After a long, hot morning here at Koh Surin, we will head East in search of cell towers and hot showers. It’s hardly been “Survivor, Thailand” out here, but we value our little luxuries.
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.
It’s about 600 kilometers from Bangkok to Ranong, including several delicious detours. Although I’ve made this journey five times before, it turns out there are significant changes this year because the wonderful seaside restaurant at the Pranburi Marina, Sunee, was evicted due to encroachment on public land. I will miss the crab meat stir-fried with holy basil and spicy baby clam salad. But we won’t go hungry. Ever.
On Kasma’s Southern trip, we have a couple days here in Thailand’s enormous capital city before heading for the beautiful coast of the Andaman Sea. If all goes according to plan, there will be delicious meals, bargain hunting, massages, and good internet connectivity. Unfortunately, this year the air will be even more polluted than usual. In truth, I don’t mind having another excuse to avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the tropical heat, but I brought masks just in case.
My route to Thailand takes me through Taipei, Taiwan. On previous journeys, I have passed a few pleasant hours in Taoyuan airport’s Terminal 2 eating dumplings, having my hair washed, and riding the massage chairs. This time, one of the options for redeeming my miles provided an eight hour layover that promised enough time to run into town for even tastier dumplings. As if this weren’t complicated enough, would attempting to vlog the adventure bring me to a whole new level of crazy?
When I first visited Thailand in January 2005, I had no idea I would return even once, much less nine more times. But the warm waters, delicious food, fascinating culture, and Kasma’s well-planned itineraries keep drawing me back. This year, after a 20-day round trip through the South, some friends will join me for an after-trip. My own “tour guiding” skills will be put to the test, and while I can guarantee that we won’t go hungry, beyond that, we’re winging it!
Today we’ll fly to Bangkok and wrap up our adventure in Southern Thailand with the traditional feast of Northeastern food and entertainment — my tenth. It’s remarkable that after all these years I still can’t predict whether my purchases will fit in my bags and meet the weight limit. But then, it wouldn’t be travel without surprises.
As our trip comes to a close, we’ll try to maximize our snorkeling and shopping time. Eating will not be neglected, however, as we’ll have some of the finest meals of our trip. Can we have it all?
For many years, Kasma’s groups would spend three nights on Ko Poda, an island near Krabi with such a long beach that you could watch the sun rise on one end and set on the other. Unfortunately, due to a dispute with the park service, the island’s only resort was destroyed, but to our benefit, Kasma now squeezes in a couple more snorkel locations from a new base on Ko Lanta. And the rooms there are much nicer than the ones on Poda ever were, as long as you don’t mind sharing the property with other Western tourists.
Our snorkeling time on Koh Lipe has come to an end, and we’ll dry out for a couple of days before resuming our observance of undersea life off Koh Lanta. In between, we will feast on delicious Thai-Chinese food and arise before dawn to visit a waterfowl preserve where we’ll test our photography skills.
The Tarutao National Marine Park includes the enormous but seldom visited island of Tarutao, and the more remote Adang-Rawi group of islands where, weather permitting, we will spend many hours face down in the water and enjoying unspoiled vistas (or various beverages) on white sand beaches.
Our time on the Gulf coast (the Gulf of Thailand coast) is coming to a close as we head West to the calm waters of the Andaman Sea for more snorkeling. Our shortened schedule hasn’t quite worked out so far, so we’ll have to do a little juggling on our travel day. As long as we get to the boat on time tomorrow, it’s all good.
There is more to do in Nahkon Si Thammarat, but we must move on. On previous visits to Songkhla, I’ve admired the seafood and taken some nice photos, but if you weren’t already on the Gulf coast and heading to the Tarutao park for snorkeling, would you come out of your way? You be the judge.
Nahkon Si Thammarat is the home of the most important Buddhist temple we will visit on this trip, as well as a nice National Museum and numerous shopping opportunities. Historically, Kasma spent three nights here, but as more snorkeling days were added, something had to give, so we will have just one full day to squeeze it all in.
From the Greenview, we head East, from the shores of the Andaman Sea to those of the Gulf of Thailand. Along the way we’ll visit a huge park on a man-made lake, smaller markets and towns, and other attractions less visited by Western tourists. Will we be sufficiently amused to go nearly a whole week without snorkeling?