As I mentioned in my last post, this Monday was a public holiday in Thailand, so I had a three-day weekend. And because the children at my school were on holiday this week (although I still had to come in) I took the Friday off, and on Thursday night I took a bus to Krabi, the nearest backpacker place I could think of. My original plans fell apart at the beginning of the week, and I was left with the option of being a not completely welcome guest on other people’s trips or going it alone – I backed myself and chose the latter.
On the Friday morning I headed out to the Tiger Temple Cave complex just outside of Krabi, where I walked around the caves and climbed the 1300 steps up to the Buddhist shrine. Unfortunately I forgot to charge my camera so there are no pictures. But it was pretty cool and the view from the shrine was incredible, I also saw some horrendous etiquette from some Russian tourists (guys taking their tops off and girls in tiny shorts at a Buddhist temple) and I met two Californians who I hung out with for the rest of the day. It turned out they were volunteering as English teachers in Indonesia and were on in Thailand for a conference. We grabbed a taxi back to Krabi together and I met them for a beer in the evening where we chatted about Blink 182, politics and the constricting binary of gender, among other things, which those who know me will know is about as close to perfect as a night can get.
The next day I planned to get up early and go to Railay, an island just off Krabi world-famous for the climbs offered by its cliffs. However, when drawing money out for the day, I forgot that in Thailand the ATM gives out the money first before the card, unlike in England, and I left my card in the machine. This resulted in a trip to my nearest bank branch (a 15 min bus ride, and it didn’t open till 11am) to cancel my card. Luckily no or very little money was stolen by whoever took it from the ATM (I’m not too sure what my exact balance was before I lost my card), and the cute bank clerk asked for my email address, but it meant that I ended up on the island a few hours later than I planned to.
I got back to Krabi at about 12 and jumped on a boat to Railay with two British guys and a Swedish girl shortly after. After exploring the island, I took a look in my Lonely Planet guide and decided to go and climb to the viewpoint over the two main beaches on the island, and Sa Phra Nang (the Holy Princess Pool) on Railay. This was probably both my best and worst decision so far in Thailand. The climb to the lagoon is described in the Lonely Planet Guide as “a strenuous hike with some serious vertigo-inducing parts.” This is perhaps a fair description of the climb to the viewpoint – of the subsequent climb down to the lagoon, it is a ridiculous understatement.
Having reached the viewpoint fairly easily, I spoke to two guys who were climbing up behind me. I don’t know if they were French or Italian, but they were wearing speedos, and I’ll put it this way: one of my friends, she knows who she is, would have definitely gone to bed with either of them. Anyway, they told me that apparently the climb down to the lagoon was “more difficult”, but given the simplicity of the first climb, I decided that it would still probably be pretty doable – the Lonely Planet Guide had said the steps at the Temple complex were hard, but they’d been pretty easy. However, I quickly began to see some pretty strong warning signs that this leg of the climb might be more difficult and dangerous than first thought. I even saw the odd Havaiana flip-flop abandoned along the way, the traveler’s equivalent of the corpses of previous explorers used to show how difficult our hero’s journey is in any film about lost treasure – think that Simpsons episode when Homer climbs the mountain and rides down on Abe’s old climbing partners dead body.
I was just about to turn back, when I heard someone coming up behind me. This guy was dressed in nothing but his swimming shorts. He was bare foot and didn’t seem to have any money or anything with him. Forgive me if this all gets a bit Fifty Shades of Grey but this guy had longish sun-bleached hair, was in outrageous shape, and basically every girl I know would go to bed with him in a heartbeat. Turns out he was called Jason, and was in Railay for its world-famous climbing. And he is my biggest hero so far in Thailand.
We did the rest of the climb down together, and although it was quite hard it was certainly not impossible, although Jason did give some help for the more difficult bits, telling me where to put my feet etc… The lagoon was beautiful, and it was definitely worth the struggle. However, the climb up was a completely different matter.
By this point, my trainers were covered in clay, and were so slippy they more hindrance than help, so I decided to follow Jason’s lead and climb barefoot. I can’t really remember much of the climb up, and to be honest I probably remember it as being harder than it actually was. But when I say climb I do mean climb – the cliffs I had been able to lower myself on to and them jump down to the next ledge became small free climbs that were not particularly easy. And without an experienced climber telling me where to put my feet and hands (and taking my bag off me when he got tired of waiting) I’m pretty sure I would have been down there a LOT longer, and probably would have had a couple of very painful falls, rather than the one cut I got on my foot, so you can understand how incredibly thankful I was for Jason’s help. I am also really grateful for all the pull-ups that several gym partners have made me do over the years.
I decided to stay in Railay Saturday night and do a climbing course the next day. Everything cost about 3 times what it does in Hat Yai (the accommodation was pretty cheap though), which meant I was faced with a bit of a dilemma – drink, or do stuff the next day. It hurt quite a bit to walk with my cut, so I went for the latter and spent the evening chatting with some people in my hostel and watching a Muay Thai exhibition fight. The next morning I did a beginners climbing course, which was a lot of fun – I made it up the first 3 climbs without falling, but on the final one I could feel my bad shoulder getting tired, and it got to the point where I just couldn’t hold on or lift myself up anymore, and I had to call it a day (it still feels like my shoulder is basically just hanging off my body).When the climbing instructor (who was impressed I’d managed the lagoon climb) saw the cut on my foot basically told me to keep it covered and not to go in the sea, which apparently is not that clean close to the island. So rather than just spend the afternoon lying on the beach, which isn’t really my sort of thing, I took my now battered and bruised body back to Krabi, where I had a nap and the guys I’d caught the boat to Railay with for some beers and the football before taking the bus back to Hat Yai on Monday morning..
All in all, it was a pretty eventful weekend, which even involved me negotiating prices and ordering food in Thai. It was my first trip to a tourist spot in Thailand, and I have to admit that I got pretty frustrated with people trying to rip me off all the time. It made me appreciate Hat Yai, where most white people are English teachers, so taxi drivers etc barely even bother to charge you double what they should. But I did meet some cool and interesting people, and I’ve even got a very recognisable wife-beater tan now. I haven’t done my visa run yet, but I’m hoping to in the next couple of weeks. and basically I’m just planning Christmas parties with all my classes for the rest of the month. I guess I’ll post again after that.
As usual, sorry it’s so long, but thanks for reading.
ps I found out today that I got 73 for my Master’s thesis, which gives me a distinction overall. As you can probably imagine, I am incredibly happy about this, and thank you to everyone who has already congratulated me.