Rafflesia and Tree House

We had to set our alarm today as we have arranged to go hiking to see the Rafflesia flower. We have our breakfast of banana porridge and Klaus introduces us to Kai, our guide for the morning. Kai has been a park ranger for 16 years and a guide for the past 10. Before we can enter the park we have to go to the park headquarters and pay entrance fees of 400 baht for Simon and me and 200 for the kids. Klaus takes us in his pick up and then drops us 1.5km away at the foot of the mountain with Kai.

Immediately we enter the jungle it is obvious that this will be a tough and tiring climb. The paths are narrow, very steep and there are lots of stones and roots to step over. We climb up for about a km and then make our way along a river bed. It is quite shallow as it hasn’t rained here for 3 months and we get muddy rather than very wet. After about an hour of exhausting effort, Kai tells us that we are nearing the flower sites.

The Rafflesia flower is the one of the world’s rarest as well as largest flowers. It is parasitic and only found in the jungles of Malaysia and Thailand. It only flowers once a year and once opened the bloom lasts for 4 days before the flower turns black and rots away. It was named by Sir Stamford Raffles when he discovered it whilst in Malaysia. When we were in Taman Negara the flower had opened but it was an 8 hour round trip hike to go and see it and we subsequently didn’t.

At last we reach a small bamboo platform, Kai is ahead of us and calls back that the flower is closed. It is a huge disappointment after our strenuous efforts and we sit looking at a black rotting carcass of a flower and a massive unopened bud. Kai suggests that instead of turning back we continue on for another hours climb in the hope that we may see a Rafflesia flower in bloom at another, slightly higher site. We aren’t too keen but he encourages us on with informative explanations of plant life in the jungle and shows us wild bee honey comb, scorpion holes and cicada nests along the way. The Rafflesia flower is fast becoming the holy grail of flowers and we keep going despite the heat and difficulty of the hike.

Suddenly Alister shouts out in excitement and there it is, at last a blooming Rafflesia flower. It is around 2 feet wide, with large spongy looking red petals and a spiky centre. It is on the side of an extremely steep and slippery slope and Kai has to hold my hand to stop me from sliding off. We take photos and are careful not to damage the surrounding area as we get close up .Its really great to see it and I feel lucky and privileged to have had the opportunity to show it to the kids. Nearly 4 hours after we set off we arrive back at the roadside and Klaus is there to meet us. We are soaking wet through with sweat and agree the hike was really difficult but well worth it.

After a cold beer back at Our Jungle House we set about moving. The tree houses have become available and we have decided to take them for our last night here. The houses are built in between 2 trees and very similar in construction to the riverside cottages. The rattan walls open up completely and we decide we will leave them open all night. Effectively we will be sleeping out in the open with only our mosquito net for shelter and it is very strange sitting on the bed feeling completely exposed to the elements. Having a shower in the open air also feels liberating ( I feel like a Herbal Essences girl) and slightly scary as you wonder if someone will come past despite the isolated setting. Simon says he has never had such an amazing view sitting on the crapper before!

Tomorrow we are leaving here and visiting a lake setting where we have planned to stay overnight in a rafthouse. I have enjoyed staying here in the jungle immensely and am looking forward once again to moving on and seeing what the next place has to offer.

The Jungle

We were awake before 5am and lie there in the darkness listening to the jungle around us stirring. I read that the different species of cicadas have different calling times and that their songs are so distinctive that some indigenous tribes still use them to tell the time of day with the accuracy of a watch. They are so loud and almost drown out the other noises of the jungle. Simon gets up and sits on the veranda, Langur monkeys swing along the bushes of the cliffs and gibbons call in the distance. I was always of the opinion that zoos and safari parks were as good a place as any to view wildlife and of course it is guaranteed. I wasn’t prepared at all for the thrill of seeing animals in their natural habitat and how it would make me feel. Seeing a pair of giant hornbills in a tree beside our hut is really indescribably exciting and for me one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Despite the wonderful surroundings nothing can detract from the fact that I am feeling really shit and I go back to sleep and don’t wake up until 10.30. We had planned to hike to a waterfall today but I can barely hike to breakfast and we give up on that idea quickly.
Always looking for the worst case scenario I wonder if I have malaria and the idea that I may snuff it in the jungle does cross my mind. Simon is completely unsympathetic to that idea though and reminds me that the likelihood of that is very low and I have in fact just got a cold. We have taken our malaria tablets religiously and I’m pleased we haven’t forgotten them once so I guess he’s probably right.

