Our vans raced to the Mu Ko Surin Park headquarters where we met representatives from Sabina tours, who operate the speedboat “ferry” out to the islands. We wanted to be early so we could board first and get our pick of seats, but there was no way to know another group would delay our departure by over an hour. Oh well, more shopping time.
Monday, January 28, 2019
In Ranong, check-out was uneventful, and the Tinidee’s breakfast buffet offered the typical options of eggs, fried rice, fried noodles, rice porridge, and so forth. After eating our fill, we boarded our two vans and headed South. We navigated through checkpoints — we are close to the Burmese border — without incident, and arrived at the pier reasonably early.
Once there, we mostly waited and slathered on sunscreen. The shop staff from Sabina Tours brought over a bunch of t-shirts and tote bags for our consideration. It felt as though they might not let us leave until they sold out, but it seems to have been a way to keep us occupied while we awaited some stragglers who had booked the same ferry. Eventually it was time to surrender our footwear and climb down to our speedboat.
There were no good photo-ops because the ocean was a little too bumpy for me to go up to the front. I shared a bench seat sized for two average Americans, or three average Thais, with a couple that wasn’t getting much sleep. Keeping myself on the seat and my bags out of the aisle was a full-time job.
The beach at Koh Surin has a long, shallow, sandy approach with randomly placed coral heads. Speedboats park some distance away, and travelers transfer to a longtail boat. These wooden craft ride higher in the water and can seat 12-15 uncomfortably; 8-10 works better. Instead of having fixed position propellers like a speedboat, the propeller is at the end of a long metal shaft the driver can move to avoid obstacles (and change direction). At the end of our ride, when the front of the boat comes to rest on the sand, we make a “wet landing” stepping into the knee deep water (either from the ladder or by stepping/jumping over the side. Shorts are recommended.
We climbed a tall staircase — also identified as the tsunami evacuation route — to our cabins. Although only a couple years old, the heat and humidity already have taken their toll on the fit and finish of the doors and cabinets; with a struggle, most can be fully closed. Cans of insecticide and piles of dead ants were observed; this does not seem to be a good place to have food in your room. Electricity and air conditioning are available from 6pm to 7am throughout our stay, and my cabin gets a lot of sun during the day, so it definitely is needed. Yet, compared with the alternative of tent camping, it’s a great upgrade.
After a basic fried rice lunch, we clambered aboard two long-tailed boats and headed out snorkeling. Our usual first afternoon spot was too wavy, so we tried a couple reefs on the calmer West sides of the islands, Ao Suthep (Suthep bay) off the Southern island, and Ao Mai Ngam (Mai Ngam bay) off the Northern island. There were many fish to be seen, but visibility was below average with lots of “stuff” in the water stirred up by storms. I was using the Sony RX100 Mark IV in Sony’s underwater case, and it was quick to focus on shiny bits of debris. Hopefully I can figure out how to trick it into ignoring those. The Olympus TG-5 was also challenged to focus on the intended subject. Hopefully calmer seas will make for better photos later. Until then, I need re-learn how to fit my tiny mask to my large face so I don’t have to drain it so often.
While trying to figure out how to take a cold shower in a dark bathroom, I had the inspiration to use the flashlight in my phone. Which is when I realized I had left my phone in its protective waterproof case in the convenient storage netting in the rafters of our longtail boat. Whooops. Spoiler alert: the boat driver recognized that he had my phone and returned it before dinner, so it, along with a good-natured finger-wagging, was waiting for me when I finally emerged from chilling under the room air conditioner and came down for dinner.
The Park’s open-air dining room serves pretty basic cooking, but we had worked up a good appetite. Shrimp stir-fried with vegetables, squid stir-fried with vegetables, deep-fried whole fish, and what could have been tom yum soup with large chunks of fish. Underripe pineapple wasn’t a crowd pleaser, but sweets from Hua Hin made for a strong finish.
Thankfully I brought lots of extra batteries, because I was asleep well before I could open up my cameras.
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
I like to joke that our schedule on Koh Surin is “snorkel, snorkel, lunch, snorkel, snorkel, dinner,” and it’s not far from the truth. I only omitted breakfast, which is largely forgettable, although the option to toast your bread over charcoal is a nice touch for those having “ABF” (American Breakfast). We also squeezed in a visit to the Moken Village, where the Park resettled “sea gypsies” after the 2004 tsunami.
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
With calm seas, today promised to be our best snorkeling. Yesterday, I was startled to open my toilet kit and find a large “beetle” — probably really a cockroach — with yellow stripes on its brown body, sitting astride my Old Spice deodorant. This morning, I saw it scuttle out of bed after I got up. Then perhaps a dozen tiny ants ran out of the head of my electric toothbrush after I rinsed it, applied toothpaste, and turned it on. I’m not doing as good a job sealing up my bags as I had thought. We’ll have to see whether I’ve acquired more companions later in the trip.
[AM photos, GPS]
[PM photos, GPS]
Tomorrow we have a leisurely morning before our ferry ride back to shore and, hopefully, a delicious dinner and hot shower.