Published: January 27th 2011December 29th 2010
Sitting at home planning these trips well in advance is a gas. Working through a forward thinking diary, its easy to tick a couple of boxes to decide to stay two nights at one place, three at the next before moving on again etc. Sounds great on paper. The average human being, living in a cocooned world that the ingests all the information they are given on the internet, clicks buttons on the laptop & assumes that everything will flow smoothly with times actually relating to a local clock or published timetable - is running almost certainly down the road to insanity. The reality generally evolves into a game of Catch Up as an inevitable delay here and there caused by a delayed flight, missed bus or cancelled train; chucks the whole schedule into mayhem. The feeling of security that you feel as you leave home leads to a slowly tightening noose around the neck, as we discovered - yet again this time. In the long run the voice of experience tells me that its best to plot a route as best you can geographically but leave the actual dates fairly open without booking too much in advance, with at least
one day in five spare so as to be able to blend the gaps into each other. Its the old Glass Half Full question. The pessimist may well ponder on lost days & what may have been achieved in that intangible time but the optimist will embrace the occasional extra day to fill with fun when plans have gone well, thus surviving the initial headaches with the added benefit of a more positive outcome. To the realist, the glass was probably 50% larger than was necessary in the first place. Bottom line being, you can easily buy time in advance but claiming it back retrospectively is kinda tricky.
We now found ourselves having eight days at one specific location which is something of a luxury when on the move. A chance to properly unpack the bags & make a nest. Unwind at last & pretend that you are on holiday rather than competing on some Japanese TV game show where endurance beyond the call of duty is called for because of the fiascos encountered on the way. Mai Pen Rai fits the bill perfectly as a retreat from whatever the rest of us regard as being the Real
Beware The Noose Of Time
It Follows You Like The Grim Reaper. Often Unobserved But Always Lurking Somewhere In The Background.
World. A beautiful beach backed with a suitably palm covered mountain range dotted with a staccato of twee looking stilted wooden bungalows on various levels that look like Mother Nature herself had perched them there. The calibre of guest also being in the World Class category. Some days when the weather closes in and the warm rain comes down, most folk spend a fair chunk of the day hanging out in the restaurant. Inevitably striking up conversations with fellow guests, each & every one of which has a story to tell. Its always fascinating to meet folk getting out and embracing the world from a different perspective from their homeland. We are very lucky to be alive at this point in time. An apex between living on a constantly shrinking planet where reasonably cheap travel has opened many doors to alternative lifestyles but at the same time having enough hidden gems tucked away to discover before they end up like Benidorm.
The hot weather subsided after Boxing Day so we played a trump card & took a jeep out for a couple of days to get a feel of the rest of the island. A brief
spurt over the rocky road & down to Haad Rin to score some cash from one of those bank roulette machines payed off for a change, as in previous visits the Bank Of Halifux had properly shafted us (see Chip & Pin?. Skint & Grim! Ko Samui
). Had a wander along the beach, still somewhat devastated by a combination of a recent storm blowing in and the wreckage caused by 20,000 idiots damaging their livers & the scenery in the course of the commercial enterprise locally referred to as the Christmas Beach Party. Despite the many tractors vainly attempting to shovel bucket loads of shit from the otherwise clean soft sand, it looked a mess. Disappointed, we made excuses to ourselves & headed north. Ko Phangan being the way it is has a remarkable variety of micro climates. On the east coast it may well be stormy & grey on a wednesday morning but take a trek 12 miles over the mountain road to the west & a sun filled sky complete with a calm sea awaits.
The drive up the west coast inevitably involved a stop at the Masons Arms. A little piece of Blighty thats been plucked from the ground
So Many pubs - So little Time . . .
Actually, None can Quite Match The Masons Arms.
in Aylesbury & dropped here amongst the coconut palms. Guiness on draught, Magners with ice in a proper Magners glass, steak & ale pie on the menu, Tottenham vs Aston Villa on the telly. Its a strange feeling, to spend time and money to get somewhere different but then inadvertently seek out some place with all the familiar aspects of home. Its almost a Thai thing in some respects. Same Same But Different once again. Despite the fact that its quite a big world, KP is quite a small place & we happened to bump into a few of the Gang Of Ten at the Masons who had ventured out in a taxi pick up to rendezvous with the eleventh member of their entourage arriving by boat at the nearby port of Thong Sala. After a refreshing pit stop & swapping fone numbers to facilitate a ride back for the youngsters later on, our bunch headed further north stopping for a sunset spectacular at Haad Son.
We had stayed here three or four years ago & had quite a good time. Primarily because it was akin to Fawlty Towers in the sun. Looked good but .
Beware The Giant Fish.
When The Sea Is Stormy, Some Whoppers Get Washed up At Haad Son.
. . . . New owners have since moved in & spent a fair bit on building the place into something better. The most noticeable improvement being the decking stretching out over the rocky headland with a kind of pier reaching out into the ocean. A great place to sit out at sea sipping a cocktail & watching the sunset. Finished the day meeting up with the young'uns at the port & making the bumpy ride back on the 45 minute trip to Mai Pen Rai in the dark in the more than capable HiLux loaded with eight of us. If there were a 4WD island version of Great Railway Journeys Of The World, this run would surely be featured.
There are more photos below