Tag Archives: tuk-tuk

Koh Phi Phi Don

We arrived to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee) early in the afternoon, just in time for the heat of the day!  As the numerous tourists and locals collected their bags and disembarked from the ferry, heading for the island toll (20 baht per person to “enter” the island) a few things about the island became immediately apparent.  First off, the views of this island were absolutely spectacular with steep cliffs jutting out from crystal blue and green waters.  Second, this was DEFINITELY a popular tourist destination, even in low season.  Third, the presence of cats on the island was immediately noticeable (seriously cat lovers would be in absolute heaven!!).  And finally, despite having several walkways winding through and around town, there was no motor traffic… No cars, no motorcycles, not even bicycles!

Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger of the Phi Phi islands, the smaller being Phi Phi Ley, which boasts the famous Maya bay (made famous by being the location where they filmed “The Beach”).  While it is possible to find plenty of accommodations on Phi Phi Don, it is not possible to stay on Phi Phi Ley (camping is also not allowed there!).  Another little fact about Phi Phi Don is that in 2004 a tsunami devastated the island with waters rushing in from BOTH sides of the bay.  It has since recovered, but still unfortunate it happened.

Since we hadn’t booked accommodations in advance, our first task was to find somewhere.  We passed numerous tourist shops near the pier entrance that offered to assist us in finding a place, but we simply ignored them for the time and headed off on foot to try to find a place on  our own.  We walked aimlessly down one of the walking paths and eventually ended on the beach of Loh Dalam bay.  Instead of being sensible and turning around however, we continued on along the beach with our backpacks in tow sweating our rears off trying to find somewhere.  The scene on the beach was a rather confused one.  On the one hand the bay and surrounding beauty was absolutely stunning!!  On the other, loud party music thumped through the air, ruining the serene nature around.

None of the accommodations along the beach (or rather people who worked there) were helpful in any way in getting us information on where to go or even how much their places were.  They simply kept sending us off in different directions to “reception” that ultimately lead us back to our starting point.  Frustrated, tired, hot, hungry, thirsty and sweaty we decided to go back to the pier to the tourist offices and ask for help.  The tourist info shop had a huge variety of accommodations advertised from the very reasonable to the extremely expensive!  I had previously looked up potential places to stay on the island via Travelfish, so I knew of at least one reasonably priced place to stay (space permitting).

As mentioned on Travelfish, the Phutawan Bamboo Resort was one of our available options for cheaper accommodation.  As described by the Travelfish post the resort was located a bit from the main town and up a steep hill.  It was the cheapest of our options (400 baht per night) so we thought, why not?  We booked at the tourist shop then waited while an employee came along, threw our bags into a trolley cart, and started heading through town.  We walked at a rather clipped pace following our guide through town, around the bay and finally up and up and up and up the hill to a parked tuk-tuk.  From there we were thrown into the back of the tuk-tuk and were escorted the short distance further up the hill to the bungalows.

At reception we were shown to our bamboo bungalow (which ended up not being in Phutawan, but rather right next door to Phutawan in a place called Phi Phi Hill Bungalows)…  While the Phi Phi Hill Bungalows were technically livable, it was also quite apparent why they were so cheap.  Put quite simply in the words of Anna: “beasties”!!  While they weren’t immediately apparent, the bungalow did have quite a few cockroaches that also lived there.  Thankfully for me, no spiders, but unfortunately for Anna, cockroaches!  She fears cockroaches as I do spiders, so at least we had each others back in case of either appearing.  Also, since we were properly in the jungle, mosquitos were also out and about in large numbers at dawn and dusk.

On the whole, Phi Phi Don was a strange mix.  My favorite article about the island was a post I found on Travelfish (click here to read) that not only hit the nail on the head in its description of the place but was also hilariously witty to boot.  In addition, the article also provided great ideas for our future activities on the island.

So on the whole, as an overview of the place, while the physical beauty was undeniably stunning, the party scene was annoying.  The beaches in front of the bars were littered with straws, cigarette butts, cups and beer bottles which was also rather unpleasant. And again, the seemingly non-stop party music was out of place to me.  Anna and I kept complaining about the noise pollution and then started joking about how “old” we must be getting in wishing they’d turn the music down, lol!!  It wasn’t until we hiked to the other side of the island and to Long beach that we found the quiet and beauty we sought.  More on those locations later, but first I have to share the most humorous event that happened while we were on Phi Phi Don…

On to Kamikaze Cockbox

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Leaving Koh Tao

All good things come to an end, and after over 2 months on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, it was time to say goodbye.  After a lovely farewell dinner and late-night drinks with Deb and Rick, Anna (a longtime friend from Scotland visiting Thailand for 5 weeks) and I headed off the following night for the island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee!!).  Koh Phi Phi Don, located in the Andaman Sea, just south of Krabi on the mainland is the larger of two islands there (the Phi Phi islands) made most famous by book “The Beach” by Alex Garland.  Well, more specifically Maya bay on Phi Phi Ley (south of Phi Phi Don) was the filming site for the movie of “The Beach”.  The book was written after the author visited and was inspired by the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, south of Koh Tao in the Gulf.

We traveled on the night ferry, which left the dock around 9pm.  Before boarding however we stopped in to 7-11 to stock up on some booze and snacks (of course!) for the journey, then after dropping our stuff of at our beds in the dorm room of the ferry, we headed to the top deck for some fresh air and to properly wave Koh Tao goodbye.  We were one of only 3 people on the top deck but seriously had the best view and air quality there than any other place on the boat!  We hung out for several hours on the top deck watching the stars as we lumbered along, sipping on Smirnoff Ice and chatting away.  Around 11pm we started to pass the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park (inspired the book “The Beach”!), watching the scattered islands appear in silhouette forms lit only by the moon.

A little after midnight we headed to the dorm room for some sleep (we were due to arrive on mainland again at 5am, so sleep was necessary!!).  The beds were decently comfortable but at first I had a very hard time sleeping as the smoke from the engines smelled like it was being pumped directly in the dorm room and it felt like I could barely breathe!  I almost took my blanket and pillow back up to the top deck so I could sleep without being choked by the smoke, but ended up passing out nonetheless in the dorm.

A little before 5am we arrived at the Suratthani mainland dock and were escorted to a local eatery.  We hung about there for several hours, then were picked up by a mini-van for the 4 hour journey to Krabi.  I don’t recall much of that part of the trip as I was mostly passed out (though we were pretty tightly packed in!!) but once we arrived in Krabi we were once again dropped at a local eatery for more food or drinks if desired.  From there it was another hour until we were taken via tuk-tuk to the Krabi dock for the almost 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi Don.  By far this was the longest stretch of traveling I’d done so far in Thailand to get to the next destination; over 14 hours in total.  What we arrived to ultimately on Koh Phi Phi Don was, well…. Interesting to say the least!

On to Favorites From Koh Tao

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Modern Bangkok

I know this is a long time in coming since I haven’t been to Bangkok in over a month, but since I had a lot of not so pleasant things to say about my experience there, I wanted to mention some positives about the city.  In particular the public transport systems.

The three systems of public transport right in the heart of the city can pretty much get you anywhere you want to go cheaply, safely, cleanly and in style.  The Airport Rail goes from the Airport (imagine that!) directly downtown.  The over-ground rail and underground systems take you practically anywhere else you’d want to go within the city.

It took me quite a while to figure out how exactly to go where I needed utilizing these three systems and also a while to figure out the purchase of tickets for the underground rail (I literally stood there staring at maps and watching locals purchase before making my own) but once you get the hang of it, I wouldn’t use any other mode of transport.

And unlike Germany where it’s basically an honor system as to whether you buy a ticket for the train or not, since tickets on public transport trains are rarely checked, nothing gets past the systems in Bangkok.  One time I purchased a ticket for the underground (my first try) and got onto the train, but upon exiting my ticket wouldn’t open the gate for me to leave.  I went to the help desk, they took my card and scanned it and found out I hadn’t purchased the correct ticket.  So I simply paid the difference, they updated my card and out I went.

