Thai Extravaganza – a perfect way to celebrate my birthday in the last year of the twenty’s! A friend’s dream told by him on my birthday in 2011 fulfilled in 2015!!
Year 2011 – It was yet another birthday celebration in 2011, when we – a group of 4 close friends, headed out to the famous Skandagiri night trekking, situated about 60 Km from Bangalore. It was during this trek, that one of my friend in the group told that his dream was to visit Thailand before we all got hitched and settled down to a family life. While at that point of time, we were never sure if this dream would be realized in time for we all had other financial and family commitments to take care of as a higher priority. The time for realizing the dream was unknown, but the seeds were sown.
Present year – 2015, this was probably the last opportunity for us to make this dream come true since we were to start searching for a marriage alliance by end of the year or early 2016. We didn’t want to let this last opportunity slip by and the plan to visit Thailand started to grow in from mid-2015. It was then that we decided my birthday in 2015 would be celebrated in Thailand. It always feels special to be a part of realizing someone else’s dream, to better it, the dream of one of your best friends.
With the plan shaping up, we were just 3 friends who were confirmed to be a part of the Thai Vacation. Of the three, one was still not sure (and unfortunately opted out later)! Nevertheless, we had to get started with the logistics to make the best use of discounts for advanced bookings. The dates of the trip were planned as 28th November to 5th December, a 7 night – 8 day vacation. Our initial plan was to visit Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. However, both my friend and I were not too keen to visit Bangkok even though it was a wonderful city. We wanted to spend the vacation exploring the islands, beaches and also engage in some adventure sports. We together decided that we would visit Krabi, Phi Phi Islands and Phuket instead.
The first part of the logistics was to book the flight tickets which we did so by keeping a watch out for few days for the best discounts available. With little over 2 months to go for the vacation to begin, we booked our tickets with Thai Airways. We intended to spend 2 nights at Krabi, 1 night at Phi Phi Island and 4 nights in Phuket. With the plan set, the next part of the logistics was to book the hotels for our accommodation which we did so after lot of scouting on various online reservation portals.
Thailand provides Visa on Arrivals for Indian Tourists. However, since we had very less transit time at the Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport before boarding our flight to Krabi, we decided to get the Visa done before our journey itself. We applied and got our Visa stamped in the month of November about 3 weeks before our departure. The 3 weeks wait after the Visa was a patience test and was probably the most tough part of the pre-vacation. Thankfully, the 3 weeks just sped by and we were on the cusp to begin our journey for a much awaited Thai vacation.
Since its a long holiday with too many details to add in, it would be best to present it in chapters.
Chapter 1: Start of Thai Vacation – Departure from Bangalore
Our flight from Bangalore to Bangkok was scheduled to depart on Saturday, 28th November, 1:00 AM. I had been working on the previous day i.e. Friday and my office was less than half way across the distance between my home and airport. It was thus apt for me to leave for the airport directly from the airport directly from office. Both my friend and I had a common opinion of to carry too much luggage, in fact, we intended to just take a cabin bag and not check-in any luggage on the flight. We thus carried just a mid-sized backpack each for the entire vacation along with a small camera bag. We arrived at the airport well ahead before the departure and proceeded to the get the boarding pass and the immigration clearance. Fortunately the queue wasn’t too long and we were able to get the formalities done in just about 15-20 mins. All set, we boarded our flight -Thai Airways Intl TG-326. The flight carrier was a Boeing 777, one of the largest passenger aircraft in the world and a marvelous showcase of flight technology. Our flight included free meals and alcohol along with in-house entertainment through an assorted collection of Movies, songs, TV episodes, games and much more. With our excitement for the vacation high, both of us could hardly sleep in the flight and spent the entire 3:45 hrs journey watching movie and playing some games.
I must say, without a doubt, the Boeing 777 is one of the best flights to travel. There was absolutely nil cabin noise, coupled with a smooth ride. The take-off and landing was not bumpy either and was done with hardly any jerks felt. The flight can accommodate approximately about 400 passengers. Combined with the exceptional in-flight hospitality of Thai Airways, the journey itself is quite a wonderful experience. The Boeing 777 is powered by Twin GE engines and has an excellent cruise speed of 905 km/hr, the same speed at which we were travelling and the fact we realized only after looking at the flight information displayed on our TV screens. The high speed was never felt for even a moment and the credit for that should be given to the engineers who built the design and constructed the plane.
Chapter 2: Arrival in Bangkok and stay in Krabi
We arrived in Bangkok as per the scheduled time and were presently greeted by a slight drizzle in the air. The Suvarnabhumi Airport is a huge hub for aircraft flying all over the world and the main hub for Thai Airways. Considering the vast expanse of the airport, we took almost 10 -15 mins to get to the terminal from our aircraft. We had a transit time of 1:30 hrs in Bangkok before boarding our next flight. Since there was nothing much to do, we just grabbed a couple of magazines while waiting for the boarding announcement to be made. Our flight to Krabi was scheduled to depart at 8:00 AM local time in an Airbus A330, an eye to eye competitor to Boeing 777 and maker of the largest passenger aircraft – the Airbus A380. We were lucky to even spot a couple of them at the airport along with the classy Boeing 747 the previous largest aircraft.
The Airbus though a wonderful aircraft seemed to be less comfortable than the Boeing 777 that we had traveled in from Bangkok. On the Airbus flight, possible due it being a short haul, there were no services such as alcohol or in-flight entertainment. We were served a non-vegetarian breakfast and since we both were vegetarians, we couldn’t savor it either. We had to be content with just a cup of hot tea. Arriving at Krabi, the airport presented a stark difference to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. The airport was a tiny one which reminded me of the days when flights were served out of Bangalore’s old HAL airport. Here, we pre-booked our ferry to Phi Phi for the second day and also booked a bus transfer to our hotel.
The bus transfer took us to the Aonang Beach from where we had to take another Tuk-Tuk (a 4 seater private bike) to reach our hotel. We had booked our stay at J2B Beach Bungalow which was a bit off-route from the main beaches of Krabi and could be reached only by a Tuk-Tuk or a ferry. The J2B Beach Bungalow had a beautiful landscape with vast estate situated right on the sea shore. Being a bit off-route, this beach was more of a virgin beach with a vast 3-4 km stretch occupied by hardly 4-6 people. Since we didn’t have our breakfast, we were both hungry and rushed to the large dining here to gobble some food. Initially we were skeptical of finding vegetarian food, but upon request, our host – a young Englishman from London served as hot and spicy Fried Rice along with the famous Thai red curry. I have always loved spicy food right from my childhood but the Thai spice was something totally different compared to the Indian spices. In no time, we were reaching out for glass of water and lemonade after having few morsels. Though spicy, we absolutely loved the food served.
Relaxing in the cottage during the afternoon, I was woken up by a strange occurrence. Both me and my friend were having a heavy sleep when with no inhibitions, my friend started shouting aloud enough to frighten me and wake me up from my sleep. My first thought was someone uninvited (human or animal) had entered into our cottage, but could find none. When asked, my friend told me he had no idea why he had shouted. Possibly he was day dreaming or some sudden thought came to his mind, but the actual reason we would never know. We both stood perplexed for a moment and then had a good hearty laugh about the whole thing. We ended up teasing each other throughout the trip about the incident.
Having woken up from the sleep now, we freshened up and hit the beach. The beach immediately reminded us of our previous visits to Tarkarli and to Palolem. There was one common factor between these three beaches, all the three had a very flat sea bed and allowed us to venture well inside the sea. On this occasion, we possible ventured about 1 – 1.5 km inside the sea waters and yet were covered only in waist high water!! That would give an idea of the flat bed beneath the smooth sea waters. As can be expected with a flat sea bed, there were hardly any waves lashing at us. We stayed in the waters through the evening for a good couple of hours. Being a virgin beach, the sea water was very clear and we could very clearly see the sea bed even in waist deep waters. Before retiring to the shore, we watched a group of people catching fish. Amused, we went close to see some wonderful fishes who had just had their last day of their lives. Spotting some alive, we through them back into the waters to let them die another day 🙂
Tired by now, we had a light dinner with some wonderfully prepared Thai Omelette and Rice before hitting the beds.
