At some point about 9 months ago my parents and I decided it would be great for them to meet me in Japan on my way back to the States since they visited SE Asia only a few years ago. I arrived in Tokyo and made my way on one their numerous subway/rail systems to the hotel in the Asakusa neighborhood. Everyone was very helpful and willing to help which is something I had heard about the Japanese people. In fact even if they can’t help they feel obligated to try and help so it’s important to tell them that you can find the information if they can’t help or else they will stay with you from start to finish.
On our first full day together my parents and I went to the Meiji shrine (also a brand name of dairy products, including the yogurt I ate everyday for breakfast in Thailand). It is important for visitors to “cleanse” themselves before entering the shrine. There is a water fountain area outside where they will use a scoop to sip some water and then spit it out in a separate area. They will also wash their hands. We witnessed a wedding as a whole parade of people made their way into the shrine area. The bride dressed in a kimono. There is a garden on the premises as well that is probably beautiful in spring. Large sake barrels were outside of the shrine no meant as an offering. They were beautifully decorated.
Across the street is Takeshita Street home to the Harajuku style of dress. This is a very unique style of dress that Gwen Stefani has brought to the attention of many Americans through songs and use of Harajuku girls in her music videos. They have frills in their hair, platform shoesm and short skirts.
In the Asakusa area there is the famous Asakusa Kannon Temple featuring its signature big red lantern that is especially beautiful when lit up at night. The temple is home to a statue that was found in the river. The fishermen who found it tried to put it back in the river but it kept reappearing so it was housed in the temple.
The final part of my beach vacation had me hanging out at a resort in Mai Khao in the north part of of Phuket. It is a very isolated area which is exactly what I was looking for. I had a balcony overlooking both the Andaman Sea and the hotel pool. All I did for two days was read a book and relax.
Can you spot any crabs?
From Railay I took a ferry over to Phuket Town and took a day trip to Phang Nga Bay. During the day we explored different caves that took us into lagoons that you never would have known were there. We went into one cave appropriately called bat cave that was filled with sleeping bats. Only noticeable when we shined our headlamps on them.
In the higher tide these lagoons would have only been accessible by helicopter or an extreme rock climber. With such a low tide there were times that our sea kayak was in only inches of water. A thick layer of mud was evident as were an enormous amount of mudskippers and a few monkeys.
When we paddled along the towering rock walls we found crabs and snails. The crabs and mudskippers reminded me of ants in that you might not notice them at first glance but just stop and stare and all of the sudden there is movement all around.
In the evening we went into the caves again and the sea was lit up with bioluminescent plankton.
Beautiful Beaches and Relaxation. That was all I was looking for during my final week in Thailand. My school said we didn’t have to work the final week so after seeking advice from a friend and picking my destination I began to plan.
Railay Bay is part of Krabi in Southern Thailand. A coworker had spoken about the area a lot and until I actually looked at photos of it I had no idea just how beautiful it was. Railay Bay is accessible only by long tail boat so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with mobility problems as arrival on the island can sometimes involve walking in the water.
There is a lagoon and two viewpoints that one can climb up to. After looking at the start of the trail for the lagoon and a viewpoint I decided that I would just sit on the beach and read my book. It begins with an almost completely vertical ascent. A rope is available to help pull you up though.
The area also has some small bars and restaurants. 90 percent of these establishments have a water view as the unique location allows one to see both the sunset and the sunrise. For instance, I stayed at the Railay Bay Resort which spanned the width of the land area. It took maybe 3 minutes to walk from one side to the other.
There are three different beach areas. One on the east side that isn’t as great and then two on the west side. One on the west side is only accessible by boat or by following a path that begins on the east side of the island. There are a lot of monkeys along the path which follows the side of a big rock wall. At this beach there you can see the Phranang caves that contain numerous phallic statues as an ode to fertility and the protection of fishermen.
There are both squat and “Western” toilets in Thailand. A unique feature of toilets in SE Asia is that they feature a water hose to aid in cleaning. It’s quite refreshing to use and also practical as typically there isn’t any toilet paper. I’d argue that experienced travelers know to always carry around some tissue, particularly in Europe where at times there is no toilet paper nor is there a hose.
Villa Market is an import market in Thailand and home to Pop-Tarts, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Fritos (among many other name brand items). I signed up for a customer reward card with them and was “rewarded” in my final week in Thailand. Unfortunately I was unable to take the gift home with me but I’m sure one of the maids at my building will love another large water bottle (although bottle doesn’t quite seem like the right word for this contraption). This style is quite common for use as a water receptacle.
One thing that was emphasized to me during my first week in Thailand was how big of a thing karaoke is. I haven’t experienced the same craziness with it as some others but I have noticed how often popular songs are reworked into “elevator music” versions. The songs are tamed down some and played all the time. In malls, restaurants, actual elevators, etc.
Well an obsession with karaoke may not be noticed an obsession with reworked music definitely is.