Bangkok - Chiang Mai - Phuket - Koh Pha Ngan - Koh Samui
Bangkok (22/06/2011 - 26/06/2011)
Arrived in Bangkok on an overcast Wednesday afternoon, after a reletively easy border cross from Cambodia. Luckily the minibus that had carried us from the border dropped us right on the famous backpacker haunt of Khao San Road! Kay and myself hopped out and tackled the many, many hostels in search of something under our £10 a night target/budget! After about the 9th or 10th hostel we enquired about, we managed to find what we were looking for. Well not exactly what we were looking for, the room was a bit of a sweat box, with a few bed bugs to keep us company on a hot night, but still it worked out £7 a night, bargain! Bangkok worked out pretty well for us as it was a chance for us to stock up on quite a few supplies, we raided both the Seven Eleven and the Boots that they have here! Never have we been so happy to see a Boots! - Kay was a little dissapointed though, as she remarked that she had left her boots card at home! Ha! We did venture off to the extravagent shopping Malls that are in Bangkok, but once I had let Kay walk past and in the many expensive different designer shops, I had to inform her that our shopping would need to be done on the market stalls of Khao San Road! Ha - Still we managed to pick up an his&hers pair of trainers for £8 each (a price even my Grandad would be happy to part with!Ha), flips flops for Kay, a pair of shorts and another wristband for me, music for the ipod, and Kay did manage to pick up a couple of dresses for a couple of quid each! Which she looked amazing in anyway! Who needs designer! Bangkok was both crazy and brilliant, so much hustle and bustle, but never too much, just felt like a fun place. And cheap, we could eat Pad Thai (Thai noodles) for 50p, that would fill us up as a good meal! Haggle anything down to a reasonable price and even pick up a cheap haircut for me and waxing for Kay! We went out drinking one night to about 3am, which is the latest we have been out for a while and it was a really good laugh, so many different crazy sites, ladyboys walking up and down, old guys with their young Thai purchases, westerners young and old (we were surprised by the amount of families you would see walking about, mingling with all the crazyness!), locals and a group of really camp gay guys, dressed in sailor gear dancing about to a huge onlooking crowd! Exactly the kind of stuff you would expect coming to Bangkok! On our second night we went and watched Thai boxing at the Bangkok stadium, it was brilliant. We parted with a few extra Baht to have ringside seats but it was definitely worth it. 10 fights in total with a Championship fight on at number seven, the atmosphere was amazing, the Thai’s just love to gamble and the more each fight would go on the louder they would get, betting on the eventual outcome! The fights themselves were of real quality as well, it looked painfull sat that close! Everything about it was a great experience, the traditional music played throughout the fight and even the pre fight ritual, where each fighter would pray and dance alongside his opponent before they would proceed to try and knock each other out. It was just like watching Tom Pho at the start in the Kickboxer film! Ha! Both Kay and myself really enjoyed it, and I was inspired to go buy myself a pair of Muay Thai shorts off one of the stalls the very next day! Ha! (Not inspired enough to actually want to ever get in the ring though! Ha) So after a great experience at the boxing and an all round fun and productive time in Bangkok, with our backpacks feeling slightly heavier with our new purchases, we made our way via the overnight bus to Chiang Mai, in search of those elephants!
Chiang Mai (27/06/2011 - 30/06/2011)
Arrived in Chiang Mai after a horrible bus - where I didn’t sleep as it was raining outside and the bus was leaking - dripping right onto my seat leaving it soaked - I had to squash up onto Ollies seat. When we arrived we were as usually dropped outside a hostel that would try and get you to stay there - we almost did. Here in Chiang Mai if you book a tour through the hostel, you get you room really cheap - this hostel seemed to be offering a pretty good deal but we couldn’t tell if it really was as we had nothing else to compare it to. Ollie wanted to stay and just do the trekking tour there without shopping around. After finding out all the prices, we looked at the room - which was not good - again damp and musty. I put my foot down this time and said I wanted to shop around first - so we did. We headed to the cheapest place in LP, checking tour prices in the opertators we passed. The LP place
was MUCH nicer, and cheaper - so we decided to stay there after negociating a room price of less than £4 per night providing we booked a tour - and their tours were cheaper than in the operators anyway! Checked in - we spent the next FEW HOURS not able to make a decision on what tour to do. We had the option of adopting an elephant for the day - or doing a trekking tour which included a waterfall, riding an elephant & seeing the loong neck hill tribe. In the end we decided that we had come here to spend time with the elephants and that was most important to us - so we would do that for the day. We wanted to visit a place called Patara which is rated No1 on trip advisor - but this was sadly booked up for weeks and weeks - gutted we couldn’t do it there as we were confident that they treated the animals really well and that we would get to spend lots of time with them. The next two choices were between No2 rated on TA, this place was dedicated to rescued elephants from cruelty, but we would not have had much interaction with them, more observation. Alternatively we could go to another rescue centre called Baancha Magical Elephant Park, where we could could get to learn more about the animals, learn to bareback ride them, and get in the water with them for their bath. The lady advised the latter one received good reviews - we looked it up on TA - it was 3rd, it did received loads of fantastic reviews - but had recently received 2 bad ones, saying that the elephants had caused people injury and another saying that the park didn’t treat them well. After being really torn over what to do - we decided to go with the one with more interaction as they were still rescued and we wanted our money to go towards this, but still with a good amount of interaction with them that didn’t seem cruel. The reviews stating the park was cruel was written by someone who sounded like a person who was just moaning about any tiny little thing, so we decided to go ahead anyway.
Now that we had finally settled on our activity here - and paid to book (2400 B) we went to our room, Ollie slept to catch up on the rubbish nights sleep on the bus, but I instead chose to catch up on the blog. A few hours later our hunger sent us to the downstairs restaurant in search of food - the restaurant looked pretty, open air with pretty fairy lights in the trees. We ordered our very cheap noodle meals - just £1 each and they were delicious - huge portions with tons of fresh veg - really really good! (so good I had that every night of my stay in Chiang Mai!).
We then managed to catch Jane on Skype so it was good to catch up with her and find out how she is doing. Hearing that she is well was good to put Ollies mind at rest slightly.
We also booked our flights that evening to Phuket, which was alot more expensive than getting a bus (£120 vs £50) but the bus would have taken 2 days and we decided that this was the beginning of treating ourselves! Ha!
Up early the next day, we were ready with a belly full of lovely healthy cereals - and on the bus on our way to adopt our elephant for the day. On the way we stopped off at an elephant dung factory where they recycle it to be made into paper - and showed us the process of doing so. They sold many nice paper items in the gift shop (all the profits of which went to elephant welfare) and we considered getting elephant poo christmas cards for you all at home - but decided that they probably wouldn’t make it - so decided against the idea. Ha!
After our short stop there, were arrived at the elephant park, and to be honest our initial impressions were not the best. We seen all the elephants stood togethers in an area sheltered by trees which we thought was very cute and we got excited by seeing them, but as we got closer we would see that they were chained to the trees. Holding our judgement, we got changed into the uniforms provided by the park and received a talk from the owner, who detailed how much they care for the elephants here etc. Some parts of the speech seemed genuine, some parts seemed more like a response to the recently viewed reviews on Trip Advisor. They explained the need to chain the elephants and the need for their keepers to carry an instrument (metal hook on the end of a wooden handle) to protect themselves as they are wild animals still. They explained that each elephant is different and we have to respect that, and understand that some of them will not allow us to approach them in certain ways, or stroke their trunk etc. Understanding this information, it was then time to fee the elephants their bananna treats. We would hold out a bunch of abour 10 small banannas and the elephant would either take it from you with its trunk or lift its trunk for you to put it into their mouths. I only fed them into their mouth - and to be honest - it really frightened me. After the talk we had received about some of them being nervous in various different situations, I felt worried that I might do somthing wrong and make them react. Luckily I didn’t - but I limited my feeding to just a few times, ending with a small bunch of 3 banannas to one of the baby elephants (there were 2 babies there, 15 adults). Ollie was much braver with it and made sure that they didn’t go hungry and made up for my lack of food offering. We both said how strange their tounges felt - really strong - but wet and gooey! Ha!
Next the guide showed us a trick that the baby could do - we stood next to him in turn and he would wrap his trunk around our neck to give us a kiss - it was a bit strange to almost receive a lovebite from a baby elephant - but funny none the less.
After they had polished off all the food - we sat down and received a lesson in how to, climb aboard, and ride an elephant bareback - practicing the commands of “forward”, “stop”, and “turn”. In turn we each practiced climbing on the elephant, standing on its leg as it was led down, holding onto the ear and climbing up over, moving forward so that we were sat on its next and our legs were tucked right under behind their ears. We would then balance (holding onto their ears for dear life) as the elephant stood up, and then we would grip on with our legs, hands resting on their head and the elephant did a small circuit of the area. We were meant to be practising the commands to direct them, Ollie gave it a go, but I just let the keeper lead them, as to be honest the elephants were only listening to them anyway! Ha! Next it was time to practise getting off the elephant, again holding on to the ears for dear life, then elephant would lie down, very graciously actually (much smoother than a camel both up & down!) and then we would get off using the same method as we used to get on.
