Day 1 – Hua Hin to near Thap Sakae = 170km and 9hrs

The next morning I woke up at 6am and prepped for my first day of riding. I got on the road around 7:30am, my first stop was to get some bananas for fuel. I wasn’t feeling comfortable yet, I had only been in Thailand for about 14hrs and I as already on the road on my bike. I had no breakfast, just a coffee and now I was riding in a direction that I was unsure of.

It took me few hours to feel comfortable, the GPS took me on a completely random route, but despite that that it felt right. I knew that I had a long day ahead, so I tried to find my rhythm and not ride to fast. I kept the speed down intentionally. My goal for the day was 200km, but I didn’t really know what would happen…

After about 7 hours I started feeling it and I wanted to find the place I had intended to stay… FAIL! Thap Sakae was actually just a rural village without any accommodation for foreigners. I was kinda freaking out as I didn’t know where the fuck I was. So I decided to trust my better judgement and hit road to find a place further down.

I got onto the highway and hit about 30km/hr for a while, that was my way of dealing with the stress. Eventually I decided I couldn’t anymore and should find a place to stay, soE I saw the word resort and went down a random road towards the sea to find a resort. I found a spot called Malai Asia, went inside and sorted a room then and there.

The resort seemed completely deserted, but later I saw some random German dude who said he went to this place yearly.. Strange how people latch onto places and return time and time again. I have gotto say that it was pretty awesome beach, sea looked amazing and the gardens were immaculate

I ordered some dinner and a Chang, I got 2 Changs and 2 dinners, you gotto love the language barrier. Anyways, went back to my room and had ordered a large bottle water. he qgu who dropped it off was gay as could be and into me big time. I kinda humoured him not trying to be rude and stuff, but he came on to me strong and shit. I managed to get ride of him and promptly went to sleep,

Getting a tattoo

My goal for the day was to meet my mom’s friend Patricia, get my tattoo and have another suit fitting, then after that in the evening I wanted to try find the psytrance bar again.

I awoke at 8am despite the fact I went to bed at 4:30am after a crazy Khaosan night. I knew I had to meet an old friend of my mom’s Pat for coffee, so my brain told my body when to wake up. I shower, took a shit and shaved in an attempt to look semi-presentable, it didn’t help the suitcases under my eyes from lack of sleep for days on end 😉

I met up with Pat, we took a walk around Khaosan, went to sit down for a coffee and chatted non-stop for 2 hours. She told me that she was excited about the chinese new year because it was year of the dragon and thats the same as the year she was born. I told her that I had bought a little ceramic dragon in the north of thailand that I wanted her to have. Went went back to my hotel for the gift, she was delighted! I love making people smile, we walked around a bit more and then I said good bye.

I took a nap, because I knew I had to be ready for my tattoo by 3pm. I made sure my leg was cleanly shaven and not sweaty before leaving the hotel. Grabbed some Subway “healthfood” and headed over to the Himmapan Tattoo shop. I was a bit early, so I while I waited for the tattoo artist to prepare I caught up on emails.

First the tattoo artist finished the detailed thai letters, that wasn’t too painful, but once he got started with the solid black border the pain seriously started! It took about 2 hours to finish the tattoo, during this time I tried to some pictures of the progress! It was looking great all the way through, at the end I was delighted with my new tattoo! I posted a picture to facebook back home for friends and family, everyone loved the design!

After getting the tattoo I decided to go chill a bit before heading out for the night. I slept some more and kept cleaning the tattoo every couple of hours. I went out to Khaosan road at about 10pm and while wandering around I randomly bumped into a friend from back home called Sac. He was touring the South of Thailand and said I actually forgot he was in Thailand, so it was a nice surprise. We grabbed a beer and then bumped into a dutch guy I had met the night before called Elmer.

The three of us walked around drinking beer after beer until I suggested that we try the trance bar called Ooze Bar. I finally found it earlier that evening, but it was fairly quiet. When we arrived it was also quiet, but we decided to hang around seeing it was midnight. Sac had an early start and still had to catch a taxi back to Sukhumvit, so he left. Elmer and I continued dancing until the place started closing down. We drank my first bucket of the Thailand trip! Great music and more people with serious vibe started arriving! I was in my element with psytrance playing, yippeee!

I headed back to my hotel pretty late, maybe 3am and hit the hay.

Moving on to Khaosan road from Sukhumvit

Now that the cycle trip has finished I am set to start the final leg of my trip in Khaosan road in the Bangkok district called Banglamphu. I have specific check boxes to check, like getting a tattoo and a suit made by a tailor with some new shirts. I also want get to Chatuchak weekend market before flying out on the Saturday 21st to Malaysia.

I woke up feeling tender again after drinking a number of overpriced beers at the ping pong show, I was barely recovered from the Autthaya evening out and felt somewhat sleep deprived. I didn’t have a clue what there was to do in the Sukhumvit area, but what I did know is that things only started around 11am and much later, so not much to do.

I started off the day chilling in my luxury room blogging, facebooking and catching up on some emails. Then headed down for some breakfast, which was a delicious omelet made Thai style! I am definitely going to make Thai style omelets at home going forward, so easy and tasty. They had instant coffee so I avoided the coffee. I have not had a coffee since the Cappuccino baker on Koh Tao on the 4th January.

I packed up and decided to head out at 11am after doing a quick walk around the neighborhood and found nothing was open. I arranged a metered taxi with the help of the bell boy, I only use metered taxis because the non-metered guys screw you every time.

The taxi dropped me at Khaosan road and that signified the start of my next holiday journey! Very exciting even though I knew I would be heading home soon, which is not a bad thing after 5 weeks of seriously great holiday. I walked around Khaosan and saw the business of the area. After checking a few different places for single bed rooms I decided to try find spot a little way away from the madness.

I eventually found a place called Rambuttri Village Inn that had a single room with toilet, warm shower and air on for 630 baht per night, SOLD! I was relieved because some of the places were pretty shit and I didn’t want to downgrade from serious luxury to slums.

After dumping my bags, I set off to look for the tattoo place and a tailor. I was trying to find Mr Yui, a guy referred to me by a guy I met on Koh Tao who was tattoo’ed to hell and back. I couldn’t find the place I was looking for, but did find Himmapan Tattoo. I got a really good feeling from them and decided this was the place. I chatted to a guy called Ahn about the design I wanted, he helped me by designing the tattoo in photoshop first, then printing it and sticking it to my leg to get an idea of what it would look like. I was pleased and booked the tattoo session for 3pm Thursday.

Next up I had to find a tailor to make my pinstripe suit. I spoke to the tailor next to the lobby for my hotel and the tailor said 9500 baht, seemed ok. I thought I would get a comparative price, I found another place and spoke to the guy about what I wanted, he quoted 5750 baht. The workmanship looked same as other tailor so I went with Mr Lucky Tailor. I already had my first fitting that same day, which I thought was kind of impressive.

I hung around the tattoo place because I was alone and somewhat bored. I like to meet people, chat and engage otherwise I feel lost. The people at the tattoo place were really friendly, they allowed me to use the Internet, which was great because everywhere else was going to charge me or I had to eat there to use the Internet. I spoke to Ahn about the Ooze bar, he had never heard of the place and didn’t seem to know what psytrance was either. He did take a walk with me to try and find the place, we had no luck.

