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Monkeying Around in Krabi

sunny 32 °C

After much demand (no names mentioned... Matt!). I decided to contribute at a minimum, one entry to this blog so at least I can refer to it as 'our' blog without getting called out....

It was sad to leave the hustle and bustle of Bangkok but I think by now we were all ready for some beach time. We took a late afternoon AirAsia flight to Krabi. For those of you not familiar with AirAsia, they are the Asian equivalent of RyanAir, enabling you to fly to most destinations in Asia for only a portion of the cost of the more well-known larger airlines. Of course they charge you for everything from extra baggage weight, food, seat selection but because it’s in Asia these charges are fractions of the cost of RyanAir's :-) We found them to be excellent and just like previously, having Zavian with us proved to be a bonus as we were given priority at both check-in and security... one of the many benefits of travelling with kids in Asia! They do make it easier for families.

After a speedy one hour flight we landed at Krabi airport, not much to write home about here as the airport was the size of a roadside motel but it was nice to notice as we got off the plane that we were the only plane in sight.... I guess it is off-season after all! A taxi was waiting for us and we arrived at Nopparat Thara pier in 45 mins. Our place for the next 5 days was the Grand Centara Resort, which is only accessible by boat and we had to wait a short while for the hotel's private speedboat to appear out of the darkness, as by now it was late evening and it was pitch-black outside. Jutika and Zavian took the recommended safe option of staying in the cabin whilst I decided to join the local hotel staff on the front of the boat to get a feel of the area. At night we could see Ao Nang beach all lit up by the restaurants, bars and nightlife. Our hotel was very secluded, set in magnificent limestone cliffs (a common geographical feature of this area) with its own private beach and located next to Ao Nang. Disembarking off the boat was fairly straight forward but the manmade pier was a bit precarious as it was a plastic floating pier! Apparently the hotel is not permitted to install a permanent wooden structure as the area is a national park and has to be kept 'as is'. This meant the whole pier moved with the motion of the waves and at that time of night the waves were a little rough, a definite challenge for Jutika with Zavian strapped on. We made it one piece with the help of the hotel staff who obviously had no problem navigating the pier on their own.
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Greeted with welcome drinks, we were happy to have an ocean view room even if the view was obscured by the vegetation outside. Surprisingly we were told by the staff to make sure we locked all the doors and windows when we leave, not just close them, as monkeys are plentiful and these crafty little creatures have mastered the art of opening doors/windows! We even heard from other guests somebody was billed for a bag nuts even though the monkey stole them from their room! The next day, we elected to chill out at the pool and take Zavian swimming.
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Zavian loves the water, flapping his legs and arms continuously like Flipper the dolphin! Zavian also loves staring and smiling at other kids that are typically older than him as if he wants to join and play with them all. Of course, he made many friends there, young and old, including a couple, a guy called Tim from Chicago who was in the business of pharmaceutical advertising (not something that I believe in but a nice guy nonetheless) and his Thai 'lady friend', Dao, ;-) We ate at the hotel for the first two nights as you have to reserve a boat to get to Ao Nang (the closest town) but the Thai set meals at the hotel were fairly reasonable anyways plus it was easier to take Zavian back to the room to sleep if he began to feel tired and cranky. All the Thai staff loved Zavian even though most of them thought he was a girl! We took it as a complement because we thought it must be his beautiful face that confused them... ;-)

We had heard of a mystery "monkey trail" which as the name suggests is occupied by many monkeys! The trail like the floating pier is sometimes not for the faint hearted, and certainly not if it had just rained. Everyone kind of told us that it was not safe to take Zavian, especially at night. We decided to venture to Railey and Phra Nang beach the next day (see a great Tezza's blog for an in depth detail of the beaches in the area), this was the main reason why we chose this location as according to many people Phra Nang beach is considered the most beautiful in Thailand and one of the top 10 beaches in the world. We took the infamous monkey trail which was very rickety at places and understood why it would be difficult at night. Jutika was immediately followed by two monkeys, must have been some funky body odour that attracted them to her. One determined primate attempted to steal Zavian's brightly coloured sun tent from her bag.... and Jutika used her Jedi skills to fend them off with her umbrella! Check her out!

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Long tail boats are everywhere as this is the method of transport between beaches and islands. These boats are made of wood and use a very large and old diesel engine that makes a terrific amount of noise…. Not really baby friendly especially if trying to sleep We took the first of many long tails to Phra Nang beach via West Railey beach but had some difficulty communicating this as although ‘Phra’ would be phonetically pronounced as ‘fra’ in English, in Thai, ‘Phra’ is pronounced as ‘pra’….. We had lunch at a small restaurant on West Railey beach and took a 10 min walk to Phra Nang beach past some limestone caves with its wonderful stalactites and stalagmites.. Phra Nang beach was spectacular to say the least, white sandy beaches with crystal clear blue water set against picturesque lime stone cliffs. The water is also very warm, not even slightly cold, and the scenery out to see is also amazing as there are a few large limestone rocks located off the shore that are found often in the picture perfect photos found in travel brochures of Thailand. We immediately saw some adventurous people attempting some rock climbing on the limestone cliffs. Rock climbing is a very popular activity in this area as there are many limestone cliffs providing climbers with many challenges and the deterioration of the limestone provides nooks and crannies that can be used as foot and hand holds for even beginner climbers. We set up camp on the beach and installed Zavian’s little tent to protect him from the sun. The tent attracted much interest from passers-by… some even decided to take a photo!

