by Ian Mackenzie
12 May 2015
by Ian Mackenzie
12 May 2015
After 56 days and nights, we finally said “good-bye” to Thailand (for now) as we headed south to Malaysia on the overnight “sleeper train” – and I do use that phrase lightly.
Our Thailand page contains a feast of facts and figures, all of our blog posts and reviews of each of the places we’ve stayed in. And, as a celebration of our highlights and lowlights over the past eight weeks, we present for your entertainment the best, worst, scariest and most bizarre moments of our trip so far, together with some of our unpublished photographs….
Phra Thong Bay, Koh Phra Thong
We’ve been blessed with some fantastic beaches as we’ve worked our way around the south of Thailand but the one that stands out above all others for us is this one. The colour of the sand ranges from golden to rusty red to silver and black, which combines with the shallow waters of the Andaman Sea to produce incredible hues of pink, apricot, turquoise and blue. Throw natural sandbanks into the mix, a backdrop of coconut palms and absolutely nobody else around, this was as near as we could possibly get to having a tropical paradise all to ourselves.
Lanta Castaway Resort, Koh Lanta
We booked for five days here and ended up staying for ten. Situated at the quiet end of Long Beach, with excellent food, lovely grounds, an on-site PADI dive centre and the most friendly and helpful staff we experienced in Thailand (along with Kanawa Guest House in Trang).
Maybe it was the army of ants in the bathroom. Or maybe it was the lifting lino that passed for flooring in the bedroom. Or quite possibly it was the generally damp smell throughout that made this the worst accommodation we experienced. Whatever it was, thankfully we were only there for one night en route to the fabulous Koh Phra Thong.
Ian: Snapper fillet in red curry – Kru Thara restaurant, Nopparat Thara
I’ve never before tasted food that just exploded with flavour from the first taste like this dish did. Yes, it was seriously hot, but the lemon grass, kaffir limes, galangal and coconut were there in their full, fragrant glory too. In fact, it was so good I ordered a second plateful. The restaurant is well-known in the area as one of the best seafood restaurants in Thailand. So if you’re in the Krabi/Ao Nang area we’d recommend you seek it out.
Nicky: Special Pad Thai – Kopitiam Restaurant, Phuket Town
Every mouthful was a taste sensation – lime, chilli and peanuts coating each strand of rice noodle. I managed to get half of it down me before Ian wrestled the plate off me. Anyone who’s eaten with Ian will know that’s called “a result”.
Ian: Pickled fish and papaya salad, Koh Lipe
You might argue that I was asking for it by selecting this dish from the menu. But, to be fair, I’d enjoyed the odd papaya salad up to this point. And pickled fish sounded like it might be something along the lines of anchovies in vinegar. Wrong.
Things were already taking a turn for the worse when I looked to my right to see a lady pulling the legs off some small black crabs and throwing them on to a rather plain looking salad. The crab parts were soon followed by slivers of translucent flesh which I presumed must be the pickled fish. Spoonfuls of chilli paste followed and my plate duly arrived almost daring me to plunge my fork into it. Which I did. Just the once.
The overpowering taste was actually of garlic – which I love – but not in a good way. Then the extreme fishy taste and blisteringly hot chilli. I almost felt I had to eat some it out of duty to the waitress. But I only had to take one bite from one of the crab legs and that was enough for me.
Nicky: Chicken/papaya curry & mackerel curry, State Railway of Thailand
Curry. In a microwaveable plastic pot. Cold. On a train. Need we say more. Vile.
Koh Phra Thong
After procrastinating for several days over where we should go after our time at Kho Sok National Park we almost plumped for this remote island purely for some down time before we headed off to Malaysia. What we actually found was an island with two glorious and empty beaches, a beautiful back-to-nature resort, and a completely relaxed environment with hardly any other tourists in sight.
Particularly on Koh Lipe, but we’ve seen it elsewhere too. Not sure what the answer is as it’s likely to get worse before it gets better as more tourists drive more development and stretch the resources of once underdeveloped islands.
Cheow Lan Lake two-day tour
Probably the highlight of our trip. Long tail boat cruises through spectacular lake and limestone karst scenery. Accommodation in floating bungalows on the lake. Jungle hikes to and through caves that are home to big hairy spiders, bats and snakes. Morning and night boat safaris in search of wildlife. Truly memorable.
Private chartered long tail boat trip, Koh Lipe
Warning: Rant ahead.
We’d arranged with our hosts, Gipsy Resort, to hire a local captain to take us in his boat for a day trip to the nearby national parks of Koh Rawi and Koh Adang, visit some snorkelling sites that weren’t frequented by the usual hordes of day trippers, and to drop in at a waterfall and fresh water pool to cool off on the way back. All for a not inconsiderable 1600 baht for a tour which would last from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
What we got was a captain who basically took us to where he wanted to go – snorkelling sites where every other day trips dropped anchor, and one beach on Koh Adang (which, admittedly, was outstanding). When we indicated to him at around 1 pm that we’d like to go to another beach, preferably on Koh Rawi, rather than another snorkelling super-highway he plain refused and told us that the tour was now finished and he was heading back to Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe. After we complained he eventually stopped at another small beach on Koh Adang but told us we could only have 30 minutes. And, from there, we rolled up on Sunrise beach at around 2:30.
