Tag - blue

Ngapali Beach, Burma

Ngapali Beach, Burma
Ngapali Beach, Burma
Ngapali Beach, Burma

Myanmar’s first and foremost beach destination, Ngapali Beach is the perfect seaside paradise with white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. The restaurants that line Ngapali Beach offer some of the best food in Myanmar, and this is a great place to dine on deliciously fresh sea food as well as a range of traditional dishes and Western fare.

Although there are plenty of places to stay, don’t expect to find cheap and cheerful beach huts like in many other tropical countries. However, Ngapali Beach is perfect for those with a slightly larger budget who want to stay somewhere truly unique and make some memories.

The activities are endless here and many people come to play water sports such as kayaking, sailing and snorkelling, while others simply relax on the beach and work on their tans. Pony rides along the beach are an interesting option for those who want to do something a bit different, and the beach stretches for two miles along the coast.

This is the perfect play for simply relaxing as the loud beach bars and vendors that plague so many of Asia’s most beautiful beaches are absent and there is little to spoil the tranquillity. The beach is spotlessly clean and sun worshipers can stretch out without having to worry.

Those with a strong sense of adventure and extra energy can go on a boat trip and explore the collection of nearby islands such as Pearl Island, the intriguing black sands of Zalat Htone Island and visit a nearby fishing village.

A good way to see the area is by hiring a bike, and as you peddle along the narrow sandy lanes you will discover a number of interesting villages such as Kinmaw village with its clay pottery works and the hand weaving village of Thandwe.

If you can bear to tear yourself away from the beach for an hour or two, explore the range of small hills, where you will find a peaceful lake, which is a good place for fishing or simply sit and watch the birds messing about in the water. 

Ngapali is undoubtedly one of Myanmar’s most romantic destinations. Couples can walk along the palm lined beach as the sun slowly sets into the Indian Ocean before enjoying a candlelit meal of lobster and prawns on the beach by candlelit. Pure heaven. 

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Situated in the south of Cambodia, Sihanoukville is one of Cambodia’s most popular seaside towns. Visitors to this pretty beach area will find plenty of bars, restaurants and cheap guesthouses, while there are plenty of places to stretch out on the pure white powdery sand and work on your tan.
Formerly known as Kompong Som, Sihanoukville takes its name from the famous prince Sihanouk. A great way to reach this resort is by boat from the Koh Kong / Hat Lek border crossing that connects Cambodia with Thailand. This is a good place to relax for a day or two before travelling through the rest of Cambodia.

Sihanoukville’s main attraction is its beautiful sandy beaches, which are some of the best in the whole of Cambodia. While each of the beaches here feature their own distinct charms, the most popular tend to be Sokha Beach, Victory Beach, Ochheuteal Beach, Independence Beach, Otres Beach and Serendipity Beach. Those who are on a tight budget will find plenty of cheap accommodation around Victory Beach, while party people will want to gravitate towards the bars and restaurants that can be found around Ochheuteal Beach.

Water sports are popular in Sihanoukville, and this is a great place to try snorkelling and scuba diving. A large number of islands can be found just off the coast, surrounded by cool, clear waters. A number of local companies offer boast trips to explore the area, which also allow visitors to check out snorkelling and scuba diving around Bamboo Island, which is known locally as Koh Russei. Visitors who are enchanted by the tranquillity and natural beauty of this island also have the chance to spend the night on Bamboo Island.

One of the most popular attractions that can be found in this part of the world is the large and lovely Ream National Park, and a wide range of local companies offer daytrips here. Public transportation in this part of Cambodia can be a little thin on the ground, and those who want to really get to know the area will want to hire a motorbike.

Make sure you surrender a photocopy of your passport rather than the actual document itself in order to secure bike hire. After all the arrangements have been made it is now time to drive to the temples of Wat Krom and Wat Leu before soaking up the scenery at Kampong Pier Nup Lok.

Koh Samui, a Tropical Paradise

Koh Samui
Koh Samui
Koh Samui
Koh Samui

Picture an island nestling in the calm, azure blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand fringed by coral reefs with beaches of powder soft white sand framed by a backdrop of coconut trees, their fronds dancing in the gentle breeze. The palms stretch upward to the central uplands, thick with lush tropical vegetation. The coast and lower slopes are awash with coconut palms making Koh Samui the ‘Coconut Capital of Thailand’. It is said the island sends 2,000.000 coconuts per month to Bangkok. This green vista is interspersed occasionally by black granite boulders. Some of these rock formations appear to defy gravity by hanging dramatically against the hillside. This tropical paradise is called Koh Samui. A 250 square kilometre rounded island, which is about the same size as Penang.

 
Koh Samui translates from Koh, the Thai word for island, and Samui, which is probably derived from the Chinese “saboey” meaning safe harbour. The magic island first came to the attention of world travellers when it started to crop up in conversation in many of the cheap hotels that then clustered around Bangkok’s Hualamphong Railway station some 45 years ago. It was difficult to get to, requiring special negotiation with fishermen in Suratthani lying 80 kilometres across the sea on the mainland. When you reached the island, there was no road and so those intrepid voyagers hopped from beach to beach by boat. In the past forty plus years things have changed hugely.
 
The island is now served by an international airport that looks more like a botanical garden than the accepted tradition of functional ‘air station’. Flights leave hourly for the new Suvarnbhumi Airport in Bangkok and link the island to additional destinations such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Pattaya and Phuket. A 52-kilometre road rings Samui and links all the major towns. Nathon the capital plays host to government buildings and banks and serves as one of the ferry ports serving the Thai mainland. The road skirts the 635-metre mountain that sits centrally astride the landmass and takes in the main resorts of Lamai and Chaweng. Lamai is the smaller of the two and offers a quieter and perhaps cleaner beach. The latter caters for, perhaps, a younger and more energetic visitor. Further on lies Bangrak is better known as “Big Buddha Beach” as it takes its name from the huge Buddha statue at the eastern end of the bay. Borphut boasts a trendy fisherman’s village, much favoured by French tourists and Maenam to the north offers spectacular views across to Koh Phangan and the Ang Thong Natural Marine Park. This area is much less crowded than the bustling Chaweng and the marginally quieter Lamai. It still retains its original Thai flavour. However, to get to grips with authentic ‘Samui’ you need to rent a car or motorbike and take one of the many roads that lead up away from the coast and into the mountain. As you climb higher you come to rubber plantations and hidden away villages clustering around paddy fields, still hanging onto a traditional way of life that is far removed from the tourist dominated hotels, resorts, restaurants and bars that cluster around the coast.

Samui has over the years developed a reputation as centre of complementary medicine offering spas designed to detox inhabitants of an overstressed globe. Sit in the authentic vegetarian restaurant after six p.m. and turn your head to the west you will witness spectacular sunsets over the islands that comprise the Ang Thong National Park. Health Oasis is unique in that the Thai Department of Health lists it as a traditional medicine hospital. It specialises in supervised detox and fasting treatments. ‘

Be sure of this, whatever your tastes Koh Samui will be able to provide a venue for a holiday that will linger long in your memory. So if you are planning a trip of a lifetime whether it be for tourism or health this magical island is a venue well worth considering.

About the author:
Alister Bredee is a freelance author specialising in articles on health related topics.

Isaan Life – Graduation

issan_graduation_1
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
issan_graduation_8
Isaan Life Graduation

Graduation is a time when family and friends come together collectively to celebrate individual achievement and the passage from one phase of life to the next. Graduations are a time to reflect on the past, to smile, relax, enjoy the moment and feel optimistic about the future. A week ago a dear friend Jaruwan Supolrai received her diploma from Ubon Ratchathani University, a college with about 5,000 students some 15 kilometers south of the city. It was indeed a celebration but hardly a spontaneous or stress-free one!

This graduation was an explosion of color. Reds bled to crimson, baby blue and shimmering golden hues! Nervous, smiling students dressed in their most fancy uniforms, shirts and skirts for the young women and tight white suits for the boys. Each graduate wore a lacy, baby-blue gown. The graduates carried multi-colored flowers carefully cradled in the arms of teddy bears.

