Feb 102012

I set the alarm an hour early to make very certain that I wouldn’t miss the checkout time. Although it was a close call, in the end we were waiting for the BP Samila’s bellhop to lug all our bags down to the van, so I was okay.

Parks and Recreation

The distance between Songkhla and Pak Bara pier on the Andaman coast is not very far, but we had a few distractions to fill our day. Our first stop was at Borripat Waterfall. There were stone stairs (more or less) up the side of the falls past the first level to a second and third level. Unfortunately for nature lovers, there was an increasing amount of trash at each level; perhaps it was a busy night here for revelers? Because this is the dry season, the volume of water was not as high as it could have been, but even under cloudy skies, it was attractive.

We had a few snacks in the car to hold us over to a late lunch and proceeded to Thale Ban park, which straddles the border between Thailand’s Satun province and Malaysia. I had previously visited the park in the heat of afternoon, and it was more pleasant before midday. However, there were some school outings here, including one group practicing a rock show with loud electric guitars. Not the best soundtrack for hearing rare hornbills. Along the way we did spot a skittish monkey after hearing repeated odd grunting/yowling sounds in the trees.

We returned to park HQ and ordered a one-plate lunch of basil chicken over rice with a fried egg on top. While we waited, Kasma taught some of the young students how to ask questions in English (such as where are you from, where are you going, what is your name). Dressed in scouting uniforms in various shades of purple, the kids were charming. I spotted a lizard I wanted to photograph and quite a group gathered around behind me. Perhaps one of those photos will be shared here some day.

View the entire album: Thale Ban Park – Thailand Photos 2012

Run for the Border

On previous Southern trips, I didn’t want to mess up my 60 day visa by crossing into Malaysia. On this trip, crossing the border would only lose one day off my visa waiver, so it made more sense to try it. The only advertised attraction was shopping, so what did I have to lose? I got a new stamp in my passport, but at a high price: there were lines and paperwork, then more paperwork and more lines, mostly closed shops, and exhaust fumes on the Malaysian side from cars waiting for passengers. It wasn’t a complete loss: I picked up a bottle of cheap Scotch whiskey at the “duty free” store, for about 10% off the 7-11 price.

Pak Bara

When we reached the coast, we stopped at the pier so Kasma could confirm our boat reservation. Meanwhile, of course, we went shopping. That meant a visit to the 7-11 for beverages, and also browsing the local t-shirt offerings. Most shops had closed by late afternoon, so we will shop again in the morning. I could use some more “snorkel pants.”

The Bara Resort offers quite basic accommodations. I found two very firm twin beds, a TV, a room air conditioner, and a bathroom with no separate shower area. In other words, water goes everywhere. Although the drain isn’t the lowest point on the floor, there is a break in the grouting that allows efficient drainage. I set up a bit and then took a seat in the restaurant where I had a lime slush to cool down.

For dinner, we headed up the road to Fasai Seafood, a beachfront restaurant where we made them wait about half an hour to take our order because we needed to get our sunset photos. Tiny crabs no larger than the end of a pinky created sand paintings on the beach as they ejected tiny spheres of sand from their holes. The sun did its usual thing and the sky turned its usual colors. Then we could eat.

We started with a salad of shrimp and coconut shoots, which have a softer texture than bamboo shoots and are snowy white in color. Our fried fish was topped with miang plah seasonings: small chunks of lime, slices of lemongrass, chopped chillies, tiny carrot cubes (never seen that before), roasted cashews, dried shrimp, and topped with a sweet coconut-tamarind sauce with chopped peanuts. Usually this would be eaten with a leaf wrapper, but the placement of the lettuce under the fish complicated that plan. We coped as best we could. A crab with black pepper/black bean sauce, a fish soup (tom sum), and mixed seafood with chilli sauce were okay. Our last dish to arrive was the most stealthily spicy. We have had many spicy shrimp dips, but this one latched onto your tongue and just kept cranking up the burn. Extra rice and lots of fruit were the only remedies.

Upon returning to my room, I was surprised to see three large water bugs in the bathroom. Two of them ran into the bedroom, which caused me great concern because I had left my duffel bag open; I do not need any stowaways. I was able to flick one of the buggers back into the bathroom using a towel, but the other scuttled behind one of the beds. Hmmm, I think perhaps I will use the other one tonight. Eventually, one of the bugs in the bathroom escaped down the wide gap in the grouting, and I was able to encourage the other one to follow. I stuffed the crack temporarily with a plastic bag (using some liquid soap to make it stick). This really is not up to our usual standards, although the free wi-fi is very handy.

Tomorrow we will take a boat to Koh Lipeh (“lee pay” island) for three days of snorkeling and beach time around the Tarutao island chain. And probably quite a few whiskeys.

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