Somewhere on a beach along the Andaman coastline, overnight, mermaid has become the new black. Quick, someone tell Vogue. Never have I ever, seen so many sparkly animal print kaftans and glittery scoop-backed evening dresses and for certain I’ve never seen them teamed with reef shoes and flippers. We just didn’t get it; everywhere we looked the beach was flooded with tourists draping their chiffon capes and scarves into the water while posing for the ultimate selfie. Where the beach stretched beneath soft bamboo leaves and driftwood edged into the waves, we saw a picture perfect opportunity to swim in the sea, but others saw the chance for a choreographed profile pic, balanced on a log with the spray crashing around them. Instagram must have been crashing too.
Best pose though really had to go to all the couples in matching swimmers, curved together on the sand arching in the shape of a love heart. By the end of the day, the swarms of selfie-loving tourists had the other gal exasperated and saying “it’s just put me off photography”. Quite frankly, it could have almost put us off tourists. Meanwhile back at the hotel, a jolly foursome came poolside and we noticed how the two guys were looking fresh in their hotel bathrobes and slippers while their wives were wearing printed floral tops and jeans. The guys cast off their robes and stepped into the pool. We wondered how uncomfortable the women might be sitting in the hot sun clothed in denim. It was our first day in Krabi and we’d already spent the morning floating in the sea to abate the heat. But never mind, they had the same idea and got in too. Jeans and all.
Krabi on Thailand’s west coast is close to the island stretch in the Archipelago and home to the well known Phi Phi Islands. Though really, you could be airdropped anywhere in Thailand and find it equally beautiful with its warm tropical air, white silky sands and azure dreamy seas. Having arrived in the afternoon, we headed straight for the beach, but the tide was so low that by the time we hit the water it was bobbing over corals and rocks. The next morning when we went back to the beach to hire a long tail boat, the waves were lapping against the hotel sign. With the tide so high and the swell so buoyant we literally could have jumped from the hotel lawn into the sea, so we did and it was beautiful. Gentle lapping currents lifting swimmers across the waves, thankfully none of them remotely interested in taking their phones for a swim to capture the moment.
That afternoon we took our first trip on the 4 Island tour to see the oddly shaped Chicken Island and catch the high tide so we could walk the emerging sandbar to Tub Island. By boat, it’s about a 45-minute ride and as the boatsman skips the surface, the sky changes in the late afternoon with the fat monsoon clouds appearing on the horizon. When we reached the little island the light cast dappled shadows on the stretch of sand and we popped our towels down to shelter from the sun. It always makes me laugh at how easy some people make spending a day in the sun appear. Already my legs and shoulders were stinging from sunburn, my eyes were watering from squinting and when I looked down at my perfectly pedicured holiday feet, the hours in the water had peeled off entire nails of polish and I had blisters from new thongs. Even with her brown skin, the other gal didn’t fare much better; her feet puffed up in the humidity, salt water got in her eyes and her knees had pulled with all the hauling on and off the boat. How all the other gals looked so effortlessly sun-kissed and glamorous, I really don’t know.
One night we were sitting outside and the other gal started looking around nervously; “What was it?” I asked. “Can’t you see that shadow,?” she said. “No.” “Ok, maybe it’s just me.” Again it came and skittered around where we were sitting. She asked if I could see it move on the cushions of the chairs we were sitting on. Nope. Nothing to see here. But its presence got so strong that I asked her what she felt this energy was. “Male or Female? Was it here to harm her?” Definitely a man and no, definitely not here to harm her. We wondered why it had come and I was reminded that the night before that something had startled her, again a shadow and presence. Despite my emotional nature, I’m not sensitive to these types of energies or things that go bump in the night, but shadow man was definitely real because just before he left us outside, I too had seen the figure cast to my side and pass me.
The next day we took the must-do speedboat tour of Phi Phi. First stop Maya Bay, famous for the filming of The Beach. It was so crowded I think people were still actually hoping for a sighting of Leonardo. As it turned out, this was yet another spot where the selfie craze boomed. As boatloads of tourists zoomed into shore, they draped themselves over the Island signboard and made a quick dash for the water, holding up their hands as peace signs and puckering up. It’s a full day of island hopping and is nature at its most splendid. From the lapis blue, turquoise and pale peppermint coloured water, the tall jagged islands shoot skywards. Their exposed stone bluffs are like slices of cake. It’s majestic scenery and along with the beaches, is exactly why people flock to Thailand. There are many day tour options to choose from that take in Hong Island, Bamboo Island, James Bond Island and wonderfully secluded bays for snorkelling through schools of Nemo’s and exploring the corals. The easy thing about travelling in Thailand is the choice; at any given time it’s easy to organise a trip to the islands or inland. With over 32 million visitors each year, they’re adept at tourism and the people are full of warmth and will do anything to make your time in their country happy.
I love Asia and especially exploring the Buddhist temples. We spent a morning at the Tiger temple which is set beautifully inside the mouth of a cave. Its broad opening has been filled with a line of golden Buddha’s and though a large room has been added on, you can still see the full cave and climb up the narrow stairway to an adorned tiger statue and jade Buddha. We lit candles and incense, were lightly splashed with holy water from the Monks giving blessings and whispered quiet prayers and thanks. It was peaceful and serene and would be easy to spend a day at Wat Tham Sua to see the sitting Buddha under the trees, the Pagoda and main Chinese temple. That is if you didn’t mind the wild monkeys jumping up and stealing food from your bag or pinching things straight out of your hands. They were everywhere, squawking and bounding from one side of the path to the other. So we skipped the cafes and headed into Krabi for some local chilli noodles. The township itself is like most of Thailand and comes to life after dark with the buzzing night markets and restaurants serving local street food until late. We found a cafe with a balcony overlooking the giant namesake statue of a crab near the mangroves, where the longboats cut through the backwaters. One ’80’s song after the other played through the cafe and we laughed that only in Thailand can you hear every hit remade. But then again, as the beautiful young boys served us cold drinks and spicy food, we realised that just about everything in Thailand can be remade.
With only a few Baht left in our pockets, we headed to the Airport. One quick circle of the stores selling mostly dried fruit and bamboo pillows (random), we waited for our flight. And waited. And waited. Now, we’ve been stuck in Changi Airport for a full day and though it’s tiresome, the only thing worse is getting stuck in Krabi’s little airport. This was our scene for the better part of a 3-hour delay; an Indian Sadhu doing laps of the waiting lounge in short shorts and tank top imparting wisdom on his cell phone, shopkeepers sleeping at the counter, also unexcited by the pillows and fruit, weary travellers trying to negotiate different flights and us trying to scrape together enough Thai change to buy a coffee. But really, I love these moments. They’re all a part of the unknown of travel, the times when you get to giggle about the funny and favourite moments and reflect on all the surprise experiences. You get to sit on the airport floor with little else to do but play silly games and think about the warm and wonderful experience the trip has given you and be thankful for them all.