Sunday, 24 June 2018

Pai Tour Day

Apologies- I am yet to get my photos off my camera so more photos will be added in the following days!

Our only full day in Pai! We haven't even been out here a week but we've done so much already and are already nearly going back to Chiang Mai. There are a few attractions around Pai which everyone seemed to recommend and given our limited time and inability to ride mopeds we opted for a tour, and for 500 thai baht visiting loads of places we definitely got to see most of Pai in a very short time frame. 
Our tour started at about 9.30 from the hostel, and after some bananas from the hostel for breakfast we boarded a bus. We hadn't looked much at what the tour included and soon found ourselves driving through the bumpy roads surrounding Pai for a long time, and I started to wish I'd brought my travel sickness pills. Luckily we had a really nice group of 8 girls, including a South African nanny who was travelling with the family she was looking after and people from Holland and one other English girl, and it was nice to chat to chat to them and hear about their travels.

After what felt like ages we arrived at our first stop; a large Buddha statue on the hill. We later realised quite how high up it was, and from below the steps we climbed looked pretty dramatic. Sporting our towels as skirts we made an odd-looking group (this was to comply with temple rules and not just a bizarre fashion statement) we climbed to the top where we cooled off before heading back down to get on the van. After a short drive higher up in the mountain we stopped at a viewpoint. It was pretty but the main attraction was definitely a bizarre swing style sculpture which was the highlight of the stop.

Next we moved onto Lod cave. This was the main part of the day really with a lot of tours offering just the cave, and we got a local guide at the entrance who showed us around. It was very interesting exploring the cave by lamplight, climbing up some rather precarious looking staircases with bats circling overhead. We also caught a raft inside the cave to different parts of it which was so cool. It did get a little tiresome though hearing the guides compare rocks to various animals/objects which at times were definitely a stretch from how they really looked. Fortunately after the caves it was lunchtime, and we all had pad thai and loads of fresh fruit which was included in the tour (and sooo nice).

We began another drive, this time taking around 1 hour, to get to a waterfall. It was nice, not quite the sticky waterfall standard but fun to play in and cool to see how fearless the local children were jumping and sliding down. The rocks themselves were slippery and at one point I slid and hit my back and head- not ideal but luckily not too hard. After that I was keen to stay by the edge.

 After this stop we headed to some natural hot springs and swimming pool, which were actually in a hotel. We thought the springs were probably caused by sulphur due to the eggy smell they produced, but they were soooo hot it was like having a hot bath. We then had a nice refreshing swim in the pool as it started to rain.

We finally headed off to our last stop; Pai Canyon. The plan was to watch the sunset here but unfortunately the clouds prevented this, however the views over the area were still amazing. It wasn't quite the grand canyon but I was still very afraid of falling, and we got lots of nice photos.

It was time to go back to our hostel, which was almost a relief after such a long trip but it was sad to say goodbye to our group. After showers and a quick catch up with the guy in our dorm we headed out to get food at the street market. We shared 3 different types of spring rolls for 20 baht, and the others got curry puffs and I had a Bermase (i think?!) salad and vegan oreo shake which were delicious (though the salad, yes, salad, was very spicy!).

We headed back to the hostel pretty late and did our nightly ab workout (got to counter all the food somehow) in the outside hostel communal area which was slightly humiliating. By the end of this we were all exhausted and bed was very needed.

Laura x
The fresh vegan food in Pai is definitely something I will miss!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Pai day one

Already on the move again, and this time we were off to Pai for a couple of nights. One of the main things we wanted to do in Chiang Mai was visit an ethical elephant sanctuary, and so after research and recommendations we decided on Elephant Nature Park for the day visit. However; they only had availability for Monday which somewhat messed up our timing plans, so we opted for a weekend up in Pai, heading back to Chiang Mai on Sunday night. Although Pai is only about 120km from Chiang Mai it is not a pleasant journey with a reported 300+ sharp bends and turns. Because of this the journey takes between 3 and 3.5 hours. Cute!

