Thursday, July 30, 2009

Island Life In Thailand: Part 3

Day 3-5: This has blurred together in my memory (not uncommon) but we spent some time exploring the island we walked to Hat Yao (long beach) to see about possible accommodations and a nice beach. We tried out our new snorkel gear from TJ Macs and it worked well, except we had about 1 inch visibility under water because of the residual turbulent water. But we enjoyed a little sun bathing and relaxing. After figuring out the actual distance we decided we should stay in our pink bungalow.

One of the things that is very different in Thailand is how they deal (or don’t deal) with there trash. Especially on Ko Phi Phi don. Word on the street is that after the Tsunami, an overwhelming number of volunteers showed up to clean the place up and left it spotless and ready to be taken care of. Well if anyone had doubts, they you where right because they have successfully turned certain area’s into smelly, growing piles of trash. For example on the hill side between Ao Ton Sai beach and Ao Lo Dalam beach where it seems a good portion of locals live had a large metal fence at the bottom. Well it looks like the locals just throw there trash down the hill to the bottom to the point where the smell is almost overwhelming at the fence, The fence is about to break from the shear weight of the trash, and overall is a very unpleasant place. I think it is a culture difference as they don’t seem to see anything wrong with just piling up trash and letting it sit, for ever. A new friend told a story about a thai woman he saw that was just finishing a bottle of water and then proceeded to ‘wing’ it into the woods, without even looking to see if anyone was watching, as if everyone did this. So I would guess the problem is cultural. But for us westerners its a big deterrent.

The next day we took a trip on a long tail boat to the south Island called ko phi phi leh to enjoy some AMAZING scenery, beaches, and snorkeling. Although the snorkeling was ‘game on’ type where you are in a bay, a long way from shore in a boat with vertical cliffs and 20 feet deep water with sharp coral below. I hope you know how to swim well! (oh wait, I don’t swim that well) Either way it was an excellent experience. Its one of those things that is pretty foreign to me (being that I’m land locked) and every time I go I am just amazed at the colors, variation, different creatures, and up close and personal experience with the wild life you get. Not the same as having an up close and personal experience with a bear. We also visited a beach called Ao Maya that was pure breath taking.

Because it is a national park, the boat driver literally drops you off in a rowdy lagoon filled with sharp rocks and you swim to a ladder coming out of the crashing surf. If you miss the ladder you may end up cheese graded on the rocks. Again, this was game on tourism! Then you climb the later though a gun sight in the rocks, cross through some palm trees and arrive at Ao Maya beach.

Ao Maya beach was the main filming location for the movie The Beach in 1999. To our suprise there was a beautiful, large beached sail boat ready for another movie! We also stopped by Tham Phaya Naak; (Viking Cave) to see the Swiftlet nest collectors, an interesting and fiercely competitive trade. After returning to Ko Phi Phi Don, we stopped by monkey beach to watch the monkeys, which have been being fed every day forever and now live on a trashy beach filled with old water bottles, and rotting fruit. But as a Westerner, its not everyday you can see monkeys up close and personal. The snorkeling was very good near this beach also.

The next day we took another snorkeling adventure, although this time it was unguided. We went north to Ao Lo Dalam beach on the north side of town and rented kayaks with our new Canadian friends (and no, they are not all Canadian, but I’m going to go ahead and stereotype them as Canadian) and kayaked to a secluded beach on the North West edge of the bay. There we spent about 1 minute in the water until Laura got tied up (literally) in a jelly fish. Wish much pain and suffering she got out of the water to find sings from here lower thigh to her shoulders, ouch! So of course as the urban myth would dictate, one of the boys urinated on her. Although it was to no avail... Turns out it really is just a myth. So Tim was kind enough to paddle her back to shore where the locals quickly located a green pulpy plant that the crushed and mixed with water. They then applied it as a sort of cream to the stings. It seemed to be pretty effective. Laura was smiling again by the time we arrived. While Laura was dealing with her pain we paddled across the bay (not recommended) to the North East side of the bay for some more snorkeling. This time we where much more successful. Being that one of the dive boats was parked in the same bay, we figured we made a good choice. I would say we spent a good 30-45 minutes of snorkeling in some beatiful coral and deep water. Maybe the highlight of the snorkeling. We where surrounded by limestone cliffs on three sides with about 15 feet deep water. You could see at least 15 feet in the water that was turquoise and warm. I’m not sure how long we where in the water, but this is when my dear wife over cooked her back to the point of blistering, with spf 60 sun screen. After we couldn’t do it anymore we paddled back to Ao Lo Dalam to return our kayaks.

