While Jack sways himself to sleep in his first hammock ever, I’ve been sitting poolside here at Baan Suan Resort, thinking over the last few days.
Three days ago we left Phuket. We were saying goodbye, getting hugs from the two women who had helped us since day one when Mr. Dong pulled up. All of the Troy GH staff came outside to wish us luck and wave us off. Amazing.
First stop, we went to Tiger Kingdom. We met two young tigers, about 3 months old. One was in a deep sleep as we entered the grounds, stretched across the gate, we had to squeeze our way in. There was no moving her, as we stepped over her paw to sit down next to another one. We got to lay with them, pet them and had a photographer take a few photos for us as well.
I’d seen the brochure. The typical poses people would make if they were lying beside a tiger. You know, a thumbs up, claws and a growling face… the dorky shit. We were then instructed to lay on top of this tiger’s hind quarters and pretend to bite its tail. (Okay…)
Next were the adult sized cats. These guys were 19 months old and in my opinion, fully fucking grown. One of them, Mikey was a staff favourite, you could tell. One of the guys showing us through the grounds threw himself on Mikey’s stomach, cuddling him like a queen sized bed. Mikey rolled over for a belly rub and thought nothing else of it. It was awesome. I was still getting a grasp on the fact that I was petting a fucking tiger, so the photos don’t look very natural.
Before driving up to where Big Buddha sits, there’s a temple called Chalong Wat. Walking through the courtyard of the temples, you notice the pride taken into their upkeep. We walked up a few levels and found a large statue, encased in glass. There was a slot where you could place your donation and people must have, there was a mound of money on the floor beside the statue.
At the base of the Big Buddha, there’s prayer mats sitting in front of a shrine of photos, statues, ancient literature, candles and bronze bells. We moved on, to go see Big Buddha. It was truly an incredible sight. Coated with inscribed marble slabs, paid for by donation for its construction.
Walking up to Big Buddha.
As you approach the quaint staircase up to the statue, you’ll noticed hundreds of these little bronze bells lining the scarves overhead. Giving your walk up to Buddha this mythical interlude of chimes. Many of them again, have inscriptions on them.
Coming to the top, you see the view. Buddha looking over the city and the jungle with a clear view of the ocean crashing on the beaches lining Phuket. As you leave, there’s a small pathway that overlooks the backdrop. A view of the jungle, with a few cheeky baboons fighting over items tossed down to them by the tourists.
We got a snap shot with Mr. Dong outside and made our way back to the car to get some lunch before catching the ferry. On the way down, we got out of the car and saw several elephants, ready to take the tourists out on treks.
My attention immediately went to this one baby elephant being fed cucumbers. Permitted to take a photo of him only once we’d fed him, which cost 100 B ($3) – cool. Quite the strategy as well, I’m sure an elephant could eat cucumbers all day.
Beside our new friend was a little hut where we saw a tiny monkey sitting on top of the bar waiting for someone to come play with him. Of course, we offered ourselves for his enjoyment as he wrapped himself around our fingers and climbed our arms. He was adorable and I want one.
It was then time to go. We had to catch the ferry at 3:00 pm and we were still 25 minutes away with the clock showing just after 2 pm.
As we grabbed our bags from the car, we tried to show our appreciation by offering Mr. Dong a few beers. He smiled and said No, I don’t drink. Fuck. There was no way we could show how thankful we were. After grabbing our tickets and saying goodbye, we were once again waiting for our next connection.
The ferry was about 2.5 hours long to Koh Phi Phi. Jack and I didn’t have reservations, again. We got off the boat, walked down the pier and within minutes people approached from every direction. “Hello! Hello! Taxi! Taxi! Hotel reservations, see me! My friend, I have a special place for you, come talk to me! Hello, where you going, where you staying?”
Ridiculous. We tucked into a place around the corner showing vacant locations on some of the less popular spots of the island.
We went with a bungalow for 600 B ($18) a night on Runtee Beach. We got a water taxi, with two German girls to our secluded little beach just 15 minutes around the point. Everything about it was what we were looking for in a beach getaway holiday. A smaller and Thai version of Billy Bones in the B.V.I.
Arriving at Koh Phi Phi.
Unfortunately, right off the bat I had a ‘stupid tourist’ moment. I’d been aching for the toilet the entire ferry ride and there was no bathroom available until we got to Runtee. Without hesitating, I used the one attached to our bungalow. Only once I finished, I had a real problem. There was no handle, no button to push, no string to pull… no way of flushing. Panic.
I’m mortified to admit that I had to ask for help. With our language barrier, one of the girls on staff came in to see what was wrong. So, remember in Kuala Lumpur, the bathroom with the bucket detail? I now know what it’s for, as she filled the bucket up under the tap and tossed it into the bowl. Ughh, I’m an idiot.
I insisted she take what beer Jack and I had bought earlier, finally they’d been accepted! (I’d want a drink after dealing with someone’s shit as well…) Moments later we could hear laughter coming from the staff hut. Awesome.
It didn’t take us long to put our stuff down, get our feet in the water and check out the little restaurant. Sucking down a coconut smoothie, one of the German girls we’d seen on the taxi boat came up to us with a proposition. She’d been trying to organize the next morning, to get out with one of the drivers and get a tour of the island, but they needed two more people to make it worth their while. We agreed, and set our alarms to leave the next morning by 9 am for a day around the islands with a local, Momo.
By 10 am the next morning, you’d never guess where we were – face down in the South Pacific, looking for sharks. Incredible. We drove over to Shark Point, dropped anchor and jumped in to see if we could spot leopard sharks. Jack spotted one and I saw a few, having gone wayward into the deeper water. After about 30 mins we swam back to the boat.