Now that our skills had been perfected - it was time for lunch!! We all sat down together and enjoyed a huge feast of soup, breaded chicken legs, and sweet & sour chicken - it was good and best of all they wanted you to eat as much as possible, topping up your plate every chance they could.
Once food had settled, it was time to take our elephants for a walk. Me & Ollie has paid to share an elephant, and so had everyone else. We were given an elephant name Mae Moon, a female, 35years old. (I had begged the guide for a nice one as I actually felt really scared to get on them - I was even considering not doing it!!). I didn’t want to be in control of her, so Ollie was in the drivers seat on her neck and I sat on her back. Once everyone had climbed onto their elephant, we set off into the woods uphill. It was less comfy but felt much more stable to be sat on her back (even though we were warned to watch out for trees, lift our legs as they walk past them as they like to scratch themselves on them which could crush our legs! Ha! - See why I was nervous!). The walk on her was fantastic!!! To look down and see you are sat on an elephant is so strange - it is amazing to be bare back, you can feel them breathing underneath you - you felt really close to them! (& the main reason I had chose to do this one was so that we could ride bare back - and I’m glad we did as not only was it amazing - but the chairs they use on the in the other type of tour we were going to do it meant to be cruel for them and painful for them to use!) And to look ahead and see the rest of the herd making their way through the trees infront of you and behind - even if we were just stood in the woods, to have that just walk past you was an amazing sight!
We reached the top of the hill and it was time to climb down from the elephants so that they could wander off on their own to eat any plants that take their fancy (they grab at food the entire walk up - I was just glad they ate food from the sides, as earlier that day we had seen one of them stand on two legs and pull off a branch of a tree as it wanted it’s leaves or fruit - again can you see why I was nervous - didn’t want that to happen while I was sat on her back! Ha!). The guide told us some more facts about elephants, and the difficulty they face in Thailand today - being subjected to cruel treatment. I found this a good opportunity to ask about why the elephants rock form side to side - is it because they are chained up and bored rather than left over behaviour from previous owners cruelty. The guide denied this and said if an elephant is not happy it will stand perfectly still with it ears and tail still. These elephants all flap their ears and swish their tail - which is true - but I still reserve my judgement about it being unnatural to be chained there in that way. The guide in a separate had already explained that what they have here is not prefect, but they are trying to raise enough money to extend the land out and then hopfully they may not have to chain them.
After a few facts and a million mosquito bites later - we climbed back aboard our elephants. I bravely decided to go on the front this time - wanting to make sure I had at least tried it - plus it was meant to be a bit easier on the front rather than on the back on the way back, as we had to walk back down a steep muddy hill where they would slide around a little. The ride back was just as fantastic - I enjoyed every second!! Ollie wished he was back up front though, as an elephants backbone is not the most comfy seat for a guy! Ha!
Back down we got back off the elephants and it was BATH TIME!!! We could not wait. As we had walked the elephants to the muddy bath, one of the baby elephants that had not come out with us, was desperately trying to strech over showing just how desperate it was to come and join us in the water - but unfortunutely it was not allowed to as it had a bad stomach and needed to be kept out of the dirty water. We took off our shoes as instructed and began to wade into the brown waters in which the elephants had already emersed themselves in. (When the elephants go into the water, they wee and then poo first of all - so we were very aware of what we were squeltching along on, and wading amounst - esp when I had to kick a floater out of the way before I could make my way in! Ha!). Once at the elephant, all thoughts of poo went straight out of the window - we were in with our bucket and brushes giving her a good scrub and swilling her off with a bucket of water over her. Ollie made sure he didn’t miss a spot, he climbed up onto her back to get right behind her ears. As we were doing a good job of cleaning - the other little baby elephant had also come into joined us - and looked like a typical baby - galloping around in the water, excited by all the commotion of his new visitors, squeeling away, using his trunk to splash everybody! Again - the whole thing was fantastic!! I couldn’t believe I was in a muddy pond scrubbing an elephant but hey!! It was so fun to watch the baby too - but you had to be carful not to laugh to put in his precence - a naughty baby elephant squirting poo water at his open mouthed laughing visitors - was a gross prospect!!
Once they were all clean it was time for them to go and dry off - and time for us to have a very good scrub in the shower. Once we had cleaned ourselves, we had a drink and enjoyed our last look at the elephants all gathered (chained - that fact stayed there with me for the day!) in the tree sheltered area. We then climbed back aboard the bus and headed back to the hostel - where is was my turn to have a nap while Ollie looked up sport on the net. We enjoyed tea again at the delicious hostel restaurant - and as we were on such a high from the day - we even treated ourselves to a bananna split!!! Yummy!
