Week three began with a rush of brilliant ideas of places to see and where we wanted to go, in fact it resulted in us moving just twenty kilometers up the road to Krabi town itself, however we did travel in style (well style for Thailand that is). A taxi, that I do not think was a taxi but rather just a family car that was used as a taxi, as the normal car that they would use was out! Bright pink, Mitsubishi, sub-woofer in the back, 'hello kitty' everywhere and a guy driving it... There are no words.
We arrived in Krabi town thanking our lucky stars that we caught the taxi and not the local bus that we were planning on catching, as the accommodation we had booked was in the middle of a field, down a hill, hidden beyond all hope of finding it without one of us having a melt down in the process. On arrival we were swamped by two lovey ladies, but all they wanted to do was sell us tours, perfect place if you wanted a tour holiday! We backed away slowly to our room, trying not to frighten them by not buying a tour straight up and hide for awhile to regroup, on emerging, we did actually book a tour. The whole point of going to Krabi town was to see some of the caves in the local area. The tour was a canoeing tour through mangroves to some caves. Tour booked for tomorrow, and the bombardment of questions 'what you do after that? what you do this afternoon? we book for you?' ............argh! Go away. With me frustrated I left before I blew my top and yelled across the room that I don't want a tour for everything!!
The afternoon was occupied by tiger cave temple. The tiger cave itself not so impressive, but we did make a donation to Buddha to keep us in the good books. The true highlight of tiger cave temple, and I think the main attraction, was the giant buddha sitting atop a hill. 1237 steps to get to him, doesn't sounds like a lot until you start climbing, will admit that after just 250 steps I was wondering if I really did want to climb the hill to see Buddha!!!????. The other thing is they trick you with the step size, only little to start with and then you are faced with monsters!!!!!!!!!!
Bec was entertained on the way up also by the monkeys... Ranger Bec!
As the step count became higher, I laughed as we meet a group of asians on their way down, making the same noises we were making on the climb up... Should down not be easier I remember thinking??
500 steps to go, over halfway, 250 and there is the monsoon that we have been watching roll over Krabi for the last 40 minutes. Finally we make the top, and I am a little disappointed initially when I see the huge amount of rubbish, however, although we had climbed 1237 steps we were not actually right to the top the shrine itself was further up, so on we climbed and were amazed by the view.
360 degree view over Krabi town and the area, you could see all the islands, ao nang, Klong maung, mountains, rivers, more monsoon moving in. It was spectacular, and buddha himself wasn't to bad either! Massive!
All I kept thinking about was how sorry I felt for the people that had to build him up there! As one expects the climb down was indeed not as bad as the climb up, only took 15 minutes, with legs of jelly we were rewarded at the bottom of the hill when oddly enough we were asked by some monks if they could take their picture with us... Strange but sure why not!
With some new 'Buddha' bracelets in toe and some sure found new luck on our side we head back into town with 'him' our tuk tuk driver who has been sitting at the bottom waiting for us the whole time to take us back. We are dropped at the markets with the plan of dinner and bed. We went for the stall with all the locals and asked if the food was spicy, 'no spicy' says the lady... Bet your arse it was spicy (that would be if we still had one, it got burnt off by the spicyness of the food!) We did not finish dinner that night but went to bed with somewhat unsatisfied stomachs that were burning!
Next morning we got up early and headed off for our cave tour...... ouch, ouch, oh, oh, i don't like Buddha :(.... (found some buddha muscles). There was only four of us on the tour, Bec and I and a lovely couple from Canada named Allen and Lyn. And of course Nana our tour guide (not NoNo he tells me, that's a girls name). Any northern newsouthwelsh man would have, like us resisted the urge to sing about banana's, nana's and nono's!!!!! ). We get in our canoes and off we go! This is easy, he sent us in the direction of the current, as we laze around and float downstream feet dragging in the water it is nice to chill!
