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Transfers, titbits and tailends

sunny 32 °C
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Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport

I don't like airports. I particularly dislike Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. It's glitzy and modern and the checking-in and security systems are always slick, but once you go through to airside, if you are flying cattle class, there are no decent lounges and nowhere to sit. Instead you are supposed to walk up and down, looking at duty free shop after duty free shop where everything is more expensive that it would have been if you'd bought it from your local mall in the city. Nobody buys anything, it's just looking. If I was in charge I would put all of the economy passengers in lounges and make the first class high flyers walk around the shops as they, presumably, are the ones who can afford the inflated prices!

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Doha airport (architect's CGI image)

Our flight from Bangkok to Doha was punctual and uneventful so I'm still a fan of Qatar. Once at Doha we went to find the departure gate for our onward flight to Manchester. The terminal building is shaped rather like an inverted T and our gate was right at the end of one of the short arms. I say' short' but it still took us a while to reach it, even using the moving pavement things. Once again, no seats by our gate so we set off to find a handy 'quiet room' which was quite a distance away, so not really that 'handy'. These are soundproofed rooms, sadly lacking in most airports, which are filled with rows of recliner seats occupied by snoozing travellers. There are no announcements and everyone is expected to be quiet. As we settled back into our chairs, I asked Keith, What time is our flight?' '2.35', he whispered. I looked at my watch, it was 12.15am so I reckoned that we could have a quiet hour then mosey on down to the gate to await the boarding call. Keith was soon snoring, I dozed but didn't really settle. I'd worn flip flops thus far and pulled on my freebie aeroplane socks intending to put my proper shoes on before we got on the next plane. Next thing I knew, it was 1.10am so I nudged Keith awake, 'We've got another five minutes yet', he mumbled. At 1.15am I said 'Come on, we should go...' At which point Keith glanced at his watch and said 'We've missed the flight!' 'What do you mean?' I asked, ' We've got over an hour, you said 2.35'.

'No, we had a 2.35 stopover, the flight's at 1.35 and the gate closes 20 minutes before!'

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Doha airport "quiet room"

We ran through the airport, me slipping and sliding on the polished floors in my woolly socks but with no time to put shoes on and arrived, breathless, at the now deserted gate. A member of staff looked at our boarding passes and said 'Ooh, sorry, you've missed it...' Our faces fell, we turned to walk away, feeling really stupid, then he laughed and said, 'You'll be OK'. We assumed he meant that he'd put us on another flight but no, a phone call was made and we were sent through, straight along the snorkel, onto the plane and the door was closed after us. We'd been called and paged but of course, we were in the 'quiet' room. Never again! Mind you, we did get boarded ever so quickly, no blocked aisles..... Even so, the moral of this story is that if your body clock says it's 4.00am and you have a flight to catch, it's probably not a good idea to lie down in a quiet room.

We arrived back here in sunshine, the neighbour said it was the best day since we'd left five weeks earlier. Now we've unpacked and most of the laundry is done. We had a great time and keep asking ourselves if we'd do anything differently in retrospect. Apart from making sure I arrived at Koh Ngai on a nice calm day so that I could be ferried to the pier and avoid the nightmare climb over the mountain, we think we got it about right.

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Wheelie holdall (nicer in pink!)

Next year I will not take a suitcase.... I should never have been persuaded away from the rucksack, and I will take fewer clothes. I say that every time, but even after five weeks, both of us brought some things home unworn and others were worn and washed over and over. I wore makeup only once, so that wasn't worth taking and heaven knows why I took any hair styling products and tools when I scrunched my hair up in clips and bands all the time. Even in Bangkok, let alone on the beaches and islands, dress is very casual and flip flops go everywhere apart from swanky restaurants and the Royal Palace. Loose, lightweight clothing, probably stuff you'd never wear at home, is perfect.

