We arrived in Surat Thani sometime around 7am to wait for our bus to take us to Phuket. When our bus arrived, the woman told us it was full BUT that didn’t mean we weren’t getting on it, it just meant we weren’t getting a seat! Scott was so surprised that we were even standing on the bus but I had had a similar bus situation in Central America and knew what was I was dealing with. We piled in and were standing asses to elbows for the first hour or so but as the bus would stop and people got off we were able to eventually grab some seats one by one. Scott and I passed the time by “people watching” our crowded bus since we couldn’t very well sleep standing up. When the bus ticket employee Thai dude was collecting tickets and pushing his way through the crowded bus, I watched him wake up this guy who looked like he had been through hell and back when he was woken up for his ticket. He was crashed hard on his neck pillow and only woke up long enough to yell at his friend across the aisle to give the man his ticket. Something about his obvious disorientation caught my and Scott’s attention and we gave each other a look and smiled like “that guy had a rough one…hahaha”. When the seat next to him freed up and I was able to finally grab a seat, then I understood why the look of sheer exhaustion, red eyes and groggy responsiveness. Zane (who I would like to mention that I IMMEDIATELY thought of the song lyric “Insane in the Membrane” and would like to refer to him as inZane as I nicknamed him in my head that moment) had just gotten done with his time on Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and the full moon party. Going big for a solid long week of intense partying combined with a case of pink eye and a couple xanex to ensure good sleep and rest during his journey to the western islands explained his current condition. Even though he was struggling to recover and wake up, I was stoked to sit next to him because he had a plethora of experience knowledge and helpful tips regarding all the places I was planning on going in the next couple weeks. Not to mention being a super cool American, which is rare to find when you are traveling, and even in his rough condition, he was still looking pretty hot. Seems there aren’t loads of Americans traveling and a lot of times the ones you find are the kind who give us a bad reputation by living up to all the negative stereotypes.
We arrived a few hours later to Phuket town and had to take a bus to Patong Beach near our accommodations where we would be spending three nights. Our place was nice with a pool and not too far from the nightlife of the island. The only downside was that the beach we were near wasn’t very nice and we would have to rent motorbikes or take taxis to get to the good beaches further north.
We checked out the nightlife that night and danced most of the night away at a couple different spots on the main street. Definitely a better nightlife scene than Bangkok as far as we had seen, but there was an abundance of ladyboys around to make Scott feel untrusting of any Thai woman (or maybe man) he met. We checked out the beach near our hotel the next day and were disappointed to see jellyfish scattered all over the beach and the red flag out to warn visitors of the jellyfish filled water. We laid around and read for a while but it was bittersweet because when it got hot you couldn’t go cool off in the water because of the jelly fish. We ended up going back to the hotel and relaxing around the pool instead because it was so hot and humid. Scott and I went out on the town again the next night to go dancing and although it was fun, I was definitely expecting more out of Phuket. Especially since you hear so much about it in America as it being one of THE places to go, I thought I would be getting MORE.
The next day Scott was still MIA from the night before and Evelyne and I wanted to check out some of the nicer beaches further north so we set out to rent a motorbike. Or at least that was my original intention until Evelyne began questioning me about whether I would be able to drive one or not and put a lot of doubt in my mind. I really hadn’t given in much thought at all and was confident I would be able to drive it without a problem, until she put that doubt in my mind and dropped my confidence about the whole situation. I’m the type of person where if you plant a seed of doubt it will sprout and entire garden since I over think just about everything. Suddenly I was feeling very nervous about my ability but everyone used motorbikes to get around so I knew it couldn’t be impossible. When we found a reasonable price, the guy said I could drive it to the hotel to get the deposit and feel it out. My confidence was low and I was unsure and nervous and it showed. When I came back, the guy thought I looked like I might crash and wouldn’t rent it to me after all. Now my confidence was even lower about learning to drive one. Just that one little seed of doubt had ruined the experience for me. Instead, Evelyne and I paid a motorbike taxi to take us each on the back of their bikes to the beach we wanted to spend the day at. To be fair, there is no way I could have driven the motorbike with Evelyne on the back on those roads of hills. I think I would have been able to get my self there had I been more confident but not both of us so it probably worked out for the best.
