Saturday, 24 October 2009

This has to be Suratthani's top destination...after Samui

While I knew of Khao Sok National Park in mainland Suratthani I didn't know anything about the park until I started to search for a website that I could link for Suratthani attractions in the previous post.

I didn't know it has an area of 740 km.sq, nor did I imagine it to be the oldest virgin rainforest on the planet, older and more diverse even than the Amazon rainforest.

The richness of the tropical forest flora, the abundance of fresh water and the shelter of the mountains combine to provide an excellent habitat for many species of wildlife. Mammals that call the place home include, the Malayan Tapir, Asian Elephant, Tiger, Sambar and Barking Deer, Sun Bear, Guar, Banteng, Serow, Wild Boar, Pig Tailed Macaque, Langur, Sumatra Rhino, White Handed Gibbon, Squirrel, Munjak and Mouse Deer.

The forest is dense and dominated by tall emergent trees; the middle layer is a tangle of figs and woody climbers, whilst the understorey contains evergreens such as bamboo, rattan, ferns and palms, all fighting for light. It is also home to many varieties of orchid and for flora-spotting botonistas, the park is one of only a handful of locations in Thailand and Malaysia where grows the world's largest flower, the parasitic and stinky Rafflesia kerrii, with it's rotten-meat stench (to attract pollinating flies) and giant 50-90cm diameter red flowers.

Twitchers are well served with over 180 species of birds. Khao Sok is just about the only place in Thailand to see both Lesser and Grey-headed Fish Eagle. The Banded Pitta is a fabulously beautiful species which appears far more common in the park than anywhere else. Hornbills can be found with Great, Helmeted and White-crowned the most frequently seen.

Divers (tech), kayakers/canoeists, fishermen, climbers and cavers all seem to be well catered for.

It appears that Khao Sok National Park is one of the easiest national parks to get to in Thailand. It's frequently visited by tourists from the southern beach resorts and many places from Khao Lak, Krabi and Phuket run minibuses to the accommodation just outside the park. Samui based trippers must first take the ferry and bus to mainland Surattani. If you choose to drive, simply follow highway route number 401, which is also known as the Suratthani-Takuapa road. Turn right at the 109 kilometer stone and drive for another 2 km. or until you see the park’s headquarters.

From Suratthani take a minibus to Khao Sok or any bus to Takua Pa can also be taken; the buses will stop at Km 109 where people from various bungalow resorts at Khao Sok wait to collect visitors. From the main road to the accommodation is a few kilometres so it is best to take a ride with one of the bungalow operators. A visit here, from where I copied some photos, looks to be a worthy choice.

Nok Air cuts the costs of travel to mainland Suratthani...

Photo source: Nok Air
Nok, no surprise given their livery, means 'bird' in Thai

From Sunday, Oct. 25, low-cost airline Nok air will start flying between Bangkok and Suratthani, Samui's mainland province . A promotional fare of Bt555 (US 16 GBP 10) one-way or Bt1,000 return, will operate for the first three months, after which it will double, but is still expected to be around $10-$12 cheaper each way than Air Asia, that also operate the route.

Sihaphan Choomsai Na Ayutthaya, the airline’s senior vice-president for public relations, said the new air route, aimed at increasing (cash strapped) tourist traffic to Samui and Koh Phangan, will have two roundtrip flights daily. The flight from Bangkok will depart from Nok Air's hub at Don Muang airport.

The route will be serviced by a Boeing 737-400 aircraft which can seat 168 passengers.

Suratthani Gov. Pracha Taerat said the new air route would provide tourists bound for Samui or Koh Phangan a chance to make a side trip to some of the province’s many other attractions.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Monthly roundup...

Less than two weeks after Gary's 40th birthday bash that featured Dirty Vegas as previously posted, sadly his Bophut Hills Gecko venue burned to the ground. Gary was briefly hospitalised with smoke inhalation, but thankfully there were no other injuries. Gecko can and will be rebuilt. The overwhelming tragedy is the loss of Gary's tapes and digitised music representing twenty years of a life recording and DJ'ing. The fire is attributed to an electrical fault in an AC.

