Yay! A Few Days with Kris and Robert

By: leelefever on May 31, 2006 - 9:53pm

We're super-excited to be hooking up with a couple of good friends from Canada tomorrow. Kris Krug and Robert Scales have been in China for a few days on business and have come to Thailand to unplug for a while.  As luck would have it, we have no plans, so we're heading back to the beach (Ko Lanta even) with them.  Life sucks these days.

Along with being good friends, they happen to both work for or run companies that make this web site possible.  Robert runs Rain City Studios, who did the design of this site and Kris works for Bryght, who hosts the technology (Drupal) that runs the site.  Both companies are TwinF sponsors and have been beyond-the-call-of-duty people to work with. Here we are expressing our love on the night before we left on the trip.

I must profess too that hanging out with these guys is going to be, um, interesting.  Case in point... Kris is trying to start a movement where travelers take pictures of themselves naked on top of the wonders of the world.  Here he is on the Great Wall of China (PG-13). Yikes.  Don't plan on seeing me participating, dear reader.  Really though, it's going to be a blast to hang out with these guys.

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Lanta Marine Park View Resort, Ko Lanta, Thailand

By: sachilefever on April 30, 2006 - 10:27pm

Lee was looking forward to being on a hillside with a view of the water. We scoured the guidebook and tried to decide on a resort from the hotel websites…the best advice was from our TwinF readers. Ko Lanta. From there, we found the only hotel that seem to fit the bill - Aircon with a great balcony view of the bay and in our price range.  Ours was second from the left- A-6 at Lanta Marine Park View Resort.


Our bungalow is very comfortable with wooden floors, a fridge and satellite TV – though the only English station we have is BBC World.  The bathroom is enclosed (some here are open air) which I prefer to keep out any bugs. Speaking of which, we have some furry friends that scurry around outside from time to time.  I love the view which looks East so we don’t have the afternoon sun in our windows. We do look straight out at the Pimalai resort though which reminds us everyday of its 5-star-ness with US$500 – 2000 per night rates. When the power goes out, as it does everyday, Pimalai always comes back on within a few minutes with their generators. We wait with the rest of the island for the power to return. On those nights, I remember they get a full dose of the hot afternoon sun each day <evil grin>.

Our resort has bungalows sprawling up the hillside and reserves some of the bay frontage for their restaurant and bar called Bay View. It really should be called Bay Terrace View. They’ve built cozy sitting areas for 3-4 people each on terraced level so it feels like you have the view all to yourself. Half the restaurant has tables and chairs while the other half entices us loungers with cushions on the floor on a perch overlooking the restaurant and the bay. We find that the staff love to sit/sleep/drink/play guitar here too- this is Nong, who runs the "shroom bar".

The food here is wonderful, except for the pizzas. Lee loves the cheeseburgers, I love the Thai food, but the crust somehow wasn’t right on the pizza pie. 

In the area are a few outings advertised everywhere like elephant treks, a hike to the waterfall, and an elephant trek to the waterfall. It’s been dry though, and the mountains are not very high so right now there is no water at the waterfall. There’s also an old fishing town, a set of caves to explore and many little islands for diving and snorkeling trips. If you go, you CANNOT miss the sunset from the resort up the hill called Top View- best on the island.

One staff member said this morning with a big smile, “Last night – late. I sleep today. Sleeping, working, relaxing…all the same.” I think it sums up the gravity-stricken staff here, as Lee mentioned. Everyone seems to take things so lightly and easily- it is a wonderfully relaxing vibe.  Sometimes in the afternoon heat, they wake up as we walk by and greet us, “Good morning Lee and Sachi! Everything good? Enjoy nice day!”

We’re paying 1150 baht US$30 per night and the restaurants around are all about 150 to 300 baht US$4-7 for a dinner for two. To us, it seems like a steal.

Oh, and here is one last photo for our friend Up, with his standard issue black rock and roll shirt...


On Location, Ko Lanta, Thailand

By: leelefever on April 27, 2006 - 1:42am

Laid back- I don't think there is any better way to describe the environment of Ko Lanta. It is one of the lesser visited Thai destinations compared to Ko Samet/Samui, Phuket, etc. and the pace of life is a bit like slow motion. It's like you get off the boat here and things get heavier.  You move more slowly, as do the people around you.  Sleep sounds good- anytime.  Hours pass. It seems like it takes a long time to do everything, but it doesn't matter. It's Ko Lanta time and it feels really nice.

Here's how we've been taking our time:

We hung out on Ba Katiang Beach, which is the the home of a few small resorts/restaurants/bars and a big 5-star one called Pimalai (more on that soon). This is the bay from our bungalow.

 Down at the end is a place that was wiped out by the tsunami, but has been rebuilt and is the best place on the beach for dinner.  It's called "Same Same, But Different".

 Closer ot our resort is the "Why Not?" bar.  Yes, the Thai are creative with names. This is a place run by "Chaba" (on the right). He calls Sachi "Pepsi", because it helps him remember. We left the crowded bar one night and he came out calling my name and said "Lee, Lee, I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to talk to you tonight, we've been very busy." He then gave us a lantern to help us home, as the power had gone out. Good guy that Chaba- and a lover of Bob Marley too.

On the beach, there is a flexible pier that reaches out to deeper water, where people can board large boats.  This pier eventually broke in the crashing surf, but not before we had some fun on it.

