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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Thailand Island Hopping - Part Two!

THAILAND | Saturday, 14 December 2013 | Views [2314]

Getting from the South East islands of Thailand to the South West islands is a well travelled route. We bought a boat & bus combo ticket to Krabi (1 hour on the boat, 2.5 hours on a bus). Most people dont end up hanging around Krabi town and head out the areas stunning beaches - AoNang, Tonsai & Railay Bay. We chose AoNang as it was slighly cheaper and the only one accesable by land which is more conveniant. Its a neat little town with palm tree lined streets, 2 decent beaches with a incredible backdrop of limestone mountains covered in patches of jungle, and a mixture of Thai &Western culture in its shops & restaurants. On first impression it seems quite "hip" - the kind of place only young backppackers will flock too - but every age and culture of tourist seems to flock here which gives it a neat & comfortable vibe.

When we arrived, the bad weather from Koh Phangan & Koh Samui seemed to have followed us. After a full week of barely no sun, I was in a dismil mood. But luckily, the following day, the forecast changed for the better. We enjoyed mostly brilliant sunny days for the next week! We spent 3 nights in Ao Nang and visited Railay Bay for a day. Railay is still part of the mainland but is only accessible by long tail boat (15 minutes from Ao Nang) due to the impressive limestone cliffs jutting up at sharp angles. There are various resorts connected to this spectacular location, but there are no roads. We visited a resort there as a potential wedding venue but unfortunately this special place with its emerald water is no secret. The beach was covered in boats and tourists appreciating its beauty. In Ao Nang, I experienced the most uncomfortable massage in my life! All elbows and knees - ouch!

On to Koh Lanta! We chose the transport option by land (& car ferry) instead of boat to get to the island as it was cheaper, but it took slighly longer. As usual with all transport in Asia, there is a lot of waiting around and not knowing what is going on! Once we arrived on the island, we had a bit of drama finding our guesthouse. Now that its is high season, and we are mainly visiting islands where accommodation is spread out, it was easier to prebook accommodation for a change. But this place didnt seem to exist! Noone knew where it was, google maps was wrong and the phone number didnt work. A lovely local helped drive us around for ages trying to find it and in the end we did - it was nowhere near where we thought it was - down a messy muddy road into the bush.... It wasnt great either. The bathroom was covered in dead bugs, the blanket on the bed was basically just an oversized towel that wasnt big enough for the both of us, and the aircon sucked in clouds of mosquitos from outside so they were constantly swarming around us. We had to sleep fully clothed as turning the aircon off wasnt an option. It was too hot and we had no fan. But we coped, thats what you get with budget accommodation!

Koh Lanta basically has one main road that is a ring around the whole island. The whole west side is lined with beaches and near each beach is a cluster of guesthouses and restaurants - and thats pretty much it. Its nice and quiet and relaxing - or incredibly boring if thats not what youre looking for. We rented a motorbike and explored the area, visiting some prospective wedding venues while we were at it. The beaches had lovely stretches of white sand and sparkling deep blue waters. Unfortunately though, whenever we swam we felt stinging pin pricks all over our bodies. We dont know what caused it, we couldnt see anything. Maybe it only happens at a certain time of year? But it was rather frustrating when we wanted to escape the harsh sun after sunbathing. Down the messy mud road from our accommodation (very dodgy & a mission to walk down at night, and especially when it rains!) comes out near Long Beach. There are a few basic restaurants on the sand where we enjoyed dinner by candle light.

An hour by boat took us to Koh Phi Phi (Don) where we spent 3 nights. I completely love and hate this island at the same time. It is so beautiful with its interesting shape and its stunning massive rock formations, white sand beaches and perfect crystal clear sprakling blue water. It truely is paradise. There are no roads, only walkways filled with everything a tourist needs - restaurants, bars, dive shops, massage & beauty therapy, shops, guesthouses etc Basically it is a world created for tourists alone which completely taints the natural beauty of the island. Piles of rubbish everywhere, stagnant pools of water, constant swarms of people, and at night - music and drunken ramblings can be heard from most places. Cats are dominant here and locals zip through the throngs of people on the small walkways, ringing the bells on their push bikes. Taxi boats are constantly on offer to other beaches in the area - and they are NOT cheap. The main 2 beaches that are accessible by foot are covered in boats, rubbish, beach chairs and people. Loads and loads of people. The island is cheaper than back home, but very expensive by Asia standards.

When we spent 6 months travelling around South America, we could go for days without seeing another westerner - particulary one where English is their first language. It made it feel like we really got a taste for each countries culture. In Asia, the path is so well travelled that there are western communities in all the main spots. You can travel for months with the comfort and conveniance of backpacker areas set up with everything youre going to need or want, and loads of like minded travellers to hang out with. Most of the time I dont mind this, but sometimes its frustrating and the whole experience just doesnt feel REAL. Dont get me wrong, weve definitely had a taste of Asia and its quirks. Women take their kids to work with them, lunch time means all the locals sleep on the floor or in odd positions wherever they can find, some people have the kindest nature and biggest smiles despite their hardship, and some are incredibly rude & take advantage of the money us "farangs" have. They believe were rich! Weve seen people of every class and how they live, weve learnt about the horror the countries have been through, and the most memorable - volunteering in Cambodia which was so rewarding and humbling. But for the most part, we have been in a tourist bubble and this makes me a little sad. Being on Phi Phi made this so much more apparent than anywhere else.

We did all the obligatory things - hiked up the viewpoint where we could see the 2 twin horseshoe bays mirroring each other with only a strip of trees and "touristlands" web of little streets seperating them. We went on a boat trip to Maya Beach where they filmed the movie "The Beach". Its Phi Phi Leh, the second island which is uninhabited, so to hire a boat to get there, they charge the exorbidant cost of $60. (To put this in perspective, you can get from Bangkok to Koh Phi Phi for $25-30 and thats half way down the country, not to the island next door.) OR you can go on a tour to more than one spot with hundreds of others and be herded around like cattle for $15 pp. So we joined the tour and I still enjoyed it nevertheless. We stopped at a various points to swim and snorkel (the fish get sooo close, pretty cool!) in the crystal clear waters and then of course, Maya Beach itself. Probabely one of the most scenic beaches I have ever been too. But of course, as expected at any spectacular place in the world, the small stretch of sand was packed solid with literally HUNDREDS of people and boats lined up filling every bit of shoreline between the massive rocks that enclose the bay. Phi Phi Leh has no accommodation as it profits more from harvesting nests of swiflets for medicinal purposes than tourism!  On Phi Phi Don, we also hiked over to Long Beach which is gorgeous (but busy) as well. We hired a boat to check out a wedding venue on a very remote park of Phi Phi Don - stunning setting but its alot of hassle to get there....

Now we are at the point of our trip where we only have one week to go! 3 months and one week has flown past and it has been fantastic. I am looking forward to staying in one place for more than 3 days, being able to flush toilet paper and to have access to a kitchen (sooo sick of the same menus everywhere!). But I must admit, I am not ready to go back to the reality of job hunting - and being broke! We will be in limbo for quite a few months yet, living out of bags at Andrews friends and familys houses until we have jobs and can afford to move back into Andrews house. The next chapter will begin!



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