Koh Jum, Krabi, and Ranong

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January 17th 2013
Published: January 21st 2013
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After our misadventure at Charley Barley's, we set out for Koh Jum, a less populated and more relaxed island nearby. We arrived around 9:30 a.m. on January 4th and immediately found a much nicer place to stay than before called New Bungalows. The island, as well as the family-owned group of well-kept-up bungalows, had been recommended to us by a couple we met on our last night in Vietnam, and we were very grateful for their advice! We got settled in before exploring the island a bit. We ultimately found it to be much less busy and touristy than Koh Lanta. There were only a handful of cars, a few tiny villages and only one major paved road. Within our first few hours of being on the island, we met numerous friendly locals and tourists, ate some interesting (salty and gross) coconut custard cakes, had the "best pad thai on the island," and were offered hand rolled cigarettes from a toothless old man at a convenience store. After our village adventure, we decided to hit the beach, which was positively gorgeous. In addition to it not being crowded at all, it provided an amazing view of the horizon and nearby islands and had the clearest water I've ever seen. The beach was also home to a multitude of pretty sea shells as well as some beautiful sunsets.

The next day, we rented a motorbike to further explore the island and discovered it to be much larger than we thought. We rode through some small villages and neighborhoods and found a great little restaurant for lunch called Friendly's with awesome food for a reasonable price - it was so good we promised the owner we'd be back. After lunch, we stopped at a different beach on the other end of the island for a bit and, on our way back, saw a monkey eating a coconut on the side of the road. We stopped to watch and saw tons of monkeys running around in the woods. We went a little further down the road to try to get some good pictures of them, but this proved to be pretty difficult. When we got back to our bungalow, Laura hadn't returned from her long walk on the beach yet. When she finally got back, we found out she'd been wandering around for the better part of 7 hours and was exhausted. She did stumble upon a great restaurant for us to try, though, with 25 baht fruit shakes and a lovesick British guy with a guitar...

Later on in the week, we signed up to go snorkeling for a day. This turned out to be a fantastic experience. We were picked up in a boat in front of our bungalow at 8:30 a.m. alongside an eccentric German couple, a shy French couple, and an older (unfortunately) bikini clad French woman. Overall, it was a friendly and entertaining group. After an hour long boat ride, we arrived at Bamboo Island and began snorkeling. This was by far the best snorkeling spot of the day with countless brightly colored fish and beautiful clear blue/green water. Our next stop was Moskito Island for some more snorkeling, then Monkey Island for lunch. This island was appropriately named - there were monkeys everywhere without the slightest fear of humans. In fact, many of them attempted (often successfully) to steal our lunches! Our next stop was the super touristy party island of Koh Phi Phi. This stop was mainly a bank/ATM/shopping stop for those of us who needed to stock up on essentials that couldn't be found on Koh Jum. While en route to the bank, we randomly ran into our Dutch friend from Charley Barley's, Oscar. We told him he should join us on Koh Jum, and, sure enough, he showed up at New Bungalows the next day. Our final stop of the day was the famous island where the movie The Beach was filmed. Though the snorkeling there wasn't as great, it was a very beautiful area. When we returned to Koh Jum around 6:00 p.m., we walked to the restaurant Laura had found and had a great dinner. As we walked back on the beach, I leaned down to pick up what I thought was the biggest, most perfect sea shell I'd ever found, but when it moved under my fingers I found it to be a GIANT hermit crab! I paid closer attention for the rest of the walk and realized that these huge hermit crabs were everywhere...pretty crazy.

The remainder of our time on Koh Jum was pretty relaxed, aside from one sick day on my part. I will be so very happy when I stop having stomach problems! When I was feeling better, we made a trip back to Friendly's for dinner, and, impressed by and grateful for our having walked so far, the owner was nice enough to give us a free appetizer and free bottles of water for the walk back. This island was definitely a winner! We felt bittersweet about our departure on the 11th, but we were definitely glad to have spent time there.

