A Travellerspoint blog

February 2012

Koh Lanta

Mopeds and beaches

sunny 30 °C

Koh Lanta.....suggested by Asheigh we met in Goa....a quiet place with plenty of beaches. Easy enough to get to being just another ferry ride away from us for just over an hour. The journey wasnt too bad and now we were travelling with Christine and Gee. It's interesting to see what sort of luggage people bring, we have seen men with the biggest ruck sacks in them world, the men's knees buckling under them with the strain on their backs whilst their wife/girlfriend wanders bagless besides them. What do these people put int these bags? Honestly some of them a so big and it is nearly always the men. I would have thought all they would need would be a few pairs of shorts and a couple of tshirts...i think they carry ironing boards....computers, sinks etc! We have only small bags literally 11kg and that's bad enoughh lugging that around especially when you have to pick it up and put it on. So Christine and Gee had their luggage....two big suitcases and hand bags, now to be fair they didn't intend on moving around so much and theirs were not the biggest of cases by along shot. We had a lot of practise getting ready for the trip in packing and unpacking, knowing what we needed to take and what we didn't. I left so much stuff at home that I wanted to bring but wouldn't be able simply because it would make the ruck sack too heavy.....I still regret not packing my white dress though :/

Christine and Gee said they soon found out what they actually needed to bring but a lot of the time when there were awkward moments getting the cases on and off ferries, or up and down stairs....a young muscley bare chested Thai boy would just pick up the case as if it were a bag of sugar and throw it on is shoulder heading off towards our rooms "Cor....you're strong!" you would hear Gee say. But there were times when you cold cringe as they launch cases and rucksacks from the boat to the dock. Anyway well done girls on moving around with your bags!

Koh Lanta is a long thin island about 6 km wide and 30 km long with a decent road going right the way round....you can't get lost apparently but we managed it.....this time thanks to Chloe. We hired mopeds each from our resort....yes a resort....lovely little beach bungalows right next to the beach with its own beach bar and restaurant. The mopeds were about £3 for 24 hrs so we got on and decided to explore and single file on the road with our helmets and shades on off we went. Our own little bikers club poodling along at apx 25mph...ok...maybe max was 35. Its a lovely island very quiet with the potential to be a really busy island. There are soo man beaches which are practically empty, one each called long beach.....you can work out why it's called that, was like our own private sands...no one was there!

We zoomed round for a while and decided to head back, now as I've said before my internal sat nav can be it bit dodgy at times but today it was working (how can you get lost on a ring road?). I said to Chloe "is this the turning" meaning that I really thought it was the one we needed to get back to the resort "no" was the reply so being the leader of bike club I carried on and everyone followed me.....for miles! We got to a bit junction and had to admit we had missed the turning so back we went. We were nearly at the resort 5 more minutes and we would have been and my bike ran out of petrol. Not a problem I doubled up with Chloe and we got back.....in the dark now and it was dark because there's not been an investment in street lighting there. I told the manager about the bike being tired the last thing I wanted to do was sort that bike out "I'll get it tomorrow". I told him. This didn't seem to placent him....he wanted it now.....I did think well it's not going to get stolen....we're on island with only one ferry out a day! But still I got on the back of his bike and off we went to find it....miles and miles later "I think we may have gone past it" I said sheepishly "sorry". He was very good and probably though stupid English woman....I can't help it if my sat nav doesnt work! Eventually we found it ...five mins from the resort where I had left it funnily enough!

Our time on Lanta was mainly out on the mopeds zooming around looking at all the beaches. It is a beautiful place and I really hope it doesn't get dragged into the commercialised holiday spot that cn be around. Lanta is basic and relaxed.....keep it that way.

We found out there was a waterfall and decided to cut out the middle man, go there on our mopeds and have a look. New made it and there were elephants available to trek on and were told a 20 min walk to the waterfall. Actually the man we asked how far it was to go refused to tell us because we didnt park our bikes in his car park! We decided to do the walk how bad could it be? When we got to the river more like a stream we carried on for a bit longer but gave up in the end and turned back....I mean we all had on flip flops and had to wade through water, climb over trees, climb up steep mud mounds and down them ....it was a right old obstacle course!

