Up and down the beach we go...
18.02.2015 - 21.02.2015 33 °C
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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...