Surat Thani – In Less Than 12 Hours

As we will be flying off to Kuala Lumpur via Surat Thani in a morning flight, we decided to end our Southern Thailand journey here. This will be the final province that we could explore while we were in Thailand. But we keep wondering, what shall we do and where shall we go in less than 12 hours?

As what we observed, Surat Thani normally get treated as a transit town to get to Koh Samui to another province within Thailand where there are offering good connection of intercity public transport such as train station, bus terminal and airport . It’s a small town but we believe there’s always some interesting spot that we can explore within the city area.

The first thing that we did is to secure the accommodation while we were there. We ended up with MyPlace @ Surat Thani as they are getting so much of good and convincing reviews via Trip Advisor, Agoda and etc. With the price of 530 baht (with taxes), we finally agreed to that. How cheap is that?

The welcome board
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The detailing at the Hotel Lobby
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The room
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We need to get our feet on the street to start exploring the town. With a drawn map in hand prepared by the hotel personnel, here we go! FF headed the ‘our own kind of way’ walking tour to the nearest spot of Tapi River. We just managed to discover that Tapi River (or Tapee River) is one of the longest river in Southern Thailand.

The river originates at the Khao Luang, and has a wide estuary into the Gulf of Thailand at Bandon Bay near the town of Surat Thani. It has a length of 230 kilometres (140 mi). The river was named in August 1915, after the river Tapi in India, shortly after the town of Surat Thani was named after the town Surat.

Source: Wikipedia

The afternoon view of Tapi River
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Right after that, we explored the Waterfront and this is where the food street located. Late in the afternoon, locals will start setting up their stalls and the first thing that we spotted is definitely some Halal stall! We were a little bit skeptical at first since we couldn’t find any information on Halal food in Surat Thani. So, this is it! Alhamdulillah. As we’re still early, we decided to walk up to the Surat Thani Pillar Shrine.

Fresh fruit stall

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As we reached the pillar, we found that the shrine is a center for locals and it is situated in a center of the city. We just stand right in front of the main entrance without any plan to enter the area.

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We got more attracted lazying around at the Waterfront to photograph and witness the sunset view of Tapi River with the bridge crossing to Koh Lampoo. While waiting for the sun to fully set, we chit chat talking about our life, our trip and things that we really wanted to do after this. It was such a nice view and a personal moments for both of us. The atmosphere, the feeling and everything is just at the right time.

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We then decided to head back to the Food Street area by walking through Namuang Road. Half way, we saw a long queue of locals at one of the shop lots from far and we decided to see what it is all about. It’s a Halal shop selling yellow chicken rice! Oh my! Just in time! Since the last meal that we took of the day is way back in Koh Samui, we decided to get something to eat for dinner. We quickly ordered as the rice in the big pot is running out. It comes with a bbq chicken and this is way different from other set that we’ve tried from other province which come with a spicy fried chicken. We even tried the spicy beef soup as well. Delicious! One of the best clear soup I’ve ever taste. It’s just a small shop run by a family. You can spot the shop as it’s located a few lots away from the Fire Station.

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Just to feel the local night market atmosphere here, we then went to the San Jao Market which located a few blocks away from the hotel. You can find many types of foods and desserts with an ancient style which are waiting for visitors to try. The night market is open almost everyday from 4.00pm to 10.00pm. What makes us impressed is that we could see almost 50% of the stall vendors son and daughter ranging from kids to teenagers came with a full school uniform attire just to help their parents around. Amazing! This is the spirit!

The ‘San Jao’ Night Market
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One of the convenience store, Sahathai
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We wrapped up the day by lazying around at the cozy hotel lobby just to get the free WI-FI connection as we couldn’t get a good connection from our hotel room. It’s time for some social media hooked up.

The cute sofa cushion cover.
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We woke up early in the morning as we need to catch the morning flight. It’s very convenience for us as we walked directly to the Airport Link (Run by Phantip Travel located in Taladmai Road) with a distance of only 300m away from the hotel. With just 100 baht, you will then finally reached airport in 45 minutes time.

We do agree that we did not covered Surat Thani in overall since times doesn’t permitted us. Who knows, we might be back one day?

We finally ended our journey this time. As usual, there’s a lots of hard things and hiccups that we endure during our travel journey all the way from KL – Hatyai – Phuket – Koh Samui – Surat Thani – KL in 7 days and 7 nights. But again, we enjoyed and cherished every moments that we had. We were just close and lucky as we’re not involved in any scam just because we look like Thais. Are we? Hehe. Just forget about it. Again, we considered this as MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Simply us,
Zara AB & FF
The Province of Chroma

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Koh Samui – Part 2 (Koh Nangyuan & Koh Tao Day Trip)

As we’re in Koh Samui, we already planned for a day trip to any of the island nearby. A day before, right after dinner, we walked from one end to another end of Chaweng road and talked to the tour agents. As usual, the package started at a very unreasonable price of 2500 baht and it finally draw down to 1300 baht. With a bunch of pamphlet in hands, we read through and we decided to take a tour with Lomlahk as what most of the agent advised and mentioned. They are the most experienced island tour operator in town.

The trip started as early as 8.00am. The tour operator will pick us up from the hotel and proceed directly to the meeting point / pier. Lomlahk is hosting 2 types of tour a day which is Koh Nangyuan & Koh Tao and Anthong National Marine Park. Once arrived at the meeting point, all passengers are required to queue and passing by a few counters which is the confirmation counters on the name and hotel that we stayed, filling up the details (so-called indemnity form and for insurance purposes) and allocation of which boat to board (color ribbon will be used to differentiate passengers for each boats). Light breakfast is also served by the boat operator. They even served fresh bananas too!

The 1st counter

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Somewhere around 9.00am, the speed boat will then departs to Koh Nangyuan, a paradise island off the west coast of Koh Tao.
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Along the journey, we were given a long explanation by the boat leader on the do’s and don’t while we’re on the beach. Besides, snorkelling equipment are then be distributed before reaching the island. After 1 and 1/2 hours journey, we then arrived at Koh Nangyuan as this is the fastest and the most comfortable way to get there. It will be cheaper to travel by a slow boat but the journey will be extended from 2 up to 2 and 1/2 hours. You will spent more time on the boat than the island.

Almost reaching the Koh Nangyuan pier.
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Check out the crystal clear water!
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There’s a few basic instruction that need to be followed to enter the island in order to maintain its condition as one of the treasures of Thailand. No plastic or glass bottles are to be taken on the island where people frequently leave them behind at the island. Besides fins and flippers are not usable at the island due to the shallow water around the island. This is to avoid of coral breaking due to unfortunate accident. Oh ya, visitors to Koh Nangyuan island are required to pay 100 baht fee (this is included in the package as well).

The jetty. You can see the check in counter. An island representatives will do an immediate inspection through our bag to check whether there’s any plastic or glass bottles.

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A school of small fish at the jetty.
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Finally, the long stripe of smooth white sand that can be explored on foot.
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We totally skipped getting wet at the beach as we headed directly to the view-point. As mentioned by our funny boat leader Bob (derived from Bob Marley as he love the reggae icon so much), we will get to see a fantastic view overlooking the island. Only both of us from the group decided to climb up.

View to the viewing point
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The walkway
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The pit stop. Forever young? Tak tahan!
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The climbing up starts here. It took us less than 30 minutes from the island restaurant to the view-point. Don’t worries if you’re only wearing you flip-flop on.
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And this is want we got! Worth climbing up!
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After appreciating the nice view, we walked down as we can’t wait to get to the beach.
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Oh ya, lunch is provided at the Nangyuan restaurant. We only opt for the white rice, mixed vege and lots of fruits (just to play safe).
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The outdoor dining area. Panas kot! We opt for the indoor.
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We then continue swimming and snorkeling at the Japanese Garden. It is located at the east side of Koh Nangyuan. It’s good for snorkelers as it is shallow and a designated snorkeling area where boats cannot enter. It is popular both among scuba divers and snorkelers. It’s also often used as a training dives spot. We spend the whole time there before we departed to Koh Tao.

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The Japanese Garden. Amazing huh?
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At 2.00pm, it’s time to leave Koh Nangyuan and move forward to Koh Tao for another snorkeling spot.

It’s time to say goodbye!
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After 15 minutes boat ride, we then reached one of the Koh Tao bays to enjoy and experience the beauty of the Thailand underwater world. We will stopped there for another 1 hour for snorkeling. Some of the passengers just opt to lay back in the boat instead of going down. The snorkeling spot in Malaysia is way better than Thailand. It’s just our personal view. Oh ya, Koh Tao is also known as Turtle Island and surrounded by deeper sea bed compared to Koh Nangyuan.

Snorkelling spot at Koh Tao
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It’s time to go back to Koh Samui meeting point / pier. We actually wanted to explore more especially the Anthong National Park. If you have some ample times and extra budget, do visit those park as well.

In overall, it was such an experience especially going up to the view-point at Koh Nangyuan. Not to forget, the magnificent Japanese Garden too!