As night came on the area became more and more busy, I figured I was bound to meet some random peeps at some stage. As I walked around Thai guys constantly offered me ping pong, it became very old very quickly. I saw 3 chicks being offered a good price as the guy said but it was same price I paid, I laughed and told them that. They were friendly, so we started chatting. Two of them came from New Zealand and one from Australia, which was great cause I generally get along well with people from there.

We missioned around for a while until we found some break dancers, these guys were amazing. The 4 of us watched for a while until they decided to head off to bed. I wasn’t keen to go to bed again so I hung around absorbing the madness. I bumped into 3 funny guys from Australia, England and Holland.

The Dutch guy had a skateboard which seemed to attract attention. There was a young Thai girl and a midget Thai woman selling roses, they took a liking to the skateboard and gave us the roses to sell. So there we were selling roses to westerners, what a laugh. I hung around with these guys for a while getting progressively more drunk until 4:30am when most things had stopped selling alcohol and I headed off to bed.

Day 4: Uttaradit to Sukhothai 90km

The fourth day was a little easier than day 2 and 3. We would only be riding 90km for the day.

Our first stop was still inside Uttaradit city realm at a Buddhist temple. I made an offering to Buddha and said my prayers. Woody the one guide explained interesting facts about giving offerings and helped me understand what the customs were. I felt really moved by this experience and actually quite emotional. The Buddhist people have lovely beliefs, warms my heart.

We started riding again, but stopped shortly afterwards for animals pictures, group photos and more interesting facts from Woody about the Thai farming techniques in the rice paddies. 1hour into the ride we had done about 10km of that, but it was fascinating.

We finally got onto some open road and Woody was with me this time. I asked him if I could open up and start pushing the speed a bit. He said yeah sure and he would ride with me. Note that Woody had been a pro cyclist in his day, now 46 years old. We were cruising on flat stretch for about 15km at about 40km per hour for majority of the time. RAD!

We had a pit stop for refueling. My body was feeling the previous two days and it felt like food wasn’t touching sides. We got going again, we were in pretty rural area and I stuck with Woody because he kept explaining what everything was, just so interesting to learn about Thai culture in the way we were.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. Everyone was pretty tired, self included. We were headed towards Sukhothai new city for 2 days / nights. Everyone was looking forwarding to this. Svenning and I we’re a bit bored with the pace, so we worked together to push up the pace. The last stretch of road we kept at least 35km per hour for about 20+ km.

We arrived at the hotel and it was gorgeous. Everyone was hungry, so before checking in to the hotel we headed out to a little restaurant for Sukhothai style noodle soup and pad thai. Yummy food, but we all wanted to get back to the hotel and swim.

I booked a Thai massage before dinner, the woman was pretty good, but Thai massage is not an easy massage, pretty rough and my muscles were tender. We headed off to dinner in the town at about 7:30pm. The dinner was not the best, we all agreed the food was odd. We had chicken with skin, pork with bone, catfish and other strange things.

After dinner was finished I asked about a market in the town I thought it might be nice to get out and see the local market at night. I went on my own. I walked and walked and walked, but saw no market. I went into a 7eleven to buy a beer for the walk. Mmmmmm, starting to get drunk.

While trying to find the market I bumped into the only westerners I had seen in a few days other than the group. The 3 guys I met randomly were from Melbourne, Australia. I asked them what they’re were up to and they said heading to a bar. I joined them and we chatted on the walk. They arrived at the bar and decided to order a bottle of whiskey, not a glass. We proceeding to smashed the bottle of whiskey in 30min flat.

We sat around chatting about where we were from, what we did, the usual getting to know each other stuff. I realized I had to get up early, it was getting late and I was feeling pretty darn drunk. I made a hasty exit and walked home. On the way home I found a street ice cream stall at the market I couldn’t find before, bought myself three scoops of ice cream on a cone, yummy.

I got back around midnight I think, don’t really remember the last part of the walk. Good times!

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Day 3: Lampang to Uttaradit 145km

This day was dubbed the hardest day of the tour. We had to complete 145km and 4 big climbs. Most of the cyclists were feeling anxious about the long day ahead, but I was ready for it.

We left Lampang at approximately 7:45am. Shortly after leaving the town of Lampang stopped off at a ceramics factory to look at some of their wares. The area is specifically known for its ceramics. We went into the factory, we got to look at how they make products and see everything from the raw ceramic product to the finished fired painted product. Next we went to their show room to purchase some little ceramic figures. I bought some gifts for myself, friends, family and my wife, the total was 400 baht about R100 for 8 pieces.

The route we were on was breathtaking, we were riding through farming areas with all sorts of different crops. I stopped regularly to snap random shots of whatever caught my attention. Despite having ridden hard on day 2 I was feeling super strong, looking forward to the hills.

Hill number one was called Ban Mai, before we got stuck in we had a food and drink break. Mr Tee and I went head to head and pushed it up the climb. Nobody rode with us, the nearest rider was Svenning. We stuck together up the climb and finished together, I knew we had another 3 climbs after this one. The downhill was mad fun, not sure what happened to Mr Tee, think he waited for the group to make sure everyone ok. I was pushing up to about 70+ km per hour I think, hard to say without a monitor. I recorded most of the downhill with my GoPro HD camera.

Once I got to the bottom I eased off as I didn’t want to get too far ahead. I started snapping pics of all the different crops, every half km was another amazing photo opportunity. I eventually saw a cyclist in the distance and it was Svenning. We joined forces and worked our way up the the second climb.

I taught Svenning a trick I had learnt ages back. I never ride a hill in a big gear because I am not strong, instead I drop to a low gear where I spin. Every so often I drop a few gears and get out of the saddle standing for about 50-100m to break the spinning. This method worked wonders for me and he started getting the hang of it.

We were alone peddling away, so we continued having a phat rap about all sorts. It’s sounded like this guy Svenning was pretty damn hard core, he was mainly a paddler and loved his kayaking. Fascinating listening to passionate people.

After 2nd climb we had another food and drink break before the 3rd climb started. The 3rd climb was set to be a mutha-fucka. I decided to go it alone and push as hard as possible. The temperature was really heating up, my head was boiling, but I gunned it hard up that climb. Feeling like a champion! The downhill was good fun too, again I recorded it on my GoPro.

On the other side of the 3rd climb we reached an area that was well known for furniture making. I was way ahead of the rest so made some stops at some local furniture places, amazing products, but way too big to ship home.

Our lunch stop was next to one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand. Lunch comprised of a spicy noodle salad and noodle soup. After eating we all headed across the road to see the buddha. I have honestly never seen such a big Buddha. Easily could have been longer than 100m maybe even 200m, hard to get perspective of something that big. Beautiful temple, snapped pics and headed back on the road.

Next we had a ride through the country side heading towards our last climb of the day. We pushed hard, but is time it was Mr Tee, Svenning and myself working together. The climb was not massive, but it was still enough uphill to make it a challenge. I paced most of the way, but made sure we didn’t loose Svenning. He hang on like a trooper, 62 year old rock star if you ask me. We stopped for snacks and drinks at top of hill 4. The downhill was awesomeness, recorded it and made sure I was careful because there was a lot of road works, sand and fairly dangerous obstacles.

Waited for Mr Tee and Svenning once things flattened out a bit. We had about 40-45km to go, I sat on the front and pushed speeds of between 40-50km per hour as we had a slight downhill. I broke Mr Tee, he told me to ease off. We finished 25km in no time flat and waited for the rest at a petrol station.

