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Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Tis the season

We hope all our readers have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful travelling New Year .

Best wishes from Miss C, Miss G and Andrew

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bali and Phuket 2011 Part 1

Part1. Budget dancing dolphins and a holy snake.

CLICK, went the mouse. As I sat back on the lounge, with what I can only describe as a shocked stare of disbelief. What have I done? As I sat forward and looked at the laptop screen again, and again just to make sure. Yeah no mistake, I had booked tickets with Jetstar to Bali, the shocked stare soon turned into a silly smile and a joyous giggle.

You have mail, came from my laptop. Air Asia sale. And with tickets $26 each way to Thailand. I thought, "Phuket! Let’s go" pun intended.

With my air travel and my travel insurance sorted out, I got started on my accommodation and an itinerary, which took a few days and a few emails, thank god for plastic cards, PayPal and the Internet.

I love the way the Aussie dollar has been to the lead up to the trip, I have saved money on my accommodation, plane tickets and visa money. It's just a shame the dollar didn't stay as strong while we were in Bali and Phuket. Most places we are staying at have had good reviews, but staying there will be the test.

Day 1

Where is my lift? I'm ready why it isn’t here. God I'm impatient, I thought. Just then my lift arrives.

And off we set, for the two hour journey to Sydney airport.

I tried to web check on the internet at home for Jetstar and it wouldn't let me. Oh no I thought and was expecting to have to pay extra money at the check in counter. But to my surprise the Jetstar lady said its fine and no extra fee was required. So with us checked in, it was time to fill our bellies as it would be four odd hours before we ate again in Darwin.

OMG, after we passed through Darwin customs / immigration. I got the welcome to Darwin pat down by the friendly immigration officer. The international departure lounge was full of schoolies. And the flight from Darwin to Bali was noisy and bunches of schoolies kept blocking the walk way other than that things went well.

Touch down at Ngurah Rai International Airport 845 pm , and what a debacle it was with the school kids not having a clue what to do made getting a visa a longer than normal process . Maybe a little research may have helped them out. Then to top it all off immigration cards were handed out just after VOA counter also making the process even longer, we managed to get out of the airport in 50 odd minutes.

A stop at the money changers to change $50 into some large and small rupiah notes .Then out the airports doors to breathe and smell the thick humid air infused with the smell of Indonesian cigarettes and incense. With the faint sound of Balinese music playing in the background brought a smile to my face, it was great to be back again.

A right turn to the fixed price taxi counter, to organise a taxi to The Sari Beach Inn, Legian, our home for the next few days. The taxi fare from the airport to the hotel was 55000 rp.

more photos of The Sari Beach Inn Here

 The Sari Beach Inn web site here

We got room 117 a deluxe room. Rooms are basic clean and comfy. There is no phone in the room or bottled water or shampoo. There is a DVD player, but reception on the TV is crap. The taps in the bathroom sink are a little on the Yuk side and the shelf in the fridge was broken, but other than that we are very happy with the room and location. The hot water worked fine and so did the air conditioner. There is free wifi in the reception area and the restaurant / bar area. It has a certain authentic old-world charm about it. The staff are lovely and helpful. Breakfast is included. Would I stay here again, Yes I would I think the location and the gardens make this place.

Day 2

I awoke and stepped out of our room to view the meticulously manicured gardens, the smell of the salty air and sound of the crashing waves made me smile and I thought to myself the gods must be happy.

Breakfast time, we headed to breakfast and were greeted by a nice guy who asked us our room number and what we would like to eat. The choices are eggs cooked anyway, bacon, fruit, pancakes and of course a selection of Indonesian food. I decided to go with the scrambled egg and bacon and orange juice, very yummy. The girls were more interested in what was happening in the world of facebook and getting into the hotel pool. Which is a small pool set in a fantastic garden with a rustic wall and over it a great view of the beach and ocean.

We hit the streets to visit some friends; first stop was Turika and her shop. It is so nice to see her calling out our names and to see how happy she is to see us. She is such a lovely women and her shop is fixed price, she is the battler of the Bali fixed price shops and I make a point of buying a few things from her each visit. Next was Wayan my driver, he hangs around the corner of Garlic lane and Melasti Street, just in front of the Melasti art market where Turika has her shop. Wayan is a top guy I have used his services for many years and very trustworthy. It was great catching up as we didn't get the chance last visit, back in March 2011.

I picked up an Indosat sim card, cheap call and text back to Australia and unlimited facebook which made it even cheaper to keep in touch with friends and family.

I went to a small booth/shop in Garlic lane to change some money located next to Garlic Lane Restaurant, I have used this small booth for many years now and never had a problem, and it’s a welcome break from the heat with the air conditioner nice and cool.

