Chapter 29: Andaman Adventures
Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
56Trip End Nov 2004
I started last Tuesday with the Laem Phra Nang peninsula, which is a few km west of Krabi, and I hired a long-tail boat from the Krabi waterfront to bring me to East Hat Rai Leh (Railay Beach). The beach was kind of mangrove-y and pebbly, but pretty, and it was packed with mostly empty backpacker bungalows and cafes. I was told that high season just ended; every destination in Thailand has a wildly different schedule for peak tourism - even places that are very close to each other
The main draws of the Laem Phra Nang area are the spectacular limestone cliffs jutting straight up out of the perfect blue water. Not surprisingly this is a world-class rock-climbing destination. I wanted to get myself up near the top of one of the cliffs for the view, so I used a steep (sometimes vertical) trail that had ropes hanging down most of the way so I could haul myself up the slope. It was just like rock-climbing, but in sandals and with no safety equipment! The view over the bays & beaches & cliffs was well worth the muddy effort, though, and my paradise-jaded eyes kept me glued to the spot for a good half-hour while I tried to compose good panoramic pics.
I descended to Hat Tham Phra Nang, which is a perfect sandy beach surrounded by more striking limestone formations. Unlike East Hat Rai Leh, this beach was overcrowded, mostly with Japanese or Thai cruise tourists who were clambering around the rocks and all wearing matching life jackets of green or orange. It was a funny sight, but it also killed the mood a little, so I didn't hang around. Instead I hopped on another long-tail boat and sped up past West Hat Rai Leh and Hat Ton Sai (yes, there will be a test when I get home) to the resort town of Ao Nang
On Wednesday I took a ferry to Ko Lanta, which is a large island to the south of Krabi with an ever-growing tourism scene. It's not as crazy or upscale as many of Thailand's other islands, though, and high season was over, so it turned out to be a good place to hang out and relax on the beach for a few days. For 4 nights (400B/US$10 per night) I rented an awesome beach bungalow at Sayang Beach with modern furniture, an intact mosquito net, a comfy bed, and a new & private bath made from natural materials like stone & bamboo. I met a friendly English couple named Al and Cait on the boat over, and they stayed a few rooms away from me, so we hung out on the beach, played cards, and ate & drank together often. Um, yeah... not much else to say about Ko Lanta, really. Nice place. =)
I expected Ko Phi-Phi Don to be a similarly laid-back and dusty paradise-in-training... but when I arrived by ferry on Sunday I was shocked by the mass development. The main village of Ton Sai is a rambling maze of narrow paths (there are no cars on Phi-Phi) filled with people, restaurants, dive shops, bungalows/hotels, and construction sites. At first I hated it, but that's partly because I was offended by the outrageous prices for accommodation
Monday I wanted to find a more isolated beach to hang out on, so I walked south along the coastal path toward Long Beach. Once Ton Sai village ends, the path alternates between being a jungle trek and a walk through the grounds of various resorts, and I found Long Beach after an hour or so. After stopping for an iced coffee, I took another path across the island to Ao Lo Mu Di, which was just the kind of remote spot I was looking for - except that it was raining on & off, so my beach idea was spoiled. I headed back to town, had some dinner, and then met up for drinks with an Australian girl named Jen who I'd chatted with at lunch.
Yesterday I went on a dive trip with Viking Divers, a reputable outfit in Ton Sai run by hearty Nordic types. There were two fellow Americans on board (Scott & Michelle from DC), which was a nice change, and the boat was large and comfortable. The only downer was the clouds which were still loitering around
Today I took another ferry to Phuket Island, and then hopped on a minibus to Patong, which is one of Thailand's most-developed tourist tra-...