Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Once upon a time in a hot hot land in a hot hot place there were two beautiful girls who were sweating beyond what a lady should ever do. This hot hot land is southern Thailand and this hot hot hot hot place is their 500 baht a night bungalow 500 meters from the sea. Close enough for budget purposes but surrounded by much bigger bungalow resorts that block the breeze. Our little bungalow provides the quietest night sleep yet (surprising considering the amount of roosters we see roaming around…have we told you guys about the chickens in Asia yet. What about the one that sounded like it was between us in bed in Siem Reap??), comfy bed, and nice nighttime sleeping temperatures but the other 17 hours of the day our bungalow and its surrounds are hot and unbearably muggy, humid, hot, swealtering…we imagine hell to be as hot as this bungalow. We are currently perched on our front deck surrounded by our drying clothes and just waiting waiting waiting for a breeze or some evening temperatures. It is even hotter inside the bungalow than we just described…that is why we sit on the porch. We are kind of in a cul-de-sac of bungalows, and the three closest to us have their tenants on the porches too…however they are sitting calmly and chatting amongst themselves…totally obvilious to satan’s sweat box we are all sitting in right now. We aren’t sure if its just our bungalow because they are cool calm and collected where we are cursing and complaining and dreaming of that snow everyone back home is buried under.
Vent over we need to back track and fill you all in our our last day in chaing mai, and trip down south to the islands.
We went elephanting, a trip we had planned (and had funds lined up to pay for) in Laos while our Laos dreams went to the wayside we kept the elephants alive and arranged to stay in Chiang Mai another night in order to visit a sustainable, elephant friendly nature park. (there are lots of elephant parks in CM but most put saddles on the elephants, have shows, and teach them to walk on two legs…we were cautious not to end up at that type of park. We found a pro-elephant rights park and spend the day there. We were told they were booked for the normal time however we could go out in a smaller group earlier in the day for the same price..it was pitched like it was a bad thing but we think we had a better deal that the normal time crew that was piling in just as we were finishing up.}
Our group was the two of us and Dan from New York and Emily from Detroit, a couple that have lived on a mountain in China for three years and are in Thailand on vacation. They were really cool and we talked most of the drive with them comparing stories and giving advice and catching up on jersey shore gossip. We got to the park and were asked to change into Mahout Uniforms—denim jumpsuit type outfits that immediately killed all cuteness factors. Caitlin is still ashamed that she wore head to toe ill-fitting denim. The hard straw hat they gave us toped off the ensemble and was the icing on the cake. What not to wear should really come to Asia for that among many other trends we have noticed.
Sex appeal killed we headed over the elephants that were tied up having a snack. (they were tied up to keep them away from poachers, elephant stealers, and the angry polish neighbor who does not appreciate elephants in the yard) We had sugar cane and bananas in all our pockets and were able to feed them before the training started. The one mahout (elephant caretaker that spend almost 24/7 with his elephant and you can see the tenderness in their eyes when they talk about and to their elephants) helped us to feed the one baby male there by wrapping the trunk around necks and having us shovel banans into his mouth rapid fire. He even made the elepant kiss our cheeks (Caitlin might have gotten a little lip action) which sent chills up our spines and the the big wet suction cup of a kiss left elephant slobber everywhere (not that we appricated the outfits at all) At this point we would like to describe an elephants mouth for those of you who have not had the opportunity to experience something like this. It looks exactly like an element of the female reproduction anatomy. That’s all we are saying. Use your imagination or google image to figure it out. Or buy us a drink when we get home and we will tell you all about it
Next up we boarded the elephants and were taught the commands to make it move. And then we both got on the same elephant and with Dan and Emily on a very preggo elephant we set off on our trek. We were not in baskets on the back..we were on the neck of the elephant with the ears flapping on our legs. Elephants are not soft (it kind felt like a brillo pad nor are they particularly comfie really. We had rashes on our legs from elephant hair) Nor do they move when they don’t want to. Our Mahout walked next to us the whole time (talking on his cell phone. We had a convo with Dan and Emily over lunch about who he would have been talking to. We decided it was his girlfriend upset because he spends so much time with the elephant and not with her) and when we couldn’t get our elephant to move he would say one thing share a look with the elephant and she would lumber two more steps and stop to eat again. Up hill was better than downhill we must say. Halfway through the trek we switched drivers and for the downhill portion Caitlin was up front and Kate was in the back. Both clingling onto the elephant for dear life and scared we were going to fall off while Miss Thang Elepahant took her sweet sweet time going down the mountain in two step intervals. It hurt. However it was an amazing experience to be that close to a well taken care of elephant.
