Published: January 15th 2011December 25th 2010
Ok, so it’s kind of becoming a weird tradition now that whenever we are going somewhere we end up spending the night in an airport and guess what…our Christmas trip away starts with an overnighter in Bangkok’s airport! We will warn you now, this is quite a long blog as we had a very, let us say, eventful
time with transport on this Thailand trip. About the panorama...it makes the beach look like we are on a tiny, deserted island, which we weren't - for some reason it distorted as we stitched it together and looks a bit strange. Can we have an A for effort though?
Our entertainment for the evening was taken care of almost immediately by some Italian tourists who didn’t speak English trying to order their sandwiches at the newly opened airport Subway. It was hilarious watching the Italians shouting P-R-O-S-C-U-I-T-T-O over and over - we honestly thought the British were the only nationality who had a ‘if they don’t understand you, just shout louder’ mentality! There was also a lot of finger jabbing towards salads and sauces, looks of disgust when there wasn’t any olive oil for their salads (yes really!); and then, much to the
dismay of the assistants, the Italians tried to walk away without paying for their food!
Entertainment over we settled in to wait for our flight. We had decided to punish ourselves a little more than usual this trip as the flights to Krabi were double the price of those to Surat Thani…what’s an additional 3 hours of travelling after a night of no sleep in an airport to save £100?! The flight was ok, but very commercial – we were in the air for 45 minutes and the cabin crew had time to do ‘the rounds’ with the food/drinks trolley twice and when we were on the last approach to landing with the landing gear down they were still trying to sell bus/boat tickets to Koh Samui!
Exiting the airport we found the good old transport mafia in full swing – there were no taxis and there was one company called Phantip Travel who ran all the transport to and from the airport and it was 100 baht per person to go (to what we thought) was the bus terminal…all the info we had researched suggested that we would be taken to wherever we wanted in Surat Thani,
Christmas Day meal
Massaman curry with tofu and vegetables and chicken with cashew nuts...mmmm!
and the guy in charge of the tickets kept saying ‘bus terminal’…ha, well, it all went a little bit wrong. We arrived at Phantip Travel’s office somewhere in Surat Thani town where there was a bus conveniently parked which was departing to Krabi ‘soon, soon, hurry, hurry’. We had a bit of a scout around and there really wasn’t any other option but to get this bus, so we bought our tickets for 150 baht (£3) each and confirmed we would be dropped at the bus terminal in Krabi town. We get on one of the oldest most uncomfortable buses ever (and that’s saying something considering the transport we have experienced over the last 4 years!) and settled in for a bit of a harrowing journey.
Really the journey should only take 2 hours as it isn’t that far, but it took 3 hours with lots of stopping and starting – this combined with the dodgy guy sat across the aisle from Donna who was scoping out peoples bags…we shut our eyes for a couple of minutes and opened them to find him down near the floor looking to see where the zip was on Donna’s bag. After that
our eyes didn’t close, we kept them on him until he got off the bus! Arriving in Krabi we were taken to a transport centre (see the pic of Donna looking decidedly unimpressed!) which was 10km north of Krabi town itself…hmm bus terminal, yeh right.
This is precisely what we hate about organised tourist transport – you are herded around like cattle who haven’t got brains. We would have preferred to have done this journey independently but Phantip Travel had everything so stitched up in Surat Thani it turned out to be impossible. Other people were just blindly following what the guy in the transport centre was telling them and handing over more money to take them to their final destination. After Donna managed to have an argument with the guy about the (very wrong) information he was giving people, Neil convinced him to get a minibus to stop at the transport centre to pick us up and take us to Koh Lanta (for 300 baht or £6 each). We were waiting with 3 other travellers who had been sold tickets in Bangkok for a ferry which they had no chance whatsoever of making…but not to worry, for an
extra fee the not-so-knowledgeable transport guy could organise for them to get on the minibus with us!
Crazy minibus driver aside (who obviously had a passionate love of cuddly toys judging by his dashboard) we arrived in Koh Lanta safe and sound if a little tired and traumatised! Our trauma wasn’t over as crazy-driver-man dropped us in the middle of nowhere; now we knew we weren’t in the main town but we weren’t quite sure how far away we were from Long beach (our final destination), we walked onto the road and the tuk-tuk drivers wanted 150 baht to take us, so we dug in our heels and walked and as it turns out it wasn’t too far…only 20 minutes walk. We told you we had an eventful time with transport!
