Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Koh Samui and Koh Phanghan 19th - 27th April

Wanting to get moving from ''A La Phuket'' and to one of the islands we opted for a bus to take us from Patong to Surat Thani then a ferry across to Ko Samui.  During our bus trip we met a fantastic couple that were on a two week break from Oz, I am only going to use there discussions as a prime example as the other nationalities are similar!
We got discussing how long we had been in Phuket and we said too long but explained we were waiting for some suits to be made. Their response to Patong was that it was fantastic,best place ever and it had everything they wanted!! Really!?  We didn't quite know what to make of this, everything you want? Maybe for a Stag or Hen night where you want to re-in act the Hangover - it has everything? Ladyboys, cheap beers and drinks, girls that play ping pong others that want to hang around with a European guy for a night or maybe its the other way has everything.

During our road trip we finally figured what this couple really liked about Phuket or at least we think we do. After being on a bus trip that we were all told would be 4hrs but turned out to be 10hrs....this got some people whinging. When we stopped the guys comment nailed it, "He said you would think that they would stop somewhere were we could have some decent European food!"
We're not kidding! Those were his exact what do people want when they go to Phuket, I think they want the beach the weather the shops and most importantly the luxury but at a minuscule price compared to what they would have to pay back home!
Read this article to see how Phuket is becoming this just not as cheap as everyone wants!
The and how barefoot-luxury-lives-on-in-phuket

A glimpse of the tacky interior of the Thai buses. This little girl wanted to play the whole trip, she was seriously bored!

Koh Samui - April 19th - 23rd
Koh Life! Koh meaning island and island life is definitely what we were after.

We finally arrived to catch our ferry. Had we known there was an airport at Surat Thani we seriously would have flown from Phuket! (Yes we were naive!)  What was interesting was the surf board. Having already paid 300baht to get it onto the bus from Phuket and being told we would not have to pay again, the port staff now wanted 500baht from us. The surf board is light, under 5kg with the board bag, wax etc and given that everyone's luggage was being weighed (max 20kg allowed) and knowing combined between the both of us that our luggage just tipped 25kg between the both of us they still would not treat the surf board as ''extra weight allowed''. So after some arguing and another guy on our bus also stepping in on the argument for us we still ended up paying for the board to go on the boat. We realised then that this would not be the end of the surf board saga!

Surf board aside and a few odd looks from other backpackers (there is no surf in Thailand) we made it to Koh Samui. We decided on World Resort due to its location to transfer to Koh Phanghan easily. The place was alright, only thing keeping this place going is the great food and a beach front location. Staff were not at all helpful or friendly. Another disappointment - here we were hoping the hospitality would get better on the islands or maybe we just simply chose the wrong place to stay.

It was here in Koh Samui that we were indeed beach bums for a few days, lounging in the sun, swimming in the turquoise blue water, sipped cocktails on the beach. Locals would paddle up and down out in kayaks selling fresh fruit and corn on the cob, cooked from a coal fire bbq on the kayak. Everyone seemed to wait till one of these boats went by to grab some fruit or corn for lunch. We rented a scooter as you do in this part of the world and ventured to other parts of the island mainly in search of yoga classes for Shev to do.  We checked out the Big Buddah overlooking the ocean at sunset and other interesting temples and gods. So for the next few days Shev did yoga, I went to the gym, we went for a run on the beach. Feels good to do some exercise again.
Very cool statue near Big Buddah.

Fruit for lunch every day! Yum!
Big Buddah.
Chaweng Beach
Chaweng Beach

 Sun setting over Koh Phanghan in the distance.
 We were recommended by one of the locals we spoke with at Big Buddah to check out a restaurant called Llilay for some traditional Thai dishes. We did manage to find the place and were rewarded with some pretty good cheap Thai food. One of the best dishes we had on the island was at a place called Banana Fan Resort located on Chaweng Beach. We both opted for a Thai green curry, original we hear you say, but we opted for this as it came served in a coconut. Spooning the sides of the coconut flesh to mix into the curry was simply the best Thai green curry ever! Banana Fan organise a buffet bbq on the beach every Monday with Polynesian dance entertainment. The Polynesian dancers pretty much did various traditional island style dances or warrior dances from around the world, from Hawaii to Samoa to New Zealand.

