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Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai and Pai

In this post I would like to give you an idea about what we have done in Chiang Mai, how we liked it and whether I would recommend doing it to you. In my last post I mentioned that we were going on a hiking trip. And that is what I'll talk about first.

Okay, let me give you an overview of what the trip was supposed to include: As I mentioned before, it was a two day one night trip. We'd go hiking and do a couple of other activities during the day and sleep in a mountain village for the night. Activities should include visiting a cave full of bats and spiders and hiking to the mountain village on the first day. On the second day we were supposed to hike to a waterfall where we could take a swim, go bamboo rafting and visit an elephant camp. The hiking took place about 60 to 70 km north-east (if I'm right) from Chiang Mai, so fairly far from the city. So we got picked up by a van in the morning and met our tour guide "John". He was a Thai who spoke sufficient, if somewhat broken English. But hey, it's like that almost everywhere. Then we drove to the start from where we were to start our trip. I did not measure the time, but it felt like it took a long time. When we arrived, we had lunch first. All meals on the trip were included, but water was not. It was cheap though. If you should do the same thing, avoid those squashy, white bottles though. They are the cheapest, but the water doesn't taste good and I really don't want to know what chemicals dissolve from the plastic into the water. Anyhow, after lunch, we got started!

Our group on the hike
This was our group during the trek. Well, everybody except me, of course
In the beginning, the weather was good and it was very warm. John pointed out a few plants to eat or smell, like lemongrass, strange small bananas and sugar cane. He also build hats for some of us to wear from some leaves. They made you look like Peter Pan! As always, there were a lot of butterflies around. On the road we found a dead scorpion. A first sign of what was lurking in the bush. But don't worry, we all made it back alive and even without an encounter with wild tigers, elephants or cobras. Yeah, I'm slightly disappointed, too...

Actually, for the most part the hike was not very eventful. At first we wandered through farmland. Sugar cane, bananas, beans and other local crops were growing on the mountainside. Then we entered the actual jungle. Time for another serve of mosquito repellent. It wouldn't be our last. As bad as this may sound, that stuff works, if you got the right one. A tip from our former travel companion Julian: Get the stuff with the pink lids! I can confirm it is very potent, better than other stuff we've tried. You'll see the mosquitoes swarming all around you, but unless you missed a spot or it has worn off (which happens after a few hours), you'll be almost 100% save from bites. But back to the hike. The tracks were really thin sometimes, mostly overgrown with grass and other low growing plants. So you won't know if there's a snake right in front of you and you will not be able to avoid getting up to your knees into the flora. You may want to bring long pants, but I was fine with shorts. But then I don't have any aversions to most crawling insects, which can't be said about every member of our group :D.

We did this in the beginning of October, so it was not exactly dry season yet. Everything was humid, so we got wet. Both by rain and by sweat. So we definitely needed our change of clothes.

The bat cave
Tough taking pictures, but my brother managed to get this one. You can see flying bats in the top left corner
After approximately two hours, we reached the bat cave. Everything was extremely slippery, so it was quite difficult to descent to the entrance of the cave. But the cave isn't very deep, at least the part that's accessible. But there are bats alright! I was the first one to enter, and I got to see quite a spectacle of disturbed bats flying around inside the cave. Shadow after shadow appeared in the dim light of our phones torches, and if you looked up you could see them swarming around above you. And yeah, the ground was covered in shit. In some places more, in some places less. The spiders were not very impressive. They just sat at the walls, one next to the other, and did nothing, except when John touched them. Then they'd quickly run away. After a couple of minutes we left the cave. From the wet, humid, dark and slippery bat cave covered in bat poop, we ascended into the wet, humid, foggy, mosquito swarming and slippery rainforest. Much better. From there, the trip continued up the mountainside. Step after step under gigantic bamboo and lianas. And then we cleared the forest to find us back in farmland. These farms belonged to the hill tribes. From what I understood, these people came there from China to settle and to farm the mountains. And it was not so long ago, that they received Thai citizenship. Generally, they speak neither Thai nor English, so for Tourists it is close to impossible to interact with them, except for photo shootings with the local kids. With the strong emphasis on the stay in this village with the locals within the offer of this trekking trip, I found that to be quite a disappointment. Yes, I've been there and I have seen it. But that was it. Everything I learned about them I could have better learned from a book or the Internet. It was really just a place to rest. And rest we did, for a long time. I think it must have been around 4 or 5pm when we arrived there. Dinner was due at 6, and that was the only additional activity for the day. Except for maybe a lightbulb, there is no electricity available and the Internet reception was very poor. Not much to do with the constant rain that had caught us during the last half hour of the hike and wetted us to the bones and the fog that ruined all the great views of the day...
So we went to bed early, which was hardly more than a blanket on the floor with a mosquito net above. That was enough though, we had signed up for an adventurous hike and not for trip to a spa after all.

