Koh Kradan: A little island in Thailand

Three years back I visited Thailand, but that was Phuket, Phi Phi and other crowded parts (link). Times have changed, life has changed and my choices as well. This time I preferred the opposite. Thailand has a bunch of islands, some bustling with tourists and some not so much.

Finally with some help, I came across Koh Kradan. An island 3 kms long and with nothing to do, perfect. With 7 resorts/hotels sharing the spoils, this place is tiny. Yet I absolutely loved this place. Everything that I wanted an island to be. Minimum tourists, only basic facilities, zero Indians (this was not a criteria, but a fact), good place to swim/snorkel.

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Getting there:

All I did was book a Nok Air flight from Bangkok to Koh Kradan, which means Bangkok-Trang Airport(flight)- Trang pier(mini-bus)-Koh Kradan (ferry)+ a long tail boat to the shore (50 THB extra per person). I used this only as a means of transport to get to the place. There are definitely better options. I will suggest going to Trang airport and checking with all the tour operators you may find. This might even be cheaper, definitely cheaper. In case of Thailand, online is expensive. Also I’m sure there are options from Krabi.

Tigerline ferry has transfer services from Trang province to Koh Kradan, Koh Mook and lots more. I have been hearing negative reviews about them but I can say it is alright. Tigerline partners with Nok Air, so I had to travel to and fro in their ferry, minibus.

Let me a post a useful link from tripadvisor which I went through. link

Also let me add, Nok Air was one of the sweetest airline I have traveled in.

Nok Air flight
Nok Air flight

Where to stay:

From what I have heard, the island has only seven resorts. I stayed in ‘Paradise Lost’ resort which is in the middle of a forest. One km to the inside from main beach, luckily from the hotel they send someone to pick the luggage on a trolley. They have a few bungalows aka huts, small ones and slightly bigger ones. Bathroom is shared and Wifi is available only in common area.

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My little hut

 

Few names of resorts I heard were: The seven seas resort, Kalume resort, Paradise Lost resort and on the cheaper side, Ao Niang Beach resort.

Best time to visit:

Nov-Mar

There might be no electricity during the nights in off season (Apr-Oct). Make sure you read the terms and conditions before booking your resort.

Things to do:

Go snorkeling :

In the morning when the sea is low, corals are easily accessible. Pick up your snorkel masks and swim around.

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Ao Niang Beach has a lot of corals as well. Sunset beach as name suggests has a great sunset view. The white sand is great, the beaches are clean and overall it is great fun.

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Main beach

Things to carry:

Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Mosquito repellent, GoPro (maybe), swim suits. Snorkel masks are available at resorts for a rent.

Hope you all enjoyed the post. Happy travelling!

A view of Ao Niang Beach at sunrise
A view of Ao Niang Beach at sunrise

Reasons to drive through Valparai and a belated Happy New Year!

Hello All, 

Happy New Year 2017 (belated)! I hope this year fills up your life with colors of joy and peace.

-From a dying blog 


Last new year day was also well spent with a trip, this year as well. Next year, let’s see. Moving on…

A bit of retrospect…

10 years ago, my family (minus me) staying in Tirupur decided to visit Kerala. I joined them, my brother dropped out and after a lot of chaos we decided to go to Kerala. My brother took a train and we (‘me’ included) were left with his car. I was strictly banned from driving, we all know how our parents trusted us back in those days, so we had someone driving us.

Kerala, as we all know, celebrates hartal/strike/bandh every other day. Things were worse then than it is now. Palghat (Palakkad) which is the passage from TN to Kerala was celebrating bandh that day. Long story short, my family that evening took Valparai route to enter Trichur (Trissur) and then continue on the NH47 to our place.

If it were today, we would have never been allowed. But then, there was not much emphasis on safety and we were allowed to pass an unpaved forest road with wildlife and more than 60 kms to cross, after 7 pm. We saw porcupine, wild boar and so on in our lonely drive, no vehicles to keep up with and no vehicles to overtake.

Will that place be any different now? This question would always pop up. 10 years down the line, I drive to find out…

A little about Valparai (my humble opinion)

‘Drive is the reason, destination is just an excuse’ sums up Valparai.

I stayed a night at Valparai in a small hotel, the place is nothing more than a small junction where three roads meet. One of them takes you to Sirukundra, the opposite of which takes you to Aliyar dam and subsequently to Pollachi in TN, the third route which intersects them in the centre takes you to Sholayar, a high range forest road and Kerala. Valparai is smaller than the main junction in my village and there is nothing fascinating about spending a night.

Sirukundra road leads to Nirar dam. The road by itself is very gorgeous with twisties, tea plantations and well-paved tarmac as a cherry on the top. The Sirukundra bungalow is a famous romantic getaway, with tents/wood houses and bungalows to choose from. But good luck finding a sign board which points you towards this bungalow. I found it though, hence such a sign board exist.

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Panorama of the tea plantations enroute Nirar Dam

And you may avoid Nirar dam, unless you want to drive those well-paved roads because the roads after forest check post (towards the dam) is damn. 4 kms (one way) of hell for

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Nirar Dam

Aliyar Dam has 43 tight hairpin bends from Valparai. Due to time constraints, I could not explore this region but I pretty much remember the long snake like roads. Lot about these roads have been shared in other blogs.