We spend the day very quietly; Simon does some science with the kids. The biology section of the science curriculum is now completed and I think what an amazing place to learn about plants and photosynthesis. We are ahead of schedule and have eight and a half months left to complete the chemistry and physics modules. It’s a satisfying feeling knowing that we have, despite our initial doubts taught our kids and I know they have been taught really well.

In the evening we eat by the light of oil lamps. As usual the food is really great and I have 3 glasses of white wine in a kill or cure attempt. Tomorrow we have arranged to go and visit the site of the flowering Rafflesia. This is an amazing opportunity to see the world’s largest flower and we can’t miss it due to me feeling crappy. I take Maisie off to bed leaving Simon teaching Alister how to play backgammon. A few years ago Simon won us a days bar bill in a backgammon bet, whilst on holiday in Turkey so I don’t fancy Ali’s chances much.

Khao Sok

I wake up feeling really shite with a headache, blocked up nose and sore throat. Simon suggests we stay here for another day but I figure as we are now up we might as well get going after breakfast. We repack our gear and after some toast and fruit, Simon runs out to the road to get a taxi. We pile in the sawngthaew and ask the fella to take us to the bus station. The buses are every hour, on the hour and we figure we have plenty of time as it is only 9.40 but the guy at the station grabs our cash and chucks us on a bus that is leaving now. Still we check with the driver and it seems this bus does pass Khao Sok on the way to Phuket and I’m happy enough with that.

Two hours later and we are close to the park. We have passed lots of big lorries loaded up with beige coloured sheets of raw latex. The busy streets of Surat Thani, where the red lanterns hanging to celebrate Chinese New Year are being taken down, slowly give way to mountains, trees and small bumpy roads with occasional huts and roadside seller’s.
We are called to the front of the bus and its time to get off. I’m in desperate need of a pee and am directed to a few sheets of plastic and a hole round the back of a hut when I ask where to go. Still I’m a hardcore toilet user now. Look out Nicky things could get worse! Hee hee!

A fella with a pick up asks us where we want to go and we tell him we have reserved a bed for the night at “Our Jungle House”. Simon gets in with the driver and me and the kids sit in the back with our gear. Going over the bumps is an exciting experience as our arses jump up and crash back down on the metal. Luckily the most uncomfortable ride experience I have ever had only lasts for 10 minutes before we arrive. Oh wow what an awesome place, some of the places we have visit I really struggle to convey exactly how amazing they are and this place I don’t even think the photos will do it any justice let alone my ramblings.

Down a narrow path, is a small wooden, single storey building with a few tables and chairs, a desk and a bookshelf. There is no one around but a fella appears down the stairs and introduces himself as Klaus. He asks us how long we wish to stay for and then suggests we leave our gear and “Let’s go for a walk”. We set of behind him in single file down a dusty path into dense jungle. I expected to see a neat row of wooden bungalows but there’s none of that organisation in this place. We walk for a while and pass what Klaus describes as the” Thai house” first. This is a two storey structure but unfortunately not available tomorrow night. Then we pass 2 tree houses, they look great but are a long way from each other and we would rather be closer to the kids here.

Last we arrive at what Klaus calls the riverside cottages. These little wooden huts on stilts will be perfect for us, close together, in a little clearing, right at the end of a trail and on the riverbank. The scenery is truly amazing and across the river massive, sheer limestone cliffs rise 200 feet into the air. We are surrounded by thick jungle and as Ali says it is as noisy as a city, the cicades are ear splittingly loud and we all catch sight of lizards, dragon flies and other insects darting around. Maisie comes across a snake and wisely waits until it slithers off before carrying on skipping down the path!

The cottages are quite comfortable with cold water shower, clean sheets and mosquito nets. We are given a solemn explanation of do’s and don’ts of the jungle including checking underneath our pillows at night before lying down. Oh my god!

We have our dinner, the choice is really good and we decide to be a bit adventurous. We choose pumpkin and bamboo spicy red curry, banana flower leaf salad, chicken green curry, tempura vegetables with chilli and steamed rice. It’s really great food and we’re all completely stuffed by the end of our meal. We make our way back along the path to our huts its only early but dark although not pitch black. The moonlight lights up our little clearing and we stare up at the stars and watch the bats swooping around. It is an eerie and wonderful experience. My imagination starts to run away with me though and by the time we get ready to let our mosquito net down I’m convinced there are huge bugs everywhere.

Although I knew before I started the trip I was scared of heights amongst other things, I never thought insects would bother me. As I am pottering around in the gloomy light looking for my toothbrush I tread on something warm and squishy. I shriek the place down and the kids come flying across from their hut to see what’s wrong. I sit on the bed sobbing hysterically that I’ve trodden on a snake and insist that Simon looks for it. The snake turns out to be nothing more than the padded strap from my rucksack and eventually I fall into an uneasy and disturbed sleep.

100 Islands resort and Spa

Today we had planned to catch a bus to Khao Sok National Park but when we rang ahead to book accommodation the place was full for this evening. Simon then suggested we perhaps move to a better hotel for the day and night. What a stellar idea, the hotel we choose is only 190 baht more expensive than last nights place and turns out to be really gorgeous. The rooms are large and beautiful and there is a lovely lagoon style swimming pool, with overhanging trees and the kids spend nearly all day in it.

We also pay for wifi and take the opportunity to send a few emails and update the website. Not really a hardship as we are sat in our swimwear by the pool, sipping our drinks in the hot sunny weather. There aren’t any westerners here which is good, as the huge number of tourists and travellers in this region was a bit overwhelming for us. We have a big American style breakfast when we arrive and my plans to diet again go out the window!

I check out the spa prices, for 20 quid you can have every inch of your body massaged, oiled, scraped, wrapped, manicured and pedicured and I am tempted. In the end though I’m too lazy to move from the poolside and don’t do anything more than bake myself all day.

In the evening we go across the road to Tesco’s. On the surface it is fairly similar to the supermarkets at home. The fruit and veg would either be discarded in England as too unshapely or alternatively sold as organic for 3 times more. The meat counter has some surprises, the meat is sort of sold loose and there is a huge selection of chicken pieces, scary looking fish with large teeth and our favourite, pigs trotters amongst other things.

We lose Ali as we always do in the supermarkets at home but rather than finding him by the toys we spy him engrossed in examining the selection of guns and flick knives on sale. We have dinner in the food court, a type of Asian instore eatery, this is a bit of a gamble as we have to point at things that look ok and see what we get with it! In this way we manage to get by and have some satay, fried pork, spicy noodle salad and steamed rice. Maisie and I have a pink donut for pudding.

We get back our hotel room and all crash out on the bed. Ali is really tired and makes me laugh when he says “The thing I like about this place is you don’t have to worry about checking for cockroaches behind your pillow before you go to sleep”
On that note they are obviously having it far too easy these days, better get back to basics when we head off for the jungle tomorrow!

Surat Thani

We were awake around 6.30am today and got up early to have our breakfast. We repacked all our gear and collected our laundry. Although we didn’t ask for it we obviously got the super cheap service as our stuff wasn’t even folded and looks almost as dirty as when we sent it!

