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West Coast of Thailand

September 4th, 2009

Having finished the tour a few of us decided to head off down to the West Coast of Thailand for a bit of time on the beaches. At this point Ravi left us to head off down to Koh Tao to get his Padi and do some diving. So, Emma, Claire, Bex, Steve and I left Bangkok and made for the (obscenely) touristy island of Phuket.

Phuket, in all fairness, is a pretty nice island; it could not have grown to be the tourist behemoth, that it now is, had this not been the case. However this popularity has not done the island too many favours and, as a result, is slightly overdeveloped and frequented by package tourists (I’ll leave it at that.) We stayed at Karon Beach, the second most roudy beach, in a fairly nice little hotel just off the beach. A great big long pool was accompanied by some really excellent rooms with flat screen tv and beautiful bathrooms. Anyway, the place was actually fairly quiet (it was low season) but still had enough going for it to give us a bloody good dinner. We went to a little restaurant called “The Two Chefs” where I had a melt-in-the-mouth steak and really can’t recommend highly enough.

Our second night in Phuket was spent with a visit to Patong Beach, the most popular resort in Phuket - think 18-30 holiday and you’re about there. In all fairness this night was one of the best so far. We started off by going to a little italian restaurant where we had a lovely meal and a few drinks. You know you’re in good company when the chef comes out and is actually Italian: it makes a hell of a difference out in Asia. Following that we headed down to the main nightclub/party street where we were greeted by what was basically a few hundred yards of girly bars. A quick walk up the length of street and then, on our way back, we met a Tina Turner lookalike (as much as a man can look like Tina Turner) and, after the girls had gotten a few photos, we headed upstairs for a drink and a look at the competing “dancers”. Following this we headed in to a little bar, guided by a guy offering something or other, where we discovered Thailand’s best cocktail waiter. This guy was bloody good, as were the number of free drinks/shots that came our way. Showing off his skills was impressive but every now and then a round of shots was bought for the bar and, once decanted, he literally lit the entire bar on fire. At this point I also discovered that I’m not quite as adverse to Tequila as I’d thought, which was nice! Several drinks and barely a Baht later we walked out of the bar and straight upstairs in to a club. The club was heaving, but the dance floor was not. Using the greatest selection of shapes known to modern man we proceeded to dance our arses off on the floor attracting a lot of attention and, eventually, getting the club bouncing. It was bloody brilliant. Not sure when we left but a good night was had by all, except at 6 in the morning when I realised I’d lost my wallet. Thankfully it was handed in to reception as I’d dropped it outside the hotel.

Early that morning we packed our bags and headed off to get the boat to the island of Koh Phi Phi. Koh Phi Phi is an island about an hour west of Krabi and is in a group of six islands. Unfortunately it was devastated by the Tsunami of 2004 and while it has been mostly rebuilt I would say that it has probably not been redeveloped as it should have been. Regardless of this I would also say that it’s probably one of my favourite places and as a beach resort it is simply fantastic. In total we spent 4 nights in Koh Phi Phi but in all honesty we could have quite easily spent a few more. Our days tended to follow a bit of a routine; that is, get up fairly late morning, spend the day on the beach, go for a nice meal and then get fairly trolleyed afterwards.

With it’s undoubted beauty it was only a matter of time before Koh Phi Phi was included in a film. That film was “The Beach” and, although not on Phi Phi itself, makes one hell of a day trip. While it is possible to get a guided tour around the 6 islands we decided to simply hire a boat and a native to help us out. The girls did the usual fine job of bartering down the poor man until he was probably at breakeven point (whether he knew it or not) and for, I think, £5 each we had his services for the day. We started off the day with a quick trip round to another part of the island where we did a spot of snorkelling. Phi Phi is famed for its diving, with many people coming here to get their PADI, and this was very evident such was the clarity of the water and the beauty of the coral and fish even at this low depth. At this point I did rather make a tit of myself: trying to swim over to Em I accidentally kicked down and through a load of coral leaving a fairly hefty chunk in my ankle. A piece, of diameter ~1cm, was stuck in the side of my ankle and did not look good. I’d told Em that I’m only really hurt when I don’t say much. In deadly silence I swam back to the boat and showed it to the native (who I suspected had seen this many a time.) He took one look and pretty much yanked the thing out. Luckily it was only a couple of mm deep so was not too bad. Some really hilarious scenes followed as, first the native, and then me, threw food in for the fish in and around the others. The sheer numbers of fish coming to the surface was staggering and scared the crap out of the others! We spent the rest of the day going round the other islands, in to a stunning, really stunning, cove and then off to “The Beach” itself. This will probably go down as the best individual trip of the whole trip. We also had to give it to the native; he didn’t speak a word of English but whenever he said something we quickly learned to say “yes” to him as his suggestions were all absolutely brilliant. He was in fact so good that we added 50% on to his price.

