The last 2 days in Hong Kong

We checked out of the Hotel in Phuket and had arranged for transport to the airport with a local guy who runs his own company, well, transporting people to the airport. He picked us up in his brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee (or Ford Explorer, what ever, aren’t they the same?) which he was quite proud of. The entire trip to the airport he was showing it off to us, saying that it was his prize possession. No comment on this here.

We went to check in for our flight on Air Asia back to Hong Kong and only had a minor snafu. Apparently if you don’t check your bags ahead of time for Air Asia flights its $25US a bag, and oh yeah they only take cash, and oh yeah we just ran out. Ugh. No worries though, I was able to fill up around the corner and get us moving again, though, it was probably pretty annoying for the people behind us in line to wait 20 minutes for me to go to do this. Yep, we were those people and we were under no circumstances going to lose our spot.

The flight back to Hong Kong was uneventful and I remember feeling happy that I skipped the in flight meal for once. We landed and caught a cab back to the same place we had stayed almost 3 weeks earlier. It strangely felt like home; some random guy’s apartment in Hong Kong, probably because it was the first place we had been in 3 weeks that we actually had been before. It was pretty late so we decided to just grab dinner across the street at an Italian fusion kind of restaurant place called Fat Angelo’s. I really don’t remember what I had, but I do remember that I had a beer and then a vodka, and then another. There was some gnocchi involved.

The next morning, our group was divided into two parellel missions: REAL coffee and Egg Tartlets. The coffee was…lets just say needed…but the Egg Tartlets were the real treat. Danielle had researched these little guys and they did not disappoint. If you are ever in Hong Kong, get you some from Tai Cheong; they really were the best. We spent the rest of the morning shopping and ended up with some soy sauce bowls and chop sticks which have actually used a few times. We also stumbled into Lane Crawford at the IFC mall which was selling a 17,000USD sweater, which is most certainly not a thing. Erin bought a few necklaces from else-a-muh-wheres and well yeah.

We had taken a tip from a friend of VJ’s brother and went to dinner at a restaurant on the Kowloon side of the river called Hutong, just below Kowloon park. The restaurant was fairly pricy, but it was our last night so we decided to just go for it. We ordered almost everything on the menu and all of it was worth every penny, especially because of the view that the restaurant had over the river to Hong Kong Island. Supposedly there is a light show that goes on every night with some of the buildings in the city, and we should have had a great view of it, but either we missed it or we didn’t know what to look for because nothing stood out.

After dinner we were uncomfortably full so we went to walk around some of the night markets. I think after this we finally learned our lesson about “markets” when traveling: If it is advertised in a book, you don’t want to go there. We waded through the piles of junk: knock-off Angry Birds backpacks, factory-“carved” souvenirs, and fake purses; we got back on the subway and crossed back to the Hong Kong side of the river.

There was one big night life area that we had yet to go to yet that was fairly close to where we were staying: Lan Kwai Fong. We headed up there and ended up bellying up in a place shaped like a keg and drinking Molsons and watching soccer. A little later we bar hopped to place that had more authentic fare and met up with a friend of VJs from high school, or maybe college. We shared a few, and then a few more and right around midnight we left and went to the club. Seriously. Red-bull and vodka, bass thumping, strange old wealthy guy in a booth in the corner, fist pumping ex-pats around the DJ club. Everyone was very nice and let us partake in their bottle service. Somehow we skipped the line outside entirely and I’m still not altogether sure how this happened. After awhile we said goodbye and started walking back to our place. Our flight was at 10am the next morning so we wanted to get some sleep…

…except that on the way home we some how found ourselves in another bar ordering a bottle of wine, which we deleted. As you might expect, the night ended in pizza-by-the-slice and Kebabs; a memory which only recently jogged in my memory when I visited the Mediterranean Deli here in college park…my brother.

