I couldn’t seem to get that Dr. Seuss line out of my head when we were snorkeling off of the Phi Phi Islands. It was truly the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve snorkeled with the sea turtles in Barbados and at the Great Barrier Reef – plus Hunama Bay in Honolulu). The water here was so clear – an amazing turquoise color.
There were indeed red and blue fish plus everything in between. One of my favorites was the multi-colored fish (no idea of the name, but there were a decent size). These ones were yellow, green, blue and purple – really beautiful all mixed together.
I wasn’t too crazy about the Barracuda looking ones, but they didn’t come near us.
At one point, Curtis and I were holding hands in our underwater world and realized we were in the centre of a complete circle of small fish. Thousands of silvery fish were swimming around us – we were the eye of their whirlpool hurricane.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures of our magical underwater experiences because our waterproof camera chose this day to go on the fritz. Hopefully we can get it fixed in Kuala Lumpur!
Tom took some pictures of our day on the speedboat tour which I’ll post later.
Besides swimming in the clear water and snorkeling at some amazing spots, we also visited the beach where the movie, The Beach, was filmed. We boated past a cave where they collent the nests for birds nest soup and drinks (something I will not be trying) and past a bunch of monkeys eating crabs in the trees on the shores of Monkey Bay.
I’d had enough of monkeys by then though, after we were almost attacked by some on a walk last week. We were at the beach here in Ao Nang, walking along a path up one of the cliffs (this spot is known for monkeys) and were carrying some small bananas and one pineapple on a stick (in a plastic wrapper). One of the monkeys approached and I handed him a banana. He ate it while one of his friends came down from the trees, looking for food. Curtis handed him a banana. We watched them eat (they make the most disgusting grunting sounds when they eat), and when “my” monkey was finished his, he reached out and grabbed my arm. I handed him another banana. When he finished that one, he reached out and grabbed my arm again. I broke off a small piece of the last banana I was holding and handed it to him. He threw it on the ground and grabbed my arm again.
This time I didn’t give him anything so he got down off the hand rail he was sitting on and half climbed, half reached up my body and stole the bag of pineapple I was holding. He took off and we watched him eat if up in a tree. When he was finished, he sniffed at his tail and licked off the pineapple juice.
That’s when we noticed a cute baby monkey swinging from tree to tree high up, getting closer and closer. We didn’t think anything of it at first, but then it was right above us and we realized it was aiming itself towards us. We walked away so it wouldn’t jump on our heads but it came down to the railing and started after us. We were out of food by this point but he obviously wasn’t aware of this fact, because he kept following us. Curtis tried to fend him off with a bag of books we were carrying but the monkey just reached out and tried to grab the bag. It followed us for several minutes before finally giving up.
On the walk back we found it eating a biscuit some other tourists had given it. They were snapping his picture while he ate and I warned them that he had chased us. These monkeys are cute from a distance but up close they are aggressive little bastards (bahstahds as one of the British girls said walking by). When they are grabbing at you and stealing stuff out of your hands or chasing after you…they are not so cute anymore.]]>
We went elephant trekking at Nosey Parker’s, taking turns riding on the neck. When in Thailand, riding an elephant is something you’ve just got to do! The elephant had sparse, bristly hair with almost leather like skin. At one point, the elephants got frightened when one of the guides got stung by a bee and freaked out, thus freaking out the elephants. They trumpted loudly and it took awhile for them to calm down. Being on top of a scared, trumpting elephant was a little nerve wracking….I was afraid she might rear up and buck us off.
After our one hour ride on top, we fed them pineapple pieces (they take them straight out of your hand with their trunks).
And then we watched them bathe, which was fun.
After their bath it was time for lunch.
The Songkran Festival is a celebration of the Thai New Year. In some parts of the country, the festival lasts for three days to a full week but in Ao Nang, it was big for one day with a few die hards celebrating for 2 days. You pour (or shoot or spray) water onto others and it is considered good luck to get wet. Some people also paint clay on each other, usually on the face. Everybody takes part, the young to the old, Thais to the farangs (foreigners). Some of the Thais actually apologize as they pour water on you, but most take to it with the joy of battle….the day is one big party centered around the biggest water fight of the year.
The kids were some of the cutest participants.
Pick up trucks had huge vats of water to soak passengers of other vehicles as well as pedestrians.
“Shooting” people was fun!
Some of the Thais were armed with koolaid colored water.
This water was ice cold (as you can tell by the expression on my face!) It was a great way to keep cool but most of the water was a moderate temperature so when someone got you with the cold stuff, it was a shock.
Battling with the kids was great fun! They loved shooting the white girl.
There was lots of music and dancing in the streets. As the day wore on, some people were handing out beer (or consuming it), there were street vendors selling food and we spent the entire day walking around soaking wet and smiling. We finished up at a bar, taking turns playing pool with a seven year old (yes, you read that right!) Our egos stayed in tact since she didn’t actually beat us but a few games came pretty close. Songkran was a lot of fun and I’m glad we got to experience it!
Our wood and bamboo bungalow is simple but very comfortable. It sits about 4 feet off the ground on stilts and we’ve got a great front porch and nice bathroom. We’re next door neighbors with Curtis’s dad Tom and spend a lot of time on our porches visiting, mostly eating fruit and drinking coffee or beer.
