Posts Tagged With: Thailand Beach

Krabi

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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.

Thai style fish

Thai style fish

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.

Sunset on Ao Nang

Sunset on Ao Nang

Such a majestic yacht

Such a majestic yacht

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.

Safety First!

Safety First!

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.

Good thing I had my life jacket to protect me in these raging seas

Good thing I had my life jacket to protect me in these raging seas

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.

Squawk Squawk!!

Squawk Squawk!!

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.

Our main squid fishing competition

Our main squid fishing competition

Sqiudworth

Sqiudworth

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.

Me in the penis cave

Me in the penis cave

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:

Anyone who says humans and monkeys don't have a common ancestor needs to be culled from the herd

He must be an emotional eater

Thank god this was captured on film

Thank god this was captured on film

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.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

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.

Spe-monk-ing....

Spe-monk-ing….

Climbing out of the cave

Climbing out of the cave

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.

Grandpa tree

Grandpa tree

Let's go legs

Let’s go legs

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.

One of many breaks

One of many breaks

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.

Victory!!  And a LOT of sweat

Victory!! And a LOT of sweat

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….

Food glorious food

Food glorious food

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….

It's more of an aqua color

It’s more of an aqua color

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…

Don't try to hide behind Buddha

Vigilant monkey

Categories: Beach, Krabi, Paradise, Snorkeling, Thai Jungle, Thailand, Thailand Beaches | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Paradise?

There are 2 questions that people frequently ask me:

  1. How’s TAIWAN?
  2. What’s it like to live in paradise?

I am not even going to address the first question because it is so ignorant that I am mad at myself for even associating with people who would ask me that.

The second question is fair, assuming that I am a 50+ year old, fat, British or Australian man with a thing for Thai women.  If that were the case, the place where I actually live, Bangkok, would be considered paradise.  I think the Travel Channel’s incessant repeats of “21 Sexiest Beaches”, “Best Beaches in the World”, “World’s Hidden Beaches” and other diverse beach programming has conditioned people to think that all of Thailand is paradise.  Thailand is, in fact, very diverse.  While I don’t actually live in “Paradise”, a $5 bus ride or a 1 hour flight can get me pretty damn close so I’m going to take a step back and talk about the islands that I have had the opportunity to visit: Koh Samet, Koh Kood, Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi Don.

Koh Samet

View from my hotel porch

View from my hotel porch

This is a small island east of Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand.  I decided to go here in October, about 2 weeks after I first arrived and it is still one of my favorite islands.  I hopped on a bus for 300B (about $9USD) and headed east.  Coach busses here are the same as the ones you took in middle school to go to the Science Museum.  However, there is one major difference: for 9 bones I got a 3 hour ride to the coast, a bottle of water AND a snack.  We are lucky if we even get water on an airplane in America anymore, and a snack??  Forget it.  I was legitimately confused when this stuff was handed to me.

One of the other interesting parts about this trip was seeing the industrial sprawl of Bangkok.  In America, we often hear about “our” manufacturing jobs going overseas, but until I saw the factories, I didn’t really see SE Asia for the manufacturing juggernaut that it is.  When driving through American cities, even the largest ones, we are typically out of the built up areas and into farmland within an hour; maybe 30 minutes for the smaller cities.  Here, it was over 2 hours before I exited factory land and saw my first crop.

Fishing boats

Fishing boats

Anyway, back to paradise.  When I arrived at the port, I took a ferry that cost like a dollar.  It was a short trip and they put us on a working boat so it was a little different from the other ferries I’ve taken.  Samet is a really great place because most of it is actually a national park so it hasn’t been scarred the same way so many other islands have been.  The small main road in town takes about 10 minutes to stroll down and there are a handful of restaurants, and two 7-11s, across the street from each other.  The road dead ends into the most popular beach on the island, Hat Sai Kaew, which literally translates to Crystal Sand Beach.  I spent my day lounging around here and reading and just enjoying the view.

Curry!

Curry!

That night, I found a great restaurant for dinner with a foreign owner who was a highly entertaining drunk.  Since it was just the beginning of high season, the place wasn’t very busy and he sat with me and a German girl and ate dinner, which his Thai wife cooked for us.  Still one of the best curries I’ve had.  After that the German girl and I headed to the beach to check out the nightlife and watch one of the infamous fire shows.  Those guys are crazy, but the drunk idiot, tourists are even crazier.  All in all, even though I only spent a weekend here, I totally recommend it to anyone who wants to go somewhere that has clean water, some nightlife and isn’t covered in resorts.