Also that night we settled on our first hotel for our beach in Phuket - we decided to stay just outside the crowded area of Patong, in the quieter location on Karon, in a 3/4* hotel. (But still in their economy room! Ha!)
The next 2 days in Chiang Mai were spent doing nothing to be honest. We considered doing a trek, I really wanted to go to see the long neck tribe (even though it is admittedly controversial to do so) and to do some trekking along some waterfalls - but the prospect of now having to do an elephant ride in the wooden chairs after yesterday has just put me off. We also considered doing a cooking class - as Chiang Mai is renound for them - but we felt that we would prefer to save this for further south, as the cuisine further south is spicy - more to our tastes. We also condidered another attaction here - Tiger Kingdom - which we had previously ruled out as cruel - we looking into is and the reviews again were really positive, hardly any saying they didn’t agree with it - all saying that the tigers aren’t drugged or anything - but we seen an advertisement video of it around the city which completely put us both off immediately - it looks horrendous to us!!! Tigers in tiny cages in THE most unnatural setting for them possible. However good it may have been to be able to play and smooth one - we do not want our money going towards that - we would rather keep our memory of seeing one living in the wild in India thank you very much!
So ruling all of these possibilities out - we just strolled around the city - which is really quiet and laid back - and to be honest there isn’t much to do here at all (it is meant to be a hippy / rasta vibe here - with loads of Thai’s walking round with dreadlocks! Ha! - Not seen that yet - but have seen loads of reggae bars) so we sat each day in a cafe over a couple of pots of tea, and cakes and cookies - and just caught up on our blogs and emails to home - which is exactly what we needed to do to be honest - as with moving around countries so much recently - and visiting places where we had to learn so much history - we had fallen behind!
We also booked our hotel in Phuket after contacting the manager there to make sure it showed the boxing for Ollie - he have to go ahead to pay to book in for the week! Ha!
We fly to Phuket from Chiang Mai airport at 10.45pm on our last night - arriving in Phuket at 12.50am.
We have both already agreed in our recent months of travelling that hopefully the beaches will give us the relaxation time that we need. So far I think we both agree that we are feeling pretty exhausted travelling - always living as cheaply as possible - always moving around - never really knowing where you are as we don’t have enough time to get to know most places. Ever concious of the money we are spending out here, we said a month or so ago that we would continue with our plans until we get to the beaches. If we enjoy it there and feel refreshed with it all then great!! If not, then we are not going to enjoy it enough anywhere to justify spending the amount of money that we are - and that we would probably come home and enjoy what we have seen - but with enough money in the bank to move forward with whatever else we want to do. Reading back through what I have written - and even writing it at the time - I can’t help but talk about things that we do in a positive way. But sometimes it feels like I am looking back at it through rose tinted glasses - which is not a bad thing - I like that I look back on experiences positively - but I don’t forget that to be honest day to day here - I don’t really feel like I am enjoying myself the way I should be. Somtimes I feel like I am a person that just suits being at home in a daily routine - I have never really minded working that much - I actually miss having to get up for somthing in the morning while I am here. I miss being able to just work on automatic - rather than have to think everyday of what I want to do. I don’t really feel like myself out here most of the time. But like I say - lets see what the beaches bring - by the time you are reading this - I will have spoken to you all anyway so you will know if the beaches have brought what we hope it will.
Phuket - Karon (01/07/2011 - 10/07/2011)
We thought Bangkok was crazy, well it has nothing on Patong in Phuket!! Luckily before we even arrived in Phuket we had read about Patong being a little noisy and a bit too much of a party for us, so we opted to book a room in the some what quieter Karon, south of Patong. Still only a short taxi ride from the nightlife, but enough of a safe retreat for the other required quiet nights. Our first real taste of Patong was after our first full day in Karon, the weather had not been that great so we did not venture to far from the room that day, just to the local shops and restaurant for our first fry up in a while. Not satisfied with a taste of western for just breakfast, we made our way to the nearby Irish bar for Fish & Chips and mushy peas for Kay and Gammon & Chips for myself! - It was huge and delicious!! Well worth it! Whilst there we got talking to Nick and Ellen, a really nice couple from Blackpool who were on their Honeymoon, they invited us out for a night in Patong! After only a small taste of a night out back in Bangkok, both Kay and myslef were eager to get back out and see what Patong was all about. With that in mind we quickly went back to the room for Kay to change and rushed back to Nick and Ellen who had whilst we were gone, be-friended another couple, Anthony and Lauren from Liverpool. They too were really nice, they were only 18 & 21, but they seemed like they were in their 40‘s! Not really the partying type, think it made Kay and me quite happy to hear, that we are not as past it as we first thought! Ha! The six of us made our way to Patong in a minibus, well a minibus/nightclub! As we pulled off, someone shouted for the driver to put some music on, next thing we know there is music booming out, sounding like one of those nights where you have spent all night next to the base speakers, complete with disco lights and lasers! It was unreal, I have never been in anything like that in my life, it probably had more lights and lasers then any of the clubs we have back in Bristol! Ha! Once we had finished in the party bus we had arrived in Patong, we were greeted with one big street, lined with bars on either side. All along this street were ladyboys after ladyboys, all dressed in tiny bits of underwear posing in good spirits for photographs! In amongst the ladyboys were what seemed like hundreds of touts making a ‘pop’ noise with their mouth then proceeding to say ‘ping-pong show?’ to us! You also had the customary old dudes with their shockingly young new found Thai friends and the many many ‘Girlie Bars’ we have come to see now in Thailand. The place was mental, it was like any other strip you would find on a Spanish or Greek island, just with hundreds of ladyboys, touts and a good measure of sleeze! Ha! Still we managed to find a bar and club that had just travellers and holidaymakers in for a good few drinks and a bit of fun! Just as Kay was getting started, enjoying her first real taste of dancing in a long time, the others wanted to call it a night. Now we would have loved to have stayed out a bit longer, but all night the others refused to let us pay for anything, they were so impressed with us sticking to a budget for 9 months that they wanted to treat us to a night out! It was really nice of them to do so, especually as one couple were on their honeymoon, we should have been buying them the drinks! Ha! So we made our way back to a bar by us, played a few games of pool with our new friends and then made our drunken ways back to our hotel. The next day we didnt really get up to much, I was feeling terrible, certainly cant do this drinking anymore and Kay was not the feeling the best in herself. So I made way for a bit of a sea breeze to try and sort out my hangover out and Kay spent the afternoon on skype talking to her mum for a bit of girlie theraphy! It worked for both of us, Kay was feeling much better after a chat with her mum and I hear Lauren and Des had a few tips as well, so thanks for that guys! Ha! And my hangover was feeling much better from the fresh air! That night we stayed up late once again and watched the David Haye fight on T.V in our room, luckily we picked up an Australian sports channel on our satelite so we watched the entire fight, though it did not go the way I expected, oh well! The next week we had a brilliant time, we bumped back into Anthony and Lauren, who invited us to spend the days by their 4star pool, luckily the weather was excellent and we had a great time lazying by the pool, jumping in now again to cool off and have a bit fun making up various different games that every single one, Kay seemed to beat me at! And she says she does not enjoy sports! Ha! We also managed to find a great Thai restaurant perched on top the hill, the food was excellent, cheap and with a free salad bar for starters! We both tried the various different Thai colour curries, they were delicious, if not a little hot! Ha! We also spent a couple of days sunning ourselves on the pretty Karon beach, which we thouroughly enjoyed! And made our way down to the even prettier Kata beach! Kay and myself did venture back into Patong for a few drinks, but this time kept it a bit more low key, instead deciding to have a few games of pool first, before heading into the crazyness for just a few beers this time! No vodka or Singapore Slings in sight! Ha! After a shaky start, we both thouroughly enjoyed Karon, we stayed in a really nice clean room that had everything we could have wanted, we luckily made friends with Anthony and Lauren and that in turn gave us access to a lovely pool, we had great weather, a great beach nearby and an amazing restaurant where we could try the many local delicacies! Karon was exactly what we wanted and needed from our first Thai beach resort! Now we move onto Koh Phagnan where we are staying on apparently the best beach, with a resort that has a pool, in a garden hut with breakfast included, the kind of luxary I could only dream about whilst in India! Ha! ....Cant Wait!!
Koh Pha Ngan (10/07/2011 - 20/07/2011)
We arrived in Koh Pha Ngan after a full days travelling by bus, then boat - and quickly haggled our shared transfer down to 100B each to take us to our pre-booked Long Bay Resort. When in Phuket we agonized for quite a while over where we should book our 10 nights stay to - somthing that seemed so normal when booking a holiday back home - now feels very alien to part with so much money before even getting there - we are too used to turning up - checking we like it - and paying per night - giving us to flexibility to move around as and when we feel like it. There were a few options, our heads told us we should have booked at another place, as for the price it included better facilities for us (fridge etc) - but our stomachs told us to go to Long Bay - so we did! Upon arrival we checked in and were very please with our choice - it was beautiful!! The place lived up to its pictures and more (which is rarely the case we have found!). Our garden hut was basic, but everything we needed - with a lovely little balcony for us to enjoy evening drinks on, and set within beautiful gardens, manicured to perfection - which made the trip to and from your room a pleasure in itself!!! The pool was stunning - often completely empty meaning we had the whole place to ourselves for much of the day - but with regular intervals of the huge group of Aussies that were also staying there for us to enjoy people watching. The pool also looked out over the perfect beach, with direct access, just a few steps from your sunbed - bliss to gaze out on daydreaming the time away. The beach was beautiful, perfect white sand, highlighted by the beaming sun rays, palm tree fringed edge with many chilled out, low key restaurants to sit at. The water was crystal clear - beautiful shades of green & blue, calmly lapping at the edge, and so shallow out far off the shore so that you could lie in it and float around with your belly poking out the top so you could still catch a tan. Basically - the picture you see on all the postcards!!!
