Simply Courageous

UK // Faith // Lifestyle // Travel

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Travelling SE Asia // A Little Life Update!

Travelling SE Asia // A Little Life Update

Hey, how's it going?!

As it's taking way longer than it should for me to keep you guys updated on our travels, I thought I'd interrupt standard proceedings with a little rambling life update, as the title suggests, of where we are, how we're feeling and so on!

David and I are currently in Luang Prabang, Laos and (if you follow along on Instagram you'll already know!) today we visited the Kuang Si Waterfalls which were absolutely stunning! The water was the most amazing shade of turquoise blue, and each tier of the waterfall had quiet, bubbling pools flowing from one down into the next. It was such a beautiful place, and we loved it so much that we made the executive decision to stay in Luang Prabang for one more night, just so that we could go back to the waterfall tomorrow! #noregrets! We got picked up this morning at 11:30, arrived at the waterfall around 12:30 and had to be back at the bus for 15:30, but we felt like 3 hours there was nowhere near enough time. We could have easily spent the entire day exploring the waterfall and the surrounding jungle, even trekking to the very top of the waterfall! So we're gearing up for Round 2 tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited to get back to those bright blue pools!

We've been in Laos for about 1 week now and it's such a weird feeling knowing that this is our last new country of this trip. We're going back to Thailand around the 23rd May to spend the last 2/3 weeks on some beautiful islands, but because we've already been in Thailand for a whole month at the beginning of our travels it doesn't feel like a new country anymore! Which is pretty silly in itself, as we haven't seen any part of the South of Thailand or any of the islands, and I've heard that it is completely different to the mainland. If you have any recommendations for beaches or islands or hostels, let me know in the comments!!

I am so excited to get back to some island living though. I can't wait to be a stones throw away from the ocean again and for our days to revolve around chasing the sun and taking shelter in the shade when it gets too hot for our pasty white Irish skin! And before you ask, yes we are tanned, David a smidge more than me, but for us that just means that we are slightly less white than before we left glowing bronzed bodies here, sadly! But we live in the hope that 2/3 weeks on the Thai islands right before we head home will leave us suitably golden, and actually y'know looking like we've been in a tropical climate for 3 months!

But, even though I'm looking forward to some beach life, it kinda sucks because it feels like we're coming to the end of our trip. Which we are, I guess, but that doesn't mean that I want it to come any quicker! Yesterday we booked flights from Bangkok to Krabi (for £15 each, winner!) and it suddenly hit us both that once we get to Krabi we'll have about 2 weeks left before we head home! I can't wrap my head around the fact that our 3 month adventure is almost over. On one hand it feels like we've been travelling for absolutely ages, and on the other the last 2 months have completely flown by! Now that we have less than a month left, I wish we could rewind back to 1st March again, and start all over.

Although...part of me is actually super excited to go home, because five days after we land I'm going to Ibiza with 24-7 Prayer for two weeks, which will be beyond incredible! I'm so excited to get out there, to see what God will do and how He will use our team! I'm also looking forward to catching up with my friends and family, hearing about what's been happening in their lives over the last 3 months, and sharing all our photos and stories with them! And also getting some love from Honey, my wee Mini Schnauzer, I swear I miss her more than anyone else!

But apart from that, I'll be heading home to a serious job search, a Northern Irish summer (which lasts about 2 days, tops) and to being completely skint from the last 3 months. Not exactly things to fill me with excitement and joy about going home! So I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about coming to the end of our backpacking adventure!

It has been a phenomenal experience so far, we have seen and done so many amazing things and I'm really excited to see what our final month has in store for us!

P.S. I created a good old fashioned Facebook Page for my blog, and it would mean the world to me if you took a wee look and gave it a like! You can find it right over here!


Monday, 9 May 2016

Travelling SE Asia // Sleeper Train To Chiang Mai

Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

The next leg of our journey to the north of Thailand was made via sleeper train. Most people seem to get the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but luckily for us it also makes some stops along the way, so we were able to catch the 12 hour train from Lopburi!

We tried to buy tickets from Lopburi train station the day before we wanted to leave, but were told that there wasn't any tickets available and to come back the next day when there might be last minute tickets. We didn't really understand why there would be "last minute" tickets available only a couple of hours before departure when they were apparently all sold out the day before but I guess that's Thailand for you!

After being slightly worried and concerned that we wouldn't be able to get tickets for the train on the day, David and I made our way to the station about two hours earlier than the man behind the desk had told us...okay, maybe I was more than slightly worried! We'd already stayed in Lopburi for two nights and exhausted the little town of things to do, so I really didn't want to be stuck for another night!

Luckily, we hit the jackpot and managed to get a 1st Class sleeper cabin for 8pm that evening! As soon as we purchased the tickets, I felt so relieved! Like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders,  it was great! And to make things better, we were able to get a private cabin!

So there a three different "classes" on the Thai sleeper trains.

3rd Class is the cheapest. It's seated only, no beds and with no air con. Honestly, I couldn't imagine much worse than having to sit on a stifling hot overnight train with no air con for 12+ hours!

