After a few domestic trips, Nirvaan went international this time, to Thailand. It was 29th June,2018, Nirvaan was ten months old. Apparently,it was the off season to visit Thailand. But I chose this time to avoid the maddening rush of the tourists and the weather was pleasant last time we visited Thailand in July 2010.
Our itinerary was mostly what most tourists do, Bangkok-Phuket-Phi Phi Islands but I added another lesser heard island called Koh Lanta to our trip.
We took the Air Asia midnight flight to reach Bangkok early next morning. (Mommy found this very convenient as Nirvaan drank milk while the flight was taking off and slept till the flight landed and did not cry due to ear ache). We opted for visa on arrival. Nirvaan made lots of friends there. He grew fond of two little girls from China. It was heartening to see them all communicate despite language barriers, the kind of world we can only hope for.
After a day's halt at Bangkok for the baby to rejuvenate from the air travel, we headed towards Phuket the next morning. I booked Henrik's place at Tambon Kathu through Airbnb and got a great deal for a bungalow with a private pool. Our transfers in Phuket were arranged by Phuket Friendly Taxi, who were amazing at their service. I would definitely recommend them. On our first evening in Phuket, we went to the various view points in and around Phuket, the Big Buddha is worth mentioning. Thereafter we headed towards Patong beach and the (in)famous Bangla Road. Patong beach was very unimpressive and too crowded. However, Bangla Road was one of the most happening places I have ever been to. We tried the street market food in Bangla Road. The crocodile meat was something which we never tried before and perhaps would never try again. Nirvaan was fascinated with all the flashy atmosphere and gorgeous people around. He liked the live ice cream rolls too. We retreated to our pool villa early and had a relaxing time with a few beers by the pool. Next day we were supposed to leave for Pha nga bay private boat tour.
Pha nga bay
1st July, our anniversary day. Duleep, our driver from Phuket friendly taxi picked us up at 9 am sharp to the jetty for Pha nga bay. We hired an exclusive long tail boat for the 7 of us. The day was sunny and bright. We had a look of the James Bond Island from a distance as it was way too crowded. However, we were taken to another secluded island called Hong Island where we had a private beach ( or a small stretch of sand ) to ourselves. We did kayaking with the baby in the mangroves of Pha nga bay. Although it was an enthralling experience and Neel seemed to enjoy it for the first few minutes, soon he bacame restless and we had to return to the boat in half an hour's time. Another highlight was the stalactite caves of Pha nga bay which reminded me of the caves from the viking adventure stories. They were dark, with bats hanging from their high roofs, and diamond like shiny limestones adding to the intrepid charm to the place. Neel was scared soon and he started crying and we had to leave to soothe him.
We had traditional Thai lunch at one of the island restaurants of Pha nga bay while Neel had some fun time with the courteous and endearing staff of the restaurant. We discovered Neel's love for sticky rice with mango and he still loves it. This solved our 'what-to-do ness' about his lunch and dinner. It was almost 3pm and we were tired and decided to head back to Phuket though our captain wanted us to have a swim session in the bay. Evening at our villa was again serene and romantic with some wine to accompany us at the pool. We really fell in love with this place away from the hustle and bustle of the Phuket main city and nestled among the small hillside of Kathu. But little did we know that the best place awaited us yet.
Phi Phi island
Next morning, we took the ferry to Phi Phi island. The ferry was big and the sail to Phi phi was very scenic and beautiful. Though the rough tides gave us a few scares, we finally reached Phi Phi safely in 90 minutes time. Our boat to Bay view resort awaited us at the Phi Phi Tonsai pier.
The sea view cottages of Bay View Resort were simply stunning. One could just laze away at the balcony of these cottages staring at the sea whole day but alas we had a snorkelling trip coming up. It was a first for each one of us though Priyasha decided to stay back with the baby. Snorkelling was fun, and after the initial scare of floating alone with a life jacket in the ocean and getting adjusted to the snorkelling gear, it was pure bliss to get to see all the colourful fishes and corals under clear green water. After an hour of snorkelling, we came back to the boat. Our captain took us to a place where night planktons were abundant and we waited for 30 minutes for the dusk to set in. Around 6 in the evening, we went inside the water one by one and there they were, the glowing planktons, once in a lifetime experience. The water was cold, we could not stay for long , but those fifteen minutes were just mesmerizing.
We came back to the resort tired and elated. But I wanted to explore the island a little more at night. Priyasha and the baby accompanied me. We walked across the Phi Phi night market and helped ourselves with a beer and a pizza at the Carlito's bar where there was a live fire show. Nirvaan, with all the attention from the beautiful tourists around had a gala time at the Carlito's. Others around were amused seeing him dance to the tune of the fire show. We had an amazing Thai banana honey pancake on our way back to the resort. My whole body was aching after such an adventurous day. All of us slept like a baby,including the baby.
Next morning, after a sumptuous buffet breakfast, we left for Ko Lanta in a public ferry. Ko Lanta is another small island located next to Krabi. We did not add Krabi to our itinerary as it would take 2 more days to explore and we had just one more day to spare. Ko Lanta was both peaceful and beautiful. However, the tourist off season meant that our small but scenic resort called Kantiang View Resort was short of staff and amenities. So much so, that I myself had to switch on the pump and the lights of the swimming pool. But boy, it was one hell of a swimming pool with no one else but us! Add to it the panoramic views of the sea while sipping a beer at the pool. Bliss!
Also, don't miss the views and food of Diamond Cliff restaurant while in Ko Lanta, the ambience and views of which surpasses any other beach side restaurant I have ever been to. We treated our bodies with a Thai massage before retreating to our hotel for the night.
Next day was the last day of our trip. We had our breakfast at the beach. A few of us hired a self driven scooter to roam around the island, which is the cheapest and best way to explore Ko Lanta. The others just enjoyed the view of the sea from the room balcony. We packed up soon and left after lunch. Our flight to Bangkok was from Krabi airport. The drive from Ko lanta to Krabi included a ferry ride with huge vehicle carrying ferries to transfer us to the other side.
Our short trip to Thailand was going to end. We were sad that we could not spend some more time at these beautiful islands especially Phi Phi. But there is always a next time I thought. A visibly happy Nirvaan pulled my shirt as the boarding call was announced.
Important points to note:
Budget for our trip 5 nights/6 days tour for a group of 6: Rs. 50,000 per person inclusive of all airfares ( Kolkata-Bangkok roundtrip and Bangkok-Phuket roundtrip ).
While in Phuket, you can avail the service of Phuket friendly taxi for transfers and sight seeing. All transfers and sight seeing for two days including Pha nga bay tour in a private longtail boat with lunch and kayaking costed us 11,500 thb all together.
In Phi Phi , there are many snorkelling and scuba diving agencies. You can book at the spot if you have enough time. We booked beforehand and it was 1000 thb per person for the entire 3 hour tour.
In Ko lanta, it is better to ask your hotel for a transfer from the jetty to the resort (300 thb ). It is best to hire a scooty to drive around Lanta. ( 200 thb per day ). Transfer to Krabi Airport from Lanta is 2200 thb in a private minivan.
We also had a lesson in packing. We stuffed a lot of things in two huge suitcases. One of the suitcase was full of Nirvaan's clothes and essentials. Unsure of the suitability of food for Nirvaan, we packed lots of Cerelac and Formula milk and many other things in two or three small diaper bags and hand bags. This made travelling around and repacking very hectic and problematic. After the trip, we researched a lot and found a suitable back pack type diaper bag with lots of space and pockets which has been very useful in our later trips. We have now started packing things in three small suitcases as well.
Bangkok: Never ending journey's home booked through Airbnb near the Don Mueang Airport. Rs.4200 per night for the entire 3 bed room house. It is a very convenient and comfortable place with all amenities and a very helpful host.
Phuket: Henrik's place at Tambon Kathu booked through Airbnb. Rs. 6000 per night for the entire 4 bedroom pool villa.
Phi Phi island: Bay view resort. Opt for their Ocean view rooms. Try to find a good deal at Agoda , Makemytrip or hotels.com. We found a non refundable deal of Rs.4500 per day per room including breakfast at Agoda.
Ko Lanta: Kantiang view resort. Though the resort was beautiful, it left us asking for better service and amenities. We got a Rs. 2200 per night per room non refundable deal from Agoda.
Ferries from Phuket to Phi Phi and Phi Phi to Ko Lanta can be booked online through www.phuketferry.com at discounted deals.