collage our road trip2

50 days in California – Accommodation Free!

We have just returned from a 3 month trip exploring California and had the most amazing time and with 50 days ACCOMMODATION FREE! saving us $6,380 and allowed our travel budget to stretch much further.   We stayed in beautiful homes in locations we had always wanted to visit and with an added bonus that is positively PAWSOME!

For years we’d talked about exploring California. High on our list to visit were Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon and Death Valley in particular  as well as San Francisco. We never really thought that dream would ever happen.  

Being part of the TrustedHousesitters Community has given us that travel opportunity.

For the last 2 years we have been almost full time house sitting in the UK and in this time we saved £9,000 on rental accommodation to go towards our 5 year International house sitting travel fund.   By living free of charge in beautiful homes homes while the owners themselves travel, allows our own travel fund to stretch much further.  But the huge added bonus in this journey, for us as animal lovers, is that you get to have the company of the owners’ pets too.

With 5 great house sits booked on the Trustedhousesitters website, on the 31st October 2019 – feeling super excited –  we flew out to Los Angeles.  We had 24 nights in California before our first house sit began in San Francisco, so as soon as we arrived in LA airport, with our car rental booked, we set off up the iconic Pacific Highway Route 1 – the start of our leisurely 16 day road trip visiting all the iconic Tourist locations we had so wanted to see before any house sitting began.

At the end of our road trip we drove down to San Diego as we still had a week before our first house sit began  – read here about our week in  San Diego

Our first house/pet sit began 23rd November with adorable 18 month old Samoyed – Mookie in San Francisco. This house sit meant we had 10 nights accommodation free in San Francisco, living in a modern 4 bedroom house in a great location very close to Ocean beach and Golden Gate Park.  Mookie loved to travel with us as we explored the City, including Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39 with views of Alcatraz, Union Square, Mission District, Haight-Ashbury.

Our second house sit was 8 nights with sweet, very shy, Poodle Julian in San Rafael, just a little further North of San Fran.   He loved walking  into town with us and it was a lovely lazy week for us and great just living like a local. We had a drive to Stinson beach with him and a day out to the nearby beautiful bayside town of Sausalito that Julian’s owners had recommended to visit. We stayed with the owners the night before the sit, they cooked a lovely meal for us and left us their car to use. The have become great friends.

Our next house sit was  further North, in the ‘gold rush’ town of Placerville, caring for Suni the cat and 3 hens with big personalities. Most morning we had a visit from the Wild Black Turkey crew!

 It was during this sit that we were able to drive to Lake Tahoe.  We got up early and with the pets all fed and settled we had time enough to drive all around the lake, stopping to take in the beautiful snowy scenery of the Nevada mountains, the stunning views of Emerald Bay lake, walking around Incline village and sitting at Secret Cove Beach.   As we left in the evening we passed the South Tahoe ski resorts vibrant and colourful getting ready for the Après-ski mood. This was definitely a dream come true for us to visit Lake Tahoe.

After a leisurely 3 day coastal drive down to LA again, taking in Malibu as we went, where of course we had to stop and nose at the awesome beach front houses, we arrived at Venice beach for our Christmas and New Year house sit.  A lovely modern house just 5 minutes walk to the beach, with cats x 2, Cashmere and Smudge. With these two easy cats we were able to explore Venice and more of Los Angeles –  including Beverley Hills, Hollywood and Rodeo Drive.

We left our Venice Beach house/pet sit on the 4th January and then had another break in our house sitting calendar, so we took the opportunity to visit Death Valley. 

We collected our car rental and drove over to Ridgecrest for an overnight stay and then we headed on towards Death Valley.   As we drove closer to the California/Nevada border our views of the Shoshone mountains alongside the barren desert landscape were pretty spectacular.

We had booked a Motel at Pahrump, in the heart of the Mojave Dessert,  but as our route actually took us to Death Valley side first and arriving at mid-day,  we were able to spend a half day in the Valley getting a feel for where the main iconic sites were, chatting to the Wardens, collecting maps etc.  We then drove to our Pahrump Motel, great room with restaurant attached and friendly owners.   It was about an hour away from Death Valley, anything closer was double in price, this suited us great.

We stayed in Pahrump for 3 nights which gave us 2 further full days in Death Valley.  The weather was great for us, mostly blue sky days and what an amazing place Death Valley is.   It really is sheer beauty around every corner.  The colour palette of Death Valley is mind blowing.  From the entrance to exit there are picture perfect landscapes and just driving around there were so many breathtaking views.  Snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains, desert plains, massive craggy rocks and canyons, the colourful 8 mile loop of Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive, the massive Mesquite Sand dunes, Zabriskie Point for amazing views over the rocks and canyons and the best place to see the sunset.  The Badwater salt basin, 282 feet below sea level – it was like nothing we had ever seen before.  Dantés View was closed at the time of our visit.  We pinch ourselves that we have been able to visit this amazing place, for sure Death Valley will be high on our list of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

After Death Valley we drove down to beautiful Palm Springs as we still had 7 nights before our next house/pet sit.  We got a real bargain with our Palm Springs Accommodation in a great location, really comfortable rooms and the same brilliant rates all year round. Palm Springs is in the Sonoran desert region of the Coachella Valley.  The City is surrounded by mountains and towering palm trees can be seen everywhere.  Palm Springs has an upmarket feel, the main central street is full of great little restaurants and cocktail bars and boutique shops and gift shops etc.  The coffee shops are a great place to sit in the sun and people watch. We loved the very popular Thursday evening VillageFest – stalls of arts, crafts, farmers market, hot and cold food vendors.  We had some great food.

Our next house sit was back to the coast of LA, in Santa Monica.  We were just 10 minutes walk to the beach, caring for Kai the German Shepherd/Pit bull cross.  This was one of our most challenging sits but in the end our most rewarding.

Santa Monica has a beautiful long sandy beach and here you get to see views of the glorious  sunsets over the Pacific. This is where you head to if you live in LA to get away from city life. We checked out the average nights cost to stay in Santa Monica if we weren’t house sitting with free rent and it was well over $120/night. The carnival atmosphere along the beach areas is vibrant especially on the central beach Pier – this is where iconic Route 66 finishes. The beach next to the Pier is where the original Muscle Beach was located and it’s still the venue for beach work outs and practicing acrobats – what a location for an outside gym!

