The Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls – Motorbikes in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls

The Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls rest in the hills a little over an hour’s drive outside of Chiang Mai.  This was our first motorbike adventure, and we were a little nervous about it.  There were three of us so Carrie rode with our friend Julie (who is experienced), and I drove myself.  I rented the motorbike for 180 baht from a place called Bamboo Rentals.  The gas was empty when I picked it up so they directed me towards a gas station down the road.  Luckily I had driven Julie’s bike around the lake the day before, so I survived my first leg on a read road without incident. Read more

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Krabi and Railay Beach – Thai Climb Time

Thai Climb Time
Railay Beach!

After a wonderful time in Penang, Malaysia we bought a van ride to Krabi, Thailand for Thai climb time!  For 60 Ringgit each we were speeding across the bridge from Penang back into mainland Malaysia before dawn.  The van trips are cheaper and faster than the bus, and they take you across the border which is convenient.  You can charter the vans at most hotels and hostels.  The border crossing was quick and easy.  We got a visa stamp for 30 days on arrival and no one asked for our onward ticket.  About onward tickets: every country officially requires them but they are rarely asked for.  The only time they generally ask is when you check in for an international flight, but when you cross into a country by land they rarely ask.  Our new trick is to screen shot an old flight itinerary and simply change the date on Photoshop to sometime within the visa requirements.

Our van stopped at Hat Yai, the first city in southern Thailand.  We had to change vans there so had a break to get some Thai Baht (33 Baht = $1USD) out of an ATM and grab a few snacks. Hat Yai is generally not the best city for tourists, so we didn’t plan to linger. We’ve heard its very popular for Malaysians who like to party and enjoy the lax prostitution laws.  Not really our scene though.

A little after 1pm we rolled into the Krabi main bus terminal excited for the next day’s Thai climb time.  From there we got a “sŏng tăew“, a cheap pickup truck shared taxi where you sit in the covered truck bed on benches along the side.  It’s a fun and cheap way to get around, charging about 1/3 of the regular taxi price.  We got our first views of the amazing cliffs that we came here to see, green tops dropping sharply into the ocean and rivers.  We got off at Khong Kha Pier where longtail boats depart for Railay Beach whenever six people are ready to go.  It costs 150 Baht per person and took about 45 minutes to get out to the beach.

Thai Climb Time
Krabi Boats to Railay Beach

Once on the boat we of course had to stop for gas, then after the gas run the boat wouldn’t start and we almost got stuck drifting under a pier for a moment.  But eventually the old longtail boat started and we were on our way, spilling black smoke into the air and speeding very inefficiently in the direction of more cliffs and some very ominous looking storm clouds.

Thai Climb Time
Longtail Boat ride to Railay Beach.

Thai Climb Time

The views were out of this world, it reminded me of something but I didn’t find out til later that this was the site of filming for “Dr. No”, one of my favorite James Bond films!  Within moments of arriving it started to downpour.  We hurried down the floating pier, passing many Russians on holiday with their rolling suitcases and high heels, trying hilariously not to slip and fall straight into the ocean.  After waiting for a bit at the first shelter we found, we walked down the beach walk to a stairway which led to our guesthouse.  Rapala Rock Wood Resort had cheap bungalows, no frills but everything we needed.  Little shacks with palm roofs and mosquito nets and fans are what makes us happy. As soon as we had set our stuff down the sky cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.

Thai Climb Time
Our Bungalow

Being super hungry, we set off on what was suppose to be a short walk to Mama’s Chicken.  It turned out to be quite an adventure since it was on the other side of a little jungle.  We first went to the west side beach (Railay is a peninsula with two sides, sunrise and sunset) then we hiked up though a little muddy trail, over some rocks, and onto Tonsai Beach.  The overhanging rocks here we impressive but we were on a mission for food.  At the other end of this beach we found the small road to nowhere that led past some sleepy guesthouses and a few dark climbing shops.  All the way around on the other side we found Mama’s, a super rustic open-air restaurant.  We got some pad thai and fruit shakes and filled our empty bellies.

Thai Climb Time
Pad Thai!
Thai Climb Time
Papaya Salad!

After eating we continued up the path which lead through the jungle and back to Railay, a much faster way.  We went around town to a few climbing shops and rented a rope and gear from one of them for 1200 Baht for a day.  That was about half the price of the guided tours and we were confident that we could do it on our own.  Before bed I had a beer at the bar near our bungalow.  The bartenders were super friendly and made me feel very welcome.  I learned how to say “thank you” in Thai (“korp kun krup!”) and was pumped about my first glimpses into the famous Thai hospitality.

