Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Krabi, the Unexpected Birthday Gift

Presenting a birthday gift to my beloved Jason in the form of journey started somewhere during May last year. Airasia happened to be on sale and I saw it as a perfect excuse to travel. 

It didn’t take long before I decided on Tup Kaek Sunset Beach Resort & Spa; private cottage, private beach, reasonable rate, and golden sunset (according to photos from Tripadvisor). A few emails exchange with the hotel staff and they arranged everything from airport transfer to motorbike rental, even sightseeing and snorkeling tour to Hong Island, on a fee of course.


Everything seemed perfect during the planning stage, but things went awry once we arrived at the door steps of our standard cottage. Paying about 2,300 baht a night was higher than most of the hotels in Krabi town and I thought even the lowest room category of a resort can at least beat that. But what lied in front of my eyes was a small private cottage, where a pathway leading to the deck, with jungle-looking plants growing all over. It looked abandoned. Like for ages. 

The room was clean nevertheless, equipped with bulky CRT TV and its sad looking battery-cover-lost-somewhere-but-hey-here’s-the-tape remote control. The window also leading to a pool view, well, half pool view as the other half gone to the bushes. 

Jason and I explored the town during our first night, without realizing it being a half an hour pitch black journey from the resort, which was a bit too secluded for privacy. Krabi town was more happening than what we had in mind; the locals trying hard to sell off their island hopping packages while some shouting bargain prices for restaurants/pubs, and a street filled with foreigners.


On the next morning, we strolled by the beach, then to a buffet spread of fruits, breads, cereals, and a plate of cook-by-order hearty breakfast. While waiting for the boat to arrive, we observed some cleaning up of the beach. As if bubbles were floating up from our minds the comic style, we daydreamed about the luxury of having own private beach, where our only transport is by private boat, perhaps even a yacht.


Our longtail boat bound for Hong Island (Koh Hong) finally arrived where we had clumsy moments trying to climb on. A few sea bumps later, we were led to a beautiful confined space that has only a narrow entrance enough for one boat. Just like the name Talay Nai (The Sea Inside), it is surrounded by high rocky mountains, forming a lagoon that look as if a big natural pool. Shallow with hint of emerald, the motion of fishes swimming around came visible when we peeked through the sides of the boat. As much as we would like to jump in that instant, we were informed that it was just a quick lap and need to move on. What a bummer.


But what happened next was unbelievably amazing we became grateful instead. Pristine white beach surrounded by greeneries while facing two giant rock formations, along with stunning shades of emerald of the water, all these to be called our own for at least 15 mins; before the crowd started flocking in speedboats whereby no chance of taking photos without being photobombed. With nothing more to do on this paradise, we returned before the stipulated time. 


This tour of romance for two on a private longtail boat, along with a personal boat operator on standby throughout the day trip from 9am to 3pm, also the packed lunch of fried rice, tuna sandwiches, pineapple and bottled waters prepared by the Tup Kaek Resort cost us 2,500 baht in total. It may not be as worthy as those in town shouting prices that might offer more by throwing in several islands to hop to, but the glimpse of Hong island before anyone else was priceless.


Luck was not on our side for two consecutive days though I prayed real hard for a golden sunset at Tup Kaek Resort as what shown by some of the travelers in Tripadvisor.


On the second night, we went to The Hilltop Ao Nang, another birthday surprise I secretly planned. I heard many good reviews on this place but turned out that the food was nothing more than mediocre, or perhaps we didn’t get the right dishes. Once the dinner was over, I requested for the birthday cake, which was promised with a birthday song by the band for supposedly 500 baht in the email became 800 baht on the spot. I tolerated anyway thinking that the surprise on Jason’s face would make everything worthwhile. We couldn’t finish the cake so Jason suggested distributing it among other guests as a flavour returned for their blessings. If there was one thing I learned from The Hilltop, it would be the lack of experience in handling surprises. I can tolerate the sudden change of price, despite being 50% extra than what has been discussed due to “miscommunication between management” but not a waitress deliberately showing the bill to my birthday guy. That was the one last thing I wished not to ruin. 

Krabi was indeed a relaxing place to spend the weekend, and I’m seeing myself returning in few years’ time. Perhaps a different resort, and definitely not The Hilltop.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sweat, Marvel, Repeat at Gua Tempurung


 Gua Tempurung, a name familiar to many as a term in secondary school geography syllabus, has yet to teach its pupils on the beauty that lies within. Not being a fan of the nature, unlike Jason, whose adventures during the teenage years were more than enough to compile a 50 pages journal, no less, has moved me into an exploration. 

To begin with, Gua Tempurung was not even close to secluded as what I would have imagined it being in a jungle, surrounded by tall trees that take a whole lot effort just to get there. In fact, a straight highway guidable by Waze, few tourism buses, and many private cars during the weekends made this place hard to be missed. 

Few options available when it comes to explore the limestone cave. For those who are more comfortable with leisure stroll or prefer not getting wet, dry tours to Golden Flowstone or Top of The World would be the choices. Else, the adventurous ones can always go for wet tours of Top of the World & Short River Adventure or the Grand Tour. 

Their short-handed issue on the day itself gave us an advantage of wandering at our own pace. What supposed to be 1 hour and 45 mins Top of the World tour took us about 3 hours to complete. The distance was the same of course, but the cooling condition in the cave was what enables us to enjoy the magnificent view a bit longer. One will get sweaty nevertheless, upon climbing 640 steps in just one way. In another analogy, that’s pretty much double of the famous Batu Caves stairs (272 steps). 

Stalagmites and stalactites on walls and ceilings take various astounding sizes and shapes that some say images of dolphin, jellyfish, lion and so on come into view, but only to the eyes of the observant. 

Lastly, the brilliant design of convenient walkways along with beautifully illuminated walls in different hues has enriched the tour experience as well as appreciation towards the nature. 
Absolutely breathtaking.
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