Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The time has come

Bighead and I found a massive mall in Patong (wasn't hard). It has a cinema (always handy). Back in NZ I used to despise malls. Over the years they've been seeping into Wellington City, crushing the funky independently owned shops to make way for horrendous chain stores and clinical looking food courts. But here, I seem to have taken a bit of a shining to them. I think it's mainly because it's a bit of a step back into western life. They feel comfortable (go the air con!) and familiar. The other cool thing about the malls here is that the food courts actually dish up some pretty tasty, well priced food.

So here we were in this mall the other day and we walk past a bag shop. Now Bighead and I had recently been contemplating the possibility of trading in the old back packs for some cases on wheels. It's a big step to make, does it mean we have officially become flashpackers instead of backpackers? Somehow, I think that happened a while ago but I think changing our luggage truly seals the deal.

We spent some time umming and arring over different cases and in the end bought one small hard case for Bighead and his office, and then one very large case for me, the dive gear and everything else. It must be the biggest case ever made by man I'm telling ya!

What cracked me up was the journey home.

There we were, driving on the scooter, in the rain, splashing through puddles of who's knows what (let me just say that the drainage system here receives a regular flushing out), with the largest case ever made by man nestled awkwardly between us, me hanging on for dear life with my feet tucked in way up the front and Bighead perched right on the front tip of the seat, navigating the winding streets from Patong to Kata. It was hilarious! We must have looked hilarious!

So now I have cool suitcase and Bighead's mobile office is looking all the more professional. I'm a bit of a packing nazi so I must admit, I'm probably more excited than your average punter but check it out...See how nicely that dive gear packs in there? No more squashed dive gear, no more lugging our packs around in the obscene heat, no more wrestling with my pack to get the zip done up, and no more hours on end of using every possible packing skill I have to make everything fit!

Anyone wanna buy a backpack?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

So far so good!

It was so beautiful flying in to Phuket, which made me realise I'd never arrived this way before. The sun was just beginning to set and a scattering of limestone cliffs and lush green mountains could be seen protruding from the ocean with great gusto. Stunning. Hopefully we can visit this area sometime to see it up close.

We stayed in Phuket Town for the first night, waking early the next morning to explore the island and work out what's what and who's where. Our eyes were wide and sparkling with excitement as we headed south on the scoot around the coastal road. We wanted to stop every time we saw a 'house for rent' advertisement (which would mean every 5 minutes so we had to restrain ourselves somewhat!). We cruised through Chalong, Rawai, Kata, Karon, and finally Patong before heading back into town.
It was clear we'd been on the bike far too long when we began to snip at each other in our attempts to navigate the poorly signposted streets of Phuket Town. Trying to find our way back to the hotel under the screaming sun, with our tummies rumbling, was not the way to do it! (Phuket is so much bigger than Koh Phangan!). We made it with just enough time to pack up and check out.

The last time we came to Phuket we literally went straight to Patong Beach and stayed one night before jumping on a live aboard dive boat for three days to the Similian Islands (best diving experience either of us have had by the way!). We really hadn't seen Phuket at all so it's been really cool to see more of the island.

I'm pleased to announce that this is the one.

Kata had captured my soul from the moment I saw it. With its gorgeous white sand beach surrounded by hill top vistas, coconut groves, banana trees, and a funky wee town (how could it not have?). In the pic below the first two bays you see are Kata, then Karon, and Patong is over the next hill.


We've found a cool place to stay in Kata for the mean time and with low season prices it's a great deal. The Sugar Palm (I keep calling it sugar plum by accident, I just can't help it) has double rooms for 800 baht a night (approx. NZ$35) and there's high speed wireless internet (like actual high speed not same same high speed). So we're both chuffed and here I am merrily blogging into the wee hours of the evening.



Oh and the Phuket Vegetarian Festival has started so we have our white clothes ready to roll!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Word on the street is

that the Phuket Vegetarian Festival starts on September 28th this year. We have to go. How can we not? There's gruesome acts of devotion to be seen and tasty veg food to sample.

