Friday, May 29, 2009

Wats, Weddings, & What Nots

Phuket has many wonderful temples. We recently went to Wat Chalum located in the middle of the island. On the day we visited, it was the start of the Inthakin Festival which is held for 5 days to help invoke prosperity and rain upon the land. Before entering the temple we bought and offering of a white flower, incense, and two candles. You light the candles first (I said a prayer for two people), and then the incense, bow to buddha/temple, and then enter the temple to give buddha the flower. It's all about giving what you shall receive in the end- prosperity and hopefully a good rainy season. Thai people depend on the rain for their yearly supply of water.



















After praying and bowing 3x (three if a very important number in thai buddhism) we noticed a couple that just got married and were taking their wedding photos!















Following the awesome experience at the Wat, we headed to Big Buddha located on top of Phuket's highest mountain. At the base of the statue (see below) is a small temple and luck would have it, there was a service being held while we were there. The speaker would read a line and then everyone repeats it...this went on for 10 minutes and then the monks started to chant and pray- pretty cool. After it was over we decided to start walking up to see the statue and this monk came over and offered me a banana. Monks only eat if the townspeople feed them- so every morning they walk the streets for offerings or the townspeople stop by the temple to give them rice and fruit. So, here's this monk giving me his meal for the day! Obviously I declined, but the lovely jesture kept a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Enjoy the pix.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

UPGRADE

Upgrade
Definition: verb. A traveler's favorite word to hear.

We arrived @ The Royal Phuket Yacht Club Resort via Mercedes and were told that were being Upgraded to a large suite because our fav. travel agent told them we were honeymooners.
We were welcomed with cold towels drenched in jasmine and given a glass of lemongrass tea. As they opened the doors to our room we found a flower strewn bed with fresh jasmine placed in handfuls around the room. Two large doors opened into the living and dining area equipped with a dvd and cd player. Last, but not least, the adjacent veranda overlooked the ocean and was outfitted with 2 lounge chairs and a table to relax in private.

The hotel is located on Nai Harn Beach the south end of the island, far away from the main strip of Patong Beach, which is nice.



















The hotel boasts 3 delicious restaurants- 2 Thai/International and 1 Italian. The pool is constantly being attended to, perfect for relaxing under an umbrella with a cold pina :)
The spa was a bit expensive for Thai standards, but we received 2 complimentary spa packages, also finagled by our fav. travel agent, so we took advantage.

Phuket, compared to the areas we visited, is very expensive..I'm talkin NY prices people. Instead of a $4 lunch we are paying for $20 lunches pp.! It's a lovely resort island but sometimes we felt like we could have been in Miami or any other resort town, not Thailand. There wasn't anything particularly Thai about it. Patong Beach is interesting- a strip of shops, bars and restaurants. Here you can find an irish bar, pizza place and a starbucks. But all in all, it's nice to have a little bit of luxury!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Birthday To The Hughes Triplets!

Have a wonderful 1st birthday boys! We will be thinking of you!!

xoxo Aunt Mimi & Uncle Jason

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Phuket Island

We hit Phuket and are staying @ The Royal Phuket Yaht Club. Looks like we left the backpacker scene behind for the week! Not bad...not bad at all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Spider Man Is Having Me For Dinner Tonight*

Oh the little buggers! Not only have we met some interesting people in Thailand, but we've also met a ton of interesting bugs. We've got mosquitos, spiders, frogs, birds, snails (my fav), red ants, geckos everywhere, and wasps....just to name a few. The spiders are quite big and they jump! They def. feast on us in the night. Yesterday I was watching a Thai news program & they showed several different tarantulas and then flashed to a man laying in a hospital bed. I'm going to assume he was bit by these monstrous creatures! The news program went on to show what spiders to avoid- I'll be avoiding all of them, thank you.
Last night Jay and I proved to ourselves we were complete wimps. A large (I'd say the size of the ENTIRE hand) spider dropped from a wall as we were walking out of our hotel room. Instead of walking or running by, we stood frozen. I started whispering to Jay- as if the spider could hear yes- that we must turn around slowly and head back into our room. Then (picture an Indiana Jones scene) Jay opened his water bottle and splashed the spider. It then ran up the wall never to be seen again. Yes, my hero!

