After close to a week of hard volunteer work at Eco-Logic Yoga Retreat Center, Pete and I were ready for some R&R! Due to the scheduling of our trip (the dates we were at the center and the Full Moon party in Koh Phangan on 1/23 that I wanted to go to), we only had a few days in between to explore the various islands. My parents are coming soon so we will be with them in Koh Phangan and Koh Samui for longer periods of time. Prior to the trip, we deliberated with either choosing 1 - 2 islands for the 5 day stretch or trying to see a few of them and hopping around. We chose the latter because we weren't able to decide what to nix out, and we really wanted to experience all of the popular islands. A few people told us that we were doing it too fast, and in hindsight, I have to agree.
At the end of the island hopping, we were just as exhausted as when we started, and we didn't get to spend enough time on each island to really experience it. On-line, it appears that getting from island to island is easier than it actually turned out to be. The ferries themselves take 2 hours or so, but by the time you check out of a hotel, get on the taxi (which they schedule an hour earlier than it needs to be), wait at the ferry docks, load and unload all the people, exit and find the hotel/house, check in to the hotel, make plans for the next set of transfers, and make time for food, it was a heavily packed few days with little rest.
But that doesn't mean we didn't have a blast doing it! We agreed to stay present in each moment and enjoy the traveling as part of the experience. I also suggested we look at the traveling as our "work" for the day, clocking in and out and throughly enjoying the time "off" in between. Now that it's over, we are happy we did it and we are relaxing for a couple of days.
Days 7 - 8 Phuket
We left off last post on the bus to Phuket during day 6. After the 6 hour ride to town, we found a veggie place in Phuket which was really not that great (King Liew's). It was recommended to us by a guy we meet at Eco-Logic and we were fairly disappointed, so I really wouldn't recommend going out of your way to get there. I didn't bother taking pictures of the food. Vegan and vegetarian food is like all food - some of it is delicious and some of it misses the mark. This place misses the mark.
We took an open-air taxi to our home for two nights on Bong Tao beach. It was in a modern building with a rooftop deck where we enjoyed our breakfasts. The area itself (Bong Tao beach) is very quiet compared to Patong Bay (or so we heard). We made it to town in time for the sunset (score!) and hit the beach with Changs in hand. For dinner, we weren't able to find any vegan places nearby that were open, so we walked around checking menus and asking service staff if their food is vegan-friendly. We ended up at a bar that has Italian food (and miniature golf?) and found some vegan options on their menu. We felt the urge to carbo-load and eating super healthy farm-fresh food at Eco-Logic for 5 days. Flatbread pizza was on the menu without cheese as well as two different pasta dishes. One had garlic, Thai chilis, and olive oil and the other was your basic marinara spaghetti dish. We came back the next day for dinner and ordered the same thing because it totally hit the spot (also, there was little else around us to eat and we didn't want to continue paying for taxis around the island as they are very expensive in Phuket!).
The next day, we took it pretty easy. We enjoyed breakfast on the roof because there were literally no cafes or restaurants open in the morning. It was actually quite strange - a fellow told Pete that everything opens at noon. He went to the 7-Eleven (which are EVERYWHERE in Thailand) for some soy milk, cereal and bananas. Prior to traveling, I read somewhere that good coffee is hard to find in Thailand and it's true. Mostly, instant coffee is offered so that what we had! We spent plenty of time on the beach, relaxing. It was much needed since the next day we would be traveling again. The beach was really clean and the water was warm and clear. We strolled around town for a little bit.
For lunch, we looked on the Happy Cow app (which helps locate vegan and veg-friendly restaurants around the world) and found a vegan place called Kun Na's Kitchen, which is only open until 3 pm. We took a taxi over there and were very pleased with the food. I would dare to say that it's the best food we've had so far in Thailand. We had my favorites: Tom Kha, Wide Rice Noodles, and Green Curry. The woman who owns the restaurant is so sweet! She used to be a chef for one of the big resorts in town and decided to open her own restaurant last year. We are super glad that she did. She noticed that we took a taxi over and since we were there until she closed, she offered to take us back to our apartment. We figured that she was leaving anyway and agreed, but then we realized that she lives on top of the restaurant and was simply doing us a favor! It was such a nice thing for her to do. We enjoyed conversation with her on the way to the hotel (I wish I spoke Thai!) and she was very funny! We told her that we found the restaurant on Happy Cow and she got very excited, saying, "Happy Cow! If you don't eat the cow, Cow Happy!". I wanted to give her a big kiss. The taxi ride over the her place cost us more money that all of the food and it was only a couple of miles! We were very grateful (and happily satiated). Definitely check out Kun Na's Kitchen if you find yourself in Phuket and tell her that we said hello!
Day 8 - 9 Koh Lanta
The next day, we woke up and got ready to leave Phuket for Koh Lanta. We hopped on the ferry and lo and behold, I ran into a good friend of mine that is traveling around Thailand leading a yoga retreat! Lauren and I met on Instagram in 2014 and quickly became good friends, connecting through texts and FaceTime often. We met in person in Costa Rica November 2014 where we co-led a Chakra workshop together. I've been missing her dearly! I was stalking her trip on-line the night before when I realized their route to Phi Phi islands would likely put them on the same ferry that we were taking to Lanta, so I kept my eyes open for her and her group in line. I spotted them in front of us and we chatted on the ferry for two hours. It warmed my heart! I was very appreciative for the short yet special time we shared together since it had been over a year since I saw her. What a small world it can be!
