|The trip from Hat Yai to Krabi town today was one of the scariest experiences of my travels to far! The minibus driver was a total manic, driving at at least 20-30km over the limit, tailgating people within a couple of centimetres of their bumper bars and then overtaking into oncoming traffic, and had a total disregard for any scooter drivers that might be in the way! He also seemed to enjoy overtaking at high speed around corners and over hills, it was only by pure luck that we didn't hit anything! So I decided to just close my eyes and pretend it wasn't happening, lol.
Krabi town is quite a nice small town, with a couple of different food markets where you can pick up really fresh, delicious food for only 5-10 Baht, which makes me happy! Other than that it's mostly just a jumping off point for tours of the surrounding areas, so I dutifully signed myself up for a full day of kayaking and elephant trekking, and then a half day of rock-climbing the day after.
The full day of kayaking and elephant trekking was just fantastic, definitely worth the 1500 Baht ($70) I paid. After getting picked up at 7.30 in the morning (groan), and picking up a large group of middle aged Brits, including the obligatory one with a Thai wife, we drove out to the mangroves at a place called Ao Thalane, which was just gorgeous. The jetty opens out to the sea to the right, and is flanked by limestone cliffs in front and to the left. They soar into the sky, covered by jungle and surrounded by mangroves, just gorgeous! So we hopped into our kayaks and I was paired with a very lovely Slovakian woman, who unfortunatly had no idea about kayaking, and was tired within about 10 minutes, leaving me to try and paddle and steer, all from the front seat! We did come to grief a couple of times, especially when trying to naviagate through the mangroves, but all in all it was a lot of fun.
First stop was a small inlet where a special kind of monkey live, the only kind to live by salt water. They were quite bold and were very keen to get fruit scraps off the tour guides, as they made us up fruit platters. The monkeys have webbed feet to help them swim, which they are very adept at, and are very fussy about cleanliness, washing the fruit scraps in the sea before eating them, which was very cute. I didn't think they were quite so cute later on in the paddle however, as we came across an aggressive group of monkeys who kept jumping onto our boats, stealing our water bottles and then biting into them so they could drink our water. They really didn't want to take no for an answer, and were quite happy to just jump from boat to boat, following up through the mangroves. In the end the tour guide told us to just push the monkeys off with our paddles, which they didn't like at all! I've never been hissed at by a monkey before!
Aside from the monkeys, we were also lucky enough to see a king cobra, sliding along a rock quite close to us, a monitor lizard, hiding in a cave, and some bats who were sleeping up the inside of some limestone stalactites. The entire kayak was just so relaxing, being in such a beautiful environment, gently floating along was really really great. I must admit that my arms were very sore by the end of it, and I'm a little worried about the rockclimbing tomorrow, but we'll just have to wait and see!
The afternoon program involved lunch and elephant trekking, which I haven't done before. Although I know that EVERYONE does elephant trekking when they come to Thailand, I still found the experience to be really magical and special. They are such incredible creatures, and the Thais take care of them really well, not letting them work too much, and allowing the elephants to roam free in the jungle when they aren't working. Being on my own and in a group comprised of couples, I had an elephant all to myself, which was great. I was a little nervous about the elephant handler however, because he looked about 12 years old, but he later told me he was 16. If he was, he was the smallest 16 year old I've ever seen. He was really great, however, really funny and exuberant, wanting to know how old I was, if my watch was a "copy" or real, how much it cost, where I lived, the questions were endless! He was also very happy to take lots of photographs of me, both in the chair on the elephant's back, and sitting on the actual elephant. I think because I had the elephant to myself he allowed me to sit on it's neck quite a lot, which was fantastic, though very hard not to fall off! An elephant's gait is quite jolting and lopsided.
I was very sad for the elephant ride to end, and am already planning my next one!