Thai Island Paradise - Krabi, Ao Nang, Rai leh, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket
Krabi Noi, Thailand
After 8 weeks of tiring, and sometimes stressful travelling we agreed we needed to relax and what better way than spending a week exploring the Thai islands! We began at a town called Krabi on the Thai mainland. This is really a gateway to the Thai islands on the west coast rather than a beach resort. It was also where we had agreed to meet my brother Graham who is joining us for the next three weeks.
We had travelled to Thailand by minibus. We made it across the Thai border without too much hassle and were then dropped off at Hat Yai. Here we were told to wait for 45 minutes for a new minibus to continue our journey. From what we could see there wasn't much to do in Hat Yai but sit in the tour office and wait in front of a tired fan to keep cool. Eventually the bus arrived and we were crammed into it by the driver with no remaining leg room. The temperature then began to climb. Eventually after many more hours we arrived at Krabi and he dumped us on a random street. When we asked for simple directions he shrugged his shoulders and climbed into the bus. Thankfully the people of Krabi were lovely and although hardly anyone knew where our hostel was they tried to help point us in the right direction. After an hour of walking up and down the same streets and almost melting we found our hostel and were grateful when the owner waved his hands and shouted "David? Yes come in come in welcome!" He and his wife were lovely and very keen to help us.
We had two days to entertain ourselves before Graham arrived. After a much needed lie in we decided to head to Ao Nang which is the only beach accessible from Krabi by road. We made the 45 minute journey by sorng-taa-ou (a van with an open grill on the back complete with two benches but excellent natural aircon)! This was great fun as long as you ignore the insane driving. Ao nang is a beach resort right on the sea front and has a wide concrete path between the hotels and the beach. However the beach is still wide and sandy with clear, blue water and plenty of amazing islands in the distance. We therefore dumped our bags and jumped into the sea to cool off. Once we had turned into prunes we lay on the beach to dry. At this point numerous Thai women came up to me and touched my arm to tell me how lucky I was to have such white skin and I would be loved by many Thai men (this in front of a very quiet Dave)! I replied that it is great as long as you can live in the dark or the shade to avoid permanent red skin! It was quite nice to get compliments though.
After relaxing and eating our first pizza in a very long time we headed back to Krabi to generally sort stuff out before Graham arrived the next day.
Today we had until the late afternoon before Graham arrived and so the only thing to do was to check out the nearby beach of Rai Leh. This is still on the mainland but only accessible by boat. Our plan was to get an early start and be back in plenty of time to meet Graham. We headed to the pier and quickly found a long tail boat but he wanted at least five more people before he would go and so we sat and waited for nearly an hour watching the world go by. The boat journey was brillant though. Once at Rai Leh we had to jump ashore and then walk through a series of limestone formations to reach a beautiful bay which was covered in shade (perfect for pale skin). Again we swam and relaxed and went for a walk along the beach which unfortunately ended quickly when I stood heavily onto a wooden skewer stuck in the sand straight into my heel. I hobbled back and our decision about leaving was quickly made when a large group of naughty monkeys descended onto the beach going through bags and causing chaos despite the efforts of the locals to scare them away. Once back at the harbour the tide was far out and so we had to wade through the water along a slippery path for about 100m to reach a boat. Back in Krabi we were amazed to find Graham already there and checked into his hotel and so now there were three of us.
The next day we headed to the island of Koh Phi Phi by ferry. This involved being squashed into seat spaces that were ridiculously small, our bags being lost under 50 others and being bitten on our legs by mosquitos for 90 minutes unable to move to swat them away! The crossing was smooth and on time though and the ferry looked like it would not sink on the way which was also reassuring.
Once at Koh Phi Phi we had to pay the "clean tidy tax" of 40p each before being allowed off the pier. We had booked into Maney resort. To be honest we were all worried about this. It seemed to be the best of a bad bunch with pretty bad tripadvisor reviews. We had to walk through the town and then up a hill to get there and it was boiling hot, within minutes the sweat was pouring off us all. Along the way we were able to see the town of Phi Phi with small, cobbled streets. There are no cars on the island but mopeds and bikes still fly along trying to run us over. People helped guide us through the maze of streets and we prepared ourselves for the hill (warned by tripadvisor to be awful) actually it was nothing, some people really can moan! Once we arrived we had to persuade the lady we did have a reservation and were eventually guided up the steep steps to our chalet. We opened the door, scared in case there were numerous snakes hanging from the ceiling (also on tripadvisor) but found nothing but a clean room, TV, aircon, fan and a bathroom built around several boulders.
