Post-Bar Southeast Asia Excursion 2005 travel blog

Ok, so here's how it went:

Aug 26th: fly from Hanoi to Bangkok to Phuket, which was looking like it could be a disaster b/c our 1st flight was pushed back 4 hours, which would have made us miss the 2nd flight and get in really late to Phuket, but by some weird stroke of luck we had business class seats on the 1st flight so we had someone fixing it all up for us, putting us on another flight, and ultimately getting us into Phuket on time (we were only on business class b/c economy was full and it was only another 25 bucks, but worked out really well for us). We met up with Aaron and Yoly at our hotel for the night, where we also met with thr two gys from the charter company, one of whom would be our skipper (and the owner of the Mozart, our boat) Wolfgang. We had a few beers with them, made plans for the next day for boarding the boat, and went to sleep in our 7 dollar/night suits :)

Aug 27th: woke up, met Wolfie at the hotel, and he took us out to board the boat. Yoly and I went with Wolfgang to get some extra supplies (i.e. beer) and then we were off around noon. Unfortunately, my body did not immediately respond to the swaying of the water, and I ended up getting a little sea sick (Wolfie had to give me a bucket). But thankfully, it was short-lived sickness, mostly due to a fabulous little patch Aaron's dad had sent along for sea sickness, which stayed stuck behind my ear for the whole trip and acted like my safety blanket for the trip. By the time we got to our first island stop some 4 hours later, we were all feeling good and jazzed about our first snorkeling stop. We stopped 1st at Phi Phi Le, in a little inlet on the side of the island with crystal clear turquoise water with tons of colorful fish, and a little beach about 200 feet long and 100 feet wide. We cannoed around a bit too, and then headed off to our stop for the night, the sister island, Phi Phi Don. Phi Phi Le was the place where they taped "The Beach" and as a result the larger beach on Phi Phi Don nearby has become quite the tourist trap, with tons of sidewalk shops selling the same stuff mixed in with places to booked scuba, snorkeling, and fishing trips. We went into the little town to walk around and have some (terrible) wine by the beach while our cook, Joy, prepared the first of what happened to be the most amazing food we had all had on our trip yet. We had decided at the last minute to pay to have Joy on the boat as well and what a money decisio that was. She made us breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, typically 3-4 dishes of primarily Thai food (amazing food) but soometimes some other cuisine thrown in. So we had dinner on the boat, and hung out on the boat deck while docked in the bay of Phi Phi Don for the night, with the bad clubbing music on the island in the background.

(more on this post later - got to go catch the flight to Bangkok, then the night train to Chiang Mai, Thailand)...

ok, part II:

We woke up the following morning on the boat off of Phi Phi when wew were informed by "dad" (as Wolfie was called since we all quickly realized that he was calling the shots on what we were doing on a daily basis, and we were very much the kids following orders, even if orders to do fun things) that we would be walking up to the look-out on Phi Phi Don. The look-out is (obviously) the high point on the island where you can see the two bays on either side of the island almost touching each other, which coincidentally is the small strip of land where the tsunami came tearing through the island and basically wiped the whole island clean, since most homes and business were on this strip of land between the 2 bays (we've seen pictures - the difference is crazy). This is also where Joy, our chef, had her home and business which were destroyed by the wave. On a side bar, Wolfie told us she got the equivalent of 800 USD for losing both the business, the home, as well as first aid - unbelievable.

Anyway, we walked up to the lookout, which is a 30 minute walk or so through parts of the island that look virtually untouched after the tsunami (Joy pointed out a huge resevoir-like structure where she said hundreds of people got washed in by the wave and died there. We walked past this area of the island and up about 200 stairs straight up and then a little more walking up a path to the look-out. It was insanely hot and buggy up there so we stayed for only a bit and then met up with Wolfie (after his massage in Phi Phi) and boarded the boat for lunch and moe sailing.

We sailed for another hour or two until we got to Ko Mai Phai, better known as Bamboo island. We didn't go into the island itself because the surrounding water is very shallow and full of coral, but we anchored about 50 m off the island to go snokeling. It was of course beautiful, but the current was strong and the waves were high, making the water a little murky, so we moved on after an hour or so.

The next stop was very close, Ko Hua Khwan, aka Chicken Island b/c of the big rock tower shooting up from one side of the island that looks like a chicken head. This place was awesome, and probably one of the favorite stops for all of us. the island is made up of 2 min-islands, connected with a sandbar about 100m long and anywhere from 2-4 feet underwater, such that you could walk of the sandbar between the two mini-islands. We stayed there for the night, and spent the rest of the afternoon with Aaron and Dan fishing off the back of their canoes (Aaron did catch a small cute blue fish with his "fishing rod", made of a long stick found on the hike to the look-out and some fishing line). And Yoly and I hung out on the island, walked around, and read books - seemingly a pretty nice afternoon for everyone.

While dinner was being prepared, we all jumped in the dingy (small, motor-power raft) and went onto the island for some wine on the beach. We then went back to the boat for another gormet meal and did some lightening watching from the deck of the boat for the evening (you can see storms way off in the distance on the boat, so pretty much every night we could see lightening even when nothing was even close to us. But pretty much without fail, a storm would hit us at least once throughout the night, and we would wake up briefly to hear Wolfie and Joy frantically running around the boat, closing windows before the rain started to pour.)

The next morning, we woke up and decided on a little more of the same: ladies hanging out on the beach, fellas trying in vain to catch some fish. When we all got back on the boat, I commented to Dan that the island (about 200m away) was all of a sudden really foggy, and then we both heard the loud noise of buckets of rain falling through the trees on the island for about 30 seconds before the buckets started falling on the boat too. It's hard to explain, but it was fantastic to see this pretty intense rainstorm oll over the island and on to the boat. We stayed anchored there through the storm for about 30 minutes or so, and then is was time to say goodbye to Chicken Island.

We motored the boat for about an hour or so until we got to Railay Beach. Railay is actually part of the mainland of Thailand, but is well-known as a good place to rock climb on account of some faily amazing stalagtites around the beach. The back is also mostly occupied by a fancy resort with private bungaloos, and a gang of monkeys who looked to be hanging around to occasionally steal some of the food from the "street vendors" selling food on the beach to the random hippie backpackers who came to the island to rock climb.

We didn't stay on Railay long - it seems like it had been a nice place up until recently, when the beach was apparently overrun with people selling the same clothing and jewelry crap we had seen at every backpacker stop. We basically took a walk, saw some people climbing the rocks (which were amazing for rock climbing) and got back on the boat as we were allstarting to get the afternoon craving for Joy's cooking, i.e., lunch.

We made a quick stop at Ao Nang, an island that seems to opperate as a 7-11 for boats in the area. We made a stop for ice and drinks, and specificallt to get some "Thai champagne" that Wolfie had intro'd us to. The alcohol is called Sato and it sells for about 25 cents per bottle and has kind of a muted sake taste - very mild, Then you mix it with a little soda water and it really makes for the most amazing summer cocktail. If I ever find some extra money, I think I might import this stuff - it's great. And we were all craving it a bit, so we opted for a stop off to pick some up, as well as sodas and ice.

We were then off to our stopping point for night #3: Ko Yao Noi (ko in Thai means island, fyi). We hung out on the boat some more and had some Sato - another fantastic night. The boys wee now getting addicted to the fishing and had dropped some lines off the boat during dinner and the evening. Later in the evening, Aaon checked Dan's line to find a crab about one foot wide on the line! We're not quite sure how he managed to catch a crab with a fishing hook, but the crab seemed confused and caught up in the line, and actually had a smaller crab caught up with him. We kept the bigger crab and threw the smalle one back. The crab spent the night in a bucket on the deck (far from the windows to both of ou cabins) and became a dish in the following night's dinner. We went to bed, had another great rainstorm during the night that lasted for a while and sent to boat rocking moe than usual, but was pretty fun to wake up to. I ended up waking up a few hours later, when the sky was clear, and popped my head up to see the sky full of stars. We had bought a constellation book but I couldn't figue out how to read it at 4 am, but I was happy to see Orion clea as day, along with about a billion other stars.

