Lovely Lanta and Scuba Diving

Scuba diving with Phoenix Divers - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

We spent about five days in Ao Nang/Krabi, and while the trips to islands were beautiful, the town and beach there was trashy, overdeveloped, overcrowded and you could tell the locals were just beat down by rude tourists and in no mood to be nice at all. So when Alvin and Jennifer headed back to the states, we headed off to find a different island base. We went with Koh Lanta – described on a travel review as “The Island for People Who Can’t Decide What They Want”, as in it has waterfalls and caves to hike to, great scuba diving, a little town at one end, a bunch of uncrowded beach, some rocky areas and the occasional all-night beach party. With our travel ADD, it was great for us!

Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

We arrived in a bit of a funk, tired of the trashy overdeveloped, not-quaint-whatsoever cities… and were immediately relieved by the cute little port. We hopped in the back of a pick-up truck that our beach bungalows had sent to pick us up and rode to the other side of the island, where we quickly found the island paradise we had been hunting for!

Paradise - Koh Lanta Krabi, Thailand

Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

Complete with idyllic sunsets and hippies practicing their fire dancing and hula hoop skills. (by the way, these photos don’t have filters or anything, its just that gorgeous).

The next day we went in search of where we would take our scuba course. We had thought about doing a one day “fun” dive where you don’t have to be certified, just to see how we liked scuba diving since neither of us had done it. But we quickly agreed “of course we’ll love it” and with our standard go-big-or-go-home attitude, decided to go for the 3-4 day course that gets you a PADI Open Water Diver Certification.

After talking with over a dozen different shops, landed on Phoenix Divers with kind owners and amazing staff from all over the world. We didn’t realize that Koh Lanta (Koh = Island in Thai) has a huge Swedish ex-pat population. Especially in winter when Sweden is getting only 3-4 hours of sunlight a day.

So we were off to studying, we had about 100 pages in a textbook and 3 quizzes to complete before our class started the next morning. Lots of studying, but not a bad place to do it!

Studying on the beach - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

The first day of the course we reviewed the theory at the scuba shop with our instructor in the morning, then headed off to a pool to put on the equipment and practice all we had heard about. Basically you’ve read a bit about how it works and what’s supposed to happen, and then you’ve read A LOT about what could go wrong, what you’re supposed to do to prevent it, and what you do when it goes wrong anyway…. And that last part is what you’re practicing in the pool.

This did not go so well for me. Turns out I take things very literally when it comes to life-or-death instructions, and I took things a bit too literally… when the book said “#1 Rule: You must breathe constantly. Never hold your breath”, I did that, which made me feel super uncomfortable breathing from the regulator, and made me want to breathe through my nose which doesn’t work well in scuba because it makes water come into your mask, which means when you breathe through your nose the next time water comes into your nose. Combine that with all of the drills where you lose your mask and have to hang out underwater without it, lose your regulator (thing in your mouth where your air comes from), swim without your mask, swim without your regulator, rescue your buddy who’s lost his air supply, do that while you’ve lost your mask, do backflips while singing the national anthem while underwater without your airsupply, on and on and on. Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.

I did not enjoy it. It was like acting out “1,001 Ways To Die” Scuba episode. I was not sure I’d make it the next day when we went out into the ocean. And to add insult to to injury, we had to go home and study three more chapters for about 5 hours!

Fast forward to the next morning and we’re out at the dive location, Koh Bida, I’ve talked myself out of freaking out, but I’m not excited about this adventure. I now know that both Rick and our instructor, Alex, were rather apprehensive that I was going to bail out when we started having to do all of the “ways to die” drills underwater. But as soon as I jumped in, it all disappeared! For once my ADD paid off, and as soon as I looked underwater and saw all of the fish and coral and amazing creatures, I was like “SQUIRREL!”


My distraction by all the cool stuff to see, allowed me to stop overthinking every little thing I was supposed to do, and instead just do it. Even when I managed to breathe in a lungful of sea water during our “lost your mask, swim around” drill – my lack of panic when it happened and completing the exercise despite it, convinced Rick and Alex that I would actually make it as a diver! (what I was actually thinking was “Liz you can’t quit now because if you do, you’ll have to do this whole stupid exercise over again!”)

Scuba diving with Phoenix Divers - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

At Koh Bida we saw a ton of fish! A huge cuttlefish (kinda rare, we were told), stingrays, lion fish, parrot fish, puffer fish, banded sea krait sea snake, lots of more eels. I think my favorites were the dozen different kinds of clown fish playing in the anemones. The funniest thing was when Alex kept signaling us with all of these underwater signs/charade signals, and we had no clue what he was talking about. I keep trying to figure out that drill it means. We get to the surface at the end of the dive and I’m thinking “wow, I must have missed a ton of the drills”. Well turns out each fish has a “scuba signal” and he was just telling us what to look at! Some of them are quite humorous… like the one for grouper… here’s a hint it includes groping yourself 🙂

We weren’t able to bring our camera with us, even though it’s waterproof because it only goes to about 45 feet and we were diving deeper than that. So these pics aren’t ours, just a few from Wikipedia to give you an idea what it looked like.


