I had originally thought to create a travel blog as Danielle and I travelled thru Thailand.
As always, when you’re on holidays, fun and relaxation comes first, so the thought of anything work related somehow sat on the back burner.
But we left on January 11th for three weeks with all the best intentions.
This was the first time in our lives that we had gone away for so long. Danielle chides me about keeping track of our holidays, but it’s just something I do. So when we told people that we were away for three weeks, I always had to follow it with a “did you know that we’ve only gone away… ” Blah blah.
So now here we are in our third week and I’m sitting on our tropical paradise beach typing away.
We arrived in Bankok at 1:00 am on January 13th. Thailand is 15 hours ahead so we lost a day in travel. Arriving in Bankok, we headed to the long line of hotel greeters looking for someone who might have an idea of where our hotel might be. Here is mistake #1. As we arrived technically on the 13th, which was still the 12th in our time (remember that losing a day thing?) we had booked the hotel for the wrong day. Also, January 13th (had we done our research we would have known this… mistake #2) was the date of “Bankok Shutdown”, a political pre-election demonstration that I won’t get into now. This made it even harder to get around and find somewhere to stay. A taxi driver introduced himself and “knew of a place”, but it was surprisingly expensive, so back to the airport we go, trying to find a bench or quiet stretch of marble floor to sleep on. A note about currency – when you travel in a place like Thailand, or any tropical country, things are incredible cheap compared to our Canadian prices. You have to quit trying to calculate the conversion and start thinking in the local currency. For instance, the “surprisingly expensive” hotel room was 2500 Thai Baht (Bht) – about $83.. not much by Canadian standards, but in Thailand, that is quite expensive. Generally we were paying from 400 Bht to 800 Bht for much better.
So there we are, needing to get out of the airport (because it’s freezing on those marble floors and they don’t turn the damn lights off!) and we buy tickets on the first flight to Krabi in the south- at 8am. Unfortunately, all we could find is Business class and they cost us 5000 Bht each. So much for the expensive hotel. Standard class tickets cost about 350 Baht. Amazing what you’ll do after 30 hours with virtually no sleep. (yes, this is Mistake #3).
Arriving in Krabi, taking a bus to Old Krabi Town (50Bht each, about $1.60 – ok, I’ll stop converting now…) and finding a hotel for 450Bht. We have arrived! We chose the front seats on the bus so that we’ll have a view…this was it by the time we left.
Krabi is a great town. Touristic in Old Krabi, but walk 3 blocks and you’re in the middle of a moderately sized, local, thriving city.
Local markets selling everything from clothes to live chickens are abundant.
Down on the river in Krabi is a night market filling 2 square blocks of carts and tents with people cooking up a storm. We had grilled whole fish, chicken sate, spicy green papaya salad and crispy sweet rice all washed down with large bottles of Chang Beer. This place was nothing like we had seen before… the life, the smells, the tastes (I’m a spicy food fan, but this a whole different ball game) and just the people! We had come here after hearing stories about shysters, and how you really had to watch your back. Our own experiences in Mexico had been similar. But like any culture, people are generally kind and helpful. Downtown Bankok, (not sorry that we missed it) is probably very different, but here we were met with big smiles and an eagerness to play charades with us as we try to make ourselves understood.
We quickly realized that our rules we grow up and live with, don’t generally apply here. There are lines painted on the road that signify which side you should probably drive on. They don’t really apply – if you have room to get through, sound your horn, let people know that here you come, and go for it…they’ll move. Motorcycles (our scooters) have seating for 2, but c’mon, you’ll fit! My favourite was seeing a family of four on a scooter with the youngest being about 3 standing in front of his father who drove. It wasn’t until they passed us that I realized that the father was texting as he drove! And helmets? Bah! By about the 3rd day in Krabi, we pretty much had crossing the road down pat. They drive on the opposite side of the road than us, which is fine, easy to deal with, just look the other way first, but you never really know how fast they’re going. Our taxi at one point (an open backed truck with wooden benches) hit 110km on a city street – I was watching!
We made friends, both local and tourists in Krabi. We did the tourist things, went where only the locals went, did a river boat tour, but it was time to explore – we had gotten our feet wet.
One of the cool things about Thailand, is that it is a tourist Mecca. Every hotel, restaurant and street vendor is also doubling as a tour bookie. You can book buses, flights and tours to anywhere in Thailand, or Asia from pretty much anyone. We don’t know how they do it, but it’s kind of like organized chaos. The receptionist in the hotel takes your information and presto! Theres a bus ready to pick you up…whenever you want it! And they’re on time! So we asked around, talked to some other travellers (all the while remembering what we had heard from friends back here at home – thank you all BTW!) and booked 3 nights at a hotel on Koh Lanta. (Koh meaning island) This was Mistake #4. Our booking agent (and this is where you need to be a little suspicious) says “It’s high season, very busy, not much available, yada, yada. So we booked 3 nights at a resort on the south end of Koh Lanta for 1500Bht per night. It’s right on the beach and snorkelling is fantastic – right off the beach! It’s also right on the parking lot where all the people & deliveries arrive, and where all the restaurant patrons and people waiting at reception stand…not exactly private or quiet. I wasn’t too happy, this was our dream vacation! ….but, for an extra 500Bht per night, we can at least have privacy. We made the best of it. The beach was beautiful, the snorkelling was not great (water conditions and the whole coast is still reeling from the 2004 Tsunami which devastated the coral beds) but the food was fantastic and we were in Thailand! During our time on Kantiang Bay, we swam, ate some fantastic food, rented a motorcycle (scooter) and explored the whole area. But after 3 days, time to move on.
We left our beach resort after 3 days and moved down island to Khlong Khong – a beach community half way down the island.
Khlong Khong was another Kettle of fish. Lots of life, lots of tourists, lots of fun, and lots of parties. It seemed every night one of the resorts on the beach had a ‘special night’ that lasted with techno thump thump until 4am. Thank God for earplugs! The beach resorts were funky, all with bamboo huts or cement walled huts (pricing from 600 to 2500 Bht per night) and beachfront restaurants and cafes. There were fire dancers at night and every resort had a fantastic sunset view. The beach was long, a little rocky, but covered in a jeweller’s dream of coral and shells – you could (and we did) beach comb for hours.
But once again, our 3 day cycle was coming to a close. Not that we planned anything, but it just seemed that staying 3 days at any one place was our limit. We were still restless and had a hard time sitting still. We hadn’t been on holiday for quite a while and although people had told us “what you really need to do is lie on a beach”, we aren’t the beach lying types and we had to move. So we said our goodbyes to our hosts in our resort, Jurgen at Bee Bee Bungalows and off we went….to Koh Lipe. Didn’t know much about it except that it was small, further south, snorkelling heaven, and above all, quiet. So we walked up the road, talked to a sweet young lady in a tour office, waited for the bus and went to catch the speed boat for a “three hour tour”. Now when I say “Speed Boat”, I mean, SPEEDBOAT. These are boats that are about 24 feet long, carry up to 45 people, have 3 250 HP Honda engines on the back… and fly! 45 knots on rough seas. So we load up, get seated and cruise for 3 hours. We stop at various islands to drop people off to waiting “Long Tail” Boats (Wooden long boats that can hold up to 16 people with basically a Buick 6 cylinder engine balance on a 16 foot long bar with a propeller on the end…no cover, no muffler and manually steered by the Samurai driver). We finally land on Koh Lipe!