After a 3 hour plane ride from Kuala Lumpur, we arrived in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. I was already feeling this island - the airport was one of the nicest we’ve flown into, partially covered in flowers and greenery - very tropical and exotic. Our host - Oka, was waiting for us by the exit. We had about an hour drive ahead of us to Ubud, our first stop, and I was so excited to see what the island has to offer. Bali has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I was feeling very connected to this place…and I will say one thing…it definitely did not disappoint : ) Driving through this island already put me in a tropical state of mind…
Our villa was located just on the outskirts of central Ubud, very rural setting and tucked in between rice fields. The villa itself was beautiful - 3 bedrooms, 3 outdoor showers, patio/lounge area, swimming pool and a detached kitchen. In order to get to the villa, we had to walk 100 meters down a dirt sidewalk from the main road - the path leading to the house was narrow, and only wide enough for a scooter. Oka’s family lives on this property, right behind the kitchen area, and they care to the property - cooking, cleaning, landscaping and securing everything around here. Our luggage was transported one piece at the time on the back of the scooter - I was very impressed by this technique and was waiting for Yuda - Oka’s brother, to balance the suitcase on his head : ) Our suitcases after all weight every bit of 55 lbs. After settling into our new living space, we ate dinner, took an outdoor shower (kids loved it, especially since there were occasional guests such as lizards and spiders), and went to bed. The first night brought a bit of sleeplessness, as the sounds of nature’s creatures is quite loud, and a bit scary from time to time.
There were other reasons for a night of being restless. We experienced our first earthquake, 5.7 tremor that happened off the coast. The quake lasted all of 10 seconds but the beds shook and it sounded as though a freight train was heading right at you. We’re in the “Ring of Fire” and Indonesia houses over 120 active volcanos. A lot of attention has been given to Mt. Agung and a possible eruption, that could happen anytime. It’s on Bali’s east coast, and we are about 60 km away. We’ve been aware of it since we arrived and felt pretty safe but after experiencing some ground shaking, we started to lose some piece of mind. They have started evacuations on a 12 mile radius from the volcano, and we really feel for the villagers who make their living working the land. Hopefully, she doesn’t blow.
This area is very remote and super quite even for being only 5 km from the center of Ubud. After breakfast, we met with Oka who was our driver for the week. We were contemplating renting a car in Ubud, but after seeing the crazy traffic and very nonchalant driving style, scattered with scooters, cards, and bikes, we were very glad to have Oka as our driver. Our first stop was a visit to the Monkey Forest. It’s a small park filled with monkeys, monkeys, and more monkeys! Literally, they were everywhere - on the sidewalk, trees, temples, and of course, all over people! You could buy a few bananas, hold them in your hand and within few seconds your head will be used as a sitting area for a monkey! It looked so funny and kinda gross at the same time. I really wanted to try it but honestly, I chickened out! The whole park is quite nice as well - very green and exotic with magnificent trees. We strolled around for a while, witnessed monkeys jumping on people and trying to steal whatever they had hanging loosely. Upon entering Monkey Forest, you are being warned not to wear anything flashy or expensive since it attracts the monkeys, don't scream and make sudden moves, even if the monkey jumps on you, and never look them directly in the eye because that can make them aggressive - what can I say, it’s all monkey business out there…
Next, we headed to Tegenungan Waterfall which was hmm ok. From far away, the waterfall looked quite impressive, however, once you got closer it was kinda dirty, very crowded, touristy, and it was impossible to swim there. The current was strong and the water itself was very brownish, it did not look refreshing at all. We absolutely love waterfalls, but this place was ho-hum. But I guess, if you come to Ubud, it’s one of those things that you have to see. So we saw it, we took few pictures of it and moved on to the next attraction.
