Tech-‘no’ and the Berlin Wall

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We had been anticipating Berlin for some time, but had no idea what was in store for us. We were lucky to be hosted by Luke’s gracious cousin Ariana, in the hip, up-and-coming Wedding area.

We knew that one of the main things we wanted to do in Berlin was to taste some of their famous nightlife. Berlin is home to many techno legends and also to Berghain, a super-hard-to-get-into, cool-kids-only techno warehouse that is known for partying nonstop from Friday evening until Monday morning.

First, we took in a walking tour and tried some of Berlin’s famous dishes. Of course, I wanted to try the Doner and see how it differed from Nova Scotia’s Donair. While both have the same sort of concept, I must say that the taste was completely different. We loved sitting in the street and sampling some of the great restaurants. We also spent the day at the lake with all the locals, sunbathing and cooling off in the water. We enjoyed some meat and bread in a mini picnic before heading home as the sun went down.

In the evening, we all went out for a night on the town, Berlin style. We headed to the club IMG_20150808_031454district and stopped off the subway to grab a drink on one of the stands that sells alcohol. It’s interesting and exciting being in a place where you can drink so freely. A breakout party had started on the street below, underneath a bridge where music was playing and people were dancing. It’s common to pop into corner stores on the way to a club to buy cheaper drinks before hitting your main event.

The following evening, Luke and I tried to get into Berghain. The club is well known, so it does attract a lot of tourists, which the bouncers hate. You can read all sorts of tips, but really, it’s up to the bouncers to decide if you make the cut. No one knows what they look for, but they’re rumoured to prefer you wearing all black, not be too young, preferably single… the list goes on and on. We waited in line for 45 minutes, and finally the bouncers did a string of “no’s” to about 15 people before stopping at us. We waited until it was our turn for judgment to be passed and after a few moments of consideration, we also got the dreaded headshake. For me, it was a huge disappointment (although sort of expected); I had gotten my hopes and excitement up. Ariana was quick to make me feel better, assuring me that she heard that usually only 40% of people who try to get in actually get in, therefore it wasn’t personal. Still, I’m a huge techno music fan and it sucked to get judged by a quick and brief look.

Moving on, we enjoyed walking through the artistic district of Berlin and experiencing the hipster culture. Berlin is so, so cool and has so much life to it. We walked along the Berlin Wall at sunset, which was so mesmerizing. Ariana’s father had been able to pass through the wall back in the day, so it was interesting to hear about his story and think about what people had went through at that time. It really wasn’t that long ago at all that the city was living through such a different reality.

Now that we’re home, I think of Berlin often and feel as if it would be the place I would feel the most at home. There was something so special about it, so unique and perfect, that it’s been calling my name ever since we left.

 

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Best Toronto date spots to keep warm this winter

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Being back in the big city of Toronto has been so amazing, especially since last year we totally skipped winter! While most people are dying to escape the cold winter months of Canada, Luke and I actually missed it a lot when we were half way across the world.

One of our absolute favorite things about winter is being able to try new places and explore the city. Toronto has so much to offer and there are so many hidden gems! Expedia.ca wanted me to share with you some of our favourite spots to stay warm in the city, just in case you were planning on visiting or looking for some new ideas if you already live here.

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This place is so great on so many levels. Perfect for a first date, or a 100th date, we love spending an entire evening amongst the games and incredible atmosphere. The Annex location is our favorite, with cozy lighting and friendly staff. I personally love going for a Nutella latte (a MUST try) and getting a bowl of candy to share. We’ve actually ate a lot of the food on the menu and can highly recommend their sandwiches and salads as well if you end up staying for a few hours.

What’s also great about Snakes & Lattes is that they have Game Gurus who will help you choose a game based on your interests and then explain to you all the rules (and even some strategy, if you’re lucky!), so you can start playing right away and try something new.

Friday Night at the ROM

IMG_0697Walking through the ROM and checking out all of the cool exhibits is high on our list as something we like to do in the winter, but the ROMs Friday Night Live series is extra special. While the events aren’t held every single weekend, you should definitely keep an eye out for these parties. Opening the ROM up 7pm-11pm, they have DJs playing with drinks and food served throughout the entire museum.