We left Koh Jum on a ferry bound for the small town of Krabi. After walking around in the heat for awhile searching for a place to stay (we didn't want another Charley Barley's experience), we ultimately settled on the first place we'd looked at. We planned to stay only one night, but ended up really liking the town and decided to stay for three. Since we were there for the weekend, we were able to experience Krabi's awesome weekend market, complete with food, clothing and jewelry vendors, as well as some...interesting...karaoke. We left with some yummy snacks in tow - taro and cocnut custard rolls, fried rice cakes drizzled with sugar, tamarind candy - and a few souvenirs. Krabi also had the best night market we've been to thus far, with tasty food stations where you could coose to sit and order or grab something on the go. We ended up eating dinner at the market every night and had some delicious kebabs, spring rolls, fruit shakes and noodle/rice rishes. For breakfast, we frequented a small family run establishment called Mark & May, known for it's freshly baked breads and wonderfully eclectic menu. The restaurant actually had a cute story behind it - the owners began letting travelers stay in their extra room over the years in exchange for western recipes and cooking lessons. Their most interesting fusion dish that I wish I'd tried was their Thai curry pizza!

During our time in Krabi, we embarked on a few excursions. For our first full day, we rented motorbikes and drove to a nearby national park to hike to a big waterfall. Our hike started out great (we even saw some peacocks!), but when we decided to trek to the top of the waterfall for a better view, I fell in the water - thankfully not down the waterfall - soaking my boots and pants. I ended up having to finish the hike barefoot, which was somewhat of a climbing adventure! When we got back into town, we showered and changed and headed to the local wat to watch the sunset. We then tried to look around in a tourist shop, but the owner yelled at me for touching things...so we left. On our second day we kept our motorbikes and drove to the Tiger Cave and mountain top lookout, home to a giant golden Buddha. We explored a few caves and followed a path through the forest where we saw some cave-side monk dwellings, as well as LOTS of monkeys. Then, right as we were about to climb the 1,256 steps to the lookout, my flip flop broke...so again, in true monk fashion, I climbed barefoot. It was definitely worth it for the view. Once we got back down to the bottom, we immediately bought cold fruit shakes to cool off before heading back. My favorite part of the day was Laura's and my 2 hour Thai massage. This was seriously the best massage of my life - hands down. Unfortunately, since it was nighttime, the ladies locked the door while we were upstairs getting our massages, so Scott ended up having to wait outside for us (our massage ended up being an hour longer than we thought, due to some fortunate miscommunication!). For dinner, we went to the night market and hung out with a German guy named Andy who was staying at Laura's guesthouse. The next morning, we woke up and caught a ride to the bus station for our 7 hour ride to Ranong, our stop for the night before taking a ferry to the island of Koh Phayam.

We arrived in Ranong on the afternoon of the 14th, and, after very little shopping around, checked into a cheap hotel that we're pretty sure used to be an office building in the 1950's. Not only did they still use a switchboard for phone calls, but our closets were old metal file cabinets. Awesome. Still, it was very nice and clean and perfect for our one night stay. We ventured to the market for dinner, which was delicious, though only Laura was lucky enough to receive something resembling what she'd ordered. To accompany our meal, we bought what we thought was really cheap beer from the 7-11, but what turned out to be super sweet and extremely strong rice wine. It pretty much tasted like a mix between Boon's Farm and Smirnoff Ice...yum. As we were getting settled in for bed, it began getting rather noisy outside, so I stood on the bed to close the windows...and stepped on my Kindle. Dead. So for the past few days I've been in mourning, but I'm hoping to potentially find a replacement in Bangkok or Mumbai. The next morning, we woke up early and caught the slowest ride ever to the pier, barely making it to the ferry to Koh Phayam. We got there in the nick of time, were instructed to hop on without paying since we could pay on board...however, no one ever asked for our money, so we got a free ride and were on our way!

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