THAILAND 2: 06.02. - 06.03.2005

Route: Aranya Prathet, Bangkok, Khao Yai Nationalpark, Bangkok, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, Sungai Kolok

Distance Bike: 586 Km

Preface: Also during our 2nd visit, we really enjoyed Thailand. Now we visited the south of Thailand, especially the islands Koh Tao and Koh Samui. Normally the local people are quite strange in the tourist areas, but not so the Thais. While the Thais sill behaved normal, the plenty of, sometimes really strange tourists, got on our nerves.

Guess who? After 1,5 months in Laos and Cambodia, we were back in Thailand. From the bordertown Aranya Prahet, we took the train to Bangkok, because our next visitor was already waiting for us. Ok., the photo is not the very best, but maybe someone is able to recognice him. Our friend Michi is a professional illustrator, an instead of taking photos, heīs painting his impressions. You can see his pictures on his homepage under the synonym "Heiz Deutsch" (meaning: "Heinz German", Heinz is a common German name). By the way, Michi created our small logo and the T-shirts for our farewell party.
Wat Phra Kaew: Wat Phra Kaew, the royal monestary, is one of the most important places of buddhist wohrship in Thailand. All the facades are very colourful and they are very iridescent in the sunlight. I think in the whole temple it is impossible to find at least one square centimeter which is only painted with white colour. Even inside the themple, all the walls are painted with scenes from Buddhas live. The main chapel houses the so called Smaragd Buddha, made completely of green jasper. But when an abbot found the statue in the 15th century, protected with a layer of stuccko, he first thought the green nose, were the stucco already fell off, was made of smaragd, and so the Buddha got his name.
Chinese Happy New Year: From February 9th to February 10th the Chinese in Bangkok celebrated their Happy New Year. We had no chance to visit China on our journey, and so we used our change to see at least a little bit from the chinese culture. According to the information of the Tourist Information, we expected big parades and dragon dances. We arrived in the afternoon in Chinatown and soon had to stop at a cordon from the police. We expected a big parade and together with all the Chinese, we diceded to wait (just 10 minutes, was the information of a policeman). After 1,5 hours, a quite big group of men, all dressed in suits, and some policemen camealong, accompanying a woman. Everybody was qute an nobody was waving hisarms. When the group had passed, the cordon was pulled down and we were quite irritated. Was this the parade? We asked a passanger and found out, that the acommpanied woman was the Princess of Thailand. A bit later, we saw a huge illuminated dragon, carried from about 30 - 50 people. We got the information, that the dragon will give a performance in about 15 minutes (followed by a parade) on the next junction. We again waited at the police cordon and after 15 minutes instead of the dragon and a parade, again the Pincess of Thailand passed by. After that, the illuminated dragon made a short dance performance. Because we expected to meet the Princess of Thailand all night long, instead of some parades and dragon dancers, we decided to go home.
Khao Yai Nationalpark: Together with Michi, we visited the Khao Yai Nationalpark for some jungle trekking and animal watching. From the park headquater we went on a marked jungle trail. After about half an hour, we met to French girls running out of the jungle. One of them still looked completely scared and wanted to leave the jungle as soon as possible, because she saw a tiger. Nadine and Michi didnīt believe the story (there are only 10 tigers in the national park) and so we follewed the track. A bit later, we heard some noise in the forest and some animals started to flee. While Nadine and Michi still tried to see one of the fleeing animals, I tried to come closer to the animal which was still here. After 25m I saw, in a distance of about 20m, a very big black animal. The animal was eating from a tree, and the tree was swaying even in a altitude of several meters. For me it was clear: I saw one of the parks 150 wild elephants. Of course I immediately tried to call Nadine and Michi, but they still tried to see the already fled animals. After about 2 minutes, (I was only wavig with my arms becaus I didnīt want to make some noise), Nadine saw me and came closer, while Michi still concentrated on the empty jungle. After a while also Michi saw us and came closer, but in the meanwhile the elephant was not there any more. We tried to follow him, but in the jungle we had no chance. So I suddenly found me in the same situation like the French girl: I saw elephant, but nobody wanted to believe me. In the dusk, we saw many deers on a big grass area, and during the next two days, we also saw a very big monitor lizzard and some gibbons.
