Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Phang nga Bay - Phuket

Our First "grown-up" holiday!

Phang nga Bay 

 As some of you may know we recently went on a "proper" holiday, to Phuket. Apart from our honeymoon, where we visited France with 3 children and the in-laws!! we had never holidayed abroad before, choosing to stay in the UK walking in the National Parks or camping in the South West and Wales. It wasn't something I had missed or even had a particular urge to do. The kids were young and for various reasons we didn't have the finances and I truly believe the countryside of the UK is stunning... if not always all the people!! Anyway in this new incarnation of ourselves we are now in this fortunate position to visit the countries around this part of the world which would of been "dream holidays" back home, for a fraction of the cost and very little travel time. So for our first holiday we chose Phuket. Only 1 3/4hr flight from Changi (less time than it took me to get to work in the UK some days!) We had a fantastic time and could really get used to these types of vacations, although it was strange being a "tourist". Hubby completely switched off from work almost immediately, which is unheard of and was so chilled out that I think he struggled on day 1 back in the office! Phuket itself was very touristy and I shall look forward to other holidays which aren't quite so, allowing myself to see the culture and the real side of future countries.

One of the trips we experienced was a speedboat trip around Phang nga Bay. I absolutely loved the speed and the exhilaration felt racing across the sea. I could really get used to this type of life but unless I swap hubby for a millionaire or win the lottery its highly doubtful! We had a "happy chappy" as a guide, full of amusing anecdotes who was also very informative. He also tried to avoid the tourist hotspots as much as possible, avoiding as he said "all the Russians"(Phuket seems a very popular destination for them, the majority of boats and groups seemed to be from there)

After about 45 mins bombing across the water we stopped on 2 floating boats and were taken by a paddler sea canoeing around Ko Talu Nok. Getting into the canoe in the first place was scary but I didn't fall in. I don't swim but they said the water was only waist deep but I'm not sure if I believed them. We were taken around several small islands hugging the coast and saw the limestone outcrops. We had to lie flat at times as we were taken through archways in the rocks and into hidden lagoons and deserted coves and beaches. As ever we passed a few locals in their boats trying to sell us drinks etc.

Lady Boy island - as our guide called it due to the 2 boobs!
my view at the front of the canoe

Sea Eagle circling above us

Various locals selling there wares. Really colourful umbrellas 

Our paddler - thank you for returning me safely to the boat!

Now I may have grown up watching James Bond films but they are not my most loved of films and I'm certainly not keen of Roger Moore, although Sean Connery has a certain something! Hubby however was really keen to visit James Bond Island (Khan Ta Pu) and see the sights from the film "The man with the Golden Gun" and this was the next stop on the days tour. It was extremely busy and we were given just 1/2hr to clamber over the rocks to the other side of the island which didn't seem very long, but to be honest there's not a lot there apart from James Bond island (Khan Ta Pu) and a few caves. There were tourist stalls set up along the beach and although the photos we took made it look isolated if you turn around you would see 100s of other people taking the same photo! Having said that it was stunning scenery and hubby was happy to see in reality the sights from the film. The island we stopped on was called Khao Phing Kan. James Bond island (Khan Ta Pu) translates from Thai as Needle island, a very apt name, and lies just off a small bay from Khao Phing Kan.

James Bond island - Khan Ta Pu - needle island
The view from the bay looking out at Khan Ta Pu - not so secluded!
Interesting shaped cave which is also in the film The Man with the Golden Gun. You will see Bond running from this cave as the island explodes!

Next stop was lunch at the floating moslem village (Ko Pan Yi) We were shown around the school and our guide was keen to point out that we should ignore the advances of the "ladyboy" there who would try to get you to hold his/her gibbon (not a euphemism!) and then charge to have your photo taken with it. He pointed out that these babies were captured by killing the mothers  - I had hear such stories but was sad to see the reality. There was also a few young girls with these primates that tried to push them onto you and also tried to get you to purchase gifts from them. It was clear they had been to told to put on the most saddest forlorn faces as possible - later on we found them running around and playing happily! We were given a "typical Thai" lunch - although not sure how typical it was, it was quite tame on the spice front. Having said that it was delicious and certainly better than what you would probably get in the UK - spicy (?) chicken legs, chicken with cashew nuts, fried rice, stir fried vegetables, and a couple of other dishes I can't recall now plus fruit for dessert. The inhabitants here make their living now predominantly by tourism and indeed the village was one big market. I'm sure if we didn't already live in Asia we may have found it more interesting but we have the same goods in the markets here. What was more interesting was to wander outside the confines of the market to the "streets' where they lived. I found it difficult to chose which photos to show but I hope you enjoy them. Although it all looked precarious, modern structures were being erected, satellite dishes were attached to the homes and everyone, including the children had mobiles and iPods etc.

view of the village as we arrived, note the mosque in the background.
when theres a hole just lay another board on top!
not sure if I'd trust walking on this!
brightly coloured boats to transport the visitors 

Was interesting to see that slowly the fragile structures are being replaced by modern structures. Obviously tourism pays!

Throughout Phuket we saw many birds kept in cages, clearly even more popular here than it is in Singapore

We then left Ko Pan Yi - at speed - weehee!!!

...... and were taken to another small island, mooring in a tiny bay to walk though caves to a hidden bay. Sad to say (no I'm not!!) I decided to stay and soak up the rays on the boat, much more sensible in my opinion! What did I miss?...... stumbling over wet slippery rocks in the dark and wading through mud with large insects crawling everywhere to what I'm sure was a nice hidden cove, but there's more than enough stunning scenery around here to cope with missing out! I know who chose the better option!!!

By now we were all getting rather sleepy and indeed some people began to drop off as we speeded along to our final stop. Not me I was still loving the speed - I want a speedboat for my birthday! Our guide gave us the option to stop off where the tour was supposed to go, which would be very busy or to go to a more secluded quiet island. Needless to say we opted for the latter. It was the correct choice, a truly idyllic tropical island, not quite deserted as there was one other boat there and some National Park workers playing ball. But after a while the second boat and the workers departed leaving us on this beautiful quiet island for 1 1/2 hours. We wandered along the coast for while taking photos then retired to a small bamboo hut that was masquerading as a bar and spent a relaxing time there partaking of the odd tipple which was of course forced through my lips. The only excitement here was the largest wasp in the world investigating the remnants of people glasses. Our guide found our reaction amusing - it was dinosaur sized!! he also told us in the village he was brought up in, on the mainland, in the National Park, they would search out wasp nests and steal the larvae, cooking them up with onions, garlic and chillies. Probably delicious but don't think I would of gone hunting for the larvae. I certainly wouldn't want to upset one of those mega wasps.

they were very good at "keepy uppy"
I believe this is the wardens home, note the tent inside!
I wonder how long this boat has been here? since the tsunami?

sailboat with the occupants cooling off in the sea.
Not a bad place to spend a lazy afternoon. Bamboo hut/bar.
Our own personal deserted tropical island - Well I can dream can't I.........

One very tired but happy couple returned to our hotel on Kamala Bay that night to view another "out of this world sunset" excited what the next day may show us.

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