Tuesday, June 5, 2018

June Trip back to Europe via Austria & Greece

The time has come again for my second trip back to Europe to visit friends & family and stay at my home in Provence.
JUNE 05 - So, tonight, while waiting to board the QATAR AIRWAYS flight back to the E.U., I open the first page of a new book that will be added in the next few weeks page after page.
Next destination will be Vienna tomorrow morning.

After a 6h25 night flight to Hamad International Airport [HIA], the A380-800 landed in Doha later than scheduled. I have already noticed that A388s departing from Suvarnabhumi [BKK] are usually late. I was seated alone on the front row window [25A] on the upper deck. As usual, the greeting is personalized for frequent travelers on Qatar Airways [QR]. In spite of flying economy [Y] on this sector, I had a great meal with red wine and even a glass of Cognac with my after-dinner tea.
QR flight from BKK to DOH aboard the A388
I am now killing off transit time at the First Class Business lounge due to my Gold Card. It is good to break the journey and refresh a bit before boarding the next airplane.
JUNE 06 - Here is another turnout to the trip. When I arrived at the departure gate, I was told that the flight was delayed due to a technical problem. So we had to wait another 45 minutes in the early hours of the morning before being able to board the coach to the aircraft....
But once onboard this brand new A350-900, everything was fine. I had a window seat [01A] and we left soon after for Vienna [VIE].
The A359 is a fine aircraft very similar to the 'Dreamliner. I ordered a light meal made of a cheese platter and the mango dessert with a glass of Aussie Shiraz. It was served soon after take-off and I was not long to go to sleep and get some rest. I woke up about an hour before landing just in time for a continental breakfast. This trip was only a 5-hour flight to Vienna International Airport.
QR flight from DOH to VIE aboard an A350-900

VIENNA, Austria

From JUNE 06 to JUNE 08 - A 3-Day stopover in VIENNA that will be dealt with separately later on. Luckily, I had a great weather during this visit. It stayed dry and sunny most of the time. I was also able to catch up with former colleagues from Tunisia & Malaysia.
At the Danube canal in downtown Vienna, Austria
JUNE 08 - It is quick to get from downtown Vienna to the Airport. The express train [CAT] covers the distance in 16 minutes.
I arrived early at  Vienna Airport. It is big and modern. But the low-cost terminal [T1A] is far away and you need a walk a fair distance. Then there is nothing to do in this terminal until checking. So I return to the main building and walk up to the view café overlooking the airfield in order to kill off time.
But the time for boarding has come. Passengers are waiting for the coach to get us onboard but nothing is happening. VOLOTEA is one of these no-frills airlines. Not even an announcement to their passengers. Only after I asked what's going on, do they tell that the flight will be delayed.
Almost an hour later, we are finally whisked to the aircraft, a B717. I am sitting at the front [seat 3A]. We leave Vienna [VIE] at night. I paid for a basic snack, which I will never get! The flight lasts 1h30 but by the time we land at Marseille-Provence [MRS], it is past 1:00AM.
V7 flight from VIE to MRS aboard a B717
Everything is closed at the airport. Another coach had to take the passengers to the terminal. Then we must wait for the luggage.
Once at home, later that night, I will find out that one side corner of my brand new suitcase had been damaged!

JUNE 09-17 - At my residence in ARLES, Provence.
The Rhône River in Arles-en-Provence
JUNE 18-20 - In NICE with a side trip to VENTIMIGLIA & DOLCEACQUA, Italy.
The Bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer
JUNE 22 - MARSEILLES with a visit to the Picasso exhibit at Vieille Charité in the old Panier area.

JUNE 23-25 - Back to ARLES.
On 25/06 late afternoon train to Marseille-Provence Airport [MRS].
Htl.Ibis at Marseille-Provence Airport
Night at airport IBIS Hotel.
JUNE 26 - Early morning departure aboard VOLOTEA [V7] flight from Marseilles [MRS] to Mykonos [JMK]. The B717 aircraft flew this non-stop flight in 2h30 [seat 01F].
This time the flight went fine.

The V7 route from MRS to JMK aboard a B717

MYKONOS Island, Greece

JUNE 26-28 - Three days stopover in Mykonos Island.

I stayed at a beautiful family hotel [VANA HOLIDAYS] at Ornos with an awesome view of the bay of Ornos.

Morning view from my balcony at Vana Holidays, Ornos
Ornos Bays on Mykonos Island
As I rented a small FIAT-PANDA, I was able to tour the island during my stay there.
A far-away view of Hora from the tip of Ornos Cape
The Old Port of Hora, Mykonos main town
The roofs of Hora from the top of the hill
Ftelia Beach
Paraga Beach
JUNE 28 - Afternoon departure with QATAR AIRWAYS [QR] from Mykonos [JMK] to Doha [DOH] aboard an A320 [seat 02F]. The fight lasted exactly 4h.
QR A320 at Mykonos Airport
QR route from JMK to DOH aboard an A320
Short transit at Hamad International Airport, Doha [HIA] before flying off to my final destination in Bangkok.
JUNE 29 - Last flight on QR from Doha [DOH] to Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi [BKK] aboard a B777-300ER. As I traveled in business class, I had the surprise to discover Qatar Airways new business class.
My cabin 3A

This night flight lasted 6h40 and the aircraft landed in the early morning at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
QR route from DOH to BKK aboard a B773ER

- End of this trip -

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Idyllic Endangered Beauty of Koh Kradan

