Archive for December, 2011

December 2, 2011

Little Eden

by Anna

After traveling for 27 hours with barely any sleep, the planet seems a little off kilter. In a half-conscious haze Johnny and I knew that good things were upon us as we arrived at our final airport in Trat, Thailand. We were driven from the runway in a Disneyland-esque trolley past elephant topiaries to the thatched-roof “terminal” where nice, smiley men handed us our luggage. The good vibes continued to grow stronger as we boarded the ferry boat to Koh Chang and experienced our first Thai fruit shake. Another very warm and friendly lady scooped an entire mango out of its skin, plopped it in a blender and added a big mound of ice. Whiz, brrrrr, and voila! Mango shake. Maybe the most sweet, delicious shake I’ve ever had, and for $1 to boot. The journey continued to our first stop, Little Eden at Lonely Beach. Not just a clever name, these bungalows nestled in the palm trees really became a little paradise for us.

If only all airports were this nice…
The path to our bungalow at Little Eden Our home for a week

After a good 14 hours of sleep our first night we felt back to normal and quickly slipped into “Thai island time,” which is even slower (I think) than “Hawaii time.” There is just an immediate and overwhelming sense of peace, happiness and relaxation on the island. Although we loved our time in South Africa, we were happy to be rid of security gates and away from the distinct feeling of have and have-nots – the giant separation between rich and poor. So far, to me, this place feels the exact opposite. Even though it is a little rough around the edges (eg: the trash pick-up situation could use some work), everyone seems happy and content even though they don’t have “a lot” (in the material sense of the term). Johnny and I could see right away why people get “sucked in” to this island…a phrase that we have heard often since we arrived. Life is simple – in the best way possible.

The village by Lonely Beach

Besides our three seriously fun and seriously awesome days spent getting scuba certified through BB Divers (read more about that here), we really did a whole lot of nothing. It was great. After spending the better part of November driving across South Africa in our Nissan Tiida (always with our guard on), we were feeling a little bit like we needed a vacation from our vacation.

The Tiida was looking as beat up as we felt after our last of many 6-8 hour drives (yup, our hubcap was in the back seat)

We spent most of our evenings hanging out in the restaurant/lounge at Little Eden where the squirrely British owner, David, played good mellow tunes causing us to melt even further onto our floor cushions. The food was cheap and amazing, and the whole place had a good energy so we were hard pressed to find a reason to leave.

Our favorite spot at Little Eden
We did venture out one night to have dinner on the water and see a Reggae band on the beach

During the days we’d sit down on the beach, float around in the super warm water, grab some Pad Thai and fruit shakes at Nature Rocks (where people would often nap on their cushions after eating lunch) and maybe indulge in an $8 massage. Lonely Beach is known for being more of a touristy/party beach, but we wanted to stay there because it was close to our scuba school. We managed to avoid all the bad, loud music and really only noticed the party atmosphere by the fact that no one emerged onto the beach, or anywhere else really, until after noon. There were quite a few people selling bracelets and sarongs on the beach, but they were the least aggressive, most good-natured hawkers I’ve ever been around. A typical encounter would go something like: “Bracelets?” “No, thanks.” “Ok, good luck to you, good journey (accompanied by a big smile, of course).”

Can’t get enough Pad Thai and coconut shakes
Lonely Beach

If it isn’t already obvious, we’re smitten with Thailand, and yes, Johnny has already started looking up available real estate on the island. Koh Chang has made a pretty darn good first impression, and I’m sure it will only get better as we discover more of this beautiful country and its people.

Oh, and did I mention that Koh Chang has incredible sunsets?
They are glorious
The water looked like it was on fire
December 2, 2011

Go To South Africa

by Johnny

We’ve been in Thailand for over a week now (which is amazing, by the way…if Anna and I were any more relaxed we’d be in comas), but we wanted to say a few last words about South Africa.  To be honest, even after we booked our flights to South Africa we had some apprehension about traveling there.  Whenever we would discuss our round-the-world trip itinerary with anybody, the South Africa segment would almost always elicit a “oooh…be really, really careful” response.  One American woman we met in Croatia (who had never been to South Africa) went as far as to tell us, “If you get lost driving around South Africa, chances are you will get murdered.”  Gee, thanks for that.  Well, while we certainly kept our wits about us and used common sense (didn’t walk around alone at night, didn’t pick up hitchhikers, researched driving directions, etc.), we can’t recall a time where we felt threatened or unsafe.  To the contrary, we found South Africa to have such a joyous culture (which is amazing considering how little the majority have), and we found all the locals we met to be friendly and welcoming.  I mean, we didn’t even get murdered once!

South Africa does have a high crime rate…there’s no denying that.  But if you’re putting off visiting the country because of some preconceived notions about safety, don’t.  Our advice is to go.  Take some necessary precautions and exercise some common sense, but go.  Go for one-of-a-kind Cape Town and its Neighborgoods market.  Go for the stunning scenery of the Cape Peninsula.  Go for Bohemian Kalk Bay.  Go for the food and wine in Franschhoek.  Go for the Karoo’s magical landscape.  Go for the gorgeous coastline of the Garden Route.  Go for the culture and the smiling Xhosa people of the Wild Coast.  Go for one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world in the Drakensberg.  Go for the mind-blowing wildlife in Kruger National Park.  Go for the craftwork, art and music.  Oh my…the music.  Everywhere you go there are kids drumming, clapping, harmonizing and dancing.  Try starting your day off with this and see if you’re not grinning from ear to ear (Soweto Gospel Choir – Seteng Sediba):

Go for some perspective.  Go to South Africa.