One travels to the coast of Southern Thailand, either on the Gulf of Thailand or the Andaman Sea, with a few expectations, initiated by travel blogs, banter, and books…
…of clear yet intense aquamarine-, emerald-, and turquoise-tinted waters dotted with craggy limestone monoliths rising from the sandy islands.
…of traditional longtail wooden boats, or rua hang yao (เรือหางยาว) moored near the sandy beaches.
…of lush foliage and exotic flowers intermixed with coconut palms.
….of caverns, hidden places, and waterfalls.
And I found everything I expected and a little bit more. I found rain—lots and lots of rain. It misted, dripped, pelted, and even poured torrentially out of the heavens. But, it was the summer in Southern Thailand, one of the hottest times and also one of the wettest, a time faithfully cleansed by the monsoons iconic to the season from somewhere in April to sometime in October when the sun suddenly decides to dominate once more.
As my husband and I departed from Bangkok, the steady drizzle of rain greeted us upon arrival in Krabi (กระบี่), Thailand. Upon the open water of the Andaman Sea, the speedboat, undaunted by the combination of wind and rain bring up micro swells, carried us to Rayavadee Resort, only accessible by boat and nestled at the base of the impassable mountains in the cresting bay of the Phranang (พระนาง) Peninsula. On all sides, the legendary limestone monolithic formations rose from the scattered islands, or kho (เกาะ). At last, we stopped on the honey-toned sand beach lined with stands of mangrove roots and coconut palms.
Beyond this natural glorious scene, vibrantly enhanced by the falling rain, I was most impressed by the beautiful, petite young woman, dressed in a traditional silk outfit, also known as chut thai (ชุดไทย), made of embroidery on silk. With a welcoming smile, she pressed her palms together in the wai (ไหว้), elegantly setting them at her chest, bowing slightly, and offering a simple “Swasdi kha” (สวัสดี) with her soft voice. At once, we felt embraced by the culture and thought less about the drizzling rain.
Pausing to consider our options—no longtail boat rides to the neighboring islands, no romantic picnic on the beach, no snorkeling in the crystalline waters now reflecting the gloomy clouds, no… No. We had other options—new options. We had a choice. We had three days to explore the beauty of the Southern Thai coastline in a completely different way. Thailand had embraced us warmly, and we soon embraced Thailand for the culture it truly had to offer us.
With our over-sized umbrella and foggy-lens camera, which had to acclimate to the humidity every time we left a building, we ventured out on the brick and sand trails, first through exquisite gardens, then down to the shoreline, and over to the pool which appeared as if it flowed into the sea itself. Definitely alone. For a time, we even believed we were the only visitors to the area.
Occasional pockets of sunlight without the misty hot rain transpired. At first, we considered it respite for the DSLR. After traipsing about for a few hours, we nearly forgot the volatile weather (except when a tree shook off its excess water weight).
As if walking in sunlight and oblivious to the rain’s altercation, the employees continued their duties to keep the grounds tidy and the customers happy. No matter how busy, no matter the time of the day—never did we pass someone without them pausing respectfully to offer a smile and wai greeting followed with an elongated “Swasdi kha” (from a woman) or quick-snap “Swasdi khrap” (from a man).
As if our timing were perfect, during the greatest downpours, we luckily met with some of the most artistically talented people to learn a myriad of skills from fruit carving and flower lei-making to authentic Thai cooking. When it wasn’t raining, we scurried to the beachfront at the mouth of an immense limestone cavern for our candlelight dinner on the sand and watching the sunset over the distant limestone-crowned island.
Mornings and evenings, rain or shine, we ventured. We learned that all the employees traveled daily from the mainland, usually near Krabi, to the peninsula for work. In the early mornings, we loved watching the boat arrive with our new-found friends, seeing their sunbeaming smiles—affectionately known as the “Thai Smile”—always adorn their faces.
At low tide, we hiked into the caverns, explored through the limestone crags and cliffs, and wandered the mangrove forests. But mind you, the water comes in quickly and will leave you wading through knee-deep water in minutes.
Had it not rained, would we have discovered the ambiance pervading the secluded retreat?
What I experienced on those rainy days in Thailand was opportunity—an opportunity to see beauty in everyday culture, not just a geographical destination provided for pleasure-seeking tourists to exploit and satisfy their vanities.
Thai rainy days gave me grander perspective. I took more time to smell, taste, see, feel, and listen with all my senses. I took time to meander, to examine, to contemplate, and to interact with nature, with animals, with the sea, with food, with art and tradition, with the people. Strangers became friends beckoning us to return to them.
Thailand taught me to intrinsically smile equally in sunlight or in rain.
To be happy…
We highly recommend Rayavadee, the 5-star resort in Krabi, Thailand, to anyone visiting the coast of Southern Thailand. We truly appreciate all the individuals who served us and made our stay at Rayavadee unforgettable.
Robyn J. Mock
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