Not as Phuked as you think

Trip Start Nov 07, 2004
Trip End May 20, 2005

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, February 19, 2005

After a hair raising (or more accurately hair soaking) long tail boat ride we landed at the remains of Koh Lanta pier. Overall the island wasn't too badly affected by the wave and speaking to the loacls it seems they were pretty much back on track within a few days. Unfortunately, while the press coverage has highlighted the problems faced by some areas (in order to keep the donations flowing), it has also managed to drive off what the region really needs - more tourists. We were staying at Long Beach, a 4 mile stretch of perfect beach and for a hour or so each morning we were the only people in sight. There are several beach front bars and restaurants, all of which had a really relaxed atmosphere, so it was difficult to tear ourselves from the king-size bamboo sunloungers. We did make a few trips into the main town, Saladin, which has a higher concentration of restuarants and bars. A major draw for the area is the diving, which we actually arranged in Phuket, although the dive shops in Koh Lanta all go to the same places. Sadly we didn't have enough time for a trip to the Similan Islands, one of the world's top dive sites, but we did manage a couple of day trips in the local area, including a great night dive off the beach, a visit to shark point (no sharks, but loads of gorgeous coral and cool fish) and a wreck dive to an 800 passenger ferry, now colonised by lionfish and nibbling cleaner wrasse amongst others.

Phuket itself is a very large island. We stayed in the big and bustling Phuket town for a night, before heading to Kata beach on the south west coast, where all the real tourist action is! The western beaches were are quite badly affected by the Tsunami but by now all the resturants, hotels and bars are back to normal (although more re-building was in evidence on Patong beach than Kata). We were expecting the island to be really quiet but it had obviously started to recover, with more people were arriving every day and the beach becoming increasingly covered by sun shades and deck chairs. The local shops are all geared up for the Euro market, offering a range of 'continental food' for those missing their meat-balls and wienerschnitzel, giving the place a bit of a 'Costa' feel about it.

All in all southern Thailand has more than lived up to its hype. It offers something for everyone, if you like it simple, quiet and secluded, head for Koh Hai and the surrounding national marine park, if you prefer it a little more developed and brash, or you want to go diving, Phuket is the place or you. Koh Lanta provides a happy medium. Look at the pictures, look out your window, what are you waiting for? In the meantime, we're off to Bangkok.

Caroline and Mark
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