Dancing next to a giant T-Rex fossil, or grabbing a beer amongst the dinosaurs, the Friday Night at the ROM series is so, so cool. Another thing we really love about it is trying all of the food, since they often bring in local food truck vendors, adding to the experience and keeping things close to home.

Quantum Coffee

Not just a regular coffee shop, Quantum Coffee is so aesthetically pleasing to exist in and serves up to-die-for coffee. The design of this place is so drool-worthy, I crave getting to go there to work on my projects and just bask in the atmosphere. Luke and I love taking our time and having a good ol’ coffee date, sipping on a well-crafted latte.

I think sometimes, coffeeshop dates are reserved for first-meetings or quick blind dates, but we have learned to really cherish gushing over a well designed place to relax, with friendly staff, and a killer espresso. Taking time to slow down together and appreciate the small things is so important! And, what a better way to keep warm?

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A little friendly competition is great for any couple, and SPiN Ping-Pong Social Club is perfect for rolling up your sleeves and battling it out on the ping-pong table. You can reserve a table for the night and square off in a one-on-one game or meet another couple there to really up the ante. With music blasting and cool lighting, it’s great on a weeknight or weekend. They serve beer and have an incredible winter menu as well, so make sure to take a break and fill up!

Cibo Wine Bar

Being huge foodies, I had to include a restaurant on this list! Cibo Wine Bar has three locations in Toronto, but I recommend the King St. W location as my favorite. With dimmed lighting and wines everywhere, you really feel like you’re in a cozy wine cellar. The staff is amazing and they make all of their bread on-site, which you get free when you order (and, they let you ask for more! But shhhh don’t let that secret get out too far).

Serving up mouth-watering Italian food and perfect wine pairings, this Cibo is romantic and doesn’t break the bank. We love going for appetizers and wine and a random weeknight, or going there for a full meal and dessert for a special occasion. It’s the perfect place to cuddle up in a booth and spend all night talking.

Winter time can be cold, but our city offers so many things you can do with that special someone to bundle up and stay warm. Whether it’s good food, good company, or a good game, there’s no need to stay inside watching Netflix! Looking for more great date ideas in Toronto? Expedia.ca has the blog post for you! Read it here.

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We’re in Europe!

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Sorry for the hiatus! We have been travelling through Europe on a pretty tight schedule, which has left us tired and busy. In Asia, we had lots of time to relax and reflect but we haven’t given ourselves much down time during this leg of the trip.

Our itinerary so far has been Paris > Amsterdam > Brussels > Tomorrowland Festival > Germany > NatureOne Festival > More Germany > Prague > Budapest > Croatia for Sonus Festival > More Croatia.

We’ll be touching down in Halifax on September 8th after we finish driving down the coast of Croatia, finishing in Dubrovnic. Luke is excited to pretend he’s a cast member in the Game of Thrones, and I’m just hoping to catch the last rays of sun before the rainy East Coast of Canada.

Europe has been full of good food, best friends, and incredible music. We’re sad to leave, but excited to get home.

Updates soon!

Tea time in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

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Upon arriving in Malaysia, we realized we really had no idea where to head off to next. We had arrived here on a fairly spur-of-the-moment decision, so we hadn’t planned our next stops. After browsing a few tourist agencies, we noticed several posters for Cameron Highlands, and decided to buy a $5 bus ticket.

No one had warned us about the twists and turns on the last hour of the drive. We also didn’t know it would be up the side of a mountain. The massive bus was careening around corners back and forth, and both of us quickly popped a Gravol to settle our stomachs. The views were nice, but I’m surprised we made it in one piece.

We had scored a quaint guesthouse for $10 a night. It was basic, but we had a private room and they served cheap (and good) food, so we were happy.

Cameron Highlands is a really small town nestled in the mountains and surrounded by the biggest tea plantations in Malaysia. The plantations in this region actually produce enough tea to supply all of Malaysia, although they do export much of it.
On our first day, we walked to the Cameron Valley Tea plantation. Taking about an hour, it was surreal to finally get to the top of the plantation and look down at all of the tea leaves. They explained to us that tea trees can grow endlessly, and we saw some of the massive trees that had never been pruned. The fields were filled with tea trees that were just as old, except they were constantly cut back to a size and shape that is easy to work with. We got to try some of their delicious tea and explore the plantation on our own after.