Simon spends ages cutting bits of wool off our clothes, when stuff goes for washing they mark it by stitching on tiny bits of coloured wool. Presumably to stop it getting mixed up with other peoples stuff, anyway the system doesn’t work as I find a pair of porn Speedo’s and a t-shirt that isn’t mine!

At 10.30 the van arrives to take us to the bus station, after a long wait we are herded onto our favourite mode of transport, the minibus. The driver has to be the rudest, horriblest person I have met since we started travelling and shouts at everyone to get on the bus. He drives safely enough though and when we stop half way and he gets out and gets himself a drink without letting us off I’m not surprised. I look out of the window on the way and listen to my MP3 player. The road is excellent very wide and not too busy and the landscape is industrial, with lots of trees, cream painted buildings with red roof tiles and run down looking shacks.

The drive takes just over 2 hours and eventually he dumps us 5km out of town. Simon starts to argue with him but it’s not worth it as he just ignores him and tells 2 girls who ask him what we should now do “that he doesn’t know, doesn’t care and they should just get out”- friendly!!

I’m not surprised really as we have read terrible reports of “service” in these really touristy areas, including lots of warnings to watch your stuff as unscrupulous bus drivers steal whatever they can to make extra money. It is impossible to watch our big packs but they only have things in that can be easily replaced anyway. Anything of value stays with us at all times. We arrange a pick up to take us to our hotel and when we arrive I’m pleased to see it’s really clean, with air con. The rooms can be paid for by the hour but I don’t care about that as it is quiet enough at the end of the corridor where we are.

We have been thinking about where to go next. Our original plan to visit the larger islands has changed as we have realised we don’t want to go to the busy places, rammed with tourists and travellers. The busier a place is the less Thai culture we experience and of course we end up paying more for everything. Although there were about 100 people where we arrived in Surat Thani only us and one other fella headed off to town. Everyone else is bound for Ko Samui or Ko Pha- Ngan.

We have discovered that the Khao Sok National Park is only an hour’s drive from here and sounds a bit like Taman Negara in Malaysia. We decide that this will be a better option for us and plan to find out a bit more information about it.

We have some decent Chinese food at the restaurant downstairs and go for a wander round. There’s nothing to do here and Simons hopes of watching the rugby disappear as everything starts pack up around 8pm. Although Thailand is considered to be very easy to get around, in our experience it is actually more difficult than India if you are travelling truly independently as very few people speak any English and it can be hard to make yourself understood.

We go back to our rooms and decide to watch a film. Wee have unfortunately realised today that we have lost our 8 discs that contained over 70 films. This leaves a choice of 5 that are stored on the hard drive and include Creep, Madagascar, Titantic and Alien Versus Predator which is what we settle on. As usual I see about half an hour of it before I’m asleep.

KR Mansion

We have had such a quiet and peaceful day today. We very slowly made our way to breakfast, which seemed to take us ages to eat as we all had several courses! Simon then spent a few hours doing some science with the kids. I couldn’t face doing it today and they seem to have no clue that it is as difficult for us to get motivated sometimes as it is for them.

The weather is very hot and overcast today and I’m not surprised when it starts to rain. As we have previously experienced in Asia the rain is torrential but doesn’t last long and I guess the temperature hardly dips a degree.

We have a wander up the road in the afternoon and after stopping for coffee find a hairdresser. Ali has his hair cut for a bargain 50 baht (less than a quid). One of the things I am sure we will find really aggravating when we go home is the cost of simple things like a haircut. We then phone home on Skype. Mum ad Paul moved house from Plymouth to Burton on Trent yesterday and its great hearing all about their new place. I also have a quick word with my brother Will and catch up on the news of how our niece Hope is growing.

Then I speak to Dad and Pauline, its lovely to speak to them also and let them know how things are going. They said we all look a little bit wild these days on the photo’s which I was pleased to hear.

