No I don't want a Tuk Tuk, or massage - Thailand

Trip Start May 23, 2011
1
Trip End Jun 22, 2011


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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, May 23, 2011



Thailand is often referred to as a golden land,
not because there is
precious metal buried underground but because the country gives off a
certain lustre, be it the jungle of the north, fertile rice fields of
the central plains,
white sandy beaches or the warm hospitality of its citizenry, a country
very popular amongst young travelers we were soon to discover.  I was
keen to see how much it had changed since I traveled there with my
sister 7 years ago, Andy hadn't been before so had no previous
expectations.


Flying
into Krabi in the South, the first thing you notice is the beautiful
coast line sporting huge limestone Karst's.  They look stunning and so
different to any other coast line we have seen.  Krabi is so much busier
then 7 years ago, in fact there is hardly a spare inch of space left
along the main road which is now nearly doubled back with shops, hotels
and tour agencies, looks like this could be a taste of the rest of
Thailand - busy and packed, a nice change though from some of the very
quiet places we have been, where we have gone weeks without seeing any
other travelers.


From here we got a boat to Koh Phi Phi and I swear I
have never seen so many groups of young travelers anywhere else in the
world!  The boat was packed full of English and Australians, I thought
it was going to turn into a full on party boat, but it didn't - there
was no space to party!  The sea was rough-ish but I was brave and didn't
take any pills as Andy hates the way they turn me into a mong for hours
once we land somewhere, I quite like the effect actually of being able
to fall asleep literally anywhere. 

Phi Phi is such a beautiful
island, the views out to sea are stunning, however parts of the island
have become rather crowded and we were there in low season thank
goodness!  Following the tsunami in 2004 a lot of the islands
accommodation was wiped out and has been re-developed to form huge
hotels/resorts.  The locals didn't own the land so lost it all to
investors in the tidy up and now live in tin shacks in the middle of the
island.  They really have to live their lives in public, many living in
their shops or just out the back so you can easily find yourself
standing in a shop in the evening amongst the whole family eating their
dinner off the floor or bathing the baby which seemed weird for us but I
guess that is what they are used to now.  We spent a few days exploring
all the beaches on the island climbing for what felt like miles round
the edge of the island over all the rocks up and down up and down....

We
also boated over to Koh Lanta on this side of Thailand for a few days, a
much bigger but quieter and lesser developed island, unfortunately the
sea was rough and no where near as amazing as Phi Phi, but we had a nice
pool and a beach bungalow that came complete with Granada TV and played
episodes of Coronation Street from a couple of years ago.  We had our
first experience here of the frogs that come out when it rains.  So many
gather that they sound like cows (its such a funny sound and so loud)
we didn't see them all gathered together pretending to be cows though,
just heard them a mile off.

From here we traveled further inland
staying in a rather run down town blackened with rain and smog for the
night.  We were on our way to stay in a monastery with monks for 11 days
to experience a meditation retreat.  We however lasted 8 days and 8
nights as we got out of it
everything we felt we wanted to.  It was not what we thought; more
living
how the monks live then a general meditation retreat - but what an
experience.  17 hour long days, 7 and a half of which were sitting on
sand. 
It was amazing for the first few days to have nothing
to think of as everything was military style so you just went from one
place
to another, I guess
that doesn't happen in many other places in the world so being able to
switch
off from the world was a unique experience.  The entire time was spent
in silence and males were separate
to females, although me and Andy could see each other throughout the day
but could not talk.  Up at 4am, the bell tower was opposite my room
(prison cell) it was so bloody loud although towards the end I found
myself still in bed by the time it stopped so I was getting used to it. 


