A Travellerspoint blog

Monsoons and rooster tails

The rains continue as we depart Thailand for Cambodia

rain 28 °C

Phuket, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Awaking the next morning to a continuation of the monsoon rain from yesterday it was simply a question of how long our connecting flight to Bangkok would be delayed.

Heavy rains hinder our journey to the airport

Heavy rains hinder our journey to the airport

En route to the airport, in a large minivan, flooding of the main roads became our greatest hindrance. At times our taxi was generating large bow waves as we pushed on towards the airport. Girls on scooters tried to coast through the floods without stalling, whilst small cars struggled to cope with the waters depth and the larger cars and trucks flooding them as they drove past. With no sign of the rain abating and great rooster tails of water being sprayed left and right as we raced at great speed to the airport we were just in time to check in for our only slightly delayed flight.

Arriving at Suvarnabhumi airport we did accidently exit the secure area, in search of visa passport photos, only to have to return back through security once again. Yet with the airport efficient as ever it was of no great consequence. We were soon heading to Phnom Penh.

Arriving in Phnom Penh the city appeared to have retained all the vibrancy and color that I remembered from previous visits. With Dwayne needing to return to the States we were now down to four happy travelers.

Tuk tuk riding Phnom Penh style

Tuk tuk riding Phnom Penh style

Compared to those in Bangkok, riding the larger and more comfortable tuk-tuks of Phnom Penh was a pleasure. However, it was amusing to watch Ed and Marin as we drove across multiple lanes of traffic, often riding into oncoming traffic as we headed the wrong way up the wrong side of the street. Yet our tuk-tuk drivers were not suicidal. This is normal for the region. To Trey and I this was just ‘normal’. To Ed and Marin, not quite set to the rhythm of the area, the tuk-tuk rides would take a little getting used to.

With the monsoon once again upon us we soon found refuge in an Irish bar overlooking the Mekong River. As one of the great rivers of the region seeing this mighty flow of water, as the local traffic passed by and the monsoon rains fell recreated a sight that must have been familiar with so many visitors to this fascinating city.

Irish bar on the banks of the Mekong

Irish bar on the banks of the Mekong

Our chosen Irish bar ‘Paddy Rice’ proved to be an excellent place for local beer and not so local food. A steak and Guinness pie whilst not a patch on those home cooked versions I so look forward to on my return to the UK, was still a welcome surprise after a diet of Thai and Myanmar food over recent weeks. With no sign of the rain abating and the desire for wondering the darkened streets of Phnom Penh lasting only so long we eventually returned to our hotel. With the boys only having this one night in Phnom Penh before we departed to Siem Reap the following day they were determined that we should have an early start to make the most of their brief time in the city. The best laid plans!

Posted by jamesh1066 15:05 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Wet weather rains on our parade

The monsoon stays longer than hoped for but is not a major issue

rain 29 °C

Phuket, Thailand

Awaking to the sound of monsoon rain it was an easy decision to plan for a relaxing day, indoors. I caught up on emails and travel planning whilst Trey and the boys took to the ocean to surf. With a broken fin and arguments over who should pay adding to the difficulty they found in surfing the relatively small waves it was a slightly bruised and tired group that wondered back to the hotel.

For myself the break in our schedule also provided the opportunity for a haircut. Always an interesting proposition in a foreign country I was able to communicate quite readily with the young girl who shaved and trimmed my hair into a more respectable bouffant. Hopefully, this will be my last haircut before returning to the UK.

Whilst we had been able to explore the beach at Kata, climbing rocks and building dams a brief lull in the rain, in the evening convinced us that a ten minute tuk-tuk ride to the main tourist town of Patong might help make us feel like we had achieved something.

It was only after to paying an extortionate 13 USD to ride to the town that we realized 5,000 US sailors were also in town – lucky Dwayne! The previous day we had noted a relatively small looking carrier ship off the coast of Phuket, flanked by three destroyers and a supply ship. This proved to be the USS Boxer. A wasp class amphibious attack unit carrying helicopters and marines. With the broad shoulders and short haircuts on display it was apparent that a large number of their crew were on shore, in Phuket, tonight.

Undeterred we found supper in a quiet backstreet, only to be greeted by the returning monsoons as we prepared to leave. Wondering the town for a brief while, in the pouring rain, we were soon back in our tuk-tuk heading for the hotel. Whilst the weather had been decidedly wet, today, the brief downtime would probably help prepare us for what we expected to be a fun and interesting trip to Cambodia.