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On our way back, we decided to try and skip the hour-long walk (uphill this time) and stuck out our thumbs. Cameron Highlands is such a small town and the people of Malaysia are so incredibly kind, our guesthouse had actually recommended hitch hiking here. A guy and a girl our age pulled over in their work van and talked our ears off on the ride back. They were grinning ear-to-ear after having met us and we were so thankful to have a break for our feet, so the feeling was mutual.

The next day, we bought a packaged tour that would drive us to the top of Gunung Brinchang Mountain, followed by the Boh Tea plantation, and finish with a tour through the Mossy Forest. It was $15 for the whole excursion and it lasted all day.

The view from Gunung Brinchang was beautiful, although a bit crowded. We had to battle our way up an old iron lookout post to get a picture, but it was nice to see the entire view of Cameron Highlands.

After snapping a few pictures atop the mountain, we took our jeep to the Boh Tea plantation where we saw where Southeast Asia’s largest tea company. They took us on a tour of their tea fields, and we got to see them harvesting the leaves. We also went through their factory and were shown the process by which tea leaves are sorted, withered, rolled, aged and then dried. It was interesting to learn, and really made us appreciate the tea we got to try at the end!

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Last in the tour, we got to see the Mossy Forest, which looked like a scene from Avatar. The overgrown jungle was full covered in moss, hence the name. As this jungle was perched on the side of the mountain, the views were incredible. Our guide showed us massive pitcher plants and told us all kinds of cool facts about the forest. It was really interesting, as well as pretty.

In the evenings, we spent our time relaxing. We enjoyed some incredible and authentic Indian food, met some other travellers, and went to bed early to the sounds of crickets and frogs chirping.

Cameron Highlands may not have a ton to do, but if you want peace, quiet, and beautiful nature then it’s not to be missed.

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Living the city life in Kuala Lumpur

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Going to Malaysia was sort of a last minute plan for the two of us. We wanted to get more out of our trip to South East Asia, rather than just the typical route, so we budgeted and made it happen.

Kuala Lumpur turned out to be a really incredible city, with tons of things to see and do. The East Indian presence made this country very unique from all the others we had been in so far. The food, customer service, and overall atmosphere was completely different. They also have a really amazing transit system that includes free bus routes. Once we mastered the routes, we were able to explore the entire city for free.

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Teh tarik, before being stirred.

We started off each morning with roti, and I fell in love with ‘teh tarik’, their signature milk tea. It was sort of like a chai tea latte. For $1 a meal, we were on cloud nine. The flavors and cost of the Malaysian food was a total highlight of our trip. But, more on that later.

The city is known for its obsession with shopping malls. In the downtown core there were almost a dozen megamalls that put most western malls to shame. Massive skylights, hundreds of stores, roller coasters inside, and arcades that stretch from one end to the other, it was the definition of excess. We were staying right by the iconic Bukit Bintang mall, and it didn’t disappoint. It had been months since we stepped inside any mall, let alone one this massive. We indulged in some shopping and got some phone cases, screen protectors, and a few other tech-necessities for super cheap.

Later, we headed to the hawker street and Central Market for some local food and souvenir shopping. We walked and walked until our feet couldn’t take any more. At sunset, we caught the bus to the Petronas Towers to enjoy the lights.

It felt really surreal to be at the bottom of the Petronas Towers. We were extremely excited and took probably 100 selfies. While there’s not much to do other than gawk at the height and beauty of them, it’s something that should not be missed. It’s hard to describe how beautiful the towers look when lit up at night – the pictures hardly do it justice. There was also a free light and water show at sundown.

On our way home, we stopped for some satay in Chinatown and revelled in the people watching and street-food smelling.

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Luke’s new best friend, Samie’s worst enemy.

The next day, we headed to Batu Cave. After a short ride on the subway, you can walk to the cave from the station. We lathered on the sunscreen and headed up the massive flight of stairs into the cave. While the cave itself isn’t too pretty, there are monkeys everywhere vying for food. Luke loved getting up close to them but they didn’t seem friendly, so I kept my space.

