Things are a whole lot different in Thailand For one, it is HOT. Two: there are lots of foreigners here. The airport here must have been filled with at least 80% foreigners. Unlike Korean, we haven't found it so easy to learn to read Thai script. However, it seems that everywhere we go there is someone who speaks English much better than we can attempt Thai. We are staying at the Peachy Guest House, which is only one of many guest houses clustered around the largest tourist trap in the world. We have already bought sandals for US$5, a T-shirt for US$7, and drunk about a dozen banana shakes at US$0.80 each. There are quite a few things to see here in the city and we are contemplating skipping Malaysia altogether in order to concentrate more on the sights here in Thailand. We are heading down to a beach resort in the south, near Krabi.
Monday, 17 March 2540 (in the year of Buddha)
We are back from paradise. I can not even begin to describe the beauty of this place that we went to. It is known at Rai Lay Beach near Krabi, Thailand. Although it is not an island, the steep cliffs around surrounding the peninsula make it accessible only by boat. This makes for a quiet getaway for thousands of lucky foreign (very few Thai people were there) tourists every year. We chose Rai Lay based on the description in our travel book (Let's Go Southeast Asia) and the advice of a friend. We were not disappointed in the least.
Rai Lay Village
After a one-hour, US$1.60 boat ride to the beach, we walked around for a bit searching for a place to stay. At one extreme are some little huts for about US$6 per night with mosquito nets and no private bath. At the other end of the spectrum are some brand new units that go for about US$400. The later take up half of the land now, and the entire area is sure to be overtaken by these overpriced condos, so hurry now. We settled into the Rai Lay Village in a double room with good screens on the windows, a clean bath, and a great oscillating fan above the bed, for a mere US$18 per night, three nights.
The highlight of this island for most people is the crystal clean water and the quiet beaches. However, in addition to enjoying these luxuries, we decided to check out the rock climbing. It turns out that this place is known by rock climbers around the world as one of the premiere spots to scale a vertical. We just couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend two mornings with an experienced Thai guide. The equipment and four hour lesson ran us US$20 each morning, but it was worth it. After only climbing indoor once at home, we were able to do some pretty great things on these cliffs. The hand holds were perfect and the rope hooks were already laid out for us. As soon as I get the pictures, I will put some up here on my page, but basically you HAVE TO GO there to believe this place.
Our return bus was much more air-conditioned than the job they stuck us on going down. We arrived back in Bangkok this morn at 6am and have spent the day seeing the famous "reclining Buddha" statue at Wat Pho. We leave again at 6pm this time for the north. We plan to take a trek into the jungle around Chiang Mai. If we are lucky we will get to see some hill tribes, ride an elephant, and play with some monkeys. Yes, we are tourists, but we are having fun. If anyone is thinking about coming to Thailand, don't hesitate. It is the greatest.
Besides being an interesting place to visit temples and shopping malls, Chiang Mai is the home of jungle treks. Probably at least half of all the tourists that pour into Thailand each year make the pilgrimage up north to see the wacky hill tribes, ride elephants, take rafts and generally enjoy themselves in the jungles near the Burma and Laos borders. Personally, I wanted to see some part of nature that we don't have in the states: a rainforest. I wanted to see wild monkeys and elephants and whatnot. Well, I was a little disappointed.
We arrived at 6am (do you see a pattern here?) and were faced with the choice of what place to stay and whose tour to take. For no reason at all we chose Johnny Boy Guest House in the center of Chiang Mai city. They had a four day, 1650baht (US$66) trek leaving that morning at 9am. It was the usual tour package in my opinion, but they tout it as a "non-touristic" (my friends heard this as naturalistic) tour through quiet mountain villages with the obligatory elephant ride and bamboo raft trip.
It was honestly pretty cool, but there was no jungle and there were no monkeys. Our guide, Mai, informed us early on that the local people "eat anything that moves," so we wouldn't be running into any exotic life forms (unless you are fascinated with mosquitoes). Rainforests aside, we did have a good time. We walked all day through rice fields and not so damp forests, and spent the night in rather secluded villages of the Karen and Meo tribes. Mai told us a lot about how the tribespeople are slowly changing due o external pressures. This was very evident in our second night at a Karen village. We (there were four Americans, two Japanese, Brica and I, and a couple other people on the tour) sat around a picnic table outside our shelter and sang songs for hours. To my surprise the village children were quite good singers of not only Karen and Thai songs, but also English, French, Japanese and a few other languages. Mai lectured us about how the US government's crackdown on drugs was affecting the opium production in the region. Crops change, people change, "everything different."
Arrived back in Bangkok this morning at 5:30am and was greeted with a surprise. My bag was gone. Yes, it was my first stroke of luck after all these years of traveling. I have never had any trouble with bad water, food, or pickpockets, but my luck ran out. Brica nad I took the night bus back from Chiang Mai last night. I personally put my big ole purple backpack on the bus. It was the last one on the bus, but I assumed it was all right. Well, it wasn't. Somewhere along the way during the night, someone opened the rear door to the bus and made off with my bag. This may sound like a real catastrophe, but after assessing the damage, I decided that I would survive. Luckily my passport, plane tickets, cash, address book, Japanese dictionary, and journal were not in my bag. They are all irreplaceable. The US$2000 worth of clothes, tent, stove, hiking boots, travel books, etc that were in my bag are no big loss.
And so our two week adventure in Thailand comes to an exciting close. One might think that I would be cursing the country after this sort of incident, but I am not so sure that the same would not have happened on the Greyhound in America. Anyway, it still doesn't change all the fun that we have had here. And besides, who needs clothes anyway?