Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Week at Thailand's Beautiful Southern Beaches!

After a couple days in Bangkok, Trisha, Jeremy, Nok and I took an early flight to Krabi, in the southern part of Thailand, to spend a week at the beaches there.  From the airport we took a bus to Au Nang, where we caught a long tail boat to the island where our hotel was.  When you travel abroad, particularly to countries like Thailand, you soon realize that lots of things are different.  Rather than a formal dock where you would just step onto the boat or a gangplank, here the boat came up just to within about 30 ft of the shoreline, and you simply took off your shoes, rolled up your pants and waded out to the boat, carrying your suitcase over your head!  Fortunately none of us dropped our suitcases.  Then there was a rather rickety little ladder to climb up over the gunwale into the boat--quite a hilarious situation for us farang (Thai for foreigners), slipping and sliding our way onto the boat with something less than style and grace!!  But we made it, and then off for about a 30 minute boat ride to the island.  Well, it started raining quite a bit on the way, and we were just able to wade from the boat to the shore once we got there before the heavens really opened up.  We huddled under the roof of the open air bar at an adjacent resort to wait out the rain so we could then grab our bags and wade along the shoreline to arrive at our resort.  But, after a week of wading through the shallow waters to get from one place to another, we got quite used to it, and the beauty of this island paradise is just beyond anything we'd ever seen before.  We had looked at the pictures from the resort online, but no picture, including those that we took and I'll include a bit later, comes anywhere near to really showing the beauty that abounds all around.

Jeremy had visited this island before, so he was familiar with the particular island where we were staying--it's a small, narrow island, and we could walk from one side to the other, and there were shops and restaurants on both sides, lots of little open air places.  So we started out by walking to the other side, where Jeremy and Nok continued their efforts to introduce us to many of the traditional Thai dishes, most of which we had not seen before in Thai restaurants in America.  Most were quite delicious, though from time to time there were some we didn't care for.  And Nok, of course, loved her food much spicier than was comfortable for us!  But it was fun to try all these new foods and I began to develop tastes for particular dishes, enjoying how different places prepared the same dish.  The resort where we stayed was right on the beach, and we had small bungalow accommodations which were set back into a lush grove of tropical trees and beautiful flowers and plants.  Outside each bungalow there was a large clay pot full of water with a ladle--since the tradition in Thailand is to take your shoes off before you enter a dwelling (and many stores would also have signs asking you to remove your shoes)--so you had the water to ladle over your feet to wash off the beach sand before entering the bungalow, a very nice touch.  Each morning we enjoyed breakfast in an open air/outside cafe overlooking the beach.  We would see long tail boats bringing new groups in and taking others back to Au Nang, as well as the many tour boats coming to pick up passengers for a huge variety of day trips.

One day we took one of the tour boats out to several of the islands around--we saw Phuket, the island most devastated by the tsunami in 2004, as well as the island where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach" was filmed, and another island where one of the early Bond movies was made.  We stopped at a few beaches around this group of islands, then for lunch, and later they anchored out in the water for us all to go snorkeling.  It's hard to describe how beautiful all of these islands and beaches truly are, but it was  amazing!  Snorkeling we saw lots of stunning tropical fish as well.

Nok stayed with us for most of the week, but then she had to go back to Bangkok for work.  One day we all took kayaks out and toured among some of the rock formations not too far from the beach where we stayed and that was fun.  Another day I went out by myself in a kayak just for some good hard paddling for exercise and went quite a ways--loved that!  One evening we walked to the other side of the island where we could then follow a path through a jungle-like setting to reach another beach where we watched a beautiful sunset.  It's hard to single out any one evening for the sunset, as virtually every night we could sit out by the pool, or in the open air bar, or just on the beach and watch some of the most beautiful sunsets we've ever seen!  Sometimes we would have pretty hard rains, but rarely would the rain last very long.

After Nok returned to Bangkok, Trisha, Jeremy and I hired a long tail boat for the day, and the pilot took us to an isolated beach that we had totally to ourselves--just remarkable to sun, swim and marvel at the remarkable beauty.  There are tons of small islands and basically just rock outcroppings rising up from the water, some with vegetation, some just rocks, but it all makes for just stunningly beautiful scenery--lots of small coves and hideaway places.  Later in the day the pilot took us to an island that had been hit pretty hard by the tsunami, but has been restored.  It's in the national park service, and is a very popular spot both for Thais and tourists, with tons of boats tied up along a series of floating docks or just anchored in the shallow water.  We swam and hiked around the island and saw several places where wrecks of boats destroyed in the tsunami were still there, just left where the wreckage ended up.  Now they have put up a high tower with a warning siren for future episodes, and have a marked trail to a high point for people to use in case of another flooding situation--the trail is marked with ropes attached to the rock faces along the trail to hold on while scrambling to higher ground to wait out any storm.  Seeing just this little bit of evidence of the tsunami was a pretty sobering reminder of just how terrible that was.

One evening while Nok was still with us, after we all had dinner together, she and Jeremy walked over to the other side of the island where the center of the night life is--us geezers were more than happy to go back to our bungalow and just turn in early while the two young folks danced the night away!  They told us about an interesting experience while they were at one of the clubs:  apparently a local TV celebrity/singer was on the island for a bit of R & R, and had come to the club.  According to Nok, this woman's TV and public persona is sort of a wholesome, goody two shoes type, but evidently she was ready to break out of this role and let 'er rip!  They said she was whooping it up, having a grand and wild time, dancing like there was no tomorrow, generally way beyond her typical persona.  Of course Jeremy didn't know who it was at first, but began noticing that several of the club's staff were surreptitiously sneaking cell phone pictures of her, so he pointed this out to Nok and she couldn't believe it was this celebrity.  Quite a hoot!

