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Thailand

Thailand: Bangkok: Shopping ‘til We’re Sick

March 7, 2011

sunny 88 °F

We are taking full advantage of this vacation thing---and slept in until almost noon. . actually it probably has more to do with the fact that we’re chickens and didn’t get much sleep after the scary film we watched last night! This is our last day in Bangkok so we wanted to go explore a few more areas so we headed to the really commercial areas. We ended up exploring this huge shopping complex called Siam Center and the Paragon—beautiful but far too overpriced for our tastes after all the little markets we’ve been visiting! We loved a skate shop called NY/LA because it kind of says it all for the two of us :) Ruby was still not feeling well so we had another light dinner followed by the last massages we will be getting for a while! :(

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 11:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Bangkok: Weekend Markup!

March 6, 2011

sunny 83 °F

After a long night on the bus we finally arrived in Bangkok around 7am. We met some new friends named Ulrich and Vicky from Germany that were also going to Khao San Road and decided to join us. After a little walking around and getting told “you can’t take a bus to Khao San” we found a city bus. If you’re ever at the Bus Station in Bangkok take bus #3 for 7 baht and it will dropped you directly on the corner of Khao San. We checked back into the same hotel that we had last time, showered, and lounged around the room watching bad movies for a few hours. We finally decided to motivate and walked over to take a look at Tony’s new suit. It still needs some work but it’s looking good. Afterwards we hopped on a city bus over to the Chatuchak weekend market. This is a large market selling just about everything Thailand is known for and just about all of it Tony can’t fit in his bags! Tony did his best to keep Ruby from buying too much but his bag is definitely going to be a little heavier tomorrow, the newest addition is a wide brimmed hat! Tony is not very good at bargaining and every time he talks, the price seems to go up! :) We then took the subway over to Chinatown for some of the great street food. Unfortunately Ruby wasn’t feeling very well and we didn’t get to eat as much as we had planned. This may be a good thing because 4 months of travel has not been good for our 6 packs!? After a short bus ride back to our hotel we called it a night with “The Fourth Kind”. . pretty scary. I hope we can sleep! :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 11:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Khao Lak: Similar in the Similans

March 5, 2011

sunny 88 °F

Speeding across the Andaman Sea is what we’re doing this morning. We are on our way to the Similan Islands which are a group of 9 islands about 60 km off of the west coast of Thailand. The ride took about an hour and half to get to the Live Aboard boat we would join to do our dives today. Our dive instructor Jonas was from Sweden and we tried to ask him why there’s so many Scandinavians in Khao Lak but he didn’t have an answer for us. After our briefing we were ready for our first dive at Turtle Rock. We went down to 20 meters and were surrounded by huge granite boulders towering over us underwater. The visibility was amazing and we could see ALL the way to the bottom from the water surface. On the boat prepping for our first dive we felt like newbies with the expert Julian, a Spaniard from Madrid, and the Swedish guy who had all of his own latest and greatest gear. This just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover. The poor Swedish guy couldn’t sink down to the bottom and from the bottom looking up he looked like a float from the Macy’s Day Parade! He needed tons more weight and then ran out of air and had to share with our divemaster for over ½ the dive?! We tried to not let this distract us from enjoying our dive. We saw lots of schools of colorful fish. We really wish we had an underwater camera for every dive but sadly we didn't for this day.

After lunch on the boat our second dive was better—at Elephant Head Rock. There we went down to 24 meters and saw all sorts of great things. Barracudas, a hot pink anemone hidden under a crevice which Jonas pointed out, a nudibranch with orange spots, a giant sea slug (at least 2 feet long and 8 inches wide), pufferfish, clown triggerfish, large parrotfish and lots of other critters. Though, the real highlight of this divesite was the swim-throughs. There are huge granite boulders that stick out of the water and go all the way down to the sea floor and where they join they form places to maneuver your way through—we swam under, around, over, up and down these different crevices. . .which by the way is a great exercise in buoyancy and learning the dimensions of your scuba equipment! ;-) Afterwards we totaled up our dives. .now at 13 yay! After quick showers we headed back via speedboat to the mainland to catch our night bus to Bangkok. All in all, we think that the better divesites were near Koh Phi Phi; this may be because there were less people diving there and thus more fish/creatures. I think we have earned the massages we plan on getting tomorrow!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Khao Lak: Chasing Funds

March 4, 2011

sunny 91 °F

We got up a little late today and posted up at a café with Wi-Fi for breakfast. It was so nice to get real bacon (one of Ruby’s favorites)! It was supposed to be a quick stop to check emails but Ruby ended up having to deal with a Chase bank fiasco. Back in India the power to an ATM had shut down near the end of her transactions without giving Ruby her money. . . and of course the bank registered that she had received it. The bank tried to say that Ruby was responsible for the missing funds since they couldn’t get the money back from the Indian bank ATM but Ruby was having none of it!! Of course everything takes three times as long when you’re out of the country and after the third call and speaking to a supervisor she was finally able to get the full credit back on her account :) Hooray for that, it was the equivalent to 10 nights hotel stay in Thailand! We spent the afternoon eating, and lazing around at the beach and later we had to go back to Ga Restaurant for the pepper and garlic prawns (YUM) and basically chilled out most of the day. I don’t know what it is about a dive the next day but we can never go to sleep and end up staying up talking for hours. . . maybe excitement? :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Memoirs of a City Bus—FOODIE ALERT

March 3, 2011

sunny 90 °F

We started our day much like a lot of days on this trip. We got up, took showers, packed our bags, opened our Thailand book and picked a new destination: the Similan Islands. It’s a few hour bus north from our hotel and the nice A/C mini bus direct would cost 350 Baht each. Being the cheapskates that we are, we found out that if we take a pickup truck to a city bus to a tour bus we could save 200 Baht (that’s $7). It’s funny how much stuff you have to go thought to save $7, but food and hotels are cheap here and $7 is equal to a good meal or a night at a hotel. We arrived into Khao Lak and it’s not what we expected. We thought it was going to be a small fishing town with some scuba shops and a few restaurants. What we got was what we think is the main Thailand tourist destination for Scandinavia. I think English is the 3rd language spoken and the prices are just as high as in Krabi. Good for us that Ruby is good at shopping around and Tony is good at following Ruby shop around! :) We looked at just about every scuba center in town and decided on a day trip to the Similans with All 4 Scuba. We had some amazing black pepper and garlic prawns at Ga Restaurant located on the main street and highly recommend it if you’re ever in town. After a short stop at the local market for some fruit we went back to our room and really enjoyed watching Memoirs of a Geisha (thank you Christel!). No plans for tomorrow but you never know. . .we could be in Myanmar by the end of the day! :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Thailand:Superdive Day at a Wreck, Anemone Reef &Shark Point

March 2, 2011

sunny 88 °F

Lucky for us it wasn’t raining when we got up. We thought for a little bit last night that we wouldn’t be able to dive because of the downpour but like most tropical places it rained like Noah was building his boat for one hour. . .and then stopped! We were up late and Ruby didn’t sleep very well because sometimes she thinks too literally and was imagining how deep we would be diving (the equivalent of a ten story building underwater)! Sleepy or not, we both got up and headed to the diveshop nervously excited. The ride out to our first dive, the King Cruiser Wreck, took about 2 hours from Ao Nang. Ruby was busy reading on the boat since Tony had the book the night before. After a briefing and quiz from Richard our Divemaster we were ready for our first Deep Water Dive! WOW is all we can say! The very bottom was about 31 meters (93 feet) and it was dark and murky down there. After a quick class at the murky bottom we couldn’t wait to work our way up the wreck. It was so strange to swim through a ship wreck and see the remains of the ship replaced by barnacles, sea urchins, eels, and more fish then we could type in this blog. We got to swim in and out of the main parts of the ship and when we were coming up the back side of the wreck even got to see a school of squid! Lion fish patrolled the outside of the wreck and moray eels seemed to love the old pipes to hide. On our safety stop up we spotted a jellyfish and it was a great way to relax and end the dive.