Downtown Santa Monica has a classy feel with a large open air shopping Mall and a pedestrianised smart 3rd Street Promenade. At the weekends talented buskers/artists perform here, hoping to get spotted by the LA entertainment world. There’s a twice weekly Farmer’s Market, it’s very popular!

After Santa Monica we headed to the nearby quieter beach resort of Redondo, checking into Moonlite Inn for our final 3 nights before leaving the California on 28th January 2020.   Redondo has a beautiful long sandy beach and again you can see, as most of the California coast, amazing colourful sunsets over the sea.  Yep, we’ve had our fair share of superb California sunsets.

We had 3 lazy days walking the beach, watching the pelicans on the rocks, reminiscing about all our amazing times as we had travelled around California and pinching ourselves that we had made it all happen and it had been so much fun.  All the places we had seen, the adorable pets we had cared for and the lovely people we had met.  It was all so much more fun than we had ever dared to hope it would be. 

Spending all this time in California and visiting so many amazing locations would never have been possible without joinging Trustedhousesitters and having the opportunity to stay in owners homes exchanging our care of their home and pets for free accommodation. 

We are now house sitting in Spain – living in a beautiful villa with pool in Javea, caring for adorable Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Tully and Tizer.  We have sits lined up in London and in April we fly to Cape Town for 5 weeks to care for Charlie and Flo. Again we are taking the opportunity to explore as a tourist after the sit and we already have a road trip planned driving the scenic Garden Route and a Safari booked.  How exciting is that!….all thanks to our fantastic travelling house and pet sitting journey we are having with Trustedhousesitters.

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Emerald Bay View Point

Whistle Stop Tour Of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Thinking of visiting Lake Tahoe, well don’t hesitate as its a stunning location! Here’s the results of our whistle stop tour around Lake Tahoe in a day.

Our start point was South Lake Tahoe, located on the southern edge of the Lake, a bustling town with all the amenities you could need for a great summer or winter holiday. Lots of accommodation, great shopping, ski resort and lots of options for water sports.

South Lake Tahoe Sign
Arriving in South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe Views
South Lake Tahoe Views

Driving along the lakeside scenic road going anti-clockwise our first stop we headed towards Emerald Bay View Point and State Park.

The scenic drive towards Emerald Bay
The Scenic Drive Towards Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay View Point
Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive
Lake Tahoe Route 89 is Definitely A Scenic Drive
Route 89 Towards Tahoe City
Route 89 Towards Tahoe City

Continue north on road 89 and you’ll reach Tahoe City, lined with shops and restaurants. Popular as a winter destination it has some lovely cross country ski tracks and popular ski resorts including the Sugar Bowl, while in summer the lake comes to life with sailing, canoeing and swimming.

Tahoe City
Arriving At Tahoe City
Heading Towards North Lake Tahoe and Incline Village

Continue north from Tahoe City and you’ll pass Kings Beach as you head towards very popular Incline Village really popular with skiers due to its proximity to Diamond Peak Ski Resort. It also looks out over Crystal Bay putting it right up there as an all year round holiday hotspot.

Towards Incline Village

As you reach Incline Village you start your journey down the other side of the lake. Popular scenic stops on route include Sand Harbor Beach, Bonsai Rock Trailhead and Secret Cove.

Secret Cove in The Late Afternoon Sun
Secret Cove in The Late Afternoon Sun
East Shore Views
East Shore Views

The road heads away from the lake for a while and passes Tahoe Nevada State Park, Spooner Lake, East Shore Forest. Before picking up Lincoln Highway taking you through Montreal Canyon back towards the lake.

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Lake Tahoe Beach Views

Continue along Lincoln Highway south along the lakeside and you’ll find yourself back in South Lake Tahoe.

South Lake Tahoe At Dusk
South Lake Tahoe At Dusk
South Lake Tahoe Views
South Lake Tahoe Views
South Lake Tahoe Lakeside

Allow a good 3 or 4 hours to drive round the lake. It took us 5 hours with 3 or 4 stops for photos, coffee and a half hour walk along the lakeside. Its a really lovely drive and we could have made more stops if we had more time, but we wanted to get back to South Lake Tahoe for sunset.

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Venice, California

Venice Beach So What’s It Really Like

Venice, California
Welcome to Venice, California!

We were excited to be spending Christmas and New Year in Venice Beach, we’d been pretty lucky to be chosen for the sit from quite a few applicants and would be caring for 2 easy cats for the owners. We headed straight down from our house sit in Placerville via Pacific Highway 1.

Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in Venice Beach take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!

We had the use of the owners lovely 3 bedroom home just a 20 minute walk from Venice Beach Boardwalk. A pretty good location to explore Venice and nearby Santa Monica.

Meet Smudge and Cashmere, our Venice Pet Sitting Buddies!

Venice Beach was not quite what we expected, or should we say not like the photos depicted. First impression of the boardwalk was of a mix of graffiti, an abundance of clothing stores, fast food outlets and we feel we have to mention it, the numerous homeless people encamped along the boardwalk. We only mention this as we want to portray and honest version of our stay in Venice. We also feel very sorry that our fellow humans have been put in a position that they have to live on the streets. We’d be very interested to here anyone else’s first impression of Venice Beach, please feel free to drop us a comment at the bottom of this blog.

Having given our first impression, we have to say that our impression did change the longer we stayed in Venice, so please read on!

Venice Beach Promenade
Venice Beach Promenade!

Second impression was a little different once we had googled a little more about Venice Beach. We found words like, “interesting”, “eclectic” and “crazy” and started build an idea of exactly what Venice Beach was all about. In summary it really is an unusual place and a really great place to people watch!

Graffiti Art Venice Beach
Just one of some of the amazing graffiti art around Venice Beach!

Venice does actually pay homage to its Italian name sake, as it has a section of canals at one end of the town, colourful buildings, lots of rather unique art and certainly a lot of unusual characters who you’ll regularly see on the boardwalk.

