Tag - resort

Koh Yao Noi


Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

You don’t have to spend very long on Koh Yao Noi to start to feel like you have stumbled upon that elusive traveller dream “the best kept secret”.  Why aren’t there more people here you wonder?  While also secretly hoping they don’t suddenly arrive.  Even locals working in resorts and restaurants obviously built for tourists ask, “how did you find us?” with a touch of surprise in their voice.  Like someone who has decorated their home for a party but never actually sent out the invitations.
 
The answer to their question?  Well, how does anyone find anything these days?  Google!  Qualifying our search of the Phang Nga region with words like “remote”, “peaceful” and “away from the crowds” Koh Yao Noi is where we happily found ourselves.
 
Koh Yao Noi (meaning small long island) and it’s sister island Koh Yao Yai (big long island) are located in the Phang Nga bay between Krabi, to the east, and Phuket, to the west.  Koh Yao Yai is the larger of the two islands but Koh Yao Noi is the more developed and more tourist friendly of the two.  It covers an area of about 50 square kilometers.  Speedboat ferries leave Bang Rong Pier in Phuket around 6 times a day and will whisk you out to this tropical refuge within an hour.
 
Most of the accommodation is on the east of the island where perfect little sandy strips of beach look out across tranquil water to a group of impressive limestone karsts a few kilometers from shore.
 
The majority of Koh Yao Noi’s 3,500 or so inhabitants are Muslim.  Their attitude is open and moderate.  Many, but not all, of the local women cover their heads.  You will still be able to get a beer or a cocktail if you desire, though bacon with your morning eggs might be harder to come by.
 
While crowds of holidaymakers have inundated nearby Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Koh Phi Phi in the last decade Koh Yao Noi has escaped any significant development.  Tourism contributes to the islands economy but it’s not the only source of income.  Traditional industries like fishing and rubber plantations remain important.  Locals are laid-back, friendly and quick to greet you with a warm smile.  This feels like a very tight-knit, authentic rural community and you feel privileged to be welcomed into it.
 
So what can one do here?  Well it’s the type of place you can quite happily do very little.  Slow down your pace, quieten your mind and breathe in the beauty around you.  Let the days drift by with a bikini, a sun lounger and a good book as your companions.  Take intermittent dips in the warm ocean floating on your back admiring the changing colours of the karsts as clouds waft in and out.
 
You’ll more than likely get the urge to have a closer look at these nature-made monuments, and that can be easily arranged. 
 
Most accommodation providers will be happy to arrange boating excursions for you, but you might save yourself a few baht by booking directly with one of the local operators. 
 
Husband and wife Kong and Poom run Saferoh Tours close to Tha Khao Pier.  They offer a range of day-trip options to nearby islands in their traditional Thai dragon boat and can supply snorkelling and fishing equipment and/or a kayak on request.  Lunch is also provided on daylong excursions and you can expect tasty home-cooked delights like chicken with cashew nuts and crunchy tempura vegetables.
 
Your first stop should be Koh Hong, about a 20-minute boat trip from Tha Khao Pier.  “Hong” translates as “room” and refers to the islands large interior lagoon walled by towering limestone cliffs, which can be accessed by boat at high tide.  But this islands real gem is its picture perfect white sandy cove where clear turquoise waters reveal a dazzling array of tropical fish.  In fact you don’t even need your snorkel to see some of them as schools of little black and yellow fish swim around your legs in the shallows.  Koh Hong has a small picnic area and toilet facilities and although it’s popular with day-trippers remains surprisingly quiet considering it’s beauty.
 
Hopping in a sea kayak for a leisurely paddle is a great way to explore these archipelagos even closer up as you’ll be able to get into nooks and crannies your dragon boat can’t.  Around Koh Panak is particularly interesting to explore, as there are a number of sea caves you can paddle into. 
 
If you’re starting to miss the crowds take a daytrip to Koh Ping Kan (better known as James Bond Island).  This narrow pillar of rock has been attracting visitors since it starred alongside Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.  A constant stream of boats pull in from Phuket and Phang Nga and it can be a bit of a shock to the system after the peacefulness of Koh Yao Noi.  In high season you’ll have to queue to get your photo taken in front of the famous rock.  Unlike the other small islands there are a number of stalls here selling jewellery and touristy trinkets (but surprisingly little James Bond memorabilia).
 
