July 26: Man, it’s beautiful here. Railay, the peninsula where we’re staying, just survived an insane storm. Everything and anything with even the tiniest capacity to absorb water is totally drenched. Somehow more than an hour after the strongest winds–knocking heavy signs into windows, breaking glass, knocking over and shattering potted plants–it is still raining. Turns out it’s the monsoon season in Thailand. Hrm…this may impact our snorkeling plans. But the waters are so green! The cliffs so tall! Thais so friendly, with their singsong call of “Sawadee ka! Sawadee khap!” everywhere you go.
The tide is insane in Railay. We arrived at high tide and my first thought was “Geez, why did they build this place underwater?” The tide eats all the footpaths and you have to wade to reach the main trails cutting across the peninsula.
Six hours later the waters receded some 500 meters away, opening routes to beaches on the far side of Railay and stranding long-tail boats on their sides with their umbilical anchors lying naked, looking silly. It’s somewhat isolated, as even though it’s not an island, you can only get here by boat. No roads! What a great place.
July 29: They say “emerald green waters” in all the guidebooks and it sounds like such a canned phrase, but I don’t know how else to describe the color.
On Ao Nang, we wander around shops selling carved wood Buddha faces and elephants. Long-tail boats cruise the waters each with jutting metal motor tentacles coming out the back, big ancient wood prows wrapped in the red white and blue bands of the Thai flag popping out the front.
I take a class at the Thai cooking school at a place near the top of the hill, off the jungle-path that passes one of the many rock-climbing schools on the cliffs snaked with roots and belay ropes. We make Tom Yum so spicy it causes eyes to water. We fling prawns and crack eggs right into the hot oiled wok. Pumpkin in coconut milk–SO sweet, like 7 sugars condensed into two textures.
Railay East–cheap beachfront bars, a Rasta joint, Chok’D's Bar with the acoustic guitar player singing the Beatles and Oasis and My Girl and every other hit pre 1999. Two striped kittens play-fighting in front of Thai Food, six tables clustered under a fish net and separated from the kitchen by a counter and half a roof. The cook serves us the spiciest yellow curry we’ve had yet. Why so many cats???
July 30: This book (writing in my journal, whose pages are now translucent) was almost destroyed when I took it on our water-logged snorkeling trip to the Phi Phi Islands. The speed boat slapped up and down on the waves so hard it felt like it was liquifying your organs.
Your teeth snap together and you find yourself thinking, I should watch where I put my tongue. It rains, waves splash and spray, more rain, more wind, and soon everything on the boat is soaked. So glad I didn’t take my camera. The best part, Shawn and I agreed, was our second stop, when we drifted in a turquoise lagoon framed by the cliffs of one of the Phi Phi islands, and it started to pour. It was real monsoon-style rain, and we were already drenched, towels and clothes and everything, and with nothing dry to put on and no way to dry off we were getting chilly. Then we heard a laugh and a shout and saw one of our guides leap off the boat deck, giggling and diving around. ”Come in! Cold up there! Much warmer in the water!” The French guy jumped in, and then his wife, her lips blue, and both rose grinning. I climbed onto the deck and leapt off with a little shout. The water was indeed wonderfully warm, and I bobbed down to my chin. We held our hands up in the rain and laughed at a fleet of boats called “Jame Bond” and watched other tourists swimming in the rain, grinning at the warm blue water and the green and black cliffs rising up all around us.