Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Two trains, Three planes and 17 hours later...

...And I arrive at Krabi airport, looking expectantly around for Amy.  I hover aroufr arrivals area and spot her, we must have missed each other. We grab the bus back to Ao Nang beach (our first stop) and I fill her in on my journey.  I wasn't looking forward to the flight but three films (Captain America - decent but no Ironman, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - highly recommended and lovely, American Hustle - OK, nice ending but not worth the hype and Oscar nominations) and a free business class upgrade on the Dubai to Bangkok leg meant I was tired but fairly relaxed by the time I reached Bangkok.   all passengers of Bangkok Airways get complimentary lounge access, unfortunately it was being refurbished when I was there but we were still treated to a stall filled with random Thai delights and drinks.
Celebrating upgrade with a cheeky champagne

Krabi sells the rudest bracelets. Particularly fond of "up bum no baby". 

Sunset at ao Nang beach

Monsoon boooooo

Amy showed me to our hotel for the night where she'd already set up camp a few days previously.  I dumped my stuff and we wandered down to the beach to watch the sunset then had a dinner of pad Thai (my first ever) and cocktails. 

The next day we got up to go to Railay Beach, declared by some as "one of the best beaches Thailand has to offer". An early downpour of monsoon rain meant we sat in a cafe for an hour to have breakfast before setting off again to the longtail boat ticket counter.  Trips only run once the boat is full so we had to wait and watch people wander by, wondering if they were about to buy tickets to our destination.  A Dutch girl waiting with us valliantly attempted to drum up business for our destination but failed so we continued to wait until three others decided to come with us. 

The longtail ride was pretty scary, choppy seas meant the seemingly fragile wooden boat was crashing against the waves and I got absolutely soaked from sitting at the front.  Scary as it was I spent the time thinking " the boat driver has been doing this his entire life and knows these seas so it must be perfectly safe and if it wasn't then he wouldn't have set sail ". Right?!

We finally landed at the beach and first impressions were " hmm, there must be more than this".  We joined up with a Canadian and 2 Brits who had a similar first impression and we headed for the best beach on the island, Phranang.  Pretty as it was, the overcast skies and threat of rain did nothing to change our minds of "is this it?".  We attempted to sunbathe for a while, the sea too choppy to swim in.  We decided to wander around the rest of the island to see what else it had to offer.  On the way back we stopped to watch some rock climbers and discovered a fertility cave that had a huge pile of wooden penisses outside it.  Apparently people donate flowers and wooden willies to the cave for extra fertility.

As we considered getting the boat back, the sun finally came out to play and Amy and Katie read their books and me, Tarek and another boy (name forgotten) went for a dip in the sea.  Tarek had a go pro so we had fun with that whilst trying not to get knocked over by the large waves heading directly at us.  A less eventful boat journey home and we agreed to meet the other group for dinner later on.
Dinner was a nice affair, they brought along their other friend Max and we had interesting conversations about regrets, travelling and what types of girls there were. Deep.

Railay beach

Railay beach

On Saturday we woke early for our bus transfer to Ko Lanta. What was meant to be 2 hours turned into 4 as we picked up other passengers at other locations then were all dropped off again in the middle of nowhere. We got on another bus which then went round the houses picking up locals with luggage being put wherever there was space.  Two car ferry rides later (car ferry being more of a floating platform with an engine!) and we finally arrived in Koh Lanta. 

car ferry

We went for a wander and first impressions weren't great, we asked about tours and as it's off season our hotel seemed to think nothing would be running.  Our hotel had an odd atmosphere.  Only 5 of the 30 odd rooms were full and it seemed to be run by a teenage boy who's only interest lay in listening to his music at the beach bar whilst playing with those Poi things.

debris strewn beach

We found a place to hire bicycles and vowed to go on an adventure the following day.  Scooters are recommended but having heard several horror stories plus finding an ominous washed up helmet on the beach meant we decided not to risk any probable injury caused by our clumsy selves! We walked along the debris strewn beach and found a very hippie bar to have dinner in.  They were smoking pot and the place was decorated with fairy lights, home made candles and UV paint phrases like "free loving with no bullshit".  We felt very uncool.

Freedom bar

Our hotel bar

The next day's adventure started with Amy waking up screaming at 2.30am as the resident cockroach had crawled over her.  Sleep finally resumed after many a shake of the duvet with Amy wrapping herself in the sheets so she looked like a nun. 

Our day began with a short cycle to the Lanta Animal Welfare Centre.  We spent half an hour playing with millions of kittens who were so friendly and hard to out down.  We then went on a quick tour of the facility which was set up in 2005 and has to date sterilised over 5000 cats and dogs, pretty impressive.  It's fairly technical, all of the dogs are separated into packs by trial and error and packs must never be allowed to meet or chaos will ensue. 

We were showed the manager's dogs s/he (sex unknown) had decided to keep for themselves.  An interesting mix which proves personality is more important than looks even when it comes to animals, the dogs consisted of a " normal" dog, a dog with only 2 front legs (we were so curious to see how it moved but it was asleep) and a mangy old dog with gammy eyes and a prolapsed bowel covered in flies.  I tried not to get too close.

The bike ride continued in 38° heat across the top and over to the other more rural side of the island, punctuated by homes and shops housed in shacks and huts with the occasional plush house amongst them.  Our intended destination was the Kao Mai Kaew cave. We missed the road turning and had to double back but eventually found it.  Unfortunately as we got there quite late and you're only allowed to enter with a guide, there was no one to show us in so we had to turn back.  Still, the bike ride was fun and showed us a more natural, less touristy Thailand where coke bottles were only 20baht (36p) and ice creams 12 baht (15p). When we eventually made it home I mapped the route and it turns out we did 30 miles, not bad for a couple of non bike riders!

Places stayed...

Ao Nang: sabai mansions, 490baht per night (2 nights). Holiday apartments. Double bed, slow WiFi, wet room, fan. Nice pool and friendly staff. Good location.
Koh Lanta: moonwalk resort, 550 baht per night (2 nights). Individual bungalows.  Double bed. Shower separated by brick divider. Cockroach and ants in room. Fan, OK WiFi. Nice pool and beach bar. Odd atmosphere.

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