Marta's Photo Album of Thailand, November 2010

Thailand
November 2010

Getting there
We departed Johannesburg on the services of Malaysia Airlines at 13H40. The meals were nice with a choice of beef lasagne, chicken curry and fish. The travel time to Kuala Lumpur is around 9.5 hours and we landed safely the next morning at 05H30. We went through passport control and customs, this is always very fast as there are many staff at the counters.

Malaysia/Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia is a cosmopolitan, progressive nation of great opportunity which has managed to retain its rich heritage of culture and traditions despite modernisation. In Kuala Lumpur you can enjoy a variety of abundant shopping malls. You can buy the most amazing Nike, Adidas as and other name brand shoes as well as clothing. You can be sure that the quality is the finest.The Christmas decorations were spectacular all over. One almost felt as though you were in Europe,despite the fact that Malaysia is on the equator so does not really experience cold, only slightly in the Genting Highlands and Cameron areas which are high above sea level.

Equatorial Hotel

On arrival we were met by a representative of Mayflower and transferred to the Equatorial. This 5* hotel is well located within the golden triangle, with a mono rail on its doorstep. One can easily access all the shops and sights from either a short walking distance or with the convieniance and speed of the monorail. The hotel has a very good gym and swimming pool area. The buffet breakfasts were good with a large selection of fresh fruits, breads and a great omelette station. We enjoyed our two days in and out of the shops, which are truly mind boggling. The displays are eye catching as are the prices. During this time there are a lot of Christmas sales which really encourages you to shop. We visited China Town which is always worth a visit. They have extended the narrow paths and now it is not so claustrophobic and you do not feel the crowds as much. The sport shoes in China Town are excellent value for money and if you like fakes that are good quality then look no further. Bargaining is a must here.

Dinner can be enjoyed at one of the many Chinese restaurants for which China town is famous for. The food is generally good and well worth a visit even if to just enjoy a beer whilst watching the world go by.

A taxi back to the hotel after 11 at night is usually 20 Ringet which is equalivalent to around R 50 The taxi there should cost you no more than R 25-00.

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Thailand - The Land of Smiles

Thailand is a country of uniquely rich culture, stunning scenery with forested mountains to pristine beaches, superb food, exceptional hotels, glittering palaces, ancient temples and historical cities. A dream destination for all visitors. With beautiful natural locations, infinite variety, incpmparable cuisine, agreeable year round climate and world famous for hospitality, Thailand is a fabulous destination.

Phuket

Thailands’s largest island is also the country’s most popular beach destination. With unspoiled beaches, divine spas, entertainment, nightlife and bargain shopping, Phuket is the ideal holiday location, catering equally for couples, singles and families. There is a host of activities, including sea kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, island hopping fishing, elephant trekking, Thai cultural shows, live entertainment performances and much more.

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Burasari

We arrived in Thailand after a short flight from Kuala Lumpur. On arrival in Phuket we were met by a representative of Destination Asia and were transferred to the Burasari.

The Burasari is a boutique hotel located in the heart of exciting Patong and offers a full experience of sophisticated style, comfort and tranquillity. There is a collection of room types, namely - the mood collection with each room decorated in a different theme. Most of the rooms overlook the central pool area and from the ground floor rooms one can step directly into the water. We enjoyed our first night in Phuket here. It was great being able to walk out of the hotel directly into Patong’s lively atmosphere, of shops, restaurants and clubs. We enjoyed a good dinner at an Italian restaurant watching the people walk by. The price of a pizza at an Italian restaurant are on a par with what you would expect to pay for a pizza in South Africa, perhaps slightly less. After an early breakfast the following morning we were collected by Sea Bees Diving for our 3 day dive safari to the Similan Islands.

