9D Adventure @ Phuket
"Day 1-2 : Phuket Marathon + ATV"
Upon arrival @ Phuket International Airport at 1.25pm on Silkair MI754, I shoot off to Laguna Beach Resort @ Bangtao Beach to pick up my race kit for the Phuket Marathon. Breezed through the registration and collected my number tag, ChampionChip and T-shirt. A check to test my ChampionChip showed my name and catergory (10km Female under 39 years old) -- all set for the run :)
After checking in to our hotel, Baumanburi @ Patong Beach, I had a carbo-loading session at Fantasea's buffet dinner with my colleagues/friends. Somehow, the food tasted too sweet to my liking (maybe too commercialized – to cater to the masses). It was past 11pm when we returned to the hotel after the show @ Fantasea. As I was caught in the heavy rain @ Fantasea, I took a quick shower and changed into my running attire -- so that I could spring out of bed the next morning, all ready to run :)
Pls refer to my homepage for details of the run @ http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/80c35/#TL
After the marathon, I zoomed back to my hotel for a quick shower before joining my colleagues/friends for half-day Phuket city tour – basically the usual rush-rush 30min stop at Rang Hill, Wat Chalong Temple (The Century's Old Monastery), Shellcraft & Cashew Nuts & Gems Factory and ended with a Buffet lunch at Oishi. After lunch, a group of us gathered to try ATV(THB 800/30min). It was fun riding through puddles of mud in the fields and forests – luckily, boots were provided else our shoes would be covered with mud! Some exciting moments when we had to “roll” down/rampd up long steep hills. We returned back to our hotel to wash up and head out for dinner along Patong Beach. Due to my persistence cough, I had to stay away from spicy food and had soup noodle for dinner – well, still have the rest of the week to try all the spicy, hot and sour Thai food :)
"Day 3 : Snorkelling @ Phi Phi Islands"
While some of my colleagues went for the Phi Phi Island Tour by big boat (operated by “Paradise Cruise”), a few of us opt for speedboat to Phi Phi Islands – take half the time and make more stops for snorkeling. Our tour (operated by “Tour By U”) started off from the prestigious Boat Lagoon Marina pier. Before we board the boat, motion sickness pill was offered to those who may get sea sick. As the boat left the marina, our guide gave us a brief introduction on the activities for the day and safety instructions. Northeast monsoon was early this year and the sea was rather choppy. Soon, some of the participants onboard began to “change face” – literally face became pale white and started to vomit (plastic bags were passed around). Being a sailor and sitting at the rear of the boat, I felt alright – juz flow with the boat’s motion and look far. Unfortunately, we were unable to stop at Maya Bay as the sea was too choppy. Instead, we made a stop at Loh Sama Bay(on the other side of Phi Phi Ley) where the water was calm and those who were sea-sick would feel better after a swim. Next, we moved on to see the Viking Cave and made a quick stop at Monkey Beach for a quick photo shoot. We snorkeled at 2 spots (lost track of the names, should be around Phi Phi Don) and saw many colorful fish and corals. Lunch was at Phi Phi Natural Resort – quite a good spread of Thai food. Motion sickness pill was passed around again. A group of Spainards cut short their tour as some of them were seriously sea-sick – we dropped them off at a nearby pier and proceed to Khai Island. It was an exciting(scary to some) experience – we were caught in a storm and felt like we were on a LONG roller coaster ride on the rough sea. The guides quickly layout all the lifevests in the center of the boat – hmm, not enough for everyone on board. After what felt like never-ending bumping on the sea, we finally reached Khai Island – everyone heaved a sign of relief and glad that the storm was over. We had 1-2 hours to explore the vicinity. With the strong current, we grabbed a pair of flippers to assist in our swim. The water was murky and visibility was poor. K and I decided to swim further out to check out the corals – had a hard time following K as I could hardly see beyond 2-3 metres and had to stick out my head above water to spot his snorkel tube. We had to abort our plan to do a round island swim as we were against current and may not make it back to the boat in time. Back at the beach, we had some fruits and walked over to the other side of the island. Well, visibility was not much better but we spotted larger fish. Soon, it was time to go back. Everyone braced ourselves for a rough ride back to the Boat Lagoon – surprisingly, it was a short ride and not bad at all (maybe we had experience the worst). We were warmly welcome back with a cold drink and towel. After biding goodbye to our guides, we boarded the van to transfer us to our hotel.
P.S. Feedback from my colleagues who went on the big boat was the ride was rough, the food served during lunch was not tasty and they only make one stop for snorkeling. Well, the price difference is more than double ( THB2300 for speedboat and THB1000 for big boat) and hence the difference in quality.
