Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I decided to be a tourist for a day. After basically three weeks of backpacking, long train and bus rides, hiking through rainforests, and staying in some dingy $2-$3 a night dorms, I found a nice private room at Ao Nang beach in southern Thailand, off the Andaman Coast. Windows with screens (absolute luxury), so I didn't have to choose between stuffy hot air and mozzies harassing me during the night. Functioning, warmish showers. Basically the stuff of dreams, and well worth the $12 I spent on it. The scenery itself is quite spectacular. I took a longboat ride from the main town of Krabi after my morning hike to Wat Tham Suea. Wat Tham Suea is a massive Buddhist temple. The main part of the visit is climbing up one of the karsts to see the "buddha's footprint". I had done the Batu Caves outside of Kuala Lumpur, and much is made of the 237 odd steps you have to climb. Not to be outdone, you need to scale 1,239 steps to reach the buddha's footprint. But the view was pretty impressive, offering a 360 panorama of the surrounding karsts, mountains, and plains. And since ithasn't been really discovered by the tourist circuit (or people are discouraged by the number of steps), it was nice and quiet up at top.

So the longboat ride was also wonderful. You see fields of limestones karsts, cut through sparkling blue-ish green waters, and ride pass imposing cliffs, at times reaching through the water like bony fingers. My ride the next day would be even better. My tourist activity for the journey so far was an expensive speedboat tour of the surrounding islands, primarily Ko Phi Phi, Banana Islands, Monkey Island, and then a stop-over at Maya Beach (where the movie "The Beach" was filmed). The tour also slipped in three snorkeling stops, a couple of gorgeous alcoves, and a half decent buffer lunch. All for the exorbitant price of 900 baht, or around $25.

Rhys hanging off the back of the speedboat with me:

Maya Beach:

An alcove:

Today I head to Ton Sai, near Rai Lei beach to do some hikes, and then I'm off to Phang-Nga park and Bangkok.

Couple other random tidbits on my trip: Food tourism is awesome. In Singapore, I feasted at hawker centers. Basically Singapore's government decided to clean up the streets and moved all the street food into food or hawker centers. So in one food center, you'll have 30-40 amazing street food venders and feast for practically nothing. I got some kway toew (flat noodles) with oysters, a soup, half a duck and noodles, for around $5. And then when I got to Thailand, this is what they did to my food:

Ok so that was actually intentional. Pad Thai here is unbelievable. I had two massive orders last night... for about $2.

Haw Par Villa in Singapore... creep and morbid. The figurines depict some of the punishments in hell. Of course disobeying your parents gives you about the same amount of punishment as killing someone. Tells you something about Chinese culture. Some other highlights include the fireflies at Kuala Selangor. It's amazing watching the trees blinking with thousands of fireflies. I also spent a night there. It's kinda a dive, but there's a decent hike to one of the bukits (hills), where you can watch swarms of monkeys and get views of the Malacca Straits.

No comments: