What are Railay Bay, Tonsai Beach, Krabi, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai?
02/29/2012 - 03/06/2012 80 °F
We departed Koh Lanta on the Ao Nang Princess, a boat packed to the gills with hopeful beach tourists. Our grand finale for the beach portion of the trip was Railay Bay, where we'd heard tell of great climbing along seaside limestone cliffs. We initially thought to stay at Railay West beach, but found it to be slightly too "high-end" for our tastes. Someone on the diving boat had mentioned Tonsai village as being the cheaper backpacker option in the Bay, so we paid $3 for a longtail to take us the 10 mins around to it. Upon wading ashore, we were greeted by a backpacker haven of limited electricity, bungalow rooms complete with all kinds of wildlife (read: roaches), and lots of delicious cheap food options. We settled in for 3 days of Rasta-Thai glory.
At first we stuck to the water, floating around in the bathwater-warm ocean and watching the climbers up on the cliffs. Using highly refined kayaking skills, we rented a boat from a man on the beach and headed out to explore the surrounding coves and beaches at sunset. The most beautiful beach by far was Pranang Cave beach, the most southern one with a lone resort on it (not surprising), and we paddled out to the middle of the bay to watch the sun go down with cliffs all around.
Food highlights included some amazing grilled chicken for $1.50 each at a shack called Mama Chicken on Tonsai, as well as frequent ice cream eaten on the beach. On our last day in Railay we signed up for a climbing course with a man named Minh, who took us on a harrowing water/limestone rock hike to get to our climbing destination. Along with a new Canadian friend named Terrance, we spent a half a day finding our climbing feet along some really amazing routes over the water. We managed to do some 6A+s (on the European system), around 5.10s in the American system. Being belayed by a non-English-speaking man was a good time; he was really stellar at saying "Not too tired! No come down!". Needless to say, we had a sore arm situation going on the following day.
We stayed a night in the cute seaside town of Krabi, and hopped a plane to Bangkok. The destination was the Atlanta Hotel, a weird nod to British colonialism that they seem to be super proud of. They have severe attitudes and a very staunch "no sex tourism" policy. I had some of the best Tom Kha of the trip so far in their restaurant though! For some of the infamous tailor-made Thailand dress clothes, we hit up Brioni at Bangkok and proceeded to fashion residency clothes/other professional attire.
The next day, our good friends Patrick and Mer arrived to start their 2-week vacation in Thailand and Laos. We spent an awesome day at the weekend market off of Mo Chit, and even managed to find some Thai cowboys playing bluegrass. See below for the odd convergence of Annie, Patrick, and bluegrass all in the middle of Bangkok.
On the walk around the city, we saw that even Ronald McDonald likes to say "Sawadee!" and hold his hands in prayer.
Later that night, we all went to the most amazing rooftop bar ever, the Red Sky Bar. Complete with an outdoor glass staircase, couches, and delicious cocktails, we were all on top of the world (actually, just the 56th floor but it was still reeeeaaally high).
We spent our last day in the capital touring historical Bangkok. We hopped the Skytrain, took a canal ferry, and pranced around the famous Wat Pho temple with the reclining Buddha. Our guide, Jimmy, was quite the happy man, and mischievously let us behind barriers and generally did a lot of smiling and laughing.
The requirement to cover up shoulders and legs led to a steaming hot tour of the Grand Palace, where we saw the great Emerald Buddha. Annie felt quite heavenly inspiration, as evidenced by the photos.
We headed to the train station after a final dinner with LA friends, and hopped a 17-hour train for Chiang Mai. It's unclear what took the train so long, as it was supposed to be a few hours less than that (and the drive is only around 8 hours), but at least that unending biography of Steve Jobs is now closer to completion.
The task ahead is to settle into Chiang Mai for some Thai cooking classes, temples, and countryside motorcycle tours. Prediction: it shouldn't be too hard.