Rather direct image but yes we get the message.

 Banana Fan Resort - Coconut Thai Green Curry
 Chaweng Beach at night.
Polynesian Dancers.
 Either Fuji or Samoa warrior dance.
Polynesian Dancers.
Another cool thing to check out not necessarily on Koh Samui but probably Thailand in general is the Thai boxing. I was expecting something out of WWE wrestling but I was completely wrong. We arrived a little after the Thai boxing had started and watched the last few minutes of a women's Thai boxing, an Ozzie girl vs a Thai girl although looking at the Thai we were seriously questioning if it was indeed a girl! The Ozzie girl won! The next few matches were all mens and it was normally a Thai vs a foreigner. There was one match however that was two Thais against each other. This was probably the most exciting match. The one guy was pulling some insane in-the-air-somersault-twist-and-kick moves that got the crowd cheering. Seriously if you blinked you would have missed it. In the betting corner you could see the local Thais were here only for this match and pretty much all of them were rooting for this guy. The match was neck and neck the whole way through, however the impressive Thai with all the in-the-air-moves wore out quickly and eventually lost to the other Thai but not without a finale showdown of slamming the Thai into the floor from behind him, thus pretty much doing some major damage to his collar bone. Wowzers!

Pancakes from the stall holders are delish!

Got to admit the marketing to save water is good.
 One of the Thai vs foreigner matches.
This was the in-the-air-kick-and-twist match we watched.

Koh Phanghan - April 23rd - 27th

And the surf board saga continues. Got to the port to transfer to Koh Phanghan aka Full Moon Party Beach to be told we would have to pay another 500baht for the surf board. After a friendly persuasive chat with a Thai lady that had fairly good English and understood our dilemma of having to pay for the surfboard on every ferry, minivan, taxi and bus she agreed to send the board back to Surat Thani port where we would pick it up once we arrived back from the islands. 

 The ferry awaits.
The port was backpacker central! Everyone getting over to Koh Phanghan for the full moon party on the 25th. After boarding the boat we noticed a group of late 20 somethings that were all clearly backpackers, the hippy baggy trousers and tousled up hair-dos but the one girl was carrying a baby probably about 6months-ish. First thing that went through our minds was you need to have some serious organisational skills and extreme patience backpacking with a small baby. I am sure this happens and there must be a few people who have done it - we salute you because its something most people won't have the guts to do! We certainly wouldn't. Holidaying and backpacking with a baby is a different thing altogether. On closer inspection we came up with another theory, that the late 20 somethings group are still probably die-hard party-goers and one of the guys is probably a DJ for the full moon party and that this is a one off trip every month? Who knows but still high fives for going with a massive backpack and baby in tow. 

 Starting to look like a backpacker.
Waiting for the ferry at backpacker-port-central
Getting to Koh Phanghan from Koh Samui was easy enough, the ferry was a mere 45 minute trip. At the port everyone scrambled to grab their backpacks, pushing and shoving as if there was only one taxi available for transfer to their accommodation. Dave and I took our sweet merry time and thank goodness we did. The result of rushing to grab the first available taxi was one hell of a sight See pic below! At least we managed to get an air conditioned mini van with enough space to swing a cat! The joys of not rushing to be first in the line...

