22 May 2012
We really enjoyed this experience. Many thanks to our great guide (see photo) ... I am sure that they were all great, but he was thoughtful and helpful and added to the serenity of the surroundings.
The bus pick up was late (we sat waiting for 45 minutes) and then had a bat-out-of-hell ride across the island. The PA system on the boat was next to useless so the instructions and descriptions were a bit hit-and-miss. So we are not off to a good start.
Organisation and communication was lax and haphazard at times. When the monsoonal rains struck, the crew all disappeared downstairs where they appeared to be having a good time, while we were awash upstairs not knowing what was happening. The site mentions constellation gazing and a nature game for the return trip but instead a mindless DVD was played. Disembarking was dark, slippery and dangerous ... I know from experience and bruises.
The biggest negative of the experience could have been fixed with a couple of simple ground rules :
1 : No alcohol
2 : No mobile phones
Because there was a small group that dominated because they were loudmouthed and drunk and didn't even go out in the kayaks ... a spoiler for everyone else.
BUT ... and this is the important bit ...
The kayaking was a fantastic adventure. The seas were rough but our guide was amazingly skillful and informative. I loved lying down and going through the caves into the hongs ... breathtaking on the way through and breathtaking, in a completely different way, once you were in that magical world. Two of the tunnel entries were extremely close (and Alphie did well with his claustrophobia!!) and the third was through a bigger, bat-filled cave. While it would have possibly been better with more sunshine, the contrast between the open choppy seas and the placid jungle surrounded lagoon was just amazing.
It was also amazing that they are able to provide the quality of food that they do in such a confined space (maybe Centara Grand Beach could get some tips!!!)
19 May 2012
We met up with Mary and Doug at the Centara Grand Beach Resort at Karon Beach, Phuket. A Five Star Resort holiday is not our usual thing ... our holidays usually involve the local culture, local food and local sightseeing. This was more a by-the-pool and shopping focused holiday.
The Centara Grand was a pink palace by the beach, spread out, glamorous and well equipped with swimming areas. We had booked a Deluxe Pool Suite so we had our own infinity plunge pool. There was also an Adults Only Pool and a big meandering family pool area with a "slow river". In front of the hotel was Karon Beach but during our visit it wasn't swimable because of the rough seas (and raw effluent being released). The resort had two restaurants, Cove (for breakfast buffet and theme night dinners and al la carte ... hit and miss) and Mare (Italian ... blerk). Our upgrade included access to the Club facilities (afternoon teas, cocktails, etc) but unfortunately this was up two steep flights of stairs making it inaccessible for Alphie (not impressed).
We ate out with Mary and Doug at ??? (Japanese) at Jungceylon, at 9th Floor (Continental http://www.the9thfloor.com/) for Mary's birthday, at Savoey (Seafood http://www.savoeyseafood.com/) in Patong and at Two Chef's in Karon (International http://www.twochefs-phuket.com/). We had facials and shopped at Jungceylong (www.jungceylon.com/), a combination shopping complex with a department store, specialty stores, market stalls, restaurants and fast food ... and an Irish Pub. We bought some great clothes and souvenirs at a small shop with no bargaining hassles at Cape Promthep.
We flew AirAsia, a cut price airline ... though when you start adding on the extras (like food and like luggage) it all adds up. On the way home, thankfully, I got a serious case of food poisoning ... either from our layover at Kuala Lumpar or the meal on the plane ... a not recommended way of losing holiday weight!!!
We loved the Thai people. The ones we encountered were as beautiful on the inside as they were on the outside. They were gracious, welcoming and spiritual. Our waitress at breakfast, Aud, was sweet and thoughtful. But we fell in love with Yui, who cried when we left, who befriended us, who epitomised the Thai people for us.