The morning view from the mountain village
This was the view from the mountain village
The next day started with a bit of toast, egg, tea and coffee. Wait, that's wrong. It started with never ending crowing of the local roosters at about 4.30am. Unless you are a very heavy sleeper, that can be annoying. Luckily the rain had finally stopped during the night. Finally, we could see where we were. Not much of a point in me describing it when I can just show you a picture...

A bridge over the river at the waterfall
That's me standing on the bridge over the river at the waterfall, where it is possible to swim
The first bird-eating spider
The first bird-eating spider I saw. Unfortunately, it vanished before all of us could see it
The second bird-eating spider
The second spider was easier to observe. This is the one that attacked the blade of grass
Then we started the next day's hike. A lot of rainforest and a few streams and waterfalls. Stick insects, millipedes, frogs and spiders. Mosquitoes. Proper rainforest. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but better - meaning dryer - weather would have been awesome! None of us was really keen to go swimming once we had reached the particular waterfall where that was possible. We just chilled out by the riverside. When we continued our hike, John new a few holes in the dirt next to the road that he pointed out to us. Both of them contained a huge but easily startled black bird-eating spider! It was necessary to approach it very slowly and quietly, otherwise it would vanish into the depth of its burrow. But here comes the interesting part: John took a long blade of grass and tapped it onto the entrance of the burrow. The spider started to emerge a little further, until it was right at spot that was being tapped. It then lifted its front legs and suddenly made a dash forward, trying to grab whatever it was that was moving there. Super awesome! I tried it myself later, and believe me, those spiders are strong! Am I happy that it was just the grass it grabbed (and probably bit) and not my finger!

In this video you can see the spider attacking the blade of grass!

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube or download it in full quality from here.

At some point during the day John told us that we couldn't go rafting, since the heavy rainfall of the previous day and night had turned the stream into a raging river. But then we had already done that, so that was not too bad. Instead we'd go to a famous temple north of Chiang Mai.

Once we had made it down the mountain, we had lunch, which was some delicious fried rice. Then we all got into a van again and drove most of the way back to Chiang Mai to the elephant camp. I don't know why they make such a big a fuss about it, but there are almost no places left where you can actually ride an elephant like we had done in Kanchanaburi. I don't see how riding an elephant could harm it, but all these "elephant rescue camps" advertise that you can't ride elephants there. Maybe I lack crucial information, but that seems like a big marketing campaign based on false or exaggerated facts to me. I don't know. Riding being right or wrong, we actually found just feeding and bathing the elephants to be way more fun and enjoyable anyways, so no hurt feelings. And yes, I'm fairly certain that the elephants did enjoy the feeding part, though the bathing seemed to annoy them a little. Everybody agreed that it was a very nice experience.

A picture of the temple north of Chiang Mai
A picture of the temple north of Chiang Mai
A picture of the temple north of Chiang Mai
A picture of the temple north of Chiang Mai
And then we headed to the temple. It was big. It had lot of statues. It was very impressive. But after one or two weeks in Thailand you simply have seen enough of Buddhist Temples. You can have a look at a few pictures, but I'm not going to elaborate any further.