Chapter 3: Visit, stay and tour of Phi Phi Islands
Having pre-booked our ferry to Phi Phi Islands from Krabi airport, we were provided a pick-up from the hotel to the transfer pier. Reaching the pier, we started our journey on a large ferry which was possibly accommodating over 250 people. The journey was a short 1.5 hrs transfer and en-route we could spot several large limestone cliffs which the Thai seas are famous for. Every now and then there were some weird shaped cliffs popping up in the midst of turquoise blue sea waters. Capturing some snaps with the beautiful backdrop, we reached the Phi Phi ferry pier by about 10:30 AM. We had booked our stay at a PP Ingphu Viewpoint. We had a quick pancake before reaching the hotel. The hotel had a picturesque view with a large swimming pool within the property. We immediately made an enquiry at the hotel desk for half day tour to the famous Maya bay which is one of the main tourist attraction of Phi Phi since famous movie – The Beach was filmed here.
We finally booked a half day Snorkeling and Sunset tour. The tour was scheduled to depart at around 14:00 and return by 19:00. The tour also included a light lunch along with fruits and lot of water to ensure the members would not stay hungry for long. Our first stop on the tour was at Monkey Beach, a small beach and a home to colony of monkeys who eagerly wait from some food from the people who visit the place throughout the day. The beach was a small one, just about 40 yards approximately but was blessed with crystal clear waters. The sea water here was quite cool as it was covered in shade of the gigantic cliffs on the island.
The tour boat stops here very briefly for just about 10 mins before we sail to the next location – Viking Cave. The Viking Cave, Pi-Leh Bay, Loh Samah Bay and Maya Bay are all part of a single island not too far off from the main Phi Phi island. The Viking Cave is no longer open for tourists to enter and was so named, due to the prehistoric drawings that were found on the cave walls that resemble ancient viking ships. The visitors can have a look at the cave from a distance and be amazed by the beautiful natural limestone rock openings apart from the bamboo scaffolding running up many of the walls.
Our next stop on the tour was at Pi-Leh Bay. Again the water here was very clear and was completely turquoise blue in color. We were told by the guide in the boat to enjoy a dive in the sea by jumping off the boat. My friend out of the excitement went ahead and jumped in. It was only after being the water, that he and others realized that the water was actually deep. We initially were thinking it was only about 5ft – 6ft deep. My friend who didn’t know swimming too well yet, had to be pulled back in the boat. We then had a dive again albeit this time with life jackets worn 😉 After a hearty stay in the waters for about 30 odd minutes, it was time to visit the Loh Samah Bay. The Loh Samah Bay is a very famous spot for snorkeling. We had previously done snorkeling during our trip to Tarkarli. In Tarkarli, we had spotted some beautiful small fishes and very expecting the same here as well. As the boat came to a stop, we looked around and immediately realized that this experience was going to be different for we could see many schools of beautiful fishes from the boat itself. Putting on our snorkeling masks, we entered the seas and were amazed by the beautiful marine life so close. There were fishes of various sizes, color and appearance that were visible in large numbers. We were close to almost an hour of snorkeling when our guide asked us to hop back on the boat so that we could visit the next points. By now, we were a bit hungry after having stayed in the water for a long time. Thankfully, as soon as we were back on the boat, we were served some fried rice and fruits. Our next stop was the world famous “Maya Bay”.
Maya Bay is a stunningly beautiful bay that’s sheltered by limestone cliffs on three sides. The main beach is around 200 meters long with silky soft white sand. We were told that we need to pay 800 Baht as National Park entrance fees under the jurisdiction of which the Bay is governed. There was an option to avoid paying this – by not entering the beach and settle for some more snorkeling about 100 meters away from the beach. The entire passenger crew of about 20 people responded in unison that snorkeling was a better option than paying 800 Baht to just step on the beach. The decision was thus easy and we immediately moved away from the beach into the waters for some more snorkeling. The snorkeling here was beautiful as well. Even though the fish numbers were less compared to Loh Samah Bay, the gigantic cliffs on three sides provided a breathtaking view. In the waters we could spot colorful corals and a few beautiful fishes in the exceptionally clear water.
Unfortunately, we were unable to see the sunset as the evening was covered with clouds and as we neared the pier, a slight drizzle had picked up. Tired from the half-day tour but with some wonderful memories captured, we headed back to our hotel and decided to have a relaxing swim in the swimming pool. Relaxing in the waters for about an hour, we headed back to our rooms. After freshening up, we had our dinner and set out to explore the island on foot and check out the famous night life on the island. We visited the Loh Dalum Bay. The beach was lightened up by some amazing fire shows and stunts done by professional stuntmen from the various hotels around the beach. We were hooked up to an amazing spectacle of stunts performed by these artists for over an hour or two. We headed back to out hotel quite late around 12 after the show was over and retired to our beds.
