Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chiang Mai to Krabi

The next day, January 5, we were to go from Chiang Mai to Krabi.

We caught a cab to the airport and got a 1-2-Go flight to Bangkok's old airport. The new one is really nice and modern. The old one feels a little third-worldish. Then we got a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Krabi. (Pronounced Gra-bee.) From the Krabi airport we got a taxi to the pier where we were to catch a long tail boat to Railay Bay. Upon arrival on the street beside the pier we were informed that the pier closed at 4:30 and that the last boat had gone, but that there were other boats available just down the street. Hah! We'd learned that lesson before and knew not to listen to that kind of story.

We made our way over to the pier and found a longboat captain. Likely no more than 18 years old. He said that he could take us right away for 1000 baht, or we could wait until 10 passengers arrived and he'd charge us 100 baht each. We told him we'd wait. After about half an hour a group of 4 Swedes came by also looking for a ride. The Captain wanted to know if we wanted to wait for more, but we collectively agreed to pay 150 baht each and go now.

The longtail was a bit of a dodgy affair. I don't think it would have passed too many Transport Canada checks. The lifejackets on the side didn't seem like they'd float just on their own, the boat had a fair amount of water in the bottom, and the seas were getting a little rough. But we all jumped in for the 45 minute voyage and it turned out just fine.

When we got to Railay we all went our different ways, hoping to find accomodation before the others beat us to it. One set of Swedes went across the island, the others went into a nearby hotel, and Colleen and I started to hoof it down the beach to get to a reasonably priced place that I'd read about. The path to our place went down the beach for a ways, then up a hill into the mountains behind the beach. I was starting to get worried when we found a sign saying that we were near the place, and I spotted it on a hill just ahead. However, before we even got to the place a friendly Thai head popped over the rail and said "All full". Crap. I climbed up to him to see if he had a suggestion of where we should look instead. He said to go back to the beach and turn left and there were a couple of places there. So off we went. We went to the first place he suggested - all full. Then the next - all full as well. By this time our huge packs were starting to weigh us down. (I'm carrying a small library at this point. More book reviews to come soon.) So Colleen set down at a little cafe and I took off to find us a bed.

The next place I went to was way out of our price range. Like 3 times our top end. And the next two places were all full. I was a little stunned. Colleen and I have a nice habit of going to places in their slow seasons. We've never been to a popular tourist place in the middle of high season, which is what January is in Thailand. I was a little flummoxed. I reported back to Colleen, then set off again in the other direction. At this point I decided to do something I hate - I went in to see one of the many travel agencies on the island, essentially paying a big commission to get setup with their "cousin". She said that she might know a place and put a call in. To my relief, they had a room. The price was higher than our maximum, but this was getting desperate. The agent said that someone would be over to take us there in a few minutes. I went to the cafe to let Colleen know and we waited.

When the guides arrived they were very nice. They took Colleen's bag and we set off down the beach. I knew I'd already been to every hotel in this direct, but I gamely followed. We got to the end of the developed area and they walked through the middle of a bar called, appropriately, The Last Bar. Then we walked through a small door and the kitchen area, then we ended up on a path where the kitchen seemed to clean their food. No wonder this place had vacancy, there was no way anyone could ever find it. We got on a path that ran a couple hundred yards above the water and went up several flights of wooden stairs and eventually came to a small group of bungalows. There was no view of the water, and the gardens were not particularly lovely, but it was just fine.

It turned out that The Garden View Resort, where we were staying, was only 2 weeks old. The owner had gotten the word out with the booking agents, but hadn't been able to come to an agreement with the bar owner for access. As we went through the bar area the other day we saw some nasty food storage practices, including chicken and fish left out for hours and covered with flies as well as staff bathing in a bucket beside the food. Needless to say, we did not eat there.

It had been a long day. After a shower and grabbing a bite to eat back along the beach we crashed.

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