After some further complaining to the guy at Gipsy Resort who organised the tour for us, we got a discounted bill for 1200 baht. Not happy.
Worst dressed tourists
And, yes…we’re looking at you, Victor.
Entering Nam Talu Cave, Cheow Lan Lake
Like getting on the world’s scariest roller-coaster – there’s no turning back and your only exit is 800 metres ahead. After you’ve waded through neck-high cold water and got up close and personal with spiders, bats…and a cave racer snake.
For a grand total of 68 baht, we had a three-hour train journey, covering 100 miles through a tropical landscape, with a continuous supply of hawker food to boot. The only way to travel.
PADI open water dive course, Koh Lanta
It took four days, including two swimming pool and four open water sessions, and plenty of coursework – but it was well worth it.
As we were entering the “shoulder period” between the dry and wet seasons we’d expected it to be hot and sunny at times, but also stormy and wet at others. We certainly didn’t expect the relentlessly sunny and extremely hot days of the first six weeks. The daytime temperatures hovered between 34 and 38 degrees for most of the time, but we managed to acclimatise fairly quickly.
Here’s what happened. We walk into Chumphon station on Friday 1st May and ask for two tickets for that night’s sleeper train to Butterworth, Malaysia. We’re told by the ticket office clerk that there are no seats/beds available until next Thursday. She shows us on her computer screen rows of zeros next to the carriages of each train on each day. We’ll have two tickets for Thursday then, please. We hand in our passports for our names to be credited with two beds and our tickets our duly printed. We disappear north to the seaside town of Prachuap Khiri Khan in the meantime, returning the following Thursday afternoon in good time to catch the 22:20 sleeper.
Today is Thursday 7th May. Our tickets read 6th May. We return to the station clerk who gave us the tickets who tells us that we should have got last night’s train. With the mercury visibly rising in Nicky’s internal thermometer, a discussion ensues in which Nicky tries to reason that this was an error not of our making and that it should be remedied with two replacement tickets. Miss Jobsworth is having none of it and we reluctantly pay for two tickets. Again.
Not finished yet, Nicky marches in to speak to the station master. After some choice words, telephone calls and sheer stubbornness on the station master’s part, Nicky admits defeat with a wry smile after having most definitely ruined said station master’s normally uneventful day and we retire to a bar lined with ice cold bottles of Chang.
Biggest cock up
Not reading the date on the sleeper train tickets when we bought them
Most bizarre moment
Watching our German guest house owner trash the place at 2 am
On the last night of what had been an otherwise enjoyable stay at the Sun Beach Guest House in Prachuap Khiri Khan, we were awoken in the early hours of the morning by some shouting and banging coming from the pool area immediately below our room. After about ten minutes it seemed to be getting worse so we got up and took a peek through the curtains to see what was going on.
Incredibly, our German host was stumbling around, screaming and shouting at no-one in particular, and throwing pieces of furniture into the pool. Chairs, tables, sun loungers. We were transfixed, like two nosy neighbours watching a couple from across the street having a drunken stand-up row through the net curtains of our bedroom window.
Shamefully he then turned on the Buddhist shrine that had just been delivered that day. Off came the ornaments and flowers which he threw/smashed into the road. Then he ripped off a couple of the spires. To complete his onslaught he then came up with the brilliant idea of kicking through two panes of glass that led through to reception.
In his wake was this poor old Thai guy, wearing nothing more than a pair of pyjama bottoms, who systematically cleared the mess Herr Sun Beach had created. He seemed to have the weary look of someone who had seen this all too often before.
He was still shouting when we awoke again the following morning before he jumped on his motorbike and disappeared along the waterfront. And that was the last we saw of the idiot. Thankfully.
Most devoted pet
“Spud”, Koh Kradan
We couldn’t go anywhere on the island without this puppy following or leading us. She’s probably still missing us, bless her…
Things we’ve learned
- Check the dates on train tickets
- They don’t call it the land of smiles and scams for nothing – walk away from rip-off tuk-tuk and taxi drivers
- Check the dates on train tickets
- It’s a struggle to find sun lotion and moisturiser that’s not impregnated with a skin-whitening agent, and there are plenty of Michael Jackson look-a-likes around to prove it
- Check the dates on train tickets
- Eating curry for breakfast makes you happy
- Spiders really aren’t that scary after all
- You can hear everything that goes on in the tree house next door at Our Jungle House, Khao Sok. And we mean everything, weird American animal sex impersonator!
- The vast majority of Thais really are warm, friendly and welcoming….
- Third Class Trains And World Class Seafood
- Koh Kradan – A Paradise Lost
- Reflections On Koh Phra Thong
- Confronting Snakes, Bats And Spiders At Cheow Lan Lake
- Koh Lipe – Still An Idyllic Island?
…or visit our Thailand page.
What did you think? Have you been to Thailand? Or maybe you’re planning on visiting soon? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
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THANKS FOR READING!
Hi, we’re Ian and Nicky, an English couple on a voyage of discovery around the world, and this blog is designed to reflect what we see, think and do. Actually, we’d like to think it also provides information, entertainment and inspiration for other “mature” travellers, too. So please feel free to pour yourself a glass of something suitably chilled and take a look around.
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