A Travellerspoint blog

February 2016

Thailand - Koh Mak


View Honeymoon Tour on Daft Slags Do..'s travel map.

Our small mini bus left Bangkok at 8am on Friday 22nd January. We were cramped inside for a 5 & 1/2 hour journey with a young couple who were constantly taking selfies - a picture of the inside of a mini bus is what everyone wants to see, you get a real sense of the fun you are experiencing. Sarcasm over, we stopped at a rest point to which we were ushered onto a small train like truck vehicle - the ones children go on around zoos, you know?! This peculiar transportation took us to the ferry port and we boarded for a 40 minute journey across to the island of Koh Mak. Once we stepped foot on the island we were immediately approached by a taxi man, we accepted his services and he drove us the short journey to our dwelling - Banana Sunset Bungalows. Down the dirt road strewn with coconuts, that no one will make use of, and we were checking in with the boisterous Cambodian receptionist/waiter/bar man Tom. We were offered fresh pineapple, given toilet paper and shown to our room. A modest bungalow with en suite "wet room" and a faint musty smell, albeit very conformable and only a few meters from the waters edge. After showers we went back up to the bar for a spot of lunch overlooking the sea, then down the adjoining board-walk and into the sea. As much as Jack makes fun of my jelly shoes they were extremely useful over the rocky sea bed, I ultimately had the last laugh as Jack had to wear manky wet suit boots that had previously had other men's wretched feet in. Urgh. Plus my jelly shoes have glitter in a look pretty in the sunshine.
A trip to Banana Sunset is a must for anyone visiting the island, as it has an amazing viewpoint to watch the sunset over the sea. We spent the remainder of the evening at the bar, where the music was a good volume and a chilled, relaxed atmosphere ensued. They even had a pool table, table football, darts and other games to keep us entertained.

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The following morning we pretty much did the same, had breakfast overlooking the sea then chilled at the bar and swam in the sea. Drank beer in the evening and played games.

The next day was a little more active, we packed up our rucksacks and hired push bikes for the day. It was tough riding, with some big hills and questionable gears/breaks on the bikes. We rode down into the small village and stopped at a restaurant called the "Food Art Hut" and had a big old breakfast washed down with fresh fruit shakes. Delicious. Although Jack did get the shits from some dodgy ham (suspected). Swings and roundabouts. We carried on riding around the island where only two months previously had the main road been finished and about every 15-20mins you would see a scooter, car or another human being. Back to the bungalow for a skype with the family and a shower and we were riding back out into the village for dinner. We tried to have a beer back at the bungalow bar but Jack's bowels weren't up to it so we played Yahtzee in the room instead.

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Monday we had booked in for a cooking course from 10am-2pm. So we walked the short distance from the bungalows and down towards Smile Cooking School. We were greeted by Leng, who teaches the class and given hibiscus tea which helped to settle Jack's stomach. The class took place on Leng's terrace overlooking the sea, a beautiful and serene setting to learn how to make delicious food! Leng offers a class from either 10am-2pm or 3pm-7pm and each class has four spaces. Luckily for us we were the only two that booked for the morning class, so we had Leng all to ourselves! We were given a small cookbook and began by learning how to make pad thai, after we chopped and prepped we moved over to the small woks on burners and it took seconds to make. We got to munch on it afterwards and it was so tasty! We then started to prepare ingredients for meals such as fried tofu with cashew nuts and stir fried vegetables with Chinese kale. After this Leng's assistant brought out a large structure filled with colourful ingredients and we learnt how to make green curry and penaeng curry from scratch! It was hard work on the pestle and mortar. Leng taught us that you should separate the coconut milk into cream and milk rather than pouring it all straight in. The cream should be used like oil in the beginning, the milk for the curry and a little cream at the end. Once everything was made we were directed to the table in the garden to feast on all the food, Leng even served us blue rice that she grows in her garden. An amazing experience and we'll definitely be cooking a LOT of Thai food when were back home - which you should all look forward to!

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Food coma in full flow, we headed back over to the bungalows for a well deserved nap. Later in the afternoon and after checking our insurance policy, we rented a scooter from Banana Sunset for 24 hours and went out for yet more food! The bungalow bar drew us back in and we spent the evening drinking beer.

