Nov 24, 2008

FINALLY! A VACATION IN BANGKOK, PHUKET, AND PHI PHI…!!!


It was a very long awaited-for trip. Exploiting a promo from Airasia, a Malaysian budget airline, we booked return tickets Jakarta – Bangkok –Jakarta for only Rp 750,000 / pax. But guess what.. the booking was in March, for usage in late October..! It felt ages until finally October came. We also booked for Bangkok – Phuket – Bangkok tickets with normal price, also Rp 750,000. So in total, our flights fare is Rp 1,500,000 / pax (that’s about US$ 150 around the booking time). Too bad for one of us, Bondy, he couldn’t make the trip cos his busy schedule at work wouldn’t allow him to. So there went his Rp 1,500,000 for nothing.. ☹
DAY 1 – BANGKOK..!!
Svarnabhumi airport
Silom street
Thai massage
Patpong
SVARNABHUMI, The Golden Land airport

This is my second time going to Bangkok, but my first time landing in the 2 year-old airport Svarnabhumi. The look was interesting, it’s got futuristic steely structure lines all over, yet the walls are gray rough-surfaced concretes. Not as fancy as Changi airport of Singapore, but a lot more impressing than the old airport.
Don’t be afraid to get lost in Svarnabhumi, cos they provide airport maps for free. By the way, I really love the name, Svarnabhumi, and it has an excellent meaning.. The golden land.

AIRPORT TAXI

The taxis to get around from airport is not all so friendly, in the way that not all of them are willing to use the meter. They just give you the price, take it or leave it. So far I haven’t found out the way to make the situation on my side.

We queued to get a taxi at one of the exits. A sweaty lady that sits in the taxi desk wrote down our hostel address and gave it to the taxi driver which she appointed for us. The fare was THB500 including the THB50 highway fare.

I guess we weren’t so ripped of because later we found out somebody else had to pay THB1500 to the same address!

Actually there is a bus route that you could take to the city and halt nearby our hostel, but we just thought it would be a hassle since we had suitcases and all.

(nobody bothered to take picture at this point, everyone was busy being happy now that we finally entered Bangkok!)

HI SUKHUMVIT, Hostel @ Soi 38 Sukhumvit


Our prebooked room was quite nice and clean. It’s a room of two bunk-beds, without private bathroom. The bathroom is available on every floor, freely used by any guest, female and male. It’s a room of shower booths and toilet booths. Some of the showers have hot water, and everything is clean.

(the bunkbed.. nitey nite!)
(the shared bathroom)
Not bad for THB 1200 / night/ room. Divide that by 4 (cos there are 4 of us), it’s only THB 300 / night/ pax. It’s got homey common rooms, and they provide free toasts, coffee, and tea for breakfast. FOOD STALLS @ SOI 38 SUKHUMVIT – the real tom yum & pad thai! After dropping our bags of at the hostel, we were going for Chinatown. Our hungry tummies had to be calmed down because the rain poured hard outside. Once it got light, we went out, had late lunch at one of the stalls.
(pad thai)
(yellow curry on rice)
(tom yum)
My pad thai cost THB 40, so did Angie’s yellow curry rice. Renny and Jaka shared tom yang gu with rice because it was a big portion soup, and it cost about THB 70 a portion.

SILOM STREET – thai massage, shop til your legs are sore.. On with our trip to Chinatown, we took BTS from the nearest station Thong Lo, continued with MRT at Si Lom station. (explanation of these below.) Unfortunately, the rain was still cats and dogs when we got to the nearest station to Chinatown. There was no way we could walk around and sightsee. So we went back by the same MRT route. Just when we were about to enter the BTS station at Sala Daeng, we saw a sign that says “Thai Massage 250 Baht for 1 hour”, right below the station bridge.
Renny, who had to work until early morning before leaving to Bangkok, was the one most enthusiastic about getting a massage. Plus there was really nothing we could do outside. So we, the 3 girls, got our lovely relaxing massage while Jaka was out and about.

It was already 7 PM when we were done with the massage. We gave a good THB 50 tip to the masseur. Couldn’t find Jaka at the meeting point, which was at the Burger King only a few shops away from Silom Massage. So we went out again, browsed through both sides of Silom sidewalks, checked out what Patpong was really like.

(patpong)
(silom street)
We didn’t get in any bar though, but through the open doors we did see some chicks dancing sensually in the bars. Patpong is known for the wild night life once you get inside the naughty naughty bars. There are shows called Tiger Show where the girls would do all sorts of nasty things with their private parts, such as popping bottles with their vaginas. Ouch! I wouldn’t wanna witness that.. There are also many shopping stalls in the area, but we didn’t buy much, knowing in a few days we were going to shop til we drop at Catuchak market, the cheapest market in the world (a little exaggeration wouldn’t hurt). After our little shopping, we couldn’t feel the effect of the massage anymore. We were all tired to the bones, especially our legs..!

DAY 2 – BANGKOK

(under Sala Daeng BTS station)

Chinatown
Siam square

Siam Niramit

Halloween Night
C H I N A T O W N Since there’s no BTS nor MRT station very close to Chinatown, we had to go by a little more complicated way. We could just call a cab, but where’s the fun in that? So we hopped on BTS from Thong Lo station, changed lane at Siam, and hopped of at Saphan Taksin station. From there, we got on a boat at Chao Phraya river. Renny and Angie continued the ride until the pier closest to Grand Palace, while Jaka and I, since we’ve seen the palaces and temples before, hopped off at the nearest pier to Chinatown, which I forgot the name and number. Sowwy! Strolling around the town, entering small aisles just to know what was there, it was fun exploring the area. We even found a temple at the end of an aisle.
Brunch was scattered everywhere, from noodles to everything barbecued. Cheap? Definitely. A stick of barbecue chicken was about THB10, but squid was like THB50 (or was it a tiny octopus? I’m not sure. Not everything was informed in English). But what matters is that it was deeeelicious…!.
And you know what else is delicious? Fried everything. Well, almost everything. Lotsa kinds of fishes, meat, small crabs, you name it. They sell it either by ounces, or a little bit more pricey when they’re already in plastic bags with brands and all. A bag of durian chips is about THB120, a bag of fried little crabs is about THB40. You could eat the fried stuff as snack, or have them on rice as well at home.
SIAM SQUARE
The hot weather got us all sweaty and tired. An air-conditioned mall would be a savior.. After buying some dried snacks as gifts in Chinatown shops, we went right to Hua Lamphong MRT for our next destination, Siam Square, where there are 3 or 4 malls close to each other. It was lovely just sitting in the square between Siam Paragon (the high-end mall) and Siam Center. There’s this ‘rhythmic’ fountain, a long bench, and the wind was breezy.. (At almost the same time, without us knowing, Renny and Angie were already at the same spot, taking similar pictures). We hit the malls for a while, had late lunch there, and then went right back to the hostel. Angie, Renny, and I were going to see the Siam Niramit show, so we had to take showers and dressed up a little.

SIAM NIRAMIT – ten thumbs up!!
Siam niramit is a theatrical show that’s held specially for tourists of Bangkok EVERY NIGHT. Yup, one single show each night. The play is about Thailand’s history, art and culture, portrayed beautifully and artistically in a stage of 5 – 6 layers of set, with probably hundreds of actors, and even more well-designed costumes, and.. well just go to their official site, you’ll get better explanations there.

I’m telling ya, if you’re into the artsy stuff, you should go and see it. Plus, where else can you see a ‘river’ in which one could swim in, and an elephant, plus 4 goats running around IN a theatre hall? (Oh I hate it that they wouldn’t allow any picture-taking in the theatre..!)

Now, you can buy the ticket online for THB 1500 / pax. But a friend of mine suggested that I could just buy it at some travel agents scattered around Bangkok becos she saw the ticket price was only THB 1300 there, and that was in August.