When we got to Lanta, they made us pay 10 baht for a "clean up tax". I would have no problem with such taxes is the island was actually "clean". When you drive around, you see garbage and plastic filling up the empty lots in between the resorts and hotels, which was very sad. I'll talk more about the trash problem in Thailand in my next post. We didn't let it ruin our time, though, as we ourselves always make conscious choices to reduce usage of plastics and to always dispose of our trash in a responsible way. Always make a conscious traveler! Being away from home is no excuse for being an ass hole.
We arrived in time for sunset again, yay! We stayed and Lanta New Beach Bungalows which was comfortable and located right on the beach. Enjoy some photos below of the property! They have two pools, a restaurant and deck, and a deck on the beach for massage. I would've loved to have one there but we simply didn't have enough time since we had to leave early again the next day for the next island.
We walked around in the evening and found a place to accommodate vegans since the vegetarian restaurant that we found on Happy Cow was closed earlier than we thought it would be. The next day, we woke up early for yoga by one of the pools. Afterwards, we went to the veg restaurant for some good coffee, delicious, smoothies, and amazing food. We basically had breakfast and lunch since we knew we would be traveling. The restaurant is called Kunda Anti-Pop Cafe and its a hip spot in town with lots of artwork and different types of clothing and gifts for sale. We sat on the garden patio and enjoyed a healthy, nutritious meal. Pictures are below with what we ordered!
That was about all we had time for in Ko Lanta since our taxi picked us up at 11:30 for the next ferry ride. I made some time to snap some photos on the restaurant deck of the hotel. We hopped on the ferry at 1 pm and made our way to Koh Phi Phi. See you later, Lanta!
Day 9 - 10 Koh Phi Phi
I was excited to see Koh Phi Phi because it's the island where the movie "The Beach" was filmed with Leonardo DiCaprio. The ferry to Koh Phi Phi took about 1 hour, and then we got on a taxi boat to the other side of the island to get to our hotel. We arrived in the afternoon to our hotel, a place we found on AirBnB. It was nothing spectacular or worth a mention. They have a "secluded beach" advertised, but it was quite disappointing. It's basically a bay where boats of all kinds come in and out all day, delivering goods to the islands, bringing and taking tourists, and for some reason, there was a tractor in the water. The tide shifts so dramatically throughout the day because the beach is so shallow, so to get to where you can swim takes a 15-minute walk on broken coral. There's diesel fuel everywhere so swimming wasn't ideal, but we did for a few minutes anyway, to say we did.
We didn't spend enough time on the island to explore other parts, and I've heard mixed opinions about it. Some say it's their favorite island and others share the same sentiment that it's become a overly touristic area with lots of trash everywhere. I can't really make an opinion either way, but I doubt we'll be back. There were no vegan restaurants on the island that we could find so we did our best to find a place that would accommodate us, and the food was very tasty. We had local cuisine - Pad Thai, Tom Kha, and curry. I walked across the street after dinner to a massage parlor for a relaxing Thai massage.
The next day, we had to wake up early and hit the road because the trip to Ko Tao takes 8 1/2 hours (it actually took 12 hours from hotel to hotel). The boat leaves this part of the island at 7:30 to meet the 9 am ferry, which takes you to Krabi. From there, you take a bus about 2 hours or so to the other side of the mainland and another ferry which stops at Ko Samui, Koh Phangan & then finally Ko Tao.
Day 10 - 11 Ko Tao
After the 12 hour "work day" of traveling from one side of the Thai islands to the other, we were famished. The options for food while in transit are very limited. At the bus station, I did my best to read chip package ingredients and found a couple of bags with few ingredients, and we shared some fruit. The sandwiches looked questionable, even the "veggie" ones so we passed. I opened Happy Cow and found that there is a vegan restaurant, La Carotte Qui Rit, within walking distance from the pier. I was excited beyond words as we ran to the restaurant and found it open. I threw my arms in the air and cheered. We returned the next day for lunch and you can see photos of the delicious food that we ordered below.
The resort that we stayed at is Koh Tao Montra Resort. We loved it! The room was the nicest we've had so far, with huge beds, a day bed, a balcony overlooking the pool area, and the bathroom had a Western-style shower AND a bathtub. We felt like Queens and Kings! We sat by the pool for a little bit that night and then got some rest.
We slept in and woke up the next morning in search of actual coffee. It's hard to find good coffee in Thailand as many people drink Instant coffee. It makes due in a bind but we were craving real coffee. We passed by a French bakery that was able to accommodate us for breakfast (veggie plates with hash browns, baked beans and toast) and we had two delicious cups of coffee each.
We requested a late check out and they let us stay until 2 pm. We spent the day by the pool since in the afternoon, we were headed to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party.
After checking out, we enjoyed lunch at La Carotte again (photo of my food is above) and then we trekked to the ferry area. We saw the sunset on the ferry as we made our way to Koh Phangan. More on that to come!