Chapter 4: Visit to Phuket
Day 1: Patong, Simon Cabaret Show
We had planned to stay for 4 nights in Phuket – 3 nights near the famous Patong Beach and 1 night in Phuket Town. We had booked our 3 night stay at Rico’s Hotel, a budget hotel situated just few yards away from the Patong Beach and right in the midst of the nightlife of Bangla Road. We arrived at Phuket through our ferry from Phi Phi by about 11:30 AM. From the pier, we were dropped to our hotel in a mini-bus which also had a couple from Netherlands and a couple from Australia. As the journey from the pier started, we all got engrossed in an interesting conversation about the various countries each one had visited in their life. It was quite satisfying to know that they all were eager to visit India as well. One of them had stayed in India for over a year visiting the length and breadth of the country from Eastern city of Kolkota to the spiritual city of Varanasi, from the northern Capital of New Delhi to the southern beach state of Goa. They were awaiting the next opportunity to visit India and visit the beautiful deserts of Rajasthan. We advised them to do visit the state albeit during the months of November or December when the weather is very pleasant and the night life is enthralling.
We took about an hour to reach our hotel from the pier and as we got down from the bus, a local taxi guy approached us to enquire if we would like to use his vehicle services to go on any of the tours arranged from Phuket. We told him that we would like to visit the Tiger Kingdom the next day and asked him to pick us up at around 9:00 AM the next day. Reaching our hotel, we immediately set out to have lunch as we were very hungry. Thai street food is world-renowned and it was in Patong, that we first got to see it. We had a yummy pineapple fried rice which my friend said is one of the specialties of Thai food. The fried rice was served in a pineapple carved out and was in sufficient quantity for a normal meal. There were various options of sea food available to be served in the rice. We ordered the rice with egg and vegetables loaded in it. After a satisfying lunch, since it was quite humid, we decided to take some rest in the comfort of the hotel before heading to the beach.
We went to the Patong beach by around 4 PM and enjoyed in the calm, cool waters till nightfall. After the nightfall, we headed to experience the acclaimed night life of Bangla street and it certainly was enthralling.
At the start of the day, when we arrived at the place, the street was just like any other ordinary street but as the night fell, the street was abuzz with lot of activity and was closed for vehicle traffic. The road is decorated with pubs and disco’s on either side. The road itself is occupied by individuals and groups who enthrall the crowd with their stunts, magic tricks, dance and other fun activities. The place is also abuzz with a carnival like atmosphere which wears on till late in the night/ early morning. We enjoyed the night life for sometime and then headed to see the famous Simon Cabaret Show which was located about 4-5 km from the Patong beach. The Simon Cabaret Show was one of the most beautiful dance and set presentation we had ever seen in our lives before.
The performers entertained the crowd for an hour with some amazing choreographed songs from across the globe. The attire and costumes worn by the artists were mind-blowing and so were the sets which were changed after every song. Each set was beautifully prepared and was different from the previous one. We were surprised to see the artists perform to a Hindi song as well. Unfortunately but rightly so, the audience are not allowed to take photos within the auditorium and offenders are slapped with a hefty 1000 Baht fine. We are instead asked to capture the experience in our minds 🙂 Enjoying the show and returning back, we had our dinner again at the street side, this time our menu was noodles wrapped in egg 🙂 We had our stomach’s full and retired to the beds to have a good sleep.
Day 2: Tiger Kingdom, Sight seeing
It was way back in 2005 – 2006 when I first read the experiences of the Jim Corbett, captured in the “Jim Corbett Omnibus” – a publication from Oxford of all the various Corbett’s books put together. Ever since reading the book, I have been fascinated by wildlife and in specific to the most beautiful and royal feline – the Tiger. It was possibly reading the book and the wildlife experiences mentioned in it, that made me love the forests and make me visit the forests of Bandipur, Nagarhole, Dandeli and others very frequently. More than just the stories, the wonderful way in which the Tiger that has been presented and described captured my attention the most. I have been fascinated by the tiger always so much so that an entire wall in my room is adorned with a wallpaper of the Bengal Tiger sitting in a royal and authoritative demeanor 😉 .
