5 things to do in Koh Lanta

When people talk of the Thai Islands I rarely hear anyone mention Koh Lanta, why? I have no idea! The Island was right up there amongst my favourite.

How to get there?

Koh Lanta is an island district in Krabi Province and the way to get there is pretty simple. We went from Koh Samui to Krabi to Koh Lanta via boat and bus which cost a total price of 600-700baht per person. This entirely depends on which company you book your tickets through as they all give different quotes (don’t forget to barter with them!). The trip was comfortable and took around 12 hours in total.

Where to Stay?

There are plentiful options of places to stay here in Lanta. Get yourself there and rock up at a hostel/guesthouse and negotiate a price, you are sure to get a good deal! We stayed in Lanta Sabai Hotel and Bungalows, which is on the Western side of the island, perfect location – close to some beautiful beaches and everything you need on your doorstep! There are some great restaurants right on your doorstep too, at such cheap prices. We ate practically every night in a place right next door to our hotel and the thai food was BEAUTIFUL! I would recommend that you stay on the western side of the island also as there is much more to see here, in my opinion.

5 Thing to do in Koh Lanta…

The island isn’t huge but you definitely need to organise some transportation if you want to get around. You can pay for a tuc tuc or taxi to get you where you want to be, but, again, it is much more expensive that renting a scooter. We rented a scooter from our hotel costing us 200 baht/day.

So what should you do to pack your days full of fun?!

  1. Mu Ko Lanta National Park

The National Park is situated at the Southern end of the island and is a wonderful day out. The park is open daily from 08:00 to 17:00 and to enter you must pay an entry fee of 200 baht per person + 20 baht extra to park your motorbike/scooter.

The park is home to some very cheeky monkeys that you can watch swim and play in the lake (be aware of your belongings – they will take anything!).

There is a beautiful lighthouse which sits on a high rocky peninsular cliff named Ta Noad Cape, you can walk up to and experience some impressive views.

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The park also has two picturesque beaches that stretch out on either side of this peninsular which are perfect for snorkelling, relaxing and swimming. The sand is glorious and its surroundings are breathtaking.

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If you fancy a bit of exercise then make your way to the 2km long nature walk. An easy walk with amazing surroundings, trees and lookouts.

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2. Khlong Chak Waterfall.

Depending on the time of year you visit the waterfall will either be full-bodied or fairly dry. As we visited in February it was very warm with little rainfall so there was not much water, however, at the right time of year this waterfall is said to be magnificent.

Also situated further south on the island it can be easily missed. The maps are not brilliant, but if you head toward the elephant camps the waterfall is along that same road. To avoid paying for parking, park your bike a little further away and walk 5 minutes to the entry of the waterfall track. The walk takes about 20-25 minutes depending on how slow you take it, and the walk itself is not too tasking at all!

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See! No Water! 

3. Lanta Animal Welfare

Whilst in Koh Lanta you MUST visit this animal shelter. It is a non – profitable organisation, however, they do appreciate a donation if you are able to give one. Here, you can spend time playing with or walking the dogs. You can cuddle into the cute kittens and cats and leave feeling so happy! There are so many stray dogs and cats in Thailand, we wanted to take them all home with us, so seeing such an amazing organisation that does some wonderful things for these animals was such a breath of fresh air! The shelter closes at 5pm, so get there in good time!

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Meet ‘Minty’ She was adorable!

4. Four Island Day Trip

You may want to spend the day off of the island and see some of the gorgeous islands surrounding Koh Lanta. Easily booked through your hotel or nearest tourist information shop, you are picked up from your guesthouse and taken to the port where a longtail boat takes you to four different islands.

The day trip includes snorkelling on the reef at Koh Chuek, enjoying a Thai lunch at the beach of Koh Ngai, more snorkelling at Koh Maa and exploring the famous Emerald Cave and lagoon at Koh Mook – now THAT was insane!

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We paid 600 baht each for this trip. *The only downside to this trip was the lack of time we were able to spend in each place. If you can, hire a private longtail boat as you are able to take as much or as little time as you please in each place*.

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Busy Busy Lagoon

5. Beach Hopping.

You are spoilt for choice for which beach to visit here in Koh Lanta, so why not make a day of it and go beach hopping and enjoy each and every one?!

Other than the breathtaking beaches at the National Park, our other favourites were Klong Klong Beach, Klong jark Beach, Bamboo Bay and Kantiang Bay Beach. With so many more to see, these were the closest to our hotel, but spread your wings are venture further and I assure you, you will not be disappointed! many of the beaches host chilled out beach bars where you can watch picturesque sunsets with a cocktail or two in hand, sitting on bean bags and cushions on the glorious sand – it is something that can never be beaten!

Put Koh Lanta on your bucket list for the South Islands AND enjoy! 