I forgot to follow-up on my pledge to name & shame or acclaim the contractor we used to finally sort-ot the hotel's WiFi package. I'm delighted to recommend the services of Matthew at Bluechip Wireless who have provided broadband WiFi throughout the hotel and beach. Bluechip also upgraded our reception computer and agreed to become our on-call IT department. Good job Matthew - thanks.

And on the family front...
It's number one daughter Lucy's birthday today. When I called her this morning she was into a sausage roll and cup of tea at Big Joe's and later planned lunch at Ocean's 11 in Bangrak with Jonny. I hope she had a great day.

Self-snap: Lucy and Jonny today

It gives me huge pleasure to let those that don't yet know - number one son Dominic finally asked his Fiona to be our future number one daughter-in-law last weekend. We could not be more delighted with his choice.

HM the King makes his first public appearance today...

HM the King has made his first public appearance since being admitted to Siriraj Hospital over a month ago, appearing in a wheelchair in the hospital's ground floor to pay homage to his late mother and King Rama V on the occassion of the Piya Maharaja Day, a public holiday.

Using their day-off to show their loyalty, many more well-wishers than usual visited the hospital, some wept with joy as His Majesty made his appearance to place garlands at the portraits of his late mother and King Rama V.

Photo source: The Nation

The monarch looked alert but frail as he was wheeled out to greet well-wishers in the public areas of the hospital. The appearance followed a tough week for the Thai people as rumours about his health caused panic selling and more than a little market manipulation at work in the stock market. The SET Index fell 7% over two days last week amid rumours originating from Hong Kong and Singapore which are now being investigated.

"His physical strength has increased. His sleep and food intake is normal," the Royal Household Bureau announced yesterday. It added that doctors would continue to give antibiotics and food supplements to His Majesty until the prescription schedule was completed.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The King showing early signs of recovery...

(AP photo)

Thailand's 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej spent his 14th day in a Bangkok hospital today with what the palace obliquely called a second bout of low fever and inflammation in his lungs, that finally appears to be responding to treatment.

King Bhumibol, the world's longest-serving monarch, was admitted to Bangkok's Siriraj hospital on 19th Sept. for fever, fatigue and lack of appetite three days after a routine check-up. It is his longest hospital stay since October 2007. Since his admission, the palace has released almost daily updates on his condition without saying what is causing the symptoms.

After being hospitalised for four days, the king's temperature returned to normal, but the fever returned several days later, according to the palace. "His overall condition has improved and his medication can be reduced" the Royal Household Bureau said in its latest statement. The brief statement said that a medical team would continue to give the king a reduced number of antibiotics and nutrients intravenously as it has since his arrival, and continue with physical therapy.

Elephants and well-wishers take part in a Buddhist prayer for the health of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok yesterday (Reuters photo)

The king is regarded by his people as a semi-divine source of unity and stability in a country beset by four years of political turmoil that has been marked by several changes in government and frequent mass street protests.
Bhumibol is a constitutional king with no formal political role, but he has repeatedly brought calm in times of turbulence and is considered the country's moral authority and a unifying figure.

A mahout astride his elephant participates in prayers for the King outside the hospital (Reuters photo)

Thousands of well-wishers have crowded outside Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital and events have been organized around the country in honor of the king. The king's health is an extremely sensitive topic in Thailand because of concerns that the succession may not go smoothly. The heir apparent, his son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, does not yet have the stature or moral authority of his father. He has reigned through a score of governments, democratic and dictatorial. In his six decades on the throne, he has taken an especially active role in rural development and is respected for his dedication to helping the country's poor.

Young well-wishers pray for the King's return to good health outside the hospital (Reuters photo)

Bhumibol is revered by most Thais, but in recent years the palace has come in for unprecedented, though usually discreet, criticism because of allegations that the king's advisers interfered in politics, including playing a part in inspiring a 2006 military coup that ousted a democratically elected government. Open discussion of the matter is barred by strict lese majeste laws that make criticism of the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

We join our staff and all loyal Thais in praying for the speedy recovery of the King

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Six Chefs Six courses Charity Dinner

I've just noticed this event posted on the radio station site. While not a new concept it's another innovation for Samui; a chance to dress-up and for a very worthy cause...

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