One day in Bangkok

During our past 2 and a half years in Asia, we have done our best to avoid Bangkok and pretty much all other big cities, so it was a bit unexpected that we decided to spend a day in Bangkok on our way back from Koh Lanta.  We had decided earlier that we were keen to give 1st class train travel in Thailand a try, (before having only been on the Chiang Mai – Bangkok Train) but after the journey from Surat Thani to Bangkok we decided that was quite enough train travel and so once we arrived in Bangkok we booked a flight for the evening to get back up north.

One day in Bangkok

So we spent the day wandering some streets, visiting a couple of temples, and then finally relenting and deciding that Bangkok really isn’t our favoured destination.

Bangkok Thailand

We did have a pleasant time seeing some different sights, and were very ready to get out of there after several hours in the heat.  Back to the north we go, where it’s so much more relaxed!

Chill out on Lanta

Koh Lanta Thailand

Our time on Lanta didn’t consist of much more than seeing beautiful sunsets, a bit of motorbiking around, visitng the gym every day (a huge luxury for us these days when there is no gym nearby!  We’re gonna have to make our own in LNT!) and just generally relaxing and enjoying our time.

Koh Lanta Thailand

Food was a particular highlight this time – we found some amazing new restaurants, including a Greek place run by a lovely Greek couple, an Belgian place and also good pizza.

Koh Lanta Thailand

The one thing missing was Ben and Fafa, who were in France and who we managed to miss by only about a week, so we’ll have to go back to hang out with them.

We also found a new awesome place to stay, saw some cool birds, and spent time on the beautiful deserted beaches.  All in all we can’t wait to get back to Lanta at some point in the not too distant future.

Koh Payam

Payam Island Thailand

Our stay on the island of Koh Payam was a relaxing one.  We arrived not really knowing what to expect – we came here on a whim after a recommendation from a guy who DJ’ed in our shop one night.  What we did know was that supposedly not many tourists went to Koh Payam, that it was supposedly peaceful and had lots of jungle and national park, and there were no cars or roads wide enough for cars on the island, all of which sounded pretty good.

Koh Payam Thailand and it's abundant birdlife

From the very first day we were treated to seeing hornbills within just a few metres from us, golden lizards, singing frogs, a rare white bulbie and many crabs!

Koh Payam wildlife

As we settled into the slow pace of life here, every day we saw more and more wildlife – a big dragon climbing in the trees, a golden frog, the biggest lizard we’ve ever seen (about 30cm) catch a moth, many, many hornbills and a cool highlight was a group of about 6-7 sea otters that ran down from the river running through our property and out  into the ocean.   The largest one would have been a bit over a metre and this group was magnificent to see.

Koh Payam Thailand

As always we struck it super lucky with our accommodation, the first place we stumbled upon turned out to be a huge privately owned nature reserve with it’s own private beach, a beach that was all ours to enjoy as we were the only guests at this stunning place.  Hooray for low season!  Rainy season also meant that we got to see many cool dramatic skies and some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Koh Payam our beachfront

We spent many hours lounging on the beach, or our balcony overlooking the beach, or playing pool in the upstairs of the restaurant building that was surrounded 360 degrees by jungle and birdlife.  We never managed a game of pool without stopping many times to watch the birds flying around and seeing what new species we could see.

Wildlife on Koh Payam Thailand

A couple of our days were spent exploring around the island, although this soon lost it’s appeal when we realised that although the island is very beautiful, we were already staying in the most pristine section of the entire island and we had the most abundant wildlife and jungle right outside our bungalow.

Koh Payam Thailand

Koh Payam was perfect and utterly serene.  Every noise we heard was either the ocean, or birds or insects, and each night we could fall asleep to the sound of monks chanting across the ocean.  The island temple was near to us at the next bay and so the full moon drumming and chanting as well as the nightly chanting could be heard by us over the water.  The past week of swimming in the ocean and being surrounded by abundant wildlife and jungle has been an excellent way for us to relax in the serenity of nature.

Koh Payam Thailand

Adventure in Chiang Rai

As you probably know, when we travelled to NZ, Australia, Malaysia and Thailand for 2 months recently we told our staff that as their reward for successfully running the shop while we were gone that we’d take them on their first trip outside of Laos.

So 3 of the staff that worked during this time took the challenge; Korlee, On and Toc had never left Luang Namtha province before, and Korlee had never even left the town of Luang Namtha.

The adventure to the ‘big city’ of Chiang Rai started with the girls having to wait 2 hours for the Lao immigration office (the section that stamps Lao people in and out of Lao) to re-open after lunch.  During this time though, they managed to make friends with the tourist police, have lunch with them and exchange phone numbers ;) .