We went for look at Ketuts shop which is in a laneway just behind Turikas shop and she seems to be the giant of the fixed price shops as her shop is almost the size of K-mart, lol. Beautiful lady and a wonderful shop. Further down Garlic lane on the opposite side of the road we visited Miss Debby shop , out back in her house is where she keeps a lot of stuff and if Ketuts shop was K-mart Miss Debbie is the whole shopping mall , both great places to shop and great prices . I will add the business cards to my earlier post on fixed price shopping found here.

Back to the hotel to cool down in the pool and toast the flesh in the hot Bali sun and to sip a few ice cold bintangs.

Later in the day we headed for the Golden Key Printing. I was put onto by a fellow trip advisor (thanx LWNJS). I ordered some stubby coolers for my brother business. And at 7500 rp each, with a minimum order of 50 pieces. Costing 375 000 rp in total.

 See photos of the stubbie holder Here

Walking back to our hotel, along Padma Utara. We stopped at SukSema spa and massage to have an hour reflexology for 60 000 rp for an hour. The girls there are great and we all have a great laugh.

Later we walked to Seaside for dinner, we love seaside and visit at least once a trip. Luckily we managed to get a table as the place was very busy. And as usual the food and service were fantastic.

Back to the hotel for a quick swim and a few beers and check into facebook and Google+ worlds before going to bed.

Day 3

The bloody body clock hasn't adjusted to Bali time, just yet. Lying in bed, with my IPod. Listening to Angus and Julie Stones new album. I started playing angry birds, but after half hour I felt like throwing the bloody IPod against the wall. Don't know about angry birds, it was becoming frustrated Andrew.

Shower and breaky time.

I walked a little down Padma Utara to ANA laundry, it’s at the end of a narrow laneway they do a great job and I have never had a problem. The clothes smell so nice when they come back.

10 am and Wayan my driver arrived, he was taking me to order some doona covers. They do a great job, but they are not very good with English so I find it better to take an old doona cover as a sample and a pillow case. I bought one at a salvos store in Australia for $2 and donated to the cleaner in our hotel who was more than happy to take it off my hands after I used it for a sample. Also take a picture of your design. And give them about a week to make them. I have had a few made already and they still look great and machine wash well.

Back into Wayans Kijang and onto Tanah Alot. Oh My God! What a shock I got, last time I was there was 2000. I can't believe how the place has changed. I was enticed into the holy snakes cave to touch the holy snake, which nearly bit me, but apparently I have good luck now. What an experience and all for a few thousand rupiah .We walked around the temple grounds trying to avoid all the sellers. We were ushered into a snake show, were we had a photo taken with a huge snake weighing in at 60 kilo.

Wayan and Miss C and Miss G

More photos of Tanah lot Here

I love a day out with Wayan, this man loves his country, his life and his job and was thankful to the gods for it daily. He explained about his life and the culture of his people and he is hungry to learn about our lives. And the lessons on Bahassa Indonesia are free.

We stopped into a few hotels to find accommodation for the next few nights and found one just up the road from the Sari Beach Inn. Tomorrow is the big move day, we were going to go Nusa Lembongan but my youngest Miss G stomach has been on the weak side the last few days and I think the boat trip would finish her off.

Back at the hotel for a late afternoon swim and to sit on Kuta beach and watch a magical sunset with an ice cold bintang, the simple things in life are the best.

Freshen up time and out for dinner at MozzarellA by the sea we got a table right at the front with a great view of the ocean. This place was expensive but very yummy; I had the pan fried duck breast with orange sauce and veg, just sensational!!!! The staff are friendly and eager to help. I do love the flash light / torch to read the menu.

After dinner we headed to Cocoon beach they had a hot summer night beach dance party with 5 odd DJ's but the bintang was darn expensive, but the girls and I had a great time.

Back to our hotel and sleep time.

Day 4

Ouch! My head is about to explode. I need a cold coke stat! Hangovers hurt and not to mention the way my body feels after dancing for hours on the beach.

Idiot me left the hotel key in the door last night / early this morning. And around 7 am some random guy just let himself in and woke me up. Get the firetruck out of here buddy!

I have declared today a day of rest and recovery.

I'm just sitting out front of my room catching up on my blog, while the girls are still crashed out. It's another perfect day in paradise. All I can hear is the waves crashing on the beach and a few birds chirping. One of the staff is walking around delivering pool towels. He placed 3 towels on the chair next to me. I just feel like getting up and rubbing my face in them, they smell so good.

We need to checkout of the hotel today at noon. I went looking for another hotel yesterday afternoon and as I mentioned above we found one just up the road check in time is 1 pm. The Adika Sari Bungalows, what we saw yesterday looked good and a pretty good price for a suite room.

