A genuine thanks to Dee and Piyawee at Tell-Tale Travel for helping with logistics of this trip and to all at the House of Clay, Montree and his family and Nung and Jaeb for graciously opening their homes to us and sharing a side of Thailand we would not have seen otherwise.
Sunday/Monday 29/30 -Oct
Richard and I flew from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle on Alaska Airlines and caught EVA Air through Taipei to Bangkok. It was well worth the couple of hundred dollars extra to get the deluxe coach category on EVA. That bit of extra room on a 12+ hour flight makes a difference. Telltale Travel in London had assisted Richard and I with trip logistics and Dee in London and Piyawee in the Bangkok office did a great job assisting us with the lodging and transportation pieces that made the trip go smoothly. Great job gals!!
Our first surprise came when we realized we were flying on the daylight saving time change day! We, and 30 others, missed our connection in Taipei. Our arriving flight which was coming from NJ departed on the old time schedule and when it arrived in Seattle, the daylight Savings time change had taken effect and instantly made this flight behind schedule. Interesting. Since the plane was already 30+ min late we were doomed as far as making the Tapei connection. Alaskan cell phones do not work internationally so we were unable to call Tommy to notify him we would arrive about 2 hours late and then did not see Tommy at the arrival gate. We finally found Tommy and were on our way through traffic to Old Bangkok Inn. We ate that night at Sorn Daeng restaurant which was recommended to us. It was good and close to the Inn. We were exhausted so didn't venture too far.
Tuesday 31-Oct- Bangkok
After breakfast at Bangkok Inn we walked to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho with the Reclining Buddha. I didn't make it past the clothes police at the Grand Palace. I had a shawl over my sleeveless top but my blouse had to have sleeves on it not just a shawl covering my shoulders. They have shirts and pants there they can loan you if you didn't dress up to temple standards. Be sure to bring an extra ID to leave with them. Shoes and hats also come off when entering the temples. Pants and sleeved shirts made for a very hot day temple touring. We walked back by way of the river and saw lots of flooded shops and markets. There had been major flooding several weeks earlier, which was still receding. We should have tried a water taxi or boat ride.
Wednesday 1-Nov- Bangkok
After breakfast we were picked up by Spice Roads, cycling experts who took us and a mother and son from England out of Bangkok into the countryside and to a floating market east of Damnoen Saduak. The ride started with a boat ride from the floating market to a village downstream (Amphawa) where we met our bikes. We rode over some boardwalks and roads to meet another shuttle across a river to begin our ride for the day, visiting temples, winding through towns and having a great lunch snack and late afternoon meal. The tour was very nice but a long drive each way. 2.5 hours there and 1.5 returning. The traffic in Bangkok made the time difference.
Thursday 2-Nov- Ayutthaya
Tommy took us to Ayutthaya (UNESCO site) to meet Mr Pok. Mr. Pok spent the day exploring Ayutthaya with us, was a great tour guide and took us to a variety of different sites in the area. The flooding in this area was horrible and there was a wall holding back the water, the community had built to protect the temple site, that was about 10-15' higher than the ground level. Many houses along the bank still had several feet of water in them. We took a few hours break at the Old Palace Resort to freshen up and then met the overnight train to Chiang Mai (first class cabin)
Friday 3-Nov - Mae Rim
Mr Sam was at the train station to meet us and drove us to House of Clay in Mae Rim, 45 min drive north of Chiang Mai.We were greeted by our hosts Mae, Poor, Unn and Art. We later went for a bike ride with Unn to the market to pick up some items. We came back to a nice dinner served by the family. het – mushroom, arroy maht -good food. There were preparations for the Loy Kratthong festival next door behind the Mae Rim municipal bldg We met several monks who came over for tea at House of Clay. Nina and I walked over for a short visit to watch all the activities. Food, music, fireworks and festivities continued until about midnight.