Once they crossed the Mekhong they were into a new world; the forbidden Thailand and needed us to pretty much look after their every move.

The first night we took them to the night bazaar, and they were in heaven shopping in the Thai market with so much more selection than anywhere in Laos.

The second day was full of adventures for them:  we went to their first supermarket, Makro, and bought all the supplies for the shop.  They were amazed and awed that such a big building could exist and have so much selection in it.

This was followed by even more amazement – the mall.  Toc was petrified to ride on the escalator, none of them having ever seen one before or known of the existence of one.  We eventually convinced her that it was fine, and took them to see their first movie.

We saw more supermarkets, actual clothes stores, computer stores, TV stores, and so many other things that don’t exist in Laos.  The second night they wanted to go back to the night bazaar for more  shopping.

We had hoped to take them to the white temple also, but it ended up raining a fair bit and so the final morning was just chill out time before the return to the safety of Luang Namtha.

Getaway north of Chiang Rai

Our journey to our secluded hideaway to celebrate our 14th anniversary since we met started off interestingly.

We went to our normal Chiang Rai guesthouse and dropped off some of our luggage and computers, and decided to make a ‘quick trip’ to the mall to give the computer fix-it shop Dre’s computer so that it could be there a few days getting fixed while we were away.  The quick trip turned into a few hours and so when we finally set out to our holiday location on our motorbike in the pouring rain, it was already dark.

We laughed about it and Dre made the comment that it’s awesome that our lives are never boring here!  We followed the directions on the map to the hideaway, our bike laden with our luggage and our clothes soaked through to the skin.  After about half an hour, we realised that although we were following our saturated map, it didn’t seem to be leading to where we wanted to go.  This was confirmed when the road finished and turned to mud, and we literally couldn’t keep driving because it was too muddy.

We turned around and headed back to the nearest main road, in the countryside somewhere north of Chiang Rai.  We found a shop that was still open and used our limited Thai language skills to ask if we were going the right way, or which way to go.  They pointed us back in the direction we’d come from so we thought that we’d just head back down the road and stop at the nearest hotel we found for the night.

As it turned out, it was all meant to be… after another 20 minutes or so in the now-torrential rain, we found what looked to be an extremely upmarket resort set on the mountainside.  We pulled up and the wide-eyed receptionist looked in bewilderment at 2 soaked-to-the-skin-foreigners pulling up on a motorbike in the dark in the middle of nowhere to their resort.

They showed us to their holiday house, complete with jacuzzi, kitchen, several huge balconies, an entire private rooftop with hammocks and daybeds, completely secluded from any other dwelling by extensive tropical gardens and views to mountain ranges out the front and back.  (Of course we couldn’t see the gardens or views until the next morning).  It had a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a huge lounge and lot of extras.  So we figured that this was where we were meant to be and there was good reason we didn’t find the place we’d booked.  We still do want to find the place we booked, in future, because it looked awesome too, but this place would definitely be awesome to stay at for the few days we planned to spend there.

So we spent the following days lazing on the rooftop, stretched out on the couches, and admiring the gardens and mountains.  The staff were so excited we had come to stay (normally only Thai people stayed there) and in the mornings when we’d go for breakfast they would attempt to practise their limited English and we would spend time teaching them some new words.

It was a good way to spend some time and we returned to Chiang Rai recharged and ready for the next adventure:  taking some of our staff on their first trip outside of Laos.


Our first Songkran in Asia was really nice, and we were glad we stayed on Koh Lanta since it wasn’t too crazy busy.  Songkran is the Thai/ Lao new year water festival where everyone throws water on everyone else, everyone walks around with huge water pistols, and generally everyone gets really wet.  It is basically to welcome the rainy season, because by April the continent is ridiculously hot and so the rains coming are usually really appreciated to cool it down a bit.  This year it didn’t quite work that way in the south, since we got heavy rains a couple of weeks ago and the flooding from that is still receeding, but still, any excuse for a party!  The main celebrations are in Bangkok and northern Thailand and Laos, and we were quite glad we stayed in the sleepy south because although it is really fun for the most part, it’s also kind of annoying if you just want to grab something to eat but can’t do so without getting saturated.

The main reason we stayed on Lanta though, was because our friend Melissa who we met on Cat Ba Island in Vietnam told us she was coming to visit.  It was really fun to catch up with her again, and also her friend Heidi who she brought to Lanta.  We spent the evening on the beach watching the sunset and then had an awesome dinner at one of our  favourite restaurants, Sonya Restaurant.