We did find out after we initially booked the transport to the island that the beaches were riddled with sand flies. You can ward them off by covering yourself with coconut oil, but this surely meant that you would cook like a roast potato in the sunshine! We hopped on the scooter and rode around to Vista view point to have breakfast and take in the breathtaking views. Hopping back on the scooter we then travelled to the south of the island to buy ferry tickets for the follow day's move. Once there we took a walk down the pier and decided to lather our legs with coconut oil so we could have a swim in the sea. We travelled even further around the island to Ban Laem Son where there was a small bar overlooking a quiet beach, we sat and had a refreshing drink and bumped into Leng and her buddies. The return journey took about 40 minutes to get back, however the jungle and rubber trees either side of the road were a perfectly peaceful setting.

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For our last evening, you guessed it - we had beers at banana sunset bar and enjoyed a game of pool and chatted to Tom and the team. We had a final leisurely morning eating breakfast overlooking the sea before we had to check out at 12pm and got a free lift down to the ferry port ready to board the speedboat over to Koh Chang.

Koh Mak is a really beautiful little island that is very much off the beaten track and life moves at a steady pace. We found out the island is owned by 5 different families and all decisions taken co-operatively, thus preventing the island from turning into the next Phuket. They even have an island AGM for all residents to discuss island issues and agree a plan for the coming year. Whilst it doesn't have the dramatic scenery of the west coast islands it makes up for it in other ways and it is certainly not touristy in the traditional sense. If you want a laid back, pretty, friendly island experience, then Koh Mak is the choice!

Until next time....

J&K x

Posted by Daft Slags Do.. 07:58 Archived in Thailand Tagged landscapes trees sea sunset palm_trees travelling travelling_honeymoon koh_mak Comments (2)

Thailand - Bangkok pt. 1

sunny
View Honeymoon Tour on Daft Slags Do..'s travel map.

On the Monday morning we ate a final breakfast on the beach at Koh Tao before boarding a Tuk Tuk from Palm Leaf resort back to the pier in time to catch the morning ferry to Chumpon. As an observatory note, we passed a quiet roadside stall which held had an entire pig's carcass divided into it's various bits. Fortunately and in spite of the 32'C heat the vendor was swatting away flys with a brush, enuring it stayed as fresh as a vest wearing, post A level, travelling lad's armpit :-)

The ferry was an all in ticket job so when we landed at Chumphon we were ushered onto a coach for the return leg of the trip to Bangkok. The coach ride was 8 hours but comfortable and definately better than the Thailand trains, dropping us in the Khao San area of Bangkok in the evening.

After a few hand directions from the thai locals and an Irish OAP (standard) we arrived at our hostel, Baan Nespatch, in a quiet cul-de-sac north of Khao San. We gladly dropped the bags and headed into the bat shit crazy night environment of Khao San to see what was on offer. We found all manner of fried insects (scorpions, grasshoppers, tarrantulas and other delicasies), women selling wrist bands with obscene phrases and other goodies, photo opportunities with snakes and lizards, offers of ping pong shows, along with the usual bar touts. We settled for a quieter restaurant just off Khao San and contrary to their bold claims (and to our disappointment) it was not the 'Best Pad Thai in Town'. It may have something to do with the waiters running across the road to collect the food...

After food we elected for a saunter down Khao San Road to take in the sights, sounds and smells. That road was mental - full of english 'lads' adorned in chang vests and red faces full off unsolicited drugs and carrying buckets of alcohol. We hung our heads in shame as we walked by, but an experience nevertheless.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast on the hostel terrace then made our way over to Wat Pho Temple, about a 30 minute walk away. Of course, we headed straight to see the reclining Buddah, a large and impressive golden statue spanning the length of the hall, with ornate drawings covering the walls and ceiling. Afterwards we wandered around the gardens of the temple and ended up in the ordination hall and sat and watched a Buddist ceremony, where monks were chanting and Thai people were taking selfies. Quite a contradiction.

Temple ticked off the list, we bartered a taxi to Siam Square where we booked tickets to see the film Spotlight at the Scala cinema -the tickets cost £2.70 each! With time to kill before the film started we walked further up to the shopping haven of 'Siam Paragon' to stock up on supplies from boots. Jack bought some drum sticks at a knock down rate to the UK then we were spent up on budget! Back across to the cinema, we walked up the wide inviting staircase and stood and stared at the beautiful ceiling for a good ten minutes. We were greeted at the entrance to screen by a smartly dressed Thai man in a yellow and white uniform, who then showed us to another smartly dressed Thai man (in a yellow and white uniform) and he showed us to our seats. The cinema was incredibly lavish and billed as a piece of 1960's thai culture, although we later sadly learned that it is proposed to be demolished to make way for another shopping mall! After the trailers were shown a message came on screen - "Let's pay homage to the King" and everybody stood up (including us) and sang the national anthem (not including us) whilst hundreds of pictures of the King filled the screen, which eventually made up a larger image of the King. Then the film started.

