I sat in a Krabi hostel lounge, wrapped in a light breeze. I was treated to an orchestra of tropical birds and insects. Chirps, buzzes, tunes, drums, and tinny vibrations. I wondered at the ferocity of the periodic rains that would crash down and then vanish. Eventually, I got the itch to do something. I overheard a couple of Californians nearby discussing their plans to see this beach and that town, and for a moment I felt I should be going somewhere too.
But I stayed put. We had had terrific three days of walking, trains, and buses to do and see and eat in Singapore. Then there was a half day of trains, planes, and taxi to get to Thailand. Now it was time to just not do. No transport, no adventures, no sights, no nothing.
Rest gets boring after a bit. Even after days of fun and roaming, a couple hours of sitting still makes me restless. But that’s the magic of it. Boredom gives me room to notice the little things, to enjoy and take part in the hello’s and thank you’s with the locals. Boredom inspires creativity and spring loads the search for adventure. It amplifies the colors, the smells, the sounds of a place. So I let boredom expand.
Krabi is at the bend in Thailand’s knee, bordered on the south by a bay that joins the Andaman Sea with the Malacca Strait. It has unique mountains, orange rock streaked from top to bottom with black stains of sediment leeched from within, topped off with fluffy green forest. At night the jagged lighter sections loom like giant phantoms in the dark sky. Water drips continuously from the tops of the cliffs onto the beaches below, forming blunt, black stalactites. Some of them have reached the ground in thick columns from stunning heights, creating the effect of a walking mountain.
On sections of the Railay beach sand, I thought I was under open sky only to discover water falling in little plips and plops near me. Looking up, I found myself underneath huge portions of rock hanging out past the base of the cliff. They must have been a good thirty yards out from the base.
After a few days of quiet in Krabi, we took a long boat to the famed Railay Beach. The water is crystal clear on the beaches when they are undisturbed by long boats. Individual grains of the powdery sand are visible through the waves. In the morning, schools of small silver fish drift just beyond the break.
The tide rises and falls dramatically in the morning and afternoon. Every six hours, dry sandy paths along restaurants and resorts are replaced by several feet of ocean. It’s a bit unnerving to walk with heavy packs, knee deep, through the tugging waves. We’ve learned to time our moves accordingly.
People in Krabi remind me of the Balinese. The culture is quiet and easy going, with an underlying adherence to politeness and respect that becomes fierce upon violation. In a place where people don’t have much in the material sense, dignity is a person’s most prized possession. Much effort goes into greeting, holding hands together and bowing the head, with a warm smile. It’s surprising to see even the dark, tough-looking, tattooed men breaking into smiles when sincerely greeted. Attention to custom, especially with hello’s and thank you’s, are very much appreciated. This is characteristic of places that are overrun with tourists.
People here are punctual. Two other tourists we met had missed a long boat ride because they arrived on the minute of departure. Krabians (made that up) are also thorough and careful about taking care of business. I’ve had very good experiences booking rides and tours, and finding my way around town.
Unfortunately in Railay beach, where we’ve been for a few days, there aren’t many locals outside of the businesses. This place is a tourist trap in a sense, designed for the foreign consumer. It’s hard to even find a market here. My interactions with locals have mostly been with restaurant and hotel staff. Still, we’ve met quite a few wonderful people.
The lady in charge at Railay Family restaurant was plainly very happy to see us there for the second time for dinner. The chef at Rayavadee’s restaurant, The Grotto, came out to generously address my questions about the butter he used. Our canoe tour guide affectionately said I looked like a local with my dark skin and sarong. Even the long boat drivers have been friendly and welcoming. The receptionists and hosts and staff at the places we stayed were all wonderful. There was hardly a corner turned where a smile and greeting weren’t received. We’re really going to miss it here.
It’s rare to really feel at home, even in one’s hometown. To feel at home on the other side of the planet, now that’s an irreplaceable gem of travel. Time to head north into the mainland.