Goa Gajah or The Elephant Cave is an old temple that was built in the 9th century. The entrance to the cave and its facade were the best part of it - different scary creatures and demons craved into the rock. There are two theories explaining this place - one says that the main figure used to be an elephant and hence the name - The Elephant Cave; the other explains that there used to be a statue of a Hindu elephant inside. Nevertheless, the cave was super small and it felt very claustrophobic. We stayed there for 2 seconds and came outside to get some light and fresh air. Right in front of the cave, there was a huge swimming pool with five statues holding vases that act as waterspouts. As we walked around, we stumbled upon a little sitting area full of Balinese women making rice cakes. Leo was trying to join them but unfortunately, he was not allowed :)
The last attraction of the day was The Holy Spring Water Temple or Tirtha Empul Temple. This Hindu temple is situated in the valley between the hills. To the locals, its a sacred place to melt all the bad influences in the body and purify the soul and mind. There is a belief that the water coming out of the shower eliminates all kind of diseases, causing an adverse effect in the human life and giving the new holy spirit. We witnessed tons of people lining up and getting washed in this holy water. I am quite sure that if Leo and Mila were given the green pass, they would be splashing there like two fishes. Since we have our rascals with us, it was kinda impossible to participate in this ceremony - although the whole idea of this soul, mind and body cleansing sounds pretty amazing :) Once we got home, we went for a short swim and relaxed at the pool. Floating in the pool with the view of the rice fields was a really calming experience, especially after such and intense and noisy day.
That night Oka’s cousin, who is a chef, cooked a delicious dinner for us. He served us balinese style grilled snapper with vegetable and rice, spicy coconut chicken in a green curry sauce, spring rolls, carrot ginger soup and for desert, balinese crapes with vanilla ice cream. The four of us absolutely loved this balinese feast and completely cleaned the plates. It was so fresh and full of flavor - a true heaven in your mouth.
We did some research on Ubud and found several nature walks close to the city center. After banana and pineapple pancakes for breakfast, Oka drove us to central Ubud. From there, we started the search for the Campuhan Ridge Walk. The distance one way was about 2 km and it led us through a paved walkway, surrounded by trees, hills, and very jungle style scenery. It was a hot and sunny day, 90+, so we made several stops to cool off and simply let Leo and Mila take a break. This walk ends at a beautiful spa with the view of the rice fields. Both Leo and Mila had a blast spotting ducks hiding in the rice fields. Once we got back to the main road, we decided to grab a lunch at one of the local restaurants. The main street of Ubud is something out of this world - it has only two lines that are constantly busy and full of cars and scooters. Add thousands of pedestrians walking along the sidewalks and believe me, your head is spinning. But here is the funny things - I really love the vibe of this city, for as crowded and noisy as it is, there is something special and unique about it. In a way, I feel very spiritual and balanced here. I can only imagine how wonderful it must be attending a yoga retreat here…I kept telling myself - one day Gosia, one day you will come back here and fully embrace this balinese culture - not that easy when you have two little children to look after : ) After lunch, we went back to our villa and relaxed. Leo and Mila are loving the pool and could easily spent all day there. We swam with them for a while and then lounged around, snacking on watermelon and chocolate - that’s what I call a balanced life.
The next morning, at about 5:20 am, I woke up and my whole bed was moving again! I was so scared and terrified! I wanted to grab Rick, the kids and our passports and just run away, hahaha! The quake again lasted for about 10 seconds and it stopped. For the locals, it’s pretty much part of life here as they experience these little earthquakes all the time. However, for us, its a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. Living in Florida, at least you have time to prepare for a hurricane, you just never now when Mother Nature is going to shake the ground you sleep on. We really hope this volcano decides to stay calm.
