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Published: January 22nd 2011
Its All Done With Mirrors These Days Y'Know.
Its often considered that to re-visit a previously enjoyed Hotspot is a bad move as times change, the relentless anvil of development hammers away at the initial lure of the location & disappointment often awaits as it's no longer like it had been back in the Good Old Days. Thankfully this is not the case at Mai Pen Rai the premier bungalow set-up at the idylic sandy cove located on the remote & peaceful east coast of the island. Although one member of our troupe first came here twenty years ago this particular Gem has not resisted change as such but grown with it. Back in the day there were no more than a dozen or so simple windowless palm roofed pointy shacks on stilts. Over time this has blossomed into an uncluttered layout of 40 bungalows spread widely along the beach, by the river that feeds into the sea and around the rocks at the far end of the sandy stuff. We tend to favour the On The Rocks ones as its always an adventure getting there & back, the only access being through a hole in the boulders at the tip of the bay which needs a fair sense
Wake Up Call
The View From Our Balcony. Better Than Channel 4.
of timing to nip through without being soaked when the waves are fiesty. Plus the mossies don't seem to bother you so much up there. Fiona's flair for design makes each bungalow unique as they are all built into the rocks giving a cosy yet rustic feel. A couple of concessions to the modern world being part time electricity, enough to get by with & keep your gizmos charged, fans and very stylish rocky bathrooms. No hot water in the showers but its not the kind of cold water I'm used to back home, it all adds to the Robinson Crusoe feel of the place.
Christmas Eve daytime found us chilling - sorry - roasting - in the sunshine on the beach in a well deserved 37 degrees of centigrades. The late evening session spent sitting at the social hub beach bar digging toes into the still warm sand, watching the stars & chatting with some of the spectrum of characters that seem to be attracted to the less run of the mill reclusive places such as this. A smattering of young families, couples with babies, a few well seasoned heavily tanned independant travellers & some
retired folk too. Not the kind of moody old people you see queing up at the Post office first thing on a Thursday morning but the cool still happy ex-hippy types, spending their kids inheritances while they still had some zest left. Also there was the Gang Of Ten. An even mixed bunch of gregarious boys & girls, young chums from the West Country back in Blighty. Some of whom were on a two year sabbatical, some on a two month trip & a couple just away for Christmas who had chosen to meet up here for the Festive Season. They ate, drank, laughed & slept as a unit- looking out for each other despite whatever state they seemed to get themselves into. The Gang Of Ten always seemed to be (almost) disciplined, polite and maintained an air of understanding of the Queens English to boot!. We loved these guys There are twenty parents out there somewhere who should be really proud of their offspring.
Christmas day was a fun start doing the pressie stuff at breakfast on the beach. I got a tiny banana pancake in a cracker. An organised daytrip was next on the
Prezzies Are Brilliant!!
cards so we jumped aboard a longtail boat for a ride up to the top of the island to enjoy a spot of snorkelling in the crystal clear waters teeming with aquatic life. If you've never had a go on a longtail, stick it on your list of essential experiences. These things are no more than a 40ft wooden hull with a 200+bhp truck engine balanced on the back & they go like stink! Bobbed about in the water for an hour or so observing the fish & beautiful coral before getting back aboard for lunch on the boat. A couple of pitstops at both the luscious Bottle Beach and swanky Thong Nai Pan on the way back. There's a phrase in Thailand that gets banded about Same Same But Different
(seems similar but different in some ways);which starts to make sense after a while. This can relate to anything from the anatomy of a pre-op ladyboy to the quality of a bar of soap. On this particular day the phrase was used in relation to the quality of the sand from various beaches, some beaches being covered in gritty coarse sand but half a mile along the coast there
Longtail Boat Race
Oxford vs Cambridge Is Nothing Like This.
is fine powdery smooth stuff almost as if each beach has its own dress code for sand. It goes without saying that whatever grade of grains on any particular beach on the island they are uniformly picture postcard perfect as would be expected.
Our party were returned to Than Sadet in plenty of time for the excellent Christmas dinner being set up on the beach. Enough time was available to slip up to another of our favourite old haunts, Plaas at the top of the cliff almost directly above our bungalow. Plaa is a sprightly lady who works very hard to provide excellent services to those fit enough to manage to reach her establishment. Set up well above the bay the restaurant balcony has fantastic views, an extensive menu of surprisingly good food and cocktails - including the very naughty Bang Lassi - not recommended if you need to move too far in the immediate future. We resisted that particular temptation, had a G&T or two whilst watching the sun set over the mountains behind the bay. It was then time to stumble back down the 120 steps, through the hole in the boulders, across the
Looking Down On The World.
Taking The 120 Step Climb Up To Plaas' Restauraunt Rewards You With A Smashing View Of The Bay & Some Top Nosh Too.
beach back to Mai Pen Rai just in time for dinner. A well laid out affair with an Eat All You Can barbeque plus Thai curries, grilled barracuda, tilapia, langoustines, salads, rice and puddings. Yummy!. The drink & banter flowed on late into the night. At some point everyone was provided with some chinese lanterns to set off to celebrate being lucky enough to be where we were at such a superficially special time of the year.
It is often said that Life is more about the journey than the destination, its not so much where you are going but how you get there. So far, this trip questions that. We've found the balance. Staying here 'till New Year then moving on to another island 30 miles north, Ko Tao the Scuba Mecca of South East Asia.
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