Well, winter is coming here in Europe, so I guess it’s time to write up some more of my travels in South-East Asia and bask in remembered warmth.
From Cambodia, we flew to Thailand, taking a Bangkok Air plane from Siem Reap to Bangkok, where we were treated to quite an amusing flight safety awareness video:
Unfortunately, later on during the flight the monitors stayed on, and were showing (without sound) some kind of a local “practical jokes played on unsuspecting audience” TV programme. I could feel my IQ dropping with each minute, and yet my eyes were drawn to the screen, eerily fascinated.
Due to good relations between Thailand and Poland you actually don’t need a visa to enter Thailand, which is nice, but we still got fingerprinted and had to fill out forms. On Phuket, we’ve stayed at an excellent motel with a very nice owner, but really had no time to do anything – our flight from Bangkok was delayed about an hour, and we had a ferry to catch the next morning.
Travelling by ferry from Phuket to the Phi Phi island was, well, leisurely, and the views when we approached the island were breathtaking. Steep rocks climbing out of azure water, and everything covered by lush green vegetation. Colours dialed up to 11.
The Phi Phi harbour and the village were definitively another tourist trap, but we were staying at a resort on the other side of the mountain range, at Rantee Bay, and hoped there would be fewer people there.
There were fewer people indeed, although calling the place “a resort” was a bit of an exaggeration – the toilet and shower facilities were rather crude, there was only cold water (which is quite normal in Asia, as it turns out), and electricity was only available when the local generator was turned on, that is, during the evenings, when the bar was working.
One thing that struck me in Thailand was the plenitude of cats.
Felines were everywhere, and they were obviously cared for and liked, because they had no qualms about approaching strangers and demanding attention. In a restaurant in Phi Phi Village the menu included pictures of the restaurant’s three cats, and in the Rantee Bay resort there were at least three cats that vied for our attention (including one grizzled veteran of many battles, with only one working eye, who always tried to get into the beach hut and then onto a bed) and for scraps from our table (unsurprisingly, cats like shrimp tails very much).
We lazied about, did some snorkeling, some sunbathing and drank pina coladas on the beach while playing Gloom, and I started getting restless, with nothing to do except read. I’ve read four books in two days, and getting an e-reader for the trip turned out to be an excellent decision.
Then we went to do some climbing.
First we tried Ibex Climbing and Spider Monkey, two climbing franchises most popular on the island, but both told us that “fun climbing” (a guide, equipment and just top-roping, with the guide leading the route to place the top-rope) is 1000 baht per person and there’s no discount for having our own gear, which really made no sense. And then a nice lady in one of Ibex climbing shops told us that she can just lend us a book with a map of climbing routes on the Tonsai Tower so we can make a photocopy of the map, and we can rent a rope and some quickdraws in a climbing shop nearby, Deaf Gecko, which we did.
Climbing on Phi Phi was phenomenal. Thai limestone provides nice grip and the routes well well bolted, and at the top of the route one could wait for a while and soak in the view – the azure water of the bay with moored boats, the jungle and the mountains. There were also some nice, long multi-pitch routes up to the top of the Tower, but the far-reaching plans we’ve made to climb one of them had to be shelved due to our complete lack of stamina. The fact that route maps used French difficulty grading, different to the one we use didn’t help. We’ve also planned on trying some deep water solo, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Maybe next time. 🙂
We’ve spent the New Year’s Eve on the beach, drinking pina coladas and sharing some champagne with some people from Ukraine, who also stayed at our resort, and then we had to get to Phi Phi Village before 9, when our ferry left, so that we’d make the flight to Thakhek, from where we planned to ride to Vientiane in Laos. The trouble was that the weather was getting worse, wind was getting faster and thus waves were higher and there was no guarantee that the boat would make it in the morning, against the tide.
So we had to hike up the mountain, through the jungle, and then down the stairs to the town, with all our luggage. This was slightly strenuous, but we’ve made it with half an hour to spare, and were easily able to make it to our flight. Next stop – Laos.