Craig Writes; I wake up to a very light tapping some where in the distance. It slowly pulls me from a deep sleep. It goes away and I start to slowly drift again before it returns.  Very light but close and persistent. I slowly raise my head from the pillow and listen. It's pitch black and there is someone knocking at our door. My first thought is it is the boys who's room is next door to ours. It turns out to be our very quiet and gentle Buddhist guide Som and the reason for the flutter at the door is that we're late. The alarm that was supposed to wake us at 4.45am for a 5.45 pick up didn't and it is now 5.55 am. Fortunately we were 95% packed from the night before.  So it was round up some toiletries and the remaining pieces of clothing, jam them into a suitcase, zip, lock and down three flights of stairs.  All in only 10 minutes.  We were late but not terminally.

The flight to Bangkok was only a couple of hours but the layover was nearly three. Bangkok airport is huge so there was plenty of shops to browse through and things to nibble on. The boys spent the most of the time cruising down the up and up the down travellators until security caught up with them. I spent my time eating mango with sticky rice from a small kiosk at the far end of the restaurant strip.  Sweet sweet mango, slightly salty rice with creamy coconut milk drizzled over the top. Oh yeah! After boarding it was only another hour on to Krabi. When we arrived it was 28 degrees and raining. A thirty minute taxi ride and we pulled into The Pakasai Hotel.  Nice place. It was only a three minute walk to the beach, has a gym, an infinity pool, good restaurant and bar. All set in a forest of Homeland Trees, coconut palms and ornamental ginger.  Our room overlooked a large Koi pond that hugs the side of the open air restaurant. 

Love those infinity pools
Great for breakfast but dinner came
 with your own bottle of mozzie spray
Well, here we are in Thailand so lets give you some interesting little snippets.  It is our first industrialised country since leaving Oz. Last year it had a GDP of US$364 Billion dollars. Not too shabby.  Two thirds of that comes from the industrial and service sector, unlike a lot of it's neighbours who rely mostly on agriculture. While certainly industrialised it is not first world.  More like second world with a bullet. It has a population of 65 million and the capital , Bangkok has a population bigger than the whole of Laos, a little over six million.  It is predominately Buddhist, 93%, 5% Islam and the rest is a bit of a mixed bag. Here's an interesting fact about the place.  Carbon dating of bone fragments and artifacts have put human settlement in this region as far back as 35,000 B.C. It is also the only country in this region that during it's entire history has not been colonized by another country. They did lose some land east of the Mekong to the French and the Malay peninsula to the British during the 19th century but have always maintained sovereignty.  The Japanese also managed to bully them into using the northern part of Thailand to move troops onto the Malayan frontier during WW II. Showing just how they clever they are, as soon as the war finished first thing they did was sign an alliance with the winners, the US. It's also fair to say they have had their fair share of coups d'etats since the end of WW II. But, they have had a stable democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy since 1980 and, they seemed to have worked out what an indicator on a car is for.

Ok, lets talk street markets.  Wow, what incredible value.  You have to find one when you're here and eat nowhere else. First day out wandering, Callum and I found some markets not far from our hotel and got  two huge pancakes, and a couple of large fresh pineapple juices for $3.30. Booze can be cheap by western standards but food is the stand out bargain here. I took Christina out for a couple of cocktails on Valentines day. One cocktail was 250 baht. About $8. Still cheap by Perth standards.  On the way back to the hotel we picked up four half chickens threaded on bamboo skewers and slow cooked over hot coals, two pad thai with shrimp and one fried rice with pork, 280 baht for the lot. A little less than $10.  It is insane.  And the food was fantastic.  Our last night here and we found a cheap cocktail bar, 150 baht each, $5. We clocked up 1200 baht on 8 cocktails then stopped again at the markets for dinner.  Four more chicken's, two pad thai and two fried rice with shrimp. We fed the whole family with food left over for only 320baht. That's about $12. Stay away from the Mini Marts unless you're desperate for toiletries. They charge like a Light Brigade.

Those four on the right are ours
About $11.50 AUD; Feeds four with left overs
About $10 AUD; Pretty but didn't even touch the sides
Now, here's some little travel tips. Shop around. We wanted to book a four island day tour so took our business down to main street. There were plenty of places eager for our business for the low low price of 4700 Baht. That's about $150 for the four off us. Pretty cheap for our own boat and skipper for six hours, including mask and snorkel, water and fruit.  We were close to buying but decided to check out a guy we saw on one of the side streets.  Bingo, exact same tour for 2200 Baht. That's under $70.  Unbelievable value.  Second tip, be friendly. We gave some tour advice to a guy we met on the street.  Turns out him and his wife are staying at our hotel. We met up, chatted, clicked and exchanged e-mail addresses.  So now we have some new Bulgarian friends who live in Austria who we're going to either meet up with in New York in early July or in Austria  in late July.  Thirdly, don't go too hard with the whole bargaining thing.  That intricately woven leather bracelet with the Stirling Silver dragons that your trying to knocked down from $6 would cost you $30 to $40 at any weekend market back home. Be a little generous. Finally, don't get too upset if you order the stir fry with shrimp and you get chicken or your Hawaiian pizza with extra pineapple has none at all.  These poor people have to try and decipher every language and accent from Arabic to Zulu and most times they do a pretty good job. Show some tolerance and understanding.

15/02/13. At 9.30am we got picked up at the hotel and taken down to a local beach to board our traditional long-tail boat. Rustic, long and thin with a covered canopy in the middle to seat around a dozen people. The propeller sits back on the end of a four metre long shaft that the skipper whips in and out of the water depending on which way he needs to turn.  