Thai Climb Time
Giant black squirrels with two-foot long tails!  They would eat bananas right out of your hand!

Thai climb time! In the morning it rained and I was having some stomach issues, so we didn’t get out to climb as soon as we wanted to.  When we did get to a climbing spot everything there was a little above our level then we got frustrated and had a fight.  Not gonna pretend everything is always perfect between us on this blog!  We are human after all!  I was so excited about climbing that I got crazy and ended up slipping in the mud and pacing around in a rage.  The rains were coming in again now so we had to go back to our bungalow.  Oh, the frustrations.  I eventually calmed my crazy self and we went back out and found a few routes on the 1,2,3 Wall and Muay Thai Wall.

Thai Climb Time
Ready to send!
Thai Climb Time
Muay Thai Wall.

It was important to find walls with the new Thaitainium Project bolts, as the original steel bolts have become unsafe by the constant exposure to salty air.  All these challenges added up and it wasn’t until the end of the day that we each got to climb a few routes, and then we got tired so quickly from being out of shape!  I think it was a success in the end, but it was definitely character building.  We had a few sends and it felt good to get back on the rocks.  The adrenaline made me feel alive again and we couldn’t wait to come back for more.  In December WE WILL BE BACK!!!

Here’s a kind-of-lame video of us being kind-of-lame at climbing.  Next time we go to Railay we hope to be stronger and have a DRONE to make an awesome video for you all!

 

If you are climbing in Thailand or anywhere else, Mountain Project is the best online resource for climbers.  Enjoy hearing about Thai climb time in Railay Beach?  Find more climb stories from California and Arizona in our archives!

Penang National Park and Environmental Observances

On our last day on the island we took the bus to Penang National Park, about an hour ride from central Georgetown.  There were several possible hikes but the Canopy Walkway was under renovation so we settled on the hike to Monkey Beach. 

Here is a short video of our adventure.  Make sure to check out 1:25 for some angry monkeys.

Penang National Park
Jungle ground in Penang National Park
Penang National Park Jelly Fish
A giant jellyfish in Penang National Park

We spent over an hour walking the jungle path until we came to the beach.  We sipped coconuts and had the usual arguments with the monkeys.

Penang National Park - Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach

They never like me very much and it never fails that we end up screeching at each other.  There were a lot of the little buggers and they had big teeth so we let them win this time.  We didn’t eat enough breakfast for such a long hike and were super hungry by the end (having only eaten like twice before leaving).  So we got some roti (fried folded delicious bread) while waiting for the bus back.

Penang National Park
Penang National Park

We were upset with the amount of trash in Penang National Park and saw quite a few Malaysian hikers throw their empty bottles right onto the beach.  Several people on Monkey Beach were selling a variety of drinks, all in small plastic bottles but there were no trash bins and it was obviously too much work for people to just carry it out.  A group of 20-30 middle school students passed us, each with their own small plastic bottle of water.  We talked while hiking out about how they could clean up all the trash in a few days with just a few people.  Near the entrance we came upon five park employees sweeping leaves off the path.   Yes that’s right, FIVE PEOPLE.  SWEEPING. LEAVES. OFF. A. PATH. IN. THE. JUNGLE.  I was really frustrated by the whole system and I tried to calmly explain this to the Park Ranger at the front gate on our way out.

Me: “Why do so many people throw trash on the beach?”

His response, waving his hands as if it’s hopeless: “They are local people.”

Me: “Do you tell them not to do it?”

He smiled and said, “Have a nice day!”

Well, that was that.  Non-confrontational Malaysian culture for the win!  Reflecting upon it, I don’t blame the people anymore.  Yes, we all need to be more conscious of the products we buy and the waste we produce but I blame the governments for not educating their people better and most of all the companies that produce the bottles.  If I were Supreme Dictator of The World, the Coca-Cola company would no longer exist.

Want to read more about Penang? Check it out here!

Cameron Highlands – Tea Country

On our way to the Cameron Highlands in the mountains of central Malaysia, we experienced our first breaths of cool air in some weeks.  Everything was green and full of life as our bus wound its way slowly up and up, honking before the tight turns to warn oncoming traffic that we wouldn’t be slowing down.  The weather was so beautiful with clouds drifting across the mountain tops.  Our destination was Tanah Rata, the main town for adventures in the Cameron Highlands.  We dropped our stuff at Kang Travellers Lodge, a simple guest house with cheap rooms and friendly staff.  Rain clouds started to roll in but we were able to hike to a small waterfall before the downpour.

cameron highlands

 

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Pretty, but unfortunately there was a lot of trash in the water 🙁

The main drag in town was very touristy but there were a few good Indian restaurants that were not expensive.  After dinner we went home and realized there was a bar attached to our guesthouse– Jungle Bar.  It was the first real bar we had been to in Malaysia.  Many of the towns are very Islamic and there are not a lot of parties happening.  Jungle Bar had a pool table and fireplace and a good collection of travelers to talk to.  It was a great dive bar with a fun atmosphere and just what we needed after only talking to each other for the past week or so.

The next morning we got up early as we had scheduled one of the tours from an agency in town.  All the companies sell pretty much the same thing for the same price and take you to different places around the area.  I think it was 45 Ringgit per person ($10) and lasted most of the day.  Our first stop was a butterfly sanctuary.  The first room was full of Birdwings, the national butterfly of Malaysia, a big blue one that didn’t want to fly very much because of the lack of sunshine.

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They also had many other insects and reptiles.  My favorites were the stick insects and other bugs that blended in perfectly with the trees.  It was a challenge to find each one.  There were also toads that looked exactly like the leaves they were resting in.  The flowers were amazing as well; we really enjoyed the place and would never have found it without being on the tour of the Cameron Highlands.

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Butterfly flower
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A beautiful butterfly flower
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These flowers produced a small amount of water that was super sweet!
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This giant stick insect was about 18 inches long!
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Can you spot the leaf insect munching away?

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Our next stop was a tea plantation.  We had never seen tea growing before so it was cool to learn about the process.  Boh (“Best of Highlands”) Tea was still owned by the Scottish family who has owed it since the 1800s.  Many workers were trimming the tops of the bushes with giant hedge saws that deposited the cuttings into large sacks.  The leaves were then taken to be sorted and processed in different ways to make the different tea styles.  They are still using the same labor contract that was created when the plantation opened, with workers working six days a week for very low wages.  Most of the laborers were immigrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal.  Most of the tea produced was consumed domestically, with some being exported but only to Indonesia and other nearby countries.  The landscape was majestic and they had a nice tea shop and cafe to enjoy the view of the nearby hills.

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There were six other people in our group and we ended up making friends with a British couple.  They were on an indefinite trip as well so we shared stories of our adventures.  After the tea plantation we got back into our Jeep and drove up a steep road.  The vegetation got thicker and thicker and our driver stopped along the way to identify different plants and let us smell things like tiger balm, citronella, and eucalyptus.  At the top of the hill was a path leading into the Mossy Forest.  This area was under a misty cloud 95% of the year which created a very surreal environment where moss grows on everything and thousands of types of plants flourished.  It reminded me of FernGully, a great movie from our childhood that was ripped off by stupid Avatar.

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Our guide said that in Borneo there are larger versions of these flowers that eat insects.

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After the Mossy Forest we stopped at an organic strawberry farm where they sold everything from boxes of berries to berry coffees to berry shakes.

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From there they left us at a hiking trail (Trail #3) that lead to another trail (Trail #5) which took us back into town.  It was a cool 1.5 hour trek through the jungle and we had a lot of fun.  Luckily we had our rain gear because it started coming down hard near the end.

We really enjoyed the Cameron Highlands.  It was wonderful to escape the constant heat and humidity of the lower altitudes and we always enjoy some outdoor time.  Stay tuned for some Island time off the eastern coast of Malaysia!

Chacos – The World’s Greatest Shoe

Chacos

There is no debating it, the people at Chacos have put together the worlds greatest shoe.

Some of the best uses for Chacos are:

Hiking:  Chacos really grip those rocks and don’t move around on your feet.

Backpacking:  Super durable and maintenance-free.  Your feet stay omfy and dry fast after you get them wet.  It’s also great to not need as many pairs of socks, which always smell and are hard to wash in the sink.

At the salsa bar:  Great for showing off those gringo dance moves.  The chicas will be muy impressed by your super style.  They come in several styles and hundreds of colors.

On the bus:  Throw on some socks under your Chacos for those air conditioned rides and rock that classic dad look.

Church:  That’s right, Jesus would have worn them on the pulpit.  Birkenstocks? Yeah right!

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Jesus rocking an early Chacos prototype.  Disclaimer: Walking on water not recommended

In the rain:  Chacos are super-waterproof and grippy even in wet conditions.  However, if you’re planning to go hiking in the rain with deadly snakes and flesh eating fungi, think twice!  Just don’t do it with any shoe.

 

Chocos in the jungleThis hike full of poisonous plants and animals is not recommended for Chaco-wearers.   This picture is from the day I got a weird rash all over my hands and feet.  Most of my fingernails and toenails died, peeled off, and looked really stupid for the next few months.

They retail for just under $99 or 3000 Thai Baht or 0.02 Bitcoin and you can get them from REI or anywhere that sells outdoor gear.  If your local store doesn’t have them than you really just need a better local store or figure out how to use the internet for things other than selfies.  So why don’t you stop wasting time here and get out and buy some killer sandals??

Not a sponsored post, I just love them!

www.Chacos.com

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Crater Lake National Park – Clean, Clear, Deep, and Blue.

 

Entering Oregon was something we were super excited for.  Carrie hadn’t been there yet, so it was her 44th state.  Headed towards Crater Lake National Park, we found a free campsite in a quiet spot on the shores of Klamath Lake and set about relaxing for the afternoon.  We had been using a site called FreeCampsites.net which was hit or miss.  Make sure to read the reviews and find recent ones.  The sky was again smoky from distant forest fires which created a cool haze.  After dark we had to escape into our tent because the mosquitoes were intense.

the way to crater lakeIt the morning we got an early start and made our way north, passing through beautiful empty spaces.  Getting close to Crater Lake National Park we passed many cyclists racing up to the lake.  It looked like a fun ride, but grueling.   Our first view of the lake was very impressive.  I had been here before as a child and enjoyed it then just as much.  My family tells me stories of how I talked about it for weeks.

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Crater Lake with Wizard Island in the middle

crater lakeCrater Lake was created almost 8,000 years ago by the collapsing of a volcano.  It is the deepest lake in the United States, at 1,949 feet deep.  There are a couple of beautiful islands, Wizard Island being the most prominent.  We drove around to the north side, which took a lot longer than expected but was a stunningly beautiful drive.

Crater Lake
Carrie at Crater Lack National Park, Oregon

We parked at the top of the Cleetwood Trail, the easiest way to the bottom.  I had also heard from my father many times about how he had to carry my brother and I back up this trail after the whole family went to the base.  It was much easier now with full-sized legs.  There trail was just over a mile one way and we were quickly at the bottom.  The water was icy cold still even though it was August, but Carrie just had to get in so she cliff jumped off an awesome rock.  You’ll see it in the awesome trip highlights video we are making!  You can never complain about blue blue water and rocks, no matter how cold.

On the way out we joined the traffic headed north for the big event.  It was eclipsing time and we were pumped.  Stay tuned for stories from Solar Town

 

 

Lassen Volcanic – A National Park Forgotten

After fighting traffic jams of rented RVs in Yosemite, we were ready to get away from the crowds.  DO NOT GO TO YOSEMITE IN AUGUST!!!  We had learned a valuable lesson and the smoke was choking us out anyhow.  Leaving a few days early, we headed northward and decided to use our extra few days to check out the lesser-visited Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.  The drive in was through beautiful forest and we were so happy to just not be in a cloud of smoke anymore.  This was a terrible year for wildfires and it had affected our trip greatly.  We found an awesome campground just outside the park and set up for a relaxing afternoon.  Our Prius (Rock Crawler) was packed full of fun toys to keep us entertained while camping, from slack lines to hammocks we were well stocked with fun.

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In the morning we drove into Lassen Volcanic National Park.  There were very few people, but a few of the major attractions were closed because of the amount of snow still covering the paths.  We saw a random geyser on the way in and could smell sulfur in the air.  The views were insane and we were relieved to see that the hike up Lassen Volcano was open despite there being snow taller than me around the parking lot.  The hike was steep and relatively empty when we started.

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcano
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
The top of Lassen Volcano

At the top there was still tons and tons of snow.  We looked into the crater and saw some adventurous snowboarding ladies whom were about to ride all the way down Lassen Volcano after hiking to the top.

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Zach looking EPIC!
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Still snow after summer!

Seriously, don’t come here.  Lassen Volcanic National Park is terrible and there are bears that eat Europeans and have learned how to open RV doors.