After breakfast we rent a scooter and head towards Hat Thong Nai Pan Yai in the north east corner of the island. I have read that the beaches in this area are perhaps the best for swimming and snorkelling, and we only have a few days left on Ko Pha Ngan before taking the overnight train south, back to Malaysia for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
After riding south we find the turning and head north into the heart of the island. After a few kilometres the concrete road turns to dirt. Soon after we come across a road team who are using a swing shovel to further flatten the road, preparing it for concreting in the future. The road deteriorates until we find ourselves ascending and descending very steep slopes covered in loose gravel, definitely not the ideal terrain for a little (worn out) scooter with two people on. We think about turning back, but persevere, and after 30 minutes, and with 2 sore bottoms, we finally see the turquoise water of the bay appear.
We park up and find a paradise of a beach. Because this area is difficult to get to the atmosphere and people are laid back. After sipping an ice cold drink and taking a swim we rent a double kayak and paddle over the sister beach of Thang Nai Pan Noi. The waves are bigger there, so we beach the kayak and take a little swim. We paddle back across the bay and take a close look at the rocks and boats before returning the kayak.
After lunch and relaxing on the beach we head back along the treacherous road, and although we left it a little late in the day, we get back without and troubles.
We talk the walk towards Sandy Bay, and Long Beach, the nicest and deepest section of beach on this side of Ko Pha Ngan. We thought we’d try a short cut and find a tiny private beach, but the rocks are too deep to get to Long Beach. We turn back and take our normal route.
We spend the whole day on the beach, not something we normally do, but it’s a great day, and we plan to do the same tomorrow.
We rent a scooter and head out around the island. The roads are reasonable, with only a few dangers. We ride on just about every road we can, stopping at a waterfall, which is barely a trickle at this time of year, and a marble Buddha.
We take a look around Hat Rin, the site of the full moon parties, but its just really the high density backpacking scene we avoid.
We ride back to our beach, stopping to watch a local festival on the way.
More than happy with out sea view bungalow we decide to stay. After a great breakfast at the restaurant, we head to the beach for snorkelling and relaxing. In the afternoon we buy tickets for the Beautiful Days festival at home, and take a walk. We buy a Frisbee and grab a drink, which we drink on a neighbouring beach which is lovely. We decide to rent a scooter tomorrow and look around the island, in particular this area, for somewhere better to stay. There is nothing wrong with where we are but I think one can always find something better.
After breakfast we head up to the Phuket Bus station to buy tickets to Ko Phang-Na. We have been disappointed by some of the beach areas in Thailand, as they as so busy with tourists, and we hope that Ko Phang-Na is the slice of backpacker folklore we are looking for. I find the ticket office for the company I have read about (Phantip) and by two tickets.
We sit back and wait, and laugh at the touts who are trying to sell us travels. The 4.5 hour bus ride seems to take a long time, and then we have to take another bus to the ferry terminal, and then wait for the ferry.
On the ferry we are approached by an accommodation tout who is very friendly and helpful. We choose a budget place, Sun View for 300Baht, as we get a free pick-up from the ferry jetty, which is much needed at this time of night. Eventually we get to Ko Phang-na at 21:00, 12 hours after we left the guesthouse this morning. But, it’s been a nice chilled day. We jump in the back of the pick-up and have the most fun ride of the day as we drive across the island with the wind in out hair.
Sun View is great, and the bungalows are more than fine. We grab a drink and crash out.
We head out on the scooter towards a inviting beach called Friendship Beach. When we get there we realise that it is a private resort and not a beach. We ride to Rawai beach, which is not much of a beach at all, so we ride onto Hat Nai beach, where we had been before.
We settle on the sand for a few hours and grab lunch before riding back to Phuket to drop off the scooter.
Near Phuket town we are stopped by the police. He asks for my passport, which the scooter rental people have, and then my license. I don’t have my licence with me (silly I know) and he issues me a 300Baht fine. Thankfully the police station is just down the road and I ride off to pay it, whilst Abby has to stay behind as a ‘deposit’. To my great delight the police station staff are friendly and quick and I’m back to show the police my receipt, and to collect Abby within 10 minutes. That could have been a lot worse. Abby tells me he stopped several westerners and checked their documents. A nice little earner for the Thai Police.
We get back to the scooter rental place late, but nothing is said.
We venture out early and ride to Laem Singh, a beach recommended in the Lonely Planet as ‘may be that elusive piece of paradise’. It’s a nice spot, and although a little more touristy than we had hoped for, it is free from the normal tourist overload. We swim, relax and eat lunch – all the good things.
After lunch we head to Patong beach to see what we are not missing. Patong is the epicentre of Phuket tourism and exactly what we don’t want. We park up the scooter and grab a drink and fruit salad. We walk amongst the shops, getting hassled, something we have been spared in Phuket town. We stop for a drink on the beach and watch the world go by. It’s a nice stop, but we’re glad we are not staying here.
The clouds start to darken and we jump back on the bike. We take a different route back to Phuket town, as the signs are a bit contradictory. We also get very low on fuel, but we make it back fine.
Abby is keen to get her haircut this morning, after we chopped most of it off on Pulau Pehentian in Malaysia. We find a professional looking place where the lady speaks at least a few words of English. Abby takes some photos from a magazine and is pleased with the result, which costs just 300Baht, a tenth of the cost at home.
I do some online jobs. We head towards the shopping centre, but find it closed, and the supermarket, which is the reason we went to the shopping centre, is very basic. But we get the supplies we need.
I am always surprised that products such as fruit juice are so expensive in countries in Asia. Fruit itself seems to grow everywhere and is very cheap to buy. I guess it is a supply and demand situation, and the fact that few of the local people buy fruit juice, therefore it remains fairly expensive. Breakfast cereal is also expensive so we go without.
We rent a scooter on our way back to the guesthouse. I don’t have my passport on me, so the lady lets me take the scooter to get my passport and return with it. I’m barely around the block when it runs out of fuel. Rental bikes are almost always drained of fuel when they are returned, and I think they went a bit too far this time. Anyway, I’m able to easily push it to a fuel station and top up.
We get out things together and head out of Phuket town towards the beach. The urban area is quite large and it takes us 40 minutes to reach the beaches as the southern end of the island. The beaches there are nice, but still have some of the tourist facilities we were hoping to escape. After a nice swim we have some great Thai food there. The numerous restaurants are big and empty, evidence of the downturn in visitors since the tsunami.
It’s dark when we head back to Phuket town. The lady from the restaurant tells us to drive slowly. We only 5 minutes into our ride when it starts to rain. Thankfully the rain never gets really bad, but bad enough to make it a cautious, wet and bleary eyed ride. We get back in one peace and decipher the parking rules; one side of the road on odd dates, the other side of the road on even dates. Strange.
We relax with a couple of drinks before ending the night with some laptop TV.
We are pleased to leave our grossly overpriced and grotty hotel room and spend the morning relaxing on the beach. He have a bite to eat from the cheap eateries place where we have taken all of our meals (money straight into the locals pockets) and head down to the boat jetty. Once we get on the boat I feel unwell, and then Abs does, but we settle in and get to Phuket without any problems.
My Lonely Planet guide book suggests staying in Phuket town, rather than at the beaches, which are crammed with tourists and related services. Considering we are trying to avoid staying in touristy areas, and have just overdosed on such areas, we decide to stay in Phuket town. We get a mini-bus to the town bus station. We walk a few blocks and find the Talang Guesthouse which is recommended. The guesthouse is lovely, and the sort of price we like to stay. Our moods are lifted as we find real Thailand again, after the disappointment of the overpriced, over hyped tourist factories of the last few days.
In the evening we take a little walk and find a great restaurant selling good, cheap Thai food.
I think we will be staying here and exploring Phuket for a while.
We catch a bus and then a ferry from Krabi to the Island of Ko Phi Phi We pass several small islands and rock formations during the 1 hour boat ride. As we near to Phi Phi we can see how beautiful the island is, and we notice several beautiful small bays, which is the sort of place were we love to stay.
The ferry docks at the jetty and everyone scrambles to get off. Once we are on terra firma Abby minds the luggage whilst I try join the scrum at the tourist information offices. Accommodation is expensive here (1,000 Baht), even more so at the beautiful bays that we like so much. Whilst the island is beautiful this is the home of packaged tourist holidays, the one thing we are trying to avoid on this trip. We settle on an OK looking hotel, pay the absurd amount and take a trek down to the resort.
The room is adequate, although I had expected more for the money.
We feel uneasy here on Phi Phi. The island is covered in package resorts and their tourists. This is not what we had expected or wanted. We head out and stop for lunch. At least we can find good food at reasonable prices.
We go down to the beach and take a swim. The water is very warm and clear, although the reef seems damaged, and we can only assume it tsunami damage, as this island was hit very hard.
After a stroll in the afternoon we get an early night, as Abby doesn’t feel so well, and we avoid the tourist noisy outside.
I book us tickets to Phuket tomorrow. We intend to stay in the town, away from the tourists there too.