Back home, looking back on the Thailand trip
I enjoyed Thailand a lot, especially after Vietnam and the challenges posed by the mad traffic and the cold weather there. Koh Pha-Ngan is a great place. Both the places we stayed were good. Seetanu Bungalows placed us straight on the beach, Chao Phao, which was a nice sandy beach which is supposed to be one of the nicer beaches on Koh Pha-Ngan. This was the view from our bed (through the window and the balcony door).
Then we moved on to Haad Yao Bay View resort, a bit more expensive, but also higher standard. When we checked in we were told that the kind of room we had booked wasn’t available for the first night, so we would get an upgrade for that night, and then move to the room we had originally booked. But of course we didn’t want to leave the better bungalow once we got it, so we paid a little extra and got to keep it for the remainder of our stay. I especially liked it because it was shaded by a big flowering tree, making the balcony almost feel like a tree house. It also gave us two different views: to the right of the tree was the sea with some cliffs and in the evening the ligths from the fish farms in the distance. To the left we saw the hotel and the beach with its restaurants, and people sunbathing.
Haad Yao beach was a bit more touristy than Chao Phao, but in a nice enough way. The only annoying thing was the constant reaggae music coming from the various restaurants. In the minimarts there were pictures of Bob Marley. What’s the deal with that?
During the four days we stayed there, we never left the beach. Going anywhere else on foot was simply out of the question, since the roads were very steep and tiresome. But luckily you could get a lot of variety from the establishments on the beach itself. And then we did a lot of snorkelling. At Haad Yao, we had the reef just outside our hotel. I saw a lot of colourful fish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and other interesting animals.
Mid-day it was almost too hot though. K and I took it easy, playing poker, sipping the many delicious fruit shakes the bars offered, watching tv… and cooling off in the pool and the sea. I didn’t want to leave.
The last day we got a release from the heat in the form of heavy rain. And once it started raining, it didn’t stop. It was quite nice sitting on the balcony with the water pouring down all around. Or to take an outdoor shower in the rain.
But leave we must, and the trip to Bangkok turned out to be a bit of an adventure. First we got a bumpy ride to the Thongsala ferry pier, then a three hour boat ride, and then a bumpy bus for an hour to Suratthani, where we got offloaded onto yet another back of a truck for the final leg to the train station. All the way there was very little information, and the different vehicles were pretty worn. Getting off the ferry we also noticed big holes in the metal landing we were walking on.
At the train station we had four hours to kill, and it was hot and humid. There wasn’t much to do, so we sat down and read our books. Then the train arrived about an hour late, and we got into our 1st class compartment, which luckily was just for me and K, and it had A/C.
The last hour into Bangkok we really got to see the poor living conditions of a lot of people, living in leaking sheds, cooking on the streets etc. Still, people seemed to get by.
At the train station we took a tuk-tuk to our hotel, Novotel Siam Square, which I had picked for its location rather than its charm. It turned out quite okay.
I’ve got mixed emotions about Bangkok. It’s hot and dirty. But there’s great shopping, and some interesting things to see. We took the skytrain down to the river, and got a one day river boat pass which took us to Wat Arun, Wat Po with the reclining Buddha, and Chinatown. Chinatown was interesting but completely exhausting in the heat, and with strong food smells in the narrow alleys I worried I might faint. It also made shopping hard, but atleast I bought some jewellery making parts for almost no money.
Another interesting experience was the luxurious Nokia movie salons at Siam Paragon, where we got reclining leather seats, a pillow and a blanket. In a normal size theatre there were only 16 seats, so there was plenty of space. K didn’t appreciate my choice of movie though – Sweeney Todd. I had forgotten it’s a musical. :-)