The Andaman Coast
3-16 June 2008
Arriving back on the mainland we headed back to Talkoo resort and our delightful pink dolphins! We have obviously set them thinking as they are actively promoting camping now and have cleared some spaces for camp sites so, if you want to camp in the Khanom area they’re definitely worth a look! Their website is apparently under construction but if you google Talkoo Resort Khanom a few weeks hence it should be up and running. A great spot ..having the pool to ourselves was a nice touch though we can’t guarantee that one!
The drive across from the east to the west or Andaman coast only took about 3 hours and the roads here continue to be really good. First stop was the town of
On Saturday 7 June we headed on to Ko Lanta an island to the south connected by the car ferry. On the way we passed a bird singing contest and pulled over to have a look. Just like the east coast of
We headed on and boarded the car ferry for the short trip over to Lanta. We migrated straight to the south of the island where the development is less pronounced. The Tsunami caused some damage here and on this side of the coast in general (though nothing like the devastation in Sumatra) and on our travels we saw many warning systems and signs in place, far more than in
We also visited the nearby Watt Tham Seua or
The real challenge of the place lies in an incredibly arduous stairway up to the top of the hill where there are various shrines and statues notably a big Buddha. The peak is 600m but the steps (1237 in all and believe me we felt them!) were often very steep like a stone ladder. It was not helped by the fact that a) it was stinking hot so you only had to move to break into a sweat and b) as darkness fell we were harassed by a troop of monkeys …as mentioned previously I have had a few bad monkey experiences and cannot warm to the little beggars at all. There was one point half way up when I wasn’t sure whether I should abandon climb but I persevered and the view at the top was amazing. Our legs were very sore next day!
We loved Krabi and particularly Ao Nang but as time was pressing on (and the weather was a bit all over the place!) on Thursday 12 June we headed on up to the tourist centre of Phuket.
We were both actually quite pleasantly surprised by Phuket. I had heard it was a huge touristy area and expected it to be nightmarishly garish, and whilst there were more neon lights girlie bars and unlikely couples (think 20 stone plus tattooed Western men with gorgeous skinny 18 year old Thai girls) than we’d seen so far, the town did have a lot of charm. The explorer who founded Penang actually married a Phuket girl apparently and tried (unsuccessfully!) to make the city part of the “Old Country” and some of the old architecture was very similar to that in
The trip was rounded off with a trip to a huge gem factory (apparently the world’s biggest jewelry store!) where Thai gemstones (Rubies, Sapphires and Emeralds) and pearls are made into jewelry. I think Mr Lee our guide hoped to get a big kick back from the commission for this part of the tour! I bought a small black pearl on a choker …perhaps enough commission for a drink for Mr Lee!
Again the camping Gods were smiling on us and in Phuket which we thought might be a problem we have been spoilt for choice with camp sites. We journeyed on up the coast to the beaches of Karon, Kata, Patong and Surin. All these were beautiful though Patong is a bit too built up for us (though pretty quiet at the moment) the coast line is in parts pretty rugged and unspoilt. At Surin beach there was a magnificent pagola - like structure with the royal crest on it. Andrew jokingly said it was the King's changing room, and from what we later gathered this is pretty much it, when he holidays in the area he greets the people from the balcony. On that note I don't think I've mentioned before but the esteem in which the King is held in Thailand is quite incredible. His picture adorns every home/restaurant/office/roadside (it always has to be hung at a higher level than any other picture) and everyone stands for the national anthem at the cinema. Compared to the UK where most of the monarchy are seen as fair game for the tabloids it is a stark contrast. Anyone being remotely critical of the King in public here is likely to end up in gaol!
Andrew was thrilled that whilst Thailand is not really known as a surf destination the recent trade winds from the Indian ocean have definitely caused the waves to pick up along this stretch of coastline. The current is pretty strong and you are generally warned off swimming but he has managed to get out for a couple of decent surfs, the “biggest and best” it ever gets here according to locals! We also have found the mother of all campsites at Kata Viewpoint, which is between Naihan and Kata Noi beaches and affords a view up the coast to Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches. A wonderful view to wake up to, (though you want to check the handbrake thoroughly as we’re right on the cliff edge!!) We met an early morning walker who commented that the only other people in the area who had a view which was (almost) as good as ours were those in the luxury bungalows below us and they were paying 50,000 baht (approx $1600 Aus) per night for the privilege whilst we were paying nothing! Can’t complain about that!! So as at 16 June 2008, we plan to spend another day or so here relaxing on the beach (me) and surfing (Andrew) before heading north up the coast to the