Ko Tao is my favorite place we’ve been. Getting there was interesting though. We booked a boat, bus, and a boat through a travel guy on Ko Lanta, it was an island off the opposite coast that we were on, so long trip. The guy picked us up in his truck and told us he was going to drive us to Krabi where we’d catch the bus. We rode inside the truck which was a novel experience, A. automatically climbed in the back.
He asked us on the drive if we’d help him with the ferry, assuming this was something physical we agreed. We got to the ferry and he asked us for 400 baht to pay, schemer. We gave him 100 and since we’d already paid him said that was it. We eventually got to Krabi where he went in to the bus travel office and talked to them and then quickly left. We were then informed we had been booked for the overnight ferry, which was bullshit and wouldn’t leave for another 8 hours and we’d waste the money we’d paid for a place to stay. I threatened to call the tourist police and we were pretty pissed at him. In the end we paid him to be able to take the day bus/boat. He told us the phone numbers our guy gave us were fake and he had a lot of complaints about him. We went to go eat and went back a couple of hour later, resigned to the fact we’d been scammed. Shockingly when we got back the guys said he’d been able to reach the other guy and gave us our money back.
A week from now we’ll be back in San Francisco. We could happily spend another month here. Being free of stress and responsibility is amazing after working in fields that require long hours and daunting deadlines.
The next stop from Krabi was Ko Lanta. We took a moldy smelling ferry there and then hoped in the back of a truck to get to our place. It was a nice change from PAN beach because we could walk to places, but it was still pretty secluded and not crowded.
We had another beach bungalow, but thus one had a western toilet, a large mosquito net over the bed, and electricity 24 hours so the fan didn’t shut off. It also had a lovely porch with a hammock and comfy chairs.
The restaurant/bar was on the beach. The nice beach had to be walked to, but it wasn’t far and it was deep enough water that we could swim in low tide. A. also borrowed a snorkeling mask and did a little of that too.
There was a really good Tapas place called the Red Snapper in walking distance and an ok French Bakery. We were disappointed by the backpacker’s guide book recommendation an Indian food place, but it was on the beach so very pretty even if the food wasn’t great. We also had a dainty white cat that I named Noelle sit with us in our empty chair. A. gave her some chicken and she was very pleased. Another night/dinner we met a small black and white cat that I named Figuero but he was a fair weather friend and abandoned us for another table. There was also a pudgy Frenchy at our place that I called Ham and obviously broke the “do not pet fuzzy death” rule. I’ve broken it a bunch now, but A. said I’m not allowed to pet anything in Bangkok. I’ll probably stick with that.
We went on another four island tour that was much better. Way fewer people and more beautiful locations. When we were snorkeling we saw a giant eel and a small squid with a little fish in its tentacles. There was a very funny Easter European woman on our trip who was concerned about how not tan I was after being there for 2 weeks. She thought I had just arrived and when told I’d been there for two weeks looked very concerned at my paleness, especially my legs. I don’t think it helped that I was swimming in my long sleeve sun shirt.
We also got another scooter and hiked to a cave. It was a huge cave with cool formations and quite a lot of bats near the exit. I started to feel really claustrophobic towards the middle of our journey through the cave, but played it cool and survived. A. went to the national park and saw a ton of monkeys and was really happy about that.
We ended up staying 5 nights because it was so nice there. We swam every day, ate mostly good Thai food and enjoyed the company of the loud geckos.
We stayed true to our old people form and the latest we stayed out was 930 I think, at the bar at our place having beer and playing 3 games of jenga with a 9 year old who didn’t speak English, but jenga is universal.
I forgot to mention in my Krabi post about the rain storms. We had some big ones at night. The craziest happened in the middle of the night and woke us up from the loud thunder. It was so loud it was actually scary in our little shack. A. was thinking about how our accommodations would handle a lightning strike since it was right over us, and I forgot from sleepiness that we were 4 ft off the ground and was wondering if we’d flood.
So Krabi is autocorrected to Keanu, which I find really funny. Keanu was the last planned stop we had for our trip other than our flight home from Bangkok on May 7. A. found us a bungalow outside of Keanu on the beach, I think it was PAN beach.
We ended up staying 3 nights. Low tide you could walk out to this island, which we did the first day. It had rocky/cliff sides so you could only walk around it. True to the name, there were tons of crabs around of all sorts of sizes. We also saw and picked up some starfish. On the rocky exterior we were about a third of the way around one side when we saw what looked like an enormous snake, but upon further examination turns to be a monitor lizard over 5 ft long that was fortunately very skittish. I saw one more while we were walking over there. Two mornings later we saw a smaller one right by our place, apparently they existed off the island too.