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Bangkok pedestrian crossover bridge

Every time I visit Bangkok, I am amazed to see some young girls wearing vertiginously high heels when the pavements are all uneven and the kerbs either high or broken. And the steps! So many steps, everywhere, but particularly to access the Skytrain stations, talk about Stairway to Heaven? It's nothing to climb 60 steep steps from street to station then another 30 or 40 to platform level. The main roads are so wide and busy, that to cross it's steps up, over a bridge and down again. Of course the best way to cross the city is on the riverboat as long as you are happy to jump on and off a bouncing ferry. Flats, comfortable shoes... forget stylish, go for practical!

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Typical Bangkok Skytrain station (note all the steps!)

This is my first visit to Thailand when I haven't lost weight on a healthy diet of fish, vegetables and rice. I know I've been drinking gin and 'full fat' tonic ( the limes are thinning....) but it seems that Thai portion sizes have gotten bigger... maybe they are catering to tourist demands, but we've shared meals and not gone hungry which hasn't happened before. More street food is the answer, but it's so tempting to sit in an air conditioned or breezy riverside restaurant in the very hottest part of the day.

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Bangkok street food

All of the plans and arrangements we'd made in advance worked well, no flight delays and turning up to closed hotels like last year and despite the Koh Ngai arrival and the near missed flight, everything worked out well. We had spectacular weather, glorious sunshine, bearable humidity levels and only two rainstorms which were during the night anyway. We may revisit Khao Lak but not Koh Ngai as there are so many more islands to go to. Koh Sukorn will never be the same again without Dick and Dee at the Bungalows, or without Thup, but we might well go just to see the changes and visit old friends.

Next time it's looking like Koh Bulone and Koh Yao.... I've a yearning for a Koh Lipe reprise too.... Keith fancies Sukkothai or Chiang Rai and of course I still want cocktails at the top of the Bayoke Sky Tower...and flying longhaul First Class (or maybe I'll settle for just Business Class)...

And since we got back we have caught up with "Bangkok Airport", broadcast by the BBC, featuring my favourite airport...

Posted by GinSmugglers 13:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged cities airports airplanes luggage lounges Comments (2)

Bangkok Revisited

Pop gan mai

sunny 34 °C
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We left Khao Lak with promises to return and set off for Bangkok. One problem with these multi-centre trips is that whole days are spent travelling, which is fine when you are travelling by car or boat, train or bus as there is always something to look at. When planes are involved you spend hours sitting around in airports. Even so, Phuket airport isn't bad as there's a pub called Bill Bentley's where they serve Brancott Sauvignon Blanc and provide free Wifi so it could be worse. This journey took us around six and a half hours, which wasn't too bad and which got us to our hotel in plenty of time to check-in and freshen up before taking advantage of the free cocktails and nibbles in the club lounge. For those who are concerned that we are failing to keep up standards, 'Gintonic' is classed as a cocktail in Thailand.

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Diane enjoying the wine and streetlife at Suk 11

In the evening we went out to explore half of busy Soi 11 (where our preferred hotel is located), and just a little way along we spotted that 'Suk 11' had reopened. Joy!! This great little street restaurant is attached to a backpacker hostel and we used to enjoy eating there, either at one of the rickety tables set up in the street or inside at the low Thai-style tables (which my knee can no longer cope with!) The fearsome lady that ran it had retired and on our last visit they were only serving breakfast for the hostel inmates. Now it was buzzing and full all day again, but they found us an extra table almost on top of the bar, provided us with a fan and a bottle of wine, and we ate a delicious dinner watching the cream of Bangkok nightlife passing us by.