We spent 10 days here - and every day we pretty much did the same - get up at 9am and stroll through the beautiful gardens, past the pool, to the beachfront restaurant for our buffet breakfast, saying good morning to Russ on our way. We would sit eating firstly, our bowl of muesli with milk, next our cooked to order scrambled eggs on toast with a few rashers of bacon, and a cup of tea each. Next a platter of fruit, different melon & pineapple usually, washed down with a fresh juice. All of which was devoured whilst sat looking out onto the beautiful beach - PARADISE!!!!!! Feeling completely stuffed - we would raid the buffet of a meat feat for a final time - but not for us - but our new best friend Russ - the world loveliest and friendliest stray dog. After sneaking out napkins full of meat, we would waddle over to Russ (as we decided to name him) and feed him his breakfast. Russ was not allowed to go near the restaurant - the hotel dogs would go for him if he did - so he has learned that he is not allowed over there. With us fed and Russ fed - we would collapse on the sun loungers for the morning - until out food had finally settled a little, and the sun had warmed us up - telling us it was time for our first dip in the pool on the day. We both took to a little healthy exercise of 3 lots of 10 lengths of the pool each day, which we both really enjoyed doing. The rest of the day was spent dipping in and out of the pool, sun bathing, listening to music etc. We treated ourselves to a bat and ball so we would usually have a few games in the afternoon - our best rally at the moment is 146, which we are hoping to improve on by the time we get home. We both also had fun playing all the games I used to play with Lauren as a kid (but Ollie was relieved that I didnt make him watch me jump in again and again and again to judge my smallest splash! Ha! Poor Laur! Ha!). We would break up the day by a stoll along the beach which was fantastic. We tried to follow on from our healthiness and have a salad for lunch a couple of times at the beachfront restaurants - but thats the one down side to Haad Yao - there isn’t a huge amount of choice for food - our salads were always really bad - but we found a couple of places that we really liked - so still had plenty to choose from. We would also walk down to the nearby 7/11 to treat ourselves to a slushy and an ice cream during the day. Some days for a change we would spend a day on the beach, as our hotel had loungers there for us too, and Ollie enjoyed a game of footie (Thai vs Rest of the World) on the beach one afternoon which gave him a fix for some boy time I think! Ha!
All in all our days really were perfect!!
As the sun set, we would pack up from the pool and head back down to the 7/11 for our next ritual of the day - a large bottle of Chang (Thai beer), a packet of BBQ crisps & a packet of salted nuts. Back on out balcony - I would get the food & drink open and ready, while Ollie put on the iPOD & speaker with a bit of Bob Marley on the chill out to for an hour (sat thinking about what a fab day we have had & how lucky we are!!!!). This is probably one of my favourite times of the day, beer & nibbles, sat on a balcony looking out on the gardens and the sea in the background! Fab!!! Russ would somtimes join us for this part of our evening too. He generally took to following us round and staying close whenever he seen us. You would think it was because we fed him - but it wasn’t - he is just one of those dogs that LOVES to be with humans. He wasn’t like a stray dog at all - he loved nothing better than a cuddle - and even knew how to play when him & Ollie would run around chasing each other! He really was the best dog in the world - he deserves to be sombodys pet so much!! Ollie fell in love with him big time - and even looked into the possibility of getting him back to England - but sadly it wasn’t possible!! We felt pleased to know though, that one of the Aussie ladies there is a dog trainer back home, and she fell in love with him so much too - that she has set up to adopt him through a local charity, and she is paying for someone to come round and feed him everyday - which is very good of her!
Nibbles finished & washed and ready to go out for tea - we would leave Russ on the balcony and head out to one of 3 local restaurants. We would either go to our restaurant for Thai food, one down the road which was cheaper for Thai food and still really good - or a covered rooftop chill out bar which was a little pricier, but served up delicious burgers and Thai food! Yum Yum!! Full again, we would perhaps treat ourselves to another ice cream from the 7/11 for dessert (if we had room that is!) and waddle back to our garden hut at about 10pm to settle down with a youtube film to fall asleep to.