West Railay Beach
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Phra Nang Caves
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Phra Nang Beach
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Climbers
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Also at Phra Nang beach is an unusual temple or shrine set in cave in the limestone cliff. Phra Nang (Princess) Cave has been where fishermen, before going out to sea, have made offerings to the symbolic Phallus of Shiva (known as the Siwaleung or Palad Khik in Thai). The fishermen, who say the cave is the home of a mythical sea princess, believe their offerings will bring them success in their fishing and protect them from danger, but what is more remarkable is that the cave contains a large collection of carved wooden phallic symbols, offerings and other objects believed to help with fertility! Some still go every morning paying their respects before they go fishing.
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Zavian fishing with locals
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There are a number of long tails there to take short trips to other islands and beaches. Some are also thai floating fast food boat docked on the beach equipped with a full kitchen selling anything from corn on the cob to curries and pad thai… yummy! We enjoyed our lunch there.
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We had checked out some of the other beaches on our way in, and decided that Phra Nang was by far the nicest, so we returned to Phra Nang beach the following day but spent just a few hours. We met a Glaswegian guy and he gave us some tips on our next destination, Koh Phi Phi Islands. He also told us about the crazy full moon parties, which we would be missing since we are parents now!

Our last days spent relaxing at hotel, since the Centara resort was so nice. Our rooms were like private bungalows in the trees of the rainforest, with amazing balconies with ocean views and coconut trees. Fortunately didn't have any monkey run-ins in our room, although you could definitely hear them outside at night. We did have some geckos and there was a huge lizard wandering around the resort that Jutika saw, but I missed. Jutika enjoyed some of the spa facilities, we had some cocktails and spent our evenings in Ao Nang. On our last night, we took a motorcycle tuk tuk to dinner from the pier. We ate at a restaurant where we heard a lot of hotel staff ate, oddly called "After the Tsunami." The food was incredible and we could pick out our own fish and seafood. Zavian chose ours!
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Our room at Centara
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Dinner at After the Tsunami
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The aftermath
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This is Dr. Naz signing off. Until next time, but for now my gorgeous assistant, Jutika, will be taking over...

Posted by nnazef 09:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches grand krabi tail long limestone phra centara ao nang Comments (1)

Big Budhas and the Grand Palace

sunny 34 °C

We visited a few Buddhist temples during our 6 days in Bangkok, but nothing was as cool as Wat Pho, The Temple of the Reclining Budha. Wat Pho is one of the oldest and largest temples, and they say is the birthplace of traditional Thai massage (it houses a massage school). The impressive Budha staue is 46 meters in length and the temple itself has over 1000 images of Budha, more than anywhere else in the country. It was breathtaking!

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Naim making donations at the temple
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We also went to see the Grand Palace, which has been the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government for more than 150 years. Although the present King Bhumibol (Rama IX) lives in Chitralada Palace (not open to tourists). We took a taxi from the hotel, and I had read that you have to be sure the taxi drops you off near the entrance, as for some reason they don't like to, but of course we had no idea where we were, so believed our driver that is was just around the corner, and ended up a bit further than we thought. It was boiling outside and we only had the baby carrier since the stroller wouldn't arrive from the airport until later that evening. Zavian also chose that moment to be sleepy and prefer to be held, so my sweaty arms were tied!

One thing you learn about Bangkok, is that if you are a tourist, everyone tries to take you for a ride. Prices are inflated, lies are told (even where there is no personal incentive to do so) and many attempts to get you to take their friend's tour or taxi. Towards the end of our 6 days in Bangkok, we started to get a little sick of it, as we didn't feel we could really trust anyone. On our walk to the Grand Palace, a man who said he worked for a hotel, stopped and asked if he could help us. We asked to be directed towards the Palace and he told us, but then said it would be closed during the lunch time because of Budha's birthday. Hmm, hadn't seen or heard anything about Budha's birthday...He then reassured us if would reopen by 3:30 PM, so don't worry and then tried to get us a taxi, but we said no. When we finally arrived at huge white walls that enclose the Palace, we stopped at what we though was an entrance and asked a security guard where we could enter. He said the entrance was down to the right, but that the palace was closed during lunch, so he suggested we take a river tour and then return, and pointed us towards a tuk tuk who proceeded to harass us. We said no and then walked towards the entrance anyway, as we could surely just see if it was closed once we arrived at the correct spot. As we approached, we saw loads of tourists entering and leaving. Both guys were telling lies, and the second one was security for the Palace! Inside where you buy tickets there was a big sign that said don't listen to anyone on the street as you try to enter telling you it's closed for a 'Buddhist holiday', 'cleaning' etc, or asking if you want to see the 'Lucky Buddha' instead. I found out later it's all part of a sophisticated gem scam. Good to know, but they really should post these signs on the way to the Palace!

In any case, the palace was worth it, as it was simply stunning, well maintained and interesting. The beautiful architecture and intricate detail give a proud salute to Thai craftsmanship. They have a very strict dress code and we did have to cover up, no bare shoulders, shorts, etc., so we had to wear more clothes once we got inside (sooo hot) and Naim hired some great trousers that I thought made him look like he works in the ER.

Grand Palace pics
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You can get blessed before you enter to see the Emerald Budha, and Zavian giggled when the water touched his hair and made this woman laugh.
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An illegal photo Naim took, not supposed to take photos inside! At the top the very small, very famous and greatly revered Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century
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Naim thinking he look like George Clooney from ER
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Posted by jknazef 08:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged palace grand bangkok reclining budha Comments (0)

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