We spent our last few days on Lanta riding around the island, visiting Patu our friend who is starting his cafe at the Old Town next season (and who has a location to die for, on the waters edge overlooking the limestone karst islands), and admiring all of the beautiful trees in flower at the moment.  Now we’re heading north again for more Lao adventures, and to meet Ben and Lauren our friends from Sydney, before that though we’re heading to Pai, in northern Thailand to meet up with Luke who we met on Lanta and check out the mountain town that we didn’t make it to last time we were in northern Thailand.  Apparently it’s chilled out and filled with hippies, so let’s hope it’s all it’s cracked up to be!

A beachy life

The past few weeks on Lanta have been pretty similar to the first, although we had a crazy storm which saw the beach have waves for the first time ever according to the locals.  We have spent a lot of time with Ben and Fafa, our French friends, and Ben’s wife Bo and Fafa’s girlfriend Ying.

We have also spent lots of time on the beach, riding around and visiting many different beaches.  We have now been on all the roads in the entire island so have a pretty good lay of the land.  Our favourite beaches remain the ones from 2 beaches north of where we live, our main beach across the road, and the many pristine deserted beaches of the south.

We have seen a huge number of elephants lately too.  On the beach, on the side of the road, walking down the street, swimming, it has been great.  They seem to be everywhere on this island and it has become really normal to see them around the place.  We also have an Eagle that visits our house almost daily and have had tree frogs and huge praying mantis’s visit us as well.

Because the rainy season is coming we have also had a lot of insanely beautiful sunsets which has been really awesome.  By the end of this week, we will be able to officially say we have spent 2 months on a Thai beach, which was actually something we said we wanted to do before we came on this trip, so mission accomplished!  With all the people we have met and things we’ve done here, we really feel like we were meant to come here and it was a good thing that we didn’t make it into Cambodia just yet.  Plenty of time for that!  Our photos are here.

This one’s for you, Bobbo

A couple of weeks back Dre’s sister Kate asked us if we would post some photos of the food we have been eating on Koh Lanta along with ingredients so that she could make similar dishes at home.  There are several dishes that we regularly eat here (some of them almost every day) that we haven’t actually found anywhere else in Thailand.  Our favourite one is Kao Yum.

Kao Yum:  (amounts are approximate – change as you like!)
1 cup of cooked rice
6 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced with stems removed
2 stalks lemongrass, only the white parts, very finely sliced (remove the outer tough bits)
3 tablespoons shredded dried fish
2 tablespoons lighly cooked fresh coconut scrapings (kind of like desiccated coconut, but fresh)
1-3 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes
juice of 1/2 lime
optional:  3 tablespoons rice bubbles
4-5 tablespoons of sweetened thick soy sauce (ours is freshly made with lots of soy bean chunks)
Mix all of these together and this is the main part of the dish, which is always accompanied by copious amounts of garnishes / veges which you can either mix into the dish or have on the side, such as:
green baby mango
green or red papaya
young green jackfruit
green beans
raw eggplant (seriously you can’t survive SEA without learning to love raw eggplant!)
herbs – the common one looks like flat parsley/coriander and tastes lemony and spicy or there is another one similar to chives
and one vegetable which we still can’t identify

Another really popular dish that you can get almost everywhere here is ‘Bun Noodles’ (Khanom jiin naam yaa).  We think that the English translation to bun noodles might be because when served at a restaurant (usually only at a bun noodle restaurant!  Usually this is the only dish that you can get at the place) the freshly made noodles are in a round ‘bun’ and the sauce is spooned on top.  We have both accidentally become complete noodle snobs – after watching fresh noodles being made in front of us most of the time in Laos before we ate them, and now also getting fresh noodles made for us in Koh Lanta, now when we order noodles at another place we always know if they are a few days old / older than this is almost not worth eating – and the thought of instant noodles is just bad.  Don’t go there.  Anyway…

Khanom jiin naam yaa:
Freshly made ball of rice noodles about the size of a cup
1/2 cup of spicy yellow coconut curry sauce, made with fish, tumeric and tamarind.  No actual fish pieces make it into the dish, smaller bits basically dissolve and larger bits of flesh are not put into the sauce in the first place.  You can also sometimes get a vegetable jungle curry sauce.
If you get this at a restaurant, it comes with a huge (say 60cm across) round tray of vegetables, pretty much a mixture of the garnish veges mentioned above but also including loads of leaves – which are young shoots off trees.  Many unidentified tree leaves have been consumed while eating this dish!  If you get a takeaway version, then a mixture of the veges just comes in your bag.

Another dish we eat slightly less regularly than the above two is a version of Pad Thai ‘noodles and egg’ .  What makes this dish nicer than average is the sauce.

Noodles and Egg:
2 cups of fresh rice noodles – pad thai width – fried in soy sauce
a beaten egg, cooked and sliced
a handful of sprouts
a handful of herbs (usually the lemon spicy one or the chives-like one)
sometimes some veges, or not, depending on your luck
Then add 3-4 tablespoons sauce:
chopped fresh chilli
lime juice
lots of finely chopped ginger
tiny bit of vinegar
liquid or dissolved sugar
The main taste in the sauce is sweet limey ginger.  Yum.

