Safari Time!: St. Lucia and Hluhluwe

That’s right, we got to go on game drives. And they were awesome! Although we were excited about the prospect of seeing animals we had only seen in movies, we were a little skeptical about the idea of simply driving around for much of the day. In the end it was excellent.

Hendrik and Caitlyn lent us their car and we made the journey north – on the wrong side of the road – without any complications. When we checked into our hotel in St. Lucia proper we were quickly warned that we needed to be careful wandering around town at night as the hippos come out of the nearby estuary to feed and are extremely dangerous. In the event that there was one in the hotel driveway we were to either go back to our room and wait or relax in the cafe across the road until it left. Apparently they kill about 3,000 people every year and get especially upset if a person gets between them and the water.

With that charming little warning in mind we got settled in and explored the immediate area before being picked up for our first game drive. The guide arrived in a safari vehicle meant for nine people, but we were the only ones who had signed up for that day so we got a private tour. It was a sunset tour up the eastern side of the St. Lucia estuary and turned out to be a fantastic introduction to game drives. We did a bunch of game-spotting and saw a lot of cool animals before the sun really settled down.

We stopped for sunset snacks and drinks before continuing on a night drive. This part of the drive was especially cool. After sundowners, the guide handed Blake a spotlight while he held a second one and headed further into the park. We spotted a few sets of eyes along the way, mostly bushbabies, but then there was a leopard on the road! The best part was that it never did run: just continued slowly along and allowed us to have a great look and get a few mediocre photos in the mix. Having crowned the night off with that sighting, we headed back down the road to look for chameleons, one of which our guide brought back to the truck for us to hold. They are pretty entertaining. Super lethargic and always looking to get to the highest point they can reach. Our final sighting was right back in town when we ran into some hippos wandering through the streets. Heed those warnings!

The following morning we were up and out to meet a different truck for a 5 AM start before driving an hour out to Hluhluwe (pronounced shushlooee) for our all day drive. There were two other people on this drive with us and we had some great sightings. For us, some of the most interesting were the giraffes and elephants, but we also saw wild dogs, which are apparently really rare and quite pretty. This tour included  a simple breakfast along with a great lunch braai with sausages and steaks grilled up by our guide.

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Our final event was a two hour boat cruise on the estuary looking for hippos and crocs. This took place our last morning in the area before our drive back to Durban and was pretty cool. For those who are interested, hippos are really ugly. We originally assumed that rhinos would be ugly and hippos would be comparatively cute. Quite the opposite. We found several different pods and even got to listen to them making a series of calls. We did see a few crocs as well, but they were a lot smaller than expected. Apparently they get bigger up river.

Once we got off the boat we had just enough time to grab a coffee and then head for Durban. We had decided to stop at one of the various farm stalls on the way out for a late lunch and we would highly recommend it. The food, at least at the one we stopped at, was decent and some of the homemade products are amazing!

A Few Thoughts

St. Lucia is an area that is definitely worth visiting and spending several days in. There are several different parks within striking distance and you can see all of the big five in the area – although we never did spot lions.

Game drives are quite reasonably priced, especially if you are working in a foreign currency. An all day drive was only 800 R. each (about 80 CAD) and included pickup and two meals.

It is possible to go on a self-guided drive staying on the main roads within the parks. However, there are roads/trails that seem to be restricted to vehicles driven by certified guides.

Don’t ever put an arm/camera lens outside of the vehicle if you are close to an animal. That is how people get bitten.

Beaches, Mountains, and Old Friends

Our route to South Africa was a slightly roundabout one involving more time sleeping in the Dubai airport, but eventually we arrived in Durban and were greeted by Hendrik and Caitlyn, last seen over a year previously in Korea! Although it was pretty late and we were exhausted after a long 24 hours of airplanes and airports we spent the remainder of the evening catching up and getting up to speed on what the plans were for our three weeks in South Africa. We had arrived with nothing but some vague notions of what we wanted to get up to and Caitlyn had a fantastic itinerary laid out for us. Our first full day in Durban was pretty chilled as we got our feet under us and got settled in. That evening we had our first braai – a culinary tradition we sincerely hope will be adopted by the rest of the world very soon. It’s closest cousin would be the North American BBQ, but done properly with briquettes or charcoal with various spices and marinades. Also, meat is the centerpiece of the meal and the portions are HUGE. We met a couple of Caitlyn and Hendrik’s friends that evening who had just had a little one and all-in-all it was a cozy evening. One thing you don’t realize until you have it again is that constantly travelling means you are often lacking proximity to a friend group with whom you have a shared history. Re-encountering that for the first time in months was fantastic. A couple of days, a stroll on the promenade, and a few more family dinners in which we were graciously included, and it was beach time.

