We are in Thailand, home of noodles and rice.
The Monsoon season is running slightly late so we are catching the occasional shower. We landed in Bangkok, where we spent a few days before heading to the coastal town of Krabi, Gateway to the Islands. From there we moved on to Koh Lanta, our first Thai island. What follows are a few of our more interesting moments, enjoy!
Bangkok – traditionally seen as bustling, grimy, and chaotic; this couldn’t be further from the truth. Having spent 6 weeks in India we may have become desensitised to such things, but were both pleasantly surprised by how clean and ordered the city was. The sights are stunning, the people welcoming. The Thai King has recently passed away, leaving the nation in a state of mourning, as a result we were unable to enter the Grand Palace. The area surrounding the Palace has been given over to hosting and feeding the vast number of Thai mourners who have come to Bangkok to pay their respects. The food was not only delicious but also free. Despite being outsiders we were offered friendly smiles and the chance to share and enjoy their food. So keen was their hospitality, we were given three rounds of food, quickly escaping before having to consume a gut busting fourth sitting; we were made to feel most welcome.
Getting to Krabi required a 16 hour bus trip, organised through our hostel. We were to be picked up, with our (large) rucksacks, by a minivan and taken to the bus stand to get on the coach for the main leg south. Expecting our lift to arrive at 6pm we waited until 6:10 before anxiously asking our host where the van was. She made several phone calls, and then stood outside, glancing nervously up and down the street; we were not filled with confidence. Two motorbikes abruptly pulled up; our host turned to us, smiled triumphantly, and said ‘you go!’ Surely these bikes weren’t for us? Wrong… One of the riders took our ticket, assuring us this was the way to get to the bus. Laughing nervously, we didn’t voice the question we were both thinking; surely they must have overlooked our huge rucksacks? Again, wrong. Jamie, 28, had never been on a motorbike and didn’t consider this to be the ideal circumstances to start. With no alternative and with a high level of trepidation we each perched on the back of a bike, bags strapped tightly, and headed off. We weaved through the rush hour traffic, Jamie franticly hugging the back of his new Thai friend, whilst Jade had a jubilant smile, enjoying the feel of wind whipping through her hair. We made it in one piece and faster than a mini bus could have taken us; success!
Krabi Province is an area of breath-taking beauty; forested limestone cliffs, tropical islands with pure turquoise water, and brilliant white sand beaches. Krabi Town is none of these things. Other than being a useful travel hub it lacks much of the beauty demonstrated by the surrounding areas. However by a stroke of luck we arrived as the weekend night market hit full swing, transforming the sleepy streets of Krabi Town into a bustling marketplace. On offer were an array of craft items, trinkets and clothing to suit all styles; more importantly there was a plethora of delicious, and in some cases outlandish, foods. Having survived India, street food has become something to enjoy, rather than avoid for fear of non-existent hygiene standards and the sometimes explosive results. Standards such as Sweet and Sour, Pad Thai, and Pork Skews were all available in large quantities. There were also some more exotic options; Orange Sized Dumplings – an inch thick puffy foam outer hiding a core of spiced, mince chicken. Weird Sausages – spherical and seasoned with lemongrass. Smoked Rice – soaked in coconut milk, wrapped in a banana leaf and then cooked on a fire. All were a treat for the eyes and the taste buds (except the smoked rice, that was like eating cigarette ends…), however our top picks by far were the desserts; banana stuffed pancakes coated in Nutella, as well as chocolate covered waffles; amazing!
Our next home following Krabi; an island paradise that offered half price cake. What more could you want? Koh Lanta is one of the larger Islands in Krabi, but oddly it is also one of the quietist; this suited us fine. Our last day on the island was spent on a motorbike, exploring the southern areas that were too far to reach by foot. Jade, being the most experienced (Jamie later found out experience equated to having ridden a bike once, for 20minutes…) took the lead and drove first, whilst Jamie (woefully ignorant) took up the back spot. After veering across a main road and nearly losing Jamie off the back, we headed along the coast at the breakneck speed of 20kpm.
First stop – a quiet, idyllic beach straight out of Robinson Crusoe, with absolutely no shade. 10 sweaty minutes of playing with sticks resulted in a makeshift shelter; a very dodgy frame, with a towel across it offering some much needed relief from the sun. We later found out our efforts were for nothing as we ended up with scorched backs. 1-0 to Nature…
Following ‘Sunburn Beach’ Jamie took up the reigns, the first time he had ever driven a motorbike. Arriving at our next destination free of injury, we traipsed off into the jungle in search of a bat cave and a remote waterfall. Batman was not home, but about 400 of his mates were, so after scaring Jade to death we swiftly moved on. The waterfall was anticlimactic. Expecting a huge cascade tumbling into a deep pool in which we could swim, what we found was a knee deep pond and a French couple engaging in some sort of naughty photoshoot. Once they stopped posing for each other we took a refreshing dip and shower, before stumbling back through the jungle in search of our bike.
As the sun was going down we pulled over at another stunning beach, where we went for a swim and watched the sun set. It was the most beautiful sunset either of us have witnessed and was a perfect way to cap off our day on the bike.
Arriving back at our hotel unscathed, we congratulated ourselves before heading out for dinner, and more half priced cake.
In all, we have had a brilliant time in Thailand so far and are really looking forward to our next three stops; two islands and a national park.
Thank you for reading,
Jade and Jamie