Days 1-4 of a 3-week journey around Thailand, June 20-July 13, 2015
Day 1: The Flight
I’m never really sure whether to count the travel day or the first full day of a trip as Day 1. But for the sake of this post let’s say it’s the travel day. On June 20th, I said goodbye to Australia exactly a year (and a few hours) after I arrived. Katie and I boarded our Jetstar flight bound for Phuket and away we went. I’m starting to really love long haul flights – I can sit back and do absolutely nothing for nine hours. At a time when I still had things to plan and cities to research, it was a nice mental break to chill out and watch movies for a while.
When we arrived in Phuket, we made it through immigration fairly quickly, grabbed our (extremely heavy) bags, and found our taxi driver sent by the Air BnB property we had reserved. A few months ago, I entered a contest by World Nomads (the company I buy my travel insurance from) and won $100 in AirBnB credit, which I only found out about a few weeks ago when the coordinator emailed me to let me know I had two months left to use it. Our apartment was in Bang Thao, on the west coast of Phuket, north of touristy Patong. Once we got checked in, we dropped our bags (gladly) and went to bed.
Day 2: Phuket
Our original plan for Day 2 was to go kayaking in Phang Nga Bay; however, the best laid plans of mice and men… you know the story. As it turns out, the boat our hosts were planning to book us on was already full, so instead we booked a driver, Samart, for the day and toured around the island of Phuket. We drove south along the coast, stopping at lookouts along the beaches at Hat Suring, Patong, Karon, Kata, and the southernmost tip of the island (which was breathtaking!). Then we started to head north again, stopping at the Big Buddha, aptly named because it could be seen from miles away perched on its hilltop. To beat the heart of the mid-afternoon sun, we each bought a coconut, popped in a straw, and hydrated with some refreshing coconut water. After marveling at the Big Buddha for a while, we passed through Chalong for our first temple experience at Wat Chalong. The temple architecture here is stunning. It’s very busy and extravagant but has a way of seeming peaceful at the same time. After Wat Chalong, we made a quick stop at the Upside Down House, a cool little tourist attraction where everything is upside down, making for some funny shots of us looking like we are hanging from the ceiling. Then it was off to Phuket Old Town where we saw part of the weekend parade and perused the small market along the main street. Our final stop for the day was the Weekend Night Market, where I bought some comfy elephant pants. We returned to the apartment around 7 pm and went to Café de Bang Thao (where we’d also had breakfast) for dinner.
As of Day 2, my first impressions of Thailand were: Thai people are very kind and most often smiling. It is very hot and unbelievably humid, like sweat whilst sitting down without the AC on hot and humid. And, most importantly, it’s a laid back culture, which has already forced me to trade my planning pants for comfy elephant shorts and ROLL WITH IT.
Day 3: Phuket to Krabi
Yet another day that didn’t go exactly as planned (maybe I should stop planning altogether?). The original thought was to take the ferry straight to Krabi in the morning and hit up Railay Beach or take a longtail boat tour of some nearby islands in the afternoon. None of that happened because the ferries don’t run straight to Krabi in the low season. Duh. So instead we had a leisurely breakfast (again at Café de Bang Thao), hopped on the shuttle to Rassada Pier, and boarded our first ferry to Koh Phi Phi. From Phi Phi, we boarded a smaller ferry bound for Krabi. We arrived in Krabi at 3:30 and grabbed a cab to our accommodations at Chanchalay Guesthouse in Krabi Town. Chanchalay is quite lovely and comfortable. The décor is quaint and nautical, mostly with shades of blue. It seems like a mixture of New England and what I would imagine Santorini to be like, if that makes any sense at all. The highlights of our room were a powerfully functional air conditioner and a semi-outdoor bathroom, meaning there’s no roof over our shower.
Once we’d unloaded our suitcases, we ate a late lunch at Q Residence, a few doors down from Chanchalay. I tried a chicken dish made with cashews that had a bit of a kick to it. We explored Krabi Town on foot for a bit and found the nightly markets, where we decided to eat on Day 4. We returned to the guesthouse for a while before dinner when we ventured out again. We were a bit boring and ordered spaghetti Bolognese and salad, but I tried a traditional Thai dish for dessert – bananas in warm coconut milk. Sounds gross, right? Wrong. It was amazing (but far too filling!).
Day 4: Koh Phi Phi / Krabi
Our big adventure on Day 4 was a speedboat tour of the Phi Phi Islands. Our guide was Mr. Joe, a highly energetic Thai man who liked to get our attention by yelling “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN” every five minutes. After we departed from Ao Nang beach (we literally departed from beach – as in there was no pier and we walked straight into the water and climbed into the boat), our first stop on the tour was Bamboo Island, where Katie and I began our hard day’s work of perfecting our tans. The next stop was a snorkeling spot just offshore from the next island over from Bamboo. Nothing too exciting, but I did see a few angelfish. Our third stop was what Mr. Joe called The Lagoon, a shallow passage between high cliffs with insanely clear blue water. It was otherworldly and nothing short of postcard perfect. We hopped out for a swim and Katie and I swam over to a nearby beach while the rest of our group was puttering around the boat (the perks of being “strong” swimmers!). After the Lagoon, we went to the beach at Maya Bay, where part of the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed (nope, never seen it, but apparently I now have to). We valiantly continued our quest to attain the perfect tans. On our way to lunch on Phi Phi Don, we stopped by Monkey Bay to check out the macaques who come right down to the beach and sit in the trees expectantly waiting for the tour guides to toss them some fruit. Finally, we made it to the main beach at Phi Phi Don, the largest of the Phi Phi islands, for a Thai buffet lunch. We did a bit of storefront browsing before hopping in for one last dip in the sea for the day and got back on the boat for the ride back to Krabi.
Once we returned, we showered and regrouped after a long day in the sun. On our way to the night markets for dinner, we bought our bus and ferry passes to Koh Samui, an island on the east coast of Thailand’s southern peninsula, for Day 5. At the night markets, we played it a bit safe tonight, grabbing some chicken kebabs, noodles, and spring rolls. I felt a little adventurous and tried some fish egg sushi, which was actually really tasty, and some delicious coconut water. For dessert, we went to an ice cream stand serving five mini cones with mini scoops of ice cream. On our way home, we made our nightly stop at 711 for snacks for the boat to Koh Samui – 711 is huge here. It’s like Starbucks in the US, nearly one on every block. Our big treat for the day though was a pedicure and an hour-long Thai massage, for which we paid just 500 Thai baht (about $15 USD). The Thai massage was pretty intense – it involved a lot of stretching. I haven’t had a massage since my senior Ivy Champs so I wasn’t too stretchy to begin with. But when I remembered to breathe, it was very relaxing. It might have been the first, but it definitely wasn’t the last massage we’ll have in Thailand!