Friday, November 28, 2008

Life Snippets #12: Sawasdee Krabi!

So sorry that I wasn't around for the last one week or so. I had been on vacation with my family to Krabi, Thailand. Krabi is a province in Southern Thailand (nowhere close to Yala or Pattani) and it is famous for it's beaches and giant limestone formation and mountains. Also, if you didn't know, it's not very far from Phuket, a more popular tourist destination.


I packed my clothes into my bag, and apart from that, didn't bring much else other than my PSP, iPod Nano, handphone and their respective chargers. Uh.. that's all.

Day 1

Woke up early. After getting ready, had some breakfast and a black Mercedes airport limo arrived to send us to the LCCT, a subdivision of KLIA that only serves budget airlines, namely Air Asia. Reached there and had some Coffee Bean. They have free WiFi in the terminus and I left a comment on my mate's Friendster using my PSP. Nice. Some minutes later I had checked in my luggage, scanned my passport, scanned my hand luggage, walk through the metal detector, and sat down at the waiting area. Everyone boarded the plane and scrambled for seats, for Air Asia believes in free seating.

This is my brother playing Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition on his PSP.
Look at the hubbub as everyone can't wait to be the first off the plane.

It is quite rare of Air Asia to provide suspended walkways, now we have to tread on the ground.

The doors at the end will bring you to a horde of taxi drivers offering you his services.
People here are fond of pickup trucks - I especially like that jacked-up Hilux to the right.
They also believe in operating 7-11's in the middle of nowhere.

And we have reached our destination. From Krabi Internation Airport to our hotel, Sheraton Krabi it is only 15 kilometres or so and they charge you RM70 for it. Here, the taxi drivers believe in overcharging tourists. The Sheraton Krabi is situated in Ban Klong Muong, Krabi. It is a 5-star hotel and room rates are more than RM1,000 per night. I will be staying here for 3 nights.

This is the place where you are supposed to sit down while your parents check in into the hotel. The Front Desk Manager will personally take you to the room and show you how everything works and where everything is in the hotel compound. Kind of her, in Malaysia, they will give you the room key and leave you to find the room yourself. Also, in Thailand, ALL hotel employees will greet you by saying "Sawadikap!". The more lowly workers such as gardeners and cleaners will bow down to you as well, to show respect. All you Malaysian hoteliers suck!

Krabi was affected by the tsunami too. They have these signboards all over the place.

They are also obsessed with their royal family. Outside our hotel entrance, a picture of a female royalty has been erected. You haven't counted how many King Bhumibol pictures we saw on roadsides, stall calendars, and even billboards. Occasionally a shop may have "We Love Our King" written beneath their shop name signboard. My dad and me rented bicycles from the hotel's Fitness Centre and we cycled all the way to Thap Kaek Beach and also on another far end, Noppharat Thara Peninsula where the Princess's Residence, or holiday home, is located right next to a small school.

This is a modern pickup Tuk-Tuk and it also displays those ridiculous expensive rates to ride on the back of a truck like a construction workers.

This is Khlong Moung Plaza. There are restaurants, souvenir shops, massage parlours, car rental offices, tour service offices, and a painting shop where a young man paints beautiful stuff on canvas that screams Thailand when you put it up in your house.

Sunset, sea, and tour boats.

This is the smaller leisure pool in Sheraton Krabi.

My sister wetting up before entering the pool.

The hotel has it's own elephant too. Rara the elephant. It enjoys playing with guests, specifically those wearing bikinis. Here Rara is caught red-handed trying to grope a possibly married woman. You can also feed it bananas, which are provided by the mahout.

A monitor lizard in the stream.

Using the hotel's computers.

I left my LOST tag in a restaurant carpark.

Now it is time to go out and eat at out. We walked about 20 m outside the hotel entrance into a bar/restaurant by the name of Palm Beach Bar, but according to the menu front it is 'Rock Devil Cafe'. We ate fish 'n chips. Later, about dinner time, we went out again to another restaurant at the Khlong Moung Plaza which has been shown earlier. The restaurant here failed to spell milkshake properly. I ordered a Strawberry Milk
Shank. Well, that's how they spelled it anyway in the menu.
Milk Shanks, anyone?

I was light painting to pass by time waiting for the Tom Yum.

After eating, we left and returned to our hotel room. We were quite surprised to see that the housekeeping also tidied up our room at night and placed orchids on our pillows. Very thoughtful of them. Certainly A++ service.

Orchids on pillows.