It was an early morning start for the next leg......and we were going to regret this one!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 23:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea koh journey mother_daughter blog lanta world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Phuket- Phuget it!

sunny 29 °C

Having been to a few Thai places now I have got to recognise the abundance of cages hanging outside people's homes and shops homing only one small singing bird. Initially I thought they were a sign of good luck or maybe a sign of prosperity, ok, that's not true, initially I thought it cruel and wanted to let each bird out to fly free into the tropics. I then correct myself and consider if the owners think they are actually doing some good by looking after their birds? Well....I have found out first hand, in Koh Tao I spoke to a local man and asked him about his bird in his cage (the cages are all very pretty is large golden hooks to hang them and yes the birds sing beautifully and in the evening they are covered and taken down and into the building). Charlee told me that he loved his bird but was still mourning the loss of his previous bird that died 6 months ago, he continued to tell me that the previous bird (he hadn't given them names ...merely bird) had only one wing and he had it for a very long time. Charlee then went into his shop and came out with a coffee jar full of cotton wall and unscrewed the lid. I was wondering what he was doing but I thought....go with it.....he gently put his hand in and scooped out a very dead bird with one wing....a six month old dead bird. You wouldn't have thought so though...it looked like it was asleep a but the sad part of all of this was the loss in Charlees eyes and for me this confirmed.....they love their birds and they look after them although some bet on whose bird sings the loudest with the largest bet being thousands.mmyoure supposed to have a licence to own one too but hey this is Thailand! I think they would be mortified if any one said it was cruel. I have since found out the type of bird....a Red whiskered Bulbul that sings when it is agitated...even though the song is beautiful, so is it cruel?

We were looking forward to some vibrance after a few days chilling out and all of us had been told about awesome Phuket....'it's great'. 'I love it there'. 'we go there every year'. Loads of recommendations so we were very excited and knew we wouldn't be disappointed especially as we picked the busiest place Patong. I didn't even mind packing and getting up for the 630 am transfer..... see I was excited!

The journey was painless - sitting on the deck of the boat in the hot sun again with a lovely warm breeze. Arriving into Phuket Town we got on board into our mini bus to take us to Patong, so far so good! Then a strange thing.....radio one in then mini bus.....odd....reminded me abit like Tenerife or some typically sea side infested town. We arrived at our hotel and were pleasantly surprised how nice it was for the bargain price we paid...air con, tv, mini bar etc.

We decided to go out in the evening and then spend the following day on the beach, so we glammed up and off we went. A few steps down the road and the thunder started to rumble....then it POURED with rain and I mean poured! There was more water than my shower and it showed no signs of stopping. We jumped in a tuk tuk and was taken to town and dropped outside a restaurant. But the rain kept coming and we refused to get out not wanting to ruin our dresses and hair. Eventually the restaurant brought out brollies for us giving our tuk tuk driver a lucky escape from our new shelter! We had a lovely meal in Savoey Restaurant albeit a fish restaurant it was good veggie food however it was still raining....now the streets were starting to flood and that's no good when you're wandering round in flip flops.

The heat is still on so the cool rain isn't too much of a bind only it is a killer for the hair! We walked to the main strip where there was bar after bar and you know shopping precincts well they have them too but they are not shops but bars and clubs all with go-go girls up on the bars dancing. Oh and I forgot to mention the old men lusting after them walking around with their eyes at above bar level. Walking down the street past tout after tout asking if we wanted to go to a sex show and still the rain came down. We sat in one bar and a very drunken Indian man stopped to have a good look at us and then came into the bar and persisted into trying to buy us a drink, we completely declined his offer, he had taken a liking to Gee even though he was far from her type....semi concious is far from anyones thpe i imagine! If they ring a bell in the pub it means someone has paid a price for all to have a free shot and we were there when this happened.....two OAPs had rung the bell! When I went to the toilet I saw the bar girl stood with two guys with their hands down her top having a good grope, after they put a few notes down there for her. It was awful and I've been to some places but this has to be the worst. We decided enough was enough and went back to the hotel ready to meet early for breakfast to discuss the plan....should we stay or should we go? I already knew we would be cutting our losses and going......to be honest there wasn't any other option but to get out and go to one of the other beautiful islands here. Had we been spoilt with the other beaches?....Now we were missing Phi Phi.

