06.11.2011 - 21.11.2011 33 °C
We flew into Phuket airport on a nice short flight from Singapore on Sunday night. Then we were rounded up into a minivan to be shuttled to our guesthouse via a tourist office. They would have tried to sell us stuff but luckily Clare and Kerry had come before us, so we had a room and didn't want any tours.
We stayed two nights on Kata beach at Kata Minta guesthouse, which was a step up in luxury. Hot showers, air conditioning, sauna and jacuzzi and our towels were folded into a swan shape. It all came with a price tag though and Clare and Kerry had to bargain with them to get them down to 600B a night - or six pounds per person per night. This was the most we paid in Thailand. We mostly chilled out here, just a brief jaunt into Phuket town to buy bus tickets and have a look around.
We spent all of Tuesday travelling to Ko Phangan, Thais don't believe in speedy buses or boats. We found Blue Lotus resort easily though, they were lovely there and it was right on the beach (like most of the resorts). The only downside was that the beds were a little solid. Also lumpy. We thought we'd walk to Hat Rin the next day and have a look round the town before the full moon party. It was only 3km but we were the only people walking. It's really hilly. We did see a couple of motorbikes who had to let the passenger off part way up the hill to make it the rest of the way up. So we caught a taxi back.
On the day of the full moon we thought that the party itself wasn't enough, so we booked an island tour too. We saw a waterfall and paddled in the nice cold water, saw another temple (someday we're going to have to get someone to talk us round one, as we have no idea what the significance of any of the images or statues is), went and sat on a really nice beach and had a swim, and went elephant trekking! The trekking was brilliant. We had to climb onto a platform to get onto the elephant and then step onto its shoulders and onto the seat. Then Joe was invited to sit on the elephant's neck. Elephants are cool. And quite hairy.
Thursday night was the full moon party on Hat Rin beach. Lots of fire being thrown around, including flaming skipping ropes and fire dancers. Many different DJs along the beach and plenty of buckets of alcohol. It was a really good night although we nearly lost Kerry out of the back of the taxi on the way home. She wanted to sit in the fresh air, but there are no real seats or barriers to the outside, just a bench and a metal rail.
After a day's recovery we went to Ko Tao for diving. There was no space on the cheap ferry at lunch time so we got the more expensive early morning catamaran and were settled in our chalet at Coral Grand by about 11am. The diving was not bad here, but we didn't see the whaleshark. We think we may have just missed it but it may have been spurious rumours from the other dive boat to wind us up.
We did see some enormous groupers, an octopus (Yay), and a seahorse. Also lots of fish and squishy things. We managed to sign onto a night dive too (five dives in one day for me and Joe!). It was really cool when we turned our torches out and moved our hands through the water, it lit up with bioluminescent plankton. Sleeping fishes are funny and thankfully (unfortunately?) we weren't followed by any giant barracuda.
We couldn't go north as we'd planned because of the flooding, so we decided to visit Ko Samui and then go back down to Phuket so Clare and Kerry could catch their flight back to the UK. We picked Ko Samui so that we could go to Ang Thong marine park. We did have a bit of trouble booking a tour because of the monsoon, but managed to find a speedboat to take us. The snorkelling out there was excellent and we saw lots of fish, a couple of seahorses, jellyfish, pufferfish... cool stuff. Then we climbed up to a saltwater mountain lake in the crater of an extinct volcano. Very steep steps have been installed to facilitate the climb. Apparently, this is the place that inspired Alex Garland to write The Beach. Then followed lunch, which materialised from two plastic containers. But managed to be a hot and tasty Thai meal. The afternoon was spent sea kayaking amongst the islands before heading back to Samui on the speedboat. We did have a slight glitch on the way back when the engines cut out about halfway but it was just something caught in the propeller and we were soon on our way again.
Getting back to Phuket was an arduous journey. Minivans are not the way to do it. Let's just say it was too hot, too cramped, too bumpy, and involved a too-long wait at another tourist travel office for 3 hours. Very glad to get off the road and check into another nice guesthouse, Baan Thonglor, this time at Patong Beach in Phuket. We've been up to the Phra Taew National Park to see the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. It's really sad to hear what humans do to our fellow apes (gibbons aren't monkeys, they're apes like us!), but they are doing very worthwhile work. The centre was also next to the Bang Pae waterfall.
Last night, we booked tickets to Phuket's 'Simon Cabaret' show - very glitzy and glamorous - followed by a night out in Patong. We started in a bar called My Way - drag queens, ladyboys, and numbered house boys galore. A number is much easier to remember than a name... But we had a really funny night and they were all really lovely.
Off to Bangkok on the overnight bus tonight. Ta ta for now!