Venice Canals California
Venice Canals in California!

The beach is pretty amazing, stretching as far as the eye can see, its attached to Santa Monica at one end and encompasses Marina del Rey at the other. If you walk toward Marina del Rey along the boardwalk you’ll eventually hit one of the best parts of the beach in my opinion, just last the pier and away from the hustle and bustle of Venice you’ll find a beautiful stretch of sand fringed by some rather unique houses and apartment buildings. Head the other way towards Santa Monica, past Muscle Beach and the rather should we say unique part of Venice boardwalk, you’ll reach the first part of Santa Monica where you can almost feel the different vibe!

View of Venice Beach
Venice Beach and the Boardwalk!

So what about some brunch while in Venice? Well, like many travellers we headed to Egg Slut, which is located just by the Venice Sign. We grabbed a couple of Bacon, Egg and Cheese to go. For some reason they didn’t serve coffee after 11.30am, so we headed down the boardwalk to Starbucks!

Eggslut Venice Beach
Two of the biggest Eggsluts you've ever seen!

One more thing before you go. Be sure to head down to the beach at dusk, as Venice is known for having some pretty amazing sunsets!

Venice Beach Sunset
Beautiful sunset at Venice Beach!

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Placerville

Exploring Hangman Town Now Known As Placerville

Placerville
Placerville or as it was called in the old days Hangman Town

Our California house sitting journey has take us to Hangman Town known today as Placerville. An old gold mining town with a very interesting past, particularly for a number of criminals hanged from a tree for their crimes way back in the 1840’s and 50’s hence it used to be called Hangman Town.

Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in Placerville take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!

Our accommodation for the week was house sitting for a couple who had a property up in the hills with lots of land looking over the town and we had the pleasure of caring for their cat called Suni and three very characterful chickens.

Placerville Pet Sitting
Pet Sitting Our Three Feathered Friends

Placerville retains its old gold mining town charm and feels a bit like going back in time when you head down into the main street. With its bell tower in the square and reminder of its Hangtown past with the local ice cream parlour still having a noose hanging from its top floor. Couple this with main the street full of shops with old fashioned signs and four wheel drives signifying that you really are up in the hills, makes this a real experience of imagining how it was back in the gold rush era.

Hangman Tree now days an ice cream parlour!

Our favourite coffee stop was Placerville Coffee Depot located at the end of Main Street and Hog Wild BBQ provided us with a great meal, check them out if you like ribs, chicken or pulled pork.

We were visiting in December and amazed at the number of shops specialising in Christmas ornaments and decorations. It looked as if they sold them all year round, really pretty to look round but amazing to think that people are buying Christmas decorations all year round!

Placerville Town Centre
Placerville Town Centre

For food shopping you’ll need to head to the other end of town which felt like you were going to another town all together, its a good couple of miles along Placerville Drive to Raley’s Supermarket or take the main highway to Perks Corner and you’ll find a Safeway Store.

For the cheapest petrol in town head for Fuel 4 Less at the end of Main Street.

Parking in Placerville is pretty good too, roadside parking and a few car parks, all offer 2 hours free parking before they start charging. Plenty long enough to explore the town and grab a coffee.

Haircut in Placerville
Jonathan getting a trim at the one of a kind Barbers Shop in Placerville, best place to find out all the local gossip!

One of the main reasons for us taking the house sit out in Placerville was the opportunity to take a day trip to Lake Tahoe. Its a must go place for fabulous scenery, good skiing and water sports, really good hiking spots and great places to eat and drink.

Lake Tahoe
Beautiful Lake Tahoe

We took the stunning scenic route 50 through Eldorado Forest to South Lake Tahoe. Talk about a stroke of luck as we had heard about a winter storm a few days before we arrived in Placerville and half expected the road to be closed or snow chains needed. But we had blue sky, clear roads and snow on the trees. It was just like one of those scenic drives you only ever dream of doing. Simply beautiful!

Winter Drive to Lake Tahoe
The stunning drive to Lake Tahoe

After about an hours drive we reached South Lake Tahoe, a really popular town boasting ski resorts and a fabulous lakeside location, providing what can only be described as paradise for water sports and winter sports lovers!

Our plan was to drive the 72 miles around the lake, and we decided to go anti clockwise due to the position of the sun for photos. We set of on the 89 towards Tahoe City.

Winter in Lake Tahoe
Jonathan trying to capture the beauty of Lake Tahoe

First stop was the Emerald Bay View Point for what has to be one of the best views of Lake Tahoe. There are a few view points where you can capture panoramas of the mountains and lake. We hiked out through the snow to a cliff top overlooking the lake which took some doing, but we had it to ourselves and captured what we thought was the perfect selfie.  After a long hike back to the car, we set off heading further north, shortly arriving at the official Emerald Bay View point with a really easy walk to get the perfect selfie! We drove past it muttering!

Emerald Bay View Point
The most photographed point at Lake Tahoe - Emerald Bay View Point

Second stop was Tahoe City, a waterfront location and plenty of shops, but not a decent coffee shop in sight, so we headed further north!

Coffee Lake Tahoe
One of the most scenic coffee stops ever!

Third stop was incline village where we hunted down a Starbucks to takeaway. Incline village is pretty big actually and has some fabulous houses and a great place to pay a visit to Lake Tahoe State Park and San Harbour, which were our next stop, the perfect spot to sit on the rocks and drink takeaway coffee!  There is a really nice footpath walk by the side of the lake at Secret Harbor and some great photo opportunities at Secret Cove and Chimney Beach.

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park!

Heading back down to the southern part of the lake taking the 28 and then on to the 50 we passed through Nevada State Park, East Shore Forest and Zephyr Cove Park as we return to our start point at South Lake Tahoe just as the sunset. From the lakeside we could watch the last few skiers taking their last run down the mountain at the Heavenly Ski Resort while watching the sun set over the lake and mountains in the other direction. A great finish to a fantastic day!

South Lake Tahoe - ski runs in the background taken from the lakeside!

We had a great week staying at Placerville, drinking coffee on the porch while feeding the chickens and caring for their sweet kitty. We even had a couple of visits from the local wild black turkeys that roam the area.

Placerville A Visit From Wild Turkeys
A visit from the wild turkeys in the back garden of the house!

In summary we found Placerville a beautiful place to spend a week. The highlight was definitely the day trip to Lake Tahoe, and we really recommend taking the time to try and get up to the lake if you are visiting California, its well worth the drive, so much so that we would love to return and stay down by the lake if ever a house sit came up down there, we are keeping our eye out for one!

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Aroma Cafe San Rafael

7 Days House Sitting in San Rafael, California

San Rafael Pet Sitting

Having read quite a bit about how lovely San Rafael was, we were pretty excited to be spending a week in town caring for 6 year old Julian the poodle. So we headed straight up from our house sit in San Francisco by taxi arriving at the owners home the night before they flew out for their holiday. Julian was a great pup and joined us for coffee downtown, took us on his favourite walks in the hills looking over San Rafael and had the most amazing trip to the beach were he just couldn’t contain his excitement.

Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in San Rafael take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!

We had the use of the owners lovely home in the hills overlooking San Rafael, just a 20 minute walk from the centre of town, supermarkets and cafes. The owners were kind enough to leave us their car so we could explore the area further and take Julian to the beach.

Our Beautiful Home For The Week

San Rafael is a bustling town and has a relaxing feel in the town centre with a great selection of boutique shops, coffee houses, restaurants, as well as Wholefoods, Safeway and Trader Joe’s Supermarkets. A popular commute to San Francisco and Oakland its roads can be really busy at rush hour times, but the town itself never felt crowded.

Our regular coffee house for the week was Aroma Cafe, where we could sit outside with Julian, people watching in the main street. Good food and coffee, it was always really busy which was a good sign that we picked one of the best day time eateries in town.

If you’re looking to dine out in the evening, check out Sol Food serving some really good Puerto Rican dishes and highly recommended by the home owners.

Aroma Cafe San Rafael
Aroma Cafe, San Rafael

We found a great place for dog walking was up in the hills at Mountain Park which had beautiful views over the town and out towards Richmond Bridge the gateway to Oakland. Boyd Memorial Park is also a nice place for a walk or just to relax if the sun is shining.

Julian Walk
Mountain Park, San Raphael

We had the opportunity to take Julian on a day trip to the beach. We headed up into the hills past Fairfax, Nicasio and through to Point Reyes Station, a lovely drive in itself with mountain, lake and forest views on route. From Point Reyes we took Highway 1 down to beautiful Stinson Beach where we took Julian for a long walk and he absolutely loved it. We then took a sunset drive further down Highway 1 past Muir Beach and back to 101 just above Marin City and headed back north to San Raphael.

Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach

If you have the opportunity to travel further afield than just San Raphael town, then we highly recommend a trip out to Sausalito. Head just 15 minutes south on Highway 101 to this beautiful coastal town, which has some lovely restaurants, good coffee and deli shops and a range of unique shops. A great place for a stroll along the waterfront. You can also catch a ferry to San Francisco from here too.

Sausalito, California
Sausalito, California

In summary we found San Raphael a nice place to spend a week. We recommend you have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area to really benefit from a stay in this location. The downside for us was the traffic, the 101 does get very congested and was a bit of a pain when we came back from the beach and when we visited Sausalito.

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Mookie in San Francisco

Pets Sitting in San Francisco With Mookie The Samoyed

Mookie in San Francisco
We have been lucky enough to have the chance to visit San Francisco all thanks to pet sitting. Our live in buddy for 10 days was Mookie the Samoyed. Just 1 and a half years old and full of energy, Mookie showed us the sights of Sunset District, his favourite Ocean Beach walk and all his mates down in the dog park at Stern Grove.
Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in San Francisco take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!
We had the use of the owners beautiful home in the heart of Sunset District, just a mile from the beach and a short walk to supermarkets and restaurants. The owners were kind enough to leave us their car so we could explore the area further and take Mookie to some of his favourite places.
Mookie in the Car
Mookie Seeing If His Mates Were At The Beach!

Ocean Beach

A beautiful long sandy beach that welcomes dogs, the beach stretches from past Golden Gate Park to the end of San Francisco Zoo. Its a popular beach for surfers and has plenty of roadside parking. Mookie loved it here, chasing sticks, digging in the sand and playing with passing dogs.
Tip: Make sure to head to the beach for Sunset, you can get some great photos and watch the sunset while sitting on the sand dunes.
Mookie at the Beach
Amazing Sunset With Mookie at The Beach!

Stern Grove

Spanning over 30 acres Stern Grove Recreational Park is a great place for dogs as it has a nice dog park popular with the locals. Located in Sunset District it was just a few minutes drive from the house and one of Mookie’s favourite places. We took him to the park in the mornings as this was when his best friends a lively Alsatian, a Springer Spaniel and a baby French Bulldog were at the park. He couldn’t resist a paddle in Pine Lake one of three lakes in the park.

Tip: Keep an eye out for the dates of Stern Grove Festival, a free event of weekly concerts and performances held at the outdoor amphitheatre.

On Our Way to Stern Grove Dog Park!

Downtown San Francisco

Unfortunately we were unable to take Mookie downtown as he wasn’t very keen on the crowds and traffic. The bus stop was conveniently located at the end of the road and the owners had said that the traffic and parking were both horrendous down town, so as we didn’t have Mookie with us we opted for the bus. We ordered a $5 all day ticket using the MuniMoblile App giving us access to all buses. A 50 minute bus journey from Sunset to Downtown, a quick change of bus and then down to Fisherman’s Wharf. 
 
The Wharf is lined with shops and restaurants, make sure you walk as far as Pier 39, bustling with great places to eat, a variety of shops and a great atmosphere. If you fancy a boat trip under Golden Gate Bridge or a excursion to Alcatraz, then you can book them down at the wharf or during the busy months probably a good idea to book online.
Tip: We had lunch at Chowders on Pier 39, a bustling little restaurant serving great Clam Chowder, Fish and Chips and really good prawn cocktail. We highly recommend the Chowder, they serve both red and white, we opted for the white!
After lunch we took a walk up the steep hill at Hyde Street to take a look at the famous crooked street features 8 hairpin turns. You can take the Tram up the street if hill walking isn’t your thing!
 