The next day was the last day of our course, went to Koh Haa. We successfully passed all of our drills and exams – YEA!! I finally got that you don’t really have to breathe in and out constantly, and got really stinkin’ good at the buoyancy stuff, so I could control all of my vertical movement with my breath. Apparently I’m really good at managing my air supply, too. I would come with almost double the air supply left that Rick had.

Phoenix Divers - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand


Rick loved scuba diving! But not so great at the air management. He was so excited to see everything around him that he was sorta spazzy and flitting all over the place. Our instructor kept motioning to him “slow, slow”, “calm, calm”. So a little work to do there.


We got do to more fun diving on this day than the previous, including going into an underwater cave sort of.  Sign language is a big deal underwater when you can’t talk to each other.

We wanted to go for another day of diving to one of the best sites in Thailand that was very close to where we were staying, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, known for whale sharks and giant manta rays. But the weather was too rough, so no trips were going. So we’ll have to get our first “officially certified” dive in somewhere else – Africa? South America? We’re taking recommendations!

We spent the next few days enjoying our beach front bungalow and exploring the island. A very relaxing way to close out our time in Asia.

Sunset - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

Amazing Beaches around Krabi

Hanging out on the Islands

You’ve seen the pictures of gorgeous sunsets, and the famous Thai beaches with white sand, crystal water and limestone karsts jutting out. Let me tell ya, it’s harder to find in Krabi than you would think, but when you do finally, it’s spectacular.

Here’s my travel advice warning before you get carried away with these incredible pics: I still don’t recommend staying in Krabi or Ao Nang. They’re really overdeveloped, haven’t been taken care of and, frankly, the food and service sucks. But there are pretty day trips from there… but you could take those same day trips based out of somewhere far less trashed out.

Ok – so on to the beautiful pictures to make you all jealous while you’re bundled up in winter clothes!

Sunset Ao Nang Beach, Krabi,, Thailand

Our first night we got to enjoy the most beautiful sunset I think I’ve ever seen, just off Ao Nang beach. Choosing which pictures to post for this is really hard – and really they don’t even begin to capture it!

The next day we went on the “Five Island Tour” on a longtail boat.

Longtail Boats - Krabi,, Thailand

We started off at Railay Beach – the perfect “play in the water” beach. It’s not an island, but you do have to take a boat to get there because it’s cut off from any road due to the rock formations.

Cave Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

It’s known for it’s rock climbing and a cave that you can only get to in low tide.

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Then went to Poda Island

Poda Island Krabi, Thailand Poda Island Krabi, Thailand

Then we stopped at a couple spots to snorkel. There were a ton of fish, but it didn’t have the coral or variety we were hoping for. But it did remind us how we had wanted to learn to Scuba drive (… foreshadowing for future blog post).


Then we went to Chicken Island… can you see why it’s named that? The couple Americans on the boat agreed Turkey Island would be better, but they don’t really have turkeys in Thailand.

Chicken Island, Thailand

Chicken Island is attached to a few other small islands at low tide by giant sandbars that, so you can basically walk between them. So of course we did… Childhood flashback to Land Before Time and the land bridge to The Great Valley… except our land bridge took us to the only island where you could buy beer! Didn’t exactly save us from extinction, but we were excited nonetheless!

We enjoyed swimming around and playing on the islands the rest of the afternoon.

That night we thought we had upgraded our accommodations from where we spent our first couple nights – the desk lady was still not a fan us due to our vagrant-style introduction. I guess first impressions stick.

We did have a location closer to the main beach… but here’s our “Ocean View” bungalow in Ao Nang. Yep, that’s the Ocean View. It was rustic charming though.

Ocean View room

The morning we got up to pack all of our stuff up we found THOUSANDS of ants had moved their colony into our clothes that we had sitting on the floor of the bungalow. There wasn’t any furniture or places to hang clothes, so we just had them stacked up in packing cubes and piles. The bungalow is built on short stilts, the floor is bamboo with small gaps between the planks. We didn’t have any food in our room, no idea why they picked our clothes as their new homestead. But it was terrifying and a huge pain in the butt. They had moved in the queen. And ants in your pants don’t shake off. They refuse. It took us over an hour and we still didn’t get all of them off – we just had to prioritize the clothes we were wearing that day and hope that being packed up in our backpacks would kill the others.

