After Chiang Mai, we went back to Bangkok for one night, then headed straight back off with our backpacks to the southern islands.
You’d think it was a rush but it wasn’t too bad actually. We hadn’t arranged our transport to the south yet, so we just got up the next day and returned to the train station to see what was available. All the guidebooks tell you, you can just rock up the day before you want to go south and it will be fine – well not if those days fall on a Full Moon party weekend. Oh no!
There were no trains available for 4 days, so we booked a night bus, from Hualumphong train station. A tourist information assistant approached us and advised us that we could book a bus upstairs in a tourist office. We were very wary at first, as these kind of things in India, usually meant a big scam. But once we got a price (a little inflated at 950B each) and were assured the bus had reclining seats – we booked it for that night.
You get an option with buses to have air-conditioned VIP 24 or 32 seated buses. We have only ever been offered the 32 seater option so far, and it’s not too bad if you have the legroom.
On our journey to Surat Thani (the first stop for any journey down south), we had front seats upstairs on the bus, which gave us pop-up footrests and the bar at the top of the stairs, to put our feet on. Admittedly, Thai people are pretty offended by feet (so if you see the driver or bus staff coming your way, take your feet off anything not-footrest related).
But the bus was air-conditioned, comfortable and we even got a few on-board movies. The journey went pretty quickly thanks to that and the ability to sleep fairly well on the reclining seats.
We stopped once at a restaurant (clearly a friend of the driver’s), where we had to pay to use the toilet. These stops are annoying as you know there is a premise for the driver to stop there, to get commission and for the restaurant to charge massively-inflated ‘tourist’ prices. I recommend going to a 7/11 to get food and snacks before the journey, so you don’t have to pay these ridiculous prices to fill your tum on the way.
The only issue with 7/11 is that EVERYTHING savoury on offer is unfortunately (and surprisingly) sweet. For example, a chicken and salad cream bun, I bought the other day, was pretty gross because instead of salad cream, the chicken had been smothered in custard! I know weird right?!
The pizzas we had bought for the journey, even seemed to have been drizzled in honey. Odd odd odd!
The bus left at 7.30pm and we arrived at Surat Thani at 6am. The bus driver and staff usher you and your bags off the bus very quickly, so do make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. It’s all very rush, rush, rush which is ironic because everything after disembarking, is very much the opposite.
We waited a long time for our pick up, but at least the atmosphere at the Surat Thani stop was fun. It felt like being at a music-festival. Just imagine piles of backpacks everywhere, people smoking and drinking (even at 7am) and people just having a laugh while brushing their teeth on the roadside.
We then had another (!) long bus journey to Krabi town but hey, it’s all part of the backpacking life eh? The benefit of being an only child, I can occupy myself anywhere, at any time, so its all good. 🙂 Learn to do this and you’re all set.
After being in the city for a while, it was pretty exciting to be heading to the coast again. It’s great to get that city feeling back but then it’s great to get back to nature too. Splitting up your time between different places really puts it all into perspective, I think, so just try and enjoy all the sights. By giving yourself time in different environments, you will get a better idea of what a country is really like, which is much more fun anyway.
And, well, the south really is just so breathtaking, there’s no way you could miss it.
What struck me, on the coach journey, was the beauty of the emerald coloured hills, cliffs and vast rock formations. They are just unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the landscape shown in Jurassic Park so I kept imagining dinosaurs everywhere which was pretty amusing.
The heavens did decide to open on our arrival but the hotel we had found here was heavenly – so we didn’t care really. I really want to recommend a new amazing website to you – agoda.com as it finds luxury hotels at backpacker reduced rates! It’s awesome!). The hotel is called the Ao Nang Cliff View Resort and it comes highly recommended from GT!
We stayed in a wooden house on stilts surrounded by trees, impressive cliffs and beautiful flowers. Yup this place is pretty much heaven on earth.
The hotel has a really nice restaurant (on stilts too of course), lovely spa facilities and it even provides a lovely home for lots of different animals. There was a large fenced area near the restaurant which enclosed rabbits, turtles and even a tiny deer called a Pudu (soooo cute). They also had a chimp enclosure (I must admit though this area should have been a lot bigger) and also regular-sized deers.
