A 3AM wakeup this morning for our 6AM flight left both Tarryne and I totally exhausted. We hopped in a taxi to the airport and boarded our plane as the sun came up. Unfortunately for me, the flight was turbulent due to a rainstorm, so I clenched my jaws for the entire 2 hours. Being unable to relax is the most awful feeling, especially when everyone else on the plane is asleep around you. Non-anxious people, please know how jealous I am of you!
We flew from the north of Thailand to one of its southernmost points, and we aren’t actually very far from our beloved Langkawi. Admittedly, Langkawi has much better weather – we’ve had three or four flash floods today, and we miss the predictability of the 5-7pm Malaysian rain.
Our taxi driver took us to Tiger Cave temple as per our request. The temple itself is housed within a cave that a tiger once lived in, but ran away once Buddhist monks and nuns had moved in. Now all that remains of this magnificent creature are vibrant, almost garish sculptures of its likeness. I found this quite sad, personally – just another example of wildlife being destroyed by human settlement.
The site itself is a massive complex, in the process of building a new pagoda. Some of its inhabitants are adorable cats and dogs that the monks look after. Others are not so nice, and these “monk-eys” (pardon the terrible pun) take care of themselves. Tarryne had to pack her camera away, for fear these little bastards would steal it and sell it on Ebay.
To escape them, and to say we’d done it, we decided to hike the 1207 incredibly steep steps up to the top of the nearest mountain. I wanted to die about 100 steps in, but somehow we pressed through. Unfortunately the rainstorm that had been the cause of my earlier flight anxiety caught up with us, and tipped it down as we walked up. By this point, though, we were 800 steps in and it would have felt wrong to give up. That didn’t mean I didn’t complain like hell, though.
As I reached the top, the lady caretakers seemed incredibly surprised to see a drenched, huffing and puffing white tourist arising over the threshold. I waited a little for Tarryne, and we tucked into our cheese sandwiches like ravenous dogs. Unfortunately one of the temple’s actual dogs had also clambered the steps, and was hanging about in the hopes of getting a bit of our sandwiches. I felt guilty, but I was pretty hungry myself, and the monks wouldn’t let me anyway.
We ate a load of salty crisps and watched the rain come down. We clapped as a group of three cute Chinese tourists reached the finish line. One of them made a beeline for the closest pillar and hugged it for a bit, clinging onto it for dear life whilst he caught his breath. The view from the top was worth it, though, and if it had been a clear day we would have been able to see far more.
It was only 11AM when we got down to the bottom, but it felt a lot later. We chatted to a French lady who had been travelling since April, and she departs for Brittany tomorrow. That will be us this weekend. How strange it is to think that our gap month is coming to an end, after all these months of planning!
We went to our apartment, and once again, headed straight out. In search of cheap beach towels, we went to the famed Ao Nang Beach, a tourist trap in this part of the world. Tarryne and I feel like we’ve been spoiled, growing up in Dorset: we have some of the best beaches in the country, so other beaches frequently pale in comparison. Ao Nang is one of these beaches, although I’m sure it’s really lovely if you don’t live by the sea. I did see a furry coconut, though, a real highlight considering I’ve only seen the rubbishy green ones.
After finding some not-ripoff towels in a weird Chinese shop nearby, we headed home for the evening at the early time of 3pm. Since we are both exhausted, all we’ve been able to do is eat Pepperidge Farm cookies and watch TV. We decided to finally watch Entrapment, a 1999 film set in Kuala Lumpur, mainly to shout “been there” at the Petronas Towers. Creepy though it was, we can at least tick off one of many films we’ve made for our “holiday watch/playlist”.
Tomorrow we get a boat to the Phi Phi islands, weather permitting. The beaches there are famous for being absolutely stunning, so with a bit of luck, I’ll see some beaches good enough to rival Greece – my spiritual homeland.