Posted by jamesh1066 15:19 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Tropical Islands of the Imagination

Speed boats take us to the famous Phi Phi islands of the Andaman Sea

sunny 32 °C

Phuket, Thailand

With a suitably early start the five of us were soon packed in a minibus heading for a certain dock in Phuket Town. From there we would join thirty other travelers on a speedboat ride to the islands made famous by Leonardo De Caprio in ‘The Beach’. Greeted by glorious blue skies our vessel was soon cutting across a surprisingly benign Andaman Sea. Passing much larger and slower tourist boats, during our hour long ride, we could be forgiven for thinking that we might be the first to greet these tropical islands, today.

On the speedboat to Phi Phi Don

On the speedboat to Phi Phi Don

Of course, made famous through movies and traveler word of mouth, we only one of an ever increasing number of speedboats that where to make the trip to the islands. Our first stop was Phi Phi Lay where limestone cliffs, clad with tropical jungle met our thirsty gazes. For ‘The boys’ it was their first visit to these picture perfect islands. Resplendent as tropical islands of the imagination should always be it was only the massed tourist hordes that gradually augmented during our brief stay that impacted our tranquility. Yet, with our speedboat landing us on the golden beach we were soon able to explore the inner island, careful to observe the Tsunami Evacuation Route notices. For it was these islands, amongst many others, that were so impacted by the December 2004 Tsunami. Evidence of the 18ft wall of water that hit this island is no longer readily visible. However, from the various comments we received through the day from the crew of our boat it is clear that the psychological impact has yet to dissipate.

Enjoying 'The Beach'

Enjoying 'The Beach'

Beautiful beaches of the Phi Phi islands

Beautiful beaches of the Phi Phi islands

Leaving the island we passed through shallow lagoons of unimaginable beauty, but for the myriad of tourists visiting at the same time. A brief stop at monkey island allowed us the opportunity to observe yet more of the animals that gave the island its name. Apparently extremely familiar with humans they seemed expectant more than happy to receive offerings of bananas, watermelon and even coca-cola. With Marin being chased into the seawater by an aggressive male and others putting on a show of grabbing personal belongings memories of our recent visit to Mt. Popa in Myanmar were soon in the fore.

On the beach with monkeys

On the beach with monkeys

Crashing jungles

Crashing jungles

Phi Phi Don

Phi Phi Don

After a brief snorkeling stop a mediocre buffet lunch was served on Phi Phi Don. Where the food may have been lackluster the view from this beach front restaurant, towards the towering cliffs of Phi Phi Don was magnificent. Jungle clad mountains crashed into the golden beaches that bordered turquoise waters. Hot, humid weather greeted us on the island yet this was soon to change to the seasonal monsoon that we had become so familiar with.

Reaching our final island after lunch we were able to snorkel around the island. Parrot fish, rainbow colored wrasse and a favorite of tropical fish danced in the ocean for our pleasure. Of greatest interest was a brown octopus that we able to observe ‘pushing’ through the water. Usually hidden in crevices and holes it was sometime before a suitable hiding place was found, whereupon chameleon like he changed color and sank into a coral fringed hole, not to be seen again by us.

By mid-afternoon dark, ominous clouds filled the horizon and so it was with some relief that we boarded our speedboat for the final leg of our journey back to the mainland. With fortune favoring us we were able to avoid the monsoon, returning to our hotel tired but wet only from the remaining saltwater.

'No massaging the fruit'

'No massaging the fruit'

Hanging out at the tuk-tuk bar, again

Hanging out at the tuk-tuk bar, again

Hammers fall in the Nail Game

Hammers fall in the Nail Game

Enjoying the bar scene

Enjoying the bar scene

Dwayne returns to his American roots

Dwayne returns to his American roots

Oh dear!

Oh dear!

Getting hammered at Connect 4

Getting hammered at Connect 4

Poor Trey!

Poor Trey!

The local bars provided amusement that evening as we drank beer whilst playing Connect 4 and the apparently Phuket specific game of hammering a nail into a piece of wood. Taking it in turns to hit your nail with the chisel styled end of a hammer the winner is the first to hammer the nail into the wood. Frustrating and amusing in unison challenges galore were thrown out as we wiled away our evening before returning to the hotel by tuk-tuk, eager to fall the now heavy monsoon rains.

Fighting to become Connect 4 champion

Fighting to become Connect 4 champion

The Four Musketeers!

The Four Musketeers!

The nail game drive Marin crazy!

The nail game drive Marin crazy!

