Travel Blog: Week 23

Thailand Week 23: 15.04.2013 – 21.04.2013 Monday:- I got up just after 6 as my pickup was 6:50. Packed and ready I waited for the shuttle to the ferry port. And waited, and waited. An hour later it arrived and full of Aussies, who weren’t too pleased that they had been kept waiting. My host at the hotel had been lovely and looked after me. I had a warm farewell and a invite to come back anytime. The hotel was a

Thailand

Week 23: 15.04.2013 – 21.04.2013

Monday:-

I got up just after 6 as my pickup was 6:50. Packed and ready I waited for the shuttle to the ferry port. And waited, and waited. An hour later it arrived and full of Aussies, who weren’t too pleased that they had been kept waiting.

My host at the hotel had been lovely and looked after me. I had a warm farewell and a invite to come back anytime. The hotel was a little out of the way, although it made me walk everyday, but really fabulous. I’d recommend it – AT (9).

It was touch and go that we’d get to the ferry on time but with a white knuckle ride through the streets of Patong and Phuket town we made it. I got on the ferry and took a place sitting on the floor at the front of the boat. The journey would be around 4 hours – plenty of time to catch up on my blog and take in the scenery. For the entire journey I sat outside in the sun.

  

I realised when downloading my photos how few I’d taken. I think between the rain, the water celebrations and trips to the beach I hadn’t actually taken my camera out with me very often. Hopefully that’s all about to change.

The ferry took us around some truly beautiful islands.

  

  

Each time I thought we had arrived at Phi Phi island and I felt disappointed I had decided to skip it. As it happens most of these islands were uninhabited and were used just by day trippers. When we did eventually get to Phi Phi I was glad I had skipped it – really touristy, and not for me. I had to change ferry at this stage, and once I had collected by bags and negotiated the various gang planks I settled in a seat in a much smaller boat.

  

This is when I met Sarah, or should I say Sarah Louise – coincidence huh! She was travelling on her own and we immediately hit it off. We chatted the whole journey and decided to share a room whilst here. I had already booked a backpackers but cancelled that (sadly having to pay for one night as the cancellation fee!!!) as we were sold a fabulous deal by someone on the boat.

Hotel transfer included for free. As we were sharing the room was costing me 350 THB (about £7) so overall I was still quids in. We were bundled into a truck, there were 8 of us in total, with some of the bags being hoisted onto the roof. We bumped along the dirt roads for a while passing mini marts and market stalls are were soon at our destination.

  

We stayed at Lanta Emerald, a very chilled bohemian place right on the sea. We had a little hut to ourselves and the room was big. The place even had a pool and a resident monkey.

  

Lunch was something traditional and we ate it sitting on cushions on the floor at a low table a stones throw from the beach and the sea.

  

After we’d eaten and unpacked a little we walked along the beach. It was coarse sand, made up of ground shells and coral, and the sea was pebbly and rocky but oh so warm once you were in. It stretched for miles and all the way along were restaurants bars and hotels. I could be comfortable here for a couple of days.

  

More chilling, then dinner and some beers. The beach was dotted with kerosene lamps and the bar had low lighting, the sound of people playing cards or jengo, the obligatory reggae music (although the mix of music was great and not pounding beats), and the smell of wacky baccy.

Both Sarah and I slept well that night.

Tuesday:-

As usual not up very early, but I did have a few laps in the pool. By exercise regime is non existent at the moment but somehow I’ll have to find a way of keeping fit.

Breakfast of eggs and fruit, then we headed out in search of an ATM (I needed cash drastically) and an idea of what the area we were staying in was like.

  

This place was so much lovelier than Phuket and much more like how I imagined Thailand to me. I felt so much more inclined to explore. Money and water topped up we started our trek. It was hot, we were sweaty, and the tuk tuk drivers constantly beeped and shouted “taxi” at us, but we were determined to see some of this place on foot.

  

  

  

  

By 1 ish we were ready for a break and headed down a side road to the beach. It was a place where locals gathered for there lunch – and honestly I couldn’t blame them. There were a few tourists, a lady collecting the tiny shells from the beach (there were so many) and three people learning tight rope skills, which was a bit random. To get to the restaurant we had to cross a small inlet. Despite attempts to stay relatively dry it was too deep so in the end I raised my bag over my head and just walked through up to my waist! Luckily I was wearing my bikini so it was off with the shorts and top to leave them to dry in the sun while we had lunch. A fabulous place with fabulous food and driftwood art everywhere.