There were also a number of cute kitties we befriended, and after being deprived of furry company for a while, it was quite the comfort I must admit. 🙂
Then there’s the pool….ahhh yes! This is the life!
It’s a great place, the only thing I’d say is go for an air conditioned room not a room with a fan, during the rainy season. Those rooms get very damp, which means everything in your room gets damp and nothing dries.
We arranged several tours with the hotel as booked through their affiliate company Barracudas. They really were a very good tour company (unlike the one in Chiang Mai). They offered very reasonably priced tours but I think coming out of season helped (the rains were definitely getting in full-swing here).
So we got a tour of the nearby four islands for only 400B for 2 of us, because we’d stayed longer than 3 nights there. Bargain!
That tour included:
– A visit to Pranang beach & Princess Cave (which is where single men & women can come to pray to meet their true love – lots and lots of phallic symbols are left in the cave for good luck & fertility too). You’ll also spot some very brave people doing some impressive rock climbing here.
– A trip to exotic Tup Island where you can relax and then if the tide is low, walk across the sand over to another neighbouring island. Very cool. You also can try to see the scary monkey that lives there. Eek!
– A ride to see Chicken Island (it’s shaped like a chicken but to us we thought it looked more like a fist…hmmm). Funny though.
– A visit to Poda island to relax.
– You also pass a cliff which looks like if has a woman’s face in the side of it, but really it wasn’t that good and was kinda hard to see (so we nicknamed it Shitface Island haha!).
We met an awesome fellow Brit called Georgina (the only other English-speaker on our tour). She was 21 and had decided to go travelling on her own after her birthday. None of her friends wanted to see the same things or couldn’t afford it so she decided to take the bull by the horns and just do it alone. This sounded all too familiar to me, but I was just in awe of her bravery at a younger age. It’s taken me to reach 27 before doing something like this. She was a very inspiring girl to meet for sure 🙂
And we got on like a house on fire. I do like a good bit of banter. But amongst all the fun, crisis struck and we were faced with a painful issue. Georgina and I went snorkelling and were warned as we got in the water to watch out for sea-urchins.
We were having a giggle because instead of putting our masks on and looking into the water, we had put our masks on and were facing the sky. We were finding wearing a life-jacket very amusing – just floating on the water really is a lot of fun haha!
But then of course we realised we had to do it properly, and just as we’d finished, Georgina returned the boat and she banged her foot onto an urchin on a rock. She said it didn’t hurt too much but there were a lot of black needles stuck in the front of her foot. Boat staff advised us you have to keep slapping your foot with something like a flip-flop to allow the needles to break up, then they just dissolve away after a few days.
At first we thought this was crazy advice but then it became quite amusing. I wish you could have seen us! I was standing there slapping Georgina’s foot hard with a snorkel (because she couldn’t face it). Then I proceeded to slap her hard with her flip-flop. The whole boat was staring at us, even though a lot of other people had done it too, probably because we were just in fits of laughter about it all. But as painful as it was to be repeatedly slapped with a shoe (haha!), Georgina had a really great sense of humour about it all.
So on that note, a word of warning, watch out for sea-urchins!!
But at the same time, if you get to see one up close, they really are quite amazing. The driver of the boat fished one out of the water for us to have a look at. It was like something from Men In Black. A spiky black spiky thing – that’s what it was haha!
You could hold it in your hand and it would just move along by moving it’s bristles. The driver even put it on his head, so it looked like he had a Mohican. It was quite harmless, it’s just when you get near to one in the water, it pushes all its spikes up in defence. They break off into your skin, but will just eventually dissolve, as long as you whack them hard enough so they break up. Yikes! So yeah, fun to see but a little but owwy.
Then we opted to do an elephant trek and waterfall tour. That was 800B each (instead of 900B). I knew that coming to Asia, I had to ride on an elephant. I was so excited about it, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! It really was one of the most special things I have ever had the privilege of doing.
It was raining cats and dogs on the day of our trek but rather than see it as a negative thing, I just thought it made the experience even more authentic. After all, we were trekking through dense trees, water and foliage, so with the rain pouring it felt like a true rainforest experience. I felt like a jungle queen 🙂
It was wonderful. I have never seen an elephant so close before, they really are such majestic creatures. I loved ours even more so, because he was a little bit cheeky too 😉 – you’ve got to love a naughty Nellie!
