Feb 20 – March 2
On a fine, yet early Sunday morning, we awoke in Malaysia. It was pitch black and Mari and I were about to embark on a 12 hour journey by Mini-Van. We decided that in the early hours, we needed food. We strolled through town, and our hearts sank as we realized that the only restaurants open, were still serving beer to tourists and locals who hadn’t quite made it to bed yet.
We thought that hunger would be the final downfall, until in the reaches of a back alley, we stumbled upon a very old Chinese lady who was cooking something. It smelled okay, so we sat down after a brief exchange where neither I nor she understood anything but tea. Well, true to her word we received a pot of tea (made by her grand-daughter who threw a handful of leaves into a pot).
Then, while we sat, the grand-daughter brought steaming bamboo trays over for us to look at. Each tray had several small steamed dishes in it, and we selected a few from each tray. This meal was the best meal we have had in the time we have started traveling. The dishes were a combination of chicken, crab, fish, and sweet rice (also some unidentified portions that were really tasty). It could have been the early hour, or the old lady’s smile, but that breakfast gave us a wonderful start to a long day.
As you can imagine, even in a tropical paradise, 12 hours in a van and going through customs leaves something to be desired. At the border, we had no problems, however an American man who had been giving us travel tips for the ride, was denied entry at the Thai border and sent back to Malaysia (we decided not to give anyone any tips ourselves, just to avoid the same fate). We arrived just before dark, in the town of Krabi, a small port on the southern west coast.
We immediately tried to find a room, but could find nothing. We found a tiny guest house, that offered us a small jail-cell like cement dwelling, but it was about $3, so we took it. In the morning, we got up and took a long-tail (basically an outrigger canoe with a canvas cover, and a diesel engine that is a attached to a propeller at the end of a 4m shaft) over to Rai-Lay beach.
This beach,and the area around it has become world-reknown as a rock-climbing area, so I could not miss the opportunity. We spent the rest of that day exploring, and bouldering around. We also found a beach hut for $10.
The next day, we rented some climbing gear (note, my mother should not be reading this) and toured the island climbing everything I felt comfortable with. To the right is a picture of me leading a 5.10a on the Budda Buttress. The large stalactite at my back is the second half of the route (It has become brittle lately, and is off limits to climbing.)
The following day we hiked up to a lagoon. The long trail involved a short climb up, and another back down to leave us at a deserted lagoon, surrounded by 70m walls. It was quite beautiful, until Mari cracked her head on a stalactite, and I slipped on some mud and cut my foot. We left soon after this and went to whimper in our hut.
The following day we took a long-tail to Krabi, a bus to Surat-Thani (East Coast), a train to Chumpon, a truck to the dock, and a midnight ferry to the island of Ko Tao. (Incidentally, if anyone has seen or read The Beach, it was supposed to take place in the islands south of Ko Tao, and the Bangkok scene was filmed in Krabi).
As we were eating breakfast in Krabi that morning, our waitress asked us where we were going, and we explained our route to her. She told us that she could sell us our tickets, and would cut out her commission because we had eaten breakfast at her restaurant. Mari and I decided this was a good idea, and after breakfast asked for two tickets to Surat.
The girl look at us quizzically and said “Two”, yes we replied, “To go ” she said. No, we said “Bus Tickets to Surat”. Okay, she said smiling, and then brought us two huge plates of fruit. (?????) We found the owner, who spoke English and Thai, and told her the mix up. She laughed her head off, kicked her daughter in the bum, and made us out two tickets.
Now, anyone reading this is probably thinking that we lead a tough life, so asking for sympathy because we were so tired after that day is not going to happen. Instead I will show you a picture of our cabin, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand that we stayed in while we stayed on Ko Tao. Look at the picture at the top of the page, and that is our cabin third from the right at the top-right corner. Sweet eh!
The day we arrived, we found a dive shop and arranged for a boat to take us out, and the following morning, Mari and I were in Scuba gear bobbing amongst the waves a few miles offshore. After I jumped in the water, I happened to look under the water to see a silver streak go by. I looked again, and realized it was a 1.5m swordfish swimming by. Mari saw it too, but no one else did.
Even though the coral was nice and the diving was beautiful, that fish was the absolute highlight of diving in Thailand. We did two dives that day, and then rented a motorcycle to explore the island (The picture is me doing my best James Dean impression, and you can’t see Mari, but she is laughing behind the camera).
Another ferry ride put us back on the mainland, and we bought sleeping berth tickets for the train into Bangkok (where we are now). Currently we have applied for Cambodian Visas, and will be going there shortly.
Hope you’re enjoying the trip. Photo: permanentlyscatterbrained