Saturday, 16 February 2008

Fishy business in Krabi town

Right then. What day is it now? Ah yes, February 16th... My last post concerned events on January 4-9th, so the blog looks in danger of being consigned to history unless I do something. Hence, with courage and determination -- and in spite of the fact it's -2 outside, I can't get the heating to work, and I have a cold -- I have turned on the computer, put on a Mozart symphony to lubricate my thoughts, and began...

Much has happened since I returned to Korea just over two weeks ago, but I guess it's best to keep things in cronological order, so it's back to Thailand and the resort of Krabi on 10th January for some more holiday memories.

When we arrived in Krabi I quickly started noticing some of the techniques Ant uses to get around in Thailand. These can best be explained in a number of rules:
  1. If any commercial service (shop, restaurant, bus, etc.) only has farang as it's customers then it should be avoided.
  2. Conversely, if there are lots of Thais taking part in something then you know it's good.
  3. The first information you are told when enquiring about the cost/availability of a service is almost always negotiable, or just plain wrong -- especially if you ask in English.
  4. When you need to ask for directions or advice, girls are generally more knowledgable than guys, and the prettier the girl is the more she will know.

These are best understood by a story. When we arrived in Krabi we made our way to Ao Nang beach, a hotbed of western tourists and guesthouses. The local guidebook informed us that even basic accommodation started from 1200 Baht (20 pounds) and up -- rather more than we were hoping to pay. On the first day, when we had finished our lunch at a beachside restaurant, Ant asked the waitress (who was pretty of course - rule (4)) where she thought would be a good place to stay. She advised we visit the 'Sea-View guesthouse' a short walk up the road, where she said there were rooms for around only 500 Baht (see rule (3)). Once we arrived there we were told at first that rooms were 1500B with aircon, 1200B without ((3) again). At this point Ant lapsed into Thai and told the receptionist what 'their friends' from the local restaurant had told us. After some conversation suddenly from nowhere a young girl appeared and beckoned us to follow her to the next street, where we were introduced another resort manager (who had some connection with Sea View which I never understood). She then led us around the back of the guesthouses and cafes, where the alleyway suddenly opened into a large, mostly unused plot of land. In the far corner there stood a few wooden bungalows under the shade of some large trees. We were told we could indeed use one for 500B per night on the condition that we didn't tell the neighbouring residents, who were paying rather more. So, through Ant's 'skills' we ended up paying 500B for accommodation which, while basic, was probably more pleasant than we would have had crammed in a guesthouse for 1200B.

Another good example of rules (1) and (2) came when we took a trip to the 'Tiger Cave Temple' the next day (pictures on Picasa). At Ao Nang, Tourist taxis offered trips to the temple and back for 1200B (it seems a popular price!). Ant suggested we take the local bus instead ('bus' = pick-up truck with makeshift seats and a roof attached to the back), and we made the same journey for 240B each, even when we allowed ourselves a little luxury on the way back and negotiated with the bus driver to be taken straight back to our accommodation -- on our own private bus!

Most of our time in Krabi is well documented by the photos on picasa. One day which is not is the day we went kayaking in mangrove forests a little way along the coast (I didn't dare take Jin's parent's camera in a kayak!). It was very special and so deserves at least a little description. Mangroves are trees that grow in saline coastal habitats in the tropics and subtropics and the place we went was a wide river mouth where the freshwater mixed with the sea. The trees grow in a few feet of water between towering vertical cliffs of limestone. At high tide it is possible to kayak deep in to the mangrove forests. That day we went in a group of 8, including a guide (who was essential if we were not to get lost in the maze of narrow passageways between the mangroves). The landscape was utterly timeless. There was no sign of civilisation besides the occasional remains and cliff-paintings of a nomadic people who used to inhabit the mangroves but had disappeared over a century ago. There was no sound except the calls of the insects dwelling in the water and on the trees. The high cliffs enclosed the mangroves and lagoons into their own alien world. It was magical.

Two days later, it was an utter contrast back in Bangkok...


Ant said...

Oh, what happy times! I miss you Mark... ;)

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