Monthly Archives: July 2013

All Along the Andaman Coast

Time to slow down. After that good week of diving in Koh Tao we were ready to hang low and relax. We were fortunate enough to get the better night ferry back to the mainland on our way to Phuket, so we actually got a little sleep in our bunks. Unfortunately, the ferry was followed by a much too long bus ride for just a short distance, although it was amazing to cruise down the coast and see these amazing, huge limestone karsts jutting up all around. This just seemed to be a glimpse of what was to come.

Phuket is one of the places always mentioned when talking about Thailand. It is the party central of S.E. Asia. One beach in particular, Patong Beach, is just a bigger version of Khao San road in Bangkok. That isn’t our style so we headed just south of that to Karon Beach. We got super excited as we ended up with a room that had a balcony, fridge, and more importantly an electric hot water kettle. Time for a little grocery shopping! We had copious amounts of coffee and tea, and for two nights we made spaghetti. I can not tell you how exciting this was. One night we did get to have dinner with some friends from Colorado who now are teaching English in Phuket. It was nice to see some familiar faces and spend an evening chatting it up. Other than enjoying the room amenities we spent some time on the beach, but swimming was a bit difficult with the rough waters.

(Bryan getting smashed by a wave)

Quickly moving on, our next destination was to be straight to Railay Beach through Krabi, but we had to spend a few days in Krabi first. During the past month and a half leading up to Phuket, Megan’s grandma had been in the hospital not doing well. Before we left Koh Toa, it became obvious that she would not be going home. After several difficult days, she passed away peacefully.  We were in Phuket and headed for Railay, where we couldn’t expect reliable internet to communicate with the family, so we made a pit stop for a couple of days in Krabi. I can’t say how difficult it is especially when you are thousands of miles away. Megan’s family has been really great about making sure we stayed updated, especially her brother, Nick, who Skyped with us numerous hours. We want to express our appreciation for everything Megan’s family has done to help her grandparents and each other.

(Bryan, Megan, and Grandma Clara before we left on our trip)

Hitching a ride in a longtail boat, we ventured on to Railey Beach. Railay, although it is a penninsula, feels like an island because you are blocked from the rest of the mainland by karsts and you can only really get there by boat.

(Railay Beach from the karst viewpoint)

After really trying to bet against the weather we signed up for a day island hopping trip. This was quite the outing as we were on the boat with several Malaysians. They were super excited for snorkeling, but their idea of snorkeling was much different than ours. With a loaf of bread in one hand, they stayed close to the boat and lured some of the fish to them. We saw angel fish, crab, pipe fish, rainbow parrot fish, and I was fortunate to see a small reef shark. Quite exciting! We explored a few different islands where we got to do a small hike and see some left over debri from the 2004 tsunami. Our guide was most interesting as he went on and on about how U.S. movies/shows are the best, and his favorite is Mega Man. He also has a mohawk and tattooed wings on his back. Never a dull moment.

(One of the beaches we stopped at)

With the water starting to get a bit rough the following day, we decided to climb a trail up the karsts on the end of the beach. On top we expected there to be an amazing viewpoint and hidden lagoon. Heading up wasn’t too bad but it was quite steep and rope was strung around the trail to assist the climb up. We made it to the viewpoint easy enough, and it did provide for an amazing view. Sadly we couldn’t make it all the way to the lagoon as the trail down got increasingly dangerous. The trail ran throuh the water gully which currently was just thick, slippery mud. Some of the drop offs were ten plus feet down and we couldn’t chance slipping down them.

(Bryan standing by one of the drops down to the lagoon)

Megan always wanted to try deep water solo climbing, and this area is the mecca for such a thing, which was our true intention to visit anyways. We started to run into issues where a group would be going then cancel and then some other group would be set for the next day and cancel. Things weren’t looking good. It wasn’t until our last full day and a few hours before the last tour might head out that she got the green light. It was like a Saturnalias miracle! Not only did she get to climb, but she did a bit more snorkeling and got to see phosphorescent plankton lighting up at night like glitter. Pretty awesome experience she had!

(Megan deep water solo climbing)

Since then we are back in Krabi about to catch a minibus to Georgetown, Malaysia. Not completely sure whats in store for us, but we hope to be visiting a national park to possibly see the rainforest in full bloom.

Whale of a tale!

“To hell with luck, I will bring luck with me” -Ernest Hemingway,  The Old Man and the Sea

Four days in the “Backpackers’ Ghetto” of Bangkok, Khoa San Road, was plenty for us! We did a little more sight seeing, including the Grand Palace, Chinatown, and enjoying a beautifully lit pagoda next to the river at night. We also focused on eating healthier to recover from our diet of grease, caffeine, and sugar while in Myanmar (but it was oh so good)!

Fast forward through a minibus and ferry ride to the beautiful island of Koh Chang, near the border of Thailand and Cambodia. Of the many beaches to choose from, we chose to plant ourselves at Lonely Beach because, well, it was mostly void of resorts. We also expected to find rooms in the $10-15 range. To our surprise, Lonely Beach was so lonely this time of year that we found a private bungalow not far from the water for, wait for it… THREE DOLLARS per night. (No unwanted surprises in the middle of the night either!)

