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Trip report - Zinders honeymoon in Thailand/Cambodia

Trip report - Zinders honeymoon in Thailand/Cambodia

Nov 20th, 2007, 07:24 AM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,276
Hi zinders,
I finally got in touch with Tong (she didn't get my first e-mail so fortunately I re-sent it). She asked if I knew your name so she would know where she took you (since I mentioned that I really liked your report and wanted to do pretty much the same tours). Might I be so bold as to ask it? You can just send it to me via e-mail if you don't want to post it here: [email protected] I promise I won't sell it to telemarketers !
jcasale is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 07:32 AM
  #42  
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Day 9 - Chiang Dao

Today we start our 3 day, 2 night trek into the Hill Country, arranged by the Nest. Over breakfast (not included in the room price), we meet our trek companions: Gaithen and Shawn from Wales and Nick from Melbourne. They all look very fit and have better backpacks for the trip. This is my first inkling that Don and I might be the weakest links on the tour!

Our trek starts out with a drive through Chiang Dao National Park, while sitting on the back of a flatbed truck. Fun! We go up and up, past gorgeous mountains. Its lightly raining, but we dont mind. When we get out, at the top of a mountain, we meet Nata, our guide for the trip. Hes a member of the Lisu tribe and speaks fairly good English. He tells us that we will be hiking about 4 hours today. Were only about 30 miles from the Myanmar border, and the views are incredible.

The trek begins with a steep walk down to a Lisu village. Its pretty rustic, with lots of pigs and chickens running around, so were surprised to see solar panels! Nata tells us that many of the Hillside tribes have switched to solar power. We have a nice lunch here, leave our things and start trekking toward a cave. Its a nice walk through rice and corn fields. Once at the cave, however, I start getting claustrophic (I covered a mining accident once and I guess its made me more skittish than I thought). I tell Don to go in without me. So I wait outside while the guys go in. They come out about 45 minutes later, extremely muddy. You would have hated it, Don tells me. Apparently they wriggled through some tight sections on their stomachs and Don feared he was stuck more than once. Im OK with my wussiness.

We collect our things back at the village and set off toward our next destination, a waterfall. Its a pretty challenging hike in places, particularly because it had been rainy recently and the path wasnt completely dry. Here, again, we lag behind our more fit counterparts. At one point, Don knocks over a pipe that brings water to the village, forcing Nata and the others to put it back into place. Im cringing feel very much like the ugly Americans. Its worth it, though, when we get the waterfall. Gorgeous! (and I feel very athletic for making it ha ha!)

The rest of the afternoon is spent on a steep uphill climb to another village. The path in some places is non-existent, and Nata uses a machete to cut through the undergrowth. Im puffing, but handling it (I worked out with a personal trainer before the wedding and have also run in the past) but Don is not in good shape. It doesnt help that our counterparts are more interested in racing through the trek instead of taking pictures. But we finally make it to our destination another Lisu village so high in the mountains that we are practically shrouded in fog.

Dinner, served in a small pavilion with a view of a huge mountain that we can glimpse through the fog, is very pleasant. We have some beers, and Nata gets a bit drunk. He asks the guys about their love lives (as newlyweds, we get our share of teasing as well!). We ask him about his and he says, very matter of fact, that the best-looking girls from the Lisu villages usually leave to work in bars as prostitutes in Chiang Mai or Bangkok. Despite this sobering thought, it's a fun and festive dinner.

Were tired so we retire to our hut. (the three guys on their own are in one hut, Don and I have our own). Its extremely Spartan basically, just a mattress on the floor with mosquito netting and blankets. All this wouldnt be bad except my abdominal pain is also back, worse than ever. Only now its combined with a case of vicious diarrhea. I spend most of the night in the bathroom (which, thankfully, had a western-style seat toilet, although you self-flushed by dumping water into the bowl). The bathroom also contains perhaps the biggest spider Ive ever seen outside of a zoo, and I stare at it obsessively during my repeated trip, willing it to go away. Cue the roosters, which start crowing about 1:30 a.m. , and it all adds up to a sleepless night for both Don and I.

