back to December 2021, I had the opportunity to come back to Thailand to visit some new secluded areas. My focus was on the eastern coast toward Cambodia, after having visited Pattaya and Rayong, I decided (as always) to get out of the ‘comfort zone’ and I headed to Chao Lao beach which is situated in the province of Chanthaburi, you can see the snapshot of the map below:
Unlike the very popular Pattaya city, this is a village where there are lot’s of affordable SPA resorts and now being the post-pandemic time there are very few foreigners (Thai people call them ‘farangs’) getting to this area. I stayed over three days and I did a deep exploration of the surrounding nature. The beach itself is really quiet, cleaned and like the old days, you can have a coconut juice or a lemonade while enjoying the beach, the surrounding sea is shallow which is ideal for families with kids. It is approximately four hours of driving or riding from Bangkok.
The second day that I was there, I decided to rent a motorbike for a further exploration to the very south of peninsula, I entered a national park by paying 200Baths, I parked the bike and I continued hiking to the Pink Stone spot. (See the map below)
The hiking itself is not so difficult and it takes max. half an hour, just you need to have proper shoes or hiking sandals to be safe, and obviously December falls on the dry season so just be prepared to sweat 🙂
Here below there few pictures of the Pink Stone spot:
The most surprising thing of this attraction is a shelter which is built by green glass bottles, I ventured to visited it inside and it looks weird and perhaps a bit scary if you get there at night! If you wish to learn more about the mysterious shelter, I have made a video-reportage by my action camera in which I lively visited it inside 🙂 Here below I have embedded the YouTube video:
Usually, during the morning the sea water laps against part of the beach, however in the afternoon the sea water deflects further out to sea and the beach widens out: the last two pictures were taken in the morning time whereas all the others were taken in the afternoon, the difference is clearly visible 🙂
All in all, Chao Lao is a great compromise between having a rest away from the ‘city-life’ and a good opportunity for a soft-hiking, my guess it is ideal for family with kids and for couples on a romantic gateway. The only cons you may experience is that (if you are picky with the food) here you can’t get more than seafood, and last but not least be careful where you go to eat seafood and what you eat, some BBQ seafood may look tasty but then it might be painy to digest it, that was my case one evening: I got intoxicated by some sea snails which I guess were not properly washed out.
That being said, enjoy your experience in Chao Lao beach!
Following my previous post for the first day of trekking, for completion I dedicate this post for the second day of SaPa adventure 🙂
First of all, the home-stay where we slept was nicely arranged for us foreigners and I was surprised since they even had a western toilet with shower (my guess is that they would not have the same toilet in other houses/shelters in the village), the reason behind that is that they cooperate with Sapa O’ Chau tour which is one of the most reliable and best rated tour agent in SaPa and besides that, Sapa has become a popular destination nowadays. However, be sure that if you ever end up sleeping at a casual house in such villages you could never expect a western toilet! The experience in Indonesia (Flores) taught me something.
Secondly, like in every village the morning starts very soon, at 5am you can already observe ‘women at work’ taking care of the chickens, goats and cows already awoken, and myself I caught the chance to get up to record the scenery during the sun-raising , after that I just returned to the bed to sleep a bit more. Finally we all got up around 7:30am to enjoy the offered breakfast and get ready to set off.
Not until we started off, we had to trek further up to a steep hill on a muddy trail, despite the conditions of the trails local people ventures to get through by scooter, I could imagine how often they break the suspensions 😀
When we arrived at the top-point of Soi Thau village there were two kids playing with each other and smiling to us like to say ‘Welcome aliens!’
Once we reached the top point, the trail upfront looked at our eyes long and well-distributed throughout the immense landscape, compared to what we had to trek the day before this was a way easier, after one hour of trekking we got to pass through a weak water-stream originated by a small waterfall see the picture below:
it was nothing impressive, we stop by to record some scenery around, then when we continued, we finally got to trek gradually upper and upper, the trail itself had been carved along the perimeter of the hills and it was wide enough so that we were fully-safe 🙂
at one point we end up passing one more farm house, as aliens we said ‘xin chao‘ to the local guy outside the house, however he did not react: our tour guide Su explained us that most of them are rather shy with the aliens and therefore they will barely react, in addition there is the title of the tour itself ‘OFF the beaten track’ 🙂 During the first day of the tour I made an estimation that we met max. three more foreigners who probably were with another tour guide, other than that no one more was around. See below the surrounding scenery 🙂
At one point we arrived at the top point of the last hill, and after that we only experienced downhill, the more we were getting down and more we started observing more and more houses which was the sign we were slowly approaching the semi-rural life, at one house in the outdoor space there were five kids who were fighting to drink from a bottle of water, it was just funny to observe them how cute as well as ‘naughty’, see below:
Here at this point our trekking turned into a walking down to the village of Ta Giang Phing, because we end up being on concrete narrow road which meant the beginning of the conventional civilization had taken over 😦 all the second day trekking lasted about four and half hours.
We stop at a typical open-air Vietnamese tavern to enjoy a pork noodle soup spice with lime, chili and mint!
All in all, this is an experience I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to get away from the agitation of the conventional civilization, it is worthy for the money, moreover if personally I were to travel back to SaPa, I would surely go for a motorbike tour off the beaten track.
Dear explorers, I have finally completed out my 6th journey mission in South-East Asia, this time I dedicated my attention to Vietnam.
Unlike my previous deep experience with Indonesia, here I had less time to spend and so I had to draw a narrowed draft plan out of a total of fifteen days, perhaps here some might argue by saying that it is enough time, however unfortunately it is not enough for all Vietnam 😦
Because the time frame of my exploratory holiday was just fifteen days, I decided to divide it in two parts: the challenging part and the soft part.
The reason behind is simple: if you first challenge yourself with a hard task then you will be able to appreciate the chilling part, on the contrary it would not work out much.
After making some research, I decided it was worthy to visit the SaPa area with its breathtaking nature characterized by rice fields terraces, because I always like to get off the beaten tracks (suitable for the lazy ones), I booked the following two-days tour by Sapa O’Chau tour:
Despite the attendance for the tour was only myself with the tour guide ‘Laju Su’, as soon as I arrived at the Sapa O’Chau office I found out that one more attendee signed up at last minute which was a pleasant news for my pockets since the actual price was decreased of almost 50%, in addition to that, as a nice coincidence the other participant was an Italian compatriot woman called ‘Elena’, I never imagined to be trekking with a woman solo traveler as a companion however we all know that at this world there are also brave women up for such an amazing trekking 🙂
As first, we were brought by car to the starting point of our trekking which was the Ta Phin village, while starting the hike in the village some local ladies approached us by asking to buy their hand-made hats, however since we were keen to enjoy the nature we did not buy any, perhaps on a next time!
As we approached the first uphill we enjoyed the first amazing landscape view with rice field terraces and a village nearby as shown above, and soon we had to deal with a broken path, probably caused by a natural disaster, fortunately there were two bulldozers in action which tried to pave and clear the broken path in front of us, however we had to carefully watch our steps, see image below:
the more we trekked uphill the more we got into the a secluded valley, on the way we met few women as farmers who were carrying vegetables and few locals riding a motorbike through the path.
After three and half hour of trekking we reached the first remote village named Phin Ho, we stopped at a farm house where our clever tour guide managed to prepare for us two maxi-sandwiches (just look at it below), in addition to that, we noticed that the owner of the house was chilling out by smoking some herbs by using a big bamboo pipe which was really funny for me as a non-smoker guy 😀
After our lunch break, we resumed our trekking by getting a bit to the bottom of the deep valley, the scenery on the way down was more and more breathtaking and at one peak viewpoint we decided to take one more break with a short nap. Here, I caught the chance to record such a video of such amazing surrounding scenery, just watch it below!
After our chilling break we continued on the trail to Ta Giang Phing village (final destination on the second day) and here we approached the deepest point of the green valley:
We got to cross two bridges, the first one was a bit challenging because rope-less, only one person at once could traverse it to avoid the risk of collapsing, moreover the frame was made by bamboo pipes not fixed but shaking instead! Having had similar challenges in the past in the first moment I believed I could make it with hassle-free, however my first approach was not such good one: I approached it by putting down my feet almost straight in-line on the pipes, as a result my body balance was getting compromised, the tour guide realized it and invited me to reverse myself and step back, the spring of nervousness tripped out :-O although the guide wanted to convince me to get down by the small channel and then up, I stayed focused on the bridge challenge by letting the Italian girl to go first, I just observed her relaxed approach and as she crossed it, I acted accordingly by counterbalancing the second half of my body and angling my feed to keep safe my balance on the shaking bamboo pipes, even slow, the challenge was accomplished with no need to get down by the channel 🙂 Safety is never enough when dealing with the wild nature ;-D
After that, we got to hike farther until we end up crossing a proper safe pedestrian bridge.
After one more hours, we approached our target destination of the first day Soi Thau village. Here we observed such an amazing rural life of the local people taking care of their goats and buffaloes as well as people who were building up a brand-new house.
That was the beginning of the destination village of Suoi Thau, we had to trek up farther over a hill to reach our home stay, the trail was aggressively steep up to the hill with some spread-ed mud around, I started feeling a bit powerless, nevertheless we achieved our day target by arriving there around 4:30pm, where we chilled-out at the home stay and we were provided with such a proper delicious Vietnamese BIO-food 🙂
Our first trekking day was nicely over, all we needed was just a good dinner and a sound sleep what we got.
I finally have the chance to post something new about a brand-new destination focused on the archipelago of Andaman islands.
Andamans islands belong to India although are much closer to Thailand, it might sound a joke but it is so 🙂 When I planned it out, my general criteria was to try a more off-beaten area than any other island or group of island situated in the SE of Asia, by this I am not saying that all the islands I visited earlier were all beaten. However, after performing an accurate research, appeared that on Andaman’s the tourism is mostly made by Indians and very few foreigners are willing to travel there.
In addition to that, it has to be taken into account that Andaman&Nicobar archipelago is considered to be a RESTRICTED AREA, therefore only some of the Andaman side islands are open for tourism, these are:
Main land of Andaman (in which Port-Blair is situated)
Apart from those three, all the other islands are either private, tribal communities live there or are military bases.
Having said that, you are good to plan your exploration within the restricted circuit which offers more than enough for exploring then especially on the main land.
Being biased with SE Asia, my first impact with India&Andaman’s was by no means the best one,
the reason of that?
Unlike in the SE Asia, in India is normal to find spread-ed garbage and rubbish aside the roads, wasted plastic material by the seaside and so on. Sadly and disappointing as it may sound, that is a real fact of Indian environment, moreover, get used to the fact that will always encounter wild-free loitering goats, cows and dogs! They are really everywhere.
Apart from that, in here, more specifically on Havelock and Neil island there lots of mangroves beaches which on a way look nice but on the other hand it is annoying then especially when you want to enjoy a swim and to cap it all at certain time of the day the mangroves are completely dried, in other words they get emptied of water!
I personally tried to enjoy a walk around the mangroves when they were filled by water, however be aware that wear the water shoes is a MUST and last but not least carefully watch your steps since you might suddenly either end up approaching a not-so-visible sharp rocks or walking through some broken corals, either way they can trigger you to fall down! Moreover, I personally saw a yellow-black striped coral snakes which was sliding away, as a first impact it was not such a great feeling overall, however at least now I am aware of a real danger in walking through shallow mangroves sea surface, this is just to give a warning alert that nothing in here is really safe by the sea!
However, on Andaman’s you can find the hugest amount of colorful shells by the sandy beaches , you can actually end up collecting hundreds by yourself without buying them at the markets, just give a try for believing.
When it comes to the sunset, fortunately both the two islands offer a gorgeous spot to enjoy a great sunset shooting/recording, the achieved scenery with the rocks watered by the sea is breathtaking, for your reference you can refer to this screenshot from Google maps:
Just to impress you with an idea here below I have uploaded two scenic picture over the sunset at Neil island:
In conclusion, if it were not for the tons of spread-ed garbage everywhere, wasted plastic and glass, it could really be defined as a ‘Paradise’ like Indians proudly advertise it. Unfortunately the so-called ‘Paradise’ is shadowed by quite some environmental issues and this is something which Indian state should really take every effort to cut off any ecologic issues, someone might dispute on this point by affirming that it is easy to say than actual implementing a serious ecologic plan for the environment.
What could the main issue be in making it happen? Lack of funds perhaps?
Well, if that is the case, I could advance a hint: India as a state could introduce the payment of a tax at the arrival on each island, like they do in some islands in Thailand, Malaysia and in Indonesia; in addition to that, the state could instruct the owners of the resorts on how-to gather the wasted plastic and glass materials, perhaps this all might help in creating an awareness campaign among the entrepreneur on the island(s) as well as the visitors in order to be respectful with the surrounding environment. Naturally, that is not the only one issue there are many others, but at least I hope that one day this could be one of the solution to improve the quality of the environment on such an unofficial paradise 🙂
Last but not the least, it is about the time zone GMT+5:30 which is equals like anywhere in India as land, just Andman’s are far in the east, as a result this time zone is a huge imbalance for the sunrise and sunset time, do you imagine that it is already dark at 5:30pm? I personally think that Indian government should grant a different time-zone for Andaman’s.
The list above is based on what I personally managed to visit out of four days, however be aware that the list could become longer since there are more (hidden) spots that could be visited or even found out 🙂
Here below I state four reasons to visit those amazing attractions:
Even it is touristically advertised, if you like to enjoy a night trekking experience then it is 100% worthy, just before booking it with any tour agent be aware that the price of the package should be max. 400.000IDR (about 24€), if more then they are likely raping the pockets of the foreign western tourist. Me and a two German guys managed to get a negotiation for 250k IDR (about 15€). If you want to hear more about the tour agent details feel free to contact me and I will share the details.
The trekking itself takes apx. one hour but it is very intensive since the uphill path is aggressively steep, you will be hiking from about 1600mt of altitude up to about 2400mt, and the highest peak is 2799mt, so before going for the night trekking is recommended to take a nap 😉
Once you reach the top point you will enjoy a gorgeous scenery over the sunrise, so be provided with a camera and proper trekking shoes since you will get to walk quite a long way along the perimeter of the crater! Last thing but not the least keep in mind that you are supposed to wear the gas mask since the smell of sulfide is heavy to be breathed by your naked nose; the mask is provided by the tour agent or at the entrance point if you get there by yourselves.
If you like exploring a savanna which is full of buffaloes and colorful birds; in addition, you have opportunity snorkeling on the coral reef which is 100mt from the beach at the edge of the park then do not miss it! You need to rent a motorbike to get there unless you want to go by a tour agent.
Riding at the Baluran national park
Why Red Island?
This spot is really chilling and ideal for enjoying one of the best sunset when in Java, all you need is patience to get there, it is two hours and half of riding from Banyuwangi.
If you are curious to see monkey taking a bath on the water streams just get there and record some funny movies (I will soon upload one), this park compared to the Baluran one is much bigger, I personally did not manage to get to the very end point because it was getting late and the off-road was muddier and muddier so ride carefully!
