A Travellerspoint blog

our first spulunk.

caving in tham lot

sunny 39 °C

we left chiang mai on the road to mae hong son to catch another bus to tham lot. on the journey we passed a sign that said 'coffin cave' the exact reason for heading to tham lot. confused we asked the driver and he said we needed to get off at the last town (soppong) and charter a truck out to tham lot. oh boy we missed our stop. the driver stopped in the middle of the road and let us off (this is where i left my elephant carving). bewildered and certainly out of place 2 little gingers stood on the side of the road about to attempt the walk back to the last village with all their backpacks over 10 klicks away. about 50 meters into this we decided to wave down a truck and do our first hitchhike in thailand. a farming family in traditional garb stopped and gave us a ride to soppong as they were on their way through. we jumped into the back of the truck to be squished in with the already 12 locals, and their goods. it was cozy to say the least. we thanked them as they dropped us off at soppong and wondered what to do next. we seen a group of 4 other backpackers and found out they were on their way to thamlot as well and we shared a truck with them to cave lodge.

cave lodge was amazing. we enjoyed our stay there quite a bit, our 6 person dorm with floor mats and mosquito nets with a open concept window became one of my favorite places very soon. we had many blankets and for the first time in a couple nights we werent cold! at supper we met what would soon be known as "team north america", a usa couple graham and natalie who had been teaching english in thailand, a set of friends tirzah and soloman who just finished their work in antartica and were taking a small break in thailand before heading back to the states, and a middle aged couple fred and his wife from america. we all soon found out we arrived to the small caving town for a festival to raise money for a new temple, and all guides would not be available to hire for the caves. distraught we decided to tackle the caves the next day as a team.

after a hearty breakfast with homecooked brown bread (delicious) we headed out in search of caves, totalling about 10 kilometers in the scorching heat. the first cave on the list was a coffin cave, we cut across a dried out rice feild and started the climb up a steep knob. only about 15 feet from the entrance we were forced to stop as it would require actual rock climbing to reach the entrance and we had no equipment nor knew what layed on the other side. discouraged we headed back to the road in search of another. we stumbled across green corner cave after a bit of searching with the help of our peter pan style hand drawn treasure map. it was the first cave we were able to explore and enter and we were excstatic!

back on the road and further north yet we tried to decidede if christmas cave was on this turn or the one above. fred, energetic as always hopped up and ran in search of the cave. a while later we heard him yelling cave and all followed blindly. about 1-1.5 clicks into a corn field, up the side of a steep knob and into the mouth of a wide cave. we had to scramble down 2 sets of wooden ladders, missing broken steps down into the depths of the cave. from here we clambered down some unsteady rock footings about 80 ft down. we had found christmas cave! it was awesome and large. we spent about 45 mins exploring, taking pictures, examining the stagmites and stagtites before surfacing above ground again. we walked halfway back to the lodge before being picked up by a truck that dropped us off near a vendor to eat lunch.

after lunch we headed towards tham lot cave. this being the most famous cave had a few guides who would ferry people through the cave and floating bamboo rafts. we stopped not far from the entrance and got off the raft to explore the first cave section, column cave. it was really neat and full of fascinating mineral formations. we hiked back down the narrow and steep staircase only to walk up another not to far away to head into the subcave doll cave. this one was dark and very private, inside was a small formation that resemebled a breast which is why we're guessing its called doll cave. we boarded our raft once more to find foot long fish swimming beside us and jumping up for the cat food that the guides were throwing in for them. our guide took us to the end of the cave to explore the last sub cave yet again on our own. this is when we entered coffin cave. called this for if you explore alittle deeper into the cave there are coffins left from an ancient civilization that once inhabited this space dated over 1000 years old. they are pretty neat.

at sunset from this end of the cave we watched as thousands of swifts made their way into the cave and bats made their way out for night time. its a magical sight until you see them collide the birds breaking their neck landing twitching in the stream below as the fish begin to pluck at them. on the way back we ran into the guys who had given us a ride back to town from christmas cave who invited us to join in celebration with them at their festival. we hurried home to shower and eat and head to the festival.

it was really neat to see a festival for temple funds in a town much smaller then turtleford. the people greated us happily and made us feel very welcome.

the next day Team America headed out in search of hair cave, we found it fairly quickly. a neat cave, that once you climb a little out of the way (on your hands and knees army style) you reach an opening full of small silk strands hanging from the ceiling, hence the name hair cave. after this i headed back to the lodge to relax and read while we waited for the truck to pick us up.

the truck dropped us off in soppong but the bus that was to pick us up was over 2 hours late but eventually did come.

Posted by karen_411 00:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

cold in thailand? you betcha!

chiang mai

rain 13 °C

a 13 hr night train brought us to the rainy northern capital of chiang mai. we shared a tuk tuk with a german fella named jullien we met on the train to darets guesthouse. by this time our visas had run out so ali and i booked er to the immigration office to see about an extention. it was a dissapointment to find we could only get 7 days extra, and not for a cheep price. however, we certainly werent done in thailand so we coughed up the cash.

after this we headed to some neat used bookstores near our hostel killing a lot of time trying to stay out of the rain. we sauntered over to a neat local artists workshop and were blown away by his talent, again dropping more coinage then we should have, but we have some great souvineers to show for it. still raining cold and dreary we headed back to our guesthouse, for one of the coldest nights ever. the cheep guesthouses (the ones we frequent) dont typically provide blankets and the rain and cold wind comes right through the cracks between the walls and the window.

the next morning we went to a traditional thai cooking class. we were able to make a noodle dish (i chose pad sewe), a stirfry ( i made hot basil), a soup (i made coconut, even tho i dont much care for thai soup), a curry paste (massaman is my favorite) and a curry sauce (made from the paste so also massaman). the food was delicious!! we learned for a couple hours in the morning about the differant veggies and spices and herbs grown and used in thailand picking them from the garden out back as well as visiting a food market. our small cooking instructor was a funny fella from north of chiang mai who i got to have some decent visitng with during the walks to and from the market. he was quite funny and made our cooking class as fun as it could be.

after this it was still raining and cold so we set out in search of raincoats. they dont have them apparently. only crappy disposable rain ponchos so i had to suck it up and face the cold. we strolled down the night market for some crazy shopping. alison bought a huge wooden ship that was really neat and i bought a elephant carving (which i would later forget on the bus in the midst of craziness, never to see it again). mostly what we wanted to buy at the market was some blankets but again didnt have much luck. eventually we settled on the thickest tablecloths we could find which have been keeping us toasty since then.

Posted by karen_411 00:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

in the land of the ancients

journey to ayutthaya

sunny 37 °C

yay from this train station we needed no tuk tuk!! we walked to the Mae Nam Chao Phraya river and chartered a ride across for 3 bht, (keep in mind a 100 bht is a little over $3). we stumbled across a real gem of a guesthouse. we share a lumpy king sized mattress with 2 rickity old fans as well as we have our own cold shower, toilet and sink (bonus)! all this for $3 a night. the door to our room is a sliding barn door style that locks by padlock.

the next day we set out egearly searching for a decent ruin, or any ruin for that matter. ayutthaya was once the thai capital, established in 1350 it ruled the rest of thailand until it was sacked by the burmese in 1767, ending the 417 year reign of power. the city was left destroyed, almost every single head of every single statue had been decapitated, which has been left that way to this day. there are a TON of old ruins and hints of ancient life here but we first stumbled upon Wat Phra Mahathat, the temple i most wanted to see. a budda head had survived this sacking and now lay entwined among the tree roots, only the face being visable, the rest swallowed by nature. this wat also used to house the so called remains of budda, however they have now been moved to the national museum.

alison got very sick after this ruin and we decided to head back to our hostel. she had a high fever, stomache ache but most of all a ear ache. the fever got worse and we decided that perhaps it was time to seek medical advice. we found a walk in clinic where they would see alison. when we walked in the doctor was watching you-tube videos and made no secret of it, leaving the screen on as he paused it to look over alison. he picked up a flashlight identical to those found at home hardware and began to examine her looking in her ears, eyes and throat. in the end he gave alison 6 prescriptions, one of which being a antibiotic and another something to bring the fever down. the pills seemed to have worked tho as shes back on the move!

