Wednesday, June 30, 2010

tossed upon stormy seas

I signed up for an island sightseeing-snorkeling tour thing while I was in Krabi. It's the low season, which means it's the stormy season, and if the weather was rough then the tour would have to be rescheduled. Luckily, it didn't rain that morning but the sea was wild. The first leg of the trip was to Bamboo Island, and normally takes about 45 minutes. On the choppy water it took us an hour of constant jolts as the front of the boat slammed back into the water after cresting each wave.

And you remember the story of Barf-o-rama, so I won't relate it here. I was not involved.

We made it to Bamboo Island alive!


This is the Viking Cave, so named because it has paintings inside of viking ships. It is closed to the public. :-(

And this is me on a boat!

Then we visited the lagoon on Phi Phi Lei.


And THEN I went to Phi Phi Don!


And there was snorkeling too, but that is a most tragical story which I will relate to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

everywhere a sign

Having had enough confusion over prepositions, I left Railay for the mainland, and stayed three nights in Krabi, on Ao Nang beach.


It's a fairly empty beach, most of the time. The strip of road along the beach has guesthouses and massage places and delicious cheap food. (Actually most of my delicious cheap meals were from the same place where I had my laundry done--which also offers manicures, massages, hair cuts and bus tickets.)

But there's also this questionable bit of advertising:

And because it's silly to present one sign, I'll give you three, though the others come from Ko Phi-Phi:

Cutesy, serious, cutesy. Ko Phi Phi was devastated by the tsunami in 2004, and most of the islands and beaches on the Andaman sea in Thailand have clear evacuation routes.


Monday, June 28, 2010


Smelly backpackers don't set out to be that way.

I can live without air conditioning, and sleep on mattresses filled with what is probably sand. The luxury I can't do without, though, is a hot shower. I was lucky in Ban Phe that I got to use what I think is the only hot shower in the building. It was fantastic.

I've used cold showers. The ones on Ko Samet aren't bad, because I think the water tanks are heated by the sun. In/on/at Railay, they are not. If you'll recall, I arrived unhappily on a Friday morning after an overnight bus trip. I was greeted by mosquitoes and mangroves and monkeys, but I shunned them all and went to bed. When I awoke, my mood was so precarious that I tested the water and decided that today, I was a dirty backpacker!

Saturday I went swimming and laid on the beach and by the time I got back to my room, I was warm and sticky enough that I was ready to take on that cold shower. Unfortunately, the power was out, and that meant that the water was out. The only seating in my room was my bed, and I tried not to taint it with my sweaty, salty, sunscreeny self as I read a book and waited for the fan to tell me that the power was back. The electricity came back after an hour or so, but by then I had cooled off a bit.

When forced to take a cold shower, the experience is much like a very cautious "hokey pokey." While washing my hair, for instance, the rest of my body cowers away from the water. It is not very effective, but it did.

Sunday...I don't even have an excuse for Sunday. At the end of the day I hosed the sand off my feet and went to bed.

I think that I was looking forward to Monday, when I would come back to Ao Nang on the mainland and settle for nothing less than a hot shower. It wasn't heartening when the desk at my guesthouse had a sign that said, "no electric 9:00 to 17:00." Railay is connected to the mainland, and it's likely that power situations affect them both. I made it ashore around noon, and walked from the fancy beach to the backpacker beach (I would have been unwashed anyway!) along the way I passed a Burger King (they have Burger King here?!) with a sign taped to the door that said, "closed - no have electric." Blast!

I found a room with a theoretical hot shower, and it wasn't even one o'clock yet so I went for a walk and was adopted by a family of dogs on the beach. I don't blame them for being confused. I had lunch (mainland red curry with rice and an egg on top: 45B. My similar curry dinner [preposition] Railay was 210B--more than SIX DOLLARS.) At about four thirty I went to my room and anxiously waited for the electricity to come back, though in Thailand 17:00 could easily mean 19:30. It didn't! It meant 17:03!

Then, this:

As with all things, the moral of this story is to grab what you want when you can have it, because otherwise you might go four days without a decent shower.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Diamond Cave is the other cave in/on/at Railay. It's deeper and more interesting than Pranang Cave, but they're both special in their own ways.


It's 40b for adults and 20b for children. Cats are free.


And pictures inside caves, when taken without a tripod, look terrible. You should be proud that I didn't attempt bat pictures this time. Here, the inside of the cave looks like baleen.


There was actually a much more baleen-inspired formation, but my picture of it was even worse than this one. Very bad.


Just believe me that there were far more interesting formations than these.

This tree is growing under part of the cliff. When I took the picture, the air was sizzling with the sound of cicadas.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'll follow the night

West Railay is probably the most popular beach, and the biggest beach in/at/on Railay.


West Railay also (obviously) has the best sunsets. Here are two of them:



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

scoff at the monkeys

While in/at/on Railay, it is a good idea to look up every once in awhile here, because there might be a family of monkeys eager to drop things on your head.

Or just be cute.


These are spectacled langurs. I ran into (under? I struggle so much with the prepositions!) a family of them on my way from West Railay to East Railay when I first landed. I was tired and hungry and when I looked down to maybe retrieve my camera, I instead noticed that each of my legs was providing lunch for a half-dozen mosquitoes and I kept going. The next day, there was a cluster of them in the trees near my guesthouse.


I also saw a group of macaques at pranang cave. I did not photograph them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

deeper the quicksand

I didn't sleep much on the bus ride to Krabi, which ended before the sun came up anyway. I had free soft cake roll for breakfast and a donut for dinner the night before and was therefore tired and malnourished when I arrived in/on/at Railay.

Railay is a peninsula, isolated from the mainland by limestone cliffs. My lodgings were on the east side, which is a mangrove forest. I checked in, wrote in my diary,

"East Railay is a mangrove swamp full of mud and mosquitoes and my shower is cold and nobody loves me."

Then I took a nice long nap. When I awoke, I was in a better mood. Mangrove forests are cool!


They have orange-scented mosquito repellant here! I was looking at a whole new ocean! The Indian Ocean! And I remembered that karst topography is like my favorite topography of all the topographies!

The south end of Railay is home to Pranang Cave, which is all that remains of a beautiful princess after a quarrel and some turning-people-into-islands-and-caves business. You know. And I like that in the States, if I point out a stalagmite as looking very phallic, I'd get a "grow up, Emily." But here they tie pretty fabric around the dangling and jutting phalluses, so there. (I didn't take a picture of this.)


I spent my first day on this beach. There are karst islands and stuff too.


And right after I took this picture, a little yellow butterfly flitted out over the ocean, dancing a little too close to the waves for my comfort. Whenever it was hidden behind a swell, I held my breath until I saw it again. This is my life.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Giddyup or whoa

After confirming that I'm well enough to hula-hoop, I left Ban Phe. Incidentally, I have things to write about.

First, the southern bus terminal in Bangkok is amazing! It's three floors of shopping, little karaoke rooms, and at least two Mister Donuts, of whose "Pon de Ring" my Dunkin' Donuts mochi ring is a pale imitation.

I bought one.


It was fantastic. And I don't like the frosted mochi rings, because they're really sweet, but this was the best donut I've ever had in my life. In a bus station. In Bangkok.

And because I'm classist, and don't like sleeping next to "aisle people," and also like reclining seats, I bought a ticket on the 24-seat VIP bus to Krabi, on the Andaman sea in southern Thailand. Only three seats across, and I didn't have to miss the World Cup game (I don't even know who was playing.)


And after a night on the most deluxe of deluxe buses in Thailand, I think I'm going to schedule my overnight travel on trains whenever possible. I just can't sleep in a recliner, as plush as it was. The service was excellent though, so I can recommend VIP for day travel. I got a pastry in a keepsake gift box!


And vegetable juice, and shrimp-flavored peanuts, AND water. And I woke up too early in the morning in Krabi and took a long-tail boat to Railay.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


On Monday I went to Ko Samet during the day, and the beach was empty. There were more sarong sellers than tourists. Thank you, low season.

smet 001

Monday, June 14, 2010

Just a little pin prick

Sometimes I don't write about things, in case I die. Like in January I got in a little motorbike accident, and I wanted to wait until I was absolutely sure that my foot wasn't going to fall off from gangrene before I wrote about it. And then when it finally healed it wasn't relevant so I didn't mention it until today. I did get a scar out of it, which is cool.

Well last week I visited the doctor for a regular annual exam and the doctor discovered that I had something that shouldn't be next to my uterus. It was about a 7cm round mass, as seen in this webcam picture of an ultrasound printout:

The little white arrow points to the mass, and the black blob above and to the right of it is my bladder.

We scheduled laparoscopic surgery for Tuesday the 8th to remove my Mysterious Mass.

This is my room at Bangkok Rayong Hospital. It's super fancy, and it's just a standard room. Actually about the same cost per night as a Super 8 in the States, and it includes food and sponge baths.

hospital 001

The surgery went well, and the mass turned out to be a dermoid cyst, which is pretty awesome. It was mostly full of *hair* but there was a *tooth* in it too. Not only did I get to take home a souvenir DVD of the surgery, but I also have a little piece of the cyst in formaldehyde. With some hair. Autumn is very grossed out by my little friend, but I find the DVD more disturbing (watching huge masses of hair being pulled out of my belly button...) I go back for a follow-up on Tuesday, and I may share the video if you're not completely disgusted by the prospect.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunday driver, yeah

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand from 1351 to 1767. I wandered around the Ayutthaya Historical Park and Other Places in Ayutthaya and took pictures.


1767 was the end of the Ayutthaya kingdom, when the Burmese army sacked the city. They also beheaded most of the Buddha images. A few of them have been restored.






Headless Buddhas:


This little Prang chattered and squeaked with bats. I climbed up and tried to take a picture, but it looks just as bad as my last attempt. Bats are tricksy creatures.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

moonbeams and fairytales

I was going to go to Ayutthaya on Monday, as part of this grand, historical Tour of Ancient Capitals. I bought a bus ticket and got on the bus in Sukhothai, and it entered various cities along the way and stopped at their bus station. It didn't do this in Ayutthaya, though. It pulled to the side of the road and I didn't get off and ended up staying until Bangkok.

(I have a great distaste for Bangkok. I can't explain it.) To perk myself up, I said "Yes! This is a horrible idea!" when a motorcycle taxi offered to take me where I needed to go. There's nothing like an 80kph motorbike ride, swerving through Bangkok traffic at night, to help you feel human feelings again. ("Oh, shit; we're going to hit a bus!" is a feeling, right?)

I arrived safe and sound and shaken at a nice little guesthouse and made a day trip to Ayutthaya the following morning.

My first stop was Bang Pa-In Palace, which is nothing like the Grand Palace in Bangkok, all cluttered with dazzling golden temples. This one is like the setting for a fairytale. It's open and landscaped and dreamy. It was mostly used in the second half of the 19th century.



DSCF3132Rabbits! And the floor inside the tower is black and white tile. And this is not Wonderland.

But maybe it is, because this little building, which also has a checkered floor, has the strangest proportions. The ceiling is very low on the bottom, but not on the top floor.



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

it's a sunny day

When we left off, I had had a crap morning in Sukhothai involving little sleep, ample insect bites, prickly heat and slipping in the mud! I decided to start over (having already visited the temples inside the walls,) and went to the museum. The museum was cooler, and even had a fan here and there. And I met a guide named At at the museum who interpreted things and then I hopped on the back of his motorbike and had another go at the day, visiting the temples outside of the city wall. This second attempt was much better than the first.

This is a ditch between the huge old city walls.

There are three walls, and the openings are staggered just like that cartoon documentary about the castle that I watched a hundred times in elementary school (and never tired of it.)

And now that I'm in the mood to appreciate life again, hail the low season! Praise empty guesthouses, cheap rooms, and being the *only* person (save At) at every temple I visited all day, including the part of the day where I was cranky and horrible and not in the mood to praise anything.






This is a much longer, steeper climb than it looks. Trust me.



The tone of the pictures is no different, but I assure you I was a much happier person!