Saturday 4-Nov- Mae Rim
730 pickup by Mr Sam to take us to the Chiang Dao caves. Enroute we stopped at The Elephant Training Center Chiang-Dao Chiangmai. We watched them get washed in the river then a display of them pulling, moving logs and picking up trash. We skipped the elephant ride. Bamboo float trips were also available. We continued on to the caves. There was an entrance fee for the cave and then a fee for a guided tour into the darker part of the cave. Our flashlights were handy and needed to supplement the coleman lantern. Some low passages meant muddy pants but we saw some interesting formations. We came out and then drove a short distance to Wat Tham Pha Plong set in a cave at the top of 500 steps. Very peaceful and the first clean, fresh air of the trip!
We then came back and stopped at the Maetaeng Snake Farm. Lots of pythons, cobras and other snakes. The snake handlers were putting on a show and were quite entertaining. One fellow was bitten during our act as he was handling 3 snakes. Ouch!
That night Unn showed Richard and I how to make Kratthongs and we went to the Chiang Mai Loy Kratthong celebration that night and put our kratthong in the river.
Sunday 5-Nov- Mae Rim
A local driver picked us up and we went to Doi Pui hill tribe community and then to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep where we took the tramway up and walked the 309 steps down. Lots of people!
Monday 6-Nov- Mae Rim
After breakfast we took a day off from organized activities and walked around Mae Rim and relaxed around House of Clay. Unn picked up a couple of "balloons" from Loy Kratthong and as a family we lit them and set them free to the sky!
Tuesday 7-Nov- Mae Rim
We went with Art to visit Mae Sa waterfalls which we hiked along the falls to the uppermost waterfall. Sam came after dinner to take us to Chiang Mai to explore the night market. Fun shopping! All the meals at House of Clay were incredible. They were vegetarian, which was a nice bonus for us!
Wednesday 8 Nov- Hmong village visit
Montree (a Christian pastor) picked us up to take us to his Hmong hilltribe village located 6 miles past Maesa Elephant Training Camp. We walked around the hilltribe village, visiting the local hemp museum and his church. We had just enough daylight to run down to the Wednesday market. We had a wonderful dinner with the family.
After breakfast Montree and his wife took us to Chiang Mai airport.
We flew Nok Airways back to Bangkok where Tommy picked us up and drove us several hours to the Eco Valley Lodge (formerly Khao Yai Farmhouse), near Khao Yai. We arrived just ahead of 20 Dutch tourists, so we ate and relaxed and used their wireless internet.
Friday 10-Nov- Khao Yai
Our guide Bansai picked us up to go to Khao Yai. As we passed the entrance station we started climbing in elevation and soon came across trees blocking one lane. Elephants had come thru and knocked some trees down to obtain water from the tree bark. Bansai was very knowledgeable about birds and was excited at every sighting. We made a few more stops at an overlook and finally at a salt lick. He spotted a tiger which immediately crouched down enough so that we did not see it. He had not spotted very many in his 15 years of guiding so it was special. We soon came to the HQ with food, displays, guides. We looked around and I took pix of displays and animals. We grabbed a coffee and then put on our long pants and gaiters to keep leeches off. We drove to the trailhead and stopped to look at Gibbon monkeys along with the Dutch group. We then started our hike and roughly followed the trail to the observation tower. We saw a number of leeches which looked like small black inch worms which were found on the wettest parts of the trail. They would move fast and attached quickly. Bansai said they often dry up as they climb up your leg. We spotted lots of leeches at some sites. ugh. We stopped at one large banyan tree for pix. 20 minutes farther, just past a salt lick we arrived at the lookout, full of people. The road was 5 minutes away. We then drove to another overlook and drove a section of road on one last elephant survey back enroute towards the entrance. No elephants but our driver spotted a deer and a huge black scorpion. We drove back in the dark and had a good dinner.
We would have liked another day there.
Saturday 11-Nov- Phimai
After breakfast our next home-stay hosts, Nung and Jaeb, picked us up and we drove to an overlook point at a reservoir and then on to lunch at her sister's restaurant. We next stopped to see pottery made at Korat. We continued on to Phimai to see the festival. We toured the Khmer ruins with 3 high school guides who were practicing English. We toured through all the ruins while the actors played out the history of the village and the Cambodia kings who passed thru. Very elaborate costumes. Many women were putting on makeup and getting ready for the evening show. The Phimai light show was fantastic! We then drove 2 hrs to Jeab/Nungs home in Ban Suanhom after the festival. This is their weekend home to get away from work and traffic in Bangkok. It's lovely.