Jungle campsite: We spent our first night at a remote ranger station. Accept the three rangers and one squirrel we were the only guests. We climbed a nearby wildlive watchtower, and saw a deer family in the dusk. To travel as light as possible, we just took our outer shell of the tent, and our sleeping bags with us. But our campsite was in an altitude of about 900m above sea level, and so it became very cold during the night (we were all freezing). We decided to spent our second night at campsite close to the headquater. On arrival we were really shocked. Hundreds of tents! It wasweekend, and manyThai families came to spent two dayin the nationa park. A little bit sad still dreaming about our remote campsite, we pitched up out tent among all the others. But we also had good luck, because the rangers had a rental station for equipment, and so we hired some blankets for the night.
Nightsafari part 1: On the campsite, we met some Dutch backpackers and they asked us if we would like to join them during a "Spotlight night safari". At 8pm we were picked up by a jeep and while sitting on the back, we were driven through the park. Of course, we hoped to see a tiger or at least an elephant, but the only animals we saw were some deers. We were realy surprised, that the deers didnīt care at all about the car and the spotlight. Nearly beind each and every bush we saw a relaxed deer, and some of the deers even came to the crowded campsite.
Nightsafari part 2: Our driver was driving a bit too fast, and after he had passed some very nice deer, Nadine asked him to slow down. Now, our driver drove so slow, that many other cars strarted to follow us. At the end we were the head of a big snake with many spotlights, moving through the jungle. For most of the parks the aboriginals (deers, elephants, tigers, ...) it was surely very interesting, to observe the habits of the strange animals called the human race.
Gibbons: On our last jungle trek, we finally saw some gibbons. They we playing just a few meters above us in the trees. Totally relaxed they were jumping from branch to branch and from tree to tree. Sometimes they were even flying more than 5m through the air, until they managed to reacht the next branch. Everybody was fasciated from the acrobatic and self-confident way of moving. Gibbons also have the habit to sing like a bird and we really enjoyed to listen to them.
Saying good bye to Michi: After nearly one week, we had to say good bye to Michi. We had to go back to Bangkok while Michi planned to travel to Cambodia and Vietnam. By the way, the elephant in the background is not the elephant I saw in the jungle :-)
Steffi our next visitor: With our hands still beeing warm from saying good bye to Michi, we had to welcome Steffi. Steffi already visited us in Luxor (February 2004) together with Nadines mother. Now she came with Frank, a friend, and we planned to visit the islands Koh Tao and Koh Samui on the south-east coast of Thailand.
Racing to the south: While Nadine and Steffi preferred t take the bus to Koh Tao, I wanted to cycle the 500 Km within 4-5 days. Together with Joris, a cyclist from Belgium, I started at 4am (normally I never start so early). We took the highway to leave Bangkok and so we were much faster when we expected to be. Also the entertainment was very good: one puncture before dawn, I lost my purse during the breakfast stop (but I realized it not earlier than 75 Km later), and Joris slipped away in a road works area and fell from his bicycle. After the first day we had cycled some unbelievable 180 Km (with a steady headwind). Powered from the great first day, we made 160 Km on the second and on the third day, and after having spent a night in a petrol station, we arrived in Chumpon (the port town for Koh Tao) after 3 days.
Koh Tao: Koh Tao is a small island, 8x3 Km, on Thailands eastcoast. Some years ago, Koh Tao was inhabitated from some fishermen families, but in the recent years it developed to a famous diving centre. Sometimes it is even impossible to get a room without booking a course in a diving centre. In spite of the toorist boom in the recent years, it is still possible to find quite and picturesque beaches for relaxing, swimmig and snorkelling. Nadine and Steffi arrived two day earlier than we, and rented a nice small bungalow. They tried to send me an E-mail to tell me where I could find them, but the mail never arrived. But before we went to the ferry terminal, we met some Dutch cyclists, and they reported about two girs pushing one fully loaded bicycle (and two backpacks and a suitcase) through the sandy beach on the soutcoast. There was only one diving centre with its bungalows in this region, and so we managed to find them.
Snorkelling: In Egypt (Red Sea) we tested snorkelling for the first time and were absolutely fascinated. Expecting to have some great oppertuneties for snorkelling during the next months (Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia), we bought a snorkelling equipment in Bangkok. Although there were not as many colorfoul fish and the water on Koh Tao was not as clear as in Egypt, it was againg great to see this strange world. Once I even saw a small shark.
Dive Course: Because I was so fascinated from snorkelling, I wanted to learn diving, and so I made a open water dive course on Koh Tao. Together with Joris, we made the dive course in a German Dive centre, with a German Dive instructor but in English languange. We started with a videofilm and some theory on the first day, and on the second day, we went into the water for the first time. In a beautiful shallow and sandy bay, we went under water for our first exercises (taking off the mask, breathing from the alterative air source from the partner, .....)
