Lamai Beach

I am writing this from home, having discovered that the last two posts I wrote about Lamai (our last stop) have disappeared. This means that several paragraphs of me complaining about Justin Bieber on high (and I mean HIGH) rotation in every hotel, restaurant and bar in Thailand will just have to be done without – sad, I know. It honestly seemed as though some governing body in Thailand had issued the same 10 track CD to every likely establishment in the country and by the end of our three weeks I thought seriously about sticking a fork in my ears.

Lamai Beach

Audio-torture aside, we had a nice time during our last week. Lamai is a beach just south of the more famous Chaweng Beach, which runs down the eastern side of Koh Samui. This was our third trip to the island and we had decided to try Lamai as it seemed a bit quieter – the parade of hawkers, spherical and sunburned eurotrash, and whizzing jet skis of course has it’s charms (in terms of cautionary tales, perhaps) but we’d heard good things about Lamai.

Lovely lunch tropical gardens in our resort.

We definitely experienced quiet. In the evenings the beach was almost deserted as it was the low season and some of the bars and restaurants were completely closed. Despite this, our resort (The Pavilion) was at least half full and there were families and groups out on the beach throughout the day. Only one jet ski at a time seemed to be in operation too, so that was also something.

Lamai main street.

A big sign on the beach warned that it was jellyfish season so I did get in the sea a couple of times but tried to keep Luke between myself and the open water.

On our second last night I made the mistake of looking up the kinds of jellyfish and related incidents to be found locally and scared myself out of going back in. Fortunately the hotel pool was perfectly fine – although Luke wasn’t happy that it had not been heated to bath temperatures.

We ate out every night and enjoyed a great number of 70-140 baht cocktails. If you’re heading to the area we highly recommend Pik’s Bar. They have a list or 140 cocktails and they’re all the equivalent of $3 AUD each.

Pik’s Bar

Lea decided Pina Coladas were the best thing since sliced bread and after her first we barely saw her without one in her hand, even at breakfast! Just kidding, of course. We didn’t usually start drinking until we’d spent at least 8 hours reading our respective books in sun loungers.

Our only activity, apart from eating, swimming, reading, and drinking, was watching the local gang of dogs wrestle each other up and down the beach. A form of entertainment familiar to everyone who has ever been to the coast of Thailand.

We became quite familiar with the pack and one morning I found one of them (who looked a bit like our old dog Penny) asleep on the walkway right outside our room. After that I bought a little packet of dog treats from the 7-11 and handed them out whenever they came near.

We did find a few really lovely places to eat in Lamai, one of which wasn’t Thai (all the Thai places are excellent, mind you) called Emporio Caffè.

The proprietor and chef was an Italian fellow from Rome who made the pasta by hand and shared some of his grappa and limoncello with us. The pasta was outstanding and so of course we went back two nights later. Although it was a very simple cafe it had the typical frescos. If you find yourself in Lamai be sure to go!

Luke and I left Samui on a very early flight and spent a night at the Novotel in Bangkok before a daytime flight back to Melbourne. I ended up with a headache from watching three movies and the entire available catalogue of Big Bang Theory (it’s the show I watch when there’s nothing better to watch) and disembarked at about 8:30pm to find Melbourne airport the busiest we’d ever seen it.

The lady managing the extensive Sky Bus queue told the people in line that the trouble was that the Cox Plate (a prestigious horse race), Pax (a games convention) and a Taylor Swift concert were all happening on the same weekend.

Once we got into the city we discovered that in fact the Taylor Swift concert had just emptied out from the stadium beside the station and there were crowds five deep to get onto the trains. We ended up standing up for the 50 minutes it took to get home and then walked the last kilometre. The guy at the local kebab stand spied us walking past (this was at almost midnight) and asked Luke if we were going hiking.

Arriving home was a bit weird. Last time we’d come back we’d had a house full of people and Penny to greet us. This time it was more like letting ourselves into another Airbnb. Luke had paid for professional cleaners to go through the house before we returned and they’d cleaned some things well – and some things not so well. A lot of our belongings were in boxes as friends had lived in the house while we’d been gone.

We lay down on a mattress in the spare room, turned out the light, and agreed solemnly that really, there’s no place like home.

Pik’s Bar

Swimming in Nice

Even though we packed a lot of organised activities into our time in Nice we did other things too.

One afternoon we put on our swimmers and headed for the beach. Many European beaches are at least semi-private. I think the worst ones are where you have to pay just to get on the sand/pebbles but in Nice there’s one enormous stretch of beach called the Bay of Angels. It has a 6km promenade that was built by the English many years ago as it was they who popularised Nice and the surrounding towns as a holiday destination. They came in winter to enjoy the milder temperatures and often on doctor’s orders for the clean, dry air.

The Nice beach is pebbles, although once you go further west the beaches become sand. Every hundred metres or so the beach alternates between public and private. The private sections have rows of beach chairs plus often a bar or restaurant. The two we checked out (at the very eastern end of the beach) were about 20 euro to hire a beach lounge for the day. When we went down to ask we found that both places had no beach lounges available for hire but it was possible to sit for free in the more shaded undercover area at the back and so we did that and took turns going into the water.

Unless you’re set on sunbathing, sitting up the back in the full shade is a much better option and few other people seem to want to do it. The chairs are comfortable, it’s not as bright and it’s cooler – and free! We only ordered two drinks each in the couple of hours we were there and the prices weren’t terrible either. So if you’re looking for a place in Nice to avoid the heat give it a go!

Here Comes The Planet 45 – Tanzania 02

Our group, which has now taken to calling itself “Team Toto”, moves on to the main part of our African adventure when we meet up with the Dragoman tour that will be taking us around east Africa. We’ll be spending over a month with most of these people and our tour guide, Steve. The beginning of a new adventure!

In this episode we check out the Forodhani Night Market and the Darajani spice market in Stone Town before heading to a spice and fruit plantation tour where we get to sample lots of exotic fruits and see some impressive tree climbing. We stay in northern Zanzibar on Nungwi Beach where we get the chance to visit the Mnarani turtle sanctuary and tick something off Nicolette’s bucket list – swimming with turtles!

Also, people are rightfully worried about being bitten by turtles. Because it frickkin’ hurts.

Also, cute kitten!! 😀 😀

California

Oakland probably wouldn’t register on many people’s radars when it comes to must-see places in the USA, but we spent almost a week there, venturing across the bay into San Francisco twice. We were staying with my friend Robert, whom you may recall we met in New York several weeks ago. He grew up in the area and knows a great deal about the history of Oakland and the Bay area.

Robert took a couple of days off and we went on several excursions out of the city. The first one was to Muir Woods, a well known patch of the giant redwood trees that California is famous for. The trees here weren’t the largest in the state
but they certainly looked big enough to us. We went for a walk and enjoyed the deep silence and tranquil atmosphere of the forest. Although there were a few other groups about it was a week day so no hoards of tourists. The weather was also cold
enough for our snow jackets.

Towering trees!

After our walk we stopped in at a very cosy diner for a late lunch and I had my first chowder (turkey and vegetable) and reflected on how nice the American dining experience can be. They seem to have a lot of these kind of places around – where the comfort of an English pub is combined with the quality of food you’d get in a good restaurant but you can sit at the bar or in one of the many booths. Sitting at a table with chairs is always an inferior experience to sitting in a booth – and for people eating by themselves a bar seat is superior. It’s a real shame we just don’t have anything like this at home. Plus they facilitate the consumption of cocktails with breakfast, which can’t be a bad thing.

During our driving on this day we were passing some lovely scenery and drove around a bend to see a cyote walking along the side of the road. We passed it so quickly that we barely had time to register while it was still in sight. Robert said that he’s never seen one by the side of the road before. Our animal-spotting luck from Africa continues, apparently.

Our second day excursion with Robert was a drive south towards Santa Cruz and another forest where we saw some even larger trees and walked through a forest famous for banana slugs. Apparently these slugs are quite long and neon yellow but we didn’t see any.

Robert and Luke in a redwood trunk. The tree was still alive.

The forest was very beautiful though, and so was the drive to Santa Cruz. We managed to get to the beach just in time for sunset and a quick look through the rock pools. The sky was streaked with light clouds that turned orange and pink in the fading light. We spotted dozens of large and small anemones in the pools and watched the waves crash against the rocks.

Santa Cruz tide pools.

On the days when Robert dragged himself to work Luke and I went into San Francisco. A relatively fast bus ride (although a little expensive at $4.20 each) across the bridge and then we used Uber cars to get around. Uber is a business whereby you use their website to book and track cars who come and pick you up. You enter your credit card details once and then the fare is calculated by the minute and then deducted from your card so there’s no need to carry cash. The drivers use their own, unmarked cars and work whenever they want. Taxi drivers aren’t too impressed with this new system and Uber drivers operate in something of a grey area legally. We found them all very prompt and friendly – it’ll be interesting to see if this takes off in Australia.

In San Fran we walked around the northern end of the city, checking out views of the bridge. We walked up Haight Street which was, as promised, full of hippies. There were some great clothing stores – and definitely the best steam punk clothing store I’ve seen in the US. We saw some Creatura clothing (an Australian label) and a lot of clothes that wouldn’t be out of place at Rainbow Serpent Festival. It was nowhere near as good as Camden Markets in London – though the prices were better.

This shop had every kind of tie dye you could imagine. No photos allowed inside, unfortunately.

One of the nicest things about San Francisco is the architecture. The houses are mostly weatherboard and many are painted in a very detailed fashion. They look almost like wedding cakes.

These houses are known as ‘painted ladies’.

A corner in Haight-Ashbury.

Luke and I agreed that we hadn’t really seen everything San Francisco had to offer, but that just means more to see next time!