Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vacation: Thailand!

Have you read about Cambodia yet?  Might as well go in order.  Scroll down if you haven't!

Fancy plane from Bangkok Airways.

The plane ride from Siem Reap to Bangkok was under an hour long and pretty uneventful.  Bangkok Air plays these World's Funniest Home Videos shows on their short flights, which is interesting because apparently a guy getting hit in the groin by a child is universally funny and does not require narration.  When we got to Bangkok we had enough time to withdrawal some money and grab some dinner.  Erich had problems with his card and I was helping him and got distracted and left my painting at the ATM.  I didn't remember until like 45 minutes later when we were done eating.  Thankfully after I sprinted back to the ATM it was still there and all was good.  We boarded our second plane to Phuket and touched down about 30 minutes late.  Flight times in southeast Asia can kind of be like "suggested retail prices."  Its really just a ballpark for when you're leaving.  We got off the plane in Phuket and it took FOR-EV-ER for our luggage to come out.  The source of the delay was the fact that we had our luggage checked through from an international departure point and everyone else just had domestically checked luggage.  We were waiting with a couple from Germany and a group from United Arab Emirates.  Thankfully the luggage finally arrived and we found a taxi.  The taxi took about 45 minutes to get us to our guest house, and by the time we got there I was so exhausted I basically just said a quick hello to Ayzia before climbing the 5 flights of steps to crash into bed.  The hotel (thankfully) allowed us to store our big bags there, so we each packed a backpack to take over to Ko Phi Phi in the morning.

The next morning we met up early and grabbed a taxi to the pier for our ferry to Ko Phi Phi.  I told the woman at the front desk that we needed to be there by 8:00am because the ferry left at 8:30am and she said leaving at 7:30am would be fine.  After a ridiculous ride through crazy traffic, we arrived at the pier 8:32am. HEART ATTACK!  As we were getting close to the departure time, I asked the cab driver how far we were and he told me and I responded that we didn't want to miss the ferry.  His response was "Don't worry.  Everybody same same.  Everybody late."  This turned out to be true, as we had plenty of time to get our stickers, board the boat and settle in before it left about a half hour late.  So much for rushing!  The ferry ride was pleasant.  We sat on the top deck and BAKED even though we wore sunscreen.  There was a whole cast of interesting characters out on the deck who were entertaining to watch.

Enjoying the sun and sea "breeze."

Deck of the ferry.

There was a whole assortment of random islands that we passed as we got close to Ko Phi Phi Don (the big Ko Phi Phi island).  The karst rock formations are really beautiful and look like they were just plopped down into the sea.  When we got to the island we navigated through the long tail boats to dock in Tonsai Pier.  The water was bright emerald and turquoise and that was when I got really excited about how beautiful it was going to be.

Long tail boats lining the beach.

Area right around the pier.

When we arrived there was supposed to be someone from the bungalows there to greet us and take us by boat.  You can only reach the Ao Toh Koh Bungalows by either an absurd hike up one side of a mountain and down another or by boat.  We chose boat.  But we couldn't find our guy.  He claims he was there, and its possible we just missed him, but we spent a little bit walking around trying to find another boat to take us (which we didn't end up doing because everyone said the waves were too big that day).  Eventually we went into one of the hotels and had them call the guy from the bungalows.  He came to get us and we were off on the boat to the bungalows.  Let me tell you, those were some BIG waves.  I mean they were probably only a meter or so high, but the boat was pretty little and we got tossed around a LOT. My mom would have died.

View out of the back of the long tail. Check out that water!

We arrived at the bungalows after about a 20 minute ride, jumped down into the water (operation soak Meaghan's pants: successful), and headed up to the restaurant where we ate before checking in.  The food there was SO GOOD.  The restaurant was all open with views of the beach and there was also tables set up out on the patio.  It was ultimate relaxation.  Ayzia stayed in one (non air-conditioned) bungalow and Erich and I splurged on one of the "family" bungalows with air-conditioning on the beach.  Holy crap it was so nice. The beach was (literally) only about 10 steps from the beach and we had stunning views.  It was so nice.  There was a hammock on the patio, as well as a bench and some chairs.  

The view we had every meal.

The view from our balcony, complete with hammock and coral mobile.

Another view of our great porch.

Our two days at the bungalows were basically just a blur of eating delicious food, sunning, enjoying fruity drinks at the bar, snorkeling and total relaxation.  It was perfect. The water was warm, but still refreshing, everything went on your tab so you never had to worry about money and you never had to be anywhere at a certain time or worry about doing anything.  Awesome.  The office rented snorkel gear for about $1.50 a day and you could just walk right out into the water in front of your bungalow and check out the awesome fish, coral, anemones, etc.  

Ayzia and I decked out in our snorkel gear.

Excessive swimming/snorkeling = prune fingers.

Can't complain about this view.

My idea of pure relaxation!  

Low tide, edging towards sunset.

Sunset on the beach.

Honestly, the only downside was the baby jellyfish, or "sea lice" floating in the water.  Though they claimed they could not sting you...we found that to be not exactly true.  The stings weren't bad like an adult jellyfish, but they did sting a little before wearing off.  The bigger problem than the stinging was just the consistency of them.  Sometimes it was like swimming through a weak tapioca pudding.  There were THOUSANDS of these things.  You could pick them up and sometimes you could see their heartbeat, which was extremely creepy.  Without my glasses it wasn't so bad because I couldn't really see them.  Then I put on my snorkel goggles and all of a sudden I could see all of them.  It was so strange to see all these little guys hurtling towards your face as you swam.  Strange and disconcerting.

Jellies on the beach.

We were definitely sad to leave on our last day, and I have no problems seeing why people end up staying at the Ao Toh Koh bungalows way longer than expected.  We caught the ferry back to Phuket and got a taxi back to the Lamai Guest House where we were staying.  The Lamai company owns the guest house, an inn, a hotel and apartments in Phuket.  They told us before we left that due to a booking mix up, we would have to move to the apartments for the last night of our reservation. It didn't really matter to us since we were really just looking for a place to crash and we were leaving the next morning for Laos, so we agreed.  We left our stuff at the guest house and walked down the street to the Simon Cabaret, one of Thailand's famous ladyboy cabarets.  We bought our tickets for the night (V.I.P. seats, oh la la) and went to grab dinner at a local restaurant before the show started.  The show was highly entertaining.  Lots of Vegas big costumes, really funny remakes of songs (including Nobody, by the Korean pop group Wondergirls which was hilarious) and overall really good lip syncing.  And let me tell you, there were at least 10-15 ladyboys there that I never, EVER, would have guessed weren't women.  They could absolutely pass.  After the show we headed back to our hotel and I said my goodbyes to Ayzia before I crashed.  Erich and Ayzia hung out for a bit before going to bed.  

Posing with two of the drag queen performers.

Cast lined up for photos.

Quite a costume!

The next morning we woke up somewhat early to grab breakfast and get a taxi out to the Phuket airport.  When we arrived there were crazy lines, so it was good that we got there early.  We flew up to Bangkok where we had only a short layover before our Luang Prabang, Laos flight.  Our flight landed late and we were really cutting it close.  Thankfully everything worked out and we arrived at the gate with a few minutes to spare.  We found Mike easily at the gate and were ready to head out to Laos!

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