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Khao Lak - Similan Islands

We arrived after a three hour road transfer to Khao Lak which is north of Phuket on the Andaman Sea. We discovered our liveaboard M/Y Genesis 1 docked at the jetty. The boat is impressive at a length of 24 meters and offers plenty of space for diving and relaxation. In contrast to normal Asian standards, the boat has plenty of bathroom facilities. There are two shower cabins, two open showers and three additional western-style toilets, so nobody has to wait to take a shower after diving! The cabins are comfortable with bunk beds, there are three cabins which have double beds. You can also climb up to the sundeck to soak up the sun. At night you can enjoy the fantastic night-sky and sleep up there if you wish, until you are awoken by the first rays of sunlight! The boat cruises among the beautiful islands of the Andaman Sea.

The Sea Bees dive instructors are very professional, the briefings excellent and much fun at the same time. The food on board was superb, in fact the best Thai food I had in Thailand. The chef served up at least 6 meals a day, between all dives and was most accommodating should a client wish for additional snacks with a difference.

The very first dive was at Koh Ha Koh Hok, a very gentle dive with interesting boulders covered in riot of spectacular coloured corals, as well as an abundance of pristine fan corals. There was prolific sealife everywhere. We swam through shoaling glasssies, and passed numerous lion fish, garden eels, parrot fish and oriental sweet lips. Visiblity in the Similans is typically 20m at least, making the bommies that are everywhere the stuff of photographer’s dreams. One of our dives were at Elephant Head Rock, which is visible from the surface and is the largest pinnacle in the Similans.This was one of my most memorable dives, great granitic boulders with numerous scenic swim throughs. I saw a huge moray eel, trigger fish, boxer shrimps in pairs and a great big puffer fish. We enjoyed every moment of the trip and wished that it would not end. I rated the diving top class with stunning drop offs, amazing topography and colourful fish life. The Similans provide a spectacular live – aboard experience at prices that are hard to match anywhere else in the world and remain one of the most memorable places to dive in South East Asia.

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Cape Panwa

The Cape Panwa Hotel embodies tropical luxury in one of the world’s most desirable destinations. Tucked away in a quiet corner of southeast Phuket, the hotel is renowned for its excellent service, stylish rooms and exclusive beach. Blending superbly with the natural beauty of the area, the hotel is comprised of tastefully decorated, sea facing superior, triple and family rooms as well as the brand new Jacuzzi suites and sea-view pool villas. This hotel has had guests to name a few - Leonardo Di Caprio, Pierce Bronsan and Catherine Zita Jones.We stayed in one of the brand new Jacuzzi suites overlooking the Andaman Sea. The spacious suite was breathtaking, the verandah with the outdoor Jacuzzi seems to go one forever. This was sheer luxury and I did not want to leave my room. There is a vernicular that ferries you back and forth from the beach below, as the hotel is set so high which is all the better for an excellent sea view. There is a lovely beach bar where one can have traditional Thai food as well as a good burger at very realistic prices. The food was great. If one walks out of the hotel you get a feeling that you could be in Switzerland, due to the mountainous landscape of the area. A sort walk uphill and you are in a little village, where there is a traditional Thai massage parlour, a great massage for one hour will cost you no more than R 50-00. There is also a quaint little restaurant set high up with good Thai food. There is a shuttle service every half hour into Kanantry Bay which has lots of little shops and restaurants along the boardwalk, with good street food overlooking the ocean.

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Phi Phi Island Tour By Speedboat

We had booked a tour to Phi Phi island by speedboat. We were transferred from the Cape Panwa to the jetty in an air conditioned car. On arrival we were assigned fins and a mask. I would recommend one uses their own equipment as these are not hygienic to use. Remember to take your swimming costume and lots of sun block as it gets very hot. The boat was comfortable and takes around 20 people, with fruits and soft drinks served on board. It was a pity that nearer the front of the boat one could not see out and the beautiful scenery was missed. Our first stop was a The Emerald Maya Bay Lagoon, the water was crystal clear with great swimming but there were just too many people on the small beach. Phi Leh Cove in Phanga-nga Bay was dotted with towering vertical limestone cliffs, many of which have bat caves where the famous, extremely expensive bird soup is harvested. The water here was lovely to swim in and your voice echoes here eerily. We went on to monkey beach where one can feed the tame monkeys. The next stop was lunch on the main island, the beach was really nice here. We ended at Party island also known as Bamboo island. Here one can order drinks at triple the price of anywhere else in Thailand, there were many stalls selling souveniors, the music was Reggae which made for a party atmosphere. The tour enables one to see much of the Phi Phi islands, however there are just too many tourists and I would rather recommend going on a private long tail boat.

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Amari Coral Beach Resort

This stunning hotel is situated on a secluded private beach, and offers a unique location with panoramic views over Patong Bay. The rooms are well appointed with ocean views and also of the little beach below. The breakfasts were out of this world, it could be said more like a brunch.The variety amazing, and included the finest Scottish salmon, sushi, delectable pastries and a wonderful omelette station. The swimming pool is gorgeous offers a panoramic view of the ocean.

In order to get to Patong Beach one has to go by tuc tuc which is about R 25-00 per person per way as the hotel is set away from the central area. The transfer can be arranged in a matter of minutes. We spent a relaxing two days here On one of the days I had arranged hotel inspections to the following hotels.

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Banyan Tree

This property is an oasis of peace and tranquillity located away from the vibrant town centre. There are 149 luxuriously appointed villas fringing a saltwater lagoon and the sandy beaches of Bang Tao Bay. Every villa features a king sized bed, spacious bedroom, his and hers dressing areas, open air sunken bath and private landscaped garden. The spa pool villa was my favourite. The bedroom in the villa is surrounded by a shallow lap pool. The king sized bed is raised and draped in pure Thai silk which gives one the a sensation of floating amidst great tranquility. The private outdoor pool has a glass edge with a jet pool within. The beach is long and wide with some local stores at the entrance. Here one can eat good Thai food as well as buy local handicrafts. A perfect retreat for those who really want to be spoilt.

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Nipa Resort

This typically modern Thai Resort is located within walking distance to the shopping and entertainment areas of Patong Beach. There are 90 rooms in total with some of them having direct pool access. All the rooms are built with individual balconies to allow for a private atmosphere amidst nature. We enjoyed a full body massage and foot scrub next to the pool area. The treatment was excellent and most relaxing with the sound of trinkling water next to the pool. The local restaurant right next to the pool serves the best pizzas in Thailand. This hotel is basic but well priced with wonderful welcoming staff.

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The Beach Boutique House

The Beach Boutique House is located in Kata Beach, just a short walk from the white sands of Kata Beach. Designed in a contemporary English colonial modern style. The guest rooms are individually decorated with vibrant interiors that provide the optimal environment of relaxation. There are two sections of the hotel one with 38 rooms and the other area with 28 rooms. The feeling here is like a home away from home. The hotel manager had invited me for lunch at their restaurant. We started with the lightest and very tasty spring rolls, this was followed by Tom Yam soup with gorgeous prawns. All of this was a meal in itself ,the Tom Yam soup was the tastiest I had eaten in Thailand. I ordered it at many restaurants, however could not match the taste and fragrance of this soup again.

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Banthai Beach Resort And Spa

Banthai Beach Resort & Spa is located at the centre of Patong Beach. The Resort has 290 rooms ranging from Superior to Deluxe Pool Rooms and a variety of suites in contemporary Thai design and architecture, all with full amenities. The resort features 3 large free-form swimming pools with swim-up bars to complete your holiday experience. Give yourself an extra treat at one of 17 treatment rooms Spa with exotic therapies and massages, Fitness Center, Jacuzzis, steam and sauna rooms that will give you relaxation and relief from your everyday stress and bring total relaxation to your body and senses. This resort is perfect for those wanting to be in the hub of Patong Beach, which is really on the doorstep of the Banthai.

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Kata Country House

The Kata Country House is set in a landscaped garden and offers both wood and concrete bungalows in a rustic style décor. The beach is just 300 meters across the road. The staff are very friendly ad welcoming and many of the guests are repeat here. If one is looking for a rustic atmosphere then the Kata Country House is perfect.

