Thailand - Beaches
Feb 15 2011
We flew from Subang in Malaysia to Koh Samui in Thailand using an airline called Firefly, which operates turbo-prop aircraft.
Kris was a little nervous but in fact the flight was very smooth and uneventful. When we arrived in Ko Samui, the Immigration Officer gave us an automatic 30 day stay so the extra time and expense of flying via KL were justified.
Our hotel, the Buddy Oriental, was about a thirty minute drive away and gave us a chance to see Ko Samui, which has changed a lot since Paul visited here in 1979. The hotel was SUPPOSED to be on the beach. In fact, the pool and restaurant were on the beach, but the hotel was on the other side of a busy road. Oh well !
The Buddy Oriental Hotel Lobby
Breakfast in the lobby and relaxing by the pool with the ocean behind
The beach (Lamai Beach) was very pretty with soft sand and warm water, but there was a lot of trash.
We took a walk down the beach and saw some huts which looked a lot like the huts Paul stayed in last time he was here. We also took advantage of one of the many massage stands along the beach and tried a Thai Massage for the first time, although not the last.
The next day we hired a car and went for a drive around the island. For the most part, the roadside was pretty ugly but there were one or two places off the main road which looked really pretty and unspoilt.
Beaches on the southern coast of Ko Samui
That evening we used the car to drive into Chaweng Beach, the biggest town on Ko Samui. After getting lost a couple of times, we found a very nice restaurant, Poppies, in a hotel and enjoyed dinner under an (almost) full moon. Unfortunately, we both forgot our cameras, but I took a picture the next day.
Poppies Restuarant, Chaweng. Our table for dinner the night before was in the same place as the recliners.
And back at the hotel, I couldn't resist a picture of one of the orchids hanging from the roof.
Feb 18, 2011
After three days at the Buddy Oriental, we returned the car and moved to another hotel in Ko Samui, the Saree Samui on the north coast of the island and right next to the ferry terminal for Ko Phangan our next stop. On our way to the hotel, we stopped in Chaweng again to see the beach (which was very nice but very busy) and the town, which was just plain ugly.
Chaweng Beach and a small part of Chaweng. The main street is one block behind the hotels and runs the full length of the beach
The Saree Samui turned out to be very nice and this time the hotel WAS on the beach.
Hotel pool with Ko Phangan, our next stop, in the background
The Saree Samui pool at night, under a full moon and the next morning at sunrise
The hotel also had nice gardens and waterfalls.
Saree Samui hotel landscaping
The room had an outdoor shower, which was rather fun !
Indoor outdoor shower (mostly outdoor)
Just down the beach, the ferry to Koh Phangan, waiting to take us to our next stop
Feb 20, 2011
A short ferry ride from Koh Samui brought us to Koh Phangan, a smaller, less developed island just north of Koh Samui. The ferry dropped us at Thong Sala, the main town in Koh Phangan and we travelled to our hotel, the Garden Lodge, by sawngthaew, an open air shared taxi. The hotel was not well located and we quickly realised we would need a rental car. In addition, the room we were given was in a poor state of repair and we couldn't get any hot water. The manager, who we think was Austrian, looked close to death during our entire stay and was very unhelpful. Clearly, he had learned his hotel management skills at the Fawlty Tower school of hotel management. The grounds were pretty through.
The Garden Lodge grounds and beach at the front of the property
After complaining about our room, the "Basil Fawlty" hotel manager did arrange for us to move to a better room the next day and the new room was much better, with hot water this time. We wasted no time heading back into Thong Sala where we rented a car and headed out to explore the island.
Our first stop was the famous (or infamous) Hat Rin beach where the "full moon" parties are held on the beach every 30 days or so. We had just missed one, quite deliberately, as we thought we would get a better deal on a room if we waited until the party was over. The beach and surroundings were suitably tacky.
The "town" of Hat Rin just behind the beach. (Who is that suave tourist on the left, I wonder ?)
Sunrise Beach at Hat Rin - one day after the full moon party
We did observe a very busy and noisy Buddhist ceremony taking place in the town. We have no idea what the ceremony was about, but it was impressive with firecrackers and a lot of banging of gongs.
