SOUTH THAILAND AND BURMA
Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
118Trip End Feb 18, 2007
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Before we departed Bangkok, we decided to take a cooking course in some of our favorite Thai dishes. We had an absolute ball attempting to make Thai curries, rice dishes, starters and soups. Patty was happy as after a month of eating fiery meals she could finally control the level of chillies put into her food! After eating our own concoctions for lunch, which turned out pretty good, we took the express train down to the south of Thailand. Later that evening we arrived in Ranong.
Ranong is one of the few border towns in Thailand where you can legally travel over to Myanmar(Burma). As we were so close, just a 30 minute boat ride away cross the bay, we decided that the next day we would go there for a look around
What an adventure this turned out to be. Firstly, we had to find somebody to take us there and finally got a lift on an extremely overloaded fruit boat. We had to leap from one plank to the next as we precariously made our way down the middle of the boat to get to the only place where we could sit down. On one of the hops between planks, Patty lost her balance and accidently put her foot through one of the fruit crates. That got us off to a great start with the boats captain:-).
We set off past a bizarre Thai border post stuck out on a rock in the middle of the bay. A 30 minute ride across the sea and we came across a hilarious Burmese border control. It was in a hut stuck out on stilts in the sea and looked like it could collapse at any moment.
We finally arrive in the small port town of Kawthaung in Myanmar. It reminded us a bit of India, but with a slight Thai touch, or maybe a Scottish touch if you consider that the men here wear Longyis(An ankle length, wrapped skirt)!
The town, not exactly a prime tourist destination, certainly offered us an authentic look at life in Myanmar.
Myanmar is noticeably poorer than Thailand, but Kawthaung was certainly doing a bustling trade exporting and importing goods to/from Thailand
On the way back is when the real fun began. After finding a tiny passenger boat going our way, we make a stop at the Burmese immigration. The driver seemed to spend ages at immigration and finally came down from the hut with an extra passenger. This passenger, he insisted, would sit right between the only two Westerners on the boat (i.e. us!).
Most people hold up umbrellas on these boats to keep the sun off. Later, as we approached the Thai immigration(three men standing on top of a rock), the driver insisted that another passenger pass her umbrella to the man sitting between us. The man just sat there quiet as a mouse.
From the rock, they checked everybody's passport on the boat except ours (they paid no attention to us whatsoever!). Then the immigration official started shouting at the man sitting between us and told him to get off the boat
It was hysterical. The man had been trying to sneak into Thailand as an illegal immigrant. They were using the two westerners to try and deflect attention from him and the corrupt Burmese immigration and boat crew were all in on the act. 10 out of 10 for Thai immigration control though, they don't miss a trick!
Enough adventure, time to relax. We take a boat over to Koh Tao, the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao is pleasant enough but probably more suited to divers than to sunbathers. It lacks a bit of atmosphere at night, as all the dive fanatics don't want stinking hangovers to ruin their day's diving.
As the beaches were very small, the nightlife quite subdued and we weren't going diving, we decided cut short our stay and head to the next door island of Koh Pha Ngan.
Backpackers are still firmly in control of Koh Pha Ngan and the island shows no sign of letting itself go to the package tourist trade. We loved this island. Lovely beaches, a laid back atmosphere but with enough services and cool bars to ensure you can't get bored.
We spent a couple of days sunbathing, swimming in the pristine sea and watching the amazing sunsets
This place is home to the famous Koh Pha Ngan full moon parties. Although we weren't here for the full moon, you could sense how good the parties must be. The beach bars here are so cool and each have their own individual style.
After the remoteness of Koh Tao and Koh Phangan we thought a few services wouldn't go a miss, so decided to spent some time at Koh Samui. We were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Koh Samui and especially the nightly beach restaurant and bar scene which in some parts is like a posh Koh Pha Ngan. However, this is a major package tourist destination which also means high prices, so we didn't hang around too long before we went over to see Thailand's other famous beaches at Krabi.
The beach of Phra Nang, just north of Krabi, is said to be one of the best in southern Thailand. The setting is just perfect, on the edge of a headland with a small limestone outcrop just in front of view.
Next we will travel down to Malaysia
Last week they put bombs on the train track, so we decided to fast track it with a private mini van to be on the safe side.
So we leave behind Thailand. It may be the most touristy country in South East Asia but it's not without reason. Apart from the amazing beaches, we will really miss the wonderful food, Patty the great cocktails and Marc the Singha beer:-). Everything is so cheap here but without compromising comfort or quality and the Thais really excel in customer service.
Bye bye Thailand, see you again one day when we can afford to stay in one of your amazing 5 star resorts...