Aside from it being my birthday, the other reason that I managed to get Tim to agree to a nice hotel in Ao Nang was that Tim’s mum (Judi) was coming to join us for a 3 week holiday. As our visas were fast approaching their expiry we knew that we needed to go to the consulate in Krabi to extend our visas for an extra 30 days. Judi was due to land in Krabi the next day so we decided to take a day trip to Krabi to extend our visas and then head to the airport. This was all going to plan until we arrived at the consulate at 12:05 to be greeted by a sign advising us that they close for lunch from 12-1. Possibly our best timing so far. As we were in no hurry and there really was nowhere to go in the area we sat outside and made ourselves comfortable and watched a string of people wonder up to the sign and look at their watches and laugh. This was keeping us entertained until a Russian arrived with his girlfriend and provided us with all the entertainment we needed to pass the time. I can only assume that this man got out of bed the wrong side that morning. He arrived in a taxi and when he saw the lunch sign returned to the taxi to tell him the news. The taxi driver advised that he would wait for them for an extra 200baht (£4). The man took exception to this and spent a good 30 minutes arguing with the taxi driver and threatening to call the police on him, the taxi driver stayed very calm, unloaded the mans bags and left. Meanwhile we decide to go inside the consulate and realise that there is now a ticket system and rather than being number 1 we are number 4, fail number two of the day. The bonus of being number 4 is that the angry Russian is number 1 and we get to see take two of the rage. As most normal people would do, we checked online to see what we needed to take to extend our visa, passport, passport photos and 1900baht, simples
. No the angry Russian turned up with just a passport and then kicked off again because they were now stranded in the middle of nowhere with no cash and no visa extension. The poor girl behind the counter was really shaken so it gave us great pleasure watching them walk off down the road dragging all their luggage behind them. We on the other hand had our visas extended and had the girl from the consulate smiling again in no time, we however also walked out of the consulate in the middle of nowhere and started our walk back to Krabi Town hoping a taxi would pass, thankfully we managed to find a Songtaiew just before we were about to commence our walk on a 4 lane motorway, phew!
Visa done and we have a good few hours to burn before the airport so we head into Krabi Town to explore, after a good lunch in The Pizza Company a restock of Soltan in Boots and a wonder around a random temple we decide that Krabi Town is just too hot and dull to wonder around so we head to the airport to wait in the comfort of the air-conditioning. People watching in airports is one of my favourite pastimes and I very much enjoyed watching the queue for the international terminal full of tourists changing into their jeans and trainers for the long flight home, I remember those days all too well! The funniest thing was that everyone wanted to keep their flip flops on until the very last minute so I must have seen 100 people changing into their travelling home shoes in the queue. Eventually we saw Judi’s flight land and saw a very tired and pale person looking a bit dazed and confused trundling through arrivals, thankfully she made it.
As Ao Nang was a holiday for Judi it was also a holiday for us so we slowed right down and spent many a day laid around the rooftop pool, reading, relaxing and working on our tans
. Our evenings were spent eating good food and wondering around the shopping streets and most evenings ended with the compulsory banana pancake at the side of the road. One particularly fun evening was taking Judi hat shopping, I could not resist taking a few snaps. We did manage to purchase a hat that fit her tiny head. A children’s Hello Kitty cap, I can’t believe we didn’t get a photo of it!
