Back on the southbound road.
Thailand funnels down into a thin strip of land, squeezed even narrower because it has to share the peninsular connection with Myanmar. This stretch of road is pure torture on our behinds. The CRF seats are killing our butts and the straight, unending highway offers no distractions as we squirm about on top of our motorcycle, searching for ways to get comfortable even as the temperatures rise to the low 30s by mid-morning.
Boring, boring ride. When is it going to get interesting?
Did we see anything interesting along the way? Jack.
The heat and the seats are limiting our mileage. We've been averaging about 250kms a day and we stop in Chumphon for the evening. I say evening, but really we arrived after lunch, stormed into the room and cranked the air conditioning up full-blast while we sat around in our underwear trying to cool off. So glad Anton and Mel aren't rooming with us anymore...
PANTS OFF TIME!
Packing up bright and early to leave Chumphon
We finally make it past the narrow neck of the peninsula and suddenly things start to look a lot more interesting. In the distance, large monolithic structures shoot up from the horizon. We enter the outskirts of Krabi and check into a hotel we found. It's so much cheaper getting a place outside the city, I'm glad we have motorcycles so we're not forced to find accommodations in the expensive city centre.
Cool-looking rocks up ahead!
Heading out into Krabi to explore the town
Karst Towers in the background
These structures are a type of Karst formation - erosion of limestone causing sinkholes, caves and when taken to the extreme, leaves only towers of free-standing rock behind. These Karst towers are a signature feature of this area and are commonly found on postcards distinguishing Krabi beaches from any other beach or island in Thailand.
The two towers are separated because the Karst system dictates no intermingling or marriage between Karsts.
We are staying a couple of days in Krabi, so the next afternoon we pack up to go find a beach to sit on
We have to time our beach excursions for later in the day. The time between 10AM-3PM is the hottest time and the heat is unbearable, even in the shade. So we wait until the late afternoon to head out. We did some research and there are some amazing places around the Ao Nang Beach, about 15 kms away. From there, we can catch a ferry to some of the more remote and hidden beaches, inaccessible by road.
Our ride takes us past more Karst-inspired features
Krabi is one of only three places in the world where the Karst towers extend into the sea
(not this particular one though). One of the other places is Croatia's Dalmatian coast
Water ferries at Ao Nang Beach
Ao Nang Beach is a hellish tourist trap.
The main strip is lined with bars, restaurants and tour offices. Traffic and the throngs of people walking up and down the boulevard make it difficult to feel relaxed. Even with two tiny dirtbikes, we had problems finding a place to park. Worse still, our Internet guide to Krabi beaches promised us water ferries charging 60 baht ($2) per person to Railay Beach, which is one of the more secluded spots around the corner, accessible only by water. I saw pictures of Railay Beach on the Internet, it's surrounded by more fascinating Karst structures.
Unfortunately for us, tourism has really taken off here and all the ferries to Railay are now priced at 200 baht per person. A steep hike from 60 baht. We were not going to pay $15 when we thought it was only going to cost us $4 total. Total rip-off.
Instead, we just stayed on Ao Nang beach itself
We sulkily laid down our towels with all the other cheap tourists who couldn't or wouldn't pay the exorbitant ferry fees. There were a lot of people around, so we had to walk a distance to find a spot where we weren't sitting on someone else's beach towel. This sucks.
I fear this is what's going to happen to Thailand when a lot more people discover how nice it is, that the prices are just going to go up exponentially and the crowds are going to kill any kind of local flavour. I say this as a very selfish farang, of course.
Just around that corner of rocks is Railay Beach. :( If only our CRFs had pontoons...
Crowded Ao Nang beach is a good place to people-watch. Check mate in 6 moves, my friend...
Watching the rip-off water ferries come and go
Sun slowly sets and I come to my senses and think: "Why so krabi? Look where we are! It's still very pretty here!"
Attitude readjusted. I love Thailand again.
The landscape has gotten much more interesting now that we're this far south. Our surroundings are vastly different from Northern Thailand: mountains and jungles replaced by beaches and ocean-view sunsets. Our time on the islands and the beaches have us contemplating where in Thailand we want to live. Everything seems so idyllic down here compared to Chiang Mai, but overall the prices are on average 1.5 times more expensive, and the accommodations are easily over twice that.
We're going to try a little experiment...