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Published: February 12th 2009
The Taste Of Paradise . . . .
The ferry services between the islands around here are pretty damn good. Cheap, quick & fairly regular. I really do enjoy these boat trips. There's a buzz of anticipation from the passengers. Young backpacker types mingling with the "more seasoned" travellers, a sprinkling of locals, some coming back from the dentist or bringing their pets back from the vets but mostly an excited bunch who are heading somewhere new.
There's also the phenomena of micro-climates in this part of the world. Changes can be quite drastic, not just from one island to the next but even within a few miles once on dry land. The minute we pulled into the jetty at Thong Sala, the fairly inclement weather we'd endured over the last few days cleared & the sun shone brightly for the first time. Surprised to find there was a chap holding a card with our names at the pier, as we'd only muted some 6 weeks before that we might turn up on Boxing Day. We climbed up into the back of a monster truck & headed to our very favourite spot on the planet. MaiPenRai
, Than Sadet.
A little improvement has been made to
Through The Keyhole
The only way through to the bungalows on the rocks . . .
the road over the last year, a couple more stretches have been concreted although most of the last 20 minutes over the tops is still pretty hairy! Fantastic feeling to get back there once again, one of those places that seems to not change at all. Warm hugs from Fiona who - for the first time in our 4 visits was neither pregnant or carrying a baby, met the kids again, Lilly is now four & Rosalie two (& a bit), true Princesses of all they survey! After a well deserved G&T, we were settled into base camp for the duration of our stay. Bungalow 39, on the rocks is one of the newer pads, set quite high up above the sea round the bay a little from the beach. This is one of those you can only get to by going through a hole in the rocks at the far end of the bay, an adventure in itself but more than worth the effort to get to.
Spent a little while unpacking, checking out the view of the sea, the funky bathroom & the upstairs suite for the small one. The style is definitely individual. Four poster
Actually 1243 steps from the bar but the final climb is a mere 39. There can be no better home from Home.
beds with mossie nets draped over, wooden floors, high ceilings, fans & a spacious balcony to chill out on. The most intriguing thing about these structures is that every beam, bed, door, toilet - in fact everything - has had to come through that little hole in the rocks. Bloody marvellous!
The first afternoon was spent hanging out around the bar on the beach, taking it all in. Hard to imagine really, Boxing Day, sitting on a sunny beach, beer in hand, scrunching toes into the warm sand & listening to the waves crashing in on the rocks. The harmony only mildly spoilt by the rowdy crowd of Londoners at a nearby table. An assorted bunch of misfits from the poshest part of south west London were playing Bushtucker Trails with some curried worms & pizza flavoured cockroaches - I kid you not!.
It was impossible not to get drawn into this bunch. Mad as a box of frogs on nitrous oxide, the real life & soul of any place they rolled into. Plus they had 3 kids in tow who gave our small one some playmates. We quickly became the best of chums, spent the
The Masons Arms
Guinness, Magners, London Pride, 1664.
Where the hell are we!!??
night eating, drinking & laughing 'till the leccy went off around midnight. I think that was the first night we got into Long Island Iced Teas. Thank you Steve!!
Day two was Tour Fest Day. Rented a pukka Phangan Off Road Racing Club Toyota 4x4, for much less than the poxy Ranger on Samui & headed out to take in as much as possible in a day. Pretty much managed to cover most of the coast "roads" with a few highlights on the way. We found, amongst other gems, a traditional English Pub. The Masons Arms is a palatial mock
mock Tudor inn, complete with double glazing. Quite bizarre! Pretty much authentic to look at, even down to the traditionally high prices of a pub in Berkshire. Had a fantastic pint of Guinness there, checked out the Beefeater type menu & made a note to come back soon.
Made it to Haad Son for sunset. This is a place we'd stayed at 3 years before & was the highlight of the trip for the small human at that time. Back in those days it was a friendly place with shiny new bungalows for about a tenner
Through The Keyhole 2
Arse end view of the wormhole.
a night, quirky staff who meant well but were incapable of getting even the simplest order correct. Every morning, "Charlies Breakfasts" events were always a thrill to see what turned up, eventually. Fruit muesli & yoghurt would invariably manifest itself as scrambled egg, bacon & a bowl of rice soup. If it hadn't already been done, I could've written Fawlty Towers here.
Sadly, progress had hit here too. The new huge concrete built entrance hall was nice to look at from the inside but served no purpose other than blocking the previously splendid view of the bay from the main terrace. The prices had gone up fourfold & the service was possibly even worse than before.
Made more phone calls during the day to Halifux & finally got the plastic sorted. Life seems smoother with some dosh in the pocket, but Grrrrrr all the same. Wicked drive back across the island in the dark. After a few days the roads become your friends, each bump, bend, rock & ledge becoming navigational landmarks. The initial terror of the terrain gently becomes a journey of respect for those who had built such a lifeline in
Another busy day
Sometimes there can be over twenty people crammed onto this beach.
the first place. 20 years ago it would've been marginally possible to walk this route. The only way from one side to the other was by boat taxi, even then, only when the weather allowed. It can get pretty hairy on the wave front in some of those bays.
Getting back to base late evening found the Scatty Gang sitting out at the tables on the beach by the bar, drinking Long Island Iced Teas, again. We joined in, seemed rude not too. We learnt some new games, mostly drinking games to be honest but had a cracking evening once again before making the trek - in the dark - across the bay, through the hole in the rocks, along the path by the sea (timing the exit through the hole in the rocks to avoid the huge waves splatting all that tried to escape) then up & down a wibbly pathway, fighting through dozens of caterpillars dangling from the trees on threads of silk, up & down irregular steps before the final 39 steps up to our treehouse on the rocks.The Long Islands possibly played their part in the bruising on the grown ups the following
A photo opportunity at every corner, this place is legendary already.
morning. But that is quite a trek even under sober daylight circumstances.
Sore heads for a late breakfast in the morning. We ate at Plaas at the top of the cliffs at the north end of the bay. Strangely both Plaa & her daughter remembered our small one from the last time we were all here three years before but this seems almost normal with the Thai people, despite countless faces passing through for a few days at a time, on many occasions we've had the same reaction. It says something about attention to detail & caring about what they do & who they do it to. This place rocks!!
The weather had closed in a bit again but the scatty gang found it to be perfect for body boarding on the 4 metre waves before heading to the bay next door to build a raft from bamboo trunks, using a bed sheet as a sail, with the goal of videoing themselves sailing it round the cove to stick on You Tube as their arrival at Than sadet. We left them to it & took a hike up to View Point, half an hours walk north to
Rickety Bridge, again
Bungalows by the river are over here. A different experience entirely with its own wildlife on the other side.
catch a different perspective of our homebase. Hard work on the calf muscles & would've been almost worthwhile if the restaurant at the top had been open. Ho Hum. Nice view all the same & a jolly nice walk back down the short way which bought us back to Silver Cliffs, next to Plaas. Chilled out there for a beer for a while before rolling down to the beach once again to join the Scattys for another slam dunking body board fest. They had completed the raft building exercise but the rough seas had limited their ability to set sail. The kids spent a while digging a new route for the river under the rickety bridge while the grown ups either caught some rays (the girls) or played poker (the other lot). Spent a few minutes watching one of the monitor lizards sweeping across the river to come & feed from the kitchen waste. scary looking buggers!!
The sunset on another day, leading us back to the cocktail menu. Needless to say, there's a theme developing here!! To Be Continued . . .
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