Book in was quick and easy. The hotel is clean comfy; the suite room 76 is about 6 foot from the pool. There is no safe in the room but safety deposit box are at reception. There is free wifi in the restaurant and in the room just ask for the password in the restaurant. There is a phone in the room, air conditioner and a small TV and the reception is good no DVD player, but they can be rented from reception. The bathroom is nothing flash but tidy, there is a funky smell in there but a few squirts of some air freshener fix that up. Staff are friendly and helpful. Breakfast is included.

More photos of the Adika Sari Bungalows Here

 The Adika Sari Bungalows website here

We spent most of the afternoon relaxing by the pool. Before heading out to Kuta Square, to do some shopping. The taxi seemed to take forever and the traffic unbelievable. Why on earth they stuffed up Legian street is beyond me. And some roads have been dug up to run underground power cables.

Miss G got herself a beautiful dirt cheap watch at Bagus watches. Miss C bought herself some surf brand clothing.

I bought myself new thongs / slippers / flip flops (what ever you want to call them) before I left home. And have only worn them for four days in Bali and they are worn out. Not very happy, K-mart! So I found some Havaianas at the rusty shop in Kuta square for 149000 rp.

We walked down to the beach to sit relax and cool off while watching another magical Kuta sunset, you can't beat the feeling of sand in your toes and an icy cold bintang. It is such a cheap way to spend an hour and it’s so cool by the water at dusk.

After we grabbed a cab, which isn't that easy, it seems as the taxi mafia is taking over and finding a taxi with a meter is a bit tough at times.

We freshened up and went to Indo-national for dinner, always great service and food, the Gado Gado was yummy.

A swim to cool off in the hotel pool. And a few bintangs before bed time.

Day 5

I think we are slipping into Bali time, sleeping longer, walking slower and relaxing more, thank god.

Breakfast at the Adika Sari Bungalow is tea, coffee or orange juice, rice porridge, corn flakes or nasi or mie goreng. Miss C and G went with the cornflakes with banana and I went with the mie goreng, Yummo.

Another nice day. With a slight breeze and a few clouds overhead. Wayan arrived to pick us up and take us to Bali bird and Reptile Park. After a brief Indonesian lesson on hellos and how you are we set off.

On the way we passed a truck full of dirt which had smashed into a drain / water way at the side of the road the cab was squashed. I would of hate to of seen the driver, two men were unloading the dirt so the truck could be pulled out.

I thought admission price was a little expensive for the Bird and Reptile parks. But it was enjoyable and the bird and reptile encounters were great. At the bird park we watched feeding time in the Papua aviary and one of the large stork type birds landed on my back while I was bent over taking a photo , a heavy bugger too , and it bit/pecked Miss G and the Japanese lady standing next to her . The Bali bird park lady shooed the bird away, no major damage done, thank goodness.

On the trip home the girls zoned out with their IPods while me and Wayan chatted about Balinese food and another Indonesian lesson. Which was great to help brush up on my pronunciation. I had downloaded the lessons from the learning Indonesian website.

Back at the hotel and time to cool off and to socialise around the pool and sip a few beers and relax.

Both girls pestered me to go to Sea Side again for dinner, another great feed and stunning sunset. After dinner we headed to the Melasti spa for a massage, arrhhhhh bliss!!!!

Defiantly blown the budget tonight, but what’s holiday with a splurge.

A dip in the pool and a bintang or two a chat to the neighbours and off to bed we go, we have an early start in the morning.

Day 6

Up early, Wayan will be here at 9am we are head to Lovina for the night. We packed our gear, and had a shower and had breaky of Nasi Goreng and fresh juice.

I caught up with my blog before dropping some washing off at ANA laundry just next door to the Adika Sari Bungalows and down the laneway. Their puppy bit my toe; maybe the holy snake good luck was wearing off. It was only 26000rp for a black plastic bag jammed full, is great value.

Today is our first overcast day, it's still darn humid. It poured with rain around 11 - 12 pm way last night. Fingers crossed the weather will remain good for us.

The Adika Sari has really grown on us , it's budgety , but friendly staff and a great relaxed feel make it all the better . I think we will return on another visit.

Off we go to the Villa Agung Beach Resort in Lovina, recommended by Perthlovestotravel from trip advisor. The drive was great once we got out of the madness; the further we went the better it was. The transition from shops catering for the tourist and shops catering for the local Balinese really made me think how different this end of Bali was from the madness around Kuta. Even the change in clothes to some extent was different there was more people wearing more traditional clothes and life seems a lot less manic.