There was a lot of confusion in Chiang Mai, whether we could and should rent and ride a motorbike there. According to our host Thedda, the situation was such that we as Germans couldn't do anything right, even if we had a valid international motorbike license due to political confusions. We did have an international license, but it only allowed us to drive cars. Our German license does include small motorbikes up to 45 km/h, but that's not enough for Germany to add it into the international license. Also, you don't get such small bikes in Thailand. On the other hand, it's Thailand. Who cares about a license? That is the general way things are. But then the police got a little stricter recently (so we heard). Also, no license, no insurance. But without a bike, getting around is difficult. And just riding a motorbike is fun by itself. So what the hell should we do, and how???

In the end we learned that the most probable scenario that would occur if we decided to get a bike was that we'd be stopped by the police, asked for our license and then be asked to pay a 500 Baht fine, because no matter what the license says, it wouldn't be valid anyways. We'd then get a receipt that would say that we had paid the fine and that would also allow us to continue riding the bike for three days without being fined again. Yeah, it's still Thailand. To me, riding a bike in Chiang Mai was worth those 500 Baht, and so we decided to get one bike, so we'd just have to pay the fine once. Just before we rented the bike, we went to a police station to try and clarify the situation. "No English, go to another station near the train station". There: "No English, go to tourist information". There: "You should be fine". Then we where pointed to a rental company, both by the "tourist informationist" and the police officer. Swell. So we got the bike, entered our destination into maps and drove onto the highway. And promptly, we were stopped by a pack of police officers standing at the side of the road signaling us to pull over. They wanted to see our/my license. I assumed a very friendly smile and handed my license to the officer. He examined it. Then he showed it to at least one of his colleagues. Then he gave it back to us and told us to continue. We wished him a good day and gladly did so. 10 minutes later we were stopped again. "License please". With the same smile I handed my license over again. He examined it. He showed it to at least one of his colleagues. Then he very politely explained to us that this was an international drivers license alright, but that it - unfortunately - only allowed us to drive a smaller bike than the one we had. Wow, that dude actually knew what he was talking about. So we paid the aforementioned 500 Baht, got our "three day license" and went on, to be never stopped again during the following days. Lovely.

What we did that day was go to a viewpoint at the western end of the city. There are a few tracks (and a waterfall) around, so we decided to check it out. Well, I did. We had been running through so many jungles already, yet I had never had enough time to actually try and find all the interesting critter that populates it, and that I'm quite interested in. So here, we took it slowly. Basically, we spent a few hours just photographing every tiny little insect or reptile we found, which was quite a lot. It is surprising how many big spiders, praying mantises, caterpillars, beetles and stick insects you can find in a small area, if you just look at what's there! Once I get the time I'll add a link to a lot of the pictures I took that day somewhere here, but for now let's focus on other things.

Us riding the motorbike
Real tourists: Riding a motorbike without a license and videographing it
The shrine on Doi Inthanon
This is the highest point of Thailand. Naturally, there' a shrine there
A small orchid growing in the moss on a branch of a tree
Tiny little orchids like these grew everywhere in the moss on the trees
Mossy branches of trees on Doi Inthanon
It was often hard to distinguish a tree from all the other plants growing on top of it
A waterfall at the foot of Doi Inthanon
On the way back we stopped by this waterfall
The next day, we decided to ride the bike to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (2565m). It's a 2 hour ride from Chiang Mai, mostly on busy highways. I'd strongly recommend getting some respiratory protection. I got an headache, probably from all the dust and exhaust fumes during the ride. If you want to make it to the very top of the mountain, it's gonna cost you 300 Baht per adult plus 20 Baht per bike. The climate on the summit is amazing. It's cold. 16 degrees Celsius when we where there, with 12 degrees being the average. It can get below 0 though! It is a real cloud forest. Often foggy, with mosses, orchids and ferns growing everywhere. On the ground, on rooftops, on trunks and branches of trees. An amazing new world in the tropic jungles and dry(er) hot plains of northern Thailand! Definitely recommendable to visit, if you have the time! Unfortunately, due to low light, I was not able to capture the atmosphere on good pictures but I'll show you what I got. The area you can explore is not very extensive, at least from what I've seen. Also, we did not have much time, since we wanted to try to make most of the way back in daylight.

