Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 14-23

I met Lucy and Chris on Koh Lanta on December 14. It is an island near Koh Jum and Krabi town where I spent time earlier in my trip. We checked into a big bungalow at a laid back resort called Where Else. Traditional round that huts with open air bathrooms sit in a palm grove and the property continues towards the beach. An excellent beach bat filled with hammocks, and different hight bathrooms Amex it easy to spend the days reading and lounging in different ways. The food was excellent, I gorged on giant king prawns.

The next morning our outfitter from Freedom Adventures took us to the pier to board their converted fishing boat for an overnight camping and snorkeling trip. The three of us were the only ones booked in the tour so essentially it was a private charter with a crew of three very friendly Thai guys. Two hours later we arrived in Koh Rok, a national marine park with loads of shallow protected reef to explore. After our first dive the boat anchored near a beach and we ate a tasty lunch of stir fried squid, greens, rice, fried barracuda,and jungle curry. Afterwards we combed the beach and built a sculpture of bamboo and worm eaten driftwood beauties. The rain started to drizzle so we decided to pitch the tents and clean up before Ned, our English speaking guide cooked us dinner on the beach over a small fire. We drank beer on a beach mat and feasted on more curried barracuda, barbecued squid, and delicious marinated chicken. Ned, our English speaking guide, played his guitar and sang Thai songs to us by the fire. It was a beautiful night and I slept so well in the tent with the pattering of rain dripping from the trees.

The next morning was met with a rainy tent breakdown, and a breakfast feast on the boat. I took another long snorkel around the reef. It felt so good to be free diving after so many months away from the warmth and clarity of tropical water. So many fish! We spent the rest of the laughing in the shallow water along the beach, and ate another beautiful lunch before we hunkering down for a bumpy ride back to Koh Lanta. We spent that night back at Where Else and enjoyed more delicious food and the rowdy enthusiasm of a group of Spaniards.

The next morning Chris took the ferry back to Phuket, but Lucy and I spent another day around Where Else reading and lounging by the sea. The next morning we caught a minibus to Trang, a provincial inland capital city three hours away. We decided to make the jump to trang to explore the food, markets, and to book a trip to the large waterfall in the northeast corner of the province. We also wanted to escape the building crowds and price hikes leading up to the Western Holidays. After wondering around town and through the smelly wet market we bought some fried chicken by the train station and retreated to our air conditioned hotel room for a nap and a regroup. That night we wondered around the night markets eating all sorts of food on sticks, bags, and bowls. Food glorious food.

The next morning we went to bustling Dim Sum restaurant and selected all kinds of unrecognizable plates to be steamed and gobbled up. We waddled out of there after a giant plate of crispy pork, fried chicken, six steamed Dim Sum plates, teeth rattling sweet Thai coffee, and hot tea to settle our stomachs. We bought a picnic lunch for the day and hired a driver to take us to Ting Toe waterfall about an hour outside the city. A short hike up a dilapidating trail and we made it to the base of the falls and swam in a raging pool of water. The falls go down several levels and fall a total of 320 meters. I couldn't resist climbing the rocks up to the first level and sat in a shallow pool of rushing water. I carefully descended, but lost my footing at one point and got a pretty good scape on my upper thigh. But the view from the waterfall and the incredible sensation of the water rushing around me was well worth the sore bum. I think Lucy and our guide's jaws dropped a little when I feel, but I recovered pretty quickly and kept swimming and hobbling around for the rest of the afternoon. It was a gorgeous natural wonder off the beaten tourist path. After another nap and a trip to the pharmacy for a bandage we headed out to another local restaurant for curried fish and fried morning glory in bean sauce. Trang was a refreshingly authentic switch from the basic menus on the beaches. We did a little more wondering and found a shaved ice stand for dessert.

The next morning we caught a minibus and a long tail to Koh Mook, an island in the Trang Island chain. After checking into our room and having lunch at a restaurant built into the cliffs on the far end of the beach I spent the afternoon lounging in my hammock. Lucy and I shared a delicious curry at our resort and called it a day. Early the next morning we hired a longtail to take us along the coast of the island to Emerald Cove. The cove is a natural wonder encircled by high limestone rock faces only accessible by swimming 60 meters through a dark cave. We experienced 15 minuets of meditative silence in this beautiful place before the first tour group arrived in kayaks. I was blow away by the beauty and sacred feeling of this place. Supposedly pirates once used it as a temporary hiding place for their loot.

I took bother trip to the cove by kayak when Chris arrived the next day. We had an excellent time lounging and hanging out on Koh Mook.

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