After your 007 pilgrimage it’s a short trip to Koh Panyee, a 200-year-old Muslim fishing community whose stilted homes rise out of the sea clinging to a rocky outcrop for support.  These days there are a number of large restaurants on the waterfront that cater to the boatloads of tourists who disembark for a look around.  There are also numerous souvenir stalls vying for your tourist dollar, but it’s an interesting little place and still worth a wander.  Check out the small floating soccer pitch built from old scraps of wood and read the community’s list of rules (and punishments).  You don’t want to get caught with a beer in your bag here – the fine is 5,000 baht plus a goat.
 
Back on Koh Yao Noi the sun loungers beckon, but if you’re feeling a bit more energetic there are also opportunities to try rock-climbing, Muay Thai boxing, yoga or a Thai cookery class.  Or rent a scooter and seek out secret beaches down traffic free dirt roads.
If your idea of a perfect holiday involves shopping and nightclubbing this isn’t the place for you.  But if you want blissful relaxation combined with a bit of healthy activity, in a place that still has a firm hold on its traditional way of life, then this is it.  Locals are happy they’ve avoided the rapid development seen on other islands and are proud of the relaxed piece of paradise they have to share.  You get the impression they intend to keep it that way.
 
Leah Carri is an Irish freelance journalist currently based in Australia. She has kindly shared her experiences in Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. If you’d like to check out her blog you can see it here. Leah is currently available for writing projects and can be contacted by email.

KhaoSanRoad.com enjoys promoting the work of new writers and writers new to Thailand. If you would like to see your work on this site, contact us and we will see what we can do.

 

Taman Negara, Malaysia

taman_negaraThe large and lovely Taman Negara is one of the most interesting national parks in the whole of Malaysia, which is no mean feat considering the amount of areas that compete for this title. This is a great place for independent travellers to explore, while those who book a guided tour of Taman Negara will be taken to many of the park’s most enchanting spots by a local guide, who will also be able to reveal hidden gems.

The jungle here dates back some 130 million years and has managed to withstand the tests of time remarkably well. Those who have sharp eyesight and a good guide will have the chance to spot a wide range of animals as they make their way through the undergrowth, including monkeys swinging through the trees, a whole host of different species of snakes, tigers, elephants, rhinos, shy deer and the unusual looking tapir.

Those who have a strong sense of adventure will find plenty to do in Taman Negara, and among the most popular activities here are river rafting and cave exploration. Special treks are held in the evening, which gives visitors the opportunity to spot some of the park’s most active nocturnal creatures.

The majority of people come here in order to go trekking through the rain forest, and Taman Negara offers visitors a wide range of different types of trekking experiences. One of the most popular lasts for half a day and takes trekkers to the top of Teresek Hill, which is famed for its stunning panoramic views. The Canopy Walks offers visitors the chance to view Taman Negara from a different perspective, while others lead the way to stunning natural features such as waterfalls and caves.

Those who want to really get to know Taman Negara will want to spend the night here, and a wide range of different accommodation options are available. Camping out offers visitor the chance to really get back to nature and it is possible to hire camping equipment as well as fishing rods and other gear from the Mutiara Taman Negara resort shop.

Sungai Petani, Malaysia

sungai_petani_1Welcome to Sungai Petani, a friendly town in the northern state of Kedah. Farming is very much the lifeline of this region and even the name Sungai Petani means ‘Farmer’s River’ in the Malay language.

This interesting town has plenty to entertain tourists and is a great place to take a break before exploring the rest of the country. There are a number of lush green parks to explore as well as interesting buildings, dense jungle and sandy beaches where you can soak up the sun or swim in the cool waters.

To get an idea of the size and beauty of this area, climb to the top of Gunung Jerai, which is the tallest mountain. There is a 15 mile trekking route which winds its way to the top of the mountain and the somewhat challenging climb to the top is rewarded by spectacular views of the Straits of Malacca and the surrounding jungle.

Heading back to the town, pay a visit to the Jalan Ibrahim, which is a large clock tower located on Sungai Petani’s main street. Built in 1936, the clock tower measures a little over 12 meters and was given to George V and Queen Mary to commemorate their Silver Jubilee.

As you wander through the centre of town you will come to Jubli Perak or Silver Jubilee public park, which is a great place to take a break and sit in the shade for a while. Another great recreational area is Bird Park, where you will see a large collection of our feathered friends roaming in a large leafy area.