2nd Class is an open train carriage, equipped with air con, where all of the seats fold out (or up!) into bunk beds. I think each bunk has a curtain that you can pull across for some privacy while you sleep, but apart from that you're sharing with everyone else in the carriage! For backpackers this seems to be the most popular ticket, you can hang out with your travel buddies or chat to some locals before everyone settles down for the night.

1st Class carriages contain private cabins, with a bunk bed for two people, air con, an electricity socket and a sink! They are the most expensive cabins, but don't be fooled! There is no such thing as 1st class luxury here, you're paying the extra money for your privacy and security! After hearing some horror stories of people having their belongings stolen while they were sleeping in the other carriages, I really didn't feel comfortable sleeping in an open carriage. This was why we decided to pay the extra for a private cabin, so that we could have that peace of mind that our belongings were safely locked inside with us.

The cabins are tiny, when I first walked in I had my backpack on my back, and I legit couldn't turn around because the bunk beds were already made up! I was stuck until David backed out and I had enough room to manoeuvre the backpack off! There must be about 1 Foot of space between the edge of the beds and the opposite wall, so maybe they aren't the best idea if you get claustrophobic. Excuse the absolutely terrible quality of the photo below, but just to give you an idea of the cabin size!

Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

David and I were happy enough in our little cabin though. We'd loaded up on drinks and snacks for the long journey, after hearing that the train food leaves alot to be desired. We didn't order any food, so we can't comment on it ourselves, but we decided not to risk it and just bring our own food!

It took us a while to get settled and comfortable in our cabin, as we tried to come to grips with the novelty of it all! There was an almost-awkward occurance as I very nearly open a partition door that connected to the cabin next to ours! Luckily I realised just before I pushed the door open and surprised the family next door, although I hope that they would have had their side of the door locked! Which I quickly did aswell, incase they didn't realise what the random door on the wall was either...

Once we got over all the excitement and got settled in, we played cards for a few hours and got stuck in to our snacks! During which we were treated to a rendition of Celine Dions "My Heart Will Go On" from the family next door...We still don't know if they were watching Titanic or just singing really loudly!

We had grand plans of watching a movie aswell, already downloaded and waiting on my tablet, but by the time we finished playing cards around 11pm we were both feeling pretty tired. Deciding not to question it, we got ready for bed in the hopes of sleeping through the rest of the journey and arriving in Chiang Mai refreshed and ready for the day ahead!

David was able to sleep just fine! I had no such luck.

Just as we were getting ready to turn the light off, we saw bugs. Stupid creepy crawlies, only 2 of them, but we couldn't get them before they ran away out of reach under my bunk. I was on the bottom bunk and David was on the top, which meant that I was closer to the critters. Obviously this meant that I couldn't get to sleep properly, because all I could think about was them coming up and crawling all over me, my skin was crawling and itching the whole night because of the sheer thought of them! On top of that, the train was rough. There was many a time I thought I was just going to topple straight out of my bed, the train jolted that much!

I  did manage to get a few hours sleep, thankfully, before the train staff came round at 6am shouting, "Morning! Tea, coffee! Morning!" and banging on the cabin doors to get people up. Not long after that they come back round to make the beds back into seats, ready to arrive in Chiang Mai.

It is a hassle free way to travel almost the whole length of mainland Thailand, and as it stands we've done two journeys via sleeper train so far! They aren't the most comfortable of journeys, but it beats being shoved into a minivan for 12 hours and you technically save on one night's accommodation, so sleeper train travel definitely has its perks!

We arrived into Chiang Mai the next morning only to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of taxi, tuk tuk and songthaew drivers all shouting and competing to bring the new arrivals to their destinations. It was mayhem, and not something that we were expecting or appreciative of that early in the morning!

But I guess that's a story for next time!

Have you ever travelled by sleeper train? What's your favourite way to travel?


Friday, 22 April 2016

Travelling SE Asia // Lopburi and The Monkey Temple!

After spending 2 amazing days exploring Ayutthaya, we decided to get the train to our next destination, Lopburi. I'm pretty sure this is another town that people usually visit on a day trip, but again David and I decided to stay for a couple of nights! We didn't want to feel like we were rushing through these towns on our way to the north of Thailand, and even though there isn't much to Lopburi, we really enjoyed our stay here!

The train lasted about an hour and a half, and the tickets cost 680 Baht, which is roughly about £14. We were so confused when the train attendant starting handing us free juice and a packet of cookies each, but as it turned out we had somehow managed to buy 1st Class tickets without even realising! The cookies were so good though, and massively appreciated after an early morning with no breakfast!

Lopburi is a small, quiet little town, with its main attraction being the hundreds of wild monkeys that roam both temple grounds and surrounding streets alike! There really isn't much to see in this town apart from the monkeys, but we had pre-booked two nights in our accommodation, Noom Guesthouse, so we used the time to relax and plan our next few days of travels. 

Noom was a great little place to stay, we really loved it! We booked into a fan room, which turned out to be a mistake as the weather was so hot it got incredibly stuffy! Luckily they had a really great restaurant downstairs, where we spent most of our time, either reading, playing cards or planning our next few days! It was a busy little restaurant, but the staff were all amazingly friendly and there were 3 chihuahuas running about who were completely adorable. The food was great too! It had the best sweet & sour chicken I've ever eaten, and David discovered his love for masaman curry with roti bread!
Check out the joy on David's face...
Like I said before, there really isn't alot to do in Lopburi. Once we'd got ourselves checked into Noom and had some lunch, we decided to go for a walk and see where our feet would take us. 

Our first stop was to a temple ruin we had noticed that morning, just opposite the train station. It cost 50 Baht each to get in, and the ruins were amazing but it was just so hot I could barely appreciate them! 

Against our better judgement, apparently a running theme of our travels, we were out walking during the hottest part of the day and instead of taking in the beauty of the ruins all I was interested in was, is there any shade in this part?! 

Aside from melting in the midday heat, these ruins were beautiful. And they were so empty! Apart from the two of us there were a couple of school kids taking shelter in some shade, and that was it. I have to admit, it was great having the whole place pretty much to ourselves!

Next up we decided it was time to find some monkeys! We had seen a couple playing about on the rooftops near our guesthouse, which was a little surreal, but nothing could have prepared us for these monkeys! 

There are hundreds of them, and once you reach a certain part of town they are literally everywhere! They run across the road, climb lampposts and wires, dangle from balconies, jump on top of cars sitting in traffic and rifle through the back of a pick up truck looking for something to steal...It is so surreal!

They mainly live in the grounds of a ruin, Prang Sam Yot, which is bordered by a fence in the photo above, but they spill out all over the surrounding streets aswell. We couldn't belive just how many there were! Or how normal it is for the local residents, they treat them the way we would treat cats or dogs, for these people the monkeys are a normal part of their lives! But for us, seeing this amount of wild monkeys roaming the streets is just so bizarre!

Entrance to the temple costs 50 Baht per person, which is pretty standard, but I'm not sure it's worth it this time! This ruin is very small, and unless you're brave enough to get up close and personal with the monkeys, you can't really get close to the temple! The main draw here is 100% the monkeys though, and it is cool to be able to walk so close to them. 

What's not so cool, is when two of the monkeys decide that you're a target, even though you've been trying to keep a safe distance from them and not look like you'd make a good climbing frame. I saw the first one coming for me and tried to run away without really running away, if you know what I mean? It jumped on me anyway, launched itself onto my legs and was quickly on top of my head!

Thankfully, we'd read about the monkeys before we went looking for them, so my hair was tied up, supposedly out of reach, and we weren't carrying anything apart from our bags. My ponytail didn't stop this monkey from trying to steal either my hair or the bobble, I'm not sure which but he was pulling at something! I put my hand behind my head to try and hold onto my hair and he bit my finger! It wasn't hard or sore, and it didn't draw blood or even scratch me, but it shocked me a bit! Then I felt his sneaky little hands close around one of my glasses legs and he almost got them off my face. Luckily I grabbed onto them in time! 

We'd also read that you can get the monkeys off you by spinning quickly round in a circle, so here I was spinning round looking like I'm playing dizzy dinosaurs, the monkey was just like nope! and he didn't get off me until a second monkey jumped on my back! Thankfully this little guy wasn't a big fan of my spinning and he quickly jumped off, leaving me with a disheveled ponytail, a bitten finger and my glasses in my hands! David just kinda stood there, understandably not really knowing what to do to help me, and we didn't even get a photo of them on me! It was an interesting experience, to say the least. 

On our last full day in Lopburi we decided to visit the Somdet Phra Narai National Museum.  Our ticket out of Lopburi was a sleeper train to Chiang Mai which didn't leave until 20:45pm,  so we had a whole extra day in Lopburi than we'd planned. 

The day before had been spent mostly at Noom GH, with the odd walk scattered throughout the day, so we decided that we actually wanted to do something that felt productive on our last day!

We'd noticed this museum on our walk the day before, and decided to head back to see if it was open. Thankfully it was open and we took some well needed respite from the sun that was beating down on us! The museum was really quiet, there was hardly anyone else in it with us which was great! It was also really cool inside, it felt like we'd found a really peaceful oasis with great air con! It was full of different displays and galleries, of statues and tapestries from many different eras of Thailand history. It was really interesting to walk around and read some of the background and meanings of the many relics that the museum held. 

The museum tickets cost 150 Baht each, and I would really recommend it if you're ever in Lopburi! Even if you're not really that into museums,  it's nice to walk around somewhere cool and quiet for a while! 

The grounds around the museum are also completely worth a visit. They are really pretty, and lovely to just walk around in the calm before going back to the chaotic traffic outside!

After the museum we spent the rest of the day at Noom GH, charging everything that required charging before our first experience of the 12 hour sleeper train to Chiang Mai!

Until next time!

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