Same, same but different as last time in Bangkok - a movie (A Beautiful Mind), a burger (Henry J Beans), a bit of shopping and a little bit of sightseeing. We just spent two nights in Bangkok this time and then said goodbye knowing we probably wouldn't be back for a very long time.The Grand Palace, Bangkok
On the way to the Grand Palace we met with another scamster. A nice respectable looking middle-aged man stopped us and asked if we were going to the Grand Palace. He said that it was closed for the morning because it is a Buddhist Holy Day and the monks were praying (It sounded plausible as we knew some things shut for Buddhist Holy Days). He said that if we had a map he would suggest some other nice temples we could see this morning and then we could go back to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which is in the Palace grounds after 1.30pm. We tried to say that we would go and have a look anyway but he was insistent pointing temples out on the map and writing EXPORT where we could get ornaments cheaply (this was the first time we really felt suspicious). He then asked if we knew about the Tuk-Tuk's, he said the ones with yellow number plates weren't official but the white ones were and the yellow ones would try and charge 100Baht for a trip around the places he had mentioned but that it should only cost 70Baht. Do we speak Thai? No, in that case he would help us, ah, look there is a Tuk-Tuk now.... I said that we would try another temple, Wat Pho, near the Grand Palace instead but he said that was closed too but all other ones were open, just a Tuk-Tuk ride away!! Of course, it was all open. We went to Wat Pho to see the 46 metre golden reclining buddha with mother of pearl feet and then went to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. The Grand Palace complex was stunning. You can't actually go into the Palace because it is still used but it was impressive to walk around and we went into Wat Phra Kaew and saw the Emerald Buddha. There are beautiful paintings on the walls all around and there is also a model of Angkor Wat.
After a hard journey on the night bus to Chumphon and an early morning ferry we arrived hot and tired on Koh Tao. We stayed in a wooden hut on Sairee beach which had electricity from 6pm until 6am but no flush toilet or aircon and it was so hot during the day that you couldn't go into the room. To make up for not being able to go into your room during the day it did have the most lovely porch with a chair, table and triangular cushion which was really comfortable and relaxing. We could just about see the sea from the porch, a lovely view.
We did have a bit of trouble getting a room in the first place, partly because we are fussy and wanted a toilet and aircon without having to hand over an arm and a leg - no joy there and also because Koh Tao is popular with divers (because of the good visibility in the water and the abundance of fish). So, there are lots of dive schools and lots of the guesthouses and hotels on the island won't let non-divers stay. Richard asked one place if they had a room and the guy said yes and then said, 'Are you diving?', Richard said no and the guy said, 'Oh, sorry we're full'. Fair enough they can take who they want but don't lie about it. But one advantage of being a diving island is that the beautiful beaches with powder white sand are usually empty as everyone else is underwater during the day. And, of course, there are beautiful sunsets.
One day we took a day trip to Nang Yuan which is tripartite, made up of three islands with three beaches that meet in the middle. There was great snorkelling here, lots of shoals of fish and lots of different species, big multi-coloured fluorescent fish, small neon blue fish, big white fish, small see-through fish, medium yellow, white and black stripy fish.....don't know the names which is a shame.
We missed the notorious Koh Phangan Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach but they were still clearing up the beach when we arrived three days later. Koh Phangan is very different to Koh Tao, it has the same beautiful beaches but it is much busier and more developed. It has some lovely restaurants on the beach where we dug our feet into the sand while eating freshly caught fish (barracuda, tuna, snapper, shark...) for about £1.50. There are a lot of bars on the beach and you can lie on a mat on the sand, watch the waves, look at the stars, watch the moonrise and watch the fire jugglers on the beach all night. You can't hear the sea very well in the evening because all the bars blare out very loud house music. Didn't realise I was that old but I actually found it quite painful and we had to sit at the edges of bars as far away from the speakers as possible. We took a boat trip up the coast stopping at different beaches and for snorkelling one day but apart from that we chilled on the beach for the five days we were there.
We only stayed in Koh Samui for three days in a nice place called the Samui Coral Resort which was right on the beach and had it's own pool and restaurant. We stayed on Chaweng Beach which is where all the package holiday tourists stay and is the busiest beach on the island. Richard persuaded me to get on the back of a jet-ski with him. It was an interesting half an hour and, yes, we did fall off but managed to drag ourselves back on (only to fall off straight away - we did get back on and stable before the guys renting out the jet-ski came to rescue us). We spent a fun half an hour at the Shooting Range figuring that it's something you can't do at home anymore. We had five bullets each on three different guns: a .22, a .45 and, the biggy, a heavy shotgun. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and we managed to hit the target everytime - the bullseye was mine! We shot at metal people shaped targets with the shotgun and watermelons which exploded when we hit them but probably not as much as the cows you can, supposedly, shoot in Cambodia if you have enough dollars.
On the night before we left Koh Samui I managed to get Richard to have his first Thai massage, it was his last chance to get one. We went into one of the many massage shops in Koh Samui and both had a neck, shoulder and back massage for half an hour for £2.50 each. It wasn't as scary as the one I had in Vietnam but it was still very relaxing. There are so many massage shops in Thailand and most aren't at all sleazy as some people might imagine just cheap and very relaxing.
Next stop Malaysia