Showing posts with label our inspections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label our inspections. Show all posts

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Phi Phi Islands Tour - Phi Phi Premium

Leamthong Beach, Phi Phi Island
Leamthong Beach - Phi Phi Island
Going on a Phi Phi trip in the monsoon season you really have to consider the sea conditions, so when i booked this trip I was taking into account the strong winds we had at the time and chose the Phi Phi Premium Tour which uses a large, stable ferry, of course on the day of the tour the winds dropped and the sea was flat calm.

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The day started with pickup and transfer across Phuket town to Rasada Pier on the east coast of Phuket.  On arrival at the pier a sticker was attached to my shirt stating I was "Premium", just indicating my cabin class not a personal evaluation, and I was directed to the upper deck of the Royal Jet Cruiser 9, the largest ferry on the dock, and into the cabin.

Phi Phi Islands Tour - Phi Phi Premium by Royal Jet Cruise 9
Save & Quick to Phi Phi - All Year Around
Once in side you have to do a bit of a double take to check you are still on a boat as it seems like you have just entered a cafe bar or a first class airport lounge.

The room has an abundance of well cushioned sofas and is fully air-conditioned, one end of the room has a large flat screen TV which was used to show movies and some Mr Bean episodes, at the other end of the room is a bar where the lounge's hostess is serving tea,coffee, soft drinks and cakes.

At about 8:45 the ferry pulled away from the dock and started on it's way to Koh Phi Phi Island, at about the same time the ship's tannoy sprang to life whith an announcement of the days program for the boat in English and Thai.  Once the tannoy had stopped James, our guide for the day, came and introduced himself to all those doing the day tour package and briefly outlined the day's events and made sure we knew the way to the private sun deck on top of the Premium cabin.

The hour and a half trip went quickly and smoothly and soon James was leading the tour group to the back of the ferry as she approached the pier in Phi Phi Don's Tonsai Bay, after a couple on minutes our speedboat pulled up to the back of the boat and we boarded it, we were the first people off the ferry.

The twin engined speedboat took as around the east side of Phi Phi Don and then north east to to Bamboo Island, which is basically a small piece of rain forest surrounded by a massive beach.  Here all those that didn't want to go snorkelling disembarked to spend an hour on the beach, the rest of us headed to a spot in between Bamboo Island and it's neighbour Mosquito Island.  

The whole area is littered with small rocks and coral bommies with the sandy bottom at about 3 or 4 metres deep, most people were wearing their life vest to keep them securely on the surface while the sergeant majors and rabbit fish mobbed the pieces of bread James was throwing in to stir up some action.  After about 45 minutes everybody was called back to the boat and we headed back to Bamboo island to pick up the others from the beach.

The next stop was Leamthong beach on the north east of Phi Phi Don, this beach has a number of hotels and a restaurant and boat in the only way to get there, we were here for lunch in the Premium section of the restaurant. the lunch started with tempura vegetables and seafood and was then completed with barbecues tiger prawns and fried rice, with fresh fruit to follow. we then hadf about 30 minutes to relax on the beach before taking the speedboat back to the ferry which by this time was moored just off Leanthong beach.

Once back on the ferry most of the people in Premium Class (less than 30 in total) headed up to the exclusive sun deck to take in the view as we cruised back along the east coast of Phi Phi Don and back into Tonsai bay where we picked up the rest of the passengers heading back to Phuket and then we set off for a tour of Phi Phi Lae before heading back to Phuket.

As we left the bay we got a glorious view of Phi Phi Lae, we cruised slowly passed Viking cave, Pi Leh Cove and Loh Samah bay before rounding the southern tip of the Island and  heading into Maya Bay. As the ferry is large we could only come a short way into the bay but this was far enough to be able to see the line of tourist speedboats on the beach.  The boat then turned and headed for home.

Back downstairs in the Premium lounge there was beer and doughnuts and an action movie to speed us on our journey, if the sea conditions changed at all during the day it was hard to tell as the boat never seemed to move at all, in fact you have to look outside every so often to remind yourself you were on a boat.

All in all the Phi Phi Premium Tour is a pleasant day out, particularly good for families with young children or those who are prone to sea sickness, also great for photographers who wish to capture the majesty of these Islands, hard to do from a vibrating speedboat.

Phi Phi Premium Gallery

phiphipremium_royaljetcruisePhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium Tour
Phi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium Tour
Phi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium TourPhi Phi Premium Tour
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Phi Phi Premium Tour, a set on Flickr.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Varinda Garden Resort Koh Samui Inspection Report

I stayed at the Varinda Garden Resort in early June 2013. This small Thai family owned and run resort is located on the hillside at the southern end of Lamai beach. It's about two minutes walk from the beach and from Lamai centre where bars, restaurants and shops can be found.

I arrived in the evening as the sun was setting and immediately liked the place. The friendly greeting from the owner and the secret garden setting, full of quirky ornaments, provided a relaxed and welcoming vibe. There is nothing formulaic about Varinda resort, it hasn't been designed by numbers, it feels like it's been grown with love. Every room is unique, each painted multiple different colours that blend with the natural setting. The style will appeal to old hippies, wannabe eco warriors or anyone else who hates the idea of staying in just another identikit resort.

Varinda Garden Resort Lamai Beach Koh Samui
The gardens are full of quirky ornaments

My room was a Deluxe double room with separate living room and bedroom, both of which had large teak doors opening onto the balcony. It had a very nice view of Lamai bay which had me asking myself, why is this resort called Varinda Garden Resort and not Varinda Lovely Sea View Resort. I later realised that my room (number 39 if you want to request it) is the only one with a seaview, all the others are in a garden setting. 

Varinda Garden Resort Lamai Beach Koh Samui
Each room is individually styled

The best sea view is actually from the resort restaurant, a cool and breezy room with a rustic ambiance. Breakfast was included in the room price and if I hadn't been so busy doing all kinds adventurous stuff on  Samui day tours which picked me up at the crack of dawn each day I could have happily whiled away an hour there over coffee and croissants. Although the menu sounded delicious I never did eat dinner at the resort, choosing instead to eat in Lamai centre which has plenty of local eateries to choose from.

The swimming pool also overlooks Lamai bay. It's a small pool but does have a slide which you might fancy trying after a few cocktails.

Varinda Garden Resort Lamai Beach Koh Samui
Sea view swimming pool

The resort location will not suit everyone because it's not on the beach front and access to the beach, as well local restaurants and bars, is down some rather rickety steps. It's not ideal for pensioners with dodgy hips, it's certainly not wheelchair friendly. 

In summary, the Varinda Garden resort is an idiosyncratic resort. Not luxurious and not directly on the beach but full of unique character run by a charming local family who will make you feel very welcome. We are  happy to offer it as one of our Easy Day Thailand selected resorts.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Day Trip to Koh Tachai Island - Inspection in March 2013

Koh Tachai Island was closed up to two years ago and now the Similan Islands National Park have opened it for Snorkeling Tours.
Koh Tacha Island - Thailand
Koh Tachai - Similan Is National Park

For many years we have dived around this island so we knew that nature and marine life here are beautiful, we have seen here many times Manta and Whale Sharks. The Island stands alone between Simlan Islands National Park and Surin Islands National Park, nothing either than the Indian Ocean to West and to East is Thailand mainland.
Koh Tacha Island - Thailand
Koh Tachai The beach

Now was time to finally step on it and discover how beautiful the place is, we booked a day trip with our selected operator and got ready at 8:00 am for pick up that was actually five minutes earlier, we were the first. We were staying at Khao Lak Country Side, that is close to the beach despite the name. Then went around the different hotels to collect other customers, last pick up was at Jw Marriot Khao Lak around 8:40 am on the way North to Ban Nam Kem where the boat was departing from (at the end of season boats normally depart south of Khao Lak from Tab Lamu).
Day tour to Koh Tachai Island
Speed Boat inside

There was a nice welcome with coffee, tea and water while we waited for every one else to arrive and then a simple briefing about the schedule during the day and rules to follow on the boat and at the Island. We followed our guide down the road to the beach where boat was waiting for us. Took our places on board and the other staff were introduced,the three four strokes engines were started and soon we were sailing full speed to Koh Tachai.
Day tour to Koh Tachai Island

The Island is about 30 miles off shore, the sea was flat as normal in mid March so it was easy to get there in about one hour and 20 minutes. Amazing colors, getting close to Tachai Island the sea went from dark Blue to emerald and then almost white as the water there is so clear that you only see the white sand bottom.

A quick stop at the beach to unload food, beverages and staff, those who like to enjoy more the beach the refreshing trees and snorkeling from the shore got off the boat.
Day tour to Koh Tachai Island by speed boat
Koh Tachai Rest area

Those remaining, about 15 people of the 30 on board, stayed on the boat and in 10 minutes we were snorkeling on the reef. It is strictly forbidden to feed the fish so you won't just see the small fishes coming close to you for some bread but the real reef life. The white sand bottom and clear water makes it very easy to see colors and fishes, guides are in the water to be sure that those not confident at swimming don't get caught in the current.
Snorkling at  Koh Tachai Island
Koh Tachai north reef

We suggest to bring your fins, it will make it easier to get back to the boat and more fun exploring a bigger area and getting close to the drop off. Koh Tachai is exposed to tidal currents so when water level changes current can be strong and it is recommended to stay close to the boat and the guides.
One hour snorkeling is good to make people hungry so we went back to the beach and near the Rangers base the staff did a great job preparing a lot of food, with BBQ sea food, shrimps, noodles, veggies and lot more.
Koh Tachai Day trip
Lunch time at Koh Tachai
Koh Tachai Day trip
Lunch time
Koh Tachai Day trip
Home made Thai sweets
Koh Tachai Day trip
Thai sweets to refresh

Relax and if you like enjoy one hour exploration of Tachai Rain Forest where can see birds and the big "chicken" Crabs, so called because of the sound they make.
Koh Tachai Thailand
Koh Tachai Rain Forest

I preferred to swim and enjoy more snorkeling and walk on the beach made of incredibly fine white sand. Between the parked boats you can sometimes see baby reef sharks that come close to shore to hunt small fishes and crabs.
Koh Tachai Thailand
Koh Tachai the beach
Koh Tachai Thailand
Speed boat to Koh Tachai moored at the beach

Around 15:00 staff pack all their equipment, collect all rubbish and call everyone to get on board, ready for the trip back to the hotel, on board more water and soft drinks are available. We were at our hotel around 17:30.
day trip to Koh Tachai Thailand
Three engines speed boat to Koh Tachai

Best time to visit is between January and mid April when sea and weather conditions are at their best. Bring your towel, fins, and a lot of sunscreen, best is a sunscreen vest, a hat and some money to tip crew and guides that do a great job everyday. Toilets and showers, well kept and clean, are available on the Island that has a fresh water reserve.

You can enjoy this day tour from Phuket or Khao Lak

day trip to Koh Tachai Thailand
Malila was in Koh Tachai

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