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Chinese New Year dragon at a mall on Sukhumvit Road; Wat Pho temple rooftop

The city is in party mode as the Chinese New Year five day celebration is still in full force. At all the major shrines and tourist spots there are Chinese lanterns and dragons, dancing, music, firecrackers and lots of people. The next morning, after collecting Keith's new glasses... taking advantage of all these Thai opticians... we took the skytrain to Saphan Taksin and hopped onto an extremely crowded riverboat for a ride up to Tha Tien pier. Many of our fellow travellers were Chinese and we could see why when we got up to Wat Pho. The area around the temple was heaving, we'd never seen so many people there. The taxis and tuk tuks were lined up two deep all round the perimeter, and all the little street stalls selling everything from cold drinks to oil paintings had been cleared away. From the music and smoking firecrackers it seemed that there was the most enormous New Year party going on within the complex. We retraced our steps, making a hasty retreat to our favourite parlour, 'One Pho', tucked away behind the fish and fruit stalls near the riverboat stop, for a last Traditional Thai massage. We were very hot when we got there, so they cranked the air-con up, gave us cool clean Thai-style pyjamas to change into and we lay for an hour being gently and not so gently manipulated and stretched. By the time they had finished we were chilled and relaxed, ready to face the heat and the crowds again - and all for £5 each!

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Chinese New Year celebrations at the Erewan Shrine; Traditional Thai dancers add to the atmosphere

Travelling back down the river was a bit sad when we realised that this would be the last time this visit that we'd ride the Chao Phraya riverboat, bumping and bouncing across the water, getting splashed if you are on the wrong side, and looking at the amazing selection of buildings along the water's edge. Huge glass and steel hotels and apartment blocks (new ones being built all the time) jostle for space amongst the shrines and temples and the old colonial buildings and embassies. In every gap between these there are the still the wooden and corrugated steel dwellings that lean out over the river and where children splash about in the mud-coloured water below.

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A longtail boat moored alongside a modern shopping mall; Bustling river traffic, with skyscrapers on shore

For this visit I'd had a yearning to visit one of the very high open air bars/restaurants such as The Banyan Tree (61st floor) or The Baiyoke Sky Tower (88th floor). Several years ago we visited the Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of The Lebua State Tower which was quite amazing, especially as they make you walk over a glass bridge to access it! All of these places have very strict dress codes, or indeed fancy dress codes as they do expect guests to make an effort. For men it's proper shirts, trousers and shoes, no shorts and flipflops here, for ladies it's pretty much anything you like! I'd lugged a proper frock and shoes with me, but this evening, when the time came, we just couldn't be bothered to do ourselves up! After five weeks of very casual dressing and, shock horror, no make-up, it was all too much trouble. Instead we changed and walked down to 'Above Eleven', a trendy glass and chrome bar, a mere 32 floors above Soi 11. It was pleasant enough and the views were pretty with all the lights, but it wasn't as literally breath-taking as being way up in the sky, so high that the city is spread out below you like a sparkly carpet and the horizon is curved from where you stand, daring each other to look straight down!

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View from 'Above Eleven' (our hotel is I/2 way up and 1/4 way from the LHS); Li'l Monkey braves the precipitous drop!

On the way back to the hotel we encountered another old friend. We always used to visit a Mexican bar/restaurant called 'Coyote' when we were in the infamous Pat Pong area, for a great margarita. On our last visit it had vanished from its location on Soi Convent completely, not just closed down, but gone. We couldn't even identify the gap where it had been. But we stumbled across a reopened version of it on Sukhumvit Soi 11 (very close to our hotel) so we dropped in for nachos and margaritas, as you do. The tiny Thai waitress complete with cowboy boots and massive Stetson hat was much taken with our pronunciation of the Mexican dishes on the menu and made us repeat, over and over, 'pico de gallo' for her to learn how to say it properly.

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Diane at Chatuchak market (sorry, I didn't photograph Pratunam, but it is a bit like this...)

For our last day, we decided on a final shopping trip and went to Pratunam market. Years ago this was a long hard slog along the hot streets from the skytrain, but now, with miles of sheltered walkways connected with new air-conditioned shopping malls, you can make most of the journey under cover avoiding the congestion and road crossings at street level. Pratunam, and the Platinum Mall opposite, comprise one of the areas where the Thais go to shop and so it's full of Thai-sized clothes, not necessarily the sort of touristy things I might have bought, but it's always interesting to look around. There's one section where they make the most fantastic dance dresses, which would put the 'Strictly' costumes to shame, another where you can buy carefully matched lengths of real human hair to add to your own, and which is sold by weight.

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Diane with her last Thai meal of the trip!

We returned to the Sukhumvit area and had a last Thai meal before it was time to pack up and leave the hotel. Guess what Keith had, as his final memory of all the wonderful food we've had over the last month or so,... PIZZA! (Keith: But Diane had ordered Pasta Carbonara just the day before...)

Posted by GinSmugglers 10:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged hotels markets restaurants city bars massages Comments (1)

Khao Lak lacks nothing

Up and down the beach we go...

sunny 33 °C
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Bang Niang is so quiet and peaceful that it's easy to let time run away with you, we"d spent several days on the beach before we realised that maybe we should stir ourselves to do something more productive or adventurous.

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The hotel pool & grounds

Our hotel has a very pleasant pool and a vast garden with ample sunbeds but we prefer to be on the beach. There's something of a dispute about land ownership and as I mentioned in a previous blog, the beaches are public and hotels, resorts and restaurants are not supposed to put structures or even chairs on the beach. We'd heard that the army had moved in last year to demolish all the little beach restaurants we'd used on our last visit, and indeed they had, but guess what, all but two are back again.

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Diane bobbing around on her lilo

After breakfast, we pack our bag with towels, sunscreen and assorted amusements, take up our trusty lilos and set off past the pool, down the garden path, round the boat graveyard and down to the beach. Once there, you choose your sunbed and brolly, plonk down your stuff and you're set. The beds belong to the little restaurants and as long as you buy drinks or lunch there, the bed is yours for the day.

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The boat graveyard; Diane encamped for the duration!

Once we make camp we then do what everyone else does first thing, before the sun is too strong, and walk along the waters edge from one end of the beach to the other and back. Our stretch is north from our sunbeds by the river to the rocks beyond The Mukdara Hotel, maybe around a mile altogether. To extend the walk south you can wade across the river, despite the strong current, it's easy at low tide but harder when it's high. There is a ferry for 20 Baht and we lie on our sunbeds watching the antics of those who can't or won't pay the ferryman, stripping off and holding their belongings above their heads as they struggle across.

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The 20 baht ferry; ...and the cheaper alternative!

We while away the day, sunbathing, reading, swimming and playing on our lilos. Lilo gymnastics are great fun, getting on and off and avoiding being swept either up on to the sand or smashed against the rocks takes more effort than you'd imagine in these choppy waters. More than once the cry went up, 'Every man poodle for himself' as we paddled (poodled?) furiously away from the rocky outcrops.

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Diane about to brave the rocks on her lilo again...

Before you know it, the sun is over the imaginary yardarm and it's time for a G&T then lunch. We move 10 feet across the hot sand to a shaded table to eat. I'm predictable, my order of Khao Phad varies only by the addition I choose, my favourite is poo, I'll eat fried rice with crab day after day. Keith prefers Phad Thai (noodles) and often chooses plamuk (squid) to go with it. Later for dinner it will be a stir-fry or curry, or maybe a whole fish or crabs. We've lived mainly on chicken, fish, seafood, fruit, vegetables, rice and cashew nuts and so far I've not reached the point of yearning for a roast dinner!

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A typical Thai dish: chicken with cashew nuts & steamed rice (and optional Li'l Monkey)

After lunch it's a relax in the shade and maybe a massage. All the beach bars have a tandem massage business, each with several little bamboo massage 'huts' alongside. We keep asking for Thai massage but after watching us toast ourselves in the sun all day the girls insist on giving us gentler, moisturising oil massages.

