Phuket 6th - 9th November 2010
I stayed in Patong on Phuket island and was instantly immersed into the more commercial / seedier side of Thailand. Having said that, this was a good place to ease my way into Thailand life as it's still quite Westernised and the goings on in this place are intriguing and wondrous to say the least! Ping pong bar anyone?! Lol.
Phuket is on the Andaman / west coast of Thailand and holds the countries most beautiful islands. I'd been advised by a lot of other travellers to spend as much time as possible sampling as many of Thailand's islands as possible, so thought I may as well start here. Hey it's a hard life, but someone's got to do it. ;)
To sample as many as possible I did a day trip around the islands of Phuket, Phanak, Hong, James Bond & Naka. This was quite a mixed bag as far as the day trip went. As you'll know, I'm not one for organised tours, but this was quite good, it was just a bit strange as it was the first trip travelling solo and unfortunately about 80% of the boat were Greeks who spoke to each other all day in yep you guessed it - Greek!
I got chatting to a couple in the morning and it turned out we were all going on the same excursion, but unfortunately they were on a different boat. I saw them throughout the day though which was nice, but and it was pretty funny when I bumped into them again on James Bond island as he asked if I'd take some pics of them with my big camera as he only had his iphone on him. She'd left all of their 3 cameras on their bed at the hostel and she said it would also mean he might start talking to her again, as he was in a right mood with her. They couldn't thank me enough and we walked around for about half hour and they kept getting me pose for pics and asked if I wanted a bracelet or something as a way to say thank you. I was like seriously, they're digital photos, it's not costing me a penny!
I spent the rest of my time in Phuket mooching around the town, doing a bit of shopping, working on the tan, getting a very unusual pedicure where you put your feet in a tank full of fish that eat off all the dead skin & cuticles (they also did a neck, shoulder and scalp massage and for all of that it came to a whopping £5! :)), went to a Thai food market for dinner with a couple of girls from the hostel and decided the next island I'd frequent would be Koh Phi Phi.
I finally managed a Skype call with Caroline. Seriously it only took 6 months for the woman to download Skype, and I only managed that cos I put her on a guilt trip! :)
I also spent a lot of time trying to work out how I'm going to divide my time in Thailand. I have a 30 day visa which would usually be plenty of time but I've just booked to go to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan - an absolute must for a stay in Thailand, but it's kinda throwing everything else out of sync. We shall see what the next week or so brings. I'm absolutely loving having no fixed itinerary and not having a clue where I'm going next. The next thing I have booked is my flight to Vietnam on 3rd December to meet Phung-Linh. :)
Koh Island hopping
Koh Phi Phi 9th - 12th November 2010
So I decided to turn up on Koh Phi Phi without booking any accommodation and just figure it out when I got there. Quite a feat for me as I like to book everything in advance - but I thought this would be a good way of trying to re-educate my 'must have a plan for every eventuality' Project Manager self. :)
I sat next to a girl called Julia in the transfer bus to the ferry terminal and we ended up chatting for the rest of the afternoon the whole way to Phi Phi. When we got there it was absolutely chucking it down and I was getting soaked running in and out of everywhere claiming to be 'tourist information' which were really travel agents, to find accommodation. She said I might as well stay with her that night as she'd already booked a hotel, and I could just look for somewhere tomorrow.
I am used to slumming it and I was just expecting a private room in a hostel, but she was actually staying at a luxurious & quiet hotel in the centre of town (neither us could work out how it was so quiet based on it's central position). And oh my god, her room was out of this world! We were sharing a massive King size bed, the patio had steps leading straight into the pool, the bathroom had a shower the same size as the bathroom in my house and everything was remote controlled - which with 2 girls in a room, proved interesting!
To say thank you I took Julia out for dinner and we went to a Seafood restaurant right on the sea front.We had a gorgeous meal and washed it down with plenty of cocktails. The bill for a 2 course meal, side dishes and cocktails came to £30! You gotta love Thai prices, and that was classed as expensive cos let's face it, seafront restaurant on Koh Phi Phi can't get much touristy!
The next day we went for brekkie (included with the room :)), found me somewhere to stay just round the corner from her place as we went for a walk to the vista point, although we completely missed it and ended up walking to the top of the highest point on the island, then down the other side, past the reservoir and through the Tsunami village! The next time I came up with a good idea like that I gave her permission to slap me! After we'd recovered from our strenuous hike in sauna like conditions, we got a long boat back before hitting the beach. Julia had been talking about getting a full body fish spa which she'd seen and as I didn't have anything better to do I decided to go along aswell. Wow - sooooooo fricki' weird! And yes we were in our bikinis before anyone asks. They really hurt to start with, but then it feels like you're in a Jacuzzi and it's just bubbles moving around. Although every now and again one of us would freak out and all the fish would swarm off that person and onto the other one, which became a bit too much - seriously I don't think these little critters could have been fed for a month! We asked if they fed them anything else and she said 'yes, vitamins and minerals at night' - what a fabulous diet these poor fish have! We both came out of there feeling extremely refreshed and unbelievably clean, and for the novelty of it, it was good, but I think next time I'll just get an all over body scrub. :)
The next morning it was absolutely pouring down and unfortunately we were booked on an island cruise!Great timing! We almost decided not to go, but we went round there anyway to see what it was like. It was only 400baht (about £8) for the whole day, including breakfast, lunch, soft drinks & snorkelling, so I wouldn't have been gutted if we couldn't go, but it was more that I wanted to see 'The Beach' than anything else. By the time we got to the pick up point my dress was see through and I looked like a drowned rat, but it soon stopped raining, it instantly heated up and I was dry in no time at all. As they don't have cars or roads on Phi Phi we all walked to the beach where the long boat was waiting for us. The first port of call which was Monkey Beach. These were ferocious little w***s and we were all taking it in turns to get a picture whilst everyone else kept watch. The rule was as soon as someone screamed, you ran into the sea.No waiting, no looking to see where it was coming from, you just ran to join everyone else standing in the safety of the surf cos those little w***s moved really fast. They even ran up the anchor line and onto the boat and had to be chased off with one of the guides chasing after them with a flipper.
After that we went to Maya Beach aka 'The Beach' and how bitterly disappointed I was. I didn't even recognise it. It's not enclosed like they make out in the film, it just has cliffs on either side of it. We sailed right up and parked on the beach, along with at least 20 other boats, so it wasn't exactly idyllic. The sun was now beaming and we went for a swim before getting an hours' worth of sunbathing in before we headed off. We did a couple of snorkelling stops and then all of a sudden we could see a massive storm on the horizon. We were in it before we knew it and we were surrounded by a giant rain cloud. Now in my line of work I have a phrase 'that assumptions are the mother of all f*** ups', and we had all wrongly assumed that the 'Captain' could Captain a boat in any weather. Well you'd probably need some kind of radar for that, and you certainly ain't gonna get that on a long boat. Nope, these guys just sail around the islands and do so only by sight - no radar, no charts, just sight. Not much bloody use when you're in the middle of a storm, can't see more than a couple of hundred foot in front of you and the waves are getting bigger and bigger! There were two boats on our day trip and at one point they came really close together and our Captain shouted at the other one if he knew where he was going?! The other boat then turned round. Seriously! We thankfully eventually found the one island we were looking for and decided enough was enough for the day. I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out in my private room before meeting up with Julia again that evening for some dinner.
I must point out how impressed and how freaked out I was with my private room. In one respect it was unbelievably great having my own space again, as every day for over 6 months now I've been in either a dorm room or even in a private room I've still be sharing with Selena. So to have a room all to myself felt like absolute luxury. However, it did take a bit of getting use to and I did the mandatory search of the room everytime I came back in to make sure there were no axe murders hiding in the bathroom / wardrobe. :)
I'm actually writing this whilst on Koh Lanta (in another private room, but I'll come to that in the next Blog entry). I'm sitting in my private room and have realised it's only 6 weeks til Christmas. So I thought I'd put one of my Xmas albums and quite frankly it just feels wrong! Unless it's freezing outside, Christmas songs should not be played. They always make me feel so snug and happy that my favourite season of the year is almost here, but listening to this now makes me feel like I'm trying to trick myself into thinking it's Christmas when it's actually the middle of summer.
So as I still couldn't make my mind up what to do with my time in Thailand I decided to go to another island called Koh Lanta for a couple of nights to meet up with my friend Cara who I met in Patong. I really don't know whether to go to the East coast but this will give me another few days before I need to decide. They are having really bad weather over there. It's bad enough here with the tropical storms every couple of days but it was so bad there last week they apparently stopped the ferries to and from it for 3 days and I really don't fancy getting stranded over there.