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skysurfr
post Mar 12 2004, 10:55 PM
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Thailand Kiteboarding Report

Mike Urban- Naish Midwest Team, USA


Dates: Jan/Feb 2004

Locations: Koh Samui and Hua Hin , Thailand.

Finding your way: Flights to Thailand largest city, Bangkok are available via direct (one stop) service from the USA. Flights from Europe arrive non-stop from most major cities. From the Midwest and East-Coast of the United States expect to travel apx. 24 hours non-stop.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui:

This Thai Island is reached most easily via scheduled air service from Bangkok. The one hour flight costs apx. $90 each way on Bangkok Airways. With a 20 Kg baggage limit, expect top pay $10-20 excess for your boards and gear. Other options include taking busses, trains, mini-vans etc and connecting to ferry boats, expect to spend up to 18 hours traveling from Bangkok on one of these less expensive alternatives. If you are exploring other areas of Southern Thailand, Bangkok Airways has daily service from Phuket and a few other cities. Also the land/ferry transportation option is available traveling to and from the Thai mainland.

The kite scene:

Kiteboarding Asia has a nice sized center located just outside the tourist area of Lamai. It’s easily reached by a 10 min motorbike ride. The center is located at the Samui Orchid Resort. The resort is also home to the Tiger Zoo and Bird/Animal Show. Most taxi drivers know the “Tiger Zoo” and it’s also marked on most of the tourist maps. .Expect to pay 350 – 500 Baht for a taxi to/from the airport

The center sits directly on the kite beach area. The lagoon inside the reef is 1-2 M deep at high tied all the way out to the reef. The reef sits apx. 250 yards offshore and can easily be crossed at high tide.

There are several IKO Instructors on staff and all levels of instruction are available. This is an excellent place to take your first kiteboarding lessons.

The winds were onshore to side onshore, which meant riding parallel to the reef in flat water. When the winds turned side shore and the ties were right, you could go outside and play in some small to medium sized waves. (1-2M)

Low tied makes kiteboarding here dangerous at best, and impossible at times. During the lowest of low tides, the water is for the most part gone from the lagoon and you can walk out on dry sand to the reef. Getting outside the reef would be impossible at low tide.

During my stay 20 and 16M kites were used. After I left the winds picked up into the
12M range.

There aren’t really any restrictions on kiteboarding anywhere else on the island. If you rent a small open back Suzuki Car, you could explore the other areas and find your own perfect spot. There is a great little beach at the far north end of Chaweng next to the Papillon Resort that is worth checking out.

Dirty beach. With onshore winds and high tides, most of the trash from the tourist areas washes back ashore. When I visited, the resort was pretty lax and didn’t clean the beach daily. The flotsam included some pretty nasty little things.

Reefs: There is plenty of Reef to chew up your boards and bite into your kites. It pays to have a look at low tide and then be religious about avoiding the reef areas. 5 boards lost some fibers in one afternoon!

Accommodations:

You have many options on accommodation on Koh Samui. There are several different tourist areas located on the different coasts around the Island. Chaweng Beach is the most popular flowed closely by Lamai. Lamai is the closest area to the kiteboarding center. Accommodation can be found for as little as $8/nt all the way up through luxury spas charging into the 100’s.

I stayed in the Samui Orchid resort at the kite beach and rented a motor bike to get into Lamai at night. (Room $20/nt and $3.50/day motorbike). The Orchid reminded me of the Kite Excite Hotel in Cabarette. It had fallen on hard times and has recently been re-opened to cater to the kiteboarders. My room was in need of renovation, but the Aircon worked, it was clean, quiet, and comfortable. The staff was friendly, and there was a kind of “kite camp” atmosphere among the guests. With two pools, a beachside snack bar, three tigers, and monkey….I had a nice stay.

Another option would be to stay in Lamai and commute via motorbike to the kite beach. For a small one time fee you can use the resort facilities and gear storage can be arranged through the Kiteboarding Asia center. This might be a good option if you will have your family with you and they don’t want to be held captive in the somewhat remote resort/kite beach area. Check out the Marina Bungalows in Lamai, they are new and cost $30/nt aircon and are located in a quiet compound on the beach. Check your own guidebooks for other accommodation choices.

Dinning:

There area around the Orchid Resort has limited dinning choices. The Simple Life Restaurant is located across the street. Here you can eat for around $4 a meal. (Two Thai Dishes, Rice, Beer) They are open for all three meals and can arrange an ad-hoc cooking course of you like. It’s open air, open kitchen, all under a thatched roof.

In Lamai, you have numerous choices from Thai, to European, American, and everything else you could imagine. The Lamai Food Center served nice Thai dishes at Thai prices.

Attention:

Motorbikes- If you choose to rent a motorbike, and you probably will, you need to understand how dangerous the roads can be. Some estimates say that there are 1-3 deaths per day on the roads around this little island. Sitting in Lamai, all you see are people in bandages, walking casts, splints, etc…all from motorbike wrecks. I wore a helmet, shoes, and drove like a granny…over on the side of the road. Seeing the pools of dried blood on the road will probably convince you to do the same.

Medical Necessities - Medical care is available on the island and the Pharmacies are very well stocked. Nivea sunscreens at western prices are readily available.

Summary:

The Kiteboarding Asia center on Koh Samui provides for a friendly and inviting atmosphere for kiteboarding. The Samui Orchid resort, while still showing a little dis-repair is getting back up to speed and is a decent enough place to stay. This was only the centers second month in operation and I’m sure there will be many improvements coming soon.





Hua Hin

Hua Hin is located 4 hours south of Bangkok along an endless stretch of sand beach. There are no reefs so with winds do whip up some nice little waves. The city is a major holiday area for both Thai’s and Westerners. Also, the Thai Royal Family maintains a residence in this busy area.

To/From-

Getting to and from Hua Hin is a land only trip. The Kiteboarding Asia school, based in Hua Hin and Koh Samui can arrange for a large station wagon like car to pick you up anywhere in Thailand and bring you to Hua Hin. Expect to spend $40 from Bangkok, on this 3-4 hour ride. A car/bus/ferry to Koh Samui is also available. The airport was recently closed so air service is not an option.

Kite Scene-

This is a large Miami Beach type of location. There is plenty of beach for rigging, launching, and landing. The winds are side-onshore and switch from the NE to the SE depending on the time of year.

The Kiteboarding Asia center is located on a side street near the Marriott hotel, just a few steps up the sidewalk from the beach. IKO instruction is offered for all levels.

16M seems to be the most common size. The breezes here aren’t nuclear, but there’s some nice riding to be found.

Accommodation-

As this is a large tourist area, accommodation runs the whole spectrum. For long stays you might consider renting a condo. The high-rise behind the center was highly recommended by those who had stayed there. Expect to find some great shoulder season deals like $40/nt at the Hilton or Marriott. Too much wind and sunscreen? You can visit one of the many several hotel Spa’s for a therapeutic session which would costs 100’s back home.

Dinning-

You can find everything here. Again, it’s like Miami Beach or Waikiki but in a Thai way.

Attention-

Traffic in Hua Hin is noisy, stinky, and busy. Also, they drive on the “other side” like England, so don’t get run over either walking or driving. I always say to myself “I’m turning right ACROSS traffic” when making a right turn, to remind me I will be crossing oncoming traffic to get over to the left lanes.

Not so “Asian”- Hua Hin is a large tourist city. It’s not a quaint Asian town or Island, just as Miami is not the Florida Keys.

Summary:

Hua Hin is a nice clean Thai City. The beach is clean and the wind pleasantly nice. This would be a nice spot to bring the family or to come on a solo kiteboarding vacation.


Bangkok Notes

If you come to Thailand you’ll probably stay in Bangkok. Any of the discount hotel websites can book a room at a reasonable rate. I recommend booking before arrival as most flight from the US arrive around midnight. For discount accommodations look in the area of Koh San Road It’s been the backpacker center of Asia since ..well… forever! Several discount websites offer luxury hotels at greatly reduced rates as well.

Into town: Take a metered taxi from the dispatch booth curbside at the airport. Expect to pay 350 Baht plus tolls to the center of the city. The driver will say something to you driving away… he wants to know… Tollway? Or Side streets? Use the Tollway and give him 100 Baht note to pay the tolls. Avoid the touts in the arrival area, they all overcharge for the trip. Go outside, get in line, and get a METERED TAXI.



Shopping in Bangkok is a sport in itself. The new MBK center is the one stop place to go for reasonable Thai prices and western comfort. There’s not so much haggling here, but it’s still worth a try for a little discount. Also, there are some nice places to eat, little shops that do all sorts of printing, and it’s air-conditioned!

If you want to shop in the street, consider staying in the Bayokie Skytower ($50) in the middle of Pratunahm Market. Haggle Haggle Haggle in this sweaty maze of stalls.

Dinning. Check the local newspapers for lunch specials at hotels, the Chinese Dim Sum specials and buffets around town are pretty good.

Books: I use the Lonely Planet Travel Guides wherever I go. They are simply the best guides published.

www.kiteboardingasia.com

Mike Urban
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skysurfr   Thailand Report   Mar 12 2004, 10:55 PM


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