The last stretch we eased off and rode as a group. We arrived at our next hotel in a Uttaradit around 6:30pm in partial dark. Long day in the saddle, the group was broken, amazingly Svenning and I still felt great, but tired as we had ridden hard.

Dinner was at 7:30pm at the hotel.

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After the hotel I went out to see the town. Nothing to see though, no tourists in site. I figured let’s get a massage, but couldn’t find a massage place. Eventually after walking for ages I found a place that had massage on the sign. Strange place, crap massage, little disappointed and headed home to go to sleep before midnight.

Day 2: Chiang Mai to Lampang 135km

Started my day at 6:30 because I wanted to head off to the Immigration office before starting the cycle trip. I went for some breakfast, check the obligatory Facebook, then packed my bags into the Spice Roads bus and headed off to the immigration office.

Immigration opened at 8am, so I figured if I arrived at 7:45am I would be early enough to get into the queue. The immigration office was exactly like South Africa, dunno why I thought it would be different. I decided to skip the visa extension and pay the fine. Fuck that, too much effort, I don’t care anymore.

I asked the the tour driver to take me back to the group so we could start the tour. I arrived around 8:15am and we set off shortly there after for our first serious day of riding. We had 130km ahead of us, one climb and would end in a city called Lampang.

We rode through Chiang Mai in much the same route as the first day when we did our warm up ride. We headed out towards the farm lands. People were getting to know each other and chatting. I seemed to get along with the Danish guy Svening really well, he was a kayaker who had been kayaking the world circuit in his younger years, pretty fit guy.

I stopped along the road a few times to take shots of the local farm lands. I saw a dam with a guy floating on it picking something, Woody (guide) said that he was picking morning glory. We had been eating the veggie in a number of dishes during the course of the holiday. We also saw long beans, bananas, Thai eggplant, rice paddies and some fish farms which were interesting to see.

Our first pit stop was at a Buddhist temple along the way. The pace was fairly easy going until this point because we were not on straight roads and had to stick together. After refueling and snapping a bunch of pics we headed off.

Our next stop was another temple, this temple was much older and Woody explained a number of interesting facts about the Buddhist temples. We spent quite a bit of time at this temple, prayed to Buddha and donated some money to the temple.

The next stretch was set to be straight road and the guides allowed me to head off on my own. I decided to put foot and seriously push some high speeds. The one old dude Allan decided it to try give it a go with me, we were pushing 40km per hour when he dropped, I kept going until I hit a cross roads. Wow it felt good to be pushing the speed on a road bike. I had forgotten what was like to ride like this, surprisingly I was feeling super strong even though I had not trained on a bike in 4 weeks.

I hit an intersection and waited for the others. Mr Tee joined me and I decided to test his it riding skills. I pumped it even harder than before to check his break point or how strong he was. We were riding through such beautiful landscape, I saw so many things I had questions about and asked him a few questions. He got annoyed with me because I was speaking while we were riding so hard, his words were “no talk when fast ride”. I chuckled and pushed on. He sucked my wheel and didn’t do much work on the front. Either way I was loving the riding.

We had a pit stop, much fruit, food and drank plenty fluids. The temperature was slowly rising, we were feeling the heat, but the great thing was it wasn’t humid, thank goodness! I kept pushing hard, but not top speed this time, some other people joined us and we stayed together. I basically sat on the front doing most of the work, which was fun actually.

The old dude Allan decided to attack us, the game was on, next Mr Tee attacked, we kept attacking and going for it until we hit a highway. Next was the climb we were told about in briefing. Mr Tee and I dropped the other pretty quickly, then next thing I looked back and he was 50m behind me. I was hurting a bit, considering we still had the rest of the climb and another 45km before we got home I decided to ease off.

After we got to the top of hill it was pit stop time again. The first person behind me was Svenning, I was amazed at this guys stamina and strength. Then came Lesley the Alaskan woman and after that the rest of the peeps hit the top in drips and drabs. Allan who was 72 and had been attacking hit the wall, he was dehydrated and feeling the heat badly.

After refueling a bit we headed down the mountain to the elephant sanctuary and rehabilitation clinic. We had lunch there and afterwards went to feed the elephants. Snapped a million pics of the baby elephant and mummy elephant. Aaaaaah sweet, happiness.

We were quite far behind schedule and the guides were concerned we wouldn’t make the hotel by dark in Lampang. We pushed on to Lampang, the sun started setting but we decided we were close enough to just just make the hotel before complete darkness fell on us.

We arrived at the hotel at 6:40pm in pretty much darkness. The guides said we would have dinner at 8pm and we would travel to the on horse drawn carts. Lampang is known as the cowboy town. he horse drawn carts were a real novelty.

Dinner was next to a river again and we had a live band playing cover songs. It was hilarious listening to the cover songs. We had a fabulous dinner, the food was yummy. We stayed at the restaurant for a couple till 10pm.

On the way home I asked the guides to drop me at the market. I bought myself an AngryBirds tshirt cause I been playing tons of Angry Birds this holiday, I was very happy with my purchase. I headed back to the hotel we were staying in, on the way back I made a stop at 7eleven to pick up red bull for my vodka drinks. I bought a Chang for the walk back…. Mmmmmm… Chang o’clock at 10:30pm.

On the last stretch I stopped off at Kem Tattoo and had a phat chat session with some local Thai peeps. Really funny guys, they were listening to Slipknot and pouring me large SangSom drinks. I proceeded to get really drunk with the guys. I taught the guys how to say “Aweh”! I love Thai people, so friendly and easy going.

After getting fairly motherless with the Thais I really did head home and got to sleep sometime after midnight.

Day 1: Spice Roads cycle trip starts with a warm up ride

I woke up at my friend Jonathon Beedham’s condo this morning know that Barbara was safely on her flight back to South Africa. I felt like I could face this day with full power. After the day before’s chaos travelling I knew today would be better.

I woke up fairly early and didn’t want to disturb Jonathon and his girlfriend, so I took the oppertunity to plan some work for my LightSpeed team back home. Felt good to plan some work.

Once Jonathon woke up, he came down stairs and we sat catching up for a while. He is in the US Airforce and had been working in Chiang Mai for about 28 months. In this time he had learnt fluent Thai which is extremely impressive to me.

His Thai girlfriend came downstairs and joined us. I had asked them the night before if they could help me construct a Thai phrase for my tattoo I want on my calf muscle. The phrase I gave them was “Leave only footprints and take only memories”. There is evidently a similar Thai phrase or saying that the Thai people use, so we researched it and found the letters. Jonathon printed it and his girlfriend said the phrase while I recorded her voice on my phone.

Jonathon said he could drop me off at the Imperial Mai Ping Hotel where I would be staying for the first night of the cycle tour. He also helped me find a place to have my legs waxed, he left me at the waxing place and we said our goodbyes. What a big help Jonathon had been, without his help I would have struggled!

After a painful full leg waxing I headed back to the Imperial Mai Ping hotel for a cycle tour briefing. Mr Tee and Woody were our tour guides., they explained roughly what would be happening each day for the next 11 days along with a host of warnings and our they gave us tshirts.

We started our warm up ride at 2:30 and headed out to a nearby area called Baan Wai that was known for its wood furniture. The day was set to be about 45 km, I was not quite sure what to expect. Most of the people who were on the tour were 50 plus except for one couple who had not really done a lot of cycling.

I was a bit worried I would be bored with the pace, but Mr Tee said to me that he raced road biking and would make sure I was able to go fast when I wanted. We slowly meandered out of Chiang Mai at a leisurely pace, which was fine seeing it was just a warm up ride.

