From Koh Lanta we took a “comfort A/C” van to the town of Krabi.
The journey involved crossing islands on two rusty vehicle ferries.
The first ferry crossed over from Koh Lanta to Koh Lanta Noi.
There were two men operating the ferry.
One was in charge of navigating and steering the ferry and the other sat in front; apparently he was in charge of stopping the ferry, and making sure that we would accurately land on the ramp.
After loading all the cars, passenger vans and trucks overloaded with timber and building supplies, he closed the ferry’s gate and proceeded to his seat in the front.
A bizarre contraption held the diesel fuel with protruding metal pipes running all the way to the front, where the ferry man had a tiny blue plastic chair with a broken back.
He sat on the broken blue plastic chair in front of what looked to be a cluster of oily pipes, handmade brakes and valves that seemed to be a fuel accelerator.
Since he was sitting in front of a flimsy contraption filled with diesel fuel, he promptly reached into his faded shirt pocket and took out a handmade cigarette.
In order to light the cigarette, he leaned closer to the diesel valve to shelter his lighter from the wind.
I counted the minutes until we reached the other shore….
Ferries in Thailand are old and often tip into the sea.
The ferry man raised his hand to signal to the man steering the ferry that we were close to shore.
He dropped the ashes of his cigarette right on the oily tubes with a habitual flick of his thumb and finger, and our van slowly skidded off the ferry.
We arrived in Krabi by early afternoon.
It seems to be warmer in Krabi than on the other islands we’ve visited before.
The van dropped us in the center of town, along with some backpackers.
An Indian man wearing a jet black wig, directed us into his open-back truck going to Aonang Beach, where we were staying.
The open mini truck was overloaded with backpackers from all over the world.
There was a woman from Lithuania, a man from Italy, a guy from NY, a young man that was born in South Africa but lived in Scotland, a man from New Delhi, two men from China and a Thai Islamic woman who hung on the back of the open truck, standing on the bumper.
Our communal conversation revolved around where each one of us has been, how long we’ve been traveling and where we plan to go next.
We shared advice about great places to travel to around the world, and recalled enchanting places and travel anecdotes.
I loved our conversation and enjoyed meeting those adventurous people who travel the whole world without much savings and some, without ever having had a “real” job.
Back in Koh Lanta, we had had the option of paying 2500 Baht (about $80 USD) for a private car to Krabi, or to take the shared comfort A/C van, which cost only 300 Baht per person ($10 USD).
Now, after meeting all those nice and interesting young people, I was happy that we had not hired a private car, and opted for the adventurous and more interesting shared option.
Having money can insulate and isolate you, if you are not careful not to let it do so…
In other words, just because we could have easily afforded the private car, it does not mean that it was the better option…..
Like with everything else, we must always ask ourselves “What are you looking for?”….
And if what you were looking for is interesting stories, meeting interesting people and much joy and laugher, then you must sometimes sacrifice comfort and ease, in order to get it.
One of my favorite writers is Tahir Shah.
Born and raised in England of Afghani decent, Tahir Shah has traveled the world, looking for treasures, for adventures and for treasures of the soul.
He has never looked for the easy way out, and not just because he traveled on a budget.
If he needed a driver and a guide while traveling in a country where he did not speak the language, and an obviously crazy and unreliable man applied for the job, he would hire him, knowing quite well that it would make for a much more interesting journey….
I guess he was truly looking for a STORY, and not for productivity, results, comfort and ease.
I truly admire that!
Ao Nang beach in Krabi is a very busy and interesting stretch of beach.
There are trees lining the shore, where you can sit under their shade by the sea.
The road across from the sea has many restaurants, bars, tattoo shops, tour agencies, small shops, street food, massage shops and scooter rentals.
Our mini truck dropped us by the beam and we wished each other fun travels and dispersed each to his or her accommodations.
The end of Ao Nang beach next to the towering limestone cliffs, is called the “Lost Fisherman.”
