Day 11: The end is a rainy one

Day 11: The end is a rainy one

All good things must come to an end, they say.

Yesterday was our last day in paradise. Unfortunately for us, it was a stormy one. Sure we had some brief moments of reprieve earlier on in the day, where we could hit the beach, but they were punctuated with sudden downpours. This of course gave us the time needed to tie up loose ends and get ready for the next leg of our journey.

Overall, a nice quiet reprieve.

We’ve had an awesome time on Koh Phi Phi Don. Zeavola has been an amazing and relaxing time. With that said, I think we’re both ready for the next leg of our adventure.

Next up, a brief stop in Kuala Lumpur, then onto Bali!

 

Day 10: A Tour To Remember (or the day we thought we died)

Day 10: A Tour To Remember (or the day we thought we died)

A day late and a dollar short, but here’s our journey on day 10. 

We started the day expecting to be taking a full day tour or the various adjacent islands. Seeing everything from sharks, to plankton, to the beach from The Beach. Of course this meant getting up at an obscene hour, which if you know Lauren means getting up at a normal hour, but for the rest of us, it is just a tad too early, especially while on vacation.

Luckily for the hero of this story, when Lauren got up and read her email, she discovered that the morning portion of the tour was canceled due to weather and that we could pickup with the second half in the afternoon. Yay! So I got to sleep in after all.

Fast forward to the afternoon, I’m already sunburned on my back due to poor application of sun block, we’re in Phi Phi Town, and our tour is assembling on several long boats to go out into the islands.

First stop, cliff jumping.

No, don’t get me wrong, in theory this sounds great, and while Lauren signed us up for this optional event, I never had any intention of doing this. Lauren on the other hand was on the fence up until the last moment, when she decided it wasn’t something she wanted to do. It got so close, that she started putting on the water/climbing shoes saying, “this is for Caitlin,” before watching the first guy jump in the water and saying, “nope, never mind.” Smart choice. Though, it did look like everyone who did it had fun.

Anyway, this wasn’t even the most dangerous part of the tour.

Next up, monkey beach.

Did you bring me a monkey? Not this time. We stopped by what everyone on the boat kept calling monkey island, which is actually just a beach. A very dirty beach. Full of all sorts of trash left by tourists who were likely trying to get the monkeys to play with, so they could take pictures. Now it is just covered in all of it.

That aside, the monkeys were pretty cool. Watching them play with each other and run up to people who had food was pretty neat. As Lauren put it, it is hard to deny evolution when you can see how close to human these creatures act. I agree. Definitely not foolproof evidence, but a pretty solid observation nonetheless. There were a few pictures I took where you could almost see the humanity in their eyes. Pretty crazy stuff to see up close and personal.

Next, snorkeling with the fishes.

Lauren of course donned her mask and jumped right in. I however quivering in my boots, held back momentarily and had a small panic attack thinking about how sharks were going to get me. And don’t forget the octopi. And the manta ray!

After much goading though, I finally climbed through the window, and took the plunge myself. The reality is much tamer than what the imagination can lead you to believe. Even though I spent a good 5-minutes looking all around for sharks to come attack me, what was really there were bright, colorful fish that you’d only normally see in an aquarium, along with coral all along the bottom. All in all, it was pretty spectacular and I’m glad I jumped in. 

A quick dip in a lagoon

A little further in, we stopped once again. Not for snorkeling, but just to swim a little bit. This time, there was no bottom you could really see, as from what one person said, it was about 15 meters deep. Or, in American terms, about 50 feet. Oh crap! There really could be all sorts of crap down there!

Of course Lauren dove in with no hesitation. I waited a few minutes, watching her swim away from the boat and eventually start teach a kid how to swim a little (no joke), before I decided I had come this far, I couldn’t turn back now. So I jumped in too.

For me this was probably the least eventful of all the stops, but to hear Lauren tell it, it was one of the best. Maybe she’ll tell us more on that later.

Next up, Maya Bay and The Beach

This is where the story gets fun. Maya Bay is quite beautiful, but on this day, the waves were too strong for the boats to go to The Beach, so we had to take a back route. This route consisted of a stone wall, with a rope ladder and dozens of people climbing up and down it simultaneously. Fun right? Except, in order to get to it, you have to swim there and endure the incoming waves crashing you against the rocks yourself.

So, once again, Lauren jumped in pretty quickly and swam over toward that area. I, not knowing what was going on, decided to suck it up and jump in too. At this point, I climb through the window, stand up on the side and see Lauren 3/4 of the way in, turned around looking back my way. So I jump in.

Immediately I start swimming for where I last saw her, but am being diverted slightly toward the ropes. Looking around, I cannot see her and start to think she must have already climbed up. This is about the time where I’m not quite making it to the ropes, and am trying to grab one of the outlying harnesses and am getting slammed by wave after wave, one of which finally throws me against the wall. Luckily, using my arms and catching the rock under my feet I was able to stay above water and fend off the oncoming rocky doom.

This certainly wasn’t going to work. So I decided to retreat and replan my attack. So I waited a moment for the water to retreat before the next wave can in and used that to get myself further out into the water again.

Back out a ways, I look around again and still no sign of Lauren. She must have already scaled those ropes and be waiting for me up top, was all I could think. Not wanting to have her worry, I decided to go back at it again. This tome I approached at a wider angle, so the current would drag me where I needed to go, as opposed to fighting it closer in. And it worked, yay strategy!

So there I was, clutching the bottom of the ropes, trying to get a foothold, while those same waves were crashing in. This time though, there were people climbing down in every direction and I couldn’t find a way to get passed them. After a few minutes of trying to figure out how this was going to work, I started to give up and pushed myself back out into the water, time to swim back to the boat.

Once again though, I started imagining Lauren at the top wondering where I was, so after a minute I decided no more excuses. Time to climb. So I went back in. This time there were just as many people climbing down, but I just decided they were going to have to go around me, just as much as I had to go around them. Everyone else made it up somehow, right?

One thing I can say about climbing these types of ropes in bare feet is that it hurts.

Finally I made it to the top of the structure, Somewhat expecting Lauren to be waiting at the top, I instead found a huge line of people, waiting to climb down, so I made my way past all of them, down inwards, expecting to see her waiting for me. Instead, she was no where to be found. So I searched, had she gone around through this place, along with everyone else? Why hadn’t she waited for me? Maybe she thought I turned back? So, I went through the area, toward The Beach. Ton of people swimming, but no Lauren.

Now I was starting to panic.

Had she been pulled under in that current? Had no one noticed? Maybe she just turned back for the boat I hadn’t noticed.

So I started making my way back, only to have to stand in that line. So I stood, and waited. For 45 minutes. Panicking, and imagining the worst. Turning around constantly, hoping she would come up from behind, I having just missed seeing her. Only that didn’t happen.

Finally, I reached the top of the structure, just a couple people back from being ready to climb down, and I looked out and saw what appeared to be someone on our boat, sitting where she had been sitting. Okay, panicked for nothing.

Now I just had to get down without falling into the rocks and water. Why did I climb up there again?

So, I started climbing. Held on as best I could. Tried not to think about how much the ropes hurt my feet. Took it slowly, one foot at a time and found my way to the bottom. After a moment to breathe, I pushed myself backward out into the water, spun around and started to swim my way through the current to the boat. The swim was tough, but I’m a better swimmer than I give myself credit for apparently.

I pulled myself up onto the boat and climbed into the back. Lauren looked at me and said, “I thought you were dead.” Apparently she too had gotten out there and sensed how dangerous it was. Unlike me however, she turned back near immediately, assuming I would as well. After all, as a swim coach and life guard, you never swim under these types of conditions. Glad someone told me that.

Anyway, we relayed our stories, happy the other wasn’t actually dead. Crisis averted.

Last stop, glowing plankton.

At this point, we were pretty much ready to be back at our hotel. The trip was fun, but this last part sort of sucked everything out of us. However, no tour is complete with out a trip to see glow in the dark plankton, so we made one more stop, near monkey beach.

Lauren and I opted to stay in the boat this time. Our adventures were over for the night, she was dry and I was done with the water for the night.

No trip to Phi Phi Town is complete without a night taxi longboat adventure

Being dark at this point, we managed to find a taxi boat fairly quickly. In fact, it was the same guy who took us back from our last evening adventure. Cool. This time, the tides weren’t anywhere near as low, so getting out was much easier and the rocks seemed much less perilous.

However, of course 15-minutes into the 30-minute ride, it started raining. Then it started blowing. Then it started to pour. Lauren was huddled against me trying to stay dry (good luck with that), while I was trying to keep this poor man’s hammock (which I assume he sleeps in) from blowing off the underside of the roof, as it had come disconnected.

Of course, I have a feeling this sort of trip is second hand for these guys, as he just pushed through and got us home.

The last long boat of the trip (or so we thought).