 

Love Sarah xxx

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Guide to: Thai Islands

With our 30 day visa to hand, we have explored Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and finally Krabi! It has been action packed and full of fun, hence the lack of blogging…but here I am, sat in Krabi, and ready to spill all I know about these stunning islands.

In this particular blog I will only write about Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, otherwise it will be the longest blog post ever! Look out for my following posts – I just have so many exciting stories to tell you!
*Please check my previous post if you want to know all about Koh Tao*

Koh Phangan

With only two full days to spare in Koh Phangan we planned everything we wanted to see before we arrived. A slow boat from Koh Tao to Phangan cost us 350 baht per person and was a short two hour journey, which was lovely relaxing on the top deck with the sunshine blazing!

We stayed in the Ban Haad Rin district as the bottom of the island, which was a short 15 minute walk to Had Rin Nok where all of the full moon parties take place. This area is full of bars, restaurants and has such a good vibe. However, our side of the island was much quieter and has the most amaaazing sunsets I have ever seen. Had Rin Nok is known for it sensational sunrises, which, unfortunately we were too lazy to get up to see..oops!

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There is so much more to Koh Phangan than the ‘party island’ I always thought it was. I was actually hesitant to visit there as I believed it would be full of party-goers, but I am so thankful that Danny persuaded me to give it a go. Yes, it does host a great party, but the island itself is breathtaking and has so much to see and do.

What to do in Phangan in two days?

Danny and I love a good waterfall so we rented a scooter for two days at 250 baht/day and ventured up to Phaeng waterfall. This waterfall is the first you come across and depending on the time of year you visit you will see little or a huge amount of water. We visited in the dry season, therefore, the waterfall was pretty dry, but non-the-less beautiful. We clambered the rocks to get a closer look and found a lovely little rock pool at the foot of the waterfall, where we relaxed for a little while before moving on.

It feels almost like a small national park here, but it isnt, and it is free to enter. With more than one waterfall to find, stunning viewpoints and trekking we were spoilt for choice and ended up spending hours there without realising!

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Phaeng Waterfall

We found a stunning view point in this area called ‘Dom Sila’. The walk up to the viewpoint is not too tasking at all taking approximately 20 minutes and felt fairly safe. Bring trainers, just incase. Because the viewpoint was quiet we were able to get the best seats in the house and perched ourselves on the large rocks and admired the view for an hour. The photograph doesn’t do it justice! You can see the beaches and ocean in the distance and it the colours you see are dreamy!

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Dom Sila Viewpoint
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Phaeng Waterfall Rockpool

The beaches here are plentiful and after visiting the waterfall we were able to drive down the coastline and see so many of them. Be careful with the maps as they are not brilliant and we managed to get lost … again! Each beach had its own little characteristics, which I loved, you are spoilt for choice. The sunset on Haad RIn Nai was something else too, I have never seen such beautiful shades of pink and purples in the sky before, it lit up the whole beach! As for sunset bars, try Amsterdam bar too for a memorable sunset and don’t forget your bottle of Chang beer!

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Stunning sunset

Day Two

If you are more of a beach person, you will find so many gems on this island, some hidden, some hard to get to. On our second day we planned to bike upto Bottle Beach in the morning and then make our way to Lod beach for a spot of snorkelling, which we heard was brilliant there. Although we didn’t make it to Lod beach…and here is why…

Bottle Beach is difficult to get to, infact, you can only get there by boat or by foot. Longtail boats are pricey but much more of a convenient route, whereas by foot you get to hike 5k through the jungle to find it. The road to bottle beach abruptly ends and it is here where visitors park their vehicles and hike through the jungle. This route is definitely for the more adventurous and it will definitely get your heart racing. Wear hiking boots/trainers…we didn’t, and oh how our little toes suffered! The 5k walk definitely feels much longer as it is up and down steep tracks; the route is marked by yellow and blue markings on rocks as it is easy to lose your way, but believe me when I tell you, the hike is so so so worth it! When we finally made it to the shores we couldn’t believe our eyes, it was exactly as we imagined. The beach was fairly big, with little beach bars and beach huts around the sides, huge rock formations create a cove, the water turquoise, the sand white. It was glorious and known as one of the best beaches in Koh Phangan.

The drive to bottle beach was nothing short of stunning too, with beaches on one side, quaint little settlements on the other, mountains, greenery and markets. So much to look at and it is difficult to not stop off along the way.

So with the hike taking 2 hours each way, we barely had time to relax on the beach before having to head back, so unfortunately missed our opportunity to visit Son Beach. But if you love to snorkel, give it a whirl, its meant to be beautiful!

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Bottle Beach, you are stunning!

Two days go too quickly don’t they? Before we knew it, it was time to move on AGAIN! Koh Phangan was a pleasant surprise and if you decided to stop here, another day or two would not go amiss!  