Travellers who want to relax and unwind for a while can go fishing in many of the rivers, lakes and streams that can be found in this part of the world, while those who want to get back into the swing of things can do so with a round or two of golf.

The Carnivall is Kedah’s first water park and attracts people from all over the state. Situated in the grounds of Cinta Sayang Golf and Country Resort, the Carnivall has been open for less than two years and is a great place to cool off.

Pantai Merdeka is a popular beach destination and features a large number of seafood restaurants and closest point to the nearby islands of Pulau Bidan and Pulau Telor.

Those who are searching for local flavour will want to head on over to the farmer’s Market, which is held in the very heart of the town on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the year.

Penang, Malaysia

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Situated just off the mainland of Malaysia to the very north, the pretty island of Penang – known as Pulau Pinang in Malay – is a great place to spend a few days. Bordered by Thailand to the north, many people head straight to Penang after taking the train through Thailand and across the border.

There are many reasons to visit Penang. With its beautiful beaches, Kek Lok Si – perhaps the largest and finest Buddhist temple in Asia – and spectacular scenery, it is easy to see why the island has earnt the nickname Pearl of the Orient.

Don’t miss Kek Lok Si, the terrific pagoda-style temple situated atop Penang Hill. Not only is this a great place to relax and meditate, but the views from the top are spectacular as well. Another good place to visit is the Botanical Garden. This 30-hectare garden was created in 1884 and features a sparkling waterfall as well as beautiful wild Rhesus monkeys.

Also known as Foreigner’s Rock, Batu Ferringhi is a picturesque beach resort. Take a break from temple hopping and trekking through the jungle to simply lie back on the sand a soak up the sun for a while. The Penang Butterfly Farm is located nearby at Teluk Bahang. The butterfly farm is set in picturesque tropical gardens and has thousands of species of butterflies and insects.

In 2004 Time Magazine announced that Penang had the ‘Best Street Food in Asia’, a fact that many dedicated gastronomes have known for some time. People flock from all over Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to sample the wide range of cuisines available, which include Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya, Thai and a sprinkling of Western dishes such as pasta and hamburgers.

As you walk through Penang’s Indian area, you are greeted by the scent of dozens of stalls and small shops cooking up spicy biriyanis, masalas, daal and dosas whilst meat marinated in tandori spices roasts on spits and in ovens.

If you fancy a treat, take a spin in the Revolving Restaurant on 25A Lebuh Farquhar. It takes an hour for the restaurant to make a complete revolution, allowing you to enjoy spectacular views of Penang.

Some of the best and cheapest accommodation can be found in Georgetown, especially on Lebuh Chulia, where there are several guesthouses offering rooms from RM 200 per night.

Northern Malaysia

Northern Malaysia
Northern Malaysia

For many visitors, northern Malaysia will provide their first glimpses of the country as they arrive by train in Butterworth station from Thailand, perhaps on their way to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Although the jungles of eastern Malaysia beckon, it is worth taking the time to explore this interesting region. Malaysia is a real melting pot of cultures and this is especially apparent in the regions large and bustling cities. Wander through the streets of Alor Setar and you will notice an interesting blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian styles, with a hint of British Colonial style thrown into the mix for good measure.

This is also evident in the picturesque island of Penang, where each ethnic group has its own area situated alongside the other. Loud Bollywood music and the rich smells of curry drifts from shop fronts in the Indian section, while a few streets away the roads are strung with colourful Chinese lanterns and a number of large Chinese temples sit at the side of the street.

Northern Malaysia is a good place to fall in love with the culture and history of Malaysia before heading to other regions to discover its natural beauty. However, there are also a number of pretty beaches to soak up the sun in northern Malaysia such as the modest stretch of sand on Penang and the popular beach resort of Langkawi, which is referred to as the land where one’s dreams come true.

Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma

Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma
Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma

With more than 10 miles of pure white sand and clear blue sea, Ngwe Saung Beach is a great place to recharge for a day or two after travelling around Myanmar. One of the cleanest beaches in Southeast Asia, you can guarantee rest and relaxation in picturesque surroundings where the hot air is moderated by cool sea breezes blowing through the palm trees.

Ngwe Saung Beach has only recently opened to tourism, so now is the perfect time to visit. Although you won’t find many cheap places to stay, this is a good place for those with a little extra to spend who appreciate beauty and luxury.

Although relaxation is key here, there is also plenty to do for those with energy to spare. Beach volley ball is a popular past time, and are water sports such as kayaking, wind surfing and fishing.

After a busy day of sunbathing and swimming, you can soothe aching muscles in one of the beauty spas located along the beach, or ride in a bullock cart as the sun sets. Hiring a bicycle is also a good way to explore and the narrow lanes and roads around Ngwe Saung Beach are in good condition.

Another great way to see the area is by going on a boat trip, while thrill seekers will enjoy the speed boat rides. The tropical rain forests and the towering Rakhine mountain range make an excellent backdrop to this beautiful resort and are also good places to explore.

This is a great place to eat fresh seafood and a large number of beach front restaurants have delicious seafood BBQs in the evening where you can simply choose from the catch of the day and eat at a candlelit table on the sand.

A great way to reach Ngwe Saung Beach is by taking the tourist ferry from Yangon. The ferry goes at night and the trip takes around six hours, giving you plenty of time to catch some shut eye or look at the stars as you sail.

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, located approximately 862 kilometres south of Bangkok. Often referred to as the pearl of the Andaman, or the pearl of the south, Phuket is an island of limestone cliffs, white beaches, tranquil broad bays and tropical in-land forests, which make it one of Thailand’s most popular islands and provinces.

Phuket is easy to get to as there are frequent flights to and from Bangkok airport as well as direct flights to many other Asia and European airports. There are also regular buses and trains from around the country and Phuket can be reached by boat from many of the surrounding islands.

As well an the enormous main island, Phuket Province contains 39 other small islands, all perfect for exploring, whether via a snorkelling or scuba diving trip or a boat tour. Located just 25 kilometres from Phuket City, Ko Nakha Noi is a popular destination for a boat trip, as are Ko Si-re, Ko Lon, Ko Bon, Ko He and Ko Mai Thon, which is famous for its unique and very beautiful colourful coral.

Also known as Coral Island, Kho Hae is located to the Southeast of Phuket Island. Reachable in just 15 minutes by speedboat from Chalong Bay, this beautiful island is a great destination for a day trip, or visitors can choose to stay overnight at the resort.

Another popular day trip is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, which is located near the beautiful Bang Pae waterfall. This is an amazing opportunity to meet the Gibbons in their natural environment and there is a visitor centre manned by Western volunteers and English speaking Thai staff who will tell you all about the project.

If you are interested in the island’s wildlife, elephant trekking is a good way to support the remaining domesticated elephants of Thailand and offers a new way to explore the jungle. The Phuket Zoo has an interesting collection of animals, whilst Phuket Submarine takes visitors on daily tours of the underwater world.

Both Khao Rang (Phuket Hill) and Laem Promthep are great places to see the sunset and get an idea of the island’s size and beauty. Whilst in Phuket, pay a visit to the Khao Phra Thaew Forest Reserve, which protects a stunning area of lush rainforest.

Many visitors to Phuket like to plan their trip to coincide with one of the area’s vibrant festivals. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held for 10 days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which usually occurs in October. This is the time when local residents, especially those of Chinese ancestry, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet in order to cleanse their spirit and make merit. The festival features self-mortification rituals such as walking barefooted over hot coals and ascending ladders with bladed rungs, as well as much singing and dancing and of course delicious vegetarian food.Another long awaited festival is the Phuket Gay Pride Festival, which takes place in February and the Siam World Cup Windsurfing Championships on Ao Bang Thao are held in January.

If you are in the area between November and February, head to the pretty beach of Hat Mai Khao on the northwest coast. Here you will discover sea turtles laying their eggs, but be careful not to disturb them as the turtles are now quite rare.

Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand

Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand

Located roughly 280 kilometres south of Bangkok, Prachuap Khiri Khan was established during the reign of King Rama IV in 1845. The province is well known because of its beautiful natural scenery, which includes stunning sandy beaches, cool caves, limestone cliffs and mountains.

Most visitors are draw to the province by the pretty town of Hua Hin, which was previously a royal resort, and is an excellent seaside location with an incredible beach. There are many large designer shops in Hua Hin as well as seaside souvenir stalls, making this a good place to indulge in a little retail therapy.

The Hua Hin Jazz Festival takes place around the first week in June and usually lasts two or three days. With well known bands and solo artists from all over the world, this is an event not to be missed.

