Cabbages and Condoms

Yesterday I was so tired.. I don’t know why, but also I had the sweats and a bad stomach, I was hoping it was just temporary.

I checked out of the Pak-Up Hostel and into Good Dreams, just next door and half the price for a private room. Fair enough it didn’t have air conditioning but it had a powerful fan so I was happy.

I was told the blanket was still drying and they’d drop it off to me later. It didn’t bother me to be honest, I dumped my stuff on the bed, curled up around it and fell asleep from around 12 noon – 5pm.

So, I felt it was a bit of a wasted day, pootled about after waking up and a shower, just locally, came back and watched the Beach. Then noticed the stack of DVDs to borrow and picked a couple out (Bangkok Dangerous, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life) popped a sleeping tablet because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep and settled in for the night.

Woke and got out for 11, hit the Choke Dee restaurant for my usual pineapple shake, then – as it was too late for the four islands tour – I thought I’d hire the bike again and go to Ao Nang beach.

Now, as a non-driver, and given that all roads seem to lead to Krabi, I went round in a massive circle at first. Then started again and intentionally took a right instead of a left at the junction I thought caused the misunderstanding the first time..

Wrong again, I headed North, up towards Ao Luek and although after a short time I knew that I’d done the wrong thing again, I still saw some great things:

Beautiful Mosque Just Outside Krabi

A beautiful mosque not far from Krabi, I got invited in but declined as I had to get moving

Krabi Golf Driving Range

Krabi golf driving range, I bet my dad’s golf course would love this backdrop!

Cabbages and Condoms, Thailand's first, global award winning, social enterprise, set up to promote safe sex

Cabbages & Condoms, thanks to Peter telling me this is Thailand’s first, global award winning, social enterprise, set up to promote safe sex

And of course, littered with limestone rock outcrops, like this:

Limestone Rock Detail

Close-up of a limestone rock outcrop

My Dream House

Now my idea of a dream home, what a view

And so it was, after an hour and a half of driving the wrong direction, I turned back, destined to head to Krabi and grab an espresso from the Choke Dee restaurant.

Sun, the head waiter there was smiley as usual, picked up on my sunburned quarter length arms, bib shape around my throat from wearing an open shirt, and bad sunglass tan face!

Refreshed I was determined to see out the last few hours of my bike rental and see the beach while I was down south.

Set off, found the right direction at last, after a measly 45 minutes ride I found paradise.

Ao Nang Beach 2

The beautiful beach at Ao Nang, limestone rocks in the distance

Transport to and from Krabi

A little piece of paradise

Panoramic Image of Ao Nang Beach

A panoramic of the beach – not amazing, but using a free online program, click to enlarge

I was gutted to have not made it earlier in the day, as I’d have definitely gone in the sea. I didn’t have the right gear with me really so I took a load of pictures whilst there, relaxed on a beach bar, watched life going by and the tour attendants ferrying people to and from the beach by boat.

Group of People Carrying their Belongings to the Boat on Ao Nang Beach

Look closely to see the girl at the back with two suitcases! That’s 3 foot of water close to the boat!

Worrying that I wouldn’t get back in time to hand my bike in, I set off early and headed back to Krabi.

Here’s my route:

My route from Krabi to Ao Luek to Ao Nang to Krabi

The cackhanded route I took to Ao Nang beach today, 125km instead of around 50

So, an eventful day today compared to yesterday.. I have to really make a decision about what I’m going to do next. Peter has kindly offered me a roof over my head in Hua Hin, but the transport situation from here is a concern.. On one hand I could hopefully check out at 6-7, get the 3-4 hour bus to Surat Thani at 10:40, and arrive at 16:01.. but, it’s a bit touch and go.. Seriously though if you want to work out train times, you should check out this site, it’s helped me a load.

The other alternative is a train at 16:46, but that arrives at 00:40, and it’s a bit harsh to expect a family man to wait up.. so I think I’ll head up that way and stop at two places along the way for 1 night each.. This coincides perfectly with Peter’s days off on the 31st/1st, so it’ll be New Year’s in Hua Sin!

That’ll be my next Skype window with the family and friends too, so I’ll hit them up when I get there.

A BMX With A Motor Became My First Truly Eye-Opening Experience In Thailand

After the longest journey in the world, arriving in Krabi proved to be far too relaxing.. as I said it’s more sedate here, but also a hub of tourism due to the central location for trips to the various islands dotted around.

This may be also because I chose to stay in a hostel, rather than hotel, but so many French, German and English folks come to Krabi. And generally they stay at Pak-Up hostel.

The outside of the Pak-Up hostel in Krabi

The outside of the Pak-Up hostel

Here is where I met Alyx..

She was on the same long-ass train as me as well as the following buses.. Immediately heard her French accent as she talked on the train to a Thai girl, asking for advice on Thai language whilst here. While I didn’t speak to her on the train, as soon as we arrived to Surat Thani and heard her say ‘Krabi’ to one of the station attendants I knew that I wanted to speak to her and find out her story.

