|Krabi, Ao Nang & Railay Beach (March 19, 2002 - March 26, 2002)|
Ayutthaya & Bangkok again
Like Guilin, the Krabi province is an area of
karst limestone formations - those peculiarly shaped peaks that rise
straight up from an otherwise flat landscape.
We drove from the airport to Ao Nang and got a room at the BB Hotel for two nights.
Ao Nang does not seem to be part of Thailand. It's full of western dive
shops, western menu restaurants, western style resorts, and western
tourists. We ate dinner on our first night and actually
had a knife and fork! It was heaven as we had been puzzling our way
through eating chicken legs using spoons and forks since arriving in Thailand a
few weeks ago. However, I miss the food carts and small Thai
restaurants... and the low prices. Food prices, while cheaper than
Canadian restaurants, are significantly higher
here then the rest of Thailand.
Railay Beach is a peninsula on the mainland not far from Ao Nang, but it is cut off by mountains and can only be reached by boat. West Railay beach is spectacular but crowded. There must be 500 hotel rooms and bungalows in the area, and they were mostly all full. We stayed at the Railay Beach Bungalows (also called Railay Beach Resort). If you go there and don't mind a fan cooled room, ask for the 450 baht rooms. I think they are Railay's best kept secret as no one seems to know about them and the staff are not quick to volunteer info. They are as nice as the 850 baht fan cooled rooms. We ended up getting three rooms - Mark had one, Heather and Chloe another, and Sarah and I got to sleep together all by ourselves!
After getting our bearings and taking a quick trip to Krabi to get our return air tickets to Bangkok, we signed up for a day of snorkeling and a day of rock climbing. Heather and Mark both had colds so we could not go diving.
Snorkeling was very good.
Visibility at both Koh Yawasam and Koh Poda was at least 20 metres. We saw
a sea snake, and thousands of small fish in 5 to 8 metre deep water.
Between swims, we had lunch at picturesque Chicken Island, so named
because the natural limestone chimney on one end of the island looks like
a chicken's head. It is a shame we could not go diving because some of the
world's best diving is in the Andaman Sea around Krabi.
We had to drive to Phuket airport because the flights from Krabi to Bangkok were overbooked. After an uneventful flight, we checked into Jim's Lodge again in Bangkok.
Bright and early the next day, we left the hotel and drove to Damnoen Saduak, the floating market. This has to be the most touristy thing we have done on our trip so far - the parking lot had about 20 tour buses. However, once we got over the revulsion of doing anything so staged for tourists, it was actually quite fun. Imagine a market where all the stores are packed into small wooden canoes, or shops along the banks of the narrow canals. Tourists are paddled up and down the canals in canoes - if you see something you like, you momentarily raft the store and tourist canoes together and negotiate your purchase. We filled up on mangoes, pomeloes, and a delicious mixture of sticky rice, coconut milk and mango slices that we bought from other boats.
After the market, we saw the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit in Bangkok. There is an interesting story to this Buddha - it was being moved in the 1950's when an accident left a large crack in the plaster exterior of the Buddha. One of the Monks saw gleaming through the crack. When the plaster was removed, he discovered the Buddha was about 5 tons of solid gold. The plaster had been added to fool the marauding Burmese armies in the late 1700's.
One final stop at the post office to send another package home with our Thai purchases, and then we were off to the airport to catch our flight to Mumbai, India.