Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our vacation from vacation in Thailand

Well, we already have made it to Cambodia and have not posted anything during our 2 week stay in Thailand. So, we are catching up now.

We did succeed in meeting up with Kelly in Kuala Lumpur. What an adventure! After considering the option of going to Cambodia instead of Thailand because of the unrests there, we decided to stick to our original plan and go to Krabi in south of Thailand. We waited two days for the next available flight. We figured if there were no seats on the plane, then it must be safe to travel there ;) Right?!
During those two days in Kuala Lumpur we walked around a little bit, ate some yummy food and spent many hours at the hotel spa, enjoying a one hour foot massage, followed by a body massage. Oh, how happy our bodies were to be pampered like that after Indian dust and dirt.

The flight to Krabi, Thailand was uneventful, except the rain that awaited us there. It took us five days total to get there from Kolkata, and then it rained!!! How fair is that?

Likely it didn't last long and the very next day we all got mega sunburned on the beach, especially Hana's back and Kelly's behind (picture available only with Kelly's permission...:)
Our initial plan was to stay five nights in Railay (peninsula near Krabi) and then go someplace else, but we were exhausted from all the trouble of getting there that we decided to stay there the entire 10 days.
The first five nights we stayed at the Diamond Private Resort and we did not like it for many reasons. The good thing was the terrace of our bungalow with a great view of the East Railay Bay. Then we moved to Sunrise Tropical Resort, a very nice place with the best breakfast ever.
Miko and I really relaxed here doing very close to nothing while Kelly signed up for a 3 day diving certificate. We went on little hikes in the surrounding hills, chilled out on the beach, went kayaking - and got rained on but it was still very beautiful, hiding under big rocks listening to the sound of the rain hitting the ocean. We also had a great day rock-climbing. Railay is a really good place to do that. And finally we did sunset snorkeling where Miko unfortunately cut his arm on some sharp rocks right before snorkeling the best spot of the day. He had to go back to the boat and luckily there was a German couple (both doctors) who took care of his arm.
Sunset is a good time to go snorkeling because all the fishes are looking for food at that hour. It was amazing watching schools of fishes everywhere and swimming through them. Everything I was seeing felt unreal; soft corrals in pink and purple, angel fishes, a big fish called Napoleon Rass, a poisonous Lion Fish and finally a very large fish with a small one on its back. Can't remember the name, porcupine something. It was truly mesmerising. So sorry for Miko missing out on it :(

Since our arrival in Thailand, Miko and I kept talking about India and comparing the two places. We must have gone on Kelly's nerves many, many times. (Sorry Kel)
Most of the things were incomparable to India and we experienced another culture shock (a reversed one if it makes sense). It was so much easier to move around in Thailand and to do things. It was also SO much cleaner and better smelling which we could not complain about. We stopped washing our hands before, during and after every meal and stopped being paranoid about what we eat or drink. We enjoyed food from the stalls and even ate sliced up fruit from them!
In the beginning we had mixed feelings about Railay because it was full of resorts and everything was catered toward tourists - the Westerners. In India we were in a completely different world, and here in Thailand it was too similar to home. But after a few days all those feelings disappeared and we completely relaxed and enjoyed being pampered. Can't resist luxury and modern life for too long ;)
It was not easy finding good Thai food in Railay. The menus were full of hamburgers and pizzas and the like that most of the young tourists were eating. The best green curry we had was one that Kelly made in her cooking class. Thanks Kel!
Our last night there, we were invited by a waitress of the "Rock" restaurant we frequented a lot (good Thai food) to her birthday party. It ended up being the only time we got to spend with the locals. Thanks Kelly again for making friends everywhere you go.

Then on December 11th, we said good bye to lovely Railay and to Kelly at the Krabi airport. She went back to SF via Kuala Lumpur and Japan (a small detour so she could enjoy Japanese food and spa one more time). Miko and I boarded the plane to Bangkok, planing on catching a train or a bus to the Cambodian border the same day.

I guess our vacation (from vacation) in Railay was really relaxing because after we were totally unprepared for what was coming next. Initially we wanted to go straight to Cambodia from Bangkok but somehow along the way the idea of going up to Chiang Mai in North Thailand started coming up. It turned into a big dilemma - Do we go to Cambodia first and then explore Laos from South to North, finishing in North Thailand? Or do we go to Chiang Mai and take the more traveled route of going North to South Laos, finishing in Cambodia?
Stupid dilemma when you think of it, but when you are on a big trip like this it seamed as one of the most important decisions of our life. Completely stupid (says Miko). Railay fried our brains and we could not think. We lost our traveling mojo. We tried to decide at the airport what to do, then moved to the bus station, and finally to the train station. By that point it was already dark, the day had gone by and we were exhausted (Partying the night before did not help). We spent a night in a hotel next to the train station unable to think or move anymore. Still undecided...
Finally in the morning we decided to stick to our original plan and go to Cambodia. Then we enjoyed Bangkok a little and walked around. Our favorite part was Chinatown where we found this narrow street packed with rows and rows of shops & merchandise of any kind, block after block. There was barely any room to walk in between, and you could find anything you wanted there, useful and useless. Including some yummy food and fresh squeezed fruit juices that we could not stop sampling.

Something else happened on our one and a half day stop in Bangkok which again proved that the past two weeks really softened us. We were not alert travelers anymore but complete beginners. We almost had two scams pulled on us in one day. On our way to Chinatown, a very nice middle aged guy approached us and presented himself as a teacher. He was friendly curious about our visit to Thailand and suggested that we travel up North next and then take a slow boat to Laos. He gave us a name of the "government approved" travel agency who could arrange everything. He even helped us get a rickshaw to take us there. Luckily we did not like the package they were trying to sell us at the agency and we left.
Later that day, in a completely different part of Bangkok, another man approached us and appeared very friendly. He was also a teacher! And again he offered "useful" information, pushing us to take a boat and visit some sights free only that day for tourists, away from the temple we were planing on visiting saying that it was closed already . Somehow, this time we were more suspicious and did not let him get us in a rickshaw. Instead we went to the temple which was actually open. Another liar and cheater. That's when Miko figured out that the older guy from that morning was part of another scam. We were so naive again, worse than in India. But at least we did not fall for it.

The next morning we bought train tickets to Aranyaprathet (Thai town near Cambodian border) which cost 48 Baht and then we payed 55 baht for a cup of coffee!
We boarded the train to our next adventure - Cambodia. Back on the road again!