Sushmita Malakar Blog

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Li'l Travel Book | Phi Phi Islands

8/21/2017 0
My Li'l Travel Book | Phi Phi Islands
Previously written - Phuket.

The ferry journey from Phuket to Phi Phi Island was wonderful and the moment we started to approach Phi Phi Island, I knew that I am in for some different kind of adventure altogether.

Phi Phi is a group of island, part of Krabi district. In the Tsunami of 2004, almost all of Phi Phi Islands and its infrastructure was destroyed. They certainly have done a great job in restoring everything!

I fell in love with the long tail boats the moment I set my eyes on them. 

We were in Phi Phi Don, the part of the island which is inhabited by the locals and the tourists. The best part about this place is that you have to pay a cleanliness fee before entering (TBH 20) and you know it is not going in waste because the way this island has been maintained is marvelous.

The Tonsai Passenger Pier.

Once you enter the island, you would feel as if you are in some sort of modern village with shops all around and so many cute cafes. When I say cute, I mean cute by both the look and feel of it!

Since it was a long ferry ride, we decided to have our lunch before moving to the cottages, which again offered some amazing stay!

I decided to have some good sea food, not very local, but yes, I had to try the Thailand varieties. The squids and blue mussels were on my mind for a long time now, so I decided to try them.

Rich and flavorful squids in oyster sauce. 

Li'l tangy and crispy Blue mussels, fried in cheese. 

After a hearty lunch with a liberal serving of watermelon juice(that is my love that I have brought back from Thailand!), we explored the market a bit more. And yes, Thailand can never stop to amaze me. 

There were these li'l kiosks, selling cocktails in buckets with all the component in it. Pleasing to the eyes, yes! And I am very sure that these buckets leave their consumers completely drunk and high!

Narrow, hilly roads is what characterizes this part of Phi Phi Don. I loved the roads because of two reasons. One, they were so narrow that you can not take any vehicle that can pollute the air. The limited use of motor-vehicles thus makes it a place to live in. Second, the roads are formed in spiral and the terrain is a li'l rough. So, it seems like a hike!

Now that is some road sign to look for!

Let me give you the idea of the altitude. One can actually see the horizon and listen to the sea from anywhere you stand.

After a good amount of hike, we could spot the cottages where we were supposed to lodge ourselves. Savage much? Yes. 

These cottages offered a great stay! A clean pool, very calm cottages, all located at different levels and so much peace. Just one thing - the wooden cottages among the wilds also come with the insects and reptiles about which you can't complain. You signed for it! 

This day was about exploring the night life of the place. And trust me, the whole place is very different during the day and the night. According to me, it is a perfect place - eat the best during the day and then party at the most happening place during the night. 

Phi Phi Don has completely different areas - all within the same vicinity. You can go to the main market place where you have all the cafes and shops and pubs. Then there is the Tonsai passenger pier which has got beautiful and peaceful dinner places which close by 10 at night. And finally, there is the beach side where the most talked about "neon parties" take place. 

The night of this day was about shopping and exploring and of course, eating. 

Tonsai Pier - as dreamy as it can get!

I definitely did not click much because hey, I was making memories and not clicking pictures! But I wouldn't have missed any make shift temple, if I spotted one!

The next day was dedicated to island hoping and exploring the night life even more.

It was on this day that I realized that these groups of islands resemble elephants - some sitting, some standing and some doing their own silly things! And then, I couldn't stop clicking them. The most mesmerizing pictures came out during this island hoping tour.

This time, the island hoping was a more personalized tour on long tail boats which could accommodate 7 people on board. And opting for this tour rather than the usual speed boat tours was the best decision ever!

The tour costed us 1000 TBH (INR 2000 approx.) per person and the "sailor" would take us to places that we could cover in six hours. We made sure that we made the best out of those six hours!

I don't know why but I absolutely love this picture!

Oh, there is our ride. But first, let me take a picture!
We left the harbour - Sailing far, far away from the main island.

The sea is furious and trust me, it seems scarier in a long tail boat!

The first thing that I could see was the Viking Caves. This is the view from the front side. The beauty of these caves are best enjoyed from the other side (thanks to the internet for letting me know that!) and I made a mental check list to cover this island for sure!

Our first stop was the Bamboo Island, which is a preserved and restricted entry island. The entry fee is TBH 400. We made our stop somewhere around it, in the middle of the sea, where the divers among us decided to go for snorkeling and diving to enjoy the deep sea life!

After that we sailed towards the Laem Tong beach, which is again the characteristically fine white sand and clear blue water beach.

This was the place where I dived into the sea, with a life jacket on, of course. I hate to say but I am scared of water. I so wish I was not!

The one with the bestie!

