Despite getting scratched on the boob by a hungry, wild monkey, daily rain storms and a day trip on a marginally seaworthy boat that had me convinced I would be meeting Gilligan, Krabi is still my favorite area in Thailand. A friend of a friend bought a package trip at the Thai vacation expo and she couldn’t go, but it aligned perfectly with one of my 10 weeks of vacation, so I got the last spot. I’ll preface this story by saying, that the package price was what they would charge a foreigner for 3 nights, 2 days and a boat trip, but there is no way in hell that a foreigner would put up with the quality of the services rendered. Everything was fine, but it was like the leftovers that they don’t give to foreigners anymore, not even the hippie budget tourist foreigners. Everything included on the trip had seen it’s prime about 15 years ago. I admit, it felt kind of good to see that the Thai tour agencies also screw their own people, not just me.
My first day was fairly uneventful. The hotel was a series of standalone rooms scattered on a property with lots of trees and grass. Bangkok has like 1 tree so it is always nice when I get to see nature. In keeping with the theme I stated earlier, the hotel was probably really nice 15 years ago, but the electricity didn’t work, there was no shower curtain and the paint was peeling off the walls from the humidity. I didn’t care, but some snooty tourist who flew from across the world for a 2 night paradise vacation would be understandably unhappy. It was rainy and wet all day but to be fair, I did go during rainy season so this wasn’t unexpected. I ate some delicious fish at a shack on the beach that had been destroyed by the Tsunami 10 years ago and rebuilt. They had some interesting photos on the wall that showed the devastation. They also had 2 very sweet women working there that had some kind of dwarfism that made them about the size of a 2 year old, maybe even smaller. I wandered around the beach town, Ao Nang, got a foot massage, watched the sunset, ate dinner and called it a night. PS, I mostly wrote this paragraph about my boring day so that I can remember what happened in 5 years, not because I believe it was a particularly interesting day.
Boat trip day. I woke up to pounding rain, exactly what you want to hear when you’re about to spend the whole day riding around on a boat. We got to the pier, still in the rain, and boarded the SS It Floats, Promise. It was all Thai people, and me, which was clue number two that they only sell this package tour to Thai people. It was raining, but there was only enough indoor space for about 12 of the 40 people. We got some of those spaces, and when I say indoor, I don’t mean dry, I just mean not outside under a sunshade. Whelp, off we went. The rain started to clear up by about 10:00 and then it was absolutely beautiful.
Our first stop was an island that has a small sand spit that connects it to another island when it’s low tide. They put all of us into a longtail boat and shuttled us to shore. Of course, we had to wear lifejackets on the shuttle boat. Most Thai people can’t swim, and when I tried to explain that I can swim and that I used to teach swimming and that this oversize life jacket with broken straps and minimal, UV damaged flotation would actually hinder my ability to swim safely, the deck hands didn’t understand… weird. You must always follow the rules, especially if you are ignorant of the facts, because someone else said those are the rules, and that’s that. My American brain couldn’t handle this, but I wore it anyway, and since no one could understand my squawking, I just said whatever I wanted and it actually made me feel better. As did my ceremoniously throwing my life jacket like a boomerang onto the beach when I got off the boat. Wait, why do these people get annoyed by foreigners? It would have been safer if I had just swum from the big boat to land, at least then I wouldn’t have people clinging to my life jacket and drowning me when the shuttle boat capsized from being overloaded.
All the islands around Krabi are beautiful. There is amazing Karst topography (yep I’m a geologist now) as far as the eye can see. We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful day so it made the colors of the sea against the islands really vibrant. One of the advantages of the all Thai boat was that no one wanted to be in the sun, so I got the best spot right on the bow. Helllllllo skin cancer, and awesome photos and a tan I could brag about.
Next photo op, Chicken Island (Koh Gai). I’ve found that a lot of land formations in Thailand are named after animals. This is one of the only ones that I understand because it actually looks like a chicken head.
After the standard boxed fried rice and watermelon lunch, it was time for some snorkeling. Screw that 30 minute rule, we can cramp all we want because we have “life jackets”!!! Needless to say, I jumped in with that thing and it wasn’t even fully wet before I took it off and clipped it to Bom’s life jacket and swam away. Freedom. There wasn’t much to see since, unfortunately, Thailand has destroyed most of their reefs, only about 25% of the reefs in Krabi are in good condition. After our post lunch dip, we went squid fishing. This involved a plastic bottle with a lure and some fishing line. I was happy to see a plastic bottle being recycled in order to damage another part of the ecosystem. We did throw the squid back though… I think… or maybe they were lunch for the next day’s group. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention because I was too busy being childish about the fact that I didn’t catch one.