We stopped for pictures along the way whenever needed. We quickly moved out of the city and into the more rural areas with rice paddies. I am very interested in farming Thailand, the floods, general life so I asked lots of questions. the guides were very informative and I got a good feeling about the coming days.

The idea was that we would stop every 30km for snacks, drinks and a breather. Seeing it was a short day we only had one pit stop. We stopped at a wholesale furniture place with spectacular furniture. I specifically noticed a swing chair that we first saw at Klong Proa on Koh Chang, the price was amazingly cheap for such incredible workmanship and quality. To ship this home would be near impossible and costly.

After some tasty snacks and much needed drinks we continued with the ride and back to our hotel. We arrived back at the hotel around 6:10pm and were told that dinner would at a restaurant in Chiang Mai. We left at 7:30pm for the restaurant in a mini-bus. The dinner was fabulous, we were next to a river and the setting was just magic.

It was good to engage my fellow tour members, there were some interesting people on the tour. I was very happy and looking forward to the rest of the tour. We headed back to the hotel around 10pm.

Once back at the hotel I immediately headed out to the Chiang Mai night bazaar. I got a little shopping done, the market was fairly large so I knew it would take a while get through it all. I was done by 11pm and headed back to the hotel. On the way back I got a foot and leg massage in for 200 baht / 1 hour, so cheap it’s hard to believe.

Hit the hay at just past midnight.

Gearing up for new years on Koh Tao

We left Koh Phangan on an early Lomprayah ferry and headed over to Koh Tao for our long awaited new years festival. The last boat trip to Koh Tao in 2010 was rough as hell and I wanted to hurl most of the way. This time was much better, the boat trip was still a little bumpy, but we focused on a BBC documentary by Russel Brand called “On the Road” – brilliant docci, but we watched it without sound!

The boat trip passed in no time and before I knew it we were walking up the pier. We were staying at a place called Save Bungalows. We knew it was not far from the pier and it was great because all we had to do is walk 5 min to check in at reception. Our plans were working out perfectly so far as the room we book was not fancy, but just what we needed for the next few days during the trance festival.

Our friends Elzette, Lea and Ilandi had already arrived on the island a few days before. Our friends Braam and Zuzka who had been on Koh Chang arrived a few hours before us. Our other friend Jason was arriving on another ferry in the afternoon. While waiting for Jason to arrive we hired a scooter and went off to the very commercial beach called Sairee beach to kill some time.

While we were waiting for Jason to arrive I bumped into Christian who is an Austrian friend we met last time we visited Koh Tao for The Experience festival. Christian was waiting for a friend who was arriving on the same ferry, so we all waited at the ferry together.

Jason was the first person off the ferry and he was staying at Save Bungalows so we went to get him booked in. While Jason was settling in I took Barbara to buy some new clothes and grab a bite to eat.

Jason had a friend staying in Chalok Baan where we stayed the year before, so we took the scooter for a ride and had a beer with his mate Mark. We wanted to all hook up for dinner as one big SAFA group, so we picked a place to eat and made plans to meet that evening.

Facebook became our main communication tool to get hold of the girls (Elzette, Lea, Ilandi). We arranged a meeting spot. I had not met Ilandi and Lea yet, but Elzette was an old friend of mine from Paarl. It was super once we all hooked up, I could tell we would make a great party unit for the next week!

Dinner was fantastic, but most of us were tired from traveling so after a few more drinks we headed home for some much needed sleep. The next day would be the start of a 4 day trance festival and our New Years celebrations.

Heading to our next destination Koh Phangan

We woke up around 8am knowing that it was our last morning of Koh Maak. We went to breakfast at a place that had some devine ear rings Barbs wanted, she bought 2 pairs for 240 baht.

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Next stop we headed to Nan Massage for a back, neck and head massage.

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Feeling relaxed, we headed back to our cottage to pack the last of our stuff. I had one more open water swim. Just before getting a lift to the ferry I snapped one more shot of our little bit of paradise and a shot of Mr Pom and his wife who cooked such amazing food.

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We set off from the pier on a speed boat for main land.

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Next we caught a taxi to the Trat airport to catch our Bangkok Air flight to Koh Samui.

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We landed spot on time at Samui airport, then we caught a taxi to the Big Buddha pier where we would get on a boat to Haad Rin on Koh Phangan.

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On the ferry over to Phangan we met some crazy Aussies.

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We got to our room at Pink Bungalows after a long days mission for some well deserved rest
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Our last day on Koh Maak

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Our last day on Koh Maak was a good one. I started my day at 6:30am because I went to bed at 8:30pm the night before. I woke up with a ton of ideas for 2012.

After the brain storm session I went for a 1 hour run. Felt so good while I was running. When I got back we decided we needed to go for a phat breakfast.

After breakfast we went to the Nam Massage place too a couple of days before. I got a back, neck and head massage. Afterwards we were chilled and ready for our kayak mission.

Before heading out on our kayak mission with Helene we all had a decent meal. I had Tom Yam seafood, which was just heavenly. Good food makes the experience.

The 3 of us set off to Koh Rayang with the tri-kayak. Not as long a kayak as we did in Koh Chang, but still a solid paddle.

Once we had kayaked around the full island I jumped off the kayak in the deep water and did a solid 40 minute swim back to Koh Maak. That was my toughest and most scary swim ever. Once I got to shore I chilled hard.

We had some whiskey sundowners, then Helene, Barbs and I had our last dinner. What a tasty meal. Afterwards we all hit the hay. Good day, good times. Wooohooo.

Xmas day treats & adventures on Koh Maak

Xmas day, didn’t feel like it, very strange. Our aim for the day was to cycle right round the Koh Maak island. The island is only 16 sq km in size, so that should be easy enough. We decided to have a solid breakfast before our little cycle adventure.

We found a Swedish owned restaurant serving breakfast and coffee. I ordered a full breakfast that comprised of omelet, fruit, toast, bacon, juice and I opted for tea because I was skeptical of whether there would be real coffee. Barbs ordered a similar breakfast and it was real coffee, but my tea was so good I had a second one.

Helene was riding her bicycle past the restaurant so we got her attention and she joined us for morning munchies. After breakfast we headed off to a spa place for some pampering. I had a really shit massage on Koh Chang, therefore was hoping this wold not be the same. I opted for a foot reflexology session, Barbs went for the back and neck massage. Helene had a full on foot manicure and more session.

Our two sessions finished and we were both amazing, finally a decent massage. Lovely people, friendly and we will return to them before leaving Koh Maak. Helene was still busy so we went to sort out bikes for the day, seeing Helene had a bike we would just meet her back at the spa place.

We set off on our bikes and so the adventure began! Our first stop was the Buddhist temple I had run past yesterday. It was a small temple with a few monks sitting around. We snapped some pics of the Buddha statues and various shrines. There was a friendly pig at the temple, the monks suggested we strike the pig, sooooo cute I wanted to cuddle her. Not the prettiest of creatures, but friendly and lovable none the less.

On our way down the road to another spot on the island, few wrong turns, dead ends, some happy snaps and then we hit a water patch. The girls were not keen, I tried to show them it was fine to ride through, but got half way and the bike was half submerged. There was nothing that would convince them to do this, so I rode to the end to see what was there. It was high tide, so there was only a small beach, but the submerged rode was fun to ride.

