Travel Dates: 20th – 23rd November 2013
Location: Ao Nang, Thailand
Wednesday 20th: Railay Beach (by Rich)
With diving done for now we are back together to spend some time in Ao Nang and surrounds. A late morning was required after a few early starts and hard work days for diving. We just about made it to breakfast before they closed and were then ready to go exploring.
From Ao Nang you can get long tail boats to a number of places. Vicki already did her trip to Poda island in one, today we decided to head to Railay beach. Railay is an area inaccessible by road. The only way in is by boat. This means everything arrives by boat. We saw many things coming and going from tourists to tables being used to furnish a new resort.
We started off with a wander round Railay. Although small and with no roads, we still struggled to get our bearings at first. We knew there was an West (where we started) and East side. We also thought you could walk to Phra Nang beach (voted in the worlds top 10 beaches). Finding which roads/muddy tracks/alleyways went where was a bit of a challenge without a map though and it took at least one loop to get our bearings. Fortunately Railay isn’t big so this didn’t take long.
On the way to Phra Nang beach there is a view point. It isn’t easy to get there though. We came to a signpost pointing at what looked like a cliff face. On close inspection there was some kind of path, or rather climb, available. A steep scramble with ropes provided to pull yourself up gave access to the view point. Vicki said no immediately but I was willing to give it a go. An hour later I returned covered, literally head to toe, in a clay based mud and pretty tired. It turned out it was quite a climb up to the view point. Once I made it there I also tried to get to the lagoon. Partway to the lagoon I discovered from others also struggling along that there were vertical walls to tackle that need some serious climbing effort. In my mud caked sandals this wasn’t going to happen so I admitted defeat and headed back to a patiently waiting Vicki. She had occupied herself by watching people struggle up and down the lower part of the climb and discussing with others how foolish the people attempting it were. I would agree. Mud stained and tired I headed straight to the sea for a much needed soak.
On Phra Nang beach we swam in the sea and gave snorkelling a go. As this is popular beach I am not surprised that fish find somewhere else to live so we didn’t see anything special while snorkelling. The visibility was very poor and it is quite rocky without any reef for marine life to live on. The rock faces and white sand do however make the beach a stunning spot and it is understandable why it is so popular.
Lunch was taken on the beach from floating restaurants. Kebabs, spring rolls, salted corn and mango sticky rice were an ample feast as we lay on the beach. We took the down time as a chance to listen to the parkrun podcast from back home and heard many of our running club mates talking about a wintery run in Wimbledon. It is strange to think we will be back to that world in less than 2 weeks time.
Following lunch we went to explore some caves. As Railay’s only official real tourist attraction (other than beaches and the landscape) the walkway through the caves are ok but not exceptional. At only 80p though we weren’t going to complain and found it interesting to see the bats swooping around in any case.
A long tail back to Ao Nang gave us ample time for relaxing before a very tasty Indian meal for dinner, soak in the tub for me then an early night.
Thursday 21st: Rain (by Rich)
Today it rained. Not just off and on. It rained all day. When we woke up it was raining. When we went to bed it was raining. In between, it rained. Did I mention, it rained?
What to do on a rainy day in a beach resort? Easy answer…watch Game of Thrones. We managed to make a large dent in series 3 as we relaxed in bed and let the weather do its thing. In between episodes we did get out though.
We headed down to the beach and had a massage. One end of the beach has a row of numbered tents. Each of these has a number and offers massage services. On the last day of diving, an Australian called Derek was snorkelling with Vicki. He recommended tent 12. With nothing else to distinguish the tents we figured we should give this one a go.
I went for a traditional Thai massage and Vicki had an oil massage. The deep heat rubbed into my back was bordering on painful at times and it was strange to have a (fortunately) small Thai lady walking up and down my back however we did come out feeling very relaxed.
Other activities for the day were a lunch by the pool watching the rain before going for a dip (it was still warm enough to swim). But overall today was a very lazy day.
Our evening was spent eating Thai food and then visiting a bar opposite our hotel called Mr Long’s Bar. This was a very relaxed bar with live music and a great atmosphere. Mr Long is a Rasta-Thai who enjoys welcoming people to his bar and joining in with a few shots of Tequila. We had a very enjoyable evening drinking and going through lists of books to read before you die on the internet. It seems we have a lot more books to read.
