Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Year!

So much to do, so little time!

We are going back to where it all started, nearly two years ago...It all happened rather suddenly when International SOS offered Marc a job in Jakarta, Indonesia. They only informed him about the opportunity in Jakarta, a week before our trip to Thailand. Only when we returned from Thailand though, was it confirmed that we will be moving at the end of April.

There wasn't much time to digested all of this before we had to start planning the logistics around the move. Getting removal quotes, make a decision to ship or sell, paperwork etc. It has been a busy couple of weeks. I've been trying to find new jobs for our maid and driver, tying up my OWC duties as Vice President Activities and Events and of course sadly saying goodbye to our friends.

We opted to sell our stuff and last week the house already started emptying out when people started collecting furniture and other house hold items. Tomorrow the the last of our furniture, the bed and sofa will be collected and we will be stying in an empty apartment (thankfully we have a bed and white goods, which belong to the landlord) so we can at least still live. We basically have one week left to sell the remaining household items and to pack up our belongs (what is left of it).

We arrived in India with a couple of suitcases on 2 October 2006, and now 1 and a half years later we will be leaving India only with a couple of suitcases but with great memories of the amazing time that we've spent in "Incredible India".

We are counting down the days until 29 April, when we fly to Jakarta "our new home" via. Singapore (one day in Singapore, yippee).

Enjoying our last days in Bangalore...

Sunday, 20 April - Brunch at Olive Beach, 16 Wood street, Ashok Nagar, Bangalore, Phone : +91-80-41128400 41239483 / 412!

Brendon, George and Marc.

Vivian, Anne and I enjoying our bubbly - What a way to spend a Sunday!
Brendon, Shane, George, Marc, Bruce, Liam and Anthony.
Viv, Liz, Anne, Meha, Kathleen, Mei , Monique and Ness - "I will miss you girls"!
;-O What fun!
Our new resident street puppy....he is so cute! We are contemplating giving him a wash before we leave.
Saturday, 19 April - Farewell dinner with Klaartje, Johh, Jeff and Rita.
Marc taking Robert's (our driver) motorbike for a ride!
Thursday, 17 April - Dinner at our favourite North Indian restaurant in Bangalore - Angeethi (Rooftop, Museum Inn, 1 Museum Road, Bangalore. Phone 41113340, 41113333. We would highly recommend it!
Saturday, 12 April - Dinner at Arno and Cyndie's house!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

12 Days in Thailand...a real holiday - 21 March to 2 April

We arrived at the Suvarnabumi airport in Bangkok at about 8am on Friday, 21 March, took a taxi to the Dong Muang airport where we left our luggage and decided to take a local bus to the sky train station and took the sky train to Siam Centre. Public transport that works, I love it! We had a couple of hours to kill before our flight to Chiang Rai. We walked around, amazed by how organized everything is and particularly impressed with the lane discipline in Bangkok, something that we forgot existed. O and no hooting was bliss to our ears.

We arrived in Chiang Rai at 14:40pm that afternoon and were very surprised to be greeted by Apae, the manager of Akha Hill House whom we spoke to earlier to find out if they had accommodation for us. He said to call when we arrive but that the pickup from the airport is only at 4pm that afternoon. As we were traveling very light (1 backpack each) we figured we would just decide when we get there where we wanted to stay. But to our surprise we were greeted outside the airport by Apae, who was in town for a meeting and decided to collect us. Now that's what you call service.

It took about 45min to drive from Chiang Rai to Akha Hill House, in the mountains. What a fabulous place. It is very rustic accommodation in the middle of nowhere. Our VIP room cost 700BHT per night. We spend only one night though as we had already booked accommodation in Chiang Mai but would definitely recommend at least two nights in Chiang Rai as there is just so much to do and see in this area. Akha Hill House is really great and has different tour guides that take small groups to visit the hill tribes, the golden triangle and more. And besides all the activities it is also just great to sit on the wooden deck over looking the jungle in absolute quite, drinking an ice cold beer and the great food.
Akha Hill House.

The smog in this area is really bad and a big problem actually. This is caused by fires and causes respiratory problems and the government is looking into artificial rain to fix this. According to the news they have to take drastic steps soon. A pity because it is absolutely beautiful in the North.

Here is to a great holiday!