This colorful scene was hardly serene. The crowd was noisy and boisterous. Thai people love to take pictures and there was a constant whirring and clicking coming from every direction. Proud parents, happy students, smiling brothers and sisters, confused babies masked the underlying tension the graduates felt. Jaruwan explained that the preparation that went into the event was “exhausting and formal.” Rehearsals were rigorous, lasting for hours for two days before the actual ceremony. Also Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was there to hand out the diplomas. This was nerve wracking; there is no room for error in the face of royalty. Jaruwan explained, everything had to be perfect. The princess is a scholar having earned a doctorate in Development Education from Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok in 1987.

Next there was time pressure. Some 1,140 students had to collect their diplomas in around 1 minute meaning that 35 students had to march to the front and receive their diplomas each and every minute. The graduates worked on their timing in practice, even counting the number of steps they had to take every second!

The day of the ceremony was so stressful that Jaruwan said there was “no time for sleep.” Wake-up time on graduation day was promptly at 3 a.m. for a pre-dawn hair and make up call. The scene was hysterical. Imagine a queue of half-awake girls standing in the glow of a dimly lit convenience store dressed only in their nightgowns waiting to get into a nearby salon just outside the University gates. Soon there was a second line, the same girls parading out of the salon, still in their nightgowns, but with made-up faces aglow and freshly coifed hair carefully arranged into swirls atop their heads.

Jaruwan dressed for the day at 4 a.m., a quick and simple task; first slip into the neatly ironed shirt and dress, then the gown. Next a quick breakfast; there would be no time for more food until much later that afternoon. Exhausted and not yet dawn, Jaruwan headed out to meet her classmates. Soon she would parade formally into the gymnasium where the Princess waited.

The gymnasium was graduates and students only. The processional and the ceremony were worth the frenetic middle-of-the-night effort. The graduates, identified by their flowing blue gowns, marched in first. First and second year students stood on either side solemnly singing the school song. Jaruwan said she was, “nervous because everything was so formal.” Later she said that when the 52-year-old Princess entered the gymnasium and the Royal Song played she “got goose bumps all down” her arms.

An hour later the ceremony complete the students emerged clearly relieved the formalities were over. “I did it!” was a common exclamation. Now, the celebration, the graduation party could begin! First year students honored graduates from different faculties surrounding them singing or dancing to show respect. There were flowers everywhere. Thousands, every color of the rainbow, purchased from street vendors that morning were showered upon the graduates. I felt like a beast of burden carrying more bouquets than I could handle; so many had been given to Jaruwan.

The formal party began to wind down. Families that have traveled far distances get back in their cars or vans and headed go home. The graduates headed out for food and a moment of relaxation. Everyone was exhausted but there was one more celebration, one final party. The graduates headed out to the bars for a last college bash before taking that next step into the “real world.”

About the author:
Eli Sherman is a graduate of Montpelier High School in Montpelier, the capital of the state of Vermont, USA, and a “young blood writer” living in Ubon Ratchathani, Isaan – Northeastern Thailand. He’s been to Isaan four times in his short life. Once on a cross cultural exchange with Montpelier to Thailand Project; once coming for five months as an exchange student at Benchama Maharat school in Ubon; and again coming as a guide for Montpelier to Thailand Project. He now works as a volunteer at the Institute of Nutrition Research Field Station, Mahidol University in Ubon Ratchathani and is writing to present Isaan Life to the world, and especially KhaoSanRoad.com visitors.

Koh Phangan – a Magical Mystery Tour

Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour

Another lazy day on holiday and I am sitting at a bar on the beautiful Koh Phangan, waiting for the guide of the Reggae Magic Boat Trip to arrive. As I wait I watch in wonder as a Thai man tries to sell his tiny exotically coloured ‘pet’ bird. “Ha roi” (tasty) he announces to my indignation. “No! Mai arroy!” I cry, thinking the man has just told his friends that the bird would be delicious. “No, no,” the man laughs. “I say I will sell bird for 500 Baht, ha roi!” Just then the bird escapes from the man’s grip and flies out of reach onto a rooftop.

Just then, the enigmatic Thai man who calls himself Peter Pan strides around the corner. Dressed in yellow shorts, a patch work shirt streaked with gold and a brightly-coloured scarf, the man’s colourful costume matches his personality perfectly. “It’s OK, I am here now,” he chirps. “We can go!”