*Cheers to those who got the Cure reference!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Friends, Food, & Fun

We had several great dinners here on Koh Tao, a nice change from Haad Rin. We met our Irish friends (Podge aka: Mcnulty, Kevin aka: Danny Zuko, Kenny aka: Ladies Man, and Ron aka: Sneaky bucket) for dinner and drinks one night. It was nice to catch up with the boys sans buckets! A lucky or love bucket are these small sand buckets bars fill with alcohol. Since they include 5 straws, they are meant to be shared...but rarely are (see full moon party pix). Because Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are so close, you end up having drinks with friends you've met on the other island. So we got to see a lot of people we had met in Koh Phangan.

Our hotel is located on the south side of the island and most of the better restaurants are located on Sairee beach, NW of us. Dinners have been great here. 1st night in Koh Tao we had a filet with blue cheese for $10 and it was delicious! Wine is a bit expensive- $6-8/glass but the beer is only $1-2! Last night we had dinner @ Papas Tapas for $20, a bit expensive for this area, but well worth it. The mosquitos are the only ones eating better than we are!

Since the island is fairly new, only parts of it have been developed...I'd say 25-30%. So, much of the island has yet to be 'touched'. I imagine in another 10 years this won't be the case. Jay already decided he wants to live here for a bit! Which brings me to the interesting foreign community (expats in some cases). You see a ton of guys/girls from all over the world working here- bartending, waiter, or heading scuba shops. Some have been here for 8+ years, but most are just here for the year. They found paradise and don't want to leave. It's not a bad life, especially if you are young and don't have a career yet. We met a Burmese man who left his country several years ago to come work in Thailand. I think he was actually Mong. Anyway he was saying that because he has darker skin than most Thais, and even most in his country, he is treated like a 3rd class citizen. He is not allowed to buy a house, can only rent and his rent is a lot higher than his Thai friends. But, he says it's better than being in Burma, which is run by a dictator. We spent the evening talking to him and when we got up to leave, he gave Jay a big, heartfelt hug as if to say "Take me with you".

This is just one of the many stories and people we've met thus far. Everyone is so friendly, they want to share their stories and want to hear about yours. It's so refreshing!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Koh Phangan Beach Review: Haad Mae Haad

Haad Mae Haad is an out of the way beach on the north west tip of Ko Pha Ngan. Literally at the end of the main road, it sits on a 2 mile stretch of beach. A couple of no frills Thai/Western restaurants, inexpensive bungalows and shady palm trees run up the shore line.

Compared to other beaches on the island, the water is only waist deep, and you have to watch out for the small to large rocks scattered on the sea bed which actually helps protect the beach. Unfortunately, many of Koh Phangan's beaches are littered with disregarded gas cans and gas spills from the long tail boats. In Haad Mae Haad the shallow, rocky coast prevent the boats from coming anywhere close to the shore. The result is a pristine white sandy beach with crystal clear water.

The beach also has it's own island, Koh Ma. With only 10 acres, you can only reach the island at low tide via a sand bar that connects it to the mainland. While there are currently no accomodations on the island, it is for sale for an easy US$ 7.5 mil. A small price for your own private Koh (island in thai).

There doesn't seem to be much of a nightlife on Haad Mae Haad but that's part of it's charm - a great place to disappear for a couple of days... or weeks.




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On Our Way!

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Quiet in Koh Tao

Koh Tao, an island north of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, has been excellent- just what the doctor ordered. We got here last Monday, which was a gorgeous day. We are staying in one of the few mid-high range boutique hotels here- Chintikari Hotel. It's located on the 'quiet' side of the island and on top of a very steep hill. Our bungalow (see pix below) sits on stilts in the middle of a jungle like atmosphere, overlooking the ocean. We have a gorgeous balcony and can sit outside and listen and watch all of the interesting birds and reptiles in the area. We are literally in the trees and we see exotic birds all the time. We also have free internet and a beautiful pool area.