Several hours later and I have earache so say my goodbyes and head for the bar across the road where Simon and the kids are waiting. We have a quick drink and decide to look for a bookshop. We buy Maisie a new book but can’t find one for Ali and will try again in Surat Thani. The kids have enjoyed reading their books on bus and train trips but English children’s books have so far proved fairly difficult to find.

We walk further into Krabi town. It is a lively and busy place with loads of touristy shops selling souvenirs, fake designer gear and sun cream. It reminds me a little of Hua Hin where we holidayed last year. We settle on KFC for dinner and over order by a mile, still it is cheap enough and eventually we do manage to eat the lot back at our hotel. We also bought some magazines at the book shop and I lie on the bed looking at photographs taken of the tsunami damage.

Although we have been to Thailand since the tsunami and the images of 26.12.04 were probably clearer in my mind then, nothing can prepare you for visiting those areas and seeing the damage caused first hand. The magazine shows terrible pictures from Penang Langkawi, Ko Lanta and especially the beach we visited yesterday at Railay. It makes me think about stuff, count my blessings.

Simon and the kids are downstairs watching Mr and Mrs Smith. We are moving on tomorrow to Thailand’s East coast. Until this afternoon I had no clue where we were going, when and how we were getting there and am so pleased that finally I am becoming so less organised and anal about stuff.

Actually we are going to a place called Surat Thani by bus, it will take around 3 hours and from there we will head further north we think, I’m looking forward to seeing the other coast. Whether it will be completely over run with tourists though will be another matter.

Four Islands Trip

Due to the heat we are awake around 6.30am and wait until 8 to rouse the kids. There is a breakfast buffet at this hotel and its very good value at 99 baht. We choose fruit, muesli and hot breakfast for Simon and the kids also. Ali, Maisie and I spend an hour doing literacy. They write a letter to the King of Thailand asking him to set up a karting track in every town. Simon then goes off to the post office, we have more stuff to post home and it costs us 20 quid to send it to Dad and Pauline’s.

When he comes back he has booked us a trip on a boat and we make our way to the pier at 12pm. It costs us 1500 baht which is a good price for the four of us and we have the longtail to ourselves. We set off for Railay, this is where the most spectacular cliff faces are and we’re not disappointed with the stunning scenery. The rocks are jagged and massive and rise up out of the sea. We were considering staying in Railay and we both agree we are glad we didn’t. It is teeming with tourists and the restaurant we have lunch at reminds me of the cafes you get at theme parks like Alton Towers.

When we get back to our boat the fella has got 2 more passengers on it, a couple from Belgium .They’re ok, they’re on holiday here for 2 weeks and we have a bit of a chat. The cheeky boat fella has charged them 1000 baht and so Simon asks him to knock 300 off our price. He agrees readily enough and asks Simon to buy him a beer which placates him!

We stop off at a dive site, the snorkelling is good and we see live coral and lots of brightly coloured fish. The kids seem to love swimming in the open water and are very confident. I remember Maisie telling me only a few months ago that she couldn’t swim in the sea as she was too afraid. Now she leaps straight in off the side of the boat and swims like a dolphin!

Next we visit “Chicken Island” a large craggy rock formation, shaped like a chickens head and neck named this island and if you squint at just the right angle it is reasonably obvious! There is more snorkelling to do here but I stay on the boat and chat to the fella.

One of the first questions Thais ask is how old you are, this is to establish who is senior and who is junior and is necessary for status and obligation reasons. Factors such as wealth personal and political power are also very important. All relationships in traditional Thai society are governed by lines of social rank and there are mutual obligations for both parties. The junior are expected to show a degree of obedience and respect and the senior grant favours etc. This doesn’t apply to strangers but always comes into play with family and friends. For example the senior pays the dinner bill for everyone even if it empties his wallet.

