Sawadeeeee-kap and Merry Christmas in Thailand

Christmas was relentlessly coming closer and we had plans to spent these days somewhere far from everybody on an idyllic island. Koh Tao was our elect choice, but before we could set out for Thailand’s paradisiac islands, we had to find a place in Bangkok where we could safely store our bikes for some weeks. A mission that seemed impossible after two days asking in every bike shop we came across and asking everybody that seemed halfway trustworthy enough. Like usual, our luck intervened and by sheer coincidence we started a conversation about our Bike for Dad experience at Bangkok’s “best chicken in town” place with Phil, a big-hearted American, who is living in Bangkok with his family and a cycle freak by himself. He generously offered us to store our bikes in his yard and truly saved more than just our day. Again a million thanks to him!

Paneers to BagpackAfter overcoming this last difficulty and managing to cram all our precious stuff into our newly purchased original fake backpacks, nothing else could get in the way between us and the eagerly awaited “beach holidays” – not even an overbooked 12h night train where we forced to squeeze in the corridor 😉

Railay Beach

ArghhhhhOur first dream destination was Railay, a free climbing and kayaking paradise! Far from the crowded luxury resorts, we found a basic but cheap bungalow in the middle of the jungle and a greedy horde of monkeys, and our own little private beach – a marvelous place with velvet-soft white sand and crystal clear water with the tiny little drawback that high tight would cut you off from the mainland and required a marathon swim back home.

Koh Tao

Arrival in Paradise

Some action loaded days later, the night ferry brought us to Koh Tao, an especially for Gui’s stomach unforgettable passage. There we spent the Christmas days in a lovely hide-away on Koh Tao’s mostly uninhabited east coast. The charming bungalows were made all out of bamboo and driftwood and the spacious porches offered an amazing sea view. Breakfast was served on the terrace overlooking the coast and a steep wooden boardwalk was leading down to the rugged cliffs that provided an outstanding snorkeling spot. Since the next shop was kilometers away following a breakneck dirt-road, we were happy to be self-sustaining with our fuel stove. We only had to share our copious pancake and banana supplies with a horde of ruthless squirrels 😉

Ready for Snorkling

Only the weather didn’t mean so well with us. We had three days of endless rain in straight in a row and this added some dark vibe to the fact that we were already not feeling so light-hearted to spend Christmas far from our family, despite being literally in paradise. We were missing the whole Advent atmosphere, the roasted chestnuts, the Glühwein and the mother-made gingerbread, not to mention the Christmas tree, the snow and a big hug from our beloved ones. But a delicious Christmas Eve dinner and a cheerful card game evening with new friends mixed with generous amounts of Gin Tonic, made this Christmas after all a precious memory.

BottlesTo give ourselves a little Christmas treat, we afforded three days of fun diving. We had both made our Open Water dive certificate 10 years ago on Koh Tao (not knowing each other at his time) and didn’t have a chance to dive since then. But we both immediately rediscovered our passion for the magical underwater world and the truly magnificent feeling of weightlessness, all the more with such a great buddy to team up with 😉 In Koh Tao’s bustling underwater playground of tangled anemones and neon corals, we encountered a sheer endless number of Butterfly-, Angel-, Banner-, Parrot-, Clown- and Triggerfishes, Giant Groupers, Blue Spotted Stingrays, Red-Eyed Morays… The list of multi-colored sea dwellers could easily be extended, but the most majestic of all the remarkable creatures we saw, was without any doubt the sea turtle we were following in our last dive – a worthy culmination for our dive adventure. And although we had some heartbeat accelerating experiences with our air supply, the magical magnetic energy of the diving once again caught hold of us. (Traveler Tip: There a more than 75 dive schools in Koh Tao, we can definitely recommend Big Blue, they have friendly staff and don’t pack dozens of people on a single boat. Ask for Jerome, a professional but nevertheless relaxed and humorous dive master)

The only incident that spoiled our perfect Koh Tao experience was the one evening that we spent in busy Sairee Beach. Our good old memories about this once sleepy town suffered the same lethal fate as the remaining rustic cottages that got bulldozed by corporate resort owners to make blaze for yet another earsplitting night club.

Happy New Year

Lucky LampionFor New Year’s Eve we got invited by Sandrine and Damien, friends who Gui first met 10 years ago on his first Southeast Asia trip but didn’t see since years. Together with some friends they had rented a luxury villa on the hills of Koh Samui, so that we had the pleasure to spend a cheerful and boozy New Year’s Eve with old and new friends and a relaxing day at the beach and the impressive infinity pool.

Phetchaburi

Remnants of Angkor KingdomBefore heading back to Bangkok, we wanted to fill up with some ancient Thai culture after all those lazy bum days on Thailand’s outstanding beaches. Phetchaburi is the perfect spot for that. It offers temples and palaces like Ayuthaya paired with a delightful slice of provincial life, busy markets and literally a Wat around every corner.

Bangkok

Loha PrasatBack in Bangkok we used our remaining days in Thailand for a profound expedition to Bangkok’s extensive shopping opportunities and spent a day in Panthip Plaza, a multi-storey electronic market full to bursting with any kind of electronic gadget every lonely nerd could ever think of. The sheer overwhelming range of devices made us fall into a real shopping fever, so that we finally cut the chains that tied us to our iPhone 3 for the last seven years and bought a brand new smartphone where you can actually install a recent app 🙂

As if this wouldn’t be enough innovation, the end of our Thailand trip also held another premiere for us: for the first time since we started our trip nine months ago, crossing 11 countries, we gonna board a plane to depart to the next country on our wishing list: the Philippines!