Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wrapping Up: Reliving Memories

I know I haven't really wrapped up my Phuket experience story. I need to wrap it up now so I can post more about my upcoming travel. To climb Mt. Kinabalu in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia. And so... to make the long story short, I'm gonna make a summary of my recent trip to Phuket with hubby. It was an 8-day trip... which we really enjoyed because we didn't have to rush up in going places and reliving moments.

We took a 10-hour bus ride. The peak season made it 12 hours. We were stuck in the borders because there were a lot of people going out of Malaysia and coming to Thailand. We reached Hatyai only at 10:30 am. We went straight to buy tickets for Phuket. But since we have appointment to have breakfast with friends, we didn't wanna rush our trip to Phuket and so we bought Van tickets instead which cost us 400 Baht per person. By traveling in a van, we cut our trip shorter from 8 hours to 6 hours.

When we reached Phuket, it was already 6 pm. There's no more public jeep (they call it song taew) operating so we took a tuktuk ride that cost us 200 Baht to Ao Chalong. We decided to stay there coz we were planning to go to Racha Island. We stayed in a very cheap inn called Ao Chalong Mansion for 350 Baht, with aircon and bathroom with water heater. Not bad, hey? We also had a romantic dinner by the beach.

The next day, we went to Racha Island by speed boat. Speed boat usually costs 1500 Baht per person but when we tried to look around some more, there was one travel agent that gave us 1000 Baht per person. That would include going there and coming back. So each trip cost us 500 Baht per person.

We stayed at Raya Family Resort because that was the cheapest resort in Raya Island. We got a small bungalow that cost us 1,000Baht per night. The food they served was very good. The only thing is... it's more expensive compared to the food in Phuket. But of course, it's an island.. they have to compensate for the transportation cost as well. One thing that amazed me was that there was a high-speed internet available in the island! I used internet once coz I needed to check for my assignments due date.

One of the highlights of the Raya Island trip was seeing an octopus while snorkeling. It was an awesome (and yet scary) sight! We could actually see beautiful fish within 1 meter of the beach... but hubby and I decided to go deeper. And I was intrigued to see a couple of snorkelers following something. I followed them as well... and I was glad I did. There, among the rocks, was an octopus sliding gracefully on the rocks. It was different seeing an octopus in an aquarium. And when you see it swimming with you in the ocean, it's another story! I think it sensed some people following him... so it hid behind the rocks later. I swam back to the sand and hubby followed me... and we were laughing in awe because we saw an octopus... LIVE! We went back there later to see if we can see it again... but we were disappointed. Sometimes, it helps when yo go the extra mile... go deeper. That's when you get a totally awesome experience. Of course, we didn't have an underwater camera. So we were not able to capture it. But this I'm sure... seeing an octopus gliding among the rocks was captured in our memories and it will stay there for a long long time.

Spent a lot of time reading and doing reflections with hubby. We did one thing that we normally don't do together as a couple. We rose up at 5 am and went to the other side of the island to see the sunrise at the beach. Totally awesome. God is great!

We stayed in Raya Island for 3days/2 nights. After that, we went back to Phuket, met some friends, visited some landmarks like Promthep cape, Kata Hillview where you can see the long stretches of 3 beaches (Patong beach, Kata beach, Karon beach). A friend lent us his Honda Jazz car, barely a year old. It was a totally beautiful vacation. We didn't do a lot of shopping though. Just bought some things for the kids (shirt for the boy and his cousins and a pair of two-piece swimsuit for my girl). But one thing we did that was totally gluttony delicious was to eat the Thai Food that was in our list (Thai Food to eat while in Phuket).

We were in Phuket on the 31st of December... Patong beach is the most happening of all places to be at for New Year. So we went there... stuck in the jam for 1 hour... managed to get to Patong by 12mn. And so... on the New Year's eve of 2009, hubby and I were in Patong beach, watching the grand fireworks that lasted for an hour.

We took a bus to hatyai the next day, on the 1st of January. Stayed in Regency hotel when we reached Hatyai at 4am. We only stayed until 12:00nn. We then went out for lunch and met friends again. Took a night bus to KL on the 2nd of January and reached KL on the 3rd morning.

The kids were not at home then. My parents-in-law sent them in the afternoon and was dismayed to see my girl with a very short hair. Why do we need to pay a price for every nice thing we do?

Nevertheless, I am thankful to God for giving us a good long break. I came back renewed and refreshed, ready to do my tasks again. I found myself to be a better me, a better parent and a better wife.

Now I am ready to climb a mountain. That would be my next episode: A Quest.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reliving Memories: Food Trip in Phuket

On December 31, 2008... we were in Phuket. We slept in in the morning. We need not worry about rushing up because we had a car to use. So we drove into Phuket, looked for Black Canyon coffee for breakfast. Only to realize they moved to another location, at Central Festival mall. So we went to Coffee Lovers instead. Peter had chocolate waffle with ice cream... yes, for breakfast.

And I had waffle with cheese and ham.
Then I checked my work online and found a bunch of opps waiting for me. Spent two hours finishing them because I didn't wanna bring them into the New Year with me. It's always nice to celebrate New Year when everything you wanna do is done. So, done. Two hours in front of the public computer. By the way, we didn't take our notebook with us.

Then we drove to Rawai for lunch. Peter's favorite. We ordered and ate like there was no tomorrow. It felt like it was almost a glutony. Ouch. Forgive us Lord.

Mango salad (som tam style), grilled squid for hubby, green curry chicken, fried chicken with cashew nuts...

And 4 fresh, raw oysters for me with two glasses of ice cold lemonade (nam manaw). We decided not to eat dinner after that because we were so filled. But I got hungry at 10:00pm... 2 hours before the New Year's Eve... and there's one more thing in my food-to-eat list. My ever favorite Kanom Jin (it's a rice noodle dish served with green fish curry.

You have to eat it with raw vegetables to moderate the spicy-ness of the food. But I could jump up and down feeling so miserable with the insides of my mouth burning with hot and spicy kanom jin. Guess I'm not used to eating that spicy food anymore. But I had satisfied my tummy's thai food trip desires.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reliving Memories: Phuket, Finally

After staying in Racha Island for 3 days, we went back to Phuket to see places I wanna see. Places that had created a memory in me. Places that I had share with Peter during the courtship days. But of course, we had to meet old friends first. So I called Somchai... whom I know could help us with accommodation and transportation. Times like these, it's good to meet the right person. And we did. We wanted to stay in a decent hotel in Phuket called the Crystal Inn. It's a 3-star hotel but hubby likes the service and the place. It's actually at the center of the town so you could go anywhere you want to the easy way. We didn't plan to rent a car because I knew all the bus routes. But God has his own way. And that time, He really wanted me and hubby to enjoy our vacation so much.

So realizations had been made:

1. We realized that my friend, Somchai, had bought a house just outside the town, for rent. It so happened that the tenants left a month ago so it was empty. He offered his place, which of course, we gladly took. We wanted to borrow his car but he's too busy doing stuff for the New Year... so he asked me to call another common friend.

2. When I called my friend, Winai, I realized that he didn't have a car for rent. He only had cars to sell. LOL. Winai used to be the driver of my friend Fong Mei (who used to take me to Bangkok with her for her prawn business). It was him that I asked to pick Peter up from the bus terminal... and I broke his heart. LOL. Anyways, I am not going to tell you anything about it. Just go figure. So he asked Somchai to take us to his place. And how he became so rich! He sells cars and he has branches all over Phuket! And he had a car to lend us.

Honda Jazz, barely a year old! Imagine how Peter felt when driving the thing... after being so used to drive an old and heavy car... He sure felt like very young again.

And so... to extend Somchai's hospitality, he invited us for dinner... which, of course, we gladly said yes. I know that only Thais can get you to eat the real, authentic Thai food... in a cheap but decent place. I was glad we came because I wouldn't have known how to order those food. Food photos will follow suit.

And because he was excited to go to Colorful Phuket countdown 2009, he also took us there, along with two new Thai friends.

We came to his house (for rent) late and feeling really exhausted because we just came back from Racha Island... but it was worth spending time with him. We had free place to stay for two more nights and a free Honda Jazz to roam around Phuket. And yes, free Thai food for dinner, too. God is awesome. He must have seen our desperate need for a vacation He put every thing in order before we came. He is an amazing God.

We were happy to sleep knowing that the next day, we would have a car to drive around the places I wanna revisit, food I wanna eat, and friends I wanna meet.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Patok Beach, Racha Island, Phuket, Thailand

Patok Beach, Racha Island, Phuket, Thailand. One of my favorite places to go. On the left of the image, the rocky area, is the best spot for snorkeling.

Reliving Memories: Snorkeling at Racha Island

One of the things I missed about being in Phuket is going to an island for a snorkeling. You can snorkel so much you won't realize how much time you spend above waters. Good thing hubby loves snorkeling too. So I made sure we did that. I didn't go for the day trip because I already knew the good snorkeling spot. We only rented the snorkeling equipment for 80Baht per day. Going for day trip with snorkeling costs you 200Baht more.