Simply us,
Zara AB & FF
The Province of Chroma

Koh Samui – Part 1 (The 10 Hours Journey)

Our next destination right after Phuket is definitely Koh Samui. When we’re in Phuket, we keep hopping from one travel agency to another travel agency to purchase joint ticket of minibus and boat which goes directly to the island. The price started from 1000 baht (Equivalent to RM100. How ridiculous is that?) and we finally ended up with the price of 400 baht for a minibus and boat tickets. Finally! Alhamdulillah as we couldn’t afford any expensive transportation fees at this point of time. We entered and surveyed more than 10 travel agencies around Patong Beach area.

We left the The Marq Hotel sharp at 7.00am with a simple breakfast that morning. Instant noodles, biscuits and milk is good enough for us as we have to go through another 6 hours journey. The driver cramped us in the minibus and both of us sat next to the driver as we’re the first passengers to be on board. We stopped at several hotels and the whole minibus was already fully packed. Everyone squeezed in and the minibus seems to small for all of us. We even heard a few passengers asking the driver is this minibus heading to Krabi, Hat Yai, Samui, Surat Thani and others. I stared and looked at FF and gave him that kind of looks which means “This is not good, i can smell something wrong here”. FF then asked the minibus driver where are we heading too? Are we going to Koh Samui with this kind of condition. He answered by telling us that he’s going to send and drop us at the minibus centre and from there, we will be transfer to another minibus based on the destination. He is only responsible to pick up all the passengers from Patong Beach area. OMG!

Once we reached the pit stop, we waited for 30 minutes for another minibus heading to Surat Thani. It’s a little cramped for us as it accommodate around 14 pax compared to the minibus from Hat Yai which only accommodate 10 pax with the same model and capacity. Takper la, nak sampai punya pesal.

This is the minibus which brought us to Surat Thani by Phantip Co.DSCN0971-2

After about 5 hours drive from Phuket Town, we then reached Surat Thani. We’re the last passengers onboard and the rest of the locals had stopped along the way. The driver then sent us to the bus terminal. He asked us to wait at the waiting area and we waited for more than 20 minutes. We couldn’t see him around. Mana la plak mamat nie pergi, please, not another scam. FF persuaded me to wait and he sometimes can be very positive at this critical situation. Finally, the driver showed up and another guy asked us to follow him on his tuk tuk. Arggghh, another transfer.To be exact, the 3rd transportation of the day.

View of Surat Thani town from the tuk tuk.
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He then sent us to another travel agency. Oh no! We saw another bunch of people there who are heading to Koh Samui as well. We were told that bus will picked us up in 1 hour time. At the meantime, we saw the travel agency personnel keep calling all the ‘mat saleh’ after one another. We can smelled another scam coming on. They didn’t call us up since they might think we’re local. In fact, at all times, local will approach us in Thai. We discussed with the rest of the ‘mat saleh’ and everyone were busy looking at their Lonely Planet and print up. It was mentioned that ‘songthaews’ and taxi can be easily found at Nathon Pier and ‘songthaews’ will cost around 120 baht per pax for a 25 – 30km to Chaweng Beach. The travel agency personnel quoted around 1000 baht per pax which is way ridiculous!

The double-decker bus which brought us to the jetty. It took us another 40 minutes ride to Donsak Pier.
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There are 2 ferry companies departed from Nathon Pier which is Songserm Travel and Seatran Ferry. You’ll definitely get to travel by Songserm Travel if you book via travel agency (as what we did). Most of the people who aboard Songserm ferry are mostly foreigner. It’s a small ferry with two decks as what we have in Pulau Langkawi. Meanwhile Seatran ferry is much bigger with several decks. They transport car, lorries and even bus. The whole journey took us about 1 and 1/2 hours

The jetty.
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We’re finally reaching the island. Finally! But it definitely doesn’t stop there.
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We quickly picked up our backpack and walked straight to the arrival point. You’ll see a lot of taxi and ‘songthaews’ operators waiting for customer. Some of them can be a lil bit harsh. We managed to secure a songthaews with the rest of ‘mat saleh’ with the price of 100 baht per pax to Chaweng Beach.

Our new friends from France. We tagged along all the way from Surat Thani to Chaweng Beach as they stayed nearby to our hotel.
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Sharp at 5.00pm, we finally reached our hotel, Khun Chaweng Resort. To be exact, it’s just next to Starz Cabaret. Looking at the location, we’re very much happy on the selection. Even though the Starz Cabaret is just next door, we don’t even get distracted at night and some of them are way too friendly.
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The room
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After a short rest, a refreshing shower and solat, it’s time to hunt for some Halal food and full day tour on the next day! There goes our 10 hours journey all the way from Phuket to Koh Samui. Did we mentioned that we just love the hard way! Hahaha.

