Thailand is always a good idea and clouds make for better pictures. At least, that's what I am trying to tell myself after I see the view from the balcony at the Ao Nang Cliff Resort.
I have been invited to explore the Crown Lanta hotels in Krabi and on Koh Lanta and as you know, I never say to no to the option of a good pad thai, rain or shine.
In this case, rain it is and I don't mind very much because it turns out I was right about the view with some clouds.
I am also right about the pad thai. I am skeptical about the buffet dinner invitation because neon lighting, children running, and rain pouring, making it impossible to sit outside and soak up the atmosphere. However, the seafood is as fresh as it gets and the pad thai is assembled right in front of my eyes. I come back for seconds, one of the problems with buffets and traveling alone - nobody will hold you accountable if you eat too much.
Ao Nang is a typical little beach town that has seen a bit too much touristic development in recent years. Not that I can blame them, but charming it ain't and you are better off getting away from the main road and onto the beach.
I start my first day with more buffet food and french fries. Honestly, I cannot resist french fries ever and when someone offers them for breakfast I tell myself when in Rome...
After breakfast, I squeeze in my swimsuit and start to regret my most recent food choice. Oh well, this ain't Venice beach. I try to live by the saying that all you need for a bikini body is to put a bikini on your body. I take my bikini body to the Andaman Beach Club. Guests of the Cliff Resort have a shuttle and free access to the club as the hotel is not directly on the beach.
The club offers food, massages, and quite a few Instagram-worthy spots with hammocks, swings and the iconic karsts that are dotted all over the Andaman sea. While I have to seek shelter a few times from the rain, the sea is still warm and turquoise and except for my camera, nobody cares about a bit of rain.
Another advantage of the off-season? The club is almost deserted so I don't have to fight over a hammock or who gets to cuddle with the local kitten.
Though it hasn't been 24 hours I eat another pad thai for lunch and to my big surprise, it can rival Bangkok's finest and is definitely prettier.
I tend to plan my days around meal times and so I inquired beforehand where to get a good dinner close to the hotel. Luckily the receptionist who keeps on calling me her VIP guest, making me blush every time, has just the spot for me. I make my way across the street where next to the big construction site you will find a still authentic hole-in-the-wall eatery. Four seats, a few dishes and a whole lot of Thai flavors for little money!
Ao Nang is also the perfect home base to explore the surrounding waters of the Andaman Sea including famous Railey beach.
This area is perfect for mermaids, snorkel fans, and scuba divers as well as landlubbers - Railey beach is known for great rock climbing spot as well as some cool bars. If you like fire dancers, elephant pants, and alcohol in tasteful buckets this is the place for you.
Around Railey, you can make your way through the very turquoise waters by boat and stop on almost deserted islands. While it ain't The Beach and the snorkeling isn't too exciting, splashing in the waves is always fun and if you get lucky you can swim through sparkling plankton when the sun goes down.
Unfortunately, I don't get to relieve the most romantic scene from The Beach because if the water gets too choppy tours will not allow you to go swimming. A nice fisherman shows me the plankton from the jetty moving the water with his paddle. And even though that is little consolation compared to having a romantic swim with Leo, it is enough for me to vow to come back.
While boating around Ao Nang is all well and good, I am even more excited for the scuba trip my friend Anada has organized for me. Her company Shall Travel offers all sorts of experiences on land and on water. Or in my case under.
We leave the harbor early in the morning and head out on a small speedboat. I sit in the front where the ride is the bumpiest, loving every moment of it. Wind in my hair, sun on my face and the prospects of seahorses to be found. It is my mission today to finally find a proper seahorse as I tell my divemaster James and make it his mission because he has lived and dived in Ao Nang for over five years. He accepts the challenge and promises to find me a seahorse.
Our first dive is unsuccessful in the seahorse department but still very beautiful. Before our second dive, we have an early lunch which is served tin can style but very delicious – even a simple Thai curry is a good Thai curry.
Just in time before the rain starts we get in the water for the second dive and I keep my fingers crossed that seahorses don't mind rain and won't go into hiding.
We dive along a tall wall, torches in hand as the visibility isn't great. I check my air and the time we have been under, James has his challenge cut out for him – there is no seahorse in sight. I am about to give up on my dream and try to console myself with the fact that I have at least seen a pygmy seahorse before (though honestly I barely recognized it – have you seen one? They look like clusters of … something, but not very seahorse-y). But then it happens. James is tapping his tank and pointing at the wall. All I see are spiky sea urchins and feel cheated. Does he really think a sea urchin comes even close to the excitement of a seahorse? But he keeps on pointing and then I see it too. It is hiding in plain sight right next to the urchin. Bigger than I expected but just as pretty. Bubbles escape as I start laughing underwater.
As per usual when I see really exciting things my camera has given up on me but I don't even mind. It's a sight nobody can take away from me and no picture could do justice.
While the ride back is wet, our spirits run high. We have two newly minted open water diver on board, James fulfilled his challenge and I got my seahorse memory. Life is good in Ao Nang, rain or shine.
Once we are back in town I am even excited for the clouds – they make the pizza and red wine I have for dinner even yummier. Pizza in Thailand you will ask and roll your eyes at me. Of course, because after all, even pad thai needs some help to keep the bikini body in shape sometimes.
Thank you, Ao Nang Cliff Resort for hosting me and for helping me maintain my bikini body!