We stopped off at Saranam eco-resort at Pacung to take in the view and what a view. It was breath taking. The countryside is so lush and green. We continued up the mountain range to Strawberry stop to take in the view which was also amazing. But ahead the clouds where getting blacker and blacker.



Strawberry Stop

We stop again at Lake Bratan to see the temple in the lake which was beautiful and the grounds were well kept. The girls had spotted some baby owls and had a photo taken with them. I must admit they did look cute.

Back into the Kijang and off we set again we start to climb another mountain range and after a while stopped to look at the monkeys at the side of the road. We carried on and ascended into the darkness of the black cloud on top of the mountain the rain started to fall, it was getting hard to see. Wayan slowed right down; on the descent other cars were overtaking Wayan and nearly hitting the on-coming cars. Some of these drivers are fearless or just plain stupid. By the time we got to Singaraja the rain had stopped. This side of Bali was so different; it wasn't until we got to the hotel until we saw anyone other than Balinese.

We booked in and had a look around, checked out the room. I invited Wayan to eat lunch with us at the hotel. The food was yummy and with the cool breeze coming in from the ocean it was so refreshing. After lunch Gus the owner welcomed us and we sat out the front of our room and chatted for awhile.

More photos of Villa Agung Beach Inn Here

 Villa Agung Beach Resort website here

Our room was room 0 well that’s what was on the key. This is a smallish hotel with small pool with a restaurant right on the sea front with a view of the black sand beach and flat ocean. The family room was great clean comfy , no phone , no TV , no in room safe but the owners are more than happy to lock stuff up in there safe . There is a lockable cupboard in the room to store valuables in .The bathroom is outdoors , it's a bit of a strange feeling showering or using the toilet outdoors Miss C and G were a little worried at first. There is a fridge stocked with goodies and tea and coffee and a jug. Our room had fans and air conditioned. It has I large queen bed and in the next room a set of bunk beds. This place is great. The owners go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable. And there is a book in the room they have put together, I think all hotels in Bali should have it, the tips and info is great.

We went for a walk along the black sand beach and back to the hotel for a beer and dinner. And a little socialising with the other guests before turning in for an early night. It will be an early start in the morning. Let's hope the weather is good.

Day 7

There goes that darn alarm, 530 am. Another of my stupid Ideas, an early morning dolphin cruise off the coast of Lovina. I had arranged it with the hotel on arrival. The price is 70 000 rp each. Payable in the morning before you set off, and there is tea or coffee before you go.

We walk down to the beach and into our little boat my girls and me and two Javanese and off we set. The ocean was flat and almost like a mirror finish the sun was rising over the mountain range of Lovina, a beautiful sight. We powered on across the ocean for a good 2 km. Miss C was up front followed by Miss G then me and our two Javanese friends behind. I yell "look" and pointed off to the right and our boat driver turn and off we went towards the dolphins. They are very little dolphins and the babies are very small, in my girl’s words, they are so cute. There was about 4 or 5 other boats heading our way, it was beautiful the ocean so flat. The only noise was a humming from the boats motor and the lapping of the water on the bow of the boat. It was a fantastic experience watching the dolphins swim around. But then the dolphins disappeared and as I turned around to look for them I noticed more and more boats coming towards us. I guess in total there was around 20 boats all chasing the dolphins across the ocean. It seems as the dolphin were playing with us, showing up and disappearing all over the place. Some were jumping out of the water, one just had its tail sticking out the water and flapping as to say "here I am”. They are so quick it was hard to get a good photo; I think a video camera would have been excellent. After a while we headed back to shore, the whole experience lasted about 2 hours.

On the way back to the black sand beach , Lovina looks so peaceful with the sun above the mountains and the shore line in-cased in fog and smoke gave it a wondrous authentic feel of a small sleepy fishing village . And as we got closer we spotted a few women meditating on the beach, enjoying the morning peace and tranquillity.

The girls went back to the room and rested, while I sat on the beach to catch up with my blog. While my new found buddy sat next to me, I'm not sure if it the hotel dog or some random dog roaming around but his fur is almost a tiger pattern. He is a little untrusting at first, but soon warmed to me after a gentle pat.

This is a magical place and I wish I was here longer to explore it. But Wayan will be here soon to pick us up and continue our tour back to the madness of Kuta.

We are heading towards the Buddhist temple just out of Lovina. We entered the temple and put on our sarongs and followed the trail of incense to the first prayer and meditation room. The rest of the temple was in quiet time as there was lot of people in a meditation workshop.

It was great to get back into Wayans car and cool of in the cool of his air conditioner, we then headed to Banjar to visit the hot springs, and we parked the car and headed in, past all the shop owners desperately trying to sell their stock. The hot springs are so nice I love visiting here and feel great after a swim in the pools. We dried off and had a drink before we headed off to Kuta via Munduk.

