A few days later, we moved round the coast slightly to Bohput Fisherman’s Village. We had both envisaged a small traditional village but if anything it was more touristy than Mae Nam. It was nice however to walk along the beach (usually ice cream in hand) and wonder through the various night stalls. We were always a little concerned about our belongings because we were staying in a bamboo hut that you couldn’t actually lock properly (all was fine though).

After a few days, we decided we weren’t fans of Koh Samui and decided to move on. Koh Samui wasn’t what I thought it would be, it’s feels very much like a city rather than an island; I can see the draw of Koh Samui if you’re very social and like drinking (I’m still going strong on the alcohol ban) and sunbathing (I’m rubbish). But for us, we decided to head for Koh Tao about 40km north with the promise of marine life. The ferry only took a couple of hours (we entertained ourselves with a wasabi pea eating contest) and it was a welcome surprise when there was a 4×4 pick up truck waiting for us from our hotel to transfer us to the other side of the island to a remote bay called Tanote. We had originally planned to only stay a few nights but instantly loved it so much, we ended up staying 5 nights. Our favourite thing to do, obviously, was snorkelling. The coral and marine life literally started about a metre or two from the beach. We’ve been fortunate enough to snorkel in some very cool places but I think Koh Tao was the most impressive we’ve ever seen. We saw so many different species of fish and then we’d try googling them later on to learn more about them. We saw loads of beautiful Parrot fish; they’re about half a metre and the brightest colours you’ve ever seen! Upon my extensive googling endeavours, I learned that Parrot fish can change gender in their lives! If the dominant male dies, a female becomes male to take over. On the first day we saw a huge, quite ugly fish with sticky out horse-like teeth. We followed him for a while filming on the GoPro. When we researched it later, turns out it was a Titan Triggerfish which can actually be really aggressive and territorial; you should always stay clear of them, they’ve been known to bite through people’s fins! Google said to swim horizontally away if you encounter them. The next day we saw them again but they were swimming fast, so we decided to swim quickly the other way, when we watched back the GoPro footage later, we saw the fish had doubled back and come right next to me ready to attack! Stay tuned for all the different fishies on our next video!

You’d think we’d have gotten bored of 5 days of snorkelling but we were sad to leave.  We embarked on the long reverse journey back to Phuket where we had a one night stopover in the old town which is a world heritage site with quirky little meandering streets.

Thanks for reading and join us next time for our time in Singapore!

Sophie & Dave

Ep. 9 – Volunteering in Cambodia

Hello!

Here is our little video from our week as volunteers at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. We hope you enjoy seeing all of the animals as much as we did! Don’t forget to watch in 1080p and see our accompanying blog post for photographs and more info.

Sophie & Dave

Ep. 6 – Laos

Here’s our video from our week in Laos. I didn’t take as many photographs in Laos as I normally do (due to our main activities being in/around water) so we are happy to have this little film to capture our memories. Personal highlight was seeing how much water people actually chucked on us in Vientiane during the water festival (you can see why we couldn’t have any camera other than the GoPro)!

Please watch in 1080p and thanks as always for following along.

Sophie & Dave

Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane – Laos

We arrived in Laos for our shortest country trip yet, only 8 days. The one hour flight from Chiang Mai was honestly the worst flight either of us had ever been on. The turbulence was insane, we literally flew off our seats and the poor woman in front was in tears. Laos was the one of the places we were dubious about Visas on arrival. We were told it would be $35 each and to pay in USD. We exchanged our cash in Chiang Mai and I insisted we got a tiny bit extra in case. Thankfully we did as they charge an extra dollar per person for ‘processing’.  They also charge an extra dollar if you don’t have a passport photo, fortunately we’ve got a whole wad of mug shots in our bags. So those extra $2 made all the difference and we arrived smoothly.

We decided to visit the three main cities for our stay, starting in Luang Prabang and ending in the capital, Vientiane. We still only booked 2 nights for when we arrived and left the rest open. We stayed in the most amazing hotel, a welcomed change considering we now think of having hand soap as a luxury. The room (still less than £10pp a night) can only be described as regal; everything was made from beautiful wood and we had a gorgeous wooden balcony overlooking a tributary of the Mekong river. We loved it so much we decided to stay another night.

On our first day, we went to Kuang Si Falls. There’s also a bear sanctuary at the base that you have to walk through. The bears were all rescued from the Laos bile trade. Though we were assured it was a legitimate sanctuary and the bears were happy now, we still couldn’t help but think their enclosures were quite small. I suppose the better of two evils though. Anyway Kuang Si Falls was absolutely beautiful. I was in awe just at the tiny 1 metre falls and pools at the base but if you continue up a bit further you get to see the main waterfall which was spectacular. I was happy with that and just wanted to swim in the pools at the bottom but Dave insisted we hike up to the top instead. I very bitterly agreed and it was actually quite a hard ascent (well for me at least), the fact that it was 39 degrees didn’t help either! But we made it to the top and had a little swim in the icy pools alongside the little fish that inhabited the waters. We had quite an impressive view from the top looking down on the tree canopies and if we peered over the edge we could see the start of the water falling down. We’d had a great day but sadly when we came back down the waterfall, we saw a horrific accident where a man died of a heart attack and people were trying to resuscitate him.

