She Says: Well my mother keeps prodding me as to why I do not write that much on the blog anymore. Truth is, J has been writing the entries first and I feel that it’s a bit redundant to rewrite the events that take place. So in order to make my mother happy I am opting to write the first entry this time.
We arrived to Thailand by a 3 hr ferry departing from Langkawi Island, Malaysia. We arrived at a port town called Satun where we went through immigration and then tried to figure out how we would get to Krabi. I suggested that it should be called “Krabi, gateway to the islands”, as many use this city as a hub to get to various Thai islands. We decided to use the mini bus service located inside the port to get there. We were pretty unfamiliar with the sort of public transportation here so thought this was our best bet even if it was a tad more expensive. They pulled up a very nice air conditioned minibus which made us feel pretty good about our decision. Three other people loaded in the van leaving plenty of room to stretch out and get comfortable. So much for all that talk of fitting 12 people into a 6 passenger van we had heard about. For now…
After driving for approximately 1 hr our driver pulled into a gas station. What we thought to be a potty break ended up being a van switch. Our van pulled up and parked beside a dilapidated old van. The driver got out and told us to get out and get in the other van. Everyone in the van just looked at each other thinking the same thing. “I knew this was too good to be true.” Not only was the van in poor condition with no a/c, but about 6 other people unloaded from it. We thought they were getting into our van and us in theirs. Nope-we were all supposed to fit in this van along with all of our luggage. What we thought was an impossible task ended up being accomplished. Not sure how but we did it. The fun did not end there. After about another 30 mins or so our new driver pulled over on the side of the road and parked. No one was sure what was going to happen next. Our driver ended up running across the road and getting into a truck. The driver of that truck ran across the road in our direction and jumped in and began driving. He drove for approximately another 30-45mins before pulling into an airport where we dropped 3 of the passengers off. After this we drove to another town where we dropped a couple more people off. It was another 30 mins or so before we pulled over again. This time we pulled into a bus station where we were directed to get out of the van, grab our gear and get into a huge coach bus. You have got to be kidding me–all we could do was laugh at this point. We all loaded the coach obligingly and shook our heads. It was another good 2-3 hours before we reached our destination. We arrived to Krabi successfully schooled in Thai transportation 101 🙂
We grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed to our hostel. The hostel turned out to be pretty nice. I won’t lie I was skeptical at first since J had booked this one. Usually I vet and book all the places we stay. We booked a shared dorm since we were only planning to stay one night and it was cheap. I think about $6 for the both of us. We headed up to our room and the first thing I noticed was no a/c. Krabi was about as hot and sticky as it gets- no a/c was not a good thing. We went down and asked if there were any rooms available with a/c and there wasn’t. Oh well I thought I can handle this. As J and I got comfy in our bed we heard one of our roommates making weird noises. J and I looked at each other and pretended not to hear it. Then all of a sudden we heard him say “Oh my god I think I’m going to be sick.” And with that he threw up in his bed. Yes in the bed.. Apparently he had food poisoning. He thinks the street vendor he bought pineapple from used a dirty knife. We ended up spending another night in Krabi so we could figure out where we wanted to go next. Fortunately we were able to move to an a/c room for an additional $2 and all was right in the world.
We decided to go to Koh Lanta island next. We had heard and read a couple of good things about it and decided to go for it. It was reviewed to be one of the less touristy islands in the Andaman Sea and a bit cheaper as well. We were pretty tempted, however, to skip it and go to Ko Phangna for the Full Moon Party. We actually met a fellow Buckeye while at the hostel in Krabi–him and a couple of his friends were heading there and invited us to join them. It was rough to decline the offer but I think J and I are both happy with our decision. Koh Lanta did not let us down. It was everything we hoped for and more. It was not commercial at all and was low key just like we like it. It had plenty of cheap food options including this Greek restaurant we found while driving around the island. We liked it so much we went there twice in one day.
One of our best days we spent in Koh Lanta was doing a 4 island tour. We got up early in the morning and caught a boat with about 30 other people and set out to visit a couple remote islands. The boat was pretty basic but had a large upper deck where you could either sit or lie to enjoy the scenery. The islands were beautiful. They are exactly as you see in travel magazines– crystal turquoise water surrounding large limestone cliffs which seem to be set in a far away land.
We snorkeled in a couple of the spots, but our favorite place was Emerald Cave. The boat pulled up to one of the limestone cliffs as I mentioned before. We were all given life jackets and asked to jump into to the water. Once we were all in our tour guide led us to an opening in the limestone wall. It was a cave. A completely dark-as-night cave. Our guide had a flashlight with him to guide us through. Everyone doggy paddled along, bumping into each other and the cave wall trying to feel their way through (the light didn’t do much for those in the back like us). After approximately 70 meters of this we saw light coming in through the other side of the cave. The light reflecting on the water gave it the most amazing emerald color, thus the name Emerald Cave 🙂 It was absolutely gorgeous! Once we got through the cave we entered a completely walled in lagoon with a private beach. This is one of those things you have to see to believe. It was straight out of a movie– literally The Beach with Leonardo Di Caprio was filmed at these islands. Anyways the water was a perfect temperature, a perfect color and the only way you can enjoy this beach is swimming through that cave.
After the cave we pulled up to Kraadan Island where our crew made us a scrumptious lunch on the beach. It was an absolutely amazing day to say the least!
He Says: Finally, TB started a post. Thanks Pam! It was too much pressure trying to summarize everything.
I think this is a good point to give a description of how we plan our travels while we travel. We’ve slowly become more and more spontaneous which, I think, is the best way to be. Having the ability to go wherever whenever we want without a flight schedule or reservation holding us back has been extremely liberating. There’s always certain instances when we have to book something ahead of time but we try to do that as little as possible.
It works basically like this. A few days before departing wherever we are, we talk to other travelers and read through some travel books trying to figure out where we want to go next. Once we’ve got a place pinned down, we figure out when we want to go based on how much we’re enjoying the place we’re at. After we’ve decided when to leave, we start asking people and travel agencies what the best way is to get there. Once we’ve booked that we start looking for a place to stay. We might reserve a place online prior to arriving at our destination or, if we’re feeling really spontaneous, we’ll just wait until we get there then walk around until we find a place for a cheap price. Sometimes we pay more and sometimes less. I think it all evens out at the end of the day. Even if we did end up paying more I don’t think either one of us would care. The freedom we get in return is well worth the price.
In the case of Krabi, I booked a place a few days ahead of time. Like TB said, she usually does the vetting and booking. For as skeptical as she was, I think I did a pretty good job. Other than our roommate puking in his bed in our room with no a/c, it had to be one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. 🙂
We definitely learned a lot about Thai transportation in that first day trying to get to Krabi. Turns out it’s like that across most of SE Asia but I guess that happens in such a congested area. By now we’ve come to expect being crammed into a minivan, tuk-tuk or bus and swerving around switchbacks at breakneck speeds then overtaking other vehicles regardless of oncoming traffic or blind-spots. It’s all standard practice apparently.
While we’re talking about traveling, I should describe a tuk-tuk for those who haven’t been to SE Asia. It’s the standard local taxi service in most towns around the region. It’s named tuk-tuk because of the sound the two-stroke engine makes while it’s running. They’re slightly different depending on where you go but, for the most part, they look like a cross between a motor bike and truck bed with a cover on top. In some cases, that’s exactly what they are, with the help of some creative welding. Sometimes you can even find one that’s painted bright cheery colors. “You need tuk-tuk?? I drive you around, best price.” She says: “Cheap, cheap”
Krabi was a decent town, definitely a big tourist stop because of it’s location in relation to all the islands, but still a nice town. We ended up staying a few extra nights, met a few Buckeyes (small world, especially considering they were only the second Americans we met up to that point), almost ate some fried maggots and crickets (almost) and then caught our shuttle and ferry to Koh Lanta.
Koh Lanta has to be our favorite island up to this point. Not only did it have the idyllic white sand beaches and clear blue-green water, but it was also extremely laid back with all small local businesses. The only commercial thing there was 7/11. I’m sure it won’t stay like that for long so hopefully we make it back before it gets overwhelmed by big hotels and KFC.
There happened to be a lot of Europeans living on Koh Lanta which was good for us because it meant there was a lot of good food. The Greek food got us excited to go to Greece and was a contributing factor in our decision for the wedding caterer. Lots of gyros, tzatziki and ouzo. 🙂
The 4-island tour was definitely the highlight of our time there. The Emerald Cave was amazing and would’ve been worth the trip in itself. Snorkeling and seeing the limestone cliffs towering out of the water was just icing on the cake. The Caribbean isn’t going to cut it anymore.
We ended up staying on Koh Lanta for a little longer than we planned, and left only because we booked a LivingSocial deal in Phuket months in advance. Damn you reservations!
Going from laid back island life to streets lined with seedy bars, lady-boys and middle-aged white men walking around with there Thai honeys….