Koh Samui 

To get from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui it cost us a small price of 200 baht/pp on a slow boat and only took one hour. The islands are so close to each other, you can see the other one from the coastline.

Here we stayed in the Bo Phut district, which was quiet, but still had restaurants and bars a short walk from our hotel. The main reason we came to Koh Samui was to visit Ang Thong Marine National Park for my birthday and with only two day spare we wanted to sit back and relax. Travelling from place to place can get so tiring, so relaxation was well overdue. Koh Samui has a ‘resort’ feel to it, with fancy hotels and apartments, holiday goers relaxing by the pool and lots of tourist attractions. Each island is completely different to the last, we love it!

We stayed in the ‘Mermaid Resort Hotel’, which cost $27AUD per night. It was slightly over our budget but as it was my birthday we splashed out…a little! It was a great hotel though and the staff could not do more for you. There were two swimming pools, one facing the beach and the other amongst the accommodation. This is where we stayed for one of the days and my, did we need it!

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Happy birthday to me!

Ang Thong – Add this to your list of excursions when visiting Koh Samui because it was a wonderful day and a great way to spend my 26th birthday. Costing 1,600baht per person, including the National Park entrance fee, food and drink, we were picked up bright and early from our hotel and taken to the port.

Ahg Thong is a short boat ride of approximately 1.5 hours. We first arrived at Anh Thong beach and I have to say it is probably amongst the best beaches I have ever seen. Here we were able to spend time snorkelling, monkey spotting and taking in the beautiful view point they have here. The path upto the view point is paved and fairly easy to get to, although steep! We did not manage to get up to the very top, which was a 500m walk uphill; we settled for the 300m viewpoint – because it was pretty exhausting and who wants to be exhausted on their birthday, ey?! The view was still sensational!!

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Viewpoint of the 40 something islands

Watch out on the beach for those ‘Dusky Leaf Monkeys’, they are so placid and lovely. We spotted them chilling in the trees on the beach front and were not bothered by us coming up for a closer look.

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Dusky Leaf Monkeys

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This price also included kayaking, which is what we did next. Following our guide we kayaked from one island to another, exiting and entering stunning caves. One cave we entered opened at the top allowing rays sunshine to enter the cave, making the water glisten a gorgeous blue. It really was something. There was not rush either, which is so nice when you are on an excursion, also for the mere fact that Danny and I cannot for the life of us sync our rowing abilities and end up in all sorts of directions!

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Once we made it back to shore we climbed up and down some wooden stairs to check out the Emerald Lagoon. There are about three different areas of the lagoon you can get to, to see various different views; all of which were breathtaking. You cannot swim in the lagoon but standing and watching from afar was good enough for us.

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We ended our day with a refreshing swim in the beach cove, a snorkel and relaxed on the beach. We are so happy we did this trip and what a birthday it was! It was a highlight for us that we will never forget! Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing these beautiful places 🙂

What else can you do in Koh Samui..

Visit Wat Phra Yai Buddha on the West side of the island, a giant golden buddha.

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Spend your day beach hopping at some of the stunning white sandy beaches such as, Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach.

Set your sights on natural rock formations at Hin Ta Hin Yai and spend the day surrounded by stunning scenery.

For you adventurous people, ride up to one or two of the waterfalls Samui has to offer, such as Na Mueang waterfall and Hin Lat Waterfall.

Although Samui is a great place to relax, there is much more to do and you could easily spend your whole holiday here. Another day here, as per usual, would have been great for us… but with no time to waste, off we went to Koh Lanta…

Next Blog Post will be on the best things to do in Koh Lanta…keep a look out!

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Love Sarah xxx

 

Koh Tao Travel Guide

Koh Tao is a small island positioned on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand and wow, is it beautiful! Its neighbouring islands are Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, which we are shortly going to visit! I am super excited to explore Thailand’s stunning islands, but to start off we arrived in Koh Tao!

I visited Koh Tao about 5 years ago and absolutely loved it, so I already knew we were in for an amazing three days! This island offers something for everyone with a mix off cheap to luxurious accomodations, long stretches of white sandy beaches and hidden coves, sensational coral reefs for snorkelling and scuba diving, unbelievable lookout points and funky beach bars to watch the sun set with a cocktail in hand, it is easy to believe why people enjoy this island so much and return year after year!

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In this blog I am going to splurge all about our three jam packed days in Koh Tao and of those things we did, you must do when you visit! We had a BLAST and for sure three days is not enough, but with only 3.5 weeks to spare, we have a lot to see!

The best way around the island is by motobike/scotter, which cost anything from 150-250 baht/day. The island is small but to see everything we did in such a short time, it was a perfect option! There are taxi’s on the island but they charge A LOT!