Our perfect bargain hotel did have one problem which we identified; our room had a phantom flushing toilet. I was quite used to strange noises so it didn’t bother me too much, but we mentioned it to reception and they sent someone up to fix it. One handyman later and the phantom flush is still going strong so we phoned reception. Tim reports back that they mentioned an upgrade to a suite, so we head down to reception to find out what our options are. We are presented with the key to the Moon Deck Suite, the best room in the hotel, with its very own spiral staircase up to a sunbathing deck. We quickly agree that it is too good an opportunity to miss so we will definitely pack and move but as we noticed there was another room next door we thought we would try our luck at getting Judi moved with us, after all the hotel had made us move after our first night to give us interconnecting rooms. Amazingly to the surprise of all three of us we are presented with the keys to both moon deck suites on the condition that we move straight away. I don’t think three cases have ever been packed so fast EVER. We were relocated and admiring our new rooms before the receptionist had a chance to say there has been a mistake! We made sure that we made full use of our rooms and convened for Spy Wine Coolers on the Moon Decks each night to watch the sunset. So this is how the other half live, 5 days earlier we had been drinking warm water in the dark watching sunset
Whilst we spent most of our time relaxing we did manage to drag ourselves away from the pool for some tours. First up was my birthday treat. A speedboat tour to Phi Phi to visit amongst other places Maya Bay where the beach was filmed. We were a little concerned that our minibus collection was almost an hour late but eventually we were on our speedboat with our guide Michelle. Michelle might have been mistaken for Michael as she was a Kathoey, but only from the waist up, I cant believe I didn’t manage to take a photo. So our first stop on the tour was Bamboo Island. A very beautiful white sand island, but full to bursting point with daytrippers and boats, this is a bit like Phi Phi’s answer to Koh Poda. Something happened here that I have never seen on any day trip in any country ever….. we were all told to be back at the boat by 10.45, we all were save for one couple. Michelle spend 10 minutes shouting our boat number at the top of her voice and we all kept our eyes open but there was no sign of the missing passengers, so we left. Yup, we actually just went and left them there to find their own way home. I never thought I would see that happen, especially on a desert island. Anyhow the rest of us carried on our tour and the next stop was some snorkelling at Hin Klarng. We jumped off the speedboat and were pretty much in the most amazing aquarium of colourful fish
. Tim took off fish hunting and I stayed with Judi as she was not getting on very well with her snorkel and mask as she couldn’t quite get the hang of not breathing through her nose. I swam back to the boat to get a life jacket and the most hysterical drama unfolded where we tried to get the life jacket on so she could bob around to try to get used to the snorkel and mask. A tip for people here, floating life jackets are really hard to put on in the water, I don’t recommend it! After floating around for a while Judi called it quits and retreated to the boat, snorkelling was definitely not on the agenda today. Fortunately there was only one more snorkel stop before we hit the beach. Tim and I investigated and were greeted with puffa fish, parrot fish and thousands of Seargent Major fish, the little yellow and black ones that are everywhere. They are like the ants of the sea in Asia! Back in the boat and we had a quick stop on Monkey Bay, so named because it is overrun with monkeys, we stayed on the boat and there is no messing around with the name, there were certainly plenty of Monkeys. We went over to Phi Phi for lunch and we were pleasantly surprised that it was actually quite quaint, with lots of bars and restaurants. We noticed an advert in one of the travel agents for a tour to Maya Bay where you sleep aboard a boat under the stars and suddenly a plan was hatched to return to Phi Phi. After a nice lunch and a birthday donut from the bakery we were back in the boat and headed towards Maya Bay, en route we pulled up outside the Viking cave, so named because the sea gypsies used to use this to shelter from the storm and pictures of Viking boats were found drawn on the walls. The cave is no longer accessible as it is now full of swallows nests (used for birds nest soup) and is protected day and night. Onwards to Pileh Bay an amazing clear lagoon of turquoise water, but after a few photos it was time for the main attraction of Maya Bay. The home of The Beach movie, a perfect white sand and turquoise sea water bay
. The only problem was that there were so many tourists getting in the way, but we jumped into the sea and had a whale of a time with the underwater camera, as you can see from the photos! The journey back to Ao Nang was a little bit more eventful the sea was a bit choppy (to say the least) and the speedboat was jumping over the waves and Judi and I quickly learnt that when the captain ducked we needed to duck as a rogue wave was about to hit. It was quite a long hour back to shore but we were dry and comfortable so just laughed at the people who were sat at the front getting thrown around and soaked. Just to add insult to injury as we pulled into the harbour at Ao Nang the heavens opened and the rain came down. Seemingly it had been raining all day we just got lucky escaping it. Thank you birthday fairies, it was an awesome way to spend my 33rd
Our next tour was a sunset snorkel tour, there were lots of these advertised, but the majority of them were by longtail boat and they are not the most comfortable way the travel for a full day and getting in and out is a workout in itself, so thankfully we found a sunset snorkel tour by ‘Big Boat’. It sounded perfect, we visit Koh Poda island, go snorkelling on Chicken Island and Si Island then have a BBQ dinner on Tup island and stop in Phranang Cave for some bio-luminescent snorkelling on the way back to Ao Nang. Strictly speaking the tour guide did not lie to us, they were just a little economical with the truth. We were indeed on a ‘Big Boat’, however from the pier and at each island we had to transfer into a longtail boat to go to shore, this was ok, however there were about 30 people on the ‘Big Boat’ and rather than doing two trips we all had to get into the longtail at the same time. Anyone that has been in a longtail will know that they comfortably take about 15 people so an extra 15 made this quite an experience
. We had an added treat in that the boat went to Railay Bay the posh beach in Krabi) to pick people up so we got an added location. Next stop Koh Poda. It was quite surreal being back on Koh Poda as a day tripper, we took Judi on the local tour through the hotel and round to the nice bit of beach at the side of the island away from all the boats and tourists and we had a quick dip before we were back in the longtail and off to the big boat for the next stop, Si Island for snorkelling. The tour guide worried me a little when he put on his fins and said he needed them in case anyone needed rescuing as there is a strong current. At this point Judi made herself comfortable and decided this was not the place for her to practice snorkelling, I wish I had joined her. After an epic swim from the boat to the cave in murky dark water we arrived in a cave, the visibility was better and the first thing I saw was a big jellyfish. Next I was being stung by the little invisible sea lice in the water so I about turned and started the swim back to the boat. It was no joke that there was a current, I started with breast stroke, then tried front crawl and eventually reverted to doggy paddle to get back to the boat, only to be greeted by some idiot having their photo taken on the ladder whilst I am trying not to drown at the bottom. Back on the boat and we are off to the next snorkel spot at Chicken Island. The visibility here was terrible, we saw a few fish but it was so murky and there were so many sea lice stinging me I made my retreat to the boat, only to be followed by everyone on the boat after a big jellyfish was spotted!
