Koh Lanta – Beaches, Monkeys, and Another Motorbike Accident

The journey from Koh Phangan to Koh Lanta was a long one.  We were picked up from our bungalow on Haad Rin at 6am and taken to the ferry pier where we got on a boat to Surat Thani, back on mainland.  Several hours later, we landed in Surat Thani and boarded a bus to the bus stop in Krabi.  Then, we had to take another bus to Koh Lanta which included a trip across the water on a car ferry!  Finally, we had found ourselves on Koh Lanta, sometime in the late afternoon.

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The circled island toward the top is Koh Phangan, the pin is Koh Lanta. We had to take a boat from Koh Phangan to mainland, drive across to Krabi, then take a bus/car ferry over to Koh Lanta.

The bus dropped us off in the heart of Phra Ae Beach (also known as Long Beach) where we found a nice little 300 Baht bungalow a short walk from the beach, with a balcony and shared bathrooms. We had made it just in time to catch an amazing sunset and enjoy a dinner on the beach.  After a long day of traveling, we went back to the bungalow and crashed pretty early.

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Joe on Long Beach, Koh Lanta
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Amazing sunset on Long Beach

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The next day, we let ourselves be infiltrated by the chilled out, paradise atmosphere of Koh Lanta.  We also finally gave into the desire for a spa treatment and got Thai massages right on the beach.  They were surprisingly painful, but therapeutic in their own way.  After an hour underneath the weight of a small Thai woman, we were ready for some beach bumming.

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Long Beach by day. It never got more crowded than this!

The beach was beautiful and not terribly crowded.  It was almost unbearably hot though, so most of the people were bunched together under the palm trees trying to get some relief under the shade.

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Neverending sunshine.

That night, we decided to have a few drinks at a treehouse bar/hostel called Chill Out.  There are multiple levels where people can climb around and have a few drinks.  They closed at 11, though and everyone was moving to the party at a beach bar called Ozone.  We decided to join, and met some people from England that we hung out with for the night.

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Some cool black light art at Chill Out
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The beach party at Ozone

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The next day we were super hungover and did nothing, so we’ll just move onto the day after that.  We decided to explore some other parts of Koh Lanta by motorbike.  We rode down the entire west coast to a beach called Klong Jark.  It was practically deserted, and we spent a couple of hours sipping fruit shakes on the beach, listening to reggae.

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Complete desertion on Klong Jark
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Seriously! No one else was there.
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Enjoying a couple of fruit shakes

Next, we decided to check out the National Park at the very southern end of Koh Lanta.  We paid the entrance fee and parked the moto to explore.  The park is full of unbelievable views, including an old lighthouse that visitors are able to walk up to (but not actually inside.)

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Mu Ko Lanta National Park
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The lighthouse!
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Awesome view while making our way up to the lighthouse
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Almost there..
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Joe at the top of the hill
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And a beautiful view of the bay below
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Another shot of the lighthouse in all its glory.

We walked onward and became hypnotized by all of the adorable monkeys!

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Monkeys!
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This picture isn’t so great, but these ones were kind of creepy looking. They almost looked like some type of lemur, maybe.
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Then we found a bunch of babies running around and teasing each other!

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One of the mothers came right up close to us and started nursing, it was really special. 🙂

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After getting our fill of the stunning plant and animal life of Koh Lanta, we decided to make our way back to Long Beach.  Our perfect day got a little ugly here, due to another small motorbike accident.  The bike got only a few small scratches, but Joe wasn’t quite so lucky…

Luckily the guy we rented the moto from didn’t seem to notice the scratches and we didn’t have to pay any extra fees.  We did, however, have to spend a few bucks on medical supplies…

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Burn from the exhaust pipe…(he saved the bike from falling, though!)

Minus the very end, our time on Koh Lanta was all smiles and one of our favorite beaches in Thailand.  Despite its beauty, Koh Lanta is not nearly as overpopulated as many of the nearby islands, which only made it a more pleasurable destination, in our eyes!  Everyone was very friendly and the prices were cheaper than most of the other islands, as well–always a plus!

