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South Thailand Islands

31 July 2011 32,873 views 3 Comments

beaches on Phuket
Ko Samui
Ao Phang Nga
paddling
bike riding
day trips
Full Moon party
Flavours
Gallery

Last time I was in Thailand I was mostly in Bangkok, the surrounding areas and the East coast. This time it was all about the islands in the South. I was lucky enough that Dad was able to join me for some of the time and we had a phenomenal ten days. Obviously you’d have to love beaches to visit this area and it really is beautiful: lush & tropical, different beach experiences, warm in climate and hospitality.
We didn’t have a set plan. We had an idea of what we’d like to see and do, and that we wanted a relaxed time, nothing full-on. The travel was easy and easy going, the accommodation was good (thank you agoda) and we squeezed in more than we had hoped. Almost every stop we made we had the option between a high-tourist spot or somewhere quieter. It was low season so everywhere was quiet really but we tended to choose the less touristy options because the pace, prices and atmosphere suited us better.

Places

Hat Nai Yang, Phuket

I stayed here last year and really liked it. Nai Yang ticks all the boxes for me: great beach, enough local services to keep you going, not on the average tourist’s destination, pretty cheap :)
Having arrived from Bali via KL, I knew what I wanted when I arrived… a run, a Thai massage at the excellent massage shop on the square and a great big sleep. When Dad arrived he really liked the place too, it’s a good intro to Thailand. We did the obvious things: walked the beach, hung out watching the cool kite-surfers, had our first beach food & Singhas together, later had Gin Fizzes on beach beds and more good beach food. Unfortunately the service at the Nai Yang Beach Resort has gone down A LOT since I last stayed here. Yes, they’ve added nice, new rooms to the Resort but I’d prefer the old room and a smile from front desk to be honest. So, Nai Yang got us settled in and set up ready for our travels…

Hat Nai Thon, Phuket

At the end of our trip we came here for just one night, barely fourteen hours all in actually. Nai Thon is quiet – a handful of services, no ATM, no real taxi service – unheard of in Thailand! – and it really had shut-up-shop for the down season. The beach is typically pretty, a long sweeping stretch of sand backed by loungers and palm trees. There was actually some surf here, and Dad and I saw our first sunset together too. The resorts are hubs for Russian tourists so you can expect to see Cyrillic translation on the menus & signs and see some amazing looking women trotting around in bikinis & stilettos. No, really.
Our stay was brief but we had a really nice meal at Mr Oody’s, the beach restaurant at the North end. And we had some lovely encounters with locals, namely the guy who agreed to detour his daughter’s school-run in order to take us to the airport when Mr Oody’s taxi service let us down the next morning.

Hat Kamala, Phuket

After leaving Dad at the airport (sniff sniff) I came here. Happily, Kamala is what I expected: relatively small, a main road with a little Muslim village on one side, and the tourist village on the other side. The latter runs parallel to the beachfront with low key resorts, restaurants and the usual services. It’s the sort of place that people come back to time and again, never stretching further than the one street and saying ‘what more do you need’.
I was lucky enough to get an apartment at the Taro Hotel in the local village. It’s a new development and is superb. The actual accommodation is modern, clean, cool; the apartments have kitchenettes & heaps of living space; there’s a pool & loungers; and the staff are fantastic, particularly Terry, the owner, who could not have been more friendly and even taught me how to ride a motorbike
Back to the beach… a pleasant crescent shape with fishing boats coming into the lagoon at the South end, a few hotels & beach restaurants in the middle part, and a quiet, secluded North end. There are more waves here than I’ve seen on many Thai beaches but it’s still gentle, and somewhere in the middle is a crusty bit of reef, I found this on the return leg of my swim one afternoon and had to crawl, Gollum-style, out of the water. It’s very quiet in Kamala, whenever I hit the beach for morning yoga there were barely any locals around nevermind tourists. I liked it, I could live in Kamala and I understand why people choose to.