The relieved Israelis, who have been impatiently waiting, and I follow Peter Pan to a large wooden boat with a large group of relieved Israelis. There are 22 of us in all, including Peter and his two helpers, but there is plenty of room for us all.

Like a genial genie, Peter Pan sits cross-legged on the cool box, smiling down on us. “Now, we must balance the boat, otherwise we will flip over,” he tells us once we are all aboard. “I not care if you drown, but I love my boat, you know?”

It takes about an hour for us to reach our first destination. I lounge in the boat, lazily watching the scenery and the sun sparkle on the idyllically blue water.

Finally, we reach the beautiful beach of Haad Sadet and the boat shudders to a halt. The boat rocks violently as all the passengers race for the shore, eager to explore.

Once on terra firma, we pile into a waiting truck and are transported along a steep, treacherous road. Then, on foot, we follow a winding jungle path.

Suddenly, I emerge from the trees to find myself at the foot of the enchanting Than Sadet waterfall. Carefully climbing over huge granite boulders and navigating pools of fresh water, I make my way to where the others are waiting.

Than Sadet is Koh Phangan’s most famous waterfall. This 3km fall has had its share of royal attention. It was first visited by King Rama V in 1888. The magnificent waterfall clearly crept into his heart, for King Rama V visited the fall more than 10 times. The current monarch, King Bhumibol, has also visited Than Sadet and its waters are used for royal ceremonies.

After about half an hour, we begin to make our way back to the beach. Back in the boat, we sail for another 30 minutes or so. I sprawl on the deck, basking in the sun’s rays.

Soon enough, we reach Haad Khuat, also known as Bottle Beach. “You know why we call it Bottle Beach?” Peter Pan asks from his perch on the cool box. “Because that’s its name?” I chime in before I can stop myself. “No,” peter Pan grins. “Because it is shaped like a bottle.”

We climb out of the boat once more and onto the deserted golden beach. The only sign of civilization is a small restaurant, where we are scheduled to eat lunch. After perusing the extensive menu, I decide on vegetable pad Thai, as I don’t want to be too full for swimming.

After eating, I have half an hour to entertain myself and immediately head for the warm, clear water. Peter pan and his colleagues, I notice, are already snoozing in the shade.

When it is time to leave, I dry myself in the sun and join the rest of the group in the boat. Peter Pan is continuing his rest, softly snoring under a blanket.

This time, we are treated to a short ride around the coast to Mae Haad. Peter Pan’s colleague, who I am told is called Wendy, explains that this area has very beautiful tropical fish and coral. He hands out the snorkels and one by one we plunge into the waiting waters.

As I lower my face into the sea, my gaze is instantly met by several dozen fish. Striped black and white with yellow fins, these are known as Sweet lips. Deeper down, close to the beautiful soft coral, I spot the odd Hexagonal Grouper and exquisite exotically coloured Blue Ringed Angel Fish.

When I eventually surface, the other assistant – Tinker Bell, presumably – hands me some bread. As soon as I bring the bread beneath the water, dozens of fish surge towards me and begin to nibble the bread right from my hand.

After an amazingly timeless period, I pull myself back into the boat. Peter Pan is finally awake and is handing out chunks of pineapple for us to munch on. The fruit tastes wonderful after the saltiness of the sea.

The boat hand starts the engine once more and begins the journey back to Haad Rin, completing a circuit of the entire island. By the time we arrive, I am glad to be getting out of the hot sun.

At 7:30 pm, I return to a bar for a feast. My companions and I hungrily devour a delicious dinner of rice and vegetables with chicken curry for the meat eaters. Once the meal is finished, Peter Pan gives someone a guitar to play. With a happy belly, I sit back in my chair and sleepily listen as Israeli music floats out on the night air.

Information:

Tours start from 12 pm and cost 500 baht for six hours. The bar is situated on Haad Rin Noi (Sunrise Beach) just around the corner from Same Same Lodge.

Getting There:

The nearest international airport to Koh Phangan is at Koh Samui. From here the island is an hour ferry ride away. Joint bus and ferry packages are available from all of the travel agencies on Khaosan Road and take 12-15 hours.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!