31st October 2009:
We'd arrived! Hurrah. After a 10-11hr train journey we got to Surat Thani in the morning, got in a minibus to the bus station and were dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Another minibus came and picked us up to take us to Ao Nang. We were staying at J Mansion next to the Irish Guiness Bar and only 2 minutes from the beach. The weather was glorious blue skies and sunny! We were soo happy to be near the beach!
But first things first, we needed sustenance! Food was our only thought, so ended up in the nearest restaurant with some of the others. I had a very tasty Pineapple and Chicken Fried Rice that arrived served in a half a pineapple, complete with a flower too! Of course we had to take lots of photos, as you would not get this kind of creativity in the UK! After that we headed off to Railay for our Rock climbing we'd booked when we got to the Guest house.
Thinking it would be a tiddly little rock somewhere close, I soon realised that it wouldnt be that straight forward, firstly we got picked up in a Song Thaew (truck which is open at the back), then we had to take a longtail boat to Railay. The scenery was stunning, weather as always glorious! Then trudge through sludge and ankle deep water to the beach. From there we were fitted for our climbing shoes and harnesses. A short walk along the beach and we made it to the Rock! Hmm what to think as I stared up a couple of people hanging from a bit of rope!? Well, i was excited, not to sure what Dally G was thinking????
First to go was a guy in the group called Deepesh, lets just say that he acted all tough and macho at the beginning, but as soon as he started climbing, and realised how difficult and terrifying it actually is, his tune very much changed. His poor wife was trying to encourage him from the ground, but seeing a grown man, almost pooh his pants and cry like a baby is oh so enjoyable! We all 3 laughed discreetly whilst he was hanging by his gonads.
The Froggy (aka Heena) went up too, and made it too the top with style! I too went up and found it alot more challenging than they make it look. The difficulty is finding good holds with for your feet and hands, but we all made it in the end, and me and Heena even went up a second time. I had to sit in a crevice for a few mins as there was another women doing a higher climb above me who was absailing down.
We headed back after a full day to get freshened up, and headed out for a group meal. Then walked around the town in the evening, when everything comes to life. Lots of people urging you to look at what they are selling. We ended up in Chang's bar, which on first viewing would not be the place i would normally hang out. Especially as there was a big puddle of water at the entrance that we had to wade through, then passing a line of very beautiful but scantily clad thai women selling themselves to every foreign male that entered the bar, and lastly, the state of the toilets made me want to quarantine myself afterwards in a pool of disinfectant. But they served fairly average price alcohol and the Thai whiskey Som Sang in a bucket! Goodoh!
Oh and we ended up playing Jenga and Connect 4 most of the night! We finally left with some of the girls and headed to Luna Bar in a tuktuk with 7 of us tightly packed in. It was Halloween after all and they had advertised that there was a special Dracura (not Dracula!) cocktail free for all. So off we went. Not very busy, but it had the Halloween decorations, so that was good enough. This place is just off the beach, and people were sitting on the edge watching the waves, and the moon in the sky, with funky music in the background. We on the other hand downed our blood like cocktails and had a game of pool. Oh how rock and roll we are? Another 30mins and we were all wanting to leave.
Now for 7 girls you would think we would flag down a fairly moderate sized van lets say? But all that was available to us was a motorbike with a side cart like thing that would only have fit 3 comfortably. But we managed to squeeze all 7 of us into this ride, plus the guy riding the bike and a random bloke hanging off the cart, taking us to our Guest house. It was slightly dodgy and somewhat dangerous, but very very funny, as we all got out too and only paid 5 bhat each!
1st November 2009:
The beach, oh what heaven awaited us! Today was our tour of the islands off Ao Nang on a speedboat. Bikinis at the ready, we boarded a speed boat called Caroline and sped along the blue waters to Bamboo Island. We donned snorkels and waded into the water from a serene beach. Breathing is not very easy through a little spout, but got the hang of it after a bit, saw a few fishies and other things i had no idea what they were.
Next headed to an area for snorkelling off one of the beaches. I jumped in and off i went. The view of the coral and fish was so clear. The guides threw bread into the water where we were snorkelling so that the fish would come to feed, this caused a bit of a frenzy, and slightly freaked me out as they ended up nibbling on bits of you, that they really shouldnt be!!! But it was fascinating to see so many fish, and few i think looked like Nemo! Also saw a see cucumber, some very big big fish. After an hour headed off to Maya Island where the film The Beach was filmed. Its in a secluded alcove so the water is calm and clear. It was very busy with about a dozen speed boats all moored up and lots of people on the beach. But after a bit lots of them left and only our group and few others were left to enjoy it on our own. Here we just chilled in the water, getting very very tanned!
