Sawadika (hello) everyone! So, Andy left you hanging in the air, traveling south from Bangkok to Phuket, south Thailand. Our plan was to spend a few days surfing and then travel round the islands for 2 weeks. Bliss!
Phuket (round 1)-
We landed in a very lush green looking airport and haggled for a taxi to take us to Kata beach where we’d booked a hotel for a few nights. There are a few beach front places you can stay in Phuket, Karen beach is the quietest, then you have Kata (our one) which is busy but good for family’s and surfing, and finally Patong which is just mental at night – warehouse sized girly bars and ping pong shows (actually our Aussie friends said they saw goldfish involved in one women’s routine!) and tons of nightclubs.
While we were in Kata, we surfed most days (or at least tried to) but mainly body boarded the crazy white mess. It was so much fun, we have the scars to prove it! Pretty dangerous surf though, so bad that one day we saw 5 people swept out in a rip and nearly drown. The beach was mainly full of pot bellied burnt Russian men in skimpy pants with their tiny wives wearing only leopard print thongs and old Cher hair do’s. Sorry to be stereotypical, but after a while we could spot the Russians from a mile off. Man did they love garish clothing, see through lace tops and gold jewellery. Classy. I think the high price of food and drink at Kata was the Russians fault. Compared to the rest of Thailand, Phuket was pretty pricey! I think the other small percentage of travellers/holiday makers here were European, most of the early 20yr olds sporting bright full moon party clothes and elbow and knee injuries from moped crashes.
After a day of surfing and a nice meal, we would visit our local 7/11 and buy some Chang beers, taking them back to our hotel to avoid the constant hounding of hawkers trying to sell you all sorts of shit while you were sat in a restaurant or bar.
Phi Phi Don –
We left Phuket on a mini bus that took us to the harbour where we met our big cruise ship. It was going to take us to Phi Phi island via Phi Phi Lai (where the film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed). It was a slightly bumpy ride but laughing at Mr Bean on
Tv made me forget about my sea sickness. Others however were not so good, throwing up all around us and one women blatantly shat herself as it stunk and she ran into the toilet. Seems she had her poo poo before she got to Phi Phi 🙂 We pulled up beside Phi Phi Lai (just to look and not to get off) and saw the semi-circular opening of the island, encasing that very famous tiny beach. People stood on every inch of sand covering it like ants. Day trippers it seemed, gagging for a photo of that iconic shoreline. I had no need to visit the place myself, it looked packed and season 2 of Mr Bean was being shown so I settled down for a tea and a biscuit. Old fart ha ha!
We later arrived at a very busy harbour in Phi Phi Don. Loud bars lined the beach, hotel touts shouted in our faces, bottles and rubbish were everywhere and boats whizzed around stopping everyone from swimming. Not a great first impression of paradise but I thought the other side of the island had to be better. It wasn’t unfortunately. It was slightly better for swimming, not hundreds of taxi boats this time but still smelly open sewers running into the sea and smashed glass everywhere. Apparently this place was completely washed away in the tsunami a few years ago and people say it’s a lot nicer for it now as the bars are fewer and far between. Well all I can say is that I’m glad I came now and not then. Our £7 a night bamboo shack on top of a hill couldn’t mask the constant thumping of loud music till 5am so we hardly slept a wink there. So instead of trying to fight it, we joined the people in the loud town at night. Yes we were most probably the oldest ones there but hey, drink was cheap and food was great. Unfortunately the hangover the next day inside our baking hot shack was not so great. FAIL. I guess that’s why people are scarce during the day and come out like mad vampires looking for a shag at night. Sorry but it’s the reality of this place. Think along the lines of Malaga, Benidorm and Tenerife but with a few Thai locals knocking around. You’ve got it – Phi Phi Don.
We had a nicer experience east of the island where all the nicer hotels were (maybe if we’d stayed here we might have overlooked the mess of the other sides. We found a cool bar on the beach playing our type of music and watched fire dancers at night which was mesmerising.
