Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
272Trip End Ongoing
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We left the grandiose comfort of the Marriott early in the morning. Our ferry was supposedly leaving at 7am and once you factored in the time to wake up and shower, drive to the ferry terminal and of course dadīs anal retentive tendencies when it came to being early for travel departures, it all added up to me waking up at 4:30am. For the love of god why would anyone wake up at that hour? I can understand going to bed at 4, but waking up? Is there no decency? Of course the concierge had her head up her ass and the ferry wasnīt due to leave until 8:30 and not 7 so we had some quality family bonding time as we sat alone on the deserted cement pier and watched the god damned sun come up.
The crossing over to phi phi was uneventful. We were on a pretty large boat and the seas were calm so dadīs sea sickness didnīt show its ugly head. I swear the man can get queasy looking at a bath tub. We arrived on the small island 2 hours later and I was amazed at the density of the boat traffic. I go to phi phi about once a year and its usually when someone comes to visit. The only time I went there on my own whim was 2 months after the tsunami and the place was a disaster zone. Ever since then it seems that the population of both tourists and boats servicing the tourist industry doubles every time I go there. There were beaches that were completely hidden and buried by the sheer mass of speed boats that had parked off shore to disgorge their customers. The boating lanes were crammed full of speed boats and long tail boats and the occasional giant ferry like we were on. Donīt get me wrong. The island itself is absolutely beautiful and before it became a tourist Mecca Iīm sure that it was a pristine paradise but that being said, the density is just too much now and if anyone is planning on coming to Thailand I recommend either skipping the island completely or just spending a day or so on it. This was the advice that I had given the parents in advance so they had booked a room for only one night. Of course they didnīt have a map of the island when they made their reservation so they didnīt know that their hotel was at the extreme end of the inhabitable portion of the island (most of the island is large mountains and cliffs and have no roads or accommodation). The hotel was kind enough to send a long tail boat out to pick us up from the pier but after check in it was a nice little walk to the bungalow. You all have to remember that my parents are 60 years old and what is a bit of a walk to me is fucking epic to them. I didnīt think they were going to make it a few times but they trudged down the path and we were soon rewarded with a nice little bungalow with a decent view of the beach and cliffs.
While on the ferry the parents had booked a half day snorkeling trip around the island and across the channel to the sister island that is more beautiful but has thankfully been designated a national park and no one is allowed to even camp there over night. So the parents got into their swim suits and headed back the way we had come while I struck off and got some lunch and checked out the dive shops on the island. Phi phi is one of the main dive centers for Thailand and truth be told, I am getting a little tired of diving over on ko tao so I was seeing what the employment scene was. It turns out that their pay is less then what I make on ko tao while their cost of living is about double. Phi phi is off the list of places to work. After my investigating I then came back to the bungalow to pump the A/C and take a blessed nap while the parents were off enjoying themselves in the water.
The snorkeling trip turned out to be a sunset cruise so they stayed out on the water until after dark and I had just enough time to rouse myself from my sleep before they walked in the door a little sunburned and dehydrated but not the worse for wear. After such a long day they didnīt feel like walking very far for dinner (phi phi has no motorized vehicles) so instead we just stayed at our hotel and ate at the restaurant on the beach. Now when I say on the beach, I mean on the beach. The placement of your table and chairs depends on where the tide is at that particular time.....Iīm talking on the sand. The funny part of this meal was that while we were eating I suddenly saw a strange look on my fatherīs face and his chair leaned a bit off to one side. Suddenly the back legs completely sunk into the wet sand, spilling my dad ass backwards. Now this was a funny sight but to top that was Leah who was sitting about a foot away from him when this happened but did not even notice the absence of her husband and just kept on talking. Once she gets going itīs hard to stop the girl from chatting away and no three stooges stunt was going to keep her from finishing her story.
The rest of the phi phi day was uneventful and we soon found ourselves on yet another ferry, this one a bit smaller, heading off to krabi. Now krabi has always been one of my favorite places in Thailand to visit. The scenery is just amazing and itīs much more laid back then phuket and phi phi or even samui for that matter. I have been to krabi probably about 6 or 7 times before this so I knew the deal upon arrival. Of course the new pier they built for the ferries is in the middle of nowhere and you have to take a 30 minute taxi ride to where you can jump on a long tail boat and get to rai lay beach which is where the parents were staying for this portion of the trip and which was totally inaccessible by road. All the other times I had been to krabi I had been dropped off at one particular beach in the middle of the tourist town and then jumped on a boat straight from there. Today instead, the taxi driver took us to a little launching point that did not look familiar at all but he assured us that this was the place we needed. Ok so we all screw up here and there and all I can say is that I should have known better. I should have known the lazy fucker just didnīt want to drive us the entire way to where we wanted to go. Instead he dropped us off at the place where the Thaiīs who work at the resorts on the beaches go to get their boats. The difference you may ask? Oh here we go.