Of course there is more and more to talk about East Java, just it is too long to just fit it in a single article, however if you are curious about any detail, I will be glad to provide you with the needed information(s) as long as my knowledges support me 😀
Once again I am here to talk about a South-East Asian society which is the Thai one, just this time it isn’t related to a volunteering action: after three years since last time, I decided to visit a new Thai island which is close to the border line with Malaysia. The island is Koh Lipe which is part of the Tarutato National Park:
The aim was to explore new breathtaking landscapes by hiking and snorkeling dive; for such a challenge I planned to stay on Koh Lipe for just two days and after that I would have kept travelling to Malaysia which is by far less touristy than Thailand is.
My approach to Koh Lipe was nothing like surprising as I previously traveled to other gorgeous Thai islands, however as I arrived on Koh Lipe, I was keen to start exploring around the walking streets, as first and usual thing I needed to withdraw some Thai-Bath money by catching a cash dispenser, I asked one Thai guy what the way to the “centre” was, then he offered me to give me a ride there by motorbike as a warm welcome, as first I thought that he’d have expected a tip from me, in fact he didn’t but still I found nice to provide him with a 50-฿ tip.
As a second thing, I needed to find an accommodation with modest claims since I don’t like to have everything super-planned: in the worst case scenario I’d have slept one night on the sand by sleeping bag which wouldn’t have been the end of the world 😉 However I succeeded in finding one, that took me less than an hour 🙂 It was SHANTI hostel with air-conditioned for 400฿ per night which was reasonable.
Reception of the Hostel
Walking street of Koh Lipe
The walking streets on Koh Lipe are full of restaurants, cafe, shops and some diving schools like in any other well-developed Thai island with the only difference that this island is much smaller and quiet if compared it to Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi.
In addition to that, if you walk further to the sunrise beach you you’ll discover an area which is populated by local Thai nomads, these people typically live in rustily-furnished shelters and conducts a simple and cheerful life-style, obviously as a curios photographer I didn’t renounce in stumbling into their village, I know they wouldn’t have ripped me off by any means 😀 but instead they appeared to be pleased by my photo-visit, moreover they started to play some random folklore music which made everyone in a cheerful mood as shown in the short movie below:
As I kept walking through their village I noticed they were even provided with a small bazar for food and beverages which was owned by themselves, and not far from their village there were the shelter of most of Thai and non-Thai residents of the island, not only do the gypsies live in such a simple conditions but also all the rest of residents do, including the Italian owner of SHANTI hostel, since the island life doesn’t involve them to live with any formal clothes.
Further to that, on Koh Lipe unlike other Thai islands, only residents are provided with motorbikes, I mean that nobody rents motorbike to the visitors since the roads are narrow and with no asfalt which makes pretty much sense because it is part of the Tarutato National Marine park; basically they want to protect the natural park from the any source of pollution.
To sum it up, although I expected Koh Lipe to be busy like Koh Phi Phi is, in fact it wasn’t like that, at least on November, besides that, here there no disco-clubs attracting bunches of youngsters who are willing to get drunk and that’s all 😀 Here the environment is chilling and relaxing which conveys the right harmony in the evening, then especially when you you want to enjoy a tasty sea-food dinner and a chill-out just after that, perhaps with a healthy hot herbal tea with butterfly pea as shown below 😉
One questionable point is: having considered how the Thai gypsies and all the local residents live, are we Europeans really sure that our happiness and fulfillment depends on how many gadgets and belongings we have on our hands?
Or are there any other key-factors which determine our fulfillment and joy of life?
Having said that, I will leave it up to you to figure out what make you feel happy, and base on that we can identify our room for improvement for our life-style.
I wish you all a Happy and Joyful Christmas day! 🙂
Everybody is warmly welcomed to comment and make suggestions on it!
It was a Saturday morning during my stay on Langkawi when I went to one of my favorite place for a Malay-style break fast with a Roti Telur and a black tea, I sat on table in which on the opposite side there was a Swedish guy Adam, I really didn’t think twice to sit down close to him since it could have been potential chance for socializing instead being on my own, even not sure whether he wanted to do so he was the one approaching me first. As we were disclosing some facts with each other, the guy came up with the spontaneous question: “Do you have any plans for today?”
