After watching others feed them from their hands and have them sit on their shoulders, my Dad and I did the same. I got a little nervous when 3 monkeys jumped on me all at once but my Dad seemed like a natural. It was very fun! Clint, although reluctant to get in contact with the monkeys, stayed close to snap some photos and Patty watched from a distance. Instead of moving hotels all the time we stayed in Ao Nang for nearly a week and took day trips to other beaches and islands. Our first day trip to Railay beach was an adventure. We lounged on white sand overlooking more green limestone mountains that shot out of deep turquoise waters. We bought grilled corn on the cob and Singha beers from beach vendors and lounged until the thunderstorm came and finally drove us off. We were the last to leave the beach and were not bothered that we were getting soaking wet. We walked the long path to the other side of the island to get a cheaper meal. Unfortunately, it was this meal, we think, that gave me, my dad and Clint a "stomach bug". My Dad and I were pathetically in bed the entire next day. I'm convinced it was the smelly squid that I warned us all about at the cheap restaurant. When we finally arose from our sickly beds with an empty stomach we slowly made our way down the road to find something inviting to eat and found our way into McDonalds. Yes, McDonalds. Thai food did not sound appealing at all after our sickness. So, a cheeseburger and fries it was. The next day we were feeling almost normal and took a long boat to Poda Island.
We were told by someone to walk around to the back of the island to avoid the crowds and get to the best of the beaches. We walked through tall palm trees to a small white sand beach with less crowds and beautiful views. Another day in Paradise! The last day with my Dad and Patty we took a large Ferry boat to Koh Pi Pi island. This island is known for it's tear invoking beauty and also one of the islands that was devastated by the Tsunami in 2004. We only had a few hours there before the last Ferry went back to Ao Nang. We spent our hours on an amazing beach, soaking up the hot sun, swimming in the clear waters and watching little kids play in the waves. From what we saw there was no evidence of the Tsunami other than several construction sites and signs to a memorial garden that we were unable to visit. The last night with my Dad and Patty we enjoyed a spectacular seafood feast.
We ate outside under a bamboo bungalow and devoured grilled shark, crab, squid, mussels, large prawns with baked potato, salad, and garlic bread. Mmmmmmm good! And we didn't get food poisoning. Hooray! We then bonded once again over a game of late night Hearts. The next morning we had to say our farewells. This was not easy. We had a wonderful 3 weeks together that seemed to fly by! It was hard to imagine that the next time we would spend time with them would not be until Christmas. Nearly 3 months down, 8 months to go of our "Amazing Adventure". We really love that we are able to share this adventure with the people closest in our lives. It's wonderful how traveling together allows to you get to know and become even closer to loved ones. We felt like we knew my Papa and Patty pretty well before, but now we feel we know them even better, and I think that they feel the same way about us. Even Clint and I, who have known each other for 12 years and have been in a relationship for nearly 6 years (whoa!) are getting to know each other on a deeper level and growing closer. We are looking forward to Clint's sister Julie coming here soon, and then later, Clint's parents, my Mom and Ron, Clint's other sister, Priscilla, and some of our friends. We are lucky travelers to have such wonderful traveling companions!
The day that my Dad and Patty left Krabi to head to Bangkok was also the start of the Thai New Year; Songkran. This includes a day long water fight that the entire town/city participates in. Clint and I were completely drenched after walking 1 block down the street so we decided to fight back and purchased large super soaker water guns. In Ao Nang the main street is turned into a one way and people pack into the back of pickup trucks with enormous bins of water. They drive around and around throwing buckets of water or spraying with their water guns anyone they pass. People also take powder and smear it on passerby's faces, hair and bodies. We looked ridiculous but had a blast! With April being the hottest month of the year in Thailand we gladly welcomed the water. It was really fun seeing local people (and travelers) of all ages getting into the fun. What a child's dream come true...one huge water fight!
After Songkran we got onto another ferry and floated to the island of Koh Lanta. We headed to a quiet beach called Klong Kong and settled in our own bungalow The resort was fairly new with an outdoor pool, a great bar/restaurant surrounded by palm trees & orchid flowers and was right on the beach. I loved it here! The beach was not the most beautiful we had been to in Thailand but it was quiet, relaxed, and had the most amazing sunsets. There were few tourists here, the vibe was chill and happy, and no one hassled you to buy anything on the beach. There was not much to do other than soak up the sun in the sand or by the pool, take walks along the shore and eat good food.