Ao Phang Nga

We stayed in the Bay but also took a day trip which was when we saw a lot more of the area. Very much like Halong Bay in Vietnam it was milky, turquoise with karsts bursting out of the calm water. I really like how your experience of the karsts changes depending on your distance from them. From afar they are silhouetted, row upon row, on each other and as you get closer the colours, texture, detail and full size become more apparent. They are shades of grey, layered rock with dressings of bright green, dripping tropical foliage. They look uninhabitable and, word-of-the-day, Jurassic.
There are many karsts and islands throughout the Bay, we cruised, paddled or swam around a lot of them. And the water really is lovely, the creamy shade of blue that makes you think of dissolved limestone or bars of soap, really complementing the crystal, sheer blue of the sky.

Ko Yao Noi

This little island is in Ao Phang Nga, an easy boat ride (speed boat=30 mins, longtail=60 mins) from the East coast of Phuket. I feel like I write this a lot: there’s one road, ha ha, well there is, one road around the island. And here’s something else I write a lot: it’s a small place, well it is! When we arrived the taxi guys knew my name – our hotel had told them to expect ‘Lucy’ at some point today. Brilliant. And the hotel, what a place. Sabai Bungalows. Bit like the Yoga Barn on Bali, I’d say these were more treehouses than bungalows but it doesn’t matter. Located between beaches, so on a slight headland, the bungalows are positioned up the hill with views out to the Bay. Everything is chunky wood and stone, really charming architecture that works with the landscape. It’s quite basic accommodation: raised mattresses, padlock doors, open air bathrooms, mozzy net beds, shutter windows, we LOVED it. A nod also to their excellent kitchen, we had a good dinner & breakfast and some of the most delicious coffee of our trip.
Since we were out of season it was especially quiet on the island. We had a leisurely bike ride around and enjoyed what we saw: calm beaches & bays, almost closed-for-business shops & services, and lots of friendly, waving locals, it was a lovely afternoon. This area of Thailand relies greatly on tourism but also shrimp farming and rubber. So, while the tourists were mostly out of season we saw lots of fishing boats and I showed Dad the rubber trees, explained how the rubber is made (I knew from my visit early this year) and we saw some of the rubber mats drying in the sun – I had remembered the technique but forgotten the smell! Ha.
There was a thunder storm nearly every day during our trip, it would be increasingly muggy resulting in one big down pour, maybe some thunder & lightning drama, and then we’d be done, dry and clear for the rest of the day. Today’s downpour came as we were sat at a little beachside restaurant eating lunch – a really good, spicy curry for me. Once the weather cleared we cycled some more and worked up to a splash in the warm bay water.
And today we had a second downpour. This one was mega, it was brilliant. We were in our treehouse house at the time and the wind and water were really something, we kept expecting our roof or walls to crash in. I’m glad to say that we braved it though because we ended up at this dead quiet little restaurant where the owner and his partner chatted to us about the island and the food, and prepared a beautiful meal.

Hat Mae Nam, Ko Samui

We were tired from a long day of travel when we arrived at Mae Nam so we were looking for The Promised Land. Mae Nam certainly doesn’t look that promising when you arrive… It’s one of the lesser frequented beaches so there’s a fair amount of normal, local business along the street, punctuated by a few hotels, bars and English-signed restaurants. We checked in and withheld our judgement until we’d looked around further. The Amarin is a clean, well-operating hotel, aiming for boutique but achieving a more industrial look. The highlight is the roof pool that gives you a good view of the beach, the hills and puts you at eye level with the canopy of the really really tall palm trees.
When we looked around Mae Nam we found more of what we were looking for… The beach is a long stretch of clean yellow, reasonably unobstructed by the usual beds, hawkers and jet-skis which is a good thing. It’s a narrow beach though and when the tide comes in you’re pretty much committed to splashing through the warm water.
Off the beach is Mae Nam Village, cute, colonial buildings on quiet streets, nice to wander around compared to the functional main road. We had two excellent dinners on Mae Nam beach, in both cases the service was great.
In Mae Nam when it gets dark it’s just you, the ocean and star & candle light. This was the first time that we saw Chinese lanterns on Koh Samui. At first, ‘what’s that..?? have my eyes gone funny??’ then we realised. They were so pretty.