We met a German kid and some Dutch girls while staying there and sort of taught them how to play rummy. The water was clear and warm with lovely white sand. The only negative was if the tide was out you couldn’t swim because it was shallow a long way out, but not to bad of a problem.
The bungalow had electricity from 6pm to 6am so I woke up at 6am every morning when the fan shut off and the outside temperature made itself known. The toilet was flushed by dumping water into it. We went on a four island snorkel trip that was totally misrepresented. The first island was actually two islands connected by a shallow sand bar the everyone was in. Totally shouldn’t have counted as 2 islands. Then the last island was not an island at all, but a peninsula. Total fraud. Other than the misrepresentation it was ok. It was beautiful and the water was warm and clear, but every stop had a million tourists so it was a little of a mixed bag. Then when we got back they forgot about me and Anton and let our ride leave us, so we had to wait over 2 hours for the next one. The wait did give me time to have my first beer in Thailand (finally over my problems) and I got a little drunk off a large Chang. It was like being 18 again. There were three at the dogs at our place (not an unusual amount). One was a young easily excited dog that barked early and late and took up residence on the porch next to our place (that and the 6am fan stop were the two reasons we set up for Ko Lanta after 3 nights.) The best dog was the older, bigger dog with shaggy tan dog. We named him Poppa dog due to his respectability compared to the other two and droopy balls. I also had to tell A. That if he didn’t want a fuzzy death to bother him that running away is not the answer.
We’ve been traveling for 19 days and have 11 more to go in Thailand. Then we’ll have roughly 21 days in SF, Portland, Glacier, Yellowstone, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Toronto before we arrive in Vermont for the summer.
It’s strange after having roots for almost 8 years to no longer have a “home”. We sold all the furniture so we don’t even have a bed that’s ours anymore. It was an uphill battle for the first 4 or so years in San Francisco to build a life for myself and to walk away from it seems a bit mad, but I do so with confidence that I didn’t have before that I can do it and be much better at it this time.
It made our goodbye party bittersweet because as a friend pointed out to me, it was a collection of friends I made soon after arriving to friends I’d made in my last year in SF. A true reflection of a built life.
And now I’m on a ferry in Thailand getting a little teary eyed over it all.
Luckily I have years of practice at the long distance friendship with some of the closest people to my heart so I know my SF life will continue through long distance relationships. It’s not the same, but it’s invaluable. My Dad actually showed me the way through having one best friend in Connecticut and the other in New Jersey. You make it work.
But I have the one constant who was there for the beginning and will be there through each step of new adventure and that’s really how it holds together.
Our first stop in Thailand was Chiang Mai, the second largest city. It was gritty, fast paced and overwhelming. It was also safe, friendly, and seemed like a place you could find anything in. It was a great a place to start. Our schedule was arrive, have one full day, day 2 leave for elephants, day 3 come back to Chiang Mai, day 4 Chiang Mai, days 5-7 take our 350+ mile scooter ride, day 7 return to Chiang Mao, day 8 fly to Krabi for the beach.
Thai New Year was day 3-5 (4/13-15). To purify you for the new year people throw water on you. For 3 days. Chiang Mai is also the biggest celebration of this. Everywhere along the moat around the inner city there are Thai people set up with buckets, water guns, and hoses drenching everyone around. We can’t drink the tap water here let alone the very brown moat water, so it’s also an exercise of clamping your eyes and mouth shut since lots of people get sick.
It is a hell of a lot of fun though. There are unspoken rules though, no water in restaurant or on people near food stalls, and no water in the face of little old ladies. Otherwise it’s every man for themselves. We cut the tops off large water bottles for our weapons and dipped into the many trash cans full of water on the street. It was also 90-100+° which made getting soaked great. There were thousands of people participating between Thai and tourists.
The trouble began on the first day of our scooter trip and the longest, about 5-6 hours of driving. The first 3+ hours of getting water thrown on you wasn’t so bad, it was hella hot and we dried immediately due to the dry heat. But the back half I went over my limit, not that there was a damn thing I could do about it. They took great joy in throwing about twice as many buckets on me than A. probably because I was a girl. I’d estimate I had around 50 buckets of water thrown in my face on the ride. I was not amused.
People would actually form a line in the road so you couldn’t get through and then they’d all line up and get you. Adults and kids. A lot of four letter words were used mentally. Every truck was also a potential danger because every truck back was full of people with a big container of water so they could drive around dousing people, preferably people on scooters. Getting a bucket of water thrown in your face at 40mph feels like getting punched in the nose.
Besides their never-ending New Year celebration (they continued in smaller numbers the day after it ended) the scooter trip was epic. We drove through the mountains and saw beautiful jungle, farm lands, small villages, and quite a few chickens. We went up the highest mountain in Thailand, went to some spectacular waterfalls, and peeped some gorgeous temples in the mountains. Our first night was in Mae Hong Son and we would have spent a few days there if we hadn’t already booked some other stuff. Very cool town and great/cheap place to stay (Piya Guest House). Some very cool temples and we got to see some muay thai boxing for free. We also met some dudes from Texas, I’m beginning to think Texans are like Australians, they’re everywhere.
