Khao Sok and Khao Lak

From Ao Nang we loaded up the bike and headed off the main tourist track, 131km north to Ratchaprapa near the Khao Sok National Park ( the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world).
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We were just staying one night and found accommodation that (like all of Thailand) is very proud of the King. This large picture was in our room.
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We had a drive around the village and found the local market just in time for dinner. Westerners are obviously a bit of a novelty because we got a lot of looks/ stares. A few people spoke English but that didn’t matter because Matt has become a pro at ordering food in Thai, “Ao neung somtam khap” (I would like one papaya salad please).

The drawcard of this area is the huge man-made (dam) lake and the beautiful mountains that surround it.

The limestone mountains ( karsts) are the remains of an ancient coral stretching from China to Borneo.
Some of the karsts rise up to almost 1,000 metres high, making them three times the height of those in nearby Phang Nga Bay and Halong Bay in Vietnam.

The best view is from on the lake so we hired a longtail boat (after being pursued by our ‘boatman’ around the jetty) for a 2 hour leisurely cruise.

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It was magic seeing the odd shaped cliffs towering over the water.

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Part of the lake is home to a floating restaurant and cabins where you can stay the night. We pulled in for a quick look. It would be a beautiful spot to wake up to the sun coming up over the mountains.

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We’re very puzzled why this area isn’t more well known and packed with more tourists (there were hardly any) . It’s stunning scenery, probably the best we’ve seen on the Asia portion of our trip, and up there with something like the Grand Canyon we reckon. We imagine it is something like the Milford Sound which we definitely will make it to some day.

After our tour we hopped back on the bike and went through the National Park towards the coast and Khao Lak.

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The Khao Lak area is a coastal series of beaches that was one of the most devastated parts of Thailand from the 2004 Tsunami. There is a memorial park which is home to the Police Boat that was washed ashore with the wave and still sits where it ended up 2km inland.

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There is also a tsunami museum which has information and statistics from the tsunami as well as some videos showing the devastation.  Incredible to read that the wave can reach speeds of 500km/hr in the open ocean.

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The area of Khao Lak has many nice beaches stretching along the coast so we got in a bit of sunning ourselves and reading, mainly late afternoon, the midday sun was far too hot and burning for us.

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Another great place to see the sun set over the Andaman Sea.

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We found a great Italian cafe that made good coffee and yummy pizzas. When we were having dinner there one night we made a friend and thought she was probably capable of driving us home.

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This bike was probably more suitable.

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She was such a neat kid and liked hanging out with us for an hour or so, Matt was a little worried I was going to take her home with us.

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About 40 minutes north of Khao Lak is the island of Ko Kho Khao, only a 10 min boat trip from the mainland. For $2.20 NZ (including 2 bottles of water) it was neat to have our bike driven onto a longtail, no need to wait for the car ferry to leave.

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We drove up the length of the island, stopping for the obligatory (daily) iced lemon shake on the beach. The beaches are beautiful and deserted even though there are resorts dotted along.
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Up until this point our seeing snakes in the wild count was at two (one in America and one in Cambodia), in the space of about an hour and a half on this island the tally was up to five. The first was on our way back down the island, a 1.5-2m brown snake in the middle of the other side of the road but crossing towards our side. Matt was driving and didn’t see it initially so by the time I saw it, it was right beside us. I wobbled the bike in my attempt to get further away from it, Matt was wondering what was going on, then he wanted to turn around to have a look at it. No thank you, so I got off the bike while he went to see it.

After that ordeal we decided to spend some time on the beach and had a good hour in the sun before Matt noticed something in the tree above us. Snake number 2 was having a snooze right above our heads! You can see it curled around the branch in the middle of the photo. It was green probably under a metre long.
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Obviously I’m no snake fan, so told Matt that I’d had enough of this island so we headed home immediately. What did we see on the road back, snake number three – albeit its head was squashed but its body was still flapping around furiously. Needless to say I was pleased to leave “Snake Isle”.

Our accommodation just happened to be across the road from a 3x a week market that had food, drink, clothing, souvenirs etc. It was pretty excellent and well patronised by locals & tourists. We had dinner there twice along with one stall that made fantastic, flair bartended 60 baht (around NZ$2.20) mojitos.

Next we were off to the No. 1 Southern Thailand tourist destination, the island of Phuket.

Checking Out Krabi

Our initial plan for after Vietnam was to spend a few days in Bangkok but with the riots and political problems they’re having we decided to skip it for now.

We did have one night as a stopover but staying near the airport we didn’t get a chance to see much, except at the mall where we saw a baby put to sleep in a shopping trolley.

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We headed to Krabi in southern Thailand and spent a week in Krabi Town.

It was great to be back in Thailand, we feel really comfortable here and it is by far our favourite country we’ve visited in SE Asia.

Most travellers seem to use Krabi Town more as a transition spot rather than staying long but we really enjoyed being  based there.   We spent the days exploring the area.

There are plenty of food stalls and markets, the best one was the walking street market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  We went on all the 3 nights and had some delicious food like the best green curry we’ve had, although we did need quite a lot of water to wash down the chilli and we were pretty sweaty once we’d finished it.   Great value too, 2 dish up your own plates (so, full to the brim) of curry on noodles for under NZ$2. 

One of the nights was Chinese New Year so all of a sudden there was lots of music and a dragon going past us.
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We’d seen a guy doing 3 minute, $3 caricature drawings so decided to get one done.  Unfortunately, sometimes you do get what you pay for, we didn’t think it resembled us at all (Matt thinks I look Indian in it) so it’s not making it home with us (and no I wasn’t just wearing a bikini top around town at night, artistic licence).
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We’d heard about the Tiger Temple and I got excited because I thought there might be real tigers there but no, only a couple of concrete ones.   The main reason people go is the view from the top of the hill.  The only issue with this is the 1,237, very steep steps up to get there.
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At least there were monkeys on the path for some entertainment.  It’s quite funny watching them grooming.  Is that a flea?
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Well it was, yum.
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The view was definitely worth the effort, you could see over Krabi Town to the coast and the expanse of limestone cliffs stretching inland.

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Just a bit sweaty.

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We decided that because we plan to spend a couple of months in Thailand we’d hire a motorbike for almost 40 days.   Because we like making modifications to our hire vehicles we found a local engineer to fabricate a luggage rack for us.

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6 hours and $40 later it works great, a couple of bungy cords and some rope and the bags don’t move an inch. Also purchased some reflectors to be extra safe, along with our own helmets.

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We found a recently opened Wat in town so went for a look, not as colourful as some other temples but beautiful woodwork.

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The dogs at the entrance were trying to get out of the heat.

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From Krabi Town we made our way to Ao Nang, only about 25 minutes away where we had 4 nights. Definitely much more touristy, there is a constant flow of longtail boats ferrying people around from beach to beach and so many tours.  We got a longtail to Railay Beach early morning one day and walked around to Phra Nang beach which had beautiful clear water.

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It was great at 10am when the first of a few longtail restaurants turned up, quite novelty ordering food when you’re up to your knees in the Andaman sea. 
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Ao Nang beach itself wasn’t quite as nice but it was a pretty good spot to watch the sunset.

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Our last night here we caught up with Barton and Leone who were on a long weekend from Singapore.  It’s always great to see friends and we had a fun night out, good food, good stories and a monkey.

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