Railay beach –
After a few days on the island, we booked a boat to take us to the main land, to a place called Railay beach near Krabi. Only accessible by long tail boats, Railay felt like a little paradise island all on its own. It was recommended to me by some friends (thanks Nina, Liam and Phil) whom had said it was one of the best visits in the Thai islands. Well it certainly was. Hardly anyone there, serene beaches – clean with crystal clear sea, classy hippie-type bars and restaurants. Now this was our type of paradise!
Of course it still had the quirky touch of Thailand – our hotel was run by lady boys, all dressed up with hair and makeup done everyday. It is custom to remove your shoes before entering a building in Thailand, so everyday when returning to the hotel reception, I parked my size 6 flip flops by a pair of pink sparkly size 12 high heels. Also there were two caves on the rock climbing side of the peninsula, where monkeys hang out ready to mug a passing tourist. These caves were full to the brim of wooden cocks. Yes willies, penises, all shapes and sizes, all colours too it seemed. A sign said that the cave represented the goddess of the sea and fishermen luzzed their phallic carvings into it for good luck. Well i hope after all that whittling that they caught a wopper!
Another funny incident was when we first arrived, the boat didn’t get even close to the beach because of the mangroves and low tide so we had to wade in with bags and belongings above our heads. Unfortunately it was slippery and Andy was the first to fall over, getting everything wet and cutting open his shoulder. He still has the scar now. Also, one night whilst walking home in the darkness with head torches on, Andy nearly trod on a giant black scorpion on the dirt path before I saw it and pulled his foot away just in the nick of time. Pretty scary eh! If it’s not snakes it’s scorpions trying to kill that man! We spent our days here mostly swimming and sun bathing. There’s not much else to do but chill out. I’d highly recommend it to anyone fancying a romantic getaway (just remember to take a torch).
Koh Tao –
We booked a one way trip to Koh Tao, an island based the other side of the mainland and the farthest one away. The plan was to do our Open Water PADI diving course there (since the island is famous for its scuba) with a company called Davey Jones’ Locker. We’d heard how good it was from a fellow passenger we’d met on the slow boat in Laos, plus I loved the name too 🙂 We had to get on a mini bus over on Krabi pier at 6am, so we booked a long tail taxi boat to take us there at 5.45am from Railay. It was pitch black, we were the only ones around and we were hunting for our boat amongst the mangroves using our head torches. A figure out in the low tide came wading forward saying ‘hello hello, follow me, quick quick’. Was this our driver? We guessed it had to be, so we just tried keeping up with him running out to sea whilst trying not to slip over with our huge and heavy backpacks on. Thankfully 10 mins later we got to his boat, water was now above our knees and we were pleased to flop onboard and get going. As we jetted over the sea towards Krabi, the sun started to rise, painting beautiful ever-changing colours across the sky. We said our goodbyes to Railay beach and prepared ourselves for the long journey ahead. To summarise all the different forms of transport we took after arriving at Krabi – a mini bus for 45mins, a big old coach for 3hrs, a boat on rough seas for 3hrs dropping people off at different stops such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangnan, swapping onto another boat for half an hour to Koh Tao, then finally on the back of a pickup truck for 15mins from the pier to Davey Jones’ Locker resort. Phew! Yep it was a long hot day and we were pleased to finally get there.
The island, even though quite a party central, was much cleaner and nicer than Phi Phi Don with beautiful white sandy beaches and clear water. It features over 50 different dive schools – most offering guests accommodation like ours. There were some really posh hotels and budget stays too, cafes and nice restaurants, nightclubs, spas, tons of cool shops plus nature walks to some beautiful view points. If you wasn’t diving here there was plenty of other stuff to do.