We headed down to Caitlyn’s parents’ cottage in Southbroom – one of a cluster of smaller settlements strung out along the coast south of Durban. This was our decompress time after running around in Ethiopia as well as a chance to refresh our tans as much of our skin had not seen the sun since Agonda beach over a month previously. Southbroom is a quiet little area that has relatively limited crime and was a great place to relax. The Waffle House provided a great little diversion in the form of super decadent waffle-ice cream combos. There was beach time, fantastic food, and general laziness.

However, always advocates of finding fun activities, Caitlyn and Hendrik had two surprises for us. The first was a fantastic flight along the coast to the south into the Eastern Cape. Hendrik had to spend a night in one of the smaller town in the Eastern Cape for work and we got to go on the flight that went to pick him up. Such amazing scenery!

Second, they had arranged for us to visit the highest zipline in Africa. It’s located within the Eland Lake Game Reserve and so it was coupled with our first opportunity to see a bit of South Africa’s safari wildlife. The zipline itself is made up of 21 platforms and about 18 different ziplines, including one over a lake, through a tunnel, and a 600 metre line suspended 300 meters above a gorge! You get going 80-100 KM/hour on that one!

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From there we had one night in Durban before heading west and slightly south to the Drakensberg, the mountains around Lesotho. Once again we were staying at a cabin, this one a time-share with other families. Because of the proximity to the Drakensberg Gardens resort, we had access to all the facilities of the resort as well as all the fantastic hiking the mountains could offer. We were joined by two other couples as well and had a pretty fantastic long weekend. The Drakensberg is definitely a place we would recommend people visit if they have the chance. There are several different areas where the mountains can be accessed and none of them are all that far from Durban.

A little lawn bowling to start things off well.

A little lawn bowling to start things off well.

While we were there, we did three hikes. First was a little loop from behind the cottage and into the resort. Since we had not done much in the way of exercise for the better part of four months it was nice to stretch our legs on a relatively flat walk. Across the valley we could see the mountains forming the border with Lesotho. Rhino Horn Peak was especially prevalent in the skyline.

Our second day was a trek through The Three Pools. Because it was winter and the dry season, the river was relatively low and the grasslands were pretty dry. However, there was enough water for two pools, upper and lower – and they were freezing! We were the only ones that managed to get in, but man were they cold.

Our final trek was up towards the Rhino Horn – also hikeable but a very long, hard day – to a place called Pillar Cave. It was just us and Hendrik as Caitlyn was a bit tired. On the way up we spotted a group of Eland that were super tame and stayed right by the trail as we went by.

We wrapped up our time with a little mini-golf at the Gardens before heading back to Durban to reset for our next day trip.

Onward to St. Lucia and three days of game drives.

When Nowhere is Safe: Songkran in Bangkok

We know that we are three countries behind here, but in our defence internet in both Myanmar and, surprisingly, India has been a bit slow for photo uploads. Nevertheless, here is the last of Thailand.

We arrived in Bangkok at about 13:00 on the first day of Songkran – the Thai New Year. We knew that this involved a huge water fight, but we were not quite prepared for how all-consuming it would be. The water fight itself happens from after lunch until evening but some areas seem to begin before or end after that. Our hotel was in the Silom area of town, near the BTS station, but we had street food before catching a cab to the hotel area and hunting it down. By the time we had done all of that it was about time to head out looking for dinner.

