After around a month of exploring all that Thailand has to offer (besides their amazing Pad Thai dishes), I have loved every minute exploring the different picturesque islands. Before heading to our first island, Krabi we experienced a little bit of Bangkok.
Bangkok might be my least favorite city that I have ever visited and I don’t plan to go back unless it’s for a layover. I say this because as soon as we arrived, I noticed that it had a similar atmosphere of New York City but that it was 10x filthier and 10x more crowded with absolutely no street laws or sense of structure. After getting a good nights sleep and a cold morning shower, Sarah and I decided to explore the town before we were supposed to head to Koh Tao for the January full moon party. After only walking a couple blocks around Khao San Road I noticed how absolutely disgusting this city was and how the people didn’t have any respect for personal space or how to clean up after themselves. The smell alone could make anyone turn green. I could only describe the smell as a mix of rotten chicken and sewage. I learned within 15 minutes of walking that I had a very sensitive nose and ended up running into an alley to upchuck my dinner from the night before. Fortunately, a nice Thai lady gave me a plastic bag in case my stomach started acting up again on the way back to the hostel. I knew right then and there that I needed to get out of Bangkok immediately.
By lunchtime, Sarah and I had booked a flight to Krabi, Thailand (because of the monsoon that happened 2 days before we landed in Bangkok, our transportation to Koh Tao to attend the full moon party was canceled due to flooding so we chose the next best island). Krabi was a quick hour flight from Bangkok and is known for their limestone cliffs, mangrove forests and a ton of smaller islands that you can take Longtail boats to. As soon as we landed I felt 1000x better breathing in fresh island air and smelling the natural breeze. We had three days to ourselves before Sarah’s friends were planning to meet up with us, so we decided to relax and enjoy the Ao Nang beach for the first day which was exactly what I needed after the torturous 12 hours in Bangkok. While Sarah was laying down enjoying the nice sunshine, I decided to walk up the coast and explore the different small beaches around Ao Nang and found a couple cool spots to take some pictures and enjoy the gorgeous landscapes in the horizon.
The next day, while dropping off my laundry we met two guys from South Africa who gave us some amazing recommendations for places to see in the spring. After sharing a nice breakfast with them, we decided to take a longtail boat to Railey Beach and go kayaking. For those who are not aware, Railey Beach is a worldwide known spot for rock climbing with some of the most difficult scrambles in the world. Once we arrived at Railey Beach, we decided to explore the small island a bit, grab a smoothie and admire the rock climbers (pictured below). After watching the rock climbers scramble up the cliffs for 30 minutes I was in utter shock with how much effort it took them to get 20/30 feet up the mountains. All of the climbers who went up were absolutely drenched in sweat from head to toe and I started to think why one would do Crossfit rather than just rock climb (where you are working all your muscles and gaining incredible views). After feeling bad about myself and the lack of exercise I have done thus far, Sarah and I rented a kayak for two hours and started our expedition on the Andaman Sea where we passed Ko Rang Nok and Ko Nang before arriving at Princess Cave. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy under the water to snorkel so we made our way back. While kayaking we were absolutely mesmerized by the views surrounding us, the luminous water and the different limestone islands. After around 2 hours of exerting all our energy, we arrived back to Railey Beach and spent the rest of the day laying out, reading my kindle and feeling blessed for another amazing opportunity.
After an exhausting day at Railey Beach, I called it a night while Sarah decided to explore the bars downtown with a couple of hostel mates. While I was relaxing, I met one of our bunkmates, Seth who was from North Carolina but decided to travel to Australia and Hong Kong for the last year to teach rock climbing and lead high school group explorations and trekking adventures. I mentioned a hike that I wanted to go on the next morning to Seth and he said he would love to accompany me. Waking up bright and early the next morning, Seth and I rented a moped and cruised to Tab Kak-Hang Nak Hill Nature Trail (approx. 45 minutes away from Ao Nang Beach) early to try and beat the afternoon sun. While most tourists mentioned this hike would take 2-4 hours to complete, Seth and I completed it in an hour and a half mainly because he was running up the damn hill and I was panting while trying to keep up behind him and not die from am an asthma attack. I realized that day I was completely out of shape and needed to start working out more often. When we got to the top the views were absolutely astounding. Once you reach the viewpoint, you have a 360 view of the Andaman Sea between Krabi and Phuket. When we walked to the other side we could see Railey Beach and Ao Nang beach. After I caught my breath, found some crazy Golden Orb spiders and took some amazing pictures of the views, we started the trek down. About 5 km’s before we got to the bottom, Seth halted to a complete stop and told me not to walk any further along the trail. This was because there was an 8 FOOT LONG BLACK COBRA in front of us on the trail just slithering along. To say I was terrified was an understatement. Luckily he noticed it on the trail and neither one of us stepped on it. After it slithered away, he said that he’s only ever seen one of these Cobra’s before on one of his Treks in Hong Kong and that if they decide to attack you and bite you, their venom is extremely poisonous and can kill you if you don’t get your wound treated within a couple hours. After hopping on the moped and returning to Ao Nang beach, I met Sarah and her friends on Railey beach to enjoy the relaxation for the rest of the days and count my lucky stars that I was alive and not entangled with an 8 ft Cobra.
The next day, Sarah, Emily and her two friends from New York who were visiting, hoped on a morning ferry to Phi Phi Island which was around 2 hours away.
Fun Facts about Phi Phi Island:
- The name Phi Phi (pronounced ‘pee pee’) originates from Malay, the original name for the islands were ‘Pulao Pi ah Pi’. The name refers to the mangrove wood found there. (Side note: Phuket is pronounced ‘poo-ket’)
- Phi Phi is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies or Chao Ley
- Phi Phi Island has absolutely no motorized transport, yes that means we had to walk everywhere but we still got hassled on the street by “tuk tuk boat” drivers
- This area is one of the oldest communities in Thailand dating back to the prehistoric period. It is believed that this province may have taken its name after the meaning of Krabi, which means sword. This may have stemmed from a legend that an ancient sword was unearthed prior to the city’s founding
- Phi Phi Islands is also a world-class destination for rock climbing. There are over 600 routes in the area.
- There can be as many as 10,000 visitors a day to Phi Phi Island during peak months and even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, Phi Phi Island is probably the size of 5 blocks in NYC….very small
- “The Beach” starring Leonardo di Caprio was filmed on Phi Phi Island
Sarah and I only spent around 24 hours on Phi Phi Island but within that small amount of time, we enjoyed relaxing on the beach with buckets of Margarita’s, a pool party at Ibiza (this pool party had nothing on the Vegas pool parties that I have attended), a night out, an absolutely dreadful sleep and a gorgeous morning hike. Phi Phi Island is known for their nightlife and unfortunately, my stomach was not ready to handle that just yet so I went home early thinking I would get some much-needed rest before heading to Phuket but oh boy was I was wrong. The hostel living situation is not as glamorous as some people may think. While sharing a room with 10 other people someone is bound to come home too intoxicated for their own good or have food poisoning. Well luckily for Sarah and I we had 2 drunks in our room who projectile vomited for 8 hours straight. While the one was resting and getting his stomach ready for another round of puking, the other one was puking. I may have gotten 30 minutes of uninterrupted sleep that night and to say I was ready to get to the Marriott Beach Club in Phuket was an understatement. Before catching the next ferry to Phuket at 11 am, Carly, Krista and I hiked up the Phi Phi mountain to capture another breathtaking view of the island (pictured below). Although I only spent 24 hours on Phi Phi Island, it was more than enough for me.
As we arrived in Phuket with dark bags under our eyes, I have never been happier to look forward to a HOT shower and a nice big bed with lots of pillows and no ants. I would like to send a BIG and SPECIAL shout out and THANK YOU to NANCY PASCUZZI for allowing Sarah and I to use one of your weeks at the Marriott! This was greatly appreciated and allowed us to refocus our energy and rest peacefully for a week. This was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries after a month and a half of hostel living. I decided to dedicate this week to recharge my batteries, read a couple books poolside and workout at the Marriott gym. We enjoyed cooking our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners while exploring the island of Phuket. The main highlights of this week were watching the planes land and take off from Phuket International Airport, bike riding to Sirat National Park and wandering around Bangla Road.
Last but not least it was time for me to depart for Koh Tao to get my Open Water PADI certification. I was absolutely stoked to go scuba diving for the first time and start to incorporate this new sport into my life and hopefully into this journey while visiting different countries. As many people know, Koh Tao is known for their ridiculously cheap prices to get PADI certified. While I was in Vegas at a convention this past summer, I met a guy who highly recommended Ban’s Diving Resort. After searching around, his recommendation was on par with everyone else’s and I found out that Ban’s was indeed the #2 diving center in the world right under a dive center at the Great Barrier Reef.
On August 20, 2011 PADI President Drew Richardson, awarded Ban’s Diving Resort in recognition for their achievement of 100,000 student certification. With only 2 dive centers worldwide being able to achieve this feat, Ban’s Diving Resort was able to attain this milestone in record time.
Luckily for my 4 day PADI class that included 3 days of classroom sessions and 4 dives to perfect my underwater and surface skills, I was fortunate to have a one on one session with my teacher, Richard Walker. Although I felt a bit under the weather when I arrived, I got through the classes and dives with ease. These 4 days were exceptionally long and exhausting but I loved every minute. During my first dive, my eyes were bulging out of my head trying to take in all the different fishes, coral and the life we never get to see underwater. After passing my final exam and all of the skills under and above the water I will receive my certification by mail in a couple weeks. I am now allowed to dive anywhere in the world by myself up to 18 meters/60 feet. Of course, the number one rule of scuba diving is to always dive with a friend….because you never know when your going to need to use their oxygen tank 😛 If you know of anyone who is PADI certified who wants to go diving anytime soon, let a sister know! While I had one late afternoon to myself after school, I decided to hike up to Fragile Rock to get a new perspective of Koh Tao and try to see what other islands that I could see in the distance. The hike was exceptional and it seemed like I was the only crazy person who would attempt the hike at 4pm with the sun beating on my back, but at least I burned more calories with the sweat dripping down!
The Islands that I visited in Thailand were exceptional and what really made me enjoy my time here. Unfortunately, I have to travel back to Bangkok for a night before Sarah and I head to Cambodia.
Next stop, Siem Reap, Cambodia! Will write about that crazy journey and the obstacles I faced shortly!
Observations of Southeast Asia so far:
In Bangkok –
- Crazy traffic jams between the morning rush hour and the afternoon rush hour times, can take you 2 hours to cross the city
- Smells very bad in some parts. This is mostly due to the rotten street food from the nights before or the fruit, Durian.
- Cheap flights to the local islands
- Very little english is spoken around the city. Very hard to interact with cab and tuk tuk drivers
- Name brand water is around 20 cents for a big bottle!
- There are posters of the deceased king who ruled Thailand for 70 years. Thailand is in a state of mourning for a year in which they pray and wear black and white clothing to show their respects for the king.
- If you talk ill about the deceased king you will be sent to jail
- Lots of SMOG in and around the city, hard to breathe.
- Street markets are everywhere that sell things from handmade purses to scorpions