3/25

Snacks: 50B ($1.54)

Water: 20B ($0.62)

Taxi/Boat/Bus to Krabi: 1400B ($43.13)

Sandwich: 60B ($1.85)

Boat to Koh Lanta: 700B ($21.56)

Lunch in Krabi: 225B ($6.93)

Water: 15B ($0.46)

Dinner: 510B ($15.71)

Water: 15B ($0.46)

Accommodation: 300B ($9.24)

3/25 Total Spending: 3,295B ($101.51 USD)

3/26

Breakfast: 120B ($3.70)

Water (2): 30B ($0.92)

Thai Massages:  600B ($18.48)

Dinner: 130B ($4.00)

Ice Cream: 20B ($0.62)

Chill Out House (Beers): 440B ($13.55)

Candy Bar: 25B ($0.77)

Ozone Beach Party (Beers): 460B ($14.17)

Accommodation: 300B ($9.24)

3/26 Total Spending: 2,125B ($65.46 USD)

3/27

Chips (2): 110B ($3.39)

Water (2): 30B ($0.92)

Ice Cream: 40B ($1.23)

Lunch: 50B ($1.54)

Lemon Shake: 35B ($1.08)

Water/Electrolytes: 23B ($0.71)

Dinner: 290B ($8.93)

Accommodation: 300B ($9.24)

3/27 Total Spending: 878B ($27.05 USD)

3/28

Breakfast: 120B ($3.70)

Moto Rental: 200B ($6.16)

Gasoline: 160B ($4.93)

Water: 30B ($0.92)

National Park Entrance (2): 420B ($12.94)

Pad Thai (2): 100B ($3.08)

Chips/Ice Cream: 75B ($2.31)

Bandages: 85B ($2.62)

Water: 15B ($0.46)

Accommodation: 300B ($9.24)

3/28 Total Spending: 1,505B ($46.36 USD)

Visiting the Pak Ou Caves and Our First Motorbike Accident

About 25 km north of Luang Prabang lie the Pak Ou Caves, two caves that are full of hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues.  To visit them, you can take a tuk tuk, a boat, or do what we did and rent a moto for the day.

We knew that the route we were taking was going to be lots of dirt paths and some major roadways with traffic, so we opted for a manual motorbike in hopes it would make for an easier journey.  Off roading on a manual motorbike we’ve never driven before?  Sounds like a great idea, right?

The trip started out a little jerky but once Jojo got the hang of the gear shifting, we were cruising along just fine.  Then we reached the beginning of the dirt road.

Bumpy does not even begin describe this road.  We were flying six inches off the seat as we made our way around hairpin turns and up and down dangerously steep inclines.  While it was admittedly terrifying and painful, it was also absolutely thrilling!  We were alone on the road apart from a few locals whizzing by us (and probably laughing at our pathetic attempt at driving on this road.)

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Jojo in front of some of the beautiful scenery we passed while driving to the Pak Ou Caves
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The glorious dirt road

We came to a particularly precipitous incline and started our ascent in second gear, but we were moving too slow and about half way up the hill, the bike slowed to a halt.  When the bike stopped, Jojo switched to first gear, but he was still holding the throttle all the way open.  The bike tried to fly forward, but our weight pulled it back so that instead of taking us up the hill, the front wheel flew up in the air and threw me backwards onto my back.  Time slowed, and I watched in horror as Jojo and the motorbike stood straight up and began descending toward me.  I saw it before it happened: me breaking Joe’s fall, and Joe breaking the bike’s fall.  It would have been a grisly event if Joe hadn’t thrown his weight forward at the last second, re-grounding the wheels and saving us both from being crushed by the bike.  We made it out with a few scrapes and bruises, but we were thankfully unhurt otherwise.  Not to mention, our tablet that I landed on top of, and our camera that was in my hands during the fall suffered no damage–we seriously lucked out!

The rest of the way was mercifully uneventful.  The roads were still treacherous, but Jojo had gotten more acclimated with the bike after our close call and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we passed by.

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Passing by farms with mountains in the distance
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We passed lots of animals on our journey, including this adorable baby cow!
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We passed through some villages on our way
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…and our first elephant spotting!! (We pulled over to let them pass.)

Finally we came to a village across the river from the caves.  We parked our bike and hired a boat to take us across for 26,000kip.

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Looking at the caves from across the river
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Boating across to the caves
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The stairs leading up to the caves

When we got to the other side, we got off the boat and walked up the steps to the first cave.  They call it a cave, but it was less of a cave, and more of an overhang–and as promised, it was crammed with Buddha statues of every style and posture!