Right after the small earthquake we witnessed a tropical rain that was quite relaxing, especially after losing our balance caused by the shakes. I also need to add that although we absolutely love the idea of the outdoor bathroom, we are terrified to use them at night, hahaha! I am afraid of using the toilet in the middle of the night and encountering some local species…they look much better in the daylight :)
As I mentioned before, Oka’s family lives on the property in the building behind the kitchen. Upon our arrival, he explained to us that one of his brothers sleeps on the floor on the patio area leading to the kitchen. When I heard that, I thought to myself, no way, he must have made a mistake, there is no way he sleeps outdoors, on the cold stone floor. As it turned out, I was wrong…since the morning earthquake scared me away and I was not able to fall back asleep, I walked to the kitchen to make some coffee and there he was, Yuda - Oka’s brother, and his 8 year old son were both sleeping on the floor next to the dining room table. That view broke my heart, the same space where we enjoyed a beautiful dinner the night before, was being used as their sleeping quarters. We immediately gave a newfound respect for things like taking our shoes off when we enter the patio space or kitchen, cleaning up the little specs of rice from the mess our kids make after a meal. I understand it’s part of the Balinese cultural, but honestly, it’s difficult to understand. In our villa, there is an extra bedroom where they could sleep. I asked Oka about it and he simply said that’s the way they live, there is nothing more to be said. Also, as soon as we come back from our daily excursions, they all run to the back of the house and do not come out until we go to sleep. It’s so bizarre to me, I want them to sit with us at the table, share a meal and simply enjoy each other company. I realize that we are the guests and they treat us like royalty, but we don’t want to be treated that way. It’s all so wrong and strange, especially, since they are such nice people. But this is what makes our trip unique, gaining a newfound appreciation for how a culture operates. We may not agree with the way they chose to live, but we respect it, understand it, and gain even more gratitude for the embarrassment of riches we have. As your reading this, think about the solid roof over your head, the hot water you have, fresh drinking water, and even electricity to charge up that phone you just can’t put down. Sometimes I feel we’re downright spoiled in Western Culture.
Our last day in Ubud was spent visiting the beautiful Saraswati water temple. The gorgeous architectural building is surrounded by two water pools with floating lilies. The temple itself was closed that day but who are we kidding, we were not going to enter this sacred place with two little wild and crazy kids :) We decided to walk over to the Ubud’s Central Market and eye shop. It’s an indoor/outdoor market full of ethnic clothes, gifts, food, art pieces, cosmetics and many other things. Since it was close to noon, we all were a bit hungry and found a cute local balinese restaurant for lunch. Leo and Mila ate chicken nuggets and fries - how balinese, right?!, while Rick and I ordered chicken/spinach soup and coconut dessert. Everything tasted delicious and very fresh. Ever since we arrived in Bali, I have been thinking about getting a hair cut. Since we did not have much planned for today, we decided to find me a hair salon and chop my hair off, but as it turned out, it was not an easy task. We walked into 4 different places and they were all booked, bummer! In that case, we decided to pamper ourselves a bit and went to a spa! Rick got 30 minute back massage, I received a pedicure and Leo and Mila watched two episodes of Paw Patrol - everyone was happy! It cost us about $9, brilliant! On the way back to our taxi we stopped and got some ice cream and freshly pressed juices. We finished our day with a swim in the pool and delicious balinese dinner. That night once again, we felt some small shakes but nothing to crazy. We truly hope this volcano decides to take a chill pill and go back to sleep.
Our stay in Ubud comes to an end. It was a perfect way to start our adventure on the island of Bali. We both decided that we will be coming back here one day but without the kids. I don't think that Ubud is a perfect place for kids - it’s very crowded, full of backpackers, and tourists from all around the world, who honestly, lack a lot of respect and good manors! The sidewalks are two narrow and bumpy for a stroller so a child carrier is a must. We have not seen any playgrounds and activities for kids - besides our pool, of course :) Fortunately, Leo and Mila are amazing travel companions who can provide self entertainment for hours. I would love to come back here and attend a yoga retreat - maybe one day :) For now, we are saying goodbye to Ubud and heading up north to Lovina Beach!
After two and a half weeks in beautiful Thailand, we said goodbye to this amazing country, boarded a plane in Krabi and flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Originally, we did not plan on going to Malaysia; however, it seemed like every flight we looked into had a lay over in Kuala Lumpur so we decided to stay there for 4 days and experience a new country. When we landed in Kuala Lumpur, it was close to 7pm and the airport is located a good 60km outside the city. We grabbed a taxi and finally, after 9 pm arrived in our apartment located on the 29th floor of a high rise in the heart of the city. After a quick dinner and shower, we all were fast asleep.