We stumbled home at 3am, through the dark streets of city that seemed like it was just getting its second wind and let sleep take us for as long as we could (because there was no way I was getting on an air plane without showering). I can’t speak for everyone else, but I slept from Hong Kong to Tokyo, woke up long enough to drift to our connection, and then slept for about 4 hours more. The flight to Chicago didn’t seem near as long as the flight over. We arrived at the Chicago airport and had 5 hours to kill so we found a Terminal that was deserted, stretched out and slept some more. On the clock it had only been 6 hours since we left Hong Kong, but we had been traveling for 19 hours…or something, you do the math.

We woke up to many angry faces as the deserted terminal, whose seats we had monopolized, had in the last 2 hours, turned into quite an active terminal of people waiting to board a flight to Newark or somewhere people go. I actually like to imagine that there had been another flight before this one that had come and gone without us even realizing it.

Orlando -> Hong Kong -> Hanoi -> Bai Tu Long Bay -> Hanoi -> Siem Reap -> Phnom Peng -> Bangkok -> Railay Beach -> Phi Phi Island -> Phuket -> Hong Kong -> Orlando.

What an adventure.

Now…where to next?

My reaction after realizing that we should just order everything

My reaction after realizing that we should just order everything

The last bottle of the booze.

The last bottle of the booze.

Sign in bathroom at the club.  Let's play hangman:  No Hum__n_.

Sign in bathroom at the club. Let’s play hangman: No Hum__n_.

Drinking that Molson in Hong Kong guys...

Drinking that Molson in Hong Kong guys…

Kowloon! Much bustlier...

Kowloon! Much bustlier…

View across the river to Hong Kong island from dinner.

View across the river to Hong Kong island from dinner.


Feet all covered with tar balls…

So we slept in hard, and weren’t really in any rush to get anywhere until VJ and Danielle caught up with us at Sawasdee Villiage. We did pillfur the breakfast buffet, but mostly were content to hit the snooze button and float around in the tree covered swimming area.

Once our companions met us we mobilized and headed out to Kata Beach. This is the same beach that Erin and I had parked down and feasted on deep fried shrimp the night before. In the day time the beach was much more lively and it was almost indistinguishable from any beach any where else in the world…almost. There were the food carts and the ice cream vendors (which we took advantage of) and surf board rentals and so on.

I went so far as to go and try out a surf board, but yeah, man those waves looked pretty vicious and I basically don’t surf anymore so yeah I decided to skip that. Regardless, VJ and I hada hell of a time body surfing in the water and getting tossed around by the ocean. Lots of sand in the pants. Yum.

The girls stayed up on the beach, and it was about the time that VJ and I emerged from the water that we noticed something that had been ruining the rest of our afternoon in silent the entire time we were at the beach: tar. Tar was everywhere. Globs of tar on the beach, globs of tar in the water, globs of tar stuck to the towels, globs of tar (most annoyingly) stuck to the bottom of our feet. One might think…”Oh ha! Tar! I’ll just get that off with some soap and some elbow grease”…and yeah you might think that but you’d be an idiot because that shit does not come off. We stopped and got baby oil and everything, because I guess thats supposed to do something about it.

Now if you know anything about Erin, it is that she loves the pristine beach and will yell at you for the tiniest bit of trash that happens to fall, and on more than one occasion on a windier than usual day in Sarasota you would be able to find me sprinting after a paper towels as if I was running away from a Balrog…nerd. Needless to say, our time at the beach was done and we headed back to the Sawasdee Village pool where conveniently happy hour was beginning.

After soaking in the pool for about 4 hours some of tar started to break up and I was finally able to scrape a lot off in the shower. We met some interesting people in the pool, which sounds like a very strange segue, who regaled us with their account of what a Bangkok Ping-Pong show is all about. The story included midgets, a one-armed russian, a pack of militant street walkers, baloons, and some darts. We later called them out and they admitted that they had made it all up.

