, , ,

Visiting the Faroe Islands with MappingMegan

 

This photo is of a traditional wooden church in the small village of Giljanes on the island of Vagar in the Faroe Islands and was graciously provided, along with the below, by Megan from MappingMegan.com as our first guest blogger post.

The Faroe Islands are easily the most beautiful in the world. Between inspiring scenery, untamed nature, and dramatic landscapes, the islands are unspoiled, unexplored and absolutely unbelievable. Every scene is spectacular, and every view takes your breath away.

Faroe Islands is a small archipelago of Islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway. The islands are some of the most remote in the world, and as such, have remained largely unchanged by time, and uninfluenced by modern societies.

The islands are made up of small villages with beautiful traditional buildings, some of which date back to the Viking age. Traditional wooden churches are constructed across the islands, with each more beautiful than the next. One other particularly noticeable feature of Faroese architecture is the prevalence of houses with grass roofs. Look very closely at the picture above and you will realize many of the homes have green roofs. These are made from grass for insulation during the winter months. 

This is one of just many photos which will make you want to jump on a plane to the Faroe Islands

 

mappingmegan

 

About The Author: Adventure traveller and blogger Megan, is travelling, writing, photographing and experiencing the world with her husband Mike whom she met while in Africa. Together they showcase the best of adventure travel from around the globe. For more about their adventures, check out MappingMegan.com

 

 

,

Bangkok: More than Khao San Road

 

 

At the Tropical Writer’s Workshop in Koh Phangan, Thailand, we were fortunate to be able to work with an amazing and talented group of writers. Together, we wrote the following article which we are pleased to be able to share here on OMC.

4 Amazing Bangkok Neighbourhoods to Explore

by Chris Fox, Leann McKeown, Nazia Tariq, Carolann Hughes & Macrae Sutton. Edited with Kaila Krayewski.

Bangkok buildings, city of bangkok, bangkok tourism, bangkok,

As a tourist, Bangkok can be overwhelming and intimidating. The vast city promises something for everyone – if you know where to go. Tuk tuk and taxi drivers will offer you direction, but you may end up somewhere far from anticipated, with a lighter wallet and a heavier spirit.

Most tourists have heard of Khao San Road which was described as “the centre of the backpacking universe” in the popular novel ‘The Beach’. This small road is packed with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, food stalls, shops, hostels and guesthouses and is a common place for tourists and young locals alike.

But if you’re looking to see more than the typical tourist areas – explore more of what the city has to offer – there are several other great neighbourhoods to explore.

One Night In Bangkok – Sukhumvit Soi 11  

busy streets of bangkok, bangkok streets, city of bangkok, driving in bangkok, traffic in bangkok,

Sukhumvit Soi 11 is a fantastic place to hang out if you are looking for a good party. From Apoteka – a jazz bar with phenomenal live bands, affordably priced drinks, interesting food and good service; a great place to spend your evening or start at before hitting the clubs – to Oskar Bistro – with its delicious fusion food, strong drinks, and amazing house music, making it great for the pre-party – and everything in between, you’re sure to find something to suit your party needs.

Also recommended are Levels, where the entrance is usually free and the music commercial making it a great spot for meeting people, and the after-hours Wax, which gets crowded at 2:00 am when regular clubs have just closed. The drinks are alright and the music can be very good depending on which DJ is playing.

Satisfy Any Spending Urge – Asok

terminal 21 bangkok mall

Asok is one of the many popular Bangkok shopping destinations, having selections from high-end boutiques to tiny stands where you can buy the latest must-have items. Terminal 21 is a great place to start. Linked to Asok station, this world-class mall has many different shops with every level of the mall hosting a different theme from around the world. In a matter of minutes you can go from London to Tokyo.

If you’re looking for the real Thai shopping experience, look no further: just outside Asok station, lining Sukhumvit road, right through to Nana station, you can find stalls that host the well-known Thai goods and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Ever-Changing Culinary Delights – Silom

Soi in Bangkok Chinatown

The Silom area has always been a popular lunch spot for office workers in Bangkok’s Central Business District. It has become trendier and more diverse with entertainment venues, like Ku De Ta, springing up. Additionally, popular New York gourmet cafe Dean and Deluca draws huge crowds on Ploenchit Road in Central Embassy.

The Deco Bar & Restaurant next to the Pullman Hotel is highly recommended for a stimulating conversation over a glass of wine. In addition to these hotspots, some of the best burgers in the city can be found at Bangkok Burger Company on Silom Road. Nearby Soi Phipat 2’s Eat Me Restaurant offers modern international cuisine; or you can always leave the noise behind and head into the tiny sois verdant with foliage to discover your own taste of Bangkok from the small stalls that line these narrow streets.

When Culture is Your Tour – Thonburi

bangkok wat, golden wat bangkok, bangkok temples, temples in thailand, bangkok tourism, bangkok attractions

 

As you pedal through the neighborhood of Thonburi you’ll pass grandmothers sitting on the steps of their wooden houses, vendors whisking a profusion of sizzling tasty morsels in their steaming woks and children playing in the streets, their laughter filling the air. Getting away from the glitzy shopping malls and fast pace of Bangkok proper, Thonburi’s elaborate web of khlongs weave you past locals going about their daily lives. In fact, many homes still have their addresses on khlongs rather than roads. You will be drawn to the embrace of this charming neighborhood, instantly feeling at ease here.

 

Whether you are enjoying the nightlife in Sukhumvit Soi 11, dining in Silom area, shopping in Asok or absorbing Thai culture in Thonburi you’re sure to find what you are looking for in one of these diverse Bangkok neighbourhoods.

 

When exploring a new city, which type of area do you look for first: shopping, dining, partying or cultural experiences? Comment below and let us know!

 

, , ,

From Toast to Thai Food: Our Anniversary Do-Over

 A Hidden Gem in Koh Samui’s Backyard

Koh Madsum Beach

For our anniversary on Koh Tao, we chose to celebrate in two ways. The first, was to get our scuba certification and the second was to have a nice romantic dinner. Unfortunately, the first got in the way of the second in the form of a killer migraine. Carolann was struck by a severe migraine shortly after our first two dives and our romantic dinner turned into a very quick meal where all she could stomach was toast. It wasn’t until we got to Koh Samui that we had the opportunity to make up for it and have a romantic outing together.

Our romantic outing came by way of Island Gem Picnic Tours and a day excursion snorkeling followed by a picnic lunch on a secluded area of a small gorgeous island nearby. As soon as the booking was finalized we were rife with anticipation for the tour and for finally having a romantic day together.

A romantic day on our own piece of paradise

Island Gem Picnic OneModernCouple

We weren’t too sure what to expect. We knew that we would be picked up by Gavin, the owner and operator of the tour, at 10am and that we would be going snorkeling followed by a picnic. Gavin was early and so we had time to sit with him, have a coffee and chat. It had been a while since we had an opportunity to really relax and since we weren’t being rushed for the day’s activities we were both able to start doing so.

ISland Gem Picnic Koh Samui Driver

We were driven to the other side of the island to where a long tail boat was waiting for us. Although Island Gem Picnic has the option of either a long tail boat or a speed boat, we definitely wanted to ride in the more traditional means of transportation. Long tail boats, as we’ve brought up before, are popular wooden boats in Southern Thailand powered by automobile engines attached to a long drive shaft with a propeller at the end. Our tour boat was called the Island Hopper and had an Isuzu engine and a captain named Chud. Friendly and efficient, Chud helped Gavin load the picnic baskets quickly before we all hopped on board and set off.

One of the best spots for snorkeling in Thailand

Island Gem Picnic Snorkeling

Although it was a slightly overcast morning (Chud assured us it wasn’t going to rain) the water was calm and we were at our snorkeling location off the small island of Koh Tan in about 10 minutes. Although there was another boat nearby, we anchored far enough away so as not to be interrupted by their relatively large group.

While talking to Gavin on the boat ride we found out that he was a certified diving instructor so we asked him to join in on the snorkeling and the three of us jumped in the warm, calm water. Having Gavin with us was great as he found and pointed out creatures we would have missed had we been on our own. He found two blue-spotted stingrays, one of our favourites to see, a black and white nudibranch and he was able to name the other fish we saw for us. The water is very shallow so at many points you are incredibly close to the coral and able to see so much up close and in the full colour, that would not typically be seen in deeper waters. The area is pretty large and very much alive with fish and sea creatures and is now one of our favourite places to snorkel. If you aren’t able, or don’t want to, scuba dive in Thailand, this spot will allow you to see a vast array of underwater life.

Island Gem Picnic Gavin

After about an hour of snorkeling we headed back to the boat. We had noticed that another tour group had anchored after we had gotten in the water and had already left before we climbed aboard and asked Gavin how long the snorkeling usually lasts on his tours. We found out that he completely tailors his tour so that the guests basically decide the ratio of time split between the snorkeling and the picnic. If you only want to spend a half hour snorkeling, you can do so and spend the rest at the picnic. There is no rush and no pressure and we were extremely grateful for that.

Once aboard, the anchor was lifted and we were on our way to the small island of Madsum for our picnic.

A secluded picnic under a banyan tree

Long Tail Boat THailand

Another couple minutes boat ride and we were anchoring again – this time on the shores of a small, secluded beach on Koh Madsum. While we could see several boats and sunbathers in the distance, anchored at another beach on the island, our area was left empty and unspoiled. The clouds were gone by this point and the sun had come out so we were left with a beautiful view on a private beach on a gorgeous day.

Koh Madsum Thailand

Gavin and Chud set up a wonderfully laid picnic under a large banyan tree complete with a mat, triangular pillows to lean and rest against, and two place settings for us. Offering us beer and wine, Gavin left us to relax comfortably and enjoy our drinks while he heated up the food (he had brought a table, an element and several cooking instruments in order to serve the food hot). The spot was perfect and the banyan tree provided shade and a little added privacy.

Koh Madsum Picnic

We were served Thai fare (although there were other options to choose from) and there was quite the spread. We were served papaya salad and a lettuce salad, fried chicken, pork skewers, rice with chicken and squid, and larb gai. The food was delicious and plentiful. After taking our time on the main course, Gavin then served us dessert – Watermelon, kiwi and pear slices and some coconut jellies and a dessert of sticky rice and taro. We learned that there was such a thing as yellow watermelon which tastes pretty much like the red kind. From start to finish, the entire meal was so filling and tasty and we took our time enjoying the food, the wine and the beer.

Koh Samui Picnic

Koh Madsum Picnic

Romantic Things to do in Thailand

While the dishes were being put away, we went for a quick swim in the water and a stroll along the beach before returning and getting in the boat. When Gavin dropped us back off at our hotel, we noticed that it was not too late in the afternoon which allowed us the rest of our evening to ourselves. It turned out to be a one-of-a-kind day and we were finally able to spend some relaxing, romantic time together.

If you’re in Koh Samui, don’t forget to check out Island Gem Picnic for groups, couples, families, wedding parties and even individuals looking to meet new people!

Have you ever been snorkeling? If so, comment below and let us know where your favourite place to snorkel is! If not, where would you want to start?

 

one modern couple email sign up ad

, , ,

How We Slice It – A Guide to Pai. Part Two: Where To Eat

Where To Eat In Pai

“Even the bad food in Thailand is still worth eating”. We made up this saying, to describe our culinary experience, after a meal in northern Thailand.