On the main road there was a 7 Eleven store which we walked to a few times for cold cheap waters. There are 7 Elevens everywhere in Thailand! We have come to love them as they always have the coldest AC inside and have the coldest beverages which on hot days is greatly appreciated! We spent 3 wonderful days on Klong Kong island. Leaving paradise was hard to do but we were excited to meet Clint's sister in Phuket. We took a bus to Patong Beach on Phuket island to get a feel for the city before heading to the airport the following night to pick up Julie. The city was a bit crazy! A mix between Las Vegas, Bangkok, and South Beach, Miami. It was quite the culture shock from quiet Koh Lanta. The beach was full of people, as well as Jet Skis, speedboats and paragliders and the water was full of trash. I guess the main reasons tourists come to Patong is to shop and party, not for the beach.
Julie flew in from Korea after midnight and as we waited for her in the airport we couldn't help but notice that everyone coming out of the gate were couples with matching clothes...some with matching hats, shoes, and baggage too. We were so confused. We thought maybe all Koreans did this when they traveled. It wasn't until Julie explained that they were all honeymooners that the light bulb went off.. Still, why were they matching? We have no idea. It was easy to spot Julie as she was the only one without a matching twin and the only blond white girl in the bunch. We were excited to experience Southern Thailand and Malaysia with her and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our busy days ahead. Before we retired for the night Clint and I enjoyed an early Christmas. We excitedly opened bags of treats and travel goodies that Clint's mom and Julie put together for us. It's amazing how happy a new razor, fresh deodorant, travel laundry soap, Rice Krispy treats and Doritos (and more) can make a backpacker. The next morning we ventured out onto the busy streets of Patong. We shopped, walked along the busy beach, and took it slow and easy while Julie acclimated herself. That night we all went to a Muay Thai (Kickboxing) match. Muay Thai is huge in Thailand, as well as other countries in SE Asia. Clint and I had been looking forward to going to one for a while but wanted to wait until Julie could experience it with us. Before we left we were invited to indulge in a free dinner buffet at our hotel for the owners 2 year old son's birthday. The very friendly owner was from NY so we enjoyed amazing chicken wings, potato salad, bruchetta and other foods that we had not had for over 3 months. Tummies full and Chang beer in our hands we headed to Muay Thai. Upon arrival we were given free bright green t-shirts and told to seat in the STD (standard) section. Hmmmmm. There were 8 matches starting with boys between the ages of 8-10 and going up to adult men. Before every match each boy/man would perform a special ritual before fighting. Live music came from a group of men in one of the corners of the bleachers.
It was a very fun night and we were relieved that it was not as bloody and brutal as we were told it can be. After the fights we ended our night at a Hooka Bar. We all were really bad at it so we had the guy that worked there, who was a pro, show us how to smoke the Shisha (flavored tobacco) properly. We still didn't get it down.
The next morning we rose early to catch a ferry to Koh PiPi island. Julie was not feeling well after a long night of Chang beers, Shisha and Jet Lag. On the way to the Ferry, Julie lost it out the window of the bus, then several more times off the side of the Ferry, and even more times on the shores of Koh PiPi after we arrived. There were huge waves that day so Julie was not the only one who got sick on the Ferry ride. It was a rough 2 hours! I was up on the top deck of the Ferry with her when she was sick and Clint was inside the cabin. We didn't realize until later but it was Clint's window that was directly below Julie's line of fire. Luckily he kept his window closed! After a much needed nap, we all lounged on the beautiful beach. The island has no motor vehicles on it and everything is within walking distance. Although very touristy, it is unbelievably gorgeous and a very pleasant place to post up for a while. It is known also for it's nightlife but we didn't really have the desire to experience this. The next day we decided to climb to the much talked about viewpoints on the island. It was a tiring hike but we made it and were so glad we did. The views were surreal, showing stunning green mountains, 2 different island lagoons, and the most turquoise waters as far as the eye could see. We stayed up there for a while, taking it all in and snapping too many photos, trying to capture the beauty of it all. Photos never do it justice but you'll get the idea when you see them.