After a good afternoon in Siam we got a taxi back to Khao San road and went for beers and street food. We both had Pad Thai from a street vendor that cost £0.60 each and was frankly delicious! We sat and ate it on a roundabout bollard whilst watching Thai youths skateboard.

Wednesday was a day for laundry and research for the coming weeks on the hostel terrace. In the evening we had another Pad Thai and stopped at a bar called 'Bangkok Live' to watch a band who were pretty damn good, playing a meddly of western classics with the inclusion of a trombone.

On our final morning in Bangkok we headed over to Boonsiri ticket office to purchase tickets for onward travel the following morning. We stopped off at a cute coffee shop and finally had a decent cup of coffee! Then had a lovely walk along the river front and back down towards Khao San road. This being our second time in Bangkok we actually had the chance to just wander around the streets and unlike Kuala Lumpur for example, it felt spacious, safe and enjoyable.

Back at the hostel we packed up our belongings once again and went to bedfordshire ready for an early start to Kho Mak on the Friday, we say early but was only the crack of 07:00am.

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Posted by Daft Slags Do.. 21:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged temple thailand bangkok drums travelling_honeymoon Comments (1)

Thailand - Kho Tao

sunny
View Honeymoon Tour on Daft Slags Do..'s travel map.

As we approached the island of Kho Tao we began to feel a sense of familiarity, the cascading landscape brought back memories of two years ago, when we visited the island whilst holidaying.

Stepping off the Lomprayah ferry at dusk, we scrambled to locate our bags by the side of the pier and headed down with the throngs of travellers to the pier edge, where a gaggle of taxi drivers were vying for attention. There was a bored looking man stood to one side presenting a sign that said “Jack and friend” – I have been demoted in under seven months of marriage by a taxi man. Our hotel – Palm Leaf – sent the taxi to collect us and bring us safely to them. The room we had selected was unavailable on the first evening (we already knew this on booking) therefore we opted for the superior villa for the night. Oh it was luxury – clean bathroom, nearly hot shower, king size bed and…a TV! I suppose we are allowed to relish in a bit of luxury seeing as it is our honeymoon. The room had a certain magic about it, akin to sleeping in your parent’s bedroom when they are away, it’s not a secret but it’s so much better than your room! It was definitely a stark contrast to the room we had on the last evening in Khao Sok, with ants parading around the floor and a dripping sink (I’m not precious, but a constant dripping does begin to ebb away at the soul)
After being shown into the room and jumping on the bed like children as soon as the woman left, we headed down the familiar route along the beach to get dinner. A well-deserved pizza and onion rings washed down with a couple of bottles of Chang. So tiring was the day of travel that we went straight back to our luxury, we showered away the stale smell of sweat and climbed into our clean, comfy bed to watch Jim Carey in 'The Number 23' on TV. How very cultured of us.

The following morning we were up early (9:45am) to move into a standard bungalow for the next four nights, much to the delight of our budget. From here on in the days merged into one – they went something like this; breakfast, sunbathe, swim in the sea, sunbathe, lunch, sunbathe, swim in the sea, sunbathe, play bat and ball, swim in the sea, sunbathe, beer. One day it rained, but I couldn't tell you which.

Jack had his hair cut! When he showed the lady a picture of Jurgen Klopp and she eschewed him with a firm hand, we were a little worried. Especially as she got the shaver out first off then finished with the cut throat razor. Scissors featured for around 20% of the cut. Nevertheless it is the best haircut he’s ever had (in my opinion), and a bargain at £4.

On the last evening and because we’d had such a hectic week (!) we decided to treat ourselves to an hour long massage. Best massage to date, followed by a good cuppa but of the herbal variety, no Yorkshire tea or milk in sight.

Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time on Kho Tao, it was much the same as Khao Sok – changes where evident wherever you looked. New buildings being erected but left half way through. Rubbish everywhere you turned, strewn haphazardly along the beautiful shore line. A shame really as the beach itself was beginning to get smaller (depth) with the amount of buildings popping up. Two years ago there were roughly three men with long tail taxi boats dotted up and down the beach, now however there was a man every 10 paces. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but try as they might I did not want a damn 'taxi boat'. I mean where would I go? I'm in the place I want to be right now. Piss off.