Day 9 Part Deux: Same Same, but Different

Day 9 Part Deux: Same Same, but Different

Lauren here. Sorry I’ve been off the grid for some days. I think I’m of the mindset live now, reflect later. Drew’s been doing a great job updating folks on our happenings, so mad props to him. I, on the other hand, have been soaking up the sun on the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced pee-pee, but, as the sign in Phuket points out, Don’t Pee, so you make your own call on that one). I’ll dedicate a post to our days in Yangon, Myanmar, because they definitely deserve one from my perspective, but for now…I’ll share our day of 1/2 matrimony (the other 1/2 will take place in Galveston with family) and big adventures.

We opted for blessing ceremony on the beach at sunrise on a private beach here in the Phi Phi Islands. Seems we got *some* of what we bargained for. The “wedding planner” appeared to be somewhat of a con artist–he was dripping in gems, and took the opportunity to smoke a cigarette with his shirt wide open while we waited for the monks to finish praying. From what I’ve observed, the Thai are modest people, so this didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but SO MANY things don’t when I travel (and that’s a good thing). 

The ceremony itself was nice. It involved monk blessings, holy water, head slings, and wish lanterns. I will share a private moment with you: During the PLACING OF THE THREE DOTS CEREMONY (everything we did was explained in a very procedural way), we were instructed to put three dots (to symbolize the 3 jewels of Buddhism, which I later had to research myself) on each other’s foreheads and exchange some words. Apparently, we were supposed to have the words already planned out. Who knew?! Drew’s were sweet, thanking me for being the compassionate person that I am, and for my adventurous spirit. Now, ladies, here’s “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”: Picture me placing 3 dots on Drew’s forehead. 1) I can’t wait 2) to go 3) to Monkey Island! 

NOT READY FOR ADULTHOOD! Haha. 

Overall, it was a very unique and special event, plus, it enabled us to be back in time for breakfast, or as Drew called it, our reception 🙂

We enjoyed some down time this side of paradise, then had a very nice massage (perhaps the fifth or so since we’ve been in Thailand!) at the resort. Side note: I like feeling like I’ve been beat up when my massage is over. Sometimes bruises are involved. Thai massages are so very good for this! I was a bit concerned my hair wouldn’t hold up from the massage, but the very kind lady re-braided it for me! What a treat!

Drew returned to the bungalow to take a nap (from his nap) while I sought out to maximize sun exposure. This will be relevant to later events, I promise!

Next adventure of the evening: a sunset picnic on a deserted island–I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! Anyhow, we took a longboat to a beautiful little beach on Bamboo Island, where wine and tapas were laid out for us. I did some hard-core shell-searching, while Drew played with a hermit crab. Out of nowhere, we experienced a downpour, as is one to happen during monsoon season. I sought shelter under some trees. Thankfully, it was short-lived. We watched a sunset, and got more of the same (“same same, but different,” as they say over here) photos. Little did we know the real adventure was about to begin!

The boat ride back was death-defying! The water was incredibly choppy, and our little wooden boat not the sturdiest. Even the crew seemed a little caught off guard. Now, I love open-water. I find it fascinating, humbling– but capsizing in it, not so much. I put the death grip on Drew, the whole time rehearsing rescue procedures in my head,  until we reached the twinkling lights of Zeavola, our resort. 

Since our picnic was rained on, we were of course, hungry (when am I not?) for dinner. Here’s where this afternoon’s sun-bathing shenanigans come into play. I went to change–as my clothes were soaking wet from the ride–into my clothes from earlier in the day, only, I lost them. It takes a special person to lose the clothes you were at one point wearing. They definitely weren’t in our room. After a quick cheek with reception, it seems I had left them on the beach! Don’t worry–it wasn’t a nude beach, I’m just that careless. Only in paradise…

If Bali is this great, I doubt I’m coming back. Sea Gypsy Village is very close to our resort on Phi Phi. That’s where you can forward my mail.

Day 9: Drew and Lauren get hitched!

Day 9: Drew and Lauren get hitched!

Well, yesterday was the day. While we’re still awaiting the official endorsement of the state of Texas, we performed a traditional Thai Buddhist ceremony and are now married (mostly). 

We had been watching the weather like hawks the last several days. Everyday it said it was going to rain all week, and everyday it didn’t and instead was beautiful. I was starting to become afraid that our luck was going to run out. So we woke up super early, to get ready and wait for the photographer and makeup/hair person to come get Lauren ready. The sky was cloudy and the sun was just starting to show hints of rising. Not the ideal weather conditions, but as long as it didn’t pour down with rain, I’d take it.

The thing to remember about Thailand is that time seems to be an irrelevant concept here. If someone says they’ll be somewhere at 6am, then it is really more of an approximation, than an exact estimate. This seems to be especially true on an island where you have to rely on longboats to get you from one place to the next. So when Lauren’s hair/makeup person was running a half hour late, while annoying, it really was just par for the course.

Luckily they got here and all was well. 

The photographer took pictures of us and our room, while Lauren had her hair and makeup done outside. In no time, we were all done up and ready to go. We went to the beach climbed aboard a longboat and we were off, to another beach down the island.

On our way to get hitched!
On our way to get hitched!

We arrived to a clean white beach, with a small table with food on it, with a walkway leading away from it, up to a small covered seating area. The monks who would be performing the ceremony were praying, so we had about 15 minutes before we could get started. So we took the opportunity to do all sorts of embarrassing couple like photos up and down the beach. We should hopefully have digital copies in a few days.

The ceremony itself was nice.

It started with us providing offerings of food to each of the 3 monks, then we proceeded to meet with them at the covered seating area, where we did a small ceremony where we provided them with tea and they blessed us with water and rose petals. The then tied a small string around my wrist, which I in turn tied another around Lauren’s (the monks are not allowed to touch the woman). 

Afterward, the monks moved back and we moved into a small water blessing ceremony and then had to say a few things to each other. I seemed to be more prepared for this than Lauren was, as I said nice things about her making my life more adventurous, being my best friend, etc… and she said she was excited to go to monkey beach. I get it, I’m pretty excited to see the monkeys too.

The ceremony ended soon after with us exchanging rings and vows. 

Overall, it was a beautiful was to start the morning and I can’t wait for what comes next.

There is a reason I'm always wearing sunglasses ... 
There is a reason I’m always wearing sunglasses … 

Day 8: Fun in the sun or the calm before the storm

Day 8: Fun in the sun or the calm before the storm

 Today was, in a word, relaxing.

We did next to nothing, and it was great.

Well, Lauren did make me get a pedicure, due to the unfortunate state of my toe nails from “running”. Not that I run anymore, but I seem to have runner’s toe nails anyway. 

She made me do it.
She made me do it.

One cool thing about today is that we found a pier down a secret path to the other side of the island. Of course we saw a sign that said “Sunset Bar” and we thought that if we went down the weird looking dirt path, that we’d find booze and all sorts of debauchery. Nope, instead we found an abandoned pier, with waves crashing against the rocks, and some amazing views of the sunset, which we previously didn’t think we had access to.

So, tonight is a low key night, because in the morning, we’re going to do some stuff, with some monks, and a couple rings.

In the meantime, here’s some pics of rocks, water, and the sun.

Day 7: Paradise Lost

Day 7: Paradise Lost

Alright, yet another dramatic title, but we’ll get to that.

Today we travelled to Phi Phi Town. To get there you have to take a longboat around the island. The trip is once again amazing. Seeing all the mountains jutting out of the sea, the beautiful colors, and all the lush vegetation is amazing. There is definitely nothing like this in our “normal” life.

Just like the rest of the island, when you land in Phi Phi Town, you have to jump out of the boat, into the shallow water and walk up onto the beach. It is pretty cool to feel like you’re just pulling in where ever and that there are no marinas filling with million dollar yachts. Instead, you just walk on to the beach, and into the thick of it. And boy is it thick.

Phi Phi Town is, in a word, a craphole (okay, that’s two words I jammed together to make the phrase work). It is a tourist trap, filled with thousands of people in a very tiny area, with bad restaurants, bars, tourist junk stores, massage parlors, resorts, and hostels. The only saving grace of the town itself is the number of tour group offices which get you out of the town and around the island doing things like snorkeling, deep sea diving, rock climbing, and other fun things.

Our plan in coming to town was to spend the day there, see the sights and at night hike up to the viewpoint just outside of town and see the sunset. Only problem was, we didn’t really understand in going that there isn’t much to spend a whole day on in this place. So leaving at noon was just a tad too early.

We started in the front area of the the town, and marveled at how small the place was. We wandered around what seemed to be the whole of everything, and finally stopped for something to eat. The food was passable, but far from what I would call good. That’s okay though, it got the job done. Next we decided to get Thai massages. The great thing about massage parlors here is that you can get an hour massage for around 250 baht, which in case your calculator is too far to reach, turns out to be about $8. Not too shabby.