Back to the Thai trip, Phuket apart from being known for its beautiful beaches, surrounding islands and nightlife is also famous for its “Tiger Kingdom” where one can play with tigers within their enclosures without them being tied up! The Tiger Kingdom is a relatively new addition to various other group of attractions in the Kathu area, a part of Phuket. The place itself can be called a young cousin of the famous Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi near Bangkok which is maintained by Buddhist monks. The tigers at Tiger Kingdom, Phuket are hand raised by their trainers since young, bonding with it throughout the development process. Ever since we got to know of it, visiting the place was a must in our trip.
Soon enough on our 2nd day in Phuket, we landed at the Tiger Kingdom. The entry has various categories as mentioned below with each permitting the visitors to stay within the tiger enclosure for 10 minutes –
- Baby tiger cubs (2-4 months)
- Small tigers (5-10 months)
- Medium tigers (11-15 months)
- Big tigers (16-36 months)
The park entry rates depends on the tiger category you choose. Without a second’s thought, we chose the Big Tigers. After paying the entry amount which was about 800 Baht each, we were taken to the tiger enclosure which had 5 Big Tigers. We were instructed before hand not to take any pictures with the camera flash ‘ON’. Abiding by the rules, we entered the enclosure. We had a memorable time within the enclosure capturing loads of pictures with the magnificent tigers. Some of the tigers had injury marks on their body which were an outcome of them playing among themselves. It is important to note that the tigers are taken care of very well and are not ill-treated in any way as was apparent by the way the tigers were reacting to the human presence so close by. The tigers are very friendly and oblige to the visitors photographs without a fuss. The difference of a tiger in a cage and a tiger is the wild is pretty much evident. If in the wild, I am sure not many would dare cross their paths and here within the enclosure you are free to take photos with them 🙂 .
Moving on, we had a walk through the park having a look at the other tigers. There were about 30-35 tigers of varying sizes and breeds. Some trained to allow human presence in the enclosure, some in the process of training. Capturing some more snaps, we also picked up few souvenir magnets from the souvenir shop within the park.
We were out of the park by an hour and had pretty much the entire day left for us to explore.We took a rented motorbike from Patong beach and set out to explore the various other beaches and places of interest. We visited the Karon Beach, Kata Beach and a couple of other viewpoints before having our lunch close to Promthep Cape which is the southern most tip of Phuket. Following our lunch, we continued to explore the eastern cost of Phuket visiting the Rawai beach before heading to the Big Buddha.
The Big Buddha is a picturesque location with a huge statue of Buddha seated on the hill overlooking the Kata & Karon beach on one side and the Chalong bay on the other. As the evening started to kick in, we motored on and visited the Wat Chalong Temple. Throughout the day, though we had visited 3-4 beaches, we didn’t enter the waters as it was quite hot and humid. Finally on our way back, we stopped at the Kata Beach to have a dip in the sea. We had a lazy swim around in the waters for over an hour. Stepping out of the sea, we explored the nearby street food stalls put up. There were over 100 stalls on either side of the road serving a variety of sea food. We bought some gifts form a nearby shop to take home to our families and headed back to Patong. After refreshing at the hotel, we headed out again to have a blast at one of the discos on the Bangla street. The party wore on till late in the night and finally with all our energy exhausted, we hit the beds by about 3 AM!
Day 3: James Bond Island tour
One of the main attractions of Phuket is the James Bond island tour. We had booked our tour with one of the operators close to the hotel on the previous night itself. The tour was a full day tour including lunch, pick-up and drop to the hotel. We were picked up from our hotel in a mini bus along with 10 other people. Amongst our co-passengers were a couple from Malaysia along with their young son who surprisingly bonded very well with us. He stuck close to us throughout the day, explored places with us and even reserved seats in the boat and at the lunch table for us 🙂
After the pick-up, we reached the Phang Nga Bay by about 11:00 AM from where our actual tour would start in a boat. There were many other boats lined up for departure including ours, each filled with about 40-50 tourists. The first stop on the tour was at the Talu Island where we were taken in a canoe to explore the beautiful hollow caves. The canoeing was for about 30 mins and on reaching back, we were taken to Khao Ping Kan and James Bond Island. The islands are part of Ao Phang Nga National Park and gets its name from the James Bond movies The Man with the Golden Gun and Tomorrow Never Dies which were shot here. The islands though small are picturesque and are certain to entertain the shutterbugs of photo enthusiasts.
We next visited Panyee Island which is a colony inhabited by Muslims since several decades. The settlement is built on strong bamboo stumps in the sea and from far appears like a floating island. We were served lunch here at one of the restaurants before proceeding back to the drop point. We next traveled on-road by our mini-bus to the Suwankuha Temple also known as Monkey Cave. The cave houses a large idol of Reclining Buddha and several other smaller Buddha statues. Beyond the large idol is another area of the cave which is meant for exploration. One can venture inside the caves to view the magnificent overhanging limestone rocks appearing like stalactites. Troupes of monkeys are found outside the cave eager to grab a quick bite of the food offered by visitors.
After exploring the cave for about 30 mins, we headed back to out hotel and after some rest were out again to wander along the streets adjoining the beach for the last time on this trip. We enjoyed savoring some instant ice cream while wandering along. It must be appreciated that the streets known for night-life and abuzz with thousands of people, is completely litter free by morning. All the property owners make an excellent job of keeping the environment clean and disposing off every possible litter.
Day 4: Phuket Town
When we earlier planned for Day 4 in Phuket, we were planning to explore the old Phuket town and if possible visit a Thai Boxing match. However, it so happened that we were still bit exhausted from the previous day’s tour and we reached Phuket Town almost at noon. We decided to to keep the day light and not exhaust ourselves too much as we wanted to stay afresh for another tour the next day. Finding our way to the hotel with the help of Google maps, we realized that though the hotel – Sabaidee Residence was quite good, it was bit far off from the main areas of the town. For the first time on the trip, we had to search around quite a bit for a decent place to have our lunch. Our hotel was also close to a Gurudwara which we visited while returning from lunch.
We then set afoot to explore the old Phuket Town looking for shops where we could buy some souvenirs such as key chains, magnets and also some t-shirts. We ended up wandering quite far off trying to find a shopping center till we finally arrived at a place where we could buy some t-shirts. We had walked quite a bit already for almost 7-8 km. We were planning to take a taxi back to our hotel when we realized that we had been walking around in a circle and had actually returned back close to our hotel. Looking around to find recognizable places, we both had a hearty laugh and were happy that we were close to our hotel itself. Just before heading back to hotel we checked out a nearby place where there was a food festival going on. Unfortunately though, there was no vegetarian food to try out so we headed back to a small diner near our hotel for a light dinner before going off to bed.
Chapter 5: Return to Krabi and Island tour
On the penultimate morning of our Thai Trip, we boarded a bus from Phuket to Krabi. The journey took about 2:30 hrs. Arriving at Krabi, we headed to our hotel – Krabi Nemo House. As soon as we arrived, we enquired and booked a reservation for the 7-Island Sunset Tour. The tour was scheduled to start at 2:00 PM and we were picked up from our hotel by 1:00. The 7 Island Sunset tour is one of the famous tours in Krabi and is called so by the number of stops made – 7 (Tup Island, Chicken Island, Tang Ming Island, Si Island, Poda Island, Phra Nang Cave, Plankton stop). The order of visiting the islands is flexible and is dependent on the tides.
We departed from the local pier at 2:00 PM and arrived at our first stop – Phra Nang Cave. The cave is a huge monolithic cave partnered with several other smaller caves. The island also is habitable with few resorts lining up along the sea shore. The beach, a small one, was blessed with crystal clear waters and had small fishes swimming along. The limestone cliffs surrounding the caves added to the beauty of the place. Most of the caves had small natural caves formed at their base possibly by the lashing sea waves over hundreds of eras. We had a quick dip in the water for 10- 15 mins before heading on to some adventure with rock climbing and deep water diving. The action was to climb one of the huge limestone cliff and then jump off the cliff. Though we both are quite adventurous, we simply didn’t have the courage to do so probably because we were scared to dive into deep sea without knowing proper swimming. We both thus had to stay back in the boat along with few others who didn’t know swimming as well. However, there were a group of Russians and British citizens who were waiting for the opportunity and made full use of it.
After some time, we moved on to Si Island where we could snorkel on the coral reefs. My friend again stayed back on the boat, but this time I did dive into the sea (of course wearing a life jacket 😉 ). I was glad I had the courage this time, for soon I was able to see beautiful fishes and stunning corals in the sea. It was my first real experience of seeing such beautiful corals and was happy that I didn’t let the opportunity go. After enjoying a swim amidst the corals and colorful fishes, I had a glance to see what others were up to. It was then that I realized that I wandered off quite a fair distance from the boat and I was the only one remaining in the sea for all others had got back on the boat. I had to swim back all the way to the boat alone taking frequent intervals to see and make sure that I was heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, as I kept unhooking the snorkel mask to see the direction frequently, the guides on the boat thought that I didn’t know swimming and that I was panicking in the water. They didn’t let me venture into the sea again 🙁
Moving on, we rounded around the Chicken Island, an island called so because of the shape of the cliff which appears like the head of a bird. The island cannot be traversed on foot and so after capturing few snaps, we moved on to Tang Ming Island where there was more snorkeling to be done. However, everyone already had a good share of snorkeling done at the Si Island amidst the corals and none was interested to get into water again. So we moved on to Tup Island.
Tup Island is also quite well known place with many movies being shot here including a Hindi film – Kaho Naa Pyaar Hain. The island is a very small and can be explored on foot. As the tide was low, we could also walk along the sand bank to an adjoining island. The shore in itself was quite rocky and not an ideal place for swimming. The sand was white in color due to sea shells which are powdered by the lashing sea waves. This was a very good spot for photography with the backdrop and white sands. We were also able to see the sunset from the island. After the sunset, we proceeded to Poda Island. The island was quite picturesque and had a long beautiful beach. However, as it was getting dark, everyone proceeded directly to have a barbecue dinner by the beach side. Having our stomach full, we proceeded back to the boat and to our surprise, we could see that we were surrounded by crabs who were heading back to the sands for a sleep 😉 .
The next and the last stop on the tour was the Plankton stop. It was here that one could jump in the night sea and snorkel among the plankton which appear to glow when there is complete darkness. I had never ventured in the waters at night before and was eager to do so this time. However, as I mentioned earlier, the guide on the boat did not let me to do so. Those who remained on the boat were asked to be seated and with the lights turned off, water was strewn on the floor of the boat. We were able to see the beautiful plankton lighting up the water with their bio-luminescence. We were asked not to take any photos and lock our mobiles, as the plankton would not be visible under any flash of light. For a quick visualization, below is a photo I picked off the internet. (I am not the owner of this photo and my credits to the photographer)
After the plankton view, we headed back to the pier where we were entertained with some fire show by the guides who had accompanied us on the tour. More than satisfied and happy from the tour, we headed to one of the massaging parlors on the Aonang beach to have a traditional Thai massage to relax our body from tiring tour we had the whole day. We had a wonderful sleep later for the final night on our Thai holiday.
Chapter 6: The final day of Thai Holiday
We were scheduled to depart from Krabi in the afternoon and as the final morning of our long holiday dawned, we were already filled with the thoughts of visiting the wonderful Kingdom of Thailand again. 8 Days seemed like a short tour to explore the amazing places. The only pending thing from our plan was to do so some shopping. So we set out on the final morning to purchase few souvenirs from one of the hundreds of shops dotting the Aonang beach. We purchased few more magnets, purses, key chains and other items before heading towards the beach for one last time to capture some more memories and photographs.
Packing all the shopped items in our bag, we then proceeded to board our flight from Krabi. We reached the airport quite early and had to wait for almost 2 hours before boarding the flight. Our flight was operated by Airbus and departed from Krabi to Bangkok at 15:30 local time. This time though the journey didn’t seem memorable as we were accommodated in the middle seats in the 3-4-3 economy class layout. We were served some light food and tea on the flight. Landing at Bangkok, we had a long wait of roughly 4 hours for our flight back to Bangalore.
