The One Less Traveled By: a chronicle of my yearlong sabbatical

Thailand – First Week
November 12, 2009, 9:12 am
Filed under: Thailand

My travels started last Thursday morning when I left Los Angeles and flew to Bangkok, Thailand, arriving very late Friday night. Lots of international flights land at BKK well into the night, so the airport was bustling and it took all of a minute to hail a cab into the city. Saturday I spent wandering around the older part of the city, seeing the sights, and sampling the incredible assortment of street food. It’s true what the guidebooks say about Bangkok being an olfactory adventure, and it ranges from disgusting to delightful.

One of the places I visited was the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. To visit, you have to don long pants and a long shirt, and for the gobs of tourists who, like me, show up in shorts and a t-shirt because it’s about 80 degrees and incredibly humid, they lend out pants and shirts for free. Fortunately, I had my own long sleeve shirt – I’m always almost prepared – but I had to borrow purple MC Hammer pants. Not surprisingly, I have no pictures of this.

The Grand Palace is composed of a bunch of intricately decorated and colorful buildings on a fairly large ground, and is where many royal functions are held. The Phra Kaew temple on the same grounds houses the venerated Emerald Buddha, which groups upon groups of tourists and Thais come to see. And it’s about a foot tall. This is in stark contrast to Bangkok’s other famous Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, which is 46 meters long and 15 meters high.

On of the many building that make up the Grand Palace
Contented figurine – Grand Palace



Everybody's trying to glimpse the diminutive Emerald Buddha


The Emerald Buddha

One big Reclining Buddha

On Sunday I wandered some more and went to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, where over 10,000 vendors set up in row after row after cramped row. As with the rest of Bangkok, the food here is incredible, and you can get all sorts of interesting things to eat.


I didn't eat these

That evening I boarded an overnight train down to Railay beach, in Krabi province in southern Thailand. Of course I traveled first class, which meant that I got packed into a tiny little sleeper for two people that had an A/C turned down to about 45 degrees. I shared the compartment and a bunch of beers with Eric, an American living in Japan working behind the scenes for Cirque du Soleil. He busted out his sleeping bag liner while I broke out my warmest clothes to try to catch a few Zs before detraining at 4am to catch a bus to another bus to a longtail boat to Railay. Because Railay is a small isthmus surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, the only way in and out is by longtail boat, which not only makes for a nice trip, but means there are no cars here.

Longtail boats waiting to transport passengers to Railay

Railay is famous for its beautiful beaches, bohemian vibe, and excellent rock climbing. I hired a guide for half a day to take me climbing, and he showed me some excellent routes along the East beach. The rock is all heavily featured and pocketed limestone, something I’ve never climbed before. The views from the top were spectacular.

Me climbing one of the dozens of routes at Railay East
The view from the rock and of the area where I’m staying
Another nice view from the climbs
Our guide, Nat

Railay is also well-known for its Princess Shrine, a cave on the beach where fisherman have placed dozens of phalluses made from wood (naturally) in offering to a drowned princess in hopes she will grant them a bountiful catch. Last but not least, the mosquitoes: they really are the crème de la crème here. Those little bastards bite through even the thickest shirts and layers of DEET. (WARNING: Kids, cover your eyes.)


What every princess longs for...a shrine


9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It appears that some of the shrine has a bad case of shrinkage. I would not venture close ‘twer I a princess. the only one that represents, is blue. My culinary advice is to try everything! Its not my stomach and you are strong. love you

Comment by marcia

nice pix! Mosquitos suck.

Comment by dad

Thanks for the post Andrew. Its great seeing what you’re up to – especially the climbing. Keep it coming.

Comment by alex

Nice post! Glad to see you are already enjoying the two things you love most – climbing and food!

Comment by Erin

I like that you’re doing a blog. That way you don’t have to email me every piece of the adventure. 🙂 I forgot to warn you about the mosquitoes! Be careful, b/c I had malaria when I was there. Those blood suckers would bite through the netting just to get to me at night.

Great pics, too! Don’t forget my postcard! 😉


Comment by mkenneth1

I’m wondering now if the shrine indeed works. Maybe something to consider here in the U.S.

Comment by Bill

Looks amazing Drew. Your blog and pictures are killer. Try and post some more climbing shots if you can. It looks unreal there, peace me bredren.

Comment by Damon

Hi Andrew, Looks and sounds like you are have a great adventure.. Happy Thanks Giving

Comment by Ms Faye

Nut is just great

Comment by tom

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