Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Oh, to live on an island...

We've spent the past two weeks traveling to some of Thailand's most spectacular islands. Koh Tao and Koh Phangnan, located in the southern Gulf of Thailand were first. From there we headed across the mainland to the west coast of Thailand to explore life in and on the Adaman sea.

Koh Tao: SCUBA Central

This tiny island is known for one thing, SCUBA diving. One of the cheapest and best places to dive, Koh Tao was a must on our itinerary. We spent four days in a classroom, swimming pool, and the ocean learning everything you'd ever want to know about diving. We did four dives to about 16 meters for about 45 minutes over a two day period. After a grueling 50 question multiple choice test, we were officially certified as "Open Water Divers" on the fourth and final day.

Koh Phangnan

Known for it's full moon parties and backpacker culture, Koh Phangnan is a crazy place. Fire dancing and buckets of liquor cover the beaches each and every night. But, there is much more to the island than partying. We rented motorbikes and toured around the island, which turned out be far less developed than we anticipated (i.e. the roads were dirt and filled with boulders). Nonetheless, we survived our treacherous bike excursion to find one of the most beautiful beaches of the trip.

Koh Phi Phi

The next two beaches, Phi Phi and Rai Lai, were greatly effected by the Tsunami last December. Thousands died in the region and reconstruction is still underway. We are glad to report, however, that both areas have recovered successfully and are filled with travelers like ourselves. We got in another SCUBA dive session off the coast of Phi Phi, which was amazing. Sadly though, the pressure underneath the water has left Gino with a significant ear infection. I fear he may be deaf in his right ear indefinitely. Back to the dive though, we saw leopard sharks, moray eels, blue-spotted rays, trigger fish, jelly fish, clown fish, and much more.

Krabi: Rai Lai Beach

Krabi is on the mainland, but you can only get to Rai Lai beach by boat, which makes feel like any other island. Rai Lai is surrounded by some of the most unbelievable rock formations either of us have ever come across, and of course, the Thais, clever as they are, have made a great rock climbing business out of their natural wonder. Papa Loftus, if you'd be kind enough elaborate on the various types of rock formations featured in this post, we and our readers would be more than appreciative. Climbing for the second time on the trip was great. Da, our Thai instructor, was super nice, as was his Scottish friend/assistant, Maggie (both pictured below).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Lovin Laos

In a few words (because the internet is slow and expesive) Laos was fantastic. "Laos" is pronounced "Lao" for those of you who have never been. After taking a two day boat ride from Chiang Mai into Luang Prabang, we had a solid group of about 8 people to tour around town with. Friends from Germany, Holland, England, and New Zeland. Luang Prabang was very beautiful-a french colonial feel beside a river and rolling green hills. The Lao people are the most laid back of the southeast asian people. Everything takes a bit longer there, but once you get used to it, the pace is actually quite peaceful.

We hiked up to LP's famous water fall (pictured) and dove in its watering holes. From LP we took a bus to Viang Vieng, a very small, undeveloped town filled with backpackers. In VV we rock climbed up to about 80 feet out doors and about 50 feet up in an enormous cave, where Vietnamese refugees lived during the war. We also tubed down the mekong river, which was absurd. Essentially, there are bars every few hundred or so meters where you can jump or rope swing into the river (and drink beers, etc). We loved the swings. One time Tre slipped off a zip line up around 30 feet and back-flopped into the water. The crowd loved it. Both the climbing and tubing were highlights of the trip.

After an amazing time in Laos, we headed back to Thailand, but of course, there had to be some sort of traveling set-back. In this case, our bus was in a head-on collision with a concrete truck. Luckily nobody was hurt and it only put us back two hours. It was actually kind of a thrill.

Monday, April 17, 2006

SONGKRAN: Thai New Year

Thai New Year water festival - Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand). Three days of the largest water fight you've ever imagined. Pictures were taken with a disposable camera - our digital cameras would've been destroyed within minutes on the street.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

For all you landlubbers

Beach in Central Vietnam and some other shots. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Coasting through Vietnam