I travelled around New Zealand in 2008, and ended up in Auckland as part of my trip. One day I took a trip over to the nearby island of Rangitoto.
I took a boat from Auckland and the volcanic cone, which rises up to 850 feet, can be seen for miles around, it’s a sight to see from afar. The name, Rangitoto, is Maori for “Bloody Sky” and the name comes from Tama-te-Kapua, a captain of the Arawa Waka, who was badly wounded there during a battle.
Rangitoto island was created over 6,000 years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions and evidence of the eruptions can be seen across the island in the form of fields of black lava stones. And it’s these black lava stones that were quarried between 1898 and 1930 and used as building material for Auckland. It’s a very unique landscape.
On the island, there are paths, that were created between 1898 and 1930 by prisoners, that lead right up to the summit.
It was a fabulous day out, tramping the old dirt tracks up to the summit and seeing the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and out to sea. I love exploring new places and being reminded of old ones.
I visited Koh Chang earlier this year and I have to say it’s my favourite island in Thailand to date. The island is big and covers just over 420 sq km, and around 70% of it is unspoiled rainforest, steep hills and cliffs, waterfalls and long sandy beaches. I went to stay with my friend Mark and he was my tour guide for the few days I was there. We drove all over the island and spent time on a few of Koh Chang’s best beaches.
Klong Prao Beach
On the west coast, Klong Prao Beach is a long sweeping stretch of soft, golden sand lined with tall trees and gorgeous mountain views surrounding the bay. It wasn’t that busy when I visited, but it’s long enough to be able to find a private spot all to yourself. The water is warm, calm and shallow, so it’s perfect for swimming, and the blue colour is irresistible in the heat of the day. It’s a fabulous place to spend the day before you grab a beer and watch the stunning sunset disappear below the horizon; we did just that, and more than once!
Kai Bae Beach
The next beach to the south on the west coast is Kai Bae, another long sandy beach, but smaller than Klong Prao and even less crowded. We parked the bike at one end and walked through a forested area, with charming wooden huts, before hitting the beach. The tide was out, so it was a few extra steps into the warm, blue water. But that didn’t matter we were there to relax under the swaying palms. In the distance, we spotted elephants wallowing in the water, so we went to investigate and sure enough, there were a few adorable little baby elephants splashing around in the water, but they were being burdened with humans on their backs. After one of the babies said hello with its trunk and wandered off into the waves with its load, I could only feel sorry for the poor things.
On the locally named “dark side” of Koh Chang, because it is less developed than the west coast, is Long Beach. Right at the bottom of the southeastern tip of the island the beach doesn’t really live up to it’s name. It’s not very long at all, in fact, this beach should be called Lonely Beach because there are no crowds here. The road there turns from tarmac to dirt and there are some very steep hills and hairpin bends to contend with, and, once there, there is just one beach bar serving food and drinks. Apart from that, all you’ve got is a beautiful tree-lined sandy beach, calm blue water lapping its shores and a secluded bay with views of the mountains around. Totally unspoiled and wild, it’s worth the effort of getting there.
Chang Noi Beach
We didn’t go to Chang Noi Beach for the beach, we went to have a few drinks at Shambala Beach Resort, but that didn’t stop us admiring the views of Koh Chang’s widest beach with not a soul on it. The sandy expanse is protected from winds by a large horseshoe-shaped bay, tree-covered mountains and slopes on either side, and the water is calm and mesmerising. It’s a fabulous spot for sunset gazing and the beer is refreshing as well!
Bang Bao Beach
On the southwest coast is Bang Bao Bay; two beaches with the same name and we visited both. One crowded, with people swimming in the warm water, relaxing on the sand with drinks in hand or asleep under the creaking palms. The other, a deserted strip of white sand that sits at the far end of a disused resort in the shadow of a 7-deck cruise liner called The Galaxy. We sat and gazed out to sea for a while contemplating the fate of this abandoned ghost liner.