Not ours but one of the many many others there
The trip out past the massive outcrops of limestone cliffs, shabbily covered in twisted spindly trees and motley green plants and bushes, was breath taking. So too was the armada of  boats stretching out on either side of us all heading in the same direction as us. Should be interesting.  Chicken Island was out first stop. Oh my dog. There must have been a hundred boats pulled up already and more on the way. There were hundreds of tourists scrambling over the small rocky outcrop of a beach and more stretched out in single file as they walk the length of a sand bar from one island to the next. Our skipper said we could stay there for an hour and join the crowded one km walk over the sand bar. The idea of walking chest high in water bum to back just to mingle with another few hundred tourist on the other side didn't really appeal. So, we walked around dodging budgie smugglers and people in two pieces who should have known better for 20 minutes then jumped back on the boat to head to Tup Island, our first and as it turns out, only snorkeling experience.
One of the many stunning backdrops
A broad bay opened up to us as we rounded an impressive facade of limestone cliffs.  There was a small concentration of boats in one corner but seemingly plenty of room on the other side of the bay.  But no that was apparently not for us.  We sided up to the others.  A dozen boats all cramped into this little corner. Spitting out their stinking choking diesel clouds till finally cutting their engines and dropping anchor.  I could tell before I even put my mask on that the promise of a "stunning under water adventure" and "masses of sea-life" were not going to eventuate.  There was a small crowd of tiny black and yellow fish that seemed friendly but that was it. The visibility was terrible,no more than two or three metres in a depth again, of no more than three metres. After ten minutes of not a lot except bumping into a discarded water bottle and nearly swimming into a floating brine of brown frothy "something", I got back into the boat hoping our skipper started at the bottom and it'll just get better from here. Just as I was lamenting a wasted day our skipper comes to the back of the boat, pulls a small banana from a clear plastic bag, peels it and passes it into Christina, Callum and Charlie who are still bobbing about in the water. Well, it may as well have been a bucket of chum.

From barely anything to a fish frenzy
Surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, Charlie rethinks fish for dinner
From nowhere and everywhere massive schools of these black and yellow stripped fellas and a whole bunch of their friends came charging in. That's right, a banana. Even staring into the murky depths from the boat the frenzy was obvious.  I grabbed a narna from the bag and hopped back in. I'm glad I did.  It was to be the highlight of the day. After they eat the banana you put the peel between your toes and they nibble your feet. It was hilarious. After a massive potassium fix for the fish life we hopped back in and headed off to Poda Island for lunch. 

On a beach front at least 300 metres long our skipper literally had to ram our two metre wide boat into a one metre wide gap so we could get onto the beach. Once we made it onto sand the next obstacle was getting over and around people to find some clear air and hopefully the restaurant for lunch.  It made navigating Side Show Alley seem like a winters walk along the beach. We were only here to eat so once we got to the restaurant we stayed there till it was time to go back to the boat, un-wedge The Sinbad and continue on. On our way back to the boat we had to endure the sight of some idiot trying to impress his girlfriend by pulling the tail of this poor monkey trying to eat a banana. Seriously, you want to slap some people.

On and on and on they went
Next stop was Phranang Beach. This was recently voted one of the 10 best beaches in the world. I live in Western Australia so for me that's a really big call.  Frankly, I couldn't see it. I mean literally, I couldn't see it. If you could peel off a couple of layers of tourists and actually see some sand then maybe. But that's a big maybe. This poor place is slowly being promoted to death. The big attraction here though is not just the beach.  There is a conga line of people heading down to a big cave at the base of the limestone cliffs.  No ordinary cave, this one is overflowing with..... penises.  Yes you read it right.  Penises of all shapes and sizes and colours. From massive giant pillars of penises down to the more conventional slip in your handbag types.  Hundreds and hundreds of them. Some in pretty good shape for a penis living in a musty old cave, others certainly looking a bit worse for wear. Why penises you may ask.  Well, the story goes that the cave is dedicated to Phra Nang, a mythical Indian Princess killed many centuries ago in a shipwreck during a terrible storm. Local fishermen have been leaving the adornment of dongs ever since, not hoping for extra nuptials on their return but because it is a sign of fertility and a representation to  their god Shiva who will hopefully  get them back to shore safely from their fishing expeditions where I assume they can practice being fertile and raise new little fishermen. 

Hey there, what's up?
Our new Bulgarian friends, Nora and Anastas had been horse riding along the beach the previous day and highly recommended it.  We had a free day the following day so thought why not. You can hire the horses by the hour so we thought around 4.30 to 5.30pm would be nice. The sun is getting ready to set, it's on the beach, should be nice. Reception booked and at 4pm the next day we were waiting in the lobby. Sure enough, we were picked up and taken out to the ranch. By 4.30pm we were saddled up and ready to go. Unfortunately Charlie got cold feet once we stuck him up on a horse and he ended up trailing behind us on the beach. Christina had a lovely gentle ride along the shore as did Callum and I until we turned around to go back. Stubborn nags wouldn't go past a brisk crawl on the way out but they know where home is and the moment you turn them in the direction of their feed lot and give em a little yeeha they're off. It was great.  Callum got himself into a bit of strife not really knowing how to get the thing to stop.  Aaargghh didn't work.  We told him to try whoa next time.  But to his full credit he literally got back on the horse and rode him back to the stables.
As we prepare to ride off into the sunset and onto the Elephant Stay
That was our last day in Krabi and I think all off us would have liked to have stayed for a couple more days. There's a lot see but hey, we have to have a reason to come back don't we.