Back up again the next morning to repeat the blissful routine all over again!
One exception to our standard evening was our night out to the Full Moon Party. IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!! We had the most fun ever!!! After lining our stomachs with a burger, we headed out to Haad Rin where the party is held by a taxi booked through our hotel. After a 45min, VERY bumpy ride across the hilly island - we arrived and the party was well underway. We quickly got in our first bucket of vodka & lemonade and made our way to the beach - managing to pass by the many flourecent body paint stalls without me giving into the temptation of getting my face painted! The beach was lined with 5 or 6 main bars each with a huge sound system blaring out all different types of music. We slowly made our way from one end of the beach to the other to have a look at what was there, which ended up taking hours, as we stopped to dance, get more drinks, and watch the many fire shows taking place, from drunk tourists limbo-ing a rope of fire (which Ollie tried to do later in the night after he had a few drinks - it was the funniest thing I have ever seen - I have never laughed so hard at he feable attempt! Ha! He chickened it and crawled under - pausing on the otherside disappointed with himself - he returned tail between his legs - unable to give it another go! Ha!), skipping a rope of fire, jumping through a hoop of fire and finally shooting off a slide from the top of a building through a hoop of fire! Madness! Me and Ollie laughed at that the number of first aid stands outnumbered the actual bars about 3:1 - and all of them were always full with people having their heads bandaged! Ha! In our old age we were more sensible than this. Although, after our 2nd bucket we decided to switch to Vodka & Red Bull (Red Bull here is meant to be 3 times as strong as at home - and boy didn’t I find that out!!), not drinking Red Bull at home - I immediately went on a major sugar rush and couldn’t stop my fee from moving for even a second - I just needed to dance!! Thank god I’ve never done drungs - I think I would be mental on them! Ha! I literally have never danced so hard in all my life. Before we knew it, it was 4am - me & Ollie had not stopped dancing since we got there! We were having a fab time! Ollies sugar rush ended about this time though and he decided to hang up his dancing shoes - but I was not ready - not by far! I left him sat on the side looking after my shoes that had been kicked off at some point, probably at a good song - and it was lucky that he did look after them as someone tried to steal them!!! Ollie had to run off after them and rescue them back - however I did not notice his shivalry, because.... I was still dancing!!! Ha!!! Finally at 7am, the sun had come up - and I was ready to call it a night. We hopped in a taxi for the hour ride home - getting back in at 8am - tempted to go straight to breakfast - but too tired - so collapsed straight into bed.
We felt bad the next day and pretty much just stayed in filling up on junk food to nurse ourselves back to health. Thinking back over the night - we had an absolute scream!!! We both said we hadn’t even been to anything like it before - so much drink flowing, yet everyone was in a brilliant mood, such a good vibe - no fighting or anything like that. (and to be honest I didn’t even notice any drugs or anything!) It really was the best vibe ever - everyone out to just have the best night they could - and we really did!!! So gutted I can’t be here long enough for another one!!
In summary - heaven - this place has been exactly what we needed - a pure holiday - spoiling ourselves and loving every minute. So sad to leave - we will miss you Russ!
Koh Samui (20/07/2011 - 28/07/2011)
Well Koh Samui was split into 2 parts for us, Chewang & Mae Nam.
Firstly, Chewang. We arrived after a short journey by boat from Pha Ngan. We had decided on Chewang as it is described in LP as the best beach, and as it being lively - which we felt would be a nice change after our blissful 10days in our relaxatin retreat (which was a bit limited on restaurants - we thought this would be a nice chance to eat at different places again). We had only decided to leave Long Bay that morning - as the weather didn’t seem to great (and at £25 per night there - we couldn’t afford to be there in bad weather!) - so we booked a place called Akwa in Chewang - which seemed cool from the website as it was a pop art theme and had a pool, WIFI etc. Upon arriving at the hotel, we soon realised the pictures were not accurate. We tried to check in - they advised they had received our booking, but didn’t actually have any room - the put us into another hotel for the night, and then upgraded us to their deluxe room for the remaining 3nights plus 1 free breakfast for the trouble. Even though this simple arrangement took us waiting hours for them to agree - we couldn’t be bothered to argue so just accepted their offer. The deluxe rooms - were not deluxe! We realised the “cool” pop art theme was just a cheap gimmick to cover up the aging outdated property. The “pool” they advertise is a joke - it should only be allowed to be called a pond - the size of it - ridiculous - how they can get away with it I will never know. Anyway - moaning aside - we soon realised Chaweng was not the place for us. Yes the beach may have been lovely - but it was SO busy full of people - there was not much sand left to see! Also, we had hoped for a few more restaurants - but what we ended up getting was a cheap chavvy strip of bars - with constant speakerphone advertisements for wet T-shirt competitions and stip clubs etc. Not quite the paradise we were expecting. Nor it is the kind of place I would be happy to arrive in if I had paid thousands of pounds for a holiday there!
