Koh Phayam – goodbye to Buffalo Bay

This is our penultimate full day in Buffalo Bay <sniff>.

We’re sorry to leave.  We’ll miss the dramatic sunsets.

Time for a sundowner?

No more squawking hornbills first thing in the morning.

Buffalo Bay



Lots of other birdlife, including some kind of soaring eagles and pretty yellow things. Apologies for the ornithological incertitude.

Other interesting wildlife. One morning, all the beach dogs start barking furiously. A few dozen metres offshore we see a family of seals.

Buffalo Bay
Aquafit class? Nope, seals.

The bay is popular with the sailboat set. There are usually 8 or 10 at anchor. (Richard from the UK refers to the owners as ‘yachtie snotties’, but to be honest, we haven’t rubbed elbows with any.)

Buffalo Bay
♫ it’s not too far to paradise – at least it’s not for me…♪

Good food, too.

Buffalo Bay
Mango with sticky coconut rice

But of course, that’s available everywhere in Asia.

Sight or Insight of the Day – on the way to Buffalo Bay

So we have to make our way to Ranong on the mainland and take a night bus south. Not too much of a hardship in Thailand.

Our bus from Bangkok to Ranong

In great contrast to buses and bus stops in Myanmar. The Burmese are wonderful people, but we recall one bus stop in particular that resembles a  puddle-strewn garbage dump in which a pair of heavy trucks had just unloaded a few tons of restaurant waste. And yet many of the buses stop there. (Lunch? No thanks.)

In Thailand, the long-distance bus stops look like Vegas at night.

Inside is an aircraft-hangar sized variety of food, drink, and shopping.

Koh Phayam – paradise regained?

In the previous post, I said ‘I don’t thing it’s gonna happen’, about finding another Lazy Beach scenario.  I may have to eat those words. Instead of paradise lost, we may have a case of paradise regained.

paradise regained
Buffalo Bay

We decide to stay a couple of weeks here.

paradise regained
Path to the restaurant

(Then our 30-day visas expire.)

After scouting the eastern side of the island, we find these near-perfect digs. Maria spends the day swimming and exercising on the beach.

paradise regained
View of the bay from our balcony

I spend my time reading in the hammock.

paradise regained

Not bad for CAD$20.00 per night. The only drawback is patchy internet service, hence the long lapse between blog posts.

We’ve even changed our minds about renting motorscooters. Touring around on a scooter is pretty sweet!

paradise regained
Bicycles? We don’t need no steenkin’ bicycles!

Our trusty scooter takes us to places like this around the island.

paradise regained
Deserted beach
Hilltop bar
pradise regained

We are also happy to meet our friends Ulf and Susane once more.

paradise regained
Our fourth country for meeting up.

They have been to Koh Lanto and Koh Pangan. We convince them to visit Koh Phayam.

Ulf and I mount up.

Scooter fury

To get to this village, we pull ourselves across an estuary on a self-service ferry.

On our return, we find the ‘ferry’ on the opposite side. Maria volunteers to swim across and retrieve it single-handedly.

<hum ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ here>

At last, we go to Jens’s restaurant (where we rented the scooters) before Ulf and Susane catch the boat to Ranong. They spend  a few days in Bangkok before returning to Hanover after 5 months in Asia.

Insight or insight of the Day – Paradise Regained

Remember the giant monitor lizards we saw in Kanchanaburi? We have them here as well.

pradise regained
Why did the lizard cross the footpath?

In fact, one took up temporary residence atop the wall in our bathroom.

paradise regained
Leapin’ lizards!

We named him Lorenzo, for the sake of alliteration.

Oh, and in case you ever wonder what a pineapple looks like when it’s a’growing, it looks like this.

Pineapple express

Koh Phayam – in search of paradise lost

From Kanchanaburi, we go back to Bangkok to catch a bus south. We take an overnight bus to Ranong, then a speed boat to Koh Phayam.

(This entry will be brief because we check out soon to move to the other, better side of the island, which may or may not have WiFi available. We may be incommunicado for a week or so.)

As we move south, we look to repeat the experience of Lazy Beach. I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

We google ‘lesser-visited islands in Thailand’ and come up with, among others, Koh Phayam.

Koh Phayam

From the place where the boat arrives, a trash-strewn village full of stray dogs, it’s not overly impressive. We spend a few nights at the giggle-inducing Nitiporn Resort.

We rent bicycles and explore. Things get better. The sun comes out. The island is largely forested with rubber plantations.

Where the rubber hits the road

Rubber is like maple syrup, the gunk slowly drips into containers for collection.

♫ ‘Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.’♪

Bicycling is good, even with the hills – we need the exercise.

Koh Phayam
Motorbikes? We don’t need no steenkin’ motorbikes!

On the other side of the island, we discover nicer places to stay.

Buffalo Beach
Koh Phayam
Long Beach

We find a bungalow overlooking Buffalo Bay and move in.

Kanchanaburi – on the River Kwai

This is the River Kwai, in Kanchanaburi, western Thailand. We arrive here after another overnight train to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, a taxi across town to the Thonburi trains station, and a few more hours by rail.

Kwai River

Below is the bridge on the river Kwai, as it appears today. In fact, it’s not a teakwood behemoth as built  by Alec Guinness in the eponymous movie. (Mention of which elicits blank stares and a background sound of crickets chirping when speaking to anyone under oh, say, age 45).

It’s a smallish steel bridge, destroyed several times during the war, the last and final time in 1945 by a 24-year-old Canadian pilot.


The movie plot is entirely fictional, but Kanchanburi was near kilometre zero on the Thai side for the Burmese Railway, a Japanese project to facilitate the invasion of Burma and beyond into southern China. Built by slave labour, 100,000 people (80% of which were fellow Asians) died during its construction from disease, starvation , beating, and neglect as Japan pursued its insane butchery of tens of millions of souls Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

A better movie about goings-on in the area at that time is the Railway Man, with Colin Firth, which is based on a true story.

The zone around the bridge today is a zoo. Acre upon acre of market stalls selling crap, food stalls, parking lots. When I was here decades ago, none of this existed. That’s progress.

Just kidding, it’s a shameful freak show. Thank God the Commonwealth War Graves in the middle of town are as immaculately kept as all the other CWGs in the world. 7,000 men are interred here, mostly transferred from graves along the track.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Besides the bridge and its lore, Kanchanaburi is a pleasant riverside town.

We have a wonderful lunch by the river at the Blue Rice Café.

Tom Kha Hua Pee Gai soup (with real pee, I presume), Ma La Kor Phad Thai Gai, and blue rice with edible pea flowers

On a blue theme, we stay at the Blue Star guest house, also by the river.

Welcome to Hobbiton-on-Kwai

Among other attractions, we have alligator-sized monitor lizards on our property. You can’t see the scale in the photo – no pun intended – but this bad boy is about 5 feet long. The green stuff is some kind of pond growth..

Keep Calm and Slither On

You can see someone else’s giant Kanchanaburi lizard video here.

Sight or Insight of the Day – Kanchanaburi

Well, not quite Kanchanaburi. I forgot to mention when we touched down at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, flying from Phnom Penh: it has a golf course in-between the runways. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Is that a birdie, an eagle, or an Airbus A310?

Chiang Mai Part 3 – a pair of birthdays

After the overnight sleeper from Bangkok, we arrive in Chiang Mai for the third time this trip.

We’re here to meet our nephew, Danny. He’s been rock-climbing down south in Ton sai. Also here in the area of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai
The Road to Chiang Mai

We take in a few sights we haven’t seen, such as the Royal Gardens at Phuping Palace. Our shorts, modest enough for entry into temples, don’t cut it for entry to royal sites. We fabricate some impromptu longis.

Chiang Mai
Big bamboo

We also visit the nearby Doi Suthep temple. We put our names on a piece of cloth that is wound around the pagoda. Hey, can’t hurt.

Among other things, Doi Suthep has a great view of Chiang MaI.

Bird’s eye view

Nice tinkly bells, too.

Chiang Mai
‘An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells…’ – Kipling

It’s great being with Danny. We try to be good guides. For example, we take in a few markets.

Chiang Mai
At the Sunday walking market
Loaves available at the next stall

We visit a few more temples, whose names I forget.

chiang mai
Temple x
Chiang Mai
Temple y
Temple z

While resting, I come under attack from the temple guard dog, a merciless beast. I barely escape with my hat intact.

Chiang Mai
Travel has its pups and downs.

On the way to a dinner of roast duck, we come across a tournament of sepak takraw. The players move a rattan ball over a net with balletic overhead kicks.

Chiang Mai
Frankly, the rules were over my head.

Sight or Insight of the Day – Chiang Mai

January 10 is the birthday of both Danny and Maria. On the day, Maria buys candles from a shop around the corner, and sticks them in pieces of fruit.

Chiang Mai
‘Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! ‘- King Lear

Turns out they’re trick candles that keep reigniting. We finally douse them in water.

Danny and Maria treat themselves to massages as a birthday indulgence. We celebrate with a great lunch in an upscale-but-kitschy-in-an-Asian-way restaurant.

Danny returns to Vancouver via Phuket this afternoon.

One Night in Bangkok…

…and the world’s your oyster! We finally depart Koh Rong Samloem by boat and bus it from Sihanoukville to spend one night in Phnom Penh. We fly early next morning back to Thailand to spend one night in Bangkok.

One night in Bangkok
Dat Ol’ Man River, He Jes’ Keeps Rollin’…

Back to where it all began. It’s enjoyably familiar. After a night spent at the Sam Sen Sam guest house, we visit the National Museum.

One night in Bangkok
Cabinet of curiosities

Besides an excellent temporary exhibit on the cultural treasures of Japan, we see lots of indispensable Thai regalia, like palanquins and elephant howdahs. The buildings themselves are impressive.

One night in Bangkok
Interior detail
More interior detail

We also see these ridiculously elaborate puppets.

String theory

And some  masks. The one on the bottom resembles Donald Trump.

Dramatis Personae

Some fancy headdress.

Royal toppers

At ten in the evening, we catch the overnight sleeper to Chiang Mai. Better than Myanmar Railways by a mile.

One night in Bangkok
En route the next day.

Sight or Insight of the Day – One Night in Bangkok

  • When we first arrived in Thailand three months ago, many people still wore black, in mourning for the late king. Now that he’s been properly mourned for a year and safely cremated (at the end of October), there’s more colour in town.
  • While exploring a back alley near the river, we look down to see – a rabbit! Obviously somebody’s free-roaming pet, he doesn’t seem to mind the confined chaos of narrow alley life, or the danger from dogs, cats, or rats. We pet him expertly, to his great delight.
  • Just before we left Canada, I read Anna and the King of Siam. Simultaneously, I read The Windup Girl, a science fiction novel that takes place in a Bangkok of the future. Interesting to contrast the past and the future with the rapidly-evolving Bangkok of the present.

New Year’s Eve on Lazy Beach

Still on Ko Rong Samloem for the holidays. We move from the Jungle Bay Bungalows, to a nondescript guest house for two days, to the paradise of Lazy Beach.

Below is a place we stopped several times for lunch, the Dolphin Bay Resort. They have three puppies.

Lazy Beach
Everyone LOVES puppies.

Because the simple bungalows of Jungle Bay were booked for the Dec 31 and Jan 01, we stay in a modest room behind a general store on the beach. Our friends Ulf & Susane move to the Lazy Beach Resort, a place they discover on their wanderings on the island. We join them for New Year’s Eve.

Lazy Beach
Lazy Beach bungalow

This is what we’ve been searching for. In three months of Asia travel, Lazy Beach is the best place we’ve seen so far, tropical-paradise-wise.

Sunset on Lazy Beach

Too bad about the name, with its connotations of vice. I would rename it Butterfly Beach, because flights of enormous colourful butterflies are everywhere.

Oh, and  its LOGO sucks.

Happy 2018!

After a BBQ buffet, we gather on the beach.

Lazy Beach
Seeing in the New Year with a midnight bonfire

I realize we’re holding beverages in every photo above, but it’s New Year’s Eve, after all.

The same day Ulf & Susane move out, we move in for our final few days on the island.

Lazy Beach has several things going for it.

  • It’s isolated by a 1.5 kilometre jungle trail crossing the island. True to its name, this would deter 90% of humanity from going there. It does have its own boat to the mainland, which is how we go back.
  • It’s run by a UK person, who had the stroke of genius to realize that people don’t equate ‘tropical paradise’ with ‘bags of fetid garbage’ and ‘mountains of discarded construction debris’ and ‘damaged speakers crackling out Bob Marley 14 hours a day’. It is spotless and tranquil.
  • No WiFi or other connectivity. There’s an expression in IT: ‘That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.’
  • It costs US$ 65 a day, which is a lot for this part of the world, but a fraction of what we’ve paid in other exclusive resorts. (The kind we stay in all the time.) (Well, once every blue moon.)
  • Excellent food in the restaurant.
  • There is no outside/through pedestrian traffic. It nestles between two steep hills. (See bullet one).
  • It’s not listed in the usual booking websites, so it attracts an elevated level of clientele. Like us. (See bullet four).

The new inhabitants of bungalow 17.

Lazy Beach
Going for a snorkel
Lazy Beach
The Girl from Ipanema (or Porto Alegre)

We hike up to Sunset Peak to view the, er, sunset.

Lazy Beach
Lazy Beach far below
Lazy Beach
Last day on Koh Rong Samloem

As the sloth of the holiday season passes, expect a return to more frequent blog entries.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sight or Insight of the Day – Lazy Beach

Something to add to the Koh Rong Samloem bestiary besides spiders and snakes – monkeys and hornbills!

Lazy Beach
Just the bill, please.

As we walk to the Lazy Beach Resort, we pass an open area over which about a dozen hornbills fly from one tree to another. (I was not quick enough to get a photo – I borrowed this from someone else, but it’s a genuine Koh Rong Samloem hornbill.)

We also have monkeys. A troop of them inhabit the jungle trail between Saracen Beach and Lazy Beach. These are well-behaved monkeys that stick to the treetops, not like the manic, human-acclimatized delinquents in Lopburi.