Not many pictures taken today because of the rain. This one gives an idea of what it was like:
Friday 22nd: Kayaking (by Rich)
Today we booked onto a kayaking trip. We didn’t go because it was raining.
We got up early and headed for breakfast. If I had checked my emails when the alarm went off we needn’t have moved. Unfortunately I only saw the e-mail saying the trip was off when I was munching through my muesli. Darn. Change of plans needed. What to do at 8am when on holiday? Easy answer, we went back to bed.
After watching some TV for me (Hello Ladies episodes and Showtime movie) and snoozing for Vicki the weather played a cunning trick on us. Looking out the window it appeared all was bright and well. We headed out and got a long boat to Railay. No sooner than the long tail boat set of than did it start to rain. It continued to do so all day. Boo to the weather once again.
Not wanting to be set back by this and fighting to overcome the cancelled kayaking trip this morning, we hired a kayak from the beach. Initially taking 2 hours with the thought of staying longer we kayaked from Railay beach round to Phra Nang. This isn’t far but had a good few caves to explore on the way. Vicki wasn’t too keen on me reversing her into caves though. With a little kayaking experience from my time with Putney Bridge Canoeing Club I was loving it though.
Having explored caves and circled a few islands (in the rain) we decided it was time for a break. Resting on the beach we had spring rolls and corn before hopping back into our boat. My extensive kayaking experience told me something was wrong when we got back in. I hadn’t picked up on the increased rolling and poor stability earlier however when we got in and the water came over the top of the boat I realised we had managed to sink our kayak. I had been repeatedly telling Vicki you couldn’t sink a kayak however we had achieved it. It seemed our boat had a slow leak. We quickly returned to shore and spent quite some time with the kayak on it’s end draining. Returning to the water and buoyant again we were a lot more comfortable. Much less rocking and most importantly our heads were now above water.
Two hours of kayaking turned out to be more than enough for us in the rain. If it were sunny I doubt we would have gone much further but we would definitely have spent more time relaxing on the beach. Back at Railay we considered lunch options but decided that heading homewards was the best option, given that we were more than a little bit wet. Lunch back in our room with the final episode of Game of Thrones season 3 was a good break from the rain.
Not wanting to be beaten by the weather we headed back to the beach an sunset. This time we were in running kit again. We did 3 miles along a beach less than a mile long (some loops required) once again trying out our barefoot running. Some good sprints were involved much to the disgust of some Russian girls who I splashed while running through the surf. A run along the beach of course wouldn’t be complete without monkeys. Monkeys? Yes. Monkeys! They were munching bananas at one end of the beach so we stopped to say hello.
A refreshing dip in the sea in the gloom (sun said goodnight while we ran) and we headed back up to the hotel. Tomorrows plan is for scuba so we headed into the dive shop before returning to the hotel. 3 beers (or just a coke for Vicki) later we left again. We sat outside the dive shop chatting with the staff and two Polish guests we had met before.
We finished the day with a fish supper. Not the British kind but instead Red Snapper fried in tamarind with a side of steamed clams.Very tasty. After this it was early to bed for an early start tomorrow.
Saturday 24th: Scuba? (by Rich)
Today we booked onto a Scuba day. We went, but we came back because it was raining. (Noticing a theme here?)
Did I say it was raining? It wasn’t just raining. It was blowing a gale and the sturdy dive boat really didn’t feel so sturdy. Vicki is the first to spot a rough sea but I had to agree with her on this one. Having gotten soaked by the surf in the long tail on the way to the dive boat, the rollercoaster ride as we left Ao Nang wasn’t setting us up for the most pleasant day on the sea. With a lot of inexperienced divers aboard (many of who were seasick after only 40 minutes at sea) the sensible decision to turn back was made. Disappointing and annoying but sometimes the weather needs to be obeyed.
Back in Ao Nang we did the sensible thing and headed back to bed. Arriving back at 10am we watching two films (S.W.A.T. and Kick Ass 2) as we waited for the rain to stop. At 2pm we were back out (to be honest it could have been earlier but we figured we should finish the film). A quick lunch (yes that means subway again) on the beach and we were back in massage hut no. 12. This time it wasn’t for massages, as the rain had stopped and it had brightened up we could sit out front on the beach. We swam in the seas playing in the large waves and had a few beers. The sun even came out for a while much to our surprise.
After our afternoon on the beach we headed back to the hotel. I had a quick pool dip but Vicki wasn’t tempted by the cold water so went for the warm shower instead. We did however both agree that watching sunset from our balcony was the way to go. With the rain clouds moving on for now we got a good view of the sea, sun and mountain.
Optimistically preparing for tomorrow we headed back to the dive shop after sunset. We needed to confirm our places on the boat for tomorrow and we even thinking we might continue on to a nearby mini golf after. Joining the divers for a beer we decided mini golf wasn’t a good idea as the rain returned. The 2.5 hours outside the dive shop was well spent though with beer, Thai whisky and even a Bacardi breezer for Vicki.
While mentioning the dive shop a quick note about the people we spent our time with their. My instructor, Claire, from the advanced course is a permanent fixture outside the shop when not out on the boat. Her Polish friends Piotr and Magda, who are taking a year out to teach diving first in Indonesia and now Thailand have also been with us on the dive boats and in the shop. The final people to mention are Liz (Thai/German chap) and Bjorn (Danish), the joint owners of the Dive. They run a fine outfit and still have time to socialise (drink) with their guests.
Tonight’s dinner was in the same place as yesterday. Having enjoyed our Red Snapper we moved on to White Snapper today. Accompanied by grilled squid we ate very well. Following dinner I was still in the mood for drinking and managed to drag Vicki back to Mr Long’s bar. A chilled out drink listening to the live music and we headed home for bed. We need our rest before diving tomorrow. At least we hope we do. Finger crossed the weather agrees.
Sunday 25th: Scuba…take 2…. (by Vicki)
Today we were all set for diving, but this time didn’t even get as far as a boat. We were picked up as normal, and everyone was very optimistic about the day, until we got to the pier. There seemed to be a lot of people standing around, and some harassed sounding phone calls going on. Apparently, the boat captain had decided that the weather still looked too rough in the area we were going and so decided not to go out. He also decided not to tell any of the people who were due to get the boat – very useful. And so that was that, no more diving for Rich, and no review for me. At least I got the brownie points for signing up for the review, and getting as far as getting on a boat!
We all headed back to the dive shop and sat about drinking tea for a while, trying to decide what to do with the day. In the end, Rich and I did what we always do when we can’t think of anything better to do – we went for a run. This time headed up to the next beach along (shoes required for this run) and ran along looking at the waves, complaining aloud that they looked much smaller than yesterdays, and that the captain had jumped the gun a bit cancelling the trip. The sun even had the audacity to come out, and by the end of the run we were well and truly toasted.
As the sun had deigned to make an appearance, we headed down to the beach after a quick shower stop, picking up some huge chicken legs from a street stall on the way. Not wanting to break our habits, we headed up to number 12 again, and took up residence in their area for the afternoon. By now, it was absolutely boiling, and so the best place to be was the sea. Lots of the afternoon was spent splashing about in the waves – we were meant to be in the water diving, so being in the water swimming was a consolation prize.
After watching a wonderful sunset from our balcony we finally made it out to play mini golf. Poppy’s mini golf is a little bit out of the centre, down a dark road with little else on. The surroundings are not that welcoming, but the owner, a Dutch chap who has been in Thailand for 15 years, was very friendly. The course, whilst well thought out, is quite run down, and surrounded by vegetation, and playing in the early evening we got eaten alive by bugs, despite a liberal dousing of 50% deet spray.
Not wanting to break a habit we had one last beer in The Dive on our way back. Then our final meal in Ao Nang was back where we had our first – Massaman. Spring rolls and curry filled us up nicely and then it was off for a final drink at Mr Long’s.
The day didn’t end so well for Rich. A few hours after going to bed, something decided it didn’t like him, at 3am he spent a few minutes hugging his porcelain friend. Luckily it was an isolated incident and by morning, everything seemed to have sorted itself out.
Monday 26th: Off we go then… (by Vicki)
Not a very exciting morning – a bit of a lie in, a lounge by the pool (the weather was again hot and sunny, and diving was back on ) and then the dreaded packing.
The pool is very nice when it isn’t raining:
After a uneventful trip to the airport, some mild chaos around check in, we have arrived in our final new country – Malaysia!