I rejoined the girls and we headed off to a resort we spotted a bit further back. My tummy was grumbling and I needed food, the others were still full from breakfast. It was a beautiful little resort with some tasty food, probably the best pad thai of the trip. Two Chang beers and a fair amount of food later we headed out of the resort.

The last stretch riding home I managed to choose a bunch of dead ends and unconventional paths, the girls were not so happy with me. We eventually found ourselves at the pier where we dock yesterday. Now I knew roughly where to go. A few uphills and then a phat downhill before we were back at Holiday Beach resort where we stayed. What a rad way to spend the day.

We did some lounging next to the sea, I took an open water swim and a shower. Next we got ready for our Xmas dinner at a Swiss place I found that did schnitzel and beef fillet. For Xmas dinner we felt like something different to Thai food.

We had a phat German meal, drinks at the cottage after and chill hard for another fun filled adventurous day on boxing day.

Xmas Eve on Koh Maak

Xmas eve on Koh Maak was pretty chilled. Helene checked into her room near by and then joined us for some lunch. The food at Holiday beach was amazing, I ordered Tom Yam for lunch and it’s the best I have eaten to date. I have eaten enochi mushrooms before, but never in Thailand, my Tom Yam had plenty enochi in it, tasty!

After a large meal and a Chang beer I was ready for an afternoon nap. Our cottage was really cute but not ideal for afternoon naps as the sun was cooking it. I still managed to have a phat nap. When I got up I thought it would be good to go for an open water swim. Once I got away from the shore I headed to a nearby island, but soon realized that the water around the island was waste deep with coral and sea urchins everywhere. I spotted loads of little colourful fishes, but nothing particularly big.

When I got back from my swim I decided to chill on the grass in the sun chairs. I have developed a bit of an Angry Birds addiction, so I played a few more levels while the sun cooled down a bit. At about 5pm the temperature was perfect for a run. I got ready for my run and said cheers to Barbs and Helene.

Koh Maak is pretty flat, so I set out at a blistering pace and felt strong enough to maintain the speed all the way to the other side of the island. I arrived at the pier on the other side of the island, there was a Buddhist temple near by, all very intriguing for my fresh newby eyes. this island truly is a paradise!

As I turned around to head back to Holiday Beach resort from the pier I spotted Helene on a bike. She had water, what a blessing, I was hanging for some water. She was heading back to where she was staying, so I ran along side her. Its a lot easier riding a bike than running along side a bike. So I had to run at an even higher pace on the way back, but surprisedly I maintained.

I got back to Barbara chilling at our hut and was knackered! It’s always a good feeling being tired from sport. Shower time and then a game of back gamon with barbs. Afterwards we headed out for dinner at the restaurant at Holiday Beach resort. Helene joined us for a Xmas eve dinner that was so not an Xmas eve dinner. We all didn’t feel like Xmas the western way, Thailand doesn’t celebrate Xmas, so a good evening.

I was pretty tired from my sports that day, so I headed to bed around 8:30pm. Barbs walked Helene home and then joined me for a great nights sleep. We needed the sleep after our crap nights rest at Tiger hut.

Xmas morning we woke up to some shitty windy weather, not very pleasing. I chilled with Barbs in bed, while she read her book I captured some business ideas for 2012. For some reason I woke up feeling inspired with ideas of how to improve my company LightSpeed and my startup FeedMyMedia in the new year. Feels good to be inspired, the year had drained me, not in a bad way, just needed to recharge my batteries.

Our plan for Xmas day was to join Helene and cycle around the island exploring.

Tiger Hut and onward to Koh Maak

When I returned from my failed visa run, I arrived at Tiger Hut to find Barbs chilling hard in our hut. She moved all our bags from Baan Rim Nam with Ian’s help to our hut for one night. The hut was pretty basic and budget, but it was 20m from the beach and had a spot to hang our hammock.

First order of the day was to get in the sea, was not feeling super energetic, so I just managed 1 km swim. The sun was setting as I swam out, so by the time I got back to the beach The was a gorgeous sunset happening right in front of our hut.

Barbs and I poured ourselves some stiff G&Ts, she decided to do a mini sunset photo shoot. Amazing, beautiful, speechless! We continued to chill in front of the hut watch the color disappear. When it was dark we missioned into town for some dinner.

I tried to get Lief the Danish guy from the Visa run to join us but he was not feeling so great, so we were having dinner just the two of us. We walked along Khlong Prao and saw Kati’s where we did our cooking course. We knew the food would be awesome so we stopped in there.

Such a lovely restaurant, friendly staff, decor was pretty, very inviting. We order starters, spring rolls and prawn tempura with a Chang beer to wash it down. It was funny, a cockroach was crawling around and the Europeans are so squeamish they were freaking, then one of the staff accidentally squashed the cockroach, kak funny!

Our mains were Garlic and Pepper prawns with rice & Sweet and sour prawns with rice. We ordered another Chang to wash it down. The good life! We paid for the food and rolled out of the restaurant back home.

We decided to get to bed when we got home because we had an early start in the morning. The bed however sucked balls, springs stuck into our backs and it was generally pretty uncomfortable. Thats budget accommodation for you. We feel asleep pretty quickly, but woke up at some ungodly hour feel the death bed’s wrath. Barbs made a plan to soften her side and I went to sleep in the hammock, which was pretty comfortable.

We got up at about 7:30am and packed our bags for the taxi down to the Bang Bao ferry pier. The taxi driver fetched us around 8:30am and we headed off. We eventually got down to the pier at around 9:30 and the boat headed off just before 10am.

The boat made 1 stop before we arrived at our final destination, we stopped at Koh Wai a teensy little island. We dropped some people off and picked up Helena the French woman from our cooking class. It was cool reconnecting, catching up with what she did and what we did since our last meeting. Gotto love being on holiday in a tropical foreign destination.

We arrived at our final destination Koh Maak and thought we knew where we were, but we didn’t. We headed off to what we thought was the right place, but we were on the wrong side of the island. Luckily we met a friendly local Thai guy who called the owner of Holiday Koh Mak Resort. We got fetch and taken to our new home, which looked like paradise!

Helena could not stay where we were as there was no space, but the owner of the resort made a plan to sort her out with a place to stay. She headed off to check out her prospective room while we sat down to lunch. Good times.

Kati Culinary Thai Cooking School

Yesterday we went to a Thai cooking class from about 10:30am until 3:30pm. Its something we have always wanted to do in Thailand but to  date we have not had the opportunity.

We got picked up at Warapura Resort by the cooking school. When we arrived we were offered a capacino! Our first decent coffee in Thailand, what a blessing. Coffee is one thing that I avoid in Thailand as most places make pots of coffee with instant Nescafe, not filter coffee. So far so good!

There was a Swedish lady who joined us named Maria. After introductions were done and our cooking instructor Nong gave us an overview of the day we choose our main course dishes. The day comprised of making sauces, a starter, two main course dishes and a dessert.

We only got to make one starter as a group, we choose spring rolls. Barbara choose to make a green curry and pad thai. I choose to make som tum and chicken cashew nuts.  The desert we made was a banana spring roll with cinnamon sprinkled over it for flavour and honey to dip.

We started off with making sauces for the spring rolls (Nam Jin Gai) and for pad thai. Whie making the sauces a French woman called Helena joined us. So we end up being 4 people on the course meaning that we would make 8 main course dishes.

We moved on to making the vegetable and glass noodle mis for the sping rolls. Once we were done with the mix we starterow rapping the banana spring rolls and then the vegetable spring rolls. We deep friend the spring rolls in palm oil on a wok. once were done we were ready to eat. Delicious snack and I must have eaten about 5 or 6 spring rolls.

