Thailand: The Beach, Fire Shows, New Passports and a Tribute to the Boys in the Cave.
After a grand adventure in Myanmar we were off to Thailand
We had already spent a few days in Bangkok getting Sak Yant from Ajarn Neng and now it was time to head to the islands! We flew into Phuket where we stayed for one night. I was really surprised at how far away the airport was from the town, and therefore, from the ferry port. Fortunately we stayed closer to the ferry docks so the early pick up was not that big of a deal. As we were dropped off at our hotel we had the random small talk with the taxi driver, sharing our plans for our stay etc. He let us know to check the weather as there was a ferry boat that had capsized the day before and 30+ people had died. This on top of the boys soccer team still stuck in the caves... needless to say we were feeling the heaviness that Thailand was experiencing. Fast forward to the next morning, you can guarantee I was checking that weather! Everything looked okay for the 830am ferry and we were on our way. It's just a 2 hour ride from Phuket to Kho Phi Phi. It used to be much cheaper, but as I am learning, everything in Thailand has seemed to increase in price. At least the ferry gave free coffee, tea and pastry for breakfast.
As we arrived, we dug our bags out of the heap on the stern of the boat and were excited to finally have some island time. Twenty bhat per person later for dock fees and we were on our way to our hotel. Seeing I had been here before, I kinda know the landscape. I know that the island has a loud side and a quiet side. We had made a point to find a hotel on the quiet side away from the nightly parties, fire shows, and all around scene that we are both way over. Our room was clean and had a great view of the back side of the island, the quiet side. It was just right!
After getting settled in we went to the beach to find a long tail boat to take us to Maya Bay, the famous area thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and "The Beach" from 2000. Years ago you could just grab a long tail and let them know where you wanted to go and it cost a couple hundred bhat and you were good. Now it seems they are all run by a specific entity and its by the hour, with three hours being the minimum and 1,200 bhat. I'm a bit fussed about this, but we take off anyway. Going around the island that makes up Maya Bay and then to Monkey Beach.
With that capsized boat in the back of my head, I was a bit on alarm as we crossed the windward side of the island and the waves crashed over the bow of our small boat. We were splashed a number of times, but I laughed my way through it and we eventually fought the current enough to land in the cove that is Maya Bay. I was happy to see that they have this beach closed off now. It had become so overrun with tourists that you could never enjoy it and it was getting really damaged. The government finally said, enough! and they have it closed off for a whopping 4 months so nature can recover. I personally think they need to close it off for much longer than that to give the space time to truly heal. Regardless, it is beautiful and worth the trip every single time.
Around the island we went, next stop was on the back side of Maya Bay to see where they have had to rope that access point off too. In true, "The Beach" style, I can see people sneaking in that way to have an experience similar to that of the movie. Onward to a nice lagoon we took all the pictures in the world and watched as the many speed boats came in with party goers aside stand up paddle boarders and snorkelers. It's quite a mixup! Not far from the lagoon is a cave they are calling Viking Cave. Apparently there are carvings inside that resemble viking ships. It also happens to be one of the harvest points for birds nest material that goes into birds nest soup, a delicacy in this part of the world. I wouldn't put it past someone to have drawn the viking ships in the cave, but I really don't have a clue!
From here we leave the safe leeward side of the island, travel back across the open water back into the cove of Kho Phi Phi. Last stop, Monkey Beach! On my first trip to Thailand these monkeys chased me and scared the crap out of me. Last time, they were a little better, this time, they were very well behaved! ha! What I mean by that is that there are now laws set where you cannot feed said monkeys. In the past this his "riled them up" if you will... every time they see a boat pull up, they want whatever is on it! I've seen them grab bags, cameras, and even coke bottles that they unscrew and turn up. Needless to say there is a huge problem with trash on monkey beach. With the new laws in place, the trash is subsiding, the monkeys are not as aggressive and its a pleasant experience. We were able to get up fairly close to one with babies and they just mind their own business as long as you do the same. (disclaimer-don't go mess with the monkeys and expect to have the same experience I did. They may be ornery and I just happened to catch them on a good day!)
Back to the main island and back to our place to clean up. We had decided to go ahead and check out the night life that Phi Phi has to offer. I told @brandonfrye about the my firey jump rope incident that burned my eyelashes off and a hole in my foot years ago... The fire shows, the neon lights and the loud music, it is a part of what makes Phi Phi, Phi Phi. So, mentally prepared, we set out! There is even a place called Reggae bar that is the boxing bar. Something fun to watch, tourists all padded up and boxing each other for beer. Typical! As we head out I notice that its actually really quiet... I knew we were here in the off season, but I did not expect for the beaches to be deserted, everything closing up at 9pm and having to ask a local where the fire shows went. I have to say I was a bit disappointed, but I was more happy to turn in early and call it a night! Before we did, a quick stop at the vegetarian restaurant for a quick game of connect four and some veggie curry!
Waking up the next morning, we learned that we had really done pretty much all there was to do in Phi Phi. With fairly fresh sak yants we were not really keen on diving or snorkeling, plus the weather was unpredictable in the afternoons, and well that boat that capsized... So, we gave ourselves a much needed day off! We sat by the pool at our hotel, we moseyed around and picked up a few doodads and just took it easy knowing the next day it was back on the ferry. It was great!
I awoke in the middle of the night to the windy blowing wild, rain falling hard and my heart racing. All I could think about was how there was no way in hell I was getting on the ferry the next morning with weather like this. I saw 6am roll around, still storming... 7am I fell asleep again and by 9am when the alarm went off it had settled down a bit. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and made the 1030am ferry to Krabi. I'm still weary and waiting for some massive storm to come through, which it did not. We made it to Krabi just fine and grabbed a grab to our hotel. About 5 minutes after we arrived, here comes the storm. It poured rain all afternoon, all night and into the next day. We were supposed to fly to Bangkok at 9pm and were hoping to have the day to explore. Instead we booked a hotel for $9 a night and stayed until time to fly. What started as just a day of relaxing and doing nothing has now turned into three days of nothing!
We catch our flight to Bangkok, post up in our, not what we expected, hotel with noodle bowls and cereal for midnight dinner. Up and at it first thing because today is the day that I get to pick up my full validity passport!! If you have been following the story then you know that I ran out of pages in Laos and have been traveling on an emergency passport. Our travel plans include a trip to Bali but Indonesia does not accept emergency passports so I had to send off from the US Embassy in Bangkok for a proper passport. Our flight to Bali is on the 12th, so needless to say when it arrived on the 8th and I could sort a quick overnight in Bangkok for the 10th, I was happy and excited to do so!
Here we are now, back in Krabi, headed to bed shortly with full validity passport in hand and tickets to Singapore and Bali!
Before I end this post I want to take a moment to give a shout out to the team that rescued the boys from the cave in the northern parts of Thailand. If you missed that news story, its touching. A soccer team of boys had been stuck in a cave for almost three weeks. Their coach, who studied as a monk for ten years, taught them to meditate and stay calm in this seemingly horrific event. One Thai Navy diver died trying to get them out. It took three days to get them all out and they are all now safe and sound. It has been a privilege to watch the communities crowd around the tv at night to get the latest update on the boys. To be in parts of Thailand where the rain is pouring down and wondering how in the world they will save these kids was mind blowing. It is truly a miracle they survived and I want to give a shout out to everyone who helped make the rescue a success, and to the man who died trying, we thank you and honour your spirit.