Weve been told that our guide for the rest of the trip speaks minimal English so I tell Don that all things considered, I dont think its a good idea to head out for another day of trekking when Im feeling that sick. (Because, really, it is my honeymoon!) He agrees (and actually, I think he was a bit relieved to not have trek for 8 more hours). We resolve to leave the trek the next morning and seek medical care in Chiang Mai.
zinders is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 07:53 AM
  #43  
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Day 10 - Chiang Dao

The morning brings fog over the mountain. Its so pretty that we almost decide to stay, but then I think about 8 hours in the woods with the runs, and leaving seems like the best option. Our Lisu hosts agree to bring us back down to the Nest. Im anticipating some problems but WIchia, one of the Nests owners, is fabulous. She arranges for us to have transport into Chiang Mai, rebooks us into our original cottage and says shell adjust our bill so we dont have to pay for the rest of the trek.

Our ride into Chiang Mai takes place in one of those taxis that is open in the back. Its a bit dusty, but at least we can lie down inside. The driver drops us off at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. Its decent inside, although nowhere near as impressive as my home base hospital (The Hospital at the University of Penn cant beat it!) Most of the intake and nursing staff speak some English, and they order up an ultrasound of my abdomen.

Turns out I have a gallstone! The Thai doctor tells me in slightly broken English that the stone formed because I am obese (for the record, I am a US Size 12 overweight to be sure, but not obese!) I refuse to get my feelings hurt, however, as Im more concerned about whether or not I can finish the trip. The doc gives me some pain meds (as well as some Cipro for the runs) and tells me that its probable that I can wait to deal with the gallstone until I get home. Thats all I needed to hear!

We go back to the Nest and resolve to take things easy for the next few days. Its raining anyway, so were pretty happy that were not out in the wilderness, trekking. We have tea in the afternoon, read in the open-air pavilion and chat with some other guests. Nice mix of people, many with kids (the owners live on the premises and they have two of their own kids, so children are definitely welcome). That night, we eat at Nest 1, which has very good Western food. The place is packed, not only with Nest-ers, but with people from neighboring bungalow accommodations. Don enjoys the socializing, as he never had that backpacking experience (I spent the year after college working in Europe and hostelling everywhere). The meds from the hospital knock me out that night so no pain! So it was a good decision to abandon ship!
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Nov 20th, 2007, 08:03 AM
  #44  
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Day 11 - Chiang Dao

We awake to another rainy day. Wichia had given us the option of rejoining our tour for the scheduled bamboo rafting and elephant ride, but were really not interested in doing it in the rain. So after breakfast, we bring our books and blankets up the pavilion and settle in for a long day of reading. Hours later, we are still in the pavilion when the guys from the trek reappear. They look muddy and very tired. Don is happy we are not either of those things.

In the afternoon, I take advantage of the Thai massage services that the Nest arranges. A woman from Chiang Dao arrives at my cottage carrying a hot pot of compresses. She proceeds to give me the best massage of the trip two hours of stretching, massage and herbal compresses. I feel like a new woman when its over!

That night, we eat again at Nest 1 (I really liked the Thai food at Nest 2, but Im afraid it will aggravate the gallstone). We meet up with our trek companions and hear about the rest of their trip the trek portion of Day 2 sounded pretty intense and the accommodations at the Karon village were even more primitive. They forgive us our wussiness, and we all drink wine and play bourre, a Cajun card game that Don and I teach them (we both used to live in Louisiana). Its a big drunken night, with many promises to meet up in the future.

Chiang Dao summary: We are divided on whether or not it was a good idea to pack our itinerary to come up here. On the plus side, we did get to see some fantastic scenery and interact with some fun people. But we could have used the extra time for shopping in Bangkok and more beach time in Phuket. The enforced rest was probably good for us - in the future when we travel like this, I will definitely schedule more down time. (well, that and Ill assess our fitness level a bit more accurately). If you are into trekking, the Nest is a good option the owners are great, and it attracts a good group of people. Just be prepared for something a bit more rustic.