We knew our time on the elephant was close to an end when the guide said something about the watering hole and our elephant went faster than she had the whole 3 hour trek. Although we were ready to get off we were glad she was finally showing some speed. 0.5mph. The watering hole proved to be another experience. We pulled our elephant up to a huge platform where we thought we were going to dismount before giving her a bath…instead the guide just asked for our camera and glasses and hats and told us to move back to allow for the mahout to board as well. Clutching the rope we had the steepest decent yet into the watering hole. Riding an elephant that is happy to be in the water is like riding a bucking bronco. She was rolling from side to side and standing up and then laying down and shaking her head. We tried to scrub her with the brushes they gave us but most of the time we were just holding on for dear life. It was fun for the first 5 minutes and then we noticed the ultimate party foul—elephant poop in the pool. Then we were holding on for dear life, while avoiding the poo, and keeping our mouths shut. Dan and Emily’s elephant was a lot taller and a lot more round so they were a bit higher up than we were…so every so often when they would look over you would catch the look of shock in their eyes. So fun!
The next morning we hopped the early flight to Bangkok. Once there we booked a second flight to Phuket (Amazing Race style) figuring the extra money to fly was well worth not having to go into Bangkok with 40lb backpacks and wander around looking for a bus station. We had a 4 hour wait and then a 2 hour delay but our day in the Bangkok airport was quite delightful. There was Burger King (Taylor Freezer ice cream machine!!) and Auntie Anne’s and an amazing waiting room for Bangkok Airways flyers. We first thought it was just for 1st class customers however they let everyone in and there was free water and snacks and popcorn and wifi. It was beautiful. We would get trays full of water so we didn’t have to get up so much and spend the day planning out the rest of the trip…you people just wait. We’ve got some good stuff lined up.
We arrived in Phuket around 9PM and found a booking office right in the airport where we were able to line up that night’s accommodation, taxi to the ferry in the AM, and Ferry tickets. At first they gave us all their expensive hotels to look at but they soon realized we were no hot water, no aircon kinda gals (imagine that!) and it worked out. Although looking back our hotel was creepy. It was kinda desserted and we might have been the only guests but it did the job.
The ferry the next morning was HUGE and packed from bow to stern with more westerners we have seen the whole trip. We couldn’t find seats but then found some towards the middle of the boat…everyone wanted to sit on the sun deck and on the edges for the view it seemed. About 30 minutes into the ride the water started getting choppy and the whole boat was splashed and drenched from the huge sprays of water. We were lucky to be on the inside and stayed mostly dry.
South East Asia played another one of its little tricks on us when we got to Phi Phi Island where we were supposed to switch boats to get to Railey Beach (our destination-a tip from Dan and Emily) SEA won again because what we had figured was a direct connection turned out to be a 4 hour layover. We were pretty mad but then looked up from the pier in both directions and noticed deserted beaches in either direction and decided it wasn’t so bad after all. We stored out bags and grabbed our sarongs and after getting our first meal since lunch the previous day we set off to enjoy our “layover”. The beach at Phi Phi was beautiful. All the beaches we have seen over here in Asia have been very pretty with very clear blue water, but Thailand is in a league of its own with its beaches. The beach at Phi Phi was covered in powdery white sand and the water was the clearest we have seen yet. The Island is surrounded by these huge limestone karsts in the water and the combination of the white beach, the dark rocks and the blue green water was just amazing! We easily passed the time between boats soaking in the sun, floating in the water and collecting shells on the shore. We almost felt bad for the day trippers there who would only get to spend an hour before their boat blew its whistle and they had to leave.
We got back on the ferry (we were sunburned and wet and in our sarongs with ice cream cones and out new straw hats and trying to get our bags from the left luggage and we were quite the sight) and arrive in Railay with enough time to find out hotel, check in, shower, and get to the beach for sunset. The ferry arrives in the harbor on west Railay and we were tendered to shore in longtail boats. You have to jump from the boat into the water and walk up the beach. We did separate trips to avoid jumping with the backpacks on and ending up face first into the water. Railay on approach kind of looked like Phi Phi. It is one of those places where when you show up it is so unique and pretty and untoursity you almost feel like you’ve discovered a new place. ( Reminancent of our first night in Cinque Terre Italy) There were many tourist there but you didn’t feel like there were compared to many other places.
