Splashpacker Travel Blog 2 – Dec 2017

Island Hopping the Andaman Sea, Part 1: Phuket Town & Koh Lanta

 

Koh Bulon Leh
From the ferry to Koh Bulone Le by Thai longtail boat

Time for a travel blog update of island hopping the Andaman Sea

After I´ve travelled to 9 islands in the Andaman Sea, I decided it’s time to start sharing my experience of this island-hopping adventure. Because it´s going to be too long for 1 blog article, I´ve decided to split them up in parts.

In this post, you can read about Phuket Town and Koh Lanta Island

In this first part, you can read about my experience in Phuket Town where I first extended my visa and my time on the island of Koh Lanta, also Ko Lanta if you like. Here I did an island tour, went scuba diving, caught up with hometown friends from the Netherlands and made friends with a lovely local girl.

Thailand makes me smile inside!

I´m writing this travel blog update on the day I arrived back in Thailand, coming from Langkawi Island in Malaysia. I´m really happy to be back in Thailand, although I think Langkawi island is beautiful and a great place to travel with an astonishing nature, friendly people and many things to do. But there’s something about Thailand. Small things like being able to greet people again with a ´Savadee Kaa´ and eating vegetarian Pad Thai for dinner makes me smile inside!

Actually, I never really wanted to go to Thailand..

It’s funny how in the past I never felt attracted to Thailand. Even though many people travel to Thailand or maybe it was becáuse of that. I had created this idea in my mind of a country overloaded with bunches of young backpackers. For Asia, I picked other destinations above Thailand, like Philippines, Bali, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, if that’s still considered Asia.

But Thailand has something to offer to every kind of traveller!

But now I have to admit, it’s a wonderful country and there are only certain places overloaded with backpackers. There is certainly a place to find for every type of traveller. Now I understand why so many people go here, fall in love with the country and keep coming back!

 

A new friend during my travels through Thailand
Meet Pipa my little Thai friend

 

My never-ending to-do list

The last month has gone very quickly. Feeling very happy that I am travelling again, meeting a lot of great people with whom I shared fantastic times, doing some amazing scuba diving and at the same time being busy with writing and translating. My ´to do´-list has grown long and every day I find new ideas and material to write about. Even though I did book here and there longer stays and travelled on a slower pace to do some writing, I just don´t seem to catch up on things.

Splashpacker now in Dutch for my fellow-Dutchies!

Recently, I started my Dutch Splashpacker website just before I left Phuket and so I´m also in the process of translating my posts back to Dutch. Everything is just pretty time-consuming. But let´s get to the point because now I ám writing this new travel blog update after being one month ´on the road´. (better said: on the islands!)

My Island Hopping Trip from Phuket to Langkawi

 

Eco Hostel Phuket
Staying at the Eco Hostel in Phuket Town

 

The Eco Hostel in Phuket uses recycled material for decoration!

After doing a month of writing and diving in Nai Yang Beach in Phuket, I decided to do some island hopping. I left my dive equipment with Manfred in Nai Yang Beach and went first to Phuket Town for one night. I stayed in the Eco Hostel, this is the link to booking.com and I receive a small commission through your purchase on this link). I really loved this place! The whole place was decorated with recycled material and I think it’s the perfect place for the conscious traveller looking to stay for a stop in between. Click here to book on Agoda, I also receive a small commission on your purchase through this link)

The eco-friendly accommodation has a great location for your onwards travels on Phuket Island!

The place is located right in front of the old bus stop in Phuket, but this ´old´ bus station is still in use for onward travels on Phuket Islands. So the location is perfect! I´m glad that I already visited Phuket Town, which you can read more about here, because I didn’t have much time to see things, other than the immigration office!

Visa Extension with Thai Immigration in Phuket Town

Phuket Immigration Office in Thailand
Immigration in Phuket

 

My one-month visa was running out and I needed to extend it. It took some patience to wait, get the correct forms, photocopies and to go back in the line, time after time. But the worst thing was that I found out that I wasn’t properly dressed! A Belgium man working there, made me aware of the fact when I was already waiting for almost two hours. But I was lucky…

Thailand has 2 extreme opposites!

Sometimes I´m a good prepared traveller, other times I´m just an idiot with no clue! And the funny thing is, I didn’t even realise that all other women had all their upper arms and lower legs covered! I have to say that Thailand does have 2 extremes. In some touristic places everything is allowed and it feels like a very free country, however if you learn about the local Thai culture, it´s very conservative.

I didn´t know that Thailand was so conservative!

The Belgium man told me so that Thailand is very conservative and he was not going to let me in to talk to an officer in the way I was dressed: a short jeans till my knees and a top with my back and shoulder covered but with no sleeves! I started to beg him because my visa was going to run out the day after and if I needed to go back to my hostel first, I might not make it today. But when the Belgium guy realised that his Thai colleague already had given me a number, he just told me that I was very lucky.

But then I started to feel very uncomfortable!

Now after realising that I was the only one with my arms, shoulders and knees showing, I started to feel very uncomfortable waiting and even more when I finally walked into the official office and I felt all the people were staring at me like I was a tourist with no respect. I do have respect, I just didn’t know ai-ai! But when I finally got a stamp in my passport, a new visa for another month, I felt very relieved and happy! Ready to start my island-hopping adventure!

The first destination of my island hop adventure  in Thailand: Koh Lanta Island

 

Ko Lanta Island & Christmas decoration
Beautiful sunsets on Koh Lanta Island, already in the Christmas vibe!

 

Ko Lanta: A good starting point of my adventure

The next day I took the ferry to Koh Lanta. I decided to skip the Phi Phi Islands because I got the impression they start to get a bit over touristic. Right now, I´m actually considering of stopping there on my way back, so I can´t give an opinion yet. But for the start I decided to do Koh Lanta first. Koh Lanta is much bigger and there are many things to do, while in the meantime you can enjoy some quiet places too.

Simple and budget accommodation in the Bamboo Hut on Koh Lanta

I loved the place I booked on booking, called Bamboo Hut! (I receive a small commission on your purchase through this link). Click here for Agoda, where I also receive a small commission on your purchase. It was super simple: just a bamboo bungalow with a mattress on the floor, mosquito net, fan and a very basic bathroom with a cold water shower. But it was recently opened so everything was new and very clean. I directly loved the place just because of the friendliness of the owner of the place. And I couldn’t really complain about the simplicity since I paid €60,- for 7 nights. The girl was my age or younger, and I just loved the way she was managing everything. Next to running the Bamboo Hut and keeping it clean, she is renting out scooters, organising day tours, running a restaurant next to it and driving her tuk-tuk for taxi rides. She did everything!

The owner of the place was a lovely and inspiring woman!

One morning, yes she still had some time for that, we had a chat on the terrace of my bungalow. She was wondering why I don´t have a husband and/or children. Flashbacks came to me from travelling Sri Lanka, Bali and the Philippines where I got this question a lot too, everybody always asked me where my company was or why I was travelling alone! Then she told me her story and that her wedding was arranged by her and her husband´s mothers. She told me that in the beginning, it was not easy because they didn’t really choose to fall in love with each other. Being Muslim, their parents had decided it for them, but now they did love each other a lot. They have a beautiful daughter which is one of the cutest girls I ever saw in the world, and they are truly happy now, she told me.

We can learn so much from other cultures!

I cannot imagine how it must be for us to not have the freedom to choose our own partner in life! But at the same time, I don´t think this girl is less happy than us. We sometimes have too many options in life and I think this is not always a good thing. If you don´t have too many options, you make the best of whatever you are doing or having. Not that I support a marriage arranged by parents, not at all, but if only I use it to reflect on how grateful we are with our freedom. I enjoyed her company a lot and this is truly one of these places where you arrive as a customer but leave as a friend. We are still in touch over Facebook and she inspires me!

 

Bamboo Hut Koh Lanta
Owner of Bamboo Hut on Koh Lanta with her lovely daughter!

You never walk alone & signs of the universe on Ko Lanta!

She also helped me to do a day tour, by asking her brother to show me around the island on a price which was half the amount of where the travel agencies over the island were selling it for. And it was an amazing tour! First I went to the Mu Ko Lanta National Park where I saw some monkeys, a beautiful view from the hill with the lighthouse and a very inspiring quote on the backside of the national park sign (see photo), of course remembering my mother who told me that before she passed away. I describe the passing away of my mum in the first chapter of my book, Safety Stop, from which the first chapter is called ´You never walk alone´. It was very accidental that I saw that sign because it was kind of in the bank between the road and an abyss, so who looks on the backside of that sign? Somehow, I did!

 

Mu Ko Lanta National Park in Thailand
Koh Lanta National Park

 

You´ll never walk alone sign, Koh Lanta National Park
Who looks on the backside? Somehow I did!

 

 

National Park Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta National Park: The viewpoint on the hill with the lighthouse

 

The daughter of the king came to visit last month!

I didn’t want to do the complete hike, because it said it takes about 2 hours and I booked in for a day tour, so we continued our trip. We went to the caves and waterfall of Klong Chak. On the way, my driver told me that last month the daughter of the king of Thailand came to visit the island of Koh Lanta. Due to security, many roads were blocked for hours. She stayed in the hotel on a hill with an amazing view which we drove past. I was thinking: ´If the daughter of the kind comes here on holiday, it must be one of the most amazing islands!”.

I was so much more relaxed than hiking alone through nature in the Philippines and in Australia!

Upon arriving I started my hike, first walking alone through some part of the jungle. I soak up energy from the jungle and nature and realised that I wasn’t worried at all like I used to be in the past. In the Philippines, I got a bit anxious when somebody asked me why I was walking all by myself in the jungle and that there can be snakes. This was at the twin lakes, not far from Dumaguete. And in Australia, in the rainforest around Cairns, I was suddenly freaking out about crocodiles when I saw a river. But this time I was just relaxed! I think after all these experiences, I have started to trust!

A part of the hike to Klong Chak waterfall goes straight through the river!

Not much later I met many other travellers doing the same route as me. Pretty soon we arrived at a point where the path was just not doable anymore: too much jungle and too slippery so we went into the river. Travellers already coming back from the waterfall told us that it was the only way. To be sure, and with another flashback of Sri Lanka, I checked that there were no leeches in the water. But other travellers were fine and I reminded myself to just trust again and my smelly sandals could use a wash anyway! The track continued for about 20 minutes through the river and I must say that in the end, the hike was actually more beautiful than the whole waterfall since it´s was not that impressive but altogether I enjoyed this stop the most. The hike was very nice and going through the river is pretty refreshing! My sandals looked like new afterwards!

 

Khlong Chak Hike, Koh Lanta
You pass a lake before you start the jungle hike to Khlong Chak

 

Hiking trail through the river to Khlong Chak Waterfal
The hiking trail to Khlong Chak, take a pair of flip flops with you!

 

From Koh Lanta Old Town to the sea gipsy village

We then went to Ko Lanta old town where I had a walk through the sleeping village and enjoyed a fresh fruit shake at a place with such lovely people. The man taught me some words in Thai and came with an English magazine with some more basic Thai words and I gratefully took a picture from the page to study more ´Thai´ later on. The last stop we did was in the sea gipsy village and this is a very basic place where the fishermen leave to be at the sea for a few days in a row while their wives and children await them in the village. Altogether it was a nice day and it left me with a good overall impression of the island of ´Koh Lanta´.

Would you also like to book an excursion or day tour on Koh Lanta Island? I can recommend to book it through Get your Guide. Once again, I receive a small commission on your purchase through the link in the advertisement below.

 

Koh Lanta Old Town
The sleepy village of Koh Lanta Old Town

 

Koh Lanta old town pier
Koh Lanta Old Town Pier

 

Another accidental ´synchronicity´ or coincidence´ in regards to ´Safety Stop´.