We met for breakfast and has a brief conversation and decided to leave, a unanimus vote and within minutes our boat ticket was booked so we had only 45 mins to get back, get packet and get going! It was a surprise how quickly we did this and then I had the task of trying to get our money back....a very hard task which I failed at to cut the story short...a hotel manager hanging up on me telling me to call Agoda (a booking company).

We boarded our mini bus and left with big smiles on our faces.....off to Krabi.....I know shame about the name but I have it from Christine and Gee that it's a lovely place.

End of the Phuket story......don't tell me....you should have walked around and seen some more.....well that's maybe but driving past the completely packed beach which reminded me of home made me feel so much better to leave. AND I have seen some beautiful places in Thailand and Phuket is a very poor reflection on the place so if you are one that goes there year after year you are missing out so much....go see real Thailand....it is amazing.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 03:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches phuket journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (2)

Phi Phi

Beach, sun ands lots of fun!!

sunny 34 °C

A long journey can be a complete pain in the arse if you are going by car or bus, in my view, so I really don't mind so much all the boat journeys to complete the island hopping in Thailand. I could go on these boats all day....sat in the sun taking in the fresh air and looking at miles of open water and seeing the odd schoal of fish leap right out of the water and back in leaving no trace of even being there. It's amazing how many people are packed onto these boats, I'm not entirely sure how many are allowed but for example there are to enough seats so you have to sit on the edge of the boat or else you will be left standing or sat on the luggage which is exactly what I had to do.

Arriving in Phi Phi was very nerve wracking for me as we hadn't booked anywhere but I was willing to give it a go for a change and go with the flow with Christine and Gee. We docked up and paid our 20bht fee to go on the island, cheap really about 40p and personally I think the charge should be higher...I do....remember the 2004 Tsunami well it hit Phi Phi as well. this act of nature ripped apart the homes and business of the residents where there was apx 10,000 people on the island at that time and 1 in 5 died from this disaster. They say that every family lost someone that boxing day. Today though you would struggle to see that this tragic event had even happened, there is nothing to show any destruction only people working hard day and night trying to make some money.

We decided to take it in turns to get accommodation so off Chloe and Gee went to get a place to stay whilst me and Christine sat with a nice cold drink waiting to settle in. About an hour later they came back...."everywhere is full! We will have to sleep on the beach!". Crickey! We swapped over and off we trotted in the hope there would be somewhere but from the amount of people we saw in the cobbled streets I started to wonder if there would be somewhere! Place to place all we heard was "full tonight". Or 2500bht which is about £50 each! The last place we tried had a room...felt like Mary and Joseph...a room...not in an inn but next to the 7/11 by the beach. We took the room and had two beds pushed together for the four of us to sleep in and then we would have time to go on the Internet and book aromas for the rest of our stay. We didn't have sheets over us but large towels, it was a short night and morning soon came around so instead of spending time searching we went online and booked a place for Christine and Gee. Easy yes but what a shocked when we got there! Banthai Guesthouse.....NEVER stay there hostelbookers gave a review score of about 78% but trip advisor showed a realistic 29/29 ......bottom of the list....take a look. The manager Ms Lee was very rude and had a list of rules as long as your arm. No this, no that.....it went on and on. Chloe and I went elsewhere as our budget didn't stretch to Banthai, fortunately on hindsight! We went to meet up with Christine and Gee but couldn't get past Ms Lee "No visitors!" She shouted at us. I explained we were meeting and needed to know if they were in "No! No visitors.....you wait outside!" Horrible woman, I made the most of waiting outside by telling newbies just off the boat to go elsewhere, that gave me some satisfaction and I wasn't even staying there!