It has two outdoor cafés with plastic chairs where people sit in their bathing suits, sip coconuts or eat.
Farther in, there are covered metal pergolas, converted into massage shops.
Each massage place was lined with two rows of mattresses where they lay tourists like us to stretch their limbs or knead their muscles.
Since the competition for the clients is fierce, each place works hard to advertise their own services.
Women parade the boardwalk, offering pamphlets with the modest massage prices and if you take their pamphlets, they give you a slice of deliciously fresh pineapple.
The Thai massage prices are cheaper than in Phuket, Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.
An hour long Thai massage is only 200 Bahts ($7)
The food choices in Krabi are diverse and the prices are mixed.
There are Swiss and Swedish restaurants, German, Indian, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Egyptian places.
In the evenings, theatrically dressed “Lady Boys” offer brochures to their dance shows.
Some of these soft skinned young men in heavy makeup, have soft curves and look very much like ladies.
We ate a delicious pasta and salad in “Azzurra,” an Italian restaurant in front of the beach, run by an Italian man and his family.
After a nice chat he agreed to make us vegan food which tasted very good and very fresh.
We ate great food in “Cleopatra,” an Egyptian restaurant run by Arabs who bake each pita bread to order, skillfully kneading the dough before placing it in the wood burning oven.
Having some chances to have International food is a welcome change from eating only Thai food three times per day.
The concept of “Time,” during our journey on the Thai beaches, seems to lose all meaning.
We often eat a breakfast that last two hours, talking and sharing our observations.
We take a long walks around town or make our way to the the beach, take cooling dips in the sea, drink coconut water or fresh fruit shakes and get long Thai massages.
We only stopped in Krabi for two nights on our way to Koh Samui, so I can offer no real insight into the place.
There is a weekend night market which I heard is nice to see, since beside the plastic sunglasses, the cheap beachwear, the oversized tank-tops with slogans like “I Love Krabi,” or “Same Same but Different,” it features some local artisans.
Van rides from Ao Nang beach back and forth to the night market in Krabi, run about 300 Baht ($10) per person.
I have to admit that after a long day in the heat, covered with sea salt and tiger balm (from the massages), all I wanted to do was have a good shower and rest in our clean air conditioned room, flip the TV channels, and select between a French news channel, the Japanese TV channel NHK, CCTV from China or Al Jazeera, which is all that our French hotel offers.
But after my shower I felt refreshed.
I reached for a local magazine, while Jules watched a French cooking competition, of chocolatier chefs, making sophisticated delicacies that you could never get in hot Thailand.
I read an article about the perils of foreigners who buy real estate in Thailand.
It covers the nuts and bolts of the difficult journey, including some unbelievable scamming possibilities….
The article said that it has happened before that tourists were shown a house for sale on a beautiful beach.
They paid and signed the title deed which was written in Thai, only to find out that the house they actually bought is a shack, located 30 kilometers away from the beach…
It recounted stories about tourists who bought beachfront homes, only to find that the road leading to their home is on someone else’s land, and that this land was recently sold to new owners who have refused to grant a right of way through their land…
It also recounted stories about tourists who did not know that even though they have bought a house, they do not own the land which the house sits on, and that tourists are not even allowed to own land in Thailand.
Foreigners and tourists are allowed to own apartments and condominiums, but not land.
The only way tourists can own land in Thailand, is if they were to form a Thai corporation and use the corporation to buy the land, or they can enter into a partnership with a Thai citizen, or use other such methods to bypass the regulations.
The regulations were made with good intentions, to ensure that Thai land stays in Thai hands, but this is not the way the world is progressing, and all that these regulations create, is more craftiness and more dishonesty…
It reminds me of the famous saying by Lao Tse, the author of the Tao Te Ching who wrote:
“If a country is governed with tolerance,
The people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with oppression and the government is too restrictive,
The people are depressed and crafty…”