We spent our first two nights in a place called Best House, which was run by the nicest Thai lady ever. The room we had was nice enough, a fan with cold water for 600 baht (£12.50)…but as you all probably know by now, Donna hates washing her hair in cold water showers so we soon scoped out a nearby place for 800 baht (£16) a night.
This place was our own self-contained little bungalow with veranda, hot water, air con, fridge and cable tv (one of the channels was ITV surprisingly, which was very weird!) which we thought was a reasonably good deal for over the Christmas period.
The weather on Koh Lanta wasn’t quite what we expected for the time of year, although La Niña seems to be playing havoc with the weather in SE Asia at the moment! We did have a couple of days of bad weather (ie heavy rain) and a couple of days of very cloudy weather which we took advantage of to walk to the far south end of the beach (it only took 25 minutes!) and to the main town which Donna kept calling Fruit Salad Man (it’s really called Saladan) – this walk to the main town took us about an hour and a half. Fruit Salad Man is a nice little town with a small market selling the usual tourist clothes and paintings and lots of tourists paying over the odds for things like 600B for a sarong (that’s £12.50!). The reason we walked to these places was due to the rip off tuk-tuk mafia who
were charging a fortune for the journey’s, and anyway we didn’t mind walking as it was exercise!
The weather improved and we settled into a nice routine of beach going, although for a couple of days the sea was FULL and we mean full of jellyfish…we went in the water, stayed in there less than 30 seconds and managed to get stung at least 10 times. Luckily they cleared off soon enough and we were free to splash in the nice warm, calm sea. Considering it was Christmas, Lanta was a lot quieter than we expected – we reckoned that Long beach was only at half capacity which we really weren’t expecting; but it was nice for it not to be too crowded. As we haven’t been around too many tourists from Europe/Australia/UK, we were quite shocked at how loud and large some people are! We lost count of the amount of times we could hear full conversations from across a busy restaurant and we are shocked that the average size of people seems to have got a lot bigger since we lived in the UK and travelled in Europe. We won’t say anything about snotty travellers, as we
will start to sound like a broken record ;)
So a little bit about the beach – the clue is in the name - Long beach! It was a long beach (5km maybe?) and it’s one of the cleanest we have seen in Thailand in recent years. It reminded us of lots of different beaches we had seen in many different countries and we felt instantly at home here. It helped that we found the people of Koh Lanta to be some of the friendliest we have come across in Thailand, next to those in the North-East (Isaan) region and the food was to die for – all the curries were gorgeous, a particular favourite being Massaman curry which has it’s origins in this area of Thailand…it was the best we have ever had.
If you are visiting Long beach on Koh Lanta, we definitely advise you stay away from the restaurants on the beach. Usually all restaurants in Thailand are good value, but the ones actually on Long beach were just that little bit more expensive than they should have been, lacked a little in taste and served 75% of the portion we would expect to get.
Best House room
it's a bit messy!
One particular restaurant to stay away from on the beach is Thai Cat, not great quality, expensive and really weird staff…just gushing and waaaay over the top but hey, that’s what tourists want we suppose? We just found it very, very creepy!
Instead, head for the back road – it was here we found fantastic, good value food. For lunch we ate at a place called Prig Thai which is in front of a tattoo shop. The food there was great for lunchtime and the couple who ran the place gave us extra large portions and double helpings of banana shakes every day we went…do we look like we need fattening up or something? We really did struggle with the amount of food we were given there as our tummies must have shrunk! Our evening choice of restaurant was called Krua Kritsana, just along the way from our lunch time choice. There were 3 women who worked in Krua Kritsana who did everything – and we mean everything - wait tables, take orders, prepare the food, cook the food, handle the bills and wow, they worked so hard. The food which was produced from their little ‘kitchen’ was AMAZING!
It sometimes took a while for them to get the food out, but it was definitely worth the wait. It was particularly great (for Donna) as to how easy it was to get vegetarian food, anything on the menu could be cooked with just veg and tofu if you wanted it.