After the spring roll exercise we moved on to making the penang and green curry pastes. Hard work preparing the chilli paste, chopping the ingredients and then crushing them into a paste in a granite morter and pestle. Things were shaping up and we were loving the smells, learning about all the ingredients and how they work together.

We chopped and prepared the ingredients for the 8 main course dishes. Then we got stucK into making the main course dishes. First up wcookies the Penang and Green curries. The we moved on to the other dishes.

Once we finished with the cooking we sat down tsuper read of food that we all marveled at. Now the problem we faced was how to eat all the food. I got stuck into as many dishes as possible. Eventually we all gave up trying to eat more. The last stretch was eating the banana spring roll desert! I didn’t know how I could fit anymore food in, but I did… I ate 6 more desert spring rolls and they were delicious.

There was a ton of food left over, so we split up the food, said our goodbyes end headed home. What a day! Food, new knowledge, interesting new people and cook book to take home.

Once we got home I let me food settle, then headed out for a run and herbal sauna. I spotted Braam and Zuzka, they were keen to help us finish the left over food from the cooking course. We went over to their place with Chang beer and food. Chats and more good times.

Koh Chang Scooter Adventure

This morning Barbara and I woke up feeling groggy because we woke up some obscure hour, our body clockspare still on SA time not Thai time. Anyways, we went for a lovely buffet breakfast and stocked up on food for the day ahead.

The plan for the day was to ride a scooter all the way around the island. We headed up to the Stone Free restaurant in the same road as our resort to rent a Honda Scoopy automatic scooter. The scooter looks a bit like Vespa and I saw them advertised last year. Sounds funny to say, but it was a dream come true to rent this little bike.

Our friends Braam and Zuzka were ready for us when we arrived at their bungalow, so off we headed on our little adventure. First stop was not far from where we were staying at a beautiful view point. Snapped some pics and got back on the road.

We drove around the coast road past Klong Prao, White Sands Beaches, the ferry port and along to the other side of Koh Chang. We stopped near a fishing village at a Buddist temple. inside the temple was a massive good plated Buddha with innate paintings all around on the walls. The window shutters had intricate mother of pearl designs. We snapped a bunch of pics and headed on our way.

We noticed a sign saying that there was a mangrove restoration plantation, nobody could figure out where it was and we even saw other foreigners scooting around lost with not a clue where it was.

Onward ho… We arrived in a quaint little fishing village. I love the less touristy places as they give a sense of the real Thailand. We found a basic little restaurant in the fishing village right on the water. We ordered some food for next nothing and it tasted amazing. I can’t believe how good the food is everywhere we go.

After finishing up at the fishing village we headed off to a place we spotted along the way callEd the Tree House on a beach called Long Beach. One seriously rough road to the beach, but it was an enjoyable ride on the scooter. We arrived at Long Beach and found ourselves in true paradise.

We all decided to go for a swim. I left the others and went for an open water swim, the sea was choppy and the wind wasblowing so it made things challenging. Again I am still trying to overcome my fears of open water swimming, but each swim I feel stronger and more confident,

Eventually I got back to the others and we all got out of the sea to dry up. We decided to head off back home as it was about 4 pm and we still had about 50 km to ride home. back along the rough road we headed.

Hunger struck again and we decided to stop for a quick snacat attack. The street stall we stopped at only server pork noodle soup, it was devine. Back on the scooter for the last stretch of about 35 km.

We stopped off one last time near where we stayed to watch the sunset at the view point we first stopped at. Both barbs and I were ready for a shower. Clean up time, then we went to drop off the scooter and have some Pad Thai at Stone Free. They had a lovely live band for us to appreciate. Good times.

Been writing this blog post in the comfort of our luxury room watching some DVDs on a big screen with aircon to keep us cool. Tomorrow we are doing a cooking course all day, can’t wait!

Peace out!

Getting over jet lag

Since my last blog post the morning after we arrived at Warapura Resort on Koh Chang, we have been taking things easy recovering from jet lag. Our body clocks are not yet in sync with Thailand time zone.

The hut we moved into on the first night had a bad smell outside, so we pretty much could not sit on the Balcony as it stank of dead something. So we checked if they had another room in a different location. We struck it lucky and got an upgraded room with a sea view!

We had to wait around for the room to be cleaned, so we decided to take full advantage of the pool and resort facilities like the free wifi. I got a message from a friend saying Braam saying that he and his girlfriend were staying in the same area called Lonely Beach. I decided to leave Barbara lounging at the pool and go find them.

It turned out they were staying just up the road from us and I found them immediately. They were heading down to a stretch of beach with white sand and gorgeous water. We joined the two of them after we checked into our new room.

I decided to do my first open water swim, goal was to swim to a nearby island. I manage to get most of the way to the island, but the waves and current were against me so I decided to turn back. The water was warm and clear. I still have some fears when swimming in deep water, but I managed to keep going despite fears.

I decided to go for a herbal sauna and massage at a spot in Bailan. Wow! Really enjoyable. It’s about 3 km away from where we stay, so I jogged there and back, my first run in months. It felt good to be running again.

When I finally got back to barbs I took her out for dinner. Our friends joined us at the noodle soup place. The drinking started and didn’t stop. We ended up at Braam’s bungalow drinking whiskey before going out to the Ohm bar. We danced for a few hours and then decided to hit the hay.

The morning was not pretty, both barbs and I felt like arse coughed up. hangovers and jet lag don’t mix well. We ended up spending the day hanging out in our lovely room watching DVDs. Not the best use of a beautiful Thailand day, but much needed.

We had dinner at the Noodle Soup place again, wow, what awesome food! Then we headed off to bed and chilled hard. Our plan was to go for a scooter adventure around the island on the Monday with our friends.

My next blog post won’t hopefully involve hangovers or jet lag!

The start of our Thailand Holiday

December 2011 has been a tough month for work and parties. Finding the balance and keeping the motivation worked out well in the end. It helped having a team of guys who work hard and play hard. Without the team work would not be possible and it’s great when you can have a good time with them once work is done.

We made some stiff financial targets, which meant for the first time in the history LightSpeed we were able to pay the team full thirteenth cheque. Everyone put in 150% and deserve the bonus. I feel like we achieved what set out do and I saw this happening back in September. I decided to book another Thailand trip after finishing WordCamp Cape Town. So here I am sitting in a hammock writing my first blog post of the holiday! Still feeling pretty jet lagged, but who cares when you have the sea breaking in from of you and palms providing shade.

My wife and I flew out of Cape Town international airport on Thursday 15th December 2011 around lunchtime on Malaysia Airlines. It was a spacious enjoyable flight. We landed on time in KL international airport at about 6:30 am.

Next we had to catch an Air Asia flight to Bangkok, little did we know that Air Asia has there own airport terminal about 20 min bus ride away. We arrived at LCC terminal to catch our Air Asia flight at around 9 am. It’s a small rather strange terminal, luckily we didn’t spend much time there, our flight left at 11 am. Really cool airline, we were very impressed with the service and quality of flight.

Bangkok was 1 hour behind KL, so even though the flight was 2 hours we arrived in BKK international at 12 pm, which was spot on time. I had arranged a limo service (translated in our terms a mini-bus taxi) to drive us from BKK to Koh Chang. We found our driver Mr X in no time and were on our way without any hitches. Before leaving the airport we managed to buy a couple of big Chang beers, then you know you are in Thailand!