Another great seaside town is the capital, also called Prachuap Khiri Khan. Here you will find Wat Thammikaram, which is a temple set atop a steep hill. Although climbing to the top of this hill is a bit of an effort, the spectacular views of the bay and surrounding countryside more than make up for it. There are a large troop of monkeys living in the temple grounds, which has earnt the temple the nickname of ‘Monkey Temple’. The temple is located at the top of Khao Chong Krajok (Mirror Tunnel Mountain).

Another area of great natural beauty is the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, which was established in 1966 to protect Thailand’s largest freshwater marshes and contains pretty limestone cliffs and beaches.

Other beaches in the area include Ao Bang Nam Lom, Ao Noi and Ao Manao. Hat Ha Kaw is another lovely beach, whilst next to it is the King Mongkut Memorial Park of Science & Technology, which commemorates the 1868 solar eclipse that the great king witnessed from this spot with his son.

Nature lovers can pay a visit to the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Centre, which has committed itself to looking after animals of every species and another good way to spend an afternoon is to visit Wat Khao Tham Khan Kradai, which is a small cave temple situated at the end of a long, beautiful bay.

Like in most of Thailand’s beach resorts, snorkeling and scuba diving trips are readily available, and another good way to get an idea of the true beauty of this area is to go on a boat trip around the coast.

Welcome to Pattaya/Jomtien

This well-known beach resort area is only 145 kilometers from Bangkok and would compliment anyone’s holiday to Thailand. The delightful area is nothing less than a tourist’s playground, and for that reason it should not be missed. The beaches are vastly improved and all sorts of attractions are in the area for your interest and pleasure.

The economy is strong because of tourism, which allows the provincial government to continually upgrade facilities and the city has grown steadily over the past 30 years. Pattaya residents are well adjusted to the ‘farang’ behavioral habits, yet they have genuine regard for tourists, and make them welcome wherever they go. The whole area is mushrooming at an alarming rate, and it seems to be a city of hotels, bars and restaurants; indeed from one visit to another, you can see many developments from entrepreneurs and Government recourses.

Pattaya is an exciting place for the visitor, some going there for ‘action’ and others wishing only to relax on the beach. The clean, white sand, warm water, tropical palms, and shore lined umbrellas all add to the attraction. While you are resting on the beach why not partake in refreshments and possibly a massage or manicure or just a stroll along the waters edge. Water activities are always popular which include skiing and swimming, banana rides, snorkeling, and paragliding.

All the beaches have a number of professional attendants that provide an excellent variety of services and ensure you do not want for anything. From time to time beach peddlers, ice cream and food vendors sometimes interrupt this tranquility, but at least these services are made available to everyone.

Shopping is for everyone and is highly diversified by the different types of markets, bazaar’s, shopping malls and department stores. Many concentrate on the ‘farang’ influx and prices can be pricey, however if you search around, then you will discover other outdoor markets that are very cheap [at least to western standards]. Pattaya has a huge variety of excursions and attractions to keep the tourist happy and interested. Temples and gardens, extreme sport activities, boat cruise, hang gliding, golf, cooking classes, museums, wild life parks, small islet excursions, which are all priced very well.

Evening entertainment is electrifying– restaurants, disco’s, karaoke bars, clubs, massage, all offering the best of times. And for something different why not try those in the outer roads that the Thai’s usually frequent, they are delightful, cheaper and less pressure than the ones in the tourist belt and best of all– welcome ‘out of Towner’s — In fact there is everything that you would expect to be available in a city devoted to tourism.

Jomtien beach is only 4 kilometers south and is a lot quieter and not the pressure of Pattaya, but it certainly does not suffer in the service stakes. Great hotels, guest houses, bars, clubs, parlors, vehicle rentals, restaurants, and of course wonderful beaches, equal to, if not better than other areas.

From time to time, the police in Pattaya and Jomtien crack down on motorcycle riders. All riders that do not wear their helmet are fined, even if you are the pillion passenger. The bike is impounded until you pay the fine. Strange thing is that after you have paid the fine they don’t care if you put your helmet on. This crack down only applies to ‘farangs’ and you will see thousands of Thais without a helmet, and they don’t get fined – funny that!

I have visited Pattaya /Jomtien more than 30 times and always find something new and interesting to keep me occupied.

Cheers from Down Under, Garry