Krabi and Phi Phi–Rock Climbing, Beach Lounging, and Christmas in Thailand

First, it should be noted that Krabi is pronounced “Grabby” and Phi Phi is pronounced “Pee Pee,” so it is remarkable in itself that I was able to resist any sort of immature body joke in the title–not so much because I have grown any more mature throughout our travels as for the fact that the number of businesses with funny “pee pee names” actually wore me down to the point that I no longer desire to mock them.  Among my favorites (purely for your entertainment, of course) were Phi Phi Boats, Phi Phi Shakes, and Phi Phi Tours.  Okay, on to the blog…

In Sarah’s last blog, she described the awful weather conditions that were predicted for the week and a half that we were spending down here, but rock climbing in Railey Beach (Krabi) was one of the things we wanted to do most in Thailand, so we decided to chance it once we learned that the tropical storm was no longer a threat.  After all, what kind of Oregonians let a little rain get them down?

Our arrival to Railey Beach, although memorable, did not lend us much hope.  After taking a ferry from Ko Samoi back to the mainland, busing down to Krabi Town, and then taking a long boat taxi to East Railey Beach, we just wanted to get a hotel and settle in–the humidity was really bad, and the travel had been slow.  What we did not know was that Railey Bay is very shallow when the tide is out, so the long boat let us out about 300 meters from shore.  At the exact moment, I stepped off the boat into the knee deep water, the humidity broke, and we waded into town with our huge packs under the machine-gunning downpour.  Absolutely sopped, we spent the next half-hour walking the boardwalk and trying to find a hotel that we could afford (it was 3 days before Christmas in a well-known resort town) but was halfway decent for the price.  Finally, we found a place that was pretty good and proceeded to tear all of our possessions out, scattering them throughout the room to dry (note to self–rain covers don’t do a stinking thing when they are packed in the middle of your bag during a rainstorm).

Our first impression of Railey was not good–it looked like the weather was going to be awful, and East Railey is frankly a dump.  There is a lot of trash, and the area is really swampy when the tide is out.  Also, Railey seemed to be full of tourists who come to Thailand thinking that their money should allow them to act as if they own the place, and that the “help” are inferior.  They want Thailand’s best, but they also want it to be just like their home cultures–they take and take but do not respect the culture, the environment, or the people–give us your gorgeous beaches, your stunning limestone cliffs…wait…you’ve ruined my omelet…I said medium fluffy, you a-hole!  While I’m on it, what type of debonair gentleman calls someone an a-hole, anyway? Even more, what kind of a man gets upset about fluffiness?  🙂 In general, many of the tourists here seemed quite unhappy to be with their families and overly concerned about how they looked; it made me long to return to the seclusion and chill vibes of Ko Pha Nogn and Ko Samoi.

Things got a lot better the next morning when we arose to the sun and rented our rock gear.  While the crag was a little crowded, the cliffs were beautiful, and the climbing was really fun.  We were both a little rusty, but we got five or six routes in, and it felt great to be on the rock.  We were exhausted after a couple of hours, though; the climbing was stiff–everything was overhung with boulder starts, and we were not exactly in climbing shape.  Pumped out but happy, we went to return the gear and got a great surprise–the climbing shop told us to come back that night and get the gear; they were going to let us have another half-day tomorrow since we had paid for a full day today!

Saturday was Christmas Eve, and so we were excited to see clear skies again, so that we could spend our holiday climbing.  We got out there early and even had the rock to ourselves for a bit.  Both of us climbed a lot better, and Sarah was leading really well; I had barely climbed since hurting my ankle last May, so I was hoping to work up to it myself–although, we all know that any serious routes were going to be put up by Sparky instead of me!

After getting our fill of the rock for the day (our muscles were screaming), we briefly made an appearrance at West Railey Beach.  West Railey is more expensive but much, much more beautiful than East Railey.  The beach here is white sand with very clear blue water, and boy, did it feel nice!  Our lazy afternoon was cut a little short, though, by a torrential downpour that cleared about 500 people off of the beach within 90 seconds.  Both Sarah and I had to do our Christmas shopping ($10 budget), and I began to wonder if we would do all of our business matters in wet t-shirts while in Krabi!

Now, here is the part where you will laugh at me…after all of my ranting about the tourists here, we spent Christmas Eve doing the most touristy thing we could find–a dinner party at a fancy resort!  It ended up being the best thing we could have done, though, because neither of us had been in much of a Christmas spirit, remembering how hard it had been to be in Nepal during Thanksgiving, away from family and friends.  Even better, tourists become much more well-behaved at Christmas Dinner, when they remember that normal expectations apply.

Dinner was really good; it was a very fancy buffet with all kinds of foods.  There was some Thai food, but mostly it was traditionally Western Foods; some of our favorites were spinach-cheese mashed potatoes, dumpling stuffing, roast beef in a pastry shell, and–of course–turkey!  Also, after watching A Christmas Story approximately 2, 347 times in my life, I finally tried Chinese turkey, only to find that duck skin is not what I would consider a delicacy.

The night also included entertainment–there were four women in beautiful brightly-colored silk costumes who performed five traditional Thai dances; the movements were slow, flowing, and lovely.  After the first dance, Sarah became a bit of a celebrity when she joined the Thai Santa up on stage to collect the free massage ticket (she actually won the massage too–not just the ticket) after our table was chosen from the door prize drawing.  The highlight of the entertainment, by far, was the fire show. There were two guys who worked flaming batonsthe first guy just sort of twirled his around, but the headliner was the real deal!  As heavy metal blared from the speakers, he burst out onto the sand in front of the crowd spinning around frantically while twirling the baton in front of his body, then behind his back, and then tossing it 15 feet in the air before catching it!  He was pure adrenalin, and we were so close that I had to move as cinders came off of the baton. It was awesome!  Needless to say, Sarah and I will always remember our Christmas party at the Railey Bay Beach Resort!

