Saturday, May 9, 2015

Relaxing on Phucket and Koh Lanta in Thailand

The wonderful thing about the islands is that you can spend days doing nothing but swimming, relaxing in the shade (some sunbathe, but I hide), hunting for food or cocktails and maybe reading a bit. Doing these things in the company of my two lovely ladies was absolutely heavenly. We spent one day exploring the beach in Phucket before making our way down to Koh Lanta for the remainder of our stay. The bus ride from one to the other was fairly typical of my travels around SE Asia, but served as an educational experience for my two newbies. Time here is flexible, information is scarce, and the driver will often make random stops in the middle of nowhere just to say hello to his cousin. You learn to relax, pack snacks and water, and don't expect to get to your destination in anything even remotely close to a reasonable amount of time....unless you paid triple for a private car, you baller you. 

Once we settled in, the pace significantly slowed down. We relaxed by the beach, we relaxed by the pool, we relaxed in several restaurants, and we ate lots and lots of fresh seafood. Fishermen do the rounds past the restaurants in the afternoon selling their morning's catch and the restaurants set up little boats filled with ice and the fish for you right out front. Once you picked your victim and specified how you'd like it prepared they get to work as you sip on your cocktail and the gorgeous spread is set before you in no time.

Our dinner being weighed before a trip to the grill

Someone must have been hungry :D

Random candy found at the 7Eleven around the corner

Can't beat the lunchtime view!

Delicious pepper crab!


I must have dragged 4 or 5 umbrellas over our lounge chairs on the first day
in my determination not to burn. Once we settled in, cocktails were a must.

I have probably consumed at least a dozen watermelons in one form or another
since arriving in SE Asia. Delicious and incredibly cooling.

Nothing to do but contemplate life before food arrives. 

Ooohh, barracuda!

We did get our butts off the beach one day for a scuba diving adventure around Koh Haa. The water was the clearest I've ever seen in my life and the gorgeous karsts jutting out of it set a lovely scene. I've been diving before, but it was a first for the girls and everyone absolutely loved every second of it!

Can you spot the fishies in the clear blue water? No photoshop here! 
Just nature at her very best.

And of course we made sure to enjoy the heck out of every single sunset, from every part of our long gorgeous beach. Out of all the places I'd visited so far, this is the first I wouldn't mind coming back to.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bangkok with Company

I arrived in Bangkok at least half a day before my two travel companions were due to join me and I settled into our lovely apartment with great anticipation. Maybe an hour later I found that I couldn't sit still and despite the heat, I ventured outside to explore. For the purposes of this blog I'm going to mix things up a bit since a lot of the places I visited alone, I took my companions to the next day. Also, we came back to Bangkok later in our trip and instead of writing about that separately, I'm going to mush that in here as well. 

The lovely view from our apartment balcony

Clean next to dirty, old next to new. Everything is side by side here in Bangkok.

Amazing sushi at a mall!

Artists offering portraits on the lower level of a nearby art museum

Cool and peaceful atmosphere at the art museum

Canals wind through the city and water taxis speed through here
all day long making their way to the main river.

Graffiti line the alleys around the canals

It was the princesses birthday while we were there and the city
was filled with flags and people wearing purple in her honor

I wandered around the city for a while, taking note of places I'll want to check out later, but then had to duck into a nearby museum just to cool off and as I was there already, to check out the free exhibits. There were some pretty interesting contemporary pieces on one of the levels and all the way at the top was a photography exhibit of photos the princess has taken during her travels over the past year. The lower levels were filled with artists and small crafty shops, and I loitered there a bit before braving the heat again. Luckily across the street was one of the biggest shopping malls of the city and I made my way over there to see about storing our luggage there the next day, not to mention grab lunch and window shop for a bit.

I made my way back to the apartment to wait for my companions to arrive...and wait...and wait...and wait. Turns out they had some troubles finding the apartment as several places around town had similar names, and by the time they finally made it I had already ran downstairs twice on false alarms and I was starting to pace in front of the TV, which had a channel showing the security footage of the front door. I could have sworn I saw them walk in and ran downstairs for the third time, only to be confronted with an empty lobby. The security guard told me he let them up so I ran back to the elevators, anxiously waiting for a free one to open up. Luckily they saw me on the TV in the apartment and ran downstairs, just as I'd been doing, so when the elevator doors opened up, they were there and we spent at least 5 minutes hugging, jumping, and generally causing a scene. The rest of the night was filled with more hugs and stories and a very late night dinner in the red light district where we repeatedly turned down the many offers for the ping pong show. Ahem. 

The next day I took everyone around the path I'd planned out the day before. Showing them the art museum, the Jim Thompson house (the man responsible for reestablishing the silk production in Thailand), the mall and at least two or three wats. Along the way we also made a few snacky stops for fresh spicy papaya and eggplant salad, for some fried grasshoppers and lots and lots of fruit. 

We hopped on a boat ferry to the palace and while the view was gorgeous, when we finally arrived we were told that it was closed. Turns it that very day was the princesses birthday and there would be a parade and small festival later that night. We walked around the area for a bit and saw the parade before we had to hightail it for the mall to pick up our bags and catch the plane...which we managed to accomplish with literally seconds to spare. The entire cab drive there we were all convinced we weren't going to make it, but luck was on our side that night.

Back in Bangkok a week or so later we were determined to see everything we had missed before. This meant more Wats, a visit to the palace, a walk around the park, the super touristy Khao San road, and lots and lots of food. Not to mention a few swanky bars and restaurants to truly enjoy what this city had to offer.

Sittin' pretty

Hey look, a Wat.

The giant reclining Buddha 

The ladies with their stoic escorts

Miniature model of Siem Reap within the Palace grounds

One of the demons holding up the heavens...this one didn't look happy about it

Mural in the city that featured some of the cultural highlights...
and Angry Birds?

Funky kitty art at an artsy cafe on Khao San Road

Live jazz at the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel bar

The uber trendy Sky Bar where Hangover II was filmed, just a few floors
above the apartment we were staying at, was where we had our
nightcaps the evening before the girls were to head back home.