Sunday, November 20, 2005

Our Trip 

Just got back to Amman today. Thailand was amazing. Our first few nights we stayed in touristy Phuket. We got some great $4/hour massages but for the most part it wasn't a very pleasant experience. It was loud and dirty and there was a disproportionate amount of old, big western men coupled with young, pretty Thai women. It just wasn't our scene.

So we packed up a day early and headed to Phi Phi Island where we discovered the paradise we were looking for. Lush green islands with white sand beaches surrounded crystal clear blue waters. While the infrastructure was still recovering from the Tsunami, the natural landscape was awash in beauty.

We went scuba diving 3 days during our trip but our best day was 60km off the coast of Phi Phi at the dive sites: Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. Our first dive we literally swam for 45 minutes with three 15-20ft manta rays swooping around us (check out the above picture to get a good idea of the scale of these monstrous, graceful rays--see the diver at the bottom).

The next dive, we saw the rays again, but we also saw a leopard shark, tons of giant moray eels, a huge school of barracudas and another large school of these giant batfish. It was truly astonishing. Both Shane and I agree these dives are must-dos for avid divers.

On Phi Phi we also did some other great dives and some good snorkeling around the island where they filmed the movie "The Beach" with Leonardo Di Caprio.

We didn't stay where the resorts were located at Tonsai Village, but rather up the beach at the northern most tip of Laem Tong. There was hardly anyone else there which was amazing and they had this romantic restaurant that served you on mats that were right on the sand. The only downside was that to go to an ATM, or buy anything you had to take a long tail boat a good 1/2 hour around the island.

We were supposed to go to Krabi, Thailand but decided to spend all of our time in Phi Phi, a decision neither of us regret at all. We had wanted to ride an elephant in Krabi, but once in paradise, we couldn't tear ourselves away.

We did spend the last day in Thailand in Bangkok, which we had been warned was not a very pretty city. While it seemed a step up from Cairo infrastructure-wise, it didn't have the attractions of the pyramids to make it worthwhile to spend any time in (other than gaining culturally). We half attempted to visit the Grand Palace but didn't go in after finding out the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was closed for an event. We did check out the local markets which were very interesting. Such a wild mix of sights and smells. My favorite part was when a group of teenage girls followed Shane for 3 blocks through the market to get his autograph.

We had an amazing trip but we also learned a lot about how to do the trip better. Unless you're into go-go bars, we'd recommend skipping Phuket. Also, don't bother with more than 1/2 a day in Bangkok unless you like wandering around strange markets for long periods of time (1/2 a day was enough for us). For divers, snorkelers and water people, we'd recommend doing Ko Phi Phi and then Ko Lak (which is right next to the famous dive sites in the Similan Islands). I also heard Ko Lanta is amazing.

We'd both go back in a heartbeat to Thailand. I admit to being fully jealous of our 23-27 year old dive instructors who lived on the island and just dove everyday while living the carefree beach -bum island life.


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