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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Koh Samui, Thailand - our last stop in Southeast Asia

Koh Samui is Thailand’s largest island in the Gulf of Thailand. We decided to end our trip here. It was the high season for the island, but it really did not feel overly crowded. The island is pretty laid back with lots to see and do. It was the perfect place to wrap up our trip. We stayed at a boutique hotel in Lamai called Asian Secret Resort. What a gem!  

Amazing views everywhere...

The view from the Jungle Club—very easy to sit back and enjoy a cocktail or two. The car ride up a steep hill to get there was pretty challenging!

The view from the Gecko Bar was equally enjoyable with great views, a wonderful infinity pool and fun music. We may have had a cocktail or two here as well.

Having fun with our camera at the Gecko Bar—the reflection on glass top table almost looks like an infinity pool. Yes, we were pretty relaxed.

A great view of Crystal Bay - the prettiest beach on the island!

Went paddle boarding and had a blast. Laura is a NATURAL!  I'm living proof that a high center of gravity and poor balance give you lots of opportunity to get back on your board. Laura fell once!

We did a jet ski tour, three hours long and seven islands. We were surprised we were the only two people on the tour until we got going. After a wave hit Bob and knocked him off the jet ski, we realized it was a little rough. We estimated 3-5 foot swells while going through white caps.  What a day! The guides were funny. They used the old “don't be whimps” technique by telling us the ocean was rougher the day before. It worked.

Beautiful kayaking at the Ang Thong National Marine Park. Yeah, it was touristy and crowded but still fun.

At the Sunday night market in Lamai beach, there was a local girls school band playing. They were amazing.

Great looking BBQ ribs for sale too!

We regularly saw signs like this in Thailand and Cambodia. 

No disagreement here!

Lots of truth in this. Pretty funny but debatable. 

Laura commented, “The way they make those leather jackets look just like skin is amazing.”  We never saw a Thai doing this, only visitors. Obviously joking but the reality is motor scooter accidents are the #1 source of injuries and deaths on the island. It was common to see tourists bandaged and on crutches. We thought this fell in the bad decision category. We stayed away from scooters and walked or took island taxis. 

This was our home-away-from-home for 11 days at Koh Samui, the Asian Secret Resort. It was a lovely boutique hotel with 10 bungalows and wonderful owners, now friends.

Paco (pictured) and Juan were owners, both were from the south of Spain and built the resort. We had a great time with them—they were the best part of the resort!

The lifeguard that overlooked the pool at the Asian Secret Resort.

❤️ All the places we visited on our trip. Loved it, what an experience!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Railay Beach, Thailand

We stopped at Railay Beach to spend the last day before sending the girls back to the US. The ferry from Ko Phi Phi to Railay was definitely an “adventure.”  The ferry was packed!  Many folks sat inside to avoid the intense sun for the 90 minute ride to Railay. There was no air conditioning and minimal ventilation. Luckily we sat next to a lovely South African couple traveling with their young son; chatting with them definitely helped pass the time. Things got interesting when 20 minutes before the boat arrived at Railay, they called all passengers getting off at Railay to the back of the boat. There were a SLEW of folks; you could barely turn around. When the boat finally stopped at Railay, we were 1/2 mile from shore, and there was no dock. Instead, they had long-tail boats meet the ferry to take passengers ashore, about 12 people and their luggage per small boat. Our long-tail felt like it was going to tip over once or twice. The long-tails stopped about 30 yards from shore in knee deep water. Everyone had to carry their luggage ashore trying not to get it wet. You should have seen the looks of older folks and those who had those huge mega suitcases. Thank goodness we had carry-on luggage. What an experience—it was definitely an adventure!

Once we recovered from our “adventurous” ferry ride, we saw that Railay had a beautiful beach, absolutely gorgeous and not as crowded as Ko Phi Phi. We had a chance to kayak and relax before heading back to Bangkok.  