Bo Phut, Ko Samui

From Mae Nam it’s a forty-ish minute walk, ten minute taxi to Bo Phut, the next landmark on the coast. Bo Phut has a lovely area called Fishermen’s Village. It’s heavily French influenced, rows of character-ful buildings, fantastic looking coffee shops and restaurants, smart market stalls, and the beach is a tidy fishing port with nice beaches stretching from both sides of the pier. We loved it here.
Further East again is the Big Buddha and surrounding trade. He’s mighty big and very serene looking. From his dais the views back to the island are really good, and you get an up-close experience of the volume of planes coming in to the airport! The market here was much better – less hassle, some nice gifts – than I would have expected, and the fishing village up the road is about as real-Thai-life as you’ll get anywhere.

Hat Chaweng, Ko Samui

Tourism on Ko Samui is most certainly big business, and we only saw a bit of it. As we circumnavigated the island, by boat, bike and bus we passed numerous resorts – set way apart from the beach and town areas – that, from our glances, looked incredible. Great locations, amazing views, stunning architecture, what looked like awesome rooms & bungalows, beautiful pools, nice terraces. I think a night in most of these places would cost the same as our whole trip! So we did see some very classy, high end places. And there was everything in between down to scruffy, horrid accommodations that you can find in any popular destination.
Chaweng is the tourist capital of Samui and unfortunately it was our least pleasing accommodation too, bad value for money, poorly maintained, shoddy service. To give the full context, we did really well on our trip, got some bargains, got some upgrades, had some excellent service and some nice surprises, and even this low light wasn’t that hideous.
Chaweng itself is good & fun but we could only bear it for two days. The beach is nice but easily outdone by Mae Nam or Bo Phut, and there are ten times the number of hawkers prowling up and down which on the one hand is irritating, but on the other hand means there’s the smell of bbq everywhere which I don’t mind! We didn’t see heaps of Chaweng town, little bits and we drove through. It’s typical of any tourist package destination – Magalluf, Cancun, Kuta – market stalls selling the same knocked-off stuff, taxis everywhere, international shops & chains that look sort of watered-down, both sexes walking around in vests, restaurants selling the same ‘specialities’ & happy hour offers, sightseeing packages, beggars. Maybe at a different time, with a different travelling companion I’d have a different reaction but it all looked pretty grimy and seedy from where I was. I’ve said a lot of negative things about Chaweng, long and short it just wasn’t for us, but it did tick some boxes… it’s an easy place to hang out, everything you want is there, and it’s pretty cheap.

Hat Lamai, Ko Samui

Lamai is a long beach and although it’s not busy people tend to crowd around the few beach bars. We stayed one night at the Rich Resort which was right opposite the Swing Bar, a massive place with, yes, actual wooden swings around the bar. It was pretty fun and they had good fire twirlers there each night. I had my best massage on Lamai and it was at a shack right outside Swing Bar so I wasn’t expecting much but wow she was good.
The town side of Lamai is typical Thai services but less volume and noise than Chaweng. The night markets were quite small but that suited us really well, and there weren’t many people so it was enjoyable walking around and the sellers were good fun. Dad really enjoyed the spring rolls and I had bbq-ed corn that I’d been craving. There was a stall drawing a lot of attention and we went to see what was happening: an elderly couple were making crepes but they had their routine so quick & precise it was like a performance, and this little cart just seemed to magic extra drawers & doors for new fillings & toppings, they were real crowd pleasers.

We hired bikes from a cool French guy and ventured further South around the island’s coastline, we’d been long enough on Samui that we wanted to make sure we’d seen everything! Along the way we stopped at a temple, the main building had some fantastic carvings, and all in red plaster, no other colours which pulled your attention to the shapes & textures.
Our destination was the Na Muang Falls. They’re, er, very well serviced, you can elephant ride, zip line and snack snack snack your way around the place. I got quite irritated by the pushy provisions, particularly when we realised how unimpressive the waterfall was. Maybe we’d been spoiled by other views, walks and sights but this didn’t warrant the drama that they had going on.
Ban Hua Thanon is a small village on the road between Lamai and the waterfalls, I’d say a twenty minute steady cycle. We only glimpsed but it was a sweet, fishing-focused, low-key area. We stopped for lunch at the Ban Hua Thanon Seafood Restaurant and it was one of the best meals of our trip, a steaming pile of rice fried with fish & vegetables. It was simple but the flavours were so well done it was heaven.

