Thailand 2017-Phang Nga

Phang Nga is a small town in midway between Krabi and Phuket. There are flights to Krabi from Bangkok, of course, but even from Helsinki. But there are no flights from Krabi to Chang Mai. So as we bought a ticket to fly from Phuket to Chang Mai – we decided to stay a couple days in that middle. Phang Nga is praised on the internet and is a place where excursions take tourists to see the James Bond island as they call it. Which means there a bay full of vertical rocks similar to the ones we already saw in Ao Nang. There is a shuttle that takes from Ao Nang to Krabi bus station, there are plenty of buses going to Phuket, but you have to make sure the bus won’t drop you on a highway by Phang Nga. but will drive to the middle of the town. Nobody advises you anything in Thai bus stations –  from what we saw there are usually several bus companies, each has several schedules and a ticket office. A lady there usually speaks some English. so you go, ask, figure out and decide. We saw a group of mini buses in one corner of the bus station, so we went. asked them and yes. they are taking people to the bus station of Phang Nga  – you have to buy your ticket from them in the bus. Usually those minibuses have lower fares than big buses, but there is much less space for luggage in them and for seats. On the way views were outstanding. Lots of places had those vertical rocks, those nature’s grand sculptures. Phang Nga was one of those places. Once we came out of our bus – our hotel “Sleep Phang Nga” was right there, right in front of a cute mosque:

It was a perfect hotel – clean and quiet, except for a short and pleasant Muslim prayer early some mornings. The very first afternoon we went for a walk to the Dragon Cave temple. While walking I noticed that the properties. little houses in little cute gardens were neat and tidy. It seemed a town of happy people. Poverty was not seen at all. So once we reached that Dragon cave temple-  our attention was caught by the dragon, of course, and it was a little scary to walk in its belly: Once you get of the dragon -you see a cave under rocks  -but it is dark. There are little temples there, but the attention flies towards strange sculptures, lots of them, all of them describing Hell, and scary, ugly Hell it is: They even warn by the entrance that the more sensitive should not go: So that first evening we walked around the temple gardens and parks and were left wondering – is there Heaven somewhere? There is, but we found it only on our next visit to this temple. It took us some courage to climb the stairs hanging in between rocks: The view from the top of the temple on the rock: There are three parallel streets in Phang Nga on one side of the river. The other side has some houses and little streets,too, but very soon there the street end up in the jungle, or a pond or a cave. Here is another cave known for its drawings: Walking there is rather pleasant, no problem finding a local restaurant. Some rent bikes and drive further, see more. There is even a park where lots of monkeys live and perform to observers. But my knee was not doing very well, and also the heat and humidity were unbearable, sweat was dripping from my cheeks, therefore we didn’t investigate all the trails we saw there…What we noticed that there were lots of Chinese and Thai temples, Muslim Mosques in the small long town stuck between mossy rocks: Here is how a Chinese cemetery looks like: Here is a strange tree that usually grows in temple yards and has those flowers hanging from its stem: Here is a …fruit tree that also grows in temple gardens. Their fruits have some kind of smell. I wouldn’t call it bad or anything. but some strange aroma once you open it or a package with cleaned pieces. Funny as it is some hotels have a policy and card in their rooms – no smoking and no …fruits in the room. They say that smell would linger in the room for three days, but I highly doubt. The fruit itself is very tasty, has some similarity with a pineapple. But it grows on trees:In Phang Nga we noticed different religions coexisting peacefully together. As I couldn’t ask about it local people – their English was not sufficient for such a “philosophical discussion”, so I checked the all knowing internet and found an interesting fact. Lots of Chinese came to live to Thailand after their revolution. And they built their churches, but they go to Thai churches, too. As well as Thai people go to Chinese religious celebrations. Chinese never stayed in their community, they mixed and mingles with Thai and also accepted their ways of life –  this is a secret recipe for the future of the world, which is now mixing and mingling, but very often not mixing well enough.

Thailand 2017-Hong Island trip

Once you get into any hotel – they have booklets and adds about different day trips that are offered by different companies. The prices differ from $20 to $40, usually. Here they offered trips on longtail boats – they were cheaper, but it would take longer to reach the islands that are seen all over from the beach. So we picked a more expensive trip on a fast motor boat, which had a Lithuanian flag on it:No, we didn’t know about the flag beforehand. And all our boat travelers were exclusively Chinese. Nothing bad, they are quiet company, but…definitely not a fun company, mostly do not speak English and are not used to chatting and getting acquainted.  So we saw some islands on the way and had three stops in different beaches on Hong Island and others. Obviously, the trip is very popular – see how many boats are docked, consequently – how many people are trashing the fragile and small islands… This is the entrance or more precisely  -the exit of the Blue Lagoon of Hong island: Here is our last beach, pleasant, but no corals, only very small stripped fish that were neither fancy not interesting at all. The beach itself was fine, too many people for my taste: This creature –  it was maybe more than a meter long-  a Varan, I guess it is called, was the biggest excitement of our trip. They are living freely there and reminding us of Jurassic park: Look how many people the boats unloaded at one time in the small beaches, I think it is crazy, but some even managed to lay down in between others walking feet: In totality – I was disappointed in that trip, they advertised snorkeling which consisted of giving us the masks…but not taking to coral reefs and not letting us see the beauty of the under water world…This was another life’s lesson – do not assume!  Stop assuming! For we took such a trip in Koh Chang years ago – they advertised snorkeling as well and fulfilled their promise by taking us to amazing coral reefs where I saw the most amazing fish and sea urchins, etc. in my life. I guess – there are no corals in Andaman sea left, all are already damaged by the crowds, by the civilization…

Thailand 2017 – Bao Ao Nang

Bao  means beach. This time we decided to see Andaman see and how do those famous rocks look like there! So we flew to Krabi, a small airport, but they even accept big flights even from Helsinki and other cities. Therefore crowds of Northerners flock to Thailand seas to catch the rays of sun. I met people with families, small kids from all over Scandinavia and Baltic countries. Understandable, their winters are too long and grey. There in Krabi they are very organized-  you get out of the building and little shuttle buses are waiting for you and taking you eagerly to the very doors of your hotel for a reasonable price. It was dark already and what I was pleasantly surprised-  Krabi town has a bicycle line on the road and that line has little cute lights coming like form the pavement for bikers to see the route well. That was my biggest impression of Krabi at night from the bus window. Via Booking.com we found a very good hotel in Ao Nang Beach  – Vipa Tropical Resort, so we were taken there and were plain amazed – walked through a romantic jungle pat in the dark towards our cottage, all sunken in exotic tropical plants:

Even in the darkness of the night we could see a vertical wall  close by – a bright light was directed towards it creating a natural decor full of mysteries. In the daylight it looked just unreal. The resort had a swimming pool which was quite useful to get acquainted with other guests and killing some time before the next trip: A very very pleasant stay, good for families with kids, just amazing. They are not so close the sea, but we walked a couple of times by ourselves and it was OK. But the resort has a shuttle bus and they take guests to the beach on top of every hour, and in the evening when we are tired I would call them and they would pick us from there back home. So – we came to the beach in town the first morning and obviously  -immersed into the warm waters of Andaman sea…Then we found a trail on GPS to another beach over a slight hill and while on our walk we figured out why the sea water didn’t seem very clean to us…Two sewage streams were joining the sea very close by. So it goes, as Bill Pilgrim said long ago. Never again we would dip into this beach. The walk to the other very secluded one was pretty, well maintained and had cleaner waters, but it involved some climbing and some views: The main attraction while staying there is to take a longtail boat to the Railey Beach – a peninsular with plenty of trails and several beaches, caves and rocks for climbers. They charge 200bt round trip and can pick you on one end of Ao Nang or the other and then can pick you back till 6 pm also from two beaches of the peninsula. The sail is amazing and Railay beach is a pleasure for the eyes to be at: The rocks are much more photogenic during sunsets: There are a couple of paths to cross the peninsula and nice walks on the other side – lots of peaceful restaurants and hotels, of course. The walks are by caves, of which there is a lot. Those caves can go deep into the rocks, but because of the amounts of rain there are stalactites hanging from the rocks all over in plain sight, hanging like icicles hang in winter from the Weeping rock in Zion: On the way to the cave area there are plenty of monkeys. Two sorts – this one on top has white spectacles –  a good monkey, not aggressive, ephemeral. The Makaka monkey are aggressive, they grab food from unsuspecting ladies walking by and eating or carrying some lunch, kind of scary: To swim under stalactites –  quite a thrill, what if one of then dis attaches? There were also some stalagmites, maybe they inspired to bring so many fallos to the two main caves and arrange them into little temples: We tried to see all sunsets  – why not, I am used to going to lead the sun since my childhood – while in our resorts by the Baltic sea it was a ritual. Here are some views of Ao Nang town, main street and its beach – in the evenings the tide used to go down or far away and leave the beach wet and wide: I loved those boy-girls, loved them. They are so feminine and pleasant and soft and kind…Hey, who of us looks less like a princess? :-). They have a show in town and each eve stand in groups in the street inviting people to their show. But Andrei became very shy and couldn’t take more pics… Here we happened to see a Thai wedding  at a precise moment when the bride was telling her groom a whole speech! A teary speech. The South of Thailand has a substantial Muslim population, therefore Mosques are noticeable:Who said that Thai people have no sense of humor?: One of the days we bought a trip to Hong Island, that will be described next.