We arrive at the first cave, not really a cave. The opening is cave like, and then you float into the massive lagoon. Surreal. And then comes the part where I don't like nana, the up stream paddle! Not cool, I hate buddha because my legs hurt and I know tomorrow I am going to hate nana because my arms and shoulders will hurt!
We make it upstream eventually and arrive at 'the big headed ghost cave'. The cave with paintings (all Bec really wanted to see I think). The paintings were a little surreal I thought, and I remember thinking, oh wow, and I wonder if these are really that old and were actually painted by the sea gypsy's or have they just recently been added to make a tourist attraction to the area... I think this train of thought came from how close you could get to the paintings... You could touch them if you wanted to, the entire cave would be chained off in Australia!
With a crippling stomach cramp somewhat rapidly passing, we moved onto the third and final cave, you float underneath this dark damp tunnel and are dripped on from above! (Bec.....it was really cool, not given justice with descriptions).
We head back to a floating restaurant for lunch, I am up and out of the boat and pacing in front of the bathroom for what seems like eternity, the first "Bali belly" of the trip in an Asian style toilet (I have an inkling that it was the spicy food from last night because two episodes and it was all over!). Lunch was splendid, an absolute gourmet style lunch not even close to what you would normally get on an organized tour. The restaurant was also a working fish and oyster farm, Nana showed us the oysters on the string lines while we were paddling ( very interesting for a nerd like me, Bec). The tide came in so high while we had been paddling, what was mud when we arrived was now a salt water creature paradise! Lunch done and then off for a swim in a fresh water lagoon, Becs first live snake sighting swimming with us but gone so quickly it was hard to see!!!!
Arriving back in Krabi town we book another nights accommodation, given the fear of further Bali belly and head off for a walk around town. We find a festival 'celebrating 140 years of Krabi town', we learnt all about the region and what it produces, rubber, palm oil..... Felt like a fish out of water, we were the only foreigners there. But was worth it, as there was a production on the history of Krabi performed by I reckon at least 200 people, with traditional dance and all.
Dinner was had from multiple street stalls along the way, little packages of each....... I love street food!!!!!!!!
Our last day in Krabi was uneventful really, more street food, our first real supermarket shop, grumpy Lena as glucose levels depleted as a result of no lunch or breakfast until 1500. Sick bellies after a dinner consisting of solely chicken and pork, and a late night for Bec as she made friends over beers at the guesthouse.
Again sorry, not an exciting day today, we were on a bus for most of the day to Khao Sok National Park. Funny thing about Thailand they have their own schedule and timetable, the bus was meant to be direct to khao sok taking a total of 3 hours, 5 hours later we arrived at Khao Sok after a round-about trip, there was not enough people for a direct trip so we went via Phuket! Long way out of the way if you know anything about the geography of Thailand. So with one bored Lena and a sick Bec we arrived at our guesthouse only to be told the room we booked was not available. We had been given an 'upgrade' to the family suite... The whole reason we booked was to stay in a tree house, and we ended up on the terra firma, in a damp room with no hot water! Not happy Jan! But what are we to do, so we stick with the program, I sit in reception/restaurant for awhile and Bec has a snooze... 2nd Ondansetron gone from the first aid kit!
The surrounds however easily make up for all the misadventure so far, there are shear cliff faces rising out of nowhere, mountains covered with spectacular greenery, sunsets with colours of splendid pinks & purples and fresh air... Mountain air.
As well as a surprising lack of tourist arounds the area. Dinner was I believe the best so far in Thailand, If you ever head to khao sok go to Thai herb restaurant, get the curries or the soups ..........MmmmmmmmmmmMmmm!!
We decided that we would do one of the big walks, try make it to one of the bigger waterfalls. We were hopeful we could do the one that to reach you must wade along the river for 1km. All hopes dashed as we reached the information centre for the national park, 'no no no, you are only able to walk to the first three waterfall, rainy season'. Damn you rainy season!!!! No big waterfalls today. (another note if people ever make it to Khao Sok, head there in dry season, there will be more tourist but you will actually be able to walk past the danger do not enter between May 1 and October 31st sign and reach the good waterfalls). Because the first three are more like rapids down a river than a waterfall and the track you walk is a fire trail there is only minimal wildlife those of which included leeches, lots of leeches!
