Thailand

Bangkok
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We woke early on the morning of the 24th to catch our 6:50am flight out of Christchurch and start the next adventure of our trip……..it was a long day. We went from Christchurch to Auckland to Brisbane, and finally arriving in Bangkok at 8:30pm.

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Getting ready to catch our flight from Brisbane to Bangkok

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Just after landing

Luckily with all our traveling around we had enough points saved up in the mileage plus points account to book a decent hotel here in the Bangkok. We both have to admit…….even though it has been awesome driving around Australia and New Zealand for the past 4 months, and we have seen so much……but man after 27,000 Km….to not have to drive anywhere and have a regular room and proper bed has been pretty nice! ;-)

For our first day in Bangkok we decided to spend the day checking out the major tourist attractions. After negotiating the train system, and making our way to the ferry boat system we boarded a boat for an up river journey towards our first stop……the Grand Palace. As our tour boat operator said….if you don’t see these places then you really haven’t seen Bangkok. The Grand Palace is were the King of Thailand lives….sad news is, he is not doing so well right now, and has been in the hospital for the past 2 years.

The palace is beautiful……..very crowded…but beautiful. One side note, this is considered a very formal place for Thai people, so to visit the palace you have to dress appropriately and respectfully. No shorts, no mini-skirts, no tank tops, not flip-flops, but if you come to the place and aren’t dressed to their standards they have clothes you can rent to get in. We passed the standard except for Cathy’s tank top, so they made her wear the blue shirt you see in the pictures……I know…….she can be such trouble some times! ;-) Here are some pictures from the Grand Palace.

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Cathy showing off her new blue shirt on the grounds of the palace

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Part of the temples around the palace

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One of the many giant statues around the palace

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In front of the King’s residence

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Thai military guarding the palace

As you walk around you really start to notice the detail in the work on the buildings. For example, if you take a look at this picture of the flower patterns……

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Flower patterns on the side of one of the many buildings inside the palace grounds

You might not think much, but when you start to look closer….you realize how intricate the detail actually is, how someone laid all the individual tiles to make the patterns.

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The intricate flower work

Our next stop, we walked down the street to Wat Phra Chetuphon….which translates to giant reclining Buddah. It was pretty impressive at 50 meters long and here are some pics from inside the temple.

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Now that is one giant Buddah

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WOW!

We then moved on from there and made our way across the river to Wat Arun. This is a very cool temple and you can climb the steps to get great views of the city. The steps are pretty steep getting up there……..but not for a couple of rock climbers! ;-)

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Crossing the river over to Wat Arun

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The main temple of Wat Arun

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Cathy climbing the stairs of Wat ArunLooking out over part of the city from Wat Arun

Today we checked out more of the city. We both agree Bangkok is huge….and busy! Even though it was a Saturday there were still tons of people out and about with tons of traffic. I think this pic sums up the central feel of the city on a Saturday…..

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Part of downtown Bangkok….it is busy!

Tomorrow we head back to the airport to meet our buddy Chuck who is coming in from Colorado. After meeting up with Chuck we will all catch a flight down to Krabi, where we plan on doing some climbing and chilling on the beach…..we are all looking forward to it……good times in Thailand! :-)

Thailand update
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Just a quick update for everyone. We are currently in Tonsai Bay, climbing, relaxing, and enjoying the laid back lifestyle here. There are limited internet capabilities here, so it might be a week before we can post up some pics from our time here…….stay tuned! We head off to Koh Phi Phi on Friday, then to Phuket on Monday were we will head out to the Similan Islands for some diving.

We can’t believe we are down to our last 30 days….time does fly when you are having fun! We are looking forward to catching up with everyone, but for now all is good from this side of the world.

 

Tonsai
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Our last morning in Bangkok we woke to find a comment on the blog from our friend Sam. Turns out Sam was in Bangkok for work, and we were able to connect up that morning for some breakfast before we headed off to the airport. It was great catching up!

Catching up with Sam the man!

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Catching up with Sam the man!

After breakfast we finished packing our bags and made our way to the airport to meet our good friend Chuck. For those who don’t know Chuck, he is a very good and close friend of ours. Chuck and I have been climbing together for many years, so we were looking forward to catching up and having another great climbing adventure together.

To get to Tonsai from Bangkok you first have to fly down to the small town of Krabi. From there you hop in a taxi for a 30 minute wild ride……dodging scooters and people to Ao Nang Beach. Once there is enough people, usually 6 or more you board a long tail boat for a 20 minute ride around the pininsula to finally arrive at Tonsai Beach. Unfortunately, we learned a hard lesson that day……don’t arrive at low tide! You have to hoof your bags for about 200 yards out to the boat, then another 200 yards over muddy coral to get to the proper beach…..needless to say, we were all sweating pretty good by the time we checked into the Tonsai Bay Resort.

Hoofing our bags out to the longtail boat to Tonsai

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Hoofing our bags out to the longtail boat to Tonsai

All aboard....a little wet.....and Chuck's passport survived the the hoof out to the boat

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All aboard….a little wet…..and Chuck’s passport survived the hoof out to the boat

On the ride over to Tonsai

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On the ride over to Tonsai

There are great rewards for all the effort in getting here,  not only is there a ton of great climbing all within 20 minute walk from where we are sleeping, but some of the views are just awesome. We have been spending our days climbing, relaxing, Cathy went kayaking, and just experiencing the unique lifestyle of this part of the world. Here are a bunch of pictures from our time at Tonsai.

View from our resort

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View from our resort

Our first climb on the beach

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Our first climb on the beach, that is me in the black shirt at the top of the small cliff

Chuck getting ready to launch off on his first climb of the day

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Chuck getting ready to launch off on his first climb of the day

While we were climbing Cathy went out for a Kayak

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While we were climbing Cathy went out for a Kayak

Cathy's view while kayaking

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Cathy’s view while kayaking

After a couple of days in Tonsai we decided to check out some of the other beaches and climbing areas. We hiked over through Railey West beach to get over to Railey East Beach.

View of Railey West, the next beach over from Tonsai

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View of Railey West, the next beach over from Tonsai

Cathy climbing over in Railey East....her first climb in Thailand

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Cathy climbing over in Railey East….her first climb in Thailand

Chuck leading the mega classic climb "The Best Route in Minnesota"

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Chuck leading the mega classic climb “The Best Route in Minnesota”

Not a bad view from the beach at Railey East

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Not a bad view from the beach at Railey East

To save some time, instead of hiking back we decided to catch a longtail boat back.

Just leaving Railey Beach

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Just leaving Railey Beach

On the way back to Tonsai

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On the way back to Tonsai

We caught a longtail boat from Railey, obviously it was low tide, and we had to hike back into our resort

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When we caught the longtail boat from Railey, it was low tide at Tonsai, so we had to hike back into our resort

Here are some more views from the area.

Looking out into the Tonsai Bay

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Looking out into the Tonsai Bay

More of the walls you can climb in Tonsai

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More of the walls you can climb in Tonsai

On our last day in Tonsai, Chuck and I decided to head out try one of the multi-pitch climbs in Tonsai. Here are some pics from our afternoon on the wall.

Our wall. The climb is called Big Wave

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Our wall. The climb is called Big Wave

Heading up one of the upper pitches

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Heading up one of the upper pitches

Chuck looking down from the top

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Chuck looking down from the top

The view from the top of the climb.....not bad!

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The view from the top of the climb…..not bad!

On Friday we catch another boat and head to Kho Phi Phi. We are all very curious about this portion of our trip as we have heard good and bad things about this little island that inspired the movie The Beach. We will let you know how it goes!

Koh Phi Phi…..same…same…but different
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Where to start and how to even begin to attempt to explain our experience in Koh Phi Phi Don is going to be a challenge. I’ll start off with the most simple explanation I can come up with. Koh Phi Phi Don is a lost paradise and was an eye opening experience for us.

The first step in enjoying Phi Phi (Pee-Pee) is getting there. We kept an eye on the tides all week at Tonsai hoping it would be in our favor the morning of our departure but it was not. So we had another slog out to the ferry boat which would take us to Phi Phi. It wasn’t as nearly as bad as Tonsai but a high tide would have been nice. We took a long tail boat out to the large ferry boat which met us about 500 yards from shore. We boat jumped, got our luggage on board and cruised for about 90 minutes before arriving at Phi Phi for the next 3 days.