After relaxing in the sea(literally) and in the sun, we headed towards the shark point.

When you traverse from one island to another, you will come across certain private beaches as well - completely secluded and beautiful - place where you would want to live for sometime!

The shark point is an amazing place for snorkeling. Though this place is named after the leopard shark but you might not be able to locate any. However, this is a place for some pretty soft corals and different species of reef fishes.

And these are super hungry and friendly reef fishes. You dip your finger in the sea, with no fish in site, and hundreds of  fishes swiftly swim towards you mistaking your finger to be food.

I am not sure about the species though, but they are found in abundance in the Andaman Sea. 

This was one of my cutest experience ever. Given the fact how much I fear water, this was certainly too big for me - standing stagnant, somewhere in the middle of the sea, on a rickety boat,  not knowing what creature might pop up from anywhere.

The next stop was the Moneky Island. Of course, as the name suggests, one would expects monkeys there.

I was expecting an usual beach - white sand, blue waters - with the usual jungles but with wild monkeys roaming around. This island is no where near this description.

It doesn't have a proper beach. You anchor your boat near the island and then you can hear some noise which is pleasantly unpleasantly. And it is rhythmically aligned with the sound of the waves.

I personally had no clue what is happening. And then I realized, oh, I am at the Monkey Island.

And that is me, more shocked than surprised after I spotted the monkeys.

So, this place is scary and I don't know how scary it might get at the night. Dense jungles surrounded by water all around and inhabited by the closest cousin of the human species - that is scary, if you ask me!

But everything aside, this place is indeed beautiful. Beautiful is rather an understatement.

Finally, we proceeded towards the Viking Caves. Our stoppage here was of very short duration, because the boat wala bhaiya was very tired by now. You can not go inside the caves, but the internet will tell you that the cave walls have paintings of the Viking ships and thus they get this name.

The Swiftlet's nests are harvested here for human consumption. And it tuns out that this is one of the most expensive animal product consumed around the world! Edible nests - strange, right?

And finally, we stopped at the nearby Pileh Bay. To say the least, this place is picturesque. I have never seen anything so amazing and peaceful.

Even now when I sit to write this, I am surprised at the miracle of nature. Pileh Bay is a completely calm bay, somewhere in the turbulent and wild Andaman Sea, surrounded by huge chunks of limestone from all the sides. 

This place will send you to a state of complete ignorance and trance as you enjoy the green limestone walls and the emerald bay of the Andaman Sea!

And that is how this island hopping tour on the long tail boat ended. 

By the time we returned back, it was already lunch time. And it was time to try something new. Okay, so whenever in Thailand, you have to try the local cuisine without any fuss.

We ordered the famous Papaya Salad, Massaman Curry and Pad Thai Noodles. Not to forget, the dessert - sticky rice and Mango.

Traditionally, the Papaya Salad is pretty spicy but you can always get it customized. 

It is important to try some of the more common Asian dishes to know what it authentically tastes like! Vegetable spring rolls and chili sauce on my platter. 

Pad Thai Noodles, served with roasted and coarsely ground peanuts. 
Massaman Curry with plain rice. See the presentation? 

After this and some more shopping, I started to hike towards the cottage. I was literally burned in the sun and was in pain. But it was all worth! This place is probably my favourite place in Thailand. Please take me back!

We retired to our cottages to catch up some sleep. In the evening we decided to explore the beach party scenes. Though none of us was in a mood to have a wild party or anything but then again, when in Roman, do as the Romans do!

It was wilder than I expected and I certainly had some very weird experiences of my life there! I really don't like the idea of doing completely dangerous stuff, like playing with fire, when under the effect of any kind of drug.  But I did enjoy my stay at these parties - not to mention, super short stays!

I soon found my kind of drug while coming back. 

There were two things that one can spot throughout the Phi Phi Don - one, the bucket cocktail stalls and second, Monster Ice Cream vendors. I was already so high on my travel that I decided to skip the alcohol. However, I never say no to desserts. 

And ladies and gentlemen, that is how I got my ultimate high! 

It has everything chocolaty - sauces, spreads, sprinkles. 

That is how the night ended. Sweet ending indeed!

The next morning was about watching the sunrise. I was not expecting something amazing because yes, I have seen too many beach sunrises.

Just when I thought that I was done with the beauty of Phi Phi, this group of island proved me wrong.

I, along with another girl, Aditi, started to hike towards the view point at around five in the morning. The hike was an easy one and takes around 30 to 40 minutes to reach the view point.

Wait till the trail starts to get uneven and rough.

So, we reached the top. What now? I first looked back towards the trail that we just covered. 

And then, there was this breathtaking view! 

The H- shaped Phi Phi Don!

