Category Archives: Trip Reports

ASDP Ferries

Here is some route/timings information about ferries run by ASDP at the East end of Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia:

Main Routes:

Indo_ASDP-Ferry-timetable-v1.JPG
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

The last five rows show the time of day for the departure, but not which day of the week(!)  That is how it was in the source data, I’m afraid.

 

More on Distances & trip durations:
Indo_ASDP_Distances_20160706_IMG_104625_.jpg

More detail on boats out of Kupang:
Indo_ASDP_Kupang_Timetable_20160719_P7191365_Sq.jpg

Note that, in reality, there can be a lot of variation from the intended schedules depending on tides, weather, etc.

 

Rough map of Eastern Nusa Tenggara
indo_asdp_ntt-roughmap
Data: Google.  Expands to 2850 x 900px

 

Info correct at 2016 (to the best of my knowledge!). If you have better information, please post in the comments at the bottom of the page and I’ll update it here.

 

Edit @ 2019: Actually the ASDP ferry website has improved a lot over the last few years:
https://www.indonesiaferry.co.id/en/home

 


Added Nov 2016    Last updated Jan 2019

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Trang Town

Trang – ตรัง

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_30_P1064260__.jpg

Trang is a sprawling industrial town in the South West of Thailand.  It is a gateway to the holiday islands of Koh Kradan, Koh Muk, Koh Ngai, Ko Sukorn and Chao/Jao Mai National Park.

“Trang” is spelt ตรัง. That first letter is actually halfway between a “t” and a “d”. If you say “Trang” to a Thai person and they look blank, try “Drang” instead.

I like a town where you have to step-around guys doing spot-welding on the sidewalk.

Most island transport is best organised through one of the dozen or so travel agents near the train station. In my experience, they are all decent folk. You’re not in Khao San Road now.

Usually, I’m a big fan of do-it-yourself/public transport arrangements, but having experimented with both methods in Trang, I’ve found that public transport to the islands isn’t especially easy to find/use and it is always much easier and usually just as cheap to go through a travel agent.

Here’s some maps of the main parts of Trang Town.

Trang Downtown Map

Trang Whole Town Map1 Trang Whole Town Map2

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

Getting into Trang town:
Air:  There is a (domestic) airport 8km South of town.  There is no public transport from the airport to downtown, but most of the travel agents have aircon buses waiting there. Of course, if you take one, there is a tacit understanding that you will use that agent for your onward travel.

There will be aircon sedan taxis hanging around the airport.  I haven’t tried them, but I guess you are talking about 300B into town. There may well be some green tuk-tuks there too. Tuk tuk prices are probably a bit less than the taxis (edit: I saw a sign in a travel agent saying Airport tuk-tuks for 200B).

Cheapskates like me can jump on the hourly public Satun-Trang bus that goes along the main road just outside the airport and takes you into Trang town. Turn right out of the Airport terminal building, walk about 400m down the entrance road and you are there (already on the correct side of the main road). The bus will be a tatty red number with open doors. It is the only bus on this route – you can’t catch the wrong one. It will probably have Trang written in Thai on the front (ตรัง).  There isn’t a formal bus-stop there, but it should stop if you wave it down vigorously enough.

When you arrive in Trang , the bus dumps everyone out outside the municipality offices near the clocktower (“naa-lii-gaa”) (6 on the map). Walk in the direction that the bus had been going; continue down the hill, past the clocktower, and the train station is about 600m at the bottom of the hill. Or there will be tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis waiting at the bus stop. The orange bigbus seems to have been phased out @ 2016.

From the big-bus station to downtown:
Arriving by big-bus (or minibus) from other towns, you will end up in the (new) big bus-station 4 km East of town.  There is a sorngthairw (open-sided van) service that will take you downtown for 12B. The sorngtairw vans wait near the entrance/exit to the bus station (opposite platforms 9-14) .  Just ask to go to the train station (sa ta nii rot fai).

The sorngtairw service runs from 0530 to 1930 hours.

You can also use the (light blue) downtown bus between the main bus station and downtown, also for 12B. It leaves from platform 10 at the bus station and from the train station in downtown.

Tuk tuks are 50B between the big-bus station and downtown.

Train station

(White) sorngtairw and green tuk-tuks outside the train station

Sorngtairw route and timetable.

Sorgtairw route and timetableERA.
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Trains

The train station is in the middle of downtown.  There are a few trains from Bangkok. Trains don’t go (much) further South from here.

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OK, back to those all-important travel agencies near the train station:
Here is a list of the agencies. The letters refer to where they are on the map.  This info was collected from their business cards in April 2013.

Trang Station Area Map

A – Koh Hai Fantasy Resort office
comment: This company office has two luxury resorts on the island Koh Ngai/Hai:  Koh Hai Fantasy Resort and Koh Ngai Cliff Beach Resort

Cliff Beach Resort:
Phone:  (+66) 7521 5923, 7521 0317
Fax:  (+66) 7521 7397
Email: contact@kohngaicliffbeach.com
www: kohngaicliffbeach.com

Fantasy Resort:
Phone: (66) 2 316 3577, 3171274 (Bangkok office)
Fax:  (66)2 316 7916
Email: fantasy@kohhai.com
www: http://www.kohhai.com
Comment: This office is also the downtown check-in point for the Tigerline ferry
other: The awning gives other telephone numbers: 075-210-317; 211-045; 215-923
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B – Andaman Islands Tour and Travel
Phone: +66 075 216110
Mobile: +66 089 6472964
Name: Gift
Fax:  –
Email: andamanislandstravel@hotmail.com
www: –
address: 66/8 Satanee Rd Muang Trang 92000
comment:  General travel agency
other: Business card advertises Transport and Accomodation Trang-Krabi Lanta Pakbara Samui.  Car and motorbike rental
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C – Koh Mook Charlie Beach Resort office
Phone: +66 75 217671-2
Name:  –
Fax: +66-75-200072
Email: reservation@kohmook.com
www: http://www.kohmook.com
address: 66/10 Satanee Rod Muang Trang 92000
comment:
other: island phone number is  +66 75 203281-2 .   Handwritten ‘out to lunch’ sign in door give mobile number 089-2892317
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D – Koh Ngai Villa Resort office
Phone: 075-210496
Mobile: 085-2248702
Name: Sao (Boontiwa Hanthalay)
Fax: 075-222631
Email: kohngaikiwi@yahoo.com
www:  http://www.Kohngaivilla.com
address: 66/25 Satanee Rd, Trang Thailand 92000
comment:
other:
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E – Rungtip Travel
Phone:  075-219802
Mobile: 081-9783092
Fax: 075-219802
Email: info@rungtiptravel.com
www: rungtiptravel.com
address: 66/24 Satanee Rd Mueang Trang 92000
comment: general travel agency
other: Card says: Hotel, Resort Reservation Lanta Lipe Koh-Ngai Koh-Mook Koh-Libong City-tour transfer Air-ticket Boat-ticket Penang Singapore KL. Awning gives an additional mobile number: 085-1509151
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F – Meeting point restaurant
Phone:
Name:
Fax:
Email:
www:
facebook:
comment:
other: Awning advertises Koh Ngai Paradise Resort, 075-218535
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G – Smile Dugong Tour and Service
Phone: 075 210 295
Fax: 075 210 295
Email:
www:
facebook:  “find us on facebook”
address: 48 Satanii Rd Trang 92000
comment:
other: card says “Transfer service to (Koh) Mook Kradan Ngai Sukorn Libong Rok; Satun Pakbara (Koh) Slip Adng Tarutao Rawi Bulon, Bus Ticket Boat Ticket taxi; Awning gives a mobile number : 089-8522461
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H – Muslim restaurant
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I – KK travel and tour
Phone: +66 (0)75-211198, 075-223664;
mob 086-4781506, 086-4781507
Name:
Fax: +66 (0)75 211441
Email: kktourtrang@hotmail.com
www: http://www.kktraveltour.com
facebook:
address: 44 Sathani Road Muang Trang 92000
comment:
other:
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J – Store
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K – 1954 Cafe / Sri Trang Hotel rear entrance
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L – Muslim Restaurant and Trang Island Hopping Tour
Phone:
Mobile:  087-6321193; 082-8040583
Name: Mr Ekkachai Binwaha
Fax:
Email: info@trang-island-hopping.com
www: http://www.trang-island-hopping.com
facebook:
address: 28/2 Satanii Rd Muang Trang 92000
comment: This is a small desk on the right at the back of the restaurant. I believe that they book the four-island tours with operator Jarawee out of Pak Meng.
other: Card says “We arrange reservation for tours hotel, transfers tickets in Southern Thailand.
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M – Art Café Espresso Bar and Gallery
Has a sign saying free wifi
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N – Koh Kradan Beach Resort office
Phone: 075-211391, 075-590270
Name:
Fax:
Email:
www: http://www.KradanBeachResort.com
facebook:
comment:
other: Island mobile: 082-8003446.  The Trang office has a (possibly defunct) office for “Trang Sea Tour” attached.
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O – Wunderbar Restaurant and Tours
www:  http://www.wunderbar-trang.com/
Closed down in 2016.  Trang Happy Trip and Tour (Q) moved here (?temporarily)
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P – Sri Trang Hotel main entrance
Phone:
Name:
Fax:
Email:
www: http://www.sritranghotel.com/
facebook:
comment: Pronounced “Sii” Trang Hotel.  Best midrange hotel in downtown. Has  wifi and 2 computers for internet. Free wifi for guests. Rents out motorcycles.
other:
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Q – Trang Happy Trip & Tour (edit: moved two doors down to O @ 2016)
Phone: 075-222165
Mobile: 081-6072411 (Jip)  087-4754684 (Saai)
Fax:
Email: jip_piyanust@hotmail.com  sai-joy111@hotmail.com
www:
facebook: facebook.com/trang happytrip & tour
comment:
other:
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R – Kankowan Tour
Phone: 075-215235, 081-9680130, 085-0984330
Name:
Fax:
Email: kankowantourtrang@hotmail.com
www:  http://www.kankowantour.com
facebook:
address:  20 Satanee Rd Muang Trang
comment:
other: Has internet terminals.  Their business card says “Daily minivans to Koh Lanta; tourist information; transfer to island; hotel booking; minibus VIP Service.
Trang-Lanta 0930 1050 1220 1345 1510 1630
Lanta-Trang 0800 0920 1040 1200 1330 1500
In high season, a sign on the corner says Kankowan Lanta minivans “every hour”.
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S – Mai Tree Hotel – new in 2015. Midrange. Well worth a look if the Sri Trang is full.

Phone: 075 212 292
Mobile: 086 475 7453
email: mitreehouse@hotmail.com
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T – Thumrin Hotel (ธรรมรินร์)
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U – Trang Travel
Phone: 6675219598-9
Mobile: 66864781574
Name: Parichart kongkaew
Fax: 6675211290
Email:
www: trangtravel.net
facebook:
address: 99 Satanee Rd Muang Trang 92000
comment:
other:
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V – Chao Mai Tour
Phone: (075) 214742, 216380, 217617
Mobile: 01-8913486
Name: Jongkolnee Usaha
Fax: (075) 217340
Email: jongkolneetrang@hotmail.com; chaomai_tour@yahoo.com
www:  http://www.chaomai-tour-trang.com
facebook:
address: 15 Satanee Rd Ampur Muang Trang 92000
comment:
other: Card says “Travel Service, Air Ticketing & Tour”
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W – BB Tour
Phone: 075-219054, 089-8718104,  075-219061
Name:
Fax:
Email:
www:
facebook:
address: 23 Satanii Road
comment: Only one English speaker on premises, business card in Thai only
other:
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X – Koh Muk Rubber Tree Bungalows Resort office / Sea Breeze Tours
Phone: +66-7521-5972
Name: Nattapong Marknakorn
Fax:
Email: mookrubbertree@hotmail.com
www: http://www.mookrubbertree.com;  http://www.andamanport.com
facebook:
comment: A general travel agency, as well as an office for the resort. Also a big restaurant with free wifi.
other: Mobile numbers on faded awning 087-299-1327; 081-6069358; 081-270-4148
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Independent travel:

Trang to the Islands:

It is about an hour’s drive from Trang Town to the coast to take a boat to the islands.  There are three jetties – each about 30km from each other. The jetty you go to will depend on the island you are going to.

Pak Meng is the most Northerly and generally covers Koh Ngai.

Kuentengu is the middle one and serves Koh Muk and Koh Kradan

Hat Yao is in the South and serves Koh Libong

If you want to go independent, you can get public minibuses to these from minibus station #1. Prices are 100-150B. Journey time is about an hour.  Minibuses leave roughly every half an hour in the mornings. Less frequent in the afternoons. (Edit @ 2014: the station was knocked down and replaced with a Honda motorcycle dealership, but the minibuses still depart from this area – parked at the side of the road.

In the case of Pak Meng, the jetty is about 2km further on from  the main beach area. Tell the driver that you want to go to the Jetty (“taa roowa”) or to Koh Ngai.

If you are taking a tuk tuk/ motorbike taxi to the minibus station (“sa ta nii rot too”), you should tell him where your final destination is. There are (at least) three minibus stations in Trang and he’ll need to get you to the right one.

In dry season (approx. November-April) there are public boats:
From Pak Meng to Koh Ngai – mid morning, about 150B
From Kuentungu to Koh Muk – lunchtime, about 40B
From Kuentungu to Koh Kradan – early morning and early afternoon, about 300B
From Hat Yao to Koh Libong – all day, departing whenever the boat is full, about 40B.

Trang travel agents sell combination minibus/boat tickets to the islands at about 500B.  I’ve carted my heavy bags down to the minibus station only to have the minibus drive back into town to collect people casually sitting outside the travel agents sipping cold drinks, before we all headed off to the same jetty. The prices are pretty similar.

In the wet season (May-October), regular boats keep running to Libong and there is one boat per day (at lunchtime) to Koh Muk.  There are no scheduled public boats to Ngai or Kradan in the wet season. (A few individual resorts may be running their own boats).

You can charter your own longtail boats from anywhere to anywhere. Expect to be charged about 2000B for a boat from a jetty to its nearest island. Negotiate!

In dry season, there are also boats to the Trang Islands from Koh Lanta (Pet Pailin ferry), Koh Lipe/Bulon (Pak Bara Speedboat Club; Bundhaya speedboat) and (from various points) – Tigerline.
http://www.tarutaolipeisland.com
http://www.tigerlinetravel.com

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To get from downtown Trang to minibus station #1, turn left (North) out of the train station, walk about 100m and skip a block to the left at the first turning/opportunity you get.  Technically, you could carry straight on, but it is simpler this way. Just before you hit the railway lines, turn right to go the same direction as you had been (parallel to the railway lines), then walk (~10 minutes) towards the rusting water tower in the distance. There are lots of fruit stalls down here and the morning market is on your right.  When you see a level-crossing (train/road crossing) on your left, look across the road to your right and you will see the minibus station (edit@ 2014: the station was knocked down and replaced with a Honda motorcycle dealership, but the minibuses still depart from this area – parked at the side of the road.  Edit @2016 – get your tickets from the lady sitting at a small table outside the “108 Shop” convenience store.

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There is a 200B fee to enter the National Park(s) which the islands are in. The only places I’ve ever seen this being enforced is outside the Emerald Cave in Koh Muk and on the Jetty at Pak Meng, where there is a collection booth part-way down the jetty.

Getting around:

Public bus for Satun and connections to Kok Lipe/Tarutao/Bulon:

The orange public bus to Satun also goes past the airport and is your only practical option for connections to Koh Lipe, Bulon, Tarutao etc. (edit at 2016: The orange bigbus seems to have been phased out.  There are now tourist minibuses to La Ngu / Lipe / Satun and public minibuses to Satun (which will drop you off at La Ngu for connections to the islands).

For a public minibus, starting from Trang town, you catch a 12B sonrgtairw or light blue bus from outside the train station to the big bus station; then look for the Satun minibus red/orange (local style, not aircon) bus (probably at platform 4).  But you can save yourself the journey from downtown to the bus station because the Satun bus starts from downtown. From the train station/downtown area, walk up the hill towards the clocktower (which is the main landmark in Trang). Continue past the clocktower and there is a bus shelter about 20m on the left (marked 5 on the map).

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_57_P1074301.JPG

Just wait there – buses for Satun arrive roughly hourly. Usually about a quarter past the hour, (but don’t rely on that – they just come when they come). It will be arriving from the right from around the blind corner just 20m away, so keep a look out and be ready to jump up and wave your arms about when it appears.

If you are connecting to Southern Islands like Lipe, Tarutao or Bulon, you need to change in La Ngu, then take a sorngtairw the 5km to the port at Pak Bara. The minibus ride from Trang to La Ngu is just over two hours. Just say La Ngu to the driver and maybe also that you will later want to go to Pak Bara (ja pai Pak Barra) and he’ll drop you off at the right spot in La Ngu to get the sorngthairw to Pak Bara. There will also be packs of taxis/motorcycle taxis wanting to take you to the port in Pak Bara.

In La Ngu, the sorngthairw goes from outside the police station (sa ta nee taam ruuat) (and also at the South end of town, near the bridge). Just wave at any likely looking vehicle and ask if he goes to Pak Barra (pai pak barra mai). The price is about 30B.

There are now also tourist minibus from Trang to La Ngu. Trang travel agents sell seats in tourist minibuses to La Ngu for 200B, or through to Lipe (including the boat) for 750B.  This might be high-season only.

Sri Trang trip prices 2016

Sri Trang trip prices 2016

There are ATMs and lots of ferry-ticket sellers at Pak Barra. There are ATMs in La Ngu.

Minibus to Hat Yai

You can get minibuses to Hat Yai from a dedicated minibus station #2 (at the top of the Black and white “Trang Town” map. It is  in a pink building opposite the Caltex gas station.  Fare is 100B to Hat Yai, but you might have to buy an extra seat if you have a big bag.  There are also minibuses to Hat Yai from the big bus station.

Buses to elsewhere:
For Bangkok, Surat Thani, Phuket, Pattalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat, etc.,  see the list at the bottom of the page.

For Kantang:
You can take a train. There is one train per day in each direction, but the timings don’t work well for making a daytrip.  There are also share taxis leaving from the OLD bus station (3km North of town on Highway 4) which leave when they are full. Price 50B.

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Trang Sleeps :
Civilised and slightly boutiquey (about 800B) – the Sri Trang (No 1 on the map)
Civilised and slightly faceless – the Thumrin (No 2 on the map)
Cheap and basic (200B, with fan) – Ko Teng (No 3 on the map)
Cheap and pretty basic (500B) Trang Hotel (No 4 on the map)

There are dozens of other hotels spread around Trang town.

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Local points of interest:
There is a volunteer tourist information service in the alley next to Ko Teng Hotel. They can’t help you with Island info, but can point you towards local points of interest. They are lovely people and like having visitors.  They are only open early-evenings. About 5-7pm.

There is big shiny official TAT tourist information office 3km North of town near the OLD bus station.

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Most people go to Trang as a jumping-off point to the islands, so apart from the area outside the train station (where all the travel agents are) it’s not at all touristy.

If you want to spend some time in town, here are a few possible places to visit:

There is a big Temple (Matchimmapum) on a hill about 1km NW of the train station (you can see it from the train station)
ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_31_P2194049.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_31b_P2194049.jpg

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There is a temple (Tartayaprom) with a big white chedi ~1km North of the train station

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_32_PC254067.JPG

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and a Chinese temple across the road from it:

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_33_PC254066.JPG

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There is a nice park and gardens (“Somdet Phra Nakharin 95 Park”), 2km NE of the white chedi (pretty flora, lakes, good gym)

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_34_P4281586.JPG

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There is a modest nature park (sometimes called the “Botanic garden”) with a canopy walkway through the treetops, 5km past the airport. Best to rent a motorbike (150B) to get there. Public minibuses to Satun go past it, but you might have trouble flagging one down to get back. Scribble down the name in Thai (สวนพฤษศาสตร์สากลภาคใต้ (ทุ่งค่าย)) if you want to try your luck. Travel agents will sell you a private trip for 500B, but it’s just the standard tuk-tuk fare plus their mark-up. Of course, you can just take an ordinary tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi and ask him to wait for you. An hour is probably enough.

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_36_P4301734.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_37_P4301735_squared.jpg ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_38_P4301739.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_39_P4301749.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_40_P4301752.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_41_P4301761.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_42_P4301769.JPG

Sections include: Palms; Orchid Garden; Forest Herbarium; Xenophyte Garden; Fern and Ferna Allies; Dipterocarpaceae; Swamp forest

2 daytime markets – try the local fruit

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There is a night market every evening in the street near the Dugong fountain (see the map). It goes from about 5pm to 9pm. You can get cheap local eats there, but seating is limited.

.ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_35_P2124036.JPG

On Friday to Sunday there is also a bigger night market outside the train station (edit: it has now spread to some weekday evenings, too).  There is ususally some home-spun entertainment on the entrance to the Train Station.

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_56_PC314078.JPG

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Clocktower/Dugong Fountain illuminated at night

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_43_PC314073.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_44_P4281726.JPG

Malls? (Siriban, Robinsons, BigC)

Bull fighting (!) near to Robinsons Mall and the Bus station.

Radio-controlled (baby) race-car track. 2km out of town on the road to Pak Meng.

Chinese Joss Houses dotted here and there, some with interesting artwork.

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_45_P1064224.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_46_P1064177.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_47_P1064225.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_48_P1064237.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_49_P1064221.JPG

I think it’s Thang Kongya that has an ancient, lifesize ‘morality’ depiction of all the gruesome things that happen to you if you end-up-in hell

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_50_P1064197.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_51_P1064218.JPG

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Trip to Pak Meng beach (minibus, one hour North).

ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_53_P4271509.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_52_P4271479.JPG

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Hat Chao Mai National Park (minibus, one hour South)

Rent motorbike (from, say, Sri Trang Hotel) and explore tiny coast roads and villages South of Pak Meng

The Travel agents can set you up with tours and island travel. For more local stuff, visit the volunteer tourist office around 6pm, and have a chat with them.

There are some waterfalls on the edge of the mountain range 30km East of town, but I’ve only ever visited in dry-season when they would be dried-up.

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Longtime German-owned drinking establishment Wunderbar closed down in 2016. Most drinkers have stumbled across the road to the restaurant of Koh Muk Rubber Tree Bungalows Resort office (X on the map).

Other (more Thai-style) bars open from time to time, but they are usually in out-of-the-way places. If you feel like exploring, there are some decent ones 1km to the North East of the Dugong fountain on Ratchdamnoen Road. There are also some good ‘night market’ style eats in that area in the evenings.

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There is a large ethnically-Chinese population of Thai people in Trang. It is difficult to find any open restarants at Chinese New Year.

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They hold an under-water wedding ceremony for scuba divers at Ko Kradan on 12th/13th February each year.  On the (?)13th, all the school kids get the afternoon off school to line the streets and cheer the newlyweds as they pass through Trang on  the way back to the airport.

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That’s all for now.

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ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_55_P1084337.JPG ThailandTrangTown_Ents_TEMP_54_P1064190.JPG

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I’ll tidy this up later, but it is a list of platform labels and the buses that were actually in each bay when I went to check out the big bus station

Platform label            bus present when I checked

1 Bangkok        none

2 Phuket         Phuket (big aircon VIP coach)

3 Hat Yai        Hat Yai minibus

4 Satun        Satun (local-style big bus) edit: now defunkt

5 Nakhon Si Thammarat

6 Ko Lanta        Lanta (minibus)

7 Surat Thani        Surat Thani  (minibus)   Hourly 160B

8 Nakhon Si         Nakhon Si Thammarat (minibus)
(handwritten)

9 Phuket-Hat Yai     Trang-nakhon si (minibus)
Phuket-pattalung

10 trang-songkhla    songkhla minibus

11 Krabi        krabi minibus
Phuket patong

12 Songkhla        trang pattalung ranot  salingphra songkhla minibus

13   ???                hat yai minibus

14 same as 13

Ticket office posters

1
Trang Bangkok
2nd class 1730hrs 484?
1st class 0930 1630 1700 1750hrs  623?
VIP 1700hrs 969?

2
Bangkok Morchit
………….Full price   half price
VIP24        969        796        time 0715 1730
VIP32        727        554        time 1730
AC 1st       623        450        time 0940 1700 1730
(???????? – aircon)

trang phuket 240

3
Bangkok – Morchit – Sai Taai Mai
AC1st 623B    time 1700
2nd 484B  time 0800 1700

4
Krabi 90B minibus

There was an old bus station about 4 km North of town on Highway 4. This seems to be disused now. Share taxis to Kantang and other small local towns depart from here.

Kinabalu National Park Trails

Mount Kinabalu is a very famous mountain a few hours East of Kota Kinabalu in Northern Sabah. It is possible to climb to the 4095 m summit, but you have to: (1) book several weeks in advance to get a permit; (2) pay around 150USD to stay a night in a dorm halfway up.

Neither my lungs nor wallet are up to climbing to the summit, but there are several km of trails below the checkouts, sorry, checkpoint that you can yomp around for a day or two.

You pay-in to the National Park for 15MYR (foreigner price) and can then collect a free map/description of the trails from the Park Information Office. What they give you is a blurry 3rd generation photocopy that is quite difficult to read, so I’ve reproduced a crispy, fresh version of it here for your delectation.

TRAILS TO EXPLORE

There are nine network trails around park headquarters; and many are interconnected. Exploring this network of trails before the climb to summit will allow visitors a chance to exercise those seldom used muscles and adjust to the altitude. As there are more trails to choose, and greater variability in starting times, it is not uncommon to find oneself a solitary hiker on the trail. This offers a much greater chance of seeing birds and other small wildlife. None of the trails around park headquarters are particularly difficult, although some are easier and shorter than others; all have something special with which to reward the hiker. The following general descriptions and approximate hiking times will help visitors decide which trails are right for them.

Bundu Tuhan View Trail; (465 metres, 30 minutes) this trail is short and close to the Park Reception office, making it one of the more accessible trails. It is a good opportunity for visitors with little time to experience the tropical rainforest. On a clear day, it offers a view of the nearby Kadazan dusun village, Bundu Tuhan. Hikers have option of joining the Ligawu Trail or returning to the reception office.

Kiau View Trail. (2344 metres, 60-80 minutes) this trail is of moderate length, and with the exception of the trail entrances, the route is fairly level. Several viewpoints along the trail provide vistas of the hilly range and nearby Kadazan dusun village of Kiau. The original trail to the summit; used by last century is climbers, began in Kiau.

Pandanus Trail; (598 metres, 45 minutes) this is a short, but quite steep trail that joins the Kiau View Trail. The junction is a quarter way point of the Kiau View Trail, making it convenient way shorten the hike in event of rain. Hikers cannot fail to notice the many lianas in the forest along the trail.

Bukit Ular Trail; (997 metres, 60 minutes) this trail is seldom used either safe to walk. Hikers either will start from the end of the power station road, walk along the house fence to get into the forest. Hikers can break the journey by joining the power station road down below about kilometre before the power station as it exits near the Kiau gap shelter or extend it by joining the Mempening Trail to reach the park headquarters. This trail is good point to see some secretive and rare birds such as Everetts’s Thrush and Blue banded Pitta both are endemic to Borneo.

Bukit Tupai and Bukit Burung Trails; (1425 metres, 90 minutes combined) both of these trails are quite short, and are best done in combination. Bukit means “hill” in Malay, and the highest of both these trails is the short climb up to the top of the hill for bird watching. Hikers have the option of joining the Mempening Trail or Silau Silau trail.

Mempening Trail; (3396 metres, 120 minutes) This is relatively easy trail, and there is little climbing unless hikers option to take detour to visit Bukit Tupai or Bukit Burung. Mempening means “oak” in Malay, a tree that is found in great abundance at this altitude. Hikers can break the journey by joining the Silau Silau Trail as it exits near the Visitors Centre or Extend it by joining the Liwagu Trail / Bundu Tuhan View Trail.

Liwagu Trail (5620 meters; 120-150 minutes) this is the longest trail around park headquarters. Liwagu is the name of the river in Dusun, and this trail follows the small river that runs through the park. The trail crosses several small mountain streams running into the river. Hiker are at times on a narrow ridge looking down at the river, and at times find themselves close to the riverbed; that is to say; there are several minor ascents and descents along the trail

Silau Silau Trail (3057 metres, 60-80 minutes) This trail is one of the easier trails in the park, and it also one of the most frequented by visitors. There are several entrances/exits to this trail, which gives hikers flexibility in choosing trail length and the time spent hiking. The trail follows a stream running through the park, and the moist and protected environment along the trail encourages luxuriant growth of mosses, ferns and orchids. By starting at the trailhead on the lower road, hikers have the option of joining the Kiau View Trail head (1.5km mark on Power Station Road) to complete a small circuit.

Mountain View Trail; (150 metres, 15 minutes) A little breathing to be released along this trail to reach the view shelter on the ridge top. Good weather condition will provide you a magnificent view of the mountain and the surrounding forest as well as the Kandamaian Waterfall. Singing birds of a distance golden-napped Barbet and the Crimson headed Partridge are natural sounds of the forest that could be heard breaking the silence in this area.

Here’s the map as a large jpg, and the text as a MS Word document (.doc). You should be able to print both out to fit your local printer paper.

Kinabalu NP Trails Descriptions

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

I walked all the Trails except Bukit Ular Trail. When I was there (June) the weather was clear in the mornings and cloud came in from the North West around 1pm.

The only beasties I saw were this bug and a (unpatterned silver-grey) snake sunning himself in the middle of the track on the Liwagu Trail.

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Here’s a couple of snaps from the trails.

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Timpohon Gate (at the top of the map) is where people who have paid to go to the summit get their tickets checked.

The Park puts on buses from the power station back down to the Reception office. These seem to be free of charge. They probably run the other way, too.

The entrance fee to the National Park is 15MYR for foreigners. The pay-booth is at the little roundabout to the left of the Reception Office.  The Kiau View Trail starts outside the National Park demarcation.

I’m told that there are quite often cancellations for summit-climb bookings, so they might be last-minute opportunities for those interested.

I also saw this map of the Summit trail.  (Edit: here’s a colour version of it).

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Cheap sleeps

Get off the big bus at the entrance to the park.  If you are on the main road looking at the park entrance (which is where buses will drop you), walk towards your left (towards KK). Both these places are about 500m from the park entrance.

J Residence
http://www.jresidence.com 012 869 6969
I didn’t stay there, from the road it looked a little expensive and so does the website, but….