Our VIP bungalow

We unfortunately didn't have time to do to much as we had to catch a 5:45 pm bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. Apae told us that we would arrange a tour guide for us for the next day but silly me had only packed my slip slops as we weren't planning on doing any serious trekking. The next morning we sat down for breakfast and the next thing I had a pair of walking shoes offered to me. To my surprise my feet fit into a Thai guy’s shoes and off we went a 9am. We went one way and our two back packs went another and the plan was that we would hiked to the waterfall approx 6 km, a little further to the hot spring where we had a great lunch. At about 2:30pm we climbed on a long tail boat that took us to the elephant camp where we did an hour elephant ride through the bush and the last stretch through the river.

Ulong tea plantation

The grass baskets on a stick hanging next to the BBQ has eggs in them. These baskets are put into the hot spring pond and ready to eat after 20min. We tried some of the BBQ chicken but gave the eggs a miss.

After our ele ride, we took another hour boat ride into Chiang Rai where they collected us with a "pickup" and dropped us of at the Akka Guesthouse where our bags were waiting for us.
They kindly offered us the use of a bathroom for a quick shower before they dropped us of at the bus station for our 3 hour bus trip to Chiang Mai. The VIP bus was brand new and very comfortable with big leather reclaimable seats that reminded me of business class on an airplane. It had a TV playing Thai Hit parade Karaoke, music videos.

We arrived in Chiang Mai, caught a tuk-tuk (more like a racing car) to the Montrara Happy House Hotel near the Sunday night market area. We strolled around the night bazaar and I had my first long awaited Thai foot massage at 10:30pm (30min for 80BHT).
Montrara Happy House - a very nice hotel for only 900BHT per night.

The next day we hired a scooter and took a drive out to Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple about 20km out side of the City,set amongst the peaks of Doi Suthep. It has a lovely setting with a panoramic view of Chiang Mai and the Mae Ping River valley.

Marc received a blessing from the Monk.

At about 10am on the 24th we were collected from our hotel for our private tour to the hill tribe village, orchid farm and the elephant camp. We got back to the hotel and again was kindly offered a room to have a quick shower before we got on the overnight bus to Bangkok.

Bath time!

The elephants painted, played soccer, gave one of the trainers a massage, shot balloons with darts and a couple more acts. Not sure I like the whole elephant show, particularly because of what they must do to these poor eles to train them to do these acts. Mmmmm...but then again, if they were left in the wild they may have been hunted for their tusks etc. The world is a funny place.

Karen tribe "Long Neck" women.

Hard to believe that the rings around their necks are actually 8Kg of solid copper that they heat in the fire and then twist around their necks, when they are 5 years old. The rings stay on until they are 45. They add the bottom bit that rest on the collar bone only when they are a little older. Apparently it's not true that when they remove the rings they would die. They had some photographs of ladies that removed the rings to prove this. It apparently just makes the neck very weak so it would be easy to break. That can't be comfortable though....Amazing!

Marc used a small wooden bow and arrow which the tribe hunt with and was amazed by the accuracy of it.

Marc's first foot massage.

Unfortunately our overnight VIP bus wasn't quite as luxurious as the 1st one and a lot more colourful. It was more like economy class seats. But, I think even big comfortable seats on a bumpy bus would get a bit much after 11 hours. "Would definitely recommend flying" but hey, we did it and we survived. Our original plan was to get of at Ayutthaya and to take another bus from there to Kanchanaburi but we figured getting of on the Super Highway at 2:30am in the morning might not be such a clever move as we might be stuck there with no transport. So, we decided to go to Bangkok which worked out well in the end. We are sorry that we didn't get to see Ayutthaya though, as it is meant to be beautiful place.

We arrived in Bangkok at about 7am and took the 8:30am bus to Kanchanaburi. The bus took two and a half ours even with what felt like a stop every 20min. This time - no big comfortable seats though! A local bus but it did have AC at least :-)

We arrived in Kanchanaburi and headed straight to VN Guesthouse right on the river kwai. It was very basic but clean accommodation on a boathouse. For 450BHT per night you can't really expect more and we didn't really need more for only 1 night anyway. Thankfully it had AC because it was really very hot. It was a scorcher! We had lunch (more Thai food, yummy!!!) and decided to walk to the Bridge over the River Kwai. It was so hot that we soon decided to rather wait for a taxi to come pass before we peel over of heat exhaustion. Our bike taxi with a side cart, took us the 4km up the road to the Bridge over the River Kwai, waited for us and dropped us back at our guesthouse.

The VN Guesthouse where we stayed for one night.
The Bridge over the River Kwai.

