After 9 hours on buses, we arrived in Chiang Rai on Valentine’s Day. Being the romantic people we are, we got dressed up in our only nice clothes and went out for a fancy dinner before passing out. The next day, we were super excited to go visit Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple, a Buddhist temple reimagined in a modern fantasy world. Floating eyeballs and paintings of Batman, Hello Kitty and Harry Potter decorate the interior walls. The most striking thing, however, is the moat of outstretched hands in front of the gates. This was definitely one of the weirdest “religious” places we’ve been to.
For the next three days, we just tried to eat as much as possible. Mod was back on the noodle hunt (actually, he probably never left), revisiting his former obsession with Thai Khao Soi, a coconut-based noodle soup, but we had to try something new. We went searching for Anthony Bourdain’s local haunts to eat everything from an episode of “Parts Unknown,” his CNN show. We were looking for custardy pig brain, wrapped in a banana leaf with herbs, raw laab coated in uncooked cow’s blood, fried frog and stewed chicken leg with rice. Everything was delicious. We also tried Boat Noodles, made from pig bits and blood. Let’s just say that we’ve gotten really adventurous as of late.
Sukhothai is an old Siam capital founded by King Ramkhamhaeng. We started off the morning by hunting for Sukhothai noodles, fresh, chewy rice noodles with a bit of pork broth (not a noodle soup) and topped with piggy bits. Many places also put a piece of fried pork rind on top. All places should do this all the time. Some places make the noodles a bit sweet, but we always preferred the savory editions.
Mod and I had a motorbike for the day, and we made our way to the old ruins, walking amongst giant Buddhas. We returned at night for an open-air concert, in which the orchestra was playing Disney songs while the colored lights painted the temples and Buddhas purple, pink, green and blue. Mod’s niece would have loved it, as they played “Let it go,” from the movie “Frozen.” I know she would have loved it, because I recorded a bit of it and she just wanted that video on repeat when we visited. Mod still claims not to recognize the song.
Khao Yai is a national park where we were hoping to see elephants. We started off in the morning but there were no elephants to be found that day. It seemed like the day was going to be an easy ride, as we were driving from place to place in a truck. That came to an end though, as we started going on a hike over rocks in slippery places to see some lizards, a crocodile, monkeys and gibbons. It was totally worth it. I didn’t expect to hike with my hole-y trekking shoes again, but boy am I glad I didn’t throw them out!
Fun fact, gibbons run with their hands up because their arms are too long. “It looks like he’s saying, ‘Ahhhhhhh! Don’t hit me!’” said Philippe.
This was the third time we came to Bangkok.
The first time was after Malaysia when we were going to Chiang Mai for Loy Kratong. The second time was after Myanmar before going to Cambodia. That was the time we stayed in the city to explore, and also met some Belgian friends.
Bangkok is amazing. There are a lot of historical places, the Royal Palace is impressively shiny. You can find any type of food, and even the cheapest shop in the street are worth the stop. The party scene is massive, from street bars to roof tops.
Should we go to Phuket? That was a “big” discussion between Bo and me. We had some time before joining the diving boat, and going to the east islands would have taken too much time. So we decided to give it a short try, but avoiding the crazy-party-scene by staying in the old town.
We took a motorbike to visit the full island, and some beaches are very beautiful. Some others are destroyed by the tourism. We also jumped into a boat trip to visit Phang-Nga National Park and the James Bond island. Beautiful but crowded.
We hopped on the Similan Explorer to dive Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. For 3 days, we ate, dove and dreamed on this boat, standing on the deck to watch each sunrise and sunset. I was getting my advanced diving certification so that I could keep up with Mod. We found something great in all the dive sites, but Richelieu and Koh Tachai were especially good. Gangs of fusiliers, giant mantas and baby sharks were some of the highlights.
Here is a video made from a boat-friend:
Koh Lipe is one of the southest island, close to Malaysia. Even if it’s a more expensive destination, Thailand-speaking, the beaches are ones of the most idyllic we have found in the country. It was time to chill, enjoying the sun and the mojitos.
Then we ran over to Koh Lanta to dive in Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, hoping to see whale sharks. We didn’t find them, but we were so close to two manta rays playing around us, and the reefs were in such good condition, that we really enjoyed ourselves. A friend of ours on the dive had a GoPro, and so we get to share some of the cool things we saw. Let’s just say we were finding Nemo. As for the whale sharks, it’s always good to have some more dreams to look forward to.
We wanted to spend our last day on the beach relaxing before we headed back to the real world. We moved to a resort right on the beach this time, still in Koh Lanta, drinking coconuts, cocktails and watching fire dancing on the beach. I grew up at the ocean; it’s a favorite place for my family to visit. When I was younger we always went to Moss Beach in Half Moon Bay, and during low tide, my brother and I would poke around looking for sea urchins or sea anemones. I got to share some of that experience on the beach with Mod. We stood on a rock and within a minute, hundreds of little crabs popped up out of the sand, digging their homes out before the water came back to wash away their hard work. We saw small fish, some larger crabs and some kind of mudskipper. We went back for massages by the beach and drinks for the sunset. It was the perfect end to our trip.
Going back to reality is hard; despite some bumps on the road, this trip has been a dream. We’re heading to New York City now, to start a different kind of adventure, so wish us luck!
All pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/tYuebSNtZZkwQWXG6