Fun fact: I’m writing this from Split, Croatia, where we’re on – guess what – another tour break. This time with M&R, exploring the Adriatic coast. It’s our first day, it’s raining, we’re all sitting around with our laptops and the first fast internet SINCE FOREVER. Hopefully I can catch up on stuff over the next two weeks.
After getting thoroughly temple-headed it was time to go south for what Duncan really wanted most of all out of the tour break: to lie on a beach, snorkel, rent a motorbike and cruise around, and generally beach out. As mentioned, we knew that we were arriving just as wet season would be starting in the southwest BUT the intertubes and friends who’d been there around the same time made us feel reasonably confident that the weather wouldn’t be complete shit.
And it wasn’t! At least not at first and not all the time. In fact, our first stop in Railay (rock climbers’ mecca) was pretty great. The landscape is beautiful and it wasn’t too crazy crowded. A few rain showers, one mostly-rainy afternoon, but also plenty of sun to hide from (if you’re me) or bask in (if you’re Duncan). Unfortunately, for a variety of tedious reasons, I was actually kind of out of it while we were there so I didn’t enjoy beach relax time to the max. Still, we got a Frisbee, we drank some beers and we saw a funnel cloud. Which didn’t freak me out at ALL I swear *nervouslaughter*.
After a couple days we headed further south still to Ko Lanta – a place I’d actually visited almost nine years ago. Duncan’s tour buddies had all made trips more recently that made it sound like the island had both developed a bunch while still remaining more laid back than other islands in the area. We could rent a motorbike, stay somewhere cheap, maybe visit some elephants, and do day trips to snorkel. Perfect!
Of course, since we were right on the edge of the wet season the passenger ferries from Railay to Ko Lanta stopped the very day we arrived in Railay. I had checked in advance, though, and confirmed that the car ferry goes all year long. I’d just forgotten how annoying travelling via minibus in Thailand can be. Multiple transfers, being treated like a child, shoved into overflowing buses and yelled at if you question whether there really is room for two more people and their luggage. Fun times! Not at all annoying! Tourism is so great!
So after an annoying day of travel we arrived in Ko Lanta reasonably grouchy and tired. A booking snafu meant that we had our first night in one place, before six nights in a cheaper bungalow situation next door. But we were finally right on the beach! The main beach time could begin!
Except for just one thing: Ko Lanta’s beaches are on the west side of the island. The wet season brings with it lots of wind. Westerly winds. Churning up all that nasty junk in the ocean that you’d rather not think about. Like tires. And bits of ships. And lots of plastic. All of which was bobbing around in the water and/or lying on the beach for as far as the eye could see. The place next door where we were supposed to go the next day? A fucking ship wreck was on the beach.
Duncan rarely gets dejected so when we wandered down the nasty beach and he got quieter and slower and started to sigh it was pretty much instantly clear that we needed to figure out plan B, and fast.
We frantically looked into going to islands in the Gulf of Thailand – i.e., the east coast which would have been, in theory, looking damn fine. But we had flights back to Bangkok from Krabi and couldn’t reach anyone to see about changing them. And the thought of another day on a minibus + ferry +++ was not super appealing.
And so, despite our attempts to be slightly off the *most* beaten path (because seriously, it’s all pretty beaten), we found ourselves on a ferry to Ko Phi Phi the next morning. Land of disaster backpacking buckets of whiskey, luxury resorts and some shit in the middle that you overpay for but which is fine and reasonably close to the beach. Can you guess what we chose?
We prioritized nice beach over pretty much every other criteria, figuring that at least Ko Phi Phi had some sheltered areas (in contrast with Lanta’s exposed coastline). And there’s a reason people go there – it’s super beautiful. Even if it’s also super crowded and has plenty of obnoxiousness. However, we walked over to one slightly more removed and very nice beach a few days where we could poach some chairs from a resort, play Frisbee, chill out, etc. It poured like crazy the first afternoon/evening, but most other days had only a few showers.
We went on one standard issue snorkelling trip – saw some stuff, some saw depressingly dead coral. We ate some nice food (more on that another time). After getting DEVOURED by bugs one day and wanting to crawl out of my skin or maybe just go to somewhere freezing cold where nothing could possibly live and I could wear a snowsuit to stop scratching, I discovered the joys of antihistimine and hydrocortisone cream. And finally, FINALLY, relaxed into beach time about two days before our epic journey to Beirut.