Kamala Beach was gorgeous and such an improvement from the one near our place. And I was so relieved to not see a single jellyfish on the shore so hopefully that meant there wasn’t a bunch in the water either. This was the beach paradise we had heard so much about and wanted to enjoy. We relaxed and read while listening to some music for most of the afternoon. Towards the end of the day, we met a group of 17 guys who were soccer players from France were there vacationing for a couple weeks. It was good for Evelyne because she’s French Canadian and she was able to speak with them in French. I enjoyed watching their interactions because I felt like she was more at ease and better able to express herself than when she spoke English, even though her English was perfect, it wasn’t her first language and you could tell she had to chose her words differently. I really prefer to see people in their own element. I obviously couldn’t follow the conversations and the guys only spoke minimal English but Evelyne helped by translating the general conversations for me so I didn’t feel left out. Everytime I tried to speak to them, they told me I spoke too fast, which I heard all the time in South America but it’s really difficult to deliberately speak slowly. We all watched an amazing sunset then parted ways and planned to meet up with them later. Which we did and all danced the night away together until the early morning on our last night out in Phuket.
The next morning, we had to get ready for our transfer bus to take us to the ferry to Koh Phi Phi. The bus that picked us up was already almost full and I had to squeeze into one seat available in the back between two English lads, Evelyne in front of me in the only seat in that row and Scott in the last seat in front of her. The two English lads I was stuck between was actually a group of four lads from Liverpool who I quickly discovered were going to make this bus ride a lot more entertaining, plus being from Liverpool they already scored major points with me because of the huge Beatles fan I am. Tony, Francis, Mark and Tim were joking and talking trash to each other the entire 45 minute drive to get to the ferry. The rapport between them was hilarious to observe. I was cracking up as I was sitting right in the middle of them all and I could hear Scott chuckling up front every now and again. When we got to the ferry, Scott and I gave each other this look like, “Yea- we need to hang out with these guys for sure!” Then we piled into the ferry, spread out and passed out for the journey to Koh Phi Phi.
I woke up as people started shuffling around and it was obvious we were getting near the island. When I looked around there were a couple smaller islands scattered around and one large one we were clearly heading for. It looked like Jurassic Park and I was quickly getting excited for our next destination. When were arrived at the dock, we stopped the Liverpool lads and got their Thai number so we could plan to meet up a bit later and enjoy their humor and tales of debauchery some more. Koh Phi Phi doesn’t allows any cars or motorbikes and the minute you get on land you are immediately in the compact area that you would call the “town”. There are people lining the streets with flyers to give you all promoting the drink specials at their perspective bars. The World Cup was set to kick off tonight so people were buzzing about that and the drink specials were plentiful if not overwhelming. ‘3 for 1 buckets!’ ‘ Free Shot’ ‘Free bucket from 10-11’ ‘ Free Bucket for the ladies’…..it just didn’t stop! Scott and I were flipping through all the flyers as we walked towards our bungalow and just looking at each other like this had the potential to get ugly and what in the world is a ‘bucket’ anyways? We would soon find out and know all to well what a bucket was.
The Liverpool boys had told us about the Reggae Bar where they had a boxing ring in the center and if you fought, you got a free bucket. Mark was planning on fighting and we wanted to be there to watch so we agreed to meet them there that evening. That is where we were first introduced to the concept of the bucket. It’s basically almost like it sounds, a little bucket but it is filled with booze of your choice, usually a soft drink and a red bull.
One of many tidbits of info inZane passed along on the bus ride over that they put amphetamines in the red bulls in SE Asia so to be aware because they will make you WAY more awake and hyper than the red bulls we are used to back in the states. Let me be the first or maybe the 100th person to tell you its no joke! After one bucket you are pretty well set for the evening and bouncing off the walls as Bobbie had similarly warned Scott and I on our second morning in Bangkok when he was coming home at 830am! Should’ve been our first clue….We went from Reggae Bar to the beach party where they have fire performers, fire limbo, ring of fire and pretty much anything else you can think of fire related. We stayed there for the rest of the night hanging out with the Liverpool lads laughing all night long.