The next morning, at exactly 5:48 am, I woke up to the sounds of some strange voice coming from outside. First, it sounded as if someone was giving a speech but I finally realized it was prayer time. Malaysia is a multicultural and multi confessional country, whose official religion is Islam. So there it was, an Islamic prayer at 5:48 am then again 7:04am and 5 more times during the rest of the day.
Once we got going, we decided to go and see the world famous KLCC Petronius Twin Towers. This landmark with 88 floors and 375 meters in height is pretty impressive, reminding us a bit of the Empire State Building in NYC. We walked around for a bit and admired this amazing piece of architecture. Inside the building there was an enormous high end shopping mall. It seems like in the USA malls are slowly dying since most people prefer to shop online...however, here in Asia these shopping malls are a central and main hub for both locals and tourists. They are packed! We came outside and walked through the adjacent KLCC park where Leo and Mila found their calling- a water park and a huge playground. So the next hour we spent watching our kids running like crazy ants in 95 degree weather...now I understand why the local malls are always so packed :-)
It was way past lunch time and we were running on empty stomachs. We stumbled upon a very cute place where I had one of my best meals yet! It was a vegetarian dish called Buddha Bowl filled with brown rice, roasted mushroom and pumpkin, green beans, peppers and tofu, topped with caramelized nuts and the most delicious red curry sauce. Bon appetite!
Since Leo and Mila were getting tired, we went back home to give them a nap. 5 minutes after closing the door it started to rain or rather pour! We opened our balcony and all fell asleep to the sound of a Malaysian tropical storm.
After dinner we found our second wind and decided to walk over to the KL tower. It's the other main attraction in this city. We bought tickets and took the elevator to the observation desk. It was pretty cool to see this city light up at night. When you get off the elevator at the top, they ask you to take a picture with the landmark behind you and then try to sell it to you. So when it was our turn, a super nice lady showed us a fridge magnet with our picture on it and asked if we would like to buy it...I looked at her and responded that we did not have a fridge! She looked at me all puzzled and said " what do you mean? How is it possible you don't have a fridge!?". I did not want to get into the whole story and politely declined her offer :-)
The following day we decided to take the metro to the Central Market. It was located only one stop from our apartment but the metro ride is always a huge hit with our kids. This market was much smaller than the one we experienced in Thailand, nevertheless, it was really a cool experience. First of all, most of the vendors were situated inside in the air conditioned building - major points right here. The variety of sold goods ranged from clothing, art pieces, ethic jewelry, cosmetics, toys, and of course food! For a while we were scanning deliciously looking cheese tarts from company called Hokaidoo. We bought a sample pack of regular cheese flavor, chocolate and matcha green tea. Heaven on earth, so delicate yet simple, it melted in our mouth. Since it was very hot we needed to get some refreshments in the form of ice cream ( they even had sweet potato flavor) and fresh juices. Rick and I also took a shot of a wheat grass :-) It was an early afternoon and the sky started to look pretty angry. We walked back to the metro station and took a ride back home. As we were leaving the station, it started to pour...we waited for a while hoping the rain would come down - not a chance! By the time we reached our apartment, we were all soaked, but it kind of felt great to get soaked. Hey nobody has yet melted from a little rain :-)
Kuala Lumpur was a really cool place to visit and we are glad we ended up spending a couple of days here. The city vibe reminded us a bit of New York City, with all the high rises, bill boards, sky scrapers, and the way it lights up at night. Yet it is much smaller in stature, it was very clean and not nearly as many people as NYC. I absolutely loved grocery shopping here since you can find pretty much any product, including my beloved millet and pumpkin! Interesting fact: chewing gum is illegal due to littering. This ban was partially lifted for people who chew a dental gum but for the rest of mortals, better buy mentos or tic tacs!
Our last week of adventures in Thailand was spent in the jungle. Our host picked us up from the resort and drove us to the his bungalow. We left the beach and entered a completely new and different side of Thailand. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, we were blown away by the beauty of this property. It was located on a hill, surrounded by tropical forest, mountains and overlooking the bay. Being there really felt like middle of nowhere. Our one bedroom bungalow had an amazing dining room located on the porch looking directly to the cliffs and ocean. Our host, Baw, took us to the local market in the village. We were the only western people there, everyone kept looking at us and again, loved our two little blondinos :) We also made a stop at the grocery store (Thai’s version of Costco), went back home and finally did laundry (7 days worth of dirty clothes). Waking up in the morning was a true dreamland…I won't say more, take a look at the video below…
So since we do not have a car and can’t explore anything on our own, Baw is our personal driver for the week. He owns and lives on the property and offers his guests full concierge service. After breakfast, we met with Baw and went our first adventure to Phanom Bencha National Park. We went on a short hike to the Nam Tok Huai To Waterfall. It was simply beautiful! We could not go for a swim there since the current was pretty strong but still enjoyed the spectacular power of the falls. We ate a quick lunch and headed back towards the car where Baw was waiting for us.
Next, he took us to Wat Tham Suena or the Tiger Cave Temple. Back in 1975, a monk traveled there to meditate, and when he opened his eyes, he was surrounded by tigers and hence the name. We walked for a bit around the temples and admired the thai architecture. But the best was yet to come. At the top of the mountain, there is a Buddha is the sky. 1,260 steps up the staircase to reach it. At first, we were hesitant as it was 90+ degrees and I didn’t feel particularly well. We were also worried about Leo and his physical ability to climb so many steps, but what we learned so far is to never underestimate your children : ) It was definitely challenging, but we did it! The four of us climbed all the way to the top in 95 degrees heat! We made several stops along the way and met some wonderful people (including a young couple from New York). The views at the top were stunning - you could see a panoramic picture of Krabi. At the summit there is a gold statue of Buddha and many people were meditating and praying there. It was an amazing experience, filled mostly with locals who meditate at the top, and one solid workout. On our way down, we passed plenty of monkeys just chilling on the side of the steps. Leo and Mila were fascinated by them since they were running all over! We bought Leo a gatorade and candy bar and the monkey was trying to steal it from him, hahaha. Rick actually had to pull Leo away as one encounter was a bit too close and the monkey’s can get aggressive. We had to remind Leo of the episode in the movie RIO where the monkeys steal everything. It was such a funny situation! We ended our excursion with some homemade coconut ice-cream and walked back to the parking lot to meet with Baw. It was out favorite day in Thailand. We’ve enjoyed Bangkok and the Thai islands but we feel best away from the crowds, experiencing local cultures and traditions, that’s our element.
The following day we decided to take it easy and stay at the bungalow. We took a short walk to the local beach and made a wrong turn. It put us on the wrong side of the bay, but we had no idea. However, what we saw was an eye opening experience. We passed many compounds or shacks. Hand made tents and shades where people were living…I would not call it living but rather survival. The conditions were awful. It smelled like dead fish (or sewage), debris and garbage everywhere. No resources like fresh water or electricity. It was heartbreaking. Places like that really put your life in a different perspective. We later learned from Baw, it is a fisherman’s village. The people live there for 2-3 months to work the waters then head back to their “normal” living arrangements. You gain a new found perspective for the basic necessities in life; clean water, electric, shelter, and food.
That evening our host Baw prepared dinner for us…we could not wait to try his cooking especially since we read a lot of reviews bragging about his culinary skills, and they were spot on. He made us green curry chicken with chestnuts, rice and broccoli. It was another amazing Thai dish, definitely one of our favorite!!! We finished the night with Oreo cookies on our beautiful porch with a stunning sunset…it’s the little things!
The next day Baw arranged a private island tour. He drove us down to the nearby beach where we were picked up by a long boat and the captain. It felt kinda amazing to have this special Thai experience just for the four of us. After 30 minutes we arrived on on the first island - Koh Loa. There were a few boats parked along the beach but it was not crowded at all. Leo and Mila immediately ran to the trees and a little swing, go figure! We swam for a little bit, walked around and headed back to our boat.