Before we headed home to Mookie we had time to take a bus up to China Town to pick up some cheap fruit and veg. From here we could walk to Union Square shopping district, home to stores including Macy’s, Bloomingdales and H&M. From here we picked up the No.7 bus back to Sunset District.
Fishermans Wharf San Francisco
Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco!

Best Views Of Golden Gate Bridge

We just had to have a selfie at Golden Gate Bridge, so did a little research and found out that there are a few places you can get a good view from. We took the scenic drive from Sunset District around Sea Cliff. We stopped at Baker Beach to walk Mookie and had a picture with him on the beach and Golden Gate Bridge. We then drove on to Golden Gate Lookout for a selfie, but actually found that the photos on the beach had a better angle of the bridge.

Selfie Of Golden Gate Bridge
Selfie At Golden Gate Bridge

Funston Beach and Park

A little gem just south of San Francisco Zoo and opposite Lake Merced, Funston Park is a great place to take the dog, with lovely walking paths following Sunset, Chip or Horse Trail. Sheltered by pine trees and with beautiful ocean views from some areas of the walking trails it really is an idyllic area. A popular hand gliding site too.

Funston Beach Trail takes you down a steep path which accesses the beach. A beautiful stretch of beach, when we visited we had the whole beach to ourselves. There is a car park at the southern end of the park.

This was one of Mookie’s favourite places to go!

Funston Beach
Mookie Having A Great Time With New Friends At Funston Park And Beach

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is huge measuring 1,017 acres and is located at the north end of Sunset District and really popular it boast within the park a golf course, an angling club, a dog training area, polo field, pedal and rowing boat hire, botanical gardens, Japanese tea garden, a 10,000 seat sports stadium, lots of picnic areas, two dutch windmill, numerous lakes and footpaths, a herd of bison and we even came across a gaze of raccoons!

Free parking is available on Ocean Beach car park at the bottom end of the park (shuttle service operates between the free parking lot at Ocean Beach and major attractions within the park. The shuttle runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays. Limited time parking can be found on many roadside locations in the park and on the outskirts. Underground paid parking is available at The Music Concourse on the north side of the park at 10th Avenue and Fulton Street. More paid parking is available at Kezar Stadium located near the Stanyan Street entrance to the park open all week and Millberry Union on Parnassus Street at weekends only.

Dutch Windmill Golden Gate Park
Dutch Windmill Golden Gate Park!
Lovely Footpath Walks in Golden Gate Park!

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san diego sign

7 Days in San Diego

San Diego is a major city in southern California and we were really excited to visit it as so many travellers had told us it was a great place to be in and we weren’t disappointed with our 7 days stay.  With its all year round mild climate, smart harbour, waterfront promenade, beach, great restaurants, green park areas, zoo and much more –  what’s not to love – and we found the San Diegans to be ultra friendly!  Our visit was mid November and we had super weather in the 70’s.

We stayed in the lively Gaslamp Quarter.  Mostly this area is known as a popular hub for great nightlife, restaurants and cocktail bars.  Walking among the colourful evening lights there is a real vibrant buzz of entertainment and at the same time a definite feel of a friendly community.  

One of our favourite walks was strolling down to Embarcadero (Spanish for wharf)  to the super smart Marina area and Seaport Village.  Looking back behind us is the San Diego skyline.  Below is the San Diego Bay, a natural Harbour and deep water Port.

Walking further along the waterfront we pass through Seaport Village with its chic stores, cafes, book stores,  pretty eateries and at the weekend there is free good live entertainment.  It’s lit up very prettily at night and an evening waterfront walk here really is a delight.   A great place to dine or sip a cocktail while watching the sun going down. The sunsets here are quite spectacular reflecting onto the waters. 

Also at the Seaport district is  ‘The Headquarters’  – a spacious, open air designed space- it is the  former headquarters to the San Diego Police Department and now an exciting new dining and retail destination.    You can find speciality shops and world class restaurants.  The buildings are a rich mix of  designs – Spanish Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Pueblo Revival and Classical Revival .

In Downtown we came across Little Italy (it seemed to us more laid back than the Gaslamp area).  Little Italy is a trendy, friendly neighbourhood, packed with restaurants – some high end gourmet, cocktail bars, gastropubs, and coffee shops and a great juice bar we found.  Every Saturday there is an excellent Farmers Market.  

On our last full day we walked to Bilbao Park.  This huge green park space is totally free to roam and explore, no entry fee.  The Park  has lots to offer and was much bigger than we imagined.  It is filled with museums – 15 in total we think, including the Museum of Man and The San Diego Museum of Art and the Fleece Science Centre. You can walk around the beautiful gardens, there are walking trails and 3 dog parks. The Botanical Garden building is beautiful and unusual, it’s located in the heart of the Park – it has a large lily pond in front of it. Apparently over 2,000 plants are housed here in the Botanical building.

You have to admire the gorgeous architecture in the Park  (unfortunately for us, visiting in the quieter season, many of the buildings at this time were having work carried out so scaffolding was up).  There are cafes and restaurants – we could see the Prado restaurant was popular.  Below is The Japanese Friendship Garden, it is beautiful to walk through and visit the Tea Pavilion.

Summary

Dates of stay: 15th to 23rd November 

Stayed at San Diego Downtown Lodge – priced at $632 USD for the week

Review: Comfortable accommodation, recently refurbished, coffee and ice in reception, good WIFI reception, daily housekeeping, microwave and fridge in room. Good location about 15 to 20 minute walk from Gaslamp District. A bit of road noise! We’d recommend it based on price and location.

Thank you for visiting our Blog, we would really appreciate your comments,  your thoughts on it,  or your experiences to share and if you have any questions.  There is a comment box at the end of this blog page and we will be so happy to get back to you, to answer and to give any help/advice we can.

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7 Days in San Diego
A Guide To Visiting San Diego

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Travelling Thailand

How to Travel Thailand For 2 Months

On the 14th November 2017 we flew to Bangkok, the start of our 54 day tour of Thailand.

The 54 Day Itinary:

Bangkok – 14th November to 9th November
Pattaya – 19th November to 26th November
Bang Tao – 27th November to 3rd December
Phuket – 3rd December to 8th December
Kata – 8th December to 14th December
Phi Phi Islands – 14th December to 17th December
Krabi – 17th December to 24th December
Koh Samui – 24th December to 4th January
Surat Thani – 4th January to 5th January

Bangkok – 14th November to 9th November – (5 nights) Accommodation: MADERLA GUEST HOUSE – price 4000 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See List: The Grand Palace, Floating Market, Wat Pho, Wat Traimit, Lumphini Park, China Town, Khao San.

Our location was perfect for Lumphini Park as Maderla Guest House was just a 10 minute walk away, the MRT station was also on the same road to the park, taking you into the heart of the city. Lumphini was a great place to chill and eat a bit of street food on the way back from a busy day site seeing, a quiet area of green space with a lake and home to a number of rather large Monitor Lizards. The sites of Patpong Night Market and the Skybar Bangkok were both within walking distance too!

Julie's selfie with a Monitor Lizard in Lumphini Park!

You can actually walk from Maderla, through China Town and down to the river, head along the riverside and you will eventually arrive at Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha, walk a little further and you will reach The Grand Palace. The sites of ‘Khao San Road’ are a little further on than that, so most of the attractions are pretty central and fairly close to each other. If we didn’t feel like the long walk down to the river we picked up the MRT blue line across the road from Lumphini Park and in two stops we were pretty near the river.

A visit to The Grand Palace, pretty amazing place!

This was quite a walk and we ended up getting a ‘Tuk Tuk’ back. However, from experience, we don’t recommend getting a Tuk Tuk, as the fumes and traffic make it a very unpleasant experience, we recommend taking the MRT instead!

Our ride through Bangkok on a Tuk Tuk, not for the faint hearted and a face mask for the car fumes highly recommended!

The final thing to see on our list was a floating market. There are a few dotted around the outskirts of Bangkok and we’d done a bit of research before hand. Many people had said how packed with tourists the most popular Damnoen Saduak floating market was and the fact that it was a 100 km bus journey put us off a little. We chose Taling Chan Floating Market as it was a smaller one, still had the stalls and enough boats for the photo opportunities, but had the added attraction of always being able to get good seats on the floating restaurants and it was just 14 km from the centre of Bangkok. We weren’t disappointed, really easy to get to with a trip on the sky train across Bangkok and a quick taxi ride, enough atmosphere and stalls so you felt like you were at a floating market, great food cooked straight off the boats and to top it all off a really good boat trip up the river and back. All in all a good day out and highly recommended.

Taling Chan floating market, a great day out and some of the best prawns ever!

Travelled Bangkok to Pattaya – Taxi with ‘Toms Taxi Pattaya’ – 1200 THB one way – very decent comfortable taxi with air-con, pick up on time and safe driver – recommended!

Pattaya – 19th November to 26th November – (7 nights) Accommodation: Z BY ZING – price 4086 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) – GREAT VALUE! Things to See and Do List: Jomtien Beach, Thai Massage, Walking Street, Jomtien Night Market.

We headed down to Pattaya knowing that we didn’t have too much on our list of things to see and do, so were looking forward to a bit of a relaxing week. We opted for Z by Zing which turned out to be in a great and quiet location but just a 3 minute walk to Jomtien Beach.

Tip: Take advantage of the 10 Baht bus, they run up and down the promenade and take you round to Walking Street and Pattaya Central Beach. One trip costs 10 Baht how ever far you want to go!

Great food served at one of the roadside restaurants!
Rustling up Pad Thai at the Night Market!

Jomtien Beach is OK but not one of the best in Thailand. The promenade stretches the length of the beach and there are some pretty good and very well priced restaurants along the front. We even found a bar that had a ‘Happy Hour’! There are plenty of places to get a massage, we opted for a full Thai Massage, as it was on our to do list …… most painful hour of Jonathan’s life! Jomtien night market is good and has some really cheap clothing. Some great food stalls and and they even have seating overlooking the beach where you can take your freshly cooked Pad Thai, Grilled Prawns, Snapper or anything else that takes your fancy and eat it overlooking the ocean, pretty cool!

Always got time for a bit of deep fried chicken and prawns!

Travelled Pattaya to Bangkok – Taxi with ‘Toms Taxi Pattaya’ – 1600 THB one way – very decent comfortable taxi with air-con, pick up on time and safe driver – recommended!

Bangkok – 26th November to 27th November – (1 night) Accommodation: THIP MANSION DON MUENG AIRPORT – price 890 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Review: Nice modern room, good wifi, great bathroom. Walking distance to the airport and great little roadside restaurants. Recommended!

Travelled By Air – Flight from Don Mueang Airport (DMK) to Phuket (HKT) – total 1000 THB per person – Great little airline and bargain flight tickets – not sure how they do it so cheaply!

Phuket Airport to Bang Tao – Pre-booked Taxi with ‘Hopper Taxi’ – 880 THB one way – very decent comfortable taxi with air-con, pick up on time and safe driver – recommended!

Bang Tao – 27th November to 3rd December – (6 nights) Accommodation: BANGTAO GUEST HOUSE – price 5590 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Bang Tao Beach, Chang Thale Beach, Banana Beach, Naithon Beach, Surin Beach, Wat Phra Nang Sang, Tonsai Waterfall, Bang Tao Night Market.

Our accommodation at Bangtao Guest House was in a great location for the price, we could walk to beautiful Bang Tao beach in 20 minutes and a 10 minute walk the other way took us to the main road lined with restaurants and shops. Bang Tao beach is great, a long white sand stretch with really clear water, great for swimming. There are a good selection of beach bars, restaurants and water sports.

Bangtao Beach
Beautiful Bangtao Beach

Tip: We found a great little bar on the way down from our accommodation just a few minutes walk from the beach (no sea view) but it had HAPPY HOUR drinks! It’s called “Tasty Bangtao” and in the same area is Rim Klong Cafe that does the most amazing Mango and Coconut rice. Keep your eye out for them if your in the neighbourhood!

