Thursday, December 12, 2013

INDEX

THAILAND

Post-sunset shot at Ko Adang National Park headquarters beach.

INTRODUCTION - WHICH ISLAND OR BEACH?

ADANG

BULON LAE

CHANG (big Chang eastern Gulf)
Little Ko CHANG, Andaman side
CORAL ISLAND

JUM

KANCHANABURI
KRADAN
KRABI, RAILAY, TON SAI
KHAO LAK
KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
KHO KHAO
KUT (KOOD, KUD)

LANTA
LAO LIANG
LIBONG, HAT YAO
LIPE

MAK (MAC, MAAK)
MUK (MOOK)

NANGYUAN
NGAI (HAI)

PANYEE/PANYI
PATTAYA
PHANGAN
PHANGAN PART 2
PHANG NGA BAY
PHAYAM
PHRA THONG
PHUKET
PHI PHI
PHI PHI NEWSPAPER ARTICLE BY TEZZA

RAILAY, TON SAI AND KRABI TOWN
RAYA/RACHA

SAMET
SAMUI
SIBOYA
SIMILAN ISLANDS
SIMILAN ISLANDS LIVE-ABOARD
SUKORN
SURINS ISLANDS

TAO
TARUTAO

WAI (WHAI)

YAO NOI
YAO YAI



General Thailand Information

SOME TIPS ON NOT DROWNING

WET WEATHER INFORMATION

SNORKELLING IN THAILAND

THAILAND'S BEST BEACHES



INDONESIA
Spoiling visitor on Seraya Island - West Flores

BALI
BALI - AMED
BALI - CANGGU
BALI - NUSA LEMBONGAN
BALI - NUSA DUA AND GEGER BEACH
BALI'S BEST BEACHES - incl THE BUKIT PENINSULA
BALI - LOVINA
EAST BALI - PADANGBAI & CANDIDASA
BALI RICE TERRACES EAST - SIDEMAN
BALI RICE TERRACES WEST - KEBUN VILLAS
BALI RICE TERRACES TIRTA GANGGA + WATER PALACE
BALI- PEMUTERAN AND MANJANGAN ISLAND

BINTAN

LOMBOK - THE GILI ISLANDS
LOMBOK - THE KUTA LOMBOK AREA

PERAMA SLOW BOAT - FLORES/KOMODO/LOMBOK

SERAYA & KANAWA ISLANDS + LABUANBJO - FLORES



MALAYSIA
Salang beach on Tioman

GORGEOUS TIOMAN ISLAND

CHERATING BEACH

KAPAS ISLAND

LANGKAWI

LANG TENGAH

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

REDANG ISLAND

SIBU ISLAND



AUSTRALIA
Bound for Hook Island on Oetella

CRUISING TROPICAL ISLANDS ON A BUDGET

BUDGET RESORTING ON THE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS

SPENDING TIME AT AIRLIE BEACH

BYRON BAY - BEACH PARADISE

NOOSA HEADS - MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE



GREECE
Paradise Beach - Kos

GREEK ISLAND HOPPING



TURKEY
Paragliding Mount Babadag to Oludeniz Beach

BUDGET CRUISING AND PARAGLIDING THE TURQUOISE COAST
THE NORTH AEGEAN COAST
THE SOUTH AEGEAN COAST

READERS' TRIP REPORTS
Trip reporter Cocodrilo at Similan's viewpoint
Read the trip reports or submit your own


THE FORUM
Yon Cassia has a lean and hungry look (image Deco Dermots)

Questions, comments, shoot the bull.



GENERAL
Kwak joins the Worry Collective - image BEDARD

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 1
JUST FOR LARFS - PART 2: STONES FROM THE JOKER IN THE GLASS HOUSE (1 thru 11)

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 3: THE WORRY COLLECTIVE

ABOUT THIS SITE


LADY TEZZA'S TRAVELLING JAPAN
Fashions for sale in Takeshita dori - Tokyo

The basics - Osaka - Kyoto - Hiroshima&Himeji - Takayama - Tokyo - Kyushu - Daytrip to Mt Fuji National Park - Accessing your money - Other helpul stuff

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If you have questions, please don't post them below - I seldom get to scroll down this far. Put them in THE FORUM which I try to check most days when not travelling.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ko Nangyuan

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Last visited July 2013


One of the more spectacular locations in the Gulf, 3 small islands - 2 with considerable height - joined by a sweet sand spit.


Nangyuan is a short distance off the north-west coast of Ko Tao - the nearest point of which is only 600m from the island.

I first visited Nangyuan over 15 years ago - when I was disembarking the ferry at Mae Had on mainland Tao a sweetheart handed me a flyer about this fairly new resort nearby which had good introductory prices. Later, not over impressed with Chalok Ban Kao on Tao which was inferior to today, I decided to go check Nangyuan out. Glad I did, pretty nice place. I have since visited twice - both in my travel-lite (no camera) days meaning I had nothing to show you here. I intended to stay a few days this latest 2013 Tao visit but unfortunately all the affordable accommodation had gone several months in advance, so I had to refresh my info by way of a daytrip instead.

The biggest change since my early visits is the number of daytrippers visiting. Nangyuan was always popular with people popping over from Tao and even coming from as far as Phangan and Samui on speedboats - but I never saw the beach with more than a hundred people - maybe half of them island guests. Hell, there's more than that on the pier in the shot above - taken about 1530 when a lot of the around-island snorkelling boats (below) are finishing their few hours call-in.

The other big change is that the trek to the viewpoint on the southern peak has been simplified. In the past you needed to climb up past the bungalows and then find the access path for the last 100m or so - now a good walkway has been built which goes around to the southern side of the island, from where a reasonable set of stairs starts the ascent - although.......
....the last few meters are a tad tricky, and....
....a bit of a log-jam because.....
....there's not a lot of room at the summit, and naturally with an outlook like this, people tend to linger. Here's the thing, if you are staying on the island there will probably be just you up here before 1000 and after 1630. The whole place is pretty serene when the daytrippers are not around....


...but busy beaches have their compensations.


The viewpoint is one of the higher rocks on the southern island. There's quite a lot of accommodation there - most tend to have pretty good sea and sand spit views.


Unsurprisingly, a lot of the accommodation has been upgraded over the years - thats chez tezza on my first visit - back then it was a simple joint with no bathroom (I showered in the divers' area over near the restaurant) with piers in the water at high tide. In 2013 there was a helluva lot more sand than previous visits - maybe recent wet seasons have been more benign. 
Last time I visited, maybe 7 years ago, this bungalow was unchanged from my stay in it, but was being used for staff quarters.


A little past chez tezza at left (hey, I notice from this angle that it is now a duplex) is the really flash joint at right. 
Maybe this is the island owner's joint - note Ko Nangyuan is now owned by Thailand's richest man - the dude who owns Singha.


The opposite northern island looks to have fewer bungalows, but in fact there's a whole bunch obscured by trees in the central and eastern areas (right). My bungalows on both later visits were high up to the right, with magnificent views down over the bay at right. It was sweet sitting out on the balcony after sunset with a bottle of elcheapo Thai rum, watching the lights of the night diving class flash and swirl.
I pinched this shot off http://www.nangyuan.com - my sea view was a little more immediate.

Interestingly, a look at the website shows my choice of bungalow back then, the Sea View Standard Fan, hasn't changed much apart from the addition of a TV. At a 2013 high season price of 1500, this cheapest option aint exactly a bargain for the southern Gulf, but plenty of inferior places on Phi Phi and some other Andaman islands ask as much.
Note the resort here calls itself Nangyuan Island Dive Resort - but non divers have always been welcome and these days way outnumber the dudes/dudettes in the neoprene suits.


The central "island" hasn't the height of the others. It contains the restaurant, some beachfront accommodation, a new to me beach bar, the dive school and to right, some new accommodation (I don't know if this is for guests or staff) plus the new arrivals pier. This is considerably larger and in deeper water than the old one which can still be seen about one third across shot. And it needs to be, seeing the big Lomprayah catamaran now calls in. The new set-up has greatly eased boat congestion - at the time of year this was shot, the beach in the far bay would in pre new pier days be packed with speedboats and longtails. These now use the big pier and then mainly tie up offshore some distance away (or if they are longtails from Tao, go back to base).


The new pier. Visitors pay an entry fee of 100baht - that Singha dude aint the richest guy in Thailand by accident
The island also has a no-plastics policy - leave those pesky water bottles in the boat. Plenty of (expensive) Singha water in glass bottles available in the restaurant.


More change - the restaurant is considerably bigger now. It needs to be considering day visitor numbers. Must look a bit deserted at breakfast and dinner - the resort itself would be flat out to have more than 200 residential guest. And there is a second restaurant - see down page.


I was a bit dismayed at the restaurant prices. On my previous stays the prices were always 10-20% up on typical island bungalow prices - now we are talking 50-100+%. You can click expand the image to see for yourself, but I'll select some comparisons (remember we are talking 2013 prices here) - Phangan Dive Resort/typical island bungalow: small Singha beer 105/70 - hot coffee 80/30 - vegetarian pizza 220/95 - fried rice 150/70 - steamed rice with pork garlic and pepper 150/110. 
Now most of these prices are still value compared to western joints, but I have stayed in several upper midrange Thai resorts way flasher than Nangyuan Dive Resort - all had food considerably cheaper. As to quality - I didn't eat so I'll leave that to Trip Adviser etc reports.

The spit has changed too. I've already mentioned it tends to have a lot more people from 1000 thru 1630. There is certainly plenty of room for them. More so these days because the other big change here is a lot more sand - on my previous visits the closest northern most section far right of image would be submerged at high tide. New guests staying on the northern mountain would be rowed across with their luggage. After that they needed to wade across if the tide was high - sometimes up to waist deep. Because some guests were not all that keen on this, a second restaurant to right of camera could provide meals - the food/service was very good because the couple running it seemed to be competing with the main restaurant. It is still there and looked like it still operates at breakfast and dinner.
Note high tide spit flooding can reappear - some rough weather can remove sand pretty quickly.


No matter what part, the spit is a pretty nice place. This is down the far (southern) end from the previous shot.
And yes, this is one of those white sand beaches a lot of people seek (my elcheapo Olympus' colour balance may be a bit dodgy) - I have it on my THAILAND'S BEST BEACHES page as one of the better ones. 
Nicest part for swimming would be above right in November/April when the north-east monsoon blows - at other times when the south west monsoon dominates the area at left in the previous shot (the north-east bay): this was the situation when I visited - note how smooth and protected the water is in that shot.

SNORKELLING


The best snorkelling off the beach on my previous visits was in the north-east bay - there were some nice little coral bommies scattered across the sandy area not far from the beach and the fish were so used to being hand-fed they would crowd around whenever someone entered the water. Things had deteriorated latest visit - DO NOT FEED THE FISH signs (fair enough) saw way fewer piscines and there was so much fresh sand that the close to shore coral seemed covered. Things improved about 100m out but the water there was maybe 3m deep which is a bit much for surface snorkellers to see detail.
Back in the day there was interesting stuff further out along and around the headlands but I didn't have a chance to check this latest visit.
The western bay chez tezza end was next best off the beach and had no shortage of people checking the scene latest visit. But frankly I was disappointed - lotsa dead broken coral near the beach; a bit better further out and with a few fish - but nothing for hard-core snorkellers to write home to mum about. No doubt novices would find plenty to interest them.

DIVING
As mentioned, this resort was started as a dive resort where non-divers were welcome. These days the opposite seems to be the case. The fact is Nangyuan is a major dive site with several good reefs etc adjacent the island. These attract dive boats from nearby Tao and even Phangan/Samui. Nangyuan's dive school has the advantage of being able to go off the beach for some sites (check the divers 2 shots up, probably a learners' class). The island's dive school naturally has a boat for more distant locations.
Dive boats working over one of Nangyuan's reefs.

GETTING THERE
The good news is that the Lomprayah big fast catamaran now calls in at Nangyuan on its Surathani-Samui-Phangan-Tao-Chumpon and reverse runs. The fastest access from Bangkok is probably flying to Samui, jumping on Lomprayah's free shuttle from the airport to their pier at west Mae Nam and then going the 2 hours up to Nangyuan.
Chumpon is a lot closer and I think I saw a poster or maybe their website saying Lomprayah has a tie in with one of the smaller airlines via Chumpon. Bucks down people will find Lomprayah's coaches from Bangkok (one comes overnight) which go direct to their ferry pier some 30km south of Chumpon would be the go. Some people prefer the sleeper train - Lomprayah have a Chumpon office not far from the station from which they run a free shuttle to the pier.
Other companies run day and night ferries from both Chumpon and Surathani, but only to Tao - from where you will have to get a boat over to Nangyuan. Check the Tao page for more details.
Speedboats run from Samui and Phangan, mainly for daytrippers but I have used this in the past to access and stay on Nangyuan - in rough weather this is not a comfortable or dry trip (don't ask how I know) and because the drivers tend to roll off the throttle, probably slower than Lomprayah and some of the other fast ferries.
In the past, the resort has had a free shuttle for guests several times a day across to mainland Tao. Mae Had town is worth checking - looks a bit daggy but the streets leading inland from the piers have a full range of shops and services these days. And if you give yourself a full day or so, there are some very nice spots on Tao to check. Once again, have a look at my Tao page. If the free shuttles no longer run or are ill timed for you, you should be able to cut a good deal with the many longtails which bring daytrippers across from Tao and would otherwise return empty.

If you have comments, see mistakes or have additional information, please post it below. If you have a question, please ask it in the FORUM - I rarely check these individual pages whereas I try to check the Forum most days when not travelling.

Back to the Ko Tao page

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Tirta Gangga rice terraces and water palace

Visited June 2013

Scene from the main highway just north of the Tirta Gangga water palace - click to expand image

Many say the real Bali is found in the rice growing areas. I'm a great fan of the scenery, quietness and rural culture of these areas. People told me the Tirta Gangga area is pretty good and having stayed at both Sideman further south and Belimbing in the western rice fields I put it down for a few days this latest Bali visit.

The area is in north east Bali. The nearest big town is Amlapura, the nearest tourist destinations are Candidasa and Amed.

TIRTA GANGGA WATER PALACE.
This is a bigger attraction than the rice terraces - even on a rainy day we were amazed by the number of big coaches pulling in to unload visitors, mostly domestic - a lot looked to be from Java, plus the place seems to be a big attraction for Balinese school groups. There was a reasonable number of westerners although they tended to arrive with car and driver.

This is the first glimpse we got from the rainforest track as we walked down from our accommodation at Geria Semalung high on a ridge 15 minutes from the complex.


Further down most of the complex is in view. Apart from the numerous pools there are some lovely gardens and lots of stone statues etc. The place was built as a residence for a former Rajah of Karangesem, the province that takes up much of the north east of Bali.


Outside the gates a busy service area has lots of small stores selling fruit and touristy stuff plus quite a few restaurants, budget and better. Those westerners mid-shot are heading for the hotel inside the complex - google Tirtagangga Water Palace Villas. But it aint cheap (at least by Bali standards).


Unfortunately we lingered a bit long in the restaurant from which the previous shot was taken and by the time we entered the complex it had started to rain. This is the view immediately on entrance. Cost for westerners 10000rp - $us1 at the time.


The first pool from camera is the complex's swimming pool - entry was another 10k rp. A few brave souls were swimming but on account of the rain I gave it a miss. Apparently this pool is popular for local school kids to do their learn to swim activity.


Speaking of school kids, this group found good shelter from the rain.

GERIA SEMALUNG
We didn't exactly get off to a good start here - arriving to find our booking agent had cut ties - maybe not all that unusual except that Agoda had not given us any prior indication. This was complicated by the fact that Geria Semalung's manager was absent and the two guys there didn't have authority to access the internet or phone. So we had to hike down to one of the Tirta Gangga outside restaurants which had wifi.
That fixed (and I gotta say Agoda refunded our money immediately although overall they have gone down a step or five in my estimation), Geria Semalung turned out to be a very agreeable location.

This place has only 5 bungalows lining the top of a ridge about 300m along a quiet lane from a secondary road paralleling the main highway which was some distance down slope. Nice garden setting as can be seen but no pool as both Agoda and Trip Adviser had shown. Bungalows were flashpacker standard except there was no aircon, no fan (this high we didn't need them although the rainy weather for most of our stay didn't exactly heat the joint up during the day) and no net or insect screens (mozzies didn't seem a problem although we always buy a can of KILL 'EM first day in Kuta). The inclusive breakfast was simple but pleasing. We ate lunches down at the water palace complex. For dinners GS staff encourage guests to nominate something from the extensive menu early in the day - they then go out and buy the ingredients, thereby ensuring a pretty fresh meal. Lady Tezza had a chicken curry very similar to a Malaysian/ Thai massaman which she declared the best meal all trip - and this trip featured some pretty good meals.On short notice they can do simple stuff for meals like fried rice/noodles with chicken etc.
Staff were friendly and service excellent. Price was 330k ($33 at the time), slightly higher than Agoda's web price. I've stayed at a fair few places this standard in Bali - I reckon I could negotiate 250k walk-in. But with our transport gone we were in no position to negotiate, and at the end of our stay I have to say I thought the place was fair value and an excellent base for anyone wanting a night or two in the area.


Comfy bed in a spacious room.


Pretty nice vegetation-filtered outlook from the bungalow area of the heavily rainforested adjacent slope nearby to the right and the lower rural plains as they sloped down to the sea just north of the regional capital Amalpura. If you click-expand image you may just be able to see part of the water palace through a gap in the trees central image. However unlike both places we stayed at Sideman and Belimbing, Geria Semalung has no rice terrace views unless you have binoculars to focus on that area just past the water palace.

SHORT CUT TO THE WATER PALACE
Route in image is a pleasant 15 minute amble


Step one is to turn left onto the main road from Geria Semalung's access lane, walk 500m to these homestay signs and turn left down their access lane. Furthest building in shot is a small store with cheap beer and water - not that Geria Semalung's are expensive.

Batur Indah is about 500m down the lane - continue directly past and you soon reach........ 


....a steeper rainforested track. These steps towards the end represent the most challenging section but in the reverse direction only to the seriously unfit. Near the bottom you get your first overview of the greater water palace area. From there it is just a matter of following the path around the outside wall to the entrance.

THE RICE TERRACES
The rice growing areas easily reached on foot seemed to be down in the water palace area. But I thought them less impressive than at Sideman and Belimbing. The major difference seemed to be a shortage of "verticality" in the landscape - fewer really steep slopes meant that those spectacualrly cascading terraces were a bit short in hand. Now if you have access to some sort of wheeled transport no doubt you could find some of the latter not too distant - but the constant rain which set in scotched my plan of grabbing a moped or bicycle and exploring further. Fact is I didn't need to do this at Sideman and Belimbing - there were plenty of steep terraced hillsides withing easy walk of the accommodation - some even AT the accommodation.

Paddy areas close to Tirta Gangga. A nice circuit from Geria Semalung is to walk down to the water palace via the track at left (15 minutes) and then return by the highway and secondary road (30 minutes).
There seemed to be no shortage of other accommodation in the area - a number along the secondary road, at least 3 down the western track to Tirta Gangga and we saw around half a dozen on the left as we walked back up the highway north of the water palace.

To the east of the main highway 





The opening shot top of page was also in this area

Immediately north of the water palace

Immediately south of the water palace
This is from the track which runs along the water palace's southern wall. That is paddy rice closest camera - maybe not as picturesque as just before/after planting when the fields are flooded.

GETTING THERE
A car and driver from Kuta or the airport should be around 400k in 2013- about 3.5 hours. We came the short distance from Amed for 100k - a little over 30m, and departed to Sanur for 270k - about 2.5 hours.

Budget Perama travellers' shuttle buses run from all around Bali to nearby Candidasa on regular services and will extend to Amed going past Tirta Gangga with a minimum of two paying passengers.

An even less expensive option would be a public bus from Denpasser bus station to nearby Amlapura and then a public bemo or bus heading north.

Public buses run from the Java ferry on the north west tip of Bali across the north coast to/thru Amlapura. You may have to change buses in Singaraja.
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Lady T retracing shortcut track alongside water palace wall. Reversed baseball isn't a return to adolescence, but protection of a newly exposed neck (the long hair had recently gone) from the sun. A few minutes earlier we had quit the water palace on account of the rain. But that's the tropics. BTW - early June is supposed to well and truly be dry season. But that's the tropics.

Whoa! Sunshine didn't last long. This is the scene from our bungalow's patio 20 minutes later - if you click expand you may be able to see the falling rain.

If you see mistakes or have extra info, please post below. BUT if you have questions, please ask them on the FORUM page which can be accessed from the INDEX. I don't get to check these individual pages often but I try to visit the FORUM page most days.