Overall we had a very good time, we relaxed a hell of a lot and ate great food.

Chang is currently sponsoring our honeymoon. Beer. Every. Night. Is. Good. (and no I still don't want a taxi boat!!!)

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Posted by Daft Slags Do.. 05:41 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea sunset beach thailand dogs palm_trees koh_tao Comments (2)

Thailand - Khao Sok

National Park Jungle/Lake

sunny
View Honeymoon Tour on Daft Slags Do..'s travel map.

On the morning we left Penang we got the free ferry over to Butterworth and sweated our way to the train station to catch the 14:00 train, which was only a small four carriage affair through Malaysia and picked up more carriages at the first stop in Thailand, Hat Yai. The train rumbled along at a steady pace and we were at the Thailand border within about three hours, at which point we disembarked and went through the immigration formalities as well as ordering some train food of stir fry and fresh fruit. After a protracted stop we carried on into Thailand, the beds came down and we arrived at Surat Thani around 12:20am (LONG!!!!). Unfortunately everyone catching the train onto Bangkok at Surat Thani piled on leaving us to barge through a carriage of people in the single gangway, only just getting off the train as the whistle went and it started going. We had pre-booked an apartment in Surat Thani and the taxi driver was at the station to give us a lift.

The apartment was billed as being close to the station but was actually a right old trek away. Therefore the next morning with no one around we walked back to the station with full kit and lost around 5 kilos in sweat, but we found a nice man who sorted us out with a mini-bus to Khao Sok. The white mini-buses in Thailand are notorious for being driven by lunatics and piled high with people/baggage/+everything else. They also pick up people at any point along the busy road adding to the experience, and therefore we had the usual white knuckle ride but made it to Khao Sok in around two hours.

We had booked to stay in Smiley Jungle bungalows for a night, their lake house for two nights and then the jungle bungalow again as we'd stayed here two years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately the bungalows had gone downhill since we stayed last and were a bit grimey, but the hammock with the jungle view was just the same. There is a little strip of restaurants in Khao Sok so we went for a nice meal and headed to the Reggae bar for a few bottles of Chang in the evening (after a massage).

The next day we were out for 08:00am (early!!!) and got in the minibus to the Smiley lake house. The minibus drove around 1 hour to the Khao Sok National Park pier and we got a longtail boat for around 1.5 hours to the lake house. We had been here a couple of years ago and found it to be 'same same but different' in that there was now 23 new floating rooms and a diving platform into the lake, therefore a lot busier. Luckily we were in one of the end rooms away from the dining/drinking pontoon so it was nicely peaceful in the evenings, especially as on the last evening around 60 self styled 'Oliver Reed' Thais arrived at the Lakehouse for a 12 hour bender. We had opted to forego the tours (ie. jungle safari and trekking) as we had done these before and Jack actually saw more wildlife in the kayak.

The first day we relaxed and swam in the lake, the second day we relaxed and swam in the lake, then for a change we relaxed and swam in the lake on the third day :-) Jack enjoyed the diving board and managed a few back/front flops off the pontoon. The climate at the lake was hot hot hot and the lake was equally warm so staying cool was an issue but we managed. Whilst we really enjoyed the time at the lake it had changed a lot from when we went previously through the expansion so had lost a little of the magic, but star gazing on your balcony in the evening made up for it!!! The highlight for me (Jack) was when I took a kayak out in the evening and came across a troop of monkeys coming down to the lake edge to drink and scavenge on the water's edge which was very nice to observe, made me think about how beautiful the world...not really, actually made me think great, monkeys.

On the third day we reversed the trip back to Khao Sok Jungle stretch and went out for some dinner and back to the reggae bar where the owner showed off his fire poi skills.

In the morning we arose and caught a minibus back to Surat Thani to catch the ferry to Koh Tao, but unfortunately the driver dropped us off at a ferry agent (where he likely made commission) rather than the official ferry company. After some short words with the agent who tried to pressure us into buying ferry tickets we caught a Tuk-tuk to the proper ferry office and after a few hours caught the bus to the pier where we got on the Lomprayah catamaran ferry to Koh Toa, arriving in the evening for the next chapter...

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Posted by Daft Slags Do.. 06:18 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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