This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Krabi Cliffhanger: Phranang Cave of the Princess Goddess

Took the bus at noon for Krabi, having ferried all our luggage at the last minute in relays to the bus station. A great well air-conditioned bus. Unfortunately the bus station is 6 ks out of town so we took a pickup into town nearly leaving for Ao Nang, until a fellow traveler in the pickup told us how much he liked Krabi.

We are staying at the "Green Tea Guest House" which is a fine base to stay for a night or two with internet. It also has a nice river frontage with good views of the Karst hills and mangroves, some good supermarkets and the universal 7-11 on which we have come to depend for its consistent stock of bread butter cheese yoghurt and coffee milk.

Krabi is more fun for us than a resort. It has very good eating in the night markets by the boat pier although the cunning Chinese woman force fed us a bottle of beer costing 55 Bt. Tomorrow we will try to take a long tail boat to the rock climbing beaches of Rai Lei (Railay) and on to Ao Nang and back for a combined sea and land tour of the limestone scenery at local one-way fare prices.

2006-11-12 Had a great day today. Took a longtail boat out to Rai Lei an isolated set of twin beaches accessible only by boat, with lush 100 ft limestone cliffs, crawling with abseilers hanging like ants on the cliff face, a white sand beach on one side, a bunch of restaurants and ridiculously expensive guest houses.

West beach Rei Lei

East (Phra Nang) beach Rai Lay

On the beach on the Ao Nang side is a unique cave to Phranang the Princess Goddess, believed to be an Indian Princess with extraordinary powers to whom the fishermen offer huge wooden penises with red tips. This is a really unique shrine and we've included a series of pics of it as a little mentioned high point of the region.

There are different theories about Phra Nang and how she came to be associated with this particular cave in Krabi. One legend says that an Indian princess was killed in a shipwreck offshore and her ghost occupied the cave. Another story says that Phra Nang was the wife of a local fisherman. One day her husband set out to sea but never returned. According to this story, the woman lived out the rest of her years living in the cave and looking out to sea waiting for her husband to come back.

Fishermen and boatmen still make offerings in the form of incense and flowers to ensure a safe journey. More curious though, are the phallic symbols or lingams that are in prominence at the entrance to the cave.

Lingams are a symbol of the Hindu god Shiva and are associated with fertility and virility. In Thailand, Hindu and animist beliefs are incorporated alongside Buddhism. Over the centuries, Phra Nang cave has become associated with fertility and the lingams placed here take the form of carved wooden penises. Local folklore says that if somebody carves a wooden lingam and releases it at high tide anywhere along the Krabi coast, it will eventually end up in Phra Nang cave.

We then took another longtail to the resort of Ao Nang, which is a tourist trap like the Phuket beach resorts, returning to Krabi by pickup on a rainy cooler afternoon.

Planning our move south tomorrow. Pondering whether to take a minibus from here to Hat Yai, which connects with a big bus direct to Penang. There have been multiple bomb blasts in Yala simultaneously blowing up 10 car dealers and Buddhist villagers are cringing in a temple in Pattani or thereabouts. We are trying to chart as simple as possible a course through Hat Yai which is right on the border of the trouble the day after tomorrow.

Shooting through to Penang in One Easy Bite

Had a great trip, if a bit tiring, through to Penang in Malaysia direct from Krabi. So now we are just a couple of bus rides away from Singapore unless we do something very rash, like flying to Bali and back on a cheap internet ticket to use up the missing days. However we are now stranded in Penang until the 16th so Christine can have her next rabies injection.

We decided to take the Green Tea Guest House's advice and book a ticket for 580 Bt each on a direct booking to Penang on a minibus, changing at Hat Yai for a cross border minibus to Penang in Malaysia. We have already been burned by these cross border connections, but decided to take it because the guest house acted as if it was reputable. For this we received no ticket but a Teahouse receipt and had to wait on the street at 6.50 next morning.

The minibus people then picked us up and exchanged our tea receipt for another tour company receipt to give the Hat Yai company and took off weaving forward and backtracking twice to pick up local passengers from all over the district, finally charging off down the highway about an hour later. In the event we got an air-con van for 10 people and the only lie they told was that old people going to hospital needed the front seats as an excuse for chucking us in the back with our musical instruments (so they could stock the rest of the van more easily). This caused a VERY bumpy 5 hour ride to Hat Yai but gave us a tad more leg room.

At Hat Yai, which was an unexciting large town with a market and industrial shops, they took us to another 'green' travel agent, literally Green Travel, where we connected with another air-con van which took us on another 4 hour trip, not only cleanly through the border to Malaysia, waiting for all the formalities, but all the way over the harbour bridge into Penang as well, avoiding the cross transfer and ferry ride from Butterworth on the mainland where most buses stop.

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