Our first full day was fairly relaxed, we took a long boat to Nang Yuan island, which is a short 10 minutes away and a must see! The long boat cost 350 baht per person and to access the island you are to pay a further 100 baht per person. Getting there nice and early means you can grab yourself a nice spot on the beach and spend the day there, as the last boat back to Koh Tao is around 5pm. This island is basically two islands, joined together by a bay of sand, with turquoise sea either side; it really is breathtaking. Bring your snorkels along too because this is one of the most visited sites for divers, with plenty of coral close by. There is also a beautiful lookout point on one side, which is definitely worth the visit.

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By night there are so many tasty restaurants to indulge in anything from fish, Western food and Thai delicacies. There is also a small street stall close to Sairee Beach, here does some AMAZING Thai food, the lady who cooks is called MAMA P! Cooked fresh as you order, cheap and always busy!

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You are not short of beach bars to relax in either (with many happy hour deals). The sun sets perfectly along the western side of the island so get there early and set yourself up in the best spot to watch the sun go down. Lotus bar is a popular one and you cannot miss it with its iconic ‘bendy’ palm tree. Every night Thai fire dancers set on stage for a show with booming music and happy travellers dancing away. Be careful of the fire skipping rope though, people get burnt! Fizz bar is another popular bar to watch sunset and although one of the most pricey bars on the island it has such a good vibe there and the food is something else!

Our second day was filled up by scuba diving! Danny and I went on a ‘fun dive’ to Nang Yuan. The scuba company we used was ‘Davey Jones’ Locker’ and they were brilliant. We asked a few places for prices and got a feel for the instructors but here everyone was so warm and welcoming. Koh Tao is renowned for its scuba diving and is the cheapest place to do it and become a certified diver. I already have my PADI and Danny would have loved to get his but unfortunately we did not have enough time! Next time Dan – because we will definitely be back! The only thing I wished was that we had been taken somewhere else on the island as we had visited Nang Yuan the day before; we really wanted to see some reef sharks or even push our luck and swim with whale sharks!!

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Our last day was our favourite. We got up bright and early, jumped on our scooter and spent the whole day exploring the island, discovering the best beaches, snorkelling and relaxing on rocks overlooking the whole island!

Parts of the island are hard to get to on bike or by car, so many people opt for a day trip by long boat to hard – to – reach beaches and coves. However, the cost was approximately 100GBP and we do not have that amount of money per day (budget problems hey..). 

Danny and I were desperate to see some black tip reef sharks, so of course, our first stop was to be Shark Bay, although we took a wrong turn (surprise, surprise) and ended up on the other side of the bay at a stunning beach called Sai Daeng beach resort. This was not a bad mistake to make because the beach was pristine and FREE, yes, some beaches, including Shark Bay charge a fee to enter! We spent so long here in the water looking for sharks, and funnily enough we did not see any! We were told to swim out about 200 meters, but no luck! We did, however, see some of the most beautiful coral and SO MANY fish, it was AMAZING!

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We could have spent all day there but off we went to venture to our next destination, which was Freedom Beach. You are to pay 50 baht per person to get to this beach but, come on, thats nothing and it is sensational! Fairly busy on the beach itself we dumped our bags and headed back for the water to do some more snorkelling; this place was better than the last; so many hypnotic schools of fish, we were in awe! I feel like the whole day was based around snorkelling because we got so lost in time enjoying ourselves we did not manage to visit another beach!

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After leaving Freedom Beach it was the perfect time to hike up to John- Suwan Viewpoint, which is literally next to Freedom beach. This was told to be the best viewpoint on the island and who even said this was not wrong; we were blown away, it was magnificent. We were able to see the whole island, both Easy and West of Koh Tao, so green and pretty. We spent about two hours here watching the world go by before heading to Sairee Beach for sunset and a few drinks to say goodbye to this phenomenal place.

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There are so many beaches, coves and lookout points to discover here and we wished we had longer, but I guess we will say that in each island we visit! The guidebooks are brilliant here to gather together a few places you would like to visit and speaking with the locals is also a great way of learning of hidden places. What we managed to see made our stay there better than I could imagine, so get yourself there and visit these wonderful places!!

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Next Stop Koh Phangan!…

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and please share with me your thoughts and if you have visited Koh Tao, where did you love? I would love to know for our next visit! 

Love Sarah xxx

Find me by the palm trees… 

We decided to stop off in Da Nang for a couple of days as our flight to Phu Quoc was departing from here.

For three days we did absolutely sweet nothing! It was complete bliss, and why not start early? Because soon we will land on the glorious white sands of Phu Quoc – I’m super excited!

We stayed in a motel for three nights called ‘scorpion motel’, which was standard and only $9 per night! Other than being bitten alive by mosquitos, *Danny can lie there naked and get one bite & I lie there covered head to toe and still wake up with 5 fresh bites – how is this?!* it’s pretty clean, the staff are friendly AND it is a two minute walk from the beach! Oh, I’d missed the beach!

