Phuket & Ao Nang – Songkran New Year

For the kid’s two week break, we planned a couple of ventures for our free time.  The break is considered spring break from school, Easter break for many, and/or Songkran break in Thai culture.  Songkran is the Thai Lunar New Year’s celebration.  Thai’s use this time to celebrate the New Year, a fresh start, and sometimes it is a time to deep-clean their homes.  Everywhere around the country you see sculptures of The Buddha surrounded with flowers and accompanied with a basin of Thai-scented water.  A golden cup is used to scoop the water and then you are to pour the scented water over the buddha sculpture to symbolize the cleansing of the New Year.  This cleansing, however, has become an all-out water fight amongst most Thai people during these 9 days of Songkran celebration.  Below is a picture of a hotel employee lifting my son to allow him to pour the water over the buddha.

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Our vacation began with a flight to the Phuket International Airport.  We flew from U-Tapao airport Pattaya which is only a short 15 minutes from our home.  The total flight time was about 50 minutes which was fantastic!  Upon arrival we caught a taxi to our hotel in the Karon Beach area of Phuket.  Phuket was a nice setting that I would compare similar to Pattaya but with a slightly calmer feel.  There is a large expat presence.  I had never seen so many Russian vacationers and most of the restaurants catered to Russian tastes and had menus translated into Russian.  We took in the sights of the beach the first day and then decided to see the Big Buddha the next day.

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Big Buddha was awesome!  It is one of the most notable landmarks on the island of Phuket and boasts impressive views.  We took a taxi up the mountain which took about 20 minutes of going round and round the bumpy road leading up to the top.  On the way up you pass many different bird shows, elephant shows, etc. as well as people selling food or tourist kitsch.  The sculpture is massive and is surrounded my smaller sculptures as well.  We did out tourist duty of walking around and taking snapshots around this monument.

Off to the side is a spot where there is a supposed “footprint” of the buddha.  We walked onto that side which was filled with monkeys who had gained attention of many tourists. These monkeys were trying to shake hands, steal water bottles, etc.  The kids loved to see this.

After the monkey visit, we went back to our taxi to return to the hotel to rest before our journey to Ao Nang the following day.

The next morning, we woke early (6:05am) to meet our driver who would take us to the Rassada Pier.  We rode about 40 minutes to the pier where we boarded the Ao Nang Princess Ferry for our two-journey to Ao Nang, Krabi Province.  It was a little rainy that morning but quickly cleared to reveal a beautiful day by 11:00am.

 

Arriving in Ao Nang was an awesome sight!  We were surrounded by those iconic towering limestone cliffs jutting out of the blue-green waters.  We docked at the pier to catch another shuttle to our hotel in Ao Nang.  As we entered the Ao Nang city area, it was obvious this was the first day of Songkran.  Everywhere you would see truckloads of people equipped with barrels of water and water pistols, ready for an all-out water battle.  On the sides of the roads were people with buckets, cups, soaked towels, water guns, herbs dipped in water, garden hoses— you name it… ready to get the next passerby soaked.  We checked into our hotel and changed into our Songkran clothes in preparation of our walk down the road in search of a late lunch.  The walk down the street during Songkran was fantastic, especially for our children.  They loved running back and forth spraying complete strangers in the most friendly, fun-loving way.  Within just a couple hundred feet, all four of us were absolutely drenched.  Our faces were covered in the white smear of talcum-powder paste that you so often see during Songkran.  The streets were filled with the sounds of traditional Thai music but more often BOOMING electronica.  We finally found a nice resting spot for lunch and a cold Leo Beer alongside the beach.

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The next day we decided to forgo the Songkran activities still happening and instead see some scenery around the island.  We bought four longboat tickets to Phranang Cave Beach portion of Railay Beach, a 10 minute boat journey from Ao Nang Beach.  This was probably the most beautiful and scenic part of our whole trip.  The water here was an clear emerald blue, the forests were lush and thick, the limestone cliffs were absolutely massive, and there were a series of caves you could walk into.  This was a fantastic places for photo opportunities.

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We swam in the water, watched people climb the mountainous cliffs, watched stand-up paddle boarders, and witnessed an unusual “phallic” shrine inside a few of the caves.  It is believed that the spirit of Phranang (Princess Goddess) resides in the cave .  People who pledge good luck to her spirit by offering gifts, flowers, incense, and often times these hand-made penises.  It was interesting.

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After grabbing some lunch off a longboat vendor, we decided to make our way back to Ao Nang to relax before preparing to head back to Pattaya the next morning.   We had a wonderful trip and look forward to the next, Penang Malaysia!

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