Over the next 4 days we completed our Open Water diving course which consisted of watching corny American PADI DVD’s, mini quiz tests, coursework, revising, swimming pool practices, 4 open water dives at different spots out at sea and finally a theory test. Not to mention all the beer drinking and laughs we had spent in the Davy Jones’ pool bar with fellow students and cool instructors. For just £180 each we were now certified Open Water divers and had breakfast and accommodation for 4 nights thrown in for free. Not bad eh? I’d recommend Davy Jones’ Locker to anyone, check them out! We loved it in Koh Tao and so stayed on for another couple of days after completing the course just to chill out and enjoy ourselves. 🙂
Officially the shitest day so far whilst we’ve been traveling/returning back to Phuket-
Oh boy, this is going to be hard reliving this hellish section of our backpacking. Basically getting from Koh Tao back to Phuket is a long old way, embarking on a journey that will see you getting on and off different forms of transport and for hours at a time. Right from the start we knew the day was going to be shit, probably because we thought we were going to die out at sea within the first 5 mins of boarding our boat. Over packed with what I call ‘full moon douch-tards’ en-route to Koh Phangnan because it’s the done thing to do, this boat literally had no space left for our luggage. So they rammed us into the bottom of the boat, piled up the bags on top of all the life jackets, blocking our exits and made un-seated people hold on for dear life off the sides of the boat. For 2hrs they went way too fast, nearly capsizing us several times. I sat crying my eyes out, praying and holding onto Andy’s arm whilst we watched the water come up to the level of the windows each time we rocked over. People were white with fear and gasping, others on the outside were loosing belongings to the sea and were getting soaked, and at one point when the whole thing nearly turned upside down, the engine cut out and we sat in the middle of the ocean for 15mins. WTF!!?? When we finally got to Koh Phangnan and the douch-tards ran for terra firma, we swapped onto a bigger, less packed boat to take us onto Surathani (a pier on the main land). I vowed never to go cheap when booking onto anything like that in my life ever again.
The day didn’t get any better. After getting to the mainland we were piled onto a coach where, as per usual, we put the big backpacks into the storage compartment along with everyone else’s suitcases and took our small day bags (with our important belongings such as passports, money, cameras and laptop) up to the top deck with us. It was a good bloody job we did since it seems that Songserm (the people who own the boats and coaches), not satisfied that they didn’t kill us out at sea, thought they would fuck us over again by letting their resident coach compartment thief steal our stuff. Yep while we sat upstairs for 2hrs some bastard went through everyone’s bags. When we got to the mini bus depot, everyone was quickly rushed onto different minivans (depending on where you needed dropping off), so I doubt they noticed their bags had been sifted through. The people going to Phuket like us had to wait a while for our van to turn up and this was when I noticed my bag looked different. Basically even if you have a lock on your bag, thieves can still break in by pushing a pen through the teeth on your zip. Once the swine has sniffed your knickers and taken what he wants, he simply holds the lock, moves it backwards and forwards a few times and voila, your bag is zipped closed again without you noticing. Well I f’ing noticed and went mental. Others followed suit, one French guy had his phone stolen and god knows what else. Luckily everything of mine was still there since there was nothing worth stealing. After trying to get the police involved (no point, they are not interested and all corrupt anyway) and having an argument with the coach driver, we were helpless.
We begrudgingly got into the mini van destined for Phuket without losing sight of our backpacks. Of course the driver drove like a maniac, constantly sniffing smelling salts to keep him awake. I was beyond caring now, I just wanted to check into our old hotel we stayed in last time, eat dinner and go to bed. We were supposed to get to Phuket by 8pm, so rolling up to a very dark and closed hotel reception at midnight was the massive red cherry on top of my FML day from hell cake. Thanks Thailand! We walked the streets alongside dirty old men picking up hookers and people trying to sell drugs whilst dodging the puddles of vomit on the ground. Even our favourite 7/11 had burnt down to the ground! WTF had happened here in the 2 weeks we’d been away?! After many attempts, we finally found a hotel that was open, yep a standard Ibis (my lil hero that day) and went straight to bed, starving.
The next two days spent laying in the sun and sharing a few beers with our Aussie friends Harry and Lisa certainly helped blow the Songserm cobwebs away. But I warn thee, if you ever go traveling round the south Thai islands, DO NOT USE THE COMPANY SONGSERM!!!! I’m going to ruin them on every review site possible now with a smile on my face 🙂
The Incredible Hulk, Emma.