year of the rabbit: 2011

I’ve spent the last few months writing and organizing all our information re: Thailand for this blog. Yet I still have all the trips mixed up. Kyle references everything according to which vehicle we were driving. That doesn’t work for me.

I didn’t even think to write about the Rabbit Chinese New Year, 2011, until last night. I have no idea why. Reminiscing about it with Kyle, I got overly excited, he had to tell me to calm down a little. I forgot how great of a trip it was. It seems like it was decades ago. It was the first time we really explored the south.

Going to Thailand as a kid with my parents, it always seemed like Suvarnabhumi Airport was so far out of the city. It’s really not though. If there’s no traffic, it will only take 20 minutes to town by car (11pm til morning rush hour) [ah, my first time to Thailand, 1996. Phuket of course. 12 years old. Sitting at the girly boy bars, next to a beautiful, recent post-op., woman, and she  used her thumbs and wiped the sweat off my nose.  My strongest memory of that trip. It was the weirdest thing]

I can still remember the old airport from when I was a kid and when Kyle and I went in 2002. It was old and dark. Walking out the door and down the few steps, the humidity slapped you in the face.

The new airport’s great. I believe there’s a skytrain you can take into the city. My first time in Thailand, there was evidence of the skytrain but with the Asian economic crisis, all construction had stopped, and for a long time that it did. If arriving on a long haul flight, I would assume boarding a skytrain is the last thing you want to do. One floor below arrivals is the taxi stand. All very legit  these days. Ask to take the tolled highways. You’ll have to pay for them, two, each about B40. Be sure to get your change back from the driver. It’s always a flat rate into the city, B400 to the Khao San road area. If I’m not mistaken, the different areas are listed and priced on a lamented form, attached to the passenger seat. We never tipped taxi or tuk tuk drivers. We tip restaurants when the food and service deserves it. At cheap eateries, I assume most people don’t tip no matter what.

Summer 2010 was the last time we stayed near Khao San Road.  With a car, it’s too difficult.  We use to always stay at the All Seasons Bangkok Victory Monument.  Unfortunately, Accor sold this hotel recently.  Quite annoying.  It was like our home away from home. Right off the main highway, we knew the route to Khao San Road and it was a great hotel.  It was very familiar and easy.  I suppose now we’ll stay at the  All Seasons Bangkok Siam (directions to Khao San Road)

We never spend too much time in Bangkok these days.  Usually one night is all we need.  We drive into the city the night before we leave Thailand and head to Khao San Road in the evening for food and shopping (essentially the same stuff is sold no matter which city you’re in, Bangkok’s always the cheapest and has the widest selection however).  Dinner is always at a great little  Japanese Restaurant.  The bacon wrapped oysters are melt in your mouth, amazing. Go eat here.

During the summer of 2010, we never went to the south of Thailand, and during 2002 we really only went to Koh Phi Phi.  We left Bangkok and headed South.  Back in 2000 my parents and I stayed in Hua Hin.  At that time, it wasn’t much of anything.  Just big secluded hotels on the beach.  Now it’s a pretty busy coastal city.  Lots of hotels and restaurants.  If you were looking for a break from the beach, I think a weekend in Huahin would be entertaining.

We drove to the pier and parked to find some food. Along the coast, there’s a bunch of little streets with shops and restaurants.

We found Cool Breeze Cafe, formerly Spanish Tapas, but same everything. We always make a point of stopping here.  The food’s really good and great service from the owner. White anchovies with garlic and lemon, calamari and a meat platter (B1000 with drinks and completely worth it). Very nice atmosphere and decor (very clean), outdoor seating in the front and a cute little garden patio in the back [From fishing pier at the end of Chomsin Road, head south on the small side street, Naresdamri Rd. It’ll be on your right.]

We didn’t like any of the hotels in Huahin. They seemed expensive for what you got. So we kept heading south. I had a bunch of hotels mapped out along the coast. Just south of Huahin there was apparently an area of hotels but they seemed more like deserted club meds. We kept agreeing to continue further south. We stayed along the coast for the most part. All fishing towns, with no tourism economy. Probably one of my favorite Thai coast lines. It’s hard to explain but it’s just so peaceful and quiet, there being only locals (most men either out fishing, or resting in the day to go squid fishing that night). All the colourful boats tied to the shore. It’s gorgeous.

  

Prachuap Khiri Khan town is still pretty small and not touristed by foreigners.  They set up, I believe a daily afternoon market.  We accidently drove right into the middle of it, just as set up was starting, until we realized cars weren’t really meant for that street anymore and reversed out of there.   There’s Ao Noi which is an outcrop forming the cove of the city.  It climbs high into sky and is inhabited by local monkeys.  On the drive back up North we decided to actually stop here and see the monkeys.  Of course there was a man selling bags of peanuts for B10.  Before, when we went to Vietnam we made the obligatory stop at Monkey Island while sailing in Halong Bay.  Monkeys are wild animals and they’re hungry, they can be vicious and I don’t like them.  Essentially these tourist traps are sending you into a cage full of hungry monkeys and they’ve been conditioned to see people and receive food.  So it’s clear what happens when you show up with no intention of feeding them.  I don’t like monkeys.

    

Essentially Kyle’s on the same page as me when it comes to monkeys, yet he decides to buy a bag of peanuts (while I stay within the vicinity of the car).  It’s quite cute.  Kyle hands out peanut by peanut like a kindergarten teacher handing out treats to children.  They’d come up and take it from him just as a child would.  You could see who the alpha monkeys were and they’d fight amongst themselves over the nut.  Kyle buys a bag for me and I reluctantly agree.  I hand out one peanut and then grandpa monkey swoops in and snags my entire bag straight out of my hand. Ya, I don’t like monkeys.

We drove through Thap Sakae beach, which is a Royal Air Force base. The beach is lined with tall pine trees. Random locals stopping for a swim. Very peaceful and natural in these areas, all first growth trees.

After a couple of more bays, we drove into Thong Chai.  The spelling and name for this area varies.  We call it Ban Krut.  The cutest little town.  The train station belongs in a children’s story book, it’s the cutest little thing (I determined to get a photo of it this trip).  We knew there were a bunch of hotels in the area, so we were expecting to stay somewhere.  Pretty much looked at all the hotels along the main drag.  Not a lot, maybe a dozen, all varying in comfort and price.  The town is a weekend getaway for locals.  Rates are actually set higher on weekends.

   

  

The  Keeree Waree Seaside Villa & Spa looked nice but at the time it was out of our budget (I don’t even think we looked at hut. [July 2011: B1800 for Garden; 2500 for Seaview).  Now however this is were we stay.  The huts (video) are beautiful but not being maintained as well as they should be.  The pool is very nice, one on the main road with a view of the ocean and another set in the middle of the resort.  The grounds are very nice but breakfast is pretty bad.

  

  

  

There was one last place about one km past the rest, Rachavadee Resort  (B1600 for Garden; 1800 for Seaview; +200 on weekend.  Immediately, we loved it.  It was completely secluded, quiet, nearly empty.  The bungalows had style.  Glass front doors which pulled back and opened the whole room up.  The bed looking out to the ocean, pushed up against a brick wall.  Two windows on each adjacent wall.  The door leading to the bathroom opened, and you were outside.  Open air shower. Our first one.

    

Their beach…

    

*J.J. Café about 1.5 km north of the hotel along the main beach road: great burgers. A couple picnic tables with plastic red and white checkered covers under a roof.  The lady who runs it has a German I believe,  husband, and has created this huge menu of things she would cook for him.  Cheap, delicious and the breakfast looks good.

*Nowhere to get laundry done in this town!

Being the keeners that we are, even after finding the Rachavadee, we drove on to the next bay just past Bang Saphan. Cute fishing area.  Stopped at a local, empty, eatery on the beach for an afternoon snack.  Standard affair, but the crab fried rice was pretty good, loaded with fresh crab.  After eating we headed back to the hotel and got a room.

  

    

{Wat Tang Sai, up on the hill on the north end of Ban Krut cove}

Next, we headed to Khao Lak.  It was high season and it was packed. Horribly annoying.  Up to this point, we had never booked a hotel in advance.  We quickly learnt that in high season, it’s somewhat necessary.  We stopped at a dozen hotels, most were full or were bad.  In the end, we went with  The Shambhala Khao Lak Resort. It was beyond our budget, but by that time it didn’t matter.  It is really nice and owned by a really sweet family.  The wife does a great home cooked breakfast for you.  Even in high season she’d do breakfast to order for the guests.  It was a bit of everything, a small portion of all your favourite breakfast meals, with juices and coffees. Very nice.  It was expensive though so the next day we moved to the cheaper Khaolak Countryside Resort & Spa.  It was ugly, busy and full of children.  Their beach front was a mess, random plastic chairs and recliners, which didn’t even match, just strewn about.  The beach was fun though and nice.  At that time, the waves were great for playing in.

For Italian, we went to Pinocchio Pizzeria.  Generally, if a foreign food restaurant is expat owned, they stick to one region of food and you see the expat owner somewhere in the restaurant, the food will be good (however, this is coming from someone who lives in Haikou  and therefore  is never served a foreign fare).  For drinks, two appies, two mains and a pizza, B1400.

For German we went to a restaurant just a few doors from the Italian place. Can’t remember the name, remember the food however.  Huge schnitzel, huge plates. Tasty. Around B700 for most likely (?) drinks, an appy and two mains.

We were eager to head out of Khao Lak, even though the beach was great, the area was just too busy.  We headed to Krabi. Once passed Ao Luek, we stayed close to the coast.  However, there really isn’t much along the water, parallel to highway four.   Krabi is a busy city, we would never stay in the city. We drove in to have dinner at a good Italian place Viva Restaurant (and hope to stop here for lunch or something on the next trip).

Ao Nang is a busy, touristy beach area.  The main road is U shape, with the beach running along the bottom.  Lots of restaurants and shopping.  This is where we bought the oil paintings for the nephews and the three Buddha paintings.  Sometimes we would drive here for dinner but no real memorable restaurants.  In fact, one night we walked the strip and by the end we hadn’t really seen anything that called out to us.  I saw a sign for cheap gin and tonics so we just went and sat down.  When our drinks arrived, we noticed our waiters name tag.  I checked the napkins to be sure.  We were sitting in the restaurant of the Holiday Inn. It was painfully and painfully funny at the same time.  Not shockingly, I don’t remember the meal in the slightest.

We stayed in Klong Muang at The Elements.  It was empty and we essentially had the place to ourselves.  Nice room and nice pool.

 

There’s a couple good restaurants in the area.  Motherhouse had really good Thai food. This is where Kyle decided Penang curry was his favourite.  There’s a main street somewhere on your way out of Klong Muang, heading towards Krabi.  There’s a bunch of restaurants, a few shops and some big hotels.  There’s a restaurant (east side of street) which you must walk up the driveway to get to the entrance.  Something in the title makes you think it’s Indian.  It is but it also has food from every other region of the world.  The menu was like a novel.  We finished the drinks we had ordered and left.  Across the street and south a few minutes (south of the 7-11), there’s a real Indian restaurant.  Good curries, naan and the usual.

Across the street from Motherhouse, we booked a private speed boat from a travel agency.   There’s a wide range of boat trips you can take.  Different islands, different boats, different group sizes.  The cheapest being the slowest long tail boat with lots of other people.  There are larger wooden boats packed with people.  We splurged and rented a speed boat. If I’m not mistaken, it cost B8000 and was quite worth it.  We stopped at Podah Island, Talay Weak, and saw Chicken Island.  The sand and the water was gorgeous.  The snorkeling was great. A little busy but we tried to avoid the crowds as best as possible (we had done Hong Island in 2002, beautiful and offered canoeing).  We spent all day in and on the water, on the white sandy beaches and took refuge under the shade the boat provided.  It was a great day to say the very least.

  

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