Ko Phangan

I’d be hard-pushed to tell you much about Phangan… we were only there for the full moon party. We arrived and left by speed boat, all in the dark and when I was on the island I couldn’t see much beyond the luminous painted bodies, the fire twirling and the bucket-booze stands. Friends reliably tell me that Phangan is beautiful; I can reliably tell you that it knows how to host a wicked party each month.

Ao Ang Thong

This National Park is well visited because it’s within easy reach of Ko Samui and Ko Phangan. We came here on our second day trip, which was a great day, and the Bay really is spectacular. Different to Ao Phang Nga, the scenery is more dramatic: the water is crystal blue with some areas that are greener, more aqua or turquoise, there are many islands and rocks that pop cleanly out of the Bay and the shapes & shadows on the water seem to reflect the shapes of the clouds. We got up closer to the islands and visited several throughout the day, they were lush, interesting, gorgeous. And throughout the day we saw a lot of birds & fish and on one island, black monkeys playing in the trees – that was really cool.

Travel

One of the things I like about Thailand is that when you want to get from a to b, transport options magic themselves up from nothing. We took minibuses, coaches, taxis, motorbikes, minivans, long tails, speed boats, ferries and likely more. Dad was really good about the travel, just getting on with it even when the journeys were long and uncomfortable, I have a lot of respect for that. Our toughest day was when we moved from Ko Samui back to Phuket. It was the day after the Full Moon party so we were exhausted and most of the people around us were minging, the last few hours on the minibus felt like they’d never end, fortunately I had enough iPhone battery to play us some ‘lifting’ tunes, Glee anyone..?

Playing

paddling

I love paddling and was glad Dad was keen. We had a couple of really good sessions: Ao Phang Nga when we cruised up close to the karsts, into little caves and through the mangroves. There were times when we had the current right behind us and just drifted along looking at the scenery and feeling little leaves raining down from the overhanging cliff plants. There was also a stretch on a more open part of the river when we were completely against the current and if we hesitated our stroke at all we moved immediately in the wrong direction; we just had to keep at it.
On Ko Samui we paddled off Chaweng beach to a reef. Dad dropped off the kayak and snorkelled around the reef for a while. I took off, had the most glorious paddle – it was a beautiful day and there were turtles in the water with me – but I stupidly mis-timed the return which was not very good for our buddy-ing.
And Ao Ang Thong was our final paddle, just a short one around a pretty island. We took it really easy and had a nice, smooth cruise around. In some places the water was really shallow and we could see the coral on the reef and some of the fishes. We also went up close to the island cliffs, and through some rock channels which required a bit of fancy paddle & team work.
Paddling conditions around the islands were great because the water is clear & warm, the wind is low (until it’s really ‘on’!), there are medium, manageable distances to be done with heaps of landmarks to head for and admire, and of course it’s fantastically, salt-crispingly sunny.

snorkelling

Dad is a big fan of snorkelling having mastered the art in Egypt a few years back. Unfortunately the conditions around Thailand weren’t fantastic; on the whole the water was too shallow to move or see well. Our first dip was on the day trip in Phang Nga – the reef was really big and we both saw some interesting bits n bobs. Amongst others, a sea urchin for me and we think a sea cucumber for Dad. This turned out to be the best snorkel of the so it’s a good job we stayed in as long as we did.

bike riding

Ah, it’s a family thing, Dad’s so happy on two wheels as well :) On Ko Yao Noi we hired a couple of MTB and explored our side of the island, it was great, seeing fishing villages and coastline that we wouldn’t have otherwise got to. We (me I think) were a bit wussy though and kept bailing at the sight of a moderate incline, ha ha.
Our best bike ride was on Samui when we went from near Lamai to the falls. We had a couple of excellent hybrids – they were fast – and we nipped along the roads from one beach to the next, ticking off the miles, was good. Our destination had a huge climb at the end of our ride. Man, it was too hot for that, but we pushed on cos it was so satisfying to peddle up as everyone else was getting chauffeured around in jeeps!! And obviously coming down that hill was wicked fun.