Koh Kood

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Postcard photo

Koh Kood is also in the Gulf of Thailand, further east than Samet.  I won’t spend too much time talking about Koh Kood for a couple reasons.  One, I already wrote about it in a previous entry (How to Spend 3 Weeks of Vacation).  Two, I didn’t/couldn’t really

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

do much there since I was still beaten up pretty badly from my motorcycle accident in Pai.  Koh Kood is definitely the least developed island I’ve been to.  As a result, the water was the cleanest and the beaches were the nicest.   We never left the resort because there was basically no town.  Had I been alone, I would have gone insane, but I spent New Years there with about 10 of my friends so it was fun.  We stayed in a bungalow that was on stilts on top of a stagnant pool of water, which made me a little nervous at first, but I got no mosquito bites.  We just had mattresses on the floor and a couple bathrooms and it was perfect for our group.

Koh Tao

One fish, two fish...

One fish, two fish…

Also known as Turtle Island.  My next island trip didn’t happen until February when Doug came to visit.  We took the overnight train to Chumpon and then ferried over to Koh Tao; this time on a real ferry, not a freight boat overflowing with palm fronds like the one I took to Samet.  We got in early and parked it at the beach.  The beach in Koh Tao is not as nice as Koh Kood or Koh Samet, but still, I can’t complain.  I managed to completely sunburn almost my entire body within a few hours.  Mission Accomplished.

Now that's a sunset

Now that’s a sunset

We started that night at the beach watching the famous Koh Tao sunset.  It was one of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen.  Then it was food time.  As of February, I had been in Thailand for about 4 months.  With the exception of my pizza Christmas feast, I had pretty much only eaten Thai food.  And there happened to be an Italian restaurant next to our hotel that had surprisingly good reviews on Trip Advisor so I dragged Doug there.  I still do not understand why anyone who doesn’t live here would go to a non-Thai restaurant in Thailand unless a hangry ex-pat forces them.  After that I introduced Doug to the orgasmically delicious banana pancake and we wandered around the town.

Herrrrre fishy fishy

Herrrrre fishy fishy

Koh Tao is world famous for diving.  So this officially means that I have been to 4 of the best diving places in the world… sans PADI certification.  We had to go snorkeling, again, sorry Doug.  We got on a tourist boat which took us around to lots of really good spots though.  The first place it dropped us was actually kind of sad.  The coral was almost completely bleached out and dead.  It was like an underwater wasteland.  So…. that was depressing.  The next stops were amazing though, including Ao Leuk.  I saw some of the most beautiful coral and fish that I have ever seen.  This moment was probably the closest I have ever been to realizing my childhood dream of becoming a mermaid.  I also felt better about my lame snorkeling situation when I saw the scuba divers just a few feet below us.  And Doug saw a squid that I didn’t see, so he won in the end.

Coral Reefs

Coral Reefs

The last stop was Koh Nangyuan which is a small island orbiting Koh Tao.  We had 2 hours there so we hiked up to the top of the island and got a really breathtaking view of the turquoise water.

At the summit

At the summit

That night, we headed back to the beach, post sunset this time, and watched some fire shows.  It got really entertaining when the guy accidentally threw his flaming nun chucks onto his kerosene can and all of his other props.

Koh Samui

Garden of Eden/Our hotel

Garden of Eden/Our hotel

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These look way less scary on land

About 20 years ago, this island was probably amazing.  Unfortunately now, it has been the victim of overzealous development and I don’t know that I would go back there, unless I got a free trip.  This was our next stop after Koh Tao.  Our first night we splurged and stayed at a resort that we had no business being in.  It was absurdly nice.  Promptly after check-in, we escaped the resort bubble, on foot, and had a goal of making it to Bophut beach, but we didn’t realize it was like 10K away.  On the way, we stopped at a local market and saw the catch of the day.  Sadly, there were Parrot fish in this market and sharks and other sea creatures that I don’t think the WWF would be happy to see on land.

Do people actually eat these?

Do people actually eat these?

We continued our trek and finally made it to the Fisherman’s village area at Bophut beach.  This was actually the only part of Samui that I thought was nice.  It was built up, but not horribly like the Chaweng area.  The beach was still nice and the water looked fairly clean.  We took a taxi back to our hotel and as part of our splurge, ate a really nice dinner at the hotel restaurant.

We like play banana boat!

We like play banana boat!

The next day, after eating breakfast, which included cereal (big deal for me these days), we relocated to the Chaweng area of the island to meet up with some friends.  We actually had a nice hotel that was right on the beach and in a quieter area.  But as we all agreed, the actual beach was nothing particularly unique.  It was lined with chairs and umbrellas and annoying people trying to sell us stuff.  It could have easily been Mexico.  But again, I shouldn’t complain.  The highlight of the day was our banana boat ride, or as our students say “we play banana boat”.  It was fun and only a few of us got kicked in the face.

Kayaking views

Kayaking views

The following day we went to Ang Thong National Marine Park (a chain of islands west of Koh Samui) and went kayaking and hiking.  This place was breathtaking.  Everyone was experiencing varying degrees of hangover, except me, so the hour and a half boat ride was a little rough, and still drunken for some.  When we got there, they put us in our kayaks and sent us on our way.  After kayaking we went on our first hike, which was more like climbing stairs that were like half stairs/half ladders.

