Day 24 – Sun – 28th June:
If you are an email subscriber, just to note I have written a few posts today so make a sure you read them in the correct order and not in the order in which you receive the emails.
Today we settled with the motorbike (scooter) hire lady.
We were down early for our pickup to the boat for our day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park and the manager came over and said that the hire lady was in today and ready to see us.
He drove up the little slope again on his scooter for about 20 seconds, (see my last post for cultural differences regarding walking in Asia) we walked up and the lady met us at the top.
She pointed out four marks we made on the bike and the full cost for replacing each of those items was 500 baht and the conditions of use were that we would be charged half that price. So four times 250 baht, came to only 1000 baht.
We were pleased that we only had to pay 500 baht each because we thought it might have been more, and Maren got her passport back :).
Then we had to jump straight into the truck/jeep that had come to pick us up for the boat trip. There were a few other people already in the back and we climbed in. We were sitting on the open back of the truck as normal.
We nodded to the others but they all seemed to be in pairs or groups of friends and this has a slight disadvantage when doing group tours, that often people don’t mingle because they came out to spend the day with their friend.
The car made a couple of other stops along the road to pick up people from other hotels. I did have one brief conversation with a guy when the car stopped for a pickup on a blind hill and bend. I am not a driver but this guy thought it was silly, as you would never be allowed to do that in England, but this is typical of drivers here.
After a bumpy ride we arrived at the boat. Three other cars and a songtheaw were also dropping off people.
As soon as we boarded we were offered fruit, coffee and yummy biscuits as breakfast and about half the group sat on the sun deck. There were a wide range of countries represented, Maren heard some Italian being spoken, French and also German.
As we set sail the English speaking guide came round and introduced himself. He was very entertaining. We later asked out of curiosity, where he was from, and he said he was Dutch. He spoke over six different languages and he said that you need to speak three languages to get a degree in Holland!
He opened with ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’ (about the day’s proceedings etc) and then barked ‘stupid question’ after every question people put to him. It sounds a little rude but was actually very funny. I asked if towels were provided as I didn’t bring one (the leaflet said they were provided), and they were, so that was handy.
This is the sun deck on the boat.It took 130 mins to arrive at the first snorkelling place. The guy handed out the masks and gear, which were provided. He gave us all a number as you had to pay if you lost the gear. The leaflet said we would be snorkelling at either Koh Tay Plow or Koh Wao but I’m not sure which we were taken too.
We had fun jumping off the boat and going down the slide (attached to the back of the boat).
After we returned the gear (and had our numbers ticked off) we had lunch on the boat, as it sailed off to the next location. Lunch was great, several large pots with rice, tofu curry, veg curry, and fried chicken pieces. Afterwards one of the Thai boat hands came round with a metal dish of fruit, watermelon and pinapple.
I forgot to mention that when we boarded the boat we were all given string bracelets in different colours, depending on if we had paid to kayak or not. At the next stop, Ao Ka Beach, about 70% of the group got off to kayak to Talay Nai and the rest stayed on the boat.
We left the English speaking guide on the boat so there were a few small communication issues but off we went. Me and Maren shared a kayak and saw some beautiful islands but the kayaking was only for about 30 mins which was a shame. I think this is because they have to cater for everyone and people’s attention spans are short. Also an inexperienced kayaker might have trouble paddling for a long amount of time. I normally go for four to five hours :p.
We met the boat at Talay Nai and pulled the kayaks up on the beach.
A short climb up some very steep wooden steps later, we could see the Emerald Lagoon (Talay Nai). It was nice but not as impressive as it is described.
We passed a lot of Chinese/Japanese tourists and all the women were fully covered in long trousers, sleeves and hats. We think this is in order to keep their skin white. It was an odd contrast to our group which consisted of many European girls in bikinis, trying to get brown.
Here is me by the lagoon.The next stop was to Koh Wua Talap Island and there were three choices, two different hikes, one an hour and one 45 mins, or you could just relax on the beach. Me and Maren took the 45 min one and climbed about in some limestone caves, it was a fun climb but I think if could choose again I would have chosen the hour climb which went to the top of one of the lower mountains and apparently had an awesome view.
There was a bar on the beach so we had a drink and a then back to the boat. We saw a couple of monkeys in the distance as we walked off the beach.
Back on the boat we washed the salt off and I actually changed completely into the spare clothes I had brought. I am glad I did because the ride back was over two hours and salty swimwear is not fun to sit in for that long. We were also given tuna buns and salad as an afternoon meal.
The boat was actually carrying about five large tubs of fresh water for drinking and washing etc. I’m talking about massive barrels, you could fit two people inside. These were wedged into each other on the deck and didn’t spill over which is surprising considering what happened next.
We were lazing in the sun deck for about an hour into the journey back (I took some nice pictures) when we could see the sky becoming overcast.
Our Dutch guide came and asked us to go downstairs inside the boat to join the others who were already inside. The storm slowly built up behind us, getting more and more windy. The rain lashed at us for a while but the captain managed to keep just ahead of the storm. The boat was not designed for bad weather and although the we were within its limits the whole time, our guide and a few Thai boat hands went up to the sun deck to talk to the captain at the helm a few times, they did look a little worried.
I stood at the back of the boat with a handful of others (the biscuits from this morning were back here too!) and watched the storm. It was great fun but later when I popped back into the boat to see Maren I learnt that there were a few people crying and pretty scared. The boat windows were not sealed so water was pouring in the front, and if you are not used to boats I guess you would have thought we we’re going to sink :p
Anyway it was fun and we got back fine.
The tour company was Orion Boat Trips/Cruises and wasn’t cheap at 1,900 baht per person but they provided gear, towels, all meals, kayak hire and park entry fees, so it was ok.
This is my own review and not endorsed by Orion in any way.Day 25 – Mon – 29th June:
Today Maren was leaving 😦 so she checked out and kept her stuff in my room until 4pm when her taxi came to pick her up and take her to the ferry port. She had two days in Bangkok and then was flying back to Germany after four weeks travelling around South East Asia!
We spent the day by the pool again and in the evening while eating dinner (on my own now) I made an exciting decision. I was reading a free mini book on Ko Phangan that Maren left me and I found a place called C&M Study centre. I recognised the name (it was only a tiny advert in the corner) because we drove past it yesterday on the way to and from the boat dock.
The only thing I have found to be a shame while in Thailand is how hard it is to communicate with the locals. Many of them are leached by tourism and don’t have the time of day to talk to another ‘farang’ like they might have done twenty years ago. So I sent them an email and said I only had a week but I would like to study some Thai! They replied and said could I drop by tomorrow. So depending on how much it costs I think I will give it a shot.
This is quite ambitious for me because I have always found learning languages hard (I was taught German at school) but it is something that has started to interest me ever since I went to Africa in 2012, where the locals were so keen to teach you some of their language. The problem with the English education system is they don’t teach you why you are learning a foreign language and it is just a chore. Of course the reason is to communicate with other cultures and it may sound daft but it took me many years to understand this because it is just not brought across in English education.
Anyway that was a long one. So long.
Next up: days twenty-six and twenty-seven.
Previously: days twenty-two and twenty-three.