running

I had a couple of really nice runs: one on Nai Yang and several around Kamala. It was far too hot in the daytime for running so I was all about the evening running although that was pushing it – my head just felt like a big pulsing tomato! Both beaches have a decent waterfront stretch and plenty of firm sand for running on, so that was ideal. And Kamala has some interesting streets with a couple of inclines for a decent bit of road running. Everytime I came back I was filthy – drenched with sweat, covered in sand and crusted up with flies & mozzies – it was straight into the pool for me (and my clothes).

swimming

Now you would think that the swimming in Thailand would be wicked… Personally I found the water too warm to be really enjoyable. I love the fresh feeling when you get in the ocean and it wasn’t like that here. Add in a few reefs and some murkiness and the conditions (I know I’m being picky) weren’t superb. But, a few good swims nonetheless.
Mae Nam was the best swim of all, I stayed close to the shore where the visibility was good – more for interest’s sake – and it was a gorgeous, fast swim. Kamala was pretty good, I enjoyed that because there was some surf there which made it interesting, and I didn’t enjoy it because I beached myself on a reef, ha ha.

Treats

day trip in Ao Phang Nga

On Ko Yao Noi we were already in the Phang Nga National Marine Park, exactly so that we were immersed in the Park and could spend our daytrip experiencing more than a trip from Phuket would have allowed. Low season played to our side as we had a driver and a guide all to ourselves for the day, David and Bay, respectively were excellent, informed, cheery company for the day. We were collected by long tail boat, Dad’s first time in a long tail, so he was loving it before we’d even left! We sliced through the water picking out different landmarks on our island and others, and we saw the karsts from different angles, in different light, at different proximity. They’re such an interesting shape, severe silhouettes looming out of the water and up close covered in soft foliage and dripping stalactites.
When we kayaked we got even closer, Dad and I kept saying ‘it’s Jurassic’ and it did feel that way; us moving gently through these immense rock corridors, birds calling and such large leaves & foliage clustered all over the rock. The paddle was good and fun, eased along by the current in places, we popped through one tunnel which was fun, and we meandered through mangroves as well which just puts you in instant Huck Finn mode. We also saw local fisherman along the way, scooping shrimp in their massive nets, Bay exchanged loud familiar chat with them, which is always encouraging in a guide isn’t it.
Later we snorkelled at another little island. We were already impressed with David’s ability to navigate through the reef before we plopped in and realised just how shallow it really was, I don’t know how he did it! The reef was quite big and there was a fair amount of activity on it. Snorkelling is not one of my great loves and the shallow water made me a bit uncomfortable (not enough room to fiddle around with the unfamiliar gear) so I spied myself a big darting fish, a couple of shoals of smaller, colourful fish, a sea urchin and then I made my way in. Dad really enjoys snorkelling so he pottered around for longer.

All day we’d been really well looked after, friendly chat, attentive instructions, options to change the plan, heaps of cold drinks & snacks, it was lovely. The long tail nipping around was great, you feel so exposed to the sea and the air at once! And when we returned to Sabai Corner, due to high tide we had to taxi from the long tail to shore by kayak which was just plain funny. We enjoyed our beers at the end of that day :)

day trip in Ao Ang Thong

Our second trip was off Koh Samui. We were close to the Ang Thong National Marine Park and again, wanted to get closer. On this trip we were on a large passenger boat with around fifty other tourists, mixed nationalities but you couldn’t miss the group of excitable, charismatic Israelis. Throughout the day everyone did different activities, I think Dad is the only person that did EVERYthing, what a legend. The cruise out was nice, a smooth crossing which made it easier to eat our breakfast :) Kayaking was first and the conditions were great, flat, clear. Dad and I were pretty good at paddling together now I reckon. We went around an island, getting up close to the oyster rock, the stalactites, the dripping cliffs, and getting a good view of the coral reefs, some jumping fish and some stripy fish. Apparently the coral has suffered in recent years because the water temperature has increased. I didn’t really understand this and couldn’t get a better explanation. How had it got warm, and then cool enough for the coral to come back? Did they know what had caused it? (‘global warming’ not a very satisfying answer in my opinion.)

