Day 71-75 – Koh Lanta 25th-29th Nov 2011

25th November 2011

OMG! Its only 1 month to Christmas. We haven’t bought any presents or even decided where we’ll stay yet. One thing is clear though, there is none of the commercial bombardment of consumers with endless perfume and the-latest-must-have-toy adverts. There are no Christmas carols or records played in the shops and we haven’t seen any decorations up anywhere – there have been some shops selling tinsel and baubles and fake trees but mainly in Kuala Lumpar. All-in-all we are not really feeling the vibe; is this a good or a bad thing? And does it really matter?

Here we are on Koh Lanta, Thailand, on Klong Nin beach at Nik’s Garden Resort. Breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato with a cup of freshly brewed coffee sets us up nicely for the day on the beach. Klong Nin is a long stretch of peach-coloured sand with a aqua-marine sea lapping its gentle slope. On the horizon stands a small island (google maps doesn’t have a name for it) and there are a few small long-tail boats that putter past infrequently, and the occasional speedboat from organised dive tours that beach to collect or drop off their passengers.

Nik’s Garden is a small, leafy place with a beach front view. A handful of tidy rooms with king sized beds and mosquito nets, en suite and a fridge and TV, and WiFi (hooray!) The food is good and the price slightly high, but upon investigating other places, on a par. The restaurant’s piece de resistence is the homemade pizza – which are very good.

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First proper day and all we want to do is laze on the beach and swim in the cool sea. The water is clear-ish, but there is not much to see with the masks and flippers, however we have a football to play with in the sea so that is how we spend the morning. When lunch beckons, and tiny tummies start to grumble we head inland to the local shops and find a simple place that serves a variety of Thai dishes (not spicy) at a reasonable price.  We are the only foreigners eating there – that said, there aren’t many people on the beach considering this is now high season.

Afternoon is spent by the beach again; swim, sunbathe, play in the sea – repeat until sundown. For dinner, we head along the beach (south I think) where there are dazzling lights and colourful lamps with the odd chinese lantern soaring into the night sky. We find a place offering seafood BBQ and order some red snapper for us all settling on a low banquete on the beach; Oskar leaps up from time to time to make a sales pitch to passing people – we have snapper, tuna, prawns etc… at one point Oskar even took a customer’s fish order to the kitchen.

An hour and a half later we were hungry and still waiting for our fish – I am no expert on the preparation and cooking of fish, but even I know that it doesn’t take that long to gut, fillet and BBQ two fish and cook some rice! Eventually it arrives and it is overcooked, dry and disappointing. Koh Lanta Nature Beach will not be getting our custom again!

[Ed: we met a couple the following evening who had been staying there in a bamboo hut with a large gap in the door through which climbed a spider as large as my hand, it seems the accommodation leaves something to be desired too!]

Bed time beckoned, and the boys having behaved so well the night before were once again trusted to sleep altogether in their own room whist Tania and I enjoyed our solitude.

26th November 2011

Travel blog, family experiences…. well its so difficult to find something meaningful to say when you relax by the beach all day soaking up sun and playing in the surf. It was really great, relaxing and fun.

Lunchtime was back to the local café where the boys entertained a young boy in his walker..

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For dinner we had read about Jai Dee, a few shacks down from us, run by an Irish guy and serving excellent sausage and mash. As a surprise for the boys we headed there at sundown, and sampled some happy hour beers whilst the boys reclined in the hammocks and generally larked about on the beach doing cartwheels and joining in a game of volley ball. The food was ok, but the portions were pretty small and so we came away pretty disappointed in the end, and still hungry. C’est la vie.

27th November 2011

Breakfast, beach, sun, sea and sand. This is a holiday after all!

28th November 2011

Turbulent night with the waves crashing madly onto the shore. The day broke sunny and calm, but the sea was definitely a little agitated. The waves were strong and big all day and we played dodge the giant wave, and ninja wave for most of the day. Tragedy struck when one wave knocked off my prescription sunglasses, and then double tragedy when after looking for them for a while with my snorkel and mask, another big wave knocked Tania and I over and I lost them too.

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Still, we had a beautiful sunset…

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Perfect for our last night on Koh Lanta, which was only slightly marred by the fact that the bill for the hotel was double what we had expected. A slight misunderstanding meant we thought that the 2 rooms were 1000 Baht for the two, but in fact they were 1000 Baht per room!! Ahhhrrrgghh, we can’t afford to make those kind of schoolboy errors! Still no blame to assign, we just have to accept the error and learn from it.

29th November 2011

Early start to catch the bus for Khao Lak. Nan very kindly got up early to make us coffee and sandwiches for the journey. Aside from the misunderstanding over the price, we cannot fault our time at Nick’s Garden Resort. Rooms cleaned every day, warm, friendly and helpful staff, and the best homemade pizzas on the island.

So, the minivan arrives and we start another interesting Thai journey. Arriving at Krabi we were ejected at the minivan’s tourist office where we were told to wait. Another minivan then arrived and took us a little outside of Krabi town at some sort of transport hub – a large hall with resto and 40 or 50 other disgruntled back packers all waiting for their next connection to arrive. We were all given little stickers to show our destination, and then we waited, and waited. Eventually a minivan arrived and the “official” surreptitiously went around inviting people to board. We were asked and had no hesitation in jumping in (as there were still at least 6 other people waiting for Khao Lak) and we squeezed onto the bus, Tania and Oskar up front, Luca behind, and me with Mateo on my lap for the journey.

Fortunately the couple next to me were chatty and we passed the journey in pleasant conversation, and the couple next to Luca talked to him too. It turned out the couple next to me had already driven around Krabi for most of the morning being moved from place to place before they actually got onto this bus – and they had been promised a double-decker VIP Air Con luxury bus. Organisation?? Organised chaos more like.

Several hours later we arrived in Khao Lak, and after a few misdirections to the wrong place (SeaView Resort) we eventually found Seaweed Hostel, a new and funky backpackers place in the lower centre of the main strip behind a restaurant called Fizz. Decorated in bright primary colours with a comfortable coffee/bar/reception area with amusing directions for guests, the rooms are arranged under a high corrugated roof and huge. At the bottom of a steep slope stand 5 generously sized bungalows with air con, double bed, ensuite and a fridge – perfect for us.

We settled ourselves in then had a look around the town. Generally speaking the make-up of the town consists of restaurant, beach shops, opticians, tailors and mini markets at equal intervals. Originally a favourite haunt of Scandinavians, there are probably more Germans now visiting Khao Lak, but the opticians and tailors exist because on their annual holidays these visitors from Europe equip themselves with glasses and tailored suits for a fraction of the cost back home. I enquired at a tailor about a new dinner suit and he quoted me 3,500 Baht (about 70 GBP), and my new sunglasses, which I bought later, cost me about 100 GBP complete with extra set of lenses.

Up towards the largest supermarket in the town we found a place to eat that had one of the ever popular fish foot spas at the entrance. We partook of Pad Thai and Fried Chicken and Rice which was passable enough before retiring back to the hostel. Putting the kids to bed with Harry Potter on the iPod, Tania and I went bad up to reception (where we could actually get the free WiFi) and set about planning our next port of call – Koh Tao where we would offer ourselves a christmas present of a PADI Open Water course for myself, Tania and Oskar. Finally succumbing to fatigue we headed to bed ourselves.

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