Thailand 2017 -Bangkok

It was our third time in Thailand. Why you may ask, why to travel in a country we have already seen while there are so many unseen. And will never be seen by us. Because we are “following the dollar”  – tickets were cheap to Thai;and this year. And because I figured that out this time – Thailand is a country of my childhood summers. The same light, the same feeling of safety and excitement, the same feeling of being cared and loved. Strange as it is. Of course, nobody takes you around if you do not organize or order it, nobody cares how you are dressed and if you ate enough – but we lived long enough not to notice how we do that, it is a routine. So I visited my parents and flew to Thailand from Lithuania – Helsinki -Bangkok. A long flight, some 10 hours from H to B. But my Andrei’s trip was longer – he flew to LA -Tokyo-Bangkok, therefore spending in the air almost 21 h. But what can you do. My advice – buy a traveler’s credit card which lets you into Airline lounges, it makes the trip more entertaining and tasty. Some of them have unoccupied sofas where you can nap for a while. One of them  – this was in Phuket and they accepted even the local, meaning not only international travelers – they offered even a 15 min shoulder massage. But we started in Bangkok, Andrei met me, we left our bigger luggage in a safe room for 100 bt a piece and went to cover the places we haven’t seen last time – the Silom Park with King’s palaces. The whole Thailand is in grieving. The first view our eyes touched in the airport was this memorial for their late King:And after we got off the metro train and walked for maybe 3 km to the park – all the way we saw such memorials, bigger and smaller and also all the walls and fences were lined with black and white fabric – it got into our psyche, we were not very joyous…Here is a glimpse of Silom park and palaces. The white one is carves from Teek trees: No, we didn’t go inside, too tired after long trips, to jet lagged, too many people. And hot. We arrived at the end of January, you would think – the best time to visit Bangkok, but it was plenty hot. Sweaty. And we walked a lot the very first day, which played not a good impression on my knee and it started its protests the rest of the trip. Also – we didn’t have a lot of time. Our firs encounter with Thai food was the worst through the trip, to our horror they served us little paws of crabs in their famous papaya salad…So we were happy to leave Bangkok behind that same eve and fly to Krabi.

 

 

 

Rome in December 2015 – some more

Because Rome is so endlessly beautiful, here are some more things we saw while walking…We happened to go by a wax museum – so here is Leonardo painting his Gioconda in its window:And here are us girls with our selected heroes meeting by the museum doors: Strange as it is -parrots live in the street of Rome! Poor Faust: And more and more: The Spanish Stairs: Those columns are not real – they are painted:-)!

