Monday, May 19, 2014

Embarrassing Moments in Travel

The approach to Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas Krabi is truly unforgettable.

Accessible only by boat, the resort is tucked into a cove just around the corner from the town of Ao Nang, backed by towering limestone cliffs and surrounded by dense jungle. The resort is terraced up the hillside, with incredible views from each room of the most prominent feature, a large phallic karst island guarding the bay and its emerald waters. If there's a resort with a more stunning location in the world, I'm yet to see it.

The bay at Centara Grand Krabi

Centara Grand Krabi

This is my second visit to this resort; but its not the glorious scenery that brings the memories flooding back - it's the jetty.

Protruding about 100 metres into the bay off the beach, the resort jetty is made not from wood, but from plastic interlocked boxes, put together a little like Lego pieces. It's environmentally low-impact; but not being fixed, it does make walking its intimidating length a challenge, with the blocks moving underfoot with the ebb and flow of the wash. There are many squeals of disconcertment as guests first arrive; and god help anyone coming back from town with a few Changs under their belt.

THAT jetty...

This jetty provided the scene for one of my most embarrassing travel moments - a walk of shame along its length, desperately trying to keep my footing supported by two burly men...

The year was 2009; the occasion a post-famil following the Australian Society of Travel Writers AGM in Bangkok. After three lovely days at Centara Krabi, our group of about 30 journalists and travel PRs was departing on a launch. But before we'd even made it out of the bay, I suddenly realised I'd left my passport locked up in the safe in my room.

"We have to go back!" I shouted. Everything thought I was joking - after all, we are all experienced travellers, who leaves their passport behind? Ahhh, me. So back we go, pull up at the jetty, and I have to hurry back along that ridiculous wobbly Coney Island ride - supported by two armed security guards so I don't fall in - while the whole group waits for me. To a casual observer, it must have looked like I was being escorted off by cops, the leader of a drug ring ... but no, it was just a stupid rookie travel mistake that will forever haunt me.

On the same trip, however, a friend had an even more embarrassing experience ... in fact, mine pales in comparison. But I'm going to share it with you, whether she likes it or not (I'm not even asking her permission - sorry Lou!)

The same group of journalists was on an island-hopping boat trip around the islands surrounding Krabi. First stop was beautiful Phra Nang Beach, location of the infamous Princess Cave. Tucked away in a dramatic limestone overhang, the local fishermen community have set up a shrine to a sea goddess who not only protects them from danger, but assist with issues of fertility. It's now a tradition to leave the princess offerings of food, drink and incense ... as well as carvings of ... umm, well, penises. Very large ones at that.

Making an offering at the Princess Cave

Needless to say, the cave has become a very popular tourist attraction, with western visitors keen to have their photograph taken amongst the phalluses.

My buddy Louise - no stranger to the sight of large appendages - was posed alongside several of the more prominent carvings (and in fact had her arms around two of them), when suddenly, one came tumbling down. The biggest, heaviest one, of course. Lou struggled to catch the falling phallus, dropping to her knees in desperation as it crashed to the sand. She then struggled to return the cumbersome object to its ... ummmm ... erect position.

Lou amongst friends at the Princess Cave

Going, going ...


We laughed so hard so hard we wet ourselves. It was truly hysterical ... not Lou's finest hour but surely the most embarrassing.

But such are the joys of travel, those delicious incidents that stick in your mind forever, that brighten your memories and keep the journey - and the destination - fresh. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Krabi, partly because of those unforgettable embarrassing moments.

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