Koh Lanta part 2 – Elephants etc.

Whew, the last weeks have been crazy: moving house, new school and neighborhood, overnight shifts at work… So, where did we leave off?

After the first couple of days in our villa, we decided to book a tour down the south of island. What seems like the number one thing to do in Thailand? Ride an elephant! We found a local travel agent and booked an afternoon trip to an elephant park, followed by a few hours to while away in the national park beach.

When we arrived at the elephant park…. well, we shouldn’t have been surprised at this, but it was a bit underwhelming. As it turned out, our “exotic elephant ride through the jungle” was about a 30-minute wander through a rubber plantation next to the highway. And we rode on benches strapped to the elephants’ shoulders rather than having direct body contact. It also would have been a nicer time if our guides hadn’t chattered away at each other in Thai the whole way. Anyway, it was a pretty obvious tourist trap, but the kids were totally oblivious to it – they thought it was fantastic, and I suppose that was the point!

After the ride, we got to feed the elephants some pineapples – tops and all.

Then the tour guide brought us to a secluded beach on the south tip of the island, where we we had the run of the place. There were barely any other people, the water was clear and calm, the sand was soft and clean. It was a perfect afternoon!

As it turned out, it was lucky we did the tour when we did, because the rest of our trip was rained out. We spent the last three days holed up in our villa, eating weird snacks from the 7-11 and watching our way through the DVDs in the house. We ventured out a couple of times, taking a quick trip “downtown” to go shopping: that was a bust, since downtown was just a strip of closed restaurants and a handful of souvenir shops, and an overgrown driving range. One night we found an English-style pub and enjoyed a few beers and baked potatoes. B found a store selling tiny NHL mugs from 1994 and couldn’t have been happier. So our only souvenir from Thailand is a 20-year-old Ottawa Senators shot glass mug. We also managed a final afternoon on the local beach, playing with hermit crabs and finding pretty shells to bring home.

Too soon it was time to head home – We had a house to move and all sorts of crazy things to sort out. More on that next time!


Koh Lanta Part 1 – beaches, beer, bliss

We decided to take some time off the grid in Koh Lanta, Thailand. It was pure chance that we ended up there – the beaches and villas looked nice and the flights were easy, so we went for it! We rented a private villa 100 m from the beach and made plans to just lie around and swim for the week.

Our very early morning flight took us through Kuala Lumpur, with a transfer to Krabi, where we were picked up by a van and shuttled onto the island. We were all pretty wiped after waking up at 2 am that morning, so we all slept through a lot of the drive, but a few of us managed to see the two ferry rides from the mainland – through mangrove forests and around lumpy islands in the mist.

We arrived at our villa and settled in for our stay, and by that I mean we immediately went to the 7-11 and bought all the different types of beer available. Our host had also purchased us a “welcome” package of weird snacks, most of which were basically inedible, but fun to try! There was some kind of meat-flavor balls, some prawn crackers, honey graham rip offs, and some bbq chips. The best that Koh Lanta has to offer! That afternoon, the kids jumped into the pool and basically never came out for the rest of the week.

Day two started with a visit to a lovely cafe, then we spent the rest of the day on the beach. The beach was a short walk away, a 4-km stretch of deserted white sand with plenty of interesting shells and rocks to keep everyone happy.

As it turned out, we were visiting Koh Lanta in the low season, and many shops and tourist amenities were closed. We had a hard time finding groceries, so we ate a lot of strange meals concocted out of whatever we could scrounge at the 7-11: popcorn, jam, eggs and “milk croissants” featured heavily in our diets for the week. But there were also a few restaurants in walking distance, so we were able to enjoy a few good meals of the western-style food we don’t normally get at home in Indonesia – hamburgers, meat pies, pasta. It’s a bit silly that we ended up all the way in Thailand to eat north american food. At one point, I did get a fried rice dish that came in a pineapple, that’s kind of Thai, right? At least most of the restaurants had pet cats, so the kids basically spent their time teasing and chasing them around, the perfect babysitter during our meals… just scratchier.

That first day, we made plenty of plans to take some tours and visit the sights of the island for the rest of the week. Stay tuned!


Move n holidays

As you know, we found a new house in Jakarta, and we’ll be moving in August. It’s a four-bedroom house with a pool and a large kitchen and plenty of open living space. I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t have enough furniture to actually fill the house. Then I started making a list of the things we need to put on a truck and figured out that somehow, in the mere two years of being here, we’ve collected more stuff than we’ve ever had before! The truck I booked might actually need to make two trips. It’ll probably look something like this:

He is literally holding those poles on with the force of his will.
He is literally holding those poles on with the force of his will.

Or maybe we will get really lucky and it will look like this:

What. Is. This. Is it some kind of modded flatbed? and good god, is that a man in a fishing chair driving it? No way...
What. Is. This. Is it some kind of modded flatbed? and good god, is that a man in a fishing chair driving it? No way…
...Yes, yes that is a man in fishing chair driving it. Oh, and he's trying to put on a rain slicker at the same time, going 80 km/hr. Fantastic!
…Yes, yes that is a man in fishing chair driving it. Oh, and he’s trying to put on a rain slicker at the same time, going 80 km/hr. Fantastic!

Because we managed to figure out the housing situation in a reasonable time, we decided to organize a last-minute trip out of town before the move. Because I really, really need a vacation. So where can you go in Southeast Asia that is reasonably cheap and easy to arrange on short notice? Vietnam is top of my list, but flights + visas are quite expensive and I just didn’t have time to sort out tours, train tickets, etc. Cambodia would also be nice, but a trip to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh is not really longer than a few days and my minimum required vacation dose is as least 7 days. Laos? Also near the top of my list, but there’s no way to get there other than going through Vietnam or Thailand, and that increases cost if we’re not taking longer to visit those places as well. So, Thailand! Recent military coup, driving down tourist costs and vacationers? Check. Cheap flights on Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur? Check. Nothing can go wrong with this plan! Nothing.

So we booked ourselves a week in a beach villa on an island off the coast of Krabi. We packed up the bare minimum of clothes into a couple of carry-ons and we’re going off the grid! I’m looking forward to lying on the beach, lying by the pool, lying in the villa, walking down to the restaurant and eating fresh thai seafood every day, exploring the beach shops for silks and spices. Maaaaybe we’ll take a day for some kyaking or cave exploring or elephant rides. And if we don’t do anything but nap all day in the sunshine, I won’t regret a thing.