That evening we cleaned up a bit and went out in search of food. The four of us walked the opposite way that Erin and I had walked the night before and ended up in a Thai place along the water. The food was terrible…bordering on inedible, and in hindsight was a total tourist trap. #1 lesson: The larger the menu, the more terrible the food.

On the way back, feeling pretty bummed, we came across a little bar in a car. Quite literally. This thing saved the evening for us as we bellied up to a table and proceeded to dispense of 2 buckets of mixed sugary drink goodness through straws that were 3 feet long (which we quikly learned we could concatenate and make even longer).

It was a quick stop in Phuket and we probably missed a heck of a lot but its hard to recommend it to anyone. We staying in Kata beach pretty much exclusively so I’m sure there is stuff to do elsewhere but we left wishing that we had stayed in Railay instead.

The next day we caught a flight back to Hong Kong from which our trip would end. It’s getting close, but we had a few more adventures left up our sleeve.

The Sawasdee Village Pool

Car Bar!

Danielle is like 100 ft away.

Right by da’ beach boi

Erin, Danielle, and I had booked a boat tour of Phi Phi Leh the night before (somehow) and woke up early (somehow) to meet up for it. VJ separated from us for the morning and took a scuba excursion in and around the two islands. Our boat tour started like pretty much every other tour we had been on in Thailand, that is not knowing if we were on the right boat or when we were leaving or where we were going. Luckily this one turned out okay. After waiting at the dock for what seemed like 15 minutes longer than we should have (we are so impatient!) we kicked off the south beach of Phi Phi Don and headed across the water to its little sister.

The first stop was Pilah bay on the eastern coast. It was a still water bay with extremely clear green water surrounded by giant tree covered cliffs. The water was a good 15′ deep with a sandy bottom that you had no trouble seeing straight down into. I’ve swam in some pretty cool places, but I think this takes it. I think I posted a video on Facebook of the area, but if I didn’t I will after I post this thing…absolutely stunning. After a few minutes (not nearly long enough) we moved out to the entrance of the bay, back toward the open ocean and did some snorkeling…meh, there were no glowing planktons.

The tour guide had told us that we would be going to Maya bay as well on the tour, which is where The Beach was filmed. Being a fan of that movie this was kind of a cool prospect. She told us that the ocean on the west side of the island was too rough to take the long boats out to, so we would have to pull into a smaller bay, swim a bit, then climb some ropes over some rocks to get there. Perfect. I bought some fake white Havaianas for $2 that I wouldn’t mind losing so I could swim and still have shoes when we got out of the water. So we circled around Phi Phi Leh, and about the time where you might expect to be getting out (because we were pretty much on the west side of the island) our driver just kept on going. He straight up charged into the rough sea.

Oh and by the way thanks a bunch to the jerk store driving the speed boat 50 MPH past us in the 8′ chop. That was real special of you.

Anyway, a few bruised ass cheeks later (1 bruised ass cheek is roughly equal to 5 minutes) we pulled into another green water bay, drifter just off shore, dropped anchor, and swam up. There were probably 100 people (and 1000 pieces of trash) on the beach so we were keen to go inland, find the ropes, and get to Maya bay. We walked into the interior of the island and quickly came to a small pool of water with a metal landing on it, and on the other side were….ropes?….going down?

After figuring out that we had skipped the rope climbing adventure altogether and had walked the opposite way that we were expecting, we also put together that the crowded, trashed beach that we had landed on WAS Maya bay. We turned around and walked back and took in the site of what over tourism does. If you can look past the hordes of people, floating trash piles, and unmaintained facilities, you can almost make out a scene or two from the movie, but do yourself a favor, stick to The Movie.

Our final stop on the tour was at a tiny little beach on the inside of the southern bay of Phi Phi Don, called Monkey Beach. Here lives 40-50 monkeys (more likely they were planted here by locals so add value to their boat tours) that you can “play” with. We tossed them food and they caught it, scurrying away excitedly. You can tell the ones who are good catchers because they are freaking orca-fat monkeys. I definitely posted a video on Facebook of our tour guide feeding the monkeys so go check that out I guess if you want.

After the boat tour, Erin and I split up with VJ and Danielle and caught the 2:30 ferry to Phuket, an island province of Thailand on the western side of the country, about half way down it’s length. We were both pretty exhausted and slept most of the way there, but also they were playing Terminator 4 (or whatever) which was rad so I watched a bit #guiltypleasure. We caught a bus ride form the ferry station in Phuket Town across the peninsula to Hata Kata, a small crescent beach resort area almost on the southern tip. We checked into a boutique hotel called Sawasdee Village. The place was pretty gorgeous and we had a pool side room…a perfect place to recover from the go-go-go pace we had been on for the past 3 days. The rooms themselves were equally BA because they were wooden and made you feel like the captain of a ship which is, you guessed it, BA.

After a bit of R&R, the two of us set out to see the beach and acquired some deep fried shrimp along the way. It was still probably 10 minutes to the beach (and before we ate said shrimp) so we began taking bets on which parts of the fried shrimp remained on the shrimp when it was deep fried. Do you have a guess? Well if you answered everything then you are correct! The legs, the shell, the face, the everything were still pretty much in tact on these little guys….so we ate them anyway.

While we polished our snack, a wild(ish) dog came over and laid down on the beach next to us and we both instantly missed our little hell hound.

Kata beach itself was pretty gorgeous at this time of night with the sun just going down and it reminded me of a Hawaiian beach. Actual sand flanked on either side by rocky outcrops, with a few rocky island out in the water, hotels opposed the crashing water at the end of the sand…oh, and the waves!

We got cleaned up and had half a mind for a dinner that did not include fish, so we found an Italian restaurant started by an ex-pat that actually delivered the goods. We had to go through some lengths to pin point it because Google Maps was pretty worthless and there were no less than 5 different places with the same name…there really is no IP protection in Asia. The place was called Capannina and had some seriously good pizza and gnochi. Oh and also wine…oh man its been a while since we had wine and I don’t know if there is a more expensive liquid in all of SE Asia and I couldn’t tell you what kind of wine it was, but we drank it and were happy.

VJ and Danielle will meet back up with us tomorrow morning and we’ll hit Kata beach and maybe get into some shenanigans…

Pictures! Now in a smooth gallery format…

Phi Phi Island

We woke up in Railay and caught a ferry boat to the (in)famous Phi Phi Island. After our experience on the snorkeling trip we were sure to pay extra attention to which boat we got on and where it was going…I’d already been snorkeling and I didn’t need to go again thanks. The long boat took us to the ferry just off shore and after a very scenic 45 minute northwest trip through the Malacca Strait, we arrived at Phi Phi Island.

Okay, yes…Phi Phi is pronounced Pee Pee. Pee Pee Island, har har har you did it.

Phi Phi is actually 2 islands: Ko Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two is where all the tourists stay and all the night life is and all the traditional beach-y stuff exists: snorkeling trips, scuba, long bat rentals, hemp tatoos, etc. Ko Phi Phi Leh, just to the south, is (mostly) uninhabited. It’s claim to fame however is that Maya Bay, on the south eastern side, was the used as the setting for the movie The Beach.

We pulled into the port (and paid our annoying 20 Baht entry fee that of course no one told us about) and began the search for a place to stay. Accomodation on this rock varies from super-high-end to that-street-corner-over-there. We settled on a place close to the port so that we could be away from the noise of the raging beach parties on the northern bay of the island at night…crap that makes me sound old…in case we wanted to turn in earlier than everyone else. Pro Tip: No one ever turns in it seems.

Phi Phi is a party central. Thats really the best way to describe it. There are more tourists here than locals…mostly British or Australian from what I could gather…and all of them are like 20. Phi Phi Don must have been quite the site before all of this sprung up here…it is basically two mountains sticking up out of the sea with a thin beach connecting them. It is on this beach that everything is situated.

