Teaching English in Thailand, Traveling, Bone-Dry Humor, Other Stuff Too

Krabi and Travels in Southern Thailand

After two days and one night in Bangkok, I decided to get away immediately. The reality that I was abroad and would be for a long time, the dumping rain, the immediate feeling of isolation, and the uncertainty of the conditions I would face at work all made me anxious. I found myself asking, “What am I doing?” in a way I never could back home, even though I had tried to mentally prepare. Bangkok is a labyrinthine, congested, urban kidney-punch, and although I knew it was only my own mental state that I needed to change, I had to get out of there.

So on the second night, I found my way to the Southern Bus Terminal, ate something yellow, wasted 30 minutes looking for ticketing before I realized “first floor” refers to the first floor from the sky downwards (isn’t that stupid?), and took an overnight bus for 10 hours to Krabi. I checked into the Pak-Up hostel in Krabi Town at 8:30 a.m. and just as I was walking into the room, the three previous occupants were vacating it. I talked to them for a bit, then found out they were Cal Poly students studying abroad. It was the weirdest coincidence to have traveled to the other side of the world only to meet people from the college in my small hometown, especially considering that I would’ve missed them had I arrived five minutes later or if they had been ready to leave earlier.

WP_20141008_002

View from Pak-Up of the ocean canal running through Krabi Town

I was hoping for a change of scenery and a more traveler-friendly vibe in Krabi, but I found much more than that. I feel like Pak-Up was a big reason because the low price and laid-back yet communal atmosphere attracted all kinds of travelers. I met backpackers from Canada, Australia, Holland, England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Vietnam, and many other countries, all a mix of big or small groups and fellow solo travelers. Within a few hours, just by sitting around in the lounge area and looking sentient, I found out where the coolest places in the area to go were, how to get there, how much it would cost, and how long it would take, in addition to meeting other people to go with. The first day, I walked up 1,000 stairs or something dramatic to a giant gold statue of Buddha and a panoramic view of miles of coastline, giant crazy rocks jutting up everywhere and teeming with jungle, and palm and rubber trees growing as far as I could see.

WP_20141008_014

At the top of the huge stairway at the Tiger Temple

Over the course of my five days there, I went to Railay Beach, Ao Nang, a big emerald pool in a forest whose name defies memory, toured around on motor scooters through the areas surrounding Krabi, and eventually took a bus/boat joint trip to the island Koh Phangan. A few Dutch people, an Australian, an Englishman, and some Germans and Canadians were the core group I traveled with during this time, and the experience was much more fulfilling now that I could share it. The two biggest highlights from this time were Railay Beach and the motor scooter shenanigans. Railay is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and on the way to the main beach area, there was a muddy rope leading up the side of a hill to an amazing view. We climbed over rocks and branches at a very steep grade, and the rope and ground were slippery from recent rain, but it was worth it.

The motor scooter days may have been the best part, though. We rented them for roughly six U.S. dollars per day, and we suddenly had the freedom to go anywhere. We picked out a few major points of interest each day, but had the flexibility and spontaneity to investigate obscure roads and paths that looked interesting. We rode through villages in the jungle, met locals, saw views of awesome mountains, and passed dozens of big shrimp farms. One day some little kids ran out into the street and wanted to talk to us, so we pulled over and found ourselves playing soccer with them. They treated us like celebrities. When they heard I was from America, they would get this gleam in their eyes, look to the sky, and declare “America.” It’s hard to describe why that afternoon in particular was so good, but something about the pure joy and unabashed curiosity of the little kids was so cool–infectious, even–to witness, especially for me, since I knew in a few days I would part with the group to go teach Thai munchkins of my own.

WP_20141008_024

Artsy shot of mountains and jungle from underneath the temple

Staying in hostels has shown me how traveling and backpacking are a culture and way of life that can carry the aimless and the determined alike to places they never anticipate, over spans of time they only keep extending. I met a man who had traveled all across Asia for over a year so far, and each day he woke up without a clue where he would sleep that night. He made plans quickly and suddenly, or just not at all. He said he could go back home and make enough money in two months to live modestly as a budget traveler in Asia for another two years. This type of thing became increasingly normal to me, and I found myself more and more enticed by the idea of being a traveler and learning how to live off the equivalent of about three dollars a day. Some days I have spent less than two dollars, granted that I’m now paying monthly rent as well. But I still buy meals and pay for transportation daily. Hearing everybody’s lists of places they’ve gone, places yet to go, lives back home, and future plans both for traveling and afterwards blew my mind. I still feel adventurous for coming to teach in Thailand, but my frame of reference for what is a long or daring trip, or a feasible strategy of getting from one place to the next (physically, mentally, and professionally) has grown like crazy.

5 Comments

  1. nanruesch's Gravatar nanruesch
    November 18, 2014    

    Your writings and pictures are awesome.
    especially liked the part about the kids and the old may by the river,
    you write candidly and refreshingly.

  2. Franziska's Gravatar Franziska
    November 18, 2014    

    Derek, sounds like a fabulous adventure. I look forward to reading more from you.

  3. November 18, 2014    

    Hi Derek,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Look forward to more.
    How long are you scheduled to be there?
    Noelle and I had to get out of Bangkok too. We decided we don’t enjoy 3rd world countries much.

    • Derek Rueschenberg's Gravatar Derek Rueschenberg
      November 24, 2014    

      Hey, John. Glad you liked it. I’ll be working here for another three months, traveling to some other Asian countries for up to a month afterwards, and then I’m looking to teach abroad in a Spanish-speaking country for awhile.

  4. Shirley Stack's Gravatar Shirley Stack
    November 21, 2014    

    Hey Derek, Wonderful reading your blog!! You are having a great adventure in Asia. I love your adventurous attitude. Enjoy every minute you have. Please put me on the list to receive your future blogs. I was in Thailand some years ago . also was in Krabi and Phi Phi Island. I understand your excitement.

Leave a Reply to Shirley Stack Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>