After suffering several weeks of strong winds and low temperatures we were ready for our trip to Thailand. Departure morning dawned bright and sunny
We drove to the airport and started on the long trek to Bangkok (Kos – Athens – Dubai – Bangkok) with long waits between flights. Our stop in Dubai enabled us to check out the duty free and Caryn managed to find some earrings. The rest of the duty free shopping will be done on the way home. Eventually we reached our destination safely albeit very tired and were met by Svein’s cousin (Jan Erik) and his Thai wife (Tan). A 3 hour drive brought us finally to our final destination on the outskirts of the town of Rayong. This is an industrial town South of Pattaya so not very many tourists. We settled in and then had a short drive round the area finishing with our first Thai dinner. On our return to the house Caryn promptly went to sleep for 14 hours to recover from the journey!.
Awake and feeling refreshed the next day we set off to visit the area and the town of Rayong. We drove through fishing villages and stopped for lunch at a beachside hotel.
The town lies on a river so much lies between the river and the sea on a thin strip of land.
We passed fishermen drying their wares and saw the fishing fleet berthed at the mouth of the river
We also saw some elaborate Chinese buildings
On the way home we shopped the local way to buy fruit and visited one of the many supermarkets in the town
The next day saw us taking a day trip to a local island called Ko Samet. This island is very popular with the Thais living in Bangkok who frequent it at the week-end. Unfortunately we were not very impressed with the island as a whole but it did give us our first chance to sample the warm sea and the icing sugar sand.
The next day was taken up with a visit to another beach South of Rayong. Here we found a few more tourists but mostly people who had invested in holiday homes. Again the beach was not very crowded and plenty of local vendors.
It also gave us the opportunity of seeing how the local electricity is installed – not very reassuring to say the least.
The next day we drove to Pattaya by a very scenic route. This is not my favourite town as it was very touristy and expensive (by local standards) but if you are looking for something specific this is where you will find it. Needless to say Caryn had something specific in mind and after much searching we eventually found the right shop where she was able to have a manicure/pedicure. We also found a tailor and he took her measurements for shorts and slacks. We also visited outlets centres and an outdoor market where they had an original way of enabling men to try on their wares.
The Thais have a very quirky sense of humour and we found amusing statues outside very official buildings throughout our stay so there is quite a collection. They are made in the town of Khorat (North of Bangkok) and are to be found everywhere.
We continued our visits of the local beaches by driving to Ban Phe the next day. This is the town on the mainland opposite Ko Samet.
It was also the opportunity to taste fresh coconut water and enjoy the meat of the coconut afterwards – a real meal in itself.
At the end of the beach, on a peninsula, was a temple together with some statues depicting characters from the Thai poet Sunthorn Phu who is from the region.
It was time for another visit to Pattaya for a fitting. This time we took a different route and saw Silver Lake (a complex set up by a well known Thai actress) and Buddha mountain. This is a mountain where the effigy of Buddha has been carved out and filled with gold. It is a very popular tourist spot.
We finished the sightseeing with a visit to Mountain View. Here there is an outlook over Pattaya.
The visit to the tailor over we enjoyed a good meal at a local restaurant and continued with our exploration of the Thai cuisine.
With the first flurry of sightseeing over it was time to enjoy the local beach whilst waiting for the final visit to the tailor.
The next couple of days saw us visiting military beaches that are accessible to the public (for a price) and we enjoyed the facilities (restaurants, massage) as well as clear water and clean sandy beaches.
The clothes having been collected from the tailor we were now free to explore a little further afield so we set off for Ko Chang. After a short ferry crossing we drove to the West coast and started looking for accommodation. We found a hotel with bungalows on the beach and settled in before testing the water and local restaurants.
There was a fabulous food market in the evenings so we tested many of the wares.
In addition there was a renowned fish restaurant which we ate at one evening. Here you chose your dish at the entrance and then it was brought to table cooked
After a few days lounging on the beach it was time to be a little more active so we explored the island. We visited the South of the island Bang Bao where there is a 700m long pier where houses, shops and restaurants are all to be found
There was even a hotel whose rooms were huts on stilts. They looked very inviting but we had to move on. We continued round the bay on the Southern tip and visited a beautiful area. Unfortunately it has been partially destroyed by the fact that it has been built as a resort for Russians. With the collapse of the rouble two years ago it is no longer visited by them. There is still a staff for maintenance but gradually everything is falling apart. It had the original idea of beaching a cruiser ship that they used as a hotel as well as building a lagoon to house boats that were also used for accommodation. It really is a tragic sight to see how catering to people’s whims as well as greed can destroy such a beautiful place.
We were offered a night here for the price of 600 Baht (approx. 15 euros!!!)
After a final night at the hotel we continued our exploration by visiting the East coast before catching a ferry back to the mainland. This is a much quieter side to the island and one feels the Thai influence (as opposed to the tourist) much more strongly as the hotels are more spaced out and there are still some authentic fishing villages where houses are built on stilts over the water.
At a local restaurant we enjoyed one of the best meals we had eaten in our stay.
We were already half way through our stay so it was time for Svein to begin work on repairing the many computers that had broken down. There were four in all so it took him many hours and long nights to get everything up and running again. The unexpected bonus was that we brought back with us many (over 100) unseen films and hours of music. The work was broken up by visits to the beach and the town for shopping expeditions in order to be able to bring back some authentic Thai cooking ingredients.
Near the end of our stay we had the visit (to the house) of a salesman with an unusual for of transport!
Our month long holiday was drawing to a close. On reflection we experienced sights, sounds and tastes that were new to us and our lasting impression will be the kindness of the people as well as the flavours of their cuisine. We have spent a month eating like the locals and enjoying fish in abundance. It will be hard to go back to Greek food!!!
We hope that we will be able to return (as long as Jan Erik does not finish his boat too quickly) in the not too distant future.
We returned by the same route (Bangkok – Dubai – Athens – Kos) but this time during our stopover in Athens we were able to see Mike and Marilyn. We had the time to visit Ikea and Leroy Merlin where Svein bought sand for his new toy (a sand blaster) which he will use to prepare the hull of Escapade when we take her out of the water in March.
We have returned to blustery weather with very strong winds and rain so our hope is that it does not last too long and we shall see some sunshine soon.