  

  

  

So tempted to buy something but the artist wasn’t around to negotiate a price. We sat in this perfect location for a while before finding our way back to the main road, jumping in a persistent tuk tuk back to the hotel and a welcome dip in the pool.

  

  

Showered and snoozed we decided to get a tuk tuk to the end of the island and the pier. After some negotiation with tuk tuk drivers we were off. Further than we thought too which was probably why any of the tuk tuk drivers hadn’t been too impressed by our suggested fare. Anyway, we made it. It was busy compared to what we had seen so far and there were loads of shops and restaurants some of which were on stilts over the water. We found a packed seafood restaurant and nabbed a table right next to the water.

  

The food was amazing – steamed sea bass with lemon (which arrived in a bain marie over a flame and so was piping hot), garlic calamari e, fried rice and spring rolls. Washed down with a g and t. Marvellous. There was lively conversation with the next table and English lady and French man who had separately won a meal and decided to take their prizes together. Feeling very full we wandered around the village and found ourselves at a night market. Not only selling food of every description including some weird spun sugar pancakes and fried bugs, but it was like being at the fair – shooting galleries and cuddly toys, oh and bingo, yes bingo!

  

  

We got a tuk tuk back, chatting with the driver ‘Charlie’ and his pregnant girlfriend ‘Li’. We actually had quite a giggle with them. Thank goodness for the roof on the tuk tuk as it was beginning to rain.

A few beers in the hotel chill out area and bed

Wednesday:-

There was quite a storm in the night and the ground was littered with palm fronds the next morning. Feeling groggy I had a swim in the pool – it was pretty overcast today and I think everyone had stayed in bed. I had the pool to myself.

Once dressed we tried a vegetarian place (vegetarian Nigel!) for breakfast. It was run by a French girl and Polish guy. The food was superb and all home made.

  

I had a smoothie with ginger, and a fruit muesli yoghurt combo. The downpour started when we were eating so to while away the time waiting for it to stop we browsed their little shop. Paintings, jewellery, clothes, Nik naks, mostly produced by them. Such talent. I bought some mango wood earrings and yes, you guessed, a piece of art.

The rain had stopped and we boarded another taxi, expertly driven by ‘Fod’.

Sarah was heading to a yoga retreat in Koh Samui the next day and needed to get transport there. I decided I would travel with her so we signed up for the minibus/ferry ticket and arranged pick up from the hotel.

Some more browsing around the shops, which were strangely filled with the most beautiful cats – oh, by the way, I solved the mystery of the docked cats tails. It was none of the things I had thought. It’s genetic. The cats over here have a some time bred with a no tailed Japanese cat and these stubby tailed cats are the offspring.

  

  

  

Anyway, I digress! We browsed, Sarah had the hugest stack of chocolate covered pancakes, and I bought a book and post cards. More browsing.

By now I was hungry so got a take away noodle soup, you know the ones where everything is bagged separately, and we head back.

  

The soup was still piping when we got back and boy was it spicy. A little snooze and then back out for dinner at the place we’d had breakfast. We’d really bonded with the owners and loved the food so it was the only place to spend our last night. They had two little playful kittens too which ran around the place like Tasmanian devils. A smoothie each, homemade hummus and pita bread, and some tasty potato concoction with salad.

  

We were treated to a potent homemade hazelnut digestif. We also met Michael, a Brit who been travelling for the past 13 years, 7 of which were in Thailand. Beers and a few puffs of something followed whilst we sat out on their private deck out back. Bliss. Just when we were contemplating heading back to pack, it was already late, we were invited to a beach party about a 10 minute tuk tuk ride away. Carpe diem – we went. It was a quiet affair in a laid back bar and we didn’t stay long but it was well worth the trip.

  

Back to the room around 1am. I quickly stuffed things in my bag and went to bed. Alarm set for 6.

Thursday:-

My god – that can’t be the alarm!!!!!

Bleary eyed we finished packing and emptied the room. Sadly breakfast was only served from 7:30 and that was the time of the pick up, which was prompt. For the next hour we visited various other hotels and picked up 9 more people. After, what seemed like forever, we queued up for the car ferry and drove on.

  

  

  

  

  

It was the first of two crossings and both were less that 20 minutes each. The vehicles were packed on. Now we were really on our way on this 5 hour journey.

There were 9 of us in the minibus – 2 French couples, 2 other Brits, a Kiwi, an American (teaching here in Thailand), and an Egyptian (also teaching here). Fortunately, she could speak some Thai.

After about 2 hours we stopped for a very gratefully received toilet stop – swat toilets mind you – and some food. Well junk food. 30 minutes on we dropped off the first French couple. It gave us a chance to grab some watermelon from a street vendor. You had to kind of switch off from the driving as there really aren’t any rules and overtaking can be as creative as you like. You can almost touch the windscreen of the vehicle in front if you lean out the window. Then there are cows and dogs to dodge. Another 30 minutes on and it was time to drop off the second French couple. They needed to get to the train station which was still 10ks away and it was suggested they take a tuk tuk or a taxi. They wouldn’t budge as they had bought a ticket to be dropped at the train station as refused to pay the 40THB (about 80p or for them €1). All hell broke out in the bus as the French raised their voices and gesticulated whilst everyone else shouted because we had ferries to catch. The Egyptian lady tried to mediate as she had fantastic language skills but in the end gave up. The French were determined to get what they paid for and would not get out. Eventually, after all the options were considered, including everyone else on the bus paying for their taxi, they got out. We were off again and hopefully would reach the ferry on time. An hour later we arrived, collected our bags from the back of the minibus and walked onto the ferry. It was so hot – the air con in the bus had lulled us. Three of us were getting the Koh Samui ferry (me, Sarah and Anna the Kiwi) and we settled our bags and watched for each other while we checked out the view and the toilets (not necessarily in that order! Hope you like the photo – yes that is my wee, and yes I know I need to drink more.

  

  

There was a little shop on the ferry selling goods only filled with huge amounts of additives and E numbers. I braved a pot noodle, only adding about half the spice packets provided. Thank goodness I did, it nearly blew my head off – spicy!!! It wasn’t bad actually. We sat back and enjoyed the smooth ride and the vista.

  

We disembarked using the same exit ramp as the trucks, cars, motorbikes and other random vehicles. We were almost the last off and by that time there was only option for getting around the island to Anna’s hotel. Bit pricey too. Hmmmm what to do? It was hot and sticky and our bags were heavy. We were just about to sign taxi when a trick trundled past and offered us a ride for half the price – we threw in our bags and were off. Much to the digest of the taxi driver. It was a longer, bouncier trip but I loved it. We got to see much of the changing coast line and it was a beautiful day. Our driver was so helpful and despite not knowing exactly where the hotel was, sought directions from another taxi driver, and got us there.

We all got out and dumped our bags a the hotel and went out for a well deserved drink and something to eat. It was around 4 by now and it had been quite a day of travel. We found a little restaurant on the beach and had an amazing meal – and a little dip in the sea. Oooooo, it felt good to cool off my feet!

We returned to Anna’s hotel, although on the way she met up with a friend so it was just me and Sarah who made in back. Sadly, on the way we witnessed a moped accident. A young guy came off his bike. As I am an emergency First Responder I rushed to see if I could help. He was a Brit and was cut and bruised by the accident. He was also having a seizure and was stiff as a board so we could get him in the recovery position. So many people came to help whilst we waited for the ambulance, which turned up within minutes of the call. The guy was conscious and seemed to have some idea of what had happened so I felt slightly reassured when I left the scene. Anyway, back to the hotel to collect our bags.

We found a cheaper hotel just down the street and checked in. So much easier to find good value accommodation when there’s two of you. Really lovely room too with a fabulous shower – free shampoo dispenser to boot, so I filled up my shampoo bottle. Thank you very much!

Showered and changed we went out for the evening. It was quite a busy, touristy place but it had a nicer feel about it than Phuket. We browsed the shops and street markets and Sarah stopped for something to eat. At around 11 we headed back but found a massage spa doing great deals and it was still open. Why not? We went in.

For £4 I had a hours foot massage and shoulder rub. It was mostly relaxing but the reflexology can be painful at times and the should rub felt more like a wrestling match. I felt great though. By now it was gone midnight and we fell into bed tired but content.

Friday:-

Lazy lie in.