Our next destination was only about 10 minutes away. I don't remember the name of that beach but it was ok. Kinda small, a bit dirty and much more touristy than the previous one. Leo and Rick went to snorkel while Mila and I splashed in the turquoise water. The sky turned grey and it started to rain. We rushed onto the boat before you knew it were we in a Thunderstorm. The heavy rain made this place even more exotic and mysterious. We entered a shallow bay area and it really felt like a different world. It was still raining and the four of us were cuddling inside the boat under a beach towel, trying to stay dry! Our captain picked up the speed and transported us to the last island on the list, Ko Hong Island. The rain was all gone and the beautiful sunshine was out again. I guess the rainy weather got Mila very tired because she fell asleep on the boat. We carried her out and she continued her nap on the blanket at the beach. This was definitely our favorite spot. It was big, very clean and not too touristy. Baw packed us a lunch - fried rice with chicken and veggies, as well as a container of fresh pineapple. We ate this delicious meal under a palm tree and joined Mila for an afternoon siesta. Once she was up, we all went to the water, snorkeled and simply enjoyed the scenery. After few hours of this bliss, it was time to head back to our bungalow. As we were leaving the island, we saw a komodo dragon shoot out of the jungle into the water! It was about 100m away from us but a cool yet eery experience. Once we got back to our bungalow, the rain started to fall again. We enjoyed our dinner on the porch under the sounds of the tropical rain storm.
During our last day in Thailand we planned on kayaking across the bay and floating among old caves. The weather called for rain all day, but we decided to do this adventure anyway. Baw provided us with one family kayak and life jackets for all four of us. He drove us down to the local beach which was our starting point. The wind picked up a bit and so did the waves, but we kept good spirits. The distance to the bay was about 3 kilometers and we were excited to conquer another challenge - kayaking with two little kids. The current of the ocean was getting stronger and made it pretty hard to paddle but we kept going...and then came the rain...about one third of the way we were stuck, being pushed left and right by the wind and water. We had to make a quick decision- either we continue and fight with the Mother Nature or turn around. You never mess with Mother Nature, we turned around immediately. The storm started to get nasty and we were very grateful that we made it back to the shore. All wet and cold we set on a bench and tried to keep the kids warm. And then something amazing happened...next to the shore was that little village where people lived in shacks and probably worst conditions we have ever seen. As soon as they saw us, they offered us a small space with a little foil roof. We kindly accepted it but they were not done...next, they asked if we would like to eat and drink something...my heart still breaks for these people and their poverty, and mostly because even tho they had nothing, they managed to offer us the most significant thing - their pure hearts, full of love and help. Moments like these ensure me that there is still hope in today's humanity. One of the men spoke a little English and asked us where we were from ( we did not want to get into our whole story) and we responded that from USA, Florida. He put a big smile on his face and said, Miami!!! I know, I watch the football team! Hahaha! I'm not sure where he watches it since there is not electricity there but perhaps he goes up to the next village where people run the power lines on small wooden sticks ( I imagine this could cause a huge hazard but who I am to interfere). That afternoon, we borrowed Baw’s scooter and went for a ride. I absolutely loved it! So did Leo and Mila. They both cried when it was time to go back home. I told Rick that my next vehicle is going to be a scooter!
Our adventure in Thailand is coming to an end. We had an amazing two weeks in this beautiful and exotic country. Arriving here straight from Switzerland was a cultural shock but we managed to adapt to our new environment. Another set of wonderful memories and unforgettable moments. During my whole life, Asia seemed like a never reachable place, very far far away...and here we are, sitting on our amazing porch with the Indian Ocean in front of us and eating a delicious Thai red curry chicken prepared by Baw...life is good.
Our arrival in Krabi did not go as we planned. The flight was short and smooth, but once we landed, everything took a wrong turn. Our host was supposed to have a driver waiting for us at baggage claim but he was nowhere to be found. We called him but he did not answer and since it was after 7pm and dark out, we decided to get a taxi to our villa. We sent him a text notifying him that we would be coming with someone else. He replied saying his driver was waiting for us, that we did not provide him with any information about our flight, etc (we sent him all the information, including our flight number, time and gate of the arrival through AIRBNB message center).