And there were my lovely elephants! 

I was left speechless. I was too mesmerized to say anything! Or may be too hungry because yes, the hike leaves you famished.

And after having a breakfast with a view, back in our cottage, we started off for the last leg of the trip - Krabi Town.

With so many beautiful memories of this place, I started off for Krabi with no expectations - all beahces are the same, right? But again, I was proved wrong!

Next Up - Krabi Town!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Why does Shorter Work Week Seems Longer!

8/18/2017 2
Why does Shorter Work Week Seems Longer!
I am currently experiencing this weird phenomenon (I don't know how common it might be) in which whenever the work week is shorter, it seems to  be never ending.

After coming back from a long three days weekend, one can be particularly excited about the next week which is going to be just four days long. The long weekend ends at its own fast pace, leaving us craving for more.

You had planned almost a lifetime for those 72- hours, which took no time to fly by and might have left you with underachieved plans as well.

But that is certainly not the bad part.

The bad part the following work week, which is just four days long.

It doesn't end.

It drags. Terribly. Period.

The Friday takes forever to come and this wait is even worse than the payday wait!

And this desperation to reach the weekend, even though it is a normal two days weekend, made me do a li'l bit of research to find out if this phenomenon is even real?

There are proper research papers available which state that a shorter working  week after a public holiday seems to go by 20% slower. And turns out that there are many reasons due to which time just stops.

Sometimes, your work is so monotonous that even if you are busy throughout and your time should ideally pass faster, the exact opposite happens. Or it might happen that the company that you keep keeps the time for pacing at its normal pace. Also, since your normal waiting time is usually five days, the unexpected wait of four days tend to seem longer.

So, is there a way to combat that? There surely are, according to one of the many researches available. I am sharing the tried and tested ones with you.

1. Learn something new in that week. You might be caught up with work, which as discussed earlier, is apparently monotonous. So, pause for a moment. Think about what you have always wanted to learn. Look for it. May be enroll in some structured training. The "fresh start" feeling helps a lot in making the time fly by at a normal pace, if not faster.

2. Change your point of focus. When I say that, I mean change your work station. May be sit on some other seat or work from the office break-out area, if that helps. If you are working from home, may be change your place from your usual bedroom to the hall or something. This helps in chasing the monotony away.

3. Set timelines in terms of task and not time. This one is the most effective one. Instead of planning task for every day of the week or every hour of the day, plan the day task wise. Doing this makes you less aware of the time.

Having said all of that, this is a complete psychological phenomenon. Its very subjective that how each individual deals with it. For me, these things worked. This post is a result of some of my "new learnings"!

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Li'l Travel Book | Phuket

8/15/2017 0
My Li'l Travel Book | Phuket
Previously written - Pattaya.
Phuket was the second stop of the epic backpacking trip I took with my friends and some strangers. We reached Phuket on the night of the second day of this trip. Though I couldn't enjoy the beauty of this place at night but I had no clue what the following two days had in store!

We lodged ourselves in a studio apartment in Phuket, near Patong beach. The first night in Phuket was just about sleeping because we had a long day ahead.

The first thing on the next day's itinerary for island hopping. Now this is something you have to pre-book and can be easily done with the help of your hotel. And it completely depends on your negotiation skills. So, we had booked a speed boat, which was shared by 50 people, and it had a tour to three islands and a lunch buffet at a local restaurant on one of the island and snorkeling near other. All this was for TBH 950 per person.

Before going for the tour, we decided to go for the sunrise early in the morning. However, it was cloudy but we could witness the early morning serenity of the Patong beach.

Because back shots are necessary!

As I mentioned in the previous post, Thailand is pretty amusing. I spotted a telephone booth on our way back to our apartments. And thus, I had to get clicked!

After having a good breakfast, we started for the tour.

This tour included the transfer from our residence to Chalong pier and back. From the Chalong pier we were taken around the Phuket island for the the island hopping in the speed boat. Once we reached the pier, all I could see were the speed boats and the calm sea.

The sea only looked calm! As soon we started our journey, I got to know that even sea rides can be bumpy!

The destination was pretty far away!

And for any sea fearing person like me, it was one hell of an experience. When something as powerful as a speedboat trembles when they cross the might waves, all the childhood poem suddenly started to make sense.

I was so scared that the destination still seemed impossible to reach!

It took me some time to get accustomed to this and then we sped towards the Raya Yai island for snorkeling.

See that beautiful spot? I was enjoying the beauty too from my boat. But I had know clue that soon I will be jumping off there!

For someone like me, who fears water, even though life jackets were on us, snorkeling seemed like a nightmare. I literally clinged on to this sweet lady the whole time and probably deprived her of the beautiful underwater life sighting(of which I could catch a glimpse every now and then) as well.

