Having gone home to tell our families the great news over Christmas and New Year, we flew to Thailand in early January to continue our world adventure. First stop on the journey was Phuket in Thailand where we had arranged to stay at a fitness camp for three weeks.
With accommodation, three meals a day, access to the gym and all classes, we stayed at Titan Fitness in Chalong, south of Phuket, which seemed to be the fitness area. The Street where many fitness gyms and camps lined the streets was also full of healthy food restaurants and shops – the perfect place to eat clean in an attempt to train better and become fitter.
After a weekend of heavy rain, our training began, with yoga first thing in the morning at 7am, followed by two more classes late morning and then in the evening. Weekly events also included beach training on Saturdays and The Buddha Run (or Buddha walk in my case) on Thursday mornings.
When we weren’t training we were busy exploring the surrounding area by moped – the best way to get around Chalong especially during the busiest time of the day. We explored the beaches along the western coast of Phuket and spent many hours enjoying the soft yellow sand, the clear warm sea, delicious food, and the spectacular views along the way.
Nearer camp we also managed to enjoy a luxury resort and swimming pool where some of the other titans were staying, watch a real Muai Thai fight with matches between those of similar ages and weights from as little as 9 years old!
During our three weeks of training we made some incredible friends and had some awesome evenings out together. Such a great bunch of people and it was sad to say goodbye to them!
From Phuket we flew to Bangkok where we met Michael and Lauren who were visiting us for two weeks. We were so excited to see them and have them out with us; it was lovely to have a bit of home with us!
Lauren was a gem and booked everything ahead for us, which made our life easy in following their plan. After an evening in Bangkok and walking around Khao San Road, a famous backpacker street in Bangkok. The street at night was filled with tourists from the West and East. We went in search of food and for a quick drink whilst we caught up on the last five months.
Between catching up we also managed to experience the night market shopping, a large selection of stalls different from the normal markets as they tended to be more backpackers friendly with a lot of casual clothing, jewellery and street food. After a quick walk around, we chose a bar at the roadside and ordered the local beer, Chang beer with a small plate of Phad-Thai (fried rice noodles) while we sat and watched the passers by as the night went darker and the street went brighter with more crowds visiting the busy street.
Allowing ourselves a little lie in, we grabbed breakfast from a street stall nearby our hotel, before moving through the now much quieter Khao San Road before checking out and heading towards Bangkok Airport. From Bangkok we flew to Siem Reap in Cambodia, a popular resort town and the gateway to Angkor. After a short flight but a long visa process at arrivals, we caught a taxi to our hotel and checked in before enjoying a drink and a dip in the hotel’s swimming pool.
That evening we headed towards Pub Street for dinner. Famous for being the hub of Siem Reap’s night life, there are many restaurants, pubs and cocktail bars in this area. Loud and vibrant with the din of the people as well as from the various band’s music streaming from many of the venues, the street is brilliantly lit with many lights, lanterns, and neon signs. Eating delicious food and getting foot massages was a good end to our first evening in Cambodia.
The next day we arranged with our hotel to tour around Angkor Wat with a tuk tuk driver. Collecting us in the morning, we rode to the ticket office where we needed to collect photo passes before being taken to the many different temples within Angkor.
The temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world, and the scale and presence of them were awesome and breathtaking in both grandness of the buildings as well as the intricate and fascinating detail of the sandstone carvings from which the temples are created.
Towards the end of the day, our driver took us to the main temple of Angkor Wat where we would watch the sunset. A renowned and iconic temple full of history and a source of fierce national pride, the temple of Angkor what didn’t fail to disappoint our expectations. Far from that, we were all stunned by its size and scale, surrounded by a moat with a serpent bridge symbolising man reaching the home of he Gods. We waited in the crowded yet peaceful temple gardens until the sun began to set, before walking back to our driver who would take us back to our hotel in Siem Reap.
The next day we went on a boat tour to see the fishing villages of Kompong Phluk. When we arrived by the small pier in the late morning, there were only a few other visitors’ cars or mini-vans already parked. We boarded the boats and set off.
Along the river we saw many stilt houses, a small town school, and small communities. As our boat navigated away from the stilt houses we then entered the floating village where we saw several dozens of wooden houses floating on the river. Some of the houses were three or four tiers high in relation to how high tide would get; our guide explained that villagers would move to a higher level of their homes as the water level began to rise.
We then had some food on a floating restaurant surrounded by the mangroves whilst we (and hundreds of other people who had arrived on many boats) waited for the sun to set. After the sun went down our boat took us back along the mangroves and through the fishing village to our mini van, where we would then be taken back to Siem Reap.
