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Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



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  #1081  
Old 25 Jun 2016
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Karst Towers in the background

These structures are a type of Karst formation - erosion of limestone causing sinkholes, caves and when taken to the extreme, leaves only towers of free-standing rock behind. These Karst towers are a signature feature of this area and are commonly found on postcards distinguishing Krabi beaches from any other beach or island in Thailand.


The two towers are separated because the Karst system dictates no intermingling or marriage between Karsts.


We are staying a couple of days in Krabi, so the next afternoon we pack up to go find a beach to sit on

We have to time our beach excursions for later in the day. The time between 10AM-3PM is the hottest time and the heat is unbearable, even in the shade. So we wait until the late afternoon to head out. We did some research and there are some amazing places around the Ao Nang Beach, about 15 kms away. From there, we can catch a ferry to some of the more remote and hidden beaches, inaccessible by road.


Our ride takes us past more Karst-inspired features
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Last edited by lightcycle; 25 Jun 2016 at 21:20.
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  #1082  
Old 25 Jun 2016
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Krabi is one of only three places in the world where the Karst towers extend into the sea
(not this particular one though). One of the other places is Croatia's Dalmatian coast



Water ferries at Ao Nang Beach

Ao Nang Beach is a hellish tourist trap.

The main strip is lined with bars, restaurants and tour offices. Traffic and the throngs of people walking up and down the boulevard make it difficult to feel relaxed. Even with two tiny dirtbikes, we had problems finding a place to park. Worse still, our Internet guide to Krabi beaches promised us water ferries charging 60 baht ($2) per person to Railay Beach, which is one of the more secluded spots around the corner, accessible only by water. I saw pictures of Railay Beach on the Internet, it's surrounded by more fascinating Karst structures.

Unfortunately for us, tourism has really taken off here and all the ferries to Railay are now priced at 200 baht per person. A steep hike from 60 baht. We were not going to pay $15 when we thought it was only going to cost us $4 total. Total rip-off.


Instead, we just stayed on Ao Nang beach itself

We sulkily laid down our towels with all the other cheap tourists who couldn't or wouldn't pay the exorbitant ferry fees. There were a lot of people around, so we had to walk a distance to find a spot where we weren't sitting on someone else's beach towel. This sucks.

I fear this is what's going to happen to Thailand when a lot more people discover how nice it is, that the prices are just going to go up exponentially and the crowds are going to kill any kind of local flavour. I say this as a very selfish farang, of course.


Just around that corner of rocks is Railay Beach. If only our CRFs had pontoons...
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  #1083  
Old 25 Jun 2016
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Crowded Ao Nang beach is a good place to people-watch. Check mate in 6 moves, my friend...


Watching the rip-off water ferries come and go


Sun slowly sets and I come to my senses and think: "Why so krabi? Look where we are! It's still very pretty here!"


Attitude readjusted. I love Thailand again.

The landscape has gotten much more interesting now that we're this far south. Our surroundings are vastly different from Northern Thailand: mountains and jungles replaced by beaches and ocean-view sunsets. Our time on the islands and the beaches have us contemplating where in Thailand we want to live. Everything seems so idyllic down here compared to Chiang Mai, but overall the prices are on average 1.5 times more expensive, and the accommodations are easily over twice that.

We're going to try a little experiment...
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  #1084  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/298.html



We really enjoyed hanging out with Anton and Mel for a over a week and a half on the islands. Despite the higher costs, it gave us a new angle on living in Thailand.

So we're going to try island living on for size for a short period. This time, we'll have our motorcycles with us, so no having to haggle with tuk tuks or renting scooters. The east coast islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangun have a reputation of being party places, but we've heard of a more laid-back place called Koh Lanta on the west side, just south of Krabi. That's where we're headed.


Just a couple of hours south of Krabi and we're at the docks waiting to cross the very narrow channel to Koh Lanta Noi

Technically, Koh Lanta is an island, but the ferry crossing is only 1 km across. This is actually a two-ferry crossing because the first ferry takes us to a "pre-island" called Koh Lanta Noi. "Noi" means small in Thai, but on the map Koh Lanta Noi looks about the same size as the "large" island.


We've taken plenty of ferries before, but this is the first one in SE Asia with our CRFs!
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  #1085  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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Leaving the mainland


Neda finds another farang to talk to on the ferry


15 short minutes later and we're on Koh Lanta (Noi)

There's not much on this "pre-island", we pass by some small villages and then 8 kms later, we're on the other end of the island.


From here, we catch an even smaller ferry.

