Well it's been about three weeks since we last blogged our movements in Thailand so you better brace yourself for a pretty long description of events…
Since we last spoke we have been spending most of our time in the south of Thailand, in Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Krabi and most recently, Khao Sok Jungle. We took the train from Bangkok to Hua Hin on our way down to Phuket; this five hour journey became a ten hour after unexplained delays - not that anyone seemed to care though. It seems poor service on the train is just expected here, and the lack of moaning was quite refreshing given the fuss that often gets kicked up at the slightest problem at home! Thankfully our time in Hua Hin was a short one - the place was full of old Scandinavians searching for Nordic restaurants for the latest fix of meatballs…Still the beach was pretty nice and we walked for about 2km along it to get to 'Chopstix Mountain', where local monks resided. Several Buddha monuments later and we headed back for an evening in Hua Hin where we watched many a man and Thai bride "enjoy" their time together. Other than Dunham getting told he looked Chinese by some local waitress, there isn't a lot to say about our short time Hua Hin.
From Hua Hin we headed to our destination of Phuket. We took the bus this time, although 'death trap' is probably a better name for it given the erratic driver we had! It was late at night but he was getting flashed by oncoming drivers regularly as he made risky weavings in and out of the traffic - in the end we decided not to watch and tried to sleep before we eventually arriving in a back street in Phuket. We checked into the first hotel we found, having planned to make the fairly short trip to Kata Beach in the morning. Here we were lucky enough to be joined by a local cockroach in the bathroom but we sent the little fella safely on his way out the window and got some sleep.
We arrived in Kata Beach the next day, following some steadier driving in our open bus. Here we checked into 'Southern Fried Rice', a hotel run by a friendly Norwegian guy who had recently moved to Thailand…another trip to Scandinavia the second we thought? Well, yes and no. Now it was becoming more of an issue of where on earth all the backpackers were - everyone seemed to be 40 going on 60, not that that bothered the local 'ladies of the night'! A couple of days later we took the incredibly short tuk tuk drive (approximately 2minutes) to Karon Beach and paid 200baht…mugs. Karon was very similar to Kata, still with beautiful beaches and we continued to spend most of our time just relaxing in the sun. Dinner was good in Karon, we ate at a local eatery and were sitting at a table with a guy from Australia, girl from New Zealand, family from Japan, a guy from America and a couple of locals - a truly international dining experience! The best food we had though was back in Kata where we paid 500b for a set menu each in a more up market place - our food was brought out on gold platters and although we weren't entirely sure what we were eating it was delicious - Thai food is so full of flavour its incredible, even at the vendors, well most of it. Dunham, after a few too many Changs thought it would be a good idea to try some dried fried squid. It really wasn't. Eurgh.
The following morning, after much discussion about where the rest of the backpackers were, we decided that Ko Phi Phi island would be our next stop. We took the bus and tuk tuk to Phuket pier and got on the next boat to Phi Phi. The boat trip took about 3 hours and you could feel the backpacker vibe instantly. The boat trip brought us more stunning views, and with Bob Marley playing on the iPod we dozed off…
We were greeted in Phi Phi by the usual babble of travel agents, adamant that their accommodation was the greatest the island had ever seen but we said "korp kun lah gorn" and set out to find our bed for the night ourselves. With no roads on Phi Phi we navigated through the busy, palm tree shaded streets where we having trouble finding somewhere that wasn't full until eventually we found 'Chanu Bungalows'. The best way to describe this place is as a shed with a bed. We absolutely loved it. The bungalow was one of about 20 in a little village of shacks about 2 minutes from the beach and it was pure backpacker land. We felt like we had finally arrived in the place we had decided to head to over a smelly breakfast in Bangkok a week earlier. We explored the local surroundings and were blown away, the scenery was incredible - white sands, crystal clear turquoise waters, palm tree after palm tree and all of this with a backdrop of tree ridden mountains, brilliant.
After a day of soaking up our immediate surroundings and a few beers we went to bed. The next day we got a kayak and headed to 'Monkey Beach'. Now this place really did feel like paradise. First to hit us when we clambered out of the kayak was the sand; it was ridiculous - like treading on one huge sponge! We ventured up the beach to find monkeys soaking up the rays and stealing food from onlookers. A few photos and several "this is unbelievable" comments later we got back into our kayak and headed back to Phi Phi's main beach. Here we got our air floater of a football and had a kick around on the pitches overlooking the beach. As if this wasn't good enough, some local kids decided they wanted to give us a game and we duly accepted. Me and Dunham were bossed around by some 10 year old Thai kid who decided we should be on separate teams. Not sure what the score was in the end, I don't think anyone did.
Football finished and we dusted the sand off our feet and headed out for the night. We found a woman selling large bottles of Chang for 40baht (about 70p) so we duly bought a couple and headed to the beach. We sampled a local rock band in the 'Rolling Stoned Bar', they were awesome - covering Kings of Leon and AC/DC amongst others. The most interesting bar we found though has to be the Reggae bar where they had a full sized Thai boxing ring. Here we watched semi pros knock seven shades out of each other before tourists gave it a go. Fully kitted out in boxing gear, best "mates" kicked and punched each other for three rounds; me and Dunham decided it was better to watch than take part after a winner of one fight vomited beside us!
It wasn't until the following morning that we found out that Chang beer is 6.4%...ouch for our heads. But we hazily remembered the beach side fire shows and meeting our first travel companions, a couple of Icelandic guys. We had met them watching United vs West Brom at a beachside bar, being from Iceland of course, they were big United fans. We shared a few more Changs and spent the rest of the night singing about Wayne Rooney…a strange yet brilliant night topped off by the staple meal of chicken and pineapple on a skewer before bed.
Our final couple of days on Phi Phi saw us take a long tail boat and exploring the surrounding islands and beaches (Bamboo island, Monkey Beach again and Phi Phi Ley). It's beginning to sound like a broken record now but the scenery was again breathtaking, not just above water but under it too. We went snorkeling just off Phi Phi Ley and were amazed at the hundreds of tropical, multi coloured and multi sized fish that were all too happy to swim just inches from our face. It was an awesome experience and good way to end our 5 days on Phi Phi.
We then went from one extreme to another when we headed to Krabi to say with my distant relative, John Clendon in Ao Luk. John is head of an oil plantation firm and was lucky and kind enough to offer us a fantastic place to stay for a few nights. Equipped with a private swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts, personal driver and housemaid/cook John welcomed us into his relaxed and luxurious way of living. From a bed in a shed to this, brilliant! In Ao Luk we explored the caves by kayak (saw 3,000 year old drawings on the walls!), visited Railay beach and even played a bit of golf - not the usual pastime of your average backpacker and we left wondering what we had done to deserve such luxury! John also showed us around one of his oil plantations which was beautiful - acres and acres of palm trees stretching out into the distance. Ao Luk itself was free of any tourists and seeing this small village was a fascinating contrast to our time Phi Phi. With our own small house to stay in we caught up on sleep and enjoyed all the luxuries John kindly provided for us. We stayed with John for a couple of nights before heading to our next destination, Khao Sok National Park, quite possibly the best place we have been too. We've added a video for you to have a look at and will we back soon with a report on just what we thought of this incredible place. Right now we are in Ko Phangnan preparing for the Full Moon Party in a couple of days. We'll be back to tell you all about that and the jungle soon…bye for now!
Mark & James in Ko Phangan