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So I’ve finally collated all my photos and thoughts about the trip. I actually returned to Singapore on June 4, but the tidal wave of random things to attend to swept me up for the past weeks. I really miss the slow, steady lifestyle that Thailand offers.

Nevertheless, here are the highlights of the rest of my trip – from various parts of Krabi, finally ending at Phuket.

 

Krabi, Ao Nang: Sleepy old town

We arrived at Ao Nang in the wee hours of the night, and checked in at Aree Tara Resort. We headed out for some local food at NaNa Restaurant, which was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. The tomyum soup certainly did not disappoint.

krabi ao nang food

krabi ao nang food

Now, while the room at Aree Tara Resort was not exactly fantastic, it was at least fairly comfortable and clean. IMO, I thought staying at Amar’s for 3 nights spoiled me in terms of expectations for accommodation, but Ao Nang would be the turning point for all my expectations in general. 

The elephant towels were cute, though. Check it out.

krabi ao nang accommodation
Seems that Thais have great towel origami skills

No matter – a room is just a place for sleeping, right? What matters is what is out there to explore, right? Well, we were in for a rude shock the following morning.

 

The 4 Island Tour: Railay, Poda Island, Chicken Island, and Tub Island

krabi ao nang

We had planned to hire a private longtail boat to head out to the surrounding islands (Poda Island, Chicken Island etc). A few minutes after we had handed over money for the boat, though, torrents of rain began to fall. The raining season had just begun.

krabi ao nang

And so we waited for the skies to clear a bit. Finally, it slowed to a drizzle, and we were off. Not exactly the best start to the day.

krabi ao nang

On the bright side (ha, ha), it made for good photo opportunities. The rest of the day was an unending game of hide-and-seek between the sun and rain.

longtail boat thailand
As you can see, ominous overcast skies on the right, with bright skies on the left

I thoroughly enjoyed the longtail boat rides. The drivers were as much skillful as they were reckless, which made for an exhilarating ride every time.

longtail boat thailand

The churning of the motor, however, was extremely loud. Take care not to sit at the back of the boat if you value your sense of hearing.

longtail boat thailand

In any case, our first stop was a brief unguided 30 mins photo tour of Railay. It was slightly amusing, because we already had plans to stay on Railay the week after. However, the boatman insisted on dropped us off there for a while (“Good photos! Must take!”). Who were we to argue with the local guide?

He was not wrong, though. The sights were amazing.

railay beach

railay beach

Crystal clear waters, fine golden sand, and the signature limestone cliffs. It was a scene right out from my imagination.

railay beach

railay beach

I only realised afterwards that there was a spot of rain on my camera lens throughout these shots, probably picked up while I was happily snapping away on the boat (see if you can spot the spot!). It did little to spoil the scenery, though.

Next stop: Poda Island!

longtail boat thailand

tsunami warning

Poda Island turned out to be the best island for relaxing in the entire trip. It was relatively uncrowded, the skies were clear for the hour or so that we were there (thank God!), and the scenery was fantastic. From where I lay, this was my exact view:

poda island

Again, a scene right out of my imagination. We spent a good hour just lazing around, catching up on some light reading, and generally soaking in the island vibes.

poda island

poda island

Our next “stop” was Chicken Island, which wasn’t really a stop because there wasn’t any place to stop off at. The boatman did, however, urgently call us to snap some photos of the chicken head. We obliged.

It does look like a chicken head, doesn't it? God sure has a sense of humor.
It does look like a chicken head, doesn’t it? God sure has a sense of humor.

Then the rain swept in again, with renewed vigor.

heavy rain krabi

After a rocky ride (with the boatman cursing and swearing the whole way. I assume he was cursing and swearing, but I wouldn’t really know, because he was speaking in Thai), we found refuge on our last island, Tub Island. After a brief, uneventful lunch, the rain decided to let up. 

tub island

The coolest part about the island was probably the stretch of sand in between the island where opposing waves met. It was a strange sight, and as the tide came in, it became really difficult to trudge across in slippers. I decided to take mine off.

Before the tide came in:

tub island

And after:

tub island

At this point, the rain made a third appearance, and we decided to call it a day and head back to sleepy old Ao Nang Town.

The sound of crashing waves and picturesque sights, however, are forever etched in my memories. On hindsight, while the rain did interrupt moments in our trip, I felt it added an element of nature, that cannot be controlled or pre-determined, to the sights and sounds. It was certainly an exciting experience, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

This closes the chapter for Ao Nang – stay tuned for the remaining islands!

So Bangkok has been as expected so far – a simple, uncomplicated time of endless shopping, amazing food, and breathtaking massages. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights so far.

 

Accommodation: Amar’s Apartment through AirBnB

So we booked our first stay through AirBnB, and found this quaint but superbly equipped apartment owned by a French gentleman named Amar.

airbnb bangkok apartment

Strong wifi signal, speakers in every room (with an iOS dock in the living room), air-conditioned throughout, and comfy, clean beds.

airbnb bangkok room

Add on a fridge and cupboards stocked with noodles, bottled water, eggs, and so on. In short, it was hard to leave the apartment each day. Highly recommended. Thanks for the excellent hospitality, Amar!

airbnb bangkok apartment

For those who are interested, the link for this place is here. Price: USD$56 per night.

Shopping: Chatuchak Weekend Market

We visited some of the premium shopping malls in the heart of Bangkok (Terminal 21, MBK, Siam Paragon, and so on), but I have to say that I enjoyed the Chatuchak Weekend Market the best.

chatuchak weekend market

chatuchak weekend market

Nothing beats the truly Thai experience of haggling over the already minute prices, sweating buckets, and browsing endless aisles of clothing, souvenirs, and stuff you never thought you needed till you saw it.

chatuchak weekend market

For example, I chanced over these pleasant smelling soaps and couldn’t resist purchasing a few of them. They’re not for me though – I don’t use bar soaps. Still, a pretty sweet (-smelling) buy.

souvenir thailand

IMO, forget the big shopping malls – hit the markets on the streets for the real deal. Here’s more information on Chatuchak Weekend Market.

(Swedish) Massage: Pimmalai

A trip to Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter, is incomplete without one of their signature massages. We chanced across this rustic-looking massage place called Pimmalai when we couldn’t find our apartment on the first day (chance again!).

thai massage

Admittedly, I fear the twisting and bone-crunching (I’m exaggerating, a bit) that Thai massages involve, so I opted for a Swedish massage instead. Best decision of my life – it was so comfortable that I literally fell asleep two to three times throughout the one hour, and was so tempted to opt for another hour. Highly, highly recommended.

thai massage

Here’s the web address, for those who are interested in the best massage ever.

Food: MK Restaurant

To be honest, all the food on the streets of Thailand is fantastic. Some might border on uncooked, though, so be careful of that.

bangkok street food

I think that, due to the highly competitive nature of the street trade, hawkers are forced to become excellent in their craft – and foodies like myself benefit greatly from that. 

There is one particular restaurant that stood out above all the other food that we consumed so far on this trip: MK Restaurant.

mk restaurant

mk restaurant

Apparently, they’ve been around forever – I vaguely remember eating at MK’s when I first came to Bangkok in my primary school days. Perhaps their many years in this trade has allowed them to hone their craft as well. In particular, the duck and shrimp wanton green noodles was outstanding.

mk restaurant

If you’re tired of street food (which might, uh, be unlikely), MK Restaurant is the place to chill and have superb steamboat food.

 

So now we’re preparing for our flight down to Krabi, Ao Nang. We initially wanted to take the sleeper train, but alas! it was completely booked out. So we scrambled for a last minute flight down to Krabi, and thankfully secured one just yesterday. 