Koh Kradan

If you dream of a secluded island that offers a minimum of comfort in a tropical surrounding, Koh Kradan may well be the place you are looking for.
A view on Koh Muk and other islands from Koh Kradan Beach. © C.Sorand
Koh Kradan is one of the many islands that dot the beautiful Andaman Sea between Koh Lanta and Pulau Langkawi in Malaysia. [The word Koh in Thai, as well as the word Pulau in Malay, both, mean an island]. Koh Kradan is farther off the coast in the Trang Province. Depending on the sea, it takes 20min for a longboat to go from Koh Muk to Koh Kradan, or 50min from Koh Kradan directly to one of the Pak Meng piers on the main coast.
And as the island is lying farther away, it offers truly crystal-clear waters and a superb coral reef with a rich marine life. Koh Kradan is a long and narrow island washed by a sandy white coral beach on the western side and a more rocky coast in the east. Yet, it is a rather flat island compared with all its karst neighbors in view: Koh Muk, the nearest, Koh Ngai, in the north, and Koh Libong in the south. There are no permanent inhabitants on the island. It is only occupied by a few Hat Chao Mai National Park rangers and the many low-key resorts occupying the western front. During the low season, most of the resorts are closed.
As Koh Kradang is part of the Hat Chao Mai National Park, it is a protected area, well let's say its
All the colors of Koh Kradan
© C.Sorand
marine coral life is. The rest of the island is more questionable as it will be further developed!...
What is striking when you arrive here are the different layers of vivid colors you see. First, there is the deep blue of the sea and the aquamarine shallow waters near the coast. Then, the blundering white sand on the beach topped by different tones of green from the forest that covers most of the island. There are no coconut trees here, just a few casuarinas and also some flame-trees, the rest is either mangroves or rainforest species. 
As told previously, do not expect any kind of nightlife here, it is a secluded place for nature lovers and sea fans. As a matter, electricity is usually cut from 10:00AM till 5:00PM, and WiFi is not always reliable. A great way to reconnect with Nature and the modern pace of the age for a few days.
An ideal place to cool off.
© C.Sorand
This does not mean that food or accommodation are lacking in standard. This is Thailand and everything is well organized for visitors. Expect food or drinks to be a bit more pricey because they must be imported by boat. There still are two small mini-marts and plenty of resorts to choose from. There is some seafood at the restaurants but as there are no fishermen here, it also needs to be shipped in. [I found an excellent Italian restaurant there with a pleasant wooden veranda under the canopy of the trees].
The main and greatest activity is to go out swimming in the idyllic Andaman Sea. Most of the resorts will provide a snorkeling equipment for free enabling you to explore the live coral reef. This is a dream world of natural beauty! You will soon find dozens of tropical fishes curiously surrounding you, almost touching you. 
There is also a foot track leading across the island to the other side to a rock and sandy cove called Sunset Beach. As the name evokes it, this is the place to come in the evening. It takes about 30min to get there as you have to climb up and down
Evening at Sunset Beach
© C.Sorand
a forested hill to reach the western side of the island. First, it provides a good impression of the rainforest surrounding, but unfortunately, the deserted Sunset Beach has become a giant trash for all the garbage brought by the sea tides! This is totally heartbreaking!
Does this mean that it ruins any desire to get to Koh Kradan? I believe not. But it should make us conscious of a reality that needs to be tackled with urgently. 
Koh Kradan remains, by all means, an idyllic place hoping that the current plastic pollution will eventually reach a red level of warning in order to palliate to the problem.
Christian Sorand
Koh Kradan

Traveling to Koh Kradan

Map of the area
On a longboat to Koh Kradan. © C.Sorand

Koh Kradan Beach in view
© C.Sorand

The blue turns to green near the beach. © C.Sorand

The white sandy beach on Koh Kradan

Sunrise on Koh Kradan. © C.Sorand
Sunny morning on the beach.
© C.Sorand

All the marine beauty of the island. © C.Sorand
Exploring the underwater.
© C.Sorand
The crystal-clear water on a sunny day. © C.Sorand
Morning light on the beach. © C.Sorand

The natural environment of Koh Kradan

The island forested inland. © C.Sorand
Under the shade of a flame-tree. © C.Sorand
The cliffs & the forest on the western side.
© C.Sorand
Mangrove. © C.Sorand
A beach tree & its fruit.
© C.Sorand
And a strange & beautiful flower on the sand.  ©  C.Sorand
Gray Heron fishing. © C.Sorand
A myna bird. © C.Sorand
Peaceful Koh Kradan. © C.Sorand
Where I stayed on the island

Where I stayed on the island- The Reef Resort.

The Italian restaurant where I enjoyed going for food


While being on the longboat between Koh Muk & Koh Kradan, I had noticed many trash items floating: glass bottles, plastic bags, and many plastic bottles, as well as other drifting objects. 
Of course, the same situation occurred on the shores of Koh Kradan: the tide would bring the sea trash on the white coral sand of the island.
The few visitors, who were there, did like me and picked the plastic in order to throw it away in a garbage can. I noticed that The Reef Resort was burning all this in the back. But I am not sure all the other resorts do the same. Some more, from my own observation, I did not see any local even trying to clean even a little. They are used to it and probably tired of doing an everlasting cleaning process...
Yet, when I went to the Hat Chao Mai Park Headquarters, I only saw a few individuals resting! This is quite a shame because these are the authorities, who ought to do something in order to protect the national park.
So, once again, I am just hoping that what I am telling will be heard somehow and that action might come soon. After all, I just read that the Thai Government decided to deny access to Maya Beach on Phi-Phi Island, and that access to the Similan Islands, off the coast of Khao Lak, had also been recently restricted.
Here are some the sad photos I took on Koh Kradan:
A vast amount of trash on Sunset Beach.
© C.Sorand
A plastic bottle on the main beach. © C.Sorand
In order to show the beauty of the island, here is a more positive photo as I was leaving Koh Kradan.
© C.Sorand