Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Phuket Town

Wednesday 15 February: Phuket town has a lot of old-world charm, mostly pastel shaded Sino-Portuguese shop houses, studded with Chinese shrines which add a splash of bright colour. I like the place and I'd stay longer if I had a cool room in the teak-built Thalang Guesthouse, but it's full and I'm directed to their sister establishment, Dibuk Guesthouse. My room looks delightful, so I dump my gear and head to Wat Chalong, Phuket's picturesque Buddhist temple, a short pick-up ride away. In the evening Downtown restaurant serves up a great deal but later I soon realise that my fan room has been designed for air-conditioning (the window's don't open) so I doze fitfully in a fan-assisted sweat box, a bit like sleeping under a hair-dryer hood, awful.
Photos of Phuket.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Thanbok Khoranee

Tuesday 14 February: From Krabi town a shared pick-up truck (20Bt) drops me off at Krabi's bus station where I catch a local bus (35Bt) to the traffic-lights at Ao Leuk, a short motorcycle-taxi ride to the gorgeous fairy-tale like cascades of Thanbok Khoranee National Park (200Bt) - I remember these well from my 2005 trip. Back in Ao Nang I flag down a bus to Phang-Nga but fall asleep and end up at Phuket town bus station - bugger, no matter, I was heading for here anyway - just not today!.
Photos of cascades in Thanbok Khoranee National Park.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Saturday 11 February: From Krabi town's jetty it's easy to organise your own day-trip to the beaches at Railay (pronounced as the Irish surname O'Reilly). From muddy Railay East, where the long-tail boat's dock, it's a short walk to sandy Railay West where, a paddle north at low tide, or a scramble over the headland at high-tide, leads to the cheap rock-climbers shacks at Tonsai. For, apart from the soft sandy beaches, the spectacular overhanging craggy limestone cliffs make this whole area a haven for climbers.
Sunday 12: I'm returning to Railay again today and cut south under overhanging limestone stalactites to Pranang Bay where, as soon as I see the phallic lingas in Pranang cave I remember it from 2005: wonderful beach, crystal clear waters, stunning overhanging cliffs and little Muslim 'kitchen' boats that pull up on the sand to offer meals that rival anything provided by the expensive hotel restaurant that backs onto the beach.
Photos of Railay's beaches.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Thursday 9 February: Dominated by two great limestone pinnacles poking out of the estuary, Krabi is a great base to explore Thailand's stunning Andaman coast. Green Tea Guesthouse in Krabi town, not in my guidebook, is my favourite from my first visit here in 2005, only remembered when I saw the powder-blue 1st floor fan-cooled rooms - big and breezy with high ceilings and wide polished-teak floorboards. My room, 'U3', has a little balcony overlooking the town centre, great value at 175 Bhat. Run by the ever smiling "Mamma" it's my sort of place. Mamma, who likes to look after her guests, offers unprompted discounts on boat trips around Kho Phi Phi National Marine Park.
Friday 10: The 4-islands long-tail boat snorkeling day-trip, via touristy Ao Nang, includes Tup Island with it's underwater sand spit, Chicken Island and Phranang Beach which seems strangely familiar. The white flour-soft sand, warm mill-pond still azure sea and craggy Kharst limestone rockscapes are just magical. Krabi's atmospheric waterside night market is the place to eat: great seafood cheap 'beer Chang' and more skewered sweetmeats than you can shake a kebab at.
Photos of Krabi.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Koh Samui