I was comforted and fooled a bit when I saw that there were other farang waiting for a long tail so I assumed that I was in the right place. Well it wasnīt until after the taxi had left us that we were informed that it was low tide and that the long tail boat was waiting for us about a half mile off the shore. Of course we could reach him no problem, we just had to walk through the mud flats that made up the "beach" during low tide. For the most part the mud wasnīt too bad and too thick. The problem was not so much of footing, but of carrying the immense load of parental baggage to the boat. The roller suitcases obviously could not be rolled through the mud and one of the backpacks that the parents had was too heavy for them to lug a half mile so I gave Leah my little day pack that held my laptop and put my giant bag on my back and their giant bag on my front and grabbed one of the roller bags in my hand and started to walk. After a little slipping and sliding and quite a bit of squelching I ended up far ahead of the parents and deposited the bags onto the boat and then turned back to help Leah with the remaining bags as she slowly and carefully chose her footing. The entire situation was a cluster fuck to say the least but we hadnīt seen the worst of it yet.
When we were all happily in the boat with the full complement of luggage it was obvious that we were over loaded. The Thai long tail boat is really just a very large canoe with a giant car motor strapped to the back of it (I shit you not). This motor is attached to a long metal pole that has a propeller at the end of it, thus the name "long tail". Well all of this is well and good but our particular glorified canoe was splashing its way through the moderate chop of the ocean while taking on a good bit of water. I wasnīt overly concerned since I had been in much worse conditions in these boats before but it made for a wet and uncomfortable ride and our bags were taking a serious drenching.
The rai lay beach area actually consists of 4 separate beaches that are all connected by paths. Ton sai beach is the most distant and the cheapest to live on. This is where many rock climbers come to spend their winter since it is completely surrounded by cliffs and the accommodations are cheap. I wrote before about sitting at breakfast and watching some poor bastard fall off a cliff only to be saved by his belay line. The beach connected to ton sai by a very short but difficult path is rai lay west and this is where most people stay and where the long tails USUALLY drop you off at. Rai lay east lies on the other side of the peninsula and is not really much of a beach at all but instead is mostly mud with mangrove trees growing here and there. If you follow this beach north you will come to a path that leads to phranang beach which is probably the prettiest of all 4. Ok so now you have your mental map and you can understand that our long tail was approaching from the other side of the peninsula than normal. I was just giving the parents the lay of the land and was telling them how we were going to have to go around the peninsula to get to the other side of rai lay but that we were almost there when the long tail began to head into the bay of rai lay east. Well that was a bit of a pain in the ass since it was about a 10 minute walk down some paths to get to the hotel instead of being dropped off in the sand right in front of the place but it was no big deal really since we could find a porter to put our luggage in a hand trolley and wheel it over to the hotel. Well once again I was in for a surprise because it was still low tide and the long tail couldnīt go all the way to the shore. Matter of fact, it parked about 200 yards off shore where the water was just below your waist and then explained through much smiling and pointing that this was the end of the line. Well I was fucking livid to say the least because what you have to understand is that I have endured worse hardships then this petty shit. I mean I have travelled 4th class on the trains in India and if I could survive that then I could deal with anything. But it was more of a matter of the parents and me trying to make their vacation as smooth and easy as possible. They were not the adventuress sort that you read about in the paper....you know the story "74 year old grandmother of 20 climbs Everest".....this was not my parents lol. This guy was really pissing me off but there was nothing I could do so out I jump into the water that is washing across my upper thighs. Again I grab my three bags and head off to shore as fast as I can, sloshing through the sea water at the best possible speed while I carried my load. The phrase pack mule came across my mind as I reached the halfway point where I was now coming across a huge group of Thaiīs getting off work and heading towards the awaiting long tails. They were all smiling and laughing at my labor, knowing that I had been screwed and taken the wrong boat. I reached the shore and put the bags on a cement retaining wall and then headed back into the water, I passed dad who was about halfway to the shore but kept going, I knew that Leah would need more help. I reached the boat and loaded another 3 heavy ass bags onto my aching body. Now Iīm sweating and hot and seriously pissed off but onward I trudge like a chubby little soldier storming Normandy. After we all got ashore I told them to sit and wait while I ran off to the hotel to get a porter. I reached the hotel in record time and they dispatched one of their people as I sat down and gulped the cool water that they offered me.
