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Posts Tagged ‘Islands’

After all the craziness in Bangkok and Phuket, Kim and I were looking forward to taking it down a few notches and relaxing on some of the small islands of the Krabi province. First stop was Phi Phi Island.  With some advice from fellow travelers, for the first time on this trip we arrived with no reservations for accommodation, as we were told that the island was quite small and we could easily find a place to stay just walking around a bit.  This was a big step for Kim, the planner!   But we found a home for the next 5 days without a problem.   It even had a TV with an awesome movie channel. Pretty Woman, Before Sunset, The Last Unicorn….it was so nice to lay around and watch TV before bed, something we hadn’t done since Buenos Aires.

One of the Ko Phi Phi Beaches

 

 We spent our week wandering around the tiny center, chowing down on delicious Thai food, and sunbathing on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  The island has two beaches — one side is mainly a pier where the ferries, longtail boats and private watercraft come in and out of the island and the other is the main beach where most people hang out.   Both sides are lined with cute little restaurants, bars, and shops.   We hiked up to the view point via the Tsunami evacuation route that gives a perfect overlook of both sides of the island.   A photo of Phi Phi just four hours after the tsunami hit is posted up on a tree…it’s crazy to see the difference between that photo and what it looks like today.

Boats lined up at the pier

Ko Phi Phi from viewpoint

Another day, we decided to do the “Seven Islands Tour” that was recommended by a friend we met on the ferry.   It was one of the best tours we have done on this trip.   Captain Dang (and his awesome sunglasses) took us on his long boat to an amazing lagoon with translucent water, surrounded by limestone cliffs, where we took turns jumping off the boat and did some swimming.   Then off to Maya Bay where they filmed the movie, The Beach, for lunch where we were able to work on our tan.   After lunch, we headed over to Monkey Beach to feed the monkeys and do some snorkeling.   For our last stop, we took a long ride to Bamboo Beach.   Kim laid around while I collected coral and sea shells for my friends’ kids back at home.   Because of the way Phi Phi Island itself is shaped, you can’t see the sunset from either coast. However, on the way home from our tour, Captain Dang stopped us right in the middle of the ocean to watch the sunset.   It was such an incredible day.

On the boat

Me swimming at Maya Bay

Kim and Captain Dang

Bamboo Beach

 

Sunset

 That night, we hung out with some Colombian girls we had met on the beach and their Spanish friends. Of course I loved the chance to use my Spanish all night. It’s been so long since South America! We had some of our first buckets—yes, they drink out of huge buckets in Thailand, and made our way to a Thai boxing bar. They were offering a FREE bucket to any girl that would get in the ring and “fight”. I was so close to gearing up and getting’ in there and then Kim reminded me how getting hit back may not be as much fun as getting to hit someone-which I’ve always kind of wanted to do:) She was probably right and it was probably for the best that I didn’t get in there in my current state. HA! But that sure would have been a good story… 

Kim and I both really loved Phi Phi.  There are a ton of tourists on this island, which is why some travelers claim to dislike it, but it’s definitely worth seeing in our opinion.   However, we did want check out one of the even smaller islands of Krabi.

I’m sure I have said this a lot over the past few months but Railay (or Rai Leh) was one of my favorite places we have been on this trip so far.   Ah!   It just keeps getting better!   This island is reknowned for it’s rock-climbing trails and has two sides of beaches as well.   On the west end, there is a fantastic beach and all the resorts, a hot spot for honeymooners.  Take a short walk over to the east side for the backpacker friendly accommodation and cheap restaurants and bars (obviously this is where we stayed).   The beach on this side is all mangroves and not suitable for swimming, but just head south about 10 minutes and a trail will lead you to the picturesque Tham Phra Nang Beach, perfect for laying out, taking a dip or getting a dirt-cheap foot massage right on the beach, which I totally took advantage of. Best $4 I’ve ever spent!

 

Tham Phra Nang Beach

Rock Climbers

We spent 3 days here relaxing on the beach, watching the rock climbers do their thing and hanging out at what might be my favorite bar in the world – Skunk Bar 2.   Great staff, great drinks, great music (most of the time) and a SUPER laid back atmosphere.   Every night we got our butts kicked in Jenga and Connect Four.   I don’t know what it is about the Thai’s, but they know their games…it’s like winning strategies are ingrained in their heads as a toddler or something.   Never bet money on Connect Four in Thailand. They will annihilate you!

 

Kim and Pat, our bartender. As you can see, he has a tough job.

The Universal Language of Jenga

One night we were having drinks and playing Jenga with the staff when all of a sudden, two men with plastic badges around their necks came into the bar.   Everyone got quiet, the music was turned off and it was obvious that there was something quite serious going down.   I looked around and everyone was putting out their “left-handed cigarettes” (that they purchased at the bar) and trying to act cool.   Of course all the conversation was in Thai, so none of us knew what was going on.   The two men went behind the bar and started going through…all their CD’s??   Yeah, they were some kind of pirated music police!!   They took all the copied CD’s they could find, had some words with the owner and left.   What?!!   The bartender, Pat, explained what had just happened and then assured everyone they had copies of the copies that were just taken and there would be tunes back on in no time.  It was hilarious!  Smoke all you want, drink all you want, but don’t get caught with pirated music in Railay!

After our chill days in this wonderful place, it was time to get ready for the madness that we knew was coming.   After an entire day of traveling by long boat, mini-bus, public bus, and ferry to the east coast, we would arrive in Koh Phangan for the infamous Full Moon Party….

Incredible Sunset on Railay

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One thing that Kelly and I realized early on this trip is that some things just don’t turn out to be how you imaged…that we are not always going to have that picture-perfect experience. This was certainly the case with our three-day sail out to the Whitsunday Islands. 

When we booked our trip in Byron Bay, the first thing to decide was on what boat we wanted to sail. There are dozens of sailboats of varying sizes, different trip durations, amenities, and clientele. We knew right away that we didn’t want to spend three days on a ‘party’ boat with a bunch of drunk eighteen year-olds and due to Kelly’s issues with sea-sickness, we definitely wanted a bigger boat. Most importantly, we wanted a boat that was going to sail all the way out to the Great Barrier Reef since we didn’t have the time to make it all the way up to coast Cairns. The Anaconda III seemed to be the right fit for us, so we booked a private cabin with it’s own ‘bathroom’ and air-conditioning. The tour included all of our meals and there was a bar on board with plenty of cold beer to quench our thirst.

The Anaconda III

After killing a couple of days at a great relaxed hostel in Airlie Beach, the evening we boarded Anaconda III, it was pissing rain. We were greeted with a glass of champagne, shown our cabin, met the crew, and the thirty or so passengers were given a brief run-down of our itinerary. ‘I’m sure all of you are wondering how long it is going to rain,’ one crew member commented. ‘The answer is…for the next three months. It’s rainy season’. Fantastic. How did we not know this?

Captain's Area

The following morning, it was still cloudy and raining, although not as heavily as the previous evening. Our first stop was Whitehaven, a beautiful white sand beach. Unfortunately, as soon as we set foot on the island, the winds picked up and we had to jump back on the boat to travel to a more sheltered cove. We spent the morning lounging and walking along the shore and Kelly took a shot at scuba diving. The crew offered a free introductory lesson which covers the basics and allows you to get used to the gear and breathing naturally under water. She felt it was a bit weird and had a some trouble with the breathing, but it did peak her interest and she may take an extended certification course in the future. On our way back to the boat for lunch, it started dumping rain and all of us were completely soaked.

 

Crap Weather

Pretty beach

Kelly gettin' her scuba on

In the afternoon, we were dropped off in a couple of coves for snorkelling. We saw some pretty cool fish and the reefs were beautiful.

There was no rain on our second day, although it was cloudy and the winds were blowing pretty strong. That morning, we got our second round of bad news…due to the high winds, we would be unable to sail out to the Great Barrier Reef. This was really disappointing, as the reef was the main reason we booked this specific trip on this specific boat (and paid more money). The ocean was really choppy that day and everyone was rolling around all over the deck, which was pretty entertaining (and nauseating). Fortunately, Kelly didn’t get seasick once!

Rough Seas

Evenings on the boat were spent chillin’ on the deck, enjoying Toohey’s beers, joking around with the crew and our fellow passengers. We had a good group with us, but no one that Kelly or I really bonded with. Our last night, the a/c in our cabin went out and the boat was rocking around pretty badly. Kelly and I tried to sleep in the lounge, but it was still excruciatingly hot, so we went up to the deck where I half-slept and Kelly took pictures of the sunrise.

Our favorite crew-member, Stompa

Me passed out on the deck

Kelly's sunrise

The final day, we awoke to sunshine…not a cloud in the sky. As annoying as this was, we were glad to have one nice day sailing amongst the islands. More snorkelling ensued, but none was as good as the first place we visited. All in all, it was a good trip, but we wished the weather would have cooperated a little better. We returned to Airlie Beach late in the afternoon and our Aussie friend Chris joined us that night for drinks before we caught our flight back to Sydney the next morning.

Finally, a nice day!

Us and Chris on our last night

To anyone out there that is considering sailing the Whitsunday’s, we highly recommend it…just try and do it when it’s NOT rainy season.

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Brisbane and Frasier Island

After Byron Bay, we made our way up the Gold Coast for a short stop in Brisbane, which would serve as the base for our trip out to Frasier Island.

Frasier Island is the largest sand island in the world (123 kilometers), home to a few hundred residents, a couple of ‘resorts’, and a bunch of dingos. There are two ways to explore the island: a) a tour agency organizes groups of eight or nine people and gives you camping equipment, a map, the keys to a 4-wheel drive, and you are free to explore the island on your own or b) you can do a tour with a guide who drives you around and drops you off at various cool spots. I knew immediately I did not want to do the self-drive tour, as I’m a freak about driving on rough terrain (all of the ‘roads’ on the island are sand), and since all of the 2 or 3 day tours didn’t align with our travel schedule, we opted for the one-day guided tour. It also happened to be Australia Day, which is basically their July 4th here. We’d be missing all of the parties in town, but really wanted to see Frasier and it was the only way we could do it.

We met our guide, Graham, at the bus station with the rest of our group, piled into a cramped Range Rover and made the three hour drive to Rainbow Beach. From there we took a short ferry over to Frasier and cruised along the 75-mile beach. Unfortunately, you can’t swim here, as the waters are breeding grounds for tiger sharks. After snapping some photos, we headed inland to check out Lake Birrabeen, a freshwater lake with a white sand beach.

75-Mile Beach

Driving inland on the sand roads was not pleasant for me. Most people get a thrill out of off-road driving, but it’s just not my cup of tea. The roads on Frasier are really rough and it amazes me that companies give a vehicle to any 21-year old with a drivers license and let them have at it. People constantly get stuck in the sand here, damage the trucks, or worse yet, roll their vehicle. Kelly and I did hear that after March, the government is no longer going to allow self-drive tours and I can clearly see why.

At first driving on the sand roads was ok, but after 20 minutes of all of us getting jostled around, I began to feel a little woozy. It was also around this time that our vehicle started to overheat and we would have to stop every so often to let the engine cool down. Great.

Once we finally reached the beach, our jaws dropped. It was absolutely stunning. The water was clearer than any I’ve seen and we spent an hour or so swimming and lounging before having a picnic lunch.

 

Yes, that's a lake

Whoa!

Chillin'

Since Graham was concerned about the vehicle overheating again and us missing the last ferry back to the mainland, we skipped our next stop on the tour and made a brief visit to Central Station to do a quick walk through the rainforest. Once again, we made our way back to the 75-mile beach and had to stop on several occasions to let the engine cool down.

 

Our guide, Graham, showing us a cool tree

Car Troubles

Another tour bus happened to be driving past, so to lighten the load in our vehicle (which would in turn help with the engine overheating), we all piled into the other bus for a ride back to the pier. Long story short, Graham made it back to Rainbow Beach with the car and we made the long drive back to Brisbane. Being Australia Day and all, Kelly, Graham and I celebrated with a couple of beers at a nearby bar and called it a night.

Brisbane

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