Chuck with his luggage as we headed toward the boat

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Chuck with his luggage as we headed toward the boat

Hangin' on the beach

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Hangin’ on the beach

Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” and the people are so charming, super casual, and very inviting to all those lucky enough to visit this land. And herein lies the problem, with millions of visitors flocking to the beaches of the Phra Nang Peninsula each year and those numbers continuously increasing, there was no way the region would be able to keep up with the demand for development. The region did develop quickly but without a proper plan in place to handle it all. This was most evident on Koh Phi Phi island where a once pristine island of white sandy beaches, coves and lagoons which was home to a few locals and heaps of coconut trees is now a revolving door of foreign visitors, endless isles of food stalls and clothing shops selling bikinis, sarongs, and beaded jewelery and each stall selling a replica of the items in the stall before it, all of this packed into a very small island. There does not seem to be a proper sewage system or garbage disposal system in place other than hauling waste out to sea, burning garbage in the country side and letting it pile up in back woods areas for weeks. This leaves the aroma and image of the area as something the tourists just have to accept and get used to, which we did but we were also glad it was only a few days.

One of the many walkways through the maze of shopping stalls

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One of the many walkways through the maze of shopping stalls

The busy beach of Koh Phi Phi Don with Tonsai climbing wall in the background

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The busy beach of Koh Phi Phi Don with Tonsai climbing wall in the background

We only spent 3 nights in Phi Phi and this was plenty enough time to take it in as a hustling and bustling party island. Lucky for us the staggering limestone cliffs, aqua blue Andaman Sea and surrounding rain forests have been untouched and remain as beautiful as ever so the landscape was still amazing.

To get away from it all for a little while we rented a long tail boat for a ½ day trip to Koh Phi Phi Lay, a separate and smaller island south of Phi Phi Don. Famous with tourists for one small and stunning beach called Maya Bay as this is where the Leonardo di Caprio film “The Beach” was filmed in 1999. Since then the demand for people to visit this bay has exploded. We were warned to get there early and not stay too long. We set out at 7:30am for the 30 minute boat ride there. When we arrived there were only a handful of people there which was nice but by the time we left, only 2 hours later, the place was a mob scene of tourists, long tail boats, and jet boats full of tour group. Here are some shots from Maya Bay and Pileh Cove.

Koh Phi Phi Lay from a distance, on our way!

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Koh Phi Phi Lay from a distance, on our way!

Long tail boat ride out to Koh Phi Phi Lay Island

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Long tail boat ride out to Koh Phi Phi Lay Island

Approaching the islands staggering limestone cliffs

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Approaching the islands staggering limestone cliffs

Beautiful Maya Bay prior to the onslaught of tourists later that morning

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Beautiful Maya Bay prior to the onslaught of tourists later that morning

Jamie continues to improve his levitation skills!

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Jamie continues to improve his levitation skills!

Jamie chillin' on the beach at Maya Bay

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Jamie chillin’ on the beach at Maya Bay

The backside of Maya Bay offers cool views of this little cove

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The backside of Maya Bay offers cool views of this little cove

Leaving a very crowded Maya Bay after only being there 2 hours

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Leaving a very crowded Maya Bay after only being there 2 hours

You can circumnavigate Koh Phi Phi Lay and stop off at all of the tourist sites, about 4, we chose 2 with the other one being Ao Pileh Cove. This is famous for once being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and while it is still beautiful you can see the evidence of too many years of tourists and long tail boats coming in and out everyday. We stayed in the boat and went for a snorkel.

Cruising around the island toward Pileh Cove

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Cruising around the island toward Pileh Cove

Arriving in Pileh Cove

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Arriving in Pileh Cove

Getting a quick snorkel in, Pileh Cove

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Getting a quick snorkel in, Pileh Cove

The beautiful cliffs surrounding the cove

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The beautiful cliffs surrounding the cove

During our last day in Phi Phi we went rock climbing on Tonsai Wall which was only a few minutes walk from the beach and overlooked the whole island, once you made your ascent!  This is what we captured….

