Islands in the south
20.02.2008 - 01.03.2008 33 °C
Travel days in Thailand are both pretty frustrating and amusing. Mostly amusing though. You often have to just sit back and go with the flow. Eventually you'll get to your destination! After a long 14 hour trip I arrived in Railay (various spellings) late at night. The trip swayed between interesting/amusing/frustrating/'some level of crazed madness' by a number of factors:
- Full Moon party the night before and arriving back to my bungalow at 04:30 (early for Ko Pha Ngan, I hear)
- The endless ocean swells on my boat back to the mainland at 08.00 that morning
- the Thai travel operators, reminiscent of dictators in their continual and unabated commands ("You do dis!", You come here!", "You eet now!", etc.)
- Two little German girls in my bus who attempted to break some sort of decibel record - earphones were no match for them
- five hour bus ride with another lunatic driver
- deluge similar to monsoon season on the 15 minute long-tail boat ride from Krabi town to Railay
Travelers start to feel sorry for themselves on travel days! I guess the day taught me to just laugh it off and sit back and enjoy the ride! However, it was all worth it. Railay is surrounded by four beaches - three of which are completely stunning. The beaches are all surrounded by massive cliffs and pinnacles. The water must be close to 30 degrees and if you open your eyes underwater it's similar to swimming in a pool, if not clearer. One of the beaches is Phra Nang Cave beach - without a doubt, this is (in my opinion) the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. I rented a kayak today and did some awesome paddling between the various bluffs and cliffs that jut out of the water. On the way back, I cruised past Ton Sai beach, home of the rock climbers. Its big wall climbing there and the view 200 meters up one of these rock faces must be absolutely amazing and terrifying at the same time. One day perhaps (Haig, Waterman, Millar - we'll have to talk...)...
Maya Bay at Ko Phi Phi Ley island is where The Beach was filmed. I did the mandatory speed boat visit of course. It's well worth it - it comes a close second to Pranang Cave (and my hometown favorite of the great Nahoon beach, of course) on my beach ratings. It's full of tourists, but you still marvel at the beauty of the place. Some amazing snorkeling as well, with reefs all over the place and full of life, with schools of little fish often surrounding you. I also registered about 8.2 on the Burner Scale that day. Think I added a few thousand freckles. It's nothing compared to the 9.9 I registered a few years back.
So Ko Pha Ngan is great for hammock swinging. Luckily, my spot was a few km's away from Haad Rin - the island's 'capital' - constantly partying for some shape or colour of moon. Lazy days - I read the first of my el-cheapo re-cycled 'travel guru' classics on a hammock for a few days - Tom Sawyer - going back to basics. When you're not chilling out, you're at Haad Rin or renting a scooter and cruising the island. And on the topic of scooters, Ko Pha Ngan has more than its fare share of Thai tattoos. That's big, bandaged injuries from scooter wipeouts - it seemed half the tourists had them there. Probably a combination of late nights, dodgy roads, suicidal local 4X4 drivers.
The full moon party puts pretty much any party to shame. No new years bash I've been to is like this. Picture a wide beach, with clubs/restaurants each throwing their own party via booming music and fire dancers, and at least 10,000 revelers. It's Khao San Road all over again, and anything goes. They actually hosted the party two days later than initially planned due to elections. Plus, it rained, so no one saw the full moon anyway!
Next - thinking of heading further south to see Ko Turatao National Park - these are almost untouched islands according to some locals I've spoken to. Pictures to come soon... (monthly picture limit still too high)