A radical roller coaster ride to Haad Rin had me grabbing for a plastic bag on arrival (managed to keep my breaky down but nausea and extreme heat are a bad combo believe me).

video

We have a few days here before flying to Phuket on Friday. Hopefully the little stingy things in the water have gone now, they were yuck.

We'll have to come back over this way for more diving later in the season. We did a two-dive day yesterday to Sail Rock, a famous dive spot between Tao and Phangan. There were loads of friendly schools of fish and it was pretty cool to drift beside a group of large barracuda (a good metre in length) for a while but unfortunately the visibility was crap (2-3 metres in some spots). I think we'll stick with snorkeling until late October. Anyone wanna join us on a live aboard dive trip?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pretty...


Monday, September 22, 2008

Thongsala Night Market = Yeh Haa Grandma!


The Thongsala night market is awesome for several reasons:
  1. It's the cleanest I've seen, has seating, is well lit, and like most local markets is ultra cheap cheap!
  2. The coconut shakes are perfect, ask for nit noi naam taan (just a little sugar)
  3. You can buy the best smokey bbq'd chicken ever for just 20 baht (NZ$0.80)
  4. Last but by no means least, there is a mango and sticky rice stall (oohhh yeeeeaah!)

Here are the lovely ladies that have provided Bighead and I with (far too many and no where near enough, if you catch my drift!) delicious tender smokey chicken pieces. Mmm...

Below, hiding behind her fruit, is the master of the coconut shake.


And here is one of my favourite places on Koh Phangan. The mango and sticky rice stall. 50 baht (NZ$2) for a whole sweet, juicy mango and the most tantalising coconut flavoured sticky rice I've had the pleasure of tasting. I had no idea. Here I was, all this time, thinking that I had tried this local delicacy. But no... now I have and I am hooked. Completely, utterly, whole heartedly, can-I-live-on-just-this-one-meal, hooked.


If we end up living here and you come to visit, you have my word I will shout you a night out at this market. It's a must do.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Cut Above

So I guess you may have been thinking that I'd disappeared off the face of the earth. No blogging for 3 days! Heaven forbid, I think I've even experienced a teeny bit of withdrawal.
There is no doubt that Koh Phangan is a cut above Koh Samui in its beauty. The island is littered with coconut groves, granite boulders, breathtaking crystal clear bays, fine white sandy beaches, stunning mountain vistas, laid back people, and local reefs that offer some outstanding snorkeling. Koh Ma (pictured below) is teaming with different species of fish that can often been seen in large schools. We're getting into a bit of a routine with the old early morning snorkel. It's got to be one of the best ways to stay fit!


Can we live here? Possibly. Thongsala is the main town and seems to have everything we might need. If we'd like to go to a cinema, then we could skip across to Samui, no problem (12 mins via speedboat! Hey, I could even commute to work this way! How cool would that be?!).

We spent a couple of nights in Haad Rin (home of full moon party). The party was a few days prior to our arrival so we practically had the whole place to ourselves as the party is what most people come for. The vibe there is pretty cool and there are lots of cheap eateries with a range of food on offer (which is good for us!). There's even a place called 'Same Same Burger Bar'. Most of my dear friends in Welli will know that I was a wee bit crazy about Brooklyn Fish Supplies cheeseburgers, so seeing this spot had me somewhat excited. I miss my cheeseburgers (but not my thighs!).

There's quite a few more shops and roads in Haad Rin than there were last time and the beach is as stunning as its always been (bar the 2 zillion cigarette butts and bucket of joy straws strewn all over the sand).

