Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ko Bulon, CNY Holidays 2011 (3~5/02/11)

To continue from last post, one thing I realized about Ko Bulon is the price of food. Though we stay only for a few days and didn't have chance to explore all places, I realized that food here is a bit more expensive for our standard.

But then, this is an island without electricity (only generators) and a bit far from mainland. Plus, the clientèle is mostly Europeans so by their standard, it's probably cheap :).

No worries though, the price lowers considerably once you moved away from the beach. I mean it's understandable that you can't pay the same price sipping that tea at Bulone Resort right on the beach compare to say in a wood at Bulon Hill; though by distance they are probably not more than 250 meters apart.

For comparison, if I remember correctly, I had a pot of tea and sandwich at Bulone for 160Baht on the first day and breakfast at Bulon Hill the next day for maybe less than 100Baht.

Right after Viewpoint, there's a stall that sells Thai pancake (macam roti canai ler :) ) and I think the price was good.

Sandwich at Marina; nice ambiance

Waiting for dinner at Chao Le

Don't forget to bring mosquito repellents; lots of it. We were their dinner while waiting for ours. 
Breakfast at Bulon Hill

This book, Veneration of Prophet in Islamic Piety by Annemarie Schimmel was a good read. It's nice to read he is loved by different Islamic cultures. Some modern people discouraged showing affection to him lest we treat him a god like status. While on the other hand, the classical Muslims showed their love for Muhammad pbuh in so many ways and embrace people of all faith. This popular words from Master Rumi comes to mind now:

 Come, come, whoever you are,
  Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire
  Come, even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
  Come, and come yet again,
  Ours is not a caravan of despair

Muslims & Halal food:
Oh forgot to mention, while generally Thais from Satun area do not know how to speak Malay, those that are natives (Chao Ley or orang laut) to Ko Bulon could speak a dialect of Bahasa and we could understand each other alright. It is said that the original settlers were from Acheh and that's how they can speak Malay.

Here's a mosque near Chao Le guesthouse and since it was near, I went to pray Maghrib there. And being Thursday night, joined them in reading Ya Sin. I made up the fifth member :). The imam is from somewhere in Satun and hence, can't speak Malay. But two older gentlemen were natives and could speak to them.

As in normal in our villages of old, there's food after the Quranic recitation and I was invited too. It is one of the teaching of our Master that I religiously follow. Eh maybe the only teaching of Shaykh Nazim that I follow. That is, when people invite you to eat, you don't say no :). So, balun lah 2 pinggan ... hehehe.

But you know, here's a story. It is said that in our life, there will be a few times that our soul is touched by heavenly callings. I've felt that a few times, despite my egoistic weakness, the yearn for heavenly goodness. And also, I've felt a few times in life the solace & peace of the heart. That sweetness inside. Despite their small means, I did feel that solace among those people in that mosque. I could go to Ko Bulon again just to be inside that mosque.

Regarding food, Chao Le is muslim owned so no problems there. And get this, Viewpoint is managed by a Alor Star chap named Shukri so he was helpful too. We were told that Bulone Resort is also muslim owned; perhaps that's why we didn't see any pork in the menu. We didn't eat at Pansand but were told it's not owned by Muslim while we saw pork is served on the menu at Marina.

Hope this have helped those planning a trip there. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ko Bulon, CNY Holidays 2011 (3~5/02/11)

We got to Pak Bara around 10 am local time and had about an hour to spend. There were quite a few Muslim restaurants nearby so we chose one and had simple lunch. I hope the following would help if you are going there:

Googling for info:
We explained why we chose Ko Bulon for this trip here And we used a few websites to search for info but the main site that makes us want to go there is this blog by Tezza Please read there if you want detailed info.

I also read up a bit on tripadvisor and lonelyplanet but not much. While not an expert, I guess once we have been to a few places, we sort of know that the info we get is only for guidelines. No amount of reading would tell you that the roads in southern Thailand, though look small on Google Map, is actually better than some main roads in KL with its potholes etc.

It seems that the info provided by Thai websites could be more up to date so you may also want to read these sites:

Briefly, Ko Bulon is about 23km from mainland and the main pier is at Pak Bara in Satun. Pak Bara itself is about 70 km from Wang Kelian border and it's a nice drive up there. Right after border, you won't find villages for the first few kilometres but after that it's alright. There's even a Tesco mid way which we sometimes stop for a break. As we know, KFC there is halal :).

The ferry is about 400 Baht one way ; takes about 45 minutes. The island is perhaps 1 km by 2 km. The net says there are about 100 Chao Ley families there. There's paved path that connects the main area. There's a mosque in the northern area near Chao Le Guesthouse.

As Tezza list in his blog, there are about  11 places for accomodations here. The best location would be Bulone & Pansand or Pansand & Bulone depending on your preference J.

Pansand, School, Bulone, Bulone Hill, Marina are relatively close to each other near the beach area while the rest are considered on the other side (north) of the island. There a paved walkway from Marina to Viewpoint and others but it goes uphill for about 500m and it was a good exercise for us. Too good may be J, to be honest it is a little steep for unhealthy Malaysians like us but hey, it's good to have a little adventure in your travel eh.

Our first night was in a tent at Chao Le and I forgot to ask their normal rate. On 2nd night we paid 1,000 Baht for a chalet/bungalow at Bulone Resort.

As I mentioned before, this place is fully booked when we got there. We also overheard another traveller saying, in all his 6 months travelling, he has not seen a place fully booked like Ko Bulon. Perhaps its reputation for a small nice beach is getting around.

As a small island, you won't find rows of shops selling the same souvenirs or all night bars (except at Viewpoint I think) but I think this suits me well. The crowd also was a good mix of young travellers and families. A sort of place you want to hang out on the beach with a good book.

some photos:
Beach area near Bulone Resort from Panoramio's aymanee
Bulone's Bungalow 20; we stayed the 2nd night

Entrance to Bulone Resort; Bulon Hill on left
Viewpoint Guesthouse

Chao Le

Mosque near Chao Le

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Crossing Wang Kelian Border - 2nd Experience, 03/02/11

I guess one of the good things about Malaysia's multi-culture is that all of us got to enjoy the Chinese New Year holidays. Malaysia being what it is, some companies would take the opportunity to close for about a week.

When we first married innnn ... 1997 I think ... no lah, it was on 17/05/1997, we normally travel domestic. But before then I was always yearning to go to Ko Samui due to that Peter Stuyvesant's commercial on tv. But being  new in the working world and not having much cash, that thought was always in the back burner. That is until my first trip to Krabi in 2006. With information being much easier to find on the internet now, preparing for a budget trip seems much easier.

So it has been like tradition since 2006 that we would normally drive up to Southern Thailand for CNY holidays.

For this Wang Kelian crossing, we knew that we gonna take the Changlun-Kuala Perlis Highway and from our previous outings to Hatyai, we knew that there's this one Chinese coffee shop that we could get good rate for Baht. Our Olympus camera didn't work just before this trip so I don't have a photo for it. But from google map, I think the co-ordinates are here 6.42531,100.428557. I had a quick video shot here taken in 2009 but wasn't thoughtful enough then to take a wide shot.

The place also have Thai insurance but I didn't buy coz I thought I wanted to buy at Wang Kelian. Which was big mistake coz we got there before 9 a.m. and the place isn't open yet. So now you have two tips - where to change for Baht and get Thai insurance :)

MRSM Beseri on our way to Wang Kelian. Great time here in 1987/88 :)

And here's another tip when travelling ... don't be too cocky and assuming.

Since we went to Thai a few times before, I thought this trip we would just go there without prior room reservation whatsoever.

We got to Pak Bara, and the place being a focal point to the popular Ko Lipe, travel agents are aplenty and they spotted our Malaysian registered car pretty quick. Malay-speaking agent approached us and we negotiated with him for ferry to Ko Bulon. I read that the fare is 400B one way and we got it for 350B. And they only have two trips per day (I think) so you want to read up a bit.

We didn't reserve a room with that agent coz we thought better go there and try to find the best spot. He he he.

We got to Ko Bulon and for the 200 plus rooms on that 3,4 km island ... it's ALL fully booked. So these were our first night accommodation:

But we had great view at night and even better breakfast. Truly unforgettable.