The beach was a short walk from where we were and we went there most mornings, but just at the end of our road was a large wooden deck where we could sit over the rocky coast listening to waves crash and dreamily watch the sunset everyday. We spent a lot of time here, which was actually a restaurant that was closed for the season. One day we stocked up on beer, wine coolers, and snacks and spent most of the day there writing in our journals, reading, and watching all the local dogs who seemed to enjoy the scenery just as much as we did. We didn’t leave until the sun had set. That was a good day!

The Lonely Beach area had a really laid back vibe. There was almost nobody around during the day. As Bryan said, you know it’s slow when the shop owners are all playing BINGO! But at night barefoot hippies came out of nowhere and live music would be playing at one or more restaurants. We spent a day on motorbike exploring the island, including a refreshing waterfall and some fantastic views looking down on beaches. The entire East side of the island is quite “lonely” and undeveloped.

We were really anticipating SCUBA diving at our next stop, the island of Koh Tao which is also in the Gulf of Thailand and Southwest of Koh Chang. And dive we did! Getting there was…fun. 27 hours of jumping from one mode of transportation to the next, back to Bangkok and then South. We should have just swam!

All the dive companies seemed to be pretty comparable in price, so we chose Big Blue because they gave us the cheapest hotel rate. I can’t describe how happy we were with this company! First of all, they were very environmentally conscious, which was a relief after what we experienced and saw in Vietnam while diving. Our dive masters all took the time before each dive to go over a picture book of species they expected we might see in each area, and after each dive went through the book again to review what we did see. Because of this I learned more than ever about the marine life. Some of the interesting species we saw were box fish, shrimp, large groupers, eels, stingrays, angel fish, needle fish, and barracudas. On two of our dives we explored artificially sunk, small Naval ships.

On our first dive we were incredibly lucky to see a Whale Shark! It was casually roaming through a big crowd of divers, curiously attracted to the bubbles. I had a good view of another diver swimming alongside it and estimated it at 9-11 feet in length. Not huge but not small. It was so beautiful. Whale sharks are not man-eating, so I found it humorous when it kept following one guy’s leg with it’s mouth open just inches from him! At one point it came within 6 feet of me, I’m so lucky!

(photo credit big blue diving)

We had planned our very first night dive for our third day in Koh Tao, but I was sick so Bryan went without me. That jerk had to come back all giddy and tell me how awesome it was! He said it felt really cool to be in total pitch black with only a small beam of light from a flashlight. It was easy to feel lost and confused, and he could see how many people would freak out. It was just his dive master and him so he was able to really enjoy every moment. The highlight was that he had his very first sea turtle sighting! He estimated 4 foot long or so.

The next day I was determined not to miss a full day diving trip we had signed up for to a far off location that none of the other diving companies go to. It was an incredibly interesting day!

There were just four of us in our little group, including our dive master, but several fellow groups were nearby. Right off the bat we saw a small sea turtle on our first dive. My first sea turtle sighting, check! That Bryan saw two in two days was pretty small odds. We followed it for awhile as it explored but eventually lost it. As we were totally engrossed in our immediate surroundings we turned a corner and BAM! Right in front of us was a boat wreck. Completely unexpected! As we’re exploring the debris scattered about (a fan, broken wood, computer parts, mattress, rice cookers) I couldn’t help but notice there was absolutely no algae growth and few fish swimming through it. It looked pretty recent. It was a big, wooden fishing boat and the mast was just barely under the top of the water. The hull was smashed near the front and the entire boat rocked back and forth as the waves crashed into the rock pinnacle nearby. It was scary seeing someone’s personal belongings scattered about knowing that person’s livelihood was probably ruined. I glanced through the cabin a little but hesitated when I thought of opening the windows to look in more. I was a little worried I might find a body, so I swam on. We pointed out the boat to our fellow divers. Once back on our boat everyone was shocked and laughing in total surprise that we just discovered a new wreck. It was a first for everyone, including all the professionals! We soon found out a couple of the guys had looked farther into the cabin, and they found what I had feared. Judging by the body and the wreck, it probably happened within a few days or so of us finding it. We can only speculate on what exactly happened.

We almost can’t believe it ourselves, but at the end of our second dive we saw our second Whale Shark! The chances of seeing one within the four days we dove are pretty small, the chances of seeing two are really slim! This one looked to be larger than the first, but it wasn’t interested in us and didn’t hang around to be sure. Just us four saw it that day, so the others were jealous and we got a lot of crap! Our last dive of the day wasn’t too exciting, but Bryan spotted another first for us – Bigfin Reef Squid – it looked like a UFO hovering over the sand. We followed it for awhile before it turned around and sped off like a bolt of lightning.


Unfortunately we don’t yet have a camera that we can dive with so we sadly don’t have photos of these incredible memories to add to the album, but we’re keeping an eye out for other divers’ photos from the same trips.