While driving in Chiang Mai, we decided to pull over one night for a bowl of soup from one of the typical street vendors one sees throughout the country. Although being deserted, which is usually our signal for “don’t risk it”, it was the first one we saw while particularly famished. About three spoonfuls into it, we noticed small flying ants, which we dubbed “flants”, floating around in our bowls. Turning the noodles over we confirmed that these were not recent casualties – there were several more underneath. Despite the unwanted guests, the soup was actually delicious and extremely flavourful but whether or not we continued to eat it is a story for another time.

Thailand has an overwhelming number of places to eat, there is no arguing that, and Pai is no exception.

Finding good restaurants and food is a large part of what we do when we are travelling and Pai had some great places worth mentioning. Whether you are looking for traditional Thai, other ethnic foods or a little taste of home, chances are you’ll be able to find something delicious while you’re there.

Here are our top picks for a variety of different types of meals and restaurants in Pai

Cheap Thai Food

Cheap Thai food in Pai

We often like to go out of the main tourist areas, or at least a little off the beaten path, and find some hidden gems on our own. We found a great little restaurant just off the walking street with some pretty good Thai food at amazing prices. While we couldn’t find a name, we have the directions so finding it may be a bit like a treasure hunt – but who doesn’t like those? If you are on the walking street, head east and turn right at the intersection before the Pai Mae Hong Son Bus Station. Take the second left and then the first right. On the southeast corner of that intersection you’ll find the restaurant, of no distinguishable name. If you just want some tasty and cheap Thai food without the search, Dang Thai Food also serves great dishes and, even though it’s on a busy strip, it maintains an authentic feel. At around 40THB a dish, it’s definitely a restaurant to visit.

 

For Burger Lovers

burger queen pai, thailand

It’s true we write a lot about burgers, but when you find a place that can make a great burger, it’s hard not to talk about it! We passed Burger Queen a few times while walking around Pai. We were talking to an expat who happened to mention the property in an offhand comment, and it stuck. Looking at TripAdvisor reviews had us thinking about it even more. We had just driven back from the outskirts of Pai in the pouring rain, had dried off as best we could and were getting pretty hungry when we decided we wouldn’t bother hunting down a restaurant, we’d see how good the burgers at Burger Queen were. They were amazing. Between us we had a classic burger and the Hawaiin burger and a side of homemade fries and ate pretty much in silence after the grunts of enjoyment with our first bites. This place definitely satisfied our burger craving and we highly recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of Western fare in between all the amazing Thai food you’ll find in Pai.

Breakfast, Coffee, and A Great Vibe

om garden pai food

While socializing on the walking street, Om Garden Café was recommended to us for a breakfast spot. We found it cozy and tranquil and quite unique with it’s tropical garden hideaway feel. The service was impeccable, the coffee was a perfect start to the day and there was a great selection of meals on the menu. Delicious food with reasonable prices, this is also a great place to do some work (they have free WiFi) or read a book and relax.

Want A Full Guide To Pai And How To Get There? 

Walking Street, Street Food

fried insects on walking street in pai

No, we’re not suggesting that fried insects are the best option in Pai – although we can’t say as we haven’t tried them – but you can definitely find a wide range of food on the walking street. We’ve already raved a bit about Grandma’s Pancakes, but we thought it was deserving of another mention. You’ll find many food vendors along the walking street with a wide variety of food. Meat skewers, pad Thai, fried insects – you’ll find it all but the one we thought was the most enticing and delicious was this little stand, with a little woman, serving little pancakes that were big in taste.

grandmas pancakes pai

You can get 10 regular pancakes with syrup for 30THB (around $1) or enjoy a variety of different flavours for slightly more. She’ll make chocolate, chocolate banana, Nutella pancakes and even savory ones like sausage and egg pancakes. We stopped several times during our time in Pai to grab an order of pancakes from the friendly, little woman serving them from behind a small stand.

Desserts And Some Coffee

 

Pai Siam Bistro in Pai Thailand

We’ve also mentioned Pai Siam as it was one of our favourite places to stop for a coffee on the walking street and was also the place that led us to find our little oasis in Pai, Soi One Bedrooms. If you’re looking for some good café style beverages and some homemade desserts, Pai Siam Bistro is a great place in a good location with reasonable prices. Located in the middle of the walking street, beside a handmade lampshade business of the same name, Pai Siam, this bistro is tucked behind their gellati stand and is definitely worth the visit.

 

Stay tuned for our third, and last, part of “How We Slice It – A Guide To Pai” where we will provide information on some of the attractions in Pai.

Travelling to Pai? You can read part one of “How We Slice It – A Guide to Pai” and discover a few great accommodations in Pai for a variety of budgets and preferences.

You can also find our tips on how to get to Pai, and about our drive from Chiang Mai to Pai

Comment below and tell us if you would finish a delicious bowl of soup seasoned with “flants”!

 

one modern couple email sign up ad

, ,

How We Slice It – A Guide to Pai. Part One: Where to Stay

 

We stayed in Pai for about 5 days. After the drive up (you can read about our drive to Pai here and our tips on getting to Pai here), we didn’t want to leave right away but we also didn’t want to stay too long as we had plans to meet, for the first time, our now friends the Wagoner’s, a travel blog family, and go on a Scorpion Tail River Cruise. Our time, while seemingly short, was pretty perfect. We hadn’t read too much about Pai and all we knew by way of others was that we had to go, so we kept our plans open.

walking street pai, where to stay in pai, drive to pai, getting to pai, pai thailand, where to stay in pai, accommodations in pai, best hotel in pai, best hostel in pai

The centre of town is a pretty small area of grid-like roads with shops, restaurants and accommodations almost completely directed towards tourists. And there were lots of tourists. We didn’t notice them so much during the day. The center of town really picks up at night when the walking street begins and the bars and night-time restaurants open. During the day, we presume everyone was out exploring the various sites around Pai. When the walking street does open, which is nightly around 5:30-6pm, the main stretch of road and several offshoots are brimming with street vendors selling what any good walking street in Thailand sells: food, souvenirs, clothes, handmade products, and more food. We found that, while every night seemed to be the same vendors in the same spot, we always noticed and found something different.

