Thursday, August 15, 2013

Southern Thailand: The Beaches

Most people imagine southern Thailand as being the place to vacation, lay out in the sun, swim 
in the beautiful blue sea, and have a few too many drinks. Well you can definitely do that and 
I'll tell you what...if you want that, go to places like Ko Samui, Phuket, or Ko Phi Phi. You'll 
find that Thai people seem more of the minority in those places! Don't get me wrong, 
they are beautiful and some offer some good diving but they weren't for us.

However, there are a few places in southern Thailand that are worth every penny it takes to 
get there and several days of your trip! If you want to enjoy the beauty of the islands 
but also get your adventure fix, check out these places:
 Raleigh Beach and Tonsai

First, you must find your way to Krabi town and then take a ride on a long tail boat to get to 
either places. Both spots are tucked away and you feel like you're in a whole new world! Depending 
on which beach you stay on, you can still walk over to the opposite beach during low tide (or the 
more adventurous route is climbing the rocks that separates the beaches and that works too!).

Tonsai is much more of your backpackers beach. Many of the bungalows only have
water and electricity certain hours of the day and can be in a mozzie infested area (so don't forget 
your net). You'll find several restaurants you can cozy into for a shake, alcohol, or some good 
ol' Thai food. For those who excel at climbing, they have some crazy climbing spots and we 
were told it's harder climbs on that side than Raleigh. Keep your eyes peeled for the
monkey families roaming about in the big field. If you don't stay on this side,
it's definitely worth a little walk around for your own personal tour!

looking towards Tonsai

the trail up and over the rocks that separates the beaches

and the view coming over the rocks looking at Raleigh West

Raleigh Beach was our favorite. A few days will suffice here, although the idea of staying
longer just because we loved it lingered in our hindsight we would have
skipped the other islands and stayed here!

Initially you get dropped off on the west side of Raleigh, which 
has a nice beach and fancier places to stay. I guess you can say it's more for those looking 
for a good drink, a sunburn, and a nice hotel type of vacation. But what's great is that you can 
walk 5 minutes to the east side and you've got that laid back, less resort-like feel! It's a nice mix of bungalows, cheap eats, smoothie shacks, open air restaurants where you are served
on a bamboo surface piled with recliner cushions.

Closest in view: Raleigh East   
Directly on the other side: Raleigh West (unable to see)
Furthest beach in photo you can visualize: Tonsai

How to spend your time here:

In the morning you can enjoy a simple breakfast under a little hut and watch many of the
workers arrive by long tail boats. The huts come in handy, not just for eating
under, but during rainy turns into your umbrella and
a quick place to stay while it downpours!

dragonfruit tasty!

go to the end of Raleigh east and take the path to the right. Visit the local monkeys
that like to hang out on the bamboo fence, check out the cave areas, and hike
up the rocks (it does have a rope if you need some assistance going straight up) that
take you to the main lookout as well as a lagoon. Be extra careful during rainy
season, it gets super slippery and sometimes you can't get back up the lagoon path!

as you can tell, this hike is straight up and straight down!

*watch the sunset. 
go the same way as you would for the lookout, but stay on that path and it
will take you all the way to a beach. It's very quiet in the rainy season so it may
only be you and a few other people. Be sure to check out the penis cave...yes, I'm not
kidding. There's a large cave at the end of the beach (to the left when
you come off the path). This is also a great place to swim!

yes, these are in the penis cave...and yes, these penis carvings.
Don't tell me I didn't forewarn you!

*search the cave.
take a torch/flashlight or a headlamp. again, take the path at the end of Raleigh east, curve
off down the path to the right and head to the beach. When you get to the beach, go to
the right and stop at the end of the beach...there are lots of trees and bushes when you look away
from the sea, go through the little area that looks like people have gone that way before. Trust
me, I'm not leading you someplace scary. Eventually you'll get to an area where
you need to climb a sketchy ladder thing, but instead stay to the left of it as you climb up.
When you get to the top (there may be rock climbers there), follow the rocks to the left
until you end up at the cave. Turn your torch on and head rainy season be careful as it
can be slippery. Unless you are an excellent climber, you can't get out on the other side.
You have to belay down that side or turn back!

this is the ladder you don't want to out for the nails!

*rock climb.
If you get a chance, hook up with Lin and go rock climbing for the day. He'll take you
to his favorite place to eat where you get the legit local Thai food! I swore to Ty I would never
in my entire life rock climb outside a rock gym. It's a good thing I don't like to lose
any sort of challenge to Ty or else I would've never attempted the rock climbing here!
My nightmare did occur though...monkeys climbing over my head and feet
while I was near the top of the climb! A had a slight freakout moment, but I clearly
survived to tell you all this. Thank goodness!

we appreciated some of the spelling on signs, this one included

Ty made it to the cave!

rent a kayak on your own and take to the Andaman Sea. It's easy and incredibly beautiful!
Kayak from Raleigh West around the massive rock formation to Raleigh East,
explore the area, then head over to Tonsai for lunch before returning
your kayak to Raleigh West.

the only one of the two of us on kayaking...sorry so blurry!

*muay Thai fighting & fire show
one of the bars (forgive me for forgetting the name) has fighting and fire shows frequently.
On a free night check it out!

Our mini stay at KPP & Phuket:
As I had said before, looking back we would have skipped over Ko Phi Phi and Phuket.
But while we were there, we made best of the day-after I was ill and of course, the monsoon
weather in Phuket. Either way we thought both were much too touristy for us. So take
this with a grain of salt if you intend on doing these touristy things!

While we waited in Ko Phi Phi, we did a lot sitting and waiting and then a little strolling 
through the streets in KPP. Unless you plan on staying for a tour of 
other islands or diving, this is about all the action we had...

we checked out the market...

then we got on the boat and headed to Phuket...

We arrived to Phuket in one piece, although the boat ride there was an interesting one.
I'm not sure I'll ever ask to take a boat on the Andaman Sea may
have been a one time deal for us! Here is our view from where we stayed and when
we made a quick dash to check out the beach before it monsooned again!

this is where the tsunami hit in 2004. It's amazing how much has been fixed since.
If you get a chance watch the movie Impossible to get an idea of what it was like.

The day we left it was super foggy, but great thing was that it wasn't monsooning!
We made the best of it by getting some gelato, checking out the 2nd largest Buddha in the world,
and had our taxi driver stop off at a fruit stand to educate us on all the fruit varieties!.
The ladies let us try all the fruits too!

This thing is worth 60 million US dollars and is
one of the most amazing things to be standing underneath! We may have seen it when
the weather was quite foggy and rainy, but the silhouette itself was enough to amaze us!

our stop at the fruit stand with our driver!

We headed north via a little plane to Chiang Mai after we left the fruit stand...
our suggestion, take AirAsia whenever possible. It's nice, easy, quick, and you can get
some decent deals if you plan far enough ahead of time.

Until our next SE Asia blog post...

♥The SE Asian traveling Stanleys!