Upon recommendation from VirtualTourist, we went for dinner at Sabai Sabai, a local Thai restaurant located along Patong Beach and near MacDonalds. We ordered the beef salad, pork satay, mixed veggie, tom yum goong and Singha beer. Food was tasty and the total bill was only THB690 for 4 pax!
"Day 4 : Kayaking @ Phang Nga Bay"
Promptly picked up at 8.30am and headed for Ao Por Pier on the Northeast of the island. Warmly welcome by the paddle guides who lead us to the boat. It was a double-deck boat – lower deck for cooking and toilets and upper deck for guests. The design of the boat is very thoughtful – benches are by side with a long table at the centre where guests could put the bags underneath and on top of the table, there are holes to hold cups and bottles (prevent from spilling due to boat’s movement). In case of rain, there is transparent plastic sheet to cover the sides of the boat. As the boat set off for Phang Nga Bay, the lead guide, Ta San, brief us on the itinerary for the day. We would be visiting caves & hidden lagoons and split into 2 groups – self paddle and guided. Out of the 20 guests, only 4 of us were self paddling (3 American college girls and me). Our guide, Frut, introduced himself to us and gave us each a waterproof bag(for keeping our camera dry) and torch(to be used inside the caves). The rest of the group consisted of 10 Australian ladies who were on vacation to celebrate 50th birthday for one of the ladies, a family of 4 and a middle-aged couple. A guide was assigned to 2pax and they would enjoy the scenery in luxury – the guide would paddle for them! We made 3 stops at Koh Panak, Koh Hong and Koh Talu. When the tide was low, we would parked our kayaks by the beach and explored the caves on foot. When we emerged from the cave at the other end, it seemed we entered into another world – green emerald lagoon with sun shining through and spotted tiny crabs and mud skippers running on the sand bed. We paddled into one of the caves – really fun when kayaks were bumping into one another and we could hardly see where we were going in the darkness! Lunch was served after the 2nd stop -- a sumptuous spread of freshly cooked food layout on the table in the centre (stir-fry beef, mixed veggie, deep-fried prawn & fish, chicken with cashew nuts, coconut soup with meat and fruits). After fueled by a good lunch, we reached our last stop and explored the limestone formation along the coastline. Our escort boat anchored close to shore and we had a splashing good time with games such as getting as many people onto a single kayak! On the way back, we were treated to a local Thai dessert made of glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaf – yummy! Everyone was soaking in to the fun & sun and too soon, we were back to shore. Parted happily with the paddle guides and head back to our hotels. SeaCanoe lives up to its name and reputation for ensuring the guests have good and safe fun! Thanks to Ta San and his team for being such wonderful guides.
"Day 5 : Mountain Biking @ Phuket"
It was a very wet morning – must have been raining since last night. At 8.30am, Piti & Buddy arrived to pick me up for the bike tour. Their other customers had called up to cancel the tour and it would be a private tour for me. Piti spoke very good English and we chose to start with the more technical Southern trails for some thrill and excitement. The start point was at a reservoir and miraculously, the rain stopped and the air was nice and cool! After adjusting the Mongoose bike(mid range MTB) to fit me and testing the gears & brakes, we were ready to go. Buddy would be with the support vehicle while Piti would ride with me on the trails. We warmed up with a short ride on-road along the brim of the reservoir. Then the off-road adventure began – the trails were so muddy from the rain! The trails ranged from rocky & wide path to narrow single lane and lined with tall trees or in dense forest. Good combination of up and down slopes – either rode or push the bike. We made a stop at a local Thai house – Piti chatted with the owner who was working on lemongrass (one of the ingredients for tom yam soup). After a particularly tough, long, steep uphill, we were rewarded with great view of Chalong – no other mode of transport will bring you up here. After spending a good hour off-road, I was glad to be riding on road again. We attempted to ride up to the Roof of Phuket – wow, my lungs nearly burst from gasping for breath up the never-ending uphill! Due to lack of time, we did a U-turn back after catching a glimpse of the peak. Next, we rode on local roads, passing through local villages and made a pit-stop at Wat Chalong. I opt to go for a coastal ride and we head toward the Kao Kaad view point for a panoramic view of the southern part of Phuket. While taking a break during our ascent, the weather took a change and we saw a storm approaching. I was hopping it would be a passing shower and waited under a shelther – at the same time, enjoying mangosteen, rambutan and coconut. Well, it rained like elephants & pigs (not cats & dogs – literally meant heavy downpour) and we decided to call it a day as the rain would continue for the rest of the day. We packed up the bikes and head back to my hotel. Haiz, it was the monsoon season… Anyway, many thanks to Piti and Buddy for taking great care of me to ensure my comfort and safety during this unqiue adventure trip.
"Day 6 : Rafting @ Phang Nga - Part 1"
Rafting is a great activity for the monsoon season – more enjoyable with more rain. Audy and Sam, my guides from Anda Adventure, arrived at 7.45am and we set off for Phang Nga – picked up 4 more pax(Russians who can barely speak/understand English) along the way. Along the way, we made a stop at Monkey Cave. There were stalls that sell peanuts and banana for feeding the monkeys. Beware that the monkeys will snatch the whole bunch of banana instead of the piece that one offers to them – they are smart, if not smarter, than humans! We reached the Anda Adventure Camp around 10am and welcomed by the guides who ushered us to have a drink (hot tea/coffee or bottled water). After changing into our swim wear and putting our bags in the lockers provided, the guides helped us to put on the lifevest and helmet. We then boarded the truck that transfered the people and the rafts to the start point. Audy gave a briefing on the rafting techniques and code words (forward, backward, bumpy bumpy, stop etc.) and we had a practice drill before going into the river. While waiting for the dams to open, rafts(from different rafting companies) lined the river bank and we were splashing water at one another – prelude to get wet. At 11am, the water level rose and covered the rocks. Soon the rafts were floating down the river. Our paddle guides were doing most of the work – especially when there was a drop ahead, we would hold on to the center rope, keep our paddles to the side of the boat and screamed! Gulped down mouthful of water – yum, tasted sweet! In between rapids, we jumped into the river for a swim – wow, the current was strong and felt like we may be washed down the river. Photographers and videocamera crews were at strategic location to capture us in action. We did the 5km route (class 2-3 rapids) and it was over too soon. The truck was waiting for us at the end point and sent us back to the camp. Lunch was ready and we tucked in hungrily (coconut milk cream soup with chicken, deep-fried chicken drum stick, stir-fry veggie with oyster sauce, fish with sweet & sour sauce, Thai omelette, rice, pineapple & watermelon). Audy provided music entertainment by playing the guitar for us. The afternoon program was to relax at the waterfalls. First stop was at the lower waterfall where we swam. Next, we trekked up to the higher waterfall where a crowd had gathered. Some dare-devils were jumping into the water from 2-3m rock wall – I gave that a try, too! Tried the water massage by standing underneath the falling water – shiok! While the Russians returned back to their hotels in Phuket, I check-in to a bunglow at Phang Nga River Resort – a short drive away from the camp (I was the only guest staying overnite). The rustic bunglow can sleep 3 pax and the toilet/shower is open-air. The balcony overlooks the river and it is very soothing to hear the sound of flowing water. Before dinner, my guides (Audy, Sam, Jiruyat and Man) drove me to tour Phang Nga Town. We visited a local temple and climbed up to the top to have a bird’s eyeview of the town and surrounding mountains. On our way back, we stopped by a night market and bought some finger food for happy hour later. Dinner was ready and Audy & Sam joined me (tom yam goong, stir-fry green veggie, omelette and chicken). After dinner, the paddle guides gathered for happy hour – playing guitar, singing(English & Thai songs) and drinking beer & Thai Whisky( I had a taste – very sweet!). Party was over ard 9pm and they sent me back to my bunglow – in case I need anything during the nite, Audy and Sam were staying at a nearby bunglow.
"Day 6 : Rafting @ Phang Nga - Part 2"
Woke up at 7am the next morning, washed up and packed my stuff. We reached the camp at 7.30am and I was treated to part 1 of my breakfast – local Thai snacks (yummy). We then set off in the truck for my elephant ride. We did a short hike to the start point and saw my elephant making his way to “report” for work. Here, the elephants roam freely and will turn up for work when the guides signal(via sound device) to them. Kinda of amazing to see such huge animal maneuver up and down the slopes in the jungle. Felt like I would slide off the chair. At the last part of the ride, the guide let me sit on the elephant’s neck – wow, very sturdy & tough but he had very coarse hair! This was my first try at elephant ride – interesting experience. We continued with a jungle walk before going back to the camp for part 2 of my breakfast (boy, they sure feed their guests well). Soon, the second batch of guests arrived – from Japan, Belgium, Eygpt etc. In my raft were 2 Japanese and 2 Belgians -- we did the 9km route (class 2-4 rapids) where the first 5km was the same as the day before. Weather was great – clear blue sky with sun smiling! While the rest had the same lunch as what I had the day before, mine was special menu (thanks to Audy for his thoughtfulness) – clear veggie soup, sweet n sour fish, seafood fried rice, and spicy pork. After lunch, the rest went for a dip at the waterfalls. I went for a special motorcycle tour with Audy to see the village. Very fun as we sped down the road, passing by the dam, school, local houses, river and mountains. Managed to take a quick shower before the rest came back from the waterfall. All of us had a good laugh at the video clip taken during our rafting – each DVD was sold @ THB1000. Time to go back to Phuket and we bade goodbye to our friendly guides. Thumbs up for the good service and the guides ensure our safety while we had fun!