Monastery Daily Routine:

4.00: Rise & Shine
4.30: Listen to a reading
4.45: Sitting meditation
5.15: Yoga
7.00: Dhama talk from a monk & sitting meditation
8.00: Breakfast & chores & washing in the hot springs

10.00: Meditation instruction/sitting meditation
11.00: Walking meditation
11.45: Sitting meditation
12.20: Lunch

14.30: Dhama talk from a monk
15.30: Walking meditation
16.15: Sitting meditation
17.00: Chanting mediation
18.00: Hot tea & washing in the hot springs

19.30: Sitting meditation
20.00: Group walking meditation
20.30: Sitting mediation
21.00: Bed time
21.30: Lights out

I struggled the most with the spiders as we were in the middle of a forest.  I was so scared and in the end I just couldn't deal with them in my room at night (the biggest ones I have
ever seen, ever) a couple even launched themselves at me in the sand meditation hall, (try dealing with that subtly with nearly 100 others nearby trying to meditate whilst trying not to hyperventilate!).  We had the most amazing English monk who gave many a very frank and honest talk most days (spitting image and attitude of that guy from one foot in the grave!) definitely a highlight! 

The male and female blocks each identical had 60 rooms leading off a central square of grass, they looked like stables from the outside and prison cells from the inside.  With regards to the beds, a concrete slab with a non-existence bamboo mat and wooden pillow, (so grateful that I
have my own pillow) I piled all my clothes under me and managed to nick 4 blankets out the store room but they were as thin as sheets - I got bruises on my hips by the end!  The food
consisted of 2 vegetarian meals a day one at 8am and one at 12.30pm.  No shops, no way to leave to run to any shops, no vending machines, but it wasn't the food or lack of it that was the worst it was definitely for me the wildlife.  Group walking mediation in the dark consisted of
walking in a line around the ponds with bear feet - I nearly had a fit on night one and then insisted on wearing at least socks thereafter.  Wildlife seen consisted of the largest Geckos we have seen to-date, the biggest spiders, large monitor lizards, snakes and scorpions - GET ME
OUT OF HERE!  Great experience but doubt I'd do it again.

Leaving the monastery it took us pretty much a day to get out to the island of Koh Samui to meet with Ali and Lucy who were coming to the end of their honeymoon.  As we left the monastery earlier than planned we had more then one night to spent with them so we decided to surprise them by sneaking into their hotel pool and waiting while they were off somewhere
on a day trip, they were surprised and luckily pleased I may add (well so they say).  We spent 4 nights and days together sunbathing and messing around, had loads of fun, ate lots of rich food and had lots of amazing cocktails in beautiful restaurants which after 8 days of pretty much detox we were not used too, however we soon became accustomed after night one!  It was great to be with close friends from home.

The next island we traveled to was Koh Tao (my favorite from 7 years ago). This too had also expanded greatly and was so much busier with a million more shops and paved roads and I am told about 200 ATM's, 7 years ago there were none!  We met Andy's old work friend P from home who now lives there with her boyfriend so we had a few nice dinners with them and got to hang out at the nice rustic hotel beach they work on. 

Andy completed his PADI Open Water diving course, I wasn't too keen to do it at this time so I stuck to snorkeling.  I got to go on the boat for his last dives with his friends also but was so sea sick as it was a tad rough.  I snorkeled as I was so desperate to get off the boat but had to
swim a long way to shore being out so deep and the waves were massive, I then decided I would prefer to be safe on the swaying boat - a wise decision I believe because as I climbed aboard the captain kept making the shark sign for diving at me and kept saying there were 2 sharks spotted where we were just yesterday! I reckon I may have drowned from shock if I had seen them all on my own.

We also stayed a couple of nights at an amazing place called View Rock, nearly being flung out
the back of the pick up truck on the way there as it was so steep traveling across the middle of the island.  Our beach bungalow was a steep 103 steps from the restaurant and the sea and we managed to meet up with David and Anna from Germany/Austria, whom Ali and Lucy had
introduced us too on Koh Samui.

The great thing about Thailand was that we got to meet friends which made it more like a holiday, but that soon came to an abrupt end and it was back to traveling.  We left Koh Tao on 20th June spending our 3 year wedding anniversary on a sleeper train to Bangkok (see romance never dies).  We arrived in Cambodia 26 hours later having encountered the most forms of transport in such a small period of time, a boat, a coach, a train, the Bangkok underground, the Bangkok sky train, a local bus, another coach, a tuk tuk arriving at the border then it was a souped up golf buggy sporting loud party music with a nodding driver, a taxi and another tuk tuk to Siem Reap in Cambodia, a country I couldn't wait to get to..... 
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