I obsessively checked the weather report every day the week leading up to our Thailand holiday. I’m not sure if you guys are familiar with Belgian weather, but we see our fair share of rain here. Well, maybe more than our fair share. Simply put, we get a whole hell of a lot of rain. So imagine my dismay when I saw that rain was forecasted for most of our time in Koh Lanta. The beach time in Koh Lanta. The time when you want sunshine and blue skies. Turns out, I didn’t have too much to worry about. Our days were mostly hot and sunny, and then as the evening would set in we would find ourselves watching these amazing thunderstorms. Thunderstorms were one of the things that we missed most while living in Southern California, both of us having grown up in areas where summer storms meant gazing out the windows in amazement as the skies would light up and the house would rumble. The storms on Koh Lanta made us feel a bit like kids again – staring at the sky in anticipation for the next strike and crying out in excitement when it was particularly bright or big. Continue reading
In planning our trip, what island we wanted to go to was by far the most difficult decision. For every person that raved about an island, another person hated on it. After a lot of back and forth, we finally settled on Koh Lanta, a group of islands on the western side of Thailand. It’s got a very relaxed vibe – you’re not going to find the crazy nightlife of Koh Phangan here – and a lot of the island still feels untouched and wild. It truly is a beautiful island.
After a few days of non-stop action in Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta was just what we needed. It took a late-night flight + a quick overnight in Phuket + an early morning ferry, but we finally made it. We immediately got down to business: sun – check, books – check, drinks – check check. Some days we found ourselves sticking close to the hotel enjoying the private beach, other days we would hail a tuk tuk and explore the island.
We first landed in Chiang Mai after traveling for almost 24 hours. We have a jetlag theory. If you pull an all-nighter before your morning flight, stay awake for as long as you can, and then try to sleep during the “night” on the plane you’ll adjust much more quickly. We’re usually exhausted the first day, but ultimately we’ve found that we suffer less jetlag this way. All the same, the name of the game for the first day was just keep moving. And so, after dropping our bags off at the hotel we immediately headed out to explore the city.
First up on the list was the wats. A wat is a monastery temple, and there are over two hundred of them in and around Chiang Mai. Which means that you can’t turn a corner without stumbling across a wat. Now I know I’m biased (how could I not be after all the amazing churches I’ve seen in Europe), but I kind of felt like once I’d seen one wat I’d pretty much seen them all. Is that horrible?
We have had some friends who have made their way to Thailand in the last few years, and they were more than happy to provide recommendations when we asked. We noticed some common themes in those recommendations, one of which was that we absolutely must ride the elephants in Chiang Mai.
To be honest, our elephant experience started off on a rocky foot. We had booked our spots two months in advance, and come that morning we were up and in the lobby by 7:30AM as requested waiting for our pick-up. 8AM rolled by, then 8:30AM, and then it was 9AM. At this point we had the hotel call the Elephant folks to see what the hold-up was. Long story short, it turns out that they forgot about us, but they would send someone immediately to pick us up. At this point I was pretty annoyed (jetlag + 5 hours of sleep + 1.5 hours waiting in a lobby twiddling my thumbs does not a happy Holly make), and well, disappointed and worried that my precious elephant bonding time would be cut short. Turns out we had nothing to worry about: after a brief introduction we were up and on our way. Mine was a sprightly 8-year-old elephant with a full head of hair and a penchant for spitting. Jared’s was a 40-year-old lady who was 5 months deep into a two-year pregnancy and boy was she one large elephant.
For years we have been wanting to go to Thailand. All our really big vacations up until this point have been to European locales – trips to beautiful cities where you walk and walk until your feet feel like they are going to fall off. You know the kind of vacations I am talking about – the ones where you feel you need a vacation to recover from your vacation. Don’t get me wrong – I love exploring and seeing all that a city has to offer, but sometimes I just want to plop down on a beach and do nothing more than bicep curl fancy cocktails while I admire the ocean view. That’s usually where I lose Jared – he’s much more the adventurer of our duo. The thought of spending days laying on a beach is okay for a day or two until he’s itching to see/do/feel and experience, whereas I, being the lazy person that I am, could easily spend days lounging around in the sun catching up on my kindle backlog. Needless to say, this trip became a bit of a negotiation (I’ll give you 3 beach days if you’ll spend one day hiking to a hidden pool) but in the end I think we arrived at a nice balance. A little bit city, a little bit relaxation, and a whole lotta heat. It would be impossible to cram it all into a single post, so we’ll be breaking it down into a few posts over the next couple of weeks. While we work through the million plus one photos we took, we’ll leave you with these gems and teasers: