Early last month, my colleague and I flew to Krabi, Thailand. It was a guilt-free vacation, during which we basked in the sun and ate cheap mookata (Thai steamboat/BBQ). But then I also started drinking a couple of cocktails, after 1.5 months of relative discipline on my Paleo diet, so I guess it wasn’t all that guilt-free after all.
Seriously though, I dragged my feet writing this post because the holiday felt so indulgent. I made zero effort to engage the island and its history, read absolutely nothing about its history and culture. Krabi became a convenient backdrop for my whims and fancies; the location was nothing more than an afterthought.
Three weeks later, I think that perhaps I have been a bit too harsh on myself and might have overthought the whole point of travel. Not every vacation needs to elevate us to a higher plane, to a Pico Iyer– or Alain de Botton-point of philosophical reflection. Those are great, of course, but not every experience needs to be transcendental. (Also, one of my favourite websites kinda tackles the different reasons for travel in this post.)
Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. (Pico Iyer)
In this case, my impulses lay in — in no particular order — sleeping in the sun, feeding fish, attempting to finish The Goldfinch, playing Candy Crush/handphone mahjong/solitaire, looping “beach songs” like The Weepies’ I Was Made for Sunny Days and Christina Perri’s sea of lovers.
And you know what? I came out all the better for it. Travel is so many things, and perhaps the biggest lesson this trip taught me is that not everything has to be cheem and esoteric. It’s okay to just nua and give in to my basal needs!!! Like putting up this #sleepyselfie!
(And clearly I have over-thought this supposedly simple point about not overthinking vacations, given the number of paragraphs I have devoted to this.)
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Anyhoo, the whole Krabi vacay happened on a whim. Two bored girls wanted to take a short break somewhere in the region. Within nine hours, Audrey and I went from being on set on Yangon to deciding on Krabi, to the extent of booking our flights and hotel. It was the fastest holiday I’ve ever planned.
I tried not to countdown to the day of our flight.
Day 1 — Aonang & Krabi Town
As cliched as the airplane photo-by-the-window may be, I hardly take such pictures because I almost always opt for the aisle seat, unless Alan pulls the “but you’re shorter” card. The flight to Krabi, however, is only two hours long, so can tahan la.
After a cramped, stuffy bus ride from the airport to Aonang — an economical option compared to the jacked up taxi prices — we found ourselves marveling at our room in a new hotel, Aonang Mini House.
One small problem with the hotel is that it’s a 10-12 minute walk away from the main beach, which in the heat, can be a little uncomfortable. However, this can be easily mediated by flagging a tuk-tuk, which we did not, because… I don’t know why we didn’t flag a tuk-tuk. Precisely because we relied on our own two feet, we eventually got quite a good sense of the touristy belt.
Our first meal of the trip was at Massaman, authentic Thai food at American prices 😉
We ate so much that we swore we would not go down to the beach for the next two hours. Instead, we looked around the shops for beach mats and the best price for island-hopping tours. We eventually settled on this shop. Besides offering the cheapest price for our “Seven Islands Tour”, Tata was also super sweet. We ended up booking our Hong Island tour with him too, but more on that later.
By this time we thought it was time to let
the world see our bikini bodies our bodies see some sun, so it was off to the beach we went. We ended up baking / falling asleep for about 1.5 hours, as soft waves slowly pulled away from us along with the ebbing tide. Still, when the tide was up, the sight was marvelous: blue waters bracketed by Krabi’s signature white cliffs, peppered with longtail boats.
We enjoyed our Happy Hour cocktails before heading back to the hotel to wash up for Krabi Town, about 30 minutes away by tuk-tuk. This is where the night market is, and we were looking forward to street food and random buys.
We settled down at a nearby cart for some noodles but we had barely placed our order when a huge torrent of rain came down upon us. Sure, we got a little wet but we thought it’d clear up, eventually.
SUDDENLY. The lights went out — and by this I mean, the electricity supply was cut off, throwing the entire street into complete darkness for a split second as some prepared stallowners’ generators took a second to kick in. Of course this was punctuated by a few shocked screams, probably tourists’, but by and large the Thais seemed rather used to it. The ladies cooking our noodles did not miss a beat, bringing out candles to each customer’s table, even holding up a lighter to provide illumination for each other. Our noodles did not taste weird so I guess they’re used to this.
We ended up accidentally celebrating Earth Day, where environmentally conscious people around the world chose to turn off their lights for an hour. Well, we figured this was God’s way of telling us to be good stewards of the earth.
Most of the stalls had sadly packed up and left but we still managed to try some not-all-that-impressive fried oysters.
In fact there wasn’t much left to see or do at the night market, no thanks to the rain, so we quickly hopped on our tuk-tuk. It was a little disappointing in that sense but no biggie, such is life.
