Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Koh Chang

After a week in Nakhon Nayok I had passed my 'out in the sticks' threshold and it was time to move on. It was a good stay. We did songkhran. I filled in a couple of days by checking out the local golf course. Royal Hills is a very nice course with a good range of facilities. The place is a very nice addition to my entertainment options while I am on 'sticks' duty. They even have UBC so I can get my Spurs action with English commentary instead of having to drive into town and watch it in the local music bar while the band insist on playing Hotel California because a farang is in the bar. This week, even Spurs didn't let me down. They got a 1-0 win over Newcastle that puts us firmly in the hunt for European places. It is strange that a football result actually affects my mood but it really does. I have had an extra spring in m,y step for the last couple of days.

So it was time to move on. We have driven to Koh Chang in Trat. I like Koh Chang. It has certainly developed a lot in the last few years but I think it still retains a bit of a laid back, beach-bum feel to it. It does have fantastic beaches. The prices are obviously a little touristy, but only a little. It is all still much cheaper than Phuket.

We have a nice big bungalow in the trees by the beach for 800 baht a night. The resort sells big bottles of beer for 80-baht, a good bowl of Tom Yam Goong is also 80-baht.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants around. Certainly no problem finding the football here. Basically, they now have everything you need but still at reasonable prices and with a nice laid back feel.

The island is developing rapidly, even from the last time I visited two years ago. There are lots of new resorts and quite a few of the old back-packer huts have disappeared. You can't stop development but hopefully they will contain it and maintain the nice relaxed atmosphere.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Back to Nakhon Nayok

It is time for our annual trip to Nakhon Nayok. We normally take our time driving up but this year the timing was so close to Songkhran that we just got on with the drive. As it turned out, we timed it perfectly. As we drove north from Phuket towards Bangkok, we had nice clear roads while all the way there were traffic jams on the other side of the road heading south. The traffic was heavy as we bypassed Bangkok but we soon found open road again and reached Nakhon Nayok in record time.

The weather was fairly crap for the whole trip and there was a full on thunderstorm as we arrived. It seems like the rainy season has arrived early this year. This is a shame as half the point of Songkhran is that it is normally the hottest time of year and a perfect time for a good water fight. There is not much point in having a water fight during a rain storm. Well fortunately, today is Songkhran proper and the weather has cleared here just in time. It is a nice sunny day outside and the water fights are in full swing.

Nakhon Nayok is still the same. Everyone is very friendly. There is lots of good food and it is all very picturesque. Lots of people come from Bangkok every weekend to play in the rivers and waterfalls and there will be more than normal for Songkhran.

We normally make this a 2 or 3 week trip but we have got here so quickly that I don't know what I will do to fill the time. I enjoy taking it easy in Nakhon Nayok for about a week but then the novelty wears off and I want to move again. We will need a plan to fill our time.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Koh Racha Islands

I do like a trip to a nice island. If it has a good beach and some decent snorkeling then that is ideal. Hopefully, it will not be too crowded but will have a few restaurants and bars. All the better if we can stay for a night or two to really chill out and appreciate the place. So when a few of our local Thai friends invited us to join them on a trip to Koh Racha, I was more than happy to accept. A couple of them work for one of the major hotels in Phuket and they had a very good deal on a speedboat tour and bungalow resort.

There are two islands, Koh Racha Yai & Noi. They are a fair distance out from Phuket and it takes dive boats well over an hour to get out there. Taking the speedboat really makes a difference. We zipped across from Chalong pier in half an hour and moored at the pier in Patok Bay at Koh Racha Yai. There is a great beach in this bay. There is also a posh 5-star resort and a handful of shops and restaurants.

I have visited Koh Racha a few times before on diving and fishing trips. Obviously, this involves spending most of your time on the water so I had never really had a look inside the island. Looking from the sea, I always assumed there was nothing much within the islands except for jungle. I was therefore quite surprised when our bungalow resort picked us up from the beach (with a tractor and trailer) and whisked us into the island. There are tracks and pathways around the island. Along the tracks are a few rustic little bungalow resorts, restaurants and coconut plantations.

Our bungalows were at the Raya Father Resort. It has pleasant little bungalows for 1000-baht a night (unless you are getting a special deal like us). There is a restaurant, internet shop and a little garden. We settled in and then went back to Patok Bay where our speedboat was waiting to take us for a cruise around Racha Yai. There is some great snorkeling around the Racha islands and we even saw a dolphin jump out the water.

After the cruise, our resort provided lunch (all included) and then we wandered across to the island’s other major beach in Siam Bay for the afternoon. It is a beautiful, quiet and laid back beach. We spent a lazy afternoon swimming and sleeping. We spent the evening at our bungalow resort eating and drinking.

It is all just the sort of stuff I like from an island trip. Good beaches, good snorkeling, friendly locals and relaxing evenings by the bungalow supping a few beers (well quite a lot of beers).

The food and drink prices at the outlying islands are generally a little higher than on Phuket, as they have to bring everything out by boat. We did a trip to Coral Island a few weeks ago where they were massively overcharging and we won’t be going back to that beach again. The prices at Racha Yai are what you would expect to pay at the islands and are reasonable. The Racha Islands are a good option for a few days island getaway.