More in a few days’ time!

I’ve been going off my rocker getting all my preparations done for this trip, which explains why I haven’t been able to update this page in the past few weeks (that, and my final examinations ever in college, of course). Here’s a brief overview of what has gone down since:

1) Inter-regional flights in Philippines turned out to be too costly for us poor folk (that would be me, actually). Plan changed to a 3 weeks tourney through the Land of Smiles.

2) Touchdown in Bangkok > Sleeper train down to Krabi, Ao Nang (transit through Surat Thani) > Final stop: Ko Samui / Ko Tao

3) Here’s my packing list. I don’t believe I have ever traveled this light before!

– 3 sets of clothes (3 tees, 3 shorts)

– 7 underwear (why skimp on the essentials, right?)

– A pair of running shoes

– A pair of sandals

– Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens solution

– 100ml tube of sunblock

– 100ml tube of mosquito repellent

– 100ml tube of Febreeze

– A few packets of dry and wet tissue

– Electric shaver

– Medication box: Charcoal pills, Panadol, Po Chai Yin, Plasters, Clarityn

– Daypack

– Swimming shorts and goggles

– Universal adapter and chargers

– Netbook (Acer Aspire One)

– Camera (Panasonic Lx3)

– Waistbelt

– Several ziplock bags

– Essentials pouch: Passport and wallet

 

More on the trip as I go along. Stay tuned!

It does seem rather ironic that an Asian would want to travel around Asia. Then again, for a guy who has spent most of his life in tiny Singapore, the rest of vast and exotic Asia seems extremely appealing – and certainly holds experiences that cannot be found here. 

 

So begins a new chapter in my life. As graduation looms (May 2013), so does the big question that all graduates inevitably face: What now? As I mentioned earlier, I fully intend to head out into the world and embrace the wildness of life outside my safe haven here in Singapore (yes, putting passion into action, finally). And what better place to start with than the incredibly popular Thailand? After reading several popular travel blogs and travel guides (as well as the not-so-popular ones), I was utterly convinced that Thailand was the place to start off my journey.

travel around asia
taken from www.good-wallpapers.com

Thus far, I’ve had a few offers on Workaway, but nothing really concrete within Thailand (unfortunately). I might start out in Malaysia, as I have gotten a couple of fantastic offers from the most amazing people. Fortunately, cheap traveling around Thailand is certainly still a possibility. In any case, I decided to go ahead and book a flight out to Bangkok in faith (and also partly because Scoot was having an INCREDIBLE discounted rate of S$77 for a flight there – it ended yesterday). My friend, Darren, and I fully intend to live the backpacker’s life there – slowly trawling across Thailand, staying at the cheapest accommodation around, and absorbing the culture around us.

travel around asia
taken from thelensmaster.wordpress.com

The second leg of this trip will be to the Philippines. I was inspired by this marvelous post on Migrationology . A private beach, abundant seafood, crystal clear waters, fine white sand at Buasanga, Palawan – for the cost of US$36? A traveler’s paradise, a must-visit destination, and best of all, only one of the many island beaches around the Philippines. It certainly stirs up the wanderlust in me!

 

A very useful tool I have been using to plan my flights is Kayak. All I have had to do was punch in my start and end points, the dates I would like to fly there and back, and it aggregates the cheapest alternatives for me within seconds. This tool has saved me a tremendous amount of research and time. One thing to note of, though: Kayak does not take into account any promotions that are ongoing. Hence, you should definitely subscribe to updates from your favorite few airlines – you never know what offers will come up. I was extremely fortunate to spot Scoot’s offer in a promotional email they sent out.

 

I have made it my goal to keep overall costs to an absolutely minimum. As of now, only S$77 has gone into the airfare towards Bangkok. I will continue to keep a log of my preparations as they unfold, and I hope they will serve as a useful guide for those who intend to travel cheaply around Thailand and Philippines – stay tuned!