We also talk about his family and he brings up the subject of the tsunami. He points out fallen rocks caused by the wave and tells me he lost his boat. Approximately 8000 Thais died as a result of the tsunami, many of them in this province. I try and tell him how distressing we found it also in the West and convey some empathy to him but I’m not sure he really understood what I was struggling to say.

In the evening we head to a restaurant with live music but unfortunately all the tables are full. Still we have a great Thai meal at the place next door. We are becoming much more adventurous with our food, although we will all try anything we have been choosy about salads but I guess the Thai salads are so hot and spicy no organisms could live for long on them and they are probably safe enough to eat if you can handle the chillies.

We head back next door for the live music, but Maisie and I are really tired and decide to walk back at around 10.30 before the music starts up. At 12.30am Simon and Ali appear back, Ali has been playing the guitar in the bar and they have had a great night.

Krabi

Today we are travelling to Krabi, on the Southwest coast of Thailand; it is described as having some amazing scenic karst formations, which attract international rock climbers at all levels, tropical forests and over 150 islands that were once hideouts for Asian pirates.

We spend the morning having breakfast, waffles today and the kids have a last play in the pool. At 11.30 the minibus we have arranged turns up and we pile in. We stop off at a few more hotels and pick up more passengers. Eventually the bus is full, all but one remaining seat. To our dismay the bus stops again and it appears another 2 passengers are about to get on. Simon and I are having none of it and express our unhappiness at 12 passengers sharing 11 seats loudly. Unfortunately none of the other passengers seem to share our concerns regarding safety and eventually we get out.

We now have only 25 minutes to make it to the pier and luckily we get a lift in the back of a pick up for free. The ferry ride then takes 2 hours. As we approach Krabi, Simon gets the camera out. It is of course very hot and the rocks and cliffs of Krabi seem to shimmer in the haze of the boiling afternoon sun. The sunlight reflects off the water and the blue sky is dotted with puffy white clouds. It makes a “picture postcard pretty” sight and we sit on the front of the boat watching the sandy beaches go by and getting fried!

We arrive at Krabi Pier and commandeer a trolley to move all our gear. A pick up taxi costs us 150 baht and we head off to The KR Mansion in Krabi town. Hardly a mansion, it is an informative small hotel with an extensive menu and will certainly do for a night or so. We are amused to see that we are right opposite the courts, although our amusement is tempered slightly when the prison van leaves, packed with Thai men in pale orange t-shirts, hanging through the bars. A reminder of the need to, at all times stay on the right side of Thai law. As if we planned to do anything but. It is fairly sobering when passing through borders to see “Death penalty for drug smugglers” stamped across the bottom of your immigration card.

Krabi town seems to be a smallish and busy place, with wide roads, coconut palms and tiny food vendor stalls along the way. There are many guesthouses catering to British, German and Scandinavian tourists and travellers and we see shops selling everything from dried fish to toiletries to fake designer gear. We are becoming less and less organised with our itinerary and at the moment haven’t even decided whether we are leaving tomorrow let alone where we may go next. Instead we have a few beers and some food and decide whatever will be, will be!

At 8pm Simon and the kids go back down to the bar to watch Chevy a Chase film. I lie on the bed after my 4th shower of the day and read my book and by 10.30pm we’re ready for sleep.

Lanta Longbeach Resort

Simon goes off on the coffee run and returns with 4 breakfast vouchers. Although I can’t face noodles, sausages and French toast they all tuck in and I stick to yogurt and fruit.
We have been considering exploring the island a bit but decide as the main reason to visit this area is for the beaches we will stay where we are. Besides the kids are having a lovely time in the pool and don’t even argue when I say we have to do some schoolwork. It is a beautiful place to have your lessons, over looking the sea and I think even they appreciate that.

We spend the day quietly, there is Wi-fi here so we answer a few emails and do a bit of research on the Krabi Province. I’m reading a book called American Gods which is very strange and keeps me entertained.

