Day 68-70 – Krabi 22nd-24th Nov 2011

22nd November 2011

So, here we are in Thailand. The weather is not great, but the heavy rains of yesterday seemed to have petered out and although the skies are grey, with the odd patch of blue, the watery weeping of the skies have ceased for now. Breakfast was taken at a café just across the road from the hotel – English breakfast with proper bacon :o) Afterwards we retired back to the hotel room to check the weather forecast – is there any point in going to Koh Lanta to lay on the beach if the sun is going to be markedly absent? Would it be better to head to Chiang Mai where the sun is shining?

Checking out flights, trains, buses etc soon revealed that going North and then coming back South to enjoy the islands would be an expensive business indeed. What are we going to do? We decided to brave it out here for a few days and then see if the weather improved for going to Koh Lanta. So we need to find something to do with the children; there are the Tiger Caves, the hidden lagoon, and a national park within spitting distance of Krabi, and motorbikes were really not an option given the weather and the busy roads, so renting a car seems a sensible alternative – the boys have been after a ride in a jeep for ages!

We popped around the other corner from the hotel and had lunch at Good Dreams – an excellent Pad Thai for me and a Tom Kha Gai (coconut) soup for Tania. The boys set off to explore around whilst Tania and I finished our chow. After 30 mins they had still not returned and we thought it prudent to maybe go and look for the little monsters. Nowhere were they to be found. A light drizzle began to fall. We divided and searched streets, hotels and shops but to no avail. Slightly worried now, they eventually reappeared and were faced with the wrath of Tania – any parent who has “lost” a child will know the mixed emotions one goes through when they are found! They had been on the beach, chasing crabs and the like blissfully unaware of the concern and angst that they had caused.

We returned to the hotel to clean the little so-and-sos up and remove their muddy clothes and wash their impish faces. Whilst Tania and I continued our search, the boys watched some educational children’s television. Ere long it was time to go and explore the town some more. We managed to get to the car hire place around the corner from the hotel (jeep already rented out) and back before the heavens opened and the streets were drowned in a deluge of monsoon proportions. So we camped in the hotel lobby to let the rain pass. The boys explored the hotel – or rather I should say they ran up the fire escape – open to the elements, and then played on the roof terrace rolling themselves in the puddles that had accumulated there.

Suddenly they appeared in the lobby, dripping wet with looks of delight on their faces. Tania and I were not greatly amused given that this would mean another change of clothes – the second change today. One of the problems with travelling light is that one has a much limited choice of wardrobe, and therefore cannot afford to change clothes twice in a day! With a smile and a gentle chiding we sorted out replacement clothes and waited for the rain to ease. Finally we were able to get out to dinner, again at Good Dreams – well the food was good at lunch and it is within dashing distance if the rain decided to come back again with a vengeance.

Good Dreams is a useful font of knowledge as well as a good source of food. We managed to track down another jeep for hire and arranged for us to view it the next morning at 09:00. So, back to hotel via 7/11 and off to bed to the continued story of Harry Potter IV.

23rd November 2011

Up at the crack of dawn, well 08:00 in time to fetch some bread, milk and juice, and then back to Good Dreams to await the arrival of our jeep, sign the contract and leave the guarantee (yikes, don’t like handing over my  passport). Handing over 1600 Baht I got the keys and was the proud owner of a white Suzuki 1.3L jeep that had been manufactured some time in the ’80s and had quite a lot of filler and a fair bit of rust! The windscreen wiper stalk had snapped off and they had been rewired to the fog-light switch, but they worked, and the steering rack was only moved after a quarter turn of the steering wheel. Otherwise, the engine was sound enough and it started without effort, the brakes were sound, and the gears and clutch did not squeal or crunch or whine.

Returning to the hotel with some take-out coffee we donned swimming togs under our clothes and marshalled the troupes for todays excitement. Tiger Cave, Hot Springs and Emerald Lagoon!

Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Sua)

A few clicks outside Krabi stands the Tiger Cave Temple. It is a large complex, with the Tiger Cave itself, so called because a tiger used to live in it. When the monks settled there and built the temple, the tiger disappeared into the nearby hills, and was never seen again. Walking further into the complex you come to the foot of a very long staircase which lead up to the temple 600m above.

