Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Southern Thailand

Friday January 25th
Today we went on a longboat snorkeling tour of the Phi Phi islands. We
stopped at about 6 different places including Monkey Island and Phi
Phi Ley, the most beautiful island of them all. We met up at about
10:30am to pick out our fins and in order to do so, we were taken to
this place that appeared to be an outdoor market, garbage
disposal/discarded items area, and housing all in one. There were
babies playing on the dirty floor and some of the people were
showering in the bathrooms of their businesses. I honestly can't
imagine living like many of these people do on a daily basis. It was
so dirty. Someone had left their food sitting there on the floor in a
bowl open in the heat of the day. I don't know how they don't get food
poisoning all the time. On our way to the boat we saw a dead rat
washed up on the beach. It was rolling over and over with the movement
of the waves. It was pretty disgusting. Between the dumpster rats I
had at my apartment in Korea, the Kuala Lumpur rats that almost ran
right into me, and this dead water logged rat, I don't think I've ever
seen as many rats as I have in the past year. We got in the boat and
headed to our first location with about 14 other people and as soon as
we jumped in the water we were all attacked by sea lice. My body was
stinging and burning all over the place. Most of us including me had
no idea what it was until a Brazilian guy in the boat told us. I've
never had a problem with sea lice before but they continued to attack
us all throughout the day though not as bad as they did on our first
stop. A fried rice and fruit lunch was included in our snorkeling
trip. It seemed pretty tasty until I saw an eggshell in mine. I picked
it out and kept on eating until I started to feel something extra
crunchy in my mouth. I guess I hadn't found all of the eggshell that
must have accidentally made it's way into my food. Needless to say, I
didn't completely finish my lunch today so I was starving when I got
back to the island at 6:00 tonight. Monkey island wasn't anything that
magnificent but it was filled with monkeys that had become all too
comfortable with human contact. One of them saw a British guy from our
boat eating corn on the cob and went straight to him like he was on a
mission. The guy just threw the corn down on the ground because it
looked like the monkey was going to take it from him either way,
willing or not. Another money went straight for someone's bag full of
bananas and proceeded to clean the bag out completely just helping
himself to the food. Many people were feeding and petting the monkeys
while trying to take pictures with them which is obviously not the
smartest or best thing to do. I wonder how many tourist have been bit
like that and I sure wouldn't want to get bit by a monkey all the way
out here in the middle of no where. After Monkey Island we went to Phi
Phi Ley, the sister island to Ko Phi Phi which is preserved as a
national park. There is no development there and I found it to be much
more beautiful than Ko Phi Phi. That is where they filmed the movie
The Beach. I was also told that part of Pirates of the Caribbean was
filmed in one of the caves there, although I'm not sure about that.
I'll have to look into that later when I have more time. The coral
seems to be dying in many places around here and was much more
brilliant and plentiful in Ko Lipe, our first stop in Thailand. I was
told by many people in Lipe that it was the best island in Thailand
since it's so undeveloped and I think I'm starting to understand why
now. Everything here in Ko Phi Phi was destroyed by the 2004 tsunami
and while they are still in the process of rebuilding, they don't have
the resources to do it as it should be done. People are still living
in little shacks and the place is packed with tourists. I don't mind a
place being developed but when the buildings look dirty and run down
it really ruins the beauty of a place. After we came back from our
snorkeling trip, we went to eat calzones for dinner. They were so
delicious and it was such a relief to eat something different for a
change. All of the restaurants that we have been to in Thailand thus
far seem to serve pretty much the same thing. While I absolutely love
Thai food, I don't want to eat the same thing three times a day for
the next month while I'm here. I'm looking forward to Bangkok on
Tuesday where I'm sure we will have more variety to choose from. On
another note, there are these really strange tattoo shops here where
you lay down on a cushion on the floor out in the open and a tattooed
Thai guy will give you a tat with a bamboo stick. I've never seen
anything like it and the tourists here seem to give them plenty of
business. The strangest thing is that it's all out in the open for
anyone to see. I would think that the tattoo artist could become
easily distracted by the people passing by and looking in. Tomorrow
we're going to Khao Sok, a national park that's north of here where
we'll hopefully get to see the largest flower in the world and do some
hiking. First we have to take a boat for an hour and a half to get off
the island and from there we'll take an hour and a half bus ride.

Saturday January 26th Ko Phi Phi to Khao Sok
Today we woke up early to get the 9:00am boat that went from Ko Phi Phi to Krabi. From there we had to take a minibus for a few hours in order to get to Khao Sok. We woke up with a mosquito infestation in our room since our window didn't have a screen on it. It's scorching hot here and Cary and I agreed to take a room with just a fan and no AC since it's about 200 baht cheaper, that's about seven dollars. If it was solely up to me I'd probably have taken the AC room but since we're in this together concessions must be made. It's only bearable if we sleep with the fan on and the windows open. The mosquitoes were everywhere, in our bags, sheets, clothes. I got bit a little bit but Cary had bites all over her. The hotel was a friendly, clean, family run place so I had no complaints other than that. We've been staying in places with no AC and cold showers everywhere we go. I really miss the feeling of not being sticky all the time and look forward to the cold shower at the end of everyday. We got on the boat this morning and were so happy because the cabin was air conditioned. I hadn't felt AC for so long since we left Singapore almost two weeks ago. I am really looking forward to our stay in the Novotel in Bangkok where we will have a beautiful air conditioned and hot water room for four nights.
We ran into Gemka, our Dutch friend who we met several days ago on Railay Beach near Krabi, on our minibus today. We had met while we were rock climbing there and it was a surprise to see her on the same bus as us. She apparently got food poisoning the same day that Cary and I did on Railay beach. Another Canadian girl in the bus with us got food poisoning as well in Tonsai a nearby island. I think we got sick because of the sewage system there. It was a beautiful place but there were bags of sitting garbage all over the place. The day that we got sick, last Tuesday, we were supposed to go kayaking with 8 people and all 8 people canceled because of food poisoning. I have been so nervous about eating after that experience.
Tonight we're staying in the cheapest room we've been able to find our whole time in Thailand. It's 400 baht a night, which is about $13 I think. The woman who runs the place is very friendly and we're going on a tour with guides from our hotel tomorrow. We're going to take longboats out on the lake and I'm not sure what else but it's my understanding that taking a guide to the lake is somewhat necessary. We will hike the other days on our own. The place we're staying in is a bungalow on stilts about 8 feet up with a hammock and two chairs on the patio. We have hot water and a mosquito net to cover our bed since we'll have to sleep with our doors and windows open. We saw a large lizard on our patio today while we were out there reading.
The fan in the room blows right in my face and I took a nap this afternoon so my sinus are starting to bother me. After our nap, the woman's nephew who works at our hotel took us to see some monkeys on a mountain. I got some great pictures of them. We also saw a Buddhist temple there. In it was a casket with a dead person that the nephew told us was Buddha. It obviously isn't but it seems that maybe the people around here believe that. Who knows. He told me that the body was 200 years old and when I got close to it I could really smell it. The body was covered in a dark red ash that I'm sure was some sort of fungus and all was visible through a glass window on the top of the casket. It was pretty disgusting.

January 27 Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Today we woke up to go on an all day tour of the Khao Sok National Park that was organized by our hotel. We left at 9:00am and got back around 6:30pm. The tour started with breakfast at our hotel and then we continued on to the park in a pick up truck, a ride that lasted about an hour. The park must be massive because one of the entrances is right near our hotel yet, we had to drive an hour to get to the entrance that took us to the docks where we took a small boat out on the lake. Three other people went with us on the tour, a young couple who are dentists from Germany, and a young English guy named Stephen that's traveling for nine months in Asia. We had two highly amusing guides, one of which was trying to put the moves on Cary by attempting to hold her hand later on in the day while we were trekking though the cave. We rode in the boat for about an hour until we arrived to a floating hotel/restaurant where we had lunch. It was pretty cool how they had the whole thing set up. I'm not quite sure how they had it anchored down there but the huts were made out of wood. After lunch we started a three hour hike that ended at a cave. I was not prepared for what we did today in the cave and have to admit it was one of the coolest things I've ever done. Basically this cave has a river running through it and was filled with a plenitude of massive spiders the size of my hand, squeaking bats hanging from the roof, some crabs, and fish. No one warned us that we would be practically swimming through the cave and climbing over the rocks until we reached the other end. I'm so glad we did it but there were many points were I found myself hyperventilating as we wadded in the freezing water that at one point went up to my neck. There were rocks and stones everywhere so walking through the water was extremely difficult without twisting an ankle. I had to hold onto the rocks in order to keep from completely falling in and was so afraid that I'd grab onto one of the mammoth spiders. It was absolutely amazing. After we finished the trek through the cave which took about an hour I'd guess, our guide told us that eight people died about three months ago doing the same thing. I guess their guides were negligent and took them during the rainy season. The river apparently filled up the crevices that we managed to get through today drowning the people. There were two survivors in that accident. I can see how the whole thing is pretty dangerous and am sure that anything like what we did would not be permitted in national parks in the US. My tennis shoes and clothes were soaked afterwards and I'm hoping that my shoes will dry in time for our early morning hike tomorrow. It's our last day in the park so we want to make the most of it. We're planning about an eight hour/ten mile hike for tomorrow and then we're going to take the night bus to Bangkok. That will be a ten hour bus ride. Today we saw many interesting insects. We saw a beautiful moth that was bigger than my hand just sitting on one of the bathroom floors. I got a great picture of it that I'll post later. On the way to the cave we saw a rainbow colored chameleon which I held in my hands, some interesting bus with a really long pointy nose, and tonight a toad that probably weighed more than five pounds. I saw the toad in the hotel where we're staying and the guy that works there picked him up. I thought it'd be cool to take a picture with me holding it so I picked it up as well for a few pictures. He was making some strange croaking noises while his was in my hand. On my last picture with him he peed all over me. It wasn't just some small amount either considering it was such a large toad. It was about the same amount that a human would go. It went all over my leather flip flops, legs, and feet and the guy that worked there had to get a mop to clean up the pool it left on the floor. It was so disgusting but of course everyone that saw it died laughing, especially the Thai people. It was pretty funny I guess but it would've been funnier if it wasn't me.

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