It was a relief to leave Bangkok and know that for the next 5 weeks we would be staying at least on the same island if not the same beach or bungalow. The flight from Bangkok to Phuket is just over an hour and the view of Phuket as we arrived was spectacular. The first thing we saw was the beautiful turquoise/blue sea and then the white sandy beaches around the coast followed by the surprisingly lush green interior, every inch of the hills covered with trees and vegetation. We couldn't wait to get onto the beach.... but first we had to choose which beach. It was the first time since Newquay that we had arrived somewhere without a hotel booked and it was mid afternoon.
As soon as we left the airport there were taxi drivers offering to take us anywhere on the island and find us accommodation. We decided to play it safe and try to phone a couple of places ahead, choosing the areas of Karon and Kata beaches because they are quite big resorts and so would have lots of accommodation. The first place we tried was full causing a minor panic but the next two had rooms available. We climbed into a taxi and asked him to take us to Karon beach. It took about an hour and so we got a good look at the island on the way.
Arriving late afternoon at the Karon Seaview it would have to have been pretty awful for us not to have stayed at least one night. At 1000 Baht a night or 700 Baht a night for 3 nights we decided to stay 3 nights. The Karon Seaview Restaurant and Bungalows are on the main road (but a quiet road) with the restaurant overlooking the beautiful beach. It was a pretty place with clean and basic bungalows and friendly, relaxed staff who hardly spoke a word of english. Click here to see the bungalows. The first night we went to the pub next door to have a drink and watch the sunset.
Here are the first 3 of many, many sunset pictures:
Richard remarked to the waitress how beautiful the sunset was but she said that she didn't even notice it anymore because she sees it everyday! A shame really but I guess we become immune to the beauty around us at home so why not the same here. The only problem with the place was that it was right by a building site and we were kept awake by drilling at 12am (the coolest time to work). The whole of Karon undergoing massive development, at the moment there are huge empty fields along the beach road but I'm sure in a couple of years it will be full of high rise hotels. We thought we were blowing the budget staying here but it turned out that the Lonely Planet is way out on the accommodation prices for the area even bearing in mind it is high season. Lonely Planet's Thailand Island and Beaches (2000 edition) reckons that the Karon Seaview should be 300-500 Baht a night and less in low season!! We spent the next couple of days trying to get accommodation for Christmas and New Year. It turned out that not everywhere was full but we had found a few places that were and so thought that we could only relax if we knew where we would be staying. Being the high season the prices for our accommodation rose and rose. Before we left my Godmother, Mary, sent us a nice card which said the well known phrase about taking half the amount of clothes you think you need and twice the money - it is, of course, absolutely true we are lugging around far too much stuff (eg. the jumper for the cold weather that we might get for a week in Vietnam) and we are spending much more than we thought. But it comes down to the fact that if you try to stick to a tight budget then you won't do the things you want to do and so you won't enjoy your trip and what's the point of travelling this distance and for this long if you can't afford to have a beer to drink while you watch the sunset? We ended up booking a couple of weeks in Karon and then three more just down the coast in Kata (for some variation - on the theme of sun, sea and sand).
The great thing about the Golden Sands Inn is the massive swimming pool and that there is always space to sit/lie around the pool - 2 weeks felt like a few days. The room wasn't great: just old really but our air-conditioning kept leaking and the TV had such bad reception that we couldn't watch it but it was cheap for a proper hotel (1200 Baht a night) and we had a fridge which had what must be the cheapest mini-bar on Earth (10 Baht for a coke, 35 Baht for a beer). A couple of days after we arrived we arrived at the pool in the morning and somebody said, 'hello' to us. It took me a minute to register (who do we know in Thailand?) but it was the two girls we had met on the Khao San Road. Sue and Jacqui were staying down the road but their Guesthouse got to use our Hotel's pool. It was to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship and many drunken nights out.....
It wasn't all drunken nights out - sometimes just a few quiet beers on the beach at sunset with new friends:
By this time we'd started to explore the nightlife in and around Karon.
After our stay at the Golden Sands we moved down to Kata.