 

While the walking street is probably one of the more well-known aspects of Pai, we found there were quite a few things that made Pai a fun and interesting place to visit. We’ve put together our list of what we enjoyed in Pai including where to stay, where to eat, and what to do and will be releasing our suggestions in a 3 part series. Our list is based on our visit of only 5 days and while we had some pretty great experiences, we’re sure there is much more about Pai that would have made it on our list had we had the time.

 

Where to Stay in Pai

In all honesty, we only stayed at two places ourselves and both were right on the walking street. But we also heard some great reviews of a few other places from friends we made. We’ve provided a different suggestion depending on budget, preference in location and preference in style of accommodation.

On a Budget

If you are a backpacking couple or travelling on a budget we would recommend Walking Street Guesthouse. If you’ve been backpacking, this place is pretty typical of what you’d find in a hostel or backpacker’s guesthouse. We were able to book one night in a private room with a king-size bed and private bathroom for 200THB ($7.40CDN/$6.67USD). Now we’re talking barebones here. It was a concrete room, with a fan, a king-sized bed and that’s it. But it was clean, a good price and right in the middle of the walking street. Reception was also incredibly friendly and helpful and they have a restaurant which we did not try but was later told was amazing but another traveler we met in Chiang Mai.

Click here for more information and the latest prices.

Want A Full Guide To Pai And How To Get There? 

Affordable Luxury

SOi One Bedrooms, Soi One Gold Room, Pai Boutique Hotel, Best Pai Accommodations

Click here for more information on Soi One and their latest prices.

We stayed our last night at Soi One Bedrooms. We would highly recommend this boutique hotel should you have the opportunity. As there are only 4 rooms, it books up fast, it is a little pricier than a budget hotel or accommodations off the walking street. However, if they have room available the walk-in price is half. Either way, they are located on the corner of one end of the walking street and one of the main stretches of bars, have gorgeous rooms and still comes at an affordable price for the comfort, cleanliness and luxury of the property. Check out our post on Soi One Bedrooms – Best Place To Stay In Pai, you’ll get a more in depth look at why this is one of the best accommodations in Pai.

 

Outside of the Centre of Pai

Pai Vintage Garden Resort, Places to stay in Pai, best hotel in Pai, best accommodations in Pai, family friendly Pai

We did not stay at the Pai Vintage Garden Resort, however our friend’s the Wagoners did (photo above courtesy of them). About a kilometer out of central Pai, Pai Vintage Garden Resort is a peaceful and quiet getaway. If you are looking for accommodations in Pai that is a little off the main area, quieter and with an amazing view, this might just be the place for you.

Click here for more information on Pai Vintage Garden Resort and the latest prices.

Private Bungalows, Close to the Walking Street

Paichan Pai, best place to stay pai, bungalows pai, best hotel pai, drive to pai, getting to pai, pai thailand

We attempted to get a bungalow at Pai Chan but they were sold out by the time we found out about this place. Friends we made managed to snag the last room, for a discounted walk-in price, and were not disappointed. Private, traditional bungalows made of teak wood, a large swimming pool and a restaurant that overlooks the rice fields and mountains are what we were told were some of the amazing features of Pai Chan. Since they are not too far of a walk from the walking street, this gives a great alternative to being right in the middle of the action. It’s good to note that since these are traditional style, your stay will be a little more rustic, with concrete bathrooms, open windows (wood shutters when you want to close them), mosquito nets and no air conditioning.

Click here for more information about Pai Chan and their latest prices.

Stay tuned for part two of our How We Slice It – A Guide To Pai when we list some of our top picks for where to eat in Pai.

Have you been to Pai? If so, comment below and tell us where you would recommend as a great place to stay. If you haven’t, comment and let us know which of these you would choose.

 

 

, , ,

Getting From Chiang Mai to Pai – Travel Tips

Making our way from Chiang Mai to Pai on a 125cc scooter was not an easy drive, but it was one of our favourite road trips of all time. You can read about how we conquered all 762 turns up highway 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai, but if you’re looking to get to Pai yourself, there’s probably a few additional details you’ll need in order to decide on how to best make your way from Chiang Mai to the valley town of Pai.

During our decision process, we did a lot of research on our options and our own drive gave us quite a few insights into the route. The following are some tips for making your way from Chiang Mai to Pai, including the different methods possible and costs associated with each one.

3 Different Ways of Getting From Chaing Mai To Pai

 

Chiang Mai to Pai On a Bus:

Road to Pai, How to get to Pai, getting to Pai from Chiang Mai, The drive from Chiang Mai to Pai

Minibus: You can take either a minibus or a standard bus to Pai. The minibus will run only about 150-200THB each way and will only take 3+ hours but it’s the one where you’ll probably feel the most motion sickness as they drive fast even on the turns (There’s even a “vomit here” sign on the road to Pai)

Air-conditioned Bus: These buses take a little longer to navigate through the bends but you’ll save a little money compared to the minibus (100-150THB). If you’re prone to motion sickness and not up for making the drive yourself, this is a slightly better option to the minibus.

drive to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai, tips on getting to pai

While you don’t need to rent a scooter to get around, there are many things to see outside the main area. If you’ve taken a bus into Pai and aren’t going to hire a tour, you’ll probably need to rent a scooter once in Pai. The cheapest scooter we saw in Pai is roughly 100THB per day plus gas and we are pretty certain that is without insurance. The total for a week would be 1200+THB (700 for a 7-day scooter rental, 100+ in gas depending on how much you drive, and 300+ for the transportation to and from Pai)

 

Chiang Mai to Pai On Your Own:

Scooter rentals Thailand, Best scooter rentals in thailand, drive to pai, road to pai, getting from Chiang Mai to Pai

Renting a scooter, bike or car offers you the ability to take an amazing drive through the mountains. It was certainly one of our most memorable road trips.