After a short break we moved to our next dive at Anemone Reef with Geow our next divemaster. This dive site is a little shallower and had much more to see. There was soft coral everywhere with anemones growing as far as you could see. There were lots of schools of fish and so many clown fish (nemos) that we almost stopped pointing at them every time we came across one. After this dive we stopped for some well needed lunch on the boat. It was good because we were hungry but nothing to blog about. :) After a short break we were back in the water, this time at Shark Point. No, they don’t have sharks swimming all over, it’s named because of the rock sticking out of the water. There was a little bit of a current at this location and the eels were everywhere chasing the fish from rock to rock. This was the first time we’ve ever seen them out of there holes and it was great! We even got to see an “eel condo” as Geow likes to call it. (Eels living one on top of the other in their holes). And before we knew it our day was over and it was time to go back in. We had a long slow boat back, taking around an hour and in that time Tony tried to eat a few watermelons by himself. When we got back, Geow burned us a CD with photos from the three dives that we just LOVE. We indulged in a few margaritas and live music after all that diving. Ruby’s back was a little sore so she decided to get a massage (which in retrospect is a terrible idea after diving because of the built up nitrogen in the tissues). Tony looked at hotels in Hong Kong (our next destination and we called it a night a little early but it’s been a long day and we are beat!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:12 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Thailand: Ao Nang Beach: Snorkeling Phi Phi

March 1, 2011

sunny 85 °F

Today we booked a snorkeling trip on a speed boat over to the islands of Phi Phi. After a quick 45 minutes we arrived at a cove with steep limestone cliffs on both sides and a small beach. The water was beautiful and super warm. While snorkeling Ruby was swarmed by a school of fish and was paralyzed in the water. It was so funny because Ruby was yelling though her snorkel as all these tiny harmless fish swam around her! :) She did make it back in one piece thankfully. Unfortunately much of the reef was dead but it did look like it’s growing back so; this may be a great spot for snorkeling in about 100 years! We then took a short boat ride over to see the Viking caves. By the way, there are no Vikings living there but the caves do have people living in them collecting bird nests for bird nest soup. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to eat a nest made from the spit of a bird but hey people do it worse I suppose! After a short ride around to the back side of the island we arrived at Maya Beach the location of the movie “The Beach”. The water was crystal clear and even with all the people there we could see why they picked it for the movie. We only had an hour at this location but it’s definitely one we would recommend! We were off to the main island Phi Phi Don for lunch. The food was nothing to write about but they had a MAC store that was actually cheaper than in the U.S. so Ruby was happy! We had another snorkeling stop near Bamboo Island. There’s not many fish at this location but the big attraction was the amazing clams in the rock and gorgeous purple and black crown of thorns starfish that we saw. Our last stop was our favorite, Bamboo Beach. It was the so relaxing with clear warm shallow aquamarine waters--we wish we could have stayed longer. This was a great way to explore and see the Phi Phi Islands. When we arrived back to the mainland we researched/coordinated our diving with Mickey at Scuba Addicts and Tony studied for our first deep sea dive! We stopped for some yummy Indian food and got stuck in a crazy rainstorm. This made us both a little nervous for our dives tomorrow so it’s going to be hard to go to bed!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Ao Nang Beach: Hot Sunny Searching

February 28, 2011

sunny 90 °F

We arrived into Krabi Town around noon and after a quick lunch and some internet research we decided on Ao Nang Beach as a good place to stay. After a short trip on the local bus (truck with seats in the back) we arrived to the small beach town of Ao Nang. We talked to the local Scuba shops and got an idea of pricing and times. Ruby stayed at a local pub with internet while Tony walked around in the hot sun looking for a room for the night. We are on a tight budget and didn’t want to spend more than we had to. I think Tony must have walked around to just about every hotel in town until we found SeaWorld hotel for $20 a night. After a long night and day of walking all over, the cost was worth it to have a hot shower and clean clothes! The food on the main road was a little expensive compared to what we have been paying but then again we’ve been to some of the cheapest places on the planet! I don’t know what we’re going to do when we make it to New York and have to pay over $20 for an entree? After a dinner of pizza and salad we went back to the dive shops and decided on three dives on Sunday with Scuba Addicts and called it an early night to try and recover for all that traveling!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 02:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Crabby On Our Way to Krabi

