Archive | Tonsai Basecamp RSS feed for this section

Thailand – our month in AoNang, Krabi

15 Jan

It is in meeting fun or inspiring people along your travel path that sometimes define where you’re heading next. So too in this case! We met Michael….. an all-around, nice American guy, avid rock climber & Tai Chi enthusiast in Yangshuo, China. After some lovely chats, he convinced us that his hometown of Ao Nang, Krabi would be a great place to settle in Thailand for a while.  So off we were to Southern Thailand – a country so very near to our hearts as it was here that Anthony proposed to me over 20 years ago (most romantic proposal ever to boot!!). We couldn’t wait to get back and observe how this lovely country had changed during this time, and see if we still LOVED it as much as we did then!

Image

With new friend Michael Weitzman, an avid rock climber and Thai Chi enthusiast 

We arrived in Krabi on Dec. 15 – shortly before the holiday season. We rented a room in the comfortable 3 Bees Guesthouse (http://www.3beesguesthouse.com) and got us a set of motorcycles, allowing us to find a house for rent, for the month. I was a bit concerned showing up so close to Christmas with still a place to find, and rightly so. We scootered around for 2 full days in 30-35C, stopping at each hotel, hostel, apartment building and house – trying to find something to rent.  We only got NO’s – FULL!

At one point on day 2 on the scooter, the heat was starting to get to me so I stripped down to my bikini, sprayed myself with water and started to sing loudly (to keep the spirits up!!)…..when I turned a corner, I almost hit a huge elephant!!! Surely, I was starting to hallucinate! The kids were laughing at my erratic behavior, probably thinking that I was going to be certifiable soon …..but when I stopped and focused in, I realized I was not quite ready yet for the loony bin. This is Thailand after all!

IMG_0015

Majestic elephant walking along a busy road in Ao Nong, Thailand

With the assistance of Michael, we ended up finding a great, 3-bedroom, Thai style house in the charming village of Chong Phli, just on the outskirts of Ao Nang ($400/month!). We loved living surrounded by locals (mostly Thai Muslims), riding our motorcycles everywhere and taking in the local vibe.

Anthony for example, went to cheer on our neighbor Son – a local Thai boxing champion in the 60Kg category – at one of his matches.  He drove to the spectacle with him and his family and after a great time at the ring – he had a lovely chat with these fine people on the porch of their house.

IMG_0106

Thai Boxing match – supporting our neighbour Son

And, we quickly started to connect with and frequent the local Muslim women with their delicious food – our morning lady, who would drive by with her food cart offering us delicious crunchy chicken on a stick, rice curry, sesame balls or sticky rice in palm leaves with sweet coconut…or the lady with the best chicken & rice with spicy ginger sauce for dinner… All for $1-2 per dish. As Emile said, when you are in Thailand, eat like the Thais do….And so we did – without any hesitation!!! as Thai cuisine is so fresh, varied, delicious and incredibly cheap!

IMG_0136

At the entrance of our Thai Style house in Chong Phli

Ao Nang is one of the top destinations in Krabi Province and we quickly noticed why.  This bustling, touristy town is the gateway to some of the most beautiful and top rated beaches and islands in the world (such as Railay, Kho Lanta, Hong & Kho Phi Phi Islands etc.). In addition, Ao Nang is surrounded by the most stunning rock formations making it a top destination for rock climbing (and the sunsets – WOW)!

IMG_2827

IMG_2589

Sunset at Kluong Muong Beach

After his first thrilling experience in China, Anthony was eager to continue learning to rock climb!  With Michael by his side – he got a chance to go out several times and improve his skills.  Often, my brave husband came back with cuts and bruises but always in great spirits, loving his new hobby!  Emile & Filou also quite enjoyed this new sport and took several rock climbing classes on beautiful Tonsai Island, called Basecamp Tonsai (http://www.basecamptonsai.com).  This climbing company did not only expertly guide novices to climb the beautiful rocks in Ao Nang, it also housed a wonderful rooftop café where we hung out with the hippies and young backpackers – savouring the healthy snacks and great java’s!

IMG_2811

At Tonsai Basecamp rooftop terrace. Does it look like I am starting to blend in with the hippy, backpacker crowd? 

IMG_0049

Filou doing his best to reach the top

Ao Nang is also an ideal location for boating & yachtsmen (I am working on a collection of boat pictures from around the world, and I surely got my fill here!), scuba-diving and snorkeling.

I LOVE the water – swimming, sailing, snorkeling etc. and have always dreamed of scuba diving.  So, I connected with Mike, a local scuba diving instructor who guided me through the P.A.D.I  (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), Open Water Diving Course.  I studied the 250 page book and was ready to take the exam, but after a first day in the water (in the pool, practicing emergency procedures where I choked a lot and felt completely suffocated), I realized this is sport is not for me.  Very happy for having tried something new……This one however, will have to go into the book of “fails” (with a good example for my sons that in life nothing is ever lost if you’ve tried your best)!

Michael was kind enough to show us some of the local beaches and less touristy places like e.g. Kluong Muong Beach, where the kids had a great time playing with his kids, Zach “Attack” and Sariya (lovely children that the boys got very attached to!  We called ZachZach “Attack” as he loved testing out his very good boxing skills on Filou – who enjoyed returning his punches!)– and where we enjoyed the pool of the luxurious Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1438 , pretending to be guests!