Chloe and I stayed at Jong's Guesthouse which was right in the middle of the town and at the end of the path was the beach, a really nice place with lovely staff too.

The nightlife on Phi Phi is something else because the small cobbled streets meet up with the beach where there are'a an aray of bars and parties with fire shows and rope skipping. One beach bar has a pole about 15 ft high that one person can climb and stand on top of whilst surrounded by people dancing on the beach, some climbed up and jumped off! The atmosphere was relaxed and buzzing full of friendly people carrying buckets with wads of straws sticking out. All the people have the same thing in common, love of travel and appreciation of actually doing it. No fighting anywhere! The buckets were an experience topped with your favourite medicine with lots of ice top that with the warm sea breeze and stars above your head and you're in a completely different world.

The beach itself is a huge white mass off beautiful sand with warm sea waters that are relatively still. There are areas cornered off to swim as people from other islands visit for the day and dock up by the shore at the foot of your sun bathing spot. It's quite a busy beach and from experience would be in the top five.

There are many diving places here too but way more money than Koh Tao. Plenty of clothes shops and good food. We took advantage of a massage and it was the best one I had yet in Thailand. Christine and Gee were brave and got their hair cut.....by a lady boy.....don't knock it they had fab doo's after and I remember a lady boy did my nails in Bangkok. Coming from Bangkok there were not many here and it begged the question why? Do you know Christine is going to do the Ironman in July 2012 and despite being away still got up and went running....that's determination there....gotta hand it to her!

It was soon time to leave to go to an island that wasn't on the list but thanks to Ash who has given me some top tips we changed our plans and were getting ready to go .....again....packing up....ummmm my favourite! NOT!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 03:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged sun phi_phi journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing tsunami_2004 beach_fun Comments (0)

Koh Samui and a day trip to Koh Phangan - Full Moon Party

Stunning beaches Christine and Gee

sunny 34 °C

Koh Samui.....a different chapter...why because lots was to happen here......meeting up with Christine and Gee, going to the Full Moon Party.....that's enough ....just the Full Moon Party. Chloe and I were looking forward to meeting up with people from home so we checked into our hostel and made plans to meet up for dinner. I forgot to mention that when we left Koh Tao we had lost our flip flops and rare than put on our merrals, we didn't have time to buy new flip flops, we went to meet them bare foot. Nothing clever about bare feet either so in discovered on the boat over stepping on a nail...not once but twice and yes the same one! So when we met the girls they thought we had really got into the swing of travelling....bare foot. Bless them they sorted us out with some shoes. Chloe and I hired a moped to get us around and the it was great to have a set of wheels again ......i miss my bike! We met the girls for dinner and caught up with all the news from home. Kay and Dennis met us later (Kay used to live around the corner from me when I was a little girl) small town, it was so good to see them!!

We made plans to go to the Full Moon Party and I promised Chloe I would stay up all night there....kind of had to anyway as we were only going over for the party. Being the person I am I thoroughly researched the party, so while Chloe was looking up 'great times at FMP' I was looking up 'deaths at FMP' etc. I was quite concerned about this party ....it is infamous! I've seen documentaries about it, read alsorts and now was going there.....as we're Christine and Gee! I had the research about drugs and how to a avoid being spiked etc we were taken over by speed boat and the crazy FPM goers sat their very sensibly in their life jackets....so far so good. We got off at the jetty and it was bustling....loads of happy people laughing and painting illuminous paints on themselves and soon it was my turn. We made our way through the food stalls and bucket stalls, no glasses just beach buckets full alcohol....not much mostly ice....but it's a good gimmick, and got to the beach which was full of people and the sound of bass bellowed through the bay. Funnily enough most of the songs were remixes from my youth so straight away I knew I could cope with the music!

I was taken aback from the atmosphere which was really mellow and no I didn't see any drug stands, drug deals etc. I had been warned "don't buy any drinks with happy in...that means there's drugs in". Armed with this information I wasn't going to buy any drink at all just in case but I needn't have worried. The worst I saw were two men laying crashed out on the ground in a vegetated state staring at then stars.