We have such fond memories of being in Kuala Lumpur and it was hands down one of our most favorite cities so far. The people, the food, and the incredible infrastructure really blew us away. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to put Kuala Lumpur on your list!

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Koh Phangan: The island that never sleeps

After a far-too-short visit to Koh Phangan in February for the Full Moon Party, it was finally time for us to come back and really explore the island for everything it had to offer. This time however, we’d be alongside our friends Brad and Karalee.

For the first part of the week, we stayed on Bottle Beach. It was a more secluded part of the island, which let us relax and take in some peace and quiet. We had a beautiful beach on our front steps, and a small bay without too many neighbours. We had a lot planned for the week ahead, and this was a great little place to charge our batteries.

Our first stop was Guy’s Bar. Located on the far side of a mountain, you have two options for getting there: long tail boats through the ocean, or a near-death 4×4 truck ride up one side of the mountain and back down the other. Since it was windy and the waves were choppy, we only had one option: mountain climbing in the box of a pickup.IMG_6494

To say the drive was scary would be an understatement. In pitch black, all we could see was uphill on this narrow cracked dirt road with massive rocks and potholes. We were holding on for dear life and wondering how we were supposed to get back out of here. We were thick in the jungle and just hoping that the brakes weren’t going to give out. At one point, all you could see was the road and the sky — it was that steep.

Once at Guy’s Bar, the pounding techno and serene layout calmed us down. We settled in for a long night of dancing and we made a few friends. The exclusivity of Guy’s Bar was a bit of a treat in and of itself. The trek there kept away the casual tourists, and left you with a club of pure enthusiasts. All in all, the trip to Guy’s Bar is worth it if you’re hoping to really experience the magic of Koh Phangan.

The next few days we took rather easy, spending time walking through the night market, enjoying good food and taking in the sunsets. Koh Phagnan is beautiful and has so much to offer. It’s an island both small enough to get around but big enough it offers a bit of everything. We hiked to waterfalls and relaxed on the beaches to offset the partying, don’t worry!

Our next big event was ‘The Jungle Experience’. This party was taking place near Haad Rin beach, so we switched bungalows to one closer to the party. In the heart of the jungle with only black lights to light everything up, we found another oasis of techno. Karalee and I danced until our feet hurt, but managed to leave before Luke and Brad could get us into any trouble.

IMG_6403The next day, the four of us headed to Amsterdam Bar to catch the sunset. Amsterdam Bar is a pool and bar set on a hill in the perfect position to watch the sun setting over the island. With loungers and chill music, we were happy to sit in silence and take in the view. It was a really incredible moment to spend all together.

Later, Luke and I stopped by a free psytrance party called Baan Sabai. Tucked away by the water, this little gem of a club was filled with psychedelic posters, black lights, palm trees, and pounding psytrance. We snagged a hammock and got our fill, watching people around us feel the music and dance to the trippy beat.

On our last day, we met Brad and Karalee for some swimming on Haad Rin beach. Haad Rin is best known for its parties, but I have to say it has some of the most stunning water and an incredible view of the island. The water was crystal clear and the beach had so many food options. We sat and smoked a hookah as the sun set before finally saying goodbye to our friends.

Getting to spend a week with Brad and Karalee on Koh Phangan was the highlight of our trip. Having them around showed us that a journey is only as good as the people you get to share it with. We made unforgettable memories and it’s something that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.

Here are some of our favourite pictures from the trip. Remember, you can click on any picture in any post to see the full size image 🙂

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Koh Phi Phi and The Beach (Maya Bay)

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Luke and I watched The Beach before embarking on our trip to South East Asia, so getting to see Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay was on the top of my list while we were island hopping through the south of Thailand.

We kept our stay on Koh Phi Phi short because finding affordable accommodation proved to be a bit difficult. Originally, our budget only permitted a one-night stay at $25/night; after falling in love with the island however, we decided to stay an extra night.