The final mention is the sholayar- forest roads-Kerala. Let me expand this further.

Exit Valparai towards sholayar and you will find forest check-posts of both TN and Kerala. This is after 18-20 kms. Once you are done with the formalities, you are treated with 60 kms of forest roads out of which 10-15 kms are good (not great), rest of it is wonderfully paved. The roads are narrow which makes it highly risky as it is two way traffic. (pic attached)

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Malakkapara to Vazhachal

In Kerala, you can either choose to visit Vazhachal waterfalls, Athirapally waterfalls and few others. For me the best part of this trip were those roads, I drove to and fro. Mission accomplished!

Travel tips through the forest road: (Red shows the start of forest roads)

My route : Cochin-Angamaly-Mukanoor-Athirapally-Vazhachal-Forest road-Malakkapara-Sholayar-Valparai
My route : Cochin-Angamaly-Mukanoor(Ezhattumughom road)-Athirapally-Vazhachal-Forest road-Malakkapara-Sholayar-Valparai
  1. The allowed passage time is between 6 am- 6 pm. The officials wont allow you passage to either side after 4 pm (Kerala check post). For people who want to enjoy these roads all by yourselves, go early. 7 am in the morning must be a good time (especially on a weekday).
  2. Carry your car docs, license and make sure you have enough supplies of you are travelling with a toddler. ‘Good’ shops or hotels just doesn’t exist there.
  3. As you can see from the pictures, the roads are narrow. Imagine confronting an SUV on a blind corner. Drive within your and the vehicles limit. Trust me, this is quite hard. Especially with a lot of bikers and some coming at you. Also there are old KSRTC buses on this route. Hence beware.
  4. Plastic is strictly banned. Please do not carry plastics and do not litter the area. Also you will not be allowed to carry inflammable materials (fuel in small bottles included) into the forest. This is to prevent forest fire.
  5. Finally, have fun…take loads of pics, make sure you take plenty of stops and enjoy the nature. Also a few view points enroute, those will make your trip worth.
Vazhachal waterfalls
Vazhachal waterfalls
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The roads be like this every mornings, perfect for a drive through the mountains!
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Athirapally waterfalls (a sneak peak)

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So the answer to my question: Will that place be any different now?, is simply yes. It has underwent a lot of changes, much to my liking. The Kerala side of changes (aka roads) look better than the TN side. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s true for once. For once Kerala proved me wrong. *slow claps*

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures like I did clicking them. Let’s see where the wind takes me next 😉

Again wishing everyone a wonderful year ahead filled with lot of road trips, adventures and fun.

Cheers!


 

Mystic Mysteries

 

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I like staying mysterious. Nobody could or would ever claim that they knew me and my thoughts in its entirety. I would never let that happen. I’ll only share with them what is necessary. That is how it is. My undisclosed facts are my guards. Some times I let one down but never two together, no chance. We all love to protect our self, I’m no different.

I hold quite a few secrets within me. All safely locked up deep within my heart. Exponentially deep, more than those woods. They will stay with me and disappear with me. But none shall learn about it. If you have filled my ears with your heart, you can count on me. I can be trusted for I will not be the laughing with others; talking about you behind your back. That’s not my trait. I’d like to be different from others.

In short, I’m mysterious yet trustworthy and you know it.

Nature


(Fiction)

View outside my window

Success; for the society, should be something like being well-settled, owning beautiful cars and showing off their riches…for my near ones, should be financial freedom, do whatever you want without being concerned about money…for me, being in peace. Success is similar to the view from my window.

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Some see it as a few fallen dry leaves and others waiting to fall. Some others see it as a place where snakes crawl around, others simply dismiss it as a jungle.


 

Decisions – End of the road!

(Fiction)


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I sat in my shady room of a distant guest house not knowing what next. The ceiling fan above squeaked as it rotated in slow pace.

In my younger days, I used to run faster than this ceiling fan. I thought.

It’s late night or rather early morning. I could go out but that wouldn’t cure my thoughts. The streets wouldn’t be empty. The street leading to Baga Beach is never empty. There was something else that concerned me. Those thoughts have been within me for a good number of years. Somehow I have learnt to live with it, knowing that someday or the other they will be a source of constant trouble in my life.

Later on I left my room for the more vibrant street. The street was lively. Plenty of happy, beautiful, peaceful and smiling faces to look at. The steady pace of the crowd tagged me along. I walked with the crowd, looking at the various shops, lights…. green, amber, blue.

Where the street ended, the sands started. The crowd had already dispersed on the way. I was once again alone to walk those sands. Soon I stood a few feet away from the beach. There is this thing about standing on the shore of a beach. You hear the waves and that’s it. The sound is constant. The sound is special. It directly appeals to the soul. It’s music, relaxing and you can lose yourself in thoughts for hours together.

But it is also a realization. Realization that this is the end of the road you traveled. This is all that road can take you. There is nothing more you can do, no further you can go. You have taken all the effort to reach here and this is where the effort ends. Basically it’s a realization that you cannot go beyond this. All you see is the vast water body and a horizon. All you are left with is a question,

What next?

The sooner you find an answer, the sooner you can get back and start working on the next best thing you think is worthy of your time. If you do not have an answer, you stay there thinking about the ways to best handle the situations going back. You will be lucky if at all you can find an answer because the road leads no further. There is no going forward from here in search of answers.

A beach visit; can be a pleasant memory for most, but a journey to nothing for some.


(Subject in the image and inspiration for the post: A dear friend)

6 amazing roads to drive in UAE

It’s no news that Dubai and Abu Dhabi in UAE are well known for tourism. From a tourists’ point of view, the attractions don’t seem to end. Starting from Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest skyscraper to the long list of shopping malls to Ferrari world in Abu Dhabi.

Another thing that interests most people and me especially is the number of super cars UAE has. Super cars need super roads as well which UAE is blessed with. As an ex UAE resident, I have spent more time on the roads than any shopping malls. Cheap fuel, wonderful cars and amazing tarmac makes you want to go on a drive all the time.

The best time to hit the road is definitely winter (Nov-Apr). Some of my favorite roads in UAE are as follows:

6. Al-Lisaili, Al-Quadra, Bab-Al-Shams, Al Maha Forest

Once you hit the E66 (from Dubai to Al-Ain), you can find an exit to Al-Lisaili and from there you can drive on arrow straights to Al-Quadra where you will find the oasis of Al-Quadra and Al-Quadra lake. Drive ahead from Al-Quadra through Bab-Al-Shams and along the sides of Al-Maha forest reserves till you reach back on E11 (Sheik Zayed road). The drive is relaxing and the oasis is definitely worth a visit.

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5. Jebel Hafeet, Al-Ain

Out of the few mountain ranges that are actually accessible by cars (not SUV’s, proper road cars), Jebel Hafeet is one. Depending on the car you are driving, you can climb Hafeet in 10 mins or in 30 mins. From Dubai, take E66 (Dubai- Al-Ain road) and keep an eye for the brown colored board notifying the exit to Jebel Hafeet. Make sure to visit the Green Mubazzarah (hot spring) at the base of Jebel Hafeet while you return.

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Detailed post here.

4. Khor Fakkan, Fujairah

Khor fakkan beach needs no introduction. Jet Skiing, Parasailing and a good place to go with family, the roads through the mountains are heaven, just as one would expect of UAE; hence one of the best driving roads for me in UAE. Travelling on E611 (New Emirates road) you will find the exit to Khor fakkan. Following the road signs will lead you to the place.

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Detailed post here.

3. Al- Taween, RAK

Taween is one of those hidden gems. The only reason someone would visit Al-Taween is for the beautiful drive. Steep inclines of 30-40 degrees and steep inclined hairpins make it such a challenge. Unpredictable sand/gravel on the roads, steep inclines and steeper hairpins keeps the driver engaged and leaves the car struggling for traction. There is nothing more than a view at the top yet one of my favorite destinations for a quick drive.

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Detailed post here.

2. Kalba, Sharjah

Oh Kalba, what took you so long! A place close to my heart. A place I have been to so many times but still would love to go again. The road leading to Kalba is similar to Khor fakkan, but better. Some deviations make the drive even more memorable like the deviation to Hatta/Oman road on Kalba. Just a pleasure to drive.

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1. Jebel Jais, RAK

In the evening over the weekends, there are huge traffic jams on the roads leading to Jais. Instead try going on a weekday or even weekend early morning. The climb to Jais mountains is pure thrill. Technical roads with hairpins, some fast corners and some blind corners; this place will get your heartbeats raised. I have been there god knows how many times but for me, this is the best driving road in UAE.

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Detailed post here.

Do you think there are better roads in UAE than the ones I mentioned above? Have you driven on any of the above mentioned roads?


Dart board and the blank stare

Standing in darkness I couldn’t help but wonder, what next?

I couldn’t confirm for a fact whether I stood in a room or a dark alley way … but the only reality then was darkness.

I waved my hands in the air as I moved around. My hands fell upon a small box which had what I felt were darts. A few of them. The box was solid, I could feel it but whether it was placed on a table or if it was supported in some other sort was beyond me. I picked up the darts and aimed at infinity. I didn’t know what else to do. I shot the first dart, it left my hands and then vanished into darkness. It was unsettling to not know what I was aiming for, where the dart-board was. So much uncertainty.

Photo courtesy: Google search, credit to respective owner

Thinking if I change directions and try again, I might find the target I picked up the next dart and threw it in the direction which I felt would find the target. Another dart lost for nothing, but the urge to find the target still remained. I picked up yet another dart and I failed to find the target again. Disappointed but somehow the whole process got me addicted to it. Who ever said failure was addictive? or the urge to try and find the target was?

I carried on firing darts in all the possible directions but to my dismay none had hit the board. Obviously I had to rely on my ears, eyes were useless in this given situation. But once the dart left my hand, it was opportunity missed as usual. Half a dozen of darts and no result.

I move forward waving my hands, not in search of light but in search of more darts…