Top Favs in Kota Kinabalu

During our adventures last Spring in Indonesia we decided to spend about five days in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

The truth is … you always need more time, but our few days there were filled with adventure. Making new friends, trying new foods and scuba diving for the first time to name a few!

We took boats to different islands and brought our own snorkel gear. Sapi was gorgeous and it was amazing to float in the water and see all the fishes swim by. islandlifeindo

KK has so many markets! Seeing Mango flavored cotton candy was a real dream!mangocottoncandymalasysia

We got bit by the Scuba Bug! Sooooo crazy/scary/coolscubadivinginmalaysia

Delicious meal – no silverware required! malaysiacurry

Frolicking in the Mangrove Forrest and sweating through our clothes.mangroveforestsabah

Sunset viewing with a beer in hand… no matter where you are it feels good to get these little moments.kotakinabalu-malaysia

My top favs in Indonesia

I am finally getting ready to share my Indonesia and Malaysia trip here and going through the photos and my journal from the trip are really stoking my need for adventure and travel.

Here are a few top memories from the trip…

All packed up and ready to go! One carry on for three weeks. The truth of the matter is I probably had too much.indoorbust-3weeksina-carryon

Our first meal in Indonesia, and quite possibly the best meal of the entire trip. This simple and cheap meal still lingers in my dreams.

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The most amazing iced coffee from Crate Cafe in Canggu.cratecafecanggu

When GoogleMaps takes you to a remote village and an Indonesia man takes you into the rice fields…ricefieldsindo

A cool, not so secret waterfall, Tegenungan Waterfall in Ubud.

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Dicing and Slicing our way to Balinese Cuisine Cooking Professionals!

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We drove all night to see this crater at Sunrise.kawahijenjavaindo

Just a casual gecko joining us for lunch.madenewfriendsongili

Lowest of low tides on Gili Air.lowtideislandlife

Beach art on Gili Air – coral and Bintang bottles.giliairartbintang

You don’t see a goat… or any animal on the back of a motorbike often.justgoatforit

My Birthday! Which included a street side serenade – magical!kutabeachbirthday

A little oasis on the side of the road. kutabeachlombok

A few friends at the beach in Kuta Lombokbisononthebeachlombok

Sometimes the best views take a few (hundred) wrong turns. Getting to Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfall was an adventure.

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Drop Inn Cafe … when you are done dropping in on waves you can drop in for a sweet treat. dropinncafelombok

Ratu Boko Temple in Yogya. It was an adventure getting there… but Sunset did not disappoint.yogyakartaindo

At 1/15 coffee I tried an interesting combo of espresso, lime and sparkly water coffewithseltzerandlime-indo

A flip flop hike to watch the sun go down.sflipfliphikelombokindo

A few of my fav moments … get ready for the breakdown in the next couple weeks.

Angkor Wat?!

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Amazing, huh?! Angkor Wat is breathtakingly beautiful. I feel truly lucky to have been able to experience this place.

When it was time to leave Chiang Mai we were sad but also really excited to get to Cambodia and visit Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat.

We had to fly through Bangkok again. At this point in the trip we realize it is definitely better to book flights at the airport with a ticket agency instead of online.

For the Cambodian visa you pay $20 USD plus $1 USD for a picture, alternatively you could bring a copy of your passport picture so you don’t have to pay the $1!

We exchanged money to Riel ( their currency). We were able to use it everywhere but EVERYTHING was quoted in USD. If I went back I would probably just use USD.

I really loved Siem Reap! The people are all so friendly. I have heard from numerous people that there is just something about Cambodia that really captures your heart! It is totally true! I would love to go back at some point, maybe volunteer with an NGO.

All the temples of Angkor Wat are amazingly breathtaking. We spent two mornings exploring the temples and it was definitely time well spent!

We also went to the museum where they touch upon the history of The Kingdom of Cambodia, its Kings, what temples they built, what religion was practiced at what times and how it influenced the buildings – oh and don’t forget over 1000 buddhas! Really worth it to go if you have the time!

Peace Cafe is AMAZING!

We stayed at Angkor Heritage Boutique Hotel. Not near the main area, about a $3 tuk tuk ride to and fro. We had an online deal for this hotel, which made it $20 a person a night.  Pricier than what we had been spending, but it did include breakfast.

Chiang Chiang Chiannnnng Chiang Mai

Early the next morning on our flight from Bangkok to Chang Mai we met a man from Portland, OR, he lives in Chang Mai for a few months out of the year and was a great asset in explaining the city and places to stay and go. He also drew an awesome map on a barf bag that regrettably was thrown away.

We stayed at an adorable guesthouse right outside of the old city. It had a lush garden with a little cart for self serve coffee and tea. The family who owns it is French and Thai and they have really created a wonderful environment. The husband and wife are both extremely helpful.

The best way to get around was by Motorbike. This allowed us to drive to Temples and places within the city.

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I strongly suggest making your way up the mountain to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. We were blessed by a monk here which was awesome! Additionally, there is a great village if you continue further up the mountain. I had some of the best Thai tea of my life up there!

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Places to go in Chang Mai (Old City):

The Master Tattoo

Best Armani Suites (Tom)

Mamory Food

Night Bazaar – same same stuff but you can get great deals.

29 Cafe – great cheap breakfast

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Go to Tonsai!

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It was night when we got to Krabi. We took a taxi from Krabi to the beach side town Ao Naung.

Try not to stay in Ao Naung at all costs. It really is tourist hell! The beach is not beautiful and it’s filled with tourists!

However, we did find a little slice of heaven at the hotel we found. It is up off the main street and for the life of me I can not remember what it is called but it is run by a Swedish man and they have a Swedish Flag out front. It is across the street from an authentic Thai place.