On the west coast, a little further than Kai Bae, is Lonely Beach, a golden sandy beach with a young crowd. This is Koh Chang’s equivalent to Ibiza’s sunset strip, just a little sleepier. Gorgeous guys and gals enjoying themselves on the beach, sunning themselves or drinking cocktails as they listen to funky tunes coming from the beach bars. This place is so cool, international DJs, like, my all time favourite, Danny Rampling, come here to play their sets every year. When we sat down to enjoy the atmosphere we were most put out when a young guy, who was handing out party flyers, bypassed us and didn’t give us one. He obviously thought we wouldn’t be interested in partying the night away, but, as my friend pointed out, we’ve done our fair share of partying in the past and could probably party that young whippersnapper into the ground! 😉 Ah, the joys of getting older! 😉
Have you been to Koh Chang before? What’s your favourite beach on the island? 🙂
In the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok, with all its pollution and towers of concrete, who would have thought that there are pockets of green dotted across the whole of the city. The parks of Bangkok not only add to the diversity of this wonderful place but also provide a natural setting for the millions of people that call Bangkok their home to relax, exercise or simply to enjoy. Here’s a list of the top 6 parks in Bangkok for you to explore.
#1 Suan Luang Rama IX Park
Rama IX park is the most beautiful park I think I have ever visited and I go there a lot and out of the top 6 parks in Bangkok it’s my favourite. The park covers some 200 acres and has 2,300 plant species including trees, shrubs, climbers, foliage and flowering plants. The park is split into six different areas.
The Garden of the Great King with Ratchamangkala Pavilion at the centre with three ponds and different kinds of trees, plants and flowers lining each one. The layout reminds me of the Taj Mahal.
The Botanic Garden where many species of plants are used for research, conservation and education and Thakon Phrakiat Pavilion, a beautifully ornate temple that sits, all alone, in the middle of a lotus pond.
The Reservoir is a large lake created to reduce the effect of flooding in east Bangkok. People are able to enjoy boat rides on the lake or to practise Tai Chi on its banks.
Romanee Garden with flowers and plants that have been taken from other parts of Thailand and used to re-create the different environments that can be found here so that people can imagine that they aren’t in Bangkok.
The Water Garden, a natural bog-like habitat which is home to a number of aquatic birds and animals including huge water monitors who lurk under the water waiting for their next meal.
The Sanam Rasdara is used for outdoor performances and, at the end of each year, the lawn is filled with flowers and plants for sale, as part of the Magnificent Plants that Beautify the Suan Luang Rama IX Flowers Festival.
As well as these six areas, there is an International Garden which has different gardens from around the world. Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, English, French and Italian gardens have all been created to show the different garden styles of each country.
Suan Luang Rama IX Park
Open: Daily, 5.00am-7.00pm
Admission: Free, 5.00am-9.00am and 5.00pm-7.00pm; 10 baht, 9.00am-5.00pm
Getting there: The easiest way to get there is to take the BTS to Udomsuk and take a taxi from there
#2 Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is another favourite of mine. Located in the middle of Siam and Silom, it’s a wonderful place to relax if you are out and about. It is around 142 acres and, although not as big as Suan Luang Rama IX, it still offers a lake, where boats can be rented, paths for jogging, a wonderful variety of trees and flowers and around 30 species of birds. In the eastern corner there is a Chinese clock tower built by Italian architect, Mario Tamagno, for the Siamrath Phipitthapan Trade Fair that was held in 1925. Throughout the year Lumpini Park is host to a number of festivals such as the Bangkok Street Festival.
139/4 Witthayu Road
Open: Daily, 4.00am-9.00pm Admission: Free Getting there: From Sala Daeng BTS (exit 6) cross Rama IV Road
#3 Benjakitti Park
There isn’t much to Benjakiti Park, not if you compare it to some of Bangkok’s other green spaces, but located right in the middle of the city it provides some respite from the busy goings on of Sukhumvit and Asok. With a big lake in the middle and bicycle and jogging tracks that surround it, the 52 acre park sees exercise enthusiasts flock there each evening. For those that don’t fancy jogging there are bikes for hire at 50 baht an hour. There’s also a playground, skate ramps and swan boat rides for kids.
