Krabi Town is the provincial capital of Krabi province in southern Thailand and has a good modern airport served by numerous domestic flights and some international flights too. If you’re planning on flying to Koh Lanta, you’ll most likely pass through here.
The guidebooks are quite unkind about Krabi, but we appreciated it’s laid back attitude, even though we were only staying for a short while. The night market was a great place to pick up a cheap but very tasty dinner and I got to take a few photos before and after.
After Nepal and India, we decided to take a bit of a break from travelling and do a bit of chilling! Koh Lanta is an island south of Phuket on the Andaman coast of Thailand and it’s where I proposed to Kate two years ago when we were last in Thailand. It’s a perfect place to just chill out on a beautiful tropical beach, work on your tan and read a good book, and that’s exactly what we did for about 10 days, except for a spot of snorkelling at Koh Rok and scuba diving at Koh Bida.
Laterns at the Restuarant at Relax Bay
Playing the fool at the bar at Relax Bay
Koh Rok, a beautiful island south of Koh Lanta where I proposed to Kate
It doesn’t look very dark or stormy in this shot, but actually there was a fairly large thunderstorm underway off the coast. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to capture any of the lighting bolts, but this long exposure just about captured some of the sheet lightning lighting up the sky.
The glowing lights behind the horizon are fishing boats which use large lights to attract fish at night.
The Monsoon Palace is a beautiful structure that sits high above the city of Udaipur in Rajastan, India. It was used as a set in James Bond movie Octopussy in 1983. Unfortunately, while the palace is pretty from far, in reality, it’s far from pretty. Years of neglect show, and while repairs are now finally underway, the palace still offers little to the visitor other than stunning views across Udaipur.
“Chuffed as chips”
“Not such a hardcore biker now, are we?”
Actually it was a small crash. Luckily Kate and I were both okay: it was more of a shock than anything else.
That morning I had hired a Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc motorcycle in Udaipur, India. These bikes are true dinosaurs: the design is over 50 years old. It is the oldest production run bike in the world! I had to ride one!
Thing is, in 1955 when the Bullet was designed, motorcycles were very different to the modern day bike: the front drum brake is very weak compared to disk brakes; the gears work in the opposite direction to modern bikes and the rear brake and gear selectors are on opposite sides to what we ride today.
Added together, these differences make for a very different ride.
I took the bike out in the Udaipur traffic by myself and once I was satisfied that I could ride it, went back to the hotel and picked Kate up. We visited the Monsoon Palace, nearby Udaipur, then decided to head up into the hills behind the city.
We travelled up a beautiful mountain pass, past an amazing shrine and saw some stunning views on the other side. It was our first glimpse at the Indian countryside and I was surprised at how sparsely populated it was, considering it’s the second most populous nation on the planet.
As we approached one hairpin bend, I realised that we were going to hit a patch of gravel and oil left behind after some construction work. I reflexively hit went for the front brake. It managed to slow the bike to about running pace by the time we hit the oil, but when we hit the slick, the front wheel locked-up and the bike – and ourselves – went sprawling across the tarmac in a sort of slow-motion lowside.
We hopped about and cursed and yelped and checked that we were both okay – which, thank goodness, we were – and then I picked the bike out of the road. After a minute, two Indians on another bike stopped to check on us. Other than some minor bumps and bruises we were both fine, although Kate was extremely lightheaded afterwards and we needed to stop every two minutes for fear of her fainting until we found a shop in a tiny village at the bottom of the pass.
The Indians had patiently escorted us down. I brought some fizzy drinks and we drank them in the shade of a tree. What seemed like half the village had soon assembled around us and was asking us the questions Indians always ask couples: “Where are you from?”, ”Are you married?”, “Do you have children?”. Our escorters interpreted for us.
We rode (slowly!) back to Udaipur, I dropped the bike off at the rental shop and it was given a once-over by the owner, who was obviously suspicious as to why I wanted to drop the bike off several hours early and with half-a-tank of petrol remaining. Luckily there was no visible damage.
I thanked him for the use of the old thumper, and walked off, doing my best not to show my limp.
Udaipur was definitely the highlight of our trip to India. It was the smallest city we visited in the country, but definitely our favourite.
We spend three nights in Udaipur. We arrived on the overnight sleeper train from Jaipur at six in the morning and checked into our Hotel, the Mewar Haveli. Almost immediately I noticed a big difference from the other Indian cities we had visited to date: people were much friendly, helpful and not necessarily trying to sell you something.
