Friday, 8 May 2015

Terrific Thailand 2015 - Day 7

Day 7 was exhausting, but very worth the time it took to travel to the Similan Islands. Absolutely breath taking, to see such a beautiful place was spectacular.  In my mind, I visualise Thailand like this, crystal blue sea, sparkling white sand, palm trees, clear blue sky and hot sunshine.  Yes, today was a very memorable day on our Terrific Thailand 2015 tour and the experience will stay with me forever.
We started our day early and had a 2 hour drive on to the mainland of Thailand.  Once we were at the port, it was then another 2 hour speed boat ride to the Islands.  Over this time, it was hot and I felt drained by the travel and the time it took to get there......but I have to say, it was all very much worth it.
There are several island tours you can do from Phuket.  On our first visit, we went to the Phi Phi Islands.  It seems now though that these islands are over run with tourists and the natural environment there is becoming almost 'spoiled'.  At Phi Phi Islands, the water is getting polluted with rubbish and the place is jam packed with speed boats as far as the eye can see.  There are too many people there at once and you can't get a feel for the place.
But here, at the Similan Islands, it is another story.  Tourists are deterred from going here as it takes so long to get there from Phuket.  The travelling time is long and a bit uncomfortable, but would you take a look at what you can see and experience when you get there!
The Similan Islands are stunning.  As I write this series, I am running out of adjectives to describe this place, for so many things about it just 'blows me away'.  It is like no other, tranquil, serene, relaxing and truly beautiful.  I have always lived on the bay in Melbourne, spending hours on the beach as a child and as I was growing up.  Now, as an adult, not much has changed, I love the beach. So you can imagine my absolute delight to feast my eyes on this!  I love Melbourne, it is my home, but there is no comparison to this!
The sand was powdery soft, the sea clean and blue.  The water was cool, not cold and it was sheer bliss.  It was a hot day, around 37 degrees, the sun was beating down on us, it was quiet and peaceful. I loved the feeling of the salt water on my skin and to feel so very warm, soaking up the sunshine.
The beach was wide and fresh. It is a 'must see' if you travel to Thailand.  Absolute heaven!

The vegetation on the island is healthy, green and lush.  You can see many palm trees and dense bush that is almost like a forest.  It is such a contrast to the white sand and blue sea that is only a few metres from it.  You can't help but feel as though you are in a very special place.
I am in awe of this place. I am in awe of its natural beauty, picture perfect beach and atmosphere. I am relaxed, I am stunned by its tranquillity and so glad that we have made this journey.

As part of the island tour, on the way, the boat stops for some snorkeling. My husband loves to do this and had no hesitation in jumping into the sea.  The boat stops before you arrive at the second island for a good look at the marine life under the water.
Many people took advantage of this opportunity to experience another aspect of the wonders of this Island tour.  My husband spent the whole time gazing beneath him at the fish and coral below.  He said that he saw lots of brightly coloured fish and the coral was spectacular. The water is so clear and clean so it was easy to see so much beneath him.
We stopped for the snorkeling close to another smaller island.  Here is a view of it from the boat. Many of these smaller islands are protected and no one can go on to them. They were beautiful, with gorgeous beaches, lush vegetation and amazing rock formations. I was glad that these islands were untouched for they were so special.
You can see here the large, smooth rocks along the edge of this smaller island.  They are a good place for much marine life to live.  It was the perfect spot for snorkeling. Snorkeling is usually always offered on the island tours from Phuket and I highly recommend it if you like the water.
After about 30 minutes in the water, it was time to move on.  Here is my husband getting back on to the boat, with a smile from ear to ear, having thoroughly enjoyed his snorkeling in this magical sea.
On the Similan Island tour, you travel to 2 islands.  Here is the second island.......what can I say that hasn't already been said? Absolutely stunning. I am sitting on the sand here after swimming in that baby blue water, feeling the hot sun and being totally mesmerised by this view.
When I took this photo, I was trying to capture the natural beauty of these beaches.  You can see that the sand is crisp and fresh and doesn't the water look oh so inviting?  You can see the speed boats in the water also that operate the tours.  They are fun to travel on too.
So I've travelled over 4000 kms from my home to Phuket and have also completed a gruelling 4 hours travel to visit the Similan Islands.  I've had a swim, I've got sand between my toes, I've got my Thai sarong wrapped around me, I'm all warm and toasty from the sun.........and I am happy, very happy.
Lunch was also provided on this tour.  Here is a view of the beach from further up on the island, in amongst the trees.  Even there, it was beautiful, the trees providing lots of shade and relief from the heat of the sun. I really loved to see the different trees and plants from those in Australia.  I loved the islands and all of their treasures.  It was a magic day.