At 2:30pm we climbed on the back of a pick up with 8 other people in our tour group and headed for the famous Tiger Temple where we could touch the tigers and take pictures. It was a little bit like a adult petting zoo but a great experience never the less. Not sure if I like this either but again, if they were still living in the wild they would have also been hunted.

Later, we walked around yet another market tried some street food and were amazed by what you can find at these markets. Not so impressed with the owls and other furry animals in cages though. The highlight for me was a stall selling worms, grasshoppers and other deep fried creepy crawlies and people queuing up for a bag delicacies. None for me, thanks!
Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm gonna eat some worms.... NOT!!

On Friday the 26th we caught the 9am bus back to Bangkok. This time we weren't so lucky and it took us over 3 hours. The bus came to a sudden stop on the side of the rode and we didn't move for 30 min until all of a sudden everyone got off the bus and into another bus. We assumed that our bus broke down but this was of course never communicated. Well at least not to us, I'm sure the other passengers knew exactly what was going on .

We arrived at a bus station about 20 km outside of Bangkok and we had to take taxi to Boiyoke Sky hotel where we met Melanie and Austin for our next leg of our exciting Thailand holiday. We spent the next two days in Bangkok.... Shopping, eating good food, enjoyed the company of our friends from South Africa (miss you already, Mel), a night out at Pat Pong (Happy Birthday, Austin), Night Market.

Mel and Del, together again!

Showing of our new purchases....you have to love bargain shopping!
Even the pigeions eat chili.

Dinner on Austin's b-day.

A brilliant band performing covers in one of the bars in Patpong.

Tuk-Tuk ride through Patpong in search for the next show LOL :-)

Playing silly buggers!

We visited Wat Pho, (Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun.

Early on the 28th we headed for the airport to catch our 9:30am flight to Koh Sumui. Checked into Lagoon Bay on the South end of Chaweng beach (1800 BHT per night), hired a motorbike and drove around Chaweng, had a little snooze on the beach (that's the life)...We stayed at Lagoon Bay for 2 nights and then checked into P&P Resort (4 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach Tel: (66-77) 422540, 422541 or 422324) on the north end of Chaweng beach (1500BHT per night). 5 days, island style. The four of us had a fantastic holiday.
A trip to Koh Toa. Marc did a deep dive of 31 meters at the famous Chumphon, hoping to see Sharks but no luck. The diving and snorkeling here is truly amazing. I didn't dive but I figured that I didn't miss anything. Austin, Mel and I snorkeled and we probably saw just as much as the divers did from the surface. The visibility is just amazing and the conditions fantastic. Almost like swimming in a big pool. We had lunch on the boat and later the four of us re joined on the ferry in Koh Tao for the 2 hour boat ride back to Koh Sumui.
We watched Mutai Boxing, Lady boy - caberet shows, hired a jeep and drove around Koh Sumui island, enjoyed ice cold Singha Beers, the boys playd Pool and Mel and I pole danced with the girls at a bar at Chewang's version of "Pat Pong". We really enjoyed eating delicious Som Tum (Green Papaya salad), Green Mango Salad, Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai (my favourite), Satay's, Mango and Sticky Rice, sipping and dipping at the fabulous pool of the Grand Centara Hotel were Austin and Mel were staying. On Tuesday night, 1 April we said goodbye to our friends. Can't believe how quickly the holiday came to an end. But, time flies when you're having fun, I guess.
Cooling off in the Grand Centara pool.
Marc in his element.
Shopping for a special peeler/shredder for 10BHT.
Our ride - It was a lot of fun driving around the Island.
Dinner on the beach under the stars.

We had a great day on the boat, diving and snorkeling. Fabulous!!!
Getting a pole dancing lesson!
I think Marc's face says it all...

We really enjoyed watching the caberet show.
Beautiful flowers, carved out of soap.
One of the many gasoline stands on the island.
The view from our pool area at P&P Sumui Resort.

This is the life!
On the 2nd we spent some time on the beach, checked out of our hotel, had one last 1 hour foot massage before we left for the airport for our 4:15pm flight back to Bangkok. 2 and a half hours at Bangkok airport goes very quickly and we were soon seated on our flight back to Bangalore.
Enjoying one last 1 hour foot massage.

The unique Koh Samui Airport has a country club feel and has no indoor areas.
Thailand is an amazing place and we had an absolutely fabulous holiday!