When we got to the villa, he admitted that he had the information but perhaps, we did not search enough for his driver at the airport. Then, he immediately started to inform us about all of the different trip and excursion he had to offer - it was 8pm, our kids were tired and so were we. All I wanted to tell him was shut up, give me our key and leave us alone. We really liked our two Bedroom villa, it had a private pool, jacuzzi and lots of space. After showers, we put the kids to bed. The master bedroom where we put Mila down had a weird smell to it, like fumes. After an hour, I went to check on her and what I saw made me almost throw up. As I pointed the flash light towards the bed, I saw bed bugs everywhere!!!! Crawling on the pillows, bed sheets and her legs, so freaking gross and disgusting. I grabbed her, changed her and ran to the other bedroom where Leo and Rick were sleeping. We examined the other bed and did not see any bed bugs there. We immediately sent a message to the owner and told him about the issue. He informed us that those were not bed bugs but some type of bamboo bugs. Believe me, there is no doubt that those were nasty bed bugs and we could not believe that this man would not admit that. Since we booked this villa through AirBnB, we also sent them an email with the pictures of the bed bugs. We got a response from them saying that they will reimburse us for the entire week stay. Our host sent his manager to our apartment and she offered another villa but we did not agree to that. Pretty much for the rest of the night we stayed up and made sure that there were no more bed bugs crawling on our kids.
Rick immediately began searching for alternative accommodations. Here we are, at 1am in the morning, trying to find a new place to stay for the next 6 days during the beginning of tourist season in Krabi. After a long search, we booked 6 nights at the Holiday Inn Ao Nang Beach Resort. We are not big fans of staying in resorts or hotels, because you miss out on the “living like a local” experience but in this situation, we did not have many choices, plus we always look for what is best for our kids. This resort was a 5 star place with several pools, very kids friendly, so it was a no brainer.
In the morning, after a sleepless night, we met with the owner. This Western European man was trying to convince us to stay there. He first said he would remove the bed and the mattress from the room and bring a new one, hahaha! He never asked if our kids were ok nothing, just pure business. The funny thing is that all the reviews (almost 60 of them) were 5 starts and that’s mainly why we chose that place. Once again, he refused to admit that those were the bed bugs and started to blame the factory that made the bed…I wanted to go and punch him but was afraid that would put me in thai jail…We politely declined his “wonderful” offers and grabbed a taxi to our resort. It was only 6 km away from the bug infected vila. We arrived there at 8:30 am and check in was 3pm. We were greeted with all friendly smiles and warm welcomes. The manager was able to get us a room at 9:30. We felt like two lunatics lost in translation. Leo and Mila were thrilled once they saw an amazing pool with slides, playground, and trampoline. For the rest of the day we lounged around the pool, took naps, and simply tried to erase the last 24 hours.
When we made the decision to do this trip, we promised each other that we will not let any negative experience impact our journey. So far, we have had very few mishaps but this one, by far, was the worst one. They say 10% is what happens to you and 90% is how you react and approach the issue. At the end of the day, we were all healthy and that’s the most important thing. We did not lose our cool, although I was close, and found a solution to the problem (kind of like our first day in Paris when we didn’t have an automatic car). So for the next week, we are going to relax at the pool, catch up on needed sleep, and do some island hopping. Another small bump in the road on what has been an amazing 4 months so far, with so much more to experience.
After a few days of pure relaxation around the pool, we took a long boat taxi to a nearby island Railay Beach. The cost both ways was only 300 BHT for all four of us. After 15 minutes cruising through the ocean we reached our little paradise. This island was really beautiful, quite big and most importantly, not very crowded. There were some people, mostly backpackers from all around the world but most of them, after a short beach break, headed towards the bars and pubs along the beach. The spectacular white sandy beach was surrounded by gorgeous cliffs partially covered by greenery. We set our blanket under a tree and ran straight to the water. With the beaming hot sun, this beach looked like a little slice of heaven. Leo and Mila absolutely loved it there and again, both were constantly harassed by people because of their blond hair. It is slowly starting to bother us that people keep stopping them and ask to take pictures. I think I'm going to start charging for that service :- ) After several hours of fun in the sun we decided to return to our resort and finish the day at the pool. Kids were happy, parents were happy, a great day in paradise.
