Despite multiple coral bleaching episodes in recent years, many of the reefs around Koh Surin retain their colorful corals and plentiful communities of fish. As committed snorkelers, we were intent on seeing as much as possible during our time here. As I like to joke, our itinerary is generally “snorkel, snorkel, lunch, snorkel, snorkel, dinner.”
Monday, January 23, 2017
The breakfast buffet at the Jansom was unremarkable and we were quickly on the road South. We marked each bag with a lime green ribbon (indicating Paak Chad beach as our destination), surrendered our footwear, and boarded the speedboat “ferry” for the 90-minute ride to Koh Surin. With only mild waves, the front of the boat was the place to be, serenaded by a young ukulele player with an enormous dreadlock bouffant.
The approach to the beach was too shallow for our speedboat, so were were met by longtail boats, a shallow wooden craft with a loud outboard motor powering a small propeller at the end of the long shaft the pilot swings in different directions to steer the boat. At the park, once the longtail beached itself, we stepped or jumped into the shallow water and lugged our bags to the dining area for check-in. Since we were fairly early, several travelers had a long wait to access their cabins. I shared a bungalow with a Berkeley couple: they had the front room with two single beds and our bathroom, and I had a private bedroom with two single beds.
After a quick box lunch of vibrant yellow chicken and turmeric rice, we hastily changed for our afternoon snorkel. We headed to the nearest calm spot, Ao Mae Yai (Mae Yai Bay), where the long reef has a large variation of habitat (from sandy to coral drop-off) and plenty of fish. The cloudy skies and resulting low light created challenges for photography, and the water was a little chilly, but we persevered. My new mask seems to fit best just where my mustache is bushiest, which creates some serious problems for keeping seawater out of my eyes (much less my sinuses). I can foresee a shave in my future.
As we clambered aboard our longtail boats, the skies opened sheeting rain on and around the boat’s tarpaulin roofing. We quickly realized we would not be visiting a second spot and headed back to the park, shivering in the wind. There, we enjoyed the ambient water temperature showers, and eagerly anticipated the power and air conditioning switching on (about 5:30pm – 10pm daily, followed by fans from 10pm to 6am).
Park dinners have a reputation for more basic preparations with less expensive ingredients, and tonight’s was nothing special. I probably ate more than my share of the sour curry fish (gaeng som), as our whole fish was fried dry and hard as a board. We supplemented the standard pineapple dessert with a couple more treats from Hua Hin. After getting a few items on the power strip, I fell asleep in the cool breeze of the air conditioner.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
After a long night in the bathroom, involving issues at both ends of the digestive system, I could barely manage a spoonful of fried rice for breakfast. Sleep was the order of the day. By dinner, my temperature was only about a degree over normal and I was able to start eating a little again. Since the pink capsules were not fully effective, I decided to take a loperamide “miracle pill” and hope for the best for morning.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
I awoke feeling better, with my temp barely above normal, but still feeling unhappy downstairs. I decided to pass on the snorkeling, which was too bad because despite a strong current and the engine dying on one of the boats, I heard the sea life was particularly interesting at Torinla. Unlike those whose swimming skills were being tested to their limits, I got a lot of rest.
By dinner I was feeling nearly normal and eating in larger quantities. Tomorrow morning I have the opportunity for my second snorkel here. Then we will head back to the mainland, in search of a hot shower, fine multicourse dining, and internet access.