We started the day by packing up our bags and then doing an ab workout in our room in order to attempt to counter the excessive 7/11 trips. We then followed the workout with a trip to 7/11 to snacks to refuel, but still, better than no workout right? We were told we would be picked up from the hostel between 11 and 11.30, so we didn't have much time left before we went, and soon we were on the bus. I filled myself with travel sickness pills and thank god I did as it was not a pleasant drive. I wish I could have appreciated the scenery more but I ended up sleeping nearly all of the route which was definitely better than vomiting.

We arrived in Pai at around 2.30pm, and tracked down our hostel. It's pretty basic but at less than £3 a night we definitely can't complain! It's located very near the main road and we have a big wooden hut essentially which we're sharing with one other guy, and there's a pretty much constant sound of insects as backing noise which is funny. But the owner is lovely, there's free water and hot showers, so it definitely does the job.

We got food pretty early due to a lack of proper meals, and all opted for some nice, cheap thai food. I finally got the massaman I'd been craving and it did not disappoint! We wandered around the main street as they set up stalls for the evening and were excited by all the street food and cheap drinks and souvenirs! After heading back to the hostel we spent ages attempting to plan the cheapest but most efficient way to get to the south. It took us several hours of planning due to rules about baggage allowance, but we finally booked flights for the following Wednesday, and headed back into town after a shower. After exploring the main road again we settled for a very quiet bar which had a live singer due to the cocktails being less than £2. We only got 1 each and despite the low cost they were really strong, and we headed home around midnight ready for bed before a busy following day.

Laura x 

Chiang Mai- Sticky Waterfalls

Waking up on the night train is somewhat of an experience; the last time I got it I was woken by one of the train stuff pulling back the curtain on my bed as it was time to make my bed back into seats. To avoid a similar situation this time when I heard the staff coming down the carriage I hurriedly got up and went to get dressed. We then had an hour or so waiting to arrive in chiang mai, where we ate some snacks. After arriving we ordered a grab and headed to our hostel, which thankfully allowed us to use their showers- a blessing after a night travelling. 

After showering and changing we headed into town in search of food. Very quickly we found a restaurant selling really cheap food and we went there. The others got curry and I had some stir fried vegetables and rice and a pineapple and coconut shake for £1.70. Afterwards we spent a while tracking down a taxi driver who was willing to take us to the sticky waterfalls which were about 60km out of the city, and we managed to get a return taxi for 1000 baht (just over £20). We all napped for at least part of the journey but were very excited to arrive. The weather was a bit predictable which a random torrential rain storm mid morning but fortunately it brightened up when we were at the waterfall. 

We spent the next couple of hours climbing up and down the waterfalls. Amazingly the rock surface is not slippery due to the material it's made of, and it was so easy to climb! It was such a fun afternoon and the water was so clear and beautiful. At half 4 ish a monsoon-style storm started so we hurried back to our little tuk tuk bus and began the journey back. It wasn't ideal in the thunder and lightning but we made it back in one piece! 

After showering at the hostel we headed into town to visit the night market which is huge! We all got some different food; I finally tried mango sticky rice which was interesting and we browsed the different stalls looking at all the gifts and souvenirs before heading home to bed.

Laura x

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Asia Round Three: Bangkok

Hello! It's currently June 20th and I'm on the night train to Chiang Mai feeling guilty because I've been away for over 48 hours but this will be my first blog post when I get a chance to post it! My phone hasn't been cooperating with me very well and combined with how busy we've been and jet lag it's been hard to post! But this means that this post can act as a summary of my time in Bangkok, so I'll pretend it was intentional.
On Sunday night we set off on our flight with Jet Airways to Bangkok with a stopover in Delhi. The flights were... okay. Not so much issues with the airline, but more generally just flying really is not that fun. They forgot my vegan meal, presented me with an underwhelming fruit plate later, then delivered my original vegan meal at midnight. Nah. I really struggled to sleep on the first flight, and when faced with a 5 hour stopover I was not keen. Thankfully I think a thai red vegetable curry during our stopover helped revive us a little along with a little pamper sesh (I'm talking teeth brushing and wet wipes, very luxurious) in the airport toilets. Mmmm. We all spent most of the next flight napping and even refused our food in favour of some well-needed rest.