Scooter/bike: A 125cc scooter will cost you minimum 200THB per day and that cost increases as you look at bigger bikes. We recommend Tony’s Big Bikes in Chiang Mai as insurance was included, the entire staff was friendly and helpful and we received great service the entire time we had the bike. A full tank cost around 100-110THB and we spent less than 200THB in gas to get there. If we had stayed a week, we would have paid 1400 in rental fees, and about 500 in gas total.

Disclaimer: Don’t forget to get your international driver’s license before renting a scooter to avoid tickets or fines. We got ours before leaving for Thailand and were stopped several times while riding our scooter throughout Thailand at checkpoints where they asked to see it.

Car: A car rental, from a company such as AVIS Thailand, for one week will cost about 6400THB plus gas. It is also difficult to find parking, especially for cars, in the main strip of the walking street and the immediate surrounding areas. If you choose to rent a car, be sure you have a place that offers parking or have confirmed an area to use.

Drive to Pai, Road to Pai, how to get to pai from chiang mai, drive from chiang mai to pai, best ways to get to pai

If you choose to make your own way to Pai, either by car or scooter, there are a few tips that will help make your journey a little easier. While most of these directly apply to driving a scooter or bike, they are definitely good to keep in mnd if you are planning to rent a car.

  1. Gas. Depending on the size of your tank, you may need to fill up more than once. Since there are long stretches of road without any available areas to purchase gas, we suggest you make note of the meter, and start looking when your tank hits the half-way mark. This is especially useful if you are driving a rental as the gauge may not be correct. Roadside gas pumps and even bottles of fuel can be purchased at almost every small village you drive through. If you’ve forgotten to check and are desperately low on gas, don’t hesitate to stop in a local area and ask for fuel/gas/petrol. Chances are they’ll be able to help, even if it’s at a premium price.                                                        Gas on the way to Pai, from Chiang rai to pai, driving to pai, how to get to pai
  2. Vehicle. We drove a 125cc scooter and while we made it to Pai and back without any real problems, there were a few moments we weren’t too sure we had made the right decision. The tank is small, the bike is small, and there’s not much power. If you’re budget can afford it, you may want to consider a larger bike or a car that can handle the inclines and also ease the drive over the potholes.
  3. Potholes. There are many and they are unavoidable. It can be a bit tiresome and straining to be on constant lookout for the obstacles on the road: traffic coming both ways, potholes, sharp curves, steep hills, and sometimes gas slicks from the trucks. Of all of these, potholes are the most frequent and can be pretty dangerous, especially when driving a vehicle with fairly narrow tires.Drive to pai, how to get to pai, from chiang mai to pai, potholes on the road to pai
  4. Hydration. It can get pretty hot driving through the mountains in the middle of the day. Unless you end up leaving early, or it rains, chances are you’re going to get quite a bit of sun and having ample water on hand is important. We have two hydration packs (water bladders) and ended up filling one up as emergency water and bringing two bottles with us in the scooter’s cup holders. Even if you go early, we still suggest having extra water on hand as you never know what the day will bring. We also brought some snacks just to be on the safe side and they ended up being incredibly handy to have, especially when we lengthened our trip by stopping at the geyser.
  5. Take your time. Like we mentioned, we left late, stopped for a total of 3 hours and then again when it rained once we entered Pai and still made it to our accommodations for 7pm. There’s no need to rush the ride. Take it slow, gas up when you can and make sure you’re prepared and make stops when you need. Not only is a smart thing to do with the length of the drive, there are also some pretty great views to take in on the way!                                                                             Drive to pai, view on the road to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai, tips on getting to pai
  6. Gauge your experience level. Macrae had ridden a scooter before this trip to Thailand and had been driving this particular one for a little while before we headed out to Pai. Make sure you are comfortable, not only with driving a scooter, but with driving in Thailand. It’s a completely different experience and it can take time to get used to.
  7. The route. The route is fairly simple. Once you get to the 1095 there’s really no where to go until you hit Pai. The complicated part is in the road itself. As we discussed, there are tons of potholes, fast drivers, and incredibly winding, narrow roads. Weather conditions are also variable as you are heading up into the mountains and then down into the valley so they can change at any moment. While we didn’t find the route nearly as difficult as we had read, we were also expecting the absolute worst. The route is tricky and has it’s dangers but caution and preparation goes a long way.drive to pai, wildlife pai, how to get to pai, tips on getting to pai, from pai to chiang mai on a scooter

Chiang Mai to Pai On A Plane:

how to get to pai, ways to get to pai, best way to get pai, drive to pai, chiang mai to pai, chiang mai to pai on a scooter

Taking a plane straight to Pai is also an option. The airport is located Northwest of the central part of town and flights can be taken direct from Chiang Mai. The flight is only about a half hour and while prices vary depending on airline and time of year, we found a cheap flight through Kan Airlines for around 1900THB at the start of their high season. Other airlines to look at within Thailand are AirAsia, Thai Smile Airways, Nok Air and Tiger Air.

 

Comment below and tell us which way you’d choose to travel to Pai!

 

, ,

The Long and Winding Road To Pai!

Making our way by scooter to Pai, Thailand

 

We started out later than we had planned, as is our usual custom, and had our bags packed, our scooter fueled and our kickstand lifted by 11:01am. We were going to make the long drive from Chiang Mai to Pai and conquer all 762 winding, hairpin, narrow turns through the mountains… on a 125cc scooter.

