I’ve been dragging the chain a bit when it came to writing this post – but due to popular demand, here it is. OK, so ‘popular demand’ is really defined as friends and family who keep reminding me to update the blog because they are looking for excuses (ANY excuse!) to avoid work.
I apologise now for the lack of interesting content. But honestly, I just didn’t DO anything interesting while in Thailand. I gave up on all the cultural stuff for a bit – this was all about restorative R&R.
If you recall from my last post (written oh so long ago now…) my time in Myanmar came to an early end. I was feeling a bit tired, unmotivated and struggling to enjoy what the country had to offer. So – what is a girl to do? Retreat to her happy place in the Thai islands, of course! Beautiful beaches with decent snorkelling and delicious Thai curries are all that it takes to keep this girl happy.
I was already flying into Bangkok from Mandalay, so I figured I’d just immediately jump on another flight to Krabi in southern Thailand. I picked Krabi because I’ve been several times before and quite like the small town, which acts as a stopping off point to the Andaman islands.
It was a good place to catch up on laundry, buy some essentials and just generally scoff as many Pad Thai and Green Curries as I could. From Krabi, I could then easily get to the islands that I wanted to see over the following two week period.
I didn’t even see the big spider in the background until I was going through my photos.
To anyone that knows Thailand, my choice of islands may seem somewhat strange – they were very contrasting places to stay.
Koh Phi Phi – the island from hell!
OK – so I admit that Phi Phi doesn’t look too hellish in this photo – but read on.
First stop, I decided to go to Phi Phi island. Chances were that I would utterly detest the place, but I hadn’t actually stayed here before and thought I would be able to at least find some good snorkelling off some of the beaches. Phi Phi is known as a party island with horrible loud ‘boom boom’ music parties that go on to all hours of the night, and are full of young gap year kids getting drunk and generally being obnoxious. However, I also know that there are some quiet, remote areas that you can get to with a bit of effort.
A woman working at my hotel in Krabi suggested a place to stay on the far end of Loh Dalum beach. This is the party beach, but the parties are concentrated at one end of a large circular bay. I would be staying at the other end. I said that I wanted a quiet place and she insisted that this was it. I was struggling to find somewhere to stay within my price range so against my better judgement, I went with it.
She was right – it was reasonably quiet during the day. Quite pleasant in fact. I walked down to the busy end one day and couldn’t wait to leave and get back to my end. But then nightfall came. And the parties across the bay started up. The later it got, the louder the volume became. I’m sure that they each had speaker systems that are normally used at football and concert stadiums.
There were at least 3 nightclub parties competing with each other to see who could play the music the loudest. I was about a kilometre away, but unfortunately the noise easily carried across the bay. Presumably all the speakers were pointing right at me. I slept with ear plugs and a pillow over my head, but still the thumping of the music continued. Unfortunately I had prepaid 3 nights’ accommodation so really had to stick it out.
By the 3rd night, I must have adapted to the noise as I slept through it – as well as the big brawl that apparently occurred outside my bungalow at 2am between a group of drunken Russian friends who started throwing glasses and punches.
To add insult to injury – the swimming at the beach was only OK at high-tide – first thing in the morning, and at the end of the day. I did an all-day snorkel trip which hit many of the ‘best’ snorkel spots in the vicinity of Phi Phi island and I thought they were ALL utterly disappointing. I didn’t even bother getting in the water at the last stop. There was very little coral and just a smattering of fish. Many of the others on the boat were very impressed – but I soon found out that this was their first time snorkelling so they didn’t have a lot to compare it to.
All in all – Phi Phi island is an over-priced hell-hole as far as I’m concerned. What a waste of 3 days. Seriously…
Koh Lanta – chilled and laid back
I stayed on Koh Lanta with my sister a few years ago. We arrived in the low season and the place was as dead as ….. a dead thing. Many restaurants were closed and even some hotels were closed. We left after a night or two. But I’ve heard so many good things about the place and since I was heading there at the start of the high season, I had high hopes for it.
I wasn’t disappointed. It’s hard to say what I liked about it. It’s fairly developed now (a lot more since Debbie and I were there a few years ago) but it still has a laid back feel about it. The beach was OK for swimming although there isn’t really any snorkelling to be had. I stayed in a pretty decent hotel for a very reasonable price. The staff were lovely – and I even got a hug as I left! And the food at the local restaurants was great. I had all colours of the Thai curry rainbow and loved every mouthful. After nearly starving myself in Myanmar because I disliked the food so much, I was more than making up for it here!
I had intended to hire a motorbike to explore the island a bit more, but to be honest, I just got lazy. But I did manage to knock off 3 books while I was there if that counts for anything?
Koh Kradan – paradise lost
I stayed on Koh Kradan before – and have to say that it’s my favourite Thai island out of the ones that I’ve visited so far over the years. There are a limited number of accommodation options on the island and there are NO shops, NO roads, NO vehicles, NO electricity (except for generators) and NO mosques with early morning calls for prayer. It’s just a very small island with a ring of sand around it and some of the best snorkelling that I’ve seen in Thailand – all very accessible from the beach.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of day trippers that come visit the island but lucky for me, they all generally congregate in one area which has a nice beach but not much in the way of snorkelling. What they don’t know is that the best snorkelling is about 400m away, around the corner. Me and some German girls hung out down there and virtually had the area to ourselves for most of the day. It was pure bliss.
As well as colourful corals, and a myriad of fish we also saw the biggest eel that I’ve ever seen. Judging by the large head poking out of a hole, I’d say that it was at least 2.5 – 3m long. I didn’t try to coax him out to confirm this – I was happy for him to stay where he was.
I stayed at a small ‘resort’ called Paradise Lost, owned by Wally, an older American sailor from Hawaii and his Thai wife. He’s got a pack of friendly dogs, and each night they would take turns sleeping on my doorstep – like they were protecting me. Nice.
Back to Krabi
After two weeks of island hopping, I had to return to Krabi to catch my onward flight to Kuala Lumpur and back to Indonesia….. for some more island hopping. In Krabi, I decided that I was overdue for a haircut. I thought they did a pretty good job. I got a shampoo/condition, head massage, cut and blow dry all for $12 – you can’t complain about that!
After spending two weeks in the islands, a haircut, a tummy full of curries and Pad Thai, and newly cleaned laundry I could say that I was happily rejuvenated. Mission accomplished – I was ready to carry on.
More immigration hassles
I had a bit of grief at the airport as I went through immigration. The immigration guy was taking a considerable amount of time with my passport before finally telling me to go off to the side to have a seat with his manager. Good grief – here we go again! The manager tried to tell me that I had overstayed my visa by a month and a half. With an overstaying fee of $20 per day – it was going to be an expensive situation if he was right. Except that he WASN’T right – I had only been there for 14 days or so. Thank goodness for technology – they looked me up and saw that Immigration in Bangkok had made a mistake when stamping my arrival date as 1 October, not 1 November, thereby making it look as though I was an overstayer!