A Travellerspoint blog

Islands, Bats, and Spiders

Panak Island, Talu Cave, Hong Island, Panyi Village, James Bond Island, Koh Lawa

sunny 90 °F

One more wonderful day down in Thailand! We had a few creatures intruding on our adventures, but the day was otherwise perfect. We started out with an early morning workout and breakfast (Tried a new fruit this morning called rambutan! And I switched up my egg white omelet for hardboiled eggs + grilled tomatoes/ mushrooms). We then got picked up by a shuttle to take us to our Island Hopping Tour. As we arrived at the pier, it looked more like a swamp, and we were a bit skeptical ...
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Once we got out of the pier, though, the views became amazing. We have 250 pictures from today, and they are all fabulous, but we'll spare you the details and just say we saw views like this for hours on end!
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One of our first stops was Talu Cave, where we got to see some amazing limestone and sand formations. It was pretty amazing, until we saw hundreds of bats (my least favorite creature on the planet)!
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We also stopped at James Bond Island (Khao Phing Khan), which was featured in James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974. We had never seen the movie, but the views were amazing!
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We explored Hong Island by canoe. Check out some of these amazing rock formations coming straight out of the water! The views were incredible. We had a canoe driver do most of the work, but I got to try it out for a while - it was much harder than kayaking!
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We went to Panyi Village next. This is a village that 2,000 people call home, and was started at the end of the 18th century by 2 nomadic Muslim Malay families - the entire village (homes, restaurants, stores, school) still stands on stilts in the water! They served us a family-style lunch and we got to know a few of the other couples on our tour.
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Our last stop of the tour was Koh Lawa, where we promptly face-planted under a tree ... touring in the 90 degree weather all day (with no AC breaks) is tiring! The island was gorgeous.
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Once we took the shuttle back to our hotel, we were incredibly excited for a shower. Our only complaint about the tour was that they crammed about 3 times as many people on the boat as the boat should reasonably have held, and being in very close proximity with a bunch of other hot, sweaty people was ... interesting! We flipped on the TV + live blog coverage + Twitter streams for the Olympic marathon, and stayed glued to it for the next two hours (heartbreaking for Ryan Hall, our favorite! But thrilling for Kiprotich, and of course, Meb).

Once it was over around 7:30, we were pretty hungry, and decided to order room service. We ordered chicken stir fry + french fries (very Thai), and chicken satay + mixed vegetables. We were about to take a picture when we saw this ginormous spider on our wall - much bigger than it looks! Now, if I dislike bats, Kevin dislikes spiders about 400 times more. After a series of shrieks (I mean, very manly screams), he convinced me to try to smack it with my shoe, which I did several times. I swear I got it, but ... we're not exactly sure where it is. After 3 hours of Google searches to make sure we'll make it until the morning, I think Kevin will be able to sleep ...
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Last full day in Thailand tomorrow!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 07:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

Surprise! We're moving to Thailand!

sunny 90 °F

OK, not really, but we never want to leave ... this is paradise! Today started with coffee on our patio, overlooking the ocean, and then we headed down to breakfast. We had lots more fruit, another egg white omelet for me, and coconut waffles for Kevin.
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The rest of the morning and afternoon pretty much consisted of this: main pool --> personal pool --> gym --> main pool --> personal pool. It was rough!
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In the late afternoon, we headed into town (Kamala) to get massages, a Thai specialty. We got a 60-minute massage for $9 each! It was amazing. Then we headed to this fun roadside bar for a drink, and they gave us Connect Four to play (someone won 5 out of 5 games, and their name does not start with K!).
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We next headed to dinner, where they had live singers - lots of classic American music. The food was great - we started with salad (me) and tomato soup (Kev), and then Kev got sweet and sour shrimp. My meal deserves a whole new sentence because it was just. that. good! It was curry rice with mixed seafood and raisins all stuffed in a pineapple! Not flavors that I might have put together myself, but it was great.
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Finally, we got snacks from 7-11 ... this is just Kevin's portion of the haul, and mine plus his together was $5!
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Last stop of the evening was to pick up our laundry that we dropped off yesterday. Everything came back great and they were super friendly. We can't believe they tied little orange strings on every single piece - even the individual socks! Kevin said "you'll never post this picture," so I have to do it now - this was us coming back in an open air taxi with our laundry.
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Tomorrow will be a bit of a change of pace, but we're super excited, so stay tuned!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 07:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

Ultimate Relaxation

semi-overcast 89 °F

We are pretty much in paradise ... our resort in Thailand has far exceeded our expectations and we are loving every second. There's not a ton to tell, since most of today involved being parked by a pool or ocean, but we do have some good pictures to share!

We started the day with coffee on our patio, and Kev got in an early morning swim.
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We headed to breakfast, which was a fantastic spread of fruit, juices, pastries, and yogurts, plus an a la carte menu (Kev got french toast, I got an egg white omelet).
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We then headed down to the beautiful infinity pool ... we thought we might not get a chair, until we saw...
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We spent a while reading and relaxing, with the pool to ourselves, and then hit the gym for a workout (also overlooking the water!).
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We wanted to head into "town" to get some laundry done (yes, it's "only" been 10 days, but when you have 50 pounds to pack summer touring clothes for Asia, winter touring clothes for Australia, beach clothes for Thailand, workout clothes, etc., you can imagine the situation was getting pretty dire!). Once we dropped off our laundry, we tried to take the hotel shuttle into a different part of town, but it dropped us off at the resort's private beach. No problem - we just relaxed there for a while, and it was gorgeous!
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We explored the cute town and continued the everlasting search for running shorts (nope). On our way back, we (OK, me) were getting pretty hungry, but it was already 4pm, so we just stopped for a little snack (tomato soup for Kev, garden salad for me). When we got back, we read some more on our patio and swam in our pool ... and the hotel dropped off an afternoon snack of fried seafood bundles and mushroom toast.
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We headed to catch the sunset over a drink (wine flight for me, pina colada for Kev) at the hotel's Thai restaurant, and then had dinner. We shared some kind of spring rolls (we're not actually sure what was inside them, but they were good!), and then Kev got a shrimp pad thai encrusted in an egg "shell," and I got a green vegetable and shrimp curry. Both were fantastic!
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As you can tell, it's been a very tough day, so we'll probably end up hitting the hay relatively soon. But before we do, I would not be me if I didn't comment on two really crazy NBA updates (hey, we're disconnected from reality, but not that disconnected! Does everyone know that Dirk got married (in Dallas? in Kenya? I'm seeing different stories) and Dwight Howard is now with the Lakers? Umm ... wow. OK, good night from Thailand!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 07:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

A dash of excitement in a sea of boring

Long day of travel from Beijing to Phuket

sunny 80 °F

Well, this post should meet my goal of (relative) brevity ... mainly because not a ton happened today! Our 4:30 wake up call, cab to the airport in Beijing, customs clearance, and 3.5 hour flight to Hong Kong were more or less a blur. We had breakfast on the flight (yogurt, muesli, and fruit for me; eggs, croissant, fruit for Kev, who discovered a new love for dragonfruit!), slept a bit, read a bit, and did a bit of work.

When we got to the HK airport, we had a very exciting email ... after hitting several snags with the townhome we have been trying to buy since putting in an offer on July 12th, we have FINALLY come to an agreement with the Seller ... we are one step closer to home ownership! This (combined with the 4 hour layover we would be sitting through!) obviously deserved a celebratory drink - my first drink during 9 days of vacation! Not that we are huge drinkers anyway, just thought it was interesting.
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On our second 3+-hour flight, we got some more food - another great plate of fruit, and then we thought it was a great idea to order beef stew (mainly because the sides were "polenta and roasted vegetables"). Kev said it was good (maybe the Hagen-Dazs ice cream swayed him!), but I just couldn't bring myself to eat it and had some snacks instead.
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When we arrived in Phuket, we had a car waiting for us to take us to our hotel, and got to drive through some small towns on the way. We saw tons of rubber trees (which apparently make up a big portion of the Thai economy), dozens of roadside fruit stands and small shops, and hundreds of motorbikes ALL over the roads! I was scared for them, but apparently they know what they're doing!