Open: Daily, 5.00am-9.00pm Admission: Free Gettingthere: From Asok BTS (exit 4) go down Ratchadaphisek Road and Benjakiti Park is on the right hand side
#4 Benchasiri Park
Located next to Emporium Shopping Mall is the humble Benchasiri Park. At only 11.6 acres, it is one of the smallest parks but, due to its central location, it’s still a popular place. Suan Benchasiri means Park Commemorating the Fifth Cycle Birthday Anniversary and it was built to honour the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit in 1992. Surrounding a central lake, there are many species of trees and plants, as well as several sculptures, areas to skateboard for the younger generation and exercise or just to sit and relax.
Located in Chatuchak district, the park is around 75 acres and was opened in 1980, making it one of Bangkok’s oldest parks. There is a train museum in the park and a lake in the centre with a few bridges crossing it. It is a popular place, especially in the evenings, for people to go and enjoy the cooler temperature by the lake. It is situated right by the BTS and MRT stations and Chatuchak Weekend Market and JJ Mall are nearby.
Open: Daily, 4.30am-9.00pm Admission: Free Getting There: Mo Chit BTS, or Chatuchak MRT
#6 Rot Fai Gardens
I happened upon this beautiful oasis by accident when I visited Chatuchak Park but it’s so much quieter than Chatuchak, almost as if not many people know about it. What used to be a golf course which was converted to a green space for the people of the city, there are actually three parks in one, Rot Fai Gardens, Wachirabenchathat Park and Queen Sirikit Park. It spans 150 acres and it feels like you are entering private property until the landscape opens up to green expanses with huge palm trees and flowers of every colour. There are fountains in the pools which dance to music and a butterfly garden, although there are plenty of butterflies fluttering around the park itself, as well as birds and other animals, like the water monitors that frequent these spaces in the city.
Rot Fai Gardens
Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road
Open: 4.30am-9.00pm Admission: Free Getting there: Chatuchak BTS. Walk through Chatuchak Park and cross over Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road
My friends and I took a trip to the Mangrove Forest Conservation and Study Centre for Eco-Tourism. It is located just outside of Chonburi city near to the weekend dark market on Moo3 , Tambon Samet.
It is an interesting place with an elevated walkway which weaves 2.3 km around the reserve. In some places the walkway is damaged and some of the planks of wood are missing so you have to be careful where you tread.
All around are mangrove trees all different sizes-some of which have been newly planted so this area’s contribution to eco-tourism is ongoing.
There are resident mudskippers- prehistoric-like creatures that are perfectly happy in and out of water. They are amphibious fish but they use their pectoral fins to walk on water. I thought these animals were small but the ones that live in the reserve can grow to 9.5 cm. They skim across the water coming into land on a tree trunk that has fallen into the water. If disturbed they go splashing back into the water making such a noise that you may well think that there is a bigger critter lurking. There is other marine life there as well such as fiddler crabs and blood cockles and there are signs to tell you what lives in the different little pools as you walk around.
There are plenty of birds and also a colony of fruit bats. They were hanging from the trees like vampires getting ready to go off and hunt. They have a huge wing span and if you are lucky enough to see them leave the trees all at once it is a sight to see.
The water there is a mix of fresh and salt water and a murky brown colour, just the right habitat for the mangroves and the animals that live here to flourish.
There were not many people there when my friends and I went so it was quite an eerie atmosphere. It was so quiet with only nature’s sounds surrounding you.
There is supposed to be 10 baht entrance fee but we didn’t pay anything. I think it may depend on the day you visit. It is open daily from 8.30am to 6.30pm.
If you want to escape the city just for a little while then this centre is a lovely place to visit.