Spending three days here was also a great way of saving some money 💰 as Vietnam has certainly set us back ALOT. Let’s put it this way … the New Year meant to get from Ninh Binh to Hoi An, it would cost $100AUD for a night bus, which we paid. In Hoi An all trains and buses were fully booked up until the 16th of February – our visa runs out on the 22nd. Danny and I reluctantly had to pay $400 for a flight out of Hoi An, even after waiting there for an extra 5 days for prices to go down. Absolute killer, right?
With our budget we have been shot so are unable to do some of the things we really wanted to do here in Vietnam; such a shame and it’s fairly irritating that prices can go up so much!

However, we have managed to spend as little as 300,000dong a day (approximately $17) between two of us! Thank goodness for the beach! We also found a super cheap place to eat and the food wasn’t too shabby!

40,000dong – about $1.50 got us this beautiful dish of spring rolls and noodles. It blew our caps off with spice but it’s so tasty! We have even been saving money by buying cereal from the MiniMarts for breakfast! 😂💰🙈


The beach is really pretty too with golden sand and an alignment of palm trees to set up next to for the day. The beach is surrounded by mountains in the distance and you can spot the ‘Lady Buddha’ sat in the mountains – bold and white.

You can arrange visiting the Marble Mountains and My Son etc here too, but I see most people rent a motorcycle and drive there themselves, rather than with a tour – guess this would save a lot of money too.


‘Find me by the palm trees’ 🌴👙 

It has been a perfect few days here and we are now ready to see some real paradise! Helloooo Phu Quoc and we will see you very soon!

Love Sarah xxx

Vietnam: Ninh Binh to Hoi An

The next destination on our list was Ninh Binh, and getting there from Cat Ba was not much of a hassle either! We were picked up bright and early from our hotel and arrived in Ninh Binh five hours later – all for 200,000 dong each!

I know a lot of people stay in Ninh Binh, but we were done with large cities for a while and opted for a quieter stay in Trang An; about 25 minutes out of the city. Ninh Binh itself was what you expect from a large city, crazy and busy, so we were glad to have chosen to stay further out. You can definitely arrange for tours to take you into Trang An and the national park from the city, but we wanted to be amongst the jungle and stay somewhere a bit different.

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We chose to stay at ‘Ninh Binh Family Homestay’ for two nights, which is the most expensive place we have stayed so far, but the cheapest deal on booking.com. Also, we did not realise that we had come to Vietnam at possibly the most expensive time – Chinese New Year! So prices for EVERYTHING rocketed. ** DO NOT go to Vietnam at this time if you can help it – I really wish we knew ** . The homestay itself was lovely and the owner was really helpful and told us where to go and the best things to see.

Unfortunately we did not have long to spend there, and now we wish we had longer, but here is what we did…

The main reason we went to Trang An was to visit Tam Coc but the owner of our guesthouse told us that it was the wrong time to visit for that as the rice fields are muddy and dull (the best time being June/July), so we spent practically all of our time there riding around on our bicycles and enjoying the views.

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Tam Coc (not my photo)

See! Beautiful! Shame it was the wrong time to go but we made up for it elsewhere.

Only having one full day here we wanted to make the most of it. So for 50,000 dong each we rented a bicycle from the guesthouse and cycled around 45 minutes, with many stoppages to take pictures and enjoy our surroundings, to a place called ‘Mua Caves’. Here we jumped onto a bamboo boat and rowed down the beautiful river, through tiny caves and were shown some of the famous temples and stunning viewpoints, hidden amongst the mountains. For an adult the entry cost is 200,000 dong and for children, 100,000 dong and the trip lasted 3 hours (see xe.com for exchange rates).

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When we approaches the first cave I thought to myself, ‘there is NO WAY we are going to get through there!’ – It was tiny! Then I saw the second cave and it was even smaller! We had to duck our heads most of the time, which was actually very amusing to see Danny do this as he is so big! There was a group of Indian men in the boats ahead and they were playing real Indian music, singing and dancing, taking pictures and loving every second of it. It was honestly so much fun, and something I had never experienced before.

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Even on a dull, cloudy day, the place looks so peaceful and stunning.

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That was all from our short stay in Trang An. Be sure to spend a day or two longer here than we did and research the better times to go. Non-the-less it was a lovely stay, with so much more to do.

Next stop Hoi An

We were super excited to visit here because we had heard so much about this quaint little city. Two days before we booked ourselves onto a night bus from Ninh Binh to Hoi An and it was a nightmare to say the least! As I mentioned before, it was Chinese New Year so the prices for everything has increased, therefore, we had to pay around 100AUD for this 13 hour journey. Once on the bus we found there was only one bed left, so Danny and I had to squeeze into a tiny space for hours on end. The 13 hour trip soon turned into 18 hours and we had to change buses twice to get there. Just be careful and perhaps organise and book it a little further in advance. We laugh about it now – joys of travelling ey!