This one is only 5 minutes long and the channel is so narrow that they're in the process of building a bridge to get across it to the main island, Koh Lanta Yai (Yai means large). Once across, we pass through the main town of Saladan. It's tiny! So unlike the metropolitan cities on Koh Samui. By camparison, Lanta's main "city" is more like a large village. The whole village is maybe less than a km long, and we ride through it almost as quick as we enter it.
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  #1086  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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Our hotel is right in the centre of the island - once again we're staying out in the middle of nowhere because it's cheaper. We're not near any major town and quite a bit inland from the beach. However, the island is only 3 kms at its widest point, so being far away from the beach in our case is really only about 600m.


After checking into our hotel, we head straight for the beach. These aren't our shoes...

The closet beach to us is Phra-AE Beach, or as the farangs call it, Long Beach. There's about a a dozen beaches and almost all of them are situated along the west coast of Koh Lanta, as if they were all strategically placed for the tourists to watch sunsets. Which is what we do.


We're not the only ones

Our stay in Koh Lanta is a bit of trial run to see if we are beach people. We really enjoyed our time on the eastern islands with our friends last week, so much so that we're reconsidering making our permanent home on the beaches in the south, vs the mountains in Northern Thailand.


After sunset, we ride into Saladan to check out the town

As noted before, despite being the biggest town in Koh Lanta, Saladan is a tiny place. There are the requisite restaurants (we found a nice Indian place to eat), some bars, one supermarket and tons of souvenir shops, but the biggest thing that stands out is that there are almost no western franchises here. It's almost unheard of to not see any McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Pizza, etc. The only familiar store is the ever-present 7-11, of course. After spending so long in Thailand, I've come to the conclusion that 7-11 is really a Thai-based company, not a US one.

I love that this place is so undiscovered and undeveloped, especially after our experience at Ao Nang. It's like a breath of fresh air. Still a lot more expensive than the north, but I hope no more farangs find out about Koh Lanta.
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  #1087  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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We do manage to find some cheap food on the streets. But it's not very good though. We'll stick to the restaurants


I wanted to try some roti. It reminds me that we're getting close to Malaysia. But this is not good either. I'll have to wait a bit longer for the real thing

I am starting to see more of the Muslim influence as we near the Malaysian border. On our way to the ferries, we passed by several mosques and we've seen a lot more women walking around in headscarves. It's interesting to note the gradual shift from the Lanna-style temples in the north. The onion-shaped domes of the mosques intermingle with the golden Buddha statues as we ride southwards.

We are taking a few days in Koh Lanta to relax and discover our beach personalities. The early afternoons are way too hot to be outside, so we hide in our hotel room with the air-conditioning cranked and wait till around 4PM to venture out and catch a couple of hours of beach-time before sunset.

Rather than show you pictures of all the beaches we visited each day (they're all quite nice), here's a little road trip we did, exploring Koh Lanta on two wheels:


Sun and the beach, warm ocean breeze and two wheels beneath you. Paradise!
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  #1088  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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Although I make it sound like quite a trek, the entire island is less than 30kms tip to tip and it takes less than 45 minutes to traverse the whole length. But because we like to stop and take pictures and walk around, we make an afternoon out of it.

Actually, it's really hot. Every time we stop, we need to find some shade. Better just to keep moving!


We head inland! But the inland road won't last more than 3-4 kms before we hit the east coast...


Some twisties. But mostly straight roads through the jungle of the interior


Lots of huts and shanties along the interior of Koh Lanta. I guess this is where the locals live as they leave the coasts to all the farangs and their restaurants and resorts
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  #1089  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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We hit the east coast and visit Lanta Old Town

Lanta Old Town is the largest town on the east coast. It's a very quaint place - lots of traditional Thai wood houses, the ones situated along the shoreline extend out into the sea and are built on stilts above the waters to give themselves more real estate. Plus the tourists love looking down on the waters when they're sipping their chai tea on the patios!


All the buildings on the water are on stilts, there's even a little shrine out here

We visited during low tide, but it must look very pretty during high tide with the waters lapping away just below the boardwalks that are built on these stilts!

Lanta Old Town used to be a trading post and port for the vessels going between Penang, Phuket and Singapore. The shops reflect this cultural diversity, lots of Chinese influences mixed in with the batik stores and the Thai fishermen on the pier.


Riding out to the pier to see Lanta Old Town from a different angle
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  #1090  
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Looking out onto Lanta Old Town


This is where all the ferries dock to take tourists to the smaller islands off the east coast


One of the ferries coming into the pier
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  #1091  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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Patios on stilts!


Did you notice the beach mat strapped down on Neda's back seat?

That great ball of fire in the sky has dipped low enough that it's time to hit the beach again! We ride back to the west coast in our search for the perfect sand.


We've not been this far south before, and we find an awesome secluded beach (best one yet). You have to hike down from the cliff a little bit to get there, so not many people do

I prefer the beaches on Koh Lanta more than the eastern islands. Much less crowds and no vendors along the shore. There's not a lot of nightlife on the island, which suits us just fine. If you come here, there's only one thing you can do: sit on the beach and relax.
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  #1092  
Old 27 Jun 2016
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I got tricked

"Sit on that rock over there."
"Why?"
"Just do it"
"Okay, now wha-AAAAAAH!"
"55555" *click*


Beach bums for a week


As the sun sets, we ruminate on whether the beach bum lifestyle suits us or not

We've spent six nights on Koh Lanta.

Every day, we've developed a little routine: Neda does some cross-stitching and reading outside on the patio in the early morning till it gets too hot. I sleep in, only waking up when she comes in out of the heat. Then we hide from the afternoon sun in our air-conditioned room only to venture out to catch the last couple hours of sun. From one of the many beaches on the coast, we take our seats on the warm sands to view yet another golden sunset. Then a nice dinner somewhere and repeat the next day.

Sounds ideal? Not really. It's kind of boring. We're not beach people at all.

Neda is suffering a lot from the heat and we've figured out that the real reason why we had so much fun on Koh Samui and Koh Phangun wasn't the surf, the sand and the ocean breezes. It was because we were hanging out with our friends. Without them, we're just hot and uncomfortable most of the time. And bored.

When I look back on our life in Chiang Mai, we really like all the options that a moderate-size city affords us: hiking club, yoga studio, camera club, volleyball club, a huge supermarket with lots of different food, twisty mountain roads to ride, but most of all a cool, temperate climate. Well, at least we know now.

But before we settle down, there's still more to see. Onwards, we go!
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  #1093  
Old 29 Jun 2016
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We're leaving Koh Lanta with a better sense of what we like about living in Thailand. Which is ironic, because we are on our way out of the country!


One of the two ferries that takes us off Koh Lanta and back to the mainland

More of that straight, boring ride as we prepare to leave Thailand.


At one of our frequent gas stops, we see a bunch of guys in the back of a truck. One of them seems to be a bit horny...
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  #1094  
Old 29 Jun 2016
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We have an overnight stay in Hat Yai, just north of the Malaysian border.
Our hotel reminds us of the Love Hotels in Latin America!


We're a little concerned about passing through Southern Thailand. Over the last decade, Hat Yai has been in the news due to a series of terrorist attacks. There's a separatist group which is fighting for independence from Thailand on behalf of the Muslim population near the Malaysian border. There have been several bombings, the last one as recently as 2014.

Despite this history, we ventured into town to try to find some dinner. It's like any other Thai town, we didn't perceive it to be any more or less dangerous.


A preview of Malaysia food in Thailand and Neda talks to the stall owner about our trip

As we were leaving Hat Yai early in the morning, we decided to stop at a food stall which was open for breakfast. We couldn't read Thai, so we just asked for whatever everyone else was having.

The lady who ran the place served us a bowl of hot congee, which is a rice porridge. Except she didn't call it congee, she called it jook - which is the Cantonese word for congee. Growing up in Malaysia, this is what we know it by. I had never heard of the word congee until I came to Canada. Apart from all the mosques we had seen in the area, this was the most personal reminder to me that we were headed to the place where I used to live. So excited!

It's a short ride to the Malaysian border from Hat Yai. As we were leaving Thailand, we got our passports stamped quickly and then we were looking for a place to export out our bikes. Couldn't find anywhere to do it. We talked to a guard standing around and he just waved us through the border, "Go! Go!"

All the Thai cars and motorcyclists were just passing through the border without stopping. Call me a stickler, but I didn't want us to leave without getting the motorcycles properly documented out of Thailand. I've read up on the exit procedure for Thai vehicles leaving Thailand, and you require an official export form issued and stamped by customs. Add to the fact that we aren't Thai - I wanted to avoid any problems coming back to Thailand.

We rode in and out of the No Man's Land looking for the customs building. After much pestering, one guard opened up a booth and processed our papers. Finally, we obtained official permission to leave the Kingdom with our motorcycles. Thai vehicles are only allowed one month out of the country. Any longer than that and we would have to pay a fine to get back in. I know of no other country that does things this way.

However, I was glad to have the permission form and official stamp on it. I've read a lot of accounts of travelers sneaking in and out of borders, not getting the proper documents and stamps. But to prevent future problems, we tend to do everything by the book, *especially* at borders.

Except maybe for that one time we rode around Russia without insurance...
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  #1095  
Old 29 Jun 2016
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Selamat datang ke Malaysia! Welcome to Malaysia!

Kedah is the north-western-most province in Malaysia neighbouring Thailand and we were now preparing to enter it. Now that we were officially out of Thailand, we have to get us and our bikes into Malaysia.


Motorcycles have their own lane for the border crossing. Cool!


They fingerprint you at the Malaysian border. Not cool.
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