This is my first experience of ‘real Asia’, many see Singapore as the most Western country in South East Asia. Thailand seems to be a right of passage for many young Australians and more increasingly as flights have become increasingly cheaper more Europeans in their late teens and early twenties flock to the islands.
My first stop was Krabi an island off mainland Thailand. Krabi is a lot bigger than what I had imagined. There is a lot of development happening in regards to buildings and infrastructure but it is still a long shot from western standards. I was surprised to see that some restaurants juice bars didn’t actually have running water installed for kitchen use. It suddenly dawned on me how hepatitis injections are really important. Some family restaurants/ juice bars were literally a room and at the back of the room would be their toddlers and babies . Shop owners worked very long hours and Thailand is by far the poorest place I have visited thus far in Asia. So far I have seen Malaysia, Delhi, Singapore and the Maldives. The desperation of a need to make a short term buck lingers in the air. This is supported by some market stall owners that make up ridiculous prices because you are a westerner. I happily pulled one woman up on her ridiculous quote for a mango. The price she quoted me was twice the price of a mango in a local convenience store.
I understand to an extent that locals need to make a living but such actions will deter people from shopping at markets and they will just give their money to big supermarkets. In Singapore I do the same. I Just shop at Fairprice or even extortionate Cold Storage rather than being quoted an ‘expat price.’ by a local.
Krabi has a lot of mopeds in fact it is really Thailand’s main mode of transport. I caught a Tuk Tuk and had my eyes closed for 90% of the journey! It is basically a moped with a leather roof on. Other island taxis are Utes and people just pile in the open boot. Health and safety doesn’t seem to exist. Seeing a family of 3 on a moped is pretty normal.
Krabi itself is too busy and a bit like a building site. It’s pretty hard to relax and unwind there. But you can catch a sea taxi 10mins 100baht for the week to Railay, which is picturesque, and everything you would imagine a beach break to be. There are a lot of restaurants that are on Krabi a few are fantastic and others are mediocre. You really can eat as cheap or as expensive as you like. Jenna’s bistro was a godsend the portions were small but the quality is amazing and you can choose from local Thai dishes or Western dishes. Hygiene there is really good too.
I decided to go island hopping and took an 8-hour journey 2 buses 2 catamaran’s to Koh Tao. Koh Tao is a divers haven and it is more of the Thai experience I was looking for. It was less ‘Benidorm’ than Krabi. It is more rustic but with that you get rustic technology too. Hotels like Thipwimarn advertise wifi but the Wi-Fi didn’t even work for the staff checking in and from reviews is a common thing. Wi-Fi for me is an essential so after paying $100 a night I was disappointed with the false advertisement. The plus sides are the rooms and bungalows are high in the hills and surrounded by tropical gardens which overlook the ocean. Furnishing is to a high standard. It is a 4* and is suitably rated.
English is not a given, there are as many people that speak fluent English to those that don’t speak English at all. At times I found communication difficult and used a lot of pointing and broken English. It does get a bit exhausting but I am a guest in another country and haven’t ever attempted to speak one word of Thai so I can’t really complain.