On our final day in Luang Prabang we went to the UXO visitors centre. The UXO (unexploded ordinance) centre was created by a government charity that strives to educate villagers on the dangers of the bombs and to disable as many of them as they can. It was quite an educational trip; I had no idea Laos has more unexploded bombs than anywhere else in the world. One person dies every day from them.

In the afternoon, we just played in the river. From afar, the current didn’t look too strong but when we actually got close, it was a different story. We stayed quite close to the edge and were very wobbly walking through the river to cross over. As always, there was a bunch of local kids who made it look so easy! We were staying right next to the Bamboo bridge, which is self explanatory but interestingly is only there for a few months of the year during dry season and has to be rebuilt every year. You have to pay a small price (50p) to cross over to help fund the rebuilding. We crossed in the evening looking for a restaurant we’d seen on trip advisor but it was shut and instead we stumbled upon another popular local place. It’s speciality was Laos fondue. Your table opens up and you’re basically given a fire and a barbecue/pot combo to cook your own meal. They give you a basket of fresh raw veg and noodles to put in to the broth and raw seasoned chicken to grill on the barbecue part. An interesting concept and was nice to try something different. We also both said if we get food poisoning, we’ve only got ourselves to blame (fortunately we didn’t!).

The main mode of transport between places in Laos seemed to be minivans and my God, do they get their money’s worth! There would be 15 people packed in to these little mini vans, including 2 sitting next to the driver! Even though the roads were very bumpy and at one point my glasses literally flew off my face as we soared over a pot hole, the journeys were shorter than what we’ve been doing, so only 4 hours was bearable.

Even in Luang Prabang, our first impression of Laos was that it was the Magaluf of South East Asia. When we arrived in Vang Vieng, this impression was immediately solidified. It definitely has the biggest drinking culture (I’m still going well with my alcohol ban) and was full of rowdy tourists, and locals alike. On our first day we decided to get a tuk-tuk to the Blue Lagoon, which was apparently a top destination. I have to say it was not at all the idyllic haven we’d imagined. It was essentially a glorified out-door swimming pool with lots of drunk people partying. The best part of the Lagoon wasn’t the Lagoon at all but rather the half hour ride to get there. The landscape of Laos is truly beautiful. I grew up in Switzerland so I’m used to mountains, but these mountains were like nothing I’d ever seen, they were so tropical. They are what I call David Attenborough mountains.

Vang Vieng is a place for outdoorsy activities so we booked an adventure day (only £7 all in with food) where we went Kayaking and Tubing in a cave. Spoiler alert, I hated the cave! Dave and I have only ever Kayaked on a flat body of water, never on a river with a current so that was quite fun.  Loads of people in our group capsized. We tried to help one pair by grabbing their lost oars except we weren’t paying attention and went straight in to a tree hanging over from the bank. We tried to duck but failed miserably and both got smacked in the face by the tree but fortunately we still didn’t capsize!

The cave. Oh the dreadful cave. We had naively assumed that cave tubing would be in a lit cave but we were given head torches as we prepared to get on our rubber tubes. As it got darker in the cave I realised my head torch was crap so Dave kindly swapped. There was a rope through the cave that you pulled yourself through floating on the tube; that was fine and quite enjoyable. The horrific part was when we got inside the cave and were told to dismount and that we were going to walk through. It was pitch black (apart from the shite head torches) and so unbelievably slippy. Absolutely zero health and safety standards. We were also in flip flops which made it so much worse. I ended up having a panic attack and still had to get out the cave whilst in a terrible state. You had to climb through jagged rock holes and I whacked my shoulder (which is now still bruised). Fortunately the walk in the cave wasn’t too long and I managed to get out okay. After I’d stopped hyperventilating, shaking and crying we rejoined the rest of our group for lunch and lazing in a hammock until it was time to kayak back to the town.

Our last city in Laos was Vientiane. We arrived for Lao New Year (Pi Mai)/ the water festival. New year basically means that most of the city shuts down for a three day bender with lots of water fights. There were loads of outdoor clubs blaring drum and bass with sprinklers and hoses everywhere. The streets were lined with people armed with water guns, hose pipes and buckets of water. It was impossible not to go out and get absolutely soaked. Fortunately we bought a water proof bag for wallets/phones.

Thanks for reading, quite a long one, sorry!

Sophie & Dave