What memory sticks out from krabi? Well I remember some good food for sure. The parents went off for a day on an elephant trek and came back pretty pleased with themselves. While they were doing this I jumped on a long tail and booked their ride over to samui and then ran off to McDonalds. Yes yes I know, McDonalds is evil but I had been eating almost nothing but Thai food with the parents and I was feining for a hamburger, sue me. Dad finally actually entered the ocean over on phranang beach. We had been all across Thailand and been on some of the nicer beaches they had to offer and the man never put a toe in the water lol. He says he doesnīt like salt water but itīs not as if I sit there and drink the stuff, just cool off and get away from the heat for a few minutes for the love of god. I wasnīt witness to this but while on their way back from the elephant trek Leah was getting out of the long tail on rai lay and apparently fell flat on her butt into the water. Iīm sorry but thatīs just so funny I would have paid a good amount of money to see that but alas I was not privileged enough to be there. In the end the surrounding beauty and quieter atmosphere were definitely to their liking and they listed krabi as their favorite place that they had visited despite the boat troubles.
This is where the parents and I parted ways for a few days. They were headed to samui and I really needed to get back to work and I hate samui, so I put them on a bus and crossed my fingers that they would live and then waited a few hours and then I got on my bus to get along on my way back to ko tao.
Itīs now a few days later and Iīm waiting for the ferry to arrive. I had been very specific about which ferry to take since there are a few different piers and I could easily miss them. Of course the time came and the ferry showed up and they were nowhere to be seen. My friends assured me they were ok and that they had probably just missed the early morning ferry but they obviously didnīt know my father and his absolute refusal to be late. "oh shit Iīve lost my parents in Asia." My sisters and brother were going to be really pissed at me. To add to the problems, the cell phone service was out all morning on the island so my god damn phone wasnīt working. I used the dive shops office phone to call the resort they were staying at but they had not showed yet. I grew more and more worried all day until my phone rang around 2pm and it was my dad saying they had been in the room most of the day waiting for me and trying to call my cell phone. Their hotel on samui obviously had a contract with a rival ferry company and they got shanghaied into using the other company causing us to miss each other.
It was fun showing the parents around ko tao. Showing them my cool little house and introducing them to my friends and all that good jazz. Their bungalow was really amazing (I picked it out) as it sat on a 50ft. cliff overlooking the sparkling blue water of the bay. They had their own little balcony with a hammock and a good amount of privacy so who could ask for much more right? We ate at some of my usually places and I took Leah out snorkeling for the day on one of our dive boats. Dad was going to come along but he got pretty sick the evening before and had to beg off. It was nice spending the day out on the water with Leah though, and despite her apprehension she was off and swimming around the entire sheltered bay that we used as our diving classroom all on her own without the aid of a life jacket. On their last night on ko tao and in Thailand, ninny who had become a royal pain in my ass yet again called me and said how much she wanted to go and say goodbye to mom and dad. Thatīs what she called them from the very beginning lol........mom and dad. We all had a nice dinner and they gave ninny a hug goodbye when we parted.....it was funny walking back to the motorbike with ninny because as weīre walking she blurts out "Iīm going to miss mom and dad" and I realize that the girl is crying. Like I said, sheīs a bit crazy but hey, its ninny right?
The next day they check out of the hotel and we got some lunch and Leah got her last massage (she had grown addicted to the one hour $5 massage) and then it was time to put them on the ferry. I waited in line with them and helped them with the bags and then it was time to say goodbye and give the obligatory hugs. Their visit was really great and Iīm so glad that they got out here and got to see a bit of the world that Iīve been living in. It had been the most time I spent with them since I moved out of the house at age 17 and we really had a good time. I hope itīs not the last time I see them out here.
Well itīs been awhile since they left and things are going along nicely here. Iīve been up in ninnyīs village for a few weeks and I am starting to reach a conclusion about our "relationship" but that is a story for another time I suppose. Funny little anecdote about life up here and it kind of sums up Thaiīs in a nutshell. We are sharing a room in her family home and its hot obviously, it being Thailand and all, and I suggest she leave the windows in the room open one night and she says no. can you guess the reason? If you have lived in Thailand and know the people you probably have a good guess. Itīs not bugs or a bad smell...its ghosts. You canīt leave your windows open at night for fear of ghosts. You have to love the Thaiīs sometimes. My friend dmo calls them "monkeys with guns" which is pretty funny and true is some respects. They are a superstitious lot for sure.
Itīs the end of March and that means two things. First, the equinox is upon us so happy equinox to everyone. I always liked the solstices and equinoxes for holidays. Seemed better than some random day in the middle of the winter right? Secondly, my time in Asia is drawing to a close once again and its almost time to head to Alaska. Oh man if you can believe it, I am actually looking forward to Alaska this year. My year in Asia has been a bit of a pain in the ass and upon reflection I realize that my love affair with ninny has eaten up an entire year of my life here in Thailand. I need to hit Alaska and get a fresh start. Anyway, itīs almost here and then my blog posts will get really boring again. I may post the entire length of my book that I have typed thus far throughout the summer. Let me know what you think. By the way Iīm a little disappointed with reader response from my book postings. Put your 2 cents in and be a critic