AntsWe spent the next few days enjoying the beaches and exploring with Alvin and Jennifer! We had so much fun – they are a blast!! We had some really great times, and even when things didn’t go our way we still made the most of it and made some memories that will be forever be really awesome stories!! Alvin and Jennifer rock!! We are so grateful to have them as friends and couldn’t have imagined more fun or awesome people to be the first to meet up with us on our trip!! YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME – WE LOVE YA!!

Phi Phi island

Our Arrival to Southern Thailand



Well we had our first significant travel logistics ooops. We flew from Chiang Mai down to the beaches in Southern Thailand. We found a cheap flight into Phuket, but Alvin and Jennifer were going to Krabi, so we really wanted to just get to Krabi. We thought, no problem, it’s just a 2 hour ferry ride from Phuket to Krabi… a few minor details we overlooked.

  • That’s the time it would actually take, yes, BUT all ferries make it a day long trip with a stop on Koh Phi Phi for 5-6+ hours.
  • That means that the ferries really only run in the morning
  • Also buses only run mid morning
  • Our flight landed in Phuket at midnight
  • The Phuket airport is in. the. middle. of. nowhere. – an hour and half cab ride into the town of Phuket. An expensive cab ride. And the bus to town quits running at 8pm.
  • The bus to Krabi leaves from in town, not out by the airport.
  • The Phuket airport shuts down at midnight and kicks everyone out.

So basically our options were, sleep outside of the airport until the morning (not really an option, there was no where to sleep), cab ride to Phuket (expensive), or cab ride to Krabi (slightly more expensive, but at least at our destination).

We did the cab ride to Krabi, and arrived at 2:30am. We tried to book a room online en route – when we got there we looked for the place for about 40 minutes. It was a little guest house. Everything was shut down. Our sweet cab driver was so nice and got our and helped us walk up and down the street searching for our place, asking the 7/11 clerk, more searching, trying to call. Finally Rick walked really far down this alley and found our place. It’s now after 3:00am… and there’s no one to be found. The front of the guest house is this sorta open courtyard, there’s one leather-ish couch.

So I pull out my camping air pad (thanks, IMM!) and hunker down on the ground, and Rick takes his spot on the couch. And we slept semi-peacefully amidst the mosquitos and cats. Until 6:30am when the front desk lady found us and woke us up yelling “No! No! No! You can’t do this. You can’t sleep here!” we tried to explain what happened, but really she didn’t care, she kinda shoved us into an empty room and told us to sleep there. Heck yea! Free night’s stay!

sort of.

Tigers and Trails: Chiang Mai

Tiger Kingdom - Chiang Mai, Thailand

After hot and sweaty Bangkok and spending a few nights in a brothel (unknown to us until we put all of the pieces together), we landed in Chiang Mai and immediately loved the weather. It was cool and dry in the mountainous north of Thailand…. Okay, mountainous seems like an exaggeration, after going to the Himalayas in Nepal my standards for “mountainous” have been elevated a bit. But it was still really nice.

Chiang Mai, Thailand We booked the hostel next door to Alvin and Jennifer’s hotel, which turned out to be quite nice (especially compared to the brothel in Bangkok! … “hmm, why is there this random green light bulb over our door?”)

Our first day we rented bicycles to explore the city. And of course the four of us managed to find a bar with beer pong! Rick and I got sounded beat in both matches.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand Beer Pong

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The next day we decided to expand our exploration and rent a motorbike. We came across Tiger Kingdom, and were skeptical about actually going to play with tigers… were they drugged? Mistreated? We did an elephant trekking activity in Chitwan Park, Nepal and were so saddened by how the animals were treated that we couldn’t even finish it. We did not want to support something like that again. But we went by the Tiger place, and they invited us in to just look around and see if we liked it before we bought tickets or anything. We were really relieved to see that the cats were actually playing and running around. I’m not going to say it was the best conditions ever, or an ideal thing, but they looked a heck of a lot happier than most tigers you see in a zoo. So we decided to go in and play with the tigers and it was pretty cool!! Yeah, so we played with tigers – what else can you say about that?!

After the tigers, we went on to explore the countryside around Chiang Mai. It was so fun to drive the curvy roads through the mountains. We visited a hill tribe village, where there were no westerns tourists. Beautiful views and the best strawberries we’ve ever had! They had really cool terraced gardens all around. Chiang Mai, Thailand

We wound our way back with our jackets on – it got quite cold on the bike!

Our next day was even better, thanks to Alvin and Jennifer for booking a whitewater rafting trip for us! But first Alvin cashed in on a bet he won against Rick… Rick’s lack of accuracy in the carnival shooting game cost him – Alvin got to pick one thing that Rick had to eat.  Alvin was pretty kind, all things considered that he had to choose from at the roadside market. That’s a deep fried chicken head. Rick said it was surprisingly delicious.

