Thursday, 10 November 2011

A brief summary of the past week!

Massive bloggy post thing to continue from where I left off and explain the rest of the week... This is quite long and not very interesting, brace yourselves.

Trang Part One (Part Two for me)!

After Ko Libong we headed back into Trang to stay at My Friend hotel, it's mentioned in the guidebooks, and it's quite good. We (I) sampled random foods from the night markets in front of the railway, there were pork balls, curly potato on a stick, and hamburgers consumed by me. And after that drank much beer of course.

The day after Chris and Helen hired a "bike", one of them 100cc local things. We went for a quick explore to the hills in the south east of Trang to get to some waterfalls that are apparently quite good. On the way out we saw a sign for a cave and decided to go have a look. It was in one of the many limestone hills that are around and next to a small road was the entrance with a reclining budda and some stairs leading in. I'd parked my bike a small distance from Chris and Helen and they were talking to a local who then took us through the cave. I'm not sure if that was his official job or he was just being helpful. He led us through into the main chamber, then off to one little path on the side, then we walked around a hole in the floor which was over the stairs from the way in. It was slippery in there, so I guess we're lucky we didn't fall through. There were a few clothes and empty food packets lying about a bit further on, I guess someone was hiding. Eventually he led us to a small pool in the bottom of the cave that had fish in it, not sure if it opened up outside somewhere, maybe they just got stuck in a flood? He spoke good English when asking questions but was kind of quiet otherwise, it was hard to get info out of him. He led us back out through another little path back to the main chamber and then to the outside via another exit.

After that, it was time to get riding again and try to air out my bat poo and sweat smelling riding gear.

We stopped at smaller waterfall on the way to the better ones, I took a few photos but it started to rain so we got to some cover and waited till it died off a little.

Sairung waterfall.

When the rain eased up we got back out on the road, but it looked quite wet to the south, so we went that way! And it got wet, very wet.  The locals that kept riding were holding their hands in front of their faces, not really looking where they were going. There was lightning and thunder fairly close too. I didn't have my waterproof layer in, but I'd ridden in enough rain that it doesn't really bother me anymore, I just get wet! What I don't notice is how much the rain hurts, which Chris and Helen relayed to me after we got through to the other side of the storm.

We decided to head back to Trang after that little outing as we were all soaked, and didn't want to risk any more rain like that. So we took the shortest way back (which was still 30km or so) but then the rain started up again. There was a rubber factory/processingplace/warehouse with a large roof outside we so hid under that and they brought us over seats to sit on while we waited for the rain to clear again.

After that it was a run through some chaotic traffic in Trang, then some drying off, some drinking, and the more sampling of foods on sticks and in tube form.

Ao Nang Part One! (Part Three for me)

We headed up to Ao Nang cause maybe I talked it up, not sure. There's only Ko Lanta and a few other islands to go through between Trang and Ao Nang, so I think it became a default.

On the way there we stopped at some Hot Springs to have a look, it was 100baht to get in, so not to bad. And the water was really hot! I didn't take any photos though. Just soaked my stinky socks in the clean hot water :) The water is supposed to be a constant 40something degrees. It was quite warm, but it was also a very hot day too. Chris went swiming in it for a bit, but I remained dry from the knees up. After that brief interlude it was on the road again.

Once in Ao Nang ended up going in through the locals beach section on the way in and it was BUSY, far busier than I saw it the two times before, cars just parked anywhere causing traffic problems, people everywhere! We eventually found a place to stay called Adam Bungalows. Fan only bungalows for 500baht a night, not bad. And of course, there was much drinking and eating later.

Drinking is expensive there (by thai standards), a bit like Phuket I guess, but without the range of budget accomodation. There are a LOT of resorts here, and touts, and tuk tuks, and cars driving up and down the road advertising the elections, snake shows, thai boxing. I got to try the number 4 cart there for pork noodles which were good. I have no idea what it's really called, it's just a cart with a mostly yellow sign and a big red 4 on it, there's another one in a town elsewhere that I can't remember now.

Pom Khlong Song Nam Nature Trail

After Ao Nang we headed north to the general direction of Ao Luek as it looked like it might be an interesting place to stay. On the road there are heaps of blue tourist info signs to places, I decided to lead Chris and Helen into Pom Khlong Song Nam. We had no idea what was there, the signs seemed to have the waterfall, fish, or river icons next to them. Once we got there we found a boardwalk through the mangroves to what turned out to be a springwater fed creek. Very clear water.

The boardwalk on the way in. I thought it would be all like this.

But then it gets here! 

Very clear water.

A Lizard!


Flowing Water!


More water! And another descriptive comment

More clear water!

The tour buses do end up here, so no need to make your own way. However there weren't too many people around, I guess it's just not as popular as the islands.

Phang Nga

After the stop we got to Ao Luek. There wasnt much in the way of signage or directions to hotels. There was a sign pointing to two caves off the main road to the port so we had a look down there but it turns out it's a port and you have to pay to have someone take you to the cave by boat. They get the tour groups from Phuket here. A guide came over to us and asked if we wanted to go, but we told him we'll think about it and we have to look at some maps first to find somewhere to stay first. This didn't make him go away however. He came over while we were looking though the books and talked FOREVER.

