The journey from Phangan to Phuket should have taken 5 hours or so, our journey took 12 hours. We don't want to talk about it.
Our hotel was about a kilometre away from the town centre in a quiet side road, we had to will ourselves to make the walk back to town after our journey. The night was humid and sticky, but seeing a new place for the first time provides simple pleasure.
The all too familiar neon signs on restaurants, bars and massage parlours are begrudgingly accepted. But the call of "Boss! Boss!" for everything still grates on my nerves like root-canal treatment. But then it got worse, the guys from the shops grab our arms in an effort to entice us in to buy a suit or buy a DVD or have dinner and all we can do is wrench our arms away and keep moving. The level of frantic beckoning and besieging is just too much for us tonight and we turn back, get some street food and wonder if we have made a good choice for our final destination.
Talking of food (we do, this a lot), the street food here is superb, Jan has had to stick largely to Pad Thai, corn on the cob and spring rolls as its difficult to get vegetarian options, I have an insatiable appetite for pig and anything porkish is an essential part of my day, barbecued red pork, crispy pork, pig leg stew, ribs are all delicious and served with rice and sets us back 50 baht (£1.00). I still can't bring myself to try the sausages though. The variety of different dishes available on any of the food stalls is quite staggering and would rival a good few of the restaurants. Seafood, chicken and beef are all available too and each can be cooked in a dozen different ways - just no vegetables.
A new day and we have both developed a cold, despite the continuing temperatures in the mid 30s. We headed to the beach, the route was the same as the previous night, the energetic salesmen are there too. Where possible we walk in the road and stay out of range.
Patong beach is 3km long, it has clean white sand and the murky sea tumbles into white froth as the two meet. Every metre of the beach is taken up by either a sunbed or parasol. Despite the thousands of people it was heartless. We've rarely seen anything so soul destroying how, in the midst of the masses can somewhere feel so devoid of life or personality. It wasn't for us, we couldn't sit here and maintain our sanity. We came off the beach and just kept walking.
Less than 200 metres after the end of Patong beach we reached 'Diamond' beach, a minuscule sandy outcrop that was shielded on both sides by craggy rocks which continued into the water. It was empty too and would have been perfect if we could have got into the sea.
Another 20 minutes further on we reached the beach at Kalim, still with the same beautiful sand, a few sunbeds and a few people but the sea was accessible and it had a tranquil ambience. We pondered on what it was people found enjoyable about sitting on a beach like Patong with no privacy, no space. Even the facilities on the beach were being charged for, so no benefit there.
On our way back, the sun started to set. We took a pew back at the top of 'Diamond beach' and watched another beautiful day draw to an end.
We hadn't been for a decent walk in weeks. We decided to kill two birds with one stone and walked to Karon beach 7 kilometres south of Pathong. The walk along the hilly road threw up only a few points of interest, but elephants around one corner and a very occasional glimpse of the azure sea kept us on our toes.
The hills, thankfully weren't too steep and we arrived hot but not too exhausted. The beach lazily curves round to form a shallow bay but there was nothing lazy about the waves. We weren't even on the beach yet and we could see they were huge. A few people had braved the swell and as a wave formed in front of them, they disappeared from view until the crest had barrelled over still some meters from the shoreline.
We got onto the beach and we experienced a most peculiar thing, the sand squeaked beneath our feet, the sand was so fine it was literally like walking on talcum powder and it had the sensation of pulling cotton wool apart.
It was another hot day and we needed to cool off, we were going to have to face the waves sooner rather than later. Despite the churning, the sea was remarkably clear and we had a great time ducking under or trying to ride the fast moving undulations. As each wave crashed over people most had to grab onto their bikini bottoms or shorts as the sea did its best to disrobe us, like a magician whipping of a tablecloth from a laid table, there were moonies the length of the shore Or as Harry Potter might say "Oculus Bumcrack!"
We again stayed until sunset, and watched agog as the reds, oranges and yellows set the horizon on fire.
Our final day in Phuket and we wanted to find a suitably exotic beach to round off our trip to Thailand. There are a few isolated beaches in the north of the island which are apparently stunning, however we are way over budget and in order to keep going for the full 12 months, we have to reign in the spending. We headed to Tri Trang beach with a plan to then go to Paradise beach both of which lay a few kilometres south of Patong.
The route there took us over a couple of medium sized hills, enough to get our hearts pumping but still enjoyable, there were a few places where we could get partial views over the chaotic Patong beach and still at this distance the craziness of it could be observed. Countless jetskis, power boats that towed parasails or water-skiers and long-tail boats all weaved in and out of each other.
Over the ridge, the green hills hosting ferns, banana trees and coconut palms provide a refreshing change from the blue of the sea and the grey of the road, and even better, the trees also provide us with a little shade from the day's heat.
A steep downward track and we know the beach can't be too much further. The hidden bay at Tri Trang is flanked at both ends by high cliffs, the cream coloured sand is spotlessly clean apart from a range of washed up vegetables, the sea is clear and is dotted by sponges and boulders. To our right, the ever-present expanse of sand at Patong, but it felt like we're a million miles away.
As soon as we sat down, the sky darkened, thick black storm clouds covered the surrounding hills. The sky stayed black all afternoon but no rain.
By late afternoon, we'd had enough and we headed back, taxis are hard to come by anywhere away from main hubs and local buses are like gold dust, it's more reliable to walk.
The jaunt back was so much easier and soon we were again at the southern end of Patong and deciding where we should watch our final Thai sunset from. We walked the length of Patong beach back to our secluded spot at the top of 'Diamond beach' We crossed the long stretch of sand, thousands of people were still here and it was bustling, it was exciting, it was interesting. Locals were digging for clams in the surf, groups of foreigners and locals were having a game of football, volleyball or 'keepy-uppy', families and friends relaxed in the sea and it felt like a happy place full of positive energy. How could this be the same beach?
Sunset was spectacular and sitting there with a beer, watching the close of the day and reflecting on our Thai adventure felt very, very satisfying.
A one night stop in Bangkok and another country lies ahead of us, Laos.