So it was, from day 1 to now I feel a strong connection to Alyx, very easy going and respectful, but also likes a beer and a smoke. We discussed plans (or she discussed her plans, I admitted my lack thereof) and she’s heading to Ao Ton Say (or Sai, you can’t Google Maps this place), a secluded and small island for Christmas with her friends (for French it’s Xmas eve that’s the main day) I was invited to join, throughout the two days of full on conversation we spoke of her plans and it did sound very good to go to one of the beaches, but I felt it wasn’t the right time to change my plans – and I had the hostel booked for 5 days, so, despite agreeing at first, and subsequently feeling bad for going back on my word, she understood.

What an amazing two days!

I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but rarely you find someone where the conversation is flowing and rare moments of silence. This was the 48 hours in Alyx’s company. Everything from deep to political to life in general. The one thing I valued most was an exchange of language. She spoke extremely good English, and I now understand I speak very good French. At lots of times during the conversation a word would crop up one of us wouldn’t understand and so the next 5 minutes would be explaining the word. This was neither a sexual nor physical attraction, but a very visceral and deep understanding of our lives and so the flow was perfect.

So

Arriving in Krabi during the rain, and each subsequent morning for the next two days, I had thought this could be a washout place. But, the Pak-Up hostel was super awesome, clean and centrally located, and most of all cheap.. There is cheaper, and I’ll have to find these places, but it’s a great place and definitely worth staying in if you ever hit Krabi Town.

One of the benefits is there’s people from all walks of life, and all areas of the world staying here.. You’re always guaranteed a friendly conversation and because of the nature, everyone is open to being talked to and talking to. I have to share with a potential 7 others, but by the time I hit the sack everyone’s asleep so there’s no real interaction inside the dorm.

Skype was a lifesaving and a homesick inspiring experience

I’d promised Olivia and my family a Skype the first Sunday that I arrived. The 23rd was my first date where I’d said I’d be online at 7pm here, 12 noon there.. So, as it came to it I found a place with Wifi and Chang, happened to be with Alyx but she sat reading GQ whilst I spent the next hour and a half Skyping with no sound, but everyone could hear me.

Speaking with my family made me homesick for Christmas dinner, mum’s mashed potatoes, family conversation, the sleep at 3pm and the arguments for the next 5 days.. speaking with Olivia made me happy – she was looking forward to her own family time and of course excited. Speaking with Rob and Karina grounded me and made me realise that I missed their faces and their company a lot. I won’t say in particular what it was that made me – but Rob and Karina know!

Me and Alyx whiled away the hours when Bernie turned up, from Canada, and has been to Thailand 6 times.. we enjoyed each other’s company and shared the stories that you share when meeting people for the first time. And then Dominic turned up, also French, but professed to not know English at all but actually spoke perfect English – so this forced me even more to practice the language after English I know the most. It turned out that Dominic was going to the same place as Alyx and so she had a travelling companion, of the same nationality to spend time with.

Next morning’s breakfast was coffee and a pineapple shake..mmmmmmmmmm… this is awesome, nice espresso and an even nicer and more refreshing shake (sans le lait, bien sur ! Pure pineapple)

The beautiful pineapple shakes in Chokdee Restaurant, Krabi

A pineapple shake at Chokdee Restaurant, Krabi

The faking dog

This dog faked a back leg ailment, every 5 minutes after dragging himself down the road he’d stand up and walk back up to drag himself again

But.. followed by the first Chang, then the second, then the day degraded from there.. Sadly this was not either Alyx’ or my bad influence, we were both as bad as each other.. But also not to say that the day was ruined, again we talked very fluidly and discussed life issues, politics, exchanging vocabulary and more.

For the French, Xmas eve is the day to celebrate, so she had planned to go to Ao Ton Say that day, but as the day progressed and the beer flowed it got to a point where the last boat had sailed and she had to stay one more day. Bad for her to miss meeting her friends for the special day, but good for conversation and discussion.

We said goodnight and I said I’d come say hello in Chokdee restaurant/bar tomorrow morning. And so Alyx and then Dominic turned up and we.. well, they talked for 2 hours before departing for Ao Ton Say. I met my best friend during the trip, a ginger cat who seemed to want to ‘do a Kitsy’ and sit on me all day!

My new best friend, the ginger cat

My new best friend, the ginger cat

Then came the first defining moment for me of the trip.. I hadn’t blogged (I had written in my journal) but I was very aware I was just having conversation for 2 days and nothing more, no pictures. Which… isn’t a bad thing, but was against the primary purpose of my trip – to photo blog. So once Alyx left I felt a lot more in harmony with myself and the desire to experience Krabi after 3 days of not doing so.