If you want to take a motorbike to Doi Inthanon as well, consider getting one per person, as the low air pressure and steep ascends were very hard on our overloaded vehicle, top speed sometimes being below 20 km/h. Also, we almost ran out fuel. But since the way back is mostly downhill, that didn't get us overly worried and there are small shops or shacks where you can get fuel, just have a look at maps. You may not see them otherwise.

Scopions offered for tasting
Are you hungry? In Chiang Mai, you can have a bite of scorpion. Sound delicious?
The night market in Chiang Mai
We spend a long time in Chiang Mai, partly because we also wanted a few days for relaxation, partly because we where waiting for an important letter to arrive from Germany. I think I have now mentioned all the highlights in Chiang Mai and the rest of the days can be summarized by the following: We watched a lot of Netflix. We walked through the city a lot. We sweated a lot. We visited the post office often. We explored a number of night markets and sampled the local streetfood. And then we finally got our letter. As soon as it arrived, we packed our bags and walked to the bus terminal, got tickets and went to Pai, a small town even further up north than Chiang Mai.

Pai is amazing. People speak good English and live in houses that are build - I don't know - properly?! Hedges are cut and gardens maintained. There are trashcans at the side of the road. Most or many people seem to be muslims. It's even cheaper than Chiang Mai and crowded with backpackers. Bars everywhere and an amazing "Walking Street" food market in the evenings. Nobody bothers with drivers licenses. If you run into a police block they may check for drugs, but not for licenses. 10 year old local kids are riding motorbikes. Everybody is friendly and helpful. Not that they were not in other places, but here it seems even more pronounced. So far we've gotten ourselves two bikes again and explored the area. There's a number of spots to check out, but it is a fairly small town, so a day or two and you'll have seen "everything". Sightseeing tours go to, guess what, waterfalls. Also a bridge, a small house build up-side down in the city center, viewpoints, hotsprings and so forth. By now, we have seen almost all these places and we do have to start thinking about getting back to Bangkok. Our time in Thailand is almost over. And I am happy to say that I am ready to go back home. Mission accomplished, haha. No, seriously, it is always nice when you're traveling and suddenly realize that you have managed to cool of enough to be ready to continue your life back home. That you would like to have a look in a book again, that you're curious what the next semester may bring. That you're keen to learn new stuff. Ready to go back to your projects at home. Of course, there is a lot more to explore in Thailand, and a lot of places I'd like to live in for a month or two, to really get to know them. But that will have to wait for another trip. It's time to leave paradise. Bye bye amazing landscapes, thick jungles, heat and humidity, beautiful butterflies and bird-eating spiders and, most of all, bye bye mosquito-plague!


Full moon party, Koh Phi Phi and first day of Chiang Mai

Alright, I'm back and got the time to tell you how our adventure continued.

Julian, whom we had met on the Kitty Raft, came to meet us on Koh Phangan. He had been to Phuket and Koh Phi Phi in the meantime. So we met him in the morning of the 24th, which was the day of the full moon party. The three of us (still) had motorbikes, and, as I said in my last post, we went to see more of Koh Phangans east side. Again, we had breakfast at the same spot as the day before. Unfortunately, we did not find another promising dirt road into the jungle, so we decided to head back the same way as before, toward paradise beach, to give Julian an expression of what it was like. We thought we'd just take a turn in a different direction than before. And we did that, but none of those tracks was ridable for long. But we did discover what seemed to be a rubber plantation and some apparently wild pineapple plants. Other than that we didn't see much we hadn't known already, but we took the time to chill a bit longer at the nicer spots.