"Day 8 : Rockclimbing @ Koh Panyee"
Already met Aon during my kayak trip – he was one of the paddle guides and loved to crack jokes. At 8am, we set off for Dan pier at Phang Nga. An Australian, Mark, joined us for the trip – he is helping Aon with GeckoExtreme’s website. Rid & Tik were waiting for us at the pier – they are climbing guides from Railay @ Krabi. We loaded our climbing gears onto the awaiting long-tail boat and set off for Koh Panyee – this island is a floating Muslim fishing village and a favourite with tourist as the seafood lunch stop for James Bond Island tour. The owners of Panyee Bunglow run a restaurant at the far end of the island and recently built a few rooms for guests who are staying overnite. After a quick drink, we put on our climbing gears and began our ascent. As it was high tide, we had to walk through the local houses to get to the start of the trek. Adventure began before we start climbing – the trek was no mean feat and the guides had to set up safety ropes to “hoist” us up (else we would tumble down to the village below, arghhh). While Rid was leading up the rope for our first climb, a storm came in swiftly. We had to take shelter underneath a rain cover with 4 pax holding each corner. During the 2-hour wait, we shared numerous jokes, filling the surrounding with our laughter! When the rain reduced to a drizzle, Aon asked whether we wanna continue climbing – of course, I had come all the way here! Wow, with the slippery wall (wet from the rain), the 6a route became tougher (6b) and I was using lots more of my arms. Thanks to the tips from the guides, I managed to huff and puff my way to the top. Turning around, I saw a beautiful view of the surrounding islands – well worth all my perspiration! Mark went up next but almost reached the top. Hunger finally kicked in and we trekked down to the village – the original plan was to rappel! It was 3pm by the time we reached Panyee Bunglow and our lunch was ready (very thoughtful of Aon to order the food earlier in the morning). A very fresh, tasty and yummy spread – spicy soup, veggie with dip, chilli crab, fried fish, black pepper squid, prawn, omelette and fruits. Not surprisingly, everything was “cleaned” out by us. After lunch, we took a walk through the village and Aon brought us to see another climb site – wow, looked very exciting but a pity we didn’t have time due to the delay of our morning climb. On our way back to the pier, we made a stop at Khao Khian(Mountain of writings) where you can find the ancient depictions of animals and sea life. We parted with Rid & Tik and we chatted happily on the return journey to Phuket. Aon is very fun & personable and with his climb guides, they ensure safety as the top priority – I can assure you will be in safe hands climbing with them and it will certainly be a fun trip!
"Day 9 : Horse Riding @ Rawai Beach"
I chartered a car to send me to/fro Shanti Lodge and Phuket Riding Club – THB200 per way (abt 3km). Arrived at the club ard 7.40am – a group of riders were getting ready, trying on the helmets and rubber boots. Annie, the daughter of the owner, welcomed me and informed me 11 of us would be riding together (9 beginner & 2 intermediate). My horse was Maxi – felt comfortable on her after walking round the paddock. A guide(on foot) was assigned to each beginner rider. We began the ride with a walk through the neighbourhood, passing by houses and forestry path. The horses are tamed and not at all startled by vehicles(motorcycles & cars). At times, the horse would break into a trot and the guides had to hold on to the horse else the beginners would have a bumpy ride! Soon, we reached Rawai beach – I was looking forward to long stretches of sandy beach. Due to the high tide, the horses would be partly submerged in water (that’s where the rubber boots come in – keep your shoes dry!). One of the guides informed me that I could break away from the group and canter down the beach. The other intermediate rider was also eager to go faster and his horse started to canter. Mine followed suit and we were racing along the beach. Wow, first time I rode so fast and the feeling was GREAT! Cantering on Maxi was a breeze – juz sit back, relax and let her run! Some horses would stop when they touched water but Maxi would juz continue and splatter water all over – COOL! On the way back, we even had to cross the road on horseback! Truly a great experience – that’s the thrill and joy of horse riding! Definitely recommend fellow riders to ride here! Myself, for sure, will go back for another ride when I next visit Phuket!
With that, my fun-filled adventure trip was over!
For more pictures(especially food), pls check out my online album phuket_jun06 @ http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/yeodoreen2