Khorb Koon Kop
by Carson Reynolds
The best way that I could describe Bangkok is that is like being in a sauna with a very smelly and somewhat sleazy stranger. Of course, this impression was formed after I had just flown for 14 hours from Dublin by way of London. To be fair, the city does have its charms; the night market is fantastic. Anything you could want is 200 baht (4 euro or 5 bucks): clothing, food, flip-flops.
After wandering around the requisite Buddhist temples and attractions by every conceivable mode of transport (river taxi, tuk-tuk, elevated train), Joëlle and I fled the city as quickly as we’d come and flew by prop plane to Krabi.
From Krabi we took a long-tail boat to West Rai-Lai. A long tail is somewhat like the Kon-Tiki rafts those fellows sailed across the Pacific, except that the locals augmented them a bit by adding a giant Chevy engine on the back.
West Rai-Leh consists of amazing beaches and 5 star resorts. We stayed in East Rai-Leh, which consists of mud flats and tourist traps. The bungalow we rented was already occupied by several stout and enormous cockroaches. Cockroaches that were bigger than any cockroach I have ever seen. Here I found my 200 baht flip-flops were excellent in hand-to-hand combat with the critters. With proper wrist technique, your flip flop is an amazing weapon.
The reason I decided to book a place in East Rai Leh was that all of the climbing shops are clustered around there. This is apparently, because climbers are in general rather poor and not swayed by such aesthetic charms as “hot water” or even “running water.”
We spent the following few days climbing some of the most spectacular cliffs I’ve ever encountered. We started on the first day at the 123 wall, where Joëlle and I climbed several routes. She climbed many 5s and tried a 6 or two. I led Make A Way (6b), countless 5s, and did a nameless 6b+ on top rope. For those of you who don’t know squat about climbing, to lead is to go up first with the rope, to second is, predictably, to go after the lead. Those funny numbers are ratings, and to on-sight is to climb perfectly the first time.
The next day we moved off to the Diamond Cave where a large number of 6a and 5s presented opportunities for fooling with gravity. Our guide was so amused by these antics that he decided to take us over to the extremely imposing Thaiwand wall. The approach to the wall is through a cave that is in the jungle vegitation above Rai Leh. Here I tried Out of Sticks (7A+) and was able to fight my way up for a not-even-pink-point. After that I onsighted a 6b and 6a+. Joëlle tried a 6 herself, but was more intent on relaxing and enjoying the surrounding wildlife.
We next took a boat through the Andaman Sea to Ko-Phi-Phi (pronounced, embarrassingly, “Pee Pee”). There we took in a bit of swimming. Ko Phi Phi is apparently where the film “The Beach” was set and was quite pleasant. For one, our room there didn’t have insects who could compete admirably as professional wrestlers. The only down sides to Phi-Phi are that it’s rather touristy and the food is rather bland because of the tourists. The upside is that right next door is an enourmous cliff known as Ton Sai Tower which we climbed. If you look really carefully you can see Joëlle on Gladiator (6b,6c – 40M), which was the best on-sight I can claim.
From Phi Phi we took a boat to Phuket (again, embarrassingly pronounced “Poo Get”). We then flew from Phuket to Chang-Mai in the north. The last few days had made us a little more colorful, the distinctive red hue being a tourist-dead-give-away.
Chang-Mai is an excellent city built near the ruins of several ancient Wats. Moreover it is extremely cheap and the food extremely tasty (although reports of Bird-Flu were a bit menacing). We toured the local temple and by Tuk Tuk, saw a bit of the countryside. The ancient temple ruins on the outskirts of the city are full of unusal sights: Buddhas, dragons, and snakes.
While in Chang-Mai, Joëlle took a Thai cooking class. I took a trip out of town to Crazyhorse, a collection of limestone cliffs and caves. I won’t bore you with the details. That evening we went out to the local Night Bazaar where the low prices did strange things to my sense of fashion.
We then decided to check out the mountian town of Pai which we’d heard rumors about from fellow tourists. It’s situated near the border with Burma, and is only accessible by windy mountain road. Before travelling in Mini-Van Joëlle was in a cheery mood. After 4 hours doing “360s” she and I felt very much less excited.
Despite Dramamine-defying roads, Pai is definitely worth the trip. It is a very relaxed place that calls Boulder, Colorado to mind. Nearby there are tranquil fields, hot springs, and waterfalls. A perfect place to unwind. I think Joëlle enjoyed Pai’s tranquil style more than the bug-infested south. Our bungalow in Pai was the nicest of the entire trip. It was located in a medicinal herb garden (no, really!) that supplied a sauna which was available for the guests.
As a bit of an adventure I learned how to drive a motor scooter while in Pai. As a result, we left a bit battered and bruised. This was because of motor-cross style mountain dirt roads (complete with mud and jumps), but mostly my own ineptitude. A month later I still have a nice burn from the scooter’s exhaust pipe.
The final leg of our trip took us back to Bangkok. On February 5th, we started with a 4 hour minibus return trip, and then a 2 hour plane trip to Bangkok, followed by a taxi into Chinatown, where we planned to stay. We took a last Tuk-Tuk to the night market and then even caught a little Chinese Opera.
At this point we returned to our room to rest before the flight back to Dublin. We had booked a cheap ticket which left Bangkok at 00:30 on February 6th. Joëlle was the first to realize that 00:30 on the 6th is actually midnight and a half after the 5th. As it was 23:00 at that very moment, the rest of the trip might be best described as a “blur.” With the aid the taxi-driver equivalent of Mario Andretti, we made it to the flight as they were closing the doors.
So after traveling in one minibus, two airplanes, and four taxis we found ourselves in Dublin dressed for the tropics and without our bags. A calamitous end to an inspiring trip. One parting photo of Joëlle’s will convey my feelings of wonder.