We stayed several days after Nok returned to Bangkok and, while initially thinking we might move to a different island, decided to stay put at the same resort where we were the whole time.  It was very convenient and we really enjoyed the leisurely outdoor breakfast buffets--including the salads that are almost always on any Thai breakfast buffet, but of course are never seen as a breakfast item in the US--the times on the beach, by the pool, and sampling the local fare at lots of different small restaurants.  And, not surprisingly, lots of folks wanted to have their pictures made with Santa--mostly tourists from all over the world, but quite a few locals as well--lots of fun!

Here are some pics from the beach--I'll try to be a bit selective on these, but it was all just so beautiful!

This was the boat we took from Au Nang to our island resort
 Pulling into the island
 After we had waded to the wall with our luggage
 Jeremy walking along from the bar where we waited out the rain to our resort
 One of the views from our resort
 Looking the other way
 Coconut milk doesn't get any fresher than this!

Lunch on the first day at the beach
 Nok would typically order several different dishes for us to sample--she definitely likes her food much spicier than we do!
 Typical scene where folks are waiting for the long tail boats to pick them up for the trip back to Au Nang as well as delivering new arrivals to the beach
 The boats couldn't get all the way into shore, so you would wade out to them.
Hey, I'm the King of the World!!

 We needed the umbrellas when we first walked to the path to the other side of the island, but by the time we got back the rain had gone

 The first couple of days we were there the staffs from the various resorts on the island were competing in the "Island Games," and here is an incredible game called tukol.  Sort of like volleyball, with the feet!  There is a woven ball somewhere in size between a softball and a soccer ball, players could either head it or use their feet, but not their hands--think nonstop soccer style bicycle kicks.  Just amazing how agile these guys were and how they could set up a teammate who would wind up and flip upside down to use his foot to spike the ball, while the opposing players would time their flips so they could go up to block the spike with their feet.  There's really no way to describe this, you just have to see it to believe it, but it's simply amazing!

 A little special time on the beach!

 Our bungalow
 Watching sunset from the beach side bar

 On the day we took the big tour boat to several islands, this is a resort that was rebuilt after the tsunami, having been completely flattened by the storm
 Jeremy and Nok snorkeling when the tour boat stopped to let us all have a chance to watch some amazing and brilliantly colored fish

One of the many lagoons we visited--can you believe the color of this water??

 In the bow of the tour boat
 Not sure I completely understand this, but Nok, and virtually every other Thai person we saw who was being photographed, always like to flash the peace sign, or V for victory, not sure which or exactly why this is so popular.
 All the tour boats lined up to visit the island where DiCaprio's The Beach was filmed
 Where we had lunch at another island
 Passing a couple long tail boats along yet another beautiful beach
 Santa out kayaking from our resort-HO!HO!HO!

 We could see this from our resort
 This was when the four of us took a kayak tour of several nearby beaches and islands.  This rock was just amazing!

 We paddled around this rock

 One evening when the four of us walked to the other side of the island to watch the sunset from another beach

 Nok, jumping for joy!
 This dude had this remarkable remote controlled helicopter that would fly very high on this beach where we watched the sunset

 Getting ready for the sunset!
 Kinda worth the wait, don't you think??

 Typical breakfast fare of pineapple, dragon fruit and one other, whose name I can't now remember!
 Sorry for the out of order, but this was on the walk to the beach on the other side of the island where we went for the sunset in the pictures above
 Lots of monkeys, keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who either drops food, or is inattentive enough for the monkey to dash up and swipe it right out of your hands!
 Success--tourist looked away, and now I've got corn on the cob--woot!
 Out by the pool at our resort, on the day Nok had to return to Bangkok
 Jeremy loves his Thai iced tea!!
 The day the three of us hired a boat to take us to different islands
 Pretty amazing beauty all around, as far as the eye could see!!

 We passed this huge mansion up in the hills on an island during the day
 Tarzan at the bow of the boat!!
 More beauty!!
 Just another little hidden cove!
 We stayed at this little beach, all to ourselves, for a couple of hours

 This was the scene at the National Park where we pulled up for an hour or so
 Everywhere you look, all you can see is just gorgeous beach and water!!

 Grim testament to the destruction wrought by the tsunami
 Couple pics of wreckage

 One more beautiful scene, before we leave the beach area!


  1. Chuck, it was a great time indeed. Thailand is an unbelievably beautiful country. Sorry it took me so long to catch up, and given that it's now been 4 months since we were there, I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of things to include. My next post will focus on our time in the northern part of the country, including trekking in the mountains, jungle and rice paddies of the foothills of the Himalayas!

  2. Great to read your post and see the pictures Pop! And I'd say your memory is pretty good. I won't nitpick the details but I felt that I should point out that Railay is a peninsula and not an island. It sure feels like an island since you can only get there by boat but it is attached to the mainland, just cut off by massive limestone cliffs. Anyways, great stuff and I can't wait to read about the rest of the trip! That was certainly a wonderful time! Love you!

    1. Jeremy: Thanks for the correction! Please feel free to similarly correct my next posts about the rest of the trip--can't believe I had already forgotten the name Railay! Enjoy your memory while you still have it, young man!! Reviewing those pictures sure brought back tons of wonderful feelings about this remarkable trip with you!