Koh Lanta really is a fantastic place and we thought we chose really well for our Christmas on the beach, especially as Thailand seems to have cornettos and ice lollies perfected! As Neil’s family will attest to, he is an ice cream and ice lolly freak, the cornettos were desserts on cones and the ice lollies were pure fruit just frozen on the stick….mmmm, Neil is drooling at the memory!
The only downside to Thailand is the cost. Prices of most things have gone up a little over the last few years, the problem really is the strength of the Thai baht which doesn’t seem to be weakening…this made it really expensive to drink any alcohol, so we made do with chocolate milk and manao soda ;). The chocolate milk is great with some nutella-like tasting wafers they sell in Thailand and the manao soda is a
fizzy pop like bitter lemon for you Brits reading, it’s delicious and something we manage to get addicted to every time we are in Thailand. On a more serious note regarding money, for 14 days in Thailand we spent £600 in total; we remember the days when we could have a month on £900 including drinking ourselves into a stupor (admittedly not so healthy!) every night. Ah the good old days, the world is definitely changing for us travellers!
We had a couple of funny (well one was more scary) experiences with critters in Koh Lanta – first the scary one. We were walking along a grassy path stamping our feet for snakes like the good Aussies (Andrea, Ben, Joe if you are reading!) told us to and what almost slithers over Donna’s flip flopped foot? A SNAKE!!!! Ok, it was only about 30cm long but it scared the living daylights out of us and Donna jumped about 6 feet into the air while Neil giggled (at this point Donna says Neil wouldn’t have been giggling if the snake almost slithered over his foot). Our other experience was with a Gary…that’s our nickname for the little geckos which are
so common in Asia. Our Gary in the room liked having a bath in a little puddle of water and then we found him snacking on the crumbs of cheese flavoured crisps…who knew Gary the Gecko liked crisps and baths?
So our time in Lanta soon came to an end, we were sad to leave because the place was so nice and because we were dreading the journey back to Surat Thani for our flight to Bangkok. We had assumed (we really should learn about assuming things) that we would be taken directly to the airport. The journey wasn’t too bad and we actually made it back to Surat Thani town in less than 2 hours. So the minibus dropped some people off at a travel agents for their transport to Koh Phangan and then drove us to a restaurant-cum-travel agent. We had to wait here for about an hour while more and more travellers gathered to go to various parts of Thailand, we were eventually put on a tuk-tuk and driven to where the airport bus goes from…yes, you’ve guessed it – Phantip Travel's office! The funny and extremely annoying thing was that it was diagonally across the
The fab beach looking north...
...we did feel sorry for you people getting bad weather in Europe/UK - honestly we did!
road from where the Koh Phangan lot were dropped…grrrr, why didn’t they just let us off there, but oh no everyone had to get their chance at making money from the foreigners! That’s the worst thing really, these transport people know how long people have been travelling and that people will need to eat, so conveniently where they drop you is in the middle of nowhere and even more conveniently they have an overpriced restaurant for you to get food from!
Well we made it to Bangkok in one piece and took the new train link to our hotel…wow, what an improvement. We paid 15 baht (31p) each on the city line which took us to Phaya Thai skytrain station in 20 minutes and we then transferred to get to our hotel on Sukhumvit Road which was a further 25 baht (52p). This really beats the usual dealings with the airport taxi mafia which is a VERY positive change in our book. Our hotel was great (brilliant breakfast!) and central for all our shopping needs. We haven’t been to Bangkok in years, so it was nice to see how it had changed (or not, really) and we thoroughly enjoyed
the shopping in the huge MBK and Donna loved the fact she could have her hair done!
So after almost 4 and a half years of being away, still the most common question we get asked is ‘don’t you get bored’…to answer that, nope! We love travelling and experiencing new things (even if we do have a bad time of it with transport!), we enjoy our lifestyle of popping to whichever country or beach takes our fancy and it’s definitely a lifestyle we have become accustomed to and love. Considering during our first Christmas away in 2006, we were in New Zealand and were commenting it felt ‘funny’ to have a hot Christmas, now we couldn’t imagine it any other way!
Our next adventure is with Donna’s parents who are coming to visit us…we are reliably informed that at the time of writing, this is 6 weeks, 1 day and 22 hours away!
There are more photos below