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Lonely Beach, Lazy Beach

Back to Thailand.  Since we had already spent a few weeks in northern Thailand when we first came to Southeast Asia, and our flight back to the States was leaving from Bangkok, we planned to spend the remainder of our weeks abroad in the south of Thailand along the coast and on some islands.

Ko Chang PO box

We decided to start at Koh Chang, mostly because we were leaving Cambodia via the border crossing west of Siem Reap and we could go there directly without having to go all the way back to Bangkok to connect to other transportation.  From Siem Reap, it was a two hour minibus ride to the border town of Poipet, three hours waiting in line at the border, another six hours in a minibus crammed to the max with bodies and luggage, and an hour ferry ride.  The ferry ride was actually not what we had in mind; we wanted to spend the night in Trat and then take the ferry over to the island in the morning.  But as we approached the outskirts of Trat, our driver announced that he wasn’t stopping because if he did, the rest of the passengers would miss the last ferry to the island.   So on we went.

It was dark by the time we got to Koh Chang, and about 20 of us crammed in the back of a waiting songthaew.  The overloaded truck careened around the steep and winding jungle road that skirted the coast and somehow none bags fell off the top.  Since it was late and we didn’t have reservations, we decided to try to find a place in White Sand Beach, one of the main tourist areas.  We spent an exhausting hour wandering up and down the strip looking for a guesthouse that had rooms we would afford and… well, vacancies.  We walked past bars pumping loud music to solo white male patrons who were flanked by local girls in tight dresses and heavy makeup.

Eventually, we settled for a place a bit out of our price range that was set further back the trees.  We woke up the next morning, paid for an additional night, rented a motorbike and went in search of a cheap little bungalow far away from the lights and vibe of White Sand Beach.

Almost as soon as we took off, it started to rain.  Just a little cloudburst, but enough that the steep hills and hairpin turns might as well have been coated in ice.  After seeing the intense concentration on the local drivers’ faces and witnessing two motorbike accidents happen right in front of us, Tony decided to pull over and wait for the pavement to dry.  As we sat on the side of the road, a Russian couple slid into a slow-mo crash right next to us.  They decided to clean up their bleeding scrapes and wait it out, too.

Biking caution sign

Slick hill

After less than an hour, the roads were dry again and we were on our way.  For the next several days, we ended up trying out a few different bungalows on different beaches and exploring different areas around Koh Chang.  Tony piloted us all over the island and kept us upright at all times, even when we had both of our bags on board.

Sand road through the palms

Bang Bao pier

Lucky charm belt

National park rules

ATM truck

Klong Kloi bungalow

We eventually settled in at Lonely Beach in a row of cheapie bungalows with cold water showers and a bucket-flush toilet.  They weren’t the most picturesque and the bars next door were noisy all night but we liked the Thai staff and the food at the attached cafe.

Shoes parking

And the hammock.  The hammock was good.

Tony in the hammock

Alicia in hammock

Cafe poetry

Cafe dog

Cafe del Sunshine

Kitty

Lonely Beach

Lonely Beach swing

We borrowed a big woven mat from the cafe and spent long afternoons at the beach.  The water was as warm as the air and we were well aware of how lucky we were to be on a beach in the middle of February.  Our biggest problem was that the masks and snorkels we were renting for $1 were a little leaky and the blues bar next door was just as loud in our bungalow as when we visited in person.

Alicia at SF

Dog on stage

It is done

After much discussion over what island we should go to for the rest of the month, and what was going to be different there than laying in hammocks and drinking coconut shakes and picking up seashells, we decided we were done.  We didn’t need any more beach.  We already had that a few weeks prior in Cambodia, and we had our fill here.  We sent some emails and headed back to the mainland with a plan.  And the oldest, rustiest ferry we had ever seen carried us back.

Alicia on the ferry

Rusty ferry

01
Jun 2013
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Thailand

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R&R on Otres Beach

King Sihanouk’s funeral was going to bring an estimated 1.5 million visitors, including major foreign dignitaries and security forces, to the capital.  It sounded like it might be really interesting, or maybe just a huge headache.  Since we had already seen the King’s 100 day memorial ceremony, and we were already planning to spend some time down on Cambodia’s coast, we left Phnom Penh and waited it out on a beach near Sihanuokville (a port city named after… guess who).

Everythang's lounge chairs

pink rock

Tony at the office

Welcome mat

 

We waited it out all right.  For 13 days.  Maybe that was a little excessive…

 

Our bungalow

Bed

Bamboo Shack

Red snapper's snappers

…but when you’re in a little hut a few meters from warm blue water, all the days start blending together in a good way.

Between the fish tacos at our place, the amok (Khmer curry) and coconut shakes at the cafe next door and the laid back and friendly people around us, there was really no reason to leave.

We read a lot of books. Tony finally conquered this one. (Hi Pete!)

Zen

We might have turned a few shades browner.

A few shades darker

A very handsome fellow

Warm water, tasty food, plenty of lounge chairs… did we mention there were puppies?

Black puppy

Here is Alicia’s face when she sees a puppy walking towards her.

Puppy sighting

(This is the puppy.)

Beach pup

The sunsets weren’t too bad either.

Yellow sunset

Fishing boat at sunset

People walking dogs at sunset

So yeah, 13 days on Otres Beach. We finally dragged ourselves away because we knew that the last “big” sightseeing event of our year of traveling was up next.  Otherwise, we might still be there.