Posted by karen_411 00:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

las vegas on crystal meth- welcome to bangkok

sunny 36 °C

we arrived late into bangkok the bus dropped teal, wes, clint, alison and i off in the middle of no where so we got a bus to khao san rd. immedietly we were bombarded by crowds, vendors, smells and loud music, welcome to bangkok. we found a place to stay and spent the evening listening to some live music.

the next day we had breakfast with everyone before sending teal, wes and clint on their way. while trying to hug out our good-byes tuk tuk drivers were trying to squirm between us to show us brochures of places to go. it was pretty annoying. after breakfast alison and i split up. i did some shopping and errand running. we met up again to bargained down a taxi with a fake meter for a ride to the hualamphong bus station...couldnt wait to get out of there.

Posted by karen_411 00:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Reunited and it feels so good

meeting up with teal, wes, and clint in kanchanaburi for a night and then erewan falls national park

sunny 32 °C

from koh tao we grabbed a tuk tuk to the ferry station, got on a 1.5hr ferry, then climbed onto a squished bus/tuk tuk nazi round up style with wooden planks to sit on for a hour to the train station. at the train station we waited and waited for our train. after being 3 hours late i finally asked information whats up. turns out our train had hit a car leaving 3 ppl dead. very sad. eventually the train came and we climbed into our sleeping berths (a suprizingly good sleep) to nakom pathom (8 hrs). from here we waited for our next train while children pointed and laughed and people stared. we looked around to realize we were not only the only white ppl around but the only tourists period. eventually our train came and we climbed on. 1.5 hrs later we arrived in kanchanaburi to grab a tuk tuk to the bus station to walk to the TAT station where we said we would meet teal and friends.

we all grabbed a tuk tuk to a hostel that had a/c, a pool, our own bathroom and even a fridge. we wandered down to the jeath war museum that was very informative about the river kwai bridge and its intregal part in WWII's history. after the museum we explored the bridge and its surroundings before hiring a long tail boat to charter us back to our hostel as we were a while back along the river. we pretty much got dropped off riight at our door which was pretty neat. we enjoyed an evening of swimming, went out for supper and played a couple games in our hotel over sodas.

the next morning we headed straight to erewan falls. whilst on the bus journey clint caught a kid stealing his ipod, wallet, phone etc. he gave the kid a lecture on stealing and how if you do it in egypt they cut off your hands. once in the park we began the hike 1500 meters up to the top teir of the 7 waterfalls. we managed to make it up in good time but were covered in sweat, it was a bit of an incline on a hot day. we stopped on the 4th waterfall and took a dip. teal covered me in my towel as i changed into my bathing suit as i hadnt thought ahead very well. she is a good friend. we jumped into the crystal waters and were instantly refreshed. when we stood though we were a bit shocked to find the fish nibbleing at our ankles. it might have been cute if these were small fish like minnows but they were almst a foot long. it grossed me out!! at the 7th tier we swam and wadded in the water for quite a while before heading back down the trail. it was nice to make it this high as the higher we went, the less tourists seemed to be around. on the way back down we stopped at a few of the other swimming holes.

the bus back to kanchanaburi from the falls was also a crowded one (personal space is a luxery here). teal, wes, alison and i took turns sitting on the ground. most other people stood who couldnt get a seat but it was far too long of a journey to stand.

Posted by karen_411 04:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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