Thursday 2 February: I'm staying at the Samui Mermaid resort on Big Buddha Bay for a whopping 600 Bhat per night. Koh Samui is expensive but this is another bum steer from Lonely Planet, aircraft roar overhead almost close enough to touch.
Saturday 4: I move round the coast to Lamai and Lamai View Guesthouse where I get a comfortable double-aspect 1st-floor room with a fridge, cable TV and a small balcony for just 350 Bhat and, once again, it's not in my guidebook. Nearby is Hin Ta or Grandfather Rock, a penis shaped outcrop that has become Koh Samui's icon and Lamai is the girly and sport bar capital of the island. This is why I'm here, the Samui Shamrock pub is showing the Six-Nations rugby and Scotland are playing a youthful England team tonight - young and tender English lamb to the slaughter? Perhaps not? The place is full of loud pissed, fag smoking, package-tourist types - I hate it.
Tuesday 7: The seas are still cloudy so snorkeling will have to wait. My visa expires tomorrow so I need to make a visa run to the Malaysian border: shared taxi to the island's port of Na Thon, ferry and mini-bus to Surat Thani, local orange bus to the railway station, 2nd class sleeper to Hat Yai, mini-bus to Padang Besar where I walk across the border and back, returning by local red bus to Hat Yai's basic Cathay Guesthouse and a few beers in The Swan, the nearest I've seen to a British pub since I left England, full of ex-pat English teachers eating steak pie and fish & chips. The beers at Cathays are considerably cheaper and their little breakfast kitchen serves great eggs-on-toast to start the day, for once a good steer from my guidebook.
Photos of Koh Samui.

Koh Phangan

Monday 30 January: Koh Phangan is famous for it's full-moon parties so I'm staying at the laid-back fishing village of Chaloklum in the north of the island where night boats festooned with light bulbs bob in the wide curving bay and racks of squid dry in the hot sun. I like it here, it's about as far away as you can get from the full-moon party beaches of Haad Rin down south. A half-hour walk away is Mae Haad where a spit of submerged sand stretches out to Koh Ma, it's an enjoyable paddle.
Wednesday 1 February: The main reason I came to Koh Phangan was to take a snorkeling cruise to the group of small islands known collectively as Angthong Marine National Park but the last few days have been stormy and the seas are rough and murky, so I've decided to stay an extra day in the hope that visibility improves and am I glad I did. A small group of Elephants from the local camp are frolicking in the sea, an unexpected delight, even the hotel staff are taking photographs.
Thursday 2: While waiting for the Seatran ferry to Big Buddha beach on Koh Samui an American woman with impeccable taste approaches and asks where I bought my cool striped cheesecloth shirt, she want's one for her husband. This is the second time this week I've been asked the same question: "Sorry" I answer, "Kathmandu in Nepal".
Photos of Chaloklum and Mae Haad.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Koh Tao

Monday 23 January: I'm amazed that the three-hour ordinary train journey down the coast to Chumphon is only 34 Bhat, I've not travelled 3rd-class in Thailand before and it's okay. The station's drive is lined with old steam locomotives draped with fairy lights - what a great idea. I'm overnighting here before island-hopping south to Surat Thani via Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Fame Guesthouse's rooms are big, reasonably priced and airy but unfortunately I've followed my guidebook's recommendations and have a pokey airless room elsewhere, the curse of Lonely Planet.
Tuesday 24: I have a shared cabin bunk (350Bt) on the big overnight car-ferry (89th mode of transport) to Koh Tao and sleep like a baby.
Wednesday 25: Finally on Koh Tao I opt for lively Sairee village where I have a comfortable en-suite room in Wandee Guesthouse (300Bt) with the added bonus of a huge and very efficient fridge, ice-cold Chang beers, what a joy, and it's not even in my guidebook.
Thursday 26: A snorkeling boat-trip around the small boulder-strewn island gives me an overview of the island's beaches but the sea is rough and the visibility murky.
Saturday 28: A trek over the island's hilly spine to Mao Bay is fantastic, birds and butterflies abound. Butterflies are particularly difficult to photograph as, unlike moths, they close their wings when at rest. Hin Wong Bay, north of Mao Bay, is a shorter stroll away with great snorkeling, a good afternoon out when the trip boats have gone.
Sunday 29: Songserm Express boat to Koh Phangan (250Bt).
Photos of Koh Tao.