Krabi (Wednesday, February 2, 2005)
After another run through the hotel buffet, we packed into our vans for the next leg of our journey. The morning began with a number of phone calls to Sabina Tours and various park officials while Kasma coordinated the camping arrangements for Koh Surin. During this time, we were released into the market in Krabi, which featured stall after stall of seafood vendors, dessert vendors, meat vendors, vegetable vendors, and so on. Many of us purchased snack items for the road.
On the Road
After some time on the highway, we stopped at the Tarnboke Koranee National Park, a set of rain forest trails with water features, small caves, bugs, and unusual plants. You can see the pictures later. But let’s move on to the lunch stands just outside the park, where we chowed down on the classic Northeastern combination of barbecued chicken and som tum (green papaya salad); grilled squid stuffed with its own eggs (this was not my favorite); charbroiled pork neck meat, which has the meat-to-fat ratio of bacon; and barbecued catfish. It was fuel we would need for the next stop.
One of the caves we had wanted to visit was closed due to subsidence, presumably a result of the earthquake and/or tsunami. The second was more hospitable. We caught two longtail boats, and headed up the mangrove-lined waterways and through a cave to the Skull Cave, also known as the Cave of the Big-headed Ghost. Here, a number of paintings dating back about 3,000 years still survive (despite evidence of many previous visitors). After half an hour of clambering over precariously sandy rocks and puzzling over primitive art, we return to our boats, and then to our vans, for the long journey North.
The Kuraburi Greenview Resort features a “hotel” wing and several groups of cabins. We were lucky enough to have reserved cabins during a slow time, as the resort is now busy hosting relief workers who could not find housing in Khao Lak, the area worst hit by the tsunami. My cabin faced out over a large lake, beyond which was the “cutting garden” where the resort grows various tropical flowers. Inside, there was a large mattress on a wooden platform, and a ladder to a loft for two small mattresses with room to spare. The bathroom had a slightly sunken, slate-tiled shower. Water dropped from a chute high overhead, creating a waterfall effect. I think most of us found it to be the nicest accommodations we had stayed in so far.
Our table in the Greenview’s dining room, one floor below the reception area, was set up directly in the path of two huge speakers playing what sounded like bad muzak; it was the resort’s MIDI karaoke system, and it never turns off. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a good meal of shrimp with cashews in a tamarind sauce; deep fried chunks of chicken; a salad of ferns dressed with coconut milk (I think), shrimp and ground pork; a leafy green vegetable stir-fried with eggs; and a sour curry with fish and bamboo shoots (not the favorite). After dinner, I had to sing a couple of songs for the group. (Hopefully this will satisfy them!) Then, a smaller group of us played around with the karaoke system for quite a while, until it was time to crash so that we could get up early to catch our boat to Koh Surin National Park.