We couldn't go to Thailand without seeing some of its islands.  If you travel there, be sure to do this as you will not forget or regret it!  We had been here for exactly one week and had already taken in so much of the essence of Thailand. The sights, the sounds, the people, the food, the culture, the climate, the views, the natural environment, the hustle and bustle of the city.......we had it all........ and we still had 4 days to go before we would head home!  It was a whirlwind of a trip and we were loving it.

Join me again soon when I wrap up the last few days of our Terrific Thailand - 2015 tour :) xxx

Friday, 1 May 2015

Terrific Thailand 2015 - Days 4, 5 & 6

Our Thailand getaway was now in full swing.  On this, our second visit to Phuket, we wanted to try new things and gain different experiences from those we had on our first visit in 2013.  One of the main differences this time was that we stayed in the city, rather than further out along the coast on the beach.  This gave us a whole new perspective on the place.  On Nanai Road, just at the front of our hotel, was this lovely statue, a classic example of the many ornate images in Phuket.  Again, this was another 'offering' to the spirits of the land and it was really nice to look at.
Day 4 of our holiday had arrived and on this day, we had a little adventure.  We hadn't seen much of Old Phuket Town.  This area is the original city on the island.  We didn't hire a car or a scooter as we walked pretty much everywhere, being so centrally located at our hotel. But today, we did something different, we caught the local bus into Old Phuket.
Here is the local Phuket bus.  It wasn't too big and struggled a bit up and down the hills. We managed to work out where the bus stop was in Patong and jumped on, ready for a little bus ride.
It was very different to the buses at home.  There is no door at the back of the bus and you climb on and sit along bench seats that run along the length of the bus.  The windows were open, there was no air conditioning.......and it was very hot and sticky.  You don't pay your fare to the bus driver as you get on, a lady walks around the bus further into the journey and you pay her.  It took about 40 minutes to get to Old Phuket from Patong on the bus and along the way, we got to see more of the island that we hadn't seen before. It was fun to catch the bus, something new and interesting.
We arrived in Old Phuket and started to take a look around.  Here is another example of a local bus. The gardens and trees were beautiful.
Here is a colourful temple that looked like a very special and sacred place.  I like the design, colours, shapes and patterns in the building.
The Asian lanterns are so bright and there were many of them at Old Phuket.
'Shrines' like this are everywhere in Phuket.  I asked a Thai friend about their meaning. He explained that they are displayed, always with food and water, as offerings to the spirits of the land.  The Thai people believe that by their settlement on the land, they have 'taken over' the places that once belonged only to the spirits there.  So by making these displays and providing food and water, they are 'looking after' the spirits of that place, caring for them and giving them somewhere to go.
There are many shops in Phuket, selling all sorts of things, here it is ladies clothes. This is such a creative and quirky way to display them.
Here is a picture shop.  The Thai people have the utmost respect for their Royal Family and it is not unusual to see many photos of their King on display.
Here is one of the main intersections in Old Phuket, as always, with many people on scooters zipping by.  The garden in this round about was bright, as were the bill boards.
Now this is amazing.  I managed to get a photo of a lady riding along on a scooter that has a food stall attached to it.  There are many road side food stalls all around Phuket.  These sell a wide range of Thai food, cooked on the spot. Many of these stalls are actually built on to scooters so that the owners can move them around.  Now you don't see that in Australia!
This was a beautiful and significant place in Old Phuket.  This is the On On Hotel, the first hotel on the island.  It is in beautiful condition and almost like a museum inside.
