We flew into Bangkok in the morning (after two glorious weeks in Vietnam) and were on an 18-hour sleeper train to Chiang Mai by 7 pm. We rented bikes and wandered around the city. We ate everything.
Matt found a ride north by local bus for $2. We grabbed our oversized packs and rode four hours to Chiang Dao. Our bed that night was in a hut with a floor mattress, the going rate of $5 a night. We spent Thanksgiving hiking in the national park, conning our way on to the trail, begging the guard to let us go even though we didn't have a guide (he let us through.) I fell so many times, muddied my clothes and cut up my hands. Shoeless guides swiftly passed us, luggage of tourists' carried on their heads.
That night we ate at Chiang Dao Nest 2, a Thai take on Western food. It did not disappoint our very southern pallets.
During our time in Thailand we took an uncountable number of sleep trains, broke down local busses, scooters, bikes, planes and sailboats. We almost missed our bus back to Chiang Mai, the comedic sight of our reflections in the passing store mirrors as we ran with fat packs on our back to make the bus that was leaving us is ever engraved in my mind.
We hung out in Chiang Mai for a few more days, taking a cooking class and visiting temples while continuing to eat everything.
Our flight to Krabi was a quick hop. We booked a quaint guesthouse with two beds in the room as Matt's brother was meeting us in the famous city.
We rented scooters and hopped around the surrounding villages. Wanting to spend some much needed time in the water we found a local spot that rented kayaks for 1/3rd of the price we had seen in adjacent towns. A tiny man lay asleep in a hammock underneath a picnic table and we realized we were in the right place.
The water, already severely low was dark as night. We made our way into a crooks and caves, battling the ever changing current.
We spent 45 minutes watching the local monkeys swing from limb to limb, calling at one another in playful tones, perhaps even giving us the show we so eagerly wanted.
On our way out, again and again we slipped quietly into the mud, dragging our kayaks through what felt like quick sand, eager to surface out of the now waterless oasis that sang buzzing songs of rock and mammal.
Our first longtail trip came on a Tuesday. Matt had been eager for it, desperately excited to ride the boat that uses a second hand truck engine as a motor and has mastered the delicate line of functionality and beauty.
The tide was high and even so, we climbed into the cave at the end of Railey beach, ready to see what magic it held or did not hold. The lagoon was a vision, light poured through rock cracks and we watched, plotting a way to scramble down the sharpest rocks we've ever seen to land in the lagoon of waves and wonder.
That day we ate grilled corn from a longtail. The beautiful women cooking offered deep lined smiles and friendly greetings. It was a day well spent and we burned like lobsters despite the cloud coverage that rolled in.
The next day I woke before the boys and wandered around until I found a quaint coffee shop called May & Marks. I fell in love with their handmade ceramic mugs and the owner sold two of them to me for $4. We took the scooters back to Ao Nang and waded across the water until we reached the tiny island with coves and caves. A few people were naked and I thought it's that lovely, and we all floated through the rocks as rain began pouring in.
And then it rained for three days straight. That lead us to eat more food and drink more beer.
As Mike headed north we made our way south to get on the long awaited trip with the Sailing Collective, eager to ramble through the Andaman Sea for seven days straight.