So for the long holiday weekend in July we decided to go to Koh Samui by way of Ao Manao (Prachuap Khiri Khan) doing a road trip. We had one extra kiddo traveling with us as he was a friend of our daughters’ visiting from the US. I love road trips. I love seeing the sites and being able to break at road stops and sample the local treats. Unlike the US where a road stop means bad fast food or a truck stop breakfast if you are lucky (I do love a good truck stop breakfast), road stops here mean food stalls where you can get meats on a stick, fresh fruit, or roti (think fried “crepey” sort of treat with bananas, chocolate, condensed milk and butter), and all sorts of tasty treats.
From Bangkok to Ao Manao it was about 4.5 hours and just before arriving at our destination we decided to stop for a brisk 700ish meter hike up Khao Daeng View Point (part of Khao Sam Roi National Park). This was most welcome after spending a few hours in a car. If you decide to do it, be sure you are wearing appropriate shoes as you are maneuvering over some sharp rocks and at times you will scramble. So if you are really out of shape or are wearing flipflops, you had better take it easy or find something else to do because no one wants to hear you complaining. Note that our six-year old was able to do it. Be sure to take some water as the climb will make you mighty thirsty. Once you are at the top, the view is very, very beautiful and the lovely breeze provided us with a zen moment until we noted the rain clouds coming towards us. Unfortunately going up was easier than heading down – especially when as we felt we had a race against time.
When headed to Grandma’s House, a guesthouse where we booked two rooms. It is a beautiful old two-story Thai house that is a stone’s throw from the boardwalk. There is beautiful artwork hanging throughout the house which is actually the work of the owner Khun Som’s husband. The rooms upstairs were immaculate and charming, both with air conditioners. We had two bathrooms to share which were also very clean. They are super reasonable at THB 600 – 800 (USD $17-$22) a night. The first floor serves as a cafe (breakfast is not included in the booking) which seemed very popular with both locals and tourists, but going back to our arrival…
Upon our arrival, we took showers, freshened up and set up our suitcases in the rooms. We made our way to the boardwalk and the kids played at the beach, catching crabs and wading in the water. My husband and I watched for a bit and then he nipped across the street and ordered beers, waters, and some snacks. Apparently the restaurants along the road by the boardwalk will serve you on the boardwalk! We sat on the wall with our beers in hand and watched the kids play as the sun set. It was lovely. I’d like to note that the drinks and snacks were reasonable and they delivered them to us across the street.
After the sun set we made our way to the night market (not my video) and upon our arrival we were greeted with all sorts of yummy smells. You could buy all sorts of treats like Pad Thai Goong (noodles & shrimp) or Khao Yam (rice salad), each for only THB 50 (about USD 1.40) or Tod Mun Pla (fried fish cakes) for THB 30 (about USD 90). I’d like to give props to our daughters’ friend for being such a good sport about trying different foods. He was totally down with trying anything at least once. My kind of kid. We had our fill of street food and checked out the wares being sold. I’d like to note that the market begins with food and then the stalls turn into clothing and bits and bobs (mobile phone covers, flashlights, etc.). I’d also like to note that as a tourist you will have to bargain as I noticed they would give the locals one price and then give us a much more inflated price (I do know my numbers in Thai); however, the bartering is all done in good humor. There were definitely a lot more locals and only a smattering of tourists. After our fill of night marketing we headed back for a good sleep as the next day we departed at 6 am to climb Khao Lom Muak.
It was an easy 15 minutes from Grandma’s and it is on a military base, so be sure to have your ID handy (passport or driver’s license should be okay) as you will have to hand it in to get a pass. We arrived at the base of Khao Lom Muak and there was already a group of hopeful climbers. Note they are only open at certain times for climbing. I found this site super helpful to read before the climb and this site helpful in showing what it would look like. Oddly enough the first half of this big climb, it is stairs – yes stairs with railing. The second half turns into some serious climbing (there is a rope throughout the “non-stairs” climb) with moments of climbing up near vertical rock faces. Once again, the good rule of water, appropriate shoes and clothing as well as fitness level do apply. I have to say that the “non-stairs” area was a lot more enjoyable at times as stairs just didn’t feel so adventurous; however, as it was a holiday weekend the crowds increased and it is a narrow climb so at times it would be the ol’ one up, one down process or you would be slowly climbing with someone’s ass in your face and of course you would be returning the favor to the person below you. Yeah, I wasn’t so keen on those parts. The top was a pretty amazing view though. I believe it was worth that climb, absolutely. Going down maybe wouldn’t have been so bad if the busloads of holidaying tourists were there. On our way down there were busloads of tours. Note to self, best to climb early in the morning, well before 7am (when we went) next time.
Oops! If you have to go to the bathroom, the public restrooms are a ways away from the base of the mountain, but they are clean and only 3 baht to use (I think, maybe 3? Maybe 5? Gah! I can’t remember, damn pre-dementia).
After the climb, we headed back to Grandma’s, showered and had a well-earned breakfast. The menu is small; however, all the food we ate was REALLY DELICIOUS and definitely made to order. The cafe has a lovely retro feel to it and oh, the coffee is damn good! Their smoothies are super delicious too. The A&D smoothie with banana and Oreo was a favorite of the kids. We tucked into Thai omeletes with rice as well as waffles. Breakfast for five of us was incredibly reasonable, it came out to about THB 600 (about USD $17) and that included entrees for each, coffees, smoothies and some fries. After breakfast we headed out to Koh Samui.
I’d like to note on our way back from Koh Samui, we stopped at Grandma’s again. This time we went to Ao Manao beach on the Royal Thai military base. The beach is very, very clean and great place to relax as they have beach chairs (note that you will be expected to pay for food and beverage if you sit on the beach chairs) and toilets nearby (5 baht to use). We were there on a week day and it was very quiet, but I hear it is really busy on the weekends.