Vatican in December 2015

One of the days we dedicated to the Cathedral and the Vatican museum. What else could there be – it is too small and to restricted in other areas. And as I mentioned previously – there were no lines at ticket offices. We planned to eat our snacks while standing in a line-  so we had to do it before :-). Do not get anxious and buy Vatican Museum tickets beforehand on-line or iin other prominent basilicas where they even keep special booths and people working them – offering tickets for much higher price. Maybe in busy season that makes sense, not in December definitely. So here are the Vatican gardens ant the inside arts and halls and long super decorated corridors, so rich and immense and varied, that in a couple of hours we came out dizzy…The stairs that are modern: I never stopped admiring different mosaics of the floors and richly painted ceilings and cupolas:   Those strange things were in a Greek section – i have no clue what they are 🙂

Rome in December 2015: Via Apia Antica

As I wrote previously – we started towards via Apia from the place we stayed, walked and walked, and when we reached it – it was pretty narrow and traffic was brushing our sides…Until at some point they directed traffic to another street and we were on a comfy path parts of it from the ancient cobble stones: The St. Calistus Catacombs – they were closed when we reached them. but the top part was impressive and relaxing enough: There was a building on the way with such a variety of cacti in front of it – I was mesmerized! There were churches on the way and of course-  there were sculptures iin them/ Even the footprints of St. Peter or Jesus, oh, I forgot…Because at that place St. Peter met Jesus who told him to return to the city and continue the Christening:

Here is the best part of Via at last! But my company got tired and we had to turn back… One of the gates to Rome with a strange Pyramid, the structure one least expects to see in Rome of all places: That evening we ate in a nice cafe -night bar while they had a buffet-snacks with drinks. Close by what an interesting shop as if from a fairy tale -a man making solely Pinoccios: Again  -we finished the day in Transtevere, where to sit in the middle of its square and look into the flocks of birds doing different figures, listening to various musicians playing- what else can be better? The next day we went up to the hills behind Transtevere – it is also very worth going:

Rome in December 2015

It took me a long time to find time to prepare some pictures from our Rome trip a year ago. We went in December, but not during Christmas, way before it. For a week, with my friend Dainora. And it was perfect. The best thing – no crowds, not at all. There was not a single person by the ticket offices in Vatican museum – that tells all :-). And the weather is just right for wandering endlessly in the city and around it. We didn’t get any rain, just perfect Italian skies! Which I recognized as perfect only on this trip – they are really something! The clouds and how they are set in the sky were different for my eyes this time and they were just beautiful. And everything else was amazing – how can it not be – it is the capital of Italy. With such a history! We admired so many churches, so many old sculptures and some new ones, the views of the city from above its 7 hills, the parks and the rich citizens’ houses, and there are still more left to visit. We walked a lot, a lot, took a bus only once from Via Apia. So here it is, the beautiful Rome! Here is the place where we lived. It was exotic – in a yard of a huge museum of Oriental art! Guess what – we didn’t find time to visit the museum…We found this apartment through Air B&B, you can see it in that building after the bridge in the first floor. It seemed to have been part of the museum. but now restored to a rather comfortable apartment with a living room-kitchen, a very big bathroom and a bedroom, just right for 3 people:  The calm autumn light in Rome was just right for the still hanging leaves on the trees: The view from a not to miss basilica St. Peter in Vincoli and Peter’s vincoli: We are standing on ancient stones, going to the Forum! The bridges over Tiber river, the river itself, so amazing: The little market in the middle of downtown with “a showman” who had quite a performance convincing us to buy his vegetable shredder: But somehow I picked a part of Rome I liked best and I’d like to live there for a while – a dream :-). It is on the other side of Tiber – Transtevere: Those are camellias-  I imagine how it is when they bloom! Here again in the center – Pantheon with its mysterious hole in the top – no rain comes from it! The Trevi Fountain: To be continued!