I guess I was even luckier, cos accidentally I saw a sign says ‘Siam Niramit’ on a small travel agent shop at the bridge that connected MRT with Sala Daeng BTS station. On a whim, I went inside and asked about the ticket. Turned out that it cost only THB 950 because October / November is already low season.
So.. we got ready to go at 5.30 PM. We took BTS from Thong Lo station to Asok station, continued with MRT from Sukhumvit station to Thailand Cultural Centre station. Getting out of the station, we saw a shuttle minibus of Siam Niramit ready to pick up visitors and drop them at the theater. The minibus is there from 6 PM onwards, every 15 minutes or so. Though the play starts at 8 pm, the gate of the Thailand Cultural Centre opens at 6 pm. Inside, there’s a park where you can see all sorts of attraction. Thailand traditional dance, taking a picture while an elephant lift you up with its trunk (that’s another THB30, I think), taking pictures with people in traditional costumes, and in the very back there’s this artificial thai village with all the traditional houses, foods, kitchens, and even a river where you can have a boat ride. There’s also buffet dinner for additional THB290 in the complex. They’ve not only got thai food but also spaghetti, sushi, and some curry. I guess they try to accommodate everyone since tourists are of various nationalities.
KISS HALLOWEEN PARTY GOODBYE..!!
We were supposed to have a drink or two at Sirocco rooftop restaurant and find a Halloween party at Khaosan Road after Siam Niramit. Unfortunately the rain poured badly again when we got out of the theatre. Both our destinations were outdoor. So I guess our horns and halo could only be used in the BTS train and stations on our way back to the hostel.. No trick nor treat for us… ☹

DAY 3 – BANGKOK, PATONG
Chatuchak market
Siam Discovery

Fly to Phuket island

Marine Inn
CHATUCHAK MARKET – Shopper’s heaven It’s a heaven not in the sense that it’s got cozy atmosphere nor full service of everything, let alone white clouds with angels playing harps. It’s a heaven because it’s got cheap everything, and the fashion stuff are often quite ahead of the world fashion trend. (Exaggeration…? Nah.. I don’t think so).
To give you a hint of how cheap it is, I bought some t-shirts for THB 150 a piece, a pair of glasses for THB 90, a cotton jacket for about THB 290.
When you get hungry, not to worry, because there are food stalls scattered around the market, from snacks to real meals. Not to mention juice and coffee stands, you’ll find them there. Man, you could even find pet shops, plant shops, stationery shops, etc, just as long as you didn’t get lost. Yeah, the narrow and winding aisles are quite tricky.
To get to Chatuchak market is very easy. Just hop on BTS that goes to Mo Chit direction, and hop off at Mo Chit station, the very last station of the route. Then you’ll see a sign that directs you to the market. It only requires a few minutes of walking and voila, you’re there!
SIAM DISCOVERY MALL After filling up our backpacks with new goods and stuffed our tummies with juices and lunch, we headed to Siam Discovery Center, one of the malls in Siam square. Why go back to malls? Well, this mall has a few stores that sell fun and interesting items. My favorites were the Loft and RoomInteriorProducts. Loft was in 3rd (or 2nd?) floor and the other one was one floor above it. The Loft is the kind of store that would sell weird fun items in Halloween theme, and some cute trendy stationary items among others. RoomInteriorProducts sells items from stationary to household stuff. Notebooks, key holders, plates, hampers, chairs, more or less like IKEA but not as various.

FLY AWAY TO PHUKET ISLAND

This is one of the reasons why I was so eager to go to Thailand again. The first time I went, I didn’t go to Phuket. People say it’s interesting, it’s got Patong that reminds you a lot of Bali, and nearby there are small islands with beautiful beaches such as Phi Phi island. (You want details? Read on. You’ll get there.) The food I ate on the plane – by the way, Airasia sells the food, they don’t give for free – was quite good, it was chicken pad thai. The flight itself took about 1,5 hours from Bangkok to Phuket.
MARINE INN - Rat U Thid street, Patong

Jaka has arranged our transportation from Phuket airport to the hotel where we’re gonna stay. Altogether, the 2-night stay + pickup from airport to Marine Inn + pickup from Marine Inn to airport = THB 1100 / pax. I forgot the detail prices, but we booked 2 rooms @ double bed with private bathroom, and the pickup cars were in great condition. Everything was arranged by email just a few days before our departure. It was a little bit confusing because the correspondent had quite terrible English grammar, at least in written. But luckily we got just everything that we wanted – with reconfirmations again and again, that is. The lodge didn’t have any elevator, just like any hostel. So don’t say I haven’t warned you about bringing big and heavy luggage!