It's amazing how quick and easy it is to get about on the island. They have a new highway that shoots straight up the middle, taking only 15 mins on the scoot from Chaloklum in the north to Thongsala in the south. That means we can pretty much live anywhere on the west coast and still be nice and close to town. The beaches on the west coast are sublime, Haad Yao being our favourite (which is where we are now).The accommodation here is the best value we've found. Bay View Resort has low season rooms for 900 Baht (NZ$40) a night with sliding glass doors onto a large patio overlooking one of the most stunning bays on the island, a gorgeous swimming pool (also overlooking the bay), and it's only a hop, skip and a jump to the beach.

Here are some other spots we've had the privilege of staying as we've fluttered from bay to bay (some not all that cheap!).



The internet here is not as fast as Samui but Bighead has managed to forgive the slow connections when working from his mobile office.
Stayed tuned for night market and sticky rice with mango (O.M.G!)

Chillin

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ode to the Banana Pancake

Dedicated to my dear friend Leah who is about to have her first child any day now (and for obvious reasons can't be here) and my little bro who is a slack ass and spent all his money on a car instead of a trip to Thailand!


This is not the first time I've looked and acted like a complete tourist and I'm certain it won't be the last. I just want to make it clear to you all, the sacrifice I make to show you my gloatos (that, and I'm a sucker for a good shot!). It's tough being a photographer and a traveler because I truly want to photograph every single thing I see that I find beautiful but I also don't want to be so busy taking photographs that I miss the moment for what it is. This is and always will be a dilemma for me.

You can't come to Thailand and not have a banana pancake (or Thai roti). These are very similar to the martabak we drooled over in Bali. You can choose any filling combo you like from a list of tasty choices including coconut, banana, chocolate, peanuts etc. For this particular pancake we chose coconut, chocolate and peanuts... "Yum!", or as the Thai say "Aroi mak maa!", which means really delicious. I still think the banana and chocolate is my favourite.

The guy making our pancake was a real show man. I should have actually filmed him as he was making it with the same vigour that a bar man would a fancy cocktail. Classic.

Just down the beach a bit further I couldn't resist taking a shot of this 'Armani' store which was sitting right on the sand, sandwiched between fancy restaurants. Awesome.

I've discovered that one of my favourite fruits here is the pomelo. It's very similar to a grapefruit but much sweeter (and much bigger). Some of them are as big as a bowling ball and you lite

rally have to wrestle with it to get to the scrumptious, juicy pieces inside. I reckon that much like a coconut, there must be a special technique. Still, that didn't deter me and about half an hour after beginning to peel it, I finally had my first piece. Sweet and sour at the same time. Loaded with juicy wee pods of goodness that pop in your mouth as you eat.

One of my other favourites is the dragon fruit. The reason I like it is more to do with the way it looks, it's so pretty. There are two different types, one with a white centre and the other with a pink. We had our first pink one the other day and I still can't get over how ridiculously pink it was. I did my best with the photograph but I simply couldn't capture it's true luminescence.




Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Weighing up the options + other bits & bobs

So Samui looks like it could be a good contender, although (this may sound bizarre), there doesn't appear to be that many options in terms of great beaches. Remember that we can't be too remote as Bighead needs a good internet connection for work and I need one for... you know... mucking around.

One of the best beaches, Chaweng, is over run with party people and the other, Lamai, is lacking that 'something special' we're looking for. There are however, some great looking international schools and even a 3 theatre cinema! In fact, there is also 3 large supermarket/malls. The amount of new development here at the moment is truly mind boggling.

We've pretty much decided that the best approach in our search for 'the location', is to visit each spot briefly to get an overall feel. Check amenities, beaches, restaurants, possible accommodation etc. and from there, attempt to narrow it down. We'll then spend a few months living in each. Who knows! Perhaps after seeing the choices, it will be obvious where we belong. We do both feel (and have done from the day we arrived), that Thailand is the place for us.