I packed by bag and checked out. It was handy that we could leave our bags in reception so that we could enjoy the day before moving to our next accomodation. Sarah was starting her yoga week tomorrow and the meet and greet was tonight so she’d be checking into her Sanctuary hotel – me? I still needed to find somewhere. Liberated from my bag I felt at ease to have a wander.

We found a cafe called Wave and opted for the Blow Out Breakfast. Worth every penny.

I liked the place – it had a great vibe and was set out like a library of second hand books. Even the toilet dorm was disguised like a bookcase.

  

I would have taken a room there it one had been available – sadly not. For the next few hours we pounded the pavements further afield than we’d been the night before. We also checked out the places with rooms to let. We realised what a good deal we’d got with the hotel the night before. Even the backpackers was 400 thb for a 12 mixed dorm. In the end I found a place for 600bht which was more than I wanted to pay but it was central, I got a great room with a fridge and private bathroom, and it was a stones throw from the beach and my new favourite grocery store.

  

Before we knew it Sarah needed to get a cab and we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags. I also bought a box for shipping more things home. I waved Sarah off and took my bags to my new place – it was a good 20 minute walk and it took too trips but it was good exercise

I unpacked a little and had a well needed shower. I then set to with my laundry – rigging up the clothes line in the bathroom.

Time to head out in search of food. I met a guy from Burma who tried to get me into his restaurant. He then proceeded to offer me a free room at his home and the use of his motor bike!!! Not sure about that. I declined, but the menu looked good and I may well go back another day. In the meantime, I looked around the local stores and ended up in my newly discovered grocery store – it was Japanese run, I think, and had some strange products. I bought food for dinner and breakfast. The little fridge in my room would be really useful. I’m not sure what I did for the rest of the evening but I switched off the light around 1:30

Saturday:-

I didn’t wake up until 9:30. What a sleep! I really like it here for some reason so may stay a while.

I had breakfast in my room and headed out. Today I was going to be a beach bum – a good one I was too. I found a shady spot and camped there all day. The water was really shallow and never got deep no matter how far I walked out but I did get in a number of swims. I read my book, which I’d got from Wave the day before and listened to music.

  

Around 6 I packed up and walked back along the beach. I stopped at THE place to be – the Ark Bar – and had a beer. Great music and a view across the beach. Very chilled as I watched the sun set.

After an hour or so I wandered back to my room washed and changed. The evening is a bit of a blur just because I’m a few days behind and the travel is not improving my memory any. I decided to eat at the restaurant of the Burmese guy I met the night before. I chose a light India meal (I know that sounds like an oxymoron) and later bought a banana and honey roti from a street trader, which was divine.

Otherwise it was a fairly un eventful evening. I just explored more of the main strip before hitting the sack. This is a town of mostly couples so meeting other similar travels is not quite so easy here. Despite that, I feel really at home.

Sunday:-

What a difference a day makes. Today it poured – really poured! After a quick breakfast in my room and some time sorting through my bag to decide what to send home (I was pretty brutal but still have a pile of ‘maybes’ – what a wuss) I took my chance during a break in the clouds and made it to back to Wave. But only just! I was there for hours watching everyone rush around in the rain. I used the Internet had a couple of tomato juices (joy of joy they had Worcestershire sauce here) and treated myself to a fabulous dim sum platter.

By 3 the rain had stopped and the sun was almost making it through the cloud cover. I headed for the beach. It wasn’t really a beach day but all I wanted to do was read. I found a shortcut nearby the hotel which serendipitously was through a swanky resort. I brazened it out, smiled confidently at security, walked via the swimming pool and plonked myself on the posh sun loungers. And you know what …… I got away with it. My Dad would have been proud of me (hey Dad – just like free lunches at the BBC!).

What to do with my evening. I changed and headed out, and …..bumped into Sarah. We had dinner together at the place I was staying and they kindly took 10% off the food bill. We just chilled and chatted. I wanted to hear about Sarah’s fabulous hotel and the yoga. As it happened the morning class was going to be a stone’s throw from my hotel. Sarah was getting a taxi back with Naomi, her yoga teacher, that evening so I got to meet her. I got on with her immediately. Somehow they managed to semi convince me to go to yoga in the morning. I would sleep on it and decide in the morning. The words of my t-shirt buzzing around in my head. When was the last time you did something for the first time!

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