We entered the main temple (tiger cave) and received a blessing from the monks before climbing the little stairs behind them where the tiger had lived. Two small caves hold statues of tigers and a altar nestled inside the limestone hollows. Not terribly exciting, but the boys liked the tigers! You can make the out in the 3rd photo striking tiger poses.

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We left the cave and followed the signs to the stairs for the top temple…

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The stairs were uneven, some small, some double the height of normal steps, all cast in concrete and attached somehow to the side of this huge rock covered with trees and bushes, and the odd monkey. As we climbed, we were informed at the end of each flight (and sometimes in the middle) of the number of steps we had climbed, and so we had maths on the go as we worked out how many were left to go, and what fraction we had climbed. Fortunately the day was overcast, but the climb was still hard-going – well for Tania anyway, we literally bounded up the stairs pausing a few times to look at the view 😉

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An then we were at the top, greeted by a giant Buddha and a 360 degree view of Krabi Province, and sunshine too.

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We enjoyed the view for a good while, partly to recover the strength in our legs, but mostly because it was so gob-smackingly beautiful at the top of this mountain. The time arrived to descend from these lofty heights and return to ground level. Going down should be easier the coming up, but the descent was punishing on the calves! When we got back to the bottom, our legs were like jelly and our muscles trembling – well mine and Tania’s were, the boys acted as though it was just a stroll in the park!!

I walked back with Luca and Mateo whilst Tania went on to look at the last temple with Oskar. As we walked back through the complex a nice Englishman offered us some of his bananas to feed to the monkeys which pleased them greatly as we had been forbidden to feed the ones on the steps. Ere long we were reunited and set off in search of some hydro-therapy. En route, we stopped at a day market to get some lunch, the sights and smells were fantastic – herbs and spices, rows of fish, fruit and finger food. We even managed to persuade the boys to have some for lunch – are they getting more adventurous???

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We chomped on our provisions in the car – and it went down pretty well for all concerned, and then we were off again.

Hot Springs Waterfall (Nam Tok Rawn)

Further out from Krabi is the hot spring waterfall. Following the adequate signage which was in both Thai and English we arrived at a small hut where we had to pay, but just for Tania and me (200 Baht), before carrying on to the parking area lined with café. There is then a 500m walk along a raised wooded platform through jungle like forest before you arrive at the waterfall and pools beneath, and as we neared our goal the temperature of the air rose noticeably. Now don’t imagine this is Niagara Falls, this is a small waterfall with 5 plunge pools underneath that then flow into a muddy brown river. You could probably fit a dozen people comfortably, and fortunately for us, it wasn’t too busy when we arrived.

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The water is an average of 42 degrees celcius and strangely like taking a hot bath outdoors. This was much appreciated by myself and Tania after all those stairs as we soaked our tired muscles in the therapeutic waters at the optimum temperature to give good health (according to the sign). Whilst we took our medicine, the boys amused themselves by sliding through the pools and then by swinging on some creepers and dropping into the river below. Oskar swam out into the middle of the fairly fast flowing river where there was a rope attached to a low branch and thereby held himself against the current. Mateo swam out a little way before heading to a jetty which was too tall for him to climb, and there was a nervous moment (for me) whilst he negotiate around the jetty to where there was a ladder. I hadn’t spotted this, and so I had dived into the river to come to his rescue. It was a bizarre sensation to swim through the water which near the falls was still warm but in the middle of the river was, by comparison, freezing!! But it felt strangely good, like exiting a sauna and plunging into the cold water pool.

Flushed and warmed to our bones we called time on the therapy and headed back to the car with our towels wrapped around us ready for the third instalment of the day.

Emerald Pool (Sra Marakot)

Further out still lies the Emerald Pool. You arrive in a tree-shaded car park where you pay to park, and then walk 800m on foot (paying 200 Baht each) through jungle forest to get to the entrance to the pool. Eerie bird calls penetrate the canopy, but the only danger is the odd 4×4 from the park officials. The walk from the entrance proper is a wooden-planked walkway in need of repair – it does look like a new one is under construction – and then through the trees, a stream flows by which leads you to the Emerald Pool.

It is a naturally occurring lake with a waterfall at the top end and some bathing huts and a diving/walkway at the other. The water has a high Calcium Carbonate content and the algae and bacteria that live in it give the water its greenish hue. The sunlight also plays its part and the colour of the water changes depending on how warm it is. It took no second asking, actually not even a first, and the boys were in the pool. The stones around the edge are incredibly slippery due to the algae some there was a moments comedy as we all tried to negotiate our way in. The water was cool, the setting beautiful, and not too busy with the hordes of tourists and locals that visit here at the weekends.

