Things there are no time for in Thailand: Sleep. After another late night celebrating Cindy & AC’s wedding in one of the most remarkable locations in the world, we got up bright and early Sunday morning for an excursion up to Phang Nga Bay. Tuan did the legwork for us and researched this excursion, and we are SUPER glad he did, because this turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of our life!
We booked the John Gray Sea Canoe Day Trip and there are no amount of words in the English language to describe how much fun we had. A van arrived at our villa to take us to Ao Po pier where our adventure would begin. At the pier, there is a shop where you can stock up on snacks, drinks, swimsuits, sunscreen, or…the most handy of all, a cheap water-proof case for your camera. That’s a nice segue into me offering a disclaimer about this entire post. You’ll notice several of the pictures may have a spot or two that appear blurry. That’s because we most definitely had our precious camera inside a waterproof case. I’ll happily trade a few blurry spots over a potentially ruined camera and catastrophic loss of some or all Thailand photos.
At the pier, we loaded up on a big longtail boat and headed north to Phang Nga Bay. They had some fruit for us to snack on while they briefed us on all the safety procedures and our itinerary.Tuan joined the “selfie-stick” crowd and never looked back. Every time I looked at him, he had the selfie-stick in hand. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to get one. However, we quickly realized we were in the minority. EVERYONE had a selfie-stick. In fact, it might not be too much of an exaggeration to state that we were some of the only people in Asia without one. It’s definitely a huge fad over there right now.
(Below left to right) The one and only “K”, Cindy, Cindy’s Dad, and Cindy’s sister, Wendy.
As the coastline of Phuket faded away behind us, the islands of Phang Nga Bay started popping up ahead of us. It was like nothing we’ve ever seen. Remarkably beautiful and unique. (Below) Mark either doing the “Can you believe how awesome this is?!” pose, or his best Scott Stapp impersonation.We reached our first stop and everybody loaded up on the inflatable sea kayaks with their personal tour guide. The water of Phang Nga Bay is an emerald green color. Perhaps all the limestone?
The islands just shoot straight up out of the water and rise hundreds of feet. Depending on the tide, you can cruise along under the cliffs and enjoy some shade (which we were very thankful for).
Several of the islands have hidden “hongs”, which is basically like a lagoon. Accessible only when the tide is right, these hidden rooms are INSIDE the island and you must go through the caverns to access them.(Below) The newlyweds! Cindy looks so regal.
The first hong we visited had a colony of monkeys. These guys were not aggressive and seemed used to the idea of tourists. One guy even posed for us. The guides are really good about taking turns and getting everyone close enough for pictures so don’t feel the need to snap a bajillion pictures from 100ft away. Just wait your turn 🙂
(Above) Yeah, you need to lie down or else suffer a cracked skull courtesy of the jagged limestone ceiling.
The second hong we entered had a much higher cavern. Also, bats. Lots and lots of bats. Inside the hong was HUGE. It’s so cool to be completely isolated from the sea with massive cliffs surrounding you. (Below) I wasn’t kidding about Tuan & his selfie stick.After the 2nd hong, they took us on a scenic route over to a 3rd location where we explored some more islands. This was our 3rd stop where after a brief tour around these islands, they cut us loose to let us kayak by ourselves, swim in the bay, or snorkel. We got called back onto the boat and our guides taught us about the Loi Krathong tradition and helped each of us make our very own krathong. A slice of banana tree trunk is used as the base, and it’s then decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers (we used orchids and marigold), incense, and candles. Each item had unique meaning. There are exactly three incense sticks, a tradition you’ll see throughout Thailand at any place of worship. A stick for Buddha, a stick for Buddha’s picture, and a stick for the monks. This was SO. MUCH. FUN. We absolutely LOVE learning about other cultures. In my opinion, it helps foster respect and understanding.
(Below) Our guide snapped our picture several times throughout the day. I cannot overstate the importance of their willingness to do this for us. We didn’t even ask! He just offered. Thanks to him, we have great memories with BOTH of us in picture. Oh, and she’s clearly the better looking of the two of us, eh? Yeah she is. Once the krathongs were done, it was time for dinner. And they were NOT kidding around. There was an epic amount of food and it was all so delicious. There were a wide variety of dishes and plenty to go around. Seriously, look at this spread.
After dinner, we headed back South. By this point the sun was starting to set, and as you would expect, it was beautiful. Nothing to do but take it all in. This is bucket list stuff right here.
Our final stop, we got to partake in a our own mini Loi Krathong festival. We loaded back up on our kayaks and our guide took us to a secluded spot inside a cavern under a cliff. You light the candles, and set it afloat. From the wiki: The candle venerates Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometime cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts.
It was absolutely fascinating to learn about this beautiful tradition. The entire day was magnificent and unforgettable. If you’re headed to Thailand, this experience is an absolute must. You will never experience anything else like it.
Up next for Thailand: Highlights of Phi Phi Don