The monsoon rains arrive

The monsoon rains arrive

Keeping dry in the tuk-tuk

Keeping dry in the tuk-tuk

Posted by jamesh1066 15:57 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Surf and Swedes on Kata Beach

Exploring a southern home on the island of Phuket

sunny 31 °C

Phuket, Thailand

Landing into Phuket blue skies and tropical turquoise waters were not immediately apparent. With the monsoon season firmly underway dark clouds were rolling across the horizons. They were to bring both welcoming shade clouds and unwelcome sporadic showers throughout our first day on the island.

The taxi ride from Phuket airport to Kata Beach would take an hour. Having visited the island before this southerly location would remove us from the hedonistic, loud and for want of a better description slightly tacky town of Patong. Kata Beach would prove to be a commercialized but relatively quiet Thai beach town complete with all the prerequisites we had grown accustomed to in Thai beach resorts – a preponderance of Island Tour touts, tourists on scooters and a personal favorite street hawkers selling a variety of pancakes from wheeled carts on every street corner.

With our hotel located a very short walk from the beach a quick dip in the ocean was soon suggested. Whilst the water was relatively warm a lack of sun provided a certain chill factor for Trey and myself. However, for our American friends this was the equivalent of swimming in bath water. A few brave surfers rode the waves as we jumped them, careful to avoid a vicious rip current that threatened to pull us all out of the secluded bay.

Tuk-tuk cocktail bars. Great idea.

Tuk-tuk cocktail bars. Great idea.

With tiredness apparent from a combination of jet lag and sea based exercise our evening excursion was limited to the immediate vicinity of Kata Beach. Yet this small beach town had plenty to amuse with tuk-tuk bars and pink VW campervans proving to form the basis for excellent drivable cocktail bars. As is typical in Thai beach resorts a strong emphasis on Scandinavian tourists and expats was also apparent. Supper consisted largely of Thai food cooked at a local restaurant by a Swedish chef, whilst a myriad of tailors and retail stores proclaimed their services in both English and a variety of Scandinavian languages. Good food was supplemented by an excellent guitar playing singer, happy to take requests ranging from Abba and Elton John to Westlife and Lady Gaga.

Cocktails at the Pink VW Campervan

Cocktails at the Pink VW Campervan

Dinner and a show!

Dinner and a show!

Returning to our hotel we signed up the following day for a tour of the islands, by speedboat. Tomorrow would see us crashing through the Andaman Seas visiting many of the sets seen in the movie ‘The Beach’ as we observed the beautiful limestone landscape that radiates outside of the more populated beach towns we had seen so far.

Elvis found alive in Phuket

Elvis found alive in Phuket

Posted by jamesh1066 02:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Showcasing a small portion of Bangkok to new arrivals

Friends join us for a few days enjoying Thailand and Cambodia

overcast 31 °C

Bangkok, Thailand

A day later than expected a group of friends from Phoenix joined us at our hotel this morning. For Dwayne it would be a return trip to Thailand. For Ed and Marin this would be their first. After landing very late the previous evening they were eager to explore the tourist sights of the city. With Trey acting as unofficial tour guide the eager group headed off to the Grand Palace and a variety of neighboring temples whilst I awaited for the new shippers, who duly arrived punctually. Despite only a vague level of English we had soon communicated the details of the shipment, confirmed that documentation for the Buddha statues could be obtained at a reasonable cost and sent the many boxes we had accumulated on their way to the UK.

Relieved to have this sizeable shipment out of our suite we soon headed to Chatuchak weekend market to show our new arrivals what the largest market in the world has to offer! Our first stop, before visiting the many stalls selling art, handicrafts, clothes and all manner of assorted paraphernalia was of course the food court. With fish cakes, potato swirls and extremely disappointing vermicelli only spring rolls purchased we had plenty of time to catch up over a beer and nibbles at the ever popular market.

From there the Khao San backpacker district of Bangkok was next on our tourist agenda. Packed with western tourists and yet more hawkers selling their tourist wares it provided another snapshot of Bangkok and a place to relax over another beer.

A few drinks on Khao San Rd

A few drinks on Khao San Rd

Despite confusion over meeting points and times our evening still provided time for a visit to the Patpong Night Market and a few beers down the more respectable Soi’s of the area. With jet lag kicking in and Trey and I not used to such late nights the suggestion of retiring for the night at gone 1am was not hard to agree with. With tuk-tuks returning us to our welcoming beds it would be but a few hours before we were once again departing Bangkok, heading for the tropical Andaman Sea island of Phuket.

Posted by jamesh1066 15:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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