Thailand - 2004
This time I made a 2-week trip to Thailand at a very short
notice. I found reasonably priced flights (including
accommodation for two weeks in Phuket - that was still
cheaper than buying the flights separately) from a package
tour operator. After arriving in Phuket I had to say goodbye
for the other Finns and continue on my own to more
Check out the
- Ko Phi Phi
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Pha-Ngan
- Phang Nga
In general this was an excellent trip with excellent
beaches, interesting nature and temples. Even Bangkok
was a pleasant surprise for me (not to mention Ayutthaya
that was really fascinating). The best beaches were in
Ko Lanta and Ko Pha-Ngan. Other experiences worth
mentioning are a thai boxing night in Lanta. And of
course the food!
18.2.2004 Helsinki - Phuket
I checked in the Finnmatkat chater flight at Helsinki-Vantaa
airport. A package trip with "undefined accomodation" was
the cheapest alternative to get to Thailand at a such short
notice. It was a direct flight with stopover in India (Ahmedabad)
- I managed to sleep pretty well so it was fairly pleasant
experience. I informed the guide at Phuket airport that I
will be continuing on my own. Otherwise I would have been
staying at Karon beach resort sharing a room with somebody -
no thanks! So long suckers and let the adventure begin...
I took a taxi to Phuket town. My plan was to stay
overnight there and continue by ferry to Phi Phi in the
morning. The hotel was somewhat rundown but reasonably
priced (~500 baht). After checking in I started exploring
the city. Quite a typical Asian small town with lots of
chaos, mopeds and noise. People were really friendly and no
beggars or touts were to be seen. I bought new sandals and a
map from a local shopping mall. I tried to locate the Phi
Phi ferries from the harbour area but as it later turned out
I was in the wrong place. I had a delicious fish meal at a
farang-oriented restaurant (a place targeted for tourists).
I was the only customer so the service was excellent. The
food was really, really spicy. Because of jet lag I soon
felt really tired and went to sleep around 9 o'clock...
19.2.2004 Phuket - Phi Phi
I woke up early and checked out from the hotel. I visited
tourist information to find out the ferry timetables. Then I
continued by tuk-tuk to the ferry. I had to wait for a while
- interestingly there was a talking bird in a cage that kept
me amused for a while... It took about two hours to reach
Phi Phi. The impression was pretty much shocking. The
village was so packed with people (mostly touts and
travellers) and as the streets were really narrow it was
difficult to move. There were places like "Scandinavian
steakhouse" and "Hippie bar" so it felt like being in
It was difficult to find accommodation - many places were
fully booked. Finally after ten or more tries I managed to
find an overpriced bungalow. I headed to Long Beach that
should not be that crowded - it still is but not that bad as
the village area. As dark falls I move back to the village
and have an excellent dinner at a restaurant by the sea. The
nearby bar is a perfect place for chilling out - there are
mattresses on the beach where you can sip drinks and watch
the stars. The music was also a pleasant surprise - some
downtempo breakbeat in the evening and more housey tunes
later. Later I check out the "nightlife" in the village -
pretty chaotic as streets are packed with people and vendors.
I quickly return to my bungalow. As I suspected I don't
really like the place so tomorrow it is time to move on...
20.2.2004 Phi Phi - Ko Lanta
I wake up as sun rises and head straight for the ferry. On
my way I have a Thai pancake for breakfast. It takes about
1,5 hours to reach Ko Lanta. The harbour area is packed with
buildings that seem to collapse at any minute and the usual
touts offering bungalows. I take a moto ride to a random
location on the beach several kilometres south of the
harbour. I try to locate a peaceful spot on the beach with
decent accommodation. It is a pleasant "stretch" of beach (about
5 kilometres at least). I find a place called Bee Garden
which has bungalows with sea view at the price of 1000B. Not
cheap but the location and views are good.
I spend the rest of day on the beach. I hear people
speaking Finnish for the first time for a while. I have
dinner in a nearby open-air restaurant - that proves to be a
disappointment (barracuda with baked potatoes). A little bit
too tourist-oriented place for me - additionally they are
playing Red Hot Chilli Peppers which definitely is not one
of my favourites. I spend a while walking on the beach and
return to my bungalow. Anyway I like Lanta and decide to
settle down for a couple of days.
21.2.2004 Ko Lanta
I decide to go further down south explore the more remote
beaches. I take a moto and end up somewhere in the middle of
the western coast. It would take too long to reach the
southern tip of the island so I have to change my plan. The
beaches are good but it is very hot and there is not much
shelter from the burning rays of the sun. Therefore after a
couple of hours I have to return to the bungalow and enjoy
the air conditioning. I check out the sunset (somewhat
cloudy but beautiful). I have dinner at the bungalow (tom
yam) which proves to be an excellent choice.
Then it is time for thai boxing. There is a "stadium"
nearby that has the weekly night with 8 matches. The stadium
is a just a set of brick walls and seats around the ring.
There are lots of people - both locals and farangs. Around
nine o'clock the fighting starts. The first matches are for
kids - the fighters are barely ten years old and weight 35
kilos. Anyway the guys take it seriously and there are lots
of knockouts. Thai boxing turns out to be quite violent
sport and the locals seem to take it really seriously. There
is also gambling involved. Anyway an interesting night even
though I'm not a big fan of fighting or martial arts.
22.2.2004 Ko Lanta / Ko Rok
I booked a day trip to the island of Ko Rok that is part of
the local national park. A speedboat picks me up and the 30
km journey to the island begins. The area is unpopulated
marine sanctuary with coral reefs and breathtaking views.
There are several snorkeling spots which prove to be
excellent. There is lots of underwater life to be explored.
Not quite as good as Caribbean but still very good! There
are three snorkeling spots and lunch on a paradise island -
definitely a trip worth every bath!
I return to my bungalow around four o'clock. I once again
watch the cloudy sunset. I make a long walk on the beach to
visit the restaurant of Diamond Beach bungalows (recommended
by LP). And once again LP is right - white snapper with
curry is the best dish so far during this trip...
23.2.2004 Ko Lanta
I wake up in the middle of night as I need to go to
toilet.It is obvious that I have diarrhea - even though I
rarely suffer from it. I'm feeling pretty bad so I spend
most of the day laying in the bed or on the beach. I take
some medicine and hope that I will recover soon. I'm feeling
slightly feverish and go to bed early hoping I will feel
24.2.2004 Ko Lanta - Krabi -
In the morning I'm fortunately feeling lot better. I take a
ferry to Krabi. It takes longer than I expected and the
harbour is somewhere outside the downtown area. As I still
feel somewhat weak I decide to skip the trip to Khao Sok
national park and continue directly to Bangkok. To save time
I book a flight from Krabi. The first flight that has seats
available is late in the evening so I have to day to spend
in Krabi. I decide to visit the local "jungle temple". I
catch a sangthaew (a shared taxi). After some negotiations I
get a private ride to my destination. It is quite an
impressive place - a huge complex of rooms partly built in
caves. There are several monks around and skeletons in glass
cabinets! Other interesting spots are a fountain populated
by monkeys and a short jungle trail.
I return to downtown and have a good and cheap meal. As
there is still time I take a longtail boat ride along the
river (not very interesting). Then I head to the airport.
Everything goes smoothly and I arrive in Bangkok late in the
evening. The only bus connection available goes to Khao San
Road. I'm not yet familiar with this well-known backpacker
ghetto but soon I'll learn what's it all about: a pretty
chaotic area that somehow reminds me of San Antonio in
Ibiza. There is nothing genuinely Asian there - but lots of
Irish bars and sleazy clubs playing loud (western) music.
Anyway you have to experience it at least once...
25.2.2004 Bangkok / Ayutthaya
The plan is to make a day trip to the historical city of
Ayutthaya about 100 kilometres from Bangkok. I'll travel
there by train - to save time I'll first take a bus to
airport that has a train station nearby. This turns out to
be a bad plan as I have to wait for the train over one hour.
I check out the local wat (temple) and enjoy some delicious
food from the street vendors. The 3rd-class train is an
interesting experience - the wooden benches are pretty much
packed and all the windows are open to provide "air
conditioning". Surprisingly the train is exactly on schedule
and I arrive in Ayutthaya after an hour.
After some wandering I find the first of the numerous
wats. Even though some of them are really in bad condition
in general the place is awesome. There are lots of towers
and buddha statues. I visit quite a few wats during the day
(including a couple of new ones as well). The wats are
scattered all over the city so there is lots of walking to
be done. After four o'clock I'm feeling pretty much tired so
that after a good noodle meal I return to the train station.
This time I go all the way to Bangkok's central railway
station and take a tuk tuk back to hotel. For the first time
I realize how chaotic the traffic in Bangkok is. I spend the
rest of day at Khao San Road buying some pirate products:
watch 10€, wallet 6€ and a t-shirt for 4€. I do some
people-watching at a terrace of a bar before going to sleep.
26.2.2004 Bangkok - Ko Samui
I've booked a late evening flight to Samui so the objective
is to see as much of Bangkok as possible during this limited
period of time. My first destination is the Grand Palace
that proves to be one of the most impressive manmade
constructions I have visited so far. An unbelievable
amount of gold, buddha statues and tourists. I have to
borrow cotton trousers from the reception since shorts are
not allowed on the sacred grounds of the palace! The temple
area is huge and you could spend the whole day there.
Because of my tight schedule I have to leave after 1,5 hours.
My next destination is Chinatown - which is a sight in
itself. I take a waterbus that travels along the dirty river
and arrive in the middle of chaos. It seems that you can buy
practically anything from the small shops and the street
vendors - anything from live animals to electronics...
Accidentally I end up in a park called "Royal Garden" which
is a beautiful place with speakers playing some soothing
I still have the time to visit the interesting Wat Arun
before it is time to go to the airport. The traffic jams are
really bad but fortunately I catch my flight. In general
Bangkok was quite a pleasant experience - maybe because I
was already prepared for the madness after visiting KL
earlier? I arrive in Ko Samui close midnight and take the
first decently priced bungalow available.
27.2.2004 Ko Samui - Ko Pha-Ngan
My visit to Samui is a short one as I take the ferry to
Pha-Ngan as the first thing in the morning. After the
one-hour ferry trip and a sangthaew ride I'm in the
"capital" of the island. I take another sangthaew ride to
the Hat Yao beach on the west coast. It should be one of the
more peaceful spots on the island. There seems to be quite a
lot of bungalows but anyway the place is impressive. I spot
some stylish bungalows on a top of a cliff - surprisingly
they are really reasonably priced (350B) so it is pretty
much clear where I will be staying.
I spend the rest of the day on the beach. There is a
hammock on the terrace of the bungalow and a beautiful sea
view. After dark I go back to the beach where the bars stay
open till very late as people are chilling out in candle
light. The music is to my surprise pretty good - not much
of the usual heavy rock and RnB.
28.2.2004 Ko Pha-Ngan
Today will be the do-nothing day. So the most activities are
about lying on the beach or in the hammock. There seems to
be another more peaceful south from the bungalows so I enjoy
the sunset there with some Singha. I have red snapper for
dinner and spend the rest of evening on the beach admiring
the shows of local acrobats playing with fire. Tomorrow it
is the time to move on again...
29.2.2004 Ko Pha-Ngan - Khao Sok
I woke up at nine o'clock to catch the ferry to mainland (Surat
Thani). I could have stayed on the beautiful island longer
but the jungle and hiking part of the trip is also something
not to be missed. There is some usual hassle at he harbour
and the ferry finally leaves half an hour late. It is quite
a long trip (four hours) but fortunately the sun is shining
and the scenery is beautiful. In Surat Thani I realize there
is a minibus connection directly to Khao Sok. Seems like a
good idea but it proves to be a long journey as the bus
stops in the city center for a long time...
Finally late in the evening I arrive in Khao Sok in the
middle of jungle. The place is called Jungle Hut and it
pretty much lives up to its name - very basic huts in the
middle of jungle! The bamboo huts with mosquito nets are
actually pretty comfortable and the price of 150B is not bad.
The first thing I notice is the sounds of jungle - there is
constant buzzing around and lots of other weird sounds can
also be heard. I check out the surroundings (pretty much
nothing except the park entrance) and have noodles for
dinner. Good food but the TV with British football feels a
little bit out of place... I listen to the wonderful sounds
of jungle for a while before going to sleep.
1.3.2004 Khao Sok
The sounds of jungle wake me up and I get prepared for some
hiking. I consider hiring a guide (after getting lost in
Malaysian jungle) but I decide to go to the jungle on
my own. I have a heavy English breakfast and ask the owner
of the place for directions. He recommends the "left trail".
The trail actually starts as a dirt road which does not
really feel like jungle. Soon the trail starts and it proves
to be quite challenging. I'm soon sweating heavily. The
sounds of jungle are fascinating but there are very few
animals to be seen - mostly birds and butterflies.
After a couple of kilometres the heat gets really bad and
I stop to do some swimming in the river. It was really a
refreshing sensation and as the heat feels to be increasing
I start to head back... As there is still time when I return
to the huts I book an elephant ride. The location is about
15 kilometres away so I get a scooter ride there. The
elephant ride is an interesting experience - sometimes a
very stable one but sometimes it feels like you are about to
fall down... The ride takes me to a local waterfall and then
back to the place where we started from. I enjoy some
delicious curry fish and thai salad for dinner and do some
surfing on the Internet for the first time for two weeks.
Not much news though.
Khao Sok - Phang-Nga
The final leg of the trip is to get to the small town of
Phang Nga. My stomach is once again feeling somewhat bad and
I'm expecting the worst. Fortunately I'm feeling better
later as I get to place called Takua Pa where I have to
change buses. There is the usual selection of local karaoke
videos in the bus. Phang Nga is an unimpressive small town
with few attractions - on the other hand the lack of
tourists makes it an interesting destination. The main
attraction is the boat ride in the national park but I
decide to leave it for tomorrow. I hang out in the city for
the rest of the day - apart from the marketplaces there is
not much to be seen. I have dinner in a muslim
restaurant - I order octopus but instead I get some scampi.
Anyway pretty tasty. It seems that after nine there is
pretty much nothing going on so I return to hotel.
3.3.2004 Phang-Nga - Phuket - Helsinki
My final day in Thailand starts early in the morning as I
catch the long tail boat that should do a tour in the
national park of Phang Nga. The main attraction is the "strangely
shaped islands" as LP says. They are actually ancient
limestone formations. The long tail boat takes me through
the mangrove forest to the labyrinth of these fascinating
islands. The scenery is really impressive: the trees are
somehow surviving on the steep islands and there are several
caves and lagoons inside the islands. We have lunch on a
beautiful beach and I have the final chance to enjoy the
warm waters of the Andaman Sea. On the way back we stop at a
muslim village built on water.
Soon it is the time to head back and I take the first
taxi available to get to the airport in time. The driver
keeps the speed at a steady 140 km/h and I get to the airport just
before the check-in closes. The families with their
screaming kids are waiting for me at the gate - so it is the
time to return to reality.
Anyway the trip was a good one
and there is still lots of places in Thailand to be seen.
I'm already thinking about touring the northern parts combined with
Cambodia and Vietnam as the next thing...