 We grabbed this picture from the Internet so you can get an idea of our ferry ride. Our boat was much more crowded!

Our beach-front resort was awesome—lush landscaping, beautiful flowers, gorgeous rooms and a relaxing infinity pool.

It was really tough sitting in this pool relaxing (NOT).

We went kayaking with the girls. They chose a tandem, and we took singles. When they came back, one of them said next time singles for them.  LOL

We were able to explore all around the karsts (the big limestone rocks) while kayaking. 

Pretty fascinating to see the erosion from the water over the millennia.

The cliffs were gorgeous! Railay is best known for great rock climbing—you can see why.

So scenic

Everyone loved watching the sunsets.

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand - What a crowded gem!

Ko Phi Phi is a beautiful island off the west coast of southern Thailand. It is known for its beauty and its parties for the younger crowd once the sun goes down. We enjoyed the first much more than the second! The Island with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed here. It’s a mere 1.5 hour ferry ride from the mainland and well worth the visit. 
What an amazing view from the hotel pool!

Our favorite adventure was renting a long tail boat for the day. We went from beach to beach enjoying the stunning views and snorkeling in some amazingly clear waters. Erin and Michelle enjoyed the sun and fun.

Some beaches were fairly crowded...

While others were fairly empty...

We stopped at Monkey Beach, named for the friendly critters that lived there. They were very accustom to visitors and went a little aggressive when they saw you with food or juice. One nearly attacked Laura when she was carrying mango juice. Needless to say, Laura won.

The Longtail boats were so cool to see and ride in!

What a fun day!

Walking up to Phi Phi Viewpoint for the sunset and spectacular view is a popular thing to do. Ask us about the ‘death march’ to get there. We made it, but it was close!

Luckily we found an easier way to get down. Don’t know how we missed it. 

Such a amazing place—great sand, sun and memories!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pantawan Cooking School in Chiang Mai

We enjoy Thai food so what better than to learn how to make it. We found the Pantawan Cooking School through a friend of Laura’s younger daughter who had visited Chiang Mai—what a great find. We toured the food market, learned to cook four dishes and then enjoyed our yummy creations. 
The food market is filled with so many different kinds of food, meat and produce. Some you buy raw; others are cooked there for you. That’s duck you see here.

Quite a selection of raw meat. 

Bob was mesmerized by them grilling sausage. We had a chance to try it, and it was very good!

The welcoming committee, two pups that were 4 weeks old. Their mom was a rottweiler and the dad was a beagle. We are still trying to envision how that happened.

Everyone got a chance to help the chef make the red curry paste. Check out those guns!

Making a red curry paste—it took a lot of muscle to mash everything together.

After watching the chef make a dish, we went to our stations and made it ourselves.

Plamuk Pad Pong Karee, a yellow curry with calamari.

Yam Moo Yang, a grilled pork salad.

Tom Ka Gai, a coconut soup with chicken. YUM!

Pad Prig Kang Moo, a stir fry red curry with pork. It was one of our favorites!

Enjoying our delicious creations! It was a feast.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

We visited the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. What an experience. We spent the day with young elephants (<5 yrs old). They are amazing animals. They are elephants rescued from situations where they were in jeopardy and poorly treated. Unfortunately they no longer had their mothers. They do a great job caring for the elephants. It was so much fun interacting with and feeding the elephants. 

We arrived at the park and these guys knew it was feeding time.

They were so agile and gentle taking bananas from your hand (apparently their fave food).

Happy girls with happy elephants.  Smiles were everywhere!

It was so cool watching them wander.

It was great walking with the elephants!

We even bathed the elephants, or did they bathe us?

This young lady had an itch that couldn’t wait.

This little guy was 8 months - so cute!

I helped make a elephant nutritional supplement.

Laura and the girls feeding the supplements to the little guy.  He loved it!

They even had mud baths!

The elephants loved it!

And we did too!  

A good time was had by ALL!