Lunch time and we headed over to Koh Phi Phi, not that great but we needed food. This was quickly consumed and lastly we headed to a remote beach for the end of our trip. Here we again just chilled out, did last minute snorkelling and ate some fresh watermelon and Pineapple. Took a lovely group photo and headed back to Ao Nang. The Highlight of our trip was the Island tour and worth doing with a group as the cost of hiring a Speed boat is quite expensive. But if you want to experience the Islands, beaches and of course the snorkelling it is very much worth it. Remember sun cream though as we ended up very very tanned afterwards!
With little time headed along the beach for a massage. Theres lots of women touting for business and offering you different massages, plus manicure or pedicure for 200 bhat. We didnt mind this and off we trotted with our soggy bikinis and about half the sand stuck in them. We got a shower down and laid down on the mattresses for our hour long very much needed full body massage. I nearly fell asleep as im sure Dally G and Heena did too? Waking up refreshed and unfortunately bitten by every mosquito around, we walked back to the Guest house past all the very top notch resorts and massage parlours along the beach.
2nd November 2009:
A free day to do what we wanted, started with a late morning, donning our bikinis again, we went in search of brunch. Ended up in an Italian restaurant for pizzas and bruschetta. Not breaky but when your hungry anything goes! Headed to the beach, where Dally G and myself plunged into the warm waters. Swam and waded around abit while Heena sat in the shade. An hour later and the water at low tide we walked the mile or so back to Heena (tide had gone out soo far by this point). Walking along the beach, met up with one of our group who told us about the monkeys at the end of the beach, so thats where we headed. Not until a lovely thai lady came up to us wanting us to come to her hut for a massage. Introducing herself as Yu Hoo (very tempted to shout Yaaahhhhhoooooo!) she gave us pineapple in a bag and we promised to come back after seeing the monkeys. She even gave us some bananas to feed them with! How lovely.
We then realised its not a good idea to walk over to monkeys laden with fruit, as they are likely to pounce on you to get it from you! Much to my surprise, i had one of those cheeky monkeys pulling my dress off to get to the banana i was determined not to give it! Also had one jump onto my arm and onto my backpack! I swung around and screamed at this point! I definately needed a massage after that, so we headed to Yu Hoo and her hut for yet another massaged.
She was so lovely that she also gave us a foot scrub, foot reflexology, back and head massage and a pedicure, and yet more pinepple! We even got tea and biscuits. And pretty patterns painted onto our very scrubbed and soft feet and nails! We said our goodbyes, but didnt quite make it to the guest house until we had bought more pearls, scarves, cushion covers, flipflops, etc etc! I said that shopping is brilliant in Thailand and cannot be avoided.
Back at the Guest house, AJ our Tour leader met us and told us about the full moon party that happens every year called Loi Krathong. All the locals come out to celebrate the light festival, with floating candles made from leaves and flowers, and balloons that are set on fire and float into the night sky. We were all given a floating candle, and told to put in something personal like your hair, nail and some money, we then wrote a message on the paper balloon that would float up to heaven. We went to the beach where everyone had gathered to send there floating candles into the water. Its was very poignant and fascinating to watch and be apart of.
Myself, Heena and Dally G had our own balloon that we held before letting it float away. You could see dozens in the night sky, slowly fading away, but it was very magical too. We then walked through the street, full of people with there friends and families all celebrating together. There was traditional dancing, music, and shows going on as we walked towards the restaurant along the beach. Even as we sat down a boy started to perform a traditional dance clad in a golden sarong and lots of jewels and jewellery, throwing flower petals as he danced. As we ate we saw even more balloons being released into the sky.
As we headed back, we sat on the wall along the beach with the locals, and waited for the fireworks from the boat further out to sea. It was beautiful. All along the path were floating candles created by companies, resorts and different businesses in Ao Nang and Krabi, these were absolutely stunning creations made from leaves, flowers, candles, almost like cakes but all very elaborate.
The night was still young so we trotted over to Changs Bar yet again, for drinks and to meet the group (who had obviously been there for a while from the state of most of them!). The night was good as we listened to music, watched people play pool, stare in astonishment at the Thai 'ladies' tempting the foreign men and a very camp Thai guy dance unashamedly with all the foreign girls!