Deciding to see more of the Angkor temples, we rented mopeds from our hotel and Dave and Michael drove whilst Lauren and I sat on the back. Navigating our way to the ticket centre successfully, we found that the price entry price to the temples had doubled in price! Deciding to save ourselves $40 each, we decided to explore the roads and land around the complex of temples and have a picnic lunch as it was such a sunny day. Buying a variety o sandwiches, cakes, and a Chang for each of us, we loaded our bags and set off. Taking a mix of tarmac and then dirt roads, we saw another side of Cambodia. With less cars on the road, and more countryside and farm land, we were able to travel uninterrupted through small local communities. Everyone we passed was extremely friendly and the children we passed were so happy and cute as they waved and said hello to us.
For lunch, we found a clearing along the road that runs around the far end of the temple complex. Leaving our bikes on the side of the road, we found the perfect place under a shaded tree to have a picnic, using our wrap around skirts as blankets to sit on. With a beer each, we ate and toasted to a great day and experience seeing a different side of Cambodia, before riding back to our accommodation for a meal and an early night.
The next morning, we flew back to Phuket in Thailand. We were heading to an island called Koh Lanta, an island of Thailand’s Andamen coast. Two ferries and half a day later we arrived on the beautiful island. Catching a tuk tuk to our hotel, we relaxed before heading to Klong Dao beach which was lined with restaurants lit with colourful lanterns and live music. We ate dinner as the sun was setting, and enjoyed the colours of the sky over a couple of beers and cocktails.
A walk along the beach the next morning, we walked to Lauren and Michael’s hotel where we had arranged a short trip to see some elephants. After a short introduction Dave and myself sat on one elephants bare back, whilst Lauren and Michael sat on another. After a fifteen minute walk through some forest whilst they ate and squeaked to their hearts content, it was time to step gently off. The best bit came next as we payed for some bananas to feed Malik the elephant. She was so cute and at 30 years old she definitely had a good appetite. She used her trunk delicately to place the bananas in her mouth as we watched with joy at her slow but careful movements. The guide then led Malik to a small pool, where she slowly climbed in for her bath time. We were given brushes and small buckets to clean her; brushing her skin and then washing the mud off. It was so cool, and she stayed so still like she was really enjoying it. We spent over an hour brushing and washing her, interspersed with Malik using her trunk to spray us with water! It was truly a great experience being so close to an animal that large – something I will never forget!
The rest of the day was spent enjoying the sunshine, soft sand, and warm sea, whilst we relaxed and enjoyed our idyllic surroundings.
Keen to do some exploring outside of Klong Dao Beach, we rented scooters the following day. Setting off in the hot sun in our swimwear and flip flops and all important scooter helmets, we rode along the main coastal road taking in the bustling road side until we saw signs for some nearby caves. Khao Mai Khew Cave is one of Koh Lanta’s hidden gems. Paying for a guide and a bottle of water, we were led through the forest and rubber plantations towards the cave entrance.
The first five minutes of our walk were pleasant. A simple path and around us were lush green forest of trees. The fresh scent in the air felt great. Suddenly though, we had to start climbing. With only flip flops for footwear we began climbing with ropes to hang onto, tree branches to step on, and rocks to jump onto before reaching the small cave opening.
With our headlamps on, we stepped into the tiny opening of the cave. Over the next two hours, we had to climb ladders, into small openings, walk down steep slippery rocks, and go across half broken bamboo bridges. The absolute best part (and in my case worst part) of the cave was the very last bit which required us to literary crawl on the floor to get through, and with a fear of small spaces it took all my might to crawl through the small tunnel not really knowing when it would end. Thank god it was only a short crawl as I don’t think my nerves could take much more!
The cave itself had spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. Some parts of the cave have you going through small holes and into large church hall rooms. We saw some bats casually ‘hanging’ out, and some rather large and very scary spiders that also heightened the risk factor of this cave. An experience in itself but the spiders definitely freaked us out, especially as they had warning colours instead of your average black or brown spider!!!
After the cave, we continued to ride along the coast to Diamond Beach. It was beautiful spot with soft sand (although burning hot to walk on due to the extreme heat of the sun) and clear blue-green water that was warm enough to swim in (rather than cold sea water where you I tend to walk in inch by inch to acclimatise). It was a surprise to see such a gorgeous beach virtually empty; we took advantage of this and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, before heading back to our hotels for a quick change and then to Khlong Dao beach for dinner whilst the sun was setting.
The next morning we arranged for a longboat to take us out for snorkelling and a bit of fishing. We rode out to sea towards Maya Bay, where the famous ‘The Beach’ film was made, a stunning Bay sheltered by cliffs as high as one hundred metres, with soft sand and a coral reef bay with amazingly clear water. Beautiful as it is, the Bay however is not secluded. It was teeming with many other boats who were also visiting. We continued onto another small beach on the other side of the island which was less busy and where we did a spot of snorkelling in the lovely clear water.