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Kata Thani Phuket Beach Resort

The Kata Thani Phuket Beach Resort rests along an 800 metre of white sandy beach in the secluded cove of Kata Noi and features the most idllic setting on the island. The resort is well laid out in two areas and has 479 rooms in total. We had a junior suite in the Thani Wing and found it very well designed with a lovely bathroom, our ground floor balcony overlooked the ocean in the distance. One can opt for a massage around the pool area for around R 50-00 for a one hour full body massage. This is most relaxing in the lush tropical gardens of the resort.

There is a new section called The Shore at Katathani. This hotel is built up on the hill, there are in total 48 villas.The Seaview infinity pool villa has a truly spectacular ocean view. Here you can experience the ultimate blend of luxurious seclusion perfect for honeymooners. The hotel has a mini mart as well as a Jim Thompson silk shop on its doorstep. One can get a tuc tuc into Kata Town, however just outside the resort there are great Thai restaurants with excellent food and pricing. This up market resort is ideal for couples wanting to spend special time together and also great for families with children.

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The Racha

We had arranged three nights at the Racha which is a top honeymoon hideaway, set on the pristine white sand beach on Racha Island. The hotel is 12 miles south of Phuket and access is via the resort’s private speedboat.

The check is in the private Racha lounge at the jetty, prior to boarding your luxury speedboat. Here you are served delicate snacks, herbal teas, cappuchino, espresso and soft drinks. They also request you choose and smell the scent you would prefer in the villa for your entire stay. We chose lemon grass which had a crisp and fresh fragrance.

There are 70 luxurious villas surrounded by palm trees. We were taken to our Deluxe Villa. This had an indoor and outdoor shower area, a gorgeous verandah with a comfortable day bed. We had the latest multi media entertainment in our villa and wondered where we would find the time to enjoy all that was on offer .If you want to experience the beautiful sea views on the island then you can opt for Grand Deluxe Villas which have private 'infinity edged pools', The Junior Pool Suites,feature a private pool with Jacuzzi and offer a large living room with the latest in multimedia entertainment. The Grand Pool Suites, the large and luxurious featuring private infinity edge swimming pools with glorious views over the Andaman Sea with a large sundeck and open-air relaxation pavilion. The Lighthouse is the ultimate luxury accommodation . This superb five storey villa has an observation lounge majestic 360ø views of the island and surrounding area. All villas are designed in a minimalist contemporary style and feature luxurious bathrooms with bathtubs and outdoor showers, as well as outdoor rain showers. The structure of The Racha exhibits a blend of traditional and modern elements in the architecture. We found the white sand beach gorgeous with a turquoise blue sea, just like the brochure and loved the swimming there. One can walk along the beach to a local restaurant set high up on the rocks. Here you can eat good local food overlooking the sea and listen to the waves crashing against the rocks.

The lunches at the Racha were varied and nice to eat outside overlooking the ocean. We had dinner in the more formal restaurant where you can also sit outside as the nights are balmy and warm. We tried the steak the one night and found it to be good. The beef is from Australia and the chef paid special attention to our requests. This property is perfectly suited to honeymooners who want a secluded property in paradise.

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In Conclusion
There are so many reasons for visiting Thailand. For those interested in history and culture there are countless temples, remote ethnic tribal folk and many styles of art, music and dance. For sports enthusiasts, there is fine golfing, trekking, river rafting, sea canoeing and amazing scuba diving and snorkelling. Thailand is also amongst the finest destinations in Asia for shopping offering everything from high fashions to antiques, traditional handicrafts to exquisite Thai silk and fine jewellery. Thai food has become popular around the world, but this spicy cuisine is naturally at its best in the land of its creation. Thailand is ideal for honeymooners, couples and families who will all enjoy the destination.

General Info and Tips
Visas are not required for South African passport holders.Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the return date.
Thailand has a tropical climate with the best seasons being between November to April in Phuket and from May to October to Koh Samui. It is however good to travel there throughout the year. Tipping is widely practised.
Travel with US dollars or Euros. All major credit cards are widely accepted.

With Special Thanks
A very special thanks to Sea Bees diving for the complimentary live aboard trip and fantastic diving experience.
A very special thanks to Destination Asia for arranging this incredible trip, providing all the transfers and to all the wonderful people who made our stay in Thailand so unforgettable.