So, tonight we're heading back to Bangkok on the night train from an interesting place called Chumphon where we've been staying for the past few days. After a couple of days here, we realised we'd actually been here before - about 10 years ago but only for one night. Alan's feeling of deja vue proved right! Before that, we were on the idyllic Andaman island of Koh Phayam. Still unspoilt - no cars, electricity only between 6.00pm and 8.00am, mangroves, long white sandy beaches, families of hornbills, and yes, swaying palms and cocktails. We could barely bear to prise ourselves away but needs must. We spent 5 days on this beautiful island. The only minor downside was a visiting tropical storm "Pabuk" which thankfully mostly missed us but meant fishing boats and ferries were grounded and the sky wasn't always its most azure blue, with rain clouds even. Still, nothing spoilt our delight in finding a small corner (10km long by 5 km wide), and ambling our way around on a tiny scooter.
The reason Koh Phayam is so under-developed is its remoteness from the main Thai transport routes. The jumping-off point from the mainland is a town called Ranong which is a 20 minute boat ride away from Burma and is used by some as a "Visa route run" but few tourists use this border point. Ranong is semi-geared up for some tourists and we stayed at a very nice resort called Tinidee Inn (an annex of the main hotel that allowed use of their wonderful swimming pool). Whilst in Ranong, we hired a small scooter for a couple of days to explore one of the largest mangrove forests in SE Asia, complete with families of macacca monkeys and weird mud crabs. We also drove South to the Nam Nguok national park and, as usual, the major feature was a waterfall.
Koh Phayam is serviced by a slow boat everyday and, now, a series of speedboats to transfer people. We took the slow boat and stayed at Rabbit Bungalow Resort. Having a bike also enabled us to nosey around most of the other accommodation alternatives and beach accommodation.