Our plan was to head to the next point on the map marked "Hot Spring Beach" which the guide told us had accomodation and was easy to find and not far. However, I saw no signs, no road where it should be, nothing, and we ended up a lot further around the map than we should have been. We stopped near a shop to study the maps and Chris had asked some of the locals to help us find it, but they had no idea what it was or where.

From there, we decided to abandon that idea and head a bit further around to see the national park, the guidebooks mentions bungalows in that area, but when we got there they looked pretty sad. There wasn't a lot else to do there either, just a muddy river to look at and some mangroves. We went back out to the main road and headed around a bit more to see what was there. On the way we had people running at as with their cards of island photos to try and get us on boat tours. It was amazing. They tried to chase after the bikes and almost ran into our path! When we stopped near the end of the road a lady came out of hiding and ran over to us sounding quite desperate to get a customer, but we didn't want no boat tour! We escaped that little bit and headed to an info place to see if they had answers, but they only had maps of the islands. I noticed at that point another guy with a card had snuck up quietly, he didn't ask us anything though. We went to consult the guidebooks again to review our options. Then he came over and asked us if we wanted to go on a boat tour to James Bond island...

The easiest and quickest option was to head into Phang Nga town to a place that looked quite good on paper, but we had two different addresses for it and the GPS and google maps wouldn't accept either. I eventually found another map online and would try and use that closer to town.

Once we got into the town I realised that the map was far less detailed than it could have been. It made the town look tiny but it's actually quite a large place with many many people and traffic everywhere. I was keeping an eye on traffic while trying to find the tiny thai street signs. I thought I saw it, mentioned it to Chris and Helen, did a U turn to check, and then they were gone... Chris had a local sim but no credit, so we had no way to communicate. They eventually found a bus station and got hold of someone who told them were the hotel was, and I managed to match up a similar road on my GPS to the map I found online, but that took twenty minutes or so. I eventually found Chris waiting for me on the road and then we all got to the hotel ok. Thailand, you need to update your map data and provide that to Google and Garmin.

That night we were told by the hotel staff that there was a night market on, different from the one on the map. Once we got closer we found it it was a bit more than a market, it was a big festival celebration! It was for Loi Krathong. There was one long street lined with food stalls (I was happy), beer everywhere, rides, and games to win stuffed toys. There were some steps down to the river where people could launch the rafts, I didn't see many people go down there though. I ate many foods available on a stick, Helen went on some of the rides, Chris won a small stuffed toy at one of the shooting games. And then there was much beer had by everyone! Everybody wins!

Ao Nang Part Two (Part Four for me)

We ended up back in Ao Nang because of the large void of places to stay on the way, and because it was close enough to make Trang an easy ride the next day as Chris and Helen had to return the bike then. It was a lot quieter at the locals beach this time, and no one really wanted to stay in the busy tourist end again, so we had a quick look on agoda for cheap places with a pool to satisfy Helens request. We found one on there for $30AU a night that looked quite fancy, over my budget, but I wasn't going to get the chance to stay at one of them expensive places again. When we arrived it looked quite good, we were given drinks while checking in and the staff came out with a trolly to help take my luggage up to the room. But that's when we found out why It was cheap. My room wasn't so bad, bits of wallpaper peeling off, mould in places, the bathroom floor didn't look like it was cleaned, and the floor in the room was wooden, but rotten in places. Chris and Helen got it worse, far more mould and holes in the floor. Thats when you notice the rest of the place, from the outside it does actually look kind of run down too, didn't notice it at first! Anyway, it was cheap, there was a pool, it was still good!

In the evening we headed down to get some food and drink, but it was more expensive in this part. I paid 180baht for a rum and coke (That's $5AU? It should be half that!) and lots of money for cheesy pasta.

As usual, more drinking ensued.

The next mornings breakfast however. The best value! 150baht for the "American Breakfast" at the best western on the main road. The food just piled up on the table! And since Helen is vegetarian and Chris didn't like his non-bacon pork products, I won double!

Trang Part Two (Part Three for me)!

Back to Trang. We had initially planned to go back to a beach near the coast, but then decided to go back to Trang instead so Helen and Chris can get away easier the next day. We decided to meet back at My Friend hotel, so I sped off so I could sit above 100km/h and get some airflow through my jacket! I only arrived just before them though... Hmm.

We went to the other night markets that night, the one that the guidebooks mention. There's a bit more food at this one. Again, I had many more foods on a stick and it was good.

Also, more drinking ensued.

Next morning we had breakfast, packed, and then Chris and Helen headed to the airport, and I headed south to do my border crossing for documentation renewal. I guess now I'll have more time to keep the blog up to date, but it was a welcome break from the routine I'd gotten myself into!

Next time on the blog: Arguing with Malaysian customs.

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