Now, if you haven’t yet read anything about the drive to Pai let us tell you that most of the stories we read had us second guessing our decision to drive there ourselves several times before we actually left. Most of what we read suggested taking a bus or minibus but warned that due to the winding nature of the road, motion sickness is common, and the drivers will not stop if you feel the need to vomit (Check out our Daily Digital of a sign we saw after a particularly curvy stretch of road).

bike shadow, scooter shadow, shadows

We read comments about doing the trek yourself via motorbike stating it was “dangerous but beautiful”, “littered with potholes”, “watch out for oil slicks left by the trucks”, amongst others. We also read that travelling via motorbike is possible, allows you to stop and enjoy the scenery at your own pace and while requiring some caution, a confident motorbike driver should be okay. These all had us debating for quite some time about how we wanted to approach our trip to Pai.

Before we left for Thailand, everyone we met who had been already told us that we absolutely had to see Pai. This small mountain town was apparently THE place to go. So we knew we had to get there somehow and we figured if we were going to make the harrowing journey through the mountains, we might as well do it on our own time and our own way. So, on a scooter we went.

We were fortunate to have made friends with the host at the Airbnb we stayed at in Chiang Mai and he told us he would store some of our stuff at his place so we wouldn’t have to carry all of our belongings with us on the drive. As it was, he was concerned about the weight we were carrying on the scooter.

We were able to make our way with just one of our 45L backpacks with our belongings and our small carry-on backpack with our computer and camera equipment. Loaded up, we set off to find highway 1095 and the route through the mountains to Pai with Macrae driving, the equipment at his feet, and Carolann behind with the backpack strapped to her back.

road to pai, driving to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai

Since we were coming from South of the city, we first had to make it through the traffic and construction bordering the Chiang Mai. It was a bit hectic and busy, but it wasn’t too bad and we kept moving at a pretty good pace. We were only driving for about 30-45 minutes before we decided to finally grab some breakfast and stopped at a rest stop just shy of the 1095.

Not far down the road we also gassed up in preparation for the drive and in anticipation of limited opportunities to do so along the way. We were excited but also a bit anxious to tackle this daunting route. Highway 1095 started off fairly easy. Long, smooth turns through small villages with little incline.

At some point we started to climb. Steeper now, the bends got sharper, the lanes more narrow and the potholes were more prevalent. We enjoyed the fresh air and being able to chat with each other when we weren’t both silently enjoying the scenery.

We made sure to take breaks every once in a while to drink some water and give our backsides a rest and usually found spots with a viewpoint where we could snap a few photos or just take in the view.

drive to pai, road to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai, thailand mountain roads

drive to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai. beautiful views   mountain view, mountain landscape, road to pai, drive to pai, how to get to pai, chiang mai to pai

 

Want A Full Guide To Pai And How To Get There?


 

drive to pai, getting to pai, road to pai, best way to get to pai

It was less than half way into the drive when the road began to really get tricky. The turns were 90 degree or more, often hairpin and usually on an incline, either up or down. The traffic around us also presented another obstacle. The road was basically one lane each way the entire way.

Obviously our 125cc scooter wasn’t going to compete with pretty much any of the other vehicles on the road and so we were constantly trying to give way to those faster moving buses, vans, cars and motorcycles. Then there was the oncoming traffic. We read that the minibuses were fast and erratic and this definitely wasn’t exaggerated.

What wasn’t mentioned was that they take the corners so fast, they often move into the other, oncoming traffic, lane. Not only were we watching for the traffic behind us and the road ahead of us, we also needed to be vigilant of the cars coming at us from around each bend.

Macrae made sure to take it slow and careful and it really only took a short time to get used to being mindful of it all.

drive to pai, how to get to pai, chiang mai to pai   drive to pai, road to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai

There’s always time for a coffee break

Besides winding roads, there is one other thing you’ll most certainly notice along this mountain road: Coffee shops. For some reason, they are quite prevalent throughout the mountain areas and we passed by quite a few before we finally reached the centre of Pai.

Deciding we needed a break, we stopped at one and took about a half an hour to rest. The road is quite bumpy and you can try to evade the potholes all you like but you’re bound to hit a few. Even on a smooth stretch of road, an hour and a half of driving and your butt is going to feel it, so add in quite a few bumps and potholes and you’ll be hurting in no time.

pai coffee sign, drive to pai, road to pai, how to get to pai, chiang mai to pai

 

drive to pai, getting to pai, how to get to pai, chiang mai to pai, mountain landscape

We jumped back on, refreshed and ready to keep going. Since there aren’t any gas stations on the stretch of 1095 between Chiang Mai and Pai, we gassed up where we could in a small hillside stand with a makeshift gas pump set up by the locals.

We had passed a few stands before with bottles of gas and while we figured there’d be a few more along the way we didn’t want to take the chance since there are quite lengthy stretches of road between one village area and the next.

It’s difficult to judge your gas consumption by distance because of the terrain you have to drive. The other thing we were worried about was whether our gas meter was correct as this was a rental and we weren’t too familiar with how empty, empty is.

gas on the way to pai, is there gas ont he road to pai, road to pai, chiang mai to pai, drive to pai, getting to pai

A little detour – Pong Duad Geyser

Not too long after we fueled up we came across a sign for a geyser. It said it was only 6km off the road and we figured, why not? Taking the narrow dirt road we headed on our adventure not really knowing what we had got ourselves into.

When we say dirt road, we mean dirt road, and after driving down a few steep hills we got a little concerned about whether or not the bike would make it back up again. Avoiding more large potholes, ditches and rocks, we drove through the forest for what seemed like a very long time. 6km can be a long drive on a small scooter, taking some of the hills at 20km/hr.

