Thursday, February 18, 2010

18th January 2010 - 11th February 2010 - Langkawi - Thai Islands

Islands, islands and more islands

I suppose I should write another blog seeing as another well defined leg of the trip is over.. But it’s really hot and I’m pretty tired from riding a bike all day and I don’t really feel like I’ve got a creative hat on so this may not be the most interesting read.. Feel free to skip to the pictures!

So after our culinary experience in Penang we jumped on a boat to the Malaysian Island of Langkawi and after a few hours of sea spray we were at our tax haven. Langkawi is nice… the beach is nice… and the beer is really cheap… which is nice… the food isn’t so nice… but all in all Langkawi is, well, nice… I’m glad we went there before the Thai Islands though as we probably would’ve been disappointed.

Langkawi - Drinking beer at sunset

Whilst in Langkawi we learned that you can only get 15 day visas on the Thai border instead of the 30 day visas previously offered. This meant we had to go back to Penang to get a 60 day visa from the consulate.. Massive pain in the ass… but at least it meant we got another good meal, and further more, it has meant we’ve had the freedom to spend more time in Thailand. So there was a silver lining.

From Penang we caught a speedy mini bus all the way up to Krabi on the west coast of Thailand on the other side of Phangnga Bay from Phuket. We both really liked Krabi as it had some great market food such as crispy chicken salad and crispy catfish salad, both very spicy but both really tasty. However we also liked the general vibe of Krabi combined with our excellent value guesthouse (Ban To Guesthouse), and as a result we stayed longer than anticipated.

From Krabi we first visited Rai Leh, which is located on the Phangnga Peninsula and is only accessible by boat. We took our first of many rides in a long tail boat to Rai Leh and and here we got our first “Thai Island experience”… crystal blue water… limestone cliffs… and lots of burning Europeans on the sand. (Speaking of Europeans, I wasn’t aware that the national language of Thailand is German… but apparently that’s what the majority of people here speak… there you go). Rai Leh is stunning, and although the first beach we went to was great, it wasn’t a patch on Phra Nang Beach a further 10 minutes walk away where the limestone cliffs and stalactites precariously loom over the water. Bizarrely, the beach is also home to a cave where locals worship a god by placing large penis statues at the shrine!

Phra Nang Beach

There is also a lagoon in Rai Leh, however to visit it, you have to climb up a very steep path using ropes and clinging on to rocks and then climb down three vertical drops of about 4m each also by rope and rock. This was rather unexpected as there was no mention of it in any guide book or at the start of the walk itself. Although unexpected, the rope climbing was really fun and a little bit scary which made the lagoon all the more rewarding and all in all our day in Rai Leh very memorable.

Scrambling up the rocks
Another day trip from Krabi involved some snorkelling and kayaking around Hong Island, once again located in the bay. We got a really good taste of what was to come on the trip, seeing some beautiful tropical fish, and a decent amount of colourful coral. Kayaking around the island itself was good fun and provided a very different view of the limestone island. Pictures won’t reflect our amazing these islands actually are.. Definitely worth the hype.

Hong Island

Kayaking around Hong Island

So we finally left Krabi and headed out to the famous Phi Phi Island… Pretty much paradise on earth. Not wanting to stay in the generic town centre we instead stayed out of town near Long Beach in a place called Viking Nature Resort. A very nice place with it’s own private beach. Soon we were drinking Bacardi on the porch of our upgraded suite taking it all in. Really all we did in Phi Phi was eat, drink and snorkel. I was lucky enough to be able to swim with Black Tipped Reef Sharks in the early hours of the morning right off Long Beach. Unfortunately Sheena couldn’t come because there was quite a strong current and it took pretty much all of my swimming strength to negotiate the pull of the water. Seeing sharks was awesome!

Our private beach on Koh Phi Phi

Enjoying the upgrade suite

After Phi Phi we went to Patong in Phuket… it was shit… the best thing was seeing Avatar at the movies… end of…

Far out.. I’ve written so much and I haven’t even gotten to the Surin Islands yet!

The Surin Islands are the most northern Thai islands on the west coast of Thailand, right near the border with Burma. We read that these islands are the best in Thailand for snorkelling and so we forked out a wad of cash and headed out from our base in Khao Lak for a 3 day 2 night stay on the islands. We spent the 3 days free diving at various locations around the island which provided the most spectacular marine life and coral formations I have ever seen… Sheena said it was better than the Great Barrier Reef! The water depth rarely got deeper than 7m, which meant visibility was fantastic and it gave you the opportunity for some great free diving, getting amongst the corals and fish on the sea floor. The variety of marine life was outstanding with plenty of anemone fish (clown fish or Nemos), parrot fish, barracuda, and sharks etc, and although Sheena and I weren’t fortunate enough to see Green Turtles, plenty of people in our group did. Our accommodation was just a tent right on a deserted beach… and it was probably the most beautiful of all beaches we have come across. I now want to get my diving certificate so I can explore some more of what the northern Thai Islands have to offer.

Surin Islands

The view from our tent

Surin fun!

Our Island adventure ended with a visit to the East side of the Thai Peninsula, just to check it out. However to break up the trip and to give ourselves a bit of diversity from the sun and water, we decided to visit Khao Sok National Park. Our time there involved a bit of trekking though the dense evergreen forest and a bit of hiding in our bungalow whilst monkeys tried to open the door! We would liked to have stayed longer and done some more exploring of the park, but that will have to wait for another time.

Monkey Trouble in Khao Sok

Trekking in the National Park

Our trekking destination

So eventually we made it to the East side and in doing so we skipped Koh Samui and Koh Phangnang and went straight to Koh Tao as we weren’t really interested in a partying scene. Whether it was because the water was relatively rough (when the water is calm on the west it is rough on the east and vice versa), or whether we were comparing it to the Surin Islands, but we have to say we much preferred what was saw on the west side. That’s not to say that Koh Tao isn’t beautiful, it really is and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay, but it just didn’t compare.

So there you go… no particularly funny or amazing stories to say, and no profound and enlightening experiences to be had… after all, we pretty much just spent a month swimming around pristine blue water looking at the fishes and mermaids and what not…

Since writing this blog we have already been to Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Sukhothai, however I will leave the “culture and shit” for another time as this has already gone on too long…

So until next time!
Take Care

Simon & Sheena

P.S. We also got engaged at Koh Phi Phi if you didn’t already know…

Koh Phi Phi

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