THAILAND (SEP 1998) - GARD KARLSEN
I landed in Bangkok on a Saturday morning and I met my girlfriend in the airport. We only stayed in Bangkok to the following day cause we really dont like big cities. But it is strange with big cities
there is always something to do there and that attracts people. We spent the night at the Dusit Thani on Silom road. I booked this using asia travels (http://www.asiatravels.com/) and that worked out pretty good. We just had a standard room and it was OK. The service at the hotel was very good. The following day we spent looking a bit around in Bangkok. When we arrived at the airport we booked a guided tour. It was only about 7 US dollars and it sounded great to start out with. We were taken to the golden buddha, the standing Buddha and we drove around in town. BUT we were also taken to a tailor place were we were placed in a couple of chairs and we had to see through some folders of men and women clothing. And then they looked at us like they expected us to buy right there and then. We were not looking for anything and we didnt buy anything. We were also taken to a place were we could see jewelers working. Again we were led into a big room were there were all sorts of jewelry and again we were bombarded with hints that we should buy this and that and the guy that took us around kept saying that they accepted all kinds of credit cards. So we were kinda happy when we could get out of the guided tour and start seeing Bangkok on our own. I have spent two days in Bangkok (last year) but my girlfriend has never been there before. So we went to the most obvious place, Grand Palace to see the Emerald Buddha. We also tried out the Tuk-tuks but I will come back to that later on and we did a bit of shopping looking around in the World Trade Center, Siam square and MBK.
The following day we flew with Thai airways to Phuket in the south of Thailand. There are lots of flights to this island each day so getting a ticket was no problem. I had booked and bought my tickets back home ion Norway being afraid that there was a space problem. But it was a big airplane that took us down south. In Phuket I had booked a hotel using asiatravels again. When I first booked it they demanded that I should hand in my VISA number and I said no. They confirmed by saying that I could come anyway. But when I arrived there was a bit of confusion cause they were not expecting me. But when I showed them a print out of the mails I got a room and I got it for the same rate that was stated on the asia travel pages. The hotel was Patong Bay Garden Hotel and it is located as the name indicates on Patong beach. And when I say on Patong beach I mean on the beach. When I stepped out of the room I had 5 meters to the swimming pool and about the same to get to the beach. The room itself was pretty boring and there was a lack of windows. There should have been a view to the beach. But most of the time is not spent inside the room when you are on vacation anyway. The price for this junior suite was 1500 baht per night including breakfast. The location of the hotel was also great in relation to the nightlife in Phuket. When we stepped out of the door at the hotel we were in the middle of the noisy and flashing main beachroad. I would describe Phuket, or let me rephrase that, I would describe Patong beach on Phuket as a mans dream. Or maybe a place that brings out the boy in a man. During the day there are lots of activities. You can rent a water jet (for about 600-800 baht) for half an hour and go wild in the waves. Or you can rent a bog motorcycle (even if you dont have a license) and drive around the island. Or you can rent a big 4 by 4 and go around the island. There was also parasailing on Patong beach, possibility to rent small bikes or just walk around looking at all the locals selling t-shirts, small lasers and so on. At night Patong beach turns into a heaven of lights. The stores and street vendors dont close even if it gets dark and the clock is past 9-10 at night. There are lots of different restaurants to choose from both Thai food and European food. There was quite a lot of European restaurant, there was even a Norwegian pub/restaurant called the Viking Garden. According to my guidebook the best Thai food can be found in Phuket town but we didnt check out that. We stayed in Phuket from the 6th to the 12th. While we were there we got to do the following:
Simon Cabaret: it is basically a dragqueen show and it was pretty good. Tickets can be bought more or less everywhere (from hotels to streetvendors). The show has got both funny acts and more traditional miming. The setting were great by the way. After the show the actors came out in the street so that that the audience could take photos of them. But I felt kinda odd when they started crawling all over me asking for change. I guess Im just not used to that from back home.
Phi Phi islands: we took a one day trip to Phi Phi islands. The folder had a detailed programs (operating with 30 minutes schedules) but that turned out to be just a con show. But I still think that the trip was worth the 550 baht per person that we paid. We got picked up from the hotel at about 7 am in the morning. We were taken to the pier near Phuket town. The boat was really crowded with people going out to the islands. We came to the island (Phi Phi ley) at about 10. There we had free time till about 11.30 when we were given lunch on a local restaurant. Then we had free time again until about 1 pm when we were taken by a smaller boat to a snorkeling place near by. The snorkeling was OK (Im not used to much), snorkeling gear was included on this trip. I dont know if I would have enjoyed staying on Phi Phi. There seemed to be a lack of things to do (at least for me) and the main beach and the area seemed to be quite ugly. Im sure that there are very nice and quite deserted beaches around on the island. We returned to Phuket at about 2.30 and we were taken back to the hotel.
Patong Horror show: They have turned a big house into a horror show and my girlfriend likes horror movies so we decided to go and take a look. And it turned out to be a great success (at least for my girlfriend :-) WE were taken into a dark room and a person came in and told us the basic rules for the rest of the trip the rules included no running, walking in line and so on. Inside we walked from room to room, all very dark with live actors in them. We were sent into scenes from The exorcist, Psycho, Frankenstein and so on. And they all seemed to escape their cages when we had gotten into the room. My girlfriend got pretty shook up about the whole thing so when we came to the finale we had to ask one of the clerks to let us out the back door. I guess the whole thing depends on your ability to live into this horror show.
Rent a car: we rented a car for about 6 hours and we drove of to take a look at the island. We drove past Karon beach, Kata beach going south and then towards the east coast of the island. We drove to the Phuket aquarium and it was barely worth the 20 baht the we had to pay to get into see the few fish that were in there. We also managed to get a bit lost driving around in Phuket town but we managed to get on the right path again. We only had a tourist map but we managed pretty good just using that. We stopped by one of the national parks and we walked a few minute to get to ????? waterfall. Remember that they drive on the left hand side of the road in Thailand and that the cars have the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. It is not difficult to drive this way, it only takes a few minutes to get used to it. Look out for the locals that drive like crazy on their small bikes, you never know if they pass you on the left hand side or the right hand side.
Go-kart: my girlfriend and myself like to have stuff to do when we are on vacation so we tried the local go-kart track as well. We were the only two driving so I guess business was kinda slow. I think the price was about 300 baht for about 10 minutes.
Minigolf: There is a great minigolf course on Patong beach. Look for the adds in the maps that you can find in your hotel. I think there were 36 holes, some of them were fairly easy.
The rest of the time was just spent having a good time. We walked around during the day and looked at the street vendors, we went swimming in the ocean and in the swimming pool. The weather varied a lot from splashing rain to blue skies. But the temperature was pretty stable around 30 degrees. We ate out every night and we had all from Pizza at the restaurant called Pizzadelic (also has a internet cafe) to Old Siam on Karon beach which serves good Thai food in lovely surroundings. Food is pretty cheap in Thailand compared what Im used to back home in Norway. The main dishes was between 200-300 baht. And drinking alcohol was also very cheap compared to what Im used to. A beer brewed in Thailand (Singha or Carlsberg) was about 80 baht and imported beer like Corona was about 120-140 baht.
I think Phuket was great. The beach and the night life so close to each other. Yes there are lots of red light bars around here but you can also find straight bars. The street vendors can be a bit of a nucense but I just smiled at most of them and said no to the in a very polite way. But they try very hard to sell you stuff if you show a bit of interest. A street vendor attack my girlfriend one night and tried very hard to sell her a sarong. She didnt want any so she kept saying no and tried to walk away. The price started on 650 baht but by the time we walked off he was down to 150 so I guess you can say that there is room for bargaining. There are lots of tuk-tuks around on the beach just waiting to take you around. They charged about 20 baht per person to drive us around on Patong beach.
On the 12th we went to Phuket airport to go to Koh Samui. Again I had booked and bought tickets back home in Norway. Bangkok Airways is the only company to fly directly from Phuket to Koh Samui (at least I was told so) and the trip takes about an hour (in a fairly small propel plane). Landing at Koh Samui is great. The little airport here must be the most charming on that I have ever seen. There is both an international terminal and a domestic one. But the buildings are not traditional buildings like we know it. It was more like an open solution (no walls, just a roof). The landing strip lies idyllic between coconut palms. Once again I had booked a hotel using the net and asia travels. When I booked a bungalow at the Fair House on Chaweng beach I had to give my VISA number so that they could charge a deposit. At this time Im not sure if the deposit has been returned to me so how successfully it was remains to be seen. The fair house has both hotel rooms and bungalows and the price varies. The closer to the beach, the more expensive it gets. I booked a bungalow on the beach and that was 2000 baht per night including breakfast. The view from the door in the bungalow was stunning: a coconut tree, the beach and the ocean. The fair house is located on Chaweng noi (Chaweng beach is split in two by some rocks and the fair house is located on the smaller beach). This means that you are a bit out of town but it only took us about 5 minutes to walk over to the main road and from there on we could take a taxi (20 baht per person) to anywhere on the beach road). Koh Samui is quite different compared to Phuket. In Phuket (at Patong) all the action took place more or less on the beach but on Koh Samui (on Chaweng) the action is more spread out and the beach road is about 200 meters from the beach.
