Driving, diving, raining and dining

The last nearly two weeks we wanted to spend out time on the beach. First of all for the Open Water Licence on Koh Tao and then some relaxing beachdays on Koh Phangan. We got a really good deal for the diving package directly booked from Bangkok including transfer with a Airconditioned bus and the High Speed Express Ferry from the mainland to the Island. The busride was during the night and because they calculate some extra time to make sure that we won’t miss the Ferry we has about 3 stops during the night to make sure we don’t arrive to early because on this day there was no traffic. Therefore we couldn’t sleep very well and the busdriver tried to make a refrigerator out of the bus, Katja was nearly freezing. At 5 o’clock in the morning we arrived at the ferry terminal still two hours to early for the Ferry departure. So we spent some time with our heads on stone tables and tried to sleep a little bit more…
At 7 o’clock we could board the Catamaran High Speed Ferry. Half an hour everything was fine, but then, Katja had forgotten to take the travel medicine (because the last rides in the bus she was always fine) and this was a big mistake with this High Speed Catamaran Ferries, because the Captain does normally not care from which side the waves are coming, he just drives through or bumps over them. When we arrived finally in Koh Tao there was no more color in her face and she just decided to walk to the resort instead of taking the offered car transfer. After this very long and taff journey the only thing we wanted was a bed. But there was no more airconditioned bungalow left, and we were asked to wait for a transfer to another resort with aircon-bungalows.
Another 80 minutes of waiting until we got a transfer to the resort, which was far away. And because we had all our lessons for the PADI at the first resort we decided to take a fan bungalow back in the other resort to avoid every day four transfers for the diving . Finally we had our accomodation and the course started on the same day in the afternoon.

Chrystal dive resort

Four hours of video and answering questions about the video. Glad there was a person which invented Coke 😉
After this day our lights were turned off really early.
For the next day there was another video session in the morning and the afternoon we spent in the pool to train the required skills for the Open Water. More than 6 hours in a cold pool with two short breaks in between and Katja got a new nickname (Miss Blue, Fraeulein Blau), because she had already blue lips after an hour in the pool. At the end all of us couldn’t stop shaking. This was really hard work during our „beachholidays“ but we could manage every single task in the pool and didn’t have to repeat the poolsession the other day!
The next day we had the final theoretical test before we started on the boat to the sea for the first two dives.

Our dive-instructor Johan, we couldn’t take him always serious


Buddycheck with Buddy Denis

everything ok

Unfortunately the weather during the last 3 days was always bad and this had also consequences on the visibility conditions in the sea. Katja had to give up her first attempt to dive because of her claustrophobie 🙁 , Stephan and Denis (a german guy from Munich) went down for their first dive with Johan (our instructor from Denmark). They completed two dives in this afternoon and did a really good job although the visibility was bad.

surroundings of the dive spot

The next morning we had to be on the boat at 7.15 am (and we thought, we go on holiday 😉 ). Katja decided to come as well to be able to take some photos. There was as well a professional cameraman on the boat. He made a video from all Open Water students. He did a really good job even though the visibilty was worse than the day before. At noon Denis and Stephan had passed their Open Water and where now certified divers :-).

after the first dive of the day

after the completed course, only one big smile 🙂

Thanks very much Johan, you are the best!

Holidays could start.

In the afternoon we only lay at the pool and the sun was once shining!

pool life can be so nice, when the weather is fine

our dive group including instructor with his favourite RDP table

In the evening they should show the movie from the morning, but there was a technical problem and after more than 2 hours of waiting we decided to go for dinner. We had a really nice little party with Denis, Giovanni (friend of Denis) and Johan. I stopped to count how many buckets we drank but it was really fun. After the restaurant closed a free air Pick up Taxi brought us to a Beachside Bar with music.

already one over the thirst? 😉

The next day we went once again on the Catamaran to Koh Phangan. But this time with the tablets Katja was ok. Our accomodation on Koh Phangan was only a little box, but directly at the beachside. We could lay on the bed and watch the waves on the beach.

our beach box

the view from the beach box

But as well in Koh Phangan the monsun was not over and the beachvolley camp, which was the reason why we have choosen this resort was flooded :-(. We really miss it, but now we have to wait until Australia.
The next 5 days we relaxed on the beach or in the cabin (because of the rain) with reading, SuDoku and writing. Nearly every evening we walked along the beachside to different Restaurants which organised barbecues directly on the beach and Stephan tried different kind of fresh fish (Red Snapper is his favourite).

Barbecue, that’s not only looking very good, it was excellent!