We had seriously underestimated the intensity of the water fights because the immediate area around our hotel was pretty quiet. When we got up to Silom street we began to realize our mistake and before we had gone three blocks we looked like we had just gone swimming and were in the middle of having facials – random people would wipe some kind of clay/paste on people’s faces as we walked by. The most shocking was when we were hit with ice water, which happened pretty often. There were lots of squirt guns but more common were people who would literally dump buckets of water on passerby. Of course, a lot of restaurants were closed for the holiday so finding a place to eat took longer than expected and it was well after dark and a bit chilly by the time we crashed out.

The morning of our first full day in Bangkok we headed out to do some sightseeing under the mistaken impression that the water fight portion of the holiday was over. This proved true for the morning and we managed to wander through a small part of Chinatown and check out a few very busy temples before being ambushed on a quiet back street by men with buckets.

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We then proceeded to play a game of cat-and-mouse back to the metro station in an effort to keep the cameras dry. Thankfully no water fights were allowed on the trains and the raised BTS stations actually made pretty awesome viewing platforms!

Once we delivered the cameras safely to the hotel we figured if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, threw on clothes to get wet, and headed for the centre of the action around the Silom BTS station. It was utter chaos and we were seriously under-gunned. But, it was a blast! Rather than return through the insane press of people, ice water, and mud we opted to circle through some back streets towards the hotel.

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The problem with Songkran is that there is no clear stop point or safe area so even managing to find a dry place for street food was a running battle. It also meant that, what with constantly getting soaked and everything being closed, we did very little sightseeing in Bangkok. We left Thailand the next day, which was not as simple as arriving. We were catching an Air Asia flight from the secondary Dong Meung Airport and getting there required catching a commuter train from the main station to avoid a pretty hefty taxi fare. They run every 20-60 minutes cost less than a dollar, take about 45 minutes, and drop you right at the airport. For those planning on using this method tickets can only be bought the day of at ticket window 12 and our train was delayed over 30 minutes – so don’t cut it to close.

Thailand was a great time for us and even though we did not really see much of it compared to other countries, wwoofing allowed us to see a side of the people and lifestyle that we would have otherwise missed. So after a month soaking up the sun we were on a flight to Mandalay. Next up: Myanmar!

An Island Escape: Koh Tao

After three weeks woofing in southern Thailand we decided it was time to get off the farm and spend the last bit of time we had seeing a few other places in the country. Given how little beach time we had during the first part of our trip, we decided that an island was the way to go and Koh Tao won out for us as the best blend of accessibility, good beaches, and the possibility to get away from the crowds. With that in mind, we caught a bus-night boat combination through Surat Thani to Koh Tao. Because the last few nights on the farm had been largely sleepless ones we were able to fall asleep pretty quickly despite some pretty heavy rollers on the ride across.

Our first night boat experience!

Our first night boat experience!

The night boat washed us up at Mae Head Pier about 6:00 AM Friday morning and the first order of business was to hunt down a place for a bite of breakfast as dinner had been essentially non-existent during transit. We were also killing time until the various travel agencies opened. We wanted to book our ticket to Bangkok as we would be travelling on the first day of Thai New Year and we wanted to rent a scooter rather than paying 100-400B every time we wanted to reach or leave Tanote Bay. We shopped around and found a place (JJ travel) that would give us a good discount on a three day scooter rental if we booked our ticket to Bangkok with them (we had discovered that all the travel agencies offer the same trips for the same prices so that part didn’t really matter). Having spoken to several people who had been forced to pay thousands of Baht for a ‘damaged’ bike, we carefully photographed every smudge and marked it on the rental sheet before heading off to the far side of the island where we had booked a beach bungalow in Tanote Bay – known as a quieter place to really relax.

Our little piece of paradise.

Our little piece of paradise.

The road into Tanote Bay is a little bit tricky with lots sandy patches on the concrete and sections that are basically sand between boulders, but it was not a huge problem as we took it slowly. After a morning lounging on the beach and reading in the hammock we decided to ride back into Mae Head village to avoid the higher prices at the bay (unsurprisingly everything costs a little more on Koh Tao in general). We managed to bag a taco dinner as well as a great sunset before calling it a night.

Sunset at the Mae Head Pier.

Sunset at the Mae Head Pier.

Koh Tao is known as a diving island and is one of the cheapest places to get a scuba certification. While diving was not originally on our radar, the reefs looked too good to pass up so Blake had a refresher course with Calypso diving our second morning on Koh Tao that lasted until lunch.

After Blake finished his refresher course and dive on the local reef, we decided to head to one of the other bays for some snorkeling. After some discussion about the roads and snorkeling potential according to the locally published Koh Tao guide, we settled on Hinwong Bay about halfway up the east coast of the island. Apparently, it has some of the best snorkeling on the island. Sadly, we never got to find out during that particular trip. However, in our search for the road up the eastern side of the island we did find this cool little lunch spot.

The love Koh Toa Viewpoint overlooking Tanote Bay.

The ‘Love Koh Tao Viewpoint’ overlooking Tanote Bay.

After discovering that the trail up the east side of the island is either the tiny goat path we located or non-existent, we headed into Sairee Beach and took the concrete road across the island. This was fine until the last 150 meters, which is really steep and banged up. After contemplating it from a little hill-side pub with a view we decided to just walk. For those more adventurous than us some people did take scooters down, but a lot of passengers ended up having to hop off partway up.

Our trusty steed ... but not trusty enough to think doubling up that hill was gonna happen.

Our trusty steed … but not trusty enough to think doubling up that hill was gonna happen.

We rented snorkeling gear at Hinwong Bungalows and stored our bag behind their counter before heading over to the only stretch of sand on the whole bay… and promptly being informed that it is a private beach owned by Mol’s Beach Bar and we would have to buy something to use it. Our cash was back at Hinwong Bungalows as a deposit and we are not big fans of having to pay for beaches anyway so we opted to go off the rocks. Which was great until Tamara slipped on some algae, skated down the rock we were sitting on and smacked into another one – both were covered in barnacles so she got a little cut up. By the time we stopped the bleeding we figured that snorkeling was probably not in the cards for the day.

Hin Wong Bay

Hin Wong Bay – on the left side is Tamara’s spiky slip and slide. 

Instead we headed north up the west coast to the very end of the road across from Nangyuan island – really two islands linked by a narrow spit of sand and allegedly one of the most beautiful islands in the world. We have to admit that it was pretty nice. There is a public viewing terrace available free of charge, but you have to walk through a resort to get there. We arrived well before sunset – but just in time for happy hour at the waterfront restaurant! Nothing like cocktails and pizza to compliment a sunset.

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After the fun had by Blake on his refresher course, and the… setback? suffered while trying to snorkel, we had booked a spot on Calypso’s morning fun dives for Blake to dive and Tamara to snorkel. Our morning saw us boarding an 8 AM boat and heading for Shark Island (no sharks were sighted by anyone in our group) and then back to Hinwong Bay. We did see a whole ton of fish, including some of those schools that are so dense they look like a moving blob, a turtle, some odd looking squid, and a few stingrays. During the Hinwong dive, Blake even got to enter three underwater caves which was pretty cool.

During the afternoon, before we caught the night boat to Chumphon and a minibus on to Bangkok, we headed over to Freedom Beach. We had considered staying here, but it was a bit out of our price range. The beach is nice, but really shallow. There were people over 100 meters out who were only up to their waists. Either way, it was nice to relax on the sandy bottom. Tanote was quiet, uncrowded and had great snorkeling and even some rock jumping, but swimming was trickier due to the rocks and coral in the cove.

After dinner we had Thai massages (in the end we don’t think they were all that great or ‘authentic’) before hitting a cafe and eventually boarding our night ferry. Next stop, Bangkok!


Koh Tao is a really popular destination so getting there is not that hard. Boats leave primarily from Surat Thani in the south or Chumphon a bit further north. From many places it is possible to get a bus-boat combination ticket. If you choose this route, be sure to get tickets or receipts for both. From Krabi Town, our combo ticket was 650B. From Koh Tao to Bangkok our boat-minibus ticket was 1,000B.

On Koh Tao things are more expensive. Be aware of this when planning a budget.

Getting around Koh Tao can be a little tricky. While the roads up the west coast and over to Freedom Beach are in good shape, many of the other roads become tricky to navigate only partway across. Some roads marked on the maps are basically goat trails. There are plenty of sites that warn that Koh Tao is not the place to learn how to ride a scooter/motorbike. We would agree with that. However, the prices to get places on the east coast by the taxis etc. can be pretty high so without your own transport, be prepared to either stay fairly local, walk a lot (the island is not that huge) or shell out for transport around the island.

