Christmas and New Year in Thailand

From Laos we returned to Thailand to meet Ella’s family in Bangkok on Boxing Day. There was a brief meltdown when Gatwick was closed for 48hours (thanks drones) but they were allowed to fly eventually!

We spent Christmas itself in a place called Hua Hin, about 3 hours drive from Bangkok this was the nearest beach we could get to. We would compare it with Marbella, built up and full of bright pink Europeans but had a huge beach we could enjoy and the novelty of our own kitchen, which we hadn’t had for months.

Once we met up with Ella’s family we spent two days in Bangkok, a few days jungle trekking in Khao Sok and then moved to the island of Koh Tao. We had a great time, chilling out by the pool, exploring the island on mopeds and finding the best Thai food to eat each night! We saw in 2019 (or year 2562 as it is in Thailand) on the beach.

Unfortunately, the rest of the family were speedily removed from the island on 3rd January when Tropical Storm Pabuk approached. Koh Tao went into lock down and there was absolutely nothing left on the 7/11 shelves! We were left to shelter in the hotel as all boats to and from the islands were cancelled for 3 days.

Thankfully, the cyclone which was predicted to flatten the island, ended up missing it completely, so all we saw was pretty heavy rain.

We spent the next 10 days on Koh Tao, getting our scuba diving licences and enjoying the better weather!

Isaac made this video of clips of both times we were in Thailand, enjoy!

love Ella & Isaac xxx

Northern Thailand

We arrived in Chiang Mai after a 10 hour night bus from Bangkok. We had read some horror stories about this journey but it was completely fine, we managed to sleep ok despite everyone being woken up at midnight for “FOOD” *cue dramatic miming of eating and us returning our eyemasks and ear plugs*. The worst thing was the cold because the air con was on full blast!

Chang Mai is a beautiful small city surrounded by mountains, the central ‘old city’ is 1.5km squared and as you walk down each road going east to west or north to south you can see the mountains not far away. It is the capital of the north but less than 150,000 residents. It felt busy whilst we were there as there was the annual Yi Peng festival, world renowned for its sky lanterns, at the same time as the Loi Krathong festival where people release floating lanterns onto the river (to symbolise letting go of the previous years’ worries and problems).

We kept coming and going from the city using it as our base as we took a scooter up to Chiang Dao, a bus to Pai, a trek out to Pha Deng national park. It worked out that we were in the city for two different Sunday’s so got to go to the Sunday market twice which we loved, full of stalls for trinkets and food.

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We spent a day at Elephant Rescue Park, recommended by Ella’s Aunt, Uncle and cousins who visited last summer. It was a truly, once-in-a-life-time, incredible experience.

Top tip: we would urge anyone visiting elephant “sanctuaries” in Thailand to do research on how they are treated, we were shocked at how many camps still offer riding and openly use chains and stick hooks, and even more surprised at the amount of tourists who still endorse this behaviour which we thought was “out of fashion” now… Many elephants are rented by parks in the high season and then returned to their logging, riding or circus jobs once the tourist have left. To our knowledge the Elephant Rescue Park owns all the elephants it cares for and treats them medically for injuries and illnesses they’ve received in their old jobs.

We spent one night in Chiang Dao, 70km north of Chiang-Mai. This tiny town has only a few restaurants and two beautiful temples, one a kilometre deep into the caves where a guide lead Isaac in by oil lamp (Ella opted out!) and the other is a working monastery in the mountain, we climbed up just after sunrise and the monks were eating breakfast, it was amazingly peaceful and the first “silence” we had heard since arriving in Thailand! On the way back on the scooter we took a detour to see the “sticky waterfalls” where, due to the limestone, it’s not slippery and you can grip and climb the face of the Waterfall.

A few days later we took a speedy minibus the “762 turns” up the mountain to Pai, and although we didn’t count the hair pin corners ourselves, once someone had been sick at the back of the bus it felt like double that! We booked into a hostel in Pai which doubled as a skate park, full of the nicest people and plenty of Bristolians and Londoners so it felt like a slice of home. The local kids come by to use the park as well! Pai has been given the unfair comparison to Koh San Road (a road in Bangkok renowned for partying and tourists) and although you can get an avocado on toast on the high street, the town is in a beautiful mountain setting with friendly people and a lot to explored in the surrounding countryside. We only had a few days to stay there but the views are stunning and Sunset at Pai Canyon is a must see.

We then went on a 3 day trek from Chiang Mai and stayed in two different Karen villages, the trek had amazing mountain views and lots of stops to swim in waterfalls. Pau, the trek leader, made us cups and chopsticks from bamboo in the jungle and in the evening we cooked up curries with our hosts and shared games and stories. One night was completely clear and we could see amazing stars, although the temperature felt close to freezing at night as we were quite high up we were wrapped up under mosquito nets in bamboo huts and were grateful to see a western toilet when we returned to Chiang Mai!

After the trek was finished we headed on a bus towards the border with Laos. We made a brief stop in Chiang Rai to see the White Temple and spent our last night in Thailand in a left-a-lot-to-be-desired Guest house in Chiang Kong before crossing Friendship bridge into Laos on 1st December (cutting it fine as our visa exemption ran out that day!)

Love Ella & Isaac

Airplane Graveyard

On our first visit to Bangkok we decided to venture out of the city centre to explore an Airplane Graveyard that Isaac had read up online about. It sits in the east of Bangkok so we got a Grab on the way there (south East Asia’s answer to Uber) and hopped on the river taxi on the way back – an interesting, bumpy, smelly experience in itself.

Top tip: there is an “all day tourist ticket” for the boat which is 200 baht, but to ride from one end of the canal to the other is maximum 19 baht so unless you plan on literally sitting on the boat all day from one end of Bangkok to the other we don’t see how the all day ticket makes any sense! 

Once you arrive at the site a massive 747 looms over you, there are large “no entry” signs but a young man quickly came to let us in (in exchange for 200 baht (~£5) each) he spoke decent English and is one of 3 families squatting on the plot, inside 3 plane shells, and making a good income from the tourism it appears! 

At first we were the only people there and it was amazing to climb inside the huge 747 and the smaller MD-82 planes. It felt like a scene from Lost as we clambered through the wrecks, in some places there were tyres stacked into make shift stairs but some we had to heave our selves up into.

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Another couple arrived at the lot and told us that one plane is the wreck of a 2007 crash, we read up about this after and it seems true that one of these planes crashed in Phuket and killed 82 people, including some British, due to extreme weather and the crew being overworked. 

It’s not too clear how these planes came to be there, some sources say they were bought by the land owner and stripped for parts to sell, which makes sense as a lot of the interior (seats, TV sets etc.) have been removed from the aircraft, although we did eerily find an oxygen mask remaining.  Below are some photos we took – hope you enjoy! Love Ella & Isaac xxx