These three modern and clean systems were a real breath of fresh air compared to where I had been and I finally saw Bangkok as it had been described by those who love it: modern and sophisticated.  Again, now that I know about them, I won’t be using a taxi or tuk-tuk again!

On to Crazy Kanchanaburi Nights

Back to Thailand

Bangkok ‘Gangster’ Scams

 

I don’t really know how close I was to the Palace because again there was no way to judge true distances on my map and to make things more interesting, maps posted along the street didn’t coincide at all with the map I had so I was kinda just going blindly most of the time…

At one point I came across a hilarious little squirrel.  People (I’ve noticed this elsewhere now too) hang little bags or full coconuts on the trees for the squirrels!  I didn’t know they had squirrels in Thailand before this!  He was adorable to watch as he dipped his head in the bag for a mouthful of shaved coconut, too cute!!

As I continued down the random street I was approached by a guy who asked where I was going.  The Palace, I said.  To which he replied that it was closed because the King was going to be there for his birthday.  What’s funny here is a friend of mine who’s been to Thailand said that these scammers always say the Palace is closed because it’s the Kings birthday… In this case, it actually was true, I just thought it was funny they always use that excuse!  Anyway, he insisted that the entire area was blockaded by police and there was no way to even get close to it.  BUT… he recommended several lovely temples each featuring Buddha (Golden Buddha, a temple with 8 different positions of Buddha, etc).  He said for 40 baht one of the 3-wheel taxis called “tuk-tuks” could take me around to 4 of them and bring me back!  That sounded like a good deal really… 4 Temples for 40 baht AND he would bring me back to where we started??  Sign #1 to not go- too good to be true.  But no, I thought “I could go on a little detour, rest my feet during the ride, see some Temples then walk to the Palace once we were back to start”.  Just as I got into the tuk-tuk, the guy asked where I was from.  I said the States, to which he replied “I love Obama”… I should have taken that as sign #2 to NOT trust this situation, lol!!

The first Temple was of the 8 Buddhas in different positions.  Unfortunately no picture-taking was allowed.  There was a gentlemen inside praying to one statue however that I found moving.  It wasn’t a Buddha statue but rather of a man depicted with sticks at his feet.  God of health is what the man said.  Pray to him for good health.  It was quite moving to wander around the Temple.  I’ve got more to say on that in a later post, but moving on…

I returned to the taxi after my walk around the Temple and he then told me that next stop was a Thailand factory where they make very good clothes.  Ok, I don’t need any clothes, but maybe it’s interesting somehow.  He insisted that these shops were good for the Thai people.  Ok… So we went.  The shop was, well, just a shop filled with tons of different fabrics and Giorgio Armani magazines with a variety of his clothing all ready to be tailor-made JUST for you!  As I wandered in, the sales vultures attacked asking me this and that and what would I like/need yada yada… I did one lap at a quick pace and headed out the door.  I did notice before leaving another gringo couple there signing papers… And as I headed out the door another tuk-tuk was pulling up with more gringos… Something fishy is going on…  Sign #3…

I got back in my taxi, the guy drove all of 10 feet then pulled over and stopped the cab:

Tuk-tuk man: You spend more time in there
Me: Um… I don’t need clothes.  They are very nice, but I don’t need anything.
Tuk-tuk man: Don’t matter if you buy, just looking, just LOOKING.  Must stay longer at next one for gas card.
Me: I don’t want to go to another one, I thought we were going to see Temples
Tuk-tuk Man: Yes, yes, Temples but factory first.  Must get gas card.  300 baht gas card for going to factory
Me:  No, I didn’t sign up for this, no.
Tuk-tuk Man: please, please, you do it for me so I get gas card.  10 minute, 10 minute just LOOKING

Sign #4… But he pulled the guilt trip… So ok, fine.  I can spare one more shop for 10 minutes so he can get a gas card.  So off we go… I wandered in and played my part listening to the sales pitch, flipping through the magazines “oh this is nice” wondering the entire time how/why any of these people think I have the kind of money to spend on those kinds of clothes with me looking like such crap after walking the streets of Bangkok all morning??  Anyway, I figured 10 minutes were up, so I left and got back into the cab.  The driver then turned to me and showed me on the map where we currently were (somewhere off of Nkhon Chaisi Rd WAY northeast of where we started) and proceeded to say “next factory is right here, then we go to Temples”.