Koh Phi Phi is absolutely stunning. It’s hands down one of my favorite islands. It’s nice and small, but big enough to do some exploring. There’s tons to do there and you can enjoy the bar life, shop, hike to the viewpoints, go snorkelling, or take a day trip to the many little islands and beaches nearby.

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We loved the catching the sunset.

On day one, we got in and grabbed some food before heading to the viewpoint. It was incredibly hot and steep, but it was well worth it. We got to watch the sunset dip into the ocean while we were overlooking the entire island. The view is priceless up there.

Later that evening we explored the nightlife. There are tons of backpackers and all sorts of crazy bars offering everything from beer pong to Muay Thai. The latter bar will give you a free drink if you fight in the ring with another traveler. We happened to drop in just in time to see a couple of guys all suited up in Muay Thai gear fighting it out for their alcoholic prize. It was pretty funny to see.

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The next day, we were up early for our Maya Bay tour. There are tons of tour companies offering basic tours of the surrounding islands, including Maya Bay. We grabbed one for $12 USD that included Monkey Island (a little beach with monkeys crawling all over it), the Viking Cave (just a drive by – it’s a large but unimpressive hole in the side of a rock wall), swimming in Phi Leh Bay, and finally some snorkelling and lounging at Maya Bay for an hour.

Most of these cheaper tours are pretty basic, and the “tour guides” are just locals with long tail boats. It’s hit or miss if you’ll get a good guide, but on the plus side you get some rice and fruit on the boat. Our guide was pretty cranky but luckily the view on the trip was worth it.

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We managed to snag one picture away from the crowds!

Getting to Maya Bay (aka The Beach) was a bit disappointing but we were still happy to be there. The beach is RAMMED with tourists. The bay is filled with boats, including long tail and huge cruise ships. There are people crawling everywhere. It’s hard to take a picture or relax. It’s a shame, since that’s what the entire movie was about – how tourists spoil the natural beauty of places. It seems like the fame from the movie has done just that to this beautiful bay.

Luckily, the beaches on Koh Phi Phi itself are quite incredible. One half of the island faces onto a large bay, all of which is waist
deep and bathtub warm. I loved floating in it – it was warm, crystal clear, and the sand was that dreamy soft white. We spent a lot of our time just swimming and enjoying the view of the bay.

On night two we caught an epic two-hour fire show before heading down to the beach where they had a bunch of bars playing music. Of course, we found one playing our type of chill music and we relaxed while meeting some other travellers (and even a made a dog friend).

We’re so happy we opted to visit Koh Phi Phi. It’s something not to be missed. Here are some pictures from our stay!

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Phuket? Meh.

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Oh, Phuket.

Obviously, Phuket was on our travel itinerary since we’re in the South of Thailand and everyone and their drunk best friend has a travel story from Phuket. I guess it’s safe to say the place is more infamous than famous, and we quickly found out why.

I don’t want to completely rule out Phuket, because I’m sure there are lots of sides to it, but we really didn’t enjoy it. After seeing much of the South already, Phuket was a big let down. It had a grimier feel than Bangkok with much more in your face sex (ping pong shows, girls dancing on poles, and Asian girls teetering on platform heels galore) on the main drag and the beaches we checked out were sorta…meh.

Mind you, we stayed closer to the Patong Beach area (which is the main tourist area) and maybe that was our issue. I’m sure there’s lots to explore in Phuket but if you’re coming to Thailand, please just hop to the islands sooner rather than later and enjoy what the South really has to offer.

IMG_6165Our trip was generally uneventful. We had a hotel mishap and had to endure the blaring sounds of construction every morning, but we got a free meal out of it at least. We made a trip to the mall to replace our broken Mac charger, bought a second-hand GoPro Hero 3 (yay!), and explored the more local eateries.

One highlight was No. 9 2nd Restaurant which we only noticed due to the massive line out front. Intrigued, we lined up and we were glad we did. About a 10 minute wait (as we were salivating over all the food being brought out), we finally got to sit down and enjoy some of the tastiest Thai food we’ve had this trip. Trust us, it’s worth every minute of standing.

I’m sad to say we don’t have much else to say about Phuket. We enjoyed walking the main strip, popping into some clubs and checking out the crowd, and we liked watching the sunset on the beach.