What a drive this is the climb up that mountain is bloody steep and some of the views from up there are breath taking. I did think at one stage is this an episode of world’s deadliest roads.

Along the way Wayan asked me if I had tried Durian or Jackfruit. I said "no”. Wayan stopped at the side of the road and went and got a Durian and asked the lady to cut it up for us to try. The girls high tailed it out of there quick smart, my god it was a rotten pungent smell. As Miss C said, it's worse than a thousand farts. Both Miss C and Miss G refused to come anywhere near it and sat in the car with windows shut. Wayan picked up some and ate it, I grabbed a piece trying not to smell it and put it in my mouth, hey this is good, bloody good once you get past the smell. Wayan got a bag of cut up Jackfruit as they are so large we would just waste the rest of it , I didn't like the taste of this at all , Miss C said it was ok , but wouldn't go out of her way to eat it , lol . Miss G just refused point blank. The rest of the trip the girls had the IPods and went into their own worlds, while me and Wayan chatted and had another Indonesian lesson.

We neared Kuta and the change in pace blew me away; I was starting to wish we were still in Lovina, it was so relaxed.

Wayan pulled up out the front of the Febris hotel, our home for the night. This is the most expensive hotel so far but I got a good price on It is very clean very comfortable and has all amenities, there is free wifi. The fridge in the room is huge and the towels are made into rabbits. The girls again said "they are so cute”. And Miss G is refusing to have a shower as she doesn't want to wreak it. All up the Febris is a great hotel especially for families. It was a bit noisy due to all the building going on in the area.

More photos of the Febris Here

Febris Hotel website here

We grabbed a cab and went back to ANA laundry in Legian to pick up our washing. The girls want to grab some vans singlets from a shop near Indo-national as this is the only place we have found them.

Dinner was at Indo-national and back to the hotel to enjoy a swim and a few cold beers before bed. It will be another early start in the morning.

More photos and scans of business cards here 


Bali and Phuket 2011 Part 2

Part 2, Chang Caves and Mr Chow

Day 8

I must have drunk the genie at the bottom of the bintang bottle last night. Cause now the little bastard is banging the inside of my head to get out ...........Oh it hurts.

We showered and packed our packs and headed out to get breakfast.

Breakfast at the Febris was massive with so much to choose from set out in a buffet style, which I'm not keen on. The food tasted ok, not as good as everywhere else we have stayed at as they cook their food fresh for you. But when I went back to get more I noticed a guy with a tennis racket type fly killer, I guess it sprayed a spray or was some kind of electronic zapper. Whatever it was it killed the fly which fell into some food, and it was left there.

We needed to check-out by 830am as Wayan will be here to drive us to the airport.

Wayan looked great today in his traditional clothes; it was wedding day in his village.We said our goodbyes to Wayan and headed into the airport.

We booked in and made our way through immigration and sat in the departure lounge waiting for our Air Asia flight to the Island of smiles, Phuket Thailand. It will be my 2nd visit to Phuket and the girls first.

My earlier trip here

We left Bali on time and the flight was great, except the few turbulences just half hour out of Phuket. We landed on time and cleared Immigration and walked out of the terminal and turned right to changed $50 AUD for Thai Baht at the money changers and then a left turn down to the fixed price taxi counter at the other end of the terminal . I was quoted 500 baht to Kata Beach. We were assigned a driver and place our back packs into the boot of the cab and off we went to Boomerang Village Resort Kata beach. The taxi driver didn't really say much until we were a few kilometres down the road and he asked what hotel we were heading to. He seemed to know two speeds flat-out and stopped at some stages we were doing 130 km. I ask him to slow down, but he just didn't listen. We went through 2 red lights, almost constant texting and chatting on the phone. I have travelled to a few Asian countries but this was the worst taxi ride I've ever been in. I felt like we would be lucky to reach our destination. I am pleased to say we did.

Upon arrival he informed me I also owe him an extra 100 baht for airport tax, so the hell ride cost me 600 baht, who needs a theme park for thrills.

The Boomerang Village Resort is beautiful there is a steep hill to get up to the resort, but the grounds are meticulously manicured, the stone paths and gardens are some of the best I have seen. And the room is to die for. This place is just perfect. The room has all amenities even a DVD player. The restaurant is fantastic and the food is just beautiful. There is a free shuttle service between the hotel and Kata beach. After we check in and checked out the room. And after a big day we decided to enjoy the pool and do a little socialising. We freshened up and had dinner at the Cafe del Sol Restaurant which has a great view over Kata . There was even a small fireworks display, just to make the moment a little more special.

More Photos of the Boomerang Village Resort Here

Boomerang Village Resort website here

Day 9

Breakfast is a smorgasbord style, which was nice. But as stated above I'm not a fan of food sitting around for too long. I opted for the fresh cooked eggs and toast; I must say the orange juice is very strong but very yummy.

We walked down the hill of our hotel and at the bottom, I yelled out "watch out" as I saw a snake. Talk about shitting yourself, on a closer inspection we found out it was squashed flat. Thank god. After a laugh we continued to walk to Kata's town centre to change some money and get some credit at 7/11 store for the Thai sim we were given free at Phuket airport , True move is the company name and is pretty cheap to text and phone home . It comes with easy to read instructions.

I showed the girls a tuk tuk and they wanted a ride in one. So we grabbed one to Patong. The girls loved the look of the beaches, shops and the elephants we passed on the way. We got out at Bangla road and payed the tuk tuk lady 400 baht. The girls decided to go beauty land. So headed along Bangla Road to Rat-U-Thit Songroi Pi Rd and turned left keep walking up the road on the left side until you see a big arch way on the left with Adaman Beach Suites turn left and walk under the arch, Beauty land is on the right. After half an hour and a few baht lighter we finally left.

Next stop Jungceylon we walked around for awhile, before we headed to Jindas shop. We bought a few things from them; I didn't find them any cheaper than anywhere else.
Next stop Otop market and after a big walk around this massive market and a lot of hard bargaining, we sat down at Monkey Bar, for a cool drink. It wasn't long before the bar games were brought out, we had a few laughs and spent a few hours there playing games and having a few cold Changs.

After the bar we headed off for some dinner, only to be caught up watching the bikini and foam party at the Hard Rock Cafe. A little later I took the girls to Bangla road this place is hedonistic fun for adults, the girl’s eyes were as large as dinner plates with the sights of the bars and guys asking them to go the ping pong shows. Halfway along we spotted the aids parade led by a few lady boys. We managed to get our way to the front and get a few happy snaps with the lady boys.
We walk along the beach road for a while checking out the sights and a few shops, before catching a batman tuk tuk back to the hotel. He cranked the duf duf music till my ears bled, but the girls loved it. I think they are starting to love Phuket.

Day 10

That alarm is going off again, 6 am!

Our transport will be here soon. It was cool and a slight breeze and overcast this morning. The bus arrived and we climbed aboard to said our hellos to a couple from the US and set off to Karon beach to pick up another couple from Australia. Next stop Royal Phuket Marina , were we met Jenny from Simba Sea Trips and Harry the tour guide who looked like Mr Chow from the hangover movies , a few jokes were made and we all enjoyed a laugh . We also met the other half of the group 3 couples from the UK.

Our destination today was Phang-Nga Bay.

I had been on the Bay once before back in 2007, and thought the girls would love the day out as well. But when I did it the tour it was crowded with thousands of tourists everywhere we went and even though I enjoyed the day, the crowds did spoil it.

Simba Sea Trips was recommended to me by a person I know and after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor I was sold. They said they try avoiding the crowds and they did.

We left the marina and onto the bay. Jenny introduced herself and Harry (Mr Chow) and the other staff and a brief description of the day and what we will be doing. It was cold first off on the boat, but soon warmed up as the sun got higher in the sky.

As we powered across the emerald green watered bay and admired the picturesque sea views of these almost vertical limestone tree covered Islands jutting out of the water just amazed us as we looked in ore at the beauty of this bay.

The speed boat slowed next to one of the Island and Jenny started telling us a few interesting facts about the flora and fauna as well as how the giant stalactites are formed. While two sea hawks glided over head and a monitor lizard swam past the boat, this place is amazing. We turned the corner of the Island and landed on a small beach. We were all given flashlights and climbed down the small ladder onto the beach. A great photo opportunity and Harry was always ready to volunteer to take photos for you, Jenny also helped out.

We entered a small cave off to one side of the small beach, as we entered Harry spotted a small bat clung to the rocks above us "keep your mouths shut" said Harry. As we ventured in the cave more there were a few great stalactites and stalagmites after about 50 - 60 odd meters we could see light at the end of the tunnel. And stepped into the hong (Jenny said it's Thai for room) WOW, talk about feeling like you had stepped back in time these was unreal, the mangrove looked great. We all walked around exploring, and found some mudskippers and small fish and after a few photos we left the hong , only leaving our footprints behind .

Back on board we were welcomed with a choice of water of soda/fizzy drinks and a great platter of fruit and bananas cake. I tried the dragon fruit, so yummy also some small round fruit which Harry called dragons eyes both were delicious.

Next stop James Bond Island made famous by the 1974's "The Man with the Golden Gun.”. We took a few photos of the Island before boarding the boat and heading off again.