Happy Hour Bang Tao
Best Happy Hour in Town - At Tasty Bangtao!

The accommodation had well priced mopeds for hire so we took advantage of this and rented one to explore the area further. We headed up the coast to Chang Thale Beach, a really lovely tree lined beach and then on to the secret cove “Banana Beach” which had a lovely little restaurant overlooking the ocean. We continued up to Naithon Beach. Its a really beautiful scenic ride along this part of the coast road.

Moped Hire in Bangtao
Our Sweet Sweet Ride!

At the end of Naithon we headed inland and rode through the countryside to our next stop which was Wat Phra Nang Sang and then to Tonsai Waterfall before taking the 4030 back to Bang Tao. We finished the day by riding the coast road along Bangtao. A really great day out!

Bangtao to Patong – local taxi – 420 THB one way

Patong – 3rd December to 8th December – (5 nights) Accommodation: ANGELINA GUEST HOUSE – price 3000 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Patong Beach, Bangla Road, Phuket Simon Cabaret, Patong Night Market.

Our next few days were spent in the lively resort of Patong, Angelina Guest House was actually in a great location at the edge of town, in a relatively quiet location, yet an easy walk to the centre and the beach. On our must do list while in Thailand was to go to a lady-boy show. We researched the best shows in Thailand and Phuket Simon Cabaret was right up there, so we pre-booked tickets. It just happened that the theatre was only a 15 minute walk away too! It was a great show and you really couldn’t tell that these ladies were actually fellas! After the show we headed back to Patong Food Market for some BBQ mackerel, papaya salad, pad thai and green curry.

Patong Night Market
Great Food At Patong Night Market!

We had a very interesting evening visiting the very popular Bangla Road, full of restaurants, bars and clubs. We just couldn’t decide which ping pong show to go and see!

Choosing A Ping Pong Show in Thailand
Now What Exactly Is A Ping Pong Show!

Patong to Kata – local taxi – 250 THB one way

Kata – 8th December to 14th December – (6 nights) Accommodation: LE THALASSA KATA – price 6600 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Big Buddha Phuket, Karon View Points, Kata Noi View Point, Kata Night Market.

We planned to have a couple of relaxing days by the beach in Kata. Its a great place to chill out for a few days and you can view the most amazing sunsets from Kata Beach. There are a couple of restaurants at one end serving some great food and cold beers. We just struck luck with an annual street fayre taking place along the path directly opposite the beach. Some great street food was on offer and we took advantage of a couple of evenings eating street food on the beach watching the sun go down. We felt like we were really living the dream!

Kata Food Fayre
Kata Street Fayre!
Sunset at Kata Beach
Kata Beach Sunset!

Just across the road from our guest house was a moped hire shop, so we took advantage of a couple of days hire. This enabled us to visit Big Buddha, high up in the hills of Phuket, a brilliant ride with stunning views. On the way back we stopped of at Kata Noi View Point, there are a couple of restaurants up the top where if you time it right you can get a front line table for magnificent sunset views while sipping a cold beer!

Big Buddha Phuket
Big Buddha Phuket!
Making Friends With The Locals
Making Friends With The Locals!
Sunset Views From Kata Noi View Point
Sunset Views From Kata Noi View Point
Beautiful Beaches in Phuket
Exploring Some Of Phuket's Hidden Beaches!

We had time while we had the scooter to also hunt out some of the areas more secluded beaches and some more amazing views including the Karon View Point. Our few days in Kata would not have been complete without a visit to Kata Night Market for some more brilliant street food!

Kata to Phi Phi Islands – we arranged our transfers to the Phi Phi Islands directly with Phuket Ferry, who provided a brilliant and smooth service. Picking us up at our accommodation in Kata, taking us straight to Rassada Pier in Phuket and a smooth crossing over to Tonsai Pier, Phi Phi Islands – Total cost 1200 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended!

Phi Phi Islands – 14th December to 17th December – (3 nights) Accommodation: PHI PHI ANDAMAN LEGACY RESORT – price 6000 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Boat Trip To Maya Bay, Snorkelling, Hike To View Point, Explore The Island, Enjoy The Nightlife.

We arrived at Phi Phi Island at 2pm and a member of Phi Phi Andaman Legacy Resort hotel staff was waiting for us to ferry our luggage to the hotel (great service). After checking in we had a wander through the narrow streets checking out restaurants for the evening. We found a great little place overlooking the sea, called Tonsai Seafood, which had a happy hour beers and a really well priced menu.

Andamaan Resort Phi Phi
Time For A Quick Cool Off At The Resort Pool!
Beachfront Breakfast Phi Phi
Beachfront Breakfast Included!

Our next day started really early, after a good breakfast at the hotel we headed down to the pier for our longtail boat trip around Maya Bay. We had researched a few trips before hand and read some really good reviews about Mr Chet’s trips, a little more expensive than some of the other longtail boat trip quotes we received but we went with him based on the reviews and correspondence we had with him prior to booking. We have to say he was absolutely brilliant and one of the highlights of our entire Thailand trip. The 5 hour trip with lunch cost us 3400 THB for 2 people. We headed out to Maya Bay for snorkelling before heading to the beach for lunch, more snorkelling at Shark Reef and then a stop off at Monkey Beach on the way back to Phi Phi. A really well organised trip with a really experienced guide, took us to uncrowded locations and took lots of photos above and underwater that we could access after the trip finished and was happy to take any photos for us with our camera during the trip too. Really highly recommended!

Longtail Boat Ride To Maya Bay
Longtail Boat Ride To Maya Bay!
Maya Bay Beach, Phi Phi
Maya Bay Beach, Phi Phi!

Arriving back to shore early afternoon gave us time to make the hike up to Phi Phi view point giving us fabulous views over the island and the ocean. You’ll find plenty of nightlife on the island, from fire shows on the beach to music clubs in the centre of town. Phi Phi really has got it all and the island really was one of the highlights of Thailand for us!

Phi Phi View Point
At The Top Of The View Point!