We all put on some illuminous paint to look the part and with our day glow tshirts we looked the same as everyone else. I couldn't believe I was going....at my age and even Christine and Gee. I can tell you now the oldest person there was about 75 and I don't regret going at all.....we all enjoyed it especially seeing that soo many people can be in one place and there we no trouble.....on this occasion as there have previous years been a death but that's another storey.

It was beautiful watching the sun come up and then horror.......I looked at the shoreline.....it was filthy with thousands of straws, a lost flip flop here and there, bottles, broken buckets etc. In came the local cleaning team armed with black bin liners so I went over and offered to help. "No" was the reply and I immediately felt ashamed of the mess on the beach.....even though I didn't do it...I was there. So I got to picking up the rubbish and I did this for about an hour. It's terrible really as when you dive you learn about what can damage coral and how long it takes to break down maybe if they didn't use the straws or it if bins were put about.

We made our way back to the island on the boat and later I met up with Christine and Gee whilst Chloe caught up with her beauty sleep. The beach on koh Samui was the best by far....picturesque and paradise. I was in the sea with Gee and a schoal of fish jumped up behind me! Freaked me right out!

There is a place called Fishermans Village in Koh Samui which is a top recommendation especially on a Friday night when there is a market, clothes, shoes, jewerelly, food, bags etc for good prices. I got a pair of shoes for £2.40! The food in the restaurants here is also really good and you have a view of the harbour/jetty/sea.

We took advantage of a snorkelled/kayack boat trip where there were no fish snorkelling but the trip was good fun as we got the best spot on the boat and were able to sorts our tans out.

It was great meeting up but so soon we said goodbye to Kay and Dennis which leaves only one question.......when is the wedding?

Posted by Vicky Bailey 03:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches party full_moon journey mother_daughter blog koh_samui world_trip koh_phangnan back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Bangkok to Koh Tao

Scuba diving

sunny 33 °C

I thought that after the amount of times we have checked out of rooms/dorms we would be used to it but this isn't true. The amount of times we have left stuff behind has decreased though, sometimes i'm not fussed about what I have forgotten like some mosquito coils or some body wash but another time I was kicking myself for leaving behind a nearly full bottle of conditioner! I mean how ridiculous, on hindsight that is, not at the time when hair conditioner is soo important to keep the frizz at bay. Plus I didn't get frizzy hair at home an now I do, the worst was a pink floral pair of pyjama bottoms I bought from that Italian boutique Primarny, girls know what i'm talking about. I left them on the bed and completely didn't see them....gone forever. So when we pack up to leave I double check everything but still find something left on the floor, it's a job I really don't like and always an end to a chapter of our journey.

This time though was slightly different, we had a stop over in Bangkok for a few nights and I was so tired I was glad to be leaving to spend some time on beaches tanning and learning to Scuba Dive. We had to leave Bangkok in the late afternoon by bus, a VIP one with plenty of leg room, which was supposed to take us to the pier to get us on a boat to go to Koh Tao. When you book something in Thailand ask as man questions as you can, I know that's a difficult task especially when you don't know what to ask and even sometimes you don't even know the question until after the event has happened. For example what I should have asked was "Do we have to get off the VIP bus at 4am and get into the back of a truck with 20 other people for 2 hours?". How would I know to ask that but had I done so the answer would have been yes and there wouldn't be much to do about it either.

Anyway, when the boat docked into Koh Tao I wasn't sure what to expect, it was a small rustic pier with about 20 men holding up signs for various diving schools, we had already booked with Scuba Junction because they had good reviews on my bible trip advisor. We were collected and taken to our accommodation which was a wooden garden bungalow, like a beach style bungalow. We went to pay for the diving course and on filling out the medical their alarm bells went off "there's no way you can dive" they told me! Gutted and not convinced I got them to phone the SSI group who said I needed to get a doctor to sign me fit. So off we trotted to the local hospital and it is local only a five minute walk. The good thing with Koh Tao is its small and the beach area we were in compact and beautiful. We went into the hospital and armed with my medical form was told that if I saw the doctor there he would not sign me fit and said if I wenT up the road to the clinic they would. Normally this would concern me, but I couldn't see what would cause me a problem in the water so I went to the clinic. The 'doctor' dressed in jeans, flip flops and a tshirt took my blood pressure and listened to one breath on my chest (outside of my clothes) and signed me fit to dive! All for £3....bargain....ummm!

