Monday, December 12, 2016

Day 19 of travels, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and trains

Well, Chiang Mai seemed to like us. We certainly liked Chiang Mai! Here's what we've been up to in the past ten days. So, we flew from Krabi and arrived to be picked up by our Guesthouse driver, in our first tuktuk. Nice little bonus!


Since we arrived around dinner time, we dumped our bags in our new abode at Libra Guesthouse, which was basic, but clean and decent, and went locally for dinner... Which meant mini burgers!


And then we found an Irish pub which promised to be showing the England v Australia rugby game and did not disappoint.


We went to bed happy with the win. 

The next morning we explored Chiang Mai old city and all the many temples it housed.




Coming out of Wat Chedi Luang (our favourite of them all), we saw the Sunday market had set up. The lady who ran our Guesthouse had said a lot of positive things about the Sunday market, less hard-bargaining than the standard night market that everyone visits. The stalls run from the Three King's monument down to Wat Chedi Luang so we came out of the temple at one end. We perused and bought quite a few bits!




We went for pizza that night... Tasty tasty pizza from Boutique Della Pasta.



Trust me, we eat plenty of Thai food, we were just mixing it up here by throwing in a burger then pizza night... The next day we took a long wander. Seeing more of the outskirts of old city.


Stopping for some lunch...


And then walking to Art In Paradise, where we had a lot of fun being silly...






I think I can safely say the following day was our favourite in Chiang Mai. We had booked a morning elephant sanctuary visit. And even though we were none too pleased to be up at 7, it was totally worth it.


This little two year old elephant was as mischievous as any human two year old. When we came to wash these lovely animals, the little one snuck up on me and pushed me! And I'll tell you, it's a bit scary being shoved by a baby elephant!


He clearly liked Ben though, who had no fear getting up close to the elephants, while I kept a suitably wary distance for the most part.


For the ethically minded, we booked with Lanna Elephant Kingdom who do not allow riding of the elephants and who do not use hooks or chains. The elephants are rescued and well looked after as far as our research has shown us. We had a wonderful morning feeding the elephants, washing them with mud then brushing them, and making them vitamin balls which we then fed to them. We were provided with a DELICIOUS pad Thai lunch as well. Loved it.

Definitely our favourite day! Especially since it was the first day I could drink after I over-cautiously accepted antibiotics for a broken nail and was stuck with tea as my best drinking option for five days.

I think I'm getting my days confused here but anyway, one evening I went to a yoga class. It was super amazing to get back to a class after nearly four weeks since my last one. It was at Freedom Yoga, which was only twenty minutes from our Guesthouse, and it felt great.


We did check out the night market, but curtailed our spending somewhat. When you're looking at 4 more months of travelling, loading up your bag with goodies is not the best idea.


On our check out day, partly because we needed to kill the day before our evening train and partly because we'd been chided by the woman who ran our Guesthouse for not going, we went to visit the temple on a hill, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.





It was pretty cool, very gold...but we decided later that we could've taken or left it. So, if you're ever in Chiang Mai with limited time, I'd say you're good to skip this one, in my opinion.

Onto our first class sleeper train journey from Chiang Mai to Bangkok!



Ben and I had this lovely little 'cabin' for the night which transformed into bunk beds.


A comfortable-ish journey was had, though we were woken up at 6am with still an hour and a half left of the journey. Bleary eyed we tried to decide how to continue onwards to Koh Samui. We would arrive early enough to jump on a day train which, after a bus-ferry combo would get us into Koh Samui about 8.30pm... However, did we want to spend ANOTHER 12 hours on a train. We decided not, but also decided not to spend the night in Bangkok and instead, holed up in a mall for the day. Weird, yes. But comforting and easy. It reminded me of the day Fiona, Chris, Tom and I had in Bangalore, another stopover spent similarly six years back.

So, after a Burger King breakfast, don't judge, it was the only thing open and it had standard wooden chairs which, since I'd fell over on my arse in mud on the way there, meant I wouldn't be destroying any furniture. After killing an hour in there, the mall opened and, after buying new trousers, Ben and I hit the arcade!


We then went to see Fantastic Beasts, and had a few games of bowling.


After a yummy dinner, we trundled back to the station to take our second class sleeper to Surat Thani, where we would take a bus to Don Sak pier, where we would then take a ferry to Koh Samui and finally a mini bus transfer to Lamai beach on the island, where we were staying. You know the famous saying, it's the journey, not the destination? Not in this case.

Now, there are no pictures of second class, partly because I was tired and partly because I was freaked out by the little bugs I saw. Second class is generally fine, and I think it's just that it's an older train than the first one we took... But I'm not good with bugs so waking up with what looked like a mini cockroach at the end of my bed, didn't thrill me any.

No wake up call for second class apparently so it was with luck we realised we were at our stop and able to grab our stuff together fairly sharpish. Having to wait an hour for our bus meant ordering from the little cafe that seemed to be organising our next phase of the trip (and conning us out of 100 baht in the process). Nevertheless, happy to not be hungry for our sub-par breakfast, we boarded some pretty good seats on the bus (reclining, with nobody behind) and chilled the hour long journey to the port.

45 minutes on a ferry, another hour on the minibus (first time we've been the last dropped off) we checked into New Hut Bungalows, which were adorable.


Not to mention right on the beach.


We spent two nights here, spending the days chilling and the evenings wandering the mile into town to the many bars... Though most were pretty empty. Still, we enjoyed some chill out time after two nights on a train and a lot of culture vulturing in Chiang Mai.

Yesterday, we checked into Vikasa Yoga Retreat. And I'm writing poolside, enjoying the heat and the most spectacular views I could ask for. Actually, here's a picture Ben took an hour ago...


So we're here for four nights of which we've spent one. I was up at 6.30am for two hours of yoga...I feel like I should be more tired, then again lying by the pool isn't exactly strenuous.

We're hitting the beginner's class at 4pm, just a couple hours away, and then possibly the 6pm restorative yoga class. So, it's a lot of yoga if you didn't get that, though last night we went to a meditation called singing bowls... It was interesting.

The food here is so good so far. Ben isn't impressed but I LOVE it. Check out this Mediterranean bowl I had for lunch yesterday!


And the chickpea curry I had for dinner was great too. The focus, as you've probably guessed, is very much on 'well-being' here. So our food is for the most part vegan/vegetarian. We were pleased to spot some drinks on the menu though and I was pleasantly surprised to spot Bombay Sapphire on the menu! Might have to splurge the 300 baht and enjoy a little G&T!

Bye for now! Ben says hi.

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