The next day Scott and I had signed up for cliff jumping tour around the surrounding islands and had to be there bright and early like almost every tour starts. Our group of people were all super cool and we had a perfect balance of people from all over. We stopped first at Monkey Beach where there were literally over a hundred monkeys just hanging around on the beach, rocks and trees. They looked so cute and I was thrilled until all of a sudden about 6 of them turned on me all at once and began chasing me! Someone told me that they bite so I was running away from them pretty quickly. Then I tried to get a picture and they started chasing me again so I was done! I already had one close “Outbreak” experience where I thought monkeys while traveling in Costa Rica might bite me. I headed back to the boat where I would be safe.
Then we headed over to the spot where we would be cliff jumping. First of all, it was absolutely gorgeous and secondly the height was pretty decent and even intimidating. We climbed up and skipped the first one which was probably about 10 meters and went straight for the 15 meters which from up there looked really high but not high enough to deter me. Then we scrambled back up for some more and Scott found a spot that was even higher to jump. I’m guessing about 18 meters but I didn’t stay long enough to get a good look. I stepped to the edge, looked down and knew if I didn’t go immediately I would chicken out so I just went without thinking. What a rush! I’m so happy I jumped because it was definitely the highest cliff I have ever jumped off. The feeling was excitingly unreal and so scary at the same time.
Next we were off to Maya Beach, which is THE BEACH from the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio that became so famous after the movie and book. The way they too us in was from the back and you have to swim in and climb over rocks, holding onto this rope to keep yourself steady as the waves crash over you and up some stairs before getting into a small cove area. Then you walk through a bit of forest and come out onto the beach facing the beautiful famous cove. It was absolutely stunning and just how you imagined it would look except that there are actually people there instead of just Leo. We took the classic jumping picture that is standard for anyone who visits and spent an hour or so and then had to head back through the crazy obstacle course to get back on the boat. It was even worse getting back because I was behind about a dozen super squealy girly girls who acted like it was the hardest thing they had ever been asked to do.
I got so annoyed and frustrated with them I finally just went for it and swam around them making it back to the boat just fine.
Lastly, we did a little snorkeling, which was super awesome because for the first time ever I had an underwater digital camera and was able to capture some shots. Unfortunately, I think it distracts me a bit from the actual snorkeling but I had a great time and there were so many fish and sea creatures to see. On our way back at the end of the day we stopped and watched the sunset from the boat and it was breathtaking. I truly felt like I was in paradise. Wait a minute, that’s because I WAS in paradise. The whole day had been proof of that!
The next day we had booked a tour of island and beach hopping all around Koh Phi Phi with many snorkeling stops along the way. Evelyne didnt come with us the day before for the cliff jumping so all the places we went were new for her but Scott and I had been to most of them the day before.
We went back to Monkey Beach and I kept a little more distance from the monkeys that time. We also went back to Maya Beach and it was nice because when we left, we were the last boat to leave so you could actually see the beach the way it looked in the movie, completely empty instead of swarming with tours the way it is everyday. We also went to a couple additional beaches and they were all pretty amazing. I would say Phi Phi in general has quite a large selection of gorgeous beaches. The funniest part of the day and I could kick myself for not having a picture of this, but our longboat driver and “guide” was an interesting super skinny Thai man. When we arrived, he was running around his boat in his underwear….literally, navy blue, somewhat wornout looking briefs.
I could not stop laughing at this guy and when we would stop places for a while he would strip right back down to his under-roos. Scott and I could not stop laughing PLUS he hardly spoke English so none us ever knew what he was talking about so he would get angry and seem to be yelling at us but we still had no clue what he was trying to say. Made for quite an interesting day.
That evening was our last night in Koh Phi Phi with the Liverpool lads and we decided to have a little competition with each other about who could find the most ridiculous hat to wear for the entire night. Turns out Mark bought the same hat i was going to get so i had to get a different one but he ended up winning with Scott as second runner up. So had I got the hat first, I would have won but I’m not sure if winning would be that great since they had to take a shot from each of us that we bought for the winner but our choice so it wasn’t a great combination. I had been thinking of getting a tattoo during my travels and wanted it to be my last name in a foreign language or symbol for rose. I had checked a few places around and ending up ducking out for a bit that evening by myself and got it done there with the bamboo tattoo method and written in Thai on the inside of my left foot.
Unfortunately, I ended up losing my camera shortly after the tattoo so lost all the pics of getting it done which was a bummer but not the end of the world. I showed back up about 45 minutes later and the boys were in a rough inebriated state and I had a new tattoo. Pretty eventful night to end Koh Phi Phi.