A Thai massage is different from what you would normally get in the US, which is more akin to a Sweedish massage; you know, the kind where they rub you and make you feel good. Instead, in the Thai way, a massage is more like a wrestling match, where the masseuse puts a number of holds on you, in an attempt to get you to tap out and submit, which I definitely did at one point. Overall, for as different (and painful) as they are, they are quite effective in stretching you out in ways that you wouldn’t likely do on your own. So in the end, for as much as I complained–before, during, and after–they are definitely worth your time and money.

Next we decided to walk around a little bit more, seeing as we still had 3.5 hours till sunset. Low and behold, we walked down one small street, that looked like a dead end, but actually led to an entirely different (and larger) part of town. In fact, it was mostly different in that this is where most of the hostels and bars are located, which means one thing, this is where people come to party.

On the plus side, it is also where the swimming beach is located, which was mostly nice. See, Phi Phi Town is located in a small band connecting the upper island, with the lower island. On each side is a bay. The one we came in on is where all of the boats come in, this new side as it turns out is where people come to swim. At first glance the beach, though while highly populated, contained all the beautiful water and scenery of other parts of the island, but when you actually turn around and look at the sand and the buildings surrounding it, you see it for what it is, a trash hole where thousands of tourists come and take a dump. Graphic, I know.

As an aside, we’re very lucky to be staying where we are.

Anyway, we stayed for a little while and then decided to go looking for the viewpoint, so we did what I do best, picked a direction and walked until we find it. While this is probably one of the things I do that annoys Lauren the most, in this case it actually worked and we soon found a sign that said “Viewpoint” with an arrow pointing up an intimidating looking vertical staircase.

So we climbed.

And we climbed some more.

And then we stopped. Paid some lady 40 baht. And we climbed some more.

Until we reached viewpoint 1, where we sat for a while and rested a bit. Our goal was to go for the secret, somewhat unmarked viewpoint 3. So after a half hour or so of enjoying the view, we moved on again. This time, the staircase turned in a nearly vertical cement walkway, that for a few minutes I thought would cause me to slide backward out of my sandals, tumbling down the mountain. though I dug in with my toes and trudged on.

Then we found viewpoint 2, which we immediately skipped, veering off to the right down a small path, passed another woman demanding baht in Thai–whom we placated with out tickets from before–and continued on.

The path to viewpoint 3 was much less defined and had us following paths through the woods, with forks in the road that were unmarked. So we followed people that appears to be in front of us and moved on. Walking, climbing, trying to survive the heat, until we made it, up the side passed an old house and onto a half built platform of the side of a very high hill. We made it.

The view from here was quite amazing. We stayed for about an hour, watching not only the sun crawl further and further toward the horizon, but also tourists climbing onto precarious structure, voraciously taking selfies (seriously, one woman must have take 500 selfies at different angles).

The sunset was an amazing sight to see, but it was over too quickly and we had to finally wind our way back toward town. Darkness came quickly, but luckily we didn’t get lost. Nor did we fall down the vertical stairs (though I thought I would once or twice with my gargantuan feet). Instead we made it back to town, wound our way through town, back to the boats, where our last challenge awaited us, as it seems no one wants to travel back by longboat at night. I mean, who could blame them, dark waters, low tides, and no lights sounds like a bad combination.

Luckily we found a man willing to take us and after pushing his boat across the now too shallow water, he navigated his way around the danger, up the island and back to our resort for us. We ended the night saying thank you (kop kun cup), giving him a little more baht than he had asked for and having a nice dinner; back in paradise.

Day 6: Welcome to Paradise

Day 6: Welcome to Paradise

We made it to Ko Phi Phi Don, finally.

This place is absolute paradise. Honestly, I’ve never experienced a place that was “breath taking” before, but honestly, that was how I felt when we jumped out of the boat into the shallow water and walked onto the beach. I’m not sure that I have the language to really describe how I felt, but in its simplest form, it is simply unbelievable.

Our room is a small standalone structure in village of other similar spaces. We have our own private outdoor space. It is amazing.

The beach is great, and the water is warm and so clear. It is really unbelievable that we’re actually here.

The resort itself is on the north eastern edge of the island. As there are no cars allowed here, the only way into town proper is by long boat. We’ll be going there today to see what the rest of the island is like and we have an all day tour of this and the surrounding islands coming on Tuesday.

So far, this is an absolute highlight of an already amazing trip. Can’t wait to see more.