Richard went to the market with Nung and helped carry all the bags of fresh veggies she bought for breakfast. At 10 AM we explored the nearby waterfalls and surrounding forests. We then drove back to Bangkok, stopping at a basketmaking (lanni) village and Chinese candy store and stayed at our luxury accommodation of the trip- Royal Princess Srinakarin
We took a taxi to the Bangkok Airport and hopped on a Nok Air flight to Trang. We had an arranged driver take us to meet a longtail boat which took us to Libong Island. Fantasy Island it was not but we both got our wishes fulfilled to ride bikes around the Island and see a Dugong. We borrowed 2 bikes which were in BAD shape and never even made it 200 yards before we brought them back. We walked the beach to the village and had a cold drink at a store. We also took a trail north from the lodge which went up a hill to a rubber plantation. Power was only on from 0800-1300 and 1700-2400 on the island. No internet today.
Power came on at 0817 hr. We rented double kayak for 700 baht/day. I had some problems steering and I was 1/2 effective in back. We paddled all the way to the far beach past the beach with other lodges. We walked the beach some and marked a road where scooters came up to access the beach for fishing. May be able to bike there. We then kayaked back to the closer beach and got out. Visited the first lodge, Le Dugong Libong Resort and Dive Center. Looked at a room for 800 baht.500 baht for a non-private bath.Similar to ours but batik sides, not concrete like ours. Bartender spoke some Engligh, bettter than ours. Friendly. They had drinks but ordered food from the village. We then walked to the next resort Libong Resort and Dive Center, with Jolly Roger Dive Center. Both places had similar rooms as ours. The last resort was 200 baht higher and had A/C rooms, food restaurant, bigger deck. Some A/C rooms had no view and were behind other rooms. We then paddled over to the nearby island and walked a bit and paddled to the village. It was about to rain again so we hung near the store a few minutes then paddled back to our place. Kahlil arrived today to fix the internet and service the bikes. He really made the experience more pleasant especially since he was a real computer guru, man of all trades and spoke English. We ate same sweet/sour and a spicy green bean-like dish. Hundreds of DVDs to choose from!
Wednesday 15- Nov- Libong
We took a dugong tour at 0800 hour with the same boat driver who brought us from the mainland. We loaded our kayak onto the boat with snorkel, lunch, and English instructions of where we were going. It was needed a few times. We boated around the NE part of island to an area between Libong and mainland. Spotted small groups of porpoises and the driver spotted a solo dugong. We cut the motor a number of times to listen. We had one spotting but I could not tell any features. They look identical to the manatees we saw in Florida. We then drove over to where the park person was circling in an ultralite to look. We anchored there in a 1-2 mph current to try snorkling. I did not see much. Then we boated over to the park office HQ for lunch. Signs all in Thai but good pix of dugong. It was pretty deserted. We then boated to a nearby island and beached the boat. We walked around it and saw 1000s of small crabs. Our boat driver tried to continue clockwise around the island but it was too shallow so we had to return home the way we came. Came back to nice sunset.
