The last time we left off we were heading to Koh (you can spell it Ko or Koh) Samui. We traveled there by way of minibus and ferry. Our day started at 6:30 am and we finally arrived in Koh Samui around 7:30 pm. We claimed our spot on the ferry and settled in for the ride.
Goodbye monsoon weather...
Koh Samui is a nice beach area but to be honest it was quite touristy. Some bad news about our first night there was that someone broke into our hut and stole all of Josh's razors and his quick dry travel towel. Such weird things to steal! However, razors are quite expensive here. A package of 4 razors can go for $20 on the black market. That's a good a chunk of change for any local. Or maybe someone was just in need of a really good shave, shower and...towel dry? The worst part is that we each brought a year and a half supply of razors with us because we knew it would be an expensive item while traveling. Luckily, Leanne's razors made it through the burglary so we will now have to stretch her supply between the two of us for as long as we can. In the end, we could have had more important things stolen from us so we considered this a lesson learned. We bought a strong lock at the store and double locked our door from that night on. We are happy to report that no more razors or towels were stolen from our hut.
With the razor and towel incidence behind us, we spent some time catching rays and checking out the Sunday market! We stuffed our faces with all sorts of good food and got a few street cocktails too.
Homer Simpson would be in heaven in this place. Mini doughnuts galore!
Crikey! They sell crocs at this market.
Josh was super excited to spot one of his favorite basketball players while cruising around the market. Who knew we would run into Tony Parker? Although, we thought he was born in Belgium and raised in France. This guy was Russian and had a rat-tail, mullet. Hmmm...maybe this was his disguise before he headed off to play in the Olympics?
This lady served up some of the most amazing kebabs! Look at those happy faces on both the vendor and the client.
Our bellies were full for the first time in weeks! We were super excited about that.
The next day we rented a scooter. We crossed our fingers that nothing would break this time. We headed east on the island in search of hiking and waterfalls. Mission accomplished!
There was a swing in the middle of the waterfall. Of course, Leanne had to revert back to her childhood days and try it out.
On the agenda for the following day was more scootin' around town. This time we checked out the west side of the island. We found this grand entrance to a small town off of a random side street.
Checking out Big Buddha. Seriously, that was the name of it. Someone thought long and hard to come up with that name.
One of Josh's favorite things about the island was buying big beers at 7-Eleven for $1.50. They even gave you a bottle opener at the checkout counter so you could pop it open for the road. Now that's service.
Sky lanterns are airborne paper lanterns that are best known as a tradition found in some Asian cultures. It is considered good luck to release a sky lantern and the Thai people believe they are symbolic of problems and worries floating away. We lit and released a sky lantern in honor of our families and for good luck throughout our travels. Hopefully, no more razors or towels will be stolen.
Our lantern soared in the night sky.
Unfortunately, our time on the beach came to an end and we traveled 15 hours by ferry and bus back to good ol' Bangkok. We had a wonderful time in Southern Thailand. It was absolutely stunning but it was time to explore Northern Thailand.
The bus pulled into Bangkok at 4:00 am and kicked us to the curb. We stumbled our way to a hotel. We were actually able to check in at 5:30 am. Bangkok is good for some things! Our purpose for stopping in Bangkok again was to apply for our Myanmar visas at the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. We have a flight to Myanmar (formerly Burma) booked for August 3rd. We submitted our passports for processing. We chose the cheaper processing route so our visas wouldn't be ready for a few days. We decided to head north to Chiang Mai for a few days while our visas were being processed.
We checked out a few more places in Bangkok as we waited to board yet another bus, this time bound for Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. We got really good at this bus thing.
While strolling around Bangkok, Josh was interviewed by some local students about what he liked best about Thailand. These types of questions are always so hard to answer because we like everything in its own way.
We swung back by the Grand Palace one last time. We didn't go in because it costs $12 per person. That's a lot of money when you are on a daily budget.
Night time rolled around and it was time to travel by bus north for 12 hours to Chiang Mai. We had been around the block a few times already with this bus thing so we knew what we were in for. Or at least we thought we did! In our last post we mentioned that the bus was "dirty". Well, this bus took the prize for being the filthiest bus ever! We were fortunate enough to sit in the bonus seats because they were tagged.
At first, Leanne was scared to touch anything.
However, we realized there was nothing we could do but put a pretend smile on our faces and not really enjoy the next 12 hours of our lives.
So, we are sure you are wondering and yes, that bus ride was awful!!!! Luckily, we had a beautiful hotel waiting for us in Chiang Mai. The hotel was spectacular and only cost $13 a night! We were sleeping in dirty huts for $14 a night down south. Northern Thailand was quickly becoming our favorite spot.
Old Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat.
There were gorgeous temples throughout Chiang Mai.
We had to take a picture of this adorable lady sell flowers for worship.
Chiang Mai is known for amazing sightseeing. Although we are not really the package type folks, we signed up for a one-day tour so we could see a lot in a little amount of time.
