We entered southern Thailand excited for spicy food and beautiful beaches. Our first stop was Rai Leh – only accessible by boat since towering limestone cliffs cut off access to rest of the mainland. Rock climbers from all over the world flock to this area to climb the many bolted routes up the limestone cliff faces. The area around Rai Leh contains three beaches: Phra Nang Beach, Rai Leh East and Rai Leh West.
The three beaches are connected by several inland trails. We enjoyed picking new trails everyday to reach the beaches. We often encountered crab-eating macaques and dusky leaf langurs. The langurs are nicknamed ‘sunglass monkeys’ due to the white circles that ring each eye giving them the appearance of wearing glasses. The also had super long tails!
Rai Leh is surrounded by many limestone islands that contain caves and subterranean passages. We rented a kayak and and set out for a day of cave and island exploring. Dan took an awesome video of one of our cave voyages below. On one of the crossings, we spotted numerous, large, bright pink jellyfish (video below).
Phra Nang Beach has an interesting shrine that is dedicated to the spirit of a drowned princess. What makes the shrine notable are the dozens of carved red-tipped phalluses – aka lingas – left by fishermen seeking her blessing and to ensure safe travel.
One of our friends that we met in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia, lured us to Ko Tao with the promise of incredible scuba diving. Melissa was part of our four person open water dive course and we were excited to meet up with her again. She had completed over 20 dives in Ko Tao since we parted ways in Malaysia!
We decided to take the night boat from Chumphon, which was a “cozy” experience. If you laid down on the bed and stretched your arms out, you could literally cross the two beds on either side, so it was like we were packed sardines in a can. We lucked out since there was an empty bed by me so we had a little more room.
Dan had been sick for a day at this point and he ended up being hotel-quarantined for our four days on Ko Tao. While Dan recovered, I spent the four days with Melissa diving and exploring the island with her new friends. I completed my deep water certification at the Southwest Pinnacle dive site (I’m now certified to dive to 30 meters!). The pinnacles at Southwest are carpeted with hundreds of colorful anemones. We also saw a giant barracuda that had a long line and hook trailing from its mouth after a (somewhat) successful escape from a fisherman.
Dan decided to take an antibiotic after 5 days of sickness and as we left Ko Tao (this time not on the night boat) he slowly started to feel better. This was good timing because the next day was his birthday! We celebrated in Bangkok at a Mexican restaurant with food and margaritas that were almost as good as back home.
We decided to leave Thailand and head to Cambodia to explore the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat. We hope to have time to head to Northern Thailand after traveling through Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam!
On another note, Dan uploaded full sets of photos from our explorations on the North Island of New Zealand (photos from the South Island coming soon!) to his photo website dancoephoto.com. Check them out!