And then came the evening. Everybody in our dorm got ready for the big event: The full moon party at "Haad Rin", a beach in the very south eastern corner of the island. So naturally, we got ready as well. And by ready, I mean drunk ;). We had a long conversation with two british guys, who were, like my brother, planning to go to Australia after Thailand, and so we exchanged stories and plans and then the conversation drifted to a few other topics as well. And then, I suppose it must have been around 10pm, we, the british guys and a group of Swedish people got into a cab (100 Baht per person) and drove to the party. Let's not get too much into detail. Officially, entrance fee is 100 Baht, which is said to be used for cleaning the beach after the party. Must be one hell of an expensive cleaning party. But, whether that is ethically acceptable or not, we just tried our luck and succeeded in sneaking in unnoticed by pretending to be looking at the menu of a restaurant, which had its terrace right next to the spot where they collected the fee. And there we were. The entire beach full of incredibly many people, most of them super drunk. Restaurants, bars, streetfood and "buckets" all around. Prices massively varying. Loud music of different genres all along the beach. Skipping over burning ropes. A horizontal bar for pull ups. I still got a massive burn mark on my ankle and singed hair on my limbs. Hehehe.

Okay, all in all, the party was good. But that's it. I wouldn't recommend planning your trip specifically so that you can be there as we did. After we came back from the party at about 3am, I still got into the ocean with a few of the Swedish girls and a guy from Belgium. And then we got into the pool that belonged to the place the that dude was staying. He paid less for that place than we did for our dorm and the pool was a lot deeper than the sea, which doesn't seem to become any deeper than half a meter for hundreds of meters...

The next day was the classic "hangover day". Although we were not really very hung over, we still enjoyed a chilled out day with Netflix, after a long time of relatively strenuous activities. I think that was also the day I introduced a page layout to this very blog section. Quite a hack ;). From now on, it'll actually be easier for me to introduce a new blog post and the page should load a lot quicker for you, since your browser will no longer have to load all the images I ever posted. So I wasn't totally unproductive :)

And it was the time for us to make a decision: Where to go next? Originally, we had planned to go to Koh Samui which is right next to Koh Phangan and somewhat bigger. But many people had told us it's not actually worth exploring, and also our time was running shorter and shorter, so we changed plans and went straight to Koh Phi Phi, instead. We booked the trip online, which was a little cheaper than with the local travel agent. But we really just did that because it was so late that the travel agent was no longer there. If you are interested in doing the same, we booked with 12Go Asia, which is one of the first things that pops up in Google's search results. Note that you do have to print the ticket though! They probably won't accept it on the phone, for whatever reason.

The ferry left the next morning at 7am. Arrival time was supposed to be 3pm, but I didn't check if we made that. What we had not noticed was that the hostel's reception did not open till 8am. But we still had to get our deposit back, which was 500 Baht each. So we had to wake everyone up. They were not very happy, and they were super slow but in the end the guy who had the keys to the money showed up and we got it. But, to be fair, it was our own fault, because there was a huge sign stating the opening hours. I just never noticed it before...

We then got into a cab and drove to the Pier. From there everything went pretty smooth, they do know how to organize travel with their so-called "Joint Tickets". Ferry to the mainland, bus across the mainland, van to the pier and another ferry to Koh Phi Phi. First thing that greeted us: A welcoming committee that wouldn't let us get off the pier without paying 20 Baht for cleaning of the beaches. Of course, only the tourists had to pay. Come on, it is not a lot of money and a good cause, no doubt. And yes, a lot of tourists probably leave a lot of rubbish at the beaches and I myself am very passionate about clean waters (being a diver). But that still sucks :/. Like or don't like how they treat tourists in that way, it is still fair to say that it could be a lot worse, so I won't complain anymore than this.

Koh Phi Phi from the viewpoint
This was taken from the second viewpoint. Entrance fee is 30 Baht, but it's worth it!
Sunset at Slinky Beach
Every single sunset on Phi Phi was amazing. This particular one was photographed from Slinky Beach
Nui Bay
It was hard to take a good picture, because of the blazing sun. This is the best I got. It shows Nui Bay
Koh Phi Phi is amazing. As simple as that. The water is very clear, even at the pier. The shape of the island is awesome. The "center" is actually a town build on a beach, with the sea on both sides. It connects two landmasses. One of them is made up of immense Rocks that stand out of the water almost perpendicularly, covered with jungle. I have not found a way to actually walk on to that part of the island. The other side is not quite as steep and you can go hiking, for example to the Phi Phi village or to one of its three viewpoints. Although possessing marijuana is illegal and you can even get a death penalty in Thailand, for example for trafficking it, it is everywhere on the island. There is (at least this) one bar on the right hand side of slinky beach, which I'm not gonna name here (just note that it has a big illuminated sign that you can't miss: Only look at it) where you can get it, and lots and lots of people who are going to approach you and ask you if you're interested. The law seems to be a very local thing in Thailand. You can go on all sorts of trips around the island, from the 500 Baht snorkel boat to the much more expensive all you can drink party boat. There's lots to see. Note that Maya Beach where large parts of the famous movie "The Beach" were shot is not open to tourists anymore, at least during low season. Shark Point at the south-eastern part of the island is famous for snorkeling and accessible on foot as well. Monkey bay, the first beach around the corner on the left hand side of the island (if you start at Slinky Beach) is accessible by kayak. Nui Bay, a beautiful and secluded beach on the right hand side of the island is accessible via some (very) small tracks and via kayak. It's definitely worth a visit! Unfortunately, I got sick by the evening of our first (full) day on the island, had one day down time on the second and am recovering since then. We decided not to do any of the tours offered, but explored the island ourselves, partly hiking, partly by kayak. We also had two evenings with some nice sandwiches (a reference to "How I met your mother"), one at a bar, one by the beach.

We would have loved to visit two more islands down south: Koh Muk (sometimes Koh Mook) and Koh Lipe. But there are no direct ferries to these places during low season, which would have made the trip a very long one and also it would have been a bit expensive. So, already having seen a lot of islands and a lot of beaches, we decided to save the time and money for another trip and booked passage to Chiang Mai for the next day instead. The best offer we got was at a travel agency (not the Internet!) on the island. 2700 Baht (72€, 83US$) for the ferry, transfer to the airport and the flight. Not too bad I'd say. We left Koh Phi Phi at 1.30pm and arrived in Chiang Mai around 9pm. Now we're staying at Linda's Guesthouse, a place you won't find on any booking portals and that therefore survives by word of mouth recommendations only. We heard about it from our grand uncle. So far it's very nice and very affordable, with the two of us staying in a private room (with a queensize bed ;D) with AC and bathroom for 350 Baht per day (total). You should know that most of the people who stay here are Germans. That is not intended, but still a fact, probably because the owner is German and the nature of their booking process. But everyone is welcome. Today, we've been exploring the city with another German guy who's staying here. It is not quite as nice as I expected :/. But hey, let's see what the next days are going to bring. We are going hiking! We booked the tour right here and are curious to see secluded mountain villages, a lot of jungle and probably even more mosquitoes for the next two days and one night.

Censored Porn
This is what you get when you try to access "youporn.com". The text says the following: "This site contains inappropriate content and information. Suspended by the Digital Ministry for Economic and Social Affairs"
Let's end this post with a fun fact: A friend just told me that you can not access any porn sites by directly typing the URL into your browser. It seems to be blocked by the government! I find that really funny! Even more so because if you just search for the site via Google and then use that link, you'll still be able to get everything you need. Not exactly the peak of big brother tech, right?!

For your convenience I'll also embed a few more videos here, which I have recently uploaded to Youtube. Enjoy!