Orchid Farm - Touristy but pretty flowers.
Padaung- Long- Neck Karen Village - The "long-neck" tribe gained attention after National Geographic conducted a documentary on them. They are originally from Myanmar and many fled to Thailand to seek refuge.
Women of the tribe are well known for wearing neck rings; brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Girls receive their first neck rings around the age of five years old.
We were only allowed 30 minutes to walk around the village. We were disappointed because it was set up as a tourist village in which they sold arts and crafts. We wished we had more time to explore and converse with the women of the village. However, the women of the tribe were all smiles and very pleasant to us as we handed out lollipops to the children. The village members have stated that the revenue that the tourists bring to them is greatly appreciated and allows them to continue living as a united tribe. We can only hope that is true. It was still amazing to see the women of this tribe and we were able to get some priceless pictures.
Next on the agenda...just a little elephant trekking through Thailand's breathtaking landscape!
Leanne made her way to the elephant's neck for a better view while Josh had trouble holding on tight.
The best thing about tours are the people that you meet. The people in our tour group were wonderful. Up until this point, we only ran into two other American women in Thailand. By taking this tour, we became friends with several other Americans and a couple from France. We can't thank you all enough for making our day so memorable.
After riding on some elephants, we hiked to a waterfall to rinse off.
Nothing beats a cold rush of water to rinse the elephant smell away!
Hiking around in wet clothes. No complaints here!
As if we hadn't done enough already, we then went whitewater rafting. Well, Thailand's version of whitewater rafting. For those of us residing in Colorado, it was more like tubing with a few rapids. We weren't able to get a picture of this event because our camera would have gotten soaked. One of our fellow American tour members will be sending us a group rafting picture. We will add that picture here when we receive it. We ended the day with a little bamboo rafting. It was a day filled with thrills, adventures and new friends. We had a total blast and it was well worth the money!
We all got along so well during the day that we carried on our own little tour that night to a local Muay Thai fight. This time it was the real deal and not drunk tourists fighting each other. Josh was so happy he could barely contain himself. He even did a little betting and won a whopping $10. That's big bucks in Thailand. He picked 6 out of 7 fights right! He told the lady at the betting booth the his nickname is Bear. She said that translates to "Mi Panda" in Thai. He was known as Mi Panda for the remainder of the night.
This fight was intense but our boy in blue pulled off the win!
The next night we went to the night bazaar with Andrew. Andrew was on the tour with us and is a fellow American from Washington D.C. We had a great time hanging out with him and shared one last tuk-tuk ride to end a fantastic night. We actually met up with him again for a night when we returned to Bangkok for the third time. Thanks for the good times, Andrew. We know we will see you again soon!
The next day, we had the entire day to wander around before we were yet again subjecting ourselves to another horrible bus ride back to Bangkok.
Chiang Mai has some pretty amazing sights!
One last lap around the moat.
Wat Chedi Luang - Built in the late 1300s
Surprisingly enough the 12-hour bus ride back to Bangkok was the best ride we had. The bus was actually new and quite nice. We won't go all the way to say it was comfortable but at least this time it was tolerable.
We are now back in Bangkok for a night. We are here to collect our Myanmar visas. We had to do some major preparation for the trip to Myanmar. There are no ATMs in the entire country and you are required to bring crisp $100 USD. We ran into a little problem on August 2nd because it was a national holiday. The Myanmar Embassy was closed so we had to cross our fingers that we could get it first thing in the morning on the 3rd since our flight leaves at 4:50 pm that day. We did find a few banks that were open despite the holiday and were able to get some crisp bills. We made a guess as to how much money we will need for our travels there. Here's hoping we guess correctly!
Drum roll please...Success on getting the visas!!!
We are not certain of the internet situation in Myanmar. We will try to update as much as possible but we know it will be hard. We have a return flight to Bangkok on August 23rd. We may not be able to post another update until after we return so don't panic if you don't see anything from us for the next few weeks.
Thailand, we had so much fun traveling your land for the past 30 days but we are worn out! Thanks for the wonderful memories. We will now head to your neighbor, Myanamar where the tourists are fewer and the ATMS and 7-Eleven's are nonexistent!
As always, thanks for following. We miss you all!
Leanne & Josh
P.S. We were informed that Josh's Aunt Sue passed away this week. Some of you may have met her at our wedding. Aunt Sue has been there for every single major event of Josh's life and that really means a lot. Our hearts are heavy with this sad news and we wish we could be there for the funeral. Aunt Sue was such a loving and devoted woman. She was devoted to her faith, her career of 25 years and most importantly, her family. We are happy we had the chance to see her in March during our visit to Oklahoma. One of our last conversations with her was about our trip and hearing her support sent us off with good feelings. We will miss you deeply Aunt Sue but we find comfort in knowing that your pain and suffering has ended. We love you!