Travel days are always hard. We had been living in beachfront bungalows on Ko Phanang, at a family run resort called Sunsea. We each had our own bed, television and air conditioning, an area to hang and fold our clothes and a patio with table and chairs for the whopping price of $15each. This was our first long -term stay (4nights) in Thailand, and life was so at ease that I could have stayed on the island forever. The family who owned the resort were lovely hosts, feeding us delicious meals, happy to give us a ride into town, and there to answer any questions should we have them. Mornings started off with coffee and a good read on the hammock. A mid morning swim before lunch (my favorite dish of the entire trip was served here; a green coconut curry soup that heightened my taste-buds with aromatic local spices. Even though it was 30+ degrees I couldn’t help but endure the heat for a taste) Followed by some sight seeing along the island riding on rented mopeds that we carefully signed our lives away for (mum would have killed me), and ending with a group dinner fueled with laughs, a drunken board game or two, and 3 of the best friends a girl could ask for.
The full moon party aka overnight beach rave greatly lived up to our expectations, and though I couldn’t tell you the details, as it was such a blur; I do remember a kaleidoscope of colours along with one moment that I’ll never forget. Running into a couple of friends from our side of the world, we sat down on the beach to take a break, accompanied by a group of ten or so people we had just met from around the world. Circulating a joint, we went around the group one by one, sharing our names, how long we had been travelling for and any notable places worth seeing. Hearing everyone tell their stories was one of the most inspiring things I have ever had the pleasure of taking part of. Everyone, roughly around my age, some travelling for months, some years – and here we were. Alexis and I, a week or so into our trip, with so much to learn – and way more to gain from our experience. We watched the sun rise with our new friends, and celebrated our victorious full moon experience together; left the party with a lot of valuable insights, and more importantly an amazing memory that I will keep forever.
Life was effortless on Ko Phangan, and my hippie-laden self was feeling nothing but good vibes. However, it was time to move on and explore some more. So we re-packed all of our things, and set out for Krabi. The fun part of backpacking is never knowing where your headed next. We had no prior intention of heading to Railay Beach, no compass pointing a specific way, we were merely told it was a must-do, so we did! The not so fun part of backpacking is never knowing what to expect. We took a boat from the island to the mainland, and a bus to Krabi with broken a/c and no windows. We literally could see the sweat dripping off each other – it was extremely unfortunate. Nonetheless, we were excited! Anddd then frustrated again, when the bus dropped us off in the middle of no where. You have to watch out for that sometimes – Bus drivers/cabdrivers/hotels/travel-guides and even the police are extremely corrupt in Thailand, and they all seem to be working together to benefit themselves. Let me elaborate: the bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, where cab drivers, and hotel clerks were waiting to take us to whichever hotel they are working for. We want to go to Raleigh Beach we said – well too bad! “Apparently” there were no more boats heading there until tomorrow, and we were forced to choose a hotel for the night. We had no idea where we were, we were surrounded by trees, in what seemed like the outskirts of an actual town, nearing nightfall so the mosquitoes were starting to bother. There was a small hut promising information, yet we still came out confused and empty handed, and by the time we came to a group decision most of the hotel clerks had filled the boot of their rusty trucks with the other backpackers, and were gone. We were left, having to choose between 2 Thai men harassing us to stay at their hotel over the other. When we got there, we were the only people in sight, apart from these 2 dutch girls we had only met the next morning. After a lot of back and forth bickering, undeniably due to exhaustion, we decided there was only 1 thing to do in this situation: DRINK. We walked out of our rooms, to the dilapidated bar next door, the only other sign of civilization, with no idea of what to expect. Walking alongside the joining pathway we heard the excited tones of a local musician, putting a thai twist on western music. The parking lot was filled with motorcycles, and most of the locals were dressed in leather jackets (we probably would have never stepped into a biker bar had we been back in Canada). But as we drank and sang along to some classic songs, we happily experienced yet another one of Thailand’s quirky little mysteries. We drank our way through the night in a bizarre pseudo-oasis.
The following day I was enraptured by the views on the long tail boat ride over to Railay Beach. Massive limestone cliffs surrounded us along the emerald expanse of the Andaman Sea, each unique and standing fiercely tall, making you inquisitive to the history behind their beauty. The isolation from the mainland, and the complete absence of any roads or cars, gives Railay its bohemian island vibe. There are no police, as they only bother when necessary, and locals are openly smoking marijuana, happy to point you in the direction of the bars that supply. We stayed at Viewpoint Resort, which boasted a beautiful pool and comfortable sleeping digs. We realized at this point that we were definitely flash-packing, but it was all still so cheap we figured why not indulge.
Railay was one of my favourite spots on our trip, it was laid-back hippy retreat with only a few noteworthy things to see, but a ton of memories to be made. Every morning breakfast was served sea side, sipping coffee to cure the oh so familiar hangover, and sitting cross-legged on cushions at tiny tables in bamboo-built huts, being spoiled with delectable local cuisine . The afternoons were spent touring the small peninsula, walking alongside beautiful limestone scenery, while pick-pocketing monkeys frolicked overhead. For those of you with sick humour like mine, you’ll appreciate the beautiful beach of Phra Nang, and its very famous penis cave. Literally, dicks everywhere. At first glance, you think it can’t be true, and feel guilty about your assumption, but lo and behold, you creep closer and your see right in front of you, a rather large assortment or dicks, some wooden, some plastic. All of them different shapes and sizes, inside Tham Pra Nang Nok (Princess Cave). Foreigners kneeling in front of a cloud of smoke produced by lit incense, offering garlands and prayers in respect for something that at the time was completely unknown to us. Naturally, I needed to know why, and legend has it, Pra Nang was an Indian Princess who was killed in a shipwreck, and who’s ghost occupies the cave. The phallic symbols are a symbol of the Hindu god Shiva and are associated with good fertility and virility, and offerings were made in the hope of increased potency and prosperity. Apart from the obvious symbolic importance to the beach’s history, Pra Nang Nok makes for a very interesting photo-op. After finishing the photo shoot with the penises, we swam in crystal clear blue waters, and lounged in duvet-soft sand against a back-drop of postcard worthy scenery before heading to Last Bar (cleverly named as it was the last bar on the strip). Most evenings were spent eating good food and getting a little stoned, while listening to amazing acoustic performances by local Thai artists, or watching crazy fire shows until the early hours of morning when the moon would light the sky .
We only stayed in Raleigh for 3 days, and though it was sad to leave, I noticed a trend in Thailand. While each place offered us different lifestyles, each was equally warm and inviting, making me feel right at ease. Soon, it didn’t matter whether we were in the middle of nowhere, or a in a beautiful paradise oasis – as long as we had each other we were home.