Later that evening Julie and I decided to do some climbing (we had been puttin it off for 2 days) so we went up to Ton Sai Tower, just a short walk from Toh Sai Bay. We climbed maybe 3 climbs but pushed it a little too long and ended up cleaning up in the dark. One thing I didn’t mention before is that the monkeys tend to want whatever it is that you have, water, sunscreen, food, etc. And we had successful scared them away, up until it got dark, but now we couldn’t see them anymore, and they new it.

So as we stumbled through the dark a handful of large monkeys followed us through the jungle. If you weren’t aware, monkeys are not nice creatures and tend to have no moral standards (weird huh?) We later heard a story about one of the Ton Sai Tower monkeys that had decapitated a baby kitten, and not eaten it, but just left it to rot. These where the monkeys following us through the jungle. Needless to say, I had my knife handy. Finally we emerged on the beach, unscathed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Southern Thailand

Day 2: Actually day two started on the bus ride down somewhere in the middle of Thailand. We then boarded the ferry and took a scary ride across raging sea’s too the island. I’m not normally sea sick, but I got a little uncomfortable on this trip.

Finally we arrived at the Island in the early afternoon where we found our bungalow in Gypsy village for 400 bhat a night, with no hot water, no AC, and a manual flush toilet, oh and it had a large selections of bugs, gecho’s and pink. Finally we had reached our destination. We had some expensive Thai food at a safe restaurant high on a hill above the Tsunami level. Some excellent Thai food later we where ready to experience a little of town.

Phi Phi island is one of the premier tourist locations (to our dismay) and is filled with everything you could want from fire shows, to boxing rings, to diving trips and more. Needless to say you will read in some places that Ko Phi Phi is still in the process of rebuilding and it may be difficult to find places to stay and such. This is not true anymore, its probably 98% back in business with probably almost 100 eateries and loads of places to stay from super cheap (200 bhat)to super expensive.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thailand Part 1

Day 1: Leave SLC forget your iphone (or think you forget your iphone). Try and make sure everything is ready at the house. Travel for 26 hours to arrive in Bangkok at around 1200am. Take a taxi to Th Khao San for 400 baht ($12) to get a room with A/C and hot water (livin’ it up) for 500 baht ($15). Sleep oh precious sleep. Wake up around 700am and the strip is completely dead. Nothing open, just a few tuk-tuk’s (3 wheel motorcycles) and taxi’s looking to take some blok somewhere he doesn’t want to go. I walk to the only open store, 7-eleven to pick up some drinking water. By the time I return I’m covered is sweat and need a cold shower. Next we get our included breakfast (a sorry excuse for eggs and bacon) and head out on foot in the town With everything we have on our backs. We head towards the Mae Nam Chao Praya (River) and Thammasat University, with little to no understanding of the map, or how to even recognize the street names. The good news is that every Thai that will talk to you is willing to help you find anything, for the right price of course. We head through the university where everyone is in there white shirt and kilt or whit shirt and slacks. We emerge in a Thai market by the river filled with nic-nac’s that are protective spirit representatives for use in numerous locations. In retrospect we should have spend some baht here and got some authentic souvenirs as we didn’t run into this type of market again on our trip. We then emerged into a small group of temples where I saw one of only three of the female nuns in a purple robe with a shaved head. Later we ventured to the old grand palace on Th Na Phra Lan.

From here we took a tuk-tuk to see the different wat’s, or temples of budda. We saw the sitting budda, and the standing budda (30 m) as well as got a general ride through town and ended at a jewelry store which of course we didn’t ask to go to. But, in a nice building with A/C, fresh tea and 5 different people waiting on you it was difficult not to select some nice peaces as gifts for the important people of the family. We then took another cab to the TAT (the tourist authority of Thailand) a somewhat shady business that you shouldn’t give your credit card number to, yet probably the easiest and safest way to travel.

We book a VIP bus to Krabi on the Phi Phi Family. At one time I’m sure this bus was nice, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been cleaned since the purchased it 3 or 4 years ago. Not exactly VIP. Not to mention we get on the bus at 600pm and they start playing these raunchy, rejected US movies and max volume... life you would expect on a spring break bus for a bunch of freshman going to datona beach florida. Needless to say 12 hours later we arrived in Krabi at the phi phi family ferry station to phi phi island. So of course we had no choice but to purchase a very expensive ticket from the phi phi family to get us to ko phi phi don island. While standing around, an enthusiastic thai tried to bleed us dry with anything he could sell us from ferry tickets to money exchanges.