We went kayaking the other day and got to see some really cool coral. We also took a snorkeling trip around the entire island and saw some amazing fish. Koh Tao is known for it's scuba and coral. Unfortunately, Jay got heat stroke and was dizzy and cold. And trust me it is so hot here you do nothing but sweat all day and night. He's ok now though, just has a red back.

Koh Phangan Restaurant Review: Buddy's Bakery

Buddys in Haad Rin serves up the best breakfast for your buck. You can order an American Breakfast that includes: sausage, bacon, 2 eggs, 2 pieces of toast, coffee/tea, and juice for only $4.50. The banana pancakes are amazing also. Pancakes in Thailand are more like crepes and you can get them filled with fruit or chocolate. Wash this all down with a coconut pineapple smoothie and you are set for the morning!

If you get a chance to stop by, you will not regret it. The owner is a lovely man, understands little english, but is super nice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Koh Phangan Hotel Review: Drop In Resort & Spa

Drop In and..Drop OUT.




















Located on the famed Haad Rin Beach on Koh Phangan, Drop In Resort & Spa is supposedly a four start hotel. I beg to differ. There are only 3 four start hotels on the island and this is definetely not one of them. And don't be fooled by the name, 'Resort' is a stretch. However if you are going just to drink and sleep, then it's fine.

When we arrived we were surprised to see the hotel was under construction. It is broken up into two section- the old section and the new section. We were shown to our rooms in the old section which was a large suite with an attached living room area. At 1st glance, it seemed lovely but as we started to unpack and walk around I realized why they called it the 'old section'. The furniture is dated, there were little ants on the bed (which I came to realize are everywhere in Thailand), and the carpet had burn holes in it. These were the least of my issues- there was a gaping hole in the door, big enough to house our Thai insect friends- the mosquito, cockroach, and gecko. We immediately went to the front desk and I explained that we were actually booked into the 'new section' but I wanted to see a room first. He showed us a room by the pool which was really small with old furniture and the walls were COVERED with mosquitos. Obviously we declined the room but asked if someone could fix our door. For the next 2 days, someone would come by, look at the door and leave. Finally Paul, the manager, got some workers to fix it.

All of that wasn't what made us laugh though, it was the techno music they played from 10am-11pm EVERY day. They had 2 cds which they played over and over. Jay and I know the words to every song.

Bottom Line:
The Drop In is fine for big groups and for those looking just to crash, def. not for honemooners!

Stay If: You are paying a cheap rate, are in a group, need a place near the full moon party.
Don't Stay If: You are looking for a quiet vacation, expect service with a smile.

Koh Ma

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Full Moon Party

Was a blast! I went home early, believe it or not, and Jay stayed up to see the sun come up with the boys.

Here are some pix.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where Did My Haad Rin Go?

Set in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, there lived a little, relatively untouched, island named Koh Phangan. Many have flocked to this island for the past 20 years to celebrate the Full Moon with dancing and partying on the southern tip- Haad Rin Beach. Five years ago, pre-tsunami, I came here to see what it was all about. I found myself entranced with this small find, that was a 'diamond in the rough'. The Drop In Hotel had recently opened and roads were being built to connect travelers from the north to the south ends of the island. There were several scuba shops, a small supermarket, and some cute handmade jewelry shops. Every couple of stores there was a small traditional Thai bar or delicious Thai restaurant with someone there to greet you with a smile and a 'sawadeeh ka'. Before entering you needed to take your shoes off, as a sign of respect, and most seating were cushions on the floor.

Flash forward to 2009, where we could only find 2 decent Thai restaurants. Most restaurants were Thai, Italian, and Mexican, all in one! Most menus were 30+ pages and obviously trying to appeal to the masses that show up for the Full Moon Party- approx 10,000-20,000 every month. Long gone are the traditional style seating and the long-standing tradition of taking your shoes off before entering a shop. Now it's western seating for all and even toilet paper in the bathrooms! It seems the locals smiles are long gone, having to cater to a demanding crowd of 20- somethings who come to their beach and basically trash it 1x/month. As my husband commented "It's the Cancun of Thailand".