Our next stop was the beautiful Railay Bay which is famous for it’s beach side caves, one of which is filled with penises. Yes, penises. The local fishermen bring them as offerings to an apparently very horny sea goddess to bring them good luck on the water. There are also TONS of rude monkeys. They have been tamed since there are lots of tourists here, which was cool because we got to see them up close, but not cool because the earth is being destroyed and that is sad. When I first got there, I was thirsty so I got a coconut and after they hacked the top off with a butcher knife (this is normal), I gave the top to a monkey so he could eat coconut instead of potato chips and a bottle of Coke like this monkey:
On the way back to the boat, I got some peanuts, which must be a favorite of the monkeys. There were two trees on either side of the path: one with tan monkeys, and one with black monkeys. It appeared that there was some tension between the two groups. I threw a couple peanuts to the nearby monkeys and one of the tan monkeys got greedy after a black monkey grabbed a peanut before he could get to it. Tan monkey wanted more peanuts. I admit, what ensued was my own fault because I got them riled up to begin with. It all happened pretty fast but before I knew it, I had a monkey climbing up my leg, swatting at the peanut bag trying to steal it. As the larger ape form, I resisted and tried to shake the little monster off of me, but he was persistent and scrambled further up and grabbed me right between my boobs, and gave me a monkey scratch. He also had big monkey teeth so I relented and gave him the rest of my peanuts. Anyone who says apes and humans don’t have a common link is an idiot and needs to be culled from the herd.
That was pretty much the end of boat day. I looked on Dr. Internet when I got back to the hotel since I am a hypochondriac and thought I had some kind of monkey disease, but I was fine.
One of the things that is really cool about Krabi, and why it’s my favorite place is because you can get the jungle and beach in the same place. The next day we rented motos and drove to the Tiger Temple. There used to be tigers here, but they have gone the way of much of the other wildlife. There are monks here who live the ascetic lifestyle and guard the caves because they hold a lot of spiritual significance. Luckily, there were hardly any people here so we had our own monk cave guide. We walked through part of the jungle and found the little settlement next to a giant Buddha and a cool cave system. The monk told us the legends of the caves, which were then translated to me. Basically the monk talked for 3-4 minutes and then I got: “a spirit lives behind that rock”, so I am not really sure what the full story is.
We got to crawl around the the dirt and mud and see some cool stuff. It was nice though because it was so hot and humid in the jungle that the caves provided a nice respite. I think that people come to see these caves, but they definitely are not in any guidebook or group tour itinerary, which was great for us. After the caves we walked along a jungle path and saw some cool stuff. When a tree is really old in Thailand, they wrap it with these colored cloths. There were a lot of really old trees in this jungle area, which was nice to see.
Next was the hike to the temple on the top of the mountain via the ultimate stair master. 1237 steps to the top. Which is about 120 flights of stairs. Ok, not too bad if you are on the stair stepper, at the gym, in air conditioning, it’s a good workout but it’s not gonna kill you. Try doing that same work out on stairs made from concrete that are all different heights, most are knee high, some have only enough room for you to step on them with the ball of your foot and it’s 100 degrees with 90% humidity.
We finally made it to the top after about 45 minutes. And the view was totally worth it. The temple was fairly standard, but being on top of one of the humps and seeing the view from above made it all worth it. I also had plans to go to a cooking class that night, so the work out justified the impeding pig out. My calves were so sore for 3 days that I could barely walk.
After we walked 1237 steps down the mountain, which was not as hard as going up, but I am convinced was the cause of my calf soreness, we went into the “tiger’s cave/meeting hall”. Literally, that’s what the sign says. If I ever own my own business….
That night, I cooked up a storm at Thai Charm Cooking School. I would highly reccommend it. The guy speaks great English and the recipes were delicious. He runs the school with his wife out of his house so it was a really great experience. I cooked and ate 5 or 6 different things including mango sticky rice for dessert. It’s a total bitch to make your own curry paste, but the flavor is so much better and there’s no MSG! Food coma….
On the last day, we had a flight in the afternoon so we got up early to go to the Emerald Pool. We drove a little over an hour on a moto which was fairly painful, plus I was the navigator and I accidentally took us down a dirt road, whoopsy. There is a beautiful green pool in the middle of the jungle that was created by mineral deposits from some of the hot spring activity in the area, I’m a geologist, I know this now. Of course, since I am white, I had to pay an entrance fee; I can’t even get started on this because it pisses me off so badly, but I don’t make the rules, so whatever. Once again, I was the only foreigner here, which also means that I was the only one swimming in a bikini. All the Thai women were swimming in jeans and t-shirts. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Thailand is not sexy time fun land, it’s actually pretty conservative.
After that, it was time to go home. We were in an airport shuttle full of Thai people and on the way we stopped at a totally unauthentic “souvenir shop” and the Thai people were all about it. Everyone bought something. Apparently this is something Thai people do. Does not compute. We still made it to the airport on time, and it was back to the concrete jungle. But don’t worry monkeys, when I come back, I’ll be ready for you…
I think I’m going to require a Tiger’s cave / meeting hall in my next house.