Inside the hotel, it has a peaceful lobby where we sat to have a break.  It was very comfortable and full of many antiques.
Here are some examples of original pieces that are on display at On On Hotel.  They really captured the history of the place.
We sat and enjoyed a cold drink in the lobby before catching the bus back to our hotel in Patong.  We were glad that we had made the effort to see Old Phuket Town, it was a busy place, full of history and amazing sights and sounds.
We were up to day 5 on our magic holiday and after a busy few days, we spent most of the day relaxing by the pool.  The highlight of this day was discovering this place, a small local restaurant that served the best authentic Thai food.  I was thrilled, as I adore a good Thai meal.  It was only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel and we had many meals here.
You might remember me saying that the weather is either hot or very hot in Phuket.  That didn't stop me from eating a lot of spicy Thai food.  We always washed it down with an ice, cold Singha beer which is a local Thai beer.  It was perfect to drink with a hot and spicy Thai meal.
Here you can see some examples of the superb Thai food that we enjoyed in Phuket. Satay chicken skewers, green chicken curry and some beef and vegetables.  If you visit Thailand, I highly recommend that you sample some of the traditional dishes, it is all very scrumptious.
My husband can't eat seafood so he always goes straight for the beef meals.  Here is a beef and vegetable hot plate.  The food is fresh and tasty, cooked with very little oil, often served with sensational sauces.
Now here we have my all time favourite Thai dish, Tom Yum soup.  I often ordered this, here it is with chicken, but the seafood Tom Yum was also excellent.  Just divine!
This was also delectable, a cucumber salad.  Served with crushed nuts with a fantastic dressing, this was yummy.  I was very pleased to have discovered this local Thai restaurant, we went here many nights for a great Thai meal.
Day 6 had arrived and we were having a blast.  The sun was shining, it was hot and I was right in my element.  On this day, we walked to Patong Beach.
Now in Phuket terms, this beach is considered 'grubby' as the water has a bit of rubbish in it.  But would you take a look at it?  Coming from Melbourne, for me, this was still a pretty good beach, considering some of the beaches around the bay in Melbourne are much more grubby than this.
The biggest problem with Patong Beach is all the hawkers, bothering you every five minutes, trying to sell you everything from sunglasses to coconut drinks.  It is just a matter of saying 'no thanks' all the time, but this does get annoying as you can't just sit there and enjoy the beach.  But the sand is still soft and the water is still cool and I enjoyed it.
This is a great shot of the beach from the road.  The palm trees are magical and many people enjoy the cool of the shade.
You can hire beach umbrellas if you like, as the sun is constant and gets very hot.
We spent the morning at Patong Beach and managed to beat the big crowds.  It was a great morning, soaking up the sun and the surf, enjoying what Patong had to offer.  We headed home about lunch time and got out of the sun for a while before heading out that night for a few drinks.
That night, we found this very groovy Reggae bar, filled with Bob Marley memorabilia.  It had a great atmosphere and the drinks weren't bad either.  Here is Dave enjoying a 'I wanna Tuk Tuk'.
You can see me here enjoying a 'Pink Rasta Lady'. This was a happy place, full of everything reggae. It was a good night out.
We moved on down the road to another bar and here is my hubby, savouring his Jack Daniels and coke, just loving this place. By day and by night, this place was always hot and a nice, cool drink did wonders.  We were having a ball, just the two of us, with the kids back home.  We felt young and free and were having so much fun.

Day 7 turned out to be spectacular.  Join me again soon when I take you to the magical Similan Islands, our next big adventure on our 'Terrific Thailand - 2015' tour :) xxx

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Terrific Thailand 2015 - Day 3

