Sunday 24th December 2000 Day 12

Woke up around 7:00am and immediately put the telly on to try and get the football scores for yesterday's games. The only score to be shown was Rangers 1 Hibernian 0. Who the hell in Outer Mongolia wanted to know that score?? Surely the BBC World Service can appreciate the global attraction of the Premier League and the utter irrelevance of the Scottish league??

We went up to the Ocean Cliff for breakfast and wow! It was excellent! A help yourself buffet, which we had already paid for, meant we could eat until full! With boiled egg, fried egg, omelette, tomato, toast making machine, yoghurts, fruits, choice of 4 fruit juices, and lovely coffee, plus bacon, sausage, and a ham-like thing for the carnivores, there was plenty to eat! This speaks volumes for our measurement of quality, but after breakfast this resort leapt in our estimation! Julie noticed that the couple we bumped into at Heathrow were sitting down for breakfast. Despite the fact we'd all booked through Kuoni, it was still quite a coincidence to be at the same hotel. Apparently they had gone to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, and then came down to Krabi a day before we arrived. They were staying here for the remainder of their holiday and going home before New Years Day.

At 9am we were off on our tour. The jeep was ready and waiting for us. It was a rusty heap of a jeep. Not the luxury of a new Toyota that we had become accustomed! The young slip of a girl from reception showed us to the jeep, and then popped into the drivers seat. This threw me as her diminutive size made me think she was far too young to drive!

Anyway, she drove very well, a lot better than yesterday's driver who gave you the impression that the brakes had failed!

We reached the Shell Cemetery, or 'Gastropod Fossils' as the road signs described it, within no time. It was a National Park site, and so we had to pay to get in, (but that was included in our tour price).

We only walked down to see area no.4, and despite being an impressive 75 million years old, it did look like some old concrete jetty in disrepair!

We had a quick look around the market stalls selling seashell nick-nacks on the seashore. They were really pushing some awful pearl jewellery onto us, so we bought some small tacky gifts just to keep them quiet.

Next stop was Wat Tham Sua, the Tiger Cave temple. It was slightly north of Krabi, and as we drove towards it I noticed this amazing temple right on top of a large outcrop, one those strange lumps of rock in the middle of nowhere. (Are they called 'karst'?) What an incredible sight. We arrived at the foot of this mountain, and were shown the main cave temple.

It wasn't so much a cave, but a bit of a hole in the side of the cliff, which housed the altar, and Buddha statue.

Four monks were sat on a raised platform. I guess they were holding a small service for those knelt before them. I did feel a bit intrusive but it didn't stop me getting my camera out and taking a few pictures.

So I mustn't have been that guilt ridden.

They had built onto the cliff side an extension outwards to house the congregation plus a small museum-like display and a small shop.

They also had images of the founder of this temple. A peculiar looking bald headed bloke with spectacles enshrined as a gold leaf statue was a stark contrast to the enigmatic Buddha statues.

Apparently images of other deities are meant to be quite common in most temples.

We moved along the base of the cliff to the beginning of some steps that eventually took you to the top. Here we had the option of climbing 1237 steps to the summit, or just 200 steps to the forest temple where many monks and monkeys gathered.

Julie and Hannah went with the guide in the opposite direction towards the forest, whilst I accepted the challenge of the 1237 steps!

After only 300 steps I was already regretting my foolishness!

I wasn't even 25% of the way up, and my legs ached, my back ached, my head felt light and dizzy, and I was totally out of breath. With the midday sun beating down on me, I was in danger of passing out!

Luckily I had with me a bottle of water, and I had to stop at every corner of the zig zag of the steps to re-hydrate. Both inwardly, and outwardly. I filled my hat with water and placed it on my head!

This was the pattern for the rest of the climb up. Pushing myself through about a hundred steps at a time, from one base camp, to another. Sitting down, taking a moment to catch my breath, and cooling down with cold water and a mini motorised fan. I must have looked such a pathetic sight!

I was however floundering in my own company until about 900 steps when a bunch of school kids overtook me with great ease.

