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Chiang Rai - U'Taphao - Krabi 12 - 13 December

With a long day's flying ahead of us - a total of about 6 flying hours plus refueling in U'Taphao - we started out early.  The owner of the Mae Kook Villa drove us to the airport at 6 a.m.  When we got the airport we headed straight for the information desk to pay the landing fee, but were told that, even though the airport opened at 6 a.m., the Information desk only opened at 7!  Still, we didn't waste time.  We worked on getting the plane packed up and ready and Flemming called the tower to file the flight plan by phone. The landing fee was a reasonable US$15.  We took off around 8.15 a.m. local time for an uneventful 3:40 hours flight to U'Taphao 30 minutes flight south of Bangkok.  We had some headwind for about the first time on our trip but after we went up to 13,000 feet to avoid clouds the head winds dissipated.

There was not a lot of traffic when we approached, and we were vectored straight in for the ILS 18, cleared for the approach and we were asked to report on a 4 mile final which we did. We were then asked to report on a 3 mile final, but never got a word in as the tower and a military jet on the runway monopolized the frequency. On very short final the jet was still sitting there on the runway and we were finally ordered to go around and had to make a visual circuit for a second approach which was uneventful. Good to have a little bit of change from the usual routine from time to time!!

U'Taphao is a mixed military-civilian airport and we shared the apron there with some US airforce planes.  When we called for fuel, we were told that they would be busy for the next half hour, so we walked to the terminal. Flemming paid the landing fee of only US$ 2 (the best so far!) while Ray and I grabbed a welcome cold drink and ice cream. It had been boiling hot on the tarmac.  The air-conditioned cafeteria resembled an officer's mess.  There were several US airforce guys sitting on sofas watching "The Patriot" with Mel Brooks on TV. Refueling was done from a 200 liter barrel, but we had room for it all, and they were well equipped with electric transfer pumps and the price was a very reasonable US$ 0.76 per liter. Great airport! To top it off paperwork was simplified, no General Dec's and no passenger manifest in 5 copies, just write the details in a logbook, quick and easy.

We took off again 90 minutes after arrival and it was a 2:30 hours flight to Krabi.   Except for the brand new airport at Mandalay, this was the cleanest one I've ever seen  - gleaming marble floors with not a speck of dust. The airport was about 30 kms from the beach we were heading for (called Ao Nang), so Ray looked after renting a car while Flemming and I used the mobile phone to book a hotel. This is the high season so most of the smaller hotels were full.  The larger Krabi resort next to the beach still had rooms but they were a bit pricey.  However, they were prepared to give us a pilot's discount so the room cost a reasonable US$65.   That is a bit steep for Ray on his own so  Flemming did a few more phone calls while Ray drove the car and found something nearby for him for only US$14.

As we approached Ao Nang, we were impressed by the dramatic limestone rocks that jutted straight out of the ground.  Krabi resort looked very pleasant with a superb setting for our sundowners overlooking the beach with coconut palms galore, complete with the symphony of the cicadas.  But we had a major problem.   the telephone line didn't work from our room and, what's more, there was no water!   We were told that a technician would fix it all while we had dinner, but when Flemming went to check, nothing had been done about it.  Furious, he asked to change rooms, so they gave in and gave us an upgrade at no extra charge.  While we were having dinner there was a sudden thunderstorm and it bucketed down!  Apart from a few light showers on the windscreen while flying, this was the first rain we had experienced since the first  night of our trek in Nepal - and only the 2nd shower of the whole trip!

There was some doubt whether the sky would clear by the following morning and we were a little worried that we would have the same bad luck that Ray had had on a previous trip with Audrey when it rained every day for 9 days.  We had only one full day in Krabi so it had to be good.  We were therefore delighted to awaken to clear blue skies.  We rented a longtail boat, similar but more seaworthy  than the one we had taken down Mae Kok river, and asked the driver to take us to Bamboo island an hour out.  The sea was quite choppy in places and there was quite a spray. Two dolphins popped out of the water briefly to our left. We did some great snorkeling on a coral reef before he left us on the island.  The beach was of white coral sand, had a little hut with palm leaf roof to stay in the shade, and a place to buy cool beer, great!   And not too many tourists, at least initially! As it turned out, the snorkeling was just as good from the beach. 

On our way back to the hotel, our boatman took us to a nearby beach where there was a cave.  At the entrance to the cave, there was a colorful Hindu shrine which must have been considered to have fertility powers because people had made offerings of wooden phalluses painted in bright colors and in various sizes.  They were all stacked around the shrine.

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Departure from U'Taphao

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Longtail boat from Ao Nang to Bamboo island

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Bamboo island near Ao Nang

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Ao Nang rock formations

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Ao Nang beach with cave

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Ray and Angela with the phalluses in various sizes

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