From Krabi we caught the “VIP” overnight bus to Bangkok. Now this bus wasn’t so much VIP but the seats did recline a little and they provided a wee blanket and luckily we were able to sit together and because it was really cheap it was all worth it. After a long night of little or no sleep we arrived into Bangkok at 6am and were in a familiar area a 5 min walk from Koh San Road. Some of the restaurants were already open so we sat in them buying a drink, using the lavs, and reading for a bit and moving on to the next for something to eat and hanging for another hour there. Once the shops started opening around 10am Niki went for a thai massage while I got a manicure done with amazing hand-painted wee flowers on each nail. You can’t leave Thialand without buying a bunch of dvds and t-shirts so we did that and then grabbed a taxi to HBK so I could do some last minute shopping. I got a few cool things but totally wish I’d gotten more handbags, damn luggage allowance. There were shops laden with handbags for 199B each (£4, NZ$10) Hayley’s paradise! By this stage we hadn’t slept for 30 hours so we were soon over shopping and lugging our gear around (Niki ended up just babysitting gear whilst I shopped!). We spent a bit of time trying to find the airport bus but in the end just grabbed a taxi and got out to the airport by 5pm, well in time for our 8pm flight. Pleased to report our luggage left in storage was all there and we didn’t even go over our luggage limits.
Thursday we flew from Chiang Mai to Phuket, arriving at 2pm. We had pre-booked a hotel in Patong Beach but stupidly took the mini bus which ended up taking hours. We were rather frustrated and eager to get on the beach by the time we had checked in. Patong beach is extremely touristy and it wasn’t very nice at all. You could definitely tell that the tourist season had been affected by the airport closure though as the majority of the deck chairs were empty. That night we went out to explore the nightlife which was very tacky and seedy, think neon lights and drunken people everywhere. You’ll be disappointed to know that we didn’t go to ping pong show…the people on the street try and get you into their bars saying free entry, but your first drink cost you mega bucks. Although that's not what put me off, it’s the list that they show you with all the things you will see in a ping pong show… and I can tell you “ping pong” is very tame compared to what was on that list!
Friday morning we took a 1.5 hour ferry ride over to Ko Phi Phi which we’d heard was gorgeous and we weren’t disappointed. There are no cars on the island and to get to the lovely outlying beaches with all your gear you need to pay for a boat ride. We’d been recommended to stay at Viking Resort by some people we’d met on the overnight train so headed there straight away and were lucky to secure accommodation. We stayed in an awesome bamboo hut with ensuite (cold shower) for the first two nights, and then moved to another hut without ensuite and closer to the beach for three nights. The people were really good and gave us a great discount plus let us use snorkelling gear etc for free.
We spent the next few days laxing on the small secluded beach right in front of our resort. We ate out for every meal (all resorts have own restaurants), explored the shops on the island, Niki had another massage or two and I got a pedicure. From our beach to the main island bit was about 20 min walk over a steep-ish track but it was generally ok until one of the last nights we came back latein the dark over the rocks and I somehow fell into the water, with our camera in my bag! It’s buggered, we are so gutted, but luckily our memory card is ok.
Sunday we had a 7am start (ouch!) to go out on a dive boat for Niki to do two fun dives and I did some snorkeling while the divers were down. Niki found the dives pretty good, much more to see than in Egypt, but he did have some trouble equalizing on the second dive and unfortunately his particular group of four missed out on seeing a tortoise and shark which would’ve been brilliant. The snorkelling was fantastic though, there were so many amazing colours of fish and coral and I really started to relax more even over the very deep water. I didn’t enjoy the sea lice though, you keep feeling pin pricks all over your body, but nothing comes of it.
On the Monday we spent most the day just laxing on our wee beach again and did some snorkelling in our bay which was really cool although I did have a jellyfish brush past my face eww! At 5pm, once it was getting slightly cooler, we headed up to Ko Phi Phi viewpoint which is a definite puff factor walk up many many stairs. Once at the top though you are rewarded with the most stunning views. That night we had some western food for dinner (which wasn’t half as good as the thai food) and then headed to Hippies Bar for a “vodka bucket” and some cool live entertainment including a crazy fire show.
Tuesday we had breakfast on the main island and arrange to go on an afternoon snorkel tour. This departed at 2:30pm and was on quite a large boat but luckily it wasn’t full so there were about 25 of us. We anchored and we swam (or kayaked) to shore at monkey island, which really was monkey island with the little critters running around and grabbing their treats from us tourists…so cute! We sailed past Viking Bay and did some more snorkelling and kayaking but unfortunately the water was quite rough, plus I had a leaky snorkel so it wasn’t the funnest. We moved on from that spot pretty quickly and tried some more snorkelling elsewhere, the staff threw handfuls of rice in the water and next thing we were absolutely surrounded and covered in amazing colourful hungry fish. It was freaky! Next stop was Maya Bay which is the island where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. Needless to say there were tourist boats aplenty here. It was amazing though, so so beautiful. The sand was so fine and pure, kind of felt like flour! We then headed back to the big boat and watched the lovely sunset while eating dinner. Was a neat afternoon with great staff. We had brought a disposable camera so have thankfully got a few hard-copy pics of our day.
Wednesday was our last day on the island so we sunbathed and swam for a couple of hours before sadly heading to the pier to catch our ferry to Krabi at 1:30pm.
We have since heard of much lovelier, more authentic, quieter (and way way cheaper) islands to go to but I think for first timers having a bit of civilisation and party atmosphere was all good.
On Wednesday we were picked up at 7:15am to go on our Golden Triangle and Long-neck Tour. There were only three of us on the tour so we were just in a ute. It was lots of driving but ok for me cos I just napped in between stops! We saw a thermal spring (not as impressive as Rotorua!) and people selling eggs boiled in the water…rather novel! Next stop was a stunning temple which was completely white (the only one of it’s kind in Thailand), this was just breathtaking and made the trip worthwhile. We then drove some more and took a boat across to Laos where we got our passport stamped (wahoo) and looked around the markets on the riverbank. This is where the Golden Triangle is, an area known for it’s illicit drug trade (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar).
After stopping for a disgusting buffet lunch, we drove further out to some more tribes to look at their wares. It was cool seeing them in traditional costume and seeing families interact. The most “exciting” part of this was seeing the long neck people (originally from Burma). The females have rings around their necks which stretches their necks, kinda freaky looking! It originally started hundreds of years ago for girls born on Tuesdays to be protected from the tiger attacking them but over the years it was used on all girls and now it’s a sign of beauty. We were wasted when we arrived back to Chiang Mai around 8:30pm that night, but as it was our last night we went out and had a lovely meal and also visited the night markets again (where I got a fantastic $5 haircut … cheap cheap Hayley fun).