The caption for this would be ''Mate this is the only taxi can you move down a bit, we could fit one more''
Bamboo lobster nets.
We could have stayed elsewhere on the island in a nicer location but we decided we didn't want the hastle of getting a tuk tuk to and from the full moon party so opted to stay within easy reach of the Haad Rin beach where it all began some time ago. We also figured tuk tuks would be charging a fair bit too. The beach during the day is filled with backpackers lying in the sun, its quiet and the water is like a warm bath but beautifully clear and shallow for at least 10 meters out. We see now why this place was chosen -you are able to watch the moon rise over the ocean. The beach changed come sunset. Locals setting up their bucket stalls, other larger pubs setting up larger bars on the beach with dance floors and benches to sit on. The stalls by the locals was great fun, as you walk past they all shout wanting business from you while holding up cards saying ''Free Hug'' or ''Love You Long Time'' or ''Free Shot''. Once you choose one they had you a marker for you to write your name on their stall board. Some stalls were even selling laughing gas! First night in Koh Phanghan was like a mini full moon party kicking off 2nights before the actual full moon party.  We met some nice people mostly British, Dutch and Americans. We decided to sample a bucket, one bucket, two buckets, 4 buckets - MORE buckets! Oh dear - lets just say we felt a bit rough the next day. 

 Almost a full moon!
Rock Bar - where it all began. The food here was super cheap and amazing!
 Laughing gas in case you are not having a good time!
 Dave selects a stall called David - The Best Bucket!

One of the cards offering a free hug if you buy a bucket from this guy.
Tough choice to choose! Are you wanting the free hug or free shot...

Having heard that some hotels/hostels get raided on the night of the full moon party, we ensured all valuables were safely locked in a safe. We certainly did not want to come back to find everything gone. The day of the full moon party and by 12pm there are party-goers already hitting the buckets. Not sure how long they will last but by 8pm we did see a few people already passed out. Light weights! Local stalls started being set up earlier in the afternoon and the different sounds systems dotted along the beach started to pump out music. It would have been better if all the sound systems were all synced to play the same beat. Dressed in our florescent tops we made our way to the party. Already kicking off at 6pm, their was about the same amount of people from our first night's ''mini full moon party'' but this was not the party. We got florescent paintings done and we now looked the part! At about 11pm the whole entire beach was packed full of florescent coloured people, all with their buckets, dancing on tables, the beach and in the water. Fire dancers everywhere plus a water slide from the roof of a bar down to the beach sand. It was crazy insane-ness! They averaged between 10,000 to 30,000 people were there. It didn't seem that much but when you walked to the road behind the beach there were street parties kicking off down there too. We were approached twice by a few local men and all they said were ''You want some?'' Clearly knowing what they were asking we told them no and quickly walked away somewhere else also ensuring we were checking our pockets to make sure nothing had been slipped in them without our knowledge. We had already seen some police patrolling around and there's nothing worse than being set up in a country where any dealings in drugs carries the death penalty. Some might read this as being to vigilant but we did not want to take any chances. Not wanting a bad hangover the next day as we have already experienced the cheap Thai vodka hangover, we mixed our own buckets. We bought some Arak in Bali before we left and we concocted our own bucket. We got this idea as we saw two guys with a 5litre bucket each that they mixed themselves. As the night went on so did the increase in the price of buckets. 

Let's Party! This is only 10pm. It got even busier as the night went on.

The roof top water slide.

Sleep area available for anyone who feels tired. Believe me there were a few people already snoozing before midnight.

One thing we have noticed a lot since we arrived in SE Asia is the matching his and her outfits, more particularly with the Chinese people although we have seen some Europeans too. Is this the new fashion trend for couples?? Or is this the result of Thai-syndrome with the saying ''Same Same - but Different'' In Phuket we saw a couple in bright green matching shorts, his longer to the knees, hers obviously shorter and both wearing luminous orange polo tops. The same in Koh Phanghan at the full moon party, there were plenty of couples in matching his and her outfits. Now where ever we go and we spot this Dave and I look at each other and both laugh and say '' Same Same - but Different''  I think the photo below explains all.

Same Same - but Different!

All in all we had a fantastic time, we danced the night away, saw some interesting sights of European men getting a lap dances from a cute Thai girls, to meeting some really fun people. We  must say the hangover the next day was not as bad.
Koh Phanghan sunset.

Full moon rising - Seriously it was this orange! It almost looked like the sun.

Full moon.

Full moon!

A packed ferry of backpackers leaving Koh Phanghan.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Phuket 13 - 19th April

Patong in Phuket is a fun but crazy place in our opinion! We have often discussed this and would ask ourselves just how and why does this place exist as it is today and what draws people here!! Our intentions were to stay for 3 days before making our way to the islands, however we ended up here for 3 days longer than intended while waiting for suits to be made! Phuket is definitely a market place.

Suit fitting!

Patong can be described as a beach town with a market that has grown enormously selling cheap factory made fake products of designer brands. Each stall is a replica of the last stall the T-Shirts even tell you they are printed with SAME SAME - But Different.
 The area is filled with tuk tuks vying for business and tourists scooting around on scooters. Crossing the road takes some skill as drivers only slow down, stopping would result in an accident even at a padestrian crossing. Walking around Patong you will find plenty of salons most with a ladyboy or two sitting outside offering massages, we used to try and guess which ones were as we walked  past without making it to obvious. You cannot go 50m down the road without hearing at least one of these - '' You want tuk tuk?'' ''Massage??'' ''Sir, You want suit?''  There is a T -Shirt for this as well stating that you dont want any of these things!
T-Shirt says it all!

 Patong Beach, Phuket - this place is a massive market.
We had to laugh at the honesty with this salesman.

Good to know!
How not to get your feet wet!

What we did like was the weather it's hot and not too humid. We even managed to get a run in one morning without passing out from the heat! Its also a beautiful place when its not covered in litter and oily 4 cyclinder long boats, which by the way I think are ingenious how well they work.

We stayed in Patong at a place that had a French influence it was called B-Bossa it was a great place as it was comfortable, safe and the staff were friendly. After being in Singapore it maybe felt like we had arrived in the underworld from being on public transport where eating a chewing gum is illegal to now walking on streets with no sidewalk and being offered a beer or Marijauna while sitting on the beach!

 Patong Beach - not the best.
 Sunsets were spectacular.
 Sundowners on the beach.

Locals selling lanterns and fireworks to light on the beach.

We did find in the local 7 Eleven that they stock toasted sandwiches. They will toast them for you in the store. Genious - the UK should come up with these! And they don't taste too bad either.

Toasties are available at the local 7 eleven

Fishing Trip

We had two days out of Patong on a full day fishing trip and a visit to James Bond Island. The fishing trip was cheap 1000BHT each and included lunch and all drinks. There was a Russian couple on the boat and he said he was a great fisherman. Its not often you meet people from Russia on your travels. When it came to fishing he didn't catch a thing, maybe because it was the hand lines we were all using and this was new to him? He did seem slightly frustrated. We caught a few fish but nothing to really big enough to boast about. The lunch was a local fish soup, called Tom Yum made from some of the fish caught during the day. For 1000BHT for the whole day we were not complaining for a day out on the water.

First fish of the day.

Second fish of the day.

Talking to one of the guys to find out what exactly is going into the Tom Yam soup. No prawns for me!

Fishing lures.

One of the many fishing boats we passed. We were not on one of these thankfully.

James Bond Island

We took a days trip to James Bond Island, where some of the movie for Golden Finger were shot. goldfinger movie review Part of the tour included kayaking through some caves which meant we needed to lie down in the kayak to pass the small gap between the water and cave entrance. The caves were smelly and dark, bit of an airey feel to them. Bats flapped their wings above us, disrupted from camera flashes going off. This is the Thailand I was expecting, the rugged and sheer steep limestone mountains forming the landscape over the ocean. It truly is beautiful. We transferred from our big boat to smaller boats with motors to go to James Bond Island. The small island was over crowded with other tours and was a bit frustrating getting some decent images without your pictures being photo-bombed! It was still interesting to see none the less and a great day out of Patong beach.

The outboard motors! They are ingenious how well they work.

Sea kayaking.

The monkeys at the cave's entrance.

The small cave opening to fit through.

Inside the cave.

Boat to James Bond Island

Outboard motor.4 cyclinder water cooled direct from the sea!

James Bond Island

Not bad for an iphone photo. Camera battery died.

Dried squid anyone??