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Around the World in 210 Days

The Traveling Curse

THAILAND | Thursday, 27 March 2008 | Views [1228] | Comments [4]

Where did we leave off?? Oh yeah, the crashed moped, etc.  The next day we decided to do our third and fourth dive of the trip.  We had heard that Chumpon Pinnacle was the best dive site and our diving company was going to Chumpon and White Rock again.  (Alex thought we had gone to Green Rock and lost a bet involving 6 months of toilet clean, but in fact we did go back to White Rock).  Our diving certification only allows us to go to 18 meters, but happily the dive company seemed to disregard this and in fact we went to 25 meters.  Chumpon was pretty awesome, we saw trigger fish again, that our dive master had a nice rapport with (it included shaking his fins and relevant digits as the fish attempted to bite off his foot. Yes, he flipped off the fish, despite the fact that this is, as you may recall, the fish that has a reputation for biting off ears and fingers...)  Anyhow, it was a great dive, we saw tons of fish, and two grey reef sharks.  These are not small sharks, they are probably about 4 ft going on... 12.  Anyhow the crazy people we were diving with were swimming TOWARDS the shark.  Alex was having none of that though, she was flipping her fins upward.  Anyhow because we went deeper on this dive, we had to wait longer (to reduce nitrogen levels) between the two dives, so we spent about an hour relaxing on the boat, eating watermelon and pineapple chunks, before our second dive.  That afternoon we met up with the Swedes for a movie night (they returned their moped, and their damage cost 4000 baht!)  For the rest of the week, we continued to watch the movies showing and relaxing at the beach or at our cabana's swimming pool. And yes, we were able to celebrate St. Patrick's day in style, with Italian pizza, Thai wine, and American music.
 
Our cabana wasn't very nice, as there was no mosquito netting and the screens didn't fit the window, so the room would swarm with mosquitos.  Our daily routine included waking and taking a hot shower, covering up with sunscreen (which was exorbitantly priced) spraying heavily with OFF and leaving for 7-11.  None of the 7-11's on the island had Big Gulps, so Andrew improvised by cutting up water and coke bottles and filling them with ice and purchasing 1.5 liter cokes.  Then he would decide between a hot dog or a cup of noodles.  It was a beautiful time :)  After a week, the Swedes left for Ko Pangnan for the full moon party  (a monthly occurrence where 8000 people flood the island to have a drunken rave), we passed but made plans to meet up in Bangkok.  We stayed in Ko Tao for an extra two days and decided to forgo Ko Samui which seemed to be a largely commercialized island complete with Starbucks and McDonalds and instead headed for Ko Phi Phi.  We bought a joint ferry/bus/ferry ticket from our favorite internet seller and left Ko Tao around 8:30 pm.  (We realized right before we left that we had lost our towels, and later Andrew's glasses).  The guide books warn that the tickets are sometimes not valid and you will find yourself stranded having to buy an extra ticket.  The night ferry from Ko Tao to Surat Thani took 9 hours.  It had a wide deck which had about 50 mattresses on each floor. We got a corner spot next to some nice German girls.  After chatting for thiry minutes, we laid down and slept until the next morning at 6 when we docked. 
 
After docking, we stumbled blearily outside and after waiting a bit were ushered onto a minivan which drove us three hours to Krabi, dropped us quickly and left.  We arrived in Krabi around 9, expecting to take the 10am ferry to Ko Phi Phi.  Imagine our chagrin when the woman at this station explained that our tickets were no good.  There were about 8 travellers with us.  After a long fishy arugment, the woman agreed try to put us on the 3:00 ferry. (She was allegedly waiting for the company that had dropped us off to pay for our ongoing tickets).  She also sold us on tickets we would need to leave from Ko Phi Phi back to Bangkok which she sold for 50 baht less than everyone else.  
 
With five hours to kill, we of course headed to a 7-11.  It was our first 7-11 with big gulps.  Alex was feeling pretty sick though, so Andrew was on his own with it.  We returned to the travel agent, and discovered that the rest of the travellers were gone.  We wondered suspicously whether they had somehow learned something that we didn't know, and looked at the travel agent with renewed suspicion.  In any event, we were on the 3:00 ferry to Ko Phi Phi with return tickets two days later.  We made it to Phi Phi, and promptly walked past the tens of shouting Thais with hotel signs. We picked up a map and used it along with some lodge names we had found online to search out our home for the next two days. After checking into our room, we ate dinner on the deck of an old sailing ship set into a hill. Luckily the food was not restricted to what you can catch on a ship, and our dinner was delightful.
 
Ko Phi Phi was beautiful.   For those of you who don't know, it is two islands, one of which "The Beach" was filmed.  We hadn't seen "The Beach," before but we fixed that at one of the restaurant showings. There was a reason we hadn't seen the movie... it was not good. But we did get to see cameos of the islands we were around, so it wasn't all bad.
 
The island is a popular place for diving and snorkeling, but as we got our diving done on Ko Tao, we chose to spend our full day in Phi Phi in true beach style; wading in the almost waveless light blue water, relaxing under the shade of palm trees, taking a "break" to get fresh fruit shakes, etc. After a day of kicking back, we strapped on our tennis shoes and climbed up to two of three viewpoints that look out over the island's main isthmus. At the top there was a poster showing the before/after shots of the tsunami, and it really is amazing how devastating that was. We enjoyed the trip up to the viewpoint probably more than being at the top. Along the way, we came upon cashew trees, something we'd never seen before. The trees held bright red and green pears, with cashew-shaped beans hanging from the underside. Such a bizarre food... we tried opening the bean to extract the cashew, but to no avail.
 
Later on our walk, we came across a field of baby palm trees that were growing out of coconuts. We'd never seen this, and although we were fully aware that coconuts come from palm trees, it's strange to think of them as the seeds of new trees. But there it was, and we liked it. As we walked on, we started to hear loud thuds. We looked up nervously, fearing that we would surely sustain concussions if hit by falling coconuts. We looked around and found that the source of the thudding was a man in the top of a palm tree shaking coconuts loose. As long as the falling was man-made, we figured we were safe. On the way back down from the viewpoint, we saw why he was kicking down the coconuts. He had placed a sharpened bamboo spike face up in the ground, and used it to stab the coconuts, ripping off the outer layer. It was really cool, and he was nice enough to let us photograph the process.
 
After our day in Phi Phi (pronounced "pee pee," which is why we decided to rename it "the place with the beaches and stuff"), we were ready to return to Bangkok, and air conditioned hotel rooms, for our last bit of world travels. Also, the Swedes were leaving in two days, and had promised again and again that our last night together we were to "party like rockstars." Despite our insistence that we were far too old for such shenanigans, the plan was set.
 
So the next morning we woke up and strolled the island until close to our 2 o'clock ferry to Krabi, where we would catch a night bus back to BKK. We played a few rounds of Beach Yahtzee and then our ferry pulled in. We threw on our packs and went to the dock. We pulled out the tickets we had purchased in Krabi (from the suspicious woman, mind you) and handed them to the ticket taker. He looked over them for a second, said something in Thai as he pointed to the travel agency's logo ("Krabi May Travels"), and then said to us "Sorry, these are no good. This company never pays us." ...What?
 
Just when we thought our travel glitches were coming to an end, just when we are three days from completing our journey... we were to be stranded on an island. Now, the fact that it was a tropical island with a 7-11 makes that sound less horrible, but we were unnerved all the same. Andrew lost his temper a tiny bit, and we asked him what we should do. He suggested buying new tickets, and fast as the ferry was about to leave, and we had no choice but to comply.
 
The new tickets were 350 baht, 50 more than we bought from Miss Crabby May, but at least we made it on board and departed. The one and a half hour ride was not a fun one, as we were absolutely stewing about the travel agency and had nothing to do but wait. Crabby May had told us she'd meet us on the pier and take us to the bus, but we thought if she had such a horrible reputation with the boat company our money was long gone. She probably ran off to spend our money in some place with palm trees and white sand.. hm. Anyway, we decided to try and call her and the couple next to us was nice enough to loan us their cell. Although we had three numbers, none of them worked, so we spent an hour of the trip trying not to be too obvious as we made plans to strangle Crabby May.
 
About 20 minutes before docking, the couple offered us their phone again, and Alex made the call (as Andrew was still steaming from the ears and was likely to "raise his voice" at her). She got through, and Crabby May was suspiciously accepting of the situation. She said someone would be their to get us and take us by her place, where she'd give us our money back. We were able to breath a little easier, and the last part of the ride was much less stressful.
 
Once in Krabi, sure enough a man was waiting for us. He helped our bags into a van and drove us to Crabby May's. We unloaded, and went straight to the counter. Crabby had our money in her hands, and within seconds we had our 700 baht back (which means she refunded us the tourist price on Phi Phi, as opposed to the price of tickets we bought from her). We were shocked, and thanked her as we boarded a van that drove us about three hours to Surat Thani, where we picked up the night bus (after loading up on food at the nearby 7-11, of course).
 