Next it's a return to our hotel for showers and an ice-cold, Keith strength G&T as we watch the sunset from our balcony. In the evening you can return to the beach where all the sunbeds are stacked and the little bars have transformed themselves into romantic beachside restaurants, with candles on the tables and soft music blending with the sound of the waves. The only fly in this idyllic ointment is James Blunt, we cover ourselves with repellent to keep the bugs away, but there doesn't seem to be anything available to get rid of James Blunt .... everywhere. More usually we will make the 10 minute walk into the village. It's an easy walk, but there's one stretch of about 25 yards where it's pitch black after nightfall. We don our trusty head torches and bounce along in the beam of our headlights.

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Keith & Diane at the Bang Niang Taxi Point, adjacent to the market

Bang Niang village is just like every other Thai seaside town, there are several small supermarkets and 7elevens, then it's bar/restaurant, massage shop, tailor, shop full of seaside tourist tat, optician, tour operator selling diving trips, elephant safaris etc. Then maybe another tailor, and an optician..... Bearing in mind we only met ONE Thai wearing glasses, I've no idea why there are so many opticians, nor why Mr Armani has so many outlets in out of the way Thai villages. Three nights each week there's a huge market in Bang Niang and visitors and locals from all around the Khao Lak region flock to buy everything anyone could possibly want or need. Fresh fish and vegetables, beachwear and flipflops, brushes and bowls, toys and electronics, everyone bumping into each other when somebody stops dead to look at a trinket that takes their eye. The aisles between stalls are narrow and crowded, the stalls selling street food belt out heat and cooking smells, it's humid and dusty, I love it, Keith hates it and had to be placated with promises of cold drinks and a tuk-tuk ride home.

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Two views of the Tsunami Memorial

One afternoon the owner of our preferred beach bar took us in his tuk-tuk to the furthest northern reaches of Khao Lak because we wanted to look at some of the quieter beaches. First we went to the tsunami memorial, a long tiled concrete wave covered with pictures and memorial plaques of mostly the foreign nationals who died in 2004. It was quiet, set in a park next to a lovely beach but so moving, seeing pictures of whole families that were all lost. We also saw, along the coast, tall concrete buildings about four storeys high that have now been built as tsunami refuges.

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Tsunami refuge; Diane on an almost deserted but lovely beach

We visited lots of beautiful beaches, some very long, some with white sand. There are spectacular resorts in lovely locations but the further north you go, the further away from the airport you get, the less developed the area. This means that you have to travel further for the restaurants and shops. Busy little Bang Niang has it all.

Oh, and it was Chinese New Year while we were here...

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Posted by GinSmugglers 02:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches food seaside Comments (3)

The Surin Islands

For snorkerling (as they sometimes write it in Thailand)

sunny 34 °C
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To snorkel or not to snorkel? You have to weigh up the odds, is it worth the 90 minute shoulder to shoulder journey in a bouncing, deafening speedboat with 38 strangers, fiercely defending your 15 inches of bum space against those with wider bottoms and/or more stuff? It is if the snorkelling is great, but how do you know? You take the risk, that's what you do, so we did.

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Seastar speedboats at Namkhem pier

We booked the trip, after consulting the weather forecasts to choose our day, at a little tour operator in the village paying less that 70% of the brochure price. Tip here, NEVER book in advance over the internet! It was only about a 15 minute transfer but by the time we'd found and collected other travellers, it took much longer. Once at the pier, we were given coffee and cakes, a briefing about where we were going and those who needed them were fitted for masks and fins. Then we waited... It really was a get up early and wait, hurry up and wait morning, after a 6.00am start, we were still hanging around waiting to load the boat for our 9.00am 'departure' at 9.30am. Finally the people we'd been waiting for showed up, all the way from Phuket.

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Li'l Monkey ready to snorkel (but waiting for late arrivals from Phuket)

Our original intention had been to visit the Similan Islands but we were warned that although it's very beautiful there and the snorkelling is good, they can be extremely crowded, so we did a bit of research and decided upon the Surin Islands which are lesser known and nearer anyway. It's still the 90 minute high speed boat ride away, which is fun and exhilarating for about 10 minutes, but rapidly becomes hot and boring. You can't talk to your neighbour, even screaming directly into their ear they can't hear you so after a little while everyone leans back and closes their eyes, heads rocking with the motion of the boat.