After my day tour, I went to Koh Lanta Saladan Pier to confirm my scuba diving for the next day. When I was done chatting and filling out all the paperwork I left the dive centre but within 5 minutes it started to rain like a shower! So I quickly escaped from it by entering the first restaurant I saw. I ordered a cappuccino when I realised that the name of the café was called… Safety Stop! Again such a coincidence! You never walk alone is what my mum told me and it´s also the first chapter of my book! But the name of my book is going to be ´Safety Stop´ and I also started this Safety Stop Facebook page like one day before! I don´t believe in coincidence by the way, although I do call it that in this article.

 

Safety Stop Dive Cafe on Koh Lanta Island
Safety Stop dive café on Koh Lanta, where I escaped for the rain

 

Meeting my friends from the Netherlands on Ko Lanta, more coincidences?

The next day I met with one of my best friends from the Netherlands and her boyfriend, Nicolle and Laurens. It was so much fun to see them again in this part of the world but the first night we left it to a quiet dinner although we did lots of chatting. I went home early because the next day I was going to do a triple tank dive day at Koh Haa.

Scuba Diving Koh Haa – the 5 islands

The scuba diving was great here! I made a good deal with the owner in exchange for writing an article about Scuba Diving from Koh Lanta. Overall there were caves, groupers, morays, anemone fish (clownfish), tuna, barracuda, shrimp, crabs, lobsters and nudibranchs. Unfortunately we missed the tigertail seahorse which usually is there, but wasn’t home today! And one amazing thing to see was the skeleton of a whale at about 33 metres of depth on the dive site called Koh Haa Lagoon. You can read the full article about diving in Koh Haa here.

 

the 5 islands dive sites, Koh Lanta
Koh Haa Bay, Koh Lanta, the 5 islands snorkel and dive spot.

 

 

Koh Haa whale skeleton
Whale Skeleton was laying on 30 metres of depth, scuba diving Koh Lanta

The next days I have been writing, preparing for Koh Mook and relaxing!

The next days I did some organising, catch up writing and translating and preparing my next stop to Koh Mook. But also I had some more dinners with Nicolle and Laurens and on my last day we had a very relaxing afternoon at their resort, drinking cocktails, enjoying some food and an amazing sunset. I had a great week on Koh Lanta!!

 

Sunset drink with friends in Thailand
Happy to meet with my friends on Koh Lanta

Stay tuned for more on Splashpacker!

I leave it with this, because my update will be too long. Stay tuned for my next Splashpacker travel blog update, it will include island hopping to the amazing ´Cast Away´- island of Koh Mook (click to read my article about it),  and amazing scuba diving on Ko Lipe and celebrating new years evening on Koh Lipe and some bloopers on Langkawi Island in Malaysia!

Support Splashpacker on your next diving holiday without paying anything for it!

Recently I have become affiliate partners with booking.com ,12Go.Asia and Skyscanner.  If you like to support Splashpacker you can book through your accommodation, transport of flightticket through one of the links provided in this article. This way I do receive a small commission but you don´t pay extra for it! 12Asia offers bus, boat, train and flight tickets!

Safe travels and happy bubbles!

You can check out the most recent photos on my Instagram account, or follow me on the Splashpacker Facebook page. Recently, I have also started a Splashpacker You Tube Channel, to which you can subscribe too!

*As an associate from Booking, Agoda, 12go.co and Get your Guide, I earn from qualifying purchases

2 thoughts on “Splashpacker Travel Blog 2 – Dec 2017”

  1. Thank you so much Neil! It´s always very motivating to have such a faithful reader like you 🙂 I hope you and Wendy are well. Take care!! Ellis xx

  2. Tough old job you have Ellis but someone has to do it on behalf of the couch potatoes around the world following your journey and experience! As always enjoyed your travel blog and I agree splitting it up into smaller sections was a good choice. Safe onward travels my friend. XX Neil

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