Yep, we’re still in Thailand – well, not physically, but blog-wise, that’s where we are. And weather-wise on mainland Mexico, it seemed just about as hot and sticky as Thailand, so there is that.
We left Koh Yao Yai just as we’d arrived – on a speed boat. But instead of going back to Patong Beach, we decided to give Old Phuket Town a try, and we’re sure glad we did. It was to be just a way-station to Khao Sok National Park, but we ended up staying three nights, more than usual for us mofos. This little gem of a place had a completely different look and feel to it compared to the debaucherous, touristy atmosphere of Patong Beach. Although tourism is also integral to the economy here, it just seemed so much more civilized.
For centuries, Europeans have had a great deal of influence over life in this region, through extensive tin mining and trade, which lead to relative prosperity, and the architecture that dominates some of the main streets in town. Two styles of building stand out: the shop-house (Sino-Portuguese style) and the big mansion (Sino-Colonial style). These single or two-story buildings are generally very narrow, but long. The tiles, doors, perforated windows and other details are all influenced by Chinese and European styles mixed together. This made for a very aesthetically pleasing and different city experience.
Of course, the majority of our time was spent looking for and partaking in all of the various food options from nice, linen-napkin restaurants, to street food-like shops, but most importantly, we discovered “love-in-a-cup” during a monsoonal deluge. Love-in-a-cup – ok, we’re not sure if that is what it was really called, but it should be – consists of Thai tea (sweet and dreamy) and a huge scoop or two of whatever kind of ice cream strikes your fancy at that moment. When the rain comes, it comes fast and heavy, so people walking the streets are forced to duck into the closest shelter for temporary protection. We happened to slip into the Thaivetro Oldtown Ice Cream parlor, which also sells handcrafted jewelry, so why not have an ice cream and peruse beautiful bling while waiting out the afternoon drizzle? We couldn’t have spent our time (or calories) more wisely.
Except at the Trickeye Museum! Knowing we were getting into the monsoons, Randy did a little research up front to figure out rainy day activities in Phuket Town. What a genius! Check out the photos – the designers of this place took a lot of time and effort to figure out all of the intricacies of 3D wall art. Super fun and super silly!
And walking up Monkey Hill – in the pouring rain and (brief) bright sunshine. The sidewalk leading up the steep-ish hill was lined with vine-covered trellises, and there were three or four women sweeping the street with brooms made of bamboo. There were signs as we climbed higher warning us to protect all valuables and stash any loose, shiny items away in backpacks or zippered pockets. We heeded this warning, however soon crossed paths with a tourist whose glasses were stolen from the top of his head by a brazen young macaque, who proceeded to dash high onto a power line and chew the glasses into an unusable form. Eventually, we came upon a troupe of monkeys that were totally unafraid and seemingly stalked us from behind as we passed by. Creepy. And then further up the road, more monkeys. Along with all the monkeys, there were packs of feral dogs staking out their turf along the road. The monkeys and the dogs segregated themselves, not unlike humans, so it got to the point where we were reluctant to go any further. Yeah, creepy. But we got some good photos.
After a lovely few days in Phuket Town we hopped on a bus to Khao Sok National Park. Interestingly, the national parks here seem to have very definitive hours during which visitors can venture into the wilderness. And hiking on many of the trails requires a guide, so we actually spent a limited time on our own in Khao Sok NP. But what time we did spend was…fun?
The big adventure was an overnight stay at the Tone Tuey floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake. It’s a long story, but rather than bore you with minutiae, we’ll give you the bullet points:
- The proprietor of our hotel, the Khao Sok Green Valley Resort, also acts as a broker to book tours in the park; she showed us some photos of the lovely Smiley floating bungalows on the lake and assured us there were bathrooms/showers in each.
- We negotiated a “discounted” price because there were six of us – no problem.
- We verified (again) that there were bathrooms/showers in each of the bungalows.
- We were advised that we wouldn’t need towels or much of anything else since there were bathrooms/showers in the bungalows and we were only staying one night. So we left most of our luggage at Green Valley, where we would stay one more night upon our return from the lake.
- We boarded a minivan early in the morning for the hour-long drive to the main boat dock.
- We stopped at a market along the way and picked up some snacks.
- Arrived the dock with about 200 other people and boarded our longtail for the hour-long drenching. Seriously, a veritable drenching.
- Arrived at our floating bungalows – NOT Smiley, but Tone Tuey. Big difference (see embedded link for Smiley and our photos of Tone Tuey). After viewing the bungalows/docks/bathroom/shower situation (no, there were no bathrooms/showers inside each bungalow) and being told not to house any (recently purchased) snacks inside the bungalows because of ants, we were tempted to get a boat back to the main dock. But getting a shuttle back to Green Valley was a non-starter. Ugh – this is what happens when you negotiate a reduced price.
- We sucked it up, got happy, and enjoyed the mildew-infested bungalows, the overcrowded “ecotour,” and the noms that were just meh. BUT, our guide, Liam, was swell, there weren’t many bugs to speak of, and the other tourists we shared this adventure with were all very pleasant.
- After a restless sleep, we hopped on the longtail for the hour-long drenching back to the main dock.
- Got in the minivan for the trip back to hotel; stopped at a park along the way for a packed lunch of fried rice.
- Got bumped from the minivan (why – we’ll never really know) and loaded up in a truck-truck for the rest of the journey back to the Green Valley.
- Made it back safely, expressed our discontent to the proprietor, went for a hike in the park, and jumped on a bus the next morning for Surat Thani.
Bottom line? Loved Phuket Town and could love Khao Sok if/when we give it another go. There you have it, for now. There is overlap between the vids and some of the stills, but apparently not everyone looks at both – can you believe it? Anyway, enjoy!!
Phuket Town Photo Gallery
The Trickeye 3D Museum Photo Gallery
Khao Sok National Park Photo Gallery
And now for S/V Adventurer‘s vids!