Waterfall? I think not....
When we get back we wander down to 'monkey swimming hole', there is a rock under the water that is covered in stream sludge and Lena has an absolute ball sliding down it on her feet.Time and time again she does this ending in giggles and a big splash as she falls into the river, very funny to watch!!!!!
The only upright picture i could get, she slid down so many times and giggled every time!!!!!
Now for the real Khao Sok. We booked a tour to Cheow Lan Lake created by the damming of the 9 rivers in the region for hydroelectricity in 1982. Both words or photos do not do this place justice. The water is sparkling blue/turquoise, the krasts (cliffs formed over millions of years from limestone) shoot up out of the water all around - the biggest of which is over 900m tall with jungle attached haphazardly to the sides of the cliffs.
A long tail boat to cruise around the lake, not a worry in the world!
And the best part is we get to stay here for a night! This is my favorite spot in Thailand, no doubt about it! As we cruise up to our digs for the night the smile on my face widens even more.... No modern age raft house designed with the tourist in mind but instead raft houses made of bamboo weaving, mostly thatched roofs and a walkway that seems to be in urgent need of replacement with the number of repairs that it has clearly had. Perfect!!!
As we are allocated our raft house I am in the door, stripped and in my bikini before Bec can even say anything... Time for sitting is time for swimming and we have an hour before lunch! Time for swimming, people are jumping in either side of us must be an ok depth. In I jump straight off the walkway at our front door. The water is like bath water with refreshing patches of cold water scattered around. Float, swim, paddle, who cares... Incredible!
Please dont tell dora, my hair is NOT rangga!!!! Shut up nobby!!! Its the light!!!!!! (Lena........whatever!)
During lunch we are told the depth of the lake is 80m's at the moment and yet both Becs and my heart skip a few beats when we see someone climbing a giant tree stump sticking up from the middle of the lake. With our breath held the guy finally surfaces and we breath again... To me probably the nurse in me, thinks one tree stump probably means lots of tree stumps nearby. Argh, damn you emergency nurse training. No cave trip this arvo like planned too much rain so an afternoon of relaxing by the "pool" is in order. Big bloody pool, 165sq km's big!
We head out for paddle only to hit a dead end and have to turn around and come back. We paddle a bit further and ranger Bec discovers a family of monkey's in the trees! Very exciting. And here comes the rain again as we paddle back to camp we get soaked (lucky swim wear is already insitu).
I dangle both my hands and feet over the side of the kayak to warm them up, rain = cold, lake = warm! Boats tied to jetty = Bec and Lena back in the water to swim 'home' to warm up. Eventually once I am a prune, I emerge from the water, get dressed and we head out on our afternoon boat safari! Safari I see you read... Wildlife... And here is Bec!
Could not be happier as we are first in the boat, prime spots up the back near 'Aie' our guide and driver. As Aie navigates us around the edges of the dam, carefully missing the partially submerged trees (ghostly remnants of this one beautiful gully area) he spots some subtle movement in the bamboo patches and speeds the boat over to the spot. The engine shut off just as we get near, Aie quietly says "monkey" and points to the bamboo, a family of langurs are bouncing with such agility through the supple stalks. If the lake house made Lena smile, should have seen my face then!!! I have no idea how he managed to spot them so far away so I am determined to learn his tricks, it looks easy enough. With a little careful observation I have worked out that the bamboo moves differently with animals moving through it, slightly different to when wind blows it. Just look for patches that are moving but independent of the rest and you should see all kinds of animals.
During the next hour or so we spot wild pig, hornbill, eagle, langur, long tail makac (not sure how to spell it but a different species of primate "monkey") and the best bit an otter who scooted under water with the slightest noise. (Lena just asked me did i think the otter was really the best bit, while the monkeys were fantastic otters are very shy creatures and seeing one in the wild is rare so thus my favor). Aie was great, he knew where everything would be and went above and beyond to make sure we caught a glimpse of these amazing creatures!!!