. another 100m on:
is Bayu Kinabalu Lodge. 088-889693/ 013-8532145 / 014-8608688
20MYR dorms; 40MYR single; 80MYR double
It has the world’s most miserable reception staff, but it’s cheap

There are two reasonably priced restaurants within walking distance.

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Foot note:
The eagle-eyed might note that on the two pages of the map/text, there are two different versions of the length of the Mempening Trail. That’s how it is on the original. I’d guess that the “2516m” version is the accurate one.

I have left the quirky grammar as it was on the original – I don’t know what “this trail is seldom used either safe to walk” means!

If you see any errors on the map, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll keep the editable version and update it.
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Written July 2012     Last Updated July 2012

Kinabatangan river and Sukau on the cheap

The Kinabatangan river in South West Sabah, Malaysia is famous for spotting forest/jungle wildlife in its natural habitat.  Palm plantation encroachment forced local wildlife into the remaining strip of forest next to the river. Now there is a higher density of wildlife in this area.

River trips give a good vantage point allowing quiet & easy access to forest wildlife, so the Kinabatangan (river)/Sukau (town) area has become popular. Forest lodges accommodate tourist parties in a range of living-standards.

You can book packages of boat trips/guided forest treks/accommodation from various towns in Sabah, notably Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. Packages typically start at 400MYR (around 150USD) for basic lodge accommodation for a “3 days, 2 nights” package  (though, actually, the first and last days are mostly getting to/from the site, so it’s more like a 1 day, 2 nights package). Here are a couple of established package-tour operators. 1 2 3.

This all struck me as rather pricey, so I looked into doing the Kinabatangan on the cheap. This article is about what I discovered.

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Short version:
Like many things in Sabah, at first sight, it seems that the only way to go anywhere or do anything is via an organised tour.  But when you jump-in with both feet and go independent, it usually turns out that you can just rock-up somewhere and find lots of facilities (at much better prices than you thought).

Sleeps: In Sukau town, there are a couple of B&B places with dorms starting at 20MYR a night. Private double rooms start at about 50MYR. There are numerous homestays for 50MYR.

Tours: You can join up with parties of package-bookers on their lodge’s guided river trips for about 40MYR for a 2 hour trip. On foot, there doesn’t seem to be any guided trekking in Sukau town, but there is a track at the north end of town that takes you into some forest, so you can do your own ‘trek’.

Food: There is only one restaurant in the village. Depending where you are staying, it can be quite a hike to get to. Otherwise you are stuck with Lodge-prices for food, usually 20MYR and up. There are a couple of basic grocery stores in town, or you could bring your own snacks.

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Long version:

Getting there/away:


(All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions)

Sukau is about 40 miles/70km down a dead-end spur off highway 13.  Getting down this last bit of road is going to be the hardest part of the exercise – more about it later.

Long distance buses from Tawau/Semporna/Lahad Dhatu to Sandakan or Kota Kinabalu go past the junction with the Sukau spur road (which is known as “the junction”). The buses can let you off there.

There is also another junction about 30 miles up the road (known as “the checkpoint” – it’s a police checkpoint for illegal immigrants at the 32 mile marker from Sandakan). If you’re short of big buses, changing here can give you more options. For example, if you were coming from Sandakan, you could get an early big bus bound for KK (the red line on the map), ride it 32 miles to the checkpoint, then change to a KK-Semporna bus (green line on the map) and jump out at “the junction” to Sukau.

..but that still leaves us with the problem  of how to cover the 40 miles from the Sukau junction to Sukau.

My 2pm big bus from Semporna to Sandakan didn’t get to ‘the junction’ until 7pm. I had been intending to try and catch a public bus down that last stretch, but as it was already dark, I had no clue about accommodation and the driver of the big bus said that there would be no public transport down to Sukau at that time of day. I bottled-it and stayed on the big bus to Sandakan to figure it out the next day.

From Sandakan, there is a public minibus direct to Sukau once a day, leaving from downtown at 1pm. It costs 35MYR and takes about 3 hours. This is a good bet if you are coming from Sandakan, although you pretty-much use-up a whole day.


Sandakan town

Note that the Sukau minibus leaves from a little street a block West from the main minibus stand (see the Sandakan map).  Many drivers at the main minibus stand didn’t know of it’s existence, so give yourself time and be prepared to search a bit.

If you were hopping off a big bus at ‘the junction’, the Sandakan-Sukau minibus would be your most reliable bet for public transport for the last leg – wave it down as it goes past at about 2pm  (it’s white with the destinations written in black down the side).  I’m guessing it’d be 20MYR from the Sukau junction.

I think that there are probably other public (mini) buses going down the Sukau spur. I met some folks in Sukau who had arrived via three buses from Sepilok (which is 12 miles west of Sandakan). Their first was a minibus from Sepilok to the Checkpoint. Then a bus from the Checkpoint to the Junction. Then a minibus from the Junction to Sukau.  27 MYR all together. They arrived at around 2pm, so I guess that the last minibus was a different one from the Sandakan-Sukau minibus.

From Sandakan, some workers at the minibus station suggested an early start. Take a minibus from downtown to the out of town long-distance bus station (its 2 miles/4km West of Sandakan), then grab a 8am big bus to KK, change at the Checkpoint, then get, err,  something to the Junction and, err,  something else to Sukau.

Life was made all-round easier, when I found this about.com article  referencing a local guy who does daily Sandakan-Sukau trips in his 4×4. I called him up in the morning and he had a space that same day. He leaves late morning (11am on my day) and charges 40MYR per seat.  Mr Choy (019 536 1889). On further investigation, apparently there are three other guys doing a similar thing. One backpackers place in Sandakan were selling one of these at 45MYR a trip.

Getting back: Apparently there is a 6am public minibus from Sukau to Sandakan, leaving from the village square near the school. I had intended to take this but somehow got funnelled into taking Mr Choy’s car again. Not a problem.  From the Sukau end, he’s 20MYR to the Junction or 30MYR to the Checkpoint or 40MYR to Sandakan. 0630 am start.

Sukau itself.
Sukau is a long strip of road that closely follows the curve of the river for a few kilometers (many accounts say the road is 1km long, but really it’s more like 3km).

(clickable for a bigger version)

As you come in from the Junction, you arrive in the main village area first.
Your minibus will probably drop you off in the main village square near the school. Most of the action is on up the road straight ahead of you, but while we’re in town, let’s look at a few features here.

Just before you got to the main square, you passed a mosque on the right.   Then there is a turning off to the left, signposted to Longhouse Lodge, Greenview B&B, Barefoot Lodge and Sukau B&B.  This is a bit confusing, because those places are supposed to be on the road straight ahead.  What is going on here is that there is an unsealed gravel back-road that goes around the back of town and joins up with the main (riverside) road later on.

The main (riverside) road has suffered a landslide and vehicles can’t get through it. If you are taking private transport to a far-end lodge, then you will probably be taken down the gravel back road and by-pass the whole of town.  There is a homestay down that gravel road, too (see the map – (Homestay 4).

Ignoring that left turn to the backroad and continuing on towards the main square there is the Sukau Art Gallery on the left. I haven’t been in, but the people there seemed very friendly.  It’s a good landmark for the gravel-road turn-off anyway.

On the right, there is a little turnoff into a small square that has the orange wartel (phone and internet) building. (Some of the lodges also have wifi internet). The village restaurant is also down here (the pink building, behind the white car in the picture). It was closed the three times I went there.
There’s a grocery store next door to the restaurant.

Ignoring that turning to the restaurant/wartel and heading straight ahead again, you come to the main square.  On the right is a shiny office that has been set up to administrate and take bookings for the homestays in the area.  I’m told that there used to be about 8 staff working there, but, over time, many of them have retired and now there is only one left.  This means that you might well find the office closed. Not a problem, there are many homestays in town (four within sight of the office) and you can probably just approach them direct. Apparently homestays are 50MYR per night including meals.  I assume that’s per person.

Details on the door of the Homeshare office:
Bangunan Informasi Balai Kito Homestay  Kg GDW Sukau Kinbatangan
PO Box 3109 90734 Sandakan  Tel/fax (60) 89568 472
e: sukauhomestay@yahoo.com   http://www.sukauhomestay.com

There are a few homestays to the right of the office as you look at it’s front door.
 

Heading on past the school there’s another homestay which looked busier than the others.

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Pretty soon, you leave the village and are walking along a narrow tarmac-ed road with trees on both sides.  There’s another homestay on the left.

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After ten minutes walk, you’ll get to a new  B&B/lodge, called RD Nature B&B. Not that you’d know it, because at time of writing (July 2012) there was no signage up. This is a new venture (started Jan 2012) and IMO is the best deal in town.  They have (three-bed) dorms at 20MYR per person (shared toilets) and double private rooms (with bathroom) for 50MYR (per room). The prices are equal or better than old-faithful Sukau B&B at the end of the line and RD Nature B&B is about a quarter of the distance to walk from the village. The restaurant is on the right about 20m from the river and accommodation is on the left.

B&Bs vs Lodges:
Apparently, there are strict licencing regulations for running a guesthouse in Sabah, and there are specific differences between a B&B and a Lodge (for example, a Lodge has to have a full-time tour-guide on the staff). It is more difficult and expensive for an operator to get registered as a Lodge and, apparently, B&Bs aren’t allowed to print brochures or have a website.  RD Nature have aspirations to become a Lodge, but at this early stage of the business only qualify as a B&B. Hence no signage on the building, no website, etc. RB Nature B&B 010 941 8416  Mr Shabirin Arbe.

I stayed here and was impressed. The only downside was that meals were a little expensive at 15MYR. But servings were big, and you can always walk into the village to look for something cheaper.  Breakfast is included in the room-rates.  They don’t have a boat for tours, but you can join-in with boat tours at Greenview next door.

There’s a homestay (#2) across the street from RB Nature. I don’t know much about it, but the family looked very jolly strumming their guitars on the verandah.

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Continuing aloong the main road, there has been a mudslide under the road and it is no longer wide enough for cars. If you are driving/being driven North/West of here, you will be going on the gravel road around the back of town. The main road is OK to walk on, though.

There is a couple of hundred meters of empty space next (when I visited, it was jam-packed with stalls for the monthly market (Friday night to Saturday lunchtime one day a month only).

Next is the upmarket Sukau Greenview B&B. I think I read somewhere that this was 80MYR a night, but don’t quote me on that.  They have a restaurant next to the river and accommodation across the road.

Importantly, they have their own guides and boats and are happy to let non-guests join-in on their tours (40MYR for a 2 hour tour, provided there are at least 3 passengers on the boat; depart at 6am and 4pm). Sukau Greenview BnB 089 565 266;  013 869 6922

On up the road there are a few houses on the left and another homestay (#1), before you get to

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Sukau Longhouse Lodge. The restaurant and the accommodation are both next to the river, with good views out over it.

Accommodation looked to be all air-con with private toilets.  They had a couple of water buffalo tied up in the front yard.

There’s a long sweeping left hand curve in the road with trees on both sides before you get to a few more houses on the left then Barefoot Sukau Lodge. This has the restaurant on the right, next to the river and accommodation back across the road. This looked nice, and Lodgy-pricey. I have read that it’s the most expensive one in town.

Next on the left is the other end of the gravel back-road that looped round the back of town. Here’s the sign where it rejoins the main road.

Continuing on up the (main, riverside) road is Sukau Evergreen Lodge B&B.  This is on the left, away from the river.  It looks a little less fancy than those other Lodges and their riverside restaurants. Sukau Evergreen Lodge B&B 017 831 3832. From the name it seems confused about whether it is a Lodge or a B&B!

Then it is another few hundred metres to the last show in town – the long established Sukau B&B 089 565 979.   Doubles are 50MYR. There are 2-bed “dorms” for 25MYR per person.  The place looks pretty presentable.

Continuing on past Sukau B&B is the entrance (via a gate in an electrified wire fence) to a jungle ‘trek’.

There are a couple of reasonably well beaten tracks that run parallel to the river for a few hundred metres. After that, palm plantations and a tributary to the river cut off your path upstream.

If you want, you can turn left (West) into the forest itself and wander around some wild pigs tracks, but take a compass with you (or at least get a fix on the sun) as you won’t find your way back out otherwise.  I didn’t see any wild beasties in here, but I probably left it a bit too late (warm) in the day.
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What else?  Oh yes, the wildlife.

I did a couple of river trips with Sukau Greenview B&B, both down a quiet tributary, downstream from Sukau town.  We saw lots of proboscis monkeys, including two mating;

…some hornbills; raptors, a monitor lizard and, err is this a Oriental Darter (snake bird)? if so, then a Oriental Darter.

Some people report seeing pygmy elephants and orangutangs.
Not me.

Trekkingwise, there were macaques and wild pigs cleaning-up after the monthly market, other than that, nothing bigger than dragonflies.

Overall, if you are a total jungle-buff or if you are on your holiday of a lifetime, you will probably want to splash the cash on an full package that includes guided walking treks day and night.  But I met lots of people either with a more casual interest in the wildlife, or backpackers on tighter budgets who couldn’t justify the high-spend on package tours. To them, I say – have a day or two in Sukau, it’s pretty affordable and an enjoyable trip.  Hopefully this has helped a bit.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Miscellaneous left-over bits: Sandakan sleeps
I stayed in two backpackers in Sandakan

Sandakan Backpackers
1st Fl, Lot 108 Block HS11 Sandakan Harbour Square
6089-221104
http://www.sandakanbackpackers.com
30MYR 8 bed AC mixed dorm; 50MYR double rooms. Wifi.
This one was OK.

Harbourside Backbackers
Lot 43 1st Flr Block HS-4
Harbour Square Sandakan
tel/fax +6089 217072
e:info@harboursidebackpackers.com
http://www.harboursidebackpackers.com
22MYR 6 bed AC single-sex dorms, 50MYR doubles. Private lockers. Wifi.
Personally, I preferred this one.  The service was excellent.

There are plenty of higher-end sleeps in Sandakan. Several are marked on the Sandakan map.

There are plenty of very reasonably priced restaurants on the Sandakan seafront.

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Written: July 2012            Last Updated: July 2012

Koh Lipe updates

Koh Lipe is a beautiful small island, close to the Tarutao National Park in South West Thailand.

It has gorgeous, fine white sand; clear azure blue seas and good reefs with all kinds of pretty fish to look at.

Bet you wanna go there, don’t you? Yes, well, so does everybody else. That’s the thing…

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This is an update I wrote in November 2011 for the venerable Tezza and his excellent blog Tezzas Beaches and Islands. This is mostly just updates of what has changed on the island from 2009-11, so you should probably also read Tezzas original report to get the background. I have since updated this to include updates from other visits in May 2012 and December 2012. There is an extensive update on accommodation at Dec 2014 here.

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I like my desert-island paradises to be tranquil, undeveloped and naturalistic with a local ‘culture’ that is the same as the host country’s. Ten years ago, Ko Lipe was one of those places. But, like many islands on the West of Thailand, Ko Lipe is slowly undergoing an ‘evolution’ into Las Vegas.

2012/13 sees a run of new mid/high-end resorts on the North coast, inception of a tourist police outfit and the consumption of the last remaining space on Pattaya beachfront. 2011/12 was the year of the new International-Airport style ferry-terminal at the port in Pak Bara; the 60 inch widescreen TV in the cloisters of most restaurants; a stream of new 5000B per night resorts and the island’s first Sports Bar With Pool Table.


Does paradise really need one of these ?

If you think that such things are great and want to go on a holiday where you can eat burgers and pizzas before going back to your aircon room to watch the big match, you will love the way Ko Lipe is going. Personally, I don’t and you will find me bleating about the fact at various points through this report.

However, don’t let me put you off Koh Lipe too much. If you are looking for a beach holiday, Lipe is a beautiful island and compared with some holiday islands, the beaches are pretty empty, even in high season. There’s a lot of mid-range, tasteful accommodation within a minute’s walk of the beach (and 15 minutes walk of all the other beaches); there are plenty of good restaurants serving up the catch of the day at candle-lit wicker tables on the beach. There are no 7-11s*; no pumpin’ all-night hotspots; no flashing neon signs; no KSR-scammers or sex-tourism. Yet. But you should understand that Ko Lipe is now a holiday island. A few years ago, environmentalists were suggesting that you should boycott the island to cut-off the market demand that would lead to over-development. Well, we’re past that tipping-point now. The secret’s out of the bag, there’s money to be made and the developers know it. Ko Lipe is a holiday island, not a backpackers/explorer’s island.

(* – a 7-11 arrived in 2013)

Having said that, it isn’t a complete non-starter for backpackers. You can put on your walking shoes and find some pretty remote spots if you want to. About 70% of the island is raw rainforest. I even found some wild monkeys this trip. Just don’t expect to find a 200B hut on the beach, coz you won’t.

I’ve put a few tips at the end for cheapskates like me. Midrangers can find plenty of info at those websites that get paid to advertise hotels.

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Alrighty, enough opinion, on with the facts….

Pak Bara (the main departure point for ferries to Lipe) has just got a new, massive, National Park Headquarters building.

The park office for the Tarutao National Marine Park is something of a poor cousin to the main headquarters building and is off to the left. In here, you book accommodation if you want to stay on the National Park Islands of Koh Tarutao or Koh Adang (edit: actually, a year later in 2012, this building still wasn’t being used, but I would guess that it will soon commence use, as the old booking area was the last remaining part of old jetty that was being demolished).

Out the back from the National Park headquarters is the new big pier with the new Tourist Departures Hall, along with spots for various other maritime users.


(All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions)

There is a new big fast ferry service from Pak Bara to Tarutao/Lipe. Run by ‘Lipe Ferry Line’, they have a few big, enclosed 90 seater fast ferries.

They take about the same amount of time as the traditional 50-seater speedboats. The old speedboats are still in operation, I saw plenty at the Lipe end, but I didn’t see where in Pak Bara they were departing from.

TSKL_005_PakBara2012

There are now a few ATMs at the restaurants directly around the pier area of Pak Bara (there are no ATMs on any of the islands). There is also a 7-11 store at the pier in Pak Bara if you want to top-up your prepaid phone before you go.

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OK, to Lipe itself. Here’s a photo of the latest (Nov 2012) map..

Lipe
Clickable for bigger version

The official site for the map is here.

Starting in the South East corner (Sunrise Beach)…..

Serendipity is a new luxury boutique resort stretching up the hillside at the very southern end of Sunrise Beach.Very fancy, the sort of place you’d see in Sunday glossy magazines. I meant to take some intrusive photos of the rooms in Dec 2010, but by the time I got to it, all the places were filled up with Richard Bransons sipping their chilled French chardonnays on the verahdah. 2012/13 is Serendipity’s third year of operation and they have a web-site now, so you can see the pics and prices there.

Serendipity is good for people with money coming out of their ears. Christmas/New Years week was fully-booked up four months in advance.

The next point heading North-East along Sunrise beach is Viewpoint Resort, run by a local chao leh fella. This is/was my favourite affordable spot on Ko Lipe, but it’s being upgraded and price-realigned even as we speak. I wrote quite a bit about it in my December 2010 update for Tezza (also see Tezzas earlier reports on it dating from 1999). Since my last report, they have started redeveloping some of the old bamboos into concretes and adding another row of thatched woodens in the row behind them.

The current config, heading row-by-row up the hill, is :

1) Beach level – 4 midrange concretes squeezed in to overlook the two beachlets:

2) What used to be the front rows – concrete/woodens repainted in the beachside livery. There is one bamboo holding-on at the southern end of the row.

3) What used to be the row of cheapy bamboos. The bamboos on each end of the row are holding-on (edit at Dec 2012 – apparently, the bamboos are now officially a thing of the past – the roofs have fallen in and the doors have fallen off). and the two huts in the middle of the row are currently just suspended concrete floors, soon to become more midrangers:

4) Is a brand new row of mid-range woodens with thatched roofs. Offseason (Mar 2012) asking price was 500B :

5) Is a couple more of the new mid-ranged woodens dotted around some empty spaces further up the hill:

6) A single, bigger apartment-style cabana that’s been hidden up near the top of the hill for a couple of years.

Just North-East of Viewpoint, is a reggae bar (Dracular Bar, according to the map). In 2010/11 he was renting out tents at 150B. He wasn’t open yet in Oct 2011, but the tents had been left outside and had been decimated in the monsoon season. Not sure whether he will replace them, he never seemed to do much business before. (Edit: March 2012 – the tents are history, the family’s house has been partitioned into two – half of it was up for tourist rental, asking price 600B including food).

New in 2011/12, tucked in between the few chao leh huts and the long-established Idyllic resort is a single row of concrete huts, “Glory Shone Bungalows” (089 464 9293 [Neng]) (not marked on the map). If you want a delightful tropical ambulance in your accommodation, this isn’t where you’ll find it, but maybe the prices will reflect the basicness; and the first one is only 3m from the beach. Not yet open in late October 2011. (Edit: TT user DShan reported that the 2011/12 peak season asking price for Glory Shone Bungalows was 800B).

The little track that led from the ‘main road’ to Sunrise Beach, just North of Idyllic has been sold and for at least a year has been getting a massive, swanky new resort put on it. We now know this to be named ‘Anda Resort’.

More 7000B a night stuff. They have a website, where you can see photos and prices : http://www.andaresort.com

A troubling sign is that they have a jet-ski and a one-man speedboat parked out the front. Fortunately, I have never seen them being used.

A new development in Dec 2012 is that someone at/near Anda resort is renting out those hand-held propellor buggy things that you hold infront of you while snorkelling. They drag you around so you can avoid all that troublesome “swimming” business. (?what are they called, ‘Sea-scooters’?)

North of Anda Resort is a small strip of Chao Leh village (which will give you a route through to Walking Street if Anda Resort ends up blocking off the old access), then further still North is a newish restaurant and resort, Zanom. Zanom is one of a few places on Sunrise beach that now do the tables-on-the-beach dinner thing. Their accommodation has been quite low-end so far with two (fan) wooden huts right on the beach plus a few more set back behind the restaurant. Out of season (October) prices were 400-500B. I asked about December prices and they said they’d be 1200B for fan, 1800B for AC. Apparently, they are going to be working on higher-end developments in the future. E: zanom_sunrise@hotmail.com; 074-750494; Mobile – Palm 087 3813494 ; Maew 080 5408594

No changes further North on the long established and popular Castaway, Forra, etc. Forra Dive shop has started doing free-diving courses, if that’s your thing (that’s not diving-courses which don’t cost anything, but courses that qualify you to hold your breath and swim down to 10, 20, 30 metres deep). Quite why you would pay someone for a course and a qualification in this is beyond me, but there you go.

Gypsy Restaurant and resort has had good write ups in the past and I can attest to it being a good spot, I stayed there for a few days. The Balinese outdoor bathrooms are a blast. The Spanish management aren’t especially friendly (but not to the point where it’s a problem) but the Thai guy, Grom, is a superstar.

No changes further North until you get to a new resort between Tarutao Cabana and the main Chao Ley settlement – “Lipe Power Resort” (on the map as “Powerbeat Resort” – dead macho, either way). Mid-high end. 200B for breakfast. Swimming pool; bigscreen TV in the restaurant; all rooms are aircon. That sort of thing.

There are four front row-ers and about 30 more crammed in behind. In October (out of season), front rows were 1500B and the others were 1200B.

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666 – the guesthouse of the Beast…

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I’ve never properly explored the North coast before. It doesn’t really feature on the tourist maps – it’s mostly inaccessible and doesn’t have the long beaches of Pattaya and Sunrise. There are a couple of tracks leading down to the more ‘well-known’ beaches – Sunset Beach and Bila Beach, but, in fact, that whole coast is made up of lots of little beaches. There aren’t many tracks down from the road, but adventurers wanting to find totally isolated beaches can rock-hop most of the way down the coast from Mountain View, past Sunset Beach and on past Bila Beach. I snorkelled round from Mountain View to Pattaya one day, stopping off at these little beaches on the way. It took 6 hours, so is probably not advisable!Note that nobody cleans these beaches, so you will have to share them with 5 years worth of washed-up plastic debris.

As of December 2012, development has opened-up on this North coast with (at least) five new mid/high-end resorts springing up on the coast & on the track that surrounds Jack’s Jungle Resort.

Worthy of mention is a ? noname resort on the hillside immediately West of Mountain View. It looks like it has been here for a few years but there are no signposts for it and it doesn’t show up on any maps, so I’m guessing that it might be disproportionately cheaper than other places, just through lack of advertising. Want a “Mountain View Resort” view without the “Mountain View Resort” prices? This has got to be worth a look. You can get to it from a rough track that runs up between cheapy South Sea Resort (086-1986686) and Jungle Jacks, or you can walk East along what Tezza called “the Princess’ back beach” (this beach seems to be called Laem Hin beach). To do this, start at the chalets on the East side of the Sunset Government-Fisheries resort; head East along the beach, stepping over the Adang water pipe; past the reggae bar at the East end of that beach and up the rough steps. I’m sure I have seen a trip report somewhere mentioning this place (one of the huts has a verandah at a 20 degree incline, which would happily pitch you off the cliff if you stumble out of the hut half-asleep). The resort wasn’t yet open for the season when I was there in late October. It may not even be a going concern, but it’s probably worth investigating if you are there. (Edit: March 2012 – the resort is called Laem Jao/ Lam Jaw Resort (แหลมเจ้า). It’s written on each hut, but there is no signage for the resort itself. The resort is a going concern, they were asking 700B for front rows and 500B for back rowers).

Update at Dec 2012: Laem Jao is the start point for the new string of resorts along the North coast in 2012/13. In addition to the ten existing flashpacker bamboos, they are in the process of building another 10-ish concretes about 40m back from the top of the cliff.

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About another 50 metres back from that, the hillside has been cut into three flat terraces, each one housing a few sizable bamboos.

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I couldn’t see any signs of bathrooms or toilet-waste tanks for these, so I’m not sure what the deal with bathrooms will be. It would seem weird if they are going to have shared bathrooms for such big huts.

I’m a bit confused by the resort nomenclature here. The builder I spoke to seemed to be saying that the new blue roofs and the new bamboos are all part of the existing resort, Laem Jao. However, the latest Lipe map shows a new resort here called Cosy Cove resort, and no mention of Laem Jao. Maybe there’s a rebranding being planned.

You can access this resort from the beach. Access from the land is via the ragged track next to Seven Seas resort.

Westward from here are two new ‘clifftop’ resorts perched atop the deserted beach which runs between Laem Jao Resort and the Princess’s Summer Palace. This beach (mostly) doesn’t have a name – this is the one that Tezza called “the Princess’ back beach” and there is a name painted on the side of an old reggae bar there that says “Laem Hin Beach” (Rocky Point Beach).

The two new clifftop resorts here seem to have (tacitly) renamed this beach as “Sunset Beach”. That would be fine except that there is already a Sunset Beach around the headland to the West (where the old Porn Resort is). So, now, there are two beaches called Sunset Beach! Who will win the battle for the name? Who knows? To confuse things further, the one that has always been widely known as “Sunset Beach” is actually named Pra Mong Beach (หาดประมง) (Fishery Beach -the Government Fisheries Dept/resort is there).

The two new resorts (on “Leam Hin/new-Sunset” Beach) are called “Morgan Sunset Beach Resort” and “Lipe Sunset Beach Resort”.

Morgan Sunset Beach Resort currently (Dec 2012) has six luxurious clifftop wooden cabanas. These have fantastic views across to Adang and are decorated in a modern ‘boutique hotel’ style. Each one has AC & fan; flatscreen TV, hammocks in a ‘designer’ style and carpets. Carpets!

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The asking price in early December 2012 was 2000B. If you’re in this price-bracket and looking for quiet and good views, these are definitely worth checking-out. I imagine they could fetch much more than 2000B. The only downside is that the sleeping rooms are a bit on the small side. There is about 50cm at each side of the bed and a metre at the foot of it.

The resort has a communal sitting-out (?bar) area with fantastic views across to Adang.

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There is plenty of room for the addition of back-rowers further up the hill and this work was in the early stages when I visited.

The guy there was super-friendly and charming, but the lady was a bit cool.

There is access to/from the beach via a steep set of wooden stairs; and from the land via the track next to Seven Seas resort.

These cabanas were being marketed at the dive-equipment store on Walking Street, if you wanted to find out more without hiking out to the resort.

– – –

The next newie to the West is “Lipe Sunset Beach Resort”. They have are just finished building ten spacious fan bamboos with modern fittings and hot water showers.

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Asking price 2000B. This might be a little over-optimistic, given the more luxurious competition next door, but I guess that market-forces will decide the right price-points.

There is a concrete staircase down from the top of the ‘cliff’ to the beach, past a single beachside luxury wooden ‘house’, which is partitioned into two family units.

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I had a chat to the owner “Keng” – a friendly Thai guy who speaks good English and has high-hopes for his new venture. It’s worth checking out. The official Lipe Map shows a resort here called “LeLavadee Resort”. Perhaps that was a working-name for “Lipe Sunset Beach Resort”, I’m not sure.

Westward from here, is the aforementioned chalets on the Eastern face of Government Fisheries. I think they were originally built for the Princess’s staff. They are up for rent. In low season, they were asking 500B. I’d guess ~800B in shoulder season. Ask at the Government Fisheries Resort.

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There is a dirt road behind the two new resorts, running parallel to the coast. Set back inland from this road, behind Morgan Sunset Resort, is another new resort. When I passed, there were only two huts there, still under-construction, but with flash-packer/midrange looks.

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The owner said that he was planning on building ten of them on the spacious patch of land. It’s going to be called Smile Resort and is owned by the same people as Smile Restaurant on Walking Street. The huts are about 100m back from the cliffs and probably won’t have a sea-view, unless Morgan Sunset Beach Resort is planning to chop down a whole load of trees.

You can continue walking along the dirt road towards the West. You pass the land-entrance to Lipe Sunset Beach Resort on your right and a string of fancy wooden cabanas set back on the left. This is another new midrange resort – Blue Sky Resort.

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The dirt road makes a T-junction with a wider dirt road. This bigger road is the one of the existing ‘main’ roads out here. If you turn right from the T-junction, it leads to the Government Fisheries Resort. If you turn left, it goes past the front entrance to Blue Sky Resort then around the front of Jungle Jack’s, then continues back to South Seas Resort.

Does that make sense? Here’s a picture:

TSKL_084_KohLipeNorthMap_2012_13_

Blue Sky Resort seemed to be up and running already, but the people there were engrossed in conversation, so I didn’t stop. I guess you’d be taking 2000B+ for their fancy cabanas. Here’s a snap of the reception area, it’s opposite the little path that leads past the bakery and Sabaay Divers down to (old) Sunset beach.

