Thailand Krabi: sun, sea, fish!
A long anticipated holiday of absolutely no work at all! Though travelling may always seem like a pleasure trip, it comes with enough preparation, planning and stuff to figure out along the way. It can be stressful and exhausting to say the least. We also have a habit of never keeping idle hands, so we always set ourselves deadlines to: write and rewrite on the blog; select and edit pictures; make designs, do research about loads of stuff, plan ahead, work on social media, etcetera. Our trip to Krabi came like a breath of fresh air. A vacation to empty our minds.
The start of our trip was already an exciting one. Right before we left Chiang Rai, while we did a last check up of our preparations, we suddenly noticed that Haythim’s name was written wrong on the plane ticket. Instead of ‘Haythim’ it said ‘Hqythim’. We must have mistyped this while we were booking our tickets... We hoped this wouldn’t be a problem but were prepared for the worst... Everything we read online said that you would not be allowed to fly if the name on the ticket was different from the name on the passport. You can guess our surprise when we were able to check in , pass security and board the airplane without a hitch. We clearly saw people checking our passports and tickets (multiple times) but for some reason they let us pass! Lucky us, I guess!
When we landed in Krabi we immediately felt the difference in temperature and moisture. While Chiang Rai had been hot, the air was fairly dry. Here in Krabi we were, within minutes, almost sweating our clothes off. It was insane. Even with the air-conditioning running in the taxi while we drove towards our next stay, we kept feeling hot and sweaty. As we enjoyed a small personal vacation in Krabi, I won’t share every boring little detail, since we literally did nothing for a couple of days. But, as adventure called once again, we couldn't help ourselves and booked a Padi open water diving course at The Dive in Ao nang. Haythim had been wanting to go diving for a long time and what better place to do it than here, were the prices were a fraction compared to other places. Now, those who know me, know I’m not a big fan of open water and have quite a fear of sharks… So you can understand I wasn't really excited to join in on the diving... But the more I thought about it, and saw what possible marine life we would be able to see under water, the more I actually felt like doing it. So? I joined Haythim for the open water diving course.
Before we could start diving we first had to go through the Padi open water diving book and do a first course in a pool. One of the things I would never have expected to be doing on our yearlong trip was studying a 300 page book on diving... Studying like you would do for an exam. Though considering the technicalities on diving and the security issues it makes perfect sense. As our first certificate would allow us to go as deep as 18m, we both really wanted to know our stuff before going in the water. Since nearly every diving course works with a buddy system, we foremost want to guarantee each other's safety. So after the theory exam and a long day at the pool practicing various techniques, we did finally did our first open water dive. We joined our instructor Kee, and other divers on the boat heading towards the Phi Phi Islands. Although it took about 2 hours and half to get there, our time on the boat was absolutely fantastic. The beautiful view of the small islands we passed. The swaying of the boat as we slowly glided through the water. The refreshing, crispy taste of fresh pineapple for our morning breakfast. (Next to some hot chocolate or coffee).
By the time we arrived at the divespot we were completely calm and 'zen'. We jumped in our wetsuit, checked each others gear, and took our first step into a new blue world. Words really fall short of how that first moment under water felt. Your first breath underwater, the first glimpse of an underwater world teeming with life as you start looking around you. Even before we started our descend we already saw plenty of fish and other sealife around us. The closer we descended towards the reef, the more lush it all became. We were greeted by wavy colourful coral, parrot fish nibbling away at coral or algae, (those pearly white beaches like bamboo island? Say thanks to the parrot fish), lion fish skulking under overhanging rocks and clownfish dancing, prancing and defending their little patch of wavy anemone. Some damselfish literally took a nip at Haythim’s legs! Fierce little cuties haha!
That first dive was way too short, even if we were under for about 40 minutes. Taken into reckoning, that we also took some time completing a couple of diving techniques for our dive instructor. In the time we had left there was so much to see that we tried to take enough pictures, but they probably show only 1/100th of what we saw. We saw our first glimpse of a black tipped fin reef shark. Only a glimpse because these sharks are actually more afraid of us than we are of them. Still, I pat myself on the back for not freaking out. And I have to say, that while down there, a feeling of acceptance took hold of me. That if something would happen, freaking out wasn’t going to help. Remaining calm and keep breathing was probably gonna help more... After that first dive we both looked at each other and we already knew it. We were hooked. Scuba diving opened up so much more options while travelling. We were already thinking of the next stops on our trip and if we would have options to dive there as well.
We had a quick meal and went for our second dive. The first dive took us to about 10ish meters below, but this time we were descending to 18 meter depth at a place called Viking cave. This spot had a natural coral reef but also an artificial. They had lowered down metal cube skeleton structures and stacked them on each other. Within a couple of years it was covered in coral, anemone and lots of fish had made it their home. From big to small, it was as if all the fish here were drawn like kids drawings. Big staring eyes, and poppy colours were all around. Some felt happy to swim with us, curious to see what we were up to. Others just minded their own business. After the second dive that was once again, way too short, we came out of the water and fell asleep while the boat made it’s way to shore again. Ever heard of land sickness? You know seasickness right? Imagine that feeling but on land. You feel like everything is still moving and you start feeling a little nauseous but it’s fine as long as you walk. The moment you sit or lie down you really start feeling it. Me and Haythim both had it and we were not happy campers. We had a quick meal and went to sleep asap hoping it would be over in the morning before we started our second day of open water diving.
We woke up well rested and rejoined the group in the boat for our final 2 dives that would make us certified open water divers, when we completed all the assigned skills. I don't need to tell you that these dives also did not disappoint. Parrot fish, morray eel, puffer fishes, a huge majestic lion fish. The only thing that could've made it even more perfect was a sea turtle, but no potato! Lets hope we'll see one of those beauties on one of our next dives! (So yes, there will definitely be more!)
Later during the week, Haythim did another 2 dives but I stayed home since I had a cold... And sadly diving with a cold is a big nono... You’ll end up with broken sinuses or worse. Plus, you'll end up even more sick. Diving can only be done when you're at your best. And I didn't want to break that important diving rule. Plus not a few days later I would be guest-spotting in Auckland, and I rather not do that while being sick. So lets just show you some more pictures of Haythim’s dive!!
As a last "excursion" in Thailand, on the promise of visiting a white beach at least once on our world-trip, we went to bamboo island. Unlike most tourist who try to visit as much beaches/islands/photo-moments in one day, we opted to go to just one island/beach and stay there for half a day. We really wanted to take our time to enjoy the beautiful scenery in our own time, and that's what we did. We hopped of the boat and watched the other tourist set out for the next islands, while we found ourselves a nice cozy spot in the shade of Bamboo Island. The sand felt quite coarse under our feet, and it was under closer inspection that I noticed it was all made of pearly white coral. What we didn't explain earlier, is that the coral reefs surrounding these little islands are teeming with coral-loving fish (such as the parrot fish). And these fishies really love to nibble their whole day on the crunchy coral reefs, after which they poop it out, which gives us our nice white beaches. Yes. Basically, we were standing in big piles of parrot fish poops. But hey, it did make a nice view! After a quick nap on the beach, we grabbed our snorkels and enjoyed a great time scouting the Bamboo Island coral reefs. Even here right beneath our feet was a lively colourful world! It felt a bit annoying we couldn't dive deeper to explore, as we didn't have oxygen tanks this time!
If we had known sooner that Southeast Asia's such a treasure, we would've definitely arranged our world-trip a whole lot different. So with the promise to make this part of the world our next vacation destinations, we dragged ourselves onto the plane, and left the paradise behind us. Only to head for what could be a next undiscovered paradise, New Zealand.
Stay clear of tourist traps if you want good food. Funnily, the smaller the place to eat, and the cheaper the food, the better it's going to be.
Krabi has either people who come for hikes or diving, and people who come to see the beaches and are not so much interested in the Thai foodculture. As a result, there was a starbucks, macdonalds and burger king on just one street...
Food: Pad Kra Pao (also Pad Krapaw): Wonderful spicy dish of lots of peppers and basil mixed under minced beef/chicken/shrimp, tomato, onion with rice as sidedish.
Roasted/barbeque Fish: You'll probably see a lot of fish stuff with herbs and coated in salt on barbecues. They are served with rice as a side and are absolutely divine. The meat is so tender and soft and perfectly spiced, I'm drooling as I'm writing this. Order one if you get the chance. And don't feel afraid to use your hands while you eat it. It's easier, and totally cool (not impolite!).
Experiences: Diving: Go dive. Take a course. It's not rocket science, very manageable course and it leaves you with another skill that makes the world even bigger! You won't be visiting countries just on land but in the sea as well!