February 27, 2011

sunny 88 °F

We woke up today frantically packing and running out of our room at 7:30am . . . oh but we forgot that we’re on Cambodian time and 7:30am really means 8:30 am when you’re taking the bus back to Thailand! Everything was running smooth until we got to the Thai border and had to switch to a minibus. . . .oh yes, there’s a reason they call it a MINI-bus! A 4 hour ride with 17 people packed in along with all the HUGE backpacker backpacks and of course our small carry-ons--this ended up being a very uncomfortable ride :) Not to mention the fact that these bags weighed a ton and the mini-bus shocks seemed to be shot since Tony’s head nearly hit the ceiling every time we went over a bump in the road! Thankfully we got back to Bangkok in enough time to do a fitting check on Tony’s new suit before catching a tuk-tuk to the train station. Now we find ourselves chatting with an Italian guy living in Berlin but here to learn Thai massage. He’s been living in Thailand for a year and we don’t think he has any plans of going home soon. This has to be one of the best parts about traveling. We love meeting new people and chat about their life experiences! For the moment the train looks pretty empty with lots of legroom. We are making our way down to Krabi which should take about 11 hours on the train followed by a 2 hr bus ride ($23/pp total), it’s funny, at the start of the trip that might have sounded like a long time. . but nowadays that’s just an average day :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Bangkok: All Budda-d Out---FOODIE ALERT

February 22, 2010

sunny 93 °F

We started our day off with a trip to a travel agent to plan our trip to Cambodia tomorrow. We agreed on a bus going to the border then a taxi into Siem Reap (cost $25/pp total). Bangkok is famous for custom made suits and Tony really wanted to get one made. We had a good idea of price because our tuk-tuk driver took us to just about every suit shop in the city yesterday! We picked out a color, style, and after a quick sizing the suit was in the process of being made. . it looks like Tony’s picking out a new Jedi Master Outfit but he’s actually just picking between different colors of fabric! :) We definitely wanted to go see the Grand Palace today and on the walk over the tuk-tuk drivers would tell us that it’s too late and the Grand Palace is closed today or that it’s a “special religious day” and the Palace is closed. This is a big scam and we’re not falling for it twice! :) After walking around the walls of the palace we found the entrance and realized that all Tuk-Tuk drivers are full of it and just want you to get in with them to go get a suit made. The Grand Palace was amazing albeit expensive for SE Asia, with more detail than the photos can capture! There are too many buildings and chedis/spires to count. We had a lot of fun exploring the complex. We also visited the Emerald Buddha which is supposed to be the most revered Buddha in Thailand. Ruby loves that he has 3 different outfits made entirely of gold and they are changed depending on the season. Just around the corner was Wat Pho (home of the Reclining Buddha). It was 4pm and we again stopped to ask directions from what looked like a city employee and she told us that it closes at 4:30 and there is just not enough time to see it . . . but she would like to recommend a city tour with a tuk-tuk. We told her “it’s ok we would just like to see the gates.” She pointed us is the direction, told us to hurry and off we walked. If you plan on going, the temple is open till 5pm everyday and the massage school is open till 6pm. Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats (monastery or temple) in Thailand. The gold-plated reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high and is designed to illustrate the passing of the Buddha into nirvana. The feet and eyes are engraved with mother-of-pearl decoration, and the feet show the 108 auspicious characteristics of the true Buddha. Tony’s feet only show 108 characteristics of why you should get monthly pedicures! :) The complex has over 1000 Buddha images and after walking around we can safely say that we are totally Buddha-d Out! We were only a short boat ride from China Town so we watched the sunset in a crowded river ferry and made our way to explore some more of Bangkok. We walked around town “following our nose” until we found a street vendor (Mung Korn Khao Noodle) with a long line of locals waiting for their noodle soup with pork and dumplings. All we can say is YUM! Afterwards just down the street we found what we consider to be the best mango with coconut sticky rice in Thailand, mmmm yellow mangos from Thailand are not fibrous at all and super sweet!! Then local bus number 53 (cost 7 baht p/p) back to Khao San Rd where we got asked if we’d like some “ping-pong” of course Tony is always down for a good game but. . . we misunderstood that the taxi drivers weren’t talking about “ping-pong” . . . they were talking about “patpong” which is the red-light district and not something either of us is interested in! Tony’s Uncle Joey cracked up when we told him the story and knew exactly what we were talking about which we hope means he’s well traveled! :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:09 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Thailand: Clearly Newbies in Bangkok

February 21, 2010

sunny 92 °F

We wonder if the phrase “being taken for a ride” comes from our experience today. After breakfast we really wanted to head off the Grand Palace which is just a short walk away from our hotel since we’re staying in the Old District. On our walk over we encountered a nice tuk-tuk driver that told us the Grand Palace was closed during lunch (12-2pm) and to come on a tour of some other great temples with him for only 30 baht (that’s less than $1 US). We thought he was great and felt like smart travelers, having just saved ourselves a long walk on this HOT and humid day. We were taken to several beautiful Buddhist temples including one with a Buddha statue over 30 meters tall as well as the Sitting Buda Temple located near the flower market. This was a small complex of buildings, one housing a golden Buddha sitting with his legs crossed. You can buy gold leaf at the temples to apply to small Buddha statues—which makes for neat pictures. As part of the deal he took us to the T.A.T. Government Information Office to talk about travel around Thailand and over to Cambodia. The prices there were a little high so we decided to do a little research and come back later! We also went to the Marble Palace (mainly white and orange colored in the pics) which was our favorite for today. We could have admired the architectural details, gold gilding, and endless Buddha statues for hours. Ruby was inspired and started reading Siddhartha which is the story of the spiritual journey of a boy known as Siddhartha from India during the time of the Buddha. Aha, now for the catch---we were hungry and exhausted from the heat and instead of taking us to dinner like we requested, our tuk-tuk driver insisted on taking us to some shops that make custom suits and jewelry . . . he would be getting a large commission if we purchased anything. Of course these shops have inflated prices to compensate for the commissions they pay drivers. So we didn’t buy a thing! He was unhappy and so were we. Lesson learned: Do not accept any unsolicited advice in Bangkok. You’d think we would know better after all this travelling but this just proves that there’s always room to learn! We’ll tell you more about that tomorrow. . . Finally he dropped us off and we were ready for dinner followed by our daily foot massage. We had a delicious dinner of Thai street food: pad-Thai and a spicy noodle soup which was JUST PERFECT! :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand: Bangkok: Tuk-Tuk, Tuk-Tuk, Tuk-Tuk?

February 20, 2010

sunny 92 °F

Our flight landed and we were starved—especially since Ruby hadn’t really had any food (that she could keep down) in about 24 hours. Despite Ruby’s attempt to be restrained and order something mild/bland since she was recovering . . . we ended up eating delicious pad-thai sprinkled with crushed red chilies. . YUM! We love Thailand already. After that we were on the hunt for the perfect hotel . . . it’s terrible but several different people tried to steer us into a tuk-tuk to the “T.A.T.” Tourist Office to book a hotel through them with threats that the Khao San area was not safe and the we would get robbed or something worse. Of course that put us on high alert but Tony went all around the Khao San district anyway and we decided on a place for $16/night including air conditioning, hot water and a cable television just a few blocks off of Khao San Road?! That’ll save us $$ for all the massages we plan on getting :) On our walk over to the hotel we saw a muay-thai boxing studio. . maybe we’ll do some sessions later?? After relaxing in the air-conditioning until the sun went down we noticed our stomachs growling so we headed out. On our way out we were again bombarded with drivers asking us if we needed a tuk-tuk. This area of town is really busy with vendors and massage spots but we like it already because the vendors are not very pushy and we find Thai people to be very “friendly, smiley and happy”! We ate some spicy som-tam (unripened papaya salad), sautéed morning glory and yellow curry with rice for dinner while chatting with Sharon a French-Canadian woman who is visiting Thailand for the 5th time. She gave us lots of great advice about her personal favorites and we did our best to convince her to visit India sometime . . . she’s still a little nervous about the hygiene issues there since she gets sick really easily. We couldn’t resist stopping for foot massages on our way back to the hotel—especially when a Thai guy started to speak to Ruby in Hindi—well, actually he’s from Nepal (if you ever see an Asian looking person speaking Hindi, they’re usually from Nepal).

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:52 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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