The pool at
There are some great sidewalk eateries close by. One of our first discoveries was one where all the locals eat. You can choose from a bowl of noodles with different soup/sauce toppings (the green curry is my favorite), fried chicken and plates of rice with chicken. You sit family style beside the Thais with a big bowl of fresh herbs and a plate of different toppings (hard boiled eggs, small dried fish, cucumbers, sprouts and all sorts of other things to add to your soup) in front of you. If you are still hungry after that, they also make great coconut waffles for dessert. This feast can be had for about $3 for two.
We went there 3 days in a row and the ladies got to know us, saying “see you tomorrow” as we were leaving. One evening a Thai family was sitting beside us and the grandma was enjoying chatting to me even though I couldn’t understand a word. Her sons spoke English and asked me a few questions and next thing I knew they were taking our picture. The grandma had a huge smile and was pressing in close beside me for the shot. It wouldn’t be my last photo request….
One day we went on a great tour of 4 islands. Barracuda’s Tours picked us up at our bungalow at 9:00 am and took us to a long tail boat. There were about 30 people and our first stop was Tup Island where we snorkeled. The water was clear and the fish were amazing. I got a little freaked out when I saw a water snake but it didn’t get too close and I swam the opposite way in search of the more Nemo looking fish. I got “chased” by a very curious pink fish and schools of blue and yellow fish were not shy either.
After a great hour there, we went to Chicken Island (it’s name comes from the fact that it looks like a chicken, not because it’s inhabited by them). The snorkeling there was amazing too, this time more because of the coral than the colorful fish.
Our next stop was Poda Island. White sand beach with a forest of trees was our lunch spot. Boxed lunches of rice, chicken and veggies and ice cold water followed by a swim and a short walk around the island before we headed for our last destination: Phra Nang Cave (The Princess Bay). This stop had floating long tail “restaurants” where you could purchase fruit shakes and food and a “spirit house” cave where people would worship in front of a small shrine surrounded by penis carvings. Lots of lots of penis carvings.
The cliff backed isthmus was great for climbing and we watched several people scale the walls. One guy climbed up freestyle – truly amazing to watch.
Our journey ended when we headed back by boat at 3:00 to the mainland and then back home. It was a great day for only $12 each!
Some of the days here slip by with having accomplished nothing more than breakfast and lunch, a swim and a lot of reading (me for pleasure, Curtis for work). We usually go out for dinner with Tom and feast on shared local dishes.
We spent last night at an air-conditioned spa getting foot and leg massages ($7.50 for an hour!) Our calves were killing us as two days before we climbed 1,237 steps to the top of Tiger Cave – a mountain topped Buddha temple. We did this in flip flops in 40 degree heat with no water. I know, I know, what were we thinking? Well obviously we weren’t! For some reason we didn’t realize the enormity of the climb, until we were about ¼ of the way up but by then it was too late. Failure was not an option!
At the top, drenched in sweat, we were rewarded with an amazing view 600 meters above sea level. The Buddha was big and bronze (no surprise there) with lots of colorfully carved “men” holding him up on their backs and the usual Wat suspects like lots of small Buddha’s, incense and old bells. And best of all, there was free water at the top!
Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and unlike the Grouse Grind, there was no gondola here. The journey down obviously wasn’t as gruesome but about half way down our calves started shaking and that continued to get worse the further down we went.
The 1,237 steps weren’t “regulation sized” steps. Some of them were as tall as 2 or 3 normal steps and almost none of them were deep enough to plant your whole foot. This meant that usually you had only the front half of your foot on a step, relying on your calves to do the heavy lifting.
All pain was forgotten though when close to the bottom we happened upon at least a dozen monkeys. My hand was on the railing when all of a sudden a monkey appeared (sliding down the railing) and when he got to me he kind of swung around over my hand.
In the parking lot there were signs everywhere, “Beware that monkeys steal your belongings”. We thought that was cute until we witnessed the thefts.
These monkeys were very aggressive if you had any food. They stole a bag of chips from one person who had a grocery bag of water and snacks. Okay, so everyone laughed at that. But then two of the monkeys actually pursued and jumped up at a girl who was hiding her snack under her armpit. If that had been me I would have surrendered the goods but she held on tight and they eventually gave up.
When they weren’t thieving, they were busy sliding down railings, swinging from trees and telephone wires, sitting relaxing within a foot or two of the people passing by and, also, humping. The humping was kind of sick to watch, mostly because the male had his teeth bared in a very scary and smug “grin”. It didn’t last too long, not more than a minute, before they were on their way and up to some other shenanigans.
There were baby monkeys right up to old man looking ones, some of them actually had grey “beards”.
I sat right next to one of the calm monkeys and got to examine his hands and feet close up. I think he was doing the same to me. His feet had a very long thumb like big toe which he used to grab onto things but his hands only had fingers. His “thumb” was only about an inch long. After he got bored of me, he dashed off and used his tail to help swing himself along the telephone wires.
Descending the final 20 stairs, we were bummed that our camera battery had died capturing the monkeys because we saw a heavily tattooed monk talking on his cell phone. Not a sight you see every day!
Coming up: Elephant trekking, the seedy side of nightlife and the Songkhran Festival (celebration of the Thai New Year which is a full day, full-on water war in the streets).]]>