Not fazed by the wetter weather, we moved on to Monkey Beach to wait until the winds had calmed a bit before steering around the other side of the island. Monkey Beach, as the name suggests has monkeys. Tourists were everywhere unfortunately, unloading themselves in herds off their cruise-liners, drinking and philandering like idiots. (It’s no wonder we’re hated).
We kept away from the idiots, being the only ones who seemed to acknowledge the obscene amount of garbage on the shore. It was when we saw one monkey drinking a bottle of coke, another getting teased with bananas and all of them laughing about it, that we’d seen enough.
We told Momo we wanted to come back to clean it up, he went to the boat and grabbed a garbage bag. As we started weeding through them picking up the bottles, we noticed lots of the cans we were picking up had just been opened. Idiots!
The boatloads started to pull away with their demented bunch as we combed through the beach filling 3-4 garbage bags, unable to take more back. There was still a lot to pick up, but we had nowhere to keep it and would have been there all day.
Crossing the ocean in those weather conditions, in our longtail boat was hilarious. All of us drenched, loving every drop and swoon of the ocean. We were easing our way through waves at least 2 m high, laughing all the way. As the rain came down, the ocean started to calm as we came in behind Phi Phi Le’s nearest point.
We drove up to get a glimpse of Viking Cave. A place off-limits to tourists to step foot on, where a select few people dedicated their time to preserving various birds’ nests found there. We approached the tall and decayed limestone caves, with wonder all over our faces. Jaw dropping beauty was all around us as the rain continued to come thundering down.
Our next stop was a quiet little cove on the other side of Maya Bay. The famous spot for the scenes in the movie, ‘The Beach’. Winds were rapidly turning people away from getting to it, so we kept where we were to enjoy another snorkel session. This time around was incredible, the fish were everywhere! We were literally in the middle of several schools of different fish, feeling their fins ever so slightly when we jerked around to see the all. The brightly coloured rainbow fish did all it could to stay away from the camera, but with both Jack and I trying for it, I think we captured at least one. The others, I don’t know the name for. But the girls along with Momo, tossed in small bits of bread for them to eat, often right near my face and I got fin-slapped a couple of times in the frenzy.
Jessica (the girl who’d organized the day), had a cut on her foot and was told not to get it wet. She made it all happen, then participated from the inside of the boat as Jack and I relished in another day we had not planned for.
It was now time for lunch. We pulled up on a smaller beach and ate our fried noodles and bananas letting the sun sink in.
Momo told us a story about his pets, I’ll never forget. His cat had just had kittens, 7 kittens in the litter. He also had a pet python. He said the python went missing for two days before he found him coiled up underneath a part of his house, belly full. Bye, bye kitties. He said it was hard for him to stay mad, because it’s the ‘circle of life’ but decided that he’d set the python off on the other side of the mountain. The next day he had to run some errands down in town and wouldn’t be back to deal with his snake until later. When he did return, a neighbouring woman told him she’d killed him, but kept the skin for him. This poor guy, telling us this all the while saying, ‘what can you do?’
When we got back, we were beat. A shower and a lay down, interrupted by a bat fluttering itself in and out of our room. I squealed and jumped down the flight of stairs to our room until Jack assured me it had flown out the bathroom. There was no way I’d get to sleep that night and I gave up all attempts for a nap.
We had dinner that night with the girls we’d met Bianca, Jessica and Nono, the chef at the restaurant next door to our resort. Nono, means ‘lovely man’ in Thai and it certainly suits him. As we looked over the menu he offered to show us through his kitchen where we watched him cook our meals, as he taught us how everything was prepared.
After eating, we sat around and chatted with Bianca and Jessica for some time, sharing our day, differences and experiences. Nono came out and sat with us after a while and chatted about himself and some of his own experiences. We made sure to mention how amazing the day had been and how much we enjoyed exploring with Momo. He is obviously fond of him, as he lit up and said, ‘Momo has a good heart’. We looked across the room to see Momo playing with a small kitten. Nono then told us the story of his python…
It was such an amazing day, followed by an equally amazing night.
The next morning we caught 2 ferries over to Koh Phi Phi, with a hotel pick up on the other side waiting for us. When we first got here the front desk woman told us there was a scooter included with our reservation. It wasn’t until the next day that we used to to tour through and around, and around, and around Krabi. With a left here and there, a right turn and maybe another left up the road, who knows where we went wrong?!
Several hours of sightseeing, followed by a case of oh fuck, we’re really lost. The scooter started to shiver and rattle at one point, right before it ran out of gas. Thankfully we weren’t far from a gas station. A woman passing us, pointed up ahead, ‘fuel!’ Awesome. We only had 20 B between us, but figured it’d get us back. The man tending to us insisted we put in at least 50 B. We didn’t have it. He and another customer started pointing at us, discussing where we had to get to and had a good laugh.
We took a familiar turn, passed a water tank we’d seen at least 5 times before and pulled into a tourism office to ask for help. A man sitting behind the desk had a name tag on, Pingpong. Pingpong told us to keep going in the same direction, make a left at the private school, head down a small road on its side, then not the first right but 3 km after it, the next one. Okay… Somehow, we actually made it back to Baan Suan.
We are now on news watch as the tropical storms have destructed much of Northern and Northeastern Thailand, taking parts of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia by surprise as well. At this point, the world of options is yet again at our feet and we must decide what we’re going to do, as travelling through the spots we wanted to see isn’t permitted anymore and time is passing quickly.