Buddhist Ceremony in Hat Rin
After leaving Hat Rin, we drove north to the small resort of Chaloklum on the north coast of Koh Phangan. Chaloklum was very laid back and relaxed and we decided we would like to explore a few of the beaches in the area. We talked to a travel agent about taking an excursion the next day, but we were afraid that we would be crowded onto a boat with dozens of other people and we didn't like that idea. In the end, we chartered a private longtailed boat for the next day. After making the arrangements, we headed back to Thong Sala (nearly wrecking the car along the way, but that's another story.) We did some shopping and then bought dinner (fried chicken) at the night market which was getting under way. We took it back to our room, together with a couple of beers and had a quiet meal.
Lots of activity at the Night Market
Spoiled for choice at the Satay stall and a nice lady makes me an EXCELLENT banana pancake
Next day, we headed back to Chaloklum and met up with our boat driver for the morning.
Our driver prepares "our" boat and off we go !
Kris watches the boat driver as he puts out the ladder and Paul enjoys the sun
We stopped at two beaches for swimming and snorkelling with a stop in the middle for lunch.
A "bacon butty" (sandwich) for lunch and lots of fish in the water for good snorkeling.
"Bottle Beach", our stop for lunch
The boat we might have been on if we had taken the excursion instead of a private boat
Once our boat trip was over, we took the car along the coast and went back to the last place we had stopped, Coconut Beach, for a drink. The bar was on the beach and so laid back. We assumed the pig we saw sleeping under the bar was somebody's pet !
Bottle Beach from the bar and the pig asleep under the bar
The pig is the one in the middle !
Next morning, we had an early start as we had to return the car and catch an early ferry to our next stop, the port of Krabi.
Kris waiting patiently (?) with her younger fellow travellers for the ferry to leave for Krabi
Ferry to Krabi at the pier in Thong Sala
We didn't arrive in Krabi until 4:00 pm because our bus was delayed leaving Surat Thani (we never did find out why) so by the time we had checked in, we only had a couple of hours to walk around Krabi and grab a bite to eat at the night market. Although it was tempting, we decided against the "cow entrail soup" - maybe next time !
A delicious menu - if you like cow entrails !
We spent the night at the Baan Andaman B&B, which had no elevator, so we had to carry our luggage up four flights of stairs. Enough to make anyone breathless !
Next day, we headed out again on the ferry to our next stop, the island of Koh Phi Phi.
Koh Phi Phi
Feb 24, 2011
The backpackers sit outside, catching some rays. We paid the $1.00 ($1.00 !) supplement and sat in air conditioned comfort !
Koh Phi Phi (pronounced "pee-pee" not "fi-fi" as we thought) is quite well known and often visited by celebrities. One of the beaches on the nearby island of Phi Phi Lay was used in the the film "The Beach" with Leonardo deCaprio and is quite famous for that reason alone. We were expecting a very sophisticated island and clientele but we were a little disappointed.
The village of Tonsai was a jumble of shacks and poorly built shops and houses with narrow streets crammed with tourist shops, internet cafes and cheap restaurants. At one point, we saw (and smelled) raw sewage running in the street. Charming !
The main town of Phi Phi, Tonsai Village - not exactly well planned or laid out.
However, our own hotel, the Phi Phi Hotel, was a substantial building and more than adequate. The view from our window was stunning.
The Hotel Phi Phi and breakfast in the hotel dining room
The view from our room, Lo Dalam Bay
Although we had arrived relatively early, we couldn't check into our room until 2:00 pm, so we whiled away some time exploring the town and eating lunch. Once we had checked in and unpacked, we treated ourselves to a massage - Kris had a back and shoulder massage and I had a Thai Massage with oil ! Not as sensuous as it sounds - more like a work-out and it can leave you quite sore. The best part is the price - one hour for about $10.00. Compares for $60.00 to $90.00 for something similar in the US.
The next day, after a quiet evening, we decided to continue our practice from Koh Phangan of hiring our own boat to see the island. By chance, there was a boat driver waiting right outside the hotel and we quickly negotiated a deal for a three our tour of the nearby Phi Phi Lay island, which we wanted to see. (For three hours, we paid 1200 Baht, or about $40.00, which we thought was more than fair.) There are no vehicles allowed on the island, so most places have to be reached by boat and the long tailed boats are the workhorses of the island.