Next up: Phuket, specifically Patong and Kamala
zinders is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 09:01 AM
  #45  
 
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what happened to the stones??
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 09:10 AM
  #46  
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Amazingly, the gallstones didn't cause me any more pain the rest of the trip. Was checked out at Penn when I got back - will have to have surgery if I have another "attack." But for now, I'm fine. Glad I was able to finish the trip!
zinders is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 10:01 AM
  #47  
 
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Hi Zinders!

OMG. I am so old and so square. I had no clue what Happy Herb pizza meant until it was spelled out for me

I am very much enjoying your report!

I am starting to consider a first time trip to Asia for this time next year so have been over here int he Asia boards doing a bit of reading. DH and I have traveled quite a few times to Europe and I think I would like to branch out a little further.

How/why did you decide on Thailand and Cambodia for a first time visit? We are older than you (celebrating our 25th next year) and (way)less fit than you, but I don't supposed trekking is mandatory.

Would you recommend Thailand/Cambodia for another first timer? I would also LOVE to see as much of Angkor Wat as possible in a couple of days, and it ties in so well with a trip to Thailand.

HappyCheesehead is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 10:33 AM
  #48  
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I would definitely recommend Thailand/Cambodia for others who haven't been to Asia. We found it very easy to get around most places. Would you believe with all of our moving around, we didn't lose a single bag or item? All of the hotel transfers we arranged were also amazingly prompt.

We chose southeast Asia to start because we knew people who had gone to Thailand and loved it. Then we started reading about Angkor Wat and decided we couldn't miss that. I guess I'm more "drawn" to the countries down there - Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos - than I am Japan or China or Hong Kong. Not sure why.

You won't see as many Americans as you do in Europe, but there were lots of English and Australian tourists. Signs in Bangkok and Phuket were in English, and most people in Cambodia could also communicate. They also take US dollars which makes that easy.

I found myself wondering if my parents, who are 65, would like the trip. I think they would, as long as things were made easy for them by the hotels they were at, the guides, etc. But they aren't all that adventurous. We did A LOT less walking than I'm used to in Europe. In fact, usually when I go on foreign trips, I lose weight from all of the exercise. This time, I gained! (all that rice and noodles!)

zinders is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 11:20 AM
  #49  
 
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HappyCheesehead (are you from Wisconsin, by any chance ;_)?) - we debated long and hard where to go next summer and have decided on Thailand and Cambodia (we will be doing a very similar trip to zinders, but without the trekking since we are 51 and 60). Other than Antarctica, Asia is the only continent I haven't been to (DH was in China and Japan several years before we met). Also, just being able to be someplace that is SO different from anything we are used to was appealing. I started by getting some guide books (I tend to use Frommers for books) and then I began reading alot of the postings on this website. We haven't got the whole trip totally nailed down, but it will be Bangkok, Chiang Mai (with a guided excursion to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle), Phuket, and then Angkor Wat. I haven't been on the trip yet, but it has certainly been a farily easy one to plan with the help of everyone here. I'd say that it would be a great trip for a 25th anniversary!
jcasale is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 01:04 PM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Thank you both (and yes - I am a Wisconsinite)for sharing your thoughts. You both make excellent points and comments about the planning and execution of the trip - seems very do-able.


I am feeling confident that this would be a wonderful and facinating experience. I would like to up the "exotic" factor of our vacations, but not to a point where it is pure frustration.

It looks like there are certain favorite areas that both of you mention (kind of like the Italy "big 3"!), and I will do some more reading of threads and guidebooks to see exactly what I can't miss.

The downside is the flights seem depressingly long, but that can't be helped. I might try for a stop over on the way to break it up.

I am hoping to use FF miles to cover the flights, and since I am considering this time next year I will have to make the ressies pretty soon. Is the end of November/beginning of Dec considered a good time to go?










HappyCheesehead is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 02:17 PM
  #51  
 
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According to a lot of the books I read, it seems like Nov/Dec would be a great time to go for parts of the country (like Bangkok and Phuket), but maybe a bit chillier up in Chiang Mai. As for doing ff miles - that's what we are doing. American miles got us a round trip on Japan Airlines for 70,000 miles each and about $50 in taxes (plus of course $15 in ticketing fee since you can't book that yourself online). Enjoy the planning!
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Nov 20th, 2007, 08:14 PM
  #52  
 
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jcasale - excellent!! nothing like a free flight to put some excitement into vacation planning. I just love those first moments when the flight is booked and you are concretely "going somewhere". Of course, when you use the FF tix and have to book so far in advance, the "going somewhere" usually takes waaaay too long!

I am done interrupting your thread zinders - please continue and also, best wishes for a long and happy marriage! Trust me, the first 25 years go by fast!
HappyCheesehead is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 04:29 AM
  #53  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Chiang Mai is wonderful in late November/December. It may get a bit chilly at night and early morning (sweater or light jacket) but will be around 80 during the day. Perfect weather.
glorialf is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 10:20 AM
  #54  
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Day 12 - Chiang Dao to Phuket

Another day of transit for us. We take the direct flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket. It runs late so its about 4 p.m. by the time we arrive in Phuket. I had read that Patong was busy, but had no idea it would be THAT busy. Just crazy with the signage, fake bag hawkers, massage offers and tailors. And in this age of Netflix, Don and I couldnt understand why so many people were trying to sell DVDs. Is there really that much of a market for them?

Our hotel was the Impiana Cabana Phuket, the only hotel in Patong that is actually right on the beach. We really enjoyed this hotel, especially after roughing it at the Nest it had a nice infinity pool and tons of lounge chairs so you never actually had to go on the beach and deal with the hawkers if you didnt want to. Our room was spacious and had a sliding glass door that went out to the pool area. And, the lobby had free Internet access! (we hadnt had this since Bangkok). The whole place was definitely a respite from the tacky craziness of Patong. We take a walk on the beach, grab a quick dinner at one of the little beachfront cafes, and retire early.

Day 13 - Phuket (Patong)

This is a day of relaxation for us, so I get up early and race out to snag prime lounge chairs (Don wonders if this is necessary; I think of some of the Fodor postings I have read and assure him that it is. Isnt he surprised when all of chairs are gone by 9 a.m.? Yes, lots of German tourists). We forgot that our room included a breakfast buffet, so we go to one of the beachfront cafes for banana pancakes. Yum.

I book a 90 minute massage for the two of us, assuring Don that it will be of the Swedish variety (hes finding the Thai massages too tough for him). While pricey, the Impianas spa is gorgeous and we are thoroughly zonked out. We lie outside most of the day, even though the sky is mostly overcast.

We wandered around town a bit, looking for a restaurant before finally deciding to eat dinner back at the Impiana. Were glad we did, as the 7-course Thai meal we get is fantastic! And a good value 675 baht each (our alcohol bill doubled the price, however wine in Thailand is expensive!)

Up next: John Gray Sea Canoe tour, Hongs by Starlight
zinders is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 06:49 PM
  #55  
 
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loving it...finally some lux for the honeymoon
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 02:37 PM
  #56  
 
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HappyCheeseHead,

I wanted to encourage you not to fear a trip to SE Asia. I was last in Thailand in 89 & I am mildly handicapped & I went on a tour by myself.

This time, I am taking my WI born HappyBears husband next Feb/Mar. & my handicapped has progressed & we are spending 7 nights in Khao Lak (90 km. north of the IMO horribly overbuilt & touristy in 1989 Phuket), which has less crowded beaches & is closer to the Similan & Surin Islands (marine reserves), Phang Nga & many national parks. The Khao Lak Orchid Beach Resort is flat & accessible for me. The Baan Khao Lak Resort has 4 wheelchair accessible rooms, ramps everywhere.

Then 5 nights in Siem Reap... Raffles is not fully accessible, but I can manage it. The Sofitel is handicapped accessible (but IMO too big, too spread out w/o A/C in the walkways). I've asked our guide Leng Tek to hire a porter ($15 US per day) to push the wheelchair that we are borrowing from Raffles. On the day we go to Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom/Ta Phrom, he will hire a 2nd porter, so they can carry the wheelchair up & then carry me (I am petite).

So, stop worrying about being 'older'. If I can do it mildly handicapped & 53, you can do it.

Then we go to the Peninsula for 4 nights in BKK, two with Jerry (Tong's associate) one of which will be a day in Auytthaya. Jerry is bringing his uncle's lightweight wheelchair, as the Pen's is the old-fashioned heavy kind.

The difference between SE Asia traveling (I did China in 85 & Bali in 87) & Europe is, things don't always go as smoothly, there are giant bugs, it's hot & humid and you must be careful not to put your toothbrush under the tap & becareful not to drink anything that you do not unseal the bottle or can yourself. Personally, I never eat salads either, but that is just me. The sun is hellishly strong, so get a 45+ SPF for the face (Neutrogena Dry Touch) & a waterproof/sweat & rub proof sunblock for the beach (Banana Boat Sportsblock 30 or 50 SPF in the orange tube--the sprays so not work) & wear a hat, as the sun reflects off the water & can burn you even on a cloudy day.

I have never burned with the two above lotions-- during extended snorkel trips to French Polynesia 3x, Fiji & 2 in the Caribbean. BB Sportsblock will not melt & run into your eyes either.

Traveling to Asia is wonderful because the various cultures have no roots in western civilization...reading up on the history, culture, religion & learning a bit of the language is always helpful.
AskOksana is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 02:41 PM
  #57  
 
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HappyCheeseHead,

I forgot to mention, if you have United Mileage Plus miles, you can use them to get a R/T on Thai Air International, which flies nonstop from to BKK from LAX, SF... an upgrade to Premium Economy is $198pp one way, outbound to BKK. Make sure that buy an H class or better ticket, as the lowest fare is not upgradeable to PE.
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Nov 28th, 2007, 06:52 AM
  #58  
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Day 14 Phuket (Patong)

Today we take advantage of the hotels breakfast buffet. Its extensive, with many Thai choices in addition to the Western food. Im becoming addicted to noodles in the morning! There are a lot of stray cats coming off the beach. I sneak them a few bites of smoked fish, under the disapproving eye of the waiters.

We had originally signed up for an overnight trip with John Gray, but decided not to do it because of the weather and various illnesses (while Im feeling fine, Don is fighting the vestiges of his stomach troubles). So were just going to do the Hongs by Night tour instead. The guide comes to pick us up around 11:30 and we head out to the marina. Its about a 45 minute trip there.

At the marina, we board a boat that has about 30 other tourists on it. Were given sodas and snacks as we set off across Phang Nga Bay. Unlike many tours in this area, John Gray doesnt go to James Bond island. Instead, the boats main guide (not John Gray himself, who is up in Bangkok watching the dress rehearsal for the Kings barge procession) tells us that were visiting Hong Island and another one (Im forgetting the name). He tells us that the visits are timed carefully so we can float into the hongs (caves) and get out before the tide rises, and that in at least one of the caves, well have to lean back in our inflatable kayaks to get through. This is fine with Don and I, but there is one woman who audibly gasps (and in fact, she basically had a noisy negative attitude the whole trip.by the end, I wanted to shove her into a hong and leave her there!)

Anyway, were served a yummy lunch and make it to the first island in about an hour. Each group of two or three is assigned a guide, who stays with you the entire day. He (they were all men) also does all of the paddling. We get in our kayak and head toward the limestone cliffs. Once there, our guide takes us into a hong (this one is large, so no need to lean back). It opens into a gorgeous lagoon. We paddle in here for about 45 minutes, checking out the little crabs and silverfish (I think?) on the mud flats and tropical birds. Fun.

Once our guides take us back through the hong, were given about an hour to swim off of the boat or play around with the kayaks. Don and I take ours to the shore, although this causes us to argue (every time were in a kayak or canoe together, we argue. Dont ask me why). In any case, we feel good that we at least got SOME exercise in.

Our boat heads over toward Hong Island. Our first trip here goes into the Bat Cave, where tons of the little buggers are hanging off the ceiling. In the lagoon here, we see a monkey and are able to get very close to him. We go back to the boat, which takes us to the other side of the island to visit the Diamond Cave, so named because the ceiling sparkles with stalactites.

Afterward, we go back to the boat for dinner. Its pretty good, for a buffet on a boat. Noodles, rice, spring rolls the usual. Also some western dishes like fries, which the annoying woman scoops up like shes never seen friend potatoes before.

After dinner, our guides tell us about Loy Krathong, a Thai festival usually held during the first full moon in November. During this festival, people make little boats out of banana trunk and float them on the water as an offering. With our guides, we all make krathongs, arranging banana leaves, flowers, incense and candles on the trunk round. Don and I feel like were at a Thai arts and crafts camp, and Im happy with our krathong until I see the ones put together by the other guides are much more elaborate. I sulk for a while about how shabby ours looks compared to others until Don tells me to get over it.

Our last hong trip of the night
takes us through the one where we have to duck our heads. Its only scary if you think about the tide rising while you are in there! Once we enter the lagoon, the guide tells us to turn off our flashlights and stick our fingers in the water. We are rewarded with trails of silvery plankton, under the starry sky. The guide lights the candles in our offering and were told to let it float and make a wish. Its kinda cheesy, of course, but were newlyweds so we find it moving. (one of the more remarkable side effects of being married is that my natural snarkiness has been dialed WAY down). Were out in the lagoon for about 30 minutes, watching all the different offerings bob around. Its very peaceful.

We make it back through the low-lying hong with no problems and go back to the boat. It takes about 45 minutes to get back to the marina. During this time, we try to avoid listening to the annoying woman, who is going on and on about how scared she was going through the hongs, how she thought she was going to die, etc. I cant imagine an easier trip, I mean, we didnt even paddle ourselves! I hope for travelers everywhere that this woman stays in her Australian suburb where she belongs. Overall, though, we return to our hotel happy with our day.

zinders is offline  
Nov 28th, 2007, 07:05 AM
  #59  
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Day 15 Phuket (Kamala)

Today were scheduled to move from the Impiana and Patong up to the Layalina in Kamala. Don really likes the Impiana, so hes a little sad about leaving. Neither of us are upset to be leaving Patong, however were ready for something quieter. We enjoy our last Impiana breakfast buffet and the driver from the Layalina picks us up around 11:30.

Kamala is about 15 minutes north of Patong, and its not nearly as developed. It was very hard hit by the tsunami, and there is a memorial to those who died not far from the town center. Our hotel, the Layalina, is only two years old and althought small, it has lots of nice touches. The room is HUGE much bigger and nicer than the Impiana with a fantastic bathroom, wood floors and a balcony that looks right out to the pool and the beach. The facilities at the hotel, though, arent as developed. The pool is not very big, and there is no attached restaurant.

We continue to have sporatic rain, so we spend most of the day chilling out reading by the pool when its sunny, getting a Thai massage in our room when its not. We do take a walk around town and notice that there isnt much there, other than the usual tailor shops. Signs for tourists seem to be mostly in German instead of English, and we hear Russian while on the beach.

That night, I decide that were going to take in the Simon Cabaret show back in Patong, and they come and pick us up. Basically, the Simon show is a Las Vegas-style review with very realistic transvestites and transgenders, with glittery sets and amusing lip-synching. Its a little more earnest than I thought (I was expecting a bit more camp), but Don is blown away by how feminine the performers look. They cant ALL be guys, he said. But, of course, they were. After the show, the girls stand outside and people take photos with them (for tips). Don couldnt resist taking a photo with one of the performers who was a dead ringer for J Lo. All in all, Simon was an amusing diversion, but its not for everyone.

Next: Day trip to Phi Phi
zinders is offline  
Nov 28th, 2007, 11:48 AM
  #60  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 148
Great trip report so far...sounds like you had an amazing honeymoon!

We are also interested in doing the Hong by Starlight. Did you book it in advance (and did you book directly through John Gray)?

Also, do you remember what time of night you got back? We are planning on doing it our last day in Phuket and want to work around our travel times. Thanks in advance.
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