KL and partying on the Thai islands and Krabi
14.12.2011 - 17.01.2012 30 °C
I arrived into Kuala Lumpur at 1.30pm and was soon on board an Aero Bus to the city centre then the LRT Transit system to Majid Jamek for flash packer Reggae Mansion to meet Amy. In my individual ‘pod’ in the big dorm I stayed cool then braved the rain shower to eat beef noodles and meatballs (‘extra balls’) at a Chinese joint; already noticing the diversity and efficiency of the city. In the heart of Chinatown we viewed the wealth of fake goods on display then walked past a heart wrenching pet store (dogs in cages looking miserable) on way to the Central Market. We planned Asia for a while, just made it to the end of ‘beer and burger’ night and literally chilled in the ice box till 2am.
Once made most of free juice and breakfast we were on our way to the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) to see the Petronas Tower’s (tallest building in 1997). We took many photos of the towers and surrounding park/buildings as the temperature and humidity increased when we walked Jl. Ampang all the way to the Thai Embassy to wait patiently to apply/pay for a visa ($55 single entry). After eating 4 MYR street food in the rain near Bukit Bintang we eventually located the GSC cinema in a multi level mall (theme park covering half of top 5 floors). On Malaysia’s largest digital screen we watched the extremely good ‘MI:4 Ghost Protocol’ a day before it premieres back home then in the dry evening sky looked at the dozens of bears representing each country (painted differently) by a glowing water fountain, Christmas decorations and ritzy ‘Armani’ type shops.
In the mood to use two legs we were drawn to the brilliantly lit up Tower’s and had a soft drink at Dome. Not wanting local food we initially tried for a Dominoes but had to be realistic by eating at McDonald’s (BK had no burgers left?) right by the hostel- so tired by now as very long day in this modern metropolis.
I readied things for Thailand walked about then ate warung style food, saw the ‘old’ train station and collected our passports from the embassy. That evening in the market we had some pastries, bananas and a red bull; great vibe/taste and sellers by no means annoying or too pushy. On our rooftop bar with a view of the skyscrapers (including KL Tower) we lay on loungers and later, at 11.30, I left Amy and took the last train to Sentral only to find out the first airport bus wasn’t for 3 hours so did journal to bide the time. At 3.30am I was back at the LCCT and forced by Air Asia to take things out my bag to reach the 20kg weight limit. Besides that everything went smoothly and even got to walk outside on the perimeter of the airplane zone following signals from staff to make sure the right plane was reached- never done that before!
I landed into the sunshine of Phuket at 7.20am and got in a ‘metered’ 400 baht taxi with a young couple to the epitome of Thai, resort seediness- Patong Beach! I checked into Cheap Charlie’s, met London Rich and strolled to the absolutely packed beach full of big, old people wearing a disgustingly little amount, posers, touts, mugs, jet ski operators and of course a number of babes meaning the sunglasses were firmly on. We drank at my favourite bar, Kangaroo Bar, played connect4 and shut the box with the bar girls, saw Machelle, Kim and Finny and had 2 hours kip as not slept wince night before last. We drank downstairs, got a couple of roadies and entered the mayhem of Bangla Road (a sea of people) and directed to a place where other backpackers congregate for cheap buckets- White Rooms.
Hangover 2 style we both woke up looking at each other wondering what the hell happened the night before, opened balcony door to ‘Thailand’ and had another guest point at Rich laughing saying ‘oh my god you were so f***** up last night?!’, haha. Feeling light headed and not tired (now powered by Red Bull and will be the next 8 days) we found out about the cheap microwavable/toasted food at 7/11 (would be my staple throughout this country), met the Kiwis on the beach (one lounger to save money), went in sea and sheltered from rain. We Pre drank on our balcony and in Kangaroo watched football and listened to some tunes when at White Rooms it ended just being me and Shell; got scratched by a lifted chair. Being quite tired and well over Patong I spent much of the next day sleeping, writing or typing and in the evening did the usual getting drunk as that is all you can do here; even though it’s not cheap. The highlight was having four hot Aussie girls pole dancing above us at one bar but then leaving straight after.
I carried my 30+ kg of luggage over to Patong Backpackers to check in and meet a newly arrived Amy and lay on towels with a beer by the sea until becoming too hot. As she was tired I relaxed on my bed, spoke to a t-totalled Californian then ate seafood at the temporary night market and met up with South Africans Nikki and Mirella for cocktails; 2 for 1 Long Island Iced Teas the best deal in town!
This god forsaken place (completely regret coming back to) didn’t want us to leave as we slept through our alarm but luckily could go on the other bus at 12pm to Phuket Town and then onto the Phi Phi Cruiser which was packed out and chair/shadeless on the top reminiscent to a refuge boat. Rounding the majestic limestone cliffs you arrive into what is arguably one of the most touristy areas of land in the world- Tonsai. Off the ferry and after the fight for the bags we did paid 800 baht at Tara Inn then looked for a better place from the next day onwards; area double as busy as three years ago! We saw the beach, ate the first of many 80 baht giant, delicious pizza slices and met up with Ash and Rich at popular Pappaya’s later on for good Thai food. At centrally located Dojo’s we stared at the hundreds of girls going by, drank many Chang’s and mixers, spoke to promoter Dave and took some pseudoephedrine for some reason. Street buckets (300ml bottle of spirit/sprite/redbull) for the equivalent of £3 were purchased en route to Slinkey’s beach bar and unsurprisingly once finishing it in a mere 30 minutes I have a few hours blank from ordering my second to being next to Shell on the sand missing my thongs and mobile phone.
At 11.30am next day we moved to small, pleasant cheaper Ibiza House, wasted a good deal of money on an English breakfast wondered around the maze of lanes, sat on the beach and paddled in the two feet of water as low tide. Seeing dark grey clouds nearing we timed our escape to a tee as the heavens really did open for much of the afternoon so did some downloading and tried something called sleeping (not happening). Time to go out again (same daily ritual) me and Amy ate at Pappaya then at Dojo’s got chatting to massive Liverpool fan Carley about our team and how they have been faring of late. A dick of a Thai guy inexplicably emptied our buckets right in front of us on the beach (couldn’t believe it) then in the early hours I spotted my uni/golf friend Giles who hadn’t seen in many years- small world.
Minimal sleep and god awful noodles put me in a foul mood in the morning (didn’t know whether was coming or going) so decided to actually do something with my day for once. Me, Amy, Shell and Kim paid 250 baht for a half day trip to ‘The Beach’ which didn’t exactly go well. Walking over a building site barefoot, cramming as many backpackers as possible onto a longtail boat and keeping us waiting in the burning sun for ages was for starters. The fun and games happened when we realised the sea was not all that calm and with the boat so low in the water this made for quite the scary experience- rolling around violently, water constantly soaking us, people screaming, the driver not caring all made it rather fucked up but we survived and entered the calm waters of the island for a pointless snorkel. On Maya Bay we chilled on the sand, ate crappy sandwiches and played frisbee before our hour was up and time to return; balanced the boats now so no issues. In Tonsai we showered then met Nikki, Mirella, Giles and two guys he met here (Andy and Anthony) in the Irish Bar for buckets in a different ambiance. Going back and forth to two groups of people in Slinkey’s gauging relative ‘interest’ I had a really fun night and on my way home at 6am I saw a wasted Giles who had just had ‘sweet and sour chicken’ written in Thai tattooed on his bicep- hilarious!
It was Christmas Eve and at midday I ate with the girl’s at Calamaro’s, bought Santa hats and spent afternoon in water and on beach with Shell and Arianne(just arrived) until 6pm. Me and Amy played Xmas music then, all dressed up, drank at busy Dojo’s with everyone; sneaked in 7/11 Chang’s as half the price. Making it to the beach parties prior to midnight meant a massive celebration amongst us with hugs and kisses everywhere but I screwed up having too many eggs in one basket and being indecisive so went home alone; deserved it.
My second Christmas in a row away from home was such a contrast to the one had in Kalgoorlie as in was with friends from home and travelling, near the sea on a beautiful island, at a party place and happy with the way things were going with few uncertainties in my thoughts. We wore hats in the sea (our version of Ouaisne swim) and went for a lovely lunch at Ciao Bella, having crab salad, Gnocchi seafood and a glass of white wine then spent time with Shell in the room as Amy skyped on balcony. More drinking at the same places was duly done but due to an apparent shooting incident places shut down ‘early’ making for a not as crazy night; sat on beach getting bitten by mosquitoes.
It was at last time to leave the, not for everyone’s tastes party island with the Jersey crew. Unlike Indonesia everything went so smoothly, on time and with zero stress- good boat crossing seated comfortably at the back, free airport shuttle ride (blagged we were other people), free food and chocolate milk at the Bangkok Airways lounge (no idea how got in), quick flight with cold, healthy food and upon arrival to Koh Samui, once ignored the laughing taxi drivers, got in one half price by the road the five minutes to the pre booked Moonlight Guest House.
The bus took us to loud Bangrak pier mid morning where we saw people come off the boat looking rough as and some with crutches giving a good impression. Once in Koh Phangan the four of us were quickly put in a 200 baht pp van bound for the beaches of the west where we got off at Shiralea Backpacker, spoke with manager Richie and got shown our semi-luxury en suite bungalows before breaking a hammock, eating baguettes and noticing how unparty like it was. We introduced ourselves to lovely peaceful Haad Yao beach, purchased supplies and drank with British/SA marine Shaun in the evening till not too late.
I had a lie in, ate at Bayview (house kitchen- one drink, dish at a time) and sat on the laptop at Shiralea watching workmen ready the pool bar for a ‘warm up party’ that never got off the ground compounding my booking error. I drank by myself (by now had own dog who slept on porch who Amy named Tufty) then jumped in a truck with a group on holiday from Middleborough to Haad Rin to meet Carley and Laura at the Family Guy bar (Pla Bla). We had a drink in Tommy’s Resort then hit the 3km sweeping beach to order a strong bucket from Jo Joe’s stall (dozens in a line all very similar) then stayed in front of Cactus watching the fire ropes/breathing, dancing on stages and getting another bucket. I partied with the Bali Germans and stayed in the girls cold room sometime between 4 and 5am; good start!
I explored Haad Rin (nicer and less crazy than expected), sat on sunrise beach and had to take two separate rides, wait half an hour in Thong Sala and walk 15 minute walk just to reach the hotel. I ventured out solo again for the Coral Beach pool party watching it fill with drunken people but left for Haad Rin and more awesome beach partying with the Scouser.
When finally out of bed at midday I bought an orange full moon singlet and on way home stopped by Amsterdam Bar with some Israelis for a great view of the islands and to smoke a joint purchased over the counter- as you do! Being close to Haad Yao it was easy to get a ride (replaced fake Havaianas with real ones as someone had taken mine) and stroll on the beach watching the waves as met Amy with American Heather (lives in Tokyo) who just dived with. We bought booze and drank while getting ready, then met some Norwegian’s at JB Hut and got in a pickup truck to Baan Tai for the Half Moon Party (tried having food but proceeded to drop it on the floor, plate and all). After stomaching the 500 bath entrance fee I was amazed at the set up- bars high above in a semi circle above a huge dance area all lit in a blue hue. We made Heather lose her bucket virginity (had half and had to be taken home) as I was receiving much attention from my new top (brighter than rest), danced alot and left about 4.30am directly to the hostel.
The final day of 2011 (unquestionably the best year of my life so far) began with some sort of lie in and just relaxed in preparation for what was to come. In the hottest sun I had experienced in Asia me and Amy went to Haad Rin very early, saw preparations going on, stands set up and tried picturing what it would look like in a few hours. We met some Californians, sat in Pla Bla, put on face/body paint till it was bucket time at Jo Joe’s (gave me a free one). Initially all together we began to separate as I went walkabout amongst the party goers in the incredible, unique, high energy atmosphere unlike anything else on earth- 70,000 people! Miraculously, everyone met up prior to midnight, as arranged, at Sunrise Bar so we could welcome 2012 together on the steps overlooking the crowded beach- 10, 9, 8...3, 2, 1...HAPPY NEW YEAR! Ecstatic, I hugged and kissed all those in the vicinity, regardless if had met them before, and watched the fireworks. I lost people and ended up hanging out with Canadian Allison (met at Half Moon) going to Mushroom Mountain and spending a considerable amount of time witnessing all the lost flip flops and debauchery going on by the beach and in the street. We went to isolated Bottle Beach and lay on the sand post sunrise then got put in the bed of the pickup taking her to the ferry before a motor taxi home at 12.15pm.
Until going to the ferry the following day I slept, searched flights, watched movies, ate more Thai food, listened to the pounding rain and finally saw a fun group of people arrive- far too late. The rain really intensified to monsoonal proportions as got slightly screwed over at the ferry terminal but made it to Koh Samui fine in the big swell’s (people were sick) and outside Family Mart embraced my Mum and Dad who had not seen since July 2010- extremely happy! We took Amy to Monkey Samui hostel then I got acquainted with the luxurious Hansar hotel and the huge room my parents were in; open plan, bath in centre, balcony, every amenity you could imagine, all looking brand new and highest quality. I had a Heineken, emptied all my things and got real excited looking at Christmas cards and sifting through a number of things they had brought over for me including a new shockproof phone, walking sandals, Reef thongs, some money, beard trimmer, Walkers shortbread and Helman’s Mayonnaise. I used the perfect shower and had a cocktail then in the Fisherman’s Village of Bophut went to a quiet, very expensive Italian Restaurant for a plate of antipasti and a big pizza along with imported beer and good white and red wine...the high life! We watched some football in Frog and Gecko with a pint then slept in the put up single bed.
What better way to start the day than a buffet breakfast including smoked salmon and dressing, many types of bread, ham and cheese, apple juice and eggs/sausages/bacon/mushrooms/baked beans with copious amounts of ketchup. In our white Civic RX ‘hire car’ with exhaust system we picked up Amy and did a tour of the island (I drove most of the time) seeing Chaweng, a temple, quiet western areas, lunch at Big John’s Seafood and going to a very touristy area which had a tiger chained up, elephant rides, truck excursions and an ok waterfall I climbed up with Dad. I moved into the hostel and had exquisite local cuisine consisting of a mussel starter and sharing 5 different meat/sauce main courses and rice (beef curry my favourite). Mum and I finished the Chilean white wine then I drank my first pint of Guinness since Cape Town, laughed at Dad who was on form and paid 300 baht for a 15 minute taxi journey to our currently empty dorm.
With the sun shining the whole island had a completely different feel to it and it meant golf was on. Ploughing through a family of ducklings wasn’t the greatest start but the Santiburi Golf Club was definitely the nicest looking course I have been to. With my cuts and bites covered up I got setup and introduced to my buggy operator/guide/caddy Thom. Over the course of 18 holes my top changed colour in the heat and despite my consistent driving and long iron play my short game let me down although still beat Dad 3&2 despite having only played on two previous occasions since leaving jersey. At Hansar I swam in the sea and then drove to Lamai to see Machelle and getting very lost/stuck/going wrong way in traffic trying to find Moonlight. That evening I introduced her to my parents, had cocktails at lovely Coco Tam’s and ate at a Mexican. In Chaweng we bought beer at 7/11 and sneaked into a big resort to lie on the loungers listening to the ocean with few people around and skinny dipping in the pool.
I awoke at 6.45am like a zombie as was going on a trip to Ang Thong Marine Park. In a big speed boat we did the worst snorkelling ever in zero visibility, saw the lagoon along with hundreds of others and did some fun kayaking around a stack out to sea before getting dropped off on our beach- best part of the day (waste of time). I relaxed in the infinity pool with Amy and in the evening had drinks on the balcony, passionfruit mojito at the bar and delicious meat and wine at the popular ‘Shack’.
I went shopping at the limited choice of places in the village then repacked all my things from scratch before the parents took me to Big Buddha Pier to say goodbye. In calm conditions the boat arrived in Koh Tao at 4pm where in Sairee Village I had my own room in the centre next to a 7/11 and up through a DVD stall (Amy doing well arranging it). We booked diving at New Way, ate at El Gringo’s with Russian Olga and had beer at sunset before doing the 350 baht pub crawl in free singlets seeing some bars and a Ladyboy show then staying put at lively Fish Bowl to party with more buckets.
All I did prior to my night dive was visit the beach and write in my journal. We and divemaster Jerome stood on the top of the boat under the spectacular evening sky and in the sea by White Rock moved through the very strong surface current to the buoy and descended with torches into the depths for 63 min seeing boxfish and a turtle ascend right in front of me. On dry land we had Italian esque pizza at Farango’s, bought shop drinks and went to a party at recently opened Maya Resort seeing some breathtaking Poi with fire and made sure I was in bed by 3am.
Up at 5.30am along with a full boat of people we departed from Mae Head to the SW Pinnacle which has been undived for a couple of weeks due to bad weather and currents. The vast dive site was lacking in colour and abundance of fish and I really didn’t feel great but our disappointment turned to excitement at news a Whale Shark was nearby at Chumphon Pinnacle- our captain changed plans and headed right for it! As we arrived the other large dive boats had gone and when in the water all rules and groups went out the window as we searched 10-15m down. Upon seeing a diver’s eyes light up in my direction I turned around to see it’s 5 metre body appear out of the dark majestically and go within feet of me prompting us all to race after it till it disappeared- WOW! We high fived in the water and were ecstatic having always wanted to see one. Visibility was poor and no one knew where we were so going leading to an epic swim; in warm thermoline there was a metre wide jellyfish. In town I ate more crap western food (no more!), napped and went to a pizza buffet with Olga and Amy then set off a lantern, saw a huge moon circle and drank through the night at Fish Bowl.
The following morning I found myself and Machelle a lovely wooden bungalow on stilts over the sea near Shark Bay (only 700 baht) so made most of it until we were so hungry and thirsty we had to leave for dinner (Penang Curry) and buy beer/’chippy’s’ to have on the Thai cushions on our porch making for a great evening.
We did a full day snorkelling trip which was ok except for the lack of fish and missing out a portion of the island due to the swell and Nang Yuan Islands were very beautiful (separated by sandy isthmus you can just walk on), if not overrun with holidaymakers taking the charm away. Hungry, we first ate a Pad Thai at New Heaven then dinner at Harbour Resort and a dessert pancake from the street (entertaining food guy).
We parted ways again (she’s Bangkok bound) and as weather worsening I chose to catch up the 10 days behind in my diary which took me an unbelievable 7 hours to do. At 8pm I went to the overnight boat and set up camp on my allocated ‘bed’ by a nice English couple. Contrary to what I thought, the sea was calm as watched Trailer Park Boys and fell asleep with iPod in. We docked into Suratthani at 5.30am via a tuk tuk and shared van made it to Krabi Town where I ignored the ‘warning’s’ from the travel agent and sorted my own longtail boat to stunning Riley (staying at Rappela). Once eaten at Mama’s Kitchen I looked for the viewpoint and was confused when it pointed up a very steep muddy slope. I of course was not mistaken so clambered up to get one extraordinary view of the lush, green town nestled amongst limestone cliffs. I made it down the harder and slippier slope to the lagoon saw the caves and later bi-passed the tourist monkeys and washed off the red/brown dirt at Phranang Beach (climbers above in droves). As rain came down we stayed put till 9pm, had cocktails and curry in ‘The Last Bar’ (zero nightlife) then I had to fight a cockroach in the room as Amy screamed and jumped about like a crazy person.
Upon hearing that nearby Tonsai Beach was backpacker heaven I walked over at low tide, met Claire and Dutch Nienke (met by lagoon) and put stuff in their tent at Jungle Hut (50 baht each); manager Mr Chang quite the guy. I had a healthy bowl of yoghurt, fruit and muesli for then kayaked over to Poda Island with Amy trying to avoid the bigger boats and any currents as quite a way away. Once seen the busy place we turned around and encountered a rain storm that felt amazing. In Tonsai I met the girls for a long wait for lunch (reggae crew) and in evening had half price cocktails with Spanish Mario and sat at busy Rendezvous with large Chang’s and chicken burgers. As it turned midnight marking Nienke’s 27th birthday we watched tide come up and some fire twirling then went to the hard floored tent using a t shirt as a pillow.
The next afternoon I had to cancel a food order to enable me to take part in a sunset tour with the girls which included ok snorkelling, a swim through an island wide cave, BBQ on a deserted beach and swimming with the illuminescent plankton (guide bit of a tool though but had cheap beer). By the tents we shared some Hong Thong, coke and chips, met people at the busiest bar in town and moved to the only one that did buckets (200 baht and strong) which was the Rasta bar where we danced our asses off getting very drunk indeed till 5am.
With red bull still in my system I was up energised like a Duracell Bunny and spoke in length to a couple from Montreal. We decided to leave for about 3pm and were lucky to have zero wait for a boat as one already on verge of leaving full. In the polar opposite resort town of Ao Nang, me, Nienke and settled on an airy room at Bernie’s Place, chilled and popped out for street spaghetti, a drink at Full Moon Bar and a walk past the Ibiza style bars then watched Inbetweener’s and used wifi.
Claire left at lunchtime as we started the trip north using two minibuses and then the overnight coach which broke down (electrical problems) for an hour enabling us to be in Bangkok at a more reasonable time after surprisingly having 5 hours sleep and nothing knicked
My next entry about the beauty of Northern Thailand and Laos will be along shortly...still persevering although still extremely behind