Back home!

Trip Start Oct 19, 2006
Trip End Nov 06, 2006

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Where I stayed
Garden Home Resort

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

So, back we are!

We really wanted to write more from Ao Nang, but somehow we never found the time. You know, when you're so busy with all that sunbathing and sightseeing and eating, you get lost ...

So what happened?
We actually stayed in Ao Nang until last Friday. The town itself was not THAT nice after all, but at least it had its own life, extremely good restaurants and we could do loads of things from there while still having a nice beach nearby. It was a 10 min walk from our Garden Home Resort to the local beach which, on the Southern end, was away from the road, very quiet and with some funny little huts at the back where you could get a massage or manicure. The girls from these huts really knew their marketing: to get you as a customer, they chatted nicely, gave you free bamboo mats for the beach and offered shelter in their hut when the afternoon rain caught you by surprise. Once you had been there for a massage (200 baht for 90 min, complimentary pineapple), customer retention was to greet you from far away, give bamboo mats and bring pineapple from time to time - no matter if you came back for another massage or not.

Anyways, we didn't always go to that beach. There was Railey beach only a 10 min taxi boat ride away. That's an isolated peninsular which can only be reached by boat. The beach is just lovely, white sand, turquoise water, shady palm trees and amazing limestone cliffs on both ends and in the back. There are some nice and expensive hotels on that beach, but when you cross to the other side of the peninsular, 10 min walk through a construction site (for new hotels), to the mangrove and tidal side, there are some really nice backpacker style bungalows and cool beachfront bars with bamboo mats and cushions and romantic lights and so on. Had we discovered this side earlier, we might have moved to Railey for a few days! Most people were into climbing here, the limestone cliffs offering breathtaking opportunities.

We rented a motorbike for 3 days, 150 Baht / day (3 Euros or so). First, I was a bit scared of riding with Miriam behind me in the left-hand traffic, but got used to it after a while. We discovered truly nice villages in beautiful landscape, rubber plantations, gardens and jungle covered limestone cliffs. There was a funny temple where Miriam climbed crazy 1237 steps to the top, congratulations! The temple was full of nasty monkeys stealing food from the local kids who seemed to enjoy giving their ice cream away to those stinking beasts.

We had already had our share of monkeys: one of the best trips from Ao Nang was that to Tha Lyn national park. We went with "Ao Nang Group" which we highly recommend for their good organisation and friendlyness! That day, we shared our guide with a family from Germany who were living in Bangkok and had grandma and grandpa over for vacation. The two boys, aged maybe 6 and 8, were most enchanting! First part of the trip was canoeing, first on the calm sea, then through an amazing limestone canyon, very narrow, with vegetation growing on the steepest cliffs. I loved the orchids and palm trees.
When the water got more and more shallow, all the other tour groups turned round and went back, but our guide thought there was enough water to go on, so we did. Through the mangrove forests, narrow canals with cliffs to the left and mangroves to the right, no room to paddle or manoeuvre and only a few centimetres of water under our canoe. That was fun! We felt like Amazon explorers! The two boys were really cool, jumping into the water and swimming with the boats and hunting down monkeys.
There were some very beautiful lagoons we could enter by boat, enclosed by VERY high limestone cliffs. High above our heads, monkeys were swininging in the trees and birds and insects offered the right acustic background for this scenerey.
After 3 tough hours of paddling, we had a very good lunch on the shore and then set off to another park where a freshwater stream wound its way through rocks and mangrove forest. The water was refreshingly cold and the current was so strong that it was almost impossible to swim against it - and much fun to let oneself drift downstream over the washed out big rocks.

Another cool trip was that to Koh Hong, an hour from Ao Nang. We went by boat and I was somehow reminded of the Vietnam Booze cruise I did long time ago - at least of the beginning of it. Our guide was a VERY funny ladyboy (Lala), drinks were free (soft drinks only, though) and we could sunbathe on deck while listening to Thai Pop from the ship's loudspeakers.
Hong Island might be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's got several bays with white sand and palm trees and the water is turquoise and full of fish and corals. Entering the water, I was surrounded by colourful fish, I didn't even have to snorkel!
We did some kayaking again, had lunch on the beach, took stylish bikini pictures and went on to the next island. There, it was snorkeling again and sunbathing and relaxing.
On our way back home, Lala did some funny dancing on deck ("Nathalie the Beauty Queen") and we enjoyed the last rays of sun. What an amazing last day!

Not everything had been amazing in Ao Nang, though. One day on the motorbike, I caught a bad sunstroke which ruined our next day. Or those guys in our hotel - you wouldn't expect that in such a friendly place, but these two Germans were really strange and in two nights we woke up to them fighting with each other. I can tell you, it's really scary to sit in ones bed and listen to these bashes just in front of your bungalow. At day time, they were really OK, but when drunk ...
The party scene in Ao Nang wasn't my cup of tea either. No cool beach bars, mostly red light bars closing down early. Still, we had some good nights out, not too many, but enough!

So, after all, it wasn't THAT sad to leave the place on 03.11., well tanned and relaxed and with a big shopping list for Bangkok.
Air Asia was alright and this time, the taxi ride from the airport to our hotel only took 45 min. Fortunately, we had booked in advance: the New Siam II seems to be full all the time, they kept sending away people over and over.

In Bangkok, we had two more good nights on the tiles, in Kao San Area.
Gulliver's the old Khao San institution is still running and quite alright, though I did not like the music at all and to my personal taste, there were far too many prostitutes. Saturday, I almost got myself into trouble: Next to us (Miriam and me and some travellers we had met), was this Thai girl with an old stinking French guy talking to her. She often smiled at us and seemed keen to get away from him. When, from the corner of my eye, I saw him grabbing her and her pushing him away, I felt I had to do something, so I pulled her away from him, in a protecting way. She thanked me and later, when he was on the toilet, slipped out of the bar. Probably I did something really stupid and can feel lucky that the guy was not waiting for me when I left Gulliver's. But how could I have ignored this fight???
Miriam and I did some more shopping and relaxing by the nice hotel pool and even found a good restaurant in Khao San Road area, which is so difficult that it should win us a traveller's medal.
Saturday, the night before Lonkhram festival, on Chao Praya River, there was a parade of boats decorated with lights and fireworks and with dancers on them. Very beautiful!

Sunday, we had to leave which was sad because we had been enjoying ourselves very much. But on the other hand, it was enough of Bangkok and I was looking forward to being back home where it's much easier to talk to Thomas. Though, with Skype and the webcams in many internet cafe's, it was not THAT difficult and definitely not expensive. Still, time difference and irregular daily routine do make a difference.
The flight was alright, the food bad, the service good and the stopover in Tehran OK. We managed to sleep though most of the 5 hours there and on the plane, so we felt quite fit when we landed in Duesseldorf Monday morning.
Miriam was picked upt by Antonio while I took the train straight to work. Probably wasn't the most productive employee that day, but it was enough to get through my mails and update on the latest "strategies" and office gossip.

So, in a bit more than a year, I'll be back to Thailand, insch'Allah, with Thomas. I had kept thinking about that all the time "Next year, we could do this and we'll have dinner here and I have to show this to Thomas ..." I really liked that. No matter what people say about the Thai being greedy or crazy or whatsoever, this country is a place one can always go back to for a while (like Carla once said to me). The food is good, there are many beautiful places to be discovered and it's cheap and, if you've got the right attitude and go to the right places, people are very friendly.

I've uploaded the best photos, so also check the old entries.
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