Posted by: facetothewind | February 9, 2015

Grabby Krabi

Any visit to Thailand is likely going to include a few things: cheap and sumptuous food, excellent massages, tip-hungry lady boys prowling the streets, throngs of Chinese tourists on their first trip out of China, and a new crop of Ingrish. So here it is, all that and more…the blog entry about my latest trip to Thailand. This trip was to Krabi — a small town on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, on the Andaman Sea, just north of Malaysia. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? It’s a short and super cheap (US$30) flight from Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia, so gee, how could I not be tempted to go?

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I’m gonna call Krabi Grabby because of the following incidents:

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After a $3 piña colada (or was it two), I was happily walking the streets alone on the eve of my 51st birthday and there I saw them in all their ersatz splendor: lady boy drag queens. Wow, what tits — even I as a gay man noticed them! Thai modesty goes right out the window when it comes to lady boy drag queens whose bodices were not really covering their boobs, if you get a side glance. Is this because, frankly, their boobs are not really mammary glands…they’re a guy’s pecs on hormones and implants? So by that definition it’s not indecent to have them pop out in public? Really, I don’t mind, I’m just asking.

What is indecent is how aggressive they are with their demands for tips. And for what, just standing around in a dress? They were promoting a cabaret show the following evening and so I took a flyer and cheerfully said I would come. I love a good cheap drag show and a bad cocktail. Then they insisted on taking my picture with them. And somehow I lost my seasoned travel smarts and agreed…must’ve been the cocktail. Snap, snap and next thing they’re demanding a tip. I told them I would come to their show and tip them tomorrow. Nothing doing. The one in white grabbed me with her nails digging into my arm, “Teeeeeep! Give teeeeeep!!” I repeated that I would see their show and I’m not tipping anyone for doing nothing. Their tone was getting very masculine and I started realizing this would get ugly so I wiggled out of White Witch’s claws and started hoofing it outta there when Pinky la Witch enclosed her talons around the straps of my backpack and pulled me backward toward to group, who I swear were going to reach into my pocket and help themselves to a tip. I swatted at her hand like one would a fly and bolted.

Next stop in Grabby, was a massage.

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This therapist is NOT the one mentioned in the below story of unseemly massage therapist behavior. The lady boy pictured above was quite professional and did a great job. Read on for something a little less legit…

I walked along the street looking for just the right massage shop and passed various women, old and young, hawking their massage services. “Massah Mistah?” No thank you, too girly. Shop looks creepy. No ladies, I’m not straight, and I don’t want a sex massage even when you smile and look longingly into my wallet. And then I passed a lithe young man who seemed to be amidships in some stage of his lady boy transformation with his hair in a little bun and face whitener smeared sloppily on. He looked a big haggard and I felt a little sorry for him and so I agreed to be his next victim, er, massage client. Rule number one: pity is not a good reason to choose a massage therapist, or really anyone for that matter. So he was somewhere in the middle of the oil massage when he started coming on to me. Next thing I know he’s got the towel off me and saying, “I give you happy ending. You give me teeeep.” Oh dear, not again. “No thank you, don’t want,” I told him. He tapped me with the back of his hand and held it out for a tip and kept insisting on giving me the happy ending I didn’t want. “Umm, NO! Don’t want!” Then I had to add a few more exclamation points and yank my towel back up in order to get my point across. Again, I ended up practically running down the street with this dude coming after me. I still felt sorry for him.

I regained my street smarts remembering to keep my distance from drag queens and don’t even make eye contact with hawkers. Then I lost it again.

The snorkeling tour from hell…

Years ago traveling in Thailand with Sebastian, we went on some little adventure tour packages and Thai cooking adventure trips. Here’s what these tours mostly are:

  1. You pay a chunk of money to your hotel who gets a nice cut of the booking and promises the tour will deliver a lot more than it does.
  2. They pick you up in a stinky open air bus or pickup truck with no cushions or shock absorbers.
  3. They drive you around and around for an hour stopping at every hotel to pick up more suckers…I mean wide-eyed tourists.
  4. Finally when the bus can take no more people, they add a few more to the front seat next to the driver and on the bumper of the truck.
  5. You arrive at your destination with several pounds of carbon monoxide in your lungs and your bones beaten up from the lack of shock absorption.
  6. Now you’re ready for your big adventure, so please wait here.
  7. You wait.
  8. You wait some more while your bladder is swelling to uncomfortable proportions because it’s now 90 minutes since you left your hotel.
  9. You board the boat which is actually nicer than you’d imagined at this point, don your lifejacket and the boat goes speeding off into the wild blue to…
  10. PICK UP MORE PEOPLE at their hotel’s docks. Two more stops and the boat is now full. The huge guy across from us is shoved to the end of his bench seat and half of him is hanging off the seat.
  11. Then the tour guide gives his announcement in broken English that we won’t be going to See Island because of some tidal problem (see brochure below)IMG_1398
  12. We arrive at Tup Island, the island paradise we were hoping for, and in fact we find about 800 mainland Chinese tourists on an island the size of my apartment. Our boat was sandwiched in between about 30 other speedboats and loud long tail boats which are essentially the Harley Davidsons of the boating world.Tub Island Krabi Thailand
  13. Chuan took off to swim shoulder-to-shoulder with the Chinese who probably had never seen the ocean before — let’s call it Beijing Beach. I lost my good humor and sat in the shade with chubby kids stepping on me and people clearing their throats loudly and yelling across the island and doing selfies with jumps and peace signs and spraying sunscreen over the top of me. My blood was boiling because I was so stupid to have gotten suckered. I decided to give some feedback to the tour guide, “Why bring us here? This not nice. Too many people. No fun.” “Get your own private boat,” was his answer. That was more than the usual about face you get from Thai people when you complain. And somehow I appreciated what he said, because it was true. We should have gotten a private boat.
  14. Finally it was time to leave and head for snorkeling, which is why we went on this trip in the first place. So they take us to another spot with about 20 other speedboats dropping anchor right onto what was once a coral reef (anchors and coral don’t get along) and tell us “OK, 30 minutes to snorkel, don’t go far from the boat.” We plunge in avoiding getting squished between boats. And behold…
  15. There are almost no fish. There are a few dozen of them around the boat waiting for tips…I mean food…to be dropped from the sides. But really, once you leave the boat, there are about 3 other fish. Grrrr. I found myself wishing I were back in Hawaii or the Virgin Islands where I was surrounded with swarms of colorful fish. But it gets worse…
  16. We do a quickie drive by Chicken Island so he could say that we covered that part promised in the tour brochure. And then it’s on to the lunch which from past experience I knew was going to be fried rice. Today it was one small fried chicken leg and some white rice and we are dumped on another small island with 70 speedboats (someone counted) carrying about 30 persons each. You do the math.
  17. Well let’s just say I counted the minutes to being back in the hotel with a beer and my earplugs, 800 Thai baht (per person) poorer. I was stupid — I learned this lesson long ago: don’t waste money on these tours. Do your own hike, your own adventure. Find a taxi or a boat and make your own agenda. These tourist torture ventures seem to be a way for Thai people to settle the score of economic differences between their poor country and your presumably rich one without just asking for teeeeeeps! Either way, it’s giving something and not getting much or anything in return. And that never feels good.

At last Thailand delivers…

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Here’s the sumptuous food that Thailand is famous for. The fried snapper with coconut milk sauce and veggies. It was absolutely fantastic! This is at The Massaman restaurant in Ao Nang town.

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Railay Beach — at low tide you can wade around the cliff from Ao Nang. It’s just delightful, but…

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watch out for the cheeky monkeys! I witnessed the monkeys raiding a tourist’s bag and stealing his iPhone. He held it under his arm like a briefcase and took off onto the cliffs. I wondered what he was going to do with it or why he took THAT of all things? A fearless and amused Thai guy jumped up on the rocks and grabbed its tail. The monkey threw the phone and the owner retrieved it. I bet it was gonna go online and order a gun and a case of bananas from GrubHub.

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The wide beach of Ao Nang at low tide. Just try to ignore the raw sewage flowing into the sea at one end of the beach.

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Ao Nang. Peaceful after the long-tail boats are finished revving their engines for the evening.

Here’s a little video encapsulation of Krabi:

And here’s a little photo gallery featuring some new Ingrishis signs I found. You can click on one and advance through them with your arrow button to see the captions…

Would I go back to Krabi? Nah. It didn’t grab me. It’s more of a transfer point for the islands than a destination, in my opinion. It has its charms but other places have more of what I’m looking for as an antidote to the stresses of Kuala Lumpur.

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Responses

  1. OH David, I read the part of your most recent post “Snorkeling tour from hell” out loud to my Aunt and we were both laughing out loud…as always I am grateful to be with you on some of your adventures through your words…

  2. Well said, dear January…
    and the visuals definitely get my attention…such as the goddess altar 😉


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