Finally, when the other 3 dishes are sold out, we get rice soup.  Rice soup is actually really awesome from restaurants and usually contains heaps of veges (although nowhere in Thailand even comes close to how good it is in northern Laos!), but from our roadside stall ladies near our house, it is good, but usually lacking veges and not quite as amazing as the other dishes.

Rice Soup:
1 cup red or white rice
Cook rice in stock of your choice, usually fish stock
herbs of your choice
add as many veges and seafood as you like
Sprinkle pepper and chilli on top or mix in
2 tablespoons dried fried onion on top
freshly grated/finely sliced ginger on top
coriander on top
Optional:  dried salted fish on top or mixed in (think: saltiest fish in the world)

So there you have it, 4 mostly-easy-to-make dishes that we eat on pretty much a daily basis.  We hope you enjoy making and eating these!!

Visa run veterans

This time we decided to do our visa run to Malaysia on our terms.  Last time if you recall our minibus off the island to Trang was 2 hours late, the seats we had paid for had been given away by the driver to his friends and we missed connections because of it!  Originally we were going to spend this month in Malaysia, but life on Koh Lanta is too good so we have decided to stay here a bit longer.

So we took our motorbike to Trang, a few hours south of here.  It was going to be way too hard core even for us to ride all the way to Malaysia (especially on our little, old, crappy scooter), so we got the bus from Trang and then the train from Hat Yai to KL.

We didn’t actually take any photos in Malaysia, instead we went to the movies.  3 times in one day!  (Since the Petronas towers in KL are now our official movie viewing place in all of SE asia!)  And then came back, riding the bike back from Trang.  We were exceptionally lucky that on the way there, it was mainly cloudy so we didn’t fry in the sun, and then on the way back we rode into the sunset for most of the way, then we got hit by a tropical storm that seem to have become pretty common in the last week or so, lucky we brought our raincoats!  After the rain stopped and we figured out we weren’t lost it was pretty fun winding the little Mio up to max speed in the swirling mist.  After last time, we learned a lot about how not to do visa runs, so this time was comparitively a breeze. :-)

So if anyone wants to do a visa run to Malaysia from the south of Thailand, just ask us we are now self proclaimed experts….just dont ask us for directions out of Trang city, not even Google maps could help us there!

Life on Lanta

Firstly, we just want to say thanks to all the people who have contacted us out of concern or impatience because we haven’t updated the site for so long.  It’s nice to know that some people actually read this!  :-) Basically we have just been being lazy, or having fun, or spending time at the beach, rather than on the internet.

The past month we have been living in a little house on Koh Lanta, in south western Thailand.  It has been heavenly!  We have a huge room, all the mod cons such as a fridge, kettle, (Yay!!  Cups of tea and coffee in our own room, without having to go out!  The only other place we can do that is Luang Namtha.) cable TV, (with 3 movie channels!  OMG, it’s been 10 months since we’ve watched TV!), air con and a huge balcony overlooking heaps of trees including palm trees.  There are lots of birds and squirrels always in the trees so it’s quite entertaining to sit on the balcony for hours.  We are also a few minutes walk to the beach, (about 30 seconds on our motorbike) and our French friends Ben and Fafa live just across the road and we have spent a lot of time with them.

A typical day pretty much consists of:  get up and go for a run on the beach and then a swim, come home, Dre take scooter to fruit and food stall – Thai’s laugh at Dre for eating like a local, have the nicest mango and pineapple in the world for breakfast (seriously!) plus other fruits, sit on the balcony/read for a while, go to the gym at the resort across the road, go for a swim at the resort, laze by the pool at the resort, have lunch, visit Ben and Fafa for some out of this world homemade icecream/sorbet/talking/chilling, watch sunset and swim again, have a lazy evening at one of our favourite restaurants, watch a movie.  So, very domesticated!

We have visited the annual Lanta festival, been to many deserted beaches, and went to the most fun party of our lives (even better than Shapeshifter!!) hosted by DJ Fafa, we danced for about 8 hours and then showed our age the next day by pretty much not being able to do anything other than eat, sleep and swim.

We are starting to appreciate why many regions in south-east Asia so many people celebrate the coming of the rainy season, April is meant to be the hottest month and the past week has been SO hot.  High 30’s every day and then the  past few days this has been broken by rain for an hour or so in the late afternoon which is such a welcome relief.  It has made for some amazing sunsets and is awesome because it cools everything down for the evening and night.  Tomorrow we are off to Malaysia again because our 1 month visa is up already!  Our photos are here.