It has become the time to leave Thailand and its awesome and friendly people and beautiful nature (Lamru National Park in Khao Lak offers both). Next stop: Malaysia. Here is what we have done and learned since the last post:
- Traffic rules and opening hours are merely serving suggestions. If it says on the door of a store that the business hours are from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, it does not have to mean that the store would be open if you go there at ten in the morning. Or at three in the afternoon. Speed limits are for sissies and “Slow down, dangerous curve ahead” really means “This is the best possible time to try how fast your bus REALLY goes.”
- Thailand is like all that’s good in China was put together, without the dirt everywhere. Also, Chinese tourists love the place.
- Beaches are fun. Sun is fun. Cheap beer is fun. Too many other people enjoying them with you (i.e. kilometres after kilometres of sand yet no space to spread your towel and lie down) are not. If you are looking for company of other people, quality services, Western bars and restaurants, go to Kata or Karon Beach. If you want to stay drunk 24/7 and wish the party to never end, go to Patong Beach. They all have stores selling Western products, cheap food and accommodation options from really, really cheap, small hotels to luxury resorts. According to a rumour heard from many, one should NEVER go to Pattaya.
- Using public transportation is the cheapest possible way to get around, and surprisingly convenient. There are two bus terminals in Phuket Town. Terminal 2 is for long distance busses. There is also a small, pink bus running between downtown, terminal 1 and terminal 2. Local busses to the beaches leave from Fresh Market, to Kata, Karon and Patong in front of the small 7/11 next to it. Ask any of the locals or taxi drivers hanging out there, they will practically push you to the right bus. The prices are set, and the conductors not apt to overcharge you. Ride to Kata or Karon costs 35 THB, and to Patong 30 THB. Don’t expect to see any seat belts. Motorbike taxes (dangerous and so much fun; you’ll be given a helmet only because the driver doesn't want to any trouble with the police, not for your own safety...) and car taxes (comfortable with often very chatty drivers with an English vocabulary of about ten words) have somewhat set prices, too.
- Leaving the tourist attractions for a while is worth all the little trouble it may take to get to your destination. We have a friend, Arto, who is staying on Koh Phra Thong, a small island close to Kuraburi town. He has stayed there for some time now, working for a turtle saving project called the Naucrates. The aim is to protect the sea turtles of the Andaman Sea. The project is funded by donations and volunteers’ participation fees. The office is located in the Phra Thong Island, and the volunteers are staying with families, supporting the local economy. We, however, stayed at this small, paradise like resort called Koh Phra Thong Nature Resort. The owner, Karen, welcomed us to her place, and provided us invaluable information about the island. The bungalows were modest, but had all the necessities one needs in paradise; shower, power, beds and peace. The resort also offers all sorts of activities. Unfortunately, we only stayed there two nights due to a bit tight travel schedule but we did have time to rent bicycles from the resort (just 100 THB per bike for half a day) and explore the beautiful nature of the island. No fear of getting lost, either, for there is only one road. We also spent time at the beach, where we saw as many as four other tourists; that’s what happens when there is about 10 km of sandy beach and only a handful of resorts and hotels. What we enjoyed the most was the fact that all the tourism and activities on the island aim to be economically friendly. And the trouble of getting there? It took two busses, a taxi, a boat and a motorbike to get to the resort from Khao Lak. An adventure itself, and totally worth it J (Thank you P’Teawl aka The Chef aka The Driver aka James Bond for the safe ride!)
- Overcoming you fears and doing crazy stuff again and again doesn't make it any less insane, but it does get more fun. Aching muscles, bruised legs and sore limbs are here again, this time after spending three hours in the jungle, climbing, jumping, swinging and hanging on trees, ropes, nets and zip lines. Xtrem Adventure Phuket was worth the 2500 THB we paid for it (per person). The price included a pick up from the hotel, all the equipment and water. They have tracks for everyone, from kids’ obstacle course to the red and black tracks, which we were tricked to try and actually finished, too. Go give it a try, it may be challenging but it is safe and SO much fun!
- Two months on the road takes its toll. Eventually you get sick and tired of having sand and dirt everywhere; packing and unpacking every few days; leaving places just when you have learned where the nearest store is; being confused if you should tip the waitress or if someone is trying to con you... We realised we need a break after having stayed in 17 different hotels and resorts. We looked into our options and decided to book a holiday rental apartment in Kuala Lumpur; a nice studio with kitchen and all the facilities a service apartment offers, in the middle of the city. That means we will have one week of cooking our own food, having a living room with a TV and a couch, and a washing machine to do our laundry with. But before that, we will be staying at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur for three nights, a nice little engagement gift from some lovely people. Thank you! (I also bought two sets of new clothes, which really helped with the tiredness...)