Climbing on Tonsai Wall, Koh Phi Phi

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Climbing on Tonsai Wall, Koh Phi Phi

Jamie enjoying the view

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Jamie enjoying the view

Chuck giving it a go

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Chuck giving it a go

My turn!

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My turn!

Chuck and Jamie at Tonsai Wall

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Chuck and Jamie at Tonsai Wall

View of Koh Phi Phi from the top of Tonsai Wall

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View of Koh Phi Phi from the top of Tonsai Wall

The climbing and a nice dinner out was a nice way to cap off the visit to Phi Phi but we were all looking forward to moving on as our next adventure would be a 4 day scuba diving trip on a live aboard boat cruising the Similan Islands : )

Similan Islands
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After three days on Koh Phi Phi, I think all three of us were really looking forward to the relaxing atmosphere of the dive boat. Unfortunately, we had one more slog to get through……the ferry ride from Phi Phi to Phuket. This was a very unique experience, and good thing we didn’t have any problems on the ferry…..because they sure do pack them on, way over capacity!

Not much room left!

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Not much room left!

Trying to stay patient with all the people

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Trying to stay patient with all the people

Almost to Phuket

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Almost to Phuket

The mad scramble for bags once we arrive in Phuket....crazy!

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The mad scramble for bags once we arrive in Phuket….crazy!

Once we arrived in Phuket, the dive boat had arranged to pick us up and transport us an hour and half North to Koh Lak where the boat is. Needless to say, once we boarded the boat we were all happy to just chill and relax. The boat we were on was the MV Dolphin Queen run by Smilian Dive Safaris. There were a lot of different nationalities on board, and everyone was great! Here are some pics from around the boat.

Cathy studying hard for her Advanced Open Water course

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Cathy studying hard for her Advanced Open Water course

Hanging out after a dive ;-)

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Hanging out after a dive;-)

Right before the first night dive we got a visitor

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Right before the first night dive we got a visitor

Pre-dive briefing

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Pre-dive briefing

Enjoying the sunset

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Enjoying the sunset

We spent 4 nights on the boat, and dove 4 days. You could get in as many as 14 dives if you wanted, but we all took a few off to relax. As with most live-aboard dive boats the schedule is pretty much the same no matter what boat you are on……dive, eat, nap……dive, eat, nap…..dive, eat, nap……dive, eat, sleep……then repeat the next day. Yep…life is pretty rough on a live-aboard trip! ;-) The crew was great and Cathy even completed her Advance Open Water course. She had a really good instructor named PePe. He also guided us around showing us the highlights of all the dive sites.

Heading off for a dive with Pe Pe

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Heading off for a dive with PePe

Cathy geared up for her night dive with Pe Pe

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Cathy geared up for her night dive with PePe

Unfortunately, we didn’t have an underwater camera this trip, but we were able to bum some underwater pictures from Jack Curran (we met on the boat)…..thanks Jack! Here are some of his pictures of some of the things we saw on the trip.

Morray eel

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Morray eel

Colorful Nudibranch

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Colorful Nudibranch

They come in all sorts of colors!

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They come in all sorts of colors!

Almost swam right past this guy, he was so well camouflaged

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Almost swam right past this guy, he was so well camouflaged

Sea snake

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Sea snake

Schooling barracuda

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Schooling barracuda

Schooling fish

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Schooling fish

After all these years of diving, I finally got to see a seahorse!

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After all these years of diving, I finally got to see a seahorse!

We all had a blast on the trip, and really enjoyed the people we met and the crew. We had one final picture on our way back into port.

Good people....good times!

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Good people….good times!

After we got off the boat we made our way a little South to Mai-Khao Beach where we spent one night. We timed it just right when we arrive and enjoyed the afternoon hanging out at the beach and pool at sunset.

Cathy enjoying the pool by the beach

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Cathy enjoying the pool by the beach

We are now on our way back to Bangkok for one night, and then the long flight to Paris. We aren’t quite sure if we are ready for the cold winter in Europe, but we are excited about catching up with everyone, and hitting the slopes!

 

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