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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Thailand | Krabi, Koh Samui & Bangkok

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Starting Out Rough in Thailand

To be perfectly honest, Thailand has given us some stress within the first few days of our arrival. We started out our trip in Thailand in the southern peninsula, which has been crowded with tourists/backpackers for MANY years. Because of this exposure to massive tourism some of the people in the area are not the most honest people and try to take advantage of those coming to visit. Unfortunately, we were subject to a couple of these dishonest acts. On our first full day in Krabi, we rented a motorbike and rode out to Hot Stream Waterfall, which is a natural hot springs. While we were there our camera was stolen, including the SD card inside that had all of our photos. It was very devastating, and we spent quite a few hours trying to look around and talk to people at the hot stream; and then went back again the next afternoon to put up signs, but unfortunately still nothing.

Then just two days after that we took a tourist bus from Krabi to Koh Samui. We took a mini van to the halfway point and then switched to a double decker bus. Whenever we stopped somewhere they would shove a sign in our face stating "Keep all valuables with you." This double decker bus was different than other ones we had been on where the bottom compartment was completely blocked off from top level where the seats were. When we got to the ferry terminal to get to Koh Samui island they threw our bags out and we boarded the ferry. However, that evening when we started to sort through our bags we could tell that someone had been looking through our bags because things were not the way we had packed them. We didn't realize until later when Alex went to take out his contacts that we were missing some things. Alex couldn't find his glasses case, which he had forgotten he had put some money in the previous day. Luckily, the money was probably only 100-150 USD, but we couldn't believe that they would take his glasses as well. Then he found that they had taken some contact lenses that were still in packages in his bag. We didn't think those would be considered "valuable items" but we figured they must be able to sell them on the black market. Fortunately though, Alex later found his glasses & the case in another compartment of his bag with just the money missing. What we are certain happened was that they hid someone in the luggage compartment of the bus and he was in there for the 1.5 hour drive looking through each of the bags with a flashlight for valuables. So needless to say we were not having a favorable impression of Thailand within the first couple of days. However, bygones are bygones and we're trying to keep moving forward.

However, here are some of the highlights from our first three stops in Thailand:

Krabi, Thailand (Feb. 14-17)

Krabi is an area in the southern part of Thailand known for its climbing of rocks and beaches. They have many limestone formations coming out of the Andaman Sea and the surrounding landscape, very similar to Halong Bay, Vietnam.

We also discovered beer is cheaper in Thailand, especially if you go buy it at 7 Eleven or other mini-marts; it ends up being about equivalent to 1 USD or a little more per can. Also compared to Malaysia, where almost everyone spoke or understood English, it is not as common here and we've gone back to playing charades while communicating.

Transportation Options in Thailand

The buses are also interesting as well. On our bus ride up from Satun, Thailand to Krabi, they kept picking people up along the way and just had them standing in the aisles of the bus. It was a little hot and crowded on that bus ride, especially since the AC wasn't working very well. In the more rural areas, the buses were actually just pick-up trucks with some benches in the back for passengers to sit with a cover over the top, and these are called "Saamlaw."

Many of the vendors and locals also have motorcycles with carts attached on the side (making it a three-wheeled vehicle) to carry their goods and even people. The three wheeled motorbikes that function as taxis are called "tuk tuks."

Krabi Beach

We spent part of our time at the beach in Krabi. One evening we went swimming at low tide so we were able to walk on sand quite a ways before we got to the water; there were even areas that had little sand bars that stood out from the water. We also spent a few hours the next morning swimming at the beach. At all the beaches we've been to along the Andaman Sea the water has been calm with not many waves, which makes it hard to believe such a violent Tsunami went through there only a few years ago. But we did notice many signs showing the Tsunami escape routes that were implemented after the disaster.

Krabi - Kayaking Through Caves

One of the highlights of Krabi was going kayaking through some the limestone caves and canyons that were along the coastline of Ao Thalene. We later ventured through some mangroves, which are the thick bunches of trees growing out of the water. We went through at low tide so there were a couple times that we almost got stuck in the mud; and in one section there were monkeys nearby that tried to jump onto some of the kayaks in our group. Based on our previous experience with the monkeys we fended off any that appeared that they might try to hitch-hike. A couple monkeys succeeded by jumping on two of the kayaks in our group of four.

Koh Samui, Thailand (Feb. 17-20)

We arrived to Koh Samui by the bus, and then ferry. However, within the first hour on the island we were offered rides in the back of pick-ups for FREE by 2 different drivers on our way to the town center. One took us to the main road and then less than 5 minutes after we were dropped off there, another driver came by and offered to take us into town. We were pleasantly surprised that in a place that sees so many tourists, they still stop and offer rides.

Getting to the hostel ended up being an adventure in itself. We were supposed to be staying at the "Reef View Hotel" but the driver took us to the "Cliff View Hotel" instead, even though we had someone write out the name of it in Thai for us! When we got off and the bus had already left we asked a local and she informed us that we were dropped off on the opposite side of the island of where we needed to be. She helped us grab another bus in the right direction and we headed to our place. Luckily, it was only 120 Baht (33 Baht = 1 USD) for both of us for each trip.

Koh Samui gave us some much needed time to relax. We slept-in a bit, enjoyed some motorbiking around the island, and swimming. We stayed near the beach town of Lamai on the island and at night the entire town would come alive with bars and restaurants - specifically for tourists. We had never seen so many bars within this couple sq. block area - not even within a college town. Probably the only Thais in this town are working for some sort of tourist operation. There are also several ex-pats who own businesses there, as a way for them to work while still being able to go to the beach each day. ;-)

They also had this food vendor area near the bars that we went to for 2 nights for dinner. They had cheap pad thai and other Thai specialties like green curry, penang curry, etc. and then kabobs with various meats/vegetables on a stick that they grill up with your choice of sauce. For both nights, we just grabbed some beers from the 7 Eleven and brought them out to eat with our food. No problem with drinking in public areas here!

The Sights & Beach Time

On our motorbike ride we went to go see one of the waterfalls and also a famous Buddhist temple on the island, Wat Khunaram. There was a monk at this Wat that foretold the day of his death and then requested that his body not be preserved after death. Upon dying and based on that he was famous, they placed him at this temple with him sitting in an upright position praying to Buddha.

Later we stopped at a couple of different beaches and finally came upon the Chaweng Beach. There were huge waves there that we jumped and tried to ride for the rest of the afternoon and then again the next day. The next afternoon we even got a full body oil massage in a beach hut for 500 Baht for both of us -- Alex did some good bargaining with the lady. The massage was so relaxing, as all we could hear were the waves crashing.

Chinese New Year Festivities

We took a flight to Bangkok on Saturday evening after catching a ferry back to the mainland and going to the airport in Surathani. However, right before we caught the ferry to the mainland we were treated to witnessing the 7th day celebration of the Chinese New Year in Lon Thon in Koh Samui. The festivities of that day include a dragon dance and other ceremonial activities that are all ways to bring them good luck and to please their deceased ancestors. The dragon would go into each business or house and do a short dance to the rhythm of gongs and drums to bring that place luck for the next year. Then after the dragon would leave, they would light up loud firecrackers right outside the building to scare away the evil spirits. Nearby they also had a large table with all different types of foods and offerings that we assume were for the dragon and other deceased ancestor spirits. However, interestingly there were a few men that had spears pierced through their cheeks and earlobes. People would come up to them and get a red mark painted upon their forehead and then they'd pierce a bill of money on the spear sticking out from the man. I tried to figure out what the purpose of this tradition was on the Internet, but wasn't able to find anything, so she wonders if it is a cross-cultural tradition that derived from the ThaiPusan festival of the Hindus. However, that's just speculation...

Bangkok, Thailand (Feb. 20-22)

We arrived to Bangkok pretty late and were hoping to catch the local bus to the SkyTrain so we could then get to our hostel. However, as we were waiting for a bus, a woman stopped and asked us where we were trying to go and then offered us a ride. She dropped us off at the SkyTrain closest to our location for free, so we were thankful for that since the buses didn't seem to be running very often.

Chatuchak Market

Our first day in Bangkok we walked around the city and went to the Chatuchak Market, one of the biggest weekend markets in the country. They had SO many vendors and booths that it was impossible to walk through them all, so we just did a brief sampling. They had everything from pet clothes and supplies, furniture, food, arts and crafts and clothing.

In the late afternoon the heat was strong so we went to the mall near Siam and went to watch "Valentine's Day" at the movie theater. It was a bit more pricey at the Thai theater compared to Malaysia -- about 160 Baht per ticket (about $5-6 USD).

Bangkok Chinatown

We also spent some time exploring Chinatown, which was very festive with its Chinese New Year decorations.

Cowboy Soi

In the evening, we decided to experience some of the "real Thai tourist culture." We headed to Cowboy Soi, which is one of the districts in Bangkok known for its Go-Go bars. The area was full of neon lights, young Thai women and many older western men. It was an interesting evening, as well as a little sad, to see so many young girls choosing this lifestyle because it is the best way for them to make a lot of money.

Wat Pho & River Cruise

The second day in Bangkok we ran some errands like getting our Japan Rail Pass ticket for our return trip in March and then we took the river taxi and went to Wat Pho, which has a very large reclining Buddha. Unfortunately, it got too late in the day and we weren't able to explore the Palace or other Wats in the area, but it seems like we'll come across several more Wats on our journeys going forward.

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