We were HQ-ed at an island that serves a lot of Ang Thong day-trippers; the facilities and park were really well kept, really well organised, we were impressed. But we by-passed the facilities and the park to take the steep walk to the top of the island. Wow, they didn’t prepare us for this! It was a real rock-scramble from the start. Just hopping, hoisting, clawing up the rock with a much needed rope-rail to assist and when that wasn’t there you just grabbed the nearest tree that was brass-polish smooth from so many previous people doing the same. There were a few of us doing the walk so we shared tips, moans and photography duties. There were sections that were really tough, and tricky, particularly at the very top. But, it was absolutely worth it; the view was sensational. Seeing the different islands, the solid blue water and the mirroring shapes of the clouds, was just stunning. And you know how it is, you enjoy a view more for the effort it took to get there. Getting down was also tricky, just slowly, slowly. Well, I say that, Dad mountain goat-ed his way down, I was doing the old on-bum slide, ha ha.

Snorkelling was in the afternoon. I assigned myself as Dad’s photographer and kitman this time, i.e. I had a Diet Coke on the beach. Dad said the water was shallow but some good little fish to see. Once again we’d been cheerfully looked after all day. Easy-going, helpful information about what we were doing, snacks all the way, actually, I fared really well at lunch as the only kin jey on board they had tonnes of delicious food for me! And there was a light hearted atmosphere on board and around all day.

massages

When I got back from my last trip to Thailand I swore that if I ever came back I would have hundreds of massages. They’re SO good, and they’re ridiculously cheap, and if I could just get past this silly thing in my head that I need to have ‘earned’ a massage (it being classified as ‘treat’) then I’d have one every day! Of course I didn’t have one every day… On arriving in Nai Yang I went straight to the place I’ve been before and booked in for Round One, let the games begin. She destroyed me, it was awesome.
When we were at Chaweng I took Dad for a massage, he wasn’t sure but it started raining so it was that or McDonalds! The place was pretty average but the massages were nice and Dad liked it in the end. It was funny lying next to each other having them done.. “I remember when your Mum and I..” “er, that’s enough thank you”.
The best massage I had was on Lamai beach. I was on the tail end of a hangover, the spot on the beach was great, the massage was perfect. I was a happy girl.
In Kamala I realised I ought to get my act together and have another treatment. There were a few ok looking shops and I decided to step out of my comfort zone (woo woo) and try the Thai oil massage for a change. Am I the only person that didn’t know how very different a Thai oil massage is? I think it’s the polite menu phrasing for the more risqué services that are available in Thailand… I was in a private room, on the floor, arse naked, a whole lotta oil and parts getting massaged that don’t really get sore. Thank yau very much.

Full Moon party

OK, so we’ve all heard of the full moon party. We had no Grand Plan to be at this month’s full moon party but it happens that we were on Samui at the time and that the full moon, and therefore the party, actually fell on my birthday. Well, if something is meant to be… Our tickets were return transport and party entry so we were collected by one of Thailand’s best mini-buses :) taken to a beach, issued tickets, put in line while we listened to live Thai covers of the Rolling Stones (‘no, Dad, we’re not staying here all night’) and then shoved on to speed boats. Not any speed boats though. Top of the range, full on Mercedes-of-class speed boats; these puppies had power. Given that our tickets had cost about a fiver we were already well happy , especially Dad, and especially when I pointed out that we were travelling under-radar/ sans-lumieres/ pitch-black, and, well, I reckon just a bit illegally. On the island the atmosphere was excellent, like a festival: food, drink & souvenirs to buy, live music kicking off, restaurants & bars pushing special offers & blaring more music, sport & videos. Of course the crowd was mostly luminous-body-painted-vodka-smashing backpackers but there were also families, couples, flashpackers, locals, bohos, it was a friendly, open, loud, fun crowd. We wandered, took in the whole stretch of the beach (more boats arriving under darkness this side), zig-zagged the off-beach streets and then got a few beers and actually watched the full moon rise. It was something special. Dad was loving it, we were both loving it.
Some more beers and we hung by one of the main stages watching heaps of fire twirlers, they were incredible. We got nibbles, noodles, spring rolls etc and got very distracted by a Thai rock tribute band playing in an Irish pub – they were keen, very keen. I was highly amused by the some of the body painting, I like it when people are funny & clever, there were some good messages. There was also some really beautiful artwork, mostly girls with lots of peacock feathers over their shoulders and arms, s’alot of effort there. Back on the beach we sat on the sand with bucket cocktails, I think there was a dance-off happening or just dancing, or just craziness. One poor guy was crashed out on the beach complaining to his mate about a bad back, his mate went to get drinks, next minute crashed dude had three bikini girls offering him massage, it was a brilliant upgrade.