Finally some time to relax and have some dinner on Tup Island, a lovely little island split in two with a sandbar at low tide
. The only problem was that this meant another mid ocean transfer into the longtail. Fully loaded we arrived on Tup Island and pulled up right in front of a couple having a luxury evening picnic watching the sunset, they must have been delighted to see us. We had plenty of time to explore, relax and have dinner whilst watching the sun go down. We were even treated to a sky full of huge bats as they came out of their caves for the night. With the sun gone we were treated to a fire show by our tour guide before we are off again in the overloaded longtail, now in the pitch black. What made this even more tedious was that the idiots that got in the boat first insisted on sitting in the front seats meaning those of us with common sense that went to the back had an even harder time getting there climbing over the seats in a rocking boat with numbskulls in the way as well. As I am sure you can guess I was not amused by the company that we had on this boat, idiots, all of them (Tim and Judi excluded on this occasion) :o)
Amazingly we made it safely back to the big boat and it was time for snorkelling one last time. Petrified of the prospect of sharks, jellyfish and everything else lurking I donned my mask and snorkel and got in. in an instant all my fears vanished, I felt like I was in a Disney movie playing tinkerbell, as I flapped my arms and moved my feet there was a spray of sparks as I disturbed the bio-luminescent plankton
. I was a human sparkler, amazing. The fear was quickly back when other people all panicking jumped in and arms and legs were flailing and touching and scaring the life out of each other. The sea lice were back nibbling but I just had to see as much as this as I could, the camera was as good as useless, this was one of those things I just had to commit to the memory bank and we won’t be forgetting it in a hurry. Nature really is amazing, I don’t think that man could create that if he wanted to, if it ever is recreated I am having it in my bath every night. Before we knew it it was time to head home, one last longtail ride to the shore and we were back on dry land. We stood around awaiting the nice minibus that had brought us to the pier, but instead a pickup turns up and we are hoofed in the back. Seeing Judi sat with her towel on her head was just hysterical, perhaps in future we need to a ask a few more questions about our tours, although it would not have been nearly as much fun with a normal boat! As a perfect end to the day we definitely needed banana pancakes on the doorstep of our hotel, bliss.
Ao Nang was a perfect place to have a holiday, good tours, amazing food, great hotel and perfect sunshine. It was a shame that it had to end, but it was time to go back to Koh Lanta. Hopefully this time Tim will be keeping his stomach lining to himself and we can see a bit more than the inside of the clinic!
So after our basic life on Koh Poda, Ao Nang was going to be a break from backpacking and a bit of proper hotel luxury. After some gentle persuasion and me pulling the 'it's going to be my birthday’ card on Tim, he eventually agreed to let me book a secret deal on Asis Web Direct. The problem here is that basically we didn’t actually know what we were booking, but after several hours of perusing hotels I was 99% sure that we were booking The Small Hotel. It looked lush and after a hesitant press of the accept and pay button an email popped up and confirmed that my detective skills are top notch and we had booked an amazing hotel at just £20 a night rather than the £60 a night every other hotel website was advertising it for. When we arrived we were not disappointed in the slightest, the rooms were huge and clean and shiny, with air con, tv, 24 hour power and fresh water. I am pretty sure that the shower that I had in The Small is the best shower I have ever had in my life, it is amazing how much you appreciate lifes little luxuries after just a few weeks of roughing it and sharing your shower with an array of wildlife