As we pulled up to the hotel, we were greeted with cold towels and lemongrass tea, and walked out to the reception patio, which had an absolutely stunning view - looking right over the ocean, which was gorgeous as we were arriving at the tail end of sunset (~8pm). The patio is also plated with 24k gold! We'll get you some better pictures tomorrow.
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Our "angel" (who is assigned to meet our needs while we're here!) took us to our room, which took our breaths away - it's a gorgeous room with lounge chairs on a patio overlooking the ocean, a private plunge pool, daily re-stocked fresh fruit ... what more could you ask for? We can't WAIT for it to get light tomorrow to be able to fully enjoy it!
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I parked myself on the lounge chair, listened to the ocean, watched the stars, and never want to leave here :). Although it seems a bit ridiculous to say, I think this "vacation from our vacation of sightseeing" will be exactly what we need over the next few days. We feel so lucky to be here!
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-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 06:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Finishing Beijing with a Bang

The Great Wall of China, The Summer Palace, and the Olympic Village

overcast 90 °F

The typhoons in Shanghai gave Beijing an 80% chance of rain for today, but given our luck in Tokyo (knock on wood!), we decided to go forward with our plans. We had a private tour of the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, and the Olympic Village lined up, and all three turned out great (and dry)!

Echo, our personal tour guide, showed up in our hotel lobby at 8am, and brought us to our driver, who drove the three of us 1.5 hours to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. Despite our tour guide offering (read: begging) the cable car, we decided to hike up to the Great Wall. The smile below is because he didn't actually realize how many stairs would be involved!
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After many, many stairs, we arrived at the Great Wall, and it was just as incredible as we had imagined. The Wall, which was started as early as the 7th century BC and finished around 600 years ago, stretches between 8,850 and 21,196 km (estimates vary because so much of it is in poor condition). It was used to protect Beijing against Mongolian invaders, who according to Echo wanted the silk, spices, and other treasures.
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We hiked around the Great Wall for a while, exploring the watchtowers, climbing more stairs, and pretty much standing in awe of our first of the 7 Wonders of the World! (OK, after I Googled "7 Wonders of the World," I now realize that there are dozens of lists of 7 Wonders, but we still consider this a biggie!)
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After descending and leaving the Wall, we headed to a tour-company-operated restaurant attached to a cloisonne (French ceramic shop). We got a tour of the very in-depth ceramic making process, and then got to explore the showroom, which contained a few items worth over $10K (US dollars)! This is my "I think this is cool, but I'm really hot, sweaty, and hungry, and I feel kind of awkward taking a picture with this guy" face :).
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The lunch they served us was amazing, but tons of food. They swear it is normal to have 3 dishes (chicken with peanuts, sweet and sour pork, vegetables) plus sides (rice, soup, tea, watermelon) for 2 people - but it was far more than we could handle!
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After lunch, we drove to the Summer Palace, which was used mainly by the Qing Dynasty as a place for the Emperor to get away during the summer months (1750-early 1900s). Like the other Chinese palaces, this was more like a village of smaller buildings, which each had different purposes (reading, relaxing, praying, receiving visitors). Kevin is standing in front of the Emperor's mother's quarters, and we learned that she actually had all the power, but the Emperor was the "puppet" or figurehead.
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We passed through the Long Corridor, which has more than 8,000 of these gorgeous paintings and overlooks the water - the Emperor had a huge private lake as well, which the temple on Longevity Hill (also pictured) overlooks!
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The first "boat" below is made entirely of marble, and is immobile but was constructed to show the strength and power of the Dynasty. We rode on the second boat across the lake, which was very relaxing!
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Finally, we drove to the Olympic Village, which we had requested be added to our visit. It was so fun to see the Bird's Nest, the swimming building, and the whole area which was constructed just for the Olympics - Echo said that it cost Beijing 18 billion yuan (~$2.8 billion US), which seemed high to us, but after a bit of non-scientific research, it looks like estimates go all the way up to $43 billion, when all is said and done - WOW! (Yes, we each got our obligatory Usain Bolt photo, and by the way, Echo mentioned that she "only" got to go to one event during the 2008 Olympics, which happened to be the men's 100m!!!! She had no idea who Usain Bolt was, though ... ). That is Echo in the photo below, although we were stopped for a few photos with random people as well, who may not have ever seen foreigners according to Echo!
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After an exhausting day, we came back to relax, work out, and head to dinner (the same place as last night because it was so good!) I again ordered the tofu and vegetable hot pot again, and Kev got shrimp and cashews. Delicious!
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Our 4:30am wake up call is going to come quickly, but relaxation in Thailand awaits ... !
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 06:18 Archived in China Comments (1)

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