As I tried to keep up with their pace, my legs buckled beneath me. I had to sit down on the steps, and go through my two minute recovery process of deep, slow breaths, then filling my hat with water and replacing it on my head, letting the cold water trickle down the back of my neck.

Then simulating a cool breeze by fanning myself down with the mini propellers.

A group of lads decided to keep me company for which I will be forever grateful! At this stage I was really suffering. Every step I took was painful. There were times when I thought I couldn't possibly take another step, but I did.

The lads were keeping my mind occupied by asking me questions about football, and where was I from, and so on. They didn't know where Wales was, so I ended up saying I wasn't far from Manchester!

That was until the name Ryan Giggs was recognised, and associated with the land of my fathers. Before I knew it the end was in sight!

A strange feeling of achievement filled me, and there must have been an adrenalin rush as I marched up the last 30 steps! It was such a relief to have survived!

As soon as I stepped onto the summit there was this guy who was obviously a shrewd businessman, and knew that it's all about location, location, location!

He couldn't of picked a better spot to sell his ice-cold bottles of water! And despite charging extortionate prices he was making a roaring trade. I bought three large bottles, one for the summit, and two for the climb down. The view from the top was superb!

I could see the mountain ranges to the North East, the coastline to the West. A worthy reward for my efforts. In fact, it was my sense of accomplishment that filled my thoughts more than anything.

I must of spent 15 minutes at the mountain top temple. Taking photographs of the chedi, the shrine, and the lads who effectively carried me to the top! I noticed a few people walking up to the altar, and striking a large bell. One lad, who had excellent English, asked me if I was a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Christian, and I replied that I was more Buddhist than anything else.

That's when I decided to go up to the altar, showed my respect to Buddha by bowing my head, and holding my hands together. Then I struck the bell with a solid iron bar. I closed my eyes and allowed the deep resonance wash over me.

For a brief moment my mind and my body were separated. They did come crashing back together as the sound trailed off into a low hum, and the aching muscles in my legs and lower back reminded me that they were still there!

I started to make my descent, and all the school kids came down with me. It didn't feel anywhere near as bad coming down the steps. In fact we came down without once stopping for breath, let alone collapsing in a heap! One girl belched loudly and all the lads shouted at once, "Buffalo"! She wasn't at all embarrassed by it, and two minutes later she belched again, even louder! And so was the chorus of Buffalo! Most of the way down I was deep in conversation with the lad with the good English. We were talking music, and we connected with Jimi Hendrix! Both singing lines out of Purple Haze, and both squealing the twiddly guitar sounds! He also asked me about my family, and although I had told him I had a wife and daughter waiting for me at the bottom, he asked me if I had a girlfriend waiting also! He must have seen us with the guide, perhaps? And assumed, because it is a common practice amongst Thai men, that I had brought along my other woman for a Sunday jaunt! Near the end, a couple from Finland were just embarking on their climb, so we both warned them to take their time! At the bottom of the steps Hannah and Julie were waiting for me, along with my new girlfriend! I had done the climb in 90 minutes, which was good going for a desk job.

Julie told me that their 200 steps was hard work, but also rewarding as they found monks meditating in their alcoves and huts, and countless monkeys hovering around the people walking up the steps. They were asked, instead of donating, if they could carry some sand up the steps as they were constructing a new building in the forest area. If we ever return both Julie and Hannah can rightfully say they helped to build that temple! She also said that a group of school kids asked Hannah if they could have their picture taken with here! They were smitten with her!

It was time for lunch and we left the Tiger Cave and headed back into Krabi town. We turned into a local restaurant and sat outside in the open air. The whole place had a certain charm with its wooden huts, but that charm also raised concerns over their standard of hygiene. Julie did say that if there were ever a time we'd get diarrhoea it would be now! The four of us shared four bowls of food, a green curry, a stir-fry veg, a seaweed stew, and a bean curd sweet and sour. They were all absolutely delicious and we all thoroughly enjoyed them all. Perhaps with the exception of the seaweed, because it was seaweed, and tasted like you had swallowed half the ocean!