As the boat sped past the magnificent lush green mangrove forests and vertical Islands, it was great taking in the view of the truly unique place. We stopped for some info on the mangroves and have the local people harvest shrimp.

The boat came to a stop next to one of sheer limestone cliffs close to the Koh Panyi Village. And perched up high, was a small cave. Jenny and Harry pointed out some cave paintings.

Before stopping at Koh Panyi Village, the entire village is built on stilts or floats. We had a tour around the village to see how village life went about. Before heading to the restaurant for a lunch which was an array of local food all great food, even the spicy fish head soup. Harry collected some chicken bones and asked if we wanted to watch him feed some of the fish the local’s farm here. The grouper and cobia are massive and soon made short work of the left over bones.

Back on boat and our next stop was sea canoeing. The girls went in one canoe with a Thai guide and I was alone in another and off we set, around the Island through a large cave and a few smaller caves. It is a truly amazing spot.

More photos of Simba Sea Trips Phang Nga Bay Here

Simba Sea Trips website here

Our last stop of the day was a small Island for a swim the beach was lovely lined with beach chairs to relax in and a small bar to buy a drink from.

Back at the hotel and we relaxed for a while, before heading in Kata to change some money. We grabbed a tuk tuk and heading to Kata Beach for dinner next to the Ska Bar, after a tasty meal of Thai food. We went over to the bar for a few afternoon drinks and to relax to the reggae music, what a top place. We had a great night, though the South Africa girl running around in a G string / thong was a bit much to take.

Day 11

Finally a lazy morning we all slept in till 10am, my god it was great. We wandered down for breakfast, which was great except there were no forks for awhile, other than that all was fantastic.

After breaky we just chilled for a while and uploaded a few photos to facebook and Google+, just to let everybody know what we have been up to.

We walked down to Kata to drop some clothes off at the laundry, which is 50 baht a kilo and pick up tomorrow afternoon.

I spoke to a guy near the money changer and bargained a price for some transport. We jumped into his flash Toyota 4wd and off we set. First stop was the big Buddha; it was a great drive up the mountain. We passed elephants, rubber plantations and quite a few ATV’s.

Entry to the Big Buddha is free. However girls must have the legs and shoulders covered up, so the Miss C had to have a sarong around her shoulders as well as one covering her legs as well as Miss G's legs. But there is a donation box there.
We walk along to take a few photos of the Buddha and the fantastic view. Off to one side you can write your name on a tile for another donation, we choose the small tile and payed a 100baht each.

At the other end of the hall sat two monks. I removed my thongs/flip-flops and went first and knelt down in front of the monk. The monk tied on a wrist band and blessed me while splashing me with holy water. I thanked the monk and donated him a few baht. Up next was Miss C and then Miss G had her turn.

We walked up the stairs to the top and view the Buddha and the fantastic view around Phuket. It’s well worth the visit just for the view alone.

Next stop was support to be the Kok Chang Safari, but the driver I had found didn't seem to know where it was. We visited four different elephant parks before we finally got there.

We did finally arrive at Kok Chang Safari with a cheer from the girls and me.

I hate elephant rides, but my youngest loves them. I am still working on her to look at them and not ride them.

The elephants are chained up by one foot and the elephants looked anything but happy, some just rocked back and to. I felt sorry for these animals and wished we hadn't purchased a ticket to ride the elephants.

Anyway we set off , Miss C and Miss G shared an elephant , which left me to ride an elephant by myself except for the Mahout we set off up a hill for our 20 minute ride and all was fine , except all I can think of each time I ride an elephant . What the hell happens if the elephant goes rogue and runs off into the jungle, with me hanging on for dear life.

About halfway up the hill the elephant I was on stopped, the Mahout start saying something in Thai to it, but the elephant didn't move. The Mahout reaches towards the seat and pulled out his ankus (a wooden stick with a metal hook on one end) and hit the elephant on the head hard, and once again hit it hard. Still the elephant wouldn't move, I was shocked and felt sick in my gut for the poor elephant. Then, came a huge wack with the metal hook, which got the elephant moving and I and the girls were shocked. I asked could we go back. But the Mahout just kept going. I will think twice before doing that again.

Miss G said she didn't feel too well, so we headed back to the hotel and she lay down for an afternoon nap. After a couple of hours she said she felt better.

So we had a small bite to eat before we grabbed a Tuk Tuk and headed to Phuket Town, night markets. I have been here on my last visit in 2007.

It started raining on the way and stayed wet most of the night. I like the shopping here was great and cheap. We started off and got some bargains.

And I had to try the grasshoppers , the guy told me to rip its head of and pull the back legs off and enjoy , it was great at first kind of a soy taste but after that omg , let's just say I'll be starving to death before I eat another .

