We have had an incredible few days at Ao Nang Beach in Krabi, Thailand. Its almost hard to find words and pictures to truly capture the beauty and uniqueness of this experience!
After a fabulous brunch buffet at our hotel (and finding the Steelers game on in Bangkok at 8:30 AM!), it was time to travel to the beach. Our taxi ride to Don Mueang Airport gave us a few learning moments. The driver asked when he picked us up if the highway was okay – we said yes and realized this just meant that we would have to pay the tolls as we drove through the city which only came out to about $5 after 3 tolls. We flew AirAsia and knew to check in early and print our boarding passes before arriving at the airport, as they would charge a fee for doing this at the airport. AirAsia charges per kilogram for baggage so we thought we were being smart to upgrade our checked bag to 25kg from the free 20kg. This was only $17 total round trip for both of us when done in advance. However, when we arrived at the airport, we realized our carry-on bags exceed the allowed 7kg and that we would have to check those too. Our luggage (four bags) totaled 74kg – just 24kg over our allotted 50kg!! It is 400 Bhat per kilogram if you pay at the airport – about $300, yikes! We did get a little lucky with a math error by the AirAsia employee and only ended up having to pay for 10kg of extra weight. That’s one travel blunder out of the way for this trip! We learned that you can go to manage your booking tab on the AirAsia website and have upgraded ourselves to 40kg each for the flight home. This only cost $35 – so we should be well covered for the way back to Bangkok. We DEFINITELY recommend paying for baggage in advance!
Since arriving in Krabi our trip has been amazing! We pre-booked an all-inclusive tour with Krabi Sea Tour and Travel since we had heard such great things from previous Auburn students about this tour group. The driver from the airport was very nice and gave us lots of great information! He taught us how to say thank you in Thai “kob khun ka” – we have enjoyed saying this to generous Thai people we have interacted with as it truly makes them smile. :) Maybe its just our funny accent though! He also informed us that if future Auburn students come they should mention us when they contact them and they will give a discount. We were intrigued during our drive by the mountains all around us; when we asked him what they were called, he told us they are called limestone! He told us too that the Krabi area is predominantly an agricultural area that produces most of the world’s palm oil and rubber from rubber trees.
Our hotel, the Ao Nang Silver Orchid, was great. It had a gorgeous pool area, allowed us to easily walk anywhere we needed, and included a complimentary breakfast each day. We loved the pineapples cut like sunshine, trying dragonfruit for the first time, pineapple orange jelly for our toast, and strong delicious coffee.
On our first full day we opted to do the Phi Phi Island tour. We were picked up at our hotel and a speedboat took us on our island hopping adventure. The views were absolutely phenomenal; everywhere you looked it was like a postcard with floating limestone islands in the bright teal-turquoisy sea. Our first stop was Bamboo Island, and then we stopped along the limestone cliffs of Koh Phi Phi to swim and snorkel. The boat then docked on Koh Phi Phi for lunch and a walk around the town, which is a big destination for diving excursions. Erin got to hold a monkey, which was soft and playful. The afternoon was filled with gorgeous sites from the boat of Viking cave and Phi Phi Leh lagoon. Our last stop was Maya Bay, which was the site where the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed. We trekked across this island to see Loh Sa Ma Bay as well. After our boat ride back, we took our first tuk-tuk ride back the hotel, which is like riding in the back of a truck with seats and a roof over your head. It was fun and a little scary, as the drivers in Thailand are speedy and fearless. The drivers seat is located on the right side of the car, like the United Kingdom, and there are lots of mopeds zipping in and out of traffic. We made it back safely though, just in time to catch the stunning sunset on the Andaman Sea.
New Years Eve was a surreal day. We took a Four Island tour and really enjoyed the time to relax and lay on the beaches. We stopped at the Phra Nang Cave on Railay beach first (the most gorgeous beach in the world accompanied by quite an interesting shrine...we'll let you Google it), then Tup Island. Since it was low tide, we walked across to Moore Island. Then we cruised by Chicken Island for a photo opp and stopped at Poda Island and had a picnic lunch of rice and chicken on the beach. We did get slightly sunburned…the sun is definitely stronger in Thailand. We applied our SPF 30 almost hourly, but still got crispy! (Day 2 update: ouch.)
Ringing in the New Year at Ao Nang beach was an unforgettable experience and an auspicious beginning to 2015! We are both so excited for all this new year will hold with graduation from pharmacy school, moving to new cities, and starting a new jobs! All along the beach people from all across the world lit fire lanterns that floated into the sky – it was magical (think the movie Tangled J) and fireworks were lighting up the sky in every direction. There were a few scary moments with local children lighting huge fireworks literally right in front of us on the beach, but it was very festive. Another really cool aspect of New Years Eve and really our whole time in Thailand so far is how international it is – there truly have been people from all over the world and being an American is very much a minority. People are even asking us what part of Europe we are from… they don’t expect us to be American!
2015 got off to a great start—we’re even having some celebrity-esque moments. We were picked up at our hotel in our own private van with a driver and fun tour guide, Mr. Kent, who graciously took lots of pictures for us. We toured the sights and scenes around Krabi on our way to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok. We stopped at the crab statue along the Krabi river, which has crabs only found along this river – they are tiny but have one white claw that is a lot larger than their other claw. Our next site was the Tiger Cave Temple. The story is that monks were able to hold a tiger in the impressive limestone cave so they have built a temple in its honor high upon the mountains. This was a very touristy area, but really neat to see the caves, a 1000 year old tree, and places that monks live. Our last stop was at the local department store called Tescos, which reminded us of a mall. It had everything from jewelry stands, a pharmacy, a grocery store, and even a Dairy Queen. We enjoyed our 30 cent vanilla cones!
We have had fabulous food the past few days, especially along the streets in Ao Nang. The first night we arrived we went to a restaurant we decided looked magical and both had great chicken dishes with incredible mango and coconut sticky rice for dessert. On our second night we went for the delicious coconut and honey Thai pancakes and the freshest mango and papaya fruit smoothies from street vendors. On New Years Eve we finally tried the really yummy looking grilled corn on a stick we had been eyeing from a lady who cooked awesome looking dishes for an entire restaurant solely with 3 pots and a grill. The corn wasn’t as juicy as we were expecting but has a yummy salty-sweet seasoning. We also treated ourselves to Swiss Ice Cream and delicious drinks served in coconuts. For lunch on our way out of Krabi, our tour guide took us to a neat restaurant tucked away on a pond. Megan had the best fried rice she’d ever had with shrimp and Erin experienced the yummy Thai spiciness with her cashew chicken.
We are now back in Bangkok until we travel to Maha Sarakham on January 4th and will update soon with what we do, see, and eat in this vast, exciting city! We're currently trying to find a way to stream ESPN2 so that we can watch the Outback Bowl...experiencing technical difficulties so wish us luck! And War Eagle!