DAY 4 – PHI PHI, PATONG

Phi Phi Le
Phi Phi Don

Kai island

Patong streets

Bali Hai: Thai massage
PHI PHI TOUR – for first timers Our arranged tour around Phi Phi Island was supposed to start at 7.30, but we finally got picked up at 8.15 by a minibus already carrying several other tourists. The whole tour costs about THB 1500 / pax. It includes boat ride to several beaches and small islands, snorkeling apparel rent, lunch, and pickups to and from hotels. The minibus brought us to the Cha Long bay pier. It was Sunday, maybe that’s why there were lotsa tourists. A boat takes about 40 people, and there were several boats waiting for their turns to sail away.

But before that, each of us were to choose fins for snorkeling. I forgot how much the rent was, but it only cost a little. They really recommended us to rent a pair because the beaches can get very corally it might hurt your feet.


MAYA BAY, PHI PHI LE, PHI PHI DON, MONKEY BEACH, KHAI ISLAND


First stop: Maya Bay.
It took an hour by speedboat to get to Maya Bay, at Phi Phi Le island (also called Ko Phi Phi Le; Ko=island). The limestone ‘walls’ view is breathtaking, I couldn’t believe I was at the exact spot where a part of the movie The Beach was shot. And that fact is what the tour guide kept saying again and again, making it a plus point for the tourism there. The image of Leonardo Dicaprio must have run around in the tourists’ heads by that time.. Yes, also for the male tourists. Hahaha… We were given 30 minute time to swim around the bay and of course taking pictures. It was kinda too crowded for my liking, and 30 minutes is surely not enough. But I had no choice. Wouldn’t wanna be left behind..!
Second stop: Monkey Beach.

No it doesn’t have a coral reef shaped like monkey, it only has monkeys living on the beach, from tree to tree. I wonder how they got there in the first place.. We weren’t allowed to get off the boat (don’t know why, I saw other boats dropping off their passengers; well probably because of time efficiency), but we were allowed to feed them from the boat deck. If I’m not mistaken, this beach is also on Phi Phi Le.

Third stop: Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi Don is the largest island in the archipelago (according to the tour guide and wikipedia.org). Here, we snorkeled for, again, 30 minutes. There were so many fishes swimming freely around us, one even bit Renny in the finger! I didn’t know fish could do that!

Fourth stop: LUNCH!
Now I forgot what beach this was, and probably it was also on Phi Phi Don, but all I know is that the atmosphere here is so nice, laid back, there are many lodges and shops and also one big restaurant where we all had lunch. Reminded me quite a lot of Gili Trawangan (Indonesia).
The food was diverse. There was spaghetti, tom yum steamboat, onion rings, etc. None of them tasted delicious, everything was so-so (and this is coming from me, someone who doesn’t really notice the little spices in food). But what the heck, swimming and snorkeling, plus it was already noon, made us staarrrviiinnng..! We were given time to walk around the beach area, maybe shop a little, and were allowed to use the bathrooms in the hotel lobbies. We were supposed to be back in the boat at 1.10 PM. But we had to wait 20 minutes for four tourists who thought the appointed time was 1.30. Everyone booed them when they got on the boat and the tour guide also got angry at them. Never ignore what the tour guide says, people..!

Fifth stop: Khai Island

This is our last stop, and we were given 1,5 hours here. Yay, a bit longer! We could buy bread to feed the fishes, and on the beach there were chairs for rent, I think it was THB 150 each. The ice cream sellers were kinda bugging when they kept coming and interrupting my relaxation in the chair. Snorkeling was really nice because of the clear water and so many fishes are seen even from the surface (although mostly were the same colors and patterns). However, the many corals quite took the fun away, and I got a scratch on my knee from a bump with a big coral or stone or whatever it was. This is a small island, Jaka even walked around it and we didn’t even notice he had been gone. And then he told us about the other side of the island that has another beautiful beach. So off we girls went to the other side.. (sounds kinda mysterious, doesn’t it?). And yup, we found a beach with a lot less crowd, more sandy beach, and a lot less corals.
The very last: back to Phuket.

The ride back was also an hour. Our boat got run out of gas in the middle of the sea, so we had to stop and wait for help from another boat.