Miss G started to get stomach pains and a sore throat. So we run off to the car park where the poor girl was ill. We jumped into a taxi, and off we went to the Bangkok Hospital in Phuket Town.

About 15 to 20 minutes later we were at the hospital and Miss G was admitted. And moved to a ward. There is a lounge in the room that is large enough to sleep on which Miss C slept on. I sat in a hard wooden chair all night watching Miss G and worrying.

Day 12

I had gone 12 hours with only an hour sleep on the hospital floor, and that was bloody cold.
Miss C woke up and she was ill, So I got her down stairs to the outpatients and checked out by a Doctor, she was admitted and moved to a ward.
Both girls were on different floors I spent the next few days and night spending a few hours between each girl.

I had to leave the hospital and go get our insurance papers and passports for the hospital.

I left the hotel and walked down to the main road to try grab a cab, it was raining not enough to get soaked but enough to piss you off. I was nearly hit by two bikes which just missed me and hit each other, thank god.

I grabbed the next tuk tuk back to the hospital.

Day 13

We were supposed to leave Phuket today aboard an Air Asia plane to return to Bali, but as both girls were unfit to travel we had to phone the airline and state our case. And Air Asia just asked to bring medical certificates and we could re-arrange our tickets with an additional fee.

I also phoned the hotel in Bali and Wayan, who was going to pick us up from the airport. To inform him we would be stuck in Phuket for a few more days.
Around 11 am both girls got the all clear to leave the hospital.
Four to five hours later the insurance company Covermore had received the girls medical reports and had reviewed our case and payed up for the hospital stay for both girls. They had also organised us a room at the Millennium lakeside hotel, Patong. Until our flight.

More photos of the Millennium Lakeside Here

 Millennium Hotel website here

I had to go to Air Asia with a medical report about the girls stating they were in hospital and unfit to fly. So I could rebook our flights and pay a little extra money, which. Covermore said they will cover when I submit a claim, upon our return to Australia.

That evening we went to Jungceylon to get something to eat from subway and an early night. As the girls were still not 100 % and tired.

Day 14

Breakfast at the Millennium is unbelievable, with lashing of foods. A true food lover’s delight. I went with a chicken salad straight out of the kitchens, a true delight to eat; it got all my senses working overtime with a punch of fantastic flavours. What a way to start a day.

Later we hit the streets of Patong, I needed some new sunnies as I broke mine hitting my head on the side of the taxi while getting Miss G to hospital.

Near Bangla Road I found a small shop selling sun glasses, the lady wanted 350 baht for some Ray Bans. Shit I thought, the girls bought some at Phuket Town night markets for 89 baht. So I hit her with 100 baht, NO she said. On the calculator she pressed in 300 , I pressed in 100 again , No she said , and she went to 250 , No I said 120 , she said no and pressed in 180 on the calculator , No I said and pressed in 130 baht , she agreed on the price all this time was done in silence except for both us saying no . As I paid her she made sure the people behind her didn't see what was going on or how much I had payed for the glasses. I stood there for a while watching her and the other people , she sold them 1 pair of Ray Bans and 1 Oakley glasses for 400 baht for both .

Patong reminds me of Kuta in Bali a huge tourist trap with expensive prices for everything. I much preferred our time in Kata Beach. The worst part for me it’s the Indian /Thais selling suits and DVDs trying to be Aussie, Hey buddy wanta buy sum DVD's or we have suits cheaper than K-mart. Geez what a pack of wankers. Bali gets me down with them trying on the Aussie accent as well.

We cooled down from a hot morning walking the streets of Patong, by taking a dip the hotel pool which is located on the 4th floor and beautiful.

We headed towards Otop market and had dinner at a small Thai restaurant which was so yummy and so cheap.

The girls wanted one last lap of the Otop markets .And to bid farewell to our new Thai friends at the Monkey bar.

On the way back to our hotel, we walked past Let's Relax and great spa I visited on my last visit in 2007. I suggested to the girls how about a foot reflexology. Both girls said "Yeah". So we asked if they could manage to fit us in. This place is so nice and for 400 baht for 45 mins foot reflexology it's good value. We were ushered over to get our feet washed in bowls with rose petals, already I was feeling refreshed. Then it was up the elevator to the 2nd floor and they sat us down in the big comfy recliner chairs. The cool air conditioner breeze on our hot skin was nice and to relax to the sound of the small fountain and water fall on the lower floor. Had us sinking it the big chairs and just relaxed even more. Arrhhhh this is total bliss. I love a professional spa that insists total quiet.

Time to turn in it’s an early start in the morning.

More photos and scan of business cards here