Thailand Adventures Part 2 – our return to overseas travel!

Here is the next instalment of our little trip to Khao Lak, Thailand, back in August. I shared the first few days of our trip and photos in Part 1. Here is what we got up to in the second half our 8 day stay at Mai Khao Lak.

There was no shortage of lovely pool views from our room and balcony as we awoke every morning! Like the start of the trip, we didn’t have to fight for pool space with other guests!

Every day started with breakfast, a swim outside our room in our empty pool, then heading down to the pirate playground and slides mid-morning with the cousins for splashing, lazing around in the water and slides 🙂

After a few days of swimming and slides Astrid was in relaxing mode and reading by the pool between slides!

While Astrid, Max and Anto were off on a cooking class adventure, Bob, Audrey, Soren and Zinnia took advantage of lunch by the pool and extra mocktails.

Anto and I had done a cooking class here during our last stay. It was a large group and held in the main restaurant. This trip Max was keen to try one, and Anto always likes cooking and chilli so he and Astrid also joined in. In these Covid times it’s private cooking classes, so it was just the 2 boys cooking with Astrid as sous chef!

They all had a great time cooking and tasting. They made: Tom Yum soup with prawns, a chicken red curry and coconut milk with banana for dessert.

Despite loving chilli, Anto disputes their claims that the bits of chilli were ‘just for flavour’ as some of them were quite hot!

With all the swimming, cooking and eating it was time for afternoon rests, we were definitely in holiday mode!!!

All rested it was more swimming, and down to the beach for the late afternoon. Where the kids happily played in the sand and rock pools as we had an afternoon cocktail at Mr Bao’s……

The crazy kids were loving the better beach weather. Even if it was just for sand castles and shell forts!

Astrid had to have her mocktail in a coconut – when on a tropical holiday, why not?

We even managed a couple of whole family photos!

We left the kids in the capable hands of Granny and Max for their beach dinner of pineapple rice, chicken satay and coconut mocktails, while Anto and I headed off for our dinner at the resort adults only restaurant.

The views were certainly spectacular from the rooftop bar and restaurant…..

We enjoyed our cocktails and the view, although the food looked pretty it wasn’t as good as the resort’s Thai restaurant.

It was nice to try somewhere different but back to the spicy Thai for us for the rest of our meals, but the spectacular views and beautiful sunset were worth experiencing….and a dinner not answering all the kids questions!!!

The Saturday of our trip was ‘island day’. We’d booked an island tour along with Di and Max so we had a chance to see more of the area. While Di had done a version of this trip before (there are various versions of the itinerary, depending on the tour provider), the rest of us hadn’t on previous Thailand trips.

Unfortunately all the tours leave from a pier well past the aiport in Phuket. Given we were staying down in Khao Lak, that meant a 5am alarm and in the shuttle bus at 5.45am, actually ahead of schedule.

With well over 2 hours in the van ahead of us the kids were tired, but snacked on the hotel breakfast boxes and watched the scenery and traffic as we trundled along. I was envious of all the cyclists out for morning rides, much more fun than the van. It was just our group in our van, so a pretty easy transfer despite the length!

We arrived at the Seastar Andaman pier in Leam Nga, Phuket just before 8am and then had to wait for all the other buses to arrive. They did provide some additional breakfast and plenty of chocolate and biscuits. Plus a bonus rainbow!

Eventually, after the tour and safety briefings, we were ready to load onto the speedboat. Of course the heavens opened as we walked outside and we all got soaked, but given we were going to be spending the day on the water anyway, and had our swimmers on, it wasn’t the end of the world.

By the time they handed out the rain coats, we were all drenched and it was somewhat useless! The speedboat was certainly moving fast and it did get a little cold for the kids as the water poured in on us from every direction. At this point there were a few unhappy faces!

The first leg of the journey was rather long, a full hour at high speed to get to Panak Island.

We were speeding through Phang-Na Bay. At first it was grey and miserable, but soon the rain cleared and we could start to see some islands. The blue green water and islands poking out were rather pretty!

The speed boat slowed down for a slow cruise around for some sight-seeing….

Our first stop was Panak Island where the boat drifted slowly around the lagoon to let us get up close to the caves with stalactites.

The lagoon water was a beautiful colour and it was interesting seeing the cave walls and the stalactites as we drifted underneath….

From here it was a short trip to our next stop, Hong Island where we were getting off the boat and into kayaks!

Having witnessed Di (Granny’s) kayakaing ability before we were glad that we were all provided with a guide to paddle us around 🙂

Anto has Zinnia and Soren with him, and I was in a kayak with Astrid. Di and Max were in a third kayak. We all managed to get in from the boat without getting wet and off we drifted, waiting for all the passengers to get into their kayaks and head into the lagoon.