Day 3 had arrived and this promised to be a fantastic day, travelling around Phuket to see some of it's special places.  Last time we were in Thailand, we met a lovely Thai family who owned a touring/ transport business and we became friends.  On this visit, we contacted them again and went on a tour to some places that were truly amazing.  Join me now as I show you what we got up to on Day 3 of our Thailand getaway.
We started at a beach that was further down south, out of town. Now this is what I see in my mind when I think of Thailand; magnificent white sand, clear blue sky and crystal blue water.  It was magnificent.
This beach was not over crowded and people, young and old, were basking in the sun, playing in the sand and swimming in the cool sea.  It was pristine, it was spotlessly clean. it was magic.
I had to have my photo taken on this white sand, close to the beautiful water, because for me, this is most certainly what I call a beach!  I wanted to remember being there, feeling the hot sun beating down on me as I stood in awe of this beautiful place.
Our next stop was a famous look out where you could see the whole of Phuket.  We had been here before but wanted to visit this spot again as the view was breath taking.
I like this photo of my husband and I with this view of Phuket in the back ground.  It was a hot day, with the temperature reaching about 37 degrees.  This was the same each and every day, where there was plenty of sunshine during the day and the nights were always warm.
We moved on to a second beach further south of the city and it was just as spectacular as the first.  The sand was so fine to walk on, the water was cool, not cold and this beach was not over crowded.
You can see here how magic this place is.  I really loved these beaches south of the island.  On our next visit to Phuket, we will spend more time here, away from busy Patong.
What a sight for sore eyes!  It is really worth a visit to Thailand to experience this beautiful place.  If you enjoy hot weather, stunning beaches and scenery, like to eat spicy food, then I highly recommend you travel here.
We moved on from the beach to another spot where we could really appreciate the coast line.  It would be fantastic to be on one of these boats and travel to this little island.
Look at the colour of the water!  Isn't it just heaven?  To swim in it is amazing, it is cool, not cold and is crystal clear.
By this time, we are getting a great appreciation of these more remote places, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  I am loving the sun, to feel it's warmth and to gaze in amazement at the stunning scenery.
Next stop was the Botanical Gardens.  We hadn't been here before and being the keen gardener that I am, this was a real treat.
It was a lush garden, very diverse and green.  I enjoyed looking at the plants and landscaping that was so very different to what I usually see at home.
The garden beds often had sculptures scattered throughout them.  These were interesting and this mass of flowers was beautiful.
As you enter the Botanical Gardens, one of the first things you see is this heart shaped wreath.  It is very large and colourful.  My husband wanted to take a photo of me standing behind it......isn't he lovely?!?
We walked on and it was spectacular.  The garden was very well maintained, it was eye catching, had plenty of variety and you could see that much effort had been put into its design.
These colourful statues are so very Thai, with bright, bold colours that provided such a sharp contract to the greens of the garden.
As we walked through the garden, I took many, many photos.......it was a magic place. Here are just a small handful of them to give you an idea of what it was like.  Here is another peaceful statue, carefully placed in the garden.  A truly special place.
I couldn't leave the garden without taking a shot of these pretty orchids.  They were so healthy and the bold pink against the white was stunning.
In another section of the garden was a cactus garden.  I really like cactus and these ones were huge.  As with the entire garden, they were thriving.
As we walked around the garden, there were little spots like this everywhere.  It was so tastefully designed, incorporating traditional Thai figures with native plants.  I have very fond memories of this place when I look at photos like this.
Everything in the Botanical Gardens was thick, healthy and lush.  Here is a good example. It also had many contrasts of colour and a large variety of themes throughout.  It took a good hour and half to walk through the entire garden and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our last stop for the day, after having lunch in Old Phuket town, was The Trick Eye Museum.  This place was loads of fun.  It had interactive paintings on the walls and you could become a part of this little fantasy world.  It made some great and fun photos.
The photos turned out well and you wouldn't know by looking at them that these scenes are all physically 2 dimensional, but the results are really good!
This photo is fun......now this is something that my husband would actually do to cause trouble and it gave us a big giggle.
These wall paintings were brilliant.  Here I am running from the stampede.  Great illusion.
I just had to have my photo taken on a scooter.  This was a common sight in Phuket, there were scooters with side cars everywhere.  Amazing 3D effects.
My husband's dream.....to break open a bank vault filled with cash.......yes, he would like that!
We are now back at our hotel and it had been a wonderful day.  We were so happy to be here, feeling like teenagers again, away from reality and our usual commitments for a while.  We had planned this holiday for months and were thrilled to finally be experiencing it.  It was only day 3 and we had 8 more to go!  Yes, this promised to be a great escape, full of fun and adventure and we embraced it with open arms.  Join me again soon when I walk you through days 4 and 5 of out Thailand getaway :) xxx