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Keith & Diane on the speedboat

At our first snorkelling spot there was a mad scramble to don fins and masks and hurl our hot bods into the water. We weren't disappointed, the water was crystal clear and it was good to see so much coral regrowth. The tsunami damaged the reefs badly and the warming of the waters over the years following killed much of the coral, but over the last two or three years, the water has been cooler and the coral is coming back, flashes of blue, purple and orange are appearing amongst all the pale, dead formations. And the fish, so many of them, tiny Nemos in their sea anemone homes, pretty striped angel fish, big multi coloured iridescent parrot fish and so many more. There are no pictures, we've given up trying to take the perfect underwater tropical fish shot, would you believe the little blighters refuse to pose and keep swimming away so all you get is a photograph of a tail?

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Longtail boat cutting through the crystal clear waters surrounding the Surin Islands

The Surins are protected and part of a National Marine Park. There are no permanent buildings and very strict rules about where boats can stop and which beaches can be used. You can stay overnight but you have to rent a tiny bivouac tent to sleep in which isn't really suitable for those of an age to relish their creature comforts. We were taken to the park headquarters for a picnic buffet lunch under the trees. We'd read dire things about the food here and weren't expecting much but as we tucked into our barbecued chicken drumsticks, stir fried squid with noodles and bean sprouts, chicken with pak choi, stir fried mixed vegetables and steamed rice we thought that maybe they'd got a new chef! With fruit for dessert and coffee with tiny custard doughnuts we were well stuffed and ready for a relaxing swim and potter around on another one of those picture postcard perfect beaches we've come to expect.

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Army style tents for rent from the National Marine Park

Next on the itinerary was a visit to a Moken village. Moken were originally sea gypsies moving from island to island building temporary shelters and making a simple living from the sea. They have their own language, spoken only, not written and are renowned for their ability to focus clearly underwater without masks. This particular tribe have settled on the island and have been living there in their stilt houses for many years. We were planning to opt out of this part of the trip as both of us are never very comfortable with this intrusion into people's lives as though they are some kind of living exhibit, but since our speedboat was picking us up there as we were being taken over by longtail, we didn't have much choice. We strolled through the village on the beach, along a well worn path, trying not to look inside the pretty bamboo 'tree houses' built on stilts, nor to notice the young woman washing herself and her hair kneeling on the floor using a tap and a plastic bowl. The houses here do not have any mains water but they do have satellite dishes and small solar panels on their palm leaf roofs.

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Traditional Moken dugout canoes and, ahem, satellite dishes!

In the afternoon we had two more 40 minute snorkel stops in different spots. We didn't meet any other speedboats at any of our stops, very different from The Similans apparently. At one spot we were told that the water was 30 feet deep but you could see to the bottom easily, turquoise blue with shafts of sunlight shining all the way down. There was lots of space to spread out, no fin bumping, not even by the man with such huge long fins that engendered many jokes about the size of his fins relative to other things! It can be eerily quiet and peaceful, apart from the sound of parrot fish or trigger fish chomping on the coral. It's easy getting off the boat into the water, you can just jump but getting back in was more difficult. To avoid damaging the coral, the boat crew didn't drop the steps down fully into the water, so to get on to the bottom rung, which was bouncing up and down in the tides, with mask and snorkel on and fins in one hand, you had to be able to get one foot up through the water to above waist height and lift yourself up from that. I couldn't do it and neither could most of the others so, the seemingly small, slight, crewmen, simply grabbed an arm and hauled us aboard.

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Diane with large Surin rocks, and tiny, weeny Surin hermit crab!

