Published: March 31st 2009March 25th 2009
The shimmering rays of the setting sun are chased away by massive black clouds, like a thousand angry soldiers. The day turns to night in an instant, and the clouds break. Brilliant white lightning bolts streak across the sky. Your instinct tells you to go indoors and hide, but the phenomenon is too beautiful not to bear witness. Throw in the fact that its hot, it’s the tropics, and a little rain is all you need to cool down after a long day in the sun; so you stay outside and let the fresh downfall cleanse the skin. At least that’s what has happened to us during our Southern Thailand island adventure.
We have caught the tail end of the monsoon season and it’s been a blessing in disguise. Nightly thunder and lightning- almost on cue- as soon as the sun goes down. A little rain here and there, mostly at night. All said, the atmospheric activity has been a nice change from the monotonous always hot
Leaving Chiang Mai gave us a chance to do something I wanted to do the first time around after our initial flight into Thailand back in December. We got to
explore a little more of Bangkok. The overnight train took us to the heart of the city of Bangkok. We found a fleabag guesthouse to rest a few hours and stash our stuff while we waited for our next night train to the south- the jump off point to the islands. We took the subway around like a couple of local experts and did some sight seeing around the blistering/eye-popping/sensory-overloading place that is Bangkok. It was great.
…An overnight train ride… (Don’t ever book the top bunk because it’s smaller and you can’t feel the fan)…
Our first island destination was Koh Phangan (kO-peN-yAng). We nestled up in the north part of the island, on the opposite side of the notorious full moon party beach. We found what turned out to be the best deal on the whole island. For half of what the bungalows cost, we shacked up in a huge motel-like room a hundred steps from the beach instead of fifty. Oh darn.
After five days of doing nothing and loving it, we had to tend to some important international business; our visa was almost up needed to be re-upped. Visa Run! Sorry mom, but
your son and his girlfriend went to Burma/Myanmar to get a stamp and fifteen more days of time in Thailand, and lived to tell about it.
They have entire companies devoted to making these visa runs because for some awful reason, Thailand only gives fifteen day visas if you cross the border at a land crossing, i.e. not the airport. So, five modes of transportation later (night boat, taxi, tuk tuk, mini bus, long boat) and we made it to the Burmese border. What a shady operation they had going. They charged $10 American Dollars for the stamp, and the bill had to crisp. Meg’s bill had a brown dot on it and they didn’t accept it and made her pay a ridiculous exchange amount in Thai Baht (currency). In situations like these you’re absolutely at their mercy, so we smiled, paid, and got the hell out of their country with a fresh two weeks of in our passports.
We crossed over to the east side with Koh Phi Phi on our radar. The only beach good enough to be called “The Beach,” named after the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, sure lived up to its name (though actually
called Maya Bay). Words really don’t do this place justice. Pictures don’t even do it justice. It might be one of those few places on the planet where you just have to stand there and see it with your own eyes just to comprehend the utter magnitude of the natural beauty. Just be sure and go when there are no fluorescent-colored speedboats full of Swedish dudes in Speed-O’s that are mysteriously one size too small. Anyway, this was a stop on a snorkel trip that we did around the Phi Phi islands, which was a must to get away from the Speed-O avengers club. A longboat took us and four others around to several different reefs. While we snorkeled, our captain would set up his hammock in the boat and we'd have to wake him up when we wanted to move on. I didn't dare try and ask "hard at work or hardly working."
A bit further south, we settled down for a few days on Koh Lanta. We gave ourselves a break from the always on the move
style and shacked up for about six days. In one place. No buses to catch, no watch to look at.
Just stopped to catch our breath in our beachfront bungalow. A couple days of exploring the island via motorbike and working on tans was just what the doctor ordered.
...Next up...Malaysia....(here right now and loving it!)
There are more photos below