So, back to the mainland. We had seen a bit of heaven, could anything match up? The answer is yes (at times). a coach down the coast takes us to Bang Niang. The area was one of the very worst hit by the 2004 tsunami, and the town is still in the process of putting itself back together- the pavements were still being laid about a mile in, and they have drydocked a police boat where it landed on the day, about a mile and a half from the sea. The whole town is newly built, and whenever you realise this, the memory of what people have been through hits you hard.
That said, it is a beautiful seafront that they clearly took time and thought over restoring, a rarity in Thailand, where quickly built, unsafe and ugly buildings often seem to pop up overnight. the first night, we ate in a nice restaurant at the top of the bay, sat at a table so close to the sea you can literally (actually literally, not figuratively) touch it. The days are spent lounging on the beach, enjoying the 5km of uninterrupted sand and bar.
In the evenings, we visit the night market, where the grill stalls are immense, although Ben tried a noodle sausage which was texturally unique and somewhat confusing when you expected meat! One evening, we looped down to the far end of the beach, via a roadside food hut, and made our way back along the 3 miles of beach, darting into little bars all the way back to town, by which point we are very merry. Halfway down the beach, our way is cut off by a river outlet- unlike in Koh Phayam, we don’t have to wade through, as an enterprising bar owner had set up a shuttle raft, at 10 baht (20p) a go. I imagine he makes a lot of money from this! We also hear a lot of 90’s reggae in the bars, Big Mountain’s version of Baby I Love Your Way being a personal highlight! We eat from a streetside barbecue, delicious satay kebabs and squid.
The next day, we move about a mile down the road to Khao Lak, where a badly insect infested room earns us an upgrade to a high end hotel- very nice! We spend the day on free beachside loungers, in a tree lined peaceful corner of the beach. Huge waves make swimming exciting, and we drink from freshly fallen coconut shells. Both ends of the culinary scale are reached, as Ben eats a double Big Mac (four burgers!), and a Northern ‘Jungle Curry’ for dinner, which is the hottest thing he had eaten for ten years, when an error in an Indian restaurant led to his being served a vegetable phall, and politeness kept him from sending it back! The flavour and tender beef makes the agony and sweat well worthwhile, and we get ready to depart for the isle of Phuket the next day.