The night bus. Oh, the night bus. We'd heard such horrible things about the tourist night bus, which calls itself "VIP" and is supposed to be anything but. The worst part about them is supposed to be that they stow your bags a level underneath you (they're all double-deckers), and then as you sleep men allegedly go through everyone's belongings and extract cash, etc. In fact, some of the more paranoid conspiratists say they pipe sleeping gas in through the AC to ensure no one interrupts them. We think that would be a bit unecessary, as a 14 hour bus ride is bound to cause drowsiness all the same. Anyway, we had read and heard so much about them, even first hand accounts, and so were very careful about not leaving anything valuable in our backpacks. We kept our two prized possessions, the camera and the ipod, between us as we slept, and woke up at 6am, having arrived in Bangkok.
 
The ride was nice except for when we were passed by other VIP buses that had movies playing on their TVs. Ours had TVs but nothing was on them, and Andrew suspects that this must be why everyone says the VIP buses are horrible. When we got off the bus, the crew was already unloading the bags, and Andrew got stuck on the stairs as they finished pulling out the bags. When we finally found our packs, the bus doors were closing and the bus already pulling away. While Andrew tried to see if there was anything missing from his pack, Alex got the license plate of the bus, in a vain attempt to hunt them down if something was stolen.
 
Andrew quickly determined his bag had been opened, as the clips seemed to be arranged differently from when we handed it over, and the top pouch was emptied of its contents (mostly flu medicine and bandaids). We checked for the few remaining things of value, and they all seemed to be present. So it seemed we were only victims of privacy invasion, and we started walking to our hotel. A few minutes into the walk, as our grogginess wore off, we realized that the symptoms of our bags having been tampered with were not really much evidence, and when Alex mentioned that she had emptied the top pocket when we were packing, we decided it our bags had remained untouched. Who can blame us for the paranoia, though, after our experience with Crabby May?
 
Because it was 6am, our hotel did not yet have a room available, so we spent the morning with a McDonald's breakfast and some internetting. We secured our precious AC/TV room, and kicked back for a bit, watching the pirated movies channel. We spent the rest of the day roaming the shops, and met up with the Swedes for dinner. We found a great pizza joint and ordered some for carry out. We took the food back to our hotel room along with some 7-11 beers and had a great meal. We planned to meet up the next day to go to Siam Square, a shopping mecca in Bangkok, as we were in dire need of more shopping.
 
The next day, after dining on a luxurious free breakfast, we met up with the Swedes and went to Siam Square. We went into a huge mall and were shocked to find a Diary Queen. More curiously, Andrew had just yesterday been explaining the cookie dough Blizzard and how they must serve it to you upside-down. We ordered a couple and set off to explore the mall, which was, miraculously, almost entirely fixed prices. Being the bargain-hunters that we are, though, we sought out the floor full of small shops and hagglability. After shopping until our feet hurt, we went back to our hotel, planning to meet up with the Swedes for our "partying night."
 
We had dinner and then sought out a bar, but it turned out that although they talked the talk, the Swedes (well, half of them) were far too tired to "party like rock stars," and we ended up calling it an early night.
 
We said our goodbyes to the Swedes, although they are already planning a trip to Texas (to try Dr Pepper, of course). We went back to our hotel, planned out our next day's last minute sightseeing, and then watched a movie.

Tags: beaches, travel agencies

Comments

1

Somehow my life seems a little boring right now.

Come home and I will show you the Buddy Holly Statue in downtown Lubbock and possibly Spanky's house.

And yes, you may get to go see the prairie dog town and if you have enough baht you may get to see them Phi Phi.


  Richard Mar 27, 2008 1:50 AM

2

Your adventures with Crabby May remind me of my 6th period World Geography class.

  spanky Mar 27, 2008 10:55 AM

3

Ahhhhhh my pet hippies have made it home safe and sound. Now I can focus all my worries on the other twin in Copenhagen as he moves on to Germany.

  Richard Mar 28, 2008 5:14 PM

4

to keep things truly safe place them inside your clothing, but if they knock you out with gas i guess it dosn't matter where you hide it. am glad you had a good time diving and that you stayed well away from the flesh eating fish and sharks. as you go through liffe you will always find those young people who will tell you that they can dance, drink cirles around the world but when it comes down to it they crater early. so we will call it a win for the americans in the party department. am glad you are getting to have a few days of getting americanized before coming back and going into shock from overload. love you both mom

  mardi Mar 29, 2008 9:49 AM

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