Monday, March 7, 2016

Amazing Thailand

As it was our Daughter’s 1st birthday, we wanted to make it special and memorable. Being living in South India past 13 years, we wanted to explore the neighboring countries – being closer and affordable to travel. As we had traveled as a couple to various places like US and bike trip to Sri Lanka for 2 weeks on a shoestring budget, the travel to Thailand had to be planned. Thailand summers are similar to Coastal India with a high humidity level – April to May. But traveling during Summers is the best time – a clear view of Blue waters and a perfect time for Scuba diving. It is also affordable - food and accommodation is very good. Buying a flight ticket from Bangalore to Bangkok or Bangalore to Delhi will be almost same. So if you plan a trip to North India ex: Delhi – the traveling time to Delhi or Bangkok is the same. Getting Visa is very easy as Thailand is a Mecca for tourists or you can get Visa on arrival.
We chose our travel during summer, got the Visa’s, cash, hotel bookings etc. For my little daughter Siya, it was 1 week of stock Nan Pro and Cerelac. We were off from Chennai to Bangkok on an early morning Air Asia Flight. We had planned to cover Bangkok , Krabi and Koh Phi Phi islands.

Bangkok- Checked in at St James Hotel, Sukhumvit. I had one of my school friends living in Bangkok for many years – kudos to him to arrange a 1 day full trip to Bangkok. We visited the Central World Shopping Mall,  Asiatique Night Market, SIAM Square, and did the River cruise. If one really loves shopping – Bangkok is the best place (new designs at affordable price). There are a lot of flee markets in Bangkok. Grabbing a meal for the day is never a problem – restaurants and eating joints are at every corner street. My little daughter was in a bit shock seeing new faces and new city – totally perplexed what was going on, but later she got used to the travel. One of the most common mode of transport is the Skytrain (BTS) , Auto Rickshaw (TukTuk), Subway, Express boat and Bike Taxis – so getting around was never a problem. The river cruise is worth a visit – a must to see.

Bangkok -Ao Nang –Krabi 
We took a early morning flight from Bangkok to Krabi – a short 1 hour flight. The Krabi Airport looked fantastic – lush greenery with hundreds of Palm trees around. Now, we were happy as we left the Concrete Jungle amidst nature. We bargained for a taxi and headed straight for the Hotel in Ao Nang. It was hot and humid, we had carried a few bottles with us to prevent from De-hydration. 
 Ao-Nang is small town in Krabi Province. Ao-Nang is a base town from where you can head towards Koh Phi Phi island and to Phuket. There are many small Islands around and you can take a ferry or hire small boats.

Our Hotel Haleeva Sunshine is on the main road and not far from the beach. We took a short nap as the day was hot. In the evening, we ventured out for local sigh seeing and enquiries for the next day’s venture. The local food is worth to taste.

The next day, we did a 1 day trip to all the Main Islands around Ao Nang. We hired a small boat to take us around the main islands. As we left Ao – Nang beach – the water was getting clear with a touch of blue color. I really can’t express how beautiful the color of the water was – aquamarine blue. I wouldn’t have imagined in my life to see beautiful water than this. The West Railey beach look splendid – a perfect getaway. We also visited Chicken and Poda Island. I ventured out with Snorkeling here – jumping in the ocean was a big fear, but once you take the plunge – it’s an experience of a lifetime.  I spent a couple of hours snorkeling as the experience was exhilarating. Even Siya was anxious to jump into the water, I guess by now – she realized, we were on a holiday trip. It was time to head back to Ao-Nang as it was mid-day and getting hotter. It was a 2 hour boat ride to the Ao nang Beach. In the evening, we hired a Scooty to see the night life in Ao Nang. It is easy to hire a scooter – cheap and affordable. In the evening, the streets are full with local food and sweets.
Ao Nang beach - Rajiv & Siya
Ao-Nang – Ko Phi Phi Islands
Early morning, we took a ferry from Ao Nang beach to Ko Phi Phi Islands. It is a big boat which can ferry 200 passengers and carries goods and food packets to the main Islands. The ride was more than 3 hours but one take the advantage of seeing all the islands we cross by. The water is absolutely fantastic – clear as never seen before.