The journey back was equally noisy but, with everyone tired, salt encrusted and wet, we just wedged ourselves in amongst the towels, bags and snorkel gear and tried to wish the time away. On our return, the guy who'd been our tour guide thanked us and laughingly indicated a tip box. Many tipped, some didn't, but we felt they'd earned it, they were attentive, helpful and very professional... we'd already marvelled at the ability of the boatmen to turn the craft 'on a sixpence'. As we left, we were given the opportunity to buy the ubiquitous photo souvenir, a plate with us in the middle extolling the virtues of two places we'd not visited and 'snorkerling'. We bought it anyway!

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Fishing boats at Namkhem pier

It was another mini bus ride home, but despite our late start, we'd had all the snorkel time we'd been promised so it was nearly 7.00pm when we returned. The hotel manager greeted us, 'We were worried, you're so late!'

Never was a hot shower and a seriously long G&T so appreciated...

Posted by GinSmugglers 20:53 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches islands fish coral Comments (2)

Khao Lak revisited

Better luck this time!

sunny 33 °C
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Our journey from AoNang to Khao Lak was very different from our previous 7 hour epic. The. taxi driver arrived early (fortunately we'd been out first thing to replenish the gin stocks) and just over two hours later we were at the Riverside. The 140km journey north took us up and over two mountains with steep roads winding through pine forests, bright sunshine filtered through the trees. We swept around the final bend and the long sandy beach of Khao Lak appeared below us. 

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Khao Lak - looking south on Bang Niang beach

The Khao Lak region isn't just one beach but a stretch of 25 miles of beaches, separated by rocky outcrops, along Thailand's west coast about 40 miles north of Phuket. The beaches all have different names, as well as Khao Lak, amongst others you've got Tubkak, Khuk Khak, Pakweeb and Bang Niang which is where we are. All of the beaches are public so although lots of hotels are right behind the beach, they do not have the right to put sunbeds, umbrellas etc. on the sand.... it doesn't stop them doing it though! The main North/South highway runs about 2km inland from the beaches and a series of villages lie between. These beaches took the full force of the 2004 tsunami, everything was destroyed and much of the distressing video footage that you may have seen was shot here. Our taxi driver told us that there was not a single family in the area that did not lose somebody. The famous police patrol boat, out cruising the waters. that was picked up by the wave and deposited 3km inland is still here, where it came to rest by the roadside in Bang Niang.

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Bang Niang beach with illegal sunbeds, etc

Consequently, none of the permanent structures along the beach are more than 10 years old, even so, there is still an old fashioned, laid back feel to the place, like the Phuket of 15 years ago. During the day, everyone is at the beach or poolside, the villages are quiet and sleepy with nothing much opening before 10am. People come out in the evening to eat and shop in the little stores or night markets. Pretty much everything closes down in the low season, late April to mid October when it's colder ( by Thai standards, around 25C), it rains a lot, the beaches are windy and the waves are very strong. The beach bars and restaurants shut down and the Similan Islands are closed to divers and snorkellers.

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Sunset over the Khao Lak Riverside Redort pool and garden.JPG

Our hotel, Khao Lak Riverside Resort, has a lovely location. It's situated right at the point where the only river in the area meets the sea. We have river and hillside views to our left and to the front we look out over the hotel pool and quite extensive garden and parched lawns, down across the river basin to the beach and sea beyond. Unlike most of the bigger beachfront hotels, every room here has a good view. We have the same room as last year and, like all the others, it is quite vast. Ours is the room that illustrates the hotel website so we know it has some of the best views.

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Khao Lak Riverside Resort from the beach (our room is top right)

When we were here before, the hotel was being run by one of the owners who was really not well and unable to cope, now there is Peter, the new Hungarian manager who is helpfulness personified. Our arrival could not have been more different.. last time, when we got here, it was late at night and the whole resort was locked and barred. We couldn't get in and had to spend the night at another hotel.

This time we were met with smiles, welcomes, cold drinks and towel swans on the beds!

Posted by GinSmugglers 16:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches boats sunsets Comments (1)

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