After we dropped our stuff off we packed up for a walk down and around the southern coast of the island to Long Beach, or Hat Yao. The walk was more of a hike really, with stretches that involved scrambling up rocks, using tree roots and stairs, and pulling your self up a slope with a rope. Whats more is that this is THE WAY to get to some of the accomodations on the island…imagining doing this with luggage (even worse rolling luggage) was enough to make the 150 Baht long tail boat ride worth it. We eventually made it to the beach and it was in fact as stunning as it was made out to be. A long white sand beach with a perfect view of Ko Phi Phi Leh in the distance. The beach provided perfect swimming and and was slightly shaded by the columns of palms behind. We ate a solid lunch at a beach side restuarant of papaya salad and curries and began our walk back.

Saddling back up, we trekked a little farther inland and began the 300m climb to the Pee Pee viewpoint. A strenuous walk (but paved at least) up to a (erm, lovely?) garden area that over-looked the whole region. This is a must do if you are on Phi Phi.

We resigned ourselves to beers on the north bay, Ao Lo Dalum, for sunset and got some pretty stunning pictures…or at least I hope so. VJ disappeared for like 30 minutes so I assume that is what was going on… After cleaning up a bit we went to dinner.

So this place is definitely mostly a tourist trap for younger travelers. Every restaurant and bar is playing music louder than the other one, and had 10000 pieces of flair, and it became pretty clear that if were going to get a decently authentic meal we were going to have to look a little harder. Blah Blah Blah authentic-whatever…but look, if I want spaghetti or and hamburger I don’t really think that a random restaurant in the middle of the ocean in Thailand is the place to get it. The effort paid off when we found ourselves at a very humble place called Papaya. The owner guaranteed us that it was the best food on the island and the ratio of Thai to non-Thai in the joint seemed to jive with his claim. I’ll simply say this: Best curry I have ever had to date in my life oh crap it was delicious.

After our meals we rolled (so…much…food) back over to the north beach to partake in some of the revelry. After a few beach rages, glow in the dark t shirts, tight-rope walking pirates, and fire jump ropes we called it a night. Tomorrow we will explore Ko Phi Phi Leh and then head to Phuket on the far western side of Thailand, just south of Myanmar/Burma on the Andaman Sea.






1- View of Ko Phi Phi Leh from Long Beach. Made me think of the scene in the The Beach where they are getting ready to swim.
2- Standard fare for a good time on Phi Phi Island.
3,4 – Views from the Phi Phi Island viewpoint. The first one gives a good idea about how the island is formed with the north bay being the one most visible in the picture.
5- Sunset on the beach on the north bay.

Captain Pajama Pants

I got scolded for the previous post not containing enough detail about Railey and how the beaches were gorgeous and about the rastafarian bar tender and about how Erin got peed on by bat. So here goes: the beaches were awesome, there was a rastafarian bar tender and a bat peed on Erin, might have been a monkey though.

Any way, on our last night on Railey we did a 7(ish) island snorkeling/dinner tour. Don’t get it in you head that this was some lavish boat and a nice meal, this was a cram-as-many-people-in-a-long-tail-as-possible type of operation. One thing about Thailand is that no one tells you what the hell is going on…ever. It maybe a language barrier thing, it may just be how things go, but we are all very accustomed to getting itineraries, routes, and procedures spelled out to us before hand. This was perfectly evidenced in the first 10 minutes of the snorkeling trip when 3 British girls in the back of the boat start talking about how they are headed to Ao Nang, a port just north of Railey, catch a bus to Bangkok; someone on the beach had told pointed them to a boat on the beach and they got aboard this one. It wasn’t until out crazy guide, dressed in nothing but tighty-whities and a bed sheet dropped anchor in the middle of the ocean, said: “Okay we snorkel now”, and jumped over board that they realized they were on the wrong boat.