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On (old) Sunset Beach (actually called Pra Mong beach). Porn Resort rents out tents at 200B. In my last report, I passed on a rumour that Porn Resort was being targetted for upscale development. No signs of that happening yet. (Edit at 2015 – it has now been knocked down).

(Update at Dec 2012: there are still no signs of that happening yet, although there is another new resort being built on the cliff-top at the West-end of Porn Resort).

That’s the end of new developments for a while. Back down at beach level on Porn Resort’s beach, it’s a tricky -rock hop around to the next little beachlet, where the staff from the newly expanded Sita resort hang out of an evening. You can delight in the sound of Sita’s generators throbbing away in the background.

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You can continue on rock hopping round to the next beach where lives Mia-Luna, a little driftwood bar

I don’t know much about this place, there is a sign there for camping and someone was living in a (western style) tent just back from the beach. It may be an option for cheapskates. They also have a sign up advertising full moon and half-moon parties. They have a German Facebook page and a German hosted website. Update at Dec 2012: There were a few people staying at this makeshift tent-based resort. They were offering tents from 150B-250B, depending on how long you stayed and how many people per tent. There is a little bar there with a somewhat ‘cool clubber’ vibe going on. I guess you might need to be the right kinda person to fit-in here.

Another rock-hop leads to Bila Beach and its small reggae bar. There’s a sorta backpacky vibe at the bar, well, there are a few travel books dotted around the place. Catch the sunset on their fancy deckchairs while you drink your 80B SMALL Chang and listen to the soundsystem playing Marley from the barman’s Macbook Pro.

Update at Dec 2012: Bila Beach have gone upmarket. They have built six flashpacker bamboo huts at the top of the cliff, asking price 1500B. The menu at the beachside shack restaurant shows meals recently price-hiked to 300B.

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Up the hill and to the West is the remote Bila Bungalows resort. I don’t know if they are connected to the beachside place, but the folk there had no knowledge of any dorms in the area.

Bila Bungalows have about 8 mid-rangy looking places up on the cliffside. I’m guessing about 700B in shoulder/high season.


Update at Dec 2012: There is a new Thai/Burmese restaurant here called “Forever” and the old Bila Bungalows bungalows are now owned by the restaurant. Asking price, 500B in first week December 2012.

At the western end of Bila Bungalows, a possible option for cheapskates is some never-finished high enders that look like they have been sitting there as derelict shells for about 3 years. I don’t know what the story is, but maybe the staff would be interested in offers if you were happy to do your ablutions elsewhere (no sanitation or running water) and sleep on the bare floor. There are locks on the doors, but security might still be an issue if you’re worried about thieves who could parkour it between balconies of adjacent huts. Fantastic views across to Adang and Rawi…
Update at Dec 2012: These have had a coat of paint, ceramic floor-tiles laid and the bathroom fixtures installed (but not connected), but they are are still otherwise derelict.

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They are actually part of a new midrange resort called Pitiusas Beach Resort. It has a fancy modern restaurant in operation; about 6 luxury wooden cabanas set-back up on the hillside and two wooden sunbed-decks near the beach. There is lots of artwork from Ibiza in the restaurant, so maybe there is a Spanish connection here.

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There was nobody at home when I passed by, but it looked like the wooden cabanas were open for business – I’m guessing somewhere around the 2000B mark. There is a lovely little beach here and Pitiusas is (currently) the last bit of development along the North coast, so it is as secluded a resort as you will find on Lipe. There is quite a bit of land-erosion from rainwater runoff at the back of the resort, but this neednt affect the beachside experience.

If you want to go further West from here, it’s rock hopping or swimming (the last 5 places I mentioned [Bila, Mia Luna, Sita Staffroom, Sunset; and Leam Hin Beach/Princess’s back beach] are all accessible from the road, as well as via sea-level rock-hopping). There are about another 5 little beachlets further West before you get to the cape at the North West. Because the beaches are inaccessible, they don’t get cleaned and, to be honest, unless you like exploring for the sake of it (I do), the difficulty of getting there and living with all the plastic flotsam probably outweigh the benefits of going. If you have a tent and want to try independent camping on the beach, this would be the place to do it.

The road that runs West from the back of Sunset Beach and past Sita, Mia Luna and Bila, continues on West and eventually turns into a dirt track. It has some nice-looking raw jungle on each side and good views of Adang and Rawi to the right.

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Off to the left, there is a steep track down to the northwest coast of Lipe where there’s a nice little secluded beachlet. Eventually the main westbound track just runs into a barbed wire fence and stops dead.

If you went as far as the barbed wire fence, now do a 180 degree turn and head back until you are level with Bila Bungalows again. You can then take a turn off to the right, which will lead you down to the back of Pattaya Song resort at the northwestern end of Pattaya beach.

Sanom beach along the bamboo walkway is still a lovely retreat. I notice that there was a sign up at the eastern end of Sanom beach offering a lease on the beach bar if anyone wants to join in on the goldrush.

No changes at Pattaya Song


(the view is still awesome)
(edit Dec 2012 – the Lipe map shows the cabanas on the side of the hill as being named “5 Brother Resort”. I think that they are still administrated out of Pattaya Song Resort).

..or Daya resort, but after that, Pattaya beach becomes a festival of high-end developments.

The lovely Bamboo Paradise Resort is no more – it has been knocked down and is being replaced with mid to high-end wooden bungalows. They are huge inside and look pretty tasteful, but it’s a shame to say goodbye to one of the last vestiges of low-end sleeps on Pattaya beach. The pizza restaurant’s bought-it as well – you’ll have to get your pizzas somewhere else. (Edit March 2012: the resort is now opened and called Sealon (ซีโลน) Beach Bungalows, asking 1200B-2000B in low season. The Pizza restarant has moved over to the Sunrise side, sharing a space with Mata Aree restaurant (below).

The luxury Sita Resort has ploughed-on up the mountainside to build a new set of high-end apartments at the top of the hill. This is the swathe of concrete and teracotta that you see when you arrive on the boat in Pattaya bay.


Camp Sita

I bet somone at Sita Inc. gave a great James Bond villan laugh on the day they got that “Swimming Pool 2” sign printed up !

Decisions, decisions………………Pool 1…………………………………or Pool 2 ?

They have also concreted the steep track that runs up the West side of Sita resort. Mostly used by Sita Resort’s golf carts ferrying their guests around the place, it joins up with the concreted road from Sunset Beach to Bila beach. It is quite a handy shortcut from Pattaya to Sunset.

Those pillars on the concrete wall protecting the Sita perimeter look very capable of holding a big set of gates to block the road off. Let’s hope they don’t get used that way.

Back on Pattaya Beach – heading southeast from Sita, past (one of the many) Forra diveshops, a new vast expanse of neatly mown lawn was being watered and tended within an inch of its life. Its function was a great mystery until I bumped into the owner, an American guy. It’s soon to be another high-end resort. 6000B cabanas, swimming pools, that sort of thing. The rooms are being built from luxury flatpacks, designed-in and shipped-from Bali and planned to be erected in Dec 2011/Jan 2012. If the lawn is anything to go by, it will be very beautiful. But 6000B a night.

(Update: March 2012 the bungalows are coming along, the resort didn’t have a name yet.

Update at December 2012: According to the map, this is called “Mali Resort”, although I didn’t see any signage up. The bungalows are open and look classy, a few at the rear were still under development. There is a lovely beach-side bar front-and-centre where the American owner charms the customers over a cocktail of an evening.

No change to the little strip of Pink Resort (two rows of concretes facing each other and running perpendicular to the beach). It’s labelled Pink Restaurant on the map, but I couldn’t see any signs of a restaurant. (Update at Dec 2012: I didn’t notice these, I think that they have been upgraded and subsumed into Mali Resort).

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In October, Lipe Resort’s JCB was scooping sand off the beach like it’s going out of fashion. Two new rows of concretes and a new row of, err, these…. All that concrete doesn’t grow on trees you know.


Second prize (after Sita) for biggest amount of upscale development on Pattaya beach goes to what used to be Hammam Resort, now Z-Touch resort (ซีทัช). Lots of new concrete aircons – some nice, some not so nice (check out that 1970s aluminium glazing chic on the second row centre piccy); a swimming pool with deck. Asking 3000B for a front rower in October!

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I wrote in my update last year that development continues on Lipe wherever there is a road with a space by it. But what do you do when you run out of roads? Why, you bulldoze a new one, of course!


Paving of paradise coming along nicely

Just to the East of Z-touch resort is a newly bulldozed track running back from Pattaya beach. They were just prepping it for concreting as I was leaving (ed: still tamped down gravel in Mar 2012). It runs up to a T-junction with another road running parallel to Pattaya Beach (behind the resorts) and ending near the power station and island ‘recycling’ area. The spur off Pattaya Beach is already known locally as ‘Walking Street 2’, although it is not expected to become like Walking St 1 (lots of small shops and restaurants) because the land on the empty northwestern side is being sold in a single block, so it will likely attract a big resort there. Update Dec 2012: There are huge concrete cabanas newly under construction on this plot.

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Longtail boats were delivering sods of grass, so it looks like Mali’s ‘suburban garden’ chic has caught on. Yay for reforestation!

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For now, the southeastern side of Walking Street 2 is mostly taken up with Greenview Resort and, further back, some more huts owned by the far-away Ricci Resort. But there’s dollars to be made, so wait and see what happens next.

When I passed, Greenview Resort were replacing their bamboo roofs with slate tiles and installing the obligatory big-screen TV, but was otherwise unchanged. Update Dec 2012: They were building a few new huts in the space out the back, but Greenview was generally unchanged.

The rock-bottom out-of-season price for anything except a tent on Lipe is 300B. Seaside Resort, next door, was advertising this rate in October 2011. Don’t expect to get this price in high season, but note that Seaside is probably going to be one of the cheapest places on Pattaya beach, so is worth checking out if you are on a budget.

I can’t remember how long it has been there, but Bu Nga resort is notable for its huge expanse of empty space out the front. Prices in October were 1800B, so it’s out of my budget, but the empty spaces out front meant that next door’s budget resort, Moonlight Resort, gets to look out over some open spaces, rather than into the front window of the hut across the way. You can see the Moonlight bungalows on the right hand side of the picture. I stayed at Moonlight for a few days and liked it. 300B for a spacious wooden bungalow with verandah seating and hammock wasn’t a bad deal for Lipe. Expect it to be about 600B in shoulder/peak season I’d guess. (Edit: March 2012 asking price 700B per night, discounted to 500B if you stay a week). Note that they have the three-quarter height bathroom walls that Lady T dislikes .

Further on southeast from this, nothing has changed much. Bundhaya Resort is putting four new faces, three new rows of concretes at the southeasternmost end, past the immigration office, but otherwise nothing much has changed.
Update Dec 2012: Bundhaya have now built-out all the remaining beach, right down to the Army base at the end. There is thatched-space-shippy looking beach-bar at the far eastern end.

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Meanwhile, inland, the main part of Walking Street hasn’t changed that much – there are some new retail lockups and an Italian restaurant on the spur opposite the Pharmacy. There are some inland resorts at the top of the hill (Bonus; Gypsy 2 and Serene) but they aren’t quite as cheap as they should be for the location. (Edit Jan 2012: TT user DShan reports NT Hut (opposite Bonus) as the cheapest spot on the island at 300B at Christmas 2011). Update Dec 2012: In the first week of December these small, simple bamboo huts with attached bathrooms were going for 450B. Given the location next to Walking Street and the lack of a cooling breeze, this ain’t much of a bargain, but they are amongst the cheapest on the island. They were all gone a week later.

Nearby Serene Resort were offering similar (slightly smaller) huts also for 450B in first week Dec 2012. They also had lockers in the reception area for safekeeping valuables (this is very rare on Lipe). A week later, the cheapest advertised room there was 600B. I’m not sure whether they price-hiked the cheapies, or they were just all taken by then.

Walking St 2012-13
Map of Walking Street

When you hit the crossroads southeast of the Pooh bar, there are quite a lot of changes – mostly new eateries on all the surrounding tracks. Going left (northeast) goes past the Ricci Resort and Restaurant (rather overpriced, but they have a water vending machine, so you can save on the waste by refilling your plastic bottles).

Then just around the corner up the hill is the recommended Mata Aree restaurant, run by the lovely ใจดี people, formerly of Coconut Resort’s kitchen. Check it out.

Further northeast is the much signposted OMG Sports Restaurant and Bar. Personally, I can’t think of anything worse than eating burgers at a place with wannabe-Hard Rock Café décor and constant sports on the TV, but to be fair to the place, a lot of work has gone into it and it’s going to be really popular. Nice of them to put it right across from the mosque like that.

Parallel to the Ricci-resort spur and closer to Sunrise Beach is a dirt track with lots of new local-style (seafood) restaurants. The hawking is a bit pushy as you walk down the street, but the food is pretty good and a bit cheaper than equivalent places on the main Walking Street.

Back on the concrete road southwest of Pooh’s bar, there are several new restaurants. There’s a very popular seafood place on the left. I forget what it’s called, but it is the one with the bamboo furniture creaking under the weight of the crowds of people packed in there. You’ve also got the Indian restaurant where nobody ever goes; the cornerplace that didn’t have any Thai food when I went in and an organic-y kind of place.

That road is getting a bit too crowded for my liking. It kind of exemplifies the over development that your’re going to see more and more of. How much more in-your-face could this place have got to the lovely old local-style restaurant across the road? Further on down the road, there are a bunch of new lockup retail outlets and new bars and restaurants either side of the road.

My Koh Lipe development award for 2011/12 goes to the new restaurant down this stretch of road that makes this promise.

Thank heavens for that, who would want to eat that Thai crap ?

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On a budget? Here’s my tips for places to save a baht or two.

Sleeps

I was last there in October when (1) lots of places are closed and (2) the places that are still open are charging green season (=wet season) cheapo prices. For that reason, this a ranked (ascending) list of (probable) prices, rather than the actual numbers. You can reckon on the cheapest back-row bamboo hut being about 400B a night from November to April, and more in Christmas/New Years weeks.

  • Tents from Porn resort, Sunset Beach (ed: ~200B, Dec 2012)
  • South Sea resort, middle of the island, between Mountain View Resort and Jacks Jungle, (tel: 086 198 6686[Sow]; 083 193 1042 [Fon]; 081 678 9903 [Pen])
  • Porn resort, Sunset Beach
  • Ossin/U-Sen Resort, set back from the South end of Sunrise Beach Beach (ed: asking 500B Dec 2012, 400B if you stay 3 nights)
  • Tarutao Cabanas, Sunrise Beach ed: 500B in early Dec 2012)
  • Viewpoint resort South Sunrise beach (ed: min 500B shoulder season)
  • Lipe Beach resort, North Sunrise beach
  • Gypsy Resort, Sunrise Beach (1000B at Christmas 2011)
  • Bonus/Gypsy2/Serene resorts (top of the hill on the main Walking Street). (ed: Gypsy 2: 800B early Dec 2012)
  • Moonlight Resort, Pattaya Beach (marked as Moonlight Bar on the map) (ed: 700B Oct 2012, 500B with a 3 night stay)
  • Café Lipe (next to Moonlight Resort)
  • Sea Side resort, Pattaya Beach
  • Handicraft/Reggae Bar/Blue Tribes Resort, South East Pattaya Beach

Eats:

  • Sticky rice from the Issan restaurant or a couple of street vendors on Walking Street 10B
  • Fried noodles or rice from the cheapo local-style restaurants on the short paved road that runs southeast from the junction near Pooh Bar to the back of Varin 2 resort 60B.
  • Fried rice from Tarutao Cabana on Sunrise Beach 70B
  • Rice + meat dishes from Roti Mina on Walking Street 80B
  • Fried rice or noodles everywhere else 80B

..and up and up from there…

Water:

  • 20 litre drum of water from the grocery store on the spur down to the back of Varin2 is 80B (plus 100B refundable deposit on the bottle)
  • Refills from the Reverse Osmosis water machine at Ricci resort. Cheaper for higher volumes. 500ml is 5B; 20l is 80B.
  • 750ml translucent plastic bottles of water 10B or a bag of 6 for 50B

Oh, by the way, I wrote some blah, blah, blah about the snorkelling at Koh Lipe here.