The first real dive: After we managed the exercises in the shallow water, we had our first real dive on the third day. We wend to the open sea! For me, it was an absolutely great feeling to fly through the water, beeing able to regutale the dept only by breathing. In contrast to snorkelling, we had much more time to observe the beautiful fish from a very short distance. We saw a Morrey Eel, a Titan Triggerfish, some Clownfish (also known as NEMO) and many other fish. Unfortunately it is impossible to stay unter water as long as you want (the air is limited), and after 45 minutes we always had to come back to the surface.
Thai Massage (from Nadine): While Martin and Joris made the div ecourse, Steffi and me spent our time with relaxng in the sun, reading and snorkelling. But immediately on the first day, I got sunburned, so I had to stay in the shaddow for the rest of the time. Thailand is also very famousfor its massage, and so Steffi and I decided to get a body-oil-massage on the beach. The massage lasted one hour, while the sea was rushung in the background. Only in paradise it can be more beautiful :-)))))
Culture shock Koh Samui (from Nadine): After one beautiful week on Koh Tao, we took the ferryboat to Koh Samui, the next island. Like a package tourist, we were picked up at the pier from Frank and Helmut (friends from Steffi). Everything was loaded on a small jeep and we were brought to a small guesthouse. In contrast to Koh Tao, Koh Samui is a buzzy Beach Resort Island, with big shopping areas and plenty of bars. Exspecially during the night, the bars are very busy. The waitresses are normally prostitutes and you can hire them from the barowner. There is even a bar for transvestites, the so called ladymen, in Lamai. Of course most of tourist only came because of the "great" nightlive and the beautiful girls, but it was also possible to see some normal tourists (like us).
Red bicycle: We were really surprised, when we saw a bicycle shop with a Cannondale rental station (the only one in the world). Normally we only wanted to have a short look, but than we stayed several hours. It was really great to talk to Debra, the shopowner from US (her husband Mike was not there) about her live as a foreigner in Thailand. She also told us about their project for helping the people who suffered from the Tsunami. Immediately after the Tsunami, they travelled to some remote islands to bring wood for building houses to the destroyed (and from the government and the international aid forgotten) villages.
Sightseeing on Koh Samui (from Nadine): During the first days on Koh Samui, Frank showed us around the island, and together with him we visited some very nice viewpoints, a waterfall and the Big Buddha. Big Buddha is a 12m high Buddhastatue on a small island on the northcoast of Koh Samui (you can reach the small island through a footbridge). One year before, there was a big Tsuami on the eastcoast, but it didnīt reach Koh Samui. The local people now believe, that Big Buddha protected them, and so they worship him also for this. After some lazy days, Nadine and Steffi hired a small scooter and started to explore the island on their own. They viseted the Magic Garden (a group of stone musicians on a mountain in the jungle), a small temple and a reptile farm.
Sending home the canoe: After our canoe tours on the River Ganges and the Mekong River, we decided to send our canoe (next opportunety for paddeling is the Amazon River in Southamerica) back home. Frank is working at Frankfurt airport, and so it was no problem for them to take the boat with them (they were allowed to take 10 Kg extra lagguage) back to Germany.
Saying good by to Steffi: Time was fleeting and Steffis 3 weeks holiday was finished very fast. After sunshine during the last months (our last rain was in October 2004 on the River Ganges), it started to rain after berakfast, better said, it was pouring cats and dogs. We packed everything and hoped for some suneshine but nothing changed. Suddenly Frank arrived with a scooter to pick up Steffi. The Farewell scene was very short and just some seconds later, we saw them disapearing in the rain.
Saying good by to Thailand: We left the bungalow about 10 minutes after Steffi, because our visa for Tailand expired on the next day and we were still on Koh Samui, 500 Km north of the border to Malaysia. In the heavy rain, we cyceled to the habour and went on the next ferry. From the habour it was still 60 Km to the next town with a railwaystation and so we asked a lorrydriver for a lift. Already on the ferry, we loaded our bikes on the lorry, and 1 hour later we were in Surat Thani, the next town. The railwaystation was about 20 km out of the town, and so we cycled the last Kilometers and arrived in the dusk. The next train left at midnight and so we spent a sleepless night at the railwaystation and in an overcrowded and dirty train. After 10 hours we arrived in Sunggai Kolok, spent our last Bath (the currency in Thailand) and crossed the border to Malaysia.




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