My answer: “Well, I have in mind to visit some waterfalls but it’s just a small plan”
His counter-answer(offer): “would you like to join me for kayaking?”
My answer: “Well, why not, I can postpone my trip to the waterfalls, long time is been spent since last time I kayaked, just I’d need to pack my stuff”
Still, the guy wasn’t pretty sure whether I could have participated, so he phoned the tour organizer (Mangrove tour at Klim Geopark) who confirmed to Adam that there was one more place for me, so I didn’t hesitate to switch my plans and get ready for such a challenge which I didn’t consider it at all and I was provided with the needed basic equipment, moreover it was one more great chance for a new Go-Pro recording session.
The guy who organized the tour picked us up by car and brought us to the starting point for our riveting trip. Once on the place we met with three girls from Singapore which were with us on the kayaking trip, they said they never experienced before, however that wasn’t a problem if I consider I kayaked only one time about four years ago!
We were six of us altogether by including the ranger guy who leaded us for the right path to the eagles bay. As first, we got to kayak through a watered swamp which looked apparently insidious but in fact it was nothing scary then especially when comparing with my last kayaking trip which was made on a river with lot’s of downfalls and spread-ed rocks 🙂 At one point the ranger just warned us about the fact that a part of the swamp is dangerous for swimming because of the 70% of chances to end up swimming with the piranhas :O . However, we didn’t see any and we kept enjoying our paddling job as best as we could!
Here below there’s the video of the first and most impressive part of the Kayaking session:
We had a break half-way to the Eagles bay to let other kayak to pass on their way back, then we continued till our final stop. The surrounding landscape with the cliffs was simply breathtaking and moreover it was impressive to observe the way how the red eagles fluttered around from the top till the bottom, they were seeking for food and not far from us there was a boat which was feeding them so they got attracted, ‘unfortunately’ I did not carry on the waterproof box my professional camera since I was afraid of the water splashes which could have damaged the display so I just tried to take some pics by using my smartphone in addition to the GoPro.
Here below there’s the video at the Eagles bay, it must be watched carefully 😉
After such a great Eagles show, we started kayaking back to the starting point, at one point the ranger adviced us a spot in the swamp for enjoying some swim and dive jump from a horizontal trunk tree as shown on the GoPro shoots below.
Selfie at the swamp
Ready to dive jump
We had enough fun with that, just a pity that the seabed was not clear, but it’s okay we couldn’t have everything perfect!
Once we were back to the starting point, we were provided with a lunch package including some refreshments as well, unfortunately here I don’t have any picture to show you because my (old) smartphone get ripped off by a monkey on waterfall trip next day, I will save your energy from understanding what exactly happened but instead I’ll talk about that on my next article 😉
Still the trip itself was not completely over, just kayaking session was over! As we were done with the lunch, we were brought by boat to visit some caves nearby. At the arrival we were greeted by a cute monkey going around and probably seeking for food as usual here! The landscape surrounding the caves is mostly swampy with plenty of bushes, however the caves themselves were not so impressive overall, if you consider that in my home-country Italy there are much bigger caves than this one, anyway it still deserves to be shown with few amazing pictures:
In conclusion, although I prefer more individual tours, the guided tour at kayaking at Klim Geopark turned out a unique experience which must be enjoyed since Langkawi itself is more about exploration in the wild nature than swimming and diving, besides that, the Mangrove tour guy himself knows how to arrange the tour by showing a great sense-of-humor which is very important to convey to people who want to enjoy kayaking on a wild great surrounding nature. Even the price of 220MYR (almost 50€) may seem high, it is worth every single ringgit, if we consider we were provided with a nice refreshing small lunch after kayaking and then they brought us to visit the caves, such a trip nicely suits for a Saturday trip on Langkawi. Definitely recommended!