We've been cruising around Samui on the scooter today and although I knew this particular sight existed, we actually stumbled upon it by accident (truly). It's called Grandfather and Grandmother Rock. It's basically some rocks that look... well... vaguely phallic. The location itself, is actually gorgeous. A crystal clear bay with large granite boulders tumbling into the ocean. I find it quite strange that it's actually 'a sight'. I mean, when we were there, there were a whole bunch of people (on a tour of some kind) posing for photos in front of a penis shaped rock. It baffles me, mind you I suppose a lot of tourist attractions baffle me. Especially the new 'Ice Bar' with life sized tuk tuk ice sculpture (apparently) and Thai waitresses wearing Eskimo hats! What a funny species we humans are.

So anyway, enough of the ranting. We're off to Koh Phangan (otherwise known as Paradise Island) in a few days. I'm keen to spend some time exploring the rest of the island as last time (when we were younger) it was all about the full moon party.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Interesting


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Koh Samui - We have arrived.

Bighead had to drag me from May Kaidee's kicking and screaming but eventually convinced me that it was time to head to the islands. Enough of those super mall shenanigans, it sure does feel great to be at the beach (and a tropical one at that!). Something about the ocean warms my cockles.We've been in Samui for a few days now, having done everything we needed to do in BK (besides devouring May's entire menu). Samui truly is a beautiful island. We're feelin it. We've already scored this humble abode in a quaint little spot called Bo Phut and stocked up on local fruits. The view from our studio is pretty damn special and it's really nice to have the extra space to spread our wings for a bit. The owner of the apartment is really lovely and full of useful info with regards to setting up and living on Samui.
All 'photos' will now be referred to as 'gloato's'. You know that if you want it, you just have to grab it. I'm lucky that I have Bighead as he truly is the motivational force behind this mission :)

We thought we'd have a bit of a night out on Saturday. So we threw on a clean shirt, chugged down a few Chang's (still acquiring a taste for this as not the smoothest of brews) and took off into Chaweng Centre to get the party started. As it turns out, there was a liquor ban on due to elections on Sunday and everything was closed! Maybe we'll meet some new friends next time :(

I've contacted a few schools in the area to see if I can spend some time with them, maybe I'll even try to get a job! We're still undecided as to how long we'll stay here. Do we give it a month or do we scout out other islands first in the hopes of narrowing it down a little? So many decisions!

There's one thing I know for sure and that is that Bighead is going to have an awful lot of trouble convincing me to leave this view.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

For all you veges out there

This sure is one very good reason for you to book a flight to Bangkok right now.

Pack your bag, slip on your flip flops and relocate. May Kaidee's Vegetarian Restaurant is waiting for you.

We've had to eat here quite a lot over the past few days, we simply couldn't go anywhere else. Every dish we've tried has been excellent. So fresh and rich. They also make a mean banana and coconut shake. Trust me, you will find it very difficult to leave. Besides, how could anyone resist May's wee drop dead gorgeous pup? He is far too cute for his own good and gets up to all sorts of mischief racing around chewing on patrons flip flops and sleeping on feet!

This is hands down the best vegetarian restaurant I have ever been to. If you're in Bangkok, you must check it out. They have two restaurant's in Banglumpoo and also a branch in Chang Mai.

For all you veggie's out there, these pics are for you.




Thursday, September 11, 2008

A wet stroll through Chinatown



Chinatown is very cool. Buzzing with energy, strange food, and bizarre sights and smells that sometimes overwhelm. I taste tested several different dumplings, each of them delicious in their own right, packed with tasty prawn, pork, and herbs.

We strolled around, absorbing as much as we could, eyes peeled for tasty tidbits. The Chinese seem to be fish crazy (a minefield for Bighead!) and with all the stalls advertising in Chinese, it was difficult to tell exactly what was in the food. Even fish crazy Samesame was a bit too shy to get into the seafood these guys eat. Definitely not for the faint hearted...

And then we saw them.

The satay boys.

I know, I know, who goes to Chinatown and eats satay?!

Bighead and Samesame do! I'd like to add at this point that we have been a little satay deprived here in Thailand.

And look...
These dudes rock out some of the best satay we've tasted.