Long tailed boats lined up waiting for customers
Kris waits as the driver gets the boat ready and we are on our way
As we approached the island, huge cliffs loomed over us and strange shapes were carved into the rock.
Approaching Phi Phi Lay
Our first stop was a beautiful inlet surrounded by towering cliffs. When we arrived, there were only a few other boats, but others quickly followed and soon the inlet was packed with tourist boats.
When we first arrived, there were only a few other boats, but that soon changed
The inlet from inside the cove and Kris gets a laugh from - something ?
We continued round the island, passing more strange rock formations and cliffs until we came to Maya Beach, which is "The Beach" in the movie. It was very crowded, so we moored elsewhere in the bay and tried out some snorkeling.
Sailing around the island of Phi Phi Lay
Kris finishes her swim in a beautiful setting (that's Maya Beach in the distance)
It was very crowded in the water
The fish were spectacular and didn't seem to mind the tourists splashing about
Fish feeding under the tourist boats - the tourists are throwing bread to attract the fish
Kris in the boat photographing Paul in the water photographing her
In the afternoon, we took the same boat on a tour round the main island of Koh Phi Phi on which we were staying. There were some nice beaches, but the memorable scenery were the towering cliffs and pinnacles of rock sticking up from the ocean.
The towering cliffs of Koh Phi Phi
A Catamaran at anchor in a spectacular spot
The next day, we took our private boat (again) back to the deserted beach of Loh Moo Dee which we had visited the previous day. Although there were a couple of people camping off the beach, we pretty much had it to ourselves for about two hours. There was also excellent snorkeling from the beach (you can see where the water changes color on the picture). Paul saw a shark when he was in the water although it wasn't interested in him.
Loh Moo Dee Beach
Our boat sits all by itself just off our "private" beach and our boat driver and Kris smile for the camera
In the afternoon, we walked to the beach behind our hotel, called Lo Dahlam or Monkey Beach (although we didn't see any monkeys). After our private beach that morning, it seemed rather crowded so Kris went shopping by herself, while Paul sat in the sun for a couple of hours.
Lo Dalam Beach on Koh Phi Phi
And one last photograph before we leave Ko Phi Phi
Feb 27, 2011
Our last beach resort was Phuket, which is a 90 minute ferry ride from Ko Phi Phi and a major resort city. Our hotel, the Baan Suwantee, was only a short ride from the ferry terminal and once we had checked in, we took a walk into town and caught a local bus to one of the main beaches, Kamala Beach. Although the beach was very pretty, it was VERY crowded.
Kamala Beach, Phuket
We decided it was too much for us and we were tired after our ferry and bus ride, so we took a taxi back to the hotel, passing another well known and crowded beach, Patong Beach, along the way.
Next day, we rented a car to allow us to get away from the crowds and we headed north, past the airport, to Mai Khao Beach, which was supposed to be much quieter. Once we managed to find it (harder than we had expected) it was indeed almost entirely deserted. Much more to our taste and rather surprising as it's the nearest beach to the airport. Perhaps the aircraft noise is a reason not to develop the beach.
Mai Khao Beach, Phuket, looking in two directions. The dots by the water are the only other people on the beach
As we left the beach, we passed a herd of water buffalo cooling down in a pond. The males (with the horns) watched us very carefully as we stopped to take a picture.
Water Buffalo near Mai Kaho Beach, Phuket
Next day, we drove north again, this time to visit the nearby Phang-Nga National Park, a scenic bay of mangrove forests and limestone caves virtually melting with wax-like stalactites. Once again, we rented a long-tail boat (for the last time, at least on this trip) and headed into the bay.
Heading out into Ao Phang-Nga
Mangrove forests line the waterway to the bay
The islands stick up like bony fingers
A "highlight" is the so-called "James Bond Island" where a scene from "The Man with the Golden Gun"was filmed. It is a pretty location, but very busy with tourists.
"James Bond Island" , Ao Phang-Nga
Another popular thing to do is to take a kayak through the many caves in the area. We were happy to watch other people doing it.
The last stop on our tour was the Muslim fishing village built over the water.
Muslim Village built on stilts above the bay
Kris takes a chance with a very insecure walkway in her search for things to buy at the Muslim Village
After a couple of hours on the water, we made our way back to Phuket in a pouring rainstorm.
The next morning, we returned the car at the airport and flew to our next stop, Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand