One of the things I absolutely love about being in Bangkok is the availability of cheap and amazing holidays on your doorstep. I am a little nomad at heart and have travelled around the world 3 times which I guess is why the transient life of the expat appeals so much to me. But this backpacker in me likes adventure, authenticity and off the beaten track. I am not a massive fan of the luxurious resort style holiday since I rather snobbishly feel I could be holidaying anywhere. Although in reality, it is probably more of a defence mechanism as Mr P, aka the FD, will not sign off on luxurious hotel bills.
Another element to expat holidays I love is that friends often want to join you, which is great: the kids have company and so do you. But with this comes the paranoia of making holiday suggestions, the endless hours on booking.com. Oh the pressure. Oh the indecision. Oh the hotel, pool, beach fatigue. After several days of searching, reporting back, calculating, looking at flights, I never wanted to see a pool, a beach, a resort again. But I believe everything happens for a reason and these things usually fall into place with time and patience.
Which is exactly what happened on a recent half term trip to Krabi; the trip started at a little boutique resort just myself and the kids and a handful of mostly childless couples in Koh Yao Yai. Getting to there involved a taxi drive to Thalen pier, a wait for an hour until the long tail boat to Koh Yao Yai arrived, a half hour or so boat ride and a taxi to the hotel. Or so we thought. When I approached the captain of the boat that arrived just before 1pm to double check this was indeed the Koh Yao Yai boat I was greeted with, ‘No madam, she no come today.’ What? No way! And other less printable versions flashed through my thoughts. ‘Where you go madam?’ “Koh Yao Yoi, ka’ I reply ‘No problem, you come with me Koh Yao Noi, you get taxi, you go pier, you get boat Koh Yao Yai, ka’ states the boatman matter of factly.
I call the hotel who say, no wait for the 2.30 boat to Koh Yao Yai, ‘easy for you madam.’ Yeah till she no come again. I wasn’t taking any chances, it was an adventure and the kids couldn’t sit around for another 90 minutes just in case, and besides there was after all only so much more BFG I could read them before we all grew weary. So we hopped on the boat.
Sure enough at the pier we hopped into the back of a ‘taxi’ who took us to another pier, jumped on another long tail boat for a much shorter ride where we were met by the hotel’s van. But when I say taxi’, I don’t mean an Uber, I mean a glorified tuk tuk; the back of a truck, true Thai style. Seats along the side, a roof, no windows, that kind of taxi. Brilliant I love this. The kids did too. Well once the guy who kept spitting out of the back hopped off. Every time he hawked and coughed, launching a mouthful of phlegm onto the tarmac, my daughter would look more and more horrified until unable to hold it in anymore she said, ‘That’s disgusting that is mummy, spitting on the floor.’
“The journey itself they relished. Not a single moan. They loved seeing how real people live viewed from the back of the truck. When we arrived at the ‘resort’ it was a secluded, serene, uncommercialised haven, resting on its own private beach with wooden huts on stilts set amongst the palm trees and outdoor bathrooms, it was just enough authentic for us all. A couple of days of solitude and serenity were just enough too, especially as my two are anything but serene, they are typically noisy British kids and there was only so much sipping on a Singha and pretending they weren’t mine I could pull off.”
The next leg of the Krabi tour was to return by long tail boat (in a thunderstorm which was rather exciting) and make our way to the private beach of the Centara to meet our friends. To access the beach at the Centara meant navigating the floating pontoon that greets the speedboat, which was literally riding the waves like an enormous flexible surf board and a precarious journey to shore was embarked upon. Friends who had arrived the night before in the dark had a truly frightening experience on the same jetty. At least in the daylight we could time our dashes to the next handrail for when the waves abated. In the dark carrying a toddler it was not the start to the holiday they had been hoping for.
Apart from some truly Fawlty Towers customer service moments and a poorly toddler, the 4 days flew by, the kids had a ball, mostly jumping in the thrashing waves for hours on end and playing in the pool. I totally enjoyed the adult company and baby cuddles, not to mention the 3 free bottles of vino we secured as compensation for the comedic and shambolic service.
The night before we were due to head to Railei Beach, which is literally round the headland, we had a call to say due to the weather, the long tail boat would not be able to pick us up. To be fair it had rained heavily or drizzled pretty much most of the previous 3 days and the seas was choppy at best.
Obviously on the day of departure we awoke to blue skies and calm waters. Surely a speedboat trip back to Ao Nang pier, a taxi drive to another pier and another long tail boat wasn’t necessary. Yes surely it was. Here we go again.
When we arrived at the pier to take us to Railei Beach, it was like we had arrived in a totally different country: flat seas, lake like in their reflections and calmness. Unbelievable.
Railei Beach Club nestles in the jungle, monkey’s everywhere, every teak Thai style house a different design, this was the kind of experience I was looking forward to. My friend’s sister looked slightly horrified at the abundance of nature. The kids were delighted, plenty of room to run around, play football, make a noise, and a beautiful beach right next door … if only it wasn’t packed with backpackers. You see that’s the thing, you go for authentic Thai beach experiences, then you have to accept the nubile, tattooed and dreadlocked, carefree travellers that frequent. Therein lies the lesson: nothing is perfect, even authentic is not perfect.
We were meeting my daughter’s bestie and family and the girl’s screamed with delighted when they saw each other and
ran into each other’s arms, such is the welcome from 5 year olds. The oldies went for a more sedate G&T welcome. Dinner was at a local Thai spit and sawdust establishment: plastic chairs and tables in the open air, accessible over wooden planks across the mud and ducking the overhead wires dangerously low enough to garrotte unsuspecting passers by.
Indie joined her bestie on yet another long tail boat trip to nearby beaches. We explored the diamond cave – no diamonds but absolutely stunning stalactite formations.
We people watched as an entrepreneurial family set about roofing a restaurant just in time for high season a hilarious undertaking of several onlookers, one of whom was literally asleep on the roof and 2 hard workers. There’s a joke in there somewhere.
The waves were calmer and the kids thoroughly enjoyed jumping in them and playing in the sand, the beach was quieter for the remaining days than when we arrived and the skies mainly stayed clear, blue and glorious. I was surprised how few of the farang honoured the mourning period Thailand had been thrown into with the passing of the King and how quickly island life had returned to normal, certainly for the tourists.
Very soon it was time to board the long tail boat back to the pier and onto the airport. Time to reflect on a delightful array
of experiences: remote boutique style hotel, full on chain and the more rough and ready. In the end the combination was perfect and of course it’s the company you keep not the location that makes a vacation.