Just as well that our night out was cut short, cos it meant massage time. Except Thai Massage is the opposite of relaxing — it’s yoga for lazy people and good grief the sound when the masseuse cracks your back? For a moment I thought mine used too much force and I was going to be paralysed.
Day 2 — Seven Islands Tour
We have a late start to the day since our Seven Islands Tour spans from afternoon to night. Our shuttle bus was also 20 minutes late, at 1.50pm a Bob Marley-lookalike — a tour guide with the singer’s mop of hair, and is also wearing a giant t-shirt with Marley’s face on it — finally pulls up at our hotel and proceeds to make me the first of many propositions (“Later after trip end you come with me, ok?”).
We head back to Aonang Beach and the tide is in — the longtails are much closer to us this time. We wade in knee-high seawater and occupy the front of the boat cos we’re the Queens of the Yacht.
The breeze is strong and the seaspray splashes up on our legs, and there’s truly a sense of freedom in this. The illusion, however, is shattered when Bob Marley squeezes in between us and peppers us with questions: “How old are you? Where you from? You know Bob Marley?” Thai Bob Marley’s hair is long and curly and it bounces everytime we go over a giant wave.
“I let you listen to Bob Marley,” he tells me, and pulls out this TINY Nokia phone whose screen is like 1/16th mine, and starts Youtubing Bad Boys. When it’s finally downloaded he puts the phone to my ear and tells me to listen, humming along to the song. It seems he only knows one line, i.e. “Bad boys, bad boys.”
As we sail closer to Railay Island — its turquoise waters coming in full view — he persists in his quest to have dinner post-tour. So I tell him gently but firmly that… I AM MARRIED hahahaha.
“No I don’t believe you,” he says, sensing my lie, but Audrey comes to the rescue. “Ya she’s getting married next year and I’m her bridesmaid.” So now Alan has to do something. Anyhow, Bob Marley just looks at me rather forlornly for a while, and starts singing, “No woman, no cry.”
At our next stop, one of the guides picks up a sea urchin from the sea bed and warns us: “Do not step on this. Very bad if step on this.” I proceed to panic for 15 minutes or so as I futilely juggle the following: trying to maintain my balance in the sea WITHOUT slippers, keeping my electronics free of moisture, and avoiding a sad end with said sea urchins.
WHAT THE EFF SEA URCHINS EVERYWHERE:After this stressful experience we reach a sea urchin-less part of the island. I head out to the sea and proceed to eavesdrop on two German girls flirt with some Eastern European dude on a giant float.
And then we went on our way.
This is the face of a person who gei-kiangly decided to swim without a life jacket, panicked as she tried to snorkel because the salt water kept stinging the insides of her mouth, put it on, realised it was far too big for her and made her float up in weird ways, tried to take it off but not very successfully, and then asked her friend to take a photo of her without being aware of how ridiculous she looked:
At some point of time we sail to a cliff to watch people jump off them.
We had another snorkeling opportunity and this time the waters were much clearer. I got to see a bunch of clownfish and schools of yellow-and-blue-striped ones, swimming in and out of the reefs. Felt like a mermaid for a while until I realised I was hovering over 10 sea urchins and so I panicked, for the third time, and swam back to the boat.
Finally we reached the last island, where our tour company served us food by the beach and everyone took in the sunset.
We were also treated to a fire show by the multi-tasking guides, who gargled kerosene like Listerine. A little bit frightening, especially when the wind caused some blowback to one of them.
But perhaps the most magical moment was when we got on the boat for one last snorkeling experience — an underwater dive with bioluminescent plankton. The sun had set and in the darkness, the waters seemed dull and black. I was disappointed, where were the glowy bits we were promised in the brochures? I decided to stay on the boat while Audrey gamely went in.
Thankfully she did. At her urging, I went and oh my goodness it was beautiful. Every breaststroke I did the plankton around me got activated, like they were nightlights for the sea! No pictures, obviously, but perhaps that’s the best part? It’s an experience you truly have to be there to take in for yourself. No photograph — at least the ones on Google Images anyway — accurately captures what it’s light to have your arms and legs illuminated by tiny, green bulbs.
Anyway, the night ended with me being reunited with Bob Marley, who insisted on taking us back to our hotel on HIS tuk-tuk. For the next 15 minutes or so, Audrey and I gave each other looks as we ended up being the last passengers on the vehicle. As we wound through deserted roads, we prayed like we never prayed before. Thankfully Bob Marley was just a romantic and did not mean any ill will, and we arrived at our hotel more or less safely. The only casualty was that he planted an unwarranted kiss on my cheek, followed by one last belting out of “no woman, no cry.”
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Okay, this has clearly blown up to a much larger piece than I expected so I’ll break it up into two parts. Days 3 + 4 to come!!! <3