As I said, it was a good, fun crowd, but you could see how it was likely to go off as the night wore on. At midnight it was as if the crowd just multiplied, it was nuts; suddenly the beach we’d cruised up moments before was rammed sweaty body to sweaty body. We’d seen, drank, giggled, nibbled enough and headed back to the harbour side for the “2am departure”. I won’t labour the point but I can see why there are bad stories associated with this part of Full Moon: the return boats are badly organised, the piers are dangerous, there is zero crowd management and everyone is tired, hammered and out for themselves. You get the idea, I’d also say a bit of jostling & waiting aside we got home totally fine. We’d had an awesome awesome time, on of my favourite birthdays ever.

motorbikes

I’d made promises to a couple of friends that I would try riding a motorbike in Asia. At Taro Hotel Terry agreed to show me the basics and let me practise on his bike up and down the drive. It was cool. There were these little Thai dudes in a shop at the bottom of the drive and they were clapping when I did well. The next day I hired a bike (‘yes, yes, I know what I’m doing’) and motored around the coast a bit, that was proper fun. I got a bit more speed up and tackled hills too. Only problem was I didn’t know how to put petrol in and had to get assistance, love being a girl!

Flavours

fish

I love the beach restaurants in Thailand; toes in the sand, open bbqs, rustling palm trees, waves right there, cold beer. And I think the fresh, quick, fragrant food matches the setting. I’m also just a plain sucker for having fish when I’m by the ocean, it just makes me so happy.
On our first night in Nai Yang I had a whole bbq-ed white snapper, never had white snapper before; flaky, fresh, delicious. One of the best fish I had was on Ko Yao Noi. It wasn’t on the menu – the owner/ chef was telling me about a local dish, it sounded awesome so I asked if he would make it for me and he kindly said yes. The whole fish was steamed with lemongrass, chilli, lime and coconut, it was screaming with flavour.
One really outstanding meal was at The Cliff. It’s a special place – amazing view, styled really well, great service – Dad’s prawns and steak were spot on, my fish was beautiful.
Ah, this was another outstanding one, but so different. We’d been bike riding around Koh Samui. We were hot, sweaty, starving! I’d read about the Ban Hua Thanon Seafood Restaurant so we were glad when we actually found it. It’s a proper fisherman’s joint – gear all over the walls, tanks of creatures, wooden seats & benches right by the harbour. I went off piste with the menu again and ordered fried rice with fish for both of us. This huge pile of rice arrived and it was perfect. Garlicky, chunks of meaty white fish, crunchy veg, more Singha please…
And then there was our last night. Man, I always stress about the last night dinner. On Hat Nai Thon we weren’t awash with options, or cash actually (!) but Mr Oody’s at the North end of the beach was great for us. We chose our fish straight from a pile of ice, ordered it bbq-ed with sides and ate crispy spring rolls at our sand dune table while we waited. It was a perfect last dinner together.

bananas

With Australia’s banana shortage in full crisis it was a pleasure to be back in the land of plenty.
In Chaweng I had some excellent banana pancakes, just how I like ‘em: fluffy, big chunks of proper banana, all extras on the side. Yesssss. I made a good pass at recreating them at the awesome buffet breakfast the next morning.
When we walked from Mae Nam to Bo Phut we passed a few different street food stalls. Dad was intrigued by this, well, I was too to be fair, it never stops being interesting to me – what’s that, and how do you eat that. I got some of the deep fried bananas that I’d had before in Bang Wan. They taste so good you just know the oil is the absolute worst kind. We didn’t care right then, we both enjoyed them.
I kept trying to find the banana & rice wrapped in leaves that I’d had before, I love that stuff, with the brown sugar and peanuts, but I struggled to find any around the islands. The closest I got was little leaf-wrapped packets of sticky rice at Kamala.

