Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Koh Rang Yai

I do enjoy exploring Phuket and the surrounding area. Still after all these years in Phuket there is plenty I have yet to see. I think I have seen most of Phuket itself but there are still many islands around Phuket I have yet to visit. So on Saturday we looked to tick one more island off the list and went to Koh Rang Yai off the east coast.

We went to Laem Hin pier and rented a longtail for the return trip. It cost 1000 baht - that is about normal although I am sure we could have negotiated a slightly better price if we could have been bothered. The boat trip to Koh Rang Yai is only 20 minutes and skirts around another island, Koh Maprao (coconut island). The sea here is usually very placid and today was no different, it was a beautiful day.

You are never quite sure what to expect when you do these trips to new places. I had read that Koh Rang Yai is a bit of an activity centre so I thought it might be heaving with energetic bikers, kayakers, climbers, etc.

When we got there I was instantly impressed. There were a few people around but it was basically very tranquil and what a beautiful beach. Most of the beaches I have seen on the eastern side of Phuket are either stony, muddy or shallow so I did not expect much here. I was in for a pleasant surprise. It is a lovely sandy beach with beautiful clear inviting water. Ben and Jenny took one look and charged in.

There are a few deckchairs on the beach and a handful of eating places. As we strolled along the beach absolutely nobody tried to hawk their service, what a pleasant change to the full on tourist beaches.

I had read there is no accommodation here but that is not the case. There are a few bungalows behind the beach and some basic huts right at the end.

There are meant to be some nice little hiking trails through the interior and you can rent bikes. There are also kayaks for a paddle around the sea. You can also play beach volleyball and there is a badly kept little pitch and put golf course. I wouldn't exactly call it an activity centre but there is enough to keep most people entertained for a day.

There is also a pearl shop. There is meant to be a pearl farm but it was closed and doesn't look like it has been open for some time. I am guessing the pearl prices are not exactly cheap and are aimed at the tourist market.

We had a good swim and then ate at one of the restaurants. The food was okay but a little expensive. Understandable when they have a captive market and most of the ingredients will need to be shipped across from Phuket.

I had read that there is some decent sorkeling offshore but I couldn't find it. All the seabed I saw was sandy. I was surprised by the strength of the current's drift. I snorkelled for a minute, looked up and I had drifted 50 yards along the coast from where I entered. I wouldn't say the current was actually dangerous, it flows parallel to the beach rather than out and you can swim against it if you need to. Apparently the drift is caused by all the water that enters Phang Nga Bay from the many tributaries there. The water just keeps flowing southwards from Phang Nga Bay passed Phuket.

All in all, we were impressed by Koh Rang Yai and we will go back. Next time we might look to take a few friends and stay overnight.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Valentines Day

I took Pon out for valentines night. It turned out to be a fun night out. We started with a visit to Fantasia in Phuket Town. It is a big place and has been there for three years but we have never got round to visiting. We new it was some kind of girly bar but didn't really know what to expect. It might not sound like an obvious choice for valentines but these places can be fun. It turned out to be a very well done out venue with a big stage and a nice little song and dance show.

It is an impressive place with lots of staff. There are also lots of girls. Lots & lots of girls and I have to admit (although of course on valentines night out with Pon I am not thinking about such things) the girls are all quite stunning. This is a high end Asian girly bar and I have no idea how much the girls charge but I guess they are not cheap. The place was entertaining for an hour but the beer prices were too high to think about staying for a long session so we moved on.

We tried Timber Hut but the place was so packed that we couldn't even find a parking place on the street. We ended up at a live music venue not far from home. It was also busy but we met some friends and took seats at their table. It turned out it was extra busy not only because of valentines but they also had a well known Thai singer doing a show.

It turned into a really good night. The back up acts were all good and lots of fun. The atmosphere in the bar was good and everyone was having a great time. When the main act came on I did recognise her although I didn't know her name. She did a good show and was actually far more beautiful in real life than when I have seen her on TV.

It is hard to imagine a major star back in the UK doing a show in some small provincial bar. It was a good night out.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Wat Chalong Fair

It is Chinese New Year. Among the many events that take place around Phuket is Wat Chalong Fair. Wat Chalong is the biggest and most important temple on the island. It is a big event with market stalls selling all kinds of stuff, games, rides, food and shows. in fact, it is so popular that if you are not going to the fair, the area is worth avoiding because the traffic can be a bit of a nightmare.

We went late afternoon to beat the main crowds. We wandered around the stalls with Ben and Jenny insisting on stopping at every toy stall, and there were lots of toy stalls. 'We'll buy something later, we'll buy something later,' all the way round.

We found our way through to the fair rides area. They are basic rides, roundabouts, trains, big wheels and bouncy castles. Nothing special but is is amazing how much pleasure Ben and Jenny can take out of circling around a train track.

There was one ride that was a bit more impressive - a little rollercoaster. It wasn't big but it crawled up to maybe 5 meters high and then did a fast circling drop. I thought it would be a bit too much for Ben and Jenny but as soon as Ben saw it he wanted a go. I thought he was over-reaching himself but we gave it a chance. I was sat in a car with Jenny while Ben sat in a different car with a young girl. I thought he would be scared when the ride started but I should have known better. He and Jenny both loved it and they just wanted to go again.

We wandered around the rest of the fair, played a few games, ate some food, bought a bit of stuff. It is a nice event and you could stay there all evening. They have a few bars with live music later and some nice little shows. However with the two kids it gets quite exhausting after a while so we headed home tired but happy.