but we decided to stick to the original plan and move on to koh yao the next day. so we took a taxi to the pier and, in typical thai travel style, got out of the van and kind of just started saying where we wanted to go. a couple guys had looked at us and asked us where we were going, and when we told them koh yao, they told us to wait for a bit. so we sat down and played some super asian poker.
the guy motioned for us to come over, it’s time to go, and we lugged our stuff over to this long tail boat filled with thai people. a little janky, but i was so used to things looking dangerous but probably not being so that i just sort of figured things would work out. the ride was gorgeous. we could see rock islands jutting up all around us the whole time. about 45 minutes later, we neared the koh yao noi dock (koh yao is actually two islands) and hopped (mehhhh, struggled to...) get off. a taxi guy asked us where we were going (tabaek viewpoint), motioned for us to hop in, and off we went.
this, i knew, would be the most intensely thai place we’d be going to. everywhere else geared toward tourists, but this place was just pretty much a thai area, where people lived, worked, went to school, played soccer, walked around...you know, just lived. i was real nervous it’d be weird, that mom and dad wouldn’t like it, that we’d just wanna go to bed asap and get out early early early in the morning.
i was super wrong. koh yao was the best. tabaek viewpoint (owned by a sweet thai-japanese husband wife duo)100 percent delivered on its name—we could see dozens of little rock islands from our balcony, where we sat for at least an hour just reading, napping, and staring. the bungalow was adorable—all wooden on stilts, so you could see through the floor down to the ground.
i’d read that koh yao was fun to bike around, so we rented bikes. then a really bad thing happened. this will forever be dubbed the Koh Yao Bike Incident (note: none of us have ever called it that—i just chose the name right now).
so mom, dad, and i are pretty confident on our bikes, pretty confident with maps, and pretty confident with directions. when we rented the bikes, the thai owner gave us a hand-drawn map of the island and showed us a loop around the island, which cut through the middle. there was a line jutting off the side of the loop going toward “paradise.”
“don’t go to paradise,” he said. alright, sounds good, man. no paradise. we’re on it.
sooooo we head out on our ride, first to the market to get some water and buy some things, then to the edge of the island and out on a pier. the sun’s going down, so everything’s starting to look real pretty. we ran into some adorable little girls on their bikes who were thrilled to be riding with us and showing us their tricks. we were pretty happy in general to be out on this ride. we continue on the loop and hit a couple forks in the road. we took one road but it was getting to be more of a dirt road than we wanted, so we turned around and headed down the other fork. still unsure, we waved down a couple thai girls on their motorbike. we showed them the map and i asked if we were going the right way (in really, really broken thai). they nodded and headed off. ok, great, we’re going the right way, let’s power down it.
then we started going up a hill. and it was huge. we started getting increasingly worried that we were going the wrong way. the tabaek owner guy had said there would be little hills, but this was a BIG hill—all three of us ended up getting off the bikes. at the top of the hill, there was a group of thai people showering or doing something with water. when they saw us, they sort of giggled. dad was like “ehhhh maybe we should figure out if we’re going the right way,” which was a really good idea, so i walked over to these people, showed them the map, and asked where we were. after a few mumbles and points to various parts of the island, they point the direction we’re headed—which is now down the other side of the mountain—and go “paradie. paradie.”
CRAP WE’RE TOTALLY HEADED TOWARD PARADISE. all i could do was laugh, thank them immensely, and tell mom and dad it was time to turn around. lol. oops. when we got back to a sign, i noticed immediately the error of my ways. the sign did indeed point toward the pier on the island we wanted to go toward, the one that was listed on the map—it was just spelled differently. arnold fail.
so you think this is where it ends, right? we found our way home, happy happy joy joy. FALSE. the ride back to the market was long and the clouds overhead were getting increasingly dark and scary. we’d noticed them before and kinda went, “oooh, i wonder if it’s gonna rain later! wouldn’t that be fun!” but on our bikes, still at least half an hour from our bungalow, it didn’t look so fun. plus we were pretty sure we’d heard a couple thunder claps, and i was pretty sure we couldn’t make it home. we stumbled upon probably the only other white guys on the whole island (luck astounds me sometimes), had them call our bungalow, and the japanese lady called a songtau to pick us up. about three minutes after he called, lighting streaked through the sky, thunder roared at us, and it started pouring.
thank god for this songtau. it pulled up, we loaded our bikes in and held on tight. since these are open air vehicles, we still got soaked. but we were on the songtau and we knew were gonna make it home safely, so it was nbd and we were just laughing. we got back to the bungalow, changed clothes real quick, and headed up to the main dining area to grab some much-deserved beers and a meal. the thai man laughed at us when we walked in. lol...fair enough.
the next morning we woke up, ate some bfast, mom and i walked along the beach, and we headed down to the pier to get to our next stop—railay. we were all bummed to leave koh yao. we all could’ve had at least another day there.
onward. i had only a vague idea of how to get from koh yao to railay, so when the thai bungalow owner guy happened to hop on the same longtail boat as us headed toward mainland krabi, i was quite thankful. we told him we were trying to get to railay, so we hopped on the same open-air bus thingy that he did, then he told the driver where we were going so the driver just took us all the way there, which was about an hour-long drive, i think. SWEET. i told mom and dad in the middle of the drive—after i already knew we were safely on our way—that i pretty much didn’t know how we were gonna get to railay. it’s thai-style travel...you just start literally saying where you wanna go, then somebody helps you get there.
we got to railay on a longtail boat. these boats are really fun to take pictures of and you really appreciate the novelty of them the first time you’re on’em, but after that, they’re kind of just big, not very convenient boats. but they’re the only way to get to and from railay, so there we were, on a long tail boat. we hopped off at railay west, walked across the peninsula to railay east, and found our next resort: anyavee. beautiful pool area, nice room, good tv (nat geo! i think i sort of surprised parents when i told them a very exciting part of my travels is sitting in the room and watching english tv), and a balcony facing up toward a huuuuge rock cliff. railay’s gorgeous. it was like zion of the east—giant rock faces staring at you all the time, with stunning water down below.
we had two night scheduled in railay, so we were debating what to do the next day. i’d gone on fun snorkel trips on islands before, so i suggested we do one of those. it was decidedly not as fun as i thought it would be. we were on a long tail, which was tough to get in and out of, and out of the four spots they took us to, only one was good for snorkeling. BUT that one snorkeling spot was pretty sweet—i made mom touch a sea cucumber and we swam among a school of bright yellow fish.
that night was our last night in thailand, so we celebrated with more fruity island drinks, five crowns, and too much food. mmmmmm thai food.
hooookay, so the next morning, mom and i kayaked around for like an hour—beautiful bay—then we packed up and headed to krabi town, where dad and i played on the internet for a while and mom explored. by the early afternoon we were in the airport, ready to get back to bkk and fly to beijing.
we had like a zillion (okay, six) hours between our krabi flight and our beijing flight, so we had some time to kill. mom and i tried to transfer money but we ended up asking for this exorbitantly huge amount of yuan, which sent the exchange people into a fit of laughter, which just made mom and i bust up. we waited for a really long time for the counter to open so we could check in and get to the magical side of the airport that had burger king. our flight left around 1 am, so we were all super freaking tired by that time (we’d been hitting the sheets before 11 pm). i fell asleep in the waiting area then was out pretty much before the plane even took off. the five-hour flight felt more like 20 minutes. (being a heavy sleeper is one of my favorite qualities.) but at 6:30 am, we’d finally made it. beijing, baby.