In the evening we catch a motorcycle taxi to a restaurant called Red Snapper, it is run by a Dutch couple and we have tapas which makes a change and the kids love it. We have had a lovely evening, chatting about their schoollife and playing memory games and catch a motorcycle taxi back around 10.30. These taxis are basically motorbikes with a wooden platform on wheels attached to them. You sit on a bench and pray, they don’t go very fast and there is no alternative transport but I’m glad when we get back safely.

We ask Maisie to get out and take a photograph of us on the thing and as she steps down she catches her foot and falls off face down with her leg trapped between the bars. Poor Maisie, she has really hurt her leg and will have a massive bruise on her thigh tomorrow. The taxi driver is so concerned and upset and Ali tells him we don’t need the hospital just a bit of TLC. Simon carries her back to our bungalow and we examine her leg, she is very brave, a real hero and even laughs when Simon says how gutted he is that the camera is still working which means we still can’t have a new one.

What a drama! I put them to bed, we are travelling to Krabi tomorrow and I think we have all had enough excitement for one evening. So lights out and off to sleep.

Koh Lanta

Today we are leaving for Koh Lanta. Simon has been talking to an Australian couple and they are going to share our boat which will reduce the cost to 300 baht each. We repack our gear and set off after breakfast. Maisie sits on the edge of the boat and although I tell her to hold on tight, she doesn’t bother and looks so relaxed, like a natural sailor!
We all chat on the way; Andy and Angela are travelling back to Australia from England for their wedding in April and have recently resigned from their jobs. For the past four years they worked on a super yacht in Costa Rica for a man worth 800 million and its fascinating hearing about their time spent with him.

Koh Lanta was known long ago as Pulau Satak. This is a name of Malayan origin and means Long Beach Island. 100 years ago the island was important to trade ships, but the construction of roads on the mainland between Krabi and Trang meant that goods transportation now takes place by road. In the late 1980′s the first tourist bungalows opened on Lanta and business was booming until the tsunami in 2004. Some areas of the island were badly damaged but according to our book the “Koh Lanta Ok” campaign has ensured it is now as “beautiful as ever”.

The scenery is wonderful; the tall rocky limestone cliffs that rise out of the sea are very pretty and covered with bushes and trees, they make the seascape interesting. We also pass tiny deserted coves with golden sands. Soon we see Koh Lanta in the distance; we arrive at the pier and are helped out of our boat by some fella’s. As we haven’t arranged any transport or accommodation I’m glad to see a pick up truck and we all pile in. We drop Andy and Angela off at the end of the pier and head off in search of the beach. An hour later and we have tried at least 7 resorts only to be told they are all full. I’m just starting to wonder if we might have to catch a boat to the mainland when success!

The Lanta Long Beach Resort has 2 bungalows available ad we check them out. They are made of wood and have comfortable beds, air con and hot water. Great! On the other hand they are relatively expensive and will cost us 47 quid for the 2 per night but we don’t have much choice if we want to stay on Koh Lanta and pay up slightly begrudgingly!

The resort is right on the beach and it is really beautiful with fine sands and coconut palms. Behind the resort are mountains covered with rainforest. There seems to be one main road and there are a number of bars and restaurants, although everywhere is full, it is busy in a low key way and I agreed with Alister when he said it reminded him of Goa when we first visited India 5 or 6 years ago.

We have a drink in the bar overlooking the sea, there is a decent sized swimming pool here and the kids enjoy having a splash around for a few hours. There are loads of tourists here rather than travellers and most people seem to be German or Scandinavian. In the evening we catch a motorcycle taxi to Ban Saladan to get some cash and then ask to go to Retro Restaurant. This serves good western food and we sit on floor cushions to eat. Ali has a New Zealand steak and the Thai waitresses are obviously impressed when he finishes it all! We make our way back and crash into bed completely knackered. I think we have 3 nights worth of sleep to catch up on and I go out like a light.