Phi Phi Islands to Krabi – again we arranged our transfers to Krabi directly with Phuket Ferry, who provided a brilliant and smooth service. Taking us by boat from Tonsai Pier to Klong Jilad Pier, Krabi and then a taxi on to our accommodation in Krabi Town – Total cost 1600 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended!

Krabi – 17th December to 24th December – (7 nights) Accommodation: HOP INN KRABI – price 5600 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: River Trip, Khao Khanab Nam Caves, Thai Cooking Class, Krabi Night Market, Railay and Ao Nang Beach, Wat Tham Seua Krabi, Hot Springs.

Arriving at our accommodation Hop Inn Krabi around 7pm we took the 5 minute walked straight in to town to find somewhere to eat. We noticed a street vendor selling Chicken Noodle Soup and seemed really busy, so we decided to go for it. We are not sure of the name, as it wasn’t on his cart but he was on the same street corner every night, keep an eye out for him as the soup was excellent!

Krabi Soup Stall
Great Soup in Krabi!
Krabi Chicken Noodle Soup
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, Krabi!

Having a week in Krabi gave us chance to hire a scooter for a couple of days. On the first day we headed out to explore Railay and Ao Nang beaches. With stunning scenery along the route we spent the day driving along the coast as far as Hat Noppharet Thara and Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park. A beautiful area of natural forest and un-spoilt beaches.

Krabi Beach, Thailand
One Of Krabi's Beautiful Beaches!

On the second day we took an inland route and headed to Wat Tham Seua Krabi (Tiger Cave Temple). We climbed the 1260 steps, passing the local monkeys on the way, to the top where the Golden Buddha has commanding views over the area. Before we left we visited the tiger cave temple. We then headed to Krabi Hot Springs and Emerald Pool. Well worth a visit the hot springs are great, especially after climbing 1260 steps earlier in the day!

Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi
Tiger Cave Temple!
Wat Tham Seua Krabi
1260 Steps To The Top Of Wat Tham Seua!

We took a river boat upstream to Khao Khanab Nam Caves, through the mangroves and on to fishing village, where the whole village live in houses in the middle of the river, making a living from catching fish for the local restaurants. In the evening we headed to Krabi Night Market for some more great Thai food.

Khao Khanab Nam Caves
Inside Khao Khanab Nam Caves!
Fishing Village, Krabi
Catch Of The Day At Fishing Village!

Before we left Krabi we had one more thing left on our list to do, a Thai Cooking Class! We did a bit of research before hand and found one that picked up from the hotel, had small group numbers and had some great reviews. We certainly struck lucky, we had a brilliant half day. We booked through Cookly and went for the Smart Cook Thai Cookery School. We had a really good experience with a great teacher! There are lots of other classes available on Cookly depending on how long a class you want, how much you want to spend and if you want to include a market visit to buy the produce.

Thai Cooking Class
Learning The Art Of Pad Thai!
Thai Cooking Class
The Results Of Our Cooking Class!

Krabi to Koh Samui – we arranged our transfers to the Koh Samui directly with Seatran Discovery, who provided a brilliant and smooth service. Picking us up at our accommodation in Krabi, taking us overland to Donsak Pier, Surat Thani and a smooth crossing over to Nathon Pier, Koh Samui – Total cost 1695 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended! There are plenty of taxis waiting at Koh Samui Pier. We managed to share the cost of a taxi with two other couples going to Bophut who were on the same boat as us.

Koh Samui – 24th December to 4th January – (6 nights) Accommodation: RIVIERA BEACH BOPHUT – price 21150 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price). Things to See and Do List: Fisherman’s Beach Restaurants and Night Market, Big Buddha, Lad Koh View Point, Lipa Noi, Lamai and Chaweng Beaches.

We really pushed the boat out with our accommodation at Riviera Beach Bophut with it being our final part of the Thailand journey. We had 6 nights in a room overlooking the village and then upgraded to a sea view room for the remaining 5 nights. Highly recommend the sea view rooms, waterfront position with amazing views of the ocean and sunsets.

Riviera Beach Bophut
Ocean Views From Our Hotel Room - A Great Place To Work From!

Fisherman’s beach is a great location, with the main street being lined with some really good restaurants, coffee houses and boutique shops. The beach is a sandy strip and the beach side restaurants and bars have made the most of this by offering waterfront dining and tables chairs on the beach itself.

The Address Bophut
First Course Of A Great Seafood Platter At The Address Fisherman's Beach!

We recommend the happy hour cocktails at Copacabana, Some really good set menu seafood deals at The Address and a really cool vibe at Coco Tam’s. For coffee we really liked Tanpopo Cafe, beachfront on the edge of town and also Fisherman’s House Cafe for nice of coffee and good breakfasts too!

Coco Tams Bophut
Coco Tams Bophut, Koh Samui!

To explore the island you really need to hire a moped, we got a pretty decent one from Phusit Motorbike. You can ride round the island in a day, we had the bike a couple of days and visited Big Buddha, Lad Koh View Point, Lipa Noi, Lamai and Chaweng Beaches on the first day. We headed up in to the hills on the second day, where there was fantastic scenery and great coastal views. Its well worth getting out and exploring the island! Bophut Night Market is pretty good too, some really great food stalls. A few more Koh Samui highlights below.

Koh Samui Beach
Koh Samui Has Some Great Beaches!
Great Seafood
Some Great Seafood Too!
Fisherman Walking Street, Bophut
Fisherman Walking Street!
Ocean Views
Happy Hour And Ocean Views!
Island Exploring Koh Samui
Island Exploring!
Shopping Bophut
Mr Fashionista Shopping In The Rain!
Big Buddha Koh Samui
Big Buddha, Koh Samui!

Again for our return ferry from Koh Samui to Surat Thani – we arranged our transfers directly with Seatran Discovery – Total cost 1695 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended!

From Surat Thani Airport, AirAsia who we used for our internal flights, offer cheap flights back to Bangkok International for a connecting flight to most places in the world, or as we did,  why not extend your stay in Asia by flying to Kuala Lumpur and then on to the beautiful city of Singapore.

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