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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thai Road Trip. Bangkok to Phuket & Phuket to Pha Phanang

Thai Road trip

I have taken 3 Road trips in Thailand in 2016 December. Bangkok to Phuket, Phuket to Pha Phanang and Phuket to Pha Panang. All the trips were done with my Thai family and were such an adventure of cultural differences that I thought they had to be documented.


Travelling down to the south of Thailand was done in Kassem's mini van. Kassem does transfers to and from Krabi Airport from the Beaches and the Phi Phi Piers. Kassem is a quiet man who takes his driving seriously and we progressed south in great cheer. The women talked endlessly about the next stop, the previous day's diner and the next breakfast stop.





We had started the day at the Centre Point Grand Hotel at Ploenchit in the center of Bangkok and were driven out to Coke's house. This took about 45 minutes. This was done as Kassem was not sure of the roads in the center of Bangkok and rather than get lost and loose hours, one of the nephews picked us up and took us north away from our destination. So having started the day with a detour we were on the road at about 6am, just before the Monday morning traffic.

Centre Point Grand Hotel at Ploenchit with family
After about an hour and a half we stopped at a petrol station to stretch our legs, have a toilet break and hunt down  bit to eat. There seems nothing more appealing to Thai people from the south than to go looking for food. The anticipation and the talk about the potential food is an all engrossing subject that provides the prelim for what is eaten.


The family split out and Kassem headed for the MC Donald's for a coffee. Suree, her brother Baan Ali and I found a smart looking cafe serving morning foods. I had Khaow Tom, (rice soup), and Baan Ali had Bai krapow, minced chicken on rice with a fried egg.

We travelled south with the men including myself quiet as the women talked on about the food they had and how much better or worse it was than in the south. The conversation turned to family and the pros and cons of this girlfriend, husband was bandied around for a while before returning to the key subject one hunt for the next food experience. As we passed various areas along the road, the local people would sell what ever was considered their speciality. Grape fruits were in season and their were countless shack stalls with shade for the seller and piles of the fruit. Next it would be Long Kong fruit or grass brushes, or honey or eggs, a whole kaleidoscope of differing produce made, or procured from the land.

This is the mama and papa business ethic of huge numbers of Thai merchants. This way of life prioritises Independence, small scale,  flexible and intimate business. The government only Taxes these type of traders in a very small way as it is such a large group of voting people.
Local grass products and bags of rice
Local grass products and bags of rice
This group of people has flourished free of the shackles of government oversite, health and safety and all the other burdens of modern life in the west. The continual site of people selling their wares along the street gives an impression of a vibrant merchant economy. This is under threat from the modern corporates who now are able sell everything efficiently and cheaply and hygienically and in air con. Businesses  like 7 Eleven and Family Mart are covering Thailand. I hope these small stall holders last as they make a truly interesting site along the roads of Thailand.

Random guy promoting his business
We stopped at Hua Hin to visit a street full of the way it was about 40 years ago. The shops were full of Memorabelia and photos of times gone by, perhaps an innocent time before the Internet and mobile phones. Like all countries I have visited including my very own England the nostalgia for these simpler times runs through all countries.I snapped an image of the recently Late King while he was making the Sailing boat from wood. This actual boat can be seen in the Reception area of the Boat Lagoon Hotel In Phuket.






Typical back streets in some of the towns we visited for a bite to eat
Typical back streets in some of the towns we visited for a bite to eat





Minibus view of the road to Chumpon
Minibus view of the road to Chumpon

Sunset near Surat thani
Sunset near Surat Thani

On south again and we stopped at Chumpoon and Kiri Khan before heading over to the west side of the country to Phuket. This was done in the dark and the roads are not lit so added care was taken by Kassem to get us safely over the Sarasin Bridge to Phuket.

Phuket to Pak Panang

3 days later we set off on our Road Trip to Pak Phanang in Nakhorn SI Thammarat Province. This was different in that I was driving my old Honda CRV which must be 12 years old. The roads covered must take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in southern Thailand. As soon as you get off Phuket island you are confronted with a very green untouched landscape with views of mountains to the north and Limestone Karst scenery around the northern end of Phangna Bay. 


Phang Nga layby-stunning scenery
Phang Nga layby-stunning scenery


This road is always one of the highlights of any drive I do in Southern Thailand. We used to live in Krabi but go to the hospital in Phuket for my son, Thomas and had to make this road trip quiet regularly. I would stop as often as I could to learn something new about the road and attractions near by. It certainly is worth doing with a good map and having an explore. Reminder: Road between Phuket and Krabi.

Quieter roads along the jungle path
Quieter roads along the jungle path
View on the dual carriage way heading south
Just before we reached Krabi Town we turned off at Ao Luk (really fresh market) and headed east across the country. This area is like time forgot with hectares upon hectares of rubber, palm and virgin jungle in every direction you look. The road is quite windy as the road winds its way between small villages and mountain ranges anymore Karst limestone scenery. If you find a stop on market day, you won't find anything fresher for local produce off the land.


Side streets in to the country around Krabi
Side streets in to the country around Krabi


As you near Nakhorn SI Thamarat Province you are confronted with one of Southern Thailands biggest mountains. To get through and around this takes a lot longer that it might suggest as the massif is so large. If the scenery was remote when we crossed the Kra Isthmus the and scale became more dramatic with the signs of huge waterfalls appearing high up along the foothills. The east coast experiences a totally different weather pattern in December to the West coast so the land was verdant, the rivers full and many fields flooded.
We skirted the main town of Nakhorn SI Thamarrat and headed over the last 28 km flat lands to Pak Phanang. Many houses on stilts were flooded and had small canoe s tied up to the steps at the entrances. Men could be seen wading through swamps with nets trying to catch the river fish that appear everywhere in these conditions.



Arriving at Pak Phanang after 6.5 hours we settled in to some fine hospitality at Baan Ali's house and ate river prawn and a whole range of delicacies.












Just before Nakhorn Si Thammarat
Just before Nakhorn Si Thammarat





Tags: #roadtrip, roadtrip, road trip, thai, thailand, #thai, #thailand



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