Sunday, May 31, 2015

Basking on the Beaches of Thailand Jan. and Feb. 2015

After the Batad Rice Terraces, I retraced my route back to Manila by bus, light rail, jeepney and taxi to the Manila Airport and the return flight to Bangkok. Shortly after returning to Seattle, I went to Mexico and unfortunately, the Carlos Slim Telmex internet system there is slower than most third world countries. Plus he has a virtual monopoly on internet service to Loreto, Baja Sur California. As a result it was nearly impossible to upload pictures to my Flikr account which is what I use to plug in pictures here. Now I am in Seattle so I can do these travel updates. The next blog posting will cover the several hikes I led while in the Loreto area of BCS, Mexico.

The Ao Pudsa Beach by the Pudsa Bungalows

I spent about two weeks traveling around Thailand both before and after my Philippines Adventure in 2015. Over the years I have made several trips exploring many places in Thailand, but this time I chose to travel to the many beautiful islands and beaches of Thailand.

My favorite beaches are on the National Park Island of Ko Samet. There are about 14 white sand beaches on this small island with most of them within walking distance from the entrance to the park.
To get to Ko Samet, I took the Sky Train to the Ekamai stop and got one of the buses that leaves about every hour and takes about 4 hours to get to Ban Phe where I took the ferry. I bought the one way combination bus/ferry ticket for 273 Baht. From the bus terminal, I walked across the road to the Ban Phe pier and to the end of the pier for the next ferry. They say it goes every hour, but it actually leaves only when there are 20 passengers. The boat ride takes about 40 minutes.

Here are some monks on their way to Ko Samet.

Once on shore, I took a sontang to the park entrance and paid the 200 baht entrance fee before continuing on the twisty road to the Ao Pudsa Beach and the Pudsa Bungalows where I usually stay. It is right on the water's edge and beach walk way. Notice the elaborate vertical rock garden in front.

Some visitors travel by speedboat to many of these beaches, but they usually have to make a wet landing.

Here's a dock where those who want to keep their feet dry disembark.

Since Ko Samet is fairly close to Bangkok, the weekends are packed with lot of Bangkok partygoers who tend to stay at the larger resorts toward the north end of the island and not this fan cooled bungalow further away.

There is a trail that runs the length of Ko Samet where you climb up over bluff after bluff to beautiful sugar sand beaches like this one.

After a long stay here, I headed up to Pattaya for some interesting nght life that balanced out the beach time.

Since I was last here, I have noticed there are a lot of Russian visitor that you can both hear and see. The merchants have accommodated by changing their advertisements for customers to include Cyrillic scripts. There are also lots more Chinese visitors than before. Many of the Chinese seem to travel in large tour groups with the leader hoisting a tour flag so their group stays together.

The next island I visited was Krabi where I enjoyed going on an island hopping tour similar to the one I went on 10 years before. The first stop was to the Railey Beach area where the beach is surrounding by karsts that come staight out of the water. Lots of climbers attempt to scale many of these karsts.

The picture from below is about 10 years ago when the crowds were much less.

This beach is where the movie "The Beach" was filmed and was a pleasant place to spend a few hours before going to the next spot where we would do some snorkeling.

Just off shore of the next island we were able to snorkel just off the boat and were surrounded by curious fish.

When I came to this beach  on Tup Island that connects this island to the island in the distant right at low tide, I was amazed at the number of boats and visitors that were here compared to when I was here 10 years ago.


Here is what it looked like 10 years ago.

From Krabi, I headed by bus to Ko Lanta at a cost of 350 baht which would pick me up at my hotel and drop me off at my Ko Lanta hotel. I wish I would have taken the boat at 470 baht for a 2 hr. 15 min. ride. It was Chinese New Year weekend, and there was a major bridge construction project, so our mini van had two ferry crossings instead of the bridge. The last ferry was very small, and it only held about 20 cars. We waited in line for about 3 hours until it was our turn to cross. Our total travel time was about 6 hours for a trip that would have normally taken just 3 hrs.

Once I arrived and had the driver take me to the Phra Ae Beach where I would find many guest houses, except many of them were already full. I found the Funkey Monkey Bungalows which were just a block off the beach for 500 baht per night for a fan room and cold water showers.

The following day I rented a motor scooter for just 200 baht and toured the island beaches. There were long stretches of white sandy beaches with small guesthouses and restaurants that fronted on the white beaches. Much more tranquil and laid back here with the many smaller scale guesthouses and restaurants. This is a place I will return to, but not the Funkey Monkey---too funkey even for me. 

 Here are some beach pictures.

I had dinner at the Time for Lime Restaurant and cooking school overlooking the Andaman Sea.
I enjoyed the first course of a creamed squash soup as the sun began to set. This was followed by two shrimp dishes---one crispy fried and the other in a tomato sauce and rice. The entre was sea bass with a caper mint sauce and rice. Desert was a lemon curd topped with mint. Yummy!

I headed to Phuket by ferry boat which took about 4 hours and cost 500 baht---about $20 USD. We transferred to another boat while drifting about just off the Phi Phi Island shore before continuing on to Phuket.
Lots of beach time here with lounge chairs along with water sports. Night time activities are plentiful along the walking street, Bangala. as well as many other streets.

Although I did not visit the following Thai beaches this time I thought I would share a few of my pictures from earlier trips.

Ko Chang Island had this funky Treehouse Guesthouse where the restaurant was perched over the water. Many of the bungalows, like mine, were right along the waters edge. Here the showers were with buckets of cold water and the toilets used buckets to flush. The room fans were turned off during the day time.

I enjoy visiting the Hat Lamai part of Ko Samui since it is quieter than Chaweng where most of the large resorts are located. I stayed at the Coconut Beach Resort along the palm-covered beach front.

Hin-Ta and Hin-Ya---Grandfather and Grandmother rocks.

Hua Hin is down the western side of Thailand on the Gulf of Thailand that was made popular by the King of Thailand back in 1922 who had a summer palace built there. It is more of a family destination than Pattaya or Phuket with lots of high rise hotels and condos while maintaining smaller guest house near the pier area.

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