Udaipur is set on the Pichola Lake. Two palaces, Jagniwas Palace and the Lake Palace are built on islands on the lake. Surrounding the lake, numerous other palaces have been built, and in the distance, the Monsoon Palace is perched above the city. Octopussy, the Bond movie, was mainly set in this city, and if you need proof, numerous bars around town show the movie every night at 7pm sharp.
The Lake Palace Hotel resembles a giant wedding cake and it’s used as the ultimate wedding venue for the very rich. Several nights during our stay there were weddings at the venue with amazing fireworks displays to add to the amazing scenery.
We managed to see the surrounding countryside by hiring an old Royal Enfield motorcycle (more about that in a future post), and visited the Monsoon Palace and Ubeshwarji, a Shiva shrine, in the hills high above the city. The Monsoon Palace is definitely pretty from far, but far from pretty – it’s derelict, but the views are excellent, and riding out into the countryside and up the pass to visit Ubeshwarji was definitely a highlight of the trip.
We also explored some hills and villages surrounding the city on horse, which made a great day out and I would highly recommend it – we went with Krishna Ranch and it cost us INR950 for a 4 hour trip, with lunch included.
We spent two days in Jaipur and stayed at the Pearl Palace Hotel. This is definitely one of the best budget hotels I’ve ever stayed in. If you’re ever in Jaipur, I would highly recommend staying at the Pearl Palace.
Although we’re travelling for almost a year, we somehow managed to end up in the position where we could only spend 10 days in the vast, varied country of India. We could have easily spent 6 months exploring the country!
The brevity of our visit meant that we could only spend one day in Delhi and one day in Agra.
In Delhi we hired a driver and taxi for the day (for INR1000) so that we could see as much of the city in a short a time as possible. With our driver, we visited Humayun's tomb, the Lotus Temple (below), Dilli Haart for lunch, Rajpath and the president’s house and ended up in one of the swanky bars in Connaught Place for drinks and then dinner afterwards.
We caught the train from Delhi to Agra. It was much better than I had expected. We were told by many of travellers to expect the worst, but in reality the station was fairly orderly, the train clean and even on time.
We arrived in Agra and met an Indian work colleague from the UK for a great lunch in a revolving restaurant above Agra. Afterwards we headed off for the Red Fort. After fighting our way through the masses of touts that stand outside every attraction in Agra (and most other places too) we were completely amazed by this incredible building. I’ve not seen anything like it anywhere in the world! Our only regret was that we didn’t have a guide, so we may have missed some interesting bits.
That night we tried to find a good restaurant or bar, but found little other than the ones in hotels. Agra seems to have very little to offer away from it’s incredible architectural wonders.
Next morning we visited the Taj Mahal. I got up early (6am) to avoid the crowds and get the best sunrise photos. Kate arrived later, but was unable to gain entry as she didn’t have any cash and none of the ATMs in town were working. Eventually she managed to pursued one of guards to let me out to give her cash, then readmit me.
The Taj is easily the most incredible piece of architecture I’ve ever seen. The symmetry and precision and attention to detail have to be seen to be believed. What makes it all the more amazing is the fact that everything was done by hand before the invention of laser cutters, GPS and all the other tools which would be essential in building such a building today.
Aside from the Annapurna Base Camp trek, we also spent a few days in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Unfortunately most of the time we had set aside was taken up trying to get my luggage sent to Kathmandu, after Virgin Atlantic failed to load it onto my flight, then repeatedly failed to send it when they said they would.
Kathmandu is a bustling city. We stayed at the Ganesh Himal Hotel, just outside of the Thamel tourist district.
Fewa Tal is a beautiful lake along which the town of Pokhara has grown up. This shot was taken in the morning, after we had visited the World Peace Pagoda for sunrise, high up on the hill above the town.
These photographs were all taken on the 9-day Annapurna Base Camp (aka Annapurna Sanctuary) trek that Kate and I did in Nepal.
Although the trek was advertised as an 11-day trek, we easily did it in 9 days. Our route was as follows:
Day 1: Nayapool (1060m) to Tikhe Dhunga (1577m)
Easy starting day: we walked from the trailhead at Nayapool to Tikhe Dhunga, about 6 hours walk. Tikhe Dhunga has some nice waterfalls and you can walk down to the river near the town.
Day 2: Tikha Dhunga to Ghorepani (2850m)
Day two was a fairly tough hike – almost consistently uphill.
Day 3: Early start to visit Poon Hill (3200m), then to Chuile (2150m), via Tadapani (2630m)
We set off for Poon Hill at about 5am to catch the sunrise. Many people were up and everyone hiked silently to the top of the hill in the dark, using their headlamps for light. I was worried about breaking into a sweat on the climb, as once we got to the top we would no longer be active and it was below freezing. Luckily, it’s not possible to walk very fast due as everyone walks in single file and the pace is determined by the crowd and isn’t very fast.
We arrived a little before sunrise and I setup my camera equipment. My plan was to make a timelapse movie of the sun rising over the Annapurna Massif. Unfortunately the constantly changing light conditions make this technically more difficult than I was expecting and it hasn’t come out very well.
The sunrise was easily one of the most beautiful natural scenes we’ve ever laid our eyes on. In a sweeping panorama spanning almost 270 degrees, some of the highest peaks in the world begin to light with bright yellow sunlight.
After sunrise we headed down to Ghorepani for breakfast, then headed up to Tadapani and finally to Chuile where we stopped for the day at about 4pm and watched the local kids playing hide-and-go-seek in garden of the tea-house.
Day 4: Chuile to Dovan (2286m), via Chhomgrong (2040m)
From Chuile we descended down a steep valley and up the other side of the valley to Chhomrong, then down and up another very steep valley on the other side of the town (someone told me there are 2000 step descending down the valley). We had lunch in Sinuwa and got to Bamboo at about 4pm. We were getting tired, but decided to head on for Dovan, the next town along where we were going to meet up with Mats, a Swede who was walking the same route as us.
Between Bamboo and Dovan, we bumbed into someone we know from London! It was completely unexpected and quite a shock to see them. We hadn’t seen them in about 3 years, but it was nice to catch up quickly as we passed on another in different directions.
Day 5: Dovan to Machapuchare Base Camp/MBC (3703m)
Another hard day, but we got to MBC by about 2pm and it was nice to sit around enjoying the epic scenery for the afternoon. Mid afternoon a thick fog rolled in and we went indoors and chatted to the other trekkers. Just before sunset the sky cleared and we had some amazing views of Machapuchare illuminated by the last rays of the day. Real magic!
Day 6: MBC to Annapurna Base Camp/ABC (4130m) for sunrise, then down to Sinuwa (2340m)
Another morning of waking up at 4:45am. By 5am we were walking up to ABC in the dark. Kate’s headlamp failed, so I gave her mine and then stumbled up in the near darkness. As sunrise approached, the mountains became illuminated in the most beautiful way – they almost looked luminous. In the cold I managed a few hand-held snaps.
We got to ABC just before the sun light Annapurna I. We took photographs and enjoyed the amazing show nature was putting on for us, then had some breakfast at ABC. Although we were at a very high altitude, we didn’t feel any signs of altitude sickness – we didn’t struggle to sleep to much and we both still had healthy appetites.
From ABC we did a long hike down to Sinuwa. By the time we got there we had been hiking for 11 hours and were very tired.
Day 7: Sinuwa to Jhinu (1760m)
I awoke with a horribly sore knee. This was probably from all the downhill the day before. When I awoke, I struggled to bend it and was quite worried about hiking at all that day. After taking some anti-inflammatories the pain went away, and luckily it didn’t come back.
Jhinu is only three hours walk from Sinuwa and we spent the afternoon at the hot springs near Jhinu. It was great to chill a little.
Day 8: Jhinu to Syauli Bazar (1190m)
Another very short day – only 3 hours hiking once again. Our guide pulled a rat out of the kitchen of the tea-house we were staying. He was holding it in a pair on tongs, showing it to Kate and I, when it wriggled around and bit him. He threw it in the bushes and it ran away. Kate was very worried about rats after that. I meant to have a word with the guide and tell him it’s probably better not to show girls rats you’ve pulled from the kitchen.
Day 9: Syauli Bazar to Nayapool (1060m)
Only about 2 or 3 hours walk to the end of the trail. Nayapool is a busy market town and it’s quite dirty and busy after the natural beauty of the trek – a bit of a shock to the system. From there, we caught a taxi back to Pokhara for some well deserved rest and relaxation.