In another 5 years there will be a KFC and a Starbucks on every corner. And although I understand and accept this modern and cultural change, I will still keep asking myself Where Did My Haad Rin Go?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Birthday to Jason!

To my love,
Happy birthday to the most wonderful, kind, happy, generous, kind-hearted, loving and good-looking man I know!! Cheers to a memorable one!





Sleeping beauty on his birthday. Today we are going to charter a boat to another part of the island and go kayaking. Then off to a nice birthday dinner (if we can find one on the island!) and out to the beach for the evening.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Wire, The Office, & 30 Rock

These are the 3 topics that brought Jay & I and Kevin & Padraig (gaelic for patrick), from County Cork in Ireland, together. Mix these with a couple of beers and you get 5+ hours of conversation! We've met people from Austria, Isreal, and Sweden, all of whom were no where near as fun as our boys from the Emerald Isle. However, for the most part, everyone is very nice.




























More stories to come from Koh Phangan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our New Thai Grandma

Name: Thai Grandma
Location: Drop In Resort Restaurant, Koh Phangan
Time: 7:30 am Breakfast
Mission: To Come Visit Us in U.S.

Meet our new Thai Grandma. Her real name is unknown, but we feel she is part of the family. We met her Sunday morning while having breakfast in our hotel. She came up to our table and asked where we were from. "NY!" she said, "My sister lives in NY, and I'm going to visit her next year". We told her to have a great time and she said likewise. After a few minutes of chit chat, she stated- "Give me your name, address, and phone number. I will come by to stay at your house while I am in NY"....Jay and I just looked at each other and said 'ok' (thinking to ourselves, is this a cultural thing? She will be surprised when she learns we don't live in a house!). I wrote our info down and gave it to her. She then told me to take a picture of her and Jason, and after, turned to jay, pointed her finger and said "See you in August, 2010".


And with that, she walked away, leaving us baffled and thinking- Is she really going to come and visit us?.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Koh Samui Smiles

Here we are arriving @ the Koh Samui Airport!

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Sawadee kah

That is hello in Thai. We finally made it! 24+ hours on the plane. As you know, I was in Biz Class and it was very nice. The seat became a bed and the service was awesome, not to mention the food. Jason had an open seat next to him and loved the food. He got to pick from several different meal choices and wine. We recommend Singapore Air to anyone flying to Asia- well worth it!

We stopped in Frankfurt for an hour which was very interesting. From the plane it looked like what I would picture it to be- farms, very green, and a lot of German men wearing Euro shoes.














Next Stop was Singapore. Very nice Airport with posh stores. We slept here for a couple hours and then boarded another plane for Bangkok.

Finally made it to Bangkok and took a very long nap. We made dinner reservations @ the Peninsula Hotel. They have a traditional Thai restaurant right on the river. Jay was super psyched to see the sights...and I, of course, was happy to be back at the Peninsula. Their service is amazing and the people are so nice. It was a nice change from NY. The people are so genuine and nice, you almost can't believe it! The next day we headed to Koh Samui @ 6am and then hopped onto a ferry to Koh Phangan. We arrived @ at the Drop Inn Resort and Spa, which is FAR from a resort. But it's the best hotel on this side of the island. We are on Haad Rin Beach and the location is great, but the room is totally not worth the price. We have a suite, but it's very run down. The main goal here is to relax and party. From 7-midnight they play techno at the pool bar and, from what I could hear, everyone gathers for a beer and a quick robot dance before heading out to the beach for the evening. At night the beach is where all of the action is. Bars and small alcohol booths open up to throngs of people ready to buy a drink and sit on the beach or dance to some crazy music.














The heat is BANANAS here...Thank goodness for A/C!! We had lunch on the beach yesterday and then headed back to the hotel for a quick nap. A quick nap turned into 13 hours of sleep- So now we are caught up on our sleep and ready to go. We are headed to breakfast now and then will catch some rays at the beach. We are 11 hours Ahead and can Skype here, so please let us know what time you can talk!!












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