Back to the raft houses and a feast is provided for dinner, curry, deep fried fish, tempura veggies, soup and rice. The tourists ate and washed down dinner with local hong tong whiskey and beer while the national park rangers and crew played cards and laughed. We had a night safari after dinner that while there were not so many animals was nothing short of amazing from a nautical navigational point of view! These guys would drive the boat in the dark missing every tree, piece of flotsam & jetsam floating by and still manage to man the spot light combing the forest for animals. Some of the other tourists had drunk more than enough cheap whiskey to prove a challenge and had difficulty keeping quiet, with Aie making noises like a librarian on excursion day!! At one point the engine stopped and the guy at the back had to get Aie to come help him start it again, those few tense moments hushed a the drunkards for a few minutes!!
I struck up a conversation with our guide and learned that he was only 26 and had been doing this for 14 years, no wonder he knew his way around!! Aie went out of his way to make sure I got some really great shots and saw some cool animals, cheers Aie!!
When we got back to the raft house both Lena and I were a bit like old nanna's and headed off to bed
leaving the drunks to their drinking. The lights were meant to go off at 10 and after a little more grace the lights flickered and went out only for us to hear a splash!
Yep you guessed it people had decided to go swimming after all that booze, I got up to look out and it was pitch black. I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face so buggered if I knew how they planned to get out onto that rickety old bamboo path, oh well we will know when they do a head count in the morning!! Good night to the sounds of nocturnal animals and gentle rocking of our raft house!!
The next morning was an early morning boat safari that was not so early morning as most of the drunks from the night before were a little worse for wear and running late!
A cruise around for a while seeing more animals and then back to have a brekkie of banana pancakes and coffee. There are these really cute little bees that are much like the native bees of Australia, no sting and smaller than a fly. The bees are all hanging out on the honey flavored syrup bottle, a funny sight to see not sure if they are enjoying it or as was in my mind ............ One bee says to another 'can you believe this crap they are calling honey, I mean really what an insult' second bee replies ' yeah tell me about it, I have a good mind to fly into their drink just in disgust'. The things you think about when traveling!!!!!
Brekkie done and we are off for our jungle trek and cave adventure. We are advised not to take anything that can't get wet and Aie asks Lena about her bag to which we both in our minds think he means is it able to get a little damp........ The long tail boat ferries us off to around where Lena and I had paddled to our supposed dead end and we all jump out following Aie along the ridge line. I am sure this man must be part mountain goat, the track is tiny and slippery with loads of mud and loose rocks. Aie does it in bare feet and those who wore thongs quickly work out it isn't going to work for them. We were hooking along and hear a scream/yell only to turn and see this Irish guy who was so hung over he missed the morning safari down the bottom of the hill at the river edge up to his knees sunk in mud.
We all roll around laughing as he is well stuck and can't get out, very very funny and now we know the reason we are taking the goat track!!!! (and still we are laughing looking back on the photo now)!!!
The jungle here is beautiful, we cross loads of small streams and see some beautiful plants. As we walk Aie stopped dead in his tracks and points out a great big lizard thing, it looks like a goanna and about the same size. I want to get closer to have a look but Aie tells me that this lizard is as poisonous as a cobra, ok then I don't want a closer look! Aie calls the other guide and they have a long discussion on the course of action and I have to admit that I was so very pleased to see that instead of like most young men they didn't try scare it away and we were taken the long way round to give the lizard loads of space. I found out later on that the lizard is not actually poisonous but has something in its saliva similar to the kamodo dragon and this is what can make you sick (mental note to find out more later on).