The final leg of this guided tour was an hour in Krabi town to do some shopping. We were taken to the only shopping centre in town, and it was more of a market hall crossed with a department store. It kept us occupied for an hour though! We bought a pile of crisps, chocolate and beer! All at over half the price of the mini bar in our room! Bargain! I also bought a plastic Tak-Raw ball, (they're usually made from wicker). They play the game similar to volleyball, but only use their legs. And as if lunch hadn't filled us enough, Hannah and I enjoyed freshly made pancakes from a stall inside the store! (Right next to the menswear and ladies shoes?) They were truly scrumptious! They had a huge selection of fillings. Pots full of strange luminous colours, which we had no idea what flavours they were. We decided to go for the only colour we recognised, … chocolate!

We were back at our hotel by 2:45pm, and as the sun was shining we went straight down to the beach for our first proper sunbathe! Hooray! Lazying in the sun was just perfect. My aches and pains dissolved under the warmth of the sun. Before too long a dark rain cloud swallowed up the sun and we left the beach and made our way up to the swimming pool area. It was about 4pm by now. Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and it rained quite heavily. It was such a refreshing down pour though as the air was very hot and humid, but the raindrops were actually cold! All the restaurant staff peered out of their overlooking window laughing at us westerners getting excited over a bit of rain! Julie overheard an old lady tell her partner "See how lovely rain can be in a country like this!" We returned to our room, and sat out on our balcony, just having a beer, stuffing our chocolate, and watching the rain fall down through the leaves of the coconut trees around us. It was here I noticed the strange phenomenon of actually getting a cold draft coming from the inside! I had to close the door on the air-conditioned room because it was too cold!

It was time to get showered and dressed up for the Christmas Eve Gala Evening Dinner. But before dinner, first it was to the lobby for Happy Hour! That meant half priced cocktails, so we bought four between the three of us. Gin Fizzes and Tequila Sunrises all around! We had previously tried phoning home but there was no reception on the mobile at this resort. We had to use the phone in the lobby. It was 7pm here so it was 12noon at home. I needed to know the football results! United beat Ipswich 2-0 thanks to Ole Solskjaer, yippee! Apparently Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-0, booh! hiss!!

We moved on to the Gala Evening, which was held at the Ocean Cliff restaurant. There was an obscene amount of food on display, but none of it suitable for vegetarians, except for the boiled rice! We had earlier in the day booked our table, and noticed that they were hard at work putting up all the Christmas decorations. Luckily at that time we had mentioned that we were veggie and the staff said that the chef will prepare something for Hannah and I. After ten minutes of getting confused looks from the waitresses, we eventually got sense from someone more senior who told us our food was on its way. Julie enjoyed a plate full of buffet meats, but was then disappointed after I told her that she had missed the Roast Turkey and Roast Beef . She did go back for a small amount of the traditional fayre but was already full after her first plate. The veggie selection came as a bowl of soup, and a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce. They tasted fine, but not exactly what I was expecting. Where was the green curry?

After the food had been served the entertainment began. Children from a local school had been asked to perform for us, from kindergarten age up to Hannah's age. The traditional elements of the show were excellent as they performed a nail dance, and sung traditional Thai songs.

They then mixed in western influences by dressing two little Xylophone players in Santa outfits, and had the choir attempting to sing Christmas Carols in English.

The two little Santa's cuteness made you forget about their exploitation but the cringing performance of the choir, as they struggled with the words of 'Silent Night', did make you feel sorry for them. It did tarnish an otherwise excellent show.

We left around 10pm because I was falling asleep at the table! I guess the day's activity had taken a lot out of me! Hannah wanted to go down to the beach at midnight to wish ourselves a Merry Xmas, I on the other hand had no intention of staying awake past 10:05pm! I was woken up though at midnight by Hannah just to let me know she was going outside onto the balcony to take a picture of herself? Some time later, she got up again, in what must have been a sleep walk, and headed for the door again. Julie asked her where she was going? She replied "I'm going out" "But you've already been out" answered Julie, to which Hannah said "Out? I'm not going out!" turned around and walked into the bathroom! Hee hee hee!

Day 13>>

ęCopyright 2000 - 2020