We had a look around and I noticed bar/restaurants everywhere!! Being a Sunday we decided to treat ourselves to a roast and had already been tipped to the place to go....off we went and was welcomed in by the already tipsy manager. "Girls come join me for a drink!". It transpired he had been drinking since 930am after a heavy night before. Soon the bar was getting filled with local ex pats lining up their drinks, we left only to come back later for our roast when we had completed our initiation at the scuba junction. We were given some more forms to fill in and a video to watch, which I fell asleep in. All in all this took a few hours and we were now really hungry for our roast so back we went ......this time no welcome, the manager was leaning onto the bar with red bloodshot eyes and was 'pissed as a newt' in pub language. "what happened to you?" I said wondering how he went from a chatty guy to a wreck in a few hours....turns out it was a concoction of alcoholic cocktails. Not a good look, plus whilst eating this is all that was going on in this place....drink after drink after drink. I couldn't help but think what a trap it could be on this island as an ex pat, a daily event to meet mates down the local boozer for a few....which wasn't really a few but a few litres. I hoped it wasn't going to be like that where we were staying and I needn't have worried because it was no where near like that place plus we never went there again.

The diving was a completely new experience for me, squeezing into the wet suit yes done that before but standing on the edge of a rocking boat with a tank on my back trying to put on a pair of fins (those long rubber webbed things for your feet) was really hard. I knew I was way out of my comfort zone when our teacher tole me to hold onto my belt and mask, but I only have two hands so how can I do that when I need to hold onto the boat.....was all I could think. He is floating in the water "Vicky, hold onto your mask and belt". He was repeating it now....I knew what to do but my brain was not going to let me let go of the hand rail. Having a stupid fear of fish makes it even harder to jump into the water as well but I was determined so with shaking hands I let go of the rail and grabbed my belt and mask and let off the side of the boat sucking hard onto the snorkel bit in my mouth. I had done it and now the salt water was splashing on my face and I could see little fish swimming around me and the boat.

The next task was to get used to breathing the compressed air without breathing through your nose 3 meters under the water knelt on the sea bed. The water was crystal clear and there were fish everywhere! I kept my composure mainly because it took everything for me to focus on my breathing then we were signalled to complete the task which was to remove the mask off of our heads then put them back on again.....first time I just couldn't do it and I completely chickened out which is so unlike me but I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it that quickly. The following day I did it though but thought I was going to die as a load of sea water went up my nose, without thinking I must have sniffed it up, the water ran down the back of my throat making me cough. This isn't a good thing as you need the mouth piece in to breath and you can't panic and shoot up to the surface. After what seemed minutes but was probably ten seconds I manages to calm down. There were cleaner fish nibbling at our knees as well. We passed out diving but I don't feel anywhere near ready to go out without an instructor!

Aside for diving Koh Tao is a lovely place to completely unwind and relax, quiet beaches and beautiful scenery with lots of hot sun. We stayed at Sairee beach which was so tranquil between the hours of 6am to 11pm and then it's party time! Restaurants and bars stretching along the beach, all very nicely decorated with wooden floors and a clean rustic feel. The staff are friendly and helpful making this little beach resort like a big family.....and a big family that ha e brilliant cooking skills as the food was great. We were only supposed to stay a few days but ended up staying over a week and since leaving have thoughts about going back.

Time came when we had to leave for the next part of our journey to Koh Samui where we would be meeting Christine and Gee.....we were really looking forward to catching up with them! Bye bye Koh Tao.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 23:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing bangkok_to_koh_tao Comments (0)

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