Monday, June 29, 2009

Phuket, Hat Yai and Sadao

Chong Fah Resort Hotel has a total of 30 rooms and villas for you to choose. You have the option to select from 16 spacious deluxe rooms and 8 beachfront bungalows. The deluxe rooms have large private balcony for outdoor relaxation. It has 6 more bungalows with indoor and outdoor bathroom and Jacuzzi tub. The rooms offer spectacular view of the beach. Now it is low season, not many foreigners and local tourists come to Khao Lak. When we checked in, we occupied the third room. That was merely 10% occupancy at that time.

The sea was rough due to Southwest monsoon, not a good time to swim in the Adaman sea. The wave was about 0.5 meter high. During the Tsunami 2004, this wave was 5 meter high. This boutique beachfront villas were destroyed completely. It was re-built into one of the top-rated beachfront hotels in Khao Lak-lam Ru.
Usually, they serve buffet breakfast at the restaurant. However, with only 3 rooms were taken, they offered us breakfast in the room. I thought that was smart move on their part for not setting up the spread of western and eastern breakfast which would be wasteful and costly. This has the impact of personalised room service, a feel good factor.

After breakfast, Neo Chian took a dip in the infinity pool and I decided to have fun fishing. Standing in the water up to waist high, I can feel the wave smashing into me and pushing me back two to three steps each time. I didn't expect any fish but caught two palm size fishes. Since they were not big enough for dinner table, I released them back into the sea after unhooking them. After we each had our fun, we packed and left Khao Lak about 1 pm for Phuket which is about 1 hours from here.


Naithonburi Resort, Nai Thon Beach

Li Hoon and Gemma would arrive 1.30pm the next day. Our plan was to stay near to the airport and a golf course so that we can have a early morning golf game before picking them up in the afternoon. We arrived Phuket slightly past 2 pm. With plenty of time in hand, we went hotel hopping from Nai Yang beach to Nai Thon beach and White beach resorts. Andaman White Beach Rosort was a very nice beachfront hotel but ruled it out due to cost and no wifi in the room. We didn't like any of the hotel at Nai Yang beach. We ended up in Naithonburi Resort because of the friendly front desk manager, Mrs Nong. She was very friendly, helpful and gave us a good rate. Naithonburi resort has 200+ rooms and only 20+% occupancy rate. The hotel is tastefully done and it has a large swimming pool and serves good food in their restaurant.

At dinner, we realised that we had to make space for the wives at the backseat of the car where we had our boxes now. Although we had a trail run putting two boxes on the roof at Ayuthaya, we thought it would be too rush if we left things to the last minutes. We decided to forgo our golf and use the time to pack, re-arrange our stuff and put those stuff which are unlikely to use for the rest of our trip on the roof. We packed two boxes and secured them on the roof. We were glad we didn't play golf. Otherwise, we would be late for the airport.

Their flight touched down on time. Our two VIPs came out and greeted us with big smile. We were very happy to see them too after 60 days on our journey. It also signified that the two-man venture came to an end and changed to a foursome. Our wives would follow us in the Pajero all the way back to Singapore.

Mangosteen Resort

For the past 60 days, we didn't book any accommodation ahead of time. However, we thought it might be better to have assured accommodation when the wives are with us. We pre-booked the Mangosteen Resort which is a five star boutique hotel at Chalong Bay, 30+ km south of the airport. The hotel is not at beachfront, 5 minutes walk. The resort was quiet and we just relaxed in the pool, sipping coconut juice and beers. Wifi was only available at the hotel lobby. It was rather inconvenience for us to get connected. We opted to stay just one day and moved back to Naithonburi Resort for another night.

There was not much activities at Mangosteen Resort at night. In fact, it was really quiet. We drove to Patong Beach which was vibrant and full of tourists. There were pretty good crowd there. We can imagine how crowded Patong beach ca be during peak season. We sat down at the open air seafood restaurant along the main road. The owner happened to be a migrant from Malaysia and spoke Malay. That helps. With our broken Malayu, we managed to order a decent meal, complete with half a dozen of fresh oysters. Thai boxers promoting Thai boxing on top of a truck stopped right in front of us, urging us see them the same evening at Patong Boxing Stadium.

Hat Yai
After we spent two nights in Phuket, we departed for Hat Yai which is about 300 km from Phuket. Hat Yai was just a night stop for us to continue to Sungai Kolok border. However, we were told that they were some instabilities along the way to the border, we switched plan to cross at Sadao which is only 60 km away from Hat Yai.
On the way to Hat Yai, along Route 4, there were stores selling cane, rattan products. We stopped for a look see. Gemma and Neo Chian was discussing how can they use this back home. Finally, Neo Chian bought a bird cage. He intended to convert it to a lamp for his dinning area. As there was no space inside the car, so the bird cage went up the roof.

We arrived Hat Yai in the evening and followed the recommendation from Lonely Planet, The Regency Hotel which is right in the heart of the city. We had noddle soup, fried oyster with egg grilled cuttlefish and Cheng Tng for dinner at roadside stall outside our hotel. Everything was 30 to 50 THB, cheap and good.
Next morning, we went for Bak Kut Teh breakfast and followed by a massage. Then each has a bowl of bird nest at 100 THB each. It was sugar water with some jelly like stuff, not sure that was bird nest as we don't know how bird nest tasted like. An interesting point to note is that in Hat Yai most of the shop keepers and hawkers speak very good Teochew. Some even speak Malay or Mandarine. It clearly show Hat Yai is targeting the Malaysian Chinese from Northern Malaysia.
On our way to Sadao border, we saw Car Wash at the gas station and decided to give Mr. Pajero a nice wash before entering
Malaysia. The car washes in Indochina consistently exceed my expectation including this one. This one even hoist the car way up to wash the under carriage. At the drying station, they even opened the bonnet and cleaned the engine compartment. What a service for 180THB!
We arrived Sadao Immigration around 1.30 pm. It wasn't busy. We parked the car and cleared immigration first. While the wives
were waiting at the car, we went to custom clearing the car. Thailand custom was so efficient and knew exactly what to do with the carnet. Chopped and signed and off we went. The whole process of passenger and car clearing took about than 30 minutes. After we crossed the immigration, immediately we lost one hour- the time difference between Thailand and Malaysia. We left the border at 3 pm Malaysia time.

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