We could have flown from BKK to Trat and then caught a taxi, but I am glad we didn’t as the mini-bus allowed my wife and I to stretch out and sleep. When we weren’t sleeping we were able to appreciate the country side. Our driver was awesome, he got us to the ferry crossing to Koh Chang in about 4 hours.

We started the ferry crossing to Koh Chang at about 5:20 pm, it took about 30min to get across. What an amazing crossing, smooth as could be and we watched the sun set behind Koh Chang while snapping countless pictures.

After driving off the ferry Mr X started the final stretch to our journey. It was lovely driving down through Koh Chang seeing the little villages along the way, dreaming about what we will be doing over the next week and a half on Koh Chang.

We arrived at Warapura Resort at about 6:30 pm, checked in, unpacked and poured a phat Talisker 10 year whiskey from duty free shopping spree. Our favourite food in Thailand is Pad Thai, so we headed out for a tasty dinner. After dinner we decided to walk off the food, went down to check out the beach, heavenly. We hit the hay after a long day and slept a solid 12 hours.

Just had breakfast while writing this blog post and now heading out for a sun filled day of beaches and swimming.

Thailand Honeymoon Trip October 2009

Its long overdue that I post this blog post. In October 2009 my wife and I went on our honeymoon almost 3 years after getting married.

We used the Lonely Planet Thailand – August 2009 Edition and Phangan.info Booklet – Issue 18 September to November 2009 with Phangan Map and guide to plan the most of the trip. The timezones we moved through relative to GMT were South Africa +2, Hong Kong +5, Thailand +6.

On the 1st October we woke up at 3:30am, our Cape Town flight took off at approximately 7am and landed in JHB at 9am. Went to duty free and bought 2 x 1 litre whiskey bottles – 1 x Famous Grouse & 1 x Talisker 10 year – and 1 x dual pack wine from boschendal Next flight from JHB to Hong Kong left at 1pm 2nd Arrive in Hong Kong 7am checked through arrivals and customs – had to fill in forms declaring we didnt feel sick or have flu-like symptoms… quite a few people wearing face masks, mostly Chinese – only saw 1 european guy wearing a face mask. Caught a train from the Hong Kong airport to Hong Kong Island via Kowloon Mainland Hong Kong Climate extremely humid, Went for a mission around the streets of Hong Kong island looking for interesting sites and our hotel booked for 1 night on the way back. Walked up and down and around, sweating like crazy and feeling completely disorientated. Strange being in another country, unfamiliar culture, climate and city… Jetlag added to strange feeling – felt awake but totally exhausted. Around 4.30pm we flew from Hong Kong to our destination Thailand Picked up at the airport by a driver organised by our hotel – good idea not to have to arrange a taxi when we felt so exhausted. Really impressed with Bangkok airport – interesting architecture and very well organised. Taken to the Viengtai Hotel in Ratburri street running parallel to the famous Khoa San road in the old Bamglamfu part of Bangkok Arrived in our hotel, switched on the aircon, showered and poured a stiff talisker Called a school friend Guy van der Walt who had been living in Bangkok for quite some time, met with him for a Chang beer and then some dinner Hit Khoa San road for a few drinks and some shopping Barbara went to bed, jet lag finally got the better of her Ashley continued to party with Guy and ended the day at 3am the next morning with some Pad Thai munchies

3rd Got woken up by cleaning service cleaning rooms around us at 6am, a bit unimpressed at first but what can you do Breakfast at 8am , both feeling rather groggy from jetlag Went back to bed till 11am, got up, had a swim in the hotel pool, then checked out Organised an airport shuttle ticket each caught a taxi to the Chatachuk Saturday Market (4000 stalls), had a snack and a chang beer, hit the stalls, daunting task, only had 30min to visit stalls, but managed to buy a pair of full metal jacket oakleys which certainly look and feel like the real thing… in any case, got them for a bargain. headed back to the hotel to grab bags After fetching bags, caught an airport shuttle as per the advice of the lonely planet – a big rain storm hit Bangkok just as we got on the road to the aiport and we had a very very scary trip – the driver didnt slow down for much and although we were in a hurry, we had a couple of moments where we thought we wouldnt make it Checked in for our flight to Chiang Mai – we flew Thai Air. We laughed a lot about the snack we were served – both of us opened the little lunch boxes, had a look at the contents and promptly closed them again – weird ass sandwiches! To our dismay, no alcohol was served on the flight – oh well Arrived safely in Chiang Mai, the Rux Thai guest house where we were staying sent a driver to fetch us Checked into our guest house the room was very disappointing but we consoled ourselves with the fact that we were only staying for 1 night before leaving for our 3-day hilltribe trek. Met Miriam Krause and Eric Mascal friends, from Munich now living and working in Shanghai, for dinner at a lovely little place called lemongrass and some Chang Beer, great dinner, so affordable, we are feeling the holiday spirit After dinner we took a walk along the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Hotel close to night bazaar, easy walk

4th October – Early start at 7.30am to sign relevant paper work for the 3 day Trek we were about to start, Had breakfast and left on trek with Miriam and Eric Guide name was Taksin and his helper was called Party Visited a temple in a national park near Chiang Mai Walked 8-9km of hiking – quite tricky and bloody hot, really feeling the humidity Ended in a Karen Hill Tribe Village where we stayed the night. Tribe elder gave us his home to sleep in – rock hard floors and death pillows, but all part of the experience. It rained like hell during the night – thought we were going to be washed away! Everything so intense and extreme, making us completely forget everything else in our lives. Brite moon, almost full

5th October – 15-16km hike in the mountains, with lunch at a Karen hill tribe village Ended the second day at a Karen Hill Tribe Village where we stayed the night in Party house We stayed in Party hut – much comfier beds with little mattresses – still had death pillows but getting used to them now. Amazing dinner, a case of chang later and we were all merry Full moon was not visible due to cloud

6th October – Party stayed in his village and did not join us for the hike or further trekking as he needed to attend to his farm After an amazing breakfast we started an 8-9km hike , ended in the Shan village The hike ended in a Shan hill tribe village, we were going to do an elephant ride first, but the elephants were busy, so instead we had lunch at a local small restuarant After lunch we went to the elephant place to have a ride on the elephant We got the feeling that the elephant place was quite commercial, every time the elephant stopped at a little hut we were offered banana and sugar cane to buy so that we could feed the elephant, this was fun, but the guide seemed rather disinterested in the whole tour, not very settling The route we were on came to an end, but our elephant decided to do another round, the useless guide ignored the fact that the elephant walked off without him We started to worry somewhat as the guide was nowhere to be seen The elephant choose its own route and started walking off into the bush, now we were worried, so we called for help, but still the guides in the distance did nothing to help The elephant was now spooked and started to run, barbara fell off as the protective bar came off, ashley held on for dear life and the elephant ran rough up into the mountain The guides finally realized they should actually intervene, a little too late, ashley was thrown off and landed on his head and back, scrapes and bruises Barbara was trying to see what was happening to ashley, in the process she sprained her ankle badly The guides thought this whole experience was quite funny and were laughing at us, barbara could hardly walk and was badly freaked out as was ashley One of the guides had the forethought to piggy back barbara to where we could load her onto a scooter, then she was taken back to a very worried taksin and or german friends Miriam and Eric We all decided it was best to skip the river trip that was scheduled next and take barbara to the hospital to be xrayed The rural hospital was quite helpful and organised, so we managed to get barbara looked at quite promptly, the doctor and xrays revealed that it was only a bad sprain and not a fracture, what a relief The owner of the elephant farm arrived at the hospital to check up on us, too little too late in our opinion The nurse checked out ashley, cleaned scrapes and cuts, he was in a bit of pain, but nothing serious What a scare for barbara and ashley! Taksin was great, he looked after us so well, everyone was somewhat freaked out. Our driver now drove back to Chiang Mai and off loaded Miriam and Eric at their hotel, then us at our guest house We were given another room at Rux Thai, this time the room was much better, more pleasant inside After a shower, stiff Talisker and some relaxation we called Miriam and Eric about meeting for dinner We had dinner at a restuarant called The Whole Earth, indian and thai cuisine, great service and even better food, the girls drank wine and the guys drank chang On the way back we walked up the night bazaar, it was decided that we had all had an intense day and we would go back to our respective hotel and guest house, barbara was in some pain due to her ankle Ashley decided he couldnt sleep, so at about 10:30pm he went back to the night bazaar to price gifts, after a solid amount of pricing he went back to the guest house around 12:30pm and to bed