For those who do rent a bike, there is often sand and gravel on the roads and some switchbacks are banked the wrong way as well as having sand. From the rental companies’ perspective, you break it – you pay for seven of it so be careful. Also, be sure to carefully photograph and note any damage on the rental contract before signing it. We saw cops pulling people over every day we were there. Not sure why, but maybe no helmets?

As a general rule, the east coast is quiet and relaxing and the west coast is a bit more party-oriented. Having said that, it’s not as if they are that far apart and if you stay at Tanote you can be in town in about ten minutes.

Tanote was a great place to stay, and our bungalow at Diamond Resort was decent, although not exceptional, for the price.

Koh Tao is known for cheap diving and there are a plethora of dive shops to choose from. We were really happy with Calypso on Tanote Bay, but there were others advertising slightly cheaper fun dives. For us, the smaller group was worth a little extra. The reefs were all pretty good as well, and there is definitely a variety of sea life to observe. Shark Island is known for Whale Sharks, although they apparently don’t care for the bubbles that divers make.

Wwoofing at the Numthang Farm

We recently completed our first wwoofing experience working on a small organic farm in southern Thailand for three weeks. Although there were certainly highs and lows, it was an overall good experience. We had the opportunity of settling into a community, getting to know the area and a few of the local people, sampling some awesome Thai home cooking, working outside, and living outside the tourist areas for a while. The free accommodation didn’t hurt either.

One of the interesting things for us is how much can be produced on a relatively small farm when you have a hot climate with a year-round growing season. This farm grows everything from bananas to kale, from pineapples to papaya. There is even a pond stocked with fish where several of our dinners were caught.

So here is a quick look at some of the things that we did, saw, and learned as well as a few photos from around the farm.

Ants are everywhere in the tropics. Really, you can’t avoid them. The good news is that 99% of the time the bites don’t leave any major marks and you do get used to them after a while. Following rainstorms they are especially bad because the water forces them out of the ground. The act of walking the 20 meters from the canteena to the volunteer house after the rain resulted in ants up to the knee and some very comic dance routines as a result!

We arrived at the end of dry season so watering was something that we did every day, usually morning and evening.

As with most places in the tropics there are all kinds of different resident lizards, but one of our favourites were the chameleons. They are just so neat to watch.

There were a couple different instances where we got to work with adobe. This stuff basically turns you into a clay person after any kind of extended contact.

We converted a door into a window. Those are the adobe bricks that were salvaged for later use.

We converted a door into a window. Those are the adobe bricks that were salvaged for later use.

Blake tried his hand at cutting palm fruit – which is used to make palm oil and is purchased per kilogram – which is actually a really difficult process. Also not as safe as you would think as both the leaves and the fruit have some nasty spikes.

We built two small thatch roof extensions onto the canteena area. As part of this process we learned that farmer frugality appears to be a global trait as we were always short on materials. We did not actually get to weave the thatch. The panels were already complete when we got there, but we attached it to the bamboo and timber frame. Incidentally, the canteena and the volunteer house were basically the center of our world while we were not working.

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We got to go swimming in the pond and were often joined by the two little ones. Because it was dry season and the water was low, the fish were especially concentrated and would often brush against us while we were swimming.

With all those fish, the natural thing to do is to try to catch them for supper…  by setting up a net and herding them into it?

Tamara also got to go to the beach and did a clam/crab chase on one of the days off.

There were also chickens and ducks for eggs and the occasional addition of meat to the meals. They were always determined to escape and we spent a lot of time recapturing them.

The one that nearly got away.

The one that nearly got away.

No matter where it came from we always ate well.

Every meal had multiple dishes.

Every meal had multiple dishes.

After so long in Korea it was great to be able to see the night sky again. The silhouettes area little different from what we are used to, but night is a beautiful time at the farm. The photos will probably require full screen viewing to be really visible.

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We even did some actual gardening/farming while we were there.

We did get a little it banged up while we were there – usually due to our own clumsiness such as tripping over bridges.