When we finally made it to the next sign, it was a ticket booth for the Huay Nam Dang National Park in which we would find the geyser. At 200THB ($7 CDN) per person for a foreigner, we felt the admission was a little steep for Thailand, especially as the price for a Thai was only 50THB. We have come to expect paying a farang (foreigner) price versus the usually much cheaper local price, but it still bothers us every time.

After the drive all the way there, we really couldn’t turn back without actually seeing this geyser, so we paid and drove into the park.

The National Park was actually quite pretty. Nice scenic paths, hot springs, and of course, the geyser. Since it was getting later in the day and we wanted to make it to Pai before sunset, we decided to only worry about seeing what we had initially come to see.

After walking the almost 1km path through the forest, we were hot and bug bitten and unnaturally excited to see our first geyser. Pong Duad Geyser is only about 25 feet wide and 15 feet long. Smelling of sulfur while bubbling and steaming, it was actually a pretty cool thing to see.

While we didn’t get any time in the hot springs down the way, the geyser provided us with a nature-made sauna while we took photos.

National park thailand, national park on the way to pai, drive to pai,fallen tree, half of a tree, massive tree trunk

Pong Duad Geyser, national park near pai, road to pai, how to get to pai

curvy vine, twisted tree trunk, cool trees, cool plants, drive to pai,    National Park near pai thailand, national park scenery, drive to pai, road to pai, how to get to pai   Pong Duad Geyser, ntaional park near pai, road to pai, getting to pai, chiang mai to pai   Pong Duad Geyser, thailand national park, road to pai, drive to pai,

The last stretch of the drive to Pai

Since it was so hot and sticky, we didn’t stay too long and headed back to our bike to finish the drive. The rest of the way saw the same kind of winding, narrow roads as before. At one point in time we were climbing a rather steep hill when our scooter, full throttle, decided it could only handle about 15km/hr. There we were slowly chugging up hill as cars past us, wondering if the bike was going to make it or give out.

We stopped just to see if it needed a bit of a break from the heat and the strain of trying to get the two of us and our belongings up and around so many inclines. We both held our breath as we turned the key to try it again and fortunately it started up again and seemed to have the pep it was previously lacking. We laughed a little afterwards at what we must of looked like, eyes focused on the road ahead, two helmeted individuals bouncing on along the hill on this little scooter going absurdly slow.That had to be the most challenging part of our entire journey.

After that we had no difficulties with the bike. We did see one scooter wipe out about 20 minutes outside of Pai. We were driving up a rather steep curve when these two bikes came flying down. A few seconds later another two followed and the one in the front wiped out and hit the guardrail. We stopped to make sure he was okay and waited until the first two friends of his came back.

He was fine, scratched up and bruised, but it could have been worse. It was fortunate he went into the guardrail and not oncoming traffic (essentially us at that point) and that there was a guardrail to begin with as some parts are without which means a very long drop down the mountain. You could tell that the curve was an especially tricky one as the guardrail looked pretty mangled from past collisions.

drive to pai, road to pai, bends on drive to pai, chiang mai to pai, best way to get to pai   road to pai, drive to pai, how to get to pai, best way to get to pai,   drive to pai, how to get to pai, chiang mai to pai, best way to get to pai   water buffalo, thailand water buffalo, drive to pai, getting to pai, chiang mai to pai

After that, we drove even more cautious but made our way smoothly back down to Pai. It wasn’t long after we saw the first sign welcoming us to Pai and the first of the rice paddy fields that it started to rain. We quickly donned our ponchos but shortly after that the torrential downpour began. We pulled over and sought some refuge from the rain in one of the coffee shops along the road and waited it out.

We had made the drive, conquered the 762 turns and now only had to wait out the rain before we could make our way safely into the center of town and enjoy all that Pai had to offer.

Read about our tips for getting from Chiang Mai to Pai, no matter your method of transportation as well as our suggestions on: Where to Eat, Where to Stay, and What to Do in Pai!

Have you ever conquered a difficult journey? Comment below and let us know all about it!

You can follow our journey by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and signing up for our mailing list!

,

Our Anniversary Destination Is…

Today we are foregoing our Daily Digital as we are taking the time to celebrate our anniversary – which leads us to revealing on which island we chose to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. The island is…

koh tao sunset, thailand sunset, best sunsets, beautiful sunset,

Koh Tao!!

 

koh tao sunset, thailand sunset, best island in thailand, koh tao, ko tao, beautiful sunsets

Alright, you’re probably wondering why Koh Tao was chosen. We’ve already been talking about being on the island; we’ve actually been here for a few days. It wasn’t even on the top of the voter’s list for where everyone else thought we should go. So why did we stick around to be here on our anniversary? Well, there are several reasons why this island won out above the rest.

sunset on koh tao, sunset on thailand, koh tao, thailand, best sunsets, beautiful sunset

For one, just looking at the pictures tells you a bit about how gorgeous this island is. We’ve seen amazing sunsets everyday and, when we had a chance, a great sunrise. It just doesn’t get any better than watching these over the water of a beautiful beach. The island itself is quite spectacular. The beach by our hotel (pictured above) makes for a great afternoon or evening stroll when the tide is low and the rest of the island has several beaches you can go to during the day that make you feel like you are in paradise, such as Sai Daeng Beach.

 welcome to koh tao, koh tao, ko tao, thailand, best island in thailand,

Secondly, the life of the island is so laid back and relaxed we aren’t in any hurry to leave, but it also has a good mix of entertainment and nightlife . It may be the beginning of high season but it hasn’t felt too busy or crowded yet. We are in a great little area for food (but really, where in Thailand isn’t good for food?) and if we chose, we could easily find a bar on, or off, the beach in which to spend the night socializing.

streets of koh tao, koh tao thailand, thailand islands

Third, we changed our travel plans for the remainder of Thailand (more to come) and so it suited us best to stay on this side of the South, reducing costs and travel time as opposed to going to the other side or up to Koh Chang area.

koh tao swimming, koh tao, ko tao, thailand, best islands in thailand, beautiful beach photos

While all of these contributed to us settling on Koh Tao, the main reason has to do with how we chose to celebrate our anniversary. We’ll be posting about our anniversary celebration tomorrow, and we don’t want to give it away, but we will say that it is related to our Halloween celebrations as well.

koh tao, ko tao, thailand, islands in thailand, best island in thailand,

 

We’re incredibly excited to celebrate our 2nd anniversary in such an amazing place with such stunning views and can’t wait to share more about our time on the island! Thanks to everyone who voted and helped us decide. We were leaning toward what the majority was going for but in the end it was Koh Tao that offered us the best options for our anniversary.

