Bangkok has become almost a second home for us on this leg of the trip. We stopped at the end of October for a while in transit from our Nepal adventure to our California vacation. Then we spent a bit more time here in November on our return to southeast Asia. Another stop after Koh Chang in December to pick up scuba gear. Yet again in February to catch a flight to Myanmar. Is it over?? Not quite. We stopped again on our way back from Myanmar en route to southern Thailand and then one final stop in March to catch our flight to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
We went to Koh Chang hoping to avoid mass tourism and find another idyllic island destination. Koh Chang is very quickly being built up for tourism, but it was still reasonably quiet. We lucked out and found a nice bungalow on a seculded beach away from the big hotels and spent our time on a scooter scouring the island for salami sandwiches and ice cream. To break up the monotony, we headed a little further south to the far less touristed island of Koh Kood for a few days. No salami or ice cream to be found on Koh Kood, but it did give us the opportunity to hang the hammock up between a couple palm trees.
Somehow we managed to strand ourselves in Chiang Mai for over a week after crossing back into Thailand from Laos. Chiang Mai is cute and littered with ornate temples, but what keep us here was a cooking class in a little village outside town. If only Mary had read the fine print that said "vegetarian" before we signed up... It turned out to be a sustainable living project called YouSabai out in the farmlands north of Chiang Mai. The people were absolutely great, the food good (even some of mine), and the atmosphere on the hill overlooking the countryside unbeatable.
With 3 weeks before the Maldives, what to do? Well, it doesn't hurt to be near the beach. We started with the completely overrun tourist island of Phuket. This big island on the Andaman sea is second only to Bangkok in thailand's tourism. We stayed on the -relatively- quiet section of beach called Karon and had a fine time but were perfectly happy to leave after a couple days. After diving the Similan Islands up near the Myanmar border, we headed back south to the Krabi coast and the absolutely beautiful but grossly overtouristed island of Koh Phi Phi (pronounced 'pee pee').Phi Phi is disgustingly overtouristed, but it is an amazingly beautiful island so we stayed a while anyway. Our final stint was back in Krabi to see Railay and more of Ao Nang.
We had bought all new dive gear (thanks again Daves) for the upcoming Maldives trip and what better place to check it out than Thailand? We took a 4 day cruise through the Similan islands, including Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and the whale shark haunt of Richelieu Rock.