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Written: November 2011 Last updated: December 2012

Ko Libong, Trang

Ko Libong is a fairly large island a few km off the Trang coast in South West Thailand. It is mostly forest, but has a few small Muslim fishing towns around the coast.  It has a relaxed vibe and a few low to mid end falang resorts on the West coast. The island is known for having a population of Dugongs (sea cows), which you can take a boat trip to try and spot.

Ko Libong

(all images on this site are clickable for bigger versions)

These are some notes I wrote for the venerable Tezza, giving updates to his earlier article about Libong on his excellent blog Tezzas Beaches and Islands. You should probably read that one as well to get the full picture

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The most notable change on Ko Libong in 2011 is the arrival of a new budget resort, Libong Sunset Resort, just North of the long-established (and over priced) Ko Libong Nature Resort.

Libong Sunset Resort has two rows of  squeezy bamboos with shared bathroom asking for 350B (Feb 2011).  There are about 10 in total. The front row ones are about 20 metres from the beach. They are the length of a mattress and the width of a double mattress plus a door. Squeezy indeed. They have little bamboo verandas built-in.      There are super-clean toilets (western style) and showers are in the main restaurant block, 20-120 metres away, depending which hut you are in.

 

Libong Sunset Resort also has also a couple of nice wooden houses on stilts (asking 1000B) and a couple of concrete houses (1200B)  at the far end.  These have bathrooms inside and aircon. Apparently these were here in previous years but being used for private long-term lets.

Wooden and Concrete Huts in the background

Concretes

The food is really good and is a maybe a smidgen cheaper then all the other resorts (a low-end single plate dish is 50B).  Big Changs are a Libong-standard 70B.

Win Yoo, the manager, is very helpful and friendly young urban Thai guy who speaks perfect English. He likes to suntan on his inflatable li-lo; wander round in sarongs and play ‘chill-out’ music on the stereo in the restaurant.  In fact, there’s a bit of a laid-back Goa-ish vibe about the place when the music is on, but he’ll turn it off if you are looking like it’s not your thing.

Like everywhere, they can organise sight-seeing trips and boats to the other islands.

View from the Bamboos

As a certified cheapskate, it was a close-call between here and the back row A-frame cheapies at Libong beach resort.  If you value a sea-view and don’t mind a walk to the toilet, then this one could just win it. In any case, be sure to have a bite to eat at the restaurant.

Libong Nature Resort
I have to concur with most other posters here.  Just too expensive. As people have mentioned, if the duty manager is not around there is no English whasoever spoken here.  And 200B for the first hour, 100B for each subsequent hour to rent a pedal-cycle or kayak?  Purrlease.  Motorcycles are 300B a day elsewhere on Libong.

Libong Beach Resort
Spurred on by Tezza’s reports, the A-frame cheapies at the back were my target.  There seems to be a range of prices for these.  Some folks were paying 400 or 500B for the more northern ones.  Those ones have louvre glass windows, western style toilets (and aircon units on the outside, but I don’t think they were working).  The couple of A-frames at the southern end are cheaper and have solid wooden window shutters and squat toilets.  I got one of these for 300B (Feb 2011) without even trying.  They weren’t budging on that price, tho’.   Tezza’s already written these up, so I won’t duplicate that.  One thing worth noting is that the little lizards like to chew on the bamboo interior wall covering, which is pretty noisy in the night.  I caught one cheeky blighter right there on the bedside table in the middle of the night stealing the little bar of soap. It was easy enough to patch the hole in the wall he had made, which put a stop to that.

These get my thumbs up for best budget resort-sleeps in Libong. The indoor bathroom and spacious rooms bring these out ahead of Libong Sunset Resort.

Other notables at the Libong Beach Resort is that the restaurant still serves great food. Oneplate dishes are 60B-80B depending what meat you choose (the seafood is excellent) and main dishes start at 120B plus 20B for rice.  Big Changs are a Libong-standard 70B.  There is now a little internet hut attached to the restaurant (100B for an hour ?) , so you don’t need to walk down to Dugong to use theirs. There are plenty of  hammocks, swings, chairs, sunbeds etc on the edge of the beach on which you can sit and catch some rays or watch the sun go down over the sea. This (mostly) can’t be said for any other resorts on the West Coast and are very handy for us back-row types.

LBR upgraded Dive Shop

Motorbike rental is 300B a day.

Boat day-trips are a shade more expensive than at other resorts.

The fancy AC front rows were typically going for 800B in Late Feb 2011, though some people were getting them for a steal at 600B

La Dugong Resort
You walk through Libong Beach Resort to get to La Dugong, but, IMO, you should just stop at LBR.  La Dugong is kindof a poor cousin to LBR.  It’s a nice-enough place, just not quite as good as LBR.  Some people who stayed at Le Dugong said that the service was a bit half-hearted.

The food at Le Dugong was a little more expensive than LBR and they also came last in the big Chang test at 100B each.

For those wanting cheap rooms, there are still the two 400B-ers with bathroom outside, but these are easily beaten by the LBR back row A-frames with bathrooms or the Libong Sunset Resorts bamboos if you want a sea-view. La Dugong also rents-out tents at 200B.

Boat prices posted in La Dugong restaurant (which are pretty representative of boat prices everywhere on Libong):
Hat Yao  800B
Around Libong  1500
Dugong spotting trip 800
Sukorn 2200
Lau Liang 1500
Ta Kaeng 1700
Lau Liang & Ta Kaeng 2500
Kradan 1500
Muk 1500
Kradan-Muk Cave 2200
Ngai 2000
Muk-Chuak-Mah 3000
Rok 4500

Also posted up in  the restaurant were rental prices for :
Tents – 200B
Motorbike – all day 400B / half day (upto 5 hrs) 200B
Canoe – all day  300B / half day 200B

From the main beach on the West coast, you can rock-hop and swim around the headland to the North and explore about 5km of completely deserted beaches. There is a road set back about 200 m from the beach which you will occasionally have to revert to when you get to an insurmountable rocky headland.  There’s a great view of the Trang coast from the North East corner.

There is also a nice, naturalistic track down to the Southwest corner of the island (it starts from the beach, just South of the Libong Nature Resort) and calls in on some small rubber-farming communities and some tiny isolated bays.  There are lots of monitor lizards and monkeys around if you go looking for them. Some folk at our resort caught some squid by line-fishing off a rental-kayak

There’s cheap eats for around the 30B mark in the village between two sets of resorts.

Nice.

I always like to figure out what all those temping lumps on the horizon are.  Geek that I am, I took a compass and a map and came up with this. I’m sure that I could easily see Tarutao.

Click the image to see the bigger version. Then Click on that to see it at full size

South

North

On a clear day, I could see Adang and Rawi. According to a local dive master that pointy one at 161º is Tabaay (ทะบาย) , not sure about the flatty at 185º.  Any takers?

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Written May 2011.  Last updated October 2011

Khanom Beaches and Sichon Beaches

Khanom and Sichon are coastal towns between Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat in South East Thailand.  Khanom beaches are often mentioned on travel forums as a top-spot to find empty, naturalistic, beautiful beaches. Googling turns up words like ‘perfection’, and ‘paradise’.

I decided to check them out for myself.

This is a pretty long account of that motorcycle trip, giving lots of info and pictures from the 80ish km of coastline from near Don Sak in the North to Nakhon Si Thammarat in the South.

Route

All images are clickable for bigger versions.

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The main road between Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat (Nakhon) is the 401, a good quality, fast 2-3, lane highway about 10km inland.  Unfortunately, due to inconvenient things like rivers, the little coast roads don’t always join up with each other, so if you are exploring, you will be often be hopping between the coast roads and the inland 401.

I started from Nakhon in the South, so I headed up the 401 as far as the junction with the 4014 and then went the 18km East into Khanom town to start things off.

Here’s a map of Khanom I photographed and marked-up for legibiliy.  Ao is ‘bay’, Hat is ‘beach’ and Laem is ‘cape’ or ‘peninsula’.

Click the image to expand it

I actually visited places in a strange order, based on how the weather was looking and where I was staying. For the purposes of this report I’ll start at the Northernmost beaches and keep heading South.  So, from where the 4014 hits Khanom Town, lets take a left and go the 15km North to start at the top of the map at Laem Pratub (แหลมประทับ).

Laem Pratub has a small fishing village where you can hire a boat to visit the  small islands to the Northeast or go-looking for pink dolphins.

 

The village itself is pretty ordinary and the big bay (Ao Thong Nean, อ่าวท้องเนียน) that you pass on the way to the village is all mud flats. But the small (?unnamed) sandy bay at the northern end of the cape is isolated and rather pretty.

Next stop South, (well, East, really) is Ao Thong Nod (อ่าวท้องโหนด) – a real peach of a bay if you like the secluded, naturalistic thing. This is the sort of thing that everyone raves about.  The pictures speak for themselves, so I’ll let them.

(All pictures on this site are clickable for bigger versions. Pictures of beaches expand to very big pictures so viewers can get a good impression of what the places are actually like. You can click on the image here to open the bigger picture, then click (again) on that to zoom-in to the full sized version.

There are no eats or sleeps in Ao Thong Nod that I could find, just a few private houses set back 100m from the sand and some more on the other side of the track. Friendly locals, but note that no-one speaks English in any of these remote places.

Following that little beauty, I had high hopes for the next two bays South – Ao Kwang Pao (อ่าวแขวงเภา) and Ao Thong Ching (อ่าวท้องชิง). Unfortunately, someone had bulldozed a 3 meter chasm through the access road which had filled with water from the neighbouring paddy fields.  Not being into stunt jumping, I had to put those beaches aside for another day. The Tourism Authority of Thailand booklet says that there is accommodation and beachside restaurants in Ao Kwang Pao and that Thong Ching has accommodation and is quiet and isolated because it is enclosed on three sides by mountains. I bet it’s a lot quieter now that it is enclosed on the fourth side by a moat.

The map shows an Ao Thong Kruad (อ่าวท้องครวด) as being the next point South, but no means of getting to it.  Although I’m putting this near the beginning of the report,  I actually visited the area quite late in my trip and I didn’t have much time left for exploring unmarked tracks, so I skipped this one.

Heading on South gets you to the Northern end of Khanom Town, notably where the big river starts/ends.  There is a big fishing port where the road crosses the river and if the fancy takes you, you can watch the local market ladies haggle for the fish being poured off the big fishing boats.  It’s a fairly big-scale fishing/port operation and not particularly romantic in a picture-postcard way.

The mouth of the river is 5km East of the town road.  The map I had didn’t mention any beaches out there and there was no obvious signs of  a road out there, so I didn’t spend too much time looking for one. Some books I have seen since mention a HAT Paak Nam Khanom (หาดปากนํ้าขนอม) at the mouth of the river. By the looks of Gurgle earth there is a small beach and a gas storage plant out there.

Khanom town itself is a standard Thai small town. Just lots of people going about their daily business. It has your fresh markets, local restaurants, ATMs and 7-11 stores. It’s well away from all the tourist beaches and I don’t think they see much tourist traffic in town, especially farang.  Getting eats at half the price of the resorts is the main reason to spend time in town.

Over the river and on a few hundred meters takes you to a road off to the left taking you to the first of the well-known Khanom beaches – Hat Kho Khao (หาดคอเขา).  Kho Khao is a beautiful, long, empty beach.

We’re into the tourist area now and, unlike the previous beaches, the back of this one has lots of small restaurants, tourist related business and some hotels and resorts. A downside to this area is the transport terminal at the North end of it, where trucks load gravel onto boats via a industrial conveyor. It looks like it doesn’t operate very often, so it’s only the view that’s affected.

On the way from the town road to the beach, there are a few travel agents that do tours out to local attractions (waterfalls, fishing spots, treks, , etc.) and  rent-out fishing equipment and cars.

– – –

Just a note here on the main Khanom town beaches – Hat Kho Kao; Hat Na Dam and Hat Nai Plao.  This is where almost all the accommodation is, where you are most likely to find a few English-speakers and vehicles to rent.

The beaches are almost empty, but that’s not because the place is a tranquil, undeveloped wonderland, it’s because it’s only visited by Thai people and Thai people generally don’t like to sit on the beach.

There are numerous resorts up and down these beaches. Almost all of them mid-range or high-end. In the restaurants and resorts you’ll find hundreds of middle-class Thais in their best evening clothes being served overpriced food by staff wearing name badges and listening to house bands playing the Thai equivalent of Lionel Richie covers (or if they see a farang face, actual Lionel Richie covers).

If you’re thinking that because the beaches in the central, touristed part of Khanom are empty, then the whole place will be, then you’ll be surprised at how developed it is.  Any place that has monstrosities like these, ain’t paradise in my book.

If you’re the explorer type, get out of town quick or just find one of the few cheap places to stay and use it a base from which to strike out to the more northerly or southerly beaches.

If you’re the-stay-on-the-beach/pool type, then check out the resort websites to get a feel for the place. There’s a list of all the main accommodations at the bottom of the map, I’m sure they all have websites.

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The next beach South from Hat Kho Kao is  Hat Na Dam (หาดหน้าด่าม) and is the biggest one with the most (and, generally, the most expensive) accommodation.  Here’s a  snap of the beach about half way down, near the Golden Beach hotel.

I was invited to the hotel’s 10th ‘Ample Moon Party’.   Yuk – Lionel Richie covers and overpriced food & drink out in the hotel garden. Not my thing at all.  Here’s a picture of their pool, about 30m away from the sea.

Here’s another pic of Hat Na Dam, this time from the Southern End near Khanom Sunrise Resort, looking North.

The next beach South (Hat Nai Plao, หาดในเพลา) is the quietest of the big three. Unlike the previous two beaches, it is on a hillside and the resorts generally have sets of tasteful bungalows spread up and down the hillside, so there’s more rooms with seaviews. The accommodation is either directly on the beach side or more commonly, back across the road. There were signs up in the smaller places for 700B a room (September 2011).

Here’s the beach itself looking North and South. Pretty nice, huh?

                                              

Here’s a couple of mid-range sleeps in the South of Hat Nai Plao that aren’t on the tourist map listing.  Nai Plao Resort looks like an old Thai stalwart. It is on the beach and had rooms starting at 500B for fan singles.  There were some farang staying at Suchada Villa and there were signs up in English, so presumably this is a good option for English-speakers.

            

Nai Plao Bay Resort                                                                  Suchada Villa

At the South end of Hat Nai Plao, I found what seems to be the closest thing to budget accommodation that exists in the Khanom main-beach area.  Apart from tents, I don’t think you’ll find anything cheaper than Mother Backpacker Homestay which has a spotless 5 bed ac dorm for 300B a night. There’s a fridge, TV and heated shower.  There’s also a private (lockable) double room, which shares the bathroom with the dorm.  I think they also have regular double rooms in the roadside building for around 400B.  Service is friendly and the price includes breakfast. It’s well signposted along the main road.

   

           

Heading on South, there are a couple of expensive hilltop resorts and then the isolated 3km road on to the furthest beach South, Ao Thong Yee (อ่าวท้องหยี).  About halfway there, there’s another small, beautiful, isolated beach on the left.

It’s only marked at the road level by the big blue water tank of the family who have the house on the beach. The beach is a real naturalistic beauty, has lovely sunrises and some interesting clumps of big rocks.  The family (and their two dogs) seem friendly, but don’t speak English.  Watch out for the cow shit (this is natural, remember).  There are no services  here.

Continuing South for the last few kilometres of road takes you to another beautiful isolated beach, Ao Thong Yee. There is a family homestay there – “The End of the Road Homestay”. When I hear homestay, I think ‘box-room out the back by the dustbins and trying to block out the sound of little Kevin practicing the trombone’, but this is actually a 1200B boutique-hotel style double room with en-suite bathroom, set 30m up the hillside.  On the beach, there is a big, natural-wood restaurant (presumably catering mainly to day-trippers).  This is definitely worth a look if you want to get away from the main beaches and still be able to get food and drink without a 5 km hike.  For budgeteers, they will also rent you a tent for the beach for 200B. At such a lovely spot, this has got to be a good option, too.

Well, that’s about it for the Khanom beaches. The next beach down the coast is probably only about 5km away, but the coast road doesn’t connect to it, so you have to go back the 12km North into Khanom town, the 18km West back to route 401, the 30 km South to Sichon town, and then the 15km North East to reach it.

(edit: a kind fellow wrote to me in 2016 saying that there is now a rough,steep track down the coast that can be used by 4×4 vehicles or suicidal motorcyclists)

Just before we leave Khanom, a few general notes about it:

The sea.  It was a pretty murky (not dirty, just silt/sand). I didn’t try snorkelling, but I doubt there is much to see.  One of the tourist maps does have a drawing of snorkellers at Hat Nai Plao and Au Thong Yee, so maybe it is worth a try in better weather.

The Beaches. The main beaches in the tourist area are wide with a gentle slope. They generally have coconut palms and/or casuarina trees providing shade at the back, with maybe some ‘ivy’ growing down onto the back of the beach. The beaches are pretty clean with usually a tideline of a few twigs, coconut husks and other natural flotsam. The sand is pretty fine, white (“golden”) but note that this means ordinary-white, not Maldives-white.

Getting there:  There’s plenty of stuff on the internet about trains/buses from Bangkok/Surat Thani and motorbike taxis to your resort, but you’re really gonna need a motorbike or car around these parts.

Motorbike rentals: Generally it’s pretty difficult for farang to find motorbike rentals in South East Thailand, but it should be a little easier than normal in the tourist area of Khanom.

The shop here (on the left hand side of the road, about 200m South of the multicoloured Khanom Maroc Resort  and near the South end of  Hat Nai Plao) has a couple of bikes that they rent-out for 250B a day. Tel 081-6761609; 086-9479875.

Asking in garages in the town yielded 081-3003678  as a possible source (which might be a business called Pit Cheeng).  I’m guessing that this would be the cheapest, but that they might not speak much English.

Apparently the bar ‘One More Beer’ rents motorbikes out.

Probably a lot of resorts can assist with bike rentals.

Here’s a list of sleeps in the Khanom tourist beach area, roughly listed by location from North to South.  This is taken from a tourist map/poster, so it doesn’t include everything, probably just those places that paid to be listed.  I’ve added a few South Hat Nai Plao places at the bottom of the list.  Someone recommended Talkoo resort to me, but other than that, I have no insight into which are good or bad, I’m afraid.

Far North, Ao Kwang Pao:
Needa Rock Resort________08-1897-6748____________(Map G3)

Town Road, just South of the river
Sada Guest House________________________________(Map H6)

Hat Na Dam:
Alongkot resort___________0–7552-9119; 0-75322-664____I7
Siam Paradise Resort_______0-7552-71515; 08-4745-9823___I7
Jakarin Pool Villas_________08-3632-6669_____________I7
Talkoo Beach Resort________0-7552-8397; 0-75528-667___I8
Baan Civilize______________0-7552-8889; 08-1878-3950___I8
Golden Beach Hotel________0-7532-6688; 0-7532-6710____I8
Aava Resort & Spa_________0-7530-0310; 0-7530-0311____I9
Khanom Sunrise Resort_____0-75300-319______________I10

Hat Nai Plao:
Khanom Hill Resort________0-7530-0222; 08-1956-3101___I10
Nirvana Detox Healing ______0-7530-0255; 08-6906-3103__I10
Supar Royal Beach Hotel_____08-6881-1110_____________I10
Nai Plao Resort____________________________________I11
Suchada Villa_____________075-300213_______________I11
Mother Home Backpacker____08-9871-6599_____________I11
Green Lay Resort __________081-2703684; 075-528552____I11
Diamond Cliff Resort_______________________________I11
Racha Kiri Resort & Spa_____0-7552-7847; 08-6977-9111___I11
Thong Lee Homestay ______________________________I12

Thai script names: When I was annotating the map, Photoshop wouldn’t accept Thai script, so here’s a plaintext list of all the beach names in English and Thai in case you want to search for google images or something.  Hat is beach, Ao is bay, Laem is cape / peninsula. Most of the bays have beaches.

Ao Taled Yai (อ่าวเตล็ดใหญ่)
(Unnamed cape)
Ao Taled Noi (อ่าวเตล็ดน้อย)
Laem Pub Phaa (แหลมพ้บผ้า)
Ao  Lak Sor (อ่าวหลักซอ)
Laem Pratub (แหลมประทับ)
Ao Thong Nean (อ่าวท้องเนียน)
Ao Thong Nod (อ่าวท้องโหนด)
Ao Kwang Pao (อ่าวแขวงเภา)
Ao Thong Ching (อ่าวท้องชิง)
Ao Thong Kruad (อ่าวท้องครวด)
Paak Nam Khanom (ปากนํ้าขนอม)
Hat Kho Khao (หาดคอเขา)
Hat  Na Dam (หาดหน้าด่าม)
Hat Nai Plao (หาดในเพลา)
Hat Thong Yee (หาดท้องหยี)

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OK, back on the road – You’ve come down the 401 and taken the main turn-off into the centre of Sichon Town.  Sichon is quite sprawling and without having a map of it, I found it quite hard to get my bearings and get to the various beaches to the North and the South.  With the benefit of hindsight (and a map) it makes more sense, so here are a couple of maps with the routes North and South marked.

 

Route to Northern Beaches                                           …Southern

Let’s start by going as far North as we can on the coast road and work back southwards.

Leaving the 401 at the main turn-off into Sichon town, just follow that road East towards the centre of town. You’ll go under the town golden archway and merge in with another big street. Keep going until you hit a T-junction (marked B on the map) which has a sign in English and Thai pointing right to City Hall; Police Station; Hospital; Had Sichon and Had Hin Ham (these are the southern beaches) and left to Suratthani.  Go left for the Northern beaches.   Then you’ll see another two signs in English pointing right to get to Tong Yang Bay and Tong Yang Waterfall. Follow the road round the tight bend to the right and go for a few hundred meters until you reach a cross-roads.  Just before you reach it, there is another sign saying turn right to the Tong Yangs (straight ahead is signposted as the 4161 and to the left is the 4232). Do like the sign said and go right (onto the 4232 Eastbound) and keep going.  [Of course, a sensible person (with a map) would have simply left the 401 a junction further North to get straight onto the 4232, rather than going into town, but you’re going to have to deal with junction B later on, so you might as well get familar with it]. Once you are on the 4232 eastbound, keep going for about 15km until you run out of road.  You’ll go past various signs for beaches on the right and even be able to spot one from the road but we’ll look at those on the way back South.

When the tarmac road ahead of you runs out (and turns into an overgrown gravel track), make a right (there’s a sign for a boy scout camp) down a steep hill into what I think is a small National Park reserve – it’s certainly some kind of nature conservation project.  It leads down to the waterfall Nam Tok Tong Yang (นํ้าตกท้องยาง). Here’s a signpost showing the various facilities inside the ‘park’.

It looks like there are a couple of spots there for sleeping. From what I understand, you have to book ahead in Nakhon (not sure where, but they’d know at one of the TAT offices there). It was quiet when I was there and some of the rangers were happy to offer a mattress in one of the big ‘longhouses’ for 100B.  Budgeteers looking for cheap sleeps could try asking in here.

The waterfall itself was pretty tame in late September.

.
Alright, so now we’ve reached the end of the road, let’s turn around and head back South, the way we came….

The first noteworthy thing is a weird golf-hotel-thing on the right (the Marinan Golf Garden). It has got a driving range in a net and some Swiss-chalet style huts painted in shocking pink. Could be an option for sleeps if you are stuck.

There aren’t many options for sleeps around here and if you want to book something in North Sichon in advance, the main contender is the Khaoplyedum/ Khoplyedum Resort at the bottom of the hill and signposted Tong Yang Bay.  The name of the resort is the name of the mountain just to the South (เขาพลายดำ).

You enter the resort into a big, open space that looks like a Thai style public park.  There is a big, open dance-hall thing, a few shady sitting areas, huge toilet and changing-room blocks, neatly manicured bushes, colourful flowers and the biggest butterflies I’ve seen in a long time. There is also some kind of huge Jurassic Park style aviary.

The beach is pretty decent here and, of course, empty.

There’s a couple of restaurants (even a dedicated Issan restaurant, according to the sign), parking, and the various accommodation. Rooms are 700B for fan room, and 1300B and 1500B for AC (September 2011), apparently all year-round. There’s some English spoken there. Reservations 075-771111 Fax 075-771030 e: plydam@hotmail.com  There’s no website, but here are some snaps of the blurb at the Reception counter.

Below is some blurb from their pamphlet. It’s beyond my translation skills I’m afraid, but I think they are local activities that you can do, “dive into the waterfall” etc.

อ่าวท้องยาง
ท้องเิอ๋ย   ท้องยาง
อ่าวที่กวางฝูงสุดท้าย  มาให้เห็น
เขาพลายดำ ต้นนํ้าใส  ให้ร่มเย็น
ท้องเย็นเป็น  พัทยา  ของนคร ๆ
ป่าดิบชื้น รื่นร่มเงา  เขาคู่หาด
ธรรมชาติ น่าอนุรักษ์  ไว้พักผ่อน
เมืองสิชล  คนก้าวหน้า สถาพร
ทรัพยากร หลากหลาย มากมีเอย

When I was passing through, there was a sorngtiaw in the car park returning to Nakhon, about 75km away, so maybe there’s some hope for those needing public transport.

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Continuing South over the lower slopes of mountain Khao Plaay Dum, you get a nice view of the next set of beaches – Hat Bang Po(r) (หาดบางปอ),  Hat Tung Sai (หาดทุ่งใส) and Hat Suam Son (หาดสวนสน).

Close to where the road returns to ground level on the South side of the mountain, there’s a down-home style Thai restaurant on the left that has a small, very basic hut right on the beach. Krauw Bang Por (ครัวบางปอ)(Bang Por Kitchen) was closed when I was there, but come back later to get in touch with your inner backpacker and stay in this sweet old thing, just 20m from the sea.

The restaurant has a shared toilet/shower in a plain concrete block which is presumably used by the hut dwellers, too. The owner’s family-home is on-site, so you could try asking in there.  This is the last obvious accommodation until Sichon Town and is the only thing right on the beach anywhere, so give it a try. A few of the homes on the main road 300m back from the beach look like they might get a little enterprising when the season opens up, but I’m only guessing.

Here’s the view from the beach at kreuaw bang po.

A couple of hundred meters further South is a blue sign on the left for Hat Bang Po. This leads down a track to a small family restaurant and the beach is even more gorgeous here. This is what all that bum-numbing motorcycling was for.

Further on South is more of the same beach. It’s all the same long, long stretch of sand, but you can call-in on it where it’s called Hat Tung Sai or Hat Suan Son.

  Hat Tung Sai looking North

There are some shops on the road about 1 km away from the beach, but no facilities on the beach itself .

Continuing South, after the ‘Pier for Natural Study’ (still under construction in Sept 2011,  but is over an inland river, rather than out over the sea), the road veers away from the coast, and you just have to push on for the 10km back to Sichon Town.

To get to Sichon’s Southern beaches, you can’t just continue down the same road you have been on, you have to trace your path back into town, turning right at the crossroads and heading back to the T-junction with the sign for Police Station, Hospital etc (point B on the map).

This time, head East towards the town centre (Police Station, Hospital etc) and go the couple of km through town before following the signpost round to the right for Hat Hin Ngaam.

If you are coming fresh-in from the 401 and wanting to go to Sichon’s southern beaches, I suggest you also go down to the T-junction (B on the map) and turn right towards the Police Station, Hospital etc.  There is a slight short-cut (the dotted line on the map), but it’s a bit light on signposting around points D and E).

All the tourist accommodation in Sichon-south is in the area of the spit, just South of the river mouth. It’s a pleasant area with a municipal gardens nearby and some shrines overlooking the mouth of the river. There’s not much accomodation around for those on a budget, but there are 4 decent mid-range resorts within walking distance of each other and the beach. See the map showing where each one is.  The three main resorts (Prasarnsook; Sichon Cabana and Issara) are on Hat Sichon (หาดสิชล) which includes a 600m stretch of pretty decent sand.

Hat Sichon from the eastern end.

The first resort you get to is the big, fancy, expensive-looking Prasarnsook Villa resort (tel: 075 536 299, 075 355 560 1   info@prasarnsookresort.com ). It has everything you could ever want – aircon, satellite TV, refrigerators, wifi, hot showers, etc. There are signposts and posters for it all along the route from town.  See the website for details. http://www.prasarnsookresort.com

     

They gave me prices for 3 different sizes of rooms and also some low-season promo rates: 550B (500B promo); 1400B (1100B promo) and 2000B (1600B promo) (Sept 2011).

I notice that the brochure and website only mention the two bigger size rooms, (Superior and Deluxe). I’m not sure if the 500B is for the smaller A-frame huts or for one of the two creaky bamboo weave huts shamefully stuck out the back.

 

A-frames                                 Bamboos

Other notables:

  • The brochure says that they rent-out motorbikes and cars.
  • They have a resort jet-ski.
  • They say they have a private beach, but I think that this is just the raised area on the hotel grounds, slightly elevated off the main (public) beach.

You can enter the resort either from the road next to the sea or from the access-road a block further South. That access road is shared with next door’s Sichon Cabanas and is the thing that looks like a sunburnt chromosome on the Resorts Map.

Next door to the East (towards the spit) is Sichon Cabanas which has a narrow beachfront area with a surf-bar and a restaurant called Kruapoy. The accommodation is in a narrow strip perpendicular to the beach. The standard rooms are uninspiring but relatively cheap at 500B, and the English-speaking dude here (Palm – 089 1444447) seemed very willing to talk discounts. The bigger AC rooms away from the beach are 800B.  There’s a bit of a windsurfer vibe going on – they rent out beginner boards for 300B an hour and more advanced kit at higher rates.  There is a web site http://www.sichoncabana.com (which forwards to another site in the name of the restaurant). There are more prices and photos there.

.                                                  Standard                               Aircon

I didn’t ask about renting motorbikes here, but if anyone in Sichon would know where to get one (apart from at the resort next door), it will be Palm.

Next along the beach is a run of small-scale public restaurants for a couple of hundred metres until you get to the next resort, Issara..

Issara Resort probably appeals more to Thai tastes than it does to farangs.It has a big courtyard/carpark in the middle of the grounds and all the accommodation squeezed down one side, perpendicular to the beach.  They have decent rooms with AC and TV, but there is a slightly clinical, whitewashed feel about them. The restaurant is modern and breezy, or bubblegum, depending on your tastes.

The resort is owned by the Anavilla Resort group which also has a place (Tanoke) in Khanom. The  Issara (Sichon) Resort webpage is at  http://issarabeach.anavilla.com/ or the group page is http://www.anavilla.com

The rates told to me were: Big AC room 1200B with food, 1000B without; smaller AC room 800 with food; 600 without.  The fishing hamlet at the mouth of the river is walkable and you can get cheap eats there if you were opting out of the food. Of course, you can also eat at the restaurants in the nearby resorts.

Issara Resort: 075 536 536; mob 086 2666009

Big AC room                       Smaller AC room               Restaurant

The only other option in the area is on the South side of the spit, on what seems to be Hat Hin Ngaam (หาดหินงาม), and is called “Baan Hin Ngaam Bed and Breakfast”.  Probably the cheapest option in Sichon, they have bamboo cottages with bathrooms outside for 400B or ones with bathroom inside for 500B. There are also concrete AC huts for 800B.  Set in neatly manicured gardens, with a nice restaurant and shady sitting-out area, all the 500Baht-ers have a seaview, but the downside is that there is no sandy beach on this side.  That’s not too much of a problem as it’s only about a 200m walk across the neck of the spit to the sandy beach on the North side, but, of course, as a member of the general public you might not get all the umbrella privileges that the northerners do.

Pics are of the 500B bamboos.

The “beach”

It turns out that Baan Hin Ngaam B&B is also owned by the Anavilla Resort group and the people at the Issara Resort mentioned a price of 300B for a bamboo hut at Baan Hin Ngaam B&B rather than the 400B quoted at the actual place, so there’s some bargaining to be done here. Baan Hin Ngaam B&B  075 536 399   mob 086 2666009 (same mobile number as Issara).
I found some reviews of Sichon accommodation on this real-estate website, which also has some pretty-pictures of the area.

The spit sicks out a couple of hundred metres into the Gulf and has sand on the North side and rocks on the South.  The bulbous bit at the end isn’t officiallly open to the public – it is a Government Fisheries Research & Development facility. There are some shrimp-farm tanks there and an ugly concrete jetty on the South side.  The guys on the gate there are pretty friendly and will let you have a look around if you want, but there’s really not much to see.

Just as an aside, there are some inconsistencies in naming the beaches on the North and South sides of the spit, which could be confusing if researching it from afar. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand; the manager of the Prasarnsook Villa resort; a famous travel book and the local real-estate website, the sandy beach on the North side is called Hat Sichon (หาดสิชล) and is also known by locals as Hua Hin Sichon. This latter point is supported by the fact that the Issara Resort (which is on it) has “Hua Hin Sichon” in their logo.

These same parties say that the rocky “beach” on the South side is called Hat Hin Ngaam (หาดหินงาม). This is supported by the fact that the resort Baan Hin Ngaam B&B (=“Hin Ngaam Houses”) is on the rocky Southern side that is Hat Hin Ngaam (=“Hin Ngaam Beach”). You’d expect Hin Ngaam Houses to be on Hin Ngaam Beach, wouldn’t you? Good. They are. No problem so far.

The confusing bit is that the brochures and websites for the Prasarnsook Villa resort and the Sichon Cabanas give their addresses as being on Hat Hin Ngaam, when they are actually on the (much nicer) Hat Sichon.   Strange.    It doesn’t really matter (they are only 200m apart), but just understand that Prasarnsook; Sichon Cabanas and Issara are on the sandy northern side and Baan Hin Ngaam is on the rocky southern side.

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Heading South (actually, West, as we are on the spit), there is about 1 km of road through an affluent village with a rocky coastline before the sand starts again at Hat Piti (หาดปิติ). 

Hat Piti Resort is an ex-luxury resort that seems to have been on the receiving end of some seriously bad weather a couple of years ago and nobody has fixed it.  About a third of the rooms are up and running; there are people tending the lawns in the central courtyard area and there is a nice looking restaurant back near the South entrance, but everything else is a total wreck. I wouldn’t go near this place for at least a couple of years. Actually, that’s not true – it’s worth a poke around the wreckage, just for the archaeological interest.

Hat Piti Resort– not so bad:

Hat Piti Resort– sooooo bad:

 

 

There’s a road direct to Piti Beach from Sichon town (‘F’ on the map, signposted in the real world) if you wanted to skip the spit.

South from Piti, you’ve got a run of about 15km of completely untouristed raw beach. Unfortunately for you, for most of the length of it, there are dozens of shrimp-farming operations set back 20-100 metres from the beach.  About 70% of these are abandoned and/or derelict.  It looks like they were hit by the same weather that did for Hat Piti Resort. Generally, there’s a bit of a run-down vibe along the narrow coast road, characterised by a mix of lovely, naturalistic palm groves and casuarinsa trees dotted with decrepit concrete shells of buildings.

See the pics for the general vibe around this run of coast.

Some maps refer to this section of beach as Sao Phao, the name of a nearby hamlet.

ABOUT SHRIMP FARMING

It seems that shrimps are raised in two stages.  In the first stage, eggs (from cans, bought from Utah, USA!!) are hatched in small concrete pools of seawater. A couple of guys live on-site to keep the aeration bubblers running and to add food/fertilizer to the pools at regular intervals.

These little suckers are a couple of days old.

When the shrimps are big enough, they are transferred to big inshore seawater lakes. The lakes have a mechanical system of rotating paddles to aerate the water and give the little critters enough oxygen to breathe.

A few times a day, one of the staff  lifts up a basket that is  sitting on the bottom of the lake to check on his babies’ size and condition. Then he paddles a canoe around the lake throwing out scoops of food/fertilizer to develop the food-chain that they will feed off..

A famous travel book says that the process is environmentally unfriendly.  I assume that’s because the fertilizer-rich sea water ends up getting dumped back in the sea at the end of a batch.  Only a few of the farms have visible PVC pipes going down the beach into the sea, but I guess that others could have them buried under the sand or just use the mobile pumping equipment that it sitting around everywhere.

My chemical-industry Thai vocab isn’t all that great, but the ingredients list on this feed sack   says it is >32% protein. I wonder how much shrimp food you have to swim in before you start growing a shell….

There’s more about the industry and it’s economic and environmental  effects in this wikipedia article, if yer interested.

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Meanwhile, back on the sand – the long, long beach southbound has nice, soft sand, and is pretty clean. This is a good place to bring your tent if you really want a long, empty beach and don’t mind sharing the access road with the shrimp-farming industry.

Here are some snaps of the sand taken at various points down the beach.

2km South of Hat Piti          5km South                   7km  South

The coast road has the occasional village with a local-style restaurant feeding the shrimp farmers. There is also the occasional small community of Muslim sea-fishing families.  You  needn’t starve down here if you can talk a bit of street-food Thai. There is even a barber shop and a school at one point. But there ain’t no tourism or guesthouses. No sir.

After about 10km, the hatcheries/fisheries fade-out and are replaced by duck farms for a while. Then you have to skirt round a government construction project which is building a safewater harbour for a very friendly Muslim fishing village. The coast road stops when it runs into the wide entrance to the harbour, but you can double-back for 400m and go inland around the harbour.

For the next couple of km, the scenery becomes more lush.  It’s pretty beautiful down here and you can take in rustic scenes like this:

After this, the coast road loops back West to join the 401 next to the school at Wat Sa Mo Son San Nip Baat (โรงเรียนวัดสโมสรสันนิบาต), 54km North of Nakhon.

You head another km or two South on the 401 before you spot this sign for Beach Walk (homestay). This is a ‘resort’ of beautiful, boutique hotel style rooms on/near a gorgeous beach in the middle of nowhere. There is a stylish bar and restaurant on the beach, above which is a lone luxury room, with a balcony and a roof terrace that looks out over the palm trees and the Gulf of Thailand. It has aircon, TV and wifi.

Back on the other side of the road (away from the beach) are the reception/lounge area, a few bamboo huts suspended over a saltwater lake, a couple of concrete bungalows and a four-person house.

The resort is highly stylish and looks like it has been beamed there from somewhere in Italy or France. It really has to be seen to be believed. If you’ve got a few bucks and are looking for a remote spot with mod-cons, then this is the place for you!  One slight drawback is that on the lake side of the road, there is a shrimp-farm lake next door, but it doesn’t seem especially disruptive. If you are in the beach room, you wouldn’t even know it was there.

The luxury beachside room is 2500B and the lakeside concretes 1500B. I’m not sure about the over-lake bamboos, probably about 1200B.

Beach Walk Homestay:
Address: 91/1 Moo 1 Klay,  Tha Sala, Nakhon Sri Thammarat 80160
Day manager – Mr Sittichai Saehao  (speaks reasonable English): Tel +47 95 13 31 52; Mob 087 1079080; E: sit.07@hotmail.com
Big Boss – Mr Pinis (Nic) Karapakdee; Mob 086 2779962; E: Pinis_2008@hotmail.com

They don’t have a website, but do have a facebook page.  It’s in Thai, but I’m sure they would repond to any English posts or questions.

Location:
The turn-off from the main 401 road is pretty-clearly marked by the blue road sign pictured above (when heading South, anyway) and is about 50km North of Nakhon Si Thammarat.  The town on the opposite (West) side of that crossroads is Ban Tha Hin (สี่เยกบ้านหิน).

It’s about 5km from the 401 to the coast and when you hit the coast road, its signposted to go right for 300m to Beach Walk Homestay.

Towns that are just North of Beach Walk Homestay:  บ้าน เขาทราย (Ban Khai Saay); บ้านปากดวด (Ban Paak Duat); Town just South of it: บ้าน พังปริง (Ban Fang Pring).

I’m not entirely sure that I marked it in the right place on my trip routemap, so use this map in preference – its the tiny map off the back of their business card. Apparently, the town immediately East of the crossroads at the 401 is called Baan Tha Hin (and is probably signposted บ้านท่าหิน or บ.ท่าหิน) and the beach itself is called Hat Son Orn (หาดสนอ่อน). The Thai spelling of ‘Beach Walk Homestay’ (taken from the roadsign) is บีช วอล์ค โฮมสเตย์ . This is just a transliteration of the English pronounciation and doesn’t mean anything in Thai – local people will be confused by it unless they are familiar with the actual resort.

Honestly, I have no vested interest in this place.  It’s just so remarkable, considering its location.

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The road continues South from here, but goes inland a bit.  It’s a nice breezy ride down a good road carved through thick coconut forests. There were a couple of frowny muslim villages on the way.

Getting short on time, I left the ‘coast’ road near Wat Bansan and rejoined the 401 for a sprint down to Tha Sala.

There’s a big river mouth bisecting Tha Sala and there are two access roads from the 401, one going on the North side of the river, and the other on the South. I took the North side.  It’s about 5km from the 401 to the coast. It seems you pass right through and out of Tha Sala and into anther hamlet before you get to the coast.  There are some pleasant-looking local restaurants on the riverbanks on the way down to the coast and even one that has a signpost advertising alcohol!  The muslim coastal village-folk were all hanging out on the village sports field down near the beach.  The beach itself seems to have been left to the goats to feed on.  Goats and boats – nice photo op.

After returning to the the 401 and doing another few km South, you come across a spot definitely worth checking out – Hat Sai Kaew (หาดทรายแก้ว). It’s signposted on the 401 and is, as usual, a few km off the main road. There are plenty of interesting ways to get lost down the side roads here, but I eventually found this little resort with a big restaurant and a hanging-out area next to a really nice beach. They were asking 300B for the bamboo hut on the left of the picture, but I’m sure you could get it for less if you tried.  I’m told that there are a few resorts in this area.  Worth exploring if you are in Nakhon.

 

Back to the 401 and more trucking South. The last beach signposted before the road moves waaay inland is Hat Sa Bua (หาดสระบัว). There are a couple of local restaurants down near the beach, but not that near – there is about 200m of swampy mud-flats to sink in before you can get to the actual beach. Bring your hot air balloon or jetpack to get to the sea, or just give this one a miss.

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That’s about it really – after this, the 401 well and truly departs from the coast and its on to journey’s-end in Nakhon.

Route

Route summary.

Conclusions from the trip?  Is it worth you coming here on holiday? – well I suppose that depends on who you are and how far you are coming from, really.  There are many beautiful, raw beaches, most without any facilities at all, so the place is good for explorers and campers. Expect to have to speak Thai almost everywhere.  There are one or two beautiful, luxurious accommodations in otherwise isolated spots, which has got to appeal to the Rest & Relaxation-ers. But yer average Westerners booking a long-haul two week vacation in the main Khanom beach area because its ‘isolated’ and ‘perfect’ are going to be surprised by the amount of development there and by just how different the Thai idea of a beach holiday is from a Western one.

If you’re prepared to dive-in, grab a motorbike and exercise your Thai language muscles, then you’ll have a good time.

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Finally, a point of logistics on renting a motorcycle in Nakhon Si Thammarat – it ostensibly can’t be done.  Both tourist offices (City Hall and the one on the Park next to the City Shrine)  declared it impossible, and will just point you towards the two car rental places listed in the TAT brochure:

Mr Samret Kongpet, Muang Tai Tour Nakhon, 08 1978 6332 or 0 7534 2768; http://www.nakhonmongtaicarrent.com
Ms Nipaporn, Nakhon Si Car Rent, 08 1090 0900  or 07576 5318; http://www.nakhonsicarrent.com

..but for a motorbike – no chance!

I was lucky to come across an English expat schoolteacher, who also runs a small bar in the evenings and rents out a couple of small bikes (125cc scooters/stepthroughs) for under 200B a day, plus discounts for weekly & monthly rentals.

Contact Sean at the Brittania Inn  081 273 0855, located at 102/52-53 Soi San Yao Vachon & Krob Krua  (ซอยศาลเยาวชนและครอบครัว) (=”Soi 17″ off the big Phattanakarn-Kjukhwang Road (map).  Look out for the big sign for Smile Mansion on the corner of these two roads  (on the left if you heading South)  or just ask a motorcycle taxi to take you to Smile Mansion. The Brittania Inn is on the left, another 200m past Smile Mansion. It’s not that obvious – look at the house numbers as you walk down the road.

junction of “soi 17”

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I hope that this has been useful to you.  Feel free to post comments or further info in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

Madonna puts a 4 storey concrete tower-block in her back garden, and suddenly EVERYONE’S gotta have one…

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Written October 2011 . Last updated August 2016