The next morning, we headed out for Koh Lanta which was going to be a very chill spot for a couple nights. Since it was low season, the island was virtually empty and I am pretty sure we were the only people at our resort but it was right on the beach, had a pool and was really nice and comfortable. There was one westerner guy staying there who “ran” it but pretty much just hung around in the day and seemed to drink with the locals at night.
He told us about a place next door with free wifi and Scott and I hung out there a bit and LOVED the little guy from Singapore who worked and lived there. He was just about the friendliest person I have ever met and really just enjoyed seeing his face each day. We rented a motorbike from him and went to a nicer beach up north and just relaxed for the afternoon and enjoyed our quiet paradise. In the evening, we went to one of the only bars that was open nearby that was a reggae bar so you can imagine how stoked I was.
The bartender, who introduced himself as Captain Jack Sparrow, looked like a hardcore Thai reggae dude and even played Thai reggae along with some Bob Marley and it was a really mellow and chillaxing place to enjoy a hammock and watch the crazy lightning storms that seemed to be all around that evening. Being from southern California, I don’t see much lightning storms so I always enjoy them out here and that night was spectacular coming from both directions on the beach.
Our next and final destination on the west coast of Thailand before heading to the eastern islands was Krabi. I was especially looking forward to Krabi because I had read it has the best rock climbing in the world! Now that is a bold statement and I intended to check it out for myself. We only had a couple nights there so Scott and I signed up immediately. The World Cup games were going strong so we posted up at a restaurant and watched a couple matches where I made friends with a really cool middle aged Scottish couple who were on holiday. They were so funny and seemed to really like me and ended up having a pretty wild time and a lot of laughs with them over cocktails that first night. Scott and I intended for it to be an early night since we had climbing early the next morning, but when you plan for an early night, that’s when I usually end up getting into the most shenanigans.
Sure enough, I bolted awake for reasons unknown to me sometime right around 7 30ish and we had to be ready to be picked up at 8am. We rushed to get ready and barely made it out in time before the company picked us up. We went by to get our gear then headed to the dock where a long tail boat was waiting to take us to Railey and Ton Sai Beach for our day of rock climbing. We were both feeling so rough from the night before and it was already getting hot which didn’t help us feel any better. When we arrived at the climb site, I started to perk up pretty quickly. It was a huge site with tons of routes with the face directly onto the white sand and turquoise clear waters. There were a couple groups of people already climbing and I was so anxious to get up there. I hadn’t been climbing in over a year in a half before I had broken my hand around Christmas 2008 and this was going to be one hell of a way to get back into it. Just like riding a bike, it was like I had never stopped and felt so good. I was glistening from sweat from the sun and from all my muscles working together on the first climb. I had forgotten what an amazing workout climbing was and how good it feels for your body to work so many muscles at once. Scott and I both were feeling better after the first climb as if we had sweated out any remaining alcohol and were ready to push us out there as we both enjoy working our bodies to the maximum potential. The scenery couldn’t have been better if I imagined it myself. The second climb you dropped straight down into the water as the tide had begun to come in. If you are ever in Krabi- this is the ONE thing you should be doing. Words don’t do it justice and unfortunately, neither one of us had a camera so we had to ask other people to take photos to email us and only one came through…..of SCOTT!!! Guess I will have to return there once I settle into Thailand and capture some images.
We only had one last night where it was going to be the three of us before Scott and I headed the east side of Thailand to Koh Phangan for Scott’s final days in Thailand and Evelyne headed north for some elephant volunteer work. We enjoyed a delicious meal of Indian food, which was Scott’s favorite and I had never really experimented with so we all went and I got to try some new food. This meal kicked off the beginning of a lovely addiction to Indian food for me. We went back to the same restaurant where we had met the Scottish couple that showed back up for their final night in Krabi as well.
There was a reggae band playing and I swear, I met yet another Thai Bob Marley and was delighted when he played my travel theme song….”Every little thing…is gonna be alright”. We had a relatively mellow night before getting to bed knowing that we would have a full day of travel ahead of us tomorrow. The west coast of Thailand had been good to us….sometimes exhausting and a lot of long nights and I was sure Scott and I were in for more of the same on the east side.