|A round-about bus ride from Khao Sok to Krabi took us through the most spectacular scenery we've seen from a bus during our travels. Stunning limestone karsts and sheer cliffs surround verdant green valleys of palm trees and rice paddies. Long, but well-worth it!
We chose to spend 6 nights in Krabi town, a small town of ~90,000 set on a river about 30 minutes from the beaches, and we hoped, the chaos and crowds. We have spent lots of time in our lovely, air-conditioned room as the heat has become truly stifling - making it very unpleasant to be out and about except very early in the morning and late in the evening. Also finding out the mosquito population appears to have grown in size and numbers and become far more aggressive with bites that seem to last and itch for days - and nights. We are pretty vigilant about putting on lots of repellent with a 35+% DEET content, but the bugs in the South seem to be immune to DEET or are very good at finding the one, tiny patch you may have overlooked.
We took a daytrip to see the famous Phi Phi islands, a place that garnered most media coverage post-tsunami because of the many Western tourists that flock to the resorts here and because these islands typify what people imagine when they think of Thailand's beautiful beaches (and they are truly beautiful). Our day trip took us, along with 33 others, in a speedboat to see the islands, to make stops for snorkeling and to look at monkeys and a cave from the boat. We HATE this type of tour. Everything timed to the minute, whistles blowing to call us sheep to heel, maddening crowds, etc. We had paid extra to be on a trip of 12, but alas, we are slow learners and had wanted to avoid paying double to do the trip independently.... Still managed to enjoy the scenery, the comedy of the masses of tourists (of which we were certainly a part), and some very good snorkeling. John got very nervous when we saw the largest jellyfish we'd ever seen lurking nearby. I guess he was doing the math on the pain of the sting from a jellyfish ~1000 times bigger than the swarm that had attacked him during our SCUBA trip!
We were lucky to be here on a Saturday to experience the night market, which is the best we've enjoyed in Southeast Asia. There was music, dancing kids, and the food was spectacular. Beautiful, delicious food prepared with creativity and care by extremely friendly vendors. Many of the folks preparing the delights are Muslim (being so close the Malaysia border there is a very large Muslim population here) so we were able to try some foods we haven't seen in other parts of Thailand. YUM!
On our last day, we took another day trip, this time to Hong Island. We hired a longboat with just the two of us and had a much more enjoyable time. Left early in the morning before the tour boats started so were able to experience an idyllic, tropical beach in solitude for around an hour. While the snorkeling wasn't as good here, the scenery was even more beautiful than Koh Phi Phi. Excellent ending to our time this area.