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The last photo was around 17:30 when the pool officially closes, so I took the opportunity to snap it with the waters still! Suffice to say were quite cold by then and reflecting that perhaps the pool and then the hot springs may have been a better way around – but no matter, it was fabulous!

Returning to the super suzuki jeep we headed off back to Krabi. Dusk was falling and we prayed that the headlights worked (they did) better than the windscreen wipers which although they did clear the rain away, the drivers side blade kept jumping off the windscreen and we were a bit worried that it may disappear altogether. Fortunately, we didn’t have much rain today 🙂

We made it back to the hotel unscathed and after freshening ourselves up we headed to the Night Market for dinner. As we approached the heavens opened and we dashed for shelter from the heavy downpour which lasted as long as an April Shower. We found a brolleyed table and we were joined by a French/Spanish couple whom we passed a happy couple of hours with chatting about travelling and experiences. The food was nothing special but tasty all the same. Off home to bed, exhausted but very happy with our lovely day out.

24th November 2011 – So long Krabi, hello Koh Lanta

Arising early we packed our belongings once more, except the snorkel gear (the first beach gear day for a long time) and loaded it all into the jeep. We had it for two days and today we wanted to get to Koh Lanta with our own transport so that we could visit as many hotels as necessary to find our ideal accommodation at a reasonable price. The idea was that Tania and the boys would settle at the hotel whilst I went back to Krabi with the car and dropped it off and then getting the last minivan from Krabi back to Koh Lanta. At the time it sounded like a great plan! After the fact it was crazy both logistically and financially, but then hindsight is always 20-20 vision!

So we drove the long route from Krabi, along the A4 past all the places we had visited the day before, before taking a right to head down to Koh Lanta via 2 car ferries. We had unpacked the iPod and speakers so that we could have some music on the voyage but even so it was a long trip to be cooped up in a car for, and patience was wearing a little thin by the time we got to the first of the ferries. One 10 minute crossing (and 137 Baht) later we were on Koh Lanta Noi (the smaller of the two) and following the traffic we soon arrived at ferry number 2 to take us to Koh Lanta Yai (the bigger).

We had already found a place we quite liked on the web and so we headed there to see what it was like, and what kind of deal we could have. By the time we arrived it was 13:30 – and we had left Krabi at around 11:00. It had taken 2 ½ hours and the ferries would be busier on the way back, so we were informed, meaning a longer wait was likely. I had a minivan at 17:00 that I had booked and paid for, and so the clock was ticking for me. Taking a quick look around, the place lived up to our expectations, and Nik’s Garden Resort became our home for the next few days – 2 double rooms next to each other and breakfast included.

Jumping back in the jeep, I coaxed everything I could out of the ancient engine, fearful of mechanical failure or overheating, my eyes flicked to the temperature gauge whilst every bump threw the steering off which made corrections interesting give the play in the steering wheel. A short wait at the first ferry, and at the second and I was on mainland at 15:00. As I disembarked the ferry I passed a large pickup truck with an elephant in the back, roped, chained and docile – I had to do a double-take and then kicked myself that I didn’t have a camera to record the “theres something you don’t see every day” moment.

Throwing caution to the wind I wound the jeep up to 120 kph, at least that is what the speedo said, and hot-wheeled it to Krabi. As there are few mile markers or signs telling you the distance left to your destination it was a nervous 45 minutes before one hoved into view telling me that there were 16km left to go, and I was mightily relieved when I pulled up outside Good Dreams on the stroke of 4pm. Relaxing, I handed back the car and had a bite to eat whilst I waited for my transport back to Koh Lanta to arrive.

The return trip was uneventful except for the constant stopping of the driver to pick up fares/packages that were phoned through on his mobile en route. We passed a few people taking their cow for a walk, otherwise just the loud hum of the engine and the odd Nokia ringtone. I eventually made it back to Nik’s Garden at 7:30pm in time to join the rest of the family for dinner in the restaurant – and a well earned beer! Tania and the boys told me about their afternoon on the beach, I wasn’t at all jealous!

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And so to bed… Tania and I have our own room for the first time in more than 2 months, and the boys have promised that they will behave on their own next door…. and to be fair, after a little chattering they were asleep.

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