Thursday, December 9, 2010

Krabi (Railay), Co Phi Phi, Phuket - Thailand

Our journey to Krabi town begun with an overnight Ferry from Koh Tao.  Not really knowing what to expect, we opted to cover ourselves with the expectation of a chilly air-conditioning that often accompanies the long Bus journeys but we were in for a surprise.  The boat was probably closer to a prisoner transport vessel but thankfully minus the shackles and casual beatings.  A long, hot room with a low ceiling filled with rows of thin and narrow mattresses, each with a number painted on the wall behind them awaited us.  However, the travel gods smiled on us again and for a reason which we still can't work out we were marched through this section to another separate room with only 6 mattresses but was otherwise empty after we killed a cockroach.  We didn't overpay for the privilege as we chatted to people on the open top truck/van/bus thing we arrived on who had paid the same.  Having the room to ourselves was a blessing as we could spread out and have a good sleep.  Once we arrived in Krabi we got a bus to some sort of depot, where we arranged our transfer to get out of town in order to go coastal again, opting for a place called Railay.  

We had time for a stroll whilst we waited for the transfer and were pointed towards a thriving early morning market.   There were all types of food for sale, not all of it recognisable!  Stalls were selling all sorts of wonderful seafood, we saw beef being chopped up with the tail still on and even some whole foetal-like hairless chicks which were fairly disturbing.  Another short (and rather scary) open top truck/van/bus thing ride took us to a small harbour with the guys perched on the rim of the truck along with our bags and all the girls crammed in the front, much to the amusement of the local school kids riding their mopeds en masse in our wake.  A small taxi boat then picked us up to take us to our drop off point at Railay with countless beautiful islands to be seen along the way. 

Checking out a cave in Railay
Railay is absolutely gorgeous, even more so than Koh Tao.   Renowned for its rock-climbing, you are surrounded by limestone cliffs and rusty looking caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites overlooking the beaches making for a stunning place to chill out and swim.  There was the odd sting from what people were saying were tiny jellyfish which felt like a pinprick.  Using the masks we bought in Koh Tao, we could see some of the fish swimming about beneath us and we actually saw a pretty big Cuttlefish which looked as though it came from another planet!  It hung around for a while and then disappeared before it found itself on the menu. 

Climbing a rope up a muddy bank

Beach at Railay

Beach at Railay

Beach at Railay

For some reason Railay has a resounding Rasta vibe, the bars pump out reggae music in the evening and the locals are very laid back.  We stayed in basic beach-hut style lodgings with no real view even though we had to climb a multitude of rickety wooden stairs, but each hut had a hammock on the porch which was totally apt and the price was excellent for what was a relatively touristy location.  Our favourite meal here had to be the shark meat on skewers cooked 'en papiot' on a charcoal BBQ although we also tried barracuda which was nice too. 

The harsh stairway to the guesthouse

Kate in the hammock of our guest house hut

On our second day we climbed up a steep hillside in order to reach a viewpoint from where it was possible to see both bays which was tiring but worthwhile!  On both days we bumped into large gangs of monkeys who seemed harmless enough but the locals didn’t treat them too kindly.  In the evening our new favourite hangout, the Rasta 'Yaya bar' had a scheduled Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) fight which whilst I'm certain was a promotional exercise for the club, the fighters definitely had their pride at stake and weren't pulling any punches, or kicks to the head for that matter.

Local monkey

One of the fighters

From here we took a short boat journey to Co Phi Phi Don, arriving in the morning on a narrow peer crammed with hotel touts either side, a complete tunnel of hassle!  We took shelter in a small eatery and grabbed a Pad Thai each, but it didn't take long for our waiter to turn into a hotel salesmen and I eventually managed to convince him that we would be alright by ourselves!  We walked for about fifteen minutes with our bags until we found a small guest house just off one of the quieter streets run by a French lady.  Nowhere is cheap on Phi Phi Don, but we managed to get a hot shower and cable television for 700 baht per night (16 quid) which seemed like a blessing after having slummed it for over a week. 

We booked a snorkelling trip for the next day for 500 baht (11 quid) each from 10am until gone sunset which turned out to be great value for money.  This trip took fourteen of us all around the island on a longboat to different snorkelling spots where we saw plenty of fish, albeit with the chauffer cheating by lobbing in food to attract them which wouldn't have gone down too well with Patrick our Scuba diving instructor.  He had previously explained to us how the ecosystem is extremely delicate and feeding the fish could mean that they aren't eating as much of the algae off the coral in order to maintain it.  Either way we enjoyed the fish and various bays that we could swim up to.  The highlight of this trip had to be when we were taken to Phi Phi Leh.  This is the infamous island from the movie 'The Beach'.  I think our boat was slightly too big to enter the actual bay, instead we were dropped off and taken by kayak over shallow rocks to a wooden staircase in order to get to land.  The island itself had a peculiar but serene feel about it, and short walk took us to Maya Bay which is probably the most beautiful beach you could ever see.  The surrounding hills cradle the bay like a horseshoe and the cove of golden sand and shallow clear water is sheltered and spectacular.  We relaxed there for a while before having to board our boat in order to return to our accommodation on Phi Phi Don Island.

Relaxing on a nearby island on the snorkling trip

Maya Bay from the boat

Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh

Kate relaxing at Maya Bay

The viewpoint on Phi Phi Don

Yesterday we arrived in Phuket town after another short boat journey.  We attempted to stay at a Lonely Planet recommended guest house for it only to be full, however they had a sister guest house run by the same person with the same prices so we took it up, after all it was not far away and we were being picked up for free.  We sat down for ten minutes or so whilst we waited for our transfer which turned out to be a young Thai bloke with a motorbike and side cart.  I looked at him, back at the hotel staff and then at Kate.  We were both happy to take a bit of a chance, neither of us not being fond of this mode of transport based on the road etiquette witnessed to date yet it wasn't far... being the gentlemen I offered Kate the spare helmet as she hopped into the side car along with our bags and I perched myself on the back of the bike.  Fortunately our driver was saner than some we had seen and we arrived in tact to a comfortable fan room. 

View from our hotel room in Phuket

Attempting to find the night market that evening, we were sent off in the wrong direction and became very familiar with Phuket town whilst trying to find it with all sorts of directions being given to us! Thai people really will tell you anything rather than lose face. We had a nice walk and eventually found an unimpressive market of some sort, had some food and decided to call it a night.  Upon arriving back to our guest house a gentleman fixing something on the door said there was a night market down the road, just a stone's throw from where we were but in the opposite direction from which we set off originally.  I think this was the market we had been trying to find but as it had been raining whilst we were eating I’m assuming it had largely been packed up.  There were still a few nice stalls to see but by this point we were ready for our beds!  Tomorrow evening we fly to Chiang Mai with Air Asia so will spend today and tomorrow taking in city life and trying not to spend too much money!      

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