**obviously our scooters were much more high powered than our poor scootscoot. We also wore helmets Mom and I wouldn’t go faster than 70kmh
When we first started discussing Thailand I had a dream of petting tigers. I had read about Tiger Temple and imagine it this perfect place where monks really did exist harmoniously with tigers. I was beyond stolked. Then I started doing research and learned the really unsurprising (when you actually think about it) truth that to pet full grown tigers they have to be drugged or chained. I couldn’t bring myself to visit any of the Thailand tiger attractions as a result (A. was relieved since he believes you shouldn’t do anything that if you were to be hurt or die people would be like ‘duh’). However, I wasn’t leaving Thailand without some significant animal interaction.
So I started researching elephants and found a rescue center that we could visit and stay overnight, The Elephant Nature Park. We went on our 4th day in Thailand. It was hella hot (100°+), but the experience was amazing.
They rescue elephants from street begging, circuses, trekking camps (tourist rides), and logging camps in Burma. Each elephant needs to be purchased from their owners so despite the abuse the park needs to maintain positive relationships with the groups that own them or risk being shut out. Apparently every elephant you meet in Thailand that didn’t have the rare fortune of being born at the park or rescued at a young age was ‘broken’ through at least 3 days of torture in a tiny enclosure, we watched some video and it’s ugly stuff.
The park was pretty amazing. They have 38 elephants ranging from little babies to old ladies. Some are healthy and doing well, but most have some sort of trauma that may or may not be visible. The saddest was one very gentle girl who had a badly healed broken leg and hips from separate injury occasions. There were also several with broken backs from carrying tourists, apparently not a healthy activity for them.
While we were there we got to hand feed them, pet them, and was them over the two days we were there. They were absolutely amazing animals, especially looking at how they care for each other. They have several blind one from mistreatment and cataracts, and each has at least one “seeing elephant” that had bonded with them and stays with them always. Each elephant was with their Mahoot (a person responsible for them at all times) and no restraints or discipline tools. The gentle/friendly ones we got to interact with up close while they were loose, the less friendly or ones with babies we observed from a little distance. It was cool to b able to have so much interaction while not imposing on the animal’s needs.
The park also rescue dogs and cats and I finally got to pet some (A. calls them “fuzzy deaths”) because they rabies vaccinate. It was much needed since everyone has cats and dogs here. There were around 200 dogs there, most in the dog rescue kennel, but probably around 40 free range.
Overall it was amazing to spend time and learn about such beautiful animals. It was inspiring to hear about all of the park’s efforts to try and change something so ingrained in Thailand’s culture.
Look forward to lots of elephant photos when I have a real computer in a month or so.
One time in college I went to a cave man party (at Panarchy, for my fellow Dartmouth geeks). You showed up and there was a bunch of animal print cloth that you made an outfit out of to change into. Then you went out back and roasted meat on the end of your long pointy stick (spear if you will) on a roaring fire and drank a 40. Totally authentic cave man experience. I was a bit of a failure and my meat kept falling off my stick into the fire. Finally my friend Adam took pity on me and cooked me some. He told me I’d never have survived cave man life, but I told him I’d do exactly the same thing and get someone to cook my meat.
This story sprang to mind given my current problem track record in Thailand. I’ve been here one week and this is how I’m doing:
1. Came here with what turned into the biggest and worst canker sore I’ve ever had. It’s right by my throat so it hurt to eat, drink, and exist (finally mostly pain free after a week of being here). So I couldn’t eat much without being in pain, and had to avoid anything spicy. In Thailand. Basically I got to be the picky white girl that was encouraged relentlessly almost everywhere to try spicy food because language limitations made explaining the problem pretty much impossible.
2. After my first 24 hours I got sick and had to take the antibiotics for 3 days.
3. I had a spoonful of A’s coconut curry (I get sick from coconut milk, but can handle a few bites) got sick immediately so that will be the last coconut milk I have in Thailand which is in 60% of all delicious things. However, coconut water and I are ride or die. No clue how these two things are simultaneously possible.
4. I get headaches from the heat way easier than A. which has happened twice in a week.
5. We went on a 3 day scooter adventure and after the first day (close to 6 hours of driving in 100+ degrees at times) I ended up with a very sore/chafed behind that wasn’t improved by the next two days of driving. A. is of course fine.
So I’ve either shot the moon in my first week or I’m coming home in a body cast.***
***please note that in spite of my physical short comings, we’re having an amazing time so far.