I think we all a bit perplexed. There was sack of busted up masks and snorkels on the side of the boat so people began rummaging through looking for ones that fit. There was no passing them out before hand, no “hey guys you should start getting some gear together”, just “Okay we snorkel now” and a splash. By the time I had found a suitable mask and snorkel (no fins by the way), captain bed sheet pajama pants was already back aboard getting us ready to go to the next spot. It was fine, I was a more than a little annoyed at the packed boat and unavailability of gear…not to mentioned somewhat unnerved by these poor girls who were…just along for the ride. Erin got in though and snorkeled through this arched cave that is only visible at low tide…I think it is called a huong.

The tour moved on, this time to a shallower fishing spot. I know this because when we got there there were people fishing and captain pajama pants really didn’t figure that hooks in the water were all that big of a deal. Eventually, I guess through his refusal to turn off the engine, the fisherman left and people started getting in the water. People stopped after one of the people on the boat, a German girl, jumped in only to have her foot be greeted by a sea urchin…I swear the driver of the boat was going to pee on her foot until he remembered he had some lemons.

By our third stop, everyone had sort of worked out the equipment issues, though, it should be noted that I never found a snorkel that actually worked and we went in around another one of the giant limestone cliffs jutting out of the water. The water visibility wasn’t great but VJ said he saw a reef shark (harmless and really just big fish) and a German guy (of unknown relation to ol’ pee-foot) said he saw a sea snake (seriously venemous and LTFO).

Our fourth stop on the tour (we eventually worked out that this also counted and the fifth and sixth stops of the tour) was actually pretty magnificent. Just off an island called ‘Chicken Island’ is a little grouping of islands. Two of these islands (really just one I guess) is constantly joined by a beach about 300 yards long, but from the middle of this beach, stretching another 500 yards or so is a tiny little bit of sand that is only above water during low tide. This strip of sand connects to the third island in the chain and is the location for some of the best pictures (fingers crossed) that we took on the trip. It was really cool walking along the strait with waves crashing on both side of you…and even a little treacherous on the way back as the tide overtook the sand. We watched the sun set on the beach while captain PJs cooked up dinner. I can’t tell you what it was because by the time it was done it was pitch black dark…there was rice, there was coconut…that’s all I got.

I’ve portrayed this trip so far as being kind of terrible but the truth is that I was probably being a bit of a grump truck, and it really only cost like $5 a piece. This little bit…the disappearing beach, the sunset, a beer, would have been worth the whole thing. We spent the last few minutes kicking the water and getting the bioluminescence to glow…more on that in a minute, and the stranded girls finally got a boat to where they were going.

A crap, just as I wrote something nice about this trip the motor on our stupid long tail boat decided to take a break from operating. After (kind of expertly actually) pointing the boat at a random shoreline and beaching the thing captain PJs and the driver went to work fixing it…apparently it was overheated and needed coolant because they had us passing back or water bottles to use. They got it working again though, and we circled around Railey to the east side of the beach and jumped in the water one last time in a spot that hid the moon from us.

Bioluminescence is by all means a form of underwater voodoo, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the coolest things you ever see. Every movement in the water triggers little planktons to light up like green fire flies. I must have spent 20 minutes just lying perfectly still in the water and quickly flicking fingers open from a closed fist to watch the “sparks” shoot out. To quote VJ: “This is better than drugs.” If you ever get the chance to swim at night in water with these little buggers, I highly recommend it…definately one of the highlights.

The tour was over and we headed back to get changed and hit up our favorite little lounge-mat bar and had some beers and a surprisingly excellent pizza. Erin, who insisted on a covered area this time to avoid a second bat-shower, eventually slumped into a sleep. We took her cue and went to bed.

Railey was one of my favorite places we went on the trip, and was certainly my favorite place we went in Thailand. It was (the beginning of) a nice break from big cities and suited my ideal pace just fine. I’d recommend anyone visiting the area to check it out. Off to Phi Phi Island tomorrow…

Sorry, no pictures here…didn’t bring our phones out on the boat…