January 13, 2018

Koh Yao Yai (Thailand Part 3)

After a few days in Chiang Mai, we hopped on another plane south to Phuket, the landing base for most of the smaller islands in the Andaman Sea. Our flight got in to Phuket a little later in the afternoon than scheduled and I knew we needed to catch the last boat of the day to the island of Koh Yao Yai on the other side of Phuket. This is where all of my planning went sideways. We hustled through the airport to the taxi stand outside and got a taxi to Bangrong Pier (for the boat to Koh Yao Yai.) Unfortunately, our taxi driver had other plans and with his very limited English, didn't understand we were in a hurry. First, he stopped for gas. Then it became apparent that he was clearly driving us the long way. With GPS on our phones we could tell we were not heading the right way.

When we finally got to the pier, of course, we had missed the boat. Our taxi driver acted like this was a surprise, but we knew it and were not happy. Since the sun was setting, the pier was pretty deserted for the evening except for one old fisherman. He offered to take us to Koh Yao Yai on his long tail boat for 4,000 baht (around $125). For reference, the boat we had just missed was 200 baht per person. We reluctantly decided it would not be a good idea to head out into the sea in the dark with this crazy old fisherman. So we hopped back into the cab and had the taxi driver take us to a nearby hotel. This is where things started turning up. We happened upon this sweet little hotel called Moonlight Cottage that had a vacant room and a owner that spoke great English and offered to take us back to the pier in the morning to get to the island. They had their own restaurant and grew all of their own produce. It ended up all working out, but it was a long, frustrating day.

The next morning we went back to the pier and finally got on the boat to Koh Yao Yai! Koh Yao Yai is often called "the last unspoiled island of Thailand" and that was very true. It was very remote feeling with just a couple of mini marts and restaurants on the whole island. We stayed in a cute beach cottage at Thiwson Resort and it was a great relaxing place to unwind at the end of our trip.

Bangrong Pier


After spending the first day relaxing by the pool and eating more yummy Thai food, we took an island tour on our second day. We ended up having our own long tail boat and 2 captains for the day that took us around to seven different snorkeling spots and beaches. It was such a fun experience and definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The Dutch friends we made from our hotel happened to also be doing the same thing so our boats stuck together. We were thankful because their captain spoke English and ours really didn't. 

The next day we rented a moped and explored the rest of Koh Yao Yai. We rode thru several tiny little villages and not much else. The island is mostly Muslim so there were many mosques and most people were dressed very modestly. All of Thailand, but especially this island, was very modest with all of the Thai people wearing long pants and covered legs. At one point the road had been flooded and covered in mud so M carefully drove across mud for a ways and hoped we didn't wipe out. We ended the day with another yummy dinner at our resort overlooking the sea. This was place was truly a quiet paradise.

Sadly, the next day we began our very LONG trek home (about 32 hours). We flew to Bangkok, then Taiwan again, then Seattle and then drove home to Yakima. Whew. We were so excited to see our kids! Overall, we had an amazing trip and would love to go back someday, but there are so many other places we have yet to see. If we did it again, we would probably make time to see another island as well and we would definitely get more massages!

January 9, 2018

Chiang Mai (Thailand Part 2)

After our time in Bangkok, we flew to Chiang Mai, a large town in northern Thailand. The culture here was our favorite part of Thailand. The food is amazing (and cheap) and the scenery and people were as well. 

We stayed three nights at the U Chiang Mai in The Old City. We really enjoyed their breakfast and location. We spent one day walking ALL over The Old City thanks to our Lonely Planet Guide Book's walking tour. There are too many temples in the Old City to count. We toured several of them and really enjoyed seeing all the young monks and learning more about their culture. Interesting fact: In Buddhism, you can become a monk for a month or a lifetime. Afterwards you can go back to your family and resume your life or you can continue as a monk. 

Our room at the U Chiang Mai

View from our balcony

Lunch for $1.50 USD
On our second day in Chiang Mai, we had signed up for a day at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. We were picked up at our hotel and rode in the back of a truck for two hours up into the mountains. This was an unforgettable, amazing experience. Talking to the guides and learning about their life as a member of the Karen Tribe was also so interesting. During our time there, we fed the elephants bananas and bamboo, made them vitamin balls, gave them mud baths and cleaned them off in the river. 

On our last day in Chiang Mai, we pampered ourselves at a spa - I think we spent $40 USD for two hours of massages and body scrubs! Then we went to a really cool restaurant called The Service 1921. The whole place and staff were completely themed out like the 1920's secret service. So cool and great food!