The following morning we took a 4 hour long tail boat tour around the surrounding island. The waters were again extremely choppy with waves bigger than we had ever experienced on a little motor boat. We felt like we were on an intense water ride at Valley Fair as we kept getting completely drenched with the salty water slapping us in the face. It was a little scary at times but we managed to keep laughing, plus it added to the adventure. Once in the bays and lagoons the water was calm and simply spectacular. We swam and snorkeled in the clearest and again the most turquoise of waters. The coral and sea floor was awesome and fish of many colors surrounded us as we snorkeled.
Next we went to Maya Beach. This is the beach famous because it is where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach" was filmed. The night before we all watched this movie at a local pub so we were even more excited to experience it for ourselves. To get to and from this beach was literally death defying, or so we felt. The beach is located in a secluded cove that only speed boats can get to. The long boats that we were on anchor on the other side of the cove and the passengers have to jump into the water, swim to a wooden ladder coming straight out of the water near sharp, rocky cliffs, and then walk to the other side of the island where Maya beach is located. This normally is an easy task I would imagine but we came on a day when the sea was very rough so the waves could easily slam you into the jagged rocks if you didn't have perfect timing. Luckily I encouraged us all to wear life jackets because the tour guide sure didn't and they were definitely life saving. Getting onto the island wasn't too difficult because a boat had a rope tied to the ladder that we used to hang onto and pull ourselves along to safety. The beach was beautiful but very crowded with other tourists and we only had 45 minutes so we didn't have that much time to enjoy it. On the way back, when we reached the wooden ladder, the boat and rope were gone and the sea seemed even rougher. We had to climb to the bottom of the ladder and wait for the huge waves to come and then jump in right as they were going back out (and before the next one came in) to avoid getting literally smashed up against the sharp mountain wall next to us. I was first in line and my first attempt was tried without instruction from one of the tour guides. I came crashing back with the powerful wave but luckily was still close to the ladder where Clint could grab me back onto it. My hero! My feet and legs got a little banged up on the rocks but that was the least of my concerns. I was seriously scared! Wondering how the hell we were all supposed to get out of this dangerous area and back to the boat safely. Clint and I then waited for the tour guide to give us a "go" and hearts pounding we swam our absolute hardest to get away from the crashing waves. We tiredly made it! Once near the boat we watched Julie attempt this nerve racking feat. She came very close to the rocks which made me respond with repeated distressed yells of "Julie," "swim harder," "you can do it". When back at the boat we examined our cuts and bruises (nothing too bad) and Julie inhaled a much needed cigarette. We survived! We finished our tour with a trip to Monkey Island where Julie got to feed one of the obese monkeys. Overall, we had a great, adrenaline filled time and were able to laugh later at our near death experience (Ok, maybe we are exaggerating just a little...moms, don't worry).
Our next destination was back to Ao Nang, Krabi. On the way there one of the passengers on the ferry next to us spotted some kayakers in the distance that looked to be in trouble. She informed the staff and the ferry made their way to the rescue. The couple had drifted extremely far from shore when the tide shifted and try as they might, they could not get back. The woman was crying and looked so relieved to be rescued. The man, however, had jumped into the water and was trying to swim back to shore while pulling the kayak with his girlfriend still in it. He was laughing after the rescue and claimed that he wanted to kayak back when we got a little closer. Prideful men! Everyone applauded as they climbed onto the ferry. When we arrived in Krabi we arranged for a bus to pick us up at 6am the following morning to take us on a 10 hour ride to Penang, Malaysia. On the road again!
After the sleepless bus ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok Jim, Patty, Clint and I were very tempted to purchase a 1 ½ hour plane ticket instead of taking a 15 hour bus ride to the South. Instead, we all decided to save some money and test our luck with the bus again. As we feared, this turned out to be another sleepless night. We arrived in Krabi late morning and took a tuk-tuk (pick-up truck with benches) to Ao-Nang beach. The scenery was breathtaking; lush, green, forested limestone mountains, colorful flowering trees, expansive blue ocean views. We knew we were in for a real treat! Before exploring our stunning surroundings we devoured a quick breakfast and disappeared into our rooms to sleep off our travel delirium. Our hotel was about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach which we enjoyed because it forced us to walk and stay active. The town definitely caters to tourists but compared to some other areas in the south of Thailand it wasn't too overwhelming. The beach was nice, not too crowded, and on one end it was inhabited by many friendly monkeys.