Waking up on Christmas was sort of strange because we had already celebrated, but it wasn’t Christmas yet for either of our families at home.  We had a great day, though, climbing in the overhung area in the morning, hitting the beach for afternoon swimming, and then climbing in an area known as Diamond Cave in the evening before returning our gear.  Here, the routes were not so overhung, and Sarah and I took advantage of the reprieve to knock out several new routes!  She was climbing really well, and I was happy to lead a couple of routes today!

The 26th began with a wonderful treat–we each got to talk with our families on Skype.  While we love what we are doing this year, being so far away from loved ones is difficult, and the holidays are the hardest (I know, I know, we spent them doing incredible things); it was great to know that everyone was doing well at home.  After finishing our calls, we set out on our “rest day,” which entailed of renting a kayak for what we thought would be some easy ocean touring; the wind had other ideas, however, and the waves kept us fairly close to shore.  We spent a few hours going from beach to beach and exploring a cave or two before returning for some actual rest in the afternoon.

Tuesday the 27th was our final day in Krabi, and we made the most of it.  I think that we probably climbed every remaining moderate route in the area, and Sarah put up a couple of harder routes that were really fun.  Both of us were leading, and it had been great to be back on the rock again; we were both glad that we had decided to take our chances with the weather.

Leaving Railey Beach was just as eventful as arriving there; because West Railey Bay is just as shallow as the East Bay, we had to take longboat taxis out to sea before loading onto the ferry about a mile out into the water.  From a distance, we thought we were heading towards sure death at sea–the ferry was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people all over the boat’s four sides!  Luckily, we soon found that they just wanted to get a tan, and there was all kind of room in the air-conditioned cabin.  Not only would we avoid sinking, but we would also survive without acquiring B.O.!

Phi Phi is very famous because it has been ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  You wouldn’t know it to start with, however, because about 200 touts meet every ferry in Phi Phi Village, carrying signs with the names of about 200 hotels that use the name “Phi Phi” in about 200 different ways.  Just past the touts are a ton of diving shops, t-shirt stands, and ramshackle bars full of the same people we had seen in Krabi…we took one look and hopped on a longboat to the next beach!

Long Beach, on the other hand, was awesome!  West Railey had been beautiful, but the sand was whiter and softer here while the water was even more clear.  It truly was an island paradise!  We found a little modern bungalow and spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach and swimming until our hearts were content.

Before dinner, we decided to get a Thai massage.  We both had enjoyed the ones that we had already experienced, and our muscles were very sore from all of the climbing.  This one was brutal, though!  I quickly decided with dismay that the woman massaging me had some serious anger issues that she was tring to resolve on me!  Perhaps, she had been fighting with the woman massaging Sarah, who was receiving the exact same treatment next to me.  For the next 60 minutes, the women used their thumbs, palms, elbows, feet, and possibly a baseball bat, to pound us into the ground…pausing only to twist us into previously undiscovered shapes and once to attempt breaking my kneecap by placing all of her ample stature directly on the back of the joint!  We both cringed every time we passed this place during the rest of our stay, and I have no issues admitting that I was afraid to make eye contact with either of them again!

Since we only had one more full day in Phi Phi, we decided to take a tour that would allow us to do a bit of everything.  The tour was on a long boat and went to several different attractions.  We had stops for swimming and snorkeling, two things that we both really enjoy.  The snorkeling was good–lots of colorful fish who were not afraid to swim close to us–and swimming in a lagoon right below a towering limestone cliff is something that I won’t soon forget.

Our main stop was Maya Beach, famous for being the island where Leonardo De-crap-io’s movie, The Beach, was filmed.  In an instance where life has actually imitated art, the place is no longer a secret getaway!  While very stunning, the beach was absolutely packed with camera-toting tourists and the various longboats, yachts, and party ships that had brought them there.  It was getting hot, though, and so Sarah and I swam out past the crowds and enjoyed a wonderful hour of swimming in relative peace. 

Before returning to Long Beach, we had a brief stop at a place called Monkey Beach, but it was disappointing because people were encouraged to feed the monkeys, and watching what is supposed to be a wild animal grab a Coke from a tourist and chug it before flinging it into a pile of trash is not my idea of appreciating wildlife.  Aside from that, though, we had swam a ton and seen lots of beautiful little islands on the cruise, so it was a great way to enjoy our Phi Phi time (sorry, I guess I am over the joke moratorium).

We spent our last half-day in Phi Phi Village before catching our ferry back to the mainland, where we would board a bus bound for Bangkok as we prepared to head to the North.  The village was exactly like our first impression when we arrived, so it was good that we had gone to Long Beach.  We had been at the beach for two weeks, experiencing rainstorms, peaceful days alone on the beach, killer rock climbing, Christmas at a fancy resort, and the posterchild of all beaches…Thailand’s beaches had been good to us, and we were both happy for our time on each of them.

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6 Responses to Krabi and Phi Phi–Rock Climbing, Beach Lounging, and Christmas in Thailand

  1. Doug says:

    The picture of the longboat with the haystack behind is one of the best from the whole trip. You are getting better and better. Sounds like a great time.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks Dad! It is fun to take pictures when the setting is so beautiful! We can’t wait to share some more of our photos when we get home!

  2. Crystal says:

    I can’t wait to hit up some of these beaches!

  3. Justin says:

    Hey Guys,
    Glad to hear you’re having a good time and getting some more climbing in. Thailand sounds like its gone to the tourists (and the monkeys)!!!
    Enjoy the North 🙂

    Montagu, South Africa

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