*I would try to avoid going to Vietnam during this holiday, unless you plan to stay in one place for the duration of your time. Otherwise you will end up paying a hell of a lot more for travel and hotels and when you are on a budget it is not kind to your wallet. Flights, trains and buses are either fully booked or the prices are extremely expensive*. 

Arriving in Hoi An right in Vietnamese holiday time meant we had to change our plans to save money in the long run. We booked 6 nights here, instead of the 4 nights we originally planned, so by the time we moved onto our next destination the holiday would be over and we would not have to pay an extortionate amount for a bus again.

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We couldn’t complain though, because Hoi An is so magical! We loved it here! 

We spent a lot of our time here wandering around the Ancient City, which was so vibrant and full of colour. Hundreds of lanterns decorate the city walls and shops making it feel so welcoming and attractive. The people here are so friendly, too. By day we walked through the city and admired all of the beautiful hand crafted jewellery, souvenirs and the Japanese covered bridge. We have even contemplated on having dresses and suits made for us as they are meant to be amazing here! By night we ate at one of the many restaurants with delicious food menu’s and enjoyed the cocktail happy hours. The lanterns all light up at night and it looks so pretty!

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It was so nice to come to Hoi An and relax after three weeks of lugging our bags around every other day. For our first 3 days the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue and there were no clouds in sight! It was absolute bliss! So we cycled to two different beaches to relax for a couple of days. Cycling on the roads is interesting, you definitely freak out a little by how close the taxi’s and buses get to you but I am getting better each time – just keep your whits about you at all times!

Where to stay?

You won’t be short of options of places to stay – from cheap hostels where you can meet many other travellers, to homestay’s and fancy hotels. We have been booking each place before we arrive to save us the hassle of lumping our bags around trying to find somewhere on the day we arrive. But each to their own – I have heard it is cheaper to do it that way, but we have been booking rooms through Agoda.com and booking.com as its more convenient for us. Here, we stayed in a lovely homestay called ‘Coconut Hamlet’, which is approximately a 20-25 minute bike ride into the Ancient City and from one of two of the beaches. This cost us $44USD for four nights and included breakfast and free bikes. The family were so lovely and even went to the trouble of cooking us food one night when we were too tired to go out for food; how lovely!

What to do?

Other than the sandy beaches and beautiful city there is plenty to do in Hoi An and its surrounding area and if you are lucky enough to stay during a period of bright sunshine then you will really be able to make the most of it! For the remaining four days here it rained, and when I say rained I mean buckets and buckets of fat rain! But it was fine, we still managed to make the most of what we had.

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Tailored Clothing: On those days where you do not have much planned, other than walking through the Ancient City, you can organise dresses, suits, shirts and anything else your heart desires to be made and fitted properly by one of the many many tailors in the City. It is so cheap too! So many people have raved about the quality of clothing made for them without burning a hole in their pockets.

Cooking Class: I heard that the best place to book a cooking class for Vietnamese food is here, and there are SO MANY places that offer it here at reasonable prices! I feel like we haven’t fully appreciated the Vietnamese foods yet so we were happy to give this a go!

Excursions: You can book many trips through your hotel, or through travel agencies in the city. About 30 minutes out of Hoi An is the ‘Marble Mountains’, where you can enjoy the area’s natural caves and mountain views, or ‘My Son’, which is an array of partially ruined Hindu temples which were built in the 4th and 14th century, both very popular and easy to get to.

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The Food! Its so good! I think I preferred it over Danny, but through speaking with different travellers we have learnt about the better dishes to try and some great places to eat! ‘Morning Glory’our friend from Australia told us to visit. It has some deliciously weird but wonderful things on its menu, so you must try it 😀 !

Bánh Mì Phượng This was just … wow… amazing! Randomly situated amongst one of the many little streets in Ancient City, it can be hard to find at first, but ask anyone and they will direct you. There is always a queue waiting outside and people are interested in finding out why! This place basically makes baguettes; pork, beef, chicken, tofu, vegetarian – you name it. But it is what they put in the baguette that makes it taste soooo good! I have no idea what it is they put in it, but it works, and for 20,000dong for one, you cannot go wrong with your budget!

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There is also a special noodle dish made only here, in Hoi An – the Cau Lau noodle. Like spaghetti pasta but thicker? They mix this with whisky soy sauc, garlic and spices and add a choice of marinated fish, chicken, pork or vegetarian options with lettuce. So simple, yet beautiful!

There is such a diverse range of food choices here, you can work within your budget and try some of the amazing foods, as well as the markets. However, there are some reasonably priced restaurants too.