There was only one thing to do - dump the bags and find the beach. We headed to the other side of the island (this took about 10 minutes) and jumped into the sea. We then sat back for the afternoon on some deck chairs chatting to the locals on the beach which was fine although they kept trying to sell us a boat trip. We did actually end up booking a boat trip but with someone else in the town who gave us a much better deal. After a quick change we headed back to the beach where we sat drinking beer and watching the sunset.
We were up early the next day. We had decided to hire our own long tail boat for 4 hours. This meant a tour of just the 3 of us to go where we wanted. We went straight across the open ocean to the uninhabited island of Phi Phi Leh. Our first stop was Maya bay. This is the location where they filmed "The Beach". We had to pay a tourist tax to land on the beach but were able to wander through the jungle and swim in the bay and it was beautiful (if you ignored the hoards of tour boats already there as well)! The next spot the guide took us to was to snorkel and spot turtles. However the sea looked quite rough and we all put on our lifejackets but then we saw the back of a turtle and all jumped in. Within seconds we were all being stung by jellyfish! When we looked into the water we were surrounded. I freaked out and jumped back on the boat to see the guide laughing shouting "was it the jellyfish?" - um yes they really stung! Dave as always was determined to see the turtle and madly continued on through about 50 jellyfish and did get to see it whilst Graham and I sat on the boat. The guide then took the boat on to a different spot to snorkel. This time it was beautiful. It was in a sheltered cove where the water was crystal clear (no jellyfish) and incredibly warm. We happily bobbed about seeing all the fish. We went to a third snorkel sight which was equally gorgeous. Time however was running out and the guide suggested we head back to the mainland via monkey beach. Although the tide was right up to the cliff we took the boat up to the trees which contained numerous monkeys. There was food in the water from other vistors and they were all watching it deciding what to do then suddenly one jumped into the sea to grab it and soon they were all jumping in, swimming about and some even trying to drown others to get the bananas. Sadly though we were soon back at the harbour but all agreed that it had been an amazing trip and it was a fantastic idea to charter our own small boat (for almost the same price as the large ferry tours). We spent the rest of the day chilling out. We had tried to visit long beach but found that there were so many boats that the water was not inviting.
That night was halloween and Koh Phi Phi become a party island. On the beach were numerous parties. We went to a bar that had a fire show. This involved people spinning, throwing and catching various ropes and poles on fire and ended in a fire skipping rope and fire limbo competition. We were all happy to sit watching from a distance rather than taking part though (none of us liked the idea of what would happen if we missed the skipping rope)!
The next day we were back on another ferry and heading to Phuket. We decided to stay in Phuket town but took a bus to the other side of the island to Patong beach to book some scuba diving. This beach however was a whole other level of tackiness and sleaze. We found our dive trip and decided it was safer to stay in the shopping mall for dinner (this was also like las vegas with its own tall ship light show extravaganza). The only way to get back to our hotel was by tuk tuk - OMG! This was one pimped up tuk tuk with a massive base speaker that vibrated under Dave, a little kitty leather interior theme and multiple brightly coloured disco lights. There were no windows and so everyone heard us coming on the 25 minute journey (pretty embarassing) although very funny when "gangnam style" came on. There was only on thing to do - dance.
In the morning we had a very early start to go scuba diving. We were so happy to see our taxi turn up given the chaos the night before in the hostel in trying to book it. We then met the dive crew at Ao Chalong Pier about 30 minutes away. We had three dives for the day around the islands of Raya Yai which were basically like swimming in a pool full of fish the water was so clear, warm and calm. We even saw a sea snake and trigger fish. The dive crew were great and made the day run very smoothly. In the evening we went to a restaurant called "cook" which serves Italian food with a Thai twist. We had green curry pizzas which were yummy. We then ended up in a small street bar with great live music.
So ended out Thai island adventure. We spent the following morning packing and relaxing before catching a flight to Bangkok. Phuket and the islands have been heavily developed, not always sympathetically, but the snorkelling and diving opportunities make the trip worthwhile.
More on Bangkok soon
Lots of love
David and Brenda xxx