Keen to fish, our captain took us to deeper waters where we tried our hand a ‘dippy fishing’ with just a line and a hook with some bait. Lauren was queen of dippy fishing and got us quite a few, Dave and Michael also did well, I on the other hand was useless and didn’t get any! Moving to a different spot, the water looked amazing so as the others were fishing I jumped off to cool off and swim.
A last stop on our boat was Monkey Bay, famous for homing a colony of wild monkeys, slighty mischievous on the beach with tourists in search of bananas.
Unfortunately we didn’t stay long as getting out of the boat, Dave jumped off onto some sharp rocks and cut his foot. Our boat captain sped along the water to A&E which was luckily not far away and Dave was seen to immediately. On closer inspection, the sharp rock had sliced off a big pad of skin just under his toes; with not much bed side manner, some injections, iodine, and a mass of swearing from Dave, the flap of skin was cut off, cleaned, and Dave’s foot was bandaged and padded up. We were to return the next day for a change of dressing and more painkillers.
With Michael and Lauren waiting in the next door restaurant, they had asked for the fish we had caught to be cooked, so we met them and an early dinner with the spoils of their fishing efforts. It was delicious!!!!
Walking (hopping in Dave’s case) back to our hotel, we rested for a few hours before changing and enjoying a few beers over cards at the Hippie Bar opposite our hotel. We were in for a treat as well as there was a fire show! We played cards and drank some more until the fire show started. With front seats we saw the bar men spin fire round on chains and sticks, high and fast and very skilled.
It wasn’t long before Michael was called up on stage to give it a go! With a double shot of rum offered, Michael downed it and had the courage to take the stick of fire from him. He was encouraged to through the stock high in the air and catch it, and on the second attempt he managed to throw it high and catch it again with only a few burnt arms hairs as casualties. High on the atmosphere (and merry from the alcohol) we whooped and cheered him on, and after another double shot of rum he returned to our table. Next it was Lauren’s turn to be called up on stage, with her double shot downed she was to stay on stage still whilst the men through fire around her! She was very brave and again we cheered and clapped on encouragement to her – she did amazingly well! We continued to watch more tricks and flame throwing until the end off the show before heading over to the other side of the island.
With the sun set, the beach was in full throng, with lights and music encouraging a throng of people in good spirits. Whilst Michael and Dave got the drinks in, Lauren and I saw a lady painting with UV colours and decided that we ‘had’ to have matching ones. They looked awesome and with the blue uv light shining on them we danced happily until the early hours of the morning with the boys and the hum of other people around us on the beach.
The following day after getting Dave’s foot redressed and loaded with supplies so he could change it daily, and with the boys getting a Thai haircut, we met Michael and Lauren on Long Beach for a restful and relaxing day. Long Beach located on the southernmost coast of the island, it has some of the softest sand on the island. We rented kayaks for a short time to paddle out to Shark Point and a nearby small bay and beach before heading back to Long Beach to settle. The chill out day was the perfect hangover cure as we relaxed, swam and ate sleepily through the day.
It wasn’t until a couple of days later that we tried our hands at big fishing where we would use fishing rods and bait to try and fish for barrracuda. With four or five hooks on the line, we lowered our fishing rods into the blue sea and waiting for a tug on the line. Within minutes we were all pulling up red snapper, a parrot fish by Lauren, and some other small fish. Unfortunately we didn’t catch any barracuda but they were definitely there as sometimes we would pull up our lines with only a fish head attached, the rest had been bitten off!
As the day was nearing to an end, we stopped off at Monkey Beach for Michael and Lauren to see the monkeys. Dave and I stayed in the boat watching the colours of the sky change against the bright clear blue/green of the water before heading back for dinner.
It was soon time to be leaving Michael and Lauren behind and it was a sad thought that after the amazing two weeks we had spent with them that we would be going our separate ways. A tearful and emotional goodbye at the ferry jetty, we loved spending our time in Thailand and Cambodia with Michael and Lauren; it was so chilled and full of amazing scenery, infectious laugh, and gorgeous weather with the best company!
Slightly down that we were losing such good company and friends, we moved into the island of Krabi with a little reluctance in effort to make a plan for the next week or so. With a couple of days planning and working, with a walk around the town and night markets during then evening, we were ready to move on.
Before leaving Krabi, we took a local boat to Railay Bay. Isolated from the mainland, we took a long boat to reach it. As we pulled up to the bay, the view was incredible, with the peninsula mountains and lush jungle having a striking impact of the skyline. It was beautifully surrounded by the blues and greens of the Andaman Sea.
Walking through we saw towering and twisted limestone cliffs and rock formations that sheltered the beautiful beaches.
We spent half a day at the island before heading back to Krabi as our flight to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia was the next morning.