Dec 18 – Jan 7
Kata Poolside Restaurant and Bungalows
This was our home for almost three weeks and where we spent Christmas and New Year. Our room was lovely and big so we could finally fully unpack our rucksacks and settle in. We spent most of our time either at the beach or by the pool. Kata has two beaches, one of them was only 200 metres from us and the other, Kata Noi, is quite a hike up and down hills until you come across the lovely beach first seen from the top of the hill through the trees. Both have reasonable snorkeling, the fish come within a couple of feet of the shore and whole shoals suddenly appear around you.
Phi Phi and Khai Island
We finally roused ourselves from our laziness enough to go on a couple of trips while we were here. The first was a day trip to Ko (meaning island) Phi Phi and Khai Island. We got there by speed boat and it was a really rough day so we were flying all over the place, it was like being on a roller coaster (the journey took 1hr 20mins instead of 40mins). Phi Phi is actually about six islands but we only went to the two biggest, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. There were some excellent places for snorkeling and then we went to the place where the film ‘The Beach’ was filmed, Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh. If there wasn’t so many tourists around it would be beautiful. It really was a stunning place but you could only imagine how wonderful it would be to have the place to yourself. There were lots of protests when the film was being made about the damage to the environment but Richard commented that what really ruined it was the way it had been commercialised since the film. As expected the opportunity to make money by taking tourists there wins out over the environment There could have been a thousand people in the bay when we were there (us amongst them of course!). Phi Phi Don is the bigger island where people can stay. We were just there for a few hours but it had a real charm about it. The bays were beautiful and there were lots more bars on the beach so you could dig your feet into the sand while you had a beer but there was also a much more relaxed feel about the place than there on Phuket. I would imagine that less people there are on two week holidays where there’s still a sense of urgency about getting the most out of your holiday. It is also a big diving place and as we’ve found the divers are pretty chilled. In the afternoon we went to Khai Island which is really just a beach with a bit of greenery in the centre, you could walk around it in 5 minutes. The fish around Khai Island are so used to being fed bananas (who would have thought fish liked bananas?) that they will pretty much eat out of your hand. They are so tame that they thought nothing of nipping my legs to check whether I was a banana – in the end I got out of the sea!
Phang Nga Bay
The best trip we (with Jacqui and Sue) did was with Singh Sea Canoe to Phang Nga Bay. Phang Nga Bay is National Park and is made up of literally thousands of islands, some of then very small and most of them uninhabitable. First we had a lovely cruise on a big boat through the bay from Phuket to James Bond Island (not the original name (Khao Ping Gan) but yet another example of cashing in – the “Man With The Golden Gun” shot some scenes here in 1974). We were transferred to James Bond Island by Longtail boat. The boat held about 20 people comfortably and we were wondering where the second boat was but in the end (God knows how) they got about 35 of us onto the boat (the Thais have that nack for finding spaces where they don’t seem to exist) and we felt we would sink but in the end we just got wet. James Bond Island was spectacular – just like thousands of other islands in the area except that this one had hundreds of tourists on it and consequently lots of tacky stalls and lots of people eating dried squid (yes really). For some reason dried squid can be found everywhere in Phuket but it looks and smells foul so I haven’t been game enough to try it yet – What do you think my chances are of getting Richard to try it? The best bit of the trip was being canoed around the caves of two islands (Hong and Panak). Three to a canoe, us and our guide/driver who did a wonderful job of pointing interesting things out to us – the rock that looks like a fish, the rocks which look like they have diamonds in them, the mangrove trees, the BATS! He took us around some beautiful caves, through the darkness into the bright sunlight of wonderfully peaceful clearings where the cliffs rose above us (covered with green trees and flowers), the sun shone above us and the green water glistened beneath us. Our guide always tried to stay behind the pack of other canoes so often it was just us and it was so quiet and beautiful – it can’t really be explained well enough. In the afternoon we got some time to play about in the canoes ourselves at yet another beautiful island (Richard and Jo won the splashing contest – don’t believe Sue and Jacqui!). The guides from the boat had found a coconut on the beach and opened it up – so we looked longingly at it and were given some: fresh coconut, yum, yum! (mostly coconut here is served for the milk – very young and the flesh is soft). Only a little blood was spilt getting the flesh out – Jo took over and did it properly after that.