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That is it for my stay here, I hope you get some valuable advice from this and enjoyed the read! 😀

Now time to move on to Phu Quoc!!!

Love Sarah
xxx


***We have found Vietnam to be much more expensive than Thailand, perhaps because of the New Year***. 

 

Hello Vietnam!

After a speedy two days in Hanoi we set off towards Cat Ba Island for a day around Ha Long Bay.

Vietnam First Impressions

As soon as we arrived in Hanoi it was crazy. Horns tooting, roads manic, people shouting and taxi men trying to collar us for an overpriced ride to our guesthouse. Luckily we met a Vietnamese girl in the airport who has been living in New Zealand for 8 years; she helped us get to where we needed to be without being ripped off. We quite liked Hanoi as first, the centre was fairly clean and the locals were friendly.

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Hanoi Hustling City
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Halong City Bridge

Hanoi city itself, from our experience, was just a place to stop off before moving on to somewhere we really wanted to be. We stayed two nights in a guesthouse called ‘North No.2’, it was down a dark alley way and was pretty decent inside and the staff were super helpful. We wanted to leave for Cat Ba the following day and decided to organise our own way to Ha Long Bay and do it as the locals would, and we also didn’t want to spend more and go through a tourist hub.

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Happy Snapper

Up early after our two night stay in Hanoi, we made our way to the bus station – not sure it was the one we asked the taxi driver for but we made it non-the-less, costing 200,000 dong, way too much for the distance, but its so difficult to reason with them and barter to a reasonable price. At the station the ticket office refused to give us tickets to Cat Ba, but gladly gave out tickets to the locals. We sat there so frustrated and worried that we were going to miss the 07:20am bus. FINALLY we were pointed towards a bus, after numerous attempts to get a ticket, and were told to pay on there, so we did, after some distrust.

We have found it so hard with the language barrier since then, and feel as though the locals are constantly trying to rip us off. We soon started to think that maybe booking through a tour company or pre-booking our tickets online was maybe the better option. But, hey, you live and learn ALOT when travelling. 

It cost us 200,000dong to get a bus, then fast boat, then second bus to Cat Ba Island centre. The drive was also crazy, with bikes, buses and cars all swerving in and out of each others way; gripping onto Danny the whole way, we finally made it to Cat Ba after about 4 hours.

Cat Ba was beautiful.

The largest island on Ha Long Bay, it prides itself in its sensational views and national park. We definitely could have stayed a day or two longer to really venture out around the island.

We decided to go to Cat Ba rather than Halong City because we wanted to 1) see the island, and 2) we wanted to get a nice quiet boat to see Halong Bay, rather than a party boat. It really just depends on what you want out of your day.

We booked our boat tour through our guesthouse for 350, 000 dong per person. This included our pick up from the hotel, visiting the monkey island, kayaking in and around the caves of Ha Long Bay, Vietnamese lunch, an afternoon swim and a visit to the old fishing villages. It was honestly such an awesome day, we loved every second of it and we met some lovely people on the boat. The sun turned out nice for us too, so it was perfect.

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Romantic Ha Long Bay

Monkey Island

Money Island was really beautiful, we had an hour here and the monkeys were not shy! They came out from the trees straight away to snoop around our bags *keep everything away! They took my sock!* haha. Also don’t get too close to them because they can get vicious if they think you are going to take something from them or they don’t get what they want. They were amazing to watch though, and there was a small climb up the hill to see an outstanding view of the surrounding islands.

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Monkey Island Sensational Hilltop Views
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Cheeky Monkey
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Standard rock photo

Ha Long Bay

People tell me that Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit – and they are not wrong! I haven’t been everywhere, but it is definitely one of the most sensational things I have ever seen.

I didn’t even realise it was Ha Long Bay at first, until later when I asked, ‘when are we seeing Halong Bay’. But we stopped off there for an hour or so and jumped into a kayak to explore the stunning caves. We loved every second of this, the water is so still and at times, when no one else was around, we felt as though we were the only two people in the water; it was so peaceful and pretty. There are so many caves to explore but we went through two small caves, which led us to a gorgeous rock cove. We sat there in awe for about ten minutes just looking around us; we couldn’t believe how lucky we were to see and experience this natural beauty. An hour flew by and I know we could have stayed for so much longer but it was getting busier with more crowds of people, so we had lunch on the boat and sped off to another bay where you could jump off the boat and go for a swim to one of the small beachy islands.

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Kayaking through the Ha Long Caves
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Ha Long Bay

Fishing Villiages

We stayed on the boat for the rest of the afternoon, cruising around and admiring our surroundings. We were then taken to the fishing villages before being dropped back off at the port, which we nice to see, there were so many of them, like a tiny little community of fishermen and their dogs out for the day to catch dinner for everyone else.

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Fishing Villiages

It was such a lovely day and worth every penny! You can pay for so many different tours, such as an overnight stay on a boat and two day tour, or stay in one of the island beach huts, which looked incredible! It is so easy to book through your hostel or hotel or even a tourist information shop. Tick it off your bucket list 🙂

Next stop.. Ninh Binh.

Love Sarah xxxx

 

Chaing Mai Elephant Sanctuary…

Chaing Mai is known in Thailand for its stunning‘Old City’, picturesque temples and exciting trekking experiences. However, the main reason Danny and I went was to spend a day with our favourite animals; the beautiful elephants.

I wanted to write a blog post solely on our day at the sanctuary because it was honestly one of the best days of my life! I could have cried with happiness all day!

We researched carefully into which elephant sanctuary to visit because we know that there are many con sanctuaries in Thailand. When I say this, I mean that many of the owners have realised that tourists are more ethical and educated about elephant cruelty these days and will advertise their camps as being a sanctuary, when really, the elephants are still treat badly, chained and neglected.

I don’t like to preach too much, as there is still so much I do not know myself. But I do know that elephants are not meant to be ridden, their spine is not designed for huge amounts of weight. All day every day elephants made to walk in circles with tourists on their backs, on wooden chairs. It breaks my hearts that they look so sad. Please, please, look into true sanctuaries and avoid riding elephants. I assure you, your day will be so much more fulfilling and animal-friendly if you see these animals happy, in a natural habitat, with NO cruelty.

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This was my face all day long – a permanent smile!

We booked our trip through ‘Elephant Jungle Sanctuary’ online. You could book it in the office if you preferred, which is situated in Chiang Mai. The cost for two people for a whole day was 4,800BHT (www.xe.com). And it was worth every penny! The Karen tribe are responsible for rescuing the elephants we met from riding camps. Many others are rescued from circuses and cages. We met 7 elephants, however, over a few camps they have many more elephants.

We were collected from our hostel at 08:30am and in the back of a pick-up truck with 6 other people, off we went. I won’t lie .. the majority of the ride was fine, but the last 30 minutes were pretty scary! You cannot expect much from a country with limited health and safety, but we sped through the dirt tracks up and down a mountain and finally got to our destination. Wow, stunning! Green, open and mountainous.

After being given our tribal top, we spent a short amount of time learning about the elephants, how they were saved, how to feed them and what to expect from the day. We then spent a couple of hours getting to know the elephants; feeding them, cuddling them and playing! I had the hugest smile plastered all over my face the whole day. They are huge! Even the babies are ginormous, but so gentle and friendly.

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“give me my banana”

After this we had a beautiful lunch of traditional Thai foods and reflected on how amazing our experience with the elephants was! I couldn’t stop watching them! After lunch we made an elephant ‘delicacy’ of rice, banana and twigs! Sounds odd, but a small amount of rice helps with their digestion and the banana gives it the sweet taste. We squished it all into tennis sized balls and walked down to feed them again. Then watched as they one by one walked into the mud pit, where we splashed and rubbed mud all over their trunks. They looked so happy!

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The guides are brilliant. They are very clued-up on what they are doing, as I watched them. They are so gentle with the elephants and constantly watched what we were doing to make sure we did not stand behind them and ensured we were safe at all times. They knew the elephants well and could predict what they were going to do. They were not only clued-up, but so lovely to everyone all day and you could tell they loved being there and helping these animals.

The elephants had bells around their necks so that in the mornings, once the guides wake up, they wander the land and listen for the elephants bells so that can get them and bring them to the camp. It was so nice to hear that they are able to roam the land safely and freely. Each elephant had one guide, it seemed, so at all times we felt safe.

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Another thing I liked to see was that once the elephants had had enough of being in the mud or the water, they just left. There was no order to make them stay in the water for our benefit, they were free to do as they pleased, and that was such a lovely thing to know.

Once the mud mess had finished, we walked over to the river and washed them down. They played games with us when we were not looking; spraying water all over our faces. It was such an incredible day. There was one baby elephants called Peta, who was apparently a little terror and hated leaving the water, so it was hilarious to watch as he fell about in the water having the time of his life as all the others left.

They all dried themselves with the dry dirt in the fields afterwards and made their way back to the hill top to laze in the sun.

We left the day by drinking some thai tea and relaxing in the sun, watching the elephants in the distance. I could have watched them all day, I did not want to leave!

I am totally aware of how cheesy this blog post is, but I couldn’t have written it any other way. It breaks my heart seeing these beautiful giants unhappy and to see what they can have makes it slightly harder to see those who are still in captivity. I hope you read this and I inspire you to take the non-cruelty route when seeing these lovely animals. I will 100% be visiting the Karen Tribe in Chiang Mai again!

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Love Sarah xxx

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