The best snorkeling spot in Patok beach is on the left side where the rocks are. Superbly beautiful fish swimming around... even within one meter of the water.

This was one of the reasons why I had to do Tae Bo and Pilates... so I could wear my snorkeling suit. Hehehe.

The other good spots for snorkeling is on the Ter Bay and the one across Ban Raya Resort, at the Kon Kare bay. Snorkeling could be therapeutic, I assure you. Awesome experience.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reliving Memories: Racha Island!

I finally brought my hubby to Raya Island. I'd been wanting to take him there... but due to some reasons, we just couldn't do it. This time, last December, we decided to take a break sans kids. It was the right time, I guess as Samantha has overcome her separation anxiety already. As I posted earlier, our director of the foundation I was connected with used to take us there for team bonding. I fell in love with the place. So remote, secluded, less polluted, almost a virgin island. And boy I was glad to be able to go there again, reliving memories... and building some for me and hubby.
Raya Island was affected by the 2004 tsunami. And the almost virgin island I used to go before has transformed into an almost developed island. I guess right after the Tsunami, when people started re-building the resort, a lot of people started putting up a resort as well. There were a few new resorts... and they're world-class... which means super expensive as well... like that of The Racha, a private resort:

But there's one resort that has remained the same... right in the middle of an Island. The cheapest resort in Racha Island, the Raya Family Resort. It has the same rate whether you come during low season or high season. 1,000Baht per night. bungalow. 24/7 electricity. friendly and superb customer service. and yes, high speed internet available too at 50baht per 10 minutes. not bad for a remote island, hey?

Raya Father Resort, right in the middle of Raya Island... the road goes through the other side of the island where the Ban Raya Resort is.

This road used to be a rough road, parallel to Ban Raya Resort front. We used to go this way for a better snorkeling spot. Beautiful, colorful fish and corals. Awesome.

This paved road used to be a jungle-like walk. A road that leads to Raya Family Resort.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reliving Memories: Getting to Racha Island

Or the Raya Island. It was where our director took us everytime we go for team buildings. We went there a few times and I can say that Raya Island is the most beautiful island in Phuket. It surely was a paradise.

I sent a couple friends there for their honeymoon once and I thought I would surely take Peter there... to see the place, to experience the place... and just to be in that place.

How to get to Racha (Raya) Island?

Raya Island is accessible by either speed boats or long tail boats. Speed boats can reach Raya in 30 minutes time... and it takes 2 hours to get to Raya by long tail boats.

Speed boats can cost 1,000Baht to go and come back. I think that's the cheapest one can get, especially during peak season. The earlier travel agent we asked was 1,500Baht so we looked around for cheaper ones. And if you want a day trip that includes snorkeling and lunch, you just add 200Baht.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reliving Memories: Ao Chalong

My friend Aisha and I loved going to the pier of Ao Chalong (Chalong Bay) for afternoon walks. We used to go there almost everyday. It used to be quieter though. Now it's full of speed boats, cruisers, and long tail boats. The Chalong Bay itself has developed so much. There are more shops now... more massage parlors, more pubs, more hotels, more restaurants, etc. It's not the same old Ao Chalong anymore... and it has come too touristy... but I don't really mind it. The more people go there, the merrier the place gets.

We stayed at Ao Chalong Mansion for our first night in Phuket. We decided to stay in a budget hotel so we could do more with our saved $$. Also, there are a lot of travel agencies nearby... so it's easy to book for a speed boat that goes to Raya Island. Yes... we were planning to go to Raya Island (Racha Island).

It's always better if you know the place. At least you'd know which has the cheaper and better service. In my case, it is good. I know which place to go to get a cheap speed boat. I got it for 200 Baht (20RM) less. And we stayed at a cheap hotel for 350 baht (35RM) per night, with aircon and private shower. That's really cheap. Other hotels would cost 700 Baht now... because it is peak season. Usually, the prices in Phuket go up to double when it's peak season time. High season starts in October (gets peak in December) and ends in May. That means, if you want to do budget traveling in Phuket, you can do so in between May and September. The only thing is... low season means monsoon season. That means it's pretty rough on the seas... which is dangerous to do Island Hopping. But if you're adventurous... whether the sea is fine or rough, you can actually do it.Well, I am posting photos of Ao Chalong for the sake of my friend Aisha who used to stay nearby. Hope you enjoy the photos Aish.

More on our Phuket trip: Dinner by the Beach of Ao Chalong
Dimsum with friends for breakfast in Hatyai

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