When we got to the cave a good two hours later one of the others (a Swiss girl) says to Lena and I that she has slight claustrophobia and did we think the cave got small?? Seriously, now you want to ask that????!!!!!!! We tell her to ask the other guide, who says 'no big whole way' little did she know at that stage that he was only saying that because they couldn't do the cave with one guide and she couldn't find her own way to the other side! Oh remember about the question of wet stuff, well Aie tells us that we are going to go in water deeper than our heads so we best put things in the dry sack!!! We stuff the camera and other things that couldn't get wet, I take the wet bag and Lena takes the back pack oh well it will dry we think...............
The cave is dark and really wet,
we saw loads of bats and got to go through the way the river flows when it floods. Pretty glad we had such experienced guides, there were deep pools, tiny gaps to maneuver and slippery streams all around!! The cave formations were great, some really pretty flow stone and stalactites/mites. At one point the group got separated as I am sure the Swiss and a few others were pushing Aie along to get out.
Yes it was the right way up!!! At least it felt that way when i pushed the button!!!!
We stayed with a couple of Canadians as one had a dying light and really sore feet, the other guide followed up the rear so we were pretty ok. It was difficult to carry the gear and we were doing a good job of keeping it dry I remember thinking as I stepped into what looked like a shallow pool and my head disappearing under the water!!!!!
There was mud and water from a-hole to b-hole when we reached the end but also grins from ear to ear! Had we had the opportunity to go again swimmers and nothing else is on the list!!! As for the Swiss girl everywhere in the cave I kept seeing little stacks of rocks, I am sure this was her way of keeping her claustrophobia under wraps..... Fool!!!!
Another walk back through the jungle,
over the river bank edge like goats, on our long tail and we are heading back for some lunch. There are new groups of people arriving when we get back, a couple of people give us a strange look as we step off our boat dirty and wet little did they know what their cave adventure entailed!!!! I was a little worried as there were some really little kids pushing off in the boat but the guides tell us they don't do the whole cave so we all smile and giggle as the clean dry boat load wave as they leave!!!!!!!! Lena and I are convinced that the guides fail to properly warn you on purpose for a few laughs and we kind of agree, we looked funny thinking back. Another amazing meal for lunch some more swimming and then sadly we are all put back on our boat to head home. I am sure Lena will agree that neither of us wanted to go and could both have stayed much longer, oh well a big possibility that we will come back here again!!
The car ride home was more quiet as the group seemed tired and hung over, we chatted to Aie most of the way and I finally learned about the palm oil and rubber trees, very interesting stuff! As the last two to be dropped off we see a really nice Audi driving around and we talk about such an expensive car in the national park to which Aie says its from the city and they like driving the windy roads, he then says about how he owns a Ferrari to which we both think he is joking but no he does indeed have a red Ferrari that due to the weather has only been able to drive twice this month! Lena and I also find out that he owns the long tail boat and is a very well off young man, you would never know to look at him or even to talk to him so down to earth and chilled. We are both shocked and amused that he has that at 26 and in our jobs we will never be able to achieve that, time for a career change I could be a guide?!
When we get back we find we are able to have one of the bungalows on stilts and Lena has a grin from ear to ear, like a kid in a sweet shop!! After another cold shower a home made dinner of tuna, mayo and seaweed sandwiches on our tree house deck and then off to bed in our little house on stilts, did we mention the fire flies yet?? There are so many fire flies here and they are just beautiful. The last time I saw fire flies was in nightcap national park with mum a long time ago, very happy to see them again! Each one has it's own little sequence and intensity with its flashing, I can't remember if it is so their mate can find them or if it's to attract a mate, I think the best on may attract a mate maybe?!
It's an early rise for us as I want to go get a fabric badge from the national park shop. We leave without the camera thinking it will only be a quick trip and won't see much, big mistake! The one day without the camera and we see so much! There is a monkey stealing a coconut from one of the riverside bars, a squirrel running on the power line just over our head, butterflies and Lena remembers she didn't get a picture of the national park sign. Badge brought and we rush back the 1 km or so to get the camera, a total of 4 trips up and back twice we walk at a rapid pace so as not to be late for the local bus and the take home note is bring your camera always!!!