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Buddha statues in the lower cave

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After exploring the lower cave, we climbed the stairs up to the upper cave.  It was filled with more Buddha statues and went a little deeper than the lower one.  It wasn’t lit up at all, so we had to use our flashlights to explore its depths and find the rest of the statues.

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Exploring the upper cave

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When we were finished with the caves, we got back on the boat that took us to the village where our bike was parked.  We decided to take Route 13 back to the city rather than the back roads, this time!  We made it back to Luang Prabang in good time, but we were really nervous that we would be held responsible for the significant amount of scratches the bike had acquired during our trip to the caves.  We’d heard a lot of horror stories regarding motorbike rental in Luang Prabang, and feared we might be demanded to fork over hundreds of dollars for the damages.  If they noticed the scratches, they didn’t say anything about it and we were relieved to be off the hook!  We finished the day with another dinner of Lao barbecue, grateful for our day of adventure and minimal injury.

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Breakfast: 85,000kip

Motorbike Rental: 120,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Parking: 5,000kip

Boat: 26,000kip

Cave Entrance: 40,000kip

Donation: 5,000kip

Gas: 20,000kip

BBQ: 140,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 531,000kip ($65.85 USD)

Pha That Luang and Buddha Park – “The Most Psychedelic Place in Laos”

On our second day in Vientiane, we had a couple of destinations in mind, that were a bit far from city center, so we decided to rent a motorbike to get around more efficiently.

Our first stop was Pha That Luang, a large Buddhist stupa covered in gold and regarded as the most important Laotian national monument.  Built in the 16th century, it really is quite stunning and impressive to walk around.  It wasn’t terribly crowded and you can also buy a flower to offer if you want to.

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Nicole in front of Pha That Luang

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We were permitted to enter one of the halls and found that it was full of truly visionary paintings!

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We spent quite a bit of time exploring the grounds and all of the sculptures around Pha That Luang.  We visited quite a few temples in Vietnam but this was easily one of our favorites places.

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Our next destination was Buddha Park, located about an hour outside of Vientiane.  We downloaded a map onto the tablet (better safe than sorry) and made our way there on our motorbike.  On the way, we passed a couple of noteworthy sites including the Lao Brewery and the Friendship Bridge that connects Laos to Thailand.

When we arrived at Buddha Park, we paid a small fee to park our moto and another to enter the park.  We also had to pay extra to take a camera in but all in all it still added up to less than three dollars.

We had been there for no more than a few minutes before Jojo had decided that this was his favorite place we had ever visited.  At the front of the park near the entrance sits a large pumpkin-shaped structure that you can go inside and climb to the top.  Inside, there are some of the creepiest and downright disturbing statues we had ever seen.  Come to find out, the three levels inside the pumpkin structure are meant to represent hell, earth, and heaven.  You enter through the mouth of a demon and climb your way up through hell and earth, to heaven where you can look down on the entire park.

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The pumpkin structure in Buddha Park
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Jojo entering the demon head at the base of the pumpkin
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Terrifying sculptures in the ‘hell level’
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Climbing into the ‘earth level’
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We made it up to heaven!
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View from the top of the pumpkin structure

The entire park is full of beautiful and bizarre statues that you can walk through and look at.  Some of our favorites were the enormous sleeping buddha and this other scaley manfish thing eating what looked like another head…?

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At the far end of the park is a tower that you can climb into.  The steps start out normal sized, but get narrower as you ascend until only your tip-toes can fit on the step.

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We had worked up an appetite exploring the park and decided to stop for lunch.  After waiting an hour and a half for our food (we will literally always sit that long before bothering to ask what is going on), we walked around the park one last time, then headed back to Vientiane.

For dinner we couldn’t resist going to Lao Kitchen again for some duck laap – it is that good!  This time, we also treated ourselves to a dessert of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk with slices of mango–yum.

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Enjoying some duck laap and thai curry at Lao Kitchen

Breakfast: 55,000kip ($6.77 USD)

Moto Rental: 80,000kip ($9.85 USD)

Buddha Park: 13,000kip ($1.60 USD)

Parking: 5,000kip ($0.62 USD)

Lunch: 46,000kip ($5.62 USD)

Green Tea Cappucino: 25,000kip ($3.08 USD)

Dinner: 129,000kip ($15.88 USD)

Accommodation: 70,000kip ($8.62 USD)

Total Spent: 423,000kip ($52.06 USD)