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Stickman Readers' Submissions March 12th, 2007

Delightful Thai Beach Resorts This Winter (2/3) – Ao Nang (Krabi)

On my trip through busy beach resorts Phuket, Ao Nang and Ko Lanta I have to deal with well-seasoned tourism professionals who ensure smooth and quality service. Haha, so I thought. On several occasions I missed the slightest bit of thinking-ahead,
anticipations from a given situation. Just a few examples:

He Clinic Bangkok

• In Ao Nang's pizzeria La Luna I have to cry for 15 minutes to get a menu. Finally one is slammed on my table. Waitress off. Forever. From my asking for the menu they could conclude that I want to order food soon after. But at
many places, they drop the menu without anticipating anything.

• On Ko Lanta's big mid-range resort Lanta Long Beach, I have to change from room 222 to room 113. When I come back from breakfast, they are already cleaning my old room 222. Room 113, where I have to move, is free, but not cleaned
after the previous customer. From the well-known moving itinerary, reception could have instructed housekeeping to 1) clean room 113 first and 2) clean 222 only after I completely left it. But no. First I have to go to reception and suggest that
they clean 113 right now, so that I could move there. After my hike to reception, I go back to my all-cleaned 222, use all the facilities again, pack my things, steal the drinking water (Lanta's getting hotter now) and move to 113 which has
finally gotten cleaned.

• "Hello." – "Sawasdee khaaa." – This is all you hear when you call a hotel or car renter. Couldn't they start off with their business name? People who dial these services often have not called them before,
the service’s number is not stored in the customer’s phone book, customers can’t be so sure whether they reached the desired business. So starting off with the business name would be re-assuring. – "Hello." – "Sawasdee

In Ao Nang, Krabi, I enjoyed a fair share of weird behaviour.


By e-mail I reserve the air-con room I had had in February 2005. They offer me an airport pickup for 600 baht (25 km); I agree. Arriving at the hotel, I learn I cannot pay the 600 baht transport fee later, I have to pay them before even seeing
my room. And understandably so: When I walk to town, the airport run is posted everywhere for 500 baht.

Back in February 2005, two months after the tsunami, my air-con room had been a reasonable 600 baht without breakfast. It's just a clean, tiled, Chinese-style hospital box. I learn that the very same unchanged room now costs 1800 baht
– but this time with the bonus of a trashy mini-breakfast next to the noisy main road, worth 29 baht. After some moaning, the room price drops to 1500 baht.

Every morning at breakfast, the hotel males ask the tourists "where you go today"? If you admit a boat trip that was not booked on the premises, you get a thorough beating.

To avoid further beatings, I order the onward boat ticket to Ko Lanta from my hotel. That's a clear thing, everywhere in town it's posted for 420 baht. So the receptionist writes a ticket, I write down my name.

"450 baht."


I order a "mixed salad" and a "vegetarian pizza". The "mixed salad" has a lot of cut cherry tomatoes and grated carrots. And the "vegetarian pizza" has a lot of cut cherry tomatoes and grated carrots.


Central Ao Nang is a nuisance. At times I get the Lower Sukhumvit nausea – all those aggressive Indian tailors, foot massage dens and katoey-staffed tour shops make me look for the next massive staircase. Unfortunately, Ao Nang has no skytrain to take
me outta there.

Still I have to go to “town”: I need the Rough Guide about Southern Thailand. But while Ao Nang sports 100 tour shops, 200 pizzerias and 300 Indian tailors, there is nothing remotely resembling a bookshop.

A few tour shops sell a few second hand books – but no guide books. A few minimarts sell a few new books – but no guide books. Obviously, Ao Nang visitors don’t need guide books, because they don’t go out exploring anyway.

Late at night I try one last minimart. It sells postcards outside, so there may be books inside, that’s my desperate ratio for entering the freezing box. And see, there’s a book corner.

No guide book, oh well, I hadn’t really expected it. I’ll have to try Krabi town.

Then, in that same dull minimart, I discover a book that bears a name so familiar:

Frank Visakay! Hey – they sell Frank Visakay, the good old Stickman writer! “Everything But Die” is there, his hard-boiled SE Asia novel, right between cotton buds and the ice cream freezer.

This is a funny re-encounter. I could use his book for chilling reading entertainment in the rock shadows of Phra Nang beach. But I don’t buy: I already have my hand-signed copy with me, given to me by Frank during a pleasant dinner
right on the sand of Phuket’s Rawai beach.

The Center Point bar area has a toilet center. The Muslim caretakeress directs me to the lady's restroom, the male compartment may be out of order.

Customers have to pay here. Five baht fetches you a – semi-clean fully-Asian squat toilet. It has to be flushed by shoveling water with a slimy scoop from a slimy bucket into the squat toilet's conduit.

I want to wash hands at the dirty sink, but the tap is out of order. When the caretakeress notices how I try in vain, she quickly – runs away.


We are hearded through shallow Andaman Sea water to the longtail boat for Phra Nang Beach. I have problems entering the high longtail boat that’s drifting in the water. No-one comes to help, and the boatman just doesn’t bother to don the
steel ladder that he has in his boat. A few tourists keep sitting in a way that makes my access to the boat even more difficult.

Now I understand why The Flyer, the local tourist paper, writes a whole page on how to board a longtail "without loosing your dignity”. Finally I’m in, the last one, and now we all have to wait ten minutes. After boiling
ten minutes in the sun, we learn that “boat is too full" and five passengers have to get out again to another boat. Of course me too.

The tourists want to go to three different beaches, which follow each other on one peninsula. The tourists are spread over two boats in a way that every boat has to stop at all 3 places.


But on beach 2 – Railey – our boatman gets tired and declares his trip finished. When reminded that three tourists don't want to stay there, but asked to continue to Phra Nang, the third place, he looks clearly unhappy. Beach 2 and beach 3 are the
same price (60 baht), so what's the point to continue beyond beach 2. The boatman thinks for quite some time and comes up with a convincing solution: "Water at Phra Nang beach too low. Boat cannot stop. But you can walk there 10 minutes."

We three don't believe him, but cannot do anything. So we walk the 20 minutes to Phra Nang beach. Where many longtails moor.


A massage lady on busy Phra Nang beach wakes me up. I fell asleep on my mat in the rock shadows, and now she knocks on my feet, impatiently, angrily, until I finally manage to turn and vaguely direct my attention to her.

Would I like a massage?

Hans: No, sorry.

She trots off without wasting further words on the sleepy westerner.


A massage lady on busy Phra Nang beach directs me to take off the headphones.

Would I like a massage?

Maybe yes, as her appraisal includes the phrase "happy happy".

But on the beach?

Hans: No, sorry.

Massage lady: No need to say sorry, why, I can take massage now or tomorrow or next week or also never, up to me. She says and trots off.


A massage lady on busy Phra Nang beach directs me to take off the headphones.

Would I like a massage? No, she doesn't ask!

She shows me a printed e-mail in English, wanting me to explain it to her. In my baby Thai.

Fortunately, at least the e-mail is in clear English: "My darling, thank you for your parcel and letter. I miss you so much. By the way, do you have a boyfriend there or are you alone? I would like to come back to Thailand in March,
but I heard it is too expensive then." The conclusion, in perfect English: "Too bad we have to talk in English. If I could write German to you, I would write you much more."


From the tour boat towards Ko Hong we see the Royal residence overlooking Khlong Muang Beach. A tourist asks about the impressive building, and the soft friendly tour guide (a Buddhist, I believe) answers: "This was built for the royal family about
six years ago. They came here only once – the queen and her son, but not the king, because he is an old man now. They stayed about three nights, and then the building was never used again. It cost about 300 million baht, such a pity."

I cannot confirm the facts, but I can confirm I never heard any Thai person talking like that, and that in the relative public of a tour group.


The picnic area has several impressive monitor lizards roaming for food, not the least bit shy. Not exactly Komodo-warans, but nonetheless the waddling creatures make tourists sit right on the tables, feet off the ground. The Thai boatmen feed the lizards
with omelette, salami and cheese, hit them with sticks and drag them around by their tails until they hiss impressive exhaust noises.

This is supposed to be Than Bokkharani national park, and feeding lizards salami and dragging them by their tails might not comply with national park rules? And see, there comes the national park ranger. His worry: To extract the national
park entry fee from every tourist who arrived without an all-inclusive tour group arrangement.

(On Ko Rok, on a tour from Ko Lanta, the boatman ties chicken bones to a string and lets the lizards jump after it. They do.)


For my onward travel, I'm a cheap economy class customer on THAI. It is now practically impossible to reach the central reservation telephone for us econolikes. But I can always call a THAI provincial office, where they are friendly,
helpful, anglophone and do all reservations I need for any THAI flight worldwide. I can confirm that THAI Hat Yai is there for me, and sometimes I do call THAI Udon Thani for a change. THAI Krabi is friendly and amazingly personal too, 075-622440.

Stickman's thoughts:

It's interesting to read of the interactions with the masseuses, the increasing prices, the lying boatmen, and so on. What I often think about is how Thailand wants to attract higher quality tourists. They had better buck up their ideas because people are starting to get pissed off at paradise spoiled….and the so called high quality tourists come with high expectations.

Nonetheless, another delightful submission.

The author of this article can be contacted at: hansmeiermail at googlemail dot com.