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Thailand, the country you would go to seek release or even enlightment which always sold itself as a spiritual refuge. You think? Well, if not so you might have pictured dirty Golok, Malaysia-Thai border and whatnot. In contrary to that misconception its believe system - Buddhism has been around for over two and a half thousand years. Most Thai people regard themselves as Buddhist which strictly speaking is NOT a religion, NO god is worshipped. Its nature of being less dogmatic and easier to adapt into modern lifestyle are the main reasons this believe popular among westerners and celebrities.
My border-crossing trip this time will take me to Krabi from Hat Yai of Southern Thai, a controversial Southern violence played by international mainstream media, 2005's bombing of Hat Yai International Airport and international franchised hypermarket.
I've visited Thailand on many occasions and really never witnessed a spiritual side of the people, if anything I saw is a country on a race of economic growth, in gross consumerism and instant gratifications. Sad but true, this trip won't take me anywhere near to that either.
Bus trip from Klang Valley ended up at Bukit Kayu Hitam - Ban Dan Nok crossing approximately 0545hr Malaysia time as I recalled my bus was among the earliest 3 to arrived. Border open at 0600hr, best to get yourself in front row possible as everyone will hurl towards immigration post when the gates opened. Thailand has 30,000 temples so it doesn't take long before one greeted me when I reach Ban Dan Nok town, the first town near to Bukit Kayu Hitam. Journey to Hat Yai will take another 45 minutes.
After reaching Hat Yai town and had a quick breakfast I need to find minivan ticket to Krabi. Road trip from here to Krabi town will take 4 hours, cost 250thb and travels nearly 300 kilometers west of Southern Thai. Minivan will stop halfway at Trang where everyone can have lunch or empty their bladder.
I really don't know what to expect of Krabi except being hearing some nice comments from fellow Malaysians about beaches, westerners and island hopping. Later I was told, one local budget air carrier in particular offered new route or destination = Krabi, no wonder dear Malaysians discovered Krabi. Owh! one thing I did notice then, the word Ao Nang always synonymous with Krabi. It just ride along the lips of people (Malaysian that is) who'd been to Krabi. That been said, word "overrated" played in me mind so I try my best not to associate my trip with it instead I plan to visit Tiger Cave as I learned from reviews I might see the whole flat-stretch of Krabi from its peak. The catch? I need to climb 1,237 steps to reach the top.
So now I'm in Krabi Town, for unexplained reason it feels romantic, this town. Small shops, slow-paced lifestyle, developed just upriver from the coast. It's sort of more Thailand here than it is in Ao Nang. Best way to describe it is... it's a relaxed place. After checked myself in at pre-booked budget guesthouse, I headed straight to local market walking through narrow streets and alleys came across with people going about their daily chores - food vendors, storekeepers, traders not ones people see at Ao Nang and I always see market's an incredibly vibrant place. Place in particular we might find cultures, socials, and of course... local foods. This town is inhabited by a quite numbers of muslim, where I expect to meet some of them here, for some halal foods.
Tiger Cave, it begins here. The very bottom of said 1,237 stairways leading upward to the top where there, sits Golden Buddha-statue at the temple complex. The steps are narrow, the slopes are steep... if wasn't because of my 7 kilograms photographic gears, it would be walk in the park but I must say, worth the effort and time 'specially the sunset.
Overheard the accent, believed to be bunch Europeans sit on the edge of the temple overlooking the distant mountains, waiting for sunset. Purple skies, sun is setting beyond the faraway mountains, taking with it, daylight... usher in dusk and soon night... before light fail on me, I need to get lost real fast. The steep slopes and narrow steps become even more dangerous for non-regular like me as later I saw an old monk descend the steps like a pro-skater gliding on skateboard, passing from my back.
Woke up early try not to miss the windows of opportunity to capture some pictures at Krabi pier. I stood by the pier before dawn, remarkable piece of evident that this town offers some degree of tranquility. I leave pier and walk to guesthouse about 0800hr still... shops, businesses are idle and no sign it's ready for operations.
I did try my best to avoid Ao Nang beach but been offered good deal on island hopping package by the guesthouse staff, I took the offer and off to Ao Nang. Visits on several islands on coastal of Andaman Sea, safe to say I've seen better islands back home at Terengganu's coast. Each stops are short except the one with lunch treat, Phi Phi Island? I guess.
Nothing much going in these islands. Not much corals or fishes running the show, to their excuse all the corals and its inhabitants had been washed away by infamous 2004 tsunami tragedy that wiped entire Acheh in single day. It's okay, maybe I'll come back in another 200 years when these corals at their best spawning-age.
Lunch stop. Island with consumerism at its best! "Thai beer, sir"
After burnt myself under February sun at night I checked out local night market where I find trades here is rather more intense as compared to what we have in Malaysia. Range of products and also foods sold here are wide, which I actually hoping to confused myself with variety of local street meals. Might as well check out famous Thai's kerabu.
Experience in Krabi so wonderful. Unfortunately, my journey here is over and next stop, Haad Yai city. The next morning I'm on a mission to find minivan ticket for the same rate I paid to come here, it's obvious I should get one and there no plan for me get cheated with overpriced fare. I must say, Krabi town among one the best place I ever been (not including Ao Nang)... I'll be coming here again, certainly.
As I motor down heading south near to Malaysia the social landscape begins to change. Here densely populated urban atmosphere, the region here seems louder... faster, chaotic. I have nothing to tell what's here, this city has been a popular shopping attraction to neighboring Malaysian for ages. Nearest city offers quick getaway if you want to feel abroad with cheaper cost compared to Singapore dollars.
Before leaving, like any other trips to Thailand before I won't get out from the country without pay a visit to KFC and have its spicy kerabu... well I almost certain, this meal is an all-season, fixed menu because no matter when or where I go within Thailand... it's right there on the menu display board. Awesome! Getting off from Haad Yai city, I boarded train straight to Kuala Lumpur station leaving Southern Thai at 1800hr, reached KL the next morning... almost half a day trip.