Image 1

Some fun times with Michael, his son Zach “Attack” and Sariya 

As well, we went to Koh Yao Noi Island, a favorite hang out location for the climbers where we arrived by Longtail Boat and had a fun social overnight stay. Here at La Luna Italian Restaurant (http://lalunakohyao.com) Michael & friends thrilled us with a great guitar performance while we enjoyed the restaurant’s delicious pizza.

Upon leaving Koh Yao Noi, we learned from local ladies about the traditional style of Batik painting (Batik is a cloth that is painted on, using a manual wax-resist dyeing technique).

IMG_0130

Batik painting on Koh Ya Noi Island

We were extremely thankful to be in sunny Thailand, at the end of December & early January to take in the lovely rays of sunshine and celebrate Christmas & New Year’s here – because our family and friends in Toronto, Canada were battling extreme cold temperatures of up to -30C!  (so sorry friends!).

Besides a couple of touristy Christmas trees & decorations, there was not much Christmas spirit in Ao Nang, which didn’t bother us in the least bit.  For Christmas Day, we planned a day of tropical, island hopping!  We rented a private longtail boat, operated by a lovely driver and set course for Hong Islands (a series of 4 gorgeous islands about ½ hour from Oa Nang).  Emile & Filou had received a new set of snorkeling gear that they were eager to try out…and the first Hong Island did not disappoint!  The aquatic life on this main island was incredible and due of the clear, turquoise ocean water – the kids could easily spot and feed the many colourful fish (of course, a little bread always goes a long way in getting the fish to surround you!).

IMG_2645

Filou feeding the fish at Hong’s main Island

IMG_2646

From there we went into Hong Lagoon, a stunning, peaceful lagoon where we were “ordered” to jump off the boat to go and collect starfish.  It was thrilling how many starfish were located here on the ocean’s bottom – Emile alone must have caught 20 of them! We were a little hesitant to take the wildlife out of their habitat (not quite our thing), but our boat driver kept insisting. We then realized he wanted to put them all over our bodies to take a crazy picture…and fun it was so we made it our Christmas shot to send to friends and family!

IMG_2658

Collecting starfish in Hong Lagoon…fun Christmas picture!

From there, we went to Lading Island – which was frankly a bit overcrowded so we didn’t stay long. It did have a great tree rope so the kids got some of their energy out by making crazy jumps!

IMG_2672

Crazy monkey on a rope!

Lastly there was Phak Bia Island where we where the only tourists which was quite refreshing (due to their stunning natural beauty, the Thai Islands have unfortunately become quite overcrowded)!  The kids played crazy games in the water and tried an incredibly sour, local fruit – after which we took a nice breezy boat ride back to Oa Nang. All in all, a fantastic Christmas Day!

IMG_2720

Breezy boat ride back to Ao Nang, Krabi – in local style with Thai wrap-around pants and bandanas!

For New Year’s, we had promised the children that they could stay up till midnight – a first for them both!  Firstly, we headed to the main strip of Oa Nang where the locals had set up all kinds of food and fun game stalls (the choice was yours – a bowl of crickets or other local creepy crawlers – or a large crispy pancake with nutella!).  The kids had great fun playing with local Thai kids on a large jumping castle and we all enjoyed a local entertainment show – where little girls and boys from the nearby school were performing dance and song routines (in rather provocative clothing)….but very sweet!

From there, we went to play some pool in the Luna Bar, a fun establishment on the beach where Emile and Filou had their first sip of beer (I know they are a bit young, but it was just a little crazy thing for New Year’s… and better not to make alcohol a taboo in M.H.O)!  From there, we walked onto the beachfront to partake in the local tradition of lighting a large lantern and releasing it over the sea for a year of good luck!

It was a delicate operation…our lantern almost crashed in the water – but Emile saved the day by putting it back over the fire to properly burn & fill with gas.  From there, it took off beautifully and together with all the other lanterns, turned the midnight sky into MAGIC!

IMG_2781

Lighting a lantern and releasing it over the ocean for a year of good luck

It was then that fun music tunes were starting to blare and the countdown was there.  It was at that moment that I felt intense happiness, and thankfulness for our beautiful trip & family– looking out at this gorgeous sky (now filled with magnificent fireworks)….  So, I danced my way into 2014 (somewhat to the dismay of the children who thought their mom was rather crazy for dancing on the beach – while others watched.  Honestly, I didn’t care – I was having a great personal moment of gratitude and fun!).

IMG_0150

Me, dancing myself into 2014!  Priceless, fun way to start the new year…

IMG_2797

Fireworks all over the ocean….. and even right on the beach

Although we certainly missed our loved ones back home this year, this was a fantastic way to start 2014 and the second half of our Regeneration Tour (http://the-regeneration.com). Thank you Thailand for your magic – you are as beautiful and special as we remember you to be 20 years ago! Ao Nang is the first place that we all really did not want to leave after 1 month. You stole our hearts…

But we still have some time to enjoy you Thailand, as we are off to Bangkok and Chiang Mai to meet up with the grandfathers: Jichian and Opa here we come!

Advertisements