Apparently walking is difficult first thing in the morning...

Apparently walking is difficult first thing in the morning…

As a final goodbye we had a beer pong tournament on our last night there. Always an entertaining time!

So we certainly didn’t have a lot of time to be bored and overall it was a good experience. We can also freely admit that the experience resulted in a bit more admiration for our parents’ tolerance of children underfoot while they were trying to build things. We also learned not to take the little things (like not having to battle ants for possession of the dish sponge) for granted. Based on this experience, we would certainly say that wwoofing is something people, who don’t mind a little work with their holiday, should try.

A Hard Day’s Work: Khlong Thom Hotsprings

On our last full day of work on the farm, the owners organised a field trip for the entire family and all the wwoofers. We worked the morning, had a quick bit of lunch and then we all piled into the back of the pickup for the hour long drive to Khlong Thom Hotsprings, near Emerald Pool.

There was a minor setback with some engine trouble on the road, but it was quickly resolved and we spent several hours lounging in the natural pools of hot water and splashing around in the nearby stream to cool down.

There have certainly been worse ways to spend the last day of work!

Stairs and Waterfalls: The Tiger Cave Temple and Khao Phanom Bencha National Park

When our final free day in Krabi rolled around we found that we had a rather long list of things that we still wanted to do. Sadly, we were not able to get to everything so we had to settle for choosing two that dovetailed together well: The Tiger Cave Temple and Huai To Waterfall.

Tiger Cave Temple is actually a relatively recently constructed temple. The main temple complex is at the base of a smallish karsk mountain and up on the top is a smaller shrine and a pretty good sized Buddha statue. This is reached through something between 1240 and 1275 stairs depending on which sign you choose to believe. The temple complex at the bottom is still under construction, so the main point of the visit is to climb the stairs for the views. The national park is at the end of the country road that the farm is on and we had been hoping to visit it since we arrived. The main attraction there is waterfalls and pools that you can swim in.

We borrowed an antique motorbike from the farm and set off a little before 9:00 on the 15 km drive to the temple in an effort to beat the worst of the heat. We partially succeeded and would say that anyone who wants to attempt the climb should try to get there in the morning. That climb would be really nasty in the heat of mid-day.

On of the statues at the mouth of the Tiger Cave at the bottom of the steps. You can't go in more than a few meters.

On of the statues at the mouth of the Tiger Cave at the bottom of the steps. You can’t go in more than a few metres.

Rather than dawdle about the bottom, we headed straight up and made it to the top in a little under 30 minutes with lots of breaks for photos and water. Some of the other wwoofers have done it in under 15, but that seems a little extreme to us. Once on top we were rewarded with some pretty great views.

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On the way back down we also stopped to watch a few members of the local monkey population lounging on the steps. These are super tame (you can buy monkey food at the bottom) but like any animals that are too used to humans they can become demanding and a little dangerous. Also, be aware that there are also signs asking you not to feed the monkeys on the stairs. Tamara had a couple of the babies insisting on holding onto her brightly patterned dress.

After a brief stop at the farm and a nearby restaurant for lunch, a larger group of us headed out to the park for a swim in Huai To Waterfall. This is an 11 tiered waterfall with swimable pools at the base of most of the tiers. The higher you go, the more privacy you can expect and having two long term residents with us, we went way up to the top pools.

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It was pretty cool to be surrounded by jungle and sitting in these crystal clear pools listening to the water falling. Felt a bit like we were in the vacation posters from back home!

Gotta love those swimming holes!

Gotta love those swimming holes!

Sunburns and Swimming Holes: A Quick Trip to Emerald Pool

Our days off are few enough that we usually try to undertake some sort of excursion for at least part of the day when we have one. A recent trip was to rent a scooter and head to Khao Pra-Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary to have a look at a series of pools – the most famous being the Emerald Pool. The pools are what are really well known but the whole park is pretty nice and apparently home to some rare birds.

This is a small pool/cascade near the park entrance. Some people were swimming here.

This is a small pool/cascade near the park entrance. Some people were swimming here.