The "trail"

The “trail”

We continued on to another island for the big hike.  This one was basically straight up a mountain for about an hour, which was really challenging in flip flops.  They also had a rope tied to trees that zig zagged across the trail, but all it did was get in the way and make me try to climb over it or duck under it and almost fall to my death.  Near the top the “trail” changed from dirt, rocks and trees to just rocks and trees, and finally to just really sharp rocks.  But the view from the top was totally worth it.  I’ll never forget it.

We clambered back down the mountain just in time to get rushed back on to the boat because the monsoon was coming.  A literal monsoon, that’s what it’s called here.  I thought the boat ride to Ang Thong was rough, but the trip home was just painful.  Thank god I have spent a significant amount of my life on boats because otherwise I would have been barfing like lots of the other people.  It was pouring rain, and we were heading straight into the wind in a basically uncovered boat, for 2 hours.  Thailand is hot, but when you’re soaked to the bone and the wind is blowing 25 knots in your face, it’s not hot.  So that was an unpleasant end.

Longtail Boat at Ang Thong

Longtail Boat at Ang Thong

Sex or....?

Did you mean sex or….?

For dinner, we went to a place called Green Bird and it was really good and comparatively cheap.  I couldn’t resist shopping in the night market and bought a bunch of soap which I am still working my way through.  Then we checked out the bar area of Chaweng and I really couldn’t tell the difference between Samui and Cabo.  Same Same but different.

We flew Bangkok Airways home the next day.  That is the nicest airline I’ve ever flown.  We got to the gate and there was a free refreshment section with mini muffins, complimentary wifi and I felt like I was sitting on a couch at a resort hotel.  Once aboard the plane, they served us a full meal, and the flight is only like an hour.  What the hell America?

Koh Phi Phi Don

Longtails

Longtails

Last but not least, Koh Phi Phi, pronounced pee pee.  This island was wrecked by the tsunami in 2004 but has been completely rebuilt.  There are no cars so the town is all built on small walking streets.  This place was a tourist explosion, but for good reason.

Are we even related?

Are we even related?

I went to Phi Phi with my sister and 3 friends from college.  The first day, we just took it easy and hung out at the beach.  The water was actually really dirty here, the worst I’ve seen so far, so that was a little disappointing.  My friends had just flown in from the US, so our first day on Phi Phi was happily uneventful.  We got some great Thai food for dinner on the beach and called it a night.

The next day, was the first day of Song Kran, which is the Thai New Year.  They celebrate by throwing water on you.  In the morning, only the kids were playing with water and we got splashed a little bit, nothing compared to what we would experience upon our return…

Mosquito Island

Mosquito Island

I'm here Leo!  Where are you?

I’m here Leo! Where are you?

We hired a long tail boat to get us off party island and take us to the smaller uninhabited islands surrounding Phi Phi.  It was just the 5 of us and a Japanese couple so it was basically a private trip.  We went snorkeling and saw a bunch of really cool places, including Maya Bay, which is where they filmed the movie “The Beach”.  These little beaches were the most beautiful ones I’ve been to; the sand was like sugar and the water was clean, so we took full advantage of that.

When we arrived back on the island, Song Kran was in full farang effect (farang is the word for foreigner).  Gone were the little Thai kids splashing us with water.  I can see why Thai people hate us.  While the Thai people squirt you with a gun or splash a bucket on you, the farang get shit faced and pump their super soakers to full pressure and, shoot you right in the eye ball or ear.  It’s more like war.  And since the ratio of farang to Thai people on Phi Phi is in favor of the farang, walking home from the boat was like a battle zone.

Sister Time

Sister Time

It also happened to be Meg’s birthday, so for dinner we went to the Mexican restaurant across the street so we could enjoy some food without getting completely soaked.  Well, the two margaritas and birthday shot got me off to a good start.

10:30?

10:30?

After dinner we went to one of the infamous beach bars, Slinky’s, but on the way, this farang decided that she needed to drink an entire bottle of Sang Som served to me in a bucket.  I remember about 30 more minutes of my night.  From what we could all piece together, the black-out started around 9:30.  During the next 2 hours, I danced with a guy swinging fire poi around my head, lost and retrieved my phone, camera and wallet (although I didn’t find my wallet until the next morning on a table outside my room), ate a piece of pizza, and stood with Meg in the middle of a circle of people who were just shooting us with water.  My injuries would indicate that I also: fell no fewer than 5 times, hit my forehead on something, fell down at least one flight of stairs, and stepped on something that caused the entire bottom of my foot to bruise.  I am still unsure of how I got the fat lip.  Maybe Meg punched me in the face when she brought me back to the hotel room at 11:30 PM and I projectile vomited on her and myself while she was trying to put me in the shower.  Happy Birthday Meg, welcome to paradise!

Categories: Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Snorkeling, Thailand, Thailand Beaches | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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