This video shows a little hermit crab at the beginning and then you'll see what it looks like to dive through a massive school of fish. Afterwards, you'll see some of Koh Tao's dive site "South West (Pinnacle?!)"

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

And here the same school of fish again, if you want to see more...

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

If you're about to get your Open Water certification on Koh Tao, you'll visit some easy dive sites with a lot of sand at first. That will make it easier to perform those skills you'll have to practice. In this video you'll see what it may look like at these sites

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

In many places with a lot of tourism and/or excessive fishing with boats anchoring everywhere, the reef gets damaged. On Koh Tao, like in some other places, people are trying to repair that damage by building artificial reefs. This is what these look like at the moment.

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

This fish is a baby. It is going to stay in precisely this spot for a couple of more weeks or even months before it will start exploring deeper waters. Unfortunately, I can not remember its name right now.

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

In this video, I got curious about an almost white lionfish. When I approached it, that lionfish got curious about me as well and swam right in front of my face. I'll admit, I got a little uneasy about the venomous stings on its back...

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

Another potentially deadly sea dweller: The Blue Spotted Stingray. But it usually doesn't bather him when you take a look, even when you're pretty close. One particularly bold fish proves that in this video!

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

They are not the typical "Nemos", but they are anemone fish. Watch them stick their head out of their anemone-home ;)

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

A lot is going on, in the ocean. Even in the apparently dead sandy spots in between the reefs. I have no idea why they are doing it, but shrimps and fish seem to have teamed up for some kind of underwater construction project. Watch them at work!

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

OK, enough about Koh Tao now. This was filmed snorkeling at "Shark Point" on Koh Phi Phi. Lots of fish around there, but no sharks. I don't seem to be lucky enough during this holiday...

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

And now it is enough with water. You may have already seen us riding the dirt road on Koh Phangan. This is a small bit of the subsequent hike down to the beach, if you're interested

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube

And then here we got the very final bit of the way down to the Lost Paradise Waterfall. "Waterfall" is a very big word or what it turned out to be though...

You can also watch this video directly on Youtube


Exploring Koh Phangan on motorbikes

Okay, so we decided not to go to the waterfall party yesterday, and we're probrably going to ditch the "jungle experience" today as well. It's just too expensive plus we had a really long day. As the heading already stated, we rented two motorbikes and explored the island.

My motorbike
This was my motorbike. Pretty much the standard on Koh Phangan
In contrast to Koh Tao, it seems pretty impossible to get a motorbike with insurance around here (note that the Koh Tao insurance also just covered scratches, whatever that means exactly). That sucked, so we tried to book an insurance online. That is possible and does cover a lot more than just scratches, but then it occurred to us, that they would probably refuse to pay in case something happened, since none of us had an actually valid licence for the bike we were about to get. So we decided to take the risk and get one without insurance which, naturally, is a lot cheaper too (150 Baht per day). We just had to drive carefully. And since we had done it on Koh Tao already, we got comfortable with todays bikes pretty quick

Today's timeline (maps)
This is today's timeline. A google maps feature. It can show you where we've been.
The picture on the left (or above, if you're browsing mobile) shows my timeline of today, so it should give you a good idea where we've been. First, we explored the eastern part of the island, visiting a couple of beaches and towns. Then we made our way back to the south, because there are no roads that directly connect the east to the west. From there we headed up the western coast, which is a lot more populated compared to the jungle-covered rather empty east. Then we turned back to our accomodation via a road that leads through the center of the island.

We started out getting breakfast - one banana bread each - and something to drink at the local "supermarket". It's not really a supermarket since they most stuff in bulk only, but it works for us. Then we headed east, just following the road in roughly the direction of a waterfall, which I had found on one of the maps advertising roadtrips for 500 Baht per person. It soon lead us into the jungle, where we made our fist stop for breakfast on a rock under a leaf of a young coconut tree. Very chilled out. Then we slapped on suncream and mosquito repellent, mounted my action cam to the bike and continued our tour. There are lots of steep hills on that part of the island, and the roads are accordingly. But nothing could stop our surprisingly powerful 125 ccm machines and so we went on - up and down, up and down, repeat...