PATONG STREETS – a lot like Kuta, Bali
I took a good shower right when we got to the lodge. And then.. the hungerrr…! Jaka split because he had to find internet, we girls took a stroll through the Rat U Thid street, where our lodge is also located, and found ourselves a foodcourt to dine in. Dee lee cious..!!! The foodcourt was more or less across the famous Holiday Inn. I forgot how much it cost us, but it was very reasonable price, even for us. While looking for a good place to have another massage, we passed by some street vendors selling gifts and stuff. I was thinking of buying extra gifts for my friends back at home, but the prices here are more expensive than Chatuchak. I finally got some items, though. Then, a mall came to sight. It’s called.. Jung Cheon or something like that. You wouldn’t miss it in the street, it’s eye catching and much bigger than the rest of the buildings around it. But a mall is a mall. Nothing really special we found there.

THAI MASSAGE – couldn’t get enough of it
There are soooo many massage places in this street. Many of them have the female masseurs lining up in front of the massage place, promoting the service. That kind of promotion, in contrary, even turned us off cos they make the service looks ‘cheap’. Later when we finally met up with Jaka, he told us that one of the masseurs even jumped at him (well, not literally) and gave him a massage on the shoulder while he was walking pass by them! That’s crazy. We finally chose this place called Bali Hai (dunno why it’s called that) that looked decent enough. With the same price that we had in Bangkok, the massage they give here is not as good. Quite disappointed, but oh well. Now we know not all thai massages in Thailand are good.
DAY 5 – PATONG, PHUKET TOWN


Patong beach
Phuket town
Go back home

PATONG BEACH – laid back, relax, enjoy the morning sun Being a morning person that I am, I just couldn’t pass a chance to enjoy the morning sun in the beach. I mean, the beach is only several minutes of walking away from our lodge, and it’s our last day here. So I was ready to just go by myself if my friends were still deep in their sleeps, but it turned out that nobody wanted to pass the chance of enjoying the morning in the beach. Yay!


PHUKET TOWN – not much to see
When having meals at Burger King (oh such an un-traditional breakfast) across the beach, we saw a truck, err .. a big pick-up vehicle, err.. well they call it a bus, that takes you to Phuket Town, I think that’s the capital city of Phuket. Out of spontaneity we hopped on the bus, paid a THB 25 fare / person. About 45 minutes later we arrived in Phuket Town. It was.. just as how the Marine Inn owner has told us before.. D.U.L.L. There was nothing going on. So we only walked around a bit, through the traditional market, the streets, and hopped on the bus back to Patong again. We needed to pack up.
(an advertisement of thaiboxing match,
going around Patong area on a truck)
BACK TO WHERE WE COME FROM – already?? Time flies by when you’re having fun. Oh I felt like staying in Patong or Bangkok forever and ever..! But.. I had to be realistic and go back home to Jakarta (is Jakarta really home? Hmmm.. And what’s so unrealistic about staying in Phuket forever? Hmm..that’s something that I gotta rethink..). So it’s time for us to pack things up, fly to Bangkok, and continue with the last flight to Jakarta. At the Svarnabhumi airport, we had dinner in a restaurant – no more foodstalls. We thought, oh what the heck, let’s just spend spend spend for the very last time. A little bit of jackass-ing time, initiated by Renny, each person ‘blindly’ chose a meal for another. And everything tasted g.o.o.d! Oh and they have the thoughtfully designed bowl with holes for the chopsticks! I love that.

A BIT ABOUT FOOD

Most of Thai food, or at least they’re known for, taste soury. Quite strong tastes, be careful there, you might end up having tummy ache if you’re not used to it. They also make a lot of fries. Food stalls are everywhere, and if you don’t eat pork you should ask first cos they sell a lot of food made of pork.


A BIT ABOUT LODGING

If you browse in the internet, you’ll find lots and lots of choices of hostels and hotels. Me, I’m satisfied with their hostels. The three lodges I’ve been in in Thailand, all are clean. With the low budget that I’ve got, I don’t need all the fancy facilities, I just want cleanness, safety, and strategic location. Strategic here means close to a BTS or MRT station (in Bangkok) and or close to where the hypes are. Hostels usually have dormitory rooms, that is where you bunk with strangers, either all the same sex or mixed. I think the lockers provided are for dormitory tenants’ belongings.