Overall, I’d say that it’s worth checking out but only for a night or two. If you’re into partying and not knowing what happened last night (or, which ladyboy happened…) then it’s definitely the place for you. For us? Back to the islands!

A day on Railay Beach

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Railay Beach was one of the main reasons we decided to go to Krabi, so we rented a long tail boat for a day trip to the beach.

We opted for just a day trip rather than an overnight to save on money (both accommodations and food) and so we could explore the rest of Krabi. It was a decision we didn’t regret! We drove our motorbike 15 minutes from Krabi to Ao Nang beach (amazing ride!) to catch a long tail boat for 100 baht ($3 USD) each way. The boat leaves whenever it has enough people, which for us took less than five minutes.

It’s worth mentioning that the beach town of Ao Nang is worth checking out, even as a place to stay. Packed with beach stores, food options, and a good beach vacation vibe, we really wished we had known it was such a happening place. Compared to the somewhat underwhelming town of Krabi, it may have been a better home base for this leg of the trip.

The long tail boat ride was about 15 minutes and the ride itself was gorgeous. Sailing past all the rocks and peaks coming out of the water and getting to see the beach up ahead was truly breathtaking. Our anticipation to get to the beach grew and grew the closer we got.

Once we arrived, we didn’t set out our towels to relax just yet. There are many different beaches on Railay, all within walking distance, so we wanted to pick our favourite. We walked from Railay West to Railay East and then to Ao Pranang. On Ao Pranang, there are some really cool rock climbing setups and you can check out the Pranang Cave. Overall, Pranang beach was our favourite place to sunbathe.

The beaches didn’t get too busy while we were there and the water was perfect. We explored the island, met some monkeys, checked out the caves, and grabbed an incredible chicken shwarma from an expat who owns a little shack. It was the perfect day trip to take in another beautiful Thai beach.

With that, we figured only pictures could do the rest justice. Enjoy!

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Taking in the beauty of Krabi

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After several days of island hopping, it was time for all the natural mainland beauty that Krabi had to offer. We were looking forward to Railay Beach, as well as the mountain scenery everywhere.

 We arrived in the evening and were welcomed by the night market where we snagged $1 crab cakes and delicious smoothies. Every evening, the night market comes alive with so many different kinds of foods all for super cheap.

We woke up early the next morning to ride our motorbike to the Emerald Pool and the hot springs waterfall. Many tours offer a package to the pool, the hot springs, and the tiger temple but we opted to go on our own time to avoid the crowds and schedule.IMG_5575

The Emerald Pool (Sa Morokat, Crystal Pool) is a natural pool of water filled with clean, pure, glistening water. It’s at an absolutely perfect temperature for lounging all day, surrounded by forest. We got there around noon and it wasn’t too busy. The water was so clear; you could see the ground and everything through it. It was a perfect crystal blue.

Close by was the Blue Pool, which is spring water that has this almost fake-looking aqua blue color. It was really pretty to look at. There’s no swimming allowed at the Blue Pool, since it’s surrounded by quick sand! When you clap your hands the sand bubbles up underneath the water, which was pretty cool to see.

IMG_20150210_153041Next we were off to the hot springs, which was home to a small series of waterfalls. It was basically a naturally made jacuzzi. Getting in at the top, the water is pretty hot but as you go from the top level down to the other levels of the waterfall, it slowly cools down. The waterfall has tons of areas to sit and relax or find some gushing water to play under. When you get to the bottom, you can jump into the pond to cool off before heading back to the top again. Words don’t do this place justice… it was as beautiful and refreshing as any spa could ever hope to be.

On our way home, we got to enjoy the beautiful limestone scenery, as well as rubber tree plantations and jackfruit farms. It was one of the most incredibly beautiful motorbike rides of our trip. We pulled down a side dirt road as we pulled into town to watch the sunset, and were greeted by a few local boys and an elephant. The locals who owned her let us take pictures and enjoy the view of the sun setting over their property.

Thailand is filled with so much beauty, and Krabi especially gives you chances to see nature at its very best. It was refreshing to feel somewhat off the usual tourist path and being able to take in the sights Thailand has to offer.

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