an anniversary

I’m feeling harsh nostalgic today about our trip last year, so I decided to look back at our blog and realized today, July 13th, is the date we took off for our honeymoon in Asia. A little spooky when things connect like that – almost like it’s embedded in my body’s internal clock – “Psst! Hey, Tania! Time to fly to Tokyo!” We were already in the air by now, as we had a dead-of-night flight to Beijing at around 3AM.

I have serious travel addiction issues. If I was rolling in endless wads of cash, I’d be somewhere else at least half of the year. I don’t really fall for astrology, but the idea that Sagittarius have a lust for travel and exploration is pretty much bang on for me. So today I sit listening to Cuban music, remembering our previous trip to Cuba, and a computer desktop image of a few-hundred-year old temple in Tokyo, backdropped by a large modern apartment building.

I can still visualize the immense and architecturally stunning Bejing airport, the speedy train in Japan from Narita Airport to Ueno Station, and our tiny apartment in Tokyo that makes our laneway house seem huge.  I can almost feel the sticky heat of July in that part of Asia, and recall the smell of tasty treats from izakayas leaking onto the streets. I don’t think much can beat our experience at the Kansuiro ryokan in Hakone with the raging river and typhoon rains pouring down while Scott and I sat in our respective outdoor onsen (hot springs baths) early in the morning, looking out at the lush forest and watching little land crabs scurry around the rocks.

The typhoon hadn’t hit yet – the river rose significantly only a day after this photo was taken.

Going to Tokyo before Bangkok was probably a good choice – we were used to the bustle of a massive city after a week in Tokyo, so Bangkok wasn’t as much of a shock as it may have been if we’d landed there first. That’s not to say it wasn’t intense – our first day was pretty nuts. We allowed ourselves to be scooped up into the insanity that is the Bangkok tourist industry. The entire time we were both wondering why the hell we were doing this, but at the same time couldn’t stop being curious about what would happen next. I wouldn’t do it any other way. After walking for about half an hour through the streets of Bangkok and declining Tuk-Tuk drivers, we finally agreed to go with the guy that seemed to genuinely be concerned that we were attempting to walk around the city. And so the adventure began.

near-death experiences on wheels

These guys have it down to an art and well-oiled machine. Everyone works together to make sure a tourist will have to encounter as many possible ways to be pressured into buying something. Our experience in Havana a year earlier had taught us how to avoid being door-mats and say no, so we were able to resist most of the pushy sales situations. Talk about exhausting – by the end of the experience I felt like my lungs were now replaced with gas fumes, and my body had been shaken through a hot dryer. Nevertheless, it was memorable and we really got to see a significant part of what makes Bangkok tick. Many travellers don’t recommend staying in Bangkok long, but I wish we’d had longer than three days. It’s a very cosmopolitan city with so much to see and do – hell, I’d go back if only for the Chatuchak Weekend Market! Now that is serious shopping.

Hammocks in the market

One of my favourite things in Thailand was the ruins of Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital that was sacked by the Burmese about 250 years ago. We took a train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, where people still live normally around the preserved ruins. We took a near-sinking boat across a river and rented bikes to get to and around the ruins more quickly, since we needed to catch a train back to Bangkok by dinner time (which ended up being delayed by an hour.) We didn’t have enough time to see it all, but what we did see was incredible. We also managed to avoid most of the tour groups – plus I have a knack for taking photos without people in them.

From city, to ruined city, to jungle – we arrived in Khao Sok and stayed at the adorable Our Jungle House where we got to be in both a river-side bungalow and tree-house. It was more dark and rustic than the photos on their website will have you believe, but definitely worth visiting. The staff were all very pleasant and the communal area and restaurant were awesome. How often do you get to hang out with geckos while you’re eating dinner? Not often when you’re from Vancouver.

We were there during the rainy season, so yeah, it was wet. The river was also too high to try tubing down it, but that’s okay – we managed an elephant trek and jungle trek. Luckily the rain had stopped for a while so we were able to avoid getting bombarded by leeches. We started off by walking through some orchards and trying our first mangosteen fruits, and eventually were hiking through a thick bamboo forest with evidence of the presence of wild elephants – pretty incredible.

A peaceful little pool in the jungle

One long drive, ferry and bumpy ride from Khao Sok to the islands found us on Koh Phangan for three nights, and then Koh Samui for our official first anniversary. Koh Phangan was lovely – we could have easily spent another week there exploring. We spent most of our time at Thong Nai Pan, a nice sized bay with a pristine beach, fishing boats, and a variety of bungalows in different price ranges. There was something for everyone, and it was easy enough to find a private corner if you didn’t want to be around other people. The evenings were beautiful, with fire spinners, lanterns and backlit fabric banners lighting up the beach perfectly, and music coming from various sources to create a party-vibe. This was no full-moon party though, it was pretty chill. Boy, I wish drinks were that cheap back home.

By now we were pretty glad to just be doing pretty well nothing, after about two weeks of walking, exploring, and taking in as much as we could, so we really didn’t venture very far from the beach from this point onwards. I got seasick for the first time in a while on our ferry trip from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui. Thankfully no losing of lunch was involved. Just keep your eye on the horizon! It was a great relief to get off of that boat. Our last two nights were pure indulgence.. but how else should you do it when you’re on your honeymoon?

We stayed at Anantara Lawana Resort in Chaweng, and also didn’t venture very far around Koh Samui, thanks to our own private plunge pool, outdoor living room and an overall quiet resort with lots of room to sit peacefully by the water. The beach by the resort was not nearly as nice as Thong Nai Pan – there was actually broken glass and garbage which was pretty surprising. It seemed clear that you are meant to stay within your resort in that area… kind of sad. At least we had lots of pristine beach time on Thong Nai Pan.

That pool was cold – seriously icy! Definitely refreshing in the hot climate.

The last adventure we had while we were in Koh Samui was a speedboat tour of Ang Thong Marine Park. The  bumpy ride there was not for those with sensitive backs or tailbones, but it was entertaining. We were all pretty well soaked from the waves splashing over us by the time we got to our first stop, but we were going in the water anyways so no biggie… the snorkelling was a bit of a gong-show with other boat tours there, and we’d seen better reefs in Hawaii and Western Australia, but the kayaking off a mostly deserted beach (other than our smaller tour group) amongst the impressive rock formations was definitely a highlight. It was too beautiful to want to leave so soon. You’re only allowed to camp on one of the 42 or so islands in the park, and we just didn’t have enough time to arrange that.

a precarious rock formation we were able to kayak around to get a closer look.

Our finale to our honeymoon was an initially stressful departure to Beijing, where we found out we could only stay for 24 hours, contrary to the recommendation of our travel agent who got confused with the 48 hour limit which is the case in all other Chinese airport cities. We were still able to do a portion of our pre-booked private Beijing tour however, and made it to a section of the Great Wall. It felt a bit surreal, after a long flight and all the uncertainty about whether or not we’d be able to leave the airport. We still managed to jump for the camera, though:

What do our future travels hold? Well, this summer we’re keeping it local with a visit to a few of the Gulf Islands, rafting the Thompson river, and a backpacking trip in the Stein Valley. After that… who knows. We have many good memories to keep us going in the meantime. So concludes my blog post down memory lane.

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Comments
3 Responses to “an anniversary”
  1. scottania says:

    Reblogged this on pint-sized house and commented:

    I posted this on our travel blog, but wanted to share it here too

  2. acovk says:

    Great reading. Love the shot of the hammock and echo the Sag. vibe. I feel ya cuz!

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