Our first stop on our island tour in Thailand was Phuket. We had both been told, that although beautiful, Phuket is a completely skippable island when compared to its neighboring alternatives. That being said, we stayed only briefly. We showed up on the night train from Bangkok and spent one day chillin out on the busiest beach, Patong. While there, we bumped into some guys we knew from Chang Mai and the next day we all rented scooters and beach-hoped all up and down the west coast of the island. The beaches that we rode to were, of course, gorgeous and the water as clear as they claimed it to be. We also hit up a couple of view points that gave a fantastic start to our island tour. The scooters were a blast and the scenery beautiful, but I have to say, Phuket is definitely skippable (especially if you only have a short time in Thailand). Stay away from Patong beach at night...its a sleazy scene.
Next, Sean and I hit up the world famous Phi Phi islands. The ferry ride to Phi Phi Don was already the most beautiful island scenery I've ever witnessed. We relaxed on the beach one day and the next we did a decent little hike to the highest point of the island for a fantastic view point. With the heat, humidity, and hillside, I was sweating enough to water the rainforest we were walking through. After taking the pictures from the top of the viewpoint, we went all the way over the hill to a secluded beach called Rantee Bay. Rantee Bay was exactly what we were looking for. Its a secluded beach and no one else was even around. We had the white sand, “azure waters” (I had to say it Sean.. haha), and palm tree backdrop all to ourselves. We then hiked to another quite, beautiful beach named Loh Moo Dee Beach. We hiked around the point and finished the day at Long Beach to end a fantastic day. The following day Sean and I went on a yacht that took us around Phi Phi Don, Bamboo Island, Mosquito Island and Phi Phi Lay. We scored more beautiful islands, some fantastic snorkeling in crystal-clear water (I saw a black-tip reef shark!), dove off the yacht, and kayaked through some caves and bays... just check out the pictures and try not to be too jealous please. :)
After a night out with some other friends we met in Chang Mai, we headed to Koh Pangan. This was the closest thing to a resort we stayed out, where we had beach-front property, a couple of swimming pools and pool tables to keep us entertained while we continued to live the life of chillaxing. (I'm not afraid to us the word chillax, so deal with it!). Sean found some fellow UCLA kids and we decided to scooter around the island. We hit up some of the beaches and saw an old fishing village. Unfortunately, Sean's scooter found a nail in the road and delayed us for a couple of hours. After a cheap fix though we headed to Koh Ma, a separate island that we could walk to via a connecting sandbar, and watched the sunset. For Sean's final night traveling with m,e we went to the famous full moon party. Basically, on the full moon, Sean, myself and 15,000 other people paint themselves with neon pain and dance in the moon light until the sun comes up. It was a crazy time and tons of fun, but once is probably enough for my life-time.
I broke my sunglasses when Sean and I hugged good-bye (3rd pair this trip), and then Sean was off to Lake Tahoe for a white Christmas. I changed my initial route and went to Koh Tao. Koh Tao is a great place to get certified for PADI open water scuba diving. You can get the cert for about $350 over 4 days. I decided to save my money and time and NOT get it and save that for another day, preferably with a friend to share the fun with. So I did the typical hiking around the island on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Eve night there were some seriously good fireworks that a hotel close by shot off on the beach. (Jeff would have LOVED it.) On Christmas day I did a boat ride that went around the island for more snorkeling and a stop on the beautiful island, Nangyuan. I'm a Christmas guy... I was already singing Christmas songs back in Nepal, so my first Christmas alone, away from the snow, was a new experience for me. Luckily, I was able to Skype with my family where it was 9pm in Koh Tao and 6am back home. It was the first time we've seen each other since I left and it a great refresher to talk and see my family on Christmas.
After Koh Tao, I took the long trip to Krabi, which was actually close to Phi Phi, where Sean and I had already spent time. Krabi beach was another gorgous beach that I hiked around and chilled out on the beach all day. I took a day trip over to Ao Railay which is world famous for its rock climbing. I didn’t do any offical rock climbing, but I hiked to the very top of the view point (the highest one that no one goes to) and found myself in a few “predicaments” where I was climbing vertical rock faces. I also climbed down into a lagoon that also allowed me to scare myself a little with more climbing. Railay's scenery was stunning and I got some good adventure out of it.
My last stop was the relaxed island of Ko Lanta. Lanta has the reputation of being laid back and it lived up to this, even over new years. I just hiked up and down the coast-line and got a Thai massage in a hut overlooking the ocean. There is supposedly some great cave hikes, but I was on a mission to relax and also to spend zero more dollars in Thailand. I met some fantastic people and we became a group of 5 Germans, 2 South Africans, and myself. After a large Thai dinner, we hit the beach to welcome 2011 with some great fireworks, right underneath them. A laid back new years, but a ton of fun, shared with some great people.
The jungle, the beaches, and the food were fantastic, but I had been counting down the days until I get to my next destination. Its the only place on my trip I've previously been, Bali, Indonesia. I am frothing to paddle out and get some waves...