He kept stopping and trying to eat everything, including a huge piece of palm, which he wouldn’t let go of, even though it was pretty much as big as him. Well, you gotta eat on the go I guess 😉
I also got to leave the designated elephant chair to sit on Nellie’s neck which really was a wonderful experience. Luckily I still remember a little from horseriding so I knew how to move my body with the elephant. At moments it got pretty scary, especially when Nellie went down into the water. But it was a wonderful experience. To feel this beautiful animal’s skin beneath me, to stroke it and touch it -was just magical!
We then went to see a very impressive waterfall.
We then concluded our stay in the area with a tour of the Phi-Phi islands (for 1,000B). The islands are beautiful, the lagoons are deep and clear turquoise and the weather (luckily) was glorious that day.
It really is paradise.
Our first stop was to a perfect desert island, called Bamboo Island. As soon as I stepped off the boat, I had visions of Jack Sparrow popping up asking ‘Where the rum had gone’.
It was beautiful. Covered in soft, white powdery sand, with inviting warm water lapping on the shore and palm trees decorating the land.
Then we went to do some snorkelling and sight-seeing at Maya Bay (the location where The Beach was filmed). The only thing about this stop was that the whole area was heaving with other tourists. There was hardly any room on the beach to fit anyone else. So rather than deciding to snorkel there, we wandered around. There were trails through the trees leading to secluded coves. Watching everyone swimming towards the cliffs in these perfectly clear waters just made you want to dive right in and join them.
I’ve never seen water that looked so inviting, have you?!
We were then taken to numerous snorkelling spots and they really were perfection. I practically leapt from the boat when we arrived and I’m usually a big scaredy-cat when it comes to the sea. But nothing was going to keep me out of these heavenly waters.
There were bright yellow and blue striped fish in the water, so we were given bread to feed them. It was fun seeing them eat it because they would swarm right around you. If you were underwater as they were feeding it made for quite a sight seeing that many fish all around you.
We then made our way past more tropical islands and cliff formations to feed some monkeys (at aptly named Monkey Island). This was another fun experience because I was asked to stand on the front of the boat to reach out and hand a slice of bread to one of the many monkeys in the nearby trees. It was scary enough just keeping my balance, without keeping out the images of being bitten
However the boat couldn’t reach the trees closely enough. We thought this meant game over. The monkey however used his initiative and just jumped on to the boat. He landed right at my feet, took the bread from my hand, then grabbed the remaining loaf in the packet and just dived into the water. I think it may be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Especially with him swimming, struggling to keep his head up and to hold the bread. Bless.
We were then dropped off at the tourist hub of Phi Phi Don to get a huge buffet lunch and to walk around. The lunch was amazing and all-you-can-eat so we really made the most of that 🙂
Phi Phi Don is ok but far too busy for our liking. It was very touristy, loud, full of bars, travel agents and tacky souvenirs. Not that different to a lot of places we’ve been admittedly, but this definitely seemed a bit much. I got the vibe that if you want to just party and sunbathe then it’s probably the place for you. But we like a little more than that, because there is much more than that out there!
So I really recommend Krabi, it’s relaxing, great location to visit other islands too and away from the party scene but still has great nightlife to offer.
In fact the nightlife even boasts an incredible ladyboy cabaret show at Blue Dragon. I’d seen the famous Ladyboys Of Bangkok perform in London a few years ago and this show was on par with that. I really recommend going to see this.
The women look incredible! The songs are fun and the costumes are fabulous! We loved every second of it! In fact, we loved it so much, we went to see it twice!
We had pictures taken with the girls outside the venue which was a lot if fun (I will upload these when I can as they aren’t on my iPod Touch).
And I even had a dance on stage with the boys and girls after they’d finished for the night. It was hilarious and so much fun! You cannot come to Thailand and not see a Ladyboy show – they really are a wonderful sight to see!
Have you been to Krabi or Phi Phi? What did you think? Fall in love with a ladyboy? Let me know I’d love to hear from you…
Love and feather boas Em xoxo