Island Hopping

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, October 21, 2005

To get to Krabi in Thailand we embark on a testing 16 hour journey on a variety of different modes of transport. We begin at 7am on foot, walking from our beach hut along the peaceful white sandy beach to the boat taxi collection point. There are a few backpackers waiting and we all look equally nervous as we see the small motorboat coming towards us bouncing over huge waves and jumping several feet into the air. We wonder how we are going to get into the boat without getting soaked. Wading through the water isn't too easy when you are carrying a heavy load and the waves are periodically crashing at waist height onto the shore. One boat comes a little closer to the shore than the others and John and I climb on board relatively dry. We fly from our seats into the air several times during the short ride across the surf towards one of the larger speedboats. Our boat appears to be full of ABBA look-a-likes and I begin to wonder whether they think that John is also of Scandinavian descent. Before heading to the mainland, we stop and collect some more Swedes from another island. The ABBA crew break out into full hearty song and we all have an amusing time watching them trying to keep up their singing whilst the boat rides the waves.

Back on the mainland we need to travel north to the Thai border although our guide book provides very little detail of how to make the journey. We start by sharing a taxi with some more Swedish girls (where did they all come from?) to Kota Baru. It is a pleasant enough trip although our driver deliberately takes us to the wrong bus station, charges us extra as we were four people and then asks for some more money to take us to the correct place. Left stranded, we get another taxi which takes us several km's back to where we have just been. We reach our destination and find a bus that will immediately take us to the border.

It is a short walk across the bridge from Malaysia into Thailand and apart from us it seems that the whole place is deserted. Maybe this is becauase it is midday and the heavens have decided to open. We find a Thai guy with a rickshaw and pile our two 12.5 kg rucksacks onto his cart. We have a small umbrella but still end up getting soaked whilst the driver pedals hard avoiding the blocked drains and puddles towards the bus terminal. The bus terminal is more like a local shop. John does some wheeling and dealing and emerges with some local money and two new bus tickets. Having left behind a largely fasting country where we couldn't find much food during the day, we get to a bakery and tuck into the first food of the day. On first impressions we notice that Thailand really does have plenty of smiley people, the food is really cheap and the cakes are pretty delicious.

We decide to try and avoid any further torrential monsoon rain by heading west where their SW monsoon should be just ending. It is a long uncomfortable 10 hour journey to Krabi, on two minibuses which are equally crammed full of Thai passengers and luggage. On the last leg we sit near the back and are squeezed into a smaller and smaller space as the driver stops to pick up bulky pc's, smelly chicken-fish feed and other bulging sacks.

We arrive at our destination at 10.30pm barely able to stand upright. We stagger into the nearest hostel, take the first available room and crash into bed. The next morning we feel a little worse for wear. The all night live band next door to our room did not really help us very much and the first thing that we agree to do is to find somewhere better.

We find that Krabi is full of hostels and hotels targetted at the vast number of backpackers. During the search, John spots a shop called Bon Cafe which is an outlet for coffee machines which reminds him of his last engineering project in the UK. He talks enthusiastically to the shop manageress about the mechanics of different coffee machines and the secrets of making the perfect cup of coffee. The manageress gives us both a sample espresso and our first caffeine dose for a long time perks John up so much that he can't seem to stop talking. He starts to mutter that the coffee grinder on the machine needs to be on a finer setting and sets about examining everything in great detail and fiddlying with the different knobs. The manageress looks a little bewildered and so I decide to slip to find a hotel. The best hotel is actually just next door. 'A Mansion' is an immaculate two year old property with clean rooms and bathrooms and is the same price as the hostel we stayed in the night before (300 Bart, less than 5 pounds).

I return to the coffee shop to find John drinking some water and looking very spaced out. The lady waves goodbye and seems to be delighted with the new machine settings that John has set. 'Come back for more free coffee' she says but as we both spend most of the day recovering from the buzz, we decide to stay away from the caffeine for a while.

We spend the rest of the day finding our feet and relaxing. The town has numerous internet bars, two good nightmarkets and plenty of hotels but as the peak season on the Adaman coast begins in November it is still relatively quiet. We see more Westerner's here than anywhere else on our travels. We visit the official tourist information office which isn't too helpful. When we ask about the best kayaking area the lady tells us to visit some of the tout shops and to choose which pictures we like the best. Armed with this information we try to read some glossy leaflets. They all seem pretty much the same, so we toss a coin and join an organised day tour to go sea kayaking and snorkelling on Hong Island.

Next morning, we are collected from our hotel and drive around the town picking up 2 Singaporean's on a weekend break, and 2 energetic Canadian girls. Our final hotel stop is at the Sheraton where the songthaew (pick up truck with two rows of wooden seats in the back) is security checked for bombs at the entrance. John is amazed to see a baby elephant posing for photos in a sparkling white reception area. Here we collect 2 German academics who are tagging a holiday onto the end of a business trip.

A wooden boat which has an old car engine driving a propellor via a long pole on its rear end, aptly called a long boat, carries us across the sea past many rocky outcrops until we eventually reach the beautiful tropical island of Hong. Huge limestone rocks of gray and orange topped with green foliage tower up into the blue sky against the aqua blue sea. We stop at the only beach on the island and sit for a while on the pale yellow sands watching some 2m long monitor lizards lazily strutting across the sand and even swimming in the sea. Our guide cannot speak much English but we follow him in on the calm waters as we kayak around the island. We pass half submerged roots of mangroves and see flying fish and lots of different water birds. The highlights are passing through some small lagoons (hongs) and under some unusual hanging limestone formations.

We return to the beach and cool off in the sea which is the same temperature as the air (29C). John points out the schools of yellow and silver fish as they dart around us hoping for some food.

After lunch, we take a short boat ride to another deserted island. Here we see more of the strange limestone formations which dangle down from overhanging rocks beside the sea. We have the place to ourselves and although we don't see many fish in the water, we go for a swim around the rocks and have some fun swinging in the trees.

Next day we make our own way to Raily Beach. It's easy to travel here and we catch a songtheiow and long boat to the white sandy beaches. The beaches are surrounded by more of the limestone rocks and ther are a few bars line the beachfront. It is a little more touristy here and we watch a western girl lying on the sand being pampered by some thai ladies. One massages her feet with thai oils whilst the other shows her a selection of bracelets for sale. We bump into the Canandian sister's, Kim and Kelly on the beach and a 5 minute conversation turns out to last about 2 hours.

Next morning, before a bus taxi takes us to the boat terminal to the island of Ko Phi Phi, we decide to pop into the Irish bar a few doors down from the hotel for breakfast. Everything here is a little too relaxed. It isn't busy at all and John gets frustrated with the service which is so slow that it takes nearly one hour to get a bowl of cornflakes. We give up waiting on our tea and are even more suprised when we get the bill. John queries the cost and finds out that the waitress had given us an old menu with old prices. After sorting it out we say a friendly goodby and head off for the ferry. This is what Thailand is like.
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