After a ride of a little more than an hour we managed to pull into the parking lot surprisingly sunburnt. Apparently, the reflection from the asphalt really intensified the sun. For those looking to find the park, it is really well signed once you get on the highway. Follow the signs for Crystal Pool/ Emerald Pool/ Sa Morakot. They all lead to the same place. Once we arrived and got parked (10B to park a bike) we grabbed a mango shake and headed for the gate. Oops – you are not allowed food in the park. We had to gulp it down before paying the 200 B/person admission fee and heading to the pools. It’s an easy 800 metre walk to Emerald Pool from the gate. We were part of a steady flow of people heading that way and we were far from the only people there. Having said that, it was actually not that crowded for a popular swim spot in Asia. The water is really clear and quite warm.

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After splashing around in the Emerald Pool for a bit we thought we would head a little further upstream and check out the Blue Pool. You can’t swim there but it is really beautiful.

We took a slightly different route out of the park and past the Crystal Pond and we have to say, it was the least crystal-like body of water we saw in the park. There were a few other decent views on the walk out though.

Knowing the way meant that our trip back to Krabi was slightly faster than on the way out, but were still over an hour on the road. Thankfully, we got back before the first major rain shower of the season dumped a ton of water on the town. We were comfortably ensconced in an internet cafe uploading photos when it hit. We did have to play a game of awning hopping on the way to the market, but it sure beat being caught in the deluge on the bike! Khao Pra-Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary is certainly worth the trip if you have the better part of a day to devote to it. Any less time than we had would mean more travel time than actually getting to see the place. There are also nearby hot springs that we did not visit, but they would make a good pairing as you pass them on the way to the park.

From City to Farm: Our Arrival at the Numthang Farm

Our first few hours in Thailand were a little rushed. We were very unsure about the transport situation in Thailand and we had a deadline to be in Krabi Town (in the southern part) in under 48 hours after we landed, so we opted to head straight south from Bangkok upon arrival. When we first hit immigration the line was completely out of the roped off area, but actually moved really quickly and since we did not need to worry about obtaining a visa (Canadians are visa free in Thailand for 30 days) we were through in under 45 minutes. There is a light rail line into downtown Bangkok that connects to the metro and so we were at the main train station in just over an hour after clearing customs. The entire process was really quick and easy. Second class sleepers on the overnight train were sold out so we opted for the first class which was the only remaining option other than hard seats. It is impossible to catch a train from Bangkok to Krabi Town. You have to go to Surat Thani and then catch a bus from there to Krabi. At the station ticket counter they sold us two joint train-bus tickets first class for under 3,000 baht. So 7:30 found us sitting in our first class compartment as the train rolled out of the station.

After several hours of delays, a trip to the really smoky dining car (in the daylight this might be pretty neat as the windows are fully open) and a restless sleep from being nearly tossed from our bunks every time the train stopped, we arrived in Surat Thani about 9:30 – two hours late. This was followed by an almost five hour dance around Surat Thani, two bus changes and the better part of 45 minutes sitting on the bus outside a restaurant before our ‘express’ bus wheezed it’s way into Krabi Town. The locals disembarked at a station that was just on the outskirts of town, but when we tried to get off we were told ‘no, no!’ and motioned back to our seats, then driven further out of the city and deposited at a bus stop 6 KM from the center where a covered truck with bench seats was waiting to take people into town for 50 baht each. We walked on principle.

At the Krabi Town pier - a little sweaty after 6 KM in the heat.

At the Krabi Town pier a little sweaty after 6 KM in the heat.

Because we had no SIM cards for our phones, it was a little tricky getting in touch with our wwoofing contact, but eventually Tamara borrowed a phone and we got picked up around 7:00 in the evening. The farm is called the Numthang farm, named after the oldest daughter, and is owned by a family of four: the husband, Tee, his wife, Toon, and their two daughters, Numthang and Thangnum. There is also a German fellow, Dave, and his brother, Casper, who are building a small house in the back section of the property. We had arrived at a bit of an awkward time as the next day was a day off for the farm, but they welcomed us and showed us to the volunteer house where the wwooofers all stay.