We were spending two nights and one full day in Railey so we set off the next morning across the island to get some exploring/beach time in. There aren’t any motos or cars on the island just a few sets of paths for us to follow. We walked along on one to the beach that had huge rocks and cliffs on the one side…you could hike to viewpoints and hidden lagoons in a few spots but we we feeling the beach. We spent the majority of the day on the beach, once again crytal clear waters and huge rock formations we could look at and even swim to and explore. It was pretty hot so we stayed in the water for most of the day. We got some Pad Thai from the beach version of street venders…they beach a boat at the shore line and cook up what you want right there in the boat. Pretty cool. Once we had our fill of sand and surf..we cleaned up and headed back to the beach for a sunset beer…or six. One restaurant sets up mats right on the beach and we claimed one and just hung out. Maybe two beers in we realized that we have been friends for 10 years. A decade. We quickly decided that the evening would be our anniversary…we star gazed, and a little Thai boy showed up with sparklers and minor fireworks yet no parent. So the nanny in both of us took over and we had a firework display and later in the evening on the beach people were buying 155 baht paper lanterns to send up in the air. They about 3 ft tall white Chinese lantern shaped lanterns with a candle in it. Once the lantern fills up with whatever comes off a candle it floats off into the night for good luck. You can see them for so long after they take off. Not wanting to literally throw our money up in the air…we thoroughly enjoyed watching other people do it in honor of our 10th friend-aversary. (Not sure that was their intent but it was appreciated)
The next morning we took the morning ferry to Ko Lanta..where we currently are stationed. We didn’t have an hotels lined up so we started talking to the hotel people on the pier and were soon being carted off to the other side of the island to a hotel right on the beach for cheap that sounded too good to be true. Don’t worry followers concerned with our safety we most definately weren’t sitting in flatbed of a uncovered pickup truck or anything. An Australian couple was in the truck with us and the sun was directly on the one side of the truck…Caitlin and the guy almost had 3rd degree burns to show for our ride. The hotel turned out to be a bust…they lied to us, had crap rooms, and we saw a drug deal go down. We made the driver take us back to the pier and refused to get out of the truck to see any of the other places he wanted to show us. We were sweating and hungry and defeated showing back up at the pier an hour later. It was bad. The other hotel people were still there and showing us all sorts of paplets and flyers and telling us where we wanted to stay…it was quite overwhelming. There weren’t many options available in our price range..although one guy kept telling Caitlin she could stay at his house for free (she didn’t ask about the free wifi because we might have taken him up on it) but we ended up going with a nice young girl to her family’s place. It turned out to be a very nice beach, close to stores and food, and everything we wanted minus a pool and pus 50 degrees.
We were able to get some beach time in after we got settled and finally got to eat another meal. (The water here is freakishly clear- its like a swimming pool you can be neck neep and see see what color your toenails are painted) We found a cute bar last night that has all sorts of wooden mind games and the bartenders know magic tricks and they love us…so we like it there. We aren’t so good at the mind challeneges and mostly ended up with a pile of funny shaped wooden pieces in front of us and not a box or circle like we are supposed to. But we think our friend Dave Martin would be great at them (he can solve a rubix cube…we think can also picture our friend/his wife Alyssa there saying that’s great honey, wooden blocks-wanna do some tequila shots??) So we played with the bartenders and even won a few games of connect four and jenga. The one bartender thought it was funny we were both Kate, so he named us A and B and called himself C. (most people usually go with the Kate 1 and Kate 2..our ziplining guide would just yell 1 or 2 at us) There was also free popcorn and the one bartender might have a crush on us…we’ll probably going to end up back there sometime in the next two nights. Its owned by a guy from Ohio and plays country music and Jack Johnson. We met an interesting child with dreadlocks last night (and by met we mean we eavesdropped on her conversation with her equally strange mother).
Today we slept in until the heat in the bungalow got to unbearable and we headed to breakfast and some school work before hitting up the beach. Since we began the post the sun has set and it’s finally cooled off enough to be able to walk around again. Phew! Until next time..Leave the love!