curries

The best curry I had was on Mae Nam beach, it was yellow southern curry, loaded with potato and other veg. It was creamy, warm and delicious. Ko Yao Noi delivered another winner, a green curry this time. Man, it was hot, took me two rounds of rice to see that baby through!! Good though…
A surprise winner was the curry that I had on the day trip around Ao Ang Thong. I had a tonne of food that was just for me (only vego on board) but the only thing I touched was the green curry because it was so delicious.
Dad was cool. His first curry wasn’t what he was expecting but I was impressed that he tried some others, and he came to enjoy the Thai, soupy version of their curry.

phad thai

Phad thai in Thailand. This is when I turn into a proper Brit.. ‘it’s not like the one I have at home’. Well, it’s not. In Australia you get loaded with veg and the sauce is stickier. Yes, Aussies make better phad thai than the Thais I’m afraid. That said, I order it time and time again because nothing tastes better on the beach – crispy bean sprouts, crunchy peanuts, lime lime lime, heaven. And nothing goes better with Singha, they’re made for each other.

drinks

Sabai Bungalows bungaows did the most brilliant coffee. Honestly, we’re in the middle of nowehere and they knock out this tasty, rich, creamy coffee, incredible.

The first iced-coffee I had in Thailand was in error, communication error if you will. But actually it hit the spot – Dad and I were half way through a coach-journey tiring day and the cold, sweetness was awesome. In the Bo Phut Fishermen’s Village we went for round two. I ordered black this time and swooned at how good it was. Yes, swooned. And from then we were hooked and sought out the little nescafe cans wherever we could.

Some other first for me: green tea with jasmine and coconut water. Green tea I’ve always struggled with but this was a cold tea, OK, it was in a can, but whatever, it’s the most palatable I’ve ever found it to be, in fact it was yum. And the coconut water was great too, I liked it most when it had chunks of coconut floating in it.

Conclusions

Thailand is a beautiful, special place. I’ve had a real range of experiences here: travelling with Lisa, visiting Baan San Fan and now travelling with Dad. Consistently the travel has been excellent, the people charming, the food mouthwatering, the sights pleasing, the sport easy. This was a particularly special trip, I’m a lucky girl that things worked out how they did, and to follow it up with another stay in Bang Wan was awesome. There’ll be more Thailand in my future, I want to feel the sand between my toes, the Singha in my fingers and the sun on my neck.

Namaste xLuce

Gallery




first night cocktails, Nai Yang







karsts, Ao Phang Nga



our cheery guides! Ao Phang Nga



quick eats, somewhere in Surat Thani as we travelled to Ko Samui







big Buddha, Bo Phut







massive walk to the highest point on the island, Ao Ang Thong





black monkeys, Ao Ang Thong





‘lemonade’ on Buddha Day, Chaweng




Swiiiing Bar, Lamai


birthday fun, Ko Samui







full moon rising, Ko Phang Ngan





morning after (look at the other people!)

last sunset together, Nai Thon


Kamala


3 Comments »

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Diary: Bali said:

    […] and reflecting across the still ocean • the last time i saw the moon rise was on my birthday in Thailand with Dad, good memories • about turn • i’ve run past some seriously nice hotels, enjoy people! • […]

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Ubud-Sanur-Phuket-Phang Nga said:

    […] Beach Resort where i’ve stayed before. yup, there’s the room that Dad and i were in last year, ha • not much has changed in Nai Yang, sweet. including the massage prices, super sweet • foot […]

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Koh Tao, Thailand said:

    […] be bothered, sorry. What I did see was typical of other coastal places I’ve seen in Thailand, which made me perfectly perfectly happy as I walked along with my gear in the quiet of the […]

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