Right now we’re in Koh Lanta (except this was written a few days ago), a large Island just off the coast of South West Thailand in the Andaman Sea, but in a couple of hours we’ll be off on a ferry to Kho Phi Phi to play at being Leonardo Di Caprio and that French bird from The Beach. Hopefully there’ll be no fighting off sharks to be done though.
We whizzed up through Malaysia pretty quickly to get on to these gorgeous Thai beaches, but still found time for 3 nights in Kuala Lumpur and a couple of nights in Penang. KL is a surprisingly modern city, with plush air-conditioned shopping centres, modern office blocks and even a new monorail to get round the city on. Between all the modernity however the old Asian city still peeks through, with bustling street stalls, open drains, and spectacularly un-integrated public transport (if you want to change from one train line to another you have to leave the station and buy another ticket first). We visited the Petronas Towers while we were there – one of several buildings that seem to curiously all be the tallest in the world, but could only go up as far as the bridge that links the two towers about halfway up. It’s a pretty strange feeling crossing a walkway 40 stories above ground though!
From KL we got a very uncomfortable overnight train up to Penang (the sleeping berths were all full). Penang is an island just of the mainland on the West coast, dominated by the old Colonial city of Georgetown. The main local attraction is the funicular ride which takes you up a hillside with great views and gardens surrounded by jungle. It was closed, so instead we went to a nearby temple which very seems rightly very proud of it’s unsettlingly huge new bronze Buhdda statue.
We decided to leave the high rise hotel metropolis that is Penang, and find somewhere a little more deserted. We took the ferry to Langkawi, then legged it across the terminal to just make the ferry to Satun in Southern Thailand. A pick up truck, a small car to Trang (shared with another couple backpacking and all our luggage), a mini bus, a longtail boat, a larger boat, and another longtail boat later we made it to Kho Kradan. Quite an easy journey, considering waiting around for hours for boats and being stranded on a larger boat, with no driver and a group of Thais on a fishing trip, who decided to watch the sunset over the spectacular limestone outcrops and crack open a bottle of Whiskey.
Koh Kradan is mainly a resort for Thais, so being a Thai holiday it was pretty full, the restaurant had reached bursting point, so we (quite happily) were shoved out on the beach to enjoy a candlelit dinner. As they did with the other Farang (foreigners), all six of us.
Although the resort has seen better days, and being the only one on the island, and the slight bother of getting there, it is rarely visited by travellers, except on snorkelling tours. This means once all the tours have left, you have an entire National Park protected beach and amazing off-shore coral reef for yourself. We found lots of Nemos, multi-coloured corals and fans, as well as large assortments of multi-coloured fish.
Our next stop was Koh Ngai, still another favorite for day-trippers, more beautiful coral and beaches, although a few more resorts this time. Our first night was at Koh Ngai Villas, a cheaper option, but for an extra 100 baht, we had a gorgeous fan cooled room and a better reef to explore at the Koh Ngai Resort. We also had friendlier staff here with more personality than a Thai customs officer, which was the biggest bonus for moving.
A quick stop on Koh Lanta, then straight to Phi Phi to sample some world class snorkelling and Diving. After our very chilled first few days, Phi Phi was a bit of a shock to the system, the island has been developed beyond recognition (as well as bungalow prices), but we decided not to miss the opportunity of a choice of places to eat and drink. The abundance of fresh faces and travellers to meet lured us out on BP (Burn Patrol), to see who could spot the person who forgot to slap on the sunscreen, and who had the worse white marks. After a full day of snorkelling around National Park reefs and deserted islands (with a non-waterproof sunscreen), we decided that we scored top marks in all categories. Although Adrian is very pleased to have spotted two sharks (or it could have just been one, checking him out), and today is on a dive trip, to hopefully see more of sharkey’s bigger friends.
Later today we will be heading off to Railay, although being Songkran (Thai New Year) for the rest of the week, it looks like trying to get somewhere to stay could be a bit of a challenge.
By anon. – Mar, 2004
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