Our next excursion was island hopping via speed boat. Rick was pushing against a full day tourist excursion but I really wanted to visit the most famous beaches in Thailand. Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting us into. We booked the full day trip and was told to be ready by 8:45 am the following day. The next morning a mini bus picked us up at our resort and we were transported to the harbor. Once we reached the port, I had a flash back of waiting in line to get visa, back in 2003 in Poland. People and lines everywhere, a mad house and complete chaos...this is going to be interesting, I though to myself. We were finally able to check in and received our wrist band that associated with a particular tour. The segregation process started and we were put into a group with all of the pink band holders. We were the only people with kids. We jumped on a boat along with other 20 people, were given a life jacket and a seat. The four of us sat at the back of the boat which was not the best idea since the engines were right there. Our captain explained the itinerary for the day and we were off. We were speeding through the Indian Ocean, passing different island and fighting with the waves. At times, when we hit a stronger wave it felt as if your whole body was being thrown in the air. Several people got sea sick and threw up right into the trash cane, gross!
After 30 minutes, we arrived at our first destination - Bamboo Island. It was quite beautiful, minus the fact that there were at least 25 other speed boats and hundreds of tourists doing exactly the same thing as us. The sand was super soft, the water an emerald color but it was hard to enjoy it. Our captain gave us 45 minutes so by the time we took a swim it was time to go back to the boat.
Our next stop was Phi Phi cave where we were given some time to snap a few pictures and before you knew it, we were moving to the next place. Maya Bay was our next destination, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie "The Beach”. Some say that this movie made Thailand so popular since the whole set was filmed here in Maya Bay. 20 years ago it probably was an enchanted Thai paradise but now it was flocked with tourists, boats, and trash. You couldn’t even swim because of the amount of boats and waves they brought with them into the bay. We left Maya Bay feeling really disappointed and a bit shocked...I knew that it was a popular spot but what we saw there made me second guess this excursion (as Rick rolls his eyes at me). We really wanted to go back and finish this bizarre experience.
Our next stop was Phi Phi island. Once we anchored, we were taken to a cafeteria where they served us lunch. It was buffet style and I must say, it was quite delicious. The next hour we spent relaxing on the beach and trying very hard to stay positive :-) I guess they saved the best for last...First, we passed Monkey Beach and witnessed several monkeys chilling on the cliffs surrounding the beach. Next, it was time to snorkel. Since we were the only crazy people with kids, we took turns. Rick went first and he saw plenty of colorful fishes. Honestly, the water was so clear that the kids and I were able to see plenty of exotic fishes straight from the boat. After about 30 minutes our captain took us to another snorkeling spot and it was my turn to get into the water. We tried to convince Leo to do it but he kept saying no, no, no, and seemed a bit scared.
It all changed when he told daddy he needed to go potty and Rick said the only way he could go was by jumping in the water. I guess when you have to go you have to go. He jumped in the water with no hesitation. His mammal like instincts took over, snorkeling and loving ever second of it. All of the marine life was awesome, and Leo kept saying he touched a fish. He was so excited and happy to see all of the fishes, they were everywhere and he kept poking them with his finger. Although, the entire boat trip left a lot to be desired, this moment alone made it all up. Seeing a beautiful smile on my sons face was the highlight of my day. Mila was pouting the entire time with Rick because she wanted to snorkel too : - ) She was none too happy about being left out of the adventure! It was close to 4pm and it was time to return back to the pier.
Leo snorkeling in the Indian Ocean
It was quite an interesting experience and something I would never do again. The whole excursion cost 5500 BTH ( around $200) and it was so fast and chaotic - my head is still spinning from all that jumping around. Yes, we saw some beautiful islands but the overcrowded beaches make it far from enjoyable. Compared with the rest of the world, Thailand is fairly inexpensive but to balance it out, you are going to feel very crowded. What is sad though is the fact that we humans are becoming so good at destroying what Mother Nature created. How can you call an island a paradise while it's full of trash, empty water bottles and other junk. Thailand is an amazing country with some of the happiest people we’ve met. Although today was a bit of a disappointment, we are not giving up and are ready for more Thai adventures...