Since the terrible snorkeling debacle at Anthong National Park in Koh Samui, we were ready for a successful snorkeling experience. The night we arrived we raced around trying NOT to book at a tour booth – but alas- every dive shop was closed so we were stuck going to a tour booth. Horror upon horror. We booked a ‘small boat tour’ – what a SHAM – they had about 20 speed boats all going to the same spots. How intimate…not!!

It was a mistake for the most part. We did go to three cool snorkeling spots, but the rest of the day was filled with a truly terrible tourist speed boat experience. It was so bad that most of the day my friends and I were pretty depressed.

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That night we went to Tonsai Beach to sign up for a rock climbing adventure known as deep water soloing. TONSAI is amazing! If you like what I like than Tonsai is the place for you.

We loved Tonsai Beach. It’s not authentic Thai but compared to tourist hell on Ao Naung. Tonsai was a fresh breathe of backpacker heaven. We were so delighted to happen upon this reggae – rock climbing loving slice of beach.

Deep Water Soloing was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. I didn’t climb high but rather traversed and then when I was ready I jumped in the water! It was fun and refreshing and I wish I could do it everyday!

We didn’t want to leave Tonsai but did want to see Chang Mai. So at the last minute we rushed from the beach to the airport and barely made it on a flight to Bangkok and then booked another ticket to Chang Mai for early the next day.

To Sum up our Krabi/Ao Naung/Tonsai experience.

DON’T stay in Ao Naung. DO Stay in Tonsai.

Go Deep Water Soloing. You don’t have to be a rock climber – you just have to be ready for adventure.

Be prepared to never want to leave.

Eat at Mama’s Chicken/Kitchen as many times as possible.

If you climb, and will be staying on Tonsai for awhile it is a good idea to bring your climbing shoes. However, you can always rent a pair from Basecamp on Tonsai.

If you have time Koh Tao was recommended to us for snorkeling!

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Koh Samui, YES PLEASE!

How can you not fall in love with Koh Samui?!

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We arrived in Koh Samui after an all night bus from Bangkok and a two hour Ferry ride. The bus wasn’t terrible – once they stopped blasting Argo in Thai! The AC was full blast, they give you blankets but you will want to make sure you bring a sweatshirt and long pants on board. The Ferry ride was wonderful! I was glued to the banister the entire ride. I was so smitten with the sea and limestone rocks jutting out of the water!

Once we set foot on land our first action was finding somewhere to stay.  We had no reservations which really freaks me out! I like having things planned! We had a few things listed in our itinerary which you can view in the post where I uploaded our whole itinerary.

We decided to try ‘Challe Villa’ first. Luckily for us, they had availability and they were right on the beach. We stayed here for two nights.  Now, I think you should only stay at Challe if you are okay with flushing the toilet with a bucket. 🙂

The next place we stayed was right down the beach and called Cactus! Cactus was very nice and was still only $15 a person a night for an a/c room.

This area is a wonderful place to walk around.  It is easy to visit the various restaurants and bars throughout Fisherman’s Village.

We were able to rent motorbikes which allowed us to go to Lamai Beach and see the interesting rock formations there as well as view a few waterfalls. These areas were fairly touristy but still worth a visit.

Someone we met on the trip along with our friend got into a pretty bad motorbike accident. This put the kabosh on motorbiking for the rest of our time in Koh Samui. We were really lucky that no one was severely hurt.

We went on a snorkeling boat tour that took us out to Anthong National Park. We heard it was really nice, but the snorkeling was terrible, probably due to all the tourist boats coming in and out everyday.  It was really beautiful here but I am not sure I would go back… I think there are better ways to spend your time.

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Bangkok on Lock

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We arrived in Bangkok tired and excited.

We had already booked a hotel here because Bangkok is big and overwhelming and we assumed we would be tired after our long flight. We had a booked a room at i residence in Silom. We did A LOT of research prior to booking, however, i residence was a little disappointing.

The staff was okay, I think they tried to be helpful but we didn’t end up getting into our room until 1.5 hours after check in, which was a bummer because we wanted to freshen up before we went exploring! The room was fine and the rooftop pool was nice! We brought our own beer up to the roof , but it does say you will be charged if you do. I don’t think the staff cared enough to enforce this.

The area around i residence felt very local, with lots of little markets where there were more Thai people than travelers. We loved this aspect and really enjoyed walking around Silom.

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Tips from my experience:

Taxi drivers don’t usually take you where you want to go.  They take you where they want to take you! Keep in mind you can usually bargain a price!

We really enjoyed take the trains so try to take public transit when you can! Easy to figure out and the people who work at the station or usually nice and helpful.

We discovered that most hotels are associated with tour companies so if you ask them how to get anywhere they will try to take you to their tour company – DON’T do it!

Also take public transit when possible – like if you are going to Koh Samui, take the public bus instead of VIP or tourist busses.

Ultimately, do and go as locals do.

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Since we arrived on Sunday we had to go to the Chatuchak Weekend Market! This market is only open on the weekend evenings so if you are available on the weekends in Bangkok make an effort to go. 🙂

It was awesome! There were some really interesting unique items and then also some things that you will see at every other market! My suggestion would be to really pick and choose the items you by now if you have a long trip ahead.

Visiting the Wats was an amazing experience!

Make sure you cover your knees and shoulders! Show some respect, people.

I suggest good comfy walking shoes – you will be doing LOTS of walking. Light cotton pants are the best, easier to walk in then a skirt and a short sleeve cotton or gauzy top.

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Also, if you need a ‘Convenient Hotel’ near the airport you can stay at The Convenient Resort. Very very, very basic accommodations but they have a shuttle to and from BKK. The breakfast is toast, watermelon and cornflakes!