Koh Racha [Part One]
Well that was something else. A whirlwind five-day trip encompassing Bangkok > Phuket > Koh Racha > Phuket > Bangkok. Bloody well worth it though. I got to spend time with MyTW, bought a sexy new dvd/video camera and two bottles of french vodka duty free (of course!) and managed to reaquaint myself with that famous spicy thai food.
The holiday itself was fairly straightforward, with one high and one low point to remark upon. I practically burst off the plane as soon as it touched the ground (sorry to the russian bloke in front of me that I knocked over in my rush to get down the aisle), raced through customs after a hastily-resolved dispute over my old work visa, and in to the loving arms of MyTW.
The next morning we took off to Phuket on local domestic air carrier One-Two-GO (should have been called After-Half-Hour-Delay-GO!) on a one-hour flight down the west coast. Our Phuket hotel was in Patong Beach, and due to the mental activities of the last day of the Songkran Water Festival, it took about an hour and a half to get there from the airport.
The road on the way into Patong was jam packed with pickup trucks loaded with drunken revellers splashing water on all and sundry as they drove past (even the poor, good-natured traffic cops who got absolutely soaked) and we were able to watch the madness from inside the relative safety of our taxi (windows up of course!)
Many sneering long-term expats and seasoned crusty travellers complain about how Phuket and Patong in particular is overly touristy and lacking in atmosphere. I personally found it a nice, laidback, and surprisingly clean seaside town that I'd quite happily spend a week at. Yes it's touristy, but what can you expect from a seaside town that serves as a gateway to some of the most spectacular islands and dive spots in the world.
Having managed to avoid getting covered in water and flour during the festival, we embarked the next day for a 30 minute speed boat ride to Koh Racha. All I can say is "wow". I've been to some mighty nice islands both here in Australia and Thailand before, but this was something else. Water the colour of glass, beautiful big coconut trees reaching for the sun in the stillness of the mid-day heat, birds, cicadas and frogs all competing for voice, and not a jetski/banana boat/horse in sight. Anyone who's ever been to Hua Hin will understand the horse reference.
There followed snorkelling right off the beach that was just mindblowing, as the abundance and variety of fish species just five metres off the island took my breath away (not literally of course, I did have a snorkel).
The evening was spent on the resort restaurant's deck, drinking vintage Moët under the full moon and enjoying the general ambience. If only it could stay this way forever...(to be continued)