Simply us,
Zara AB & FF
The Province of Chroma

Phuket – Part 2 (Chasing the Sunset)

Right after our short nap and solat, we immediately packed our dry pack since we gonna chase the sunset late in the afternoon. Again, we gonna travel all the way up to the view point with our tiny little motorbike that we’ve rented. To be fully recharged since we’ve skipped our lunch earlier, we stopped over at the Jungceylon Shopping Mall which is situated in the Patong Beach. To be exact, on the corner of Bangla Road and Patong Soi 2 which is the busiest spot on Patong Beach. We just realized that ‘Jungceylon’ used to be a name of Phuket way back in 1511 during the prosperous year of the port town. That’s the reason why the design and concept of the Jungceylon Mall resemble the scenario of port with a replica of big traditional ship.

FF making his way on the orange carpet.
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The main reason we’re here is to fill up our stomach. Makan time! Right after browsing through the shopping mall, we finally headed directly to the lower ground food court where there’s one halal stall which is Islamtai Bangja. Check out the selection! Everything looks tempting to us. It takes us quite sometimes to decide on the menu that we wanted to order. Nafsu, nafsu.

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Right after that, we stopped over at the famous Hard Rock Cafe Phuket to get a shot glass for my mum which is just a minutes away from Jungceylon Mall. She’s an avid collector of HRC and Planet Hollywood glass.

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Done with Patong Beach! We rode our motorbike and go further up to Karon Beach. With such a hilly road compared to the road towards Surin Village which is found to be much safer, it really challenged FF riding skills. The roads are narrow with a 45 degrees gradient which served us a magnificent sea view from top. Once we reached Kamala Beach, FF decided to get wet and swim by the beach while I stayed.

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As i don’t have anything else to do and FF is happily swimming there, I strolled down by the beach on my own.

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As mentioned earlier, our main plan this afternoon is to chase for sunset. So, we shall proceed to the Karon View Point or formerly known as Kata View Point. It took us about 15 – 20 minutes passing by Kata Beach and Kata Noi Beach. We basically love to see all those unique, private bungalows and high-end hotels along the way. Seriously, its way different in Patong Beach which is full of entertainment with small budget and boutique hotels around. We’ve made a mistake by riding directly to Kata Noi Beach as we missed the junction up to the view point. The junction is exactly in between Kata Beach and Kata Noi Beach.

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The road up is slightly dangerous for a small motorbike like us since buses, vans, cars and superbike were driving and riding fast in a steep hilly area. The same roads were used to go further up to the Promthep Cape as well. Promthep Cape is one of the islands most notable natural landmarks with high cliffs an uninterrupted views. The best parts of riding a motorbike is that we could just stop whichever we want. Before reaching, we could see that the road going up offers a spectacular views of the beaches on the Southern part of Phuket island.

Karon Viewpoint (which used to be Kata viewpoint) is one of the most frequented viewpoints in Phuket. From here, it is possible to take in views of Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon beaches. Located between Nai Harn and Kata Noi beaches, the viewpoint is busy most days of the year and is a staple of many tour itineraries. Called locally ‘Khao Saam Haad’ (Three Beaches Hill), the local municipality for some reason has officially renamed it ‘Karon Viewpoint’.

Source: Phuket.com

There’s an ample parking space and large gazebo at the view point too. No worries. We rest a bit longer here experiencing and appreciating the view and the fresh air.

Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon Beach. Magnificent!DSCN1503-2

As we’re still early and there’s no sign of sunset, we decided to go down and spent our time at the Kata Beach. The first thing attracted us is definitely the Surf House (a place where you can ride the waves every day no matter what the weather conditions. In other words, artificial waves), surf school and beach boys carrying the surf boards. It is believe that because of the waves here, it becomes popular among surfers and it hosts a surf competition every year. Again, you can see less crowd here compared to Patong Beach.

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After a long waits, finally here come the sunset.
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There goes our 2 days of short trip to Phuket. If you’re happened to be in Southern Thailand, do visit this island which used to be one of the most famous or major trading routes in between China and India  as stated in the historical calendar plus Thailand’s wealthiest province. There’s more to explore in Phuket especially the beaches on the west coast, nearby island such as the famous Koh Phi Phi, Similan Island, Koh PanYee and others. Unfortunately, time doesn’t permitted us to do so as we’re going to travel all the way to Koh Samui and Surat Thani in this journey.

Simply us,
Zara AB & FF
The Province of Chroma