We had so much fun. And how often is it that you get to raft by elephants in the river?! We also got a special surprise at the end of the trip. As we were pulling up to the side of the river to get out, a random guy was there bathing… well, we’ll say bathing, but really it seemed like he was just hanging out naked on the shore of the river right where the rafts were coming in. We named him Steve. And inviting “Steve” to our activity for the day became a running joke.

"Steve" Rafting Chiang Mai

While in Chiang Mai we explored some of the many waterfalls. We found one river that had 10 “levels” of waterfalls over the course of a couple of kilometers.

We  spent or last day in Chiang Mai hiking the trail up the back way to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Which also passes another smaller Buddhist temple. It was a fun little hike that ends in the little neighborhood the monks live in. Both temples had a bunch of awesome statues.

72 Hours in Bangkok

72 Hours in Bangkok Thailand

72 Hours in Bangkok Thailand

We left India for Southeast Asia with our first stop being a little layover in Bangkok, Thailand. We decided two nights would be a good intro trip to Thailand without too much of a delay in our itinerary and who wouldn’t want to see Bangkok on Halloween? So, how did we spend our 72 hours in Bangkok?

We didn’t do a ton of research before we arrived just found a nice reasonably priced hostel close to some of the main tourist areas. What I didn’t realize from my glancing at the guidebook map was how huge of a city Bangkok is… And while the hostel I picked Lub*d Silom, was right in the middle of everything, that actually made it about 2km away from anything. Not a huge deal as Bangkok has a great metro, taxis are prevalent, and tuk-tuks abound.

We arrived via a red-eye from Kolkata, India and after jumping in a taxi we made it to the hostel about 5:30am. They were friendly and let us crash in the theater room until our room was ready. Our first order of business after sleep for a few hours was Breakfast!

We were told a street right around the corner from our hostel has great food stalls. We found some kind of great coconut lime chicken soup to start the day. It was outstanding – Liz said it was her favorite food of the trip so far!! The flavor was light and complex and exotic and completely addictive. Unfortunately we were still out of it and didn’t think to take a picture… but we are definitely planning to find more of it when we get back to Thailand in a few weeks.

From there we decided we needed to see Bangkok from the water; after all, it is known as the “Venice of the East.” We found our way to the waters edge where we were quickly talked into a boat tour that would end by the Grand Palace and walking distance to a lot of other attractions.

The Boat Tour in Bangkok, Thailand. The Boat Tour in Bangkok, Thailand. The Boat Tour in Bangkok, Thailand.

We got a lovely tour via the water then the captain dropped us off at Wat Arun, an imposing temple on the west bank of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya (the river). We made it up to the top just in time to get absolutely poured on! Gotta love rainy season.

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

Our captain then ferried us over to the other side of the river where our tour ended at we went into see Wat Pho and the giant “Reclining Buddha.” We wondered around the grounds there for a while before making our way to a rooftop for sunset.

Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Arun, Sunset Wat Arun, Sunset

From there we grabbed a tuk-tuk to Khao San Road the backpacker home of Bangkok. Khao San is a crazy street light with neon, vendors, food carts and anything else you can imagine. We found a ton of great food, got a foot massage to heal our tired feet, and just wondered around Khao San people watching and enjoying the energy of the city.

Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

There is, of course, tons of live music along Khao San and it didn’t take us long to find something right up our alley. A place jam packed with young locals and a 8 piece live band playing ska versions of Frank Sinatra, as well as a number of songs we didn’t recognize.

Ska Band in Bangkok

It was easy to stay up late on Khao San and we headed home about midnight; extremely early by Bangkok standards.

The next morning it was more neighborhood food, and I was thrilled that marshmallows were on the breakfast menu.

Marshmallows for breakfast in Bangkok

It was Friday and the big Chatuchak Weekend Market was open on but not as crowded as it normally is on Saturday and Sunday. So we took the metro to the market. If you know Liz you know how much she loves markets so we spend a few hours roaming round looking at all the crazy foods for sale.

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand

From the market it was back to Khao San to see it in the day light a little and visit the fish spa. It doesn’t hurt but it’s definitely a shocking experience when you first stick you’re feet in.

Fish Spa, Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

That evening the hostel was having a costume contest before going out to the total madness that was the Khao San Road Halloween festivities. We were limited to what we brought with us or was in the “free” bin at the hostel. Liz tied for 3rd with her “blue horns she found in the free bin and some make-up from friend.” And I took second as Steve Irwin. There wasn’t a lot of competition.

My Steve Irwin costume

Khao San Road, Halloween, Bangkok, Thailand

Khao San road was absolute madness wall to wall people everywhere. After about an hour we had had enough and decided we needed to move to a quieter street and get some pad thai then head home.

We slept in the next day, did some laundry then head to the airport to catch our flight.

Next stop, Hanoi, Vietnam!