Ok, I officially reached my limit.  “No” I very firmly said.  He tried his pitch to me once again begging and pleading but I had had enough!!  I told him to take me back immediately to where he picked me up.  He finally figured out I meant business, took on a sulky attitude, turned around and started to head back.  Thankfully I was paying enough attention to see that he was actually taking me in the right direction, but at a certain point we got stuck in traffic along Ratcha Damnoen Nok Rd and I just got out.  I payed him his 40 baht figuring the one Temple was worth that, walked across the street away from him and wandered the streets again.

As it turned out there was a ton of very interesting stuff along that road!  I’m not sure if it also was because of the King’s birthday or just coincidental, but according to some signs it said December 5th was also World SOIL day… They had tents upon tents displaying farm scenes, gardens, green growing, hydroponic setups, etc!  Very interesting stuff!  Also one of the tents was all about a gift festival. Not sure what that was exactly, but lots of fun stuff to look at and buy.

So really, had it not been for the scam I never would have been in that area to begin with to see all the random festivities.  But perhaps the part I thought was the funniest was when I was walking along Ratcha Damnoen Klang Rd where the Democracy Monument is located.  Yes, I was STILL trying to make it to the dang Palace, lol!!  I stopped at one of the street maps (which again didn’t look a thing like my map!) and another man came up asking me where I wanted to go… Repeat???  Thankfully not!  He was a professor at the University for Political Science and was legit!  He pointed the way to the Palace then asked what I had seen so far.  I told him “not much” just a Temple and random other parts.  I pointed on a map where I had been taken (by the scammer cabbie) and the first word out of his mouth: “Gangsters”!!

What???  Did I hear right??  “Gangsters” he repeated, then said “how many factory they take you to?”… Oh dear, lol!!!  I’d been scammed alright!  I laughed and said 2.  He shook his head knowingly and said that the police everyday get calls about that scenario or tourists walking into the police stations to file complaints about this scam.  I don’t know if the shops are part of the scam also, but I can’t say for sure.  He then went on to give me another couple good tips: Never get into a taxi (actual taxis are regular cars in a variety of colors; pink, green, blue with a “metered taxi” sign on top) if the driver does not turn on the meter.  If they try to negotiate a price with you before you get in, RUN!  Lol!!  His exact words folks!  The second tip was for the shopping areas: look at 10 stores before you buy!  Again, to avoid being overcharged or scammed on a price:)  Lovely guy and great information, I was truly grateful!!

I thanked the professor then headed on toward the Palace first running into the Royal Grounds where the side walk of the grounds were lined with police.  I asked what was going on and one guy said that in a half hour the King would arrive!  Seriously??  So I hung out in the gardens, which had a view of the Palace in the background (finally!!!) until the action began.  It wasn’t the King who arrived, but rather it was a very respected woman.  I’ve tried to look up in the papers something about what the event was all about but still can’t find anything.  Anyway, whoever she was, she was very heavily guarded and respected!  Everyone who approached her did so on their knees, never turning their back to her.  After viewing the event for a bit, I headed to the Palace (which was shut) then decided to just get back to the hotel.  At this point it had already been a 10 hour day and I was shot and ready for a shower!!

I approached some cops to ask the best place for a taxi pick-up to which they all lined up to hail a cab for me as I stood on the sidewalk (so polite and helpful!!).  I was taken to Phaya Thai (by a driver who did use his meter) which is the first stop in the Airport Rail system.  Last funny- I needed a cab from the Lat Krabang station to my hotel.  I hailed one and he stopped.  I showed him the card I had of the hotel and he nodded “yes”, so I went to get in and said “meter?” to which he then looked at the hotel card again and shook his head.  He pointed to his eyes and squinted as if to say he suddenly couldn’t read the address on the card… Scammer avoided??  Too funny!!

 

On to Temples and Monks

Back to Thailand