The Road to Lost Paradise Beach is not that bad in some places
The road was not bad everywhere. Right in the middle of it where bits and pieces that were actually really good!
Eventually we came to a sign that pointed towards a dirt road saying "waterfall: 4 km". Thinking that might just be the thing we'd been looking for we decided to give it a try. After all, 4 km didn't seem like much. Just a couple of hundred meters later, we saw two people and one motorbike standing on the road. In front of them the road was incredibly steep with deep furrows that had been washed out by the rain. Let's make it short, it was very challenging to make it. Both of us did without accidents, but the occasional slipping tire had to be handled. You may check out the video I took, once I've uploaded its 4 GB onto Youtube and embedded it here. Unfortunately, it does not quite give the same impression of steepness as the actual experience. Also my Internet is rather slow, so you might have to wait a while for that. Also, the camera was directly mounted onto the bike, which meant a lot of vibration. It's been the first time I did that so I didn't quite know what to expect in terms of footage. Let's just say that the image stabilizer of my Sony X-1000V has given its best, which was a lot but not quite enough...

If you want to watch this video directly on Youtube please visit Riding the dirt road to the Lost Paradise Beach

The view from the spot where we parked the bikes
This is the view from the spot form where we continued on foot
Thomas standing on the road
Extraordinary views from everywhere. Time to take pictures ;)
After a while we reached the highest point of the road, which we estimated to roughly 500 meters above sea level. And the road was going there, very steep. We decided that was too much for the combination of our machines and skills and started out hiking. Even though we were not sure if we should do the whole way, it was quite hot after all. But we continued walking. At some point, a group of ATVs passed by us. Should be a lot easier to do the whole thing on four wheels. Okay, so after a long hike, we arrived at the "waterfall". It was ridiculous, almost non-existent. But hey, the way had been great. Both of us agree it was one of the best things on the trip so far!

Lost Paradise Beach
This is what "Lost Paradise Beach" looked like. Or at least a part of it...
After the waterfall we walked the short remaining way to the beach. There are a couple of bungalows around, as well as a bar. Quite nice and quiet. We stayed around for a while and then decided to head back, a long way to go (up). But we got lucky and could make ourselves comfortable on the back of a truck that went in our direction. When they dropped us off at our bikes, they asked for a bit of money for fuel. So I was about to hand them like 30 Baht, when they suggested something more around 200 Baht. Later I thought that had been a bit too much. I mean, they had made the way anyway. But who cares, it saved us a lot of time and energy.

Back on the road we went further up north, saw another small waterfall and a couple more nice beaches. After a stop at 7-eleven to get something to drink, we went back to the south, both to continue to the western part of the island and to get some fuel.

A view from western Koh Phangan
One of many nice viewpoints on western Koh Phangan
The western part is nice. A lot more people, a lot more resorts, a lot more bungalows. Still nice, but tomorrow we'll probably get back to another dirt road in the east, in quest of another hidden paradise. It was an awesome day in Thailand!


A picture of myself

Hi there! My name is Matthias vom Bruch. My long-term plan is to get whatever is required to live the life of a digital nomad. In short, that means to travel a lot. I am from Germany, which is why you will probably find quite a few clumsy expressions in my writing. Sorry about that

One thing I like best about traveling is to meet other people, who can tell great stories about their lifes, that really get you to think about the possibilities waiting out there! Before I travelled, I thought so many things were not possible, that I now have seen people do!

Also, I like sharing my own stories and seeing how they affect other people's lifes, hopefully and most likely to the better!

So this site will be my storytelling homebase, my hord of exciting facts and tales about this world. And I want as many people out there to participate, to join in and share what gets (or got) their hearts racing! From their best (special) day-trips to the most uncommon and genious life-plan they might have come up with. Join me in revealing the unexplored life-paths out there! We are people of one world, not of many countries