The first day I’d spoken to my cousin Jenty and she’d said her friend is in Krabi, so to meet up. I’d organised a meeting at Viva the pizza restaurant. Turned up at 8 and she said she’d be there with friends. I turned up and didn’t know what she looked like, there was a group of people to my right and all of a sudden a Portsmouth accent piped up “Are you Matt?” and so for an hour or so I discussed my options with some expats and came away.. well.. none really the wiser but happy to hear a familiar accent during my far East travels. I had my first glass of red wine since landing which was a good, but expensive (it’s the same price for red wine as it is in the UK) experience, and met my first vegan (who asked for no cheese on the pizza, Pizza Express-style)

I returned to my hostel and unloaded, went back out for a smoke and met a couple of guys (I forget their names) one from Finland, and one from Japan.. The Japanese guy was doing the world on a long boat! Wow! And so with his broken English and my non-Japanese we managed to talk about their travels for an hour..

The Japanese longboatman that I met

The Japanese longboatman that I met

Afterwards I met another French guy Alain, from Bordeaux, and once again I find myself connecting most with the French.. maybe I should have been born French! Alain is super cool, and on a similar wavelength to me, similar aged daughter and life situation. We decided that if I head to Laos in the next 15 days, we should meet up – I’d like to, he’s switched on and once again the conversation was flowing..

Then around 5 others turned up and we all talked, all from different places in the world – Germany, France, England and South Korea. The decision was to go up to the roof bar and get a “Black Cock Bucket” which I’m still not sure what it is.. vodka definitely, but not harsh tasting like vodka. We talked, drank and played Jenga (record 31 stacks by the way!) but the night was ending, Alain had to visa run the next day so left first, then one by one we all dissipated and I went to sleep relatively early (2am).

I was very aware of what the couple from London told me during my visit to Krabi, that they’d hired a bike and just gone somewhere and enjoyed – they were not wrong! – Next morning I hired a motorbike for 150 Baht (£3) until 7 pm, this was around 1pm, so tomorrow I’ll hire one earlier and make the most of it.

Wow

I’ve never ridden a motorbike before, this was the first time in my entire life. I felt ashamed to ask the bike rental guy how to operate a bike.. but it had to happen – I started and stopped the bike, asked how it restarted, then how it went forward and how you could refuel it.

The initial embarrassment was replaced with an amazing sense of free spirit! I mean I’ve ridden a BMX before, for many years, but once you add a motor it’s a whole different story. I went North, East, South and West of Krabi because I could, relatively quickly. I was aware that the beautiful limestone cliffs I’ve seen everywhere were on the road following the river North, so first step was to drive as straight as I could towards these.

En-route there were a few, but in fact they’re dotted everywhere as I’m hearing.. so tomorrow I’ll maybe hit Ao Nang, or nearby, because it’s so close (and Bernie the Canadian recommended) I was even looking at buying a bike of my own, but they’re no cheaper there than here – around 50,000 Baht (£1,000) so out of my price range.. maybe £50 perhaps, but not a grand.

I went and came back to Krabi a lot, but towards the end of my rental, and fuel gauge, I drove out North again.. at one point I saw a road sign to a waterfall and decided to drive the 22km there.. fair enough my fuel was short so around 7km from the goal I headed back to avoid a potential charge for missing the 7pm return time.

This is a really liberating experience, wind in your hair, as fast as your 50cc will allow, on relatively quiet – and straight – roads. I recommend this to anyone visiting Thailand, but please be careful – the drivers don’t give a crap about safety, especially the car drivers. So if you’re not careful you could end up in a bad way like the French guy, Mat (also a photographer) that I met.

I settled down to blog in the hostel and Alain turned up again so we chatted at length before his trip to Koh Tao tomorrow.. this is why this is being posted around 7:30 instead of 5pm UK time!

I’ve enjoyed Krabi but I think my time is near to ending here. I don’t really want to spend a lot of time in one place so tomorrow after the bike ride, and to maintain the 2 days minimum at the Good Dreams guesthouse to satisfy the 150 Baht price (£3) instead of a single night 200 Baht (£4) price, I’ll look at where to go next – definitely North to stay with Ella’s brother Peter in Hua Hin, but not sure about the journey on the way.

If I can offer you any advice though, it’s to hire – and be sensible with – a motorbike in Krabi. I’ll leave you with some of the beautiful sights from along the way, and fill you in when I get to the internet next.

Some mysterious building on a hill near Krabi

Some mysterious building on a hill near Krabi

More limestone rock near Krabi town

More limestone rock near Krabi town

Me, on a motorbike! With beard!

Me, on a motorbike! With beard!

Limestone Rock near Krabi Town

Limestone Rock near Krabi Town

Just one of the beautiful limestone rock outcrops near Krabi

Just one of the beautiful limestone rock outcrops near Krabi

Beautiful scenery near Krabi town

Beautiful scenery near Krabi town

A random boat near Krabi town harbour

A random boat near Krabi town harbour

The river near Krabi

The river near Krabi