Stay tuned to hear about our anniversary celebration! If you’d like to follow our journey, don’t forget to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and join our mailing list!

 

, ,

Daily Digital – Beautiful Sunrise On The Gulf of Thailand

 

After a few days in Bangkok, we decided it was about time we headed South to the islands. We reviewed a few of our options. We could either take a flight, a bus or a train to catch a ferry over to Koh Tao, an island off the East coast of Thailand. We settled on the night bus from Bangkok to Chumphon where we would catch the ferry. We figured that we’d lose less time by travelling overnight and it was a cheaper option than a flight. We also had a pretty decent overnight bus ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and were hopeful we’d have a similar experience. We didn’t.

The bus was narrower and taller so it swayed a lot; the air-conditioning was on full blast and dropped the bus to near freezing temperatures; the seats were leather so we slid with every bump; and there were plastic blocks protruding from either side of the headrests. Needless to say we didn’t get a lot of sleep and when the bus dropped us off for the ferry at 5am, 2 hours before it was set to leave, we realized sleep was going to be a long ways away.

The bus ride, the wait for the ferry, and the sleepless night, was all worth it when, shortly after 6am, we started to see the first hints of dawn breaking. Stepping out onto the small beach by the ferry pier we watched one of the most beautiful sunrises over the water. It was an amazing start to the day and our time in Southern Thailand. Most of all, it made us realize that some of the most amazing things can be found at the end of a rocky path.

 

What amazing thing have you found at the end of a rocky path? Comment below and let us know!

,

Bangkok: A City Of Contrasts…And Tuk Tuks

 

We heard mixed reviews about Bangkok before getting here. Few said they loved it; many said to get out as soon as we could. Macrae, having already been to this city, hadn’t been left with any strong urges to go back. During our stay here, though short, we’ve grown a little fond of this massive city.

Perhaps it’s because we have only stayed such a short time or perhaps we’ve observed the city with an especially open mind after being in Beijing and getting a taste of what a “big, dirty city” can really be like.

Like Beijing, there are parts of Bangkok that are clean and upscale, and like Beijing, there are parts that are far from it. That’s probably what you’ll find in any large metropolis.

Here, there are a sea of cars with seemingly erratic drivers (we’re pretty sure we saw at least fifty near-misses on the road in a period of 60 seconds); Tuk Tuks (like a motorbike powered rickshaw) stopping to see if you need a ride almost constantly (“Tuk Tuk!?” “Tuk Tuk!?”); and puddles of unknown origin popping up along the sidewalks (even when it hasn’t rained).

But all these negatives about Bangkok: the traffic, the tourist scams, the crazy nightlife and wild stories, the unidentified liquids, are all tempered by Thai culture and Thai people.

Tuk Tuk resting in Bangkok, TUk TUk, Bangkok transportation, Thailand tuk tuk,

Even here in Bangkok, there is a genuine kindness and willingness to help. While there are still scams and tourist traps galore, we’ve found that a vast majority of people are quick to offer help, free of charge. Overall, the people are still friendly, like they were in the North, while perhaps a bit more jaded by the big city life.

We’ve found that the rule of thumb in Thailand still stands in Bangkok: smile at a Thai and they will smile back. The subway and sky-train system isn’t too difficult to navigate and provide a great alternative to taking a taxi or tuk tuk. There are amazing street food vendors, markets and small local restaurants and although you will pay slightly more than the North, you can find decently priced food that almost certainly tastes great.

Bangkok buildings, city of bangkok, bangkok tourism, bangkok,

We’ve only spent a couple days in Bangkok so we’ve barely seen any of what the city has to offer and while a majority of people told us a couple days would be more than enough, we’ve got to say we’re sad to go.

Walking down the less touristy streets you’ll find this perfectly blended combination of ancient Wats, blackened and run-down buildings and new constructions. A mix between old, older and new beginnings. We’d love to explore more of the complexities of the city but perhaps we’ll get a chance another time.

bangkok wat, golden wat bangkok, bangkok temples, temples in thailand, bangkok tourism, bangkok attractions

There’s more to Bangkok than the wild parties and scenes from “The Hangover 2”. We think if you look close and with an open mind you’ll find Bangkok is actually an amazing part of Thailand and you don’t need to be in a tourist hub to find that’s the case.

It may be through a visit to a temple, a stroll through a market or a cruise down the river. For us, it was simply walking along the streets, seeing the contrasts and the unexpected. We’ve had one of our best meals of all time here, been to one of the world’s largest markets, and even had a few less than stellar experiences. More of those contrasts.

Dirty looking Building in Bangkok, Buildings in Bangkok, Bangkok city, Bangkok building, Bangkok tourism

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand and are questioning whether Bangkok is worth the stop, our answer would be yes. It may not be our favourite place in Thailand but it is certainly worth the visit. So yes, we’re sad to leave but we’re happy to have come here and to mark it on our list of places to which we need to return.

 

Have you been to Bangkok? What was your first impression? Comment below and let us know!