A Travellerspoint blog

Phang Nga Bay - An Emerald Jewel In Southern Thailand

Our stay on Railay Beach- Krabi and Ko Yai Noi island

semi-overcast 28 °C

The main thing I can remember as we cruised around Phang Nga Bay, was how green everything was. The backdrop of dense green trees and the calm emerald water which flickered specs of light onto the limestone foundations which rose from the ocean floor.

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As you can see from these pictures, we arrived at Railay on a slightly overcrowded boat. This is something we're getting quite used to now....we've run out of hands to count the near death experiences on!

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We have been extremely lucky with the weather so far in Thailand, however as we took our first steps on to Railay Beach, a thick grey cloud cover started to form & a cool breeze swept through the village. Moments before the rain belted down we managed to check into a simple bungalow for the night in East Railay. That night we ate dinner whilst listening to the rumbling sounds of the thunderous storm and breathing in the steamy air.

The following day we woke up to overcast skies. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as our red noses & chests were on the verge of A&E care. After breakfast we walked the length of East Railay (which some refer to as the dodgy side, but we liked to think of it as chilled out, friendly & atmospheric). Here we watched beginner to experienced rock climbers claw their way up the vertical heights. Nathan's palms were sweating from just looking at them! The reason some put down East Railay is because it's lined with mangroves and therefore the water is quite muddy so you can't swim in it, however like I said, East Railay has the atmosphere (& is cheaper)! It's also only a few steps away from West Railay which has the long curved white sand beach and emerald water so really you get the best of both worlds.

P1010228.jpg East Railay
P1010219.jpg Strip of Bars & Restaurants along East Railay
P1010230.jpg Rockclimbers

We hired a kayak in the afternoon from West Railay and effortesly (nose is starting to grow now) paddled our way around the peninsula to Phra Nang Beach. We soon discovered that Phra Nang Beach was simply stunning & therefore spent the next couple of days there relaxing and reading our books under the slightly sunny/overcast
skies.

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P1010213.jpg On Phra Nang Beach
P1010287.jpg Some friends we made along the way
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P1010246.jpg Cave at Phra Nang Beach
P1010190.jpg Lunch stop at Phra Nang Beach

Each night we picked a different restaurant to eat at along East Railay. There are many budget options to choose from here. One of the best meals we've eaten so far was at the Lucky Restaurant. We dined on a mouth watering barbequed Red Snapper with a baked potato and a spicy papaya thai salad. It was AMAZING!

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The natural environment around Railay is absolutely stunning. The giant limestone formations that jut out of the water are mindblowing, each shaped in their own individual style making the scenery even more fascinating. It has to be one of Thailand's most scenic locations.

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We continued our journey around Phang Nga Bay travelling from Railay to Ko Yao Noi island. An Hawaiian lady we met several weeks ago had told us about this island & as it was in the direction we needed to head, we figured it was worth checking out. We left Railay on a speed boat & arrived in Ko Yao Noi 45 mins later. Like at most piers, we were swamped by a group of taxi & tuk tuk drivers. This time we knew where we staying so we jumped in a tuk tuk & spluttered our way along the East coast of the island.

Ko Yao Noi is quite a small island, maybe 15kms in length. It's main source of income is from fishing & rubber. Tourism is a very new thing to the locals here. There are only around 10 hotels/guesthouses to choose from on the entire island and about as many restaurants.

We hired a motorbike from our guesthouse to explore the island in full on our second day. The freedom & open views you get from a bike is fantastic.

P1010338.jpg pit stop at Ko Yao Noi town

The beaches on Ko Yao Noi have more of a yellow shade colour sand though the water is just as clear as any other island in Thailand. The tides change very quickly so there are only so many times in the day you can swim in the water without it being too shallow & rocky.

The interior of the island is a patchwork of rubber plantations & rice fields with water buffalos bathing in pools of mud in between villages.

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The view from the West & East coastline is a scenic picture of Phang Nga Bay and the hundreds of limestone structures rising from the sea.

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The guesthouse we stayed at for the 2 nights is called Sabai Corner, meaning Relax Corner. It was exactly that. It's run by a Thai husband & Italian wife team so we were in heaven with the food they served from their restaurant. The only had 10 bungalows so we were really looked after here.

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Ko Yao Noi is the ideal place to kick back & enjoy the authentic thai lifestyle, yet untouched by tourism.

Posted by willbourn 03:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

"Take Me To The Beach"......

Ko Phi Phi

sunny 32 °C

Ko Phi Phi is a postcard perfect island. It really is one those must see places in the world.
P1010215.jpg Ko Phi Phi Leh

As the ferry cruised into the bay, we were struck by the jaw dropping limestone cliffs and the turquoise water. Ko Phi Phi is made up of 2 islands- Ko Phi Phi leh (smaller one) and Ko Phi Phi Don (bigger one). The larger one is developed & open for tourism where as the small one is uninhabited & remains untouched for medicinal purposes.
P1000979.jpg Taken from Ko Phi Phi Don, Ko Phi Phi leh is to the left

Ko Phi Phi Don was devasted by the tsunami. Many of the buildings have only just been rebuilt. We've noticed that on each island we've now visited they have Tsunami Evacuation signs & paths in place. I can't imagine what it would have been like.
P1010172.jpg Ko Phi Phi Town

From our hillside retreat we got to enjoy uniterrupted views of both islands. Long Beach (yes another one) was right on our doorstep as well as a smaller sandy cove at the opposite end of the resort. Both are a boat journey away from Ko Phi Phi town which meant we were away from the masses of tourists.

P1000962.jpg View of sunset from our resort

On our first full day we hired snorkels & spent the whole day alone on the smaller cove. It was priceless to have the beach to ourselves & to snorkel freely in the water..well we did have to share it with the hundreds of crabs (in all shapes & sizes) which we thought was a fair comprimise.
P1000989.jpg Private Cove
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That night we caught a tailboat into town & wandered around the thin windy paths. There are numerous restaurants & bars to choose from as well as market stalls selling local handicrafts to keep you occupied. It was nice to experience the nightlife in town however we were pleased to leave as the techo music was getting louder & louder.
P1010056.jpg Nathan in Ko Phi Phi town

We spent the following day on Long Beach & once again snorkelled in the magical water. This time the colourful fish were swimming all around us only a few steps from the shore. It was an amazing experience.P1010166.jpg On Long Beach

As we've now come used to, most restaurants or guesthouses will play movies on big screens in the evenings to draw in the tourists. After travelling around for sometime now, it's been nice to sit back & watch some flics without having to think too much. So on our second night at Ko Phi Phi Hill Resort we allowed ourselves to do just this & watched Blood Diamond whilst sipping on Oreo Shakes. As much as you think this travelling business is easy, it can actually be quite exhausting. You constantly have to worry about your budget, security, timing & travel plans not to mention reapplying suncream all day long ; )

On our 3rd & final day, we met up with two English couples & joined them on a longtail boat tour of Ko Phi Phi leh. The smaller island is most famous for having the beach location for the hit movie 'The Beach' starring Leonardo Dicaprio. Our first stop was Pileh Cove which had the most specatucular backdrop of limestone cliffs. We then cruised into a small cove & snorkelled with the most colourful fish we'd seen so far. The neon yellows & greens were out of this world. We then continued to 'The Beach' also known as Maya Bay. It was stunning with white sand, bright green vegetation & cystal blue water but it was rammed with tourists & boats. We chose a smaller beach to hopp off at & admire the scene from afar (plus we wanted to avoid the extra charge for just stepping onto the sand of 'The Beach'!.
P1010105.jpg Pileh Cove
P1010113.jpg P1010128.jpg At Maya Bay / "The Beach"

We arrived back on Ko Phi Phi Don just in time to have another swim & snorkel on Long Beach before jetting off to the Ferry pier. Our boat to Krabi was due to leave at 3:30pm so we had just enough time to make into town for a last snoop & top up on supplies too.
We were in two minds whether to leave Ko Phi Phi as it is a truly beautiful place but we figured there is also so much else to see and explore!

P1010053.jpg Ko Phi Phi Don

Posted by willbourn 02:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Relaxing in Ko Lanta

sunny 29 °C

Ko Lanta is a 25km long island with big stretches of yellow sand & rocky coves. There is really only one main road that runs through the island which is lined with guesthouses, restaurants & shops. The vibe here was somewhat different to Ko Lipe. Even though it's one of the biggest Thai islands, it has a sleepy beachside feel to it.

We unexpectably decided to splurge in Ko Lanta. We promised ourselves that we would choose accommodation between 4 places at the southern end of Long Beach & not spend hrs trekking up & down the beach. The first option wasn't yet open for the season so not a great start. The second choice were tired wooden bungalows that were set quite far back from the beach so it was another no. We missed the entrance for the 3rd possibility so continued onto what was our last & final option. As we walked up the romantically lit 300m driveway we started to think it was going to be way out of our price range. I think the reception staff could see the desperation in our faces or they were just as hungry for business as we were for a bed, whatever it was we agreed on a just manageable price. The resort is called Relax Bay & we loved every minute there. We splashed out on the buffet breakfast, lounged by the pool & drank cocktails whilst watching the sunset from our private beach. Ahhh this is living...

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On our second day in Ko Lanta we hired a motorbike & cruised along the coastline stopping off at stretches of beach to cool down in the ocean. We came across Waterbay Waterfall which was 2kms inland. As I was enjoying the journey from the back of the bike, I spotted a sign advertising Elephant treks. Naturally I just said, "I wonder if we spot an elephant?". Nathan hadn't seen the sign & thought I was talking absolute rubbish but seconds later he turns his head to the left & yells "#*!* there's an elephant!!". It took him a few moments to get the bike straight again after he was wobbling from shock.
We had to park the bike & walk most of the 2kms along a stream and jungle path to the waterfall. The water was so refreshing from the tropical heat & a nice change to the usual scenery.

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The following day we took a boat trip to 4 islands. We snorkelled around Cheuk & Ngai Islands, had lunch on 'white sand' Kraden Island and swam through a 80m dark cave to Emerald Cove on Muk Island. It was a really enjoyable day trip & it was nice to see the surrounding scenery.

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We decided to leave Ko Lanta on our 5th morning. The boat trip to Ko Phi Phi would take 1 hr so when we boarded the boat we positioned ourselves upfront of the top deck to soak in the sun. As the captain untied the ropes from the pier we said our farewells to Ko Lanta.

Posted by willbourn 01:38 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

A Piece Of Paradise Found Just In Time

Ko Lipe

sunny 31 °C

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We could hardly contain our excitement as Ko Lipe came into sight from the speed boat. For us, island hopping in Thailand was always going to be a highlight. We had read that Ko Lipe island was isolated and untouched from any major tourist development and therefore we would experience real island living. The island is part of the Ko Tarutao National Marine Park which consists of 51 islands in the most southwestern corner of Thailand. Ko Lipe is one of the smaller inhabited islands in the group.

The sun was shining, the water was crystal clear & the white sand sparkled as we lept from the boat onto the shore. We threw on our rucksacks & walked through the little village & school on a dusty path which took us to Long Beach. Once again we found ourselves trekking up & down the beach searching for accommodation. As we arrived a few days before the peak season starts, many of the guesthouses weren't yet open or were in their final stages of construction. After 1 hr, the sun was really starting to scorch our skin & our mood was changing from good to bad very fast. In utter desperation we checked into a beach front bungalow which was lovely but the guy totally ripped us off which left a bad taste in our mouths. In short we only stayed there one night.

The next day we woke up bright and early and checked into a place only a few minutes up the beach which had lovely bungalows & the sweetest owners, a swiss/thai couple. If only we had discovered them on our arrival!

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P1000832.jpg Breakfast on the beach

Ko Lipe is the perfect place to wind down & soak up some sun. We started each day by having the most amazing fruit & muesli breakfast at our guesthouse with the tables right on the beachfront. The view was priceless. As it was still in the off-peak season, we managed to find small picturesque coves & pieces of beach to have to ourselves for the whole day. At night we went to Pooh's Bar & cooled down with icy cold beers & cocktails, feasted on delicous thai food & watched that evenings movie or music video on the big screen.

P1000799.jpg Private cove on Ko Lipe
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One day we paid one of the local fisherman to take us to Ko Adang which is another island in the Tarutao National Park group. Here we had the whole island to ourselves! We stayed all day long on a stretch of sand which also had a fresh water stream behind it. It was so peaceful. The fisherman came back on his longtail boat just before sunset & took us back to Ko Lipe for the night.

P1000692.jpg Sunset on Long Beach, Ko Lipe

On our last night, our hosts put on an amazing dinner for us & the other 4 guests. The food was to die for. Quite the truth actually as Nathan was literally dying after eating one of her 'little bit spicy' dishes. It was a very special evening & we felt privileged to be there.

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As much as we loved Ko Lipe & the beach is truly beautiful, there is more construction & development than most people would like to think. Some of the building restrictions have been lifted so more & more resorts & shops are popping up. As the influx of tourists has happened in such a short space of time, the locals aren't sure how to handle the change & what the change brings with it...especially the rubbish. The biggest downside to Ko Lipe is the litter. I really hope the NP puts some regulations in place soon. I really believe that the locals don't understand what they have on their doorstep.

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We were just thankful that we got to enjoy the island as it is now before the masses step ashore.

Posted by willbourn 00:33 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

First Steps Into Thailand

A great border town- Hat Yai

sunny 30 °C

Crossing the border from Malaysia to Thailand was chaotic. We were ushered out of our minivan and led to a four person wide queue for the customs booth. After one hour of shuffling and defending our position in line, we were given our entry stamps for Thailand.

They say Thailand is the land of smiles and they aren't wrong. We were warmly greeted by a very old and small Thai man at the front desk of the guesthouse we decided to stay at in Hat Yai. Louis guesthouse is like a shrine to the Thail royal family. What we didn't know at the time was how devoted the entire nation is to the royal family. Did you know that it is illegal to step on money in Thailand as the kings image is on all coins & notes?

Hat Yai was a much needed stopover for us. Here we had a dose of western commercialisation. We spent the afternoon in an air-conditioned shopping mall & indulged on chocolate sundaes. We even treated ourselves to the cinema to watch the latest thai epic movie- think thai style Pirates of the Carribean. It was actually pretty good. In the cinema we also experienced a different kind of devotion to the royals. Before the movie started everyone, including us, stood to listen to the Thai national anthem & watch a short video montage of the royal family. Apparently this happens at every cinema, public bus & train station?

It was a short but sweet stay in Hat Yai. As border towns go, this one we can actually recommend a visit.

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P1000683.jpg Ultimate Karaoke
P1000679.jpg Playing games in the shopping mall
P1000687.jpgHat Yai Street Food- Squid

Posted by willbourn 05:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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