The water was beautiful and calm and it was very relaxing as our guides paddled us over to the cave walls for a closer look.

There were plenty of squeals of delight from all the kids!

The views from water level as we drifted around were magnificent….

The guides spoke limited English, but were good at pointing out bits and pieces, the rock formations, the oysters on the walls, the funny shaped tree trunks that occasionally looked like elephants….

We were skilfully paddled into the caves, where it was magical going through a dark tunnel and then out into the bright sunshine and seeing the tree canopy above.

We went into the different caves and around a few islands on our relaxing paddle. This was definitely the way to travel 🙂

The kayaking lasted about 30 to 40 minutes and we made it back to the boat without getting at all wet, and with all my camera gear in tact. It was hands down the highlight of the day!

Back on the speedboat and now in bright sunshine, we all relaxed and enjoyed the warmth as we sped off for our next stop, Panyi Island, a fishing village.

Our first view was the coloured houses out over the water…..

This was the main lunch stop for several tours. We were one of the first boats in for the day, so it wasn’t too busy as we pulled into the pier and hopped off and were herded to our restaurant for our buffet lunch.

We had views of the resident owl while we ate, and the food was quite decent. A variety of Thai dishes and plenty of vegetarian options.

After lunch we had free time to wander the village and through all the shopping stalls. It was a huge tourist trap and the stall holders were quite pushy with trying to get you to look at their items, and then bargaining when the kids showed any interest in anything (as kids do). I’m sure the covid downturn in tourism has made it very hard for them to earn much income so it was somewhat understandable.

Escaping the stall holders we wandered through the village. The kids weren’t impressed at the stench from the stagnant water the village houses stood in. The floating school and soccer pitch were interesting though!

Even with a bit of souvenir browsing we made it back to the boat in plenty of time, ready for the trip to our next stop, James Bond Island. Zinnia was a tad exhausted an had a quick rest on this leg. I knew how she felt!

Khao Phing-kan and Khao Tapu, better known as James Bond Island, are where the 1974 classic Bond film, “The man with the golden gun” was filmed. It is another giant tourist trap but we figured we’d at least enjoy the scenery.

Apparently boats used to be allowed to land in the cove and on the beach area (Di had been before) but the landing site was now around the side of the island and we had a walk up and over some steps. We understand the island was being destroyed by the high number of tourists, so tour operators were now being forced to operate more responsibly. The walk was scenic and paved so it wasn’t a hassle at all.

Aside from the hoards of people, the views were rather pretty.

We had quite a long stop on this island and it did not take long to walk around. We’d been warned about buying souvenirs from here as they were all fake pearls so the time was spent playing in the water as it was now rather hot! ……. and laughing at all the tourists posing for their James Bond style photos along with props brought along by tour companies who were trying to sell the photos back to them. Great for people watching amusement….

Once we’d had a dip it was time for an ice-cream and a chat to the staff from our boat who were also hiding from the heat and other tourists. Then, back to the boat for our final part of the day.

Back on the boat and it was another long transfer, close to an hour. It was warm and no more rain so definitely rest time as we sped back through Phang-Na Bay. The kids were all exhausted so used us as pillows. At least we could see the islands zipping by, unlike the morning with it’s rain and storms.

At almost 4pm we made it to Khai Island, our final stop for the day. This place, although pretty, took tourist hell to a whole new level! Luckily our tour company had a tent setup where you could leave your belongings and get drinks and afternoon tea, because you have to pay for literally everything on this island, toilets, chairs, umbrellas, anything they can think of!

We’d been looking forward to some nice snorkelling here, unfortantely the swell was very high so we opted to put the tour supplied life jackets on the kids to help them float a bit easier. We had brought most of our own gear with us but you could hire additional gear. Given the short snorkels we didn’t bother and just hoped for the best.

The water was a gorgeous colour but the swell made it difficult. Di and the kids had a few short attempts and saw a few fish and coral. There were plenty around but the choppy water made it tricky for the kids to manouver and see clearly.

After they decided to go over to the other side of the island for some swimming Anto and I went out further and found some great bommies and fish varieties but it was hard work but we persisted for awhile. We didn’t have our fins with us making it even harder but at least we got to see something!

Meanwhile laying around in the water watching the jet skis avoiding the hot was keeping everyone else amused.

The snacks and cool drinks from our tour tent were good and the kids loved the hermit crabs running everywhere!

Once it was time to get back on the boat, it was only a short 15 minutes back to Phuket, getting in around 5.30pm. Definitely a long day out on the water but it was good to see some of the islands and the kayaking was wonderful.

Given the long bus ride back to our hotel we all got out of our wet swimmers. Unfortunately some of our clothes hadn’t dried out from the morning rain storm so there might have been a quick souvenir t shirt purchase.

The 2 hour drive back was a little tedious as we were all tired, but between the kids resting and asking endless questions it passed quicker than expected. We were glad when we made it back to our hotel. It was now about 7.30pm, definitely a long day out.

After our very long day out on the island tour, we grabbed a quick dinner at the resorts Thai restaurant before collapsing back in our rooms.

The next day was a very chilled breakfast and swim before heading down to the beach. It was stormy weather so not much swimming, but plenty of playing in the sand and checking out the tsunami warning signs. The kids were fascinated by the high water marks from when the last tsunami came through.

It was too rough to swim so we played on the beach swings and built sandcastles while Anto had his last beach massage of the trip!

The hotel had recommended a local market which ran on a Sunday night. We booked the shuttle from the hotel and headed off for the 20 minute drive with a plan for dinner at the market and some shopping.

Of course by the time we got there it was raining! Luckily we had brought a few hotel umbrellas with us!

The market had been recommended as popular with locals, and there were quite a few out and about despite the average weather.

It didn’t take long for the kids (and Max) to start on the food purchases. Everything from chicken on sticks to fried butter crisps!

There was quite the array of sweets on offer, so there might have been an eclectic dinner purchased…..

The weather continued to play havoc, with on and off rain, but we made quite a few purchases and watched some local kids perform some dances while eating most of the purchases!

As we were wandering on our second lap, heading back for some souvenirs and more chicken on sticks, the rain really set in. We waited it out for a bit, but fairly soon it was torrential and most of the stalls had started packing up as all the locals had obviously decided it wasn’t going to stop!

Luckily our driver had hung around and was there when we wandered back, earlier than planned, but with sticky rice and mango to eat for dessert at the hotel!

…… and then it was Monday

It was our last day before our late flight out of Phuket and the plan was for last swims and plenty of eating!

The pool toys had to get one last workout before being packed away for the trip home. Nemo has made it on several trips now and refuses to get a puncture so we can leave him behind!

Zinnia is still small enough (just!) to be thrown in the air by Anto for our traditional pool photos…….

Soren is more of a challenge, and Astrid definitely doesn’t get tossed that high these days! It doesn’t stop them trying though…..

The kids voted for one last round of slides and pirate playground, and we had it well and truly to ourselves as their cousins were already on their way back to Australia, leaving the day before.

The slide attendants were going to be out of a job if some more guests didn’t arrive soon as Astrid and Soren were their regulars!

There was time for one last lunch at our favourite resort Thai. With fond farewells to the resort dogs and lizard too!

After our last afternoon swim I wandered down to the beach for my last massage while the storm chased the kids out of the pool. I think we’d had plenty of pool time though, so it was easier to leave when the weather was average than when it had been beautiful!

They met me down on the beach for a last quick dinner at Mr Bao as the storm rolled in. We weren’t hungry but it was going to be a long night so some last pineapple rice, cocktails and satay sticks for the trip.

We then bid farewell to Granny and Max who had 1 last child free day of their trip to go, and were in the shuttle van for the hour and a half trip up to Phuket. The kids did manage to rest for a bit of the drive, which was lucky as our flight out of Phuket didn’t leave until 10.20pm.

The Jetstar flight certainly wasn’t comfort plus, but it was a better time and cost than the alternatives and meant we were heading back to Sydney directly. I scored the middle seat of the middle 3 seats, squished between Astrid and Soren, who used me as a pillow all night. Anto scored Zinnia, who was just as wriggly. So none of us got a lot of sleep!

Aside from a lack of sleep the flight was uneventful, and we landed on time in Sydney but took 30 minutes for Jetstar to get to the gate, making us a little panicked about making our train. Luckily we had a quick trip through customs and immigration, our bags were off fast and we were on the train to central within half an hour of actually getting off the plane!

The cost of connecting flights back to Canberra wasn’t great and we thought we’d give the train a go. The kids love the trains in Europe and the Sydney – Canberra train is not express but the kids get $1 fares with our adult fares. This makes it rather cost effective for the family.

We settled into our sleeps, and the blankets and pillows we’d brought with us for our Jetstar flight home came in handy. A hot meal was ordered (which was significantly better than the food on the plane) and then we all rested for the 4 hour trip home.

The weather had turned rather feral in our absence and it was basically snowing as we travelled through the Southern Highlands. Far less tropical than our previous 10 days! Also a little chilly as we got off the train back in Canberra.

The kids gave the train a thumbs up, although they did sleep through a lot of it. It was definitely less effort than driving and we are keen to do it again when the connecting flights aren’t great.

We were all rather cold and tired by the time we got off the train at 4pm, but glad to be home. We’d almost forgotten what international travel is like! While we didn’t miss the jetlag, we had certainly missed being able to see the world again. The kids all thoroughly enjoyed our time away and we are looking forward to more travel adventures soon.

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