Christmas in Paradise
It didn’t seem like Christmas was approaching at all. If it wasn’t for a few decorations scattered about the place and a woman trying to sell Santa hats (with flashing lights on) in the bars every night then you wouldn’t suspect it was nearly Christmas at all. Certainly there was no atmosphere and no excitement and expectation (or the hassle of rushing down Oxford Street manically buying presents or getting the last turkey from Tesco on Christmas Eve – the relief). There were also no presents or cards….. boo hoo. Richard, Jacqui, Sue, Tony and I decided to spend Christmas Eve at Scruffy Murphys Pub where the excellent Mad Dog McCree helped us see in Christmas Day to the usual favourites (Fairytale of New York, Van Morrison, U2 etc). After a long lie in on Christmas Day we had our Christmas lunch, pizza for me and burger and chips for Richard, and then we did the only thing you can do on Christmas Day in Thailand, we went to the beach and at 4pm we phoned home to wish our families happy christmas. Richard and I exchanged the presents we had thoughtfully bought for each other – absolutely nothing!!!! and then we watched the sunset with Sue, Jacqui, a bottle of champagne and some chocolate – it doesn’t get more perfect than that. The only thing that felt strange was not seeing our friends and families around Christmas time because usually that is the time that you catch up and that was what we missed. Then, best of all was that we did, after all, get a Christmas card. Mum said that she posted a card to us and when we went back to the hotel they said they had received a card and was it for us – a wonderful surprise – thanks Mum. It had actually arrived two days before Christmas but Mum had written my name on the card and the room was booked in Richard’s name so it took them a while to work out that it could be us.
New Year – Patong style
New Year wasn’t really that different from at home. We got drunk and had a hangover on New Years Day! After a few drinks (plus the name that tune drinking game!) and dinner in Karon with Sue and Jacqui we hopped in a Tuk-Tuk to Patong and, yes you’ve guessed it, we spent the night in Scruffy Murphys Pub dancing and drinking to Mad Dog McCree. Every so often we popped outside to watch the firecrackers and see what was going on on the Bang-La Road. It was heaving with people and there were so many firecrackers going off that the road was filled with smoke and the ground was covered with what looked like rose petals but were actually firecracker wrappers. It was an awesome sight but if you wanted to breathe you had to go back into the pub because it was so smokey outside. I somehow got Richard back home at about 3am. He had pretty much passed out a couple of hours earlier (the words ‘pace yourself’ not yet featuring in his vocabulary!!!) and was feeling rough for most of New Years Day. The girls had fared much better – arriving home at 6am – much respect!
[Libellous comments by Jo above – she obviously can’t remember that it was her who passed out and had to be carried home – I just had two halves of shandy all night! – Richard]
A quick note about last night (Friday 4th) – we went to “Easy Riders” in central Kata – basically a biker style bar that has a live band on. On stage were a local Thai three piece covers band (name unknown) who were excellent: doing very good versions of everything from “Ace of Spades” to “La Bamba” via “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Wonderwall” – including a version of “House of the Rising Sun” where someone from the audience jumped on stage and started belting it out in French!
Thats all so far (5 Jan 02) – we have a car hired for three days on Sunday which we are going to use to explore the island a bit more and then spend two days driving back towards Bangkok: we’re getting the train the last couple of hundred km’s as we don’t fancy driving right into Bangkok. After that Vietnam is the plan (subject to flight availability!) so stay tuned for more updates…
Onto Back To Bangkok page to see how accurate the above turned out!