Only one evening there was a really bad surprise in our cabin waiting. It was raining really hard in the evening and as we arrived from dinner, the room was full of cockroaches! ! ! First of all we saw only one (a big one). Stephan catched it and brought it outside. Because we know, you should not smash them. But when we saw the others, there was no other possibility than to kill them and it took more than an hour. Stephan was soaked with sweat after this session and Katja called him a „mass murderer“, although she was really glad, she had only to block the entrance holes for other cockroaches to come in with toiletpaper.
For the next nights we were cockroachfree! Good job 🙂

before a thunderstorm, and it was not the only one… 🙁

After this relaxing days we had planned to go back to bangkok during the day (not another night bus trip). But the sea was really rough, the waves were 6 meters high and as you know the ruddertecnic of the captains on this boats, we smashed over the waves and we had to hold us on the seat to prevent from flying out of our seats! That was too much for Katja. As well with the tablets she went paler and paler, was soaked with sweat (now it was her turn 😉 ) and the rest of the details we keep in secret. There was no sense to go further on because after the boattrip there was waiting a six hour busride back to Bangkok. We decided to disembark in Koh Tao and stop overnight. We didn’t regret this stop at all. We had another afternoon at the pool with some sunshine, met Johan (our really nice instructor, actually the best you can have) once again for dinner and we had the possibility to watch the movie of Stephans Open Water dive finally this evening. In the endeffect we were really happy to have made this decision for another day in Koh Tao. Katja took a higher dose of Stugeron for preparing for the next day. And the next day although she took 6 times as much as on the sailingboat trips last year she was afraid of the boat and busjourney. But everything was good the next day, even though the waves were the same or actually sometimes higher but she just closed her eyes, put earplugs in (to prevent from hearing the other pale faces) and lived in her own world for 2 hours until the catamaran trip was over.

Katja’s beloved Catamaran High Speed Ferry

On this day we finished our trip back to Bangkok and enjoyed our last days in Asia. Now we will fly further on to Australia 🙂

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Bangkok, Sukothai, Lampang (Thailand)

We were curios if we would end up at the airport or will fly with Royal Nepal Airlines to Bangkok, because we heard different stories about the reliability of this Airline. But we only had to be patient because every step we had to go at the Airport was still closed when we arrived. First the airportdoor was locked, then the check-in desk was still closed, as well as the passport control and the security check. But finally we got on the plane and took-off. The flight was amazing, we could see the mountains we were supposed to see in Nepal, even Mount Everest showed us his best side. Unfortunately we don’t have pictures out of this flight, but they are in our mind :-).

We arrived in Bangkok and it was a bit hotter than in Nepal, but not as humid as we expected. At the Airport it was very easy to find a shuttle to town and we already liked this city. Already the very first day we got caught by the amenities a big international city like Bangkok has. Katja found a Delifrance and couldn’t resist to make a special order for a crispy, fresh wholemeal baguette filled only with butter. You can’t believe how good a piece of bread can taste after monthes of fluffy toast bread!
But this shouldn’t be the last enjoyable food and experience for this day…
In the evening we bought two tickets for a movie in a big movie theater. And if you know Katja, a movie can’t start without a big box of popcorn on the knees. Actually the first box was already finished before the movie started and we had to get another one ;-). We enjoyed this day and night back in „civilization“. Don’t missunderstand this, we like travelling, but sometimes it’s nice to have the possibility to have some luxury again. The next day we spent by looking for a new accomodation at the famous Khao San road, the backpacker road in Bangkok. We ended up in a Hotel with airconditioned rooms and a roof top Swimming Pool.

(Thanks for this great hint, grisu 🙂 )

We decided to stay there and make our stay a little bit with beach feeling instead of travelling already south to the beaches of Thailand, because there they still have monsson season. During this days we made not a lot of sightseeing because we know, we will be back in town and at the moment we just wanted to get some energy to go further on. We just strolled around at the Khao San Road,

took some rides in a boat on the What Phrat River,

checked out the know how of a tailor,

had a look at the weekend market

and organized our Vietnam Visa and busticket to the North.
The first stop to the north was in Phitsanulok, our base to go to Sukothai the next day. In Sukothai there are a lot of ruins and temples of the time the Khmer were also active in Thailand from the 9th to the 13th century. It lookes somehow like in Cambodia in Angkor What. And we were happy to have the chances to see this nice sight in Thailand, because we don’t have time to visit Cambodia during this trip.

The next day we drove to Lampang, where we wanted to organize a special mahout training day at the only Elephant training center in Thailand. After the first contact we were really disappointed because we just missed the start of a tree day course and the next which will start is too late for us and they didn’t arrange one day courses like written in our guide book. So we decided to visit the Center and hospital the next day just like tourists. After a ride in a shared taxi „Sawngthaew“

a 3rd class bus with fan and 5 seatrows brought us from Lampang bus station to the Camp.