We landed in Bangkok around 8pm local time, and after immigration and collecting our bags (all smooth) we headed downstairs to get the metro into the city. The others now encountered a rite of passage for any traveller; their first 7/11 experience. It did not disappoint, and we all ate a selection of, at time bizarre, snacks before boarding the train to our Air bnb. We had treated ourselves to the apartment for the night as we anticipated being tired, and this was definitely a good idea though a trek from the airport. While on paper it had sounded pretty easy, we had to change train twice and then the 5 minute walk from the station took us 20, but we made it and were there by 10.45pm. The apartment itself was nice, located in a residential block with had a gym and pool. We all finally got a chance to shower and finally experienced the luxury of sleeping in beds once again.

I woke up early and headed down to the rather basic gym, but due to the lack of air con gave up pretty quickly, and soon we were all in the pool. It was nice, though I felt as though I'd developed almost flu-like symptoms from the plane so didn't do much energetic swimming and more standing in the pool to cool off. After another 7/11 trip and a quick breakfast we found a hostel for that night and ordered a grab (asian equivalent of uber). We started a very long journey across the city in our cheap taxi, and then navigated the alleyways by the river before eventually finding our hostel and checking in. Somehow we got it for much cheaper than the price on the desk due to booking through so that was good!

After a quick pause in the room we headed out to Khao San road. We walked around looking at the classic elephant trousers and other clothing and then stopped for some £1.50 spring rolls and pad thai which were very nice and filling. I also got my first fruit shake of the trip and was very excited to consume some vitamins at last. We then headed off on a 20 minute walk to Wat Pho, a selection of temples including a giant reclining Buddha, only to found that you couldn't wear shorts inside. We returned to Khao San, spent a while debating buying some, and finally returned to our hostel to change into our own trousers/skirts before heading back. We arrived about 5pm and spent the next hour and a half looking around, which included watching monks singing/chanting which was really interesting to see.

We headed back in the early evening and stopped at a rooftop bar. It was really nice and fancy and overlooked the river. We were slightly concerned to discover that a diet coke was £3 including tax, which seems funny when our hostel bed was £5 for the night, but we spent several hours there and it was really nice. Eventually we headed back, via, surprise surprise, 7/11, to get some snacks for the evening and then headed to bed.

This morning we woke up around 8.30 and had some breakfast. At this time and the previous night we finalised bookings for the night train to Chiang Mai, a hostel there and a trip to Elephant nature park, which is supposedly the only ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand. After sorting this and showers we had some free breakfast at the hostel, checked out and then used their bag storage, before heading to the river. We walked for around half an hour and then caught the taxi boat for 15 baht, around 40p, down the river. It looked really choppy but wasn't too bumpy! Soon we arrived and got off the boat near to a park we wanted to visit. After a lot of wandering we found it and walked around. It was nice and peaceful compared to the busy city, and there are also giant lizards there which were funny to see. After a couple of hours and a lap of the park we caught a metro and then walked back to Khao San road. We underestimated how far it was and walked for over an hour, but it wasn't too hot luckily.

We stopped on Khao San road and got food in a restaurant (treating ourselves to food costing over £1!) and then did a bit of quick shopping before heading back to the hostel to get our bags. After sneakily using their free drinking water and having a quick wash in the toilets we caught a Grab to the train station, got some snacks from (you guessed it) 7/11 and some fresh fruit and then got on our train about 7.20pm as it left at 7.35pm. It's now just after 10.30 and I am very ready to sleep though slightly worried about rolling out of my little top bunk bed during the night...!

Laura x