We spent the time with some more shopping at the duty free stores, exploring the airport and watching a movie till it was time to bid a good bye to the wonderful Kingdom of Thailand. Our flight to Bangalore was again in the middle seats of a Boeing 777. However since the layout of the economy class seats was 3-3-3, it was far more comfortable than the Airbus 330. We were served a very tasty dinner and after having some wine, I watched an English movie on the flight as my friend dozed off for the remainder of the journey. We arrived 20 minutes before the scheduled arrival at Bangalore and were out of the airport soon after passing through the customs. The Thai vacation was sadly over filled with loads of unforgettable experiences and tons of memories captured in our minds and the cameras.
End Note: Thai culture and hospitality
I would not be able to complete this lengthy blog post without mentioning about the amazing hospitality and well-being of the Thai people. It is true that a large fraction of the country’s income is driven by tourism and the country has excellent laws in place to enable affordable and comfortable visit for citizens from across the globe. The people themselves are very courteous, helpful and treat every foreigner with respect. Coming from a country which proudly says “Atithi Devo Bhava” (Guests are like god), I can without any second thought say the country of Thailand actually implements and sticks to these words. Not even for a single moment during the entire 8 day trip, we felt insecure or had the feeling that we were from a foreign country for the locals took very good care of us (and I am sure most of the visitors).
I would mention couple of incidents to show the hospitality nature of Thai people –
- When we arrived at Phuket Town from Patong beach, we were unsure where our hotel was located. As we tried to locate the hotel on Google maps, an auto guy stopped by and asked us where we we intended to go. When we showed the address, the guy immediately told us that there there is no need to search for an auto, the place was just about a km away and could be easily reached by walking along. He offered to drop us to the hotel in his auto after taking us to a nearby shopping place if we were interested, for a nominal charge of 100 Baht. When we informed him that we intended to go to hotel directly, without going to the shopping center, he immediately without any change in tone or attitude showed us the road along which we should go to reach the hotel. Think of this from the fact that he very well could have bluffed by saying the hotel is far off and could have even charged a heavy amount to drop us there after taking a round-about route. But he didn’t.
- We were settled at a dining table in one of the street side restaurants at Patong for having our dinner. The host provided us a menu card and went away to take order from other tables. As we saw the menu items, there appeared to be no vegetarian dish in it. Confused whether to stay and order some rice or go to an other restaurant, we thought of asking the guy if there was any vegetarian dish he could serve us. As soon as he got to know we were vegetarians, he apologized with folded hands for providing us a menu filled with non-veg dishes. Coming from a diverse country – India, I had never ever in my life seen someone apologize for providing a non-veg menu card before and to see that in a country which is famous for its sea food was indeed very surprising to us. Even though there were hardly 1 or 2 vegetarian dishes, thanks to his courtesy, we were compelled to have the food there itself. We ordered the vegetarian dish that was available and he served us with a big thankful smile on his face. Sometimes its quite simple to see one person changing the mindset of another because of his/her courtesy, but this incident was totally unexpected.
- On the last morning of our trip in Krabi, we intended to go near the Aonang Beach to do some shopping and have a last sight of the beautiful beach. We also had to catch a bus later on to go to the airport and didn’t know where we could board one. Our host at the hotel unfortunately didn’t know English so it was quite difficult at first for either of us to communicate. However, immediately there was a call made to another woman who could converse in English and when she got to know of our situation, she walked down to the hotel immediately. She offered to arrange for drop and pick up to the beach. Glad to hear this, we also informed about the need to find bus transit to airport and she said she will get it arranged for us and immediately contacted the bus service provider and reserved 2 seats for us 🙂 As we started to head to the vehicle for the beach drop, she provided us an alternate mobile from which we could give her a call once we decided to return from the beach. Once we called back, a vehicle would be sent to pick us up from the beach and return to the hotel. Again, as the earlier incident, I had never seen anyone offer a mobile to an unknown and a foreign person with the trust that it would not be misused.
These are just a couple of incidents that I have mentioned. All through our trip, we saw many such instances where the amazing hospitality of these local Thai residents was brought to fore. Despite the language barrier, visitors from any country are served with utmost care and respect. There was hardly any discrimination seen between serving visitors from one country from another. All are treated the same and with a smile 🙂 .
Encouraging all the readers to do visit the wonderful country of Thailand and enjoy a great vacation, I am winding up the post with some more snaps from our most memorable trip – The Thai Extravaganza! Hope you had a good read 🙂