Friends and Fireworks

Nothing too new to report, as we have been living out our Thailand days as beach bums. However, the highlight for us this month has been the visit we received from our friends back home. Since we found out that three of our friends had booked flights to Thailand we had been counting down the days. Aside from family, and a few friends we were able to meet up with along the way, this has been the first time that anyone has taken up the challenge, saved up their vacation time, and left home to come and see us.

Not everything went according to plan. After all, this is Thailand. There are bugs and bats, beggars and ladyboys, and scams and sales pitches abound. The cleanliness of food stalls and other such facilities are not always on par with Western standards. You don’t always get what you pay for (and unfortunately, sometimes you do). The climate is stifling. The mosquitos relentless. In addition, Jeff and I have been in “travel mode” for so long now that we have become accustomed and desensitized to so many of these travel woes and elements of culture shock. Things that would have caused some grief, from bugs in my food and dirty bathrooms to not knowing what tomorrow has in store, are now just a part of life. There are stark contrasts between being tourists on vacation and travelers on a budget. And yet, we were able to find a sort of balance, share our experiences, and best of all spend lots of time together. So for all these reasons and more, we are equally touched, impressed, and grateful that our friends took the leap across the ocean.

Dinner on Koh Phi Phi

Dinner on Koh Phi Phi

We explored the Andaman Coast, spending some time eating and kayaking around Ao Nang, with a side trip to the beautiful Rai Leh Bay in Krabi. We took a ferry to Ko Phi Phi for a few days where we got in some beach time, went rock climbing up limestone karsts, did some snorkeling and swimming around the island, and partook in one night of beach partying with free buckets of alcohol. Good food, good friends, free drinks = best time.

After Peterson and Jenny headed back to Bangkok for their flight home, Eugene, Jeff and I hopped on yet another ferry to check out Koh Lanta. Laid-back hardly begins to describe it. Compared to Koh Phi Phi, Lanta is like a very shy, distant cousin. To liven things up for the Lunar New Year, the guys decided that fireworks were in order. While I was busy contemplating the fascination that males have with fireworks and worrying about burning faces, appendages, and buildings, Jeff returned with a large bag and a huge smile announcing that he had blown the day’s budget on the contents of the bag (which I am sure would not be legal in most states). Suffice it to say, after stuffing ourselves at a $3 all-you-can-eat hot pot buffet, we welcomed the Year of the Tiger with a literal bang.

Posted: February 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

On the “Kohs” From Here On Out

The Gulf of Thailand. Home to over 1,000 tropical islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, and where we intend to remain for the next month or so, as we island hop our way around paradise. If that means getting seasick (which it does), then so be it. For us, our beach bumming began in Koh Tao, which means “turtle island”. No turtle sightings for us, but a good place to hang for a week and slow down the pace. We stayed at a budget resort in Chalok Beach. While the words “budget” and “resort” may not necessarily appear together on a Taboo card, we have found that they work out quite nicely for us. While the accommodations range from basic bungalows to air conditioned villas with every amenity, we are more than happy to fork out the $10-15 per night for a fan room with cold water, while still reaping the benefits of resort life. Peace and quiet. Sea and garden views. Even an infinity swimming pool overlooking the beach!

Making good use of the pool

Making good use of the pool

First Koh Tao activity-snorkeling in Shark Bay, an easy walk from our room. So we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed off. The road leading to the bay had been closed, so we were told that the only way to access it was to swim from another bay farther up the coast. As luck would have it, I had brought along my new dry bag, purchased the previous night after a bit of bargaining. Into the bag went everything we had, clothes, towel, camera, money. We clipped our flip flops on to the outside. Jeff slung the bag over his shoulder and we dove in for the swim. The snorkeling in Shark Bay was disappointing, but the bag did its job. It was my turn to carry the bag on the return trip. For most of the swim, I was having a grand time pretending to re-enact the scene from “The Beach”, as a shorter, Asian version of Francoise, swimming her butt off to reach the legendary island. We found out much later, that had we stayed on the rocks and NOT swum to Shark Bay, we could have snorkeled with about 50 sharks. Bummer. Go figure.

Food in Koh Tao is expensive (in our experience more so than most anywhere else in Thailand). Our friends from home were on vacation, with Koh Tao as one of their stops, and aside from one amazing dinner which they generously treated us to, our pockets definitely took a hit. We resorted to dry packaged ramen again for a couple of meals (which is slightly more classy when enjoyed from the balcony of one’s room). Even the local non-western catering restaurants seemed to be in on it. Oh, would we like rice with our rice dish? Then that will be an extra 20 baht. Puh-lease. Time to head off.

Busy day

Busy day

We are now on Koh Phagnan, the second largest island in the Southern Gulf archipelago, where the full moon parties are the stuff of travel legend. We plan on staying here for at least a week, which will put us right here for the full moon. The problem is, we’re not ravers, nor heavy partiers. I don’t like techno music. I really don’t like large crowds of drunk people (unless I am one of them). Okay, so that’s more than one problem. But, how could we be on Koh Phagnan during the full moon party in high season and NOT attend the festivities? This should be good. Stay tuned.

Posted: January 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »