Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thailand's Islands

Living the island life for a while was quite a treat. We spent four nights on Railay Beach (near Ao Nang) and three nights on Koh Phi Phi before heading to Bangkok, where we are now. To get to our hotel on Railay, we took a two-hour flight from Singapore to Krabi and then took a 15-minute long-tail boat ride to the west side of Railey Beach, then walked 10 minutes to our hotel on the east side of Railay.

If you're not familiar with the area, Thailand has loads of islands at its southern tip, directly north of Malaysia. Some of these islands are geared to tourists who want to party, some are for families, and some are national parks that don't offer any accommodation at all. There's a fourth type I forgot to mention: rock sticking out of ground.

Railay was full of families and couples in love. Needless to say, Monica and I found ourselves enjoying the neighboring beach, Ton Sai, which was full of rock climbers, live music and cheap food. We would have stayed on that beach instead, but after reading Wikipedia's article on Ton Sai we were dissuaded. I have a theory that some want to keep Ton Sai from exploding into another tourist mecca, so they lie about supposed construction sites (on the Internet) to keep too many people from going there. Who knows.

Ao Nang "pier."

This is Ton Sai.

We had energetic monkeys outside our hotel room. They ate fruit, jumped around from tree to tree, gave one another piggy-back rides and were quite an amusing source of entertainment. I hung out in front of our room for a good 20 minutes. Then, a big-daddy monkey snuck up on me from behind, sending me in a panic trying to get into our room and close the door. He probably wanted my camera...

The food in Thailand so far has been great, but I have to say the portions are quite small. Maybe I'm just used to supersized American portions, but I could probably eat triple the amount they serve when you order a dish here. It's okay though because I end up eating a lot of street food and smoothies so I don't starve.

Here Monica is looking sexy behind my sexy glass.

Our first night in Railay the two of us shared a candle-lit mat on the beach surrounded by a dozen couples--an early Valentine treat. The next day we walked to Ton Sai through a path that took about half an hour. Lots of monkeys were jumping in the trees overhead, bringing the jungle to life.

Sunset on Ton Sai.

We explored a cave near our hotel with bats and mosquitos. And liked it!

No paint involved, 100% natural. It looks like either a whale's mouth or a large taffy manufacturing plant to me.

Rock climbing is the thing to do in Ton Sai (and to a lesser extent Railay). The rocky cliffs seem to be created to be scaled. Monica and I participated in our own way: spectating. We noticed there is a strong affiliation with rock climbing and Bob Marley. Or maybe it's just Thailand and Bob Marley?

On the Railay side. See the dude halfway up?

Long way to go, man...
Back at Ton Sai, can you see how chill it is? I can almost feel it by looking at this photo.

Please notice the eccentric shirtless guy with the microphone near the right. Nice vibes here.
Sold! This one's for Amy B.
Side note to say I enjoyed the uplifting cups my smoothies came in:

On Railay. Never heard of Bud's ice cream of San Francisco before. I think they stole the logo from Budweiser.

We rented a kayak one day and took it to the beach with the Phra Nang Cave (Princess Cave).

Since ancient times, fishermen have made offerings to the symbolic Phallus of Shiva at the Princess Cave, before going out to sea. The fishermen believed (still believe?) the cave was the home of a mythical sea princess, and that their offerings will bring them success in their fishing and protect them from danger. Nowadays, the cave contains a large collection of carved wooden phallic symbols, offerings and other objects believed to help with fertility.

Lots of people got a kick out of my floatie and made comments to me. Is it really so weird for a grown adult to want a floatie to chill on?
Our 9-island tour was amazing, but exhausting. The boat was at capacity and it was a full day of sunshine, snorkeling and boating. The tour included a nice barbeque dinner on a remote stretch of beach somewhere. After dinner, we swam with glowing plankton in the ocean. We crashed hard that night.

The day after the extensive boat tour, we took a ferry to Koh Phi Phi, a wild party island.

Buying postcards has never been so challenging. Is it possible this cat is hungover like everyone else on the island?
Maya Bay is where the movie "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. It's a big tourist attraction ... we ended up going there on a different afternoon boat tour. How could you refuse those baby blue eyes?

Koh means island and I don't know what Phi means, but it's pronounced "pee" so all around the island are signs for pee pee this and pee pee that.

Some especially good ones on a menu.

There wasn't a good swimming area near the part of the island where we were staying so we took a quick boat ride down to another beach for a day (Long Beach). It was great.

Later that night we watched some Muay Thai boxing. Unfortunately we didn't see any of the professionals fight, only the tourists.

Pushing four-foot-ten.

Our bungalow, rented for less than $20/night. Comes with free wildlife.

Nice souvenirs...
Our second boat tour included a brief visit to monkey island, some snorkeling and a some time at Maya Bay.

A green moon...

I kept thinking Daft Punk was gonna pop out from behind this rock.
Maya Bay.
The movie was definitely filmed during high tide.

Snorkel spot.

Koh Phi Phi is a great destination if you're into style. One-stop shopping for all the dreads, hair wraps and elephant tattoos your heart could ever desire.

We had to hide from all the creepy nightlife in our bungalow--I'm talking cockroaches the length of my middle finger. That is not an exaggeration and I know because one night I flicked one off only to discover it was a perfect measure-match. I found myself repeating that Smashing Pumpkins song with the line "they only come out at night" over and over and over in my head until finally realizing what was on my mind...

Thank god for our mosquito net.
Bungalow Barbie.
I woke up a bit early one morning and walked to a viewpoint on the island. What's it called, you ask? Pee Pee Viewpoint of course. I think they should have a Pee Pee's Playhouse somewhere.

Loooooong way up. Good thing I had a Thai iced tea for sustenance.

These cats are so considerate!
Not photoshopped.
Packed and ready for Bangkok.
Bangkok was only a ferry-minivan-shuttle-overnightbus-tuktuk-ride away ... for one all-inclusive price of about $24 USD.

We made friends with a small passenger on the ferry.

Something must have been lost in translation here: no naked light? We've see this all over Thailand.
Arriving in Bangkok at 5:00 a.m. via overpriced tuk-tuk.
I would recommend going to Railay if you have a family or at least a partner. I would recommend going to Ton Sai if you like to rock climb, enjoy reggae or have a very small budget. I would recommend Phi Phi if you like large buckets of alcohol, fire shows and tattoos. There are many other islands to choose from as well. All in all, I'm so glad we were able to spend a week enjoying the natural beauty of these islands. Thailand is an amazing place so far. In the words of the late great Ronald McDonald, "I'm loving it!"