While Phi Phi does have some more upmarket accommodation the main town really caters for the 18-30 backpacker scene. There’s a few funky bars, most of which go on through the night, as well as a couple of clubs on the beach for dancing the night away. THe Phi Phi drinking scene is STAGGERINGLY easy to grasp. Basically take a spirit, add some coke and red bull and put in a bucket. Proceed to drink it and get caravaned! Buckets are one thing but the Irish bar was offering buy one get two free: madness! While the abundance of cheap alcohol is welcoming the bars are, that I can remember, actually quite good fun as well. There’s the “Reggae Bar” which offers the usual cheap drinks but also contains a boxing ring and puts on Thai Boxing every single night. Sadly the organised fights are staged but the two guys always put on a fairly good show. More interesting is the fact that anyone can have a fight once the organised fights are over. A few times these fights are pretty dull but on one night we had an absolute treat. One guy, with an ego like the Titanic, was strutting round the ring with six pack bulging. Thankfully a 6ft something rugby lad stepped up and swiftly taught the guy a lesson.

At this point I should probably mention some of the beautiful scenery on Phi Phi and around but I won’t. Just look at the photos.

Koh Phi Phi

After Phi Phi we headed off, leaving Bex who went diving on Koh Tao, on another boat to Railay. Railay is on the mainland but due to the surrounding landscapes is pretty much inaccessible by land and, as a result, feels just like another island. The main part of Railay is a narrow strip of land (maybe a km wide by 3km long) with beaches on either side and high, steeply rising, headlands at either end. The east beach is, as a beach, fairly rubbish but contains some mangrove while the west beach is brilliant for relaxing on and appreciating the scenery. Railay West BeachThere’s a mixture of highly upmarket resorts and cheaper, albeit pretty nice, ones. The better resorts tend to be on the west beach with the north end of the east beach containing the cheaper resorts. The only drawback of Railay is that there really is very little to do other than sit back and relax, and that’s exactly what we did. The restaurants on the west beach do some excellent food for very reasonable prices while the east beach provides the nightlife. I say nightlife, there’s about 3 bars, one of which, the reggae bar (seeing a pattern), providing a very chilled out evening drinking cocktails under the stars.

On our last night in Railay Steve and I ventured off to find the viewpoint and lagoon. My book described this as a slightly tricky walk and, given that these books cater for everyone, promptly ignored that and headed off just before dusk in shorts and flipflops. Walking down to the south end of the east beach and going along a path we saw a sign for the viewpoint and lagoon. Looking at the cliff the sign was pointing at we carried on down the path assuming that the sign had been twisted somehow. We quickly spoke to a guy who told us that the sign was right and to go back. We climbed up the cliff, where a rope has been usefully placed, and on to the viewpoint. The viewpoint overlooks the enitrety of Railay and the view is absolutely stunning. Unfortunately we got there a little after sunset so while the view was impressive it would probably be best to go for sunset. At this point, and realising that we could barely see our own hands we decided to head back down the cliff in our flip flops and back to the girls.

It was our last night in Thailand and also the last night with Claire. This meant only one thing: party hard. We had the usual meal, cocktails on the beach and then headed to the far end of the east beach to bar/club with top tunes and cheap(ish) cocktails. A few games of free pool later we decided to hit the dance floor and strut it late on in to the night. A particular fond memory was seeing Claire chatting to a guy while dancing with a toilet roll in her left hand. Hilarious, not sure whether she even realised at the time.

Steve and I woke up early the following morning intent on getting to the lagoon that we’d been so close to the night before. Feeling ridiculously hungover, dehydrated and tired we took off, at 7am, to the cliff (this time in reasonable footwear) to get to the lagoon and back for our 9.30am boat to Krabi. We quickly scaled the first side and then began the descent down to the lagoon. At this point time was already getting short and after literally having to drop down (with a rope) and 15ft drop we decided that we’d never make it back in time and annoyingly turned back. This was easier said than done. With herculean strength I managed to pull myself back up the 15ft rope and on to the overhang. Steve, however, not quite feeling it managed to fail to pull himself up 4 times. At breaking point he then had a look around and found an alternative route up. We managed to get back, running, but felt horrific.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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