Day 2

The breakfast was priced at 600 Bath each or RM60. 100 Bath = RM 10, generally. Instead we had breakfast in our room, eating sandwiches and drinking this really sweet milk we bought from the store outside - it's called 'Nongpho Sweetened UHT Milk'.

Later, we went to the pool and beach, and pool and beach. And then, it was time for lunch, and again, we ate Tom Yum. Then, back to the pool and beach, and pool and beach. This time, I went on
catching crabs. No, not those crabs you eat - just those tiny baby crabs. I managed to catch 20 or so baby crabs.

Catch of the day. Note that this is not the final crab count.

And then, it was dinner time, which is Tom Yum time. And then, blablabla, put away those orchids on the pillow, read a book, go to sleep.

Day 3

Everything was like usual. Then at about noon I decided to follow my dad to walk to the nearby island, yes,
walk. It was low tide and you can even drive to the island if you want. The island, like most of the islands here, is a huge limestone formation with beaches and basaltic rocks around it. If you didn't know, those basaltic rocks are formed by cooled volcanic lava. The limestone, howerever, are not, and if you are Form 3 you should know what makes a limestone.

The basaltic rocks. They're flat and you can fry eggs on 'em.

The island's beaches have two sampan wrecks - so I dubbed the island 'Sampan Island'. Only the main frames of the sampans are left. One of the sampans, hold a treasure. Heeeeeee.

Sampan Wreck #1.

This is the treasure - a toilet bowl in a sampan wreck.

We walked across the 10m tombolo to the mainland beach and back into the compound of Sheraton Krabi. We were in time to catch an interesting activity which was to hang out with Rara the elephant. At first, you had to play football with him. This stocky white man came up and kicked the ball around and the elephant would use its trunk to throw the ball into the air and do a header or kick it. The man then kicked the ball around the Rara, trying to confuse it. Frustated, Rara stomped on the ball - deflating it completely. The 30 or so audience all laughed, including me. What fun! Then, an European lady came up to Rara. Rara, having a strong liking to ladies in bikini - chased her around!

This is the crowd admiring Rara.

This is the European lady being cornered by a certain Rara.

Day 4

Today we checked out of Sheraton Krabi to try out another hotel which is Sofitel Phokeethra Luxury Resort & Spa Krabi. My dad had picked up the rental car - a
Toyota Vios. We packed up, loaded the car and drove about 2 km along the road to Sofitel. The resort is far more luxurious and is 6-star, and room rates are about RM1,000++ and can fetch up to RM4,000 per night. Another 3 nights here.

Note: I am sorry, but from now on there will be no pictures as the camera had spoilt. So I hope you don't mind the sudden absence of pictures.

We reached the guardhouse, where the guard-in-post walkie-talkied to his friend that a certain Toyota Vios would be approaching the lobby. We reached the lobby drop-off point and the guard at the lobby walkie-talkied back to the guard in Thai. We were ushered into the lobby and were made to sit on some really comfortable day-beds. They served us jasmine tea and some moist towels to wipe the face. Like in Sheraton Krabi, the Front Desk Manager, a young lady, appereared and took us to the room and gave us a tour and explanation. We are then left to tend to ourselves. We went to the pool - the
pool was really huge and long! I estimate that the lenght of the pool is about half a kilometre. Part of the pool also wrapped around the south wing of the resort. The pool and two slides, a fountain mushroom like in Sunway Lagoon, lots of jacuzzi area, an island where it houses a massage hut, and two bridges which I found useful to dive from.

After some splashing around, we returned to our room and requested an extra bed and a babycot. Two lady housekeeping staff appeared and pushed in the extra bed and babycot. As they left, my dad tipped them and they quickly closed the door when one of the ladies had their toe
banged under the door. Quietly snickering, I saw the lady hopping back to the housekeeping storeroom.

We drove about 15km towards
Ao Nang, the prominent tourist town in Krabi. All the shops are lined up on either side of the road where applicable. We entered McDonalds there and ordered food. On the menu there is an item not sold in Malaysia, which is 'Samurai Pork Burger'. You can also have your Cheeseburger in pork, if you wanted. Meals here are about 150% the price of those in Malaysia. Say, a set meal would cost RM14. But then again, you don't pay no stupid Government Taxes in Thailand. I ordered a Big Mac (Beef, duh, Big Macs only come in beef!). My brother, he obviously ate a Happy Meal and received a Sergeant Keroro toy. An American couple gave him another of the same Sergeant Keroro toy. Apparently they ate a Happy Meal because it was the cheapest set meal, which is less than RM10.

We browsed around town till it was nightfall, and then we ate this seafood restaurant called '
Kruathara - After Tsunami' which clearly shows that this restaurant was a victim. We were greeted by a dwarf woman, and then another dwarf woman came along. Twin dwarves working in the restaurant! The seafood there is really good! I would recommend you that place. Also they have those tanks where they keep crabs, and baskets where they put live snails and clams and shellfish, etc.

Then went back to Sofitel. The guard waiting at the lobby was the first Thai we saw here who could converse in Malay, albeit in a Kelantanese dialect. The reason for his Malay fluency was because he was raised in Pattani, which was close to the border at Kelantan. Basically Souther Thailanders in Pattani, Haadyai, Yala and Narathiwat also learned some Malay so they can easily get along with the people on the Malaysia side of the border.

Day 5

Usual stuff in the morning. We drove towards
Krabi town - not to be confused with Ao Nang. Krabi is the administrative town of the province, Ao Nang is just the tourist magnet. We ate at Choke Dee restaurant - it was raining heavily and my dad was sick of driving around looking for a parking spot where you would be completely dry. In was quite full with those white people escaping the rain and gulping down some Singha beer while pondering over maps. The food was not bad, either.

We then went to
Factory Outlet Village. Usually a factory outlet would sell clothes and such at doorstopper prices, but here they sold it all at original prices, which is not quite factory outlet-ish. Instead we bought pool toys, such as a beach ball, a pair of water wings, and also for me - a one-man (or one teenage boy and one small kid) inflatable dinghy.

We then went to
Tesco Lotus (as it is called here) which is up the road. I bought about 20 boxes of snacks, all of them being Pocky and Pretz. Dirt-cheap! Also bought 4 tubes of Lays Stax potato crisps and 2 anime figurines (they sell these here!). It was Bandai's Emotive Figure Collection 'Shinn Asuka' and Bandai's Petit Figure Collection 'Mu La Flaga'. Both of them are from the anime series 'Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny'.

We also ate
Dunkin' Donuts here - they had this special flavour where even the dough is chocolate - yummy! Tastes like mocha. I did not know if Malaysia DD's have this flavour, must go and check out.

Then we returned to the hotel. The Malay-speaking guard is there as usual, ever-friendly. Did I mention that in Sofitel they too had the night housekeeping? Here, not only they put orchids on the pillows, they also folded the duvet so you can easily slide into bed, put the slippers beside the bed, place '
We Wish You A Good Night's Sleep' card on your bed, and also a packet of SMINT mints on each bed.

Day 6

It is time for us to go back to Malaysia now. We packed up, checked out and drove to Krabi International Airport where we returned our rental car and checked in our luggage. The line at the Air Asia counter was full - many people had taken an overnight bus from Bangkok. If you are too stupid, then I can tell you that the day before there had been bomb blasts in Bangkok and the Kanchanaburi Airport in Bangkok had been closed due to protesters and the threat of another bomb blast. So people took buses to Krabi or Phuket and leave for Kuala Lumpur or wherever else for all I care.

We went into the waiting area and we saw there are seats labelled 'For Monks Only'. The plane had been late for 30 minutes, and we quickly boarded it. We left Thailand.. and back into home country Malaysia.

An interesting thing happened while we were approaching LCCT runway in Malaysia. If you understood aviation physics, the plane will fly further south past the airport and do turn back to line up for the runway. In this case, the plane turns around right above Port Dickson - and I spotted my grandma's house! She is still there, for she returned to her house while we went to Krabi (my grandma lived with us). Soon, we lost sight of the house due to clouds and when we emerged from the heavenly whitish blindness, we are descending towards the runway in LCCT.

After boarding off the plane, around a 500 people are waiting to pass the checkpoint. Malaysian Passport Holders had it easy - if you took the manual counters, all they do is just look at your face, stamp your return in your passport and you're done. If you took the Autogate, you just slip in your passport in the slot and put your right thumb at the scanner and you're done. International Passport Holders were unlucky - the lines are too long, it'd take you maybe an hour to reach the counters. You know how thorough a Customs officer must be when it comes to letting a foreigner step on your soil.

The taxi driver had been waiting for us in a Nissan Serena. As we reached the street where I live, the driver told my dad "This place so familiar. I think I been here before..". Turns out he HAD been here before. He was our driver 2 years ago when we took the airport limo to KLIA to catch a flight to Brisbane, Australia. He was also our driver when we went to KLIA to catch the flight to Bandung, Indonesia! Interesting, how those taxi drivers always turn out to be the same guy. Ha-ha!

And that, concluded the end of my little story. I am dead tired right now - too much typing. I hope you enjoyed my post!

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