Category Archives: Thailand

Family time in White Sands, Koh Chang

Change of plans – from floods in Prachuap Kirikahn to sunshine in Koh Chang

Great to see my dad again after 6 months since we last saw each other in Sweden.

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After an afternoon together in Bangkok we were planning to go to Prachuap Kirikan on the south east coast, in a non touristy area that my dad had visited before to chill out for a couple of weeks. img_2136

On the morning of our train, the news headlines were full of reports from flooded southern Thailand with the expectation of 280 mm rain on the one day we would arrive! Quick change of plans as we were about to leave for the train went to the bus station and got tickets to Koh Chang instead.Great to be able to be so flexible!

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Long journey to Koh Chang

Dad took us to a perfect hotel in White Sands beach, Koh Chang where he has stayed before. The only hassle was the length of time it took to get there. Our initial destination was a simple 5 hr train ride away whereas the journey to Koh Chang was much longer. 6 hr bus, 1hr minibus & tuktuk to the ferry, 1 hr waiting about, 1 hr on the ferry then another 30 min to get to the hotel.

We left at 8 in the morning and arrived just before 7 at night. Needless to say we were all tired and grumpy on arrival, but at the same time excited to be with my dad and  have 12 days on the beach together here.

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A perfect spot for well deserved travel break

Alina Grand Hotel is situated at the southern end of White Sands beach, just above the main road, 1 min walk from the beach. We woke up tired but relaxed in a big double room with a view of the great pool at the back of the hotel. Finally a chance to unpack our bags, something we had not done since Australia back in October.

Just the thought of not going anywhere for almost 2 weeks was enough to get us all in the right mood again after a long day of travelling.

A typical day in Koh Chang White Sands beach

A morning stroll followed by breakfast at Monkeys or milk and cereal on the balcony. The room in Alina had a full size fridge in the room, which we used a lot for  our breakfast milk & cereal, drinks and fruits. After breakfast around 9, we had some pool time with Grandpa with swimming, playing on the swings, building lego on the sun beds and reading. 11-13 school time then lunch.img_6814

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We usually hit the beach in the afternoon around 3 when the temperature started to cool down. You get a lovely sunset here which you can enjoy in the calm and beautiful sea or with and ice coffee or beer in the Reagge bar. We found a couple of favourite restaurants where we went for dinner. Paul and I also had our first sunset and dinner without the kids in 6 months here and enjoyed watching the sunset just the 2 of us with a cocktail at Thors.

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Here are some of favourite places to eat and drink in White Sands beach Koh Chang

Best coffee Marin coffee – hot Latte for 70 Thb

Best breakfast in Monkeys, full english for 95 Thb

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Beast lunch Sun and Soul Scott loved the satay here for 90 Thb ( very slow service at dinner time unfortunately)

Best Thai food Nong Bua sea food

Best take away lunch Kai Mun Boogie chicken

Best smoothies & waffles at the White Sands beach night market

Best ice cream Sundays Rock & Sand beach resort

Best bear and Ice coffee on the beach Reagge bar

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Best Bbq dinner at Sea bar on the beach

The  prices of food and drink here was higher than what we had paid anywhere else in Thailand. We typically paid 600-900 Thb for a dinner/lunch for the 4 of us £12-£18, but then again White Sands is a more upmarket area than the places we usually stay. And since the hotel stay was very nice Christmas treat from my dad,  we were more than happy to pay slightly more for the food.

Koh Chang activities beyond White Sands beach

We did 1/2 day snorkelling with hunter 3 island in half a day. 700 Thb per adult and 350 for a child.

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The trip is good value for a nice day out on a boat but do not expect to see many fish. The price includes, transfer from hotel to Bao Bang, lunch and snorkelling masks. The snorkelling spots are quite far out so half the time between 9 and 2 was spent on the boat going out and between the islands.

Compared to other snorkelling we have done the water was not as clear and there were not many fish about. We still had a lovely day out on the boat and would recommend it for a day trip anyway.

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We also took a Songtang trip to Khlong Phlu waterfalls where we had a great time. It is also well worth a visit. We went there on a  cloudy morning padi 400 Thb return trip for the 5 of us from our hotel.

Its a 500 m walk to the waterfall which the kids really enjoyed. Once there you can get into the pool at the bottom and swim with the fish who live there. I took the opportunity to get my hands cleaned from climbing skin by the nibbling fish. A bit freaky but a lot of fun.

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.After almost 2 weeks here we had totally recharged our batteries and were ready to travel to the other side of the world for more adventures.

Rock climbing on amazing Railay beach

Opting for a cheaper stay in Ao Nang

The main reason we went to Krabi in Thailand was so that Ingrid and I could do some longed after rock climbing. We opted to stay on the cheaper mainland area in Ao Nang where we could also afford a place with a pool and got a bonus pingpong table at the same time. From Ao Nang the crags at Railway and Tonsai Railay beach is just  a quick boat ride away.

Choosing a guide to climb with in Railay

There are many climbing companies operating in the area to choose from, some are better than others…. For me the most important thing when choosing who too climb all the way through this trip is safety, official certification and insurance policies as Ingrid is very young. Prices for climbing range from 2000 Thb for a 1/2 day in a group of 4-8 to 4000 for 1/2 day with a private guide and 6000 for a full day with a private guide.

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You can rent just the gear and climb on your own, but with limited time to climb, I prefer to hook up with a guide who can show us the best routes and help us set up ropes and to clean the routes. That way we usually get to climb more and I get the trusted belay I need to do some serious climbing myself.

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We booked 2 x 1/2 days climbing with Real Rocks on Railway beach with a private guide. We paid an additional 500 Thb for Paul and Scott come along in the shuttle and boat so that they could hang out at the beach for the day while Ingrid and I climbed.

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Getting to the 123 crag at and Railay beach

img_8425The Real Rock shuttle picked us up at 7.30 and did the rounds collecting people, then a 20min  boat ride from Krabi Town to Railey beach. Once at the climbing shop the boys went off exploring while we met our guide Wan and got kitted out with ropes, quick draws, slings and helmets.

To get warmed up we started off with some gentle top ropes on the 123 crag. This is the really big crag often used for beginner classes so it was quite crowded through the day. The good thing about this crag is that it had a range of routes suitable for both me and Ingrid. It was also in the shade all day, perfect for climbing in the hot weather here.

Our last outdoor climb climb was over 2 months ago in Yangshuo China so we were feeling a bit rusty to start off with. I was worried about how much my hands and feet would be able to take as well and so with 2 days climbing planned wanted to make sure i left them in a good place for some harder climbing tomorrow.

Ingrid lead climbing at 123 crag Railay

The sand and sea keeps the friction on the rock pretty good with lots of little pockets for your hands and feet. Most of the routes are straight up with little overhang or slabs. A couple of top ropes to start and them I was leading Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde remembering how much I love lead climbing. Ingrid started leading indoors a few months back and now wanted to give it a go on this wall. Wan was great supporting her, giving her the right routes to lead and the confidence to do it.

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As in many situations, in sport or with school I find that Ingrid respond much better to coaching from an outsider than me telling her what to do. In Yangshuo I was amazed at the confidence and grit she showed when being pushed by Alex and Karst climber.

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The same happened here with Wan, and as she was one of the best and most experienced climbers on the crag that day, surrounded by beginner climbers, she pushed her on that bit harder as well. Ingrid lead 3 routes starting with Little Monkey, finishing  and topped 3 while I led 5 and topped 1. The last route was a 25m+ 6a hat she simply took in her stride.(cannot remember which one.

The landscape here is too beautiful, its such a privilege to just be here let along climb. Ingrid is already planning her own climbing trips for when she is  older and can go on her own with her buddies. Seriously need to come back for some more climbing as well.

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We climbed from 9.30-1 then went to the other side of the island for a cooling swim afterwards. Definitely something I recommend. Boat back at 5.30, shuttle just after 6 and back at the hotel for 6.30

Day 2 Climbing Diamond Cave

Day 2to was just Ingrid and me, the boys opted to stay at home. Wan took us to Diamond cave crag which was less busy and offered some shorter but more technical and very enjoyable climbs. The 1st hour here was totally exposed and we were sweating profusely during our first climbs. Slightly higher grades, Ingrid opted not to led, but I lead all day finishing on a couple of great 6bs.

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The other great thing about this place is the amazing coffee right at the bottom of crag where Highland Rock climbers have their “office”.img_5016

A hot latte never tasted so good as it did that day. I am excited watching Ingrid climb today, full of confidence and with fantastic technique. My favourite was watching her conquer the overhang on KFC and  effortlessly out climbing top young men on the routes next to her. We were buzzing after 2 days of real rock and eager to plan our next climb in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks later.

Epic Thailand trek – How we got the kids to walk to the top of Chiang Dao mountain and back in a day.

Arranging to climb Chiang Dao mountain

By booking just a taxi to the starting point from our hotel, At Home Chiang Dao, we managed to get up onto Doi Chiang Dao without the otherwise mandatory mountain guide. We paid 200TB each to get into the national park and a staggering 1200 for the 20 min taxi return trip to the hotel but thats all.

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Between us, we have climbed quite a few mountains and with the experience of trekking with the kids in Nepal, China and Australia, we did not feel a need to hire a guide to take us to the top.

The trail is clearly marked and its not a very technical climb so although its not recommended, we were happy to go at it alone.

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We brought with us 1 pack back with us on the trek with 1st aid kit, compass, emergency whistles, head touches, pocket knife, snacks, food and 5l of water. The bag had to be as light as possible as I knew I would end up carrying it most of the way to the top, while Paul would be carrying Scott.

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A taxi picked us up at 8 o’clock and took us to the stating point of the trail just above 1000 meters altitude. As this is earlier than usual for us, the kids were both a bit grumpy when we arrived at the starting point so we were worried has to how the day would go and if we would actually make it to the top.  We have done some trekking with the kids before in Nepal… and in China and in Australia, but this would be the hardest trail so far.

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5hrs trekk to the top of Thailands 3rd highest mountain

We managed to find the kids some great walking sticks at the starting point that got the good vibes going and we were off.

To our relief the skies were overcast and the temperature cool, so Scott and Ingrid were both happy to walk for the 1st half hour or so.

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As we made our way through the dense jungle at the bottom of the mountains we had no clear view of where we were going or which peak we would actually climb but the trail was well marked and so we marched on up over the first steep pass without a problem. This time Paul was carrying Scott on his shoulders.

Earlier on in our round the world trip we did a 5 day trek around Poon Hill in Nepal, but there we had a sherpa carrying Scott in a basket when he got tired, this time it was just Paul and me. Thank goodness Paul is soo strong and positive! He carried Scott for at least 3 of the 5 hrs to the top.

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1.5 hrs into the trek we started meeting people coming down from the top so we let them all pass while we sat down for our first proper rest with a boiled egg each from our packed lunch, prepared by our guest house.

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Motivating the kids to keep walking

Time for Scott to do some walking again, this time we used music to help Scott along. By selecting and listening to music on Pauls iPhone while walking Scott tends to forget he is working hard walking up a mountain and just gets on with it, for a little while at least.

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Ingrid likes to have conversations. She and I spent a good hour talking about all my favourite holidays from when I was a kid. I enjoy telling her funny stories from my youth while she loves planning future epic adventures together with us and with her friends. These are such precious moments and I love seeing the kids in this way full of beans and chat with nothing else on my mind but the pure joy of the present time together here and now.

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Another hour later we passed through the next valley and stopped for another rest with some biscuits before starting our second big climb for the day. Here we finally got a view of the 2000m+ peaks but still had no better view of which one was Doi Chiang Dao. As energy was starting to run low we put on the next trick to keep Scotty going, racing and staying in the lead. We grouped ourselves in a boys team and a girls team and all tried to keep Scotty going by making sure he was in the lead with the girls team slowly catching up. This usually helps for another little while until Paul has to carry him again.

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When the going gets tough…

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While the steep uphill walking was starting to make me tired I’m amazed at how resilient Ingrid is.

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She never complained but kept talking about how much she loves hiking in the mountains, about our previous challenging treks in Tiger Leaping gorge in China and in Nepal. She also started to plan our next big hiking trip, in the north of Sweden the summer after next.

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1hr later, up a another steep climb, I was really starting to tire. It takes some effort to keep yourself upbeat and even more so to keep the kids going when you are flagging yourself. A little pause to reflect of the beauty of the day and the amazing opportunity of doing this spectacular hike with Paul and the children was enough to push me on.

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As we arrived at basecamp 2 at 1 o’clock we were still unsure as to what peak we were supposed to climb. We followed the most obvious trail and 30 min later up a very steep slippery path we were finally there.

Cheese sandwiches and fried frogs to celebrate our epic trek!

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A quick celebratory cheese sandwich, egg and apple and we started the long trek down again. We needed to be quick down the slippery trail to make it out of the hills before dusk.

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The first 2hr decent seemed to pass relatively quickly. Paul and Scott listened to music while Ingrid and I passed the time practicing talking Swedish. The sun was out and the mountain trail winding down through the steep mountains was just so beautiful!

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The last hour down was a real drag and we are all starting to flag by the end. We reached the bottom at 5 o’clock on the dot and took a pre-booked taxi to our favourite eatery next to our home stay, Chiang Dao Hut Kitchen where the kids were rewarded with a plate of fried frogs!!

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Chiang beer and fried rice for Paul and me followed by an early bed. What an amazing day out!

Feeling at home in friendly Chiang Mai

Chilled out Chiang Mai –  a city for all tastes

After a rural homestay north of Chiang Mai we went to stay in Chiang Mai city for a few days to be close to Chiang Mai Climbing Adventures (CMCA) as Ingrid and I were going out climbing with their instructors during their training and certification session.

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Climbing with CMCA at Crazy Horse Buttress Chiang Mai

We opted for a really cheap hotel here, but in a great location close to CMCA, great eateries and both the Saturday and Sunday night markets.

The Anodard hotel was a bit run down and dirty but, for £16 a night for the 4 of us, its still a pretty good deal.

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Den building in our hotel room in Anodard hotel, Chiang Mai

Great food and sites in tourist friendly Chiang Mai

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Monk in a box at Wat Chedi Luang – he is not real!

We didn’t expect to really like staying in Chiang Mai as we had such a lovely time in the rural home stay, but we were positively surprised. We rented bikes and spent a couple of days biking around town visiting temples, markets and the park and were all surprised by how much we liked to vibe here.

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Saturday night food market in Chiang Mai

The streets are full of a lovely mix of locals and tourists of all sorts and along many streets are little restaurants, cafes, juice bars, hostels and tourist information stalls.

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Cup of tea at a street cafe in Chiang Mai

What we like about this place is that no one is hassling you to buy anything or to go anywhere but you feel really free to wander around and just be. The many beautiful sites also makes most walks and bike rides interesting, even if you don’t go in.

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Scott was born in the year of the Rabbit @Wat Chedi Luang
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Wat Chedi Luang
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Amazing meal at Mr Tonys

The food here is also very tasty and can be really cheep if you avoid the more upmarket western places. The 2 places we really loved were Mr Tony and the Coconut Shell the food is amazing and really cheap.The selection of fresh fruit shakes and smoothies is fantastic and a great compliment to any meal any time of the day.

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Scott testing the selection of smoothies for breakfast. Mango is a clear winner.

Home comforts in Chiang Mai

Outside the old town are a few big shopping centres with all shops and conveniences you could ever want. We spent one afternoon going to the cinema, for the British showing of the new Harry Potter movie. Great fun for all of us and nice to have a break with some home comforts. Next stop the mountains of Chiang Dao.

Chiang Mai homestay – a real experience of Thailand

Thai tourist hotspots are good but we prefer low key rural life

After a week of rock climbing in a more touristy part of Thailand, Krabi we decided to go for a more rural environment to hopefully experience more of the real Thailand away from the most obvious tourism.

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Enjoying a bike ride through the rice fields

After 4 months of travelling, we now know that we don’t want to go on ready made tours or organised treks, we don’t want to be bussed around the hill tribes or herded into the crafts villages. We just want to experience a bit of the local life.

Ban Chunsongsang home stay

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Ban Chunsongsang homestay

Ban Chunsongsang is a traditional Thai homestay a 30 minute drive north of Chiang Mai. When we got picked up at the airport and taken out here its seemed a very long way from Chiang Mai. The next morning as we settled in and had a proper look around, we were excited about the remote location. It felt  like the perfect place for us. We had initially planned to stay here 3 nights but quickly extended it to 7.

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Our 2 bedroom house on stilts to the right of Scott

What we like about this place and the other home stays we have stayed at so far is the large common space available to us and the small number of other guests . Many places have only 3-4 rooms  where full occupancy is rare.

The space and quiet atmosphere makes the kids feel at home as they can roam free while playing and exploring in a similar way to what thy would do back home. This make our stay a lot less demanding for Paul and me.In this particular place we have 2 bedrooms (£10 per night each including breakfast), with double beds, fans and mosquito nets and private  bathroom in the open air.

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I love having a shower under clear blue skies in the morning

There is a chill out area under the house with rocking chairs, a hammock, table and chairs and some toys.

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Great shady space to chill out and play under our bedrooms

There is also a large space in the dining area that we use for meals, playing games and doing schoolwork.

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Also on offer are bikes we can use for free, even in the right size for both Ingrid and Scott and a large courtyard where they can play football and bike around safely.

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The spacious drive where Scott loves to cycle about

Thailand home stay – check the reviews in detail before you book

When staying in a home stay you are often confined to eating all your meals there, as it is often located in rural areas with few options of other eateries. In China, we found this to be  problem as the host took advantage of this by making the food at the house very expensive. Now when we book home stays we carefully read reviews and look for comments about the food and all other things important to us. Ban Chunsongsang has an extensive menu with real and delicious Thai food and its very cheap. 50 Baht per meal, roughly £1. The reviews on booking.com and Trip Advisor confirmed this and gave it very good score overall that we agree with.

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Thai style pancakes for breakfast

A typical day in  Thai home stay

We quickly got into a nice pace and routine here of doing little but experiencing a lot. We get up 7-8, have breakfast at 9. Before schoolwork start at 10 Ingrid does yesterdays diary entry and Scott rides his bike. School last from 10-1 then we have lunch here.

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1 of our usual Wednesday Skype sessions with Linda, the kids teacher back in Glasgow

After lunch, around we go out to explore the surrounding areas by bike.

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Bike with seat for Scott on the back

So far we have spent 2 afternoon exploring the surrounding villages, 1 afternoon of climbing and visiting the night market in Chiang Mai,

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Exploring the Chiang Mai night market

1 afternoon fishing and 1 afternoon cycling to the craft village some 10 km away.

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Afternoon of fishing at a local Thai farm close to where we are
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A visit to the umbrella and paper craft village

We also spent another afternoon looking for the nearest pool and then next afternoon enjoying being the only people in it.

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Amazing swim in the nearby Horizon resort

Ingrid loves riding her bike for hours and Scott has a soft seat on the back of mine for our longer trips.

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Bike ride to the local supermarket

We just love floating away on the bikes through villages, rice fields and countryside saying hello  “Sawsdee Kha” to the locals, visiting the quirky shops, the local markets and funny little stalls along the way.

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One of many stands along the road selling meet on skewers
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Ingrid and Scott buying an after school treat for our bike ride

We have another 2 days here, just enough to some more climbing and and do a big bike ride to one of he local markets.

This is the travel we love!