The first day of our stay we rented a bike and we drove around. We took a look at the big Buddha which is located on a beach in the north east of the island. Driving on the island was a bit challenging. First of all I have to admit that I havent driven a bike for years and second the thing was without a clutch. But we managed to get around somehow. We had one minor accident, I drove a bit to fast into a turn and there were sand in the road (the roads are not that great) and we fell of the bike. On our way south again (the islands circular road is about 50 km long) we drove past Lamai beach and ended up in the southern part of this beach. This is the place where you can see Grandfather and Grandmother stones, the stones that looks like the male and female genitals. We went further south west and we decided to walk up to a waterfall. The trail up to the highest waterfall is pretty steep and it takes about 20 minutes to walk up there. If it is worth it? Walk up there and see for yourself :-)
We decided once again that we wanted to go on a snorkeling trip. The island Koh Tao (Turtle Island) is recommended because of the visibility in the water. We had to pay 1300 bath per person and we were picked up at the hotel at 8 am. We were taken to the pier and we got into a speedboat. There were about 18 persons on board this boat and a crew of two. The trip to Koh Tao took about 1,5 hours and it was a pretty bumpy ride, especially coming back from the island. Two Australian girls we talked to said that they had gone on a trip two days before and they had to cancel it after 20 minutes because the waves were too big. The driver wanted to keep going but the passengers convinced him to turn around. Anyway, we got to Koh Tao and we anchored up in a bay that was shielded from the big waves outside. It most more or less a beach area so I was a bit disappointed and thought to myself that it would be kinda boring. But I was wrong, very wrong. When we got into the water it turned out that there were fish everywhere and they came in all sizes (from 2 cm to 25 cm) and in all colors. And when we brought bread into the water they went wild. The water was very nice and the visibility was maybe about 5 to 6 meter under water. The depth varied from 0 m and up so it was very family friendly. We stayed at this location for about an hour and then we went back to the main beach to have lunch (included in the price) at a local restaurant. After lunch we went to a new location and we snorkeled again. Again there were lots of things to see in the oceans and the water was clear. Beware of corals by the way if you go snorkeling. Not only will you destroy them by stepping on them, they are also very sharp and will leave you with many cuts. I talk from experience as Im writing this. There seemed to be a bit of junk in the water on this second location but the snorkeling was great. Then we went to three small islands right outside Koh Tao. The islands are connected by sandbanks and the coral beaches are very nice but again the corals can be quite sharp. As I already sad the trip back to Koh Samui was quite bumpy so I think it is better to do this when it is not monsoon season.
We spent the rest of the time just relaxing on the beach and by looking around in the Chaweng beach area. The road that is parallel to the beach is not all finished. There was a lot of rain on the second day of our stay and the road (which was without asphalt in many places) remained wet during out stay and of course it was very muddy in the places were there were no asphalt. We ate at a number of places. Some of them were quite good and some were just OK. I think that I will first of all remember Koh Samui because of the great snorkeling experience I had there.
The Thais are a very friendly people. My girlfriend was stopped several times because of her braided hair and people asked her if it was real. And people kept looking on her and told me that she was a sexy woman
We flew back to Bangkok from Koh Samui using Bangkok Airways on the 18th. We landed in Bangkok quite early and we were met by a woman in uniform that more or less commanded us to follow after her. She led us to a booking office so that we could book a hotel. This time we spent the night in hotel DMa which is located in the World Trade Center area (near the Mecure hotel). We just dropped out bags and we went out cause we wanted to see two of Bangkoks attractions: Wat Pho and Wat Arun. We were met by a tuk-tuk driver outside of the hotel and he said something about a public holiday and that he would take us to Wat Pho for just 20 baht. It sounded to good to be true of course but we agreed to get into his tuk-tuk. But after a few meters he stopped and he said that the Wat Pho would not open until 12.00 so he could take us to another Wat in the mean time. We told him that we only wanted to go to Wat Pho and he agreed and he started up again. After a few minutes he stopped by a temple and we protested and he said that he had to go to the bathroom. He went in and out came another person and he asked us who we were waiting for and he talked to us about where we were going and that we should use the opportunity to see this temple instead. The driver came after about 10 minutes and again he started talking about taking us to other places. He wanted to take us to a Thai export center because then he would get some free gas. I told him that I would pay him extra if he would just get us to Wat Pho but he refused. So he ended up saying that maybe we should get a another tuk-tuk or a taxi. So we jumped out and found a meter-taxi which is in my opinion much better and still very cheap. When we finally arrived at the Wat Pho we were stopped by this guy outside the Grand Palace. He asked us where we were from and so on and he said that the Wat Pho was closed for the day because of the Buddhist holiday and he said that we should go to different wats that he recommended. So we started walking back towards the river cause we needed something to eat. We were followed by this tuk-tuk driver and we could not get rid of him and once again he said that he would take us wherever we wanted to go for 20 baht but once again he told us that he had to take us to a place where they sold clothing so that he could get free gas. My girlfriend started feeling sorry for the poor guy so we agreed that he would take us to this tailor shop, we would do our duty there and then he would bring us to Kaosan road so that we could get something to eat and then he would bring us back to Wat Pho. All this worked out great until we had been to Kaosan road. We jumped back into the tuk-tuk and we wanted to go back to Wat Pho. But then he started talking about Thai export center and talking us to other temples. So we ended up getting out of the tuk tuk once again. We walked along and it started to rain and we felt like it was one big conspiracy to prevent us from seeing the sights of Bangkok. So we jumped into a taxi and got back to Siam square and did some shopping instead. All this made us very suspicious of persons walking up to us and we said no to all the tuk-tuk drivers. I guess we seemed very unfriendly in the way we behaved.
But all together it has been a great vacation in the land of smiles. My vacation ends here in Bangkok on the 19th of September. I hope that my little vacation story has helped a little if you are going to Thailand soon. If you have any question concerning my stay in Thailand, please send me a mail and I will do my best to answer your questions. My mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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