Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paradise in the South

Attempting to board my regional flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok to Krabi was much easier than I expected it to be.  Everyone at the airport spoke fluent English and my path was clearly labeled.  The flight was pretty short...less than 2 hours.

Southern Thailand Photo Album - Click Here

Krabi Town
I booked a two night stay at the Pak-Up Hostel in Krabi Town.  As I rode my shuttle bus from the airport to the hostel, my first impression of Krabi was that it was really dumpy.  It was a "shanty town" at least on the outskirts.  It didn't take long before I learned that there is basically nothing to do in Krabi.  Everyone uses Krabi as a "jump off point" to reach other (desirable) locations in the south, but most people don't stay more than a night.  Here's my hostel:

Since I was stuck there for a couple days, I looked up the best places to eat around town.  I had a fantastic red curry at a place called Chalita Cafe...it was ranked #1 on TripAdvisor and deservedly so.  Some white guy with a European accent seemed to be the owner.

The only real nightlife Krabi has is the bar at Pak-Up, which was convenient for me.  They hosted a Twister competition and I made some friends at the bar.  I met a guy named Dave from the UK...his story was incredible.  About a year and a half ago he took a trip to Australia and decided he never wanted to go back to England.  Now he travels the world on whatever budget he can afford, using Australia as his home base.  Sometimes when he's tight on funds, he'll sleep outdoors to save cash.  He's been in Thailand for months and will be going back "home" soon to Australia to earn more travel money.  Here's Dave playing Twister with Jessica from Canada:

I met another guy there with an interesting story.  While waiting for my shuttle to take me to the pier, we got to talking in the lobby.  I didn't get his name, but he was from America and currently doing a 4 month trip around Thailand.  He said he runs his own business where he works at music festivals all over America...he recently worked at the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago.  His back story was far more interesting...he used to work at Barclay's as an investment banker, but got sick of that life so he started a different one.  Now he works on his own schedule (only during the warmer months) and travels full time for a solid 4 months every year during the winter.   Not a bad life...

Thailand seems to be full of people with similar stories.  Ex-pats from western countries that got sick of living the standard daily grind and wanted something different.  They may not have as much money as they used to, but they get to wake up every day with a smile on their face.  They are living a life they can love and appreciate.  It's one thing to visualize such a cliche in your mind, but it's a very real moment when you meet people that took the leap and did it.  It can be done, and these people are the proof.

Ko Phi Phi
On Saturday I took a ferry boat from Krabi to Ko Phi Phi island.  I had to ride in the back of a pickup truck with bench seating in order to get to the ferry.  The ferry ride took about 2 hours but when we finally arrived, I knew I was in paradise.  Phi Phi (pronounced "pee-pee") is one of those destinations I was referring to earlier...this is a place that people travel far to get to.  The island is fairly undeveloped...the "roads" here are just walking paths only a few meters wide.  Thai people pushing heavy carts will yell "beep beep" as they come up behind you, forcing you off the path to let them pass.  People zoom past you on bicycles, sometimes only missing you by inches.  The paths are lined with shops and restaurants.  The island has full electricity and plumbing, but the plumbing is pretty substandard and burgeoning under the weight of all the people here.  There are plenty of islands in the Andaman Bay that still don't have electricity or plumbing if you are looking to really disappear from civilization.

The island really comes to life at night.  I walked down the beach with a beer and saw fire dancers walking a tight-rope, people dancing in the sand with glow-sticks, and some more adventurous types walking around completely naked.  Yikes!  For the record, this blogger kept his clothes on for the entire evening.  

I began my coursework for the SCUBA course on the day I arrived, and the following day I continued with it.  The course had me watch a set of 5 DVD videos (which were nearly an hour long each) and then complete some knowledge reviews.  I learned about the theory of SCUBA diving, how air pressure works underwater, and pretty much everything one would need to know before taking the plunge.  It was a huge amount of knowledge, and I can safely say I didn't remember everything from the videos.  Later in the day, I learned how to assemble SCUBA gear, and my instructor took me to the beach for my first "confined water" training.  

Breathing underwater for the first time was a crazy experience for me, but you begin to get used to it after getting a feel for the equipment.  We worked on a various list of required activities near the beach, such as flooding your mask and clearing it, or losing your mouthpiece and then finding it.  They even have one where the instructor shuts off your air tank so you can feel what it's like to run out of air.  I felt pretty good for passing all of these routines, however, I ultimately decided to drop out of the SCUBA course.  I had my moment that night when I realized I wasn't really looking forward to diving...I was honestly sort of dreading it.  They also wanted me to report in at 7 AM every day, which pretty much takes away any chance of getting a couple drinks in the evening.  That was enough for me to make up my mind.  The instructor gave me a "PADI Referral" which would allow me to complete the course within the next year if I wanted to.  Perhaps I will work up the motivation to do so back home.

One other thing I did was hire a long tail boat to take me to Long Beach, which was a pretty far walk otherwise.  The water was a beautiful turquoise blue color and the weather was great.  The beach was also pretty much empty.  Come to think of it, I had never seen an empty beach on vacation until now.  Go to the typical resorts in or around the US and the beaches are guaranteed to be packed.

While I was in the water taking a swim, a light rain came out of nowhere and drizzled on everyone.  It only lasted for about 10 minutes...on such a hot day, it was unbelievably refreshing.  I knew I was in a really special place.

This blog post doesn't have any crazy stories because I spent the majority of my time just walking around the island and relaxing.  Sorry if that disappoints you...I'll try to get conned again or something soon.  This is my last night here and I'm ready to head out.  I will board a ferry boat to Phuket tomorrow morning at 9 AM.  I'll be there for 3 nights, and then I'm coming home.

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