Wednesday 15- Nov- Libong
Fishing boats went out at 0500 Had pancake for breakfast. Very good. Our room is pretty dark in morning. We got the rental bikes ready and rode up to power station. They have solar panels and looked like 3 generators with a spare mobile unit. There was a concrete road which soon passed a school with lots of kids out playing. Each grade had a uniform - girls dressed like girl scouts, older boys like boy scouts, children in white shirts. All had neckerchiefs. Took right at T and followed road into Batubute village. Narrow streets followed coastline with homes on silts along the water. We got some pix of boats, but tide was out. We rejoined the main road going north along power lines with houses changing to rubber plantations with newly formed rubber mats hanging to dry. We passed a road sign for Tohke Bay going left and went right into Maphrao Village. It is an entire village on stilts with a concrete walkway down the middle with barely enough room for 2 motorcycles to pass. We walked the bikes along and stopped to watch a family form and press the rubber mats. We walked to the end of the walkway where there were many boats. We were asked about whether we wanted a ride and saw the LNR signs which said to tell driver "Nature Resort" We got a coke and then continued on the road heading SW. It was mostly flat and had a short spur on the right to a beach at Tohke Bay. Several homes there with 2 solar panels, no drinks or power. The blue Tsunami signs were always a giveaway that you were approaching the coast. We continued on and saw a blue sign at the top of the hill. We descended past a small clump of houses and kept following Tsunami signs forever. There was one steep hill to climb and we walked bikes up. We continued on to a village with fresh rubber mats drying. Took a sharp right and was at our beach site where we had kayaked to earlier (Thung Takha Beach). We went swimming to cool off and fixed the rear bike rack on my bike with rope. Next time I need a crescent wrench and screwdrivers for any more bike rentals. We returned to Batubute Village just as some very dark clouds came over. Lightning strikes and a major downpour for 20 min. allowed us to seek refuge at a food stand across from the school. Nina’s rear tire was getting flat and there was an air hose 100 ft away- lucky us! Just past the power plant road we took a left to a pilot project where boats were to be repaired. The trail was muddy and went to the water where there were 2 empty bldgs. No one around and could not find a connection back to Batubute village. It was getting late so we did not try to find a coastal road back to the lodge. I stopped to clean off the bikes and Nina found more kids to photograph. Good dinner .
Thursday 17-Nov- Haadyao
Boat shuttle to Haadyao Pier and Haadyao Nature Resort near Trang. This is owned by the same two professors that own the Libong Nature Resort. We were greeted by Anita and Nui who brought us to rustic accommodations but nice compared to the local lodging. We shared our tour with a WA couple and their 2 boys. We piled into 2 large canoes, 3 persons plus guide. Both boats were towed by a longtail boat along a mangrove shoreline to the first massive limestone outcrop. Not many birds enroute to see. We stopped and untied the canoes and paddled 100 yards into the mangroves to a cave with many nice stalagmites. We went up many ladders and scrambled down rock. Long legs were a definite advantage and chocolate brown pants. Saw large bats and it was definitely a worthwhile trip. We paddled back then were towed further to a similar point where we paddled through a cave with low ledges and no headroom. You definitely must be on low tide for this portion of trip. There were also bats and a few formations to see but we were mostly watching for head crunching rocks and shallow water. We went thru one cave section, re-entered then left thru another passage to a different pickup point. I was told to get out of the canoe and into the longtail boat so I got good pix of the canoes being towed. We went back to resort and ate a nice lunch of noodles/veggies. We then walked along beach to the point south to ChaoMai to hang out for 2 hours. We could not walk around the point so we followed road around the rock outcrop to the main Hwy and then a 5 min walk to the 3 mile long deserted beach. It was a picnic area w/benches to sit on, toilets, and 3 places to buy drinks. We walked halfway down the beach in 1/2 hour and saw MANY types of shells. Nina picked up some to bring back. Very nice! I would be spending lots of time on this beach if we had more days at Haadyao.
Shuttle to Trang airport and Nok Air to Bangkok. Stayed at Royal Princess Srinakarin. Top hotel and breakfast buffet! Just next to a major mall.
Flew EVA air to Seattle. Arrive same day, with time warp.
3.5 hour flight to Taipei
12.5+ flight Taipei to Seattle (depending on winds)
(13.5 going to Thailand and 12 returning)
3 hours to Anchorage
1 hour to Fairbanks
That's it n a nutshell! The trip was more moving from place to place than we usually do but we were able to get a nice feel for different regions. We know better what we want to focus on if we go again. The weather was very hot and humid, even in November, which is a cooler time there. The food was great and people were warm and welcoming. We chose to go to smaller areas where English was not commonly spoken. Most of our guides and drivers, but not all, spoke some English. At least someone at each of our lodgings spoke some English. Thai is a very difficult language but we were able to pick up some basic terms that were helpful.
Feel free to contact us if you want more information.