We are dropped at the side of the road and assured that there will be a local bus and they will know to stop, just not sure of the time as they run near enough to not spot on the time!!!! We are a source of amusement for the local minivan drivers as we sit and wait, they will take us they say but cost more so we keep waiting.
Waiting waiting waiting.
Seeing what they do with power-lines, we still like the bamboo idea, less conductivity.
Our patience and persistence pays of as a brightly colored double decker grinds to a halt near us, yay us!
We are on our way to Surat thani so Lena can fulfill her wish of catching the train to Bangkok. The info we had was the train was near the bus station so we cruise in to town only to find that this is not the case and we have to go back to the next town over. A guy tells us that he will drive us there for 20 baht each the only catch is we have to wait about an hour. Reluctantly I agree and we are shown to a lounge and told we can go eat or use the Internet cafe around the corner "leave bags, no problem we watch for you" no way was I leaving anything so Lena waits while the girl shows me to a train booking station. I ask about the train and get two maps on the way back which makes the bus people a little nervous. When I get back I find the guy had tried to convince Lena to leave the bags, obviously she didn't. We wait for well over the hour with them asking many times why not go by aircon mini van, much cheaper and faster they tell us. I explain that we want to do the train and eventually the guy says something to the girl in thai and she walks us up the street to what she tells me is the bus to the train! She palms me our 40 baht and disappears well before we can ask the driver where the bus goes, only to find out not the train. It was a dump and run, obviously after they worked out we were neither going to catch a minivan or leave our gear unattended.......arse holes!!!!!
By this stage I was dirty as stink about the whole thing and stomped into the booking station and very matter of fact asked about how to get to the train. A young girl told me the bus out the back and in view of the last ordeal I made her walk us to it and make sure. The bus was less than 20 baht for both of us and there was one that could of taken us when we first got off the double decker, I don't like Surat thani I decide and am most glad when we get to the train station. Ticket booked and food in our bellies our moods improve a little, Lena more and more excited by the train prospect. She made dibs for the top bunk quickly and as she was so excited how could I deny her! Over to Lena to fill you in on the train ride to Bangkok .... (so we were on a boat up the Mekong in Lao PDR when Bec wrote that, we are now atop a mountain in chiang rai, Thailand, waiting for our bamboo rice to cook... More to come on that journey in week 6).
The train ride from Surat Thani to Bangkok, seemed like a good way to travel, more expensive than a minibus, but more comfortable. And way less carbon emissions than flying, who are we to add to a carbon footprint. Plus the train just seemed like a super fun way to travel, kind of like being a little kid on a school excursion, but without the supervision. We waited for what seemed like ages for the train to arrive... Was running on Thai time. On board at last, we found our seats
The little yellow guy is making the journey with us... Meet squeaky dream!
(Bec....not my choice of name, that happened with Lena in a big bath after a bad day!!).
and tucked our packs into their beds for the night, strapped down so as to not fall and knock some poor unsuspecting person out. Of course I offered to take the top bunk,
I wanted Bec to be comfortable on the bigger bottom bunk. Disadvantage one. Disadvantage two... No window. Disadvantage three... Freezing cold. And disadvantage four... Lights on all night = Luna park to sleep in (at least I have found something that night shift has been good for). Our beds are made by a assistant who comes through the carriage, and like the speed of light our seats have gone and beds have appeared. Drifting off to sleep with the clickety clack of the train wheels, and the gentle rock from side to side!
Week three over... And you were all worried that we wouldn't make it through with the creepy crawlies, deadly animals and death defying caves... Well? Limbs intact, creatures conquered and caves defied! And a bloody good time had by all. (apparently that is 'Aussie bogan' !?!) pffft... What ever we had fun!!!!)
Week four in progress as we speak... 'Oh fuck' is all Bec has to say about that one!!!!!!! (here I was thinking we caught up and smack there goes my arse hole right past my face, playing catchup again!!!!!!!!! Sorry guys!)
Wander Which Way Girls