Coming back to the Krabi travelogue of sorts, I will now try my best to recount the most memorable parts of the trip.
As already mentioned, we were very worried about the budget that we had set for ourselves. SO's elaborate excel spreads had come in handy while booking hotels and planning hypothetical food expenditure. I had read about a bus service to key locations in Krabi, including Ao Nang beach where we were staying. However, all internet resources that pointed to this had clearly mentioned that this was more of a peak season affair (roundabout October - January). We'd mentally prepared ourselves for a 700 baht taxi ride to our hotel and had pretty much come to terms with it. But a brilliant sight welcomed us as we walked out through customs at Krabi airport. Not only was the airport bus service available, but it would cost us only a fraction of the cab. 150 baht per person, and the bus dropped us right outside our hotel at one end of Ao Nang - Krabi Resort!
Now, at the time of reservation, we weren't sure whether we had booked a sea-view room or not. Internet reservations are always vague and I'm usually happy just to get a confirmed room. We'd booked a Deluxe cottage at Krabi resort, later realizing that there was another lot which were the Deluxe Sea View ones. On check-in, we tried our luck with the seaview request and got a pleasant surprise. Although the rows of seaview cottages were fully booked, they had one suite-like cottage left which had a partial seaview. We grabbed it, at no extra cost! The room was breathtaking, the view even better. With a comfortable living room and a huge bathroom (shower and bath-tub separate), only the view was able to lure us out. 10 meters and we were at the beach. Slippers in our hands, we went for a walk along the water towards main Ao Nang. The walk was shorter than we expected. Having seen the beach area of Pattaya and Patong beach in Phuket, Ao Nang was nowhere close. A handful of shops, restaurants and tour operators were scattered around. I don't recall seeing any people, not even tourists.
After freshening up, we realized that the long plane journey had left us famished. We grabbed a quick bite at Black Canyon Coffee, waited for the sudden downpour to subside and took a stroll. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, there was not a single shop or restaurant that looked open for business. Coming from overcrowded and busy India, Krabi was the sleepy town that was restricted to the books we read. The tranquility was unimaginable. SO and I sat on benches where the waves broke and were so taken in by the view that it was a while before either of us suggested that we explore the area a little more and decide on our POA for the following day. Exhausted from the late night flight and hardly any sleep, we called it a night rather early, just so that we could be fresh for the next day. We were renting a bike!
Well, the bike rental was not a motorcycle, but pretty much a scooty. 250 baht, and it was well worth its while. We managed to convince the tour agent to keep my Indian driving license in place of either of our passports and we were off. We'd read about a temple on a hill about an hour away from Ao Nang, so we set out as explorers. The map we had was a basic tourist one and I tried my best to play navigator while riding pillion. As is normal with coastal weather, we got caught in more than our fair share of sudden rain, but thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. We stopped at an insignificant temple in the middle of nowhere, just because we stumbled upon it. A reclining buddha temple is always welcome in Thailand! It felt like a build up to the actual thing we were in pursuit of. As we approached Krabi town, our halfway mark, hunger pangs got the better of us and we stopped at a roadside shack for lunch. Other than Tom Yum soup, rice and coke, we really have no idea what else we ordered. We pointed at pictures of food in a Menu written in Thai and we were not disappointed.
We set off again, braving the rain to get to Wat Tham Suea. The temple complex was huge. We hung around for a bit, trying to find our way around and were pretty disappointed because we were looking for the 1237 steps to the top of a hill. While the hill was clearly in front of us, the steps could not be found. We finally asked a monk to direct us and he escorted us to the foot of the staircase hidden behind foliage. And so began our arduous climb towards the top. The first 200 steps were fine, the next 200 too. But as we approached 500, we got the feeling that we may have bitten off more than we could chew. A couple of people passed us on their way down, and I could have sworn I saw smirks on their faces. We considered calling it quits, but our egos got the better of us. It began to rain, again! The steps were oddly shaped, sometimes huge and sometimes barely wide enough for us to place our toes. There was moss growing over everything, which meant we had to be extra cautious. While all this was bearable, my worst nightmare was about to come true - an army of monkeys, in all shapes and sizes. I couldn't run. I couldn't shout. I couldn't hold anyone's hand. I held my breath (honestly) as I climbed my way past them. I know for sure that they were laughing at us heaving our way up while they jumped around so effortlessly.
The euphoric feeling of having reached the top is inexplicable. A couple of monks were there to greet us and they offered us water. The view was breathtaking. We could see the entire valley leading up to the sea on one side and a dense forest on the other. And the highlight of it all was the imposing golden statue of Buddha in a meditating position. Once up there, we didn't want to climb back down. Finally, we reluctantly began our descent because we had to get back to the hotel before it got dark and we needed a fresh set of clothes to avoid catching a chill. Of course, the monkeys were there to greet us, but this time I felt no fear. My calves were giving way, but I'd braved the 1237 steps to the top. Of course, I smirked at the couple on their way up!