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As it turned out, the fact that the next day was an “off” day was good for us as we had a few things we needed to get in Krabi Town. There was another wwoofer already at the farm and she showed us some of the basics, like banana omelette for breakfast as a quick and cheap option. We picked up SIM cards (which we suggest anyone wwoofing or staying in country for an extended period invest in as they are so cheap and make things much easier), and then lounged around town until it was time to meet Tee to head home. Krabi Town is a pretty small place without a lot going on, but there are a couple good day and night markets where we did our shopping and got some dinner.

Our first three days of actual work on the farm were pretty interesting. We did everything from watering gardens (a twice daily task in the dry season) to building railings for bamboo platforms. A few things we learned:

There are over 150 kinds of banana and they all taste different. Basically, we have really been missing out on the banana train back home.

Also, banana trees are from the grass family. The trunk is just layers of leaves and they will only give fruit once before dying.

Thai workdays tend to have a break in the middle, during the hottest part of the day.

Most mangos are green when they are ripe. Colour actually has very little to do with it.

Organic farming in the tropics generally requires covering the ground around the plant with dead grass or leaves to help keep the soil moist.

Bamboo, while strong in some ways, splits really easily when you are working with it. It also doles out a lot of nasty little splinters.

Cutting palm fruit is more hazardous than it looks, not only because the fruit is heavy, but because the palm fronds have big spikes on them.

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So after three days of wwoofing we can say that it’s going pretty well so far.

A view upriver from the Krabi pier on our last day off.

A view upriver from the Krabi pier on our last day off.


We caught a Phuong Trang bus from Chau Doc to HCM and then on to DaLat for another 14 hour travel day. The bus company was decent, but only having the option of taking sleepers in the middle of the day was not ideal. Either way, we arrived in DaLat late. Thankfully, our homestay (Cam Ly Homestay) had arranged for motorbikes to pick us up so we were able to get straight to the hotel and get some sleep.

Cam Ly Homestay

Cam Ly Homestay

The reason we came to DaLat was that some people we spoke to had raved about the canyoning. We had a tour booked wtih Groovy Gecko Tours for our first full day and it was awsome! It started with some training on dirt hills and then an 18 metre abseil beside a waterfall.

Tamara finishing off our first cliff

Tamara finishing off our first cliff

From there we hit a few water slides and enjoyed a short float down the river on our way to one of the main attractions.

Probably one of the highlights was abseiling down the middle of a 15 metre waterfall with a four metre drop at the end.

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The follow-up 10 metre free-jump was pretty awesome as well. Finally, we abseiled into a smaller waterfall called the ‘washing machine,’ so called because when you hit the water it pushes you under and tosses you out in the pool lower down.

After a short hike back up the hill, we ate a delicious picnic lunch of fruit and baguettes with fresh fillings. It was an amazing day. If anyone is interested in canyonning in the area we would highly recommend Groovy Geckos. Their groups appear to be smaller than others (ours had nine participants), their instructions are clear and effective, their guides personable, competent, and funny, and their gear seems to be in good condition (also, our group appeared to be the only one given wet suits).

The evening after canyoning, we met up with an Australian paramedic we had met on the tour for some dinner at the market and then some drinks at a few places around town. The market was pretty nuts and made for a bit of a tricky meeting place, but we eventually managed to locate each other.

DaLat market in the evening.

DaLat market in the evening.

After dinner we hit up a couple different cafes. One, the 100 Roofs, was really cool. It is being built by a local architect who famously built the Crazy House. The cafe has all kinds of strange twists and turns, tunnels, weird alcoves, and is just a really interesting place to visit. It’s still under construction and will likely only get cooler.

Because DaLat was a little quieter/cooler than Saigon and we had been on the move pretty constantly for the last week, we decided to spend an extra day before continuing northward. There are several other tours (motorcycles, mountainbiking, etc.) available, but we chose to simply spend the day relaxing around town. We wandered down by the lake and went to check out some ticket options for our onward trip.

A little lakeside wander

A little lakeside wander.

Our final event in DaLat was a birthday party for the youngest son of our homestay family. All the backpacker guests were invited along with a ton of their Vietnamese friends. We had do-it-yourself bbq and a bunch of other Vietnamese dishes. Kids were everywhere.

Top down look at the BBQ

Top down look at the BBQ.

Such a great time and an excellent way to wrap up our stay in DaLat.