One of the most easily identifiable traits about Thailand is the phenomenal beach areas that dot its coasts. Before I left, telling people I would be coming to Thailand, one of the first things they usually commented about was how I’d have some amazing vacations to incredible spots by the sea. For the first four months I’ve been here, the idea of a white sand, clear blue water beach vacation has been a faraway dream, probably further than when I was actually in America. With PST, a no traveling lockdown, and the sheer distance between my Central Thailand home and the fabled beaches of the south, I was patiently waiting for the first major school break before making the trek. Little did I know, my fortune would turn with a Royal Thai holiday named Royal Ploughing day.
I can’t tell you what Royal Ploughing day celebrates, apparently there’s an ancient festival that honors the time-honored tradition of farming in this country. I’m just glad that it coincided with Visakha Bucha day (an important Buddhist holiday apparently). I mulled the idea to head down to Krabi for a few days before making the final decision the day before I would leave, and I’m really, really glad I did.
Rai Leh, Krabi, Thailand should be added to every single person’s bucket list. Listed as one of the top ten beaches in the world, I really think it lives up to the hype. I didn’t stay in the more expensive side of Rai Leh, but in a small little village/bay called Ton Sai. For the cheap backpackers crowd and Peace Corps Volunteers (we’re not exactly rolling in money here), take my word for it and stay in Ton Sai. It’s cheaper and everything on the peninsula (totally inaccessible by roads, you have to take a boat, most conveniently from Ao Nang) is within walking distance. This creates an awesome atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve ever flipped the switch to easy, breezy, and laid back-ezy (don’t roll your eyes at me, I love to rhyme) that quickly in my life.
After about an hour after finally arriving, changing clothes, and settling in a bit, I couldn’t help but feel like I had entered into something like the Bermuda Triangle. There’s something magical about the utter raw beauty that comes so naturally to a place like Rai Leh. You feel like your eyes are playing tricks on you because you’ve never seen water quite that color blue before. As one of my fellow 123ers said about Thailand while we were in staging in Philadelphia, ‘I heard Thailand is like the Wizard of Oz…. after they turn the color on.’ A quote like that is a perfect description of Krabi.
Another fantastic thing about this area, as if you needed to hear more about it, is that there is a ton of things to do and explore for people of all ages and any interests. Caves, rock climbing, and kayaking…oh my. (Can you tell the Wizard of Oz theme that seems to oddly be reoccurring? I’m not trying, I swear, it just keeps happening. I could go a step further with it and mention the monkeys and make some sort of analogy about the flying ones in the movie, but I won’t go down that path….yet.) Anyone would be able to keep entertained or not. The scenery is enough to keep you mesmerized for hours. I took part in both ends of the spectrum, active sports and lazing around. Let’s be realistic here, I’m used to keeping myself enthralled in a variety of random Thai circumstances, the worst of which at a party of some sort, eardrums assaulted, people coming so close you think they want lick your face, and mostly darkness, so there’s no where to stare to feed your bored mind. Needless to say, in paradise, your head stays on a swivel because you want to take it all in.
I don’t need to go on and on about this much longer. I think the pictures do better justice than my words ever could. But with every up, there are some downs. Being so beautiful (and inexpensive for what you’re experiencing), there are some downs. I’ll try to keep them at a minimum so as to not ruin our piece of paradise. I’m making it a list to keep myself in check:
- Dampness. Things never really dry there. I’m not sure if it’s the humidity, the constant rainfall, or that most of the resorts are in the jungle, but clothes that I didn’t even wear managed to stay damp the entire weekend. Things start to smell after a while, like bedding. And like any good Bermuda Triangle, the weather makes the electronics go haywire.
- Farang-ness. Sometimes it’s good to disappear into the crowd. We as volunteers need to have that time when we have some anonymity. I can’t help but feel that it’s gone too far here. Maybe because it was an overwhelming majority of foreigners there, but the Thai people didn’t really feel, Thai. They spoke the language (and I tried to talk to them, they laughed at me (I don’t mean the ‘aw, it’s so cute the farang can speak our language’ laugh I usually get at site, it was a ‘wtf, you suck at life’ laugh) and responded in English), looked Asian, and ate the food, but I didn’t feel the love. Maybe I was there too short a period of time to really judge properly, but still, I’m happy to be back with my Central Thailand home dogs.
- Mosquitoes. Now if you’re an avid follower of my blog (hahahahahaha) you’ll know my thoughts about these nasty little creatures. The south definitely owns the rest of the country in mosquito population. To give an example, in the space of about four inches of my arm, I had 13 bites. Seriously Thailand, wtf? They woke me up from underneath the mosquito net and when I opened my bleary eyes, I saw 7 little bloodsuckers just waiting to greet me. Nasty little buggers.
- Pehng mak. Or in English, very expensive. This is relative to the rest of Thailand, especially considering the areas that we as volunteers occupy. Not that it’s too costly for the average person, but hey $2 (70 baht) for a plate of dinner (of Thai food) is a little much for us. Luckily I fueled up on farang food (hey, if I’m going to spend $2 on a meal, it’s going to include peanut butter and nutella on real bread) and stayed in the jungle (the cheap/comfort ratio was heavily favoring cheap side).
- Space. The mountains surrounding the bays are truly phenomenal. They’re covered with treacherous jungle paths as the primary means to get to and from different beaches on the peninsula. This doesn’t leave a lot of free space for things like, roads (for you know, vehicles), houses (that have a yard and not with huge gaps to the open air so that monkeys easily climb into your room), or, oddly enough, rice fields. Who would think that I would miss rice fields, but ladies and gents, there is definitely not enough room in Rai Leh for rice fields.
Now this is all relative to my opinion (I hate when people point out the obvious like that, for pity’s sake this is a blog you fool, of course it’s your own opinion, but in this situation, it needed to be said, you know, calling myself a fool and the whole relative to my opinion thing) but I think Rai Leh is a place that the negatives seem to fall away. You can slap mosquitoes, linger on the moldy smell of your bed, and curse that stubbed toe you received from climbing/stumbling through the jungle path in the absolute pitch black darkness. Or you can just choose to blissfully ignore them whilst soaking up some rays on one of the top ten beaches in the world. I think I’ll stick with the latter.