14
Mar 2013
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Cambodia

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A Haven in Vietnam

We hadn’t decided where we wanted to go next after Quy Nhon, but our guesthouse had a binder of local information and in it was an advertisement for another small guesthouse that was only a few miles away. In a tiny fishing village. On beach that’s empty for most of the day. With a hammock and a dog. The room price included breakfast. After a quick internet reality check to make sure this wasn’t too good to be true, we booked a room and called a taxi.

Bai Xep sign

After turning off the main road, Bai Xep’s street narrowed so that we had to leave the taxi and walk the rest of the way. We went past the school.

Bai Xep school

Past the “central market” which had only four food stands and a few ladies selling small stacks of vegetables.

food stall lady

soup lady

Down an even narrower alley, past piles of lobster traps.

Lobster traps

We ignored the entrance sign and walked a few more steps to get our first look at the beach.

fishing gear and boats on the beach

round boats

Yes, this will do just fine.

We spent the next several days reading books in the hammock, visiting a waterfall, getting knocked down by the it’s-still-typhoon-season waves, checking out the working beach on the other side of the village, watching the lobster fishermen launch their basket boats, submitting to tattoo inspections and picking up seashells.

Haven’s name was apt.

Tony in the hammock

Boat launch

Paddling out

Village boy

Seashell

village girls

Tony with girls

Village boys

Tattoo inspection

Tattoo inspection

Tattoo inspection

Alicia reading

Playing spoons

Waterfall

waterfall

Tony standing above a waterfall

hiking through the jungle

Eating lunch

Haven the dog

Yellow basket boat

Working beach

dog in the hammock

When we only had five days remaining on our Vietnamese visa, we sadly had to tear ourselves away from Haven (and proprietors Rosie and Huw and Haven The Dog) and head for Saigon. If we ever make it back to Vietnam, we know of a place that will be at the top of our list.

Holding hands

(If you ever find yourself in central Vietnam, check out Haven Vietnam Guesthouse. Full disclosure: we’re blogging about and linking to Haven simply because it’s great; we haven’t received any form of compensation or freebies.)

22
Feb 2013
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Vietnam

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Deserted Beaches and Cham Towers in Quy Nhon

After biking around Hoi An for a few days, we realized that it was nearly mid-January and we still hadn’t seen much of the sun since the day after Christmas. It was getting warmer as we traveled down the coast of Vietnam, but the skies were continually dark and the waves were rough. Probably to be expected since it was typhoon season in that part of the country. Nothing to do about it but keep on moving south.

Since we enjoyed being one of only a few Westerners that we saw back in Da Nang (one day we counted only five) and since we liked the atmosphere that those types of cities bring, we looked for a city on the coast that had good beaches but was smaller than Da Nang.  Quy Nhon looked about right, so we bought our bus tickets.

Here’s what Quy Nhon’s beach looked like on the Saturday afternoon that we arrived.

Deserted beach

Sunbathing isn’t exactly a national pastime here.

Rough waves

Just like the rest of the beaches we had seen in the past week, the water was too rough to swim. But that was just fine because we now had blue skies and THE SUN.

One evening while walking along the beach, we had a very nice (if lengthy) conversation with a local man who wanted to practice his English with us. Every question had the same formal preface.

“Excuse me, can you please tell me about education in your country?”

“Excuse me, can you please tell me about the economy in your country?”

“Excuse me, can you please tell me about guns in your country? Many people have been shot?”

Whoa. Those were some pretty broad and deep questions, but we worked our way through them to the best of our abilities.

Besides enjoying what was essentially our own private beach, we entertained ourselves in the evenings by walking through a night market. Western Christmas carols blared on the sound system and there were some mini carnival rides for little kids. Tony looked for a new pair of flip flops, but if you’re over size 42 (U.S. size 8.5), you are out of luck.

Reindeer spaceman ride

Paddleboats for babies

Carousel swing ride

One day, we rented a moped from our guesthouse and drove it out to see some partially restored 11th and 12th century Cham towers. Two towers were in town and the others were about 10 miles away.

Alicia on the moped

Thap Doy towers

Carving detail

Facade

Interior

Interior altar

Cham towers sunflare

Bahn It tower

Two towers on a hill

Bahn It

The groundskeeper called out to us and asked for 20,000 dong. Despite the official-looking ID hanging from his neck, we were skeptical, but he produced a booklet of tickets. We noticed that the price printed on them was only 7,000 dong and he reluctantly accepted that amount instead. Although he was being dishonest, we later felt badly that we had not simply paid what was the equivalent of an extra $1.20. He probably needed it much more than we did. Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t clear.

Groundskeeper

Bahn It facade

Bahn It facade

Lower carvings

side detail

Tower further down the hill

Silhouette

View from the top

From our vantage point on top of the hill, we spotted what looked like an interesting pagoda nearby and decided to check it out. We never figured out its name, but it looked like it was either under renovation or its construction had begun and stopped a few decades ago and is only now starting up again.

Stairway to Buddha

Buddha

Dragon

Pagoda tower

Top of pagoda tower

We started to wonder where we should go next. South, obviously, but how far? Our guesthouse had a binder full of local information and something interesting caught our eye…

21
Feb 2013
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Vietnam

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Beach and Paella

We only had a few days left in Spain and still had not eaten any paella. So we spent a day walking the beach and picked a nearby paella restaurant at random. Alicia is not a big fan of invertebrates, but we both definitely found the pile of rice and tentacles and shells and tails and legs the be among our most delicious experiences to date.

05
Jun 2012
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Spain

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