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Published: April 30th 2012
I’M BECOMING A TRAVEL SNOB. It’s true. We are here in paradise, at one of the most beautiful destinations in the world with emerald green waters and dramatic karst formations jutting out of the water, but all I can think about is how annoying the tourists are. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that we aren’t the only ones that like this whole tropical paradise sort of thing. But seriously, what are all these damn tourists with blotchy red skin and hideous swimsuits doing in my
paradise? Can’t they get their own elsewhere!? But let me back up a second. From Ko Phangan we took a catamaran back across the Gulf to mainland Thailand, and then jumped into a minivan with hordes of other travelers heading west to the Andaman coast. From here we were all divided up by destination, orange stickers for Phuket, light blue for Krabi, and so on. We had heard from other travelers that Railay, a small island off the coast of Krabi, was the best place to stay but unfortunately I couldn’t find any affordable lodging online, so we settled on the mainland beach of Ao Nang. I regretted our decision immediately upon arriving. Ao
Nang reminded me of a crowded Florida beach town – there may as well have been a TGIF’s on the corner. A wide strip of hot cement ran perpendicular to the beach lined with tourist restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. The beach itself was a bit lacking, comprised mainly of a narrow strip of rocks, but…the view! Oh, the view! Similar to Halong Bay, monolithic limestone cliffs are strewn throughout the water haphazardly (as if God had a seizure while he was designing the place) resulting in a dramatic, magical landscape.
We decided to escape from Ao Nang as soon as possible to escape the loud talking-beer drinking-sunburnt tourists. After checking in at our hotel we went down to the pier and hired a longtail boat to take us over to Railay island (where I had wanted to stay originally), a short 15 minutes away. Railay proved to be far less developed than the mainland and the view was even more incredible from here. Backpackers and adventure enthusiasts scampered all over the island climbing the infamous rugged peaks, kayaking through the surf, lying out in the sand. From West Railay (where the boat dropped us off) we followed
a dirt path inland until we emerged on the back side of the island known as East Railay. The shoreline was obscured by mangroves and lush vegetation, their twisted and contorted roots peaking above the water. As always, we decided to stop for a beer at an open air restaurant (I know, life is rough) and watched a class of climbers scurry up a nearby cliff face. To my regret, we didn’t have the time or money to join them. As we were leaving the restaurant I noticed that one of our servers was a lady boy. What I found most interesting, however, was not so much that she was a lady boy, but her appearance. She had pretty, soft features and was wearing a conservative, casual outfit with relatively little make up. She could very easily have been mistaken for a naturally born female. It made me smile to think about the position ladyboys occupy in Thai culture. From my perfunctory observations, it seems that they are not necessarily pushed to the fringes of society as they frequently are in other areas of the world, but have a strong presence in mainstream culture. While I can’t claim to know
the whole story, it seems evident that Thailand has got the U.S. beat on this front. We finished our beers and headed back to the mainland at sunset, just as the sun was descending over the mountains painting them in a diffused orange hue.
The next day was Valentine’s Day. Although neither of us really cared, we feigned interest, so we could splurge on a nicer meal. We ate at a seafood restaurant on the beach road which was bursting at the seams with tourists. The fresh seafood was delicious, but my mood was melancholy. I knew that this was our second to last stop on our five and half month journey. Not only that, but this is essentially the end of our traveling as our final destination is at a Marriott resort in Khao Lak – something I classify as “vacation” rather than “travel.” It is all coming to an end very, very soon.
To see more pictures from our trip, check out my husband Travis’ pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejarvisproject
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