We reached the Tonsai Bay – one of the main islands of Koh Phi Phi. As we reached Ko Phi Phi Don –the vibe changed completely. At the edge of the dock, we could see line of touts extending their package tours of the islands. And we had hundreds of tourists flocking the islands. Most of the people were in party mood. Most of the people were in shorts, flip flops, hat and goggles. The hotel staff accompanied us to the Hotel – Phi Phi Andaman Legacy Resort. It’s a 20 minute walk from the Deck to the hotel. What I really liked was – no motor vehicles allowed on the main island. En- route to the hotel – you will find loads of shops, travel agencies and Scuba diving centers.

The resort was beautiful as it was close to the beach. The facilities were the best one could have and value for money. In the evening – we took a stroll of the islands. It’s a Mecca for tourists – restaurants, bars, tattoo studios, Arts and Crafts etc. The beach looked spectacular in the evening. Soma loved the Sea-food buffet we had in the evening. 
I had booked a Refresher Program with the Padi Certified Scuba center – The Adventure Club. The package included 2 dives with Full diving equipment with maximum of 60 minutes per dive. It includes Lunch, Photographs taken during Diving etc
Scuba Diving – Phi Phi Islands

We assembled early morning at the center for a quick learning session before heading towards the boat. Equipments & Gear, food were quickly transported to the boat so that we could start early. We had a video presentation on board with the Safety features & use of the sign language. It took us a while to understand all this,, the excite started building and soon we had to wear the gear.

Now, since I have been Biking all my life – wearing a gear for a motorcycle ride would take 15 minutes, but getting on to a swimsuit , face mask, oxygen cylinders etc, min, 25 minutes – by the time we were full geared – it looked like a gear of 100 kgs..
1st Dive

I was lucky to have a Venezuelan scuba diver (the Spanish connection) really worked well. My 1st jump was a big splash but once I was in the deep ocean – it was calm and silent as never before. I soon looked back for my instructor – using the sign language – we were now in Deep in the Ocean. With a variety of Sea Fishes and Corals – it was a moment to cherish. It is out of the world experience. I was comfortable at the moment and was heading to more depth. I could feel the pressure in my hears and more silence. The Corals were like magic with hundreds of shapes and sizes. It is said that – Koh Phi Phi has one of the best diving places in the world – I truly believed it now. My instructor wanted to get the best benefit today – as it was a clear day, we soon swam further where there were more rocks. Wanted to see shoals of fish, sharks and tortoise. Marta soon spotted a baby shark near a Coral, I just simply looked at it. We tried spotting a Tortoise but failed to so. I was tired and gave a signal to Marta (instructor) to head upwards to the boat. We were soon out of the deep blue Ocean. Off was my mask and with exhilaration I said – Wow, this is absolutely fantastic. 
Deep Blue Ocean
We were 8 divers and had to wait for everybody to come out. Our boat was very nearby and we soon left for the next destination. We had lunch and relaxed a bit. Our 2nd dive was deeper touching to 50 meters and a new location. 
The new location was very close to Maya Bay. Maya Bay is a very famous beach and came to popularity during the shooting of the film "The Beach" starring now Oscar Award winner Leonardo Di Caprio. The movie describes the location and it's white sandy beaches. While i stood standing at Maya Bay, Nature was it its best. One could not have described anything better than this. We soon headed for the diving location .  It was Turquoise water with a different variety of fishes. I spotted the famous "Nemo" fish and had an experience of Big Tortoise swimming besides me. One of friends spotted a Shark but the time we reached, it swam away. 
Soma and Siya had a wonderful day at the resort swimming by the Pool side. 
Next day, we took a ferry back to Ao Nang and then to Bangkok.
While we looked at our pictures smiling over the experiences we had, these are memories unforgettable. Now, we can say - Siya has the wee bit on adventure just like Mom and Dad.
This was truly a well laid back adventure trip. Now, i have one of the activities - Scuba Diving off my Bucket list. I still look at cheap fares on Air Asia so that i can my next trip.
Soma, Siya & Rajiv - Ko Phi Phi Don beach

Longtail boats - Ko Phi Phi beach

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