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Kuta stalls

The worst tourist traps of South East Asia

I spend a lot of time on this site talking about just how incredible South East Asia is.

This is my easily my favourite part of the world. Most of the time the scenery truly is stunning, the people really are friendly, the culture is utterly fascinating and the food … oh the food.

But, now and again, I find somewhere that I just can’t stand.

I don’t expect everywhere to appeal to me, and nor should it. What I’m looking for in a destination is almost certainly not the same thing as a family on a two week vacation or a bunch of guys on their gap year.

That said, after a year or so travelling in this region, I’ve been unlucky enough to spend time in a few places that for me have almost no redeeming features whatsoever.

These are those places.

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Sunrise from the balcony, Koh Yao Noi

The Friday Photo #105 – Sunrise on Koh Yao Noi

Waking up early one morning on Koh Yao Noi to the usual symphony of crickets, geckos, birds and other assorted wildlife outside my window, I happened to pull back the curtain to see what the day had in store.

This gorgeous sunrise, apparently.

Not a bad way to start the day…

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Perfect beach, Koh Hong

Longtails and beaches: a day on Phang Nga Bay

After the painful kayaking experience of a couple of days earlier, the option of using motorised transport to explore more of Phang Nga Bay seemed a much more appealing option.

We walked out through the low-tide mudflats to our longtail around 8:30am, the sun already high in the sky and making its presence felt. While far from new, the two most important aspects of the boat seemed in good working order: the engine and the shade canopy. Even better, only one of them failed during our time on board…

Within half an hour of leaving Koh Yao Nao we had arrived at Koh Hong, a small island protected by national park status. Unlike other parts of Thailand (Phi Phi Lei, I’m looking at you), this actually meant something here – the beaches and bays were as pristine as I have ever seen despite the amount of boat and human traffic in the area each day.

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Longtail on the beach, Koh Nok

Exhaustion, sunburn and lizards: kayaking to Koh Nok

“We should go kayaking. It’ll be fun.”

And with those fateful words, an exciting day full of sunburn, exhaustion and monitor lizards was ours for the taking.

Not that we really knew what lay in store when we started out, mind you…

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Empty beach

A place I don’t want to tell you about

I’m sitting in a camping chair on my guesthouse balcony. Looking out over impossibly green trees I can see dozens of limestone karsts poking up out of the Andaman Sea. I can faintly hear a scooter going past, but any road noise is usually drowned out by the buzzing crickets and birdsong.

One of the resident geckos just chirped somewhere above my head, and as I looked up mild sunburn tingled on the back of my neck. The sun is shining, although there are a few more white clouds around than yesterday.

There will probably be a storm out to sea this afternoon, the same as there has been every day since I got here. Lightening crashes and thunder booms in a ferocious display, although there hasn’t yet been a drop of rain.

I am unbelievably content, but I have a dilemma.

I don’t want to write this post.

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Signs, Nai Yang

The Friday Photo #103 – It’s a sign

It’s several signs, in fact, inside this beachside bar in Nai Yang – a small village in the north of Phuket.

I think they were working on a carpet-bombing approach when it came to offering things to attract passing tourists.

King prawns, Massaman curry or “Jagebomb”?

Sure thing.

Love you long time, basil leaf or ThaiCurryNotSpicy?

No problem at all.

Build it and they will come, apparently.

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Turtle

The best diving of my life off Koh Lanta

I love diving.

When you’re under the water nothing else matters. It’s an alien world down there. A beautiful, amazing alien world. No matter how many breathlessly-narrated nature shows you’ve seen, they just doesn’t compare to actually being weightless twenty metres below the surface.

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Phi Phi viewpoint

A surprising day on Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi. It’s an interesting sort of a place.

Along with Khao San Road in Bangkok, this little group of islands east of Phuket is synonymous with backpacking in Thailand. Thousands of tanned young bodies arrive at the small port on Ton Sai beach looking for somewhere to party, get sunburnt and hook up – and not necessarily in that order.

Despite – or maybe because of – the reputation, I’d never set foot on Phi Phi during previous trips. The closest I’d got was mooring out in the harbour during a sailing course, where we cracked open a few beers on the deck, fired up the bbq and listened to the music spilling from the beach bars several hundred metres away across the water.

From the vantage point of my yacht the environmental damage couldn’t be missed. The side of Phi Phi that most visitors choose to ignore was lapping up against the boat all night. Rubbish floating in the water. Diesel slicks from the never-ending stream of longtail boats ferrying tourists around. Raw sewage flowing out of pipes straight into the popular diving areas around Phi Phi Le national park.

If this was what it took to make a place into backpacker heaven I was happy to pass. We raised anchor the following morning and headed out of the bay with something approaching relief. I didn’t look back.

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