Mexico 2016 – Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos

The last three nights we slept in Playa Del Carmen in a small hotel Playa Natural. I guess there were no more than 6 rooms-  smart people buy a small lot or a house ant build a tall narrow building there with bathrooms in every room – and here you go, we have a hotel! We found it through booking.com. It is in a perfect location! Very close to the beach, by the main street that leads to the beach  -if I remember is St.r $38. And 2 blocks form their pedestrian main drag – Avenida 5. But the room we got was not cozy at all, too dark,though everything there was pretty comfortable. But I saw there are bigger rooms that have a balcony or a little yard. But there is a lot of choice in Playa. We wanted a quiet place and it was quiet. The street where it was at had plenty of place to park the car. Playa is also a safe resort area. And kind of busy, though restaurants in the evenings were almost empty…The good thing – you can walk to the beach and walk in the city here and there-  is is a city. Not like a jungle with a line of small hotels – that was Tulum. But there were two disappointments -the beach is so narrow, that if you walk in the wet part of it you may walk through someones legs…They built resorts immediately on the sand and roped their areas, even built tiny swimming pools like 6 yards from the super warm sea! Crazy. The second and worst thing was that  the vibe of the city certainly didn’t agree with us. Lots of greediness in the air, and I guess – corruption. And it trickles down to visitors like us – the infrastructure is bad as everywhere in Quintana Roo, everything is more expensive than in other places- vendors told me the rents are very high, and the lots are super narrow and overpriced – which leads to lots of empty lots that are not so empty, but filled with trash to the brim. I guess, it is not my business, but we are not going there again. So here is Avenida 5: The narrow beach: There are modern buildings here and there, but I found our street leading to the sea the most beautiful, between the sea and Av. 5. Here is some creature looking down to a real very small cenote in front of some hotel: This strange building is in Av. 5: The only oasis I found there that I really enjoyed was an Asian store Caravan, where the things for sale were beautiful, the music was very pleasant Indian chanting  and the girls that work there are also charming. So nice was my experience there, that  I ended up visiting that store for 3 times and buying dresses that I do not need :-). So here I dressed one of those dresses – I guess it is fit fro the coming Rooster year – and the next day we went to visit Puerto Morelos-  a town where we stayed 5 years ago: Here is a modern church in Puerto  -and we happened to see it while there was a wedding: In conclusion  – all this side of Yucatan peninsular is good for catching lots of sun, warm sea and high temperatures. It is good for busy people-  lots of hotels with all included. What concerns cenotes-  you may not have a car- so you can take an excursion or a bus to them/ There are lots of amusement parks. Some are for visitors with high adrenaline levels – like Xplore. There is even a cenote park – where you can enjoy  5 cenotes in one day, but be prepared to pay not 60 or 100 pesos but $60 USA. But if you have no more time, so it is good to have a choice:Will we go again – yes, we will, but maybe in January or February, sometime. when we have time during those months. Should you go – definitely!

Mexico 2016-Tulum

Well well, this will be a long blog – we liked Tulum, it has a lot to offer. First of all – the road from Valladolid to Tulum ir really wide, looks like and airplane can land there. I mean – in comparison with other roads we took. On the way there are signs to different cenotes. We stopped by this one and it was not for us – it is for divers, it has a map of  caves which go far away to different sides of the main hole:So we found our hotel Mango – it was not easy to find, only with the help of GPS-  not that it is iin a complicated area – but because Tulum has only the main roads paved. The others are dirt roads with huge potholes filled with water, big stones here and there and cars parked wherever. The GPS led us to a road. that was not a road any more – but a path through jungle with trash all along it. When we said to the manager how we came, she was shocked and scared- she said there are snakes in the jungle :-). But I don’t think snakes can live in the middle of the city. But that people through trash on a lot that is not built  -that is for sure. Then we found a better way to drive to the hotel. Yes, the hotel is perfect, and the view from the reception desk is like this:But this is a trick – on both sides of that wooden fence that you see from the path is nonsense…the whole Tulum looks like that – a nice hotel built in a neighborhood of trash – very strange! Here is the other side of Mango hotel and its cozy yard:     The owners of the hotel are British and the manager – Check! I found it peculiar that Mexican nation very often doesn’t have their own managers…And they say there are no good jobs in Mexico…But the housemaids are local – which can be seen from those swans…it is their tradition, I guess. So we didn’t waste time and drove to a cenote we knew from last time here – Crystal. It looks like a lake, but it also has caves extending far and beyond.  Still – it is a pleasure to be in peace and quiet and swim there, and I love those palm trees that have leaves like palms 🙂 Then we ate in a very popular – very full restaurant of Mexican food and were not impressed…No taste, except for one – Habanero peppers, but who has tried them – knows what I mean: And we even managed to drive (the drive is around 3-3.5 km) and stay by the sea and see the moon rising from the clouds: So the next day we drove the the best beach by far in that area – Playa el Paradiso – and it really is a Paradise, you can’t wish for more: There are plenty of hotels on that stretch of land by the sea, mostly for those who just like to be by the sea all days long and not do traveling like us. But when you think – you will always be sandy, it is glued to your legs at all times except if you into an AC-ed room and your legs dry up. Remember – in this humid air you are always wet…There are also beds of different kinds on the beach for rent  -very strange and unusual to my eyes. I guess the owners are creative!: That day the waves were just right. They did a good massage. And so warm: And here is one of the fancy beach hotels, where room prices start from $400, they don’t even speak “pesos”. I liked the design, so I am sharing:The next day it was raining , so we rested at home and went for a swim, snorkel  and a walk on the beach in the evening. We didn’t plan on snorkeling this time, but a very pleasant English speaking Mexican came up to me and talked us into – for God’s sake, they were only charging $10, it was uncomfortable to refuse:

The Tulum Pyramid’s ruins are behind us – they pass by the ruins and make a stop for pictures. Strange as it is it was not hard for me to breathe through the tube, and I saw some bigger fish and three very big sea turtles. The second longest coral reef in the world is going parallel to this beach – where you see the waves far away  -it is shallow there and therefore a good place to snorkel and see some life. The reef itself maybe it is very long, but not as impressive as the reefs in Thailand. But the trip was very pleasant. The boat guys told a lot about the reef, the sea and the ruins in English and were very helpful. They provided with the gear. Then as i mentioned-  we walked the beach and waited for the big moon to rise – it never did…The horizon at this Caribbean sea is mostly cloudy…But it was a nice walk, with some picture perfect people we saw: And the last day we had to get up early, because tourist books suggest to visit Tulum archeological site before excursions arrive – so we were there at 8 am. This is the extension path of the road you have to drive to the beach, a narrow one. This part is already for pedestrians only. On the sides of it – is wet jungle or mangroves, not passable at all: At the end of that long path there is a ticket office and a tropical racoon who was saved by one of the guides and now he has no family of his own so every morning he is meeting that guide, expressing his gratitude and then he is amusing the visitors: And then you walk around the wall and enter the site for the other side – the whole ancient city was enclosed in a tall stone wall. Once you enter – you just dive in to some very good energy: And I do not care which pyramid was for what, of course some were for religious ceremonies, some for a king to live at, some for arts and events. Nobody really knows what those rituals were or what kind of religion could gather people together and inspire them to such an extent that those impressive and huge pyramids were built! I heard the guides saying- everything is just a guess…But who cares – as if somebody in 1.5 thousand years will be interested how we prayed and what we believed in… If not for the bus excursions which increased the crowds after 9 am at once – I could stay there and walk and walk around. The pyramids were colorful, not as grey as they are now. But the paint was natural, so it didn’t hold for several hundreds of years: Here this beach underneath is protected from visitors – sea turtles come to lay their eggs in holes they make in sand and then little hatch-lings make their first trip to the sea:  But there are stairs to the next beach where people can swim if they want or just walk and enjoy: I think this is our best picture of this trip! 🙂 I liked those black birds in the tree behind the building: Here the simple houses where regular Mayas lived stood – but they were not as sturdy as the prominent ones: Leaving the site and going again to our Paradiso beach to swim some more! This time we noticed that those coconut palms are super prolific, they bloom (ironically   -the blooms are super tiny) at the same time as ripening their big fruits, which can be a little dangerous if you look for a shade, which you do: And we left Tulum for Playa Del Carmen, such was the plan…We had no clue tat Playa is not for us, at least not for Andrei. On the way there were lots of Amusement parks, so we drove to see how does Xcaret look like at least form outside. for if you go there – you have to go for the full day. The tickets to those parks are around $100 p.p. And you can snorkel there take different rides, see stalactites in the caves, etc. Some are more challenging, some less, but they are mostly for people who like to be entertained, which is good. So here is the entrance to Xcaret – when I saw it, me, the tree lover – I lost interest in adding to their pockets: