Our admin days over we arrived at 9am at Bangkok Airport to collect our family (my twin sister Kay, my niece Karlie and her boyfriend Tal) from their 13hour flight. They arrived remarkably refreshed despite what they described as bumpy journey and some terrible in flight food.
Don Muang and Nok Air to Koh Samui
Our plan for day one was to whisk them across the city for an evening at the Aiport Hotel near the Don Muang Domestic Airport. This ageing airport used to be Bangkok’s only aiport until the beautiful modern Suvarnabhumi (BKK) was opened in 2006 wrestling away all the international traffic. It now serves as a hub for some of the domestic low cost carriers including Nok Air with whom we had booked our transport to Koh Samui.
The cost of tickets and timing of flights from BKK did not suit our group’s needs so instead we booked with Nok Air who do a combined Air, Coach and Ferry ticket to Koh Samui partnering with Lomprhaya Ferry company for the final leg of your journey from Nakhon Sri Thammarat airport by coach and then over the water from Donsak pier to Na Thon on the Island in 45 minutes by high speed catamaran.
The journey worked well both ways with the exception of the journey from Donsak Pier to the airport on the way back. We had what can only be described a maniacal driver who had spent far too long on World Rally Championship on his playstation. The driving and overtaking was near suicidal as he steamed along single lane highways at over 140kmph. I don’t say this as a nervous passenger we are well versed with Asian overtaking ‘skills’ by now and have had some similar experiences in Bali, but this guy wins our most dangerous flashpacking driver award. My Niece was in pieces when she got off at the airport. This leg on the way there was completed in a wonderful luxury coach where John managed to bag us the VIP downstairs lounge for the duration of the journey complete with beautiful pink ruched curtains.
We had booked into the Don Muang Aiport hotel as it boasted a direct walkway link to the aiport from the hotel and with three jetlagged travellers from England we thought an early flight (6am) was a bit too much for them to handle if we stayed in the city. In the end we made a good choice. The hotel is a little past its best but the rooms were luxurious and we found some fantastic street food and a great local bar in the evening just across from the hotel that served some good food and had a good line in music; courtesy of their young son and his illegal music downloading capabilities. They even had some tasteful graffiti art adorning the bar with a little bit of Banksy thrown in.
So what we thought would be a testing day for our travellers turned out to be a great day of swimming in the deserted hotel pool, some good Thai food and we managed to keep them all awake to get them on Thai time sooner rather than later.
After much pre arrival debate we settled on some beach bungalows for our first few nights on the Island of Koh Samul in the slightly quieter resort of Lamai. Chaweng would have to wait until a little later in the trip.
Lamai proved to be a fine first stop. It allowed my sister, her daughter and boyfriend to relax into the Thai pace of life on the island. We spent the first few days on the beach after finding a great beach bar with free sunbeds, quality cocktails and food. It was also close enough to a massage and jetski centre that took you no more than twenty steps from your sunbeds.
The massages were of such great quality that before we left this little beauty spot on Lamai we had all sampled at least two treatments each. Probably one of the most fun parts of our Lamai stay was a family jetski half hour where all five of us ruled the waves along Lamai beach being very silly and immature. I thought I may be a nervous jet-skier at first but I took to it like a duck to water (sorry) and was at full throttle for most of the half hour we were out there. Great family fun and enhanced that we did it as a group so myself and Tal spent a great deal of time seeing who could spray most water over the other family members at high speed. I must point out here that Tal was the only one to fall off.
The nighlife suited us too and we found ourselves eating some good street food from the market area and having a very disappointing barbecue which was one of our expensive treats – just shows you don’t always get what you pay for. The evening entertainment highlight had to be sat drinking around bars near the Women’s Muay Thai boxing ring on the beach road. One particular bar was run by this camp 50ish Thai guy who, with his wonderful staff, provided a fantastic evenings entertainment. So much so that certain family members tried their hand at pole dancing in the middle of the bar. We have videos but have decided what goes on in Thailand stays in Thailand so only a few tame pictures are shown here.
Four days was about enough in Lamai before we moved north to Chaweng for our final few nights on Koh Samui. The beach here is much gentler on the feet (no rocks of coral underfoot) and the nightlife much harder on the ears if you venture up north to the main bar area.
We stayed in a great little family run hotel in the central Chaweng area (Arina Boutique Hotel) , it didn’t have a pool or fancy toiletries but was in a great location, rooms were large and comfortable and came with a large balcony (in most cases) in central town and the family that ran it were absolutely lovely; especially seeing as we had pressed them hard on the nightly rate (700 Baht per room – GBP 14).
We spent some time on the beach and in the bar area here, but the highlights of this time at Chaweng were the trips we went on. Unlike in Lamai most beach areas are fronted by hotels who want to charge you 100 or 200Baht for the privilege of using their sunbeds and buying their overpriced drinks for the day. So after the first day of this sun-bed tax we went off further south and found a hotel that was happy to give us a free bed, use of the pool and shower for the price of our drinks. Much happier giving our business there.
Playing out in Koh Samui
My twin ,John and I decided have to a beach day while Karlie and Tal went off on the Koh Samui 4X4 safari. They had a great time and came back with stories of baby tiger petting, waterfalls, elephant rides, big buddha’s, hidden gardens and sexual organ shaped rocks. They were both knackered but they both had a great day and came back with smiles and stories of the trip so I would say we can recommend that if animals are your thing.
The one trip we all did together took us on a speedboat out to the island of Koh Tao. The advertised price of this trip was 2100 Baht each which seemed a little steep so some serious bartering and the power of our group of five got this down to a mere 1350 each for the day. I think we can all safely say this was worth the money.
While the speedboat journey at an hour and a half can be a little bumpy especially if, like us, you chose to sit at the front in the open. The snorkelling is great, particularly at Koh Nang Yuan island just off Koh Tao – the water was clear and a beautiful azure blue. Some of the little fish are a bit aggressive though. As I was doing an underwater video of the family snorkelling one of the little buggers took a fancy to my right nipple
For the end to the family trip we returned to Bangkok for a few days for them to indulge in some serious retail therapy and for us to extract our funds from the bank and get hold of some crisp new Amercian dollars for our fortnight in Myanmar. There are no ATM’s in Myanmar and very few places accept credit cards so it is hard clean unwrinkled perfect US Dollars or nothing.
By the end I think the family had had their fill of markets, although on our last day we went to the weekend market at Chatuchak. It was our first time and in my view; for the usual Bangkok market shopping this offers better value than Patpong or the MBK. It does not have some of the better quality leather and watches you will find elsewhere but at least most stalls have (sensible) prices marked up which cuts down on the haggling time. It is enormous though and on the day we went the humidity was at a real high so we were knackered after a couple of hours.
The family managed to squeeze in some tuk tuk rides, a glimpse of a wat or two and a floating market and of course we went ‘en famile’ to see a ping pong show. An interesting experience seeing orificial antics with your family members, but when in Bangkok eh.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our ‘holiday’from flashpacking. Mostly because we got to see some family face to face rather than via FaceTime for the first time in six months and it was a great excuse to stay in hotels a little more upmarket than our flashpacking budget normally allows. We even managed a bath or two and have of course purloined all the nice toiletries for the next legs of our travels.
Thanks to Kay, Karlie and Tal for a great two weeks of fun.. Our tans are topped up and our waistlines have expanded, but I fear two weeks hard sightseeing travel around Myanmar will sort that out soon enough. I hope we have given the family a taste of the flashpacking lifestyle showing them that you dont need to spend a lot on food and hotels to have a fantastic holiday in a place far away from home.
If all goes to plan this blog should have published automatically while we are a few days into our Myanmar experience. Internet is iffy and slow in Myanmar so I doubt we will be able to post as we travel around the country, so take a break from our blathering and we will have a machine gun set of posts ready for our return to internet land in Mid July.