After this li'l adventure, we went for the a very local lunch at a restaurant on the island, where we were "transported" using a tractor.

The other side of the island, where we halted for lunch.

And yes, when I said a tractor, I really meant a tractor.

The following picture is taken after the most unexpected life experience of mine. I wish I could explain it in words. The picture thus captures scared yet happy look on my face.

The very local restaurant which looked pretty scary but served great food!

After a full tummy, we did what every tourist would do - Enjoy the amazing waves and click hundreds of pictures!

The next stop was coral island which was cleaner and more peaceful!

And then, the necessary click with other backpackers of the gang happened on coral island!

And that is how the island hopping tour ended.

It was now time for some hopping around in Patong. Patong too has a night life to enjoy - just like Pattaya. So there is this Patong beach road which has got the best street shops and some great bars.

One of the many fascinating cafes at the Patong beach road was this surfing cafe. I can never get tired of saying that Thailand is a pretty cute place!

And then there is again the walking street. However, the walking street here is the mellowed down version of the one in Pattaya.

The following is the  easy transportation available in Phuket. These are funky red taxis which have super trippy disco lighting inside them:

We retired to our apartment that night after a good amount of shopping and food!

The next morning was about exploring the local food for breakfast. I am a non vegetarian and open to experiments. However, there is one peculiar smell that might make you a li'l averse to trying the sea food. However, the street food market in Phuket is huge and pretty alluring.

For breakfast, we went to this li'l and authentic Thai street restaurant. I had Hainanese chicken, which is a originally a Chinese dish, made of boiled skinned chicken. It's bland and best enjoyed with the chicken clear soup and Thai chilly sauces. And yes, it is pretty filling and a great and healthy breakfast to keep you going for the rest of the day.

And on this very day, I was introduced to the heavenly food - sticky rice and mango. It is one of the best dishes that I had tried there till that day (yes, more to come!). The best part about tropical countries are their fruits. So this dish makes you enjoy a ripe and pulpy mango with sticky rice made in coconut milk - which gives a mild aroma of coconut, keeping in mind that the major flavour of this dish is mango.

This was followed by a hearty serving of watermelon and guava. So yes, when on a tropical island never miss the fruits that it has to offer.

Thailand is a heaven for fruit- lovers.

After this, we started for Phi Phi Island. We departed in a ferry and trust me, this is one of the most fancy feeling that you will get (keeping aside the cruise, of course).

This is one of my favourite pictures - cutting the sea and saying goodbye to Phuket, only to return!

That is how the whole of Thailand looks from your ferry!
I will be covering Phi Phi Island, our adventure island for the next two days, in the next post.

However, while on our way back to India, we stayed in Phuket for another day. We traveled from Krabi to Phuket by road, thus completing the discovery of every possible way to travel within Thailand.

The road from Krabi to Phuket
You should definitely plan to travel via road from one island to another. It is one amazing experience! There is a beautiful bridge, Sarasin Bridge,  over the sea which connects Krabi to Phuket.

Image Source
Remember how I mentioned that there are many worshiping place on the roads? Here you go with one more!

This time we lodged ourselves at the Surin beach and that was an amazing experience of different level. Surin beach is the "Baywatch" kind of a beach - clean and so many surfers all around with white tourists every where. No, I am not trying to sound racist but yes, Surin was definitely a perfect way to end the trip.

But above all, Surin beach offers the best sunsets! Mesmerizing is an understatement.

The change in colors of the sky is something that you might not witness anywhere else in this part of the world.

After watching the sun set at the horizon, we went for a traditional dinner at one of the many cafes this place has to offer! And yes, finally the beach chick decided to get high on alcohol!

Usually, I don't get high, but when I do, I make sure that I am getting high on fancy drinks!

Topping it up with some pad thai noodles, which by the way, are now my favourite.

And the beauty of Surin beach is altogether different in the morning. We had our breakfast at the beach.

Trust me. you will feel as if you are  walking towards a Microsoft Windows wallpaper.

No, I am not lying!

From any direction, this place seems equally mesmerizing

So, there are shacks on the each side where you will get proper thai food to enjoy with a view. And even if these are shacks, they are no less when it comes to the taste and presentation of the food!

The Massaman curry is a mildly spice vegetable/meat curry which is totally great in taste.

However, I am a huge fan of the pineapple rice being served there in Thailand, anywhere!

Though my trip ended here with this serving of Pineapple rice, there are still loads to cover on the blog. 

I stayed in Phuket for a total of 3 days and 3 nights and that is the minimum you would need to explore every side of this island. 

Next up - Phi Phi Islands.