My time in Nepal was done. I had spent 3 months in the mountain country visiting the spectacular Mt. Everest trekking region, meditated in the serene Kopan Monastery, worked on my website in Boudha, and even contracted pneumonia.
My next stop was to be the tropical south of Thailand with Julie.
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First up was Bangkok. I had visited the metropolis 8 years ago and the changes wrought to the city over the past near-decade were immediately apparent; the city had grown remarkably. Catching the train from the Airport I felt like I could have been in Tokyo.
Bangkok development rate in the last 8 years has been astonishing
Over the next two days Julie and I explored the city; we visited some local markets, for what trip to Bangkok would be complete without Thai market food? First we sampled delicious tropical fruits and Thai cooking from Or Tor Kor market, and then we visited Chatuchak market looking for a bargain, but alas found none.
Unfortunately we didn't get much time to explore the city, but I was impressed by what I saw and I doubt it'll be too long before I return.
Phuket Old Town
From Bangkok we jetted down to Phuket, and were immediately knocked back by a wall of humidity, such was the difference. In Phuket we hired scooters and cruised around the island; we strolled down the Portuguese influenced Old Town, once more enjoyed local cuisines at various night markets, and finally swam in the tropical warm waters of Cape Promthep.
Being in the topics there was an abundance of delicious fruit. We could buy coconut on the street for around $1 AUD each, and it was so fresh you wouldn't believe it; the flesh would just melt in your mouth like jelly. From one of the night markets we bought a Durian fruit and stole it away in to our hotel room, for the fruit is infamously pungent, yet irresistibly delicious. It is also quite expensive, costing $12 AUD for a few hundred grams.
Portuguese style buildings and scooters in Phuket Old Town
Walking down the backstreets of Old Town
Live music at the Chillva night markets
View of the coast from the Promthep Cape
Koh Yao Noi
In Phuket town we got a tip from a local that Koh Yao Noi was an awesome some place to visit, so visit we did. We found out about a local bus and a ferry service that would take us there for a fraction of the cost of the tour agents, and found a bungalow where we could spend our New Year Eve. Arriving at our Bungalow, we were delighted to be shown a flock of Hornbills by the young girl who managed our Bungalow.
Coastline of Koh Yao Noi
Over the next three days we toured the Island by scooter, and hired a private water taxi (or long tail boat) to take us around the nearby Limestone islands. We had a wonderful day on the water, looking up at the majestic islands soaring out of the Andaman sea and swimming in their protected bays. The islands we visited were Koh Hong, Koh Lao La Ding, and Koh Phakbia. They were all special in their own right, but to me Koh Lao La Ding was the most beautiful.
Limestone islands between Koh Yao Noi and Krabi
Long tails used to ferry tourists through the limestone islands
Ao Nang & Tiger Cave Temple
The final portion of our trip was to visit Ao Nang and Tiger Cave Temple. We arrived at Ao Nang just before lunch without any organised accommodation, yet found some as soon as we arrived with a spectacular view of the ocean and the limestone cliffs protecting the bay. As a final bonus, our hotel came with an attached massage parlour, so we could get a Thai massage for a great price.
Main road feeding traffic down to Ao Nang beach
From Ao Nang we hired a scooter and rode it by scenic route through the country side to Tiger Cave Temple. At the temple we watched teams of tourists feed bananas to teams of monkies, and sweated the 1,237 steps to the plateau of the mountain. Poised on top of the mountain was a giant golden buddha, casting his gaze out across the surrounding country side.
The stunning Tiger Cave temple built on top of a Limestone mountain
After Ao Nang we returned to Phuket via Phi Phi island, which was a must for Julie on this trip. On the way over we went snorkelling at a few special bays, including the famous Maya bay from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach. The level of tourism in Maya bay was at the next level; the bay was completely full of boats each cram-packed with tourists, it's amazing the impact that one film can have on such a place.
The following day Julie took her flight back to Sydney to return to work, and I made the short flight up to Chiang Mai.
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