Once again we couldn’t fit on the benches (probably after our trip, when we have lost some weight, we would fit on them, but not now 😉 ). We just arrived when the Elephant bathing started and we saw other tourists on the back of the elephants bathing and cleaning them.

Afterwards there was a show where the elephants showed the skills they learned in the camp to be able to work in the jungle.

They learn to push, carry and staple trunks with their trunks

and they also know how to paint!

The elephants know to walk backwards or turn around on a trunk if the way in the jungle is too narrow. It’s really impressive what an elephant is able to learn and to do! After this show we were pretty sure, we wanted to try once again to have some training with the elephants as a mahout (elephant trainer). After some discussions with Pat, the guy who organises this trainings (thanks once again, that you made it possible for us!) we had found a special deal for a training just for the two of us, but we had to start immediately.
Therefore he organised a special transfer back to the hotel for us, to pick up some clothes and sanitary items and an hour later we where already back and dressed as Mahouts to start the first training session with the elephants.

Arriving in Nepal

The custom at this boarder is an adventure. You get the stamp from the chinese boarder and then you are in the nowhereland between 2 countries (this reminded us of the movie „The Terminal“). Ahead you have a 8km long bumpy road and again about 400 meter of altitude difference. So we got a „boarder“taxi to reach the nepali custom. Some years ago you had to walk the whole way down by foot! Uffh, lucky we 😉
Then we had to cross a bridge and just in the middle of it the cars change the lines.

Nepalis drives most of the time on the left side 😉 We got there our stamp and shared with 3 other germans a small bus. We put our luggage on the roof, hopped in and started to drive. On the top of our luggage there were several people sitting, we told this to our driver but for him that wasn’t a problem. After an exhausting discussion about the prize we started our journey. After 5 minutes we had to stop, because the road had disappeared! The river just had destroyed it. An excavator tried to fix it.
We just dreamed minutes before that everything is easier and nicer in Nepal than in Tibet, but the start was as hard as it could be!

and everybody from the village was there to enjoy the spectacle

What a hugh line of trucks and buses!

At this stop they putted also a raincover over our luggage. But then they just wanted to put us out of the bus because of the long queue and wanted us to look for a bus on the other side of the landslide. But there was no change to get a free place on the other side of the landslide and so, Katja fighted with them until they agreed to drive us for the fixed price on to Kathmandu. But because the buses from the other side had priority to pass the landslide and every bus destroyed once again the fixed road by trying hard to surpass the steep „road“ we had enough time to observe the spectacle. The boys jumped out of our bus and were so fascinated of this repairwork they didn’t notice that the busdriver in a little free spot just started the engine and drove through the landslide. The girls shouted to get them on the bus, so they had to run over the landslide and got in the bus just after the landslide. Then we tried somehow to pass the bunch of trucks queueing up to pass from the other side but there was no space for another car. But that didn’t seem to be a problem for nepali because every car has a horn 🙂 and know the size of his car. After passing the queue there was still someone sitting on our roof and as we told this once again to our driver he sad:“ yeah, that is our driver“ ! ? ! We didn’t know what is a second driver for on the roof but there was no further explanation to this topic…
Some hours later, after we had passed several military check points and had overtaken a lot of slower trucks we got closer to Kathmandu, the capitol of Nepal and our final destination for today. Our first driver (in the car) stopped and the driver from the roof hopped in and sat beside the first driver and took the stearingwheel. Now in the front where seating 4 Persons… Somehow they could manage to drive our car by two. In Kathmandu all of us checked in at the same Hotel close to the Thamel district, the center of the city.
After this trip over the Himalayan we were a bit exhausted. We stayed more days in the city as we expected and still spent our time with the canadian couple.We had nearly the same plans and it was nice to have some company and we went really good along with eachother. During this days we made some shopping and sightseeing, in this narrow streets with all these tiny shops you can spend hours and enjoyed as well the luxury life beeing in a hotel with roomservice and tv!

One day we went to the monkey temple where you have a great view over the city and it is a really nice sight.

Another nice place which is worth a look at is the durbar square (durbar means palace). Most of the square dates from the 17th and 18th centuries. This was the place where the city’s kings were once crowned and legitimised and from where they ruled. The king has moved to another place a century ago but the square remains still the traditional heart of the old town and a spectacular legacy of traditional architecture.

Katja and our Canadian friend Lonna got sick after a „western“ dinner that we had to stay 2 nights more. But that is not a big problem in Kathmandu then there is a lot going on during day and you won’t be bored. As the fever has gone and the lady’s had enough energy for a bus ride we left the capitol for Chitwan. That is a national park in the south of Nepal. Because the roads are in a such bad condition, we had about 5 hours to arrive the 120 km far away town Sauraha. As we finally got there it started to rain heavely and it was really humid, nearly unbearable, yeah, we were in the Jungle!