 While we were, it became low season, as evidenced by crashing surf that suddenly took away the beach.

 The beach was also the site of nightly fire twirling, or whatever it's called.  Most sessions are done to the music of Metallica or Linkin Park.


 We made some new friends, in fact more than any single week of the trip.  This is Luke (Aussie) and Christine (French Canadian).  We spent a couple of long night with these folks. This is from a hilltop bar than no one knows about.

 We also met an great Aussie couple who got married on the beach and staying in the 5-star Pimalai resort. Clayton and Lisa- congrats!

 This picture above is from the pool at Pimalai, which is one of the best ever.  They were kind enough to invite us up for a swim.  Ahhhh.

 Time really does have a different feel here.  Lately, it's been feeling like there isn't enough of it- enough of it here.




Our Thailand Rite of Passage

By: leelefever on April 27, 2006 - 1:38am

We had just stopped the moped at a food cart to get some phad thai before heading home when we sat by a friendly Frenchman for a bit.  He was on the tail end of a six month journey and had been in Thailand for a few weeks.  In fact he had been to Phuket and a beach in Krabi, much like us.  He said something simple that really struck me.  He said, with a slight French accent, “You know, I have been to some of zee other places in Thailand, but sometimes zey feel like Southern Europe. In zhose places, I don’t feel like I’m in Thailand at all. Ahh but Ko Lanta, Ko Lanta feels like Thailand

Looking back on our experience in Southern Thailand, I know what he means.  We’ve had a wonderful time and each place we go teaches us about what we’re really looking for in Thailand.  Like the Frenchman, we feel like we’ve reached a pinnacle in Ko Lanta and all the places before it were a sort of rite of passage for us. In fact, I honestly do not believe that we could appreciate Ko Lanta as we do without having gone to Phuket and Krabi first.

Don’t get me wrong, Phuket and Krabi are both absolutely beautiful places and there are gems to be found everywhere, like Baan Krating. However, what we’ve found is that we’d prefer a place that is not so developed with resorts and shopping malls. Railay Beach West was a good example.  It was a stretch of beach that had one resort on top of another.  It was almost impossible to get a feel for Railey Beach outside of how the resorts think you want to be treated.  As it turns out, we don’t need the high-end resort treatment.  It was busy, with kids running around, competition for beach chairs and higher-than-needed room rates.  We thought it was great at the time, and it was superb, but we now have the advantage of hindsight and can feel confident that we will not go back. As the Frenchman said, “I don’t feel like I’m in Thailand at all.” (Note: Railay does have an east side that is more laid back and popular among rock-climbers, but lacks a beach)

And so our rite of passage continues. Ko Lanta is not efficient, but efficiency isn’t the goal, it’s not spotless, but clean where it matters (like the water), the service isn’t great, but always comes with a smile, some of the roads are unpaved, but they go no where. You might feel like a stranger in a strange but endearing land in Ko Lanta, but it is, if nothing else, Thailand- and we’ll be back for more.

The Motorbike Gods Are Watching

By: leelefever on April 25, 2006 - 2:43am

Like most people, we've learned to get around Thailand on rented motorbikes or mopeds. Usually they cost between $5-7US per day, not including gas. Filling a motorbike up costs about $2US.

Anyway, one thing we've learned is that you never know what you're going to get, so give the bike a good once-over before striking out into the yonder for a two-wheeled adventure. We should have done that yesterday when we picked our Honda Dream.

The island of Ko Lanta Yai has an elongated north/south shape, with the main roads forming a figure eight. It is about 30 kms long and 6 wide.

As we got on the bike, all was well, though it seemed a little loose on the turns, so I was careful not to push it too hard. Sachi rides double with me. We decided to traverse all 30kms of the east coast, about one half of which is dirt road.

As we got on the dirt road at the north eastern side of the figure 8, I thought to myself "Well it would suck to break down here... There's no one around, its in the heat of the day, we only have sips of water and we don't speak Thai."

It was at about that moment that the looseness I felt before turned into all out squirreliness, with the back tire feeling like it was sliding around in mud. Sure enough, the back tire was completely flat and at the furthest point we could be from where we started.

Being at least 7kms from any place that might be able to help us, we jumped on the moped and rode the flat tire all the way up that dirt road at about 5kph, with the tire struggling to remain intact all the way. The locals we did see could only shake their head and point forward as if to say "keep on going, farangs, I can't help, sorry."

Eventually we made it back to the paved road, which was still a good 20kms from the resort- and we still had a flat tire. Our next goal was to find some sort of service station that could help. In the meantime I could picture us creeping down the side road on the metal rim, with the tire having been shredded to pieces, sparks flying everywhere and each person we meet pointing further down the road, farangs.

Then, only 1-2kms from the dirt road, an oasis appeared on the horizon. It was none other than a full service, fully certified, Honda motorbike service center and showroom. We pulled up, pointed to the tire, they immediately jumped into action, replaced the inner tube, charged us $2.50US (yes, you read that price correctly), and we were on our way in about 20 minutes. We could only smile and shake our heads at how easily we averted what could have been a time consuming, possibly dangerous and certainly annoying experience.

For as long as we're in Ko Lanta, that Honda Dream is going to be our motorbike. We know for sure that it has a brand new back inner tube, and handles adversity like a champ. Plus, if something goes wrong, we know where to go.

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