Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Lovely South of Thailand

Greetings from the Southern Islands of Thailand!
The warm weather is everything I dreamed it would be, and it feels overdue by a long shot. Since hitting Northern Vietnam in December I have barely broken a weather-induced sweat once. Was I crazy to think that my 6 months in SE Asia would all be warm and sunny? Apparently.
However, now everything is as it should be.

I bussed down to Bangkok on February 8 to meet my dear friend Rishelle, who was flying in to spend 2 weeks of her vacation with me! We made our way South to Hua Hin, a nice seaside town, intent upon visiting The Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, an animal rescue sanctuary reccommended to me by some fellow travelers who had spent some time volunteering there.

It was very cool to visit and see all the different animals there, from lizards, to birds, to monkeys, to bears...and elephants! The animals have each been rescued from different sad scenarios within Thailand. Exotic animals are an effective money-making strategy here. Tourists dont think twice about going to the tiger temple for a selfie with a drugged up wildcat, or riding an elephant that has been abused its whole life. It is really sad, and hearing the stories of the individual rescued aniamls is pretty heartbreaking. It was encouraging that WFFT is really working hard to educate locals and tourists on how damaging this industry is to the wildlife of Thailand (and other imported creatures). Often it is just a matter of not realizing how much the animals suffer.

WFFT works to rehabilitiate and release every animal for whom this is realistic possibility, but others are very human dependent and/or incapable of living in the wild. These animals will spend the rest of their lives in enclosures at the sanctuary, as close to a "normal" life as possible.

Our full-day tour of the center was very enjoyable and a highlight of our to weeks together. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, especially those wanting to get up close to the amazing creatures of Thailand without supporting the sketchy, abusive animal tourism industry.

After Hua Hin, we jetted our way to Koh Phangan for some serious beach time. We stayed on the North end of the island for the first few days in an amazing jungle bungalow just on the end of Thong Nai Pan Yai- super peaceful and quiet, and at a surprisingly reasonable price!

We spent one night in Haad Rin to get a teensy taste of what the Full Moon Party might be like, and then quickly scooted over to Sanctuary; a super hippie resort on a remote stretch of beach along the East coast of the island. The breezy establishment was wreathed in a haze of incense, and populated by tanned, toned, and tattooed waifs either meditating or detoxing (or both), bright green fresh veggie juices in hand. The dress code followed something like, "wear as little as possible, but if you must wear something, make sure it floats in the breeze, and throw some flowers in your hair".  The cheapest accommodation available to us was in the dorm room located above the restraunt, where we camped out on thin mattresses and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the short just outside our window. Naturally I loved it there, and we both enjoyed some yoga, vegetarian food, and of course some top-notch people watching!

After a few days we felt sufficiently zen to move on to face the big island of Koh Samui, staying in the center close to the Chaweng beach. Here we took a moto taxi to see a waterfall (3 of us on one tiny moped!), rented paddleboards (so fun!), and were intiiated into our first Thai massage! I am now addicted. Paying less than $15/hr for a massage is such a good deal, and they really dont go easy on you. It is almost half chiropractic adjustment haha!

Unfortuantely, that was the end of our vacation together, and Rishelle had to head back to Bangkok from Samui. I stuck around another day or two to see Ang Thong National park, and then had a very long day of travel to the other side of the mainland, arrving at Koh Lanta.

Now I am enjoying the soft sandy beaches and roasting hot sunshine for a few more days before I head south again, and enter Malaysia! Im not sure what I will find there, but Im excited to find out! I can feel the end of my journey creepiing up on me. I'm working on a few things for when I return "home", and Im trying to wrap my mind around not being on the road anymore. I still have a little over a month though, so it might be a bit early to mourn the end ;-) 

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