A BIT ABOUT LUGGAGE


If you’re staying at budget hotels / hostels, chances are there’s no elevator. So you wanna think ahead about what kind of luggage you’re bringing, how heavy and how big your suitcases are. These kinds of lodging is principally meant for backpackers who obviously carry backpacks, not suitcases.

There are times when you still need to go around without your heavy luggage after checking out of the hotel / hostel. Not to worry because to my knowledge, hotels / hostels are usually kind enough to provide space for your luggage for some time, even for days.


Oh, and to look and book for rooms, you can browse in the internet. There are many websites that can help you with it, such as www.hostelworld.com, www.hostels.com, www.tripadvisor.com, and so on.. Well you can also book on the spot, but on peak seasons you might find it more difficult to get your 'ideal' rooms.

A BIT ABOUT MONEY

Money exchange is everywhere (well, not as scattered around as they are in Singapore). ATM is also easy to find, for example in BTS and MRT stations. If you’re going to low-budget places, like shopping at Chatuchak, eating at street food stalls, you better carry enough cash around. Now this is why planning is important.

A BIT ABOUT AIRPORT TAX


When you’re going out of Thailand (or maybe any destination, I’m not sure), there’s tax to pay. Last time I checked it’s THB 700. BUT, do check if your flight ticket already includes the tax or not. We flew with Airasia, and it’s inclusive in the ticket fare. (Stupid me for not checking, so I panicked and convert more money to THB at the airport.. and I’m telling ya.. the rate was HORRIBLE!! Dang..!)

A BIT ABOUT TRANSPORTATION


BTS
(passing through with BTS pass)

We transported ourselves mostly with
BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit Syster; shouldn’t it be abbreviated as BMTS? Oh well). It has several routes and interchange stations. Some of the stations interchange with the MRT as well.

If you’re going to a lot of places by BTS in a day, I suggest you buy the one-day pass that costs THB 120. It’s cheaper and saves you the hassle of buying tickets each time you’re going. And if you’re staying longer, I think they sell passes for, like, monthly use.

MRT

(vending machine for MRT pass)

MRT is a subway train (Mass Rapid Transit) that also has several routes with some interchange stations. I’m not sure about their ticketing. We always bought single tickets (in plastic coin forms) because we didn’t go by MRT much.

TAXI

Be careful with drivers who won’t use the meter. This happens often when you’re taking the taxi from airport.

BUS Actually I’ve never been in one in Thailand. But you can try. I heard there are other kinds of bus in Bangkok that’s in better condition than the one in the above picture. My parents once have been on an air-conditioned and well maintained bus in Bangkok.

TUKTUK
Prepare to negotiate. Tuktuk could be so tempting to ride on, because it’s different with the kinds of transportations other countries have, so it would be a nice experience to ride on one. And tuktuk drivers are aware of that, really. They’d give you a high price once they know that you’re a tourist. (And don’t ask me why they have ‘taxi’ sign on it..)


LEGS AND FEET !!
(HI Sukhumvit aisle)

As long as you have time and strength, walking is a great way to enjoy sceneries and explore the places you’re at.


Hmm, I still have THB 360 and some coin money in my wallet. Wonder when I should go back there again to spend it all.. I love Bangkok (and Patong and Phi Phi) sooo much..!!

7 comments:

  1. kl di svarnabhumi gw selalu makan di skyloft.. yg di atas itu... enak dan menurut gw sih ga terlalu mahal ya..

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  2. Menyenangkan sekali siiiiihhh...boleh laah jadi the next deatination liburan ku..

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  3. yup yup, tapi tunggu suasana politik di sana aman terkendali ya bo... hehehe..

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  4. next try pha ngan ..go for full moon party ...south east asia IBIZA feels ... lots of nasty & wickeeeeed things..cool island to chill! :)

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  5. itu yg lo ke sana sendirian pasca idol itu ya fan?
    elo banget memang ya.. nasty & wickeeeeeddd.. hahahahaha...
    ok ok next time bolehlah masuk itinerary.. :D

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  7. Wow, amazing post really enjoyed after read your post as well as pictures are awesome. Well, all these places are good where you were visited especially Phuket which is one of my most favorite destinations in the world because of its quite and simple outstanding beaches.

    ReplyDelete