In the morning, we jumped over to Ko Roi where "dad" told us there was a crave that ran through to the middle of the island. So we jumped in the cannoes, grabbed a big flashlight, and paddled through about 200m of dark, low crave (the opening was sometimes only just wide enough and high enough for the cannoes) to the middle of the island. It was intense: the middle was probably a lake about 200m by 100m, with cliffs about, I don't know, 400m high on all sides - it really was a little oasis. We hung out in there for a bit b/c it eally was something amazing to see, and then back through to caves to the boat for more cave exploring.

The next stop was Ko Panak: more caves, but to be explored by foot. The island has huge stalagtites hanging off of it all around, and little beaches (I mean tiny, like 20-30 feet long) all along its coast. Dan and I set off to find the cave with the wooden steps leading to a cave deep in the island, and after stopping at 3 other tiny beaches, we found it. But our flashlight was dying and we couldn't see how to get through the darkness. We were trying to figure it out when we wee attacked by mosquitoes (thank you, Maladrone pills) and we got out of there as fast as possible - so fast that I nearly broke my elbow (radius, ulna...whatever) when I jumped out of the cave and hit my elbow on a rock so hard that my whole arm went numb - yeah, I was surprised and fully ready to leave at that point.

Landing spot for night #4 was Ko Hung...there was more fishing, another great rainstorm, and fantastic food (including fresh-caught crab). The night's entertainment included Aaron eating 5 of the chillis from Joy's food on a fork at once (Wolfie put forth a challenge). This decision of course proved unwise, but it was good entertainment for the rest of us. The night's rainstorm was again intense, especially since we were more in a wind tunnel, whereas other night wee spent moe in coves and bays. I again tried to find constellations in the middle of the night, and again could only find trusty Orion. Oh well, still amazing.

The following morning, we took the cannoes into Ko Hung, which hand more good caves and rocks to explore - totally beautiful. Its hard to explain what its like to be the only people cannoing through an island that it just about the most beautiful natue setting you have ever seen - I can't explain how happy I am that we added this to our trip (even if Wolfie did overchage us for crappy Austrian wine). We got back on the boat and borrowed Wolfie's phone to make some hotel arangements fo when we got back to Phuket, the main island from where we launched the boat. It was only at this point that Wolfie informed us that we would be staying on the boat another night - we just all assumed (probably my fault) we would be getting back to Phuket that night, but turns out it would be the following morning. We got a little happier as we were all showing some signs of separation anxiety, so there was more boating to be done (and more midday scotches).

We started sailing again when we noticed a small island in our path - Ko Kai (Egg Island). This place was tiny, with room enough on the island for about 6 lawnchairs, a small shack selling ice cream, and some huge rocks. We pursuaded Wolfie to stop for a bit, and we took the cannoes to shore for some snorkeling. This was my favorite snorkeling b/c we were only in about 2-3 feet of water but there were TONS of fish all around us, and the most kinds we had seen. We also tried to go snorkeling off the boat where the water was deeper and hitting coral was not a concern, but Yoly and I both felt little stings and it seemed like some jellyfish pieces were in the water. Aaron and Dan stayed in and also did some fishing before we headed off to our last island stop.

The last stop on the trip was Ko Mai Thon, an island occupied only by an exclusive resort, which happened to be closed (and therefore very creepy looking) for the low season. We were discussing how it looked like a set-up for a bad teen horror movie. We had a bit of a debacle anchoring for the night b/c Wolfie dopped anchor on some coral and then the chain managed to get wrapped under and all around the only coral anywhere near the boat. And to make matters worse (for Yoly and I, but not for the boys who enjoyed the adventure) Wolfie sent Dan and Aaron into the water to do some deep sea diving to try to release the anchor chain from the coral while Wolfie moved the boat. Yoly and I were not super thrilled about this, especially as Dan and Aaron had just finished a celebratory drink (for getting the boat for one more night). But in the end, we got the boat out the following morning without completely destroying the coral.

We stayed on Mai Thon that night and were back on Phuket to tend to our land sickness the following morning, It was amazing....totally amazing. We ae trying to upload pictures right now, but failing a bit. We will put them up ASAP.

I am tired of writing, but since getting of the boat, we spent one luxurious day in Phuket in an amazing resort of the rocks above the beach, getting massages outside. Then we flew back to Bangkok and took the ovenight train to Chiang Mai, which is where we are now. I will write more soon, but for now, it remains the most ridiculous trip.

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