Koh Pha Ngan A Thai Island

Beautiful sandy beaches…

Koh Panang is one of dozens of islands in Thailand, located along the east coast in the Andaman Sea and off the west coast in the Gulf of Thailand. Like most of them, Koh (meaning island) Pha-Ngan is a holiday destination for flocks of beach goers from all corners of the globe. Popular with backpackers, families, solo travellers, snowbirds and the like, the islands are accustomed to foreign visitors and have really smooth operations that get you from airports to ports, on to ferries, and finally out to the islands.

From my limited knowledge I would think that Koh Panang is fairly typical. White sandy beaches, lots of excursions and activities and plenty of partying, especially notable as we were there for New Years. As evidence of some free spirited behaviour we same many bandaged people on the beaches following the celebrations. 

The main transport around the island are rented scooters and motos, which accounted for many of the bandaged limbs and heads we spotted after New Years. 

After the heat and hard work negotiating our way through Cambodia it was nice to have a few days of sun, sand and delicious Thai food.Heather had a friend from the UK on Koh Pha-Ngan and she was there with friends from New Zealand. They were a lively bunch of family and friends and were so much fun. The usual FB friends invites transpired and hopefully our paths will cross again. They come to Koh Panang yearly, for several months at a time, and I think this is true of many of the island visitors.

We stayed at the See Through Boutique Hotel which did not live up to the photos on Hotels.com. It was OK but not great in terms of the rooms themselves, in definite need of some upgrades and paint. But you couldn’t beat the location and for a small fee we moved from a standard hotel type room to a bungalow which had a veranda with hammock, a fridge and air conditioning. Right on the beach it was a short walk to their beach front restaurant which served a decent breakfast but not so great after that. Massage of course is a main event and at about $15.00CAD I enjoyed a couple of sessions. 

And now on to the real job of traveling and seeing the historic and cultural sites of SE Asia. With Cambodia done my next stop is Yangon, Myanmar, formerly Rangoon, Burma.

Cambodia Part One: Siem Reap

Kind, gentle & beautiful……

Gentle, kind and beautiful my travels in Cambodia have been made easy and enjoyable by the people. I’m traveling with my friend Heather for a few weeks before she returns to work in England. She kindly met me at the international airport in Bangkok after a long flight from London. We transferred to the smaller airport and flew off to Siem Reap where we stayed at a lovely little guesthouse off the noisy tourist streets. Chheng Residence Hotel was lovely with a garden pool area and very helpful staff. Always good to have somewhere to cool down the body temp after a long hot day of exploring.

After dinner and a swim, we wandered out into the evening and strolled down the avenues to the river and into Psar Chas, the old French colonial heart of Siem Reap. There are markets, restaurants and bars tucked away in the old French-era shophouses and the Main Street of the area is known as Pub street. There were tons of tourists and it was crowded but still somehow manages to keep a small town feeling. Lots of travellers, vacationers mingling with the Khmer people as the Cambodians and their language are called.

Other than the pretty zip of this little town people come to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Temples, impressive monuments to the greatest ancient civilization in SE Asia. These 12th century temples were originally built as places of Hindu worship and later over the eons converted to Buddhist Temples. There are more than one hundred monuments spread over 3000 acres that mark where the Angkor era was born and marked by huge building projects. We managed to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Phnom Bakheng for the sunset. After repeated attacks from Siam in the 15th century the city was abandoned and lost to the jungle. An extraordinary set of ruins one can see where the early people of Cambodia lived and worshipped and displayed their wealth and culture.

We had a nice mix of town/country while in the Siem Reap area by shifting from the Chheung Residence to the Bong Thom Forest Lodge about twenty minutes by Tuk Tuk outside of Siem Reap. A beautiful resort hotel it had proximity to some of the lesser visited temples and was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The food was great and we were given a “certified” cooking lesson on how to make mango salad and the national dish of fish amok, a coconut cream base mildly spiced dish served with rice.

There are buses and vans etc that will get you from Siem Reap. To Phnom Penh the capital, but since hiring a private car was a $100USD option we decided on that and it would allow us to make a couple of stops along the way. Our driver was great and our first request was to stop and see the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake. Interestingly, the people who live in the floating villages are mostly stateless ethnic Vietnamese fishermen and their families. The homes are pretty basic and the lake is not somewhere you would want to swim but it is pretty nonetheless and bordered by green rice fields. We stuck to the land roads but you are able to catch one of many boat tours that take you up and down the lake and to a variety of villages, some genuinely floating and other on poles. We also tried to visit some Monks who live along highway 6 near Kompong but our driver was unable to locate the school where a Canadian friend had volunteered. It was a long day in the car, broken up by a couple of stops and a great lunch we finally entered Phnom Penh as dark was settling in.