Anyway - again - this is here nor there - as it turned out that Ollie became really unwell during our 4nights there. We ended up spending the whole time in the room (only venturing out to once stock up on supplies at Boots - wax strips to the rescue - hooray! Ha! - and to also enjoy a jacket potato & chilli - which was good home comfort food!). Ollie was ill with flu like symptoms, and had a really bad temperature. He slept the 4days away. In that time, I had time to become worried as I had looked up his symtoms on the net as I thought I remembered that they resembled the dreaded Malaria. Upon looking into it - they didn’t just resemble - they were identicle!!! The day that I discovered it was Ollies worst day - bless him - he really was unwell! I made him promise that if he didn’t feel better that we would go to the docotrs in the morning! That night - he seemed to perk up a bit - in the same way that as a kid you would always feel a bit better about 3.30pm - as school finished - Ollie felt a bit better about midnight when the Las Vegas boxing tickets went on sale. We sat up and waited for the second to turn to midnight - we had tickemaster up ready and waiting. As soon as the second hand his 12.00 we searched for tickets - but in my amazement - the cheap seats had already gone - in that split second!!!! We tried a few times but knew it was no good - we looked on ebay and they were already being sold on there for ridiculous prices. Ollie gave up hope - not willing to pay for more expensive seats.... well, not until I searched for them anyway. Once the prospect of getting tickets was back on the screen, all be it the more expensive prices & seats no closer - his little eyes lit up - and after a few fits of hesitation - he finally took the plunge and we got the tickets for the Pacquaio -vs- Marquez at the MGM Grand on Sat 12th Nov 2011 (Ollie wants me to say “No.1 -vs- No4. pound for pound fighter”). Still unable to get any pleasure from his £500 purchase - we not long after went to sleep before he could think about and worry about money! Ha!
So that is it folks - decision made - we are out here for another 3weeks - meaning that we will now be back on 15th November - providing our flights are OK’d at STA.
Ollie did feel much better the next day thankfully - but we still wanted to be on the safe side - so before we left that day (not that he was feeling a bit better we wanted to move to Mae Nam which is quieter and hopefully cheaper as Akwa was £15 a night - a fortune!!!) we headed to the hospital nearby. We were greeted by what seemed to be a sales team of Thai nurses, all reeling off price after price for the costs of what it would be to speak to a nurse or doctor. It was expensive. It didn’t feel like like a health service - it felt like we were being PR’d to go into a bar/restaurant. We didn’t like it. We luckily spotted an English nurse and spoke to her. She VERY KINDLY found out all the info for us, and gave us some off the record advice confirming that it didn’t look like Ollie had Malaria, more like Dengue Fever, which still comes from mosquitos, but really common in this area & Koh Pha Ngan - where we had just came from. All of his symptoms matched this fever too (we later loked up on web) and we were happy that Ollie was OK, just needing to rest and take paracetamol.
Moving here was a good move, we found a beautiful room with a huge luxurious bathroom set back from the beach, down a road housed by locals, with a decent pool and cheap Thai bar food which was delicious - all for the bargain price of £10 a night!
Ollie was still ill here - not feeling too bad in himself - but just needing LOTS of sleep - we stayed here 4 nights - and he pretty much slept through it. I stayed in to keep him company too - but by the end of it - we were both going crazy from being in so much!
We missed out on Mae Nam, it seemed nice and quite, with a 7/11 which is good as it is cheap so you can keep costs down, snacking on ham & cheese toasties for 50p etc. The beach was lovely - perhaps not ice white if you want to be picky - but who cares really - the sea was pretty and clean, as was the sand. The beachfront restaurants were all really cheap - we managed a meal on the beachfront one night - which was lovely and relaxing. The hotel (Samui Native) was run by a couple, and English man and Thai wife. They were really lovely - creating a welcoming and relaxed setting around the pool - always checking if we were OK knowing that Ollie was ill. We ate in their restaurant most nights and the wife cooking was delicious. Our time here to be honest was wasted - I think we could have really liked it here - but sadly with Ollie being ill - it just wasn’t to be - and it was time to move on. With Ollie feeling completely better - we moved on to Krabi, Ko Yao Noi in the hope of kick starting our holiday again.