7th October – Barbara and Ashley went out for some shopping and exploring, despite barbara ankle she was determined to not let it get us down. The Lonely Planet recommended a restuarant called the Jerusalem Falafel, on the way there we found a tailor called Robin from Tibet, we priced a suit for Ashley and outfit for Barabara, but were not sure After eating at the Jerusalem Falafel we decided to go back and get measurements taken for the new outfits we wanted made, Robin was a great guy and we felt that we were in excellent hands! We paid the deposit at the tailor and headed out for our next mission to find a Spa, the Lonely Planet recommeded an affordable place, after walking around looking for it we found the place, affordable my arse, they suggested another branch that really was a lot more affordable Barbara annd Ashley booked in for 3hr 30min luxrious treament – body scrub, full body massage, facial – both of us fell asleep repeatadily throughout the treatments After that amazing session headed back to Rux Thai guest house and relaxed until We went for the first fitting at the tailor for our new outfits Before heading to the tailor we went to draw some money and stupidly left Ashley credit card in the machine, we only realised this much later before we met up with Miriam and Eric for dinner Again we enjoyed a great dinner despite the credit card incident, this time a vegitarian place that served healthy meal and some chang beers all around Ashley had been in Chiang Mai 4 years prior to that and gone out clubbing at Bubbles, we all tried to go there again, but it would seem that the club was dead quiet Miriam and Eric were leaving for Bangkok in the morning, so we had a final Chang beer each together at a crappy rasta club and then parted ways

8th October – We got up early to do the temple walk in the old part of Chiang Mai city, many of these temples Ashley visited in 2005 At the Wat Chedi Lang temple Barbara and Ashley lit some candles and incense, we prayed to Buddah to watch over us for the rest of our trip in Thailand, both of us felt great after doing this and that our luck would turn After working up a major appetite walking through temples we went for a vegitarian buffet lunch at Khun Charm We decided to treat ourselves to another spa treatment, this time at a place called the miracle spa – herbal sauna, body scrub and a full body oil massage, both of us felt amazing We caught a tuktuk to the Central Plaza after getting back to the Rux Thai guest house, Ashley needed a pair of shoes for his new suit, we found the perfect pair of Dr Martins shoes We went for a final fitting at the tailor, both of us looked amazing, some final adjustments were needed and we were set to return at 10:30pm Off to the Night Bazaar to do some actual shopping this time, so far all the trips consisted of costing and browsing, we bought a host of goodies and then headed off for our last fitting at the tailor The tailor had done an amazing job, both of us looked stunning! We had a chang beer with the tailor, wrote him a recommendation and headed back to Rux Thai for some sleep after a very busy day

9th October – Early start, we need to head to the Chiang Mai airport for our flight to Ko Phangan Met Italian couple Carlotta Croci and Allesandro at the Chiang Mai airport, they sat next to us on the plane to Ko Samui We decided to team up for a few days as we had plans that worked well for them After arranging a boat ticket to Ko Phangan at the airport, we caught a taxi to the pier and grabbed some lunch at a restuarant next to the pier The boat arrived as we were served our food, so we all guzzled our changs and shoved down the food, then rush up the pier and onto the boat The boat ride was approximately 30min and we arrived in Hat Rin, full moon party zone, not what we were particularly interested in We arranged a taxi to our accommodation spot called the Lighthouse, after being dropped off we realised that the walk was approximately 500m along the beach and then along a wooden walkway The wooden walkway was shocking as all we could see were remanents of the full moon party the week before, garabage everywhere, the beach, the coves, everywhere…. mmmm… not what we were expecting The Lighthouse was where Ashley had met friends 4 years earlier, but somehow the place seemed a lot more run down that when he last visited We booked in for our accommodation, the cottages had their own bathroom and looked ok, nothing spectacular except for the amazing view, our deck overlooked some incredible sea and ko samui We decided to dump our baggage and head off to the beach for our first swim in the sea, most welcome swim indeed, suprise surprise, we found a bar and bought some chang beer On the beach we found our first of many island dogs, what a cool mutt After swimming and lounging on the beach ofr some time we decided to head back to our rooms for a shower and freshen up before having dinner in the quaint little restuarant, dinner was awesome, food was delicious We decided to walk off the dinner by strolling along the beach to see what was happening, not much, but the walk was well worth it after eating a fair amount of food Off to bed for all after a great walk, the mattrass was killer hard and extremely uncomfortable

10th October – We decided not to stay on at the Lighthouse and instead move on to Coco Gardens a day early Everyone had a yummy breakfast, we were visited by the resident dog who hung around throughout the meal We checked out of our rooms reasonably early and were on the road again, Ashley took a run into town and tracked down a friendly taxi driver (rare), who then went back to fetch the others We were driven to our next destination called Coco Gardens (recommended by the Lonely Planet), on arrival we could see that the place was well kept and that we would be very happy After checking in we saw our room, luxury compared to the previous room we stayed in and the mattrass was supper comfortable, the team were happy campers After all were settled in we decided to take a swim in the sea and drink a chang Ashley headed out for a explorative run to suss out where everything was, he soon realised that the lonely planet got the location wrong and we were technically just outside of ban tai and just before thong sala the main port of Ko Phangan While the others relaxed Ashley spent about the next 2 hours exploring, he located all the important shops like 7eleven, local super market, night bazaar, main roads in thong sala and even ran back to close to ban tai looking for the Half Moon Party, but didnt find the destination for the party Ashley headed back to the others to report on findings and show them the buckets he had purchased for cocktails Lunch was at Coco Gardens Dinner was at buffet seafood place for Bt99, but we didnt realise that we had to cook our own food …. mmmm…. scary shit Alle got plastered somehow, we headed home after dinner and all went to bed relatively early Barbara, Ashley and Carlotta had one more drink at the Coco Gardens bar, while the rain poured down

11th October – We got up early and had awesome coco gardens breakfasts Hired 2 scooters Drove to to do some exploration, found a beeeeg hike to the highest peak on the island called Khoa Ra 4 hour hike, 2 hours up with 30min rest and 2 hours down, Barbara was a star considering she had a badly sprained ankle Got to the bottom and dealt with a mini nightmare, Ashley had locked his ignition and was unable to open the ignition, he had to drive back to the coco gardens and found out it was simple to unlock Drove back to the rest of the groups

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22nd back in SA