Tambon Sala Dan, Thailand
After a tough time in Cambodia, sun, sea and a typical backpacker environment were just what the doctor ordered (apart from Linidazol). Well, until we actually arrived in our first hostel, it wasn’t too easy going – the shuttle service from Krabi airport to Ko Lanta was a two hour journey we’ll never forget. Packed with 15 innocent travellers, the driver seemed to think he was the only one there who enjoyed land speeds faster than a boing 747. For an hour we were put through the torture of dangerous driving speeds, someone had ****** him off. After the first dangerous take over I yelled “slow down”, with my first thoughts on the 10 year old girl who was aboard with mum. After another 30 mins I finally was supported by a crying American woman and a desperate mum when more people started to finally convince including myself that the driver should slow down, we are glad to say he did and we are all alive today. Funnily enough, we came aboard the car ferry to reach the island of Ko Lanta and managed, within 2 hours, to travel on the fastest car to the smallest boat in the world. After that, a calm and relaxing 4 days followed. Lodged at our little hostel in the Northern Territory of Ko Lanta, we used as a base for our island exploration, we hired a scooter and explored the beaches on the island. Long beach, a 5km long spread of sand was a lovely beach. There were many people but still seemed quiet with plenty of space. Lack of shade was an issue, but if you are smart you can avoid the inevitable sunburn (ok, so I wasn’t smart and my back is an raw as a 10 year old slice of constantly cooked slice of smoky bacon but that’s besides the point). The lack of information on the island when you arrive makes it a little exciting to find your way around, unless you are smart and take the right roads that mean you don’t find yourself in the middle of the island…you know what actually happened, I say no more. On observing we became aware you can rent Tuk tuks which have a kind of side carriage, great for families. We couldn’t help thinking one day when we saw an old western man driving very slow on one of these that, and I quote, “he should of gone to specsavers”. Surprisingly, we managed to get our appetite back and gain some weight with a great supply of food served at the many restaurants available. Western and Thai food was spot of from gorgeous and massive ribs, to succulent burgers and Thai style pizza. The island is generally lovely though and with the admiration of just looking around, I’ve forgotten to take many picture, apologises, you’ll just have to come. Next stop, we headed to the 4 islands off the trang province and the almost vacant south to explore Bamboo Bay. Off we ‘hopped’ not quite so literally on our island hopping tour of the Trang Islands of Ko Mook, Ko Chuek, Ko Ngai and Ko Kradan. Our first stop, apart from acting as a ferry bus service for some stranded couples on Ko Ngai, was to head straight to a massive rock so overrated they actually gave it a name, Ko Chuek. We stopped for 45 minutes, led by Thai Dev of the Bee Community (poor guy, he looked like a guy in India we met called Dev and he wore a shirt that resembled the strips of a bee) frantically finding fish with snorkelling gear, while battling with a boat full of Chinese to a spot amongst the fish. Next up was Ko Kradan, probably our favourite due to its everlasting memory of finally finding crystal clear waters to swim in. Moored up around 200 metres from an almost deserted beach with turquoise crystal waters, we with only a couple a couples decided to swim toward the beach that hosted a small wooden swing and a hammock, the closest to paradise we’d ever experienced. Unfortunately we had to leave, head back to the boat and experience one of the most bizarre things up to date, Emerald Cave on Ko Mook. Ok, so we knew this was going to be busy but I didn’t realise that it was essential to be to get half the experience. Basically, several boats offload you with life jackets and after frantically trying to find one on our boat, we were a little delayed getting into the ocean facing a huge island and rock face with a very small dark gap, resembling a cave. We followed the mass of people and continued to swim like some kind of panicked upright dog to avoid kicking people behind and boxing those in front trying to kick you. With no tour guide in sight, it was quite apparent, we were left behind to find our own way and luckily managed to swim close to a VIP couple who had their own tour guide and torch for the appending darkness. After a 5-10 minute ‘swim in the dark’ we emerged from the tunnel into an open lagoon with a view to the skies and surrounded by rock and greenery, otherwise known as Emerald Cave. I would say 1% of the whole visit is about the actual lagoon, the other 99% is all about the swim and the manner in which we experienced the journey back. As we relaxed in the lagoon, I couldn’t describe the style of departure of groups back into the dark cave anymore than swimming conga lines. In an organised wedding like line, people grabbed each other’s life jackets and followed one by one, not the way Noah would of liked it, into the cave shouting random Thai marching anthems. Our experience was fairly similar, except there was a western uncomfortable silence and half way through we managed to break free from the crowd. Once breaking free from the crowd my body decided that it was the best time to give me cramp, so whilst my partner, unknowingly, suddenly started her engine and flap away towards the caves entrance, I was left trying to float, whilst massaging my foot and trying to shake off a couple of Japanese tourists that didn’t realise we actually left the line. Once I had managed to get my foot working again back on the boat, we enjoyed our final destination on the island of Ko Ngai. Unfortunately the beach where the boat anchored wasn’t the greatest in comparison to the multitude of inaccessible clear waters located on the otherside of the pier. Despite this, we enjoyed the clear waters and came close to a Komodo Dragon (thanking God he wasn’t hungry) before returning to the boat for the journey back to Ko Lanta. On arrival at the pier we were informed that the shallow waters were preventing us docking at the pier, so there we went, the only ones with a 10kg bag and hand luggage stepping across two small ferries and eventually perching on the stern of a long tail boat full of people, I swear if I had brought an extra pair of pants, we might of been swimming back. The next few days were spent in the south of the island on the almost remote beach of Bamboo Bay. With little to do, one can only create their own entertainment, in my case it’s writing this blog and delving into my next short film idea. We then returned to the north for a few days before catching the ferry to Ao Nang for a couple of days.