Mar 01, 2004 15:36
Thai massasge, food-spicy, fresh, and delicious, inexpensive accommodation,
Ao Nang is a small beach resort town in southern Thailand teeming
with European tourists and other travelers seeking white, sandy
beaches and clear turqouise waters. There are Thai people here,
although they seem to be outnumbered. The beaches face the Indian
Ocean and are bordered by high vertical walls of limestone cliffs
and swaying palm trees. The nearest town with an airport is Krabi,
where we flew in on January 9th.
Our week in Ao Nang has been all a honeymoon should be -- sun, sand
and sunburns. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Let's start with our takeoff from Denver on Jan. 3. Snow was lightly
falling, a fitting send-off to a yearlong journey following the
summer sun around the world. Our first stop was Southern California
where we spent five days visiting friends and transitioning into
our new lives as nomadic travelers. We got a healthy dose of American
food, movies, and bathrooms with sit-down toilets and toilet paper.
On Jan. 7 we stepped onto a Cathay Pacific plane for a 15-hour trans-Pacific
flight, which was mainly spent trying to find a comfortable position
to sleep and watching movies. We had a short layover in Hong Kong
before flying to Bangkok. While waiting for our next flight to Krabi,
we accidentally sat in white plastic waiting chairs until we noticed
the sign "For Monks Only." This was surely a sign we had,
indeed, landed in Thailand.
One of our first indulgences in Ao Nang was getting a traditional
Thai massasge under a palm-thatched hut on the beach. Thai massages
consist mainly of pulling, pushing and some thumping of your body
parts. We splurged our first two nights and stayed at the upscale
Ao Nang Princeville Resort. The large room had air-conditioning,
hot water and HBO. On the third day we found cheaper accommodations
on the neighboring Napphorat Thara Beach. (Try saying that 10 times
fast.) The Blue Bayou (aka Blue Bay You and Blue Ba You) Bungalows
and Restaurant has a view of the beach and rooms for under $20.
We don't even miss the hot water and HBO! The food has been spicy,
fresh, and delicious. Jill is hooked on the Spring Rolls and Andy
orders a different seafood dish at each restaurant. We are slowly
learning how transportation works around here. You get from one
area to another by sea on a longboat -- as the name implies they're
long wooden boats. Drivers sit on the beach waiting for passengers
who ride for 50 baht (about $1) each. They do have public transportation.
The local bus is a covered open bed truck with two benches nailed
to the sides. It drives slowly down the main street waiting for
people to hop on and lets you off wherever you need to stop.
The main attraction is the beautiful beaches. Knowing you're on
vacation for the next 50 weeks gives you the freedom to let your
thoughts wonder. At one point on the beach, Andy turned to Jill
and said quite seriously, "How fast would my butt burn if I
took my pants off?" That's just one of the deep, deep thoughts
from these globetrekkers.
(Sidenote: Jill has become fascinated by a phenomenon she has called
Asian Fetish Men and their Fancy Thai Girlfriends. If she had the
nerve, she'd like to ask a few of them how these arrangements are
made, how long they last and why they're so common. Of course, she
doesn't have any nerve, so she'll continue to watch the hordes of
these odd couples in puzzled curiosity.)
We haven't spent all of our time lying on the beach doing nothing.
We went kayaking in Thalen, which is a network of rivers, canyons,
caves, and mangrove forests. Our guide took us through a patch of
trees with long-tailed macaques (?) waiting for us. These monkey
creatures seemed exotic from afar but tame once they jumped on our
kayaks to get free banana handouts. The next day, we took a daylong
snorkeling and swimming tour around various islands including the
famous Phi Phi Islands. The fish were colorful, plentiful and amazing.
We could see clear down to the ocean floor with our snorkel masks.
Not tired yet, we signed up for a half-day rock climbing course.
The high vertical cliffs on Railay Beach are famous among rock climbers.
Although the day was sold to us as a course, we can't say that instructions
were included. When Jill informed her "instructor" that
this was her first rock-climbing attempt and inquired how it should
be done, the nice Thai man simply said, "Go up." But that
seemed to be enough as she made it to the top. We hardly believe
this course would satisfy American safety and liability standards!
Tomorrow we fly from Krabi back to Bangkok to catch a train to Nakhon
Ratchasima, a city in northeast Thailand close to Phimai, where
we'll spend a week volunteering on an archaeological dig through
Our Ao Nang recommendations: We'd highly recommend staying at the
Blue Bayou Bungalows, booking a kayaking tour with Sea Canoe Kayaking,
dining at Ao Nang Cuisine Restaurant, and visiting Phra Nang Beach.